ABC Kitchen Flatiron 10 December 10
eat: Chicken Liver Toast, Crab Toast, Squash & Ricotta Toast, Waldorf Salad, Cauliflower Soup, Mushroom & Farm Egg Pizza, Sundae, Pumpkin Cake
ABC Carpet & Home has made its name selling shabby chic furniture and home goods. This rustic appeal comes with a luxurious price tag, so it is no surprise that the in-house restaurant, ABC Kitchen, is run by famed chef, Jean-Georges Vongrichten. His first foray into locavore cusine has found a fitting home in these country- fabulous surroundings. In true Jean-Georges style, ABC Kitchen showcases its sustainable style down to every last detail. The plates are handcrafted by a local artisan, the ingredients are locally sourced when possible, and the wine list features bio-dynamic and organic wines. In honor of the holidays, I was invited to lunch with Toni, my sister's mother-in-law and John, an old family friend.
As we enter ABC Kitchen one blustery afternoon, the lovely, zen space provides a welcome respite from the bustling street. The room exudes countrified charm á la Nancy Meyers; like her romantic comedies, this gorgeous, fairytale farmhouse is pure fantasy - no actual barn is this swanky. Wood accents abound, from the salvaged tables to the exposed wood beam ceiling. Nature is brought indoors: fresh-cut flowers are sprinkled in diminutive vases, white birch branches blossom from giant urns, and nature photographs decorate the walls. Old-timey bulbs cast a warm glow in the room. The waiter's uniforms--mismatched, slim-fit plaid shirts (think John Varvatos not John Deere) and stylish jeans--embrace the outdoor-couture vibe. Even the diners seem to have been selected from a casting director’s curated picks of naturally beautiful, stylish people. It's no wonder that our leisurely lunch became a three-hour tour...we didn't want to leave!
We begin with a trio of crostinis, which are available separately, though we couldn’t chose just one of the tempting options. A rosy pink Chicken Liver Paté is sumptuously smooth yet packed with chunky, gamey flavor. A fried sage leaf garnish adds a touch of fall while the olive-oil bathed toast reminds me that one can never have too much fat
Next, a Roasted Kabocha Squash Toast With Fresh Ricotta and Apple-Cider Vinegar. This brilliant, Hermès-orange crostini actually beckons us from the neighboring table; without our fellow diners' savvy ordering, we would have missed out. The comforting combo of sautéed onions and squash paired with creamy cheese and bracing vinegar made me not miss meat.
With the Peekytoe Crab Toast, the mouthwatering crustacean is just-picked fresh. This is high-caliber crab showcased simply with a dollop of lemon aioli. Although the presentation is unfussy, my friend, Toni, reminds me of the painstaking labor involved with picking this much meat from the crab. "Just the knowledge of how much work went into this makes it taste better" she exclaims.
Curious to see Chef Kluger's take on this classic New York dish, we order the Grilled Chicken Waldorf Salad. Fresh greens arrive topped with a medley of textures and flavors: moist, chicken tenders,, crisp julienned apples, salty pistachios, crunchy slivers of fennel, and sweet raisins. Instead of the usual addition of heavy mayonnaise, a cider vinegar dressing keeps this light and healthy. Since my tastes tend towards stick-to-your-ribs food in the winter, I wouldn't order this salad as a stand-alone dish, but it is a refreshing compliment to our other decadent dishes.
Upon John's suggestion, who had adored a carrot soup during a previous visit, we shared the Cauliflower Soup, Rye Croutons, and Rupert Cheese. If, like me, you are crazy about this cruciferous veg, this sublime soup is for you. Each slurp is packed with intense, creamy cauliflower oomph. The croutons are naughtily drenched with olive-oil and add delicious crunch. The Rupert, an aged, raw cow's milk cheese from Vermont's Bardwell Farms, is a nod to the oozy comfort of melted Gruyère traditionally found in French Onion soup.
Mushroom and Farm Egg Pizza This gussied-up white pizza features creamy ricotta, tangy parmesan, woodsy morel mushrooms, and a sunny-side-up fried egg, who's bright yellow yolk adds necessary moisture to an otherwise dry pie. I dig the light and airy whole-wheat crust, which is charred to a perfect crisp.
The sizable sundae, a destination-worthy knockout, is a welcome respite from frou-frou desserts. The winning combo is a four-part harmony of salty, sweet, chocolaty, and crunchy: Salted Caramel ice cream--the über-trendy flavor which has yet to bore me--, Caramel Popcorn, Candied Peanuts, bitter, rich chocolate sauce and a quenelle of luscious whipped cream. To illustrate this sundae's greatness, though Toni said she just had room for one bite, she almost polished it off (with my help, of course!)
Pumpkin Cake with Maple-Buttercream Frosting and Pistachios My relationship with maple is tenuous; I adore the autumnal-flavor, yet loathe the stickiness of syrup. Here, I happily get my maple fix --in a heavenly, buttery, not-too-sweet icing--which pairs perfectly with a moist, firm pumpkin cake.
After such a pleasurable lunch, I can see why ABC Kitchen has topped so many "Best Of" lists in NYC. It has heightened the locavore movement to a whole new level, all while maintaining delicious, unfussy food. Sure, you can enjoy fresh-picked produce at the farmer's market or in the comforts of your own home, but if you're looking for a treat, this place is for you.