November 21, 2016 | BITE: My Journal
UWS Gold Rush: White Gold Butchers
A double size steak plus too many sides easily feeds the five of us. The anchovy marinade makes it extra salty.
White Gold Butchers is the best news for the Upper West Side since Red Farm settled on Broadway between 76th and 77th Streets. Even paranoid and congenitally pessimistic locals will agree. Who could imagine that April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman -- partners at The Spotted Pig, Breslin and Salvation Burger -- would covet a corner on Amsterdam?
White Gold Butchers is the Tiffany of meat as you can see from this refrigerated display.
Named White Gold for the prized ribbons of fat fancied by serious carnivores, it’s a place to buy meat and rotisserie chickens, ultimately planning to serve three meals a day. A pal, having established kinship even before it opened, invites me to join him for lunch. A neighborhood stalker of sorts, he has passed the shop on his way to the gym every day and observed the two butchers bustling about at 6 a.m.
A second display section holds a vast range of sausage.
He explains the drill. We glance at the very brief menu -- soup, kimchi hotdog, chopped cheese sandwich, grilled broccoli with raisins and pickled chili. Pointedly, there is no burger. That would have been too easy. We place our orders at the counter and pay. Then we settle at one of a few small, bare wood tables in the handsome, high-ceilinged storefront and wait for a server to deliver. There are charts of beef cuts on the wall and a big gilded head of a bull looking down at us.
Tin ceilings painted gold and a wall of beef charts and a gilded bulls-head decorate the stately castle.
I must have the Little Gem lettuce salad -- that aristocratic greenery brilliantly tossed with pistachios, tarragon, lemon dressing and thin shards of Parmesan. Sublime for me since normally I would be devouring a big bowl of lunchtime salad from my own office fridge. My companion takes a leaf or two and doesn’t seem impressed. Instantly I’m reminded that April Bloomfield is the woman who created The Breslin caesar, surely the best I’ve ever tasted in the world.
Crunchy gem lettuce is tossed with pistachios, tarragon, celery, Parmesan and lemon dressing.
At the moment, there are only sodas to drink -- Sharp Birch, Black Cheerry, Black Tar cola -- or kombucha with turmeric and lemongrass. “I’ll have water,” I say. “I'm driving.”
Roast beef sandwich with red wine butter and the creamy, soupy meatball come on poppy seed buns.
Finally our two sandwiches arrive – the excellent roast beef with red wine butter horseradish cream – a sumptuous indulgence for just $8 – and the $13 meatball sandwich, each in a poppy seed bun. We ask for a knife so we can divide for sharing. I pick up the oozing meatball, dripping tomato sauce with miticrema (Spanish goat’s milk formage blanc) and ricotta salata all over my fingers and the table. So messy. So good.
I don’t see chicken on the menu. We picked up this fine rotisserie bird for dinner at home one evening.
Bloomfield’s crew was already butchering at Salvation Burger. Why not personally butcher all the meat for their other restaurants? That’s how Bloomfield and Friedman came to partner with Erika Nakamura, a rock-star butcher from L.A., and Jocelyn Guest, a beef and hog butcher titlist from Dickson’s Farmstead Meats.
My niece told the waiter he looks just like Mark Ruffalo and he was our devoted slave all evening.
Back for dinner, we’re greeted by a host and a waiter who looks like Mark Ruffalo, according to my niece Dana, visiting from Big Fork, Montana. She used to be a vegetarian but reverted back to omnivore a few years ago. Still I can tell that beef cuts charts on the wall still give her a chill.
The chicken liver mousse comes in a jar to spread on thick slabs of toasted country bread.
Four snacks, four small plates, four sides. Appealing small menu. And yes, we’ll have the unlisted ham and chicken pot pie in its haunting stock under a puff pastry dome. My posse, five of us, is willing to sample anything. We absorb the bad news: no alcohol license yet, and we can’t bring in our own. We rally. So much animal flesh and no branzino is already intoxicating.
