Tag Archives: best of the best

Top Noms of 2012

26 Dec

2012 was an amazing year. We went to some incredibly restaurants this year, so narrowing it down to 10 will be very tough.  It was also an amazing year personally, since Mr. and Ms. Nom Nom got engaged in Maine (where we had quite a few of our Top Noms this year!)

For the Top Noms of years past, check out the posts from 2011, 2010, and 2009.

The Top Noms really comes down to the meals that we found most memorable and enjoyable when we reflect on the past year. It’s hard to compare brunch to dinner in a ranking, but I always think about this as what I would recommend to my friends when they ask me the best places we ate this year, overall.

Away we go:

#10 – Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune was an awesome brunch.  I was dying to go after reading her book, and it lived up to all the expectations and hype (and totally worth the wait). We really need to get back there for dinner.

#9 – Gramercy Tavern was a really great experience. It is known as a top place in New York and it did not disappoint. It didn’t have a dish that really wowed me, but it was a totally solid and great meal.

#8 – Our meal at Sublime in Gladstone, NJ was incredibly surprising.  The apple crisp was out of this world.

#7 – Hugo’s in Portland, Maine was an awesome meal. The tasting menu with the wine pairings really made for a special birthday treat.

#6 – We had a great meal at Boulud Sud while trying to make our way through the Platt 101 of top restaurants in NYC. Everything was memorable, but I can’t stop thinking about the grapefruit dessert that was unlike anything else I have ever had.

#5– While we can’t remember every detail of our meal at Girl & the Goat, it made enough of an impression on us that we had to include it. That Pig Face alone was Top 10 material, maybe of all time!

#4 – Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine was an amazing dining experience. We went because we enjoyed watching the two chefs cook on Top Chef Masters and wound up thoroughly enjoying our meal.  We were impressed with the creative dishes and great flavors.

#3– Anita Lo’s Annisa was a long anticipated meal that lived up to everything we hoped it would be. The dishes tasted so rich and were made with such love, it was hard not to enjoy every single bite.

#2 – Michael White’s Ai Fiori was our first Valentine’s Day stop this year. The pasta was out of this world, and can you really top scallops and bone marrow? Two of my favorite things in one dish.

#1 – Our meal at Eleven Madison Park (Part 1 and Part 2!) was the best one we have ever had ever! It was an adventure, a journey, an experience, and one delicious meal. I can’t imagine anything better. And it got the one and only 10 out of 10 Nom Points in NYC Nom Nom history.

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Special mentions go out to Cannibal for the awesome Pig’s Head, Smush for a great take on dessert, the pasta with the roast drippings (Tajarin with Sugo d’Arrosto) from Manzo, Eventide in Portland Maine for the awesome new take on the lobster roll, and the Tap Room at Colicchio and Sons for continuing to impress everyone we bring there. We also had quite an amazing time at our “secret” Chef’s Table at SD26, since we got to watch them cook while having a chef’s selected meal. I went back with coworkers a few months later, and it managed to impress the hell out of them, too.

What a year!

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The New Champion: Eleven Madison Park- Part 2

13 Dec

Welcome back to our incredible meal at Eleven Madison Park. If you haven’t read Part 1 of our number one meal of all time, please go back there and come back here when you’re done!

So where were we?

Oh yes… we had just had some salsify and realized our cocktails were, sadly, empty.  So it was time for wine (while I was tempted by the wine pairing, I was nervous that I would be too drunk at the end to really enjoy and remember the meal… so we went for a bottle instead).  We told the sommelier that our favorite white wines were Vouvray and Russian River Chardonnay.  He mentioned that we had diverse flavors and we discussed trying something that was interesting. He recommended we try a WHITE Rioja. I hadn’t heard of a white Rioja, but we were game.  It came in netting. How fun!  

The wine tasted great and complimented the whole meal well. Must keep white Rioja in mind!

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But now… back to the meat grinder!

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We were soon given a tray of a whole bunch of mini bowls.  From left to right and top to bottom, there was an apple mustard, sunflower seeds, quail egg, dried blue fish, chives, whole grain mustard, horse radish, apple, and salt (the same special salt as before). In the little squeeze bottles were an apple oil and the other was a horse radish oil of some kind.

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It was also served with slices of rye bread.

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But what was going into the meat grinder?  Never would have expected this…

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Fresh New York carrots were ground for us right at the table into “carrot tartare.”

