Tag Archives: pork belly

A Restaurant is Born: Menu Sneak Peak

14 Feb

As Chef Bill and I sat at a table chatting about his concept and menu, I couldn’t help but look down with a hint of sadness at the tater tots we ordered.  I love tater tots, but they just seemed to get more and more boring as Bill described his menu.  Each dish sounded more delicious than the previous one. He’s using molecular gastronomy to elevate the food and to make it downright fun.  Here are some highlights that got me especially excited:

Appetizers/Salads:

Bone Marrow Sliders with Tomato Dust on Brioche: Chef Bill is looking forward to hand selecting the fats and the meats that go into his slider and burger dishes.  Usually, you choose a well marbled cut of meat and you go with the ratio of fat that is organically within that cut.  Chef Bill plans to combine a lean cut of meat and grind it up with the right amount of a delicious fat: bone marrow.  He set about solving the burger “leaking” problem with this dish: No matter how fast you get from kitchen to table, some fat and blood leaks onto the bun or onto the plate.  His solution: he will be making an acetate sheet from mustard and using the broiler to shrink the sheet around the burger to seal in all the juices (he affectionately called this method “Shrinky Dinking”). He plans on making his own ketchup and turning it into a dust, and making his own pickles, liquefying them, and then spherifying (making a liquid into a sphere that resembles caviar) them so they will be an intense punch of pickle flavor as you bite in.

Seared Duck, Butternut Squash Soup with Pear Parisian in Glass:  He plans to serve the squash soup in a shallow bowl with soft slices of duck breast fanned out on the side of the plate.  He will then make pear balls and dip them in a gelee that includes star anise and Asian 5 spice.  The soup will be dotted with these balls so that they glisten like marbles in the bowl.  (Since the restaurant will be opening in May, it may not be butternut squash due to seasonality, but this is TBD)

Chipotle Pork Belly with Pickled Parsnips and Smoked Paprika Fondant Over Parmesan Polenta: The plan is to cure the pork belly and finish it with a chipotle glaze that resemebles a mole. It will add a smokey, spicy heat to cut through the richness of the pork belly.  He will use fondant (that is somewhat sweet) made with smoked paprika (so it’s red) that will wrap an über rich and simple polenta in a bundle.  It will be topped with short rib and finished with pickled parsnips to cut through the richness.  (To say that I am sad that this will be something I can never eat is an understatement.  To all you pepper eaters, I can’t wait for a full review).

Seared Foie Gras Over Pear Panna Cotta with Port Gelatin and Bitter Chocolate Biscotti: Foie gras will be seared and served with a pear panna cotta that retains the “grittyness” of the pear so it tastes like, well… a pear. He will wrap the pear panna cotta in a port reduction gelee so that it has a red outside and white inside, like a poached pear.  It will be finished with a bitter chocolate biscotti with pistachios.  This will be a great combination of sweet, bitter, and buttery flavors.

Waldorf Salad: Because what says 1920’s better than Waldorf Salad?  Dressing pearls, spherified apples macerated in brandy, frozen grapes, and black toasted walnuts will bring it into this decade (if not the future).

Entrées:

Seared Skate, Caper Powder, Celeryroot Mousseline and Crisp Lemon Cured Sweetbreads: I have known for a while that Bill has a “thing” for skate. It’s not a popular fish, but one thing that we agree on is that it should be.  It will be seared so it’s crispy and melts in your mouth. It will be served with dehydrated caper dust, celery root mousseline, and sweet breads cured with lemon and fennel pollen and then fried. A microgreen will be included to add a fresh and “living aspect” to the plate to balance the rich, gamy flavors.

Lamb Loin with Pistachio Crusted Chevre and Red Wine Braised Cabbage: Farm raised lamb loin (from the Berkshires) will be seared with salt and pepper to bring out its natural flavors. It will be served with a lamb demi-glace, braised red wine cabbage (to add some tartness), clove and bay leaf. It will be served with goat cheese that will be freeze dried in pistachio dust so when you break into it it will emulsify the cabbage demi-glace to create a vichyssoise sauce once you cut into it.

Roasted Monkfish Loin, Hazelnut/Prosciutto Brittle, Double Stout/Coconut Cream: The monkfish will be crusted with fennel pollen and roasted. It will be served with a hazelnut, prociutto brittle so it is crispy with a toasted hazelnut flavor.  The stout cream is made with creme fraiche, Belhaven stout reduction, and Malibu Rum (to avoid coconut allergies).

