Au Revoir Union Square Cafe

As Gourmay readers are aware, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe or “USC” has been one of our favorite restaurants in New York City (see links to other Gourmay articles below).  The food is always very good – but not great – however, USC is a wonderful oasis of tranquility and friendliness that is so difficult to find in bustling New York.   After 30 glorious years, USC will be closing its doors on December 12th.   USC is scheduled to reopen again in May, 2016 nearby on 19th street and Park Avenue.  Personally, I don’t think it will be the same.

We were fortunate to book a table on Monday (Dec 7) for its final 12 Days of Christmas pre-fixe menu.   What a wonderful experience filled with so many lovely memories.  In fact, Sheila and I used the occasion to walk down 5th Avenue (from 59th street) to Union Square to see the Christmas decorations on this particularly balmy December day.  Simply glorious as this sunset image of the Flatiron Building below suggests:

Flatiron Building in NYC

Flatiron Building in NYC

While the windows at Bergdorf, the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center and the boozy hot chocolate at Bryant Park were spectacular as always, we couldn’t wait to get to USC to say goodbye.

Closing Menu at USC

Sheila opted for the “White Truffle Crispy Egg” followed by a breast of squab served on farro (not shown on this particular menu). I had the “winter greens raviolini” but was sorely tempted by the scallops and trumpet mushroom tagliarini which also looked wonderful.  I followed with a perfectly cooked pork chop served with crispy polenta (“Rack of Pork Market”).    The Sangiovese Brunello di Montalcino was an exceptional bargain.

Our appetizers were wonderful, but the desserts (not shown here) were rather pedestrian.   I thought the pork was excellent, but probably should have opted for the pesce misto.    Sheila’s squab was very good, but filling.

Needless to say, we will have to give the “new” USC a go next year, but it is terribly sad to see this culinary landmark of  good taste close its doors.  You will be missed.

More Gourmay features on Danny Meyer NYC experiences:

Duqqa: An Egyptian Gourmet Delight

duqqa300You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy Dakka or Duqqa, an Egyptian side dish consisting of crushed nuts, herbs and spices. There are many variations to this lovely side dish, but this particular recipe comes from The Union Square Cafe, courtesy of our good friend, Ginger B., who had the could sense to ask for it during a recent visit to USD.   It makes a lovely house-warming dish and is best served at room temperature with slices of bread or warmed pita bread.  Some of our friends will often use it to raise the taste profile of a grilled skinless chicken breast or farm-raised tilapia or catfish.  Even vegetarians are surprised that vegetables taste better when dipped in Duqqa.

Duqqa from Union Square Cafe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups toasted pistachios
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground fennel seed
  • 2 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp chopped oregano
  • 2 tsp chopped rosemary

Preparation

  1. Roast the pistachios, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds separately. Lightly grind the pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a food processor.
  2. Crush the pistachios with the side of a knife or a rolling pin and mix with the seeds.
  3. Dissolve the salt in the lemon juice and toss with the nut mix.
  4. Then toss the nut mixture with the fennel, coriander, and black pepper. Set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a pan until just hot to the touch. Add the oregano and rosemary and stir til you hear it crackle.
  6. Immediately pour the oil over the nuts and mix evenly.
  7. Let the Duqqa cool to room temperature, then the wrap tightly and refrigerate.
  8. When serving allow the mixture to come to room temperature.

Used occasionally, this mixture should last three months or so.

Asian Broccoli

BroccoliWhen someone asks me which cooked vegetable I prefer, I will generally opt for spinach, broccoli or kale.  Aside from the fact that they are green, I find that their texture and slightly acidic taste works well with most meats.  We just came across this delightful way to prepare Broccoli in a recent New York Times that was adapted from Family Table by Michael Romano (Union Square Cafe fame) and Karen Stabiner.    We have eaten Asian Broccoli twice this week.

Asian Broccoli

Ingredients (4 to 6 servings)

  • 2 heads broccoli (1 1/2 to 2 pounds) cut into florets, stems trimmed and cut in slices 1/4″ thick
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 scallions, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 5 large fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 Tbs coarsely chopped mint

For the Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce, optional
  • 1 tsp sriracha hot sauce, optional

Preparation

  • Heat oven to 450°.  Put broccoli in a bowl and season with salt, black pepper, ginger and red pepper flakes.  Toss with garlic cloves and oil.  Spread broccoli on a baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender and lightly browned.  Discard garlic cloves.  While broccoli roasts, combine scallions, cilantro, basil and mint in a large bowl.
  • Make the vinaigrette:  In a small bowl, combine rice wine vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce and, if you want a stronger-flavored dish, fish sauce and sriracha.  Whisk until emulsified.
  • Add cooked broccoli to the large bowl with the herbs and toss.  add vinaigrette, to taste, and toss.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy