Friday, May 30, 2008

Cheese and Meat

So life has been a little crazy lately and there has been no time for posting- sorry.

I should have a break Monday and I have LOTS of good food to talk about :)

Until then here's a nice shot of an awesome cheese and meat plate we enjoyed this past weekend at Grape & Grain. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A New Hershey's???

I just happened to be in Times Square last week for a work function. If you live in NYC you probably try to avoid Times Square as much as possible. It's just really crowed, noisy and filled with people handing out fliers for everything!!

Since I don't find myself there very often I decided to check out a couple places, one being the Hershey store.

As I was walking around looking at the usual bars, kisses and nuggets, something caught my eye.



A Green Tea Hershey Bar! I couldn't believe it! The bar wrapping was written entirely in Chinese so it's quite obvous they haven't begun manufacturing these for regular U.S. consumtion just yet.

We LOVE anything at all with green tea so I bought one and dug in.



The green tea had a slight artificial flavor but I still thought it was good.

As far as chocolate goes I don't think Hershey is winning any compititions when you have chocolatiers like Maison de Chocolat around, but I grew up on the almond bars so it holds a special place in my heart.

I really think there would be a market for this bar here in the US though and I wouldn't be surprised if we start to see it out on the shelves soon. If you find yourself in Times Square you might want to pick one up.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lunch at Asiate

Mr T's sister and husband are moving to Florida in about a month so Kate and I decided to meet up for what may be our last "fancy lunch".

There are so many great lunch deals in this town I can only take advantage when I have a day off. Since Kate works from home and enjoys food just as much as me, she's the perfect companion for these excursions!

We were a little disappointed with our last lunch at Perry Street, so I was somewhat apprehensive about our next pick Asiate. I have heard very mixed reviews but figured the view should hopefully make up for anything bad!

I showed up right at 1:30 for our reservation and the hostess started to seat me at a table in the middle of the room. There were a few tables open right at the corner of the wall to wall windows and she happily obliged when I asked to be seated there.

I didn't get any good pictures of the restaurant so I borrowed some from the Asiate website.



The view is really stunning. You can see all the way uptown and to the east quite a ways. Really quite breathtaking. Kate came a moment later and also needed to take a moment to soak in our wonderful view.



I took a look at the menu and immediately got a pang of nervousness. I had thought the entire lunch menu was a $24.08 prix fix where you choose two options from a variety like Jean Georges.

It turns out there is a very small $24.08 menu and the rest are regular appetizer and entree prices ($14- $38).



I decided to stick to my guns and go for the prix fix with the steak. Kate went against the prix fix and simply ordered the short rib entree.

We both decided to get a glass of wine and each happened to choose the cheapest wine by the glass of the red and white ($11 and $13 not exactly cheap).

For being the cheapest on the list both were excellent and they were quite generous with their pour as well.



Next a man came around with a basket of bread. The choice was olive, whole wheat and your classic brioche. Both Kate and I went with the olive.



The bread was very good but mine seemed to be lacking a lot of the olive flavor.

I looked over at Kate's piece and she seemed to have double the amount of olives inside! Score one for her I guess!

The one problem I had was with the butter. I had to struggle to cut into it because it was so cold and hard. I'm always afraid the whole thing will go flying and hit someone at another table. If they just let it sit out a bit it would have been much better.

Next my appetizer arrived the Toy Box Tomatoes.



I was honestly expecting some kind of tomato bento box for some reason but this was just beautiful on it's own. Tomatoes, arugula, burrata cheese and some great olive oil. I could have eaten an entree size portion of this dish honestly. It was kin of funny to have a dish like this at an Asian place but hey- the Italians got food down pat so why not borrow?

Next the waiter set down a cup of soup in front of Kate. We both started to protest thinking it was a mistake when he told us it was complements of the chef. How nice! I guess they didn't want me eating my appetizer alone.



The soup was cauliflower and it had a great velvety texture but there was a hint of some spice we couldn't figure out. We went back and forth, each tasting and contemplating. Finally we asked the waitress who told us it was curry.

Well I'm glad we asked because neither of us had come up with that! I have to say I didn't care much for the soup, probably because I hate curry so much, but how nice of the chef to send that out.

Next our entrees arrived both looking like amazing! I had ordered the Grilled Sanscho Spiced Sirloin.



Um okay..seriously I don't mean to compare the two but I had just eaten at Les Halles and this steak blew it out of the water. It was lean, juicy and the sanscho sauce really complemented the steak, whereas the au poivre completely overpowered.

I know in some respects that's like comparing apples and oranges but it was the most recent steak I'd had so the flavors were fresh in my mind.

Kate couldn't get enough of the potatoes on the side which were crispy medallions seasoned with just the right amount of rosemary on top.

The veggies were also fantastic. They reminded me of the vegetable plate I had as an appetizer at Bar Milano. To be honest I got just as many vegetables as a side here as I did as an appetizer there and for a lot less money.



Kate had a similar array of vegetables with her Short Rib. The short rib was very good. Nice caramelized crusty top and a relatively moist meaty interior. We both decided it was very good but the steak dish was the clear winner.

