Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Getting WastED One Last Time

Today is the final day of the amazing pop up inside Blue Hill- WastED.   Which means only one more night to taste the phenomenal Dumpster Dive Salad.   I truly didn't believe leftover fruits and veggies could be this good but there's something incredible about the combination of apple, carrot, pistachio and creamy whipped chickpea water .

I'm just sad I missed this salad on my first visit.  Luckily Mr. T was by my side this time around so we were able to try out more of the menu.

My only repeat dish was the Pasta Trimmings.  I really wanted Mr. T to try that briny, rich smoked fish head sauce.  He was on the fence when we ordered but after just one bite he was hooked.  Apparently we both love monkfish tripe and fish head- who knew? 

Philippe Bertineau and Alain Ducasse were the Guest Chefs that night.  They put together an insane platter of Head Cheese, Pig Trotters, Tongue and Offal Stew.  

Then we finished with Dog Food, a dish inspired by neighborhood butcher Dickson's Farmstead Meats.  They combined dairy cow meat from the Blue Hill Farm with the leftover offal cuts, usually used for dog food, to create a rich, tender meatloaf paired with unfit potatoes and gravy.

I absolutely loved this pop up.  Not only was the food spectacular but each visit was a lesson in food waste and reuse.  Cheers to Dan Barber and crew for putting together something so delicious and exciting.

75 Washington Place
New York, NY 10011

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chicken Parmigiana Dumplings at Mimi Cheng's

There's only two more days left in March which means only two more chances to try out the special Chicken Parmigiana dumplings at Mimi Cheng's.

Mimi's dumplings are big...much bigger than normal dumplings from Chinatown and filled with crazy ingredients that are all organic and super fresh.  

The special Chicken Parmigiana dumplings come stuffed with mozzarella cheese, basil and a big bowl of tomato sauce just perfect for dipping.  Although the Mimi special sauce was so delicious I ended up using a little bit of both.

The steamed dumplings are good but the pan fried are even better with that crispy bottom shell and absolutely no grease at all!  These are some seriously incredible dumplings.

179 2nd Avenue between 11th & 12th
New York, NY 10003

Friday, March 27, 2015

Philadelphia- Brunch at Russet

Our final meal of the Philadelphia weekend was brunch at Russet, a gorgeous Rittenhouse Square restaurant helmed by Chef-Owners Kristin and Adam Wood.  Located inside an 1877 year old townhouse, Russet has a simple, elegant atmosphere that feels almost like being at an upscale dinner party.

The small, well curated menu changes daily but I highly suggest the Woodlawn Jewel Mushroom Omelet if it's available. 

The mushrooms are roasted just enough to bring out that deep earthy flavor then scattered atop a creamy ricotta cheese omelet drizzled with garlic confit.

The omelet would have been more than sufficient on it's own but I never say no to Double Smoked Bacon. Not to mention Russet was another BYOB place and we had brought along another Funky Buddha Beer; the delicious Maple Bacon Coffee Porter.  It only seemed right to have some bacon with said "bacon beer".

It's also worth noting Russet has some incredible fresh squeezed orange juice.  Even in the dead of winter this was like biting into a big juicy orange straight from the source.  

We concluded our meal with an Apricot Panna Cotta with Black Sesame...simple and delicious. 

Russet was just a delightful meal from beginning to end and the location couldn't have worked out any better.  When we walked out the door we entered right into a blizzard.  There would be no sightseeing to be done before our train ride home in this weather.  Instead we walked about 30 feet away to Monk's Cafe and finished the trip in the back bar, drinking Pliny and enjoying the last few hours with friends.  It was really a perfect Sunday.

1521 Spruce Street
Philidelphia, PA 19102

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Philadelphia- Matyson

My absolute favorite place in Philadelphia is Matyson, a cute little restaurant right in Center City that consistently churns out some of the most creative and delicious food I've ever tasted.  The menu changes all the time but it's always focused on what's fresh and in season. Plus it's BYOB which means Mr. T and I can get creative with the food and drink pairings.  Since our dining companions had just gotten engaged the night before a bottle of Veuve seemed like the appropriate way to kick things off and actually paired wonderfully with my Goat Cheese Gnocchi.

