A thank you lunch at The Spotted Pig

Many people have commented on the lovely little piglet that lives at the top of my blog. She, and the overall design, were created by my friend Doug Parker. Aside from working diligently on such a wonderful design, including a pig that he has said on more than one occasion looks just like me (which I think is supposed to be a compliment?), Doug has been a big believer in my blog. Even when I was not really sure if I'd be able to bare my food-loving soul to the world, he encouraged me to take the leap, offering his much respected opinion all along the way.

During a shoot this past summer in Portland, he was one of the first people I told about my tentative plans to start blogging. To say he was encouraging would be an understatement. The next thing I knew, he was snapping photos of me everywhere we went, from Stumptown Coffee to a sake brewery to the beautiful Penner-Ash vineyard, each time exclaiming, "This will be perfect for This Little Piglet!"

At first, he was more excited than I was, taking it upon himself to inform our entire crew about my blog, beaming like a proud parent. After shooting him a shocked look, he immediately kept our This Little Piglet conversations strictly confidential, until I was finally ready to take the leap. It was after that trip to Portland that I spent an entire weekend in front of a computer, typing away, before finally pressing publish on my very first post. Without Doug's neverending encouragement, I might have chickened out.

To show my gratitude, I recently treated him to lunch at The Spotted Pig. Since Doug's last day at Food Network happened to be just two days later, we convinced Karlyn, another one of our food-loving co-workers (who also weighed in during the design phase of This Little Piglet) to join us.

New Yorkers flock to The Spotted Pig, located on a beautiful block in the charming West Village, at all hours, usually in search of the restaurant's signature chargrilled burger with roquefort and shoestring fries. When we arrived, it was completely packed, our chances of finding a table for three slim. Unwilling to give up, we snagged a small spot for two conveniently located next to a window. It would be great for taking photos of the food, Doug commented as we squeezed in.

Though Karlyn and I are both not the best at sharing food, we finally decided to split three dishes. We teased Doug, as we regularly do, about how our large appetites would dwarf his less demanding one, before choosing a cubano sandwich, zucchini bruschetta and cockles in a tomato broth.

Small appetite aside, Doug still loves food just as much as we do. At the office, he regularly brought a 12-pack of Sarabeth’s chocolate chip cookies to late afternoon meetings, sent out frequent meeting requests for coffee and gelato breaks, organized trips to Wogies for cheesesteaks, and always knew the right time to call a champagne Friday at Ara Wine Bar. His fervor for food also led him to create and oversee Eat This, Food Network's first broadband web series, which just launched its second season as Dave Does a few weeks ago. Karlyn and I were lucky enough to work with him on both projects, his dedication and creativity completely inspiring.

I made sure that each of us photographed the dish we'd ordered before digging in. I was lucky enough to have the cubano sandwich land directly in front of me, its melted gruyere and slow roasted pork shoulder sneaking out the warm, toasty sides. Karlyn cut it into three and though I was secretly longing to snatch the biggest piece, I settled for the second largest, lingering over each warm, jalapeno spiked bite.

My mouth hot and spicy from the cubano’s spicy flavors, we all switched plates and I cooled off with the zucchini bruschetta which unfortunately looks like a piece of roasted chicken in this picture.

I assure you it tasted nothing like poultry and instead consisted of thick, roasted slices of zucchini, draped over some toasted bread. Next to it sat a hunk of fresh mozzarella the size of a fist.

Doug worked his way through the cockles, piled high in a small bowl and topped with handfuls of parsley and a slightly burnt piece of extra crunchy bread, perfect for sopping up the garlicky broth, before passing it off to the scavengers he was having lunch with. We dug in, my fork went flying and I spent the next few minutes trying to get a tomato stain out of my once clean shorts.

Ever eager to completely stuff Doug, we decided to order two desserts, a flourless chocolate cake and the banoffee, which we’d soon find out was a caramelized banana tart. Doug impressed us by eating most of the cake, the angular slice visually stunning, though way too rich for my taste.

Instead of a bouncy, cakey crumb, it had a consistency similar to flan, each bite as rich and filling as a chocolate truffle.

Karlyn and I became best friends with the banoffee, a buttery tart topped with soft rounds of banana hidden beneath fluffy clouds of whipped cream. Topped off with wisps of finely grated chocolate, it bore a slight resemblance to tiramisu.

It didn't take long till we'd finished every last bite.

After I wandered up to the second floor to check out some of the restaurant's pork-inspired paraphanelia, we walked back to our office, our last lunch as co-workers sadly coming to an end. Doug's new office isn't too far away and future outings to Shake Shack are already in the works. But even though he's just a subway ride away, his daily dose of inspiration will certainly be missed.

The Spotted Pig
314 W. 11th Street
New York, NY

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Anne Stesney said...

Hi Lia! I found your blog via Jeronimo, your friend and my coworker. Love your writing!

Your meal looks and sounds delish, and the banoffe looked especially amazing. The Spotted Pig is on my "must" list.

Lia said...

Thanks so much Annie! The banoffee was amazing. I highly recommend it and everything else at The Spotted Pig. I see that you have a food blog too. I'll definitely check it out!

Lia said...

April, I'm glad to hear that you and Josh like The Spotted Pig too! I had been once before for lunch, but this visit definitely made me a true fan. People in my office live for the gnudi at The Spotted Pig. Del Posto actually has gnudi on their menu as well. When I was there for a business dinner earlier this summer, they were serving it in a sage butter sauce with pink peppercorns on top. It was delicious, but definitely very rich and buttery! You should try it there sometime too.

Anonymous said...

Hello Lia, bravo on your blog. I like it so much I hooked it to my Google home page so I can stay abreast of your gustatory meanderings.
I too adore The Spotted Pig. It's become my all time favorite neighborhood restaurant; lucky me to live only a block away. Who knew you could find such perfect Italian "pub" food, great service in such a relaxed, informal atmosphere! Add to the bargain a Michelin star, so well deserved, but too often granted to snootier, more uppity joints.

The people who go there for dinner miss so much of what they could experience if they'd come at lunch time. But I guess some folks like that mob scene. Ugh.

Lia said...

Thanks so much Michael S.! There will be many more gastronomic meanderings to come, I can assure you of that. And I agree that The Spotted Pig is much more pleasant during lunchtime. I walked by on Thursday night, on my way to Wallse (more to come on that..), and couldn't believe how packed it was. Though you are quite lucky to live just a block away!


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