Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thirsty Tuesday Pick

My favorite new beer of 2011 was the delicious Bronx Pale Ale from the Bronx Brewery and they'll be pouring tonight at the brand new Growler Station.  A brand new beer at a brand new beer bar?  Sounds like a perfect Tuesday night pick to me.  The boys should be there from 6:00- 9:00 tonight.  See you there!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Restaurant Week at Maze- Gordon Ramsey

It seems kind of odd to me that I’ve never eaten at a Gordon Ramsey restaurant. I see him shouting all over television constantly you would think it would remind me to eat at one of his places. When I saw the Maze participating in RW I decided it was finally time to try one out. I had the day off of work for some playoff football recovery time so I decided it would be the perfect excuse for lunch.

They started me off with a warm basket of bread and some butter which was incredibly unsatisfying for some reason. The bread had no flavor. Even a little salty butter on top didn’t help- it was just incredibly bland. Luckily that wouldn’t be the theme of the meal. My appetizer the Roasted Spanish Mackerel, grilled romaine lettuce, tomato marmalade, parmesan and basil.

Mackerel is a funny fish- sometimes I hate it other times I love it. Here it was definitely towards the love side. The tomato marmalade was delicious and the bitter greens and parmesan just completely worked with the mackerel. Onto entrees Roasted Amish chicken breast with red cabbage, gaufrette potato, fig and red wine jus.

The waiter poured my red wine jus tableside which is something I consider to be classic Ramsey style. I hardly ever order chicken in a restaurant and I don’t know why since this chicken was cooked absolutely perfect. I loved the red wine and gaufrette potato. It gave the dish a nice salty kick and some crunchy texture. The only thing I didn’t care for was the red cabbage which was entirely too sour for my tastes. Unfortunately dessert didn’t fare as well as my first two courses.

The Buttermilk panna cotta, concord grape, oat sable and maple ice cream was disappointing. Nothing was wrong with it per se, it just was incredibly boring and pedestrian. I’ve had yogurt parfaits from the corner sandwich shop that were more exciting. So most of the food was great but I’m not sure I’ll make a return trip.

The atmosphere of the restaurant was kind of strange. I was prepared for it to be fancy but it felt somewhat sterile and detached. The bar had these big, fluffy bar stools but not one person ever sat down for a drink. No one ever offered to take my coat although I saw multiple coat check tags and I sat for a good 5 minutes at my table with no menu. None of these things are terrible they just put me off a bit. However a stop in the ladies room on my way out did score a few more points in their favor. The bathrooms were almost sparkling they were so clean and pristine. I’m not sure how I feel on the whole experience. I may leave this one at undecided.

Maze- Gordon Ramsey

Friday, January 27, 2012

Whole Foods Has a Bar

 Yes that’s right. The Whole Foods Columbus Circle now has a bar in the basement called On Tap with 10 local beers on tap, 8 local wines and some local eats.

Local like this enormous pretzel which came with a local cheese spread of sundried tomatoes the day we visited.

And how about a bag of fluffy popcorn sprinkled with a healthy dose of sea salt.

But don’t forget about the beer. In addition to all the drafts they have a ton of bottles including one of my favorites Allagash Black. I’m not sure this place is destination worthy but it sure makes grocery shopping a whole lot more fun.

On Tap- Whole Foods

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Best Tzatziki Sauce Ever at Avli

I’m so glad I have to travel around the city for work. Living in Manhattan it’s easy to get stuck in this borough for everything but there’s so much good food in all of them! Case in point- Avli in Bayside Queens. I met up with friends after work and we decided to share a ton of food starting with some pita and that ridiculously delicious tzatziki sauce.

Wow this has it all- rich and thick with a little bit of tang and seasoning. I dare you to find better in the city. I put it on everything we ordered- the Lamb Meatballs…

…my Chicken Souvlaki

Okay I stopped short of putting it on the Greek Fries but I seriously could have.

These guys were delicious all on their own with crumbly warm feta cheese and tomatoes drizzled over the top. Avli is Greek food done right. So order a carafe of the house wine and get ready for some serious delicious sauce.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Restaurant Week at Café Boulud

My dinner at Daniel last year still remains as one of the best meals of my life. So naturally I was more than excited to try Café Boulud and it just happened to coincide with restaurant week and a visit from my parents.

We were greeted with a piping hot arancini amuse bouche whose salty, melty components were a perfect start to the meal. After a choice of three different breads from the basket my appetizer arrived- Fluke Carpaccio winter squash, fennel, jalapeño ponzu vinaigrette.

