winner, winner chicken (and bubbles) dinner

I was just reading about Sarah Simmons’ new restaurant, Birds and Bubbles, as I received an invite from N to go check it out during her recent trip to NYC in September. The wait to get a prime time seat was a bit on the longer side, so I felt super lucky that my friend from Detroit was so on top of the Manhattan food scene. I went to one of Simmons’ City Grit dinners back in 2012 and had been planning on coming back. This was a good alternative!

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When T and I arrived, they had already been seated and were perusing the fabulous menu. The selection of bubbles to accompany your order is extensive. We had the H. Billiot Fils Brut Rose, which was a raspberry rose that was amazing. The list on their website gives you an idea.

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They started with an order of deviled eggs. I didn’t have any (not a fan) but as I have always heard, the verdict was that they were amazing (especially the flavor added by the sriracha flakes).

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For main course, we ordered several of the winner, winner, chicken dinners – which is a whole chicken, three sides, and a bread basket. They tried to dissuade us from ordering two for our party of six, especially since one was ordering their own dish, but we insisted. Note: their leftovers reheat fabulously, and make a perfect dish to bring to potluck brunch the next day. Just saying…

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The chicken itself was outstanding. Not greasy at all. The breading was not very thick and was slightly crispy, just the way it should be. Being from the South, you could say I am a bit picky when it comes to Southern food, but knowing Simmons’ North Carolina roots and passion for fried chicken, I did not expect anything but the best.

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For sides, the grits were good. The green chiles were a nice addition. I was not a big fan of the vidalia onion soufflé. It was somewhat runny and soggy. It was the only low point out of the dishes on the table. For me, the unexpected winner of the entire meal was the slaw. Slaw, you say? Yes, slaw! I’m not usually a big fan of slaw, usually avoiding it. This slaw though is amazing. Definitely a must have on the menu. The buttermilk biscuits were definitely the star of the bread basket, but I pretty much knew at buttermilk.

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For dessert, I highly recommend the banana pudding. It’s a perfect balance of savory (touch of salt) and sweet. It’s enough for two if you’re looking for a smaller dessert option. So good. We went shortly after the restaurant opened, which is likely why the service was on the slower side. I look forward to going back again to check it out again in the future.

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Much thanks to Ms. N on the reservation!

Birds and Bubbles – 100B Forsyth Street (b/w Grand and Broome Street) – 646.368.9240
Reservations Required

city grit’s tour of the 5 boroughs

When T asked if I wanted to catch one of the two “Tour of the Five Boroughs” dinners City Grit was putting on, it was a quick yes from me. I knew after my first experience for their PDX Comes to NYC dinner that I wanted to come back – it was just a question of when. Last night’s dinner was the second of two dinners to benefit the Tunnel to Towers Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund to help fund the rebuilding of Staten Island (with 50% of profits for both nights going to the cause). Sarah Simmons explained that the menu had been used previously during the year, but that she thought it was appropriate to use again as they were just reoccupying the kitchen post-storm and because it highlighted the various elements of the city.

City Grit

Our starter represented the Bronx and was a spicy sausage fondue served with pretzel roll crostini. When I saw pretzel roll crostini, I knew I was going to love this one. I’m a sucker for pretzel bread and this variation was a great start to the meal. It was a play on the various elements so prominent at baseball games – melted cheese (as in nachos), sausage, pretzels (slight variation from the big, soft form), and beer. The fondue was just a touch spicy. Having just come in from the chilly outside air, it was a nice way to settle into the meal.

Sausage and Beer Fondue - City Grit

Next, we had a spicy curry soup with soba noodles, representing Queens. It was topped with a kale salad and pickled vegetables. The curry soup was more of a nod to a recipe Sarah mentioned she’d learned to make in Africa, but the noodles were a nice nod to areas such as Flushing and to the diversity that one thinks of when thinking of Queens.

Spicy Curry Soup with Soba Noodles - City Grit

Then we were treated to a family style course – pesto lasagna with a shaved fennel salad, representing Staten Island. I’d never had a pesto lasagna –  but really enjoyed this version. It was on the lighter side for a lasagna (a compliement) with a very rich pesto flavor. The pasta was nicely balanced by the shaved fennel salad, which was very fresh and also light.

Pesto Lasagna with a Shaved Fennel Salad - City Grit  

Shaved Fennel Salad - City Grit

For our main course, we had Brooklyn Brewery chocolate stout short ribs with parmesean cream grits and braised collards. This dish was neither subtle or lacking in depth of flavors. The short ribs had a very smoky taste and the chocolate stout flavor was very prominent. The meat itself was fall of the bone tender and was flavorful throughout each bite. The grits were very different from any kind I have had before. I’m still doing a bit of research to try to figure out if it was perhaps a different type as it was slightly granier than any other grits I’ve ever had. They were definitely creamy and were a perfect contrast to the strong, bitter braised collards (so good).

Brooklyn Brewery Chocolate Stout Short Ribs with Parmesean Cheese Grits and Braised Collards - City Grit

Dessert was representative of Manhattan and was appropriately a complex assortment of fancy elements. It was a brown butter financier accompanied by a mango curd and streusel. There was also a thin chocolate bridge, representing the Brooklyn Bridge, topped by a truffle. I liked the presentation on the plate. The chocolate bridge was really a nice note to end on visually, and I liked being able to mix and match the various elements on the plate to try out the various flavor combinations. And the mango curd? I could eat this every day.

Brown Butter Financier with Mango Curd and Streusel - City Grit

It was another perfect night tucked into the cozy 70-seat dining room in an old school house in Nolita. Can’t wait to see what else passes through the doors and into this space in the comming months.

City Grit – 38 Prince Street
Reservations Required –  see website for future events

pdx comes to nyc at city grit culinary salon

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)
Reservations Required