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Best In-Between Seasons Eats

Lamb Lasagna with Goat Cheese, Preserved Lemons, and Broccoli Rabe at Feast.

Lamb Lasagna with Goat Cheese, Preserved Lemons, and Broccoli Rabe at Feast

It’s a funny thing about the first few weeks of spring.  No sooner do we start to get excited about longer, warmer days and farmers markets full of green, leafy vegetables, then the weather takes a turn, and we go right back to craving soups and stews for those still too chilly afternoons and even colder nights.

Restaurant menus also appear to have a foot in each season, using fresh, spring produce when they can, but not quite able to let go completely of heavy proteins and rib-sticking dishes.  It’s certainly the case at Felidia, which serves slow-braised Flat Iron Beef with Spring Vegetable Farrotto, and at Feast, where they’re filling a wintry Lasagna with Preserved Lemons and Spring Lamb.  So until we can officially forgo beans for sweet peas and cremini mushrooms for morels, we’re happily taking advantage of these “in-between season” eats.

Traif's Duck Confit with Green Garlic and English Peas

Traif's Duck Confit with Green Garlic and English Peas
229 S 4th Street
Brooklyn,New York 11211
(347) 844-9578

Jason Marcus has become adept at marrying seemingly disparate ingredients at his Williamsburg restaurant, Traif.  The Jewish chef makes no apologies about his non-kosher penchant for pork, resulting in dishes like Bacon Doughnuts, Braised Pork Cheeks à l’ancienne (which he deems the best brisket ever),  and Chopped Chicken Livers with Bacon Balsamic Toasts.  He’s managing a similar balancing act this season, pairing wintry Moulard Duck Confit with springy Green Garlic and English Peas, rich Veal Sweetbreads with fresh Sugar Snap Peas and Asparagus, and fatty Berkshire Pork Belly with tart Blackberries and Rhubarb.

Le Philosophe's Crepe de Foie Gras with Passion Fruit Curd

Le Philosophe's Crepe de Foie Gras with Passion Fruit Curd
55 Bond Street
NoHo,NY 10012
(212)388-0038
Cuisine:

Chef Matthew Aita expertly updates classic French dishes at his new Noho bistro, Le Philosophe.  He adds brightness to heavy fare like Duck à l’Orange (using citrus segments rather than a gloppy sauce), and lightness to the traditionally butter and cream-laced Blanquette de Veau, a ragout of veal.  It certainly bodes well for his ability to effectively bridge the seasons. The Crepe au Foie Gras served at brunch may sound impossibly rich and decadent, and well, it is.  But Aita balances out the unctuously fatty liver with an aromatic dollop of Passion Fruit Curd, and a peppery bite of Watercress. A perfect dish for (early) spring!

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Gwynnett St.'s Pigs Ear with Maple Syrup and Radish

Gwynnett St.'s Pigs Ear with Maple Syrup and Radish
312 Graham Avenue
Brooklyn,New York 11211
(347) 889-7002

Having studied under Wylie Dufresne at WD-50Gwynnett St.’s chef, Justin Hilbert, has plenty of avant-garde tricks up his sleeve.  He coats Chickens in Hay Ash, brines Duck with Peach Pits, and constructs a bouncy and unusually flavorful “Tofu” from Pistachios, Gellan Gum and Kuzu Starch, a main course that even a carnivore would love.  So when it comes to creating craveable, off-season cuisine?  That’s just child’s play for Hilbert.  He pairs a crispy Pigs Ear with first-run Maple Syrup and Radish, makes a soup with Stinging Nettles, Clams, Kombu and Parsley, and tops White Beer-Poached Salmon with sharp wild mustard and crunchy winter fennel.

Felidia's Braised Steak Tagliata with Spring Vegetable Farrotto

Felidia's Braised Steak Tagliata with Spring Vegetable Farrotto
243 E 58th Street
Midtown East,New York 10022
(212) 758-1479

When Lidia Bastianich opened her flagship Midtown restaurant back in 1981, she changed the city’s perception of Italian food.  Instead of limp spaghetti bombed with tomato sauce, and fried chicken cutlets smothered in mozzarella cheese, the food at Felidia was distinctly cleaner and lighter, referencing regional dishes from all over Italy.  Her longtime chef, Fortunato Nicotra, continues to add fresh flourishes to comfort food favorites.  The Burrata e Uova is a play on porky Carbonara, saucing White and Green Asparagus with Burrata Cheese, New Hampshire Farms Blue Egg, and Bacon, and a seemingly heavy Braised Beef Flat Iron Steak Tagliata is elevated by a Farro Risotto, interspersed with vibrant spring vegetables.

Rucola's Roasted Pork with Pickled Rhubarb

Rucola's Roasted Pork with Pickled Rhubarb
190 Dean Street
Brooklyn,New York 11217
(718) 576-3209

This Boerum Hill restaurant is serious about seasonality, growing as much as they can in their very own rooftop garden, and going on ramp hunts each spring.  So if their menu isn’t positively brimming with warm-weather produce, it means that it’s just not available.  Instead, Rucola is adding fresh accents to winter dishes wherever possible, pairing Roasted Pork and Fennel with Pickled Rhubarb, topping a Crudo of Branzino with Pickled Green Tomatoes, Toasted Sunflower Seeds and Basil, and integrating their namesake salad green, Arugula, with Celery Seed Vinaigrette, Parmigiano, and thin wheels of early spring Radish.

Telepan's Lobster Bolognese

Telepan's Lobster Bolognese
72 W 69th Street
Upper West Side,New York 10023
(212) 580-4300

The long-simmered meat and tomato-based Italian ragu called Bolognese doesn’t exactly scream springtime freshness.  Unless you’re dining at the uber seasonal, Upper West Side restaurant Telepan, that is.  A noted Greenmarket enthusiast, chef and owner Bill Telepan never saddles his ingredients with too much sauce, meat or fat.  And in the case of the Bolognese, he cleverly swaps out heavy clumps of ground beef or pork with succulent chunks of lobster, bathed in a thin broth of tomato, garlic and shallots, and topped off with a smattering of fresh herbs.

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Montmartre's Halibut with Fennel and Artichoke Barigoule

Montmartre's Halibut with Fennel and Artichoke Barigoule
158 Eighth Avenue
Chelsea,New York 10011
(646) 596-8838

When you pair restaurateur Gabe Stulman (of the American comfort food haven, Joseph Leonard, and the meat-centric Italian restaurant, Perla) with former Momofuku chef, Tien Ho, you don’t automatically think French bistro.  And when you think of French bistro standards, like Chicken Liver Croustillant or Salt Cod Brandade, you probably don’t expect them to be made with Asian ingredients, like Blonde Miso or Thai Chili.  But it’s precisely this juxtaposition of East meets West, heavy meets light, that makes Montmartre work.  That’s why we’re looking forward to merging the seasons with dishes, like Poached Halibut with Fennel, Chamomile, Yuzu, and Artichoke Barigoule (a stew made with white wine and broth), and Edwards Ham with White Asparagus, Pistachios.

Feast's Lamb Lasagna

Feast's Lamb Lasagna
102 3rd Avenue
East Village,New York 10003
(212) 529-8880

This new East Village spot specializes in large format meals, shared at communal, wooden tables.  Choose from either the “Union Square Greenmarket” feast, that changes with the seasons, or the appropriately titled “Nose-to-Tail” feast, focused around a rotating selection of animals.  Chef Christopher Meenan is kicking off spring with an all-lamb banquet, showcasing the protein in a variety of unusual ways.  Some of the richest-sounding preparations are actually quite light, like a “Shepherd’s Pie” made with Lamb Belly, Sweet Potato and Pesto, and a “Lasagna,” formed with Lamb Shank, Goat Cheese, Broccoli Rabe and Preserved Lemon.  Others are perfect for staving off that end-of-winter chill, like Marguez Stew, made with Lamb Sausage, Tomato and Quail Egg, and an Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb, served with a Port-enhanced Jus.

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