the Hot Lunch Program continues

Cold weather, hot lunches, right? Here's what got us bundled up and out of the house - well, apartment - recently.

M.Wells Dinette at MOMA PS 1.  Many of you are familiar withThe Museum of Modern Art in mid-town Manhattan, its lines, its crowds, its long waits, its price-y gift shop. MOMA has a branch with none of those, and a terrific restaurant to boot! if of course you don't mind a ride, because the branch is located in Long Island City, which is just across the river in Queens. The building is a former public school, PS 1, and it is here that many avant-garde exhibitions and events take place.

The art here is much more contemporary than the Modern art at the Museum of Modern Art - think of those college courses in Modern History which start with Socrates and the Pelopponesian War as compared to a seminar that begins with 9/11.

Well, I can be shameless about going to places just for their Gift Shoppes, viz the Comédie Française in Paris, and here is another example - the restaurant at PS 1, which is definitely worth the journey. There will be a subway sketch-map at the end of this post and when you get there you will find that the neighborhood, formerly starkly industrial, is gentrifying faster than I can type.

The restaurant is open only when the museum is open, and only some of that time, so it's definitely a lunch place rather than a dinner place. It's in a classroom of the former school, and mostly you sit at desks. No reservations, and if you have to wait, you wait in the hall outside the classroom until a table is free. Table? Desk facing front. This is a school, remember.

We'd been "warned" that there's a lot to eat, but we didn't perceive this to be a disadvantage. In fact, since we'd managed to miss the brief life of M.Wells Diner, we were all the more anxious to get to this incarnation. The chef is Hugues Dufour, he's from Montreal and as you would expect he understands food for cold weather. Some of you may remember Au Pied de Cochon from his colorful past - nope, never made it up there but did manage to buy the book.

The chicken liver mousse with piquant baby beets
is one of the dishes that's gotten a lot of love, it's enough for 2 or 3 people as a starter. I kind of assumed we'd get something like Julia Child's Mousse de Foies Blonds only with more butter, and I was not far from wrong, but WOW. I had to smack Himself's hands to get them off the food so I could grab this messy picture.

This dish, when whole, looks like dessert. So the other picture is one a friend sent me to tempt me, and as you can see, I was tempted.

The mousse is light, tasty, rich, not liver-y, the beets are tangy and piquant and not goopy, probably the best pickled beets ever, and the combination is outrageously good. If we hadn't already ordered the rest of the meal, I probably would have asked for another one of these creations.

Then I had a dish described as Spicy Shrimp and Spaetzle - basically shrimp and grits with a few giant killer spaetzle added in, and very good too.

Himself tried a dish based on yellow pea soup with bacon and red watercress, which while good didn't live up to the chicken liver dish, and he was grumpy because I wouldn't give him any of my shrimp.

So to cheer him up we medicated with the triple chocolate wonder dessert.

This dessert serves at least 10 people, so what you don't finish is beautifully packed up for you, with a separate little container of the sour cherry sauce.

And we bundled up and left, because I didn't feel great about leaving the chocolate cake and cherry sauce in the checkroom while we wandered about the art. Bonus: no admission charge if your visit is "restaurant only."

Mighty Quinn.We were happy to chow down at another barbecue place, this one in the East Village (Manhattan)! On a miserable misty and windy day, we took the bus down to Mighty Quinn. This place has been getting a lot of attention, and with reason. We just got on the food line and ordered almost everything in sight: pulled pork, sliced brisket, ribs, vinegar cole slaw...
Um, you should go. Please note that when you are busy eating ribs with your hands, you can't grab a few tactful snaps with your iPhone. Not if you want to use the phone again, that is.

La Tarte Flambée. This find is named after its specialty, Flammkueche, which is prepared by a delightful Alsatian and friends in a restaurant the size of a small handkerchief. French touches civilize the tiny space, distinguishing it from similar-sized venues in Brooklyn and on the Lower East Side: there are chairs and tables, and you can reserve.

They serve Flammkueche, Flammkueche with some extras on it, dessert Flammkueche, flaming dessert Flammkueche, and a few soups and sides. The Flammkueche is the Alsatian onion tart - very crisp, thin, fire-roasted pastry topped with onions, crème fraiche, and chunks of bacon. Here, it's called Flammy.

The menu lists all the accessorized Flammys - cheese, mushroom, vegetable, salmon - but I have been so happy with the standard version that I haven't ventured further. The desert Flammy is something I might try at home, it's so good: very very thin apple slices, sugared, on the same dough which has perhaps also been sprinkled with sugar, the tart roasted briefly at high heat. If I did it at home, I'd provably use phyllo dough.

brunch at Union Square Café.  OK, not a lunch, but a good opportunity to get together with old friends, and even though the food here is distinguished mainly by the charm and friendliness with which it is served, the Bloody Marys are great and the atmosphere is convivial. We all shared some fried calamari, then 2 people had the full portion of something described as "homemade pasta with Sunday gravy," which was 11 slices of pasta sheets with sauce, a sausage and a meatball. A third person  had the half portion of the same dish: a sausage, sauce, a meatball and 6 slices of the pasta. We looked at the menu prices again: the charge for the extra 5 pieces of noodle came to $1.75 the piece.

M.Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave. at the intersection of 46th Ave., Long Island City, NY 11101.

Mighty Quinn, 103 2nd Avenue at East 6th Street, New York, NY.

La Tarte Flambée, 1750 Second Avenue at East 91st Street, New York, NY.

Union Square Cafe, 21 East 16th Street, just west of Union Square, New York, NY.


  1. Wow, after my bowl of bran cereal, these dishes are mouthwatering. We dined at the restaurant at MOMA in midtown once; very good but spendy. Love ribs; I assume the name comes from the song? USC was one of the reliably nice places to bring the girls after a matinee ( at 5:30 you can eat anywhere). Thanks for the food tour!

  2. Hi, Lane, we gave the midtown MOMA place a shot once, too, nice enough food but we felt at those prices we could do better.

    I'm assuming the name's from the song also, but am trying to track down a Queens politician of the mid to late 1800's who was known as The Mighty Quinn.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Where do I sign up for your hot lunch program? If you and Himself ever want to eat your way through southern California, please let me know. If I was with you, you would not have the problem of having to worry about the possibility of leaving chocolate cake and cherry sauce in the checkroom.

  5. hi, tiffany rose, a Locusts Tour of Southern California sounds lovely, especially after recent weather here!
    The cake was divine. I was astonished to see how fast it dwindled once it was safely (or so I thought) home and in our fridge.

  6. Oh, YES.

    Some day. Some day...


    p.s. Loved your comment on my post the other day about my being trapped, apocalyptically speaking, in my office building. I am now in search of a cashmere wrap, several good wines (Hennessy makes me owl-y) and some dark chocolates. :-)

  7. H, Pearl, thanks! I love your blog and sometimes the temptation to stop lurking gets the better of me.

  8. I think the idea of hot lunches out is one I should try more often. These dishes look fabulous. Love the flammys.


As Alice Roosevelt Longworth said, if you've got anything bad to say, sit next to me! No, really, please remember to be kind, and don't say anything fred's mother would not approve of (Diner's mom didn't approve of anything. Including fred.)
Wellfedfred and the Whining Diner reserve the right to edit or delete any comments submitted to this blog without notice if we find:
1. Comments deemed to be spam or questionable spam
2. Comments including profanity or objectionable language
3. Comments containing concepts that could be deemed offensive
4. Comments that attack a person individually
and since there's been a flood of spam lately, we're trying the Robot thing to see if we can block some spam...