Jenny Famewhore

Artisanal Bistro

Posted in New York by Jenny Famewhore on August 29, 2009

I was hung over in three different ways. I had also unrepentantly pre-gamed Gray’s Papaya’s infamous juicy hotdogs with all the fixings except for sweet relish. But even so, nothing stopped me from truly enjoying Artisanal Bistro, my first Chef Terrance Brennan dining experience (Picholine, raved about by my dining companion, is his other restaurant of well-repute). Nothing, except maybe the nausea that kicked in, and moved me to hand over the accompanying wine to others less peaky. Karma will reward me at some later date.

The really awesome thing about Artisanal, other than the amazingly high ceilings that make it seem like I’m eating in a chapel, the booth seats that sink half a foot down like sitting on foam, or the traditional bistro style weaved chairs, is the pre-/post- theater menu they offer for $25/ or $38 with the “sommelier picked wine accompaniment.” Also, it’s only offered really early (6PM) or really late (10PM), but it’s trendier nowadays to be like the Spanish anyway, with their late dinners and robust partying into the twilight. What other country has nationwide siestas, yet still have a currency stronger than the USD?

The menu was as such; I’ve bolded our fab choices (and noted why I ruled out the other options):


Choice of:

SOUPE DU JOUR (Lobster Bisque: too safe of a choice)

MESCLUN OR BEET SALAD (Personally never found any salad to be wildly gratifying)



Choice of:

MOULES FRITES (Trans: Oyster and Fries)


SUMMER VEGETABLE RISOTTO (a simple, do-at-home dish)


Choice of:




cavatelliThe first course was accompanied by a sweet white wine, a Torrontes from Argentina. This was fun to drink. The carbonara proposed in this pasta dish deviated from preconceptions– the consistency was not like the traditional Italian-style carbonara (egg-y, thick, and highly adhesive), but rather a really thin sauce that lightly coated the sheep milk ricotta cavatelli (hand-made pasta—truly artisanal!– rolled slightly on the edges, infused with ricotta cheese.) Small, soft chunks of bacon and cauliflower interspersed with the cavatelli gave it a smoky taste as well as a crunchy textural break. It was a decent dish, but slightly reminiscent of a soupy gourmet Mac and Cheese eaten with only a fork.

skateThe defining part of the meal was the Sautéed Skate Wings: a fillet of skate, browned and slightly crunchy, on a bed of capers, croutons, raisins, and oranges marinating in a pool of fruity sauce (blood orange grenobloise) with a dollop of pureed cauliflower blended with mascarpone cheese on the side. This was accompanied by a Grenache from Spain, a dryer red wine that had a deeply contrasting bitterness to the saccharine tanginess of the main course (stabilizing my blood sugar levels.) The sauce by itself may have been a bit too sweet for my taste, but when I add the cauliflower-mascarpone crème fraîche to it, pile it on top of a delicate piece of skate that I have separated by merely poking at the fillet with a single tine of my fork, and then having it melt together in my mouth in one delicious food orgy, all else becomes irrelevant.

babarhumSo irrelevant that I am almost reluctant to move onto desserts: The crème brûlée, and the Baba Au Rhum accompanied by a sparkling Muscat dessert wine (most likely from Portugal, but unsure) “Le Cirque,” follows the dessert title, and I suspected that it was a nod to the recipe that the restaurant Le Cirque created (after all, they don’t keep it a secret– the recipe is revealed on the bottom of the ramekin once the crème brûlée is eaten away and Terrance Brennan had served as sous chef for Le Cirque), but the waiter also seemed unclear on that point. The waiter did, however, offer an apt evaluation of the Baba Au Rhum, citing it as a “B/B+”

I would return to Artisanal for the Sautéed Skate Wings, and the Crème Brûlée (which is as solid as any crème brûlée goes), for the vast wine collection, for the yet-untried cheese intensive dishes, and naturally, not to overlook the cheeses that are aged next to the dining room, making it as local as it can ever get in a city.

Referenced Locations:

Artisanal Fromagerie and Bistro
2 Park Ave
New York, NY 10016-5675
(212) 725-8585

The new chicken of the sea

Posted in New York by Jenny Famewhore on August 28, 2009

The heartbreaking pain of leaving the glorious metropolis of Tokyo after 300 days of whirlwind excitement for the humble town of New York City (I jest, I love being caressed in your gritty, yet ample bosom, NY, mi amore) is completely assuaged by the excitement of POSITIVE things that the recession has triggered. Mainly two: the skyrocketing generosity of NY’s temples of haute cuisine, and food sales on gourmet meats such as steak and lobster.

Let me get to the latter first. This is a phenomenon discovered in Queens (Manhattan marketplaces are still in denial), where lobsters are $3.99/lb. There’s a catch, there’s always a catch; but this one is rather inconsequential: the biggest they get are 1.5 lbs. Kind of young, really sweet (They call them “chickens.” I don’t know why). The bigger the lobster, and the meat gets tougher anyway. Nom Nom.

Here’s the cutie I got:

And cooked in a manner far less bourgeoise and in the true spirit of the recession, what I’d like to call the poor man’s Lobster Thermidor: Lobster baked in American Cheese. (not a product endorsement, but I prefer Kraft white singles. More natural looking.)

Don’t recoil in disgust unless you’ve tried it. Fo’ serious.