|TRD Spouse goes his own way for lunch in NYC -- steak frites at Le Relais de Venise|
Even after 16 happy years of marriage, some couples find they have no other choice but to go their own ways. It happened to us. No lawyers needed, though.
|Quinoa salad with a side of baked tempeh|
TRD: Peacefood is a neighborhood joint, one of two where the stroller-pushing lefties who inhabit this stretch of the Upper West Side can get their fix of kale soup while the children eat chicken-nugget-ish baked soy with fresh herbed vegan mayo. Everything about it is clean, from the wide open windows and whitewashed walls to the menu that proclaims "eat differently" at this "vegan kitchen and bakery." Even the waitstaff is clean, in a sort of skinny, scruffy hipster way. Would you like an organic cotton hoodie with your tempeh avocado sandwich?
TRD Spouse: A few weeks ago my boss was staying on the Upper East Side of New York and asked for some dining recommendations. I suggested Le Relais de Venise, which is also called "L'Entrecote," the French word for what Americans call a rib-eye. He had a delicious meal and returned to the office with a receipt offering 20 percent off lunch, which he left on my desk. How could I let it go to waste?
|99 degrees and no takers for sidewalk dining.|
TRD: Lunch offerings are on a single menu with salads, soups, vegetable bowls, sandwiches, panini, pizzas and sides. In the evening there's an expanded list of specials. Like all such restaurants, it can be a mistake to confuse vegan or vegetarian with low fat and low calories. A look at the bakery window proves that: there's no shortage of calories in the mile-high lemon vanilla layer cake or the coconut cream pie. And onions do not get caramelized with out some fat. But there are so many choices that celebrate the ingredients rather than fat and sugar. It's easy to choose something that tastes light, healthy and virtuous.
TRD Spouse: LRDV does one thing -- steak frites -- and it does it marvelously. The "menu" announces what you'll be having for lunch front and center:
"Today, trimmed Entrecote Steak "Porte Maillot" with its famous sauce French Fries and Green salad with walnuts....$24.95"
To get started, you tell the waiter how you'd like your steak done -- I told her "medium" and she scribbled an "M" on my table. The salad arrives right away -- lightly dressed with a zingy mustard vinaigrette and crumbled walnuts on top.
The steak arrives with a green, tarragon-y sauce over the perfectly-prepared steak. The frites are golden, crispy, chewy, duck-fat bathed beauties.
Now comes the LRDV magic. As you're about to clean your plate, sopping up the last of the sauce with the very last frites, the server comes by and offers...seconds! Just a morsel or two more of steak and another small pile of frites. Oh, heaven.
TRD: Peacefood's wonderful selection of baked items and desserts beckoned, so lunch had to be light enough to accommodate a little dessert afterward. Protein is always a concern when I eat vegetarian, so I went for the fluffy quinoa salad with white beans and baby greens and asked for a side of baked tempeh. The idea was to add the latter, marinated only in tamari, to the salad. I nursed a $3 iced peppermint tea -- $3? Even in New York? -- and waited. One might expect the quinoa mounded atop the greens, but it arrived mixed. The creamy mustard lime vinaigrette was extremely subtle -- none of the headline ingredients poked through. Instead, it served as a canvas from which all the component ingredients could stand out: crunchy raw corn kernels, peppery arugula, sweet red onion, red pepper, creamy avocado and finally, the nutty quinoa itself. It was wonderful. The only unfortunate note was the lack of beans. When I pointed that out, the server offered to get more of something else to bulk up the protein -- avocado or more quinoa. Because of the mixed in tempeh (5 grams of protein per ounce) I let it go.
|Peacefood cookie with carrot and chocolate chip|
TRDSpouse: I have one hard-and-fast rule when dining out: If profiteroles are on the menu, I'm ordering them. And so I did, along with a cup of cafe Americain.
e server: "We don't do refills. If you'd like another one, I can bring it to you." And so she did. For $3.25.
TRD: As with any restaurant meal, the nutritional information can be difficult to assess. The vegetables in the salad are all negligible; except the corn (perhaps 1/4 to 1/2 cup), they're all zero points on Weight Watchers. The salad was dressed so lightly that at most, it would be two tablespoons of a full-fat dressing. Four ounces of baked tempeh are about 220 calories and 12 grams of fat. The cookie was modest sized, not the fashionable monster size that is more accurately at least six. For Weight Watchers points, I counted the corn at 1/2 cup and wound up at 15 points. Not bad for lunch in the big city.
TRD Spouse: A crispy, zingy salad, a perfectly prepared steak and frites-of-the-Gods, a couple glasses of a spicy, fresh red, a plate of pastry, ice cream, and chocolate sauce with hot coffee -- the perfect lunch. I wandered out of Le Relais de Venise, $60 poorer (including the 20% off coupon), but fully sated and ready for an afternoon of shopping for glasses at Warby Parker, a nap and then an 8 p.m. show. Ahhhhh...
Then, this morning, a 5 mile run through Central Park.