Dara writes:

I submit to dining at that chestnut of meatpacking milieus, Pastis, Keith McNally's French bistro on 13th and Hudson, (only) because my cousin works down the street. But actually I love McNally's creations--from the ginger iced tea at Balthazar to the toffee pudding at Schiller's--and think he does an expert job with city restaurants.

Just when my cousin and I sit down, in comes, yes, the hunk who uttered those now-famous words in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, Jake Gyllenhaal. Whoa, right? As I'm telling cuz about it, he saunters over and sits right next to us.

My cousin and I were supposed to have a serious talk and 'twas a tad tough to concentrate thereafter. He ordered sardines and mentioned to his companion--who also looked familiar and seemed, in his seriousness and absence of hunkishness, to be a director or writer--that she'd stayed at his place all week. She going unnamed.

Director/writer and I each ordered the chicken palliard, which I recommend. The frisee on top is dressed just right with vinegar and salt, and the kitchen sprinkles crispy fried shallots on top.