Archive for March 2011

Giorgio’s of Gramercy

March 30, 2011

27 East 21st Street

New York, N.Y.

(212) 477-0007

It is almost embarrassing to admit how I discovered Giorgio’s of Gramercy but I’ll be forthcoming in the spirit of full disclosure.  A respected colleague of mine at Bear Stearns was planning a Birthday celebration for his Wife, and was on the phone making reservations for Giorgio’s. This was, it turned out, her favorite Manhattan eatery.  Since I have lived in the Gramercy Park area for nearly thirty years, I was most intrigued that I did not know the place.  So yes, I was eavesdropping on his call. When he had hung up, I apologized for having listened to his conversation and asked about the place.  He said Giorgio’s had become almost automatic for special occasions, the menu changed fairly often and both the food and the ambiance were wonderful.  On my way home from the office, I decided to go see the place.  When I saw Giorgio’s, I realized why I had missed it.  The entrance is small and unobtrusive; easily missed. If you are not looking for it, you’ll pass it.  I went in and made a reservation for that Friday evening.  That was the beginning of a beautiful and continuing relationship.

The Food

Giorgio’s features New American cuisine with Italian and Mediterranean influences. Executive Chef Alejandro Reyes and his Staff offer something to please virtually every palate.  For the carnivores, like myself, there is a marvelous herb and mustard coated rack of lamb, steaks, a veal selection, and a pork selection nightly.  Mr. Reyes has a deft and creative hand with fish, my Wife’s preference, and there are always several delectable choices. The pastas are varied and inventive, available in both appetizer and entrée-sized portions. The soups change daily and I’ve never had one I was not taken with.  The seafood and corn chowder is a particular favorite.  In short, Giorgio’s offers something for everyone.  My Wife and I eat out often, and we have several places we frequent for specific cravings. But we had been looking for a default restaurant, a place to go when you were open to anything.  Giorgio’s of Gramercy ended our search, and we are there at least once a week, often more.  My criteria for evaluating a restaurant is very simple. If I walk out the door content, and satisfied that I’ve gotten value for my money, chances are I will be back. I have had very inexpensive meals where I feel as if I’d been robbed at gunpoint, and exorbitantly expensive meals that I deemed to be worth every penny.  Again the operative term is value. Giorgio’s of Gramercy regularly exceeds my expectations.  The three-course Dinner Prixe Fixe menu for $ 35.00 per person is a winner.  While the menu changes several times annually, a recent offering started with an appetizer of Fried Oysters with creamed spinach and chipotle remoulade.  My entrée was Surf & Turf featuring a massive Tiger Prawn and a nice Filet Mignon. I selected the Trio of Sorbet for dessert, wonderful flavors like coconut, lime and raspberry. All this for $35.00 in Manhattan, prepared beautifully? Pretty hard to beat. There is a three-course Lunch Prixe Fixe as well for about $24.00, but I’m hooked on their Barbecue Burger, with caramelized sweet onions, bacon, romaine and pepper jack cheese, served with a giant portion of the best French fries I’ve had anywhere.  When the plate comes out and you see the size of the serving of fries, you say to yourself “I cannot possibly eat all that.” Then, inevitably, you proceed to devour the whole thing.  Giorgio’s also offers catering for private off-site affairs with a bountiful and delicious menu selection.

The Room

Giorgio’s is intimate and tasteful, elegantly appointed without going overboard.  I remember my initial impression was a Russian Tea Room look without the pretense.  The restaurant appears narrow when you enter by the bar, but widens when you reach the central dining space.  Four beautiful crystal chandeliers add a festive touch, making Giorgio’s feel like a night out. The noise level is seldom too much. I would suggest reservations, definitely for Dinner.

Wine

 

Beverage Director James Shay wears a number of hats at Giorgio’s, but it is with wine selection that James really finds his niche. James is a funny, self-deprecating dude, but he is deadly serious about wine and really knows his stuff.  He seeks to find selections for Giorgio’s that you will not see in every place in town.  Whether by the bottle or glass, Giorgio’s wine offerings are eclectic and distinctive.

