Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's Mr. T's Birthday!

I plan to gorge on cupcakes all day in celebration...


Hopefully he has some plans as well :) :)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Restaurant Week at Cafe Boulud

I always try to eat somewhere new for Restaurant week but the one I must do every year is Cafe Boulud. Mr. T and I met up for a late lunch Friday and the place was absolutely packed.  Daniel himself was making the rounds and after about a 10 minute wait we were seated at a nice table in the back. After choosing a nice bottle of wine to we delved into the first course a Wild Arugula Salad  for him and Rock Shrimp Ceviche for me.


This was a nice summery starter with sweet slices of peach, lots of crunchy marcona almonds and big flakes of Parmesan cheese.


The ceviche was a nice play on spicy and sweet, dressed with a bright avocado foam and dotted with crispy fried chickpeas and jalapeno.  Onto entrees Mr. T ordered the Grilled leg of Lamb with pita bread, couscous and mint.


The lamb was cooked perfect with a little char on the top and a bright red juicy center.  He stuffed most of the meat into the pita with the spicy couscous and made himself a fancy Shawarma sandwich. 


My Blackened Hake with pommes puree, piperade and espelette jus was wonderful.  I loved the peppered rub on the fish and oh those potatoes...I'm sure there was about a pound of butter inside them but I don't care.  Those French always know how to make the best pommes puree.  


For dessert Mr. T's Poached Blueberry Shortbread with lemon foam and vanilla ice cream was a delicate and refreshing end to the meal...


...while my Salted Caramel Bavorios with toasted peanut, malted meringue and chocolate ice cream was the stuff dreams are made of.  Seriously...look at this center of salty, creamy goodness...


Of course no meal is complete at Cafe Boulud without the warm basket of lemony madelines, dusted with powdered sugar and perfect for nibbling alongside a hot cup of coffee.  


Cafe Boulud continues to be on the top of my list for restaurant week and beyond.  It's truly a gem to have a place of this comfort and caliber in the city.  I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Fratelli la Bufala

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in an episode of Seinfeld.  I've fought for a chocolate babka, gotten sick on Black and White cookies, found myself more than a few times at the Nexus of the Universe and most recently had an incredible craving for a "Big Salad" (a la Elaine Benes).  So when this craving hit I decided to "Go Big" to the Seinfeld neighborhood the UWS and right to Fratelli la Bufala.



Everything is big in here...the bread basket, the wine pours and even the customers.  One gentleman broke out into an Italian opera song once he finished his meal...talk about a great ovation.  




My Energy Salad was enormous...chock full of tuna, hard boiled eggs and parmigiana cheese then studded with kebabs of chicken and smoked mozzarella.  It was a salad to end all big salads.  I barely made a dent in the bowl before having it wrapped up for later.  If you're looking to go big on the UWS this is the place for you.

Fratelli la Bufala

Friday, July 26, 2013

New Brew Friday- Brewmance and Jerky

Talk about a match made in heaven.  Today's new brew Friday is coming straight at you from Torst with the Brewmance.



This Imperial Stout is a heavy hitter at 11.2% abv with big aromas of bourbon, burnt toast and caramel.  For such a high octane brew, I wasn't expecting this to be so smooth with espresso and chocolate prominent up front and lingering notes of marshmallow and honey on the finish.  This is a beer to sip and enjoy...so why not order a snack as well?


Their house made jerky has two different flavors each day...one marinated in the Evil Twin Low Life and the other in a stout with flecks of mustard seed and soy.  It's the perfect complement to snacking and sipping the weekend away...Cheers!

Torst

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lunch at LIC Market

I love when a random day of wandering around turns into something delicious!  That's exactly what happened when I stumbled across LIC Market last week.  The cozy storefront wedged between two brownstones looked intriguing so I poked my head inside.


There I found a cozy, narrow space jam packed with people enjoying a lively lunch.  I stood by the front door waiting for a hostess and perused the various items on display...honey and preserves, candles and cheese boards...all made local and all for sale.  The hostess spotted me after a moment and I was seated at a table up front.  


The menu had an array of salads and sandwiches including some incredible sounding specials like Soft Shell Crab BLT and a Roasted Duck Spaghetti. It was so hot outside I decided to go light and ordered the Ricotta & Pignoli Salad with arugula and golden raisins.


My salad was wonderful...the arugula was dressed in a bright sherry vinaigrette with slices of juicy orange and toasted pine nuts dotted throughout.  I especially loved getting a bite of sweet raisin mixed into the ricotta cheese...it was incredibly refreshing.  

