Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jacksonville Thanksgiving Recap

We are Home!!! Back from a great Thanksgiving in Jacksonville where food and family was the focus for the week. We actually had time to spend a whole day in St. Augustine this trip and we spent most of it doing what we like best- eating and drinking.

We began our day with lunch at Opus 39. This restaurant specializes in tasting menus mostly but has quite a reasonable lunch menu. We began with an order of their Potato Spirals.



These are basically super crispy potato chips with some fresh Parmigianna Regianno cheese and luscious truffle oil drizzled on top. They gave us huge portion that was perfect for three people to share.

Since a big focus of this place is their wine I started off with an excellent glass of Chardonnay from Sonoma County.



For my main I ordered the Grilled Shrimp, basil pesto, roasted pepper and goat cheese salad.



This was absolutely delightful! They spread the goat cheese and basil pesto on top of some grilled flatbread that was a perfect side to the enormous shrimp and roasted red pepper salad.

Everyone really enjoyed their lunch an we head out to see the sights and check out some of the local watering holes.

Our first stop was to the Tiny Martini bar for a drink on the water. Next we headed to a local dive bar St. George's, to listen to some tunes on the jukebox an play some arcade bowling. A quick stop at the VFW and then over to JP Henleys where we tried an Espresso stout from Terrapin Brewery.

I had never heard of this brewery but it apparently out of Georgia. This was a fantastic espresso stout. I've never had a beer that tasted so rich and smooth like an espresso before.

Our last stop before dinner was Ann O'Malley's. This is actually a Bill's bar in St. Augustine! Who knew! They had Bills and Sabres flags adorning the bar and a great sign inside the ladies room.



Too funny! After that it was onto dinner at The Tasting Room. Unfortunately at this point I was not in the best picture taking shape but the food and service were exceptional! The owner helped us choose some excellent wines and we truly felt treated like royalty. I had a perfectly cooked skirt steak that was covered in a sweet marmalade sauce and a side of Basque fries. Everything was absolutely amazing and we ended up having about three different bottles of wine over the course of our meal. Our last wine, ending with a fantastic bottle of Castillo Ygay Reserva that was just wonderful.



After that we were officially done. We headed home and got ready for the rest of the holiday week. It was a great day and the rest of the vacation was wonderful as well. Now we are home and exhausted but it was worth. Hope everyone else had a great holiday!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thankgiving!!!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving today with friends and family. I'm in Florida celebrating with Mr. T's family and it's already been quite an excellent trip. We had three fantastic meals out in Ponte Vedre and St. Augustine, visited a Chik-fil-a for the first time ever and now it's time for some good home cooking to celebrate Turkey Day.

Here's a picture of our spread. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rye House

This past Saturday after a relaxing day walking around the West Village Mr. T and I headed to the new Rye House on 17th street for dinner. It was still pretty early but the bar up front was packed. We got seated at the long communal table in the back where it was relatively quiet.

We ordered up some beers and the waitress brought over a basket of Boiled Peanuts- compliments of the chef.

Okay I’ll be honest. I am a peanut lover but I thought these things were disgusting. I mean why would you boil peanuts? It took all of the flavor and crunch out of the nut and made it sad and smelly. Maybe it’s just me but I would give people something really good to start as a complimentary appetizer.

For our real appetizer we decided to split the Sloppy Joe sliders.



I don’t know about you but neither of us have had sloppy joe’s since high school days. My mom used to make them at least once a month and somehow I forgot about that staple of my diet growing up.



Luckily I am right back on board. These sloppy joes were delicious. Made with kobe beef and pickled jalapeños these sliders were little bites of spicy goodness. They were so delicious in fact, Mr. T and I made a pact to make sloppy joes at home next week and come back for these sliders again.

For my main course I ordered the Shrimp Roll.



Look at how big those pieces of shrimp were! They mixed the seafood with some mayo, chopped up cucumbers and cornichon. The cornichon gave it a slightly sour flavor that was actually quite nice. I ended up crushing up some of the fantastic potato chips into the roll just for a little extra salty crunch.

