Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Great Macchiato at Abraco and the Burger that Put me Down

I'm on a big kick right now of trying out different places for espresso and macchiatos. I can no longer have a cup of cheap coffee from the deli like I sling back on the weekdays. The weekend is now reserved for tasting new coffee delights.

This weekend I knew I had to try out Abraco. Abraco has been getting great reviews from everyone it seems. Ever since my experience at Fika where my Ninth Street Espresso macchiato had no comparison, I have been more open to trying out different joints. Abraco is much closer than Fika as well. It's down on 7th street in the East Village where we find ourselves almost every weekend.

Abraco is a very tiny little espresso bar. When we arrived on Saturday there were about 5 people inside, which meant there was no room for us! That's how tiny it is!We patiently waited outside until a couple people left and then squeezed ourselves inside.

As soon as we walked in the door the man behind the counter gave us a huge smile and jovial welcome. Everything about him reminded me of a cartoon character with his wild hair and throaty voice. I liked this place already!

Mr T and I both decided to order macchiatos and I went for a Ginger Snap cookie.



My macchiato came and I spooned a teensy bit of raw sugar from the bowl on the counter and took a sip....



Yum. Serious good stuff. I loved it! It was such a good balance of creamy, strong, rich and smooth. I really can't explain it....and I don't even want to! It was plain delicious!!

Mr T announced it to be better than 9th Street and I would have to agree. Fika is still my fav but I have to place this as a very close second. It may move into a tie soon because of the location but we'll see what happens.

The Ginger Snap cookie was a classic- nothing more nothing less. Next time I want to try out their olive oil cookies which sound intriguing.

The best part about the whole experience, besides the amazing coffee, was the service.

The place was crowded the entire time we were inside and the barista treated everyone like a long lost friend. I just felt good inside being in there.

Unfortunately we should have stayed and had some sandwiches there :(

Instead we went to meet friends at Village Pourhouse to have some beers and watch some College Basketball.

About 2 beers in I realized that my early morning English Muffin a Ginger Snap cookie was not going to tie me over. I decided to order the burger because, well....any place can make a decent burger right?

Wrong.

It came out of the kitchen and it looked okay (are those grill marks painted on..)



So I took a bite.

Eww...It tasted like it had been covered in pepper and meat seasoner. I mean I could hardly taste the beef! And the texture was just strange.

I was really hungry (and a little buzzed) so I ate about a quarter of it- masking the taste with ketchup, tomato and mayonnaise (and I never have mayonnaise on my burger). Then I finally stopped. I was beginning to feel a little gross.

Damn you alcohol! You cloud my food judgement!

Well- long story short- I woke up the next morning about 5:00 with searing pains through my stomach. I felt like someone was stabbing me repeatedly with a sword.

I'm sure there is an importent moral to be learned in this story, but I don't know what it is.

I just wish I had just stuck with my great macchiato.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Monty's Pizza

I had a work function the other day and they ordered a bunch of pizza's from a place called Monty Q's on Montague Street in Brooklyn.



I had heard people I work with rave about this stuff so I was pretty excited to try it out. Pizza is such a funny thing. Although it is only made of three main ingredients people swear by some kinds and really hate other kinds.



I grabbed a fairly small slice to start and tried it out. The first thing I noticed was the grainy bottom and crust. This is usually the sign of a brick oven pizza. The second thing I noticed was the sauce itself which was quite sweet. I actually like a tomato sauce that's more on the sweet side but I have to say the sweetness got to me a little on the 2nd slice. I don't think I could eat more than 2 because of it.



As you can see this slice of pizza is very thin and has an awesome floppiness to it that I love in pizzas. I also thought that the sauce to cheese ratio was perfect.



Because of the sweet taste of the sauce I actually added a little bit of parmesan cheese to the top, which I never do, and I really enjoyed it.

Okay now for the down side. I found that the pies were very inconsistent. A couple I looked at had bright white crusts and no bottom char which tells me they were undercooked.

Another pie I looked at had super thin slices on one half and thick on the other half like the dough wasn't properly tossed.

