Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Went to There: Maialino

So on Friday night I went to Maialino, Danny Meyer's new -- well, 10-month-old -- Roman trattoria on the ground floor of the Gramercy Park Hotel. I've wanted to go to there for many, many months, since before it even opened when I was subsiding on 99-cent sacks of potatoes in rural Ireland and dreaming of suckling pig. Thanks to the really nice people I worked for over the summer, I got a prime reservation and a really amazing meal on the house -- there, that's my disclaimer for the Federal Trade Commission.

Maialino has a noisy (in a good way) front area with a long, walnut bar and an open cucina counter -- this area looks out onto Gramercy Park to the south and lower Lexington Avenue to the east. There is also a quieter dining area in back where tables are spaced further apart, and we were seated sort of on the border between the two -- a couple of tables away from Woody Allen and Soon-Yi -- you can imagine how many other diners around us were tweeting on the topic throughout the meal.

We decided to order something from every section on the traditional Roman menu. Our salumi was a Soppressata Piccante from Long Island City, which came in beautiful, nutty slices just in time to enjoy with the remnants of the bread basket. Our antipasti was Carciofini Fritti, perfectly warm and crispy fried artichoke hearts accompanied by an anchovy bread sauce. Everything seemed to come out precisely when it was ready and just minutes after our having finished the preceding plate, such that everything was texturally perfect and appropriately paced. Before our larger courses came out, our server brought us a plate with two little slices of crostini topped with ricotta, grainy sunflower honey, and juicy, soft, pink figs.

Our main courses were the highlights, even though everything I've already described could have made up a remarkable meal in itself. From the primi menu, we ordered the Malfatti Al Maialino, asymmetrical folds of eggy, homemade pasta with suckling pig ragu and fresh arugula. Our secondi was Pollo Alla Diavola, a half chicken pounded and roasted to a light crispy outer texture with black pepper and pickled chili. With the crackly, spicy skin and the garlicky bitterness of the accompanying broccoli rabe (ordered separately,) this dish might have been the most impressive. We polished off a quarter chicken each.

We finished off our bottle of Nero D'Avola from Firriato and ended the meal with an Affogato. I left feeling not as Sam Sifton suggested I might -- "panting a little, ready for sleep" -- but perfectly content with how the meal had lived up to my expectations.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Denver Destinations

I want to go to:

1431 Larimer St.
Mediterranean, and website currently has a picture of a cocktail with jalapenos floating in it. Sign me up. Also, an excellent brunch menu featuring buttermilk waffles, crab crepes, and goat cheese biscuits. This also appears to be a minute away from your apartment! Sigh, I bet you've been to there.

Root Down
1600 W. 33rd Ave.
The Times mentioned this one in their recent article on local food in Denver. They have an enticing happy hour menu with hoisin duck sliders and sweet potato falafel. The space used to be a gas station and maintains a lot of 50's design elements. Ugh, you've probably been there, too.

Colt & Gray
1553 Platte St., #120
Another recommendation in that Times article. Oysters and coppa, marrow and beet burgers. The most baffling/intriguing thing on their menu would probably be the Croque Madame with Tomato Soup Apple Cider Fried Chicken Sandwich with Fennel Kraut. What?

There you go, cuz. What do you think?
P.s. -- Does anywhere in Denver serve lunch?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Want: Vandaag

As a new, and tentative member of the picklophile club (spell check just asked me to change that word to pedophile--I will not go to there), I am interested in Vandaag, the new, "vaguely Dutch" restaurant serving up an assortment of pickled items, from oysters (oysters?!), sausages (sausages?!), cantaloupe (cantaloupe?!), cherries (cherries?!), and pickles (pick--oh, okay). I think I'm as wary of Dutch food as I am of pickled food, and so the "vaguely" part may make this just the place for me.  I (kind of) want to go to there.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Gramercy Park Hotel
2 Lexington Ave.

New York, NY

Maialino is the newest original Danny Meyer concept and, lord, I have wanted to go to there, to really GO to there, since it opened while I was in Ireland in November of 2009. And this summer, I did go to there -- a few times, actually. But never to eat! I got to interview the pastry chef, Jen Shelbo, and the wine director, Liz Nicholson, and I worked on their bios for the restaurant's website. And that was basically the highlight of my summer, and it didn't even involve food.

Well, it's about time I supped on the Maialino, which means "little pig" in Italian. I have a reservation for next Friday, and believe me -- once I've gone to there, you are going to hear ALL about it. Here's what I foresee eating: carciofini, salumi misti, bucatini all'amatriciana, malfatti al maialino, pollo alla diavola.. and, as always, cheese and alcohol! My friends cheese and alcohol! You'll be hearing from me.

