Upper West Side
America! America! I’m back and I’m yours. I’d like to report
that my intake valve survived the long flight and I managed to down two
terrific meals on this, my first day back. Because of the six-hour time lag, I
started to get peckish for dinner right around lunchtime so I went for a stroll
through the streets of the Culinary Wasteland to check out the possibilities.
The first thing I noticed was that Canteen 82 was shuttered. This is a local
disaster – a black eye on the already bruised reputation of the Upper West
Side as a restaurant neighborhood. Canteen 82 was great Chinese. It was
fresh, the family was nice and helpful; it wasn’t too loud; it got a nice
recommendation from the Times – but to no avail. Dead and gone. I was
also hoping to get lunch there, some of their ambrosial pork soup dumplings.
Never again. This kind of thing doesn’t happen in Italy. In Italy the
restaurants stay where they are, where they have been since Julius Caesar
ate there. They don’t open and close the way they do around here, like an
But … there’s always a silver lining if your heart is pure. I left
Columbus Avenue, where the rents are punishing and made my way to
tawdry old Amsterdam and into the splendid Land, the Thai restaurant on
Amsterdam between 81st and 82nd Streets. I had their lunch special and read
the Village Voice. Ah, home sweet home.
The lunch special at Land is eight bucks. You heard me – eight bucks
– and it’s sensational. You get two courses and a lot of choices in both. I
think my Shrimp Pad Thai today was the best I’ve ever tasted. I told the
server I like it a bit hot and the kitchen nailed it — the mix of noodles and
veg, shrimp and chiles, played on my taste buds like a gypsy violin.
Tonight we had a dinner at home with our kids and some friends who are here from Rome. Alison — my daughter, my chef – cooked her justly famous chicken pot pie – all thigh meat, roasted in mayonnaise and pulled into tasty slivers, a slowly sautéed mirepoix, cremini mushrooms tossed with soy sauce and tomato, fresh peas thrown in at the end — and topped with a home-made biscuit crumble.
It’s … well it’s high-end comfort food, which is great stuff on a wintry evening. For dessert, she made her red-velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting to top off an All-American meal for our Italian guests.