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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Peachy Picks Monument Lane Our Coverage Sponsored by Fresh Origins

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"We proudly feature sustainably grown products from regional farmers and the city's greenmarkets."
-Josh Frum

It's not who you know, it's WHOM YOU KNOW and we know Josh Frum, owner of Monument Lane, a restaurant that was new to us this year, though it has been open since April 2011.
We first visited this past spring, and it was one of the best new restaurants we experienced in Manhattan that season:

Peachy Deegan looked forward to returning to this downtown bastion of excellence in farm-to-table cuisine.  We were cordially greeted with an egg salad amuse-bouche and Peachy wanted some nice black tea to start with.  The bread at Monument Lane is off-the-charts delicious and if you are counting carbs, stop that for this.  It's white from Pain D'Avignon and you will probably dream about it afterwards if you're like us.

Josh is the kind of owner that is hands-on and walks around the tables to see how everyone is enjoying their meal and is just as nice as he is intelligent: he has a masters degree from the Cornell School of Management in Hospitality (and yes, this does make a difference.  We notice a notable elevation in caliber of attention to detail.  Education matters tremendously).  He is really committed to freshness and mixing up the menu to make it optimally seasonal that he makes a new menu EVERY DAY.  Off the top of our head, only Paul Farrell at Kings' Carriage House does this too.  Josh tells us he only buys local and 95% of the ingredients are from a farm within 300 miles of Manhattan, and is sustainably farmed and caught fresh.  

As you know we are off-the-charts patriotic, and we are thrilled to say that Monument Lane has a 99% American menu.  

Peachy began with the sublime Crispy Pork Salad crafted with ingredients from upstate New York farms: farm egg, sliced pig ear (sorry Miss Piggy), cherry tomatoes, and chili vinaigrette.  Josh suggested we try the Roasted Beets, which were also amazing, and they are sourced from a Finger Lakes farm.  Picked stems, dried cherries and pistachio cream proved they've got the beet, and joined in the plate go-go.  Also under appetizers, Peachy chose the incredibly succulent Pan-Seared Diver Scallops, which have a sauce that is spectacular; you must try these.  Cauliflower, toasted almonds, golden raisins, Vadouvan and brown butter vinaigrette enhance this seaside-to-your-plate experience.

Peachy is an enthused carnivore (minus points to the next restaurant phone answerer that writes down our last name as Vegan) and to that end, we could not ignore the Pasture-Raised Beef Strip Steak, which ultimately was right up there with some of the best steak houses we've tried.  They are genius to pair it with wild mushrooms, braised greens, aligot and mustard jus which combines for superb flavor.  Do not stop at the entree, however: the sides cannot be ignored.  Peachy chose the Pole Beans which were innovatively matched with anchovy, garlic and chili for kick and the roasted turnips that our panelist chose were smashing.  Josh went above and beyond and thought we should also try New Jersey Corn with Mascarpone and Basil, which was just divine, and Grilled Summer Vegetables with Romesco.  Everything evoked freshness and it was like a trip to a bucolic bastion of Connecticut on our plate.  Peachy sipped Cournoise, Steel Wines, Writer's Block and it was just as good as the name!  She then chose a magnificent Bordeaux Blend, Gilbert Cellars, Left Bank.  

We are hugely impressed with their dessert menu, not only because the Plum Crisp, joined by whipped cream and thyme was graceful, refined and the ideal delicious finale, but also because of the fabulous ratio of alcohol options to dessert.  You have beacoup de choices of Bourbon, Rye and American Whiskey and some Scotch and Port as well.  Peachy chose the McCarthy's Single Malt Whiskey from Clear Creek Distillery, OR. Aged three years, this whiskey boasted lovely smoothness and excellent taste.

Also you should know Josh hails from Chicago (go Blackhawks!) and enjoys soccer (MLS Peachy!  Everyone gets bonus points for being conversant in NYCFC.  If you are asking what that is we know you are not reading as we covered them all season and still do)...although dinner is obviously a monumental topic for us, we like to meet people with personality and depth that have varied interests and are engaging!  And his last name Frum rhymes with Vroom Vroom, like a racecar.   Josh's previous experiences post-Chicago include bartending in Austin, Texas and school in New Orleans. We can't wait to see what Monument Lane does next.

Our esteemed panelist adds:
On a old established corner in the West Village, where tourists flock and party-goers hang out on a Saturday night, a new restaurant has opened its doors. Not really new, but a little new, and for those of us Downtown, it's a welcome and warm place to go. Monument Lane, rooted in the sustainable local philosophy, puts forth a deliciously seasonal menu, changing items as the market changes (that would be Green Market). Using hormone-free, organic, natural clean food, this is the era of slow. But it's fast! From market to table in the most literal sense, unless you're picking the vegetables and herbs from your own garden to cook right now. The concept is novel, but not new. 

 For centuries, man has eaten what he could find, what is growing, what is plentiful. The Monument Lane owners believe in providing an imaginative twist to this reality. Offering not just the freshest, most tender selections from local farms and producers, but an imaginative, extensive menu using those ingredients. Imagination reaches to the bar selections, as well. We tried the "Stars over Oaxaca" , a creamy cocktail made with mezcal, allspice dram, salted agave nectar, egg white and chipotle. It's light but potent start to a meal, or a brilliant finish to a long hard day. 

Onto the victuals: we started with a plate of briny Malpeque oysters served on a bed of river stones. Presentation sustains the philosophy of Monument Lane throughout the entire meal. A blend of New Jersey corn and mascarpone might remind you of an old classic creamed corn. But basil adds a hint of scent to this side dish, as well as flavor. Roasted beets in a combo of white and red come with pistachio cream. Their pickled stems add a savory way to introduce variety into a dish. Hudson Valley Camembert is partnered with grapes, hazelnuts, frisee, red onion soubise and crostini. Their Montauk Fluke Crudo is a ceviche from a very mellow fish paired with pickled blueberries for pop. Ingenious. 

 Onto the duck (my entree), which hailed lately from Long Island. The chef didn't mind that we ordered it braised medium well. It was plated with peaches, fennel, smoked faro and a citrus reduction that supported the tenderness of the duck breast, and added surprise to every mouthful. More side treats: grilled summer vegetables so light, so right for the season. Roasted turnips in a leek vinaigrette are the harbingers of a fall root menu, but seem so summer with their greens included and their fat little bodies full of goodness. 

 A perfect Sauvignon Blanc accompanied the meal, from Elizabeth Spencer, Mendocino in California. The balance was so well-blended throughout the meal that the only thing missing was the finale: chocolate. Do try the chocolate ganache for a textural adventure. The menu reads: cookie crumble, candied mint, creme does not read: a feat worthy of Cirque de Soleil that defies gravity . The presentation plays with the different textures of chocolate and invites crispy into the creamy for a dreamy end to a wonderful meal. By the time that you read this, their menu will have changed, but the sense of fresh, innovative approach and deliciousness will pervade each and every offering when you do get there.

Peachy Picks Monument Lane!
Monument Lane is Highly Recommended by Whom You Know.

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