Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Greenmarket to Gotham: Vegetarian Prix Fixe Lunch at Gotham Bar and Grill

It seems like every other new restaurant in this city touts itself as a farm-to-table joint. But Gotham Bar and Grill’s Greenmarket to Gotham program takes this phrase seriously and delivers on it.

Cherry Lane Farms summer squash, zucchini blossom with goat cheese, smoked eggplant, panisse, and sauce vert
Photo courtesy Gotham Bar and Grill

For 12 weeks (June 11 - Labor Day), the restaurant will offer an entirely vegetarian two-course lunch menu. Each week’s menu features produce from a different Union Square Greenmarket farm. Last Monday, June 11, was the kickoff of the program and I, along with several other NYC food bloggers, was invited to attend.

The first week featured early summer produce from New Jersey’s Cherry Lane Farm. Our first course was a green garlic and new potato soup with shaved sunchokes (one of my favorite vegetables), leeks, spring onions, and a parmesan emulsion. The soup was clearly enriched with a good dose of cream; healthy this was not, but the flavors of each element were still bright and crisp. It was paired with a riesling that I really liked - Hobbit Hollow Vineyards Heart and Hands 2010 Dry Riesling (which is usually only available by the bottle and also happens to be somewhat local - the grapes are grown in the Finger Lakes region in upstate NY).

New potato and green garlic soup, leeks, spring onion, and lemon oil
Photo courtesy Gotham Bar and Grill

Our second course (pictured above) was a celebration of summer squash. I’m a big fan of dishes that utilize one ingredient in many ways, and this dish did just that. It was comprised of a half of a tiny yellow zucchini that was scooped out and filled with zucchini and bread crumbs – like a classic stuffed zucchini, strands of raw zucchini tossed with lemon and herbs (sort of like this), fried zucchini chips, and a zucchini blossom stuffed with goat cheese and deep fried. Along for the ride was eggplant, which showed up in a caponata and as a perfectly smoky and silky puree that served as the base of the dish. A little wedge of a panisse was added to the mix, although I didn’t think it offered much, nor did the lone cherry tomato, but the basil-based sauce vert was a welcome addition. I'm not quite sure all the components were necessary, but I enjoyed them - and the dish as a whole - nonetheless.  This was paired with a dry red that I loved - Jacques Puffeney Poulsard "M" Arbois, 2009.  Although not local (it's a French wine from the Jura region), it was a perfect pairing.

Strawberry shortcake: market strawberries, white chocolate ganache, and Thai basil ice cream
Photo courtesy Gotham Bar and Grill

For an additional $7, you can add a dessert (we were treated to this, as well as the previous two courses). Last week’s offering was a wonderful take on strawberry shortcake that was composed of a slightly dense but moist cake, strawberry semifreddo, white chocolate ganache, Thai basil ice cream, what I presumed to be strawberry meringue, and, of course, tristar strawberries. Although I found the ganache to be overly rich and the Thai basil ice cream to be more of an ice milk – I wish the two weren’t such polar opposites – I still really enjoyed this dessert. And it reminded me a whole lot of one that I recently made for a friend’s birthday (recipe forthcoming). 

One final note: I love that their coffee is from Stone St. Roasting Company, which is in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn and one of my favorite local roasters (their coffee is used for the house blend at Court Street Grocers, which is where I buy it). Extra points for supporting a Brooklyn roaster.

$25 for two thoughtful vegetarian courses – or $32 if you add a well-worth-it dessert – is a steal, especially when it’s at a restaurant as esteemed as Gotham Bar and Grill. Furthermore, 5% from each Greenmarket to Gotham lunch ordered will be donated to GrowNYC's Public School initiatives. My visit last week was the first time I had been, but I am certainly going back. The space is gorgeous, the service was impeccable, and the food was wonderful – and all of this for far less than you would pay at similar restaurants across the city.

For more information on Gotham Bar and Grill’s Greenmarket to Gotham program, visit their website and Facebook page.

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