"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well" - Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Motorino - The Use of Superlatives

The Use of Superlatives

   Superlatives are more often a product of emotion than reason. A rational person does not engage in absolutes without caveats. And with them, what are we really saying? Best not to fall into the habit of using superlatives. Le raison avant la passion.

La perfezione della pizza.

   It is easy to be drawn into rating familiar things like pizzas, hamburgers, martinis... A year ago Ed Levine’s and Adam Kuban ran around the country in an effort to determine the (superlative deleted) pizza in America. Creative competitions generate interest but with so many variables, their results are meaningless.

Business was brisk.

   Bar Eater's Blog, friend and wine consultant, Jackie used (the superlative) when she told us about Motorino East Village last year. And each time we go, we say this has got to be the, (superlative deleted) pizza in New York. (Speaking as a New Yorker, that may mean the world). We are always blown away. Last year Patti took our friend Carlo, a very discriminating Milanese gentleman, to eat at Motorino. Sig. Carlo takes cucina very seriously. While he is much too refined a man to use superlatives in polite conversation, it is safe to say, he was favorably impressed. Chef/Owner Mathieu Palombino is the man behind the notorious pizza. Sam Shifton used (the superlative) in his New York Times review, but gave Motorino only one star.   I know how hard this is, for anyone, let alone an artist, but ratings aren't real. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the pie. Last Sunday night Patti & I finally made it to the original Motorino in Brooklyn.

The Meal

Watermelon radish with sweet onion, plum tomatos and basil in vinaigrette.

   Simple and fantastic, it was a seasonal special. I confess this is the first time we have tasted a watermelon radish; it won't be the last. Matthew's brilliance in balance is very much in evidence here.

The meatballs.

   Searching for great Italian meatballs in New York has all the intrigue of a truffle hunt. With strong competitors tucked away in many less traveled parts of town. Patti is the Bar Eater's meatball aficionado. She liked Motorino's, but holds her highest praise for others. It might be a fun to do a Bar Eater - Meatball Crawl, someday. 

The subtle, perfection of this pizza stirs profound feelings.

    I do not exaggerate. While, tomato, mozzarella di bufala and basil lend their unadulterated magic, ultimately the sorcery is in the crust. Mathieu Palombino has created something of perfection. The doing, but not over doing, of every detail. Something rarely achieved in cooking, let alone life. This quality is consistent. We have never been disappointed and feel safe in saying so.

Photo by Alexandra

Patti & I after dinner, dropping the "superlative bomb."

The Room

   The Williamsburg space is way more comfortable than the East Village location. Warm and inviting, it has a neighborhood feel. It was worth the trip to Brooklyn, (which isn't really that far), to sit at a bar in such agreeable surroundings.

 The  bar, adequate but unremarkable.  

   Motorino is a Pizzeria with a bar and we are glad they have one. But, what can I say? Bar Eaters prefer a more robust bar experience. Our bartender, Alexandra was very sweet and hard working, but too young and inexperienced to master a real bar. Motorino has a reasonable selection of wines, but you don't come here for the wine. Pick something serviceable and get on with ordering your pizza.

Motorino, Brooklyn

There is a point when something moves beyond really, really good, to something that feels like... best

Ok, there I said it.

Motorino on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Back Forty - Came for Burgers - Stayed for Cocktails

Came for Burgers

Stayed for Cocktails

    In a wild swing from last weekend, with Patti out of town and good friend Pete flying right seat, Bar Eaters took off, in search of the best burger in town, (or at least an outstanding effort). In recent years there's been a revival of sorts for the humble hamburger. Some are nostalgic recreations, some try too hard, some are overhyped disappointments, (BLT Burger comes to mind). Word was good on Back Forty's offering and considering chef / owner, Peter Hoffman's philosophy of food, one would expect an exceptional result. An early proponent of local cuisine, he opened the Savoy about twenty years ago. There is an in depth ICE interview with him, on their site.

   We were not disappointed! A solid entry in the annals of burger history. Solid and simple, from the quality of the meat, to the preparation, (rare) they were first rate. The farmhouse cheddar takes it up a notch without going overboard. Pete went for the trifecta and added bacon. We haven't done an exhaustive study so it wouldn't be honest to use the word "best." But they sure are in the running. If you are doing your own New York burger survey a good benchmark would be Back Forty's. 

The bar.   

Relaxed and friendly, the place has a comfortable feel, like a well worn pair of jeans.

The cocktails we stayed for.

Nathaniel the right man for the job.

   Nathaniel would definitely get the Bar Eaters seal of approval, if we had one. (Maybe we should...) He's an excellent mixologist, a scholar (we assume) and a gentleman. His laid back style fits right in with the vibe of the place. We felt right at home.

