The other night looking for a civilized dining experience at which we could actually hear each other, I took my friends to the Four Seasons restaurant (99 East 52nd Street; 212 754 9494). It remains marvelous.
I was moved to consider how much of my personal and professional life was caught up in this Phillip Johnson designed, land-marked beauty in what was originally the Seagram Building with great art chosen by the daughter of the family. There is a Lippold over the bar, a huge Picasso (originally a stage drop) on the wall of the hall joining the Grill Room and the Pool Room and a very large Frank Stella portractor series oil in the large private dining room.
I wrote the second Four Seasons--their cookbook--for Tom Margittai and Paul Kovi--who were the operators at that time when the chef was Seppi Rengli. Both of these charming Hungarians became good friends. I still exchange e mails with Tom.
Earlier I had met the brilliant Joseph Baum--also a Hungarian heritage--there. He was one of the great innovators of the restaurant business. I admired his decision to try and make what was the first contemporary American restaurant in the space. It was not about nostalgia but about the creative now. Long before the current stress on fresh and local, he had herbs growing on the roof and the famous composer John Cage foraging wild mushrooms for him. Sadly they had a falling out when John felt that they should be paid for based on their rarity and Joe wanted a flat price so he could make a stable menu.
I went on to work with Joe at The World Trade Center and at The Rainbow Room. More about those struggles another day.
I had many lunches with my co-teacher, the gigantic James Beard, in the Grill Room.
If you like this kind of memory let me know. There is so much.