Braised Beef Shortrib with Spiced Tomato Bourbon Jam and Potato Puree: The short rib will be cooked with the sous-vide technique and served with a potato puree (because, in the words of Chef Bill, “You just don’t fuck with that!”)  It will be served with a spiced tomato bourbon jam and then a shot of bourbon will be added at the end to give it that slight burn.

Duck Confit, Brie and Avocado Brick, Cucumber/Mango flute, and Apricot/Curry Sauce: The duck confit will be cooked in a classic way, but everything served with it will be anything but classic.  Brie and avocado will be freeze dried and compressed into a layered brick to give a textured  bite (like a tough marshmallow).  It will be served with a cone of sliced mango and cucumber on the side which will be filled with an apricot curry sauce.  The sauce is cooked by “burning the shit” out of onions until they become like charcoal, then roasting the apricots on top of them.  It will be colorful and fun, but based on fundamental ingredients.

Steamed Mussels with Grilled Rosemary and Black Garlic Over Pappardelle: Of all the items on the menu, THIS has me the most excited.  The menu item that originally made me fall in love with Bill’s cooking was the mussels he served at Albert Hall Tavern that came with grilled rosemary and black garlic.  I wanted to bathe in that sauce… it was so good.  We would always ask for extra bread to sop up that amazing sauce.  So the idea of serving this over pappardelle (my favorite pasta) sounds like a dream come true.  As Bill said, “it’s sex in a bowl.”  He commented that there are a few dishes that you look back on and think to yourself “yeah… that one worked” and give yourself a good pat on the back.  He says he has probably created thousands of dishes but this one really stands out.  (I CANNOT WAIT!)

He plans on adding more vegetarian dishes and he recognized that all restaurants had some type of fruit cocktail on their menu in the 1920’s.  He plans to do his own spin on this with some unique flavors like avocado and tropical fruits.

Chef Bill is not a dessert person, so he will be bringing in a pastry chef. It’s extra cost, but he wants to throw everything he can into this restaurant so it’s the best it can be.  He plans on having foods that came into fashion in the 1920’s be especially prevalent on the dessert menu.

I absolutely cannot wait to try every last bite.

Love Lane: Mattituck, LI

5 Jan

After our wonderful adventure exploring the wineries in Long Island, Lori suggested we do dinner at one of her favorites, Love Lane Kitchen.

We didn’t have reservations, so they told us it would be about 30 minutes.

Luckily, right next door was Love Lane Market… and I love me a market. (I think they may be owned by the same people, but I’m not positive)

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They stock their shelves with great ingredients, many of which I am familiar with and some new ones.  It reminded me of a little Eataly.

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But with a bit more personal touch.

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I have this odd love for these types of chairs. I THINK the top is what they use to form horse saddles, but I could be making that up.

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Even their tiled floor was cool.

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I REALLY wanted to try the rotisserie duck, but we wouldn’t be able to eat it before I was off on a trip. Lori and her ABF got on though and said it was great.

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They even had a selection of homemade pastas.

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And homemade mozzarella.

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As well as a wood fire pizza oven in the back.

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This is the type of market that I wish would open up near me in Manhattan.  But it was just perfect in this little Long Island town, on Love Lane.

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As soon as we got out of the market, Love Lane Kitchen was calling our names.  We sat down and immediately dove into some delicious, fluffy rolls.

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We began with a calamari salad.  It’s refreshing to have calamari that isn’t fried and this was delicious, with a dressing that brought out all the great flavors.

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Mike, shockingly, got the cheeseburger.  Since it was devoured before I even remember picking up my fork, I’ll assume he enjoyed it.

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Lori got the skirt steak.  I tried some (without the sauce) and it was juicy and perfectly cooked.  It also had a nice char on it, so the flavor was great.

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Lori’s ABF chose the short ribs.  Oh these were good.  They were so tender and the sauce was a perfect compliment.

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I went with the pork belly with a slow cooked egg.  This was cooked to perfection, with both crunchy bits and the melty soft fats that make pork belly oh so good.

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And boy oh boy do I love eggs. It was on top of a radicchio (I think) which is usually a bit too bitter for me, but with the sweet of the pork and the egg yolk, it was delish!

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As if we weren’t indulgent enough, we split THREE desserts.  We got the cheesecake, the apple pie, and the chocolate pecan pie.  All three were good, but nothing was outstanding.  And I was too full to even look at another bite.

