Archive | December, 2011

Kutsher’s TriBeCa

30 Dec

I don’t know a single Jewish family from the east coast that hasn’t at least heard of Kutsher’s, a “summer camp” for adults located in the Catskills (think “Dirty Dancing”).  It used to be the place to go, but it has long lost its luster, though not its notoriety.  So when the Kutsher family decided to open up a restaurant in TriBeCa, with the promise to make family-style Jewish food more sophisticated, I was curious (if not excited).  It opened just a few weeks ago, but we made our reservation for the week between Christmas and New Years with one of our favorite couple friends, E and K.

We decided to split the “crispy potato latkes” with “local apple compote” and sour cream.   It was listed on the menu as “For the Table,” so I was quite underwhelmed when 3 very, very tiny latkes came out… for four of us.  Of all the things to skimp on, fried potatoes are a strange choice.  But they were good… not great… but good.  The apple compote tasted quite fresh.

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We also decided to split the Jerusalem artichokes, which came with lemon, garlic, parsley, greens and shaved parmesan.  The parsley was crisped and this whole dish was delicious. I could have eaten every bite myself.

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E & K both ordered the wild mushroom and fresh ricotta kreplach which came with walnut pesto, olive oil schmaltz and fresh black pepper sheep’s milk cheese.  Kreplach is basically the Jewish version of a dumpling.  They both enjoyed it.

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Mike chose the grilled Romanian steak which was a prime skirt steak with caramelized onions and a roasted garlic & wild mushroom knish.  The steak was perfectly steaky.  Could rival a steak house in NY.

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I went with the red wine braised flanken style short ribs. These came with schmaltz mashed potatoes and glazed root vegetables.  Schmaltz is rendered fat, and basically just makes everything taste better.  These melted in my mouth.  Amazing flavor, cooked to perfection, and just overall fantastic.

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For sides, we got the schmaltz fries (these were just okay).

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The pan roasted brussels sprouts with rosemary.  (Delish)

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And the quinoa varnishkas with torn pasta and wild mushrooms.  Usually this would be kasha varnishkas… which is a type of buckwheat with bowtie pasta.  Kasha is something that is pretty bland, but I really enjoy it.  The quinoa actually made it more bland, so we didn’t particularly love this, but it was good.

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Most of the food was far above par. The service, however, was pretty bad.  Our waiter rushed us through the entire meal.  He came back every 2-3 minutes for our order, even when we were clearly looking at the menu.  Our apps were barely cleared when the entrees came.  Then when it came to paying the bill, he must have stopped by at least half a dozen times in less than 10 minutes.  It was downright uncomfortable.  We were in and out in less than an hour… it was a sour spot on an otherwise great meal.

I would probably give it a few months to even things out and this seems to be the place where it helps to know what to order.  Here is my advice:  Artichokes app, steak, short ribs, and brussels sprouts.   And next time I want to have room for dessert!

Overall, most of the food was very good. I look forward to going back once they have their sea legs.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Best Recipes of 2011

29 Dec

As I reflected on the past year and searched for recipes, I realized a very important thing about 2011… we didn’t cook NEARLY as much as we did the years prior (2010 best recipes here) or at least didn’t post as many recipes.  And almost everything I cooked was of the dessert variety. Hmmm… Reflection is 20/20.

So without further ado… please enjoy my favorites of 2011:

Pancakes

Bailey’s Frosting

Fudged Fudge

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

The Famous Cider

Strawberry Shortcake

Salted Caramels

Grandma’s Plum Tart

Homemade Popovers

Drunk ‘N Nutty Pie

Happy Nomming!

Top 10 Noms of 2011

29 Dec

I can’t believe 2011 is over!  I always love going back through the past year of blogs to pick the top 10, and this year proved MUCH harder than years before.  There were just so many great Noms in 2011!

For the past Top Noms of the year, check out 2010 and 2009.

#10 – Alma de Cuba: Philadelphia I dream about the pork entree I had here, and that chocolate cigar for dessert (that was on fire) will always hold a tender spot in my food heart.

