Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bits & Morsels

Overlooking the FDR Drive from the John H. Finley Walk.

When I don't feel like experimenting with one of the newer, hipper, fussier restaurants in Manhattan, I'm thankful that I have a selection of old neighborhood standbys to choose from. One is a French bistro, Le Boeuf a la Mode, and the other is a diner, The Mansion. Both are family owned and operated, enjoy a loyal clientele, and have definitely stood the test of time. They also offer excellent value and are assets to their neighborhoods. Le Boeuf a la Mode (539 East 81st St., between York and East End Avenues) is a legitimate French bistro in a serenely quiet setting.

It opened in 1962 and it presents a delicious dining experience that hasn't changed in over 40 years. A rare poulet you could say. The cuisine is heartily French served with style, sans the pretension. There is a serious sense of loyalty coming from the kitchen and the customers reciprocate, and have been doing so for decades.

The restaurant is spacious, thanks in part to its un-trendy location. So, it's a pleasure to have a conversation (ie. no screaming necessary). They offer a prix fix menu for $42.00, which is one of the best deals in town. If you love the French classics like cheesy onion soup, mussels Mariniere, and Beet Salad with Celery Remoulade, then go. You will not be disappointed. They have a big dessert menu, but my favorite is the chocolate mousse.
Le Boeuf a la Mode, outside and in.
Beet salad with celery remoulade. Onion soup.
The Maître d'. Mussels Mariniere.
Roasted chicken. Frites.
Clockwise from top left: Poached Pears; The Chocolate Mousse; The main dining room; Blackberry tart.
The Mansion (1634 York Ave at 86th Street) has been around since 1945. When I need time to think or un-think or just unwind, I plop myself down at one of the window tables at The Mansion and watch all the locals pass by, many with their dogs. Yes, The Mansion is a coffee shop, but taken to a whole different level. Besides serving a popular breakfast, their menu literally has everything you could imagine (broiled salmon, chicken souvlaki, apple crumb pie, etc.). And it's all freshly prepared. The Mansion was recently renovated and feels clean, unlike many run-of-the-mill diners. I like to think of it as a restaurant disguised as a coffee shop.
Clockwise from above left: The Mansion, Est. 1945, 1634 York Ave at 86th Street; The Mansion menu; Apple crumb pie; More desserts on display; Tomato soup; John Phillips, owner of The Mansion.
Tips. A lot of tourists seem to be clueless about tipping at the end of a meal. This is mainly due to the different tipping customs they bring with them. Many waiters are hurting and as a result some restaurants have added an appropriate tip right into the check. [AMNY]

Movie theater chains are not immune to the law requiring them to post the calorie content of their food items. Something to think about before you order that popcorn combo. [The Life Vicarious]

Here is a good and honest review of the Taste of Times Square event that occurred on Monday. Some of the food looked delicious like the pizza from John’s, and some items looked ... um or yum ... interesting like the Buffalo alligator from Bourbon St. Bar and Grill. [Life with Food and Drink]

Summer reading. I'm very much looking forward to reading “Stuffed and Starved” by Raj Patel. It takes a look at why there is such a disconnect between the way people live and eat in the world. The author is interviewed on Bitten. [Bitten] & [Stuffed & Starved]

Here are two new ways to enjoy
(recently legalized) Absinthe. Stop by Tailor (525 Broome Street) for an Absinthe gummi bear (good with your coffee). Hop and skip over to Lollyphile for an Absinthe lollipop. Just don’t give them to the kids. For More on Gummi Bears: Serious Eats. And More on Lollipops: Al dente.

Until we eat again,

Jordana Z.

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