Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Mermaid Inn

Mr. T and I enjoyed an early dinner the other day at the Mermaid Inn and made use of a fantastic Blackboard Eats coupon as well. For only $1 I bought a coupon that entitled us to 30% off our meal and a free drink for each of us. Score!

The drinks were limited to one red or white wine or a Sea breeze and both of us chose the latter. Then we each started out with the Cesar Salad.

Looking at this picture you can see there is a TON of Parmesan cheese on top. The amount was definitely a little ridiculous but is was seriously good and so satisfying. Both of us completely finished our plates which is big for Mr. T who isn’t exactly a salad fan. For my main course I ordered the Seared Montauk Skate with organic root vegetables, caper berry and soy brown butter sauce.

I thought this dish was executed perfectly. The skate was moist and the addition of soy to the brown butter sauce gave it a nice salty flair that I really enjoyed. Mr. T. ordered the Grilled Alaskan King Salmon with green lentils, red pepper and chili flakes.

I didn’t try the fish because of my salmon allergy but Mr. T seemed to really like it. I was surprised since lentils aren’t exactly his thing either but he said they were a nice cooling contrast to the spicy fish.

As always the meal ended with a cup of chocolate pudding and that damn fortune telling fish. Stupid thing never works for me. However I love the Mermaid Inn so much I put up with it each time. Next time I’m coming here for their happy hour which looked fantastic!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Blue Monk in Buffalo

I was only in Buffalo a total of 28 hours and my flight was delayed for 3 of those of course. Luckily my friend Kristin drove me to the airport and it gave us some time to stop and have an early dinner before I left. First we tried to go to Seabar but it was right between the 2 hour window that they close between lunch and dinner. Drat! Instead we veered off course and returned to the Blue Monk which I had tested out in the summer before they started serving food.

Blue Monk is known best for having one of the most extensive beer lists in the Western NY area. Immediately I noticed a new Dogfish Head I’d never had before the Namaste. It was basically a light, hefeweizen style of beer that wasn’t too exciting but certainly tasty. Since it was really early in the evening we weren’t feeling a full on dinner so we ordered two appetizers instead. First up- Blue Balls.

Yes only in Buffalo would you find something called Blue Balls on the menu. However these large German meatballs get their name from the Moody blue cheese crumbled on top. Neither of us liked these very much. They used a veal demi glace as the sauce and it was so rich and gamey it overwhelmed absolutely everything- even the stinky cheese! We both tried to scrap it off but it was so sticky the effort was futile and we ended up leaving most on the plate.

Our other appetizer was Duck Fat Frites with Siracha Mayo and Roasted Garlic and Sea Salt dipping sauces. Now the first thing I must tell you is that these came out lukewarm. I’m not sure if they had been sitting on the counter for a while or if they just used some old fries from the lunch rush. Either way there is no excuse in my book for cold fries. The whole point of a French fry is to be crispy and warm. Wouldn’t you agree?

Luckily they did retain some of their crispness and the flavor was pretty spot on. I really enjoyed both dipping sauces, especially the Siracho mayo. It’s just too bad the fries were cold. I should have complained and asked for another batch but I still had a plane to catch.

So unfortunately the Blue Monk completely disappointed both of us. The beer selection is stellar and the space is nice but they really need to shape up in the food department.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Todd English at JFK

Four days after we returned from Mexico and I was still completely out of whack. Mr. T and I had both caught a terrible cold and being back in the nasty March weather was pretty miserable. Work was even crazier than it was before I had left which seemed impossible but is true. Then I got some very sad news about my friend’s father passing away. I basically grew up with this family- my friend and I spending equal amounts of time at each others homes, so it was upsetting to say the least. I obviously wasn’t in the best shape, terrible cold, Mexico hangover, and tons of work to do; but I needed to be there for my friend so I booked a flight to Buffalo the next day. I put in a half day of work and then rushed to the airport only to find Terminal 2 pretty deserted. I was through the security in a matter of seconds and had plenty of time to actually have a proper lunch.

