Gusto

Gusto, you had me at Burrata!

Every Thursday, Gusto (pronounced goose-toe) receives a shipment of burrata from Italy. We may need to be at Gusto every Thursday from now until – well, forever!

Fork and Spoon fell in love with Roman cuisine and burrata this past summer while in Roma with our wonderful friend Mauro. Since returning from our vacation we had been aching for true Roman cuisine – Gusto certainly does not disappoint.

The restaurant is on busy Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich Village. The atmosphere is welcoming and comfortable. Dark tables, comfy seating, not too noisy, fabulous staff!

In the kitchen of Gusto is the fabulous Saul Montiel. What a vision. What a fabulous menu. He isn’t one of those stay in the kitchen and hide chefs. That being said, he isn’t one of those always out of the kitchen chefs that make you stop to wonder who is actually doing the cooking!

The menu is wonderful. So wonderful it is really hard to decide what to order. We wanted everything!

We decided to go with a few appetizers and a pasta – oh, and dessert, but we didn’t really need to say that, did we?!

First up, Carciofi alla Giudea. SMall artichokes, deeply fried. Crispy crunchy on the outside, tender and moist on the inside. Slightly different than one would be served in Rome where you see gigantic artichokes completely flattened. These were hearts, which had advantages – not as many tough outer leaves. A squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of salt, and life is beautiful!

 Then, Raviolo con Uovo e Pancetta. Made in house and fabulous. One big, beautiful raviolo stuffed with buffalo ricotta (also flown in) and an egg. Sitting on top a piece of crispy pancetta and fried scallions. What a flavor combination. Tender pasta, creamy ricotta, rich egg yolk, salty pancetta – heaven on your fork! Did I mention it swims in sage butter? No? Well, ‘nuf said …

And the special antipasti this night, stuffed zucchini flowers. Ugly to photograph, delicious on your tongue! Cheesy and gooey inside, lightly battered and fried. Crispy and tender and so summery and wonderful!

Let’s not forget our reason for coming to Gusto! BURRATA! FLown in every Thursday, diners come just to have a fix taste of this creamy delicious cheese. firmer on the outside (like mozzarella) and soft on the inside – well, if you haven’t tried it you absolutely must. It is amazing! Served simply with fresh tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. We could have had just this, twice, maybe three times and called it a night.

We shared Tonnarelli con Cacio e Pepe. To die for. Tonnarelli is a fresh, square-ish pasta, the perfect foil for the pepper and pecorino romano cheese. Oodles of salty, sharp cheese against the peppery bite of freshly ground black pepper. So simple and so perfect. What else is there to say – except jump in!

And for the first time in the history of our friendship Fork refused to share a dessert with Spoon. I told Spoon, ‘get your own. I will not share.’ Fork had tasted this dessert before and knew this was not something to share, not even with your best friend. Fresh peaches roasted, amaretto added in and simmering until it begins to thicken, brown sugar for a bit of sweetness, to gild the lily mascarpone cheese, really cold mascarpone cheese. Sweet peaches, drowning in an almondy syrup. It is enough to make you soon!

Go, taste, enjoy, relax, no one rushes you. Try everything. Go back, try it again. When you’re at Gusto, you’re with family. Enjoy!

Gusto ~ 60 Greenwich Avenue ~ New York, NY ~ 646.502.9901
Gusto Ristorante E Bar Americano 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

Bubby’s

Fork & Spoon needed a restaurant close enough to an event we were attending to not involve a lot of walking in the rain. Our biggest dilemma always seems to be what to eat. Neither of us ever wants to decide. You pick, no you pick, no you pick. Whining ensues. Not a pretty sound. A zip code and google helps in these situations.  Hmmmm …… southern, BBQ, fried chicken? Oh, Bubby’s, you have won our hearts! The online menu looked great. And Bubby’s is renowned for their pies and desserts.

They have many different menus. There is a breakfast menu, a lunch menu, a brunch menu (they are famous for their brunch menu), a midnight brunch menu, an afternoon menu, and a dinner menu. Our timing was going to be a little off, so the afternoon menu, which is served from 4pm to 6pm and from 11pm to midnight would be perfect. One glitch, the menu online and the afternoon menu didn’t match, so the dishes we wanted to try from the online menu weren’t available at the time we were there. It was 5:30. Would Bubby’s let us wait?

Fork was early. Spoon was running late. Would they even let Fork sit and wait? Well, yes, of course, you can sit and wait. Iced tea, menus, a discussion with Dominick – our wonderful waiter – about the menus. Yes, we had to wait for 6pm for the dinner menu, but we were welcome to wait. Iced tea was in huge glasses, fresh and most importantly bottomless.