Mr. T ordered the Pittsburgh.



This sandwich is styled after the Primanti Brothers restaurant in Pittsburgh. Each sandwich there comes topped with the same ingredients- French fries, coleslaw and tomato. Here the main ingredient was andouille sausage but the fixings were just the same.

This sandwich was strangely perfect with everything together. I thought it was going to be this monstrosity of a sandwich but they actually made it with the perfect amount of filling so the sausage and fixings worked together. This was a very satisfying sandwich.

Mr. T and I licked the plates clean basically. The best part was about to come- the check. For all of this food plus two microbrews it came to just around $45.00. That is quite a cheap meal for NYC.

I really enjoyed Rye House. Hopefully it will continue to serve up food as good as this with the low prices. It’s a real welcome addition to our neighborhood.

Rye House

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lunch at The Breslin

I get out of work on the early side Fridays which is a nice way to start off the weekend for sure. This past Friday I had such a busy day that I never got around to having lunch. Walking out of my building I realized I was absolutely starving! I was in the city for work today so I decided to wander over to the Ace Hotel and have lunch at the newly opened Breslin.

The Breslin is so new that it currently only serves lunch and brunch. Luckily I got there right around 3:30 and snuck in before closing time. For those of you that don’t know The Breslin is owned by Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield, the same people behind The Spotted Pig. These people know their food so I was really excited for a delicious meal.

I walked though the crowded, cramped tables in the front of the restaurant and into the bar room which was much more to my comfort zone. I took a seat at the copper bar right in front of a huge window that was perfect for people watching as I dined.

Since it was Friday, I figured I’d start lunch off with a cocktail.



So per my waitress’s recommendation I ordered the 23 Skidoo.



I’m not really sure how I feel about this cocktail. It really didn’t have much flavor at all to me. I was happy it wasn’t overpowering, sometimes tequila drinks can be too strong, but it just wasn’t very interesting. I guess I was just expecting a little bit more from the drink since it came so highly recommended.

Onto the lunch menu.



The Spotted Pig has one of my favorite burgers in the city so I decided to check out their version here- The Lamb Burger.



First of all, talk about presentation. I loved how it came out on a wooden cutting board with a nice big steak knife ready to do some damage. I split to burger down the middle and went to town.

First off, I didn’t care very much for the bun. The outside was really chewy and the inside was a little dry. I ended up taking it off the top and eating the meat sans bun.



The burger itself however was absolutely delicious. The char grilled meat was incredibly juicy and the feta onion topping was a perfect complement to the rich, earthy flavor of the lamb. It came with a nice cumin mayo sauce on the side which I used sparingly. The burger had so much flavor on its own I didn’t even need the addition of sauce.

After me raving about how delicious the lamb burger was, you would think it was the star of the show right? Wrong. The real star of my lunch was its’ accompaniment, the thrice cooked chips.

OMG- the moment I saw these things I was immediately reminded of the fries I had back in London at St. John’s Bread and Wine. Remember those ?



While these chips weren’t quite up to par with those (they weren’t fried in ox heart fat) they were absolutely amazing.

They were cut slightly thicker than I usually like but the way they were cooked it didn’t matter. The entire outside was just a big crunchy delicious shell housing some warm potato goodness and then dusted liberally with big chunks of sea salt goodness. Thrice Cooked? You don’t have to ask me twice. Yes Please!! These just might be the best french fries in the city.

Overall I thought the Breslin was great. It’s not cheap- let me say that. My lunch ended up costing $30 not including tax or tip. But the food was excellent and they have a nice selection of beers on tap including two cask ales. I will be going back for the fries alone!

Oh and you know what I just heard? They open for dinner starting today. Hooray!

The Breslin

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Wonderful Saturday- Just the Two of Us

It seems so rare lately that Mr. T and I actually have a weekend to ourselves with nothing to do. Something almost always comes up- work, visitors, intense sports watching! But this Saturday we had none of that and instead had a great day just walking around and enjoying our city.