We were both too stuffed from our amazing meal for dessert but they brought us over a little tray with a mini macaroons, dark chocolate ganache an a mini biscotti.



I love the little dessert plates! Its exactly the right amount of sweet I need after a meal and it's free!!

I honestly have to say our lunch was one of the best bargains I've had in the city. For $24.08 I had a fantastic spring appetizer, amazing steak and a couple little treats for dessert.

Yes the glasses of wine were a bit pricey but the pours were nice and the view was spectacular. Lunch was simply fantastic all around. I wish I could do this stuff every day!

Asiate

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sweet Little Brooklyn Treat

I was out getting my lunch the other day at work and decided to stop at Lassin and Hennigs to check out what kind of prepared food they had that day.

I walked inside and started to head to the back salad counter when I was distracted by a new bakery item. Red Velvet Cupcakes!

They looked so freakin good I bought one immediately and ran outside to eat it without even buying any lunch!



Wow! This cupcake did not disappoint. The frosting was your classic cream cheese but it had a stronger tang to it than usual. They definitely used a little more sour cream in their recipe rather than extra sugar which was good.

The main thing I was surprised about was how moist the cake was! I mean it was super moist. One of the best textured cakes I have had in a while. The flavor was nice as well. I find most Red Velvet's in the city have either too much of a chocolate flavor or none at all. This was perfect with just a hint of cocoa.

But that's not even the best part!

They come in two sizes- regular and mini. So you can eat a mini and not have the same amount of guilt as when you eat a huge one! The mini's are only $1.25 and completely the right size for satisfying my sweet tooth.

So if you find yourself by the Brooklyn Promenade sometime this summer, you may want to stop off and pick one of these little guys up. You won't be disappointed.

Lassen and Hennigs

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Solo Dining at Les Halles

The weather was so nice last Thursday I decided to take myself out to dinner. Mr T was out of town on business so I figured I deserved some good food and quality alone time with a big juicy steak :)

Les Halles happens to be right near my apartment so when I saw there were lots of open tables outside I had a seat. I came here once about 5 years ago, before Anthony Bourdain became so huge and the place wasn't overrun with tourists.

I remember thinking the fries were unbelievable so I was pretty excited to try those out again.

I sat down and waited for a little over 10 minutes for the waiter (kind of a long time when the place is empty).

I asked him about one of the glasses of wine and he proceeded to try and upsell me from a $7.50 glass to a $17.50 glass of wine! I politely refused his suggestion and ordered a very nice Côtes du Rhône.



As I was contemplating my dinner order the bread arrived. It was pretty average bread basket but the butter took it up a notch with its rich creamy texture.

My waiter came back a minute later and I asked him what cut of meat the Steak au poivre was. He proceeds to tell me "round steak...you know the butt".

Hmm..the butt. I thought this was half amusng and half odd. Not exactly a mouth watering description!

But hey- I ordered it anyway so who am I to say!



Since it was a round steak it was a little bit tougher than most but still delicious. The peppercorn sauce on top was good but almost a little too spicy for my tastes. About halfway through I had to take a little break because my mouth was on fire.

I'm beginning to realize that I can't handle spicy foods like I used to.

Ah...just one of the wonderful joys of getting older :)



As you can see the steak was cooked perfectly and how about those fries!

Well..they were very good- light, crispy almost like a McDonalds fry back in the day but not quite as good as I remember them being the first time I came. Overall a solid dish though.

The place stayed pretty quiet the entire time I was there and it was very enjoyable to just sit and watch the crowds of people bustling down Park Avenue. I have definitely had better steaks before and the service was a little strange but it ended up fitting the bill nicely.

Les Halles

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cookies!!!!

So I have yet to meet the person that dislikes cookies and I hope I never do.

I saw on Eater yesterday that Ruby et Violette was reopening and I just happened to be in Hell's Kitchen for work so I ran over on my lunch break.

The space is small and narrow but they have a few cute tables for you to sit at and the white decor makes the space feel a little bigger than it is.

I walked in about 12:00 and was cheerily greeted by all the women behind the counter.

I had no idea what kind of cookie I wanted...which was perfect because they were doing a cookie tasting!!!

Okay free cookies! This already the best day ever!

I took a bite of the Homerun which was a chocolate based cookie with Baby Ruth candy bar chunks and caramel apparently imported from Italy.

This was good gut very sweet. A little too much for me. The other two I ended up tasting though I ended up buying.

The first one on the left is called the Perfect cookie.




Why perfect? Because it really is the perfect balance of semi-sweet chocolate and cookie dough in a semi-cripy crust gooey center that might make it the most perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Don't get me wrong- I love Levain but sometimes it's just to big - and City Bakery? A little too crispy for my tastes. This fell right between.

The other one on the right is a new one they were trying out- the camel popcorn cookie. This was also very good.

I was worried about the Carmel drizzeled popcorn getting
hard through the baking process bu it didn't . It tasted kind of like a salty Carmel Frappocino to me (in other words pretty freaking awesome)

The last one though was my favorite- the Marshmallow. Can you see him in there!



