Permanent Brunch

What an absolutely simple and brilliant concept – all brunch, all the time. Permanent Brunch is the dream child of Lesly Bernard who has cleverly filled a void in the New York dining scene (more on this incredible upstart of the restaurant world later!). How often after a hard day do you think how wonderful and comforting breakfast for dinner would be – well, here it is – with huge portions, fabulous food, and attentive service.

Fork had the pleasure of sharing this culinary adventure with Piccalilli Fork, a piece of cutlery with whom many laughs and adventures were shared back in time while tines were still being forged and there wasn’t so much tarnish around the edges.

We met at Permanent Brunch on what turned out to be an unusually quiet Sunday afternoon. While the restaurant is not huge (it seats only 40), it did not feel cramped, we were not rushed at all during our nearly three hour brunch, and it is not overwhelmingly noisy. The music is great! There is a play list of about 20,000 sings. If you bring your iPhone of iPod Touch you can hook into their system and be the DJ for the day and pick all the music to be played. Truthfully, Fork was a little worried, the tables are very small and they are high tables that you have to sit on high chairs to reach. Fortunately the high chairs have backs and the banquets are comfortable. Under the banquets are railings and a shelf so there is a place for your things and feet. It is surprisingly comfortable.

Lesly Bernard did most of the work in the restaurant himself, including the handmade glass photo-tiles lining the walls. The photos are of New York City subway cars and subway stations where PB and Permanent Brunch were Photo Shopped in wherever MTA signage would be – very clever.

Our waiter – Ian – was so knowledgeable about the menu we were surprised to learn that he had only been working there for only a few weeks at the time of our visit. No matter what question we posed to him, he had the answer and suggestions that were spot on. Sadly, Permanent Brunch does NOT have iced tea, but their sodas are bottomless, as is the coffee and tea. Water glasses are huge and are constantly filled by a very attentive staff. For those wishing an alcoholic beverage, there are five different Bloody Marys,as well as mimosas and royaltons. We think there was wine, but it wasn’t on the menu nor were we offered a wine or cocktail list.

To start we ordered the basket of Baked Goods. This arrived with two chocolate chip muffins, two banana nut muffins and a biscuit. The baked goods change daily and depend on what has been baked for the day. Along with the baked goods was butter and a fruit jam. All selections are baked on the premises. The biscuits are seriously dry. Jam and butter saved them a little, but not enough for them to be considered good. The chocolate chip muffin had too many chips and made the chocolate overpowering. Sadly, both the chocolate chip and banana muffins were dry as well. It seemed a little odd to bring a table for two, two muffins of one type and two muffins of another type and only one biscuit, but that’s just one Fork’s opinion.  I must say, though, as an aside, there is a mac ‘n’ cheese starter that looks amazing – HUGE portion and two or three pieces of bacon on top and mixed throughout – a definite must try next visit!

Fork ordered the Fried Chicken and Waffles. Sadly, the waffle machine was on the fritz so the Fried Chicken and Waffles turned into being fried chicken and biscuits with gravy. Not too much of a disappointment – except the biscuits were dry, even with the gravy. If there had been more gravy, the biscuits might have been better. Everything else was so good, we decided to give them a pass on the terrible biscuits. Perhaps it was an off baking day.  The two pieces of chicken were huge, very moist inside and the seasoning on the outside was amazing and crisp. A very nice amount of spice and crunch. The gravy very savory and perfect with the biscuits, would have been better with the waffles, and there should have been more of it. The gravy was so good, Fork was tempted to pick up the plate and lick it clean, fortunately the biscuits were there to stop Fork from being embarrassed! Fork can only imagine how much better this would have been with waffles. This supposedly came with caramelized fruit, but there was none to be found. Truthfully, not really missed as this serving was enough for two pieces of cutlery much less one fork.

Piccalilli Fork ordered Ham & Cheese Stuffed French Toast. Hatfield smoked ham, white cheddar cheese, dijon maple jus and onion rings. The description almost seems as though these things would not go together. But they do go together and they go together perfectly. The sharpness of the cheddar cheese is softened by the sweetness of the French toast. The sweetness of the maple syrup is cut by the savoriness of the dijon mustard. A gigantic mountain of French Toast that you don’t want to stop eating until you reach the very bottom. For some reason someone felt the necessity to add two gigantic onion rings to this dish.  As good as they were, they are really not necessary.

The portions are so big! It’s almost a struggle to finish everything in front of you. Brunch is not necessarily good to take home to reheat later, so use caution when ordering! Especially if you order the mac ‘n’ cheese first!

One of the main attractions and draws at Permanent Brunch is the Bacon Bar. We have heard through the foodie mill that there are FIVE different types of bacon on the menu. This is one of the main reasons this place was on the adventure wish list. The day we were there the cutlery had a choice between three different bacons. Really, a bacon bar, can that possibly be bad!? We asked Ian if he had to pick only two of today’s bacon selections, which would he choose. We went with his choices and they were very good. We sampled the Meacham Hams traditional country bacon, hand rubbed and smoked (left) and the New Braunfel’s Smokehouse, Comal County, peppered bacon, hand rubbed with black peppercorns and hickory smoked. These were fantastic.  Ian described the Meacham as the filet mignon of bacon. He was right. Very meaty, very savory and smokey. Crisp. The Braunfel’s was peppery, but not overwhelmingly so. Fork’s only regret here was not trying the third which was a sweeter bacon. Definitely an excuse to go back again!

Now back to Lesly Bernard. He is the co-founder of Pravda and Clementine. Tillman’s cool jazz, fantastic grilled cheese and drinks is a gem in the middle of Chelsea. You are transported to another time and place while sitting there. There has recently been added Cantina Latina, latin inspired and hot, with a fabulous menu and drink selection. And, as if this weren’t enough, there is now Village Tart in Nolita – totally amazing. Each venue has it’s own style and voice. Each so special in its own way. The cutlery are really looking forward to eating our way through Mr. Bernard’s restaurants. Danny Meyer, watch out, Lesly Bernard is vying to be the king of the New York restaurant scene!

Permanent Brunch is open for Brunch on Saturday and Sunday and open for dinner and late night 7 days a week.

Permanent Brunch ~ 95 1st Avenue ~ NYC, NY ~ 212. 533.3511
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The Odeon

 

Fork and Filet Knife have not sat down for a meal in a very long time. There was a time when culinary adventures were our favorite thing in the world – but, as John Lennon said ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’.  The thing Fork likes best about old cutlery is the way things just pick up seamlessly and continue as though no time nor tarnish has gone by.

This is what brought us to Odeon.  In it’s hayday Odeon was the coolest place in Tribeca, and while it is now a little long in the tooth, Odeon is still a wonderful restaurant – is it a restaurant, a bistro, a grill, perhaps a tavern? What it definitely is is casual and still attracts a hip clientele. It has a very old-fashioned feel to it – the swinging doors to the kitchen and the wooden phone booths down near the rest rooms are great.

When we were first shown to our table the restaurant was empty so the table was fine. As the restaurant became more crowded every waiter and busboy that walked past our table banged into Fork’s chair. Every bang got Fork’s tines a little more twisted. A quick word with the lovely manager and our table was moved.

In between the laughing and talking we managed to order an appetizer.  We ordered Spicy Chicken Dumplings.  Fork wasn’t too sure what this was going to be. Spicy chicken dumplings with a Maytag blue cheese dipping sauce. But what arrived was amazing. They were little dumplings filled with what amounted to boneless buffalo chicken. They had a great spicy kick and the blue cheese dipping sauce turned out to be absolutely perfect. Sitting next to the dumplings was a little cool pile of vinegary slaw. Just the right bit of coolness to soothe the bote of the dumplings. Each dumpling was about a bite and half, Fork and Filet Knife thought they were a bit on the small side.

For a main course, Filet Knife ordered the House Made Rigatoni with braised short rib ragout and asiago cheese. The ragout itself was fantastic. Very smokey and flavorful. The asiago cheese, which can be overpowering, was a good compliment to the rich, heartiness o the braised short ribs. The only real problem with this dish was the pasta! It was a little too mushy. Yes, it was fresh pasta, and yes it is naturally softer, but this was too mushy.

Fork ordered the All Natural Angus Hangar Steak  served with confit potato, asparagus and béarnaise sauce.  The steak was beautiful. Beautifully cooked, beautifully presented and delicious. The béarnaise sauce was divine. The potato confit was very good (if you could find the two or three thin slices of potato), as were the asparagus. But somewhere on that plate, Fork is not sure where it came from, there was the saltiest thing ever. It was under everything. It was like opening a salt shaker and dumping it your mouth. Terribly off putting!

Now dessert. If dessert is good then your meal is good – usually. And this dessert was very good. It was a sophisticated Smore. A round disk of graham cracker crust, about 3″ wide and 1/2″ high, with a pool of chocolate on top, then a thick layer of marshmallow that’s been torched. Wowzer was it good! But, wait,  that’s not it! There was a scoop of hazelnut icecream with toasted hazelnuts underneath and another burnished marshmallow on the side. Do I wish I had the camera and a picture, you would all be drooling!

