Archive | October, 2011

Casa Nonna: Pasta

25 Oct


We have gone back to Casa Nonna a few times in the months it has been open.  Afterall, it is right in our building.

This time we decided to try the pastas, and boy am I glad we did!  It is here that Nonna really shines.

First, we tried the Bucatini alla Matriciana, which is spaghetti “with a hole,” sweet onion, pancetta, and tomato.  I keep forgetting how much I enjoy bucatini.  Somehow adding that hole into the spaghetti really makes it that much better.




This was delicious.  Filled with flavor, great pancetta, and sauce that just sang.



We also tried the Stracci di Manzo, which is “Rags” tossed with braised beef short rib and tomato.  The pasta was perfectly cooked and the braised short ribs were just perfect and delicious. Really impressive.




And after such a healthy meal (ha!) we decided we had to have dessert.   We tried the Torrone Semi Freddo, which was Italian nougat, almond sponge, and chocolate crackle sauce.  I think when I heard “chocolate crackle sauce,” I figured something along the lines of magic shell.  It didn’t harden, but it did taste good.  I haven’t been overwhelmed by the desserts here.  Not to say that they aren’t good, but they aren’t GREAT either.





Stick with the pasta




Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

20 Oct




Right on the edge of Brooklyn, under the Brooklyn Bridge in Greenpoint, lives the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.  I had never been, simply because I always walked across the bridge, which you do a few feet before this place (which is right near Grimaldi’s famous pizza as well).

I went with a friend on a very hot day and we stood in the (very hot) line in anticipation of homemade, small batch ice cream.



I went with Butter Pecan and I was very pleased with the flavor.  The pecans kept their crisp but benefited from the sugars and perfectly buttery flavor.  I always say that good butter pecan ice cream should taste like the ice cream version of a good pecan butter cookie.  This was exactly that.



My friend got the coffee, which they are known for, and it was probably the best coffee ice cream I have ever had.  It was like the difference between watered down instant coffee and an amazing, freshly made espresso.  Super intense and just sweet enough.  So good.

And the view is pretty damn amazing.  The Brooklyn Bridge’s famous double arch is right between our cones…


Worth the journey!



Shumi Sushi: Somerville, NJ

18 Oct

I was in NJ to spend some time with my mom around my birthday.  We were on the hunt for somewhere local to eat in Somerville and she remembered a sushi restaurant that she had heard rave reviews about, Shumi.  I did some mobile research and this place had AMAZING reviews.  So we followed the directions and ended up… here…


Hmmm.  That isn’t exactly the most inspiring place to get sushi, however, I was willing to try it and see how strip mall sushi was.

We started with miso soup.  I don’t LOVE miso soup.  It is usually a bit too bland, either totally under or over salted, and the texture of tofu is not my favorite.  This, on the other hand, was delicious.  Good flavor, good broth, and more than 2 chunks of tofu and a slice of carrot hanging around in the bowl.


Next we ordered a special… Monkfish liver.  I had only had it once before and while I was skeptical about strip mall sushi, I decided I was going to go all the way.  This was awesome.  My mom couldn’t get past the idea of monkfish liver enough to enjoy it, but I just ate this up (very literally).  It was perfectly cooked, seasoned, and dressed.  Scrumptious.


Even the salad that came with the emal was good.  The ginger dressing tasted much more fresh and anyone who dares to put a beet in my salad is a friend, in my opinion.


We decided to go Omakase (chef chooses what he serves you).  I cannot remember for the life of me what the special things were, but I do remember Spanish mackerel and some kind of Japanese fluke I had never heard of.  Each bite was better than the last.  Fresh… filled with flavor… And even the rice was somehow special.


I was absolutely impressed by this place.


I would say this sushi rivaled many of the good (and much more expensive) sushi in NYC.  And this was in NJ… in a strip mall!  I have to start being less of a judgmental snob.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

The Counter

11 Oct

Right in the heart of Times Square, there is a newish Build Your Own Burger restaurant called The Counter.

