Monday, February 18, 2013

A Very Reggie New York Saturday

Reggie had an unexpected New York weekend, Dear Reader.  At the last moment he wound up staying in Manhattan instead of running up to Darlington House, due to rather tiresome work commitments.  So he made the best of it!

Casa Lever Restaurant

On Saturday, after a morning spent chained to seemingly endless conference calls and tedious document reviews, Reggie decided that enough was enough and treated himself and Boy to a tasty lunch at Casa Lever, located in Lever House, the iconic Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed masterpiece of modern architecture on Park Avenue at 53rd Street.

Lever House, shortly after its completion in 1953
Photograph courtesy of LIFE Images

Casa Lever is a "scene" restaurant during the week, what with full-throttle "power" breakfasts and lunches full of Type-A deal makers and their clients, busily one-upping each other.

The after-work bar scene and dinner crowd at Casa Lever can be truly assaultive, with bar stools and tables packed with desperate 30- and 40-somethings looking for the next best thing.  Or at least the next better thing.

The view into Casa Lever when one enters the restaurant

But on weekends Casa Lever is a delightful place.  One practically has the restaurant to oneself, at least during lunchtime.

One enters the dining room through this
"futuristic" tunnel

Casa Lever is part of the Sant Ambroeus empire, which has other restaurants in New York on Madison Avenue on the UES, in the West Village, and in Southampton.

The interior of Casa Lever is very "modern" in a 1970s Italian looking way, at least to my eye.  It is all sort of a jumble, as if Muriel Brandolini decorated it, or Miuccia Prada.  Not exactly coordinated, Dear Reader, but not unpleasant, either.

The dining room at Casa Lever

The food at Casa Lever is transcendently delicious.  We had one of the tastiest lasagnas there for lunch that I've eaten in ages—at least not since the one my dear friend Lindaraxa made for me several years ago.  Casa Lever's lasagna is made in the Milanese style—not too cheesy, but rather creamy, savory, and yummily divine.  Heaven!

The flowers at Casa Lever are lavish and beautiful.

And the restaurant's lighting, particularly in the bar area, is very flattering.

The bar is usually very crowded after work on a weekday evening

After lingering over coffee and a plate of delicious buttery cookies we decided to head over to Fifth Avenue, as Boy wanted to buy a new pair of Gucci loafers.

Paley Park, named after William Paley's father

We genuflected as we passed Paley Park, the hallowed former site of the legendary Stork Club.

The Stork Club, back in the day
Photograph courtesy of LIFE Images

I wish that I had been a Manhattan-living grownup when the Stork Club was in full throttle.  But it closed in 1965, when I was only nine years old.  I would have loved to have gone there in its heyday.

Reggie's Stork Club ashtrays

I've consoled myself, though, by collecting a number of Stork Club ashtrays over the years.  I used them back when I still smoked cigarettes.  Even though I quit puffing years ago, I can't bear to part with the ashtrays.  Not yet, at least.

Judy Garland and Fred Astaire strolling down Fifth Avenue
in the 1948 movie of Irving Berlin's "Easter Parade"
Image courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Fifth Avenue in midtown on a Saturday afternoon is clogged with tourists gawping and milling about.  I don't begrudge them their fun, and I appreciate that they spend their hard-earned dollars in our city, helping our economy.

The Fifth Avenue Easter Parade it ain't!

However, I generally try to avoid this stretch of Fifth Avenue, as it can be unpleasantly crowded with people bumbling about.

Sometimes one has no choice, though, and one must push forth with one's errands . . .

The Gucci store in the Trump Tower was off-puttingly full of under-dressed boors, most of whom didn't appear to have any intention of actually buying something.  Mostly they were there to clock the goods and waste the sales staff's time.

Most of the shoes on display were, um, not to our taste.  Given the mayhem in the store it was challenging to find a salesperson to help us locate the classic horse-bit moc in brown leather that Boy was there to buy.

There were lots of loafers available, though, in pastel ice-cream colors that Gucci has issued in honor of the 60th anniversary of the launch of this, their classic shoe.  However, these shoes were not quite what Boy was there to take home . . .

Gucci's horse-bit loafer, now available in plastic

I rather liked the loafers Gucci had on display, though, shown in the preceding photograph.  They were made entirely of plastic, with the exception of the metal horse bits.

I wear these muck boots during wet weather at
Darlington House, where they are a godsend!
Image courtesy of the Original Muck Boot Co.

I think the plastic loafers Gucci is selling would make a terrific (and amusingly stylish) alternative to Muck Boots.  So useful to wear on a muddy morning when supervising one's pug's constitutional!  On second thought, though, they might be perhaps a bit hot on the foot, given what they are made of . . .

Frustrated by our failed mission at Gucci, we headed out the door, back onto Fifth Avenue.  The next time I'm in the market for a new pair of Gucci horse-bit loafers, Dear Reader, I'm going straight to their outpost on upper Madison Avenue, far removed from this tourist fray.

Our next stop was Tiffany & Company, so Boy could replace a worn-out belt strap to go with a gold buckle I bought him there years ago.

The main floor at Tiffany & Company

We never made it past the ground floor.  Tiffany was so crowded with tourists that we decided such an errand there was as foolhardy on a Saturday as the one we tried at Gucci, so we bolted again.

We hurried past the nearby Nike Town sneaker store.  I've never been inside of it, and something tells me I never will.

The sidewalk in front of the Nike Store was littered with trash.

Turnbull & Asser is, fortunately, a mere block beyond the Nike store.  It is a haven amidst the hubbub of midtown these days.

The crowd-free interior of Turnbull & Asser

Turnbull was blessedly free of the crowds that thronged Gucci and Tiffany.  Other than an attractive young couple selecting ties, we were the only people shopping there.

I was quite taken with the selection of colorful umbrellas.

They come in both solids and stripes.

However, it was for shirts that we visited Turnbull.  Boy selected several rather attractive ones to add to his wardrobe . . .

An explosion of colorful knotted silk cuff links

. . . along with several pair of knot cuff links, including a pair in orange, his signature company color.

His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales

Prince Charles is a customer of Turnbull & Asser.  The New York store proudly displays his royal warrant, along with a signed photograph.

I couldn't decide which one I liked best . . .

I was crazy about the silk dressing gowns at Turnbull.  I might have been tempted to buy one if my darling Pompey wasn't so inclined to rub his face on my clothes, which he does at seemingly every opportunity.

Mr. Charles H. Cash of Turnbull & Asser

While we were at Turnbull, Boy was assisted by the very helpful Charles Cash.  I recommend that you look him up if you find yourself in the store.  Tell him Boy sent you, please!

Charles helped Boy select this handsome bow tie, along with other purchases.  Boy liked the tie so much that he wore it out of the store; his other acquisitions are to be delivered.  Having one's purchases sent 'round to one's apartment, rather than having to carry them away in shopping bags, is one of the great pleasures of living in New York.

Well, it is transportation . . .

After leaving Turnbull we hopped on the M3 bus up Madison Avenue.  I long ago learned that trying to find a taxi on Madison Avenue in midtown during rush hour or on a Saturday afternoon is an utter waste of time.  Buses are a far more efficient and reliable means of getting on one's way uptown, away from the maddening hordes clogging the streets of Midtown.  

Our destination was Bemelman's Bar, in the Carlyle Hotel.  It is one of our favorite watering holes in the city.

Prossie Trotters at Christian Louboutin

Before slipping in to Bemelman's, though, we decided to look in some of the store windows on upper Madison Avenue.  I had to photograph these stiletto platform, open-toed Prossie Trotters that were in the window of the Christian Louboutin boutique.  I ask you—who wears such things, and where?  Are there really that many transvestite Louisiana hayride-themed galas?  Seriously, I thought they were vulgar beyond belief.  Apparently I'm in the minority, though, since we heard the doorman at the store inform a middle-aged woman trying to gain entry that it was full with customers and that she should wait on the street or come back at another time.  I mean, really!

