Lemon Cake Topped with Strawberries and Pistachios

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Lemon cake with a strawberry and pistachio hat.

Now that New England farms seem to have recovered from the harshest of harsh winters, and summer fruits are abundant and most importantly, ripe, I can’t help but plan each recipe-test around Saturday’s finest from the local farm-stand. On this occasion, though I was hoping for raspberries in order to try Bon Appetit‘s June 2014 recipe, I used what was left of the strawberries. If strawberries are not in season, buy frozen organic strawberries; they are just as sweet once defrosted. The pistachios are for crunch and color, and the cake itself is meant to be lemony-light and therefore multi-purpose: sweet and fruity for a none-too-heavy breakfast alongside yogurt, as an accompaniment to afternoon tea, and/or as a summer evening dessert a la mode.

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Batter poured and strawberries ever so gently simmering with lemon juice and a sprinkle of light brown sugar.

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Gently brush the cake with the juices from the strawberry pan.

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Ingredients:

3/4 cup Brown Rice Flour

3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Scant 1 cup light brown sugar

2 tsp pure organic vanilla extract

4 Eggs

2 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest

Juice from at least half a large lemon

3/4 cup olive oil

About 1/2 cup sliced strawberries, more or less if you please

3 tbsp. chopped unsalted raw pistachios
Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Oil or lightly butter a 9″ diameter cake pan. I assume that you can also use a loaf pan, but doing so might change the baking time.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt.

In an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar for about five minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla and 1 tbsp. lemon juice. Then slowly add the oil until just combined. Add the flour mixture in thirds; do not add it all at once. Then fold in the lemon zest. Feel free to add more lemon juice to the bowl here, depending on how strong you prefer the lemon flavor.

Pour the batter into the pan and top with the sliced strawberries and chopped pistachios. If you like, scatter a little light brown sugar over the top. Bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserts into the center comes out clean.

Close to finishing time, in a small pan, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice and a handful of strawberries over medium heat. If you would like, you can add a pinch of sugar here as well, or maybe a small bit of honey. Use a wooden spoon to gently slosh around the strawberries so that a syrup forms.

Once the cake is baked, set it on a drying rack in its cake pan. I used a pan with a removable bottom, but it far easier to remove once the cake has cooled. While still hot, use a brush to brush the strawberry and lemon syrup over the cake. Allow to cool.

Gluten Free (Or Not) Cupboard Cookies

This past weekend I made a pie. A homemade, peach and blackberry pie is a treat, but I still had a craving for a cookie. I needed to satisfy the crunch- preferably with a hint of chocolate. With not a whole lot of sweet ingredients in the house, I threw together remnants of this and remnants of that and ended up with a mostly gluten-free, ‘cupboard cookie.’

Patriotic cookie mix

Patriotic cookie mix

You can make this cookie more traditional by using only regular flour, or make it with a mixture of your preferred flours. I had small amounts of almond flour and quinoa flour left in my cupboard, so I aimed to finish them off. Almond flour, when used in large quantities, lends baked goods a sort of mealy, drier taste. I do not suggest using it as the majority flour. The recipe below is slightly altered from the one that I used; I baked my cupboard cookies with too much almond flour, leading them to taste far less sweet than I intended. I always make an effort to limit refined sugars, as they are blatantly detrimental to our health, so I used a very small quantity. If you prefer to skip refined sugars altogether, I suggest adding a high quality maple syrup, raw honey, or even blended dates. For additions, I literally used whatever was around, including farm-fresh blueberries and raspberries, dark chocolate chips (although I suggest shaved dark chocolate rather than chips), toasted organic coconut flakes, organic raisins, and even a little bit of coffee left over from the morning. The berries add natural sugar and bursts of color.

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3/4 cup quinoa flour

1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup organic old-fashioned oats

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (not used in my cookies but on second though, highly suggest it)

1/3 cup light brown sugar (I used only 1/4 and they did not come out sweet enough. You can try using honey or maple syrup if you are trying to avoid refined sugars)

1 tbsp. toasted coconut

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp organic vanilla extract

3 tbsp. butter (I only had cultured butter on hand, a European style with a higher fat content)

1 tbsp. coffee (cold)

2 eggs at room temp

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup raspberries

1/4 cup blueberries

Sift together the flours, oats, baking soda, and salt. Add the cooled, toasted coconut and mix to incorporate. Stir in the raisins, blueberries, and raspberries.

