Archive | February, 2009

Brooklyn Brunch

26 Feb

Mike and I met at the Atlantic/Pacific stop in Brooklyn with the goal of brunch and a movie.  We didn’t do good enough brunch research, so we wandered around the streets towards the Boerum Hill area until we happened upon something interesting. 

The choice of the day was Jolie; a cute little French place with their very own Jolie postcards on the tables.


The decor was interesting: Red, White, and Black (my favorite combo) with pictures of french and pop art on the walls.


I decided on one of my favorite meals: Eggs Norwegian.  It was an english muffin with smoke salmon, poached eggs, spinach, and hollandaise sauce.  Now the hollandaise definitely beat The Highline Cafe’s version from the previous weekend, however, the rest of the the meal was lackluster.  Nothing that bad, per se, and at least the eggs were cooked to perfect runniness, however, the smoked salmon was nearly tasteless and the rest… just okay.  The fries were perfectly crispy, however.

Mike ordered the Open Faced Croque Madame with toast, ham, and a sunny side up egg with swiss cheese (I prefer gruyere on my Croque’s personally).  It was also decent, but nothing amazing.

We left with full bellies on our way to see “Taken,” which wasn’t half bad!

Total Nom Points:  6 out of 10

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Updates

25 Feb

NYC Nom Nom… now with a brandy new graphic layout and, even better, the ability to leave comments!

If there is something you’d like to see, let me know.

Del Posto

20 Feb

Last night I had the pleasure of being spoiled with a night out at Del Posto.  I had been hearing great things for a long time, so I was excited to finally get to try the brain child of such culinary icons (Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali).  My first impression upon entering was WOW!  The restaurant was decorated beautifully, with artful lines and shapes. There were really beautiful balconies on the 2nd level that we had the pleasure of dining on.  We all commented made us feel like we were sitting at some grand opera.  (Since I only had my iPhone with me, I have one picture to contribue and the rest will come from Google Images)



The wine list was over 60 pages long, and we were happy that one of our hosts had a someliere in the family and she selected for us (and selected well! Though I have no idea what we drank).  Our group decided to go with the 5 Course Menu where we all picked an Antipasta, then shared a selection of 2 pastas, then picked our own entrees and desserts.  I went with:

  • Antipasti: Vongole (raw clams) Marinated with Fried Roman Artichokes & Minted Lentil Dressing.  As a lover of artichokes, this did not dissapoint.  Like all artichoke dishes, however, it left me wishing there were more archies on the plate.
  • Pasta/Primi (for the table): Baked Ricotta Nudi with Swiss Chard Ragu & Fonduta AND Garganelli Verdi al Ragù Bolognese. Both were phenomenal and the perfect portion (individualized for each of us).  The Garganelli was especially tasty for a dish that can easily turn out quite boring. 
  • Entree/Secondi:  Sliced Duck alla Scappi with Sweet Pumpkin Polenta, Trevisano & Campari.  I have no idea what half the ingredients were, but it was cooked to perfection and had an amazing balance of flavors. 
  • Dessert: Buckwheat crepe (AKA Crespelle) with apples and cooked pumpkin: It was good, but not GREAT.  I wanted more pumpkin flavor.

Overall the meal was delicious, but the atmosphere is what really made it.  While I really liked it, I don’t know if it would be up there with my favorites, and I certainly didn’t love it.  Glad I got to go and try it out for myself, however!

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Post Valentine’s Day Brunch

16 Feb

On the way to see Coraline on Sunday, Mike and I decided to stop at the new diner type place that recently opened up one blow from my apartment.  It’s called The Highline Cafe (in honor of the new park that is opening up around 2010).  We first stopped in at around 2am after going out on New Year’s Eve.  The burger and fries tasted DELICIOUS (though there may have been other factors involved) so we decided to try them again for brunch.

They have a $13 brunch prix fixe that includes a drink (we both went for Mimosas), coffee/tea/soda (we both went for coffee), and an entree off the list.  Mike chose a chicken and avocado sandwich.  It was a bit better than basic, but not amazing. 

I went with the “Classic Eggs Benedict” which was served on an english muffin or “potato cake” with spinach or canadian bacon and hollandaise.  I proceeded to check to make sure there were no peppers (I’m very allergic) and inquired if a “potato cake” was like a “potato pancake.”  The waitress proceeded to tell me that it was nothing like a potato pancacke… it was shredded potatoes with onion, seasoning, and salt that was flat and fried.  It sounded suspiciously like a potato pancake to me, so I ordered it and hoped for the best.  The first plate that came out had delicious looking homefries laced with death (aka green peppers).  When I pointed this out the waitress apologized for being “on auto-pilot” and I’m sure proceeded to spit in my food (just kidding) before scraping off the potatoes and replacing it with the mixed greens.  While she was replacing the potatoes, we were left with plenty of time to examine the “hollandaise” sauce. 

