Archive | April, 2011

Zen Palate

29 Apr

Back to lunch options West of Midtown West (though this one is encroaching on Hell’s Kitchen really), Zen Palate is a mostly Thai place with 3 locations in NYC (Union Square, Upper West Side, and Theatre District).  We went to the Theatre District one on 9th Ave at 46th Street.

Each lunch special starts with soup and a springroll.  I believe this one was a broccoli potato soup.

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The spring roll was surprisingly flavorful.

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We also ordered kebabs.

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And steamed vegetable dumplings.  (Which I thought were quite good)

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For our entrees, I was impressed with the portion size. 

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Even the curry dishes that came with rice was a full bowl of food.

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Other coworkers also got a spicy seafood mixed meal.

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My coworker went super healthy that day and ordered steamed veggies and rice.

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I went almost as healthy and got steamed veggies with steamed seafood and rice.  The veggies were surprisingly fresh, however, I found the seafood a bit chewy and obviously frozen.  Next time I’ll probably get it with just shrimp.

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Overall, we were all pretty pleased with this place.  Thai restaurants are a dime a dozen in this area (some people even call it “Thai Town” or “Thai Row”).  I wouldn’t recommend the seafood mix, but if you’re just eating veggies, these are good ones.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Philly Noms- Naked Chocolate

27 Apr

This was supposed to be in line with all the previous Philly posts, but it looks like this one got left off.  Sorry about that!

We were on a quest in Philly to find a dessert place.  We checked through Yelp and found a recommendation for Naked Chocolate Cafe.  We walked in to find many fun things to try.

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And cases filled with treats.

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We decided to try a sampler of their filled chocolates.

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I was especially excited to try their St. Germaine filled perties.

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We also tried an assortment of the other flavors…

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The chocolates themselves were beautiful.  Each one with their own touch of design…

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We also sampled some gourmet hot chocolate, including one with salted caramel.

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I would say that the chocolates were absolutely stunning, but the taste isn’t quite up the par. They were all tasty, but the chocolate itself wasn’t as flavorful as I would have liked and I had a hard time distinguishing between the flavors once I bit in.  I am also a complete chocolate snob, however, so I think I have very high expectations for homemade chocolates.

It was a fun place to go, however, and I think the hot chocolate alone was worth it.

Tuesday Treats- Episode 1

26 Apr

On select Tuesdays, I’ll be posting “Tuesday Treats” which includes a few quick tidbits, links, and tips that I found interesting in the last few days about (what else?) Nomming.

Here is today’s first installment!

Some cool deals for food in NYC that sounded great (click on the links below to get more information and purchase the deals):

Some buzz and blogs around the food world that I found interesting:
  • Daniel Boulud doesn’t have gas for his new NYC restaurant, but the show must go on!  I love Boulud’s restaurants, and I love that he can weather the hiccups that would normally whither any business owner.
  • A friend recently recommended I visit a food blog, and it has a design that makes me very envious: http://www.immaculateinfatuation.com/
  • Another food themed blog that I have been enjoying lately is The Way We Ate, which posts photos of ads and recipe pictures that were in Gourmet Magazine from decades past.  This week is from 1942!
Happy Nomming!

Zucchini Parm Tacos

25 Apr

The Number One question our friends and family ask Mike and I is “So does Sara do all the cooking?”  I guess since I write about it, the assumption is that Mike doesn’t participate.  What you fail to see is the side-by-side in our kitchen where he chops, sautees, preps, and melts… and then hand models, spreads sauce, and moves things around to aid the picture-taking process.  Frankly, I couldn’t do half the things I do without Mike’s help.  Then there are the days where he is off from work and he decides to get creative.  He likes to take the time he has to prepare a great meal for the two of us.

One day, we had leftover eggplant, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and tomatoes.  I came home from work to find that Mike had created “Eggplant Parm Tacos.”  He lightly breaded and fried the eggplant, then folded them up like tacos and stuffed them with the other items.  (I never would have thought of this!) 

