Remember the Old Tavern On The Green? How Ornate! How Indifferent!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALong-shuttered Central Park restaurant Tavern On The Green has finally reopened, bringing to mind my last meal there back in 2009, which I wrote about for the Observer:

“It reminds me of Mrs. Havisham in Great Expectations, the grande dame who’s seen better days,” my perceptive spouse said, noting the fraying pink tablecloth covering our sloppily bussed table, which was strewn with stray bread crumbs and specs of black pepper. “It seems a little worn around the edges.”

The service, meanwhile, seemed remarkably indifferent. When we complained about the large triangular gap in window shading, which cast a blinding beam of afternoon light directly at our table, and politely suggested that something be done about it, our crusty career waiter, dressed in a black suit and pink-and-green-striped bow tie, barely shrugged: “I’ve been advocating for that for 10 years now.”

Here’s to hoping they’ve finally gotten that fixed. Continue reading

Meet George Marsh, the Baltimore Butcher Who Rejects the Word ‘Charcuterie’

George Marsh (butcher)In a fancier setting, sliced meats like these — coppa, mortadella, nduja — would merit a fancier menu heading. Amid the candle-lit smug of your average wine-centric corner bistro, this sort of stuff is commonly called “charcuterie” and it typically arrives served on a wood plank with pickles, olives and maybe, if you’re truly lucky, a tiny shrimp fork to stab yourself with. Here at Baltimore’s Parts & Labor, a former tire depot turned butcher shop and beer hall with a big wood-burning hearth, the language is a little different. You find a lot of similar things: salami, country ham, corned beef tongue. On the menu, though, you’ll find them listed under a quainter title: “From the Salt House.” That’s because the bearded guy with the band saw behind the butcher case isn’t especially fond of the usual butcher-board terminology. “To call it ‘charcuterie’ doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” says P&L’s executive chef and head butcher George Marsh. Continue reading

Peanuts to Artisanal Peanut Brittle: A Modern History of Baseball Stadium Food

dogLEAD.jpg_Mike Isabella is probably not the first rookie in the major leagues to take a swing at chicken parm stardom. But the version that he’s bringing to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. this spring is a significant upgrade on the typical red-sauced cutlets on a roll, he says. Maybe not a whole different animal, per se, though he does claim to use the whole animal. “The difference is, we use the whole chicken,” says Isabella, the Top Chef alum and operator of three D.C. restaurants. Beyond the usual cutlets, the TV chef — who famously invented pepperoni sauce — will also be braising chicken legs to make a ragu, he notes. That goes on the bread first, then the cutlet, then the tomato sauce, then the fresh mozzarella, and then — for a little added contemporary flair —some Thai basil. “It’s big, it’s serious, but it’s the whole chicken,” Isabella says proudly. “There’s not too many chicken parms where you get the chicken ragu on the bun.” If the idea of simmering animal parts doesn’t strike you as the most appetizing option for fourth-inning snacking, no problem. Isabella’s new G Sandwich Stand, a sporty spinoff of his existing fast-casual spot, also offers a vegetarian option: crispy roasted cauliflower topped with romesco, charred scallions and shishito peppers on a sesame roll. “We roast it until it’s a little bit over al dente,” Isabella says of the cauliflower, which is then tossed in a paprika and lemon vinaigrette for extra acid and smoke. It’s a far cry from hotdogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack. Sustainability and farm-to-table ethics at the concession stand? Is this Major League Baseball or a Portlandia sketch? Continue reading