Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bits and Morsels takes in ‘Cesca and Peasant

Polpi in Purgatorio at Peasant.

This past weekend I took in some culture by going to a Broadway show (at the suggestion of the Obamas). Sunday evening was the perfect New York night filled with good company, a powerful show and a solid dinner. I went with my good friend Louis Licari to see Broadway's Next to Normal. Sunday night is my favorite night for theater -- less traffic to deal with and an earlier curtain (7:30).

The show is about how a family deals with mental illness and it has been nominated for 11 Tony awards, including Best Musical. It’s a thought provoking show that will take you on an emotional ride; it's a very worthy experience.
Times Square.
Before the show, we went to an early dinner (5:30) at ‘Cesca, located on the Upper West at 164 West 75th Street (at Amsterdam Avenue). The atmosphere at ‘Cesca is warm and engaging. It’s a neighborhood fixture and there isn't a bad seat in the house, especially those great-big booths in the front of the restaurant.

‘Cesca has a wide-ranging menu; everything from whole-wheat pasta to grilled steaks. The food is simple, yet adroitly prepared and plated. Louis started with a sampler of crudo and then moved onto the grilled tuna with a side of spinach for his main. The fish of the day was striped bass served with a spicy tomato sauce just to get your Broadway blood pumping. For dessert, the fresh fruit plate was a wise choice.
Next to Normal at the Booth Theatre. My dinner date, Louis Licari.
‘Cesca
164 West 75th Street (at Amsterdam Avenue)
212.787.6300

Next to Normal is playing at the Booth Theatre

N.B. – It just so happens that the Tony Awards are this Sunday night on CBS at 8:00. Tune in and watch the nominees perform and then take in a show!
Yellow Tail with Holland pepper sauce, scallop with pine nuts and capers and bigeye tuna with pickled chilies. Grilled tuna.
Striped bass. Side of spinach.
Inside 'cesca; Fruit plate; Warm chocolate cake with vanilla gelato and coffee soil.
Saturday night I made the trek all the way downtown to Peasant, at 194 Elizabeth Street. Peasant is a rustic Italian restaurant that serves hearty foods, almost all cooked in a brick oven over an open fire. The décor is minimal but there is something about the shimmering open kitchen that gives the whole restaurant a warm glow. Peasant also has a sexy wine bar right next door to the restaurant accessible by a steep set of stairs. It's worth showing up early for a glass of wine at the bar before your reservation upstairs.
Cooking with fire at Peasant.
Before you order anything, ask for the crusty bread with the fresh ricotta cheese. Every customer gets it when they sit down. The portions are on the large side so you should order with sharing in mind. One of the dishes they are known for is the Polpi in Purgatorio a.k.a octopus in a spicy tomato sauce. My dinner guests tried it and said it was delicious (even if it turned their tongues a brighter shade of red). The standout dish for me was the gnocchi with morels and peas in a light butter sauce. Perfectly fluffy gnocchi with the meatiness of the morel mushrooms made for a damn good dish. I would go back just for that.
Polpi in Purgatorio.
Peasant Restaurant
194 Elizabeth St. (btw. Spring St. and Prince St.)
212.965.9511
Inside Peasant. Fresh spring vegetable salad.
Bread with fresh ricotta. A table full of appetizers.
Margherita pizza. Suckling pig.
Gnocchi with morels and peas. Panna cotta with fresh berries.
Plum tart with hazelnut gelato.
According to Tim and Nina Zagat the missing component for the restaurant industry is good, professional service. Of all the restaurant complaints they field, most are about the service, not the food. Their suggestion is to create courses in culinary school specifically designed to teach service and front of the house skills. [The Atlantic]

Greenpeace held a peaceful protest at Nobu
last Saturday night. Nobu serves bluefin tuna, which is endangered, and Greenpeace objects. Kindai tuna is a much more sustainable choice, but because bluefin is such a popular choice, Nobu still keeps it on their menu. [NY Times]

Check out the house of Pinkberry
co-founders Young Lee and Shelly Hwang. The house sort of resembles the same décor as the frozen yogurt stores. Pinkberry is known for their clean and modern stores, but this is a little cold for my taste. [The Wall Street Journal]

It is Kids' Restaurant Week from June 20 – 28.
Restaurants will offer discounted menus from 7-9 pm and kids fewer than 11 will have to pay their age. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Food Bank for New York City and The New York Center for Children. For more information and participating restaurants, click here.

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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