Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Phantom of the Opera and St. Andrews Restaurant...

...were a definite winning combination! If you recall from my last rant, I said this was only the second Broadway play that my wife and I would have seen since we were married, the first being Sweeney Todd, last year. Sweeney Todd was excellent, but The Phantom of the Opera was a bit better. Of course, both are rather comedic in some regards, Sweeny Todd much more so; and the other (The Phantom) was a sad twisted love story (then again so was Sweeney Todd), and both were macabre - maybe I just like this type of thing.

The Phantom though was absolutely spectacular, much more flare on stage, better or more intense stage settings, great singing (as had Sweeney Todd), great plot (same as the other), great acting, tear jerking emotionalism; and the Phantom had a bit more in that it included opera, ballet and musical theater all in one. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially as a surprise treat for their other half. My wife never stopped smiling until the near final scene, when I thought she and I were about to bust out in tears. The woman seated to my other side certainly did start bawling. A play moving me to near tears has got to have something good going for it, I can tell you that for certain. I was duly impressed.

All of the cast was great especially the leading lady Jennifer Hope Wills, what a voice, what acting passion, what standing ovation she received. The Phantom was played by stand in: Stephen R. Buntrock, who deserved every second of the extra long standing ovation he received. All of the players were magnificent; and my wife thought so as well as I.

As for St. Andrews, we got there an hour and a half early, cutting out some shopping I had planned for after the theater. My wife was obviously pooped. We were seated immediately, by a smiling and cordial hostess, in St. Andrews as soon as I had explained we had later reservations but hoped to be seated right then. As luck would have it, we were seated at table 13, and as we were seated, the hostess noted such and that my wife had been given coat check number 13. I pointed out that the date was the 13th. (Sadly I missed being able to play that number later on, maybe tomorrow as there is just too much coincidence to it all - and remember my son got that limited edition knife 17 out of a 1,000 for his 17th birthday. What is it with these numbers lately?)

Back to dinner. I started with an Orkney Red Macgregor Scottish ale. It was nice, smooth, nutty and somewhat hopsy. My wife being the good woman she is had a diet coke. It took us a while to decide on our choice of meals, then when we had just about decided, the waitress came by and told us the specials. That changed the main course for both of us.

I started with an appetizer of Haggis. Very interesting, and I am unaware if it was of the traditional type, but the finely minced lamb's liver and lamb's heart betwixt mashed was delicious. My wife held off on the appetizers. She ordered the Codfish over crabmeat and sauce laden risotto, with a side of creamed spinach (yuck to that last). I chose the Porter House steak in a reduced Madeira sauce, medium rare, and it came with garlic mashed and asparagus. I also ordered a side of 'Bubble and Squeek' - or cabbage, potatoes and bacon sautéed together. The meals were heavenly, and I mean it. The steak seemed tough to the knife, but was tender to the teeth, almost like melted butter; and it was delicious and somewhat bloody (just like the two plays had been). My asparagus were done to perfection, and the mashed were quite tasty. The Bubble and Squeek was left half eaten because I was about to burst; it was a simple side dish, easy to make, yet interesting in its taste combinations and a complete meal all on its own - there was a lot of it too.

As for my wife's dish, she offered me none and spoke nary a word while eating it. She loved it, but I finally managed to get a taste of it. Excellent fresh codfish with lots of real crabmeat. I would have preferred a plainer tasting sauce, it had some Thyme I think, and maybe some Rosemary (not one of my favorites) but tastes are different; and the other half gobbled it up. As for her creamed spinach, well tastes really differ there, she gobbled that up to, without me asking for a taste of it.

Seating was comfortable in the rear restaurant area. The lighting was fairly bright for a restaurant, but not overly so; and that meant I could read the menu without a mini-maglite. The decor was pub like, but classy refined pub like. As for the service, the tartan kilt wearing waitresses were splendid. All the service was top notch from the hostess, to the waitress, to the busboys. Very courteous, and attendant. Even the lady who had taken my original over the phone reservation had been very courteous. This is one of the rare times that my wife and I have enjoyed a restaurant together that had both excellent service and excellent food.

All in all the meal, with drinks came out to $102 and change, plus a generous tip. Not bad considering the specials were a bit more than most other things on the menu, but well worth every extra penny.

