Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cherry Jones

Every time I go to Paulie Gee's, I muse that it would be a great restaurant for a date night. Though I've yet to take my significant other there, it provides a pleasant experience for a family meal as well. Rushing from Chanticleer's Christmas concert at the Met (the true harbinger of the holiday season), I vaulted up from the Greenpoint Avenue G platform, down the two blocks toward the river that bring Paulie Gee's in view, and into the cozy arms of the restaurant with its long wooden tables (I commented to my mom that the decor feels a bit like you're eating at someone's hunting lodge).

As with so many culinary adventures, I was spurred to try out Paulie Gee's pizza by a Serious Eats article about Paulie's rejection from a pizza job he applied for, followed by the remarkable success of his own restaurant. Throughout the whole story, you're struck by what a nice guy he is, and pleased he got the last laugh on the whole pizza-management thing.

To start with, you don't even need pizza. One of the dense salads--Gates of Eden with dried cherries, perfectly-sweetened walnuts, and little morsels of blue cheese; Chick Corea with chickpeas and tiny rings of pasta--will suit you just fine. Soup from Sea Bean (of "soup shot" fame at various markets around the city) is a perfect autumnal quaff for the end of November, with pumpkin and apple and squash oh my--not too dense and creamy, leaving you with room for the pizza.

The first time I tried a pizza, I split a Gates of Eden and the cleverly-named Anise and Anephew, with anisette cream, fennel, and guanciale, with my mom; I was delighted to have some leftovers which heated up surprisingly well in the toaster oven for lunch the next day. This time, we shared a Cherry Jones, and there was not a morsel of leftover to be had.

Cherry Jones contains, as I informed my parents at the table, all the essential food groups: fruit, pork, and cheese. A fior di latte pie with a hint of gorgonzola is topped with dried cherries (yum, them again) and prosciutto, as well as orange blossom honey, giving it a sweet creamy taste. Paulie himself came by the table to see how we liked things; I trust he was not disappointed by our response.

My mom, having scoped out the menu online, informed us there was an array of ice cream sundaes to be had; dutifully we contemplated the options and decided on a dark chocolate baconmarmalade (yup, it's what it sounds like) concoction, and put in for a Nutella and pear pizza as well. The sundae was tasty but not my favorite (Van Leeuwen's ice cream rarely fails to underwhelm, unfortunately); the pizza, a work of art, cut into 8 neat rectangles with a slice or two of pear lined up across each. My parents praised the pizza's lightness, suggesting it contained Nutella-based sauce, or a thin layer of the stuff; me, I felt it as the gut bomb it surely was, mouth thickened by hazelnut, but I could not complain.

Near the end of our meal, we had a nice chat with the pizza maker (I should mention we had a front-row seat on the assembly line of dough shaping, topping sprinkling, and massive wood-burning oven--exciting if a bit overly warm). It seems that many tourists from out of town come in to visit; and indeed the place was quite crowded for a Wednesday night. But we're neighbors, more or less, and my dad was pleased to finally drive down the Brooklyn end of the Greenpoint Avenue he's passed in Queens for decades. I trust we will make the journey again soon.

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