We started the day off by walking up to the newly opened Ace Hotel for some Stumptown Coffee. Walking into the shop I noticed all of the barista’s had handle bar moustaches and a speakeasy style of dress. What’s up with this trend lately? It was kind of neat at first but now I see it everywhere! Anyway- onto the coffee.

I was feeling like a little sugar boost this morning so I ordered the Espresso Con Panna.



For those of you that don’t know Espresso Con Panna is just an espresso with whipped cream on top. Stumptown’s beans taste quite strong and bitter, so the sugary whipped cream was a welcome addition to my morning beverage.

Mr. T began his day with a frothy cappuccino.



Look at the wonderful coffee art on top. Stumptown really knows what they’re doing with a sleek stylish space and some addictively great coffee.

After our caffeine fix we decided to keep walking uptown. Suddenly we found ourselves in Times Square right when it started to drizzle a little bit. Trying to avoid the rain we dashed inside ESPN Zone and spent a good half hour shooting some hoops and playing some car games in their over the top arcade.

The rain appeared to have let up so we ventured outside once again. However just 5 minutes later the skies opened up again and we were forced to find shelter in the nearby bar Jimmy’s Corner.

Jimmy’s Corner is probably one of the least known, certainly least touristy bars in all of Times Square. I absolutely love its divey atmosphere, cheap drinks and fantastic juke box selections. There is nothing better than watching the rain fall outside while sipping beer and listening to some jazz at a cozy warm bar.

I truly could have stayed at Jimmy’s all night but hunger struck Mr. T so we headed over to Ruby Foo’s for a dim sum appetizer.

People always knock Ruby Foo’s because it’s in the shitsdom that is Times Square but the food is actually quite tasty. Today we ordered the Ruby’s Dim Sum Sampler.



We got two pieces of Shrimp Dumpling, Vegetable Dumpling, Crispy Mongolian Beef Wonton and Sweet and Sour Chicken Pot Sticker.

All of these dumplings were great, the standout being the Sweet and Sour Chicken Potsticker.



Plus they came with a tray of three dipping sauces. Who doesn’t love some sauces for dipping!



The cocktails were pretty good as well. Although at $12 a pop I expect the cocktails to be pretty damn tasty. So for some cheaper cocktails after dinner we ended up at the Russian Vodka Room where they were celebrating happy hour.



This amazingly delicious Peach Cosmo was all alcohol and only $4.00 to beat! Mr. T enjoyed some shots of their house infused cranberry vodka and we finished out the night on a wonderful note.

It was nice getting out of our usual downtown rut for a night. There are so many great places in this city it’s a shame that we sometimes cut the touristy spots out all together. Mr. T and I are going to get better at exploring all neighborhoods and really trying new things. Let’s call it the start of my New Year’s resolutions!

Ruby Foos

Russian Vodka Room

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dinner at Agave

We found ourselves once again in the West Village last weekend starving for some good food but without a reservation. We tried a couple places but all of them had long waits until we stumbled across Agave.

There was quite a long line at the front but we were still able to get a nice two person table in the back. I was surprised to see how nice the back dining room was. The low lighting gave it an elegant feel while the music and paintings lended themselves to a party atmosphere.

To start we both ordered some Margaritas. They were out of the Prickly Pear so I went for the classic Strawberry.



The margarita was great with huge chunks of fresh strawberry puree and just the right amount of tequila. Mr. T got a regular margarita which was a little less sweet but just as tasty.

To start we ordered the Blue Crab Spinach Dip and Tortilla Bowl.



I didn’t really care for this dip. To me it tasted more like a cheesy clam chowder than anything else. But Mr. T liked the option of having soft tortillas for dipping and we ended up finishing most of the bowl.  Okay- Agave is really dark so excuse the next pictures. I tried my best. For my main course I got the Grilled Shrimp Cesar salad.



