The Dutch and Little Park

June 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

Two mid-day meals at two different Andrew Carmellini joints:

First, weekend brunch with Julia at the Dutch in Soho on a beautiful sunny day. To start, a selection of the raw bar, including Glidden Point (ME), Island Creek (MA), Navy Point (NY) and Totten Inlet (WA) oysters as well as littleneck clams from NY. Beautiful clean flavors from perfectly shucked shellfish with a nice, punchy horseradish and tangy mignonette, just the way I like.

We weren’t particularly famished (a rare thing) so we shared the snap pea salad with spicy green pea curry and herbs and the famous hot fried chicken with honey butter biscuits and slaw. A nice balance between something green and fresh and something comforting and gluttonous. The honey slathered biscuits were out of this world – steaming and flaky on the inside – and the chicken, while not super spicy like I had imagined, had great seasoning and crispiness. The restaurant is only a few blocks away from the apartment but somehow I always forget that it’s there. I need to come back more often.

I had a short stay-cation in the middle of May and on one of those days met up with co-workers for a leisurely weekday lunch at Little Park, Carmellini’s newest restaurant in the Smyth Hotel in TriBeCa. This place does farm to table, vegetable-heavy dining without coming across as preachy or pretentious and all of the dishes are really well executed and unique. We got a bunch of small plates to share for our first course – the fried Brussels sprouts with apple and smoked parsnip (my favorite dish from my first visit); the beetroot tartare with horseradish and smoked trout roe and girandole pasta with duck ragu and crispy herbs. My favorite of the three was the beetroot tartare. I actually didn’t really miss the meat here and thought the separate components of rye, beet, roe and goat cheese came together in a really delicious and cohesive dish.

For my main, I ordered the duck confit leg with poached egg, stewed rhubarb and mustard greens. Actually not as memorable to me as our starters but I liked the tartness of the rhubarb against the rich, fatty duck. All of this food washed down with a couple glasses of wine and I was in a pretty buzzed and happy (and not terribly stuffed) mood when it came time to leave and move on to the next bar. 🙂

 

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Little Park in Tribeca

March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’m a huge fan of chef Andrew Carmellini’s restaurants (Locanda Verde, Lafayette, Bar Primi and others), so when he started getting positive reviews for Little Park, his new farm-to-table, vegetable-focused restaurant in the Smyth Hotel in Tribeca, I knew I wanted to try it. Like all of his other restaurants, Little Park is on a corner and it’s right by the Chambers Street subway stop, making it a maybe too convenient place to stop by on my way home from work. The interior is very neutral in color and there are a lot of large banquettes which means more room for each table. Our lunch group of four started with some spent grain bread and a nice tangy cultured butter, both of which I’m guessing come from farms in NY state and are probably processed and made in house.

For our starters, we ordered the wild mushroom broth with short rib raviolini and black garlic, the crispy brussels sprouts with smoked parsnip and apple and the girandole pasta with black kale, squash and pine nuts. These dishes reminded me a lot of the offerings at ABC Kitchen – lots of vegetables that you almost feel virtuous eating them but flavorful and different enough that it nevertheless feels like an indulgent treat. The mushroom broth tasted super clean and light and actually, when tasted alone, I thought lacked some seasoning, but the miniature ravioli it came with packs a petite yet meaty punch to counteract the mildness.

As for the brussels sprouts…these might give my favorite ones at Tertulia a run for their money. They’re also fried to the point where they’re almost charred and super crispy on the outside but tender on the inside, and instead of using pork belly to give it that umami and smokiness, Carmellini adds smoked parsnip and apple for some sweetness. So addictive. Finally, the girandole was probably my favorite dish of the meal – comforting and cheesy with different textures from the crunchy pine nuts, slippery pasta and soft butternut squash. And it should be noted that while none of these dishes had any meat, we didn’t miss it at all!

Our main courses were the grass fed hangar steak with charred broccoli and green sauce, the spatchcock chicken with New York state freekeh and sweet mustard and the steamed black bass with beluga lentils and oregano. I didn’t try the chicken or the black bass (both of which looked gorgeous on the plate) but really enjoyed my hangar steak – super flavorful and well seasoned without being too chewy – and whatever that herby, green sauce was. And the nicest part about this meal was leaving feeling completely satiated but not gross and bloated, which happens quite often because I can never restrain myself from eating everything in front of me. Carmellini’s restaurants each have their own character and feel and Little Park is no different. While it doesn’t necessarily focus on a particular cuisine (like Italian pastas at Bar Primi or French bistro at Lafayette), it delivers some seriously delicious and refined food that made this unapologetic carnivore think about vegetable-driven food in a different, and definitely positive, way.

Moosewood for Matt’s Birthday

February 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last Friday, a bunch of us finally got to try Ithaca’s famous Moosewood Restaurant for Matt’s 25th birthday. Normally vegetarian/vegan restaurants don’t really appeal to me but given the restaurant’s excellent reputation and the huge number of cookbooks it’s published over the years, I thought it’d be a shame not to go.

Moosewood is pretty unique in that it changes all of its dishes, both lunch and dinner, daily. Usually I like to scope out a restaurant’s menu items and decide what I’m going to eat beforehand, but in this case, I had to be a little more patient.

For drinks I ordered a refreshing grapefruit basil martini that wasn’t bitter at all, despite the fact that the waitress said it definitely wasn’t on the sweet side. The pomerita (essentially a pomegranate margarita) that Lilian ordered was a bit too sweet for me, and I still like tequila least of all the hard liquors, but Esther’s Apple Jack cocktail was delicious, spicy, and tummy-warming.

That night three of us ordered the hearty and cheesy grilled fennel and portobello lasagna. The portion was huge, but somehow I managed to shove it all down my throat. Youjin’s Morrocan dish was a beautiful array of winter vegetables over couscous, and Matt’s salmon en papillote, though somewhat lacking in color and excitement that usually comes with this kind of a dish (where you tear open the package to let out all the wine-and-herb-infused steam), was nevertheless well-seasoned and cooked perfectly.

We ended the dinner with a chocolate vegan birthday cake, which I had a hard time liking. The top layer, which I think was a sad attempt at frosting made without butter, tasted more like that chocolate freeze-dried ice cream that astronauts typically eat. The rest of the cake was extremely dry and crumbly. I only took a couple forkfuls before completely giving up.

So while I don’t think I’d ever get dessert at Moosewood ever again, they actually do a great job of cooking up satisfying and delicious vegetarian dishes without  coming across as overly-hippie-ish. Plus they seem to have a lot of deals and promotions during the week which would make a visit even more worth it.

Moosewood Restaurant
215 N. Cayuga Street, Dewitt Building
Ithaca, NY 14850
607.273.9610
http://www.moosewoodrestaurant.com/

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