Cookshop A Loo-Bop A Wop-Bam Boom

April 17, 2006 | By | COMMENTS

On a gorgeous Chelsea evening last week, I met my former roommate and psychic birthday twin Lauren for dinner at Cookshop on 10th Ave. The walk over there was gorgeous, standing outside waiting for her was gorgeous, taking this picture was gorgeous. Say hi to the picture: Hello, gorgeous.

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Springtime in New York makes awful winters worthwhile; I love having seasons. Having done much of my growing up in the consistently muggy South Florida tropics, I find it so gratifying to suffer through a freezing winter only to awake one morning to a bright, invigorating springtime air. The weather right now is so perfect that if I could freeze a temperature in a bottle and release it at my most miserable, this would be the weather. It’s just excellent.

On the walk over to Cookshop, I passed the only existing seminary in New York (I think this is true—at least it’s the only one in Manhattan.) I kept imagining nuns and priests dancing in the courtyard, but all I saw was a bunch of grass and people talking:

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Then, when waiting for Lauren outside Cookshop I snapped this cool picture of an industrial bridge. This is what this part of town looks like. “What part of town are we in?” asked Lauren when she arrived. “Western Chelsea,” I said. “We’re just north of the meatpacking district.”

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Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I’m sorry, did you fall asleep? Oh right, this is a food blog—-not a tour of Western Chelsea blog. Fair enough. Let’s get to the food at Cookshop.

Walking in on this Tuesday night, the place was pretty buzzing. “This place is pretty buzzing for a Tuesday night,” I said. And the place is also pretty huge. Tables travel the entire length of the room and then curve like a candy cane on towards the kitchen. Lauren and I were seated at a wooden table along the aisle, where the waiters walked, and my back was up against a taller display table. It wasn’t my favorite table in the house and it wasn’t the most comfortable but the light outside hit the room in such a lovely way (Cookshop has lots of big windows) that I didn’t really care.

Immediately, we were presented with bread and this amazing unidentifiable spread. “What’s in this spread?” we asked the waiter. “Creme fraiche, horseradish and _____.” (I forget what the third thing was. This is why food critics take notes.)

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He asked us if we wanted drinks and Lauren ordered a Pinot Noir. I studied the specialty cocktail list and chose a cocktail with champagne, ginger and blood orange juice. Here it is, ain’t it pretty?

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In the New York Magazine review of Cookshop, Hal Rubenstein writes: “No one I know serves hominy for dinner. No one I know even craves it, really. Yet, every time I go to Cookshop, I order the fried spiced hominy before I even look at the rest of the menu. I don’t know if it’s because I enjoy popping these crunchy, chili-stoked kernels in my mouth so much that I wish they sold them at the movies instead of popcorn, or if I’m just stunned that chef Marc Meyer can take pasty, dehydrated, thick-skinned corn and turn it into this spunky, grab-it-by-the-handful treat.”

Lauren and I stand behind Hal in this assessment. This hominy is wonderful: [That's the first time I've ever written the sentence, "This hominy is wonderful." It's fun to do. I suggest you try it.]

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“It’s got a kick,” said Lauren. “But just a little kick. And then it’s sweet and it has all these flavors going on.”

We devoured the plate pretty quickly. (I wanted to say we devoured it faster than Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney could sing, “Ebony and Ivory/live together in perfect HOMINY.” But it wasn’t very funny. I’m glad I didn’t tell you guys about it.)

Next up were the appetizers. I bravely ordered the “Chicken Fried Duck Livers.”

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These big crunchy, livery specimens went really well with the salad and the spiky, vinegary dressing. Lauren had pickled oysters:

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She was wary of pickling high quality oysters–”It seems like a waste of a perfectly good oyster”–but I assured her that Cookshop didn’t invent the practice. And while she thought they were ok, I think she liked my duck livers more. “I think I like your duck livers more,” she said.

Here is a good place to talk about the service at Cookshop. Our waiter really sucked. There’s no other way to put it. He was deeply disinterested, totally aloof and really unhelpful and unfriendly. The candle on our table kept going out and he kept coming back to light it and we’d joke about how funny it was that our candle kept going out and he didn’t crack a smile. We just want to be loved, waiter! Why won’t you love us?

For my entree, I had the duck breast with kumquats:

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And Lauren had a shortrib served on grits with onion rings:

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[I said to Lauren: "If people looked at these plates and had to guess the gender of the people who ordered them, I bet they'd get it backwards." You see because the short rib looks so manly and the duck looks so feminine.]

Anyway, I was a little disappointed in the duck. I thought it was very okay and that the kumquats were a good choice but it didn’t ascend to the stratosphere of flava. Lauren really enjoyed her shortrib. “These onion rings are amazing,” she said. “They’re perfect.”

For dessert, we shared an amazing coconut Sunday with chocolate sauce and caramel and salty nuts on the bottom. I loved it. So did Lauren:

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As a resident of Chelsea, I’m glad Cookshop exists. I like it better than some of the other West Chelsea staples–The Red Cat, for example. It has a fun atmosphere and pretty terrific food. And if you unbottle this perfect weather, even a disappointing duck breast will leave you smiling.

Cookshop. 156 10th Ave- At 20th St. 212 924-4440 [This address listing was an experiment to make my review more professional. What do you think?]

