New Orleans ~ A Fork on the Road

An adventure! An adventure to a new city! An adventure to a new city with great restaurants and great food!

This is Fork’s first on the road Adventure and I have decided to do the entire weekend of eating in one posting.

New Orleans was one of those places I had been itching to visit for years and years. I am a truly bad traveler. I have lists of places I’d like to go, but I hate to fly and constantly come up with excuses why I can’t go. Well, fate intervened here and New Orleans was my – I am going to use the B word again – birthday present.

This should have been written long ago, but there are a lot of … hmmmm … ‘feelings’ I have about this trip and needed to let some of those … hmmmm … ‘feelings’ subside before writing. You wouldn’t have liked it any other way. Trust me.  Here we go …

Our first stop was Cafe du Monde.

Spoon told me if I didn’t send a photo of a plateful of beignets as soon as I arrived there would be a melting of our cutlery bond. Very crowded.

The menu is on the side of the napkin holders. Not that there is much of one. I mean, really, what else do people go to Cafe du Monde for? Would you like beignet, beignet or beignet? Coffee or hot chocolate. Our waiter was new – in fact, his first day – 9 people, 1 or them a cranky person meant 9 drinks, 4 plates of beignets, and 6 hard boiled eggs (Marx Brothers humor totally lost on waiter). Life is at an easier pace in New Orleans. Not an easy concept for a box of cutlery from New York – especially that tarnished one in charge.  When asked for the check the poor befuddled waiter said ‘It comes to $25.00’. That was met with, ‘Well, can I see how you arrived at that number? Don’t you have it written down?’ Thank goodness for technology and cell phones with calculators, quick add it up, add it up. Crisis averted!

If you aren’t covered in powdered sugar after this, you haven’t done it right. The beignet are slightly crisp on the outside, tender and sweet on the inside. They’re covered in powdered sugar. Think zeppole, but not round. Think funnel cake, but not in a spider web shape. Just think any fried dough you have had and – voila – beignet!

Our first dinner was at John Besh’s Luke. Luke is located in the Hilton St. Charles in the Central Business District. When you pass through the revolving doors you are transported back in time to the type of Franco-German brassieres that once called New Orleans home. The ceiling fans are all connected by a belt and pulley system. Beautiful wood paneling, newspaper racks, specials written on the blackboard. We excitedly waited for our table, what a lovely place, this would be great.

The hostess came along and was ready to show us to our table. We walked through the wonderfully nostalgic restaurant, gazing at the piles of fresh seafood. Wait! Where are we going? We passed through this room. Down a little corridor, up a few steps, and into a room. An afterthought really. There were only 2 positives about this room – the floor was beautiful and you could see into part of the kitchen. Well, you could if your table wasn’t all the way  stuck in a corner next to a linen closet.

Our waiter, whose name escapes me, came over with menus. We ordered drinks – he called me babe (REALLY!?!) – and disappeared. When we finally were able to flag his attention long enough to order drinks, we then waited a ridiculous amount of time for the drinks. They seemed to arrive only after we managed to flag down a busboy to get our waiter who said – ready for this – ‘oh, you didn’t get them yet?’

Finally our drinks arrived and as our waiter – whose name I sure began with an O – began to leave without taking out order, we grabbed him. Who knows, he might have completely disappeared. I watched him be attentive to all the tables in the main part of the Siberia room, but we seemed to be treated like the wicked stepchildren.

Fortunately, the food saved the night. Although the service was abysmal, the food was amazing. I don’t have a lot of descriptions here. Fork’s writing and photographing food seems to be the source of a great deal of amusement to some of this cutlery drawer. This is amazing as these very people have never read a word of what I write – but I digress.

Each night has a special dish. This being a Thursday night, the special was Smoked Brisket with a horseradish sauce ravigote and bouillon potatoes. The brisket fell apart as you cut through it. It was tender and very tasty. The potatoes in the sauce ravigote were very good, a slight tang from the sauce and a nice flavor and texture from the potatoes.

The Moules et Frites were c’est magnifique. Prince Edward Island mussels swimming in a garlic, thyme and white wine bath, with a smattering of parsley. The mussels were tender and oh so flavorful. The black cast iron mussels pot they came in was too big to fit into a purse! The frites were spectacular. Crispy, tender, salty, perfect.

Shish Kebab Stick had the Cochon de Lait. Wonderful pressed roast pork sandwich served with cherry mustard and a cone of fries. The fries were fabulous. The sandwich was huge and fresh and delicious and filled with lots of yummy ingredients.

Fork ordered the Poulet Grand Mere. (‘Oh, sweetie, that’s a great dish. You will love it.’ Now I am sweetie?)  Roasted chicken, jus naturel, Allen Benton’s bacon and whipped potatoes.  All my favorite things in one dish. The chicken was melt in  your mouth fabulous. The bacon added a rich saltiness to the delicate, tender chicken. And whipped potatoes? Does it get better than that?

Knork ordered the Shrimp Farci. First stuffed with crabmeat, the shrimp are then fried. Knork said they were very good. They were served with green beans, carrots, and brussel sprouts, and new potatoes. All in all a satisfying dish.

Preservation Hall is an absolute must for any jazz lover. Get there early. Buy the advance seating. Stop in Pat O’Brien’s next door and get Hurricanes to occupy you while waiting.

Knork, Shish Kebab Stick and Fork had breakfast at Cafe Beignet on Royal Street. I had Cajun Hashbrowns – andouille sausage, potatoes, bell peppers, red onion, served with scrambled eggs and toasted french bread. Great way to start the day.

And of course, more beignet! Not terrible, but nowhere near as yummy as Cafe du Monde.

Knork, Shish Kabob Stick and Fork, spent the day walking around and listening to some amazing street musicians.

At some point we ended up on Bourbon Street and walked over to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Lafitte’s is said to be the oldest structure in the United States used  as a bar. We were told by an old friend, that Lafitte’s had the BEST Hurricanes in New Orleans. If you have never had a Hurricane, they are DEADLY. Light rum, dark rum, there’s grenadine syrup, passion fruit juice, orange juice, lemon juice. Yum. A little too yum. In New Orleans you can take your drinks out of the bar and walk around with them. You could, conceivably, drink this very quickly while walking around and then fall down. Well, we fell down back at Lafitte’s again for Voodoo Daquiris – supposedly grain alcohol and bourbon and what quite possibly was grape Kool-Aid, and frozen. We needed a nap after this second round.

But between the alcohol binge and getting ready for dinner, the troops decided they absolutely had to walk back to the other side of the French Quarter for margaritas at El Gato Negro.

Not quite sure why, in a town known for Pimm’s Cups and Hurricane’s people felt having a Margarita was so important, but here we were. Not terrible margaritas, but certainly not the best. Might have been by this time Fork was full of a lot of things not related to food or drink.

Dinner was at Emeril’s New Orleans. Again, difficult to go out with 9 people. Difficult to place a table for 9 people. Difficult to make all people happy which was seriously evidenced by the dour sour faces around the table. The food was very good. The service a little difficult. I really have difficulty with staff that (A) hover and (B) are too quick to be snatching glasses, bottles, dishes, etc off the table. Go away.

There was issue with the formal service, all entrees being placed in front of diners at the same time. Personally, I like that sort of dinner service in a linen restaurant. Would I expect the same at Johnny’s Po Boys? Nope.

Disgruntled company aside, the food was really good. Fork ordered the Sweet Barbeque Glazed Salmon. This was served over an andouille potato hash with crispy onions on top.  The salmon was fabulous. Needed a vegetable on the plate, something with a little color. I wish I could telly ou about everyone else’s meal, but I can’t.

Apparently, this group of cutlery has cajun cuisine and southern cuisine, as well as the mallet crab bashing of Maryland, confused. But I managed, with the help of the fabulous concierge at our hotel, to find a place for lunch the next day to satisfy everyone.

Enter Fiorella’s at the French Market. Very rustic and plain. Truthfully, the type of place that would be called a hole in the wall. But the food is fantastic! Inside there are large tables and bright colors.

We started off with Fried Pickle Chips. Not sure why. After tasting, not sure why I was hesitant. The cornmeal crust cut some of the tang from the pickle. The pickle chip stayed crisp inside, and the coating was crisp too. They served ranch dressing along side as a dipping sauce.

There had been a serous yearning for gumbo, and Fiorella’s hit the spot. Made with a thick roux that is long simmered and full of shrimp, crawfish and sausage. There’s a slight kick to the gumbo. Very filling and delicious.

Knork ordered the Muffuletta. Really a big thick Italian sandwich made on a round loaf od bread. The sandwich is filled with an olive spread, salami, capicola, pepperoni, ham emmantaler, and provolone. Big sandwich with big flavors.

Most of the group ordered the Fried Chicken. That could be ‘nuf said, but that’s really impossible for me to do. The crust was salty and shattering. The chicken inside was tender and juicy. It was absolutely perfect. Served on the side were red beans and rice. The first meal where everyone was actually happy – how’s that for a shocker.

Now, dinner this night was supposed to be at Cochon. Wonderful, delicious, beautiful Cochon. But this lot really was difficult to deal with and Cochon was not to be. Instead, we went to the ever tourist popular and saturated Napoleon House (can you tell how much this piece of Cutlery loves tourist places?)

Now, that aside, the Napoleon House is steeped in history, but not the history you would think given the name. Napoleon house was first occupied by Nicholas Girod, who was the mayor or New Orleans in the early 1800s. He apparently offered this home to Napoleon as a refuge during his exile. Napoleon never came, but the name stuck!

Napoleon House is famous for their Pimm’s Cups, one of Fork’s most favorite libations. Please keep them coming, this is going to be a bumpy ride. The interior is much the same as it’s been for the 97 years the Impastato family has owned it. Wooden tables, wooden benches, dark, abrupt service.

The menu was nothing special (and not Cochon). There were sandwiches, salad, gumbo and jambalaya (which they ran out of). Given little of a choice, and certainly nothing enticing, Fork ordered the Muffuletta. Fork was hungry. Fork got through it. It was not good. Another Pimm’s Cup, please!

This being our last night in NOLA, I thought a nightcap on Bourbon Street would be fun, but apparently I am too old, too boring, or too unimportant to invite along! I went back to the hotel with Knork and the old(er) folk and sat in the hotel bar and had a hurricane. Everyone else apparently hit Popeye’s for Jambalaya.

Last day. Brunch before heading to the airport. Fork had made reservation at Mr. B’s Bistro, a casual, intimate restaurant with a fabulous jazz brunch. Trumped again. Commander’s Palace.

Talk about your tourist spots! It gave me the same type of feeling as Tavern on the Green used to give me – mostly  tourists, good for a special occasion, but not as a regular place to go for dinner or brunch if you’re a native.

And if this group though the service at Emeril’s was fussy, this place made Emeril’s look like Mickey D’s. Very expensive. Over the top fussy service. Napkins were not simply folded when you got up from the table, they were replaced. Same with the water glasses. Waiters with white gloves.

That being said, the food was good. Great flavors. Great taste and texture combinations.

This meal definitely needed drinks. Bloody Marys seemed to be the house specialty, so let’s go with it! They were REALLY spicy and REALLY good (another please, quickly). The drinks are brought to the table, and the vodka poured in last from a bottle encased in ice. The rims of the glass are dipped in tabasco and a perry seasoned salt.

As an appetizer we had an Oyser and Absinthe Dome. Plump fresh osyters poached with bacon, artichokes, absinthe and cream, served under a flaky pastry dome. Lovely.

As a main dish Fork ordered the Eggs Couchon de Lait. Sitting in the bottom of the dish are pepper and rosemary biscuits. Over the top is smokey, slow cooked pork debris. On top of the pork were poached eggs with a bourbon-bacon fat (!?!) hollandaise. How could you NOT order this! It was sublime. Everything sits in a pool or deep, rich gravy. There were different taste combinations in every bite.

Shish Kebob Stick wasn’t thrilled with the menu, but did manage to find something suitable – Banana Pancakes. Big, fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Pieces of banana both inside and in between the pancakes. Toasted pecans sprinkled on the plate and a drizzling of maple syrup with bourbon. Yumm-o!

Another stellar dish was the spice encrusted, grilled pork chop served over black eyed peas that were cooked with bacon. Those are fried strings of sweet potato on top. Deep rich flavors. The bacon made the black eyed peas sing (get it? huh?)

The two shining desserts were the Strawberry Shortcake and Creole Bread Pudding Souffle. The strawberries were macerated in sugar and orange juice. Swimming in their own ruby red syrup. On top of the strawberries was a lightly sweet shortcake and whipped cream. This was gone in the blink of an eye! The bread pudding souffle was light and sweet. It arrived at the table puffed and golden. Our waitress came along and cracked the dome and poured in a warm whiskey cream sauce.

The other two, while still good, were not as spectacular. Knork had dulce de leche ice cream – which was really good – served inside a caramelly florentine tuile. The other was a Bailey’s icecream inside a dark chocolate tuile with toasted mini marshmallows.

This is a place that should be experienced for brunch – I understand other meals are a nightmare of waiting – at least once.

Next trip to NOLA will be with like minded foodies! Can’t wait!

Cafe du Monde ~ 813 Decatur Street ~ New Orleans, LA
Cafe Du Monde on Urbanspoon

Luke ~ 333 Saint Charles Ave. ~ New Orleans, LA
Lüke on Urbanspoon

Emeril’s New Orleans ~ 800 Tchoupitoulas St. ~ New Orleans, LA
Emeril's New Orleans on Urbanspoon

Fiorella’s Cafe ~ 1135 Decatur St. ~ New Orleans, LA
Fiorella's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Napoleon House ~ 500 Chartres St. ~ New Orleans, LA
Napoleon House Bar & Café on Urbanspoon

Commander’s Palace ~ 1403 Washington Ave. ~ New Orleans, LA
Commander's Palace on Urbanspoon

Porchetta

A number of years ago, Fork, Spoon and the Salad Tongs went to a tasting at the Armory on Lexington Avenue. The tasting was a disaster. It was so crowded you couldn’t move. The food was running out of most of the stands – IF you could get near them.

The one thing we did try – and went back for – TWICE! – were little sandwiches from Porchetta a tiny place on East 7th Street in Manhattan. We had been trying to get here for 2 years. Blackboard Eats was the twist of fate that finally tilted us toward this oasis of delight.

Totally off topic – Blackboard Eats is a great restaurant program in NY, LA and San Francisco. You receive emails from them and if you are within their chosen number of participants to receive a coupon you get one. They have slightly changed their program now – the coupon costs you $1. Totally worth it for 30% off your dinner bill!

Porchetta was opened by Sara Jenkins and Matt Lindemulder.

They wanted to bring a classic food of their childhood to New York City. Porchetta is a roasted pork with crispy skin, seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices, garlic, sage, rosemary and wild fennel pollen. It’s a typical plate of Roman cuisine. It’s slow cooked Italian fast food that’s found on food carts all over Rome.

The aroma as you walk in is so heady – rosemary and sage and pork and garlic. Sitting in the display case are porchette. You just want to break the glass, grab a porchetta, and run waddle down the street as fast as you can.

The staff is very pleasant. The smells make you insane. The food is phenomenal. There isn’t much choice by way of drinks, but that’s okay.

This is mostly a take out place, but you can sit on a stool and eat. There are 6 stools facing a small U shaped counter. You can sit and face the beautiful porchette or sit and people watch the folks walking back and forth on East 7th Street. Either way, one bite and your surroundings will become a little fluffy cloud in heaven.

The menu is small and perfect. You can order a porchetta sandwich or a porchetta plate. The plates come with greens and beans. There is a mozzarella sandwich, though we’re not sure why. There are three sides – greens, beans and crispy potatoes with burnt ends.

Fork and Spoon both ordered the Porchetta Sandwich – no reason to mess with greens and beans! Beautifully aromatic, perfectly cooked, tender chucks and slices of pork on top of a toothsome bread. To add to this perfection on pane were shards of pork skin, painfully crispy and yummy. Fork was feeling a little tarnished around the tines when we decided on this Adventures, but one bite of this sandwich made all the clouds part and the sun shine. It is – well, divine is the perfect word.

