Thursday, August 14, 2008


I went to Scott Conant's Scarpetta last night, located on W 14th between 8th and 9th, closer to 9th. It's received a lot of good press in recent weeks, with The Times giving it three stars.

Scarpetta gives the impression of a trendy bar setting juxtaposed against the white-washed brick walls of a old New York warehouse. Rows of exposed filament lightbulbs stand encased within glass boxes hanging from the ceiling. I saw something similar to this style at Macondo as well, and I get the feeling it's a popular look these days.

My bread basket was introduced as having salami in it, so I told the waiter I was vegetarian, and he brought me back a vegetarian version of the bread basket. The breads were decent but did not have the immense flavor or amazing addictive quality that the best breads have. The spreads were interesting, however. A mascarpone-butter was light and enjoyable. An eggplant spread was ok, and a citrus olive oil was fresh-tasting.

For my dishes, I ordered a polenta with a fricasee of truffled mushrooms. The mushrooms were in a light sauce in a separate stainless-steel pot, and the waiter poured some of them poured over the polenta. The polenta itself was creamy and tasty, and the mushrooms were cooked well. Well done for what it was, but ultimately kind of bland.

This was my basic complaint with the famous spaghetti pomodoro as well. It comes in a light basil sauce. In my opinion, the fat spaghetti could have been cooked a touch less. The simple red sauce was so light it didn't have adequate savor. A little red pepper gave it its only bite. Again, decent comfort food, but I kept eating hoping for some greater satisfaction, and I didn't get it. Basically, too bland. Olive oil and pasta is of course not going to taste bad, but it did not wow me.

The service at Scarpetta was professional and courteous, the prices decent but not great, and the room filled with 20-40 yr old yuppies. Overall, like L'Impero before it, a nice place (though much hipper than L'I), but not one which I'm excited about revisiting.

Stars: 3/5

Monday, August 4, 2008

Red Hook Eats: Soccer Fields, Steve's Key Lime Pies, Baked

I went to Red Hook over the weekend and explored some of its famous culinary destinations.

Soccer field vendors:
The ballfields had the famous crowds, and the food was tasty. I had an excellent Chilean cheese empanada -- though how could one really go wrong with deep fried dough and cheese? It did have a delicious very spicy salsa, though. Cheese pupusas were similarly tasty, though the vegetable ones lacking cheese were a little too dry for my taste. Though they're good, they are not worth an hour's wait, though.

Stars: 4/5

Steve's Key Lime Pies

Steve's KLP are located in a quaint corner near the water with catchy kitschy signs and an boat-turned-garden near the entrance to its location. The key lime pie is highly limey and tasty, but the real star is the swingle, which is a 4" pie dipped in chocolate and frozen. Fantastic.

Stars: 5/5 on the strength of the swingle


Baked is a famous bakery that extends its reach over all New York now through various distributors, like Cafe Royale in the W. Village. I tasted a salty caramel-chocolate cake, a peanut butter whoopie pie, and a chocolate chip cookie. The frosting on the cake and whoopie pie were too hard, something later explained by a server who told us that the cakes had come out of the refrigerator not much earlier. This is not really a good excuse, but it's something of an explanation. In any case, I found the frosting too buttery for my taste. On the cake, the cake was too clumped together and not fine-grained enough.

However, the chocolate chip cookie was marvellous. Of the thicker, well-cooked variety, it had a nice toasty outside and a crumbly-to-soft interior. The chocolate was of high quality, and the overall cookie experience was in the "best" league of the city - not surprising since one of my other top choices, Chocolate Bar, used to be co-owned by the owner of Baked. And Chocolate Bar carries many goods from Jacques Torres, who makes my third favorite chocolate chip cookie. So there are links to be found here...

Stars: 4/5 (for the cookie)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Da Andrea

After all the applause Da Andrea gets on CH, I decided to try out this W. Village restaurant. My tri-color salad was kind of bland, and, unforgivably, my penne pasta was seriously undercooked, definitely beyond "al dente" and into "al rigid." The sauce was nothing great either. My servers were nice and the bread decent, but that's about all the good stuff I can say about this place.

Stars: 2/5