Il Buco Alimentari

Yes, it’s been a long time. So long, in fact, that we forgot to take a picture of the outside of the restaurant.

That’s okay. For Il Buco Alimentari, it is really the inside and the amazing food that counts!

This was a bad day for Fork. One of those days where words cannot be spoken until alcohol is consumed. Quickly, a cocktail menu. So  many choices, so much alcohol needed. Wait! What’s this? A Timo. Prosecco, Vergano Moscato Vermouth and fresh grapefruit. It was perfect. SLightly sweet, slightly tart, and bubbly.

As the badness of the day emptied while Fork emptied the Timo glass, our lovely waitress Christi brought us bread, olive oil and salt. Really, does life get any better than that?

Fork: “I am in a really bad mood. I don’t care what you order. Just do all the ordering please.”

Spoon: “Okay. I thought the cured meats looked good.”

Fork: “Okay. But, the artichokes. We have to have the artichokes. Oh, and the porchetta. And if we’re having porchetta then we should have the Bucatini Cacio e Pepe and not Gricia.”

Spoon: “well, since you don’t want to order …”

Amazing what a drink and bread can do for one’s mood!

Since our adventure to Rome last spring, Fork and Spoon have been in search of wonderful Roman style restaurants in the City. Il Buco Alimentari is one of these places.

We started with Fried Artichokes. Who can resist fried artichokes? These were small and delicate and crispy. The insides were still tender. The preserved lemon  gave them just the right hit of acidity. A little salt and you were good to go. It’s amazing we were able to snap a photo of these before they were inhaled.

We asked Christi which of the Salumi della Casa she would recommend. She suggested the assorted plate for two. Perfect. A little bit of everything! Some of the meats are made and cured in house and some are from outside sources. They were all amazing. Each unique, but each delicious.

You simply cannot eat in a Roman restaurant without having Pasta Cacio e Pepe. So simple. So delicious. Cheese and pepper. Perfect. We thought the portion a little on the skimpy side, but we still had a long way to go, so it was really okay – this time! Fork and Spoon were reaching for a little bit of bread to soak up the cheese and pepper on the bottom of the bowl when this manager-type person swooped in from NOWHERE and snatched the bowl off the table. WITH. OUT. ASKING if we were done. Sigh.

Next up – and one of the dishes we can never resist – Porchetta alla Romana. The meat was tender and very flavorful. It was served with shaved fennel, blood orange and mustard greens. We could have lived without the mustard greens. They really don’t add anything here. There were two teeny tiny slices of blood orange on the plate. The shaved fennel was perfect with the porchetta. The cracklings on top. Oh, the cracklings. Does anything really need to be said about cracklings? Nope. And over the shattering of the cracklings you couldn’t have heard us anyway!

When we ordered the Porchetta, Christi mentioned that the dish came without any sort of side and would we like to order something. One quick glance at the menu and we were done. Crispy Polenta. WHat this meant we had no idea, but it was crispy and it was polenta. What arrived were small abstract cubes of polenta, deep fried with shavings of parmigiano on the top. Not necessarily a great side to the delicate Porchetta, but a great side just the same! This would be great as an appetizer with some wine or prosecco.

You would think we would have been stuffed by now, but meal does not go by without dessert. It must be done. The roasted pear with semolina crumble and creme fraiche gelato was just too intriguing to pass up. The pear was amazing. Tender, sweet and gooey. Perfect with the tang from the creme fraiche gelato.

It’s a little crowded, the tables a little toooooo close together (and no one moves them for you), and VERY noisy, but once you start eating, all of this melts away and you are just being treated to fabulous cuisine.

With the exception of the thievery of our pasta bowl, this meal was amazing. And definite must try and for us a definite must go back to!

Il Buco Alimentari ~ 52 Great Jones Street ~ New York, NY ~ 212.837.2622
Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria on Urbanspoon

LIC Market

Trying to beat the heat.

Trying to beat the heat and eat someplace fun.

Wanting to try a new place.

Fork and Spoon decided to try LIC Market – now celebrating their 1st anniversary. We had heard wonderful things about LIC Market and decided to begin our exploration of Long Island City with LIC Market.

It is very difficult to park here, so plan on driving around for a bit.