All of the flavors in this dish were so clean- the cooling fish, spicy jalapeño and citrusy ponzu sauce. I truly cannot remember the last time I enjoyed Fluke this much. Onto my entrée the Braised Veal Breast celery root purée, wild mushrooms, rosemary jus.

I absolutely loved the celery root puree and rosemary jus on this dish. Unfortunately my veal was cooked just a tad too much and could have been a bit juicier. My parents ordered the other two entrees Winter Squash Ravioli and Blackened Grouper. Both of which had a ton of flavor- the Ravioli on the sweet side and the Grouper on the salty side. For dessert Meyer Lemon Curd crème fraîche biscuit, crispy meringue and vanilla ice cream.

I almost always go for chocolate but I was in a citrus mood and this dessert matched that perfectly. The tart spots of lemon curd and playful sticks of meringue were a delightful end to an already delightful meal. But wait! There’s more!

They brought over a basket of Daniel’s famous fresh baked madelines. Still warm from the oven with a little lemony twist these were truly the prefect end to the meal. All in all I absolutely loved Café Boulud. The service was wonderful and I loved the elegant comfort of the room. It all felt so very civilized. My Mom and I finished off our bottle of wine and we were ready to go. Next stop- Laduree for Macarons!

Cafe Boulud

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dominique Ansel Bakery

I'm so glad this bakery isn’t in my neighborhood because if it was I would probably gain about 20 pounds. Everything inside this place looks amazing! But please start with a cannele- it’s hands down the best one I’ve ever had.

The bottom is so dark and crunchy it almost looks burnt but instead it’s sweet and caramelized.

Once you bite through the chewy outside the inside is incredibly fluffy and moist.

Look at the eggy light interior! It’s truly a work of art and a delicious one at that. I dare you to try and find a more perfect cannele in this city. There’s nothing that even comes close.

I also picked up one of their Tart Tatine’s the other day. This thing is no joke either. It’s made with a whole apple and has really strong flavors of nutmeg and cinnamon.  There are so many things I still need to try here. I look forward to happily eating my way though their entire line of pastries.

Dominique Ansel

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Some Tasty Brews at Birreria

 Victory did some crazy over the summer. They took their Storm King Stout and put it inside some bourbon barrels from Jim Beam and Heaven Hill Distilleries. The result is what they’ve called Dark Intrigue and I was lucky enough to try a bottle of this at Birreria this past weekend.

This beer is exactly what you would expect a bourbon aged beer to taste like. It’s strong up front with a boozy smell of bourbon and a little chocolate. However the beer itself is really malty and thick. It ended a little strong but I think with time it will age to be quite smooth on the finish. This is the second time Vicory has made this beer but they say this is going to be the last batch- get it while you can. This is one delicious Imperial Stout.

Another beer we tried out was a collaboration between Ommegnag and Liefman the Seduction. This brew had big notes of chocolate with a hint of cherry on the end that I found quite pleasant. The beer seemed a little bit more carbonated than most dark ales which helped make it seem a bit light. I really enjoyed this beer but Mr. T absolutely hated it. We hardly ever disagree on beer but this one was a total split. Oh well- more for me to enjoy!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Restaurant Week at the Strip House

Day one of Restaurant Week this year and I started out with a brand new participant- the Strip House.  This place has been around forever but they never participate because they never do lunch.  Well looks like we were going to be one of their first customers trying out both!

When we got to the restaurant I was a little upset to see a slight change in the desserts from their website menu.  Their Chocolate Layer Cake had been taken off and replaced with a Warm Fudge Brownie.  This may not be a big deal to you but their Layer Cake is legendary for being absolutely enormous and amazing.  I was a little sad about that but didn’t dwell on it.  After all- it was a Monday afternoon and I was having lunch out with my husband- can’t complain about that!  They started us off with some perfectly acceptable but ordinary rolls and then it was onto appetizers where I ordered the Iceberg Lettuce.

I’m not really sure why they didn’t just call this a Wedge Salad but that’s exactly what it was.  Nice crisp lettuce, thick cubes of bacon and some funky Stilton cheese made this a perfect steakhouse starter.  I just love the simplicity of a wedge salad but one bite of Mr. T’s soup almost had me wishing for an order change.

His Lobster Bisque Cappuccino was just wonderful.  The soup was super creamy with huge chunks of Maine Lobster and a healthy flurry of chives on top.  They didn’t skimp on this soup one bit! 

Now between courses I have to tell you a little about the atmosphere in here.  My first thought was 80's Vegas Steakhouse.  Honestly.  The red banquettes, naked pictures of women covering the walls and bad 80's music was prominent.  I have to say it kind of made me laugh.  I could see why this would be fun if it was a late weekend night rather than 1:30 on a Monday.  Anyway- onto entrees. We actually went the same route here and both ordered the Rib Eye Steak Frites.

