When City Grit Culinary Salon first launched, I received countless emails from friends. Being from the South and with a blog so close to the name it just made sense. Somehow though I never made it there until last night. I was invited to join some other local Southerners for a Southern Dinner, and this ended up being our venue. Fitting! Four of the six of us were from Alabama. We sat and chatted about childhood experiences all over the wonderful food – and it was a perfect combination.
Sarah Simmons who started City Grit invites various chefs to come in and prepare their food and, from what I understand, usually adds a bit of a Southern flare to their offerings. The biscuit last night was a bit Southern, but I’d say for the most part, the chefs last night were serving up their usual fare. The venue was quite an intriguing choice as well. By day, the space is a furniture store. The building itself was a Catholic school and is some 200 years old!
To start, we each were treated to a biscuit with a thin slice of ham in the middle, butter on the underside of the ham. I wouldn’t mind waking up to this on a daily basis. Light yet flavorful.
For an appetizer, we had a rye-cured Oregon Chinook salmon. This dish was prepared by Ian Hutchings of Luc. The salmon was so fresh and flavorful and the day’s worth of rye-curing added a little bit of added flavor. This was an unexpected highlight of the meal.
Next we had ravioli, which was prepared by Cathy Whims of Nostrana and Oven & Shaker. The dish was large pillows of ravioli filled with Oregon white shrimp (an abnormally large size of shrimp compared to the smaller standard) with opal basil and chives. She explained this was one of the signature dishes of the restaurant. Some at our long table felt the shrimp was too “fishy” tasting. I’ll agree it did have a more prominent shrimp flavor than just regular shrimp, but it was so different and bold I didn’t really mind.
The next course was the one I almost missed. Devon Chase of Oven & Shaker prepared a chilled porcini soup with soft scrambled eggs and wild mushroom salad. Allergic to mushrooms, this one seemed to not be in the cards for me, which was understandable for a smaller operation like this with them learning about it oh about 20 minutes before dinner was set to commence. However, surprise! Instead of the wild mushrooms in the salad, they served me the same salad with large chunks of bacon. Upgrade! The bacon was great and the flavor of the greens was strong enough to stand up to the not-planned-for bacon. Really appreciative they were so accommodating.
For the main course, Sarah Schafer of Irving St. Kitchen prepared a 9 hour slow cooked TNT with porchetta and maque choux, a fun accompaniment which contained corn, green bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, garlic and celery. I loved the story she told of carrying the 100 pounds of pork with her in from Portland. Apparently her cab driver had a problem with pork being in the cab so she claimed it was actually fish! Devotion to this dish at it’s finest. The pork was a bit on the saltier side, but I liked the way it continued to build for me from the bits in the salad the course prior. The fig was an interesting addition to the mix. In theory it might sound weird, but it really worked well.
For dessert, we were treated to a Pastel Vasco with olive oil gelato, candied hazelnuts, and sugared currants. All of the chefs collaborated on the dish. The cake was only subtly sweet. The gelato was surprisingly creamy – almost closer to ice cream than gelato. Ironically the standout was the sugared currants. Not only were these exquisite to look at but they tasted amazing as well!
There are two more servings of this fabulous line-up this week – tonight and tomorrow. If there are tickets available, I strongly recommend squeezing this one into your schedule. After all, how often do this many great chefs from the other side of the country come to NYC?
City Grit Culinary Salon – 38 Prince Street (at Mott Street)