I’m lucky because I have been fortunate enough to have some “pinchable” moments in my life. The ones that you live in, but can’t believe they are happening, so you think they must be a dream. It was such a moment for me at The Little Owl restaurant in New York City this last Saturday night.
I was on an all expenses paid trip to the city this weekend for winning the Electrolux Perfect Taste Challenge through Conde Nast. I will be posting the recipe on the blog very soon.
As if winning a trip to New York is not enough, they set Chad and I up with one of the most sought-after reservations in Manhattan along with a meet and greet with the chef.
We stayed in the Meat Packing District at The Dream Downtown hotel, which by all standards, is an absolute dream! I will need to give it it’s own post on the blog as well, because it’s just too special not to talk about.
The Meatpacking district is tucked into the upper corner of the West Village neighborhood, and the Little Owl is further out in the West Village, so we weren’t sure how long it would take us to walk and we left early.
We found the Little Owl on the corner of Bedford and Grove. It’s a tiny, absolutely charming place.
***Photo Credit www.thedailymeal.com.
It was pitch dark out, so I couldn’t get a photo. Please see the photo credit above.
The little place was filled with people. Our reservation wasn’t for another hour so we sat in a Starbucks on Houston Street and watched passersby for a while.
I knew that The Little Owl was rated number 14 out of about 11, 600 restaurants in NYC (source: Trip Advisor.com), but I didn’t yet know how sought after the place really was until I Googled it sitting there in that Starbucks. By the time Chad and I had done a few minutes of research, we weren’t sure they’d let us in!
It turns out that Chef Joey Campanaro has been on Iron Chef against the one and only Cat Cora. His 28 seat restaurant is indeed one of the most sought-after establishments in the whole of Manhattan. His Gravy Meatball Sliders are raved about online, and his cheeseburger has been called one of the best in the world. His American Mediterranean fare has won the hearts of critical New Yorkers time and time again.
***Photo Credit www.foodandwine.com.
When we arrived, we were greeted by the most friendly hostess, who was indeed, to our surprise and delight, expecting us. She took our coats and brought us champagne and fontina and pesto crostini while we waited for our table. The restaurant must have been no more than 500 square feet. You can see the entirety of it, including the kitchen as you stand in the doorway. It has exposed brick and old white paneling on the walls, vintage sconces, and dark wood tables. There is bench seating across the back wall, a few tables strategically placed, and a tiny loft by the hostess area large enough for two people to wait for their table. There are some small pictures of Joey and his family on the far wall, and a couple of well-placed pieces of art. The place was just packed with people laughing, drinking wine, and enjoying the beautiful food leaving the kitchen on white plates and ramekins.
Photo Credit NYeater.com
Joey came out to meet us. He told us that he would ensure we had a very special dinner. He asked if we liked white truffles. We had just seen them being sold at Chelsea Market for $100 dollars an ounce. I’d seen Wolfgang Puck rave about them on The Best Thing I’ve Ever Ate on Food Network, but I had not tried them. He told us we’d be having them tonight. He chatted with us and said he’d originally wanted to be an architect, but he had to pay for college so he worked in kitchens and the rest is history. All I can say is, thank goodness he became an architect of cuisine instead because I’ve never tasted food so good.
He signed a menu for us to take home.
We were doted on all night. For our appetizers we had the Risotto Bianco with a mountain of freshly shaved white truffles. It was so delicious, different, and just delightful. We also had the famous Gravy Meatball Sliders and it turns out that all the online reviews are correct. They are perfectly seasoned, rich, and tender.
We split two entrees so we could taste a bit of everything. We ordered the NY strip and the crispy chicken. The steak was like butter and the chicken was moist with the crispiest, most buttery skin. I think it takes a good long time in culinary school or just plain raw talent to do skin that way, because I wouldn’t have the slightest understanding of how that is done.
Our wonderful server then said, “how do you feel about some side dishes?”. So we had egg plant Parm and the crispiest most perfectly seasoned fries you could imagine. They kept our huge goblets of red wine full and then let us know they were going to bring out “a variety” of desserts for us to try.
I was thinking they’d bring a little sampler plate of desserts, but no. They brought us six full desserts. There was berry crisp, coffee ice cream set atop a cloud of freshly whipped cream, a little chocolate cake that oozed with warm chocolate gnash. There was cheesecake with the most wonderful crust, chocolate dipped beignets, and panna cotta with citrus and herb sauce. We just laughed, because we could just see people looking at us like we were gluttons. I’m glad I wore black that night so maybe I didn’t look as chubby!
Joey Campanaro also owns The Venue, Market Table, and The Clam restaurants.
I highly recommend you call far in advance and make it a point to attend one of his establishments.
After all, why dine out if it is not to be immensely enjoyed.
You will not be disappointed!
Thank you Conde Nast and Mr. Companaro for a very special night.