The New York Diet

Theater Legend Joel Grey Accepts Keith McNally’s ‘Gifts to New York’

Breakfast at Pastis puts actor and photographer Joel Grey
Breakfast at Pastis puts actor and photographer Joel Grey “in a good mood.” Photo: Melissa Hom

Joel Grey’s theater career spans 50 years; he most recently played the Wizard of Oz in Wicked (2003), but is legendary for winning a Tony in 1966 and an Academy Award in 1972 (beating Al Pacino in The Godfather) for his role as the emcee in Cabaret on Broadway and in film. He’s been on TV too, with roles on Oz, Alias, and Private Practice. In June, Grey published his third photography book, 1.3 Images From My Phone, inspired by a weekend trip without his regular Nikon 25 millimeter. “When you’re acting, you think about color, you think about shape and about size, and the stage is very much like a picture so it’s a very easy transition for me,” he explains. Not surprisingly, the creative spirit is still enamored with New York and specifically the West Village, where he lives and fills up in this week’s New York Diet.

Saturday, July 4
The night before I had completely overdone eating. I went to Daniel Boulud’s new restaurant, DBGB, and had the “piggy burger” with pulled pork. I thought “wow, this is going to be too rich.” It was one of the greatest burgers I’ve ever tasted. I had great sausages too: The Beaujolais and the Viennoise, those were my favorites. I had a beer; I don’t even know what it was. I’m not a big alcohol person. That was Friday night, so Saturday I thought, “I’m going to keep it healthier and simpler.”

I started the day with Shredded Wheat, Ronnybrook All Natural Creamline Milk, fresh California yellow peaches, and a Nespresso macchiato, which I have every morning. I use the strongest pod called Ristretto.

For lunch, I had some yogurt and berries at home. I like Oikos, made by Stonyfield Farms, plain. And I took Miguelito, my dog, for a long walk. The name means Mickey in Spanish; he’s a Chihuahua. I came home and did some editing of some new photographs, spoke to my kids on the phone, and other pals, and then I decided to stay in. I made a Campari and fresh orange juice and I marinated a chicken thigh in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil — a great olive oil from California called Katz Rockhill Ranch — fresh garlic, sea salt, and ground pepper, and broiled it. I only like dark meat. I cook a couple of times a week, usually something very simple, like this. When I walked the dog this morning we stopped at a farm stand in Jackson Square and I got a mix of greens and made a dressing with the same oil, Champagne vinegar, some honey, and garlic, again. For dessert: peaches with Cool Whip light. When I’m at home and I’m being careful with calories, I like it.

Then we walked to Hudson River Park and watched the fireworks.

Sunday, July 5
Sunday morning I read parts of the Times, and around 10 a.m., I walked through the Village to Morandi, another one of Keith McNally’s gifts to New York. It was the greatest day; so beautiful. I took the dog because of the great outdoor area and I had my cappuccino and an order of fazzoletti, a pasta handkerchief filled with sweetened ricotta and surrounded by blackberries and blueberries. I have something to admit: Breakfast, brunch, could be my favorite meal. Pancakes, waffles, sticky buns, croissants, pain au chocolat, lox, eggs, and onions — a good breakfast always puts me in a good mood. I have five places close to my house that I sort of rotate: Pastis, of course. It opened seven years ago when I moved into this building and I had no kitchen. I’d have breakfast there every day. I was often the only customer. Not anymore. The next one that opened was Café Cluny, then Morandi, and most recently I like Cookshop.

Then I watched Wimbledon. Since I had a big breakfast, I didn’t need lunch. I just had a hard-boiled egg, I think.

For dinner, I met pals at Cipriani in Soho. I hadn’t been there in years, [and] forgot how good-looking the room is. I had veal Milanese, an arugula and tomato salad, and decaf espresso. I didn’t see a soul that I knew. I think these people that go there, I think they fly in from Milan just for dinner.

Monday, July 6
On Monday morning: cappuccino, rye toast with bread from Le Pain Quotidien, and a fresh peach.

I had a business lunch at Pastis. I had an artichoke vinaigrette, an espresso, and we split an apple tart three ways.

For dinner on Monday, hmmm. Oh! Of course! The reason I can’t remember is I pigged out on Mexican food. I don’t want to remember that. Every once in a while you get a feeling for something, a taste, and Mexican food is one of those things. Beans and rice, chicken tamales, enchiladas, a cheese-and-jalapeño quesadilla — I ate it all. I brought it home from Tortilla Flats.

Tuesday, July 7
Tuesday morning I had some Shredded Wheat and I went uptown. I had one of those soft ice creams from the truck, dipped in chocolate, and I ate half.

Then I went to a friend’s house for dinner. They served roast chicken, little new potatoes, zucchini, strawberries and blueberries macerated in lemon juice with sugar, and I had a glass of white wine.

Wednesday, July 8
Wednesday morning: shredded wheat, cappuccino, and a banana.

I did Pilates and stopped in at Whole Foods; I was out of peaches. You know, there’s just a few months when they’re really wonderful, so I have one almost every day. I picked up a shrimp California roll, took it home, had it with some apple juice. And I had a snack: a Fuji apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter.

For dinner, I went to the Standard with a friend. Oh my God. I didn’t see Anna Wintour or Gael Greene, either, but it’s quite a scene, very chaotic. I had a Caesar salad and roast chicken for two, which was completely delicious. I mean, really, one of the best chickens, and great fries. We shared rhubarb pie and ice cream for dessert and walked the whole thing off on the High Line. It was the first time I went at night. Boy, is New York lucky. What a gift to the city. Don’t you love it?

Thursday, July 9
This morning I had rye toast with apricot jam and a cappuccino.

For lunch, I had a big red heirloom-tomato sandwich with mayonnaise and salt. That’s it. Pure tomato. It was great, too.

Theater Legend Joel Grey Accepts Keith McNally’s ‘Gifts to New