Friday, October 2, 2009

Weekend Potpourri: Neil's Birthday, my hosting reel, and a review of the Standard Grill

I love it when I can churn out two posts in less than a day.  I feel like Proust, with less talent and more self-regard.

So, we must must must begin with Mr. Neil's birthday.  For someone who loooves to be the center of attention, Neil is actually pretty low-key about his birthday, which of course is why I love to make as big a deal of it as possible.  I've thrown him two surprise parties over the years, surprised him with gifts that have included European vacations, and generally spoiled him so rotten that anything I complain about is thoroughly my own damn fault.

This year was hard; since I began working for myself and pursuing a television career,  our financial circumstances have changed and we've been far more conservative with money.  Both of us know from being frugal, and it's actually been good to focus on making only the choices that matter.  Still, a birthday (or Christmas, and sometime lesser holidays like Arbor Day) are a time to make someone feel special and I love to give gifts.

I bought him a pair of boots, some champagne flutes (we hate champagne but love Prosecco - however, we only had two flutes, one a beautiful gold-colored one with no apparent mate, and one a souvenir glass form the opening of the Little Mermaid) and a pair of Earnest Sewn jeans, but I got them on Gilt Group.  Ironically, the first gift I ever bought him (or one of them.  Who remembers?  There've been many.) was a pair of Earnest Sewn Jeans - I bought them one afternoon while we were walking along Fifth Avenue and we stopped into Saks.  He looked so good trying them on, I could barely stay out of the fitting room.  The rest of this story is none of your business.

But it was interesting to reflect on spending $200 or so on a pair of jeans five years ago - for no special occasion other than love (which actually is a special occasion), only to buy a similar pair through an online luxury discounter for his birthday.  I'd say it felt emasculating, but it actually felt empowering to find a way to provide a similar standard of living as we could during the "fat" years.

Speaking of fat, on our way to dinner, Neil was talking about his recent physical and the body fat assessment his doctor performed.  Now, I'm convinced there's something wrong with it because his came out nearly two percentage points higher than mine (Neil still has visible abdominal muscles.  Six of them.  I can make out four if I stop eating for a day, but their resting on a big round fluffy cloud.)  However, the  proper way for him to communicate his suspicion that there was something inaccurate is not to say, "Quite frankly I can't believe I have more fat than you."

Anyway, our dinner reservation - with two friends - was for the new Standard Grill at the Standard Hotel in the meatpacking district.  The hotel and restaurant are both very hot, and have the potential to pull that neighborhood back from the brink of New Jersey, where is was relegated after overexposure on Sex and the City (nearly 7 years ago.)  Yeah, real New Yorkers still go to Pastis, and the Diane Von Furstenburg store does well, but the rest of that neighborhood is a stroll through two accents: European tourist and Bayonne.

We were excited about eating at the Standard; New York magazine gave it a good review, and the new guy at the NY Times - the one filling in until a replacement for Frank Bruni is hired - even gave it one star.  Not a rave, but his first star of any stripe (I think that's a funny turn of phrase.)  Although the major complaints have been about the noise and the service, we were looking forward to a nice evening.

I'd love to review the restaurant, but I can't.  We got thrown out.  No, I didn't do anything.  We had made a reservation for 9:15 about two weeks ago.  When they called to confirm it, they confirmed it for 9:45.  I  told them it was made for 9:15, but they refused to honor it, telling me they could only seat us at 9:45.  I reluctantly agreed, and reminded them that we wanted to be seated in the dining room, as we heard the cafe area in the front was very noisy.  I also reminded them it was a birthday.

We arrived a little past 9:30 to a restaurant with a busy bar scene and biergarten, but several empty tables.  You can imagine, then, our surprise at not being seated.  Finally, at 10 minutes to 10, when they went to seat us, they offered us a table in the front cafe.  I reminded them we had asked for the restaurant, and expressed frustration that my reservation was changed, only to find several empty tables, and then still having to wait.  The hostess (who looked like Bailey, from WKRP in Cincinnati) turned her back on me, got the manager, who was totally uninterested in our evening and told us that, since we didn't like it, we could leave.

