Fresco ~ Birthday Celebration 1

Stick around, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride! I love birthdays as much as the next guy – but FOUR birthday celebrations had me cross eyed by the end! Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed each and every single one of them, but I may be on a strictly salad diet until Christmas so my system can get over the food come it is in at the moment! I also apologize in advance for the lack of photos, I was having TOO wonderful a time to worry about pictures so most of the ones I took were lousy! (Might have been the cocktails!)

Celebration Number One – Absinthe Spoon, Cocktail Fork and Cake Fork were gathered with Fork for this first celebration at Fresco. Fresco is one of Fork’s favorite restaurants for celebrations. It’s loud and bustling, the food is great, the service attentive and wonderful, what more do you need to get a party started.

Fresco is owned and run by the Scotto Family. If you watch the Today show you will see them regularly doing cooking segments, and if you are in the NYC area, you can watch Rosanna Scotto on Good Day New York.

I am going to get my only complaints out now. I would really rather gush about my wonderful celebration and the wonderful food, so the two little bones of contention should get out of the way first so you can sit back and enjoy the rest of our meal.

First. Cocktail Fork and I ordered the Black Angus Rib Steak to share. I dream about this steak – sadly, this night it was more of a nightmare. We asked for the steak to be cooked medium. A medium steak should have a pink band inside, but otherwise be cooked. This steak walked over to the table and sat down. It was positively raw inside. I asked for it to be sent back to be cooked a ‘little’ longer to medium. Everyone else had their main courses. I waited and I waited. We asked and we asked. Sadly, what arrived back on the table was so over cooked it was sinful to have done that to a beautiful steak.

Second. We were celebrating. We were drinking wine. We needed another bottle of wine. So we ordered a bottle. We waited and we waited and we waited. And we asked and we asked and we asked. We were sitting toward the front and I was watching the sommeleir out of the corner of my eye. When our waitress (very, very lovely young lady) went to him for the 4th time about our bottle, he rolled his eyes, became a little pissy, and actually came over to the table to ask if we wanted more wine. Really? What a novel idea.

Now back to our regularly scheduled dinner….

You simply cannot go to Fresco and not order the Potato & Zucchini Chips. These are addictive. Very thin slices of potato and zucchini deep fried, crumbled gorgonzola mixed in and stacked into a mountain of fabulousness! You cannot stop eating these. Cake Fork, who is not a blue cheese fan, absolutely adored them. I think it’s the type of gorgonzola they use. It’s more of a Gorgonzola Dolce than a true blue or with the bite that a gorgonzola usually has.

We also shared an appetizer of Fried Calamari. Perfectly crisp, perfectly tender little ringlets of calamari. Great cornmeal crust on the outside. The lemon and fresh aioli that is served along with the calamari is really great – so glad they don’t serve it with marinara. Fried calamari needs salt, lemon and little else – except this amazing aioli!

One of my favorite salads on the planet is from Fresco. If I had to choose only one thing to have as an appetizer, this would be it – Shaved Raw Artichoke, Celery Heart and Crimini Mushroom Salad. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? It is truly delicious. Cake Fork who didn’t want any and was sharing only to be polite had no problems eating every bit of the salad served! Along with the artichoke, celery and mushrooms, there is also baby arugula, shaved grana padano, and a lovely light dressing of cracked pepper, lemon and olive oil. So simple and yet so complicated. 

 For main dishes, we’ve already been through the Fork and Cocktail Fork disaster. Fortunately there were so many appetizers and the portions for Cake Fork and Absinthe Spoon so large, the steak was not missed!

Absinthe Spoon had the Pappardelle with Duck and Wild Mushroom Ragu. Oh EMMMM Geeeeeeee… very good. Pappardelle is wider than fettucine or tagliatelle, translated means gobble up. The duck and mushrooms are slow braised in wine with tomatoes, rosemary and thyme. The ragu had a wonderful, rich, deep flavored earthiness.  

Cake Fork ordered the Crispy Free Range Chicken. What arrived was a half chicken that had been marinated in lemon and herbs. It was served with a medley of pan roasted artichokes, zucchini, and tomatoes and a side of creamy mashed Yukon Gold potatoes.

Oh, dessert. The desserts at Fresco are truly amazing. One dessert better than the next. Of course, we had to have 2!

