Sunday, July 31, 2011

Iron Chef House

To continue my search for some good sushi in Brooklyn Heights I made my way over to Iron Chef House the other day. I was excited by the menu online. There were quite a few rolls that sounded kind of crazy and very non-traditional. This is the Banzai roll with spicy shrimp topped with tuna and crunchy mix.



Well it certainly looked pretty but the first thing I noticed was the enormous mound of crunchy mix on the bottom of the roll. It was way to much crunch for me and kind of masked the rest of the roll.



I took it off and then focused on the fish itself. The Tuna was actually really good but the spicy shrimp tasted a little weird. I had thought that the shrimp would be minced up in the mayo rather than whole. The various textures really threw me off, so much so that I ended up taking the shrimp out completely and just eating it like a spicy tuna roll.

So while my roll wasn’t horrible I didn’t exactly enjoy it either. My search continues on for some good sushi in Brooklyn Heights.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Restaurant Week at Quality Meats

Well after my somewhat miserable experience at The Central Park Boathouse I had all but written off the rest of Restaurant Week. But then I ran into a friend over the weekend who absolutely raved about her lunch at Quality Meats. She was so happy about her meal I kind of obsessed about it all week and finally ended up taking a few hours off of work so I could try it out. One of the best parts about Quality Meats is that lunch goes until 3:00. I was able to get one of the last reservations which worked out perfectly for my schedule. I knew I had made the right decision as soon as my bread arrived in this little cast iron skillet!


Fresh out of the oven golden rolls covered with rosemary and salt- it was one of the nicest bread baskets I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Something about breaking apart each fluffy warm roll was so satisfying. I was extremely happy until my first course arrived- when I became elated.



Look at this gorgeous Steak Tartare presentation! No overcooked egg here (thank you M Wells). The wooden paddle held a mixture of salt, pepper, mustard and truffled capers. The bartender instructed me to blend everything in with a touch of Tabasco.



All I can say is WOW. This was hands down the best Steak Tartare I have ever had. I mean eyes rolling back into the head heavy sighing kind of good. It was almost as if all the craziness of life had stopped and all that mattered was the magnificence before me. I just cannot describe any better how much I loved this dish.


I tried to go a little bit lighter with my Main Course and ordered the Shrimp Salad Sandwich. I assumed this would be a la carte but was happy to see the fries and salad as accompaniments.

The salad was delicious- it had less mayo than most salads with lots of shrimp and tarragon. Underneath the mound of salad was a cooling slice of avocado and some juicy tomatoes.


The fries looked awesome with cheese and spice on top but they honestly looked a little better than they were. They were certainly crispy waffle fries but the cheese and spice didn’t add anything to the dish. Well I ended up boxing most of this to go because my Tartare had filled me up and I knew what was coming next.


My Coffee and Doughnuts. How cute is this dessert! Coffee Ice Cream with a Chocolate Doughnut bottom and Glazed Mini Doughnut on top- this was whimsical and wonderful at the same time. I promised myself I would only finish half but suddenly my spoon was scraping bottom. Oh well- it was my last RW lunch- why not go all out right?



Besides the food and spectacular service by my bartender, the place itself is simply awesome. Look at this gorgeous steam ware! The entire restaurant was just so well refined. There’s wood panels and leather couches alongside little nooks in crannies in the back for a cozier meal. It was hip and trendy but still managed to keep a steakhouse feel but much more feminine. Quality Meats was the perfect example of a restaurant doing RW right. I was so impressed and cannot wait to come back again for dinner. My last RW meal was quite possibly my best- I love ending on a good note!

Quality Meats

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Two Ways to Break The Heat This Weekend

As most of you already know I love the NYC Food and Wine Festival. I can't wait until Fall to try out all the great food and wine at the Grand Tasting...that is I truly don't have to wait. Because the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival is this weekend!!! It's only a few hours away and I have to say the beach is really calling me this year. I'm done with the steamy weather and just need a break so AC is where I'm headed!

I'm most excited about the Robert Mondavi Discover Wines Grand Market and Italian Village. It's no secret I love tasting and trying everything and this event should have over 125 different vendors. Apparently the "Discover" part of the event includes a wine cooking stage and Essence Station where you learn about the smell of wine along with cooking. I know a good amount about wine but I really need some help in the cooking department so I'm really looking forward to this event.

Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour

Also going on this weekend and until Labor Day is Restaurant Week! Most years its extended for a just a few restaurants but this year I would say about 85% are continuing the deal! Looks like more awesome lunches are going to be had. (BTW I had one more amazing on at Quality Meats that I still have to tell you about) Check out what places stuck around and plan a fabulous Friday dinner!

Restaurant Week Extended List

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The New Summer Menu at Bar Basque

I was invited by Bar Basque to come try out their new summer menu about a week ago and I have to say I was thrilled. I had really enjoyed the space at the Rachel Ray EHOW event. The whole place was designed by Syd Mead of TRON and a NYC architect Philip Koether (you can read all about the project here ) It’s a combination of sleek futuristic bar interior and open air terrace dining. It’s really quite a great spot. I was planning to get some good shots of the inside but there was a snafu with our reservation which was a little frustrating. Apparently they had down the wrong name but everything was worked out in the end and we were given a lovely spot on the back terrace.



They had a tasting menu planned for our evening and encouraged us to order anything else we would like from the main menu as well as wine and cocktails from the bar. The tasting menu looked like a lot of food so we decided just to order some drinks.



I started out with a Hampton’s Mojito while Mr. T went for an Old Tom Fizz Ransom. My long cool drink was perfect for the insanely hot weather we were going through. The mint left me feeling refreshed and revived while the effervescence of Mr. T’s drink left him feeling the same way.



After some delicious warm bread and olive oil they brought out our first round of food.



Idiazabal Cheese Croquettes and Yellowfin Tuna Tartare “Push Pops”.



The Croquettes were everything you would want them to be. Salty, hot cheese just oozed out of the crispy shell and four of these little orbs suddenly didn’t seem like enough.



The Tuna Tartare “Push Pop” was also a delight. I loved the playfulness of the appetizer and the red wine caviar balls and velvety tuna were a perfect match. Both of these are great dishes to start with if you came with a group for drinks and snacks. Round one was a solid success. Round Two was the seafood course with a Yellowfin Tuna Crudo, Sea Scallop Crudo, Octopus and Spanish Mackerel.



One of my favorite dishes of the night was this Yellowfin Tuna with Chimichurri and Ajo Blanco. The Tuna was so perfect it simply melted in my mouth and the chimichurri gave it a nice salty kick.



Another big highlight of the night was the Spanish Mackerel, Escabeche- Style with Shallots, Chilies and Coriander Seeds. I loved the how the chilis and shallots really spiced up the oily fish and the sardine can presentation was the icing on the cake.



The Octopus with Black Olives, Tomato Confit and Extra Virgin Olive Oil was served this way as well and I think Mr. T may have licked the can clean on this one.



The Sea Scallop Crudo was the least successful of the bunch. It just did not work for Mr. T or I. The texture of the scallop was somewhere between soggy and rubbery and the Black Olive Puree completely overwhelmed the dish.



Before we get to Round Three of food it was time for Round Two of Cocktails. I really enjoyed my Watermelon and Raspberry Martini. First of all it’s pink and fruity- what the hell I love pink fruity drinks. However it wasn’t overly sweet. The watermelon juice kept it light and refreshing while still masking the vodka quite well. Mr. T’s Kiwi and Elderflower Martini was absolutely amazing. I shied away from it at first since the main ingredient was tequila but the sweet kiwi juice cut through that tequila perfectly and I have to say this was one of the most balanced drinks I’ve enjoyed in quite some time.



Onto Round Three with our Main Courses of the night we started off with an Heirloom Tomato Salad with Dandelion, Pedro Jimenez Sherry Vinegar and Mediterranean Sea Salt. Mr. T loved this dish but I thought they were a little heavy handed with the Sherry and the natural sweetness of the Tomatoes was lost. A little drizzle of Olive Oil along with the awesome Sea Salt they had on top would have lightened this up a bit.



The Smoked Trout A La Plancha with Jamon Butter was wonderful. The top was slightly breaded so it had a nice crunch and the buttery sauce below was so delicious I ended up using a piece of bread to get very last bite of sauce after the fish was finished.