Categories: Chelsea, Manhattan, New York, Restaurant Reviews

  • j

    Hey, I got to post the first comment! Yay!

  • http://www.tiltbob.com Jason Sholar

    I think the address is a good idea. It should help your google rating, where people can find you by addresses and phone nubmers also.

  • http://clothesaholic.blogspot.com/ gidget bananas

    Oh my, that all looks fabulously delicious, especially the hominy. I envy your weather, too — it snowed where I lived yesterday! :-(

  • Sarah

    Great post — makes me miss Manhattan. I’m amazed that the hominy looks so tasty. FYI, there are several seminaries in NY, just about 100 blocks uptown. Morningside Heights has the Jewish Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary, both somehow affiliated with Columbia.

  • http://thesmitten.ivillage.com deb

    The third ingredient in the amazing spread they serve with the bread is caramelized onions. I know because I was so blown away, I had to ask, and then try to replicate it the next day. (Mine was not as good.)

    Have you eaten at the Red Cat nearby? I’m curious what you think.

  • http://thesmitten.ivillage.com deb

    Um, please forget the last part about the Red Cat. Kinda need to read better next time. :)

  • http://dirtpusher.blogspot.com Umbrian

    Hey! I love hominy. I bring sacks of it back with me from the US in my baggage. Then I make spicy Mexican pork stews to go with it. Yum. When I could get all the ingredients easily, I used to bake canned hominy with shredded cheddar, grated onion and green chilis. Take a bit out of that! Never met anyone who didn’t love it and ask, “What the heck is that?”

  • http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/ tokyoastrogirl

    I cannot believe you didn’t get any waiter love! They’re supposed to be wanting YOUR love and there you sat, the paying customer, horribly rejected. That makes me angry!

  • elise

    yeah…because waiters and waitresses couldn’t possibly have a life outside of serving people food, be having a bad day, and simply not feel up to inane moderately humorous chit chat with their customers.

    oy, people. sometimes, the help, they’re just tired, mmkay? and can’t put on the happy face. everyone has those days. cut them some slack. waiting tables blows. and, if i recall correctly, it’s something the author of this blog has never had to do.

  • http://thepearlonion.blogspot.com/ Kristin

    That hominy looks awesome! Is this the type of place that I could go to just for an order of hominy with a drink? Do they have a bar to sit at?

  • magda

    yes, elise, waiters have a right to have bad days. i’ve been waiting tables since i was fourteen years old and i’ve certainly had my share of them. but people like adam have a right to be upset by that. when you pay good money for a meal out, you want a nice waiter. a waiter’s job is to make people happy while they eat. it’s not an easy job, but there are other jobs out there if you can’t take it.

  • mandilly

    you’re mean Elise

  • http://www.amateurgourmet.com The Amateur Gourmet

    I was a waiter! At Murphy’s in Atlanta! I had to get up at 5 am to work Sunday brunches: they were a nightmare. But I was still acted like a human towards people. I think it’s fine to be tired and off your game, it’s another to be rude and disinterested. Especially when people are paying what they ask you to pay at Cookshop. Those are my 2 cents.

  • serena

    i think elise’s point was simply that you have no idea what the backstory to the waiter/waitress’ attitude is. i would like to think that paying a certain price for a meal guarantees you a certain level of service, but, i would also agree that everyone has bad days, and that there are simply times when people can’t pretend otherwise, no matter what their profession is, and no matter how much money someone is paying them to do it. it happens. and pointing that out doesn’t necessarily make someone ‘mean’, though she could’ve put it less harshly. it’s just the truth. some people are worse at dealing with bad days than others. it happens. you can’t take it personally, since, chances are, it has nothing to do with you, or the jokes you’re trying to make. you know?

  • Sil (Bs As)

    Good idea the address, this blog is becoming more professional each day…wow

  • A Big Fan of the AG

    HEY! I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Lauren – but alas, not so lucky this time around. Maybe next time you could point the camera up just a lil’ bit higher…enjoy your reviews, AG, keep up the good work! BTW, you continue to get more handsome with each post!

  • Amity

    I wish AG would have waited on me at Murphy’s…

  • http://fingerineverypie.typepad.com Julie

    Sounds worth it just for the hominy, the duck livers and the sundae. Yum, yum…and I like having the restaurant address, too. Maybe even a link to their website?

    And just for another couple of cents, I agree that rude and offhand is different from not at the top of your game. If you’re competent in your worklife, whatever it may be, you learn at the very least something of the art of leaving your home life at home. You “act as if” in order to do at least a competent if not an excellent job…

  • Sarah

    Glad you liked Cookshop. I’ve only been once, but I loved it. I totally should have gotten the hominy! Next time I guess.

    By the way, the “industrial bridge” in your photo is actually the Highline, which will eventually be a very cool city park! http://www.thehighline.org/

  • Dennis

    Wish I knew you so I can meet the women around you.

  • urlech

    yea, a lot of other people seem to be lukewarm on cookshop.

    good to see you’re trying harder with your writing, too.

  • http://karkar.gather.com Karin

    Oooh check out this Live Chat with Chef Marc Meyer at: http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474976860356

  • http://www.freshcatering.blogspot.com Rachael

    I am eating there on Monday, thanks so much for the honest review! Im excited now.