# 9 – The Breslin lived up to expectations with an awesome lamb burger and the scrumpets… oooooooohhhh the scrumpets.

#8 – We had wanted to visit Barbuto for a long time, after falling in love with the chef, Jonathan Waxman, on various food shows on television.  It was a meal made of some of the freshest, most lovingly crafted ingredients.


#7 – Our experience at Maialino was just a few days ago, but I am still thinking about that bacon and those desserts.  I can’t wait to go back again and try more… especially their namesake pasta.

#6 – When we decided to try Catch, Top Chef Hung’s new restaurant we didn’t know what we were in for. It was dark. It was Meatpacking. But it was delicious and inspired.  Awesome combinations and executed beautifully.

#5 – Imperial No. 9 was a fantastic journey of food, with many dishes that I would go back to eat all over again.  If you go, order as much as possible and share. Totally worth it.

#4 – Our adventure at Mountain Flying Fish in Breckenridge, CO was something I will never forget.  A well curated Omikase from the chef, who is a personal friend of my aunt proved to be one of the most perfect, original, and exciting meals I have ever had.  Land locked sushi shouldn’t be this good. Food shouldn’t be this good.  It was just… bliss.

#3 – Mike took me to Daniel for my birthday, and it was impressive.  The entire tasting menu was already one of the best meals I ever had, and then the desserts came.  The best series of desserts I have ever had. Hands down. And I LOVE dessert.

#2 – When I think of epic meals, I have to mention Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  A day-trip from NYC in Westchester, NY, it is actually ON the farm (which made for a lovely day as well).  Everything that comes out in the blind tasting menu was from the farm or locally sourced.  You don’t get fresher than that. And it’s hard to get any better.

#1 – Valentine’s Day at Colicchio and Sons for the Tasting Menu was phenomenal.  It took over the #2 all-time spot (under WD-50, which we tried again recently, by the way, to see if it could hold on to that #1 spot… more on that soon).  I have been to Colicchio and Sons a few times for their a la carte menu, and it’s always fantastic, but this tasting menu was other-worldly.  The duck egg, confit gizzard, & parsnip dish was hands down the best thing I have EVER eaten.  Just… wow.

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Honorable Mention:

The Truffle, Gruanciale, and Egg Pizza from Otto

Birreria at Eataly for the fantastic ambiance, beer, and damn good food

The classic New York feel (and food) of The Palm

Thumbs Up Diner: Atlanta for The Heap

Peking Duck House for the Peking Duck Special

Kefi for that amazing octopus

And 2 great Restaurant Week meals that were worth repeating…

Ilili for Restaurant Week

The Modern for Restaurant Week Winter and Summer

And last but not least… It’s hard to write about 2011 without mentioning Albert Hall Tavern, but now that Chef Bill is gone, the spark just isn’t there like it used to be.

Goodbye 2011! Onto even more fantastic adventures and Noms in 2012.

Maialino

29 Dec

I have been hearing about Maialino for a long time now, and I feel like the last blogger on earth to have stopped by.  During Christmas time, I make it a point to look for reservations that I ordinarily couldn’t get at any other time of year. While tourists flood the city in the week leading up to Christmas, Christmas eve and Christmas day usually leave the city blissfully empty.  I’m not great at planning 28 days out (the point at which Maialino reservations open up) but I am quite good at looking on OpenTable.com for the following day. To my surprise, Maialino was had a reservation open for a 1:30pm brunch (linner?) on Christmas Eve.

The restaurant is rustic and relatively casual.  It’s decorated in a way that makes you feel instantly at home, and the service adds to the warm welcome.

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We started with the Carciofini Fritti, which is fried artichokes with an anchovy bread sauce.  Artichokes are one of my favorite foods in the entire world, and these did not disappoint.  The anchovy sauce added a delicious salty flavor to it without overpowering the artichoke flavor.

