Thursday, April 10, 2008

Au Revoir, Chez Laurence

A few weeks ago on Friday March 21st, Chez Laurence, a little restaurant on Madison Avenue favored by many librarians, closed its doors for the last time. Even to me, a relative newbie at NYPL, it was a rather upsetting day and to the older librarians who had been going for years, it was heartbreaking. While its prices were in keeping with the times, some of Chez Laurence's menu offerings were remarkably atypical of current Manhattan restaurants. With sandwiches like Mackerel and Grated Carrot or Sardine with Cream Cheese, eating at Chez Laurence felt like going back in time so that at any moment Kay Leiland Strong (Vassar class of '33) might walk in for a cup of coffee.

On its second to last day, I stopped in for breakfast, a take-out breakfast of coffee and a croissant. People were lining up for their morning fix saddened that in a few days they'd be forced to join the masses at Starbucks and Pret a Manger. When I went back that Friday - their last day - and secured the Chez Laurence menu for the Library's menu collection, regulars were on line for pastries stunned that the restaurant wouldn't be open for dinner that night.

With its French decor, Polish waitresses, and tinned fish sandwiches - is there any restaurant in New York that serves a mackerel sandwich? - Chez Laurence will be a greatly missed midtown destination, especially to those of us working at this great New York cultural institution.

And while I don't have the recipe for Chez Laurence's sardine sandwich, I will subject myself to potential ridicule (in case I haven't already...) by posting a family-favorite sardine recipe. Some may call it a spread, others might appreciate the term pâté, but at home we've always just called it Sardine Dip.

Sardine Dip
(courtesy of Claire Federman. All measurements are approximate and to taste)

1 tin of sardines, reserve liquid
Philadelphia cream cheese, about 1-2 tablespoons
French's yellow mustard (or Dijon if you must), 1 to 2 teaspoons
lemon juice, about 1 teaspoon
salt and pepper

Pulse in a food processor or "mini prep". Spread on bread or crackers.


Megan said...

I love Automat. A big Hopper exhibit is at the Art Institute in Chicago, and I just saw it two weeks ago. That was my favorite.

Elizabeth said...

I can't believe it closed - I didn't know! The tuna salad on brioche was inspired. And I loved the little rickety marble-topped tables and the salty waitstaff who would (grudgingly) let you sit for hours as your coffee went stone-cold in the old-school Buffalo china teacups.

Deborah Dowd said...

It is such a shame when a favorite place closes- thanks for sharing the sardine dip- I think I have had something like that. It will be a great addition to my tapas night spread!