Monday, October 19, 2009

Hungry Caterpillar

Remember Eric Carle's book The Very Hungry Caterpillar? You know, the one where the caterpillar eats through a watermelon, a sausage, a slice of Swiss cheese, and various other tasty finds, only to lead himself to a fierce tummy ache and metamorphosis? Well, I had an Eric Carle moment, sans metamorphosis. It went something like this:

I agreed to go to an early evening movie in the City and suggested a "snack" first. This was initially supposed to be a slice, probably from Artichoke, but somehow we decided that we were going to have pork buns as a snack. Only pork buns. You can get said buns at Momofuku Milk Bar, but you have to stand while you eat them. Instead, we opted for Ssam next door. Presented with a full menu, we did what any normal snackers would do. We ordered two sets of pork buns, a ham plate with red-eye gravy (mayonnaise and coffee, for the uninformed), a pickle plate, and a heaping portion of ground sausage with deep-fried rice cakes. The Edward's ham was not as rich and fatty as I remembered, though the mayonnaise would have hidden any flaw. I found the rice cakes to be overcooked and the pork buns, though still tasty, a bit heavy on the pork fat this time around. Is Ssam Bar slipping after their *** rating? Time will tell.

I skipped popcorn at the movies, which was a wise move, since dinner time (9pm, only a scant three hours after our "snack") found us at Daniel Boulud's new haunt, DBGB. I wore sweatpants out and hardly expected to end up at a scene-y downtown bistro. I knew that I would run into people I knew (we saw two, a waiter we knew from another restaurant, and a chef whom we had loved and lost to San Francisco) and that this familiarity would spiral into the vortex of free stuff. End tally of comps: three glasses of dessert wine, two desserts, one cheese plate, roughly $100 worth of bad-for-you goodness.

It really is appalling to think about what we ate last night, so I suppose I shouldn't have been so surprised at my own tummy's reaction. We began with veal tongue and gribiche, along with a thick and fatty chicken/pork liver pate. The pate came with too little bread, my main complaint, though I was happy to see that all the bread before us fell into the whole-wheat category. The cornichons and pickled pearl onions, though scarce, were, as always, the perfect counterpoint for good pate.

Whole-wheat bread could not prevent the descent into gluttony that came next. A very long and very deep-fried pig trotter came with some kind of mayonnaise dipping sauce. Bone marrow, sliced the long way, was topped with black mustard seeds and arrived with toast points and house-cured pastrami. Our sausages were supposed to be the highlight of the evening--the restaurant serves over ten--but I found them slightly disappointing. The Berliner, a boudin blanc served with an under-cured sauerkraut, was a touch more sweet than savory. The Vermont was nicely blistered, but I'm a little freaked out by the concept of cheese in my pork sausage. Must be a Jewish thing.

For dessert, we kept right on ordering. First, baked Alaska, since I'd never had it. It arrived with a cup of absinthe that the server poured over the meringue before setting the whole thing on fire with a blowtorch. But the server left before the fire hit the whole dessert and the fire went out before releasing all of the alcohol. What was left was a very strong absinthe dessert that happened to be filled with meringue, almond cake, vanilla ice-cream, verbena ice-cream, and raspberry sorbet. A "pear" ice-cream sandwich fell short, lacking either the proper cookie texture or the right ice-creaminess. The pear element was actually sorbet and the plating encouraged the use of a knife and fork rather than one's hands. How very un-ice-cream sandwich-like. A mocha sundae was reminiscent of the one once served at BLT Prime. There was a lot of ice-cream, brownie bits, and whipped cream. The desserts, as a whole, remained rooted in, well, ice-cream, more of a one-trick pony than anything else.

A pear sidecar left us underwhelmed, though I was happy to see the Raffault Chinon by the glass, one of my favorite, less expensive Old World reds. I was also happy to see a 750ml bottle of my favorite trappist ale, Westmalle Dubbel, for a staggeringly low $28, dark beer being the perfect companion to a festival of offal.

Our complimentary cheese plate--replete with such cliches as Humboldt Fog--was just cheese and bread, along with a paltry sprinkling of nuts. I longed for something more elaborate, like the composed plates that used to appear at Casellula, before the fromager defected. Oh, well. I shouldn't have looked a gift horse in the mouth. At three in the morning, I was regretting the cheese regardless, along with the horse it rode in on.

*
Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
212.254.3500

*
DBGB Kitchen and Bar
299 Bowery
New York, NY 10003
212.933.5300


1 comment:

Melissa said...

You forgot about the cookies!