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Full disclosure… it was at this point that our waiter took me entirely by surprise and asked me if I was a food blogger. Flustered, I blurted out that I was. I always feel bad when a restaurant knows that I’m going to be writing about them… some don’t like it and just get annoyed that I’m there… and others go out of their way to make it better since they know I’ll be writing. Maialino took the latter approach… which wound up being quite fortuitous because we tried things that we would not have otherwise.  They did send it over “on the house,” which was very, very nice of them.

Starting with what we ordered, we chose the Contadino, which had 3 of my favorite things: poached eggs, brussels sprouts, and squash (buttercup squash to be exact).

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I love brussels sprouts and can’t believe I spent so much of my life without eating them. I always prefer them halved and browned, but the leaves of the sprouts in this dish still tasted very full and had great flavor.  I don’t know how much the squash added to it in terms of flavor, but it made for a great sauce when mixed with the eggs.

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Which, by the way, were perfectly poached. Mmm mmm mmm.

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We also ordered the namesake, the Maialino pasta (Malfatti al Maialino).  I was a bit confused because the description said it was suckling pig ragu and arugula, and we saw no arugula.  UPDATE: I found out that the pasta we received was actually the Bombolotti all’Amatriciana. This was right above the Mailalino pasta on the menu, and I may have pointed since my Italian pronunciations leave something to be desired.

BUT, I have to say, the guanciale in this pasta were otherworldly.  We will have to go back and try the Malfatti al Maialino soon!

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With these 2 dishes, they nicely sent over a sample of the thick cut black pepper bacon.  This was a moment where I silently said my thanks to the food gods.  This was tender, full of flavor, and tasted exactly like heaven should taste.

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Damn was I glad we got to try this. It was our favorite part of the savory meal (and the rest of the meal was great).

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The chef, Nick Anderer, came out to greet us and make sure we were enjoying everything.  He was very kind and seemed genuinely happy to be talking with us.  We complimented him on the amazing meal and when he asked if we had room for dessert, we couldn’t say no.

He picked out some for us to try, and it’s a good thing he did, because I would probably have not ordered these items and they wound up being absolutely awesome.

We started with a duo of gelati, with salted caramel on top and stracciatella di mandorl (which was, if I remember correctly, an almond ice cream with a coffee swirl through it).  It was served with a chocolate biscotti. Both were sensational.  Strong, delicious flavors melded into a perfectly creamy cup.

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We also tried the brioche caramellato, which was a toffee glazed brioche that tasted a lot like a cinnamon roll in all the right ways.  I LOVE toffee, and this did not disappoint.

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The final item that came out was something I would NEVER have ordered (and looking back, they weren’t on the menu to order!): Zeppoles.  They came with an apple cider reduction sauce.

WOW. I wanted to drink (or bathe in) that sauce.  I wound up eating a good amount of it by the spoonful and drizzled it on both the ice cream and the brioche. It was THAT GOOD.

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And the zepoles? These were NOT your NJ Carnival Zepoles. These were airy, light, perfectly cooked warmed donuts that could rival the beignets at Cafe du Monde (one of my favorite places) any day.

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I also ordered a capuccino, which was just beautiful (and delicious).

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I was impressed. It is rare that a place lives up to the hype, but Maialino was definitely one of the best. I would love to go back for every other meal they have a menu for just to be able to try new things each time.  The service was impeccable (even before they learned my dirty secret) and we didn’t have a bad bite.  We did, however, need a pusher to roll us out when we were done.

Word to the wise: Get the bacon… and the desserts. All of them.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale

28 Dec

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Currently reviewing this new beer on the NYC Nom Nom Facebook page. Go on over to Facebook and Like us for the play-by-play.

Rolf’s

27 Dec

When I got in the cab to go to the client lunch, I had no idea what I was in for.  Our clients requested an outing to Rolf’s. I had never been, and couldn’t figure out why it was ringing a bell. And then I arrived, and realized that THIS is the type of place that people talk about… because it looks like this…

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Floor to ceiling, front door to kitchen… it was a Christmas wonderland.  You can’t help but get into the spirit here.

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So what is Rolf’s? It’s a classically German restaurant, with menu items that I associate with my (Austrian) Grandma and Great Grandma.

