Tag Archives: chef

The Pines

NOTE: THIS JOINT IS NOW CLOSED

Last month when I was at Meatopia I had the pleasure of meeting John Poiarkoff, the genius chef behind the wheels of steel at The Pines in Brooklyn.

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In our inevitable conversation about meat and steak, I discovered that his carnivorous endeavors at the restaurant were not only out of the ordinary and interesting, but exemplified that rare love of beef possessed only by a true connoisseur.

For example, he explained how the blade steak (aka Denver cut, part of the chuck) on the menu was prepared sous vide style. It bathes for several hours in a sealed bag, allowing the tentacle-like marbling to render down, making the steak super tender before it gets seared off in a pan for a nice outer crisp.

He also mentioned that he had some rib eyes in an outdoor walk-in that he converted into a dry-aging room. When he said how long they were in there, 106 days, I nearly lost my shit. I kindly asked him again. “How long did you say?” 106 days!

He went on to say that they would soon be breaking the rack down into portioned cuts and serving them as special menu items. Needless to say, I was all over it. I made sure to follow The Pines on Instagram and to keep my eye out for any news about that steak. Sure enough, just a few weeks later I saw the post announcing that they were going to be serving those rib eyes. The very next day my wife and I headed over.

To my excitement, the menu was chock full of delicious looking meat goodies. We sipped on a pair of nice cocktails while we wrestled with what to order.

On the left is The Pines, a rye drink with douglas fir (burnt/smoked pine needles for a really nice woodsy, aromatic nose) and yuzu; on the right is the Air & Sea, a gin drink with dulse, lemon and violet.

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We ended up going for three entrees instead of the traditional apps, sides and entrees routine. But before our first item came out, John sent over an order of duck rillettes. This is aged duck served terrine style with a pastrami sandwich theme: dill sauce (it tasted like pickles), a cabbage kraut, mustard and crunchy puffed rye grains.

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This inventive dish threw us for a tasty loop, and it set the tone for what was one of the most fun, innovative and delicious meals we’ve had in a long time.

John paired the duck with this really smooth, clean sake:

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Oh and there was this nice little amuse of carrot soup/puree with sage oil. It had a spicy and smoky kick to it.

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Our first entree was pork jowl. If you’ve never had this, it is essentially bacon from the face of a pig. It’s cured, smoked cheek meat. If you know anything about the cheek meat of an animal, you know that it is some of the most tender and sought after bits of goodness you can find. This tasted like really awesome smoked bacon. It was savory yet slightly sweet, and sat on a pumpkin and cabbage pancake that was somewhat reminiscent of corn bread.

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I could very happily eat that shit every morning for breakfast, though I may be tempted to throw a fried egg on top – you know – because breakfast is the perfect time to eat like a savage barbarian. Anyway this dish wasn’t heavy or greasy like you might expect from bacon. The curing and smoking helps in that respect.

Our first steak dish came out next. After hearing about that blade steak, I couldn’t pass it up.

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John mixed the normal blade steak plate up a bit and served it with some roasted broccoli, braised oxtail and cheesy potato puree.

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As you can see, there’s even a bit of shaved horseradish over the top to punch up the salt and tie the meat in with the potato. Really nice.

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This steak is incredibly good. John has taken a lesser known, less desirable and rarely featured cut and showcased it in a way that will have you searching for it in every restaurant. It’s easily 10/10 for flavor. It was so juicy and tender inside. Perfectly cooked, as you can see, and the sear on the outside locked in all that flavor. It was super crispy on the outside without any part of the inside getting cooked beyond medium rare. Just awesome!

John paired this with a unique and unexpected rose, which had some tartness to it. The cool thing about The Pines is that, if you’re interested, you can learn a lot about the food you’re eating and the stuff you’re drinking. John gets to know all the people who provide his source material. The vintner of this wine, for example, or the farmers and ranchers who provide the meat and produce. He gets to know their stories, and he shares it with diners for a more rich, engaging experience. I dig and appreciate that, and it’s exactly what I was talking about on here recently – that I want to see more of it.

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I should probably mention here that The Pines sources all of its beef from Happy Valley Meat Co., which is based out of Central PA. Both John and his sous chef Neel Patil (the creative force behind the duck rillettes dish, featured above) are extremely modest in that they attribute so much credit for the success of their menu to those farmers. While much credit is indeed deserved by the farmers, it is very easy to fuck up good meat if you don’t know what you’re doing. John and Neel clearly deserve as much credit as the farmers, because they knocked the beef dishes out of the park!

