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NEW YORK CORNER: Terrace in the Sky by John Mariani
by Suzanne Wright
You might say
I hadn't been in
Cranes dominate the skyline on both the east and west sides of the city. It’s as though the shame and blame mantle of the past has been dropped as clear-eyed, canny movers and shakers barrel toward tomorrow. The thrum is palatable—and exciting. Amidst jaw-dropping architecture, glugging Glüwein (mulled red wine) and bundled against the brisk weather, I wandered the Gendenmarket, past stalls selling such varied items as rose-flavored sugar and wooden toys. In a juried section, a flamboyant woman named Fee, who lives part of the year in
I had a chance to dine at the well-reviewed Vau (Jägerstr. 54/55; Tel: 202-9730) located nearby, which I found breathtakingly expensive (entrees are 30 Euros and up; desserts ring in at 13 Euros) and cutting-edge in terms of its culinary vision: Chef-owner Kolja Kleeberg's plump, perfectly seared scallops with lentils and pumpkin, moist John Dory with the bite of capers and lime and mashed white beans, subtly sweet pear cake. There is a peach salad with coriander, a mushroom soup with roasted quail, and for dessert a white chocolate soup with citron. It’s so post-modern there’s not even music to soften the minimalist interiors. There’s no Weiner schnitzel or sauerkraut on the menu and don’t even think of inquiring. It’s all quite severe but very accomplished, as befits its Michelin star.
KaDeWe (21-24 Tauentzienstrasse), the biggest store in
The Berlin Philharmonic also throbs with exhilarating performance. Sir Simon Rattle, the conductor with the Art Garfunkel-like hair brings the intimate space alive with his thrilling performances (need I mention the perfection of the acoustics?). At lively Potsdamer Platz, the
Of course, Berliners also honor their painful past, and visitors flock to Checkpoint Charlie, the legendary border crossing and museum with fascinating objects of escape where two worlds split apart were eventually joined together. Symbolically, Russian and American soldiers pose for photographs. At the architecturally futuristic-looking Jewish Museum, two thousand years of German Jewish history is presented in all its touching, messy complexity. Perhaps most striking is the large-scale Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (left), row after row of concrete slabs that clutch the heart like the cold air as I solemnly walk single file through the gray maze. It’s like a contemporary cemetery: brutal and beautiful.
I stayed at the Intercontinental Berlin, a listed architectural landmark in the heart of
For my final experience in
Plunged into darkness, the first ten minutes were, if not exactly terrifying, anxiety-producing, for sure; the next twenty were more comfortable, as senses beyond sight took over, and the last hour or more was, frankly, a bit boring as the gimmick wore off. Although the food was just so-so, the experiment changed perspectives for some: I heard a nearby dinner exclaim when she was told that she had just eaten—and enjoyed—eggplant. Without the visual cues, she was willing to try something new. Three- and four-course meals are available between 33 and 49.50 Euros.
What a metaphor for
If You Go
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
Terrace IN THE SKY
400 West 119th Street
I suspect there are many New Yorkers unaware that Harlem has long been home to one of the most uniquely elegant restaurants in America, though it's hardly been a secret, even if the Michelin Guide inexplicably failed to list Terrace in the Sky in its first NYC guide (2006). For 30 years now the restaurant has been perched atop a Columbia University dorm building and run with indefatigable good taste by the Bernic family. Its beauty alone, with a 360 degree panorama that takes in Morningside and Central Park, every borough, as well as the East River and the Hudson, the Palisades, the carousel lights of the George Washington Bridge, Riverdale and the north Bronx, far-off Westchester County, and the long finger of Long Island, has long made this a destination restaurant, and I suspect it's been the scene of more proposals of marriage than anywhere in New York. At lunch it is also generally full of university provosts, deans, and professors from Columbia, and does an enormous business in banquets and cocktail parties on its outdoor terrace and in its beautiful glassed-in Belgian Conservatory.
Chef Dusan and his wife Nada Bernic, two proud Croatians, leased the space three decades ago, and Dusan served a proper continental menu in a wrap-around glassed-in dining room. Sadly, Dusan passed away several years ago, but Nada (right), and now her son Chris (who is also the sommelier) have not simply maintained the Terrace's eminence but, through a succession of young chefs, refined the menu year after year. The current kitchen is headed by Chef Jason Potanovic, who brings fresh, creative ideas to the tables, which are still candlelighted, and where there is soft music played each evening by a harpist from Juilliard. Service is as professional and cordial as it gets in the city, and Chris has kept the 400-label, 10,000 bottle winelist among the finest in the city.
