Moscow 57

The salon is not just in Paris anymore. And it’s gone digital.

Gary Grenata of Slow Food New Orleans was hiking around Harlem in NYC, hungry, he heard music and figured where there’s music, there’s food. New Orleanian thinking.

He followed the sound to the Urban Garden Center under the tracks of the Metro-North train in Manhattan. Gary didn’t need any more persuading, but the beautiful blond beckoning him in sealed the deal. He didn’t expect a tango class or cuisine from Uzbekistan in the bargain!

It was a love match for the outgoing Grenata, equally outgoing Ellen Kaye, who grew up on W. 57th Street, daughter of the owners of the world renowned Russian Tea Room, and her partners in party crime, chef Seth Goldman and musician Ethan Fein. Seth and Ellen were college friends from the Theatre Department of Sarah Lawrence College. Seth gave up a career as an artists’ rep that began at the William Morris Agency to go to cooking school at the French Culinary Institute. Ellen’s singing career started at 12 years old.

Together they created Moscow 57 Entertaining, an entertainment company on the road to opening Moscow 57, the restaurant in downtown Manhattan, which will feature Russian Central Asian food (from a New Yorker’s perspective) and great live music. M57 catering is a knocked out way to host an exotic dinner party. You set your table and pretty yourself up, M57 does the rest.

Their pop-up restaurant hosts musicians, visual and performance artists, and visiting chefs, and they have plans to pop-up in Amsterdam and Paris. How can they have such outsized dreams? Better question; how can they not?

Why not host unknown artists and performers, a film and theater production company? Why not a mini music label? If the digital world has disrupted the old business models why not pop-up wherever you please? On the cover of YES! Magazine (Fall 2011) is a bike-pedaling owner of a soup delivery service who said NO to a corporate job. The Huffington Post ran a story on veterans training other returning vets to create sustainable city farms. Kickstarter says bring your ideas and if they’re good, they’ll be funded by the public. Occupy Wall Street is still speaking, albeit not just from Lower Manhattan but from Everywhere, USA and beyond.

I spent 2 days in the kitchen with the amiable Seth. Ellen wandered through from time to time to check on things and they frequently broke into song. Seriously you can take the kids out of the Theatre Department but you can’t take the Theatre Department out of the kids.

They were in New Orleans collaborating with Slow Food’s Grenata at a luncheon hosted by the New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation’s “prevent death by lifestyle” team.

In the house were about 40 women who live in the trenches of healthcare and advocacy in this city. Big Queen Reesie, curator of the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame, was there. Mardi Gras Queens and members of the Musicians Clinic nursing team Felice M. Guimont and Mama Jamilah (Jamilah Peters-Muhammad) were there, as were life coach, jazz singer, and recent transplant from Denmark Mikhala Iversen and Diane Hargrove Roberson from the LA Center for Health Equity. Each guest shared a bit of the work they do for the city, an inspiring collective effort.

HBO donated the DVD Weight of the Nation for each guest. The documentary addresses the fact that, as NOMAF President Bethany Bultman says, “the cheapest food you can get is the food that kills you.” Even if you can afford to shop at Whole Foods, the obesity of a nation is impacting your insurance rates. Governor Jindal has refused Federal Medicare dollars. He can afford to do this because every time someone goes to the Emergency Room or a diabetic has a leg amputated, the state receives a great deal of money, your tax dollars at work. It’s a sorry situation, and Bethany asked each woman at that luncheon on March 11th to do something positively to affect the health outcome of 11 other women. (My neighbor and I started doing 10 pushups a pushups!)

If we want to live in a less dangerous city, want our insurance premiums to go down to a reasonable level, and want a great education system, it’s in all our best interest to get to our kids and families early and make good food affordable and available.

Meantime, back at the luncheon, Seth served platters of exotic Russian cuisine. He’d driven down from New York with spices you’d more likely find in Central Asia than the deep South: dried rose petals, pistachio paste, and ground sumac that were used in the Moscow 57 Samarkand Salad. Yogurt infused with these spices was like nothing I’ve ever tasted. I’m still thinking about it 2 weeks later. We had a dish of popcorn rice with apricots, dates, raisins, red beans and saffron, and M57 sweet bulgur salad with pomegranate, oranges and mint.  It was all divine.

A group of hardworking ladies, everyday givers, got a whole lot of something delicious in return, all because serendipity intervened; Gary Grenata was hungry and hiking in Harlem, and hearing music, and tents and performers were each making magic.

Carol Pulitzer is an award-winning writer and illustrator. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Food & Wine Magazine, and Country Living among others. She writes and illustrates super short stories at her Little Theatre blog and can be contacted at

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