This was a large order so I can't be too hard on them. I am interested to try this place for a slice on a regular work day and see how it comes out. That will be the true test.

Overall a pretty good pizza.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Giorgio's Still Got It!

We went out for our “Valentines dinner” this past Sunday. We always celebrate a day or two later. I hate going out on the day itself. I feel like it’s very hard to get a true representation of a place on such a crazy restaurant day.

This year we didn’t even try something new. We wanted to stay around our neighborhood so we decided to go to Giorgio’s of Gramercy. We used to frequent this place quite a lot but hadn’t been in at least a year. We started the night out first though with drinks at Gramercy Tavern.

We grabbed the last two seats at the bar and each had a lovely glass of Tocai from the Channing Daughters to start. Gramercy is such a wonderful place to relax and after our glass of wine we decide to stay for one more drink since we just enjoy the surroundings so much.

This time we went for one of our favorite beers the Saison DuPont. Between the wonderful selection of beer and wine, great smelling food and lovely ambiance it was hard to tear ourselves away from Gramercy Tavern. We contemplated staying for dinner but then decided to keep on with our original plan.



We walked over the block to Giorgio’s and the first thing I noticed was the walls. They redid the place since the last time we were there and the white walls had been replaced by a bright bold red. The effect was stunning. My elegant little place now seemed sexy! I really liked it. And although I love Gramercy Tavern I was looking for more of this kind of quiet, gentler atmosphere.



We sat down and ordered a bottle of Sancerre to begin. On Sunday's every bottle of wine is $15 off. It's a pretty good deal...Come to think of it I think we almost always come to Giorgio's on Sundays!

As we were looking over the menu they brought out an amuse bouche.



This was a Pastrami Cured Crostini. This was okay- I’ve never been that big a fan of Pastrami but a little nibble like this once in a while is nice.

We placed our order and they brought over some crusty bread with a nice olive oil for dipping.



Now I should point out that when we walked into the place around 6:30 it was pretty empty. Over the course of the next half hour or so it became packed with a large party taking up the entire back and several couples up front by us. I think this caused a little bit of panic because our waitress was running around and it was quite a while before our appetizers arrived.

Luckily neither of us was starving so we didn’t mind too much but I was kind of relieved when they finally got to our table.

We decided to get two appetizers we could both share because…well sharing is kind of romantic, yes?

First up were half a dozen oysters.



Now we are just getting more into oysters so forgive me if I’m not exactly positive but I think she said these were Pemaquid Oysters. It was a special that night so it wasn't written on the menu.. These were really good! There was some kind of citrus sauce in the middle for dipping but all these required was a little squeeze of lemon and they were fantastic.



We also decided to get the Giorgio’s Antipasto. This was also excellent. There were a couple pieces of prosciutto, soppressata, boccaccini and robiola cheese, green beans, olives and apples. The green beans were barely touched by us to be honest but the rest we devoured.

Then came our entrees. I was so excited. I had been dying for this dish and it delivered.



This is the New Zealand Rack of Lamb with lemon roasted fingerling potatoes and a horseradish demi-glace. The lamb was cooked a perfect medium rare and had an herb crusted coating on the outside that tasted exquisite with the horseradish demi-glace. The presentation was beautiful and the taste was amazing. This was a huge amount of meat and I ate the whole thing!

The only thing I didn’t care for were the shaved Brussels Sprouts. These were combined with parmesan cheese and I think the cheese was a bad idea. To me there is nothing better than a simple roasted brussels s sprout with a little salt and pepper. Why mess with a perfect vegetable?

Mr. T ordered the Pan fried Trout with Molasses Braised pork Belly. The picture doesn’t do this dish any justice.



The trout and the pork belly were so interesting and really played well off each other. The whole dish was covered in an apple cider reduction which again helped the whole sweet and savory come together. It also came with a side of corn pudding, which was actually more like a muffin ,but really tasty.

We also ordered a side of Parmesan Mashed Potatoes. These were okay but we barely touched them. We were to into our own dishes of fish and meat to be bothered filling up on potates!




Well after all of that food we were pretty stuffed…but this is our Valentine’s Day dinner! We needed to end with something sweet! So we ordered desserts.

