Kate and Jon’s Supper Club: “If You Can Make This, You Can Make That”

14 Feb

We met Kate and her husband Jon at a blogger event a few years back and struck up a friendship. We’ve spent some great times with them and really enjoy having a foodie couple friend to pal around with. While we dined out together a few times, we had yet to try her home cooking.  And if you read her blog, you will quickly learn that not only is Kate a clever writer (and her husband a great artist), but she also knows her way around the kitchen! Kate writes the awesome cooking blog If You Can Make This, You Can Make That.

So when they mentioned that they were going to host their first Supper Club at their home, we couldn’t possibly say no!

We started with lovely lovely apps.

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And an awesome cocktail.

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Here was the menu for the night.

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And we each sat down to this surprise bag at our place setting.

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Now I love corn soup…

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But corn soup with homemade popcorn (the contents of the surprise bag) was like a miracle in my mouth. (How have I never put popcorn in soup before???)

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And then out came the goat cheese souffle.  Wow! Souffles always impress me.

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Most souffles look pretty but taste bland. This most certainly did not.  It was filled with flavor.

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And then the scallops… ooooo caramelization! Delish (and with my favorite: squash puree)

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The roast pork was great. Very moist and great flavors.

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And then out came the bowl of schlag (homemade whipped cream). I could have just eaten this for dessert.

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But there was a plum crumble in my future.  Since I love both plum and crumble, this was right up my alley.

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And then there were some soft, warm chocolate cookies that were mind-blowingly awesome.  Kate keeps saying she doesn’t make cookies. I think she is a bloody liar.

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We had such a great time at this Supper Club and met some fun other people. The food was delicious and I’m so glad to have such delicious friends! I also think Kate may have read this entire blog cover to cover to find all my favorite foods to put on one menu! How else would she have known to put together such a perfect meal of NYCNomNom’s favoritist favorites?

Michael White’s Marea

12 Feb

We like to start the new year right by eating at a restaurant we want to check off the list on January 1st each year.  This year it was Marea on Central Park South. We chose Marea because we really enjoyed our last Michael White meal at Ai Fiori (pasta focused) so we decided to try this seafood focused location.


It’s a very nice, very white room with dark floors and dark chairs.


We started with a amuse bouche that was not overly memorable.


And we decided to try a Cristom Pinot Noir to ring in the new year (it was excellent).


We started with the 4 course prix fixe menu (for $97 each) which came with Crudo, Ostriche or Antipasto / Pasta / Pesce or Carne / Dolce.

And of course, we started with the Ostriche, which are oysters. (Very good)


I started with a seafood sausage and egg dish.  I really loved the seafood sausage and it all blended well with the dish (I think there were lentils on the bottom)


Mike then had the Caramelle, which were short rib ravioli with red wine sugo, celery root, and foie gras emulsion.  I really enjoyed this dish. The short ribs were absolutely yummy in the ravioli.


I chose the fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow.  I thought this was very good, but I think the taste of bone marrow is so good on its own that it gets a bit lost when it’s in a tomato based sauce. 


Mike’s entree was the spada, which was grilled Hawaiian swordfish.  The current menu describes it with eggplant, radicchio, watercress, marcona almonds, and apricot, but I actually think it was a different version with chick peas in it.  The swordfish was perfectly cooked and it all went well together. But I didn’t love it.


I decided to go out on a limb and I ordered the Seppia.  Seppia is grilled mediterranean cuttlefish with escarole, taggia olives, livornese, and wild oregano. Cuttlefish is one of those things I’ve always meant to try, and I figured there are few places better to take a risk on a strange seafood than Michael White’s Marea.  SO I went for it.

And then there was an alien on my plate.

I am the last one to stick up my nose at “gross” food but the way this thing looked at me… it gave me the heebie-jeebies.  It was quite delicious, and I feel like if I liked cuttlefish I would have loved this version. But sadly… I didn’t.  Well… It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just wouldn’t go out of my way to order it again.  I would much rather eat about a million other things.


We added a side of brussels sprouts with pancetta, and they were cooked perfectly.


Mike chose the Torta di Olio, which was an olive oil cake with roasted pineapple, green apple, and olive oil gelato. This was fresh and beautifully plated. 


I went with the Strati Di Cioccolato, which came with dark chocolate crema, salted caramel mousse, cookie crumble, and gelato. YUM! This was great. I loved all the different textures and flavors. They came together perfectly.


The crumbles on top really made the dessert.


We ended with some petit fours.


Which looked beautiful from every angle.


And then they did my favorite thing that nice restaurants do… they gave us a muffin for the next morning.

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I don’t remember what it was, but it was really really delicious. I absolutely love that final touch. It wins me over every time.

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All the food that we had was very good. Frankly, I don’t think we ordered well. The cuttlefish was just not my thing, so it’s really hard to judge. Overall, I think the meal was very good and I’m glad we tried it.  I want to try the rest of Michael White’s places, but I would run back to Ai Fiori in a heartbeat. Not sure I would say the same about Marea.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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7 Feb

On a Friday night during Restaurant Week, we were without a reservation. A quick check of participating RW restaurants in the area with an open reservation led us to Resto, a place we had been meaning to try.  I had been to their sister restaurant, Cannibal, in the past where I enjoyed an incredible pig’s head. 

