While it may sound like an antique shop somewhere up in the catskills, this surprising gem is actually a restaurant nestled in the West Village in New York City. When I first heard the name hundred Acres, I pictured trees, lakes, and a little cottage with a wood-burning fireplace. Now I may like all of these things, but I don’t necessarily want to eat them. So what could the food be like? I reasoned that since ‘Hundred Acres’ sounds like it could be a farm name, the menu might consist of farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients. Fortunately, I was right.
I had imagined that a place called Hundred Acres would look similar to Grizzly Adams’ cabin, complete with oak-tree logs, bearskin rugs, and chairs made out of tree stumps. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Hundred Acres is beautifully clean and earthy, with a modern twist. The front of the restaurant is made up of wooden tables with dark green walls, white subway tiles make up the backsplash for the bar, and on this warm July evening, the front doors opened up to the sidewalk. The back room (which I believe can be rented out for private parties) has a warm feel, with lots of light and potted plants dressing the walls. The middle room (where we sat) was lovely. Off-white and beige walls held large sepia-colored paintings that were offset by the glow of candlelight. A large communal table in the middle of the room held fresh bread and vegetables, but they were purely for decoration. A bit of a tease, but the food was so tasty I’ll let it slide…
We were a large group, seven to be exact, of foodies and foodie writers – one of whom happened to be Andrea Strong, of TheStrongBuzz.com. She introduced us to Vicki Meyer, the owner with husband and Chef Mark Meyer, who took such good care of us that we didn’t even order – chef Meyer had prepared everything for us to taste. Yes people, this is how I roll. Just kidding, I actually was taking a food writing class and Andrea Strong happened to be the teacher. This was our last "class" and instead of reading papers, Andrea decided a night out to celebrate our love of food would be a better way to go. So of course we ordered wine, and lots of it. A $29 bottle of white was so crisp it actually tingled a little on my tongue. Since we didn’t pick it I didn’t catch the name, but at 29 dollars, who’s going to argue?
Our appetizers were straight out of a farmer’s kitchen. Actually, everything here is pretty much straight out of a farmer’s kitchen. Two waiters (in dark green shirts of course) carried over two huge plates in each hand, trying to squeeze them all onto our table. No one complained. Every time they set down a plate, it was like getting a present because no one knew what chef Meyer chose for us. Thankfully, he decided on four selections from their appetizers, including deviled eggs, mixed beet salad with sieved egg and pecans, the Tea sandwich trio, and fried green tomatoes.
If there is one way to win over my stomach, it’s with deviled eggs. Without a doubt, I could have eaten two plates of these devilish delights all by myself; I am the Skinny Pig after all. But I had to restrain myself seeing as my other foodie friends waiting to get a taste. The mixed beet salad had probably the freshest arugula I have ever tasted. It was so peppery and green, it looked and tasted like it had been freshly picked about ten minutes before it was served. I am used to the lettuce that comes in a bag from the supermarket, so for me, that was an eye-opening experience. The Tea sandwich trio consisted of tongue and ramp on wheat toast, rabbit and hazelnuts on white, and smoked fish and radishes on white, all served open-faced. I tasted all three, and I really enjoyed the smoked fish. It was creamy (like tuna salad consistency), and the radishes gave it that bitter crunch on top. This was also my first experience with tongue, and it wasn’t bad. It was similar in flavor and color to pastrami, but less intense. The rabbit was also very good, even though I rarely eat rabbit, it was kind of sweet and the hazelnuts were a nice touch. And this is totally irrelevant for some people, but my favorite part about the tea sandwiches was that the toast was not hard, and you could easily bite into it without breaking it into a million pieces and spilling the contents all over yourself (like bruschetta). Last but definitely not least, the fried green tomatoes. These uber-fresh tomatoes were coated in panko breadcrumbs and were so crispy, and topped with the smoky sweet paprika mayo, it was delectable.
