Tag Archives: New York City

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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A Restaurant Is Born: The Paperwork is In!

12 Dec

It has been an unbelievably long road to open The Keys. (For a full recap of the story so far, you can start from the first post of “A Restaurant is Born”) The original open date was aimed for Summer 2012, and here we are at the end of the year, without a place to enjoy Chef Bill’s awesome food.

The owners were really the hold up here.  Paperwork just would not move along since there were so many cooks in the kitchen (pun intended) on the owner’s side.  They went through 3 different lawyers, and each new lawyer wanted his own new deal.  Once word came that they could move forward, it still took a full 5 weeks to get the contract together.  They had to figure out the exact terms to keep the owners on as partners (at 25%) so they still were invested in the restaurant to everyone’s satisfaction. Finally, the contract was signed this past week! It required 6 owners and partners to sign, from all over the world.

The design firm that was going to invest is no longer going to be used, because 10% is a big chunk to give away.  There is a new architect involved now named Shay who works for Perkins Eastman. He is busy getting measurements and putting the plans together so they can start construction the moment the lease is signed.  They hope this will be just a week or two away so they can be in there by mid-December. This will allow the Concession (you can read more about what a Concession from this previous post) to extend to March, giving the restaurant time to get on its feet.

There is a $150K budget for the full build out and equipment. The brick oven is a key piece of the restaurant, but repairing it will cost about $8K, so it has got to be worth it! Bill is busy figuring out some awesome dishes that can come out of it, including suckling pig, plank seafood, and, of course, the homemade bread.  (Bill is posting about some ideas on The Keys’ Facebook page. Go on over and become a fan!) Bill is also excited about putting in smokers, so he can make his own bacon and the bar can make smoked ice for cocktails.   The outside patio will get a new fortified roof so he can have an herb and chili garden on top.  He also plans to put a macro grower in the kitchen so he can grow some super sized greens.  The in-season menu is back in play.  Shay is already taking measurements and making sketches and I’ll be posting more about this in the next few weeks when things start getting really exciting and we see how the physical restaurant changes.

Bill is ambitious and hopes to have a Friends & Family opening by the last week of January.  He will start with dinner, then add lunch a month later, and brunch when the weather warms up.  There will be Jazz music downstairs, which will start up right at opening, and Bill plans to have some house instruments so that Jazz musicians will look at The Keys as a place to just stop by and jam from 11-4am.  There will also be a DJ on the weekends with molecular bottle service downstairs.  This is not going to be a club scene, however, and more for people who will be excited that the cocktails include homemade bitters.

I am excited to say that it is finally time to announce where the restaurant will be!  The Keys will be bringing great food and music to Mulberry Street, between Prince and Spring Streets, in the space currently occupied by the Australian restaurant, 8 Mile Creek.

Stay tuned in the next few weeks as the construction starts and the menu takes form!

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

Food Network NYC Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting 2012 Review

13 Oct

For the past 3 years, Mike and I have had a tradition of going to the Grand Tasting event at the Food Network Wine & Food Festival in NYC. I get Early Access passes as a treat for Mike’s birthday and it’s a tradition we very much look forward to each year.

Today, we went to the first day of the Grand Tasting (they do it all again tomorrow).  We went with our plan that worked well in the past, arrive early, collect the goodie bag, and make a beeline right to the back and then move forward. It leaves the back half of the (large) space nearly empty for us to peruse (and nibble) for about the first 30 minutes.  It works out well.  We went up the one side and noticed that at least 3/4 of the booths were various kinds of alcohols (mostly wines, but also liquor, sake, mixers, etc).  We decided to start our trip down the other side, figuring that must be where most of the food was.

Well… it wasn’t.

Same story: barely 1/4 food.  Most of the food there was the packaged goods found in ShopRite. While having this food is typical for this food festival (and kind of cool to see what new packaged goods are out there), this is usually complimented by many restaurants (including some famous ones in New York and Celebrity Chefs).  This time, there were hardly any restaurants. I’m not sure what happened, but it left us kind of disappointed! It’s the first time we left there not feeling like we got our money’s worth. I mean, don’t get me wrong, sampling all that wine was great, but we can do that (for a lot less money) at the Wine Show.  We go to this Grand Tasting specifically to try some of the best restaurants in the city.  These just weren’t there today.

And then we had another disappointment… most of the places ran out of food by 4pm. The event goes until 6, and while we saw many run out of food in the past, it wasn’t every single restaurant and it was more around 5/5:30.  Something just went downhill this year.