Their Restaurant Week menu looked good with 3 options in each section.  But due to my allergy, I was left with many fewer choices, so while we were in for the Restaurant Week menu, we wound up ordering entirely off the regular menu.


I was a bit confused as to why we had a Sotheby’s catalog on our table.


But soon found out that they put their drink menus in other books (we saw a children’s book on the table next to us). Cute idea.


The space has a really good vibe, with old-looking metal ceilings and an industrial style.  


Mike started with the deviled eggs which came on pork toast with charred scallion.  I couldn’t try the egg due to peppers in the filling, but I took a few bites of the pork toast and it was really fantastic.  Crunchy outside around soft and flavorful pork.  Mike enjoyed the egg but thought the egg to pork toast ratio was off and he wanted more egg.


I started with the grilled halloumi with pistachio puree, grilled pear, grapes, and watercress. Everything on this dish came together perfectly. The sweetness of the pear and grape, the richness of the grilled halloumi cheese, the salty earthiness of the pistachios, the freshness of the watercress.  Very good.


Mike chose the hamburger, which wasn’t on the menu and he had to request it specially.  When it came out, I couldn’t help but notice that it came on a regular ol’ hamburger bun. The kind of the grocery store.


But it turned out it was a really great, nostalgic taste for this delicious burger. The burger was made with pork back fat and beef cheeks and a few other meats. It has a distinctively meaty and almost gamy flavor.  I really liked it, but there was one big problem… it was a TINY piece of meat.  

The fries were perfectly pillowy outside and crispy inside, so it’s not like Mike walked away hungry. But I think he was a bit disappointed that the burger wasn’t heftier.


I chose the striped bass with roasted cauliflower, beluga lentils, and cauliflower cream. This dish was perfect. The fish was cooked perfectly and with a slight sweetness that made the meat really flavorful. The roasted cauliflower and cauliflower puree went very well with it, and I really enjoyed the flavorful beluga lentils.  


We also got a side of brussels sprouts, which had a lovely crisp to them.


Overall, we really enjoyed our meal at Resto. I think my 2 dishes were better than Mike’s 2 dishes, but everything was very good.  It was a hearty meal in a hearty space, with everything cooked very well.  I would just stick to the recommended items on the menu, and maybe skip the burger.

Overall Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Dexter Themed Cupcakes: A Gig

5 Feb

Friends come to me with various food questions quite regularly. This project started in much the same way. One friend wanted Dexter themed cupcakes for a friend of hers that is a huge Dexter fan.  Her inspiration was from a picture of cupcakes that were made for Magnolia Bakery for the show’s premier.   I gave her some names of local bakeries I knew of that did custom and theme cupcakes, but as she called around, it became obvious that no bakeries would make it. One offered to make it without the “glass,” but that just took the drama out of it.

I looked at the picture, looked around for sugar glass recipes, and concluded that I could absolutely make these cupcakes.

And so my first “paid gig” for baking began.

Since this was my first “professional” assignment, I decided it was absolutely necessary to make a test batch first.  The cupcake recipient actually was not a fan of chocolate, so my red velvet idea went quickly out the window.

First, I found a Martha Stewart recipe for the sugar glass, but I long ago realized that Martha’s kitchen staff makes everything look a whole lot better than I could ever get out of my kitchen. So I went on a quest for a “normal person” recipes and once again, AllRecipes.com came to the rescue.

I combined them both (and the use of 2 different thermometers to check on the temperature) and made my attempt at sugar glass.

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I was really excited when it actually worked! It was ever so slightly yellow tinged, which was disappointing, but I deemed it good enough to work.

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And made a few batches of varying thickness.

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And just for fun, I dyed some blue and made some Breaking Bad Blue Sky (and put it all chopped up into a baggy for the friend who made the order, knowing she is a huge Breaking Bad fan.)

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It was a bit rippled when I made the thick one.

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But the thinner one was very clear and shattered just like glass.

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And cut like it!

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(Just kidding! Sort of…) It was definitely sharp, but it made for some great gag glass with just a bit of red food coloring.

For the cupcake itself, I decided to go with a very basic cupcake that I added some spices to (ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg) and then used the Bailey’s frosting that everyone loves.

Then it came time to figure out how to fill these bad boys. I wanted them to be filled with a blood colored jam of some kind that when cut into, would look like it was oozing blood.

First I tried a cherry pie filling (without the solids) in a squirt bottle.

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And while it looked a bit like it, the narrow amount just didn’t have the impact I wanted and it absorbed into the cake in a few minutes, so it didn’t really ooze all that well.

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So next I tried the “cone” method where you cut a cone out of the cupcake…

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… then remove the section…

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… fill the hollow with the filling…

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… then replace the very top of the circle to fill the hole. This proved to be a pretty good method and I declared the trial a success. (The hole also let me drop a cherry into each, which I hoped would add to the flavor a bit).

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And then it came time to assemble.  I used a pastry bag to pipe the frosting on, stuck the sugar glass on it, then splattered the top with red food coloring.  And then… we had a Dexter cupcake.

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We tried a few different “splatters.”  Red food coloring, red gel icing, cherry filling, jam… But the good ol’ red food coloring was really the best.

