In my former life, when I worked at Jezebel Magazine, I did this for a living.  
Now it's just for fun!  http://www.jezebelmagazine.comshapeimage_3_link_0

Thanks to my dining companions for this Dazzle-N-Dine: 
Katie, Stephanie, Becky, Sara, , Paula, and  Jason
Send me an
   Summer eats 
July 26, 2007

Find it: 135 E. 62nd St. (between Park & Lexington)
View it:
Book it: 212-752-6000

Overall Impression: I never went to Jovia, so I can’t really say why the restaurant failed.  But, I do think that its recent reincarnation into Zoë Townhouse was a smart idea—based on my experience, at least.  As Jovia was seen as a dressier, go-all-out restaurant, this is slightly more “neighborhoody.”  The salmon-colored walls, warm lighting, and carpeting make the space calm and comfortable.  All in all, I think the restaurant has a chance.  I don’t think it’s anything that will overly impress you, but it’s definitely worth a visit...especially if you live in the area.

What We Ate: I started with a peach margarita that sounded enticing: “Chef got the peaches from the farmer’s market today,” said the server.  In fact, most of the chef’s cuisine is inspired by the Greenmarket.  Jason and I began with the beer-battered soft shell crab appetizer, which was served with roasted corn, sweet corn purée, and a pineapple salsa.  Since soft shell crabs are all the rage this season, these didn’t blow me away compared to the dishes I’ve had elsewhere.  We also had the Ahi tuna chips, which were small cubes of tuna on lotus chips.  They were served with a little seaweed salad, sesame seeds, and charred octopus salad—a great dish to share.  For dinner, we both had the halibut with popcorn purée.  It was served with some tomato confit and baby spinach.  Had I not read the menu description beforehand, I probably would have recognized the popcorn essence but not have been able to name it.  The halibut was mild and simply prepared but “cooked to perfection,” as we both said simultaneously.  We shared the mac and cheese side dish, which was a little rich and heavy compared to some of the more refreshing flavors we tasted.  For dessert, we ordered the blueberry and apricot tart, but I really enjoyed the homemade blueberry yogurt that the server gave us as an extra treat.

Know Before You Go: You can also sit downstairs in the pizza bar, which serves lunch as well.  There, you can order a burger, a salad, or one of the brick oven pizzas (they looked really good coming out of the large brick oven).  http://www.zoerestaurant.comshapeimage_9_link_0
Zoë Townhouse

Find it: 100 E. 63rd St. at Park Ave.
View it:
Book it: 212-644-1900

Overall Impression:  Park Avenue Café, the restaurant that used to be known for its “pay-your-age” deal, is now Park Avenue Summer.  And this isn’t for good, either. Four times a year, chef Craig Koketsu (Quality Meats) will redesign the menu while design group AvroKO (The Stanton Social, Public) will overhaul the interior.  Thus, the restaurant will morph into Park Avenue Autumn, Winter, and Spring before this time next year. I checked it out during Restaurant Week, but at regular prices, the menu is a bit steep ($13 for salad, $7 for fries, $32 for grilled tuna).
    The summer design has a beachy feel created by shells on the walls and sheer, flowy curtains.  There are hints of lemon throughout--from light yellow walls and staff uniforms to the lemon-scented soap in the restrooms.  
   Though the service was a bit shaky and the waiter seemed clueless, the food came out exactly as we had ordered it.  
    Park Avenue Summer is difficult to fully embrace because I know that in a few months it won’t exist.  But then again, I’ll be tempted to see what Park Avenue Autumn is all about. 

What We Ate: We all enjoyed the watermelon amuse- bouche topped with a dollop of yogurt. For starters, the Caprese ravioli with yellow-tomato coulis was mild but really flavorful.  Others had the Maine sea scallops with peaches and almond granola, which were excellent.  In fact, Stephanie, who is the pickiest eater of the group, described them as “sweet and heavenly” while she cleared her plate for one of the first times.  Sara’s salad of yellow and green beans was tasty and refreshing as well.  The main courses at our table included sticky chicken with cucumber and lemon salad, which had a sweet and tangy BBQ-like sauce; lobster salad with avocado, fennel, and orange-lemon vinaigrette, which, if not for Restaurant Week would have been a bit pricey at $39; and lamb with farro and apricots, which was tender and delicious.  

