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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

Just the excuse I was looking for…

I routinely look for any excuse to not eat at home. We’re out of olive oil? Let’s just eat out.  We have friends in from out of town? Let’s just eat out. It’s Friday? Saturday? SundayMondayTuesday? Let’s just eat out!

But one of my more justified reasons for eating out is NYC Restaurant Week, because really how can you not take advantage of three courses over lunch for $25 or three courses at dinner for $35? I certainly can’t, not in these trying economic times.

So last week, Flaneur and I set out in the name of Restaurant Week for lunch at David Burke Kitchen at the James Hotel in SoHo. And let me tell you, dear reader whoever you are, I will be using one of my many bullshit excuses to eat there again soon, cause it was good.

Asparagus and burrata salad… not sure how something topped with a giant ball of cheese is “salad” but hey, I am NOT complaining

To start things off, I ordered the asparagus and burrata salad, which wasn’t so much a salad as it was a beautiful stack of watermelon, yellow tomato, prosciutto, asparagus and creamy, milky burrata, with some drizzles of olive oil and sauces and a few juicy cherry tomatoes. Packed with colorful flavors, everything was clean and bright and delicious. A larger portion of this would make an amazing entree.

Tuna tartare tacos, so pretty and so delicious

The boy on the other hand, ordered the tuna tartare tacos, which would’ve given me major food envy, had my appetizer not been so damn good itself. Three crunchy taco shells were filled to the top with buttery, smooth avocado and tuna tartare and then topped with tobiko (flying fish roe, so I learned). Not only was this great tasting, but the color of the tobiko was one of the most beautiful jewel tones I’ve ever seen. I wanted to eat it and wear it all at the same time.

Softshell crab BLT: a pretty good way to get over mistrust of creepy crustaceans

For my entree, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and ordered the softshell crab BLT. Not that I don’t enjoy crab but I usually don’t like eating shellfish that still resemble the insects-of-the-sea that they are. (Whole lobster? Negative. Freaks me out.) But when it came out— the small crab hanging out belly up with all his little creepy legs in the air, sitting on top of a stack of toasted bread, tomato, chipotle mayo, and thick bacon— I knew I’d be ok. I chomped into it and forgot I ever had a problem with creepy crustaceans in the first place. To go with it was a tasty basket of fried vegetable chips.

Black sea bass with baby shrimp and spinach

Flaneur, who’s allergic to shellfish, ordered the black sea bass, which he somehow didn’t realize (even though it was plainly written on the menu) came loaded up with baby shrimp. (Guess whose mouth those ended up in?) But even sans shrimp, the sea bass was good, plump and clean under a bed of spinach and tomato with olive oil swirls and a thick, spicy mustard sauce.

Drunken brownie with mint-chocolate ice cream, bourbon caramel sauce and chocolate cherry lollipop

And then, my favorite and yours (or possibly just mine), dessert. Being the choco-whore that I am, I went with the drunken brownie, a fat, warm brownie topped with mint-chocolate ice cream and a cherry-chocolate lollipop. But really the kicker was when the waiter poured hot bourbon caramel sauce all around it on my plate. For a split second I wanted to ask him to pour it straight into my mouth but that probably wasn’t very lady-like.

Individual pie oozing with fat blueberries

The boy went with the fresh blueberry tartlet topped with a scoop of butter pecan ice cream. While I definitely loved mine more (chocolate fan through and through), the mountain of juicy, fat blueberries made this a pretty good second choice.

Thankfully, restaurant week is never just a week, so I might just have to go back there and check out dinner too. And if restaurant week is over, I’ll just have to pull out some other random excuse from my ever-full bag-o-BS excuses.

David Burke Kitchen on Urbanspoon

The things I miss

Sometimes (though I should point out definitely not always) I really miss Florence. I miss lots of things about it, but it should go without saying that hands down, I miss the food the most. But I live in New York, after all, where there are precisely 30 million italian restaurants, markets, wine bars and gourmet shops, so most things, whether it be bomboloni, pici al limone or a good piece of  schiacciata aren’t all that hard to find.

HOWEVER, and this is about to be a big however (hence the all caps), I have yet to find crostoni that come close to the perfection of those at  Fuori Porta, just outside the old city walls, and that gives me the worst pangs of longing for Florence. They’re just that good.

During my recent visit to Italy, I put lunch at Fuori Porta on my list of things that had to get done while I was there. The beau and I went one afternoon, and just like I had remembered, the crostoni were amazing. So good I could cry… if I wasn’t busy stuffing my face.

Walnut, honey and brie crostone, I missed you SO much!

Crostoni are basically just large slices of bread, topped with cheese (which at Fuori Porta, can be either mozzarella, Brie, pecorino, or gorgonzola) and other topping combinations including meats, veggies, or nuts. They’re popped in the oven so that the cheese melts and everything gets warm, and you as the eater, basically have your mind blown. My favorite combo, and the one I got most recently when I was there, was Brie with walnuts and honey.  Each bite is simultaenously gooey and cheesey, crunchy, sweet and savory. I think I could eat one every day for the rest of my life and never not love it.

