Tag Archives: brussels sprouts

Guest Blog: Mas (Farmhouse)

1 Feb

I work in a field where I get to meet a lot of really great people. It isn’t rare that I find someone who loves food as much as I do, but to find a kindred spirit who thinks about it night and day and loves nothing more than talking about it is unique.  When I sat down next to Alexis at a lunch, we were excitedly chatting about her recent meal at Mas (Farmhouse) almost immediately, with her showing me pictures on her phone.  Kindred spirit… check!

It has come to my attention that, disappointingly, I cannot visit every great restaurant in the world, let alone in NYC on my own.  So I am thrilled that Alexis agreed to guest blog about her Mas (Farmhouse) dining experience.

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From Alexis:

I recently started working closer with Sara and when we recently dined together at Millesime, we quickly realized we shared two major passions in life; food and Words with Friends.  I actually mentioned to my husband that these are the only two things I needed in life, he was a bit taken back that I didn’t include him in my list, but hey, I thought that was a given.  My passion for food has transpired over the last few years and I am known to be eating lunch while reading menus for dinner, tomorrow’s dinner, next week’s dinner, you get the point!  I have a self proclaimed eating disorder, where I go to sleep dreaming of food and wake up the same way.  Harnessing this issue has been a problem, so when I was given the opportunity to guest blog, I realized that this may be the perfect outlet for my infatuation. Here goes it…

Mas (Farmhouse)

This past weekend my husband and I went for dinner with another couple.  Of course I read the menu in advance, but I must say the menu doesn’t read as well as the food looks and tastes. Also, despite the waiter’s best effort to showcase the culinary offerings as “custom”, we were a bit overwhelmed by the variations in which you can order; 4 course tasting; 7 course tasting; create your own tasting; a la carte.  We decided to order a la carte but collaborated and shared so we could taste more dishes.  This is always the way I (try to) order despite some people not always in agreement. There’s always that stinker who “doesn’t like to share”… Hate those kinds of people….

Diving right into it…. We were greeted with an amuse-bouche – I didn’t get the exact description, my first blogging error, but don’t hold it against me! – Goat cheese tartlet with caramelized onion and some kind of gelee and micro greens?!

It was truly fantastic and a perfect bite to get our palates going.  I could have easily eaten at least three more of these little tastes of heaven …

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For our Appetizer course, I rallied up the troops to each get something different… I love duck, especially confit style, so I was excited about my selection: Duck Confit Tart with Espresso Gastrique; Apple Butter, Sliced Pears & Mâche Lettuce. The portion size was really nice for one, and actually just enough to give everyone at the table a taste, albeit a small taste as I realized quickly how delicious this sucker was after my first bite ;). The blend of flavors and ingredients in this dish were incredible, and again I would’ve loved to supersize it into an entrée!

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My husband ordered the Yellowfin Tuna l’Occidental; Flashed with Beurre Noisette & Crispy Shallots. Despite him not knowing what half of the ingredients were or knowing what the “flashed” methodology of cooking is, he’s a sure thing when it comes to Tuna with any semblance of tartare-y style. The crispy shallots were a really nice addition, adding texture to the dish and breaking up the typical tuna tartare flavors you usually see.  Very refreshing dish…

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My girlfriend ordered the Shrimp Crusted with Spaghetti Squash; Salad of Frisée & Marcona Almonds with a Horseradish Dressing which was actually on the special tasting menu, but they were flexible to allow her to order it as her app. Although it was certainly a unique presentation, I felt the frisée salad overwhelmed the plate and drowned out the beautiful look of a dish as unique as this one.  Despite the amass of greens, this was another superb dish with unique flavors and texture. I would have gone in for seconds if I wasn’t so wrapped up in hoarding my Duck confit.

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Lastly, my friend’s husband ordered the Brussels Sprouts Roasted with House- Cured Lamb Bacon; Deviled Quail Egg, Butternut Squash Confit & Shaved Pecorino. This is the only dish I did not try. Brussels Sprouts aren’t really my thing, but the rest of the table seemed to enjoy it.

