Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bits & Morsels

Cheese Plate at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. Perfect with Salumi.

by Erin Frankel

Let's dive right in with a few of my favorite dishes of this young new year:

Kumquat Chipotle Mezcalita at Oficina Latina. Many a New Yorker's favorite meal is brunch, where drinking before 5pm is acceptable. Every weekend, Oficina Latina (24 Prince Street, 646.381.2555), a Nolita Latin American favorite of mine, issues spicy and savory weekend brunch specials paired with ever flowing concoctions of tequila-based cocktails.

Kumquat Chipotle Mezcalita at Oficina Latina.
On a recent Sunday, I tried the Kumquat Chipotle Mezcalita, a new seasonal brunch cocktail comprising regional tequila with fresh citrus flavored Kumquats and a blend of spiced habanero pepper and chipotle pepper (which adds a nice kick to an otherwise fruity morning cocktail). Now that's brunch with flair.

Salumi at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. My timeless favorite, Il Buco, now shares the spotlight with its new sister restaurant, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria (53 Great Jones Street, 212.837.2622). Just around the corner on Great Jones Street, the new, more casual Il Buco has recently debuted its proprietary salumi program after many hours of experimenting with secret recipes in its meat-curing basement lab.

Solumiere and chef Christopher Lee has built a salumi menu with a variety of authentic Italian favorites, including the fatty pancetta, lardo, and guanciale, the pepper-flavored salame toscano, the nutty-tasting lonza, and the sweet culatello. The rich, tasty dry-cured meats can be savored alone but are best paired with a refined selection of cheeses, my favorite being a trio of pecorinos – alle more selvatiche, alle more piccante, and the misto alle vinacce.
Salumi at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria.
The Orecchiette pasta at Bigoli (140 W. 13th Street, 212.647.1001). Sometimes we want to ditch the overcomplicated and overcompensated ingredients in favor of simple, authentic dishes in a non-fussy setting. This is why the new Italian neighborhood replacement to Gonza is an ideal place for a refreshingly simple, fresh Italian pasta. The crowd-pleaser at Bigoli is the spicy orecchiette, a bowl of small ear-shaped pasta with sweet fennel sausage, rich roasted guinea hen, broccolini, roasted escarole, and sprinkled parmigiano. This pasta provides all the warmth you will need on a cold winter night.
Orecchiette pasta at Bigoli.
The Grilled Cheese with Oaxaca, Jalapeno, Corn Puree, Tomatillo, and Cotija at Little Muenster (100 Stanton Street, 212.203.7197). The grilled cheese fad in New York may now seem campy, but I am still a true grilled cheese addict, typically favoring the simple variation of melted American cheese between two slabs of buttered white wonder bread.

Every so often, I will evaluate some of the extravagant takes of the once-simple sandwich. And I must say that this grilled cheese sandwich at this small hipster grilled cheese-only storefront is simply delicious. A house-made spread of sweet corn puree with a creamy mixture of white Oaxaca and aged cotija, little chunks of hot jalapeno, and a dollop of a slightly bitter tomatillo sauce sandwiched between two lavishly buttered slices of French Sourdough. Any questions?
The Grilled Cheese with Oaxaca, Jalapeno, Corn Puree, Tomatillo, and Cotija at Little Muenster.
The Grilled Fish Taco at Dorado Taco (28 E 12th St, 212.627.0900). This spin-off of a Boston taqueria channels the Baja original with fresh fish tacos. At its new Union Square location, marinated swordfish simmers with serrano chilies and canola oil until the fish is tender and infused with aromatics. This fish is finished with a sprinkling of cilantro, kosher salt, garlic, tomatillo, avocado salsa, a nice helping of shredded green cabbage, and a dollop of baja cream on a double layer of corn tortillas, which can hardly accommodate the spicy and savory fillings. I particulary love their straightforward treatment of fresh, grilled fish made to order in less than 5 minutes (and at less than $4 a taco).
The Grilled Fish Taco at Dorado Taco.
The Grilled Artichoke at Bar Six (502 Ave of the Americas, 212.691.1363). Discover the warmth and charm of the ambience and delicious, reliable food at this neighborhood French Bistro, my favorite dish being the grilled artichoke with garlic mayonnaise. The artichoke takes on a smoky, buttery flavor when grilled and the aioli gives it that extra burst.
The Grilled Artichoke at Bar Six.