Monday, June 30, 2008

Awesome Ice Cream

I decided to trek out to Williamsburg Sunday morning to check out the Unfancy Food Show and see what it was all about. It was about 90 degrees and extremely humid around 12:00 and I thought the walk to the bar from the L train was going to kill me.

By the time I got to the place I was sweating profusely and looking for some good food and drink.

I was actually one of the first people there and the vendors were still setting up. I was surprised to see how small the event was but they really packed a lot of great stuff in the timy space.

There were so many great things there, especially the sea salt and almond chocolates from the Mast brothers, but I couldn't really pick anything up because I was afraid it would melt on the walk back.

The one thing I did decide to buy though was the ice cream.

I had a sample of the chocolate flavor upon walking in and the rest of the show I just kept thinking about it. So on my way out I stopped back and picked up a scoop for the road.



I already knew the chocolate was amazing from the sample so I decided to go for something new and asked for the pistachio.

Wow!!! One of the best ice creamsI have ever had. The pistachio had a great earthy nuttiness flavor and the itself was thick and rich without being overly sweet.

The ice cream came from Van Leeuwen Artian Ice Cream and I highly recommend checking it out. The people their were super friendly and you could tell they were serious about their gelato.

I actaully looked them up and found out they are the new artisan ice cream truch people in SOHO! Who knew!

Overall the entire event was very nice and I got to try a lot of good stuff. Hopefully next year it won't be so warm so I can actually purchase some stuff to bring home. But man, that ice cream really hit the spot.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Another Cheap Solid Meal At Spice

It's funny- if Mr. T and I look back on all of the places we've eaten at since moving to NYC over 6 years ago- I can almost guarantee that we've been to Spice the most.

Our first time there, a college friend from Vegas had come to visit. We were so poor we hadn't been out to eat anywhere and had no idea what to do with him!

I remembered hearing about this Thai place and we decided to give it a shot. Two hours later, filled with a flaming volcanic chicken dish and multiple sake bombs, we were a little tipsy, a lot full, and still had some pennies in our pockets.

The rest is history.

Spice is one of those places that we almost always go to when friends come to visit. The city restaurants can be a bit of a sticker shock and this helps ease that pain.

We came back here about 2 weeks ago for lunch when Mr.T's best friend was visiting from San Diego. Their lunch specials are a great deal because you receive a free appetizer with every entree and entrees are generally $7-$9!

I went with my usual starter the Crispy Shrimp Fritters.



Yum! These fried balls of goodness are stuffed with baby shrimp and then placed in a pool of spicy thai chili sauce and cool sliced carrots.

Whew!! Depending on who's in the kitchen these things can light your mouth on fire! They are great though and quite a large portion for a starter.

For my main dish I went with a new item on the menu- the crispy fish. I usually order the Garlic Beef with Vegetables dish but I was feeling adventurous so I went for it.



Okay- they said this was Tilapia but I have never seen a Tilapia that was that thick in my life! There was more fish on this one plate for about 3 people!

The fish was fantastic. It was lightly battered, so that the breading could easily be pulled away and huge chunks of white fish could be eaten with the spicy sauce and vegetables.

Mr T couldn't get enough of my dish. He said it was his new favorite and I have to agree.

The best part? Since there is more than enough fish for two people we could literally spilt lunch here and pay a total of $9 for two people!

Ridiculous- right? That is why this place is always a neighborhood standby.

Don't expect the best service. They are efficient to the point of being a little abrupt but that has never bothered us, and the quiet trance music in the background gives it a cool kind of vibe.

Spice is definitely worth checking out if your in the money woes or just want a great cheap thai meal. It's good to know that there is still one place in this city that has stayed as affordable as it was since the day we moved in.

Now if I could only say the same thing about my apartment....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Market Table

Mr T completely surprised me the other day by making dinner reservations at Market table for Friday! He's surprised me with dinners before (okay only once before) but this was special. I had tried to go to Market Table a bunch of times and something always came up to prevent it from happening. So I was absolutely thrilled when he told me the news and I decided not to leave him after all :)

We got to Market Table around 6:30 on Friday night and the place was relatively empty.

