Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Grand Central Magnolia

I happened to be on a Metro North train back into the city last week and it let me out downstairs. Walking out I noticed that Magnolia bakery was smack dab in front of me. Not being a person with any sort of “sweets” will power I walked right over and got in line.

I’ve had Magnolia a bunch of times before and as you probably already know I think the best things here aren’t truly the cupcakes. They make an amazing banana pudding, fantastic peanut butter pie and luscious red velvet cake. However I was in a cupcake mood and noticed some new choices I hadn’t seen before so I ordered the Grand Central special and the red velvet cupcake.

The Grand Central is marble cake on the bottom, topped with green vanilla butter cream and a dark chocolate disk on top. I had a few issues with this cupcake. First of all the cake was really cold. Keeping the cake so cold made it tough and nowhere near the airy moist dessert I usually enjoy. Second the icing was super sugary. Now I’ll be honest- Magnolia always runs on the sugary side frosting wise and I like sugary frosting. However, this frosting just had such a weird thick sugar texture it really put me off from the whole thing. I truthfully think I enjoyed the wonderful dark chocolate disc on top the best.

The red velvet was disappointing as well. I was expecting a smaller version of their wonderful cake but instead I got a whole new dessert altogether. Here the frosting was much lighter than the usual red velvet and I really missed the creamy rich goodness that made the cake.

Overall I was pretty disappointed in this showing. I almost feel like Magnolia may be getting to big and losing some quality control?

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Amsterdam Market Returns!

The New Amsterdam Market returned this past Sunday and I made the long trek down to the Seaport in this disgusting hot humid weather. By the time I arrived I was covered in sweat and had to use one of the cheese stand programs to fan myself off for about 15 minutes. I think the weather had deterred a lot of people since the market was looking pretty sparse when I first arrived. That’s good though- more free samples for me!

I walked around and tried out everything. Delicious Mexican chocolate from Taza, fresh baked bread from Balthazar’s and some stinky blue cheese from Berkshire. There were a lot of stands I remember from last year but a few new additions as well.

Saxelby Cheesemongers were grilling up a fantastic looking kimcheeze sandwich (cute name). Unfortunately I hate kimchee so I had to pass but I decided to pick myself up some cheese curds from another stand nearby.

I hadn’t eaten anything yet that day so even after all the free cheese and bread samples I was starving. The lines for Luke’s and Porchetta were pretty long also I stopped by Jimmy’s No 43 stand instead. They were selling mini pulled pork sandwiches.

This was exactly what I needed. I ended up taking off most of the heavy brioche bun but the pork inside was insanely moist, fatty and delicious. For $3 it was a pretty good deal as well.

I hope they plan on adding more stalls as the summer goes on. They weren’t nearly as many wine stands as last year. I was actually hoping Brooklyn Oenology would be there so I could buy one of their artsy bottles but they didn’t appear to have a stand.

However I did enjoy the various cheese tastings and ended up coming home with the curds and a lovely dill chevre from Beltane Farms.

This cheese has so much flavor I’m planning to use it on some grilled summer vegetables and maybe slap it on a chicken sandwich as well. Look at what I went home and made with my cheddar curds:

Poutine!!! Okay it wasn’t as good as the stuff I get in Canada but it was pretty damn tasty. Yay for the return of the New Amsterdam Market!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Two Tasty Treats

I have yet to enjoy a full meal in the dining room at Mailino but the bar has become quite a cozy serene place for a glass of wine and some tasty small bites. We stopped by for some Father’s Day drinks with Mr. T’s parents and enjoyed one of the best appetizer’s I think I have had yet there- the Ricotta Fritta.

Fresh churned ricotta cheese is fried but somehow remained almost impossibly light and airy. Pair that with Mailino’s unbelievably tasty tomato sauce with fresh basil and you have one stellar plate of food. These little balls of cheese just melted in your mouth and changed the way I look at fried cheese sticks forever.

Another little morsel of delight I had last week wasn’t nearly as wonderful but it still was pretty good- a hot dog from the Boat Basin Café.

