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Monday, July 11, 2011

Makes Me Smile

The Smile has been on my list for a while, ever since I saw it received 4 empty stars in New York Magazine’s restaurant guide.  The empty stars refer to reasonably priced places, whereas the filled-in stars indicate wallet rapists.  I tend to stick to the empty stars.  Then it just became a matter of finding a group who wanted to go there and a time where the location made sense.  I got my wish on Thursday when I met up with Matt, Karina, and Amy to celebrate Amy’s new job and upcoming move to NYC. 

Matt had been for lunch and knew to order the sugar snap peas for an appetizer.  It was the perfect summer appetizer.  The sugar snap peas were served cold and tossed in olive oil, mint, and flaked sea salt.  They had a crunch like that heard in the Vlasic pickle commercials and the flavor was bright and fresh.  They tasted the way I feel after leaving the spa – rejuvenation in a pea pod.  I plan to make this dish for myself very soon.  We also ordered a cheese plate because I can never resist one of those suckers. 

For their entrée, Karina and Amy both ordered the fish (halibut? Cod?) with pea shoots and mushrooms - light and tasty..  Matt ordered a buttermilk pork chop with a white bean and carrot succotash, also very good.  I ordered the leg of lamb with tzaziki sauce and dill/caper mashed potatoes.  I was a little leery of ordering mashed potatoes on a hot summer night, but I’m so glad I did because these were something special.  The fresh dill seemed to make the potatoes less dense.  Fresh herbs can lighten up anything and make summer eating so much more fun.  I plan to make those potatoes at home, also.

One more thing I plan to re-create was dessert.  Matt and Karina ordered the cherry crumble special.  It was very good and made with incredibly plump cherries, but I’ll leave that one to the pros.  Amy and I shared a dessert that was so beautiful in its simplicity and is bound to be repeated chez moi.  A toasted baguette was filled with a top quality milk chocolate bar and brie cheese and then pressed – not to panini flatness, but just enough for everything inside to get messy and the bread to get crusty.  How did I not think of this before?!  I am a terrible baker, so I scour the internet and magazines for dessert recipes I can actually handle, and this is one of the best.

The Smile was originally a home for New York’s wealthiest and then became a boarding house.  Its dark, rustic interior is romantic but still possesses a low key vibe that makes it suitable for friendly gatherings.  It just seems like the kind of place where poets would hang out 100 years ago.  I imagine there are plenty of stories hidden in those walls, but even if there’s not, there is plenty of good food.

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