Thursday, September 11, 2008


It was hard to decide what was more spectacular: the food or the view from the high, vaulted windows of the restaurant.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were having dinner with my parents and the Other Elisson. It was summer of 1978 - late in the season, if I recall correctly - and we had been married a little over a year.

We did not know it at the time, but SWMBO was already with child, the embryonic Elder Daughter a nascent Bun in the Oven, mere days old.

For the life of me, I cannot remember what I had to eat that evening. I do, however, recall the sommelier visiting our table to discuss the wine list. The place was noted for its extensive selection, as well as for its unusual policy of marking their wines up only 100% above retail, rather than the 200-300% then prevalent in most high-end restaurants. Their philosophy was to price the wines as reasonably as possible, thus opening the wine-drinking experience to a greater proportion of their diners...and, in the end, selling a lot more wine.

My dad - Eli, hizzownself - had to have his fun. He asked the sommelier whether anybody ever asked for Ripple...whereupon the sommelier disappeared into the kitchen for a moment, returning with a bottle wrapped carefully in a towel. It was Thunderbird, favorite of winos and derelicts, and on its label, someone had carefully inscribed (in blue ball-point pen) the vintage: August 1978. A good month, we all agreed, and laughed.

Kevin Zraly, that very same sommelier, would eventually go on to a very successful career. According to Robert W. Parker (no slouch himself in the world of Wine Mavernry), today Zraly is “arguably the best known wine educator on earth.”

As we enjoyed our wine - not, sorry to say, the Thunderbird - and the superb food, we drank in the spectacular view. Our seats were right up against the windows, and we had a clear panoramic vista of Manhattan as the sun sank slowly in the West, from the Brooklyn Bridge (practically below our feet, or so it seemed) to the distant towering spires of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings to the green rectangle of Central Park.

From our vantage point 107 stories up, we could see three states.

It was a magical evening, that dinner at Windows on the World, one never to be repeated. But it still shines in our memories.

Windows on the World, alas, is no more. It was destroyed seven years ago today when the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. Seventy-three restaurant employees perished that morning, along with at least eighty-seven hundred sixty souls out of the 2,974 victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Windows on the World

Windows on the World. Ave atque vale.

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