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

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

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

Laboratorio Lambiase

We were exhausted. We were excited.

It was the end of our first day in Rome! We had seen the Trevi Fountain, had a little lunch, taken a ridiculously long nap, had a wonderful dinner and now were wide awake and in need of an adventure!

The flat we were staying in was a block from the Church of Maria della Vittoria. We had done a lot of reading trying to gather up as much foodie intel as possible.

In reading, we came across Laboratorio Lambiase. There were raves about this place.  Cars double parked up and down the street, the crowds until the early morning hours, the fantastic smells and tastes. How were a Fork and Spoon to resist?

 

The pastry was supposed to be amazing – particularly a calorie laden pastry called Sorchetta Doppio Schizzo. The name of this pastry alone made this place a necessity.

So we wandered. Took pictures at the Piazza Repubblica, wandered down Via Cernaia, and were beginning to think we had gotten lost, when our noses picked up the most heavenly scents.

This is one of those places if you weren’t looking for it you would never know it was there. Deserted street, no real signage, down the stairs – but once you find it – well, WOW comes to mind.

Down the stairs, a very plain room with 2 tables and along counter. There are a couple of display cases with some sad looking cupcakes, and you think this cannot be right or they must be closing. Raise your eyes, peek into the next room – the bakery – and there is tray after tray after tray of amazing looking pastry.

We had to order the Sorchetta Doppio Schizzo. A sweet pastry filled with whipped cream and smothered in chocolate. It was good. The name is better!

Spoon had a hot chocolate. Fork a Diet Coke (some habits just cannot be broken and besides their small cans had a cute drawing on the side).

Spectacular were the Sfogliatelle! Crispy, crunchy, still warm, creamy inside. Perfect. May be the best either the Fork or Spoon has ever had.

Their pizza must be pretty good as well, at least 2 dozen people walked in and out while we were there buying pizza to go.

There were at least 10 other pastry that needed to be tried, but try as might, we didn’t get back again. This will be the first place we go when we head back to Rome!

Laboratorio Lambiase ~ Vis Cernaia, 47A ~ Roma