All in all a pretty terrific place. A little noisy and our waiter a little obnoxious. I suppose he thought we were the type of cutlery that were supposed to be impressed with Odeon and the fact that he works there. Yes, you work there. Do your job and keep the attitude in check, remember you work for tips.

Odeon ~ 145 West Broadway ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.233.0507
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Hill Country Barbeque

We apologise in advance for the lack of pictures. This was a last minute adventure. We’ll just have to go back again!

No fuss. No muss. No frills. Fabulous food. That’s what you get from Hill Country.  Hill Country is a mostly self serve restaurant in the Chelsea/Flatiron section of Manhattan. Texas BBQ in the heart of Manhattan. Fork and Spoon have been here a number of times, and will be back many, many times. This is the first time since we began chronicling our adventures.

As you first walk in there is a small bar area that is usually so crowded that you can barely walk up to the hostess station. The entire space is open, lots of tables. You are shown to your table and handed a card that sort of looks like miniature golf score card. You can order drinks from the waitress, everything else is cafeteria style.  The iced tea is not only bottomless, but it’s served in Ball mason jars. Not small Ball jars, mind you, but quart Ball jars!

One station has all the meats. There are pork and beef ribs, boneless prime rib, beef shoulder, pork chops, sausage, chicken, lean brisket and – what Fork and Spoon consider perfection on a fork – moist brisket. The meats are all fantastic. Everything is fresh. Because of the high turnover, nothing has a chance to sit around and dry out. All the meats are smoked low and slow over Texas post oak which is stacked against the walls all over the back of the restaurant. All the meats are sold by the pound and served on butcher paper.

Fork and Spoon have tried most of the meats, but the moist brisket is what we dream about, what makes us come back again and again. This past trip we ordered a pound – to start. It was gone in minutes. If you ask the fellows who slice the moist brisket to order for the end pieces they are more than happy to oblige. (And ladies, if you smile at them, they usually add a few extra pieces onto the paper AFTER it’s been weighed!)  You order, they slice and wrap, you hand them your card and they mark down what you ordered. There is white bread and crackers at the counter for those who feel the need, but Spoon and Fork don’t want to waste a single bit of appetite on anything but moist brisket.

Well, except, perhaps for sides. There is a separate station for sides. There are a number of sides, both hot and cold and all good. There are also some raw produce too – avocados, jalapenos, tomatoes, pickles, and onions. Fork and Spoon have a number of sides that have become favorites. Campfire Baked Beans made with burnt ends. First, anything made with burnt ends is just yummy. The baked beans are thick and rich. They are so flavorful and rich that it eats more like a chili than baked beans. The other side we always order is White Shoepeg Corn Pudding. Fork never liked corn pudding before coming to Hill Country. This is not to mushy. The corn is still crisp. The filling creamy. The top slightly crunchy. Oh, and definitely order the Skillet Corn Bread with Ancho Honey Butter – this last visit the butter was very sweet and not a hint of ancho anywhere.

We would try to describe the rest of the sides but there are so many to choose from, we’d be typing ’til our silver tarnished.

Dessert! How can we have an adventure without dessert. As with meats and sides, there is a separate section for dessert. There are 9 different desserts to choose from – all made on premises – well, except the Blue Bell Ice Cream which is a product straight from Texas. We decided this trip to share a dessert – might have had something to do with the SECOND pound of moist brisket. It was suggested to Spoon that the pecan pie was the best around. Ok, twist our arms. The Bourbon Pecan Pie was great. Slight background taste of bourbon. Very caramelly and sticky. The filling which can at times be too sweet and goopy was more like caramel in consistency.

Because the space is cavernous, the din as it fills up can be a bit much.

Only one downside to this visit, we flagged down one of the usually very attentive servers to ask for hot tea only to be told ‘I wear an apron, I can’t get it for you’ and he walked away. Huh?

Once you’re done eating – or gorging as the case may be –  you take your score card to the cashier and pay. They have jars at the counter for tips for the wait staff.

There are special menus for football days that include wings, quesadillas and nachos. There are now recession specials – Monday all you can eat for $25 – 5:00 to 10:00 and live music; Two for Tuesdays, 2 for 1 drink specials and live music; Thursday night is Ladies’ Night, light beer and mixed drinks discounted; and Fork’s personal favorite – Feed Yer Family Sundays – from 4:00 to 10:00, they have trivia and name that tune, for $20 they serve you brisket, a pork rib and a beef rib, 1/4 chicken, 2 sides and dessert!

