Archive | May, 2012

Nommin’ Through the Hamptons: 1770 House

31 May

On our last night in Montauk, we found ourselves surrounded by crazy teenagers who crash landed in Montauk for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  After 3 days of so-so eats, we decided it was time to get the hell outta dodge. (Sorry Montauk… I really wanted to like you more).

We drove west and into East Hampton.  The downtown there has a very nice shopping downtown and some lovely neighborhoods off the main drag.  I pulled up the Open Table app on my phone in search of a reservation in the area at a restaurant with good reviews.  I stumbled on the 1770 House.

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We were seated in the downstairs area, which, according to FourSquare tips, is where the “locals” eat.  It had a great intimate feel with some beautiful classic touches.  We also sat facing the back of what must have been a very large oven (see dome below).

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For some reason, I found myself totally enamored with the little lantern on our table.

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As it turned out, 1770 House was also participating in Restaurant Week, so we took full advantage.

Mike got the fried poached egg with spicy ragu.  I couldn’t have the rago, but I was fascinated to try the egg. It was really, really good.

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I got the Crispy Pork Belly with Endive, Honeycrisp Apple, Cilantro & Spiced Yogurt Dressing. It was succulent and charred perfectly.

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For our entrees, Mike got the steak with french fries and Maitre D’ butter. It was charred perfectly and the fries were deliciously crisp.

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I chose something that I, very sadly, cannot remember.  I remember feeling like my mind was blown, but sadly, I cannot figure out what this was.  I remember the sauce was fantastic.  I think I was swooned into la la land so now I don’t remember what it was. Damn.

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For dessert we got a molten chocolate cake that was perfectly sweet and lava-y.

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I got the Sticky Date Cake with Toffee Sauce & Panna Gelato. This was heaven. Pure heaven. 

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It appears that 1770 House does a number of prix fixe specials throughout the year, so you’re in good hands no matter when you arrive.

We really loved our meal here, from start to finish, and would highly recommend it.  The restaurants in Montauk were very underwhelming, but this place could rival some of the best in Manhattan.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Nommin’ Through the Hamptons: John’s Pancake House

30 May

On our 3rd morning in Montauk (after a few other Hamptons meals), we decided to try John’s Pancake House, which is right on main street in the center of town.  It reminded me of the pancake houses on the Jersey Shore. In fact, Montauk reminded me in total of the Jersey Shore, except with fewer teenagers. That is until the Montauk St. Patty’s Day Parade, which is an annual parade a few weeks after St. Patrick’s Day that for some reason magnetizes the teenagers from all over Long Island to show up, drunk, and make a mess.  (It got so bad we actually left Montauk just after the parade ended and the highschoolers descended). 

Anyway… back to John’s.

We were sat at a kitschy (and sticky) breakfast counter due to lack of seating.  The waitresses all look like they have been there forever.

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Mike went with the western omelet.  It was a very classic omelette with very classic breakfast potatoes.

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I got a side of the corned beef hash (which was a huge portion).  The charred side was delicious, though it had some of the gritty texture that makes corned beef hash a bit less than delectable. 

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And I got the banana pancakes.  These were classic pancakes with a bit of banana in them.  Could have used some more banana.

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Overall, John’s is exactly what it looks like.  A run-down, classic diner that has been around forever and serves classic, good-enough food that they have no desire to change.  It’s good fuel, but not exactly a tourist draw.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

Nommin’ Through the Hamptons: Montauk Yacht Club

29 May

It’s Hamptons Week in honor of the official start of summer! If you are going to The Hamptons this summer, check out all the posts from this week to get my recommendation on where to eat (and where not to).

Our second Restaurant Week Reservation was at Montauk Yacht Club.  We had a whole lot of trouble finding it (note: iPhone GPS puts it in a different location than it really is). The restaurant is actually called “Gulf Coast Kitchen” so be sure to follow those signs.

When you walk in, it’s simply beautiful.  Every room had a great look and feel to it.

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The view from our table was across a seating area and to the water.  

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Their menu was pretty good for Restaurant week with 4 selections each for the starters and the mains. 

