August 26, 2015 § Leave a comment
I spent my first week of August in what seemed to be a sun-soaked dream – sailing, swimming, eating and drinking along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. My co-workers, Alice and Meredith, two chill and super nice Canadian girls we met via an online forum called crewfinder, Brooke and Shay, and our awesome (and cute) skipper, Ivan, spent 7 days living on our boat, the beautiful Violeta, as part of The Yacht Week, an organized event that took us to various locations, from busier ports to smaller fishing villages, and held huge parties at designated beach clubs or venues each night. We got to meet awesome people from all over the world and somewhere in between all the heavy alcohol consumption and dancing, we took in the natural beauty, culture and of course, food, that Croatia had to offer. I took so many photos during the trip but this post is just on the food, which for the most part was very simply prepared but because of the higher quality of produce/ingredient compared to what we get in the States, tasted absolutely phenomenal. Even the locally produced wines were on point and paired perfectly with the food.
A good number of the restaurants we visited during our trip were recommended by Ivan, who took such great care of us and made sure we never went hungry (which was super hard to do despite us being five girls!), so I actually don’t know some of the names but from what I could tell, most of the restaurants in the places where we stopped were mom-and-pop run eateries that focused on local specialties.
First stop – Split, Croatia. Meredith, Alice and I had dinner at a spot right by our hotel called Poseidon and dug into some local cheeses, olives and fruit to start. For our main, we split an enormous “Poseidon” platter that featured shrimp, large langoustine (think almost miniature lobsters), mussels, whole grilled fish, the whole shebang. Drizzle over a bunch of peppery olive oil, fleck with some extra salt and we were in seafood heaven.
The daily catch, we soon discovered was a normal thing. Typically, in NYC, being able to order a fish that just came off the boat that day is pretty rare but in Croatia, it’s totally expected for the server to bring you to a cooler full of sea critters caught just a couple hours ago and for you to pick whatever looks best to you. I absolutely loved it. We had these two grilled fish as part of our first official crew dinner in Milna.
I was also completely addicted to the langoustine, which are nosebleed expensive and usually offered by the piece at restaurants in NYC. The version below was at a restaurant in Hvar and came in some ridiculously tasty garlic, boozy sauce. Don’t be grossed out but it was so much fun to suck the innards out of the heads (as Mark Bittman of New York Times calls it, “god’s soup”).
My favorite stop by far though was Vis and the dinner we had the first night there was spectacular. We started with this enormous platter of cheese, tuna prosciutto (almost like smoked salmon), mussels and roasted vegetables and then moved on to the freshly grilled sea bream with roasted peppers, french fries and salsa verde. Again, so simple but so good (especially with copious amounts of EVOO drizzled all over). Something about the potatoes in Croatia made us keep ordering them – somehow they tasted so much more spud-y than those in the U.S.
My favorite dinner took place at Konoba Magic, a hidden gem in Vis that also had a vineyard on the premises. Per usual, we had dinner late at night so I would’ve loved to have seen the property during the day but one thing we noticed immediately when we arrived were these giant clay pots sitting right by a hot, hot fire.
We started our meal with the usual – cheese with homemade marmalade, tuna prosciutto with arugula, anchovies with capers in (you guessed it) more olive oil. Is it possible to ever get bored of this kind of food? I don’t think so.
Ivan also recommended these insane fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with farmer’s cheese and anchovies, which was probably my favorite bite of the entire meal. They came with something very similar to tartar sauce and there was a collective moan of delight as we all bit into these clouds of awesomeness.
But turns out the real showstopper was being hidden in those large clay pots all along – behold peka, a local specialty of stewed veal shank, the creamiest potatoes and sweetest carrots you’ll ever have in your ENTIRE LIFE. Those damn potatoes, man. Oh yeah, and we finally managed to get a photo of our crew, about five days into the trip…
After Yacht Week ended (tears), Alice and I stayed an extra day in Split to decompress and take in some of the sights that we might have missed the first day, including the fresh market filled with beautiful looking fruit and vegetables. Loved seeing old ladies haggle for produce.
The second half of the afternoon was admittedly spent with me either passed out in one of the world’s most comfortable beds or under the giant shower head in our beautiful room at Palace Judita, one of the prettiest hotels I’ve had the pleasure to stay at (the receptionist was a frikkin’ hoot as well). Seven days of sleeping (or not) in a stuffy, tiny cabin and showering either off the side of a boat or in a public marina rest room with a queue of women waiting impatiently behind you will take inevitably take its toll after all. And they had AC! Such a luxury.
Luckily, even though Yacht Week was over, we were able to meet Shay and Brooke for one final (albeit incomplete) crew dinner at local restaurant Apetit before they departed for Italy and we headed back to the U.S. We pulled out all the stops and ordered grilled langoustine, grilled lamb with roasted potatoes, homemade tagliatelle with black truffle (apparently a big thing in Croatia) and small prawns and octopus carpaccio. A perfect meal with a little bit of everything to end one of the best vacations of my life.
