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FORK PLAY September 18, 2012


Campbell's Soup. Swine. Jean Georges After Dark. Pigging Out at Wong. Fall Pastry Treats.


Dear Friends and Family,


       Roberta Smith reviewing in the Times was a bit snarky about the Warhol Show at the Metropolitan, "Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists. Fifty Years." But she said the public would probably love it. An insult, but yes, I did. I went to a Monday press preview put on by Campbell's Soup, a sponsor of the show. It was thrilling to see all those Warhols and the brand name art works close up, with just a handful of wanderers in every gallery.


       The company brass wasn't sure how to respond to Warhol's Campbell's Soup cans in 1962. But when the artist confessed he ate Campbell's Tomato Soup every day for twenty years, they decided to like it. For this  anniversary, they released 1.2 million limited edition Tomato Soup cans with Andy's image and labels in Warhol colors, available only at Target for 75 cents. We got samples in our swag bags. That's what inspired our Fork Play colors this week.


       At noon the company served lunch upstairs - Tomato Soup of course, first introduced in 1897. Did you know it now comes in three flavors? I bet you didn't. We tasted the classic, as well as Harvest Orange Tomato and Sun Ripened Yellow Tomato with grilled cheese sandwiches. Wonder what Andy would make of that. "Making money is art," he said. "And working is art and good business is the best art."




After Dark @Jean Georges


       By daylight, even with its constant muted flow of pilgrims, the back room at Jean Georges is a cloister for worshipping the senses. It's been my neighborhood lunch spot since I first discovered its surreal magnetism - the cosmetic light, the cocoon of isolation from urban assault, the promise of sensory astonishment.  Even now at $38 for two courses, lunch is still a deal.


       I longed for the Daddy Warbucks or the Lady Bountiful who would invite me for dinner. Then a media prince entered my life, a regular here. It's a date. I arrive first. As daylight buries itself somewhere in New Jersey, the room grows shadowy. That magic incandescence - as cosmetic in a burst of rain or clouds as on a sunny day - disappears.


       But then the 'amuse' arrives and it doesn't matter: a trio as always. Always something to sip. Needless to say, seasonal. But never predictable. It's just the 'amuse' for goodness sake and already my taste buds are staggered. Steady now. Sip a passion fruit whiskey sour. Gather my wits. We must choose from the seemingly simple offerings on the $108 prix fixe, counting on at least one "oh my God" moment, if not three. Click here to know what I loved. 1 Central Park West between 60th and 61st Streets.




In the Nick of Swine


       Earlyish on a recent Tuesday I'm sipping a "Pig in the City," a feisty Manhattan with bacon infused booze, in the rough-looking duplex of Swine. The near-empty rec-room is relaxed at 7:30 with its repurposed ping pong table occupied by a timid trio. We can talk.  Given the name of the place, I'm poised to pig out.


       I'm remembering the late great Chinese restaurateur David Keh. He hesitated to open Pig Heaven in 1983 because, he said, his Jewish customers wouldn't want to eat pork. He could not have imagined our town's new urban barnyard where the devout worship pig from cheek amatriciana to cuchifritos.


       Tucked right next to RedFarm, Swine with its clamorous bar half a flight up and basement murk below seems a perfect temple for this cult. The new Hudson Street bestiary serves up the requisite salumi, toasts and pickles, familiar and uncommon parts of pig and bacon ice cream sundae, all artisanal, house-made or locally sourced, as the faith requires. Want to know what our feasters liked? Click here. 531 Hudson Street between Tenth and Charles Streets.




Wong Goes Whole Hog


       Still can't get enough pig? Chef-owner Simpson Wong plans to launch Balinese Style Whole Hog Sundays at Wong on Cornelia Street the first week in October. We tasted this knockout feast at Saturday night's one year birthday celebration, amazed that it cost only $30 plus tax and tip with specially priced drinks. In its Sunday incarnation there will be a fish option for pig-deniers.


         Saving room for the main event porker, I wasn't going to go hog wild over pig ear-and-Asian-pear salad. I couldn't help myself. And I never tasted more elegant scallion pancakes, paper thin crisps, with a spicy dip. As far as I'm concerned the dan dan noodles were just a filler. But spiced squash, sweet potato shoots in Sambal Belacan and sautéed water spinach, provided welcome intimations of good-for-you.


         Just after the fried rice with Chinese sausage and mint leaves landed, a large platter of pig was delivered by Simpson's talented second, Loyal Blake.  I bit into chards of crisp skin first, then amazingly juicy flesh. Our host seemed to be having as much fun as anyone - toting half the pig around for viewings.


         I'd already given thumbs up to the house duck ice cream (read my early review by clicking here). Now I somehow found appetite to taste the roast pork ice cream in a tartlet of bacon financièr. My friends sat there numb,  marveling, then rolled me out the door. 7 Cornelia Street between Bleecker and West 4th Streets.




Sweets Have Their Season


       My friends and I loved our late summer Sunday night supper at the new expanded Todd English Plaza Food Hall. It's grown to twice its original size. (Click here to read more.) And now temptations from an eclectic collection of merchants stretch along the interior concourse as well. That night everything was closed.


       But I would have said "yes" anyway when the publicity woman asked if I'd like to taste fall treats from the concourse shops. She sent a long list. With remarkable restraint I chose three items, asking her to deliver them Monday so that my new sweet-loving Personal Assistant Clara could play backup.


       People often ask me how I stay thin. Actually I'm not really thin. My face is thin. My thighs are thin. I work out five mornings a week and at reviewing dinners, I take a small bite and pass my plate along. I've always tried to judge dessert with one bite, maybe two, three if it's sour cherries.


       But this delivery presents a challenge. I've skipped my usual leafy salad lunch so I can send this alert to you and my 135,000 Twitter followers (why aren't they downloading my erotic novels?). 


       Pain d'Avignon soaks its sensuous cranberry pecan bread pudding with dark chocolate chips in an orange-infused custard. The scrumptious loaf scarcely needs the accompanying crème anglaise.  It should not be eaten sandwiched between apple cake and chocolate cookies as we ate it today. It should just be applied to the mouth lovingly, with or without a fork. Available October 1.


       François Payard's apple honey tart has a cozy old-fashioned taste, but it looks very sophisticated with its sweet glaze and confectioner's sugar stripes (too thickly striped actually). I feel I ate it long ago in an earlier life. It would be a great hostess gift and not too rich for your own Sunday breakfast.



       Three Tarts does cookies they call "Lovelies" in the shape of leaves, 60 cents each.  The marvelous dark Valrhona chocolate leaves are filled with ganache - deeply, seriously chocolate. They make the cardamom sandwich filled with apricot seem a bit feeble.





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 Photographs of the halibut on white asparagus and the caviar on lemon mousse at Jean Georges, the marrow bones with salsa verde at Swine, Simpson Wong, his pig ear and Asian pear salad, and the Whole Hog plate for three at Wong may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. All rights reserved.   


               Fork Play copyright Gael Greene 2012.