I originally felt good about my choice to dine out for Thanksgiving this year. No boring turkey to bother with, no out of control portions, seconds and subsequent leftovers for the extended weekend. But last night, on work week eve, I was dying for a plate of three-day-old old stuffing and stale slice of pumpkin pie.
But this was sentimentality at play. Chestnut's Thanksgiving menu was pretty flawless. I went with two friends, which was unusual; I'm used to being a holiday loner. We all ordered three different first starters and main courses, which was also (with James, we often want the same items, and have to negotiate prevent redundancy).
Instead of the usual homemade pickle and bread plate, we were initially presented with crumbly, salty shortbread squares and brioche with butter and cranberry preserves. Fortunately, they didn't over pack the bread basket or else we would've ruined our appetites before even beginning. I started with a substantial rabbit terrine with toast points, quince chutney and a speck of grainy mustard. Being a bundled-up evening, I then opted for the hubbard squash soup with crisp leek garnish instead of the Asian pear and pomegranate salad. If any dish could've been jazzier, this would've been it. But I'm not a soup purist, I like lots of stuff in my broth.
I was torn between the venison and the quail, but settled on the latter, despite being intrigued by the deer's accompanying gunpowder jus (I'm throwing a holiday dinner party next Saturday which is to be in lieu of cooking on Thanksgiving, and am making an Earl Gray tea sauce for duck breasts). After a rye cocktail and some Argyle sparkling wine (Willamette Valley representing–we're all from Oregon, so it seemed right) I became enamored of eating the four toy-sized drumsticks and wings with my hands like a giant. My relish in plucking the limbs from my tiny quails might've put off the 98% vegetarian friend who had to have her trout served headless.
None of us finished with pumpkin pie, and miraculously we all went separate ways: chestnut and fig pave, apple pie, and for me, pecan strudel that thankfully didn't come glazed (I don't care for drizzled icing and associate it with strudel) but drenched in crme anglaise. Flaky, buttery, nutty and creamy in each forkful.
We all agreed that Chestnut has a way with grains (and tubers). Starches aren't always that exciting, but Jessica's leek and sage strewn hominy, Jane's sweet potato gratin and my rich, cherry-studded farro were welcome protein partners (ok, I intentionally used the term protein just to see if I could gross myself out). We weren't stuffed silly, but fortified to stay up drinking champagne and bourbon and ginger beers until the black Friday floodgates were opened. But by 6 a.m., sleeping sounded wiser than shopping. (11/24/05)
During Restaurant Week I made a mental note to return on a Tuesday or Wednesday for their $25 prix fixe, but only recently remembered to return. It's a pretty good deal, all appetizers, soup and salads, entrees (except hanger steak) and desserts can be chosen from for your three courses.
I tried the salad with beets, marcona almonds, pomegranate seeds and arugula. The beets caught my attention because I've been planning a party menu, which I thought might include the burgundy vegetable, but it was the rich marconas that sold me. For a main I went with roasted cod, littleneck clams, fingerling potatoes, shrimp and guanciale. It's so about the sides. Cod doesn't really grab me, but I was dazzled by its menu partners so ordered it anyway. It was almost like a bouillabaisse, but cream based.
That would've been plenty, but when dessert is part of the deal you can't turn it down. I had a pear tart with honey ice cream and brittle, which came like a three ring circus on the plate. A flaky pastry in one zone, honey ice cream topped with the crackly sugar candy in a different spot and thinly sliced caramel soaked pears to the side. I'm always a little unsure how best to tackle these deconstructed dishes.
Chestnut also has a nice list of cocktails. The Rye Presbyterian (Michter's "US 1" Rye, ginger ale and crystallized ginger) caught my attention since you don't see rye used all that often. Sometimes I like burgers and fries American food, other times I like "dorado, grilled melon, kohlrabi, tequila-carrot vinaigrette" American food. Chestnut does the latter style well without getting too precious or over the top. I think I'm going to have Thanksgiving here if I can coax a few holiday orphans out of their Williamsburg cocoons. (11/9/05)
A much better Dine in Brooklyn experience than at Tempo. As it turned out, they have a $25 prix fixe deal every Tuesday and Wednesday, so for an extra five bucks it was worth trying dishes other than DIB ones designated with smiley faces (though they were perfectly fine offerings).
I got wild and drank a Syrah Rose, Renwood 2003 to be exact. (Isnt rose in now, and shaking off bad blush connotations? One of my favorite food outlet finds was a pile of individual serving wine boxes that came in variations: white, red and pink. I bought pink, of course.) I don't know how well it paired with the wonderful octopus, chickpea, feta, fried herb/green (ah, I looked it up: cavolo nero, I think thats kale) salad. I love fried herbs, very Thai, but also Italian I've recently learned. It was crazy olive oily, in a good way, the way I'm too worried and restrained to do at home. I'm notoriously skimpy with oils, fats, spreads (my bagels are kissed rather than slathered with cream cheese), which makes no sense because it certainly hasnt resulted in any slimming effect.
Despite the insanely unseasonable weather (like 80-something degrees) I still opted for the cool climate oxtail with polenta. It wasn't as heavy as it sounds. The polenta came presented in two small disks, bottoming and topping the braised meat almost like an ice cream sandwich, but with beefier more copious filling. The dish was also accompanied by a chard and shitake jus, which I defnitley wouldn't have remembered without the aid of a online menu.
I even ran into someone I knew (hes not exactly a friend, but a friend of a friend who destroyed a perfectly good Rubbermaid container with a hammer at one of our parties, but you take what you can get when it comes to acquaintances), which seems quintessentially New York if you watched TV, but rarely ever happens to me. Maybe because I'm antisocial. Or maybe because I live in Carroll Gardens and am single and childless. You arent allowed into the secret circle until you procreate and purchase an SUV and a canine. (Or not. I just found this Chowhound post on whether a five month old would be appropriate at Chestnut. No, was the overwhelming response.)
I want to go back already, or at least try to reproduce a version of the Mediterranean-ish salad. If anything the DIB promotion has endeared me to midweek dining (and also exposed me to freaks that seem like they never eat out in public–weird demands, bad manners, loud voices, fighting–er, that could just be Brooklyn on any given night.) So much better than overcrowded weekend meals. Just like how some say bars on weekends are filled with amateurs. Heck, I'm a pro at eating and drinking, why relegate my skills to Fridays and Saturdays. (4/20/05)
This was sort of an early Christmas dinner since both James I would be out of town in separate towns for the holidays. It was a nice choice, as the menu reflected the winter season (though if I had to pick, I think fall would be my favorite food time of year).
I had a large appetizer of grilled sweetbreads with pistachio relish. The relish was very nice, though I'm not sure what it contained. It wasn't completely nutty, there was something green predominating, and a citrus flavor. For an entre I tried duck with curried quince and rice croquettes. I was pleased with the duck and croquettes, though I'd have to say the quince was the most unsuccessful part of the meal. They were a little firm for my taste, and seemed overly subtle. I wouldn't have known they were curried if it weren't for the traces of yellow liquid that pooled beneath them. But that was minor. A honey and chestnut bread pudding made for a satisfying shared dessert.
There was a series of appetizer toasts with toppings like chicken liver & apple, ricotta & caramelized onion, and chick pea & romescu, that I wouldn't mind trying on a repeat visit. (12/21/03)
Chestnut * 271 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY