Any New Yorker worth her or his salt knows that the very best season in the city is fall. The Greenmarket stalls remain chock full of freshly harvested produce, the crisp weather puts an extra spring in one’s step, and, let’s face it, fashions are just better (fall coats and boots FTW!). But also because wild game. At Bâtard. By chef Markus Glocker.
Arguably one of the city’s best restaurants (and, full disclosure, my favorite), Bâtard is just two years young and has earned rave reviews and one of the culinary world’s top honors — a James Beard Award. Glocker and managing partner John Winterman joined forces with restaurateur Drew Nieporent to open the ideal Manhattan restaurant, offering an ever-changing menu of uber-fine food at accessible prices, welcoming hospitality, a lively dining room, a superb wine list curated by wine director Jason Jacobeit, and expertly mixed cocktails from Meaghan Levy, in a Tribeca location that once housed the storied Montrachet. A true “choose your own adventure” dining experience, Bâtard puts the diners squarely in the driver’s seat. You can order two, three, four (or more!) courses. You can eat at the bar. You can recruit Winterman to personally create a bespoke cheese plate. On Fridays, you can have a “fast slow food” lunch (or a leisurely “fast slow food” lunch, depending on how big your appetite and open your schedule is). And this autumn, you can partake of Glocker’s superb wild game dishes.
Winterman says, “When we get into the crispy sweater weather, people miss the foods they haven’t had for months — the squab, venison, root vegetables, squashes, and gourds. We’re excited when those things come back for the season.” Of game meats, he notes, “Even before America really existed it existed on game. The early colonists who came over – you’re talking turkey, pheasant, rabbit, deer – all of these things were consumed.” However, if you’re thinking you’ll order classic preparations of wild game from Glocker, think again. “I don’t want all my game meats complemented with pommes purée and heavy sauces and cabbage. There’s a time for that, but for these specific dishes, I really like to get the flavor out of the actual game,” he says.
Look for New Zealand venison (“It’s a little more lean, more unique in flavor. It’s not as gamey,” according to Glocker) crusted with a pepper blend, and served with field mushrooms, baby artichokes, shaved frozen foie gras, and a seabuckthorn sauce. There’s also wood pigeon from Scotland with beer vinaigrette-marinated vegetables, a bit of yogurt, and black garlic. Naturally lean pheasant is cooked with fat (and, like other wild game products, is thoroughly picked over for buckshot), coated with toasted quinoa, and served with nutty celtuce and bright Cara Cara orange segments.
They are all standouts, but for a first-of-its-kind-at-Bâtard dish, don’t miss the flavor-packed English pie — currently on the new Friday lunch menu. An inviting buttery, flaky crust envelops perfectly seasoned duck and quail and is complemented with pickled mushrooms and a lush truffle sauce. Developed collaboratively, as everything that comes out of the kitchen is, Glocker’s sous chef Ryan Pearson spent a great deal of time getting the pie’s flavors exactly right. Glocker admits, “I think I’ve tasted this thing like twenty times before he decided we were there with the salt, the sweetness, with the poultry we use. Once you bake it and slice it, it has to be right. This is the kind of dish that really showcases how good a chef is.”
It’s absolutely one of the best things I have ever tasted, and wine director Jason Jacobeit concurs. “I am obsessed with that pie. Everything about it. It is the ultimate comfort food yet isn’t heavy; it’s perfect!” In terms of pairings, Jacobeit says, “I find it to be an androgynous dish in that it can partner equally well with either color. For example, I love the dish with earthy, voluminous, classically styled Alsatian Riesling. The 2007 Trimbach Riesling ‘Cuvée Frédéric Émile’ matches the extraordinary, almost carnal intensity of the dish with a rich, textured wine that remains buoyant and fresh thanks to wonderfully bright natural acidity. The truffle sauce and mushrooms amplify the wine’s already earthy personality. Of course, red Burgundy is terrific with it as well.”
The luxe-yet-expeditious lunch is $45 for two courses and $55 for three courses. English pie aside, another fun Friday lunch perk? Jacobeit and Winterman pop open magnums of Pierre Moncuit ‘blanc de blancs – delos’ — made entirely from Chardonnay grown in the superb wine producing village of Le Mesnil — and serve it by the glass. Jacobeit notes, “It is extra brut, so bone dry, yet is more solid and generous than most in that category while still retaining the pristine, crystalline freshness one expects from classic blanc de blancs. Better still, at $25 for a generous glass it represents great value.” Winterman adds, “It’s nice when people walk in and they see a magnum of Champagne on ice, and I think even if you’ve only got 45 minutes it’s a nice little welcome respite from the hurriedness of the day.”
To be sure lunching diners can get in and out as quickly as they need, Jacobeit has created an abbreviated wine list — a highly navigable document that reads like a portrait-in-miniature of the restaurant’s wine program. Seasonality is top of mind on the lunch and full lists. “Fall represents a culinary zenith in New York — and it’s my favorite season to be drinking Burgundy, whether intense, layered, barrel-fermented whites or the full spectrum of the region’s reds,” he says. “This time of year I notice Markus reaching for more earthy, deep, soulful ingredients so I make sure the wines follow that general stylistic direction. Expect deeper and more textured, comforting wines across the board; specifically with Burgundy, I’m reaching for Meursault more than Chablis, and Gevrey more than Beaujolais this time of year. Both have the chops and sheer heft to stand up to comfort-food-leaning Fall flavors while retaining the freshness to harmonize with autumn greens, garlic, and other produce still flooding farmers’ markets.”
In need of something stronger? Bâtard’s Levy mixes cocktails that will take the fall chill off anyone who sidles up to the bar, from Winterman’s original creation The Old Dirty Bâtard and the barrel-aged Old Tom Tonic to the cheeky Sex, Lies, and Punch (so dubbed as an homage to Steven Soderbergh’s Sigani 63 that comprises the backbone of the drink).
While you can course out your lunch or dinner however you’d like, diners would be remiss if they didn’t partake of pastry chef Emma Alden’s creations. Sure, you’d still sample her talents in the focaccia served at lunch or the breads she bakes at dinner, but the desserts, including the pear clafouti and her market-driven riffs on classic crème brûlée, deserve your attention.
Whatever delicious adventure you choose at lunch, Winterman points out, “We understand that people have an office or job to get back to or a day to continue, so we want them to understand that the food is going to come out at the rate they need it to. You can still savor every bite and enjoy it even though you might be in a little bit of a rush.” And if you’re not in a hurry? He invites you to linger over a second bottle of wine and maybe knock off early. “I think that would be the fun side of it. We get a bunch of people who have had a hard week and they say, ‘Let’s go to Bâtard at one o’clock, party of six. We’ll have a couple bottles of wine and relax, stay here for two hours, and not worry about getting back to work.'”
Sounds like a plan. See you tomorrow, Bâtard. P.S.: Make a reservation.
Photography by Simon Lewis Studio.