I’ve been away on a small jaunt that took me to New York, London and High Easter, which is a village in rural Essex, outside Chelmsford. It wasn’t a foodie tour per se, but of course a man’s got to eat, and eat I did.
In New York, naturally enough, I found myself questioning that name “the big apple.” I kept looking at maps of Manhattan and thinking it looked more like “the big buffet,” with Central Park as a salad bar right in the middle. Or perhaps it was “the big open sandwich” such as this one below that I had at Au Pain Quotidian in SoHo.
Actually it called itself a “tartine” with “Rustic tuna, hummus & white Bean with tomatoes and basil pesto.” I’m glad the tuna was rustic: best to stay away from that urban tuna. It was served on a strange chopping board type thing instead of a plate, the bread was soft and the tuna and beans, of course kept falling off the bread and then off the chopping board thing, but I reckoned I could turn this into a metaphor for the way that so many people come to Manhattan and then fall off the edge and end up in Brooklyn or Hoboken or Jersey City. Maybe this was trying too hard.
Then I thought that perhaps Manhattan should be called “the big tongue,” though that was partly because the most interesting thing I had to eat in New York was a grilled tongue sandwich, at Breslin which is the bar and restaurant attached to the newly hip and fabulous Ace Hotel at Broadway and 39th.
As you see, the tongue came with a bowl of borscht, which was good, but what really made it great was a creamy dressing, which I think was horseradish in sour cream,, though the menu description didn’t specify.
The “chef-partner” April Bloomfield was quoted in New York magazine as saying the restaurant takes philosophical inspiration from Fergus Henderson, of London’s St. John, though these days what restaurant doesn’t? Fairly safe to say however, that Henderson would never serve a three cheese grilled sandwich (good though it was), nor boiled peanuts fried in pork fat (which sounds a good idea but were in fact pretty horrible).
I was able to do some comparing and contrasting a few days later when I got to London and hurried to St John. It’s my favorite restaurant. There’s a clean austerity to the place which I find beguiling; white walls, white table clothes, plain white crockery. And in contrast to this the food is rich, dark, decadent, ancient.
For starters my “companion” and I shared dishes of rabbit offal with chard, and rolled pig spleen with bacon and cornichons. I can absolutely say it was the best pig spleen I’ve ever eaten. That's it below.
Then for the main course we had “roast Middlewhite and braised red cabbage,” which was very good but I think it was the whitest pork I’ve ever eaten. The crackling was spot on, which I think is quite a test for a restaurant.
The Middle White (as it's more usually spelled) is an interesting critter; a 19th century Yorkshire breed, half way in size between a Large White and a Small White, the latter now being extinct, which seems a damn shame. As regular readers will know, pigs have been much on my mind lately, and as you’ll see in the next post, when I got to Essex, I went hog wild.