In a separate bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mix, mix the eggs with the butter until there are no clumps. You can melt the butter and allow it to cool if you are mixing by hand. Add the vanilla and coffee and mix.

In small batches, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Do not combine them all at once; it will be too hard to mix. Add the dry ingredients in thirds or fourths, mixing as you go.

Cover the batter and cool in the fridge for at least an hour. The longer you chill the batter, the crisper and more satisfying the cookies will be.

When you are ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F and spoon out your preferred cookie size onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. I made mine about one and a half tablespoons each. I baked for about 12 minutes or until I could feel that the cookies were not so soupy anymore when I gently pressed down on one. I suggest checking on them after 10 minutes. You do not want to over bake them, as you risk having them taste more like chalk and less like cookies.

 

Navy: Firmly anchored on Sullivan Street

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Navy by day.

Countless chefs have passed through the streets of New York with the ultimate dream of opening a phenomenally successful, long-lasting restaurant. A few of the tried and true New York favorites are part of a larger group; they have a name attached and will likely garner a following regardless of whether or not all of the ingredients are accounted for. Seldom does a lesser known chef slither onto the scene in the most unassuming of ways, locking in a fantastic location at the crossroads of SoHo and Greenwich Village, and a hop and a skip from the West Village. Seldom does the decor, the ambience, the service, the space, the menu, the flavors- the every detail- seldom do each and every one of these elements excel beyond expectation with the greatest humility and nonchalance. Navy, with the modest and most humble Camille Becerra at its helm, is one of these few wonders.

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The lightest of scallop crudos highlighted with surprise punches of flavor, including black sesame seeds, pickle, and whey.

Our waiter was cool and calm and confident about each item on the menu. We left our decisions in his able hands, and he guided us in all of the right directions. It was a hot summer night, and he was refreshingly honest about what plates would be ideal. We were not going to go with the albacore tuna, but he assured us that it was a rare addition to the menu due to its short season, that we should take advantage of its supreme freshness. Seasonality is one of Camille Becerra’s specialties: she works with local farms and fishermen whom she trusts. She understands that in order to serve an exceptional dish, one must start with the highest quality ingredients, at the height of their season, no less. Camille is as hands-on as possible with the Pennsylvania co-op she has partnered with. In fact, all of her sources and producers are within a 100 mile radius.

With a chilled glass of rosé in hand, expertly chosen by our maritime-esque waiter, we commenced the evening with the scallop crudo. The plating was exquisite, (take a peak at Camille’s personal Instragram account- evidence that she has an eye for art, colors, lines, shapes, and scenes. Her photos evoke mood and emotion like that of a photographer. In fact, I would not be surprised if photography is her second most favored hobby after cooking), and the flavors were phenomenal. Camille is a truly inventive chef; I can only assume that others will not be far behind her genius combinations: whey, seeds, pickle… and might I mention that when I returned to the site a few days later to review the menu, the dish had already changed.

We also ordered the summer squash salad with apricot, as apricots deserve full attention at the height of their season. We fully expected it to be a beautiful, colorful plate, and our expectations transcended when we took the first bite of this divinely flavored salad. I quizzed our waiter over and over again- what is that? Coconut maybe? What is that impalpable flavor? It was so simple, so light, yet unlike anything that I had ever tasted. I tried my best to identify as much as I could: toasted nuts, chili oil, paprika, lemon, herbs, and other secrets.

The calamari with fennel, pepper, celery, and herbs was perfectly tender- not an easy feat for calamari. What I really want to talk about, though, is the mussel toast. If you order just one thing, order the mussel toast, a nonpareil across the current NY restaurant scene, complete with caper aioli, cornmeal sourdough, and the freshest of fresh herbs. No other descriptives necessary other than… outstanding.

