Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Confessions of a Dineaholic: David Burke at Bloomingdale's

With a new apartment full of furniture and a credit card full of charges, the Glitter Gourmet has had to start cutting some corners. While he may slip to one pedicure a month or begin perusing the sale rack and Barneys, that doesn’t mean his meals need to suffer. While many restaurants in the city have jumped on the bandwagon of the “recession special,” there is one great find that has been serving great food at an even better price from day one. David Burke at Bloomingdale's, the wallet-conscious café from NYC superstar chef, David Burke, is the easiest way to stay fabulous on a budget.

Speaking not only as a publicist, but also as a self-proclaimed trend-setter, I know all too well that fabulousity is a matter of spin. Picture this – you roll into Bloomingdale’s around three or four with giant sunglasses and your man-bag hanging from your elbow, hoping a bit of retail therapy will cure your hangover. You bounce around the store with your friends for an hour or two, trying on everything from D&G suits to M.A.C. Lip Glass. You finally grow weary, muttering something about how disappointing the new DSquared line is and flop down for an early dinner at the cute celeb café on the first floor. (Little does anyone know, so far you’ve spent $0).

Unlike other “budget bistros” from New York culinary titans like Tom Colicchio’s Craftbar or Daniel Boulud’s Bar Boulud, David Burke at Bloomingdale's isn’t “less expensive” than the famed Davidburke & Donatella, it’s downright cheap. Every night of the week, David Burke at Bloomingdale's offers a three course prix fixe dinner for $20.09 that allows guests to choose anything from each section of the menu. (There is a $5 supplement for lobster or steak, but who can blame them?) And, as long as the food lives up to the name, then this deal can’t be beat.

It does. Every table starts with a round of cheddar popovers. This savory, buttery morsel puffs with steam as your break open the shell. It’s one of those warm delights you wake up a week later dreaming of. My first course was an east-meets-west duo of dumplings. The left side of my plate paid homage to down-home all-American grub with chicken and jack cheese dumplings and a swirl of barbecue sauce, the right side brought the delicate, refined flavors of the orients with shrimp dumplings and a tahini-like sauce. While this dish may sound like a faceoff between a backwoods Barbie and a gaysha, it actually came together as an elegant and interesting pairing.

My entrée wasn’t quite haute cuisine – a grilled chicken sandwich with provolone, bacon, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and whole-grain mustard with a side of house-made potato chips - but I find while good chefs can create dishes of a complexity most home cooks can’t fathom, a great chef is one who can elevate a staple to something more delicious than it’s namesake. This sandwich had crisp bacon that wasn’t overdone, moist chicken, fresh vegetables and soft sweet pretzel bread that would make any filling taste like heaven. Also, I typically roll my eyes when a sandwich comes with potato chips, but these were irresistible. If they made a version with Olean, I’d buy them by the pound. While I did love my meal, I do want to mention there were several other, more upscale options like short rib ravioli, salmon with shrimp and asparagus risotto, and of course, the aforementioned lobster and steak dishes.

Dessert was an Oatmeal cookie parfait, layering the cookies with apple caramel, vanilla gelato and cranberry sauce. The cookie bits tasted a bit more like breakfast granola, but the gelato was decadent, so an overall nice ending (for a $10 supplement, you can have a happy ending instead…). My whole meal was paired with the Malbec on special that evening ($8). Of course, it didn’t pair well, but the name of the game in a place like this is to enjoy your meal without pretense, so I picked my favorite wine and drank up.

It’s important to remember in times of trouble that you don’t have to give up the important things like keeping up appearances and maintaining a glamorous lifestyle. With a bit of savvy and a lot of bronzer, you can fly through this recession and land on the other end with more glitter than you started with.

David Burke at Bloomingdale's
1000 Third Avenue (Entrance on 59th Street)
New York, NY 10022
(212) 705-3800

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