Sunday, January 17, 2010
I am not one to judge hot chocolate harshly, but I can see why some might not enjoy the thick texture of City Bakery's hot chocolate. The rich liquid coated my throat and mouth and nearly disabled me from speaking. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed the chocolaty concoction and we walked downtown along the West Side highway pier. My hot chocolate was accompanied by a marshmallow, but by the time I finished the liquid, my marshmallow was lost at the bottom of my cup, covered with chocolate and I would have looked like a fool scooping fingers towards the bottom and attempting to scoop it into my mouth :(
By the time we walked down to Tribeca, we were hungry again. Realizing that we were on Greenwich street, we decided to go to Locanda Verde. Their to go bakery was open and my friend and I sat down for a mid afternoon snack.
The crumbly walnut topping to my fig muffin was a nice and nutty contrast to the moist cake below. Fig seeds spersed through the cake layer, added a nice texture with the crunch of almond
and sugar topping and added a nice flavor paired with a Lavender tea. My friend ordered a huge apple, cinammon bun whose fresh fruit was moist, and subtly sweet. The surrounding layers of the pastry neatly unfurled as she ate layer by layer.
We felt strange using the silverware and napkins set out on the table, but we were assured that it was completely allowed. The pastries were delicious and I hope to go back for their famed breakfast soon.
We decided to meet at Hampton Chutney Co. Humongous, crispy dosas are brimming with a huge selection of fresh ingredients. One of the Seasonal is filled with jeweled squash, mushrooms, arugula and jack cheese. The portions are huge, at least 2 feet of crispy dosa lay before me. Unaided by fork or knife I tore through the soft middle, revealing juicy mushrooms and large cupes of squash.
I primitively tore at my meal, surrounded by many people bustling through the 19 seat cafe. Let me note, my eating companion neatly and safely ate her dosa. The warm vegetables inside were satisfying and tasty.
We then ventured down to Chinatown to a medicine shop. In the midst of shelves covered with hanging roots, boxes of herbs with Chinese labels and pamphlets on mind and body health was a woman with glasses thicker than my thumb. It was a cute little place and I left with medicinal herbs and a feeling that neighborhood small business still lives on in the city of giant real estate and condos.
After we stopped to buy the fruits depicted above. I don't really know the name of the fruit but it was very similar to a lychee nut. We walked peeling the hard shell that surrounded the sweet meat whose juices spilled down over our wrists and fingers. Lets just say we used a lot of hand sanitizer.
A pleasant day with beautiful weather :)
Monday, January 11, 2010
A friend who had been here previously raved about the oysters and we were able to nab the last of them. I remeber the barbecue sauce was not as sweet as I expected, maybe because of the scallions garnished on top.
The beet salad was balanced. A natural sweetness from the beets, and sugary taste from candied pecans was countered by creamy goat cheese and the tang of cabbage.
Simple potato salad and fava bean salad was devoured. I don't remember the taste but I do know that we were all sad once we had consumed the dish before the waitress walked back inside.
The only thing left on the menu from the grill were their burgers. Pink onions, and jalapenos made this a delightful juicy mess. My friends who were over 21 raved about the beers on tap especially, one of my friend's IPA.
All in all a good post-concert meal.
113 North 7th Street, Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, January 9, 2010
My mom and I split a sandwich, shared a huge bowl of mushroom barley soup, and a side of kasha varnishkas.
Tangy Russian dressing elevates the peppery taste of the meat and sour notes of slaw. Rye bread only makes sense to absorb all of the juices that might run past fingers and down wrists.
My mom and I must have been a sight; dressed in semi-formal attire, devouring huge sandwiches without taking breaths for air. I think the family of four sitting next to us was slightly horrified, but it didn't matter. It was a good year, so why not end it with a delightful sandwich.
We didn't forget about our other sides and proceeded to drench the kasha in a gravy served on the side, and attempted to consume all of the soup, but there was just too much. Once we were finished we sat back and just laughed. Imagine if we had ordered a sandwich each. Oy! The best part, is that we probably would have finished that off to.
Happy New Year all!
1125 Lexington Ave
Manhattan, New York, NY 10075
Saturday, January 2, 2010
As we entered the restaurant, located on the ninth floor, we were presented with a fabulous view of Central Park, Columbus circle, and north bound Broadway.
