Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dinner with mom on her day

After I sent my mom a little Mother's Day card this morning (she was away at a conference), I got a surprise email saying that she was taking a friend to JFK, and would I like to have dinner in the city!

What an unexpected treat! The rest of our family was up at our place in Rhode Island, so I was excited that mom was actually going to be in town. Now, the question was - where to have dinner?

My mom suggested downtown/Tribeca, and I quickly agreed as it is one of my favorite places I'd like to live in the City. I've been to Bubby's, Upstairs at Bouley, Chanterelle would have been impossible. The Harrison's menu didn't quite jive with me. What about Marc Forgione? I've heard good things about him and his father, a well known restauranteur (An American Place). Plus, I heard that he was a part of the original locavore movement in the city. I love fresh, locally sourced organic foods, so I was excited to try Marc's place (formerly Forge).

We arrived at 6:45pm, and I noted the sign out front with the selection of spring produce that was fresh in house that day: morels, asparagus, chives, and...mole? Hmm. Once checked in, we were quickly directed to the back of the restaurant, near the entrance to the kitchen. Rule #1 - not a good thing if they give you the worst seat in the house. Was it the fact my mom was wearing sneakers? Who knows - there was a couple quite overly dressed, though, in the back corner. Compared with them, we fit right in. After a moment's debating, we were sat up towards the front at a two top. Just perfect!

Once we were seated, our waitress came over and offered us water quickly. She then left us to peruse the menus. We waited. And waited. She appeared back, expressionless, to share the specials. Noticing there were few options on the menu, maybe she'd offer us alternative entree selections. Alas, there were only two specials, both appetizers. My mom was definitely disappointed.

While debating our selections, another waitstaff brought us the most delicious warm brioche, brushed with possibly butter or olive oil and a pinch of fleur de sel. Starving, I immediately jumped in and slathered a bit of the spring onion butter on my piece of bread. The sweetness of the bread, with the savory butter was perfect - the warmth of the bread melting the already soft butter just so. I secretly hoped this was indicative of the rest of our meal!

After a bit too long of time, the waitress finally returned to take our order. We both ordered the spring green salad with shaved asparagus and gougeres, followed by the curry braised lamb, and a "Pink Cadillac," a rhubarb margarita of sorts to drink. Hopefully we made the right decisions. My mom had debated between the lamb - braised, not her favorite, but the acoutrements of peas and carrots sounded delicious - and the veal milanese, served with whipped potatoes and fiddleheads, two sides she didn't care for. I certainly make my meal choices based on what comes with the dish, and I felt that Marc Forgione didn't offer a selection of market fresh combinations, like other "locavore" restaurants do.

Next arrived an amuse from the kitchen - my mom, a salmon or tuna tartare of sorts on cucumber, and me, fresh peas with proscuitto. I was a bit confused as to why my mom got something different than I did. The peas could have been cooked a bit more, but they were fresh and good. The salmon? Didn't look appealing to me.

Soon came our drinks, pink lowballs of a delicious combination of fresh rhubarb, tequila, cointreau, and Grand Marnier, and our salads, bowls of richly colored greens with shaved raw asparagus, adorned with three cheese gougeres. Still very hungry, I dove right in. The gougeres, although not warm, were quite tasty, the cheesiness offering a perfect compliment to the vinaigrette dressing the salad. The greens were fresh from the market - and certainly a wonderful assortment of all kinds. The dressing, however, was a bit overpowering. Too much acid - a vinegar? Certainly heavily dressed. The drinks? Amazing! Overall, not bad.

Soon arrived our main dishes, shanks of lamb braised til fork tender, resting on large castiron dishes. Mine was sizzling hot, and it forced me to wait quite a few minutes for the meat to cool so I could actually taste a piece of it without scorching my mouth - not good - at least my mom's was not has hot! The shanks sat on a carrot puree, adorned with two baby carrots, a "crispy" snap pea or two, with a "curry" sauce to finish. The meat looked delicious to me, while the carrot puree was fresh and...carroty! I was a bit disappointed with my snap peas - they weren't crunchy - and the "curry" sauce wasn't that curry at all. Overall, there were few vegetables, and something seemed off, like I was mislead.

Regardless, the meal did hit the spot for me, the meat cooked just perfectly so it fell right off the bone, and dipped in the sauce on the plate, it was a match made in heaven.

As we were quite full from the meal, we didn't have room for dessert. When presented with the check, our waitress brought us out two little peanut butter truffles. YUM! Taking a bite, I wondered how it would compare to other homemade peanut butter cups, and Magnolia's peanut butter patty. Colder in temperature, a bit crunchy. But quite good. Not sure if it is good as my old favorite dark chocolate peanut butter cup from Long Grove confectioner's, but it was quite good.

Overall, the meal was good. Disappointing in the selection of menu options, sparse vegetable servings, and slow service, but I was impressed with the simple, comforting, and rustically decorated space. A perfect spot for a late afternoon aperitif on the porch, or wine late at night under the candlelit lanterns lighting the room. But for a Mother's Day dinner? There is room for improvement.

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