Market restaurants: an addendum

A few things I neglected to say in my previous post:

What’s so great about the pigs-in-a-blanket amuse? I forget if it was Bruni or someone else who wrote recently about how the whole amuse-bouche/welcome-from-the-kitchen thing was getting out of hand, but, while as a Midwesterner and child of poor immigrants, I like a freebie now and then, I don’t really want one any more unless it’s relevant to my meal. Especially if the freebie’s going to drive up menu prices for everything else (more to prep, more to wash — who’s really winning here?). Anyway, nothing about the pig-in-a-blanket that I ate said “market,” much less “local” or “seasonal,” etc. The sauerkraut was a nice touch, but come on — that’s a hot dog in there. It’s wrapped in puff pastry. I could make that at home, and it tastes like something I could make at home.

The gnocchi. The gnocchi were also only okay. Not the best gnocchi I’ve ever had, not even particularly good gnocchi. They were a little on the dense and chewy side. The sauce they were in was flavorful and well seasoned but thin and soupy.

I guess I just can’t believe the LT in BLT is the same Tourondel I’ve always heard and read about. The flavor and ingredient combinations weren’t particularly inspired, new, or even interesting, and the execution was flawed, to say the least.

Blue Hill sets the example for market restaurant, and they do it in a quiet, elegant way. It’s clear that everything is local and seasonal when you look at the menu, and they don’t need to make a list for you to see that. Apparently, at last year’s Taste of New York, Dan Barber stuck some raw cauliflower on the little wood block with metal sticks that he likes to use for amuses, and he got skewered by more than a few people for doing that. Granted, I prefer Barber’s cauliflower in soup or other preparations, but that, more than “cauliflower” etched into the wall and a trowel hung up next to my table, demonstrates true love for local. I run into Barber at the Greenmarket, chuckling to himself as he smells and prods the produce, and that speaks volumes more than any PR bullshit ever could.

I went to Cookshop last night, and it drove home just how wide of the mark(et, har har) BLT is. They resort to a pretty hokey decoration scheme too, what with the harvest bouquets uplit around the perimeter of the room. And my dinner there wasn’t really stellar — the mushroom pot pie was pretty soupy inside and a little parsimoniously filled, it and the steamed broccoli that came alongside could have used some salt, and the chicken wings they brought us by mistake were tasty but nothing special — but Matt’s pork chop was porky, meaty, choppy, and Andrew’s porgy was perfectly grilled. The menu lifted my spirits; it did not make me full of hate. And when I left, I felt sated and content. Maybe they’re just better or less crass about selling the concept, but the food and the experience at Cookshop feel honest, where at BLT Market they did not.

As unhappy as I was about my meal at BLT Market, I really didn’t want to write about it here, but it was driving me batshit crazy seeing all the positive reviews. And to be fair, a cook friend and a food-industry acquaintance both found no fault (but the former knows LT and the crew and was treated thusly, while the latter had only been there for some industry event), and the people next to us, as Steven reminds me, loved the place (but they were BLT regulars we surmised, given how many compliments-of-the-chef items were carted to their table). Ultimately, though, there are many, many places in this city I can go to and leave not feeling angry, and I think I’ll just stick with those.


3 Responses to “Market restaurants: an addendum”

  1. 1 Anthony November 8, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Tell it like it is, Winnie! I too get totally bugged by the kinds of things you complained about in your posts. It’s better to get it off your chest than to hold it in… We hit the beef joint last night, wished you could have joined! Will probably be in NYC a little in Jan & Feb, & hope to see you then. –AW

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