In 2009, NYC lost a landmark. Tavern on the Green went bankrupt. I had never been there myself, since it was way over budget in my first few years in NYC when I lived off of ramen and the kindness of business lunches, but I always knew it to be hard to get into and expensive. Those two things should really never equate to bankruptcy in my mind, and I heard that they were one of the highest grossing restaurant of all time in 2007 (to the tune of $37 million) but apparently the economy, debts, lease problems, some bad business, and what I heard was a severe decline in quality shuttered the restaurant. (view down Central Park West) Since it closed, reopening the iconic space has been a never ending cycle of delays delays delays The first official day of new service for the newly redone restaurant was this past Thursday, so I was excited to snag a reservation for Sunday, even if it was at 5:15pm. I was excited to see what this iconic refurb had to offer. Entering off Central Park West from 67th Street, I was a bit surprised to see that it was still under a lot of construction outside. It looks like they are working on the patios and gardens. The entrance still has that elegant feeling, with a long covered entrance and a well dressed man holding the door open. When you walk inside, the first thing you see is… a gift shop. A gift shop? In a restaurant. This made me roll my eyes. I figured this was going to be an even worse tourist trap than I originally thought. But we proceeded inside. Rumor has it the old interior was a lot of shiny metal and mirrors. This had a lovely “tavern” feel while still being a bit upscale. (Though I was surprised at how casual it really is) There is a gold plated pegasus chandelier that rotates above the entry bar, however. So not all the gold is gone. There is a windowed, glass cube porch-like area that looks out on… unfinished courttard. I was actually a bit surprised to see that the restaurant does not have views of the park. At all. I’ve passed by it a thousand times but always just assumed you could see the park from somewhere in the restaurant. But no dice. The cube reminded me a bit of the Apple Stores. We walked through the main room that connects to the windowed terrace, which also contains a big window looking into the kitchen. We were sat in the back room, near the back bar at a quiet table for two. It is a large space, so I was surprised to hear that the old restaurant was more than double the size. The space used to be an old sheep barn, so the sheep play a prominent roll throughout the menu design. The menu, by chef Katy Sparks, offers chilled seafood and ceviche, as well as salads. From there, the menu is split into 3 sections: The Hearth (coming from a wood burning oven), the Grill, and The Plancha (a Brazilian griddle). I expected it to be over the top and ridiculously expensive. It was certainly tourist pricing, but it wasn’t as ridiculous as I thought it was going to be (most small plates/apps were $12-$18 with entrees around $24-$34 with the exception of a $54 New York Strip Steak). The bread is served as crispy (possibly cheesy?) thin breadsticks and long thin rolls with an impressive dip. I believe it had sheeps’ milk yogurt, feta cheese, oil, cumin seeds, rosemary, thyme, and a few other things. It was quite enjoyable. We started with the Serrano Ham, Cave-Aged Gruyere and Sage Toast, and Anchovy-Caper Sauce. It was a delicious nibble, though a tad bit greasy on the fingers. I liked the combination of ingredients and it was different and a little bit special. Though for $18, it was still a very small portion of grilled cheese. We also tried the Fried Local Duck Egg on a Spring Onion and Smoked Ricotta Crostata with Anchovies and Oil-Cured Olives. I really enjoyed the rustic crostata which had a great flavor (though when eaten on its own, was a tad bit dry) and the ricotta mixed with the egg and salty anchovies and olives was a very nice combination. For entrees, we got the Heritage Breed Pork Chop, Wood Roasted Rhubarb and Fennel with a Local Honey and Verjus Sauce. This had a unique flavor with the rhubarb and fennel. I wish it were a bit more sauced (or thicker sauce?) because I found the dish a bit flat. Good, but not great. We also tried the Braised Lamb Shank with Creamed Chards, Pickled Golden Raisins, Roasted Cauliflower and a Fresh Mint Gremolata. The meat was cooked perfectly. Tender, and fell off the bone. The meat itself had nice flavor, however, I wanted a bit more from the preparation. Again, a thicker sauce may have really set this dish apart, or more mint. I will say that I had one piece of cauliflower that was crispy and packed with flavor. It was great. Unfortunately, the other pieces sat a bit too long in the jus and weren’t quite as crisp. Shame. As for dessert, we went with the Ice Box Cake with Ruis rye bread, maple-rye whisky pudding, sour cherries, maple walnut pralines. The jar that came out felt especially small for the $13 price tag, but there was something about it that was strangely interesting. It was basically pudding and bread crumbs, but somehow it tasted new and fresh. We also got the Spring Pavlova with Matcha Green Tea curd, macerated organic strawberries and rhubarb, chantilly cream. I LOVE pavlova, so I cannot NOT order it