First of all: I have to apologize because 1. I clearly love sparkling wine and when I was asked to write for a wine blog, I didn't foresee that it was all that I'd have to write about and 2. I'm a Manhattanite by residence; hence, Manhattan is where I spend most of my time. Yet: I still like to think of myself as having a discerning nature (even if I don't venture south of Tribeca, or beyond FDR Drive) and even though I tend to avoid "hot" and trendy restaurants, I do like to revisit the N. Y. C. institutions. One of those institutions is Jean-Georges' Mercer Kitchen in SoHo.
For those of you that need filling in, Henri Soulé is the late restaurateur who opened La Côte Basque (made famous by Truman Capote's Answered Prayers), formerly Le Pavillion and currently Benoit. Tao's latest incarnation, housed in the former Hiro Ballroom space, may not be for the ladies who lunch set, but certainly follows Soulé's blueprint of an Outer Hebrides, Elba or perceived Siberia by anxious diners. Only, instead of exiling low-status patrons to a rear dining room, the recently opened Tao Downtown has flipped the old guard standard.
With all the recent buzz surrounding the newly-opened Piora, I thought it might be worth my while to pop in and give the place a try. My first visit was last week, when I was placed in charge of organizing some early birthday cocktails for a fellow colleague; I recommended Piora to which he readily and most eagerly agreed upon. Being the host, I simply could not arrive late and--alas--was the first to arrive for some time. Being that it would be my first meal of the day (this blogger likes to work at night), I was feeling somewhat "brunchy" and decided to begin with a cup of earl grey and a glass of champagne. (Piora does not serve tea, but the bartender was happy to acquiesce; how he procured my tea, I do not know.)
At first sip, the champagne was the best I'd ever tasted (even better than the Dom I'd tasted earlier this year). As friends and associates began to trickle in, we began tasting--one by one--nearly every cocktail on the menu. In my opinion, the winner was the "wear and tear" with rye, Aperol, chartreuse, vermouth and bitters. I ordered it for all the late-comers.
Finding myself with a free afternoon this week, I decided to make another trip to Piora for some more of that delectable champagne... Piora's "house" champagne is a non-vintage Vergnon "Conversation" grand cru champagne ($29/gl.). I'm not ashamed to say that I'd never heard of the champagne before, but I do love a good boutique wine every now and again. As I examined the bottle's labels (Shinya, the head bartender, was kind enough to allow me to snap some photos) I'd noticed that the champagne listed its disgorgement date on the rear (a recent trend in finer champagnes). More and more, it seemed like all signs were pointing to "Conversation" being quite the special bottle of wine. Perhaps you'll see me at Piora again during 'low tea.'
This is a picture of Wild's "wild white" mozzarella, ricotta, truffle oil and cracked pepper flatbread. Even though I'm not gluten-free, I recently stumbled upon the place (they have locations in both Manhattan and Williamsburg) and found their pizzas to be more palatable than I'd expected gluten-free pizza would be! And for fourteen bucks, I can have a meal that's both satisfying and sustaining enough to get me through the rest of my workday (not an easy feat in the West Village). I recently had a quick, at the bar lunch at the West Village location and was joined by my friend, Johnny who also ordered a flatbread--the "wild truffle mushroom" with fresh herbs (arugula) and ricotta. He had me sample a portion of his pizza and I instantly commented on how tasty it was, and you could tell that the mushrooms that they used were quite fresh!
I recently also sampled Wild's kale cupcake (I always have dessert) upon my server's recommendation: Do you like carrot cake? Yes. I'm going to bring you the kale cupcake then...
Like their pizzas, Wild offers gluten-free desserts, but they also offer vegan options as well. The kale cupcake is not gluten-free, but it is vegan. At first bite, it wasn't 'the tastiest cupcake in the world' (as it's described on the menu). But if I was vegan, I might think so.
Isn't it the best cupcake in the world?!
Mmm--it's good!Yet--if I was gluten-free, I'd probably bring all of my friends here (or at least just the gluten-free ones).
(Note: on a previous visit, I had the flourless chocolate cake which was a much more pleasant end to my meal.)