Clarence Brown Theatre annual trip to New York City: octopus pastrami, chocolate soup (oh, and plays!)

Alan Carmichael outside “War Paint,” one of the three Broadway plays on the Clarence Brown Theatre’s annual New York trip. We loved it.

Going to New York is always fun, but you can have a particularly good experience if you go with like-minded people. That’s why the Clarence Brown Theater’s annual New York excursion is so special. (That and the food, of course!)

Cal MacLean, the theater’s artistic director, and his super competent staff generally put together a trip you might not be able to pull off by yourself. And Cal has a wonderful knack for selecting plays that will end up with a slew of Tony nominations.

This year, for instance, the three plays were “OSLO,” which garnered seven nominations and won the Tony for Best Play; “Hello, Dolly!” which received 10 Tony nominations and won for Best Musical Revival and Lead Actress in a Musical, which went to Bette Midler; and “War Paint,” which got four nominations and starred stalwarts Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole.

(Unfortunately, due to airplane delays, Alan and I missed “OSLO.”)

A fun part of every Clarence Brown visit to the Great White Way is a cocktail gathering of University of Tennessee alumni currently living in New York. This year also featured a group lunch at famed Tavern on the Green restaurant in Central Park and still provided plenty of time in the schedule to shoehorn in visits to other fabulous eateries and even a museum.

Our advice to you: Become of member of the Clarence Brown Theatre Society — you can do it for as little as $250 — and get in on the chance to go on this trip!

The alumni gathering was at P.J. Clarke’s this year: 44 W. 63rd St.

Alumna at the event included, from left, Lindsay Stringfellow, Blair Campion and Kim Midkiff.

Donna and Terry Wertz with Karen Clark, right, were part of our traveling group.

As were Lezah and Burke Pinnell.

It was a good crowd.

David Byrd, left, and John Dougherty. David was managing director of the Clarence Brown Theatre until a few weeks ago when he accepted a position with the Virginia Stage Company.

Cal MacLean with actress Jane Blass, a UT alum.

Amanda Middleton, right, is external relations manager of the Clarence Brown. With her is her roommate, Aneitha Fowler. Amanda handles a lot of logistics for the trip and does an efficient and friendly job of it.

Cal making a few remarks.

One of our group, Georgiana Vines, right, with Martha Ashe. Although Martha is not a UT grad, she is from Knoxville and lives in NYC. She’s a former Moxley Carmichael intern, so we invited her to the gathering.

Cool. (But we opted for a taxi!)

Alan and I didn’t eat at the reception because we had reservations at 44 & X, an eatery highly recommended to us by our Knoxville friends, Bart Weaver and Jim Landreth. (They ate there four times during their last trip to New York!) Located at the corner of 44th Street and 10th Avenue (thus, the name), we also highly recommend it to you.

Alan outside 44 & X. If you remember the name of the restaurant, you’ll remember the address!

Comfortable but classy dining room.

I ordered roast chicken quesadilla with pico de gallo and avocado relish. It was delicious.

Alan had pan roasted lemon sole over braised vegetables in a Sauternes and black truffle citrus reduction. He loved it.

Dessert was fallen chocolate souffle in chocolate soup with Tahitian vanilla ice cream. Good Lord — chocolate soup!

44 & X is located in Hell’s Kitchen. Here are the shirts the wait staff wears. Ha.

The bar is beautiful.

As is the ladies’ room with a very cool mirror effect.

The owner, Scott Hart, came out to chat with us. Nice touch. He is very plugged in to the Broadway scene and has interesting insights.

It was a late night after a nightmarish trip getting up there. So, the following day (although our first appointment was not until lunch at Tavern on the Green) seemed to dawn very early.

There it is. Just as you’ve seen it in many movies.

Cal and Rebecca MacLean with Alan, at right.

First, a gathering of our group in the clubby waiting area.

And a stop at the bar. That charming chandelier rotates.

A restful fireplace in a sitting area.