First of all, I asked for the small but this salad was huge!!! Big, luscious pieces of grilled shrimp atop romaine lettuce, fresh parmesan cheese and a truly delicious creamy dressing. This was a great Cesar salad.

Mr. T got the Beef Short Rib in Mole sauce which was also delicious. The short rib was incredibly moist and the mole sauce gave it a rich earthy flavor that made this quite a decadent dish.



We were both way to full for dessert so we got the check. For an appetizer, two main courses and two tequilas the bill was around $80 total. Not exactly cheap but not exactly expensive either. I really enjoyed my meal at Agave. I’ve heard it can be sort of hit or miss but we must have got it on a good night because I can’t wait to get back. I heard they have $5 margarita’s at Happy Hour Monday- Friday. Sounds good to me!

Agave

Monday, November 16, 2009

BBQ Fried Chicken

If you live in New York you know that fried chicken is all the rage right now. I've had my fair share from the classic style at The Redhead, the Asian style at Blue Ribbon Grill to the wonderful platter of greasiness that is Forte Baden Baden.

But where to go take out some fast food style fried chicken that isn't KFC or Popeye's? BBQ on St. Mark's Place.



Obviously the first thing you notice looking at this chicken is that it's not BBQ. That actually stand for "Best of the Best Quality Chicken". It totally threw me off at first too! However there is nothing to joke about when it comes down to the delicious taste of this chicken.

This chicken is fried in olive oil which gives it a completely different flavor than any I have ever tried before. The skin has tons of awesome crispy edges but without the greasy fingertip feel at the end. It's incredibly moist inside and comes filled with huge chunks of white meat chicken. It's actually a Koren place but I found it's overall flavor to be much different than that of Baden Baden's.

This is a great stop after some beer drinking in the East Village. The place is clean, the price is right and they give you a ton of chicken. If you haven't tried olive oil fried chicken I suggest you check it out.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Happy Saturday Edition!

For this weeks installment of Happy Saturday I am once again turning away from the beer to focus on another new cocktail I enjoyed recently the

This comes from the newly opened Scottish bar and restaurant the Highland, which is located in Greenwich Village right on a quiet corner between Waverly and West 10th Street. The restaurant has huge windows in the front great for people watching and a sleek yet rustic décor.

We got two seats at the bar Saturday night and the bartender immediately gave us a warm greeting like we were long lost friends. For my drink I ordered the Pear Martini.



Okay it was pretty dark in here so sorry if it’s a little shadowy. My cocktail was a little bit more tart than most Pear Martini’s I’ve had but I enjoyed the flavor and appreciated the bartender checking to make sure it was too my liking.

Mr. T ordered a BrewDog IPA which came out looking more like a Hefeweisen with a cloudy yellow glow. It actually tasted like a Hefeweisen at first too with only a brief hoppy bite at the end that assured us that it was in fact an IPA.

We ended up getting an appetizer to share of Foie Gras and Beef Terrine. I thought the terrine was fantastic. Usually foie gras is a little too rich for me but the balance of this dish was remarkable. They included some toasted hazelnuts into the spread and that really gave it a smoother, smokier taste.

Overall we both loved the Highland. The staff were beyond friendly, the space was comfy and the little food and drink we had was delicious.

Highlands Website

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cook.Eat.Drink.Live

The third annual Cook.Eat.Drink.Live festival was held last weekend at the Tunnel/ La Venue space. This was my first time attending this food and wine event but my expectations going in were pretty high. I’ve been to so many food and wine events lately that have been fabulous and I guess I was expecting the same for this event.

I got there about 1:55 and saw that there was already quite a large line snaking around the outside of the building. I had to wait a good 15 minutes before I got inside the building for the 2:00 event and it was pretty chaotic to say the least.

I fought through the crowds in front and found my way to the back room which was completely empty. Why does everyone freak out at the beginning of these events? If people just spread out and stopped worrying about being the first at everything it would be much easier to get around.