Total shame.

Here are the noms we had (any time I remembered, I took a picture of the sign and description of the dish, then that is followed by the dish.

 

Only one real stand out: the short ribs from Monkey Bar.  And while it was VERY good, we were hoping to have some bites that would make us say “Wow! We really need to try that restaurant!”

Not this year.

Bummer.

A Restaurant is Born: Movin’ Again!

28 Aug

So… what is happening with The Keys?  (If you have no idea what that even means, I am currently documenting the opening of The Keys Restaurant in NYC by Chef Bill Seleno.  Please see Part 1Part 2, and Part 3, and Part 4 to learn more about the concept and menu.)

Everything was humming along back in June. A few delays had caused a few investors to back out, but a few others had come along. Bill got a big “yes!” from Crown Consulting and Design, the firm that is going to contribute by taking care of the build out.  Bill didn’t know how much their contribution would be and was hoping he wouldn’t have to trim his 1920’s concept back too much.  He was thrilled when they agreed to cover all build out expenses, without cutting any corners, for 10% interest in the restaurant.  

But the hold up is still the owner.  Turns out, the owner had to resolve a lot of financial issues before he could sell the space.  He dragged his feet for so long that Bill asked his broker to look for another space.  He happened to know someone who just came into a space, so they went to check it out. Bill told me that the space didn’t have some of the perks of the 1st place (which had 3 floors, a downstairs club area, and an outdoor space) but it did have an impressive kitchen.  But the space is really beaten up and has been vacant for weeks.  They also only have a liquor license until midnight.  Bill was set to negotiate for this space, and was hoping to receive a copy of the lease and the details about the space 2 weeks ago.  But, in what seems to be a trend, feet were dragged.  

Enter fate.

Bill met up with an old friend from his Gustovino’s days, Heather. Turns out, Heather had been trying to open  up her own restaurant for quite some time, but luck was not on her side. When Bill told her about his vision, she jumped on board.  She walked through both spaces with Bill, and said that the 1st place was really the winner. Heather really wants to get things done quickly, and signed on as a partner. She brings to the table her craft behind the bar and she is excited to use some of Bill’s chemistry vision in the drinks.  Turns out the delays brought about an opportunity for a fortuitous partnership.

As for the menu, Chef Bill may have to modify the menu to run his seasonal, local menu and will be utilizing the brick oven even more to maximize the resources he has at his disposal.  He plans to bake all the breads in house, including a table bread of sour dough dinner rolls with pearls of olive oil, gorgonzola cremificato, and olives.  He’s exploring adding a selection of meats and pizzas as well.

So how is Chef Bill staying afloat with all these delays? He has been all over the country catering various friend’s weddings and their kid’s Bar Mitzvahs. He will be working for a Kosher catering company throughout September. Heather will be his right-hand woman to take meetings and act on Bill’s behalf while Bill is out of town.  

The opening is now probably more likely to happen in February.  I’m amazed to see how much a restaurant opening can be delayed. Everything was on target for a July opening back when we started this project, and now he’s looking at nearly 9 months after that, and that’s only if the space can be secured in the very near future!

Thankfully, the owner of the 1st spot is currently being a bit more forthcoming, so Bill hopes he can secure the last of the information next week.

And then it’s full steam ahead!

Ma Peche and Momofuku Milk Bar

31 Jul

 

I had a very good experience last time I was at Ma Peche, and it’s hard to believe it has been nearly 2 years and I still hadn’t taken Mike.   We had night plans in the neighborhood, so we made a reservation.  It wasn’t an easy task avoiding peppers last time, and this time proved to also be quite a challenge. Luckily, our waiter was helpful (if not a big miffed that I had such an obviously annoying request).

The menu has been changing lately, so here is a view of the menu that night:

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The space itself still has that kind of awe-inspiring look to it.  It just looks very grand and yet very welcoming.

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Mike started with the steamed bun that had lobster, maitake, and chicarron.  It was tasty but not memorable.

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We then tried the foie gras and it looked absolutely beautiful and tasted almost as beautifully!  It came with malt, papaya, and brioche and the papaya was just about the most perfect foil for foie gras I could ask for.  Yum.

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Can’t help but love the sense of design on the plate too.

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We then had the striped bass with mushroom, miso, and bone marrow.  It was quite tasty, though I’m not sure if I loved the bone marrow with fish combo.

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And the duck, with orange, pistachio, and rutabega. It was cooked perfectly, though I would have loved a bit more crisp in that skin and some extra sauce.