Needless to say, the view is fabulous!
Peering into the mirror next to our table and along the far wall, we were under the impression that the restaurant was a vast, never ending line of tables, so long, that the other side of the room might have been across the street. Dozens of fluorescent neon-pink, boxed lights lined the ceiling, with against the dark walls and sculptural furniture designed by Philip Michael Wolfson.
We ordered a signature cocktail called the Isabelle, named after the famous floral designer and event planner, Robert Isabelle, after whom the restaurant was named. The presentation was simple and lovely, a martini glass of Prosecco and Elderflower liqueur, adorned with a pansy.
After we had ordered, our waiter brought each of us a complimentary oyster. My mother, not one for shellfish, delegated her portion to my father who gladly obliged. My father and I downed the succulent meat, our throats tingling from the pickled pineapple with shallot, and the pink-peppercorn vinaigrette. We expected sweetness from the pineapple but instead the swallow was clean and yielded just a simple hint of parsley.
The torchon of Hudson Valley foie gras, which accompanied a pillar of brioche circles and a lump of quince chutney, offered no flavor. We learned that a torchon is foie gras wrapped in a towel and poached, in this case, court bullion, a vegetable stock with white wine and lemon. The texture was creamy, but there was no taste unless a mouthful contained the sweet chutney. Pistachios encrusting the torchon sides provided a saltiness. We are big fans of sauteed foie gras, which is why we opted to try this appetizer. But my mother and I were not pleased
Next, I ordered the charred octopus. Sweet onions and shaved fennel offered a layer of flavor along with tender and slightly charred pieces of octopus, which were salty with a bite of Gaela olives. It was delicious.
My mother was confused once her shrimp cocktail was set in front of her. She had expected the martini glass, with shrimp on ice and a side of cocktail sauce, but instead two, very large pieces of shrimp were presented to her. The shrimp were crisp and sweet, encircled by tomatoes and immersed in a mildly spicy horseradish gelee. Despite the shock, she enjoyed it.
As an in- between appetizer and entree course, we ordered a pasta. We all enjoyed the Pappardelle. Pieces of wild boar, olives, raisins and pine nuts hid under flat rivulets of noodles. The meat was juicy, not stringy or chewy and the raisins offered a sweet burst layered among gamy flavors. The consistency of the dish was thinner than a stew, but just as hearty. I greedily sopped up the delicious sauce, meat, olives and raisins on a tiny piece of warm multigrain bread. I'm actually surprised I didn't spill it all over myself. We all agreed it was the best dish of the night.
As we waited for our entrees, my parents complained about the reflection in the window. The video screen, hung from the back wall, displaying digital images of falling leaves and twisting branches at a nauseating pace, disturbed their fabulous view. My mother probably switched seats four times throughout the course of the meal until the image on the screen changed to a woman's feet wearing silver stilettos stomping on silver ornaments. The art piece is an installation titled "Happy Holidays."
Our entrees arrived promptly. My mother's strip steak, a robust portion, was served with baby carrots, halved fingerling potatoes, and creamed spinach. My mother, a hardened meat eater, could only finish half of her buttery steak and begged us not to waste the other half immersed in it's own juices. I couldn't even get a picture before she tore into it. The side vegetables were a bust, but the meat could hold it's own.
A pristine rectangle of poached halibut, blinding in it's whiteness, contrasted by festive red and greens of spinach, chives and tomatoes offered a nice presentation. The flavor was tame and in my father's opinion the dish was "just fish," neither impressive or satisfying.
Then the server set my plate of roasted Pekin duck breast onto the table. A torrent of clove, cardamom, star anise, coriander, and cinnamon smells wafted beneath my nose. I was more excited by the initial smell than the taste. The meat was pink, not tough, or overly spiced. The sides, kernels of corn throughout quinoa were sweet, compared to the mustardy taste of turnips. I was more taken by my initial impression of the dish than the flavor.
Dessert was passable. At the start of the meal we were told to order the chef's special Bombolini, described as ricotta fritters dusted with cinnamon. They were basically doughnut holes, light, but very sweet. Served with a choice of chocolate, caramel and vanilla dipping sauces. The extra sugar covering the fried dough and the immersion of more sugar was too much.
My father wisely stuck to plain vanilla ice cream and was better off than the my mother and I.
