Monday, April 23, 2012

Dining and Baseball: Spring Traditions for Travel and Food Notes

Starting this month, I'm all about two things: restaurants and baseball.  I'm not sure why I connect the two, but I guess it has something to do with getting deeper into the culture of a location by understanding the sports mores and by experiencing the cuisine.  I kick off this series with a look at my current home, New York City. 

Here's a restaurant, right in my neighborhood, that's gotten a lot of buzz, and I loved it!  If you get a chance, get a reservation at Crown on the Upper East Side.  It's definitely the "crown jewel" (sorry about the pun) in my neighborhood.

When the Bruno Jamais supper club abandoned their turn-of-the-century townhouse near Madison Avenue, there was a collective concern for a disappearance of culinary class and quality on the Upper East Side.  Chef proprietor John DeLucie saved the neighborhood by bringing the refinement, “scene” and first-rate dining experience of the Waverly Inn and the Lion uptown to the inviting Crown, the townhouse’s new resident.  With three dining spaces, starting with a long but intimate bar, and continuing into a clubby wood-paneled dining room, and an art-filled back-room, Crown excels at providing top-rate French cuisine in an equally polished setting. 

Jordan Salcito, Wine Director
The restaurant is a scene, populated by both residents of the tony neighborhood and those feeling the downtown trendy, yet upscale vibe.  Dining, wines and service are excellent.  Starters like Tasmanian trout tartare are expertly prepared, fresh and a bit daring with pumpernickel crisps and caperberry remoulade.  Main courses are pricey but delicious, including perfectly seared Maine diver scallops accompanied by escargots to add a bit of brininess.  Two meaty lamp chops, plated with Swiss chard and chanterelles, are edged with a crusty blend of salt and pepper that seals in the flavor and moisture.  Ask Wine Director Jordan Salcito for suggestions from the restaurant’s 200-bottle list; her enthusiastic and knowledgeable description of each wine is like hearing poetry to the grape.  I loved the silky 2010 Marcel Lapierre Morgon and the slightly minerally 2009 Clos Blancheau from Paso Robles.  Both paired well with our meat and seafood choices.  It may be difficult for you to take your eyes off the interesting scene and clientele at the restaurant to give equal attention to the food and wine, but you should.  You should also leave room for pastry chef Heather Bertinetti’s signature creation, the warm chocolate soufflé which your adept server will dress with malted English cream.  If you can’t get a prime-time seat in either of the two dining rooms (it can be very difficult), the bar also serves dinner.  Crown is also open for lunch.  Dress up, and enjoy a wonderful New York dining experience.

 Crown, 24 E. 81st Street,  646-559-4880, http://www.crown81.com/

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