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It made a great consistency that was neither mushy nor crunchy, but exactly the same texture as tartare. How interesting!

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You then mix in however much of anything you want and enjoy.

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I really enjoyed the taste of the quail egg with the carrot.

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Our next course was one of my absolute favorites. It was lobster with poached leeks, black onion, and a shellfish bisque. I also think one of the waiters mentioned it had black garlic in it (one of my favorite flavors). This was everything right.  The leeks had a delicious char flavor and the lobster was so sweet and flavorful.  It all went so well together and I couldn’t believe how elevated this dish was. (Come on! How do you possibly elevate LOBSTER?! Amazing!)

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As we were finishing up, we were presented with our 140 day aged beef.

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And we saw the duck (that we didn’t choose) presented to the table next door. It was lavender and honey coated.

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While we awaited our beef, we were presented with a roasted parsnip with sesame, parsley, and dijon.  It had a parsnip chip on top.  I am not a huge parsnip fan, but this was a really fantastic presentation and all the textures made it very interesting. I was impressed that a parsnip could be made to taste this good.

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Once we finished our parsnip, a bowl of magic was put in front of us.  I cannot do justice to the smell (and taste) that came from this bowl. It was an introduction to the flavors we would be having next, a beef broth made with the same seasonings as our next course. It was a nostalgic flavor that brought me immediately back to my Great Grandmother’s kitchen. It was a memory I didn’t even know I had. Smell is a magical thing.

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After our incredible broth, we were given our beef course.  It was grilled with mushrooms (the likes of which was a variety I have never seen), amaranth, and arugula.  The amaranth is a tiny North American grain that was toasted and added a perfect little crispiness to this dish.  It was served with a sauce with the same flavors as the broth.

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On the side was a braised oxtail with foie gras and potato.  The oxtail was the texture of short ribs and incredibly rich in flavor.  The foie gras and the potato had such a great flavor, and it was all a bit reminiscent of a (brilliant) shepherds pie with that potato/meaty combo.

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The rib eye steak itself was absolutely incredible.  Charred and perfectly cooked, with an amazing sauce.  Every bite made me do the “happy belly dance.”

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What came next was one of my favorite parts of the whole meal. It started with a porcelain plate that perfectly resembled a paper plate.

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And then out came a mystery basket they called a “Greensward.”  

They said everything we would need was in the basket, except we may need a bottle opener, which they provided.

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We took a peak

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Inside was a beer, a soft pretzel, cheese, grapes, and plum mustard.  

I commented that the restaurant was like Christmas, because you just got to keep opening up presents.

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The beer was a special brew from Ithaca Beer Co. and we really enjoyed it. It was perfect with everything.

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I went to Ithaca College and always liked this brewery. I’m so glad it’s growing and now showing up all over the place in NYC!

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The plum mustard was a bit much for me (not a mustard fan), but Mike liked it.

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The cheese was served inside a mystery box…

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… and the cheese smell when you opened it was awesome.

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The grapes and pretzel went perfectly with the cheese and beer.  It was just a perfect picnic basket and totally FUN!

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After we were done with our picnic, they wheeled over a cart and started mixing up their take on the egg cream.  It was made with vanilla malt and fresh seltzer right in front of us.

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I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a real egg cream, but I can tell you that I never have had, nor probably will ever have again, an egg cream as good as this. It was a little glass of heaven.

It was a great conversion from our savory courses to our desserts. 

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Our first dessert came out and looked like autumn on a plate. It was poached pear with honey and acorn. (Acorn?) I don’t know what acorn tastes like, but if that was what we ate, I think I want to be a squirrel.

This was perfect. Everything I could possibly want. Totally my kind of dessert. I absolutely loved this combination.

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And then we had some excellent coffee.

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And started our last course: sheep’s milk cheesecake and port with walnut ice cream. I really loved the walnut ice cream. It was very mildly walnut flavored, but identifiable so.  The port and the cheesecake mixed so well with everything.

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And then Mike cheated.

He noticed that the plate below his dessert was moving around and he lifted it to find a little chocolate in a dish below.

At which point our poor waitress (noticing he made this discovery) ran over (with grace) and asked us to cut a deck of cards. She spread them out and then did some magic and gave us each a card.

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Mike’s card was blackberry… 

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…which was MYSTERIOUSLY the chocolate he had discovered.

