Photo by Eric Isaac
Sometimes I love my job. Look, I have a boss and deadlines and I provoke ugly letters-to-the-editor (and they’re always printed!), but, even so, sometimes I just love my job. Like last night, my beat required me to visit Restaurant North and – though still reeling from evil emails – I congratulated myself on my career path.
Do you know that slightly disconcerting intuitiveness that defines service in Danny Meyer joints? Where a half-muttered despair (“my handbag’s so huge…”) provokes the instant appearance of a well designed table-edge hanger? North’s owner, Ex-Union Square Cafe Stephen Paul Mancini, is bringing Meyer-style service “North”, and that includes USC’s down-dressed comfort and welcoming smiles.
Beyond well-pitched service, Chef Eric Gabrynowicz’s is flipping a full house of killer dishes, like a freebie of crumbly, porky lard biscuits with a dish of herbed, oil-gilded sheep’s milk ricotta. (It hurt to decline the second helping.) Intrigued, we followed with what looked like fat on a fat: pan seared Hudson Valley foie gras with peanut butter and rhubarb-pepper jelly. This PBFoie and J turned out to be luscious, where the juicy, carnal liver was countered by crunchy peanut bits in olive oil. Fierce acid and heat in the jelly gave this rich dish mouth-watering zing.
Don’t be a fool and try to match your own wines. Mancini was USC’s Wine and Spirit Director before moving to Meyer’s Maialino, and (until September, when North debuts its upstairs room) his joint’s only got 44 seats. You can practically touch Mancini from anywhere in the room, so take advantage of his wine expertise. We loved his choice of Dan Goldfield’s poetic 2008 Russian River Valley “Orogeny” with dry-seared scallops and miso-braised Armonk Farmer’s Market swiss chard. The golden brown scallops revealed split-second perfection with translucent, quivering insides, while the chardonnay packed the sort of intensity that makes you shut up and stare at your glass. Don’t miss North’s cocktails, either – like a Dark and Stormy made with 23-year-old Guatamalan Ron Zacapa rum, Barritt’s ginger beer and house-spiced simple syrup.
So far, North’s look is simple and Ur-tasteful, with a fat-edged Carrera bar, dark woods and layered neutrals. (Mancini’s been hearing that the room looks “Hamptons-y,” and jokes that September might find him adding a plasma-screened yule log.) Look for gorgeous photos, plush napery and weighty glasses that convey elegance under the breeze.
Photo by Eric Isaac
Currently, Gabrynowicz’s menu is divided into ellipsis dotted headings (chilled…, warming…, pastas…, grilled flatbreads…, sea…, land…, earth…). While the headings lack satisfying parity, they are helpful when ordering according to your mood. We loved our strip of charred flatbread with hot-roasted morels and shiitakis (pictured above), whose delicately crunchy skins released intense mushroomy funk. The pizza was gilded with shavings of meat-streaked pork that was listed on the menu as lardo – and bought as such at Arthur Avenue’s Calabria Pork Store. Even Gabrynowicz admits “I know it’s belly!” Belly, fat back, lardo, bacon, whatever… it was tasty. Here’s a picture (courtesy of Eric Isaac) of North’s soft-shells, ricotta and lard biscuits.
Several of North’s desserts are called “skillets”, and are cakes baked to order in personal, cast iron pans. Though miniature, these skillets are not small – so one order might suit two diners. Our red velvet skillet was refreshingly not dyed teeth-staining scarlet, and sported a mild cocoa flavor and a seriously crusted bottom. On top was a large scoop of buttery, nutty, cream cheese-y icing that had my partner observing, “It’s nice to choose how much you want on the fork.”
In short, this joint’s fabulous, so do as smart birds do and fly North.
Just in case you can’t make it to the county’s hottest party, the Best of Westchester, here are some events that celebrate Bastille Day. And PS, Vive la France and all – but we have to remember that this storming of the prison was followed by guillotining and heads paraded on pikes. I’m just saying, the party might have gotten a little out of hand…
Bastille Day at Bistro Rollin (Wednesday, July 14th, 6pm-9pm, $75 per person, music, tax and tip included) Look for a five course tasting menu (below), offered with French songs and music by Mary Mancini and Mario Tacca. 20% of the evening’s proceeds go to Alliance Francaise. The dinner: Brandade with toast and Nicoise olives, eggplant terrine with goat cheese cream, Cornish game hen Provencal with panisse, bouillabaisse with rouille, baked pears with sabayon.
Bastille Day at Plates on the Park French Wine Tasting Dinner (Thursday July 15, 7pm, $75 plus tax and tip) According to the site, “In honor of Bastille Day we will convert PLATES to a French bistro menu and pair the French classics with some tres bon wines. Bringing back our Wine Gems expert David Calkins to work the room and answer you questions, it is sure to be a “revolutionary” evening. Starting with a refreshing summer white from the Loire at the bar, we’ll taste 4 more wines with 4 courses seated in the dining room. Call or email to reserve: 914-834-1244.” Zut alors!
Bastille Day at La Panetiere (Wednesday, July 14th, $72 per person, $102 with wine pairing) The Frenchiest of Westchester’s French is offering this killer menu accompanied by accordion music. Listen to the sinister story La Panetiere tells about Bastille Day: “July 14, 1789, La Bastille, a political prison fell, symbolizing the end of monarchy, (for a while). With very scarce food, Parisians fraternize together by improvising ‘civic’ dinners. Tables were in all the streets where blue, white and red garlands were a must. The rich brought their roasts and expensive wines while the poor brought their stews and cheeses as the accordion sounds invited the crowd to dance. ‘All for today as tomorrow is unpredictable.’” So, let’s party now as we hear the hammers build guillotines.
Photo by Eric Isaac
Dry? More like bouncy, juicy and magically delicious mouthfuls with hard-seared exteriors and translucently rare middles. (“Dry” describes the way that they’re cooked: these sugary suckers are put into a dry pan and allowed to caramelize in their own juices.) Keeping it local, Chef Eric Gabrynowicz’s bivalves are paired with miso-braised Armonk Swiss chard, with the miso adding salty umami that tastes more like, “Oooo, mami!”
Here’s a Hulu clip of Top Chef Master Chef Carmen Gonzalez, who is doing a summer stint at Crabtree’s Kittle House. As the clip explains, Gonzalez has been working as a consulting chef since her eponymous Miami restaurant, Carmen, was closed after a fire.
In a haut cuisine stunner that leaves the horsey set weeping, Chef Brian Lewis of Bedford Post has resigned BPI to pursue his own restaurant. The split is apparently amicable, with Lewis describing it as “a beautiful end to a beautiful three years,” though Lewis is leaving BPI’s kitchen without a new exec. chef in place. (His sous chef is filling in.) Details are forthcoming about Lewis’s new venture, but he promises an high-toned – though still casual – restaurant slinging his signature Italian-inflected locavorian cuisine. “Well, it’ll still be comfortable, and we’ll be doing tasting menus. It’ll be about the same tone as the stuff I was doing at BPI.” Says Lewis, a Wilton resident, “We’re firmly rooted here in Westchester. I’ve developed great relationships with local farmers and I feel like this is where I want to be.” Though Lewis is coy about when and where, he claims “Let’s just say it won’t be any more northern .” If anyone has Richard Gere’s cell number, I’d appreciate the digits….