It’s summertime … and the dining is easy … Sorry, just had to break into a little song for a moment!. The best time of year for Fork to run away with Spoon for Culinary Adventures is summertime in New York City. So many wonderful culinary reasons to be happy – 1) New Yorkers are on vacation, so restaurants are easier to get into; 2) there are two weeks of Restaurant Week; and, 3) a lot of restaurants have lunch specials to lure customers into their restaurants. Check websites while making plans, you’ll be surprised what you find!
Such is the case with Tom Colicchio’s Meatpacking District restaurant Colicchio & Sons. The announcement of Colicchio & Sons offering a $25, 3-course lunch in the Tap Room for the month of July flew through the NY foodie community like wildfire. It took Fork and Spoon seconds to make a reservation for this special treat.
Before we begin – GO! CALL! Make a reservation! This special, at this point, is only for July and is only for lunch. But 3 courses for $25 cannot be beat – especially not for a lunch this outstanding.
Colicchio & Sons in on the corner of 15th Street and 10th Avenue, across the street from the back entrance of the Chelsea Market and the Highline. The Tap Room is in the front of the restaurant. The room is bright and airy, and warm and inviting. Brick walls, wood floors, large dark wooden tables, sofas on one side of some of the 4-tops and comfortable chairs on the other and for the tables for 2. There are great rustic paintings on the wall of chickens and ducks and produce. Fork and Spoon sat, taking a moment to regroup out of the sweltering heat, and were instantly just comfortable. You want to hang out there. You want to stay there.
Iced tea is fresh, with lots of ice, simple syrup if you like, and most importantly, bottomless.
Our waiter, Shawn, was wonderful. A little tentative with us at first, but a couple of giggles with the Cutlery and all was well!
Fork really struggled with the Starter. Pea soup? Nuh-uh. Romaine salad with anchovies? No, I don’t think so. Spoon was ordering the Watermelon and Cucumber salad (which, just by virtue of watermelon and cucumber being in the same bowl was a no from Fork. But, you will be happy to learn that Fork as seen the error of this thought and converted).
So, after much difficulty, for starters Fork ordered the Baby Beets with Black Olives, Lovage, Pistachios and Yoghurt. Shawn told us there were red, yellow and candy beets and that it was really very good. Quite frankly, there was no description that would match the beautiful plate set in front of us. Small and delicate roasted beets, quartered. The colors alone made your mouth water. The beets sat atop curried yoghurt. Really subtle and flavorful, and so warm against the sweetness of the beets. You add into this the briny olives and you think perfection has been reached – but wait, there’s more! Add in some wonderful lovage for a bright freshness, pistachios for the crunch factor, and goat cheese -well, just because and you have an appetizer knocked right out of the park. Lovage has a flavor like celery and really added the right amount of brightness and freshness to this dish.
Spoon, on the other hand, had no trouble whatsoever picking a starter. Made a beeline right to the Watermelon and Cucumber Salad, which it turns out was a very nice, refreshing choice. Large chunks of summer ripe, sugary sweet watermelon, surrounded by ribbons of cool, light, almost melony tasting cucumber. To go up against the sweetness of the watermelon and the coolness of the cucumber was arugula in all it’s peppery glory. So far the flavors make your tastebuds stand at attention. Invite mint to the party and you could go into sensory overload. Now tie this package of perfection up with a bow of a limey dressing and you are just totally satisfied. What a wonderful flavor combination on the palate, light and bright and fresh and citrusy and peppery in one bite.
That is one thing that always has to be said about Tom Colicchio’s restaurants and the excellent executive chefs in them – they have a way with flavors and combinations of flavors that just make you stand at attention while dining, waiting for the next great thing to arrive on a plate before you!
On to the second course. These choices were only SLIGHTLY easier!
The easiest was the Roast Pork Sandwich. This was the dish from the every day Tap Room menu that we were hoping would be offered on the 3-course special lunch menu. This time we need to work from the outside in. The bread, the bread was fabulous. Toasted perfectly, not so crisp on the outside that eating it is near impossible. Those types of panini are terrible. Now to delve into this sandwich – come along, you won’t be sorry. THe description of this sandwich on the menu in no way does it justice. Large pieces of juicy, flavorful roast pork is the first thing you notice. These aren’t shreds of pork, but large, tender as anything pieces. The next ingredient in the sandwich you come across is ham – a surprise to us! Salty, meaty, rich in flavor. We were gobbling this up too quickly to take the sandwich apart to see what sort of ham it was! Mea culpa. Surrounding all of this flavorful goodness is provolone cheese. Sharp, slightly salty, melted, and surrounding all of the ingredients in this sandwich. Then there’s a crunch from the pickles. Lovely bread and butter pickles. Sweet with a bit of sour, a lot of crunch and a wonderful instrument to cut back the richness of the meats and cheese in this sandwich. This was a Cubano sandwich on steroids.
