Monday, March 31, 2014

A Sundae for Monday

Is there anything worse than a cold and rainy Monday...ugh!  Days like this make me want to curl up at home and close the shades.  Unfortunately I have to work but I'm definitely treating myself to something wonderful this evening like this Malted Praline Sundae from BLT Prime.

This thing is enormous...three huge scoops of fresh vanilla ice cream surrounded by squares of crisped rice and hunks of praline all then drizzled with a salted caramel sauce and a fluffy mound of whipped cream.  It's everything decadent and wonderful in this world and just what's needed for curing those Monday blues.

BLT Prime

Friday, March 28, 2014

Otto's Tacos

I was so psyched when I heard Otto's Tacos was doing a special Buffalo Chicken taco last week.  I had been dying to check out this Mexican joint and here was the perfect opportunity.  I showed up late afternoon, happy to see it was quite empty so I could order the off-menu Gorgon.  It only took about 10 minutes for my order which I asked to have wrapped to go so I could share with Mr. T.  I raced home,  excited to try the wonderful tacos but when we opened up the first box I saw total disappointment.

I had asked specifically for no cilantro on any of the tacos because of his allergy but as you can see the Gorgon was covered in the green stuff.  It was unfortunate too because I really thought the fried shell was  tasty and I loved the guac and serrano-chili crema on top. Oh well now I had two gorgons for myself so we moved onto the Buffalo Chicken taco.

The chicken here tasted like it had been fried hours before and then re-fried causing hard edges and dry innards with very little flavor.  Not exactly what I was hoping for...we moved on to the final box of Carne Asada tacos.

Ugh...two big spaces, one small taco...apparently the other one got lost in the mix somewhere.  So my Otto experience was an overall let down.  It kind of matched the mood I was in anyway after losing all my bets on March Madness games.  Maybe I'll have better luck in both this weekend!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Brunch at The Marrow

It's been over a year since Harold Dieterle opened his German Italian restaurant in the West Village. I had planned on going opening week but as life gets busy things just fall of my plate and it wasn't until last week that I finally had a chance to check it out.

The cozy bistro was relatively quiet at brunch; a nice change from the craziness some restaurants exude on Saturday afternoon.  I began with one of their brunch cocktails the Cheetah Juice, a flirty pink drink made with champagne, aperol and grand marnier...

...before moving onto the menu which had a wide variety of  options from classic Baked Eggs and Spiced Waffles to Ricotta Cavatelli and a hearty Duck Meatloaf Sandwich.  Everything sounded wonderful but in the end I was feeling like some healthy greens so the Scarlett Butter Lettuce Salad seemed like a perfect choice.

Mango, marcona almonds and black truffle pecorino combined with a light almond vinaigrette to make such a delightful salad that I've been recreating it at home all week with delicious success.  

Mr. T ordered a homey Corned Beef and Hash, a special on the menu that day to celebrate the upcoming St. Patrick's holiday.  

We skipped dessert and ended the meal with some complementary Oatmeal Raisin cookies that were just the perfect size.  The Marrow was a lovely way to brunch in the West Village.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday Treat

I was picking up the usual groceries at Eataly when I noticed something different as I walked by the pastry case.  A brand new dessert the Mandorla Tostata.

On the outside swirls of toasted almond mousse wrap around a pillowy sponge cake with shards of dark chocolate and whole almonds on top... 

...inside a rich, chocolate center that slowly trickles out into a creamy pool at the bottom just begging to be scooped up with each bite of fluffy mousse.   It's light and airy with a wonderful toasted aroma and flavor.  An excellent new addition to the fabulous dolci at Patisserie Eataly.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Bar Bites at Gato

Bobby Flay's newest restaurant opened last week right off the busy corner of Lafayette and Houston.  With a focus on Mediterranean food and drink, this restaurant is meant to revive the spirit of Bolo, a place Flay and Kretchmer ran together years ago right in my neighborhood.  I remember walking by Bolo, longing to go inside, until one day it suddenly closed and my opportunity to dine there vanished forever.  Well this was one opportunity I wasn't missing out on again.

I arrived at Gato right around 5:45 and the restaurant was already filled with a lively mix of business professionals and solo diners.  The big square bar up front served as the focal point for the restaurant and perhaps the reason for so many solo diners was the comfort this space provided.  To my left the big picture windows overlooking Lafayette were perfect for people watching and right in front of me was a great view of the open kitchen where I could see Chef Flay himself working the line.

I decided to focus on the "Bar Menu"which includes three tapas style sized bites for $17.  A  menu like this is a dream come true for me.  I could get a real feel for the restaurant's cooking without having to order a full three course meal.

