Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I was following Dan Kluger here, but he put me in the deft hands of his chef de cuisine, Ian Coogan.  Like Seamus Mullen of Tertulia, he looks more likely to be cooking mushy peas than sweet pea empanadas, but, his half Australian and half Mexican upbringing opened a global window, and through this is seen the wonders of ABC Cocina.

Not that this isn't a collaborative effort- and the same can be said for Jean-Georges' contribution, who despite his presence on two occasions of mine dining at ABC Kitchen, was not in the Cocina this evening.  The freshness and vibrancy for which he is known, however, is literally bursting at the seams at Cocina.  Cocina is the Spanish term for kitchen, but this kitchen does not restrict itself to a single nationality.  Authentic tapas are Spanish in origin, and a majority of the menu options celebrate the  Mexican influence of Coogan's mother, but there are glimmers from across the globe, from pesto and chimmichurri to spices like saffron and techniques from Japan.  Instead of limiting its scope, ABC Cocina capitalizes on a global economy, while simultaneously using only the smartest, seasonal and sustainable  ingredients.   This boundlessness liberates the menu from the heaviness that can oftentimes dominate Mexican cuisine in this country.   The room is as energetic as the menu, sparkling chandeliers reflect on the high gloss of lacquered tables, and the noise level similarly boisterous.  It gives the room a magical feel, a portent of excitement.  And as soon as the food you order begins to appear, the sensation is justified.  Formatted more for small plate sampling than app/entree, many of the dishes are garnished with wedges of citrus; for others, there is a small glass pitcher of a fruity hot sauce that perks up myriad dishes (as if they needed it).   Lucky to be in a large group, we sampled a lot of the menu, and the more I ate, the happier I was.

An artful heap of spring vegetables was crisp, fresh- but a little unwieldy.  While rife with local
produce- radishes, beans, greens, endive, etc.- the bowl was so overflowing that it threatened to tumble out on to the table unless  you selectively picked off pieces from the top, like an inverse Jenga.  But pinching off a sprout, a shaving a manchego, a slice of radish as individual players defeats the team as a whole.  I found myself wishing I had a Chop't salad bowl to lid and shake all the elements into submission, because most of the good stuff was at the bottom.  Minor technical inconvenience,
however, once you really got your fork in there and messed things up.  More easily accessible was a deceptively simple-looking tomato salad.  The were fine as any fruits I've had, dressed simply with shards of red onion, shreds of basil, with fiery loops of serrano chili touched with sherry vinegar.  The ingredients somehow created a devilishly sexy salad, dripping with juices, red as desire.

Bringing the kitchen's fire into the equation, roasted wax beans nuzzled into a thick puddle of zesty romesco.  There was a little too much sauce for the number of beans, so if there are more than four people, order two portions or someone's gonna get shorted legumes.  The sauce is a fine accoutrement scooped up with crusty bread, though, so nothing needs to be wasted.  A hot little crock of roasted corn was blanketed in crumbly cotija, and while a squirt of lime brightened the rich, buttery kernels, I couldn't help wishing they would have been a bit creamier, but lacking in summery corn flavor they were not.

The menu doesn't make a clear designation for the size of the dishes that arrive; it is divided more by flavor profiles and structure than volume, but it's fairly easy to gauge with a glimpse at the respective prices.  There are main-course type options here, mostly from the "wood burning grill section", although the maitake mushroom  was  appetizer-sized, despite a generous parapet of dense goat cheese drizzled in a perky fresno pepper vinaigrette.  It's frilly edges were roasted to a nutty, rich crisp as it's heart absorbed the flavorful dressing.  Smeared with a little cheese, a marvelous combination.  But like I said, the dishes are best divided and shared.  Of the tacos we ordered, however, sharing proved itself effortful after first bites: the short rib taco was a highlight of the night.  Warm, pliant tortillas were just substantial enough to hold things together
 without an overwhelming doughiness.  In fact, the balance of ingredients was quite perfect: salty, crunchy rings of onion were definitely more Fun-yun that "frizzled" as described, but all the more delicious for it.  Crisper than a typical onion ring but still with that melting allium intact.  Boldly oniony- these would put French's out of business in a heartbeat.  Chunks of meat within were butter-soft and richly beefy, spiked judiciously with a habanero relish that contributed heat without masking its savoriness.  Fish tacos were equally wonderful.  Given the choice between crispy-fried or griddled, we chose the latter.  Sturdy scallops of halibut touted a beachy char, enriched with a luscious aioli and the vibrant crunch of a spicy pickled cabbage. At two to an order, make sure to order adequate quantities so no one (especially yourself) misses out.  