Just typing this Fork can hear singing  – brisketbrisketbrisketbrisket – must be Spoon letting Fork know it’s already time to go back!

Hill Country ~ 30 West 26th Street ~ New York, NY ~ 212.255.4544
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DBGB Kitchen & Bar ~ part deux

Fork, Knife & Spoon try to make every adventure a new adventure, but some adventures truly bear repeating. Such is the case with DBGB Kitchen & Bar, one of the fabulous restaurants in the empire that is Daniel Boulud. Fortunately for Fork and Spoon our dear friend Cheese Plane had never sampled the wonders that is DBGB and wondered if we would mind a repeat performance. Mind? Surely, you jest!

We made a 5:30 reservation and arrived to a full bar, full seating in the bar area, and an empty restaurant. We were shown to one of the banquets tucked against the wall. Very spacious and private, hidden away from and free from foot traffic passing by.  The earlier you arrive for dinner the better. As the night went on the restaurant became packed with people waiting for tables.

The advantage of this repeat adventure was that now we were cutlery three! The possibilities for ordering and trying new dishes was endless! But being at DBGB and not ordering the Iceberg & Blue salad is impossible. Again, months later than the last visit, we were served a huge horizontal cut of iceberg lettuce  slathered in blue cheese dressing with huge bits of blue cheese, crispy bacon, slices of celery, halves of cherry tomatoes, crispy shallots. We wonder how many slices the chef is able to get out of one head of iceberg lettuce, and what happens to the smaller bits that can’t be used for this wonderful salad. Truth be told, this slice is better and easy to eat than a wedge and all the glorious bits on top are really in every bite. The wonderful herbs on top, chervil, tarragon something else we couldn’t quite distinguish, just add more flavor to every perfect bit. You just can’t stop eating this and find yourself sad when it’s all eaten. But wait! We ordered so much more!

We also ordered the Pate Campagnard. Very generous slice of rich, delicious rustic pate. Flecks of herbs and potato peeking out through delicious bits of pork – a pate lovers dream. The pate is served with a delicate little salad of frisee and microgreens, Fork’s favorite pate accompaniment, cornichon and tiny pickled onions. A nice chunk of wheat bread and you are all set for a palate awakening treat! The pate is made onsite – one of the things that DBGB is known for, their pates and charcuterie.

Along with these two wonderful dishes we also ordered also Red Curry Mussels.  What arrived was a large white bowl piled high with mussels, although, honestly, you couldn’t see the mussels for the forest of herbs.  Really an unecessary amount of foliage, but once you bushwhacked your way through the basil and cilantro and other herbage, the dish was amazing. Plump, super fresh, not a sign of grit anywhere, mussels bathing in the most amazing broth. The broth was buttery and rich, sweet from coconut milk, and just as you gave way to this luscious sweet broth, the heat kicks you in the back of your throat and you can only say WOW! Even Spoon, who is not a fish fan, found this broth intoxicating.  We wanted more broth, more bread, and to sit greedily and make sure not a drop was left.

But there was so much more to come!

Cheese Plane ordered the sautéed Skate with cauliflower, risotto, pinenuts and in a saffron brown butter sauce. The dish was presented beautifully. Skate’s natural shape lends itself to a beautiful presentation. Cheese Plane was so looking forward to this dish, having read about online, knowing this was the perfect thing to be ordered. Sadly, the first bite left a mouthful of saltiness. We called over our amazing waiter, Andrew – more on him later – and Cheese Plane sadly explained that the skate was way too salty, quickly followed by this is the dish I want to eat, I just need it to be less salty. The dish disappeared and what seemed like moments later reappeared and was terrific. The cauliflower and risotto were a nice mild accompaniment to the brown butter sauce the skate was sautéed in. Skate is a very mild, moist fish that isn’t too popular but really should be. If you are out to dinner and have the opportunity to order this fish, please do, you will be very happy with your choice.

Fork and Spoon both ordered Steak Frites. A beautiful 10 oz. angus ribeye seasoned and grilled to perfect. One of the nice things about DBGB is rare means rare. Medium means medium. How is it possible that a restaurant has the nerve to say well, our medium is more like rare – doesn’t that mean it’s RARE!? But, Fork disgresses. Sitting on top of the steak was a round pat of compound butter that was just starting to melt when the steaks arrived at the table.  As it melted pink, black and green peppercorns spread across the top of the steak along with rich butter leaving you with a steak that skyrocketed in flavor. The fries were and are always amazing. Hand cut fries, crispy, still tender on the inside and with just the right amount of salt. Accompanying the steak frites was a small lollo rosso salad.  Lollo rosso is a leafy type of lettuce, it has a lot of crunch and a nutty flavor.

