Taste of Broadway

Restaurant Recipes from NYC’s Theater District.

By Carliss Retif Pond

This is a cook book I am stimulated by on two very different levels each time I look through it. One level of excitement is related to the anticipation one feels when imagining something nice to eat. The old juices start flowing and the brain begins to taste the imagined nourishment on offer. The other level of excitement is a kind of empathy with characters I’ve read about over the years. Seriously, after reading a certain amount of biographies and autobiographies particularly of American celebrities making it on the ‘Great White Way,’ this cook book presents certain depths I have never considered before; celebrities of old are probably best not described as celebrities in the context of contemporary days because they were great writers, directors, designers and performers rather than super-models and reality television hosts. Their old school celebrity was based on hard work and a slog I do not think is necessarily required to ricochet an unknown into the spotlight these days.

After reading a variety of their stories, it is a joy to read through many of these recipes from New York City’s Theater District. Author Carliss Retif Pond is a local resident who has eaten at these restaurants, along with thousands of others, locals and tourists all looking around, spotting the celebrity names. How many times have you heard a line like this, “We’re all human, we all have to eat,” in a movie or play? Often?

Reading about Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, Arthur Miller and various others hanging out at Sardi’s is one thing, but imagine how exciting it becomes to read the recipe for green beans at Sardi’s (Haricots Verts) courtesy of chef Patrick Pinon. Not just read it mind, but take that magic step into cooking it and yes, tasting it. Talk about getting involved… it is quite the stimulating activity and could become a fetish without much trouble.

For me this themed type of cook book presents a new type of interactive imagined travel reading, kicking off into menus created as composite experiences… maybe I should get out more. For the home entertainer, this is far more entertaining. The simplicity of many of the dishes shows a rich cultural diversity in this area of Broadway. You have your beetroot soup, chicken noodle soup, bean and pasta soup. That’s just the soup, and not all of it.

Ruminating through this cook book makes me consider the contrasting types of people who would be eating – hungry ones essentially – theatre workers can eat quite late in the evening, audiences like a meal before or after a show – it all bodes well for steady business, like any area with a large working population I suppose.

In the theatre people want nourishing healthy food, they need it to keep up their energy. Not a great deal of rich food necessarily, although there is plenty available in the best tradition. Pork chops, spare ribs, stroganoff, lamb shanks, shrimp enchilada, and the list goes on. I become quite the self saucing mouthful when I consider the side dishes available. On the imagined front there’s the history of prohibition and speak-easy’s to consider. Grog on the sly in the good old bad old days. Glimpses of these venues appear in films from all through history. Think of Tootsie, featuring Dustin Hoffman in the Russian Imperial Tea Rooms, opened in 1927 by former members of the Russian Imperial ballet for example, but there are many many other examples.

A worthwhile cook book to own – especially for the theatre and film buff I would say; the love to cook at home over fifties; younger cooks wishing to impress their elders would find something in here without a doubt. I suspect the simplicity and the taste are the main things we are looking at here. I think they are the elements that will stand out over all outside of the novelty context, but I must say the novelty context will go a long way with someone such as myself. The idea of cooking the food that some of these past masters have eaten – well it is a great stimulation and amusement.