Eating our way through NYC

100_1_the_four_seasons_july_2016_emil_antonucci_the_four_seasons_sign__wright_auctionEmily 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.

Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    Ha, that’s a great story! We did similar things in Chicago! It was our first anniversary (1988) and I was standing in the Eurodollar Pit talking about where to take my wife to dinner. I asked LGL (Linda Leventhal) where the most romantic place was in Chicago. She told me (the name escapes me and it’s out of business anyway) and we went. It was really the first time either of us had gourmet food or haute cuisine. To this day, I blame Linda for forcing me to eat my way through Chicago. It’s fun, but I need to work out a lot! Very hard for me to pick a fav, but Charlie Trotter’s was amazing and so was the Everest Room. Spiaggia might be the best Italian food I have ever had. To be fair, the only other town in the US where I am very familiar with restaurants is New Orleans.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Both excellent food towns

    2. Gotham Gal

      Both excellent food towns

  2. JLM

    .The first job I got out of the Army, I had an interview at the Four Seasons. I thought it was supposed to be a hotel.Did you ever meet anyone “under the clock” at the Biltmore? I used to go there all the time. In those days, everyone used to meet for a drink after work. Mad Men style.The bar used to be called the Men’s Bar and was only for men until it was changed to the Biltmore Bar.There was a ballroom high up in the building and the garden between the two towers was also an ice skating rink.Everybody thinks the Biltmore is gone but its owners gutted it and it’s an office building now. I think it’s 335 Madison? Supposedly, the clock is still in the lobby.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Gotham Gal


  3. johndodds

    I love the restaurant idea and, yet again, am in awe of how you two were always thinking ahead in such an effective way.

    1. Gotham Gal

      it’s the start-up mentality. 🙂

      1. johndodds

        Indeed. I very nearly repeated an observation I’ve previously made to you about the difference between British and American upbringing/culture when I made my comment. Not sure if it’s a start-up mentality, it pre-dates that.

  4. Erin

    “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.”You guys are cute.

  5. daryn

    Such fun memories. Looking back at the quickly changing restaurant landscape in Seattle, I suppose we’ve done the same thing over the past 20 years here. Lots of long gone favorites, and trendy new spots that are now old classics. Pretty sure I’ve got an ashtray around here somewhere… 🙂

    1. Gotham Gal

      I should go into my archives and photograph some of my faves. There was Wilson’s on the UWS in the 80’s. I definitely nabbed one of those. 🙂

  6. panterosa,

    For my mother, a chef herself, I held 70th lunch and dinner at La Caravelle and Cote Basque. It was such a treat to work with the staff on planning those. Once they faded, she felt she had said goodbye to them properly, much like our last time in the pool room.Eating well is it’s own form of education, like seeing good art. It is expansive and thought provoking.