The downtown chef scientist strikes again!

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.

Pub cheese

Pub cheese

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

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

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

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.
Beef tongue

Beef tongue

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

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.

Good to the bone and straight to The Marrow

Even though I’ll still only be a subway (or two) rides away from the West Village, these are the last few days that I’ll actually be a resident of the neighborhood where I’ve spent the last two eventful years. I’ve had some great times and some not so great times here, everything from career changes to heartbreak, to the many friends who’ve crashed on my couch to getting both locked out and locked in my apartment, to laughing to crying and to everything in between. As a final hurrah and farewell, I decided to have one last big meal out in the neighborhood (though I don’t doubt I’ll be back for more soon enough) at The Marrow, Harold Dieterle’s new restaurant.

Paying homage to both the German and Italian parts of his family, Harold Dieterle has another awesome restaurant on his hands (I’m a big Kin Shop fan) that instead of mixing the two cuisines, features them separately on the menu, like different branches of a family tree. Below, how my friend Stas and I celebrated my move across the East River with one more great meal in the West Village.

something

Bone Marrow… c’mon, you know we had to

First out was the restaurant’s namesake, the bone marrow, from the Famiglia Chiarelli branch of the starters section. One giant bone halved and filled with a hearty mix of sea urchin, fried potatoes and meyer lemon aioli, with crunchy toast to spread it all on. The sea urchin was not what I was expecting, with a creamy consistency and sort of neutral flavor.

something

Prosciutto wrapped dates

From the meat plates portion of the menu, we picked the dangerously tasty prosciutto wrapped dates with gorgonzola. Plump, tender and crazy flavorful, I could, no lie, throw back a dozen of these. Seriously, these guys could get me in a lot of trouble.

something

Duck schnitzel

Moving on to main courses, we first picked from the Familie Dieterle branch and ordered the pan-friend duck schnitzel with a nutty spaetzle of hazelnuts and quark (a dairy product of sorts) with cucumbers and stewed wolfberries, which looked kind of like small red beans but tasted like sweet, cooked raisins. (I love beans and raisins so I was totally on board.)

something

Stone Bass “Vitello tonnato”

Then crossing back over to the Italian side of the menu, we chose the sautéed stone bass with fingerling potatoes, cippolini onions, briny olives, a creamy tuna belly sauce and what turned out to be my favorite part of the dish, juicy, fried sweetbreads. Usually I feel just lukewarm about sweetbreads but these were tender and delicious, with a nice breaded coating.

write something

Chocolate budino

Finally, we were faced with a difficult decision: dessert. Everything sounded great, and while the waiter tried pretty hard to sell us on the ginger stout cake (he said it was far and away the most popular dessert), we were both in a chocolate mood and went with the budino with hazelnut brittle and mascarpone. Chocolate pudding can do no wrong in my eyes and this one, with it’s dense creaminess, was just about perfect. This is in no way a complaint, but the thing to note about this dessert is that it’s a pretty hearty serving of chocolate. The two of us, ardent chocoholics, split this and felt pretty satisfied with the amount we each got. (No fighting necessary.)

Like so many other meals I’ve had in the West Village, I walked out happy and stuffed. Which is basically how I’ll be leaving the West Village in general, happy and stuffed full of memories. Brooklyn, here I come.