The Beef Crudo with pickled fresno chiles was delicate and spicy.  The chiles gave a nice slow burn right at the back of my tongue without taking away from the soft lean flavor of the meat.

The salsa verde on the Lamb Tenderloin was amazing.  I would order just about anything on Flay's menu if this was listed as a component of the dish.  However the super tiny portion was almost too small to be satisfying.

My favorite bite of the night was the Artichoke Heart with Quail Egg and Sea Urchin.

Lightly fried with a perfectly poached egg and a dollop of uni on the bottom, this was salty and rich.  It actually reminded me of my recent quail egg and uni sushi at Tanoshi but with a comfort food spin.  I don't see how anyone could dislike this dish.  I didn't have time to stay  for an entree but these little bites provided me with enough excitement to plan a full meal as soon as possible.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Stella 34

I really can't think of anything worse than spending a day at Macy's in Herald Square.  It's just way too big, way too crowded and honestly I just really hate shopping.  So when I realized I absolutely needed to stop in one day after work I decided to make the most of it and check out the brand new restaurant inside Stella 34.

Located on the 6th floor, Stella is quite large with stunning views of midtown Manhattan and a really bright airy feel.  It was an odd time of day so I didn't even think about a reservation and to my surprise they were all booked.   I was offered a seat at the bar which proved a bit challenging.  The strange shape of the counter made it literally impossible to find a comfy way to sit. I finally settled on a somewhat doable seating position and ordered a glass of wine as I looked through the menu.  Stella boasts a variety of Italian fare like house made pastas and Neapolitan pizzas from their wood burning oven.  My server was fantastic in explaining the various dishes in detail and helped me narrow down my decision to the Napoli Salad.

All sorts of things were mixed inside this salad.....chopped romaine, arugula, olives, fig and provolone.  As I started digging in I noticed something was distinctly missing from the dish...the prosciutto.

I barely even looked up and my wonderful waitress was walking over with a big plate full in her hand.  She noticed as soon as they brought the dish out and was already there to make sure it had all the components needed.  What incredible service! Plus the salad was pretty darn tasty and more than ample sized for an appetizer.  So if you really need to go to Macy's you might want to stop into Stella 34 to escape the craziness for a little bit.  A glass of wine, a quick nosh and somehow shopping doesn't seem quite so bad.

Stella 34

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tanoshi Sushi

Mr. T and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary so of course we went as romantic and over the top as possible...BYOB sushi!  That might sound like we completely blew off  this anniversary but we actually went to one of the best new sushi places in the city- Tanoshi.

Tucked away inside a tiny storefront on the Upper East Side Tanoshi is easy to miss.  The only telling sign used to be a line of people each day at 2:00 PM hoping for a same day reservation (even Eric Ripert would wait in line).  Luckily they changed their strict reservation policy so they can now be booked online, making it slightly easier to get in and even easier to walk past without knowing.

There are only 10 seats inside Tanoshi all of which surround the sushi bar.   The brick walls are adorned with the selections for the day and the colored pieces of paper are about the extent of the decor in the room.  We were lucky enough to sit right in front of Chef  Oguma the night we dined and before the omakase we began with a couple of appetizers.

First a plate of Scallop Sashimi that was so soft and creamy it was almost impossible to pick up without ripping through the tender flesh.

Monkfish Liver in a spicy ponzu sauce followed...aptly named "Foie Gras of the Sea" for it's rich, fatty texture and briny flavor. Then the chopsticks were removed so we could really get down and dirty with our omakase.  Our only instruction to the chef was a note about my salmon allergy and we were ready to go.  Here's a run down:

Fluke with seaweed

Winter Spanish Mackerel

Firefly Squid

Botan Ebi (for me)

King Salmon (Mr. T)

Marinated Big Eye Tuna

Miso Cured Black Sable

Poached Scallop

Deep Sea Snapper (for me)

Salmon Roe (Mr. T)

Santa Barbera Sea Urchin with Quail Egg

Sea Eel

Everything Roll with Salmon Roe (Mr. T)

Tuna Roll (for me)

Spicy Tuna with Yam Hand Roll

Miso Soup

Everything was fabulous from start to finish.  The poached scallop was incredible...I've never had a piece of fish that tasted that sweet in my entire life.  The Santa Barbera Sea Urchin with Quail Egg was like some sort of sushi crack.  It tasted every bit as luscious and decadent as it sounds only better.  The only time I was a bit hesitant during the meal was when presented with the Firefly Squid.   Then chef gently said to me "this is a sign spring has come" and for some reason I knew there was nothing to be hesitant about. I happily sucked it down and could have gone for another.  We were so full at the end but had to have just one more piece before calling it a day...