So now comes the big boy – the 106-day, dry-aged rib eye. John explained that the process for these is as follows: First it hits a hot grill for a little smoke and sear, and those lovely grill marks. Then it gets a nice warm sous vide bath. Last, it hits a hot pan to lock in all the juices and get a crispy sear. Thrice cooked rib eye! Here’s a shot of John holding our cut before it hits the pan:

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And here it is after the pan, resting, but before serving. Just look at that gorgeous sear!!!

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While we waited for it to be sliced and plated, John rolled out another pairing for us.

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This wine was truly incredible. He poured us a taste from two different bottles: one that was just opened 30 minutes prior, an another that was already opened for two days.

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The difference was astounding. The freshly opened wine was really nice and flavorful, full bodied and robust without being overpowering. It had a nice round, smooth finish. The wine that was opened for two days had all the same characteristics, but the after taste was of dry aged beef or truffled charcuterie. It was incredible! I kept going at it. It was like having a delicious meat snack with each sip, and it reminded me of the awesome Trufa Seca sausage I had with my latest Carnivore Club box. It paired perfectly with the steak.

Anyway then the masterpiece came out:

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It was plated with grilled Japanese mushrooms, bone marrow, potatoes that were pretty much confit style, and this awesome kimchi cabbage that was finished with rendered beef fat:

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This right here is the best steak I’ve ever eaten at a non-steakhouse, and I can tell you it seriously rivals the best steakhouses as well – it may even be better than all of them.

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I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how incredible this thing was, and I don’t know if it can really compare to anything I’ve had at a steakhouse other than the long bone wagyu rib eye at Del Frisco’s. This thing is really in that kind of league. And look at how perfectly executed this thing is:

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It was so tender and flavorful. Every bite was a “wow,” and the cap was fucking INSANE! I’ve never had anything like it before. I was expecting a lot of game and funk with this meat, but it was just the right subtle amount of “blue cheese” flavor. It came out most when I smeared some marrow onto the slices of eye meat. And the fat around the cap was even softer and more delicious than the marrow.

I don’t know how we did it, but we managed to fit dessert into our guts as well. Probably because what we saw on the menu was new and unique. We had to try something.

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We went back and forth between two and ultimately left it in John’s hands. He came out with both; the chocolate cake, and the miso butterscotch pudding.

The chocolate cake was mildly sweet because it was expertly cut by the cashew and sage ice cream. The pomegranate balanced the whole thing with a nice acidic and tart zing.

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The miso butterscotch pudding is definitely something for the more adventurous dessert person. I seemed to focus my attention more on the celery ice cream than the pudding at first, but that pudding was so freaking good. The ice cream was like a palette cleanser, and the pudding was creamy and velvety – almost like a liquified peanut butter in texture – extremely innovative.

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With dessert, we sipped on a trio of amaro selections, as well as a bitter lemon soda digestif that was made in house. Of these, our favorite was the Brovo #1 (center). It had a spicy cinnamon flavor that was easy to drink. And, as is true with the other stuff above, you can learn all about the people who make these spirits as you dine, because John and his staff are happy to share that information with you if you’re interested, like we were.

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Want to hear something really amazing? This is the kitchen:

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So small, yet so powerful. It is run like a well-oiled machine by incredibly skilled mechanics, pumping out what is absolutely some the finest food in NYC.

Please do yourselves a favor and go here. They may even give you a quick tour of the aging room out back if you ask nicely. Take a look at the ducks and steaks aging away! I think those ducks are at two weeks, and the steak is something like 86 days.

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I went back with a crew of food bloggers and instagrammers for a nice meal around the holidays.

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Here’s a photogasm of everything we ate, which included a duo of rib eyes – one aged for 35 days and another aged for over 80 days.

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Molasses gingerbread cookies stuffed with fois gras and pistachios:

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Kale salad with toasted barley:

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Grilled radicchio salad:

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Roasted broccoli with shaved horseradish:

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Fettuccine with mussels and chilies in a Parmesan cream sauce:

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Presentation of beef!!!

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Post slicing:

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Gnawing on the bone is always fun:

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Dessert 1: bread pudding.

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Dessert 2: herbaceous chocolate ganache.

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We even drank some Japanese whisky from a bone marrow slide!

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Chef John even got in on the action. Marrow luges rule!!!

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THE PINES
284 3rd Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11215

KaTom Restaurant Equipment Award for Women

Attention female meat minions:

A friend of mine is helping a huge restaurant supply chain company, KaTom, with their award for restaurant equipment, which will be granted to a deserving woman who is doing something awesome with food. And no, I don’t think it involves anything vulgar, like the age-old urban legend of hot dogs being inserted into various orifices of womens’ nether regions.

