Josh, Matt and I (and the Misses Hazard and Matt) rendezvoused at the latest Lower East Side restaurant A Casa Fox for its inaugural brunch.
The brick-n-mortar realization of Melissa Fox’s long running catering business, A Casa Fox pulls from her rich cultural experience growing up in New York with an American father and Nicaraguan mother, and she has put together the tastiest brunch this side of Granada.
Her fried plantains rely more of the thinness of the original slice and less on the a double dose of frying. The hot sauce is made 50 feet to the left of your table. And the empanadas, which aren’t embarrassed of their flavor, and are baked, not fried. The result is a tender, flaky crust on the outside which does a good job of holding together succulent meat and cheese, vegetable and cheese or just cheese and cheese goodness.
We ordered at least a dozen of these addictive stuffed pastries and it is not a stretch to say Matt and I could have ordered a dozen more. While all of them were perfectly balanced and well done, we were particularly fond of the chorizo and manchega cheese and the pulled pork with caramelized onion.
Everything else on the menu was equally good. The tortilla chips are made on the premises and the guacamole, pico de gallo and black bean dips they were served with are, without exaggeration, the finest examples of these three respective sides one will find in New York.
Of the brunch entrées, the hands down favorite was the terrine with chorizo and aged manchega — a perfectly crispy-on-the-outside-gooey-in-the-middle fried egg laid on top of a spicy, but not too hot, chorizo and cheese combination. It was of little wonder when I asked Melissa where she got such good chorizo — and growing up in South Texas, I know good chorizo — and she told me she had them imported from Spain.
For dessert, we split a bowl of the fruit salad, which was a fresh assortment of melon, grape, peach and kiwi tossed in a simple syrup and mint concoction. Complementing the fruit salad was our order of Ille coffee. I was a little disappointed the coffee was shipped in from the cloud rainforests of Mount Mombacho, but no doubt with enough demand, Nicaragua’s finest shade grown coffee will soon find itself on the menu.
Right now, Melissa is sans liquor license, so it is a BYOB joint ($6 corkage fee, however). To help grease the skids of the Sunday morning drunks, A Casa Fox will prepare tasty, spicy, virgin Bloody Mary mix which paired nicely with the U’Luvka Vodka we brought (our review of the vodka will follow shortly).
This is the brunch experience the way it should be: in a tranquil environment, where conversation is more important than the speed at which a table is turned over. Adding to the excellent conversation was our luck in being seated at a large, but cozy, table with Melissa’s parents, who had come out to support her inaugural brunch.
Melissa’s mom and I became fast friends, as I was able to share the stories of the two-week trip Mrs. Hazard and I took to Nicaragua two years ago. After that, the Fox matriarch told me the family history of the decorations throughout the cozy and comfortable dining area and some of the family touches Melissa has put into her dishes.
The best way to sum up her gregarious personality is Rachel Ray, if Rach actually knew something about food and actually had something to contribute to the New York cuisine fabric beyond a few idiot catch phrases. At one point during our meal, she asked if we could top off her Bloody Mary drink with a little (actually a lot) of our vodka, and it didn’t seem the least bit out of place.
If I have to assign demerits, I give them to service, which was slow and inattentive. Matt was much more forgiving, saying the lack of attention probably had to do more with the fact that we spent 2 and ½ hours in a very relaxed brunch and the waiter saw no need to bother us much. (Josh concurs, and gives the waiter points for command of the menu and gravity-defying hair.)
Regardless, the entire AmericanMadness.com crew had nothing but great things to say about the brunch experience. If you aren’t Nicaraguan when you enter A Casa Fox, but the time you leave, you’ll feel like you should’ve been.
While Eric’s review is complimentary of the restaurant, and I know he tries to be even-handed in his writing, I feel no need to be. I bash where I see fit and compliment where it is deserved. The Bloody Mary mixture (made fresh) was pretty outstanding. There are a couple of folks who I brunch with (yes I used brunch as a verb there) who are frequently on the hunt for an awesome Bloody Mary. I had to stop myself from calling them from the table (because that would have been rude), and now they know anyway, so I expect they’ll be at the Fox House soon.
The empanadas were delicious (as I mentioned at the time, I am lucky A Casa Fox is not open for breakfast because I would stop by every morning on my way to work and thereby soon require new pants). I especially liked the pulled pork and caramelized onions (I was a little disappointed by the time the first one got around to me since someone had already eaten the center of it. Fortunately that wasn’t the case with the next two we got).
I definitely plan on heading back there for brunch (and since Melissa thought our U’luvka was too strong and appeared to be drinking Stoli, I know which vodka I will be bringing back with me), and can’t wait to try dinner. This is a great new addition to the LES food scene.
A Casa Fox: 173 Orchard Street. (212) 253-1900.
PS – Melissa is looking for a good line cook. If you, or someone you know, is looking for just such a gig, but sure and stop by to inquire.