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NYC Part 2 - The Hunger and Other Stories

Susie Hollands writing for I V Y paris

New York city's shark-infested restaurant waters have dining establishments slashing prices (prix-fixe lunch at the Four Seasons Grill Room for $59, hello?) but it's keeping things interesting. Inventive use of local produce and innovative technique or just plain fads - pork belly - are imperative at the moment.  Has The Stanton Social's Chris Santos gone too far with the foie gras and PB&J (Peanut Butter and jelly) sandwich-tapas? I thought so until I bit into it...converted.  I doubt that will turn up chez Hélène Darroze on rue d'Assas anytime soon.

John_delucie_waverly_inn The Waverly Inn's Partner Chef, John DeLucie's memoir The Hunger pulls no punches and he recounts the ups and downs of the world's toughest restaurant amphitheatre. Currently many are closing but applications for new licenses have shot up 25% - go figure as they say here. The $55 Truffled Mac and Cheese at his (and Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter's) Waverly Inn is still going strong but they have tweaked their pricey wine list. Good job. For those of us used to France, it's eye watering to pay upwards of $12 a glass for (elsewhere) mediocre wine in the city. 

Apart from the Carte de Vins, decibels are quite frankly a major shock for those used to more tranquil, Parisian dining.  After a time, the famous French discretion is what I long for; popular restaurants are as loud as techno nightclubs in the 90's and on several occasions my voice gave out over the main course (hard to member that's an "entrée" here). It seems as though there is some pride to having overly loud conversations about everything from one's relationship to the state of one's bank account.


For those with a sweet tooth we have a head-to-head battle - the Parisian macaron versus the giant cupcake.  The macaron is still a favourite although it's losing its cred in Paris - but the cupcake craze is still all the rage - even tour buses circle the block at Bleeker Street's Magnolia Bakery.  In terms of crucial calorie intake the Magnolia's Bridge and Tunnel weekend crowd are much fatter than those patiently waiting outside Pierre Hermé come Saturday on rue Bonaparte. Nevertheless, weekday New Yorkers are definitely more buff and almost as slim as the Parisian populace.

Unlike Paris, any and every type of ethnic food is refreshingly available and cheaply - not just the ubiquitous sandwich grecque or the "sushi" joints which line rue Monsieur le Prince in the 5e - masquerading as the real thing. Don't even mention the Parisian Latino/Mexican repertoire or even good takeout-delivery. 

Fancy a treat?  It's a close run thing between Dean & DeLuca and La Grande Epicerie at Bon Marché, the GE probably just wins by a whisker, larger aisles allow better people watching or pick up techniques, but packaging is perhaps prettier at D&D.

Photo above features John Delucie by Mark Abrahams, NY Times Blog, below Magnolia Bakery, Without Fanfare or Frippery

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    Copyright © Susie Hollands.