Friend of a Farmer, Nov. 26, 2005

Friend of a Farmer
77 Irving Place

Thanksgiving was spent in NJ with the in-laws (and parents) which gave us the requisite turkey, stuffing and other side items but also a chance to do the ol' winter switcheroo. This switcheroo involves your average weight comforter and a big, billowy goose-feather down blanket. It also involves lightweight and heavier jackets, winter hats and other such items that we leave in storage (aka the parents' houses) during the warmer months.

So with all of this heavier/space-reducing stuff, the leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner and the laundry we brought home to do for free, we would need a ride home.

So Carin and Leo gave us a lift into the city on Saturday and in return for the favor we took them to brunch.

We were all excited to check out Barca 18, but upon arrival at 11:15 - the doors were locked and found us looking at the fine print on the glass door which told us that brunch was only served on Sundays. Ugh.

Fortunately a veteran in the neighborhood, Friend of a Farmer, had only a 15 minute wait. Despite walking past it dozens of times, I'd never been in for a meal.

The wait was made easier by grabbing a cup of coffee from the shop next door (the coffee was average - which in this city isn't a good thing). A few minutes later and we are brought into the warm, cozy and transporting feeling of this multi-tiered, multi-roomed country farmhouse-turned-restaurant. Our hostess avoids the packed room with the lit fireplace and takes us up above the checkout counter to the second floor, and then to the secondary room that was like a snug back bedroom. There were 4 larger tables back here and autumnal touches throughout and finished with exposed wood beams and floral, fabric wall coverings. What a great place and a terrific way of going to Vermont (or Locust Valley, NY for that matter) without ever leaving the neighborhood.

I ordered the Southwestern Omelette which was a crispy tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, guacamole, salsa, sour cream and cheese. I also ordered a side of bacon. The tortilla clearly took a quick bath in a fryer; the eggs were cooked appropriately long, allowing it to hold up against the naturally watery salsa, sour cream and guacamole, but the bacon, though salty and crispy, was also clearly deep fried, giving it an oily texture and taste. Bummer. The dish, served in a cast iron skillet, was accompanied with a tiny triangle of watermelon that seemed a little dated for this time of the year (and the cold weather outside) and an orange slice that reminded me of fall soccer games as a kid.

The only thing I'd change would be to add sausage to the omelette and maybe ask for a little extra cheese to be added to it.

Danna and Leo had the Eggs Benedict and Carin had Taylor's Tasty Toast (french toast) which was made from their house-made plum cinammon raisin bread. All looked quite good, and all were devoured in good time.

I'd return - perhaps once more this fall/winter and would definitely suggest it for this time of the year. It seems especially made for the fall.

Maremma, Nov. 18, 2005

228 W. 10th Street (bet. Bleecker and Hudson)

Just a quick note...

Had a glass of wine (name escapes me, sorry) at the bar and ordered the Wild Bill Cody from their "Big Plates" menu. This was pappardelle with chocolate-wild boar sauce/ragu. And it was excellent. The ragu had a fair amount of both shredded and chunky pieces of boar. The pasta itself was perfectly cooked and of a nice, fresh tasting flavor.

This was a PERFECT dish to have after imbibing at Employees Only for a few hours, which happens to be around the corner.

The space is pretty cool, relaxed and very unpretentious and somewhat sleek with its hidden bathroom doors. It's a place you could get really comfortable with and just chill. I think it strives to be neighborhoody as opposed to destination-driven. And the sound level was nearly hushed. Nice.

I'll most likely be back...especially since the menu is reasonably priced and happens to be near one of my favorite watering holes.


La Petite Auberge, Nov. 15, 2005

Tonight we celebrated Gigi's birthday with Gigi, Leo and Carin, Conway, Leo IV and Amy at a former haunt of Gigi and Popsie's. Conway, as we would find out during our dinner, used to be taken to lunch by clients back in the day.

Here's what I had:

Bread and Butter

The bread, of which there was no shortage of, was very good. The salty, creamy, room-temp. butter was very good and also, was in no short supply. An older gentleman is assigned with the task of carrying a large bowl of the butter pats and forking them onto your side plates on a regular schedule (no less than three visits from the butter man).

Escargots de Bourgogne

These were as garlicky as had been mentioned. The snails themselves seemed slightly overcooked. They were still boiling when they arrived at the table and continued to do so (even after gentle prodding) for a good two minutes afterwards. The garlic butter itself wasn't as tasty as I'd hoped after dipping the bread in it. These were simply ok. Have had better at Park Bistro and elsewhere.

