Yorkville, NY – Part of the Tour De France group of French-Mediterranean restaurants, Café D’Alsace is decidedly more brasserie than bistro. With a selection of beers 100 strong (and growing), it pays homage to Alsace, France’s most prolific beer-producing region, with a plethora of breweries all along Strasbourg. Home to one of New York City’s handful of Beer Sommeliers, its pairings of food from Executive Chef Philippe Roussel and beer from sommelier Gianni Cavicchi are spot on, leaving us both satiated, yet craving for more.
We begin with one of Gianni’s own creations, Doc’s Wet Hopped Harvest Cider, a champagne-style hops and apple hard cider brewed in collaboration with pomologist and brewmaster Jason Grizzanti of Doc’s Brewery. With apples picked at the peak of the season from Warwick Winery and Distillery, and fresh Nugget hops (hand-picked from Gianni himself) from neighboring Pennings Orchard, the result is a clean, refreshing semi-dry finish with a whisper of apple flavor. It led elegantly to the French Goussin Heritage 1900 Cuvée Tradition Cidre. Super dry, unfiltered, with a bold and intense profile of freshly ripen apples, it contrasted sharply with the Doc.
Gianni then brought out a Belgian Troubadour Obscura to warm our palettes for the entree. Poured into a special glass, the stout is dark in color and heavy in texture, with a creamy tan head that played well with the chocolaty, malty profile. Highly aromatic and full-bodied, it left a lingering see-saw of sweet and bitter overtones that transitioned us smartly into the Classic Cassoulet – white bean casserole, homemade duck and garlic sausage, foie gras, duck leg confit, braised lamb shoulder, and natural duck jus. And yes, we had a food coma simply reading that too.
Presented in a large red cassole, the duck leg confit was fall-off-the-bone tender. The white beans beneath (covered in bread crumbs) made for the perfect vehicle to absorb all the hearty duck jus suspended throughout. The sausage was flavorful, and the foie gras ultra creamy, bringing us back and forth to the Troubadour Obscura, savoring in its sweet and bitter notes to counter the richness of the dish. The surprise for us was the succulent braised lamb shoulder.
Traditionally made with pork, the lamb however proved fitting for the dish - richly decadent, and melting almost immediately with just the heat of our tongue. Between the duck leg confit and the chunks of lamb, we were sure we’d soon slip into a siesta of epic proportions, but Gianni brought on the finishing touches to an already perfect evening. Presenting an Apple-in-the-Bottle Eau de Vie de Pomme from Clear Creek Distillery, a glass of Apple Brandy was well-aged and properly delicious, tucking us right in for the night. Cafe D'Alsace is nestled comfortably on the corner of 88th Street and 2nd Ave, and their full Zinc Bar and decor are as colorful and as the people it seats.