In New York City for The Headwear Association’s 98th Annual Dinner at Tavern on the Green in Central Park, I was excited to try a restaurant I had seen reviewed a few months earlier in the NY Times. Favoring vegetarian cooking for the past 16 years (James Rachel’s 1990 book CREATED FROM ANIMALS: The Moral Implications of Darwinism sealed this decision back then), I’ve been waiting for what I knew would come one day: good Vegetarian Food. So on St. Patrick’s Day night, the day after the association dinner (nice event but mediocre food at best at T on the G), I set out for the East Village and Heirloom. I was not disappointed. When one enters most vegetarian restaurants, what is almost always palpable is the loyalty of the staff to their work. It feels good to be in a business where the people who work there are passionate about what they are doing. In the case of vegetarian restaurants, for most of the staff, it’s also a philosophical conviction that what they’re doing is the right thing to do.* So, at Heirloom, you’ll be greeted by hip, attractive, friendly, and well-dressed hostesses, waiters, and Waiters. , who you’re on the same wavelength with (there’s something sexy about this too, but unfortunately I’m old enough to be a parent to these people). They might be cut from the same cloth as the jeans and T-shirts you find at most vegetarian joints, but here we all play dress-up: it’s fun, it’s sophisticated, the decor is cool, everything is done right. . It’s also an important statement: vegetarianism** is not mutually exclusive of fine dining.

As for the food: I’m sitting with a good view of the bar and the front door, I’m catching the scene, I’m happy. The wine list is interesting, but California is conspicuous by its absence, as are the great pinot noirs from Oregon. I’m not sure what this is about (I hope this isn’t another example of pretentious New York demonstrating its reckless superiority by belittling California in favor of Europe; I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt). The two different reds I ordered (glasses) were good, the quality was adequate for the price. The menu is simple -a good idea- divided into “First Course” and “Second Course”. This works very well as one does not need many options as one can eat everything on the menu. Vegetarians typically cut four-fifths or more from a menu early on in most restaurants. So, after seriously considering “Truffled Portobello Crostini with Celeric Applesauce: Balsamic Vinegar Reduction, Truffle Corstini, and Lavender Honey,” I opted for “Vacuum Poached Egg with Sweet Potato Crisp: Meyer Lemon Foam, Vegetables, and Olive Oil.” horseradish”. Both my waitress and the waiter insist that I mix the different parts of this dish well before eating it. wow! What a brilliant idea, this really works. You’ve got warm-cold, crisp-mild, mild-spicy, runny-dry, and so many great flavors all in harmony. This was the big winner of the night. I was having more trouble choosing a “second course”. I had intended to choose the NT Times Critic’s Favorite, but it was no longer on the menu. I settled on something unusual (at least for me), “Anson Mills Creamy Grits with Smoked Hominy: avacado, queso fresco, and roasted poblano tomato sauce.” I figured this homey-sounding Midwestern dish would be just the ticket to my weekend theme: Don’t accept New York as an avant-garde Mecca just because of reputation. *** Well, this dish was okay, but it couldn’t keep up with the top opening act. After a couple of bites, I came to appreciate the simple comfort food that was the goal. But dessert almost lived up to the appetizer: “Dark Cocoa Cake, with Bourbon Chocolate Glaze: Sweet Chestnut Filling and Espresso Ice Cream.” I (like most of the rest of the world) consider myself an authority on chocolate, this was great. And the big surprise was that I was served by the chef herself, Amanda Cohen. After a perfunctory question about the food, she mentioned that she noticed I was carrying the Times review. Given the fact that she had this article neatly folded in the palm of my hand and was reading it very discreetly, Ms. Cohen’s observation really struck me. And that says something else about Heirloom: People are paying attention to their diners. As a trader, that pretty much says it all.

On Saturday afternoon, I took the R train to Brooklyn and visited Tom Toomey, undoubtedly one of California’s greatest hat store managers of the 1980s. Tom was a pioneer in the renaissance of downtown San Diego, now fully fledged, when he ran The Village Hat Shop in the then-new Horton Plaza. Many years after his tenure in the hat shop, customers came regularly asking for and about him. After a long stint in and around Russia, he has settled in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn and follows his passion for art: We took a long walk through his neighborhood and finally landed at Al Di La restaurant. And what a nice landing! Everything was top notch at this restaurant, including the best entrée of the weekend, the truffles and ricotta ravioli.

Briefly: For an expensive brunch at the Carnegie Deli, you can be insulted by grumpy, old-school waitresses at no extra charge. Dukes on Broadway in Midtown makes a good sandwich (hot or cold) highlighted by bread.

And the winners are:

Relic: On Orchard Street, near Houston, in the East Village.

Al Di La – At the corner of 5th Avenue and Carrol in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

* I spent that afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art, where a MOMA lecturer argued that the modern “object d’art” doesn’t need to be beautiful, doesn’t need to be skillfully executed, doesn’t need to be tangible. Nothing mattered except “the idea” and that all ideas are fair game today with no canons or rules. He advocated a kind of relativism in which all ideas are equal and nothing matters more than whether the art is “interesting.” She used examples of “artists” shooting themselves in the foot or nailing themselves to a Volkswagen as having merit as art. She, the lecturer, refused to pass judgment on these supposed works of art (or anything). In the end, it was hyper-academic nonsense, truly baffling. I was left thinking that this district, where the organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day parade had refused to let gays and lesbians march, was in fact as provincial as some argue. [But Heirloom, where something mattered, saved the day for Manhattan.]

**My philosophy professor friend (and New York native) argues that not eating animals is actually a pretty conservative philosophy, anything but eccentric thinking. For those of you who are still grappling with this question, ask yourself if your cousins ​​should suffer so that they can be your food. Then realize that we are all animals that differ only in some matter of degree.

*** I met Diane Feen, editor of the annual HAT LIFE Directory and bi-monthly HAT LIFE Newsletter, at Bergdorf-Goodman, a temple of New York department stores, to visit the men’s and women’s hat departments and have lunch. The hats were overpriced and their “lunch special” fussilli I ordered was runny and tasteless (I think they opened a can of tomato sauce and poured it over poorly drained pasta, no joke) – this was the worst meal I’ve ever had. I can remember eating at a restaurant in a long time ($18!). And, everywhere you looked, the women were wearing long fur coats (fine with MOMA I guess, but it would be just as fine if I shed a gallon of blood on these ignoramuses). What are these pathetic people thinking? This could never happen in California.

Fred Belinski []

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