November 26, 2007 | BITE: My Journal
Sex After Dinner for the Wily Gourmand
Gourmand Don Juan declares that Strip House is a sure stage for seduction.
"Strip House is the sexiest restaurant in New York,” our pal Francesco announces last week over dinner. “When I take a date to the Strip House I know I’m going to make out.” (Let me call him Francesco to protect his future in the bedroom.) To be quite candid, Francesco is the teflon Romeo, in and out of love constantly, an outright chauvinist pig, in fact, but as a pal, really fun, full of zest and unfailingly loyal. This is not an exposé, This is a service column on seduction…a subject I thought I’d mastered till Francesco spilled all.)
“The Strip House,” I am shocked. “The Strip House for great steak, yes. But romantic? It’s noisy and full of suits gobbling meat. What’s sexy? Photos of strippers? Red flocked walls?”
“When a woman says she wants meat, she’s already telling you something.” he says. She doesn’t mind showing you her appetite. I ask for a two in the back. There’s nothing to intimidate her. She’s comfortable. That’s the secret. You order the rib eye for two. The truffled potatoes. That chocolate cake, of course. She is charmed. You can be sure she’s coming to bed with you.
“Or maybe she only eats fish,” he continues, clearly quite pleased with himself. “I don’t take her to Le Bernardin. Too intimidating. Or Esca. I love Esca. But the crudo and pastas she never heard of might make her uncomfortable. I take her to Aquagrill. It’s still very good, lively, full of people and the menu is familiar. She’s going to be comfortable, easy, open.
“The Modern is very sexy too,” he goes on, watching me take notes. “I should write an article about this but I would make too many enemies.” He sighs. I’ve watched Francesco in two long affairs with seriously smart and accomplished women being his outrageously sexist self wondering why they put up with it. So it’s not that he’s only into the one-night stand, or mindless bimbos. But when he’s dating, it seems, the after-dinner digestif is sex. “Yes, the Modern. A certain kind of girl will be very impressed. She likes art. It’s expensive. She could never go there on her own. It looks out at the Sculpture Garden. You just know she is ready.
“Jean Georges at lunch could not be more sexy. She knows she looks good in that light. That food. The surprising combinations. The incredible tastes. So sensuous. Too much wine. She is transported By three o’clock she doesn’t even remember she is in New York.
“I have given much thought to this question of romantic restaurants. In each case you have to study the girl and find the right restaurant for her. One If by Land, Two If By Sea. Forget it. A joke. The Terrace. Never. Never. The minute you walk in she knows what you have in mind. You might as well write her a note ‘Tonight I expect to do it.’ It’s too obvious.”
Was there ever a man so unabashedly calculated? I find myself mesmerized by the conceit, his irrepressible ego, “And where would you take me?”
He does not hesitate for a nanosecond. “I would take you to Masa, of course, side by side at the bar. All those little tastes…the sighs…the sharing of the textures. Oh yes. No problem. That would be perfect for you.”
I feel myself blushing all over. Is he a sexual terrorist or is he just an unquenchable Don Juan? I can’t help urging him on, proposing possible conquests. A sampling:
A European woman: “Bianca where they know me. The chef will send out extra dishes.
Nostalgia seduces the new divorce at Gilt
Photo: Steven Richter
She will like that it is not too expensive. Or maybe I’ll bring her to Tribeca. She will think I am an artist. Blaue Gans.
The goulash, the sausages make her comfortable. She feels at home.”
A sophisticated New Yorker: “Some place she can’t get in on her own. The Box would impress her.”
Newly divorced 40-year-old: “Gilt. She will remember when it was Le Cirque and it will be like she never left.”
A Dominican woman: “I don’t take her to the Bronx or Washington Heights. That’s insulting I take her to Paladar. Everyone speaks Spanish. Arun comes out of the kitchen. He flirts with her. It’s a great Latino feeling, food she recognizes. She is comfortable.”
Euro trash: “Asia de Cuba. She would have a funny cocktail and the Philippe Starck look and people she recognizes. She’s at home.
“What if she’s kosher,” he suddenly cries. “Where will I take her?”
“Le Marais is a kosher steakhouse,” I tell him. How about Renee Zellweger?
“I think she wants to talk and be talked to. I would take her to Tia Pol, impossible to get in but I would arrange it. She would be impressed. It’s not expensive but it’s serious food.”
Scarlet Johannsen? “She’s a smoker. So I would have to find her a place where she can smoke. That would impress her.” (Try Cipriani Downtown, I suggest. “They think they’re in Italy.”)
