Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brussels

I’m kind of upset with Brussels because I got horribly sick while we were there.  It started with my breakfast while waiting for the Euro star. I had ordered an almond croissant.



It came stuffed with some kind of rich custard inside which would have been fine for dessert but really didn’t make my stomach feel so great that early in the morning.  The heavy cappuccino didn’t help things much either and I was feeling a little weighed down on our train ride.



However I bounced back once we got to Brussels and went out for some fantastic beers at Mappo Mudo (loved sitting upstairs and staring down at all the people) and big silly Leffe Brun’s at La Lunette.  Look at this head on the Duvel!



I had heard some good thing about In 't Spinnekopke so we headed over there for dinner.



The place was very quaint and old fashioned. Our waiter was great with helping with the menu and we ended up ordering two dishes to split.  I got some sort of chicken dish that was really good but after what happens later I think I blocked the name out of my head.



Second the Stoemp Saucisse. This is an old Belgian potato dish topped off with a big hearty piece of sausage.



Both were actually really good but filling.  The heavy cream from the chicken was really starting to make me feel bloated but I pushed ahead because hey- we’re on vacation. I decided the only thing that would help at this point would be a bite of Chocolate and more drinks.  So we headed to the Belga Queen for a few cocktails and then back to our beautiful hotel bar for some chocolate and beers to round off the night. I passed out in bed that night happy and content with life.  However 6:00 am is a different story.

I wake up with the worst stomach pains I’ve ever had in my life.

You know the kind where you curl up in a ball trying to somehow quell the knife stabbing pain coming from your stomach, all the while praying to a higher power to not let this happen.  Well it happened...and it was bad.  I was pretty much violently ill for about an hour. Every time I pictured my croissant, chicken, beer or any sort of chocolate it started all over again.  By the time I was able to crawl back to bed my throat was on fire, my face and body were covered in sweat and I thought I was going to die. Mr. T had slept through the whole ordeal but after about an hour of being sick and not being able to move off the bed I finally woke him. I needed some serious fluids and pictured myself dying from dehydration right there on the bed.

I laid in bed all day with the lights off, washcloth on my forehead and aspirin in hand.  I knew Mr. T was really disappointed.  Brussels was the part of the trip he was most looking forward to and now our one full day was ruined. I had to pull through. I would feel horrible the whole vacation if I didn’t.

So around 5:00 I somehow managed to get myself out of bed and fake being healthy enough to venture outdoors. We were going to do everything we planned to do in Brussels whether my stomach liked it or not!  Of course most of my Brussels plans involved drinking lots of beer and eating lots of chocolate.  Unfortunately that was out of the cards for me but we did end up getting things accomplished- at least Mr. T did.

We walked around the Grand Place and had some drinks at a cute outdoor café.  Then we headed over to the Delirium Cafe and stayed there for a while so Mr. T could sample a bunch of beers from their crazy huge beer list. We even made it to dinner!

I had encouraged Mr. T to drink enough strong beers at the Delirium that he no longer was as worried for my health as he was before.  I knew he wanted to have mussels in Brussels so I convinced him to go over to Chez Leon. I of course, had only had a bite of croissant and a piece of bread since my troubles that morning so I played it safe (or so I thought) and ordered a small salad and some frites. My salad said it was going to have some bacon in it but what came out was a plate of bacon, fat from the pan and all topped with a lettuce and cheese garnish.



Needless to say I didn’t really eat that.  However I did have the frites and they treated my stomach nicely.



Here are Mr. T’s mussels.



Man they were big! I really wish I had been feeling better so I could try one out but he said they were wonderful and for that I was happy. The next morning I woke up with pains still in my stomach but definitely on the road to recovery. We had just enough time before we left to stop and get a waffle right by the Mannekin Pis.



Wow this waffle was awesome! It was perfectly charred and almost caramelized on the edges and warm and fluffy inside. Seriously there is no need for any toppings at all. It tasted better without them.

So my Brussels experience was not as much fun as I had hoped but at least we still had one more leg of the trip and I was getting my beer drinking and meat eating shoes on whether it killed me or not for Munich.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

St. John Bread and Wine

Our last dinner in London we made an early reservation to try the offshoot St. John Bread and Wine. We started off with some beers nearby and tried a really nice and fruity Kronenburg Blanc.



If you’ve heard of Nose to Tail Eating then you know about the pioneer of this place Fergus Henderson and his approach to eating. He believes that if we are going to kill animals to eat them, we should use the entire body. Anything else would be rude. We showed up at right around 6:30 and got a nice table on the side of the big airy room.



We were having some truly beautiful London weather.  The big glass windows in the front were open letting in the last rays of sunlight as well as a slight breeze. We ordered up a fantastic bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (that had the coolest looking little dude on the front) and decided to split four dishes.