Once Spoon arrived, and more iced tea ordered, we went to work on the menu.  Dominick listened to what we were thinking of ordering, and knew what was on both the afternoon and dinner menu so we could begin ordering. Dominick, you are the best! What a great waiter, interested in the customer, knowledgable about the menu, and attentive.

Our first choice was on both the afternoon menu and the dinner menu, so that was easy. Warm Hand Cut Potato Chips with Maytag Blue Cheese. There isn’t a single word in that title that doesn’t make you drool and isn’t decadent and amazing. The chips are amazing. Thick cut potato chips with just the right amount of crispy and chewy. The chips are city in a pool of melty blue cheesey goodness with large chunks of Maytag blue cheese swimming around. There is  just a bit of the sauce and cheese drizzled on top of the chips. It kept the chips from becoming too soggy and icky. This dish of fabulousness gave us time to get close enough to 6:00pm to put in our dinner order.

We had originally intended on ordering the BBQ Pork Sliders. They’re on the dinner online menu, but they were not on the restaurant dinner menu! After a bit of a discussion – and trying to overcome our severe disappointment – and with Dominick’s help – about what we were planning on ordering, he came up with a simple solution: The Red Wattle Pulled Pork Plate. This let us try the 2 sides we were going to order as appetizers and have BBQ pork at the same time. Sheer genius!

What arrives is this gigantic platter of goodness. Fork and Spoon are never quite sure that the white bread is about. But, white bread aside, on our fabulous platter was BBQ pulled pork, hush puppies, mac & cheese, pickles and cole slaw. The pickles are crispy and tangy and sweet. The cole slaw? Take a page from the Daily News, soak it, shred it, put it in a ramekin, voila, cole slaw. It was just plain awful. The crusty mac & cheese was really yummy. The crust was – well, as the name implies, crusty! There was a wonderful smokiness about the dish. Very cheesy, pasta not mushy. The hush puppies were so good! Free form in shape, flecks of herbs throughout, great flavor, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The pork was totally the star. It’s seasoned really well, but dry rubbed, not in sauce. Don’t th ink for a minute this means it was dry! Not by any stretch of the imagination. The pork was tender and falling about and very moist. There was a terrific vinegary tang to it.  On each table is a trio of sauces that are made in-house at Bubby’s. One is vinegar based, one is spicy tangy and one is mustard based. The spicy and mustard were our favorites. These sauces were good on everything!

One of the sides that we had to try, but couldn’t include in our platter was Cauliflower James Beard Style. Lightly sautéed, herbs, breadcrumbs. Needed a little salt. We needed a vegetable! And this totally fit the bill. Mostly healthy, very good.

As we were sitting and happily sipping iced tea and munching away on our s, Spoon spied Dominick bringing a biscuit to a table behind us. Tines spun around so quickly to see the biscuit it’s a wonder we weren’t permanently damaged. Spoon called over our dear Dominick and merely pointed. He winked, turned and when he reappeared he had 2 of the most beautiful biscuits we had ever seen. They were so tall and golden – popover sized. You could see how flakey they were just by looking at them. They were piping hot. When you broke them open the insides were tender, just beckoning for butter! The outside was crispy with a slight saltiness to it. Dominick told us there was a new gal as the pastry chef and she had just made the biscuits. We would have run into the kitchen and kissed her had we been allowed!

And of course dessert. It can’t be a true adventure without dessert. We were still reeling from the deliciousness of the biscuit and wanted to try and blankly staring at the spinning dessert display. Every single pie and cupcake and cookie looked amazing. We couldn’t decide. We looked to Dominick and he simply said ‘Sour Cherry’. SOLD! Michigan sour cherries tucked into a flaky and crisp crust. Not too sour, not too sweet, just enough of both elements to satisfy your palate. A little whipped cream on the side and Bob’s your uncle.

I wish I could remember the pastry chef’s name. I know she was knew when we were there for dinner, I am pretty sure her name began with a K, maybe Spoon will remember. If you see this – YOU ROCK!

If you’re jonesing for good BBQ, Bubby’s will satisfy you! While we ate in Tribeca, there’s also a location in Brooklyn.

Bubby’s ~ 120 Hudson Street ~ New York, New York ~ 212.219.0666
Bubby’s ~ 1 Main Street ~ DUMBO ~ Brooklyn, NY ~ 718.222.0666
Bubby's on Urbanspoon

Becco ~ Birthday Celebration 5

Come on, admit it, you’re tired of hearing about my birthday. I am so grateful to my friends and family for making this birthday the most spectacular birthday I have ever had. As part of the celebration that is never ending, Spoon and Olive Fork bought tickets for the 3 of us to see a matinée of the Adams Family. The question then became, ‘Where to have lunch, where to have lunch?’ When the suggestion came out to try Becco, there were cheers, ooohs and aaaahs all around!

Becco has a wonderful prix fixe menu at both lunch and dinner aptly named the Sinfonia di Pasta. A choice of an appetizer, either Insalata Cesare or Antipasto Misto; bottomless pastas, there are 3 on the menu each day; and a fabulous dessert. The pasta is served table side and waiters rove the dining room with large pans full of pasta. You can eat as much or as little as you would like. The cost is $17.95 during lunch and $22.95 during dinner. A fantastic deal. A deal we had fully planned on trying.  Those of you who read our blog regularly, wave your hands if you think we took advantage of this great deal. I really can’t see any hands waving from here, so you all would be right. No such luck! But let me back up a bit first.

Olive Fork arrived first. Olive Fork. actually, was quite early. Would you believe, that during a ridiculously crowded lunch service (matinée day, right smack in the middle of the theatre district), they sat Olive Fork at our table to wait. We were quite pleased and impressed. Lesser restaurants are not that thoughtful, though they really should be. Really, isn’t it that type of service that has diners returning again and again?

Another surprise was the iced tea. Fresh, cold, large glasses and bottomless. Oh, all you restaurants that charge for iced tea by the glass, there’s a reason places like Becco are so successful, they understand treating their clientele well, and 22 cents worth of iced tea is certainly not a strain on anyone’s budget!

Our last surprise was our table. We had a teeny, tiny table, stuffed in between 2 large round tables that were chock full of people. Now, while we are not serving sized cutlery, we certainly are not children’s sized cutlery. This table was so ridiculous. The waiters were literally climbing over us to serve the two tables on either side.  This had disaster written all over it. A request to the wonderful host staff was all it took for us to be moved to another table. It wasn’t much bigger, but it was not as crowded.

Our waitress, Nicole, was lovely. Harried, yes, but lovely.

We didn’t make it through the menu to try the Sinfonia di Pasta. There were far too many glorious dishes on the menu to try. So we decided to split a few appetizers and a main course – which of course turned into 2 main courses! Our first choice for appetizer was a beautiful arugula salad with pears, gorgonzola and walnuts. Lightly dressed. There was a generous amount of pears and blue cheese and walnuts to go with our abundance of arugula. We loved the spiciness from the arugula with the sweet pears and savory blue cheese. Absolutely fantastic!

We had to try the Meatballs. Truly, if an Italian restaurant can’t master good meatballs, you know everything else is going to be terrible! These meatballs were great. They were gigantic -about spalding ball sized. The meatballs were fluffy and light, but still very rich in flavor. They seemed to be meatballs that were cooked in the sauce. It keeps them very tender being cooked that way. The sauce that the meatballs were swimming in was fresh and flavorful. And, of course, we couldn’t help but have a snowy cap of cheese grated over our meatballs!

The one thing we ordered that we had been drooling over on the menu online was the Polenta with Speck.  This is one of the small places we had a glitch. We ordered the polenta with the speck, but what arrived was just plain old polenta with nothing on top! Nicole whisked away the offensive polenta and brought the right dish. So many great things, one small dish, can it be possible? Look at that photo, it was possible. The creamiest polenta you can imagine topped with melted cheese just starting to brown and just when you think it can’t get better – crispy, crunchy speck! If there weren’t so much more to come, we could have just ordered this dish over and over and over and over!

As we were ordering we were craning our necks to watch all the dishes passing by to see if there was something we were missing. One of the things we saw walk past us was the lasagna. This was Lasagna alla Bolognese. This was lasagna that was fragrant and delicious and the cheesy just brown and gooey on top. This was also a gigantic serving of lasagna! Layers of pasta, bolognese sauce, bechamel and spinach. There was a wonderfully warm and earthy touch of cinnamon throughout the lasagna. The lasagna sat nestled between a pool of bechamel sauce on one side and marinara on the other. Definitely worth the food envy we suffered before ordering it!

The other dish that strolled past our table that we simply couldn’t resist was the Osso Bucco alla Becco. This is Becco’s signature dish of a slow braised veal shank. The shank is braised with tomatoes, carrots, celery until the meat is falling off the bone tender. Served on the side of the osso bucco was farrotto tossed with butternut squash. The farrotto was amazing. Farrotto is simply farro cooking the way risotto is cooked – get it? farro risotto, farrotto. Clever. Took me a while to get that too. The farrotto was very really very good. That could have been a dish all by itself.

We had so much osso bucco and lasagna left over, we absolutely had to take it with us.

For dessert – because you all know the Fork, Knife and Spoon motto, there’s always room for dessert – we ordered the special Panna Cotta of the day. Here was our second glitch. What arrived was plain old panna cotta wiggling on a plate. We all sadly looked at it. Nicole must have seen the bewildered look on our faces and looked at the dessert, picked up the plate and came back with the right dessert. Chocolate and vanilla panna cotta. Oh, yum! A layer of rich, chocolatey balanced by the more mellow vanilla panna cotta on top. The panna cotta was drizzled with chocolate. On the side was a scoop of raspberry sorbet. Tangy and sweet and perfect with the creaminess of the panna cotta. The perfect way to end a perfect meal.

