The limo arrived at 7:30 yesterday morning, and I caught the Acela to New York, absolutely filled, 43 people in first class, but two great stewards who promptly served breakfast. I get the last single seat, since the Boston crowd had filled the train before Providence.
The cab dispatcher at Penn Station was fantastic, and my spot at the half-block line takes only 10 minutes to land a taxi. The Mandarin Oriental’s lobby is on the 35th floor, and my corner room is ready. (Maria came down last night to attend a shower today with Danielle in Jersey, and she’ll meet me here later.)
It’s 74° and the streets are filled with performers, tourists, Central Park denizens, hansom cabs, you name it. A horse carriage driver agrees to take a picture of his two passengers as they alight, and he whips out two carrots to hold so that the horse will look at them. One woman walks next to the horse, and he promptly eats the carrot before anyone can do anything, thank you very much. As I left, he was eyeing the second one, and no photo had yet been snapped.
Barney’s has a lousy shoe selection, but Bally’s is two blocks down Madison and has much better quality. The sales people are great (you’re offered a drink, of course) and I chose a great dress pair of loafers which I decide to walk out with. (My wife hates the fact I can simply buy shoes and wear them immediately.)
Back at the Mandarin, I get a manicure. (It’s quite a process—$75 before tip—and you’re taken to a resting room with reclining couches overlooking the city when you’re done, I guess from all that stress.) I then repair to the lobby lounge, where I have their special Bloody Mary (“Seoul and Blood”) with a Bento Box of dim sum (which roughly translated means “touch the heart”). I looked out over Central Park and awaited my wife.
I didn’t see my wife again, however, until I was having a cocktail in Per Se waiting for our guests. She was stuck with my daughter in a two-hour stall at the Holland Tunnel. Eventally, we all rendezvoused by 6:10 and Per Se did its special thing: We had a window seat overlooking Central Park, and a 15-course, prix fixe dinner (you make choices about only three of the selections), and the sommelier was all too happy to match wines with every two courses. (One was a beer, unbelievably, a first for me.) Although Per Se has a world-class wine list (featuring an $18,000, 1900 Margaux), I prefer trying different wines that compliment each course.
At the end of dinner, the maitre d’ offered us a private tour of the kitchen, which features a huge, closed circuit television of their sister restaurant’s kitchen in California, The French Laundry. Kitchen staffs could watch each other (and the four of us) at whim. The kitchen was spotless and food preparation fascinating, as 14 chefs moved non-stop.
When we said goodnight to our guests and walked back to the Mandarin, we were shocked to see it was 11 pm! The restaurant had wined, dined, and entertained us during almost five hours of great conversation, never trying to hurry us, and treating us to a very special evening. If you ever get the chance, you owe this to yourself. There are only 16 tables.
This morning we attended mass at St. Paul the Apostle, the home church of the Paulist Fathers, established in 1858 in the U.S., and right across the street from Fordham University, one block from our hotel. The architecture is spectacular, part Gothic part Byzantine.
Then we visited the grandchildren, who are now eating (and frequently regurgitating) solid food, and we caught the Acela home, from which I am writing and posting this. Quite a weekend. We are blessed.
© Alan Weiss, 2009. All rights reserved.