This sizzling steak came out topped with a dollop of béarnaise butter and some crispy French fries on the side.  Since the Ribeye was only a 7 oz portion it seemed a little fattier than usual because it wasn’t cut very thick.  However that fat really sealed in the juices and made it extremely tender.  The béarnaise butter was just as rich and fattening as can be and although the fries could have been a bit more uniform they were all delicious.  Now for dessert- I settled for the Chocolate Brownie with Pistachio Ice Cream.

I only settled because the Layer Cake wasn’t there but I have to admit this was pretty darn good.  The brownie had a crisp top and fudgy warm center while the Pistachio Ice cream might possibly be the strongest ice cream I’ve ever had.  This was literally bursting with pistachio flavor and little pieces of slivered nuts were along the bottom of the plate.  Onto Mr. T’s dessert the Strip House Cheesecake.

Wow I thought my dessert was massive this was almost Titanic sized!  The cheesecake looked heavy but it was actually quite light and had a great graham cracker crust and super fresh sliced strawberries on top.  Obviously this was much more food than two people can eat at once so we took home some leftovers for later.  Overall we were both more than pleased with our first RW meal.  The total for all of this food and a glass of wine was you under $70.  That's quite a fantastic bargain and a great way to start off the RW winter season.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The New Acme NYC

When Acme, the laid back New Orleans style restaurant in NOHO closed last year, both Mr. T and I were upset.  It’s not that they served the best food in NY but the atmosphere was fun, the waiters were awesome and the food was exactly what you would expect from a southern style place.  So when I heard that Acme was reopening I was incredibly excited.  However this new Acme is different.  So different it may as well be the opposite of “exactly what you would expect”.

We walked in about 7:30 on Friday night and the entire front area was packed with people.  Luckily we had made a reservation and got a nice table along the side wall.  The first thing you can’t help but notice is the complete change in décor.  The kitschy restaurant had been transformed into a dark, sultry place with exposed brick and candlelight.  I started with the Smokin Thyme cocktail made with vodka, mezcal, raspberries and thyme.  I really enjoyed the thyme flavor of my drink but it was nothing compared to the loveliness of Mr. T’s Graffeti green.

Made from gin, green bell pepper, lime and agave this drink was absolutely perfect.  It was a great refreshing start to the meal but smooth enough to pair with each dish as well.  After we ordered a nice basket of fluffy sour bread and butter arrived immediately to our table.

Then it was time for the start of our courses with the Pearl barley and clams.

Now I’ll be honest- I’m not a barley lover in the slightest but this little dish completely blew my mind.  The creamy roasted sunflower broth, sweet fish and earthy grains just blended perfectly into an incredibly homey and savory dish.  I mean look at this close up.

It was amazing!  There were some artichoke hearts in there as well which were a bit to crunchy for me with the broth, but Mr. T ate all of those.  I was just in love with my bowl of barley and broth.   I would never expect so much flavor to come out of these ingredients.  This was my little bowl of happiness. Our next course was the Sweet shrimp and bison with bitter lettuce and white walnuts.

I saw Mr. T make a very strange face when this course was placed in front of him but I was too busy enjoying my bowl of happiness to care.  When I had a chance to try it I loved the zesty and bitter flavors combined on the plate.  It wasn’t until I got home to look at my pictures that I realized uncanny resemblance to something else.  We shall move on…Our main course the Black cod with pickled green tomatoes, cardamom, vanilla and dandelion.

The Black cod was cooked absolutely perfect.  The middle was nice and moist with a salty top and a nice brine from the pickled green tomatoes.  It wasn’t the best black cod I’ve ever had but it was certainly done well.  For sides we enjoyed some Hay roasted sunchokes and Creamy potatoes.

The sunchokes came topped with a New England gruyere and winter truffles which brought this veggie dish to such taste elevations it can only be described as umami.  I would have been happy with eating just this and the barley dish on its own and calling it a day. But then I tired the Creamy Potatoes and had to cave into those as well. 

Topped with bacon vinaigrette and baby onion rings these may be the most unhealthy potatoes in the city but my they were quite darn tasty. 

You wouldn’t think we would have room for dessert after this but somehow we did.  Unfortunately the Beer & bread porridge was a complete let down.  I guess both of us were expecting something more along the lines of a bread pudding but this really was more like a soup.  I guess we should have taken the “porridge” aspect more literal but it just didn’t have the texture or flavors to satisfy a dessert craving.

