Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pop Bar and Grill

I was pleasantly surprised to see Pop Burger had opened up a new location of their restaurant right on University Place. We swung by on a Friday night to check out the goods compared to their Meatpacking location. This space is about four times the size and has a pretty nice wooden bar in back (although it was crazy dark back there) and a couple flat screens for watching sports.



I ordered a Flying Dog in Heat wheat from their quite large beer list and then noticed the extended food list.



It’s broken down into the original items and the new “pub” items.



We couldn’t decide so we just ordered a bunch of things to split. It’s food time!



First up the classic Pop Cheeseburger. At the old Pop location I always found the burgers to be too dense. It tasted like they shaped the meat too long and formed an over hard patty. The meat had none of that texture- juicy, moist meat with an excellent char on the edges and wonderful seasoning. The only thing missing from this mini burger was a crispy pickle on top. That would have sealed the deal for me.



The Popcorn Shrimp on the other hand were horrible. The tiny shrimp seemed to be coated in batter an inch thick and all I could taste was pepper. The tarter dipping sauce had a strange tang that reminded me of bad yogurt. I had two bites and was done.

The tarter tots were good though- super crispy and piping hot inside. But seriously- I can make tots at home if I really wanted. It’s hard for me extol to much excitement on these.

I thoroughly enjoyed the beer and burgers at this location and it was great to sit by the open windows up front and street watch. Apparently El Cantinero gets the dance party going early on their 2nd floor because people were going nuts and it wasn’t even sundown! There was also a strange tree hanging out of the window above and I couldn’t figure out why it was there. If anyone goes by and sees what I’m talking about please let me know. There’s strange happenings over on that strip.

Pop Burger

Monday, June 27, 2011

Carmine's

Thursday morning we met up with the parents and had a quick gorge fest at Doughnut Plant (OMG Tres leche my love come to me…), hopped onto the free Delta Yankee boat up to the stadium and enjoyed a 12 inning walk off home run game. My parents happened to be staying right in Times Square so I figured it was finally time to check out an old NY classic Carmine’s.

Now I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like Carmine’s and walking inside the restaurant it reminded me off a cross between Disney World and Olive Garden. Wall to wall people were waiting and the vibe was quite noisy and raucous. We got a seat towards the back and ordered two of the family style dishes to split.



The Penne a la Vodka was really tasty. I thoroughly enjoyed the creaminess of the sauce and the nice fresh herbs and garlic throughout the dish.



The Shrimp Scampi was also quite good. There was a bit too much breadcrumb for my tastes but Mr. T loved the crispness of the dish and the lemon butter sauce beneath wasn’t too shabby either.

Overall I thought the food at Carmine’s was actually pretty good for large mass market meals. If I had a really big group to feed one day I might think about coming back. However it still reminded me a little bit too much of a chain restaurant. There were two happy birthday songs that broke out while we were there and while the food was tasty it was also very heavy on the salt and butter. My curiosity has been satisfied however and overall it was an excellent parental visit. We ended the night at Brooklyn Diner for some enormous pieces of cake and coffee. I was so full by the end I could barely make the train ride home. Time for a long night’s sleep.

Carmine's

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Long Island Day

My parents were visiting for a few days and we tried to jam pack as much as we could into the short trip. The first day we drove out to Long Island and visited a few of the wineries out in Southampton. Our first stop was Duckwalk where most of the wines we tired were on the sweeter side but everything was quite enjoyable.



Our next stop was at Channing Daughters- a winery I was very excited about since I’ve enjoyed their wines in multiple restaurants in NYC. The wines were definitely still tasty and the wood carvings throughout the store were beautiful but our wine pourer was absolutely awful. We happened to be the only customers at the time and she made it quite obvious that she wasn’t happy we were there. She didn’t smile once and hardly even gave us a description of the wines until I prompted her to do so. Her attitude made the whole tasting very uncomfortable and I was so angry and put off I decided against buying any bottles. Too bad since I was planning on stocking up there.



Well luckily our last winery was Wolffer Estate and was absolutely wonderful! The building reminded me exactly of the wineries we visited out in Tuscany. Plus the space had a gorgeous patio out back with a full on waitress instead of a pouring table.



We got a plate of wonderful cheeses (goat, sheep and cow) with jam and had a great tasting. Although this was by far the most expensive of the bunch it was also the most enjoyable.



