Friday, July 30, 2010

RW at the Central Park Boathouse

After a lovely meal at the Modern the night before I woke up to a beautiful day of warm weather and bright sun. The humidity had finally dropped and it was actually bearable outside. I did a bunch of errands and then decided to walk through Central Park to my final destination the Boathouse.

I got into the park about 2:00 by the Plaza and my reservation wasn’t until 3:30. I thought I would walk up and see if I could get in early. Well that didn’t happen. A half hour later and I’m lost. Somehow I ended up going west when I thought I was going east. Then when I figured that out I ran into the bramble and got lost again. By the time I finally found the boathouse my feet were covered in dirt, my hair was drenched in sweat and I was right on time for my 3:30 reservation.

I had to wait a moment to be seated so I grabbed a glass of wine from the bar. Luckily I did because my server was pretty non-existent at first. I waited for a good 10- 15 minutes to place my order and I was starting to get antsy.

I had looked at the menu online before arriving but my petite filet mignon had been replaced by a Berkshire Pork Loin on the given menu. I wasn’t in the mood for pork, and eggplant isn’t my thing so I went for the only other choice the cod.

First things first though- the bread. They offered three different choices of bread one of which was a pretzel breadstick. I don’t usually see this in a bread basket so immediately I decided to try it out.

The breadstick was decent. I was hoping for a slightly saltier crisper outside but luckily the salt from the butter helped and I was happy with my choice.

For my first course I ordered the Sea Scallops Escabeche with Granny Smith apples, Valencia oranges and pea shoots.

The cold scallops and acidic oranges really refreshed my palette. This was a very light, summery dish perfect for dining on the water.

Unfortunately I had an extremely long wait between my appetizer and entrée. It seemed that everyone around me got entrées and desserts and I was still sitting there. Then I had flag down my waiter to even order another glass of wine. I guess they don’t like the solo diner here.

Here’s my entrée when it finally did arrive- Sautéed Chatham Cod with artichoke, mussels, farro, tomatoes, micro basil and roast garlic mussel jus.

I’m a little conflicted with this dish. The fish itself was cooked perfectly- moist and flaky with a delicious crunchy top. However the rest of the dish was just bad. First of all, if there were mussels in there they certainly hid from me because I never saw one. Second of all who wants all that farro? I felt like I was eating something a grandmother would make for her grandchildren. It was mushy, bland and just unappetizing. It’s too bad a perfectly cooked fish was ruined by the other elements.

For dessert I ordered the Chocolate- Caramelized Banana Cake with chocolate custard and peanut butter puree.

Everyone around me who ordered this dessert kept commenting on how rich it was. I had prepared myself to be too sugar filled to finish but I didn’t find it overly rich at all. The top of the cake was actually banana pieces covered in caramel and a dollop of chocolate pudding, while the bottom chocolate cake was actually pretty light and airy. The peanut butter puree was light as well and overall I enjoyed this dessert.

So my food was only so-so and my service was slow and scattered. It was funny being asked by everyone who worked there “Where are you from?”. What do you mean? New York of course! I forgot what a touristy place this would be. However I did enjoy the ambiance a LOT. It was so relaxing (once I got my food) to sit on the porch, watch the paddle boats and feel the warm breeze in the air. For that reason I would actually return here. Possibly even this summer. It truly is a beautiful place to enjoy a midday break.

So there you have it. I made it to four restaurant week meals this time around. Not too shabby! And now it's extended to Labor Day! Dare I try to fit some more in?

Central Park Boathouse

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some Seriously Weird Stuff at Brother Jimmy’s

This review is actually from a couple weeks back but somehow I forgot to report on these crazy drinks and I just feel the need to because they look so strange.

We met up with friends for the World Cup finale only to find Stout completely packed hours before the game. We were in desperate need of a back up bar so we ended up inside Brother Jimmy’s right near MSG. We actually had a friend working at MSG that day so the location worked.

We were starving when we arrived so we ordered up some apps to share. Here’s a look at the Nacho’s.

These were actually pretty good as far as the appetizers went. There was a good amount of cheese and toppings but the chips seemed to stay surprisingly crispy for the most part. The chicken finger appetizer was very weak. The breading was too peppery and the chicken itself just had a funky flavor.

The craziest part of our meal however came later when we decided to change from beers to mixed drinks. I ordered a Myrtle Beach raspberry margarita.

Look at this unnatural neon pink drink that came out! I was a little bit frightened honestly. Unfortunately it tasted even worse than it looked. The drink was so thick and chalky it was like drinking paste. And when I finally got a decent gulp down the flavor was so acidic that it burned the back of my throat. I never liked Myrtle Beach growing up. It must have been some foreshadowing for this drink.