Tavern’s trademark sheep heads adorn the fireplace. The building that houses the restaurant used to be a sheepfold for the sheep that used to graze there before the restaurant was built in 1934.

On our way to our private dining room, we passed this elegant banquette.

Part of our gang. From left: John and  Leanne Dougherty, Donna and Terry Wertz, Susan and Jerry Kornegay, Lisa Hammann, Bob Marquis (standing) and Townes Osborn.

Jeffrey Stanley was at our table. Love him.

First course was roasted figs with honey, Westfield Farm goat cheese, bresaola and arugula. It was a great combination.

My entree was Scottish salmon with melted leeks and roasted red pepper coulis.

Alan had grilled chicken paillard with baby red mustard and arugula salad with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Another killer dessert: Tahitian vanilla creme brulee with candied orange biscotti.

More Knoxville travelers. From left: Elisa Alvarez, Terry Grove, Angela Masini, Lezah and Burke Pinnell, Susan and Kent Farris, John Gill and Margie Nichols.

From left, Nancy and Kristy Hays, Caroline Gilliam, Patricia Shallow, Liz Stowers, Cal and Rebecca MacLean, Lyle Irish and Rosemary Gilliam.

From left, Amanda Middleton, Neil McBride, John Becker, Georgiana Vines, David Byrd, Jeffrey Stanley, Alan Carmichael, Karen and Brooks Clark, Maureen Dunn McBride and Aneitha Fowler.

Sweet posies in the ladies’ room.

A view to Central Park from the main dining room.

We needed to walk off lunch, and we love dinosaurs. So we headed to the American Museum of Natural History.

Alan and a mastodon.

Alan and a triceratops.

A smilodon, a saber-toothed cat that is an ancestor of our cat, Rexie, I guess. The sign said, “Built to bite!” Yep. That explains a few things.

A quick stop at the planetarium to put things in perspective.

Possibly the best restaurant in which we ever have dined, Le Bernardin, is often on our itinerary. Margie Nichols and John Gill joined us this time.

John, Margie and Alan, right.

I’ll just hit the highlights on the food, since, among us, we had more than 20 plates. It, once again, dazzled.

Caviar tartare.

Lacquered lobster with black truffle sauce.

Seared langoustine with fennel mousseline and spiced citrus-sambal sauce.

Warm artichoke panache with spring vegetable risotto and black truffle vinaigrette.

Sautéed Dover sole with lemon-potato mousseline and shallot emulsion.

Seafood pasta with black truffles.

Poached halibut atop an asparagus, spring peas, fava beans and morel casserole.

A damn good dessert that we forgot to take notes about. (To be fair, it was after several glasses of wine.)

Lovely parting gifts!

Then, it was on to Hello, Dolly!

We have friends who absolutely adore Carmine’s, the big, noisy family-style Southern Italian joint near Times Square with the legendary huge portions. We decided to try it for lunch — and now we are fans, too.

The bread offerings while you peruse the menu are amazing in their own right.

The dining room is tremendous.

And bustling.

We started with a salad to share, but we could hardly put a dent in it.

Our shared entree was chicken Marsala. It was just fantastic. But, again, we couldn’t finish it. We would have taken it back to the hotel with us, but we were headed to a matinee.

“War Paint,” starring Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole, is about the feud between cosmetics magnates Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. It was wonderful.

Our friends already were there! Front row, Lezah and Burke Pinnell and Jane Creed, right. Back row, Karen and Brooks Clark, center, and Jeffery Stanley and David Byrd.

More friends. From left, Caroline and Rosemary Gilliam, Patricia Shallow, Liz Stowers and John Gill.

Lapone, left, and Ebersole leaving the stage. (You’re not allowed to take photos at Broadway plays. So, if I’m ever going to do it, I wait until the very end so if I get kicked out, I won’t have missed anything! Works at concerts, too. Just saying.)

After the matinee, a few folks suggested we go have a drink at The Plaza Hotel. We were game, of course.

We passed this pop culture icon at 1359 Avenue of the Americas.

