Last Friday I ventured all the way uptown to 83rd and First (from 20th and Fifth downtown… woe is me) for a restaurant opening that a coworker couldn’t make, and soon after arriving, I found out the event had actually happened a week prior (again… woe is me).
I began mentally running through all the reasons why this day had been one of the worst ever, after braving the claustrophobic depths of the delayed and crowded 6 train and the overstuffed and exceptionally smelly M86 bus (all due to a water main break and cancellation of the N and Q lines between my office and practically everywhere I needed to go), until I decided to sit down anyway (I had come that far after all), and sample what the new restaurant, The Pitch and Fork, a "new American gastropub," had to offer.
My boyfriend, who also made the journey, rattled off an order for Devils on Horseback (a favorite), as we ventured to take a look at the menu. The first page on the wooden clipboard showed a list of cocktails, and automatically I was intrigued. A cocktail list is usually something I dread, as the drinks are often way too sweet and way too caloric, but this one was unique. After racking my brain and polishing off the Devils on Horseback, which I may add, may be some of the best I have had in New York City, I decided on a cocktail called the Blackberry Collins, and I couldn’t have made a better choice. Fresh blackberries, bourbon, simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice were all that filled the flat, circular whiskey glass, along with a few large square ice cubes and a stirring straw. A cocktail I actually like? I think I may be hooked… We then placed an order for another appetizer, their cured meat and cheese plate, and an entrée dish each; for me, the roasted beet salad with fennel and goat cheese (a special), and for him, the veal tortellini. Fingers crossed we would be happy. It was then that I started to take in the surroundings.
The place was loud, yes, but just because of the crowd and conversation. The music was held at a reasonable level for talking, and the lights were lit very low, keeping the feel cozy, unassuming, and quaint. The décor, a bit The Wren meets Freeman’s, was made up of a few old prints, the head of a stag, seemingly aged wallpaper, and lots of little tables. As the place is too new to have regulars, the mishmash of people made it feel homey, and quintessentially New York.
When the meat and cheese plate arrived, I continued my spiral into evening bliss, with Camembert, Chevrot, soppressata, guanchiale, prosciutto, fig marmalade, and crispy bread. We were then sent a variety of tastes from the chef, in what I assume was a pity-filled gesture for our mistake of missing the opening, and most likely on the hunch that I was a food writer and in need of edible pampering. Our complimentary tastes included tiny espresso cups of potato leek soup with bacon, a not-too-heavy yet smooth and creamy soup perfect for the season; small spoons of tuna tartare with shredded vegetables, toasted breadcrumbs, coriander, and spicy mayo, an alluring mix of cool and spicy with a variety of textures; and a bowl of the only item I failed to be impressed by, the Gruyère croquettes, where the smell of truffle oil lured you in, but the whole package failed to deliver the bang you were looking for (they were lacking the necessary crunch promised on the menu).
When our main dishes arrived we were again in a state of awe. The flavors on my roasted beet salad were bold, complementary, and full of life, and though the fennel added the perfect complement, I may have added just a touch more. The veal tortellini packed in some serious flavor, served with a creamy sauce that didn't bog the dish down, as well as baby spinach, roasted tomato, bacon, and Brie, which made the flavor of the veal pop and added a wintery sultry balance to the meal.
About stuffed and ready to roll out of the restaurant, there was one more item that caught my eye and I couldn’t depart without trying it: caramel and bacon donuts, with a secret ingredient (which we had to guess upon tasting). I let out an exclamation of both awe and heaven as I guessed the secret ingredient, for which I received a high-five and a wink from the table to our right. Pop Rocks. Although the bacon flavor was lost on me, the caramel in the donut wasn’t so overpowering that you wondered why you shoved the morsel in your mouth, and the minute it did hit your tongue, the explosion of snap and crackle took you back to elementary school in the playground, where War Heads and Pop Rocks ruled the candy arena.
Two Blackberry Collins’ and a whole lot of food later, we did indeed roll outside and into a cab, not prepared to make that same trek downtown with our on-the-verge-of-exploding stomachs. And while we drifted away, deep into our food comas, the crackle of a few Pop Rocks left on our tongues, the only thing we could talk about is when we’d be back, and the other half of the menu we had yet to try.