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$24 or $37 prix-fixe lunch at David Burke Townhouse

Prior to re-joining the workforce, I’d embarked on an epic week of face stuffing which began with a whimsical three course lunch at David Burke Townhouse. It surprised and delighted me at every turn. From the glass balloons in the hallway to the speckled egg hatchling logo, I found myself smiling with each detail and discovery.

You can choose from two different three course lunch menus: one for $24 and the other for $37. Click to see the lunch menu here. The dishes marked with the speckled egg are those eligible for the $24 menu vs. your choice of any three courses (speckled egg or not) for $37 at lunch. Since I was in a decadent kind of mood AND because I desperately wanted the scallops and head-on prawns, I went with the $37 prix-fixe.

If the decor alone wasn’t enough indication of the fun that was to come, the bread and butter clinched the deal. We were served a fluffy onion/garlic popover with a carefully constructed butter swirl sticking up off a slab of what looked like pink quartz.

This is what the parfait of tuna and salmon tartar looks like in real life.

And this is a sketch of how it is constructed, potato tuile, creme fraiche, and all.

I really enjoyed the pretzel-crusted crab cake, though I wouldn’t say it was particularly pretzel-y at all. The pretzel bit of the crab cake was actually a little on the breadier side, and in the picture below, you’ll see the pretzel breadsticks surround the crab cake making it visually attractive, but functionally, the pretzels and the sesame seed crust provided texture and a nice little crunch. I liked the yellow mustard-based sauce although I didn’t care much for the sweet orange sauce, but it worked out just fine because I ate around it.

The prawns and scallops were phenomenal. This dish alone was worth every single penny of lunch. The three perfectly seared scallops and two grilled head-on (mmm… brains…) prawns were quite filling. The sauce was so rich and buttery that I forgot I was eating what was essentially a vegetable slaw.

The beef pot pie was probably the dish that delighted me the most. I keep using the word “delighted” because I can’t think of any other word more fitting. Chunks of succulent roast beef, tomatoes, asparagus, garlic cloves, and onion were nestled in a creamy ring of mashed potatoes and topped with a flaky pastry crust round freckled with miniature flecks of chive (meant to represent peas, I think) and carrot. This dish warmed the cockles of my heart.

Dessert was just okay. I think we should’ve gone with the cheesecake lollipop tree since both the strawberry shortcake and butterscotch pudding were overly sweet. I didn’t care a whit, though. I was already in a near-catatonic state of ecstasy post-app and -main.

There was so much pot pie left over that they packaged it for us to go. Overall, an excellent meal, and my favorite lunch so far in the city. Strongly recommended.

DB Townhouse also does a $35 Sunday Supper prix-fixe. Do it.

Also, they just opened David Burke Kitchen at the James Hotel in SoHo a few weeks ago. The website doesn’t tell you much just yet, but the hostess tells us it’s supposed to be a young, trendy spot for beautiful downtowners to meet for drinks and dinner. You know. Le hot stuff.

Eat: David Burke Townhouse (UES) 133 East 61st Street at Lexington Ave.; New York, NY 10065. (212) 813-2121. Lunch prix-fixe available weekdays only. Prix-fixe brunch menu available on weekends for $39. Sunday dinner prix-fixe $35.


Maritime Parc Winter Menu

A friend of mine asked me if I might be interested in checking out a place out in Jersey City for dinner. Initially, I scoffed. Jersey City? Do I need a passport? How does one even get to/from Jersey without a car? Does it cost a million dollars to take a taxi? We ended up sharing a car between four people, and it was more than well worth the trip to check out the winter menu at Maritime Parc.

The restaurant is spacious, warm, and modern. It’s the kind of place you can go for a special occasion, but without any stuffiness or discomfort.

Maritime Parc’s executive chef and owner is Chris Siversen, a man who exudes an almost palpable humility and genuineness. His eyes twinkled as he chatted animatedly about his daughter and how she loves to help him out in the kitchen every time she comes to work with him. His food philosophy is one dedicated to seasonal local ingredients, elegant simplicity, and cooking food that is accessible and familiar, but executed exceptionally well in his open kitchen and with a smile on his face.

The cocktail menu at Maritime Parc was designed by Greg Seider of Alphabet City cocktail den Summit Bar.