Now, you might be thinking that this kind of award would be PERFECT for The Cake Dealer, but I’ve already tried and tried and tried… My wife has no desire to take her incredible baking and creative decorating skills to that professional/career level. She enjoys it as her hobby.

So I have graciously decided to pass this info along to you, my loyal readers. CLICK HERE or on the image below, and check out the video on the top right of the page:

KaTom

American Cut

AMERICAN CUT OVERALL SCORE: 94

After having one of the best meals of my life at Marc Forgione, I had to check this place out when I heard the iron chef was opening a steakhouse. Staying true to his innovative spirit, Chef Forgione excited us in every course with his unique dishes and menu items. Everything – from the cocktail menu at the bar, to the apps, entrees and desserts – has his envelope-pushing signature on it. I love that about his food. See below:

Flavor: 10

I had the NYC cut rib eye, which was a 20oz bone-in cut that was seasoned with pastrami spices (mainly mustard seed and rye seed). It was definitely different and unique. I loved it for the first half of the steak, but on the back end I was kinda just craving a regular steak taste. But the meat was cooked perfectly, it was juicy and tender, and it had great char and crust. Bravo for thinking outside the box on this cut. On a second trip I shared the rib eye for two with a friend and my wife. It was perfectly cooked, and absolutely delicious. I also got to taste a bit of the filet mignon from another friend who ordered it. Very juuicy and tender, with great seasoning.

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new york cut (pastrami spice)
rib eye for two
rib eye for two
filet
filet

 

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 10

The quality is all fantastic from what I could tell; all aged for many weeks. They had several different steaks for two to choose from (rib eye, porterhouse), a standalone strip, a standalone rib eye (the one I had), a filet (plus one on special), a hanger steak, and a wagyu rib eye.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

The sizes here are good: 20oz for the rib eye, 14oz for the strip, 10oz for both the hanger and filet, 42oz for the rib eye for two, and 40oz for the porterhouse. Plating was nice – basic, elegant, but not overly fancy. A word of caution: the rib eye for two has a lot of bone on it – tomahawk style. I could probably take it down by myself, but if you load up on apps and sides, you will be okay with sharing it.

Price: 9

The steaks are very fair in price ($44 for the rib eye), but I thought some of the apps were a little too pricey. For example, the chili lobster was $27 and it was, at best, a half of a 1-pound lobster. I’ve had bigger and better lobsters for $3.99/lb from my local grocery store; it WAS really tasty though, and you are paying for the work that goes into the preparation of this dish. Also the bacon – two thick cut slabs is $16. A bit expensive. Both dishes were yummy though (see below). On the plus side, I had $100 from a contest I won on Tabelog for my restaurant reviews, so I used that toward the bill.

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Bar: 9

The bar is nice here. It’s set back behind the greeting station, but it’s a good set up, and it attracts a lot of people who are out for the night, regardless of whether they are eating at the restaurant. It’s a fun place. They have a great cocktail menu with some really nice, interesting things. My wife tried a fig margarita and an artichoke sour. Both were good in my opinion, but the artichoke cocktail was a little too bitter in the back end of each sip. They mixed a good martini, but the martini could definitely benefit from some better quality olives. With dessert I tried the homemade sambuca: it was nice and potent, with strong hints of vanilla, ginger and coffee.

artichoke sour
artichoke sour
homemade sambuca
homemade sambuca

Specials & Other Meats: 10

Our waitress offered us three specials: a baby greens salad with squash, a 7oz filet with hunter’s sauce (reduced red wine, bacon, mushroom), and a brussels sprouts with pearl onions side dish. We didn’t try any because we were too enticed by the regular menu items. In the “other meats” department they offer a braised short rib; lamb, veal, and pork porterhouses; a clove chicken; and as I said above some wagyu and alternative cuts like hanger. I guess I’ll mention it here – why he fuck not… the steak sauce was nice and tangy, and would go well with any meat. My steak was heavily spiced with the pastrami stuff, so I didn’t use it, but it might be good on something like chicken. I like the cool old-timey apothecary bottle it was presented in too:

steak sauce
steak sauce

Apps Sides & Dessert: 8

We started with three items: bacon, octopus, and steak tartare. The steak tartare was a bit too tangy and vinegary for our liking. It came with a soft-boiled, pickled quail egg that sat at the bottom of the meat. It was served with toasted bread and homemade sweet pickles. Overall it was just too sour and salty for our taste, but we did eat it all.

