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Friday, June 10, 2011

Eating Manhattan: Finding the Perfect Pairing at Philip Marie

In my eating foray's it seems that I have been neglecting the West Side! So sorry. I'll fix that right now!

Mostly because the establishment known as Philip Marie in the West Village, has me on their mailing list....and enticed me with a wine and food pairing I could not resist: "Some Like it Red."

Why not? It's an opportunity to introduce you to a restaurant where I can honestly say I've never had a bad meal.

I first started going to Philip Marie because my friend plays Mardis Gras gigs there (oh how I love a place that supports live music in Manhattan). And I still go back for those when they occur, and bring friends in tow. Let's face it: Nothing beats fine Cajun food and a fantastic band together.

Really, the food is so excellent and unusual at Philip Marie, that I'll take any excuse to visit.

So, with my regular "Eating Manhattan" cohort, Ric out of town, I grabbed another victim as my dinner companion, and off we went on a culinary adventure.

At least one would hope.

Philip Marie boasts of being a place for "New American Cuisine in the Heart of the West Village." It is indeed a gem of a restaurant, with warm inviting decor, large windows, comfortable tables, nice acoustics, a welcoming bar, out of this world wine list, and fusion of flavors that I have found seldom in Manhattan, and certainly not at their reasonable prices.

Their executive Chef is John P. Grecco III. Before opening Philip Marie, he worked at such establishments as San Domenico (NYC)and Imola (Italy), Cipriani and Harry's Bar (NYC), Le Cirque (NYC) and Torre di Pisa (NYC). You may remember him from one of the Food Network's "Chopped" competition on TV. (Most of us think he was robbed.)

So you know you are in for an event when you walk through the door.

The "Some like it Red," food pairing June 9th, was a double whammy for me. Great food assured, and Red wine, which is my favorite. No-brainer all around.

Arriving before my dinner companion, I ordered Fried Green Tomatoes off the menu ($6.95), and when he arrived, we followed with Butternut Squash Soup ($6.50).

Then we eased in for the main event! Note here that with the food pairings, a glass of wine is served to compliment each course. Half a pour. And the servings as well, are not huge. It's more like having Tapas. Little plates to compliment the wine. However, we have found that for a nominal fee,and quantities permitting, the kind folks at Philip Marie WILL let you order a second of anything you like.


Here's what was planned for this event:

First Course:

Organic Cactus Risotto with black truffle essence and crumbled Spanish Chorizo.

Paired with The Prisoner Red Wine (Napa Valley, CA 2009)

Second Course:

Double Braised Beef Short Ribs glazed in Teriyaki and served with Sweet Potatoes, Mashed.

Paired with Sticky Beak Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, Ca 2009)

Third Course:

Filet Mignon of Wild Boar wrapped in Applewood Smoked Pancetta, and served with Sweet Potatoes mashed with Wild Mushroom and Fig Sauce

Paired with Dievole, Novecento Riserva Chianti Classico (Vagliagli, Italy 2006)

Fourth Course:

Deep Fried Chocolate Truffles with Pear Sauce and Shaved White Chocolate.

Paired with Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Brut (France)


I'll start with the appetizers:

It seems that it is increasingly difficult to find good Fried Green Tomatoes. I know the ones my Grandmother made, and the ones my Mom still makes, are tangy and flavorful, without the need for a spicy mayonnaise to make them so. They are also tender and thinly cut, and I think the fried discs I've had both on a recent trip to Charlotte, and here at Philip Marie, are suffering from two things: Not being home grown tomatoes, or being allowed to soften, AND are cut way too thick.

In short, no more fried green tomatoes for me. I give up. But, in Philip Marie's defense they were better than the two varieties I tried in North Carolina.

The Butternut squash soup however, was served at the perfect temperature, and had a melody of flavors, and velvet texture, that would have me ordering it over and over again. A real winner.

On the food and wine pairings, when we were brought our 1/2 pour of The Prisoner Red, we were told the "spicy flavor of the wine cancels out the chirizo, letting you enjoy the other flavors of the risotto."

Our first words to each other were, "But we like the flavor of chirizo, and why would we not want to taste that. And why put chirizo in if you can't taste it."

The risotto was interesting, albeit a little watery for me. BUT, The Prisoner Red is a wonderful, drinkable wine that had an amazing aftertaste. I will have it on my "Like" list for some time. But they were right. It did sadly cancel out the chorizo.

Course Number Two in a word, was flawless. The double braised short ribs were tender and meshed with the flavors of the sweet potato mash. In addition, the Sticky Beak Pinot Noir seemed the perfect wine to go with the dish, and I really enjoyed the smokey flavor that sneaks up at the end.

Course Number Three... I've had wild boar several times now and keep hoping for an epiphany. Though lean, the flavor never really comes out. Also, with this course, I was a little dismayed that sweet potatoes would be served twice in one session, and although these were supposed to have wild mushroom and fig sauce, it tasted exactly the same as the sweet potatoes served with the short ribs. I also wasn't crazy abut the Chianti Classico. The aftertaste being a little acidic.

Course Number Four... pure heaven on a plate. Could not have been better, and small enough to not make you stuffed. You can not go wrong with Piper-Heidsieck, one of my favorite champagne Brut's.

A few things to say about the staff at Phillip Marie. They are always wonderful. And that was still the case tonight. When it took awhile for our first course to come out, the person serving us, gave us a smiggen more of a wine pour for our trouble. We did not say no to more Prisoner Red.

As for the conclusion of the meal. We so loved the braised short ribs, that we asked to order another round, and the owner let us do so, at a very reasonable addition ($10. each for the food and the wine. Again, these are dim sum portions, one order is roughly 1 short rib.)

As a little side note, this was funny too, because my friend tried the Prisoner Red with the short rib the second time around, instead of the recommended Pinot Noir, and discovered he should never have questioned the chef's pairing to begin with. :-)

The most unbelievable part is this little adventure never breaks the bank. This particular wine and food pairing was only $32. a person.

A wonderful culinary excursion once again. And a chance to put on a wine snob hat for an evening without the wine snob pocketbook. :-) And although the portions and pours are deceptively tapas sized, the cumulative affect has you leaving very satisfied.

Philip Marie is located at 569 Hudson St. at West 11th. You can visit them on line at: www.philipmarie.com

They offer their wine and food pairings weekly, and have many other specials and events throughout the month.

I highly recommend this restaurant. Although I can pick at a few things here and there, they are consistently amazing, and you'll always find something extraordinary on the menu.


(Photo taken from the Philip Marie website: www.philipmarie.com)

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