Lori and I attended a taping of The Late Show and it was a lot of fun. After standing for a long time in the rain in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater, we were finally let in to watch The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. After years of watching Letterman on TV, it was thrilling to find myself inside the hallowed halls of the Ed Sullivan Theater. As audience members, we were encouraged to hoot and holler, clap and dance, and it was a fun, silly evening. Guests were Matthew Perry and Nick Offerman. Afterwards we returned to the Upper West Side (where our hotel was) and had an excellent dinner at the Candle Café West on Broadway, a warm and welcoming organic, vegan/vegetarian restaurant. We sat at the long wooden bar, ordered red wine, and the food that came was fresh, delicious and inventive. In fact, it was so good we returned the next evening for more.
“Who needs meat?” I said, stuffing a forkful of paprika hummus and quinoa tabouli into my mouth. Lori had the grilled portobello sandwich.
Speaking of meat, I did crave a burger later in the week and tried several times to buy one at three different Shake Shacks. But the lines were so long, I never did get to taste a Shake Shack burger. I hear they’re very good.
And then we discovered EATALY. Walking into this huge emporium dedicated entirely to food and drink, I thought I had died and gone to Italian heaven. Here’s a brief write-up from Business Insider –
When you step into Mario Batali’s massive 50,000-sq-ft Mecca of Italian food, Eataly, you are immediately faced with countless choices of tasty-looking food.
The marketplace, located near the Flatiron building in Manhattan and owned by a partnership including Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and Joe Bastianich, is a unique combination of sandwich stands, market-style stalls and full-fledged restaurants.
Eataly is a place to grab a quick sandwich for lunch or buy some handmade pasta for dinner, a fun combination that can almost make you dizzy with options of how to spend your time and money there. The market’s organized chaos is run by over 700 employees.
This place is a total class act. Their hot chocolate is divine and there are several espresso bars as well as a gelati counter. I returned several times to buy take-out focaccia, a hunk of pecorino, olives and prosciutto. Everything is imported from Italy. There’s a sit-down pizzeria at the back (as well as other restaurants), a panini stand, and overall the place has a relaxed and friendly vibe. It’s located at 200 Fifth Avenue. Oh, and right beside Eataly is my favourite Finnish fashion and design boutique, Marimekko.
When Lori went to see the play, Blackbird, at the Belasco Theater, she said she’d probably need a cocktail afterwards. (The subject matter of the play is reported to be harrowing.) “OK,” I said, “Let’s meet in Lantern’s Keep, a cozy bar located in The Iroquois Hotel at 49 West 44th Street.”
I had an expensive rum-coconut cocktail and Lori had an expensive whisky concoction that she said was delicious. To be honest, I find cocktails unsatisying for this reason – I usually gulp them down in two or three swallows and then I’m stuck staring into an empty glass with a melting ice cube and a citrus twist in it. At these prices, I didn’t dare order a second one. But it didn’t matter because we were on our way to a secret Japanese restaurant that serves over 200 varieties of sake.
Sakagura is located in the basement of a nondescript midtown office building. You walk past the security desk and through a white marble lobby. Then you go down a flight of stairs and suddenly you feel as if you’ve entered a Japanese village. Wood and bamboo is everywhere and although the architecture is not an exercise in purist Japanese form, the place has a homey feel despite its subterranean location. Actually, I felt like I was in the basement rec room of our house in the 1970s.
Cuisine wise, it’s one of the finest for Japanese in New York City at affordable prices. The clientèle, we noticed, is principally Japanese and that’s always a good sign. This is not a sushi place, although I think I saw sashimi on the menu.
The food was delicious, the sake dry, chilled and light, and the service swift and efficient. But the most extraordinary and unexpected experience took place in the loo. For those of you who have never experienced a Japanese toilet before, you’ll be surprised. Firstly, the two loos are located in two separate wooden structures that are supposed to resemble giant sake barrels. OK. To your surprise and delight you discover that the toilet seat is heated. mmm…nice. Then there are buttons to press for different rinsing options that involve jets of warm water that spray upwards. This, I suppose, is the Japanese equivalent of a French bidet. After a few carafes of sake, I could imagine having fun inside of that giant sake barrel.
Take note that this restaurant is hugely popular, especially amongst the Japanese community, so you need to either reserve in advance or show up really early, like we did, and take a seat at the bar.
Sakagura – 211 East 43rd Street, (212) 953-7253