The entrance to the Terrace at Butler Hall is like one you'd expect at a university club, a fine Beaux Arts building with wood-paneled lobby. (For those driving here there is valet parking available.) You then take an elevator straight to the top, where the Bernics greet you with an Old World sophistication that tells you this will be a very special evening. Well seated--and every table in the main dining room has a view of New York's glittering cityscape--you are offered several breads as you go over the menu, which is both à la carte (with appetizers from $17-$24 and entrees $33-$40) as well as offering a 4-, 5-, or 6-course tasting menu at $80, $90 and $100, and a prix fixe dinner at $45. Lunch is also à la carte, with a prix fixe of $25. Tablesettings are all first-rate, from silver to stemware, from linens to flowers.
Potanovich (below, in the Belgian Conservatory), previously at Picholine, is Nada's nephew, and this all-in-the-family arrangement seems to work very well, keeping tradition alive and new ideas at the front. I opted for a six-course dinner, with additional amuse and desserts, that showed Terrace in the Sky to have as much culinary credibility as it has unquestioned beauty. I began with a generous tartare of Hawaiian bluefin toro (below) with a ponzu sauce infused with just the right amount of wasabi so as not to overpower either the fish or the Laurent Perrier Brut Rosé. Next came a satin-textured sea urchin cream with sesame crisp and Thai basil, where again the assertive flavor of the mollusk was tamed by the cream.
A pan-seared John Dory was prepared "Adriatic style," with sautéed Swiss chard, fingerling potatoes and garlic, and a tomato-infused olive oil. Risotto (a little overcooked one evening) was laced with nice chunks of lobster, sweet corn, and truffles, with which I enjoyed a Château de Callas 1999, a beautiful Graves that went perfectly with the dish. Then veal tenderloin, cooked pink and juicy, with braised Tivoli greens, wild mushrooms, and a black truffle-celery foam of great delicacy.
I love how Potanovich balances his flavors and textures, and I also love the care Chris takes with an amazingly good cheese cart with 40 or more selections from various countries, all in peak condition and a good reason to try a glass of Ivo Skaramuca Vineyard Plavac Mali 2003 from Croatia, which is beginning to make very fine wines these days. We ended off with parfait of Meyer lemon and poppyseeds that also bespoke the Eastern Mediterranean, and an exotic fruit and mango sorbet with lemon-infused milk that tasted of Polynesia.
I hadn't been back to the Terrace in several years, and, as a Columbia graduate myself, was enchanted to find it better than ever, overlooking the great university and the Harlem renaissance that has made this a very beautiful neighborhood again. My congratulations to the Bernics and my thanks for carrying on with their own vision of the American dream coupled with their own refined European taste.
The Main Dining Room at The Terrace
“A View from the Terrace," celebrating three decades of food will be held on Nov. 15 at a 5-course dinner, honoring Gael Greene, food author and co-founder of Citymeals-on-Wheels; Tina Ramirez, Founder and Director of Ballet Hispanico; and Herman “Denny” Farrell, Assemblyman for NYC's 71st District. Lloyd Williams, President of Harlem’s Chamber of Commerce, will be Honorary Chairman. Thirty silent auction items will be offered, incl. a trip for two to Rab, an island off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, where the Bernic family will soon be opening “Arbiana,” a turn-of-the-century hotel, and its three neighboring villas. Guests will also be bidding on tickets for the best seats at the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade and the NYC Marathon, a private puppet show for 50 at the Swedish marionette cottage in
BUT LEAVE A BIG TIP
In Najin, China, the Rising Sun Anger Release Bar encourages patrons to yell, punch and pummel waiters dressed in protective gear that resembles people the patrons don't like. Smashing glassware is also encouraged. The waiters are 20 "muscular men" hired by management.
THAT WOULD, APPARENTLY, BE ONCE A YEAR?
"There is a perennial sparkle in Tony Talbert's blue eyes that intensifies when he talks about his passion for food."--Brigitte Guehr, "Valley Stars," Santa Barbara (Fall, 2006).
* Luís Caseiro, Executive Chef at NYC’s Alfama, is celebrating his one-year anniversary at the restaurant with a specially priced 3-course “Discover Portugal” menu on Monday nights, at $25 pp. Menu items will be changed seasonally. Call 212-645-2500; www.alfamarestaurant.com
* For the month of October Beppe in NYC Executive Chef Marc Taxiera will offer a harvest menu of 6 courses starring a colorful selection of grape varietals, incl. Concord, Niagara, Red Globe, Sangiovese; and Champagne. $85 pp. Call 212-982-8422.