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Though the pumpkin cheesecake did just keep on calling out to me… “just one more bite!”

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Love Lane Kitchen was a perfect end to a perfect day.  Great, home style food cooked with love and attention.  Everything was scrumptious and I would love to go back to try more.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

For Lori’s take on our meal at Love Lane Kitchen, visit her blog here.

Bar’rique Take 2

1 Nov

 

After a great meal at Bar’rique a few months ago, I decided to go back to try it again when I met a friend for dinner.

My friend got the pea soup, which she said was very good.

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I had the pork belly appetizer, which as just delicious. The peach sauce on it was a great sweet (but not too sweet) compliment to the fatty pork belly with ta great crisp on top.

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I then tried the Skate special.  I am a BIG fan of skate, however, too often it is overcooked or not fresh enough and it just doesn’t taste right.  I always hesitate for a bit before ordering, but after such positive past experiences here at Bar’rique, I decided to try it.

I’m glad I did. It was perfectly cooked and had that great sweet flavor of skate with a very slight crispness from the breading.  It wasn’t over-breaded and it had a slight lemony flavor.  It was really fantastic, and even the little side salad was dressed in a delicious vinaigrette.

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This place continues to impress, and I look forward to going back again soon!

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

 

 

 

Blue Ribbon Sushi and Grill

9 Sep

One perk of my job is that I get to go on client dinners.  This supplements my expensive eating habits nicely.  Sometimes I wind up at places that are less than ideal (a recent trip to Dos Caminos left me in the prickly position of a waitress saying to me “there is NOTHING on the menu you can eat”… awesome) but sometimes I wind up trying awesome places like Blue Ribbon Sushi and Grill (on 58th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in the 6 Columbus Hotel).

I had been there once before, however, this time I was with a coworker who knew the manager and he knew EXACTLY what to order.

We started with the lamb chops, which was yummy.  It even converted someone who typically doesn’t like lamb.  Winner.

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It came over a delicious sweet potato puree.

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Next up we ordered the pork belly.

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It was a delicious slice of perfectly cook pork belly with a great balance of sweet and spicy veg on top.

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We also ordered pork and shrimp dumpings, both of which were good, but no better than most NY Dim Sum.

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They enjoyed an order of spicy ceviche. I’ll take their word for it that it was good.

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We also ordered the duck, which came with orange teriyaki, cauliflower puree, and asian broccoli.  The skin on this was so perfectly crisp and the meat was so well cooked it almost melted in your mouth.  One of the top duck dishes I have had.

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And then… heaven came out…

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This was Oxtail Fried Rice.  It came with daikon, shiitake, and bone marrow.  The bone marrow was actually tucked inside an egg pocket.  See it broken open in the picture below.

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This was unbelievable.  One of the best dishes I have ever had.  And it was rice.  The most delicious rice I have ever had!  I actually felt bad while eating this that Mike wasn’t enjoying it with me and look forward to bringing him back here soon just for this dish.  Add this to the list of dishes I will crave during bad days.  Om nom nom nom nom nom nom.

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Just in case that wasn’t enough food, a sushi tray made its entrance.  I won’t go into the specifics (since I don’t remember them anyway) but I can tell you that every piece was awesome.

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For dessert we got bread pudding and this made lovers out of haters.  It was insanely good, perfectly cooked, unbelievably tender and moist, and full of flavor.  YUM!

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We also got green tea chocolate lava cake.  Awesome.  Simply awesome.

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This was a fantastic meal.  Absolutely fantastic.  Knowing what to order is key.  I usually wouldn’t focus on the cooked food at a sushi restaurant, but don’t forget about the “Grill” part of their name.  It’s fantastic.

And that Oxtail Fried Rice… mmmmmmmmmmmmm

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Working My Way Through the Albert Hall Tavern Menu- UPDATED 7/4/11

4 Jul

UPDATE:  Chef Bill is no longer steering the stove at Albert Hall Tavern.  It was a big loss!

 

Having a restaurant I like that has good beer and good people around the corner is a JOY.  And I’m not going to lie… FourSquare tells me I have been there 8 times.  That’s pretty impressive for only having been open for a month now! (UPDATE: I am now far past the 20 visits mark, and it has been open since January 2011.  UPDATE TWO: 36 visits as of 7/4/11)

They now have a full menu (slightly different from what is posted on MenuPages, but close) and I have had the luxury of trying many things on it.  So here is a run-down of my hits and misses:

Spinach Artichoke Dip: I really like this dip.  It has great flavor without being too greasy or heavy.   I kind of enjoyed the little sprinkle of crunch that the homemade potato chips added to this the first time we had it (it has since come without).  Had I not tried it that way originally, I probably wouldn’t think anything were missing.