First of all it looks pretty funny. One lone hot dog in a basket? I think it was supposed to come with potato chips but they forgot. The hot dog was cooked well done just as I like, with some charred bits outside and some really juicy meat on the inside. The bun seemed a little soggy and it didn’t have that super snappy casing I enjoy but for $3.00 it was a decent filling lunch option.

Boat basin has added extra TVs near the bar for the World Cup and showing all the games starting at 10:00 am with sound. We were lucky enough to see the Germany, USA and England games there. Let me tell you something- at least the warm breeze outside made everyone feel a little better when they took that goal away from us.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Decent Solo Lunch at Blue Water Grill

As you all know I love going out for a solo meal. Lunch is particularly my favorite since there are so many “lunch deals” in this city. However I always do these solo lunches when I have a vacation day. Once the normal workday comes I usually bring something to the office and work right through my lunch hour.  Last week however I had to travel from one office in Brooklyn to one in Manhattan and it happened to be right around lunchtime when I did. I got off in Union Square planning to walk a couple of blocks and pick up a Subway sandwich when I thought to myself. Take a break- eat something different. There are literally a TON of restaurant around right now.  So I did and I headed Blue Water Grill and got a nice table by the bar. It was right around 1:30 and Blue Water grill was packed! I mean really packed! I couldn't get over how many people were there. Apparently most other people don’t work through lunch like me.

They had a great tasting 3 course lunch prix fix for only $24 but I was worried about time. I still didn't want to have a long lunch so instead I opted for the Chicken Cobb Salad.

My friendly waiter started me out with a nice basket of bread with two options of whole wheat or white. The bread was still warm and the whipped butter accompaniment was perfect for spreading.

My Cobb salad came out about 5 minutes later and was enormous! Lots of chicken pieces, bleu cheese, egg, tomato and bacon over a bed of mixed lettuce. I thought it was a pretty good salad but it could have been better. For some reason everything tasted like bacon. I mean everything! And when I dug around I only found one piece? Also I didn’t really care for the Ranch dressing. Next time I would ask if I could change it to Balsamic or something a little lighter.

Overall it was okay. I had more than enough leftover to have it for dinner later that night. The best part of the meal was the atmosphere and service. I love being in a bustling restaurant and this was certainly prime time for Blue Water Grill. Plus my waiter was extremely attentive and friendly. He couldn’t have made me feel any more comfortable. All this and efficient. I was in and out of lunch in under 30 minutes. It was nice just to have a little me time during the day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summertime is Meant for Steamers

After a long hot day watching World Cup soccer at the Boat Basin I came home to Mr. T who was just finishing up work. Not being able to take the day off and drink beer and watch sports did not make him a happy camper. I knew only one thing would cheer him up- Steamers.

We hopped in a cab and headed down to Pearl Oyster Bar. We put our name in, had a quick drink at Blind Tiger and were seated 20 minutes later at the bar. We always order the same exact thing every time we come here- steamers and a lobster roll.

Here is our large pot of clams. These clams were quite a bit smaller than usual but maybe the season’s a little off. These little buggers are so incredibly tender and delicious. Simply slip off the black part, do a quick bathe in the broth, then a dip in the butter and voila! Seafood perfection! I could happily eat these all day. But then I wouldn’t have room for one of my favorite things ever- the Lobster Roll.

I’ve written about this roll many times so I won’t go into much detail but it was just as good as ever. Big hunking pieces of lobster meat, mayo on top a nicely buttered bun. Can a meal get any better than this?

Apparently it can. I never usually have room for dessert at Pearl but tonight we had split our entrée so suddenly I found a sundae calling my name. The Butterscotch Praline Parfait.

Two scoops of creamy, smooth vanilla ice cream topped with homemade butterscotch sauce and crispy pralines. This sundae is going on my top 10 sundae list for sure. It was one of those desserts that makes you close your eyes upon first bite and feel like the luckiest person in the world for a moment. It was spectacular.

So Pearl continues to be a summer favorite. We had such a good dinner we went back the very next night and did it all over again! Happy Summer!

