The New York Diet

Mad Men’s Bryan Batt Is a Connoisseur of Cobb Salads

Bryan Batt has an iced tea at Caffe Grazie.
Bryan Batt has an iced tea at Caffe Grazie. Photo: Melissa Hom

“I loved working on that show so much,” said actor Bryan Batt of his star-making turn as Sal on Mad Men. His use of past tense is ominous for the hordes of fans mourning Sal’s apparently permanent departure from the show, but for Batt (who notes, optimistically, that “Matthew Weiner said ‘we don’t kill people on Mad Men’”), it means more time for everything else in his life. Besides acting, he’s a furniture designer; the owner of Hazelnut, a home-goods shop in New Orleans; and a memoirist — his “very Auntie Mame, Steel Magnolias” book of stories about his mom, She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother, comes out in May. He couldn’t be happier with the multi-hyphenate lifestyle: “I think it’s fun to diversify and do other things. So many people put you in a category and decide what you’re going to do. I like to have a little control over my own life.” After a month of food-centric celebrations — the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras among them — Batt put himself on a weight-loss regimen. See if he sticks to it in this week’s edition of the New York Diet.

Friday, March 5
I had two cups of coffee with skim milk and artificial sweetener. I alternate with sweeteners, it’s usually the yellow one, Splenda — I’ve been Sweet & Low forever, but I recently switched to Splenda because it’s supposed to be healthier. I did an egg-white-and-onion omelette. I fixed that at home in New Orleans.

My partner and I have a store called Hazelnut, down on Magazine Street, and down the block there’s a wonderful Whole Foods. I like to go through and do the tastings, which I call doing the Stations of the Cross. And they have a wonderful tekka roll, it’s spicy salmon with brown rice, which I picked up for lunch. I use a low-sodium soy sauce with that.

That afternoon I had a little snack of toasted almonds, and through the day I had at least three or four iced teas and a few Tabs. I love the old Tab.

My best friend Chuck and his wife Margaret live in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, about an hour-fifteen, hour-twenty drive away. Their daughter was playing the lead in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. When we got there, there was a seafood bacchanal, since it was a Friday during Lent. I had a few boiled crabs, at least a dozen raw oysters, and a bowl of gumbo. I hadn’t seen them in a long time. That was great fun.

Saturday, March 6
I flew to New York, but before I left I had, of course, two cups of coffee, and four little thin slices of smoked turkey.

I had a lovely chef’s salad at the airport which I brought on the plane, along with a fat-free dressing. I also had two little packs of peanuts on the plane. I had a Diet Coke.

That night I kind of crashed a dinner party that my friends invited me to, and as it turned out, it was with some friends of mine that I did Cats with years ago, Johnny Anzalone and George Smyros. I stayed on my diet as much as I could — crudités with guacamole, they had a lovely kale and jicama with sautéed shrimp, baked salmon with mango chutney, a pepper-and-sausage thing. I did not have the polenta.

Sunday, March 7
I had Fage Greek yogurt with a scoop of Smucker’s sugar-free preserves, and I went down the street and I had a venti skinny latte from Starbucks. Once in a blue moon I’ll treat myself.

I had little meals throughout the day — a little lean hamburger patty, chicken breast with egg whites.

That night I went to the Lincoln Center Oscar party. I had two little caviar hors d’oeuvres and a small little plate of the beef and chicken kebabs, and that was it. I did have a glass of wine that night, but I’m trying to stick to this Lent thing, plus alcohol has so many empty calories. You get a nice little buzz from it, but I’d rather have a pork chop. It’s not the same euphoria, but it’s comparable.

Monday, March 8
I had another venti skim latte, and the same yogurt with sugar-free preserves.

For lunch I was at Caffé Grazie — it’s really lovely, it’s not pretentious, it’s just really good Italian fare. I had a little bowl of the most delicious minestrone soup, which was great, and I had a tropical salad with grilled chicken which had hearts of palm and just this wonderful dressing, so that was great too. I had iced tea, and a sweetened cappuccino at the end.

That night I hosted a benefit for the Play Company. It was at the American Airlines Theater penthouse, which is a really interesting, beautiful space for an event. They had all theses great chefs, and I had a chicken pot pie, but I took the pie part off, and a couple little dollops of a tuna tartare. I had a few Swedish meatballs, and I splurged and had one chocolate and mint brownie from Gramercy Tavern, made by the wonderful pastry chef Nancy Olson, which was amazing. She just loves Mad Men and we had a wonderful conversation. Love that mint brownie.

Tuesday, March 9
Another Fage yogurt and another venti cappuccino. I was filming Ugly Betty, so when I got there they made me a turkey-and-cheddar egg-white omelette.

I shot two segments of Emeril Lagasse’s new show. I’ve known him for years because he started in New Orleans. While I was waiting, I had a wonderful little Cobb salad from I don’t know where, plus the bacon from my publicist’s Cobb salad. On the show we made and I tasted — though not a lot — this lobster stew, which was absolutely incredible. It had a lot of cream, and milk and lobster and paprika and onions — it was just fantastic. He called it a JFK lobster stew, and then they had drinks accompanying that. We made pasta primavera, too, and I didn’t have that, but I did have a Manhattan with the lobster stew and a tequila sunrise. You just can’t refuse when you’re on a television show.

That evening there was a screening of one of the episodes of Mad Men at the Screen Actors’ Guild, and there was a talk back with all the people who came to see it. Before I went on it was crudités with cheese. No crackers.

Wednesday, March 10
In the morning I didn’t have anything else in my fridge but egg whites, so I had a plain egg-white omelette and two cups of coffee

I was at Lionsgate [the studio behind Mad Men] and they ordered a lot of Cobb salad. I’m boring — lots of Cobb salad, coffee, and egg whites. I went home after and changed and went to 21, to the Harbor Room. It was a launch for the new Orion Expedition Cruises, a wonderful cruise line out of, I think, Australia. I had a really good crab cake, tons of wonderful lump crab meat, and then one of the best filet mignons I’ve ever had. You could cut it with your fork. I love it rare; I love any meat rare. I had some beautiful haricot vert with that.

I met up with some friends afterward who I hadn’t seen in a while, and we went to Five Napkin Burger. I didn’t get a hamburger, I got a spicy tuna roll, though I usually get the hamburger salad, which is quite wonderful.

Mad Men’s Bryan Batt Is a Connoisseur of Cobb Salads