when I see it on a menu. This very was very interesting with the Matcha green tea. There was also something salty that I really enjoyed in this. Added a depth to the flavors. The pavlova itself wasn’t as crispy as I like my meringue, but it was still tasty. Overall, I enjoyed my meal at the new Tavern on the Green. If it were priced a few dollars cheaper on each dish, it would have been a much better meal. It just didn’t have value. But it did have appeal. Tourists will flock here, and there were a fair amount of children dining there, so families will enjoy it for a nice meal out where they can feel comfortable bringing the kids, however, I’m not sure it will regain its stature as a “go to” restaurant for the food. (Then again, it never was the “go to” for the food!) From what I heard, this is going to be quite the undertaking. They will owe the city licensing fees of either 6% of the total restaurant sales or $1 million dollars, whichever is greater. This will mean that they will need to make $17 million in their first year, which translates to about 1,200 meals on Saturdays and Sundays and 600 meals per day each week day. I don’t know if I’ll go out of my way to go back, but I’m glad we got to try it, and part of me hopes it sticks around because I’m a sucker for NYC nostalgia, especially in dining. Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10
We had spent the beautiful, 60 degree day walking all around NYC. We walked down the High Line, across to Union Square, wandered our way up to a meeting with our mortgage broker, and then popped into Eater’s Heat Map to see if we could find a fun place to have dinner near Midtown East. No less than 30 minutes, we were walking in to the very new General Assembly, which opened earlier this month.
It was ringing a bell in my brain, but I couldn’t place it until I saw the Quality Meats card on the host desk and realized that both restaurants are from the great restaurant group, Fourth Wall (also of Smith & Wollensky fame).
The space has a great aesthetic, with a lot of light woods, white walls, and very well placed mirrors.
A cute private room downstairs.
And their logo stamped on their butcher paper table covers and all tableware. (I like a good logo branding job… it’s the advertising part of my brain… what can I say).
Right after we ordered, beautiful warm parker house rolls were served with a basil-like crunch and salt on top and nicely warm butter. A great start to the meal.
Our drinks arrived moments later, including a great cocktail called Hop Scotch On the Rocks — Blended Scotch Whisky & Homemade Citra Hop Infused Honey. (Loved it)
And Mike got a Geary’s beer, from Maine, one of our favorite stops in Portland.
We started with an appetizer of gnocchi & Viking Village Scallops with a bacon beurre blanc sauce. Holy smokes! This was insanely good. Crazy good. Certifiably ridiculous. The scallops were sweet and perfectly cooked, cut to the same size as the pillowy gnocchi with bacony bits and (I think) fried potato skins for crunch and chives on top. The sauce was just so damn good. Buttery and a bit tart and bacony and just… damn…
It was also a good portion for an app (could make for an entree, really, if you wanted something a bit on the smaller side).
For his entree, Mike got the steak frites, which came with either Colorado lamb or Creekstone beef. Mike chose the lamb and it was a very good choice. The fries were nicely crisped and flavorful, and the steak had a beautiful char and hotel butter on top, with a lamby goodness that was hard to beat.
I went with the Hudson Valley duck confit with gingered kumquats & apricots.
It had a very nice crispness to the skin and I really loved the gingered, candied apricots and kumquats with it. Mike wasn’t as big a fan, but I’m the duck confit person, and I thought it was great.
For sides, the Quality Meats superstar was on the menu: Corn Creme Brulee. It was as good as I remembered it from our last meal. I really love this side!
We also tried the crispy artichokes with malt vinegar aioli. I really enjoyed the fry on this, since it was light but added a great crispy. And the crisped basil on top with the aioli made for nice foils to the fry.
Unfortunately, we were really full by the end, so we were not able to take part in the desserts, which included a tray of custom, fun sounding eclairs.
We strolled home and it was a perfect moment of dusk which made the city look even more beautiful than it usually does.
A great way to end a great day. (I freakin’ love this city)
Overall, our meal was really fantastic. From start to finish, there were items that were really good and then a few that were absolutely great. That scallops appetizer alone is worth the trip to midtown. It’s pretty close to my office, and I’m thrilled to have a great place to go for nice lunches. The service was also attentive and speedy, without feeling rushed. Totally worth checking out.
Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10
I was excited to receive an invitation to the “For the Love of Lamb” cooking demo at Fairway Cafe & Steakhouse. Not only did it sound like fun, but proceeds were going to a great cause, The Common Pantry. I immediately replied that I would love to attend and purchased a ticket for my husband, Mike, to join me.