Soft little pillows of cloud like cheese studded with crunchy pine nuts and brussels sprout in a duck ragu.  I've had a LOT of gnocchi in my day (thank you my Italian college roommate) but this was one of the most satisfying versions I've ever tasted.  There was just something incredible about that rich duck ragu with those earthy vegetables.  I basically had to fend off my dining companions from finishing the dish without me.

Not to say the other appetizers weren't amazing.  Mr. T's Duck Two Ways included a nice big hunk of Foie Gras and a smooth Duck Rillette complemented by black cherry compote and port wine sauce.

The Brown Butter Skate Wing was tasty entree, served with a medley of peppers and onions in a lemon caper vinaigrette...

...but even better was the luscious Duck Breast served with grilled chicory, sunchoke and prune drizzled in a sweet huckleberry sauce.

For dessert two scoops of creamy home made ice cream in Maple Walnut and Rocky Road.  They were both delicious and would have been the perfect end to the meal but I just had to order one more thing...their amazing, heart stopping, "it just doesn't get any better than this dessert ever" the Matyson Coconut Cream Pie.

Seriously this is the BEST Coconut Cream Pie ever.  The only thing that made it even better was our final beer pairing of Funky Buddha's Last Snow.  The combination of coffee,white chocolate and coconut in the beer with the pie was a match made in heaven.  Plus they wrote a little congratulations on the plate for my newly engaged friends...just a perfect example of the wonderful service at Matyson.  I just love this place.

37 South 19th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Philadelphia- Brunch at Khyber Pass Pub

I love a quick weekend trip to Philadelphia.  We usually shoot down on the train Saturday morning, eat drink and explore as much as humanly possible for the next 36 hours and then return home by Sunday night.  It's such a quick and easy escape. Unfortunately we completely timed this one wrong...tickets for the last Grateful Dead show in Chicago went on sale just as we were exiting our cab.  We stood on a corner in the freezing cold for about 20 minutes before finally shuffling into Khyber Pass to continue the frustrating cycle of refresh and deny.

Khyber is billed as a gastropub but if visions of the Spotted Pig come to mind erase them.  This is gastro grunge rock style with a super dark bar up front and wooden rickety tables in the back.  It's everything I love about a dive bar but with an incredible beer list and fantastic food. The brunch menu had all the usual suspects plus a few New Orleans treats like big, fluffy beignets and Shrimp 'n Grits.  I finally decided on Breakfast #5 which had a little bit of everything- two eggs, toast, creamy grits and a side of praline bacon.  

Wait...praline bacon you say?  Yes thick, crispy bacon drizzled with maple syrup and tossed in a crunchy coating of chopped nuts.  A crazy delicious combination that actually worked. 

Mr. T's BBQ Brisket and Sweet Potato Hash was also incredible.  The meat was so tender and rich it's already on the agenda for dinner our next trip.  

We never got any Grateful Dead tickets.  We actually gave up after brunch and walked up to Shane's Candies; a cool vintage candy shop that dates back to the 1800's.   Then it was onto City Tavern for a Colonial flight of beer in a historical old space. It was a classic Philadelphia afternoon...beer, brunch and history.

Khyber Pass Pub
56 South Second Street at Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Shane Candies
110 Market Street at Letitia Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

City Tavern
138 South Second Street at Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Monday, March 23, 2015

WastED at Blue Hill

I'm so back logged with posts from our trip to Philadelphia, Florida and even the hot new Javelina but I'm pushing them all back because the one place you must go now is WastED, the pop up inside Blue Hill.  This is a collaboration with local farmers, fishermen, plant breeders, restaurants and retailers all about food waste and reuse.  The idea is to create something delicious from ignored or uncoveted food items.   A perfect example is this wondrous nutty bread baked with leftover grain mash (spent grain)  from Kelso Brewing.  It arrived in a simple scrap of burlap with whipped lardo and pork cracklings on the side.  I was instructed to enjoy it on its own or add a dash of beef tallow from the very candle I had just used to peruse the menu.  It turns out beef fat has incredible use both as a light source and garnish.