 The one dish we ordered that would serve as a traditional entree was a slow-cooked stew of delicate, pillowy halibut smothered in a salty ragout of vibrant peas and carrots, heavy on the veg and less so of the moist fish, but that is the proportion I actually prefer (and I think Michael Pollan would approve).  A touch on the salty side, but countered by a funky hit of saffron and an oily richness.  We also ordered a stewed chicken rice dish, but the kitchen had run out.  We were offered a substitute of arroz con pollo, or the market vegetable option, but needing no more food at this point, the rice section of the menu will have to be explored at another time.

Desserts stem from traditional classics with innovative twists.  Arroz con leche emerges as a coupe of thick rice pudding, heady with white chocolate caramelized into a Magic Shell-esque glaze, and hints of cinnamon.  It is crowned with enormous, jewel-like raspberries- fresh from the farmer's market, I'm sure.   A passion fruit sundae pairs scoops of sorbet, gelato and ice cream beneath a crumble of sweet crushed biscuits, softened by an intense syrup made from more of the tangy tropical fruit.  Cool and creamy, sweet and sour, crunchy and smooth, it is an ideal summer sweet.

ABC Cocina took over the space that was formerly Pipa, and while the ABC Carpet & Home decor made the transition, that is where the similarities end.  Here too, the fixture and service ware come from the adjacent store, but the cuisine is strictly the genius of the three chefs at the helm:  Vongerichten's influence is the framework, but Kluger's finesse and focus pairs with Coogan's Latino contribution like a three-point star.  Which of course, does not exist.  But if it could be created in a kitchen, this team would figure out a way to cook it.  And, it would be delicious.

       38 east 19th street 
       phone 212-677-2233

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Fred's at Barneys, has, unfortunately, no Flintstonian relevance.  I admit I was hoping for some  glimmer of childhood nostalgia to unearth, but unless that was the case when Barney named his son Fred, the nomenclature to the cartoon is but coincidence.  That, and perhaps the almost barbaric portions of food provided, but they do, with that as a qualifier, live up to their price tags.

And since we're at Barneys, the price tags are expected to be steep.  The scene, however, was less fashionista and ladies-who-lunch than families of tourists and a generic shopping population, at least on this particular Saturday afternoon.  I don't remember our server much: he did his job efficiently, without pleasantries or joviality.  Nothing offensive, but nothing to add any liveliness to the event, nor much care as to whether things were going well or not.  And the food didn't really thrill at any point, but it was fresh and sagely prepared, and like I said, plentiful.

The menu is continental, with some predictable "luxury" tweaks like truffle oil or caviar, just to live up to the Barneys mystique.  I mean, the floors beneath hawk Gucci and McQueen: one couldn't get away with out a little pomp in the dining room as well.  That said, it reminded me a lot of a room service menu at a fancy hotel.

But onto the food, which for the most part is fairly forgettable, unless you're just looking to get fed.  Their daily special omelet must comprise at least three eggs if not more, brimming with chunked ham and tomatoes,  a respectable omelet, but still, just that.  And if a $22 omelet doesn't kind of make you roll your eyes, then, well, have at it.  (Understanding, of course, it isn't coming with unlimited mimosas.)  In fact, not even potatoes: it's erved with bare salad greens- fodder for the Prada set, I assume.   I admit it's a little hard to get a great gauge of Fred's after a single visit, since the menu is really formatted to suffice at one dish per person.