The Bar

I have heard it said that Giorgio’s makes the best Manhattan in town.  Part of the secret may be the use of artisanal vermouth and brandy-soaked cherries in place of the usual screw-top vermouth brands and grocery store cherries. But Bartenders Brian Doyle and Chris Rue seek to put their own personal touches on virtually all their cocktails. They also offer homemade spirit infusions made with seasonal fruits and fresh herbs. These infusions change regularly when Brian or Chris has a new inspiration (hallucination?). Some recent infusion offerings included Blood Orange Vodka, Lime Mint Tequila, Orange Clove Bourbon, Apple Cinnamon Bourbon and Rosemary Gin.  The daily offerings are written on the mirror over the bar.  Both Brian and Chris are terrific hosts and good company. In short, they are a lot of fun.  People generally go to bars where they like the bartender, and judging from the crowd, these guys are doing something right.

 

Service and the Staff

 

 

 

 

From Owner Nick Grams and Manager Sascha Benson right on down to the kitchen staff, Giorgio’s boasts the nicest group of people I’ve ever come across under one roof.  The Service is warm and friendly, attentive without being intrusive. The waitresses and waiters exemplify the very personification of competence, teamwork and professionalism. They are the best.

Summary

 

You owe it to yourself to give Giorgio’s of Gramercy a try. My prediction is you will be back again and again.

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Remembering Liz Taylor

March 24, 2011
elizabeth-taylor

I just saw a blurb that Elizabeth Taylor had passed away today at the age of 79.  I had the good fortune to meet this lovely lady, although under false pretenses.  The story seems to be worth telling, particularly today.

The year was 1981, and Ms. Taylor was in New York to star in the play “The Little Foxes” for which she received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress.  I had seen a small piece in one of the tabloids recounting a mix up with her limousine service which had left her stranded at the airport for hours when she arrived in town.  This bit of information turned into my “ticket to ride”.

I had agreed to accompany my friend Paul to pick up his Wife from work.  She tended bar at a restaurant that was a hangout for Broadway people.  It may still be there, but the name escapes me.  As Paul and I entered the restaurant, I spotted Elizabeth Taylor sitting in the restaurant area with Roddy McDowell.  Two gigantic guys, obviously bodyguards, were standing by her table to discourage the curious.  I told Paul that I was going to go over and say hello to Liz, as we had a lot of catching up to do.

“You know Liz Taylor?” Paul asked.

“No” I replied.  “That’s why we have a lot of catching up to do.”

“Fifty dollars says you don’t talk to her or even get near her” Paul said.  “You see those two goons?”

“I see them.  No problem.  I’ll take the bet.  I want a hundred if I’m able to join her at the table” I said.

“You’re on.  I’ll go for the C-note.  But there is no way you pull this off,” Paul said, shaking his head.

“Watch me,” I said and grinned knowingly.  Paul shook his head again.

I began my walk from the bar area where we were sipping beers around to the restaurant entrance.  Both of the bodyguards had their eyes on me long before I had even begun to approach their table, as if they had some kind of internal radar.  As I approached Liz and Roddy’s table, both bodyguards came together and blocked my passage.  A hand the size of a Virginia ham waved me away.

“They don’t want any interruptions,” one of the behemoths told me.  “You should beat it.”

“I think Ms. Taylor will want to speak with me.  I owe her an apology,” I explained.  “You want to ask her?”

“She knows you?”

“No.  She wouldn’t know me from Adam.  Never laid eyes on me” I replied.

“So why would she want to talk to you?  I’d rather you leave under your own power, pal; less of a fuss.”

“I’m the limo driver who hung her up at the airport,” I said. “I want to apologize.  Would you just ask her?”

