My first apartment in New York was a very cozy [read: suffocating and small] one bedroom in a fourth floor walk-up a long hike from the subway. Even with a roommate to help with the rent, I didn’t have much in the way of disposable income to spend on lavish dinners. That, however, did not prevent me from taking advantage of all that NY offers in culinary adventures. I made reservations for “restaurant week” lunches every time it rolled around. I can still remember the first time I experienced perfectly seasoned lamb at 11 Madison Park.
During that first year in the city, my dear friend Ben, who was equally poor yet shared my appreciation for food, introduced me to Gramercy Tavern. It didn’t seem possible that one of the best restaurants in the city could have something on their menu to meet my budget constraints. Imagine my delight when Ben explained that the front room or “Tavern” menu was affordable even for us. They didn’t take reservations, and the wait might be long, but we would be able to dine on filet mignon served with sautéed onions and the most creamy potato puree that had ever passed over my lips for a mere $20. Who was this Chef Tom Colicchio and how could I ever thank him?
Since those early days in Manhattan, Gramercy Tavern remains one of my favorite restaurant experiences. I have had the opportunity to eat in the more lush “back room” of the restaurant, but the warm elegance of the front room keeps drawing me back. The Times recently did a review of the restaurant as it underwent a recent change of management and welcomed Chef Michael Anthony. Chef Colicchio is now a reality TV star and running his also amazing Craft family of restaurants.
Danny Meyer, the man behind Blue Smoke and 11 Madison Park to name a few, continues to steward Gramercy Tavern in the right direction. The staff is unpretentious and helpful beyond measure. Even with my new gluten-free food requirements, I am able to enjoy a full range of tastes and flavors. Fellow gluten-free blogger, Allergic Girl is also a fan.
On a recent trip to the front room, I took full advantage of the fresh seasonal menu and indulged in range of dishes and flavors. It proved to be another rendezvous with delectability.
The marinated calamari and carrot salad served with toasted pine nuts and meyer lemon vinaigrette was light and tangy. The calamari was cut to perfection, not a single bite was “extra chewy.”
A simple spinach salad reaches new heights with sunchokes, pecorino and a lemon vinaigrette, according to my friends who ordered this gluten-free selection.
Grilled sea scallops served on braised red cabbage, celery root puree and crispy prosciutto was technically an appetizer, but I ordered it as my entree. The puree highlighted the flavors of the scallops and the combination of textures was a delight for my palate. It took all of my restraint not to “lick the plate.”
While the pastry menu was off limits for me, I am consistently impressed with the Tavern’s cheese menu (I am a fan of cheese after all). I selected a range of cow’s and sheep’s milk cheeses paired with quince paste, a date walnut cake and a creamy honey.
Our server brought me a bowl of their spiced nuts to compensate for the not so gluten-free bread that normally accompanies the cheese plate. When I asked him about the ingredients, he went to the back room and brought out the entire recipe so that I could be sure there were no suspect elements. (Like I said before, incredible service.)
If you are there on a special occasion, they will be more than happy to help you celebrate. I surreptitiously let the waiter know that it was Susan’s birthday, so dessert was adorned with a chocolate greeting. It was a perfect evening of celebration, food and friends.
GRAMERCY TAVERN: 42 East 20th Street New York, NY Phone: 212 477-0777Tweet Pin It
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