Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Best of 2010 List

It’s that time of year again when I look back on all the food and drink consumed over the past year and remember some of the highlights.

Best Fish Dish- Marea
The Red Snapper with marinated salsify, brussel sprouts, fresh pancetta and soba is by far the best fish dish of this year and maybe best fish dish ever! The Snapper was cooked so perfect and had such bold flavor it was simply wonderful.

Runner up- Bohemian
The Grilled Branzino with seasonal vegetables was moist, succulent and absolutely enormous. This dish could feed two to three people very happily.

Best New Take on Foie Gras- John Michaels
One word- foiejitas. Silky, sweet hand held appetizer that completely changed the way I look at foie gras.

Best Surprise Dining Experience- Two Toms
It wasn’t fancy and there were definitely some misses (antipasto plate) but the whole experience was simply a blast. I loved grabbing my own drinks from the fridge in back and that Eggplant Rollatini dish is something dreams are made of!

Best Desserts- Momofuku Milk Bar
They have luscious layered banana cake, crazy kinds of cookies and some rocking chocolate malt cake but it’s the cake truffles that stole my heart. Barely cooked cake batter, rolled into little balls and topped with crunchy crumbles that seem to melt into your mouth and are so very addictive.

Best Restaurant Week Meal- The Modern Bar Room
I hit up a lot of RM meals this year- Aureole, Lure, Maialino, the Boat Club, but the Modern Bar room was the best. My duck appetizer was rich and satisfying, the tuna and sweetbread entrée worked like magic together and the dessert…that Dark Chocolate Pistachio Dome was to die for!

Best Brunch Dish- Maialino
The Amaticiana al Forno was so warm, rich and homey I felt like someone was hugging me as I went through bite by bite.

Runner Up- Dos Caminos
The Machacado Breakfast tacos filled with machaca style beef, scrambled eggs, salsa and Vermont cheddar cheese was some of the best tasting hangover food I’ve ever had in my life. The only reason they got runner up was because the service was so bad.

Best Cocktail- Gramercy Tavern
Ah yes- The Rickshaw Cocktail. Just a simple blend of vodka, lime, basil and simple syrup. It was cool, refreshing and wonderful.

Best New Opening- Eataly
I can’t help it- I absolutely love this place. From the fresh seafood and meat counters to the handmade pastas and wonderful desserts. Eataly has just about everything I need. Oh yeah- and some fabulous wine and cheese. And a rooftop beer garden coming next year! Yeah I love it!!

Best Onion Preparation – Union Square Café
I know this is kind of a strange category to have but it’s true. The sweet, red onion that accompanies the Tuna Burger is absolutely divine. Try it believe me.

Best New Beer Shop- Good Beer
They have hundreds of different kinds of beer, the owners are super friendly and you can drink while you shop- enough said.

Best Overall Meal- Daniel
The service was impeccable, the atmosphere was refined and the food was absolutely amazing. Daniel hit on all cylinders and I cannot wait to return. Easily my choice for best of the year.

Best Dish to get in right under 2010 and most definitely being eaten the most in 2011- Meatball Shop
The category says it all. I will eat the living daylights out of this sandwich in 2011. I’m serious. I may move down to the LES just to be closer. Review to come next week.

So there you have it! 2010 in a quick run down. It was a fabulous year to live in my neighborhood and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings. We’ll see how I did on my 2010 wish list and check out my 2011 Wish List on New Year’s Day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Bloody Beast at the Blind Tiger

Ahhh…Sitting next to the fireplace, sipping a frothy dark beer and enjoying a warm melty sandwich. Does life get any better than this?

Not really- it’s another day at the Blind Tiger. After several amazing winter beers we decided it was time for some meat. The Bloody Beast is a roast beef sandwich with cheddar cheese, red onions and horseradish sauce sandwiched inside a toasty roll and grilled.

The sweet red onions really played off the heat of the horseradish and the bloody mary sauce on the side gave it an extra spicy kick. This sandwich is the perfect compliment to a tasty brew on a chilly winter’s day. Can the Tiger ever do me wrong? I don't think so. See you on New Years Eve my Tiger!

The Blind Tiger

Friday, December 24, 2010

It’s Christmas Eve!!!!

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and celebrates with some special treats! I celebrated a little earlier this week over at the Hester Street Holiday market.

How can you resist when you see a beautiful platter filled with all kinds of delicious looking cakes. I certainly couldn’t.

This is the Elvis from Robicelli’s Cupcakes. What goes into an Elvis- why his favorite things of course. Banana cake bottom, peanut butter ganache frosting and some candied bacon on top.