French Onion Soup

My wife ordered this. We both agreed that this paled in comparison to the version I make at home. I've also had better at my former local pub in NJ though it did look perfect upon arrival at the table. Dissappointing.

Side Salad

This comes with the meal. Basic salad with creamy vinaigrette. Nice and simple enough.

Le Carre' D'Agneau (Rack of Lamb for two)

My wife and I shared this. It was served with frites and string beans. The lamb was presented to us pre-cut as is tradition. We each then got three hefty chops to go along with our side vegetables. The lamb chops were excellent...cooked perfectly medium rare. This was very, very good. The string beans were limp and boring and the fries were a true disappointment. Awful. My wife, who loves fries more than anything, couldn't eat them.

Creme Caramel

I've had this here before and liked it enough to order it again. Consistently good. It's not sweet caramel, more on the bitter side of that track, but I enjoy it. Continues to be solid.


The young girl who sounds more Italian than French was our waitress. Her accent was difficult to get through which resulted in having to repeat certain specials and such. This was the same girl that sneezed as she was taking out my food the last time I ate here. Another waitress helped bring out food and coffee but had no idea who got what which resulted in what looked like a game of duck-duck-goose around the table.

Others ordered the following entrees: venison, frog's legs, sirloin steak, duck l'orange and sole meuniere - all of which were enjoyed without incident.

Overall impression...the same as ever. This local spot serves adequate, country french bistro cuisine that has the occasional big hit and the slightly more common, misses. Not something to go out of your way to visit, but certainly something to consider in your quiver of local, informal dining out options. It's longevity in a city of constant change is also worth noting.


Two. urban licks, Nov. 4, 2005

Check back soon for this review


The Globe Restaurant, Nov. 2, 2005

The Globe Restaurant
75 Fifth St West.

It must be great to be a restaurateur in Atlanta today. No cuisine has been oversaturated like in New York (think Asian fusion et. al.), the rent, I'm sure, is considerably lower per square foot, the competition is relatively limited and the raw space available can be both large in scale and quite simply, available in desirable locations.

My recent trip to Atlanta had me scouring OpenTable to find a pair of restaurants that would live up to some of the standards I've set for dining experiences in New York, but allowing myself to accept whatever Atlanta had to give.

My first choice, and subsequently first reservation, was at The Globe Restaurant, which, conveniently, was walking distance from my hotel. As you can see from the photo above (from The Globe Restaurant), it's fairly bright, clean and spacious yet semi-industrial (note ceiling) giving it that urban edge that became quite a theme for the dining experiences of this trip.

I was greeted by a hostess, Rachel, normally a waitress, who accomodated me and my laptop (they had free Wi-Fi) to a tiny, curtained off area with a two-top sandwiched in between the main lobby area and two separate dining areas. This was perfect and allowed me some privacy to do some work at the same time be voyeuristic (you could see through the curtain).

So on to the food. Here's what I ordered:

Seared Tuna w/lentil salsa
Seared tuna is so overplayed and I was skeptical when it was suggested that I try it. My last experience, at Suba, proved that tuna was out as far as I was concerned but what the heck, maybe they do it differently down here. And sure enough...the tuna was no different. Cut into even squares and neatly arranged on a bed of lentil salsa, it was just the same old same old. However, what made the dish was the lentil salsa. Tuna IS just Tuna, and I think the chef understands this. So he's paid attention to the accompaniment, both a novel approach as well as a great food cost measure. This lentil salsa was delicious, with plenty of heat and fully flavorful. It looked like a mix of du puys and perhaps another variety, mixed with chiles of an unknown variety. Definitely worth giving it a go, strictly for the salsa and any tuna craving or seafood restrictions you may have.

Tempura Fries
After having the tempura string beans at The Red Cat, I just had to give these a whirl. I like the selection: a variety of asparagus, haricot verts and mushrooms, but was disappointed with the tempura batter. Not all of the tempura stayed stuck on the vegetables and the flavor combo of batter and vegetable didn't quite pop as much as I'd like. The lemon aioli was good, and appropriate to the region, but I definitely liked the spicy mustard dipping sauce provided at The Red Cat. Infinitely better for the dish as a whole. Overall, if I'd never had something like this before, I'd like it but it just doesn't come close to The Red Cat's version.