A lovely dress for a lovely lady, at Vera Wang

Fortunately my nerves and sensibility were soothed by this beautiful confection of red tulle a few doors up the Avenue, at the Vera Wang boutique.

Home at last!!

With cocktails beckoning, we made for the doors of the Carlyle Hotel.

Mr. Bobby Short's portrait at the Carlyle Hotel

Of course one must pay one's respect to the portrait of Mr. Bobby Short that hangs in the lobby there.

The view into Bemelman's Bar at the Carlyle Hotel, as one enters it

And then to Bemelman's Bar!

The divine bar at Bemelman's

Bemelman's is one of the most appealing and comfy bars in the city.  The amber lighting is flattering, to say the least.

Ellis, Bemelman's bartender extraordinaire

Our favorite barman, Ellis, was on duty and at the ready to serve us the perfectly made martinis he knew that we wanted.

Note the extra vessel of gin on ice, waiting to replenish one's glass

Bemelman's martinis are rather wicked, as they are delivered along with a little vessel filled with another glassful on ice, so one's single martini is, in reality, a double.  I suppose that is one of the reasons we are so fond of Bemelman's!

The Carlyle's swizzle sticks

Ellis gave me a trio of swizzle sticks so that I could feature them in this story.  The Carlyle is managed by the Rosewood Group, which owns and manages hotels and resorts all over the world.  One of our favorites is Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda, where we've stayed three or four times over the years.  While I've stayed at other Rosewood properties as well, Little Dix Bay (and the Carlyle) are my favorites. 

Boy and Pompey, happily sleeping it off . . .

After fortifying ourselves with martinis and an order of mini hamburgers at Bemelman's we wobbled our way out the door and into a taxi for the journey home to our apartment.  Pompey was quite pleased to see us when we lurched through the door.  After a quick tinkle and his dinner, he was more than amenable to spending the rest of the evening snoozing on a supine Boy, who was completely tuckered out after his busy day taking advantage of what New York City has to offer.

The closing caption of "Easter Parade,"
looking up Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan
Image courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Tell me, how did you spend your Saturday, Dear Reader?

Please note: Reggie has received nothing in return for mentioning the stores and other establishments named in this post, nor does he expect to.   He has written this post solely for the amusement of his readers, which is the reason he writes this blog in the first place.

All photographs, except where noted, by Reggie Darling


  1. Sant Ambroeus on Madison Avenue was one of my favorites in the Pre-Cell Phone Era. Knowing the locations of working pay phones (and toilets) came in very handy.

  2. Oh, that martini with the carafe does look fantastic! You and the boy certainly know how to spend a Saturday in style.

  3. Sorry we missed you. We were on the UWS most of Saturday.

    1. Hello YWP: I look forward to connecting in person at some point, either in NYC or Boston. Reggie

  4. Fun post Reggie, thanks!

  5. Reggie
    My daughter and son in law are travelling to New York for their 30th birthdays next month.
    I had to remind her that people do not dress as they once did in the city. She has been to New York but as she says not as a grown up!
    Atlanta is the sad. Wish for the days of men in nice coats and hats, women in gloves and hats...I missed it and the Stork Club.

    1. Hello Anon: Even though most people do not, as your correctly write "dress as they once did" in NYC, I would encourage your daughter and her husband to dress up a bit for their trip. I assure you that they will get better service and treatment than the average seatshirt-wearing Joe and Josephine. Appearances still do count for something! Reggie

  6. I would not wish a missed country weekend on anyone, but a few more Reggie-about-New-York posts would not go unread. Just sayin'.

  7. Dear Reggie,
    I enjoyed reading this post. New York is a city that is largely unknown to me, having only travelled there once and then, good tourists that we were, spending a lot of the time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art etc. . .

    But to your question: How did I spend my Saturday?

    After rising somewhat late in the morning, I made an apricot tart after which I spent a large portion of the day reclining on the sofa reading, interspersed with the occasional goes on the harpsichord, cups of tea, slices of cake and general laziness!
    All in all a pleasant time indeed!

    However I would have swapped with you quite easily - starting with when you left the office for the day. . .