Navy is the kind of restaurant one must return to every few weeks, as the menu changes almost daily according to Camille’s fine judgments of what ingredients are worth incorporating into her innovative, fresh dishes. Go for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Soak in every detail, as the crew at Navy most definitely nailed them all.

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Scallop crudo: delicate with fantastically balanced flavors. A must order.

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My most favorite summer salad ever.

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Calamari at Navy.

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Camille Becerra’s calamari.

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The albacore tuna did a brief stint on the menu while it was in season.

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The ever so light and beautifully plated albacore tuna with beets and herbs.

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The absolutely stellar mussel toast at Navy NYC. Thank you, Camille, for introducing NYC to this phenom dish.

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The best mussel toast that ever existed at Navy NYC.

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Navy in rare form: on a quiet summer Sunday morning.

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Small details. Stocked and ready for breakfast service.

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Summer in the city: Navy is your oyster.

Grill Night

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Corn grilled in the shucks.

Light the coals. Marinate the prawns. Make the meat patties. Trim the asparagus. Rinse the peppers. Slice the bread. Leave the corn as is.

Sure, we can grill in the colder months. We can put on a big jacket in November and duck in and out of the house to stay warm. To me, though, grilling is a quintessential summer activity. I even like the smell of the coals, the way it wafts over the deck and into my hair. We sit around with chilled glasses of wine, free and easy, a slight evening breeze blowing up the napkins we set out on the table. The scene is placid; the cornfields sway in the field next to the grazing horses. We don’t even realize we’re waiting until our tummies tell us we are hungry and ready to eat.

Anything and everything tastes incredible hot off the grill. I love grilled vegetables, especially asparagus and whole peppers. Rotate the pepper so that each side grills evenly. Corn retains its sweetness when left in its shuck, and what is better than giant prawns or homemade hamburgers with sautéed onion and fresh herbs from the garden?

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Early evening.

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Weekapaug Inn: A Classic Reborn

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A deck with a view.

Renovating and redefining the Weekapaug Inn was a labor of love for Watch Hill resident Chuck Royce. First opened in 1899, the Inn was a fixture on the New England social calendar as a popular summer destination for swimming, sporting, and socializing. Royce and his team valued the Inn’s place on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as its century long history and heritage. They took an iconic family hotel that was fading away and re-delivered the concept in luxury. The decor is modern yet relaxed, beachy, and very elegant in its own way. Common rooms are meant to feel as low-key and comfortable as one’s own home. Guests approaching the front entrance might easily assume they have been transported; the forest-greens, light brown trim and a marriage between nature, class, and luxuriousness could very well be found in Maine, Colorado, or British Columbia.

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The living room at the Weekapaug feels like home.

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The pond at the edge of the property is the perfect spot for paddle boarding and sailing.

The inn abuts a tranquil salt pond, where guests can safely partake in water sports of all kinds, such as paddleboarding, kayaking, and even sailing. The private beach is a seven minute walk down the road, offering guests two miles of white sand. Beyond water sports, the Inn offers complimentary bike usage, shuffleboard, bocce, and a fire-pit for smores possibilities. The beautiful saline pool is adjacent to an outdoor grill with views of sailboats and paddle-boarders. Green umbrellas blend in with the trees, and when looking out, the pool water melds into Quonochontaug Pond. My favorite structure is the fitness center which doubles as the entrance to the pool. Guests walk through tall, wood gates in a muted grey tone. The structure has certain barn elements to its design, including massive barn doors on the inner side. Guests can rent the suites with private decks on the second floor for more space and privacy from the main building.

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The outdoor grill.

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The pool.

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Outdoor seating on the deck.

Just down the stone path from the fitness center and yoga room lay my dream herb garden with a handsome fence and proper protective wiring lest any non-human New Englanders take an interest. The Restaurant relies on the garden for many of their dishes, as evidenced by culinary team members ducking in for a few snips of basil and dill. Inside, the color tones are a menage of neutrals, the furniture not too fussy, the architectural details sturdy and simple. Framed photos of the Inn seen through lenses of the 20th century are scattered throughout, as well as paintings and murals in colors of the sea. Board games are set-up for rainy days, the screened-in porch is a cozy respite if you brought a good book, and the deck overlooking the saltwater pond is always open for cocktails.

