Table Talk

Food & Drink - October 16th, 1987

with Donna Sweeny 

A Bite Out of the Big Apple

New York in the summer­time… with many natives heading for the Hamptons or the cooling breezes of the Jersey shore, the city virtually empties out; for those who stay behind, the Big Apple offers a cornucopia of delights which are unknown at any other time of year. Tickets for Broadway shows — unavailable in January — can often be had for half price, queues for first run films on Third Avenue are appreciably shorter, and it is even possible to get a seat on the Fifth Avenue bus.

Best of all, there is music, music, music everywhere.

The JVC Jazz Festival brings together some of the best mu­sicians from all over the coun­try — Hank Jones, George Shearing, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, Marian McParfland. This year’s festival also included a special salute to Dizzy Gillespie on his 70th birthday, a tribute to Benny Goodman with Bob Wilber and his orchestra, and a nostalgic concert of songs associated with Nat (King) Cole by pianist Monty Alexander. There was plenty of relatively new talent, too, most notably Lonette McKee and Diane Schuur.

The number and variety of free concerts is staggering — the Summerpier Jazz Series at the South Street Seaport, lunch-time Dixieland and big band concerts at Rockefeller Center, and the New York Philhar­monic and the New York Grand Opera in Central Park.

But in New York — home of 25,000 licensed food estab­lishments and 12,000,000 food critics — summer or winter, food is still a main preoccupa­tion. Some of the best can still be found in the ethnic neigh­borhoods. Chinatown and Little Italy are obvious choices, but there is also Paddy’s Market on Ninth Avenue for Greek, Sicilian and Filipino special­ties; Little India, also called the Spice Route, where sari-dad customers shop amid the tantalizing aroma of cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and tumeric; Mideastern delicacies can be found along Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue.

In all the restaurants I visited on my recent trip, the trend toward lighter, healthier cuisine was evident. One of the most popular new French restaurants, Le Bernardin, serves only fish, and at the venerable Four Seasons, the “spa course” (very low in calories and very high in presentation) is one of the most popular.

Another unmistakable trend is the rise in the number of retail food shops which cater to gourmet tastes; they have raised the preparation of “take out” food to a fine art. Until fairly recently, office workers who wanted to lunch outside had to content themselves with uninspired choices of pizza or frankfurters. Now, it is possible to buy creatively prepared salads and sandwiches for out­door consumption, and New Yorkers by the thousands are eschewing the local restaurants in favor of having lunch out­side, thus combining two favor­ite pastimes, people-watching and dining al fresco.

Central Park is still a favor­ite spot, but popular too are the “vest pocket parks,” tiny, beautifully landscaped oases in the midst of the city; Paley Park on East 53rd Street offers pristine white wrough-iron tables and chairs set amidst carefully tended trees and vines; the waterfall wall helps block out the sound of mid-town traffic.

The recipes which follow are respresentative of popular noontime fare; let’s start with Fruit and Shrimp Salad, just one of the ways that New Yorkers consume an amazing one and half million pounds of shrimp a week.

Fruit and Shrimp Salad (serves 4)

  • 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 nectarines, peeled, pit­ted, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeez­ed lime juice
  • 4 cups Boston lettuce, shredded
  • 1 cup whole seedless grapes
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeez­ed lime juice
  • Drop the shrimp into boiling water and cook them until they just turn pink. Drain and chill.
  • To make the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, honey and lime juice in a bowl and mix well.
  • In a large serving bowl, combine the shrimp with all the other ingredients and toss with the dressing.

Green Bean Salad (serves 4)

  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • 1 large onion, sliced thin
  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped


  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Trim the beans, string them if necessary, and cut them in half crosswise.
  • Put the beans in a sauce­pan with enough water to cover and simmer until they are barely tender. Rinse under cold running water until cooled. Drain.
  • To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl and beat with a wire whisk.
  • Place the green beans, onion and anchovies in a serving bowl and toss lightly with the dressing. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Greek Chicken Sandwiches (serves 4)

  • 1/2 cup diced cooked chicken
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seed­ed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 pita bread rounds
  • 2/3 cup shredded lettuce


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Put all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and beat with a wire whisk.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, green pepper, cucumber and black olives. Pour the dressing on top and toss well. Add the feta cheese and toss again.
  • Spoon the mixture into 4 pita bread rounds and top with shredded lettuce.