Grilled Flat Iron Steak & Frites
This was a grilled, flat iron steak with frites. That's about as much as I can tell you other than the fact that a perfectly good, accurately cooked (medium rare to a tee) piece of steak was nearly ruined by the lump of herbed butter that crowned it and, unfortunately dripped all over the meat. What a shame. I guess this is par for the southern course, or maybe a note taken from previous employment at Ruth Chris' Steakhouse, but in no way is it necessary. In fact, it really damaged the quality of the dish. Please leave the butter off! For such a clean and upscale looking place, you'd kind of expect them to know better. The meat was good enough without it.

The Space
As mentioned above, Atlanta has a lot of space to offer potential restaurateurs and this place was no exception - it was huge, with no less than 4 distinct areas including a bar, "living room", lounge and an extensive series of tables that take up the real estate along a glass walled distance the length of the restaurant. Rachel was kind enough to give me a tour afterwards, something that was remarkably professional and genuinely courteous. She's a great host/waitress/person who will no doubt do well in the marketing/advertising field once she gets in it.

The Globe Restaurant, despite having the luxe space, lesser rents (guessing) and relatively minimal sense of competition, I couldn't help but be surprised at how pedestrian the menu was. This is a blank canvas ready to be tackled yet the menu was very "safe". I think that this restaurant still has yet to grow into its own. I'm guessing here, but it almost seems as though they are taking it easy with the menu to see if it gets a loyal following first. Once things get moving, the staff settles in and the chef feels comfortable enough (or rather the owner(s) feel comfortable with the chef), this menu will change to be one that offers more interesting, complex items - but still keeping them simple. I think it will become like The Red Cat in a sense. But that will take some slight risks that I think the people of Atlanta are certainly willing to try.


Fleur de Sel, Nov. 2, 2005

Fleur de Sel
5 E. 20th Street

So this is a Michelin Guide 1 star restaurant?

I can understand that the cute and cozy room, (just disregard the chef's ego - his own paintings have a majority stake on the walls - at least I'm nearly positive they were signed Cyril Renaud, someone correct me if I'm wrong) the service style (we'll get to actual service in a minute) and perhaps other dishes helped it out but I fail to see how Eleven Madison Park didn't get a 1 star if this place did. (And I don't think EMP deserves one).

The room at EMP, though much larger, is dramatic and worthy of merit, the service style is slightly different but not much and the food is nearly identical, though I prefer what I've had at EMP on any occasion.

Lunch Tasting Menu

Sweetbread ravioli, Spinach Coulis, Madeira & Cepe Sauce

Where were the sweetbreads? Cutting open each of the two raviolis, I saw spinach and tiny flecks of meat that was presumably sweetbreads. This dish was bland at best. The presentation was lovely but even the sauce was subtle.

Roasted Black Cod, Blue Hubbard Squash & Chestnus, Maple-Red Wine Sauce

It's official, I don't like cod. Blech. What a lousy tasting fish. It seemed to be cooked right, it looked beautiful, the squash and chestnuts were just okay and the sauce was lovely, but the fish was just not my thing. Though a recent quote from the Chef in the NYTimes makes me nervous. I wish I'd seen this before I ate the fish there:

To save money, Renaud prowls the Fulton Fish Market himself instead of paying a purveyor a premium and a fuel surcharge for delivery. "I can't keep raising prices," he says. "I'm going to hang on as much as I can for as long as I can."

Guess what. It shows.

Poached Pear, Port Wine Jus, Sable Brittany Cookie, Hazelnut Ice Cream

By far the best dish. The cookie and hazelnut ice cream together tasted similar to those do-se-do Girl Scout cookies. Delicious. The pear was excellent and looked very, um, aphrodesical (is that a word?), or feminine.

Riesling, Schloss Gobelsburg Kamptal Kremstal, Austria 2004.

This was the suggested pairing with the cod. The wine was good but in no way did it help or pair well with the cod.

I waited at the door (12:15) for quite some time until a hostess showed up. When she did, she was very helpful and pleasant. The captain/waiter (the only one taking food/drink orders) was overly pleasant to which made me think that I'd rather have been here pre-Michelin star. I did, however, congratulate him on the star, to which he replied thanks and that it was an exciting time for them. The servers on the other hand look completely out of place, they mumbled incoherently and simply didn't look the part. Wow. Very surprised with that.

I bet this place is excellent for dinner. The menu looked quite nice and I'm sure the chef actually cooks at night (he wasn't cooking at lunch but was in house), but if you want a prix fixe lunch with a glass of wine in the Gramercy area, go to Eleven Madison Park.

Compared to my other recent 1 star dining experiences (Babbo and Wallse last week), I think Wallse had the better food though Babbo was the better overall experience. Fleur de Sel doesn't match up in either category.