Nom Points: 7 out of 10 (would be 7.5 with the chips)

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Roasted Cauliflower and Stilton Soup: The cauliflower soup alone would be delicious, but the stilton cheese brings it to a whole new level.

Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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New England Clam Chowder: It looks so unassuming…

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But look at that clam!  This was delicious and there was no skimping on the good stuff.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Bibb Lettuce: This comes with braised artichokes, duck prosciutto and lemon vinaigrette with duck cracklings.

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Those cracklings are worth every bite and every penny.   I do wish it had some sort of soft cheese to compliment all that duck.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 ouf of 10

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Pork Belly Tonnato: I LOVE pork belly.  I do wish, however, that our waitress had forewarned us that this was cold.  It turns out that I DO NOT like cold pork belly.  I couldn’t get over the idea that I was eating cold pork.  I wanted this to be melty fat and crispy skin, but it fell flat for me.  Not a fan.

Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10

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As for the entrees…

Macaroni and Cheese: Plain ol’ mac and cheese with lots of cheesy goodness… like your momma makes it.   If you like it classic (which I do) and packed with cheese flavor (which I also do), this is WORTH IT.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Gnocchi: This comes with raisins, fennel, and crisp lamb sweetbreads in a smoked leek fondue.  Sweetbreads aren’t for everyone, and I can’t say I’m a fan, but once in a while they are delicious.  In this dish they worked, but I’m not sure if this is what I’d be running back for.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Skillet Burger:  I liked this burger.  It came with a Jack Daniels (I think) dipping sauce which was awesome on the fries (which I’m pretty sure are made with duck fat and truffel).  I would have preferred if the bun was a little more delicious, but the meat had nice char and was cooked well.  I always find it hard to judge a burger, but this was above average.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10 (for the burger) and 8.5 out of 10 (for the fries)

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Fish and Chips: I would say that serving fish and chips on brown paper is dangerous because it shows grease, however, this fish was lightly fried and not at all greasy.  I wish the fries were a bit crisper, but I thought this was pretty enjoyable.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Branzino: This came with lemon and garlic sauce.  It didn’t mention that it was a whole fish on the menu.  It was tasty, though the sauce was a bit strong for my tastes.  I LOVE Branzino and this was simple and delicious and let those great flavors show.

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But it did come with a head (much to the dismay of my eating companion that evening).

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And then the big problem…. WAY too many bones.  Every single bite left me carefully chewing and reaching into my mouth to take bones out.  I don’t mind a little work, but this was WAY too excessive and left me enjoying my fish a lot less than I should have. (UPDATE: Chef Bill tells me he now serves this with many less bones.  Will have to try the new version soon.)

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10 (this probably would have been a 7 or 7.5 if not for the bone problem)

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Citrus and Thyme Roasted Half Chicken:  This was VERY citrusy, and the blood orange was a lovely touch.  It was quite moist but I wouldn’t say it was outstanding.  I wish the skin were crispier, but the sauce was interesting and delicious.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Lamb Shank Special:  Why this isn’t on the regular menu… I do not know.  HANDS DOWN the best entree we had here (though the steak the first time around was REALLY good).  It was so tender, great sauce, hearty portion, and the mashed potatoes were FANTASTIC.   This should be a menu staple.  It’s just too good to risk not being there.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Now onto dessert!

Hard Cider and Fig Baked Custard: This was yummy but very mild in flavor.  I don’t know if I’d go back to this, but I’m glad I tried it.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

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Black Walnut Brownie: Classic style brownie.  Crispy on the outside, dense on the inside.  Tasty, especially with strawberries.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Cherry Pie: This was everyone’s favorite dessert.  The crust was well flaked, inside well balanced between sweet and tart, and I would go back for more of this in a heartbeat!

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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I had previous blogged about the tuna tartare, mussels, duck & fig rillette, the ribeye steak, and the roasted veggies.  Here is a quick recap so it’s all in one place.