Enough of my complaining- onto the food. I was excited to see Xie Xie had a stand. I’ve been meaning to try this place out since they opened. They were serving up an Asian Beef Slider for the event.



I absolutely loved the spicy sweet flavor of the beef but the roll was a major disappointment. The bun was so hard it was impossible to get a good bite of sandwich. It didn’t seem like it was stale- just an enormously coarse style of bun. I ended up taking it off and just ate the beef before moving onto another slider right next door B. Smith’s pulled pork slider.



The roll fared much better than the Xie Xie slider with a squishy bun and good meat the dough ratio. The pork had a nice smoky flavor that was satisfying but nothing really jumped out at me. I probably could make this myself at home- kind of average.

My favorite dishes of the night came from Restaurant Cuba. The first was a Red Snapper Ceviche. This was a classic ceviche with strong flavors of lemon, lime, chili and pepper. It was a very refreshing dish.



The second offering was some kind of steak taco. This was by far my favorite. The extra crispy tortilla shell contained some slow marinated steak with a dash of bright green cilantro sauce (cilantro sauce is slowly growing on me) and some spicy salsa.



The rest of the vendors there were alright. I tried the raspberry steak from One if By Land, Two If By Sea and decided I feel the same way about meat and fruit together as I do with fruit and chocolate- Keep them apart!

There were also some excellent cannoli’s and chocolate whoopie pies from two different stands whose names I forgot and I really enjoyed trying all of the different wine stands.

However I didn’t love this event. First off there just wasn’t enough food. For a $65 ticket I expect to have more food options. It seemed like a few stands didn’t show up and most of it ended up being dessert.

Luckily I drink alcohol, so I made up for the food in wine consumption but that too was a little disappointing. Almost all of the wineries there (with the exception of Banfi) were from Long Island. I love to support local wineries but it seemed like every table had the same 6 styles. I’m not a big Riesling fan so this didn’t help much when most tables had 2 or 3 different styles of that grape.

Overall I give it a C+. I did enjoy the space, the small amount of food I had was enjoyable and I did get to see Ted Allen! Hopefully next year they can get some more exotic wines and vendors. I’ll give it another shot.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jimmy's No. 43

I listed these in my top favorite new dishes of 2008 but I never had a picture to show before now. These are the insanely delicious beer sausages from Jimmy’s No. 43.



They always make these sausage bites super crispy and come with a tangy mustard sauce that’s great for dipping. I enjoyed these meat nuggets with a crisp Helles Lager from Germany.

Jimmy’s continues to be one of my favorite bars in the city. They always have a nice selection of beers, good food and a cozy atmosphere. This is just the prescription I need on a cold and rainy day.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Saturday!

It’s the weekend again and that means it’s time for a drink! This one comes from the bar at the new Cooper Union Hotel on Bowery. It’s called the Honey Bloke.



They use Plymouth Gin, honey, lime juice and peach bitters to make this cocktail and I have to say it was pretty fantastic. It was slightly sweet from the honey but had a tart bite to the end from the peach bitters.

Mr. T’s sister got the best cocktail of the night- the Basil 8. They combined vodka, white grapes, basil lime juice and ginger ale together to make quite the complex cocktail. There were so many different flavor layers to this drink it turned out to taste almost savory, like a full Italian meal.

These drinks don’t come cheap but it was a nice place to stop into and rest for a bit. Happy Saturday!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Weekend Delivery- Grand Sichaun

The weekend is almost here so it's time for beers and delivery. Since I usually talk about beer, I decided to switch it up for this weekend and talk about one of our favorite delivery places Grand Sichuan.

Grand Sichuan is mostly known for it's spicy traditional Sichuan dishes, but tonight we were feeling a good old Americanized dish General Tso's Chicken.

We've had almost everything on Grand Sichuan's menu over the years (we order in a LOT) and I have to say that I have rarely been disappointed in the quality of anything. This was no different.



There were nice big chunks of white meat chicken in a tangy sauce that had a little kick in the end. It wasn't the best Chinese food I've ever had but it was really tasty for delivery.