Sipping wine, in the sun and nibbling on cheese is something I could get used to doing on a Wednesday afternoon for sure. After that we drove into East Hampton and Montauk, walked around the towns and ended with a dinner at Gosmond’s on the water. Unfortunately a seagull thought my dinner looked tasty and dove into my food while I was getting a drink. Those things are really mean there so watch out. However I was filled to the brim with enough food as it was and we head back into the city. It was time for some rest before a boat ride, Yankees game and Carmines Thursday in the city.

Duckwalk

Wolffer Estate

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cocoron Soba

How in the world I never heard of this place until a few weeks ago is beyond me. I like to think I know a lot about the dining in this city- and especially a lot about noodle places Mr. T’s favorite. Somehow this little gem of a place got past my radar until now. Tucked away in a little store front on Delancy Street this place is easy to pass. However once you get your hands on their noodles I guarantee you’ll stop.



Take a look at this pile of noodles. This is the first step of enjoying the Stamina Dip Soba. Pick up some noodles- then place them into this ridiculously steamy aromatic broth for about 10 seconds to heat up.



Then Eat! The noodles have such a toothsome, nutty texture I just wanted to slurp these up all day! The broth was packed with flavor from the beef, mushroom and chicken. Talk about a little slice of heaven!



If you do come to Cocoron stick to the noodles. We started with the Salt Cured “Ham” style Chicken and I just thought it was weird. It tasted alright with the scallion and wasabi mayo but the whole chicken as ham thing just kind of creeped me out.



The Steamed Chicken Meatball wasn’t a great side either. The meat was covered in sticky rice and I found the combination of textures quite revolting actually. I hope to never see one again.

All that being said the Soba is so wonderful I’m dying to go back. The place only seats about 12 people so be prepared to wait but also be prepared to see your entire meal cooked in front of your eyes in the open kitchen. No alcohol is served so if you need a cocktail with your meal this place isn’t for you but if you want to completely submerse yourself in a frothy, warm bowl of noodles please stop by.

Cocoron and Goemon

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is It Friday Yet?

No of course it's not. Damn these days that come after Sunday. I'm going to pretend it's the weekend anyway and tell you about the most delicious Bellini I ever had just this past weekend at Cipriani.



I always knew Mom-in-Law Mrs. T loved to stop for a Bellini here and I knew they even sold a Bellini Mix. However I did NOT know they supposedly made the first Bellini and I also did not know how delicious it was! The white peach juice was so wonderful and really livened up the Prosecco with a nice foamy top. It was so much brighter and fresher than any Bellini I'd ever had. This was such a delicious little treat I have to remember next time I'm in Grand Central. Here's to the weekend being one day closer.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Zero Otto Nove

This famous Bronx Italian restaurant opened up an outpost right in the Flatiron district near my apartment a few months back. The sprawling cavernous space and big picture windows up front make for a stunning dining room and the round wooden bar is very inviting. We’ve dined here about three times since the opening and I’ve come to the conclusion that the pizza’s are very good but the service could use some work.



Probably my favorite pizza on the menu is the La Riccardo made with butternut squash puree, smoked mozzarella, spicy pancetta and basil. Everything about this pizza works. The smoky cheese goes perfect with the charred bottom and butternut squash might be a better topping for pizza than tomato sauce in my book. You get fatty, salty, sweet and smoky all in one crispy bite. This pizza is pure love.



For the traditionalists the Margherita Pizza is available and quite tasty as well. It’s obvious from the strong basil and zesty parmigiano that they use only the highest quality ingredients. Mr. T and my father both thought there was a bit too much crust and not enough topping. I actually loved the chewy crust so to each their own I guess.



We also sampled some of the Polipo alla Griglia. The octopus was tender enough but I wasn’t loving the cannellini bean and capers on top. I thought it overpowered the dish and would have done better with just some oil and salt.

Overall however I love the food and décor at Zero Otto Nove. Now onto the unfortunate part- the service. It’s not bad per se but a little harried and confusing. On two separate occasions a bus boy took my wine glass when there was still wine left inside. On another visit the waiter seemed upset when we weren’t ready yet to order and then basically shoved the check at us before even asking about coffee or dessert. Neither of those occasions were busy and it just seemed very gruff and strange. Once these service issues and ironed out I think this will be a very nice place a have a relaxing dinner.

Zero Otto Nove

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sardi's Lunch

Sardi’s has been a long time favorite of mine for cocktails and wine with a fabulous happy hour spread. The bar area is always bustling before and after the theatre and everyone seems to be in a jovial mood. When Groupon was doing a special coupon for lunch I jumped at the chance to finally try out a proper meal here for half the price.



I went to Sardi’s on a Friday afternoon right around 2:00 and to say the place was dead would be an understatement. There was only two other tables full when I arrived, one with business men and one with two ladies from Kansas and Pennsylvania. The vast restaurant seemed more like a tomb. The offbeat elevator music playing didn’t make things any better but I cheered up after speaking with my gruff but friendly old waiter.

I decided to do the two course business lunch with a dessert rather than an appetizer. For my main I ordered the Bistro Salad: Sautéed Steak with Mixed Greens, Grilled Onions, Goat Cheese and Red Beet Vinaigrette.



The salad was enormous and at first I absolutely loved it. The steak was cooked perfect, the red vinaigrette was vibrant and the goat cheese tasted excellent with a little fresh ground pepper on top. The salad was supposed to come with Portobello Mushrooms but I asked for it without. Perhaps this is the reason for an exorbitant amount of caramelized onions??



Look at this pile! I ate a bunch and this is the leftovers! That’s a little crazy. Unfortunately as I continued to eat my salad it became apparent that the top leaves had a proper amount of dressing while the bottom was absolutely drenched. The little chopped up pieces of beet made the whole dish too sweet and I found myself wiping the plate to cut down on the vinaigrette overpowering everything.
It’s too bad actually since the salad components were excellent.



One thing I did love about the meal was cute little pot of coffee they brought out. This was so old fanshioned and fancy I loved every second of it.



For dessert I ordered Sardi’s Rice Pudding thinking that it must be wonderful since the restaurant name is in the description. The presentation was nice but this honestly tasted like it was made out of a box. I loved the sugared orange rind on top but then I hit some sort of licorice piece. It absolutely killed my taste buds and I couldn’t recover. It was a not a pleasant surprise. I suggest Sardi’s hire someone from Rice to Riches to stop by and give some support. This thing was downright horrible.

So unfortunately I found the old classic a bit tired. It’s a shame because the servers were so quirky and the spot has so much history. However I will still come back for drinks at the bar. I love the theater crowd and my father ruled the masses one rainy day here. Keep selling those drinks Sardi’s- your food’s certainly not going to fill all those seats.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Dirty Obsession

I have a secret...a secret dirty sandwich obsession that has been taking over my life the past six months- The Dirty Bird.



Insanely moist and flavorful pulled chicken topped with big slabs of crisp bacon, Pepper Jack Cheese and some enormous onion rings. What’s not to love about this sandwich! It’s got all the textural elements I love and a ton of big bold flavors. It usually comes with a side of vinegar chips but I figured the bacon and rings were enough of a splurge last time so I subbed in a mixed greens salad instead.



But I did need a little more badness…the serious delicious Multijito made with Montecristo and House made Citrus. I loved that the mint was on top and not all mashed inside and the citrus flavors are seriously refreshing.
I’ve eaten this sandwich way too many times to mention in the last couple of months and it never fails to disappoint. I love that Wildwood always has the games on as well, usually with sound, and everyone working there is super nice. What a great place to have a secret obsession!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Manly Brunch at Primehouse

It’s no secret that I love brunch and Mr. T hates it. However once in a while we find a place that both of us like and Primehouse is the most recent.

Truth be told we’d been avoiding this place. Primehouse took over the old Park Avenue Country Club spot and even thought that place was pretty awful it held a special place in our hearts. Every year we would reserve a table for the start of March Madness and spend the whole day focused on basketball, beer drinking and gambling. It was awesome. So when the place got sold we were a little upset but it was about time to let bygones be bygones. It was a gorgeous sunny day and only two other tables were filled outside when we arrived so we had our pick of the lot.



Much like the other BR Restaurant group brunch always begins with a free cocktail. Here the choices were more varied than usual- Mimosa, Bloody Mary, Bellini, Champagne, Screwdriver or Campari. I had a Bellini and noticed the brunch menu was more varied as well. There were a lot more options than most brunch places.



Before our entrees let’s check out the free bread basket filled with some insanely delicious banana bread and a Raisin Brioche.



But we’re here for the main attraction and Mr. T’s Classic Breakfast Sandwich really got my attention. This thing was enormous first off and the “Crispy Bacon” menu description was seriously spot on. Sure you can get a breakfast sandwich for much cheaper at the delis around the city but this thing was awesome. And it came with a Screwdriver!!



However the star of the show was my Classic Burger with Gruyere Cheese. Good lord this burger was absolutely amazing.



The meat was charbroiled so the outside had those crispy edges while the inside was a perfect medium rare. This was probably the best seasoned burger I’ve ever had. There were notes of salt and pepper but neither detracted from the high quality beef and oozing cheese. I’m not a fan of steak fries but these were actually awesome. They somehow retained an incredibly crispy texture without being too fluffy.

