It’s one of my favorite things to do in New York. Dinner and a play. It’s also among the most challenging combination of activities in the Big Apple to pull off well.
So much can go wrong – not having a reservation and spending a half hour wandering Restaurant Row with the tourists looking for a table (I’ve done that more times than I can count); finding out your dinner reservation has put you into a pre-theater mill where you’re herded like cattle at the slaughter (ditto); or rushing anxiously through an otherwise delicious dinner and then running like crazy to make curtain time (I call it doing the Times Square Bob and Weave).
Then there’s choosing a bad play (not often but it happens); choosing a great play that one of your company hates and everyone else loves (that play with the goat); finding out the lead is replaced by the understudy (that Laura Linney play that wasn’t); and let’s not get into the lines at the ladies room, shall we?
Well, last night we pulled it off. Dinner at Maze and tix to Other Desert Cities. Perfect combo. (Not to mention great friends…)
The only table available at Maze was at 5:30, and while I felt a bit like I was heading out for an early bird special, the timing was just right. So right that it’s going to be my new dinner start time for pre-theater. We had a wonderfully leisurely meal and great conversation unencumbered by worries about making curtain time. And had time for an absolutely perfect Margarita at the bar before sitting down to a fabulous meal.
The bread – best I’ve ever had at a restaurant, hands down. A lightly salted cross between a focaccia and a baguette is the best way to describe it. It felt very light on the tummy and we went through two little buckets – mostly because we needed it to sop up all the great sauces we had.
Two of us ordered the scallops appetizer – perfectly cooked with little bits of cauliflower and capers. (Sautéed sea scallops golden raisin purée, cauliflower beignets, crispy capers $18)
The single short rib ravioli appetizer had a surprisingly generous and delicious meat filling.
The sweetbreads appetizer was a bit of a disappointment. When I eat sweetbreads, I’m looking for that soft inner texture. These pieces were more like crackling sweetbreads. Delicious, just not what one would hope for. A better description in the menu would have been helpful. (Oven baked beetroots caramelized sweet breads, celeriac mousseline, mache salad $18)
The Bronzino was truly amazing. Trust me, we sopped up every bit of that beurre rouge. (Filet of branzino spinach and artichoke fricassée, beurre rouge, crispy phyllo $26)
But the star of the evening? The little pot of fingerling potatoes in a shallot cream sauce that were served with the Trout Market special. (Whole roasted Idaho brook trout Sheldon Farm fingerling potatoes, orange and fennel salad $29) There were more than needed for one person, which meant we all got to share them. OMG. The potatoes were perfectly cooked and the sauce – well, we were all practically licking the pot to get every bit. I asked how they were made and got this much – shallots, garlic, chicken broth and I assume butter and cream and parsley. If anyone reading this has the Maze cookbook, let me know if the recipe is in there. (I tweeted Ramsay to see if he would share it – I’ll let you know if he responds.)
We all shared dessert – delicious. (Chocolate pudding stout ice cream, pretzel, peanut butter powder $9.00)
No one overate or over-drank, both of which can be disasterous before a play. Susan and I shared the Bronzino, MR TBTAM only had appetizers, Boyd shared his potatoes (OMG again…) and we all tasted one another’s dishes and shared the dessert. It was a completely satisfying meal. The bill for 4 of us, including 2 beers and 1 glass of wine, but not the drinks at the bar, was $200.
Maze also has a pre-fixe theater menu during the week for $35. I consider that a real bargain.
Our early reservations meant we had time to enjoy a leisurely walk to the Booth Theater on 45th St to see Other Desert Cities.
OTHER DESERT CITIES
What a cast.
I’ve loved Rachel Griffiths since Muriel’s Wedding, and she was fabulous as Brooke, a 30-something writer who arrives at her parent’s Palm Springs home to announce she’s publishing a memoir that revisits their shared tragedy and threatens to upend her parent’s carefully reconstructed life. Stockard Channing it a tour de force as a Jewish-Texan Right-wing Mama Grizzly modeled on Nancy Reagan, and Stacy Keatch her completely sympathetic Papa bear counterpart. Judith Light is transformed as a recovering alcoholic aunt. (Why have I not seen her in a play before? I’ve been missing some amazing stage acting!) And I was thrilled to find Justin Kirk playing Brooke’s younger brother Trip – while there was much of Andy Botwin in Trip, it’s a character I happen to love, and Kirk plays the part beautifully. (His final outburst actually drew applause during the play.)
We found ourselves a bit confused as to the chronology of the play – which war were they talking about – Iraq or Vietnam? What year was it? How old is everyone supposed to be? But that just gave us fodder for a spirited conversation at intermission, which was the first one in as long as I can remember that did not include a visit to the ladies room.
Hanging around talking afterwards, a nearby burst of applause made us realize we were near the stage door, from which the cast was emerging.
I got a few pics and had a brief conversation with Judith Light, who, after signing autographs and taking pics strolled off with her companion and merged into the crowd on 45th street.
It’s what I so love about New York. The Gods walk among us.