The Slow Braised Pork Belly with Baby Clams and Albarino Wine Sauce was our last savory dish of the night. I enjoyed the combination of zesty wine sauce with the Baby Clams but I missed the usual crispy top and could have had the meat a tad more moist.



Before our desserts came out we did one last round of drinks. Mr. T stuck with his Kiwi Martini and I tried out their Pimm’s Royale. Pimm’s No. 1, lemon, peel, cucumber and Cava made up this drink and while it was delicious it was probably my least favorite of the night. I was expecting something slightly sweeter- more like a Pimm’s Cup. But I still managed to drink the entire thing and enjoyed every last second.



To end our meal we were given two desserts- first of which the Pina Colada, Coconut Flan with Pineapple Salad and Rum Caramel. The flan was delicious. It reminded me of being on vacation with the strong beachy flavors of coconut and a sticky sweet caramel sauce.



But the real winner of the evening was the Fried Milk with Passion Fruit Reduction and Chocolate Ganche. Oh my goodness this was like churro but better! I loved how the milk just oozed out of the sweet cinnamon sugar crust and the Passion Fruit Reduction gave it such a nice sweet twist. I had a brief moment where I contemplated smacking Mr. T’s hand away so I could enjoy it all myself but then I reminded myself that I was a lady and restrained myself. However I may be coming back just so I can completely house this dish myself.

So overall we both enjoyed really enjoyed our meal. I see myself returning for the delicious cocktails and then staying around for the inventive and fun seafood dishes that Chef Yuhi Fujinaga has created.

Bar Basque

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tacombi

I was on a big kick of Fish Tacos for a while and I think my obsession may be starting again now that I tried Tacombi. This little taco shop in SOHO is pretty neat.



You buy food tickets at the counter up front and then order your tacos at the VW bus in front for meat or the window in the back for fish.

On my visit I was all about the seafood so I tried out both the fried and grilled fish tacos.



The Grilled Fish was good- unfortunately I don’t love a ton of salsa on my fish and this had a bunch. Next time I would order the regular grilled fish with the avocado salsa instead.



But I would definitely order the Fried Fish Tacos again! This was delicious! The fish itself had no breading what so ever- just a nice big hunk of meat with crispy outside and some crunchy slaw. It was simple and perfect.

Tacombi does breakfast tacos all day long which rocks as well. However watch out for the hot sauce! I had one tiny bite and my tongue was on fire for about 20 minutes. That is some serious stuff! I have to go back for the meat options but the fish is where it’s at.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Restaurant Week at The Central Park Boathouse

Even though the food and service last year at the Boathouse hadn’t been the best, I enjoyed the tranquil location so much I just had to go back again this year for Restaurant Week. Unfortunately this time around circumstances would be against me. First I was late for my reservation, about 45 minutes late in fact. I had called to let them know but that is much too long and by the time I arrived my table had been given away and they were no longer seating anyone else. This is my fault, not theirs. I should have just walked away and gone elsewhere but I was kind of a wreck. I had a terrible day at work (which is why I was so late) and I just wanted to take a moment and relax with a glass of wine. It was Friday for goodness sake. That’s when I noticed an open seat at the bar and the RW menu was being served. Why the hell not?



So I took a seat and placed my order. Here’s where I made mistake number two. I was feeling a little stressed and for some reason I completely misordered. I was all about the Sea Bass ceviche for my first course and instead I said Cesar Salad. I have no idea why. I was in a crazy kind of state and I was starving but what a mistake! The salad that arrived was almost worse than the ones I make out of a bag at home. There was hardly any dressing and the greens and cheese had no flavor.



To make matter worse the bread they gave me was insanely hard and the butter was even harder! To bad because the caraway seeds and salt chunks on top looked delicious. Things were not going well at this point and then matters got even worse. Apparently someone at the other end of the bar had ordered a double espresso and not received it. Suddenly this women just lashes out at the bartender in front of everyone- lambasting her for her poor service and demanding her espresso! It was not a pretty sight and I felt horrible for the poor bartender. It was insanely busy and obviously service can suffer when this occurs.