I got the Walnut Crème Brulee with caramelized bananas



Wow- what a totally new spin on a Crème Brulee! The top was lightly dusted with powdered sugar and although it was mostly bananas it still maintained that classic crisp sugary top. The walnuts really took a back seat here flavor wise but that was alright with me. I love caramelized bananas!!!

Mr. T got the S’more Bread Pudding.



This was a chocolate marshmallow bread pudding covered in caramel sauce, graham cracker and vanilla gelato. This was a little too rich for me. The bread pudding itself was REALLY Chocolaty. I think if it had a little more marshmallow flavor it would be more balanced. The vanilla gelato however was great!

We ended our meal very happy and content. When the bill arrived we wondered aloud once again why we don’t come here more often. That fantastic meal was a pretty reasonable one as well.

Giorgio’s is one of those true gems one is lucky to have in their neighborhood. It’s good to know they are still making such wonderful food and my return visit won’t take as long next time

Giorgio's Of Gramercy Website

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cappaccinos at Caffe Dante

It was such a cold and windy day on Saturday I really felt like just curling up somewhere with a nice warm drink. I had been wanting to try out Saint Ambrous because I heard their coffe was excellent. On the way there it got so cold though that we decided to make a change and headed to Caffe Dante which was closer.

Caffe Dante is an Italian Coffee Shop that has been around since 1912. They serve food as well but I've never eaten a meal there. The place itself is cute and cozy though.

We sat down and ordered up a couple of drinks to warm ourselves up a bit. I got the Cappaccino Dante.



The Cappaccino Dante is basically cappaccino topped with a dusting of cinnamon and cocoa.



It was really creamy and oh so delicious. Caffe Dante really knows how to make a good cappaccinno. Mr T had a double espresso which was also pretty good. No where near the Fika goodness but pretty darn good.

Caffe Dante has tons of delicious looking pasteries like cannolis, eclairs, tiramasu...Just tons of Italian desserts. I'm trying to cut down on the number of sweets I eat a day so I decided just to go for two mini cookies rather than a huge piece of cake (which I really wanted).



The pink cookie was cherry and really quite nice. The second I thought was just an M&M butter cookie but it had the flavor of anise. I hate anise!! I don't know why people have to throw this in and ruin a perfectly good cookie.

Apparently this place is a big tourist spot because right as we were finishing our drinks a bus load of British teenagers filed into the place. And I'm not exaggerating-it really was a busload. There must have been 30-35 teens!

It was a little overwhelming! Luckily we were finished so we grabbed our check and left. Caffe Dante's a great spot for a quick pick me up on a cold day.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sake Bar Hagi

I was dying for some more delicious caffeinated beverages the other day so we grabbed the train uptown to go to Fika. We actually stopped off on the way at the New York Public Library just to walk around and were surprised to see a really great exhibit on Jack Kerouac. We were delighted to have found such a great thing to do on a Saturday that didn't involve any money so....we decided to go out to dinner.  That's just the way we roll :)

After Fika we walked down into the Times Square area and headed towards Sake Bar Hagi. We had tried to go here once before and there were no tables. This time we showed up at 5:45 just 15 minutes after they had opened, and scored the last table.  5:45...Who eats at that hour? And this place is packed!

Even though this is in Times Square it is NOT a tourist destination. Hagi is a basement itzakaya barely visable from the street above. We sat down and ordered some Kirin Light, shochu and a bunch of dishes. The point of an itzakaya is to relax and take things slow, so it was about 20 minutes later when our first items started to arrive.  First up was one of the specials a Duck Yakitori Skewer.


Mmm Mmm... Fatty greasy goodness! The duck was really moist but also had a great smoky taste to it. I was about to order a couple more when Mr. T reminded me that this was only our first dish and I should probably wait for our others to see if I could eat more....(some times he has good ideas).  Next up was another special the Yellowtail Sashimi


This was pretty good. I was kind of expecting to be blown away by the sashimi like I was at Aburiya Kinnosuke but this was just your average good fish...Good but not melty transcendence.  Next we tried out the Yellowtail Collar.


