Saturday, March 06, 2010

New York Winterlude 2, rev. ed.

Day 2 of our Winterlude began with us roughing it on breakfast (we packed a makeshift Schaller & Weber sausage special), and hitting the pavement. I had some business to attend to, so I dragged Michelle on an architectural tour of Lower Manhattan that began with us emerging from the subway underneath the Municipal Building,

municipal bldg. fig. a: up from the underground

and focused on an area around the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street.

cloud-scrapers fig. b: cloud-scrapers of New York

It also involved me posing Michelle in front of locations from old films and tempting her with hot dog carts.

wall st. 1
wall st. 2 figs. c & d: Wall Street

By lunchtime, we'd made our way back to Midtown and had the time to check out Raymond Hood's News Building en route to a lunch date Michelle had arranged for us.

encounters at the end of the world fig. e: under the Hood

I'd read a fair bit about Tudor City over the years, but I'd never seen it up close until this visit, in February 2009.

tudor city fig. f: cloud-scrapers of Midtown

It took a reservation at Michael White's Convivio to finally get up close and personal with Fred C. French's strange Tudor Modern (Early Modern Modern?).

convivio 3 fig. g: Early Modern Mod

New York magazine described White as "the Mario of Midtown." As much as we may be big fans of Mario Batali's cookbooks, we wouldn't know. One visit to Batali's Otto hardly seems like enough of a measuring stick. What we can tell you, however, is that Convivio is a true jewel.

convivio 2 fig. h: the writing is on the wall

In fact, it's quite likely the finest Italian restaurant either of us has ever visited. Expert antipasti featuring house salumi, a supernaturally plump, juicy grilled quail appetizer, homemade pasta with crab and a truly luscious sea urchin-based sauce, and a utterly superior grilled bistecca were just some of the pleasures of one of our absolute top meals of 2010.

The lowdown:

sfizi: marinated shitaakes, mellow pickled cucumbers, spicy olives w/ spicy salami, burrata with tomatoes and herbed oil w/ toasts

antipasto: grilled quail skewer, bacon, onions, shitakes, chives, vin cotto

primi: cod-stuffed ravioli, many egg-yolk pasta, sausage, rapini, herbed oil; saffron gnocchetti, crab, sea urchin, breadcrumbs

secondo: bistecca, grilled, w/ winter vegetables (carrots, brussels sprouts leaves, etc.) and a peppery wine sauce

dessert: lemon semifreddo, pistachio sablé, candied pistachios, acacia honey wafer, candied citrus peel, acacia honey ring with vanilla bean

convivio 1 fig. i: Convivio dreaming

And while on this particular occasion we'd decided to cut loose and splurge a little, we realized that lunch at Convivio had the potential to be very affordable indeed. Portions were surprisingly generous, and we pictured ourselves returning and having a (transcendental) pasta lunch at Convivio's bar.

bonnie slotnick 1 fig. j: exterior, Bonnie Slotnick

As you know, we've scoured other New York bastions of culinary arts & letters before, but, oddly, this was the first time we'd visited Bonnie Slotnick. Not for lack of trying, though. We'd tried to visit on two or three occasions, but had always managed to swing by on days where the store happened to be closed (in spite of its well-deserved notoriety, Bonnie Slotnick remains a very small operation, so hours can be irregular).

bonnie slotnick 2 fig. k: interior, Bonnie Slotnick

Anyway, we were happy to finally get a chance to explore Bonnie Slotnick. Not surprisingly, we found plenty of material to keep us occupied and broaden our horizons, so we ended up spending about two hours there. We also had a long conversation with the chatty, gracious clerk (Bonnie passed through at one point to drop off her latest haul of books, but otherwise she was on the hunt). We could have easily spent another two hours. It felt like a home away from home.

company fig. l: electric Company

That night we met R & M at Jim “Our pies are not always round" Lahey's (then) newly opened Company (a.k.a. Co., but not to be confused with David Chang's Ko). We'd heard great things, our Sullivan Street slices the day before had gotten us good and primed, and Co. didn't let us down in the least. Okay, so the pies weren't always round, but we found them perfectly cooked with great structure and just the right amount of blistering, with a tomato sauce that was tangy and bright, and toppings that were novel without being too "fusion." As is so often the case with top-notch pizza (and the pies we had that night were definitely top-notch), the simplest pies are often the most satisfying. So, for instance, as much as we appreciated Co.'s Flambé, with béchamel, lardons, and caramelized onions, it was their Margherita that really stood out for us. In fact, Co.'s margherita was so lovely, so perfect, we opted for a second one "for dessert." We loved the space, the service, and the buzz of the place too.

The lowdown:

appetizers: pizza bianca; toasts, e.g. with lemony chicken liver paté; butter lettuce salad w/ roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, lemon, olive oil

mains: 2 x margherita; 1 pie w/ anchovies, green olives, olive oil, tomatoes; 1 "santo" w/ shaved radicchio, parmesan, taleggio, mozzarella; 1 special w/ bechamel, leek, spicy sausage

desert: homemade blood orange gelato; homemade chocolate gelato; a generous banana split w/ homemade ice cream and candied walnuts

We haven't to spend a lot of time on this stretch of 9th Avenue when we visit New York, but, here too, we swore we'd be back.

Convivio, 5 Tudor City Pl., New York, NY, (212) 599-5045

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, 163 W 10th St # Ge, New York, NY, (212) 989-8962

Company, a.k.a. Co., 230 9th Ave., New York, NY (212) 243-1105


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