Fig & Olive

Fork, Spoon and our darling Cheese Plane met up for the NYC Lab School’s annual Tastes. Great cause, great way to try new restaurants. Sadly, even after 6 tastes each, the cutlery were still hungry for more, too tired to walk far, and decided to give Fig & Olive‘s Meat Packing District’s location a try.

Fig & Olive is on not too busy West 13th, just up the street from Spice Market, across the street from a fabulous gallery – other than that, there is nothing on this block.

There is outdoor seating in the front, but it was SO hot,we wanted the coolness that only air conditioning can bring. Fig & Olive is a cavernous wide open space. Light, bright, but not cold in feeling. By the hostess desk there are shelves filled with olive oils from around the world, over the crostini bar shelves and shelves of wine.

Let’s start this way – it was 3:30 p.m., the restaurant was empty. Not slightly full, not a little full. Not slightly empty. Completely and totally empty. The young lady at the hostess desk inquired as to whether we had a reservation. No, we didn’t have a reservation – well, now except for the reservation about being here. We looked around the empty dining room and looked at her as she scanned the floor plan on her computer. Really? And then she asked us for a name – as if we were going to be relegated to some space to wait for a table to open up. Really? Perhaps for a mailing list? No, she only asked for a first name, no email address. Didn’t write it down or type it in anywhere, didn’t even use it. Seriously odd. She showed us to a table, dropped the menus, turned and walked away without uttering a single word.  This is not starting off well.

First, Bus Boy A came over to the table. Would you like tap water or bottled water? We would like tap water, please. Away he went, never to return. Our waitress came over. Would you like tape water or Pellegrino water? Tap water, please. And away she went. She actually did return to take our order, but without water. Bus Boy B came over to the table and he asked – and I kid you not – would we like tap water or Pellegrino water. Really? And away HE went, never to return. We realize the restaurant was empty, and they were happy to have something to do, but at least bring the water at some point! Coordinate things, people! You would think that at least one person would have come back with water.

While we were looking over the menu – mostly to see if the choices we had made looking at the menu online were still available – we asked for bread. One of the intriguing things written about Fig & Olive online is their bread basket and olive oils. How the waiter comes over with a beautiful bread basket and a partitioned plate with three different olive oils, their origins and tastes being explained in great detail.  Trying the olive oils was one of things that drew us to Fig & Olive. 

The bread basket arrives at our table, with a little partitioned plate. But what’s in the basket are muffins and croissant and in the partitioned plate, butter and jelly. Huh? Directly behind us is the crostini station. Sitting on top of the glass shelf is a baguette. We can see it. It’s in plain sight. We asked and were told, they had no bread, would bring no olive oil. Apparently brunch is still served at 3:30 in the afternoon. Fork always though brunch was a combo of breakfast and lunch. Fork wondered what time dinner started. Did it start so far into the future that they didn’t have bread yet? By this time it was after 4:00, does dinner start at 8:00 p.m.? Steeeeeee-rike TWO! 

I guess the odd look that spread across the faces of the cutlery gave our waitress pause and she brought over a plateful of the breads they put the crostini on. This bread is horrible. It has no taste. It was no flavor. It is toast 2×3″ pieces of flavorless toast. But we trudged on.

We decided on small plates to share and started with Zucchini Carpaccio. This was absolutely amazing and has been repeated in Fork’s home a number of time since this meal. Thin slices of raw zucchini were drizzled with Picholine olive oil and lemon juice, toasted pine nuts scattered across the top and shavings of parmesan cheese. Because the slices of zucchini were so thin, they didn’t have a raw taste to them.  They could have brought two or three more plates of this and it would have been devoured. The olive oil and lemon juice made this dish very light and refreshing, the toasted pinenuts giving it a slight creamy warmth, the saltiness of the cheese giving it an extra edge, all of the flavors blending and melding together so beautifully. It needed just a little more lemon and just the slightest bit of salt.

Our second dish was a beautiful plate of figs, prosciutto, and  cheese. The figs we halved and underneath very generous slices of prosciutto. There were only three little pieces of goat cheese, a little chintzy if you ask this Fork. The dish was drizzled with olive oil and minced chives scattered over the top. The goat cheese was warm and gooey. You can’t imagine the flavor of these three items together. This was seriously good. The only thing missing was … hmmmm … bread. Oh, that’s right, they don’t have any.

Funny though, if yo look through the brunch menu so many things are served on or with bread, it makes it unimaginable that they can’t serve bread to you if requested.