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And cutting into the inside wasn’t as oozy as I wanted, but the cherry inside was a really nice addition.

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And since I had a few extras from the trial, I filled a few with jam and topped them with peanut butter instead of frosting.

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Have I mentioned that I am a sucker for all things peanut butter and jelly?

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So then came the day of the actual party.  I had ordered some specialty accessories including blood spatter cupcake liners, bone sprinkles, and bloody cleaver toothpicks.  (More on those later)

While the cone cutting was working, I decided to look through my stock of random kitchen accessories to see if I had something better. Sure enough, an old fashioned apple corer was perfect.

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It pulled out a good well to add the cherry and cherry pie filling.

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And left the top circle intact for replacing on the top.

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All ready for frosting!

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We decided to go with a spread frosting instead of a piped frosting, and then put the shards of sugar glass in them.

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Then set up an elaborate blood spatter lab where we coated everything in saran warp, dropped the cap into the sink, and used pastry brushes to splatter the food coloring blood.

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Then put them into the cupcake holder (which is never stable enough… why don’t they make the sides of those things just a bit higher?)

Ready for delivery!

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But I figured I could get even more creative.  So I took a piece of sugar glass that looked like a knife, molded a chocolate handle, inserted a birthday candle and made an edible knife/candle holder.

Then I took a “naked” cupcake, strapped it down under plastic wrap, and stabbed it with the knife.  I hope Dexter fans will appreciate.

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I also wanted to create some different kinda of decoration, so I decided to use the meat cleavers and bones in red topped cupcakes.

This is where I caution you… it is just about impossible to make RED frosting. I wound up with a whole lot of very pink frosting.  I then proceeded to dump every red colored thing in my cabinet into this (which included just about every fruit jam in history) and yet… it was still pink.  So Mike popped out to the store and got an industrial sized bottle of red food coloring and I dumped it in. I was concerned that the high concentration of red food coloring would change the flavor, but as it turns out there was so much fruit in there from all the jams that you couldn’t taste it (though no promises it wouldn’t dye your teeth red!)

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The bar where they set up was dark, but I was told that they were the hit of the party.

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And I’m very glad to have done such a fun project and make a Dexter fan happy.

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Guest Blog: Mas (Farmhouse)

1 Feb

I work in a field where I get to meet a lot of really great people. It isn’t rare that I find someone who loves food as much as I do, but to find a kindred spirit who thinks about it night and day and loves nothing more than talking about it is unique.  When I sat down next to Alexis at a lunch, we were excitedly chatting about her recent meal at Mas (Farmhouse) almost immediately, with her showing me pictures on her phone.  Kindred spirit… check!

It has come to my attention that, disappointingly, I cannot visit every great restaurant in the world, let alone in NYC on my own.  So I am thrilled that Alexis agreed to guest blog about her Mas (Farmhouse) dining experience.


From Alexis:

I recently started working closer with Sara and when we recently dined together at Millesime, we quickly realized we shared two major passions in life; food and Words with Friends.  I actually mentioned to my husband that these are the only two things I needed in life, he was a bit taken back that I didn’t include him in my list, but hey, I thought that was a given.  My passion for food has transpired over the last few years and I am known to be eating lunch while reading menus for dinner, tomorrow’s dinner, next week’s dinner, you get the point!  I have a self proclaimed eating disorder, where I go to sleep dreaming of food and wake up the same way.  Harnessing this issue has been a problem, so when I was given the opportunity to guest blog, I realized that this may be the perfect outlet for my infatuation. Here goes it…

Mas (Farmhouse)

This past weekend my husband and I went for dinner with another couple.  Of course I read the menu in advance, but I must say the menu doesn’t read as well as the food looks and tastes. Also, despite the waiter’s best effort to showcase the culinary offerings as “custom”, we were a bit overwhelmed by the variations in which you can order; 4 course tasting; 7 course tasting; create your own tasting; a la carte.  We decided to order a la carte but collaborated and shared so we could taste more dishes.  This is always the way I (try to) order despite some people not always in agreement. There’s always that stinker who “doesn’t like to share”… Hate those kinds of people….

Diving right into it…. We were greeted with an amuse-bouche – I didn’t get the exact description, my first blogging error, but don’t hold it against me! – Goat cheese tartlet with caramelized onion and some kind of gelee and micro greens?!

It was truly fantastic and a perfect bite to get our palates going.  I could have easily eaten at least three more of these little tastes of heaven …


For our Appetizer course, I rallied up the troops to each get something different… I love duck, especially confit style, so I was excited about my selection: Duck Confit Tart with Espresso Gastrique; Apple Butter, Sliced Pears & Mâche Lettuce. The portion size was really nice for one, and actually just enough to give everyone at the table a taste, albeit a small taste as I realized quickly how delicious this sucker was after my first bite😉. The blend of flavors and ingredients in this dish were incredible, and again I would’ve loved to supersize it into an entrée!


