Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Me N The City: Part 13 – Like Butta?

The alarm seemed to go off all too soon. But since our reservation at local hotspot Butter was for 8:00 we peeled ourselves out of bed around 6:15 to get ready for whatever the night held. One look in the mirror told me it was going to take all the time I had to be able to do just that. The rain and our “adventures” had left me looking less than adorable.

We pranced around our hotel room swapping mirror space, hairspray zones and makeup tips. Sarah helped me tease my hair into submission (I’ve just never gotten the hang of it ... you wouldn’t think it would be that hard) and then it was time to get dressed. Uh oh. I had half-planned on finding something fabu at Century 21 to wear to Butter. My office-suitable Ellen Tracy dress wasn’t going to cut it. I’d have to dig out something I brought. Except after a day of high expectations, nothing I’d carted to the city from home seemed right. To top it all off, I was having a “fat” day. Don’t judge – we all have them. It didn’t help that I was watching Sarah get into her little jersey knit dress which I was guessing was a size negative 4. (Maybe there is something to this vegetarian thing after all…)

I tried on just about everything in my suitcase – twice. I finally settled on a grey knit sleeveless mini-dress with a satin ruffled bib collar from Forever 21 (yes… I was wearing what amounts to ‘disposable clothing’ to one of NYC’s most fashionable dinner spots – I was desperate). We checked ourselves over in the mirror, decided we were up to snuff, and headed down to the lobby – this time to get a cab no matter what!

As the cab wound its way along the city streets I remembered my first time going to Butter. I had never heard of it before (it was brand new), but our hotel concierge recommended it. I was with my sister who had flown me to NYC for my 30th b-day – my first time in the city (apart from the airport). I remember not being able to get a reservation until 10:15 (unheard of in Iowa) and when the cab dropped us off, he thought we were in the wrong place. It was a dark desolate street full of tightly closed, gated and grafittied storefronts. But once inside were were amazed at the beauty – and at the food. Not to mention the cute boy I had been eyeing all weekend at the hotel walked in not too long after we were seated. What were the odds?? After dinner we all went down to the bar in the basement level and shared dessert and drinks. The place was magical. Since that time, it has become a playground for the rich and famous so I was even more excited and full of wonder with what we might see this time around.

Here is what we were in for:

Trendy restaurants are lucky if their "it" factor lasts a full year, but Butter has managed to keep the Blackberries of the velvet rope crowd buzzing since 2002. Much of this has to do with the still fresh, space-age forest design--the arched upstairs with its illuminated tree mural and the downstairs with its birch-lined walls. The New American menu, featuring dishes like caviar and potato salad, Hudson Valley duck breast and Montauk Point striped bass "au poivre," is merely icing on the debutante cake.

I couldn’t wait to experience the magic again. But when we pulled up things seemed a little different. First of all, it was still light out since we were visiting in June instead of November. The street had become more alive and it didn’t seem quite as forbidden or exotic as before. But as we walked in, I was once again at peace with my choice – there was Butter in all its glory. Like a beautiful wooded retreat. We walked in, gave our name to the maître d' (since I had made my reservation as far in advance as they would allow and then confirmed the night before) and waited to be escorted to our table.

As we walked down the hall to the main dining area I drank in my surroundings – until we started to turn and head down a set of stairs. I was confused. Sure enough, we were seated not in the main dining room, but in the restaurant equivalent of “steerage” – the basement. Apparently, its is not a club until 10:00 and they seat “others” down there until that time. We were next to a family of five – with small children – and a set of tourists that were clearly not from this country. I was crushed. All my hopes for a fabulous evening of seeing and being seen were dashed.

In addition, we got the world’s slowest waiter. All in all, we were there 3 hours – until just after 11:00 – and had to ask for our bill three times! Although it was something we had never done, both of us were tempted to simply get up and leave without paying. When I cordially pointed out to the waiter that we had asked for the check 3x and had been there three hours now, he got defensive and spat back “Well you were talking”. Apparently we were supposed to eat in silence. At least the food was, as I remembered, wonderful. And of course the company had made everything else melt away as we got lost in conversation after conversation of girl talk.

We finally got settled up and headed out. Once again our hopes of going out clubbing were diminished by our late end to dinner and our long day catching up with us. We decided we’d just head back to the hotel and see if we had the umph to get a cocktail at the bar. But we both knew flying back home in the morning would be not-so-fun with a hangover. As we climbed into the cab for the ride home and set off back uptown, I looked around at the skyscrapers and lights glinting in the deep city night. It was still a great city, and a great time with one my best friends in the world. The other stuff – shopping, eating, seeing and being seen – was transient.

… to be continued.

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