Marvin

 

MARVIN
8114 Beverly Blvd. near N. Crescent Heights Blvd.
323.655.5553


When the urge for solo bar dining hits, I know exactly where to go: Marvin. Although I'm just starting to get a feel for my new city, the chill and lively vibe at this eclectic French bistro has already become my go-to SGD spot. I've been here twice and became friendly with Jesse the bartender and Emilie, their sommelier–not to mention their regular bar diner Lizz who I've run into both times having her #singlegirldinner too!

 The happy hour menu at Marvin is spot-on. It has oysters, two different types of toasts (ratatouille & goat cheese and jamon tomato), steak tartare, mussels, mac n' cheese, a cheeseburger and pommes frites–pretty much everything I'd love to order on any given day! They also have an incredible wine list with over 200 to choose from. 

If you're catching up with a friend for dinner, I highly recommend their rigatoni bolognaise. (It's spelled the French way here.) I've noticed that their pasta is consistently cooked perfectly al dente. This has to be noted because such a simple thing can be such a rarity. Trust me, it's not as heavy or overwhelming as it sounds–their bolognaise sauce is very refined. In fact, if you're super hungry, you may even find that ordering the rigatoni alone isn't enough! I love that they have a a variety of add-on options to boost up your meal with sections on their menu like: Cheese, Charcuterie, Snacks, Salads, Small Plates and Sides. 

Unlike spaghetti, which needs the aid of a spoon to twirl around your fork, you can just poke at the rigatoni and have a free hand to sip your wine in between bits of gossip. 

 

Bottega del Vino

 

BOTTEGA DEL VINO

7 East 59th Street bet. Fifth & Madison Avenues
212.223.2724


You can really work up an appetite while shopping—or, in my case, window-shopping. When hunger strikes in the Barneys/Bergdorf territory, I like to waltz into the cozy front room of Bottega del Vino for a panino and a capuccino. The ones here are super special and are a world away from the grill-marked panini you'd find at the typical deli, with their generic fillings, like pesto chicken.

Along with its sister restaurant Via Quadronno, this place shares the most interesting panini combinations I've ever come across. Their "award-winning specialty", as denoted on the menu, is the Non Ti Scordar Di Me, which has a smoky, pungent mix of speck, brie, and påté. If that sounds too complicated, they also offer simpler one-note versions that contain just mortadella or just prosciutto.

Given its location, which is around the corner from Cipriani's and Sirio, you might think it's one of those expensive hoity-toity spots where a plate of tomato, basil, and mozzarella will set you back $38. Quite the contrary. You'll easily be able to get away with a lovely afternoon lunch for under $20—or less. If you're lucky and happen to unleash a little charm around Paolo, who's one of the owners, perhaps you may be surprised with a complimentary tiramisu.

On Being a Guest

Many years ago, while I was on a buying trip in Paris, I attended a dinner at the home of an artist's widow. She was an elderly woman who was Spanish by descent and still fiery and sharp despite her age. As the after-dinner conversation lingered on into the night, she suddenly got up from her seat and asked the table, "Is there anything else that I could offer you? A nice dessert wine, perhaps?" Obviously, it was a cue that she was ready to call it a night. I graciously shook my head, but another guest, an art dealer, shouted out, "That would be lovely! What do you have?"

Unbelievable! I recoiled, aghast that someone could be so insensitive to her polite signal. She, herself, was taken aback. "Oh!" she exclaimed, "I didn't think anyone would actually say yes. I'm actually very tired, but, I suppose, since I offered, I should be a proper hostess."  She went into her kitchen, brought back a bottle of dessert wine, and poured him a splash. 

It's a memory that sticks out like a sore thumb; a reminder that always made me aware of what it meant to be a guest. Guests should be as gracious as the hosts, as I was taught. My father drilled it into my head at a very early age. I used to think that he liked to impose his rules, just for the sake of it:

"Never go to a dinner party empty-handed," he would say, "Always bring something. Like a tin of cookies." Yes, Dad. (This would later become a bottle of wine or something of the like. But he would bring anything thoughtful, really. Even when visiting a neighbor, he might bring over an interesting newspaper clipping or a sack of ripe pears from our tree.)

"Don't forget to pay compliments to the host" Yes, Dad. "Even if the food isn't good, tell them that it was a wonderful meal. After all, it's never about the food."

"And send a thank you card when you get home. A handwritten one. Nice penmanship; no mistakes." I know, I know—use a pencil and a ruler to draw faint lines and erase them after the message has been written in ink. 

"Wait until the eldest person or host has taken the first bite before you start. It's rude to dig in." Yes, Dad. I've always waited! When have I not done this?

"When you put food on your plate, don't take too much. Don't be greedy. If you're still hungry after you've finished what's on your plate, only then do you take a second helping." Got it. I'm very aware of that.

"Don't slurp or eat too fast. If you're eating soup, remember to tilt the bowl and spoon the soup away from you." I know! 

"If there's one bite left, offer it to the table before taking it." Sigh.

"Oh, and if you have to use the bathroom, turn on the bathroom sink faucet." Geez! Okay, Dad!  

As a child, it felt like a lot to remember. How can I have fun if I'm thinking about all of these rules, I used to wonder. Like all of the ingredients that go into a cake batter, everything gets folded in and fully incorporated. Before you know it, it's baked into you. I like to think of myself as someone who's acutely aware of manners and etiquette, but not a total stickler. Although, admittedly, I do find myself cringing at the occasional social misstep. What can I say, like father, like daughter. 

 

Astor Wines & Spirits

 

ASTOR WINES & SPIRIT

399 Lafayette Street at East 4th Street
212.674.750


All's I knows is when I needs a bottle of somethin'-somethin' this is the place to go. It's nice, spacious, and approachable--kind of like a Barnes & Noble for wines and spirits, with staff recommendations and everything. The store is very well-organized and laid out, which makes it easy for you to find sakes, dessert wines, champagne, whiskeys, mixers, or whatever it is that you may need for that dinner party you're running off to. Apparently, it's also New York City's largest online wines and spirits retailer, although, luckily for me, a wine run is just around the corner.

Crosby Street Vineyards

Hi! Hi there! Can I refill your glass with this gorgeous Cabernet Sauvignon from Crosby Street Vineyards, the first vineyard in Manhattan? We're located on the small, cobblestoned street tucked right between Broadway and Lafayette in SoHo. This is our 2010 vintage, which was a great year for us. The grapes were harvested directly from Dean & Deluca. What do you think? I know! Isn't it just beautiful? This takes the meaning of locavore to a whole new level. We're now working on a rooftop vineyard. I just thought, you know, why not? ...

Okay, so this wine is not made in Manhattan and I do not own a vineyard in SoHo. I bought this wine from Astor Wines & Spirits and brought it to a gathering at someone's apartment in Brooklyn. My spiel made for a very good ice-breaker, though. I think it was convincing up until I mentioned that the grapes were harvested from Dean & Deluca. For something that is under $10 a bottle, the wine itself is actually pretty nice for everyday drinking.