Here's our menu for that night.



The first was the special of the night the Langoustines with Mayonnaise.



These were pretty good. Nice and large I think the ones at J Sheekeys were a tad sweeter but we enjoyed them. Our second dish was the Salt Beef, Radish and Pea Shoots.



Wow this was really good!! I am not a radish fan and I can take our leave pea shoots usually but somehow everything in this dish combined to be spectacular! Our third dish was the Quail and Aioli.



The quail had a wonderfully crisp skin and super moist inside. It was such a simple and straightforward dish that just worked on its own entirely. However the last dish was the best of the night, and quite possibly the best of the whole trip. This is the Ox Heart and Dripping Potatoes.



Okay I’ll admit I was a squeamish about the Ox Heart at first. I’ve had chicken heart and beef heart before and I really didn’t like either of them that much. Well this dish completely changed my mind. WOW!! The meat had a smooth flavor that was rich but not gamey at all.
Each piece was incredibly tender and I found myself wishing we had ordered this to begin with so we could order more. I was busy stuffing my face with the glorious meat when I looked over at Mr. T who had simply stopped eating. This was our conversation:

“Try the potatoes”
“What why?”
“Shut up and try the potatoes”
"Okay, okay"

This is when I learned the only thing better than a nice meaty piece of Ox Heart is a piece of crispy Ox Heart potato!  I was floored. So much so I called over the waitress to express our delight.  She told me it was the first day this dish was offered on the menu and that the cooks had been trying to perfect it for weeks. They take the potatoes, bake them and then fry them three times in the fat and drippings from the Ox Heart. Three Times!!! I didn’t even know you could do such a thing. It was glorious. I went all out and dipped some of the fries directly into the oily sauce you see pooling around the meat. Yum!!!

We left London the next morning for Brussels with full bellies and happy smiles.

Thanks to everyone that helped us out. Oh and we went to Gordon’s wine bar every night we were there and absolutely loved it! It was a great experience overall and you must go try those potatoes!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

London- J Sheekey and The Wolseley

Our second day in London we awoke severely jet lagged and kind of a mess. We headed out to see the sights and had a quite piss poor meal in one of the pubs. Note to self- whenever there is an item called the Big Ben Burger on the menu in London, you're probably not in the best food place. However we stopped in for some wine and snacks at the Wolseley and completely made up for it.

The Wolseley is a beautiful restaurant located inside of an old bank with fantastic marble floors, shimmering silverware and quite a group of good looking clientele. We stopped in the front bar and ordered up a Croque monsieur and some almonds.



The almonds had just the right amount of salt and came quite nicely presented in its little silver dish.


The Croque was delicious as well.



Really gooey Gruyere cheese inside some thick bread that had been liberally buttered and grilled to a crisp. It was the perfect little midday treat. For dinner that night we headed to J Sheekey and grabbed a seat at their newly opened Oyster Bar. Since they are known for their seafood we decided to go all out and start with the Plateau de Fruits de Mar. This thing was so big I couldn't get it into one shot. The top tier had two different kinds of briny and enormous oysters which I sucked down almost immediately.



The bottom was filled with a ton of different clams, cockles, langoustines...I don't even know what else there was..it was a ton of food and everything was extraordinarily fresh.



We had ordered a fish pie for after our plateau but we were too full to even attempt it and cancelled the order. So instead we came back the next day for lunch! Here is Sheekey's famous fish pie.



Wow- this was one rich and decadent dish with huge chunks of fish swimming in the creamy sauce and crispy potato top. Worth the return trip without a doubt! I ordered the Salt Cod Hash which was basically salt baked cod chopped up and mixed with some potatoes.



It came with a perfectly poached egg and some seriously good mustard as a sauce. We also got a side of the Green Beans and the Green Heart Salad.



The beans had a very nice garlic butter sauce that really complimented the fish pie. The salad was good but I found the bleu cheese a little overpowering with my salty cod.



However the meal was wonderful and I just loved the ambiance and attitude at J Sheekey. We had the same waiter for both our dinner and lunch and he sent over some of their homemade chocolates at the end as a special thank you.



Both of these places were spectacular and I was beginning to think it would be impossible to top the dining experiences we'd had so far. We were going to finish the London part of our trip with dinner at St. John's that night.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The First Leg of the Trip

To be honest, the first leg of the trip started out at Yankee Stadium for a 1:00 game filled with lots of food and beer.

Luckily we kept ourselves somewhat in check and made it to the airport on time and sober enough to get past security.

Once on-board however we decided the best thing to do was to continue drinking so we could pass out.

So our trays looked a lot like this for the start of the journey.



It worked like magic however and suddenly the lights in the plane were on and we had arrived in London.

