Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Wonderful Christmas

I just returned from a wonderful Christmas filled with tons of good food, family and friends.

Way too much eating and drinking went on over the past week and I cannot mention everything so I’ll try to give a little outline with a few highlights.

The festivities started off at Mr. T’s parents, where we started to enjoy the after noon by opening up a MAGNUM of Chimay Blue Grand Reserve.



Yes, that’s right, a Magnum.

Now I have had Chimay Blue before and always enjoyed the flavor but this time it was a little different.

There was still the nice malty smell and taste but it was smoother somehow.

When I got home I checked out their website and they said it is indeed quite a different beer than a regular sized Chimay.

Since it is such a huge amount, it affects the second fermentation of the beer which results in a fuller, smoother product.

So the regular, easy to drink 9% abv. Chimay became even easier to drink and enjoy.

We were all feeling pretty good by the end of the bottle and decided to break out another special drink for the holiday season.



A bottle of 1998 Opus One wine.

Wow. Mr. T’s father had been waiting for years to open this bottle until it age enough and I think he did it just right.

It had a full mouth feel with silky undertones and a woody, leather smell.

We let it breathe for a while and even then it continued to change taste with each glass becoming a little drier every minute.

It was excellent.

We followed that up with some fantastic home cooked food and some Doughnut Plant Crème Brulee doughnuts for dessert.

I wish I had taken a picture but they were gone before I could!

Little round balls of dough stuffed with a vanilla custard filling and covered in a sweet glaze that had been caramelized a bit, giving it that classic burnt crème brulee flavor.

Yum!!!

Christmas day we woke up, celebrated the morning with the T’s and then headed to the airport to catch a plane to Buffalo.

What followed next were day's filled with moree good food and great drinks.

I finally got to Ulrich’s, the oldest bar in Buffalo and enjoyed a great local brew, the Flying Bison Munich Style Dark Lager, which is brewed exclusively for Ulrichs.

It had a great rich taste of coffee and hint of chocolate that warmed me right up on such a rainy cold night.

I loved Ulrich’s itself as well.

It reminded me a little bit of McSorley’s with the old exterior and pictures plastered inside.

I found it a little strange that it was both a German and Irish bar?? But hey, the beer was good and people friendly, so why complain?

The rest of the week I enjoye a lot of great things, lunch at the Roycroft and Panno’s, dinner out in Perry at The Hole in the Wall, Sahlens hot dogs on the grill at one of the coldest Bills games in history…Just a great time.

The last day I didn’t feel like I had my fill of Buffalo food so I went all out!

For lunch I got my whole family together and picked up a bunch of great food for us to share before I left.

First stop was my favorite place for food in the area, the Bar Bill.

Sweet, incredibly crispy Honey Butter BBQ wings, Sicilian wings (think Italian dressing and parmesan cheese on a wing), moist and juicy Beef on Weck, hot crispy beer fries and a couple orders of Zeet (kind of like a sausage hot pocket).

Then I stopped at another favorite, Pasquale’s, for a slice of their thick greasy pizza (I don’t like thick pizza but this one is the bomb) and a perfect chicken finger sub made with breaded chicken fingers dipped in hot sauce, topped with melted Provolone Cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and bleu cheese.

Whew!! Thank goodness the family was able to help me eat all of this! It was quite the lunch buffet.

I have to reiterate again how good the wings at the Bar Bill truly are. The best in Buffalo- no contest.

After this smorgasbord of food it was back to the airport.

Except I decided to stop on the way for one more thing- Mighty Taco!!

If you grew up in the area you swear by this fast food style taco. Most out-of-towners think its disgusting.

Hey whatever- I think it’s awesome.

I picked up a Super Mighty Pack and wrapped it up tight to enjoy for diner later that night back home.

So we retuned to NYC tired, full but happy. It was a great trip and a wonderful Christmas.

I can’t button my pants any more so a diet is in need but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop posting.

I was so busy the last couple weeks I haven’t had time to post about some awesome things I’ve had lately.

