Contrary to the outside belief that New York is a cold, isolated city of 8 million people, the reality is it’s really nothing more than a small town. If you’ve been around (the block) long enough, everyone pretty much knows everyone. You’re bound to run into people or be seen by people you know (or know you) no matter where you go. Since most of us dine out at least 3~4 times a week, restaurants essentially become an extension of our living rooms. They are family, lovers, and maybe even a bit on-the-side. Or even on-the-side of on-the-side.
In order to maintain a happy, full stomached NYC life, the key is to know how and where your loves (restaurants, that is) rank in your heart, and how to properly manage each relationship. And being the global rats that we are, many of these relationships end up stretching across the bridges and tunnels to LA, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Europe and beyond. Here is…
DineGirl’s Guide to being Disloyally Loyal
Believe us when we say that years of field experience, hard boozing, dining, schmoozing, a few heartbreaks and many many air kisses have been a part of this research project in order to provide this valuable insight.
Understand also that if you’re new to a restaurant or a restaurant group, you’re probably not likely to get the choice tables right off the bat. It’s the real life equivalent to a ‘day of’ reservation at Dorsia. Cue the cackle on the phone. Just ain’t gonna happen. Over time, as you frequent the establishment consistently (this is key), make it a point to get to know the hosts / owners / managers. You will see the relationship blossom naturally. Tip well, mind your manners, treat the staff with respect and you will make a good impression. Also, make sure you are being valued in return. Why keep going back to a “hot spot” that only gives a shit about your Black Card, treats you like crap and serves up mediocre food? Good restaurants value their customers (they remember the names of regulars), and will make each visit an enjoyable one.
1). KNOW YOUR CORE !! Good relationships take time, effort, and a lot of patience.
A handful of good core relationships will be the foundation to a fruitful life spent feasting. Know where and who you want in your core, and treat these apples as if they were your babies. These spots should stand the test of time, feel like home, and keep you coming back year after year. Timeless, elegant, welcoming and special. True gems these are. Value the core.
2). MAINTENANCE : It’s hard yet enjoyable work.
You wouldn’t let your car go for 100,000 miles without an oil change or tune up. Similarly, don’t let your food foundation turn into a jalopy hodge-podge mess of random spots. Key to maintaining your core is consistency. Minimum once a month visits for your #1’s, and every so often for the other core guys. This will also evolve naturally.
Now that you’ve established a core, here’s how to Cheat Like a Pro!
3). MONOGAMY IS BAD : “When I’m good, I’m very good. But when I’m bad, I’m better.” Mae West. On the upper east side you’ll find old grannies frequenting equally tired old spots 5,6 nights a week. This isn’t because the food is that fabulous, it’s because the restaurant is on the block and part of the co-op. It’s important to venture out of your comfort zone and seek out some spice and thrill on a regular basis. After all, variety and curiosity are what broadens one’s horizons into new cultures and culinary experiences. Hopping on a plane with a passport is also part of this process.
4). KNOW YOUR FLOOZIES : One and done’s are ok.
So you ventured out and the new place sucked. No love lost here. The twisted logic is that knowing what was bad about a new place will make you appreciate what’s great about your core places. Was it a bad attitude, tired vibe, crappy service, predictable menu or uninspired wine list? Knowing what you didn’t like about the person, I mean restaurant – (just kidding!) will mean avoiding the same traps and pitfalls in the future. Set your own standards for next time, which means time and money saved. And if it was indeed a great experience but just not inspiring enough for round two – that’s A-ok as well.
Just because you’re buddy buddy with this guy, that guy, and everyone in between doesn’t mean that anyone gives a shit. We’ve all got notches on our belts, a Rolodex to match and are in the same rat race hustle. While dining at one spot, don’t openly talk smack or name drop other spots in that obvious way. Appreciate places for what they are, and never point out what they are not. And if it’s not meant to be part of the core, refer to (4). Restaurants keep tabs on everyone, and yes they are listening into people’s conversations, taking notes and will remember pretty much everyone who steps through their doors.
6). ON-THE-SIDE, and ON-THE-SIDE of ON-THE-SIDE : sounds complicated, but not.
These are spots that you frequent sporadically and have some connection to – for whatever reason it may be. They require a small level of maintenance but aren’t necessarily long term apples since chances are some won’t be around in a year. Best to enjoy them for what they are. The “on-the-side” types usually have just one or two appealing things on the menu that keep you coming back, and the rest is just eh. Hence the mild interest level. Maybe they do a good martini on a rainy day or have a nice oyster happy hour. And sometimes that’s all you’re in the mood for. “On-the-side” of original “On-the-side”s refer to diluted versions of the OTS. For example, your original OTS martini spot may reside all the way downtown, so the OTS-OTS would be the somewhat acceptable place in midtown which fills a void but isn’t a full “fix”. And so on and so forth.
7). DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS : shhhh…..
We know a vegetarian who enjoys the occasional Black Label burger at Minetta Tavern. His soul weeps inside but somehow he still manages to wake up the next morning. It didn’t kill him! A miracle! On route back from a boozy business trip to Minneapolis, one of the best experiences for Dine Girl was a perfect Big Mac, fries, and a ‘strawberry’ shake from a long lost friend with golden arches. Whether it’s politically incorrect foie gras, or the questionable dive bar chicken wings, we all have our vices. These dirty little secrets are ok on that rare occasion – just don’t tell anyone and continue to pretend it never happened. Again.