Prosciutto and mushrooms under a blanket of melted pecorino. SO. FREAKIN.’ GOOD.

Flaneur on the other hand went with a more savory combination of pecorino, prosciutto cotto  and mushrooms. While I preferred mine, his was pretty damn good too. Really, most things covered in thick, melted cheese are bound to be good, but this crostone, with its earthy, sweet mushrooms and salty-sweet prosciutto (the sweeter cooked kind, not the cured variety) was really phenomenal.

Yea I miss crossing the Ponte Vecchio at night, the view of the Duomo from Piazzale Michelangiolo, and being able to visit The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi, but let’s get real, I really, really miss those crostoni.

Pizza worth praising from the mountaintop… or from this blog

I don’t blog about every single thing I eat, and contrary to what my friends might think, I don’t photograph every piece of food I put in my mouth either. When I went to Paulie Gee’s Pizza in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for example, I had no intention of doing either. I was just having pizza. With friends. In Brooklyn. Nothing to write home about, right? Wrong. 

The Cherry Jones pizza at Paulie Gee's is so damn good that it's almost physically impossible to put down after one bite. I ate two slices before I was able to successfully pause the pizza-shoveling. (In the lower right hand corner, the very green and very tasty Arugula Shmoogula.)

Immediately after biting into the Cherry Jones pizza I ordered, I knew I’d have to get my camera out because I just had to show you this crazy-good pizza. Well, it wasn’t quite immediate though, because once I bit into that first slice and got hit with the insane flavors of creamy, pungent gorgonzola, milky fior di latte mozzarella, perfectly salty prosciutto, tart dried cherries and a drizzle of sweet orange blossom honey, I literally couldn’t pry it away from my mouth. I was about two slices in when I forced myself to put down the pizza just long enough to get one decent picture before there was nothing left but crumbs.

I had heard (or read I should say), from a pretty reliable source, that Paulie Gee’s was good, that it was creative and unusual, but I was in no way prepared for just how much I would love the Cherry Jones. I mean, it was outrageously good. It was mind-blowingly good. It was glaaaadly-take-the-stupid-G-train-all-the-way-to-Greenpoint good.

So while I had no intention of getting into all of this with you, the Cherry Jones left me no choice. If you didn’t already know, then it’s my absolute duty as a relatively decent human being to tell you about the deliciousness that is Paulie Gee’s. Be it by train, plane or automobile, or the wretched G train even, get yourself to Paulie Gee’s, cause it’s definitely something to write home about. (Just make sure to snap your pictures before you dig in.)

Paulie Gee's on Urbanspoon

Morini’s cure for missing Italy

In a reversal of roles, my sister is in Italy right now and I’m stuck at home. She’s there on a spring break trip as part of her advertising major’s curriculum and after a week of visiting agencies in different cities, she’ll get class credit for it.

Basically, I’m jealous. I want to be on vacation right now. I want to eat my way through Italy  for a week (or a lifetime).  But no, I can’t. Not right now. So to make myself feel better about this fact, I pulled off a hard to snag, last minute reservation for two at  Osteria Morini, Michael White’s new SoHo restaurant.

Fritto bolognese

While the scenery wasn’t as nice (SoHo’s cool but it ain’t Italy), the restaurant itself was cozy and cute, going for that rustic trattoria look (even if the prices were definitely more big city than Italian countryside). For not leaving the country, it was a pretty delicious alternative. Continue reading

A bit of Firenze in the West Village

Yes, the hilly countrysides were pretty, and all the renaissance masterpieces were nice, but really, sometimes it’s the simplest things about living in Italy that I miss the most, like panini with just prosciutto and cheese. No condiments, no garnishes, no frills. Bread, meat, cheese. That’s it.

And as if the universe heard my internal longing (or perhaps my stomach growling) I found the place to get just that, bread, meat, and cheese, sandwiched together into blissful deliciousness.

Firenze: proscitto di Parma and mozzarella

Il Cantuccio, in the West Village and just a few blocks from my apartment, is like my boyfriend, a transplant from Tuscany, though not precisely Florence and instead nearby Prato. And what I found out when I went there this weekend, is that it’s the perfect place to get a neighborhood fix for the kind of panini I used to get in Florence. Continue reading

Summer party food

Last week, amidst a quarter-life crisis and doubts over whether I should even stay in New York, my friend invited me to a rooftop show and party at fancy pants Italian designer Isaia‘s store on the ritzy strip of Fifth Ave. where other fashion bigwigs like Louis Vuitton and Gucci call home. She had me at live music, rooftop party and free drinks, but when I got there and saw a huge table of one of my favorite Italian summertime eats, I knew coming would do wonders for my mood and pull me out of my funk.

Prosciutto and melon... my kinda party

Continue reading