So get ready to hear about my Congee face off, a unique NY state dinner and the opening of one of my favorite places 50 blocks closer to my apartment!! Here’s to 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Coffee!!!!

I woke up Sunday morning and was determined to get all of my Christmas shopping done before it was time to watch football.

I decided to head out to the farthest place first, so I jumped on the 6 train and headed to the Upper East Side. I needed to pick up a gift certificate at Café Sabarsky and I decided I might as well enjoy a cup of coffee while I was there as well.

Unfortunately a lot of other people seemed to have the same idea as I did and there were no tables left for me when I arrived.

The maitre d’ told me the downstairs café, Café Fledermaus, was open with the same menu so I decided to check it out.

I walked in the café and was greeted, rather jovially, by two waiters with thick Austrian accents.

I was kind of taken a back by the enthusiastic greeting at first, until I realized there was no one else in the café besides myself. These guys were probably dying for a customer, so I happily took a seat.

Everything about the downstaits is kind of mod. Black and white checkered floors, sleek black tables and shiny seats.

I didn’t look at the menu I simply ordered a cup of coffee and what came out before me next was quite impressive.



A silver tray with my coffee, a little pitcher of milk and a glass of water.

I really felt like I was someone special! Never before have I had such a beautiful looking tray.

Then I tried the coffee.

OMG it was fantastic!! Quite possibly the best coffee I have ever had.

I have heard that there is no replacement for the coffee in Vienna but wow- this Viannese coffee was superb.

It was big and robust but also perfectly smooth.

I could have drank at least 3 more cups.

Thank goodness I didn’t though!

Fast forward about an hour later and I was a caffeine mess! I had been planning to do some Christmas shopping and I couldn’t keep focused.

My eyes felt like they were open bigger than they have ever been before. I was practically running down Madison Avenue, sweating a little bit in the freezing cold and feeling a bit like a mad man.

I don’t know if it was because I didn’t eat anything yet that day, or maybe because I have given up my daily coffee and save it now for weekends only and my tolerance was down…or maybe it was juts some really Strong coffee!!

I ended up walking (running really) all the way to Union Square!

That’s about 72 blocks!

I’m not gonna lie either. I loved it! I haven’t had a caffeine rush like that in years!!

So anyway- back to the café- I enjoyed my coffee and got the check.

The bill came to $6.50 which is pretty pricey for a cup of coffee.

I’m glad I don’t live closer to the café because it would be hard to pass up such a wonderful cup of coffee every day and I certainly can’t afford that daily price tag.

But once in a while it's a nice treat.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brunch at Noho Star and the Rest of the Gluttonus Weekend

After such a huge meal at Peter Lugers the night before you would think that food would be the last thing on our mind Saturday morning.

However we ate quite early the night before and after much more imbibing after Luger's, I woke up ready to eat!

We had been planing to get Thai food for lunch, but this being a complete gluttonous weekend, we decided we were all hankering for a good Bloody Mary to help start off our day.

So we headed out to Noho Star.

We got there around right around 12:30 and the place was already packed!

Then it occurred to me...Oh yeah. Saturday brunch in Noho before Christmas equals lots of shoppers and tourists out eating.

Probably not the best choice, since we were all starving, however some seats opened up at the bar and we were able to get a breakfast cocktail while we waited.

Have a look at this Bloody Mary.



Wow. This thing was fantastic.

Can you see all of the chunky tomato goodness and the black pepper swirling around?

This was spicy, thick and rich. Kind of like a meal on its own and certainly just what the doctor ordered after a long night out.

Now I am no Bloody Mary expert but Arian is and he deemed this one of the best Bloody Mary's ever.

So after about a half hour wait we were seated and placed our order.

Mr. T hates brunch for many reasons, but one of the reasons is he always orders wrong (remember the Soft Shell Crab sandwich?? Again, who orders that for brunch??)

Anyway, this time he did much better. He went for a classic brunch item, French Toast with fruit.



One of the things that can ruin French Toast sometimes is the sugar overkill.

Not here. The dough was light, fluffy with a good flavor that wasn't too sweet so you were still able to add some maple syrup and enjoy.

