Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bits and Morsels: Share our Strength

One of my favorites at Share our Strength's Taste of the Nation Event: Aquavit's light and fresh Nordic Seafood with Cauliflower, Pickled Rhubarb, and Burnt Leek.

by Erin Frankel

On Monday evening, April 30th, at Share our Strength's Taste of the Nation Event, I joined hundreds of other hungry and philanthropic foodies at an open loft space on Mercer street to taste new and noteworthy dishes and delectable cocktails from New York City's best chefs and mixologists. Everyone, both the restaurants that volunteered their time and tastings and the people who bought tickets, was ultimately there to help place an end to childhood hunger in America.

Here are some of my evening favorites (you'll be hearing more about many of them when I visit their establishments):

The Meatball Shop's Chicken Meatballs with asparagus and carrots mixed with a creamy ricotta:
Hill Country Chicken's sweet Chicken biscuits with Molasses Butter:
The Water Club's Old School Poached Lobster Thermidor:
Tia Pol's signature Super Gildas — grilled guindilla peppers, boquerones, olives, anchovies, onion, and shrimp on a stick:
Edi and The Wolf's Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Rhubarb, Cacao Crumble and Elderflower foam:
Char No. 4's Smoked Andouille Sausage Terrine with pickle relish and creole mustard on a small piece of crispy toast:
Dirt Candy's Tomato Chipotle Cotton Candy. (Chef Amanda Cohen claims, "this is NOT a dessert!"):
The Wayland's signature "All or Nothing" cocktails: a mixture of Herradura Reposado, Aveenka, Ancho Chile, Agave, Fresh Lemon, Wayland Orange Bitters, and Omemegang Farevos.

Employees Only's number one selling cocktail — The Amalia — a mixture of vodka, elderflower, lemon and fresh blackberries:
The Wayland's signature "All or Nothing." Employees Only's The Amalia.
Brushstroke's Chawan Mushi — a steamed egg custard finished in a dashi and truffle sauce:
A Voce's Eggplant Brownies: Chocolate Brownies with Calabrian Chile and Eggplant Jam:
China Grill's Spicy Beef Dumplings with soy ginger sauce:
SushiSamba's Plum Sake Cured Foie Gras:
Beauty and Essex's Tuna Poke Wonton Tacos with wasabi kew and micro cilantro:
Blue Hill's Carrot Soup with buttermilk, carrot cracker, and pine nuts:
Joe Doe's juicy brisket sandwich with caramelized onions:
Ed's Chowder House's Crab Salad with pickled ramps in a chilled English Pea Soup:
Michael's (that old midtown favorite) dutch white asparagus with parma ham and spring succotash:
Momofuku Milk Bar's Cake Truffles with an added flavor of pretzel or chocolate chip or passion fruit:
Tertulia's Esparrogos y Jamon:
Il Buco Alimentari's Housemade Ricotta with Pine Nut Grano, sugar snap peas, English peas, and Umbrian olive oil:
Maharlika Filipino Moderno's creamy, flavorful Sayote Soup with Beef Tapa:
North End Grill's Chili Dusted Rock Cod with Shrimp Salad:
Do or Dine's sweet and savory Foie Gras Doughnuts:
Ward III's "Surfside Sour": a mixture of Sailor Spiced Rum, Lemon, and Grapefruit Juice:
Where else I ate this week:

When your boss, colleague, friend, or family member asks you to suggest a casual yet sophisticated spot in the the east 50s near the the 4,5,6 line, you now have an answer: The National. Brought to you by The Next Iron Chef's Geoffrey Zakarian (also the owner of the other posh Midtown establishment, The Lambs Club, reviewed earlier this year), The National offers that relaxed drop-by vibe with a sophisticated and ample selection of food and drink.

The dining room is a bright, happy space, and an ideal respite from the neighborhood street noise. Settle into one of the dark leather booths in the back and order a Pinot Noir to calm your nerves, and then move onto Zakarian's classic, yet innovative, Nouveau American menu.
Start with the oysters on the half shell with a traditional cocktail sauce and a refreshingly flavored apple ginger mignonette; or the tender steak tartare, a medley of thinly hand-cut filet mignon seasoned with pickled hon shemiji, fresh cherry tomatoes, mustard, and kecap manis. Two bountiful plates.
Oysters on the half shell.
Steak Tartare.
However, the real reason to come to The National is for its signature "Ugly Burger," a dish that remains on the menu throughout the year. Here, even the most conventional ingredients seem ambitious. The juicy 8oz. ground beef patty is placed inside of a hot crispy onion roll bun with two leafs of lettuce, a thinly sliced tomato, one slice of pickled red onion, five chunks of pickled kirby cucumbers, five pieces of pickled jalapenos (the perfect kick), a crispy piece of bacon, perfectly melted gruyere cheese, and a special NTL sauce for the burger. Beat that.

The National
557 Lexington Avenue (at 50th Street)
The "Ugly Burger."
Opening day for brunch at Vinatta Project was this past weekend. it's an attractive, airy space where a long zinc bar leads to an open room with large black leather banquettes and a long communal wooden table in the middle of the room.

Vinatta offers all the requisites for brunch; a light seared tuna nicoise salad for the healthy, a rolled omelette with English peas and goat cheese for the cravers, and the creamy smoked salmon eggs benedict for the hungover.
Vinatta Project's Meatpacking District's interior.
Kiwi Gimlet. Vinatta cocktail with vodka, champagne, and muddled strawberries.
The real draw here is the fresh seasonal ingredients found in the brunch-time cocktails. We let the master mixologists choose our two pitchers.

First came the Kiwi Gimlet, a gin-based cocktail with slices of fresh cucumber, kiwi and lemon juice, which was quite a refreshing way to start a Sunday! Then, the sweeter Vinatta cocktail, which was a special concoction of vodka, champagne, and fresh muddled strawberries. The mixologists take a minimalist approach to their cocktails recognizing that unique complementary flavors and seasonal ingredients always win out.

The Vinatta Project
69 Gansevoort St

Tuna Nicoise Salad.
Omelette with English Peas and Goat Cheese.
Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict.