Every now and then, we have moments when we want to stroll down the back streets of London; a chance encounter with Sherlock and the good doctor, perhaps the Artful Dodger and Fagin, or Mary Poppins and the children. We step lightly out on the pavement and go in search some tea and sympathy. But, we’re in New York City.
So we amble our way down Greenwich Avenue to Tea and Sympathy itself. Ducking in through the slightly seedy doorway, we find ourselves in Her Majesty’s outpost to the colonies.
With ten small tables for two to chose from, we settle in a back corner where we can eye the scene. A steady stream of Brits flows in and out, sometimes for tea, sometimes for a meal, often just to say hello.
We’ve come to know that we can count on a delightful bowl of the day’s special soup, undoubtedly consisting of potato and another vegetable – parsnip is our favorite. The special salad brightens the day with its crisp green leaves, crunchy walnuts, and crumbly, pungent Stilton.
Despite our combined culinary knowledge, we hadn’t dealt with a Tweed Kettle Pie before – shreds of salmon, cod, and parsley baked under a crisp crust of fluffy mashed potatoes. Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mash can all be had here, washed down with glasses of fresh ginger beer and tart English lemonade.
And for dessert? Topping our list like the hot custard tops each selection, the blackberry and apple crumble, rich in ripe fruit, and the ginger cake, spicy with the bite of fresh ginger.
On another day, we stopped by for afternoon tea. Tea and Sympathy has a delightful collection of ceramic teapots, each of a different design. We selected our favorite brews, which arrived accompanied by a three-tiered silver salver of finger sandwiches, scones, and wedges of cake – a perfect end to a day of window-shopping for crown jewels.
Tea and Sympathy, 108 Greenwich Avenue (at Jane Street), 212-807-8329. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. No credit cards. Lunch $15-20, Dinner $25-30.
I have to admit it – I’ve never seen Gone with the Wind. Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler exist for me only in their most famous quotes. Not being thrilled with the idea of sitting through a multi-houred videotape, I agreed to a Georgia-style dinner outing.
We set off for West 4th Street to find the latest import from Wadley, Georgia (pop. 2,438), Georgia Boy. We were graciously greeted at the door by cheerful southern boys, and tables covered with blue and white checked tablecloths.
We immediately shifted into picnic mode. And what a picnic! Advised that our drink selection consisted fo “co-cola or some of that sprite stuff,” we tucked our napkins on our laps and settled in to feed.
To start, there’s little reason to look beyond a plate of crispy chicken wings, tender inside, light, not oily; Florence Henderson would be proud. The stone-ground mustard sauce lent a subtle kick, and whetted our appetites for more.
At a picnic we never get tired of fried chicken, so a plate for an entree, hot sauce at the ready, joined our table. The fish cakes with zesty tartare sauce were perfectly seasoned, and fried just right. Since at least one of us likes liver, the tender fried calf’s liver with caramelized onions added to our cholesterol frenzy. Properly stewed greens and potato salad made our picnic complete.
Blueberry cobbler and banana cream pie were overkill, but oh, so good.
Lunch is a similar menu, while brunch abounds with grits, cheese grits, pancakes, and sausages – patty sausages, not northern style link, the staff is sure to remind you.
Frankly, my dear, I’d just like seconds.
Georgia Boy, 165 West 4th Street, 212-255-5725. Open seven days a week for lunch, brunch and dinner. Mastercard, Visa, Diners Club. Lunch $10-15, Dinner $20-25.
“Let’s do Mexican,” generally means heading for the closest eatery serving a greasy Tex-Mex mishmash of tacos, burritos, and chimichangas, usually washed down with an inexcusably large margarita flavored sno-cone. So it was with great anticipation that we headed into the West Village to a new establishment purported to serve culinary delights steeped in traditional Oaxacan cuisine.
Mi Cocina turned out to be worth the anticipation.
Opening late last year, this corner Mexican bistro is a delight of adobe, terra cotta, and colorful glazed tiles. it has already garnered two stars from The New York Times, and the continued capacity crowd testifies to that assessment. So does the food.
Starting the evening with a round of “Dona Margueritas,” made with top grade tequila and Grand Marnier, we peruse the appetizer selection. Without reservation, our list topping starter is the Camarones al Chipotle, spicy sautéed shrimp in smoky pepper sauce, rolled up in warm flour tortillas.
Other winners include deep fried and lightly breaded rings of squid, a delightful quesadilla oozing with melted cheese, and the vegetable salad of local produce in a biting, citrusy vinaigrette.
One of the most overlooked foods in Mexican cuisine is fresh fish. At Mi Cocina, the chef shows his stuff with a daily selection of fish, often grilled, with a unique repertoire of sauces that make liberal use of traditional Oaxacan ingredients like Seville oranges and epazote.
Enchiladas, moles, and chile rellenos do grace the menu, but no everyday red and green jalapeño sauces smother these familiar dishes. Instead, the stock of sauces is once again drawn upon, flavored with everything from Mexican chocolate to pomegranate seeds.
The dessert selection is limited, and early on consisted of a sole entry, almond flan. The list has lengthened, but there is room for improvement, and we look forward to a future selection that stands up to the rest of a memorably meal.
The evening must be capped off with a steaming mug of Mexican coffee, blended with dark roast java, Kahlua, and Tia Maria.
Mi Cocina, 57 Jane Street (at Hudson), 212-627-8273. Open seven days a week for lunch, brunch, and dinner. Major credit cards accepted. Lunch or brunch $20, Dinner $35.
CaB magazine was one of the first publications I ever wrote for. Published by my dear friend Andrew Martin, it covered the Cabaret, Theater, Music and Dining scene in New York City, long before slick publications like Time Out NY and Where NY became popular. We had great fun writing it, and some wonderful writers contributed to its pages. When the magazine folded in the mid-90s, Andrew disappeared from the scene, and rumors had it that he departed from this existence not long after. I was thrilled to find out in mid-October 2005, a decade later, that the rumors were just that. Andrew contacted me after finding my site via that omnipresent force, Google. He’s alive and well and a member of a comedy troupe called Meet the Mistake. Somehow quite fitting!