Young Collectors' Night at the Winter Antiques Show

A well-dressed crowd showed up for Young Collectors' Night at the Winter Antiques Show at the Armory. Shimmery fabrics and metallics looked especially good against the rich colors of the furniture and art. Some of the most stylish attendees were the antiques dealers themselves.

James Mischka and Mark Badgley, sponsors of the event.
Pure rock-n-roll glamour: sparkly tights paired with ankle boots, silver minidress, and a super cropped fur jacket.
One of the most elegant looks of the evening: midnight blue silk dress cinched by a black patent belt.
Gold from head to toe.
An antiques dealer in a chalk striped suit and salmon silk tie.
A lot of women wore open-toe shoes, despite the January cold. Accessorize with Town Car?
A gold circle pattern dress that blends with this antiques dealer's wares.
Shoes and bag.
Tatiana Papanicolaou, one of the chairs of the event, in red and lots of diamonds.
Harbinger of spring? Dress in a wild botanical print.
An antiques dealer in a silver-studded coat and matching silver flats.
Three women.
Cheetah loafers and a suit with unfinished edges.
Stylish trio. Bow ties are just the thing for an antiques show - that or a velvet blazer. And love her booties.
More booties, black paired with navy tights.
A dapper couple that's almost color coordinated. Notice her shiny tights - the next wave after shiny leggings?
Beard and Belgian loafers, plus a debonair look with scarf.



Normally I don't even try to go to popular new restaurants on the Upper West Side, considering it an exercise in futility. I could never get a table at 'Cesca when Tom Valenti was cooking, and by the time I got to Aix, it could have been called "eh." It might be the Upper West Sider's uncanny ability to plan ahead - all that booking of Met and Carnegie Hall tickets - but here's another theory why, with apologies to Jessica Hagy of Indexed.

Dovetail aims to be a neighborhood place: the side street location on the ground floor of a limestone townhouse in the West 70's makes that clear. But this new place by chef John Fraser shouldn't be the property of neighborhood residents alone. Run, don't walk, to Dovetail before the entire city is flocking to the Upper West Side for this fantastic new restaurant.

The only things keeping this from N.F.P. status may be the decor. Sleek to the point of moody minimalism, done in shades of gray, brown, and browngray, Dovetail reminded me of a starkly decorated residence of a lifelong bachelor, the kind who would rather unplug and move one lamp from bedroom to living room rather than buy an extra lamp, much less artwork (true story). Muted moss green chairs are as exciting as it gets.

Canada, the Master Orderer, Marie Fromage and I were greeted with amuse bouches of caviar, fried capers, sour cream, and vodka gelee. Very decadent, like something out of the Master and Margarita, and the vodka added an intriguing, slightly bitter element to the salty-creamy mix.

As expected, the Master Orderer triumphed with his choice of the gnocchi with veal short ribs, foie gras butter, and prunes. The gnocchi were light and retained just a hint of riced-potato texture inside. Veal short ribs turn out to be a very meaty but elegant cut, not as fatty as beef short ribs. The sauce was significantly richened by the foie gras butter. Though the food here could be called "New American," Fraser's use of French technique significantly deepens the experience.

As with the veal short rib sauce, he often takes a familiar recipe and turns it up a notch by refining the key ingredients in the mix. Terrine was made not with pork but with rabbit - again a leaner, lighter meat that takes this countrified dish up a notch. Perfectly seasoned and ground, the terrine was also at the right temperature - not too cold, just slightly cooler than room temperature either. A too-cold country pate reminds me of leftover meatloaf straight from the fridge - not good.

The mildest of the appetizers, the brussels sprouts leaves salad, was lightly citrusy, an elegant winter salad with a nice crunch and a smattering of prosciutto and pears.

After the veal gnocchi, our other favorite appetizer was the pork belly, maitake mushrooms, kale, and egg, which the menu calls a "hen egg" (as opposed to a rooster egg?). I love a coddled egg, and here it was sandwiched next to kale that had been brought to the point of nori-like crispiness. Mixed with the succulent pork belly, the whole thing was a fabulous conflation of flavors.

Moving on, we managed to order all meat courses, though there are some excellent fish choices on the menu as well, including the requisite fish-n-bacon combo. The Master Orderer - we must always check in with this bellwether first - went for the roasted sirloin and beef cheek lasagna. Here's another food trend I'm liking: serving up the animal in various incarnations (apologies to Buddhists). In this case, the nicely aged and grilled sirloin was better than the lasagna, which was actually just mushrooms and beef cheeks stacked to resemble lasagna - gyp.

Each of our entrees - the sirloin, the grilled venison, the pistachio crusted duck, and the rack and leg of lamb - was notable for the quality of the meat itself and the wonderful sauces, which seemed to have a demiglace base. That night we didn't have the problem that Alan Richman had of the meat being dried out - quite the opposite. Too often now not enough attention is paid to the star player on the plate, and restaurants just hope you get swept up by the sides, as I sometimes do. But even without the chestnuts, tangy-sweet stewed cabbage, and cute little marshmallows that decorated the plate, the cut of slightly smoky, tender venison itself would have been a star.