The Inn is a throwback to the shingled seaside resorts of a century ago. It lends a feeling of modesty, serenity, and an overall low-key atmosphere. Staff members are evidently well-trained for a quiet, luxury property. The team is similar in tone, attentiveness, and service to that of The Ocean House, Mr. Royce’s other property down the road. The Weekapaug Inn would be an ideal place for a seaside wedding, a family reunion, or simply a long weekend away from the noise and grittiness of the city.

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A cozy nook.

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Inside the restaurant.

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From inside the sun porch.

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The entrance to the pool and fitness area.

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Taken from inside the pool gates.

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Setting up for a stunning event.

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The manicured grounds.

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My dream herb garden, complete with proper fencing.

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Herbs, herbs, herbs.

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A beautifully done barn structure.

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The fleet.

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The Weekapaug Inn is located two and a half hours from New York City.

Around Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Parisian Elegance Coincides with Trends du Jour

Tavola Del Mondo:

In the spirit of Bastille Day… a re-blog from a previous trip to Paris :)

Originally posted on Tavola Del Mondo:

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The Saturday afternoon scene at La Palette

In Paris’ synchronously funky and high-fashion 6th arrondissement, Saint-Germain-des-Prés is undeniably the city’s most sought-after neighborhood. All demographics yearn to spend their Saturdays on Saint Germain’s narrow, winding, cobblestoned streets, waiting for a table amongst the beautiful people at La Palette, ducking in and out of art gallerys, shopping at the tres chic boutiques around Rue de Sèvres, or lounging with a friend or a beau in the Luxembourg gardens. Even rive gauche residents deign to cross the river for much-loved Saint Germain, especially to visit the renowned Le Bon Marché (a model of a department store leagues above all others). While Rue Buci is quite touristy, it is still worth at least one meander. Sophisticated Rue Bonaparte offers debonair shopping, and fabulously small, non-touristy cafes can be found if one strays a few blocks farther from the area around Rue Buci. Cafe Charlotte

View original 124 more words

July Fourth Pie: Peach and Blackberry

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Good enough to eat.

What else to do on a rainy fourth of July but bake a pie.

We fully intended to model our pie crust off of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, but alas, we found ourselves with almond flour in lieu of regular flour. I have to be honest: I really do not suggest using almond flour as the majority flour in a pie crust. It is grainy and mealy and dry, and it tastes more like tart chalk than delectable buttery crust. You may notice that in the photos below, the crust has a certain grainy color, and we shall attribute that to said almond flour. I have already re-stocked the cupboard with regular flour for next weekend’s pie.

That being said, the organic blackberries are the best that they have been all year; ripe, squishy, and ever so sweet. While our Connecticut peaches are not yet ripe (I blame you: Polar Vortex), Georgia peaches sufficed. We scraped a vanilla bean from Madagascar into the filling, as well as a bit of lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg shavings, and it was so scrumptious and delightfully gooey with no additional sugar that we saw it as a fit breakfast the next morning. Some might prefer 1/2 cup or so of light brown sugar in the filling, but I prefer not to add too much, as the fruit has an abundance of natural sugars.

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(Finally) ripe blackberries.

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(Basically) ripe Georgia peaches.

Beauties.

Beauties.

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Peaches.

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Assembled, albeit with an insufficient bottom layer.

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Most definitely homemade.

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This pie has an almond flour crust- a non-repeater.

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Peach and blackberry pie.

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Little gelato never hurt anyone.

Crust:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp light brown sugar

1 tsp salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold

1/2 cup water, very cold

Filling:

7 medium peaches

2 half pints organic blackberries

Lemon juice from half a lemon

1/4 cup light brown sugar (optional)

Vanilla scraped from one vanilla bean

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

1/8 tsp salt

2 tbsp cornstarch

To make the dough:

Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Dice the butter and use your fingers to mix it into the flour until it is the consistency of small peas. Stir in the cold water with a rubber spatula or a regular big spoon if that is all you have, and then knead the dough a few times to form a ball. Divide the dough in half and wrap each in plastic in the shape of a disc. Chill in the fridge for a few hours.