WastED hosts a different guest chef each night and I was lucky enough to have the great Alex Stupak when I dined. His cured mackerel with tepache, cilantro stem and salsa verde was a stunning medley of aquatic herbs and spices.  Diners were encouraged to pick up the bowl and sip the broth at the end...a delicious way to ensure nothing goes to waste.

A must order from the regular menu was the Pasta Trimmings created with pasta scraps from century-old neighborhood pasta maker Raffetto's.

Everything from whole wheat parpadelle to squid ink linguine and spinach spaghetti are somehow cooked perfectly uniform and then tossed in an incredible sauce of preserved monkfish tripe, smoked fish head and cracklings. It was so crazy delicious I couldn't even wrap my head around all the wonderful flavors.

I was extra lucky to have King Cocktail himself Dale Degroff as the guest mixologist.  He created a Bitter Orange Sour made with leftover orange peels and pimento bitters just for the restaurant.   It was so smooth and balanced...plus he used the beef fat candle to add a touch of smoke at the end which was just delightful to watch.

WastED was a bit pricey at $15 a plate (about three to feed the average diner) but it was also  one of the most innovative, exciting and just plain fun experiences I've had at a restaurant in a long time.  Bonus points for only allowing a handful of reservations from 5-9 each night so the chances of getting a spot are actually quite high, but go soon it all ends on March 31st when the regular Blue Hill returns.

75 Washington Place
New York, NY 10011

Friday, March 20, 2015

New Brew Friday- Armand'4 Herfst

In honor of our anniversary Mr. T and I decided to crack open one of our favorite beers of all time Armand'4 Herst from Brouwerji Drie Fonteinen.  We actually had the chance to visit this incredible place last year which you can check out here; then stumbled across this very bottle in the shop attached to Mikkeller and Friends where we drank the amazing summer version Zomer.

The aroma of this is a big crazy mix of bright lemon, oak, white wine and tons of that dusty barnyard funk that seemed to envelop our entire living room.  The flavor is just bursting with that acidic, nutty, toasted sesame goodness I absolutely adore. Good lord what I wouldn't give to drink this entire set on my own one day...Cheers!

Drie Fonteinen

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thursday Decadence

There are some things so beautiful they're almost too pretty to eat...like everything inside the pastry case at Maison Kayser.

I usually go for something fancy like the beautiful Saint-Honore but when I'm feeling like a French classic that will be delicious in a pinch the incredible eclair is always a winner.  The airy Pate a Choux studded with vanilla beans and chocolate pearls... 

...then stuffed with that thick vanilla creme.  Does it get much better than this?

Maison Kayser
Multiple Locations in NYC

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Il Buco Almenteri

Mr. T and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last month at Il Buco Almenteri. This cute Italian restaurant had received so many accolades for its incredible food and rustic environment it seemed like the perfect choice for a cozy celebration dinner. Let's start with the good, like the salumi cured in house.  

These ribbons of prosciutto were some of the most gorgeous velvet cuts I've ever seen.  Just look at that rich, deep pink color...

My black truffle obsession was more than satisfied by these slabs of Truffle Tremor goat cheese.  It was cut with two sides rind, two sides creamy filling and served with a thick drizzle of fresh honey.  I devoured all three...silently pleased that Mr. T didn't want to partake in that wonderful funky flavor.

Unfortunately our next course Ricotta Cheese was terrible.  It was served ice cold with slices of even colder kohlrabi mixed inside.  If it weren't for the pungent bitter greens on top there would be no flavor to this dish at all.  Everything beautiful about ricotta was lost inside one big cold mound.

The special Black Truffle Pasta of the day was also a complete failure.  It was cooked to a consistency I can only describe as sticky mush with absolutely zero seasoning.  I had asked Mr. T how it was before I tried a bite and he responded by picking the entire bowl of pasta up on his fork in one fell swoop.  If that's not a sticky mess than I don't know what one is.