We decided to try the Crostini – you can either order three or six. The toppings looked interesting so we decided to order the six so we would have more variety. The bread this was on was awful. The same thing they had brought to the table when we asked for bread. The only saving grace here were the toppings. Crostini 1 – Cucumber and Greek Yogurt. Tasteless. Needed lemon, salt, pepper, garlic, something. Plain yogurt and cucumber are both sort of bland so without help this needed help.  Crostini 2 – Crab and Lemon Cilantro Mayonnaise.  Again, nothing to write home about, but certainly not as bad as Crostini 1. Crostini 3 – Mushroom, Artichoke, and Truffle Parmesan. Pretty tasty. Crostini 4 – Bresaola, Goat Cheese, and Black Olive Tapenade. Again, really good. But, can you really go wrong with bresaola? Crostini 5 – Prosciutto, Ricotta, Fig, Olive and Walnut. Not bad, but too much like one of the other appetizers that we had. The prosciutto here is dynamite. Crostini 6 – Manchego Cheese, Fig Spread and Marcona Almonds. Fig spread excellent. Manchego – can’t go wrong with that. The marcona almond was a little awkward, but that could simply be from sharing it!

The really difficult thing about the crostini was the bread, The bread was simply awful. Without a really good bread as a base for the crostini it really matters not what is put on top.

Last up was a Fig and Gorgonzola Tartlet. Melted gorgonzola, prosciutto, figs, walnuts, arugula and tomatoes. The menu says all of this is on a fine puff pastry.  Nope. And we could hear the umpire calling strike 3. The puff pastry was so soggy it was inedible. There was nothing spectacular about this. Yes, the prosciutto was good, as were the figs and gorgonzola. The salad was limp, the dressing not quite right for the rest of the flavor profile. And, truthfully, all of that could have been forgiven if it weren’t for that puff pastry.  It was shameful. It wasn’t even a misstep that someone just starting culinary school would make. Were they left over and there fore soggy from age? Were they just not cooked enough. Whatever the reason, it seriously spoiled this tartlet.

So, to sum it up – the hostess asked us if we had a reservation for a totally empty restaurant; they don’t have bread at any given time; bread for the crostini is seriously terrible; and someone there can’t bake puff pastry.

Would we like dessert? Heck, NO! If you can’t bake a puff pastry, what are you going to do to an innocent little cake or cookie!?

Fig & Olive has three locations:
420 West 13th Street ~ New York, NY ~ 212.924.1200
10 East 52nd Street ~ New York, NY ~ 212.319.2002
808 Lexington Avenue ~ New York, NY ~ 212.207.4555
Fig & Olive on Urbanspoon

Bark Hot Dogs

At the northern end of Park Slope, on Bergen Street, just off 6th Avenue, sits the unassuming Bark Hot Dogs. Very plain front. So plain, that during the day, with the neon sign off, it’s easy to walk right past Bark. But don’t get the idea that these are dirty water dogs or some burnt weiner at a backyard BBQ. These are Bark Dogs and they are amazing.

Bark’s mission statement is simple – only use high quality, local, and sustainable ingredients. The meat for the burgers is freshly ground every day. The pickles, relishes, and sauces are made onsite. Each hot dog and hamburger – cutlery cannot live by hotdog alone – is slow cooked to order on the griddle.  There is nothing fast about this fast food. The only things not made onsite or for Bark is Heinz Ketchup, French’s Yellow Mustard, and Hellman’s Mayonnaise – some things cannot be perfected.

Keeping with the Local and sustainable ideology of Bark, they use only recycled products in their restaurant and ask customers to recycle when finished eating as well. The interior was designed using reclaimed materials.

Looking through their website, they list all of the local ingredient resources they use – from New York, Heritage Farms for the pork, Hartmann’s Old World Sausage makes private label hot dogs especially for Bark, dairy, fruit and vegetables all from the tri-state area, and let’s not forget the all important Il Laboritorio de Gelato ice cream used in their incredible milkshakes!

Bark is a no nonsense, easy going place. The seating, sadly, is those dreaded  high tables and stools, but in this situation, in this place, they work. Up to eight people can eat at each table. There are two tables for two on the side. And, for those who cannot live without being tied into the internet,there is free wi-fi.

You walk up to the counter, stare at the menu hanging on the wall and order. You almost feel like a Lemming – standing, staring, head slightly cocked to one side, in exactly the same stance as all your fellow diners waiting to or trying to decide what to order. It isn’t that ordering is difficult, it’s just seriously difficult to narrow down your choices. You order, get your drinks and sit and wait. After your order is cooked to perfection, it’s brought over to your table by one of Bark’s very friendly staff.

For drinking is soda and beer. The soda is supplied by the wonderful Foxon Park beverage company in Connecticut. If you haven’t tried these sodas, please do, they are really yummy! The flavors are very crisp and clean. The beer is from Sixpoint Craft Ales brewed right in Brooklyn. We didn’t imbibe on this trip – it was a little early even for the most adventurous of cutlery.