By this time, my tastebuds were beating with anticipation of our main courses. And surely enough, the throng of waiters rise up from the kitchen bearing our surprise entrees. Set down in front of me was a pasture-raised sirloin steak in a basil-walnut pesto, alongside it was a squash and potato gratin. The steak was cooked medium rare and the smell eminating from it was herby and heavenly; it took all of my strength to not shovel it into my mouth with my hands. Then there was six little bowls lined with butcher paper, filled with fried chicken and little ramekins of honey were given to each of us; along with the fried chicken came a mountainous wedge salad coated in a buttermilk/honey dressing. We were also given yellowfin tuna topped with a sauce gribiche, served atop green and yellow wax beans.
The sirloin steak was the first one I tasted, even though I was dying for the fried chicken. The steak was cooked perfectly, and the pesto was wonderfully different. I have never tried walnut-pesto, and the flavor was a little deeper than a regular pesto made with pinenuts, it had an earthiness to it which fits in rather well with the theme of Hundred Acres. I also love anything with potatoes, so the potato and squash gratin immediately made that dish complete for me. The tuna was topped with a gribiche made of capers, hard boiled eggs, pickles, vinegar and mustard. In my opinion, tuna can always use a good sauce, and in this case, the sauce gribiche was what really made the flavors pop. The wax beans underneath were just as tasty as the tuna; a little oil, salt, pepper and dill made them taste so fresh. Now saving the best for last: the fried chicken and wedge salad. I honestly don’t think I have had better fried chicken in my life. Granted I’ve never been to the south, but to me this was the tastiest, crispiest, most perfectly-seasoned fried chicken – it was juicy inside, and the coating was crisp and salty. I happen to love the combination of salty and sweet, so that little drizzle of honey took it over the top. Needless to say, the fried chicken was a favorite around the table and it was gone in a matter of minutes. But thanks to my overwhleming appetite, I was able to snag two pieces; a leg and a wing. The wedge salad was a great side for this dish, but I’m convinced they put something in the water that they wash this lettuce in. It was iceberg lettuce, the underachiever of all lettuce breeds, and somehow it was like biting into a fresh garden, and the dressing was great, creamy but not heavy.
As I’m licking the crumbs and oil off of my fingers from the fried chicken, I look around our table. Everyone looks happy and satisfied enough to call it a night. But wait! How could we forget about dessert? The waiters piled up again around our table with even more desserts than we could have imagined. I was starting to wonder if we were creating a spectacle since at any given moment we had three servers for our one table. Oh well, it was worth it. Blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream, rhubarb pie and whipped cream, and chocolate cake with strawberry ice cream. Not that crazy? Well multiply that by three. We had nine plates of desert at our table for seven. I dove right in and took some of the chocolate cake and strawberry ice cream. The slices of this cake were the size of a box of tissues, so I figured it would be super chocolatey and very dense, but it was just the opposite. It was chocolatey for sure, but not dense at all. It was moist and light, and the strawberry ice cream was such a sweet compliment. Who serves strawberry ice cream anymore? Well Hundred Acres does apparently. The blueberry pie was not gelatinous like most pies, but you could tell this was made fresh. The blueberries were sweet and just a little tart, while the buttery crust was melting the vanilla ice cream. Lastly I tried the rhubarb pie, which I’ve never had before. Surprisingly delicious! I avoid rhubarb because it looks like celery, and I can’t stand celery unless it’s cooked. But enough about me. This pie is great for people who don’t like things that are too sweet; I much prefer tartness over sweetness, and this pie hit that on the head.
From the first bite to the last, everything at Hundred Acres was just right, and I can’t think of better company to enjoy such a great meal with. Even though I was sad to be saying goodbye to all of the good friends I had made, I knew we would all run into each other again. Just like the blueberry and rhubarb pie, it was a bittersweet ending.
38 MacDougal Street between Houston and Prince, 212-475-7500