Happy Birthday! Love, Prune Restaurant

To some people food is just merely for survival.  A means to an end, that allows them to continue doing the things they love to do.  These are the people that can’t wait for science to create meal pills that will make eating as easy as taking vitamins in the morning.  I am not one of those people.  I literally work my 9-5 to be able to seek out fare that makes my endorphins hum like a finely tuned American V-8.

This blog usually focuses on establishments that serve inspiring food at reasonable prices. However, sometimes I am forced to leave my wallet’s comfort zone, on special occasions, in order to experience food that is transcendent.  Food that one usually only gets to see on Netflix Documentaries accompanied by orchestra music and top notch cinematography.  I am talking about that Anthony Bourdain kind of “ish” that makes your mouth water all the way from T.V. land.

My friend Alex and I share a birthday, and since my wife, Kat, and his girl, Steph, recognize our epicurean affliction, we were gifted a birthday meal of our choosing.  Alex and I discussed, debated, pondered, and deliberated over the course of a few days before we came to a conclusion.  I wonder if our ladies knew that this decision potentially could have ended not only our friendship but our corresponding relationships.

This was not an easy task, we live moments away from the greatest food city in the world.  Nevertheless, once we determined where we were going to celebrate our birthday we both knew it was the obvious and inevitable end of our dining dilemma.  Our selection was none other than the award winning, highly acclaimed, Prune Restaurant, located at 54 E 1st St # 1, New York, NY 10003.

You may have seen Chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s intimate neighborhood spot on PBS’s Mind of the Chef recently.  That is right, PBS isn’t just about Puppets, Reading Rainbows, and Happy Trees; they have wonderful food porn too.  In fact, before food was cool, I watched the OG foodies on Public Broadcasting.  I am pretty sure they are solely responsible for my love of all things food, so in reality this blog is PBS’s fault, not mine.  On the real though, support PBS and don’t support any politician that does not!  #YanCanCook #JuliaChilds #TheBudgetGourmet #SeasameStreetForLife

Sorry about that tangent…Now back to your regularly scheduled program!

First thing is first, when you are about to rock a super sweet meal that dreams are made of, one cannot, and should not assume there will be last minute availability at said eatery.  Plan ahead people, this is a special occasion and should be treated as one.  You would not just roll up to a wedding without RSVPin’, and unless you are a baller like Trevor Noah or Noah Syndergaard you are going to have to call ahead.  Luckily for us, Steph was on point and made sure we had a table.

Another thing to keep in mind if you are visiting Prune, is the dining space is well…small.  If I was a real estate agent I would call it quaint, charming, or cozy but I ain’t, so I won’t.  I am not knocking the dining hall either, it is part of Prune’s appeal.  Just know that if you want a table call early and plan accordingly.  We were luckily enough to score the semi-private dining area in the basement which allowed us to stretch our legs out a little bit and take pictures of all our dishes without upsetting the restaurant’s atmosphere.  Rumor has it that Prune’s staff is not a big fan of food photography.  #SorryNotSorry

The last thing to know before we begin the food porn parade is that Prune’s menu is always evolving, morphing, and changing like most highly sought after establishments.  Unless you go twice in one week you will probably never see the same menu and that my friends is a good thing.

Say Cheese!

After being seated we ordered a few cocktails and sat with our menus for a little while, contemplating what epic eats we should order.  We discussed each of our decisions as if this was our last meal on earth and weighed our options before coming up with a plan for the meal that I believe most gastronomic architects would have been proud of.

I Heart Oysters! Wellfleets to be specific.

Oysters have a special place in my heart.  I think it has to do with it seeing the adults, the patriarchs to be exact, eating them when I was younger.  As a child, I thought they were atrocious, but the elders in my tribe seemed to love them.  Enjoying them was a goal that I aspired to achieve when I first began running the cultural marathon that I embarked on when I became a foodie.  For many years now I have enjoyed Oysters and when they are good, there is something spiritual that lights up inside me.  These Oysters were perfectly brackish and decadently delicate.  They were the perfect start to our meal and foreshadowed the enlightened dishes that were to follow.

Everything is better when it is fried!

Since Kat would rather lick a subway hand rail on a Saturday morning than eat an Oyster, she chose to order Fried Green Beans as her appetizer.  The batter these lovely fried beans were coated in was light and crispy.  They had a very Tempuraish texture, and when dipped in the accompanying sauce they were very pleasing.

As Luke Cage would say, “Sweet Christmas!”

The moment we saw the Sweetbreads on the menu, there was not a discussion of whether we getting them, there was only a conversation about how many orders we should procure.  For those of you that are new to the foodie scene, Sweetbreads are pancreas or thymus from either calves or lambs.

