The Grub Street Diet

Molly Ringwald Loves Prune and Pappy Van Winkle

"I went to Café Cluny downtown and chowed down on steak frites." Photo: Noah Fecks

“I’ve had a number of personal trainers who have tried to get me to write down what I eat, and I never manage to do it,” says Molly Ringwald. “This was good to see. I’m not very good at eating on a regular basis.” The actress, author, singer, and sporadic eater is in town for a run through October 18 at the Café Carlyle, performing songs off last year’s jazzy debut Except Sometimes (which includes a cover of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” for you Breakfast Club fans). A self-described “New Yorker who happens to be living in California right now,” Ringwald documented this week a life of family meals, ukulele playing, and a backup plan for what to do when there’s not enough food at Alan Cumming’s book party. Read it all ahead in this installment of the Grub Diet.  

Friday, October 3
My only real morning ritual is coffee. And if for whatever reason I don’t get the coffee, it’s sad. Sad for me, sad for anyone that comes within a ten-mile radius of me. This morning I had my coffee with an English muffin, with peanut butter and Greek honey brought back from Greece by my husband, who is Greek. It actually says “Greek honey,” and it has a big hunk of honeycomb in it.

After yoga it was lunch at Gjeilina on Abbott Kinney, a restaurant in Venice that’s just amazing. They do really simple stuff, like heirloom tomatoes with sea salt, olive oil, radishes, red onion, and basil. That doesn’t sound very fancy, but the tomatoes are incredible. And the salt just tastes better. I had that with ocean trout with goat cheese and radishes, wood-roasted cauliflower, and a glass of rosé Sancerre. They even make cauliflower taste good, which I never would have thought was possible.

Rice cake for a snack, then nothing until dinner. My husband made corn chowder, and we had that with bread. Every night we eat as a family. We do this thing called “Rose and Thorn,” but we make it “Thorn and Rose.” The thorn is the worst part of the day, and the rose is the best part of the day. It’s just a way to check in. That’s kind of our tradition.

Saturday, October 4
I have to say, even though they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I never really want to eat in the morning. But I always try to eat something before I work out, so I stopped at Starbucks for coffee and a spinach wrap with feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s the one thing I find at Starbucks that’s actually okay.

After yoga I had my go-to: apple, celery, and carrot juice with ginger, then a late lunch with my husband and twins at Bossa Nova, a Brazilian place. We chose there because they have a big staple of what my kids will eat, which is rice and beans. I make beans, too, but they do something special to it — it tastes way better than what I do. I had rice and black beans, plantains, and the Bossa Nova chicken, which is kind of like a pounded chicken, and there’s something a bit vinegary on it — that doesn’t sound very good, but it’s actually really delicious.

That evening we hung out at home to get in some family time. I’ve recently started to show the kids classic movies. We just watched Funny Face, which they loved, and then we watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which I realized was so incredibly inappropriate to watch with my daughters. It was like “Don’t listen to anything they say!” I guess it was kind of a satire for the time, but it was a little embarrassing.

Sunday, October 5
Coffee, Greek yogurt with fruit, and a poached egg with toast.

My daughter and I are both learning the ukulele, and she likes to do this thing where we go on ukulele walks, just walking around the neighborhood playing the ukulele. Lunch was Caesar salad at home that my husband brought for me. It was not that great, but I do the thing that when somebody brings me food when it’s bad I’ll eat it anyway because I’m so appreciative of the fact that somebody brought it for me. So I got about halfway through. I couldn’t eat the whole thing.

Yoga, where after I had the same pressed juice as before, then dinner was chicken with asparagus salad cooked by my husband. I’m a good cook, but it takes me a long time and a lot of prep. I’m sort of like a fancy chef, so if we had dinner parties I’ll usually do the cooking. But in terms of feeding the family my husband is, like, the diner chef. He gets it on the table. Because he’s Greek his mom taught him how to cook, and his best stuff comes from that. He makes an amazing avgolemono soup, which is the Greek version of chicken soup. Everybody gets it whenever anyone’s sick.

Monday, October 6
Coffee. I got on a plane and didn’t bring anything to eat with me so I had to have awful plane food, this tapas thing that was processed. So I didn’t really eat that much, and when I got to New York I was absolutely starving, and I went straight to this book-launch party for Alan Cumming at the Spotted Pig.

You’d think they would have food at the party, but there was just like shoestring French fries and pickled vegetables, and I was like, ‘This is really a problem because I’m about to pass out from low blood sugar.’ So I ended up ordering the haddock chowder that was really delicious. I also had the blueberry pie, which was advertised to me as “kick-ass,” but it didn’t totally kick my ass. It was okay. But you know, it’s because my mom’s specialty is pastry—my mom is a professional chef—so because I grew up with a lot of great pies I’m really tough.

Tuesday, October 7
Nectar Café in the morning for coffee and a spanakopita with a Greek salad, my regular juice combo from a juice bar I passed on the street.

I was performing for the first time that night, and I never really eat a lot before. So after rehearsal I got a ham and cheese with cornichon sandwich at E.A.T., a place on Madison owned by the same people who own Zabar’s. I ate half of it and put the other half away and came back and got ready for my show with a little bit of sauvignon blanc.

I’m usually a wine drinker. I did some shows in the South recently, and somebody offered me some Pappy Van Winkle, and I was like, ‘No, I don’t really drink spirits, I’m a wine girl.’ But I tried it, and it was like, “Oh my God that’s amazing.” I talk about it so much I keep waiting for them to send me a bottle. But so far all I’ve gotten was a T-shirt. It’ll happen, right?

Wednesday, October 8
I woke up at 6 a.m. ravenous, ate the second half of my E.A.T. sandwich, then went back to sleep until 10:30. Then a cappuccino and yogurt with fruit, from a café on Madison.

There are so many great restaurants in New York, and I tend to go to places that I know. I’ve always really enjoyed Prune. The last time I was here was in January with my husband, and we were in the middle of that awful, awful winter, and we ducked in there because our hands and our feet were freezing. We ended up having an incredible experience because it was so cold outside, and it was so nice and cozy in there. It was the perfect meal.

Today I realized that it was colder outside than I thought it was going to be so I stepped into J.Crew and I bought a coat. (That’s one of my superpowers: I can shop incredibly fast. You can set me down anywhere on the earth, and I will be able to shop there.) Then after stopping by a shoot at NBC I went to Café Cluny downtown and chowed down on steak frites. I picked the place because it’s familiar, and I think it’s pretty. It’s simple and easy.

Molly Ringwald Loves Prune and Pappy Van Winkle