Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Everyone Loves An Opening

If there’s one realization that the Glitter Gourmet could impress upon any restaurant, chef, or foodie, it’s that dining isn’t a meal, but an experience. Monday night, I set myself up for one hell of an experience and had been counting down the days for over a month. A good friend of mine was able to nab us tickets to this year’s opening night of the American Ballet Theatre. I’m a moderate fan of ballet, but a major fan of openings (theatrical and otherwise), so I dusted off my tux, shined my shoes, and made my way to Lincoln Center.

The evening and performance were spectacular in every sense of the word, the red carpet entrance, the champagned intermission, and ballet boys. There is something so beautiful and classic about the male dancers that make me appreciate the form as art. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to peel off those tights like a banana, but you know what I mean. I know this is a food blog and I promise I’m getting to the food portion of the evening, but it’s also a gay blog, so I would be remiss if I didn’t dedicate a few moments to all the celebrities in attendance.

We arrived to the Metropolitan Opera House (home of the ABT) early, grabbed a glass of champagne and stood on the balcony to watch the red carpet from above. There was a train of D-list celebs like Iman, Ivanka Trump and Kelly Rippa, but a few notables as well. Renee Zellweger, an honorary chair of the event, came down the carpet in a gorgeous full-length strapless gray gown and posed for a few publicity shots. The best entrance of the night had to be that of the diva to end all divas, Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour. Wintour strutted down the red carpet donning her trademark black shades in this invisible sphere of fear that kept everyone at least 10 feet away from her. She paused for half a second to make sure that just a few photogs could grab her image and then kept walking. None of the paparazzi even dared to attempt interviewing her. They’ll drive Britney into the bushes, but they know not to mess with Anna.

The highlight of the evening, other than the performance itself, was when Caroline Kennedy introduced Michelle Obama to say a few words as an honorary chair of the evening. She was, as always, stunning and eloquent, singing the praises of arts education in her black cocktail dress. My friend noted she was a bit under-dressed for the occasion, but if she can wear a sweater set to meet the queen of England, she can pull off a cocktail dress here.

Okay, okay, okay – food. So after the performance, we walked right across the street to the budget bistro of Daniel Boulud’s army of New York City success stories. Bar Boulud is the most casual and cheapest among his restaurants: Daniel, db bistro moderne, and Café Boulud. Walking into Bar Boulud is like walking into the bustling kitchen itself. The space is one long dramatic cylinder packed with wooden tables from end to end. The space is crowded and noisy, but just enough to buzz with excitement. We were greeted by a pretentious French maitre’d, then approached by a pretentious French waiter, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

After our waiter dropped off our menus and wine list, we waited a healthy 10 minutes before a manager finally came over to take our order. It was pretty obvious we were forgotten, but at least the manager noticed the flub before we had a chance to complain. When our first course came, my friend’s fennel soup came without a spoon. I chalked it up to an innocent mistake; until I noticed that same thing happened to the table next to us a half hour later. Luckily, my first course came with the fork it needed. I had a sausage from Lyon with pistachio and black truffle in brioche. It had a nice flavor; however, the truffle was completely undetectable and the whole thing was dry as a bone.

For my entrée, I opted for Boulud’s version of the classic Coq au Vin - braised chicken with hand rolled pasta, lardons, onions, and mushrooms. The chicken was moist and the sauce was savory and delightful. The hand rolled pasta was fine but was a bit of a disappointment. While the first few pieces of lardon (thick cut pieces of bacon in this case) were heavenly, by the third morsel, I was overwhelmed by the salt. Unfortunately, my friend felt a bit under-the-weather, so we left before dessert.

I realize that Bar Boulud isn’t Daniel Boulud’s pride and joy and it isn’t his priority, but the slips we noticed were inexcusable from any restaurant associated with a celebrity chef. Culinary excellence isn’t measured by dollars spent or rarity of the ingredients used, but by the quality of your experience. The next time I’m at the ballet, I’ll just double up on the champagne and skip dinner.

Bar Boulud
1900 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What’s In a Name: Good

In New York City, every restaurant scrambles to be more chic than the next. Whether it’s menus on a CD case, chairs hung from the ceiling, or a hidden entrance that’s about as secret as Lindsey Lohan’s lady bits, it seems that the harder a restaurant tries, the harder it falls – into phrases like “tacky,” “over,” and the dreaded “that was so Summer ’07.” And some restaurants try to nail it with a sleek, minimalist name, something simple, clear and obvious, like Good.

For months, Good Restaurant has been giving my friends and me hours of witty banter and bitchy quips, muttering things like, “Ya know, I heard this place was good” every time we passed by. A name like Good immediately sets the place up to fail, much like a slightly exaggerated adam4adam profile. When you walk into Good and realize it isn’t the metaphoric CollegeJock85 you were promised, you sigh, shrug your shoulders and pray that at least its menu is huge. I’ll stop the metaphor here, before I have you telling Good you’ll call him “sometime” as you hail a cab at 8 a.m.

This year for Mother’s Day, I decided to give my mom the best gift I could think of, me. I invited my parents to stay with me for the weekend, so we could do all sorts of motherly things. Of course, the cornerstone of any Mother’s Day weekend is the proverbial brunch. I searched high and low for the best brunch in the city and finally settled on Good, because it had the one distinctive quality for which I was desperately seeking, availability.

We arrived at 9:55 for our 10 a.m. reservation and walked in to announce our arrival. When I got to the host stand, I glanced down and saw one name on the reservation list. I couldn’t bring myself to say, “Hi, we’re the Marty party,” so I told the truth as she told me they didn’t have our reservation. She followed up by saying “we only take reservations for 10 a.m. on Sundays.” I bit my tongue, because it only would have made matters worse to say, “It IS 10 a.m. on a Sunday you brainless airhead.” Because the restaurant opened at 10 a.m., the reservation snafu didn’t hinder our seating anyway. This is just a very important and telling indicator of a restaurants quality.

Anywho, we sat down and ordered. The menu was pretty well rounded, with an array of options from the standard to the creative. I ordered the breakfast burrito - eggs scrambled with house-made chorizo sausage, peppers, onions & jack cheese rolled in a flour tortilla with a side of spicy salsa. While the burrito as a whole was pleasant enough, there were a few letdowns. The biggest issue I had was with the “house-made chorizo” which tasted much more like plain old hamburger. My other criticism was with the “side of spicy salsa,” which was much closer to a salsa fresca without a hint of heat. My meal also came with cheddar cornbread and a “Chipotle Mary.” The bread was delicious, although too greasy and not cheesy enough and the Mary tasted like all of the other Marys I’ve tasted [insert crude gay joke here].

With misnamed Marys, sausage and salsa, it seems like Good’s biggest problem is clearly identifying what is serves. To offer some advice to Good, I turn to Hamlet and say “To thine own self be true” and put up a new sign that says “Tolerable.”

Good Restaurant 8
9 Greenwich Avenue
New York NY 10014