Life: April 2009 Archives

Eating Raoul

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Bonus points if you remember that D movie from the 80's.

No, didn't watch the movie this weekend, I went out Friday night to Raoul's Restaurant at 180 Prince Street.


As you know, I am not a huge fan of anything pretentious. Most of the bars or restaurants I will avoid if they come across as "the place to be" - i'm looking at you, The Madison. I don't mind fine restaurants or "cool" bars, I just hate the kind of places that don't make you feel welcome unless you are "important". The Madison will always have a dark place in my heart because they make people wait in line when there's no one in the bar. Who does that? But I have to say i'm impressed with what Andrew W.K. is trying to to. He's what I would be doing if I had a few million...make others happy, some money and not being a douche about it.

But I digress.

My brother was coming up to town, with his wife, and wanted to go out to dinner. They lived in NYC, on Duane Street, for 3 years, before moving out in 2002. It was really great to have a family member living in the city from 1999-2002, and I tagged along with them to try out many great restaurants and bars. Some were borderline when it comes to my snooty scale, but even I can't turn down trying places like Nobu.

K was coming up and already picked a place for us to eat - Raoul's Restaurant. I don't recall eating there, and he said it had the "best Steak au poivre ("pepper steak") in the city". I looked at the place online, checked out the menu and the prices and part of me inwardly groaned. But...he's family and sort of stubborn like I can be stubborn about certain things. So, I decided to just go with the flow.

I meet them at the Soho Grand around 8:30pm on Friday, with K giving me a "Yo" call from across the lobby. I inwardly chuckle, because to an outside observer, someone not from from Philly or New York, probably don't even understand what that translates to. "YO". Think about the colloquial nature of that greeting/attention phrase. Our family and friends grew up saying that. It was the classic phrase amongst my brother and myself, and it was just...pleasant to hear it again. Again, this is hard to describe, but I enjoyed hearing a friendly face say it.

I scampered up the steps, shook K's hand and then went to the bar to have a few drinks while we waited for his wife to join us.

The Soho Grand was "THE" hotel once, and still is nice...but it's showing its age. Sort of like that beautiful 20-something club girl that is now the...sort...of...over 30-something girl still trying to be the club girl. Still beautiful...but you see the wrinkles and spots showing up.

At a copper topped table, stained with old glass watermarks, near the bar we ordered a drink, and I started the night with a glass of Oban. I gotta say this for my scotch people...isn't this the most beautiful scotch you can buy? It is like silk. I love drinking it, just too bad it is $90 a bottle (although I did see a place in New York selling it for $70...but still.)

K and I chatted a bit. My old memories of our previous golf game from last year were a distant can get angry over stuff, but it's let that go and move on.

That sort of reminds me of friendship. I think you can really tell who your friends are about how they react to disagreements. If you are really friends, you forgive and let things go. If you weren't meant to be friends, then you harbor that hatred or jealousy. K and I may get upset over each other, but a few months away and seeing each other again is a wonderful least for the short term.

After A* joined us, we walked over to Prince Street.

Raoul's is a small, 40-50 seat bistro in the heart of the Soho at 180 Prince Street.

My fears of an overbearing, snobbish restaurant quickly washed away as soon as I entered. It was a great looking tavern, with a small 12 person bar, a few boots and tables packed into the approximately 1000 square foot space (no larger than many restaurants we have in Hoboken). It had pictures lining the walls of various eclectic designs and portraits. A beautiful tin ceiling, and a buzzing crowd and I just breathed in the scene.

The maitre d' was an older, tall guy who reminded me of Michael from Sobsey's Produce. He spoke to my brother for a few moments, offering us two different seats, a booth for 4 or a 6 top by the window.

Now those in the restaurant biz usually don't give up a 6 top to three people, especially in prime real estate at the corner window seat.

No problem, they sat us down and the feast began.

I looked over their wine list, hoping they would have the same wine that Matt and I had at Wolfgang's...Stag's Leap Artemis. They didn't. My brother had a look and asked if I tried Ridge Zinfandel.

Zinfandel? The horror!

No. I didn't, and he said "Trust me" and ordered a bottle.

Glad I did. The peppery zinfandel was a big hit, and we shared the artichoke appetizer with Raoul's vinaigrette. Really great, served cold (I may have preferred warm), but still a tasty treat to enjoy over wine.

My brother ordered the Steak au Poivre (with French Fries), I ordered the Rack of Lamb (with Roasted Asparagus, Spinach and Olive) and A* had the Seared Big Eye Tuna (with Cucumber Pousse Pied and Melon)

Oh. My. God.

Those are the only words that do justice to this meal. We all shared each other's dishes, and there weren't any leftovers. It was so good, I was already contemplating when I would return after our meal, when I saw someone walking towards the exit.


He looks familiar.

Where do I know...that's Ryan Gosling.

He was coming from the back of the restaurant, sitting in the booth behind the one we were first offered. That would have been an even more interesting blog posting, because I know I would have have some more interesting things to say. Suffice to say, looked like a regular guy. Taller than I expected. He had his trimmed beard and knitted skullcap rocking. I watched as he approached, but didn't linger long at looking at anyone who lives in New York is quickly trained to do. We aren't the tourists who gush "OHMYGODITSRYANGOSLING!" and fawn.

But, I did just write a paragraph on him, so I guess i'm guilty in some regards for even writing about it. Bottom line is that I wasn't expecting to see anyone semi-famous and it was mildly amusing to see a "star" after finishing our meal and enjoying our port wine.

Oh..forgot that part. We concluded the meal with dessert (I had the Crème Brûlée and K & A shared Profiteroles), and port wine. They had a very tasty 20 year old tawny, but at $20 a glass, I wasn't going to have seconds when I can buy a bottle for $50.

The night ended on a 3rd bottle of Ridge Zinfandel, and many funny stories and chats with my family. It was early by the time we left the restaurant, only 11:30, and my walk back to the PATH and then into Hoboken by a few minutes after midnight.

A great night. Definitely a date place. Definitely not cheap, but if you are a bit more careful with what you buy (the 3 bottles of wine alone killed our bill), it's something that I can fit into my "treat yourself well" night. Last year I had the shore house at Bradley Beach, maybe this year i'll skip the shore house (I was approached recently to see if I wanted to re-join...i'm thinking about it...) and treat myself to some great NYC restaurants like Raoul's.

If there is ONE restaurant you need to try before you ever leave New York at Raoul's.


I read this article in the NY Times about Yankee Stadium and the problem they are having with large sections of premium seating left open.

Here's what I would do if i'm the Yankees or Mets:

1. Speak to Premium Seat holders and offer the "Open Seat Plan". First, you have to enroll. Those who don't want to enroll don't need to bother with the next part of my plan.

2. Those that do enroll, get these benefits: If you haven't shown up by the 4th inning, the Yankees or Mets will offer $25 per seat credit back to that premium seat holder. It won't cover the cost of the seat, but at least you get something if you can't use your seats. Also the "payback" is at the discretion of the Yankees or Mets. So they may not buy back seats for every game. There's no guarantee that if you miss a game that you will get $25 back. The seat is bought back by the Yankees or Mets.

3. If the seat holder plans to make the game after the 4th inning, they can email or call the box office to "hold" their seat. If you are "in" the plan and haven't made it into the stadium before the 4th inning, then your seat will be bought back by the Yankees or Mets organization, for that game.

4. That means any seats in the premium sections are now owned by the Yankees or Mets. The Yankees or Mets (using the ticket scanners they have at the gates) will know which seats are "open" and if they are enrolled in the plan.

5. Then the Yankees or Mets will do a lottery. Season ticket holders in non-premium seats will win the chance to sit in premium seats. Think of it like when you get to the airport and there are business class or first class seats - and you get an upgrade by the airline for your patronage. Maybe 20-30 people win, total, and you will have the Yankees or Mets who hand out vouchers (special ticket stubs) for those seats. The fans can then walk to their new seats and enjoy the game.

6. Wouldn't that say THANK YOU to all the season ticket holders who can't afford $2,000 seats? Per game, what are we talking about? $750 that the Yankees or Mets are spending to reward their loyal fans? They don't have to do it every single game, maybe they do it once a week (but truth be told, don't you think when paying ballplayers hundreds in millions in salaries, they can afford $750 a game?).

The only problem with the plan is when some jerkoff premium ticket holder does show up after the 4th inning and didn't email or call the box office. The solution can be a bit more tricky. If the premium seat holder is enrolled in the plan, they have to agree to the rules. If they show up late and claim they did call or did email to hold their seats, then the lottery people would have to give up their seats.

Maybe some kind of consideration would be given to those lottery people, like the "next game" they do the lottery they can sit in the premium seats (so instead of 30 tickets raffled, they raffle 28 tickets and hold 2 for those who were bumped).

It won't be easy, but it is absolutely doable with our technology today.

We all have been affected in various ways by the recession. One of the benefits of working at Corporation X is that I have been at my job since right out of college. Coming up on 15 years. Corporation X has fairly solid fundamentals, and there won't be mass layoffs anytime in the near future.

I think.

But that still hasn't stopped me from trying to make small changes in my life to make my dollar stretch further. I have been doing a few things to be more "fiscally responsible", if you will. But it also doesn't mean that i'm going to completely stop spending my money!

1. Body Balance Discounted Massages: I reviewed the massage therapists at Body Balance, and think they are outstanding. Sitting in a chair & typing all day and running on a treadmill take their toll on my body, and this is my gift to myself on a bi-weekly basis. They have some excellent discounts on their website, and I bought a package deal to help save some money.

2. Refinanced my mortgage: Good time to look for loans, if you can get it. I was able to offset my property tax increase with a lower mortgage payment. I still say now is a good time to buy if you are in a stable job and can get financing. Many of my friends have refinanced at 4.5% on 30 year fixed loans in the last few months.

3. Coffee! Mmmm. I bought a coffee maker from Amazon, and recently bought a coffee grinder, too. I tried Illy coffee from Italy and it's excellent. Considering that a large coffee at Dunkin Donuts costs $2.50-3 up here, the money I save is great. I bought a large metal thermos and bring my coffee into work.

4. Slow-Cooker: Also known as a crockpot, it's about taking food, cooking it while you are at work, and then walking in the door to a meal waiting for you. I have yet to use this, but just got it a few weeks ago. Need to figure out what to make first, i'm guessing some kind of beef stew would be nice. It's always a good idea to save some cash by making more homemade inexepensive meals.

5. Pre-Party: This is as old as my college days, but easily the smartest move. Grab a few red bulls & A bottle of Belvedere Vodka. A six pack of Yuengling. Captain Morgan and a bottle of Coke. Having a few drinks at your house before you go out is classic college move, but damn smart in this economy. Heck, invite a few friends over first and have a pre-party and then go out. Bars are barely affected by the recession, but your wallet is. Always a good idea to limber up before you excercise and just as smart to liquor up before a night of drinking that can save you a ton of money. With the extra money you are saving, use it to grab brunch the next day.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Life category from April 2009.

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