...Fatty Tuna for the finish!  This was simply outstanding- all of this amazing sushi for a total bill of right around $210 for the two of us.  Since it's BYOB we brought in a few of our own drinks...a Pliny to enjoy with the appetizers and bottle of Louis Jadot Pouilly- Fuisse for the omakase. 

It was a fabulous dinner which concluded with some Happy Anniversary wishes from the chefs before heading out into the chilly night air.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Little Bit of Tampa

Mr. T and I just returned from a quick weekend trip down in Tampa so sorry if posts have been a bit more sporadic than usual.  I'll be honest we didn't do very much except sit in the sun and drink beer.  We started out at Cigar City  for a few drinks like their Lactobacillus Guava Grove.

I absolute love the big citrus funk and crazy melon flavors in this beer.  It's something I could drink all summer long in the hot sun. Cigar City's Hunahphu's Day was supposed to be the highlight of the trip but it was 7venth Sun Brewery that won our hearts.  Their Strawberry Guava Berliner Weisse was absolutely amazing and the brewery itself was just a welcome and inviting place to chill.

We had a couple good meals out but I would say the best was our stop at Eddie V's.  Yes I know it's a chain restaurant but there's not a ton in Tampa that's not a chain and when the menu lists Lobster and Steak Tartare as an appetizer I really have no choice but to go.

The fresh Maine Lobster was delicious as always but the steak was off the hook... covered with a dusting a black truffles and big slices of Parmesan cheese  this was so delicious I wanted another full order just for myself.

So that's a just a quick recap of Florida...back to NYC and the freezing cold just in time for the start of March Madness.

Cigar City Brewing

7venthsun Brewing

Eddie V's

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I really use this day as an excuse to drink beer and eat kind of like any other day in my life I guess:)  This Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip cookie is a brand new offering from Magnolia Bakery in the West Village

From the top it looks kind of boring.  Just a smattering of caramel in the middle and a few sprinkles of salt...

...but inside it was amazing.  Thick squares of chocolate layered side by side in the dough, ensuring a delicious mouthful of melted chocolate in each crisp buttery bite.  Happy St. Patty's Day to me!

Magnolia Bakery

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Toro NYC

Located over on the far West Side sits Toro, one of last years biggest openings in the Meatpacking District.  Of course this is a bit of a scene but actually not as over the top as I thought it would be.  The inside is actually gorgeous; long threads of ivy line the walls, big windows overlook the Hudson River.  It's definitely big and brash but it's also kind of fun. The three of us got a table right up front and just started ordering as plates zipped on and off our table all night. We began with a variety of Pinchos like these Medjool dates filled with marcona almonds, blue cheese and wrapped in jamon serrano.

Unfortunately these weren't that good.  The ham and cheese was incredibly thin, not providing the balance required for the sweet date.   Add the drizzle of honey on top and it was sugar overload. This being our first dish I was a little bit worried Toro was going to be a total bust but then the Deviled Eggs arrived.

The yolk was super creamy with layers of fat tuna belly and a dusting of chives on top.  Fantastic! I was so happy Mr. T hated deviled eggs....this was one dish I didn't want to share.  

The Bocadillo de Tetilla was tasty but too small.  There was just too much bread and not enough black truffle and cheese inside for satisfying bite and the hefty $14 price tag.

The Salt Cod Fritters were delicious- moist and flaky with rings of fried lemon peel on top.

The Filete a la Plancha was perfect...covered in cabrales butter and red onion marmalade.  This tasted just like the one I love at Casa Mono, possibly even better.

Mr. T always loves grilled corn with cayenne, lime and cojita cheese...

...but he was even more impressed with the Ham and Pig's Head Fritters which had such rich, meaty flavor I think we all were swooning.

When the Roasted Bone Marrow arrived I leaned back a bit and let my two companions dig in.  I knew this dish was at the top of their list.  It wasn't until I realized they had completely stopped talking and were devouring the bone that I dug in.  Whoa- super buttery, with some salty beef cheek marmalade on the side and a tart citrus salad on top.  This was some serious marrow.

I was so full I only managed a bite of the Galacian Octopus that arrived as one long meaty tentacle with charred onions...

...and a small bite of the spicy Chorizo just so I could save some room for the Chocolate Cremeux with Olive Oil Ice Cream.

This was so worth saving room for...salty and robust ice cream; perfect for pairing with the smooth chocolate custard and a flurry of nuts. 

The service at Toro was hit or miss.  Our waiter was incredibly friendly and efficient at first, forgot about us for 30 minutes, then returned apologizing and attentive, to then leave us with the check for eons.  I think my idea for a return visit is a solo seat at the bar and stick to one or two favorites.  Oh and definitely on an off night instead of 10:00 pm on Saturday (craziness).  That being said this is a seriously solid choice for food if your hanging in the Meatpacking District.