A.G. Newsletter #31: 'ino, Oatmeal with a Fork, Lunch at The Union Square Cafe, Another Breakfast



Hey Newsletter Subscribers,

Doesn't it feel like Spring's almost here? I love that feeling; it makes the snowy, slushy, bitter-cold New York winters (almost) worthwhile.

Every so often, I'll walk past 'ino on Bedford street and peek in through the window to see if one of the two tables I like are available. Those are the individual tables by the window. Otherwise, the way it's set up, you get sandwiched in between strangers and if you're alone, you have to fight to not eavesdrop on their conversations.

As it was, last week one of my two favorite tables WAS available, so I snatched it up and ordered the Bruschetta plate where you get to pick four bruschetas to eat:



As you can see, the one at the top, was asparagus with truffle oil and Parmesan cheese; next to that was some kind of creamed kale; below that was a creamy cheese (mascarpone?) with balsamic glazed radicchio on top and, finally, a spaghetti squash bruschetta. It was a very nice lunch; I'm glad I went there.

Let's pause for a moment and make fun of Craig for something that he does....

When I make breakfast? Sometimes I serve up scrambled eggs and then, with it, a bowl of oatmeal. I set out a fork and a spoon; the fork, obviously, for the eggs and the spoon for the oatmeal. But Craig uses his fork to eat everything. Here's his hand, caught in the act:



This madness must end! The next time you see Craig say: "So I hear you eat oatmeal with a fork." Maybe, through humiliation, he will change his ways.

Last Wednesday, my friend Diana INSISTED that she take me out to a belated birthday lunch. How could I say no to that? Especially when she offered to take me to The Union Square Cafe?

The Union Square Cafe is the Steven Speilberg of restaurants; both critically acclaimed and adored by the masses. It's often at the top of Zagat's most popular NYC restaurants.

And, when you go there, it's easy to see why. The food is always wonderful but it's the service that's really astonishing: it goes above and beyond anything that you might expect.

Take this olive pit bowl, for example:



Every time we ate a few olives and put the pits in the olive pit bowl, magically--while we were engrossed in conversation--the pit bowl would disappear and it would be replaced by a clean pit bowl.

"Whoah, did they replace our olive pit bowl again?" I asked, astonished, the third time it happened.

"They must wash a lot of olive pit bowls!" said Diana.

We shared a crudo of what I think was Spanish Mackerel:



We also shared this puntarelle salad with an anchovy dressing, served with grilled bread (a nice touch):



For my entree, I had the appetizer portion of this AMAZING winter green ravioli:



I studied this dish very carefully, as someone who loves to make pasta at home, and besides making their pasta dough from scratch (something that they're known for), they topped the finished dish with toasted bread crumbs, parsley and--here's the kicker--chopped up preserved lemon. It was a brilliant touch.

Diana ate this dish, which looked like risotto but wasn't:



She very much enjoyed it too.

For dessert, the pretzel banana tart sounded so intriguing, we had to order it:



We both liked it, but didn't love it; I felt like the pretzel base could've been saltier to play off the sweetness of the bananas.

Luckily our waitress, proving, once again, that the service at USC is above-and-beyond what's normal, brought us her favorite dessert, the warm chocolate cake:



My oh my. I'm not a warm chocolate cake person, I'd almost always choose a fruit dessert, but this was astonishingly good. We devoured it and so should you.

So thanks Diana for that lunch!! I love milking my birthday for as long as I can. (Who else owes me a birthday lunch? Hmmm....)

Finally, if you've been reading my blog, you may have noticed I've been posting a lot of breakfast food lately. (Check out my Purple Peruvian Potato Hash, which I just posted.)

The reason for that is, mostly now, I'm testing cookbook food at night and can't write about it on the blog. So the breakfasts will have to suffice until April 15th when I turn the book in. And speaking of breakfasts, check out this one I whipped up on Saturday for Craig and Rena, our houseguest:



That's French Toast made with leftover Balthazar bread topped with bananas and eggs scrambled with pickled red jalapenos that I'd pickled myself (that's in the book, but, in the meantime, I'm sure you can find a recipe online!)

That's all for this week's newsletter! Check the blog later this week for posts about the Katz's Deli Hot Dog & beer with pickle juice.

Until next time....

Your friend,
Adam (The Amateur Gourmet)



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