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Mine was espresso…

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…which was my chocolate (surprise!)  What a novel and fun way to end such a novel and fun meal!

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And then our meal ended just how it began… with a perfect little pastry box all tied up.

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And inside was another set of black and white cookies, but these were of the sweet variety.  They were apricot and something else, but Mike’s handwriting (he was the note taker for this meal while I photographed) is unreadable at this point (I’m blaming the booze!)

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But then… there was one more.

It started with this homemade apple brandy being placed on our table, with the comment that we could drink as much of it as we wanted… I really enjoyed it, but damn was it STRONG! I only had a couple sips, but I enjoyed it.

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And then out came two perfect chocolate covered pretzels to end the meal.

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We marveled over the incredible adventure of a meal we just had. It was such a journey filled with fun surprises and every single bite was fantastic.  Usually tasting menus are filled with a few memorable bites and some other things you don’t remember.  Even the best ones.  Even a couple days later, we still have moments where we recall a whole bunch of courses from the meal and marvel at how amazing they were.

When the bill came, our server informed us that they had taken the drinks off the bill because they were late. I was really impressed that they went to this level of service to remove the cocktails.  But upon reflect, I think they might have taken the cocktails AND the bottle of wine off the bill.  I almost feel bad about it, because I’m not sure if they meant to do that. I have no idea! 

The service from start to finish was fantastic. There was only the 2 little blips with the cocktails being delayed a bit and then the one egg dish coming out without a description, but I can hardly remember those when put in light of the rest of the meal. Our server, specifically, was impeccable in every way.

As we stood up to go, we were given two cute little boxes to take home.

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In our little boxes was a sweet note for a Happy Anniversary.

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And 2 chocolates to take home. (We ate these a few days later and HOLY CRAP! They were so insanely good. It was like a spark of the meal we had and brought back all those awesome memories).

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Then a final bag with a jar of the chef’s favorite breakfast granola for the next morning.  (It is probably the best granola I’ve ever had and I just love when a restaurant sends me home with something awesome for the morning)

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What an amazing meal! I don’t know if I could say it enough. It was just freakin’ fantastic.

And we had no doubt as we left that it was the best meal we’ve ever had.

WD-50 has been our Number One restaurant for 4.5 years (even after a 2nd try!) and I really didn’t think anything could possibly top that.

But Eleven Madison Park topped them all.

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go immediately to Eleven Madison Park for the meal of a lifetime. (Okay… maybe save it for a special occasion, but GO!)

And I am giving it a perfect 10.

Total Nom Points:  10 out of 10

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The New Champion: Eleven Madison Park- Part 1

11 Dec

I really love the tradition that Mike and I have of treating each other to really awesome dinners for special occasions.  I took on our anniversary this year and made sure to get a reservation 30 days in advance (I set my alarm for midnight to do it) at Eleven Madison Park. I took the day off of work (and Mike a half day) to be able to have a 16-course, 4 hour lunch here.  (Yes! 16-courses!)

Mike had no idea where we were going until we pulled up in front of the restaurant. 

I had been wanting to visit Eleven Madison Park for a long time, having read about the amazing meals there. I was hoping it would be in the top 10, but I didn’t expect what we got… the new NUMBER ONE. This was the meal of a lifetime. The best meal of my lifetime.  In fact, it was so grand, it wouldn’t fit in 1 post. So I had to split it into two parts.

We arrived to greetings by name and a warm wish for a Happy Anniversary (they had asked if it was a special occasion when I confirmed the reservation a few days prior).  They took our coats (and we realized a bit later that they didn’t give us a tag for them) and showed us to our table, which had a card sitting on it, wishing us a Happy Anniversary and thanking us for choosing EMP for this special occasion. 

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The restaurant itself is quite grand, with very high ceilings. It looks like it has not changed in forever, yet was somehow modern.

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I loved the murals on the wall and the general clean aesthetic of the dining room.

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And I’m glad we went for lunch, when we had a lovely view of Madison Square Park right next door.

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The sixteen courses are all a surprise, and you only get one choice.  Beef or duck.  We chose beef.

And then… the adventure began…

With a classic pastry box.

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Inside was EMP’s take on the classic New York Black & White Cookie. This one was a savory version made with apple and cheddar cheese.  The moment I took a bit, I knew we were in for an amazing treat. These were the perfect balance of everything, and in such a novel delivery.

