Emily texted me yesterday to tell me that the original ashtrays from the Four Seasons that were on the auction block were going for $10K. I admit that I have stolen more than a handful of ashtrays over my younger years so I thought it was too bad I hadn’t lifted one myself years ago when people were still smoking in restaurants.
That text led me to a longer conversation with my brother about the Four Seasons and he brought up the article that the NYTimes wrote about it’s history. It is worth the read but the quick note is that the restaurant cost $4.5 million to build in 1959 (today that would be $40M) and that the menu was seasonal, hence the name. The chef embraced seasonal menus based on what was fresh and organic as Alice Waters did at Chez Panisse 12 years later. Quite impressive when you look at the landscape today.
When Fred and I first moved to NYC our first dream was to own a parking garage. It appeared to us that owning a piece of property with cars parking there all day long for ridiculous sums of cash was genius. The next thing we wanted was to be able to get into restaurants without having to make reservations weeks in advance.
One of the things we did was make reservations at the top restaurants 3 times a year; at each of our birthdays and our anniversary. It was our treat to ourselves to eat at the best places in NYC. We’d always order a half bottle of wine because it was what we could afford. The Four Seasons was one of those restaurants. I still remember it. We sat in the pool room.
We also went to Le Bernadin, Gotham Bar and Grill, Lutece, River Cafe, Quilted Giraffe, Aureole, Union Square and Montrachet to name a few. Back then I would read Zagat’s from cover to cover when it came out. We were educating ourselves. That education also included going to as many neighborhoods as possible that were safe (it was different back then).
Going forward when the kids were young we had them each pick two restaurants over the course of the year. Every two months we would go and having a unique eating experience. One of my favorites and most memorable was WD-50. The staff gave everyone a class for wine regardless of age. It was like being in Europe and the experience was too. To this day we all remember that evening.
Having all of these restaurant experiences and then seeing the restaurants close is just part of the ever ending growth of NYC. Things come, things go but having experienced many of them during their heyday makes me feel like I am a part of the history of NYC.