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And then we went upstairs to Milk Bar and tried ourselves some blondie pie (good but not great) and a milk shake that I cannot recall.  It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that I don’t find anything I’m especially enamored with personally. I don’t know why, but I’m never as impressed by Milk Bar as I think I’m going to be. Pity.

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Overall, I would say my previous meal at Ma Peche was definitely better than this one, but you just can’t beat the impressiveness of this David Chang establishment.  I’m surprised I don’t hear more about it, since it’s in an area severely lacking in interesting places to dine (sans tourists). As for Milk Bar, I think I’m still in search of “my dessert” there.

Ma Peche Overall Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Milk Bar Overall 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!

A Restaurant is Born: Development Update

7 May

I am currently documenting the opening of The Keys restaurant in NYC by Chef Bill Seleno.  Please see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, and Part 4 to learn more about the concept and menu.

Part of my following the opening of The Keys is to learn more about the logistical side of things so I can share the “underbelly” of how it all works with all of you.  I want to know what steps need to be taken, how much it costs, and what really goes into the opening of a restaurant from start to finish. When Chef Bill and I got together to talk about his trips to California and Maine, he also gave me an update about where things stand with the opening.

Turns out, the current owner of the restaurant  is causing crazy delays by disappearing for weeks on end.  Bill loves the space, but the owner was dragging his feet so long, he was considering that he may need to start looking for an alternative. Bill also found out that there is a lien on the property that the owner supposedly didn’t know about.  So it has been a roller coaster and it is hard to keep investors “on the hook” when Bill can’t make an immediate start.  As of right now, the May 1st opening is pushed back to July 1st because of the delays. Though it isn’t necessarily a bad thing entirely, since this delay nicely puts the “concession” time (see below for more info) during the summer, which is the slowest time of the year for restaurants.

I asked Bill to explain more about how concessions work, and he told me that the landlord of the building will be giving Bill the first 3 months rent free to give the restaurant time to get on its feet. It’s an investment, in a way, by the landlord to make sure that the restaurant has some time to get started successfully, hopefully ensuring a lasting and loyal tenant.

According to Bill, restaurant sales go down 20-30% in the summer as people flee the city or when it gets too damn hot to go more than a few blocks away from your apartment. So having the slowest 3 months of the year being in concession could really benefit the opening.  This will put the first rent month around September, a busy month in the restaurant business and also the month of the San Gennero Festival. The Feast of San Gennero is a street fair in Little Italy that features local restaurants.  According to the current owner of the space, he saw a $40K bump for the 10 days after the festival last year.  This will be a very nicely timed boost during the first month of paying rent.

The restaurant is 2,200 square feet, split into 2 floors.  The upstairs cafe can seat 70, another 70 downstairs, and 40 in the patio area.  The rent is ~$15K per month, which includes property taxes (here’s an excerpt from an older version of the lease, that I find fascinating: “In addition to the Base Rent, the Tenant pays a real estate tax escalation of 40% of the tax increase over the Base Tax Year of 1998-99.  In 1998-99, the total taxes were $16,343.64; for 2011-12, the total taxes are $98,805.00.  The total increase over the Base Tax Year is $82,461.36, and the Tenant’s proportionate share of 40% equals 32,984.66.  Therefore, in addition to the Base Rent, the Tenant pays $2,748.72 per month to the Landlord for the tax escalation, which brings the total amount due to the Landlord per month to $11,905.72.“)

He is offering his investors 18% equity in the restaurant with a plan to have a full return on their investment in 2 years.  As we talked about this, I couldn’t help but think about the incredible investment (in both time and money) that must be made upfront for a restaurant.  Few other ventures require so much of a single person. As Bill was saying, every square foot in that restaurant has a dollar value.  Each seat is a square foot.