My husband ordered the Yellowfin Tuna l’Occidental; Flashed with Beurre Noisette & Crispy Shallots. Despite him not knowing what half of the ingredients were or knowing what the “flashed” methodology of cooking is, he’s a sure thing when it comes to Tuna with any semblance of tartare-y style. The crispy shallots were a really nice addition, adding texture to the dish and breaking up the typical tuna tartare flavors you usually see.  Very refreshing dish…


My girlfriend ordered the Shrimp Crusted with Spaghetti Squash; Salad of Frisée & Marcona Almonds with a Horseradish Dressing which was actually on the special tasting menu, but they were flexible to allow her to order it as her app. Although it was certainly a unique presentation, I felt the frisée salad overwhelmed the plate and drowned out the beautiful look of a dish as unique as this one.  Despite the amass of greens, this was another superb dish with unique flavors and texture. I would have gone in for seconds if I wasn’t so wrapped up in hoarding my Duck confit.


Lastly, my friend’s husband ordered the Brussels Sprouts Roasted with House- Cured Lamb Bacon; Deviled Quail Egg, Butternut Squash Confit & Shaved Pecorino. This is the only dish I did not try. Brussels Sprouts aren’t really my thing, but the rest of the table seemed to enjoy it.


New blogger mistake #2  = missing a photo-op of our pseudo third course.  The Ricotta- Lemon Tortellini; Wild Mushroom Stew, Sunchoke Purée & Parmesan Foam was actually an entrée, but we concurrently decided that we all would like to try it and share it as a table.  This pasta was amazing.  I would have licked the plate and scarfed this dish down if it was just mine, but I tried my hardest to be polite and somewhat refined. This stacks up with the Duck Confit as my favorite dishes of the night. Also, I am a self proclaimed pasta addict, so I may be a tad biased.  I also love mushrooms, ricotta, and I mean you can’t go wrong with parmesan foam, can you? I wish I had a picture to share of this dish… sorry!

For my entrée, I actually sprang for the chicken. For me, I almost never order chicken in a restaurant, but since I tend to put more emphasis on the ingredients and preparation than I do on the actual protein – I just had to try this.  The chicken was good, but I wasn’t overly impressed.  I found myself forking under the chicken for the escargot and the butternut squash risotto, which were two major elements that elevated this dish.

Chicken Breast Roasted with a Black Trumpet Mousse; Hen of the Woods Stewed with Escargots, Butternut Squash Risotto & Fennel


I also found myself wishing I ordered my husband’s entrée – Butter Poached Lobster with Hon Shimeji Mushrooms; Huitlacoche Purée & Ricotta Spaetzle with Baby Arugula- The ricotta spatezle were so interesting and different, they tasted like a mini ricotta gnocchi and were super light and airy. These morsels mixed with lobster and a mushroom like puree created for literally the perfect bite….


We were too full for dessert, but the restaurant provided us with Lemon Marshmallow’s that hit the spot.


Overall, I would rate mas (Farmhouse) very high – a solid 9.  I definitely recommend this place to anyone that is looking for a unique meal with a French flair. This spot is pretty pricy so it may be best suited for a special occasion, dinner with rents or if you have the luxury of a business expense account, snag some foodie client’s and enjoy!

Restaurant Week Wrap-Up: An on-going list of where to go for NYC RW (Updated Winter 2013)

28 Jan

I have now been writing about Restaurant Week for over 4 years. It is one of the most frequented sections on the blog, so I wanted to make it a bit easier and summarize the best, the good, and the bad. I will continue to add to this list as we try new places for Restaurant Week. (Last update is from Winter 2013)

A brief synopsis on Restaurant Week: Participating restaurants serve a prix fix, 3-course menu for lunch ($25) and dinner ($38). (Prices updated for Winter 2013). They participate on all weekdays for lunch, dinner, or both, and some also participate on Sundays. More information for each season, participating restaurants, and menus can be found here. You can also book most reservations on OpenTable, though the best reservations usually go as soon as the newest Restaurant Week is announced. There are two each year, one in the winter and one in the summer, and while it is called “Restaurant Week,” it is usually about 3 weeks long and some restaurants extend even beyond that.

So who had the best Restaurant Week menu? Who didn’t skimp on portions? Who obviously thinks Restaurant Week is a total waste of time? Read on! (Click on the restaurant name to link out to the original review I posted)

Top RW Noms (Book now! Even if RW is another 6 months away):

  1. ilili: I have been to ilili twice for Restaurant Week and I think they are the best of the best. Great selection, plentiful portions, and gosh darn GREAT food. Everyone left raving about it.
  2. Butter: We stuck exclusively to the Restaurant Week menu and enjoyed every bite. I wanted to lick every plate clean. Amazing flavors, fair portions, and a real taste for why Chef Alex Guarnaschelli won Next Iron Chef.
  3. Riverpark: Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark does Restaurant Week right by featuring their usual menu so diners can try out the Restaurant exactly as intended. Each bite was fantastic and totally worth the supplemental charge, and we imagine would be totally worth it even if you don’t pay for any supplements.
  4. Cafe Boulud: This was just barely edged out by the top 2. The braised veal cheeks and the chocolate dessert still both echo in my mind as some of the best bites I have EVER had. Their menu was limited, but there were enough items to keep me happy. I have been dying to go back.
  5. The Modern – Bar Room: Delicious. Small portions but well worth it (and it’s not like you leave hungry). Service was a terror, but the food made up for it. (I went back for Summer 2011 and it was just as good and with great service this time around).
  6. Olives: Small selection but all very tasty. It’s a nice intro. to a Todd English restaurant, especially since it’s usually a bit pricey
  7. Barbounia: Fantastic food and good portions. Impressed by the food and the nice service. They understand that Restaurant Week is all about giving people a reason to return.
  8. Aquavit: The entrées here were a bit on the average side, however, the uniqueness of the food, the fun of doing a flight of Aquavit, and the INCREDIBLE desserts just barely pushed this one to the top list