First up! Apple Bomboloni. Sigh. Dough. Fried. Yummy filling. Even better dipping sauce. Folks, it don’t get much better than this! Fresco changes the flavors of the Bomboloni seasonally and every change is mighty tasty.  This version was sugar coated vanilla doughnuts with an apple filling. Without going a step further these little doughnuts were perfect, but there was also a bourbon creme anglaise.  If I say the doughnuts were over the moon, the creme anglaise brought you around the moon again. If we had been more piggy, we would have finished up the creme anglaise with a spoon. (Good thing Absinthe Spoon was there and we had to behave with a slight bit of decorum)

Dessert Number 2 was a Brownie Fudge Sundae, complete with a birthday candle and no (thank you so much for that) singing! We start off at the bottom with a thick gooey brownie, then a slathering of hot fudge sauce, a scoop of malted milk ball ice cream, completed mit schlag and an almond cookie. So we can say the dessert is healthy, a scattering of fresh sliced strawberries (but remember, there are NO calories in anything with a birthday candle!)  Totally amazing from top to bottom!

By the way, their cookbooks are wonderful! Beautiful photos, wonderful easy to follow recipes. Try them, you’ll like them!

Fresco ~ 34 East 52nd Street ~ New York ~ 212.935-3436
Fresco By Scotto on Urbanspoon

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The Chicken Always Clucks Twice

As our dear followers know, we were broken hearted during our initial trip to Hill Country Chicken. Fork and Spoon have always been big fans of Hill Country, and were, sadly, not big fans of Hill Country Chicken.

We always send a copy of our review to the owners or general information emails of the restaurants we review. We’ve always thought it important for the powers that be to know what diners actually think about the doings inside a restaurant and not just what the ‘sheep’ tend to bleat about.

We immediately heard back from John & Marc at HCC. They were as disappointed as we were, and yet grateful for the constructive criticism. We promised to come back and give HCC a second try. And we are so glad that we did!

Fork and Spoon dragged Knork and Spork with us on this Adventure. Occasionally we drag them out of moth balls to come along. They think it’s because we love them – not so (well, mostly so), it’s so we can try more dishes!

Truth be told, we were a little nervous about returning. Perhaps there was a photo of a fork and knife behind the counter with a red circle and slash through the tines. Perhaps they were laying in wait for us to return so they could just pounce, bend our tines and throw lemons at us.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. We were treated well and welcomed warmly. There were plenty of lemons and butter at hand. Service was impeccable. Staff was fabulous.

But, more importantly, the food was fabulous. Each and every morsel we ate was better than the previous morsel.

The chicken, as we had said in our last review, is just stellar. We are partial to the Hill Country Classic. The seasoning is is so great. It is spicy with a hint of sweetness. The chicken is floured twice and then sprinkled with the magic dust. Mama’s El’s, on the other hand, is skinless, battered and fried. The Classic is not crunchy, but from what I have been told, the Mama El’s is very crunchy – hard to believe without skin (oh, another trip in our future?) Whichever you try, know that each and every piece, whether white or dark, is juicy, moist and flavorful.

On this visit, because Knork is seriously strange about fried chicken, we also tried the Texas Tenders. They are gigantic! They are moist and tender inside, crispy outside. They are absolutely fabulous! They come with a choice of dipping sauces, one better than the next, all made in house – honey mustard, HC BBQ sauce or buttermilk ranch. You will find yourself dipping everything into the sauces!

Fork and Spoon still think the biscuits are slightly on the dry side, but I am beginning to think that biscuits are subjective. I prefer mine moister and fluffier, but that’s the way my grandmother made them. Biscuits around the country are made differently and made for different reasons. Some to eat along side something and some to hold up to gravy. Dry or not, the biscuits are flavorful, the right amount of saltiness. Great with butter, with honey or dipped into the BBQ sauce!

Off to the sides! The Mashed Potatoes were the first thing tried. What a difference! The toppings were perfect and distinguishable! Gooey with cheddar cheese, crispy pieces of bacon and pimento, topped the light and fluffy mashed potatoes. They transformed from the side we couldn’t eat to the side we couldn’t stop eating.

The Cole Slaw was crisp and the dressing creamy. The dressing was perfectly seasoned. The cabbage in the slaw fresh as can be. We tried the Carrot-N-Raisin Slaw this time around. Really yummy. Sweet, without being cloyingly sweet. Crispy carrots, great dressing, and the plump raisins giving it that little bit of oomph. The two slaws are like a refreshing palate cleanser against the saltiness of the chicken.

We again tried the Blistered Corn Salad. Again, like a whole new ball game. The corn was crisp, the veggies were too. The veggies stood out on their own, but did not make the blistered corn flavor disappear. THe dressing was good, a little tang, which is always great on a corn salad.

Fire n Ice Pickles. These are made in-house. They are little rounds of perfection. Sweet, hot, cooling, torturous all in one bite. An absolute must have at HCC – and for the price, who could possibly argue!

PIE! PIE! P-I-E! PIE! We tried pie. Lots and lots of pie! Well, you can try lots and lots of pie when your pies are little – and yes, we can justify our pies by saying we ate little pies!