Wow this was an awesome cupcake. The banana bottom was insanely moist with a great natural banana flavor. The peanut butter ganache was super fluffy and the candied bacon was done perfectly giving each bite a little bit of salt without overpowering the cake. Yum!! So here’s to everyone having a little something sweet and a great holiday!

Robicelli's Cupcakes

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Affrogato at Maialino

To round out the end of Sunday night we all decided dessert was in order. We had just finished at Eataly so we wandered down to Gramercy Tavern for my favorite German Chocolate cake in the city. Unfortunately the Tavern was packed (damn you holidays) so we made an audible and walked up to Maialino instead.

One of Danny Meyer’s other restaurants, Maialino was also busy but the front bar area was wide open. We grabbed a table near the window and decided to continue on our kick of wine. We ordered a bottle of Cesanese di Olevano Romano and hunkered down with the dessert menu.

I didn’t really even have to look. I knew my order before even walking inside- one of my favorite Italian specialties an Affogato. I love, love, love gelato and I like espresso just as much so putting these two together was just simply divine. I left Maialino completely satisfied and happy. So there you have it. After an incredibly rough morning, Sunday turned out to be quite a success after all.


Monday, December 20, 2010

La Piazza at Eataly

Although I love everything Eataly has to offer, I would have to say the enoteca in the middle if probably my favorite part. I love the tall marble tables and how every other section intersects here in the middle. It’s just always got a lively, bustling vibe that’s almost electric. After Motorino Sunday night we stopped back in for a bottle of wine and some snacks.

For wine we ordered a bottle of Morellino Di Scansano, one of the first red wines Batali really turned me onto during a visit to Otto. It’s just a light, easy drinking red that works well with multiple kinds of food. And I just happen to love the bottle.

What’s wine without some meat and cheese? For a snack we ordered the fresh made Mozzarella with San Daniele Prosciutto. I absolutely love this type of prosciutto. It’s slightly sweeter and saltier than the Parma and really gets a boost from a little olive oil and cheese. The mozzarella was tasty but I really wish they would begin selling Burrata as well. The turnover at Eataly is so high I’m sure they would power through that cheese no problem.

One interesting thing to note- there was a DJ spinning tunes in the Piazza all night. I come to Eataly all the time and have never encountered this? Anyone else? Maybe it’s only on Sunday nights? I have to say I loved it. Eataly seemed transformed from just a high end market to an underground club. It was pretty interesting and actually fit the space.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

More Motorino for Me

After a beer filled and raucous Saturday night (no we were not at Sanatacon but still managed to get a little crazy) we were all struggling on Sunday. I barely moved my poor body out to the couch for football watching and after the 1:00 games were over we all collectively decided to take a nap. Around 5:30 pm, the sun had gone down and I rolled back out of bed feeling better. It was my friend’s last night in the city and we had some more serious eating and drinking to accomplish. Luckily everyone was feeling much better after their own naps and just one hour later we were out the door and heading for my friends last request- pizza.

I had planned for us to eat at Posto actually but there was a 30 minute wait when we arrived! I wasn’t in a waiting mood, that’s for sure, so instead we walked down to Motorino where only about half the tiny space was filled.

Our first pizza of the night was Motorino’s Margherita with tomato, mozzarella and basil. The first thing you’ll notice about this pizza is the dough. The middle of the pie is super thin while the crust is wonderfully charred and fluffy. Somehow this crust is both chewy and crisp, a feat not accomplished easily. The second thing you’ll notice about this pizza is the ingredients. Everything on this pizza is so incredibly fresh from the sweet San Marzano tomotoes to the creamy dollops of mozzarella and incredibly vibrant leaves of basil. This pizza is fantastic. My only small qualm was that the center of the pie was almost a little soupy. I think they rolled the dough a little too tight in the middle and it lost some of its normal flexibility.

Our second pizza is another one of my favorites the Brussel Sprout and Pancetta with mozzarella, garlic and pecorino. Again the curst here is phenomenal but instead of fresh tomatoes its covered in nutty brussel sprout leaves, salty squares of pancetta and nice big chunks of garlic and drizzled olive oil. I wouldn’t say this is a healthy pizza but its nice to have some greens involved. I was trying to figure out which one I like more but they’re so different from each other its hard to chose. Luckily I always go to Motorino with a group, so hopefully I’ll never have to.

Motorino definitely delivered in the pizza department although the service could improve. We had a long wait for both ordering and the check, which shouldn’t occur when the place is only half full. Luckily the food had made us feel better and we were finally going to enjoy Sunday night.