When we arrived at Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, we found, from left, Lyle Irish, Jeffrey Stanley and David Byrd already in The Champagne Bar right off the lobby.

We waited until tea service was finished in The Palm Court and then we moved into that beautiful space.

Then, we departed for a nap!

Batard, opened in 2014 and earning “best new restaurant” accolades, is at 239 W. Broadway in TriBeCa.

Here’s the dining room. It’s smallish.

Margie and John went with us, again. They are very open to new dining experiences.

Margie had a drink called “Ol’ Dirty Batard!”

I ordered this appetizer: octopus pastrami. It’s sliced octopus tentacles prepared with pastrami spices. And it was fabulous.

Amish chicken with cauliflower, morel mushrooms and heirloom carrot.

Crispy dorade with roasted shrimp, fennel and shellfish nage, which is a poaching liquid.

Farfalle ragu with shortribs.

Duck breast got rave reviews.

Margie knew from the moment she sat down that she wanted rhubarb tart for dessert.

Cocoa espresso mousse with toasted milk ice cream.

Some of us had port with dessert. Yum-yum.

Delicious little figgy take-aways.

One final note. The Clarence Brown Theatre often books us into the InterContinental Times Square, which we really like. It’s in the heart of the Theater District and right across the street from legendary jazz club, Birdland. Also, it has a convenient and comfortable bar in the lobby which also serves excellent food: The Stinger Cocktail Bar and Kitchen by celebrity chef Todd English.

I loved the flatbread there.

And the shrimp dumplings.

The hotel also boasts beautiful flowers throughout.

Trust us on this. Sign up!


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13 Responses to Clarence Brown Theatre annual trip to New York City: octopus pastrami, chocolate soup (oh, and plays!)

  1. Monique Anderson, on July 17th, 2017 at 1:13 pm said:

    OMG! I want to go.

  2. Brooks Clark, on July 17th, 2017 at 2:58 pm said:

    What a great time! A great reason to be a member of the Clarence Brown Theatre Society!

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on July 17th, 2017 at 3:03 pm said:

    Monique: You all should go on this trip with us next year!

    Brooks: You are so right!

  4. Allyn Purvis Scwartz, on July 17th, 2017 at 3:04 pm said:

    Monique, me, too!!

  5. Deb DiPietro, on July 17th, 2017 at 3:17 pm said:

    I am always so hungry after reading your blog! So sorry we missed the trip this year.

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on July 17th, 2017 at 3:29 pm said:

    Allyn: You need to join us, as well!

    Deb: I’m always hungry after writing it! I hope you all can go next year. It’s so much fun when you are along.

  7. Pat Ball, on July 17th, 2017 at 5:07 pm said:

    I want to go!

  8. Joan Ashe, on July 17th, 2017 at 8:18 pm said:

    The food looks fantastic. Happy Martha could meet up with you, you’re her favorites. Also very glad you didn’t have the same travel travails as last year!

  9. Sara Rose, on July 17th, 2017 at 8:51 pm said:

    Me, too!

  10. Cynthia Moxley, on July 17th, 2017 at 8:59 pm said:

    Joan: We love Martha and always enjoy being with her!

    Pat and Sara: Join the Clarence Brown Theatre Society and come along! We’ll have so much fun!

  11. Georgiana Vines, on July 19th, 2017 at 1:40 pm said:

    It was fun reliving this trip. Want to try out some of the places where you had dinner. Next year!

  12. Donna Davis, on July 24th, 2017 at 5:41 pm said:

    We get to New York often because I have family there. Because I have family there we rarely get to go to the restaurants. After reading your review we are going to sneak into the city just to go to restaurants you wrote about. We were with the group last year for the CBT trip and really regret that we missed it this year. Hope to see you next year.

  13. Cynthia Moxley, on July 24th, 2017 at 6:54 pm said:

    Georgiana: Absolutely, next year!

    Donna: I am so happy ro read your comment! The food is one of the main reasons we love going to NYC. I don’t want you to miss it. Please let me know what you think if you visit any of these eateries.

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