Mom ordered the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and a side of vanilla ice cream. You could have a coronary from all the sugar. The cake contained moist fruits and the overly sweet frosting canceled out almost every other flavor except for a hint of traditional carrot cake spice on the final swallow. Was the cream cheese frosting really necessary with a scoop of ice cream? The ice cream made the dessert swallowable and was fine with a forkful of cake.
In retrospect, the service was impeccable. Even the bread servers were friendly cordial and professional. The view is fantastic and no food can diminish the magic of Central Park or the brilliant patterns of New York traffic at night. The price was reasonable and I hear that lunch service will start on January 4th. The restaurant is exciting, and even after the room had filled up it was not noisy. There is also the possibility that live jazz will play during dinner service in the future, and the full service lounge bar is a great place to hang out and have drinks. I wish everyone Happy Holidays and a healthy New Year!
Friday, January 1, 2010
Appetizer of Sichuan Cold Noodles: This was sprinkled with crushed peanuts, scallions and Sichuan pepper as well as hot oil. Really delicious and perfect to split.
Delicious soup dumplings: Do not, I repeat, do not eat this whole. Your mouth will be set on fire, you will consume lava, and yes it will hurt! Try to wait at least five minutes before slurping the broth. It might be safer to cut a hole on the side, but then you will lose the soup. I feel like there can be no safe way to eat soup dumplings. Try cutting into the side and carefully sip the broth from the dumpling. Once the burning liquid is gone consume the good stuff inside.
Gui Zhou Spicy Chicken: This is one of my friend's staple dishes. If you like spiciness than order it traditional Sichuan style, which is spicier and not as sweet.
Ma pao tofu: I think I only remember this dish as goopy. The sauce was off putting and my friend was slightly disgusted by the slippery texture of the tofu. The tofu's taste was fine, but I don't think I would order this again.
We then headed off for dessert at Billy's Bakery, which is essentially a few blocks away.
Raspberry Breakfast bar with crumble topping was tart and not too sweet.
I don't really remember what type of cupcake this is. It doesn't look like one of their usual flavors, but I am sure it was good.
Their banana breakfast muffin was decent. I'd much rather go for a slice of their banana cake...yum
229 Ninth Ave., New York, NY 10001 at 24th St
184 Ninth Ave., New York, NY 10011 nr. 21st St
The interior is sleek, dimly lit, and relatively small. The wooden bar highlighted by candle light is homey and inviting. The two men behind the bar were accompanied by two others in the kitchen.
My friend and I had heard of El Quinto Pino for their wine selection and Uni Panini. Delicate pillows of Uni slipped into a skinny baguette (called a ficelle) slathered with, what NY mag says is a Korean mustard. The baguette is panini pressed and dressed in a waxed paper bag.
The texture of the uni is light, the taste even more ethereal. Now, don't get me wrong the sandwich was delicious but I expected something heartier than this, 6 inch long, 2 inch wide sandwich for $15. It is definitely an experience and if you love uni, you have got to try it.
The Pringá - Braised Meat Sandwich- was served in the same wax paper, and was just as tiny as the Uni sandwich. It was heartier and the bread was crunchy, without being too hard.
Berenjena con Miel: Fried eggplant sticks served with a side of honey. This was very simple and sweet with a nice wine pairing.
Soldaditos de pavia: Fried pieces of cod, were crispy and not salty at all. There was no grease to be seen, and the inside fish was tender.
Casadiella: Three fried pillows filled with chopped toasted walnuts were drizzled over with honey and powdered sugar. It is the only dessert offered, but it is not listed on the menu, so don't miss out.
During our tapas tasting we were the only ones in the space. The next time I visited with a group of three it was crowded. We could not find seats at one of the 16 stools and had to eat on our feet. The room was crowded and noisy, but the ambiance was alluring, mysterious and delightful. Check it out for late afternoon tapas or midnight cocktail.
El Quinto Pino
401 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011-1254
Let me just say the food is nothing compared to what is available in the city. A new food company, called AVI Fresh, has taken over dining services this year. Reviewing the food there would seem mundane, but I did consider comparing dining hall to dining hall. I've included a few nature shots during the fall season. Before I left, the campus was covered in a white blanket of snow. It is a gorgeous place. Regardless, I am back in NYC for winter break and I am so excited to start eating!
Happy holidays everyone and joyful eating!