Motorino Pizza

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Saturday Mania

My friend from Buffalo was visiting this past weekend and after having a pretty chilled out Friday night we woke up Saturday ready to rock and roll. There were a ton of food and drinking items on the agenda and after a quick tour of Eataly we walked over to our first pit stop Gramercy Tavern. We had talked about having lunch at the Tavern, but Mr. T was still getting himself ready so we just stopped in for an early afternoon drink instead.

I decided to have a glass of the Franciacorta Rose Brut to start my day. The crisp bubbly had some strong raspberry and cherry flavors but was very balanced.

My friend went for the Orange Blossom. A blend of sparkling wine, Elderflower liquor and orange bitters made this an excellent early afternoon drink. Kind of like a mimosa with a little twist. After our drinks were finished we walked down to Union Square and shopped around the holiday markets. I picked up an absolutely amazing Vietnamese Coffee and Chocolate cookie from the Rubyzaar booth. I didn’t get a picture but it was one of the most delectable cookies I’ve had in a long time. The cookie had a nice chewy center, crispy brown edges and truly luxurious and adult flavors of coffee, cream and dark chocolate.

After the market we walked over to Lille’s Restaurant for brunch. As usual a drink is complementary with any food order but I was surprised to see draft beer as one of the choices. Lille’s has quite an extensive list of beer and it was nice to options other than a Bloody Mary or Mimosa. I decided to keep it light and ordered a Belgian Blanche de Bruxelles.

For my entrée that day I was really torn. I was leaning towards the Burger and Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich but ended up ordering the Grilled Chicken Cesar instead. Unfortunately this wasn’t a good choice. My greens weren’t actually green but yellow, and the dressing was thin and pallid with almost no flavor. The chicken on the salad wasn’t good either. It had been extremely overcooked and the meat was a hard, dry mess.

My counterparts ended up ordering what I had been torn between and fared somewhat better. The Cheeseburger came out looking fabulous with crispy bacon and a thick slab of cheddar cheese. However looks can be deceiving and the meat quality wasn’t very good. It had a mushy quality that was really unappetizing and simply became gross towards the end.

The Grilled Ham and Cheese probably fared the best since my friend had no complaints. I didn’t try the sandwich but I snacked on some leftover fries and they were pretty darn tasty I have to say.

Overall however, Lilles was a big brunch fail. I left almost all of my salad untouched and no one exactly raved about their meal. It was too bad since we had a big day ahead of us where a full belly might have helped out. After brunch we walked down to the West Village where all of our plans got foiled by Sanatacon. The village was literally filled to the brim with drunken Santa's everywhere! We aborted that mission and walked back east stopping at Puck Fair, Sala for some meat and cheese and onto Jimmy's No. 43 for a couple good beers.

The night ended in the nearby East Village later than expected and definitely low on food. It was going to be a tough day on Sunday for sure.

Lillie's Reastuarant

Gramercy Tavern

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Little Candy Cake Company

Need a little last minute holiday treat for someone? How about a mini chocolate cake truffle decorated in gorgeous flowers any color of your choice!

Head over to The Little Candy Cake Co in the Limelight Marketplace. I’ve told you about these guys before. They usually make mini solid chocolate cakes but have recently added a new item- the cake truffle!

Incredibly moist chocolate cake is enrobed in a rich, creamy outer chocolate shell and then decorated with sweet icing and sugary little flowers. This little bite is awesome and beautiful! It’s great to hand out if you need a bunch of small gifts that don’t break the bank but look creative and delicious. They also have a ton of flavors if you call in the order ahead. Red Velvet, German Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Vanilla…just to name a few.

So if you’re in the need of some cute last minute gifts the Little Candy Cake Co. might just be your last drop stop for the holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Belgian Beer Dinner at Almond

Monday night Edible Manhattan teamed up with Stella Artois for a family style beer dinner at Almond Restaurant. If you remember I had lunch a while back at Almond and the place definitely needed some improvement. However I love edible Manhattan and for only $40 a block away from my apartment- why not give it a shot.

Since the event was sponsored by Stella, each course was paired with a different one of their beers. The first course, paired with the flagship Stella beer, was called Raw Bar for a Chilly Day.

This course consisted of Shrimp Cocktail, Oysters Rockefeller and Clams Casino. I’ll tell you right now this was my favorite course of the night. The shrimp they set down were huge and came with an excellent thick cocktail sauce. The clams casino had just the right amount of spice and breadcrumbs while the Oysters Rockefeller were absolutely wonderful. The spinach and cheese mixture atop the oyster made for a delectable bite of both brine and butter.