Named for famous Jersey shipwrecks, the cocktails are inventive, restrained, and mighty tasty.

We started the evening with a bread basket served with a plate of pickled red onions, pickled apples, pickled feta cheese. The mix was pleasantly vinegary with a touch of sweetness, and the crunch of the pickled apples and onions was offset nicely by the give of the feta.

Next up was an appetizer of grilled oysters topped with bacon leek cream sauce, an upscale take on the more traditional Oysters Rockefeller. But really, can you ever go wrong when you combine oysters, bacon, and cream? I think not.

We had a nice bottle of Concerto Gruner Veltliner from Wolfgang Vineyards in Burgenland Austria.

It was a great winter white – full bodied with nice acid, and it did well to cut the heaviness of the cream of the oysters and the cheese in our next dish, an apple chestnut risotto. For me, this dish epitomized winter comfort food. It wasn’t the most beautifully presented dish of the bunch, but I liked the combination of the sweet apple and earthy chestnuts in the rich and creamy risotto.

Then came the lobster with spinach and ricotta gnocchi. Technically, it’s a gnudi and not a gnocchi because there is no potato so the gnudi are very light and pillowy, and they don’t overpower the delicate lobster meat and they don’t need a heavy sauce. This wasn’t my favorite dish of the tasting as I felt like the sauce could have been a little brothier and packed a bigger lobster taste, but that small criticism aside, it was still delicious.

The second fish course was a perfectly cooked fillet of pink snapper with crispy skin, pickled onion, pink grapefruit, lemon, basil, and olive oil. I’m partial to seafood as it is, and I’m a sucker to crispy skinned-anything, so this was easily my favorite dish of the evening.

The pink snapper was served with two hearty family-style sides of roasted brussel sprouts cooked in bacon walnut butter and fried mashed potato rings (donuts) served with a grainy mustard fondue. I got so excited about eating that I forgot to take pics until after we’d already demolished these. Woops. My bad.

The meat course was a venison loin in a juniper reduction, served alongside red cabbage and barley braised in red wine and red vinegar atop a parsnip puree. The parsnip puree was a nice departure from mashed potatoes, lending a slightly sweet dimension to the plate. At this point, I thought my stomach might quite literally explode. This is a very meaty, very filling dish, and while I am possessed of impressive eating faculties, I do have my limits. If you’re really hungry, this would be a great choice. The portion isn’t huge, but it’s so rich that it feels like more food than it is.

The venison was served with a mushroom cassoulet – homnjimeji, king oyster, oyster, and cremini mushrooms combined with mirapois, stock herbs, aromatics, and sauteed with garlic and shallot – and a creamy baked polenta with a crispy parmesan cheese top finished with a dash of truffle oil. If these dishes don’t make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, you might want to check your pulse.

The lovely Michelle Park, NY1’s food and lifestyle reporter and, happily, a longtime friend of mine, asked Chris about where he gets his ingredients. Chris sources his ingredients from a distribution company called Zone 7 that sends him an updated product list every week of seasonal offerings from local farms. He likes to drive out to the farms from time to time, but Zone 7 makes his life easier by consolidating all of the information for the various potential suppliers in one place.

When the servers brought out the desserts, I was torn. On one hand, I was giddy with anticipation. On the other hand, I was cursing the lack of available space in my stomach. But I have discovered that I might have a separate stomach or some small reserve designated for desserts only, and I happily tried a bit of all of the desserts that came out (in order of appearance below): powdered sugar munchkins (not on the menu, served warm and impossibly moist – if Dunkin’ Donuts ever got a hold of this recipe, they might take over the world), the “Poppy-Sicle” (orange poppyseed cake topped with a tangerine creamsicle tube and lemon-yuzu foam), the chocolate tasting trio (milk chocolate pecan pie, dark chocolate brioche pudding, and white hot chocolate), and the deep dish apple pie served a la mode with butterscotch ice cream and a crispy apple cracker.

Woohoo! I love grown-up desserts.

Side note: in the summer, you can actually just take a ferry to the dock and there’s a huge outdoor space right on the water. If you want some primo seats to the Red Bull Air Race, this is the place to grab lunch and hang out all day. While we had a fancypants dinner, there’s also a great bar menu featuring burgers and salads and the like, and in nice weather, Chris fires up the grill on the deck. While I really enjoyed the winter menu, I think this would be even more amazing in summer when you can sit out on the deck and eat lunch and drink beer overlooking the water and the lower Manhattan skyline, make a day of it, yanno?