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tartare

The bacon was delicious. Crispy outside, soft and fatty inside, great flavor. Just a bit pricey as I mentioned before. It was topped with a nice sort of onion marmalade:

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bacon

Here’s a shot of the bone marrow app, which my wife tried on a second visit. Gorgeous and stunning, and really fucking delicious:

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bone marrow

The octopus was excellent. I’ve had better at a local Italian place on Long Island, but that place is hit or miss and I really liked the array of different flavors that came through with each bite here. Olive oil, shaved celery, roasted red peppers, lemon and garlic. It was great, and super soft:

puss o' the oct
puss o’ the oct

On the side we had the sunchoked spinach. it was a nice take on creamed spinach. I love the flavor of sunchoke so I was excited to try this. They put some fontina cheese on top to give it the extra salt and cream, but I thought maybe half or three-quarters of the amount of cheese would have been plenty.

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sunchoked spinach

For dessert we tried the AC car bomb – Guinness ice cream on a bed of chocolate bread pudding and topped with a Jameson caramel. It was delicious, even though we were already stuffed.

AC car bomb
AC car bomb

 

On the second trip we had the crackerjack sundae – fun, but a bit too sweet:

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crackerjack sundae

Seafood Selection: 9

They had a lot to choose from for fish: planked salmon, swordfish, halibut, and a bunch of goodies over on the app side of the menu like shellfish and seafood platters. We tried the chili lobster, which seems to thread its way through both the app and main course sides of the menu. It had a great buttery, spicy flavor in the broth, but the app portion was a bit too small for $27 (as mentioned above, a half of a 1-pound lobster at best).

chili lobster
chili lobster

Service: 10

Everyone was great here. Our waitress Sonja was helpful, informative, friendly, and attentive. So were the bus men and the management. They all dress in nice grey suit vests with ties, and they swoop in like hawks when you finish up with a plate or if you need water or anything. At the start of the meal, they bring over some really nice, warm “everything biscuits” with a vegetable butter. Nice way to start the meat-a-thon. These things are addictive though, so be careful not to spoil your appetite before you even get your apps!

everything biscuits & booze
everything biscuits & booze

At the end of the meal they even had some nice snack sized freebies to munch on while paying the bill (think elevated girls scout cookies):

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free cookies

Ambiance: 10

The art deco decor was nice and warm for a change. The seating is all top notch, club style arm-chairs, and there’s plenty of room at the tables. The bathrooms are fitted with small circular tiles on the floor, marble all over the rest, with big, raised urinals and tall pedestal sinks. Very nice smell for a shitter too, I must say. The cutlery was nice too – take a look (his new knives even have his signature etched into the blade):

THAT's not a knife... THIS is a knife.
THAT’s not a knife… THIS is a knife.

AMERICAN CUT
363 Greenwich St.
New York, NY 10013

Top Chef Premiere Event

My wife was able to score some VIP tickets to the Top Chef Masters Season 5 Premiere Tasting Event.

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With heavy hitters like David Burke and Bryan Voltaggio on the roster for this season’s competition, we were both really psyched to try their food. We were a bit disappointed to learn that Voltaggio would not be in attendance (he just had a baby), but we still had the pleasure of eating some of the best bites of food in the biz.

The way it worked: we were tasting the dishes that were presented in the elimination challenge at the end of the first episode.

I’ll start with what was by far our favorite dish of the evening, which has ended up being the feature of this article. It was masterfully created by Jennifer Jasinski, Executive Chef and Owner of Denver’s Rioja, Bistro Vendome and Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen, and her sous chef Jorel Pierce. Check out the pics below and let your mouth water like a hungry, rabid dog.

Jennifer and Jorel: best of the night!
Jennifer and Jorel:
best of the night!

They prepared an orange and ginger caramelized skirt steak with roasted mushroom-fregola salad and preserved lemon yogurt.

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The citrus really popped when you bit into the meat, giving it a bright contrast to the usual warm and earthy flavors you associate with good skirt steak. The caramelization gave the meat a nice crunchy and savory element, almost like a course sea salt, which contributed great textural dynamics.

I was curious, though, as to how the meat was butchered, because each piece of steak was sliced to a perfect little round circle, which is not normal when you think of skirt steak (usually sliced in strips on the bias). When I had the opportunity to speak to Jennifer and her sous chef Jorel about how the dish was prepared, they explained that several skirt steaks were “meat-glued” into a terrine form and shaped to look like sausages, then the terrines were cooked to a perfect medium rare before slicing into rounds (I think with a sous vide bath). I was blown away. I had seen this terrine technique used before, but never with skirt steak, and never had I seen it executed so perfectly and elegantly.

terrines of skirt steak
terrines of skirt steak
note they are set up to still be sliced on the bias
Jorel plating the slices of skirt steak terrines. Look at those juicy pink medallions!
Jorel plating the slices of skirt steak.
Look at those juicy pink medallions!