My friends Carolina Cooler fared slightly better. It didn’t have the same chalky texture as mine but the ectoplasm color and sweet acidic flavor were still there rendering both of these cocktails close to undrinkable.

There are only certain places where cocktails should be ordered and Brother Jimmy’s is definitely not one of them. My lesson has been learned.

Brother Jimmy's BBQ

Monday, July 26, 2010

Restaurant Week at the Modern Bar Room

Finally! The past 3 years I’ve been trying to get a RW reservation at the Modern and with no luck. I always waited until the restaurant list was revealed and reservations “officially” were available. Somehow they were already booked by then! This year I got smart and made the reservation 30 days in advance in hopes that the Bar Room would again participate. My advanced booking paid off and Wednesday night we met some friends and sat down for dinner.

Looking over the wine list I was surprised and happy to see so many affordable bottles. We opted for a very inexpensive Chardonnay and us ladies were happy with the choice.  The men were not into wine that night so both of them ordered a special Sixpoint beer the Dr. Klankenstein.

I won’t go into the whole process but this beer is basically brewed by heating large rocks until red hot and then throwing them into a cauldron with the beer and continue heating over a log fire. You can read more about it here. I have to say I thought it was quite tasty. Apparently it’s brewed especially for the Modern and not available elsewhere.  Here’s a look at our appetizers:

This is the Wild Mushroom soup with Toasted Chorizo Ravioli.

Fresh Grilled Shrimp with green cabbage and gruyere salad.

Steak Tartare

Roasted Long Island Duck Breast with peppercorn-crusted apples and toasted pistachio truffle dipping sauce.

The duck breast was my appetizer and I was extremely pleased. The duck was insanely moist, almost melty, with a small layer of fat between the meat and skin.

The peppercorn crusted apples were a little mind blowing. I would never put the two things together but they totally worked. Add some of the dipping sauce and it was without a doubt my favorite RW appetizer this year.

The only other dish I tried was the Steak Tartare which was simply divine. I really enjoy a good steak tartare and this one was definitely made with some extra love.

Onto the entrees. First up the Beer Braised Pork Belly with sweet pea puree and ginger jus.

When this dish came out I was jealous. It looked so spectacular on the plate it was almost a masterpiece itself. Luckily I was offered a bite and it was every bit as wonderful as it looked. Intensely crispy skin, a luscious layer of fat, and then super moist meat on the bottom. The puree was a perfect sweet complement to the salty pork.

Duck Confit a l’Orange with roasted sunchokes and fingerling potatoes.

This was my first experience with this classic dish and I thought it was delicious. The skin had a slight crunch to it while the duck was tender and sweet.

My entrée was the Grilled Yellowfin Tuna with crispy veal sweetbreads and preserved lemon.

They serve the tuna here grilled on one side and sashimi style on the other. I think this is the best way to cook tuna. I loved that it kept that velvety smooth texture and cool refreshing bite. The sweetbreads that came along were fabulous as usual and my only wish was that there would be more of them to enjoy.

For dessert I ordered the Pistachio Dark Chocolate Dome with pistachio ice cream and amaretto gelee.

This…was...FABULOUS! I know I’m a dessert freak but this was seriously awesome. I was worried about the dome being a hard dark chocolate shell, like an Eskimo bar, which I hate. I had no reason to worry because this dome was like pudding. The dark chocolate on top was so soft I thought it was melting.

The middle gave way to creamy, nutty pistachio cake that I still dream about. I was so focused and in love with this dessert that I almost missed my chance to sample the other dessert of the night. The Modern Cheesecake with almond crumble, raspberry and “fromage blac” sorbets.

The presentation of this dish was again something like a masterpiece. I’m not going to comment on the taste because while I enjoyed it, I’ve just never been a huge cheesecake fan. Plus I was so infatuated with my own dessert I couldn’t even bother. However all three ordered this dessert and there wasn’t a bite left on the plates.

The bathrooms at the Modern are similar to the ones at Maialino. Individual stalls with co-ed sinks outside. This bathroom gets 3 flushes because at least there about 10 stalls you could choose from so you could be away from your date. However I still hate the co-ed sink situation that’s all the rage.

Overall the meal was spectacular. I could see how people say the portions are a bit on the small size, but for me it was absolutely perfect. With a bottle of wine and two beers the bill ended up being about $50 each. That is practically a steal. I plan to make this an annual restaurant week meal from now on.

