Thursday, December 29, 2005


Artisanal, NYC

Someone else said it better than I can: “If cheese is a religion, this is its bustling […] house of worship.” For a girl who once threw the lamest of all lame cheese parties in New Jersey and found the best part about Vienna to be the cheap cheese selection at the local Spar, Artisanal is heavenly.

Artisanal, like every other restaurant in New York, uses a flatware pattern from Oneida. The Astragal service (at Artisanal in 18/10 stainless; it is available in silver, too, which I would have appreciated, but I suppose the price of Artisanal does fall short of being able to demand proper silver) is one of Oneida’s most refined patterns. The patterning has a strong classical influence in the banding on the stem and near the throat; the overall shape of the pattern is classic in the more common sense that it does not deviate from accepted norms. The flatware I used the evening I dined at Artisanal had a lovely oxidation along the bands that enlivened the decoration and made it seem like far better silverware than Oneida usually makes. [I suppose I ought to reveal my own taste in silverware now: Yes, Christofle does make fine silverware for fine dining and I’m rather a fan of certain Tiffany & Co. placesettings, in particular their more bombastic Chrysanthemum and Olympian patterns. If I were to invest serious money—and at this level, yes, it’s serious money—in silverware (which, unfortunately, I will not be doing anytime soon), it would probably go towards Georg Jensen’s Pyramid]. At any rate, Astragal is an excellent fit to the bistro mood of Artisanal: elegant yet not pretentious.

For the fondue (which I rather recklessly ate as an appetizer; unfortunately, I am not nearly as decadent as I would like to be and I had to pass on chocolate fondue for dessert, although should I ever be sentenced to death, I think I know what my final meal might be), Artisanal eschews gimmickry and uses classic, all silver-colored fondue forks. The forks do not have the colored ends seen on many home fondue forks (meant to distinguish the forks of multiple eaters). The reason for this is really quite simple: it is poor taste to leave the fondue fork unattended in the pot. If your fork is in the pot, you should be stirring. That is it. One must always stir the fondue, lest one ends up with a coagulated and kirschy blob of goo. This is part of the contract one signs when one agrees to eat fondue: someone will always stir, someone can eat, and the rest can bide their time, chatting, drinking, or the like. Fondue is one of the most supremely social meals (in the sense that to eat fondue requires adherence to certain rules of eating, despite the informality and easiness of the meal itself). Artisanal wisely does not use fondue forks that would suggest impropriety.

The classic fondue was, by the way, very good.

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