Average RW Noms (I’d probably go back and try them again, but they weren’t special enough to hit the list above):

  • Craft Bar: I can’t put this in the top list since we actually accidentally booked a reservation that was NOT Restaurant Week (be sure to review the list carefully so you know who serves on weekends). I do think it may belong there, however, as the food was great and the servers were AMAZING about taking care of us since we made the mistake (they gave us 2 apps on the house)
  • Millesime: The food here was fair, with a stand-out dessert that elevated the meal. I was disappointed by my pasta dish due to its blandness, but those that ate off the regular menu seemed to enjoy their dishes.
  • Black Duck: A solid Restaurant Week experience. The initial choice of fish, chicken, or pasta wasn’t an awesome selection, but each dish tasted great. I would like to try this place again and order off the regular menu.
  • Tribeca Grill: My short ribs were pretty good, but I’ve seen better Restaurant Week menus and tried better food. I’m not sure if this was the fault of RW or if the restaurant itself just isn’t top of the heap.
  • Delmonico’s: Good but not great. I’ve had better steaks in Manhattan by far, but there is something fun about going to this place just for the history of it.
  • Ruth’s Chris: Been meaning to try this place but haven’t gotten around to it? Restaurant Week is a good time to get a taste. Their regular specials menu is also quite good, so if you don’t make it for RW, it’s okay.
  • Angelo and Maxies: I was actually impressed with this place, but I think their non- Restaurant Week offering is probably just as good. (NOW CLOSED)
  • 10 Downing: We had an enjoyable experience here, however, something just wasn’t totally right for most of the meal. Service was spotty, there were too many inedible things on my plate (shallot skin? garlic skin? seriously untrimmed meat?) Everything was plated beautifully with a lot of attention to detail, color, and the season (summer). Not to mention, one of the best panna cottas I’ve ever tasted. (NOW CLOSED)

Disappointing RW Noms (Not sure why they bother with Restaurant Week):

  • Park Avenue (Summer): While we had some great nibbles, it really felt as if this is one of those restaurants that doesn’t like Restaurant Week and it comes out in their food. I might try them again for their regular menu, but I wouldn’t suggest it for Restaurant Week at all.
  • Perry Street: Come on Jean Georges! I expect more from you. Nothing was bad, but nothing was great. A Restaurant Week faux pas perhaps.

Bad RW Noms (Just plain wrong):

  • Mercer Kitchen: Awful in every way. This place is what gives Restaurant Week a bad name. Awful menu. Small portions. Food that seemed like it could have been cooked at McDonald’s. I haven’t been able to eat cooked salmon since this night. It was THAT bad.
  • Russian Tea Room: Bad service. Food that hardly could pass for wedding food. This place could have such great potential as a NYC icon but instead, it’s just tacky and bad.

What are your favorite Restaurant Week places?

Where are you trying out this year?

Millesime for Restaurant Week Winter 2013

28 Jan

The Carlton Hotel in Flatiron has been home to many restaurants, including Town and Country. I know I have been there in the past, but it was before the blog. You enter into the lovely hotel lobby and then go through the bar/entertainment space and up the stairs. The restaurant there is now called Millesime.


There is a really beautiful glass ceiling in the dining room.


Millesime is participating in Restaurant Week and we were there for lunch. I ordered off the Restaurant Week Menu and my dining companions ordered off the regular menu. The restaurant week menu had 2 choices in each category. Butternut Squash Soup with crispy prosciutto or Butter Lettuce Salad with mustard and hazelnuts for the appetizers. Tuna Salad Roule’ with lavash, radish sprouts, marinated vegetables, tomato confit & potato chips or Linguine Gratinee with sauteed chicken, tomato, kale & parmesan for the entree. Orange Creme Brule with almond tuile or Cherry Chocolate Croissant Pudding with chocolate ice cream for dessert.

My dining companions both tried the crab and onion soup with gruyere crouton. They both seemed to like it, but neither finished it to save room for the entree.


I went with the squash soup. It was pretty good, but could have used some more flavor. It was very one note. Even the crispy prosciutto didn’t really scream flavor.



For entrees, one person ordered the veal piccata with ricotta gnocchi, roasted cauliflower, pine nuts, and lemon. She said it was pretty good but there were a lot of flavors going on.



The other person ordered the steak sandwich and seemed to really enjoy it.



I went with the linguine gratinee. Hmmmm… This pasta was most certainly round, not flat like linguine. And it was just… plain. Totally lacking in flavor. I salted it to death and it was still pretty flat. I have no idea what they were going for here, but this dish was really bland. Even a bit of basil or some wine in the sauce would have made it better. Even the chicken just tasted like boiled chicken in there.



Thankfully, dessert was delicious. It was like bread pudding and the cherry and chocolate together were great flavors.




