Week of November 10, 2003
This week, David Wurth joins the ranks of onetime Savoy chefs—like Diner’s Caroline Fidanza and Rose Water’s Neil O’Malley—who’ve crossed the great divide to Brooklyn. At Chestnut, Wurth courts Carroll Gardens locals with kale-squash-and-bacon soup, grilled sweetbreads with pistachio relish, and rutabaga ravioli. The earthy, rustic food matches the unfussy décor, with its ceiling beams and barn-wood floor. But owner Peter Miscikoski, who managed Match and ran Trixie’s, the bar he converted into his new restaurant, still loves the nightlife and plans to serve a light menu till 3 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.
271 Smith Street, near DeGraw Street, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
St. Helen Café
“Coffee shouldn’t just be seen as something to wake you up in the morning,” says Noel Hennessy, co-owner of Williamsburg’s St. Helen Café. “It should be appreciated on the same level as wine, beer—or dessert.” The 24-year-old Spokane, Washington, native has pulled espresso shots since he was 15, giving him a particularly keen (if judgmental) perspective on New York’s bean scene. Seeing a lot of room for improvement, he and Sean McNanney—his partner in Saved, a clothing-design company—joined the Williamsburg-coffee-shop fray. The café has a serene garden, a mellow vibe, and pastries from a talented local baker—but the main attraction is the truly excellent espresso and caffè latte. The two even dyed their entire fall clothing line with coffee grounds. “It worked out great,” says McNanney. “The clothes smelled good.”
150 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Adam Farmerie and his partners at the design firm AvroKo were comfortable preparing everything in their new restaurant—from décor to fixtures to graphics—except the food. Fortunately for the diners at Public, Adam’s brother, Brad, is a professional chef who until recently worked in London at the popular Providores under New Zealand co-chefs Peter Gordon and Anna Hansen (pictured, with Brad). When Adam considered opening a restaurant, he approached the Londoners with the idea of a transatlantic collaboration. More sister restaurant than Providores spinoff, the skylit Nolita spot shares what Gordon calls his magpie approach to food—a free-spirited fusion evident in dishes like lima-bean soup with hijiki and truffle oil, seared kangaroo fillet on coriander falafel, and Gordon’s signature grilled scallops with sweet chili sauce.
210 Elizabeth Street
the underground gourmet
The Rice Stuff
Oms/b claims to be New York’s first and only Japanese-rice-ball café, and the tiny minimalist spot is such a refreshing break from the midtown lunchtime doldrums, we’re willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. The name is shorthand for omusubi, the variously shaped and stuffed rice cakes that are sold everywhere in Japan from streetside vendors to convenience stores. At Oms/b, sticky sushi rice is hand-patted into pucks, balls, and little logs and sparingly filled or topped with everything from cod roe to pickled plums. Traditional triangular omusubi come swaddled in nori and filled with a hint of spicy tuna or bonito flakes, and are the easiest ones to eat in the customary fashion (that is, with your hands). The round rice-ball croquette stuffed with flakes of salmon, breaded with panko, and deep-fried is a clean-tasting take on the Italian arancini. There’s even a newfangled attempt to attract the Reuben crowd, in the form of a rice cake topped with strips of pastrami and a surprisingly pleasing dab of wasabi mayo—a condiment that would probably get you run out of Katz’s.
156 East 45th Street
at the greenmarket
The finest fromage comes from happy cows, says one dairy savant.
It’s been ten years since Jonathan White co-founded Egg Farm Dairy with Charlie Palmer, and since then, his artisanal raw-milk cheeses have become the stuff of lactophile lore. An independent consultant since 2000, the tireless crusader for grass-based, family-owned sustainable farms started one of his own last year—the 200-acre Bobolink Dairy, straddling the New Jersey–New York border—where he has twenty mixed-breed, seasonally milked, grass-fed cows. “I’m finding the cheese in the milk, rather than forcing the cheese to submit to my will,” the self-professed curd nerd waxes philosophically. “I’m learning to read the milk and make it into the cheese it most wants to be.” Bobolink milk, apparently, aspires to be full-flavored, rough-hewn wheels of tangy Barely Blue, mild, milky Drumm, and pungent Tarte de Vache, among other ravishing varieties. White cures pyramids with Belgian ale and Zinfandel-grape must, and he bakes rustic wood-fired hearth breads—all of which he’s recently started selling at several local Greenmarkets. For the full rural experience, cheese cultists can make the pilgrimage to the Sussex County farm, where White offers biweekly workshops culminating in a hands-on focaccia lab and picnic. (At Rockefeller Center on Thursdays and Fridays, Columbia on Thursdays, and Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza on Wednesdays; for information, see cenyc.org and cowsoutside.com.)
object of desire
Chocolate and Waffles
Those canny Frenchmen have figured us out. Uptown at Mix in New York, Alain Ducasse is slinging chocolate pizza, while downtown, at Blue Hill, pastry chef Pierre Reboul may have one-upped him with waffles. They arrive at the table warm, accompanied by chestnut cream sweetened with maple syrup and a gooey blob of phenomenally rich hot-chocolate mousse made from François Pralus chocolate that tastes smooth, complex, and slightly smoky—like hot fudge with a Ph.D.
75 Washington Place
Is it a bird? A plane? No, it’s Daniel Boulud!
Now that Daniel Boulud is no longer content with a restaurant empire he can reach by bicycle, his Palm Beach stretch and commitment to Las Vegas have made fans anxious. (Never mind the catering, caviar-mongering, charity bashes, and book tours.) His newest, Daniel’s Dish, a collection of recipes from Elle Décor, arrives in the wake of Letters to a Young Chef, a slim but wonderfully intimate and practical text for budding Bouluds. So far, control freak that he is, the chef is juggling four-star demands with valor. On fall’s seasonal menu at Daniel—couturier-dressed riffs on the classics—is a soul-stirring alliance of diver scallop and matsutake mushroom, wearing a frizz of curly chicory, lovage, and chive, in a tangy aura of lemongrass and lemon. Is it raw? Actually, the layers are “cooked” in a fruity olive oil on a sizzling hot plate while wrapped in plastic—till the scallop slices are sashimi-warm and the mushroom softens. “We can only do it when the matsutake season rubs up against the scallop season,” Boulud explains. Next up: white truffles.
60 East 65th Street