Tuna Tartare:  Delicious but WAY too peppery (and a little heavy on the capers).  Distracted from the delicate flavors of the tuna and quail egg.  A narrow miss of what would have been a great dish. Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Steamed Mussels: AMAZING.  This is the #1 dish to order when you are there.  The black garlic and charred rosemary in the sauce means that if anyone tries to take that bowl away before you get a chance to soak it all up with crusty bread, cut off their hand.  Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10

Duck & Fig Rillette: I appreciated how good this was, but I wouldn’t say it’s high on my list of favorites.  The fig and duck were perfect compliments, but the more I eat it, the more I realized I’m just not a rillette/pate kinda gal.  Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Ribeye Steak: The steak itself had great char and was delicious, however, what really made this dish stand out was the 3 sauces you could dip into.  The au poivre sauce was especially delicious. Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Barrel Roasted Winter Vegetables: I’m not sure what magic barrel they used, but it brought out all the great flavors of these veggies. Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

I have also tried the bone marrow, which is really delicious served with beets and deviled beef.  Highly recommended.  Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

So what would my perfect meal be at Albert Hall Tavern from the items I have tried?  Mussels, Cauliflower Soup, Bibb Salad, and the Lamb Shank.

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UPDATE:

I have since tried many more dishes on the menu.  Here are some highlights:

Suckling Pig: This was cooked to perfection.  Crispy skin, fantastic mashed potatoes, and those vegetables were something special!  Highly recommended.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Shepherd’s Pie: This was packed with flavor and the mashed potatoes on the top were very well crisped and flavored.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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The inside was a treat that was certainly based in tradition but with bumped up flavor.  Delicious! And very filling.

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Scallops:  These came with braised endive celery root puree and tomato citrus vinaigrette.  I LOVED the puree and was very glad to have a semi-healthy side where most people would normally have served buttery potatoes.  The scallops were juicy, flavorful, and seared very well.  I’ve had this dish 2 times since.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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Bangers and Mash: This is a very new item on the menu and we actually had the first plate served.  (Go us!)  It was sensational.  The caramelized shallots on top and the sauce were fantastic.  And the bangers (English Sausage) were so filled with flavor and so fresh that we couldn’t stop talking about them.  The potatoes were great (and I don’t even like mashed potatoes!)  I would add this to the ideal menu here.  One of my faves!

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Potato and Leek Tart: This wound up being much BIGGER than we anticipated.  The flavors were great and the greens on top made it taste fresh.  A very nice vegetarian option.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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And Chef Bill informed me that he had been making tweaks to the dessert menu.  His tweaks have all put dessert in the right direction.  Everything I have tasted recently has been a huge improvement over the desserts prior (which were fine, but average).  In fact, we enjoyed the new tiramisu so much, that this is all that was left of it… 

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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(Hopefully I’ll have a new picture to replace that with soon)

Upon discussing desserts, Chef Bill very kindly brought out a brand new dessert for us to try, on the house, that wasn’t on the menu. Passion Fruit Custard.  This was sensational.  The custard itself was great, but both my dinner guest and I RAVED about how the whipped cream was perfect.   Yum!

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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7/4/11 UPDATE:
Brunch- French Toast with Lemon Marscapone: This was very well cooked and the fresh fruit on the side was a great touch.  I like when my french toast has a bit of crips on the outside and then a fully saturated, but not soggy, inside.  This was exactly that.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Brunch- Full English Breakfast:  This was a FULL plate with fried eggs, bacon, blood sausage, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, and toast.  The grilled tomato was shockingly good, and it’s hard to beat blood sausage.  This is a hearty, good meal.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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“David’s” Chicken Liver Mousse: This came with cornichons and country bread and whole grain mustard.  I’m sure this scared a lot of people off, but live mousse topped with salty fat, spread on crunchy bread… yeah, in my opinion it doesn’t get much better than that.  And it doesn’t get much better than this version.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Golden Watermelon: This was a pickled, yellow watermelon with goat cheese and bin the summer.  asil oil.  This was so light and refreshing.  Very nice if you want a small bite for summer.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Lamb Roast:  This came with a mint basil sauce over asparagus.  It was bursting with flavor and the sauce on top was a perfect compliment for the lamb.  I can’t say it’s what I expected from a “roast” but it was delicious.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Scallop Crudo: New to the menu for summer, the scallop crudo with meyer lemon and herbs is refreshing, delicious, and as fresh as can be.  Yum.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Hamachi Crudo: One day they were out of scallop crudo, but they had hamachi crudo.  This was even more summary, topped with beautiful, edible flowers and the perfect amount of citrus.  Double Yum!

