"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I tell a story about a conversation with one of my NYC friends after I told them that I was doing the New York marathon. It went something like

THEM: Well, it’s the biggest, of course

ME: I am not so sure. I think that’s London or Chicago.

THEM: Well, it’s certainly the oldest

ME: No, that’s Boston

THEM: ( a little anxious by now ) it has the most elite runners

ME: I think that’s Boston, too.

THEM: ( after a long pause ) It’s definitely the longest.

Er, I still have not had the heart to tell them.

The purpose of that story is that it sums up New Yorkers for me. Fiercely proud of their city and indeed they have a great deal to be proud about. However, it does bubble over on occasions into silly hyperbole and a refusal to accept that there may be things in NYC that are not the best of their kind in the world. The jarring phrase “that’s so New York” is testament, for me, to the need for validation that perhaps European cities with their vast history do not require.

Teasing NY’ers about their city can be great sport too. They become an interesting shade when I refer to it, in jest, as “London Lite” and one friend sent me a very sharp mail when I mentioned on the blog that “ I like NY. It is possibly amongst the top ten cities in the world”. Tee hee.

For all that, it is a city of which I am very fond. I have been coming here regularly for any number of years and I have lost count now of how many days I have spent wandering the city. I think, after London, it is probably the city I know best even though, I am sure, given how much it has to offer, I know it not at all.

I am also fortunate to count a great many of its inhabitants among my friends and there is no more fiercely loyal friend that one can find in the form of a New Yorker. They have introduced me to wonderful places and offered me a level of hospitality that belies the reputation of New Yorkers as being pathologically indignant and ornery.

One of the things that NY truly does better than anywhere is Steak. There is something about a Manhattan steakhouse that is just so right. I think it is the clubby, hugely masculine atmosphere, the rattle of the cocktail shaker and, of course, the meat. Huge great slabs of it always cooked exactly as you like it.

When I come to New York, the first thing I crave is steak. A bloody huge one and a huge bloody one. So, yesterday, when I arrived I came prepared with a reservation for me and a colleague to go and visit one of these New York institutions.

A friend of mine recommended Uncle Jack’s on 9th Avenue. It is their second location ( the original in Queens, I think ) and they have another planned.

I had popped in there for drinks once after a tiring day at the book fair when it was being held in New York and the Martini was actually well made ( more on NYC Martini’s in another post ) and the steaks looked pretty good.

Uncle Jack’s is, as we say in the UK, a totally Ronseal experience. It does exactly what it says on the tin. No muss, no fuss.

The Martini I sipped on at the bar was suitably huge ( if badly made ) the appetisers were fine, but merely a opening act to the headliners. I began with a competent Caesar Salad while my friend’s crab cakes seemed underwhelming.

The steaks though were,however, exemplary. A 26oz T bone, cooked perfectly to order for my friend. He, being a good sort, finished it down to the last scrap and, through a boozy haze, I recall him gnawing on the bone. My steak was better still. A 25oz bone in ribeye that was charred almost to black on the outside while as rare as a funny line from AA Gill on the inside. Very good indeed and the taste of the dry ageing came through in what I have heard my NY chums call the “minerality” of the meat. I am never quite sure what that means and, in truth, I suspect, neither are they. It may mean lots of crunchy fat, which there also was and is also a good thing.

The side dishes ( onions and creamed spinach ) were perfunctory as they are meant to be and desserts ( mud pie and cheesecake) were the same.

We washed it all down with something over priced and underachieveing from the Napa and staggered out of there a couple of hours later about half a cow between us to the good which will make my run today all the more interesting. Particularly for any one caught in my tail wind.

All steaks in New York are compared to the Holy Grail of Pete Luger’s. This is no Pete Luger’s. Mind you, based on my last visit in November, Pete Luger’s is not Pete Luger’s any more. This, however, was a good steak served in the right setting by correctly attired people to men ( oh, and their molls ) and it hit the spot.

Oh, they also serve fish.
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