Oh, dessert! Dessert must be had, and these desserts were all must haves.

Fork ordered the Meyer Lemon Tart. The cutlery have a love/hate relationship with meyer lemons.  Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and a tangerine. It doesn’t have a totally tart flavor. It’s sort of a tangerine flavor with a lemon undertone. The tart is served with candied meyer lemon zest,  dots of a silky milk mousse and a scoop of pomegranate sorbet. The tart shell was buttery and crisp and lent itself perfectly to the layers of flavor from the filling. There appears to be two layers on top of the crust. Both layers are have the flavor of the meyer lemons. One layer is creamy with a light meyer lemon essence to it. The other layer is more of a meyer lemon curd. Milk mousse had us very curious and perhaps slightly apprehensive.  It has the texture of a thick mousse and really tastes like milk. While this is a foil against the tartness of the tart, if the curd or lemon custard were more tart, the milk mousse would have fit in better with it. The candied meyer lemon peel was interesting. Again, meyer lemons are not tart, but more on the sweet side, so the candied peel really had no pop to it. The scoop of pomegranate sorbet was amazing. Very tart while still being sweet. The scoop sat in a little pile of cookie crumbs to keep it sitting upright and to not slide around on the plate . And in keeping with the beautiful presentations of each and every morsel of food that comes out of the DBGB kitchen, there were beautiful little pomegranate seeds scattered over the plate.

Spoon ordered the Gateau Russe aux Chataignes. Perfect. That may the only description available or necessary.  It was rich and dense, while still being light, sweet but not overly so. The on each side of the base of this lovely dessert were two slices of a very moist gateau – very close to a genoise. Sandwiched between the gateau was a thick chestnut mousse. The flavor was amazing and could have stood alone, but there was more! Down the center of the top were amazing black currants in black currant sauce – tart, sweet and perfect with the dense richness of the chestnut mousse beneath it and sandwiched between the gateau. On either side of the black currant stripe was sweet chestnut paste that resembled angel hair pasta – perhaps it was put through a ricer or even a pasta machine. As if this beautiful dessert needed another detail to be completely perfect, right in the center of the black currant sauce was nestled a single candied chestnut enrobed in edible gold leaf. A little black currant coulis in pools on the plate around the gateau and you have entered into dessert perfection.  While taste is always paramount, the visual of everything placed before you is so appetizing that you can’t wait to dive into it.

What else could a Cheese Plane possibly order for dessert except an assortment of cheeses. The cheeses are presented on a small wooden cutting board and each piece of cheese is a generous slice for one person. There is an assortment of 5 cheeses and you can request either 3 or 5 cheeses. Cheese plane chose the Tilsiter, which is a raw cow cheese from the Vorarlburg area of Austria (Tilsiter is a semi-hard cheese with a delicate, almost fruity taste with a spicy undertone to it); a Cyrus Grove Humbolt Fog (Humbolt Fog is a creamy goat cheese with a slight tangy flavor. There is an interesting ribbon of vegetable ash through its center), which is a goat cheese from McKinleyville, CA; and a Brie de Meaux from Ile de France (Brie de Meaux has a slight sweetness to it that only a cheese of this caliber could possibly have).  Along with the cheese were 3 different types of bread, a raisin wheat bread, a light wheat bread and a dark wheat bread. By the way, if it has not been mentioned previously, the bread at DBGB is out of this world. Crusty, airy, delicious, unending, with soft butter that has salt sprinkled over the top. nuts bread. And just to add some extra crunch and delight to this dessert, there is a sprinkling of pistachios, walnuts, marcona almonds, and hazelnuts around the cheeseboard. Delightful!

Now, back to our waiter. Andrew. He was amazing. He was so knowledgable about the menu. He was able to answer each and every query without hesitation. Every need was met, above and beyond what you would expect. His knowledge of the DBGB wine list was outstanding. He was able to suggest different wines, and have an intelligent conversation about the taste and quality of each wine and the pairing we intended it for. Any wine that we were unsure of was brought over for a tasting.  There was no sense of impatience with how long we lingered at our table. Andrew, if you read this, thank you for making us feel welcome, special and catered to.

DBGB is located at 299 Broadway – on the Bowery between Houston and 1st Street. Reservations can be made through Open Table or through the restaurant itself 212.933.5300.
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