As I ate a steady flow of business men and locals alike streamed in and out the door.  It was great to see so many people enjoying their food and a menu reflecting such affordable prices.  LIC Market has all one could want in a neighborhood joint and more.  I can't wait to stumble across it again!

LIC Market

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rocco's

Rocco's is one of my favorite little bakeries in the West Village.  I stop in about once a week for a two-bite Napoleon or some chewy Pignoli cookies.  Mr. T was with me on the last visit and we both stopped directly in front of this cake.  I'm not sure if it was the rainbow sprinkles on top or the big red interior but something about this cake just called to us.  We got home and dug in...excited about our newest delight from Rocco's. 



 The first bites were wonderful.  There were creamy layers of vanilla cheesecake alternating with Red Velvet cake and topped off with cool vanilla icing.  The cream in the cheesecake helped keep the Red Velvet moist so everything tasted incredibly fresh.  However after just a few bites the sugar really hit both of us.  My stomach started to grumble and I had that same sick feeling I used to get back in grade school after a Pixy Stix eating contest. 

So if you're looking for a serious sugar rush look no further than this cake.  As for us, we're back to Pignoli's and Napoleons.  Some things in life are so good, there's no need to change a thing.

Pasticceria Rocco

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Burger and Barrel Brunch

I'm always on the lookout for a "manly" brunch for Mr. T...one without hoards of women waiting in line, loud conversations and general mid-day drunkeness...enter Burger and Barrel.


The restaurant was virtually empty when we arrived on Saturday and the AC was cranked up...perfect respite from the heat outside.  Carrie and I (having no problem with mid-day drunkeness) ordered some fruity Prosecco cocktails and went for the breakfast side of the menu...an enormous whole wheat Breakfast Burrito for her filled with mozzarella cheese, spinach and mushroom...


...and the Burger and Barrel Breakfast sandwich for me.  


I wish there had been a greater maple flavor from the maple butter on the bun but otherwise this was a big, tasty sandwich for the morning.


Mr. T went straight for lunch with the Classic Burger. This is always a good choice with a nice smashed patty, loads of crunchy fries and big onion rings on top.  

The restaurant stayed fairly quiet the entire meal and Carrie and I were the only ones in sight with a little buzz on.  If your looking for a more "manly" or quiet brunch in SOHO Burger and Barrel is an excellent choice.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Happiest of Hours at the Mermaid Inn

We swung by Mermaid Inn last week to indulge in their seafood happy hour.  I usually order the $1 oysters but decided to switch it up with some Littleneck Clams.  


Mr. T went his usual route with a piping hot basket of Fried Calamari...


...then we split their delicious Lobster Sandwich with lots of mayo and super skinny fries.  I love how the Mermaid Inn always splits the dish for you...it saves me from trying to sneak the bigger piece:) 
  

A meal at the Mermaid Inn is never complete without a free cup of chocolate pudding and the little fish fortune teller.


As usual Mr. T's fish flopped around in his hand while mine laid there dead.  I have no idea why those things never work for me.

Mermaid Inn is always a great choice for Happy Hour and for this week only it's been extended.  Starting tomorrow Happy Hour will run from 4:00-7:00 in the East Village... a whole extra hour to get happy!  

The Mermaid Inn

Friday, July 19, 2013

New Brew Friday- Justin Blabaer Edition

Blind Tiger tapped this Evil Twin Berliner Weissbier for their VSK (Very Special Keg) on Monday.  I've been lucky enough to have it in bottle at Torst before so I jumped at the chance to try it on draft.


"
This beer is zippy and tart with huge blueberry aromas up front and a gorgeous strawberry hue...much more personality than Bieber himself has going that's for sure.  It's a perfect for enjoying on a warm summer day and something even non-beer drinkers may enjoy.  Cheers!

Evil Twin

Blind Tiger Ale House

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ninth Avenue Vintner

The motto of this tiny storefront in Hell's Kitchen reads "Warm Place, Warm People, Cool Wine".  I agree with this statement but would also add in amazing cheese, delicious meat and incredible beer. Talk about packing a lot of personality into a little space.



Mr. T and I stopped in the other day and snacked on a delicious little tray of Manchego Cheese and Prosciutto di Parma.  The friendly guys behind the bar were more than happy to chat about different meat and cheese pairings and brought out a nice bowl of bread.  



Vintner had just celebrated its' anniversary and in honor of the big occasion they filled the taps with some rare beers from Goose Island like the Bourbon County Cherry and Coffee Stout. I was nervous a big stout would be too much on such a hot day but it was just as delicious as always.  


 The space had a constant flow of locals coming in and out, be it to sip on some wine or gather groceries for the week.  This is a great neighborhood spot to wile away the afternoon.

Ninth Avenue Vintner


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Heat Wave Cure- Cremespresso

It's absolutely miserable outside...hot and humid with air thick as soup and a never ending haze that has the whole city in a state of exhaustion.  I've spent the last few weeks either camped out in front of the AC at home or making way too many friends in the freezer section of my local grocery store.  The only thing that truly helped was my Cremespresso from Eataly yesterday.  



Smooth Italian coffee with rich creamy milk and sugar all spun into a glorious icy treat...it's heaven in a glass that's a cooling treat morning, noon or night. 

Eataly

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Brunch at Sarabeth's

The newest location of Sarabeth opened in the former Primehouse space on Park Avenue South. The sprawling restaurant feels absolutely enormous with big round tables, black and white checkered floors and lots of large windows looking out onto the street.  The crowd wasn't too bad when we arrived. It was the Friday after the 4th of July so not technically the weekend but they were serving the brunch menu for the holiday.



I decided to take full advantage of the Friday brunch and order a Five Flower Mimosa's before moving onto my entree the Braised Short Rib Hash.



This dish was huge with tons of short rib, potatoes, poblano peppers and tomatillo sauce all topped off with two baked eggs.  This wasn't overly spicy at first but the heat intensified the more I ate.  If you like a big spicy breakfast in the morning this is right up your alley.  


The egg dishes come with a choice of muffin, croissant or scone.  I was incredibly excited for my Blueberry Scone but it was a disappointment.   The exterior was soft and glassy...almost like a processed muffin you would find packaged in the local bodega.  I would order the hefty English muffin next time.  Mr. T's had a fluffy interior with wonderful nooks and crannies just perfect for holding some fresh strawberry preserves and creamy butter.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Luksus

The Scandinavian restaurant Luksus opens tomorrow and the anticipation for Chef Daniel Burns (Noma, Momofuku) newest venture is at an all time high.  The 26 seat space sits tucked away in the back of Torst with a $75 five course tasting menu and an option for beer pairings (additional $45).  We were incredibly lucky to get a spot during soft opening last week and watch Burns in action through the open kitchen.

Our meal began with three Snacks starting with a bowl of Ham Chips.



These large and flaky crisps were absolutely wonderful...much more robust than a pork rind, each bite had a tangy, salty crunch that left a whimsical shimmer of vinegar powder in the air. 




The snacks were paired with Professor Fritz Briem Berliner Weisse a tart, effervescent beer with a dry finish perfect for the warm evening and a great complement to almost any food.  Onto our next snack Mussel & Dulse.




A bowl of seaweed crackers with a mussel emulsion and pickled vegetables arrived.  It was an interesting combination of sea, vegetable and grain.  I haven't experienced such intense aquatic flavors like this since my last meal at Acme.  Onto our last snack Carrot & Beet.


Apparently Burns knows a thing or two about vegetables because these were excellent.  The braising gave the veggies a sweet, tender flavor perfect for dipping in the creamy egg dip.  I silently wished Burns could teach my mother how vegetables are meant to be cooked.



A basket of sourdough bread arrived as it's own course, still warm from the oven with creamy cow's milk butter that was light as air.   This is bread you certainly should fill up on- it's incredible.  The Second Course- Radish razor clam, cucumber and bone marrow paired with Evil Twin Femme Fatale.



The radish was the main focus of this dish with the bone marrow showing it's rich flavor in the cilantro sauce underneath.  It was at this point my dining companion pointed to one of the chefs who seemed to be incredibly focused on getting an egg just perfect.  It turns out this egg would be the key component of our third course Little Gem salad puree, pea broth and egg paired with Stillwater & Hof Ten Dormaal Bronze Age.


When I cut into the slow cooked egg it flowed out almost like silk, draping the charred lettuce and shiitake mushroom in a creamy broth before folding into the green pea puree underneath.  This is one of those dishes that makes you pause a moment in order to soak in all of the incredible flavors hitting your senses...everything worked in this dish and I didn't want to miss a second.  Onto the fourth course Lamb sunchoke, burnt hay and tongue salad paired with Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes Abbaye de Saint Bon Chien.