 But I'm a sampler, so I tried a roasted hedgehog mushroom to start and some grilled shrimp after.  The mushroom was severely undersalted.   While I adore boldly seasoned food and am rarely one to complain of excessive salinity, I still rarely add salt at the table if the chef didn't want it in there to begin with.  But this was practically inedible without a douse from the shaker: unseasoned cooked maitakes taste like dirt, even with the generous shavings of parmesan atop.  A little salt helped a lot, but it still amounted to little more a heap of cooked mushrooms on a few leaves of arugula, vinegar, cheese.  Lots of them, though- more than it looks like from this photo.  Grilled shrimp were slightly more impressive, but just for the quality of the shrimp.  The menu paired them with  cannellini beans, but me liking my veggies in abundance, I requested them atop grilled asparagus instead, which turned out nicely enough.  That is, as soon as I meliorated it with the salt shaker again.  The seasonings here kind of go hand in hand with the geriatric cafeteria atmosphere;  the clientele tipped towards the elderly side of things.  I guess that's who can afford this kind of place.   Especially since had I gotten the asparagus as a side, plus the shrimp, plus the mushrooms, lunch would've topped out at a whopping $52.00 for just me.  With coffee, easily a Ben for the deuce.  But if you just order a single plate, you can escape without breaking the bank.   I eyed a lobster salad ordered by both members of a party at the table next to us, which would've served precisely that purpose.   There was a good lot of lobster in that bowl, some waxy, tender looking new potatoes and crisp greens ( although they looked tragically overdressed).  You get some nice bread from the basket, too, so it really makes a meal.

Although boring.  But hey!  This is a restaurant at a prestigious department store: I doubt there even IS a chef.  The cooks are doing a solid enough job to hold the place together, though, and certainly they'll never want for business.  Shopping at Barneys?  Well, if you're REALLY shopping here (as in buying stuff) than you won't have a problem with the price tags.  If you're looking for a fun destination with great people watching to brag about back home, go to Bar Pitti or Cafe Le Cirque.  But if you do stay and dine at Fred's, at least you won't have to shop hungry.


660 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10065
(212) 833-2200

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Gabe Stuhlman pushes northward, expanding his outstanding Little Wisco empire outside of the boundaries of the West Village, where all of his other restaurants are situated.  And of those I've visited (which is all but Chez Sardine), yes, I love them all.  Montmartre is no exception.  Ideally, one would venture here on a crisp, warm summer night to take advantage of their vaunted garden, but the weather was not cooperating with that strategy.  What's become a chronic New York summer condition of  sultry, swampy, thunderstorming, third-night-of-a-heatwave weeknight would make dining our there torture.  Anyways,  I think it is charming: as Gascogne ( the wonderful restaurant that formerly inhabited this address, who's greedy landlord so predictably jacked up the rent to insurmountable) the backyard space was my favorite in the city.  But the weather had it inaccessible, so we settled indoors, content with a breezy a.c. and the lively bustle inside.

The restaurant looks similar as Gascogne did upon entering, past a boisterous bar, black lacquer and brass fixtures.  The square footage of the restaurant as it appears from street level is doubled via the staircase leading to more seating downstairs, where the boisterous noise level of the bar subsides somewhat despite the tables being packed in tightly.  The wine list is cosmopolitan and tends pricey: there is but a single forty dollar bottle option for each of the reds and whites, and the numbers  escalate from there.  There are reasonable by-the-glass options, though, and we lucked out with a Corbieres from Languedoc featuring my favorite grape (Picpoul de Pinet... so fun to say) at only $9.  And it harmonized exquisitely with our  food to come.

Chef Tien Ho prepares a menu that while titled entirely in French, follows the wine list in its global influence.   There's nothing rigidly French, and nuances of Mediterranean and southeast Asian pop up shamelessly.  A duo of radish slices garnish a creamy dip of truffle puree, but you'll have to employ a crust of bread to finish the rest when the radishes quickly run out.  Yes, there are a few more traditionally Francophilic selections like duck confit and pork rillettes, but the escaragots have been scooted onto croutons and lightened upwith tomatoes along with their traditional garlicky
 cream.  Thinly julienned wax beans sub for haricots verts, tossed with mache but then benefit from a glimmer of Ho's native Vietnam (and his former employer, David Chang at Ma Peche) with a saucy vinaigrette of tahini and soy, topped with a small, wobbly poached egg and a scatter of crushed peanuts for crunch.  From the raw bar, only half is actually raw- the oysters and a ceviche-esque fluke.  King crab legs are steamed, served with a kicky green tabsco mayo, and four impeccably fresh, large poached shrimp nestle into a matignon cocktail, which turns out to be a basic, hyper-horseradished cocktail sauce.