Because the promise of burnt ends was too alluring to pass by, we also ordered the Crispy Potatoes with Burnt Ends. Crispy potatoes. Crunchy burnt ends of porchetta. Rosemary. Need anything else be said? I don’t think so.

So sorry we waited so long to get there. So delighted that we finally did – and will again and again!

Porchetta ~ 110 East 7th Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.777.2151
Porchetta on Urbanspoon

David Burke @ Bloomingdale’s

I love David Burke. There is something completely childlike about him. His food and restaurants are full of whimsy. A characteristic that calls to Fork’s soul.

It was natural that after a bit of retail therapy at Bloomingdale’s Fork and Spoon decided to have dinner at David Burke’s restaurant in Bloomingdale’s. Spoon had eaten there before, and said the food was wonderful and the restaurant had the same feeling whimsy as David Burke’s other places, both on the plate and in decor.

There is a great meal deal at this restaurant – the Blooming Deal – 3 courses for $25. You are served an appetizer, main dish or pizza and dessert. Really not a bad deal at all.

The iced tea is bottomless and refilled very quickly.

If you’re going to David Burke @ Bloomingdale’s for some of that famous David Burke magic. Don’t.  The food is good. Actually, very good.  But there is nothing fun or whimsical about it. Spoon was quite surprised at how different this dining experience was from the first time Spoon had been there.

The service started off very standoff-ish and cold, but as time went on, our waiter warmed a touch. It’s hard to be cold to Cutlery as cute as Fork and Spoon.

One of the waiters came over with a basket of popovers. They could have been – should have been warmer, but that doesn’t take away from their amazing flavor. Every cheesey, peppery bite was delightful. It was a nice beginning to a meal.

Our first appetizer was Macaroni and Cheese. Fork thought the macaroni and cheese was a little bland, like it needed bacon (and what doesn’t). It was very nice and cheesey, though, the pasta cooked perfectly. The crunchy, toasted panko and flecks of herbs on top was a nice touch.

Our second appetizer was Beef Chili Nachos.  A very generous serving of chili, corn tortillas, topped with guacamole, salsa, cheese and sour cream. These were really good. Zesty chili, cool avocado with cheese and sour cream over crispy crunchy tortilla. The plate, however – as you can see – was a sloppy mess. You know, we eat with our eyes, and this wasn’t necessarily appealing and really a little surprising.

Now, we have 2 courses down and not the tiniest bit of whimsy in sight.

Our first main dish was a Prosciutto, Arugula & Basil Pizza. Thin crispy crust. Perfect actually. Generous amount of prosciutto and a garden of arugula. The mozzarella was fresh. This was a cooked sauce. It wasn’t fresh tomatoes. It was more like strained tomatoes, like Pomi, and not doctored up with any fresh herbs.

Our second main dish was  Grilled Filet Mignon, served with whipped potatoes, vegetables and crispy onions. The steak was amazing. The beef was so tender and so flavorful, it needed nothing else on the plate. The filet sat atop mashed potatoes. Not terrible mashed potatoes, but not spectacular mashed potatoes. The vegetables were green beans, carrots, asparagus, beautifully cooked and crisp tender – and for some reason, brussel sprouts, blech. Sitting on top of the filet were crispy, frizzled onions. This was actually a very nice dish, but it was cold!

The set up at David Burke is very strange. As you walk into Bloomingdale’s on the 54th Street side, to the right is the take-out part of Burke in the Box. This is where the kitchen is. To th left is the dining room, which is where we ate. The food all comes from the other side. They bring each dish over under a cloche. Because these sections are on different sides, the timing of the food isn’t great and the heat of the food isn’t consistent.

It is not possible to go to a David Burke restaurant and not order Cheesecake Lollipops. Love the little trees. Love the little cheesecake pops. Love the raspberries. Love the Bubble Gum Whipped Cream. Total smash hit, both in taste and visually. Slight unhappiness – all of the cheesecake pops were wrapped in saran wrap. Some of the little spaces were missing pops. There were repeats of some and only 1 of another. That being said, these are so yummy. Little bites of perfection all wearing different robes of flavor. There were cheesecakes dipped half in milk chocolate and half in dark chocolate and then rolled in chopped peanuts; some in a cherry shell with chipped pistachios; and some tasted of caramel with chocolate cookie crunchies.