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We started with a sausage sampler, that came with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.  All were very good and started the meal out nicely.

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One person ordered the Choucroute Alsacienne which came with a smoked pork chop, bratwurst, weisswurst, shaped potatotes and sauerkraut. I was lucky enough to try the pork chop part, which I thought was delicious but definitely tasted more like smoked ham than the pork chop that was expected.

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Other diners ordered the roast boneless loin of pork. It came with red cabbage and mashed potatoes. They said the sauce on the pork was scrumptious, but there was a bit too much red cabbage for any one person to consume.

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Another ordered the Jaeger Schnitzel, which was wiener schnitzel in Paprika Mushroom Sauce, Vegetable & Spätzle.

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I went classic and got the wiener schnitzel which came with spatzel and green beans.

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At this point I assume many of you are asking what schnitzel is… well… it’s very thinly pounded meal (usually veal if it’s “wiener”) that is breaded and lightly fried.  It’s buttery and light when done right, and this was most certainly done right.  It tasted a lot like what I remember Grandma making and I ate every delicious bite.

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Overall, Rolf’s is a spectacle with very good food… HOWEVER… it’s unbelievably expensive.  At any other German restaurant, my plate would cost about $15.  Here it was DOUBLE.  Even for NY, that’s pricey!  So if you are looking for a cheap venue, this is not it. But if you want to be awestruck by the decorations, eat German food the way it was meant to be, and without much regard to prices… Rolf’s is top notch.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

GUEST BLOG: Recession Busters – Wallet Friendly Sparkling Wine

23 Dec

Jonas, from Excellent Everyday Wines, has provided a holiday themed post just in time for your holiday and New years celebrations.  Enjoy!

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As we move towards the end of the year holidays, sparkling wine sales pick up quite a bit of steam. In fact, a large majority of producer’s sparkling wine sales – by some estimates almost half – come in the month of December. And while true Champagne (which only comes from the Champagne region of France) is still the king, great value sparkling wines are available from many different countries.

For this tasting, we opened three sparklers from three different countries, all designated a “brut” or dry style with 12 or less grams of residual sugar per liter and all costing under $15. Two of them, The French sparkler from Varichon and Clerc and the Spanish Cava “Sonim”, are made in the champagne method which involves inducing a secondary fermentation in the bottle by adding yeast and sugar. The carbon dioxide produced is the source of the bubbles. The Italian Prosecco from Zardetto is produced in closed stainless steel tanks where the same process is induced in a larger volume.

The first wine in our tasting was the Varichon and Clerc, a French bubbly produced via the Champagne method from three grapes, Ugni Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Colombard. It retails at my local store for just $9.99.

Here we have fine, small bubbles with aromas dominated by nutty/yeasty tones. It was also very nutty in the mouth at first but with airing
began to show some apple and pear elements. The nose also opened a bit more and showed some melon and vanilla. It’s delicate, steely and finishes quite dry with good length. It’s a great value at this price point.

Next up at $12.99 was the Spanish Cava Sonim. This sparkler, produced from 40% Parellada, 30% Macabeu and 30% Xarel-lo, three indigenous Spanish grapes, had a much more pronounced leesy/nutty nose with vanilla and herbal tones. In the mouth, the Sonim leans much more to citrusy fruit tones, especially lime zest. It finishes dry and tangy with good persistence. It’s imported by Aviva Vino.

Lastly we tried the $12.99 Italian Prosecco from Zardetto. With this sparkler we found a much more fruit driven nose featuring apricot and melon with the nutty nuance clearly taking a back seat. This may have had something to do with the secondary fermentation occurring in tank as opposed to in the bottle. In the mouth, there was clearly more sweet fruit, again dominated by apricot and white fruits. It finishes long, yet still dry and though it’s not quite as delicate as the Varichon and Clerc, If you like a fruitier style, this one’s for you.

Imported by topnotch importer Winebow, this sparkler is a sure crowd pleaser. If I had to rank them in order of my preference, I’d go with the Zardetto as number one, followed by the Varichon and Clerc and then the Sonim. Still, they are all good values and present excellent examples of sparkling wines that won’t bust your budget. They’ll make great aperitifs to a special holiday meal.

