I got invited to hang out at a beer bar and an Ethiopian restaurant down in New York City Saturday a week ago (February the 18th), which sounded like a fine idea, especially since it has been years since I’ve dined on Ethiopian foods. It seemed a shame to go all the way down to the city and not do other things; besides the gang wasn’t gathering until mid-afternoon. So, I hopped the train and got to Grand Central Station at about 10:30, and went hunting for brunch.
Marseille for French Fusion Brunch
The way I do these things, is I do Internet research first. I find likely places to eat but if I see something else on the way, I’ll do that instead. Same with any museum-crawls I might do — what’s the exhibit? I’d been wanting to see the Isle of Lewis chess pieces at The Cloisters for a long time (well, since I discovered they were going to be here), which meant a west side of Manhattan subway trip, and the gang was planning on meeting up on the west side as well, albeit mid-town. So… A West Side Story, er expedition was in order.
On the Internet, I found a likely brunch place at the corner of 44th and 10th Avenue (44&X, at 622 10th Avenue). I hoofed up to 44th Street and began walking. Man, the blocks are long! I passed the entrance to the subway between 7th and 8th Avenues, and began reading restaurant menus as I walked. (I wish all restaurants posted their menus outside their establishments…) Finally I came to Marseille, and was intrigued enough by their brunch placard outside (blocked by those two animatedly-conversing men in the photo who seemed bent on remaining at that spot) to try it. Prices here are quite reasonable, at least at brunch time. Especially after noting menus earlier on the street with Eggs Florentine: $13. Y’know, I’ll make my own Eggs Florentine at home, with real farmer’s eggs, for far less.
I’d decided that with prices for basic brunch egg dishes, I was going to have to step out of the pack. (By the way, if I start my day with straight-up carbs, as in Danishes or cereals or the like, I get severely dizzy, among other things. This was going to be my first of two meals of the day… it was going to have to satiate without making me woozy. I am SO not going to carb-load early in the day. Seriously bad in SOOOO many ways.)
The food at this locale is French/French-fusion. I ordered a goat cheese torte, I think for $7, it was in a small amount of pastry, surrounded by a chunky and salsa-like tomato base, and topped with carmelized onion, and crunchy greens. The tarte itself had been warmed, and the cheese at perfect consistency. Awesome. I also ordered the tuna tartare (yellowfin). This comes with a horseradish (mild) creme fraiche, and a few delicate dribbles of olive-emulsion, and copious lemon. I love sour, so I was in hog’s heaven. The price for this item competed excellently with similar dishes in sushi restaurants in my area of Connecticut. And to round things off, a side order of asparagus in butter. I do well cooking skinny asparagus; this restaurant does quite well cooking the thicker representations of that species. Service when I ate there was excellent. Although the place filled extravagantly after I got there, the waitstaff remained attentive and on the ball. I tipped accordingly.
The Cloisters for Culture
After, I went back to the subway station, took the A train up to 190th Street, and wandered through Fort Tryon Park until I came to The Cloisters, and had myself some serious non-food-related fun observing exhibits. A couple of photos follow, but the site would not allow us to photograph the Chess pieces themselves. (The guard intercepted one person, while another took the opp to make all sorts of Happy Snaps with his i-Phone.) After…. walked back to the subway, with a minor detour to look at Hudson River scenery. The gardens aren’t up, but there’s always the river. Then, back down to mid-Manhattan.
The Cloisters, btw, is currently an extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’d have to look up details, but I think that the Cloisters was itself built late 1880’s by someone fascinated by medieval architecture, who brought over bits and pieces from Europe and assembled them in upper Manhattan. With one thing and another, it’s now open to the public for the hefty suggested fee of $25 a visit — but if you are cagey you can combine that visit with the more mid-Manhattan Metropolitan Museum of Art, and not worry about any further suggested payments.
Here are some Cloisters shots:
A good excursion, and a lot of healthy walking, considering the food I was dining on, this day.
The Pony Bar for Beer
The Pony Bar is located at 637 on 10th Avenue — a corner conjunction with 45th Street.
They specialize in beer. Ales, stouts, obscurities. I hadn’t heard of any of the items on the main menu (but if you want it, there’s Bud, too). I tried a stout that was brewed with oyster shells, but although I liked it a LOT, I couldn’t taste its provenance. The atmosphere and ambiance here is great — it feels genuine, a good pub. But even at 4 – 5 pm or so, it was getting heavily crowded. I guess a lot of people know about this place. I’m not crazy about beer in the winter, so when it was time to move on to dinner, I was happy to do so; but this is a place I’d like to return to.
Meskerem for Ethiopian Dinner
Dinner. Meskerem, at 468 W. 47th Street. Between 10th and 9th Avenues. No photo of the exterior: look for something brilliantly red. My Internet searches found three restaurants in New York City with the same name and apparently owned by the same people. This is Ethiopian food. It is excellent. Because there were eight of us, we each ordered individual items; previously when I’ve been dining Ethiopian we all shared — the authentic method. But that’s okay; I’m glad not to eat a couple of items on the menu. No chicken breast to have to dodge around, and I avoid ordering non-pastured beef out. I’m happy.
Mostly, the food comes served on a flat but moist Ethiopian bread. You need to break off bits of this bread, and use it to scoop up your food. You’ll get a couple or so condiments off to sides, to dip your repast into.
Personally, I’m low carbohydrate and seldom eat bread, but I make periodic allowances for special cultural incursions into good food with good company etc. I ordered an appetizer of lentils (spicy, with jalapeno) and a main course of lamb (medium-mild). The lentils were simply awesome. The lamb was good, good enough to eat again, but I would have liked to have seen more of the listed vegetables that came with that dish, actually there. The onion was sparing; the bell pepper in another time loop. BUT.. I would go back, because it was GOOD.
Next time I’ll order the vegetarian combo, or one of the chicken (dark meat) leg dishes. One of us ordered the veggie combo, which looked awesome. And if I order chicken legs — it is because I am truly committed to seeing poultry dark meat get better respect at restaurants.
At the end of the dining,I decided that, rather than return to the Pony Bar, that I’d hike back to Grand Central Station and go home. The place was way too crowded by now to sit, and I have troubles hearing conversations in really active environments. I much rather converse, than continually say “What? What? What?”, and the other option, just nodding pleasantly at appropriate pauses, is also not particularly rewarding.
However, I’m truly pleased with my day’s excursion out.