Now I’m not sure what this yellow chunky sauce was exactly, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t hollandaise.  It did add a little moisture and salt to the otherwise overcooked poached eggs, however, so I went with it.

At this point, I would like to draw your attention to the brownish thing underneath the eggs and canadian bacon. Now, if you are thinking it looks suspiciously like a potato pancake, I would have to agree.  It also tasted suspiciously like a potato pancake (though a little chewier than I’d prefer).  But remember, it is certainly NOT a potato pancake.

The best part of the meal was definitely the mimosas, which were served with very fresh squeezed orange juice.

Overall, it was a fair meal.  We’ll go back, I’m sure, since it’s so convenient and 24 hours, but overall, it’s not exactly a destination restaurant by any means.

Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10

Valentine’s Day Surf and Turf

16 Feb

This year for Valentine’s Day, Mike and I decided we would cook together (one of our favorite activities).  We decided on Surf and Turf and went to Chelsea Market, one of my favorite places in NYC. 

Chelsea Market was the old Nabisco Factory. Now it is home to multiple bakeries, food stores, wine merchants, and restaurants as well as the home of a few marketing companies and Food Network TV studios. 



(<— LOOK! DEATH!)

I love the look of the building.  It’s industrial and artsy at the same time.  They left certain pieces from what it was and made it into something completely reimagined. 





There are many performers that entertain there as well.

While walking around the market, we spotted Whitney Port (from “The Hills”/”The City” on MTV).  She had the longest, thinnest legs I’ve ever seen.

Mike and I went specifically for The Lobster Place.  They specialize in wholesale to some of the best restaurants in Manhattan, but they also sell to commoners like me.  After a lap around the store (and our comments in stereo: Sara- “It smells like Maine” and Mike- “It smells like Boston”), we decided on a half pound of jumbo scallops and a 1.5 pound lobster (live).  We proceeded to name the lobster “Whitney Port” in honor of our celebrity spotting.



On the way home, Mike and I stopped at a Meat Market and bought a very large flank steak and some pancetta.  As soon as we got home, we set the steak to marinate in soy sauce, ginger, garlic, honey, vinegar, and oil.  A few hours later, we whipped up the scallops in butter, garlic, and shallots.  It was tasty! So tasty, in fact, that I forgot to take pictures.  But we did pop the wine that we went on an adventure to find. This is a wine from 1990 and it is just very, very good.

Next up we started boiling the big pot of water for Whitney and then browned the pancetta for the brussel sprouts.  We originally fell in love with a similar recipe that we ate at Babbo, and then saw Guy Fieri cook a similar version on The Food Network.  We altered it slightly, however, and loved it so much last time we made it that we added it to the Valentine’s Day meal. 




While the Brussel Sprouts were baking, we started the steak on the grill.  We proceeded to set the fire alarm off, almost burn the steak, then threw WAY too much oil on the grill top (my fault) to prevent the other side from burning.  WHOOPS! It unfortunately turned out a bit tough, but delicious. (And even better the next day when the meat had time to absorb more of the marinade and garlic!)

Of course, we set Whitney to boil as soon as we could, and then I hacked her to pieces.




The completed meal was absolutely delicious!  Yet again, somehow, the brussel sprouts still prevailed as the highlight.  Go figure!


After dinner we went to see Guys and Dolls on Broadway (good, but not great… though definitely a classic).  Our plan was to go to Marseilles on 44th Street and 9th Avenue for dessert.  We went in around 10:30pm and there were at least a dozen empty tables with no one waiting.  The hostess proceeded to inform us, however, that they were booked solid for the next hour and we were welcome to take a seat at the bar (the seats were a single on either side).  I asked her if she was kidding and she regretted to inform me she was not.  We incredulously left and decided we’d be better off with dessert on the couch.  We picked up 2 pints of Ben & Jerry’s and I have decided that their Pumpkin Cheesecake may just be my favorite ice cream ever.  It’s on Limited Batch right now, however, so I will shed a tear when it is gone.

All-in-all, it was a fabulous Valentine’s Day!

*****************
Here are the recipes from the evening:

Steak Marinade:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak

Blend, Spear steak with fork, Marinate for many hours (we did 4, but I think it would benefit from at least 8), and Grill.