I WANT MY WHIMSY BACK!

David Burke @ Bloomingdale’s ~ 1000 3rd Avenue ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.813.2195
David Burke at Bloomingdale's on Urbanspoon

Sel et Poivre

Fork and Spoon were invited to a Press Tasting Dinner at Sel et Poivre on the upper east side of Manhattan.  And while we don’t want to do too many of these – we prefer anonymous visits – after looking over the everyday menu we decided to give it a whirl.

Sel et Poivre began 20 years ago as a mother/daughter owned restaurant, over the years it evolved into what it is today a husband/wife owned restaurant.

The space is small and getting through the bar to the dining room can be almost impossible.

Fork and Spoon arrived and met our host and hostess and were truly looking forward to this dining experience. The dining room is lovely and warm and our dining companions fabulous. The photographs that line walls both upstairs and down are wonderful, some by famous photographers, some family photos. The bread – fabulous (yes, one of the important things in life, like bottomless iced tea).

To start we were served Fish Soup. Spoon had the sense to say she doesn’t eat fish and was offered another dish – which we will get to. Fork wanted to try the dishes being offered and specifically asked the waiter if there was any shellfish in the soup. Nope. None. No shrimp shells? Nope, notta a one. Okie dokie. Sigh – you know what’s coming, right?

Anyway the soup was very interesting. A bowl of flavorful fish soup is brought to the table along with a plate of toasts, grated cheese and an aioli. It’s sort of a do-it-yourself soup. Very interesting. So the owner comes by, Fork asks – ‘Is there shellfish in the soup?’ ‘Why yes, yes, there is. They use shrimp heads and shells.’ The blanch that came across the tines of the Fork must have clued him into a problem. Off he went to the kitchen and this was the answer he came back with. Sit down, you’re going to love this one. ‘Yes, we always use shrimp shells and heads in the soup, but the chef said (ready?) not in this batch.’  Fork must looked as though I was forged yesterday. The itching commenced. And this set the tone for the rest of the meal as far as Fork was concerned. Thanks for the hives. They were in places no self respecting fork should have them.

You know what? Tell the truth. Inform your staff. Fortunately, Fork is not as highly allergic as I once was.  Anyway, let’s continue…

Spoon (smart cutlery) was brought a lovely plate of pate and the typical accoutrement. The pate was very good. Along with the pate were cornichon, toasts and a grainy mustard.

Following these was a Celery Root Remoulade with Red Beets. We loved the contrast between the bright celery root and the ruby colored beets. Light, refreshing, slight curry flavor to the celery root. All together a nice simple dish.

Our next dish was Skate with Lemon Capers and Basmati Rice. Fork loves skate, and this was very well prepared – butter, lemon, a light saute, some capers, what could be bad. Skate – for those of you who have not tried it – is from the ray family. It is a light and delicate white filet. The skate was served with basmati rice.

Spoon – the non-fish eater (smart cutlery) – was given an alternative dish – which was originally going to be steak, but turned out to be ravioli. The ravioli was filled with smoked mozzarella and asparagus and served with a light tomato and cream sauce. Very good ravioli. (Odd that, ravioli filled with mozzarella being served at a press dinner in a French restaurant, but it must be the itching taking over again.)

Our last course before dessert was Calves Liver a la Lyonnais with mashed potatoes and brocoli. The liver was smothered in onions. There was a little quiet chatter between the Spoon and Fork and Your Vicarious Experience. Fork had never eaten calves liver before, Spoon wasn’t a fan. We all thought it an odd dish to serve. Fork is of the belief if the liver didn’t have feathers at some point, it shouldn’t be eaten. Being the good sports that we are, the 3 of us tried it. I can’t describe the taste – I was too busy itching at the time – but it isn’t something I would like to try again. The mashed potatoes and brocoli were very good. Does that help?