Needless to say, I was kind of a wreck inside when it finally came for us to leave this beautiful country the next morning. Alice and I had a layover in Frankfurt and were feeling pretty glum, but a surprise and complimentary upgrade to business class certainly brightened things up a bit! Here’s one last shot of me almost fully reclined while eating some smoked duck salad with a glass of Bordeaux and watching Carey Mulligan being ridiculously gorgeous in Far from the Madding Crowd before dozing off for the next four hours (and I can never fall asleep on flights).
All I can really say now is thank you to everyone – Ivan, our awesome crew of Alice, Meredith, Shay and Brooke, all the super fun people we met on Yacht Week, the staff at Hotel Slavija and Palace Judita, Lufthansa, the locals, Croatia itself for being so goddamn beautiful, the universe for giving us all those free upgrades – for making it a trip to remember forever. I can’t wait to go back!
July 13, 2015 § Leave a comment
Visited the NoMad for the second time back in late May and had an even better experience than the first! Started with the fruits de mer “le grand plateau”, a beautiful selection of prepared raw seafood and the chicken liver mousse with pickles and rye bread, which was a favorite from the previous time. At this point in our meal, we got to meet Becky Quan (!), one of the NoMad pastry chefs who I’d spoken with online after my first post on the NoMad and who brought out their highly addictive potato-onion-caraway bread and butter. Such a small world! And the in-person introduction made the rest of our meal even more fun and memorable.
We then progressed to the mackerel cured with buttermilk, peas and nasturtium, which looked absolutely stunning on the plate and tasted so bright and clean. I hadn’t really eaten much mackerel before but since this meal, I’ve actually ordered it more often when on the menu because this dish left such a great impression (and only a few other versions have been as good). We also ordered the foie gras with rhubarb, celery and pistachio, which had everything you could possibly want in a foie dish. There was creamy and smooth against crunch, sweet and tart against fatty and herbaceous. So predictable of me but I really enjoyed this dish (and I dare anyone else not to). Our sommelier of the night also gave us a great wine recommendation – a Sicilian red with dry ripe fruit notes and hints of spice and tobacco – that paired well with all our courses and never overwhelmed.
For our main dish, we ordered the roast chicken for two (duh). Just as great as the first time – the combination of black truffles and (more) foie is so heady and I can never understand how they manage to keep the breast meat so juicy. And that “stuffing” of dark meat was just as outrageous and rich as I remembered.
For our dessert, we ordered the milk and honey with shortbread, brittle and ice cream and were also surprised with a complimentary strawberry cheese cake dessert courtesy of Becky Quan, Pastry Chef. While I loved both, I preferred the classic and simpler milk and honey, which had nice savory elements as well, which worked out perfectly because Ameya had basically finished the strawberry cheesecake by the time I looked up again from my plate. Can’t say enough how much we enjoyed our dinner here (thanks not only to Becky but also to James, our wonderful server who answered all of our questions and even shared the name of the artist who crafted all of the NoMad’s beautiful ceramics that I’d been obsessing over throughout the course of our meal). I’m already dreaming of the next time!
Also, even if you’re not able to stop by for a meal, I would highly recommend the NoMad bars (I like the Elephant Bar that’s connected to the restaurant itself but there’s also a separate, larger bar with its own entrance on 28th street that serves slightly more casual food). Well-crafted cocktails and though I don’t drink too much brown liquor, I’ve heard from various sources that they serve the best Manhattans in the city. :)
June 29, 2015 § Leave a comment
Two mid-day meals at two different Andrew Carmellini joints:
First, weekend brunch with Julia at the Dutch in Soho on a beautiful sunny day. To start, a selection of the raw bar, including Glidden Point (ME), Island Creek (MA), Navy Point (NY) and Totten Inlet (WA) oysters as well as littleneck clams from NY. Beautiful clean flavors from perfectly shucked shellfish with a nice, punchy horseradish and tangy mignonette, just the way I like.
We weren’t particularly famished (a rare thing) so we shared the snap pea salad with spicy green pea curry and herbs and the famous hot fried chicken with honey butter biscuits and slaw. A nice balance between something green and fresh and something comforting and gluttonous. The honey slathered biscuits were out of this world – steaming and flaky on the inside – and the chicken, while not super spicy like I had imagined, had great seasoning and crispiness. The restaurant is only a few blocks away from the apartment but somehow I always forget that it’s there. I need to come back more often.
I had a short stay-cation in the middle of May and on one of those days met up with co-workers for a leisurely weekday lunch at Little Park, Carmellini’s newest restaurant in the Smyth Hotel in TriBeCa. This place does farm to table, vegetable-heavy dining without coming across as preachy or pretentious and all of the dishes are really well executed and unique. We got a bunch of small plates to share for our first course – the fried Brussels sprouts with apple and smoked parsnip (my favorite dish from my first visit); the beetroot tartare with horseradish and smoked trout roe and girandole pasta with duck ragu and crispy herbs. My favorite of the three was the beetroot tartare. I actually didn’t really miss the meat here and thought the separate components of rye, beet, roe and goat cheese came together in a really delicious and cohesive dish.