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Bite number two was a Long Island oyster with wood sorrel and mignonette snow and crispy buckwheat.  A perfect treat of an oyster, with things that complimented it without taking away from the flavor of the oyster.

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Bite number three was a cranberry snow with beets, goat cheese, Greek yogurt, and caraway.  It was very refreshing and a nice balance of tart and sweet.  As a beet lover, I enjoyed this dish, but Mike said it was his least favorite dish of the meal… not that it was bad, but just because everything else was that much better.

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Course number four was sea urchin custard with shellfish ragout and apple espuma (foam).  It was a great balance of flavors, with a seriously seafood taste balanced perfectly with the apple.

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We were starting to get curious where our drinks were, since we ordered them when we first sat down and we were now already 4 courses in.  They came with sincere apologies that the bar got slammed, and we were soon sipping away on a Lafayette for Mike (Scotch, Cynar, East India Solera Sherry, Chambéry Dry Vermouth, Maple Syrup). Mike thought it was extremely well balanced with a nice oaky nose.

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And a Sleepy Hollow for me (London Dry Gin, Amaro Abano, Chambéry Blanc Vermouth, Apple Cider, Spiced-Pumpkin, Lemon, Egg White). I thought it was an awesome drink, with a perfect balance of sweetness and alcohol, with that excellent egg white foam.

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Course number five was, at first, a big mystery. This was a strange misstep in service. Since the full tasting menu is a surprise, you don’t know what you are getting until they put it in front of you and describe it. We had a server (who we only saw once during the meal) put these lovely eggs in front of us and then… leave. Not a word.  We sat for a few moments, not knowing what to do, taking in a delicious smoky smell.  It became too much, so we had to dig in with our little spoons.   The egg was creamy and delicious, and we got a smoky flavor that we were trying to identify before we heard the description… we thought it might be smoked ham, but we weren’t sure. We stopped a server to ask what we were eating, and she told us what it was: egg sabayon with chive oil. It had pieces of smoked sturgeon in the bottom. Delicious.

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This little blip in service was quickly recovered.  As we tried to get every morsel out of that egg shell, a beautiful cloche filled with smoke was put on our table with the instructions that it was still cooking and not to lift the lid.

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At this point, they put in front of us a plate with everything bagel crumbles, quail egg, and a baby romaine salad.

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They then put down a jar of homemade mini pickle spears.

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Two slices of thin rye toast.

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And a jar of caviar and cream cheese. 

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And then, they lifted the lid.

The amazing smell of wood smoke took over all my senses and Mike and I immediately said to each other that it is one of our most favorite smells.

On top was smoked sturgeon (complimenting the egg course before).

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We scooped out the cream cheese and caviar and made our own little bites of deliciousness.

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At this point, the Maitre D’ came over to say hello and then… invited us into the kitchen for a quick tour and a drink.

Don’t mind if I do!

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We walked into the front part of the kitchen where a little table was set up. He told us about how the kitchen operates (they use no computers, everything is figured out by the Executive Sous Chef and Expediter and they write down the times of every course to determine the pace at which people are eating.  We discussed how good service should mean that you never notice its there. You should never wait too long nor feel rushed.

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He then told us about how the pastry and cocktail teams came together to figure out a fun cocktail for this kitchen service. One of the pastry chefs came to make it right in front of us (WHAT FUN!)

They came up with a new spin on a 1920s, Prohibition style cocktail. It had gin, grapefruit, and pop rocks in it.

First, she used liquid nitrogen to freeze the gin.

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Then more liquid nitrogen to make a ball of grapefruit foam into a ball that resembled a meringue consistency (but cold).

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Then she added some grapefruit.

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Some other stuff that I don’t remember but tasted damn good.

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The frozen gin.

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Then pop rocks. (YUP! Pop Rocks!)

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And then the ball of frozen grapefruit foam.

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You “drank” this with a spoon, that you used to crack into the grapefruit ball.

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It all mixed together so well, and the pop rocks made for such an interesting and fun experience. (I can’t call it a drink… it was really an experience)

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The Executive Sous Chef, Bryce Shuman, also came by to chat with us for a bit.  He told us that they have nearly a 2 to 1 ratio of staff to diners during lunch and nearly 1 to 1 during dinner. This helps make the service totally flawless.