One of the nice things about the Becco menu are the page numbers that go along with the dishes! You can find the recipes for most of the dishes on the menu in Lidia’s books so you can recreate your favorites at home.

This is a great place to go before a matinee or evening performance on Broadway. Heck, this is a great place to go any time at all!

The restaurant was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Yes, I said Christmas! Fork was very pleased to see Becco, an Italian restaurant, not being afraid to celebrate a holiday. I don’t think it’s you or I that has a problem with each person being able to celebrate their own holiday, or my being able to enjoy and appreciate your holiday as well as my own. I think it comes from all of these people who are hell bent on being ‘politically correct’. The problem with being so politically correct is that that is usually far more insulting than “Merry Christmas” or ‘Happy Chanukah’. I am taking back my holiday!  Buon Natale! Happy Chanukah! Let us all be safe and prosperous and happy and healthy and kind to each other in the New Year. Here’s to good friends, happy families, fantastic food and merriment!

Becco ~ 355 West 46th Street ~ New York, NY ~ 212.397.7597
Becco on Urbanspoon

Virgil’s BBQ ~ Birthday Celebration 4

Are you tired of my birthday yet? By this time, Fork needed sleep and an Alka Seltzer! But forge on we must!

As a birthday treat, Knife treated Fork to dinner and the theatre. We were both working, wanted a place for a quick bite and that was relatively close to the theatre. At the outset, I must tell you that Knife is a sucker for BBQ – which, I must say is surprising as Knife is allergic to tomatoes!

So when asked the question “Do you mind BBQ?” the answer was heck no, I don’t mind BBQ.

Virgil’s is one of those annoying places that does not let part of a reservation sit. Everyone must be present and accounted for before they let you sit. It isn’t as if there is anyplace for you to hang out and wait either. Your choice is the bar or the bathroom. 

The iced tea is bottomless, but the service was so slow we could not get a quick refill.

While Knife is a BBQ hound, Fork would go to the ends of the earth for Hush Puppies, so it was natural that our quick bite started with Hush Puppies with maple syrup butter. These were really strangely shaped! Fork is sued to little round spheres of hush puppy delight, but these seemed to be piped and cut into the oil. Nice and crisp and golden on the outside. The hush puppies themselves were full of flavor, lots of herbs flecked throughout, more dense than your usual hush puppy, but still addictively good.

Fork ordered the Kansas Fried Chicken. HUGE portion – well half of a very large chicken portion. You can 2 from the sides and you get a corn (SAHARA) bread muffin. Fork chose the Memphis Barbeque Beans and Cole Slaw.  The chicken was better than I had expected. Crispy, crunchy, slightly salty, flavorful outside, and still very juicy and tender inside.  The beans were smokey and tangy. I expected them to be mushy, but they weren’t. Pleasantly surprised at the flavor. The coleslaw was just generic. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. Be VERY careful about the BBQ sauces on the table. After I tried one and burned my mouth to pieces, our dopey waitress came over and said ‘oh, no one came to explain the sauces to you?’ Hmmm, no, you didn’t. I suppose it isn’t HER job to explain anything, just to take the order and collect the tip. The bottles weren’t even labeled. So sauce user beware!

I did ask to substitute a biscuit for the corn bread. Nope. No can do. I can’t imagine it makes one bit of difference whether you have their yucky corn bread or biscuit, but nope, no can do. So I ordered a biscuit anyway. Seriously, what is BBQ without a biscuit. The biscuit was huge and so delicious. very crisp outer shell, and very tender and moist inside. The biscuit is served with more maple syrup butter. So much better than their dried out, sticky corn muffin.

Knife ordered the Memphis Pork Ribs. First, before we talk about the ribs, let’s talk about Virgil’s only serving Memphis style ribs (dry rub only, no sauce) and only pork ribs (not even a baby back to be found). Seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Glad you think so too! That being said, the ribs are terrific. Moist, tender, smokey, spicy, packed with flavor.  The meat falls off the bone. You can try the BBQ sauces on the table if you like your ribs saucy – but try very little first or you will be unable to speak for hours! Knife ordered the pickled beets and coleslaw to go with. The beets were very good. They said they were house cured. Fork isn’t sure she’d bet the farm on that one!

Now for the REALLY annoying part. Our service was SO slow we didn’t have time for dessert. We barely had time to get to the theatre! If you are going pre-theatre, leave yourself PLENTY of time!

Virgil’s Real BBQ ~ 152 West 44th Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.921.9494
Virgil's Real Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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
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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
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