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Mike chose the Chowder MYC that came with double smoked bacon, local clams, and fresh cream.  This was pretty good with some nice flavor, but one thing I love about chowder is the big pieces of clam and potato.  This was a bit more liquidy than I would prefer, but still quite nice.

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I got the Big Eye Tuna Tartar that came with shallots, Italian parsley, lemon zest, micro truffle salad, and crostini.

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This was gorgeously constructed and was a great combination of flavors.  I didn’t know what micro truffle salad was, but I was expecting something truffle flavor. Unfortunately, there was none.  This was one of those “over-promise and under-deliver” moments.  Had they never mentioned truffles, I would have eaten this happily and been on my merry way. But once the “truffle” was out of the bag, I wanted truffle.  

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For the main, Mike chose the grilled hangar steak with fresh salsa verde, roasted vegetables, and rosemary and sage potatoes.  This had good flavor and the salsa verde gave it a nice touch.

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I got a special that wasn’t on the menu but still counted for Restaurant Week.  It was a pork chop with some greens and potatoes.  Unfortunately, this was a bit disappointing. Not too big on flavor and in need of a sauce.

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The dessert selection included lemon tarts that Mike enjoyed while on his lemon kick.

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I chose the chocolate mousse cake that came with a passion fruit sauce. It was delicious but VERY rich.

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Overall, I enjoyed the Gulf Coast Kitchen at the Montauk Country Club, but I can’t say it was a brilliant meal. For $25 it was a well priced meal, but I’m not sure I can say it was great. The location, however, is stunningly beautiful and probably worth it just for that.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Nommin’ Through the Hamptons: East by Northeast

28 May

Mike and I decided to take a long weekend in Montauk during the off-season.  I had heard lovely things about this town at the end of Long Island and the neighboring Hamptons towns.  We took the train out to Southampton and rented a car (note to self: DO NOT rent a car at Enterprise in Southampton again… WORST RENTAL CAR EXPERIENCE EVER) and then drove the rest of the way to Montauk.  

It happened to be Hamptons Restaurant Week, so we made a few reservations to try the a few of the restaurants in the area. Our first stop was at the very highly recommended East by Northeast.  

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The restaurant is right on the water and in a beautiful location.  We found out that the restaurant ownership company, Fort Pond Bay Company, actually owns a Westchester restaurant that we frequent with Mike’s family in Dobbs Ferry, NY: Half Moon. It had a similar setup with a wall full of windows looking out on the water. 

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The Restaurant Week menu had a good selection of items, and dinner was just $24.50.

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I had a lovely cocktail that was nicely summery.

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We decided to start with something off the Restaurant Week menu: a selection of raw oysters. They put them down in front of us and we noticed something… do you know what it is?

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How well do you know your shellfish?  If you have identified these as clams, you would be exactly right.  The waitress was very confused and flustered, and soon recognized that yes, she had mistaken the oysters for the clams.

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Luckily, that meant free clams for us!  And then out came the oysters.  Even better since they were local.

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Mike chose to start with the Chopped Iceberg Salad with Red Wine Dressing. It was fine.

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I went with the miso mussels with dashi and garlic. These were also… fine.

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Mike went with a special addition to the Restaurant Week menu, a burger with an egg on top.  This was also… fine.

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My main course was Pork Tonkatsu with Coconut Risotto.  It was… fine.

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For dessert, Mike got 2 scoops of ice cream.  It was a bit of a strange concoction. Also… fine.

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I got the Chocolate Pots du Creme.  Which was… you guessed it… fine.

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Overall, our meal was… fine.  It was nothing special, nothing was good but nothing was bad. It was a very forgettable meal with some strange service problems throughout. Perhaps it was because it was the off-season or perhaps they weren’t giving it their all for Restaurant Week, but I was very surprised that a restaurant that came so well recommended was this blah. I’m glad we only paid $25 each for this meal, though our favorite part of the meal was definitely the oysters, which were off the RW menu.  I can’t recommend this place.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

5 Boro PicNYC- Governors Island

26 May

Today, we went to Governors Island for the 5 Boro PicNYC. If you haven’t been to Governors Island yet, you are missing out. We were there for the first time just this past September for Pig Island and I just fell in love with the island.  It’s a beautiful island right off the southern tip of NYC.  You can get there on a 5 minute FREE ferry (no joke… 5 minutes) and it’s filled with history and beautiful buildings.