At that point, Liz glanced up, probably to inquire as to why I was still there.  One of the bodyguards whispered something to her.  She looked up at me, smiled and waved me through to join them.

“It is wonderful of you to come and apologize in person.  With all the trouble you got in the papers, I’d have thought you‘d hate me.  The whole incident was really no big deal,” Liz said, smiling. “Please, join us for a drink.” I could not believe the color of her eyes; almost a lavender shade.  Like nothing I’d seen before; nor since.

I sat down and risked a glance up at the bar.  Paul was watching with jaws agape.  His eyes were huge!

“Ms. Taylor, I just wanted to tell you in person how very sorry I am for any inconvenience you had to go through.  No excuses, I dropped the ball,” I said.

“That’s ancient history and you’ve paid enough of a price.  The limousine company said you were fired”

“Yes, that’s true, but it really wasn’t working out” I replied.  “You weren’t my first faux pas, just my most infamous. It was time to do something else, anyway.”

She laughed.  “Well, I wish you the best of luck. And I thank you for making the effort to apologize in person.  That was very honorable and it took some guts.”

The honorable part was just plain wrong, and I’d probably have substituted balls for guts.  The waitress approached to take my drink order, and I raised my hand in dismissal.

“Ms. Taylor, I appreciate the offer but I’m going to pass on having a drink.  I came with a friend and he’s alone up at the bar.  I should join him.  Besides, he owes me $100.00. I told him I was going to go join Liz Taylor and he bet me it would not happen.  It did” I said.  “If I’m out of a job, I should go collect my money.”

“Did he know you were my limousine driver that never showed?” she asked.

“No, I was less than forthcoming in that regard” I replied.

“That was very clever and a little devious” she said, laughing. “I feel better about your losing your job after meeting you.  I think you’ll be just fine. It was a pleasure.”

“The pleasure was all mine” I said, rising to my feet.  “Have a wonderful evening.”  I left the table and began my return to the bar area, most impressed with how very warm and friendly Elizabeth Taylor had turned out to be.  And those eyes!  On the way, I decided not to tell Paul the limousine story which had made all this possible.  It was much more fun to have him wonder about it.

“How the hell did you pull that off?” Paul demanded as I approached, his brow furrowed.

“I really can’t explain it, you know?” I said.  “Sometimes people just seem to connect.”

Liz001

Photographs by Google Images

The Church Bells

March 23, 2011

There is a Church across the avenue from our apartment.  On Sundays, I have become accustomed to the chiming of the Church bells.  Over the years, I had become interested in what the chimes meant, and if there was any symbolism to the times the bells rang.  The internet provides answers to these kinds of questions, so I researched the history of church bells.  Apparently, for a Church of this denomination, the bells were supposed to be rung in the morning, at Noon as a call to worship, and again in the evening on weekends. I was astonished to find that the church bells across the street were ringing at times that meant nothing.  And had been for as long as I can recall.

Passing the Church recently, I encountered some of the clergymen outside talking.  I approached them and posed my questions about the bells.  One gentleman answered that the timing device was giving them trouble.  Another simply said, “They’re broken.”  Well, these things happen, right?  Things break and you have to fix them.  But this has been going on for twenty years!  Does it cost too much to fix?  Do the church people really care if the bells are broken and the message being sent an errant one?  Were they even aware before I broached the subject?  I don’t have the answers to these questions.  I do know I was dismissed as if my inquiry was merely bothersome.

It really is not an issue for me.  I am not a follower of this particular faith.  Nor any other organized religion for that matter.  I choose to believe the AA vision of a Higher Power, one greater than myself.  I fervently hope such a power exists, as if there is no Power greater than me, I have to think all of us are more or less screwed.  But the Church bells do bother me.  I can’t help but thinking the Church bells might be symptomatic of a far broader problem.  Maybe something more fundamental than the Church bells is broken.  Broken, and either unable to be fixed, or not important enough to address.