Entries in Vicki Freeman (6)


Hundred Acres


Hundred Acres is the latest brainchild of two haute barnyard cult figures, Marc Meyer and Vicki Freeman. Between them, the husband-wife team already have two hit restaurants to their credit, Five Points in NoHo and Cookshop in Chelsea. Both are variations on a similar theme: market-driven menus leaning heavily on produce from local farmers.

Last year, they acquired the old SoHo mainstay Provence. They were sentimentally attached to the restaurant, as it was the place where they became engaged. Their original plan was to keep it French, but Gallic cooking wasn’t really in Meyer’s soul, and Frank Bruni found the food uneven. Meyer told the Times that Provence was packed during the weekends, but weekday business was slow.

hundredacres_inside.jpgSo after a bit of remodeling, the space now looks like—you guessed it, a gussied-up farmhouse. Meyer and Freeman are once again doing what they do best.

The menu here is more downmarket than either of their other two places, with a much gentler price point. Appetizers are $10–12, entrées around $15–20. Your mileage may vary, as the menu changes often, but these prices are about as low as you see at a serious restaurant these days.

hundredacres01.jpgWe were both attracted to the “Trio of Toast” — three crisp bruschette topped with rabbit, smoked fish, and liver respectively. It’s daring to serve a dish like this, as many diners find at least one of those ingredients a turn-off.

We liked the liver the best, and the fish was solid too. The rabbit had cooled off a bit too much, and it tasted oily.

hundredacres02a.jpg hundredacres02b.jpg

You don’t see pollack—a member of the cod family—on many restaurant menus. It was cooked in parchment and topped with peas. The preparation was first-class, the fish moist and flavorful.

My girlfriend had a lamb sausage burger. The sausage itself was terrific, but the plate was overwhelmed with toppings and garnishes. Shoestring fries weren’t very interesting, and after a couple of tastes we left them alone.

hundredacres03.jpgWe finished with a warm rhubarb tart.

You’ve got to give Meyer credit. Run down the roster: a trio of toasts with rabbit, smoked fish and liver; pollack; a lamb sausage burger. They’re all the work of a chef who wants to challenge diners, not to pander. Good for him!

We noticed, though, that the most popular dish seemed to be the fried chicken. Perhaps diners at Hundred Acres aren’t quite ready for Meyer’s version of barnyard cooking.

The wine list is not extensive, but there were plenty of options under $50.

The execution here was slightly uneven, but they’ve been open only a month, and I assume they’ll get the kinks worked out. Service was much more polished than one would expect for such an inexpensive restaurant.

Hundred Acres (38 MacDougal Street between Prince & Houston Streets, SoHo)

Food: *
Service: *
Ambiance: *
Overall: *


The Non-Payoff: Provence

Yesterday, Frank Bruni awarded one star to Provence.

For the second week in a row, we had a review that could have gone either way. And for the second week in a row—and indeed, this is becoming a depressing regularity, NYJ was on the wrong side of the bet. But for the first time in eighteen weeks, Eater was also on the wrong side, making this the first time in 18 weeks that both of us are losers.

Both Eater and NYJ lose $1 on our hypothetical wagers.

          Eater        NYJ
Bankroll $37.50   $34.67
Gain/Loss –1.00   –1.00
Total $36.50   $33.67
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 14–4   12–6

Rolling the Dice: Provence

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, Francophobe Frank reviews the newly re-imagined SoHo bistro, Provence. Eater’s official odds are as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 6-1
One Star: 3-1
Two Stars: 7-2 √√
Three Stars:
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: For the second week in a row, Eater is practically on the fence, with only a smidgen separating the favorite (two stars) from the runner-up. Once again, there’s a reasonably good case for either outcome.

The case for two stars? As Eater notes, Marc Meyer and Vicki Freeman have already cracked the two-star code at Cookshop. And Bruni seems to have a soft-spot for husband–wife teams. Something about a small, family-run business appeals to him. A number of quaint restaurants run by married couples—usually Italian—have received two stars from him.