"Now that's how venison is supposed to taste," Marie Fromage said.

"I don't get the marshmallows," Canada said. Indeed, they were cutesy.

But the Master Orderer said, "Marshmallows are always good."

The pistachio-crusted duck was flavorful and bird-y, not gamey, the dish a refined French preparation that involved lots of beautiful slow roasted vegetables like endive.

The menu description of "rack and leg of lamb" with "Indian spices, winter tabouleh, and yogurt" conjured up a very specific idea. A whiff of the exotic, plus the comfort of the known, with the enticement of tabouleh reinterpreted for a different season. One of the best things about Dovetail is that it delivers on your expectations and then some. The cut of lamb was so delicious and perfectly cooked to medium rare, the rub of spices so fragrant but unobtrusive, the hominy-like texture of the warm bulgur wheat tabouleh so good against the tang of yogurt. One bite and you're transported away, maybe not as far as India, but at least as far as Morocco.

Fortunately the portion sizes are not overwhelming, because we still had room for dessert. The best was Canada's order of the banana brioche with a bacon-flavored wafer. Don't be afraid: there's only a hint of bacon compared to the richness of the brioche. Delicious. Another good pick on that night's dessert menu was the cheesecake ice cream.

The only downfall of the night was weird little beet jelly petits fours presented at the end. Even if you were a beet fan. As Marie Fromage put it, "They're trying to challenge you, and at this point of the night you don't want to be challenged."

Prices were reasonable for this caliber of food, though the wine list does not feature enough bottles under $100. There's a $125 tasting menu, including wine pairings, which I would do on a second visit. Service was very attentive and smooth, though we did have to wait forever for the check, and I think I terrified the waitress when I whipped out a camera to photograph the food. God knows why, since I am just a blogger, and they'll probably have many more.

Afterwards we couldn't say enough good things about this place. Canada and the Master Orderer are going back "with friends." (What are we, chopped rabbit?!?) Let's hope John Fraser will be considered for the 2008 Food & Wine Best New Chef awards. In the meantime, diners from all over the city should head to the Upper West while this great new restaurant is still in a very exciting stage - when the star chef is in the kitchen, cooking.

103 West 77th Street between Columbus and Broadway
New York, New York


Times Square and Environs

Despite the presence of the Conde Nast building, which no one ever seems to enter or leave, Times Square is pretty much a fashion wasteland. If you want to see what was "in" two or three years ago, go here.

Still, a few people managed to stand out in the crowd here and on the slightly more stylish Sixth Avenue.

oversize hoodie jacket
orange and camouflage
Everything about her outfit works: the slouchy purple coat mixed with a brown bag, the boots, the tights with a little shimmer in them, the funky necklace, and the Pat Benatar haircut.
Fur hoodie jackets haven't gone away, they've just gotten bigger.
Conservative plaid scarf in nonconservative colors.
This look was punk in a Rent kind of way. Taking a homeboy trend of the printed sweatshirts and spinning it to mean wearable art.
White belted coat.
Plaid coats are everywhere - they look particularly interesting in boxy or bubble cuts.
Very daring. A nice hi-lo mix of the trapper hat with the fur jacket and Vuitton bag.
Toggle coats are everywhere on guys, particularly worn this way with the flipped collar and scarf.
I keep coming back to this coat, because it's so ugly it's mesmerizing. Jolie laide. She wears the hood like you'd sunglasses, as a way of hiding when you're walking down the street.


Bar Stuzzichini and Shorty's.32

Fine dining is fine, but let's face it: most of the time, most of us just want to eat. This is particularly the case when you're going out with a gang of friends. It's not about the provenance of the foie gras or that rare bottle of Screaming Eagle on the wine list, it's about good food in a fun atmosphere.

Two places that satisfy in this regard are Shorty's.32 and Bar Stuzzichini, where the gang and I ate recently. The reports are true - Bar Stuzzichini ain't much to look at. For one thing, the wrought-iron chandeliers are attached to foam core board ceilings, which means the decorator should have his license revoked. As I have tried to explain to the aesthetically-impaired super of my own building many a time, foam core board = anathema. Though the atmosphere is lively, the restaurant's makeshift Italian design makes Morandi look real by comparison. We termed the décor "D-list Morandi."

But maybe I just had A, B, C, and D lists on the brain because of the pop culture symposium going on at this table of media junkies. Of Jada Pinkett Smith and the Page Six blind item: "She makes Queen Latifah look straight."

Finally the talk turned to the menu. After five to ten minutes of debate, we decided what to order. Actually, the gang didn't decide so much as agree to disagree. We just ordered more, which is fine at Bar Stuzzichini because there are so many menu items that you can "pick" at (stuzzicare), and most are inexpensive. Though efficient enough, our young waiter was very serious and a little bizarre. It was like having Rainn Wilson's character from Six Feet Under as your server.

