While not an "official" participant in this hugely popular yearly event, I will be creating my OWN very special Bacon, Bourbon and Corn Chowder and will be serving it at Crush & Cask until it runs out. After all, I am an only child and I hate it when people are having fun without me. This is my way of joining in on all the fun. Stop by and see me on your way downtown. Hey, I'm also pouring free wine...that's reason enough to visit. Cheers and hope to see you tomorrow.
brasserie 292 a brunch best bet
Last Sunday, Moms and I drove to Poughkeepsie to meet my cousin. My cousin Derek (who just finished production work on the ANNIE film to be released next Fall at some point) lives in Brooklyn, and we weren't able to see him over the holidays, as he went to Florida to visit my Aunt, who just moved there. Got all that? As per usual, Moms left the task of choosing a restaurant to me. Hey--I don't try to do governmental auditing and she doesn't choose the restaurants...we all have our areas of expertise. I chose Poughkeepsie so that Derek could take the train and not have to deal with driving and although I don't really know the area that well, I found a WINNER in Brasserie 292. Honestly, most every restaurant with "Brasserie" in its name will attract my attention anyway, ever the Francophile. PLUS--the last time I was in Paris, Derek was with me...so...as I clicked through to Brasserie 292's website, fingers were crossed that the menu would tempt me.
Yeah--they pretty much HAD me at "Braised Short Rib Potato Cake". Really. Now, I am known throughout the land as a card-carrying Eggs Benedict SNOB....I love the dish and ALWAYS sample it when I see it on a menu. So...the fact that I passed on it here in order to try the Short Rib Potato Pancake speaks volumes.
You may commence drooling. So delicious was this dish alone...that I have convinced Hubster that we need to drive down to Poughkeepsie some Sunday when we aren't working. And...a drive down the Thruway on a rare day off is NOT normally something I consider a good time. Now..back to brunch.
Moms often leans toward the sweet, rather than savory, side of Brunch. She chose the Pumpkin Pancake, served in a skillet and accompanied by a rich maple sauce. Sinful. And...NOT too heavy handed on the pumpkin front. When overdone, the flavor of pumpkin can be quite overwhelming to the palate, in my opinion. Derek chose from one of numerous omelette combinations, including smoked salmon and goat cheese, lobster and asparagus, crab and scallion, and mushroom and manchego (his choice). Perfectly fluffy, and accompanied by a small green salad and crispy home fries, this was a great example of how SIMPLE food can be elevated to extraordinary heights when prepared well.
And..did I mention the atmosphere of this place rocks? TRUE Brasserie style...almost thought I was in Pareeeee. How ya gonna keep them on the farm after they've eaten at Brasserie 292? Don't even try.
Winners: Short Rib Potato Cake, Pumpkin Pancake
Just Missed: Bloody mary could have used a touch more spice.
Scratches: None to report
Getting The Royal Treatment
I first dined at the space located on 390 Broadway WAY back when Brindisi's originally opened. And...while I enjoyed it for the first couple of years, it ended up alienating me with constant menu changes and inattentive waitstaff. After the space sold and became Russo's...i"ve got to be honest..it never captured. my attention...and I never tried it. Obviously, I was not alone.
When I learned that Christel and Colin MacLean were planning on taking the space over and transforming it into an "extension" of their popular Circus Cafe, albeit with a far different spin, I was thrilled. Knowing their penchant for flawless execution, both in the back of the house and the front, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for them and a perfect fit as well. Last weekend, for birthday dinner #3 (hey, i'm an only child...sue me.), I wanted to try The Crown Grill. I hadn't dined there yet, and I had just received their email newsletter highlighting some menu additions and cocktail specials. PLus...I did feel rather guilty that Hubster and I hadn't visited yet...especially after the superb treatment we always received from Christel and Colin in the past. Trying a new restaurant is one of my great joys in life and this experience did not disappoint.
The atmosphere of The Crown grill is one of ABSOLUTE warmth. The bar literally glows...you feel as if you are dining by firelight...and we ALL know how gorgeous firelight makes us, don't we. The rich, what I will call "polo blue" backdrop demonstrates how VERY important the proper color scheme and decor is to a restaurant. You want the atmosphere to absolutely be reflective of the menu and the philosophy. Had I not peeked at the menu here beforehand, I STILL would have known what type of cuisine to expect...just from the atmosphere. Restauranteurs take note...match stellar food with stellar ambience and you should be successful for years.
And..the piece de resistance? The back room has a wall treatment behind glass doors that is a view of the Saratoga Race Course paddock area in black and white. SO cool, seriously. LOVE it.
We were happy to see that Melissa F. was still involved in the MacLean's operations, as we remember her fondly from the Sperry's days.
After a quick tour of the new digs, we were escorted to our table. We often like to begin our meal with a cocktail, and then order our wine with the meal. Being a card-carrying cosmo snob, I needed to sample one here. Happy to report that it was the perfect shade of PINK...NOT red with too heavy on the cranberry...NOT PALE pink...too heavy on the vodka or orange liqueur. No--this was the Goldilock's version...perfect shade of pink and had a delicious balance of tart and sweet.