    1. Hello Kirk: Your Saturday sounds very civilized, indeed! Thanks, Reggie

  8. "Are there really that many transvestite Louisiana hayride-themed galas? " This just made my day! Too too funny! A fun post, a charming bow tie, and it looks like the perfect martini. Not a bad weekend all in all.

    1. Thank you Stephanie -- it was, in fact, a lovely weekend. We spent the next day visiting the newly renovated and reopened Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut. It will be the subject of another post in the not too distant future. Reggie

  9. You are so funny Reggie I really laughed , though I think if I ever get to Noo York I'll be gawping and milling about Fifth Avenue.

    Ten years ago my sister and I were ordered to buy my father Gucci loafers as we were in Rome. Once the salesmen realised we actually wanted to buy for Papa and not touch and gawp they were very helpful As is typical Dad was the only one of us who managed a purchase from Gucci

    Im off again to Hobart our second oldest city tommorrow, so thats good, although it's for work.

    Gawp is my word of the day

    1. Hello smr -- I am so happy you like "gawp," as it is one of my favorite words. Your father is a fortunate papa, indeed! RD

  10. Reggie, I must commend on your acceptance of allowing the common people the privilege of shopping in your city.

    1. Thank you! Reggie aspires to be broad-minded in such matters.

  11. Roaming with Reggie, what fun! And I am so pleased to read someone else besides me takes pains to avoid certain sections of 5th Ave.

  12. what an absolute spot-on, hoot of a post.
    well said, and with that I'm off for a perfectly chilled glass of wine. thanks for the treat.

  13. As do hope this doesn't embarrass or ruffle your WASPy feathers (and I write that with love, being the exotic who is married to one of the biggest WASP's of all time!), can I tell you that I just adore you and have so enjoyed reading your missives? Your adventures with Boy and Pompey are so much fun, and I do appreciate your dry wit. Today is the first time I am compelled to come out from behind my curtain and comment! So...

    Thank God there is still a place in this world that understands the importance of extra gin on ice for one's martini AND amber lighting, n'est-ce pas?

    I laughed out loud at your description of the Louboutin shoes, and agree. Of course, at 5'10" I have no need for them, but still, to see hoards of women these days, especially those over a certain age, wobbling about on those shoes, and that is BEFORE the martinis...well it really is too tiresome for words.

    Thank goodness too, for English institutions like Turnbull and Asser, but tell me, does The Prince of Wales look exceedingly young in that photo, or is that just my martini talking?

    1. Dearest La Comtesse -- Reggie is flattered, indeed, and thrilled that you enjoy his feeble efforts at amusing his readers. He is fortunate to count you among them! And yes, I agree -- the photograph of Prince Charles was likely taken decades ago. With blushes, Reggie

    2. Hello Reggie, I'm just catching up with my blog reading and saw an article last week in Britain's newspaper (for lack of a better word), about Prince Charles visiting the factory where his T&A shirts are made:

  14. Reggie - This is absolutely delightful; I thoroughly enjoyed this visit to NYC. I too was taken with dressing gowns last time we were there. And I love that you took the bus!!

  15. For someone who just finished reading a WWII era book written by a Tiffany's clerk, the glimpse into 21st c. shopping was a sheer delight. The days of being waited upon are slipping by, and am glad to see the evidence it is still cherished in NYC.

    The book, by the way, is, "Summer At Tiffany", by Marjorie Hart. Her account of the period is charming, and includes her encounters with celebrities who visited the store, which does make one want to drop everything at visit NYC.

    1. Yes, a charming book, and the author is still alive here in San Diego! (Referring to Margaret's post.)

  16. The "transvestite hayride" comment is the funniest thing I've read in weeks.

    It sounds like a lovely weekend despite all the tourists.

    I would like to purchase my first pair of horsebit loafers but the reviews of those made for the 60th anniversary are mixed. Have you, or any of your readers, noticed any difference in the quality or fit in the last two or three years? Thanks for any opinions....


  17. I loved this post...especially the painting of Mr. Short and the Stork Club ashtrays.
    As for my Saturday...the line up is featured in my last post: "Lax and Lager."

