Posts Tagged ‘Austria’

You’re a Shining Star, Batard

Every year, for the past five years, I select a Michelin two- or three-star NYC restaurant for my husband and me to celebrate our anniversary. It’s always a surprise to him, and I come off looking magnanimous and benefitting just the same. Having just returned from a California vacation, we needed to trim the expense this time, so I sought out a fine-dining establishment where we could experience high-quality, impressive dishes for maybe half of the cost.

Was this achievable? I was going to find out after securing a reservation at Batard in Tribeca. I had hope in that the restaurant received one Michelin star within its first year of business (opened May 2014). Additionally, Co-owner/Restaurateur Drew Nieporent has quite the resume in his Myriad Restaurant Group, including all the Nobus and Tribeca Grill. Chef and Partner Markus Glocker, of Austria, was most recently in the kitchen at Gordon Ramsay, which earned two Michelin stars during his time there. After doing my homework, I had comfortable expectations of the level of food we were going to consume. It was a different expectation than when we went to Jean Georges and Le Bernardin for example. With three stars, you walk in with one shining on you as the diner, who demands to get the best treatment, one on the server and one on the chef.

The menu at Batard posed some real first-world problems. We had to put a game plan in motion. First, there was the pre-fixe choices of two- ($55), three- ($69) or four-courses ($79)…now you see I’ve accomplished the price-cut challenge. We agreed to both do three courses, but now we had to decide which course..yes, you have a choice! After some algebraic equations, we figured the best combination would be if I ordered an appetizer, first course and entree and he ordered an appetizer and dessert. With this solution, we could share the first course and the dessert. After about 15 minutes – now you see why – we could rest our minds as two different warm, mini rolls were placed on our plates.image

I was torn between the pork belly and quail for an appetizer. When our waitress (is that a sign of a non-3 star?) answered, “No the pork is not crispy,” I was about to say “quail” until she said it was served cold. The pork belly was delectable! I would not have even known what I was eating. It was sliced like a paper-thin prosciutto with the center having a pressed cornbread and bits of blood sausage, happily draped over baby lentils. His OCTOPUS “PASTRAMI” had the appearance of head cheese without the gelatin. It was accompanied by bits of braised ham hock, pommery mustard and new potatoes.image

imageOur shared first course (are you keeping up with the plan?) was the scallops with leak confit, crispy potato strings, in a puddle of red wine sauce. During my first bite I felt both elated and guilty. I have always said my friend Rob Russo made the most tender and delicious scallops at the former Red Hen Bistro in NJ, but in that split second I felt bad to think these could even be a hair better. I absolved myself by believing it was imagejust because this was the more recent one. The “shared” course became 80% me, 20% him.

At a nice pace, and after a little time to process what we had, our entrees came. I was already completely convinced that this food was worth at least two Michelin stars in my book.

BRANDT BEEF SHORT RIB with grilled wagyu beef tongue, lovage polenta, pickled root vegetables. I had tongue only once before and in a Korean bbq style. I was a little nervous about rekindling that feeling of French-kissing a cow, but no; this tasted like a thin grilled steak. The short ribs barely required a knife.image

IMG_2059BRANZINO with roasted cauliflower, buerre noisette, and cannellini beans.

The fourth course rolled in with our shared dessert: DUCK EGG CRÈME BRÛLÉE spiced pineapple, verjus, yogurt sorbet. I’mIMG_2060 an extremely tough critic of desserts. It was good but not exquisite like every other dish. It wouldn’t have been my choice for dessert. I thank Batard for making a decent cup of coffee though…Your one star shines as bright as two!


What’s the Wurst?

When dad’s a chef/owner of a German restaurant, the word “wurst” is heard quite a bit. I couldn’t help but to hear that inner guilty childish giggle every time it was verbalized. It sounded dirty.

Now, where do you even find a wurst or a wienershnitzel (why does the Lorena Bobbitt story always come to mind)? Oops, there goes that giggle again. Well, Germans and Austrians do love their meat – suppress the giggle – but in a time where everyone is carrying a pill bottle of Lipitor or trying to fill up on salad and tofu, there’s hardly a demand for consuming protein- and starch-heavy dishes.

There are those days, however, especially when it’s cold, when you need a little pork fat to warm up your veins. And there is still the older generation of German immigrants who are true to their hometown cuisine. So where to go since dad’s place in New Jersey has been closed for five years? I’ve tried these so-called German restaurants that are nothing more than a tailgate party of hot dogs and beer. Then I found Heidelberg, NYC. This had the wood, the steins, the lederhosen and dirndl, and of course the boots of beer.

Traditional offerings include a Wurst Platter, wiener- and Jaegerschnitzel, rouladen, kassler rippchen and sauerbraten. The king of all the dishes, though, that will make you forget about the bratwurst quickly, is the schweinehaxe (enough for 2). The roasted pork shank with the large bone in center provides you with an array of flavors from the crunchy outer skin to the moist center meat that takes on multiple characteristics depending on which side you approach. When it’s brought to the table, you think, “that’s so much meat.” But it becomes an exploration and a puzzle trying to figure out how this piggy can deliver so much and be so  juicy without any gravy. The next thing you know: nothing but bone..

I don’t mean to worship this swine so much, but you’ll understand when you sink your teeth into it, and you’ll never really stop thinking about the rendezvous with Porky, since you probably won’t meet again until you go back to Heidelberg NYC.

There are so many other German/Austrian dishes worth trying here, so go ahead slap your leather pants, loosen your belt, crash your beer mugs together and wish “Ein Prosit”! If you’re an Irish coffee kind of person, finish with the hot apple strudel and a Rudesheim Coffee.

You’ll be yodeling all the way home.



Goulash Soup


Wurst platter for one


Cucumber salad



Baked camambert with poached pear

Baked camembert with poached pear

The Sinful Sacher Torte

I had long forgotten about that sinful Sacher torte, which is full of chocolate goodness, until the Swiss Miss W. asked my brother, “What would you like me to make for your birthday?” Then came the reminder with his response: “Sacher Torte”.

I recall her making one in my youth, but I was never one for things laden with so much sweetness, so much chocolate, EXCEPT a more recent memory contradicted all of that. On a trip to Austria about five years ago, we were in Vienna, and we found ourselves standing in front of the Hotel “Sacher” I, being ignorant of the history of the Sacher torte (after all, who really cares about intellectual particulars when your taste buds are having a drunken party?) A cartoon bubble popped open above my head: “Sacher? Could this have any connection to the cake I tasted as a child?” The hotel must have seen my bubble and immediately responded with the sign that read: Home of the Original Sacher Torte.

I needed to go into this hotel, and I needed to experience the “ORIGINAL”. Now, history seemed much more interesting when taste-and-tell was involved. One slice was all that was needed to wake up my senses and recall – oh how delectibly sweet and chocolatey smooth. It wasn’t American, hurt-your-teeth white sugar sweet; it was European, glide-across-the palate, delicate yet rich,  kind of sweet. The light spread of Apricot jam in-between the layers was just enough to channel the moisture of the cake itself.