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It was a great take on his last creation, the zucchini and eggplant parm stack.

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They tasted excellent and were a fun way to eat something you could never typically pick up. 

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Though they were so overloaded (in a very good way) that it was mostly a knife and fork meal. (He also made a few flat versions with some dill havarti cheese. YUM!)

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The great thing about anything “parm” is that it is SO easy to make.  It is actually the first thing I learned how to cook, all on my own, without a recipe.  You can basically take a few different items (chicken, veal, pork, eggplant, zucchini…) and dip it into egg and then into breadcrumbs (sometimes I flour it first… depends on my mood and if the breadcrumbs are sticking without it).  Then you pan sear it until it’s mostly cooked through.  Then you can basically throw it into a casserole pan, layer on the cheese and sauce, and stick it in the oven until it’s melty and warmed through.  Easy peasy!

Then you bring in Mike who gets all gourmet on it.  I love it.

Svelte Product Review and GIVEAWAY!

24 Apr

Every once in a while, I am delighted when I am contacted by brands who ask me to try their products.  I am in no way indebted to them to write a positive review (or any review for that matter) but it’s fun to try products that I ordinarily would never come across.

When I was contacted by CalNaturale about their product, Svelte , I was excited to try it.

They tout it as a gluten-free, vegan, all-natural protein shakes that give you energy.  While I am not gluten-free nor vegan, an all-natural protein shake that gives you energy sounded like a good idea.  Though I’ve had my share of protein shakes in the past, and frankly, most of them taste pretty chalky and chemically.  I thought it would be an interesting test to see if these guys had a protein shake that I’d actually drink.

I was also amused by the tag line they included in the email:

When the product arrived, I was further entertained by the messaging on the packages:

A product that is good for me AND compliments me?  Sold!

I looked over the assortment of 4 flavors and decided to crack open the spiced chai first.  I was skeptical… but I was immediately enamoured.  It tasted creamy and delicious, almost like dessert.  How could this be good for you?

So I started reading the website… “16g of organic protein from fresh organic soymilk, along with organic complex carbohydrates for sustained energy. Svelte is tested to be low-glycemic and has only 9 grams of sugar per full bottle. It’s also a good source of fiber and is dairy-free and gluten-free. Here’s to you.”

Awesome. But hold the phone… this has soymilk? I HATE soymilk!  What gives?

I cracked open the other 3 flavors and enjoyed them all just as much.  It reminded me a bit of Slim Fast, you know, if Slim Fast actually tasted GOOD.   Soymilk or no soymilk, I liked these things.

I’m not entirely positive if they would be filling enough as a meal replacement, but I drank half of one for breakfast and it held me until lunch.  I actually just ordered a case so I can test it for lunches.

My favorite flavor was definitely the chai, but I’m a chai girl, so I like it spicy.  My second favorite was probably cappuccino, but they’re all good.

(I also found out that they make organic wines! They sent me a white and a red to try and while I liked them, I’m not as excited to purchase these on my own as I am the drinks)

What’s even better is that CalNaturale has given me the opportunity to share these cool products with you!  THREE lucky winners will be able to receive gift packs, each including one of each flavor of Svelte. 

How do you enter?  Simple!  Comment on this post below and answer the question “When do you need an energy boost most?”  Is it when you wake up in the morning? The 2pm slump?  The 4pm “I need to finish my day” rut?

You can also gain one additional entry for every place you post about this giveaway.  (Please link me to your blog, Facebook page, Twitter, etc. so your entry can be counted. You can always email me at sara@nycnomnom.com.)

You have until 10pm EST on Monday, May 2nd to enter.

Good luck Nommers!

_____

UPDATE: Svelte just informed me that they are also doing a fun promotion called #MeatlessMonday on their Facebook Page where fans can win a tote bag filled with awesome CalNaturale goodies, along with a $50 gift card to Whole Foods!  You can get all the details here.

