Here's what we believe: Key lime pie is meant to embody a fundamental tension that exists between sweet and tangy. Not sour. Tangy. Sour is another matter. Wine drinkers understand that this is the same tension that animates white wine. Fruit vs. acid. The payoff, when this tension is properly managed, is vocal: you yelp a joyful yelp. You are made aware of many, many tastebuds, as well as of the insides of your cheeks. In key lime pie, the simple fact that fruit and acid are often the same thing is admirably realized.
Key lime is the crack of pie, and Soup to Nuts' fave Oyster Bar at Grand Central is your pusherman. You develop gooseflesh. You wave your fork around to signal your ecstasy before shearing off another blessed bite. You declare that limes are better than lemons. You imagine whipped cream to be a civilized triumph on the order of poured concrete, internal combustion and musical counterpoint. You envision Florida, a state about which you couldn't otherwise care less. Limes. Sugar. Pie that's green.
Another bite, another preposterous wallop of tangy sweet creamy delight. There's only half a slice left now. You pause for a moment to consider how you have advanced your life to this exalted point, here in the bowels of the crossroads of the great American metropolis, vaulted ceilings arching overhead, an urbane mob slurping bivalves to your left and right. Time to go back in. You won't savor it as much. What you'll do this time is scarf the rest of the pie down, inhale it one rapid forkful after another and, next time?because with pie this good there's always a next time?you'll take it just a little bit slower.
The Oyster Bar's on the lower level of Grand Central Station, the number's 490-6650.
The frost is on the pumpkin, upstate apples flood the greenmarkets, and the other thing Soup to Nuts keeps thinking about is...booze.
Here's a fact: The cosmopolitan is barbaric. Every time Sarah Jessica Parker, sporting that Sunday night's Sex and the City installment of Pat Field skankwear, hefts one of those hazy vermilion travesties, we know why Mr. Big with his thick paunch wants her to buzz the fuck off. The cosmo: a Darren Star kind of drink, the Melrose Place of cocktails, a beverage to be seen holding. Its relationship to the actual martini (and yes, we know we're sliding into Art Cooper territory here, but so what) is...well, cosmos are probably closer to mai tais, when you get down to it. Essentially, a Cape Codder, minus the ice. Big woo.
The hoariest martini cliche is that it's a man's cocktail. A Cary Grant-channeling man, a man with aspirations toward the status of some sort of pro, but a man nonetheless. A thinking man, a good man. Martini equals morality, you see. And what such a man?such a moral champion, a believer in standards?likes is a bar that reinforces the simple dignity of his choices.
Keens is such a place. Is this retro? Fuck off. It was never current.
Ask them to make it with Boodles gin, up, and a decent measure of vermouth, with one olive and two more on the side. You will be delivered, at your hulking wooden table while they roast some mutton back in the kitchen, a dignified alternative to the massive, inverted-V troughs we have been forced to guzzle martinis from elsewhere. You will receive a perfectly mixed, exquisite 4 ounces or so of martini, in a glass that?like a proper wine glass?focuses the elixir's aroma. The briny spark of that single olive will, as salt is meant to, merge the drink's flavors. The clock rolls back to 1906, when this part of Midtown was Uptown. The world was full of promise.
Keens Steakhouse is at 72 W. 36th St., betw. 5th & 6th Aves.; call 'em at 947-3636.
The winter squashes virtually tumble from the bins at Gourmet Garage, we're snipping eyeholes in our sheet for Halloween, but Soup to Nuts can't get our mind off...game. Phew! That's more like it.
Is this the nerviest case of me-too-ism you've ever witnessed: "Dear Soup, I know you reported on Aquavit's game festival, but there's never enough game out there... Les Halles is celebrating Fall with a Game Festival..." What about us, the letter whines on. Where's our game mention? Huh? Of course we jest. As loyal "Soup to Nuts" readers know, we're big fans (call us shills and you get a shiner to go along with that smirk) of the mid-Park South brasserie.
So here's all the gamy info: The Game Festival runs Monday, Oct. 25, through Sunday, Nov. 7, with game specials offered every day alongside the Halles' usual excellent fare. Roasted pheasant with sauteed quince is one option, or perhaps you're more in the mood for the elusive civet of hare in red wine sauce, maybe the rack of boar with braised lettuce, or pheasant hen braised with cabbage and lardons. They got it all. Les Halles' butcher shop also sells prepared game dishes for ambitious home chefs.
The restaurant's at 411 Park Ave. S. just south of 29th St. Call 679-4111 to reserve or place butcher orders.
Now that you're stuffed with potential endangered species, why not do something to cleanse your black, morally bankrupt soul along with your palate? The James Beard Foundation and Louis XIII de Remy Martin Ultimate Dinner Program continues through the end of November. Bringing together 28 dining establishments from around the land, each offering a special menu "so luxurious that it can only be completed with a glass of Louis XIII." That's real good Cognac?about 50 years old?and part of the costs of the meals it accompanies goes to the James Beard Foundation, so chefs-in-training can learn how to dish up stuff that people would want to have a Louis XIII after.
Local participants are W. 55th St.'s La Caravelle?that's number 33, betw. 5th & 6th Aves., call 586-4252?and Best of Manhattan 1999 "Best Wine List" honoree Veritas, which you'll find at 43 E. 20th St., betw. Broadway and Park Ave. S. (353-3700).
Contributors: Matthew DeBord, Lisa Kearns
E-mail tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 244-9864.