The Ferry is open Memorial day through the fall, so today was the first day of the 2012 season, and we were on the first ferry at 10am. Ferries leave from the terminal right next to the Staten Island Ferry at 10am, 11am and then every half hour through 7pm. The island is open Saturdays and Sunday as well as holiday Mondays. (There is also a ferry from Brooklyn)

We were there before the PicNYC admission (11:30am) so we explored some of the island before hand. (Post all about the island to follow)

We got on line and went on in at 11:30am.

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The event, like Pig Island, took place on Colonel’s Row, where each vendor is set up in a tent.

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At the center was a tent set up for Jarlsberg Cheese.

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They were serving grilled cheese (one with pork and one with a meatball pate).

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Both were good, but grilled cheese on a grill just doesn’t have the buttery goodness of the grilled cheese I love.

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They also had a cheese dip that included red onions.

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It was surprisingly good, and kind of tasted like “coleslaw with cheese” (quote from Mike).

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While I’ve had Ricks Picks before, I am always up for a good pickle.  The People’s Pickles are my favorite.

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There wasn’t great signage in a lot of restaurants, but many had some sort of “Jimmy’s No. 43” signage on them.

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One of these had “Street Chicken Tacos” which were surprisingly very good.  Basic and delicious.

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I was, of course, out, but Lucky 777 was serving up some chili.

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I guess they were New Orleans themed by the decorations.

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They had 3 varieties: bean, pork, and turkey.

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Mike went with the pork and said it was very good.

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Sixpoint  Brewery was supplying all the beer at the event. Our tickets came with unlimited food sampling and 1 beer ticket. Unlimited beer tickets were available for $20 more, but seeing as though you could get 4 beer tickets for $20 extra, I didn’t think we would be drinking 5 beers that day, so we went with the basic ticket.

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There was an entire section of hot sauce, that I sadly had to skip over.

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One place was serving wings that had a ghost chili sauce on them.  Judging from the reactions around us, these babies were HOT.

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We hit a series of tents all labeled as Jimmy’s 43.

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One was serving kielbasa, that was sadly a bit cold and lacking in flavor.

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But right next to that they were serving my favorite bite of the day: BBQ chicken.

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It had a crispy skin on the outside and juicy chicken on the inside.  The sauce was flavorful without being at all spicy. It was everything that is good about BBQ chicken.

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There was a also a steak in a chimichurri sauce.  The bread wasn’t toasted and it was nearly impossibly to take a bit out of this. I wound up rolling up my steak and popping the whole thing in my mouth.  It was okay.

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They had some stuff for vegetarians… but really not a lot at all. The potato salad looked pretty good.

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As did the cole slaw. But I wouldn’t advise this event for anyone that doesn’t eat meat.

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There was a banh mi assembly line going on, but they were having difficulty getting these out in any efficient fashion.

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And sadly they weren’t that good.  The bread was soft, no crisp at all (an essential to banh mi in my opinion) and the pork was ground rather than in pieces.

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Mine without sauce was even more boring.

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Sausage was a very popular dish, but these were stand outs.  Blood sausage and veal sausage.  They were both very good, but the blood sausage was especially flavorful without being TOO gamey.

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One of the last places we stopped was Peels, and they were offering house-made smoked green garlic and poblano chile (d’oh) kielbasa with pickled cabbage and house mustard.

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I was out, but Mike tried it and said it was VERY good.

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At this point we decided to leave the event for a bit, and we rented bicycles and rode around the island (another post on that adventure soon).  We came back a little over an hour later, got some more beers, and sat and watched the band.  Unfortunately, the ground was a bit damp so we left with soggy bottoms.

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One complaint I have is that there aren’t enough tables/seating at these events. It’s hard to balance a beer and food that requires a knife and fork.

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My final beer selection of the day was the Apollo.  It’s Sixpoint’s wheat beer and I thought it was just perfect for a humid summer day out in the park.