On the other hand my Chocolate crisps with ganache and coffee ice cream was delicious.  I loved shattering the flakes of crispy dark chocolate and mixing in the coffee and caramel.  It was a perfect size and just the right salty and sweet end to my meal.  The total damage for all of this- let’s take a look.

Not bad at all considering the inventive, high quality food, delicious drinks and amazing atmosphere.  I think I enjoyed the new Acme most because it was so different. I know all about the executive chef Mads Refslund (one of the founding partners from Noma in Copenhagen considered one of world’s top restaurants) and his take on New Nordic cooking.  I don’t think what he’s doing here is exactly “New Nordic” but I do know his blend of textures and flavors is extremely unique.  I was truly excited and interested in each dish that was brought out and it was fun to try and guess the elements of each one without looking at the menu. 

It’s also exciting to have such a great international chef amongst our midst in the middle of little NOHO.  Acme is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Acme NYC

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Western NY Favorite at Daddy O's

Have you ever had a Garbage Plate before? If you answered yes to that question than I already know two more things about you. You’ve probably been to Rochester, NY and you’ve definitely had way too many beers one night. And I say “probably” been to Rochester because this WNY dish is actually being served up right here in NYC at Daddy O’s in the West Village. This is a garbage plate.

Actually at Daddy O’s it’s just called The "Plate" and it’s a huge platter of two cheeseburgers covered with norm's beef hot sauce, mustard and onions on top of home fries and macaroni salad. I have to say it’s pretty authentic to the Nick Tahou’s ones I’ve had back in the day except spicier. Yes- it’s a whole mess of food that doesn’t look so good but trust me. It’s some of the best drunk food you’ll ever have. This plate can also come with hot dogs instead of burgers.

I was so conflicted on the choice we decided to get a couple Zweigles hot dogs on the side- another WNY favorite. We got both a red hot and a white hot dog and then decided to top it off with an order of Daddy O’s tater tots.

Holy Cow these are hand’s down the BEST tater tots I’ve had in the city. I have no idea how they are so crunchy and grease less but they defy the rules somehow. Absolutely awesome! Watch out because the dipping sauce is filled with jalapenos so its spice on spice with the garbage plate.  Another awesome thing about Daddy O’s are the cocktails.

My Mojito was just delicious and quite a nice refreshing break from the meat fest that was in front of us.

But if you really want to go WNY all the way don’t worry- they have cans of Genny for your refreshment as well. Man I think I just had some serious college flashbacks.

Daddy O's

Friday, January 13, 2012

Blue Ribbon Bakery

I’m continuing my obsession with Steak Tartare into 2012 and my most recent attack was at Blue Ribbon Bakery in the West Village. But first let’s talk about the bread.

This is a bakery after all and here we started out with a nice fluffy loaf and some delicious vermont creamery butter. Onto appetizers I went simple with the Cesar Salad.

My salad was a little disappointing to be honest with you. There wasn’t anything bad about it but for $12.75 I was expecting something a little more. There was a lot more yellow leaves than I would have liked and the dressing was only so so. Not the best Cesar I’ve ever had that’s for sure. But we’re here for the meat right?

This steak tarter came finely minced with onions, capers and fresh ground pepper on top. There was an aioli and spicy mustard on the side but the meat was so nicely spiced on its own no accompaniments were necessary. I absolutely loved the house made potato chips in lieu of toast points. They were the perfect salty vessel for ultimate meat delivery. This dish totally delivered.

First Steak Tartare of 2012.

Blue Ribbon Bakery and Kitchen

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Le Relais De Venise L'Entrecote- NYC

Remember how Mr. T insisted we go to L’Entrecote in Paris for Steak Frites and I resisted knowing that one had just opened in NYC. Then remember how it was one of the most delicious steak frites we’ve ever experienced. Well I was wrong to doubt him and we loved it so much we decided we had to try out the NYC version as well.  Once again we started out with their walnut salad which was okay but it had a LOT more dressing and walnuts on top then the original.

Then came the steak- a perfect rare with that addictive pesto cream sauce. I’m not sure if it was as good as in Paris. The meat seemed slightly chewier but with that delicious sauce I didn’t care so much.

The French fries were also as addictive as ever. They came around with another portion as in Paris and we gobbled them right down.

We stuck with the house wine as we did in Paris and once again it was completely acceptable and went well with the meat. Unfortunately the service at this outpost was bordering on terrible. The waitresses seemed completely swamped and we had to wait for quite a long time before we received our steaks. There were also about 20 people waiting at the door for a seat when we left so it was obviously prime time but still the service could have been much better.

Overall I enjoyed L’Entercote again but not as much as I did in Paris. It’s hard to beat the original but it’s nice to have one nearby when I get that sauce and meat craving again.

Le Relais De Venise