First of all, I love the space!! High wooden ceilings made the space open and airy while the big windows bring in the sunlight and look right out onto the street corner for optimal people watching time.

The wind had started to pick up as we were walking in and we hoped to see a rainstorm while we ate, but unfortunately that never happened.

We were seated in the middle of the room at a big wooden butcher block table. We ordered a bottle of wine and listened to the specials of the day.

I was excited because they were offering the burger as a special that night. I am on a perpetual quest for the best burger so I knew I had to order it. But first we started out by splitting an appetizer.



This is the house cured salmon gravlax on pumpernickel with frisee and egg salad.

They brought the dish out already split up on two plates. This is such a simple thing to do but it really makes the meal more enjoyable.

I actually can't eat salmon so Mr. T took my piece but the egg salad and frisee were wonderful! It came with a mustard sauce on the side that gave a little spicy kick to the creamy egg salad.

Mr T loved the salmon as well. I just thought the pumpernickel, egg and mustard together were a great flavor combination.

As one of the specials they had Beau Soleil Oysters from Nova Scotia, so I got one of those.



The oyster came with some kind of spicy chili sauce which I didn't use since the oyster itself was so perfect all it needed was a splash of lemon.

For our mains the burger arrived and it didn't look as impressive at first as I had expected.



Then I realized what was missing. The tomatoes!!!

They had stopped serving them because of the salmonella scare! That made sense. The waiter offered to bring some out if I wanted but I declined. The tomatoes never make the burger for me anyway.

The burger came topped with caramelized onions and a thick white cheddar cheese.

My thoughts...Well?

It just didn't have anything distinguishing about it. The toasty Cheddar cheese was excellent but I hardly tasted the onions. It wasn't until about half way through the burger that I remembered they were there.

The bun was nice and soft but lacked the squishiness factor of a potato roll.

I was just expecting something a little bit more. The charred outside of a Shack burger, the buttery flavor of the Seymour Burton meat, the addicting saltiness of a PJ Clark patty...there was nothing like that.

It was simply a very good burger that lacked that extra oomph! to make it memorable.

What were memorable though were the fries! OMG they may be my favorite in the city! Every single one was perfectly uniform with a crispy, salty outside that was so good they didn't even need ketchup!

The other excellent part of the night was Mr. T's whole roasted Branzino.



Wow!! The fish was incredibly moist with a slightly sweet flavor that was brought out by the whole pieces of garlic and lemon that were stuffed inside. It came atop a bed of sauteed bok choy that had soaked up the garlic and lemon juices flowing out of the fish. It was spectacular!!! We ate the entire thing!

As a side we ordered the hush puppies which came with honey butter sauce for dipping.



These were also very good but I was so busy enjoying my fries and stealing bites of Mr. T's fish that I couldn't really focus on sides!

We were so stuffed after the fish we couldn't even fathom doing a dessert so we just finished our wine and paid.

Overall I really liked my experience at Market Table. The space is beautiful,service was spot,the food was excellent and my wonderful man planned it all!

What more could a girl ask for!

Market Table

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Weekend Highlights- the Little Owl, Spotted Pig, Cru, Sabarsky & Babbo

So we had a fantastic, and I mean really fantastic, culinary weekend of eating with my parents in town. Unfortunately Mr. T was uploading some things onto my iPhone and somehow erased all my food pictures!!!

So I'll just give a couple brief highlights from the trip. I have actually been to all of these places before except for Babbo so it was nice to take my parents to places I love.

Thursday night- scored a last minute reservation at the Little Owl. Couldn't believe my luck. Of course we ordered the pork chop and gravy meatball sliders which were a hit. But my favorite of the night was the Halibut with corn and English peas. It was one of the best fish dishes I have ever had. The fish was super moist with a crackly skin on top which was heavenly alongside peas and their puree. It tasted like spring.