Nicole Kidman? “ L’Impero. It feels sexy, isolated from the city. Food is very good. Not so expensive. Perfect for Nicole Kidman.”
Sharon Stone: “The Four Seasons for lunch in the Grill.”
“But how would you get a table?” I want to know.
“Are you kidding? I’m with Sharon Stone.”
“My problem is Barbra Streisand,” he blurts out. “I have given it a lot of thought. But I can’t find the right place. I thought maybe Elio’s. Politicians go there.”
“Why not the Four Seasons for her too?”
“No, she would not want to be on display.”
Will George surrender at Robuchon's counter?
“How about a hot dog on the Staten Island ferry,” my guy, The Road Food Warrior suggests.
“I got it,” Francesco suddenly cries. “I got it. “Manducati’s. I would take Barbara Streisand to Manducati’s in Long Island City."
“And where should I take George Clooney?” I ask.
“Robuchon,” he snaps back. “It’s perfect for him. You two sit at the bar side by side, very close…you order. You choose a great red wine. Everything that comes is wonderful. He is impressed. You might want to reserve a room upstairs in advance.”
Francesco is getting to me now. I actually feel like I’ve been unfaithful. Twice. Kind of fun. Like the good old days.
What's your favorite restaurant for seduction? Email me and I'll post it here.
Be Careful What You Wish For: Jacque Torres Lands on Amsterdam
Will couturier chocolate sweep away grubbiness on Amsterdam? Photo: Steven Richter
I didn’t even know I wanted Jacques Torres to extend his chocolate empire to my turf, until I spotted his handsome little shop on Amsterdam, like a beacon of luxury where a pizza parlor used to be. It is less than half a block from my office on a route I take to Fairway. What will this mean to my life, my life of excess alternating with moderation? What will this little jewel box mean to this mostly grubby stretch?
One day it was simply there. I looked in. I walked to my office. I passed by again the next day. I stopped, looked in…watched the chocolate barista sip a cup of…something. Went back to my office. Friday night on my way home from work I felt a need for chocolate. I walked in. It had that wonderful scent of chocolate. I’m not a chocoholic. I’m just a normal gourmande who is deeply enthusiastic about chocolate. I don’t often buy candy for myself because eating out eight nights a week (as the Road Food Warrior puts it) I get more than my share of pastries and bonbons. But I found myself in that strange trough that follows overeating at Thanksgiving. Not very hungry but desperately in need of sensual pleasure.
Is Jacque Torres' "love potion" sexier than dinner at Strip House? Photo: Steven Richter
We’d planned soup for dinner. A good moment for chocolate. I bought a shard of dark chocolate bark with almonds, a candied orange slice half dipped in chocolate and a mudslde chocolate chunk chocolate cookie. “I’d like the one on this side because it’s the largest of them all,” I said to the clerk.
She didn’t respond. She did not even smile. Silently, she took the cookie with a piece of tissue and slipped it into a bag. It was after 6, I guess she’d had a long day.
A small bite of that bark was immensely fulfilling. I never got to mention the orange slice to my guy because it was so good I made it disappear all by myself. I left him two-thirds of the cookie and felt very rich.
Next day Steven and I dropped in together so he could shoot these photographs. I’m definitely not interested in chocolate dipped pretzels or graham crackers, or clusters of corn flakes or cheerios, but like the chocolate-covered ginger, cherries, malt balls, raisins and espresso beans, they make whimsical gifts, affordable impulse items and the Big Daddy bar is a kilo in whatever chocolate flavor you fancy at $22. Cookie mix and chili-infused cocoa have their own shelves.
You can stand at the bar (café tables may come later) for mocha espresso or hot chocolate (wicked or classic) in a plastic cup with a slice of flaky almond-laced pithivier or chocolate banana dacquoise or a croissant.
And there are the exquisitely dressed bonbons. Of course I intend to taste them all. One at a time…one a day maybe…till I’ve found my favorites. I will probably stretch this exercise out over the next six weeks or six months till I have tasted everything once if not twice. And if I need a box to impress, 24 champagne truffles are $48 and 50 chocolates are $55. I can definitely handle this. Now I’m waiting for Jean Georges’ wine bar to move in. An annex of Bulgari would be fun and Beverly Feldman shoes please. I wonder how long the porn shop a few doors north of Mr. Chocolate can hang in.
285 Amsterdam Avenue between 73rd and 74th Street. No phone yet.