As you walk into LIC Market, you are in the retail area of the business. They sell teas and pickles and jams. They also sell coffee and tea to go. After you walk through this space there is a dining room in back. A very small dining room. So crammed full of tables that diners actually have to get up so you can sit down.

The lunch menu is small, but the most of what is on there is enticing!

Before we start on the food, let’s get the iced tea situation out of the way. The iced tea comes in a large glass, probably 16 ozs. There is maybe – a big maybe – 4 ozs of tea and the rest ice. Now this wouldn’t be bad if the iced were bottomless. It’s not. It’s $2.50 per glass. I don’t know about you, but I resent paying $2.50 for 4 ozs of iced tea and a glass of ice – FOUR TIMES.

Back to the food.

 

Our first sandwich was fresh mozzarella, grilled radicchio, arugula and basil on French bread. This was very good. Fresh Mozzarella was slightly salty. The bitterness of the grilled radicchio was nice with the peppery arugula. It could have used another – something – vinegar, oil, just another layer of flavor.

Our second sandwich was slow cooked pulled pork on souman bread, gruyere, pickles and a mustard dressing. Almost a Cuban and very tasty. The bread alone was fabulous. THe pork melt in your mouth tender. THe gruyere and pickles giving it that homey spin with a touch of salty and sour. 

 

On the side we ordered rapini with roasted tomatoes. Rapini is a cross between broccoli rabe and broccoli. Same shape as a broccoli rabe but not as bitter. This was really delicious. The tomatoes and oil and rapini were GREAT on the mozzarella sandwich!

When asked if we wanted anything else, we asked about dessert. The waitress handed us back the menu. The lunch menu. Did she think we wanted another sandwich? When we mentioned that we were looking for something sweet, she said they might have an oatmeal cookie left, but that they don’t serve sweets.

SIGH …

LIC Market ~ 21-52 44th Drive ~ LIC, NY ~ 718.361.0013
LIC Market on Urbanspoon

Nougatine @ JeanGeorges

For Fork and Spoon, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant is love at first bite. The restaurants are beautiful, warm, inviting, staffed with people who are pleased to be there. Everything is perfect. There isn’t really one thing you can put a tine on.

Nougatine is just another piece of our heart that belongs to Jean-Georges.

It is amazing that those dining in Jean-Georges walk so close Nougatine and most never think to stop and dine there. Nougatine is the slightly more casual, slightly less expensive, but absolutely just as enticing as big brother Jean-Goerges. Uncluttered, ultra-modern, bright, light woods,stark even, and yet it is warm and comfortable, beckoning and welcoming. The acoustics are wonderful. 

Nothing is quick. Nothing is rushed. The staff smiles, is friendly, knowledgable and answer any questions you may have.

Fork and Spoon met here for dinner before seeing a screening of Toast. If you have not read Nigel Slater’s book Toast, please do. If you can see the film, please do. But, back to Nougatine.

While we were looking through the menu, we ordered iced tea. The tea is fresh, cold, nice sized glasses, and they give you one refill. We didn’t ask for a third to just see what would happen. But while refilling the tea, they remove your glass from the table, place it on a tray, pour and out the glass back. Same with the water, which is constantly refilled.

We ordered. Three appetizers and one main dish. We wanted to experience as many dishes as possible.

While we were waiting for our fist appetizer, our waiter appeared with an Amuse Bouche. A shot glass with a warm carrot and ginger soup, accompanied by a perfect rectangle of rye toast with a tiny dollop of mustard butter, a wedge of radish, and chive. Perfectly assembled. Beautiful to look at. Fork is not a soup fan, but this was warm and creamy, slightly sweet from the carrot and a wonderful smack of ginger was stunning. The perfect amount to win you over. The rye toast was crisp, a wonderful tang coming from the mustard butter with a spicy crunch from the radish. Oh, this was so a sign of what was yet to come.

One of our starters was Asparagus Vinaigrette with Sautéed Mushrooms. Crisp, slim, ultra-fresh asparagus all lined up. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, sitting in a pool of a light vinaigrette. On top of these beauties were sautéed mushrooms. Not sautéed so much that they lost their shape or taste. A variety of different mushrooms. So many tastes in one bite.

Now this second starter could not be passed by. Foie Gras Brulee with Strawberry. The top was really and truly brulee’d (is that even a word?). It was almost as much fun to look at as it was to eat. I love that tapping and cracking sound from a brulee. Soft and rich foie gras wrapped around a strawberry – yes, a fresh strawberry. Fork and Spoon had there doubts about the strawberry with the foie gras, but the combination was delectable.

Our third, and last starter was a Field Mache Salad. You wouldn’t think we could or would get so excited over a salad, but look at it. It’s lovely!  Tender field greens, crispy lardons of bacon, a light dressing, sunnyside up egg and snippets of chives. The crisp bacon gives a little extra texture and a smokiness against the peppery greens. And the egg, oh, the egg, once you cut into the yolk and it swims through the salad and mixes with the dressing, you suddenly have a wonderful richness that would not have been there otherwise. Perfect.

For our main course, Spoon and I decided we would share the Filet.  The filet was served over grilled scallions and mashed potatoes. On top of the filet were crispy, fried onions. I am sure some of you are thinking, a filet, so what. I can tell you so what – the filet was glazed with mirin, soy and sesame oil. When I tell you the flavor combination on this tender steak was over the moon good, I ain’t kidding. The flavors of the glaze with the grilled scallions was great. The little pool of the glaze under and around the garlic-y mashed potatoes made them even better. These were silky, smooth mashed potatoes. Almost more of a puree than a mash. This filet was inhaled at a record pace. We had to resist the urge to pick up the plate and lick it! 

We ordered 2 desserts. You know we had to.

First up was a Hazelnut Dacquoise. On top of the dacquoise was a deep, decadent chocolate mousse. So far so good. the mousse was actually in a cone shape. The inside if the cone was filled with a licorice ice, which was startling, overpowering and terrible. It was so in contrast to the delicate, sensual flavors on the plate that it was almost like skipping down the street and running face first into a wall. We scooped that stuff out quickly and put it on a side plate. There was a lovely berry compote to go along with this. Surprisingly light and delicate, this dessert really aims to please – without the licorice ice, of course!

Our second dessert was a lovely little Rhubarb Tart. Sweet and tart rhubarb sitting inside a crisp, flaky pastry. Perfect. Sitting atop the tart was a small creme brulee. The creaminess was perfect with the rhubarb. Strewn around the tart were tapioca pearls, slivers of strawberry and palm seeds. Beautiful for both the eyes and the palate.

One of the wonderful thing about Jean-Georges restaurants is their pleasant fulfillment of all your senses. Nougatine did not disappoint!

Nougatine ~ 1 Central Park West ~ NYC, NY
Nougatine at Jean-Georges 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

Wafels & Dinges

What is all this food truck craziness about? When Fork was a kid a food cart was a guy standing on a corner selling ‘dirty water dogs’ or in the winter chestnuts and big soft pretzels. Oh, how Fork longs for the chestnut vendors to come back!

I gotta tell ya, I have succumbed to the insanity. Fork follows twitters for food trucks to see if they will be near work or home or shopping so that Fork can dive in and catch this crazy culinary train.

Wafels & Dinges was in Park Slope Saturday. On my way back from shuttling someone to and fro whatever it was that they were doing, I thought I would drive by and try it out.

Found a spot across the street. There was no line! You stand there staring at the board, what do I want, what kind of waffle, toppings, sigh, confusion sets in. WHat to do. What to do. And Joe steps in. Joe was wonderful and patient, and guided the waffle virgin through the ordering process. You have a choice of 2 different wafels – a Brussels (crunchy and light)or Liege (chewy and rich and slightly sweeter). Joe suggested the Liege for a first timer. And the choices don’t end there! Once you get the wafel down you have to pick the dinges (toppings). Bananas and Nutella just jumped off the list at me, and Joe agreed it was a great choice.

The wafel was $5, the first dinges is free. Fork had received a tweet, that if you pantomime a tennis serve, you would get a free dinges. Fork looked side to side, no one there, a toss in the air and a swat at my tennis ball, and my wafel with 2 dinges stayed at $5. Does it get better than that?

I quickly and greedily grabbed my wafel, a pile of napkins, a fork and knife and scurried to my car to enjoy my feast. Oh, it gets better than that the second you take a bite of your wafel. Chewy, tender inside, crisp outside, generous about of bananas and Nutella drizzled all over the top.

The only bad thing about the wafel? It was gone, my wafel box was empty and I knew it would be a WEEK before I could get back there and try another! Fork had spied a wafel topped with maple syrup and bacon….. hmmmmm

We can’t give you an exact location for the Wafel trucks, check the website or follow them on twitter @waffletruck to find out where they are on any particular day.

