Tavern on the Green in the Red

It was on my Bucket List –  #5.  Eat at Tavern on the Green in the heart of New York City.  The Yahoo morning news delivered the sobering news;   thirty-eight million dollar landmark eight million in the red.

I don’t know why I have that on my top ten things to do in life.  At number five it’s perfectly sandwiched in between visiting the Taj Mahal and going on a dog sled race in Alaska.   Maybe the Tavern on the Green wish ranks because of the hundred year old chandelier made of green glass that graces the Crystal Room, said to have been previously owned by an Indian Maharajah. (Maharaja – such a mystical word!)  Tavern on the Green reminds me of the kind of place Kay Thompson’s “Eloise” would visit.  Who can forget the famous book of the determined six-year-old on a visit to New York’s Plaza Hotel?  The story is as magnificent as the illustrations by Hilary Knight, and the artist in me wanted to experience the Eloise magic just once in my life.   Tattered on all the corners, my bookshelf is still graced by the original 1959 edition of “Eloise in Moscow”.  It was given to me by my cousin Libby in 1961, and remains a 40 year favorite.  If you know the Eloise series, you understand that she only stays in the grandest of style…whether it is New York’s Plaza Hotel or the “hotelski” in Moscow.  Eloise surely programmed me for utter spoildom (my word for the Kingdom of Spoiled) at a very early age.

If the truth be told, I did experience the magic at age five when my dad took me to Ross’ Steak House in Omaha, Nebraska for my birthday dinner.  It was Omaha’s swanky special occasion restaurant.  The food was oh so Italian, with every steak accompanied by the small side dish of spaghetti.  Having grown up on macaroni and cheese every Friday night, the sit-down restaurant was reserved for only the most special of occasions.  While I have few memories of age five, I vividly remember the pink dress and white gloves for that birthday.  Sitting at the grown up table, I ordered real people food; the petite filet.  On the way out I threw a penny in the three-tier fountain lit up by lights and made wish for a happy life.

Years later, the magic happened for the second time.  College boyfriend, Greg Ptacek, took me to meet the parents at five-star Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans.  It may have been one of the most picture-perfect nights of my life.  Though Greg and I moved on to other places in life, it is with great fondness that I remember every detail of that enchanted evening.  From my Chinese silk sweater, to the bananas foster, to his fascinating and loving parents, I treasure the evening in my heart.  In the countless hours where my daughter’s life hung in the balance, I’d have fleeting moments where for a second I’d escape to that place of utter perfection.  The Brennan’s dinner reminded me that life is not entirely cruel, and gave me hope for the next happy moment.  Greg will always remain a gentleman in my mind, his parents the picture of kindness, and the food romantically delicious.  From Ross’ Steak House at age 5, to Brennan’s at age 20, Tavern on the Green seemed to be the next step in the big girl dining odyssey.

It’s my own fault for not making it a priority.  On my spring trip to NYC shortly after my daughter’s funeral, I let my friends know how I had always dreamed of eating there.  Pressed for time, and still emotionally shaky, I thought “I’ll go next time.”  With ‘next time’ eluding me, and the restaurant closing tomorrow night, I fear the #5 slot is open on The Bucket List.

The redeeming news of the day is that Ti Adelaide Martin, the owner of the Brennan’s empire that includes Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, may be bidding on Tavern on the Green.  If north meets south, and the Brennan’s dynasty comes to Central Park, my dream may not be lost, but come true in double portion.  Tavern on the Green, NOLA style!

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Article by: Valerie Bourdain

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