Friday lunch at the Spotted Pig. Dad loved the burger (hated the shoestrings though which my mother and I happily ate instead). Mom liked her grilled cheese which was rich and thick. Only part of the meal we didn't like were the deviled eggs. The diced green onions on top had just a little too much kick for us and took away from the eggs.

Friday night dinner at Cafe Sabarsky- chocolate cake with pistachio icing and a chewy nougat center. Need I say more.

Saturday brunch at Jane was solid. Not much to report there.

Saturday night dinner at Cru. Service was probably the best I've ever had in a restaurant. Completely wonderful and accommodatingly. Best dishes of the night were the Soft Shell Crabs stuffed with a crabmeat salad. The Saffron Tagliolini was recommended as an appetizer and was amazing. It came with shrimp, lobster and crab that were all plump and sweet in a wonderful shellfish sauce.

Sunday the parents left but we meet up with Mr. Ts family to celebrate father's day at Babbo!!!

Wow- what a meal! I browsed the boards here for what to get and I was not let down. We ordered so much food I can't talk about it all but the Grilled Octopus with “Borlotti Marinati” and Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette.

The dish was enormous and the octopus had a great char to the outside that was just unbelievable. I have been dreaming about this dish all week!

We also ordered the Rib Eye which was also one of the most flavorful pieces of meat I have ever had. I completely understand now why Babbo is so hard to get into. Thanks for all the great recs!!

So a fantastic week of eating...I really need to go on a diet for a little while:)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Seriously Good Dessert At Cafe Sabarsky

My parents were in town this weekend visiting for the first time since last September. My father is a dessert manic and came across Cafe Sabarsky last time they were in town and fell in love with the place. So we headed over there early on Friday and grabbed some dinner.

Cafe Sabarsky is actually inside of the Neue Galerie which displays German and Austrian artwork. The cafe serves mainly Viennese food with a big focus on desserts.

I wasn't feeling particularly hungry since we had a big lunch at the Spotted Pig earlier (which I'll post about later) so I just ordered the Dill and Cucumber Salad.



This was a great dish fit for the extremely hot day we were having. The yogurt sauce was light and the cool cucumbers and tomatoes just tasted really refreshing.

Although the dill was a prominent feature of the dish, it was on the lighter side.

I had some bites of my parents Bavarian sausages and they were both very good.

But come on. The really great stuff here is the desserts.

I ordered the Mozartorte.



Oh my goodness this was soo good!! It's basically a chocolate cake with pistachio icing on the top and a chewy nougat cream center.

The icing was so wonderful and so different than anything I have ever had before. It was thick, almost like a gel, but went perfect with the light cake and nougat inside. Wow! One of the best desserts I have had in a while.

Cafe Sabarsky is just a nice place to visit. It has that old school charm to it with the big wooden walls and windows looking out onto the park. It wouldn't fit in my neighborhood but on the UES it just works.

Cafe Sabarsky

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Brunch at Wakiya

Mr. T.’s sister and husband are moving to Florida in a couple of weeks, so they threw a going away party on Saturday night. They ordered a bunch of appetizers to snack on at the bar throughout the night and most people gobbled them right up.

Most people except for Mr. T. In his defense he was called out of the party for a work matter halfway through and then tried to play “catch up” when he got back by drinking a bunch of Duvel’s and forgoing the food all together.

We woke up Sunday morning and needless to say he was a little worse for wear and starving! I went through a list of foods I could go grab but there was only one thing he wanted- dim sum. Nothing else would do.

I took a look at the temperature outside and saw it was around 95 degrees. No way in hell were we going to schlep all the way down to Chinatown in this heat! Then I remembered seeing that Wakiya did a weekend dim sum brunch. We looked it up on their website and decided, although a bit pricier than we wanted, the two block walk was about all we could handle that day, so we headed out.

Wakiya is the Chinese restaurant that opened to a mixed bag of reviews last year inside the Gramercy Park Hotel. People had high hopes for the place but the early reviews slammed it for small, overpriced food. I hadn’t heard about it in a while but it hadn’t closed down either.

