Chez Madeleine

Monday, September 18, 2006

How Kristin read my mind, and picked the Little Owl


A few weeks ago, I excitedly called Kristin to tell her that I would be in New York City for one night for dinner. I'm usually in NYC about three times a year for work, but this would be a very quick trip. I was dying to try a new restaurant. We talked on the phone about options, and dreamily imagined the place where we would go. Somewhere shocking, somewhere expensive, somewhere uniquely New York. I was in sad break-up mode, and wanting to treat myself to a culinary experience.

About a week later, I rethought things. Emailed Kristin and said "take back my earlier musings. Let's go somewhere in the Village. Walking distance from your place. Warm. Homey. New American....does that work?" Kristin replied--she had already read my mind and booked us for 5 at the Little Owl, a new corner restaurant on her block. It would be everything I had asked for and more.

So, at around 8 pm last night, we started the trek down Kristin's 6 flights of stairs, and on to her narrow street, and we arrived within moments at a candlelit corner restaurant called the Little Owl. Ali was there to meet us.

Tables of people were cozily tucked inside, a giant silver ladle hung on the wall, there were fresh flowers on the window ledge, and a giant picture window into the kitchen. The smells were seductive. Roasted pork wafted from the kitchen.

Our table was vacated right after we arrived, but in the meantime, a lovely woman brought us wine so that we could wait in the corner for them to finish. Shortly after, Kristin's other friends, Jen and Jenny joined us. Its a testament to Kristin's unfailing charm that we had the best table(s) in the restaurant. We were the corner of the corner restaurant, and we were entertained throughout dinner by the spoons of couples and threesomes of friends that walked by on their way to their next stops.

I had unintentionally starved myself all day in anticipation for my meal at the Little Owl. Having arrived in NY just an hour before work started, I never had the chance to grab lunch. I scored some cookes at the Hilton-they were just enough of a sugar rush to get me through the afternoon.

Growing up with a parent from Chicago, I have an automatic appreciation for sliders. Those greasy, flattened, burgers whose size gives you permission to eat 14 of them at once-when you're a kid at least.

So, I ordered the gravy meatball sliders (beef, pork, veal and pecorino) to start with. They were divine. Slide, they did not. They were moist, saucy, sharp with pecorino, and I had consumed them almost as quickly as I used to down the White Castles from my youth.


Jenny & Ali split an appetizer special, truffle risotto with an egg on top. They actually were the beneficiaries of an extra egg! Our server split the risotto for the girls, and gave them both a glistening yolk on top to swirl into their creamy beginning. This photo is terrible, but the risotto was divine.


Kristin & Jen started with the bibb salad with hearts of palm, artichoke, fennel and parmesan. Their salad was a buffet of colors and textures...each bite different.


For our entrees, Kristin & I once again had the ESP thing going on-we both walked in wanting, needing the porkchop. Hailed by Frank Bruni, the porkchop has gained acclaim for its size, its moist center and crispy outside. Its a study in phsyics to figure out how something can be cooked so perfectly. The pork chop was served over parmesan butter beans and wild dandelion. Both were good friends to the giant porkchop-the butter beans and dandelion floated in the broth and warm juice and seemed very content to take a second seat to the meat.


Jenny (a former commenter on my blog) chose the roasted halibut with mashed chive potatos and lemon creme fraiche. I didn't try her halibut, but her mashed potatos were dr. seuss quality-green through and through and silky smooth.


Jen had sliders for her meal and seemed to devour them with the same gusto as I had. Ali, who had tasted the fruit of the porkchop tree on her last visit to the Little Owl, chose the crispy chicken with asparagus home fries, shitakes and lemon mustard. She shared her chicken generously and it was indeed very crispy-in a thin crispy way.


Last, we five ladies, who had spent the evening discussing all of the lude things you can see through curtain-less windows in New York, the ridiculous food habits of former men in my life, the crazy things that can occur to you at 4 am on a Friday night when you are trying to break in to your own building, the famous puppets that I met in Costa Rica, and, again, more crazy things you can see through windows, well, we ordered dessert.



And here's where it all came together. The wine while we waited...our wonderful table...two eggs for the ladies who split the risotto, blatant toleration of my taking photos of the food, and the little owl did it again. We ordered the rasberry beignets with nutella, and our server whispered to Jen, "those come in fours, but I'll make sure you get five".


A beignet from a kind woman, and an inviting restaurant on a generous and comforting corner near a great friend's house, just tastes better than it does from any other place in the world. And they did. They were like jelly-filled doughnuts on crack, with crack sauce. Our warm brownie cake was also rich and dense, but we had to give the prize to the quintet of beignets.


Finally, the bill came, tucked inside "Schott's History of Food & Drink"


In the end, I was sad to leave our corner, our stories, and our empty plates behind. I felt at home among beautiful, smart, food-loving, friend-lovin' women. What a perfect night to spend in New York if you have just one.

One more note--for the lovely gentlemen who guessed that I was a blogger and were so nice to come over and say hello. I hope you're reading! If so, keep reading. I'll make a deal to keep coming back to the little owl. Thank you for being such friendly people.


Anonymous joshua said...


I was one of the fine gentlemen who bade you farewell at The Little Owl. Love your blog!



2:02 PM  

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