After watching the first episode, I realized that she sincerely took the judges criticisms to heart, because their critique was that her original dish was too clunky with large unshapely pieces of steak taking away from the dining experience. So by forming the steaks into terrines and slicing the newly-formed meat into perfect bite-sized rounds (and still cut on the bias), she and Jorel erased that problem completely. I guess that’s what happens when an expert chef has the luxury of using a kitchen and a sous chef. In the first episode she had to cook outdoors with a very basic set of tools, all by her lonesome, so making a terrine or using a sous vide machine was out of the realm of realistic possibilities.

Bravo Jennifer and Jorel, for impressing this carnivore connoisseur with a really amazing dish!

Another highlight of the evening: a Vietnamese style pork dish whipped up by chef Sang Yoon. This was the only other dish that I kept eating more and more of. It was sweet and pungent with the familiar, fresh, herby and spicy flavors commonly associated with Vietnamese cuisine (chili, cilantro, fish sauce, etc). Plus it was nice and juicy as well.

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 And, finally, here’s a little photo dump for all you bastards out there who want to see more:

fish and thinly sliced rare beef
fish and thinly sliced rare beef
Chef Sang Yoon and sme judges
Chef Sang Yoon and some judges
Gale Simmons
Gale Simmons
James Oseland
James Oseland
Curtis Stone
Curtis Stone
The Cake Dealer and David Burke
The Cake Dealer (my lovely wife) and Chef David Burke
spices on a bed of bay leaves
spices on a bed of bay leaves
Sous chef Nick Lama
Sous chef Nick Lama
slicing the pork
slicing the pork
sous chef Vinson Petrillo plating the fish
sous chef Vinson Petrillo plating the fish
a curry-like clam dish
a curry-like clam dish
prepping
prepping
Saluggi's Pizza - grabbed a slice of my favorite pizza in NYC to cap off the evening
Saluggi’s Pizza
I grabbed a slice of my favorite pizza in NYC to cap off the evening

 

Marc Forgione

Iron Chef Marc Forgione’s restaurant in Tribeca is amazing. Recently my wife came upon an article that featured the pig face platter; a dish that comprises a half a pig face and some side items that vary with each week (our week was a taco theme, as is pictured in the article, with a ramp sour cream, jicama salsa, etc.). They don’t offer it every week, and when they DO offer it, it is only on Thursdays. Well, our anniversary fell on a Thursday this year – so it was perfect. With nervous anticipation my wife called several times inquiring about whether pig face would be on the menu. Yesterday morning they gave the definitive “yes.” We were psyched.

Look at this delicious face! The cheek meat was incredibly soft and juicy, and the skin all over was unbelievable; you know the kind… sticky and fatty on one side, crispy and savory on the other. Perfection.

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For our meal we started with a nice octopus salad – really fantastic. Then we had the piggy face. Afterward we shared a massive 40oz french cut cowboy rib eye. Take a look at how amazing it looks (if only you could “see” how amazing it tasted too). I can’t rank Marc Forgione on this website because it’s not a steakhouse, but, if I were going to, this would get a 10 for flavor.

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As you can see in this shot it came with side items (a composed dish, as they say): carrot juice glazed carrot, some roasted potatoes, and roasted bone marrow. The steak itself was topped with a chimichurri sauce and little blobs of cold rosemary butter, which was nice because it didn’t melt into the meat and drench the plate in butter. You could pluck them off and spread it to your liking.

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It was a heavy meal, and would’ve been heavier if we started off with the fois gras instead of the octopus. The waiter, Jason, was helpful in making sure we didn’t have a richness blowout when he suggested we go with the octopus based on the other stuff we were ordering. He was great by the way. So were the cocktails. The service here in general is fantastic (definitely a 10). We even had a personalized “Welcome” / “Happy Anniversary” letter signed by Marc sitting at our table when we were seated, and at the end of the meal we had the pleasure of getting a glimpse of the culinary genius before we left.

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We were also given a nice manager’s discount on the bill!

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I hope Marc and his staff get a chance to see this post and this website. As a Carnivore Connoisseur, I think they would appreciate being mentioned as one of the best steaks in town, even when measured against establishments that ONLY deal in steak.

MARC FORGIONE
134 Reade St.
New York, NY 10013