On Thanksgiving morning, we did what we weren’t supposed to do: woke up late and arrived just 20 minutes before the Macy’s parade started, huddled in the crowd just in front of Radio City Music Hall.
As fate would have it, a police barrier was opened up to the public–kids had the first row–with adults behind them. Our 5-year-old daughter got right up front, and my wife snagged a photo of Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian on the Food Network float. (I was a few rows back, taking family videos of the event.)
My advice if you ever plan on going to New York City for Thanksgiving: skip the blowing up of the balloons the night before. It is a madhouse that wraps around a half a dozen city blocks and once you are in, there is no way out until the very end. If you’re claustrophobic, or have a sick or tired kid, you are absolutely screwed. The police show no mercy because they’ve heard every excuse you can think of a thousand times before. Can’t say that I blame them.
We found a way out by heading down to the subway station below the American Museum of Natural History (where all this takes place) and came up the other side of the street out of another subway entrance.
As for Thanksgiving Day and the Macy’s parade: the weather was perfect and our daughter had a great time. We’ve done the parade once. And now we’re done!
On Thanksgiving night, we had our dinner at Zakarian’s restaurant, The National, located on the first floor of The Benjamin, our hotel for the weekend. Unfortunately, like many restaurants owned by Iron Chefs (Bobby Flay a prime example), the menus don’t reflect the creativity that you see on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” show. Our meal was a prix fixe dinner that featured steak. And although it was beautifully cooked…it was steak. I can get that anywhere.
What did shine was the service. The manager, Noble, made sure that we were happy with our wine selection and that our 5-year-old daughter was offered something other than the adult prix fixe menu. And when our choice of a white Rioja tasted off, he quickly brought a bottle of another variety that absolutely hit the spot. As we were waiting for our table on that very busy night, a busboy saw that our little girl was hungry, so he brought over some bread, butter and jelly, and gave her a seat at a small table to enjoy it while waiting. Excellent service.
Not that I’m an Iron Chef stalker, but the next night, we had dinner at Restaurant Marc Forgione, located in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan. Everything about this restaurant told us we were in the capable hands of a creative master. The restaurant was beautiful. Our server, Brad: friendly and totally professional. And the food: absolutely amazing. Appetizers consisted of chili lobster on Texas toast, with a sauce so good, you wanted to soak every bit up with that thick bread. Kampachi tartare with avocado, Schechuan buttoms, toasted pine nuts and Saratoga chips to scoop with: rich and smooth. A that-day creation of trout on a cedar plank was out of this world. A main course of perfectly cooked squab, bacon, brussels sprouts was real cold weather comfort food. And the most challenging meal for me: the veal tenderloin with Boudin noir, a pork blood sausage that was really intense. But hey, I didn’t come here to have my hand held. I came here to get slapped around a bit! And that’s exactly what this dish did.
Desserts were equally incredible, my favorite combining my two favorite desserts, bread pudding and pecan pie, into one amazing sweet, gooey treat.
And unlike other high-end restaurants, there was no problem when we requested something simple for our fussy daughter’s meal. A plate of home-made pasta with butter and cheese arrived at the table, and my daughter called it “the best ever.”
Marc Forgione the restaurant was only half the story. Marc Forgione the chef was a really cool guy who stepped out of the kitchen often, checking on tables to make sure people were satisfied with their meals. We had a table right near the open kitchen door, so we saw him and his staff at work during our entire meal. And when my daughter handed him a drawing she made of him in his kitchen, he offered to give us a tour. We grabbed that opportunity in a heartbeat! He came back to our table several times more, just to see how we were doing. Great guy. Great talent. Great restaurant.