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New blogger mistake #2  = missing a photo-op of our pseudo third course.  The Ricotta- Lemon Tortellini; Wild Mushroom Stew, Sunchoke Purée & Parmesan Foam was actually an entrée, but we concurrently decided that we all would like to try it and share it as a table.  This pasta was amazing.  I would have licked the plate and scarfed this dish down if it was just mine, but I tried my hardest to be polite and somewhat refined. This stacks up with the Duck Confit as my favorite dishes of the night. Also, I am a self proclaimed pasta addict, so I may be a tad biased.  I also love mushrooms, ricotta, and I mean you can’t go wrong with parmesan foam, can you? I wish I had a picture to share of this dish… sorry!

For my entrée, I actually sprang for the chicken. For me, I almost never order chicken in a restaurant, but since I tend to put more emphasis on the ingredients and preparation than I do on the actual protein – I just had to try this.  The chicken was good, but I wasn’t overly impressed.  I found myself forking under the chicken for the escargot and the butternut squash risotto, which were two major elements that elevated this dish.

Chicken Breast Roasted with a Black Trumpet Mousse; Hen of the Woods Stewed with Escargots, Butternut Squash Risotto & Fennel

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I also found myself wishing I ordered my husband’s entrée – Butter Poached Lobster with Hon Shimeji Mushrooms; Huitlacoche Purée & Ricotta Spaetzle with Baby Arugula- The ricotta spatezle were so interesting and different, they tasted like a mini ricotta gnocchi and were super light and airy. These morsels mixed with lobster and a mushroom like puree created for literally the perfect bite….

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We were too full for dessert, but the restaurant provided us with Lemon Marshmallow’s that hit the spot.

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Overall, I would rate mas (Farmhouse) very high – a solid 9.  I definitely recommend this place to anyone that is looking for a unique meal with a French flair. This spot is pretty pricy so it may be best suited for a special occasion, dinner with rents or if you have the luxury of a business expense account, snag some foodie client’s and enjoy!

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Riverpark for Restaurant Week Winter 2013

20 Jan

We have been to many restaurants for NYC Restaurant Week at this point, and we’ve found some great choices and some poor choices, which makes it hard to find new places worth sampling each year.  But this year, we decided that Restaurant Week (through Februrary 8, 2013 so far this winter) was a great opportunity to try one of Tom Colicchio‘s newest choices, Riverpark

I really like how many Colicchio restaurants handle Restaurant Week. Rather than serve a “wedding food” (beef, pork, or fish) version of their menu, they serve their regular menu and the items that require a higher price to produce include an incremental charge, noted on the menu (base price is $38).  Here was the menu on January 20, 2013:

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For the Restaurant Week price of $38, we were able to choose an item from the left side plus an item from the main section, with a dessert.  You could substitute pasta (a larger portion for entree) for either course.

The building was a bit hard to find.  It is located near the East River on 29th Street and the FDR, in a complex called the Alexandria Center.  Our taxi wasn’t sure where to find it, so he dropped us off on the corner of 30th Street and the FDR access road and we walked down what looked like an industrial part of the city near the back of the hospital.  We took a chance and walked up some stairs and found it there at the top,  inside the building.

The decorations are very modern, with clean, perpendicular lines, much like Colicchio and Sons.

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The lights above our table were kind of cool and modern, but also a bit seizure inducing after a few drinks.

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We started our night with cocktails. Mike got the “Colonel Mustard” with mustard infused white rum, thyme honey, lime, and candied bacon. It was fantastic.  Heavy on the thyme and a perfect balance of flavors.

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I tried the “Spiced & Spiked” though without the “spiced” since that was homemade hot sauce (which would have peppers, which I’m allergic to).  It had hot apple cider, Goslings Rum, and clove.  Even without the hot sauce, this was very delicious and well balanced. I wanted something hot on this very cold night, and this hit the spot.

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We added a half-dozen oysters to our Restaurant Week selection, with 3 East Coast (Barnstable) and 3 West Coast (Shigokus). They were both divine, but the west coast Shigokus were especially fantastic.