There's a  roast chicken which finds its novelty in walnuts and herbs, but remains otherwise simple and unfussy.  Tartare Maison is partnered with the requisite bone marrow component (these days, seems you can't have a menu without marrow!) and NY strip a fairly classic steak au poivre, but punched with miso.    A delicious branzino, too, played things pretty safe, crispy skinned and
atop tender steamed broccolini in an umami-rich slurry of black garlic,  a garnish of preserved lemon twisted artfully atop.   Monkfish was delightfully tender, chunked into three sizable pieces and seared to a golden bronze, anointed with a slick of chorizo oil riddled with bits of the sausage in a miniature dice.  Sweet, pillowy cipolle onions anchored the plate, scattered with slivers of maitake mushroom and steamed tips of white asparagus.  And while the vegetable components of all the entrees is significant enough, I still wanted to try the cumin-spiced cauliflower, a dish easily big
 enough to split between two.  Its spice was nuanced enough to enhance the  roasted florettes, but not so much that it fought our flavorful mains.  Punched up with sliced cherry tomatoes and pale yellow favas, it could easily function as a light, vegetarian lunch for one on a not-too-hungry day.

And while we couldn't even entirely finish the cauliflower along with our generous entrees, I couldn't snub a rhubarb crumble.  I can't say I wasn't a little disappointed with its appearance when it first arrived in front of me: it looked a bit.... minimalist.  But that misconception evaporated with the first bite, verified by the second, third and beyond. Plate licking ensued.  The saucy fruit had been condensed into compact pucks, concentrated flavor and texture.
They were intensely fruity, succumbing easily to a spoon but holding form against the tangy lime creme fraiche underneath a crumble of oaten goodness atop, just sweet enough, buttery and nutty.  And, ahh, my hero Little Wisco must have a thing going with Duane Sorenson, because all his restaurants feature the exquisite Stumptown coffee, and for some reason, it just tasted even better here than it usually does (hard to even think that's possible, good as these beans are).  Theirs is a seamless collaboration: both are inarguably at the top of their respective games.  So while I technically didn't follow the chef here, I followed the guy who hired him.  And I'll continue to do so.  Like
 everything else that Stulman touches, Montmartre feels special: he totally has that Midas thing going on.

      158 Eighth Avenue at 18th street
       tel  1.646.596.8838


If you're going to go for high-end, swanky raw cuisine, Pure Food & Wine is the place to do it.  And if this sounds like an oxymoron, it should.  The limitations that are inherent to this type of diet are just too constrictive to make it very appealing to any typical omnivore.  That said, there are some things that are eaten raw (salads, and err... salads?) that are inherently delicious, and those are executed well here at Pure.  The other dishes are as follows...

It's a strange contrast: the low-lit dining room with red leather (pleather? or hypocrisy??) cushions and heavy dark wood would be suitable in a classic steakhouse.  But their trying to put a little glam in the produce aisle, so to speak, and I'm guessing the elegant surrounding can be argued to justify the price (read: expensive).

Now, there is a lot you can do to make raw things yummy: nuts, coconut, oils, sweet fruits, and (strangely enough) brewer's yeast is pretty crucial for that umami element.  Interestingly, they're also not opposed to using alcohol: they have a full wine list (mostly biodynamic and organic) and sake on tap from a producer in Oregon.  I think a glass of wine would help most of the dishes here, too, perhaps buffering some of the sheer .... rawness of it all.