One of the best things here - and a reason to go back - is the chickpea fritters, which were actually on our B list of things to order. Thank God we went to the B list, because these were airy, light, fried little pillows that reminded me of actual Italian street food, particularly the deep fried cubes of polenta you can find everywhere around Florence but nowhere here. Manna from heaven. Trained at Wallsé under Kurt Gutenbrunner, chef Paul Di Bari is also an expert at making potentially heavy foods taste light as air.

Also delicious were the smoky grilled octopus with a glaze of what seemed like reduced, slightly sweet balsamic vinegar, the arancini (rice balls), which were stuffed not with the usual mozz but a slightly funkier, more complex cheese like taleggio, and the fried artichokes, which perfectly suit the "picking" theme of the restaurant.

I was actually not a fan of the deep fried meatballs. Though perfectly crunchy outside and moist within, they seemed sad without a little marinara sauce. Grilled zucchini were ho-hum.

The gnocchi that has some people raving did not make as big of an impression on me. Maybe I've gotten too attached to gnocchi that's been pan-seared, an Asian-dumpling technique that's now used on pasta like the fabulous bacon gnocchi at Allen & Delancey. Also, the amatriciana sauce didn't taste enough of pork. At first I blamed the use of delicate guanciale in place of the usual pancetta. (Flo Fab has it that guanciale is the authentic ingredient of choice.) But Crispo's excellent bucatini with amatriciana sauce is made with guanciale, and it tastes much heartier. Bar Stuzzichini's erred so much on the side of gentleness that it tasted more like a marinara sauce.

Vegetarians should rejoice, because some of the best dishes here are meat- and fish-free, like the orecchiette with cauliflower and breadcrumbs, which was wonderfully garlicky. Likewise, the pasta and chickpeas, which is more of a soup, was perfectly prepared, with both the noodles and chickpeas having a nice al dente texture.

Two pieces of cake - the chocolate and the orange-scented olive oil cake - were devoured almost before I could capture their existence on film. They were both dense, very fresh, and intensely flavored.

On the way out, BFast, an editor at a fashion magazine, donned a rather unusual khaki cloak with double breasted buttons running down where the sleeves would have been.

"It's the Hound of the Baskervilles!" Marciano cried.

"I have a mystery for you to solve," B.Fast said. "Where are my arms?"

A satisfying evening, though not as heart-poundingly thrilling as the time we sat next to Howard Stern and Beth Ostrosky at Shorty's.32 a while back.

"It just so much cooler because they're both here," Lina said. She would know; she's a "radio personality." How is a radio personality different than a regular personality? Does one lose one's personality as soon as one is off air? Not in this case.

This is another fun place with some interior design problems. The lampshades were like something you would be forced to put in your apartment on an interior design show, only to take them down as soon as the decorator left the building. Keep your eyes below lamp-level, however, and you'll find a cool space with party-boy music on the stereo and a vibe reminiscent of Red Cat, though chef Josh Eden comes to Shorty's.32 from working with Jean-Georges, not Jimmy Bradley.

The food is less problematic than the decor. Creamy, luscious Jerusalem artichoke soup was met with a hallelujah chorus. The pork belly was good, though it needed some more oomph. Even better were the truly legumey beans served alongside - these tasted as fresh and gently cooked as California raw cuisine.

Cavatelli would be the best of the appetizers were I not accursed with a strong dislike of truffles, which have infiltrated everything these days. Hand-rolled and homemade, this was the most sophisticated of the first courses.

As we strained to hear Howard Stern and Beth Ostrosky over music that approached rock concert decibel, the entrees dropped. Fish 'n' bacon, fish 'n' bacon, fish 'n' bacon: A great combination that gives you reason to eat fish all winter. Shorty's was the baked skate with bacon. On the opposite side of the fish spectrum was the sea bass, light and citrusy with just a little char. Quinoa on the side had a wonderfully nubbly texture to complement the delicate fish.

Is it lame to order chicken in a restaurant? Certainly not here - it's the best of the entrees, and it's downright decadent, buttery with a crispy skin and a garlicky aroma throughout. Short ribs were served boneless - a neat trick, especially since they had all the flavor of bone-in ribs but were much easier to eat.

My grilled New York strip steak was initially off-putting because it arrived already sliced. Since the age of seven or so I've liked to cut my own meat. Chalk it up to a weird pet peeve. But it went beautifully with the fries, which had a hint of bacon flavor to them. Mmmm... more bacon...

Like Bar Stuzzichini, Shorty's.32 satisfied. Good music, good food, good drinks, and good times. When it comes to dining of any kind, sometimes that's all you need.

Bar Stuzzichini
928 Broadway between 21st and 22nd Streets
New York, New York

199 Prince Street between Sullivan and MacDougal Streets
New York, New York