Needless to say we weren’t exactly in the best shape. I’m not sure if anyone will ever see the pictures of us getting off the plane. We look a little bit like zombies.

We jumped on the tube and made it safely to our hotel and went to the Sherlock Holmes bar across the street for a few drinks to wait until check-in time.

We were absolutely starving by the time we checked in and headed out in search of some good eats.

About two blocks from our hotel we ran across Wagamama.

Wagamama is supposedly the place David Chang kind of modeled his Ramen after at Momofuku so we had to check it out.



Mr. T ordered up a bowl of Ramen and I went for the Mandarin Chicken salad.


The salad was pretty fantastic.

Big chunks of chicken and toasted cashews were scattered throughout and the dressing had a nice light refreshing flavor.

Mr. T went for the Wagamama Ramen and said it was alright but pretty bland.



The broth was no where near the salty thick goodness of Ippudo and the veggies in the bowl were somewhat lacking.

That’s what we get for ordering Ramen in London for our first meal.

We walked around a bit and did a bunch of touristy things until dinner time.

I had posted on Chowhound some questions about London and someone responded with a whole night’s itinerary.

He sounded kind of like us so I decided to go with his suggestions and try the whole thing out.

We were supposed to start out by having a drink at the Kings Arms and but got lost and found ourselves at this pub instead the White Hart.



This actually turned out to be our favorite pub of the trip so it was a nice surprise.

Look at this photo they have of Kurt Cobain in the back.



Pretty sweet.



We had some awesome beers and headed over to the place that was supposed to have the best fish and chips in London (according to this guy on chowhound that is).



We walked inside Super Fish to find a very empty, sparsely decorated place with a wait staff and clientele which were all Asians.

This seemed a little bit strange to me since I had pictured something a little different for my fish and chips experience but we plowed forward an decided to split an order of fish and chips and a crab appetizer to start.



The crab appetizer was alright. The sauce they mixed in with the crab meat was a little overpowering for me but Mr. T seemed to enjoy it.

Then came our main course- the reason we trekked all the way from our hotel (it was quite a ways away), the fish and chips.



Okay this is ONE order..one order!!! Two gigantic pieces of fish that barely fit on the plate!

One bite was all I needed to understand that yes, this was the best fish and chips in London.

The breading was perfectly balanced, light enough to not overpower the flavor of the fish but incredibly crispy and really not greasy at all.

The fish inside was super moist and just seemed to fall apart into glorious chunks of deliciousness as we devoured the platter.

The fries on the plate were only so, so, but it didn’t matter. That fish was amazing, absolutely the best I have ever had in my life.

And I say this with a lot of experience having eaten a fish fry every single Friday of my formative years in Buffalo.

The other great thing about this place was the price.

The appetizer, entrée and two rounds of beers came to just about 22 pounds.

By the time we left the place was packed with quite a large crowd of locals waiting for tables and picking up food to go.

We finished the night by enjoying a Pimm’s Cup outside on the wonderful Thames River and made it back to the hotel alive.



First night in London- success.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Seriously? We're Off??

Mr. T bought me this trip for my 30th birthday...

Yes that's right. I am officially old. That was back in September but it feels like in a blink of the eye it's here!!

We are headed to the Yankee game and then racing to the airport to grab our plane to London- followed buy jaunts to Brussels and Munich!

I'll try to do a few posts along the way so stay tuned and wish us luck!!!

NY Noodletown

After lots of baseball watching and a few too many beers last weekend we made one of the greatest decisions one can make in this state of being at 1:00 AM.

We went to NY Noodletown of course.

NY Noodletown is seriously one of the best places to grab some awesomely delicious food that’s cheap and open late.

At 1:00 AM it can be absolutely packed at times but we got lucky and there were a bunch of open tables.

Okay I’ll be honest- there were only three of us but if you see the amount of food we consumed you would think we had a party!

We started out with a dish of Roast Pork.



OMG the roast pork here is so crispy and delicious. The skin is crispy with a nice layer of fat underneath that seeps all of its ooey gooey goodness into the meat making it incredibly tender.

Mr. T went a little crazy and ordered another plate right away before we even finished the first one.

Talk about crispy skin our next dish really needs no introduction!

Roast Duck over rice.



Okay seriously do I need to even say how delicious this was! Can’t you just tell!!
Look at that beautiful golden skin and luscious chunks of tender meat.

I am seriously drooling a little just looking at it.

Next came our order of the Poached Chicken.



This dish looks pretty average but then you add in the wonderfully delicious ginger scallion sauce it comes with and all of a sudden this dish is amazing.



We all just kept looking at the sauce saying “why is this so good?” over and over. (Again we had also had few beers before)

One of the last dishes we ordered is the one thing you should truly never miss at NY Noodleown the Salt Baked Shrimp.



