I survived the trip to Balthazar. This summer I had bought a pair of pretty black shoes with a quite high heel - and wearing them the first time I immediately got blisters on both feet. So they stayed here for emergencies, and perhaps later discreet destruction at a point when I had forgotten I had spent money on them. Since Tuesday was an emergency, I tried them on again. And what a difference weather does! Cool as opposed to HOT and HUMID made the shoes fit like a glove, and stockings rather than bare feet eliminated the chafing problem completely. And so I was about 7 cm taller and felt like my legs were a mile long when I walked to the subway.
It was election day, and we were a little early for the largest crowd. Balthazar is an attempt at a french restaurant on Spring Street, and not a bad one at that. The room is large and spacious, with a very high ceiling. It's kept in colours of brown, smoke-yellow and white, and the decorations - specifically the two figurehead/kore figures on the wall over the bar - are carefully painted to appear stylishly gritty from what I guess is an American idea of French lack of cleaning and ambience accumulated since Matisse had his anisette there. With the ornate ceiling which my New York Connection claims is made out of tin and my host for the evening, the British/Canadian/Cosmopolitan claims is covered with thick embossed paper, the room took on a kind of hyper-frenchness, somehow like the cloisters and its hyper-medievalism. Somebody had stolen bits and pieces of French restaurants and put them all together under this American overdone ceiling, including the handsome waiter from Bordeaux - while the sassy chic frenchlooking waitress was all American under her black and white french maid uniform.
The menu was similarly immaculately french, as was the wine-list. I did however miss the cafe au lait and the chocolate croissant for breakfast, but I guess they leave that to the next-door bakery - also a part of Balthazar. Food was nice, I had foie gras for the first time, the lamb had been spoiled silly in some green, idyllic field - no climbing hills and developing stringy muscle for this little lamb - the wine was a decent Burgundy (which means quite good), and the company was nice... only we forgot all about talking and were basically just people-watching. That's the most fun part about large, spacious restaurants when it's packed and the waiters are busy. You get to see how the staff cooperates, watch the guests in their interaction with each others, see their reaction to the food or their lack of such... like eating snails with a bored expression, or making an onion soup last through your partner's full meal.
Did I pick the right shoes? I guess less would have worked, but apart from the table with four tourists in bluejeans I saw no sneakers and no hiking boots, so in this case heels were definitely more appropriate. The heels were even comfortable enough for an after dinner stroll hunting for a bar and a last drink before I got back on the R line. And the dinner did make a welcome change from slimburgers at the Tiffany Diner.