There's something about a loaf of pig's head chunks suspended in cloudy aspic that fills me with Totoro-sized glee. (And if you don't know who Totoro is, you better watch this movie right now. Seriously, get out of my face and go watch a gigantic fuzzy imaginary creature instead.) When I saw head cheese on the menu at DBGB (more appealingly listed by its French name, fromage de tête,) I had to get it. You can have your saucisson sec and your pork rillette—just leave me my jellied head meats.
...I mean, I'll happily eat dry sausage and any sort of rillette, but if I had to choose just one I'd go with the head cheese.
Another "must get" for me is the Boudin Basque ($15), a spicy blood and pig's head sausage. Apparently I'm all about processed porky head meats. DBGB serves theirs as a fat puck nestled into a cloud-like mound of smooth scallion mashed potatoes. The texture of the sausage is pudding-esque—think of meat pudding. ...Pretend that doesn't sound gross. While the blood certainly imparts some flavor, it won't make you think, "Oh good god, this taste like blood." More like, "Oh good god, glorious meat pudding."
Morten chose the beef bone marrow ($13) for an appetizer, a thick bisected section of rich marrow-filled bone topped with pickled mustard seed, coarse salt crystals, and finely chopped chives, and accompanied by a bit of pastrami from Katz's, watercress, and rye bread toast. I rarely think to order bone marrow, but I'm glad Morten did—only good can come out of having a naturally occurring trough of fat (and some protein, but hell, we all eat it for the fat) in your midst.
We also shared the Thai sausage ($14), two pork-based links flavored with lemongrass and red curry, with shredded green papaya with crushed peanuts, and basil fried rice topped with a fried quail egg on the side.
Out of the 12 entrée choices (not counting the burgers—I wasn't in a burgery mood), there was really only one for me: SCHNITZEL. More specifically, Niman Ranch pork loin schnitzel ($23) with a spinach and bacon salad, grilled baby onions, and creamy fingerling potatoes. This was easily the juiciest schnitzel I've ever had, along with being the thickest. Not a traditional schnitzel, I'd suppose, or else it would've been pounded more thinly. I loved it all—the crispy crust and tender, juicy innards, along with the sides, the hearty potatoes nubbins in particular.
We didn't have enough time to fulfill Morten's wish of visiting a steakhouse during his stay in New York City, but he found his beef slab happiness in the steak frites ($29), a 10-ounce black Angus NY strip topped with peppered butter, with sides of watercress and skinny golden french fries.
Behnaz ordered the roasted chicken breast ($22), with Swiss chard and Gruyère potato gratin and a sucrine lettuce salad on the side.
And Kåre went with the roasted lamb tenderloin ($26) in an olive and Meyer lemon crust atop market beans (...I'll assume that's "beans they got at the market"), crispy artichokes, tomato confit, and lamb jus. It doesn't appear on the menu currently listed on DBGB's website, so it may not be there anymore. Oops. That's what I get for blogging about stuff I ate one and a half months ago.
We shared two sundaes ($9 each) to finish off the meal: Green Apple and Honey ice cream (or sorbet—I don't remember exactly) topped with warm apple compote, almond crumble, bee pollen marshmallow, Granny Smith coulis, and whipped cream; and Plum-Brown Sugar topped with roasted Italian plum, brioche croutons, butterscotch sauce, plum brandy gelee, and whipped cream. They sounded good on paper, but I wasn't fond of either ice cream/sorbet—the flavors weren't strong enough, and the textures were too icy. Altogether, the components didn't coalesce to bring balanced ice cream-bonded happiness in every bite in the way a good sundae should.
While poorly constructed sundaes fall low on the scale of "Stuff I Should Be Concerned About," it's hard to scrub out the memory of a bad sundae. A simple hot fudge sundae that's well executed has the potential to fill my head with rainbows and baby otters and coddle me with marshmallow-scented plush (yeah, I've just painted you a picture of my Happy Land...and now that I'm seeing it in words, I think I need to tweak it a bit). Not to say a more complicated sundae can't work: One of DBGB's current sundaes—a chocolate peanut sundae topped with rice krispies, chocolate brownies, caramelized peanuts, chocolate fudge, and whipped cream—sounds particularly good, like a chocolate bar in ice cream form. Perhaps our choices were too unconventional.
I had a mix of high and low expectations for DBGB at the same time, if that makes any sense: Daniel Boulud restaurant = should be good, but trendy restaurant = could be more about the scene than the food. Thankfully it was more of the former and I ended up enjoying my meal way more than I thought I would. Even though the prices are a bit beyond my normal-night-out budget, they're not unreasonable for...well, a normal night out (perhaps better put by Danny in his review: "it's just enough to make you know you're spending but not so much as to make you feel like it's out-of-reach"). I'd be happy to go back to DBGB and try the rest of charcuterie menu, along with more schnitzel.