Pearl Oyster Bar

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

A big shout out to all of you Dad's out there- mine of course at the top of that shout out list! We're spending the day with Mr. T's folks and heading to dinner at the ever so awesome Minetta tavern. I can't wait to try out their steak again and see if it truly is better than Luger's.  Can't get a reservation at Minetta and need a place to take Dad? Why not the Frying Pan? It's supposed to be a beautiful day today so why not take your Dad somewhere to chill out and relax in the sun.

Mr. T and I went again two Saturdays ago. Although the Grilled Chicken Cesar salad wasn't quite as good as I remember (the chicken needed a little more crispy char) the burger was still great and man I could eat those huge pieces of garlic in the fries all day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Back to Bonaventure

I was back in the Buffalo area again last week for my (gasp) 10 year college reunion. I truly still feel like I’m 21 years old so this shocking slap back into reality stung a little bit. Driving back onto the St. Bonaventure campus I felt like I was having some weird out of body experience. I had spent so much time here and yet it felt completely foreign to me. Luckily we ran into some old friends right outside our building and after a few minutes (and a couple of beers) I felt a LOT more at ease.

The weekend was divided up with various class events both on and off campus. After the first night’s disgusting food showing at the Old Library (think Munster cheese on top a hard overcooked filet mignon) Mr. T and I decided to do our own food events the rest of the weekend. Our first stop Saturday morning was for a Bonaventure staple- the Burton Burger.

They take a nice thick patty, throw it on an indoor grill and top it with a slice of cheddar cheese. The meat is pretty good, slightly overcooked for my taste but juicy enough. What sets this burger apart from others is the salty roll. The top of the bun is literally covered in a thin layer of salt. You can feel the grittiness when you touch the top and each finger licking bite has that salty aftertaste. Obviously this roll isn’t for everyone. Mr. T and I both had enough of it about halfway though but I still enjoyed my burger.

The curly fries were forgettable. They lacked that extra crunch and were surprisingly unsalted compared to the burger.

Only available between the hours of 12:00-2:00 these burgers were always difficult to get in college (what with class and sleeping all day). Looking back now on the few times I actually was able to enjoy one I don’t really feel like I was missing out on anything now. It’s a decent burger but I enjoyed my mid-day naps a little too much to give up for this back in the day.

Later that night we skipped out on another reunion event and instead had dinner at our favorite place in town the Beef & Barrel.

This place has been around since 1965 and I’m pretty sure not much has changed in décor or flavor over the years. At various moments over the past ten years Mr. T and I have had serious cravings for their roast beef dinners so that’s exactly what we got.

They carve slices of tender roast beef to order and slather it with a thick brown gravy. No it doesn’t always look pretty but damn it’s always tasty. In classic upstate style the portion was huge so we each took a doggie bag home perfect for eating late night after some serious beer drinking.

So that was our Bonaventure experience. I did stop at the dining hall on the way out for breakfast and it was just as awful as ever. We also bookended the weekend with two trips to the Bar Bill for the best wings ever. Beef, wings and lots of beer- classic Buffalo trip I’d say.

Beef and Barrel

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Another Terminal 5 Trip

Another flight out of JetBlue’s new Terminal 5 means another stop for some airport food. Thursday we headed out for Buffalo in somewhat rough shape. Mr. T had been working all night- literally. He never got a chance to go to bed the night before and he was running on steam only. I suggested a big piece of protein might help him get through the trip so we stopped into 5ivesteak.

5ivesteak is basically a classic steakhouse inside the airport. They have all the same cuts of meat as a usual steakhouse and all the same prices as well. We weren’t looking to spend a fortunate right before the trip so we ordered the Hanger Steak.

About 15 minutes later our dish arrived. As you can see the steak was cooked perfectly and had the potential to be amazing. However look at all that oil! It was ridiculous. Sometimes a little chimichurri sauce on the plate is nice but this tasted like they just dumped a bottle of olive oil on the plate and called it a day. It was really too bad since the wonderful flavor of the meat was completely masked by this preparation.

