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

The Mussel Pot

As you walk along Bleecker Street, you are at no loss for restaurants. Any cuisine you can imagine, any price point, fancy, casual, fast food, good food, not such good food.

Along this stretch of restaurants Fork, and new found friend, Whisk, came across  The Mussel Pot. And the Mussel Pot may be a combination of most of the above descriptions!

We arrived at 6:30 and the restaurant was empty. The garden tables were all full, but the interior tables were completely empty. The restaurant itself is lovely and warm, beautiful mirrors run down one wall and the room is lit by dainty glass chandeliers. The garden has 6 tables around a small waterfall and coy pond. Sadly, they were all taken, but we were able to sit at the table right next to the door.

Our waitress, Jacky, came over and introduced herself to us. Pleasant, warm, and attentive. We asked for the wine list and found a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio. Truthfully, the wine is a bit on the pricey side and this bottle was not chilled enough. THe bus boys were quick with ice, filling water glasses, and whisking plates away. Never once did they approach the table to remove a plate until it appeared both of us were done. HUGE points for that one!

We ordered two appetizers. They took a ridiculously long time to come out of the kitchen. The surprise in this? One of the appetizers was raw.

With or without the long wait, this appetizer was outstanding. Tuna Tartare. Seriously fresh tuna, sitting on a 1/2″ thick disk of guacamole. The guacamole was fresh and chunky and a perfect partner to the tuna. On top of the tuna were some microgreens and a splodge of a citrus miso mayo type condiment. To give the plate a little texture there were some house-made potato chips served alongside. The chips were a really nice addition to the tartare. You could scoop some up on the chip and have all the wonderful flavors at once.

Our second appetizer was Fried Calamari. Fork is a total sucker for fried calamari. Sadly, this was not so great. The presentation was lovely. We loved the idea of three sauces. And there ends the love fest. Fried calamari consists of 2 parts – the legs and the rings. There were perhaps 3 rings and all the rest legs. Whisk doesn’t mind the legs. Fork really doesn’t like them at all. Really, not at all. And the rings that were there were very chewy – like rubberband chewy – which usually means they were frozen. The coating, while really crispy, was not seasoned anywhere near enough.

Then there were the three sauces. There was a spicy remoulade – spicy here is the key word. I was too spicy to enjoy. The Fork and Whisk like spice in their food but not to the point of inedible. There was also a tomato sauce water. It was flavorless and so thin in consistency that nothing stuck to the calamari when you dipped it in the sauce. The third was a chimichurri. All we can say about that is  – meh! Really disappointing appetizer.

So, the schtick with the with the Mussel Pot is – well, really, it doesn’t need explaining – MUSSELS. There are 5 different cuisine styles and 15 different ways to have mussels. They range from intriguing to what were they thinking. What is glaringly absent from their line-up is Moules Mariniere.

The mussels are all served in individual stainless steel mussel pots. Okay, we get it. mussels, mussel pots. Cute. Problem? They are pretty tall and you are eating peering over the top of your pot, holding your fork or spoon at an odd angle. Really not a comfortable way to eat.

Whisk ordered the Paella style which included clams, chorizo, fennel, tomatoes, peas, white wine, saffron, bay leaf and lemon juice. The clams were unnecessary. The broth was  delicious. There was a background warmth to it that turned out to be cloves.  Really nice combination of flavors. 

Fork ordered the Posillipo style.  A light tomato sauce, garlic, white wine and basil. Very good mingling of Italian flavors.

There are plenty of mussels in each pot. They serve bread with the mussels so you can sop up all the sauce – which is also difficult with the gigantic pots! They bring a small slice of bread each, which seems kind of silly. But they gladly bring more if you ask.

Nothing really struck us for dessert. But we were instantly drawn to the Cheese Plate by the words “a variety of the finest imported cheese accompanied with honey comb, fig chutney and candy hazelnuts.” (They desperately need someone to proofread their menu). Okay. There was Brie. There was, to quote our waitress, some kind of parmigianio. There was Havarti with dill – the least dessert type cheese you could ever find.  There was fig chutney. There were candied pecans which were very soft, which means they have been sitting around a while. There were grapes. Now, if you are missing TWO essential ingredients on a composed plate and are subbing – don’t you think you should tell the patrons and ask if they would still like to have that dessert? We couldn’t recover from the honeycomb, candied hazelnuts and havarti.

Nothing was terrible, but nothing was outstanding beyond the tuna tartare. The staff needs to be better informed of what is in each dish, what is not going to be available and most of all – how to pronounce things on the menu.

Oh, one last thing. If Fork or Whisk had gone downstairs to the restrooms before we ate, we would have left. There is. The worst. Fish. Smell. And (as if you need another thing) they have unisex restrooms. Gross. And the floors are all wet from God only knows what.

Try it. Perhaps your experience will be different. I, for one, am very glad I had a 30% coupon from Blackboard Eats or I would have been far more disappointed.

