Wednesday, January 18, 2012

At 20th Restaurant Week, Good Food Among 300-Plus

From Tocqueville Restaurant, Grilled Stuffed Calamari (w/smoked pepper rullie and citrus-fennel relish) and Carrot Curry Soup (w/coconut milk and grilled eggplant puree). Photos by Michel Ann O'Malley.

Head’s Up: It’s a New Year and we at VEVLYN’S PEN will be looking at food a little differently going forward. Our mission to introduce You – our readers and visitors – to good, whole food will continue. The only change is that the information will be more relevant than ever to your health and well-being. Indeed, it is imperative that we all understand as much as possible about the food we eat. You may recall that Yours Truly joined the Occupy Wall Street movement (http://http://www.nycga.net/; http://www.bit.ly/u9PF45). While I am involved in various OWS initiatives, I am more immersed in food justice. To that end, from henceforth and evermore VEVLYN’S PEN food coverage will reflect the belief that communities everywhere should have the right and tools to grow, sell and consume unsullied food from nearby that was produced in a way that respects the land, animals, people and the planet. We hope that our food coverage will inspire You to eat and buy good food. In other words, food that is as local, organic, sustainable and family-scale as possible. All in the cause of optimal health and well-being.

WHERE to eat when there are more than 300 restaurants to choose from? Welcome to the dining dilemma that is the 20th anniversary edition of Restaurant Week aka NYC Restaurant Week Winter 2012.

A sound approach is to go with good food, meaning food that is good to you and good for you, because it was raised right. Beacon Restaurant & Bar sets out a good table. What do we have here, Pumpkin Apple Soup (w/spiced spun sugar) to start. From there Venison Paillard(w/red currant & black pepper vinaigrette) is waiting. A possible closer is Chocolate Mince Meat Tart (w/apple jack hard sauce & chocolate covered bacon).

Not at all a bad deal for a three-course, $24.07 lunch or $35 dinner, which continues to be the going rate for Restaurant Week meals.

One avenue to finding other good-food restaurants is by cross-referencing the Restaurant Week list with the Eat Well Guide (http://www.eatwellguide.org/). The guide is a free online directory that lists sources of fresh, locally grown and sustainably produced food in the United States and Canada. At the Restaurant Week site (http://www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek/), click on the neighborhood tab to get a list of restaurants.

The interior of Fishtail by David Burke. Much of the catch served at the restaurant is captured by fishermen working on the restaurant's very own fishing boat. Photo courtesy of Fishtail by David Burke.

From the list choose a restaurant at random. Next, type the zip code of the restaurant into the appropriate box on the Eat Well Guide Advanced Search tab; indicate what mile radius you wish the search to include i.e., 1, 5, 10, 20 and so on. Finally, select the desired production methods: Grass fed, Biodynamic, Organic, Non-certified organic, Pasture raised, No antibiotic use and Pesticide free.

Hover the cursor on the production method and a box appears that explains the definition of the method. Pasture raised, for instance, means the “animal was raised on pasture, rather than being fattened on grain in a feedlot or barn.” (A great source of food production terms is the Sustainable Dictionary, http://www.sustainabletable.org/intro/dictionary/).

Using the aforementioned variables served as good bait for nabbing Fishtail by David Burke. Among the offerings are Cracker Crabcake (w/tomato marmalade & cumin-citrus and Tropical Fruit Sundae (w/guava sorbet, passion fruit & pineapple). For dinner instead of seafood an intelligent choice is possibly Smart Chicken (w/polenta, spaghetti squash, baby apple).

At Toqueville Restaurant just about every dish comes with a wine – mostly French, bien sur – suggestion. What a clever bit of marketing since the Restaurant Week deal excludes Saturdays, tax, gratuity and beverages. Tocqueville recommends the 2009 Côtes du Rhone Belleruche M. Chapoutier (Rhone, France) with the Carrot Curry Soup (w/coconut milk and grilled eggplant puree). The best mate for the Herb Tagliatelle (w/rainbow swiss chard, toasted pine nuts and lemon parmesan foam) is the 2008 Cabernet Franc Francois Cartier (Loire, France).

The Wood Oven Roasted Salmon with horseradish & watercress, left, and Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Souffle, above, are on the Restaurant Week menu at Beacon Restaurant & Bar. Photos courtesy of Beacon Restaurant & Bar.

If there is room left for dessert, the 2008 Ice Wine Schmitt Sohne (Rheinhessen, Germany) stands ready to accompany the Hazelnut Mille-Feuille (w/cappuccino ice cream) ... Sounds good, no?

Officially, Restaurant Week runs for 20 days, through 10 Feb. But tradition will likely hold and it will be extended. Stay tuned.

Learn more about NYC Restaurant Week Winter 2012, including reservation information, at (http://www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek/.

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