Now that we’ve reached the halfway mark of summer, we thought we’d look back at our favorite seasonal dishes and go back for seconds before autumn arrives. You’ll want to take advantage of heirloom tomatoes, asparagus, corn, all things shellfish and even summer truffles, scattered over Dovetail’s salt baked onion. There’s Casa Mono’s simple, yet outstanding, razor clams a la plancha, Scarpetta’s asparagus and mussel soup and Miriam’s zucchini cakes. September is coming soon, and we plan to use this list to relive the best parts of the summer before it disappears.
Bell, Book & Candle – Maryland Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
141 W 10th St. between 6th and 7th Ave.
This West Village newcomer has already received plenty of attention and a repeat audience. While anyone can say they’re organic and sustainable nowadays, this spot is so serious about it they grow their own herbs, cauliflower, tomatillos and lettuce on the aeroponic rooftop garden above the restaurant. During the summer months, Bell, Book & Candle’s menu features killer jumbo lump crab cakes. Served with an Old Bay Creole mustard sauce, they’re made with sweet Maryland crab meat. Try at a table or at the bar during their $1 oyster happy “hour,” which happily lasts all night.
Applewood – Blueberry Clafouti
501 11th Street, btwn. 7th & 8th Aves. (Park Slope, Brooklyn)
David & Laura Shea opened Applewood in Park Slope long before Brooklyn became a buzz word. Devotees of the slow food movement, the couple rely on local farmers for almost all of their produce, and serve only wild fish and hormone-free meat. None of this would mean much if the cooking weren’t so exceptional and seasonal. Applewood even puts a summery spin on a vodka martini, making theirs with heirloom tomato puree and fresh, muddled basil. As for the rest of the menu, there’s a toasted quinoa croquette with summer vegetable pan roast., sauteed hake with okra and creamed summer spinach, or tilefish with a charred tomato vinaigrette. Still our top summer pick is located on the dessert menu a blueberry clafouti with rosemary honey and sweet cream.
Casa Mono – Razor Clams a la Plancha
52 Irving Place near 17th St
This tapas spot is ideal grazing ground and you’ll want to do just that because there’s too many delicious things on the menu to commit too much of your appetite to one dish. Mario Batali has lots of great restaurants, but we’re particularly fond of this Gramercy spot because it digresses from his usual Italian cooking. Instead, Casa Mono looks to Spain for inspiration, and the wine list follows suit. Regardless of the season, you’ll find classics, like jamon Iberico, pan con tomato, and chorizo with manchego. But only in summertime can you get beets and strawberries with hazelnuts, anchovies with heirloom tomatoes, or peaches and plums with cana de cabra. Still, our favorite is the razor clams a la plancha, topped with garlic, olive oil and parsley. Pair it with a Spanish wine from the award-winning list.
ABC Kitchen – Heirloom Tomato Toast
35 E 18th St. between Broadway and Park Avenue
Summer is the perfect time to savor simple, unadulterated pleasures, like grilled corn, asparagus, fresh berries, or ripe tomatoes. Last year, we fell in love with ABC Kitchen’s heirloom tomato toast and were elated to see it return to the “market table” section of the menu this year. Chef Dan Kluger has mastered the art of toast, but this might be his tour de force. A thick, crusty slice of bread is layered with beautiful heirloom tomatoes of all colors and sizes, seasoned with nothing more than salt and olive oil. The presentation is a lot more rustic than that of a typical Jean Georges dish, but it’s exactly what we want in August. There’s a whole wheat pizza topped with fresh Jersey tomatoes, a sugar snap pea salad and fresh strawberries with mint and meringue to boot.
Scarpetta – Asparagus and Mussel Soup
355 W 14th St. at 9th
Scarpetta is known for bold, decadent dishes, like polenta with truffled mushrooms, osso buco and short rib & bone marrow agnolotti. But Scott Conant is just as adept with light, summer fare, like black tagliolini with seafood ragout or local striped bass with artichokes.
Still, the most quintessential summer dish, and for our menu the best right now, is the asparagus and mussel soup, made with white & green asparagus, mustard seeds and a clever kick of red pepper.
Miriam – Zucchini Cake in Yogurt Sauce
79 Fifth Avenue near Prospect Place, Brooklyn
This is chef-owner Rafael Hasid’s version of Israeli soul food. He named his Brooklyn restaurant after his mother and cooks the cuisine of his homeland – a combination of Mediterranean, North African, Middle Eastern and even Eastern European flavors. Israeli cooking may not have a single, distinct identity, but that’s what makes it terrific to explore. There’s grilled scallops with tomato, asparagus and pesto, grilled halloumi cheese with artichokes and great zucchini cakes with a cooling yogurt sauce. The sweetness of the cake is cut by the tart, creamy yogurt, making this one of our favorite starters (of course, the hummus is good, too). Finish with frees fruit and mint tea.
Dovetail – Salt Baked Onion
103 W 77th St
John Fraser was one of the first chefs to bring haute Greenmarket cooking to the Upper West Side, a neighborhood that used to be starved for progressive dining experiences. Dovetail still remains one of the best, and you’ll want to sample the white gazpacho, hake with pea dumplings, and the salt-baked onion. The baked onion itself is baked until it’s beautifully caramelized and tender, then scattered with seasonal truffles, cepes and Marcona almonds. It’s divine. Follow this dish up with the hake, served with summer pea dumplings and haricots verts.
Luke’s Lobster – Lobster Roll
Luke Holden knows where to get the best lobster: His dad. He flies in this crustacean every morning from Maine lobstermen, contracted by his dad’s seafood processing company. And because the lobster meat is so great, Luke’s lobster rolls don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. Big chunks of lobster knuckles are mixed a touch of mayo and celery salt, and served on a buttered split-top bun. To complete your New England mini-vacation, they also carry Vicky’s chips, a Maine microbrew beer, as well as Maine Root soda. If you’re sick of lobster rolls, they make crab and shrimp rolls, too.