I truly think one of the best things about living in NYC is the unlimited options of food that can be delivered right to your door. When Mr. T and I are feeling extremely lazy we can go for a week without cooking a thing. That's not the best thing for our wallet but sometimes it's nice to get a tasty hot meal without ever leaving the couch. Grand Sichuan delivers in every way.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lunch at Aldea

After a very full Sunday consisting of a trip to the Amsterdam market, a food walk through Chinatown, 8 full hours of football watching and a Yankees ALCS win I was extremely happy but exhausted. I woke up Monday morning and decided I needed a day off to myself.

I ended up staying in bed until 11:00 am!! I tell you I was exhausted! When I woke up I decided the only thing to do with my day is have a fancy solo lunch. I love solo lunching. It gives me time to unwind while enjoying some fabulous food that is probably too expensive for me to afford at dinnertime. I checked out Opentable and saw a reservation available for Aldea- a new Portuguese restaurant in the neighborhood.

I made a 1:30 reservation and showed up right on time. The place was virtually empty except for a group of four in the back and three men on a business lunch. I think a lot of people were laying low this Monday after such late Giant and Yankee games!

The hostesses were very friendly and lead me through the minimalist but sleek front room to the middle booth. Aldea has a real trendy yet smooth décor which I found to be fancy and inviting at the same time. The cushions on the seat were so plush I could have curled up and taken a nap right there.

However I was onto more important matters- food. Aldea has a very limited, yet tasty looking lunch menu. It consists of about 4 appetizers, 2 sandwiches, 3 entrees and a 3 course prix fix special. The 3 course prix fix looked fantastic and was only $20.09! I had to go for it.

I placed my order and quite soon after I was brought out two different kinds of bread one plain and one cherry walnut wheat. The cherry walnut wheat was kind of interesting- it certainly had a lot of flavor going on but I didn’t really love either one. They came with a side of olive oil which was nice for dipping but I was trying to save myself for the main dishes.



For my appetizer I chose the Market Pear and Arugula salad with smoked ham, mozzarella and candied hazelnuts.



I was pretty shocked how all of the items in the salad blended together so well. I have never been a fan of fruit in my salad but it really worked here. The pear was so juicy and soft with just the right amount of acidity to balance out the bitter arugula. The mozzarella in the dish was incredibly creamy I wouldn’t be surprise if it was made fresh only minutes before. The hazelnuts and smoked ham rounded the salad out nicely with a little smoky sweetness to the dish.

I ate every last bite of this salad and could have eaten another bowl easily.

For my main entrée I chose the Skate “A La Plancha” with zucchini ribbons, pea shoots and a caper-brown butter sauce.




The skate came out of the kitchen smelling absolutely heavenly. It had a nice crusty top from the grill and a perfectly cooked interior that I can never get quite right when I cook fish at home. The brown butter sauce was pleasant but I found the capers a tad overwhelming. A little bit of caper goes a long way in my book, so I pushed some to the side. The portion size of the entrée was pretty big. I only got through about half of the fish before coming incredibly full.

For my big finish dessert I chose the Banana and Passion Fruit Tarte.

I am so angry because my iphone decided to shut itself down for some reason at this point and I never got a picture. This has been happening to me a lot lately and I really need to get it checked out. I also need to start bringing my camera more places as well.

Anyway I’m extra angry because this dessert was phenomenal! The tarte consisted of caramelized bananas on top a passion fruit custard and served with a side of Appleton’s rum and raisin ice cream. OMG it was so good. The full stomach of fish didn’t seem to matter any more as I powered through this tarte in record time. I liked it so much I truly considered licking the plate to make sure I got every last drop. If I was home I totally would have but in restaurant mode I simply smiled and asked for the check.

Overall I thought Aldea was an excellent lunch. The food was bordering on great, the service was slow but attentive and the space was warm and inviting. For $20.09 it is quite the bargain as well!

Aldea Website