It was so exciting to be in that kitchen.  

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They even offered to take a picture of us in there (while joking that we probably would only want pictures of the food… which I couldn’t argue with… but figured we would make an appearance for this special occasion).

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On the way out, I took a photo of the butter station, which the Maitre D’ appreciated that I appreciated.

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And just like that… we came back to butter on the table.

On the right was a cow’s milk butter and on the left they mixed that same butter with beef compound.  The salt in the center was a special salt that the chef loves (it was very, very good).

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I was so curious about the meat butter.  It was actually similar in taste to bone marrow (which I jokingly call “meat butter”) and it was something I was very curious to try.  

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I loved the flavor but it needed the salt to cut through the greasiness a bit. I liked it in small doses, but wound up using more of the regular butter.

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The bread was almost a roll, almost a croissant.  It was the best of both worlds.  Buttery and flaky. We enjoyed making a mess of crumbs with that bread. It was delicious.

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Our next course (at this point… I don’t even know what number we hit), was salsify roasted with bulgur wheat, mangalitsa ham, and hazelnuts.  They told us that the ham was a special ham… and it certainly tasted special.  This was a nice combination of textures and flavors and had a nice freshness that went well after the bread and butter.

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What was next? The table next door was a hint since they were 1 course ahead of us.  What on earth was a meat grinder doing on the table?

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You will just have to read Part 2 to find out!

Hugo’s: Portland, ME (AKA Birthday Dinner Take 2)

13 Nov

I was very fortunate to be able to spend my actual birthday weekend in Maine.  We were there to find a wedding venue (more on that at this blog) but we managed to squeeze in some really great meals.  On my actual birthday, we went to Hugo’s, one of the restaurants that put Portland, Maine on the map of foodie towns. Hugo’s is actually owned by the same people as Eventide, where we went the day before, and set the stage quite well for this meal (and happens to be right next door).

This restaurant is decorated very simply but elegantly, without being too fancy. 

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I especially enjoyed the single stem rose on the table with the pinch bowl for salt.

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We started with some signature cocktails, which were insanely good.  Mike got the PDT’s, which was a Bacon Bourbon Old Fashioned with bacon infused bourbon, maple, orange, and Fee Bros. old fashioned bitters. I got the Marmalade Sour which was with tequila, burnt orange, and lime.  Original and delicious.

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They placed these homemade biscuits with garlic and potato flour on the table and they just smelled great. It was served with hand churned butter and everything had perfect texture. 

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A delish bite.

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We went with the tasting menu and sprung for the wine pairings.

Our first course was pickle herring with mustard seed and potato crisp paired with a Spanish sparkling wine. I thought it was very fresh and not the mustard seeds were not overpowering (I’m not a mustard person and find that it distracts me from flavors usually).

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And the wine was perfect with it.

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Course two was fluke mousse medallions with cauliflower purée and quinoa arugula broth. This tasted very “green” and was served cold. It wasn’t so much mousse as it was pâté.  I really loved it, but Mike wasn’t a huge fan.  

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Course 3 was a lobster beet salad with orange purée, baby kale, and pecorino. The dish was light and flavorful. The acid of the vinaigrette cut the greenness of the beets and the wine went exceptionally well. There was a bit of a lemon candy flavor that complimented everything very well.

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Course 4 was grilled yellow fin tuna from Massachusetts.  It was delicious tuna tartar with maitkai mushroom purée, hajji, and chili oil… As the server went to put this down in front of me, he immediately noticed the chili oil in mine and took it back to the kitchen.  It was very quickly replaced. This dish was pretty damn awesome.  The waitress told us that she was actually a bit excited that the kitchen screwed mine up so she could try it.  And the wine pairing? Perfection. 

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Our last savory course was a duo of chicken. The red wine that was paired with this was absolutely awesome.  We found that the souvied dark meat was much better than the breast. The sauce reminded us of kasha and was very nice with it.

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For dessert, we were served a moscato which was an absolutely great glass of wine.

Out came a lime sorbet with watermelon gele, mint melon balls, and prosciutto.  It was a very good palette cleanser and everything went incredibly well together.

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By this time, we had been drinking enough that I forgot to take a picture of the corn gelato with tomato sweet jam basil and popcorn. We think… the notes got blurry here as well.