Pete and I during cocktail trials. Photo by Nathaniel

   In keeping with the survey theme of the evening we sampled a variety of Back Forty's special offerings. Patti makes fun of me for trying the "froofy" signature drinks bars put out. (Believe me dear, these were not "froofy.")  All are made in an authentic way with fresh ingredients. Round one, we both had  The Back Forty, very tasty, sweet but not over the top. Round two, I tried the Loisaida Sling, (Cachaca Ginger, Beer & Chipotle) and Pete went for the Parisian Pal (Rye, Dubonnet, Compari & Bitters), both thumbs up. I wrapped it up with a couple of sidecars. I believe Pete was on to the straight George Dickel by then, (in a properly chilled glass, no ice, of course).

Ya, we'll be back.

Back Forty on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pure Food & Wine - The Synonymy of Fresh

The Synonymy of Fresh

crisp, raw, natural, unprocessed, newmodern, original, novel, innovative, unusual, 
unconventional, offbeat, unorthodox, radicalrevolutionary...


   Having wrapped up our juice cleanse, Patti and I were looking to ease back in to solid food with something healthy. While there is a lot of innovation going on in vegetarian cuisine these days, it is still a relatively small field. So where can discriminating bar eaters go to find food that is fresh and exciting? At the top of the natural food pyramid here in New York is Pure Food & Wine. Originally the (2004) creation of notorious chef Matthew Kenny and then girlfriend, chef Sarma Melngailis (sordid details); it still purveys some of the most inspired food to be found on any menu, in the city. Alone, Samara seems to have accomplished what Matthew never could, to keep a good thing going. 

First Plate

   We began with spinach and nasturtiums stuffed with polenta and garnished with droplets of wasabi, (a special not on the menu). Wow, what a re-entry! Not to forget the, olives cured in fennel and orange. We followed up with the zucchini and heirloom tomato lasagna and the sweet corn and cashew tamales. The lasagna, a signature dish was delicious, but the tamales were our favorites. 

 The Bar

   So that's how the fast was broken. But what did we drink? We were sorely tempted to toast our successful cleanse with a Master Cleanse Tini, but went with the, Saint Clair sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, (organic of course), because first night back, it was all about light and crisp.  

The sangria looked great, something to remember for the summer.

           (a bit blurry)

   A word about Victor, our bartender for the evening. A genuine guy and pleasure to meet, he knows what he is doing and he keeps it real. So often its the added dimension of a good bartender, natural, unaffected, in tune to their surroundings that ties the whole experience together. We look forward to running into Victor again.

The knock on this place is that the portions are small and the prices high. It is undeniably, on the expensive side but we never balk when quality is exceptional. In our view, it is the mediocre that's a waste of money, at any price point. As for the portions they seemed ample to us. We even had left overs.

Chef / Owner Sarma Melngailis blogs about everything at One Lucky Duck.

Pure Food and Wine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Intermission - Blue Print Cleanse

Time for a break... 

   From time to time it is wise for even the most ardent of bar eaters to pause and regain balance. This week is that time for us. I am not a subscriber to the belief that we humans are inherently "unclean" and therefore, in constant need of "cleansing." However, perhaps because I'm a Libra, the idea of rebalancing makes some sense. Blue Print Cleanse seems to be based on the alkaline diet theory. No matter what, eating (or in this case drinking), extremely fresh and simple food is a good idea after a run of lavish consumption. Just a week without alcohol and fat, at a thousand calories a day, is bound to lighten your load. 

   The folks at Blue Print Cleanse have it all worked out. You get six numbered bottles for each day of your cleanse, delivered fresh and packed in ice. A couple of days in,  I can report, all are palatable, even tasty. The green juice (1, 3 and 5), is the core of the diet, and tastes as the name implies. Concoctions 2 and 3 are quite refreshing. And 6, is reasonably rich and satisfying, so hitting the sack is no problem. We are far from suffering. The system is a smartly worked out even, dare I say, pleasant approach to "cleansing."

The Finish Line

(Maybe, reusable glass bottles for we locals.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bar Veloce - Is a Wine Bar, a Bar?

Is a Wine Bar, a Bar?

Bar Veloce

Is a wine bar, a bar?

   We were a bit underwhelmed by Bar Veloce. I have to admit it was the second time we've been there and I don't remember the first, (Patti does). It wasn't terrible by any means. But I have to ask, does this bar achieve what it wants to be? To read owner Frederick Twomey's interview in Aol Business, you might expect, "a communal table, that's warm, convivial, sleek, modern, inviting..."  All attributes which Bar Eaters strongly supports. Unfortunately, Veloce falls short on most of those accounts.

  The space itself looks slick but is actually a bit awkward. We were fortunate, to arrive as two were leaving an otherwise full house. The bartender, wine steward was competent but un-engaging.

   With Tre Biccheiri still fresh in our memories it was difficult to be impressed by any wine list. To their credit, all the wines are relatively affordable. Perhaps that's the key to Veloce's strategy.  We had the proseco, Ca Furlan, billed as dry and crisp we found it on the sweet side. The small plates were not bad, but not special. Even if their purpose is only to support the wine it would have been nice if they could have made more of a statement.

Is a wine bar, a bar?

It can be. It depends on the vibe more than anything else. 
Bar Veloce? Not so much. 

Bar Veloce on Urbanspoon