I don’t know what the Chef’s at Prune did to these Sweetbreads but they should do it to every Sweetbread on the planet forever until the end of time.  I have had some good Sweets in the past but they all pale in comparison to this dish.  Other offal, including other sweetbreads, which I eaten has a heavy irony taste that is off putting but these tantalizing titbits of terrific were nothing short of amazing.  The combination of the crispy exterior and tender, almost buttery meat, created the perfect bite with each forkful.

The only thing better than butter is Meat Butter!

If you have not had the opportunity to eat the Marrow out of a Bone smeared on crusty bread, the above picture probably does nothing for you.  If you have used marrow like butter and savored the opulent decadence that this dish delivers, you probably feel like a 12 year old again that can’t walk to the Chalkboard.  I care not that this dish raised my cholesterol and perhaps stole a day of my life from me, it can have it.  To be honest, I would have given it two more, so I feel like I got a deal.

There was a fungus among us!

In a futile attempt to feign being healthy we ordered a dish of mushrooms to round out our appetizer course.  I was happy to find that these beautiful fungi were swimming in a delicious sauce thus slightly negating their healthiness and adding to their robust flavor.

With the appetizers merely a memory and another drink ordered we awaited our entrees and discussed politics, world-travel, sports, and physics.  A belly full of awe inspiring food and Prune’s ambience mixed with an adequate amount of social lubricant made us all into philosophers.  While the Chef’s inside the kitchen were toiling away creating our entrees we continued conversing.

I almost Shanked Alex for this Lamb!

I am not going to lie, the photo above was Alex’s choice, and it gave me the biggest base of food envy I have had in quite some time.  Ladies and Gentleman, that right there is a Shank of Lamb.  Not just any Lamb Shank, either.  A fall off the bone, tender, flavorful, lovingly prepared Lamb Shank that I did not order!  However, Alex was kind enough to allow me to sample this supple lamb swimming in a bright and intense gravy.  It only made me hate him more!

Just like Grandma used to make, only different.

Kat went with the Chicken Stew and as the smell of her dish wafted over the table I immediately thought of my Grandmother’s Matzoh Ball soup.  Our olfactory senses are something of a mystery but I know for sure that they tend to be the strongest link for me to happy memories, and the fact that this dish brought me back to my childhood and one of my favorite soups of all times, made it clear that I was going to love this dish.  I was not wrong, because as I tasted this liquid gold I fell in love.

Luckily Steph was not shellfish and allowed to taste this bowl of yummy. See what I did there! #DadJokes

Steph decided on the Seafood Stew and it was not only beautiful but scrumptious as well.  The delicate morsels of seafood were bathed in a tangy broth that combined to create one fantastic bite after another.  I was lucky enough to get a few mouthfuls of this amazing dish as well and it was difficult to decipher which piece of fresh seafood I liked the best.

Here fishy fishy fishy!

Even though the lamb shank that Alex ordered was my favorite dish that was ordered and my jealousy almost consumed me.  I was happy that I ordered the whole fish.  It was expertly prepared and seasoned and left me wondering how other restaurants can mess up such a simple, yet fantastic dish.  The fish itself was flaky and flavorful and the sauce was liquid perfection.  I thoroughly enjoy this style of preparation and was ecstatic to see that Prune does it right.

I would eat a lot more veggies if they all tasted like this!

In another attempt to appear as if we were eating healthy we ordered a side of greens for the table.  Once again the vegetables were smothered in a mouthwatering au jus of awesome sauce and I found myself not being able to stop consuming them.

Normally I am a not a dessert person at restaurants.  Don’t get it twisted I thoroughly enjoy sweets of all makes and models, however, I like them hours after I eat a large savory meal.  With that said, I simply could not pass up two of Prune’s desserts because they were not your typical after meal cakes or pastries.

I love cheese more than most people love their wives.

We ordered an aged cheese that was just south of funky enough to make you question every bite of cheese you have ever eaten.  Plus they paired it with a sweet honey drizzle that cut the funk enough to call it a dessert. We also ordered a salt crusted baked pear that was served with a walnut glaze that was utterly fantastic.  The salty tartness of the pear dancing with the nutty glaze lead to a superb end to out opulent meal.

Prune is the type of restaurants that make a foodie’s dream a reality.  Each dish they prepare is well thought out, artfully plated, and extraordinarily delicious.  There is a reason they were showcased on a television show that celebrates the unadulterated love of food and culinary imagination.  I highly recommend that every foodie that reads this blog starts saving money right now to visit this illustrious eatery.  There are good meals, there are great meals, and then there are meals that are spiritually enlightening. Prune serves the latter with a side of epicurean delight.

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Netflix and Grill

Summer is hurdling at us faster than hipsters flocking to a vintage flannel sale in Williamsburg, which means the time to prepare is nigh.  No longer can you get away with making a Lasagna, a Sunday Sauce, or a Chili for your friends when they visit.  The time for one pot meals is behind us and we are staring directly into the heart of the most epic and somewhat daunting cooking season there is.  That is right people, this is not a drill!  It is time to buy way to much food, invite a shit-ton of people over, drink heavily (But Responsibly…Stupid Lawyers!), light inappropriately large (But Manageable…I H8 Lawyers) fires in your suburban back yards, and grill, damn you, grill, until all of your guests tap out like the late great Kimbo Slice in rear naked choke.

