If you don’t mind sitting at a restaurant’s bar, more often than not you can score a seat in any of NYC’s busiest restaurants. And so it was with Mario Batali’s Spanish spot, Casa Mono. After a 15 minute wait (that breezed by while we waited out front), the Beast and I settled into two bar seats facing the tiny kitchen. It was by far the best seat in the house. From our perch, we witnessed three cooks orchestrate their prepping, cooking, plating and finishing a number of gorgeous little dishes.
I know little to nothing about Spanish wine, so I played it safe and ordered a glass of Castano 2007 Yecla, Monastreel, Garnacha. I don’t know what any of that means but it was a Rosato and I was still hung over and dehydrated from all the salt we’d been consuming. Somehow Rosato makes everything feel better for me. From the short but sweet menu, which specializes in Catalan-style cooking, we settled on mussels with Cava and chorizo, potatas bravas, bacalao croquetas with orange alioli, pig’s feet with rainbow chard and cranberries, skirt steak with onion marmelada, brussels sprouts a la plancha, and artichokes with mint. Those artichokes might have been my favourite dish. We both wished we had room to order the lamb shank with garbanzos and harissa, and octopus salad with fennel and grapefruit.
Although we conversed very little, I’ll always remember my night at Casa Mono with the Beast. We were pleased as punch with our theatrical seats, the food was fantastic, the service delightful, and best of all, I saw the Beast, for the first time ever, shutter with disgust at a food item: cock’s combs. Sort of wish we tried them now.
The Beast and I did our own separate things in the morning: he went to the Natural History Museum, and I went shopping. We decided to meet at the perpetually busy Greenwich village spot, The Spotted Pig, for a late lunch, with the hope of missing the crowds. I arrived first, but not before running into a fellow Canadian out front of this Michelin starred restaurant, Mark McEwan. He was with a small film crew and they were just about to load themselves into a car. Now, with my track record in front of celebrities (I once brought Sofia Coppola a glass of water that she didn’t request just so I could stutter something about watching a certain trilogy of movies her father directed every time I made spaghetti), I should have probably just walked right in. But I’ve had a real good streak lately, so I decided to say hello.
Foodie: Oh hi there. I’m from Toronto, so, you know, nice to see you. Oh—and I work at X restaurant too.
Mark McKewan: Fantastic! We love X restaurant! Nice to see you, and welcome to New York.
Foodie: Thanks! Oh, and you too!
It could have been much worse. Inside, I scored two seats at the adorable counter with ease. Terribly hung-over I opted, again, for a glass of Refosco Rosato while I waited for the Beast. The lovely and affable bartender and I traded stories about tourists who visit hot spot restaurants, but leave every drop of decorum at home. We also chatted about Toronto and people in the restaurant industry who visit The Spotted Pig whenever they’re in town. One woman, in particular, always sits at the bar and orders Aperol and white wine because we don’t have Aperol—an Italian aperitivo, similar to Campari—in Ontario. Turns out it was Alida Soloman from Tutti Matti-a charming Italian restaurant serving up mostly Tuscan fare.
When the Beast finally arrived, he was in a terrible mood. Turns out he was far more interested in looking at dead animals than eating them, and he was feeling resentful that he had to leave his taxidermied friends at the museum to meet me. He was also starving. Good thing I ordered the gnudi (dumplings made with sheep’s milk ricotta and slathered in browned butter, crispy sage and parmigiano) in advance. As soon as he started eating, his mood changed for the better. Choosing our mains was a no-brainer: we had to try the Spotted Pig burger topped with blue cheese on a brioche-style bun, and served with shoe-string fries. It was simply glorious, and it cured any remnants of a hangover.
With our tummies full and moods lifted via beer, wine and The Spotted Pig’s overall warmth, the Beast and I went our separate ways again—he back to his home at The Natural History Museum, and me back to mine at Barney’s Co-op.
For our last NYC meal before flying home, the Beast and I agreed on Katz’s Deli. Still terribly dehydrated from our absurd salt consumption, it seemed like a perfect way to leave with the big apple with a very loud bang.
I presume the man in all the photos lining the walls here is none other than Mr. Katz. Not only does he pose with celebrities and politicians, but he also walks about the deli’s dining room saying hello to his customers, asking where they’re from, and if they’re enjoying their $15 Reuben sandwich. Yes. $15 USD. That’s much closer to $20 CAD than I care to admit. Nevertheless, the Beast waited in line at this venerable spot for a Reuben, a corned beef on rye and potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce, while I held us a table.
The sandwiches were stacked high with meat, and were delicious.
But compared to Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal, the Beast and I agreed that Katz’s simply didn’t stand up. A surge of patriotic smugness came over us, especially after we got the potato pancakes.
I suppose I expected them to be freshly made in-house with actual potatoes. What we got was greasy, industrial-tasting shit. Worse still was that I saw employees opening up pre-packaged boxes of these frozen monstrosities—and matzah balls—without shame on the counter top in front of everybody! I certainly wasn’t going to fake an orgasm over them, that’s for sure. (Mom, that’s a reference to When Harry met Sally, when Meg Ryan fakes the orgasm in the deli, which was filmed at Katz’s. The reference isn’t very clever, I know. I’m just trying to wrap this NYC post on a high note, or a sex note I guess. But I don’t have sex. Ever. I love you.)
The Spotted Pig Foodie **1/2 Beast ***
Casa Mono Foodie *** Beast ***
Katz’s Deli Foodie * Beast * 1/2