I was really excited about this but because I heard the collar was awesome but this was kind of disappointing. First of all it was really fishy tasting and then there was tons of meat! I thought the collar was supposed to have very little meat and that's why it was so good and interesting tasting...I'll have to try and get it at Aburiya again and see what it's all about.  Next up was the Grilled Fatty Pork.


This was pretty good. The pork was a tad overcooked making it a little tough but the flavor was nice.  My favorite dish of the night was next the Sea Eel Tempura.


The eel was only slightly battered so it was light and crispy. The best part was the salt they served with it on the side that tasted like yuzu. Wow! I could have eaten a couple plates of this stuff!  So at this point I was feeling a little bad about eating so many salty, fatty and fried foods so we ordered a salad to end on. The Bacon and Spinach Salad to be exact.


Holy Cats! This was the fattiest thing of the night. I think what they did was fry up a bunch of REALLY fatty bacon in a pan, throw some spinach in a bowl and then pour the fried bacon and ALL of the grease in the pan over the salad as a dressing.  I mean this was literally dripping with liquid fat. I have to say it was disgusting.  The one big bust of the night.

Before I headed out I stopped off in the Ladies and saw this sign posted. I thought it was so funny I took a picture:


Kind of cute and comical.  So overall I liked Sake Bar Hagi. We decided next time we needed to order some different stuff because the people around us were eating some dishes that looked amazing!!! One of the best parts about Hagi is that it's cheap. You can try out tons of food without breaking the bank.

If you're going to come to Hagi- come early. By the time we left it was a little after 7:00 and there were at least 15 people waiting on the stairs for a seat. This is a pretty popular place.

Sake Bar Hagi

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Pretty Decent Burger at Fitzgeralds

It was a cold and wonderfully snowy Tuesday and I loved every minute of it! We haven't had any snow this year and I always love the first big one.

I walked home from work and decided we needed to go out to a cozy Irish bar for dinner and to watch the snow fall. We didn't want to go far so we decided to head over to Fitzgerald’s.

Fitzgerald's is just a local pub with the classic dart board and mega-touch machine. The one thing I love about it though is the windows up front. You can sit and just stare outside at the goings on of the world and that's exactly what I was looking for.

We grabbed a seat and had a couple beers before we decided to order. We both went for the Fitzgerald Burger.



The Fitzgerald burger is basically a ground chuck burger topped with cheddar cheese on a sesame seed bun. Classic toppings and a side of fries make the meal complete.



The burger is pretty big- about 10 ounces and I couldn't even finish it. It was cooked perfectly medium-rare and for $6.25 was quite a bargain.

Unfortunately Mr. T's Happy Hour Guinness was also $6.25. Not exactly a great deal for a Tuesday night out but the bartender was friendly and he ended up giving us the last drink on the house. You really can't ask for more than that. A good place to have in the neighborhood when you’re looking for some pub grub.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A 50:50 Lunch at Perry Street

So....THE GIANTS WON THE SUPER BOWL!!!!

Holy cow! Who saw that coming! One of the best Super Bowl victories of all time and the Giants are the ones that pulled it off. Mr Trekker is a HUGE Giants fan. So when Eli threw that bullet into the end zone we were going crazy!!! I woke up the next morning with half blurred memories of drinking way too many beers and some kind of weird blue shots chanting "Eli" "Eli"!

Now normally after a night like that I would be done for the entire day. I had pro-actively taken the day off of work ahead of time just because I knew I wouldn't be feeling too well after such a big game. But you know what- I woke up feeling great!

I literally bounded out of bed with the adrenaline from such an amazing victory still pumping through my blood. I wanted to continue the celebration but had no idea what to do. Mr T was on the couch dedicated to watching sports highlights all day but I needed to get out. I decided to call up Mr. T's sister, who works from home, to see if she wanted to go check out one of the amazing lunch deals I'd heard about around the city.

Minutes later I was out the door and headed down to Perry Street to meet up with Kate.

