Upon leaving the Jacob K. Javits Center after the Fancy Food Show on Tuesday afternoon, my friend Giorgio Klinar (owner of Sotto Zero Gelateria in North Arlington, NJ) & I started walking east on West 35th Street toward 8th Avenue. To be honest, we really did not know where we were heading. The only thing we knew was that we were starving. Giorgio’s girlfriend, Carolyn, who works in the City, was getting out of work so we decided to meet up downtown for a bite to eat. So Giorgio and I started a 21 block trek south toward the Village. I should mention that we were both carrying two bags each loaded with brochures and samples from the show.
We made great timing. It took us only about a half hour to reach 14th Street whereupon we came across a neighborhood watering hole called the Art Bar. It being about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, we decided to enjoy a couple of ice cold Brooklyn Brewery’s Brooklyn Summer Ales while waiting for Carolyn. After walking throughout the entire Javits Center and then walking 21 blocks to our current destination, those beers were a sight for sore eyes. The Brooklyn Summer Ale was a refreshingly light beer. Giorgio said he tasted hints of pomegranate. To me it tasted like the pinnacle of the summer bounty. So it definitely had a flavor reminiscent of summer fruit. Once Carolyn arrived, we decided to head to the Spotted Pig in the Village for our supper. I have heard a lot of good things about the Spotted Pig, so I was extremely eager to check it out. The Spotted Pig is a gastro-pub serving up seasonal British grub with an Italian twist here and there (I’ve heard Mario Batali has a piece of the action). The chef and one of the owners is April Bloomfield. Chef Bloomfield grew up in the English city of Birmingham, the most populous British city outside London. She cooked at London’s legendary River Café before coming to America and opening the Spotted Pig.
We settled our tab and continued our journey south on 8th Avenue toward West 11th Street where we made a right. The Spotted Pig is located at 314 West 11th Street at Greenwich Street. The Spotted Pig is housed in a nondescript red brick building with tall windows that look out onto both streets. There are no signs or awnings or flashing lights that announce that this is the Spotted Pig. There is a very small menu in one of the windows that states this is indeed the Spotted Pig. The other sign that you are at the Spotted Pig is a miniature replica of a spotted pig with a necktie hanging from the corner of the building. Upon entering, you walk smack into the host stand. We were lucky enough to get a table of three in a matter of seconds. The bar is located to the left of the door. The scene at the bar was vibrant and festive. The whole place had a neighborhood feel. The staff was courteous and extremely helpful. The restaurant is extremely small. The design of it reminds me of a pub in England (although I’ve never actually set foot in a pub in England). The dinner menus were on a single sheet of card stock. The drink menu was attached to a clip board and had to have been about five pages long. There was also a mirrored specials board on the far wall of the restaurant. We all order drinks. Carolyn had a margarita, Giorgio had a can of Butternuts Beer & Ale‘s Pork Slap Ale and I had the Spotted Big Bitter Cask Beer. My beer was served warmer than I am used to, but I have to be honest, it was good, really good. The server came over to take our dinner order. We started out with the devils on horseback, the roll mops and the prosciutto fritters with tomato sauce. For dinner, Giorgio order the chargrilled hamburger with Roquefort Cheese & shoestring potatoes. Carolyn and I both ordered the milk braised pork with fava beans and dandelion greens. The server addressed all of our questions and concerns. At this point, I could not wait to start sampling food that was being prepared for us.
The first dishes out were the devils on horseback and the roll mops. The devils on horseback are pitted prunes stuffed with mango chutney, wrapped in bacon, sprinkled with chili powdered and broiled to perfection. They were hot spicy, smoky and sweet all rolled up into a little package. All of the ingredients in this dish worked well off of each other. The roll mops consisted of herring wrapped around pickled onions and topped with dollop of creme fraîche and sprinkle of parsley. Drizzled around the around the plate were the pickling juice and olive oil. To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of herring. I’ve seen it in supermarkets, packed into these little glass jars surrounded by some unknown white cream. Scary to say the least. However, these roll mops were a breath of fresh air. They were fresh. The sour of the pickling juice really set off the clean, neutral flavor of the herring and the sweetness of the onion. Giorgio said it reminded him of ceviche. And looking back on the dish, he is right. As we were munching on these appetizers, the prosciutto fritters came out. These fritters were little balls that were fried to perfection. They were stuffed with greens and prosciutto. To be quite honest, there could have been more prosciutto. I do not remember getting any prosciutto flavor in my fritters. They seemed to be overpowered by the greens. The tomato dipping sauce was well done. It was no red sauce joint marinara sauce. It had a tangy, sweetness to it that helped to cut through the bitterness of the greens.
Shortly after our plates were cleared, our main courses arrived. Giorgio’s Roquefort hamburger was cooked to a perfect medium-rare (the way he ordered it). A nice touch was the grill makes on the buttery brioche bun. Also on his plate were shoestring potatoes tangled up with rosemary leaves. I could have eaten a full plate of those shoestring potatoes and would have been happy. They were extremely thin and nice and crispy. The burger itself was a thing of beauty. Saltiness and creaminess of the Roquefort cheese paired up well with the juicy burger. Like I said before both Carolyn and I order the milk braised pork with fava beans and dandelion greens. I am a pork lover, through and through, but this dish just transported me to a different realm of being. Being that the pork is cooked in milk, the milk actually curdles and curds are produced. This dish is heaven for me because of my two loves, pork and cheese. The pork was fork tender. There was no need for a knife. The bitterness of the dandelion greens contrasted well with the milk jus. And the fava beans were bright and fresh, and their flavor really helped to get the tastes buds working. When the server came over to check on us, we had already devoured our meals. We passed on dessert at the Spotted Pig this time because we were on a mission in the name of gelato. We were headed to Bleecker Street to sample gelato from three gelaterie.
To be continued…
Living to eat,