Eater also notes that this is technically a re-review—the restaurant received one star from Ruth Reichl, which Eric Asimov re-affirmed—and re-reviews usually come with a change-of-rating. That factor is probably less important here, as any Meyer/Freeman restaurant would pretty much demand a review. And when the review is driven by market events, Bruni doesn’t necessarily feel compelled to justify the effort with an upgrade or downgrade.

The case for one star? Well, the reviews of Provence have been decidedly mixed, and Bruni has never had much of a liking for French food.

The Bet: We’re two games behind in the pennant race, and we’ll never catch up without taking some risks. But we just don’t have a strong enough feeling about this one to bet against the odds. Two stars it is.


Five Points

Note: Five Points closed in August 2014 after fifteen years in business. It re-opened in October as Vic’s (named for Vicki Freeman, one of the partners), where chef Hillary Sterling (formerly of A Voce) servces an Italian–Mediterranean menu.



Five Points is one of those restaurants that New York Magazine calls an “haute barnyard,” specializing in seasonal ingredients sourced from local providers. Cookshop in Chelsea, owned by the same team, is a close soulmate, serving many of the same menu items. Five Points is a bit more romantic, with its candle-lit room, leafy décor, and a table layout that emphasizes seating for couples.

I started with a grilled mushroom salad that seemed to be almost an afterthought to the kitchen. The mushrooms were just dumped on the plate with mixed greens. They tasted fine, but the plating was uninspired. My friend’s house-made country pate was a large portion, but I found it similarly uninspired.

For the main course, we both had the double-cut pork chop with a roasted apple sauce and pepper cress, which I rated an improvement on the appetizers: a comfort food competently prepared.

Five Points may not be a leader in its category, but the food is respectable and the space is easy on the eyes. Prices are quite reasonable, with appetizers from$8.50–13, and main courses from $17–28.

Five Points (31 Great Jones Street between Lafayette & Bowery, NoHo)

Ambiance: ½


Return to Cookshop

There are many restaurants in New York that I want to try, so a restaurant has to be pretty damned good for me to rush back. If it is merely good, I move on to the next destination. After my girlfriend and I had paid a first visit, Cookshop had made it into that rare pantheon of places we felt we had to rush back to.

Alas, early promise wasn’t fulfilled. On our second visit, my friend ordered a “humanely-raised” veal chop. We supposed that meant that the young animal received plenty of coddling in its short life, but in the end they still slaughtered it anyway. All of that made no difference. The chop was inexpertly cooked, lacking any char or texture on its outer surface.

I ordered the suckling pig, another animal that had died young. Its final stop before my plate was a rotisserie, which is perhaps a gimmick to persuade the diner that he is getting something special, but in the end it was just bland. I had a far superior version of the same dish a few days later at the TriBeCa restaurant Dominic.

So our enthusiasm for Cookshop has dimmed somewhat. We’ll probably give it one more try one of these days, but this time we won’t be rushing back.

Cookshop (156 Tenth Avenue at 20th Street, West Chelsea)

Food: *
Service: *
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *



Note: Click here for a more recent visit to Cookshop.

Cookshop has been open for several weeks. There was a good Sunday night crowd in the restaurant last night, but my friend and I were pleased that we could still hear ourselves talk.

The restaurant features a market menu that relies heavily on local produce. The menu is printed on loose paper, and I suspect it is re-done every day. To start, I had the smoked bluefish. My friend had a pizza, which our server warned “is one of our larger appetizers.” Indeed, for many people it would serve as an entrée. We both had the duck main course, an ample portion of juicy medallions with a luscious layer of fat around them.

Main courses are generally between $20 and $30, except for the aged rib-eye ($34); appetizers are generally under $15. The wine list fits on a single page, but is not organized according to any system I could perceive. Nevertheless, I was delighted to find a modestly-priced cabernet that topped off the evening nicely.

I suspect Cookshop will be a hit, and deservedly so.

Cookshop (156 Tenth Avenue at 20th Street, West Chelsea)

Food: **
Service: **
Ambiance: *
Overall: **

Postscript: I wrote the foregoing after our visit to Cookshop on October 24, 2005. My gut told me “two stars” when I visited, and about a month later so said Frank Bruni. We returned to Cookshop in January, and our impression then was far less favorable.