Ah, I mean Park Avenue Leach, ah, Park Avenue Café? No, Park Avenue Winter. It’s been a long day. Let me explain. Tick. We’ve eaten there before.
Today, my mom was supposed to go to Australia to visit my brother Randy. She was going to go with Nika, my niece. Nika and my mom have been looking forward to this for quite some time. She needed to get down to JFK, rendezvous with Nika and get on the plane. I told her that I’d drive her down and we’d get lunch at Park Avenue Winter née Park Avenue Café and at the same time I would drop off my Richard Leach inspired caramels, the bacon banana and maple. I wanted to share a little love with Richard Leach, the pastry chef, excuse me, the executive pastry chef at the Park Avenue Cafe. After all, the flavor combination is classic. I grew up on bacon, banana and maple syrup on pancakes, add peanut butter for a sandwich, and I love it in a caramel. So, be nice, drop some off, have a pleasant lunch and off mom goes to Australia.
Well, things didn’t go as planned. First, I wanted to get my hair cut. We had a hard time getting out the door and the traffic to Jag Salon in Poughkeepsie was not good. But, luckily, and this would be the word for the day, John’s 11:00 was canceled and I could get my hair cut. And what a beauty cut it is. John is the hair cutter and he made me look like Col. John Sheppard on Star Gate Atlantis. Well, kind of. Hurrying like crazy, we made it.
Then we took off. I had wanted to go eat lunch in NYC before handing my mom off to my brother John who would take her to the airport on Sunday. She’d have some time with Johnny and everything would be cool. At this point, however, Joyce, my mother, was taking her blood pressure every chance she got and the readings were HIGH. So, it was doubtful that she’d get to go to Australia.
We took off from Poughkeepsie to NYC. We got lost. I followed the signs and got off of 87 some how onto 287 and then for some reason 287, which I probably should have stayed on, was going to Connecticut. I wound up taking 95, with Kim, my sweet wife, giving me directions on the phone. John helped out here too.
So, we flew into NYC on the Manhattan bridge and got there just in time, actually 6 mins late, for the last lunch seating at Park Avenue Winter. We made it. Whew.
Our beautiful hosts sat us down at a table, evenything in white, and I am so sorry I didn’t bring a camera, our camera is professional grade and too bulky for these commando trips into the city, the whole decor was white and as soon as we sat down at the table, white leather, yes leather table cloth, white dishes, white walls, white decorations, waitress in white, white, white, white, blue tick mark, what?
Blue pen on the beautiful leather tablecloth. I asked our waitress in a gorgeous whtie draped number, she was new and from Hawaii, what the deal was with the blue pen on the leather. She said that people drew on the table coverings. They were just big enough to fit the table and covered with tick marks, blue tick marks in ball point pen. Standards are slipping. The rough trade crowd visits Park Avenue Winter often? Abstract art? Stupidity run rampant in the populace? All I could see was blue.
Our warm hearted waitress said that they were changing over to table cloths because of the tick mark problem. Indeed, I saw not only a few leather covers with no tick marks, how I longed for a table without mean pen marks on it, but also some tablecloths.
Our waitress liked my tie, the ones Kim made, and said they reminded her of Hawaii where she was born. She was pretty white to go with her outfit.
We sat down and I order a sidecar, natch. My mom couldn’t drink and ordered some orange juice. The sidecar was perfect. It was just the way I like it. Then I ordered the Prosciutto and Asian Pear, not bad, not great but not bad. Expensive for what it was. My mother order the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. She loved it. I got the Lobster, Avocado and Fennel Salad on the recommendation of the Hawaiian waitress, who was starting to turn snippy at this point, and loved the roasted cold fennel, nice touch. Lots of lobster. My mother got an appeticer, the Porcini Ravioli and said she liked it very well. The lunch was good.
In the meantime, my mother was talking on the phone. I asked our waitress to bring back the caramels to Richard Leach, who she didn’t know, and I told her the pastry chef, showed her later the little dessert card. I ordered another drink. I had to wait some time for my drinks and extra bread.
Tick. The waitress got snippier and colder. She had better things to do than wait on us. We were the last out but then we were the last seated.
Tick. (Don’t wait for the Tock. It isn’t coming.)
Then I ordered dessert. I got The Chocolate Cube and Mr. Leach sent out the Coconut Angel Food Cake, Caramel Panacotta and Coconut-Curry Sorbet. They were both beaiutiful desserts. I loved the way he put little pieces of chocolate cake in the mousse that was inside the Cube. It was a beautiful tempered chocolate cube filled with mousse with a lovely chocolate ice cream quenelle on the side decorated with a twile. The real star was the lemongrass sorbet that came with the Coconut Angel Food Cake. Lemongrass Curry and Coconut Angel Food Cake. I immediately knew it was angle food, the only cake that I deem worthy, as soon as I put it in my mouth. Ney, as soon as I touched it. Nay from the first glance. The desserts were bigger than the main dishes we had. He was doing duos, rather than trios.
I love lemongrass curry and use it in my chocolates. I make a dark chocolate lemongrass curry and milk chocolate lemongrass curry. Thoguh I don’t have a great picture of my milk chocolate Bon-Bon Bay.
Richard Leach came out to the table. I shook his hand twice. He was cool and reserved. Our waitress at this point was frozen. We chatted. I told him that the bacon flavor dissipates after only a couple of days. He said, “I tried your caramel, it was good.” From a deli owner, that’s a rave. “Good.”
Leach’s desserts are massive, rich and heavy. Though his cake and mousses are light. Paradoxical? Perhaps. There’s always contrasts and combinations on the plate. They are beautiful and well sculptured. If you’re eating out, you must indulge. No whimpy desserts. What better way to indulge than with Richard Leach’s desserts? He’s at least one star of the two stars that Park Avenue (Pick Your Poison) got from Bruni. Leach has been there for quite awhile. Good for him. His desserts are good. And from a chocolatier, that’s a rave.
Anyway, I wish I had had a camera to take a picture of the place and of Mr. Leach. Boo hoo. We finished up. The waitress had to be chipped free of the ice. I think they were using her over at the vodka bar. Thank you for the vodka bar. I saw a waiter put a glass of vodka in her hand to chill it. We left with only the bartender saying good-bye. I think the sommelier said good-bye, too. He waited on us at one point. That’s how I got my extra bottle of water.
I left a good tip though the service had degraded so much that I, by rights, could have left no tip. But, that just isn’t done. We left with a full belly and no new ideas but we left relaxed and went to see my brother at the Slaughtered Lamb, always an experience. I think my mom bought my beer. Johnny was going to but I think she wanted to.
We took the West Side Highway to the GWB. That was a mistake. But once in New Jersey, everything went smoothly. Funny that. It takes New Jersey to smooth things out. Damn. What is happening to New York?
Anyway, Richard Leach suggested we come back when it was Park Avenue Spring. Probably not, Richard. We’ve eaten there twice, once for dinner, once for lunch, one Autumn and one Winter. Is this the new Working Man’s Lunch that our beloved Spago Palo Alto used to be? Maybe. Maybe with the wait staff we had the first time we were there. The food is good. It’s on the mark. The lemongrass curry was brilliant. I know. I use it too.
And I am just a little bit curious what Spring will look like, damn them! 😉