Eat: Maritime Parc (Jersey City, NJ) 84 Audrey Zapp Drive, Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ 07305. (201) 413-0050. Click here to make reservations.

Tim Raue Berlin: almost too beautiful to eat
November 15, 2010, 7:45 am
Filed under: Drink, Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

But too delicious not to eat.

Just around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, there is a phenomenal restaurant where you can have a painfully beautiful, truly stellar three-plus-course lunch for 38 euros. While I don’t often have the opportunity to drop mucho dinero on a single meal, we were on vacation and thought we’d treat ourselves to something nice. So instead of shopping, we decided to eat at Tim Raue. The menu changes seasonally, so you can check the latest offerings here.

The entrance to Tim Raue is via a courtyard, and once you walk into the restaurant you find yourself wondering whether you are in the right place or not because it actually looks and feels a lot like an art gallery. The reception is at a desk rather than at a stand, and I think that was the most confusing. Nevertheless, we were seated promptly, walking past the open kitchen, a grand magenta wall, and underneath a gigantic painting of trash bags and empty cardboard boxes along a tree-lined street. Artsy (not fartsy), right?

While we looked over the wine list, the wait staff brought over a few complimentary small plates to start: chili-, paprika-, and cayenne- spiced cashew nuts (maybe some allspice or nutmeg, too), butter lettuce in a white wine vinaigrette with radish, sliced radishes with sweet coriander sauce, and pickled daikon radish.

We weren’t familiar with many of the German wines on the wine list, but as we were in Germany, we wanted to try something local. We asked for a dry white with strong fruit and minerality and bright acidity. Also, not too expensive. The sommelier thought for a moment, and said he had just the bottle for us. He went to retrieve the bottle, and out came yet another complimentary dish, this time a lovely lobster consomme with sweet Chinese sausage, grape tomatoes, onion, cabbage, and star anise. I don’t care much for anise or anything with a licorice-y taste, but somehow it worked well in this soup and I found myself savoring each precious sip.

Our wine arrived as we were working on our soup, and we were presented with a chilled Dreissigacker Brechtheimer Riesling, 2008 vintage. Jochen Dreissigacker is a German wine producer who has 21 hectares of land in his Rheinhessen vineyards. To learn more about the wine, the grapes, and how it was produced, click here. If you’re satisfied with me telling you this is a damn good white, just try and keep an eye out for any wines from Dreissigacker as his wines have been making wine people talk (all good things) as of late. I understand it is difficult, but not impossible, to find outside of Germany given the low yield. We were charged 30 euros for the bottle, and it was well worth it.

We finally began moving into the courses that we actually ordered. For our first course, Sara ordereda tuna tartar with wasabi and cucumber sauce, topped with frisee and wasabi flying fish roe. I think there may have been some jalapeno in there somewhere, but I’m not sure whether it was in the tartar or in the sauce.

I opted for a heavier first course with the duck liver “peking.” I had no idea what to expect, but I thought it might be something akin to pate, which wasn’t entirely correct. The duck liver was chopped finely and served as a base for a leek and ginger mousse (also mixed with some pureed duck liver, I believe) piped in the shape of little kisses. There were two small dots of barbecue sauce, which tasted plummier than most, and was served with a side of sweet cucumber and some dark green puree I couldn’t quite figure out. Each bite was sinfully rich, and though the portion wasn’t huge, I was completely sated and didn’t need any more bites.

Sara’s second course was the beef filet with a sweet pea puree and soy brew. The sauce was sweet and fruity, like a more delicate hoisin, and again topped with frisee. They did not ask how she wanted the meat cooked, and it came out a beautiful medium rare. Check out the marbling on the meat! Drool.

I ordered the suckling pig with sichuan sauce and pointed cabbage. You can’t go wrong with succulent pork, unctuous fat, and crispy skin. This was decidedly the most delicious suckling pig I’ve ever had, though I do wish that the sichuan sauce had been spicier. The waitress actually warned me that the little orange dots of sauce were very spicy, but apparently Germans have a lesser spice tolerance than kids raised on kimchee and red chilies. The cabbage roll was great, stuffed with more cabbage and veggies like mushrooms, and also containing some pork.