I have been lucky enough to be invited to a few complimentary dinners, demos, and classes, and each and every one is very different. Some feel like they are constructed for the press, with photo opportunities throughout and bulleted fact sheets as we leave to help us write our posts. Those have their place, and it’s always fun to be exposed to these things that I would otherwise probably not have stumbled upon on my own.
This was a bit different. While “press” were invited, I would guess that most of the guests there were present for the sheer enjoyment of it (whether press or not) and greeting us with immediate glasses of bubbly helped make sure everyone had a good time from the start.
There were a few “brands” represented at the event, with a focus on Australian Lamb and Australian Wines.
This Stone Dwellers was a lovely sparkling wine that I really enjoyed. I am not a champagne fan, so I’m always on the lookout for something bubbly and celebration-y without tasting like dirt (sorry champagne lovers).
The cafe upstairs from the market was set up nicely, with simple white linens and nice red chairs, with all the ingredients out on a display table when we arrived.
Including a beautiful rack.
And a lovely leg.
As well as some plate garnishes, ready to go.
Our menu of the day looked scrumptious, with all things I love (lamb, fig, caesar, parnsnip turnip mash, roasted brussels, apple tart, chardonnay, pinot noir, and muscat… all on the list of my favorite things!)
(See recipes at the end of the post)
We were welcomed by a very nice woman who worked at Fairway and introduced us to a spokesperson for Australian Lamb (who just bubbled over with excitement about her product, which is always good to see and makes it so you can’t help but be excited as well) and Chef Vinnie, who apparently is self-taught and has been with Fairway for some time.
Vinnie wound up being a great teacher. Passionate and informational, with great tidbits but no over-explanation.
First tip: Press the rack into the hot pan to get a good, full sear, rather than letting it hang out and wait. The pan should be very, very hot and you only need about 1-2 minutes per side.
Next tip: Really press the breadcrumbs onto the mustard coating to make sure it really sticks.
So much that when he lifted it up, it (mostly) stayed put.
Then it went into the oven to cook while he started adding an herb mixture to the lamb leg.
Next tip: Always roast on very high heat. He quoted someone who taught him as saying that anything under 400 degrees F is “baking cupcakes.”
And then fan it out with garnish.
The leg was bought boneless (for ease and cooking time, though chefs always seem to prefer cooking them on the bone), so it was wrapped in string, which he removed after roasting to show us how (unwrap… discard…)
But the key was holding it together as you slice so it plates nicely.
And then moving it all as one piece once sliced.
And yet again, use the “fan out.”
Both dishes, plated and ready to go!
Throughout the night, various wine experts spoke to us, including Joshua Wessen who was proclaimed to be a “wine guru.” He told us about the Stone Dwellers Sparkling Brut which contained chardonnay and pinot noir (my two favorites). Similar grapes as are in champagne, but similar to prosecco in preparation. They press the red grapes gently so the wine stayed white. Really nice.
We also tried a Paringa Sparkling Shiraz, which was also quite nice. Sweet but not too sweet and I had to agree with the expert that this could probably go with anything.
With our first lamb chop, we had the Yalumba “Y Series” Viognier 2012. This was one of (if not the?) oldest family owned wineries in the region, established in 1849. The vineyard has a huge respect for the Viognier grape from France and they worked with clones for 30 years in the nursery. The wine maker is Luisa Rose and it was obvious there was love in this wine.
Our chop was scrumptious. The great thing about lamb is that it is quite easy to prepare and doesn’t need a lot of ingredients to taste great. This was a great example of that. It was so easy when we watched him prep (even easier than I thought) and it tasted so special.
Our next wine was a Punt Road Chardonnay from 2011. This had a little woody and was a very nice balance of flavors. Punt Road was one of the first wineries outside of Melbourne.
It went very nicely with a slightly peppery caesar salad that was lightly dressed but had an ever so slight essence of anchovies (which I loved).
Our next wine was the Stone Dwellers Pinot Noir from 2011. It was an early ripening red and we heard a story about the wine maker who ran around the vineyard and he ran into a giant spider web and then a red bellied black snake in the long grass and in a fruit bin. It was a reminder that wine is a “living thing” and this wine was said to have been made with a lot of “love and danger.” It tasted great.
Next wine was Yalumba “The Scribbler” which was a Cabernet Shiraz blend from 2010. It’s a “baby” of their signature wine (which is apparently very expensive) and they blend it to soften it a bit. This went down reeaaaaalllll easy. We both really loved this wine.
They mentioned that they had served the two wines to give two different perspectives (if you’re keeping track, we are already up to 6 wines!)