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We then decided to try a bottle of wine. There was a section dedicated to Orange Wines which were described as “interesting and funky.”  We have a love for Russian River Valley wines (especially Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) so when we saw one on the menu under the Orange variety, we decided why not try something interesting and funky.  We really enjoyed this wine. It was easily drinkable, dry without being puckering, and went well with food and stood up on its own.  A very enjoyable wine.

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I then tried the Kabocha Custard & Crab Fondue with crispy black trumpet mushrooms and spiced pumpkin seeds (which I went without in my dish due to my allergy).  This was sensational. A touch of sweet, delicious squash, fresh crab, and a slight crispy from the mushrooms.  A great balance.  This is the second custard from a Colicchio restaurant that really impressed.

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Mike tried the Testa Tortellini with pears, walnuts, sage, mustard seed, and spiced consomme.  Sadly, I couldn’t try it due to my allergy, but Mike said it was a great balance of flavors. The waiter said he should try everything in one bite and he would realize why the pear, tortellini and consomme was put together and sure enough, the layers of flavors were fantastic with the rich broth and the fresh pear.  Everything together was delicious.

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For our entrees, Mike chose the 20 oz. bone-in dry aged sirloin, which came with a $20 supplement charge. It was with cipollini onions, charred shisito peppers (which they put on the side so I could try it), and tempura hen of the woods mushrooms.  The char on this was fan.freakin.tastic.  And the tempura-ed mushrooms were really fantastic on this. An all around awesome cut of meat. If you order this when it is not Restaurant Week, the steak alone is $50.  So for the $38 base price of Restaurant Week and the $20 supplement fee, the value of the app and the dessert came to a mere $8.  Not too shabby.

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These were the peppers that were put on the side, which Mike said added a nice depth of flavor without being too spicy.

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I chose the Berkshire Pork Chop with Brussels sprout apple hash and parsnip puree.  This was absolutely incredible.  A slight sweetness from the apples complimented by the slight bitterness of the sprouts. And the pork itself was a perfect foil to both.  Incredible. So incredible, in fact, that I picked up that bone with my fingers to get off any last morsel.  Totally worth it.

 

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Then we had our choice of desserts (a tough choice indeed) and we also chose to order dessert wine (Domaine des Schistes, a muscat).

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I chose the Chocolate Souffle Cake with coffee ice cream and chocolate crumble. This was a lovely dessert with warm souffle cake, with a nice balance of bittersweet and sweet with the chocolate and a great compliment with the coffee ice cream.

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But Mike chose the Beer Sundae with Guinness Cake, oatmeal stout ice cream, butterscotch, chocolate pretzel, and candied walnuts.  While my chocolate souffle was very good, this was just damn special.  It was unique flavors with a perfect balance of salty and sweet. It was a fantastic, inspired dessert.  Really, really fantastic.

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Our food throughout the meal with simply spectacular.  We paid a number of up-charges, but I am very certain that we would have enjoyed our meals just as much had we stuck with the Restaurant Week prices and not paid for any of the supplements or additional drinks/supplements.  But half the fun of Restaurant Week is being able to save money so you CAN pay for those lovely extras.

This is how you do Restaurant Week. Offer your regular menu so no one feels that they are missing out and just give people a chance to really enjoy your restaurant with a nice introduction.

Well played Riverpark.  You have made the list of “where to eat for Restaurant Week.”

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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The Smith Restaurant: East Village

11 Sep

My friend had a spare ticket to a concert at Webster Hall and mentioned that she really liked the Restaurant, The Smith, around the corner. I had heard good things, so away we went.

We started with some oysters, which were quite good.

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She got the 15 Hour Pork (a Monday special).  It looked quite good and she seemed to like it, but it didn’t seem to thrill her.

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We split some brussels sprouts, which were roasted nicely with a good crispy.  Very good.