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As we were heading out, we needed something cold. While most food was free, a few vendors did have paid grub. The line for Van Leeuwen Ice Cream truck was a bit too long, so we decided to check out the Wooly’s stand (a Vendy award winner, according to their sign).

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We weren’t sure what it was, but it came from some sort of revolving ice machine thing.

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They only had mango flavor left, and they topped it with strawberries, brownies, and salted leche sauce.

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The only way I can describe it was that it was like ice clouds.  Not a lot of flavor, just sweet (not really mango) but the toppings were great and it was very refreshing on the hot day.

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Overall, I thought the food at PicNYC was just okay.  Too many sausages and not enough variation. For the $25 cost of admission though, it’s hard to be all-you-can-eat food.  I should have just had more of those chicken drumsticks!  Though really, after all that food, I wasn’t left wanting by any means.

I would say that if you had nothing going on tomorrow, it would be a fun day and definitely worth the cost of admission.  Unfortunately, however, they just posted that they are all out of Sunday tickets. So if you have tickets, have a ton of fun!

And definitely make your way to Governors Island this summer!

Cannibal’s Pig Head

22 May

A coworker of mine had passed a sign for Cannibal and, being a smart person, thought it looked enticing. It only got more exciting when he realized that they served an entire pig’s head.  So we went… for lunch.

He sent me the menu and I realized that Cannibal is from the same people that do Resto, and right next door.  I had been meaning to try Resto for some time after hearing great recommendations.  So I was excited to check it out.

Each table has a bowl of almonds and a nut cracker.  Sadly, we were all a bit tentative with the cracker and soon gave up on the pursuit.

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The restaurant is small with a long bar in the center where you can sit on (unfortunately uncomfortable) stools to chow down.  It is decorated in such an eclectic way that I cannot come up with a word to explain it accurately.

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In the back there is an actual butcher.

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With a delicious looking case.

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I love pussy willows, and I love pixie sticks.  What they are doing next to each other as decoration in a restaurant, I have no idea.  But I was digging it.

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They also had some Big League Chew among the high-end culinary ingredients on the shelves.

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The menu consists of “snacks,” charcuterie, and tartares…

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…plates, cheese, and dessert.

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The slow roasted half pig’s head was listed with fennel, honey, and cherry peppers.  I was instantly crushed that I couldn’t eat it, but the chef assured me it was very little peppers.  So I tentatively took some bites… and then just couldn’t stop.

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Holy crap this thing was fan-freaking-tastic.  We picked every last piece off this thing.  There is no clean way to do it, so we just went for it.  And damn… I can’t get over how good this was.  (And at $55, it was a good amount of food that fed 5 of us).

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We also got some additional dishes, including the lamb tartare, which had red onion, capers, harissa aioli, and egg yolk.  I didn’t get to try this due to the harissa, but everyone said it was very good.

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We got a “snack” as well: Pretzel Knödel with sweet mustard.  I’m still not sure what this was, and it was a bit soggy, but it tasted pretty good.  I probably wouldn’t get it again though.

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And then we all decided to have a few nibbles of the pigs head cuban sandwich, which came with head meat, smoked ham, gruyere, and pickles.  This was SO tasty! A great way to taste that delicious head meat without going whole hog (har har har) and getting the full head.   (This is also available through June 1st at Madison Square Eats on 5th Ave and 25th Street)

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They also had some yummy looking cookies in jars on the bar.  So we just had to get one… really… we HAD to… what choice did we have?

And it was 100% fantastic.

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Cannibal also has a cute picnic area out back, where we enjoyed some beers.

I highly recommend Cannibal, especially if the idea of half a pig’s head sounds good to you.  All the food was way above par, fun to eat, and very memorable.  I look forward to bringing many food-lovin’ friends back here soon!

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

The Great GoogaMooga: Food and Music Festival Review

19 May

Today, we went to The Great GoogaMooga, a Food and Music Festival organized by the same people that do Bonnaroo.  It was in Prospect Park Brooklyn and was billed as “An Amusement Park for Food.”  There were two ticketing options, free tickets or “Extra Mooga,” a $250 all-access pass to a special section.  That was all we knew when we logged on to get tickets. After a huge technical glitch leaving hundreds of people trying to get the free passes without tickets (me being one of them), they sent an apology and eventually made it right by sending me codes for the tickets I was owed.  I debated the $250 ticket, but that is a lot of money to swallow for an unknown!

