Friday, April 18, 2014

The Boathouse in Central Park: A Lakeside Lunch

One of the most famous and romantic icons of Central Park is The Boathouse Restaurant. True to its name, rowboats drift about the adjacent lake, as they have for over 150 years. Perched on the edge of 'The Lake' in Central Park, the restaurant was built in 1950 to replace an original Victorian boathouse that burned down. Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux created the Lake from a former swamp, for boating in the summer and ice-skating in the winter. Six rustic landings originally dotted the water's edge, and a number of kisoks functioned as ticket booths where visitors could hire rowboats, gondolas and multi-seat boats. As interest in rowing grew, the Lake needed a proper boathouse, so in 1874, Park architect Calvert Vaux designed a rustic building on the eastern shoreline on the spot where the boats are stored today, to provide covered space for docking and storage. With its charming Victorian touches, the building also featured a second-story terrace that afforded beautiful views of the Ramble, however the boathouse fell into disrepair by 1950 and was soon torn down. Fortunately, investment banker and philanthropist Carl Loeb and his wife Adeline generously donated $305,000 to help create The Loeb Boathouse that stands in Central park today.

Rowers on 'The Lake' in Central Park

A Scene from 'When Harry Met Sally' at the Boathouse Restaurant

The new, red brick and limestone Boathouse Restaurant, the structure you see today, is also the site of many movies, including 'Sex in the City, '27 Dresses' and 'When Harry Met Sally' — the quintessential Central Park love story where Sally's luncheon with her friends takes place at The Boathouse Restaurant — a memorable scene that was shot on location. On a beautiful sunny Spring afternoon in NYC, it's also where we nestled down for a leisurely two-hour lunch, before heading off for an amble through 'The Ramble' and wander through the Central Park Zoo, Strawberry Fields and finally ending up at an evening performance at Cabaret with Allan Cummings and Michelle Williams. After all, "Life is a Cabaret Old Chum...Come taste the wine, come hear the band, come blow your horn, start celebrating — right this way, your table's waiting.."

The menu at the Loeb Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park

A glass of Cotes de Provence Rosé

A twist on a NYC classic - a Pretzel Roll

Waiters at the Boathouse bring fresh bread and rolls in a wicker basket

Boathouse Salad with Red Oak Lettuce, Smoked Almonds and Cabernet Vinaigrette

Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi with green apples, pickled radishes, Tobiko caviar and jalapeno wasabi vinaigrette

Heirloom Tomato Salad with English Cucumber, Kalamata Olives, Red Onions and Imported Feta Cheese

Linguine with Littleneck Clams, White Wine, Garlic, Parsley and Peperoncino

Spiced Atlantic Monkfish with Israeli Couscous, Mangoes, Grapefruit, Scallions and Cilantro 
in a Coconut Curry Sauce

View of the restaurant from across the lake in Central Park

Boathouse Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes 
Serves 4

1 lb Crab Meat, jumbo lump
3 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill and cilantro
1 cup Panko japanese bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

Gently mix the crab with the herbs, mayonnaise, half the bread crumbs, and the salt and pepper. Form the mixture into cakes as big as you like. I made mine about three inches wide. Coat each cake with the remaining bread crumbs. Heat a shallow layer of oil on medium-high heat in a heavy frying pan. Cook several crab cakes at a time, turning once, until crispy and golden on both sides. Repeat until all crab cakes are cooked, adding more oil if necessary. Serve with a dollop of Caper Remoulade Sauce.

Caper Remoulade Sauce
Makes about 1 cup

3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp whole-grain mustard
1 tsp tarragon vinegar
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
2 tsps drained tiny capers, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 scallion, very thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, then set aside, covered, in the refrigerator until required.