Total Nom Points: 7 .5 out of 10

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Soft Shell Crab: These very lightly fried softshell crabs are on top of jicama and carrot salad (shredded and mixed with a mild sauce of mustard, ketchup, and vinegar… which tasted MUCH better than it sounded) and wrapped in fresh cucumber.  This mixed so well together, with the bite of the salad (and slight spice) nicely complimenting the rich textures of the soft shell crab and then slightly cooled and refreshed by the cucumber.  Fantastic.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Oysters:  I would be remiss if I never mentioned the oysters.  We get these often and they are always fresh with great flavor.  One of my alltime favorite summer bites.

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Roasted Peaches: A new dessert on the menu. these peaches are perfectly roasted with an amarreto sauce and marscapone.  Delicately sweet and the roasting perfectly pulled out the flavor in the peaches.  We really enjoyed this.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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NYC Restaurant Week- Winter 2011: The Modern Bar Room

28 Jan

Still wondering where to go for Restaurant Week this time around (thru February 6th, as of now)?  This year there is a slight change:  No more Saturdays, and Sundays are optional (I’m sure a lot of restaurants are happy about that).  There are still plenty of reservations available on Open Table (though some places aren’t on there, so you have to call.)

Every year, one of the hardest Restaurant Week reservations to get is at The Modern.  I was browsing who had some openings, and was shocked to see a spot for 2 at The Modern Bar Room (in MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art) on the first day of Restaurant Week for 6pm.  I jumped on it, and invited That Lori (of Stuff I Ate) to join me.  She was more than happy to oblige.

I was slightly obsessed with the floral design in the entry-way.

Beautiful purple lilies (I think) of some sort.   It looked like a dark purple calla lily.  Simply lovely.

Right behind that was a bar, that had thoroughly stocked glass shelves.

A view of “The Bar Room.”  It was simple, tasteful, and (shocker) modern.

The menu was quite lengthy for Restaurant Week.

I had trouble choosing because so much sounded great!

It was as we were browsing this menu that we started running into the problem of the evening… our waitress was MIA.  And continued to be MIA for at least 30 minutes before taking our order, which she rushed through.  We noticed she gave everyone else a shpiel about restaurant week and how you could pick one thing from each category, however, the entrees were half portion and you could pick a full-sized portion of anything on the menu for $17 additional.

I was famished, so I scarfed through both pieces of bread quickly.  The butter was obviously homemade and delicious, but lacking in salt.  And there was none on the table… and no one to ask…

Lori decided to begin with a dish she had tried in the past, but was so enamored by it that she just had to get it again.  It was roasted Long Island duck breast with peppercorn-crusted apples and toasted pistachio-truffle dipping sauce.

The peppercorn-crusted apples were very good, and Lori LOVED them, however, I’m not a huge pepper fan.  The duck was perfectly ducky.  But the sauce… HOLY CRAP.  Now THAT was good sauce.  What could possibly be bad about pistachios and truffles?
I decided to go with the artichoke soup, since I can’t get enough archies.  The combination of the artichokes with pearl barley, toasted almonds, and ricotta was very nice, and didn’t overpower the artichoke flavor.  The biscuits had rosemary in them and were deliciously buttery.
I’m glad I had a hearty portion of soup… we proceeded to watch someone sit down, give their order, and receive BOTH apps and entrees before our entrees even came out.  The manager came over to apologize… our waitress did not.  She didn’t seem to have any problems with her other tables, however, we were the forgotten children all night.  Literally the red-headed step-children.  And SHE was a red head! (Perhaps she’s a self-hater!)
Lori chose the squab for her entree.  When it came out, it was VERY tiny, even for squab (as was mine… though I have to say, both of us left completely satisfied and perfectly full without being too full… I wish portion control was always that easy).  The squab was spice-dusted and I LOVED the cinnamony tang it had.  It also came with braised romaine, haricots verts and bacon salad.  (Did somebody say bacon salad?)  Delightful little squab.
I went with the pork belly that came with rutabaga choucroute and ginger jus.  It was a decadent few bites of porky goodness.
For dessert, I chose the dark chocolate tart that came with chocolate ice cream.  It had a delicious, crackly top like creme brulee (though made out of chocolate, not sugar).  It was scrumptious!  I even liked the chocolate ice cream, which is rare for me.
Lori chose the coffee caramel dome with vanilla ice cream and amaretto gelee.  It hinted a bit towards Star Wars…
The layers were awfully tasty, however, I forgot to take a pic.  D’oh!  I’ll link to Lori’s pictures once she posts.
I wish the light was better, but the gelee made for a very artful decoration.
Overall, besides the AWFUL waitress, the food was sensational and this ranked very high on the Restaurant Week experiences list.  The selection is fantastic and while the portions are small, they are packed with flavor, very satisfying, and in no way did I leave wanting.  If you can secure yourself a RW reservation at The Modern, DO IT!  (In fact… they have been extending Restaurant Week during the final week lately, so go ahead and snag a reservation for the week following while you can and see if they extend… you can always cancel!)
Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

