A.G. Newsletter #27: Sammy's Delivery, Maialino, Prune, & Brunch at Locanda Verde

A.G. Newsletter #27: Sammy's Delivery, Maialino, Prune & Brunch at Locanda Verde

Hello People,

Monday morning newsletter writing is like a rude awakening, a coming to terms with how much food I ate in the past week. And this last week was a real doozy; I ate a LOT of food. A lot of very good food. It just happened that way.

It didn't start out on a very gourmet note. We got back from Boca on Saturday and the next night we decided to order Chinese. Here in the West Village, we'd never really found a great Chinese delivery; we tried ordering from the West Village Grand Sichuan, but unlike the one in Chelsea or the East Village (two of our favorite Chinese restaurants in New York), the West Village branch sucks. This time I turned to Adam Platt's recommendation in the New York Magazine delivery article (for which I also contributed some picks) and decided to order from Sammy's on 6th Ave.

What Adam Platt said in the article was that this was just good, reliable, consistent Chinese delivery. Nothing revolutionary, just good. And so it was. We ordered his recommended chicken and broccoli in a garlic sauce:

That was very tasty; the lomein with shrimp was a little greasy, but still good:

All in all a positive experience and something to keep in mind for future cold, miserable winter night's when food shopping holds little to no appeal.

Later last week, I had a date to meet my parents at Maialino, Danny Meyer's Italian restaurant in the Gramercy Park Hotel. I was feeling really crummy; the night before, I'd waken up in the middle of the night with chills. The flu seemed like it was coming on full force when I arrived on that chilly almost-winter night.

It's a testament to Danny Meyer's service skills that, as I sat down with my family, the waitress must've overheard my sick-talk because the first thing they set down was a small bowl of Stracciatella, the Italian chicken soup enriched with lemon and cheese. "I heard you weren't feeling well," she said, "so hopefully this'll help."

It definitely did! What a thoughtful gesture. If you're thinking of ever opening a restaurant, I'd read Danny Meyer's book on service; no wonder his customers are so faithful.

The food at Maialino is really terrific. Even my parents (who prefer more traditional American-Italian food) enjoyed it. We started with fried baby artichokes and an anchovy/bread sauce:

There was cuttlefish with dandelion greens:

We ordered two pastas for the table and that turned out to be too little (the portions are very small) so we ordered two more (yes, we're gluttons. That's why I'm a food writer.) Don't miss the pumpkin agnolotti with balsamic vinegar:

Or the pasta Maialino (their signature pasta) which has suckling pig ragu:

This ravioli was filled with egg yolk (it was remarkable when you cut in how it came spilling out):

And this rigatoni with black pepper and Parmesan cheese; simple, but again, excellent:

For my entree, I had the rabbit special; it was braised with olives and onions and served, rather boldly, with rabbit offal (the liver and the kidneys.)

My parents thought I was crazy to eat this ("That's just what I want when I'm sick," said my dad, "rabbit kidney.") but it was hearty and restorative. (Though, confession, I only ate a few bites of the offal; I'm not offal-averse, it just didn't do much for me.)

My dad had a wonderful diablo chicken and my mom enjoyed her lamb chops. For dessert, we shared the tartufo:

And this fruit tart:

All in all, a terrific meal in a relaxed environment. Like an easier-to-get-into Babbo; keep it in mind for your next special occasion.

After that, who could eat anything else?

But the next night, my friend Brock was in town and offered to take Craig and I out to dinner at Prune. How could we say no to that? We couldn't (Prune being one of my favorite restaurants of all time.)

I was feeling better at this point (it must've been a 12-hour flu) so I started with one of my favorite cocktails, a Negroni. It looks like it'd be very sweet, but it has a bitter, complex flavor. I love the thin glass tumbler they serve it in:

I've referenced Prune's signature starter snack--Triscuits with sardines and mustard--on the blog before (see this post), but I'd never ordered it at the restaurant before. As you can see, Prune's presentation certainly beats mine:

We also had some radishes, butter and salt:

Craig started with shrimp in anchovy butter:

I had the celery salad (which sounded unpromising) but which was packed with flavor (lemon juice, anchovy, lots of garlic) and served with toasted bread and blue cheese:

At this point, I went to the bathroom and I thought this sign was funny (not for the message, but for the way it was written):

For my entree, I ordered the strangest thing: pork cooked in octopus broth. (I had to make that bold, it was so unusual.)

Essentially, this was a nautical take on pork; as if you sent a pig scuba diving and then ate it. The pork was fork-tender and the broth was enriched by the juice from the clams that decorated the plate. A very winning dish.

Not so winning, though certainly bold, was this side of pumpkin:

I like a good, sweet pumpkin side but don't confuse that topping on the roasted pumpkin with brown sugar. Brown sugar, it ain't. Instead (as it said on the menu, to be fair) it was brewer's yeast. It almost made me gag I thought it was so gnarly.

I asked the waitress about it and she said: "Think of it like cheese."

Ok, so I did think of it like cheese and in combination with the ginger beer broth on the plate, I started to get this dish, but you remember how in the movie "Defending Your Life" (my favorite food movie) really smart people eat food that normal people don't get? This made me think of that.

I said to Craig afterwards that even though I didn't like the pumpkin, I truly admired it; it's why I think Prune is such a great restaurant. What a bold thing to serve: roasted pumpkin with brewer's yeast in ginger beer broth. Surely, you have to be some kind of genius to come up with that.

Of course, I did love the Brussels sprouts:

And our dessert; a polenta cake with roasted fruit:

Once again, Prune delivered and Brock agreed that it was a top-notch meal. So thanks to Brock for feeding us so well.

The next morning (are you gagging yet, with all this food?) I met some friends for brunch at Locanda Verde.

They V.I.P.ed our table (sometimes that happens, even to food bloggers) and so they sent over all this AMAHZING food and how could I stop them? The pastries all came from pastry wunderkind Karen DeMasco (she, formerly of Craft, and author of an amazing new baking book "The Craft of Baking.") Karen's the reason that brunch at Locanda Verde is so popular; she gets to show off her mad baking skills. Check out this coffee crumb cake, this scone, and this muffin:

They were deadly and divine. We devoured them.

My favorite starter (which they also sent over) was this toasted bread with whipped ricotta, honey and mint:

I've written about whipped ricotta before (see here) but this was a perfect breakfast version; the honey transformed it into something entirely different. I'd make this at home one day with the best ricotta you can find.

The focaccia (which they also sent over; I couldn't stop them!) was moist and chewy and not at all greasy:

Patty and Lauren, who were sitting to my right, each ordered a Bloody Mary which came topped with all this cool stuff:

The actual brunch food was also out-of-this-world (and credit must go to Locanda Verde's star chef, Andrew Carmellini). Craig ordered these eggs with a roasted tomato hollandaise and a cotecchino hash:

Lauren, to my right, ordered this amazing shrimp dish which seemed like it came from Italy by way of New Orleans:

But I have to tell you about my Hazelnut French Toast and citrus salad:

I don't know how this French Toast came to be--everything from the bread to the batter to the crust was beguiling--but it was transcendently good. Unlike any French toast I'd had before, the texture was just so delicate and lovely. I bow to you, Karen DeMasco.

So if you aren't disgusted with me for eating all this, I'm disgusted for you. I promise this week it's all fruit salad and sesame seed sandwiches. (Yeah right!)

Until next time....

Your friend,
Adam (The Amateur Gourmet)

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