Also awesome- it was served all together so you could tell it was just a whole potato sliced up and fried. Pretty neat presentation.

The bill ended up coming to $30.00 which for a bread basket, two enormous entrees and two drinks…that’s cheaper than Shake Shack for goodness sake. Primehouse gets a big star in my book.

Primehouse

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ralphs- My Summer Savior!

What's better on a hot summer day than a nice big bowl of cold ice cream! Mr. T and I were seriously obsessed with Friendlys Reese's Piece's sundaes back when we were in college. For years we've talked about how good they were and yearned for a place in the city that would make something similar. Then lo and behold- Ralph's opened up a block away from our apartment!



Ralph's is known mostly for their Italian Ices but the sundae selection isn't too shabby either. This is the Peanut Butter Sundae with Peanut Sauce, Marshmallow, crushed Peanut Butter Cups and Chocolate Crunchies.

When we first had a bite it was almost like a chorus of angels started singing! This was so close to the sundaes we loved back in college! We've been about 10 times so far and although I keep wanting to try something else I can't get away from this sundae. The gooey peanut butter sauce and crispy crunchy chocolate chunks are so incredibly satisfying. Ralph's- you are my summer ice cream savior.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Happy Thursday Happy Hour!

This is officially a drink for Thursdays Only. The new Flatiron spot Gravy opened about a month ago featuring southern comfort food and drink in the old MetroCafe space. I swung by a few Thursday back and enjoyed their Thursday $6.00 Hurricane special. First I tried out the original Hurricane made with J.M. Blanc/Diplomatico Rums, Pomegranate, Pineapple and Reagan’s Orange Bitters.



Prior to this experience I believed I hated Hurricanes. I’ve had them quite a few times and almost always I’ve been given vile tasting alcohol bombs that serve no purpose except to f**k you up. Not Here- this cocktail was delicious with extremely balanced flavors and long refreshing end that made me sit back and relax. It was so good I had to get another. This time I tried out Gravy’s signature Hurricane known as the Category 6 and made with Oronoco Rum, Passion Fruit, Lime Juice and The Kraken Floater.



Although this one was still tasty it wasn’t as good as the first. The Sour Pomegranate really helped equalize the Rum in the first where the passion Fruit here overpowered and made it too sweet. So since my second didn’t fair as well I decided to have one more of the original before happy hour ended.

I’ll tell you what- although those don’t taste as strong as the ones I’ve had before- they most certainly are. I was downright tipsy leaving Gravy and Mr. T certainly wasn’t feeling any pain himself. For $6.00 a pop this is a fantastic way to spend a Thursday night. Welcome to the Neighborhood Gravy!!

Gravy

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Fabulous Night with Rachel Ray and eHow

I was lucky enough to be invited Monday night to the Launch Party of the eHow Food Channel’s new partnership with Rachel Ray. And what a party it was! The event was held on the Bar Basque terrace and was complete with a DJ, drinks and of course Rachel Ray and all of her Buddies on hand serving some delicious food and wine.



My first cocktail of the night which I assume was created by Buddy Joe Campanale, was an Aperol Fizz made with lemon juice. This was a nice refreshing cocktail and a perfect aperitif for all the food I was about to consume.



My first bite of the night was a Shrimp Ceviche and a Blue Cheese Onion Empanada. The ceviche was tasty for sure but the real winner was the empanada.



Blue Cheese and Onion oozing out of a crisp buttery shell- what’s not to like about this!



Next I had two enormous Apricot Glazed Ribs. Only one is pictured because I devoured the first.



Next up Broiled Chicken Kebab with Suman over Peanut Noodles. The chicken had a wonderful creaminess from the sauce and the peanut slaw was a perfect accompaniment. I'm hoping this recipe gets up on the website soon so I can make it at home.



I needed a food break so I grabbed another drink- this time a Negroni sbagliato made with Champagne instead of Gin. I’ve never been a big fan of Negroni’s and the champagne didn’t change anything for me. It’s that darn Campari I dislike. Oh well- at least I gave it another shot.



My favorite dish of the night was the Pork Shoulder with Orange Mandarin Glaze from Josh Ozersky. The pork was so incredibly moist and had fabulous sweet and salty flavors going on from the citrus.



My last savory dish was a Pulled Chicken Sandwich with Coleslaw and an Arancini. At this point I was so full I could only manage a tiny bite of the piping hot rice ball. I had managed to make it through almost every dish and only dessert was left.