The Modern

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pignoli’s at Court Street Bakery

I was walking around Cobble Hill the other day, looking for something new and exciting for lunch when I passed by Court Street Bakery. I can’t imagine how many times I must have walked right by this place and never stopped in.

I peered through the front window and saw an array of Italian delights. Knowing that Mr. T loves pignoli cookies I stopped in to see if they had any available.

It took a few minutes for the woman to retrieve my cookies from the fridge so I munched on a piece of free almond biscotti while I waited and enjoyed the ambiance of an old school Brooklyn bakery. Everyone coming in around me were obviously regulars and chatted each other up while ordering fresh filled cannoli’s and decadent looking éclairs.

When my cookies arrived the first thing I noticed was the amount of pine nuts on top. Almost every inch of this cookie was covered.

Then I noticed the size of the cookie. From the top it looked normal but the sides were clearly much thicker than your normal pignoli.

Once I bit inside the middle tasted different as well. It was noticeably fluffier and light, more like a meringue than the usual chewy texture. These cookies were fantastic. Again pignoli cookies are never cheap. Four of these little guys cost me over $6.00 but I enjoyed each and every one of them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Restaurant Week Brunch at Lure

We had quite a jam packed and scalding hot weekend in NYC. Friday night we went to the Yankee game which began with an emotional tribute to Steinbrenner and Bob and ended with a thrilling walk off home run by Swisher. Saturday we took the train up to Westchester and spent the day where Mr. T grew up. His parents put on a fantastic spread of burgers, dogs, porterhouse steaks, and a ton of really good beer.

Unfortunately I haven’t had a lot of really good beer in a while and all of those high octane drinks really caught up with me. I woke up Sunday feeling a little like a truck ran over me. I contemplated cancelling our lunch date but after a nap and lots of water I decided I could make the trek.

We got to Lure at 2:30 and the place was packed. Our friends showed up right on time and we got a table near the sushi station. Luckily I wasn’t the only one feeling under the weather. My friend had also had a few too many beers the night before and we were determined to find a way to feel better. We decided the only thing to do was get a little hair of the dog.

I couldn’t fathom having a beer but a cocktail sounded like it might do the trick. He went for the Bloody Mary Royale and I ordered the Pineapple Sage Daiquiri.

This Daiquiri was just what the doctor ordered. It was light, refreshing and dangerously delicious. After a few sips of our cocktails we were both feeling much better. For our appetizers I started out with the Oysters.

Half a dozen Blue Point and Kumamoto Oysters with some mignonette and cocktail sauce. I’m not a big fan of Kumamoto Oysters but the Blue Point were excellent. The other appetizers were a salmon tartar, clam chowder and a shrimp tempura. First of all who orders Clam Chowder when it’s 100 degrees outside??

The shrimp tempura came with a slightly spicy sauce that reminded me of Nobu’s rock shrimp tempura sauce and the salmon tartar got rave reviews.

I trid to order the steamed Branzino for my entree but they were sold out, so I ordered the Mahi Mahi tacos instead.

I’m actually really glad the Branzino was gone because I loved these tacos! Definitely not your normal fish taco the fish was grilled, not fried, filled with pineapple chunks, corn, some spicy mayo and wrapped in a hard tortilla shell. I could see how some purists would pu pu this taco but I loved all the different elements. The only thing I would do next time is ask for no cilantro (can’t stand that stuff) but otherwise it was a wonderful and filling plate.

Mr. T went for the Sushi Combo which consisted of 8 pieces of sushi and a spicy tuna roll. The sushi was good- not Yasuda style or anything but fresh and well executed.

The last entrée was the Shrimp and Grits. I love shrimp and I love grits but I’ve never been a huge fan of the two combined together. This version came with chorizo and a fried egg on top. This dish had a little too much spice for me but overall it was pretty tasty.

I’ve been really trying to expand my dessert horizons so I veered away from my usual choice of chocolate cake and ordered the Lemon Pudding Cake.

The cake was texturally just like it sounded. Creamy, almost like custard, with a sweet, cool lemon flavor, blueberry compote, toasted almonds and blueberry ice cream. This dessert was perfect. The cake was so light it didn’t weigh me down and the blueberry and lemon mix was a refreshing summery treat.

These are the mini ice cream sandwiches Mr. T ordered. How cute are they! They came in two flavors- Chocolate chip cookie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Vanilla cookie with Strawberry ice cream.

So the meal ended and everyone was very satisfied with their food. I continue to enjoy Lure’s cute nautical theme and my Pineapple Sage cocktail really saved the day. Another successful RW meal! I wonder how many more I can fit in before the week is over?