So 5ivesteak continues to be hit or miss. It’s really too bad since I love the décor and their wine list is quite extensive and reasonable. I told Mr. T next time we were going somewhere else but for some reason we always end up right back here.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Chinatown Cupcakes!

Whenever I go to the Brooklyn Heights office I almost always walk home for some fresh air and exercise. I usually do the same route- across the Brooklyn Bridge, through the courthouses, into Chinatown, Little Italy, over to Bowery and up through the East Village finally to home. I’ve been doing this same route for years now, always on the lookout for new food shops and restaurants along the way. So imagine my surprise when I realize all of this time I had been passing a delicious hidden dessert spot.

Everything Frosted is located right on the edge of Chinatown on short little Mosco Street. I always walk up this street and even stop on occasion to pick up some frozen dumplings directly across from Everything Frosted. How could I not have noticed!

Honestly there’s not much signage and it is up a shady looking flight of stairs, but go to the top and you will be rewarded with a variety of tasty looking treats in a simplistic setting. They had green tea chocolate truffles, white chocolate mouse with strawberries, oatmeal raisin cookies and a ton of different flavored cupcakes. There were so many options I finally narrowed it down to two- Green Tea cake with Black Sesame frosting and a Black Sesame cake with Vanilla frosting.

First of all I’m so glad the box had little cupcake slots. I hate when my cupcakes gets all mashed up while walking and as you can see the frosting on the Green tea with Black Sesame icing started to slide off as it was.

First of all the frosting on each of these cupcakes was extremely light and airy. Much different from the frosting you get with such sugar laden spots like Magnolia and Billy’s, this frosting wasn’t very sweet at all. In fact the frosting tasted very natural. I could seriously taste the flecks of vanilla bean in the vanilla frosting.

The cake part of each one was excellent as well. More like the texture of a muffin with a slightly dense middle and crispy edged top both had quite a unique flavor. The Black Sesame cake had such an earthy, nutty taste it almost bordered on being savory rather than sweet. The Green Tea cake was tasty as well and reminded me a little of my old favorite cupcake from Amai bakery.

These are definitely not your average cupcake and if you prefer the sugar laden version these probably aren’t for you. But if you’re looking for something different, a change from the standard cupcake selection, check out Everything Frosted. They have everything from Mango to Lychee to Strawberry Champagne and Jasmine White Chocolate. I’m so happy I finally noticed this place!

Everything Frosted

Friday, June 11, 2010

Return to Lobster Place Lunch

After my somewhat tepid experience with the spicy tuna roll at the Lobster Place last time I decided to go back and see if it was just a fluke. After all, it was the day after a three day weekend. So the fish freshness may not have been up to par. I was going tom get the same thing but then I noticed a Spicy Yellowtail roll being offered. I had never even heard of Spicy Yellowtail being offered anywhere before. I love Yellowtail and with the addition of some spice and mayo what’s not to love.

And I was correct- on both accounts. The fish was extremely fresh, yellowtail goes just as well spicy style as tuna, and the tepid experience last week was a distant memory. I’m happy to have the Lobster Place on my regularly rotating lunch list.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Best Hangover Food Ever

Sometimes one indulges a wee too much in the pleasures of beer and wine. I like to refer to it as tippling. Tippling defined actually means drinking alcohol in small doses over a long period of time. Hmmm… sometimes those small doses really add up and your tippling leads to toppling. For those mornings when you’ve “toppled” let’s say luckily there a place you can go to cure those hangover blues- Resto.

I’ve written about Resto a bunch before. Its right near my apartment, carries a great selection of Belgian beers and has a fantastic brunch. The one brunch dish I’ve failed to highlight before however is the Hangover Pasta. Yes that’s actually the name and oh so appropriate.

A big bowl of noodles comes out littered with big chunks of Vermont Ham, creamy gruyere cheese, spicy black pepper and topped off with a fried egg. It’s seriously rich and seriously delicious. This dish will coat your stomach in two seconds flat.

