Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Maialino" and "Union Square Cafe"

The last two nights in New York City we treated ourselves to two different restaurants, both part of the Union Square Hospitality Group. As many of you, who know us, know we have a very special feeling for not only Danny Meyer, the founder, but for all of those who join him making the word HOSPITALITY have special meaning.

Our evening at "Maialino", Gramercy Park Hotel, 2 Lexington Ave, NYC was EXCEPTIONAL. Nothing about the food, service, hospitality or ambiance was standard. Everyone from the Director of Service to the bussers made our 3 hours of dining OUTSTANDING. If there was a 6 star rating for a restaurant "Maialino", that night, certainly won it, in our book.
We arrived promptly for our 7 PM reservation( make them well in advance) and were seated immediately. The room was busy with a contented hum and fully staffed so that everyone received the proper attention. Our attractive, knowledgeable server, Genesa, greeted us and took our drink order. "Maialino" not only offers wine by the glass and bottle but also a carafe, 1 and 1/2 glasses, and a half glass pour. Since they did not offer Bombay I ordered a glass and a half of Barbera, as did the others. The drinks arrived promptly followed by the Director of Service who apologized for the lack of Bombay and offered to see if another Bar in the hotel had some. Within minutes my "old stand-by" arrived. That's Hospitality!!
Explaining the menu took a couple of minutes as we had many questions and Genesa not only answered all but made suggestions as to house special items. We started our meal with Fig Crostini, thin slices of figs on a creamy cheese spread mounted on crisp toast and drizzled with honey(yummy) and an order of fried beets, crisp on the outside and warm and tender through out, new to us and delicious. For my first course I had Trippa(Tripe) in a perfectly seasoned tomato sauce. I am a Tripe lover and scourer menus for this offering.
Next came a small order of firm and tender Porchini Mushrooms, for the table and also individual helpings of Rissoto covered with white truffels( it wasn't a cheap evening, but worth every cent).
We split several dishes, Carciofini( fried, baby, artichokes) and several pasta's ranging from Carbonara and Malfatti to a large Ravioli filled with a light creamy sauce with spinach and herbs and a poached egg which, of course, spread when the pasta was cut. Paul( I believe) the wine Steward stoped by and give us each a small pour of a excellent, light Gattinaro( 100% Nebbiola). An perfect compliment to the Pasta's and us.
We needed dessert, like a nutritional supplement, but had two, for the three of us, a lovely Chocolate concoction and a Pine Nut Tart.
I know that I have failed to mention some of the people who helped, from the line cooks to the food delivery staff, but everyone and everything just fit together for perfection.

"Union Square Cafe" 21 East 16th St. NYC (212-243-4020) is our personal "home away from home" on the New York restaurant scene. We have been going there since they opened, 25 years ago. The night following "Maialino" they had a hard act to follow. Not only had we been "blown away" but as you can imagine were still stuffed. The cousin and her friend who had been with us at "North" joined us for this final evening and so we were 5 in all.
Bombay is on the premises and as usual that's where I started. I love their mixed bib, red leaf and shaved Gruyere salad and have a hard time ordering anything else, for my salad course. Others had tuna tartare, a tomato and bread soup (wonderful tomato flavor) an apple salad( slices caramelized and crisp greens) and a pasta which seemed reminiscent of German Spaetzele with a wonder butter, cream and Herb sauce.
We shared an excellent dish of small pasta clouds stuffed with mushrooms and possibly a liver paste, terrific. My main course was a grilled juicy red Snapper accompanied by a slaw of shredded carrots, golden raisins and pine nuts, also terrific. Others also had Snapper, Scallops, Swordfish and Venison.
For dessert we shared an order of Brioche French toast and a plate of chocolate goodies the latter compliments of the staff.
As I said "Union Square Cafe" is a standby for us and the only disappointment that evening was that things did not seem to function quite as well as they have in the past. I'm sure part was our euphoria from the night before.

And so the trip East ends. The drive home, 13 hours, from mid-town Manhattan to our front door, went smoothly and I don't need to Blog about "Cracker Barrel" or the "Waffle House".

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