Thanks Goodness I left room for Heather Betinetti’s Orange Chocolate Mousse with Orange Zest and Coconut Shortbread Cookie. This was like eating uncooked brownie batter with a kick. Maybe that doesn’t sound good to you but it seriously rocked my world.



I paired my dessert with a wonderful sparkling rose which Buddy Sommelier Jordan Salcito picked out. This wine was a big hit at the event and for good reason. This unfiltered wine had great big flavors of orange and strawberry which went perfectly with the parfait and the wonderfully warm evening we were enjoying.

Throughout the event Rachel Ray’s eHow segments were being played on Beerparc’s big screen across the way. I’m not sure Beerparc patrons enjoyed this so much but I thought it was a fantastic way to tie together the event. Quite a lovely way to spend a Monday night in the city. Check out the eHow site. It's got some awesome recipes from the Buddies and really good cooking and mixology tips.

Rachel Ray eHow

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tasty Trekker In the Know

Yours truly was interviewed by Scoop St. for their In the Know column today! Head on over to Scoop St if you want to check it out.



I think this deserves a Pomegranate Martini- Cheers!

Monday, June 6, 2011

M. Wells

I feel a little like everyone and their mother has written about M. Wells already so I’ll try to make this one short, focusing most on the pictures but I will finish it off with some serious service issues we experienced.

M. Wells opened up in Long Island City almost a year ago with a focus on Quebeco-American cuisine. Located inside an old diner car the setting is certainly unique and I was prepared for it to be a bit hectic because of the small space. We started out with some appetizers:



Escargot & Bone Marrow with Shallots, Red Wine Puree



Cesar Salad with Smoked Herring dressing

I didn’t try any of the Bone Marrow but it looked amazing. The Cesar Salad was pretty darn amazing itself! The Smoked Herring gave the salad such depth and being Polish it really brought back memories of herring dinners at my grandmother's house.

We actually had the Blue Cheese Salad with Beauty Greens, Apples and Walnuts as well but I never got a picture. However I had a few bites and it was awesome!! Some of the best blue cheese I’ve ever tasted with a light, citrus dressing that rocked.

Let’s move onto our Entrees of the evening:



Beef Tartar of Filet Mignon and poached egg



Soft Shell Crab Club Sandwich



Meatloaf Sandwich



Sausage Breakfast Platter

Even though Beef Tartar was an appetizer I ordered it as my main since I love tartar so much.



Unfortunately as you can see the egg on top was overcooked and not runny in the slightest. The wonderful filet was filled with pickled bits which completed overshadowed the flavor of the meat. This was a complete disappointment.

I skipped a bit of the Crab Sandwich but tried out some of the breakfast platter. It certainly tasted good but I wasn't exactly wowed either. The duck fat potatoes didn't have much flavor and the sausage patty was average. Last but certainly not least- dessert!



Banana Creme Pie



Maple Pie



Rhubarb Cheesecake

These were exceptional! Easily the best banana cream pie I have ever had with a delicate flaky crust, real bold banana flavor and a wonderful vanilla cream on top. The sweet custard maple pie and creamy rhubarb cheesecake were amazing as well. I would make the trek out to M. Wells just to pick up some of these.

So overall food wise M. Wells was a bit hit or miss. While the appetizers and desserts rocked my world, the entrees were pretty disappointing. I would really like to come back again and try out some other things because the menu is so interesting.

I will NOT be running right back however because the service at this place was abysmal. When we first sat down it took about 15 minutes for anyone to even notice we were there (and this is a tiny place). Once they did notice we ordered two beers-one a large format beer and one regular. Our waiter came back about 10 minutes later with the large beer then said to me "I'll be right back with yours". About 10 minutes later I finally catch his eye and motion for a drink and he seems to remember. How hard is it to remember 2 beers?

Well this continued through the entire meal. It took forever for us to place our order and not once did he come back and check on us throughout the dinner. The large beer between four people was done in about 20 minutes and our empty glasses just sat on the table. The meal lasted a good two hours and as a group we would normally have quite a few drinks in that period. Why hype up a cocktail list by Dutch Kills veterans when you won't ask your patrons if they want another drink? Water glasses were never filled and plates took much too long to be cleared away. I understand it's a small cramped restaurant but that does not excuse non-existent service.

It was just annoying and really put a damper on the entire meal. There are far too many wonderful restaurants in this great city of ours to put up with such lousy service. So for now I'm holding off on a return visit. If I find myself in Long Island City again maybe I'll swing by.