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FORKPLAY August 27, 2013
Prayer Flags. Sweetgreen. Quality Italian. Four Seasons. More Vintage Bags. Summer Pudding. 
Dear Friends and Family,

       I was going through a box of things Steven had brought from Aspen and stashed in our cellar. It actually sat in the corner of the living room for several months before I forced myself to open it. It was mostly full of kitchen things wrapped in dusty newspaper. A few vintage treasures made me smile: a brass sign from a barber shop, a very beautiful old screwdriver. Then I found what I recognized at once -- brightly colored squares of fabric strung on a rope. Prayer flags from Nepal.
       I remembered how excited Steven was when we arrived at one temple just as a procession of monks on horseback, some with elaborate gold headdresses, was about to begin. He'd taken many photos of temples with flags fluttering but I didn't remember these. Did he buy them? Did someone who liked having his picture taken give them to him?

       I gave them to a friend who is a Buddhist. He is also a collector of Steven's photographs. Last week my friend sent me this photo. "I have hung the flags and said a prayer for Steven," he wrote. "I will cherish them." 


We tried for corn and peach in our colors today. Made me hungry.


sweetgreen, sweetsmart

       My "District Cobb" salad ($11.85, 680 calories) is huge. It's rich and fresh but alas, it's full of the dreaded kale. It's my fault. I was too quick to get in line, I didn't study the "signature salad" ingredients posted on the wall. Who'd dare violate a Cobb with kale and goat cheese instead of Swiss? Not that I mind the goat. It's a millennial Cobb, I suppose.

       Of course I wondered how sweetgreen -- the beyond-virtuous, community-minded, organic farm-to-table salad shop, innocent newbie in town -- would fare in Manhattan. It launched in NoMad a few weeks ago with daunting lines, an hour or more wait for a bowl of greens. I didn't rush.

       Feel virtuous with every crunch.  And click here to join me at lunch. 1164 Broadway between 27th and 28th Street. 646 449 8855


Quality Show Biz

       The new 200-seat Quality Italian Steakhouse in its second story perch over the corner of 57th and Sixth Avenue can be seriously annoying. Not only the stairs or the warehouse elevator. Not just because painful noise churns off the unfinished concrete ceiling or your spine gets a shock if you drop into your unpadded chair too quickly. Did you come for an evening of steakhouse familiars and conversation with good friends?  Forget it. First you need Ritalin to navigate the dozens of starters you want, need, crave. And then your waiter hogs the stage.  Did you think you were the star tonight?
       Here comes Andrew the waiter, toting a podium with many pots and jars that he parks tableside. "I am making your steak sauce," he confides. It takes not more than five minutes. The bowl he sets upon the table would feed a family in rural China for a week.

       On the other hand, unlike me, you might find a little shtick amusing. Or like me, you almost forgive everything, because amazingly, even this early, most of what we're tasting is really good. Starting with the amuse: Parker House-style rolls in their black iron baking dish, almost too hot to touch, salty and delicious. Click here to know what to order or join me at the bar where I'll be having chopped salad and artichoke maccheroni. 57 West 57th. Entrance on Sixth Avenue between 58th and 57th Street. 212 390 1111.


Pool Room Saturday Night

       It didn't really matter that the Four Seasons' managing Rover Boys -- Julian Niccolini and Alex Von Bidder -- had taken the night off.  Why shouldn't they?  After all, it was a steamy Saturday night in August. The staff skated around gracefully, properly engaged in making the mostly tourist crowd feel rich and indulged. And they would need to be rich or well-expensed for lemongrass seared tuna at $54 and a $68 filet of bison.
       I was reminded of a dinner in 1974 at this same table, a generous two-top tucked next to the marble edge of the pool where the former owners had set a large flower arrangement. Did they know that my ex and I were celebrating the ties that endured after our recent divorce?

       There are not many choices of reds by the glass now. My companion tonight, someone I've known for two decades but never had dinner with before, decided to order a bottle instead. I blinked. A beautiful Bordeaux. In the 60s and 70s we drank Bordeaux. Think of greatness at $12 a bottle. It was another world. Now if I'm lucky, I might see a legendary label at the home of friends with deep cellars.
       My sea scallop ceviche was not just fussily dressed up with popcorn and microgreens piled on an avocado disc, it was surprisingly complex, voluptuous against crunch, sweetness sitting in a tart puddle. I had to have the ravioli as my main course because it was sweet corn ravioli. I never get enough corn in August now that Hampton weekends are so few.