Millesime was getting some press as being underrated and there were a number of great reviews. I just didn’t get it. Perhaps they just really screwed up their Restaurant Week selections, but I will not be running back here. Food needs flavor. Salt is cheap. It’s no excuse to have bland food at such a nice restaurant. It was all barely average, but the rating gets a little bump for the delicious cherry and chocolate dessert.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Butter for Restaurant Week Winter 2013

28 Jan

Even if Executive Chef Alex Guarnaschelli (who just won Next Iron Chef) has nothing to do with Butter at this point in her career (which I am not sure about at all… I’ve heard she doesn’t do much with the restaurant anymore, but it’s hard to tell), you would never know. We have been meaning to go to Butter for years, and just never got around to it. I had heard it was good, but no one raved about it so it never made it high up on my list. But when we were trying to find a few new places to try for Restaurant Week this winter, we decided that in light of Chef Guarnaschelli’s recent win, we would check it out.

It’s right by the Public Theater in the East Village. We were seated downstairs and enjoyed the wood tree trunks and sticks that decorated the room. It had a nice, loungy feel with low couch benches in the bar areas and music playing in the rooms.


Here was the Restaurant Week menu for dinner on Sunday, January 27th.


And the regular menu.


And of course, since it’s butter, here is the butter shot.


And some more butter porn. (The butter itself was decent, but nothing too special and I could have used with a larger portion to cover off on the bread that was on the table.


But the pumpernickel and sour dough breads were top notch.


We decided to start with cocktails, and since they were so good, we continued drinking them throughout the meal (rather than switching to wine, which is our usual MO). I got the Pearadise with pear infused Bacardi rum, fresh pear puree, St. Germain liqueur, muddled limes and mint. It was fantastic. Perfectly sweet without being cloyingly so. Mike got the Mickey Blue Eyes, which was a martini made with Grey Goose Vodka and blue cheese stuffed olives.


Mike started with the House Made Charcuterie Platter. This came with house-cured bacon, duck breast mortadella, and chicken liver toast with spicy napa cabbage. This was awesome. The mortadella had a great flavor, and the chicken liver was packed with flavor and had these perfect crispy onions on top. But the bacon… ohhh boyyyy the bacon.


I got the soup of the day, which was a butternut squash soup. I have had butternut squash soup all over the world at this point, and I am a fan simply because I really love butternut squash soup. You don’t need to get fancy with it to be delicious, but that also means that most people serve butternut squash soup that tastes just like everyone else’s version. Sure, some people put in some toasted pumpkin seeds or some basil oil (and I sure do love it when they do) but the soup itself usually just tastes like squash, or squash and apples.

But this… this butternut squash was The Shit. I never knew squash soup could have this much depth of flavor. A bit of brown butter flavor and sweetness (from what I assume was brown sugar but not sure) with a layer of fresh squashy goodness. And the salted popcorn to accompany it was just perfect. I actually asked for more bread so I could lop up every last drop of soup. It was, hands down, the best butternut squash soup I have ever had.


As we started the entree portion of our meal, the additional side of cider glazed roasted parsnips came out. These had thinly sliced apple chips on top and the cider glaze was superb. It was the perfect compliment to the roasted parsnips and it was great comfort food without being heavy.


Mike chose the House Made Ricotta Ravioli with roasted oyster mushrooms, chili flakes (which they nicely served on the side so that I could eat it), and pecorino cheese. I thought the sauce and mushrooms went very well with the ricotta in the ravioli, which was fluffy and a tad tart, with great flavor. Though in the end, I never order cheese ravioli because I just find myself hard to impress with any version.


I ordered the Braised Pork Shoulder with a pretzel crumb crust and buttered rutabega. This was also outstanding. A great pork flavor over a bed of creamy rutabega. The little salty crispness of the pretzel with the cabbage on top was delightful. It was perfectly tender so you could just pull it apart with your fork. Fantastic.


For dessert, Mike chose the Ginger Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich with vanilla ice cream and spiced pecans. It was very good, with a well flavored ginger cookie and what I think were golden raisins with orange zest. The pecans were spiced with something pepper related that I couldn’t have (but Mike enjoyed) and while the cookie was a bit hard to cut, the dessert was very good.


My dessert came out and the first thing I noticed was that it was tiny. It’s hard to tell in this shot, but the piece of chocolate cake was about 3 inches tall and wide and less than 1/2 an inch thick. But BOY was this big on flavor.

The chocolate was rich and decadent, the pomegranate seeds adding a little bit of lightness to it, and a shmear of awesome salted caramel. The entire dish was so fantastic, and so packed with flavor, I didn’t miss those additional bites.


As the meal ended, I told Mike how I wanted to lick my plate for every single dish I had. (That is one of the highest compliments I can give a place!) The execution was flawless and I didn’t feel like we lost anything by ordering off the Restaurant Week menu. Portions weren’t huge, but I walked away totally satiated.

Overall, this was a standout meal not just for Restaurant Week, but overall. I was truly impressed and look forward to returning again in the near future. I can’t believe it took us that long to go!

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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ZoneManhattan.com: A Full Review and a Giant F You

22 Jan

I have been trying to lose weight in anticipation of my wedding in June. At the end of August, I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a meal delivery service that would help me control my calories during the week.  I was struggling with Weight Watchers for a few months and decided that it was time to realize that my self-control was not as good as it needed to be, and it was time to step it up.

I did a lot of research, and talked to a few people who had done something similar, and eventually decided to go with ZoneManhattan.com.  I wrote about my first 4 weeks here on NYC Nom Nom.  I saw great results: 11 pounds in 4 weeks.  The food was pretty damn good and I wasn’t hungry throughout the day.  I couldn’t deny that the weight was coming off and it was easy and enjoyable.  10 weeks into the program, I was down a full 20 pounds (I hit 25 pounds off at my low. YES!)  But then I had to start dealing with their customer service… that is when it all went downhill.

It started with issues with peppers. I had emails to remind them that I had received peppers (which I am allergic to) a few times in my meals. They said they would credit me for the mistakes at the end of my program.  It happened a few times more and I finally called before renewing, afraid to renew knowing that peppers were showing up more and more.  I was told that they would talk to the kitchen.

And then for a few weeks it was fine, but then the peppers came back.  Each time it came up to renew, I hemmed and hawed about it, knowing that the peppers were a constant concern, but wound up going through with it because I couldn’t deny that it was working, it was convenient, and I was satisfied with the food. They also said they would credit the value of the mistaken meals

Each time I called to say something, I was greeted with customer service that made me feel like an idiot and was, at best, rude. I tried to shrug it off.  I had a few issues with their site, where I would try to renew, and then my food just wouldn’t show up. Turns out, I was supposed to call to renew, but it didn’t say that anywhere on the site when I signed up… so how was I to know? Also, they say they don’t keep your credit card on file so you need to call each time. I never had to chase a company so much to give them my business.

Then I went to pay my credit card bill and suddenly it was $1K more than I was expecting. I looked it up to realize that the charge came from ZoneManhattan. I called them up and was greeted with yet another rude customer service person who told me that it was probably my fault… Um… Okay. He looked it up to find that they had charged me for MY meals in September, but not for Mike’s meal (we were using the same Credit Card) so they had charged it when they realized the mistake. I calmly told them that I would have appreciated if they had called me to inform me that this mistake had happened before charging the card. At that point, the man on the phone said “Well did you think you wouldn’t have to pay for it? You bought it, you have to pay for it!”  I was quite taken aback by how obnoxious he was being.  (Not to mention I thought they didn’t keep credit cards on file? Hmmm)

When the next renewal came up, I decided to do it for one more week just to get me through the New Year. I confirmed that I would be credited for the mistakes and asked them to  let me know how much credit I would be receiving. He said he would let me know.

He never did.

I emailed the last day of the scheduled service to inquire and they asked me to list out the days that were a mistake. I listed out 12 days and informed them that I had called on 3 separate occasions in addition to these 12 and was told I would be credited.  They then informed me that they had already credited 2 snacks to me in October.  I then realized that there was one day in October that I received 2 snack 1s and 2 snack 2s and didn’t know why. I had called them that day and they told me it was a mistake, and since I didn’t want to eat extra calories than my daily allowance, they wound up going to waste. Now those somehow were the credit I received.  I was not pleased that this was their policy and told them so.

Their response?

Basically… “too bad.”

They also informed me that they had given me credits along the way… so I requested that they inform me when those credits were, since I was not aware of it and was told they would be at the end of my subscription.

Their response?

Still waiting 3 weeks later to find out.

Oh and those 3 times I called them and was told I would be credited. Turns out, those don’t count, because I had to put it in an email. Even though they never told me that when I called. I also told them that I disagreed with this policy.

Their response?

See above.

Today, 2 weeks after talking to Richard about how upset I was at their customer service, I called and spoke with him again.  I told him that if I had been credited, then all I wanted was to know what days they were. He said that he was not going to go back to previous times and tell me when I received credits because I could look for myself which dates were extra. Excuse me? He said he would look into only this previous one and figure out those credits.

Well F you too, ZoneManhattan.

I have never seen customer service like this. If I treated my clients like this, even once, I would have been 100% fired.  I would have been their customer all the way up through the wedding, which is not an insignificant amount of money by any means, but this has just been too much.

So last week I took advantage of a GiltCity deal and tried FreshDiet.com for a week.  The first week was decent. I lost about another 2 pounds (from the 5 pounds I had put back on over the holidays) this first week and only felt ever so slightly hungrier than I was on the ZoneManhattan diet.  I didn’t love all the food, but some of it was actually very good (and nice portions too!).

Their oatmeal came with a lovely edible flower (and tasted damn good):


And I really loved the lamb chops they sent (filled with flavor and eating a chop off the bone certainly doesn’t make me feel like I’m dieting!)


I don’ t think they use as high quality ingredients as ZoneManhattan does, but it isn’t that much of a difference to make up for the trade-off.  FreshDiet allows me to pick which meals I want (instead of whatever is on the menu that day, as ZoneManhattan does) and is a bit cheaper. They have a promotion going on where it’s 31 days for $29.99 per day right now (more than $10/day less than Zone Manhattan) so I just renewed. And when I called them up I talked to a very nice customer service person who actually made me feel like a human being.

How novel!

More updates to follow.