Lure Fish Bar

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brooklyn Bridge Calexico Cart

For some ridiculous reason I decided Friday to walk all the way down to the Brooklyn Bridge Park and try out the new Calexico Cart. It’s only about a 15-20 minute walk, but in the 95 degree heat with 80% humidity I was a hot sweaty mess by the time I arrived. I think the heat kept a lot of people away so I was the only one in line.

I think it’s always best to try the original first so I ordered the Carne Asada Taco.

The taco was done in less than two minutes and despite the small size of the cardboard carrier, this taco had a ton of stuff inside. Two flour tortillas held big chunks of marinated steak, some fresh pico de galo and a luscious avocado cream sauce.

The steak was very well cooked. I was a little worried I would get some stringy, chewy meat like from some carts, but this retained a moist soft quality. I wish there was a little bit more greens and tomatoes, but I can't be too picky with the slim lunch options in this neighborhood. A little spritz of lime and my lunch was a complete success.

The only thing better than this new addition to the lunch scene is the other new addition I saw at the park- Red Hook Lobster Rolls! I had no idea! Unfortunately the man said they don’t start selling until 2:00 pm but at only $15 a roll you can be sure I’ll be hitting that up soon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Fried Food Feast at Paris Cafe

We met up with friends down in the touristy seaport area last week and hung out at a bar that I never knew existed- the Paris Café. Located right across from the New Amsterdam market area I must have passed this a million times and just never noticed. Much to my amazement this place has been around since 1873 and has had quite the guest list. Thomas Edison, Butch Cassidy and Theodore Roosevelt are just a few of the people said to frequent his place over the years.

Apparently when the fish market was still thriving at the Seaport this place was supposed to do some excellent seafood. Unfortunately now that’s gone, the menu read more like your average bar fare. Somehow we ended up splitting all the fried appetizers on the menu.

First up were the popcorn shrimp. They gave us a very generous portion of these little guys but unfortunately the breading was a little bit too heavy for my tastes.

Talk about some heavy breading the chicken fingers were the most fried fingers I’ve ever had in my life! One of my friends even commented that you couldn’t even taste the chicken! It was all crunch- no meat!

Our last appetizer fared the opposite fate of the first two. As you can see our calamari is terribly undercooked. Luckily it didn’t get that chewy, stringy taste but a little more crunch on the outside would have brought this up a notch.

So obviously we weren’t ordering anything gourmet here but I was still a little disappointed in this fried feast. I’m glad to finally know this place exists for its history but next time I’ll probably just stick with the beers.

Paris Cafe

Friday, July 16, 2010

Spot Dessert Shop

As you all know I am a huge dessert freak. So when Pichet Ong opened up his new dessert spot in the East Village (called interesting enough Spot) I knew I had to check it out. Located downstairs on busy St. Mark’s street this place is very easy to miss amongst the little jewelry shops and touristy vendors.

I had planned to order one of Pichet’s signature desserts but nothing on the menu really inspired me that day. Instead I glanced over the items in the dessert case and immediately the cupcakes jumped out at me. Sparkly tops! I have no idea what they did to make the frosting like this but I was sold right away. I ordered the Vanilla Caramel Vietnamese Coffee Cupcake.

Biting into the frosting I immediately got a blast of full on strong espresso bean flavor. The rich creamy frosting was absolutely wonderful! It was one of the most grown up cupcakes I've ever tasted.

Once I got to the middle of the cake I hit some filling. To this day I have no idea what it was. To me it tasted like apricots. Mr. T said it was probably the vanilla caramel but that's not what it tasted like at all. Regardless I think the cupcake was rich and delicious enough on its own that the extra filling wasn’t needed. I loved this cupcake. Even more surprising was that Mr. T loved it as well. Maybe our dessert palates are becoming more refined. Maybe we just found our first adult cupcake!

Spot Dessert Bar

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Restaurant Week at Maialino

It’s that time of year again! The time of year when I take a lot of half days at work and punch a further hole in my belt to make room for restaurant week lunching. This past Tuesday was my first summer RW meal and I had a reservation at Maialino. I looked online at the menu and was so excited to see their ever so famous chicken and fried artichokes being offered.

It was an absolute downpour when I made my way over and I arrived somewhat soaked. My friend was running late so I took a seat at the bar and watched the sheets of rain as it pummeled the outside. The restaurant was packed and when my friend showed up about 15 minutes later we were given a table in the back corner.