This guide could go on and on, but we’ve outlined what we believe serves as a roadmap for dining out with purpose. With the right attitude and approach – everyone is happy, no one gets hurt, we’re all well fed, and the revolving doors continue to twirl as they await the next batch of hungry hungry hippos.
DineGirl’s Disloyally Loyal Guide strictly pertains to the rules of dining out. DineGirl is not responsible for what happens to anyone who applies the above rule set to other aspects of life. Results of such behavior include – but not limited to: rotten core, no apples, and loss of respect from society (ie. Louis Winthorpe III : “No one wants your drugs here Louie!”). The worst case scenario – a potentially empty stomach, table wine and sharing Buster’s dog bowl and bed.
“There is no
Life I know
To compare with
You’ll be free
If you truly
Wish to be…..”
excerpt from Willy Wonka
Stick with Me Sweets on Mott street is a dreamy, tiny jewel of a chocolatier in Nolita, recently opened by former Per Se chocolatier Susanne Yoon. You are immediately transported to another world when you take your first bite into one of her delectable treasures. Light, flavorful, sweet, crunchy… her creations are truly magical.
Everything is of course handmade–including all the little cookies, jams, peanut butter fillings that you taste but do not see. Oh, and we’re not talking about “handmade” being “homemade / rustic”. These bonbons are meticulously made, including being individually hand painted and sparkled. A process that takes four days from start to finish. Artisanal at the finest level! Take her “New York, New York” chocolate bonbon. These little gems are filled will candied peanuts, pretzels and caramel, and the exterior shell is decorated with multi-colored sparkly graffiti-style paint. And yes, each color (about 20 different colors) is separately hand dotted to create the showbiz effect. Mesmerizing!! In addition to her spectacular bonbons, there are marshmallows, caramels, pralines, hot chocolate, little cakes… All of the ingredients used are of the finest quality, including yuzu and matcha from Japan. You really taste and feel the difference.
Stick with Me Sweets is a little reminder that having a dream and big imagination can take your palette to new clouds… We are officially obsessed!
Stick with Me
202A Mott Street
New York, NY 10012
tel. 646 918 6336
After months of hibernation, it finally feels like spring is breaking through! Last weekend, we gathered up a gaggle of friends for an ‘end-of-winter-hello-spring’ (and secret birthday) dinner party! Knowing our guests were coming from as far away as Brooklyn and the Upper West Side, we made sure they were immediately greeted with chilled champagne and a selection of our fabulously homemade canapés.
To ensure that we-the-dinegirls were part of the over-the-top festivities, we planned planned planned military style in advance. 99% of our menu was prepped beforehand so all that remained before serving were the finishing touches, drizzles and sprinkles. To quote Martha, “if you need more than 15 minutes to assemble and plate each dish, it’s the wrong menu.”
Instead of complicated items (note our previous dinner party), we opted for fabulously simple and delicious dishes like tomato fennel soup and beef bourguignon. The key to elevating seemingly every day foods is to use the best best ingredients (san marzano tomatoes, Joseph Faiveley burgundy for the beef bourguignon etc..) and also present each course on your finest china. Our soups were served in vintage tea cups, drizzled with the very best French olive oil and were immediately met with “ooohs and ahhs!” when presented to our guests. Even the humble tomato soup gets the star treatment in dinegirl world!
To pair with our desserts–a spread overflowing with decadence that Marie Antoinette would most definitely approve–we figured this was the perfect night to share a few bottles of that most special honey elixir….. Château d’Yquem. Liquid gold!
When we’re not cooking, eating, wining or dining, we’re still always thinking about food. Now that summer is in full swing, what’s better than sitting by the beach with a great book that happens to also transport your tastebuds? As its not always practical lugging around our Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, we’ve put together a list of great summer reads perfect for foodies and non-foodies alike. Paired with these fabulous summer outfits, these literary escapes are a great way to indulge the soul.
We love André Balaz’s hotels. The Standards, Sunset Beach, and our fav — Chateau Marmont. All are uniquely chic, cozy, and anything but boring. There’s also that sense that something dangerous and illicit is percolating under the surface, which adds to the allure. Case in point when The Standard Meatpacking caused a huge ruckus with all the bonking brouhaha. You would think this wouldn’t have been such a big deal given the area’s scuzzy past, but I guess our beloved city has indeed evolved. Sigh… But an amazingly fabulous and tasty dining out scene is the silver lining to New York’s Puritanification.
Newcomer The Standard East hotel has settled in nicely on the Bowery, which has also (mostly) bid adieu to its gritty past. The hotel’s fabulous restaurant Narcissa is beautiful both on the inside and out. The garden is especially fabulous for summer into the best time of year which is now. There’s nothing better than a New York City fall. The front bar is perfect for a post-work cocktail or a casual (hopefully boozy) brunch with a friends, or even a lazy latte if you’re actually staying in the hotel. We managed to pull some strings and get an outside table for 8 in the garden, which was secluded and special. Highly recommend trying to snag this coveted table.
Onto the actual food…
Special tomato salad was incredible, as was the chicken for two (highlight). Also amazing was the steamed bass in aromatic French curry broth. Everything tasted fresh and unfussy, showcasing the quality of the farm fresh produce.
Our crew ended up camping out for a 4.5 hour dinner (partially due to the comfort of the lovely table) which was an amazing experience, washed down with several bottles of vino. Narcissa is a great all around spot and will be a new fixture for the neighborhood.
21 Cooper Square (5th Street and Bowery)
New York NY
t. 212 228 3344