Went: Westward ho!

I'm picking up pace now as I settle in to life in Denver.  Here's where I've been to since the last post:

Vesta Dipping Grill was not on my list of go to theres, but promised a better repast than what I might find at Coors Field, where I was heading with a few cast-mates for a Rockies game (yeah, the Bratwurst would probably have been good, but I was trying to be good, and therefore needed something sans bun).  I was about to order the Colorado lamb loin with rose water yogurt sauce; ever since my mom made me her medieval rose pudding, I've been a fan of rose water as an ingredient.  I hear a lot of people find it too perfume-y, but perhaps they just haven't met my mother.  I ended up deciding that I was only ordering it for the sake of the sauce and what I really wanted was the venison sausage and the seared scallops with chickpeas and pancetta.  I liked both, the scallops in particular, and left with the general feeling that the other dishes, and the other sauces at Vesta are most likely pretty good on the whole; having so many other places to go to, however, I doubt I'll make my way back.  A few days after dining here, I read that it consistently wins reader's choice awards in a local magazine for a first date locale.

On my day off, I ventured out of downtown to find Marzcyk's Fine Foods, a specialty food shop with a focus, I would guess, on meat, from the looks of their logo.  It's a small shop, with really excellent selections; all the protein looked (and later tasted) incredible, and they had a nice assortment of cheeses, produce, and weirdo canned and jarred items.  Of great appeal were the "M" stickers pasted on all in-house baked good containers, and the presence of Robinson Dairy cottage cheese in the dairy aisle.  I like to have my name represented on my consumables.
The spread at Euclid Hall

At the Cherry Cricket, I had a crazy good hamburger topped with cheddar, bacon, egg, and avacado.  An actor from another DTC production had brought us to this place, where there is, apparently, always a line to get in to taste these delectable concoctions.  I asked our server if anyone ever actually ordered the peanut butter they offer as a topping for their burgers, after deciding I just couldn't do it myself--and yes, they do, mostly children.  Denver youth: foodies.  Who knew?

I spotted Euclid Hall on one of my first tours about town and was mostly interested in their pickle sampler, having become a recent picklophile.  And who, really, could resist a pickle offered up on a menu as "Hot, Spicy, and Very Sincere?"  I had "The Works," which included four sausages--bratwurst, boudin blanc, boudin noir, and weisswurst--and the aforementioned pickle sampler, whose dill and garlic pickle rivaled even McClure's (heresy).  The others were fine as pickles go.  I did not imbibe on this particular occasion--and whether that was due to the fact that I was about to see a play and didn't want to test my tiredness, or that the beer menu is broken up into mathematical divisions (so to speak) depending on the complexity of the brew, I do not know.  I want a complex beer and an easy equation--how can I reconcile that at Euclid Hall?  The sourdough waffle ice cream sandwich with salted butterscotch ice cream and praline was fine, as in fiiiiiine, and I look forward to trying the red velvet cupcake with 7 minute frosting before I leave town, and before my corset gets too tight . . . .

Ben Nye Stage Blood tastes even better above sea level.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Want to go to Denver!

I've been a fairly absentee go-er to there-er, and am going to fill the gap with a running list of all the places I go to while I'm out West.  Like jogging in blog-place until I get back to going to there in the appropriate, New York fashion.  I'll be updating every week, but it all starts at the grocery store:

King Sooper's is the local, non-specialty food shop here in downtown Denver.  I've had a lot of luck in recent months with these types of establishments--Stauffer's in Lancaster, PA, Publix and Piggly Wiggly in Montgomery, AL, Shaw's on Cape Cod--but my luck has run out.  Sooper's was a bust.  I might as well have been in a Price Chopper on Western Boulevard in Albany.  Oh, the Boulder Chevre was a pretty good find, and they get a little credit for the weirdo name---it's not super, and it ain't soup.

I spent a delightful half an hour wandering around the dainty Cook's Fresh Market on the 16th Street Mall--it's a specialty foods store, and has some tasty prepared foods.  I sampled the roasted tomato with asiago cheese, and the crust-less quiche, both of which were light, fresh, and delicious.  What I liked most of all, however, I found in the cheese section, where little bits of leftover cheeses are available on the cheap.

Wynkoop Brewery has been on my list ever since I started my Denver research.  I like breweries in general, and Denver's a place where you're supposed to try the beer.  So I tried it--eh.  They let me down.  The food looked uninteresting--I didn't order any--and my self-composed flight of four of their brews was undistinguished.