Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bits & Morsels: Seasonal & Edi & the Wolf

The Pickled Vegetables at Edi & the Wolf.

by Erin Frankel

Talented Austrian chefs Eduard Freuneder (Edi) and his partner Wolfgang Ban (the Wolf) operate two wholly distinct Austrian restaurants in New York City, both of which I had the pleasure of dining at this week. One is the more established, conservative Seasonal in Midtown, and the other is their newest, more casual swank venture, Edi & the Wolf.

Seasonal is a small and elegant restaurant parked on a quiet street amid the hustle and bustle of the west 50s. The restaurant is minimalist to the core. The walls are washed in basic white. The sleek, shiny tables are coupled with high, smooth leather chairs. The beautiful glossy bar curves in a semicircle reflecting the bright lights above. And the hosts are genial. The quiet diners around you are thoughtfully scattered and respectfully converse in a low tone and a rather “seasoned” manner. I could hear at least three tables of clientele speaking Austrian, so I knew the food would be good, if not authentic.
Inside Seasonal.
Wolf, a graduate of the Vienna Culinary Institute, approached our table and greeted us with a firm handshake. He is friendly and fervent about his five-course wine-pairing tasting menu, so we decided to give it a go.

We started with the cured fluke garnished with tomato gel and charcoal oil, which was paired with the Sekt, a lean sparking Austrian wine from Szigeti. Then we moved onto the Blumenkohl Suppe, which is a light cauliflower soup made with cauliflower puree, beeched mushrooms, speck and scallops in a vegetable broth. The soup was paired with a light and tangy sauvignon blanc called Maris (from Slovenia). Then onto my favorite dish: the Pochiertes Ei, soft poached eggs with lobster, hen of the woods layered on top of crispy pumpernickel flakes. The lobster, not an ingredient you typically see in Austrian cuisine, perfectly balances the rich flavor of the egg yolk, creating a real lightness to the dish.
The cured fluke garnished with tomato gel and charcoal oil.
The Blumenkohl Suppe: a light cauliflower soup made with cauliflower puree, beeched mushrooms, speck and scallops in a vegetable broth.
The Pochiertes Ei: soft poached eggs with lobster, hen of the woods on top of crispy pumpernickel flakes.
Spatzle: Egg Pasta, Mushroom, Zucchini, Berg Käse.
Rochen: Skate seared with parsley root and accompanied by ramps and potato.
Edi and Wolf artfully demonstrates a modern and light (and fancier too) approach to Austria’s traditional heavy cuisine with their spin on the popular Spatzle, which, here, is mixed with light vegetables and berg kase; and paired with Leth White Wine, a smooth Austrian favorite similar to Sauvignon Blanc. Our next entrée on the tasting menu was a very light and refreshing Rochen (Austrian for Skate) seared with parsley root and accompanied by ramps and potato. It was a great match for Ed Roughened, an exotic, fruity, and creamy Austrian white wine.

Dessert was the best part. We paired a sweet Austrian dessert wine, called Kracher, with the Kaiserschmarnn (crumbled caramelized pancakes with apple compote) and the Apfelstrudel (an apple strudel with strawberry infused apple sauce topped with vanilla ice-cream). Both were a sweet and savory finish to a multi-course modern, refined, and unforgettable Austrian experience.
The Apfelstrudel, an apple strudel with strawberry infused apple sauce topped with vanilla ice-cream.
The Kaiserschmarnn, crumbled caramelized pancakes with apple compote. My favorite.
Edi and Wolf take a vastly different approach to their newest Austrian restaurant, Edi & the Wolf. For one, the location says it all. Situated on the very far eastern stretches of Alphabet City, this funky restaurant immediately draws the opposite crowd. The dark room screams alphabet-city-esque cool. The young crowd engulfs the small space. It is loud. And the the energy level is a 10. There is a lot going on. The low lamps, which hit you at eye level, line long wooden tables sequestered on top of one another. There are artillery shells strewn against the brick wall. And a 40-foot rope, rescued from a church bell tower, hangs from the ceiling in front of the copper bar.
Inside Edi & the Wolf.
Seating is so tight so get ready to make friends with your neighbors. On a popular Saturday night, Edi tries to squeeze everyone into the long communal tables, and even seats strangers at small tables together. But no one makes a fuss since the quality of the food here is superb.

While the restaurant is modeled after a casual version of the traditional Eastern European Wine Bar known as Heuriger, there isn’t an actual wine bar here. However, like its sister restaurant, Seasonal, Edi & the Wolf still presents an extensive selection of Austrian wines to pair with your food. We paired all of our courses with the highly recommended Sekt — an Austrian sparkling wine that Edi personally describes as light, fresh and crisp — a perfect complement to the more heavy traditional Austrian fare.
An assortment of different cheeses at Edi & the Wolf. The Alsatian Flatbreads at Edi & the Wolf.
GREEN SALAD with Arugula, Heirloom Tomatoes, Radish, Fava Beans, Baby Artichoke, Ramps at Edi & the Wolf.
The Spatzle at Edi & the Wolf.
Unlike Seasonal, Edi and the Wolf sticks more to classic Austrian comfort food. The portions are very large and hearty. Favorites on the menu include the following: Pickled Vegetables (also the lightest dish on the menu), which is an assortment of baby carrots, ramps, beets, breakfast radishes and sauerkraut; the Alsatian Flatbreads, which resemble a thin-crusted Austrian version of a pizza and is topped with cippolini, baby artichokes, holzhofer cheese, arugula with speck & horseradish; the more traditional yet rich take on the spatzle, which is heavily creamed but includes a mixture of seasonal vegetables, including hen of woods mushrooms, fava beans and spinach; and the wiener schnitzel (the entrée of choice), a fairly large dish garnished with flavorful ingredients including cucumber and lingonberry jam.

Edi & the Wolf was a great segway into Austrian cuisine for a novice like me.
The Wiener Schnitzel at Edi & the Wolf.
The SCHLUTZKRAPFEN: Austrian Mountain Cheese Ravioli, Homemade Ricotta, Baby Beets, Pine Nuts at Edi & the Wolf.
The STEAK: Nugget Potatoes, Asparagus, Mustard Greens, Smoked Onion Puree at Edi & the Wolf.
Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar
132 West 58th Street

Edi & the Wolf
102 Ave. C, at 7th Street
Where else I ate this week ...

Gusto is timeless. Since Frank Bruni’s top-notch New York Times review in 2005, executive chef Saul Montiel has remained true to his refined, authentic Italian cuisine. Most of Gusto’s pastas ooze the conventional textures and flavors of the region, including favorite staples on the menu — the TONNARELLI con CACIO é PEPE, a light white pasta with pecorino and cracked black pepper, and the ORECCHIETTE al FORNO con PROSCIUTTO CUTTO, a creamier pasta wildly flavored with prosciutto, wild mushrooms, green peas and a crispy parmesan cheese crust. However reliable the cuisine, the chef always adds interesting seasonal and trend-setting dishes to the menu, like the creamy yet polished burrata and tomato special.

The superb quality of the food and the high energy of the restaurant keeps locals like me coming back with a fresh attitude again and again.

Gusto Ristorante e Bar Americano
60 Greenwich Avenue, at Perry Street
Burrata with Tomato, Basil ans Olive Oil at Gusto.
The BRANZINO alla GRIGILIA: grilled mediterranean sea bass, lemon aioli & sea salt at Gusto.
Wilfie and Nell is one of my all-time favorite West Village neighborhood bars. If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you I typically stop by for a drink a few times a week. It is cozy, casual, and always upbeat. Last week, I decided to finally try the Irish fare at the gastropub.

You better be a bacon and lard-lover because the Irish-slanted pub grub of a menu is limiting; everything screams comfort food and is enhanced by cheese, sausage, and FAT. The two best things on the menu are the scotch eggs (hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, breaded and deep-fried) and the artfully melted grilled cheese wedged inside crunchy layers of Pullman-Loaf Bread. Although I consumed about 2,000 calories in one sitting and spent the next week at the gym, I'd happily do it again.

Wilfie & Nell
228 W. 4th St
Grilled Cheese at Wilfie and Nell.
The Scotch Eggs at Wilfie and Nell.
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