Now here is where it becomes fun! The hot dogs are made from a combo of pork shoulder, pork jowl and beef shoulder. They are slowly cooked on the griddle. When they are done, as if they need any help in the taste department, they are brushed one of the house specialties, Bark Seasoning Butter – pork fat that’s smoked and rendered into lard, then whipped with butter and sea salt – cardiac arrest on a brush! The hot dogs are then served on New England style hot dog buns – that is to say, no crust on the sides and slit on the top – which have been toasted and, of course, buttered. For those faint of artery, there are all beef hot dogs and veggie hot dogs as well and they are not brushed with the nectar of the gods.

This trip to Bark was to celebrate Jam Spoon’s birthday. Fork, Shish Kebab Stick and Knork decided Jam Spoon should have an all American birthday celebration.

Knork – being a hot dog purist – ordered the Bark Dog, which is topped with sweet pepper relish, mustard and chopped raw onions.  It was gone in seconds so Fork is assuming it was liked. The only remark? It’s a regular sized hot dog for a foot long price. Perhaps it’s pricey, but Fork dares you to find a hot dog this good anywhere else!

Fork ordered a Bacon Cheddar Dog. Already knowing that this meal was not going to be calorie conscious, Fork figured go big or go home. Really, what’s a 20,000 calorie meal between friends!? So what if the tines don’t fit into the jeans anymore! Truthfully, this hot dog was worth every single calorie laden bite. The hot dog was grilled to perfection. The skin crisp from the griddle with that perfect snap you want when you bite into a hot dog. Dripping on top was a wonderful, gooey cheddar cheese sauce made from Grafton Village Cheddar in Vermont. Sprinkled on top of that was braised bacon, crisp, salty, adding another amazing layer of flavor to this wonderful hot dog. And just when you thought the fun was over – chopped, pickled red onions . Look at that hot dog! Is that a beautiful, mouth watering sight or what!? 

Now, for some reason Shish Kebab Stick and Jam Spoon ordered Bark Burgers. Why? I don’t know. But from the look of the burgers, the silence that was coming from the two of them, and the blink of an eye way the burgers disappeared, they must have been good. The burgers are made from organic beef from Wrighteous Organics in New York. They are a mixture of beef short ribs, beef top round and pork jowl. After being grilled to perfection, the burger is served on a sesame seed bun with shredded lettuce, chopped Bark dill pickles, Bark bread and butter pickles, red onion and a secret special sauce. Burger King watch out, there is definitely a NEW Whopper in town.

Fries. Did we mention the fries? The basic building block of Bark Fries are the salt and pepper fries.  Dark and crispy on the outside, soft and flavorful on the inside. Just the right amount of salt and pepper to make these potato perfection. Trust me, if you thought the Golden Arches had good fries, you ain’t had nothing yet. These need to be eaten by greedy handfuls. Bacon is a seriously recurring theme at Bark, and you can have these salt and pepper fries with bacon, like Shish Kebab Skewer did. Same yummy bacon that made an appearance on Fork’s hot dog is crumbled on top of the fries. From there, we had another order taking the fries to yet another level – fries with cheddar AND bacon. Salty, cheesey, bacony, goodness. Can it get better? Well, yes it can and Bark takes fries steps further. First you have gravy fries, same crispy goodness, smothered in a hearty gravy. You have Chili Cheddar Fries, self explanatory. Which, by the way, you can add bacon to either or both of these if you are so inclined. The head of the fry insanity at Bark are the Disco Fries – same thin cut, crispy fries, smothered in gravy AND cheddar cheese. Add bacon to the Disco Fries and you get a side of defibrillator.

There is definitely a trip back to Bark for Fork and Spoon. There’s a Crispy Pork Sandwich on the menu!  Bark takes Heritage’s pork shoulder, belly, and jowl and press it into a seriously porky patty and deep fry it to a noisy, crispy perfection. The patty is topped with a crisp slaw and thin rounds of Heirloom hot peppers to give it an extra kick. As if it needs more, it’s then topped with whole-grain mustard and bread-and-butter pickles, and served on a soft seeded bun. There is so much going on here it has to be tried!

There is Brisket Chili and Baked Beans – both made in house each day. Onion rings. And they make breakfast! So many things to still try. They may need to make bigger stools by the time we’re done!

Bark is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner from noon to midnight. Breakfast is served only on the weekend. Friday and Saturday you can get your bark on until 2:ooam.

Bark Hot Dogs ~ 474 Bergen Street ~ Brooklyn, New York ~ 718.789.1939
Bark Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon
Bark Hot Dogs in New York on Fooddigger