  18. I cannot beleive that I have not been addicted to this blog long ago....I don't even know where to are right about the "plastic" loafers (only fit for gardening...but look amazing")you and "boy" certainly know how to take in the glad you retreated to Pompei...adorable

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. I believe Mr Cash formerly worked at Paul Smith where he helped me with a suit that still receives compliments. Love the post and all you do. xo

  21. Reggie, I'm old enough to remember when people dressed a bit better when heading into 'The City' for a day of shopping. It was an adventure, with lunch in a little café and then afternoon tea at the Plaza before taking the train back home to Connecticut or Long Island or New Jersey.

    A woman took particular pains, especially if she knew a stop might include a little peak inside Tiffany's, Saks Fifth, Bonwit Teller, Bergdorf's, or Henri Bendels. There was a certain amount of...shall I say pride? ...involved. You wanted to look the part, at the very least.

    I remember when my husband and I would take the train into the city to meet friends on a Saturday night for dinner, and then top off the evening with a stop at the Carlyle to hear the sublime Mr. Short sing Cole Porter. Sigh...

    I don't know when the casual look of weekend clothes replaced every other style of dress, even to wearing sweats to concerts, but I'd like to freeze frame it and then chuck it out the window!


  22. Positively green with envy; I would sell a kidney for a Stork Club ashtray ( my parents smooched there) and a

  23. Ahem, Carlyle swizzle stick!

  24. I see that you and Boy didn't vow to forgo martinis for Lent, as you did several years ago. What is your Lenten un-indulgence this year? I gave up caviar...

    Yr. Loving Sister, Hermione

  25. Great post dear Reggie,

    Perhaps Boy could've ordered those things online? It is so much easier than fighting the madding hordes of slobbering bolsheviks!


  26. Hi Reggie - I have some Gucci loafers for sale on eBay. Vintage, owned by an Ivy League prepster... There is a great brown pair available now. Any interest? MrsH

  27. Plastic Gucci's and the Prossie Trotter (especially loved your description) oh dear, Reggie!

    2012 Artists Series

  28. I am a lady "of a certain age" from the deep south , I want to marry you & Boy and live happily ever after. mbw

  29. Dearest one,

    So happy to hear Lindaraxa's lasagna is right up there with Lever's. Has it already been several years ago?

    I will say that you had the perfect Saturday afternoon that only real New Yorkers seem to pull off. I was pea green reading the whole post. Only yesterday I came across a pair of the braided cuff links from T&A although mine are in boring white and black. Haven't worn them in ages. Guess a trip to NYC must be planned soon, if only to see my friends Reggie and Boy.

    Loved the post!

  30. Love the tiny gin carafe - well, not so tiny actually for straight gin ... was that for just one of you ?? no wonder you taxi'd home ..

  31. I keep waiting to see a full photo of Boy. He looks like a little stud muffin.

  32. I had a fabulous Saturday... I awoke to the smell of pancakes and bacon, our Saturday morning family tradition... Then off to my Patek Philippe dealer, as the watch I ordered 6 months ago arrived (to the great pleasure of my wrist). Then a short stroll up the coast to lunch at Michael McCarty's.. Afternoon was spent in the pool with my children, until it was date time with my beautiful wife... after that... well, a gentlemen never tells.

  33. Such Fun! I'm glad nothing rained on your parade.
    The bar looks very relaxing and intimate - perfect place to take the weight off one's loafers at the end of a hard day.

  34. Wait a minute...are you saying that they no longer carry the traditional Gucci loafers at the 5th Ave store, or that you couldn't find them? If the former, that would be a disappointment, as my understanding (admittedly about five years old at this point) was that the 5th Ave store was the only one that still carried the traditional, low-slung black and brown models (as opposed to those carried at places like Neiman Marcus where the heels are about 1/4" too high and make one feel loutish and miserable).

  35. I love this post and am so thrilled to see the adorable picture of Pompey!

  36. Thanks for letting me join you on this wonderful trip. Awesome!

  37. Quite the weekend! I've always loved staying at the Carlyle.


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