11 February 2007

New York food, part one

After two bus rides from JFK to my hotel yesterday, I was hungry. I had a little trail mix that I brought with me, just enough to tide me over until I could walk 8 or 9 blocks to Pret a Manger. I was not at all disappointed. For a quick sandwich, I don't think anywhere else compares. In what was to me a new development, they sell half sandwiches now, perfect for those like me who are indecisive. There are so many good things to choose from it is nice to be able to do two halves, or a half and soup or salad. Knowing what was to come at dinner (see below) a half sandwich was perfect. I had roasted chicken with curry, mango chutney and greens. Their brownies are really good and don't taste at all like pre-packaged food. Cranberry and apple cider rounded out a perfect little lunch. Since it is only about 6 or 7 blocks from Madison Square Garden, I think I will be there for lunch on Monday and Tuesday too. Dinner Tuesday night, when we would like to be in our seats in time to watch the Junior Showmanship final competition, is always a challenge. A Pret salad might be the perfect thing.

Dinner at Artisanal defies description. That's the food....the service and atmosphere are another story. Our waitress ignored us for 15 minutes after giving us menus. Water appeared shortly before she did. In general, it was difficult to get her attention the whole evening. It seemed the larger tables ordering the 4 tiered towers of seafood warranted more of her time. The place is also loud, crowded, and as Frank Bruni recently discussed, there are flashes from cameras going off every few minutes. Is there a time when Artisanal is not a madhouse?

Anyway, back to the food. We took an unconventional approach to the menu but it worked very well for us. We started with the Artisanal Blend fondue, and followed that with salads and a shared potato/onion/cheese tart appetizer. We skipped the entrees entirely, though the three course, prix fixe menu was intriguing and we nearly took that route. We ended the meal with desserts and coffee. Profiteroles with pistachio ice cream for JT, and a creme brulee with orange rind that was lovely. Had I been blindfolded I would have been sure I was eating a dark chocolate orange, though there was no chocolate in the dish. Would love to know how they accomplish that little bit of magic. Alas, I was stuffed to my growing ever-smaller gills and could only eat half.

I waddled back to the hotel, convinced I might not eat again for a day or two. The mark of an excellent meal, I suppose.

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