Hudson Station Bar and Grill

22 Apr

To wrap up my week of lunching “West of Midtown West,” we did another team lunch at a newly opened bar and restaurant on 9th Ave and 35th Street called Hudson Station Bar and Grill.  It had a big sports bar feel, with high ceilings and TVs everywhere.

When we entered once for happy hour, there was not a single woman to be seen. Single Ladies, here is a tip: Go to Hudson Station Bar and Grill for happy hour!

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Now onto the food… we ordered crab cakes, which I couldn’t try due to the peppers allergy, but heard they were so-so.

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And wings (exact same comment as the crab cakes)

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And they have about a million sliders listed, including pulled pork:

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Cheese Steak:

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And fried chicken:

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We also got the nachos, which were a heaping pile of mess.

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And far too much for even our group of 10 to finish

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And two of us tried to be healthy and go salads, including the Chicken Spinach with grilled chicken breast, baby spinach leaves, julienne cucumber, sweet corn, diced tomato, fresh mozzarella tossed in a sun dried tomato & white balsamic vinaigrette

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And the Grill Shrimp, which had mixed salad greens tossed, seasoned grilled shrimp, sliced strawberries, shredded pear, chopped walnuts, creamy crumbled blue cheese & strawberry balsamic dressing.  I was nervous to get a salad like this at a sports bar, however, I’m pretty sure this was the best thing on the table… though still tasted like everything had been frozen for a while.

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No one really thought this place was great, but it’s convenient.  We actually wound up going back on St. Patrick’s Day, where they served a VERY small menu of all Irish dishes, and we all thought it was pretty rotten and vowed never to return.  That was solidified when a few people felt pretty ill post-lunch.

Oh well!

Total Nom Points: 4 out of 10



Southern Hospitality- Hell’s Kitchen

20 Apr

This week’s theme appears to be lunch in the “West of Midtown West” region.

Southern Hospitality was first opened by Justin Timberlake and friends in the UES.  A second outpost recently opened in Hell’s Kitchen, on 9th Ave and 45th Street.

When I checked in on Four Square, I was informed that there was a special where first check-ins were awarded with a free pitcher of beer.  I showed the waitress, and she informed me that I had checked in at the wrong Southern Hospitality (WHOOPS!) but they would honor it anyway.  The guys at my table were pleased.

The interior is massive and decorated in a very fun, southern, barry way.

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We went out for team lunch and ordered across the menu.  There was a BBQ chicken chopped salad.

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A side of… something?

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A cheese steak that wound up being quite disappointing when the orderer failed to read that there was cheese SAUCE on it.

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Some BBQ salmon

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A plate of smoked sliced brisket (which was questionably brisket) with a side of succotash and collard greens.

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And I took a dive and tried my very first chicken and waffles.

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They came with a side of mashed taters, which were fair at best.

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While the chicken looked over-breaded and over-fried, it wasn’t bad.  But it certainly wasn’t the best I had.  I understand why people like this combo (turns out syrup and fried chicken are delicious together), but I wasn’t impressed.

Turns out, no one else was either.  Nothing stuck out, nothing was particularly good, and nothing was worth going back for.

Sorry JT.  We’ve had much better BBQ, even in NY, elsewhere.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10


Albert Hall Tavern- Lunch

18 Apr

We have been to Albert Hall for dinner (many times), and even had a few brunches, however, lunch was a new adventure.  They just started serving lunch a few weeks ago and their menu is quite good.  They have a lot of my favorites, and they add really good sandwiches.  (I wish they had these as a brunch option too!)  

We had our team lunch at Albert Hall and all decided to try the sandwiches.  They all came with the delicious duck fat truffle fries that we love so much.

This was the grilled chicken sandwich.  It came with braised bacon, roasted red beets and black garlic butter.  The combination was great, though the bread was actually too thick to eat in any polite fashion.   

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The upskirt…

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Next up was the short ribs sandwich with gorgonzola and baby arugula.   While delicious, the bread really overpowered the awesome flavor that I love so much when we get these short ribs as a side to the bone marrow here.

