August 23, 2013

Birthday Dinner: Union Square Cafe

It's that time of year: my birthday! This year ABF took me to Union Square Café: a Danny Meyer joint we both had yet to visit.

We both ordered a Keynote peach, made with dark rum, orgeat (which I LOVE), Lillet, fresh peaches, ginger, and bitters. This came with damn near half a real peach in it, and it was LOVELY! Not too sweet, a lovely departure from my usual wine.

We got a table on the upstairs level, tucked away in the corner, perfect for us.

The breadbasket comes with several toppings: a dukkah dip (Egyptian spice/herb mixture with olive oil), luscious purple olives dusted with orange zest, and butter sprinkled lightly with salt. I can't wait to put orange zest on my next batch of olives!

My starter: heirloom tomato salad with goat cheese, red onions, & basil chiffonade. This was so quintessentially summer. Juicy, flavorful tomatoes, soft, creamy, tangy goat cheese, and strips of fresh basil in every bite.

In a rare moment, ABF (Awesome Boyfriend) actually had a little bit of order envy-- normally I'm coveting whatever HE ordered! This was a very generous serving, so I shared several bites with him.

ABF's starter was the scallop crudo-- raw scallops in a spicy cucumber broth with crunchy quinoa. The scallops were fishier than I expected-- while I love a good seared scallop, I don't think I care for them in crudo form.

My entrée: the pan-seared Berkshire pork chop with roasted peach & corn salsa and a few house-made onion rings on the side. Um, YES. This was a HUGE pork chop, brilliantly, perfectly cooked and juicy. The corn was so fresh and crunchy I'd swear they waited to take it off the cob until the very last second. And the onion rings? Best I've ever had-- and I've had quite a few in my lifetime! The breading was soft, chewy, and flavorful without overpowering the onions. I gave ABF quite a few bites of this.

Sweet, savory, crunchy, so so so so good. Birthday-dinner-worthy!

ABF's meal was the NY strip steak with chicory salad (sorry for the blurriness). The steak was also perfectly cooked (medium), but we both thought the chicory was too bitter for us. Nice balance to the rich steak, but too bitter for our pansy palates.

We also got two sides: a creamy polenta with gorgonzola cheese and walnuts, and a potato gratin with Gruyère (one of my favorite cheeses!). ABF loves polenta, I'm fairly lukewarm on it (I don't normally care for the texture). However, this polenta was so creamy that I actually liked it, and I think ABF would have preferred the mealier version.

The potato gratin was sublime, however. Perfectly creamy, tangy, and putting comfort food at an all new level. Had I been at home, I would have scraped every last morsel off the plate.

At this point, I ordered another cocktail-- the Mai Tai (sticking with the rum-based options). This was nice, but was much sweeter than the Keynote Peach. If I had it to do over again, I'd go for another Keynote Peach. Liquid summer!

We could have stopped there. We probably should have stopped there. But it was my birthday, dammit! And birthdays call for- nay-- demand-- dessert!

There were lots of intriguing options, but I finally settled on the blueberry pie with sour cream ice cream. ABF's not a fan of sour cream (what? I know!), but he shared the dish with me. The ice cream was very tart, but creamy. The crust was flawless and the berries were tasty, but there was a whole lotta lemon in this pie, a bit too much for me. I'm kind of a Maine blueberry pie purist. A hint of citrus is good, but more than that and you lose me. Don't get me wrong-- I still cleaned the plate, but if I go back, I'm going to try something different.

Service was refereshingly friendly, the food was top-notch, and there were so many other interesting items on the menu that we may not be able to wait for another birthday to return!

Union Square Café
21 E 16th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 243-4020

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