Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snow Day #2: Michelin Starry Eyed

As this freakshow of a National weather pattern rolled over the northeast, I braced myself for yet another snow day. What this usually means is that all of the school kitchens would be closed... and that I'd be starving for the day. All of my friends cars would be stuck in the parking lot due to the shitty plowing patterns of CIA's campus safety.

Then, after the news of a snow day broke, and my kitchen frantically broke down our service set up to get out of class ASAP, I became aware of a distinct possibility of a last minute glutton's adventure. My good friend Taylor, probably the guy I relate most to here (Apparently I wasn't the only kid who peed the bed until they were 9) had planned on visiting the city, because his Dad was in town on business from Texas. I decided I would tag along. Taylor was without a doubt someone who I could count on to follow me blindly into whatever restaurant I decided to go to. I was ready to go. I was jonesin' for a trip to the city, I hadn't been in over a month, I had actually been losing weight. That had to change... and fast.

This morning came. I showered, dressed, and put my game face on. The last thing I grabbed and put in the pocket of my pea coat was my treasure map of the city, the 2011 Michelin Guide. I had a small itinerary, but wasn't set in stone. I did however have one spot I had to visit, the Spotted Pig. Taylor and I discussed the gameplan on the train, and eventually it was decided.

Our first stop was momofuku Noodle Bar. Taylor had never been, and seeing as we hadn't eaten all day and it was already 4 o'clock, we wanted something quick and delicious. I ordered the pork buns (thick, unctious slabs of pork belly on a steam bun with pickles and hoisin sauce), and the cold smoked chicken wings. The pork buns were better than I had remembered them. And the chicken wings were ridiculous. They are cold smoked, then sauteed crispy with pickled chiles, scallions, and soy. Taylor's dad met up with us there, but we were quickly and awkwardly pushed out shortly after his arrival because the staff was to have a meeting and staff meal.

We quickly walked to the next momofuku stop, Milk Bar. Many of you have heard of my love of the goodies at milk bar. I got the cereal milk ice cream and a slice of crack pie. As I ate the crack pie, a gooey butter pie with a crunchy oat crust, I realized how Dave Chang, the owner and creator of the momofuku empire, makes it work. The crack pie can't have more than 7 or 8 cheap ingredients; oats, flour, butter, eggs, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla. Each is cheap and the cost of making a whole pie will probably be around 5 bucks. With one slice of the stuff, sold at $5.40, they cover their entire food costs for the whole pie, meaning that they make roughly 700 percent profit. And I'd gladly drop five bucks once a week for a piece.

We swung by Eataly and picked up a bit of Bresola (cured and dried beef) to snack on on the ride home. And then we set out on a journey.

Usually I'm a proponent of the Subway system, but it was crunch time. The spotted pig, the restaurant I've been wanting desparately to visit for years was our destination. Recently awarded a Michelin Star, the third highest honor a restaurant can receive from the Michelin Guide (the most respected restaurant guide among foodies), the Spotted Pig is ridiculously popular. Co-owned by Mario Batali and Jay-Z, its a celebrity hangout, a hipster collective, and a personal culinary mecca of mine.

We pulled up in our cab around 6 45. It was a Wednesday night, and relatively early, so we walked right in and got a table. Not five minutes after we arrived there was a wait of over 45 minutes, and by the time we left there were people signing up to wait over 2 hours for a table.

The dining room is a cozy, quirky little room that was dimly lit, and covered from floor to ceiling with unique little works of art featuring pigs, ducks, and cows, but mostly pigs. The Spotted Pig was the gastropub from which Tory from Madison got the idea for Graze. Its casual food, done incredibly well at a reasonable price, in a comfortable atmosphere. It's a wonderful concept, and the Spotted Pig hit it out of the park. We sat, and immediately placed out orders. I ordered the gnudi (sheep's milk ricotta dumplings in brown butter with fried sage), and the crispy pork belly with polenta. Our first courses came, and I patiently waited for Taylor to snap a few pics of the simple but beautiful plates. My gnudi was amazing, the tender, pillowy dumplings held up to a hork, but as soon as I put half of one in my mouth, the cheese oozed out, and when accompanied by a piece of crispy sage, was out of this world. Taylor had the crispy pig's ear salad. A slow cooked, tender pig ear, flashed in the fryer until crispy, served with a bright radicchio salad. The pigs hear was incredible on its own, then when I tried a bite with the salad, the fat of the pig ear was countered beautifully by the salad. It was a brilliant dish.

The second courses came and my mind was blown yet again. The pork belly that I ordered was cooked to perfection. The skin was incredibly crispy. The contrast between melting fat, the crispy skin, and the tender meat made every bite more interesting than the next. I wanted it to last forever. Taylor's dish, a grilled beef tongue with duck fat fingerling potatoes, creme fraiche and pickled beets, really impressed me. The beef tongue was very tender and had a wonderful beefy flavor. It was slow cooked then sliced and grilled. The acidity in the beets and creme fraiche perfectly counter balanced the rich potatoes and tongue.

It was my first true michelin experience, and it was bomb. I sat with Taylor at the table and marveled at the simplicity and pin point execution of each dish. Probably the coolest place I've ever eaten at. I had to pick up a spotted pig t-shirt on the way out.

Me outside the Spotted Pig post dinner.

Then, we closed it all out with a dirty water hot dog outside grand central. SHIT.


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