Sunday, February 01, 2009

When pasta won't do

Sometimes you can find delicious, ooh-fancy meals for shockingly low prices. Sometimes you can't, so here are a couple suggestions:

1) Despana, in lower-east SoHo: I'd been before, mainly to get samples of about 100 different Spanish cheeses before guiltily buying a third of a pound of one of the less pricey variants. But it turns out (as I learned after wandering in in search of samples) the place also has lunch, as in, seats and some counter-type surfaces, and a number of sub-$10 (and sub-$5!) options, including at least one amazing $7 salad. More than a $5-Footlong, yes, but the one I got came with more Spanish cheese and almonds than I knew what to do with, not to mention bread. Highly recommended.

2) Bouley, in Tribeca: The name screams not-for-grad-students. The locale, same thing. But for whatever reason, the part of the Bouley mini-empire that was once the posh restaurant is now the café. The tables are huge and -- almost unheard-of in New York, outside of restaurants too fancy to even contemplate -- they are set apart from one another, such that entering and exiting the place does not involve whacking someone in the face with one's coat. In fact, the room is plenty amazing, with those vaguely coffin-like fancy-restaurant arched ceilings, and red-velvet benches on which to recline post-afternoon-pastry. I felt like I was staying at an extremely posh hotel, and had arrived, 4-ish, for breakfast. (I felt that way until we went to the nearby Whole Foods and bought nine bags of 99-cent, i.e. cheaper than Key Food, pasta, an item always sold out at the Union Square branch, where presumably we have more grad-student competition.) A small coffee at Bouley Bakery, served in a delicate saucer-cup combo, comes in at $1.35, a mark-up from making it at home, fine, but far less than one pays at Starbucks, Think, or other far less charming, paper-cup-offering establishments. (UPDATE: Jo just reminded me that we were even offered free refills, because the to-stay cups are smaller than the to-go ones. Who could ask for more? We couldn't, I guess, since we did not, in fact, ask for refills.) As for the pastries, Jo's chocolate croissant was apparently not good enough to finish (this didn't make me keen on trying it) but my cannele ($2) was so tasty it almost turned into me getting two canneles ($4)... until my degree in Cheapness Studies kicked in, and off to the pasta we went.

No comments: