THE FOUR SEASONS RESTAURANT — HAVEN OF EXCELLENCE — R.I.P.

4 Seasons Motif Restaurant Manhattan

The Four Seasons Motif outside the restaurant

Once there was a bastion of excellence, in Manhattan, called The Four Seasons.

Pool Room Four Seasons Restaurant

The Pool Room, The Four Seasons Restaurant

People think it was all about the food.  And, to a high degree, it was.  In that faraway year of 1959, when I moved to Manhattan, here was regionality and seasonality, and therefore savor and freshness and beauty such that no other cuisine could equal.  Not even Caravelle and Cote Basque.  Nowhere.

Metal Rain by Day 4 Seasons

Metal Rain Inside the Four Seasons, by day

Now, The Four Seasons is no more.  Several farewell nights took place, and many articles have appeared.  Nothing conveys the exquisite uniqueness that was our constant experience in every family meal at the hands of Four Seasons staff, from owners, through maitre d’, through waiters, and those invisible magnificent chefs.  All hands created that museum masquerading as restaurant, appropriately the jewel in the crown of the Seagram Building.

Palm Room Four Seasons Restaurant Manhattan

Palms and Tranquility, The Four Seasons Restaurant

The farewell articles go on and on about power lunches and billionaires and of course the movers and shakers of Manhattan.  The focus on guests splashing in what, –to us–, had always been, that sacred reflecting pool.  Seeing that pool room in vivid memory, I realize that its astounding simplicity and tranquility generated the air of haven in the middle of Manhattan’s notorious bustle.  Entering, it was as though a shawl of silence lightly descended upon our shoulders.

4 Seasons Modern Bench Manhattan Restaurant

Four Seasons Art

It cannot be true that all the superb art was reflected in that barely rippling water — yet that is how its multiplied beauty appears in retrospect.  Seeking images on the internet, nothing satisfies.   I am SURE there were Picasso tapestries hanging on stairway walls.  They appear nowhere today.  As Four Seasons appears nowhere today.  Progress and mercantilism dominate this century.  So are we deprived of this sanctuary whose aura to echoes the interiors of Chartres, Ste. Chapelle, the mosic-rich glittering basilicas in Ravenna on sunny days.

Night Scene Four Seasons Restaurant, Manhattan

Night Scene, The Pool Room, Four Seasons Restaurant

A major aspect of family meals at Four Seasons was the silken warmth of everyone’s welcome.  Come with Diane and Catherine, Werner and me, on a scintillating early autumn Saturday.  Settle in at a capacious table, carefully far enough from others so that privacy is maintained.  Hear the girls gently order their beverages; as Werner, their Swiss father, discussed wines with the sommelier.  Watch the girls’ tall gleaming glasses arrive with one waiter, as towering menus are settled silently into our hands.  See Catherine, –the younger but taller, with her long blonde Swiss hair–, open that menu and knock over her Coke.  Empathize with the horror on that young girl’s face..

4 Seasons Final Menu

Four Seasons Menu

See a brigade of waiters and busboys dash to our table.  Watch as though each had been Blackstone, the Magician.  Whisk!  off with the stained cloth and whatever had been so artfully arranged upon it.  Whoosh, floated the impeccable new one, like linens for an altar.

Hear the empathy in the voice of the headwaiter as he soothed our chagrined daughter:  “That’s nothing!,” he’s exclaiming.  “At night, we have grown-ups who catch their menus on fire!”

4 Seasons Plate with specialties Manhattan

Four Seasons Sampling

Laugh with all of us, and see Catherine’s shame erased.  Understand that this gentility was the hallmark of that restaurant.  We were not movers and shakers.  We were suburbanites, –upon whom I knew, as twice-former Manhattan resident–, that town looks askance.  We even dared to bring young girls, who happened to adore rituals and would eat anything (well, except petite friture in Villefranche, Provence, because, “Daddy, they have eyes!”

