After a full day and night of non-stop fun reconnecting with my friends in the greatest city on earth, I slowed down the next day. I couldn’t help but sleep in a little since honestly, I still felt a bit tipsy when I first woke up. But with another sunny and humidity free New York day I had to be outside. I caught up with another old work friend at the Monkey Bar for lunch where I had a chance to make up for the mediocre salad from the Barking Dog the day before. The Monkey Bar has a long history, having opened at the Elysee hotel in 1936. More recently in 2009 it was purchased and re-opened by Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair and the force behind the private club-esque restaurant/pub in West Village, the Waverly Inn. Having had a disappointing dinner at the Waverly Inn last year I wasn’t sure what I was going to get at the Monkey Bar.
It was unusually quiet for lunch in midtown and the dining room was practically empty when we arrived. We were promptly seated at the upper middle table right by the center of Ed Sorel’s mural, from which we could survey the large room with ease. The room was dimly lit and cool; with no windows at all you couldn’t tell whether it was 12 noon or 12 midnight. The red leather banquette, the dark mahogany colored furniture and floors gave the room a decidedly masculine look, but a few whimsical monkey accessories and paintings lightened the mood.
I ordered the chopped salad with grilled chicken, which may have been one of the most expensive salads of my life ($25) but it was delicious and beautifully presented. I also tasted some of my friend’s Cobb salad with fried chicken and have to praise it for how well it was put together. For my chopped salad all the components of the salad were cut precisely the same size, dressed properly, and set apart from the chicken in a perfect dome shape. The chicken breast was seasoned just right, grilled with the skin on, cut on a bias, and fanned around to circle the bottom of the round plate. Instead of thin strips of grilled chicken, what I received was expertly tailored cut of chicken breast. It was impressive. When the plate was set down in front of me the little monkey logo of the restaurant was lined up to face me from the top. When my friend’s plate was set down the same way, I knew it wasn’t just a mere coincidence. We had started our meal with their complimentary crudite and an order of fried green tomatoes with feta (two nice thick slices of tomatoes beautifully coated with coarse corn meal and fried until golden), so we weren’t ravenous for our salads. But I ended up eating most of mine and helping myself to some of my friend’s fried chicken because it was so darn good. The fried chicken pieces were incredibly juicy and in small enough pieces to be eaten without looking or feeling like you were at some fast food fried chicken place. I wondered how long they brined their chicken to make it so perfectly juicy.
With a fabulous lunch fortifying me to move forward I ran some errands and walked across the city to meet Paula by Lincoln Center. Paula has been my best travel companion for so long and for so many trips, and yet we hadn’t seen each other since last December in snow covered Paris. I went onto India and to Asia from there, whereas she traveled to Hawaii, San Francisco, Cancun, and Montreal. We had a lot to catch up on. To see her and to relive our memories again, of course with a bottle of wine sitting outside at a cute wine bar in Manhattan, felt all too natural. With a blink of an eye a few hours had flew us by and we were on a cross-town bus to Janice’s house. She had so graciously offered to host a dinner party to welcome me back to New York. Paula and I picked up a few things, including my favorite cupcakes from Two Little Red Hens and arrived at Janice’s looking forward to a great evening. I was so happy and excited to see that Sammy was home and Leya could could also join us for dinner. I don’t know how Sammy continues to look younger and younger even after turning 40… But he immediately opened a chilled bottle of delicious Lambrusco to get us started.
Janice prepared a yummy Tunisian chickpea soup (which I will be making this week, thanks for the recipe!), sautéed broccolini with garlic and anchovies, perfectly cooked hanger steak, all served with a gorgeous white wine (we detected crisp green apples and bananas) as well as a luscious Italian red. Cookies, cupcakes (red velvet, Brooklyn blackout, lemon, and peanut butter), and steaming cups of tea rounded out the meal. I love to dine out, especially in a city like New York but there really is nothing like sharing a meal cooked by a friend in the comfort of a lovely home. The whole evening was filled with endless laughter that left me feeling warm and fuzzy. I know. I am a lucky, lucky girl.
Great weather, delicious food, amazing friends. How can I not love New York all over again?!
Monkey Bar: 60 East 54th Street New York, New York Phone 212.288.1010
Two Little Red Hens: 1652 Second Avenue New York, New York (near 86th street) Phone 212.452.0476