Bark Hot Dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maialino

Maialino! Maialino! Let me in! Come to the Gramercy Park Hotel and Danny Meyer and his wonderous team will not only let you in, they will treat you like family, make sure you are well fed, and have you leaving satisfied and thrilled to have been part of the experience. Just in case you think Fork bent a tine, Maialino translates to little pig from Italian.

Maialino, the newest jewel in the crown of restaurant king Danny Meyer, is located in the revamped Gramercy Park Hotel. And, true to the Meyer formula, this restaurant is different from every other Meyer restaurant, but with the same painstaking attention to every detail in every inch of the restaurant, a fantastic menu, and a staff that is knowledgeable and truly happy to be there helping you through your culinary adventure.

Spoon called Fork on the fly to see if perhaps Fork was free for dinner. Really? Is that a question that needs to be asked? Meet me at 5.30. We’re going to the bar room at Maialino. Well, alrighty then, Fork will be there – with bells on.

Maialino is the hot, hot, HOT place to be, so snagging a table in the bar room is easier than a reservation in the dining room. The portions are smaller (and less expensive), but the food is still fabulous, as is the service. But, beware, the bar room fills up quickly, so the earlier you get there the better. The restaurant is booked until mid-February, you could chance a walk-in around 5:30 or just be happy with the bar room, and happy you will be!

While Fork and Spoon were trying to decide what to start with, Spoon spied slim breadsticks on the bar and scattered around the high bar tables. Spoon asked a passing waiter about them, and the waiter brought some right over. What arrived was a slim glass lined with butcher’s paper and filled with slim, crisp, cheese sticks. They were small but packed a full wallop of flavor. Bread was also brought to the table, along with olive rolls, and semolina rolls. The cheese sticks are made on the premises.

All the breads and pizzas come from Sullivan Street Bakery. Fork remembers seeing an interview with Danny Meyer once and one of the most endearing things he said was along the lines of not knowing how to do everything well, so why do it half way when he can surround himself with people who know how to do it better. Such would be the case with breads coming from Jim Lahey.

Iced tea is fresh, bottomless, and filled without having to ask, as is the water. Nothing makes a guest feel more welcome than everything being refilled and refreshed before you realize you need or want it.

Our lovely waitress Genesa was very knowledgable about the menu. Not just about what went into each dish, but how it tasted, how it played with other things we ordered. What a treat to have someone so in tune with the menu taking care of you.

We started with Panelle alla Gricia. Panelle is a polenta fritter. This polenta was narrow and then rolled like a pinwheel. Rolled inside the panelle was guanciale (an uncured italian bacon, like pancetta, made from pig jowls or cheeks), and pecorino cheese. On the top of each was chopped fresh rosemary, a big hit of black pepper, and sea salt. Fork’s first bite brought Fork back to childhood and a sausage bread that AG made all the time. It’s a wonderful experience when something you eat brings you to a happy time in your life and a piece of cutlery that you love.

Next arrived Suppli al Telefono. Lovely croquettes made with a tomato risotto and mozzarella. Crisp shell, creamy risotto, wonderful mozzarella, diced tomatoes. What a wonderful flavor combination.  Suppli al Telefono is a roman rice ball dish that when hot and pulled apart the mozzarella is stringy. Someone, sometime, thought they looked like telephone lines and the name stuck – I kid you not. And, like the Panelle, one bite of the croquette brought Fork back to being just a Forklet and a wonderful dish from young days in the cutlery drawer. I know this is repetive, but isn’t wonderful when a simple taste can bring you back to another wonderful and perfect time in your life? The croquettes are served with a light tomato sauce for dipping. But, frankly, with the tomatoes inside the croquette, the dipping sauce is redundant.

Next arrived Zampina di Maialino. Fork was not too sure about this dish. Suckling pig’s foot! Sigh. Yes, Spoon, of course, Spoon, I trust you … BUT SUCKLING PIG’S FOOT! Fork is usually game for anything, and if Spoon wants to try it how bad could it really be? But Fork still sat waiting for the dish to arrive and walk itself onto the table. What arrived was nothing that was expected, a beautiful ring of tender, luscious pork, sitting in a pool of tender, tiny lentils with slices of celery and celery leaves. Very rich, very tasty, very unfoot-like!