The Best Ramen In NYC (so far): Ippudo

23 Nov

I have been to Ippudo (on 4th Ave between 9th and 10th Streets) about 3 or 4 times and somehow managed to miss blogging about it each time.  And that’s a damn shame… because I have been withholding the best damn ramen place I have found in NYC from my wonderful readers.  Maybe I did it subconsciously so the secret of eating here without waiting on the crazy line would not be revealed… but I’ll let you in on the secret… read on…

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Upon entering, the whole staff yells a very Japanese welcome.  Be prepared to feel yelled at… but they assure me it’s all meant in kindness.

The first time I took Mike, we ordered the Chef’s Tasting Appetizers.  I can’t for the life of me remember what they were, but those little corn things were delicious.  And of course I couldn’t eat the dish in the back due to the peppers, but Mike enjoyed.

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We also got the pork buns.  They are not quite the caliber of the ones at Momofuku Ssam, but they were delicious.

 

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One of my favorite things to order is the lunch special.  It starts with a selection of rice dishes and I absolutely LOVE the pork over rice.  It is packed with flavor and just the right amount of sauce.  DELICIOUS!

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The next dish is the Tsuke Soba, which is  cold ramen that comes with soup for dipping into.  My coworker loved this.

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I order the same thing each time:  The Shiromaru Hakata Classic, which they describe as “the original tonkotsu’ soup noodle with pork loin chashu, kikurage, menma, 1/2 boiled egg, red pickled ginger, sesame & scallions.”  I have found that adding Onsen Tamago (poached egg) and the sensational Kakuni (braised pork belly) brings this soup to a whole new level. Nom Nom Nom.

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So what’s the secret for getting in when the bar is packed and people are gathered outside, prepared for the 1.5 hour wait?  You need to go in-person to make a reservation day-of.  I highly recommend heading to Union Square around lunch time, starting at Ippudo where you put your name in for an early dinner.  Then walk around the Union Square Greenmarket and take in a movie at the Union Square Cinema.  That should put you at Ippudo just in time to walk right in, much to the dismay of the waiting public, and sit down for an epic meal.

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On one such occasion where I was bringing some good friends to this awesome place, I managed to capture some additional decorations inside.  (I really enjoy their aesthetic)

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The table where we sat had these cool ropes under glass to decorate the table.  Very cool.

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Now back to the food… The group started with Yamaimo Isobe, which is fresh mountain yam topped with mentai plum and jalapeno masago, served with nori.

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Everyone ordered their ramen of choice.

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I love how they serve each in a different bowl.

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And trust me, the side of pork belly is TOTALLY worth it!

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Each broth is a little different.

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And absolutely delicious.

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I’ve never heard anyone have any complaints about their soup.

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One thing that I find pretty funny is that many people read the following on their menu and get all excited about more noodles:

“Kae-dama is a system that offers you an extra serving of noodles. when you have almost finished your first serving of noodles, order by saying, “kae-dama, please”. in a few minutes the server will bring you another ‘ball of noodles’, and put it in the soup. at that time, you must have enough amount of the soup in the bowl to accommodate the new noodles, that is, you shouldn’t drink much of the soup if you are going to order the kae-dama.”

No one ever feels like they are hungry enough for more noodles by the end.

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Their dessert menu always has a few curiosities on it.

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This time we ordered the marscapone and ice cream cake…

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The Crepe Cake…

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And the Macha Brulee.

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I really like the brulee, personally, and the slight flavor of tea is really nice. Not everyone likes it, but that just means more for me!

Overall, Ippudo is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC.  I highly recommend it.  Just go and make an in-person reservation.  You won’t regret it.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10


Pork Belly

25 Nov

I can tell when someone really knows me when they bring Pork Belly to my housewarming as a gift.  Thanks to Lillian and Josh, I got to make an attempt at cooking this delicious food.  Honestly, at first, I wasn’t too sure.   When I took out the pork belly and cut it up, however, there was SO much fat on it that I was wondering if it would even be edible.  Oh how naive of me!