Todd English’s Bonfire was right next to my gate so it seemed like an obvious choice. I put in an order for a Cesar Salad and a Caribbean Martini made with Bacardi, pineapple juice, limoncello and sour. I figured the martini could help me in two ways. One- the pineapple juice would give me much needed vitamins to fight my cold. Two it would help me fall asleep on the plane so I wouldn’t be coughing all over everyone the entire flight.

I have to say this martini was seriously good. My senses had been dulled the last few days so it was nice to actually taste the sour twist. I actually felt a million times better after drinking one. I didn’t feel any effects of the alcohol but just a general sense of better health. By the time my salad arrived I was finished and decided to order another one. Woo Hoo! My first two martini lunch! Doing it old school!

Now my salad on the other hand actually frightened me a little when it arrived. I had never seen a Cesar that looked like this before. It was basically one big stalk. I decided to try and break it up into a more normal looking salad.

With lots of creamy Cesar dressing (maybe a tad too much), grated Parmesan and capers, I have to say for $9 this was a fantastic deal for airport food. I barely got through half of the salad before being stuffed and I enjoyed every minute of eating it.

Back to the cold curing martinis. I’ve got to tell you something folks- I know they always did this back in the day and that’s great but a two martini lunch is way too much for me! I hadn't felt any effects from the first one but the second really hit home. I was seriously loopy at the end of my meal. I don’t know if the cold had something to do with it but I was like a space cadet. How would people go back to work like this? Luckily I only had to float over to my gate and find my plane seat where I promptly fell asleep. An hour and a half later I awoke in Buffalo, sober and well rested. It happened to be the perfect plan all along,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

El Camion and the Tale of Two Pina’s

So I had no residual effects from an eight day drinking and eating binge in Mexico except for one thing. A serious addiction to Pina Colada’s. I had actually joked about this while we were there. It was common practice to get up, have some breakfast and then be drinking a frozen cocktail by 10:00 AM. Hey we were all on vacation! So Saturday morning I wake up and I have this insane craving for a Pina Colada. I mean seriously insane- it’s all I can think about. I do some chores around the house, go to the Duane Reade for some supplies, but it’s still there, nagging and taunting me to get a drink. Finally Mr. T says- why don’t you just go get one? So go I did.

Now it’s still winter so most places aren’t exactly whipping up frozen cocktails left and right so I head to the one place that always has vacation type drinks- the South Street Seaport. I travel all the way downtown and end up at the Latin restaurant Cabana. It was about 2:00 pm at this point and while the restaurant was somewhat full the bar was completely empty. Undeterred I sit down and order up my drink.

I had high hopes for this cocktail for sure. It looked pretty enough so I went in for a sip and got nothing. I tried again and still nothing. I thought my straw was broken so I got another one but that still didn’t work. Then I realized the ice chunks were a little too thick so I tried to break them down more so I could get a decent drink. I crushed, sipped, crushed, sipped and had moments where I was chugging on the straw with such force my cheeks felt a little flushed. Then I realized that I must be the most ridiculous person in the whole world. First of all who goes to bar alone and orders a Pina Colada. That’s just weird. Then to be so forcefully trying to drink it- it was all just crazy! I felt like the girl drink drunk from the Kids in the Hall. I had a sip directly from the glass but it just wasn’t the same. I needed a real Pina Colada and so I left with almost the full drink sitting on the bar.

I walked from the Seaport up to the LES and went shopping at Essex Street Market and did some other little errands and returned home where Mr. T was waiting for us to decide on dinner. Since I still hadn’t gotten my Pina Colada fix I suggested the new Mexican joint El Camion. So we hopped in a cab and within minutes we were seated at one of the cute wooden tables waiting for our drinks.

My Pina Colada came out and I was happy to see some toasted coconut on top. That’s always a nice addition. Unfortunately the drink was way too frozen for me. It was had to get a true sip once again and when I did it was an instant headache. I decided to wait a little bit until it had warmed up some.

For dinner I ordered the Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with a side of Cojita Cheese. The tacos came out three to an order and I though they were pretty sizeable. I was a little dismayed to see they had put the cheese directly on top of the taco since I had only wanted a little bit but the rest of the fillings were pretty good. Shredded lettuce, pico de gallo and avocado creama were all fresh and tasty but the chipotle sauce was a little watery.

Mr. T order the Cheese Quesadilla plain. Plain meaning nothing except cheese and tortilla. I thought it was really tasty but come on- how good can a plain cheese sandwich be?

In the end my Pina Colada did warm up and while I was able to finish this one it was just okay. Nothing like the delicious, fantasy cocktail I had dreamed up in my head. However El Camion was a pleasant surprise and a welcome addition to the neighborhood. They definitely need to tighten up the service a bit (I had to flag down the server to order and get the check both) but otherwise it’s a tasty and affordable spot to chill.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Solo Lunch at Tocqueville

I have my Mexico post all ready to go but I really want to use my photographers pics because they're awesome but I haven't gotten them all yet so I'll come back to that post. We flew back from Mexico Tuesday night and then spent Wednesday basically at home recovering. I thought I would be excited to get back into city mode but after an espresso at Eataly I just felt like coming home and doing nothing. I woke up on Thursday so incredibly tired and with some serious stomach pains so I called in sick. After going back to sleep for a few hours I woke up and surprisingly felt better. Maybe it was just the thought of work that was bringing me down. I had cancelled a fancy lunch the day before and decided to reschedule it. So right around 1:00 I walked down to Union Square for my reservation at Tocqueville.

I’ve always heard great things about this restaurant and walking inside I was immediately struck by the room. The high ceilings and small bright room was extremely calm and comforting. There were only three other tables filed, all with women, and I got a seat right in the middle. My very French and somewhat stiff waiter handed me the lunch menu that offered a $29 three course prix fix as well as a la carte. The prix fix looked splendid so I chose that but opted out of the wine pairings. Instead I ordered a glass of Riesling and took a much warmer approach to my stiff waiter after an extremely generous pour.

They started me out with a fragment piece of Olive Rosemary Bread and some butter. Unfortunately the smell would be the best part of this start since the butter was hard and the bread was so oily it actually dripped a bit when I bite in.

Luckily the amuse bouche of Potato Pancake, mushroom confit and crème fraiche made up for the bread. I’m not sure I’ve ever had mushroom confit before but I’m a big fan. Usually the mushroom is the support to a dish. Here the strong earthy flavor really was the star of the show and the salty pancake and sour crème fraiche were its accompaniments.

My first course was the Parmesan Cauliflower Flan with Braised Romaine Lettuce and Cesar Dressing. I started this on the leafy end and wasn’t too impressed. The romaine was too wilted and really weighed down by the dressing to a soupy mess. Then I cut into the other end and found it much more enjoyable. The creamy cauliflower flan needed a sturdy vessel and the romaine base provided that quite well. If this salad was braised and dressed slightly less it would be a fantastic dish.

For my entrée I had the Pan Roasted Cod with Cauliflower, Pistachio and Asparagus. When this plate was set down in front of me the smell of garlic pretty much slapped me in the face. I felt like I was back in college walking into my roommate’s very Italian parents’ house. I mean this was strong! The fish itself was cooked perfect but everything tasted a little too salty. As with the appetizer I think the entrée could have been seasoned less and come out being a much tastier dish.

Okay now before dessert something really weird happened that I must mention. My plate had been cleared and I had pulled my NY magazine back out and was busy reading an article on ESP. All of a sudden I realized it was insanely quiet in the restaurant. The three tables were still there but something seemed weird. Then I realized there was no background music. I started to wonder if the music had been off the whole time and I was just noticing or if it had stopped. Then I started thinking this place could really use a jazzy little slow tune like the Girl From Ipanema playing (one of my favs). Literally 2 seconds later that exact song comes on! No Lie. What’s even stranger is that during my wedding week they were playing music over the speakers at the pool and the same exact thing happened with this same exact song! I thought about it and voila it happened. WTF!! I apparently have the ability for the Girl from Ipanema to be played whenever and wherever I please. Sing me up for the X-Men I got a special power!!