While Spoon and Fork were sitting quietly, contentedly munching on our wonderful selections, sipping our bottomless iced tea, we were suddenly hit with food envy! We were watching dishes being placed on the table next to us, grabbing our menu, what is that, we need that, where is Genesa?

One of the things ordered was Carciofini Fritti. Fried artichoke hearts. Little tiny nibble of tender, crispy artichokes. There is a super light coating on the artichokes before frying with some herbs. Totally yum! We were so happy the cutlery next to us ordered this dish. The carciofini was served with and anchovy bread sauce. I don’t think Spoon or Fork tried this. The carciofini was certainly a stand alone and we didn’t need the sauce – and Spoon does not like anchovies.

In between the bar room and the trattoria are a bread station on the left and a salumeria on the right. You just want to stand and stare at the goodies on both sides. The breads and pizzas are beautiful. As mentioned earlier, they come form the Sullivan Street Bakery, and as you walk past you experience a treat for the senses, they look beautiful, they smell fantastic, and you already know how good they are. Not even the cutlery who live in fear of carbs could possibly resist these goodies.

And after looking at the prosciutto and speck and salame and fabulous cheeses, Fork and Spoon had to try a sampling (by the way, this is the advantage to eating small plates). We ordered the Assaggio di Prosciutti – a trio of prosciutti, each different and completely fabulous. There is Prosciutto di Parma, this is what most people experience when they have prosciutto; salty, tender, slightly leathery texture; Prosciutto di San Daniele, buttery in texture, salty; Prosciutto, La Quercia, the most wonderful domestic prosciutto, slightly more marbled than the other prosciutti.

Now, how can Fork and Spoon possibly have an assortment of prosciutti without cheese, a 3 selezioni, but with 13 to choose from, how can you possibly be able to choose – Genesa to the rescue again.  Fork and Spoon chose the Gorgonzola Cremificato, Taleggio di Bufala and the Testun Occelli. The Gorgonzola Cremificato has a higher water content of other gorgonzola cheeses. There are less veins and more pockets of the blue. Taleggio di Bufala is a semisoft cheese made from buffalo milk, very mild in flavor. The strongest in flavor was the Teston Occelli, a hard cheese with a very pungent smell and taste. All three fabulous!

While trying to figure out what was ordered next to us, Fork spied Panini di Porchetta on the menu. This was actually the largest of the dishes that we ordered. Succulent, flavorful roast pork on ciabatta. We’ll just eat the inside and leave the bread. The crispy skin, the tender pork – but, wait, the ciabatta soaked in all the juices from the porchetta.  Well, we’ll have just a tiny bit of the bread. Maybe just a little bit more. Does Fork need to tell you the bread was gone, as was the porchetta, all that was left was what seemed like an inordinate amount of fat on the plate.

All the desserts call to you! We were very tempted to order more cheese for dessert so we could try a few more, but we really were stuffed.

We’re so full. We’re so full we couldn’t possibly eat another bite. Oh, okay, we’ll take a little peek at the dessert menu. Torta della Nonna – Grandmother’s cake – served with a lemon caramel. Flaky tart shell, filled with sweet pastry cream made with ricotta, topped with toasted pinenuts. The torta sat in a pool of lemon caramel, and truthfully, this is what drew Fork and Spoon to this dish. It was barely placed before us when fingers dipped in for a taste. Rich, deep flavor with a huge hit of bright citrus, almost to the point of being more honey than caramel in flavor. The caramel would be great over gelato too!  The pastry cream was so light. It much have been from the ricotta. The tart shell thin and crisp, standing up well to the pastry cream. Nothing worse than a soggy crust! Pinenuts, toasted, scattered on top and dusted in powdered sugar. The thought and taste of the lemon caramel stayed with Fork and Spoon for some time, trying to decide if it was too honey like and not caramel enough. The lemon was a constant goodness!

Can the happiness of a Fork and Spoon be judged by anything better than an empty plate? We think not! Whether you try the bar room or the trattoria, Maialino will not disappoint. You will leave full, happy and thanking Danny Meyer for another wonderful oasis.

Maialino ~ Gramercy Park Hotel ~ 2 Lexington Avenue ~ New York, NY ~
Maialino on Urbanspoon