After an amazing holiday dinner at Wylie Dufresne’s wd~50 a couple of years ago, I was really excited to recently hear that the mad scientist chef had a new, more casual restaurant named Alder in the works. Even though it’s been open in the East Village for a few months now, I just this last weekend got around to checking it out.
It had lots of the cool kitchen tricks and fun twists on things you think you know along with a relaxed but buzzy vibe, fun music and servers with cool striped aprons. Wins all around! Wylie’s done it again.
First out, was Alder’s take on pub cheese, that kitschy spreadable cheese you smear on crackers or bread. Mixed with sherry to give it a purplish hue, and jazzed up with a pistachio and white fig crunchy brittle, this particular pub cheese came with “chips” made from Martin’s potato rolls that had been smushed down and run through a pasta machine before being baked to a crisp. Am I alone in thinking this is really fun and cool? Doubt it.
Fried squash blossoms
Next out was perhaps my favorite dish, the fried squash blossoms. When I lived in Florence, these were some of my favorite, but here I rarely see them (though Da Silvano has delicious ones!) so I had to get Alder’s… and man, did they come through! Plump and creamy with smoked shrimp and dill, these summer squash blossoms were fried just enough that they were golden and crispy yet still soft on the inside. Eating a couple of plates of these would have been no big thing.
Pigs in a blanket
After, came another playful spin on a casual food, “Pigs in a Blanket,” except instead of crescent roll wrapped mini hot dogs, Alder’s were little chunks of Chinese sausage, smokey and dense, wrapped in a crunchy shell and served with polka dot-like plops of horseradishy japenese mustard and sweet chili sauce. It would be dangerously easy to throw back a dozen or so of these.
Chicken liver toast
For the next dish I was glad to be out with one of my more adventurous eater friends because we decided on the chicken liver toast. Looking more like a wedge of pie than a piece of toast, this dish was made up of a thick smear of bright and tangy grapefruit marmalade on which sat a layer of cornbread topped with chunky, chopped chicken liver. Plopped ontop was the decorative and tasty garnish of chicken skin. Yes, chicken skin. The best part of fried chicken.
In keeping with the things-my-other-friends-wouldnt order theme, we went with the beef tongue as our last savory dish. Unlike the thick, chewy tongue my mom used to cook (and torture us with) this tongue was thinly sliced into ribbom-like pieces that were meaty and flavorful and served on what we first thought was potato but turned out to be smoked yucca, another recurring food staple of my childhood. Pickled cippolini and a bit of chimichurri and cilantro, gave everything a bright, colorful flavor. Sorry mom, your beef tongue wold never stand a chance against this one.
Root beer pudding
As a lover of root beer and pudding, Alder’s root beer pudding was the obvious dessert choice. Silky smooth and creamy, with a just-right taste of root beer that wasn’t cloying or overpowering, this was a light, sweet way to wrap up a great dinner. Crunchy, crushed smoked cashews peppered things up with a different texture.
Wylie Dufresne can do no wrong in my eyes and this new restaurant of his only reinforces that idea.