A.G. Newsletter #8: The Mark, Cowgirl, Franny's & Dovetail

Hey Dudes,

Whoah, what a weekend! Memorial Day weekend just kind of snuck up on me--I never remember the difference between Memorial Day and Labor Day, which is in the fall and which is in the spring?--but there it was and it ended up being one of the best weekends I've had in a long time. I feel refreshed, rejuvenated and very, very full. Man, did we eat.

It started with my parents on Friday night. They took me out to Jean-Georges's newest restaurant on the Upper East Side: The Mark.

The Mark is both a hotel and a restaurant. The hotel reminded me of something out of Beeteljuice: weird design, funky sculptures, odd lighting. I kind of liked it.

As for the restaurant, the food was very good. Perhaps my favorite savory dish was this smoked salmon pizza which had on its crust all the elements of an everything bagel:

For my entree I enjoyed a veal chop--large, on the bone, grilled--and my parents enjoyed their dishes too, though I forget what they were. But the best part, for me, was the pavlova dessert:

Baked meringue shaped like an egg and filled with passionfruit sorbet (and topped with some whipped cream to complete the egg) this was both light and airy and tart and zingy. I loved it.

The Mark itself was slightly uncoordinated as a restaurant. My dad complained about the service and I thought he was just being grouchy, but there was a certain lack of finesse to the proceedings: dishes placed in front of the wrong people, I got my coffee before anyone else did. But I didn't mind that stuff, really. It was a less intense atmosphere than the actual Jean-Georges, which I appreciated. (Though I felt terrible when, while chatting with the waitress, she knocked over an entire pot of coffee on to the floor. Was it something I said?)

Speaking of a less intense atmosphere, on Saturday morning we met our good friends Josh & Katy and their delightful daughter Lucy for brunch at The Cowgirl Hall of Fame: a great place to bring kids in the West Village. Here's proof:

I was craving French Toast after watching a French Toast video on Food52, and the Cowgirl French Toast did not disappoint:

After that, we took everyone to Murray's Cheese where Josh & Katy stocked up before visiting friends in New Jersey. Then Craig and I decided to visit our old haunt, Park Slope, to see how the neighborhood was doing.

We were shocked to see that our old apartment (address listed at the bottom of this newsletter, actually) was still for rent!

I guess once you've had us for tenants, it's hard to find replacements. (Did you know that we lived on top of a Jamaican restaurant that was always in progress? I should do a post about that some day.) I don't recommend living there, however, those of you who are apartment hungry: the heat really didn't work very well, though we were wonderfully close to Gorilla Coffee.

One thing was certain once we were in the old 'hood: we had to have dinner at Franny's. Franny's is one of my Top 3 Favorite Restaurants in New York (the other two are Prune and Blue Hill.) And just as I knew it wouldn't, Franny's this evening did not disappoint. Check out this gorgeous appetizer of hard boiled eggs, pickled vegetables and chive blossoms:

Oh my God, this was a revelation. The vinegar-iness of the pickled carrots and onions, the richness of the olive oil and the freshness of the chive blossoms on top were all perfect foils for the gorgeously boiled eggs.

Then there was this appetizer of sugar snap peas on a bed of ricotta cheese:

If there were ever a more beautiful springtime dish, I don't know what it is. And this matched perfectly with my rhubarb cocktail: another perfect overture to spring.

Of course, there was pizza. Craig had his favorite pizza with anchovies and pecorino cheese:

I think a serious argument can be made that Franny's has the best pizza in New York. The crust rivals Motorino's but it's the toppings that take it over-the-top; case in point, their clam pizza (which I enjoyed thoroughly):

It's a nuanced balance of freshly shucked clams, garlic, what tastes like butter and parsley. Baked, as it is, on that wonderfully formed crust it's nothing short of a pizza masterpiece.

Naturally, I couldn't resist dessert--especially since Franny's makes some of the best gelato I've ever had. Here's one scoop of coconut, one scoop of strawberry:

Again, Franny's, I bow to you. (To see more of my Franny's posts, click here.)

At last we get to Sunday's brunch at Dovetail with our friends Lisa and Eric.

Dovetail is one of those restaurants I've been meaning to try forever. Since Lisa and Eric live on the Upper West Side it seemed like a perfect choice for a Sunday brunch.

Only, at the last minute, I discovered that brunch was $32 a person. "That's too much for brunch!" barked Craig from across the room. "No brunch should cost $32 a person."

He had a point but after running it past Lisa we decided to run with it.

The room, at Dovetail, was really mellow, with plenty of space between the tables. I liked that.

The $32 brunch began with this basket of pastries, always a good start:

Then there were these appetizers: a shot of spring onion soup and a parfait of yogurt with granola.

Unsurprisingly, onion soup and yogurt/granola don't taste that great together. But separate, they were both terrific.

The apps just kept on coming: salmon tartare, cucumber sandwiches and duck meatballs on a stick.

Nice--almost like a British tea.

[Note: the waiter overheard Lisa say she was a vegetarian ("Oh," he said, "I'll tell the chef.") The result? One less duck meatball. Ummm...thanks? 3 carnivores would've happily eaten it!]

As for our actual brunch food, Lisa wasn't too enthusiastic about her asparagus omelet:

And Craig and I both spent a while trying to find the crab in our Crab Benedict:

The answer: it was hidden in the grape leaf.

All of this was above-average brunch food, but not so extraordinary it made devoted Dovetail brunch worshippers out of us. By the time they brought dessert....

...it was just too much. (That's some kind of custard, a linzer cookie, a doughnut and something chocolatey.) As Craig originally complained, $32 is too much for brunch. I would've enjoyed this way more if it cost less money and there was less food. Who wants to eat that much at the start of their day?

But it was fun seeing Lisa and Eric and joining them, afterwards, at the Flea Market across the street. (Craig and I found some really cool coasters.)

This newsletter stops here even though we ate at Shake Shack that night (hit-the-spot good, as always, despite the line) and even though we had a gourmet picnic with friends in Central Park on Monday. That picnic will show up on the blog this week when I tell you about the S'Mores Bars I made.

Are you in shock about how much one person can eat over the course of a weekend? I am too. Remember that time--it feels like years ago--I talked about a diet? That was one of the funniest jokes ever written in the history of newsletters.

Until the next one!

Your friend,
Adam (The Amateur Gourmet)

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