For years I’ve been hearing about the big, bountiful, beautiful breakfasts at Norma’s: the hotel dining room at the Parker-Meridien on West 57th Street in New York City. And while the experience was extremely pleasant and the food very good, the most outstanding part of the story was the orange juice! At first I thought it was a hustle. At $9 a glass, what was the deal? “Who wants juice?” our affable waiter sung out? (He looked a bit like Baryshnikov). With the grace of a dancer, he began pouring electric-looking orange liquid into three of our four extremely tall glasses. I declined, and chose instead to have juice for dessert — more about that later. After 30 minutes, the glasses were filled again, and 10 minutes later…again. Quickly I calculated that I was now $54 into the check and we hadn’t had anything yet to eat! Uh-oh, “here he comes again.” I didn’t want to seem ungracious (I was treating), but finally said, “Sir, uh, um, do you charge for each glass of juice?” “Oh no,” he said. “Refills are free.” Instant relief for me, then curiousity. Why would they do that? The juice was extraordinary tasting. It was though a crate of succulent Honeybells was squeezed into each glass. While it was the hospitality-equivalent of the unlimited “sweet tea” you encounter in the South, this orange elixir had to cost them a fortune. The food arrived…a PB&C Waffle ‘Wich (a chocolate waffle with peanut butter and toffee crunch filling), Artychoked Benedict (with truffle porcini sauce), Super Cheesy French Toast (with caramelized onions and applewood smoked bacon), and Normalita’s Huevos Rancheros and…more juice.
As I mentioned, I saved mine for dessert. One of my most memorable desserts in history was experienced in Barcelona. At a trendy neighborhood restaurant, chic customers order fresh orange juice for dessert, served in a wine glass and accompanied by a spoon. How simple, yet brilliant, to end a meal in such a vibrant, palate-cleansing way. It is especially memorable made with Honeybells (just coming up from Florida now) or with blood oranges. I call their flavor “nature’s Kool-Aid.” Either way, it’s an inspired, one-ingredient dessert, that’s hard to beat.
Although breakfast at Norma’s is very expensive (there is even Foie Gras French Toast for $34 and The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata for $100), if you do as I did, dessert is free. I drank the last glass of juice from one of my guests.
A Recipe for Electric Orange Juice
This recipe is one ingredient only. Each large orange yields about 1/2 cup juice so plan accordingly. Use navel oranges, Honeybells, or large blood oranges. (At this time of year, it’s delicious to add the juice of two tangerines.)
8 large oranges
Cut oranges in half and juice. Pour into wine glasses and serve with a spoon. Serves 4