Manufactured Navels

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:11

    Between Dec. 14 and 24, by the way, Aquavit will?as it does every year?serve Swedish Christmas delicacies: meatballs, herring, Jansson's Temptation. On Christmas Eve Aquavit will serve a huge "Julbord" Christmas buffet in its dramatic downstairs dining room. Again, call 307-7311 for reservations.

    Just a decade ago, Grand Central Terminal was a place of fear, a surreal interior straight out of Syphon Filter or something, and filled with the jaundiced, dusty light of a dying city. Now the great train station's buffed to the same sheen with which everything in this city glows for better or worse, and there's even a food market taking its place along the terminal's massive main corridor.

    As for us, we were satisfied enough with the carrot-cake donuts that, a million years ago, we'd buy at the Grand Central Hot & Crusty and consume with coffee in drab, poetic Hudson Line carriages on the way home for Thanksgiving as the river planed out beyond the tracks in its gloomy nautical miles. A million years ago, that is?when, each night, under the threat of batons, scores of wanderers shuffled toward the terminal's exits clutching plastic bags of clothes and refuse, looking for somewhere to sleep, cast nightly out into the streets. Biblical hordes of the homeless, and armed ghouls and brigands wandering the empty streets after rush hour. All, all gone.

    And there's even a market in there now, isn't there? In Grand Central? We generally don't approve of eating?or even of thinking about food?anywhere near a subway car or a stinking train platform. But the Grand Central Market's making us change our opinion. A massive corridor?10,000 impressive square feet worth of it?runs from Lexington Ave. over to the mindblowing Main Concourse. The Market's massive terrazzo-floored hallway houses plexiglas-awninged stalls plumped up with fresh produce, meats, seafood, baked goods, pasta and prepared dishes that you can acquire for consumption as you're sprinting to catch the 5:47 (or the downtown 4 train, for that matter).

    Here's who's represented: the Pescatore Seafood Company, Ninth Avenue Cheese, Greenwich Produce, Corrado Bread & Pastry, Koglin German Hams, Li-Lac Chocolates, Oren's Daily Roast, Ceriello Fine Foods (they sell meats and Italian specialties), Adriana's Caravan (they sell herbs, spices and condiments) and Ronnybrook Farm Dairy. And more.

    Grand Central Market is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Takeout food innovation of the month: Citarella's rotisserie fish, which actually sounds like a wonderful idea. A red snapper or a sea trout or a striped bass or a pompano roasted in a specially designed basket, in between the grating-sheets in which the fish is sandwiched until the skin's properly crispy-chewy and the flesh, as roasted fish-flesh should, flakes into pieces in that good way. The fish weigh about a pound and are sold with a side of grilled vegetables and rice. Rotisserie fish are served at both the East Side and West Side Citarella locations. For Citarella's addresses and phone numbers, as well as for travel directions to the establishments, call Upper West Side Rep. Jerrold Nadler's office at 334-3207.

    W. 38th St.?this garment district canyon that time's steamroller didn't manage to flatten. Dusty buttons bake in shop windows; zippers hang agape and cloth swatches fade into colorlessness behind glass. Husky guys push berserk clothes racks past old women as if the sidewalk were about to crumble behind them. A truck lolls at curbside: Consolidated Beef Co., Inc., "manufacturers of trimmings, navels, briskets." Weary men drift in old shoes, as if out of a timewarp.

    An anachronistic ambience, and it persists even into Veronica Ristorante Italiano, the street's fine lunch spot, at which folks have slid plastic trays down the long, quilted stainless cafeteria counter for 31 years now. Diners don't seem to have tired of the white-uniformed servers' scoldings: "You, sitting next to Buddy! You! Sit down over there and, uh, behave yourself!" And the warm greetings dispensed by proprietor Andy are as bracing today as they probably were a generation ago.

    Thing is, here at Soup to Nuts?because this is an exceptionally important business we're in here?we generally practice the vulgar custom of eating at our desks while we work. So breaking away to eat Italian food at crimson-topped tables on diner-type plates (the ones with the red-rimmed band fading into pink), and to drink airplane bottles of Bolla Valpolicella?well, that's civilized living as far as we're concerned. The restaurant's focus is a 40-foot-long counter illuminated by a highway of fluorescent lights, and it features a remarkably wide array of dishes, including standbys like chicken scallopini, shrimp scampi, stuffed shells, chicken cutlet parmigiana, tortellini alfredo, veal marsala and a ton of salads. There's also a selection of specialties, like eggplant rollatini: a slab of eggplant rolled up, stuffed with ricotta and spinach and slathered with tomato sauce, parmesan and mozzarella. Also penne giudea (pasta with ground veal, exotic mushrooms, wine sauce and herbs), meatloaf alla nonna and ravioli lungomare (crab, shrimp, lobster and scallops stuffed into ravioli bathed in a creamy tomato sauce).

    The menu changes daily?what's available at the moment gets posted on laminated placards hanging from wall hooks. Prices aren't rock bottom?hot entrees average out at about seven or eight bucks?but why should they be?

    Veronica's located at 240 W. 38th St. (betw. 7th & 8th Aves.). Phone: 764-4770.

    Lutece chef Eberhard Müller?that big kraut?will host a cooking demonstration at the West Village Gourmet Garage (117 7th Ave. S., betw. Christopher & 10th Sts., 699-5980) on Saturday, Nov. 20, between 1 and 3 p.m. "Cooking With Fingerling Potatoes From Satur Farms" is the title that's been assigned to this exciting event.

    "Satur Farms is the creation of Paulette Satur and Eberhard Müller," read the publicity materials we've been sent. "It is her family name and derives from generations of 'Satur Farms,' the most recent being a dairy farm in central Pennsylvania where Paulette was raised. The new Satur Farm became a reality in 1997 when the couple purchased 18 acres in Cutchogue, NY."

    Thus the history of how Lutece chef Eberhard Müller came to present an exciting event called "Cooking With Fingerling Potatoes," this Saturday at the West Village Gourmet Garage.

    Contributors: Beth Broome, Andrey Slivka.

    E-mail tips and comments to or fax to 244-9864.