Brasserie Magritte is a loving homage to nearly everyone's favorite artist. The ceiling is a bright mural of clouds. There is a chandelier of floating bowler hats. Art on the walls includes work by a contemporary Belgian photographer that restages the paintings of René Magritte (1898-1967). Every detail is so charming, including the optical illusion placemats.
Chef Shohn Donaghy and the staff are from Belgium. Sausages are made on the premises. Mussels are steeped in a beer butter sauce and come with a cone of twice-fried crispy frittes, served with garlic mayonnaise as well as catsup. Belgian beef stew and rabbit and duck are in beer reductions. Brasserie Magritte regularly holds a mysterious 14 Strangers Dinner in its back room, with fourteen diners who have never met and an array of their classic Belgian dishes. (Our names are on the waiting list!) Background music is a carefully curated selection of mostly jazz and Edith Piaf. A massive chalkboard lists the Belgian beer served, each is served in its own exquisite stemmed glass. Significantly, Heineken cannot be ordered there. "There are just too many other great Belgian beers," said the manager.
A short walk from the Upper East Side Brasserie Magritte brought us to Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic church. No, not to pray, but to attend a traveling show based on the short but influential life of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897). St. Thérèse was born into an aristocratic family. Although she died at the age of twenty-four she left behind an influential autobiography and is known as the saint that writers evoke to cure writer's block. In sleepy St. Patrick's Cathedral, her small altar near the apse is a hive of activity with blocked writers of all faiths making offerings and kneeling to light a votive candle.
St. Thérèse is evoked by opponents of the death penalty for her radical belief that a person may do something bad, but it doesn't mean he's a bad person. She found evidence to prove that there is some good in everybody. Michel Pascal, a remarkable singer, offers a chance to touch her brown robe and to view up close a reliquary of Thérèse’s hair. He takes you behind the closed doors of her Carmelite convent and makes you feel "closer to her than you have ever felt before."