02 May 2012

Modern Baroque in Manhattan: A Review of Gramercy Tavern

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton;
he who does not cannot be otherwise. 
~ Henry David Thoreau

A guest post from gourmand Trid Morgan.

 taly ~ the land of Michaelangelo and Raphael; Pucinni and Verdi; fresh made pasta and aged parmesan.  For five years, I lived in the heart of culture and learning and beauty.  I was at home there, amidst the dusty archives of the Vatican Library, touching ancient manuscripts unseen by most people for thousands of years.  It was a Baroque life, filled with drama, and far from bland: exciting, tragic, cathartic, and redemptive ~ all in the modern city of Rome!

And then, I woke up.  In New England.  The land of chewy clam chowdah, boiled potatoes, and pot roast.  In suburban America, I encounter some people who are content with meat that comes from a cow factory, and vegetables that look and taste like they have been in a crock pot for weeks.  What happened to just simply. . .braising? 

I endured this steady diet of mediocrity and synthetic and non-nutritious food for as long as I could.  Then my health ~ both spiritual and physical ~ began to suffer. 

If you are what you eat, I was becoming a mechanically-separated bowl of goulash!

How was I to cope, a Baroque man living in the middle of modern suburban America?  I needed somewhere to escape; some way to get back to the timeless life I led in Rome. 

photo courtesty of Evgeny Litvinov

So I took the train to Manhattan, to immerse myself in the Opera and the art museums.   And I found a Baroque paradise ~ a place where the art of hospitality is not a forgotten relic, but a modern jewel.  Where food is no longer just food, it is an event.  Where dining is an experience for all five senses.

There is NOTHING, really . . . let me emphasize . . . NOTHING like reading Augustine’s Confessions in Latin while eating a perfectly roasted Berkshire baby pig with the seasons freshest ramps as prepared at Gramercy Tavern!
Have you tasted a slice of apple pie that reminded you of your own grandmother’s recipe, but refined to an unimaginable level . . . they have it at Gramercy Tavern.
Hospitality that does not rush you, that respects you, that pairs wine with every course . . . a hospitality that hearkens back to a more genteel age?  Only at Gramercy Tavern.
Detail is something that doesn’t escape me. 
I go crazy over the slight nuances of Augustine’s rhetoric, the forcefulness and expressivity of Catherine of Siena’s words.  I have spent hours upon hours gazing at Raphael’s St. Cecilia, and Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa, looking at every facet of these masterpieces, trying to reconstruct the intellectual concepts in the minds of both artists.  All this has affected me in the most positive way, but not necessarily in the most modern way.  Rome was formative in the sense that even daily life was lived around Baroque detail. 
Our food shared the vibrant colors of tapestries, tastes were well proportioned, and who could ever forget the intense chiaroscuro of flavors in prosciutto from Norcia.   The exuberant beauty of the baroque churches was supposed to spill over in its own way, into the dining room and onto the dining table….and it did.  
As art in the form of painting can reveal itself to be an imitation of the beauty of Creation; a balanced course, composed of the harmony of various different flavours while respecting the integrity of ingredients shows the chef as one of those rare persons, a true artist.  At Gramercy Tavern, my Baroque aesthetic of detail is fulfilled.
Because at Gramercy, the attention to detail is exceptional.  The tastes are expertly curated: from the antiques of the dining room, the jubilant floral arrangements in the Tavern Room, to the freshest ingredients for the Cuisine.  Michael Anthony, executive chef of Gramercy Tavern, and pastry chef, Nancy Olson are exceptional artists!
No matter what religious or political background we may come from, there is one thing that can be found, or rather, should be found in all human experience, the desire for beauty. 
Food is medicine. And if that is true, then Gramercy Tavern has become my favorite clinic.  It has healed me ~ both body and soul.
~ Trid Morgan
P.S. you must try the Smoked Trout!

Trid Morgan
is the pen name of a displaced Renaissance gourmand.  After earning his PhD in Rome, he now lives a short trip from NYC. He escapes to Manhattan to bask in the sun of culture and beauty as often as he can, and enjoys the serene silence of the sea.  He sees the inestimable value of the past in order to illuminate the present, and thus, the fascination with all things . . . Baroque. 

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