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.
Visually mesmerizing and transformative, Netflix’s Chef’s Table is a current indulgence. Their recent series, directed by David Gelb of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame, is all about France. We were instantly intrigued by Adeline Grattard and her Franco-Chinois restaurant in Paris, Yam’Tcha. Here is a woman chef, who found her grit and inspiration in Hong Kong, and infused it into her and her husband’s quaint bistro. Bestowed with a Michelin star, critics and couch foodies have fallen in love with Yam’Tcha’s unique story. Naturally it was #1 on our list of places to try while in Paris during a chilly October weekend.
Getting a reservation was quite the feat, but we cashed in all favors, pulled strings and managed to squeeze onto the waitlist for the Saturday evening. So we waited. And waited…In the days leading up to Paris, we became mildly obsessed with her Stilton and Amarena cherry steamed bao buns. By the time we touched down, the obsession turned into madness as we went about our weekend in Paris. The only thing we were thinking about was THE CALL and those buns.
Then! Miraculously Saturday at 7pm we got THE CALL and we had a table at 8pm! Could we be there? Of course! Was it all that we had hoped for? A resounding yes, yes and so much more… Yam’Tcha has only one selection: the seven course tasting menu. No ifs ands or butts about it. Just buns. Every night is different depending on the chef’s creations. We, of course, opted for the seven course wine pairing as well. Because, obviously.
After dinner, we were just buzzed enough to ask for a ‘fan photo’ with the chef, who most generously obliged. Looking back, we wonder if this is what people felt like when they first tasted say, Jean-George’s creations back in the day? The artistry of fusing culinary talents, cultures and transforming it into something new is a true gift.
Adeline Grattard is a success story in every sense of the world, and like all selfish beings, we hope she stays small. The intimate, zen-like atmosphere and magical dishes coming out of the kitchen transport you to another dimension. These are the dishes that linger long in your soul years afterwards. True artistic harmony. Oh, and those bao buns….just special, so special.
121 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 40 26 08 07
For your steamed bao bun fix…
4 rue Sauval, 75001 Paris, France
Tel: + 33 1 40 26 06 06
A visit to any doctor right now would result in the following diagnosis: “you need to get out of town immediately for some Vitamin D and/ or mental break from this misery” (Misery meaning the horrible weather). And since the snowstorms have been occurring like clockwork on Thursday and Friday, why not escape from Wednesday and actually make it to your destination?
Doctor’s warning: while a quick getaway out west to LA can be enjoyable, the side affect is that it will only reinforce that tiny inner rage of jealousy that a city (or “city”) within the same country (same continent no less! the nerve!) would actually be spared of the misery here in New York. So in order to cure this illness, the only way out is via passport……
Yes the approach (by plane or sea) is near death, but when you arrive you are actually as close to heaven as heavenly possible on earth. St. Barth’s is magical and spectacular in every way – from the mix of unique beaches to unbelievable restaurants, sailing and other activities, fun (tax free!) shopping – there’s something for everyone here. Go with your most special people and come back floating on air.
Come for sunset cocktails and stay for dinner at Bonito St. Barths.
The best part about skiing is the aprés ski! Plus there’s no-guilt factor because you’re encouraged to eat the extra calories. After all, going down the slopes requires serious energy. Megève is a beautiful ski resort in the French alps, originally a prime destination for the French aristocracy and luminaries alike. It’s also a foodie’s paradise with several Michelin-starred restaurants, amazing wine selections and not to mention killer views.
We recommend this spot, the newly opened La Face au Mont-Blanc.
City break: Paris
I mean, it’s Paris. Paris is fabulous even in the wintertime. Instead of staying in a hotel, rent an apartment and live like a local. Your days should consist of sitting in a café for at least 2 hours sipping hot chocolates or wine, strolls through the markets, and a naughty visit over to Chanel on Avenue Montaigne to do some damage to the credit card. After speaking to the bank that “yes you meant to buy that $$$”, enjoy some oysters and an aperitif with your beau at a small bistro such as Le bar à huitres.
Steeped rich in history, Lapérouse is the perfect spot to wear your new Chanel dress and sip vintage champagne followed by a fabulous meal. A true affair of your own to remember…..
The year is 2014. Thankfully, some, if not most men have evolved past the neolithic age and at least acknowledge that some effort is required on Feb 14th. For men, we are in the annual lull period of post-football depression and in-your-face forced romance. But it needn’t be this painful. This year for Valentine’s day, we recommend a beautiful box of Ladurée macarons instead of the boring old dozen roses and stale chocolates. After all, what girl can resist a delectable little touch of Paris?
Here’s a nice blurb from the website:
The Parisian tea rooms’ history is intimately tied to the history of the Ladurée family. It all began in 1862, when Louis Ernest Ladurée, a miller from the southwest of France, founded a bakery in Paris at 16 rue Royale. In 1871, while Baron Haussmann was giving the city a facelift, a fire broke out which opened the opportunity to transform the little bakery into a pastry shop. The decoration of the new shop was entrusted to Jules Chéret, the famous turn-of-the-century painter and poster artist.
To this day, everything from Ladurée is beautifully presented in that ever-so-chic Parisian way….
And back to 2014, we finally have a Ladurée salon of our own here in New York’s SoHo. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we can now escape to Paris without leaving home. True romance for the modern girl (in the form of fabulous French pastries and macarons).
Ladurée Soho (boutique and salon)
398 West Broadway
New York, NY 10012
Tel. +1 646 392 7868
Ladurée Madison (boutique)
864 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10021
Tel. +1 646 558 3157
*images 1,2, 4 & 5, from Ladurée