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Friday, July 18, 2014

Butter Me Up!

I know I say I like bad puns, and that bad puns are a mainstay of TERP, but I think I just brought this blog to a new low.  The pun in this title is painful, which kind of disrespects a good restaurant.

I'm kind of over celebrity chefs.  I am just not starstruck by Food Network personalities anymore. I hardly even watch the Food Network.  I am extremely cautious about eating at restaurants owned by celebrity chefs.  I worry that they get by too much on the chef's name rather than the quality of the food.  If a chef owns multiple restaurants, I wonder what the quality control is like. Once upon a time I would have died to eat at Paula Deen's Lady and Sons.  Now I'm sure I could probably find a dozen better restaurants should I ever make it to Savannah.  I have no interest in ever trying that hot mess Guy Fieri opened in Times Square.   On the other hand, I have eaten at two of Mario Batali's restaurants and enjoyed them. It's not that I think all celebrity chef owned restaurants won't be good.  I am just a bit skeptical.  I think the one point to consider when eating at a celebrity restaurant is whether or not the chef in question is better known for his or her personality rather or for the food he or she prepares.

It was definitely the food and not the chef that has made me want to eat at Butter all of these years.  Although she is rather dismissive and biting when she judges Food Network competition shows, Alex Guarneschelli is my kind of cook.  I first discovered her on her old show The Cooking Loft and then eventually watched of some of her show Alex's Day Off.  I always loved the food she cooked.  She pays close attention not just to taste, but to texture and emotions.  Her cooking isn't just about flavor, but it's also about feeling.  I imagined that the food at her restaurant would be extremely satisfying both emotionally and physically.

For years I never tried to go to Butter because it was just too far downtown.  It's a little out of the way of my job and my husband's job to bother with travel.  Then she opened Butter Midtown just this year.  It's just a short walk from my office and Grand Central Terminal.  I can walk over there for dinner after work and then walk back to the train and go home as soon as dinner is over.  I knew I had to eat there for my recent birthday. 

It is located at the bottom floor of a hotel with a street-level entrance.

Here is a shot of the lounge in the restaurant's entryway.  The decor is very warm and inviting although not really my taste.  The restaurant has no windows, but the ceilings are open and there are murals of forest scenes around the walls at the top.  Everything is paneled in wood.  I'm not a fan of dark wood paneling and this place almost reminded me a bit of a basement rec room or the country cabin of a very wealthy hunter.

Our menu awaited us at our table.

I started with a cocktail.  This had watermelon, vodka, lime, and mint.  I could have drunk three of them.  It wasn't too sweet and the flavors were all perfectly balanced.  I'm wondering if I can replicate it at home.
Bread was very special.  These rolls were like a combination of brioche and croissant.  We had plain butter and herb butter to spread on them.  Not shown is a small dish of course sea salt should one prefer simple salted butter for the bread.

 It was my birthday, so I had to go all out and have as many courses as I could stuff into eager little face.  My appetizer was burrata and tomatoes.  Burrata can be disappointing for me because often I will order it and find that the outside is rubbery and the inside is watery whey.  This was nice and soft on the outside and the inside was very creamy.

Kevin didn't like his appetizer as much.  He ordered chicken liver mousse with schmaltz vinaigrette.  There were also these little onion bits scattered on it.  The whole thing was served on a sheet of matzoh.  I tasted it and found that it was a bit salty.  The pate tasted kind of sausage-like. 

We both did well with our main course.  I had a delicious pork chop with braised collard greens and bits of ham hocks and a mustard glaze.  It was a bit salty, but the flavors they used on the pork chops was perfect. 
Kevin opted for chicken with sauteed lambs quarter.  I thought the greens were very well handled.

They had a special side dish that night of fried zucchini blossoms.  These were amazing.  They were deep fried heaven. The coating was light and crispy.  They were topped with a tartar sauce and served over sauteed leeks.  I want another plate of these after just looking at the photo.
I was so stuffed at this point that I couldn't stomach my own dessert.  We decided to share.  I was very torn between the raspberry beignets with vanilla dipping sauce or the chocolate dobosch torte.  I opted for the latter.  The layers of yellow cake and creamy milk chocolate buttercream were lightly encased in a shell of hard caramel.

The service was perfectly timed and everyone was relentlessly cheery.  It was a pleasant experience overall.

I would definitely come back here for an occasion even if I didn't know who the chef was.  Well done, Butter.

3 comments:

Emily said...

I'm a little jealous that you work in the city and get to go to all of these fabulous restaurants. You lucky woman. I totally agree with you regarding Food Network and celebrity chefs. Ditto. I'm over it. I would definitely go to Butter though. It sounds wonderful! I've never had a fried zucchini blossom before.

Katie Zeller said...

I have always enjoyed watching the Food Network shows (other than Paula Dean) but have never wanted to eat at their restaurants.... Their portions are always so huge and so much of it seems a bit contrived. Fun to watch but not to eat. Your restaurant sounds lovely.

The Duo Dishes said...

Alex G. is not one of my fave chef personalities, but perhaps that's because she's often snarly on Chopped. Her restaurant, though, remains on the list of NYC spots to visit. Thanks for the honest feedback!