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This sandwich was the skillet ribeye with caramelized shallots and leek fondue.  We all tried each others, and this was declared the unanimous winner.  Chef Bill knows his way around a shallot!

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Overall, lunch at Albert Hall is a great choice.  You can’t go wrong with the options, and I have been back many times (typically ordered the Bibb lettuce salad).  There aren’t many sit down choices in the area, so it’s nice to have a comfortable place to grab a bite in the no man’s land that is 9th Avenue between Penn Station and Port Authority.

Psst… the post summarizing all the dishes from Albert Hall has been updated.  Check it out!

Philly Noms- Amada (AKA the most disappointing Celebrity Chef restaurant EVER)

15 Apr

Philly was so packed with restaurants we wanted to try that we actually found no time to get some famous Philly Cheesesteaks.  We aren’t cheesesteak fans, however, there is always next time.  Though after our meal at Amada, I think a gross greasy cheesesteak would have been a MUCH better idea (and for an arm and a leg cheaper).

We had VERY high hopes for Amada.  It is a Jose Garces restaurant and were told it was his best.  And Jose Garces was picked as the Next Iron Chef, so how could this not be awesome?

Well… we’ll start with some things that WERE awesome… like the meat hanging from the side of the bar.

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And what was listed on the HUGE menu…

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And especially the SANGRIA!  (The best I have ever had)

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The awesome pretty much ended there. 

On the menu, we were having trouble deciding so we decided to splurge for the tasting to make sure we got a good sampling of all that Amada had to offer.  We inquired as to the three different prices listed on the Chef’s Selection Menu (see below) and were informed that the price would determine the quality of the ingredients.  So there would be more higher end things at the $65 level with more meats.  Each would have 9-11 dishes over 3 courses.  We decided to take the middle-road and went with the $55 tasting… and since it was our final meal of this little trip, we went for the wine pairing ($20 was a 3 ounce pour and $35 was the 5 ounce, but each had only 3 glasses total, 1 per course).

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We mentioned at the get-go that we LOVE artichokes (hoping for at least a few of the awesome sounding artichoke dishes from the menu) and, of course, that I was allergic to peppers.  We even had a long discussion over what type of peppers, which we informed her includes paprika.  I THOUGHT we were in good hands.

The bread that came out was crispy and garlicky, with a tuna, olives, and capers dip (compliments of the chef).  This was okay.

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Next up came aged manchego cheese with truffle lavender honey.  The cheese was very good, though the honey was more lavender than truffle.  Still enjoyable though.

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And the presentation was awesome (this was true throughout the meal actually).

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Next, we were served a few things all at the same time (even before we finished the cheese).  First was the sorano ham and fig salad, which came wrapped in the thinly sliced ham and it all went very well with the fig and blue cheese inside.  This was one of our favorite dishes of the night, though we both noted that the best things were the items that were basically assembled and not really cooked.

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Cured meats came out next.  I asked the busser who put this on the table if the meats were spicy at all and his answer of “OH YEAH!” was scary.  I finally got a hold of the waitress who informed me that I couldn’t eat a row of meat (Damn! Glad we asked).  She hardly apologized.

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While most of the above dishes were still on the table, the next course came out.  Now I understand that they wanted to serve things in courses, however, the table was nowhere near big enough for the food and we found most of it got cold before we got to it because it was just so much.  It also made us feel VERY rushed (we did, in fact, finish this entire tasting in just over an hour).

First, we had the flat bread with short ribs.  It was VERY short on flavor and we both laughed over the fact that the short ribs were nowhere near as good as the ones from Chef Bill at Albert Hall Tavern.

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We were also given caramelized melon with ham.  This was good but, again, more assembled than cooked. 

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We were then served garlic shrimp which was… garlicky.  So garlicky that you hardly tasted the shrimp.  And super oily.  This reminded me of a bad diner meal.

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Next we were served… more grilled shrimp… with more garlic olive oil.  (MEH?) This was good but way too salty, and Mike and I are some of the biggest over-salters we know.  Bleh.  (At this point I started getting ornery).

