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FORKPLAY June 3, 2014

Death is Dangerous. Tavern on the Green. Lobster Afloat. The Flexitarian. Summer by the Sea. Hudson Eats.

Dear Friends and Family,

       I can't tell you how many women have thanked me for taking the NYTimes to task last week for choosing a photograph of interior designer Betty Sherrill with her stomach popping out for her obituary. "It's not really safe to die these days," I wrote on Twitter.

      I don't want to start anything with the Times. There are too many photos of me floating around out there with a double chin or a telltale neck. One cannot count on having a fan at the picture desk when you give up the ghost.

      But the Times can count on me. I love print. I need print. I get excited for the Times' bottom line when I see a new full page advertiser, even if it's just BP selling a fairy tale or Russia taking a whole insert to suggest that as a country they are as homey as Kansas. I feel reassured by a little heft when I pick up my paper at the door in the morning.

      On days I have to meet my trainer in my office at 8:15 am, I set my alarm for 6:20 so I can wade through the news section with my breakfast before I have to leave, knowing I'll be consumed by deadlines and who knows what other essential frivolities all day.

      I was very proud when the Times chose Jill Abramson to be the first woman editor. I imagined I could see her female sensibility occasionally on the front-page lineup and in some of the in-depth features. I suspect she would not approve of being loved for her female sensibility. But she can't be happy being fired for being tough to play with either.

      Men don't get fired for being difficult. They are seemingly oblivious to pop-out stomachs too.


Colors today are turquoise and intense fuchsia just because.

We're Not in Oz Any More
       It seems to me Central Park is vast enough and in some places wild enough to get lost in, to find morels, to run and bike and skate, to picnic and tan and get married. Of course there should be Strawberry Fields honoring John Lennon. Gondolas on the lake are amusing and places to eat in the middle of it all are essential.

       I didn't know how much I missed Warner LeRoy's playful excess and glitz until I saw the new downsized and restrained Tavern on the Green built by our tax dollars with an ambitious commitment from two guys who run a crêperie in Philadelphia.  

       That doesn't mean I plan to leave the place to the tourists. It's my park after all. I live a few blocks away. I'll be back for a romantic dinner in the garden when the weather can be trusted. And I like thinking I can walk in without a reservation to have lunch on a loveseat in the lounge. The kitchen doesn't have to be dazzling.

       It isn't alas. But that's okay. It's certainly not affordable for the whole 99% of our city but maybe the middle 45% can handle a beer and a burger. Click here to read what I ate. Enter on 67th Street West of Central Park West. 212 877 8684.  

Lobster Shack Going Nowhere
       I like the idea of boarding a ship and going nowhere. I don't mind bobbing, swaying, lurching sideways for an hour or so. I thought it would be romantic to sip sangria and munch fish and chips on the new Hudson River Cruise boat. And it was, even on one of the meanest grey nights of May. Five of my adventurous pals agreed to meet last Thursday on the Destiny, the North River Lobster Company yacht anchored at Pier 81. 


       We could not have chosen a grimmer evening: it was chilly and steel grey, threatening to rain. That didn't discourage us. But it had kept all but two or three determined couples away. Rows of tables lined up on deck and even a counter to claim the overflow on the dock went empty. The servers seemed restless.

       Although cameras and purses certainly weren't threatened with invasion in the deserted space, I held down the table out of habit so my friends could troop to the counter up front and order dinner. (You pay and a server delivers from the kitchen.) My friends and I found the evening romantic and the food, surprisingly good. Will you?  Click here to read more. 

The Accidental Flexitarian
       I'm not sure how a wanton slave of delicious excess like me ends up with two vegetarian nieces. Maybe it's because one lives in Montana and the other south of San Diego and didn't grow up in my aura of outrageous indulgence. It's not that I don't believe in the health and sustainability virtues of eating less meat and piling on the veggies. I've been eating five or six cups of fruit and vegetables every day for a long time. Alas, such virtue cannot cancel out the excess of beef cheeks and bacon and fried birds I share with my gourmand pals every night.