This story has a happy ending, though.  I spoke with a really wonderful woman who is the Director of Operations, and shared my experience with her.  I happen to be a fan of the Standard - I love their two properties in LA, both downtown and on the Sunset Strip, and wanted to give them a chance.  Likewise, Marlene knows a LOT about customer service and knows how to turn a problem into an opportunity.  She offered us virtually any reservation we wanted: we're eating there next Thursday - so stay tuned.

Instead, we ate at Gansevoort 69, the restaurant that used to be florent.  It's great to be back in that space, and they managed to update the decor without destroying the integrity of the original space.  Clean subway tiles and a classic tin ceiling in gunmetal gray accentuate a traditional New York City look, and the original counter and stools have been cleaned and restored, but not removed.  The menu is somewhat limited, though the chef indicated that he'll be expanding it.

As for the food, I ordered the meatloaf which was moist but not terribly flavorful, served with over-buttered mashed potatoes.  Neil's pulled pork sandwich was more promising, tangy and meaty and served on an onion roll with nicely cooked sweet potato fries.  The brownie we devoured for dessert (actually, we ate two between the four of us.  Slurp.) was delicious - warm and chocolatey and moist.  Not too sweet, and neither too wet or dry.  The place has promise.

Also, I offer you a review of Nizza, on Ninth Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets, where I ate with Brette last night while we discussed the next steps on my hosting reel.  Nizza is a fantastic italian bistro in a part of Hell's Kitchen that was sorely in need of a moderately priced, energetic restaurant.  The bistro decor is expertly, though not expensively done, and the dining room and bar are spacious, but place you close enough to other dinners that it captures the atmosphere of Parisian bistros.  The menu is an eclectic mix of high and low italian cuisine, including pizzas, pastas and meat and fish entrees.  The best of the menu includes an appetizer called Socca - a chickpea and herb cake that is possibly the most delicious thing you will ever eat, a Sunday pasta with a gravy (tomato sauce) with meat and sausage, and a grilled Branzino fillet delicately prepared with olive oil, olives, onions and potatoes.  Slurp, slurp, slurp!!!

Brette and I talked about marketing my hosting reel while watching a man with a hook (I am NOT kidding) be rescued from a passing taxi cab by a woman who may have been Kristen Bell.  Or she may have been the hostess.  I don't know, we'd had a few glasses of wine at that point.

We're sending the hosting reel to agents, as well as the director who may be interested in one of the TV show concepts I've been trying to get produced.  I have wanted to work in television my entire life, and I finally feel like I'm on the cusp of making it happen.  I may not yet be ready to take over for Seacrest, but if you've seen Andy Cohen's new show on Bravo (and I like Andy, but he had the power to put himself on television)  I should be competitive in the market.

OK, I'm jealous of Andy Cohen.  Who wouldn't want to run programming for Bravo and have a talk show where you get to have cocktails and hang out with Tyson Beckford and the Real Housewives of Wherever.  


DO THIS, New York:

Watch my hosting reel:

Eric P. Stine, Hosting Reel from reels4artists on Vimeo.

Check out Gilt Group.  Amazing brands, amazing prices.  And if you like to travel, check out their new site, Jetsetter.

I'm a fan of the Standard's hotels.  Check out the rooftop pool in downtown L.A. for a drink, and the one on the Strip for lodging.

Eat at Gansevoort 69 - a little piece of old New York, repackaged in a way that makes you WANT to go to the meatpacking district.

Eat at Nizza.

Check out Andy Cohen's show.  Yeah, he's not a superstar yet, but he still seems like a pretty awesome guy.

DON'T DO THIS, New York:

Don't ruin Neil's birthday.


I'll get back to you on the Standard.  Bad experience; good follow-up.  Stay tuned.  We're eating there Oct. 15

1 comment:

  1. WOW! Is this what you're doing in NY now??? That is a GREAT show! I love it! I love the subject, I love the style, I love the host ... LOVE IT! You really present well on the small screen, Eric. Gone are the days of signing your correspondence with "esquire", perhaps? Hee hee! I'm VERY impressed. Is this something I could TiVo?