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The next course was garbanzo beans with spinach… and peppers.  Lots of peppers.  WTF.   Mike tried it and mentioned that it tasted awful and the beans weren’t cooked.  We sent this back.  (For me to send something back at a restaurant is HUGE.  I think I have done it twice in my entire life).

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FINALLY an artichoke came out.  It was the parmesan artichokes… but it was 1 small artichoke… split in half.  It was literally 2 bites a piece.  Why so skimpy?  I understand if you skimp on things like lobster… but artichokes and cheese? GIVE ME A BREAK.

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Next up we had NY Strip Steak which came with currants and spinach.  The combination of spinach, the cheese, the sweet sauce, and the currants on the steak was really great and at least a bit special.  But I don’t know if this one well cooked plate could come anywhere close to making up for the atrocity of a meal we had.

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Then we got our last dish which was… fava bean and lima bean salad?  What a weird ending!  And totally bland.  I think this may have been what was replacing the chick pea pepper catastrophe, however, to end on this was just icing on the awful cake.

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The tasting didn’t come with any dessert, and after the terrible meal we decided to wade our way through the rain storm to go somewhere, ANYWHERE, else. But it ended with this interesting almond thing.  It was a lot like a fortune cookie.  Pretty good actually.

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Oh! And we got a wine pairing didn’t we?  Ugh.  All 3 wines tasted like they came out of the bottom of a house wine bucket.  Nothing even remotely good or noteworthy.

It felt like there were a lot of great ingredients that were mostly executed terribly. Whomever selected this tasting really didn’t put much thought into it.  To follow up garlic and oil shrimp with garlic and oil shrimp made that obvious.  And very few dishes were executed well.   I was beyond disappointed by this meal. I was actually quite horrified.

And to make matters worse… both Mike and I got food poisoning on the way home… on a train.

Curse you Jose Garces. CUUUURRRSSSSSSEEEEEEE YOUUUUUUUUUUU.

Total Nom Points: 3 out of 10

 

Philly Noms- City Tavern

13 Apr

Mike’s second reservation was at City Tavern, a theme restaurant.  Typically, I would be skeptical about a restaurant themed around 18th Century America, but what is vacation if not a place to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do? 

The interior was more like a series of individual colonial rooms than what we think of as current restaurants.  I guess this was the style in the 1700s.  Quite cool.

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We decided to go with the beer tasting, which were all made from recipes from the Revolution. Cool!

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The Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce was my absolute fave.

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And it was served on a very nice paddle.  Good touch.

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The breads were all good, however, the biscuits were sweet potato and pecan (a supposedly favorite of Washington himself) and I had to ask for seconds.  They were so good.

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We started with the mallard duck sausages which combined pork and duck over sweet and sour cabbage.  These were some of the most flavorful sausages I have ever had.  Delish.

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Mike chose the colonial turkey pot pie for his entree.  The top was so perfectly fluffy and crispy.

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And the inside was creamy without being heavy and all the flavors were fantastic.  Impressive.

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I chose the Medallions of Venison with leeks, rosemary-bourbon mushroom sauce, herbed barley, and vegetable of the season (which wound up being various squashes). 

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The sauce on this was packed with flavor, the venison was perfectly gamey without being tough, and the barley and veggies were a great pair.  This was so hearty and homey.  I loved it.

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For dessert, they brought out a tray of goodies.  It was a tough choice…

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But we went with the raspberry linzer torte.  It was good… but not as buttery as it should have been and the raspberry was kind of bland.  Then the whipped cream on top was more like whipped butter… and it was AWFUL.  Shame to end such a good meal on such a dud note.

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But City Tavern had one last treat before we went.  Right outside the bathrooms and downstairs dining area was the harpist.  It was awesome.

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Overall, for a themed restaurant we were VERY impressed.  Even as compared to most restaurants, our meals were great.  Next time I might just skip the desserts.

Overall Nom Points: 7 out of 10