Sunday, January 9, 2011

In our quest to eat as much pork as possible during the holidays, I wanted to find out what the heck was a “wooly pig.”

My answer was waiting at our next train stop – New York City.

The highlight of our trip to NYC, besides seeing old friends, was to dine at a reopened restaurant called Veritas where one of my good friends works as the pastry chef. Jason and I planned to enjoy a lovely meal together in the Flatiron district before we hit the city to meet up with our friends.

However, we weren’t prepared for the mass of tourists arriving at the same time as us. Not to mention, the city’s streets were full of a slushy gray mess and snow piles were more than 5-feet high in some places.

The taxi line outside was a 45-minute wait. Then, we still had to wade through rush-hour traffic.

After a grueling trip of hauling our luggage (2 large suitcases, 2 carry-on bags and 2 laptop bags) up and down the flights of stairs at Penn Station, we took the subway instead and arrived at our Midtown hotel. We barely had enough time to change clothes, freshen up and ride the subway downtown again to make our 7 p.m. reservation – albeit a few minutes late.

Veritas is known for its extensive wine collection with a 75,000 bottle inventory. Some of the wine is amassed from the private cellars of one of the restaurant’s original founders and partner. Veritas, opened in 1999, closed this summer to reformat its menu and hire a new chef. In November, the restaurant reopened with Chef Sam Hazen, formerly of Tao, at the helm and debuted an a la carte menu. Hazen’s background includes such iconic restaurants as La Côte Basque and London’s Michelin three-star Le Gavroche, as well as critically acclaimed Cascabel and The Quilted Giraffe.

The wine menu “book” is impressive with most bottles carrying a hefty price tag of several hundred dollars up to several thousands. As much as I enjoy drinking wine, spending more than $200 on a bottle would be lost on me. During the past month, we had spent enough money on traveling expenses and Christmas gifts. Instead, Jason ordered his usual dry martini up with olives and I had glass of Montenidoli – an Italian white wine.

The restaurant’s menu featured many seasonal winter ingredients such as beets, beans, eggplant, Meyer lemons, potatoes, leeks, sunchokes and mushrooms. Some of the dishes sounded hearty and comforting, but with a modern twist on them.

For our starters, we selected the ‘beef in transition” – a trifecta of beef tartare, peppered sirloin and short ribs.

The second plate was a take on surf and turf with a butter-drenched lobster tail and a roasted veal beef bone with marrow. The richness of the bone marrow was purely decadent but paired well when eaten with the lobster.
Veritas menu: To Start

As any good foodie, I already had researched the menu online and knew we would order the “Maple-Brined Wooly Pig.” The pork was served with charred grape tomatoes and wilted butter lettuce, making it a spin off the popular American BLT. On the side, there was a fried "croquette" of pulled pork that tasted of cardamom and cloves.

Just what the heck is a wooly pig?

Our server told us a wooly pig is a heritage breed raised in Washington. This Hungarian breed is known for producing a marbled, juicy and flavorful meat. We couldn’t agree more once we tasted the pork. A pig that’s cute and delectable!

For my entrée, I had the seared scallops and foie gras served with a schemer of sunchoke puree and roasted earthy cêpe mushrooms. While I enjoyed this dish, I don’t feel like it really needed the rich addition of the foie gras.

For dessert, I knew my friend, Emily, would have some tricks up her sleeves. In addition to the two plates we ordered, she sent out a chocolate hazelnut bar paired with a spicy Aleppo pepper caramel and hazelnut Chantilly crème.

The second dessert contained a classic, comforting combination of apples and cinnamon in her heirloom apple crisp with crème fraiche ice cream. Thirdly, we both fell in love with her particular combination of ginger, lime and caramel in her “Dark and Stormy” sticky toffee pudding cake with ginger-lime ice cream.

As if the desserts weren’t enough, we received a small plate full of petit fours. Thank you!

Emily is a dear friend and I definitely miss her. When I lived in Baltimore, we used to call each other to discuss what we were doing with the seasonal ingredients in our respective pastry kitchens. When I lived in NYC, we worked together at Jean-Georges and had fun exploring the city’s restaurant scene when we could.

January 2010: Emily and me out to eat in NYC
With our bellies full, Jason and I headed out to meet our friends for a late night full of artisanal ales, good laughs and even better stories.

On the following morning, we walked over to the Rockefeller Center so I could get a glimpse of the traditional Christmas tree.

Our friend picked us up several blocks away and we headed to lunch in the East Village at Momofuku. Of course, my favorite noodle shop had a 30-minute lunch-time wait. We walked a few blocks over to its sister restaurant, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, 13th street and 2nd Avenue, where we immediately sat down and ordered. Both restaurants feature the steamed pork buns that I crave every time I’m back in NYC.

Steamed buns with pork belly, pickles and hoisin sauce.
Jason and I shared a bowl of the beef noodle soup that was filled with pieces of beef sirloin, tendon, oxtail, tripe and mushrooms. Sections of Satsuma oranges and purple-veined greens were served alongside that I added to the earthy soup while I ate it.

Jason begrudgingly shared some of his “pork platter” of thinly sliced, smoked Edwards Wigwam Ham from Surry, Va., with us.

We also split one of the daily’s special – a crispy, fried pork belly served on a steamed bun with pickled ginger and smoked aioli.

We definitely indulged in a pork binge that day before we headed back to Turkey.

The city never disappoints me with her abundance of food selections. Next time we return, I’m sure she will have some new culinary surprises waiting to tempt us.

Afiyet Olsun!