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EDITED BY ROB PATRONITE AND ROBIN RAISFELD
Week of December 30, 2002
 

revisited
Honing His Craftbar
Gluttonous night owls that we are, we returned to one-year-old craftbar recently to discover, with a tinge of disappointment, that both the menu and the hours had shrunk (not unlike the typical season run of an HBO hit series). But even though Tom Colicchio has taken to locking up an hour earlier, at midnight, and his chef Marco Canora has streamlined an opening menu that had ambitiously offered different pasta, fish, and meat specials every day of the week, the open kitchen seems to have settled into a delectable groove. Bacon-capped clams Cassino are as addictive as Canora’s renowned stuffed sage leaves. The risotto balls are tastier than ever, napped in a tangy tomato sauce. A deep bowl of ribollita, drizzled with fruity oil and sprinkled with Parmesan, is the ultimate cold-weather comfort food (next to the new rum-spiked hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows). And someone must have heard our lactose-loving prayers, since the selection of salumi has at long last been joined by a well-edited assortment of cheese, from a tangy French goat to a nutty, runny tuma de paja.

To work up a retail appetite for the line of exquisite marinated vegetables Colicchio’s been importing from Calabria, he’s cracked open some jars and serves their contents as the craftkitchen vegetable antipasti, an arrangement of piquant caper flowers, teensy wild artichokes, velvety grilled eggplant, flavor-packed peppers, and a supersavory sun-dried-tomato-and-eggplant preserve. There might only be six entrées to choose from now, like exceptionally light veal-ricotta meatballs and a beautiful, simply roasted cod with salsa verde, but they’re available nightly. Never again will life have to revolve around Saturday’s spaghetti carbonara — unless you want it to. — ROB PATRONITE
craftbar
47 East 19th Street
212-780-0880

object of desire
Hitting the Sauce
The applejack cobbler, the latest drink at Bemelmans Bar, almost sounds like a tie-in to Gangs of New York. Cobblers were popular throughout the nineteenth century, and New Jersey–made Lairds applejack (also known as Jersey lightning) has been around since Colonial times. Even George Washington was fond of the stuff. To give her new concoction a modern twist, Bemelmans beverage director Audrey Saunders begins by making her own cranberry sauce and muddling it with sliced orange, pomegranate syrup, and bitters. “As much as I like cranberry juice, the flavor’s a little thin,” she says. “The natural pectin in the berries adds dimension and gives the drink a little oomph.” A shake with Lairds, apple schnapps, and Punt è Mes and a red-currant garnish complete the picture. The resulting sweet-tart-bitter flavors are so lusciously well balanced, Mayor Bloomberg ought to give Saunders a crack at the budget.
Bemelmans Bar
The Carlyle, Madison Avenue at 76th Street
212-744-1600

shopping
Sugar Bloom
When Kee Ling Tong was a graphic designer at Marsh & McLennan, she used to work weekends in a florist’s shop -- for the therapeutic fun of it. And even after she graduated from the French Culinary Institute and started working as a pastry chef, she never lost her flower fetish. So it makes sense that Chocolate Garden, the tiny boutique she opened on a quiet Soho street six months ago, combines her passions for bouquets and bonbons, which she makes in flavors like black-sesame, orange-confit, Key-lime, and crème brûlée. At this point, truffles and retro sweets like turtles and chocolate-dipped peppermint sticks outsell the flowers, but imagine the one-stop-shopping possibilities come Valentine’s Day.
Chocolate Garden
80 Thompson Street
212-334-3284

happening
Morning Becomes Eclectic
After the excesses of New Year’s Eve, the 1st is usually relegated to sleeping in, downing Excedrin like Tic Tacs, and mustering the strength for bacon and eggs. But if one of your resolutions is to try new things, why not start with breakfast? Taking a break from her usual Greenmarket-inspired style, Patio Dining chef Sara Jenkins has come up with a New Year’s Day menu that celebrates breakfasts around the world -- which she won’t start serving until the civilized hour of 5 p.m. Choose from pasta carbonara, menudo (Mexican tripe stew), Vietnamese pho, Maine (via Scotland) finnan haddie, Tunisian brik, and Lebanese za’atar flatbread with yogurt cheese and pickled turnips. If such culinary globetrotting makes you queasy, Jenkins will happily serve up croissants and café au lait, oatmeal with apples and walnuts -- even bacon and eggs with hash browns, and everyone’s favorite hangover helper, the Bloody Mary.
Patio Dining
31 Second Avenue
212-460-9171

 

Ask Gael
Our clan is convening for a special birthday.
The birthday business gallops full speed ahead at Trattoria Dell’Arte, where a chorus of waiters has gathered five times tonight to warble operatically at a cake-and-candle moment: “Happy Birthday, Dear Stranger.” Owner Shelly Fireman is indulging a dozen pals, including me, with the house’s newest dishes at a corner table. It would be mean to both you and him if I didn’t tell you how happily we wallowed. Lemon-and-olive oil-dressed shrimp, calamari, and octopus with peperoncino hit at the start. A fresh-mozzarella ball (flown in from Puglia) oozing butter from its core and Gorgonzola tricked out with walnuts and chestnut honey in a luscious finale. In between, we spoon up a soupless Tuscan ribollita minestrone, plus garlicky handmade green pinci “dumplings” with fennel sausage and broccoli, as well as spaghetti gricia (tossed with pancetta, arugula, and Pecorino in the Roman way), not to mention bistecca alla fiorentina drizzled with balsamic -- an homage to Italy that should impress your birthday troupe.
Trattoria Dell'Arte
900 Seventh Avenue, near 57th Street
212-245-9800

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of December 16
Olives get sugar-coated; dinner is jazzed at Daniel; holy holiday fishfests; Christmas cake to keep; low-decibel dining Upstairs at '21.'
Week of December 9
Spoonbread is holiday chic; Payard for preschoolers; Jacques Torres expands to Brooklyn demands; cookbooks to give and get now.
Week of December 2
Hungarian delights; chocolate stocking stuffer; Monday night dinner at Inside; devilish diavola; oodles of noodles at Soba Nippon.


and more ...



Photos:Kenneth Chen (1st , 4th and 5th), Patrik Rytikangas (2nd & 3rd)

 
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