Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Love At First Bite!" Andrew Carmellini's -The Dutch, NYC

Andrew Carmellini's Fried Chicken segment on The Early Show

Shortly after our surprise meeting of Chef Andrew Carmellini during a taping of the Early Show on CBS, we discovered a NY Times article declaring one of his restaurants, The Dutch, #1 on Sam Sifton's (retired food critic) Top 10 New Restaurants of 2011.  The stars seemed to be in alignment on this one, so we hurried down to SoHo, eager to eat at the Restaurant of the Year.  


ANDY: So, there we were, sitting anxiously, waiting for our food to arrive as I see one of the waiters heading towards our table with a little wooden plank in hand. "Is that for us?" I'm wondering as he catches my hopeful eyes and walks right up to our table, setting a mini loaf of JalapeƱo Cornbread at the center. Instant tongue swell. You know what I mean? My dad used to call it "comiendo con los ojos" or "eating with your eyes." I hadn't even tasted it yet, and I was salivating. I quickly grabbed the knife and cut into the loaf releasing a gust of warm steam as it parted. The moment had arrived...the first taste of Andrew Carmellini goodness. Wow...Delicious! Spicy, moist, and smokey, fresh baked cornbread dancing over my senses with a little dab of creamy butter to cool the tongue.  And...it was complimentary. I looked around at the other boys and I can tell the decision was unanimous: love at first bite. What a great start to this new relationship!

Adam pre-slurp!
ADAM: All of Matt's slurping and moaning over those oysters peaked my interest. I've always heard that oysters are an aphrodisiac. But Matt seemed to be experiencing a minor orgasm across the table. Confession: I've never eaten an oyster. I know...get it out now. How dare I call myself a food lover if I've never oystered before? I haven't lived until I've oystered! My reasoning: it hasn't really appealed to me until this moment. It sort of looks like a giant loogie sitting in a shell. I imagined the texture gummy. The flavor muddy. It wasn't until Matt's eyes rolling to the back of his head and the slight smell of the ocean wafting over to my end of the table that I could summon the courage to face a new culinary adventure. I ordered one, Matt's favorite of the bunch. When it arrived, I was thrilled by how luxurious and manageable it all seemed. Two sauce options, a lemon for freshness, sitting there on a bed of crushed ice. I dressed it up with homemade cocktail sauce and the oyster vinaigrette. Matt gave me slurp instructions. 'Tilt the shell enough and it will just fall in.' 'Do I chew?' 'A bit, yeah.' And so down the hatch it went. I remember thinking in the moment: wow, this is thrilling, I'm doing something I've never done before. It was like walking around in a neighborhood of New York City I've never seen before. A really old street I've yet to discover. The experience was magical. It was like I captured all of the ocean in my mouth for just a few moments. And then down it went. And I became a shell carrying the distant sound of the ocean inside me.

Jay Armstrong Johnson, our first BwayBites guest!

JAY: When I was asked to be a guest set of tastebuds with BwayBites, my mouth started watering. When I found out I was the first guest in BwayBites history, I felt honored. I walk by The Dutch on a weekly basis traveling to and from evening therapy sessions. The vibe inside always felt a little too swanky for me with its mood lighting and its patrons dressed in business attire. However, BwayBites and I were there for lunch. The mid-day light spilling into the wall of windows facing Prince street gave the place a chill beach-like vibe. I am from Texas, and when it comes to comfort food this good ol' country boy can get real hungry. I had been craving fried chicken for quite some time, and when I heard it was a highlight on The Dutch's menu, I knew it had to be my choice. Now, I have had A LOT of fried chicken in my life, and I must say The Dutch's is the most unique I have ever tasted. Not overly salted and not too greasy, this fried bird was felt like the healthier distant cousin to which Texas is accustomed. I can picture myself as though I were a judge on Bobby Flay's Throwdown: Fried Chicken. While it is not yo grandmama's home style recipe, it was a foodie experience to open my mind to the possibilities of what fried chicken could be. Who-da-thunk putting hot sauce on it would be so tasty? I'm accustomed to dipping mine into creamed gravy. Dairy Queen, anyone?

MATT: Appropriate that "The Spoon" picks dessert, and by dessert I mean desserts, because truth be told, they sounded so good that we couldn't pick just one.  The sorbet sampler was superb; we all went bananas for the banana cream pie (Did I just taste rum? Yum!); but of course the signature dessert, Dutch Apple Pie, took the cake...pun very much intended.   What could be better in the colder months than a warm apple pie with notes of sour cream, topped with a cinnamon crumble, and served with homemade walnut ice cream?  It fulfills every expectation of the dish with varietal textures, tastes, and temperatures.  Simply put...sweet and buttery goodness that only Mom's homemade could even begin to compete with.  Oh, and the cocktails and coffee washed it all down very nicely.

When the stars align, love at first bite is inevitable.  We can't wait for our second date!

ANDY:    I'm not buying.
ADAM:   (Touches his finger to his nose.)
JAY:        Hey, you guys, I thought I was your guest.
MATT:    I guess we're going Dutch!

Thanks Chef Carmellini! We loved our desserts!

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