Okay back to the dessert- Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse with crispy chocolate nougatine. The presentation of this dessert was beautiful and actually reminded me of something I had at Daniel. The flavor was nice as well although it was just a tad too bitter for me.

So overall Tocqueville was a bit of a miss. Everything I had seemed over seasoned and over dressed. Part of me wonders if my palate is a little messed up from Mexico and all the unseasoned grilled fish I ate there. I will definitely return to Tocqueville because although I didn’t love my meal, every dish was only slightly off for me and the service and atmosphere were exceptional. Now...I’d like to hear the Girl from Ipanema please...


Friday, March 18, 2011

March Madness with Momofuku and Beer

It's the most wonderful time of year again! No not Christmas- March Madness!! The next few weeks are all about basketball and beer people. I swung by Momofuku the other day and picked up some game day rations. Pretzel cake truffle with malted pretzel crumbs. Sound pretty crazy right?

Crazy awesome that is!! They almost taste like a savory Graham Cracker with a hint of molasses and a long salty finish. This kind of treat begs for something more refreshing than a glass of milk. This calls for a nice cold beer.

So after getting the truffles I walked over to my new favorite beer store, Good Beer and picked up a few delicious new brews to enjoy. They had just gotten some Breckenridge beers in the day before and I was psyched to try out this brewery I had heard so much about.

Once home I cracked open the Amber which poured a very minimal head with slight lacing on the glass. The taste was light with some toasty notes and a bit of cherry on the end. A very drinkable beer and absolutely perfect for pairing with my Pretzel Cake Truffle. Mmmmm Beer, Pretzel Truffles and Basketball. March Madness Rules!

Good Beer

Momofuku Milk Bar

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Monday in Mexico

So Monday morning Mr. T and I flew out of NYC (during the last snowstorm of the winter) and down to Puerto Vallarta. We had a somewhat sad layover in Chicago where Shamrock Shake signs were everywhere only to find out the machine was broken. Boo :(

However we arrived safe and sound and settled into our hotel that would soon be filled with 38 of our closest friends and family. This was a very small resort called Playa Fiesta and we had the entire place to ourselves. How awesome is that!

Our first order of business Monday was selecting a welcome and wedding cocktail for our guests. This meant we had to spend Monday night doing a cocktail tasting! Above are three of the at least 20 cocktails our bartender Eamonn so wonderfully concocted for us. Miami Vice’s, Banana Pina Coladas (my suggestion), Mango Mojitos…everything! I would have paid about $100 for a tasting like that in the city.

Then Tuesday morning we awoke to a fantastic spread for breakfast. Look at all this food! This was just my order! See that French Toast way in the back...that little guy? That was Mr. T.'s the rest was all for me. I was really starting to like the way this married life was looking:)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Legal Seafoods

So I’ve almost caught up to Mexico. Saturday morning I woke up knowing I only had two more days to get things accomplished. The night before Mr. T and I realized we had bought nothing for ourselves yet. I mean sandals, sunglasses, clothing, nothing. Somehow we forgot in all of the craziness. I had a mini breakdown because of this and about a hundred other things and after I calmed down Mr. T suggested we take a trip to the Westchester Mall.

Well that ended up being the best idea ever. I actually ended up buying nothing but Mr. T found everything he needed and it was a nice escape from the city. After the Westchester we walked down in the freezing cold winds to Legal Seafood’s. Now I know this is a chain restaurant but it was pretty damn good.