* On Oct. 4,
* On the weekend of Oct. 13- 15, at the Bel-Air Hotel in Bel-Air, Ca, will feature dinner with wine authority Anthony Dias Blue in the Palm Room with winemaker Marco Fantinel ($110 pp). On Saturday, a trip to the farmer's market followed by lunch and cooking class with Chef Bruno ($50 pp), followed by dinner with Mr. Blue in the Garden Room with FontanaFredda winemaker Robert Bruno ($150). On Sunday, brunch with Blue on the Wine Terrace ($75 pp). A weekend package incl. 2 nights accommodations and 2 tix to each event at $1500 for two. Call 310-943-6742 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* From Oct. 12-21 in
* From Oct. 13-20 Aglaia Kremezi, author of The Foods of the Greek Islands, joins Executive Chef José Andrés and Head Chef Jorge Chicas in the kitchen at Zaytinya in
* On Oct 14 the Tour De Champagne makes its inaugural visit to Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center, featuring Chicago's top French chefs and prestigious, champagnes, incl. Michael Maddox of Le Titi De Paris; Michael Lachowicz, Restaurant Michael; Jean Joho, Brasserie Jo; Dominique Tougne, Bistro 110; Michael Pivoney, Signature Room at the 95th; Gilles Arzur, Cafe des Architectes; Michael Buard, Zest, and The French Pastry School. This unique event also marks the establishment of the
* On Oct. 14 the Castle Hill Inn & Resort in
* On Oct. 14 the 4th annual gathering to "Celebrate the Craft" will take place at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA, featuring food artisans from across California. Featured chefs incl.: Jeff Jackson, AR Valentien, The Lodge at Torrey Pines; Trey Foshee, George's At The Cove; Amiko Gubbins - Parallel 33; Michael Stebner, Region; Antonio Friscia, Stingaree; Jason Knibb, Nine-Ten, et al. There will be a Picnic with a bluegrass band ($65 pp) and Sunday Evening Supper ($140). Proceeds will go to Slow Food. Call 858- 777-6635 or visit www.celebratethecraft.com.
* On Oct. 16 Grafton Street Pub & Grill in
* During the week of Oct. 16, Shaw’s Crab House in
* On Oct. 19 at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, a Women Chefs & Restaurateurs Fundraiser Event in support of the education and advancement of women in culinary fields, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs (WCR) will host At the Table Los Angeles . Participating chefs incl. Anne Conness, Napa Valley Grille; Monique King, Firefly Bistro; Tara Thomas, Traxx ; Christine Banta, La Boheme ; Brenda Grana, Mission Bistro; Caitlan Stansbury, Sommelier at The Lodge; Chayenne Vandenbrook, Monterey Bay Aquarium, et al. $150 pp. or $1,200.00 per table of 10. Call 877-927-7787, x240. For questions e-mail Yolanda Jackson at email@example.com.
* From Oct. 24-28 in Barbados, Daphne's and London's J Sheekey restaurant will participate in a Culinary Week with Executive Chef Marco Festini- Cromer with dinners ranging from US$65 & $80; also, culinary lessons at Daphne's, with lunch at $38 & $45; Fish market and Mt. Gay Rum tour followed by a culinary lesson at the distillery with Mark Hix, Chef Director of Caprice Holding, and author of various cookbooks, and lunch at Daphne's, $45 & $53; Lesson with Hix on the Tiami catamaran, with lunch at Daphne's, at $75 & $88. Call 800-467-4519 or visit www.eleganthotels.com.
* On Oct. 24 in
*On Oct. 28 the Emeril Lagasse Foundation will hold the 2nd Annual Carnivale du Vin in New Orleans at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, featuring a 4-course dinner by chefs Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, and Lidia Bastianich, with wines by Bastianich Vineyards, Domaine Serene, Schrader Cellars, Hundred Acre, and Au Bon Climat. There will also be a live auction music by Allen Toussaint and Michael McDonald. Ticket levels begin at $1,000 pp. Call 504-212-2222 or visit www.emeril.org.
* From Dec. 7-10 The Sofitel Métropole Hanoi celebrates its 2nd "Festival d'Arômes," featuring 3-star Michelin chef Olivier Roellinger from La Maison de Bricourt in~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, Naomi Kooker, Kirsten Skogerson, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
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