Friday, October 22, 2010

Maialino, NYC

This is the third Danny Meyer restaurant I've eaten in this year. The first two being Blue Smoke (fabulous BBQ) and The Modern (within the elegant confines of the Museum of Modern Art). Both were wonderful. I have not yet dined at the flagship, Gramercy Tavern, or Eleven Madison Park; I expect those will also live up to the Danny Meyer standard of fine food and top-notch service. But in my humble opinion, Maialino is outstanding. Maybe it was the warm, gracious, never intrusive service, combined with exquisitely prepared dishes. Or maybe it was the fact that I was celebrating my birthday on a once-in-a-lifetime date (10/10/10) surrounded by fabulous friends. Maybe it was the perfect, early autumn night in New York City. Who knows? 

For those of you unfamiliar with the Danny Meyer restaurant empire, Maialino (translation: "little pig") is Danny Meyer's homage to the rustic Italian trattorias he experienced as a youngster in Italy. We purposely arrived a bit early to the restaurant, which is tucked into a corner of the Gramercy Park Hotel (an Ian Schrager property), to enjoy a cocktail at the bar before dinner. Passing by the bread station on the way to our table, I was mesmerized by the beautiful, hearty loaves ready on standby for delivery to tables. A basket brimming with three different breads was sent almost immediately upon seating. It was hard not to taste all of them but I had to save myself for the approaching meal. 

I, of course, had studied the menu on-line in advance (many times) in preparation for the event and had my meal all planned. But I was thrilled when our server announced a special appetizer of fresh porcini mushrooms. It is almost impossible to get fresh porcini outside of Italy, but October is the season for porcini and Maialino had them. Sliced roughly, sauteed lightly, seasoned with just coarse sea salt and lemon, we were transported back for a short while to beautiful Firenze. Those are the beauties in the picture at the top of the post. A delicious Villa Simone Frascati was the perfect accompaniment for the mushrooms.

And just like in Italy, the next course had to be pasta. Maialino makes all their pasta in-house, and it shows. We chose three to share and there was not a strand left when all the plates had been passed. We sampled the perfect al dente Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe (Pecorino and Black Pepper), the silken Pumpkin Ravioli, and the Bombolotti alla Norcia (Sausage & Chard “Al Modo Mio”). All were incredible.

But the highlight of the meal was yet to come. The restaurant's namesake dish was a must. They present the prize to you before finishing it off and then it arrives in all its glory - roast suckling pig served over seasoned potatoes and onions. Juicy, fragrant, with velvet shards of meat, covered with the crispiest pork skin you've ever had. And all of it sitting in juices so luscious we were fighting each other to soak hunks of that glorious bread so not one drop would be lost! Bottles of Fattorio di Sotto Rosso de Montalcino from the hills of Tuscany, earthy and not overly fruity, went down so easily with the pork.  

Needless to say, on a night of lovely excess, we went overboard on Maialino's fantastic desserts: Vin Santo and Biscotti, Olive Oil Cake and Vanilla Bean Mascarpone, and Crostato di Cioccolato (chocolate and almond tart), with espresso and cappuccino all around.

I am not prone to gushing, and I have eaten in some great restaurants (including a Michelin starred venue in Vienna), and this has to be one of my top five all time best dining experiences.  So was it the food or the service or the company? Was it the magic of New York? Was it the auspicious date? Who knows? No need to dwell on unanswerable questions. Whatever it was, it will be very hard to replicate. 

2 Lexington Avenue
New York City

Saturday, October 9, 2010

UPDATED 10/12: Cowboy Cookies

Update: I made these again yesterday and tweaked the recipe slightly. As mentioned in the original post, I was going to swap out the pecans for pistachios, which I did.  But I also added a few sprinkles of coarse sea salt on the top of each cookie before baking. These cookies were good before but now they are WOW!

Somehow (don't ask me how), this recipe is attributed to George and Barbara Bush...but since this is not a political blog, we won't go any further down that road.

I can see why they may have gotten the name "Cowboy Cookies." They are mighty hearty and could come in very handy on those long, lonely trips on the open range (yeah, ok, like I know anything about that being from New Jersey). These are not delicate, genteel cookies. Take a bite - we're talking COOKIE. Oats, chocolate chips (I used Ghiardelli dark chocolate chips), toasted pecans, coconut.  They are made with bread flour which gives them a little more heft, but it's sifted so these are not heavy at all. 

I've made them twice in one week (they were a big hit at my day job) which should give you some idea of how good they are. The second time, I added dried cherries just because I could and I thought they needed something fruity. My husband has requested a batch with pistachios instead of pecans so that's next on deck. 

I got the recipe from a site sponsored by GE Monogram Appliances called All in Good Food. 

If you're the outdoorsy, ride the trails, take a hike type, these would be perfect in your backpack.  If you're the get in my comfy chair and read a good book type, these would be great with a strong cup of coffee.  Either way, you can't miss. Thanks, Barb.

Cowboy Cookies

3/4 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1 1/2 Sticks Butter - Softened
2 Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 Cups Bread Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 Cups Chocolate Chips
1 1/2 Cups Oats
1 Cup Coconut
1 Cup Pecans - Toasted

  1. Cream the butter and sugars together until creamy
  2. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well
  3. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt
  4. Add the flour mixture a little at a time until combined
  5. Add the chocolate chips, oats, coconut and pecans and mix until combined
  6. Scoop and bake at 400 until done - about 11 minutes