Perry Street is located way over on the West Side Highway inside the bottom of one of the glass Richard Meirer buildings. I walked inside and was surprised to see it quite deserted. There was a table of two ladies, one group of five and a table of two men and that's about it. I was the first one to arrive so once the waiter sat me at the table I had a chance to look around the place

The space itself is very calming with white hues and lots of open spaces. Very minimalist in terms of decor. They had a couple of round banquets that would be great for big groups and windows lined each wall.

The waitress brought me the menu and the first thing I noticed was the wine specials on the left hand side. They had a Pinot Blanc, a Torrontes and a Cotes du Rhone listed for $5 a glass!

Now I'm not one to have a glass of wine at 2:00 on a Monday but at these prices I felt I had to! Also I was still celebrating the Giants so I figure that was a great excuse.

I ordered a glass of the Pinot Blanc and then Kate arrived.

Once she looked at the menu, she agreed with the wine price and decided to try a glass of the Cote Du Rhone and we placed our food order. At Perry Street you pick 2 courses from the list and a dessert for $24. What a bargain!! This might be the best deal in the city!

We were just starting to rehash the events of the night before when the bread arrived.



They gave us each a roll and we dug in.



The bread had a nice soft center and slightly sweet taste. It wasn't particularly special but it was a good start to the meal with our wine.



Then the waiter brought each of us out an amuse bouche.



This was a celery root and cranberry soup. As you can see it was very pretty to look at with a beautiful rose shade.



The soup itself was very good. It had a thick, almost velvety texture to it. I had a celery root soup amuse bouche at Jean George proper and hated it- this was much much better.

Then our first courses arrived. I had ordered the Spinach and Goat Cheese Omelet with Shoestring Potatoes.



I have to say it didn't look very appetizing when it arrived but then I cut inside.



The egg itself was okay...I think it could have been a little fluffier with a better egg to cheese and spinach ratio but it was pretty good. The shoestring potatoes were nice and crispy and a perfect complement to the omelet.

Kate had ordered the Peekytoe Crab Salad with Honey Crisp Apples and Fall Vegetables.



This dish was much more appetizing to look at when it arrived but unfortunately it did not deliver. There were just too many flavors going on. I had a bite of the crab and hardly tasted it. Instead the entire dish was overwhelmed by an overall tart flavor.

So we were a little disappointed with Kate's dish but had high hopes for our second courses.

I ordered the Pan Roasted Chicken Sandwich with speck, arugula & fontina cheese.



I thought this was really good! The top half of the bread was layered with a roasted red pepper puree and the bottom of the bread had what tasted like an olive tapenade. The layer of Speck gave everything a slightly salty taste.

I ended up taking a little bit of the red pepper spread off since there was so much but overall I really like my dish.

It came with a side of homemade potato chips which I honestly only had one of- they were quite boring and I never felt the need to go back for more.

You know the Lays slogan "Bet you can't eat just one?" Well here I could!



Kate ordered the Grilled Beef Hanger Steak with Herbal Spinach and Liquid Gruyere.



Unfortunately this dish completely bombed. The steak itself was so tough it was almost rubbery. The spinach and cheese had a flavor of jalapenos that completely overpowered everything. Not only that but the whole cheese thing was totally unappetizing.

At one point Kate said "They really treated my steak like a fondue party gone wrong."

I thought that pretty much summed the dish up perfectly! At this point we had ordered another glass of wine and were feeling the effects more than usual since it was so early in the day and ended up laughing about how bad the dish was for a while.

I felt kind of bad that Kate was 0-2 at this point but luckily our desserts fared much better.

They had given us a choice of white chocolate dessert or dark. I chose the white chocolate and it was excellent!!



There were balls of white choclate mousse sandwiched between two layers of meringue and topped with a scoop of yuzu ice cream.

This was light and refreshing! I was so full but I ended up eating the whole thing!

Kate ordered the Dark Chocolate Pudding.



She also loved her dessert but couldn't come close to finishing it because it was so rich.

So in the end my meal was pretty good but Kate's was less than stellar. She even said she never come back.

When we looked back on the food, especially Kate's, there were just too many things going on. We both felt a little like we were eating at a southwest Bobby Flay type restaurant rather than a Jean George establishment.

