NYC: Food and the City, featuring Telepan and more

Telepan photo from

At face value there are not too many similarities between the girls of Sex and the City and a group of fifteen 50+year olds on an annual trip to Manhattan.  But somehow this is exactly what comes to mind as I try to capture the essence of my recent trip.  Except for one thing.  Food is our substitute for sex.

I am the Samantha of the group, as the person with the most voracious appetite.  I take pleasure in enticing my friends over to the dark side to eat one more cookie or cupcake. Although I must admit that on this particular trip I was too tired to walk a few blocks out of the way for outrageous cookies from Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side. Thank goodness I have friends who are more energetic than I am.  These are some dense, rich, Oprah-approved cookies.  The dark chocolate is my favorite.

photo from

We begin our day with a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Alexander McQueen exhibit.  The SATC girls would be right at home here, particularly Carrie.  In fact, Sarah Jessica Parker often wears Alexander McQueen for special occasions, including the SATC movie openings one (on the left) and two (on the right).

We have theater tickets at 7:00 pm, which dictates a 5:00 pm dinner.  I know that the girls from SATC would never eat dinner at 5:00 pm.  I didn’t say this is a perfect metaphor, although I guess we can call this an afternoon delight.

I choose Telepan based on Zagat reviews (26, which is high) and location (near the Met and theater district).  As I often do, I second guess my decision.  But then I see Telepan is participating in Restaurant Week, which coincides with our visit.  You can’t beat a three-course meal for $35 at a fairly high-end restaurant in New York.

Our group splits into three tables of five, which is perfectly fine.  The hostess give us attitude when we ask if we can be seated close together.  Miranda would have given her attitude right back, but I’m not so bold. Our waiter arrives and in a very serious way tells us the rules.  Everyone at the table must order off the restaurant week menu or no one can.  We all have to order from the same panel on the menu: starters, middles, mains, or dessert).  One person can’t order dessert and another decide on a mid-course.  This seems complicated and unnecessary.  It may have gone over better if our server had any sort of sense of humor about him, but he doesn’t.  He repeats the rules more than once.

Telepan, as described on the website:

Bill Telepan’s cuisine draws its inspiration from the freshest ingredients, simply and skillfully prepared. “It’s about allowing the natural flavors to emerge from the ingredients,” says Telepan. Telepan buys locally and cooks seasonally—creating honest, robust dishes that have been hailed by Gael Greene as “bravura food” in New York Magazine.

I’m finding the whole promotion of fresh ingredients thing a yawn lately, but the description on the website is accurate.

We begin with a wonderful bread basket.  The standout tastes of anise.  My starter is pickled & mixed beets, with bulgar and buttermilk dressing.  It’s tart and tasty.  Others in the group rave about the sunny side egg, with fried green tomato, cheddar and spring onion. 

Telepan beets

My middle course is peekytoe crab linguini with scallion, garlic, and green chili. I have to be honest.  I like this dish as well as my main course of  wild striped bass with olive oil potato gratin, zucchini, green tomato and lemon thyme.  But I was so focused on whether my friends were enjoying their food, that I didn’t pay attention enough to provide accurate descriptions. There’s pressure in satisfying fifteen women at the same time!

Telepan linguini
Telepan bass

I get a text from a friend at another table during the starters:  “So far..GREAT!!!”  This is all the affirmation I need.

When it’s time to pay the bill we whip out five credit cards at our table.  The waiter again informs us of the rules.  We have to designate the tip separately rather than putting a total on the five cards and have them figure it out.  I’ve been to a lot of restaurants during Restaurant Week and I’ve never encountered so many rules.  It’s not just our server.  The other two tables have different wait staff with the same attitude and regulations.

As we leave everyone is raving about the food and atmosphere.  I’m a little less enthusiastic, due to the attitude if the staff.  I think they would do well to lighten up a bit.  Maybe we’re just a little more laid back in DC.

The next morning we are scheduled for a heritage tour on the Lower East Sideorganized by Levy’s Unique New York. The friend who has organized the tour asks Levy’s to include food stops stating:  we are 16 women who expect/need/cannot live without food.”  We all agree that our tour guide, Jonathan, is cute. (Does this make us cougars?)  In rapid succession our conquests are:
Yonah Schimmels, 137 East Houston Street (good potato knishes)

Vanessa’s Dumpling House, 118A Eldridge Street (sesame pancakes and vegetable dumplings that are well worth a visit)
The Pickle Guys, 49 Essex Street (the pickled pineapple is unbelievable!  it’s got a nice kick.)
The Pickle Guys pickled pineapple
Kossar’s Bialys, 367 Grand Street (good but would be better toasted). I am deeply distressed to see now that Donut Plant is right next door to Kossar’s.  I have been dying to try this place!

We finish our tour somewhat more knowledgeable about the history of the neighborhoods in this ethnically-changing part of town.  More importantly, we are completely sated when it comes to our appetites.

Stay tuned for a sequel to “Food and the City” featuring ABC Kitchen, Magnolia Bakery, and Chelsea Market. The food was terrific, which is more than I can say for the disappointing “Sex and the City 2.”

Telepan, 72 West 69 Street,  New York, NY 
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 3.8
Telepan, New York Times review

Telepan on Urbanspoon

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