A small plate of Fall crudités are meant to be dipped in the house bagna cauda, Anchovy White Gold.
I skip over fermented pickles, beef heart, and kale to order most everything else. Thick crusts of country toast arrive to smear with chicken liver mousse from a canning jar. We use what’s left of the bread to mop up the remaining Anchovy White Gold, a dip that comes with a small bouquet of crudities.
April Bloomfield is the image of perpetual motion in the open kitchen at White Gold Butchers and Eatery.
It seems to take forever to bring more toast for late arrivals. In fact, the kitchen is very slow. I’m not sure why. There are only 38 seats and Chef April herself is in perpetual motion, stern and focused, the chef de cuisine Robert Flaherty alongside. I’m guessing it’s first-night blues.
The menu promises sour dough toast was supposed to come with mushrooms but this is what arrived.
Carefully, one of my pals divides into five tasting morsels a single slice of sourdough toast paved with radish thins on horseradish-spiked kefir cream. No way I’d ever bypass the gem lettuce with pistachios, the big platter, enough for five. A green you don’t come across often, puntarelle, with slivered bits of beef tongue, button mushrooms, and broccoli stems is a stepsister to the Cinderella of gem lettuce.
Big leaves of Treviso and puntarelle with slivers of beef tongue in a dinner salad.
Yes, a few sips of red wine would be great with thick cuts of double strip steak, really rare and meaty with anchovy saltiness ($52). Smoked lamb shoulder with sausage and spiced yogurt will remind you why you’ve come for dinner in a butcher shop dreamed up by April Bloomfield.
Smoked lamb shoulder comes with a coil of excellent sausage, chimichurri and spiced yogurt.
Layered cuts of potato are cooked crisp in beef fat – Hasselback potatoes. And a side of Brussels sprouts with pancetta and pecorino in tomato sauce heaped in a bowl is more than ample.
The bone broth is a cosmic soup of kabocha, Taleggio and pumpkin seed oil that sets me swooning.
A spoonful of the bone broth is an instant high. I take another and swoon. Till now, I’ve resisted the bone broth mania…is this it? Or is this a Bloomfield hallucination: kabocha, Taleggio cheese and pumpkin seed oil. I pass the soup plate around again and take yet another taste. There are moans and exclamations all around for this virtuoso $11 puddle.
Brussels sprouts are tossed with pancetta in a tomato sauce and sprinkled with pecorino.
Sliced, fanned and fried, wonderful crispy potatoes, salty the way potatoes chips should be.
There are only two desserts, so we’ll have both. The chocolate mousse with brandied cherries is not very sexy, even for chocolate. But the couturier éclair is thrilling.
Pastry cream, dark chocolate and coconut make a worldly éclair.
“Mark Ruffalo” has become a member of the family. The servers are sweet. Only a few tables of less aggressive tasters are left. Bloomfield sits down on a chair next to me. Bouquets fly. “Any criticism?” she asks. “I like criticism.” Two of us mention an occasional “too salty.”
“I do like salt,” she admits.
It's not the greatest chocolate mousse I ever ate but if no day is complete without chocolate, this might do.
In the bulletins prior to opening, the chef had promised to cook odd cuts of meat like the velvet steak, flesh from near the cow’s knee. She’s said there will be a hotdog happy hour for the young after-school crowd. She’s reportedly hunting for farmland upstate to supply food to her own restaurants. But this weekend, she confides, she will be fishing off Montauk. Let beef tongues wag. “I love to fish,” she says.
375 Amsterdam Avenue, SE corner of 78th Street. 212 362 8731. Breakfast Monday (beginning the Monday after Thanksgiving) to Friday 10 am to noon. Saturday and Sunday 9 am to noon. Lunch noon to 4 pm. Dinner Monday to Thursday 5:30 to 10 pm. Friday and Saturday to midnight. Sunday to 11 pm. Butcher Shop open 10 am to 8 pm. Closed Monday November 21.
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