Gastronomically, you are in an area where goose and duck dominate, often cooked over wood smoke, where fresh river salmon and trout grace the tables of the open air café culture. Dishes from South West France that make use of ingredients which the region has in abundance, such as wild mushrooms, truffles, duck, foie gras, walnuts, chestnuts, hams, cheeses and wines and armagnac.

This is Pigalle, a French restaurant in the theatre district. I've been twice, and definitely enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. The description above, from Pigalle's website, may be a little over the top, but the food is definitely well considered and prepared. Perhaps it is victim of the culture/neighborhood to which the restaurant must cater being one block from dozens of theaters means the restaurant is inundated from six to eight each evening with a diverse-but-casual crowd who may not even know what they're walking in to when the step inside. Unfortunately, this leads the servers to focus more on getting the food out on time and less on other aspects of service. I can say though that V and I came in at practically the last minute before a show, and were able to enjoy soup and appetizers with time to spare to head over and find our seats at Grease.

I can't say that I've actually had much French food, besides my semester abroad in Belgium (and of course lots of French fries). Still, I was duly impressed with the food at Pigalle. The Pigalle Cassoulet, a white bean stew with confit of duck, pork, garlic sausage and smoked bacon, was rich and flavorful, and just made me happy. Appetizers including escargots, an "olive cake" with goat cheese fondue, and crab cakes with a pimento mayo are rich and unique, while not being too large as to spoil the diner. The French onion soup was classic: delicious, cheesy, salty. V had the black bean soup that was also very good (in fact it inspired me to make black bean soup of my own).

Overall Pigalle is a nice pre-theatre restaurant, and a great choice for reasonably priced (good) French cuisine. I liked it well enough that I went back, and I would again, too. There's one thing on the menu I really want to try too: absinthe!

Patsys Pizzeria

After church one Sunday, V and I stopped by Patsys Pizzeria on the Upper East Side (we intended to go to California Pizza Kitchen, across the street, but it was closed). So Patsy's had to do. The pizza was probably more authentic than CPK, or at least a more authentic style. The atmosphere was warm and inviting, with brick walls and a crowded dining room filled with a wide range of people - couples, families, groups, parties, etc. We started with an appetizer of fried zucchini and squash. It was well seasoned and not overly breaded. The pizza we shared was good, not too big. We chose toppings to make our own pizza, they didn't offer any special/particular combinations. Onions, mushrooms, sausage made for a good combination. I don't have much else to say, except that Patsys was reasonable, comfortable and affordable. I'd probably not go out of my way to eat there, but, if I was in the neighborhood, it would definitely be a good choice.


Lure is a pretty cool restaurant in SoHo. V and I met up there with some friends the night we got engaged for drinks and a bite to eat. The restaurant has a cool decor that reminded me of a cruise ship (though I've never been on one). The restaurant is below street level with large porthole windows at about the sidewalk level. It is dimly lit with somewhat of a lounge feel. Of course, following from the name, Lure, the menu focuses on lots of seafood. We ordered a variety of things, from sushi to calamari to oysters. Service was adequate, for a late Sunday night, though it did occasionally take us a while to get the server's attention. The food was good, though a little expensive (along with the drinks). In the end the bill for four of us was about equal to the bill from earlier in the day at Jean Georges, and while there were more of us there I don't quite think we got as good of a value. In the end, it's a cool location and a trendy spot for a drink.

Jean Georges: Nougatine

Possibly the least heralded and most overlooked restaurant in town. The city's haughtiest dining snobs pass it by nightly. How does this happen? Before one can enter the cubist temple to gastronomy that is Jean-Georges, it is necessary to stroll through an engagingly uncluttered space of blonde-wood modernity. - New York Magazine

Jean-GeorgesI had a special reason to make reservations at Jean-Geogres, V's favorite restaurant, for Sunday brunch: I wanted to take her there to celebrate our engagement! Technically, Jean-Georges doesn't serve Sunday brunch, but the "bar area" outside the main dining room, Nougatine, serves food from the same kitchen, and with equally impeccable quality and service.

I had proposed earlier in the day, at Central Park's Belvedere Castle and continued the surprise with our brunch reservations. Of course, we started our meal with a bottle of champagne - the most modest on the wine list - which was still very good (and much much better that whatever I bought for New Years).

We started off with appetizers. Being that it was such a special occasion, I chose foie gras. This was the biggest piece of foie gras I've ever had, and it was different that I expected, being bruleed on top rather than cooked through, meaning it wasn't very soft or warm through the whole piece. Still it was super rich, certainly a bit extravagant, but a great start to the meal. I really could have shared it with several people, but V had her own great appetizer, a squash soup with cremini mushrooms. We were confused when the soup was served, originally thinking it was a very unique take on 'soup' as the bowl came with some chunks of squash and pieces of mushroom, but no liquid. A moment later, the server brought a little pot of the soup and poured it in the bowl. The dish was not overly sweet and it was great for a cool winter lunch.

For our main course, V tried a black bean and avocado dish with cod. It was light and almost tangy with a bit of lime in the sauce. The fish was tender and flaky. I had a grilled pork chop that was a very unique preparation. Poured over the top was a strong rosemary honey sauce, that eaten on its own was just about overpowering, but when eaten with the chunky "papaya mustard" and mini brussel sprouts was a perfect combination. Definitely a well conceived meal and preparation.

Nougatine definitely excels in its level of service, which helped to make this meal worth its high price. Our server was knowledgeable and friendly, and very attentive, refilling our champagne flutes and timing the food service. Really this didn't all come down to just one server either, there is probably a greater than 1:1 ratio of staff to guests at the restaurant. I counted 4 or 5 staff just in the entry area! Plus, beyond the service, the location is great, on the south west corner of Central Park at Columbus Circle. We got a great table at the window, to enjoy the view, that really enhanced this "New York moment." This was certainly a wonderful meal and a great place to celebrate our engagement. My only problem now, is that I have a lot to live up to for Valentines, our birthday, our anniversary...