Our middle course was paired with a Hoegarden and started with a platter full of meat. Turkey & Oxtail Crepinettes; Chicken/Apple Sausages; House Cured Pancetta and Pickled Calf Tongue. I took one of everything and by far my favorite was the Pancetta. The meat to fat ratio was about 50:50 making the belly super moist but not completely artery clogging. No that was saved for what came out next.

Another platter full of meat! This was the Red Wattle Ham Chops and Cheddar & Jalapeno Bratwursts. Man that’s a lot of food! I was already heading into dangerous meat coma territory and this just pushed me over the edge. The man hosting the event told us this ham was about 60 % pure fat, making it incredibly tender. In actuality it wasn’t as tender as I thought but it was still tasty. My favorite part of this course ended up being the accompaniment of roasted vegetables. They had some serious delicious beets, scallions and potatoes all browned up and crispy. I could have eaten a whole bowl of just those.

For dessert we finished off with a Leffe Blond and a Warm Sticky Toffee Date Cake with Creme Fraiche Ice cream. I was worried this dish would be too heavy after all of the meat but the cake was surprisingly light and the crème fraiche tasted rather refreshing. I ended up polishing it off no problem (when do I not with dessert though…sigh).

Overall it was a enjoyable event. They were pretty good at keeping the beers filled and tables cleared and the place had a constant buzz the entire time. I’m not sure it changed my feeling about Almond but we had a nice time.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Espresso at Eataly

There’s really nothing better than waking up on the weekend and having a nice hot cup of espresso. I ventured out to Eataly for mine this past Sunday and got there right before the crowds.

It was fantastic not having to push my way through the usually packed marketplace and my espresso seemed to taste better just because of that fact. Smooth, creamy and slightly nutty in flavor, this espresso begs for some chocolate to be enjoyed with it.

Luckily Eataly has that as well! Right next to the espresso are three different squares of chocolate, ranging from light to dark, perfect for snacking on while you sip your drink. What a nice way to wake up in the morning.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Mason Jar

I had a hair appointment in midtown Saturday and after it was finished I spent the day in full on Christmas mode. I did all the 5th avenue windows, toured The Plaza and St. Regis, hit up the tree at Rockefeller center, did a quick stint in Times Square and then all the way back across through Bryant Park to Grand Central. I think I spent about 5 full hours just walking around the city non-stop. By the time I got home I was ready to just chill out with some beers and college football so we headed up to the newly opened Mason Jar.

The name of this place makes me laugh. Back in college there was a restaurant called the Mason Jar. It was literally the only restaurant in our dinky little college town and one block from our apartment. Mr. T and I would walk down at least two times a week and order the same thing every time. Ham and cheese sandwich for me and a Shrimp Basket for him. We were quite the culinary masters back then!

Anyway- back from my trip down memory lane. This Mason Jar is more bar than restaurant with huge plasma TV’s all over the walls and quite a good selection of beers on tap.

I actually went for a beer flight. I had already had everything they offered on tap but beers flights make me happy. If I could eat and drink everything in sample sized format I would. I had a Duvel, Goose Island Harvest, Sixpoint Righteous Rye and a Hennepin.

For dinner we decided to order a variety of appetizers. I had been very excited about the wings since the group next to me had been chowing down on some and they looked large and meaty. However when ours came out I noticed they were much smaller. They offer about four different flavors of wings, maybe they reserve the big ones for something other than Buffalo wings? I’m not sure however I did really like the flavor of the ones we got. The sauce was pretty spot on- slightly sweet up front with a long, lingering, spice that stayed on.

Unfortunately our next appetizer didn’t do as well. Spinach and Artichoke dip is a pretty standard bar order but man they really made this a mess. The consistency of the dip was like soupy water with large chunks of artichoke and sausage in the mix. The spinach was in gloppy pools throughout and the whole thing just really didn’t taste or look good.

Our final appetizer fared the best- deviled eggs. These were actually a special that day and they were perfect. The inside was super creamy and had just the right hint of mustard and paprika.

I’m not sure I will be running back to the Mason Jar for its’ food anytime soon but it was decent. The beer selection and huge TV’s are much more the draw to this place. Overall it was a decent little sports bar.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Back to our Neighborhood Gem Giorgio's

I’m so lucky to live where I do. Over the past year about 5 new places have opened up near by which are all awesome. Eataly, The Hurricane Club and Hill Country Chicken just to name a few. But even before these places existed we had a slew of neighborhood favorites. Gramercy Tavern of course, L’Express and good old Giorgio’s of Gramercy.

