"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Northern Spy Food Co. - May 15, 2011

The Americans are a funny bunch: they can only go to the extremes. On one end of the spectrum, they are free from all -sugar-free, fat-free, caffeine-free and gluten-free (by the way, eliminating gluten for most people is simply meaningless and does not accord any health benefits); on the other end, however, they are defiant of the annual check-ups and doctors’ warnings by taking the high road – high cholesterol, high sodium and high fat in various forms of ground meat patties and fried birds: I can’t believe it’s not butter! vs. I can’t believe if it were not butter! With excess and liberalism (or libertine) as the national mottos, care and restrain are conceptually alien to the national mentality, more so than the alien themselves, with which the Americans are rather familiar, in fact. However, if enjoyed once in a while like the Thanksgiving Turkey feast, the high road is not, nonetheless, without certain pleasures.

Watercress salad - Radish, apple, soft-boiled egg, mustard vinaigrette

Slightly overdressed on a warm spring night and against the fresh-faced vegetables, the salad was nonetheless a well-executed balance of strong herbal watercress and salty and pungent parmigiano against the mellow, gooey and runny egg. The apples were less noticeable than the radish; in any case, both seemed a little nondescript, drowned in the heavy dressing.

Crispy potato gnocchi - Fava beans, green garlic-parsley puree

The tubular gnocchi were seared and browned in, what else but, butter. The ample melted butter ensured that it would accompany every, and to the last, bite of the hearty chewiness. However, the concentrated chewiness was not let alone; the skins of the gnocchi were crispened in the pan to a borderline char, which added just the correct amount of edge to the doughy potato pasta. The shoots of the garlic were surprisingly mild, at least compared to the mighty bulb underneath, which were given a spurt of freshness by the parsley in the unconventional and fluffy spring-green pesto.

Long Island fluke – Asparagus, maitake

The fluke was professionally seared so that the outside was crispy without drying out the flaky flesh inside. However, the fish was not so much as a dish, but was in truth a cover, hiding the jewel box underneath – the joyfully sautéed chopped asparagus and maitake mushrooms. The combination of the green-note of the asparagus and subtly earthiness of the maitake was beautiful.

Hudson Valley Pork Shoulder - Herbed spatzle, watercress natural jus

The bread crumb crust was a nice and promising beginning to be immediately shattered, figuratively and literally, by the emergence of pure, translucent and wobbling fat, which composed one quarter of the shoulder of this particular obese pig from the idyllic Hudson Valley. Truth be told, as far as fat goes, this piece of fat was the crème de la crème: it melted cleanly without unsavory greasiness, with minimum fiber and tissue to hinder the fatty meltdown. Having said that, it still could not be denied that the pig needed multiple sessions on the bench press. The flesh was, however, juicy and tender with the sweetness of the pork meat but without the rancidity of lesser, mass-produced kin. Together with its own jus, the roasted pork was soft and creamy. The spatzel was given the same crispy treatment as the gnocchi so that each twist was optimally chewy and browned. Amidst all this heaviness, the few sprigs of watercress provided some much needed breathing space.

Buttermilk panna cotta - Rhubarb compote

Adequate and uninteresting rendition of panna cotta, it was, however, without much of the sour buttermilk flavor. Partially, it might be due to the presence of the pink rhubarb compote, which folded in the buttermilk into its fruity acidity.

Ice cream bowl – Ginger, chocolate, rhubarb, brown sugar shortbread

The shortbread took the cake in the cup, where the mediocre ice cream was valued only for its coldness and sweetness. The too-yellow ginger, nonetheless better than the chocolate, was spicy but also bitter – the skin of the ginger, lazily left intact, might be blamed for the bitterness and also the color. Contrary to the fresh compote in the panna cotta, the rhubarb sorbet tasted surreally medicinal with mushy texture.

Northern Spy Food Co.
Address: 511 E 12th Street, New York, NY 10009
Phone: (212) 228-5100

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