Past-times and Power Lunches
Eating is probably my son’s most favorite past-time, as he has told me on numerous occasions that, “eating just makes me happy.” I understand where he is coming from, since that it how I feel about shopping.
There is a problem with retail in America as restaurants available at a mall, or in many department stores tend to trend between, “OK” and “nothing special”, making it difficult to combine my favorite activity with my son’s.
Until we discovered Fred’s at Madison Avenue….
Fred’s moved from the lower level at Barney’s Madison Avenue in 2001 to the ninth floor. This spot has been most reserved for the adult “power lunch” and celebrity scene but is surprisingly kid friendly; with lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch menus that offer a delightful spin on Italian-American fare, using produce from local farmers, where applicable.
Fred’s is a true showcase of the talents of Mark Strausman, Managing Director and Alfredo Escobar, Executive Chef at Barney’s New York.
The test for my family on the success of a meal in a retail setting, is if we would go back, without the shopping trip included. I always ask myself, “If the restaurant was not at the store would we still go?”
The answer in this case is an enthusiastic “Yes.”
I would visit simply to have the dining experience.
Mark Strausman, Managing Director
A native of New York, Queens specifically, Mark developed a love of cooking early on in his life and began making meals for his family as a child. A graduate of the prestigious New York City Technical College, Mark was offered the opportunity to work overseas after graduation and promptly jumped on the offer. Training highlights include work at the Grandhotel Hessischer Hof and Kempinski Hotel in Frankfurt, and the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam. He was a part of the strict European caste system working his way up in rank to Chef de Cuisine.
Upon his return to New York in the 1980’s Mark worked at the Stanhope applying culinary skills he had learned while abroad.
In 1988 Mark opened Sapore di Mare in East Hampton with Pino Luongo, (Italian Restaurateur, Businessman and Memoirist) and I recall, that was the spot to score a table at!
In 1990, the pair opened the highly praised Coco Pazzo in New York City, where Strausman was selected Best American Chef by Tenimenti di Barolo e Fontanafredda in Alba, Italy, and received Grand Prize in the 1992 Proscuitto di Parma Chef Recipe Contest.
In the early 1990s Mark left Coco Pazzo and founded his own catering company, Mark Strausman’s Entertainment Catering.
Mark opened Campagna in 1994 and expanded to include Campagna Catering, an off-premise catering company.
In 1996 Strausman was chosen to run Barney’s Restaurant.
In 1997 Strausman scored a consulting contract with Wegman’s, (based in Rochester New York) where he helped to develop Wegman’s Italian classics.
In 2001 Barneys New York decided to move the restaurant Fred’s at Barneys New York from the lower level to the ninth floor. Since that change, the restaurant has become a haven for celebrities and New York society. It has been featured in Woman’s Wear Daily and New York Observer as the place to be seen for lunch in New York.
In 2003, Strausman developed a partnership with Pino Luongo, the original owner of Coco Pazzo Restaurant, where he was once the chef. In September, he took over the kitchen at Coco Pazzo and has recovered the original three star rating from the New York Times.
Mark can be found at Fred’s by day and at Coco by night.
Rest assured that for Fred’s dinner service, the restaurant is in the exceptional hands of Alfredo Escobar, Executive Chef at Barney’s Madison Avenue.
We ordered a lot of food, as we wanted to try many of our usual Italian “go-to” items. Being a bit of a ‘marinara and arrabbiata sauce snob’, I was very anxious to try the sauce, as to me, that is the mark of excellent, authentic Italian cooking.
The sauce cannot be too sweet or too sour or too watery. This red sauce is essentially what separates authentic Italian food from the knock-offs. I cannot achieve that perfect balance at home, and most restaurants can’t either.
The Lunch Menu
Insalata Caprese: Italian buffalo mozzarella, farm basil, Fred’s olive oil, and tomatoes ($23)
I cannot help but order Caprese salad when it is on offer in a restaurant. I absolutely adored the buffalo mozzarella. This is not a hard dish to create at home, but it is one, that with the wrong ingredient choices can be completely ruined. The tomatoes were fresh and chilled and the mozzarella, was just the right amount of ‘creamy’ without being overpowering.
Grilled Calamari: Local calamari, lightly breaded and served with a tomato salad ($21)
This calamari was done so beautifully that I did not want to share. The breading was so light and the tomato salad was so crisp, that this was for me, the favorite dish.
Estelle’s Chicken Soup: Grandma’s recipe to cure colds and stay thin ($14)
I ordered this because Fred’s is known for it, and based on the title, it certainly cannot hurt. It was lovely. I am not a chicken soup lover, but this may convert me into one.
Spaghetti & Meatballs ($26)
This red sauce was the closest I have been able to find to my maternal grandmother’s and that is frankly, the most wonderful compliment I can give.
Traditional style Penne al’Arrabbiata with Mark’s spicy garlic-ky tomato sauce ($24)
I enjoyed this, but it was not my favorite arrabbiata sauce. I would say, if you have a craving for a spicy sauce give it a try, but I could have used a bit more of a spicy kick. We did not try the spaghetti version.
Pizza Margherita Mozzarella, tomato, basil, and olive oil ($23)
I used to wonder how a person could mess up pizza and then over the course of my dining out, found places that really can mess up pizza.
This pizza is delicious. The culmination of bread, sauce and cheese is on point for my palette. Definitely one to order if you are looking for comfort food!
AlphaLuxe Three-Tongues rating
Note: Portions here are very generous. We were with a few people so we decided to share and enjoy a private Family Style tasting.
Fred’s Madison Avenue is open Monday-Friday 11:30 AM-9 PM, Saturday 11 AM-8 PM and Sunday 11 AM-6 PM.
While we dined at the Madison Avenue location, I also listed the other Fred’s locations in the United States. Please note operating hours and menus may vary by location.
660 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10065
Tel: (212) 833-2022
101 7th Ave, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10011
Tel: (646) 264-6402
FRED’S BEVERLY HILLS
9570 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Tel: (310) 777-5877
15 East Oak Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Tel: (312) 596-1111
Angela Ranieri joins us as Contributing Editor with an extensive background in Fashion, Beauty and Digital Media. She has worked with PRADA USA Corp., Jurlique, Amore Pacific and the New York Daily News in management capacities including Marketing, Client Relations, Employee Relations and Training Management. She has authored and published the column, “Ask Angela,” featured on the Amore Pacific USA website. Her beauty advice has been featured in Shape and Fitness Magazines and CBS News.
She is a graduate of Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Writing. Angela also has an MBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from Northeastern University. While at Northeastern, her Market Research on the Electric Car was published for University use.
Angela is currently creator of Circuit Cosmetics, a Brand Ambassador for luxury beauty line, Patchology, an On Air Guest for QVC and blogger for www.thelaughinmommy.blogspot.com.
In her spare time you can find Angela running, spinning, practicing yoga or getting beautified. She resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her Husband, Son, and Chihuahuas.