Salt Baking is something that is truly their specialty. I’m not sure why it’s so fricken good but it is.

I think the salt baking really brings out the flavor of the shrimp and gives it a nice sweet taste that is unmatched.

OMG at this point we were so stuffed it was unbelievable.

We got our check and for all of this food and a round of beers it came out to just around $40.00.

This is why I love New York. It is the best city in the world and Chinatown just rocks!!!

We came home and crashed after that and didn’t eat anything until late Saturday night because we were still so stuffed.

Seriously though, if anyone ever asks you to go to NY Noodletown, be it 3:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 I the morning- it is ALWAYS a good idea.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Foley's Bar

This was the first Friday night where there Yankees were playing so we decided to go out and enjoy the game with a couple of beers.

We met up with some friends at Foley’s. Foley’s is an old Irish pub that is an absolute must for baseball fans. It’s covered in tons of memorabilia and has some really cool things like seats from Camden yards to a Lenny Dykstra scary head.



It’s named after the sportswriter Red Foley who worked for the New York Daily News for years.

It’s actually more of a Mets bar but they seemed to have no problem putting the Yankees game on in the back and even turned the sound on for us.

I was pretty excited because I had heard they had a sandwich similar to the chicken finger subs they make in Buffalo.

It’s actually called the David Wright sandwich and it had grilled chicken covered in hot wing sauce on a roll with lettuce tomato and blue cheese.

So really instead of the chicken being grilled instead of fried in finger form it sound quite similar.



Unfortunately it was nowhere near as good as what I was hoping for.

The bun was too hard and the wing sauce was so spicy and really not that tasty that it overpowered everything else on the sandwich.

The blue cheese was excellent but I couldn’t get over the spicy sauce.

We also ordered their sampler platter of potato skins, wings, mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers.



The chicken fingers were fantastic! Think and crispy with just enough breading.

The rest of the platter was pretty weak but the chicken fingers more than made up for it.

So overall Foley’s was just okay in terms of bar food but fantastic in terms of overall atmosphere and service.



It’s kind of like a really big version of Standings bar in the East Village but without the awesome beer list.

It’s just a great place to catch a game and relax with friends.

Foley's Bar

Saturday, April 11, 2009

DiFara's Is Truly the Best

I happened to be in Midwood last week for work and was heading back to the office to grab some lunch.

For some reason I happened to think of DiFara's and decided to google where it was in relation to me.

When the map came up I realized I was only two avenues away!

I literally ran over the two avenues and got there right around 11:45 and was only the third person in line outside.

I must have hit the timing just right because within 5 minutes the line was over 30 people long.



It was funny waiting in line.

In the front were two classic Brooklyn guys who were arguing about the Yankees while every so often touting their pride at being the first in line and finally being able to sit down for their pizza.

Behind me was a middle aged man who had brought his mother for the first time. She just stared in wonder as more and more people piled into the line behind her.

The rest of the people were a mish mash of local firemen, construction workers and a whole bunch of locals and tourists alike.

I kind of laughed at how excited everyone genuinely seemed for their lunch. I mean come on it’s just pizza right?

But then the door was opened and the line became very serious. The Brooklyn guys split up- one going for a table and one going to the counter to order.

I was surprised at how small DiFara’s was and didn’t know I might have to battle for a seat, let alone know how to order.

I got to the counter and asked for a slice of whatever was ready first and grabbed the only solo table right against the wall.

About 10 minutes later my slice was ready and I dove in.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting. I have heard so much hype about Difara’s I was honestly expecting to be disappointed. I mean –come on- again this is just pizza right?



I took a bite and suddenly everything made sense.

All the praise, all the accolades and honors were worth it. This wasn’t just pizza- this was art!!

The amazing red sauce with beautiful whole tomatoes, the perfectly charred crust with just enough grit so your fingers feel a little dusty, the glorious rich olive oil, the smell of the fresh basil and the shredded cheese…it was utter perfection.



As I ate my tiny table became surrounded by people waiting patiently for their pies.

I could feel everyone’s eyes jealously staring me down while I ate. I swear I even saw a trickle of saliva drip down the chin of one man salivating from afar.

I would have felt uncomfortable but I was so content I couldn’t care less!

I munched away happily and watched Dom as he worked his magic with each pie.



Cutting the fresh basil, grating the fresh cheese- he had such precise caring motions I truly knew I was watching something special.

The only thing I was upset about was the fact that I only ordered one slice! What was I thinking?

So it appears all the hype is for real. I’ve had Lombardi’s, Grimaldi’s, & Artichoke’s and they are all good and fine but they don’t even come close to the heavenly pie that is DiFara’s.

So if you haven’t had it yet- take the train ride and go. It truly is one of the best things NYC has to offer.

DiFara's Pizza