At The Counter, you are given a checklist of all the burger things you could possibly want. You can select the size patty you want, the type of meat (or non-meat), the bun, etc.   They have the usual toppings but, in my opinion, you go here for the more obscure options, like grilled pineapple, fried eggs, basil mayo, dried cranberries, and black forest ham, to name a few.



We ordered a combo of sweet potato fries and parmesan fries.  Delicious.  But how could this really not be delicious?



I ordered the veggie burger.  I was also an idiot and forgot to ask about peppers.  There were, in fact, peppers in this, but they were mild so I only had some itching and no burns.  It was tasty enough to get through the pain.  The burger is made with full pieces of beans and corn and a good amount of rice.  I topped mine with grilled pineapple and gruyere cheese on a toasted onion roll.  It was very, very tasty.




I look forward to going back to try the real burger!

As far as Times Square “fast food” goes, this place is tops and has something for everyone since you can customize so much.  It can get VERY busy during lunch time, but if you were to get a seat at the communal table, it’s worth a stop.



Welcome to Pig Island

5 Oct

When I read about Pig Island, I knew it was meant to be.  A food event on an island in NYC (that I had never been to) dedicated to pork? I am IN!  And then Thrillist came out with a deal for all you can eat and drink for $45, including a special “Thrillist Only” line at the beer stands.  It was kismet.

I had heard some horror stories about food events on Governor’s Island (long waits for the ferry, long lines for the food, crowded space, etc.) but I was willing to risk it.  We showed up early and took the ferry that left at 11am (it opened at 11:30).  Turns out, the ferry is about 4 minutes long. And a beautiful view. And free.  Why have I not done this before?

I went with Mike and Lori (of StuffIAte) and we walked around a bit downtown (it was the day before the 9/11 10 year anniversary) before heading to the ferry.  We waited to get in until 11:30 and were let it on the Thrillist line before everyone else.

Turns out, the event was just about perfect.  It also helped that it was a beautiful day.  We ate and drank our way to absolute happy exhaustion.  I was insanely happy that we got there early because the food literally ran out by 2pm.  There were only a few places with long lines (and just my luck, the one long line we waited on assured me there were no peppers and then I wound up with blisters… lovely… but luckily it was at the very end of the day).  We had some great food and beer throughout the day, and it all blended together into a blissful day.  Here is the gallery of photos (WARNING: If you do not like to see food as it was originally, AKA a pig’s head on a stake, you may want to skip this gallery to the bottom to see some pictures of Governor’s Island).


I actually cannot believe that I had never been to Governor’s Island. It was beautiful and I want to go back, rent some bikes, and explore.  We happened to be there on September 10th, 2011, the day before the 10 year anniversary of the attack.  It was a solemn area to be in, but I couldn’t help but feel very happy to look back on my home and see how beautiful it looked that day.

And it just happened that there were amazing streams of light shining down on our perfect view of Lady Liberty as we left on the ferry.

And a beautiful old sailboat.

Can’t wait to go back!

Imperial No. Nine

3 Oct

I had heard very good things about Imperial No. Nine, in the Mondrian Soho (9 Crosby Street between Grand St. and Howard St.)  It received immediate notoriety because it is the latest restaurant to open under Sam Talbot, the season 2, third place finisher on Top Chef.  (And as any long time reader knows, we are Top Chef whores).  I have been meaning to go since I first read about it opening in March, but somehow life just got in the way.

I arrived and was a bit blinded by some crazy Mercedes photo shoot that was happening for Fashion Week right outside. I managed to walk by the place 3 times.  If you go here… look for the vine covered, trellised entry!

The inside is hard to describe, but I can say one thing… it looks “rich.”  New money rich.  But not in a tacky way.


I will apologize in advance, as these pictures were taken in much too dark lighting.  It was super trendy with its minimal lighting, but I always selfishly prefer it brighter (simply for camera purposes).  I never want to use my flash if I can help it.

Imperial No. Nine is mostly small plates. Luckily, I was dining with some supremo sharers.

We started with some items from the raw bar. 2 types of oysters (East and West Coast), clams, and shrimp.  All were very good but these may have been the best oysters I have ever had.  Fresh, plump, filled with flavor.  So good.