There is another day of the festival (tomorrow, Sunday May 20th), so if you’re going, you should especially read on for tips and advice!

We took the F train to the west side entrance and we were surprised to see no signage about GoogaMooga.  We walked across the park (a good 10-15 minutes) and finally stumbled on it.  I was thrilled to see there was no line to get in, and when we go into the park, it was pretty spread out.

We quickly formulated a game-plan: There were 3 of us, so we decided to get 1 dish at each stand and split everything 3 ways so we would be able to try more things. I highly recommend this system for food festivals! Sharing is caring folks!

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They had different sections set up, and the first one we passed was The Hamburger Experience.  Lines were maybe 5-10 people deep and moving swiftly.  We said we would come back for burgers later in the day.  Sadly, that opportunity never came since it got very crowded later in the day.

One of the first things we realized is that there was NO service in the area… cell phone, text message, internet, WiFi… nothing.  I was bummed because I wanted to live blog pictures on Facebook (I found some service later and got the pictures up).

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Our first stop was at the M. Wells stand for Bologna Foie Gras Grilled Cheese.

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Yes… that says Horse Bologna.  I have to hope that it’s a type of bologna or a brand… trying not to think about it.

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The sandwich was on well toasted bread that held the sandwich together nicely without distracting from it.  The entire thing was VERY rich and some in our party said it was just “too much.”  I thought it was indulgent and a little too delicious.  The flavors were great together, but I’m glad that we split it 3 ways and I only had 2 bites.

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After this sandwich, we needed a drink.  We made our way over to the line where we were to get IDed and pay for a GoogaMooga glass and get some “GoogaMoula,” which was needed instead of cash in the Wine and Beer Tasting Tents.  The line was long, so we left Mike on line and went to get some water.  Upon arriving at the (very long) beverage line, we found out we could get beer at the stand, so we picked up some Blue Moon (a few of their more interesting beers were not yet ready) and went back to meet Mike on line.  It looked like he had moved way up, but, alas, a lot of people had just dropped out of line because they couldn’t get their system up and running.  About 20 minutes later (so a total of about an hour on line), some guy got up on a picnic table and apologized for the system being down and said that it wasn’t coming back up and we should try back in an hour.  Wow… thanks.  Glad we waited on line.

So on we went.

Orbit gum had a number of stands around, and they were giving out hot towels to clean up our dirty hands (along with samples of gum to clean up our dirty mouths).  When I took a pack of gum, the woman gave me a perfectly executed “fabulous.”  Nicely done.

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We made our way to the “Hamageddon” section, which was heavy on the pork stands and the 80s.  They had this great pig sculpture and inside that cage was, indeed, a whole pig on a spit.  Awesome.

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There were a few tempting stands in Hamageddon. Bacon Land instantly caught our eye with their Bacon Flight, but they weren’t ready yet.  They told us it would be another 30 minutes, so we went to the beverage stand to get more beers.  Sadly, even though that line was shorter than most, it was a good 30 minutes online to get beers, so we each got 2 at once.  Double fisting is the way to go!

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We went to the Porchetta stand (a restaurant I’ve been meaning to try for some time) for their porchetta sandwich.

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Porchetta is defined as “[slow] roasted pork with crispy skin, highly seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices, garlic, sage, rosemary and wild fennel pollen. Porchetta is known as having some of the best porchetta in the city (good name choice).

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The sandwich was basic.  Roll + Meat. And it was fantastic.  Packed with flavor and the seasoning was just to die for.  I got a crispy piece and it was damn good.

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Our next stop was Craft (a Tom Colicchio mainstay in NYC), where we got a Dirty Duck Dog.  This was a hot dog made of duck paired with pickled cabbage and black garlic.  It was our favorite nom of the day!  The duck was nice and flavorful and the sweetness from the black garlic was heavenly.  A truly perfect festival food.

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We took a quick trip to the sweet section of Googa Mooga.

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Very appropriately called the Sweet Circus.