       In between the kitchen sent out a cuttlefish dish. It was so thrillingly tart and spicy, I gasped. "I like this chef," I said to my host. He'd been curious to see what the kitchen would do with summer peaches. Both of his dishes had the very same peach -- sliced with grill marks, not quite cooked. To start, bresaola-mizuna salad with goat cheese and then, lavender-roasted Cornish hen with peach-ginger compote. 

       "When did the dessert cart disappear?" I asked the captain.
       "I think it was 1993," he said. Damn it, I hate when treasures disappear. The peach cobbler was mushy and disappointing. But the raspberry summer pudding was so amazing, I forgot I was feeling a bit forlorn. I've never seen this seasonal dazzle on any restaurant menu before. I fell in love with Florence Fabricant's version at a potluck once. You'll find the recipe below. 99 East 52nd Street. 212 754 9494.


The Accidental Bag Lady Cont'd

       A newspaper reporter from the Canadian Globe and Mail called to interview me on why I am trying to break my vintage evening bag habit, and what you need to know about shopping for one, hopefully, on my Etsy site.
       It's true. My incurable collector gene had gone unchecked since childhood when I lusted for Storybook dolls, and later as a teenager when I bought a cashmere sweater every week. I worked for my dad at Nat Greene's, his women's specialty shop on Livernois in Detroit, and took my pay in cashmere sweaters. Everything was cheap then. My services, fifty cents an hour, as well as Scottish pullovers, $24.95.

       Most women today carry supersize totes -- anything from a real $12,000 Gucci or Birkin to a fake Louis Vuitton from the street. But some might still long to slip a vintage clutch inside or carry a glorious beaded memento of the 1930s or a silver mesh survivor of a more romantic era. A small jeweled bag just big enough to carry a comb, hankie, lipstick, and a few business cards might be great at dinner, hidden inside that suitcase you lug around.
       Decide before you buy. Is it strong enough to actually use? Or are you buying it to look beautiful on the wall? We keep adding bags to the Accidental Bag Lady site on Etsy all the time.  Click here to see the latest arrivals. By the way I also collect vintage costume jewelry, puppets, snuff boxes, dolls from foreign countries, objets de virtu, old chocolate and ice cream molds, and Barbies. And headlines with my name in them: "Gaels Will Be A Force."


Flo's Summer Berry Pudding

       FloFab made this luscious dessert for a low-fat potluck dinner I gave one summer in Amagansett. It's become a summer staple for me.

       1 lb loaf thin-sliced white sandwich bread
       1 1/2 cups sugar
       Juice of a lemon
       2 1/2 pints mixed fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, fresh currants)
       3 tbsp Framboise

       Select a two-quart mixing bowl. Remove crusts from bread and arrange the slices, trimming them to shape where necessary to completely line the bowl with no gaps. Reserve remaining bread to cover top.

       Place the sugar in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Stir in  lemon juice. When sugar starts to melt after a couple of minutes, add  berries. Stir gently and cook until all the sugar has dissolved and the berries have given up their juice, 5 to 8 minutes. The berries should be soft but still hold their shape, and there should be a rich berry-colored syrup in the pan. Add the framboise.

       Using a slotted spoon, transfer the berries to the bread-lined bowl. Pour all but about 1/4 cup of the syrup over the top. The bowl should be nearly filled. Fit pieces of the reserved bread on top of the pudding to cover the berries.

       Place a china plate that will fit into the bowl on top of the pudding. Place a heavy jar or tin can on top to weight the pudding. Some of the syrup will begin to ooze up and that's fine. Refrigerate the pudding and reserved syrup at least eight hours or overnight.

       To serve, run a knife around the inside of the bowl and unmold the pudding onto a plate with enough of a rim to catch any excess syrup. Use the reserved syrup to paint any areas where the color did not completely soak in.

       Florence serves this with whipped cream. Those of us intent on discipline can serve it with non-fat Greek yoghurt into which we stir l tablespoon brown sugar and a splash of rum.
       From New Home Cooking, Clarkson/Potter, copyright 1992.


Photographs of sweetgreen's salad tosser, Quality Italian Steakhouse's sirloin and lambchops, Four Seasons' scallop ceviche, cuttlefish, and raspberry summer pudding may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.