Full disclosure: I didn't know this place was vegan/raw when I entered.  I should've (I think I even subconsciously did, but when I was ordering I didn't take it into consideration).  Still, a red and green romaine salad was surprisingly good, although slabs of juicy grapefruit were senselessly oversize components.  And at $16, the price was notably oversize as well.  It would've been better with some small, diced sections to add brightness to the avocado mousse striated across the plate, and the crown of crispy (I'm guessing they are salted and dehydrated?) shallots.  Hazelnut and Ale Crostini shattered any misconceptions that all this was going to be rabbit food.  Boozy dried figs
perched atop globs of creamy nut cheese bedecked with more nuts, piled atop "crostini" made from nuts.  Were this a "regular" restaurant, the toppings for sure would be excessive, but there seems to be a requisite super-sizing of the more indulgent components of these recipes in order to make them palatable (and so too to avoid  comparisons with their traditional renditions).  It was very sweet and creamy, and quite frankly a bit leaden for more than just one bite- and the plate was made up four.  Squash blossoms filled with Picholine olive "cheese" were welcomely un-fried as they are all too often prepared, but I couldn't help wishing
 they were at least allowed a little steam.  It was an absolutely beautiful dish, though, and the saffron tomato sauce was herbal and fresh - although the filling was a little overpowering, and I certainly can't figure out what the melon balls had to do with anything.

Entrees were decidedly more disappointing, I found, or maybe I was just losing interest in the novelty.  The Moroccan sauce underneath a mound of cauliflower "couscous" was richly spiced, but the whole pile of granulated cauliflorettes riddled with dried fruits and nuts just tasted like a sum of it's parts- and it was no masterful calculation.  Slices of pickled Persian cucumber were good enough to be sold on their own, but raw pickles are no revelation.  The portobello mushroom with cauliflower and horseradish aioli wouldn't have been a stranger on any menu as a vegetarian option- had a grill been involved.  Instead, once you got past the brined exterior of the mushroom, you reached that earthy
 center of raw portobello that simply tasted like earth.  Not earthY- like dirt.  A kale chimichurri and barbecue sauce AND peach salsa (I'm guessing tomato and tamarind were involved) joined forces to make it even edible, but the rough, watery cauliflower puree was just ground up raw vegetable.  I love a plate of crudites- but this was trying to be something it's not.  Raw green beans on the side, and at this point I just really wanted some steaming hot gravy.  The chili-spiked portobello in the sweet corn and cashew tamales had the benefit of a small dice, so it was permeated in salsa verde throughout.  But its tamale had an off-putting pastiness to it, although the sour cream created from cashew and coconut was surprisingly tasty.  A flavorful hunk of avocado distracted as well, and there was more sauce  and
 mole and salsa in this dish as well to try and liberate it from what seems to be the fate of raw cuisine: some things just taste better cooked.    LOTS of things, in fact, and while the nutritional aspect of raw foods  has its merits, there are a lot of things that are healthier cooked (i.e. carrots, asparagus, mushrooms and tomatoes), as well as valuable nutrients in animals products (DHA and EPA, etc.) that this type of diet is always going to have to battle with.  But even so, I've had a couple raw dishes that were better than these, at LifeThyme on 6th avenue in the West Village... and they were exponentially less expensive (granted, this is a store not a restaurant).

But strictly from the perspective of taste, I was relieved to move on to desserts.  There is a lot of great things that can be done with nuts and fruits and berries and coconuts, so after the salads, dessert had a lot more potential.  Plus, while some of this food can taste pretty good, it wasn't satisfying- not in a filling, sating way.  So desserts are kind of requisite.  Thus, we tried three.  They were all pretty delicious.  Cake seeming the most difficult to recreate without heat, we tried a cardamom spiced layer cake with rhubarb compote (okay, actually I just got it for the rhubarb).  The "cake" had a dense, fudgy texture and a mildly nutty flavor that paired well with the cardamom.  Ice creams are most likely realized with coconut
milk, which is a valiant substitution and makes for creamy, pretty delicious scoops.   So no surprise that a sampler of mixed berry frozen "yogurts" was pretty successful, utilizing prime, peak-season fruits with a charming flourish of edible flowers.  Even a dark chocolate brownie, less easy to imagine,
was rich and fudgy, although were it an actual brownie it might've lost point for any intimation of cakiness- it was kind of like a cross between cake and filling.  Smeared concentrically around the plate was a tart swipe of pureed raspberry, a little Dexter-ish maybe, but intensely fruity, and the maple candied almonds would stand on their own as a yummy snack.

