Closed: Northern Spy Food Co. - May 21, 2011
The Americans are a funny bunch: they can only go to the extremes. On one end of the spectrum, they wan to be free from all: sugar-free, fat-free, caffeine-free and gluten-free (by the way, eliminating gluten for most people is simply meaningless and does not provide any health benefits besides the psychological); on the other end, however, they are defiant of the annual check-ups and doctors’ warnings by taking the high road: high cholesterol, high sodium and high fat in various forms of ground meat patties and fried birds. It is a constant tag-of-war: I can’t believe it’s not butter! vs. I can’t believe there is no butter! Liberalism (or libertinism) is the national mottos, care and restrain are conceptually alien to the national mentality (even more so than the occasional alien encounter, with which the Americans are rather familiar). However, if enjoyed in moderation, the high road is not, nonetheless, without certain pleasures.
Watercress salad - Radish, apple, soft-boiled egg, mustard vinaigrette
A bit overdressed for a warm spring night, the combination of strong herbal watercress, the salty and pungent parmigiano against the mellow, gooey and runny egg worked very well; yet the apples and the radish were both struggling for air under the heavy dressing.
Crispy potato gnocchi - Fava beans, green garlic-parsley puree
The tubular gnocchi were seared and browned in, what else but, butter. The ample melted butter ensured that it would coat every, fat chubby and chewy gnocchi. If that alone is not enough, the skin of the gnocchi was crispened in the pan to a borderline char, which added just the right edge to the dough boy. The shoots of garlic were surprisingly mild, at least compared to the mighty bulb underneath, which were given a spurt of freshness by the parsley in the unconventional and fluffy spring-green pesto.
Long Island fluke – Asparagus, maitake
The fluke was professionally seared so that the outside was crispy, yet without drying out the flaky flesh inside. However, the fish - fluke - by itself was not the most memorable, but with the sautéed asparagus and maitake mushrooms, the dish was a beautiful sonata of green-notes subtle earthiness.
Hudson Valley Pork Shoulder - Herbed spatzle, watercress natural jus
The bread crumb crust was a nice and promising beginning, however to be immediately shattered, figuratively and literally, by the emergence of pure, translucent and wobbling fat, which composed one quarter of the shoulder of this particular obese pig from the idyllic Hudson Valley. Truth be told, as far as fat goes, this piece of fat was the crème de la crème: it melted cleanly without unsavory greasiness, with minimum fiber and tissue to hinder the fatty meltdown. Having said that, it still could not be denied that the pig needed multiple sessions on the bench press. The flesh was, however, juicy and tender with the sweetness of the pork meat but without the rancidity of lesser, mass-produced kin. Together with its own jus, the roasted pork was soft and creamy. The spatzel was given the same crispy treatment as the gnocchi so that each twist was optimally chewy and crunchy. Amidst all this heaviness, the few sprigs of watercress provided some much needed breathing space.
Buttermilk panna cotta - Rhubarb compote
Adequate and uninteresting rendition of panna cotta, it was, however, without much of the sour buttermilk flavor. Partially, it might be due to the presence of the pink rhubarb compote, which folded in the buttermilk into its fruity acidity.
Ice cream bowl – Ginger, chocolate, rhubarb, brown sugar shortbread
The mediocre ice cream was valued only for its coldness and sweetness. The too-yellow ginger while better than the chocolate - was spicy and also unpleasantly bitter (too lazy to peel off the skin, perhaps). Contrary to the fresh compote in the panna cotta, the rhubarb sorbet tasted surreally medicinal with an unpleasant mushy texture.
Northern Spy Food Co. (Closed)
Address: 511 E 12th Street, New York, NY 10009
Phone: (212) 228-5100