Let me begin by saying the beer pairing for this dish was fantastic.  The tart cherry notes cut through the fat of the lamb and gave it a nice bright acidity.  Unfortunately "fat" is the reason this dish failed to impress at my table.  I loved the bitter shaved tongue salad and the toasted notes of sunchoke and hay (that once again brought me right back to meals at Acme) but two out of four dishes at our table had so much fat there were only a few bites of actual meat to enjoy.   This being the only meat course of the night it was a bit of a let down in size and quality.


Spruce blueberry and yogurt was given as a palate cleanser between courses.   Let me just warn you this is really strong...almost like biting into a spruce tree.  Then the fifth and final course of the night Rhubarb beet, pea and anise hyssop paired with Boon Mariage Parfait and Beet Juice.


The rhubarb took shape in a foamy mousse with a crisp beetroot meringue, beet puree and green pea sorbet.  What blew me way with this dessert was the sorbet...it was the same sweet pea flavor from our Little Gem course just in a completely different form.  I've never experienced such similarity in both sweet and savory courses of a meal before.

Overall I loved my meal at Luksus.  It was inventive and exciting with fantastic beer pairings (all of which scored 88 or above on Beer Advocate) and great service.  One could argue that the portions could be bigger.  Some in my group said they were still hungry when the meal ended.  After spending $300 on dinner for two it's hard to justify any hunger pains.  

This type of cuisine won't be a fit for everyone either.  The beer pairings lean towards the sour spectrum and the food is very minimalist and raw.  In a town obsessed with "the next best thing" it will be interesting to see how Luksus fares.   I don't think everyone will understand Burns style of cooking and that's just fine with me.  Those people can stick with Cronuts...save the Ham Chips for me.

Friday, July 12, 2013

New Brew Friday- New York Limited SAVOR Edition

Today's beer is a special collaboration by Saranac, Ommegang and Brooklyn Brewery to celebrate SAVOR 2013.



This parting gift from the event is a strong white lager/wheat beer that has honey, lemon verbena and hops all of which are New York State grown and raised.  This beer has an incredibly crisp, tart flavor with big notes of lemon and a slightly sweet end from the honey.  It's really carbonated which makes it a refreshing beer to have on a steamy hot summer day.  Obviously these brewers knew what Summer 2013 was going to be like here in the city.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Trio of Treats at Shmackery's

What's better than one delicious cookie...three delicious cookies!  I just couldn't decide inside Schmackery the other day so I went all out- Maple Bacon, Peanut Butter Banana Crunch and Classic Chocolate Chip.



The Maple Bacon had the texture of a molasses cookie with chewy brown sugar ends and bits of toffee and candied bacon studded about the dough.  The Peanut Butter Banana Crunch was a bit of a let down; not enough "crunch" and the chocolate listed on the menu seemed to be missing in the actual cookie.  In the end the best was the Classic Chocolate Chip.  It has the perfect ratio of chocolate to cookie, chewy and crisp in all the right places and sprinkled with a hefty dollop of sea salt on top.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Peekskill Brewery

We took the train up the Hudson River last week to sample Peekskill Brewery.  I've been absolutely obsessed with their Simple Sour so this was a chance to check out some of their other offerings.  The brewery is big, with the main bar and barrels on the first floor, dining on the second and space for private events on top.  We sat in the dining room to enjoy a full relaxing meal.  I was sad to see they didn't have Amazeballs on the draft list that day but once I got my flight of beers I was pretty happy:)



We started our meal with a few brunch appetizers like this bowl of warm sugary Beignets...



...followed by oven baked Cornbread Skillet with Vanilla Citrus Marmalade and Vermont Creamery Butter.


Since the sweet component of brunch was satisfied with beignets I went savory for the second half with the PB Burger.


This hefty sandwich had big slabs of Applewood Smoked Bacon, Grafton Cheddar and garlic aioli on top. I asked for salad on the side instead of the usual fries, ensuring I had room for one more beer before we left.


I had the Liger was a lot darker than I expected with lots of malt and toasted rye.  While Mr. T enjoyed a half pint of the dark Midnight Toker.  It was a nice way to cape off a boozy beer brunch.


We took a look at the brewing equipment before we left. It's amazing how sleek and new everything inside looked.  It really had a nice modern feel.  We decided to take something to go so we filled up a Growler of Eastern Standard IPA and hopped back on the train.


The brewery in only about a two minute walk from the Peekskill Train Station so getting here from the city was a breeze.  This is an awesome new addition to the beer scene and one I'm psyched about having in New York.