So that's that for a long review.  But each of the dishes at Pure Food & Wine had so many components, the descriptions on the menu alone took a line or two.  And all that is without any flesh, dairy, honey, eggs, or fire.  I applaud their efforts, I do.  In fact, I can hardly even imagine the amount of trial and travail it must take to put any of these single dishes (or even a single sauce!) onto a plate.  I  think vegans who have been restricting themselves for a stretch will find Pure an indulgent reprieve.  But without any meat, Maillard or melting, it left this wholly veg-appreciative omnivore mildly bemused.  And it's not I wouldn't go back for a salad at lunch, or maybe even dessert if I was in the 'hood, but only under three conditions:  any companion I was with was carniphobic, somebody ELSE was footing the bill, and I wasn't giving a whit about following the chef.  Which I can pretty much guarantee will never, ever be the case.

54 Irving Place
tel.  (212) 477-1010

Monday, July 8, 2013


Here, I waited.  I know this chef's reputation, but upon the opening of The Marrow, press had it that it wasn't quite running full tilt, so I gave him time to bring it up to snuff with chef Harold Dieterle's other establishments, Perilla and Kin Shop.  Both are exceptional, and so when I was searching for a dining destination without the possibility for disappointment, I reverted to the premise of this very blog, by name.  And so I ended up at The Marrow, a German-Italian conglomerate tucked into the heart of the West Village.

And by German-Italian, I don't by any stretch mean some sort of Euro-fusion.  There are distinctly two sides to the menu: the German dishes and the Italian ones, specifically delineated.  We ordered a fairly decent variety of the two, but as you'll see, the chef's last name hints toward which country I think wins the battle.

A warm, soft pretzel roll (decidedly German) was provided with a fruity olive oil (Italian) with which to anoint it.  This set the stage: there is an even balance between the two influences, often quite complimentary.  We were going to order one strictly from the German side and one from the Italian, but the point of going to a restaurant is ordering what one likes, so we ditched that strategy.  We

 both began from the Italian side, I with a salad of roasted bluefoots (my favorite), the earthy mushrooms augmented by startlingly juicy and sweet strawberries and a drizzle of saucy balsamic scattered with microgreens.  Things are plated with precision and artistry, maybe even a bit fussier than my tastes might dictate, but they are expertly balanced in both flavor and proportion.
My dining companion opted for housemade rigatoni in a spicy duck ragu, and while the chunky sauce clung masterfully to it signature
 ridges, the pasta itself was was suspiciously al dente- but then, I tend to prefer my noodles on the softer side.  Plus, the rich, meaty sauce was hearty enough to stand up to the toothsome tubes.

For entrees we both went pescatarian, but this time we took sides.  From la Famiglia, black cod was glazed in precious white balsamic, then perched atop a bushel of spring produce: sliced sugar snap peas, white asparagus tips and chewy shittake mushrooms, all swimming in a verdant green garlic sauce, fresh but robust.  Good as this was, the familie Dieterle took the match with pan roasted grouper, braised with swiss chard and sauteed salsify atop a richly dilled gruner sauce, magnifying the intensity of this underused herb with the brightness of citrus, vinegar and sour cream.  The salsify was deeply browned, pairing with sour cream and the hefty fish to impart a richness to the dish, but the herbs and tart vinegar kept it fresh.  The menu at The Marrow changes so frequently that already the fish has in this dish has been substituted for daurade just a week later, but the rest of the components remain- so get it while you can.  Certainly can't fault the guy for ebbing along with the seasons, of course, but hopefully this preparation will endure.  It is even topped with a decadent little spoonful of trout roe, which added added a contrasting spark of color as well.  We took a side of blistered green beans, too, which probably weren't really needed but were immensely enjoyed, riffing on a Nicoise with a rich slick of tuna-belly caper sauce and garlicky fried breadcrumbs for crunch.