Riverpark for Restaurant Week Winter 2013

20 Jan

We have been to many restaurants for NYC Restaurant Week at this point, and we’ve found some great choices and some poor choices, which makes it hard to find new places worth sampling each year.  But this year, we decided that Restaurant Week (through Februrary 8, 2013 so far this winter) was a great opportunity to try one of Tom Colicchio‘s newest choices, Riverpark

I really like how many Colicchio restaurants handle Restaurant Week. Rather than serve a “wedding food” (beef, pork, or fish) version of their menu, they serve their regular menu and the items that require a higher price to produce include an incremental charge, noted on the menu (base price is $38).  Here was the menu on January 20, 2013:



For the Restaurant Week price of $38, we were able to choose an item from the left side plus an item from the main section, with a dessert.  You could substitute pasta (a larger portion for entree) for either course.

The building was a bit hard to find.  It is located near the East River on 29th Street and the FDR, in a complex called the Alexandria Center.  Our taxi wasn’t sure where to find it, so he dropped us off on the corner of 30th Street and the FDR access road and we walked down what looked like an industrial part of the city near the back of the hospital.  We took a chance and walked up some stairs and found it there at the top,  inside the building.

The decorations are very modern, with clean, perpendicular lines, much like Colicchio and Sons.


The lights above our table were kind of cool and modern, but also a bit seizure inducing after a few drinks.


We started our night with cocktails. Mike got the “Colonel Mustard” with mustard infused white rum, thyme honey, lime, and candied bacon. It was fantastic.  Heavy on the thyme and a perfect balance of flavors.


I tried the “Spiced & Spiked” though without the “spiced” since that was homemade hot sauce (which would have peppers, which I’m allergic to).  It had hot apple cider, Goslings Rum, and clove.  Even without the hot sauce, this was very delicious and well balanced. I wanted something hot on this very cold night, and this hit the spot.


We added a half-dozen oysters to our Restaurant Week selection, with 3 East Coast (Barnstable) and 3 West Coast (Shigokus). They were both divine, but the west coast Shigokus were especially fantastic.



We then decided to try a bottle of wine. There was a section dedicated to Orange Wines which were described as “interesting and funky.”  We have a love for Russian River Valley wines (especially Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) so when we saw one on the menu under the Orange variety, we decided why not try something interesting and funky.  We really enjoyed this wine. It was easily drinkable, dry without being puckering, and went well with food and stood up on its own.  A very enjoyable wine.


I then tried the Kabocha Custard & Crab Fondue with crispy black trumpet mushrooms and spiced pumpkin seeds (which I went without in my dish due to my allergy).  This was sensational. A touch of sweet, delicious squash, fresh crab, and a slight crispy from the mushrooms.  A great balance.  This is the second custard from a Colicchio restaurant that really impressed.


Mike tried the Testa Tortellini with pears, walnuts, sage, mustard seed, and spiced consomme.  Sadly, I couldn’t try it due to my allergy, but Mike said it was a great balance of flavors. The waiter said he should try everything in one bite and he would realize why the pear, tortellini and consomme was put together and sure enough, the layers of flavors were fantastic with the rich broth and the fresh pear.  Everything together was delicious.


For our entrees, Mike chose the 20 oz. bone-in dry aged sirloin, which came with a $20 supplement charge. It was with cipollini onions, charred shisito peppers (which they put on the side so I could try it), and tempura hen of the woods mushrooms.  The char on this was fan.freakin.tastic.  And the tempura-ed mushrooms were really fantastic on this. An all around awesome cut of meat. If you order this when it is not Restaurant Week, the steak alone is $50.  So for the $38 base price of Restaurant Week and the $20 supplement fee, the value of the app and the dessert came to a mere $8.  Not too shabby.


These were the peppers that were put on the side, which Mike said added a nice depth of flavor without being too spicy.


I chose the Berkshire Pork Chop with Brussels sprout apple hash and parsnip puree.  This was absolutely incredible.  A slight sweetness from the apples complimented by the slight bitterness of the sprouts. And the pork itself was a perfect foil to both.  Incredible. So incredible, in fact, that I picked up that bone with my fingers to get off any last morsel.  Totally worth it.



Then we had our choice of desserts (a tough choice indeed) and we also chose to order dessert wine (Domaine des Schistes, a muscat).


I chose the Chocolate Souffle Cake with coffee ice cream and chocolate crumble. This was a lovely dessert with warm souffle cake, with a nice balance of bittersweet and sweet with the chocolate and a great compliment with the coffee ice cream.


But Mike chose the Beer Sundae with Guinness Cake, oatmeal stout ice cream, butterscotch, chocolate pretzel, and candied walnuts.  While my chocolate souffle was very good, this was just damn special.  It was unique flavors with a perfect balance of salty and sweet. It was a fantastic, inspired dessert.  Really, really fantastic.


Our food throughout the meal with simply spectacular.  We paid a number of up-charges, but I am very certain that we would have enjoyed our meals just as much had we stuck with the Restaurant Week prices and not paid for any of the supplements or additional drinks/supplements.  But half the fun of Restaurant Week is being able to save money so you CAN pay for those lovely extras.

This is how you do Restaurant Week. Offer your regular menu so no one feels that they are missing out and just give people a chance to really enjoy your restaurant with a nice introduction.

Well played Riverpark.  You have made the list of “where to eat for Restaurant Week.”

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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