To start we had the Blackened Raw Tuna Sashimi with sesame chili vinaigrette, seaweed salad and wasabi. The tuna itself was very good. It had been pan seared so the outside was a little crisp and the inside was perfectly rare. Unfortunately the chili sauce was poured on quite unevenly. One piece would be nicely spiced, another piece would have me frantically grabbing my water glass.

My Main course was the simple Grilled Haddock with Béarnaise Butter, coleslaw and steamed broccoli. The fish was excellent. It was quite a thick piece of haddock and each meaty slice was super moist from the wood grill. I loved the béarnaise sauce on the side but beware- that lemon isn’t just a lemon. I squeezed some on my fish and realized it was butter as well. Who butters up a lemon?

Overall I thought Legal Seafood was excellent for a chain restaurant. After dinner we quickly hit up the Galleria (where I bought some sunglasses due to the bottle of wine we had at dinner) then hopped on a train back home.

The next morning we awoke- found our Welcome Bags in Chinatown, did some last minute packing and then had dinner at Nolita House where I had fish tacos. I realized after that fish tacos were probably a ridiculous order since we were on our way to Mexico but whatever. That was it- there was nothing left to do until we arrived but try and get some sleep. And you know what- I actually did.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ponty Bistro

Ponty Bistro quietly opened up in my neighborhood sometime last year and although it never looks very busy it seems to draw a good crowd from the Yelp reviews I’ve seen. I had worked through lunch the other day so I could take a half day for some serious shopping and right around 3:30 I was close to home and hunger pains were starting to get serious.

I walked right by Ponty bistro and noticed a sign outside for a two course lunch for $14.95. A quick check of the menu showed Cesar Salad and a Lobster Club Sandwich as options. Just like that my decision was made and I walked inside the empty restaurant and got a seat among the comfortable but fitting African Sculptures and throw pillows.

Ponty describes its’ cuisine as African Fusion. There wasn’t too much fusion going on in my Cesar Salad. Nice big pieces of Parmesan cheese, creamy dressing and light on the salt and pepper. Thank goodness- I hate when my Cesar’s are over seasoned. The Black Olives gave just a little twist on the classic and it totally worked in my book.

The Lobster Club had me from the moment I read eyes on the chalkboard outside; but the final product was overcooked and stringy. The meat was so well done it was almost impossible to bite into and I literally had to tear it apart. It was unfortunate because the pesto sauce on top spicy mayo bottom really had great combination of flavor.

The fries on the other hand, while not completely uniform, were tasty. Most of them had a super crunchy exterior, fluffy interior and fantastic seasoning.

The staff at Ponty Bistro all seemed to speak French and be friends. It was nice to watch the friendly banter among coworkers but challenging to when it came time for some customer attention. Overall the service was sufficient but if the place had any more customers I would be worried. Overall Ponty was a mixed bag- there are too many other great places in our area for me to warrant a return visit anytime soon.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Much Needed Day of Bubbly

I will definitely talk about the wedding but I truly have to go back a little. A lot of nervous eating happened the week prior and it deserves some attention. One week before leaving for Mexico Mr. T and I just needed a break from life. Work was mayham, planning was making me panic and a good day relaxing in order. So Friday we took the day off and had a lovely little rendezvous in the city. First we met up with my friend David, who I've known since I was two years old. He was my next door neighbor growing up but he moved to Atlanta when we were about eight. Our families stayed in touch and lo and behold- he moved to Brooklyn and we reconnected.

Mr. T and I started out our day catching up with him and celebrating forthcoming nuptials over a bottle of Moet at Edwards in Tribeca. That champagne seemed to do the trick so after leaving David we walked up to Balthazar and decided to have some more! After all those early morning bubbles (it was only 1:00 pm at this point) some food was in desperate need and we ended up at our favorite place in the world- Gramercy Tavern. Usually we eat in the tavern room but we had a gift card from Christmas and decided to splurge in the dining room.