I took that to mean it had improved.

We walked in right about 1:00 and the place was empty besides one group of four and a solo woman dining. We were seated immediately at a huge wooden table that looked out onto the park.

The space was a little strange in the sunlight, but I could tell with the lights on low it would be very sleek and stylish.

We took a look at the menus and decided to order 4 dishes to split between us. They also offer a $35 prix fix but we thought that would be too much food and kind of a waste for the shape we were in.

The first dish we received was actually a last minute pick. We had asked for the Pork Bun but they were all out, so we subbed in with some spring rolls.



The spring rolls were surprisingly good. The last one I had was at Chinatown Brasserie and I hated the filling and thought they were small.



Here they were a pretty good size and came with a great dipping sauce. My only complaint was that they were a tad too greasy. I had to napkin off the bottom of the roll because I was a little grossed out.

Next came the Crab & Pork Soup Dumplings. This is really the main reason Mr. T loves dim sum so much. He is infatuated with soup dumplings.



They looked nice and plump with a thin skin but unfortunately they just didn’t have a remarkable taste. The insides were somewhat bland compared to other ones we have had, and for $16 we could have gotten about 4 orders of great ones at Shanghai café instead.



It came with Ginger Vinaigrette for dipping which added flavor to the dish but almost overpowered the Dumpling.

The next dish we got turned out to be our favorite. The Shrimp Shumai.



Shumai is a funny thing in the city. I feel like every place has a different take on what makes it. Here the shumai was exactly what it should be. A solid whole shrimp atop ground up pork with a great sauce.

Our last dish was the only one I had picked out- the Spicy Beef Salad with Yuzu dressing.



The presentation was gorgeous but as soon as she placed the dish down I realized what was missing- the salad.

Okay...I know that the term salad is a very loose term these days. I actually looked it up on wikipedia to see how they defined it. They said it is a “mixture of cold foods, usually including vegetables and/or fruits, often with a dressing.”

When I think of a salad I think of greens. Lettuce, arugula, spinach, something leafy. No leafy stuff in here!

It actually wasn’t cold either. The base was a mixture of slightly cooked celery, radishes, green turnips and corn. I don’t really like any of these vegetables so most of them were left on the plate.

The beef was good and I loved the yuzu dressing, but the dish was very uneven. Sometimes I would have a bite and almost choke it was so spicy. Then other pieces were simply bland.

We took a brief look at the dessert menu before leaving and saw a sesame white chocolate dessert that sounded absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately our waitress told us their pastry chef had just left so many of the desserts were unavailable.

For the 4 dishes it came to a total of $50.86. Pretty pricey for a dim sum brunch.

I did enjoy the atmosphere though and would probably come back for a drink at the bar and an appetizer. The glasses of wine were surprising priced from $11 and up. I think they start at $20 a glass across the hall at the Rose Bar so that’s a significant difference.

Wakiya

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Art & Octopus

We decided to go and check out the MET rooftop last Saturday since neither of us had ever been. The place was packed but we managed to fight through the crowds and found our way up to the top of the building.



For some reason I thought the view was going to be better. I mean, it was nice but the bushes that go all around the side kind of block the view if you're not super tall.



They had a pretty cool exhibit at the top though by Jeff Koons. Here's a picture of one of the displays.



Anyway- this is a food blog not an art blog right!

So after the Met we walked downtown a little and realized we were pretty hungry. We were meeting friends for dinner later so we didn't want a huge meal just a little snack.

I realized we were only a couple blocks away from Mia Dona so we headed over there and grabbed a couple seats at the bar.

Mia Dona has a long slick looking space. While the front is kind of dark and cool the back is more mellow and bright. They even have a couple of tables outside for enjoying the nice weather.

The bartender came over and we ordered a couple of drinks. He was extremely friendly and chatted us up a bit about the restaurant and about Donatella herself.

