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Dinner at Freeman's, 6/07/08

Em's annual birthday dinner always ends up being one of my favorite nights of the year. I was thrilled when she decided to host her celebratory meal at Freeman's, a spot that I've been anxious to try since last year's birthday meal. Not only had I read about the restaurant, but while talking to a prominent NYC socialite about Manhattan's dining scene, she asked me if I'd ever been, and I embarrassingly declined.

Saturday night was one of the most miserably hot and humid evenings I've experienced since a wedding I attended in Houston a couple of August's ago. From afternoon to 9 p.m., I think the 90+ degree weather had literally only cooled about 2 degrees. To make matters worse, the cab that Em, Kristen and I split's A/C wasn't working! I was horrified that the night was getting off to a rocky start...

The cabbie dumped us off at the corner of a random alley in NYC's Lower Eastside. Before I could get right back in to the cab and ask the driver if we were secretly being filmed for "Candid Camera," I was told that Freeman's was coincidentally located down "Freeman's Alley," which happens to be its street address. There I go again...Judging a damn book by its cover! After a short stroll through the alley, we approached the restaurant. Had somebody not had the address or knew that this was Freeman's, it'd be possible for one to write the space off as an apartment or boutique home store. Since the alley was car-less, I observed a pair of bicycles propped up against a brick wall that had been creatively tagged with urban art. Keeping the theme of "taking advantage of their own alley space," the restaurant had planted gorgeous pots and beds of flowers and greenery, and strategically created a smoker's haven with benches and cafe chairs.

Once inside, we informed the host of our arrival and were told to wait for our remaining guests at the bar. Emily had made a reservation for 6, which is the lowest number of people they will take for a rezzie, so we had a guaranteed table, which was a very nice feeling. After ordering one of the best cocktails I've had (called the "Honeysuckle," made with: rum, lime and honey syrup and blended with small shavings of ice) I made a point to observe Freeman's unique interior. Situated in a multi-roomed space circa the early 1900's (lucky guess), the restaurant evoked a gamey apres-ski lodge. The white crown-molded walls were strewn with taxidermy, mirrors and sconces. The lighting was dim enough to create a pseudo calm, serene and romantic atmosphere. Adding more beauty to the restaurant was a slew of attractive patrons enjoying dinner and drinks both at the large bar and at tables throughout the dining rooms.

Once seated for dinner, our table chose to split the following appetizers: Hot Artichoke Dip with Crisp Bread, Iceberg Wedges and Crab Beignets. As an entree, Emily and I decided to share the Seared Filet Mignon with a side of truffled mashed potatoes and mac n' cheese.

As the three appetizers simultaneously arrived, our entire table rushed to grab one of the stacked small plates to sample the trio of heavenly "starters." When my plate had a serving of each appetizer, I chose to start "boring" and try the salad...Then move my way up through the greasy food chain that was my plate. I wasn't very wowed or impressed by the firm wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with sliced radishes and a watery ranch dressing. My 1 1/2 year-old God-daughter could have made this salad! Next up...Crisp Bread with Artichoke Dip. First of all, the bread wasn't crispy; it was more of a 1/2 inch thick piece of baguette that was slightly warmer than room temperature. The artichoke dip arrived in a French-onion-soup-esque type of bowl, filled to the brim with ingredients and topped with an oven-baked golden crust. After taking my first bite of baguette topped with a hearty spoonful of dip, I was quite pleased with the overall execution of the appetizer. The soft and chewy bread gave way to a warm, mayonnaise-creamy spread filled with fresh Parmesan cheese, quartered artichoke hearts and the perfect subtle "crunch" from baking in the oven. Finally, my last appetizer to sample was the Crab Beignet, which I can happily attest that I "saved the best for last." Enclosed in golden-brown fried outer crust, was real chunks of fresh crab meat floating in a creamy and flavorful sauce. Unfortunately, the menu didn't provide key ingredients, nor was I able to pin-point them, but I can tell you that this was one of the most outstanding pieces of food I've ever put in my mouth. The difference in textures, crispy versus creamy versus meaty, sang a Grammy Award-winning song on my tongue.

Luckily, we had a good twenty-minutes or so before our entrees arrived (every minute counts when you're as full as we were!). After Emily and I divided our shared Seared Filet Mignon entree, my plate had equal parts of: steak topped with horseradish cream sauce, roasted onion, truffled mashed potatoes and mac n' cheese. I found the beef to be slightly overcooked and tough...Not the quality of steak that I was expecting. The horseradish cream sauce smothering the top of the filet was unpleasantly spicy and offensive. Never, since the time I'd mistaken wasabi for guacamole, have my nasal passages been in that much pain. The roasted onion was a nice, but random, accompaniment to the entree...I think I'd have much rather preferred a roasted garlic bulb with a side of freshly sliced bread. Shall I even describe the potatoes and mac? Sadly, they left the same underwhelming impression. I found the mashed potatoes to be "too mashed," though I did love the truffle flavor. The mac n' cheese would have been fantastic had it not been reheated at some point before it was served. The Lunch Belle knows these things, people! You can't play kitchen tricks on me!

Overall, I found my experience at Freeman's to be a positive one. I loved the company that I was with, the atmosphere, the unique alley and the outstanding appetizers and drinks. Though I wasn't as impressed with my entree, I'd definitely return to Freeman's for their amazing cocktails, small plates and people-watching! Thanks for another great night, Emily!

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Reader Comments (1)

Freeman's is great!

June 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

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