We were then brought a surprise (complimentary) dessert course of a tangerine ice cream popsicle dipped in tangerine flavored white chocolate and sprinkled with freeze-dried raspberries. This was our dessert course number one.

The came the dessert from the course menu: the salted caramel ice cream with cream of coconut, grilled pineapple, pineapple foam, and a round of coconut meringue. Salty, sweet, tart, charred, creamy, crunchy, YUM.

Finally, we were treated to yet another complimentary dessert, which would make this our dessert course number three: green tea mochi filled with green tea jelly and topped with vermilion foam, raspberries, a mint leaf, and dusted with matcha green tea powder.

After polishing off our three desserts, I wandered downstairs to check out the bar and the bathrooms. The bar was dark and lovely with its dark wood, the walls of climate-controlled wine, dim track lighting, and marble counter. Do stop by and have a drink here one evening, even if you don’t decide to eat. What a great place for a date.

Back upstairs, we had the pleasure of meeting two Michelin-starred Chef Tim Raue and his dog Molly (or maybe Mary? can’t remember exactly anymore). I got a little flustered and wasn’t able to say much more than “Thank you; it was beautiful and delicious!!” But I really just wanted to rave about how amazing the whole experience was, from the artwork to the lighting to the white-gloved staff to the interplay of color and texture and taste… This was better than my gourmand lunch at Eleven Madison Park, and less expensive, too. Keep up the good work, chef!

Outside, someone had scrawled out “That sunny dome / Those caves of ice” along a wall in the alley exiting the restaurant. It felt very poignant in the moment.

And as we looked back to bid adieu to Tim Raue once more, our fabulous waitresses waved us goodbye!

Eat: Restaurant Tim Raue (Berlin, Germany – near Checkpoint Charlie).Rudi-Dutschke-Str. 26, 10969 Berlin, Germany. +49 30 2 59 3 79 30. Lunch seatings from noon to 2 pm, dinner seatings from 7 to 10 pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

Veg-focused Mondays at Dovetail
October 25, 2010, 1:56 pm
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I am an unrepentant omnivore, and it’s rare that I find myself not in the mood for meat. But lately, that’s been happening more frequently as I find my body craving greens and presumably rebelling from my usual heavy, butter-, meat-, and carb-laden diet. I want veggies, but I don’t want to give up meat entirely, and I don’t want to eat a salad. We’re getting into fall, people. Our veggies should be cooked.

Enter Dovetail, Michelin starred Chef John Fraser’s haunt on the Upper West Side, and Mondays are looking really good for satisfying those veg cravings. He’s offering both a vegetarian and a vegetable-focused course menu on Mondays for $42 (3 courses plus dessert). The seasonal menu changes frequently, so make sure you check out the Monday night vegetable menu on the website before making your reservations.

vegetarian (v. = vegan choices)
1st course
pumpkin soup rosemary, chestnuts
turnip ceviche (v.) quinoa, lime, pearl onions
beet salad greek yogurt, pistachios
2nd course
salsify (supp. 10) truffles, spinach, red wine
chanterelles on a shingle fennel, figs, peppers
autumn tempura (v.) tofu, chai curry spice
3rd course
fennel ravioli basil, artichokes, preserved lemon
braising greens lasagna baby carrots, pine nuts, golden raisins
barbeque parsnip rib (v.) coconut rice, daikon, cilantro

vegetable focused
1st course
escarole leaves
smoked trout, feta cheese
soft boiled egg bacon, quinoa, ramps, tofu
brussels sprouts leaves cauliflower, manchego cheese, pears, serrano ham
2nd course
root vegetables (supp 10) truffles, chicken, polenta
button mushroom gnocchi butternut squash, radish, sauce bordelaise
corn tamales poblano peppers, smoked duck
3rd course
salt baked fennel piquillo peppers, oranges, preserved tuna mayonnaise
roasted garlic risotto broccoli rabe, andouille sausage
endive lamb bacon, dates, apples

Eat: Dovetail (UWS) 103 W 77th St. at Columbus, New York, NY 10024-6909. (212) 362-3800. Vegetarian and vegetable-focused menus are offered on Monday nights.