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They had a number of favorites, but as we sipped our beers, we decided that our best bet was the Dirtcake at Katzie Guy-Hamilton (of Top Chef Just Desserts Season 2).

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The ingredients really sounded can’t miss.

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And I love that she buried the cups in “dirt” at her stand.  We had ours with whipped cream and extra worms.  It was FANTASTIC.  A nostalgic, updated and even better.

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We also ran into some friends who got the cheesecake bombs from James. I had a nibble and these were decadent and very, very good.

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Our next stop was to divide and conquer Red Rooster (Marcus Samuelson’s Harlem restaurant) and Arancini Bros.

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From Red Rooster, we had Berbere (an Ethiopian spice) Roasted Chicken, which came with orecchiette mac and cheese and a piece of corn bread.  The chicken was very moist and had a lot of flavor (somewhat curry like).  We asked if it had peppers (due to my allergy) and they said no, but we’re pretty sure it did.  The mac and cheese was very tasty.  Though I would probably skip this if I were going again.

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From Arancini Bros, we had Sicilian Rice Balls.

They were a good side, and fried crispy without being greasy or thick.

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One was Ragu with meat sauce and tomato, peas, mozzarella, and safron.  The rice was cooked well and it was full of flavor.

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The other was filled with basil, pesto, mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes.  This one was super duper.  Great flavor, just the right consistence, and the pieces of cherry tomatoes inside were the perfect addition.

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By the time 2pm rolled around, the park went from being pretty open to being shoulder to shoulder packed, with very long lines, and a struggle to find a place to sit in the shade.

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By this time, we noticed a line had formed at the Bacon Flight, so we assumed they were ready to go.  Well… they weren’t.  I’m not sure if people were just on line and waiting or if they were only serving a handful at a time, but the line didn’t move.  We were on it for over 45 minutes.  I grabbed a card while we were waiting and it explained the “flight” of 7 kinds of bacon, each from a different purveyor.

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We finally got our bacon, and matched them up.  They were all pretty good, but VERY greasy and certainly not worth the long wait.  I was especially excited about this one, because come on… a FLIGHT of bacon!  It was a good thought, but not great in execution, both due to the length of time it took to get out and the overall taste once we did get it.  We did REALLY like the Maple Bacon though.  Crowd favorite.

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By this time, we were beyond stuffed.  We walked around for a bit and noticed some amusing signs, including one that showed where the 15 minute wait section of the line was… just like Disney World.

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There was also the Pizza Experience, but we didn’t make it there either.

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And just before we headed out, we caught a glimpse of this hysterical note…

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GoogaMooga was certainly a fun experience, and since it was a beautiful day, some of the annoying things weren’t too bad.   They really did a very good job at advanced planning, but the execution was definitely lacking.  They even made an app, which looked very good, but upon arrival, it didn’t work… and we didn’t have internet to be able to use most of it anyway.  The system not working meant we didn’t get to the beer/wine sampling tents after all, which I’m sure meant for a huge loss of money for those guys.  The lines were just too outrageous by the end, and we wound up leaving by 4pm (so we didn’t see the headlining musical act that night, The Roots).

The initial organization left some things to be desired as well, especially with the ticketing system.  They also didn’t announce the musical line ups until long after they distributed the tickets, and I may have selected the Sunday date had I known that Hall and Oates was playing tomorrow when I had to make the call about which date to go.    Also, they billed the event as being filled with famous celebrity chefs and events… and then weeks later announced that would only be included in the ExtraMooga package (at $250!)

Now a word on ExtraMooga… At $250, it should be pretty outstanding.  And yes, the celebrity chefs were a great incentive for an extra price, but $250 extra?  Seems a bit steep.  And it said it came with free tastings and drinks from a few restaurants (but I’m still not sure if that included all the stands… and they would still have to wait on the long lines even if it did).  One FourSquare tipster mentioned that he was upset that ExtraMooga ran out of food… no bueno!

Sadly, we were just too full and couldn’t try everything.  I would have loved the opportunity to try the soft shell crab sandwich from Vinegar Hill (the line wrapped around half the grounds by the time we got there) and I didn’t get to see if the foie gras donuts from Do or Dine lived up to the hype.