These came with multiple dipping sauces. Frankly, I didn’t try any because I didn’t know what had peppers… but more importantly, why mask any bit of that amazing flavor with sauce? Really now.


We also tried a Chilled Pea Leaf salad with blond red wine vinaigrette.  It was tasty, but I’m really not sure what made this salad $12s worth of special.  It reminded me of the delicious yet common salad that is thrown on the side of eggs benedict at nice brunch restaurants.


We then tried the cauliflower fritters.  These were so good that we wound up ordering a second batch.  They were just perfect in texture and flavor.  A MUST try if you go.


We then tried the crisp Berkshire Pork Belly with pickled cherries and green lentils.  This was delicious, but surprisingly overshadowed by the rest of the meal.  I think it had a bit too much heaviness to it and not enough crispness to really shine through.  But that is being very nit-picky.   I think the rest of what we ordered was just that much better.


We also tried the scallops, which was easily the favorite dish of many at the table.  They were seared over summer corn, heirloom tomatoes, and romano beans.  I remember no tomatoes, but I remember loving it.  The scallops were cooked perfectly and the corn and sauce it came on was just sensationally delicious.


We also tried the duckfat roasted peanut potatoes with shallot confit, cured lemon, and sea salt.  These were pretty good but could have used a bit more flavor.


We heard that the cous cous was good so we decided to try that.  It came with crab, asparagus, roasted mushrooms and a slow cooked egg.  It all blended together very well and had great, interesting texture and flavor throughout.  Usually I prefer my crab more highlighted, but I couldn’t argue with this flavor combination.  Spot on.


We ordered the heirloom blue corn grits with shrimp and a slow poached egg.  It also came with NY State Maple Jus and Aged Cheddar.  Holy cow!  I usually absolutely hate shrimp and grits.  The grits are always all wrong to me.  But this… this was a masterpiece.  I could not believe how much I enjoyed this dish.


We also heard great things about the King Crab a la Pancha, which came with sweet and sour butter and crispy garlic.  I have no idea what sweet and sour butter is, but I can tell you that this had a very Asian flavor.  I really enjoyed it, but some of my other diners found that the sauce overpowered the crab flavor.


And what is a meal without red meat?  I was really happy we ordered the steak, which was listed as Beef Culotte a la Plancha with greens, dashi, and white soy.  (This was my second run in with “a la plancha” during this blog post so I decided to figure out what it means… grilled on a metal plate…. interesting).  I THINK this was topped with very finely sliced, crispy onions, but at this point in the meal (and let’s face it… the wine), I cannot be 100% clear on anything.  All I can tell you is that this was absolutely fantastic.  Probably one of the best pieces of meat I have ever tried.  Filled with flavor, perfectly sauced and complimented with those crispy things.  Delicious.


I’m still not sure how we managed to fit it, but we had to try dessert while we were there!

First up was the Banana Bread Pudding with maple bourbon sauce, honeycomb semi fredo, and nutella.  I liked this dish, but the flavors didn’t really stand out for me.


We also tried the caramel corn, which was salted caramel ice cream with sweet popcorn powder. I could not get enough of this.  Perfectly sweet, salty, crunchy, and cold.  Awesome.


We also tried the seasonal stone fruit with almond crunch polenta cake, and corn ricotta sorbet.  I would describe this more as delicious fresh peaches and plums with croutons, sweet corn, and a corn sorbet.  If someone told me they were serving me a dessert with croutons and corn, I would have looked at them funny. But this somehow worked.  It was delicious and very seasonal, though I’m not sure I would go out of my way to order it again. I


Last but not least, we tried the German Chocolate Whoopie Pie.  This came with spicy milk chocolate, young coconut sorbet, and passion fruit.  This was very good, except the deconstruction made it a bit hard to really get the flavors of German Chocolate Cake (which is what I think they were going for).  It came together well, but I think part of me was expecting that gooey coconut thing that German Chocolate Cake does so well.


Every one of us that walked out of this meal could not stop talking about how good it was.  Weeks later, Mike and I are still reminiscing about it.  Fantastic flavor combinations I have not seen before coupled with great cooking and fresh ingredients really makes this place stand out.  I highly recommend it for a nice meal.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10