new york in winter part two

we were up late the next morning, so i dashed out for coffee and some breakfast pastries in the neighborhood. after our usual morning gabfest, we got cleaned up and headed down for a walk around midtown. we took a look at the recently opened new york times building. there is a fascinating installation in the lobby, entitled “moveable type.” i could not stop looking at it as it cycled through several incarnations: numbers, words, sentences, maps, etc. it all became strikingly personal when a sentence from frank bruni’s review of dovetail popped up on the screen directly in front of the two of us: Did Mr. Fraser need both of those sidekicks for the venison? not only was this about a restaurant we had just visited, but about one of the dishes we had eaten.

at noon, we stopped in to le bernardin for lunch. we had such a great experience at lunch here a couple of years ago that we decided to try it again. after being greeted and seated next to some enormous flower arrangements (the glass vases of which were filled not only with water, but yards and yards of crinkled cellophane!), we finally were able to choose our food. a visit from the sommelier led us to an austrian wine–a gruener veltliner. this varietal is popping up on menus everywhere and it was an excellent accompaniment to our meal.

first to arrive at the table was the restaurant’s signature salmon spread with lightly toasted, paper-thin slices of baguette. it is rich and smooth and slightly smoky and is always something to look forward to. Our first courses came shortly thereafter. drew’s appetizer was a composed salad of thin sliced salmon carpaccio with a jalapeno emulsion and watercress sprouts, presented with toasted pain de siegle. mine was a warm “crabcake” of peekytoe lump crabmeat topped with shaved cauliflower and ringed by a dijon and creme fraiche sauce. these were both absolutely luscious!

next came the entrees…a delicate piece of codfish, sauteed and served atop a bed of curry lentils, finished with a tandoori broth and a spoonful of yogurt. there was also a perfectly cooked chunk of pan-roasted red snapper, set atop a complex tomato chutney and garnished with miniature pappadums. despite the french name and tone of this establishment, chef eric ripert is clearly embracing more international influences. both of these dishes really sang with flavor.

unable to choose just two desserts, we narrowed it down to three. a thin slice of star anise poached pineapple, topped with a warm almond financier and pineapple buttermilk sorbet; miniature panna cottas, served with a brunoise of tropical fruits; and a vibrantly colored, delicately flavored blood orange sorbet, accompanied by two petits galettes brettonnes. afterwards came our coffee service and a napkin-lined basket of tiny almond madeleines and pistachio financiers. as we got up to leave, it began to rain so we hopped in a cab and headed down to chelsea.

we spent some time at the fashion institute of technology, viewing their show of gowns by the fabled madame gres of paris. it featured more than seventy of the legendary designer’s pieces, many of them loaned or donated by some of her most famous clients. they were, and are, just breathtaking.

in keeping with our theme of beauty, we headed across town to the morgan library and museum. housed in j.p. morgan’s (formerly) private library on madison avenue, we looked into a pair of shows there that could not have been more different. the first was a collection of renaissance drawings from michelangelo and his contemporaries, on loan from the uffizi in florence. across the hall we viewed a collection of photographs by irving penn. taken over the course of sixty-plus years, they were all of artists and writers and all in black & white. both groupings spoke to us in different ways, but both were simply exquisite.

from here we headed to the east village to check out my old neighborhood. we checked out my old street (barely recognizable!) and the places we used to go to drink, eat and dance. almost all of it is changed over to something else now. without looking at the street signs, i would have been completely lost. we accomplished a bit of shopping, stopped in for a coffee and a piece of cake and then wandered some more.

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