While we were contemplating our order the bartender brought over a basket of fantastic bread. Look at that whole roasted garlic!!



I love garlic and this was fantastic as well as the focaccia.

The bartender saw we were struggling with what to order and suggested we try the octopus. We decided to take his recommendation and ordered that and the crispy baccala.

The Baccala came out first and was really interesting to look at.



It was just different layers of stuff. The crispy fish was in the center on top of the fried ricotta cheese and topped off with potato and tomato sauce. It was a little difficult to get a bite with everything at once but it was very tasty.

Then out came the octopus.



First of all, it was a pretty huge piece of octopus for an appetizer. It was grilled perfectly and came with some green beans and an anchovy sauce that was killer!! I would definitely get this again.

Overall we enjoyed our short time at Mia Dona. Friendly staff, good music and excellent food. We noticed that they sell pitchers of beer for $12! Between that and the octopus we will most certainly be back!

Mia Dona

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bar Masa

So Mr. T and I had some gift certificates to Bar Masa we received for Christmas. We have always wanted to try Masa proper but starting at $400 a person for dinner really isn’t in our price range!

It was a Saturday and we were feeling some really good sushi in a non-rushed environment. We decided to go for a midday meal around 3:00. The minimalist décor and draped curtains completely fit our mood. There was only one other table of four when we arrived.

Everything was perfect...at first.

Since it was an off hour, they weren't offering any of their hot dishes- just a limited sushi and sashimi menu. I won’t go into every dish in detail, just some of the

Two pieces of young Yellowtail Hamachi. We were shocked at how small the pieces of sushi were. I’m a small person and I could probably eat about 50 pieces- no exaggeration. And while it was soft and light I think I have had better at other sushi joints.

Hotate which is scallop seared with salt and yuzu zest. This was excellent. I'm a sucker for yuzu on anything so it didn't surprise me that I loved this dish.

Kyushu Beef with salt and pepper. This was also excellent. It's difficult to get meat so tender that it melts but this one did! We liked it so much we order two more pieces.

Masa Toro Toro Roll- The Toro was definitely rich and lush but for $68 it wasn't worth it. I have honestly had a more succulent piece of Toro at Aburiya Kinnosuke.

The California Roll on the other hand was amazing. I have never been a big fan of the California Roll, and now after trying Bar Masa's, I will never be able to have a regular one again. The crab was so buttery and fresh it was unbelievable.

Another big hit was the Grilled Japanese Unagi Big Roll. I’m not an unagi fan so I can’t comment to much but Mr T said it was some of the best Unagi he’s ever had.

Duck with Foie Gras in a Moo shu Pancake. This dish was good but nothing memorable. I also thought for the price the portion could have been a little bigger.

Okay so onto the strangest part. About halfway through our meal a young woman came in pushing a stroller and sat down at the end table about 2 away from us.

I thought it was a little strange to come to Bar Masa alone with a baby but hey- it's the middle of the day! Why not? It's not crowded and maybe she wanted some really good sushi!

So Mr T and I continued enjoying our meal when about 5 minutes later I hear this strange sound.

Okay I'm not going to go into details about how loud and gross the sound was but I basically looked at Mr T, who was facing her, and just said "she's not doing what I think she is."

One look at his saucer wide eyes told me all I need to know.

To make the story short, this went on for about 15 minutes during her sushi roll eating. It was followed up by a belly raspberry blowing session and a very nice, but very loud song. She then paid her check and left.

My question is- who does this!!! I have never seen this before in a regular restaurant much less an upscale establishment.

Yes this is only Bar Masa, not Masa, but when you’re spending this much money on lunch I prefer to enjoy it.

For our food with 2 Sapporas, a Hitachino white ale and the cocktail it came to $280.00 without tip.

Okay- the woman nursing aside- I will probably be back to Bar Masa for the California Roll and maybe to try out one of their hot dishes that we missed. Overall though, I find the sushi to be a higher caliber at other places in the city for less money and the portions bordering on minuscule.