Came to the city for the BBQ festival and wimped out because of the rain -- went to see Gypsy instead. (I know, I know, VERY unchow-worthy)
Afterwards, we stopped in at a new place called the Snack Bar Saturday afternoon -- it opened last Sunday at 111 W. 17th. We wanted to try the drink that was featured in last Sunday's NYT magazine to see if the recipe was worth making. It was. Vodka, raspberries, raspberry liquer, grapefruit juice and sparkling wine combined to make one of the most refreshingly delicious drinks I've ever had. They serve it in a pitcher ($27) which was perfect for the two of us. Since flavored martinis run $10 and up, the pitcher provides you with four good-sized martinis, not bad. The inside is long, cool and stylish with lots of polished granite with seating in the front, bar in the middle and an open kitchen and more seating in the back. Many of their appetisers were priced by the piece. We tried the appetizer plate for $13. It was quite good but sparse for sharing -- 5 small pieces. A clam on the half shell with coconut milk was quite nice (but did you ever try to share a clam?). Some polenta with salsa was good, and there was a bite of something with roe that was yummy too. Can't remember the rest and we would have had more but Artisinal was on our radar for dinner. Prices for all of their dishes were quite reasonable (under $20) so if you are in the area you might want to check it out and see what they're about.
On to Artisinal. It was a rainy Saturday night about six or so when we finally found Artisinal -- the address is 2 Park Ave, but the entrance is around the corner on 32nd. We called for reservations and additional directions two minutes before we arrived and were informed that there was nothing available. We asked if there was room at the bar and there was so that was the plan. However, when we arrived and asked for a table we were seated immediately.
Going there for the first time and deciding how to approach the cheese thing is tough. Fondue? Mac and Cheese? Flight of cheese? Decisions decisions. We opted to share one of the fondues -- they have about 10 kinds. We settled on a chorizo and pepper one. It was spicy and delicious and served with good bread, we scraped the pot (described as 1-3 servings) clean. It was just the right amount for us. Prior to the fondue we each got the seared tuna on greens -- an absolutely perfect and not too filling prelude. We both enjoyed the rare tuna and the wonderfully dressed greens. Washed it all down with a respectable South African Sauvignon Blanc (about $30). The wine list contained a nice selection of reasonably priced wines.
We decided to stay in fondue mode and ordered the chocolate fondue for dessert. I had a lovely Italian dessert wine and my friend got a nice Calvados. The dark chocolate fondue was served with fresh strawberries, mini madelaines that were just darling, hand made marshmallows and ginger snaps.
Up to this point the service was excellent. But once we finished our dessert and they removed the pan, we sat for about 15 minutes with an empty table, empty water glasses and empty drink glasses. We finally flagged down the waiter who had walked by us numerous times already and asked for a check. When he brought it, my $11 dessert wine was listed as $18. I brought it to his attention and it was quickly fixed. at this point it was 8:30 on a very busy Saturday night so we didn't hold it against him, much. All in all, for $155 including tax and tip, it was a really decadent and enjoyable meal.
I did stand at the cheese counter and practically drool over all of the selections. Cadged a taste or two. I will be back for a wine and cheese pairing. And for mac and cheese, and ....they also had a remarkably reasonable three course prix fixe for $30.03, but alas, there was no cheese.