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I actually ran into a bit of an issue with my allergy. While most of the dishes seemed pretty safe, it turns out they use peppers in a lot of their sauces and seasonings.  I had very few options to choose from, but I decided to go with bibimbop (one of my favorite Korean dishes). It was nicely fresh with sushi rice, edamame, shitake, bean sprouts, pickled carrots, spinach, and a sunny side up egg.  It was pretty good, but definitely lacking in depth of flavor. I’m pretty sure they had to leave a sauce out, due to the peppers, which probably had a good bit of flavor.

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I don’t think I could really give The Smith a fair shot since I couldn’t eat most of the dishes. But the fact that the dish I did have was kind of bland made it seem like they focus on spice for flavor instead of relying on doing good things with good ingredients.  I won’t put this as a stake in the ground, but my take on it was entirely average.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Boulud Sud

28 Feb

In an effort to make our way through The Platt 101, New York Magazine’s  list of Best Restaurants in New York (2012 edition), we made a New Years Day reservation at Boulud Sud.  This was my fifth restaurant in the Daniel Boulud empire (having been to DB Bistro, Cafe Boulud, Bar Boulud, and Daniel), and I can’t help but love each and every place.

Walking in, the space is very modern and bright with an open, bustling kitchen that somehow managed to operate quietly.

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Boulud Sud focuses on Mediterranean flavors.  Both the bread and oil hinted at this, and I had to keep reminding myself that I shouldn’t fill up on it, even though it was quite delish.

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I ordered a cocktail:  The Spiked Apple, which came with Glenkinchie 12 year old scotch, spiced apple cider, allspice dram, and lemon juice.  It was served in a giant, hollow, round ice cube and was absolutely delicious.

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We went with the three course prix fixe for $44.  Mike started with the octopus appetizer that came with ictrus pieces, marcona almonds, arugula, and vinegar. It was quite delicious, but it couldn’t compete with the octopus at Kefi (though what could?)

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I started with the soup, which I think was sunchoke (the menu posted online is different from what we had)

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It came with croquettes that were light, yet crunchy, and went very well with the soup.

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While awaiting our next course, Mike looked at me through his glass and I cracked up.  The glass made it so he had a little face inside the glass.  I just love this picture.

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Mike went with the lemon-saffron linguini with razor clams and shaved bottarga (fish roe).  This was bursting with flavor and typically wouldn’t be something either Mike nor I would order. But it was very enjoyable.

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I got the chestnut ravioli with celeriac, black trumpet mushrooms, and castelmagno (an Italian cheese).  I really enjoyed this.  I wish it had more chestnut flavor (I always want more chestnut flavor) but the raviolis were delicate and had great flavor.  They were also cooked perfectly.

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And it was super pretty.

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Mike and I can’t pass up an opportunity to order brussels sprouts (I’m still pissed off that I spent over 20 years of my life without brussels sprouts).  These were very similar to the ones we make with pancetta, and the roasted hazelnuts added a great smoky flavor and crunch. (But I still like ours better…)

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I was actually most excited about Boulud Sud because of all of the wonderful things I heard about the dessert (in fact, just found out that Ghaya Oliveira was nominated for a 2102 James Beard Award for Best Pastry Chef).  Mike got the Fromage Blanc Tart with plums compote and lemon sorbet.  It was like a light, flavor-filled cheesecake.  Delish.

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I got the dessert that was recommended by everyone on Foursquare and photographed on every food blog: The grapefruit givre (with sesame halva, rose loukoum, and grapefruit sorbet).   It was just as beautiful as everyone said.

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The strings on top was the halva and then below was something that resembled heated sugar (like a creme brulee top).

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As you dug into it, it was layer upon layer of treats in a frozen grapefruit.  It was unlike anything I have ever had (and something I would probably not have ordered for myself had it not been so highly recommended) and it was stupendous.

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Overall, our meal was spotless, service was great, and we had some really unique and fun dishes.  I was totally full and felt like I had eaten at one of the better restaurants in NYC for $44.  I call that a good value!  Go and get that grapefruit thing… you won’t be disappointed.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Chrismukah Dinner

9 Feb

For Chrismukah (our annual family celebration) this year, I decided to try to make Grandma’s brisket again.  I had tried one time before, and it wasn’t QUITE right.  So I called up my aunt to get the low down on the recipe.

We started by browning up some onions.

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Then we put slits into the pot roast and put in slices of garlic.  (I think our meat was not exactly the best cut for brisketing… but it was all Whole Foods had that day).

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Then we browned the meat.

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And set it up to cook on top of the onions for a good long time topped with ketchup , red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and a bit of water.  We covered and simmered it, removed the liquid as it formed (from the onions breaking down) leaving about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of liquid in the bottom (because, to quote my aunt quoting my grandma, “You want a pot roast, not stew meat”).  I cooked it until fork tender.  And it was close… but still not quite right.  I think the cut of meat was definitely a big part of the problem.  Well… guess I gotta try again!

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Mike set to making some latkes.  He went ahead and grated up the potatoes (one of my LEAST favorite jobs).

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And fried them until golden.  They tasted great at first, but we put them in the warming tray to keep them warm and they were never quite the same. Bummer.  Note to self: Always fry latkes to order.

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We also made our famous brussels sprouts and some roasted cauliflower.

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While I wasn’t 100% happy with how it all turned out, luckily, the family thought it was great (or they at least told me it was).  I looked at it as a learning experience!

Kutsher’s TriBeCa

30 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The pan roasted brussels sprouts with rosemary.  (Delish)

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

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

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

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

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Maialino

29 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Corner Shop Cafe

20 May

At a recent food event at Albert Hall Tavern, we had the good fortune of meeting the couple behindIf You Can Make That You Can Make This.  We decided to get together to try another new restaurant in the West Village, Corner Shop Cafe, on Broadway and Bleecker.

It was well decorated in an appealing and different way.

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I especially enjoyed the tin ceilings.

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First order was a cuban sandwich.

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It was good, but nothing special.

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We ordered the brussels sprouts, which sounded similar to our favorite preparation method, however, these were very dissapointing.  A little too oily, a little undercooked, a little low in flavor.

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There was also an order of grilled salmon nicoise with a poached egg.  I’m not a salmon fan, unless it’s in the form of lox, but I was told this was also just average.

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We also ordered the mac and cheese which was truffled with peas and prosciutto.  We also found this to be just average.

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Overall, I think the word “average” completely sums it up.  Great location.  Great look and feel.  Great idea.  Average execution.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto

4 Apr

While Mike and I watched Top Chef Masters last year, we really had a fondness for Jonathan Waxman.  We were thrilled to learn that he had a restaurant in the West Village which was quite reasonably priced.  Barbuto is located on Washington Street at West 12th Street and has big garage doors that must be awesome in nice weather.

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There is also a nice open kitchen.

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I also appreciated the logo, which had an adorable cartoon dog, and was on all the plates.

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The menu changes often and tailors to what is freshest.  As I looked through, there were far too many things that looked far too good.  We then saw a note in the bottom left corner that said that a tasting menu was available for $65 per person.  As far as tasting menus go, that seemed like a steal.  When we inquired about it, we were informed that the tasting menu includes 2-3 dishes from each section… and then the waiter went on to tell us that it was a LOT for two people and he wanted to make sure we were aware that we would probably be overwhelmed with the food quantity.  Seeing as though we hadn’t eaten that day, and it’s hard to resist TOO MUCH food, we went for it.

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There was also an extensive wine menu and our waiter guided us in a direction that I’m still not sure how to pronounce, but it was FANTASTIC.

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Our first course was the salumi, which had prosciutto coppa, cacciatorini and rosemary focaccia.  Very fresh. Very delicious.

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Next up, we were delivered the bruschetta which came with butternut squash and marinated gorgonzola.  MMMM this was good.  Great combination of flavors.

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Our final antipasti was the cavolini crudi, which was shaved brussels sprouts with pecorino, lemon, and breadcrumbs.  While this was DELICIOUS (and the vinaigrette impeccable), we both agreed that we enjoy our brussels sprouts roasted rather than shaved.

