June 30, 2019 | About Gael
Drifting: What I Ate
Summers in Easthampton gave me a chance to get to know Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey better.
The fierce heat of summer hasn’t arrived yet and I’m already running low on energy. I yearn for the long ago days when I would borrow my ex-husband’s car and move out to the Hamptons for a sabbatical of writing, and hoping to fall in love again.
Was my novel Blue Skies, No Candy especially steamy? Well, so were Hampton afternoons spent writing it.
There was one sublime summer in Dan and Rita Wynn’s blue house not far from Craig Claiborne and his pool. That was the year of falling in love with Barry, when Craig opened a bottle of Dom Pérignon and left it with two Baccarat flutes at the side of his pool where we were naked, pretending to swim. I remember the afternoon light through sheer white curtains as we made love and then I leaped out of bed to type how it went for my novel-in-the-works, Blue Skies, No Candy.
During the week Craig and I might go out for dinner and too many stingers with Cognac and crème de menthe.
The complete host: Craig leaves a bottle of Roederer Cristal and Baccaret flutes at the side of the pool for us.
Baccarat flutes cost $12 each then and an A-frame on the dunes in Wainscott was $5000 for the summer. I still believed I would one day be in love again and it would be just like loving Don Forst. If you read Blue Skies, you know the more or less fictional version of my adventures, and if you read my memoir Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess, you’ll know a few of the facts.
I suggested my friends, Hillary Davis and Stacy Dermont, put all their Hamptons savvy into a cookbook.
I don’t hide away summers in the Hamptons since my best friends there gave up the house with the little blue bedroom where I wrote my memoir. But recently I’ve been spending a week or two in July and August in the Bridgehampton home of a cookbook-writer friend, Hillary Davis. In fact, it was I who suggested Hillary and restaurant critic Stacy Dermont put together a celebration of Hamptons food. The result: The Hamptons Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes Pairing Land and Sea arrives in April. I’ve written the forward.
Tacos Pileup at Tacombi
Tacombi recently opened on Amsterdam where Sugar and Plumm used to be.
All this is to leading up to the fact that I am surfing the heat wave in Manhattan. Last week four of us gathered around a small bare table at Tacombi, a taco joint that moved into the Amsterdam Avenue space where Sugar and Plumm used to be. A collection of bottled sauces and a stainless steel Tallfold napkin holder takes up one corner.
Early on the noise is not assaulting as it can be at Playa Betty’s, our neighborhood taco spot. Tables are spaced far apart, and the service is sweeter.
We had almost finished the guacamole with house-baked chips when Nancy arrived, so we ordered a second.
We start with margaritas (pricey at $13) and two orders of unremarkable guacamole with excellent house-made totopos – Tacombi for tortilla chips. I share an order of corn esquites. The corn might have been frozen, or it might have been freshly cut from the cob, I wouldn’t swear to either.It doesn't matter. I can never get enough corn.
Tacombi started serving tacos in 2006 out of a bus on the beaches of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This is the quesadilla we shared.
A collection of tacos arrives – al pastor (pork with pineapple), barbacoa (slow-roasted Angus beef) and carnitas (slow-roasted pork). I ask for an $8.95 yellowfin tuna tostada with avocado, too and $6.95 huevos con pastor (“Organic eggs with heritage pork”). I like the eggs better than any of the tacos. I ask Diane to decide which quesadilla. She picks the gobernador, seared Pacific shrimp and dried chile sauce, $7.95.
Our server Gabiela suggests we order pina colados if we need a dessert.
“Do you have dessert?” I ask our server.
“No.” she responds. “If you want dessert, order pina coladas.”
We skip the “dessert” and I pick up the check for the four of us, $155 with tip.
377 Amsterdam between 78th and 79th Street. 646 822 3383. Monday to Saturday 11 am to midnight. Sunday 11 am to 10:30 pm.
Lunch Al Desko
Lunch on the sidewalk outside Salumeria Rosi is pleasant if it isn’t too hot and it isn’t too cold.
I almost never eat lunch out. I like to make a salad laced with canned tuna, and eat at my desk. But Tuesday I made a 1:30 pm date at Salumeria Rosi with a friend. When I arrive, early as I usually do, the place is empty. “The water is shut off,” the host explains. Sitting opposite the carryout counter, I wait for my friend to arrive and consider buying a chunk of bread or a bag of bread sticks to take home.
“Would you like a glass of water?” the host asks.
“I’ll take a bread stick.”
My friend and I score a window table at the new redesigned Fairway Café 74.
Dinner at Fairway is likely to be a lambburger with fries. I ask for the fries dark and extra crisp.
My friend shows up precisely on time and we decide to walk to Fairway Market. We settle into my favorite window table in the second floor Café. He orders a pizza and I ask for gazpacho – a huge bowl of listless porridge. But my egg salad sandwich on seven-grain toast is perfectly wonderful. I take home half for tomorrow’s lunch.
Salumeria Rosi Dining Room 283 Amsterdam Avenue between 73rd and 74th Streets.212 877 4801. Monday to Thursday noon to 10 pm. Friday noon to 11 pm. Saturday and Sunday brunch 11 am to 4 pm. Dinner to 11 pm. Fairway Café. 2131 Broadway between 74th and 75th Streets. Breakfast 8 am to 3 pm. Lunch 11 am to 5 pm. Dinner 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
Take Me to The Greeks
Elea offers a perfect size fish for one or a larger swimmer for the table to share.
My best friends drove in from Easthampton for dinner Wednesday evening. She wanted to eat at Elea, the Greek restaurant on West 85th Street where her son and I had shared a giant fish weeks earlier. I’d ordered the fish “rarish” that evening, and it came overdone. I sent it back and the replacement was perfect. The kitchen’s grace in trying to please is worth a few stars.
I almost always order a starter of zucchini and eggplant chips with tzatziki sauce for dipping.
The Lahanosalata combines shaved Brussels sprouts with toasted almonds, raisins, mint and white Balsamic.
The kitchen bakes its own wonderful brown bread and serves it with butter and a small dish of olives. I always order the Lahanosalata, shaved Brussels sprouts salad with toasted almonds, raisins, mint and white balsamic vinegar and the Elea Chips, fried zucchini and eggplant discs to dip into tzatziki sauce with curls of kefalograviera cheese alongside.
A trio of spreads with flatbread and eggplant-zucchini crisps tzatziki are a filling start to dinner at Elea.
I’ve been to Elea often and have my favorite table in a almost-quiet corner. On evening when we’re a gathering of four, I might start with a tasting of three spreads – chickpea hummus, skordalia and taramosalata – to dab on pita. Tonight my friends decide to share a small branzino. I favor the mushroom pastitsio, baked rigatoni with béchamel. But no. After so many starters, I can only handle a taste of the pasta. I take it home for dinner the next evening.
Dessert yogurt comes with nuts or cherries or both.
217 West 85th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam 212 369 9800. Lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 to 3 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 3 pm. Dinner Monday through Wednesday 5 to 10 pm. Thursday through Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Sunday 4:30 to 10 pm.
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