Category Archives: Vanity Fair

La Grenouille

La Grenouille 3 East 52nd Street

The number of things my mother Georgann Rea did right as a mother could be counted on one hand with fingers to spare (for cocktail rings probably) but one of them was taking Robbie and me, at seven, eight and nine years old, to restaurants — very very good restaurants.  

Her role as a young, glamorous trophy wife to a wealthy older man (my stepfather Oliver Rea) demanded she be seen in all the best places and sometimes with children in tow to prove that she was not just some piece of white trash with great figure and a certain je ne sais quoi men found irresistible. 
And while normally she was not above using threats of violence, destruction of prized possessions or limiting visits with our father to get us to do things she wanted and behave as she saw fit, none of these tactics was necessary at places like La Grenouille.  

Despite its funny name–“Frog?  Why would you name a restaurant frog!?” –the exquisite, jewel box of a restaurant with its elegant patrons and severe waiters demanded decorum even from little girls who may have spent the morning digging for worms in Central Park or running around the apartment screaming like wild animals (provided Mother was out which, of course, she almost always was).  

Naturally, all of the hushed politeness and pretty table settings didn’t stop me from trying to order a hot dog.  But it did make hearing that that would not be possible from the handsome waiter not so bad and trying Clams Corsini even better and realizing that a chocolate souffle makes even the most wonderful chocolate cake seem like a brownie the best of all.

La Grenouille was opened in 1962 by Charles Masson and is one of the few temples of classic French cuisine from its mid-50s to early-70s heyday left in New York City.  Charles McGrath did a wonderful piece on it in the September 2008 issue of Vanity Fair and you may follow the link to read it.