Plate-licking becomes a bicoastal pastime

As I’ve mentioned in past columns, I run a marketing firm called Artichoke Creative that has been heavily involved with food and solar clients over the past six years. Both are passions of mine so it hardly seems like work marketing them sometimes. In June I was approached by a New York-based solar company to head up their marketing efforts which would entail spending two weeks per month there through the end of the year. The first thought that popped into my mind was the food scene in New York and we all know how incredible that can be. I jumped at the opportunity and since then have been bicoastal as they say, enjoying the best of San Diego and New York. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for me to share some of my experiences so far.
The solar company is based in Port Chester, which is about 25 miles north of Manhattan in Westchester County. I’ve been staying in Nyack, across the Hudson River, and make regular trips into Manhattan for business. Luckily, Mario Batali recently opened up a restaurant in Port Chester less than a mile from my office. More on that later as I could devote an entire column to one epic meal I’ve had there recently.
I’ll start with the basics and work my way up. There really is something different about the pizza in New York — thin crust, purchased by the slice, of course. I’ve heard it’s the water but whatever it is I really can’t get enough. Italian places are on every other corner and they all have slices and I’ve become addicted. It really does not matter what time of day either … breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night, bring it on. The closest I’ve found to this style in North County is East Coast Pizza in Cardiff’s Seaside Plaza nestled among the beautiful people stores and trendy restaurants. Not quite the same but if you are craving a slice it will do the trick.
Then there are the street vendor hot dogs in Manhattan. Some magnetic force draws me to them every time I enter the city. There is nothing like it really and I’ve not found a similar, near religious type experience with a simple hot dog with mustard except for those found years ago in the bleachers of the recently demolished Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Sure there is Skyline in Cincinnati, Chicago style, Dodger Dogs, and a plethora of gourmet dog purveyors around country, but for the pure hot dog experience, nothing beats standing on the street in NY. 
Heading back up the Hudson to Piermont is an exclusive little community where celebs like Robert DeNiro, Bill Murray and Rosie O’Donnell have homes. I had heard great things about a place called Xavier’s and that I better plan months ahead to get in.  So this past Sunday I’m walking past and wanted to pop in and see what the space looked like. It turned out they had a table for us and we settled in for an amazing five-course tasting menu paired with wine. The courses were not listed so each was a surprise, which I loved. It was one of the most decadent dining experiences I’ve ever had. These were not typical tasting portions as each one could have been a regular size entrée unto itself. As it turns out, Chef Peter X Kelly recently defeated Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef.” I can see why. Check out his restaurant group at http://xaviars.com/ . 
Ok, back to Mario Batali. I can’t say I’ve been impressed by celebrity chefs who operate more than a couple restaurants. There is really no way to maintain control over multiple kitchens … or so I thought. Batali has 15 going now but seeing at he has one so close to my Port Chester office, I had to give it a shot. That plus Batali has long been one of my favorite TV food personalities along with Anthony Bourdain and Jamie Oliver who all have a no BS, simple, fresh approach to cooking and eating and are all guys I would love to share drinks with.
So the restaurant is Tarry Lodge and from the minute I walked in I knew I was in for something special.
Great minds think alike as they offer a Guanciale, black truffle and sunny side up pizza, which of course we had to start with along with my first taste of a Rose Pinot Grigio, which was a really nice mix.
The rest of the meal had me in a food induced pleasure coma with an entrée of two grilled quail with black mission figs on a bed of fresh green beans. We sampled brussel sprouts with pancetta, prosciutto di Parma, and finished up with a pistachio gelato that was worth celebrating. I’m not doing this meal justice in one paragraph but it placed immediately into my top five meals of all time if that helps. Check out the full menu at www.mariobatali.com/restaurants.cfm and forget what I said about celebrity chefs with 15 restaurants being lame.
So, despite all this New York food stuff going on, it’s still a good feeling when my plane touches down in San Diego and I head directly to Juanita’s for a California burrito or fish taco, or both, my Leucadia version of surf and turf.
While San Diego does not have the food variety, we have a thriving restaurant scene that continues to evolve. I think I’ll stick around.

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  1. will.in.it says:

    I’m a big fan, you’ve got a cool style!

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