For the filling:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Prepare an ice bath for the peaches when they come out of the boiling water. Make a small x at the bottom of each peach and lower the peaches into the boiling water. After two minutes, transfer to the ice bath for one minute to cool. Then transfer the peaches to a cutting board. The skin should peel right off. Halve and pit the peaches and slice into about 1/3-inch half-moons. In a large bowl, gently mix the peaches with the lemon juice. Add the sugar if using, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cornstarch until evenly coated.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Assemble the pie. Flour your counter and your rolling pin. Flour it again. Keep flour on hand. Roll the first dough disc out, starting from the center and working outwards. Be gentle. The longer the rolling process, the more the dough loses its chill and begins to dry out, the more cracks you will have, the more frustrated and angry you will become…

Once the dough is about a 12 inch circle, transfer to your pie dish. Ideally, the trim should hang over the edge. In my case, I had no trim to speak of. It happens. Moving on.

Pour the gorgeous filling onto the bottom layer. Roll out the top layer of pie dough. We went for the lattice, although the almond flour made lattice-life quite difficult. If you’d like to make a lidded pie, with no fancy cut-outs, just make sure to give it one or two vents before baking, lest it explode in the oven.

Bake the pie for about 20 minutes until the crust is set and beginning to brown. Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is a golden brown.

Cool pie for at least two hours before serving.

Recipe based on Smitten Kitchen’s Peach Pie

Summer Weekend at the Farm

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After the July 4th rain

The grass appears greener and the flowers more magnificent in the country after just a few weeks in Manhattan sans break. My favorite part of the drive up to Lyme, Connecticut, an untouched hamlet on the Connecticut River, is when we get off the highway and drive down the main road… after a few miles, everything darkens. There comes a break in the growth on either side, a stretch of land without homes and human life. I look out the window and see the sky for the first time in, well since the last time I left the city. It is without puncture, dotted with stars, painterly lined with age-old trees in the far distance. Fields of green… When you live in the country or spend every weekend there, you begin to take the small things for granted. It seemed that each characteristic was magnified this past weekend, and I soaked up each and every one: old water wells edging the front lawn of an old clapboard house, cows eating grass on the side of the road, stone slabs as a rustic pathway to a barn, and that blissful quiet that comes at night. Not a sound to be heard until the birds start their conversation again in the morning. I took a few photos of the property in-between visits to the local farm stands, baking and cooking time in the kitchen, and catching up on my reading on the patio. Summertime and the livin’ is…

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Morning

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At the farm

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At the farm

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C’est parfait. Morning market trip: Connecticut strawberries, scones that are still warm, and a bit of fromage.

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Local fruit.

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Morning at the farm

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Blooms

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Ashlawn Farm Coffee

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Saturday morning outside Ashlawn Farm

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Patriotic berries at Scott’s Farmstand

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‘Live Happley’ at Scott’s Farm Store

At Scott's Farm Store

At Scott’s Farm Store

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Coffee and goats. And a poodle.

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Clematis

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Wild. At the end of Ely’s Ferry.

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White hydrangeas.

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Evening light over the barn.

A Fig Sabayon Story with Chef Noémie

Tavola Del Mondo:

Because I’m dreaming of France’s September figs today…

Originally posted on Tavola Del Mondo:

Just a regular Wednesday afternoon dessert at Les Secrets Gourmands de Noémie, an incredible French cooking school in Paris’ 17th arrondissement. This is one of the most extraordinary desserts I have ever had, I with my larger than life sweet tooth. The amaretto liqueur is an absolute necessary ingredient, and do not be shy with it. It may seem like a lot, but in truth the final product offers just a hint of its sweet, almond flavor. Noémie explained that it is necessary to have something to add fragrance to the dessert, whether that be a sweet wine like a sauterne or a dessert liqueur; whatever is available in your cupboard. If figs are not available, try plums, apricots, peaches, pears, cherries, or an assortment of fruits such as blackberries and blueberries.

