Danny Meyer's The Modern, at the MoMA: as good as it gets

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

I'm not a fan of staying in Midtown when I am in New York, but... I realize that's where most people like to stay. I get the question "where should I go for dinner?" all the time, and usually my answer includes The Modern, Danny Meyer's restaurant at the MoMA.

Can't go wrong! First, it faces MoMA's sculpture garden:

For those who don't know Meyer, he owns perennial successes like Eleven Madison Park and Gramercy Tavern.

The Modern is actually a two-in-one. The first half is a bar that serves food, louder and darker:

I prefer the other half, more serene, more space between tables, better view.

This is what I had at my last lunch:

a delicious salmon and dill amuse:

Then the nicely-priced prix fixe at US$ 48:

Oh-so-delicate sea bass:

Rosy and tender veal with watercress:

A pannacota-like dessert with candied bananas:

Then a baba in Grand Marnier instead of rum, and a nicely citrussy sabayon:

Stellar mignardises capped the meal:

And just as I thought lunch couldn't get any better, we got these beautiful chocolate bonbons:

The Modern: 9 West 53rd, near Fifth Ave., tel. (212) 333-1220

Ava Lounge and Salon de Ning: two bars with great views in Midtown

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

The author of this blog, my friend Karin Dauch, lives Downtown, close to many of the places I loooove in New York: DBGB, Bowery Hotel, Gemma, Babbo, etc - the list goes on. And she often says - and rightly so! - why the heck would anyone go hang out in Midtown?!

But... I gotta say there are some places that are worth a visit. During the warm months, I like the vibe at the Ava Lounge, pictured above, at the Dream hotel. I'd heard the hotel was broke, but so far, from what I see, they're still open for business. Anyways, the ultrarich owner, Vikram Chatwal, isn't likely to run out of funds anytime soon..

I also like walking by the iconic new Hearst HQ, by starchitect Norman Foster:

Another bar in Midtown with great views? The Salon de Ning, at the rooftop of the hotel Peninsula, only a block or two away.

The Surrey is unveiled!

Just steps away from the also renovated The Mark, another classic hotel underwent major reconstruction and opened its doors last Thursday, November 12th . The Surrey is an Upper East Side traditional and mimics its posh neighborhood with a new town house inspired rooftop garden. Elegantly dressed and champagne glass holding guests were able to take in for the first time the lobby, Spa and a Suite on the 14th floor.

Here is a first hand video I made while strutting the neoclassical surroundings of The Surrey, which features the award-winning Café Boulud restaurant from acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud, and a five treatment room spa.

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Midtown old and new: La Grenouille and Casa Lever

This week I had a couple of meetings in midtown (why else on Earth would you otherwise want to go there. Ok, maybe Rockefeller Center if you are visiting, that’s it.)

The classic:

La Grenouille

Not only its building is legendary (The Petite Prince was written there by Saint Exupéry), but the restaurant itself. La Grenouille literally represents the piece de résistance of the classic French cuisine restaurants founded in the 60’s that are all long gone by now (La Cote Basque, Lutece, La Caravelle). This French frog is becoming a legend itself. It is run by proprietor/chef and flower arranger Charles Masson Jr who took over the business from his father and the restaurant’s founder Monsieur Charles Masson Sr. You feel the history in its classy and charming atmosphere, and taste it in it’s traditional cuisine. Dishes are unmistakably French, such as terrine de campagne and the paillar de poulet. I had the chicken liver crepes, that melted in my mouth and a light tasty sole with mustard sauce. The staff is absolutely comme il faut: as polite and agreeable as can be. Delightful food, fantastic service, and comfortable ambiance seems to be the recipe to success of this old-school which stands the test of time. The insider tip here is to have lunch upstairs where jackets are not required, the prix-fixe menu - which changes everyday day - costs $30, and the fire place, high ceilings in this two-tiered atelier with skylight will transport you to a bygone era. This place is truly an oasis of composed beauty and delectable food in the grey chaotic sea of Midtown office buildings. And the high fashion industry power houses who are frequent customers seem to agree. Walk-ins welcome.

