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January 3, 2013


Eating Around. L'Absinthe: Choose Your Poison. New Year's Eve @Salumeria. Christmas Day Dim Sum. Cesare's Spritzer Recipe


Dear Friends and Family


     I must admit I just went on heartlessly eating till almost the last moment of 2012. Some of my friends suffered serious losses with Sandy. Others collected warm clothes, canned

Photographs of Noah and Aiden at Brooklyn Diner
goods and cleaning essentials and drove off in rescue mode. And later joined me to explore somebody's new menu. Chefs got up at 6 am to put together lunches for hundreds in Queens and Brooklyn. Afterward they returned to their kitchens, as we with enough money, unmildewed sweaters and appetite went on eating.



      Given the tantrums of Congress, we can't know what 2013 will bring. But we do know there will be pig at inflated prices, kale on every menu, and cocktails yet to be invented, some scrumptious, some floppy and lacking.


     The promised arrivals of last spring and fall and winter may yet open their doors. At some point Michael White will actually open Butterfly, and then, soon enough, an uptown Morini in the space that once was Centolire.


      And as the first to confirm that Red Farm had plans for the space on Broadway at 77th that houses Fatty Crab, I'm

Daniel and his chefs leaving to deliver Citymeal lunches
wondering what's taking so long for a move that was predicted for last fall.



     Measuring the stretch of silence from Craig Hopson's corner on Mott Street, we can only hope that The Brewster, a gastronomica cum restaurant in an old carriage factory, will soon enough fall into place. It was originally promised for spring 2011.


     Months ago I disclosed that Masa Takayama's three-story dream of Tetsu on Leonard Street took a blow when the architect of Masa's Time Warner berth smelled something

Craig Hopson with Sirio, on his last evening at Le Cirque
fishy and quit the job. Though Michelin took away the master's third star this year, he comforted himself with a $4.8 million townhouse on the Upper West Side. Would he come to see the need for a seedling in the neighborhood? As an UWS patriot, I could only hope.



     Meanwhile, there is always dinner, six nights a week for me, somewhere new, a place with promising buzz, a new range for a chef I liked elsewhere, or a retreat to a favorite where thrills can be counted on to revive drooping spirits after too many disappointments.  




L'Absinthe: Choose Your Poison


     I remember falling for the charming French country look of L'Absinthe one Sunday evening in 1995 when I first reviewed it. I expected a chef of Jean-Michel Bergougnoux's

Croque Monsieur at l'Absnthe
classic credentials to turn out a perfect roast chicken. And he did. A friend tells me he's found the calm at lunch perfect for business meetings. That's what made me choose it to discuss publishing projects on the last day of the year.  




     The welcome was hostile. No, we could not be seated before noon, announced the scornful waiter. He left us standing as he bustled about with exaggerated officiousness.


     I had less than an hour for my Croque Monsieur, with wonderful thick slices of real Black Forest ham - neither too thick nor too thin. Perhaps just too much. Crispy and rich, the surge of Swiss cheese oozing. I could only finish half. And the side of salad was remarkable too, with its excellent vinaigrette. I asked the nasty waiter, still grumbling and mumbling his superiority, to box it up for takeaway.  


     When I want to feel I'm in France, I have Christian Delouvrier's La Mangeoire and the smart professionalism of

The cassoulet at La Mangeoire
Philippe Bertineau at Alain Ducasse's newly vibrant Benoit. But I'll be back to taste l'Absinthe's pig's feet, the coq au vin, the classic quenelles, and poularde in truffled broth. Just to see if it measures up. 227 East 67th Street between Second and Third Avenues. 212 794 4950.





New Year's Eve @ Salumeria 


     I felt privileged to get a last minute 7:30 table for two New Year's Eve at Salumeria Rosi on Amsterdam. But I was annoyed to find us stuffed into a tight line of two tops, inches from tables on either side. Well, there was nothing to be done about it because the house was already ful 

Porky matters at Salumeria Rosi UWS
l. I'd not seen Suzanne, an old friend from Hanoi, in a long while. We  focused on the market greens with parmesan shards, the savory leek torta and our gossip. So much to catch up on.



     As always for me, the waiter delivers a giveaway spritzer (see recipe below) even when Chef Partner Cesare Casella is off trucking in his new Salumeria on Madison Avenue. Usually first timers here want to order a cured meat tasting. After all, Casella's partners are the salume princes of Parma. It's not something the Road Food Warrior or I craved. But after hundreds of contented hours here - sharing market greens, eggplant caponata, rigatoni amatriciana and often, the spicy porchetta sandwich with provolone and torrid Calabrese bomba sauce -- I rediscover how delicious the silken aged prosciutto and the small rounds of spicy salami can be.


     I marvel, as always, at how al dente the rigatoni is. Tonight the house sends out lasagna, and a portion of Italy's traditional New Year's Eve dish, zampone sausage and lentils - food my friend will not likely see in Hanoi.  


     She is younger than I, but has been a widow for a very long time. We discuss men, a slippery slope I see ahead. And we agree I am lucky that I live only a block and a half west of Salumeria and my office is less than a block to the east. We will always have our amatriciana. I had thought to see her off on her flight home with dark chocolate bark from Jacques Torres next door, but the candy shop was already shuttered. 283 Amsterdam Avenue between 73rd and 74th Streets. 212 877 4800




Christmas Day Dim Sum 


     In keeping with a tradition of many New Yorkers, I met friends for dim sum at Red Farm Christmas Day at noon.

Christmas dim sum
Dim Sum traditionalists were milling about on the sidewalk, getting their names on the list, waiting for the doors to open. I ordered Campari and orange juice, not only because of its miraculous wakeup flavors but because the color makes me happy.



     For me, an endless parade of chef Joe Ng's marvelous dim sum would have been a perfect brunch. My friends delegated the choices to me. We had all my favorites delivered six at a time in steamers - the silken-wrapped shrimp with eyes, vegetable and chive dumplings and roly polys of shrimp and snow pea leaf. I like that everyone responds to the unique character of the lamb potstickers with surprise.


     Yes. They are especially wonderful. Of course, my friends could not be denied the house's brilliant Katz's pastrami egg roll. And given the season of luxury, there was a plump pork and crab soup dumpling wreathed in truffle essence for each of us. I showed them how to pick up the fragile package carefully on a ceramic soupspoon, suck out the juice and then nibble away.


     My friend Josephine chose one of my favorite entrees, wide rice noodle rolls with shredded duck. I added the

Crab and pork truffle dumplings at Red Farm
Chinese chicken salad and an order of lamb chunks, silken and tender, with Chinese broccoli and white asparagus. Partner Eddie Schoenfeld arrived as tables began to turn, surveyed the intensity of the scene, and sent out a platter of lobster with long life noodles. After that, no one in our sixsome even wanted to talk about dessert. 529 Hudson Street between West 10th and Charles Streets. 212 792 9700





Cesare's Spritzer Recipe 


Pour a shot of Campari or Aperol into a chunky 6 oz. glass. Fill with rocks.


Pour Prosecco over until bubbles almost reach the top of glass. Add a spritz of tonic. Hang a slice of orange on the edge. Sip.



The Cesare Spritzer





Photographs of Noah and Aiden at Brooklyn Diner,  Daniel and his chefs leaving to deliver Citymeal lunches, Craig Hopson with Sirio, on his last evening at Le Cirque, Croque Monsieur at l'Absnthe, the cassoulet at La Mangeoire, Porky matters at Salumeria Rosi UWS, Christmas dim sum and crab and pork truffle dumplings at Red Farm and the Cesare Spritzder may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. 



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