This was served with DuPont cider.  The best way I could think to describe it was that it tasted like hay… in a REALLY good way. The sweet corn gelato was absolutely awesome. I also really liked the corn cake and tomato but Mike thought it tasted like home made corn pops (he didn’t mention whether this was a good thing or a bad thing).  When I got a little bite of everything together it was absolute bliss.  I actually wrote down that it was one of my favorite bites… ever.   

We then had some little treats, but we were just too stuffed (okay… and drunk) to write it down or remember what it was. Whoops. Note how blurry the picture is as well.  Whoops x2.

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I absolutely LOVED our meal at Hugo’s. I was incredibly impressed and felt this could rival many meals we have had in the past in NYC.  It also made us realize that we enjoyed this meal (especially some of the innovative touches) even more than Jean George’s. I highly, highly recommend a visit if you’re in Portland, Maine.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

Smush: “The NY Deli of Desserts”

29 Oct

Just across the street from Bryant Park, there seems to be a collection of dessert shops opening up.  A chocolate store opened up a few months ago, and then a few signs popped up for various dessert places, including what looks like it will be a patisserie and, of course, Smush.  Smush bills itself as “The NY Deli of Desserts” and is decked out in neon signs and fun art.

They have signature sandwiches to choose from.

Or you can make your own by choosing a cookie, spread, toppings, and ice cream.

They have a display of their cookies to choose from.

We showed up right at closing time, and while they were all but closed, they offered to stay open to make our Smushes. They only had 2 flavors left: pumpkin and french toast.  I signed right up for the pumpkin while Mike went for the french toast.

They even make their own ice cream here, which was individually wrapped and ready to be smushed.

Our Smush man made our sandwiches.

I went with nutella, pretzels, and vanilla ice cream on my smush.

Mike went with bananas and vanilla ice cream on his french toast cookie.

And the verdict?

SOOOOO good!

The cookies were perfectly done, soft enough to be enjoyable yet hard enough to be a perfect conduit for everything in between.  The ice cream was equally perfect for immediate eating.  And the pretzels I added to mine were a great salty crunch.  I love being able to choose all the ingredients and flavors to suit my mood. And the fact that it tasted great and was the perfect texture all the way through left me recommending Smush to just about everyone in the area.

And when I picked up the paper underneath after finishing my Smush, I noticed a little smart touch. A wet nap at the very bottom.

Overall, Smush was much better than expectation and we really enjoyed it.  A perfect snack for after dinner, before or after a Broadway show, or basically anytime you have a hankering for something sweet in midtown.

I would really like one right now, actually!

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Maine Cubed: Portland- Pomegranate Inn

26 Jun

 When we were in Portland, we decided to stay at a quaint, quirky Bed & Breakfast called the Pomegranate Inn.  The Inn itself was like being in a very eclectic museum.  Our room was the “small” room but it was plenty large enough, with a beautiful design, super comfy bed, and lovely bath. Perhaps it’s because we’re New Yorkers who are used to small size, but I was surprised that this room would ever be considered small. We loved it! Here are some pictures of the inn itself.

In the morning, we went downstairs for breakfast in the lovely dining room.  Our hosts greeted us and we grabbed some coffee and checked out the menu for the morning while our food was prepared.

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The port wine poached pear was awesome. And the blue cheese could not have gone better with it.

But then the cheese blintz souffle came out… HOLY COW.  This was as delicious as it was beautiful, if not more so.  The bacon was crisp (the way I like it) and it had absolutely delicious peaches.  The souffle itself was a cross between a fluffy pancake in texture and a blintz in flavor.  Sensational.

This dish was so inspired that I actually wound up buying the innkeepers cookbook, The Art of Breakfast. If you love beautiful works of art for breakfast, this cookbook is great.


We absolutely loved our stay and wished we could have stayed longer.  I highly recommend this B&B to anyone staying in Portland, ME.

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

Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune

11 May

I really love books written by chefs about their adventures in food. Anthony Bourdain was my first and made me fall in love with reading about the inner workings of restaurants and chefery.  I read somewhere that HIS favorite food book was Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton and I quickly made the purchase on my Nook (ps- I love that thing… never thought I’d want anything besides a real book, but I have read more in the 6 months I’ve had it than the entire last 3 years combined).

I absolutely loved the book, and was especially excited to read the section about her starting a restaurant in NYC.  A restaurant I had been meaning to go to for quite some time: Prune.