Lillian told me it was salted pork belly (which sent me to Google, only to find out that brining is customary for pork belly and doesn’t impact the preparation… shrug… okay!

I found a recipe that sounded good and mixed pork with fruit (basically, I love just about anything with warm fruit).  I put it all together and hoped for the best.

While I’m sure I could have poured off the rest of the fat from the pork, I decided it was much more tasty sounding to use it to cook the veggies in. And OH was it good!  I had leftover citrus cauliflower (it’s yellow and smaller) and mushrooms to play with.  SOOOO good.

I also had some leftover yummy pasta.  So the plate was delicious AND colorful.

Holy crap did it turn out well!  I think this may be one of my favoritist things I’ve ever made.  I’m sure it’s terrible for me, but I could eat this every single day.  In fact, my mouth is watering for it right now.

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RECIPES
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Ingredients:

  • 6 slices of belly pork
  • 4 medium cooking (tart) apples, peeled, cored and quartered (I didn’t peal mine since I love roasted apples with skin)
  • 2 tbsp plain flour (All purpose)
  • 1 1/4 cup cider
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Fry the pork in a frying pan until crisp on both sides.
  3. Remove from the pan with tongs and arrange in a baking dish. Surround with the apple quarters.
  4. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the frying pan. (or use the rest for delicious veggies!)
  5. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  6. Gradually stir in the milk or cider and bring to the boil.
  7. Add salt and pepper, then pour this sauce over the pork and apples.
  8. Bake in a preheated moderate oven (350°F) for 35 to 45 minutes.

An Austrian Brasserie

2 Nov

I have passed by Klee on 9th Ave between 22nd and 23rd many, many times while I lived in the neighborhood. I had heard good things in various blogs and magazines, but it was always right there, so I just never went. Our last weekend in the apartment led me to make sure we knocked this one off the list. I didn’t know much about it, and assumed Klee Brasserie was probably french. Turns out it’s Austrian, which was interesting as I was just reading my Great Aunt’s fascinating book about her departure from Austria during the Holocaust (my Grandmother also left Austria when she was 11 and came here by way of Cuba).

We came a bit before the dinner rush without a reservation, so we sat at the bar and it was quite nice.

The menu looked great, however, when the waitress came to tell us about the specials I knew the “reasonably priced” dinner was going out the window. The Oktoberfest menu featured a few selections made with a special Mangalitsa Pork, however, the special featured pork belly with crispy skin. Pork Belly? Crispy Skin? I don’t think there are four more beautiful words in the English language. (I’m such a good Jew!)

Before I get ahead of myself, however, we did have an appetizer. We chose the side of three roasted squashes with Spanish cheese spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg as an app. This was great, and the cheese really made the dish.

Mike chose the Lancaster roasted chicken and sausage with brussel sprouts, chestnut, and orange whip. (In the pictures, the sausage is under the greens). This is a great example of how what you order at a restaurant really makes a difference. This dish was just okay. The sausage was tasty but the chicken wasn’t anything special.

To contrast, my pork was so good I wanted to lick the plate. I thought she said it came with roasted fingerling potatoes, but it was a purple potato mash (of sorts) with big chunks of roasted potato in it. It was good and all, but the pork belly… wow.

Check out the picture. Crispy skin, layer of delicious fat, then perfectly cooked belly. Nom Nom Nom. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

It did take some time for our desserts to come out, but it was nice that the chef sent out a cranberry drink of some sort. As someone that isn’t overly keen on cranberries, I was impressed by how much I enjoyed this.

Since we were already living indulgently (hey… we were rewarding ourselves for packing all day), we went for a dessert drink of amaretto on the rocks (if anyone doesn’t know how to make that… you take some amaretto… and you pour it over ice). It was quite rewarding.

For dessert, I chose the Sacher Torte with Schlag (they had “shlag” on their menu!) It had a layer of apricot and was very, very tasty. I especially liked the torched top of the whipped cream squiggle. Gave it a toasted marshmallow quality.

Mike chose the Peanut Butter and Banana Pudding with salted honey crisps. The honey crisps were more like VERY sticky popcorn (that was quite hard to eat) and the pudding was quite peanut buttery but not enough banana.

Overall, the food was interesting and delicious, but really varied depending on what was ordered. My dishes were all great (in the 8 Nom Points territory), Mike’s were just so-so (in the 6 Nom Points territory). Therefore…

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10