The leg of lamb could not have been more flavorful, and it was well complimented by the Brussels and the root mash.
I loved the lardon on top of the sprouts.
For dessert, we had the Mitchel London’s Apple Tart with the Yalumba “Museum” Muscat NV. Both the tart and the muscat were fantastic separately and even better together. A great end to a great meal.
By the end of the night, we had tried (ok… fully consumed) seven wines, and they were all great, easy to drink wines. A really wonderful showcase of what is so good about Australian wines.
We just had so much fun at this event! The demo was great, informative, and interesting. The meal was absolutely delicious from start to finish and could have easily been served in one of the best restaurants in NY. I already was a lamb fan, but this definitely pushed me over the top and made me want to make it at home even more. We have dabbled in a few rack of lamb recipes when we found the racks on sale, but now I’m excited to try a leg of lamb and cook it for a dinner party.
And I will certainly be going straight to the Australian wine section in the near future.
While I did receive a complimentary ticket to this event, all opinions expressed are entirely my own and I was not required to write about this event. I just really wanted to, because it was pretty great.
Speaking of… they just emailed me to say that they are doing a special Valentine’s Day dinner. (Which at $45pp for Valentine’s Day seems like a steal to me compared to most places in this city). Here’s some more info from their press release if you want to go!
SAVOR LOVE WITH A DELECTABLE VALENTINE’S DAY DINNER AT
FAIRWAY MARKET CAFÉ & STEAKHOUSE ON FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2014
Chef Mitchel London’s Special Menu for Valentine’s Day:
- Roasted Wild Mushrooms in Thyme and Garlic
- Rack of Lamb with Parsnip & Turnip Puree
- Crepe a la Crème Flambėed in Cointreau
- Glass of Prosecco
$45 per person. Please call the Café at 212 994 9555 to make a reservation. Fairway Café & Steakhouse regular menu will also be available on February 14, 2014.
And here are all the recipes from the lamb demo:
- 3 large turnips
- 6 large parsnips
- 3 yellow carrots
- 4 TBS unsalted butter
- 1 tsp Fairway honey
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- Peel all vegetables
- Rough chop all vegetables (to about the same size)
- Place all vegetables in a large sauce pot completely emerged in water
- Season water with a pinch of salt
- Bring water to a boil
- Boil for 10 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender
- Strain water and place vegetables in a large mixing bowl
- Add butter to vegetables while veggies are hot
- Add honey
- Season with salt and white pepper
- Using a potato masher, mash all ingredients together
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 5 or 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 5 or 6 sprigs fresh oregano
- 5 or 6 sprigs fresh chives
- 1 TBS minced garlic
- 1/2 cub Fairway extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 TBS grainy mustard, like Fairway Moutarde en Grains
- 4-5 lb boneless leg of lamb
- 1 TBS sea salt
- 1 tsp course black pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees
- Chop all herbs
- Mix herbs and garlic with olive oil, lemon juice, and mustard to make herb marinade, set aside
- Season lamb with salt and pepper
- Use 1/2 of the herb marinade and rub evenly over the lamb
- Let lamb marinate for 30 minutes
- Remove all visible herbs from lamb (to prevent burning) and place in roasting pan
- Roast lamb for 30 minutes on 450 degrees and then drop oven down to 350 degrees and continue to cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour (for rare)
- Remove lamb from oven and, while hot, rub on the rest of the herb marinade
- Let lamb rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving
- 1/2 lb thick-sliced bacon
- 1.5 lbs Brussels Sprouts
- 1/4 cup Fairway extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots
- 6 oz. roasted chestnuts
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Cook bacon on a bacon sheet until crispy
- Remove bacon from oven, reserve all fat drippings
- Chop bacon into 1/4 inch pie, set bacon aside
- Raise oven to 400 degrees F
- Clean Brussels sprouts by cutting off bottom stem and outer leaves
- Do not discard outer leaves: Set aside and toss with half of the olive oil
- Place leaves on sheet tray and roast in oven for 10 minutes or until leaves are browned and crispy, set aside
- Once Brussels sprouts are cleaned, stand them on the side you cut the stem and slice them thin, almost shaving them
- Thinly slice shallots
- Place shaved Brussels and shallots in mixing bowl
- Add in bacon drippings, chestnuts, remainder of olive oil, salt, and pepper
- Place shaved Brussels sprout mixture on a large sheet try and spread out evenly
- Do not overcrowd the tray, use 2 trays if necessary
- Roast at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes until nicely browned
- Once removed form the oven, toss together with chopped bacon
- Garnish each portion with the roasted leaves