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50th Birthday in NYC! California Cuisine suggestions

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OK, I'm sending my wife and 3 friends to NYC (manhattan) for her 50th birthday.

She LOVES "California Cuisine," which may not be the correct term for what she enjoys, which is unique, flavorful cuisine served in colorful surroundings (vague enough??). We used to live in LA, and were introduced to it there.

Can anyone give me some suggestions?? I really don't want a $100 meal, but since it is a special occasion, I can probably handle around $75 per person.

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  1. Could you give examples of places your wife loves? My definition of California cuisine is local, sustainable, and seasonal produce, cooked simply with predominantly rustic Italian/French/Spanish flavors, maybe with some Moroccan influence. It's more classic than unique. The prototype, Chez Panisse, is housed in a classic Craftsman building (in other words, not colorful at all. It's pretty much brown, inside and out). This doesn't sound exactly like what you have in mind, but given the description of "colorful surroundings", I have a feeling you have certain restaurants in mind, so it will be helpful to know what they are.

    1. I'm thinking fusion of different flavors.
      There's a restaurant called FIg and Olives, near MOMA, that looks like it has some unique dishes. They will be coming from MOMA.
      The fact is, is that the NYC restaurant scene is pretty overwhelming for those not used to the variety and sheer number of choices. I really appreciate the help.

      3 Replies
      1. re: drewzilla

        I've been to the uptown branch of Fig & Olive, and it has nice food, not fabulous. I think it's a bit overpriced, and I wouldn't choose it for a special occasion. It's more of a "take your mom to lunch" spot. I recommend it if your wife is very interested in olive oil, 'cause that's their thing.

        I haven't been, but the restaurants in MOMA - the Modern and the Bar Room - are frequently recommended.

        1. re: small h

          For $75 a person, the Modern's formal dining room is too expensive since the dinner prix fixe starts at $88, but the Bar Room could work.

        2. re: drewzilla

          One of my favorites these days is Tabla, which is a fusion of Indian and New American. Another place I have enjoyed is the recently opened Recette, which features small plates focusing on Spanish flavors with French technique. Everything we tried there was seriously delicious.

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          Recette
          328 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014

        3. When are you planning to come to NYC? For $75 a person, are you including tax, tip, and wine/drinks?

          Judging from what Wikipedia says, California cuisine is "'fusion' – integrating disparate cooking styles and ingredients – and in the use of freshly prepared local ingredients."

          There's an abundance of restaurants doing things using fresh, local ingredients but this isn't really the best time of year for local produce (wait until the corn and tomatoes come in! we've only barely gotten green garlic and ramps in!). Also lot of the ones doing "localvore" or "farm to table" don't really go too heavy on the fusion. If the ingredients are more important than the fusion aspect then it might work, dependent on the timing.

          However, places specializing in local ingredients do tend to be on the expensive side here so if you wish to have a 3 course meal and wine, you might end up over your budget. Some examples of local/organic/ingredient focused restaurants are: Savoy, Craft, Blue Hill, Gramercy Tavern, Hearth, Franny's (which is technically in Brooklyn), etc. (with Hearth and Franny's in Brooklyn being the most affordable in this category).

          Ideally, a locally sourced meal in colorful surroundings would be lunch at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in the middle of the summer, like they did on Top Chef!

          More "localvore" restaurants:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/612196

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          Gramercy Tavern
          42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

          Blue Hill
          75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011