Law & Order: SVU’s Tamara Tunie Likes the New Variety in Harlem

By
"Since Covo opened, my husband and I dine there at least once a week." Photo: Melissa Hom

Actor Tamara Tunie calls herself an "East Coast girl," and she’s had a steady career of “quality work” to keep her in New York. She spent two decades playing Jessica Griffin on As the World Turns and now appears regularly on Law & Order: SVU as Dr. Melinda Warner. A Harlem resident since 1983, Tunie had plenty to say about gentrification, and her husband’s cooking, in this week’s New York Diet.

Saturday, December 6
I love hot cereal, all kinds. So Saturday morning I had some oatmeal, and what I do is sauté some apples in a little butter and a little cinnamon and nutmeg and then I mix it into my oatmeal. I'm not a coffee drinker because my body is allergic, that's what I say. But I always start the day with a glass of orange juice. And my favorite tea — I'm a "tea-totaler" — is Good Earth, the original flavor. It's an herbal tea, and it's liquorice-y and cinnamon-y, so it's naturally sweet and you don’t have to put honey or sugar or anything in it.

For lunch, my mom had made some turkey soup. The turkey was left over from Thanksgiving. Pretty much like chicken soup. She's here visiting from Pittsburgh.

For dinner we had friends over, Christopher Meloni and his wife, Shermon, Eamonn Walker and his wife, Sandra, and our two friends Saul and Jeanine. And my husband, who is a fantastic chef, made dinner. It was a joint effort, but really he is the chef in our house. He's a jazz vocalist [Gregory Generet], but he has extraordinary self-taught culinary skills. So for dinner we started with crabmeat in a lobster bisque over puff-pastry tartlets. Second course: I made a tender baby spinach, fresh fennel, onion, and slivered almond salad with Champagne-honey-mustard vinaigrette. For the entrée, he does braised short ribs of beef with truffled mashed potatoes. And for dessert, I made a toffee-pudding cake with pecans and fresh whipped cream. As you can see, it was a low-cholesterol dinner. Our friends brought four delicious bottles of wine; Christopher is quite the connoisseur. Nothing after that. I try not to eat after nine, ten o' clock; that tends to keep the weight down.

Sunday, December 7
I got up and had my usual glass of juice. I was honorary chair for a charity on Madison called Miracle on Madison, which happens the first Saturday of December every year. Basically over 100 vendors agree to donate a portion of the proceeds of that day's sales to the Children's AIDS Society of New York. We had a little launch party at Calypso, so we had brunch there. Ivanka Trump was my honorary co-chair this year; she's lovely. I started with a little mimosa. I needed some hair of the dog from the dinner the night before. I had a bit of granola and plain yogurt with some fresh fruit.

I didn't have lunch because when we got home I was a little sleepy, so I took a nap. We're a big football house. I'm originally from Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Steelers were playing at four o'clock so we had to order a pizza, some Buffalo wings, and ginger ale. We watched football for the rest of the afternoon and evening. There's a fantastic place called Giovanni's on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, and they deliver to Harlem and they have the best pizza. I'm not going to say the best pizza in New York, but it's really up there.

Monday, December 8
Monday morning I had a bit of Maypo — that's going to be a flashback for some people — and I put some raisins in it, and my usual orange juice.

For lunch, I had some barbecued chicken wings left over from Giovanni, and then I made a spinach salad: spinach, onion, chopped-up boiled egg, and a little bit of bacon.

For dinner I had a delicious white-bean soup with some crusty, country bread. The Union Square farmer's market, that's where my husband goes to get the delicious fresh-baked bread. [The soup] had your basic mirepoix, some escarole, very hearty and delicious, with a bit of tomato.

Tuesday, December 9

I deviated; I had bacon and eggs with whole-wheat toast and a glass of orange juice.

I kind of skipped lunch that day. I think I had a pear at some point late in the afternoon to hold me over for dinner.

For dinner, we went out to Covo. A fantastic restaurant up here in Harlem. There's a new stretch of restaurants and clubs that have opened over by the West Side Highway near Fairway uptown. They're calling it the uptown meatpacking district. We have Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Hudson River Café, a Thai-Latin restaurant called Talay, there's Covo, which is an Italian eatery, and a fantastic restaurant and club called Body. I'm very pleased with the restaurants coming uptown. We need them. I don’t always want to go downtown to have a variety. Since Covo opened, my husband and I dine there at least once a week. I went right to the main course, and had a lemon chicken, almost like a piccata (but they didn't call it that): breaded chicken in a lemon sauce with capers and some large grilled asparagus. [For wine] they have a Montepulciano Abruzzo that I get there. I don’t have a really sweet tooth; my palate likes plain desserts. I like Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream. At Covo, they have a particularly delicious vanilla gelato. The serving is two scoops, but I tell them one scoop.

Wednesday, December 10
Wednesday morning, I had cream of rice with a little maple syrup and my orange juice.

I had lunch with my friend LaChanze, Tony award winner from The Color Purple. We stayed uptown, and we went to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. I mean, what are you gonna have? I had barbecue ribs, baked beans, and a bit of coleslaw. They have this root beer on draft, and I had that with it. We were decadent and did dessert. We split the Key-lime pie, which was so good.

For dinner? Lunch was so heavy. [But] there's a great theater-y restaurant called Café Un Deux Trois. We were in the theater district and walked over there. I had a bit of Champagne and an order of frites at the bar, just to nibble on.

Thursday, December 11
This morning I had a fruit smoothie: rice milk (I don’t do a lot of dairy), frozen strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, peaches, raspberries, and a bit of yogurt. We get a produce delivery from Urban Organics.