Bill left for a few weeks to do a gig in Miami (“to get some money in the door”) and then took a trip with his son up to Maine.  Now that he’s back, he will be renting a commissary kitchen (test kitchen) for a month to start working on the recipes. His goal is to find a line cook who is interested in stepping up and learning about new processes in the test kitchen.  He is hoping to find someone who is aspiring to learn some new things and hopefully will be able to come with him to the space once it opens up.  He wants to explore the menu so that it is classic but with molecular gastronomy touches, where it makes sense.  This will “accent” the menu rather than direct it.  The opportunity for the aspiring line cook of working in the test kitchen is that since it’s a learning environment, there is time to get more creative and learn new concepts as a side project to their “day job” (I guess in the restaurant world, it’s really a “night job”). He also hopes to have his entire staff in that kitchen so they have a hand in development. A waiter who has helped work a recipe will be that much more attached to the concept and food. (It’s also a good testing ground to determine how dedicated his staff is… it’s better to find out who flakes and doesn’t show up, who has a bad attitude, and who isn’t cut out for the job in a test kitchen rather than when you’re up and running.) One other benefit of training staff in the test kitchen is that it will cut down on the time in the actual restaurant, so when construction is done, he can hopefully open up within a few days after testing all the systems. All of this is an added cost, but the size of the kitchen and intricacy of the dishes necessitates the commissary kitchen, so might as well make the most of it! And Bill views it as an investment to make sure the restaurant is successful.

As soon as the lease is signed, they will shut down the space and construction will begin.  One investor is specifically for construction. The permits, designers, materials, etc. will be their actual investment. Bill is thinking of a very aggressive 1 month build out (usually I’d question this, but he flipped around Albert Hall Tavern from a night club to a tavern with his own hands and a few others in a short amount of time as well).  Bill will provide the direction and concept, and then the investor will realize it.

California and Maine had an influence on Bill, and he has decided to change up the menu a bit to focus some more on fish and vegetarian dishes.  And he has decided that he is definitely going to brew! I’m so excited for this, as I love a good micro microbrew and there are few places in NYC that do it.  He plans to bring in Yiga from Port Brewing in San Diego to do a west coast brew, and talk to Bar Harbor Brewing in Maine (my own personal brewery) about doing an east coast beer.  He hopes to have them collaborate to do an East meets West beer.  He also wants to try to get Shmaltz in to do a Prohibition style, “Keys Brew.”

Can’t wait!

Bill is also planning to have live jazz every night and have a DJ mixing with Jazz music on Thursdays through Fridays.

So what’s next? All information was submitted to the investors and next week is the big week.  Bill will be buying shares in the current LLC and keeping the owner on as an employee, to keep more of the operating capital in the restaurant itself.  The owner’s partner is now working with Bill (to try to keep the owner out of it, since it all seems to be too much for him), and the lien and loans will be coming out of the purchase price.  Bill and his lawyer put it all together and sent it to the decision makers. The thumbs up or thumbs down is 1 week away.  Eek!

Stay tuned for more news as it develops.

Dominique Ansel Bakery

1 May

When Mike and I ate at Daniel in summer 2011, the entire meal was epic, but the desserts were hands down the best I can remember.  I looked up the pastry chef when I got home and found out that it was Dominque Ansel.  I also caught some news that he would shortly be leaving Daniel for his own venture.

Thankfully, that venture maintained his presence in New York and he opened up his own bakery in SoHo.

I got down there a few weeks after they opened, and I had a stepping into Willy Wonka moment.

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They had cases filled with beautiful pastries.

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They have a few shelves of packaged goods.

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And a huge menu of goodies, including their famous Madeleines, which are made to order after 3pm on Fridays and Saturdays. I was impressed to see Dominique Ansel behind the counter and going to the back to make the madeleines.  I wanted to tell him how much we enjoyed his desserts at Daniel, but never had the chance (that’s a lie… I just couldn’t bring myself to talk to him… you have your celebrities, I have mine).

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I ordered up some macrons to bring to my team in London.  While it was a gift, I did manage to snag one to try.  It was the best macaron I’ve ever had. By far. And I’ve had many. Every time I’m within 2 neighborhoods from SoHo, I think “maybe we should drop by there to get some macarons.”  Sadly, we haven’t been back yet. Though I foresee these in my very near future.

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We also ordered one of the pastries that looked divine.  It was packaged in the most elegant box I have ever seen.

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Inside was like a perfect prize.

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It was absolutely beautiful. Sadly, I was just too full to eat this and was off to London that night, so Mike had to take one for the team and eat it himself.   To quote his opinion: “Deeeeeeeeeee-licious!”

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Why was I so full? Well… because these little babies were just captivating.  When we had these at Daniel, I have a distinct memory of the waitress unfolding the napkin on top of these warm, steaming madeleines and the smell just being totally overwhelmingly delicious.  It was a similar moment upon opening up this paper bag and peering inside.

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They were definitely smaller than the ones at Daniel.

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And I don’t think they were QUITE the same.  They still tasted great, and that warm, lemony, sweet pillow is still something other-wordly, bit it just wasn’t 100% there.  Perhaps nothing can ever be as good as your first time.

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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