My main course arrived at this point and just looking at the enormous brioche bun I had a feeling I was going to hate my burger. As I’m about to take a bite I hear a waiter to the left of me telling a couple ordering to avoid the Cesar salad (where were you when I was ordering 10 minutes ago??)

Then something wonderful happened. A young man, a tourist, sat down at the piano and started playing the most wonderful music I think I’ve ever heard. The whole bar grew silent and the entire restaurant just seemed to stop. It was magnificent. All of a sudden my burger tasted better, I took the bun off and that damn lamb was pretty darn moist and tasty. The fried goat cheese gave it a nice crunch and the accompanying salad was near perfect.

I even started chatting with an older gentleman next to me for a bit and I ended up getting a free glass of wine! This piano player changed my mood and the vibe. I was actually staring to enjoy myself.



Unfortunately then my Pistachio- White Chocolate Cake arrived and I have to tell you it was awful. The cake had no flavor except for coldness. Seriously- this cake tasted of cold- nothing else. The Milk Chocolate Pudding sauce underneath was nothing more than melted Toll House Chocolate Chips and even they didn’t take away the coldness. It was gross.

To end out the meal my bill came back, after I paid, with a different amount and a shot of Wild Turkey added on. Obviously I didn’t order this and I alerted the waitress to the error. She took it back and redid the bill saying it was fixed. I’ve since checked my bank statement and been charged two full times for lunch. Excellent! Now I get to deal with the bank!

So what did I learn from this lunch? Some times free wine and a piano playing tourist can’t fix a bad meal.

Central Park Boathouse

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Hour at the Cellar of Cheese!

I was so excited to see Beecher Cheese had finally opened up on Broadway. It seemed like they had been getting it ready forever but the new cheese space is finally up and running. Besides selling various cheeses they also opened up a really cool restaurant called The Cellar.



I was shocked when I saw the space. It was so dark, cozy and sexy. This is a perfect date place for sure and what’s even better is that it was Happy Hour when I arrived!



I ordered the special infused cocktail for the day ($7.00) which was a Vodka Basil Strawberry.

Wow- when I first took a sip my sinuses pretty much cleared right out. It was almost like eating some really spicy horseradish. I think they may have soaked the basil a tad too long making the taste somewhat overpowering. However they certainly put a ton of vodka inside as well and after a few sips I got used to the taste (as is the case with most strong cocktails). I wouldn’t order it again but it actually became manageable for the meal.



To begin they brought around a little ramekin of crackers. These crisp buttery squares would be a perfect vessel for enjoying the vast array of their cheeses.



I however wanted an entrée so I went for the special happy hour Cesar Salad. When this first came out it reminded me of the Todd English salad I had at Bonfire. The dressing was slightly spicy and the Flagship Beecher cheese was crumbled over top.



I have to admit I was expecting a little bit more sharpness from the cheese but overall the salad was excellent. My only qualm is that the only knife at my table was a rounded cheese knife. Try cutting into a thick wedge of Romaine with that!
However the service at Beecher’s was impeccable. My water glass was filled at least four times and my waitress was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable about the cheeses and the space. I even noticed towards the end that she was acting as the bartender that night as well!

With a strong cocktail and a large salad the bill came to $14.15. That is quite a bargain and I’m planning to come back again this week. I ended up walking around upstairs and got a ton of free cheese samples so I kind of made out with a dessert cheese plate as well! Beecher's is yet another great addition to the neighborhood.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Restaurant Week at Union Square Cafe

For my second restaurant week lunch I was very excited to land a reservation at Union Square Café. This was Danny Meyer’s first restaurant and a classic example of fine dining in New York City. The day I went there was even a rumor that Mr. Meyer himself would be working one of the tables! Unfortunately it wasn’t ours but I did see the back of his head on my way in.

We had a reservation at 2:00 PM and got a table in the large room up front. The place was absolutely packed with people. I’ve never seen such a crowded restaurant with the bar completely full and tons of people waiting for a possible seat. They started us out with usual basket of baguette, bread and crackers.



Which we enjoyed alongside some black olives and delicious rosemary dusted butter.