4 Seasons China

Four Seasons China

Werner knew, and we would come to know, that the poliltesse that suffused The Four Seasons was in the best European traditions, –as in Claridge’s of London, the Plaza Athenee and the Ritz of Paris.  But we weren’t in Europe — we were in America.  And for those few savory scintillating Four Seasons hours, we were experiencing the best of our country.  As with those legendary hotels and their sublime restaurants, what we took place at table rivaled beauty and majesty and tradition we had spent all morning absorbing in the world’s most important museums.

Metal Rain Four Seasons Restaurant Manhattan

Metal Rain by Night, Four Seasons Restaurant

The Four Seasons was not a museum.  It was alive, and its excellence could be counted on, time after time after time, no matter the origins of our guests

WAS alive.

IS no more.

So I must mourn this loss.

America is the less for this finale.

My words are so feeble.  I need Will to give me lines such as “Take and cut [it] out in little stars, and all the world shall be in love with night!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SHADY WALKS: US 1 NEWSPAPER article & LAMBERTVILLE & BARLEY SHEAF FARM, PA.

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that sometimes, (if VERY fortunate), I can convince local editors to feature nature articles for their readers.  I’m very aware that people of the 21st Century, if they are not out IN Nature, can absolutely forget, if not negate her.

The perilous state of journalism in our time renders my media appearances more and more scarce.  Nonetheless, those who find US 1 Business Newspaper tomorrow/Wednesday, August 10, will see my article on four shady walks in this time of searing sunlight.  I’ve been blessed to have a new poem, “Earthwise”, in US 1’s Fiction Issue the past two weeks.

Lambertville Towpath Water and Shade

Canalside Shade, Lambertville Towpath

Meanwhile, on  Sunday, I relished a fine shady towpath hike with Jeanette Hooban, (original Intrepid), first heading north out of Lambertville (NJ), then south, so far as the weir, otherwise known as the rapids of the Delaware River near New Hope.  There are towpaths with canal on both sides of this river that I cherish above all others.  Our side has the right amount of water in it.  Pennsylvania is finally getting ’round to filling theirs to historic levels, but it’s taking an unconscionably long time.

Lambertville Towpath Doowary

Typical Lambertville Canalside House

I have to admit, since I am in terrific turbulence over the difficult diagnosis given my 20-year-old great nephew last week, my ‘eye’, –as manifested through my camera–, was seriously off during these refreshing hours.

Bear with me, nonetheless.  I will expand the quantity and quality of my meagre offering with fine photographs by Jeanette and by Brenda Jones, known to readers of this blog and its predecessor for the Packet, NJWILD.

Know that Jeanette and I relished every foot(e)fall.  That the journey WAS the destination.  And that our culminating brunch at Pennsylvania’s Barley Sheaf Inn, past Lahaska, may have been our most luminous yet.  Every sustaining visit to this haven (known for weddings) has us plotting our return, listing the friends with we MUST share this multi-faceted excellence.

Sunflower Crown Lambertville Towpath

“Sunshine On Your Shoulders…” — Towering Towpath Sunflower

Exquisite as the food was, as always; chaleureuse (warm) as the welcome always is; beckoning as the grounds always are, we could barely eat for watching continuous courtship dances of various species of butterflies.

BlackSwallowtail among Loosestrife Brenda Jones

Black Swallowtail Nectaring by Brenda Jones

Come with us to our post-hike haven — Barley Sheaf Inn:

A Barley Sheaf Dormers and Autust Sky

Barley Sheaf Inn Dormer and August Sky

A Barley Sheaf Balcony

Barley Sheaf Shadows

cabbage white gold flower Brenda Jones

Dance of the Cabbage Whites by Brenda Jones

A Barley Sheaf Pond  August

Barley Sheaf Inn Pond, Fed by Spring Once Essential to Indians

A Barley Sheaf Summer Garden

Barley Sheaf Inn Pool Garden

A Barley Sheaf Pool House

Barley Sheaf Inn Pool House

clouds by Jeanette Hooban

Barley Sheaf Inn Summer Skies by Jeanette Hooban

les deux Carolyns par Jeanette Hooban

Les Deux Carolines, Brunching in Moss Hart’s Exquisite Dining Room

Jeanette's Breakfast Barley Sheaf by Jeanette

Jeanette’s Eggs Benedict by Jeanette Hooban

A Barley Sheaf Petals for the Bride

Petals for the Bride

A Barley Sheaf Tracery

Barley Sheaf Tracery, Above the Rose Petal Path

lotus by Jeanette Hooban

Lotus Farewell, Barley Sheaf Farm by Jeanette Hooban

Swallowtail bumblebee brenda jones

Swallowtail and Bee — Two Pollinators to One Flower — by Brenda Jones

Genesis: Aioli Feast for Confrerie Assemblage, June 2015

Le Grand Aioli Assemblage, June 7, 2015

Le Grand Aioli Assemblage, June 7, 2015

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that I have adventuresome friends.  Some we’ve begun to refer to as “The Intrepids,” as you know from the blog post about our daring a wild autumnal Nor’easter at the easternmost point of Island Beach.  Others have dared arrive to eat and bring aspects of Le Choucroute Garnie of Alsace, and Le Cassoulet de Toulouse.  At this March feast, we planned Le Grand Aioli for June.

The guests change somewhat, depending on travels and even surgery.  However, each fully earns the Intrepid title, never more than last weekend.

I salute their courage because, with all three feasts, there’s no way I can know or really alter the outcome.  All involve long, traditional processes.  Each process is transformative — the whole infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.

Creating aioli gave me the chance to be my Provencal self again, when I lived in a villa high above Cannes from October 1987 through August 1988.

Guy Gedda, whose book I read daily in Provence, and very often ever since

Guy Gedda, whose book I read daily in Provence, and very often ever since

Every guest becomes amazingly caught up in these quests, going to great extremes of research and search for authentic ingredients for each part of the meal.  They find recipes on line for me (who prefers cookbooks, but can never read too much about food.)  They go with me on the wine quests.   They’re amazing!

Jeanette Hooban and Bill Rawlyk, formed the Original Intrepids of Island Beach. My co-author of the Stuart Country Day School book, Carolyn Yoder, became an Intrepid, as you’ve seen on the Williamstown trail trip; Valerie Meluskey, whose wilingness to travel, especially to France, and also to eat just about anything, has been my friend since the 70’s.  Everyone knows the gastronomic courage of Pat Tanner and Faith Bahadurian, food writers and critics par excellence.  So we were seven.

Table and Rose De Provence:  mas de gorgonnier of Les Baux, Domaine La Colombe from the Varois of France, and Cotes de Provence in Romanesche de Tourins

Table and Rose De Provence: mas de gorgonnier of Les Baux, Domaine La Colombe from the Varois of France, and Cotes de Provence in Romanesche de Tourins

The wines were roses de Provence, two from Joe Canal’s, one from Trader Joe’s, the darker the better — which is no longer chic, but quite essential for aioli.

I forgot to take pictures of the champagne hour, provided by Carolyn Yoder — Charles de Marques from Champlat, France.  That with simple very fresh nuts, especially almonds, was the only appropriate precursor to something as rich and profoundly Provencal as aioli.

Few words will follow.  Many scenes will show you the genesis of Le Grand Aioli, on a perfect late spring Sunday afternoon.

Guy Gedda's Recipe in his livre de cuisine, "La Table d'un Provencal", which I read and re read during my year in Provence and ever after

Guy Gedda’s Recipe in his livre de cuisine, “La Table d’un Provencal”, which I read and re read during my year in Provence and ever after

Of course, I should have been making this in my long-lost marble mortar, with its handsome, sturdy pestle of olive wood.  Alas…  I made two batches — four eggs each, and however much olive oil each would transform into the sublime mixture.  More than a cup and a half, but not two cups…

Commencement d'un Grand Aiioli - organic garlic, morning eggs from Brick Farm Market, Trader Joe's superb extra virgin olive oil

Commencement d’un Grand Aiioli – organic garlic, morning eggs from Brick Farm Market, Trader Joe’s superb extra virgin olive oil