Now I’m going to admit our service was pretty shaky at first. We waited for well over five minutes before getting our menus and another 10 before ordering our wine. However we were 15 minutes late so I’m sure that affected their staggered seating technique. Then we had a little snafu with an incorrect wine but everything turned out okay after a send back.

With all of the confusion going on I hardly looked at the menu. I had already known online what I wanted and luckily my friend had the same exact ideas of things to share so as soon as she returned with the correct wine we put in our order.

First they started us off with a nice basket of bread. The airy pockets of dough were the perfect vessels for mopping up some seriously delicious olive oil and big grains of salt. Then out came our appetizers. First up the Smoked Swordfish.

This dish was fabulous. The smoky cool flavor of the fish went perfectly with the zesty pickled onions and slightly bitter mizuna. I really enjoyed this dish and about halfway through I realized why I liked it even more. The menu online had Robiolina instead of Mizuna as an accompaniment. While I love Robiolina cheese I think that would have dampened the light refreshing taste of this dish. This was a perfect appetizer for summer.

We also ordered the fried artichokes with anchovy bread sauce. I actually didn’t care too much for these. The anchovy sauce was tasty but the artichokes themselves kind of turned me off. Something about the fried crisp outside and warm mushy inside really bothered me texturally. I have some serious texture problems I know. I could see how people would love these however. Flavor wise spot on.

Onto the main courses, first up the Ricotta Ravioli.

Wow these ravioli were creamy little pillows of cheese goodness. The pasta shells were so light and fluffy I didn’t feel weighed down like I usually do from this hearty dish. It’s a good thing to since nothing was light about the rich decadent brown butter sauce. Oh my how I love brown butter and the addition of crispy sage just hit it out of the ball park for me.

Now onto my dish- the chicken.

Okay remember when I said I barely read the menu when ordering since I knew it from heart online? Well thank goodness I at least took a picture so I can now go back and know I’m not crazy.

The online RW menu has the Pollo Alla Diavola listed. The chicken dish Maialino is famous for and the one I was beyond excited to try out. What was brought to me was something very different. A breaded chicken cutlet.

I have to say I was a little crestfallen at first. This was definitely not the dish I had been expecting and I was upset. However a quick look at my menu picture confirmed that I should have read the given menu more clearly. While the online one has the Pollo Alla Diavola listed here it was changed to the Pollo Milanese.

So I guess it was my fault for not double checking and I was disappointed. Luckily the Pollo Milanese was very good. The breading had a wonderful mix of fresh herbs and the tangy dressing on the salad really gave it some pop. However I was expecting some crispy skin instead of breading so I still need to experience the Diavola.

For dessert we sampled some Olive Oil Cake and a Panna Cotta alla Salvia.

The desserts were okay but nothing really blew me away. The olive oil cake could have had a more pungent flavor like the olive oil cookies at Abraco and I found it a tad too dense.

The same could be said about the Panna Cotta. While I enjoyed the dessert it didn’t have that strong sage flavor as described on the menu as sage custard. I kind of wished I had tried out their gelato instead.

Overall we had a fantastic RW lunch. I’m still a little upset about the chicken dish but hopefully other people will actually read the menu rather than relying on the online one like me. The setting was laid back but lively, the food was tasty and the check was much, much less than it should have been.

After our lunch we enjoyed a nice little tour of the Theodore Roosevelt house on 20th street and then went next door for some drinks at my favorite place Gramercy Tavern. Not too shabby for a rainy Tuesday afternoon!


Two things I forgot to mention in the post.

1. They graciously give every diner at Maialino a $20 gift certificate for breakfast at Maialino in the future. It's only good Monday- Friday so I may not be able use it myself but I may give it to my parents when they come visit.

2. The Bathrooms. Unfortunately the bathroom experience was not great at Maialino. While the rooms are private, there are only two of them for the entire restaurant. This meant that I had to wait to go in and had a line waiting for me to come out. Also the bathrooms have no men/women distinction. Just two rooms with a communal sink. I'm not a fan of this style. I like my privacy and to me it just seems weird. To make matters even worse only one sink was in working condition. Sorry Danny, I love your places but this bathroom only gets 2 flushes from me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Dessert at Panya!

I stopped into Panya the other night, hoping for something sweet to catch my eye when I saw this.

A new dessert! A Berry Berry mousse! Wow this was so incredibly delicious. The top half is a smooth creamy mousse with a refreshingly tart raspberry flavor. Under that is a big layer of crushed almonds and almond paste, which give the whole dessert a salty, nutty crunch. The addition of halved macarons on the side and you have a wonderful and exciting treat. Not to mention quite lovely as well!