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Our first pasta was lumaconi alla cavolfiori.  Lumaconi is “snail shell” pasta that looks like opened shells.  It had a GREAT texture and ours came with roasted cauliflower and cream sauce (they, thankfully, remembered to hold the chilis!)  I’m always concerned that when a dish loses peppers that it will lose its substance.  But this was great even without the spice.

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Our second pasta was the gnocchi con zucca which came with roasted fall squash and sage.  The squash here was SO. GOOD.  And I really liked the gnocchi.  It was slightly browned and had a great texture, with awesome pecorino cheese and a delicious sauce.

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Our first main course was pollo al forno which was a roasted chicken with salsa verde.  We heard good things about this chicken, and it was VERY GOOD.

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Ok… not Zuni good… but still very good.  Though I think I’m always a wee bit let down when I get chicken on a tasting menu, since I don’t think chicken is ever really special enough (and I make a damn good roast chicken myself, thanks to the Zuni recipe).

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Our second entree was coda di rospo, which was seared monkfish with bacon and savoy cabbage.  I LOVE monkfish, and this was one of the best I had ever had.  It was seared and cooked perfectly and the slight sauce on it was awesome.  And it all went so well with the delicious cabbage. 

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We also received sides, and I was very happy to see that we got the roasted brussels sprouts and colatura (anchovy sauce!)  The salty anchovies with the brussels sprouts was very good.

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Our last side was crispy potatoes with pecorino and rosemary.  It looked like these were hit with a hammer and then roasted to perfect crispness. 

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Our dessert was a hazelnut torte of some kind with chocolate sauce. I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember thinking that it was very good, but not GREAT.  I kind of wanted just a little more texture in this.  But I enjoyed it.

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Overall, as far as tasting menus, especially at a celebrity chef restaurant, I thought this was incredibly affordable and did an amazing job of showcasing the REAL menu by picking selections from the actual menu.  While I do love the specialness of getting a tasting menu to try out some things that you can’t get a la carte, there is something comforting about knowing that the menu is good enough to be its own tasting menu.  Nothing was earth shatteringly delicious or original, but it was all cooked and flavored perfectly. 

I can’t wait to go back.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Alchemy (Brooklyn)

21 Feb

We were wandering around Brooklyn on a rainy evening after seeing a fantastic exhibit at Brooklyn Art Museum (Norman Rockwell… it’s thru April 10, 2011), looking fora  place to grab a bite.  We walked by a number of places and used Urban Spoon to find a recommended place.  Before we knew it, we had wandered to 5th Ave in Park Slope to find Alchemy (56 Fifth Avenue at Bergen Street).

Inside, there were a few small tables and then a few communal tables.

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We started with Herbed Goat Cheese in Philo Dough with watercress, pears and lime vinaigrette.  The Philo was perfectly crispy and the salad underneath was very good.  I also loved how the goat cheese paired with the pear.

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We got brussels sprouts and shells and cheese with bacon and peas as sides.  The sprouts were DELISH!  The shells and cheese needed more depth.

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Mike got the burger.  It was well cooked and the fries were well crisped.

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I chose the Grilled Hanger Steak (all natural angus beef) with herbed butter, mashed potatoes and kale.  The potatoes were DELICIOUS and the steak had a good char.  And what could be wrong with butter on steak? Nom nom nom.

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I’m always skeptical of kale that isn’t crispy, but this was perfectly cooked so the ultra bitter taste was gone and it was just delicious, greeny, garlicky goodness.

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The dessert menu had some great options…

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But I had to choose the Sticky Guinness Pudding with toffee sauce and candied hazelnuts.  How could I not?  And MMMMMM was it good!  I wanted to lick the plate.  The pudding itself was a bit overcooked, but the flavors were so good that it didn’t even matter.

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I don’t know why I am constantly surprised by how good food can be in Brooklyn.  We have been pretty lucky with our BK Stumble Upons.  Overall, Alchemy was better than good.  The price points are close to NY, and the food is NY quality.  I would go back here in a heartbeat.  I would love to try Alchemy for brunch.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10