Monday, July 26, 2010

Food Writing - Restaurant Review

Tonight's my last class. :( I'll be back with tales from the weekend including my new part time job at a Gourmet Sno-Cone establishment. But for now - here's my latest food writing offering. Comments and critiques welcome.

Northern Spy Food Co.

Tucked on a side street in the heart of Alphabet City, if you didn't know the Northern Spy Food Co. was there you might miss it.

And that would be a shame.

Named for a variety of apple cultivated in New York, the mission of the creators of Northern Spy is to 'hunt down' regional fruits, vegetables, artisan foods and sustainably produced meat and fish and feature them in the most charming locale. After my visit there I can confidently say they have succeeded.

The designers of the space used as many repurposed materials as they could get their hands on it seems, which fits perfectly with the culinary vision. The d├ęcor is reminiscent of a country General Store, with banquettes that look much like park benches. After your meal be sure to visit the counter where they sell a bevy of products such as Brooklyn Brine Pickles (housed in an antique chicken coop) and tasty local treats like Liddabit's Sweets' Caramels.

On this night our large group dined family style. First up, the Farmer's market salad which featured baby turnips, leeks, carrots and cucumbers in a yogurt vinaigrette. The crunch of the colorful vegetables tossed amongst the peppery arugula was the perfect start. It was served alongside gnocchi which was charred and swimming in a cherry tomato sauce with fresh peas and basil. The smoky flavor gave the dish a unique taste and it was definitely something you don't see at your local Italian place.

Next up was Freekeh risotto with zucchini, asparagus and mascarpone. Creamy and full of fresh vegetables it's a dish that proves Arborio rice isn't the only player in the risotto game.

We also were presented with the Long Island Market fish atop a bed of roasted mushrooms, crisp green beans and sweet corn. The fish was perfectly prepared and complimented the heavier risotto.

Stuffed but still anticipating a sweet ending to our meal we were served two fruit filled delights. A spongy yellow plum cake with basil ice cream and sugar crusted sour and sweet cherry pie with caramel ice cream looked and tasted like something you'd see pinned with a blue ribbon at the State Fair. Rustic and familiar, the unusual ice cream elevated these two desserts to something even more prize worthy.

Northern Spy Food Co. recently doubled their wine list, featuring many local varieties. Service is swift and attentive without being overbearing or making you feel rushed. It's important to note there's a brief period between lunch and dinner (4-5:30 PM) where only snacks are served. The space is cozy so be prepared to wait or call ahead if you are looking to dine during prime dinner hours.

If you're pressed for time, take out is always available.

Northern Spy Food Co.
511 East 12th St (between Avenues A & B)
New York, NY 10009


  1. My favorite thing about this review was your picture. The juxtaposition of the fire escapes, the rustic sign and the enormous tree made me want to visit this place without even reading the rest of the review.

    As I read this, I really wanted to know more. You mentioned repurposed items, but only mentioned the chicken coop, I would have liked to get more of a feel.

    It may be my bland suburban palate, but I have no idea what the heck freekeh is (although I googled it) I would have liked to know what it was and how it tasted (and how it was different from arborio)

    You mentioned the caramel ice cream was "unusual" but also "rustic and familiar" I was confused at what you were getting at. Did you mean unusual was uncommon.

    My only quibble was in para 3 where you used the word "and" three times in a seven word stretch which seemed clunky.

    Terriffic job

    Your #1 fan

  2. At least I didn't talk about the bathroom. :)