*****************

Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces pancetta, big dice
  • 1-2 pints Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium pan over medium heat cook the pancetta. Remove from pan, reserving a little of the pancetta fat in the pan. Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan and cook over medium heat to begin to brown. Dress with balsamic and olive oil, a little salt (pancetta are salty) and pepper. Place into the oven and roast, tossing a couple of times, until nicely caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Put the pine nuts in a small, dry, saute pan and toast over a low flame, tossing a couple of times, just until lightly browned, 3 or 4 minutes. (we used some oil to prevent burning, but it probably wasn’t necessary)

Once the sprouts are ready, remove them from the oven and put into a big serving bowl. Add the pancetta and pine nuts. Toss and check for seasoning. Serve.

*****************

Lobster

Boil water with salt
Put lobster in head first for about 8-10 minutes per pound
Remove and hack (or if you have nut crackers, skip the hacking)

Adventures in TriBeCa

16 Feb

I don’t often go to the Triangle Below Canal Street, but a search for Mike and my favorite wine led me to the ONE wine store in all of Manhattan that carries the Domaine Du Viking Vouvray that Mike and I fell in love with on Valentine’s Day last year.  So we trecked down to Vestry Wines, a cute little wine store in my version of the middle of nowhere NYC.  The people there were so helpful, and a tasting even led to another purchase of a Bordeaux that Mike and I both enjoyed.  We asked them for a recommendation of where to eat dinner, and they mentioned Turks and Frogs.

Mike and I went in with little expectations, however, since I am instantly attracted to anything red and quirky, I was digging the atmosphere.

Turks and Frogs Bar Picture
Turks and Frogs- Rear

The wine selection was pretty good and there were some very interesting Mediterranean dishes on the menu.  We started with a beet purree with delicious, thick pita bread.  Then Mike moved on to the Yogurtlu Kuzu: Chunks of grilled lamb, served with light garlic yogurt and tomato sauce on crispy Turkish pita bread.  It was delish.  I had the Kuzu Sis: Marinated lamb shish kabobs, served with traditional rice.  My lamb was good, but Mike’s was better.  We then had baklavah for dessert, which as a baklavah snob, was not one of my favorites, but it was tasty.

In the end, it’s not a place I’d seek out if I wasn’t in the neighborhood. But it made for a very nice meal.

Total Nom Points:  6.5 out of 10

NYC Restaurant Week: Winter 2009

12 Feb

First, for anyone that doesn’t know what Restaurant Week is, a brief synopsis:

Lunch $24.07 | Dinner $35.00

Included in these prices is a special three-course, prix-fixe menus at participating restaurants. It doesn’t include beverage, tax or gratuity, however, it’s hard to beat 3 courses for $24-$35!

Usually restaurant week is only 2 weeks long, however, since it has been extended through February 27th, I think this post is still relevant.

Now I have a love/hate relationship with Restaurant Week. 

Love: I can try the best restaurants that I usually couldn’t afford on my own through a sampler of an app, entre, and dessert.

Hate: Restaurants are so variable in what they serve.  Some serve the cheapest items that do not represent their trust menu and in VERY small portions.  On the other hand, some have great menus that really show off the good food and make me want to come back.  (Dear Restaurants: Please note that I come in with 5-20 people on business lunches and am in charge of recommending where we eat.  INCENTIVE!)  I have had some great hits and some great misses over the years.  Winter 2009 score summary: 8, 9, and 4.5 Nom Points.

Within the original 2 week planned event, I was very pleased to see that they were now including Sundays and that MLK Day was within the weeks.  Usually I cannot take advantage of the lunch specials since I’m working, but this year I scheduled two.  Some of the best restaurants only serve lunch, not dinner, so it was fun to have new options.  Here is the rundown of my Restaurant Week-Winter 2009:

Place: Craftbar
Date: Sunday, January 18th, 2009
Company: Boyfriend Mike
The Nommage:

  • Pecorino-Stuffed Risotto Balls: These are delicious little fried balls of risotto and cheese. So delicious, in fact, that I burned my mouth not once but twice to the point of no return while trying to stuff these delightful little noshes into my very hungry mouth.
  • Cheese Sampler: Small, especially for the price, but VERY tasty. 
  • Baked Eggs: This was my entree.  It had confit leeks, short ribs, fingerling potatos and ibarra chocolate.  At first I was skeptical about chocolate in eggs, but I am skeptical no more!  It added a perfect flavor to this hearty brunch dish.
  • Eggs Benedict: Mike’s Entree had bacon, fingerling potatoes, and cipollini onions.  Quite delicious.