Ahhhh...but in between these two failures something amazing arrived the Busiate; an absolutely incredible bowl of squiggly pasta filled with crushed almond, anchovy, tomato and capers.  I've never had anything that tasted quite like this and it will firmly be rooted as one of my top pasta dishes of all time. 

And a little bit more amazing continued to arrive in the form of dessert with rich layers of chocolate and coffee in the Budino followed by some downright heart stopping gelato.  

We tried three different flavors in Salted Caramel, Milk Chocolate and Cappuccino.  Each one was so balanced; no cloying sweetness just pure, fresh flavors that seemed to go on and on with each bite.  We really couldn't pick a more delicious way to end the meal.

So we had some hits and misses but in the end it was a wonderful way to spend the night together.

Il Buco Almentari
53 Great Jones between Broadway and Lafayette
New York, NY 10012

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Dish- Sweet and Sour Chicken Nuggets at Hanjan

I always shy away from any sort of chicken "nugget".  The term usually denotes some sort of gross chicken by-product found at fast food restaurants around the country,  but that's not the case at Hanjan.  

The "nuggets" at this Korean restaurant are actually big, thick pieces of all white meat chicken breast coated with just a tiny bit of cornstarch and egg white to form a light and crispy exterior. The nuggets are then stir-fried with pineapples, chili and carrots creating a nice balance of sweet and spice.

It's perfect on its own but I always add a touch of soy garlic sauce on top for even more incredible flavor.

36 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10010

Friday, March 13, 2015

New Brew Friday- Green Bench Brewing

It's New Brew Friday and I'm actually enjoying it some place warm!!! Mr. T and I are in Flordia and starting off our weekend with The Foeder for Thought Beer Festival at Green Bench Brewing. 

I've had some of the funky saisons from Green Bench before but this is an opportunity to try a whole lot more along with some other great breweries from all over the United States like Jester King, Crooked Stave, Prarie and one of our favorites via Williamsburg Evil Twin.  It's a great way to kick off a Tampa Bay beercation- Cheers to the weekend!

Green Bench

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

City Kitchen

Working in Times Square just got a whole lot better last week.  NYC's newest food hall City Kitchen finally opened its doors and unleashed a slew of great food options.  There's a couple East Village favorites like Whitman's flipping their incredible burgers...

...and Luke's Lobster churning out all three of their rolls Lobster, Crab and Shrimp.

One of my neighborhood favorites Ilili Box has all sorts of Mediterranean delights like their rich Duck Sharma, Phonecian Fries and crispy Brussels Sprout topped with mint yogurt and fig puree.

Ramen fans won't be disappointed with Kuro Obi.  The Kuro Moderne from this Ippudo offshoot is just as porky and rich as the original and the fat, delicious Hirata Pork Buns make an appearance as well.

Azuki has a long sushi counter at the end of the hall with fresh sashami, house rolls and salads.

Plus there's all sorts of tacos from Gabriela's Taqueria including Al Pastor, Crispy Fish and Steak...

...along with Breakfast Tacos for those who need a quick fix in the morning.  They also have breakfast totally covered on the sweet end with the incredible doughnuts from DOUGH...

...and Sigmund's Pretzels are good about just about anytime of day.  There's Everything crusted for breakfast, Truffle Cheddar for lunch and Churro dusted for dessert!

Wooley's Shaved Snow is also on hand as another dessert option. I highly suggest topping the cold, fluffy snow with some Fruity Pebbles and Sea Salt Leche as I did.

And for when that long hard day calls for something a bit stronger there's plenty of drink options from wine to beer and Cucumber Gimlets. 

It was clear from the excitement in the room at the opening party that food halls are all the rage. People want choices; why settle for one lunch option when you can have four or five under one roof.  With the success of other markets like Gotham West and Hudson Eats I think I can safely say City Kitchen is here to stay.

700 8th Avenue at 44th St.
New York, NY 10036