NEW YORK 9/8-9/15

FOR OUR WEEK IN NEW YORK I DECIDED TO FORSAKE OUR PERENNIAL FAVORITES (MIAILINO, THE MODERN, DBGB) AND TRY SOME PLACES WHERE WE’D NEVER BEEN. COMPARING PETE WELLS’ (NY TIMES) AND ADAM PLATT’S (NY MAGAZINE) 10 BEST OF 2012 LISTS, I FOUND A SURPRISING NUMBER OF MATCHES, ONE OF WHICH WAS IL BUCO ALIMENTARI E VENERIA, WHICH, IF YOU CAN’T REMEMBER THE NAME, IS LOCATED A BIT SOUTH OF THE PUBLIC THEATER ON GREAT JONES STREET. CHEF JUSTIN SMILLIE SPENT TIME AT JEAN GEORGES MERCER KITCHEN, GRAMERCY TAVERN AND JONATHAN WAXMAN’S BARBUTO, WHICH THIS RESTAURANT MOST CLOSELY RESEMBLES IN SPIRIT. IT’S JUST A HELL OF A LOT BETTER. THE FRONT OF THE RESTAURANT LOOKS LIKE AN UPSCALE ITALIAN GROCERY, WHICH, IN FACT, IT IS, WITH IMPORTED OLIVE OILS AND HOUSEMADE BREADS AND SALUMI FOR SALE. THERE’S COUNTER SEATING AT A SMALL BAR, A COMMUNAL TABLE, WHERE WE ATE AND, A FEW STEPS DOWN, A DINING ROOM WITH A LONG CENTRAL TABLE AND A VIEW OF THE OPEN KITCHEN. THE FOOD WAS SO GOOD THAT I RETURNED TWO DAYS LATER TO HAVE LUNCH WITH MY SISTER. WE ORDERED A SLEW OF APPETIZERS TO SHARE — CRISPY ARTICHOKES, RICOTTA WITH PERSIAN CUCUMBERS, PULPO A LA PLANCHA, GRILLED QUAIL. THE DISHES WERE BRIGHT-TASTING, FRESH YET SOOTHING, EXECUTED BY A CHEF WITH HIGH REGARD FOR HIS INGREDIENTS. NOTHING WAS OVER COOKED OR OVER SEASONED. ORECHIETTE WITH HOUSEMADE SAUSAGE HAD A SLIGHTLY CREAMY SAUCE AND THE BUCATINI CACIO E PEPE AS GOOD AS ANY I’VE HAD IN ROME. WE HAD ROOM FOR ONE ENTREE – PORCHETTA WITH A CRISP SKIN AND MOIST INTERIOR. BACK FOR LUNCH WITH ANNIE, WE HAD A BACALA CRUDO, FRIED RABBIT, LITTLE GEMS WITH WHITE ANCHOVIES, AND A PERFECTLY CHARRED PIZZA BLANCA WITH HOUSEMADE SALAMI. FOR DESSERT ON BOTH OCCASIONS, THE HIGHPOINT WERE THE SORBETTI — DARK CHOCOLATE, CARAMEL AND SALT, MEYER LEMON.

I’D BEEN READING A LOT ABOUT MISSION CHINESE, AT 154 ORCHARD STREET ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE. THE ACCESS TO THIS RESTAURANT IS DOWN A FLIGHT OF STAIRS, THROUGH A CORRIDOR PASSING BY THE KITCHEN INTO A DINING ROOM FESTOONED WITH PAPER LANTERNS. IT FEELS LIKE YOU’VE BEEN ADMITTED TO A SPEAKEASY. DANNY BOWEIN, AN AMERICAN CHEF FROM SAN FRANCISCO, IS MAKING HIS VERSION OF CHINESE FOOD. THE MENU IS HIT OR MISS, BUT FULL OF WONDERFUL SURPRISES SUCH AS SMASHED CUCUMBERS WITH SALTED CHILE, LAMB TONGUE AND CUTTLEFISH TERRINE, SPICY SCALLION NOODLES, AND SUCCULENT SIZZLING CUMIN LAMB BREAST — FATTY, CRUSTY AND DELICIOUS.

MY DAUGHTER SOPHIE AND RAY WERE MARRIED IN BROOKLYN MUNICIPAL COURT ON FRIDAY, 13TH OF SEPTEMBER. FOR THE WEDDING LUNCH WE REPAIRED TO FRANNY’S, FOR WHAT WAS THE CULINARY HIGHPOINT OF OUR TRIP. WE’D BEEN TO FRANNY’S BEFORE, BUT THEY HAVE MOVED TO LARGER QUARTERS AT 348 FLATBUSH AVENUE, A CHEERFUL MINIMALIST SPACE WITH AN OPEN KITCHEN. THE DISHES ARE MINIMALIST AS WELL, BY WHICH I MEAN THEY CONSIST OF A HANDFUL OF INGREDIENTS, PERFECTLY MATCHED AND COOKED. THE FOOD HAS A LIGHTNESS AND PRECISION WHICH TRANSFORMS A SIMPLE PLATE OF MIXED SHELL BEANS AND WARM OLIVE OIL INTO THE MOST SCRUMPTUOUS BEAN DISH YOU’VE EVER TASTED. A SALAD OF TORN LETTUCES, CROUTONS AND SHAVINGS OF PARMESAN IS SLIGHTLY CREAMY WITH A TANG OF LEMON. WE ORDERED TWO PORTIONS OF THE TONGUE AND PORK CHEEK TERRINE, WHICH IS SERVED WARM WITH BRUSCHETTA. A SIMPLE DISH OF SMASHED, FRIED POTATOES HAS THE POP OF HOT PEPPER. IT’S HARD TO DESCRIBE HOW GOOD A SIMPLE DISH LIKE HOUSEMADE SPAGHETTI, GARLIC AND PEPPER WAS. FRANNY’S MADE IT’S NAME ON PIZZAS AND OURS, WITH BURRATA AND PORCETTA, BASIL AND HOT PEPPERS SHOWS YOU WHY. WE DRANK TWO BOTTLES OF WHITE WINE AND THE FIRST, A KUEN HOF VELTLEINER FROM THE SUDTIROL WAS BETTER THAN ANY AUSTRIAN GRUNER VELTLEINER I’VE TASTED. WHEN I GOT BACK TO L.A. I ORDERED A CASE.

FRANNY’S WAS THE IDEAL PLACE TO CELEBRATE SUCH A JOYOUS DAY. WE TOOK A PLEDGE TO RETURN EVERY TIME WE’RE IN NEW YORK.

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