We had Apple Cheddar. Great crust made with cheddar cheese. Knork is a serious apple pie guy and he gave this 2 thumbs up. The filling was perfect, apples were not mushy, just enough sweetness, barely discernible flavor from the cheddar cheese in the crust. Just enough for you to notice but not too over powering.

We had Lemon Meringue. Spork would barely let anyone else try it. Spoon gave Spork a little jab with a fork and Spork became far more compliant with sharing. Nice and lemony, good crust, and let’s not forget the perfectly browned meringue topping. Great proportion in flavor from tangy to sweet.

We had Double Cherry Pie, Fork’s personal favorite. Again, great crust, perfect filling, really yummy topping. Everything just fit together so well.

We had Banana Cream Pie. Creamy filling, sweet bananas, whipped cream topping. Almost too pretty to eat. ALMOST!

It was strongly suggested to us to try the Salted Margarita Pie. This was in a pretzel crust, so you already had some salty sweet going on. The filling was so tart and limey that you couldn’t smile while eating it because you were so puckered. Don’t get me wrong, this was DAMN good pie!

There was also a beautiful little Pumpkin Pie. Sadly, we are not pumpkin pie people. But if the rest of the pies were any indication, this would be one fine pumpkin pie!

It’s great that they have Boylan soda in the fountain. The mint iced tea is really good and really fresh. Both the soda and tea are bottomless. There were plenty of lemons to be had.

Marc, you have done your grandmothers both proud! John, Marc & David, thank you so much for taking our concerns to heart! We have been converted and can’t wait to come back again and again! Now the problem becomes – chicken, brisket, chicken, brisket, how does one choose!?

Hill Country Chicken ~ 1123 Broadway ~ New York, New York ~ 212.257.6646
Hill Country Chicken on Urbanspoon

Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen

Fork and Spoon were attending a couple Times Talks during the New York City Wine & Food Festival. We had almost 2 hours between the Iron Chefs (where, BTW, we won round trip tickets to Rome!) and Alton Brown, and we needed a place to eat. There are slim pickins by Port Authority, but food was necessary. Isn’t it always. On the corner from the Times Center is Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen. We have seen this place before, have smelled the burgers grilling, have been seriously tempted to go in. What has stopped us? Maybe the name. It sounds more like the name of a moyle than a burger joint. Then again, we can be ridiculously silly and we were hungry and the smells were far too tempting. In we went!

You stand and stare at the order board. S0 many choices. So many sides. S0 hard to decide when you are starving. So hard to choose when you are still in disbelief at your name being called for airline tickets! Fork let Spoon order. Spoon (most times) has a more level head.

Once you order, you are given a ticket with a number and a long, tall holder for the ticket. You can find a seat or watch them make your burgers. The entire kitchen is open and allows you to see your burger being made every step of the way.

The first burger we chose was the Hickory Bacon Blue Burger. You can’t say it many times fast, but you sure can eat it fast! First, the beef is really good. Great flavor. Perfectly cooked. Hickory bacon? Crispy, generous amount on the burger, great quality. Add the blue cheese into this combo and it is just delicious.

So many burgers, so little time, and so hard to make a choice. The second burger Spoon chose was the Schnipper’s Classic. Nice thick, juicy burger, perfectly cooked, smothered in a special Schnipper’s cheese blend and sauce, carmelized onions, bacon and arugula. Just wonderful. We loved how the Arugula added just a little peppery bite to the burger. Schnipper’s sauce is so good, you don’t really need any other condiment.

Sweet Potato Fries. Can you say, YUMMMMMMMY! There is something sensational that happens to sweet potatoes when you fry them. They become super sweet and a little carmelized on the outside. These were cut in such a way that you had crisp outsides and very tender insides. To make these even better they were served with a maple dipping sauce. Totally addictive!

Fork and Spoon are suckers for Mac ‘n’ Cheese. No matter where we go it must be tried. This was terrific mac ‘n’ cheese. Very creamy, made with 4 cheeses. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the cheese sauce was plentiful and quite tasty. There was a little crispy topping, that added a certain hominess to the dish.

We had to have a little sweet after the rich lunch we had. We decided to split an apple pie. Great picture. Bad pie. All crust – and not a really good one. Barely any filling and what was there was not great. There was a lot of crunchy topping, but with nothing under it to support it it was truly a waste.

As fast(ish) food places go, this one was really good. Definitely a place to go back to for a quick bite. If you want a quick bite before or after the theater and don’t want to spend a fortune, this just might be the place for you. They have a great menu that includes, chicken, hot dogs, seafood, salads, sandwiches. Their breakfast menu looks good too!

Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen ~ 620 8th Avenue ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.921.2400
Schnipper's on Urbanspoon