Mussel Pot ~ 174 Bleecker Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.260.2700
The Mussel Pot 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

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

Barbuto ~ Birthday Celebration 2

Celebration Number Two – Spoon, Knork, Spork, Olive Fork, Olive Spoon, and Cake Fork were gathered with Fork for Birthday Celebration 2 at Barbuto. Barbuto is owned by the colorful and talented chef, Jonathan Waxman, author of A Great American Cook and the soon to be published Italian My Way.

Again, pardon the pictures. Far too much celebrating to have been paying attention! They looked great at the time! Perhaps it was the Cosmopolitans!

Barbuto is located in at the south end of the meatpacking district in a converted warehouse and garage. The space is definitely what you would call industrial chic.  In the warmer months the garage doors are rolled up for outside dining and better people watching.

It’s loud and vivacious. It’s funky and chic. It’s welcoming and fun. There is a private dining room and a chef’s table in the kitchen for parties of 8 or more. Seems like a lot of fun, maybe next time!

There were so many people and so many choices! The menu is local and changed almost daily depending on what is fresh and available.

For starters both Fork and Spoon ordered the Polenta with Wild Mushrooms. We were going to share but then we started eying each other in that mischievous I don’t want to share way and ended up ordering 2 portions. And what a good decision that was! The polenta was soft and creamy, the mushrooms were just delectable. They had earthiness and a meatiness and a certain wonderful tang. This was the perfect beginning to a fabulous meal.

Knork had soup. Knork doesn’t share. But Spoon ignores this irksome habit and just eats right off Knork’s plate with a smile. Knork wasn’t sitting close enough to me to see what kind of soup was had, his tines are little bent and he can’t remember much! We know it was a vegetable soup. We know he was quiet for quite some time so he must have enjoyed it immensely!

Spork on the other hand loves to share. Spork loves to share because Spork wants everyone to share in return! Spork shares so much one of the crostini were missing before I could take a photo. Spork ordered the crostini  of the day, which on this day was with pureed butternut squash. A sprinkling of grated cheese and a drizzle of balsamic made this the perfect few bites to start off.

Olive Fork and Olive Spoon shared an appetizer of beets, black forbidden rice, frisee and grated dry goat cheese. This was really yummy. The forbidden rice had a nice texture, slighty crispy, slightly chewy. The beets were tiny and nicely roasted. The dressing was light and unobtrusive. Really refreshing and delicious.

If you want bread, you have to ask for it. A little strange. Then again, the iced tea, while very good, was not bottomless. Fork and Spoon will never understand how $1 (maybe) of iced tea can cost a diner $12.00!

Now, the main course is so much easier. Fork, Spoon and Olive Fork had the infamous Pollo al Forno – roasted JW chicken with salsa verde. Yes, we’ve all had roasted chicken before, but I guarantee you have never had roasted chicken like this! Crispy, salty skin, moist tender 1/2 chicken that you are more than happy to take home what you cannot finish. THe salsa verde was a nice compliment to the chicken. The chicken is roasted in one of the brick ovens to absolute perfection. Again, we could have shared, but friendships would have ended over the sharing! This chicken alone is reason enough to eat at Barbuto!

Spork had Lumachine – a shape almost like a shell, almost like an elbow, but not quite. The Lumachine was served with a fantastic sauce of roasted cauliflower and cream. Rich, creamy and delicate all at the same time.

Guess what Knork ordered? Steak. How’s that for a surprise. We go to a place with a signature dish and Knork will have anything but that dish.  The hanger steak was beautiful. Perfectly cooked. Perfectly seasoned. Nice sized steak. The steak was served with grilled radicchio. Imagine the bitterness of radicchio with a smokey char. Delish!

Olive Spoon ordered the Lamb Loin. The lamb was served over a rutabega puree. It wasn’t earth shattering, but it was good. Quite frankly, everything was over the moon good!

Potatoes. We need to seriously discuss the potatoes. The name should be changed to Crack Potatoes. Totally amazing. So amazing in fact, that while eating them and fighting over the plate, we ordered more. Fortunately for me, Spoon is generous soul and let me have what was left on the first plate – while ordering the second, mind you – because it was my birthday. The Patate are first boiled, then smashed a bit and then deep fried. Oh, no, that isn’t all, they are sprinkled with salt and pepper and grated pecorino cheese and rosemary. They are totally amazing.

We also had a side of wilted greens with garlic and chilis and roasted brussel sprouts with hazelnuts and colatura. Colatura, or garum colatura, is an ancient Italian condiment – for lack of a better word. It’s made from fermenting fatty fish like anchovies or sardines. The fish is layered in with herbs and salt and left to ferment. The end result is a golden liquid used to give an oh so subtle je ne sais quoi to the brussel sprouts. Fork is not a fan of the brussel sprout, but these were pretty good.  The wilted greens were just sautéed quickly so they were still bright and green and still had a texture to them, lotsa garlic and a nice hint of chilis.

