December 11 (Brunch)
131 Sullivan St (between Prince St & Houston St)
New York, NY 10012
Waking up on a beautiful Sunday morning, I was anxious to sit down to a lovely and leisurely brunch. We had a 10:30am reservation at The Dutch in SoHo. This would be my second Andrew Carmellini restaurant on this crazy eating tour but one that I was really curious about. We arrived a little earlier than expected so we walked around the neighborhood to kill some time. There was an eerie quietness to SoHo that I'd never experienced before. No cars on the road, folks still lumbering around their warm heated apartments, not quite ready to face the day, it was weird but really cool to witness the city in this still form. Making our way back to the restaurant we were promptly seated. I'm guessing the rush of the brunch hour is probably a bit later in New York City than in Florida (especially in winter), it wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be. I had been studying the menu for weeks so I already knew I'd be ordering Two Fried Eggs, Hominy Grits, Chorizo with Salsa Verde.
When our dishes finally arrived, I was very pleased with what I saw. Taking my first bite, the image stood up to the flavor in a big way. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the salty, spicy kick of the chorizo was a welcomed change from traditional bacon or ham. There was also a very prevalent but delightful tang of vinegar running through the salsa verde that balanced the dish overall. I even loved the grits which is something I'd usually skip. The simplicity of their preparation worked flawlessly to help absorb the runny egg yolks and soak up the flavors of the chorizo. Lastly, I have to mention the chips, they acted as a scooper to grab a little of everything on the plate. In a standard breakfast dish I normally would have used toast except unlike toast, the chips remained nice and crunchy.
My husband went with the Hot Fried Chicken and Slaw served with Honey Butter Biscuits. I snagged a few bites of the chicken and although it was just a small piece, it was nicely spiced, tender and coated in a super crispy batter. We talked, ate and lingered at our own pace just as a Sunday brunch should be. The only real disappointment worth noting was the cocktail situation. Upon reading the menu, we could "taste" the Bloody Mary's, they sounded so good, but our waiter informed us that they were unable to serve cocktails until noon. I didn't notice anything on the menu about this so it certainly took us off guard. That is one law I'm happy to report does not apply in the state of Florida.
December 11 (Midday Sweet tooth)
The Little Cupcake Bakeshop
30 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012
Midday shopping led us to our favorite little bakery, The Little Cupcake Bakeshop. We stumbled on this adorable bakery sometime last year and have gone back twice in our past visits. This bakery to me is what every modern American bakery should be. Simply decorated with clean mint green walls and a retro diner style black and white floor, your eyes are immediately drawn to the long clear case containing dozens of layer cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other sweet treats. I really do feel like a kid in a candy store when I go in (I can't imagine how excitable actual children get), eyes wide and wishing I had several stomachs to accommodate every piece of cake in the case. This time around, I opted for the Coconut Cupcake.
The way this cupcake looks is exactly how it tasted. Light, fluffy and sweet (but not sickeningly sweet). The spongy moist cake is heaven but the frosting is what I really admire. As I've noted in previous posts I have a real a problem with overly sugary icings and frostings. When I make cupcakes or cakes, I tend to create a whipped cream base sort of frosting to avoid the excess sugar and the heaviness. The Little Cupcake bakery has mastered the perfect frosting. There was a thin layer of what tasted like a coconut sweetened condensed cream on the cake and then the actual whipped topping that pinpointed the consistency of my dream frosting. Once again I went home wishing and hoping we'd someday get a bakery just like this one here in Orlando.
December 11 (Dinner)
54 E 1st St (between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
For years now I've heard nothing but amazing things about Prune and its chef and owner Gabrielle Hamilton, it was finally time to find out what all the hype was about. When compiling the list of restaurants to hit on this trip, this was top on my list. I'm always a tad concerned when I visit a restaurant for the first time that has been around awhile but has been rated very highly over the years. I worry that it might have lost its luster and I run the risk of not thoroughly enjoying what it once was. I can safely say that Prune is the exception to the rule. Reservations were for 8:30pm and we arrived about fifteen minutes prior. I realized I had never even walked down the street Prune was on so I was completely taken aback when I saw the size of the space. I'm used to eating at small places in the city but this was really, really tiny. The restaurant was clearly packed and the hostess informed us it would be a few minutes before we were sat. She recommended getting a drink a few doors down but we chose to wait outside in the nippy December air. I couldn't help myself from staring into the big front windows while we waited. Watching the wait staff hustling and bustling around the tightest corners, plates spinning around customers yet managing to make it look like a well choreographed dance. About twenty minutes later we were sandwiched into a very small table between another couple and a family of four. Perusing the menu we set our sights on the appetizer of Roasted Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad and Sea Salt. Even though we were practically touching shoulders with the strangers beside us, the crowd seamlessly disappeared when these lovely's were brought to the table.
Believe it or not, this was actually both mine and my husband's first time having marrow. In my mind I had an idea of what it would taste like and I was pleasantly surprised by how similar the reality actually was. The warm and toasty bread begged for this melty, fatty, meaty spread. Carefully placing some of the delicate parsley salad and pinch of sea salt on each bite, it was smooth and dreamy, a true indulgence. For my dinner entree I chose the Roasted Duck Breast with Dandelion Greens in Raisin Caper Dressing. I really wish I could bring myself to order duck more often than I do when I'm out but I fear the disappointment of getting something greasy and not properly cooked, I've heard too many horror stories I guess. Setting my eyes on my entree, I knew this would be no where near disappointment and that I made the right decision.
After my first bite of the duck, I had to take some photographs. I immediately "Instagrammed" them and declared it "The best duck of my life". I even claimed I needed a cigarette afterward because it was THAT good...and it's important to note that I am not a smoker. There wasn't a scrap left to be had when the waitress took my plate. That duck was somehow made ridiculously moist while every inch of the skin remained superbly crisp. Even the thin layer of fat between the meat and the skin appeared to melt into the meat, there was no chewy, grizzly business. Incredible. Now let me tell you about those dandelion greens...oh the dandelion greens. I'm still not sure that I believe the dressing was made from raisins and capers but I'll take their word. It didn't come across as sweet to me as you would imagine that dressing would. It was more lemony and tart on my palate and there were these little bits of crunch. It was driving me crazy trying to figure out what it was, I couldn't detect it. I asked the waitress and she assumed it was a caper or raisin bit, but I knew it wasn't. She asked the cooks and returned to tell me that it was actually remaining pieces of duck from the pan that were tossed in the salad. Whatever it was, it was fantastic and I'm pretty sure I inhaled the greens at the same rate as the duck. It was amazing.
My husband ordered the Lamb Shank and I took a small bite, but to be honest I was far too in love with my duck to even care about that shank. Here's an image of the shank.
I couldn't let this dinner end without dessert, not after this wonderful meal at Prune. We went for the Mascarpone Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Croutons. That's right, I said Mascarpone Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Croutons...need I say more?