I had an inadvertent Seinfeldian weekend in New York, beginning with a surprise performance by the comedian himself. Jerry Seinfeld was the headliner on a show that was part of the christening celebration for Disney’s Cruise Line’s new ship, the Fantasy. DCL chose New York as the site of the christening instead of the usual -- and more logical -- Port Canaveral to tout that beginning in summer, 2012, Disney will have a cruise ship based in New York City. That ship will be one of the older vessels, the Magic -- the Fantasy is based at Port Canaveral.
Booking Seinfeld for the show, which was emceed by Neil Patrick Harris, was brilliant: it’s hard to imagine anyone more quintessentially New York (even though most of the Seinfeld episodes were filmed in Los Angeles). Many New York businesses -- especially restaurants -- were made famous by the show. Or infamous, sometimes.
I was reminded of one the day after the christening when I went down to the financial district to check out Earl’s Court, a new project by Orlando’s Robert Earl. Earl’s Court, as many of you know (and as those of you who will be joining me in London this summer will learn) is an area of London, as well as a main Tube stop. The logo for Earl’s Court in New York is a stylized version of the London Underground’s signage.
EC’s slogan is “the food court, re-imagined,” and it features a modicum of food options. There is, of course, Earl of Sandwich, the concept Earl owns in partnership with Lord john Montagu, the current holder of the title, and Montagu’s son Orlando. There’s also sushi and cupcakes, because New Yorkers still have this inexplicable obsession with cupcakes.
But there’s also a section for a business called The Original Soupman. Seinfeld trivia aficionados will recognize that as the name of the soup stand that gave rise to the episode known as “The Soup Nazi.” The owner of the Original Soupman was Al Yeganeh, who was known to have strict rules for anyone in his store. In the sitcom’s episode, an actor portraying someone based on Yeganeh scowled at all and barked “no soup for you” to anyone who broke one of his rules, or otherwise displeased him.
Yeganeh licensed the name and recipes several years ago, though his unsmiling face is the face of The Original Soupman franchises. I had the corn chowder, a hearty soup for the cold Manhattan day outside. It had a thick broth and plenty of crunchy corn kernels. Not sure I’d stand in a long line for it -- when the Original Soupman reopened after a long hiatus, 100 people were said to have been waiting in line -- but it was good nonetheless.
It would be easy to break rules at Earl’s Court, if there are any rules. Apparently, sandwiches and sushi are ordered from one particular counter, but if you want soup, you just step up and ask the fellow behind the tureens to serve you. And, for the record, the young man dishing out the soups was very nice.
Earl’s Court is at 90 John St., New York, and the entrance is difficult to spot. The interior is pleasantly industrial. Here’s a link to the Earl’s Court website.
I was staying on the Upper West Side this trip, and while strolling up Columbus Avenue I saw a charming little restaurant called Pomodoro Rosso. I peeked inside and saw that it was your stereotypical little Italian cafe, with red-and-white checkered tablecloths, dried vines for decorative accents and a mural of an Italian coastal city. It wasn’t until I had decided that I wanted to grab a bite there that I learned it, too, has a Seinfeld connection.
The little cafe was known on the show as the place to go to break off a relationship. Can’t really attest to that, but it’s a place I plan to go back to regardless of my love life. On this visit, I stopped in only for an appetizer and glass of wine before heading to the airport. I had mozzarella pomodoro basilico, which featured fresh mozzarella and thick, meaty slices of tomatoes with big tangy basil leaves. With a basket of crusty Italian bread and plenty of olive oil, it was a feast. Terrific service, too. It’s at the top of my list to visit on my next trip so I can have one of the big bowls of pasta with red sauce.
Pomodoro Rosso is at 229 Columbus Ave., New York. Here’s a link to the Pomodoro Rosso website (music alert - and even if you mute it, it will start playing again if you navigate back to the home page).
It was a fun few days making the Seinfeld connections -- not to mention seeing the comedian perform. But it’s nice to come back home where I am always master of my domain.
See also: Video of the Christening Celebration.