The fruit on the toast was amazing.

The bananas and blueberries were incredibly fresh .

It's hard to find fruit that tastes this great in December. The fruit was $3.00 extra but worth every penny.

I knew we had a big day ahead so I went for something a little heavier and unhealthier for a good base. The Croque Monsieur.



When this first arrived I thought it looked a little bit small but once I took a bite I knew it would be more than enough.

Multiple slices of thinly sliced ham on a Challah roll topped with Bechamel sauce and Fontina cheese.

I loved this Croque for two reasons.

The bread to ham ratio was about 50/50 which you don't usually get and the Fontina cheese was perfectly melty and rich on top of the Challah roll.

I ate every last bite.

So brunch ended up being a success! Mr. T still hates brunch and had some choice words about some of the people dining there, but hey. You can't change everyone!

I will not go into too much detail about the rest of our day, but suffice it to say we never really stopped eating and drinking at any point!

Here is our food and drink rundown for the rest of Saturday after brunch:

Espresso and chocolate at Mariebelle

Fantastic Beers at Half Pint

Pomme Frites and Leffe Bruns at Vol de Nuit

Prosciutto and wine at Otto

Cheese plate and more wine at 8th street Wine Cellar

Sushi assortment from Haru

Four Cheese, Neapolitan and Cheeseburger Macaroni and Cheese's from Smac

And then late night eats at NY Noodletown which included crispy duck, pork over rice, beef and broccoli and two other dishes that I have little to no recollection of because the beer and wine had definitely caught up with me at that point.

And in the middle of all that we somehow watched the Pacquio vs. De La Hoya fight, saw the tree in Rockefeller Center and did the touristy Times Square all in the middle of a lovely snowfall.

Whew!!

I'm tired out just writing all of that!

I woke up on Sunday ridiculously tired and ready for a diet. (which didn't happen because the Bills lost so I got depressed and ordered a HUGE piece of Chocolate Malt Ball cake from Big Daddy's diner :()

Anyway it was a lovely weekend that encompasses everything I enjoy in life- good friends, great food and NYC!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Fantastic Weekend of Food & Drink -Peter Lugers

My two friends from upstate came to visit last weekend and I was psyched!

Why? Because they are fun people but more importantly they love good food and wine as much as me!

So I knew it was going to be a great weekend. I just didn't realize the amount of food we would eat! Offdah! Talk about being indulgent!

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Friday started with a half day of work and then off the Grand Central to pick up the Pitted Pruner and Arian.

The one thing I love about the Pitted Pruner is that he almost always knows what he wants to eat.

I can sit and contemplate for hours, agonizing over the various choices.

The Pruner gets a hankering and that's that.

It was no different today. I rolled up and he says "let's grab some sushi."

Sure! I already liked the way this weekend was starting.

So we head over to Sushi Yasuda.

Now we knew we had reservations for Peter Luger later so we didn't go crazy but ordered a couple rolls and some amazing pieces of Eel and Toro.

Yasuda delivered as always and we were off to start the drinking portion of our day.

Our first stop was the Ginger Man for some flights of beer, then onto McSorley's for some light and darks,then onto Winebar to cleanse our palates a little from the beer and get ready to take on some meat!

The day I moved to this city I was told that in order to experience the best steak in my life I should go to Peter Lugers.

Eight years later I can finally say I had the Luger experience.

We were all so excited!!!

We had a 6:45 reservation so we hopped in a cab from Winebar and drove across the bridge.

When we arrived the place was packed! There were a ton of people milling about up front and we ended up waiting about 10 minutes in the bar area for our table.

Peter Lugers is definitely a no frills kind of place but it has that old school manly kind of charm about it. The wooden beams and square tables just kind of fit, and having come straight from McSorley’s we were already in that old fashioned mood.

We took a seat and decided to order a bottle of Cabernet, two steaks for two, a bacon appetizer and the creamed spinach as a side.

As soon as we ordered our waiter brought us over our bottle of wine and quite a tasty basket of bread.



I ended up grabbing a delicious onion roll that was slightly warm and had just the perfect amount of seasoning on it.