We were going to go for Valentine’s Day, but then I was called out to LA for a work meeting, so we had to cancel that reservation. A few weeks later, on an idle weekend with nothing to do, we made our way down to the East Village and put our names on the list for brunch.  They don’t take reservations for brunch, and I was expecting a long wait. We decided we would stroll the neighborhood for a bit, but when they told us it would be just 45 minutes, we made it a quick stroll.  We came back 20 minutes later and were seated less than 10 minutes after that.  Lovely!

What I first noticed was that Prune is SMALL.  Even smaller than what I imagined from what she described in the book.

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We started our brunch with cocktails.  While Prune is known for their Bloody Mary’s, I don’t drink vodka (long story) and I’m allergic to peppers… So that pretty much eliminates me from the Bloody pool.  I went with some refreshing, citrusy cocktail that I can’t remember a thing about, other than that I really enjoyed it.

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Mike, on the other hand, was all over trying one of these famous Bloodys.  The menu of Bloody Mary’s is quite big and quite original (scroll down to the bottom here to see).  Mike chose the Chicago Matchbox, with homemade lemon vodka, pickled brussels sprouts, baby white turnips, caperberries, green beans, and radishes.

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 It was beautiful, and he was a big fan. He never really drinks Bloody Mary’s, but after this one, he has been trying more and more.

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For noms, Mike got the steak and eggs, which was a 7 oz. prime newport steak, grilled with parsley shallot butter and 2 eggs (he went sunny-side up) witha toasted english muffin and potatoes rosti.  This was SO good. The steak alone could rival any of the best steak restaurants in the city. Everything was cooked perfectly.

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I chose the dutch style pancake.  It was one individual pancake cooked in the oven, with pears, served with canadian bacon and potatoes rosti.  This thing was DELICIOUS.  The pancake was super fluffy with a bit of crisp on the outside.  It was sweet, but not too sweet, and had great flavor with the batter and the pear.  I thoroughly enjoyed this… probably more than any other pancake I’ve ever had.

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We walked away from Prune incredibly impressed.  The atmosphere was great, the drinks were great, and the food was great.  I love brunch, but find a lot of times it’s all the same. Here, it was brunch anew.  I cannot wait to go back and try more!  

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Anita Lo’s Annisa for Valentine’s Day

26 Apr

We had been wanting to try Anissa for a long time. We had watched Anita Lo on television (Top Chef Masters most notably) and she was one of the chefs that made my mouth water every time she presented a dish.  We went to Rickshaw Dumpling Bar (her more casual restaurant in NYC) and her dessert soup dumplings were unreal.  But her fine dining restaurant, Anissa, was really where I wanted to go.  Unfortunately, there was a fire at Anissa a few years ago and it closed down.  So when it reopened, it hit the “someday” list.  Valentine’s Day weekend 2012 was finally that “someday.”

My first impression was that this place was VERY small.  It was intimate without being on top of each other.  I’m pretty sure the restaurant seats less than 20 people at a time.

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It’s the little things about a restaurant for me, and these perfect butter ribbons were just delightful.

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We decided to go with the 7-course chef tasting with the wine pairings.

Our meal started with an amuse bouche of egg salad with cured salmon tartlet.  It was a nice bite and the shell was a perfect crisp.

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Course one was ceviche of fluke, black lime, and green daikon. It was paired with a Sauvignon Blanc: St. Bris Burgundy, France – 2010.

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This tasted perfectly fresh and citrusy. It has a small salty element. Totally delish.

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Course 2 was a Hudson valley duck foie gras with soup dumpling and balsamic. This was paired with Riesling Kabinett -Gunderloch, Rheinhessen, Germany – 2010.  This wine was PERFECT with this dish.

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I was nervous about my peppers allergy, but they defined this as “Sechuan” but I wound up being fine. Very slightly tingly, but worth it. This had great, deep, rich flavor.

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The flavors were so good, in fact, that I tipped my bowl into my spoon while no one was looking… just to get every last drop I could.

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Course 3 was a Miso Black Cod with crispy tofu and bonito broth (I think that’s what she said?)  This was paired with Wakatake Junmai Sake from Shizuoka, Japan.

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There was roe in the broth, which was a nice surprise.  The cod was awesome, and potentially the best I have ever had. I’m not a huge fan of tofu, but even that was great.  I have no idea what the green things in it were (see photo below) but they added great texture.  The tofu itself wasn’t at all crispy, but it was delicious.  Almost polenta-like in texture.