Negative Nom Points: It turns out that the restaurant was listed incorrectly and they were not participating in Restaurant Week on Sundays.
Positive Nom Points: The wait staff was incredibly appologetic and wound up comping us for BOTH appetizers (the risotto balls and cheese sampler).
Overall: It was a bummer to not get the restaurant week menu, but they more than made up for it and the food was DELICIOUS. (8 out of 10 Nom Points)

Place: Cafe Boulud
Date: Monday, January 19th, 2009
Company: Best Friend Lori
The Nommage:

  • Squash Soup: Lori and I both chose this appetizer. It was quite good, though I prefer a bit of crunch in my soup (such as pumpkin seeds). I also eat squash soup pretty much wherever I go, so I have high standards.  I believe the other option was a salmon dish.
  • Braised Veal Cheeks: Lori and I again both decided on this entre. We were VERY happy we did.  The portion seemed small only because it was so delicious that neither of us wanted it to end.  It was as tender as could be and the flavor was amazing.  The other option was a ravioli that is presently escaping my memory.
  • Passion Fruit and Banana Cake with Banana Mousse, Passion Fruit Gelee and Lime Shebert: Lori ordered this.  I was so-so on it as I am a chocolate fan, but it was quite good for what it was.
  • Chocolate Financier: Chiboust Cream, Caramelized Pecan, Vanilla Ice Cream and Crème Brulee on a soft fudge chocolate cake… TO. DIE. FOR.  End of story.

Negative Nom Points: I’m having trouble coming up with one… perhaps the fact that it’s on the UES makes it slightly out of the way for most New Yorkers… but the travel was worth it!
Positive Nom Points: Great food. Great service. Amazing Restaurant Week offering.  Hard to beat. (9 out of 10 Nom Points)

Place: Mercer Kitchen
Date:
Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Company: Boyfriend Mike
The Nommage:

  • App? It was so bland I can’t even remember it.
  • Slowly Baked Salmon with Brussel Sprouts and Mashed Potatoes: As someone who has very recently and delicately entered the world of fish eating, I thought the salmon was a safe choice. I was wrong.  It tasted very fishy.  I also love the taste of brussel sprouts because they are a good hearty vegetable, however, they were shaved down so small that it tasted a bit like limp lettuce on top of a heap of boring mashed potatoes.
  • Ranch Cheeseburger on a Toasted Brioche Roll and French Fries: Mike’s entree… it was a burger. Nothing special.  Not bad, not good, just not thrilling in the least.
  • Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Bean Brittle and Vanilla Ice Cream: This saved the meal.  It’s hard to go wrong with warm chocolate cake, but this was especially gooey and all the right flavors.
  • Creme Fraiche Cheesecake with Blood Orange Sorbet: As someone who can typically take or leave cheesecake, this was worth taking!  But I’m still glad that I ordered the chocolate cake and Mike got the cheesecake.

Negative Nom Points: The salmon ruined the meal. Could they come up with more rudimentary things for their menu? Salmon, Cheeseburgers, and Chicken do not make for an interesting culinary adventure. 

Positive Nom Points: At least the desserts were good, but I’d never go back. (4 out of 10 Nom Points)

I also managed to go to a few restaurants while they had the restaurant week menu with my job.  I wound up ordering a meal or two off the special menus.  The top winner is the Hake at Blue Fin.  It is a white fish with an almond crust and chestnuts (my fave!) and butternut squash in a light celery broth.  DELISH!  I also made an attempt to eat at Asia De Cuba.  Turns out they have only 2-3 dishes on their regular menu that I can eat (I’m allergic to peppers) so that was a bust.  The scallops were heavenly though.

And there you have it folks!  Restaurant Week Winter 2009 in a nutshell.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

9 Feb

This is one of my favorite recipes and it’s always a crowd pleaser.

Ingredients:

* 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
* 1 cup peanut butter
* 1 cup butter, melted
* 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (This is where I go all out. The kind of chocolate you use makes all the difference. I usually by the Ghiradelli chips or melt down good chocolate bars when I’m making it for people I like)
* 2 3/4 cups confectioners sugar

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, confectioners sugar, peanut butter, & melted butter
2. Press firmly into bottom of 9 x 13” pan
3. Melt chcoolate chips over double boiler or in microwave, stirring occasionally
4. Spread melted chocolate over the crumb crust
5. Chill for about 10-15 minutes, then cut into bars before chocolate is set
6. Chill until ready to serve (best served cold)
7. Eat them!

Favorite Restaurants

9 Feb

To begin, a simple list of my favorite restaurants in NYC (to be expanded):

  • Koi
  • Blue Hill
  • Bouley
  • Perilla
  • Morimoto
  • Keens Steakhouse
  • Sea Grill
  • Babbo
  • Pinocchio Ristorante
  • York Grill