For those of you that saw the title of this post and thought it was going to be about which movies are the best to watch while you Netflix and Chill, I apologize.  For those of you that don’t exactly know what Netflix and Chill means and just clicked the link above to find out, I am looking at you Mom, have no fear, there is no porn here.

This post is about the Top 5 titles on Netflix to Binge Watch prior to the start of summer to get your creative juices flowing and assist you in formulating a plan for each and every backyard get together that is in your future.  There will always be a place on my grill for burgers and dogs, but to supplement those staples, I like to go off-book and the following shows get me “in the mood”, so without further ado let’s Netflix and Grill!

5:  Chef (2014)  

ChefFilm

This feature length film is for everyone that hates documentary style movies and television shows.  I for one can watch a Chef wield a knife, talk about the perfect turnip, and pontificate about the need for 300 varieties of rice for hours on end, but I understand that those types of shows are not for everyone.  This 2014 Dramedy is about a prominent Chef that loses his job and decides to open a food truck to reclaim his culinary passion and spend some quality time with his son.  The cast is a recipe for awesomesauce as Jon Favreau and John Leguizamo add a cup of comedy, Sofia Vergara throws in a bunch of Tablespoons of Sexy, and Emjay Anthony steals the show with more than a pinch of epic acting.  After watching Chef, if you don’t know why you started cooking, hang up your tongs, turn off the gas, and get the fuck away from the grill.

4:  Cooked (2016)

Cooked Netflix

Quite the opposite of my first selection, Cooked is the epitome of Documentaries, but that is exactly why I freaking love it.  This four episode mini-series is based on Michael Pollan’s 2013 book, by the same name, and discusses how varying cooking techniques impacted mankind and transformed the world as we know it.  Each episode is named after one of the four basic elements of nature; Fire, Water, Air, and Earth to further drive home the deep connection between our evolution and the food of our ancestors, predecessors, and ourselves.   After watching the Fire episode, Episode 1, you will want to kick your Grill’s tires, let some fires, and sear something that was recently slaughtered, but if you are anything like me you will have to binge watch the rest of the episodes first.

3:  Good Eats (1999-2012)

Good Eats

The host of this oldie but goodie, Alton Brown, is a combination of Julia Child, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Mr. Rogers, and Pee Wee Herman.  Good Eats, at times maybe funny, satirical, and nostalgic, but it is always informative and educational.  Whenever I am cooking something for the first time I turn to Mr. Brown, because he does not just give you a recipe like all the other Chef’s kicking around your cable box, he explains why and how the given ingredients in that recipe work.  Good Eats doesn’t focus on what you cook, it concentrates on teaching you how to cook, and that is why is the perfect show to watch before manning your meat maker.  As of right now the only episodes that are available on Netflix Streaming is a selection of 25 episodes called the Good Eats Collection, but that should be enough to give you some solid ideas for your future backyard Soirees.

2:  Mind of a Chef (2012-    )       

Mind of a Chef

Thanks to Executive Producer/Culinary Cowboy/Narrator Anthony Bourdain and PBS, Mind of a Chef entered our lives in 2012.  Wait…Wait…Wait… come back, PBS is so much more than Opera and Pledge Drives.  This revolutionary show feels as if the producers gave some of the most innovative Chefs in the world a camera crew, a kitchen, and a Black AMEX and said, “show us why you became a foodie.”  What came from this magnificent concept is a show that truly allows you enter the mindset of Chefs that are changing the very culture of cooking, one dish at a time.  You begin to identify with the Chefs that are showcased as well as see how their influences, hardships, cultural backgrounds, and relationships shaped them into the culinary juggernauts that they are today.  “Enter the Mind Of A Chef.”

1:  Chef’s Table (2015-    )  

  Chef's Table

If inspiration is what you are after, look no further than this gastronomic Netflix Original Series.  Each episode introduces you to one of the world’s most renowned Chefs and invites you into their unique culinary world.   The show includes an in-depth tour of the world’s best restaurants, stunning food porn; detailing the remarkable food these establishments serve, and of course a glimpse into the Chef’s inspiration, passion, and life experiences.  After watching this awe-inspiring documentary one cannot help but be motivated to create food that not only tastes good, but looks as beautiful as any piece of art hanging in the Louvre.  *Warning*  By watching this show, you will add several restaurants to your Dine Before Death list and none of them are inexpensive.

There you have it folks.  The Blue Collar Foodie’s Netflix and Grill list.  Now get to binge watching because a backyard barbecue without creativeness is as enjoyable as drinking a non-alcoholic beer on a Saturday Night while you Netflix and Chill sans partner.