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Our next course came out, and while I wrote it down, it appears I forgot to take a picture of it (Whoops!)  It was grilled arctic char, dill, char mousse, cabbage leaf, and lemon something.  It was paired with Bourgogne Blanc, Domaine Amiot- Servelle from Burgundy, France 2008. This had multiple elements on the plate, so you could choose how much of each you wanted in each bite, or all of it.  Everyone went great together, especially the mix and match of the lemon and dill flavors.  The wine also went perfectly with it.  Awesome.

Course 5 was grilled wagyu, green garlic, chives, escargot, mushrooms with granache. It came with Bandol- Domaine Le Galantin- Provence, France, 2008.  Below the meat there was a piece of brioche that sucked up juices/sauce and made for such a flavorful bite.

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Our next course was a cheese course. It came with some great, nutty bread.

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And I dove in so fast to the cheese that, again, I forgot to take a picture. But I snagged one at the very end.  I took some very short-hand notes: “Chèvre de Argental: sheep, raw cow from Austria, raw cow from Vermont, goat cheese from France, cremesco from Italy, a blue from New York. It was paired with Churchhills White Port- Portugal.  White port is sooooo good with cheese.

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Course 7 was a coupling of 2 desserts, both of which came with Muscat de Beaumes-de Venise, Rhone, France 2009.

The first dessert was a pecan beignet with butter rum sorbet. The sorbet good but icy. The entire dessert was very messy, but tasted awesome.

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The second dessert was a poppy seed cake with Meyer lemon.

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It reminded me in flavor of lemon meringue.

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At the end, we were served Petit Fours: coconut popsicles, candied ginger, and piece of chocolate.

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The popsicles were especially fun and deliciously filled with coconut flavor.

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The whole meal was exceptionally well paced with very good service. Every dish was solid. I can’t say there was one that stood out as an awesome dish that topped all other awesome dishes, but the meal as a whole was incredibly good and memorable as a whole.  It certainly did not dissapoint. One of the tops of all time.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

Eataly’s Birreria: Oktoberfest and Birthdayfest

23 Feb

It’s Eataly Week!

In the last few months, we went to Eataly twice, for two different occasions.

The first was Oktoberfest, which we got exclusive tickets for from Gilt City.  The package included a meet and greet with Joe Bastianich, a tour of the  brewing facilities with brewmaster Brooks Carretta, a brief lesson on brewing, a reception with communal antipasti and beer, a seated family-style Oktoberfest supper with Italian Alpine fare and beer pairings, and a six-pack of beer for each guest to take home.

The brewery at Eataly is a small room where they put together some very different microbrews.  The brewmaster, Brooks, was very informative not only about the brewing process, but also about what makes the Eataly microbrews unique and talked about what new batches were coming up.

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We tried a few beers, and very much enjoyed them.  The Thyme beer was especially delicious.

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Then Joe Bastianich came in and welcomed us to Eataly/Birreria and basically told us to have a good time.

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We sat back down and started chowing down on some great Oktoberfest items.  We especially enjoyed the whole roasted maitake mushrooms, pecorino, sardo creme, and roasted brussels sprouts. Awesome.

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Then a few weeks later… we were back.  My sister has recently expanded her food horizons.  She was the kid that ate chicken nuggets and Kraft macaroni and cheese growing up.  The idea of a mushroom, sausage, or basically anything with unique flavor was repulsive to her.  So when I found out that she was opening up her food spectrum, I was quick to suggest Birreria as a great place to try some new things.

We started with the charcuterie and… gasp… Stacey ate meats.  CURED meats!  I was shocked.

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We ordered the maitake mushrooms again, because they were so good the last time.

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And we got the fried shiitake mushrooms with sage. I LOVE these mushrooms. They are incredibly delicious.

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We also ordered the the pork shoulder which is made with beer and apricot. It was tender and just plain delicious.

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We ended with the bisteca con salsa verde, which was a skirt steak with salsify, green onion, and salsa verde.  It had great char on it, which a touch of salt that just made it stand out.

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I love Eataly. And I really love Birreria.  I haven’t had a bad bite there, and everyone that has been there with me has really enjoyed it. Plus… it’s the first place I saw my picky little sister eat a mushroom.  A true game changer.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10