I had a second ale, well half of it anyhow, and was preparing to have one of the many types of Scotch Whiskey they offer when my wife yawned again. For some reason she had slept poorly the night before, and she was zonked. It appeared I would have to drive home, meaning I had to settle for those two ales, and that meant no Scotch Whiskey for me. I sorely missed out on trying a glass of Port Ellen Scotch, dated to 1979. That one struck me as appropriate as that is the year I started my career, which will end fairly soon as the years go by. They had older ones, at least one dating to 1968, and a couple to 1969. Of course, they also had those of more recent distillation, such as many 12, 15, 17 and 18 years olds, with quite a number of those in their 20s. By the way, if you just want to stop by for a drink, the bar is huge, no happy hour though, and some of the ales were somewhat pricey, but not too bad considering all things such as the great selection and atmosphere.

I will be going back there for sure, St. Andrews at least has another meal or three for me: a couple more with my wife, and maybe one or two with coworkers. There also has got to be a Scotch Whiskey or two with calling out my name and patiently waiting for me to come back. If you are interested, here is their web address: Well worth the stop.

I could not have had a finer afternoon and evening out with my wife (or anyone else, and who better than my wife) than the one we had; and I am pretty certain she felt the same way about it.

All the best,
Glenn B

PS: I almost forgot to mention this - to top it all off, we stopped at the Porto Rico Coffee Company in Greenwich Village to pick up some of their fine coffees for later enjoyment. My wife had never been there and was duly impressed. It was one very nice day for the two of us.

Off to the Theater and then a Scottish Restaurant..., with the wife. We are going, I hope much to her surprise, to see The Phantom of the Opera. She thinks we are going Christmas shopping (and we will do that too). This will only be the second time in over 20 years of marriage that we have gone to see a Broadway play together. I guess I really have been getting nicer in the last year or so like my profile line says, because we went last year for the first time. We saw Sweeney Todd back then, and I highly recommend it to anyone who might like comedy musicals, albeit violent comedy musicals. Lots of blood in that one, but a great play. I am hopeful the one today will be half as good in which case I will be happy.

After the play we have reservations at St. Andrews Restaurant on 44th Street. I mention this because it has a Scottish flare to its menu. That menu includes a list of well over 150 varieties of Scotch Whiskey, with some Irish thrown in also. Imagine that, I may just have to have a taste of one or three. See for the most impressive list, that I have ever seen, of available Scotch and Irish Whiskeys.

I was going to recommend this place to an internet acquaintance of mine who came to New York fairly recently with his wife, but since all he did was to moan and groan about, among other things, the expensive sandwiches (in rip off Times Square delis) and the smell in New York Fucking City (as he called it) I decided it was a secret best kept to myself at that time. Though I offered to give him some suggestions for dining places, and I would have gladly treated them to dinner at the time, they did not want to accept my suggestions for a good time in New York Fucking City; so I'll take them myself, and I’ll have a wonderful day with my wife, I am sure. Too bad, at least for him, as he claims to be a connoisseur, or a lover, of Scotch Whiskey. If the food turns out to be excellent, then too bad for his wife too, who claims to be a lover of fine foods. If it turns out good, good for us, we will enjoy it! Since I work in NYC daily that makes sense, doesn't it? If for some reason you ever have to be here too, it makes sense that you may as well enjoy the good things it has to offer instead of making yourself miserable or letting the crappier aspects of NYC make you so. Oh well, I digress, so back to our day's plans..

As for me, I have been meaning to check out St. Andrews Restaurant/Pub for a while now, and was just waiting for the right time. Dinner, after taking the wife to see a Broadway play will the perfect time. I don't know about the Scotch list prices, but I can tell you that after visiting their website, dinner prices seem to be pretty good for the theater district. I am figuring a full three course meal will run about $80 for the both of us, without drinks - and that is for some of the most expensive items in the appetizer and dinner menus. With the drinks, who can tell what it will cost, maybe around $100 total, but I will not have too many because I will be driving - that is unless the Frau is the designated driver. As for a meal there, you could get away with much less expense sticking to the grill menu, or even on the dinner menu with the less expensive meals and appetizers. If you are going to be in NYC and are interested in seeing the menu, go to their main web page and click on the menu icon, see:

I'll let you know, sometime over the next day or so, how it all turned out. As for me, I am guessing I'll enjoy the restaurant as much as or more than the play, but only time, and the right choice of Scotch, will tell.

All the best,
Glenn B