A Late Lunch/Fooding with Sam: Boqueria & Cafe Grumpy
The past Thursday, when the weather in NYC was atrocious: it rained then changed to sleet, transformed to snow, then back to the pouring of rain. Isn’t Mother Nature great?! Sighs… The good thing was that fact I don’t have classes but I had to study for my finals since they’re starting on Monday (4 finals in a row = mind suicide).
Anyways, ever since I had my previous dinner at Momofuku Ssam with Sam and a bunch of other friends, I never really hanged out or went fooding with him. Since he’s going back to his hometown in Missouri next week and I don’t have time due to the aforementioned finals, I made time from my study schedule and had a late lunch with him at Boqueria.
Despite the fact that we’re practically the few diners, it feels like a casual, comfortable place to hang out with a couple of friends to eat and drink.
About five minutes after we got seated, our waitress told us that the kitchen is about to close soon (it’s near or a little past 3) so we have to choose our hot tapas soon before they’ll switch over to their menus. After that warning, we just chose our three tapas dishes and a media racion.
The cojonudo, which is fried quail eggs with chorizo on toast, was pretty tasty, despite it’s two-biter size. The porky, spicy, peppery bite of the chorizo with the gooey egg yolk oozing out after sinking the teeth into the crunchy toast – it’s pretty darn awesome. I just don’t know if it justifies the price tag of $6.
The pintxos morunos, which is grilled lamb skewered and topped with finely chopped parsley, was tasty as well. The bright, acidic marinade that that lamb was sitting in hid the natural gaminess. The cumin that’s also marinated in this dish added a slightly smoky flavor. The good part was that the lamb’s cooked to a medium-rare, so it’s in a nice shade of pink. So tender…
The xipirones y xocoa seemed like the most intriguing dish from the entire menu: grilled baby squid with cocoa and hazelnut vinaigrette. The squid’s cooked perfectly, that I’m not eating a piece of chewy rubber. The cocoa and hazelnut bits on top gave it an earthy, crunchy texture to the tender squid. Flavor-wise, the cocoa was really subtly flavored that I really have to pay attention to the fact that I’m tasting cocoa since the bitterness was subdued. The hazelnut was a bit more prominent since it does have that rich, nutty flavor.
And finally the pièce de résistance, the croquetas cremosas. I know I used a French word for a Spanish dish but it is what I said. This tapa contained three different croquettes: mushroom, ham, and salted cod. All three were creamy with some differences, of course. The creamiest of the three was the salted cod. Jeebus, if every croquette was that creamy, I would die happily from the excess fat and starch since I wouldn’t mind eating bucket loads of them!
The über thin, crisp, crust meets light, fluffy, creamy potato with fibers of salted cod smushed within – it’s just so delicious accompanied by the lemon aioli. The ham was good but not as awesome as the cod since the bits of ham interrupted the creaminess of the filling. The interesting part was the fig paste that went along with this croquette: sweet meets savory. The mushroom was also very good due to the use of truffle oil in the aioli. There were bits of mushrooms but the size wasn’t as large as the ham. I don’t have an innards shot for you for this particular croquette. Sorry. I would have to say, these croquettes are almost as good as Degustation.
After finishing our food, the waitress wanted to know if we wanted extra tapas or dessert? We thought about it for several minutes and decided to go against it and wander around the neighborhood in the rain. So we paid the check and walk out in the cold, wet streets of Chelsea.
Since Sam isn’t a sweets/dessert freak like I am, he wanted some coffee and he reminded me of Cafe Grumpy. It’s been a long while since I actually last visited there. I trust his taste in coffee since he works at Bouchon Bakery and we talk a lot about food and we agree on most terms about what tastes good. Also he seems to know a tad more about coffee than I do. While we were waiting for our espresso drinks, Sam actually talked a bit about Bouchon’s coffee and his preference on Grumpy’s Kenyan espresso since he likes the coffee’s berry profile. Honestly, I don’t really pay attention to particular origin coffees since most taste the same but the different roasts make a difference to what I taste and I also care about how they make their espresso (e.g. the barista must be grinding the beans on the spot when the coffee was ordered, not by the push of a button and you get the espresso. The latter is garbage.).
I’m really content with this espresso. The lovely crema from the espresso shot. The robust, bitterness of the espresso bean softened by the velvety milk foam. Oh, this was wonderful to warm myself up after walking several blocks over in the cold with the wind and rain pouring down.
Judging by Sam’s espresso, it looks quite awesome. The thick, rich, dark brown crema is a strong sign that this espresso was done correctly and it will taste exquisite.
So we grabbed a seat in this slightly crowded cafe and chat for half an hour until I had to go home and stick my nose to my books and study.
53 W 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
224 W 20th Street
New York, NY 10011