Happy Holidays and as always, cheers!

FoodParc

15 Dec

High end “Food Courts” seem to be growing in popularity. FoodParc takes this to the next level, with a super modern interior where you order (only somewhat successfully) on computers.

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After you order food (or beer from BeerParc), you walk out to a lovely outdoor space in the middle of the city (with a giant screen, that on this day was showing the US Open).

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We decided to sample from a few different stands in FoodParc.  But first, we found out that with a FourSquare check-in, you can get a free drink.  I got a watermelon lemonade that was awesome.

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We started with Fornetti where they serve their pasta on flatbread.  We got the rigatoni bolognese with veal, pork, beef, tomato, garlic, onion and basil.  This was delicious, with big chunks of meat and surprisingly crispy flatbread.  I’m not sure WHY someone would choose to serve their pasta on flatbread, but after eating this, I am surprised more people don’t.  For fast food it was great.

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We also tried the burger from 3Bs (bacon, burger, and beers).  We got the Special, with American cheese, secret sauce, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles and crispy onions.  It was good… but nothing great.

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Lastly, we tried the roast duck bun from Mr. Wong’s Noodles.  It was fine, but lacking in flavors.  I wanted the taste of more duck and it just wasn’t there.  It was fine, but just not great.

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Summary: Get the pasta on flatbread. Yum Yum

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

 

 

Godiva Coffee Sampling

13 Dec

This post is long past due.  I was selected as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program to receive 2 bags of Godiva coffee for free.  I was actually so excited about this one, that I even did my own little photo shoot (thank you to Great Grandma for the awesome scale I inherited).

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I received a bag each of Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Pecan Bark.  Both are awesome.  They are packed with flavor and taste indulgent.  I really loved the Pumpkin Spice since I think cinnamon is awesome in coffee (Mike, who is not a cinnamon fan, also wasn’t a huge fan of this).  The Caramel Pecan Bark, however, is SOOOOO good and we both loved it.  It was smooth and silky and reminded me of when I used to drop a chocolate truffle into a cup of coffee and let it melt.  Mmm Mmm Mmm

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Thank you Godiva!

“What do I make for my Cookie Exchange?” (AKA The Big Dessert Post) – 2011 Update

12 Dec

#1 question that is coming up right now:

“What should I make for my cookie exchange?”

(Funny story… I have never been to a cookie exchange. I do love the concept… trading recipes and eating cookies does sound particularly awesome.  Perhaps I shall host one next year!)

In honor of the holidays… here is a selection of options that I have blogged about in the past that are great for a cookie exchange (with some 2011 updates):


Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars/Cups (cups recipe at bottom of post)

Black and White Cookies

“O” Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cake Balls (they’re almost a cookie)

Homemade Crunchie Bars AKA Chocolate Covered Honeycomb (also not quite a cookie, but I think candy can count for an Exchange)

Chocolate Coffered Toffee with Salt (Candies for Cookies)

 

2011 Update:

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

 

Chestnut Cookies

 

Homemade Salted Caramels (this photo was done in a mold and topped with chocolate)

 

Faux Fudge:

 

Meringue Mini Pies

 

Not into cookies/candies but still need a good dessert?


Peach and Pear Crumble

Key Lime Pie

Pie Variation #1 (Apple, with detailed instructions on making pie crust)

Pie Variation #2 (Cranberry Apple Pie- Prepared Crust)

Berry Belt Cake

 

2011 additions:

Grandma’s Plum Torte

Pumpkin Cheesecake: (and how to water-bathe it)

Drunk ‘N Nutty Pie

Strawberry Shortcake

Confetti Cupcakes with Bailey’s Frosting

 

If anyone does use any of these recipes for an Exchange, just give them this blog URL and ask them to tell all their friends!  K? 🙂

I will continue to add to this post as I post more dessert recipes.  So bookmark it or find it in the “Best of the Best” tab on the title bar.