We really don’t have brandied fruit as much these days as we used to…and we should! I mean, what could be wrong with fruits like cherries, peaches, and pears soaked in brandy? So delicious! The process of brandying fruits used to be a method of preserving summer fruits for the long winter. Nowadays, when every fruit is readily available to us at any time we want it (with just a quick trip into Trader Joe’s), it’s less of a necessity and more of a wonderful excuse to up your alcohol intake, lol. Depending on which fruit you use, brandied fruit can be a great complement to both savory and sweet dishes, either as a fruity compote or sauce for an entree, or the boozy topping to your favorite scoop of ice cream. (Or you can be a little naughty and eat it right out of the jar!) I’ve decided to highlight both for National Brandied Fruit Day: one savory dish, where the fruit is the sweet component to a delectable meat entree; and a dessert, where your brandied fruits will probably go best with another brandy in your glass. Let’s get fruity!
You probably would assume that a place with the name of “Quality Meats” would be just the opposite: some kind of grocery store in the outer boroughs that’s one or two rungs below Western Beef, and without even the cartoon cactus mascot. But the humble name disguises one of the best-kept secrets of New York, a high-end steakhouse in Midtown that’s surrounded by the old-school glitz of Grand Army Plaza. Here you’ll find some of the biggest and best steaks in the city, the restaurant truly living up to its hokey name. And unlike some steakhouses, where the chef is content to let the quality of the beef stand up on its own without any fineagaling from the cooking staff, Quality Meats offers some great sauce combinations to keep those steaks juicy and complement their fine flavor. The Hangar Steak, in particular, is served with a brandied cherry sauce that works perfectly with the meat. It’s not overly sweet, so you don’t feel like you’re eating a candied steak, and the thickness stands up to the steak itself, unlike many watery steak sauces meant to mimic the juiciness of the meat. It’s one of the top offerings by Quality Meats during Restaurant Week, and although the famous promotion’s long gone by now, you should definitely keep an eye out in 2013–this steak isn’t one to miss.
57 W 58th St (between Grand Army Plz & West 58th St)
“Chloe and I both started with the steak tartare… which was so well portioned that we could have split one. She had honey glazed baby back ribs which came so cleanly off the bone. I had hanger steak with brandied cherries that was perfectly cooked, juicy, and smokey.”–Kelly Purkey
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Hangar steak with brandied cherry sauce. The hangar was fine – cooked as ordered – but the brandied cherry stood out. Oh wow. Not too sweet, proper thickness, would love if they bottled and sold this. No joke.”–Allison P.
“For my entree, I got the hanger steak. I got it medium rare, but I would go for it a little more on the medium side next time. The steak had a really nice texture, and it the brandied cherry sauce added some great richness and depth. It was really, really delicious. We ordered a side of the corn creme brulee, which was a definite hit — it was more creme brulee-like than I had imagined, and it was amazing.”–Ariel X.
Mmm, and now for brandied fruit dessert! You wouldn’t think that a great dessert could come out of a pizza place. I mean, the only thing I remember being served sweet in pizzerias were scoops of Italian Ice coming out in those paper cups. But then again, everyone knows that Otto Enoteca is no normal pizza joint. Created by the world-renowned celebrity chefs and restaurateurs Joe and Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali, Otto Enoteca Pizza is the Rolls Royce of pizzerias, serving their gourmet, yet controversial, thin-crust pizzas and other rustic Italian favorites. This place is the height of elevated simple Italian cuisine, and that can certainly be seen in their dessert selections. Like any high-end restaurant, one of their dessert options is a cheese plate, an assortment of mild yet expertly-aged and selected cheeses paired with complements and sauces that display the experienced palate of the chef. Otto Enoteca serves their cheese plate with artisanal gorgonzola and parmesan and other delicious selections, and each cheese is accompanied by a sweet sauce to complement the complex flavors in each individual cheese. Choose the gorgonzola and you’ll be in for a treat: its accompanying sauce is a compote of brandied sour cherries, the sourness of the cherries making the sauce not too sweet, and a great match to the full-bodied gorgonzola. Other sauces include an apricot sauce, chocolate honey, and black truffle honey…mmmm! And if you use up all the cheese on dipping into those wonderful fruit sauces, ask for some bread and the waitstaff will happily oblige. You’ll want to get every drop of that brandied sour cherry sauce into your belly before you leave!
Otto Enoteca Pizzeria
1 5th Ave (between Washington Mews & 8th St)
“Salumi, from prosciutto di Parma to Batali-cured testa, lonza, and coppa, are beautifully presented enoteca-style, on a paper-sheathed plate. Cheese is served with brandy-soaked black cherries, truffle honey, and spicy Seville-orange mostarda, a chutneylike condiment.”–New York Magazine
“In addition, the artisinal cheese plate is a must. Choose either a selection of three, five or seven different cheeses to make up the plate, and as a bonus you will get three of the most decadent accompaniments ever created: apricots, brandied cherries and truffle honey. The truffle honey alone is worth the visit to Otto. It is an explosion of flavor that is both sweet and earthy, and is the perfect pairing to any of the cheeses that they offer.”–Examiner
“Part winebar, part pizzeria, part trattoria, this restaurant is known as a meeting place for tired hospitality workers after their shifts. The “who’s who” of New York chefs mingle here. High in the popularity stakes is the dessert, where one has a simple choice: ice cream or cheese. But the limits are less restrictive than they appear, as each cheese is combined with fruit in an unusual form: small sour cherries in syrup accompany a tender slice of Gorgonzola for example; while grape puree is served as a dip for chunks of parmesan.”–Smart Travelling
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“otto is my go-to place when catching up with friends or am in the mood for a quick, inexpensive (yet DELICIOUS) bite. i highly recommend starting with the cheese plate (ricotta, triple cream goat and parmesan are out of this world) accompanied with black truffle honey, cherries and brandied apricots. phenomenal. for mains, the prosciutto arugala pizza and the escarole sausage pasta are not to be missed.”–Jessica S.
“We shared 3 unbelievable cheese selections that were served with OMG the most outstanding dipping sauces. I wanted a straw. Or an I.V. catheter. Honey with truffles, brandied cherries and apricots. WOW. As if melty, creamy, velvety cheeses even need a dip…but oh, once you try it you realize that of COURSE they do and the bread does too! Wow. I’m truly almost speechless about how much I loved those incredible cheeses.”–Carey Y.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!