3 E. 52nd St., near Fifth Ave.


The new:

Casa Lever

When I heard that Sant Ambroeus’s owner Dimitri Pauli opened a new restaurant in Midtown three weeks ago I had to check it out immediately. I have to plead guilty to my impartiality here. I believe Sant Ambroues, albeit pricey, brings the most authentic northern Italian food to us, Manhattanites. As a holder of an Italian passport (as well as two other citizenships), I have had my share of tryouts in the search for genuine cuccina italiana in New York City. The simpler it is, the better; and also the most challenging. The décor has a groovy seventies air to it, maybe that’s because of the glass chandeliers, and the several Andy Warhol’s hanging around (they belong to the Lever House collection). Even though I find the retro atmosphere a little bit distracting, it somehow works. Casa Lever is attracting crowds after work for the typical Italian “aperitivo”, a post-work happy-hour cocktail drink with the mandatory appetizer size nibbles. “This is not a Sant Ambroeus because there’s no gelateria or patisserie, this is: a restaurant, “ explained Dimitri when I asked him why he didn’t keep the name of the family tradition. And a good restaurant it is indeed. I tried the tuna tartar and the pappardelle with boar ragu from the $37 prix fixe lunch menu. My husband, the "true" Italian and real tester, approved the Milanese (breaded veal) and we both exclaimed a delightful “mamma mia” when we tried the ricotta pumpkin pie.

390 Park Avenue at 53rd St.

212 888-2700

ZUCCA & RICOTTA graham crust, pumpkin cheesecake, cinnamon crumbles

The Waldorf Astoria hotel: not quite what it used to be....

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

Photos: The Waldorf Astoria

I'd driven by it a million times but never actually entered the famed Waldorf Astoria. And then I did. A friend was staying there and invited me for a visit.

Dressed-down guests, nametag-wearing guests, elevator music, an air of cheesiness and a dated look, despite the grand entrance with mosaic floors and triple-height ceilings. Not what I had expected!

Once we took the elevator and walked the never ending hallways to her room, I immediately felt part of a scene in The Shining. Eery...

Lombardi's, in Nolita: New York's first pizzeria

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

Sure, we all love Per Se, Daniel et. al, but once in a while, who doesn't love to just forget about all the fancy stuff and have a good, honest, cheap meal?

New York has no shortage of great pizza joints - Motorino comes to mind - but Lombardi’s was the first in all of the U.S.. The pioneer. It was founded in 1905. And you know what? It's great, in a simple, humble, casual kinda way.

Great, huge caesar salad.

Perfect pizza.

Friendly prices.

And an ancient oven: oldie but goodie!

Lombardi’s: 32 Spring St., tel. (212) 941-7994

Kid-friendly program in New York? The Central Park Zoo!

Urso polar no zoológico do Central Park

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

Yeah, yeah, I know: this blog might seem too cool to be covering something so mundane as a zoo. But hey - most of us do have kids and do have to bring them with us to New York once in a while, right? So think no more: just go to the zoo in Central Park. It's blissfully close to everything in the UES and Midtown, and though small, will keep the wee ones entertained for a good 2 or 3 hours. They even have a polar bear and a few tigers! Err... leopards, I mean. The zoo is located on the East Side, at around 66th Street. More detailed info on the official website.
Leopardo no zoológico do Central Park

The Mark Hotel, by Jacques Grange: photos and video

By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, special contributor

The Mark
, that Upper East Side bastion of chic, has been completely redone by designer-to-thes-stars Jacques Grange (whose past clients include Yves Saint Laurent, François Pinault and Caroline de Mônaco).

The über French M. Grange reluctantly took this job in the États-Unis. His touches are unmistakably... his own. The lobby is done in dizzying stripes of black and white marble (a motif he repeats in all the baths), and has one-of-a-kind pieces like a Ron Arad light fixture and furniture by Vladimir Kagan e Mattia Bonetti.



Rooms are relatively sober, despite the yellow curtains and oversize framed photos.


Suites have elegant sitting rooms with leather-topped desks and a large array of coffee-table books.



The art sprinkled throughout is curated by Grange's partner, the gallerist Pierre Passebon (his Galerie du Passage, in Paris, hosted Karl Lagerfeld first photography show).


In the baths, Kohler fixtures, towel warmers, digital scale, TV in the mirror.


The Mark: Rua 77 East, 25

tel. (1-212) 744-4300

Danny Meyer's Maialino at the Gramercy Park Hotel is open!


By Beatriz Tasso Fragoso, Special Contributor

Mark my words: the season's hottest restaurant will be Maialino, a trattoria tought up by wunderkind Danny Meyer at the hyped Gramercy Park Hotel. (Meyer owns perennial successes Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, The Modern and Eleven Madison Park, among others).

Ruth Reichl (ex-Gourmet) is already tweeting it, and the buzz is hard to contain.

From the press release:

"Ian Schrager and Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group have announced the name for the new Italian restaurant opening in November at the landmark Gramercy Park Hotel: “Maialino”.

The name recalls Danny’s time as a 20 year-old living in Rome and working as a tour guide for his father’s travel company. His Italian boss, Giorgio, immediately took to calling him “Meyerino” (little Meyer). Danny’s favorite part of the job was to bring his tour groups to a different trattoria every night, where he’d unfailingly order “Maialino” (roast suckling pig) for dinner. In homage to Danny’s love for pork – and in jest – Giorgio transformed Meyerino into “Maialino.” His ear unaccustomed to Giorgio’s dialect, it was weeks before Danny became aware that his nickname had now become “Little Pig.”

Now, more than 30 years later, Danny Meyer and Ian Schrager are teaming up for the November opening of this new neighborhood Roman trattoria overlooking Gramercy Park. Lovingly designed by the Rockwell Group, Maialino will be located on the first floor of the hotel and will capture the warmth and comfort of a traditional Roman trattoria, re-imagined for its contemporary setting. Guests will be greeted in a front bar area that will serve as a local coffee bar in the morning and will later transform itself into a lively wine bar serving small plates of food throughout the day and into late evening. Beyond the bar, the trattoria will feature warm, saturated colors, wood planked floors, wainscoting, and windows overlooking Gramercy Park; a private dining room serving up to 20 will be available for events and celebrations. Maialino will offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The executive chef will be Nick Anderer, former Executive Sous Chef at Gramercy Tavern, and the General Manager will be Terry Coughlin, formerly the General Manager at Tabla."

Grub Street New York has been covering Maialino since long before it opened. And they showed the dinner menu ahead of everybody else:


Gramercy Park Hotel:
2 Lexington Ave, tel. (1-212) 920-3300, www.gramercyparkhotel.com

Maialino: (212) 777-2410

Deutschland ist hier: Bauhaus, Theater, Berliner Philharmoniker

I know it’s difficult, but please try erase Oktoberfest’s images of men in lederhosen, ladies bosoms in tight dirndl dresses, and who knows what else comes to mind through beer fogged memories. That’s history: November is all about Teutonic high culture in the city.

Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity – MoMA’s first exhibit on the seminal German design school since 1938. More than four hundred works by Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and other avant-garde industrial designers of the Bauhaus faculty and students are on display.

Nov. 8 - Jan. 25

Quartett – German playwright Heiner Mueller’s adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses offers plenty of innocence lost, betrayal and lust, ingredients that ensure an entertaining couple of hours. French actress Isabelle Huppert (photo, right) directed by the ingenious master Robert Wilson delivers her malicious intentions with calculated movements and gorgeous choreography.

Berliner Philharmoniker - Let the German composer’s romantic Second Symphony resonate while you are comfortably seated in the magestic Carnegie Hall. As part of a joint Brahms-Schoenberg exploration, besides Johannes Brahms’ passionate piece, the Berliner Philharmoniker will also perform Chamber Symphony No.1 by Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg, and a modern era opera for a single singer that, according to the composer, tries "to represent in slow motion everything that occurs in a single second of maximum spiritual excitement."

Nov. 11-13

From Klimt to Klee – You can always count on Germanic art at The Neue Gallerie. This fall’s exhibition features works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele (photo, left) Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee and others. For an evening of Austrian cooking accompanied by an 1890’s to 1930’s music cabaret show, reserve a prix fixe program for $110 at the Café Sabarsky - one of Kurt Gutenbrunner’s restaurants.

Visit Germany - If a New York City immersion in German culture is not enough and geographic closeness is what you are longing for, Tablet Hotels suggests a Deutschland November wine tour. “And not just the sweet stuff either. Germany’s wines, both Rieslings and otherwise, are a lot more diverse than they’re often given credit for, with some exquisitely dry offerings in addition to the dessert-sweet classics. This is the far northern edge of the wine-producing world, which makes for some truly uncommon flavors — from deep red Spätburgunders to crisp white Rieslings to sparkling Deutscher Sekts, there’s something for every palate. 

And while winery hotels per se aren’t quite the phenomenon in Germany that they are in France, for example, we do have a number of excellent Tablet hotels in Germany’s wine-producing regions.”

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Chef April Bloomsfield's The Breslin finally opens at the Ace hotel


Finally, The Breslin, the new gastropub of hyped chef April Bloomfield (co-owner of Spotted Pig), has opened, at the hotel Ace.

The restaurant, just like the Ace was designed by Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch of New York-based design firm Roman and Williams.

As described by blog Grub street the décor is a collection of taxidermy, but with a lighter hand than the Spotted Pig, and the result is truly lovely. (Imagine, say, Freemans with just the right touches of modern sheen and ballroom grandiosity.)" Please stay tuned for updates, as we plan to visit the Brez this weekend.

The Breslin: 16 29th St., Tel. (1-646) 214-5788.