(apparently, Cake Fork is under the impression that I have to taste EVERYTHING in order to write about it. Does Cake Fork not understand WHY I eat with other people!)

The Bomba. Now doesn’t that look like the perfect cake for a birthday Fork to enjoy! And, again, thank you dear Cutlery for not singing! Dense, fabulous chocolate cake sandwiched a wonderful cherry semifreddo. Pistachios, cherries, whipped cream and a candle. I could gush and gush and gush about this dessert, but words simply cannot describe this! I was seriously hard pressed to share this, but Spork gave me that puppy look and there went a spoonful! We won’t even discuss the quick spooned Spoon!

Spoon had the Apple Crostata. Spoon will have an apple anything! Wonderful flakey crust coupled with tender caramel-y apples. Always being one to gild the lily, Spoon asked to swap out the vanilla ice cream for maple ice cream. Really good dessert. Really good ice cream.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding. This was our least favorite dessert. Though I am not a big pumpkin fan, Olive Fork is a big pumpkin fan. The comment from the Olive Fork was that it was too light in flavor and too dry. Personally, this Fork thinks pumpkin is for the birds! 

Both Knork and Spork had Affogato. They too opted to switch out the vanilla ice cream for maple. Affogato quite literally means drowned. A scoop of ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over the top. Heaven in a cup!

I, for one, Chef Waxman, am happy that you put down the trombone and picked up a chef’s knife!

Thanks you Spoon and Knork and Spork and Olive Spoon and Olive Fork and Cake Fork for sharing my birthday with me! It was the perfect celebration!

Barbuto ~ 775 Washington Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.924.9700
Barbuto 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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Aureole

Another restaurant on our dying to try during Restaurant Week was Charlie Palmer’s midtown restaurant Aureole. Aureole was originally located in a brownstone on 61st Street. It’s location in midtown is bigger with a bar in front and a dining room in back. The front sleek and modern and the back more luxurious and intimate, but still reminiscent of a ‘boys’ club’ with woods and leather with browns and tans.

And, while this was a place on our bucket list – so to speak – now tried, we’re not so sure we’d go back. The food was very good, but not exciting – well, the dessert was, but it doesn’t take much to excite the Fork and Spoon when it comes to desserts!

One of our favorite things about this lunch was seeing Charlie Parker there. It’s so nice when a ‘celebrity’ chef is actually in his restaurant – in che’s whites, mind you – and walking around the restaurant speaking to diners.

Spoon ordered the Pan Roasted Shrimp with a Summer Melons Salsa, Prosciutto, and Baby Arugula. Poor Fork couldn’t try this dish, but from the ooooh-ing and aaah-ing coming from Spoon, we can assume the dish was really good. It certainly looked beautiful. Seemed a rather small portion, 2 shrimp, 2 tiny slivers of prosciutto, and tiny pieces of melon. This was more like an appetizer on a menu for ‘ladies who lunch’ than in a place decorated like a ‘boys’ club’.

Fork ordered the Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Diced Avocado and  Croutons. What arrived was a beautifully vibrant red tomato gazpacho, small dots of olive oil floating on top. The soup was fresh tasting and flavorful, the avocados and croutons just brought it to another level, with a little crunch, of course, from the croutons. Really yummy, and Fork is not a big soup fan.

For a main dish, Fork ordered the Flatiron Steak. Sliced steak served over baby bok choy, coconut rice, scallions, and a chile garlic dressing. Sprinkled on top was toasted coconut flakes and microgreens. The steak was cooked perfectly. The slightly bitter baby bok choy gave a nice bite to the buttery steak.  The coconut rice just gave this dish the perfect sweet element. All together a knock out of the park.

Spoon ordered the Pan Roasted Chicken Breast, served over green asparagus, caramelized cipollini onions with a green olive jus. The chicken was surprisingly moist and tender.  The asparagus were still crisp, and were so perfect with the cipollini onions. The sweetness of carmelized cipollini was perfect with the salty bite from the green olive jus.  Such a simple dish, done so well, with so many complex flavors. Just perfect.

For dessert, both Fork and Spoon ordered the Rocky Road Vacherin. It was beautifully plated. It was like a sophisticated and deconstructed rocky road sundae.  There was a chocolate ice cream – which wasn’t really like an ice cream, but more of a mousse that was frozen – tube shaped marshmallows, bites of dense, gooey, rich brownie, a reduced black cherry glaze, and marcona almonds, and a chocolate meringue.  Each element of the dessert was wonderful on its own and together made magic on the plate!

Food, good. Service, so-so. Seeing Charlie Parker, cool. Portions, small. We wanted it, we tried it and the drawer is still out as to whether we would go back.

Aureole ~ One Bryant Park ~ New York, NY ~ 212.319.1660
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