By Merv Hecht

We’ve just come back from two weeks in Manhattan and Washington DC. What an experience! It certainly is different than Santa Monica, and here are some of the differences:

1.  In Santa Monica we keep our trash in big cans from which it is picked up once a week. In Manhattan everybody puts the trash on the sidewalk in black bags, apparently to show off how much trash they produce and thus how affluent they are.

2.  In Santa Monica we hear a siren perhaps once a week or less. In Manhattan and Washington there are sirens going by every few minutes. And because the streets are so jammed, they don’t just go by, they sit in the middle of the street waiting for cars to pull over with the sirens blaring.

3.  Here, we occasionally see a policeman on the street, and once in while a police car drives by. In Manhattan, perhaps because we were there during the United Nations meeting and President Trump’s visit, there are several policemen on virtually every corner, many of the streets were blocked off by police cars, and there were police cars going by every minute.   In front of the Trump tower there was a group of policemen with machine guns, and a dozen garbage trucks were parked in a line along the sidewalk to prevent a car from driving toward the building.

4.  When I want a slice of pizza or a taco, I go to a restaurant serving those dishes.

Not in Manhattan.  There most people buy something from a corner food truck and eat it while walking down the street.  There are one or two trucks on every corner with a variety of delicacies.

5.  My wife tells me that there are over 1 billion people in China. My guess is that now there are only 1/2 billion left, and the other half billion are visiting New York City. They are easy to identify as they travel in a group with several taking pictures of Times Square.

But, you ask, what about all the great New York restaurants? Some are still there, but the best appear to have the good tables reserved for big-time customers who are regulars in the restaurant.

We did get to La Grenouille, one of the early great French restaurants, since my mother took me to lunch there about 65 years ago. My wife sent back her appetizer because it was too salty and ordered something different.

I had a very good slice of foie gras followed by a delicious Dover sole, but the fish was boned out of sight, not tableside as in the old days. I was fortunate to have selected an exceptional half bottle of Chevry-Chambertin.

But when I asked for a few slices of Roquefort cheese to finish with the wine, the waiter (from Mexico) brought me an inferior creamy blue cheese nothing like real French Roquefort. But it was nostalgic and perhaps worth the $350 tab. Or not. Melisse in Santa Monica is a much better choice.

Gallagher’s Steak House was equally disappointing, with an over charred steak, but it was a pleasant evening as we made friends with a couple from France at the table next to us, who fell in love with their bottle of California Zinfandel, and pronounced it better than the wines in France for the price. The Santa Monica Boa steak house is just as good or better.

We had some good meals in Greek restaurants.

The one great meal we had was at Nougatine, the second level restaurant of the famous chef Jean-George Vongerichten.  There each dish was perfect, including the service, and we had a comfortable table looking at Central Park.

The stuffed duck breast was perfectly prepared, but no better than the same dish I had recently at Spago in Beverly Hills.
But even Nougatine has a drawback for some: it is located in the Trump hotel.
The bottom line is that ITS GOOD TO BE BACK HOME!

A typical East Coast Greek restaurant—this one in Washington DC
Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after practicing law.

In 1988 he began writing restaurant reviews and books.

His latest book is “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3d edition,” available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally.

Send your comments to: mervynhecht@yahoo.com.