Monday, May 07, 2012

Lounge Dining @ Spruce

[ Originally published Jan 24, 2012.  Just moving to blog now. ]

"Let's go get a burger and fries at the bar" -> multi course meal at a Michelin starred restaurant, starting with foie gras 2 ways and ending with warm apple pie with cheddar ice cream and oatmeal stout caramel sauce.  Whoops!  To be fair, we were seated in the bar area and there were burgers and fries in the middle of it all ...

Spruce is a swanky old place. People in the main dining room were dressed up, and even in the bar area people looked very nice. I was certainly the least dressed person there. The bar area was lovely - a bunch of seats at the bar (not bar stools of course, nice padded huge chairs) and then some tables with couch-like seats. Service was a little off - we got bread before water, had to ask for menus, etc but overall was good. You could order anything off the full menu in addition to the bar menu. I liked the more laid back feeling of the bar area, while still getting bread service, petit fours, etc. It was a nice compromise of being at a fancy place and being comfortable.

We got several starters from the main menu, burgers, and dessert. It was all good, but the foie gras starter was the tastiest thing I've eaten so far this year. INCREDIBLE. Of course, that made everything else in the meal pale in comparison. I'd love to go back and try some of the entrees from the main menu as well.

See individual photos for comments on the food (not pictured are the slew of drinks my dining companions had, all of which were high quality and nicely done).
Cranberry bread.
Bread to start was a choice of cranberry bread or a warm sweet roll. The cranberry bread had nice tart chunks of cranberry in it, but was otherwise a little boring. The roll was warm, sweet, fluffy, and the better choice, particularly when paired with honey butter.
Regular butter, honey butter.
Of course, one type of butter isn't enough. Regular butter was fine, but honey butter was delicious, as honey butter is!
Arugula salad, bresaola, cornichons, mustard, raisin compote.  $7.
Arugula was crisp, fresh, and lightly dressed, mustard complimented the meat well, meat was flavorful, cornichons and raisin compote pretty forgettable.
Grilled bread (to go with charcuterie platter).
Kinda oily, not all that memorable.
Hudson Valley foie gras 2 ways (seared lobe, cold pate rolled in pistachio), Vadouvan waffle, and pear 3 ways (ramekin full of pear jelly, pear syrup poured over waffle, slices of asian pear).  $23.


INCREDIBLE. Described on the menu as foie gras, waffles, and pears. Sounded interesting. Basically, think of a classic waffle, with the butter replaced with foie gras and the maple syrup replaced with pear syrup. It was an extravaganza of amazing flavors and components.

To start off, they pour pear syrup on top tableside. Sweet, subtle pear flavor. I appreciated that they didn't put too much on, but I wish they'd left the pot behind so we could add more.

In the ramekin is pear #2: pear jelly. This wasn't super flavorful, but did combine nicely with the foie gras.

Pear #3 was just some slices of asian pear. They were fine, but could have easily been left off the plate.

The waffle itself was well cooked, nice and crisp, with subtle vadouvan spicing. Better than the waffles you get at most brunch places.

The star of the plate is obviously the foie gras. The seared lobe was nice, smooth, creamy, flavorful. The cold preparation was even better (and I normally prefer hot seared foie gras over cold preparations). These truffle like balls were rolled in pistachio, and were super flavorful.

Most of these components were actually quite good on their own, but a bite of waffle, smothered in the cold foie, with some pear jelly or syrup ... AMAZING. The flavors and textures and concept just worked so well. Did I mention, ZOMG? ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG.

I'd go back for this in a heartbeat. How many trips can I make before July?
The Spruce burger and fries, with added gruyere and grilled onions. Served with tomato, lettuce, pickled onions, pickled cucumbers, ketchup, mustard on the side.  $16.

This is ostensibly why we were there, to finally try the Spruce burger. This burger has been #2 in the Burger Bonanza list for the past two years (, and it had remained elusive to us because it is only served in the bar, and during the burger crawl heyday, we always had too big of a group to go. Finally, we just 3 people, we could do it!

Lots of good options for adding to the burger: cheese choices were gruyere, cheddar, or blue. You could also add sauteed onions, sauteed mushrooms, a fried egg, seared foie gras, and a few other things I forget. I added gruyere and sauteed onions, one friend of course added the seared foie gras.

And good options for dressing it up yourself, on the side were tomato slices (mediocre at best, but I don't blame them, it isn't tomato season), nice crisp lettuce, pickled onions, and thin pickle strips. I loved the pickled stuff, and wish I hadn't added the sauteed onions to the burger, as the pickled things were plenty flavorful.

The burger itself was cooked really nicely, medium rare as the chef recommended. The beef had some decent flavor. The cheese was melted perfectly as well. The bun was an english muffin style (but a REAL english muffin, not a Thomas brand one). It soaked up the juices really nicely, but it was too buttery for me. With all of the other richness going on, I didn't want the extra greasiness there.

The fries were pretty forgettable, not bad, but not up to par with anything else we ate.

Served with ketchup and mustard only. In retrospect, I wish I'd asked for some aioli, I think I would have liked the burger and the fries much more that way, and most pictures I see on Yelp include it, so I know they have it.

Overall, certainly a solid burger, probably in the top 10 in the city, but not that memorable. However, I sorta blame the foie gras course, everything kinda pales in comparison to that.
Warm apple pie, white cheddar ice cream, cheddar cracker, candied apple, and oatmeal stout caramel sauce.  $10.

If you've been reading my posts, you know that I am a dessert-a-holic and that warm pie and ice cream is one of my favorite things. Thus, even though I was ridiculously stuffed at this point, we had to order dessert.

I grew up eating warm apple pie a la mode or warm apple pie with cheddar cheese melted on top. I always loved both preparations and could never decide how I wanted it more (ok, so I often had it with both melted cheddar AND ice cream). This dish sounded perfect - make the ice cream cheddar flavored!

The oatmeal stout caramel sauce was poured over the dish tableside. Again, I wish they'd left the pot with us so we could add more, as it was tasty and complimented the other components nicely.

The ice cream had a very subtle cheddar flavor, which I wanted to be stronger (perhaps because I wanted it to be more like the full chunk of melted cheddar cheese I was used to). The plating was cute, served in a cube shape, but that didn't really work, as I wanted the ice cream to be creamier/meltier. I would have let it sit and soften, but the pie was getting cold ...

Speaking of the pie, it was indeed served warm, although it could have been warmer as it lost its warmth pretty quickly. The pastry dough was nice, flavorful, and flaky. The filling was lightly spiced and the apples were cooked well. Overall, a decent pie.

The apple bits on top of the ice cream and on the plate didn't really seem to go with everything else.

The cheddar crisp was super flavorful and went VERY well with the pie.
A bite with the pie, the ice cream, the crisp, and some caramel sauce was really quite delightful!

One diner described this as everything you ever wanted a McDonald's Hot Apple Pie to be, but never was.
Cranberry financier, mango pate de fruit.

As if we weren't stuffed enough at this point, some sweets arrived with our bill.

The financier was moist, with nice tart cranberries in it. I liked how they bookended the meal with cranberries (in the bread to start and here as well). I felt such a sense of completeness :) The financier was fairly forgettable though.

The pate de fruit seemed not very sweet and I thought it was grapefruit, and I convinced a friend to try it, although he doesn't like sweets. Apparently my tastebuds were just being crazy, as he found it very sweet (which makes more sense, as it is mango and rolled in sugar!).

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