Follow it up with a side of crispy bacon and you're set to go. This is obviously not for someone looking for a light meal but if you’ve been tippling and toppling the night before – this dish will make you feel better that’s for sure.

If you're not looking to start your day with pasta there's always the Egg Sammy.

An english muffin stuffed with eggs, gruyere cheese, guanciale and hollandaise sauce. Yes those greens on the plate give it the mask that's it healthy but it's certainly not. How can you go wrong with either of these dishes when your in rough shape?


Monday, June 7, 2010

Cake Truffles at the Milk Bar

I haven’t been to Momofuku in quite a while. In fact, since they stopped selling their amazing cakes by the slice I think I’ve kind of been boycotting them. Then last week something changed. I had been reading Serious Eats when I saw a post about Cake truffles now being available at Momofuku Milk bar. Cake truffles! I was so excited to check them out it was unreal. Unfortunately it was late Monday night so I had to wait until Tuesday and all through a long work day until I could get my fix. It was excruciating. Finally I was zipping off the train and walking inside the bar.

They had about 3 different flavors but with 3 truffles in one bag I thought trying out just two flavors for now was more than enough. I know I have no will power when it come s to sweets so whatever I buy is going to be eaten within seconds. I got one bag of chocolate and one bag of birthday cake.  The chocolate cake truffle looked like a regular chocolate truffle you could buy anywhere. Cocoa powder dusting on the outside and just slightly larger than an average chocolate.

The inside was a much different story. Rich, fudgy, smooth chocolate cake- this was unlike any truffle I’ve ever had! I felt like I was eating a delicious undercooked brownie.

I was completely sold on the idea of cake truffles after the chocolate but then I tried the birthday cake.

I had thought the chocolate truffle was good, but the birthday cake was phenomenal! Growing up my friend and I used to get together to bake cakes using a mix out the box. Usually we would only get partway through the cake making process before a food fight of some sort broke up. We would have batter in our eyes, hair and all over whosever kitchen we choose to be our battleground that day. When I bit into this truffle all of those memories came flooding back to me. It literally had the same exact taste- cake batter. Only this cake batter was better because it was covered in a delicious white chocolate coat of icing. I couldn’t get over how much I loved the taste for these guys. Somehow I managed to save one for Mr. T and he enjoyed them as well but not quite to the level of ecstasy that I did. Whatever- he always has a problem with the Momofuku empire.

I have been dreaming of these little guys ever since and am plotting my next trip back. Oh glorious dessert bar how much I’ve missed you! I’m back Momofuku! I’m back!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Random Bites

My Memorial Day weekend started off with a bang at Yankee Stadium Friday night, where Mr. T and I watched them beat the Indians 8-2. Of course I missed the Robinson Cano grand slam. I just had to use the bathroom at that very moment and I missed it. It really never fails- that stuff always happens to me.

To make up for it Mr. T got me a nice big McSorley’s and a hot dog at the game. The dog was just your standard Nathans but such a better choice than my cheese steak last time. Games are meant for hot dogs…and didn’t he do a nice photogenic job of putting the mustard on!  Oh and yes- they had full flowing kegs of Goose Island and McSorleys. Apparently they learned that people really like these beers and they were fully prepared to stay in stock unlike last time.

The rest of my weekend was filled with friends visiting, multiple brunches, lots of beer drinking and just relaxing on the roof. I came back to work Tuesday not quite happy but a little refreshed. I happen to be downtown so I walked over to the Lobster Place in Chelsea Market to grab a spicy tuna roll for lunch.

I love the Lobster Place because they are truly inexpensive, fresh and make sushi with brown rice if you ask. However Tuesday things were a little off. My roll was very texturally strange. Half of the roll was super chewy, almost stringy and the other half was like a mush.

Now it was a Tuesday not Monday, but maybe after the holiday weekend the freshness rules don’t apply? Who knows. I’m still going there as a lunch spot but next time I’ll rethink an early week sushi buy.

I’m heading back to Yankee Stadium tomorrow for their day game vs. the Orioles. Hot dogs and beer here I come!