Oh and we all noticed that they did a great job on the number of porta-potties.  You never had to wait on line for the bathroom at least!

So if you are planning on going tomorrow, here are a few tips:

  • Get there early!  I would say as soon as the festival opens (11am) and tackle the food lines you want first thing.
  • Go to the ID booth and get your “Over 21” bracelet.  Some of the beverage stands distribute them as well, so you can kill 2 birds with one stone (Bracelet + Beer).
  • Check if the GoogaMoula is working. If it is, get that first.  The lines all day were hundreds of people long.
  • Get 1 portion of each food and split it with a few people, so you get to eat more.
  • Bring cash. The stands don’t take cards and the ATMs (which are on the grounds) charge $4… thems Vegas prices!
  • There is no cell service, phone nor internet… so if you separate from your friends, have a meeting place and time in mind or work on your smoke signals.
  • Don’t depend on the app to work.
  • Wear sunscreen!  We all got burnt, even though we had sunscreen on.

It WAS the first year… so we expected it to be a bit of a shit show.   Was it too much of a shit show that I regret going? Not at all!  The food is what I was there for, and the food was damn good. And it’s hard not to enjoy a beautiful day in Prospect Park, even if it’s on a long, long line.
Thanks for nomming! Come on over and Like NYCNomNom on Facebook and come back here often for great NYC food updates.

 

GoogaMooga: Live Blogging Today!

19 May

Today I will be live blogging from The Great GoogaMooga Festival: a huge food and music festival in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Some of New York’s best restaurants will have stands and we have the free tickets for today, Saturday.

Want to know if the foie gras donuts are mind boggling? Want to hear about the entire tent of sweets? Stay tuned to the NYCNomNom Facebook page for all-day pictures of the food.

Ember Room: Dim Sum Brunch and Lunch

17 May

UrbanDaddy had a Perk for One Dim Sum Brunch with bottomless Bloody Marys and beer (two-hour max) at Ember Room, a new (at the time) restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen (9th Ave between 45th and 46th Streets) that had Todd English in its pedigree. Don’t mind if I do!

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The decor is eclectic pan asian, with some really nice touches like old fashioned light bulbs, bold artwork, and a beautiful dark wood all around.

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Our Dim Sum brunch came with some varied dim sum, all of which were good… but none of which were outstanding…

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We did enjoy our endless Chang beers.

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The one dim sum I especially like were the shrimp, as it had a whole, sweet shrimp tucked inside.

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We also added some korean bbq beef fried rice onto our order.  It was quite good, but the hot stone bowl wasn’t quite hot enough to char the rice in the way that Korean Restaurants in Koreatown do so well.  Also, it was supposed to be with kimchi, but since I can’t have kimchi, we went without.  It was okay… but I think they rely on the kimchi to give it flavor, so it was a wee bit bland.  It said it came with crispy shallots, which I was especially intrigued by, but they were too small to really notice.

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It was good enough that I was curious about the full menu, so I came back for lunch one day with my coworkers.

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They started with the chocolate ribs, which were slow cooked in a spiced chocolate sauce. Sadly, that sauce included chili, so I was out, but my coworkers scarfed these down.

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We got a side of sauteed chinese broccoli.  Frankly, I prefer the leafy part over the stems, but the oyster sauce on these made them very good.

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I believe this was the thai basil chicken, which was spicy thai basil minced chicken over a fried egg, served with jasmine rice.

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More korean beef fried rice. 

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And I went with the veggie burger, after a good amount of research by the waitress as to what I could, and could not, eat.  

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It came with some sort of soup which was surprisingly flavorful… but didn’t make enough of an impression for me to remember what it was.

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The veggie burger itself was impressive. Tons of flavor, nice texture, and the fried onions on top were quite delicious.  I’m not a veggie burger fan, but this was quite tasty!

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Overall, I enjoyed both meals at Ember Room, but I can’t say I’m running back to try more.  I think it’s a pretty good choice if you’re in the area or looking for a pre- or post- Broadway Theater meal. It is definitely different from the Italian that occupies most of that target market!