Crucial Ingredients

Crucial Ingredients

First, peel the garlic

First, peel the garlic

Sea Salt of Brittany

Sea Salt of Brittany

Guy Gedda's Recette

Guy Gedda’s Recette Sublime

Voila!  Guy Gedda's Aioli

Voila! Guy Gedda’s Aioli

Salt Cod Soaked, rinsed, soaked every 8 hours for at least 24 hours

Salt Cod soaked, rinsed, soaked again, every 8 hours for at least 24 hours

Soaked Salt Cod Refrigerated overnight for Party

Soaked Salt Cod to be refrigerated overnight for Party

Vegetable Broth Lemon Court Bouillon to Poach Salt Cod at Last Minute  8 - 10 minutes

Vegetable Broth Lemon Court Bouillon to Poach Salt Cod at Last Minute 8 – 10 minutes

Faith's Surprise Octopus

Faith’s Surprise Octopus

Pat's Fresh Fennel Sticks, Rare White Asparague, Bill's Hard-boiled Eggs

Pat’s Fresh Fennel Sticks, Rare White Asparague, Bill’s Hard-boiled Farm Eggs

Valerie's Separately Roasted Mixed Baby Beets, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Potatoes, Roasted Scallions

Valerie’s Separately Roasted Mixed Baby Beets, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Potatoes, Roasted Scallions, Bill’s Farm Radishes

Pat's Baby Artichokes

Pat’s Baby Artichokes

Salt Cod a Table

Salt Cod a Table

Jeanette's Farm-Fresh Lawrenceville Strawberries, Nougat, and Calissons de Provence

Jeanette’s Farm-Fresh Lawrenceville Strawberries, Nougat, and Calissons de Provence

With each Confrerie supper, we had a paired liqueur with dessert.  With the strawberries, I wanted a Provencal delight, oft made at home:  eau de vie de prune.  This sounds ghastly – but means what the Swiss call plumliwasser, or essence of plums.

My Plan B had been Le Vieux Marc de Provence.  I could find recipes to distill this rustic cognac-like elixir at home in my Provencal kitchen.  However, not the most esoteric nor the most bountifully provisioned wine and liqueur stores here in and around Princeton could come up with Marc.

Bad picture of Armagnac awaiting dessert

Bad picture of Armagnac awaiting dessert

Trader Joe’s to the rescue with Armagnac — the French would have this, also distilled of leftovers of the grape processing. It was a curiously appropriate rose color, and full but not overpowering.

Even Carolyn Yoder’s generous champagne –(also Trader Joe’s – she took me with her to find it)– had turned out to have the faintest hint of rose.

When Pat found the white asparagus (so rare, so Europe!) at Wegman’s, no one could tell her the price.  Finally, the manager arrived with a question (as she was thinking it could be $20) —  “How about 99 cents?”  Of course, her response had been, “I’ll take it.”

We didn’t tell anyone about the octopus, and kept it covered til everyone was a table.  It was a great hit, occasioning oo’s and ah’s  and very nearly finished.  Faith took the rest home to craft a light and elegant octopus stew, as only she and Pat could do.  Whoever heard of leftover octopus?

As you can see, a fine time was had by all.

Aioli was then shared with Tasha O’Neill, my dear photographer friend, the very next day.  The ingredients served me for a pretty meal:

Aioli Leftovers the Next Night

Aioli Leftovers the Next Night

My dear former Kingston friend, Janet Black, here all weekend for hikes this weekend, found beautiful carrots of many colors, and ‘cheddar cauliflower’, on a farm market stop in Pennington.  I peeled but did not cook the carrots.  I reheated Valerie’s magnificent roasted vegetables, which had resembled the rose window at Chartres.  And Janet and I feasted on the last of the aioli.  We tried the items also with Hollandaise — interesting contrast.  Either would do – but not both, normally.

The main point of the Confrerie dinners is always fellowhip.

The main gift is memory.

Aioli Leftovers for Houseguest Janet Black from Manhattan

Aioli Leftovers for Houseguest Janet Black from Manhattan

Aioli Leftgovers with sauces -- Aioli and Hollandaise

Aioli Leftgovers with sauces — Aioli and Hollandaise