       But I got a kick out of going along with visiting niece Pamela's discipline, sharing hummus, smoked eggplant and spicy feta with just-baked focaccia from the bright blue taboon oven at  Bustan. We followed that with crispy falafel and a beet salad piled with crumbed logs of haloumi cheese. No way we could even think of dessert after all that. 487 Amsterdam Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets. 212 595 5050.

       Frankly, I think it's punishing to be a vegetarian at Red Farm. But Pamela and her sister Dana earlier this year, were excited by the vegetable and peanut dumpling, and the excellent vegetable roll from the lunch menu. I refused to let her order the mango and arugula salad -- "You can have that anywhere," I protested. We decided to try an entrée of lotus root, snap peas, pressed tofu and preserved vegetables. We both loved it, but -- I promise you -- it doesn't even come close to Chef Joe Ng's miraculous shrimp-stuffed chicken. 2170 Broadway between 76th and 77th Streets. 724 9700.

       I always explore the seasonal market options at ABC Kitchen, given a vegan to entertain or a carnivore. I love to see what the chef Dan Kluger can do when eight or nine varieties of local squash hit the Greenmarket. Usually I add a crudo or two and sometimes kasha and bowtie pasta with veal meatballs.

       Last week, of course, the menu boasted the first peas of spring, asparagus, ramps and fiddlehead ferns.  I ignored the raw scallops with sea beans and green chiles I almost always have. At one point the tabletop was completely carpeted with greenery plus the usual roasted carrots with avocado. The kitchen sent a gift of ramp toast. I rarely find a ramp diversion worthy of taking seriously. This was it.
       Of course we had to order the salt caramel sundae with popcorn, peanuts and chocolate sauce. It came  with an amazing bowl of everything strawberry sent by the pastry chef -- ice cream, sorbet, berries raw and dehydrated. I abandoned the caramel for that total immersion in strawberry. 35 East 18th Street between Park Avenue South and Broadway. 212 475 5829

Summer by the Sea 
       Everyone tells me Citymeals' walk-around cookout in the Rockefeller Center Garden each summer is the best food event of the year. I do agree. The great chefs gather -- they make a commitment to appear -- and surprise us with their inventions, classic or avant-garde. You will meet Nobu as his team dispenses sushi and can chat with Stephanie Izard from Chicago's Girl and the Goat.  

       This year Bobby Flay will take a night off from the kitchen at his new Gato. He will join Daniel Boulud, Jonathan Benno, Jonathan Waxman, both Forgiones -- Larry and son Marc -- Jean-Georges, Alfred Portale, Bill Telepan and an amazing roster of stars inspired by the theme, "Summer at the Sea."
        Join us Monday June 9th to eat and dance under the stars, knowing your gift will be used to cook and prepare meals for the city's frail elderly homebound all summer. Use my discount code CMOWGG to get $200 off per ticket. 212 687 1290.

Hudson Eats 
          Our two Insatiable reporters -- Maria Yagoda and Ana Lopez -- scouted a preview of Hudson Eats, the upscale new food court at Brookfield Place, wedged on the edge of Battery Park City by the Hudson. They filed a collection of their favorites bites from gastronomic darlings like Mighty Quinn's, Umami Burger, and Black Seed Bagels.

          At Blue Ribbon Sushi they loved the hand rolls wrapped in crisp warm nori. And the trio of mushroom under a mozzarella melt won a thumb's up at Skinny Pizza. Will you be head-over-heels for the bluefish-cream cheese spread at Black Seed?  Click here to get a preview before you storm the place. 200 Vesey Street between West Street and North End Avenue.             

Photographs of Tavern on the Green's duck egg tart and its rhubarb strawberry pavlova, North River Lobster's fish and chips and its lobster roll, Bustan's beet salad, greenery at ABC Kitchen and its essence of strawberry dessert, and Mighty Quinn's brisket at Hudson Eats may
 may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
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