These days, you can’t eat in a neighborhood restaurant without having a special occasion break out at a table near you. It could be a piercing round of “Happy Birthday” or it could be the passing of gifts at a graduation dinner, but it’s these kinds of events that, before the economic downturn, used to be celebrated at special-occasion restaurants. So it’s refreshing to see a family that still has a sense of occasion. That family would be the Clintons, and their choice of place to celebrate the holiday weekend would be South Gate on Manhattan’s Central Park South (which I suppose qualifies as a neighborhood place if you have a particularly appealing zip code). They were all there, having a great time: Bill, Hillary, Chelsea, assorted friends and a sea of Secret Service—who, it’s comforting to know, drink a lot of water and soda but don’t eat on the job. The Clintons mixed up the luxe buffet with some items from the menu (HRC wondered if chef Kerry Heffernan did “South Beach mashed potatoes”—i.e., mashed cauliflower—and he promised he’d have it for her next time). Instead, she dug into roasted rutabaga, while Bill went nuts for the butternut squash flan. “He was so sweet and accommodating,” said Heffernan, who as a head's up for anyone who wants to recreate the Clinton brunch, notes that those items are now moving to the dinner menu. Bill—along with Hillary and Chelsea—was looking exceedingly trim, and that might be why the person next to me sounded awestruck when he noted that Bill hit the buffet table at least three times. Which makes the most economic sense—the current brunch menu is $65, and that’s actually a great deal for Central Park South, especially if you’ve got such a great view of the Clintons. Come 2009, there will be even better deals at South Gate, including a tavern menu and more gently priced lunch and brunch menus. Let's see if the Clintons go back for that.
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