Beautiful Buvette

April 22nd, 2014 · 300 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup

On a rainy Monday night in midtown a few weeks ago, I found myself faced with classic New York dilemma. I was running late to meet Andy for his birthday dinner downtown and needed to make a decision: Should I try to catch a cab (always a risky proposition on a rainy night) or just get on the subway, which involved a transfer (always a time-eater)? At the same time, I was also asking myself Why didn’t we just stay home for his birthday? The girls could’ve been part of it and I certainly wouldn’t be standing on a corner soaking wet, nervous about being late. To add to my decidedly First World anxiety, we were going to Buvette, a jewel box of a restaurant on Grove Street in the West Village, run by Jody Williams, who has become something of a cult hero to food insiders and bon vivants everywhere. In other words, it’s popular. Every minute I was late felt like an hour I’d have to queue up for an open table.

I took the subway to Christopher Street, sprinting a block in the rain, by then coming down sideways. When I finally bulldozed into the gastrotheque, feeling very much like a wet dog, I made my way back to Andy seated at a small table tucked into a corner. “Happy Birthday, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Happy Birthday,” I said, but less sorry than relieved that we still had a table.

“What’s the stress?” he said, taking a sip of his Manhattan and leaning back. “You’re here. Look at this place.” He opened his arms wide, as if personally presenting Buvette to me.

He loved Buvette — which is why we picked it for his birthday. I looked around at the intimate, brick-exposed space, at the regulars reading books and drinking cocktails at the marble-topped bar, at the chandelier made from old cooking equipment hanging like a piece of modern art in the back room. For all the trendy chatter about this place, it felt neighborly and warm, as if it had been here forever. Within minutes, I was sipping my own Manhattan, overtaken by the warmth, the cold rainy streets fading away like a jet trail. (more…)

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An Anniversary Story

October 6th, 2011 · 17 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Rituals

There are other benefits to keeping a dinner diary besides the fact that it offers daily meal inspiration as well as tangible, Pilot-Pen-V5 documented evidence of my obsessive-compulsive behavior. And that added benefit is this: It tells a story. It tells the story of how much my cooking has changed from the pre-Michael Pollan days of the 90s (asparagus is constantly showing up in the winter and butternut squash in the spring) and the pre-kid days (Andy and I would spend entire afternoons tracking down obscure ingredients so we could experiment with, say, a lamb kibbeh. Can you imagine having that kind of time?) But, I realized this week as we celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary, the diary also tells a short story of New York. By now it’s probably clear how much we like to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries in our house in a big way, and to that end, we almost always try to snag a restaurant reservation somewhere special. And special can be defined in a few ways: It can be personally sentimental (like our first one, with the view you see above, was); it can be trendy (as our 8th in 2005 was) or it can just be classically, insanely awesome (as Le Bernardin at 9 months pregnant was). No matter where we went, though, the dining room always seems be charged with the energy that only a special night out in New York seems to offer. Here’s the list…

First Anniversary (1998) River Café, Brooklyn (shown above)

We had our rehearsal dinner here (and got married right down the street), so it was the obvious first choice for our first anniversary. After our wedding, TRC would subsequently become the go-to spot for our extended family for celebrating big occasions like engagements and important birthdays. But the tables for two that seat both people on the same side  (so no one gets cheated of the view of Downtown Manhattan) was always my favorite way to eat there. (more…)

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