For dessert we were served a Terrine de Chocolate, which sat in raspberry coulis. The terrine was light and chocolatey, very smooth and rich. The raspberry coulis a perfect balancing act with the chocolate.

Sel et Poivre ~ 853 Lexington Avenue ~ 212.517.5780
Sel Et Poivre on Urbanspoon

Riverpark

Tom Colicchio – my hero. Beautiful restaurants. Great locations. Fantastic food. Great service. Riverpark is no exception. Well,two exceptions, this place has a GREAT view and participates in Restaurant Week. What a bonus!

Now, it is a little difficult to get here. It isn’t really near the subway or the bus. You can drive there, and for the moment, parking is free if you eat at Riverpark. The view is beautiful and on a clear day you can see up and down the East River.

Riverpark is tucked in an ultramodern office building. You walk through the lobby and through a door and you are just transported to a special place.

The decor in Riverpark is very similar to Colicchio & Sons – dark tables, lots of windows, white plates, big bar area. The host staff is super friendly – and remember repeat customers as if they come in every day.

The Restaurant Week menu had 6 selections each for the appetizer and main course. A little something for everyone. As we sat pouring over the menu, our waiter, Tom, brought us iced tea, bottomless? A basket approaches – we’re always excited by the basket – and tucked inside was Pretzel Bread. Warm, salty, dense, slightly crisp outside – hopefully a sign of things to come.

First came Iberico Pata Negra – literally translated to black hoofed ham. This particular strain of hog is found only in Spain, and has only become available in the U.S. in the last 5 or 6 years. This is a cured ham, not a smoked ham. It melts in your mouth. Very much like prosciutto, just a slightly different flavor. The Jamon was served with triangles of slightly charred, grilled bread – perfect accompaniment.

Our second starter was the Duck Liver Pate, also served with charred toast, and the most wonderful reduced, sticky, yummy cherry – hmmmmm – stuff! Almost like a a cherry preserve that was reduced and most of the liquid sucked reduced out of it. It was perfect with the rich duck pate. There was a little rosemary and salt sprinkled on top of the pate. I know, I know, this is heart attack on a plate, but there’s just a little pate and it is absolutely exquisite.

Spoon had Fettucine with Pork Ragu. Smelled wonderful, tasted even better. Fresh fettucine perfectly cooked with a rich, meaty, deeply flavored pork ragu on top. Sprinkled over the ragu was fried rosemary. Perfect touch and flavor to go with the ragu.

Fork ordered the Fried Chicken Sandwich with pickled vegetables and garlic mayonnaise. Put the words fried chicken in any dish and Fork will eat it, can’t be helped, it’s an addiction. This was a very large plate of deliciousness. Very generous sized chicken breast, crispy crunchy fried to absolute perfection. Sitting on top of the chicken were great pickled vegetables, perfectly crispy and vinegar-y and spicy to boot. THe garlic mayonnaise was really perfect with this, added a kick to the whole sandwich. The only thing that kept this from being knocked out of the park was the roll. It wasn’t bad, it certainly wasn’t good, it was just EH. Served with the sandwich were my downfall in life potato chips. Really, I was only going to eat one, maybe two – HA! Also a lovely salad – to cut some of the richness and give one a modicum of healthiness.

Dessert! Most times very little thought is put into the dessert course in Restaurant Week menus – not so at Riverpark – actually not so at any Tom Colicchio restaurant.

Fork ordered the Beignet served with a kumquat compote and vanilla custard. Soft, pillowy clouds of fried dough. Tender, tender inside, slightly crisp outside, perfect. The kumquat compote was tart and sweet. Lovely on the beignet. THe vanilla custard was fabulous. If the little ramekin had been a little bit bigger Fork and Spoon would have jumped in. It was intoxicating.

Spoon ordered the Apple Crisp with dried cherries, cognac and creme anglaise. Wonderful crispy, buttery, sugary topping. You dive into apples and cherries and warm spices. Pour in a little creme anglaise and you have another winner. Perfect for a chilly winter day.

This was so worth the wait. This was so worth the trek to the edge of Manhattan. This will so be a place we come back to again and again!

Riverpark ~ 450 East 29th Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.729.9790
Riverpark on Urbanspoon