Desserts cease to segregate themselves patriotic notions, although you could probably still assign them up to the opposing sides if you tried.  You might have to seek out some distant French cousins or something in order to categorize them all properly, though.  But when it comes to pastry, there are probably more name variants for the same entities than actual formulations, so our strawberry meringue would feel at home either in the Boot or Deutschland... or here in the city, as it were.  A simple little bowl it was, impeccable local strawberries and sorbet made from more of the same, tumbled with squares of moist poundcake cupped in a crisp, light meringue.  Not wildly exciting, but a delicious, simple finish.  Given the coffee cultures of both countries, the java here lives up, and this fruit concoction paired geniously with the strong brew.  Ginger stout cake with roasted peaches and honey ice cream was simlarly tempting, especially since the pastry chef's name is Ginger Fisher.  She may have given special care to that one, eponymously.  The final listing on the dessert menu sums it all up:  Leckerle Gelati und Sorbetti.  Adjectives and conjunctions in German, nouns, Italian.  And they all add up to an artfully phrased sentence.

 99 bank st. , (corner of greenwich & bank streets)
  tel: 212.428.6000

Friday, July 5, 2013


Talk about following the chef.  Not only did I follow a chef al the way out to Brooklyn, but I followed him to not even a restaurant!  But this guy I'd basically trust with my life.  I met Sam Mason when he was Wylie Dufresne's pastry chef at WD-50, doing unprecedented things with sweet and savory, mysteriously transforming the mundane into miraculous.  Leaving there he opened up a favorite destination of mine, the now shuttered Tailor down on Broome Street in lower SoHo.  Chalk that one up to a crashing economy and trying location, because there really was little about it that wasn't simply awesome.  Frustrated with the industry (who wouldn't be?) he opened up a bare-bones-but-fabulous dive bar in Williamsburg called Lady Jay's, which is still going strong.  And then (talk about capitalizing on a niche product), he created Empire Mayonnaise, implementing his expertise of flavors to create an entire line of the condiment in flavors from bacon, red chili, black garlic, white truffle and vadouvan (there is also an exceptional plain classic variety).  No moss growing under these toes, he most recently opened Odd Fellows Ice Cream Co., a kitschy, old school ice cream parlour that couldn't not charm even the most grinchy stooge.

Big windows open up into a retro-looking room framed with sleek countertops and stripey wall paper.  Odd paraphernalia like a gonzo-looking monkey complete with cymbals (their mascot) and myriad random Americana decorate cubbyhole frames behind the counter.  You'll feel like your in another universe... a world perfumed of toasty, sweet waffle cones, which are being cooked on a heavy griddle right in front of you.

Of course, a place like this isn't without its problems.  That problem exclusively is deciding - because Odd Fellows has a lengthy list of drool-worthy flavors, ranging from traditional to kooky, seasonally pure and light sorbets to diet-killing concoctions fraught with nuts and bacon and caramel.  In that ilk, a cornbread sundae is an exquisite celebration of summer, no holds barred.  Cornbread ice cream (how's
he do that?) is ethereally sweet, smooth and corny.  Sluiced in jammy blueberry compote and a crumble of cornbread, it is then topped with a bacon-infused maple whipped cream... and topped with a precious  pea tendril, highlighting all things seasonal.  Some flavors are meals in themselves:  PBJ w/ Toast is pretty much a balanced repast in a cone.   And so goes toasted sesame
 kumquat pumpernickle, while chorizo caramel might demand a chunky strawberry sauce to help fulfill your five-a-day.    But there's nothing lacking on the fruit front, with myriad sorbets:  strawberry lavender (pictured), blood orange-cinnamon, lime-tarragon, and (although it took a little convincing) my to-date favorite: grapefruit-jalapeno.  It went down with just a touch of fire on the back of my throat, soothed by the juicy, icy sorbet pungent with tangy grapefruit.

And as if all that weren't enough, Odd Fellows also offers homemade cotton candy and sodas, using local, farm-sourced ingredients as the inspiration for flavors along with Mason's iconic creativity.  Premium is an understatement.  And is if all THAT weren't enough, they also donate five cents for each scoop purchased to the Food Bank for New York City:  "Four scoops of ice cream will give someone in need a hot meal."   And here, four scoops can go down in the blink of an eye.  Like they say, "How amazing is that?"

175 Kent Avenue
tel. 347.599.0556