It had been a couple years since we last pulled back the black velvet curtain and stepped inside the narrow red antique space that houses Giorgio’s. Interestingly enough we were seated at the same table we get every time. Maybe they remembered? Probably not but it was nice regardless.

The chef started us out with a Smoked Trout and Cream Cheese Crostini. The smokiness of the fish and rich cream cheese played perfectly off each other and really excited my taste buds- just as an amuse bouche should.

For my main I ordered the Caramelized Sea Scallops with cauliflower fondue, fava bean, golden raisins, cauliflower salad and balsamic glaze. Wow- this dish was enormous. Usually when I order scallops I get only three or four. Here I was given six large scallops cooked to perfection with a sweet caramelized top and juicy soft inside. Although there was a ton of stuff on this dish everything really worked. I’m not a huge cauliflower fan but roast it up with some sweet golden raisins, nutty beans and a good douse of balsamic and I’m yours.

Mr. T went the meat route and ordered the Grilled NY Steak Pave with house cut fries, roasted shallots and sea salt. Man what is it about roasting that just brings out the best flavor of any vegetable. The large shallot and bloody meat were a match made in heaven- although the steak was slightly too firm. The fries were a big surprise. They look like my mortal enemy the Steak Fry (an abomination of mushy potato interior and limp pallid exterior). However these actually had some depth. The outside was super crunchy and held the sea salt well and the inside was quite delicate. These actually reminded me more of a pomme frite than a steak fry.

We had been planning to order dessert but unfortunately our service got way too harried towards the end. It was obvious from the start that our waiter was new after stumbling all over the specials for that day. That’s just fine- however we never saw him again after receiving our entrees. Someone else gave us dessert menus and after about 10 minutes I just flagged down another waiter for our check. It was alright though- we were pretty stuffed anyway. So we finally returned to one of our favorite little places and it’s nice to know it’s still doing well. New things come and go but some things are meant to stay.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Fun at Celsius

Mr. T and I had another wonderful visit with his family in Florida this past Thanksgiving. Besides just an amazing turkey spread we were treated to a vertical tasting of Pahlmeyer Cabernets, a ton of hard to find craft beers and the best eggplant parmesan I have ever had in my life- period. It was an awesome trip and so good to see family again! We flew back Friday night and Saturday morning I woke up fresh and excited to jump right into the holiday spirit some more.

I did some shopping, toured around the Union Square holiday stalls and just enjoyed the chilly air of this glorious season. I had so much fun walking around I kind of forgot to eat. I got home around 3:00 and was starving. So in continuation of my holiday spirit Mr. T and I went up to Bryant Park and their seasonal restaurant Celsius.

I’ll admit the glass windowed building looks a little strange in the park but it’s quite a fun and different experience. Mr. T had never seen it before so he was a little surprised. We both felt like tourists in our own city. In keeping with those feelings we decided to be ultimate tourists and eat lunch outside right by the rink.

Large heat lamps sat above each table and although it was only about 45 degrees the lamp created a ton of warmth. So much so that my face felt like it was melting off at points.

Now we weren’t expecting much from the food at this place- it was all about the atmosphere. That being said Mr. T’s Mac n’ Cheese was actually fantastic. It arrived inside a cast iron skillet, the perfect vessel for keeping the pasta steaming hot and juicy.

Inside the browned crunchy top lay an ultra creamy blend of three cheeses. I’m not sure but if I had to guess I would say it was a blend of Cheddar, American and Gruyere with a small amount of béchamel making it incredibly rich . For only $12 this was a hearty, filling and delicious dish I didn’t expect to find at such a touristy spot.

Ahh! Here we go! My steamed shrimp dumplings were exactly what I had expected here. I know- don’t point fingers. Who orders dumplings when Chinatown’s best are $8 less and only a train ride away. Oh well- I had a craving and went for it. The dumpling skin was thin and rubbery and the inside lacked flavor. However the soy ginger sauce was tasty so I just dunked each dumpling in there and tried not to think about it.

Dumplings aside Mr. T and I really enjoyed our lunch in the park. We definitely felt out of our comfort zone with all of the kids and Europeans surrounding us. Every table outside was filled and we were the only ones without a bottle of champagne on our table. But sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone.

We got to see some crazy ice skaters, lots of holiday shoppers and even the zamboni came out to clean the ice. Overall it was quiet a pleasant little holiday lunch.