We were having trouble deciding what to order form the Restaurant Week menu so we started out with some oysters. These little guys were from Rhode Island and they were absolutely delicious. Sometime you get an oyster that has just the right amount of brine and acidity and it amazing! This was one of those times.



For our first course I started with the Melon-Watercress Salad, Ricotta Salata, and Preserved Lemon which I have to say was somewhat lacking in its presentation. I was honestly a little disappointed at first since it didn’t taste much more than fruit and arugula with some cheese. Then I got a bite towards the bottom and hit the flavor. Big chunks of rock salt and a delicate olive oil laced the fruit and made that melon explode with flavor. Sometimes it amazes me how subtle ingredients can turn one dish from average to extraordinary.



Sean’s first course however was even better- the Three Onion Risotto. Risotto always kind of enthralls me since I can’t even make regular rice at home without overcooking it. I have some sort of mental block when it comes to rice. This dish was so smooth and rich it could almost be described as decadent. With the addition of some sweet caramelized onions on top this round goes completely to Sean.



For our entrees I ordered the Grilled Trout with Green Bean Salad, Crispy Salt Baked Potatoes and Seasoning Pepper Vinaigrette. Wow- this fish was awesome. Trout is always a tad on the oily side and the sharp lemon vinaigrette was exemplary in cutting though that oil. The salt potatoes were so crispy I think I enjoyed them better than most French fries and the Green Bean Salad was simply delightful.



Sean ordered the Summer Fried Fish Basket with Remoulade, Pickled Vegetables, and Corn on the Cob. I have to say his presentation was kind of like my Melon Salad presentation- disappointing. The fish looked small and the whole thing just didn’t really go together. However the fish itself was wonderful. The batter was so light and the fish was truly a notch above what you would get anywhere else. However in the end it was all a bit pedestrian. Round two goes completely to me:)



For desserts I ordered Lavender Crème Brulèe with Greenmarket Berries. This dish was certainly beautiful but I have to say I didn’t love it. What is this whole Lavender thing that’s going on lately? Lavender should only be used as a scent- not a spice. It just made me feel like I was eating perfume. Luckily the Brulee itself had a nice crackly top and a smooth vanilla middle. I probably would have enjoyed it more had it not been for the bite of Sean’s dessert I had.



His Peach Tarte Tatin with Crème Fraîche Ice Cream was flawless. The tart was so light and airy even the French would be proud. The sour crème fraiche was the perfect cooling component for the sweet, juicy peaches. I was so jealous it was unbelievable. Round Three goes totally and completely to Sean.

Overall it was an excellent Restaurant Week Lunch. Our service was up to the Danny Meyer standard. Water glasses were constantly refilled, crumbs constantly cleared away and while each course took a tad bit longer than usual to arrive, the wait staff did a fantastic job keeping calm, cool and collected in such a busy lunch rush. Two solid RW lunches so far. Hopefully I can get at least one more in before the deal ends.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Keegan's Brewery

Keegan’s Beer seems to be coming up on a lot of restaurant and bar beer lists lately. I seem to see the Mother’s Milk everywhere and even the Hurricane Kitty has been popping up here and there. So when Mr. T and I were heading back from a weekend in Lake George I jumped at the chance to swing by Keegan Ales which was right off our route on the way home.



Keegan’s certainly didn’t look like much from the outside that’s for sure- but the inside was surprisingly neat. They had a nice square bar in the back with darts and other games and then a separate room on the side for filling growlers and a band space.



The coolest part of the space was looking directly into the brewery itself.



Mr. T and I ordered an Old Capitol Ale and a Joe-Mama's Stout.



The Old Capitol Ale was tasty for sure. It had a nice crisp edge that was refreshing albeit a tad boring. The Joe Mama on the other hand was awesome. The took the Mothers Milk Stout and brewed into it some coffee and chocolate. We always said the Mothers Milk needed a little something and this is exactly what it needed indeed. The strong espresso smell and smooth chocolaty finish were perfect. I would definitely pick up a Growler of this if I lived in the area.



The Outside had a bunch a picnic tables that would be great for beer sessions with friends. Overall quite a nice little pit stop on the trip home.


Keegan Ales