This little guy was so chewy and sticky that he literally got stuck inside the bottom of my bag. Hey little fella!

I finally got a piece broken off to get a picture of.



Um Yeah...This is basically a perfect with marshmallow inside..Need I say more? One of the best cookies I have ever had. Chewy, moist, gooey, rich all of it!

I loved this place. They also have ice cream which is whatever the flavor is and then the cookie dough mixed in.

For example the espresso is espresso ice cream with espresso cookies dough batter mixed in. The pistachio is pistachio ice cream with perfect cookie dough mixed in. This place is like a dream come true for ice cream and cookie lovers!!!

If only I lived closer!

The staff were super friendly ands after my disappointment at Insomnia this was a nice surprise. Worth the walk over to 10th Avenue- check them out. Really nice little delights!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Degustation Continues to Wow

Mr Trekker and I went to Degustation back during the very first month it was open and it blew us away. The space, the food, the price- everything!

We swore up and down to make it our go-to restaurant for the future.

Well somehow it fell off our radar. Luckily though, a recent chowhound thread brought it back into my mind and I'm happy to report our visit Friday night was everything we had remembered.

Degustation really isn't a restaurant in the common sense in that all 16 seats sit around a bar with the cook and kitchen being the center of the show.

The night we were there I was happy to see the same chef from last time. Although he actually spent the night training someone else. A woman ended up cooking most of our food and it was just as wonderful.

Last time we had done the tasting menu so this time we just decided to order a bunch of dishes and split them between us.

We started out with one of my favorites from last time the Croquetas.



Four little balls of fried balls of cheesy goodness that sat atop some awesome orange pepper sauce.

The next dish was my favorite of the night the crudo of Hamachi.



The hamachi was so fresh and texturally wonderful with crispy artichoke chips on top and the oil drizzled over the fish.

I thought this was a pretty big portion for the prices as well. There were about 5 big pieces of luscious strips.



The next dish was the Snapper with avocado. The snapper was cooked fine but I thought it was way over seasoned. There was so much cilantro I couldn't tastes anything else.

If the Hamachi was my favorite dish, this came in a very close second. The grilled octopus.



First of all, this octopus tentacle is huge and so meaty.

To be honest I have only had grilled octopus a couple of times (usually a fried calamari fan) so I don't have much to compare it to, but this was awesome. It came with some octopus mayonnaise that really brought out the flavor of the dish.

This was not on the menu last time we were there and I really hope they keep it on.



The last three dishes we got were the meat courses. First was the Wagyu Beef which came with some kind of weirds foam on top which I didn't care for but the beef itself was delicious.

The next dish was the Quail which I didn't get a shot of because it was so good we devoured it before I had a chance.

When we came here for the first time this was the first Quail dish I ever loved. Since then I have ordered Quail almost every opportunity I have. This was a wonderful reminder of why how Degustation really changed the way I think about some foods.

It came with some wonderful mushrooms and pine nuts which really brought out the flavor once again.

Our last dish of the night was the Lamb.



I am honestly not sure what I thought of the Lamb dish.

It was good but.. it reminded me of sausage?! Does that sound weird?

Mr T loved it...I thought it was maybe a tad too salty. I love a rack of lamb the best and when I have it any other way it always disappoints a little. It was still pretty good though.

Overall- the meal was fantastic. Every dish was good to spectacular, the wine was wonderful, atmosphere romantic and the bill was actually reasonable!! They could charge so much more!!

Let's cross our fingers that they don't because it;s one of the best deals in the city.

We ended up heading to Cha'an for dessert and finished the night with my favorite dessert the Black Sesame Creme Brulee.

Yay!! A successful night of eating. Two great small places that fall under the media rader but soar high above much of the hype.

Places like these remind why I love being a New Yorker.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hallo Berlin

For some reason I really seem to be hitting the German spots hard these days. We were meeting Mr. T's sister and brother-in-law for dinner Thursday night and she suggested Hallo Berlin. We got there right about 6:00 and took the last outdoor table. We were all having trouble deciding what to order so we went with the Sausage sampler platter.



Look at all those sausages!!! My arteries are clogging up just thinking about them!

I was surprised to see that they came all cut like this but it ended up being better for sharing.



We also got some herring which was actually really good. I grew up in a Polish household so my herring consumption was quite large. This was very good for herring. Much better than I could have imagined.



The potato pancakes were kind of meh...No where near as good as Zum's and really a little mushy.



The fries were just like the pancakes- a little too soft and lacking an overall crunch.

If I'm going to injest this many calories I want to hear the fried crispiness!



The cucumber salad was actually pretty bad. It was really soft and watery.

So overall Hallo Berlin is probably my least favorite German place in the city. The food obviously wasn't that great and the night we were there they were out of the first 3 beers we tried to order!

Also of the 6 times we've been there the service has been almost non-existent. We would have to get up from our seats to go and get our own beer.

Once we ordered food a nice waitress began to bring us stuff but it was obvious she was entirely too busy to really be attentive to the outdoor tables.

Hallo Berlin is a fun place but I would take Loreley or Zum any day.