The other choice was not as easy. But in the end the word Pizza was too intriguing to let go. We ordered the Taleggio, Asparagus, Cherry Peppers and Sopressata Pizza. I wish YUMMMMM was enough of a description along with the photo, but this deserves so much more! Fabulous crust. Crisp edges on the crust. The crust under all the goodies was just as crisp. A good crust that holds up to its toppings is really the sign on a good pizza, at least to Fork and Spoon. On top of the crust was a layer of taleggio cheese. Granted, this cheese is a bit stinky, but it is oh-so-good, especially melted. The cheese at the edges of the crust gets very crisp and nicely salty, but in the center, the cheese melts into a pool of luscious creaminess. Then came the toppings! Rounds of asparagus. It was interesting to see the asparagus cut this way, and made them much easier to eat. Precariously and carefully placed on the pizza were slices of cherry peppers. Seriously hot cherry peppers, that you really only wanted a small bit of in each bite. Shawn warned us. Glad we listened. And entire slice of cherry pepper would have knocked the silver right off the tines! To add the last layer to this pizza was sopressata. Slightly crisp from the oven, meaty, salty, and yummy. Again, the attention to how the flavors played together and off each other was very apparent. Another winner.
Dessert. AH, dessert. There wasn’t anything on the dessert menu that we didn’t want. We were even so cheeky to ask if we could subsitute more dessert for starters! We craned and strained watching dessert after dessert leave the kitchen and arrive on tables. They all sounded so good. They all looked so good. They were just beautiful.
The only clear dessert choice, without a moment’s hesitation, was the Peach Tatin. Was it the lure of fresh peaches, or the anticipation of the caramel-y tatin, or maybe it was the sweet corn ice cream. Yes, that’s right, sweet corn ice cream! Let’s start with the ice cream, as this is the place where our opinion differs. Yes, it was interesting. Yes, it was different. Yes, it was like a total backyard BBQ package, corn and peaches. Spoon loved it, Fork, not so much. Fork liked the concept and appreciated the concept. Fork even got the whole BBQ analogy. And it wasn’t that the ice cream wasn’t sweet, it was. It was even good. But there is something inherently wrong with corn ice cream! Perhaps Fork is a little prudish on this point. Ice cream, sweet cold, caramel, nuts, got it. Corn, maybe, not sure. Spoon, of course, loved it. THought the sweet corn was the perfect foil for the peach tatin. And that’s why Spoon is a spoon and Fork is a fork. But, now back to business, the peach tatin, the star of this dessert. And what a star it was. Lucious, sweet peaches crispy puff pastry, lovely caramel goodness, all make for an interesting dessert. It was gobbled up in seconds. Wait!, Nestled between the tatin and the ice cream was popcorn, just a few kernels, with caramel drizzled over the top. Sigh. Yum.
The second choice was between three with no ability to make a choice in sight. Shawn to the rescue again! He virtually picked for us, told us we should order his favorite dessert – Zeppole. Fried dough, could there be anything wrong with that? These zeppole were not like any street fair zeppole. There was ricotta mixed into the dough, making these zeppole light and fluffy. Zeppole has a tendency to get very heavy and doughy, not so with these fluffy beauties. Perfect size, too. Two bites and gone. Covered in confectioner’s sugar – as any decent zeppole would be! – and tucked into a napkin. Served with the zeppole was a small ramekin filled with a dark chocolate hot fudge sauce. Very nice, made these zeppole even more decadent than they already were. Served along side of the zeppole was a quenelle of mint ice cream. This was so bright and refreshing, perfect to cut through the richness of the sugar coated zeppole and the dark chocolate. Atop the ice cream was a tiny bit of sugar candy – thin, crisp, minty and nice. Fork isn’t even the biggest mint fan, and Fork was swooning over this ice cream.
All in all – one word – amazing.
This 3-course lunch special is running through the end of July.
By the way, the entire restaurant is lovely. The dining room is beautiful and polished, fabulaous light fixtures, much of the same warmth and coolness of the Tap Room, just amped up a bit. They also have a beautiful private dining room.
Are you still reading? You have three weeks left! Don’t just sit here and read about Colicchio & Sons! Go. Call. Make a reservation.