Recipe by Noémie Fournier, Chef and Owner of Les Secrets Gourmands de Noemie

Ingredients (8 servings):

16 fresh figs

View original 395 more words

Charlie Bird: For the Culinary Mavens, the Design Appreciators, and the Wine Enthusiasts

A formal culinary education comes in many forms. For Ryan Hardy, it came in waves and pulses, much like the music at his gastronomic success in Soho. Hardy proposes travel as the most profound and immediate way to acquire new culinary perspectives: from the swaying grasses of Tuscany to the New England sea breeze in Martha’s Vineyard to the ski-in/ski-out lifestyle in Aspen, Colorado. In Italy, Ryan saw the dining experience through the eyes of the Italians: mealtime as the highlight of the day. Meals are not just a break, not just a necessary occurrence to keep energy levels up, but rather a time to gather, to slow down, to converse, and to savor the ingredients grown or raised nearby.

Charlie Bird, www.tavoladelmondo.com

(Very) early at Charlie Bird

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Crisp and perfectly oiled focaccia

After many years of moving and cooking for various restaurant owners, Ryan finally secured his own space, along with co-owner and sommelier Robert Bohr, on King Street just south of Greenwich Village. Charlie Bird is a culmination of his travels, his experiences, and the people who have influenced him over the years. Indeed the menu encompasses many elements of Italian regional cooking, but it is quite impossible to pin down Chef Hardy’s cuisine. After all, isn’t the point of traveling and working with various cuisines in various regions to build and expand and to enable innovation on one’s own terms? It’s like asking a chef, ‘what is your favorite food?’ It is a mix of the right ingredients at the height of their life cycle, a sustainable fish caught in season, a wine list painstakingly curated and researched… The restaurant concept is everything down to the napkins. It is the chef’s mood. It’s really a thousand things.

Whatever Charlie Bird is, it has become one of my ‘go-to’ restaurants in the neighborhood for a simple yet inspired and artfully composed Italian-ish meal. The menu changes constantly along with the season, as any good menu should. Ryan floats in and out of the dining room, extracting himself from the kitchen to say hello to friends and diners alike, to check in with his staff, to survey with a gracious smile. He is a fantastically friendly, approachable chef and clearly understands the importance of hospitality. His staff is well-trained but not stuffy, attentive but not overtly so. They are knowledgeable and well-informed about each menu item and ingredient, and one can tell that they truly value their position in the restaurant, that they respect their post and their chef, which speaks volumes about Hardy and the way he and Bohr run the business.

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Farro circa early April 2014: You wax nostalgic for those life savers, and I do the same for this winning bowl of goodness.

I often find myself jonesing for Hardy’s famous farro dish. Try as I might to be a versatile orderer at a favorite restaurant, I cannot seem to unglue myself from the vividly hued bowl. The first time I had the aforementioned farro was back in the first days of April, and it was a rather genius color and texture combination of vibrant mint, generous shards of parmigiano, toasted pistachios, thinly shaved radish, and moon-shaped pumpkin. Each flavor complimented one another like instruments in an orchestra; they played to one another’s benefit, so simple and sublime. I savored the last few spoonfuls (the serving is plentiful, especially considering that farro is wonderfully filling and a single serving is a lot smaller than you think). Hardy’s leftover farro stays for days in the fridge, and it is a superb addition to any tossed salad or really anything at all. It has since changed as the weather has grown warm; about two months ago it invited grilled ramps into the mix, giving it a sort of burnt tinge, and most recently included spring onions, favas, pistachios, mint, and shards of parmigiano. I will forever miss the pumpkin version and hope very much that it returns next year.

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The blood orange cake the way I remember it from early April. That would be: perfect in every way.

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Now seen: the absolutely necessary dollop of pistachio.

The other item I cannot seem to say no to is the Blood Orange Cake. The first time I indulged, back in early April, the beautiful array of colors arrived in the form of one dynamite lime green circle of pistachio, one exceptionally moist rectangle of orange cake, one scoop of silky caramelized hazelnut gelato, scattered cracked hazelnuts, and a handful of ever so ripe blood oranges, exuding a burnt orange sky as if Hardy took cue from the sun setting over rolling Umbrian hills. This is one of those dishes where one needs a little bit of everything on each forkful; it was simply meant to be savored in this fashion. The chocolate bundino is worth mentioning as well. If you love chocolate, I urge you to order the velvety bundino.

