Mon 27 Oct 2008
When planning our trip to New York recently, Mike and I had one restaurant we absolutely wanted to hit: The Spotted Pig. This cozy gastropub is owned by British chef April Bloomfield and colleagues, serving up seasonal British and Italian food.
You may recognize Chef Bloomfield from a guest judge stint on the finale of Top Chef Season 4 (hint: she’s the lady in this photo montage). Featured on pretty much a gazillion foodie shows, her insanely popular spot might be the only Michelin starred restaurant that doesn’t require a small bank loan for a meal. The bad news? It doesn’t take reservations. The wait for a table on Friday or Saturday nights is known to be epic. To save time (and maybe a little money), we opted to skip right ahead to Sunday brunch, making The Spotted Pig an exclamation point at the end of our foodie Tour de Gout in New York.
Even if you don’t have the exact address of The Spotted Pig handy, you can spot it on a Sunday morning by two distinct signs: a lush container garden and a hanging pig over the front door. If you arrive much later than the restaurant’s 11 am Sunday opening, you can also spot it by the crowd waiting outside for a table.
The interior of this gastro pub is clearly designed to evoke neighborhood country pubs. With wood paneling, sparingly utilized stained glass windows and embroidered stools, they do the job nicely without veering into cliche territory. The pressed-tin ceilings and exposed brick add to the coziness, giving me one more reason to daydream about living in the West Village so I can become a bar regular here on slushy winter nights.
But this wasn’t a slushy winter night; it was a crisp, sunny fall morning and we were ready for brunch. Let’s get to the food.
We kicked off our order with some brunchy cocktails, including a deliciously spicy Bloody Mary. The cocktail was mixed with just the right amount of freshly grated horseradish and arrived topped with home-pickled vegetables, including a cherry pepper, garlic and a green bean. Mike, who is a fan of all things spicy and pickled, was in cocktail heaven.
Our first course was an order of deviled eggs and pot of pickled vegetables. The deviled eggs were out of this world good and I say this as someone who isn’t really into deviled eggs. The filling was clearly freshly whipped with notes of crunchy sea salt and a slight peppery heat. When I complimented the server she said it was a secret family recipe of the chef’s. The pickle pot featured peppers, cornichons, green beans and beets with a nice vinegary tang that gave the vegetables a refreshing taste.
For his main course, Mike selected braised pork cheeks with lentils topped with two fried eggs, one of the specials of the day. Okay, wow. I wish we had ordered three courses of this. I’d only tasted pork cheek in fried form and Mike had never had it, so we weren’t totally sure what to expect. The pork was succulent and fork-tender without any sign of stringiness. The bed of lentils added depth to the dish and, once broken, the egg yolks mixed well with all the elemnts to help create a dish that delivered a smoky, robust flavor with every bite. It was the very definition of Sunday brunch comfort food.
While Mike went down the savory road, I treated my sweet tooth to an order of ricotta and lemon pancakes. I’ve made ricotta pancakes at home but these were light-years better. Rather than the dense, rich pancakes I expected, Chef Bloomfield’s version were light and sweet with just a touch of crunch on the outside to keep the texture from becoming too monotonous. In lieu of syrup, the pancakes were topped with whipped ricotta that was airy and easily spread with the back of my fork.
We had a wonderful weekend in Manhattan and we were lucky enough to catch up with friends and spot a few celebrities (including Michael Imperioli at The Pink Teacup). We’ll write more about other foodie experiences throughout the week. I’m glad we ended the trip with The Spotted Pig. Less than an hour after finishing the meal we boarded a bus back home feeling happy, full and inspired by Chef Bloomfield’s talent.