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Michael White’s Ai Fiori for Valentine’s Day Part Deux

15 May

Michael White is one of those “celebrity” chefs that I have long heard about but never tried.  Enter Ai Fiori, Michael White’s newest restaurant, centered around pasta, that happens to be just a few blocks from the apartment (400 5th Avenue, between 36th and 37th Streets, in the Setai Hotel).  We were looking for another lovely dinner to surround Valentine’s Day to compliment our meal the weekend before at Annisa (since I was away on business on the actual day), and Ai Fiori couldn’t have been more perfect.

We went for an early dinner and found ourselves alone (but not for long) in the tastefully decorated 2nd floor restaurant.

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Even the table settings were quite lovely.  A waiter confused our table with the one next door and accidentally delivered us glasses of champagne.  I wasn’t sure if it was free (for Valentine’s Day) so there was some confusion.  We sent the champagne back to the table that ordered it, but our waiter wound up bringing us a glass each, on the house, for the confusion.  A lovely touch.

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The crusty, soft, warm bread came out with delicious salted butter and well flavored olive oil.

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Our amuse bouche was small shot of a fruity smoothie.  I cannot remember if this was mango or passion fruit, but it was a nice way to start the meal.

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We chose to do the prix fixe of 4 courses (cominciare / pasta or risotto / pesce or carne / dolce) for $89.

Mike chose to start with the Animelle which was crispy sweetbreads, pomme purée, truffle vinaigrette, and pancetta. It was delicious, delicate, and just the right amount of crisp. It was a $5 supplement charge, and well worth it.

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I chose the Mare e Monte (which, sadly, does not currently appear to be on the menu).  This had a $15 supplemental charge… but hey, it was Valentine’s Day!

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This was diver scallops, celery root, black truffles, bone marrow, and thyme.

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It was rich in all the right ways with complex flavors and sprigs of green to spring it up a bit.  It was decadent and fantastic.

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For our pasta/risotto course, Mike chose the risotto with riso acquarello, duck confit, and hen of the woods mushrooms. This was a perfect blend of flavors. Very rich but not at all heavy.

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I went with the Agnolotti, which was braised veal parcels, butternut squash, and black truffle sugo.

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These were just perfect.  Great meaty flavor inside and the pasta was just thin enough to hold it together.  The bay leaf on top was crisped and slightly sweetened, and tasted great when broken up into the pasta and squash puree. Mmmm mmmm.

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For our carne/pesce course, Mike chose the Agnello, which was rack of lamb en crepinette, panisse, romanesco, and parmesan.  This was simply perfect. The lamb was cooked as well as you can cook a lamb and each piece on this dish was simply delicious, especially the sauce on the lamb.

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I chose the Astice, which was butter poached Nova Scotia lobster, root vegetable fondant, and chateau chalon sauce.  I always struggle when deciding to order lobster, as no matter how good it is, I never find it as good as the lobster pounds in Maine (I’m spoiled rotten… I know), but this one was right up there. All the pieces that came with it just added to a fantastic dish.

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Onto dolce!  Mike chose the Tartaletta which was dark chocolate, red grape, caramelized sherry, and walnut gelato.  I loved this dish, and the grape tasted like a fantastic grape jelly.  It all went together perfectly.

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I chose to go with the Buddino di Limone with hazelnut praline, toasted meringue, espresso gelee, and cinnamon gelato. I was impressed by how architecturally it was belt, with a sheet of caramelized sugar balanced on top of the meringue peaks.

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This was a perfect dessert with great, original flavors.  Really impressive.

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And then out came the petite fours! They were stunningly beautiful…

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… and very, very tasty.  I especially liked this jelly thing… though I have no idea what it was. 🙂

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I knew we were in for a treat when we finally decided to try a Michael White restaurant, but this was out of this world.  I was so impressed by every bite at Ai Fiori, from start to finish.  It’s also very hard to find food this good, with a well-known chef, on a tasting menu with 4 courses for less than $100 (yes… I know that’s crazy…)  I really loved everything we tried and find it very hard to ignore the fact that this restaurant is so close to home. I just want to go again and again.  I definitely want to go back for breakfast, and also try White’s other restaurants (Marea, Alto, Convivio, Osteria Morini and recently expanding to Bernardsville, NJ and many other locations coming soon).

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10