Also ordered on my first occasion: the side bowl of braised Borlotti beans with escarole and roasted chiles tasted like a bowl of Tuscany in SoHo. They were warm, textured, and balanced just so between thick and thin. This can also be brought home and served cold for lunch. The minty spring peas with artichokes and favas that I had back in April are another example of this; I could have finished the whole bowl in one sitting, but I savored a small amount to sprinkle on my salad the next day.

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Fluke crudo from early April was a bit too salty for me, but it was plated beautifully beneath the slivered almonds, baby greens, and tomatoes

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Radicchio salad with tender artichokes and wonder strawberries.

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Forefront: radicchio salad with artichokes. Background: brussels, borlotti, and farro.

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Brussel sprouts and borlotti beans, photo taken and food devoured in early April.

Focaccia, fresh out of the oven and still warm in my fingers, is always a promising start. Topped with rosemary, the bread has just the right amount of spring to it, not too tough but not too oily. On my first visit, my friend’s radicchio salad with tender artichokes and crisp radish was a visually beautiful plate and studded with seasonal sprouts, yellow wonder strawberries, and candied walnuts. This friend is always willing to try a restaurant’s oysters, and she was very happy with that evening’s selection. Another companion cannot stop ordering the razor clams, and while I did not try these dishes myself, I was told by neighboring diners that the rigatoni with spring lamb ragu was rich and fabulous, if not a little heavy on the salt. Also reported by aforementioned neighbor: the braised rabbit with spring onions, pancetta, and fava bean hash was cooked to perfection; ever so tender and with a decadence complimented by the lightness of the favas.

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The chocolate bundino. Divine.

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Minty spring peas with artichokes and favas, photo taken and peas devoured in late April

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Farro with charred ramps, as seen on the menu in the end of April

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A May visit: the borlotti beans and farro with favas.

The space itself is unbound by convention, and the ambience is energetic and increasingly loud. The banquets are bright yellow, the chairs a weathered brown, hand-sewn leather, and the bar a polished marble. The delicate fresh flowers throughout juxtapose a somewhat masculine appearance. In the bathroom, jars of multi-colored lifesavers make me laugh, and I think, ‘now who thought of that?’ Their nostalgia leads me to believe that there is a personal story to be told there. The wine glasses are worth mentioning; their form is so different from the typical shapes seen around town, adding to the stark visual contrasts in a somewhat minimalist environment. Hardy and Bohr took a chance with the music, stubbornly sticking to the rap tracks that feel somewhat out of place early in the evening when the restaurant is still taking flight, and somewhat ‘downtown, I’m in a movie about the beautiful people and their beautiful New York lives’ later in the evening, when the restaurant is packed and models are arriving with tall dates. The diners, however, are a solid mix of demographics; pretty young things and more mature couples, yuppies eager to be fixtures at a hot restaurant, and those who appreciate good food and who come simply to enjoy Hardy’s innovative twists on Italian cuisine and Bohr’s expertly chosen wine list.

Chef Ryan Hardy and celebrated sommelier Robert Borh clearly understood the importance of timing when they decided to open their own restaurant. They have both been in the business long enough, each with their own grocery list of successes, to know that it takes a village to achieve longstanding success in the New York restaurant scene. This is not Martha’s Vineyard, and it is not a small town in Italy; New York is an epicenter of culinary dreams. It is the land of throat-cutting competition and fickle diners. To pose a restaurant as worthy of even just one repeat visit is a far-fetched stature that some businesses will simply never achieve. Charlie Bird has tilted itself just so, has found its niche, and has categorized itself as not just a hot restaurant, but a local favorite worthy of second, third, and fourth visits. Perhaps it is not the place for the long, drawn out meal a la Italia, where you spend hours at the table conversing with your companions (mostly because you will not be able to hear them after a certain hour), but it is a version of a little bit of everything that ever inspired Hardy and Bohr, two gentlemen that exude creativity, innovation, and sociability.