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Thursday, November 5,2009

Two Spoons gelato shop churns out soups, sandwiches in winter

By Clay Fong

Quickly glancing into its window, it’s easy to dismiss Pearl Street’s Two Spoons as a mere gelato shop. But as the temperature drops, this self-proclaimed “smallbatch kitchen” shifts its focus from frozen treats to a more seasonally appropriate menu of warming soups and panini.

Additionally, Two Spoons (which begs the Pythonesque question that if they were to acquire another spoon, would they be known as “Three Spoons”?) maintains a selection of organic salads as well as a modest gelato sampling.

True to its small-batch description, Two Spoons is a modestly sized operation, with salads tucked away in a refrigerated case and freshly made soups displayed under glass. But this restaurant makes the most of its diminutive venue, prompting my colleague Denise to liken it to a quaint café resembling those found in European villages. The continental appeal is enhanced by a dark yet intimate color scheme, understated but efficient service, and the almost de rigueur emphasis on locavore ingredients. The pricier sandwiches, which go for about seven dollars, include such local fillings as RedBird chicken and Long Farm ham. Two Spoons gets its bread from its sister operation up the street, Spruce Confections.

First up was Denise’s 12-ounce, $5.54 sweet pea and asparagus soup. This was not a leaden traditional split pea plagued by one-note flavor. Instead, this soup was marked by a surprising lightness of flavor and texture. The delicacy of the peas allowed for the perfume of the asparagus to make itself known, and the consistency wasn’t overly heavy. A slice of Spruce’s ciabatta bread rounded out this choice, and this portion size left Denise with ample leftovers for later.

My choice of a $2.77 half grilledcheese sandwich was a far cry from Velveeta on white. A triumphant mix of comforting cheddar and complex Emmental made this filling reminiscent of a good fondue. Tempered by a slice of fresh tomato, the toasted country bread added a welcome touch of crunch and chew. A side green salad ($1.15 with a sandwich) came subtly-dressed with a well-balanced vinaigrette that was neither too oily nor tart.

An accompanying $4.84 8-ounce bowl of chicken matzo ball soup proved a worthy successor to the version produced by the late, lamented New York Deli. The poultry had the tender falling-off-the-bone qualities of slow-simmered homemade soup, and the broth benefited from sweet and tender carrots. The matzo balls were somewhere between floaters and sinkers, balancing fluffiness of texture with decent heft. This dish’s thickness was more akin to stew, enhanced by pleasingly subtle seasoning.

While the temperatures were cool, the frosty delights of gelato still beckoned. I ended the meal with a modest serving of Earl Grey gelato, a creamy marvel of simplicity. The rich dairy cream created a solid, pleasing contrast to the orange aroma, which was more floral and less bitter than they might be in this dessert’s namesake tea.

While Two Spoons isn’t the cheapest spot for lunch, and some might be put off by the prepackaged salads, it is not without virtues. Fans of soups that successfully cross homemade style with a gourmet sensibility will find much to enjoy here. Indeed, a bowl of soup and a piece of bread should be a sufficient lunch at a price competitive with a chain sandwich.


Clay’s Obscurity Corner Lower in fat, not flavor

What are the differences between American ice cream and Italian gelato? The major differences lie in the quantities of butterfat and air in each. Gelato is typically made with milk as opposed to cream, resulting in a product with less butterfat than ice cream. While the production of both desserts involves whipping dairy products with flavorings, the process for making gelato introduces much less air into the finished product. Therefore, gelato tends to be denser and its flavors less diluted. This full flavor sometimes leads consumers to mistakenly conclude that gelato contains a higher percentage of butterfat than ice cream.



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