We were served a starter of Duck Cigars with the most glorious dipping sauce...the perfect balance of salty, sweet and spicy. I detected a hint of mint in the sauce. Other starters that I can't wait to sample include Crispy Asparagus and the Savory Profiteroles...next time for sure.
We were equally happy with our entree selections...although hubster ALWAYS seems to prefer what I order...which was a delightful Skirt Steak Oscar. I LOVE Oscar preparations...so old school and delicious. My steak was cooked to my specifications...the crabmeat was succulent and fresh...the asparagus had the right snap...and the bearnaise nage was luxurious and had just the right amount of tarragon. Speaking of which--the pervasive theme throughout our meal was this: PROPER SEASONING. I CANNOT emphasize this enough. I've had plenty a meal where the first thing I reached for was the salt. Seasoning while building each layer of a dish is CRITICAL. Ever watch Top Chef? What's the most common complaint from the judges? Lack of seasoning. And..it's really so fundamental. On this...and many other points..Crown Grill is a winner, in this winechick's book. We look forward to returning very soon.
Winners: Skirt Steak Oscar and Perfectly Pink Cosmo
Scratches: None to report.
Often, when it's not yet the busy bustle of track season, Hubster and I will venture to points unknown...in search of a great new restaurant to sample. This past Saturday, we did just that. On the recommendation of one of my wine representatives, whose opinion I trust, we meandered down to Red Hook, New York to try Mercato. Unsure of how long it would take us to get there, we arrived a touch early before they began service. A short stroll away, we discovered Flatiron and bellied up to their beautiful bar to enjoy a cocktail before dinner at Mercato. We almost never left! Their concoction of Tito's vodka with pink peppercorn infused simple syrup and lemonade was the ideal sipper for the hot and sunny day. (Definitely going there to try their menu next time) But...we were there to try Mercato this day and strolled back to the eatery. Warmly greeted by Brooke, we were escorted to our table. This is a homey sort of place, for sure. No fancy floors or central air here...no. But, it does have a vibe to it that made me absolutely know that I was about to enjoy food prepared from the soul. Our server was aware of our interest and expertise in wine and left the list for me to peruse at leisure. As I expected, the list is very heavy on Italian offerings...which is just marvelous with me. I ADORE cool, esoteric Italians. Hell...I even married one. Sure...there was a Pinot Grigio listed...but I was delighted to find Falanghina...Greco di Tufo...Pecorino...Gavi..Fiano..not to mention 4 delightful rosato options. The reds were equally thoughtful. Yes, yes, they had Chianti..but Sagrantino? Teroldego? Cannonau? I knew if they paid as much attention to detail with their food as they do with their wine offerings, I would be one very happy customer. Since we were taking our time deciding on our food, I went ahead and ordered a bottle of rosato. I have a passion for dry pink wines and preach my passion to all who will listen, or at least pretend to. So...a nice chilled rosato on a warm and sunny day was perfection. We decided on the Spinetta Sangiovese Rosato. With its salmon pink hue and a bouquet of apricot and red fruits, this was a wine that I knew would complement our entire meal, no matter what dishes we decided upon.
In order to get the most representation from the menu, we chose 2 antipasti, a primi, and a secondi. Begininning with the Coach Farm Goat and Pecorino Gnudi over a Kale Puree. This was heavenly...the pillowy texture of the gnudi and the slight tang from the goat cheese coupled with the slight bitterness of the kale puree was the perfect foil for the wine, as I suspected it would be. In fact, this was my favorite dish of the evening. We continued with one of the evening's special starters...prosciutto wrapped asparagus with egg, truffle emulsion and parmesan shavings. I do admit that I am a card carrying truffle fanatic. The earthy and salty flavors...with both crunchy and silken textures was perfectly balanced. A great dish and one that I will be attempting to replicate in my own kitchen very soon.
Continuing with our Primi...Rigatoncini Carbonara with Egg, Guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon), Grana Padano and Pecorino Romano. I find it difficult to find places that actually prepare their pasta al dente. "To the tooth" should be exactly that. Here...it was. Many people might have found the texture of this pasta to be a little too al dente, but in fact, it was truly what "al dente" should be. Another pet peeve of mine is overly sauced pasta preparations. Once again, I was pleased when the pasta was the star of this dish, not being overwhelmed by excess sauce. Do not misunderstand...i love a good sauce as much as the next girl...probably more...but the pasta is not meant to SWIM in sauce...it is meant to merely take a quick dip in the shallow end. This dish spent the appropriate time in the pool.
We moved on to the Branzino. While the fish was expertly prepared, the side was a bit disappointing. The parsley potatoes seemed like an afterthought really. While al dente is my preferred pasta preparation...it's NOT preferable for my potato. Also, a decided lack of seasoning on the potatoes hurt my foodster feelings. Certainly not representative of the meal, so perhaps it was just a mea culpa. Had the Gnudi been served on the side, I would have turned culinary cartwheels.
To finish..we chose a dessert on the lighter side. I love Panna Cotta in all forms. This was airy, light, and accompanied by macerated sour cherries. Nice. With a nice little glass of Moscato d'Asti (the REAL stuff...from Piedmont...you know...with acidity and flavor??), the Panna Cotta was a great finish to an almost flawless meal. In the mood to take a little day trip? Mercato is worth the drive...and then some.