As you may recall, violaleeblue, rtb, and I have a tradition of celebrating each other’s birthdays with a dinner at a restaurant of the birthday person’s choosing. Covid and then baby twins have prevented us from doing this for a few years. But the tradition is back, even if it is over two months since rtb’s birthday.
She chose Houseman, which turned out to be an excellent choice. The food is vegetable forward but they are famous for their burgers and there are other proteins to choose from. It is not a big menu and it changes daily. The chefs are Ned Baldwin (Prune) and Adam Baumgart (Marco’s), so you know where they are going to go with the food and you know it is going to be good. The restaurant itself has a simple décor of wooden tables and chairs that feel almost picnic-bench like. The big window in front was open to the street and they brought the awning down so that the sudden rainstorm did not disturb us too much – we were sitting at a front table, so it was almost like sidewalk café dining. Immediately you realize that this is a neighborhood restaurant. Several parents with the young children were having dinner and it was obvious that these kids were used to dining out and used to dining out at Houseman. But then you are in SoHo, so not such a big surprise.
rtb and I started off with something from the drinks menu. I had the Mezcalita and she had the Strawberry Ranch Water. The Mezcalita had the rim of spicy salt, which is always fun. violaleeblue had the Albariño, which I switched over to for dinner. For dessert I had a glass of Prosecco and rtb had a Paloma after her first drink.
We decided to split three appetizers to start. We got the smoked bluefish, coppa with white peaches, and artichokes, ricotta, peas. It was between the artichoke and asparagus but I do not care for mint and the waitress said the mint in the hollandaise is not subtle.
We had all dug in when I realized that I had not taken a photo yet.
The smoked bluefish would not be out of place in any Jewish deli. Delicious. It is served with gluten-free seeded crackers. Coppa is also known as capicola and this was the mild version, so closer to prosciutto. Coppa with a basil leaf, slice of white peach, and some creamy rind cheese – who needs a vegetable? We did and we were glad to have the artichoke, ricotta, and peas – pile them up on a slice of thick hearty bread and it is almost a full meal in itself.
For the entrées we each went solo. rtb had the roasted chicken, violaleeblue had the steelhead, and I had the big bowl of clams. It was a big bowl served with a fork and a spoon so I could slurp up the juices on the bottom. But instead I sopped it up with some more of the thick crusty bread – I asked for extra. The bowl was big as were the clams. The hominy offset the heat – I am not sure what that was from. It surprised me because it is not mentioned in the description. The flavor of the broth was earthy from the tomatillos and the clams brought some sweetness.
There is no printed dessert menu, so the waitress named the three desserts. We again decided to split all three. All of the meal was delicious but the desserts were truly spectacular. When the manager/host was clearing away the dishes, rtb told him that the desserts were very good and he told us they have a new pastry chef. They used to have what he called ‘grandma desserts’ but they are letting the new chef go a little crazy and she is coming up with some fantastic stuff. I may not remember their descriptions correctly but I believe we had a chocolate hazelnut cake, panna cotta with crisp Japanese rice and white peaches, and mixed berries in a cream with crisp meringue.
As always, the dinner was fantastic but more importantly was the chance to catch up with friends. I miss these dinners and I am glad that they are back.
By Carene Lydia Lopez