Know Before You Go: The restaurant has an ice bar, where you make your own cocktails from your choice of vodka infusions or champagne.  You can add your own mix-ins such as fresh fruit or mint.  The current wine list is summer-inspired.  It’s divided into somewhat cheesy categories such as “Beaches: wines produced near the most photographed sandy shores” and “Cabernet Franc: Pinot Noir isn’t the only summer red.”  	        http://www.parkavenyc.comshapeimage_11_link_0
Park Avenue Summer Dinners at Zoë Townhouse, Park Avenue Summer, & Perilla;
A visit to Chelsea Market
        A Few Bytes:

            -Months after the Park Chinois restaurant deal fell through, Wakiya opens this week at Ian Schrager’s Gramercy Park Hotel. The restaurant boasts exotic Chinese cuisine.

            - I’m still looking forward to trying the brisket and peanut butter and jelly cupcakes at Hill Country.  Has anyone been yet?

            -I recently went back to Bar-bo-ne in the East Village with a group of friends and, once again, enjoyed everything about it.  Thanks to Alberto, we had a nice table outside.  When a restaurant impresses me twice, it’s a keeper!
           I was so excited to try Perilla, the baby of Top Chef’s Harold Dieterle, which received much praise since it opened in May.  Friends had said it was wonderful and other bloggers had raved about it.  But I left feeling underwhelmed and thinking, “overpriced for a bland atmosphere and bland food.”
    The night started out poorly—it was pouring and the taxi driver didn’t know the difference between Jones St., where the restaurant is, and Great Jones St.  Anyway, I finally arrived...before my friend, who also got lost in a cab!  I sat at the bar and had a glass of wine.  The bartender was friendly and let me sample the wine before pouring my glass.  She also gave me a little refill, which was a nice touch.  Aside from the bartender, the service was lackluster
    The restaurant’s long, rectangular space is modestly decorated. The three orange banquettes with hanging pendant lights are the main attraction as far as Perilla’s physical appearance goes.  Based on the raving and ranting about Dieterle’s cuisine, I expected the food to be the real focus, but I found it to be just average.  The menu has since changed to reflect the summer and the one item that I did enjoy, the fiddlehead fern ravioli, is no longer on it.  The cod was just OK and the crab salad that we started with was a way too salty for my taste.  
        After hearing so many good things about the restaurant, I started to doubt my impression.  Perhaps we ordered wrong,
I thought.  Perhaps we just went on an off night.  I was somewhat relieved that Frank Bruni agreed with me.  Not too impressed, either, he reviewed the restaurant in Wednesday’s Times, giving it one star and calling it “earnest, endearing and just a bit of a snooze.”  
Find it: 9 Jones St. (between W. 4th and Bleecker)
View it:
Book it: 212-929-6868
I never knew how many specialty stores were at
Chelsea Market.  Here are just a few that I visited:  

Eleni’s: At Eleni’s, you can find cookies to please a designer shoe fanatic, baseball lover, or dancer.  Eleni’s will custom design and ship cookies nationwide for any occasion.  The sweets look more unique than Cookies By Design, but they’re almost too pretty to eat!

Buon Italia: Those looking for Italian olive oils, cured meats, organic pastas, and other Italian imports might want to stop by Buon Italia.  There’s also a counter of prepared Italian-style foods.

The Lobster Place: The Lobster Place sells fresh fish and seafood.  In addition, the store sells marinated and ready-to-cook fish as well as prepared foods and sushi.  I’d suggest buying the fish and marinating it yourself, though, because the soy-ginger Mahi-Mahi I brought home didn’t have much flavor.  
Manhattan Fruit Exchange: If you can’t get to the Greenmarket and you’re tired of paying more for fruits and veggies at Whole Foods, you might like Manhattan Fruit Exchange, where lots of good organic produce can be found at good prices. 

Ronnybrook Farm: Ronnybrook “Milk Bar” serves  ultra-creamy ice cream, shakes, and the all-natural Hudson Valley milks, yogurts, and creams. 

Ruthy’s: Ruthy’s Bakery sells some of the most artistic cupcakes I’ve seen lately.  If you aren’t in NY, you can order cakes and pastries online.

Chelsea Market Baskets: 
At Chelsea Market Baskets, you can create your own gift baskets for birthdays, holidays, and other occasions.  Select a basket and then fill it with your choice of specialty items.  If you aren’t in the creative mood, you can select one of the pre-made packages.  This is the kind of care package I would have liked to receive at summer camp!
 Bowery Kitchens: Not only is there food at Chelsea Market, but you can find everything you need to prepare and serve food.  More upscale and less crowded than some of the other stores where you’d typically buy utensils and supplies, Bowery Kitchens sells the basics plus a little more.

The Chelsea Market
9th Ave. between 15th & 16th