I think I'm going to give this place another try in a couple months. With the $24 price tag I really want to like the place! Oh well- at least we both enjoyed the cheap wine!

Yey Giants!!!!

Perry Street Website

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Seymour Burton- Does It Get Better Than a Burger Fried in Butter?

We were hanging out in the LES this past Saturday having some drinks at Marshall Stack when I got a huge burger craving. And not just any old burger - I wanted a good gourmet style burger. I remebered hearing about a new place Seymour Burton opening up so we decided to head over and see if we could grab a table.

From the outside Seymour Burton struck me as odd looking. It's on sleepy East 5th street which houses Sophie's and Lavagna. For some reason the outside didn't seem to fit on that block. It was a little too bright and sterile looking. Once I went inside though the place felt much better.

We were greeted at the door by the chef. Now this has never happened before. We asked for a table for 2 and got the last one available. They had a large communal table that ran down the center of the room that was open but reserved for a private party.

The place itself was nice. They made good use of the amount of space avaiable. Besides the communal middle there were tables on either side, and the back was the open kitchen. I always love an open kitchen It just makes it more exciting.

The walls were painted red and kind of worn looking. Not in bad way! The whole place felt lived-in. It was kind of cozy. Unfortunately though I had an extremly wobbly chair and the whole meal I was kind of afraid that it would collapse at any moment. Luckily it didn't but that's something they should fix.

There are no printed menus here. Everything from food to drinks is written on the Chalkboard aganist the wall.

The first thing I noticed was the beer selection. Every beer except Pork Slap was from the Ommegang brewery. Ommegang makes all Belgain style beers which Mr. T & I love so we were really excited. Unfortunatly I had already had a bunch a "big" beers at Mashall Stack so I needed to put some food in me before having another one so I just ordered a Pork Slap while Mr. T got the Witte Beer.

There were wine glasses on all of the tables and when the waitress came over with our drinks she asked if I wanted my Pork Slap in the wine glass! I thought this was really funny! So I said sure- why not! And I have to tell you it was pretty damn good in that wine glass.

Well anyway, we were both starving so we decided to start with an order of Latkes and then get the burger and macaroni & cheese for our mains to share.

We placed our order and they brought over some bread and this.



This is hummus and olive oil together. Pretty untraditional but pretty awesome!

Then out came our Latkes.

These were enourmous. I was not expecting them to be so thick. Somehow the entire Latke stayed really crispy even though it was so large. I thought these were pretty good. I still enjoy Zum Schneider style of Potato Pancake the best but I would give these a close second.



Once we finished the latkes we were pretty full. As I said they were huge! But we still had tons more food coming. Offdah..Luckily we decided to split the rest.



The Macaroni and cheese was a generous portion of elbow Macaroni topped with three different cheeses and breadcrumbs.



The cheese was nice in that it kept some of it's stringyness so that when you pulled your fork away some would linger on the bowl.

Th best thing of the night though has to be the burger.



It came topped with Vermont White Cheddar cheese and raw onions atop a huge English Muffin. The juices were already starting to stream out onto the muffin before I even bite into it. This was super juicy and amazing!!!

The meat had that great salty char that every burger should have but rarely does. The chef came around and I asked him what kind of meat he used. He said it was 50% chuck and 50% brisket which is formed and then fried in butter.

Butter.

Something about the way he said it just made it seem so bad. But hey a burger isn't healthy anyway so why not go all out! Yum!!! I was in love.



It came with a huge pile of fries that were similar to the fries I get at a local takeout cheesesteak place Ziggiz. The small ones were nice and crispy while the bigger ones were kind of limp. They were decent but could have been a little more uniform. All in all though a great burger.



We were so full we couldn't even come close to finishing the mac & cheese or the fries. We decided next time to either just get the Latkaes or just the burger. Both is way to much. The bill came and we were happy with the prices. Quite an affordable place.

The chef came over again before we left to make sure we liked everythng. I thought this was nice and he seemed to have a friendly rapport with our waitress which is always nice to see as well.

Seymour Burton is a great addition to the neighborhood. We will be back- maybe sooned than later. That burger is calling my name!!

Seymour Burton Website