We ordered another bottle of champagne (believe me we needed it) and I started out with the Smoked Trout with Cippollini Purée and Pickled Onions. Now this may sound funny, it being a fish and all, but this was really refreshing. It’s no big surprise that pickled and smokey go hand in hand like bread and butter, but this was especially true in this dish. The cippollinni puree had a touch of sweetness that made my mouth pucker a bit alongside the tart pickled onion and really brought the whole dish home.

Mr. T ordered his Christmas favorite the Lamb Pappardelle with Olives, Lemon Confit and Swiss Chard. Nothing new to report here- just as homey and delicious as ever but maybe about twice the size! I’m not sure if they just skimped on our portion around the holidays or if they thought Mr. T looked a little wane but this was a huge portion for an appetizer.

My main course was Sea Bass with Squash, Pumpkin Seeds and Currants. I love how restaurants are using a lot of nuts in their dishes these days. It’s a newer trend and it really adds dimension to the food. The fish here reminded me of a Thanksgiving preparation, lots of bright berry flavors with a full rich sauce blanketing the delicate fish. It was comforting and light at the same time.

Mr. T went for a special that day of Bass with cauliflower purée and cabbage. His fish was a bit firmer than mine and certainly quite delicious. I enjoyed the clean textures of the cauliflower puree that just gave the fish a slight salty edge.

We were both bursting at the seams at this point but Mr. T felt dessert was in order (I used to be the dessert pusher, look who I converted:) I absolutely love GT’s German Chocolate Cake so I ordered that off the tavern menu instead of opting for our dining room dessert menu. It was just as good as ever but I was a little jealous I went the Tavern route when I saw Mr. T’s dessert of Peanut Butter Semifreddo and Chocolate Macaroon.

The waitress said this was for peanut butter lovers only and she hit the nail right on the head. It was like a whole field of peanuts had been ground down and condensed into one solid orb for our enjoyment. The peanut flavor was seriously intense and the chocolate macaroon was no joke either. There was no subtly in this dish, just big, bold flavors saying don’t stop- I’m incredible!!! It was quite the dessert.

They finished us off with a nice little tray of petite fours that neither of us could even try and sample. We paid our check and headed home where I quickly curled up for an afternoon nap. It was a lovely way to spend a Friday!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Peanut Butter Pop Up!

Got nothing to do this weekend? Want some culture that will make your mouth water and is for a good cause? Head down to the Peanut Butter Pop Up Museum in Soho.

I stopped by today and had a great time at the tiny little space. Who doesn't love art inspired by peanut butter?

Especially when it's one of my favorites the Elvis Sandwich. Mmmmm...

The event is free to attend and you get an awesome jar of peanut butter just for attending.

Put your name on the wall and another jar of peanut butter is donated to The Food Bank of NYC in your name. art, free delicious nutty goodness and all for a good cause? Why aren't you there already! Enjoy! Happy Weekend!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I'm Back! With the Little Cupcake Bake Shop

Mr. T and I are back from Mexico and slowly recovering from our fantastic trip. I'm still trying to get all of our photos in order but suffice it to say we had an absolute blast. I'll try to have a trip report up and running in the next day or two but first here's a little something I enjoyed right before the trip- The Little Cupcake Bake Shop.

This little bakery has grown to be one of my favorites for its’ bright cheery atmosphere, intoxicating smells and wonderful array of all things sweet and delicious. It reminds of a bakery I would love as a little kid. There’s a ton of crazy colors, huge layer cakes and whimsical things that you never see anymore.

Case in point- the classic ice box cake. I haven’t had one of these in years! Here they have the original and also this- a pistachio ice box cake.

Look at all those lovely layers! The creamy pistachio filling and softened shortbread cookies truly brought me right back to my youth. It was like I was 10 years old again and every bit as delicious as I remembered. They have it all here- cupcakes, banana pudding, lemon squares, pies, and even Fruity Pebble bars (Mr. T’s favorite). If you’re looking to get away from being a grown up for a bit the Little Cupcake Shop is just the place for you to indulge.

Little Cupcake Bake Shop