I had barely finished my roll when I saw another plate, this with one of my favorite meat products, placed before my eyes.



Bacon!!!!!!!!!

Hoolee Cow!!! These are some enormous slices of bacon!

We decided to only get two pieces to split between the four of us and I have to admit, I wish we had just gotten our own.

This bacon had so much flavor but not in an overpowering way. It was simply moist, smoky and delicious.

Really I think it may have been the favorite part of my meal.

Not to say that the steak is far behind!

Here is the Porterhouses for two.


Photo By Arian Anstett

Lugers Porterhouse comes sliced up on a gigantic plate perfect for just grabbing and going at it.

Our meat was cooked a perfect medium rare and man it was awesome!

See that pool of liquid at the bottom of the pate? Yeah that’s just some melted butter.

Yum!!

I was a pure glutton and dipped each meat piece into the warm buttery pool.

Glorious is how it tasted. Glorious!

Everyone told us to try the steak sauce there, and well I just don’t get it.

Why would you want to put a sauce on meat that is this wonderful??? I didn’t want to do anything to this steak.! It was moist, delicate and full of flavor.

I did end up trying the sauce though and it was really strange.

It tasted like cocktail sauce for some shrimp? Is that possible? Did they just refill the bottle wrong?

Part of me wondered if all of the beer and wine had caught up with me and maybe I messed up and tried to put the cocktail sauce on rather than the steak sauce.

A qiuck call to my freinds confirmed it. I was right. It did taste like that. Weird.

Anyway the steak didn't need it.

So do I think Peter Luger was the best steak ever?

Hmm…

Mr. T thinks it is and I would put it up there with the best. I feel like I have to go back at least one more time to make sure though before I make that claim.

That will not be hard to do. I have been dreaming about that bacon all week!!

When we got the check they gave us some big golden chocolate coins!



I was too full for dessert so this was the perfect end to a fantastic meal.

I left full, drunk and happy.

Lugers is not a cheap meal by any means but worth the price tag and definitely worth the trip to Brooklyn and then some.

We left Lugers and took a cab back to the city where we imbibed some more (maybe too much?) but had a fabulous time.

We woke up the next morning in great need of a fantastic brunch and even more fantastic Bloody Marys.

More to come…

Best of 2008

Holy Crap! There's only two weeks of 2008 left!!!!

Well Time Out New York just came out with its best picks for food and drink in 2008 and I figured, hey, I should do my own!

Precursor!!! Just so you know, not all of these places are new to 2008. Some have been around for a long time but I have only been able to try them for the first time this year.

This is my little favorites of the year list.

The funniest thing is that I didn't blog about half of them! I don't really know why I guess I was just really busy this year and I decided to save the best for last :)

So here goes:

Bacon Fat English Muffin at Momofuku Ko
First thing I thought of when I started this list. Not only was it one of the most unbelievable meals I have ever eaten OR scored a reservation too, this English Muffin was a sinfully delicious treat I will always remember.

La Caille at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Free range caramelized quail stuffed with foie gras, potato puree and summer truffle. This was my birthday meal and it met every expectation. The quail was made extra moist by the fatty foie gras and the whole dish came with the best pureed mashed potatoes in the world.

Sweetbread Ravioli with sweet corn, lime and chorizo at Eleven Madison
This was one of those dishes where my eyes literally rolled back in my head and I may have even moaned in delight a little. Rich, buttery and utterly cheap since it was on the restaurant week menu! Eleven Madison never fails to disappoint.

New Favorite dish- Whole Bronzino
I've had this dish a LOT of places this year and I just love every variation I've tried. It's big, meaty and delicious.

Best Meal- Babbo
Starting with the wonderful charred Octopus I already thought I was in heaven but the huge Rib eye for two had so much flavor I was floored. Babbo deserves all of the hype it gets and more.

Best Fast Food Burger- Five Guys
This is a great chain with stellar burgers and fries. I still love my Shack Shake the best but not having to wait more than 5 minutes for some awesome meat and fries is wonderful.

Best Gourmet Burger- PJ Clark's & Prune
I've only been to Prune once and it rocked with its buttery English Muffin goodness. PJ Clark's I've been to multiple times this year and the Cadillac burger has never disappointed. I love burgers so much it's hard to pick a favorite but these blow my old favorite, Mollys, out of the water.

Best Fish Dish- Halibut with corn and English Peas at Little Owl.
I had this in the spring and it truly represented what spring was all about. Fresh, clean, lively flavors. A rebirth of food. Lovely.

Best Desserts- Gramercy Tavern, Otto & Cafe Sabarsky
The German Chocolate cake at Gramercy Tavern was decadent and delightful at once. The Black and white parfait at Otto was a masterpiece of different flavors that all seemed to work together. Chocolate cake with Pistachio frosting is nothing to be messed with at Sabarsky. I wish I could end my meal with these every night!!

Where I agree with Time Out New York- Artichoke, Amai & Ippudo
All nearby, they have made this neighborhood that much better for food. Artichoke's creamy lactose heavy pizza, Ippudo's thick ramen broth and Amai's lovely green tea cupcake have filled the void of many a desolate food night.

Best sushi- Yasuda Medium Fatty Toro and any kind of Eel.
He is a master. Sit in front of him and you will have the best sushi ever. Hands down.

And the rest:


Espresso- Fika & Abraco
Sausages- Jimmy's No 43
Wings & Ribs- Dinosaur BBQ
Soup Dumplings- Shanghai Cafe

It was a fantastic year for food and I was very lucky to have experienced all I have.

I will end it kind of cheesy but totally true:

Best dining excursion of the year- anything with a bottle of wine and my Mr. T.

Here's to 2009!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Prune

After a wonderful and lovely Thanksgiving with family and friends we came home from Florida on Friday happy but a little tired.

Saturday came and we had more company come and stay with us for the weekend.

By the time Sunday night rolled around I was exhausted and decided to take a much needed break and took the day off on Monday.

I slept in late and decided to treat myself to lunch. I was planning to meet Mr. T for his lunch break at my favorite burger joint P.J. Clark's but then Mr T had to cancel last minute.

Well I had already been craving a burger so I decided to head downtown instead and finally check out Prune.

Walking into Prune I immediately felt comfortable in the small and homey space. It was quite empty with only a group of four, two couples and another solo diner.

I wasn't sure if it would get crowded so I decided to just have a seat at the tiny bar.

Again, I love the feel of the place. The sun was streaming in the big open windows and it was the perfect day to sit and people watch.

I knew what I was here for so after a very quick look at the menu I went with my gut feeling and ordered the burger and a glass of wine.

About 20 minutes later this ridiculously awesome looking plate of food found it's way to my seat.



This is Prune's Grilled Hamburger on an English Muffin with Cheddar Cheese.

Words cannot explain how freakin good this burger was.

At first I tried to pick the whole thing up at once and I was covered in drippy buttery and greasy goodness.

Seriously, there was just juice flowing out of the side.

Then I cut it in half and found the burger much more manageable.

This burger is 80% beef and 20% lamb which definitely gave it a richer and juicer texture than a regular burger.

The nooks of the English Muffin were a perfect way to keep the greasy goodness inside. Although I think they had already been slathered with quite a liberal amount of butter. This is not a burger to eat if you're watching your weight- that's for sure!!!

This is truly a decadent and amazing burger that is worth every penny of it's $12.00 price tag. Honestly, they could charge a ton more if they wanted to.

I am a ketchup fiend and I didn't even think about putting it on my burger once! There was so much flavor I didn't want to change anything at all.

The fries were also pretty good. Thin and crisp with just the right amount of salt.

Man oh Man, everything was good but this burger was fantastic.

So good, it may even be my new favorite high end burger! It is in close competition with P.J. Clark's that's for sure.

Another nice thing I loved about Prune was the service. Everyone was super sweet and it was just the kind of place you want to hole up in with a bottle of wine and some loved ones.

Prune makes me feel all happy inside :) A truly fantastic lunch.

Prune