It was Cinco de Mayo and having just arrived in New York we did want to stress on having to meet a reservation time. So based on what we read and heard we decided on the Spotted Pig, which is known as New York’s first Gastro pub. It is owned by April Bloomfield (Chef) and Ken Friedman and located in the Meat Packing District of New York.
As our cab started to enter the area one could hear a real loud crowd much like what one would experience at a stadium. We realized that we were passing the Bier Garden at the Standard Hotel, which is outdoors, and underneath what appears to be a freeway underpass. I could see the taps of the outdoor bar with hundreds of people around surprisingly celebrating Cinco de Mayo. More and more wasted twenty something’s roaming the streets with their sombreros and serapes. It always cracks me up to see people in the early stages of getting buzzed with lots of smiling faces.
With one turn our cab took us into a quiet and quaint little neighborhood away from the raucousness and there we spotted a spotted pig hanging over a door of a quaint tavern. And that’s what the Spotted Pig really is a quaint candlelit tavern in a building that dates back to 1836.
As we enter we were lucky to score the last table. The tables are tiny with small stools to sit on. The windows are filled with plants in old food tin cans.
It has charmingly rich colored cluttered walls filled with anything and everything that has to do with pigs. On one of the walls is a chalkboard with all the scribbled specials.
Its a simple place that you truly feel at home. There is no pretentiousness or attitude so one can truly enjoy a meal.
As we strained to read the menu against the candle on the table we were surprised to find simple dishes with some amazing ingredients.
We placed our order and shortly thereafter our small table was filled with the following dishes:
Grilled Octopus with Fennel & Pickled Onion
Thick cuts of octopus perfectly grilled and topped with the nice sweet crunch of sweet shaved fennel and followed by the always welcomed vinegary flavored pickled onion that helps to open up all the other flavors of a dish.
Sheep’s Ricotta Gnudi with Brown Butter & Sage
Gnudi is like gnocchi the Italian boiled potato dough. This turned out to be their most popular dish and it was no surprise. The sheep’s ricotta provides a deep rich flavor in a surprisingly light and airy package. Topped with brown butter and sage takes one over the top.
Soft Boiled Araucana Egg with Sardine and Ramp Soldiers
Now this dish I had to have. When I was younger we raised chickens. And being a suburban chicken farmer (6 chickens in all) one always did research on other chickens. The thought of getting colored eggs from a chicken always fascinated me. Unfortunately you had to order at least 36 chicks. So my dream was never realized. Now in front of me stood a softly poached Araurana egg surrounded by delicately toasted small slices of bread and a mixture of sardines and ramps. I delicately tapped the top of the egg to crack the shell and carefully removed the shell to see the glorious bright and rich yolk of the egg. I took a piece of the toasted bread and spread some of the sardine mixture and then dipped it in the egg yolk. It was spectacular. There is something great about dipping bread into egg yolks.
Now this time of year in New York ramps can be found on many menus in New York. Ramps are like green onions or scallions that grow wild on the east coast. Their flavor is like an onion. And champ is an Irish dish that is basically mashed potatoes. In this case milk or cream is warmed up and ramps are added with butter. The mixture is then poured over boiled potatoes and then mashed. More butter is then added. It is just the best comfort food.
To drink we had Spotted Pig Bitter which is a cask beer and defined as followed on the Spotted Pig’s website:
Cask-conditioned ale is the traditional beer of Britain. It is unfiltered and undergoes a secondary fermentation in the cask. When that fermentation is finished, the beer is left with a very light natural carbonation and a subtle depth of flavor. The yeasts, its job finished, drops to the bottom of the cask and leaves the beer clear. It is pulled up to the bar by a hand pump, just as it is in England’s Pubs. Cask ales are best enjoyed at a gently chilled cellar temperature. We hope you enjoy this handmade artisanal beer, brewed from the finest malt and hops.
The beer is smooth and mellow, which is great since it did not over power any of our selected dishes.
As our cab took us back through the craziness of the Meat Packing District the early buzzed happiness of the youth had now turned to serious contemplated looks of what had taken place that night. New York the city of millions of stories. As we drove off I kept on thinking on how I wished we had a place like this in Los Angeles. This would be a place I’d happily go to on a weekly basis. The dishes and the ambiance put us at ease and provided the stage for great simple food memories. I love a place that makes you feel at home. This will definitely be a place we’ll have to stop at each time we visit New York.