For my main, I ordered the duck confit leg with poached egg, stewed rhubarb and mustard greens. Actually not as memorable to me as our starters but I liked the tartness of the rhubarb against the rich, fatty duck. All of this food washed down with a couple glasses of wine and I was in a pretty buzzed and happy (and not terribly stuffed) mood when it came time to leave and move on to the next bar. :)
June 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
One of my favorite bars in NYC is Booker and Dax, right next to Momofuku Ssam Bar in the East Village. They have really well made cocktails (I’ve never ordered something there that I didn’t like but the bee sneeze and the tropical thunder are my favorites) and there’s no standing so customers aren’t on top of each other and you can hear what your fellow guests are saying. One night after attending an opening reception for the new Whitney Museum, we were looking to get drinks and dropped by right before closing. Started with two rounds of cocktails and then escalated to the seriously awesome 13 year old Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye. It was my first time trying any of the Van Winkle offerings and one could only describe it as a warm, velvet strangulation. By the time we left the bar, we were tired and struggling and in a moment of weakness, walked over to Crif Dogs on St. Mark’s to get something to soak up all of the booze we’d consumed. Ordered the jon-jon deragon (everything bagel spices, scallions and cream cheese), the chihuahua (a bacon-wrapped dog with avocado and sour cream) and the loaded tater tots – a total (but amazing) gut bomb that saved us from terrible hangovers the next day.
Some time late in April, Artemis and I had dinner at Danny Meyer’s Maialino right near Gramercy Park and it was such a treat. We started with the fritto misto (super crispy and surprisingly light mussels, octopus and soft shell crab) with a mayonnaise-y dip and then split two different pastas – the bucatini all’amatriciana with spicy tomato and guanciale and the tonnarelli a cacio e pepe with pecorino and black pepper. Really well executed and super flavorful despite being some of the simpler primi options on the menu.
For our main course, we split the duck arista, served with morels, spring peas and charred scallions and roasted sunchokes with maple and anchovy. Both dishes were incredibly savory. It was probably only my second time trying sunchokes and this version got me absolutely addicted. They were slightly sweet and creamy on the inside with so much umami from the anchovy. They’re no longer on the menu which makes me sad but I’ll just have to go back the next time they’re in season. We also got the opportunity to try some really amazing wines thanks to our sommelier, Paula, who was very in tune to what we were looking for and even poured a couple extra tastings for us to try. The attention to detail in the food and wine and warmth from the staff throughout made this a really enjoyable experience and Maialino remains one of my favorite restaurants in the city. There’s a reason that Danny Meyer and his team have earned so many accolades over the years.
Another bar option down in the Financial District: the relatively new Cedar Local, which is conveniently located right by the office. FiDi isn’t really known for its dining and drinking options but Cedar Local has some pretty nice cocktails (my go-to is the East Side with gin, fresh cucumber, lime and mint) and slightly fancier versions of bar food, like their plantain and potato chips nachos, sliders with dijon mustard dipping sauce and fried macaroni and cheese balls. It’s a great place to unwind after a busy day at work.
June 13, 2015 § Leave a comment
Osteria Morini is White’s more casual and homey trattoria in Soho, a great neighborhood spot where you can drop by, sit at the bar and enjoy a glass of red wine with one of their amazing pastas. Laura and I shared all of our dishes – a comforting and creamy chard and artichoke gratin, the cappelletti and the spaghetti. The cappelletti is a truffled ricotta ravioli with melted butter and prosciutto and one of our favorites. The portion may look small but it’s packed with so much flavor and richness that after several bites, you feel completely satiated. We also tried the spaghetti alle vongole for the first time and the brininess and acidity of the pasta was a nice foil against the cappelletti. Another great dinner at Osteria Morini.
The second Michael White meal was an amazing, first-time dinner at his flagship by Columbus Circle, Marea. Seafood and pasta reign supreme here and there’s a four course prix fixe menu for $99 that might be one of the greatest upscale dinner deals in the city. Alice and I started with a complimentary amuse bouche, a selection of freshly baked olive and onion focaccia breads (which I had to force myself to stop eating after two pieces) and the ricci – the famous sea urchin and lardo with sea salt on toast, possibly the most gluttonous and delicious crostini/bruschetta you could ever have.
For our antipasti, Alice chose the artichokes with blue crab, bottarga (salted and cured mullet roe) and garbanzo beans, a really beautiful plate, and I ordered the Nova Scotia lobster with burrata, eggplant al funghetto and basil, surprisingly refreshing and well balanced in its flavors.
My primi course was the fusilli with bone marrow, baby octopus and red wine sauce, one of the most popular dishes at Marea and with good reason. The fresh pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce had delicious little nuggets of umami thanks to the marrow. Alice’s pasta of strozzapreti with jumbo lump crab, sea urchin and basil looked amazing as well. How could that be bad? We also asked for wine recommendations for this course and the following course and the sommelier’s suggestions were totally on point.
For our main courses, I ordered the capesante – four enormous seared sea scallops, crispy potato, morels, lamb’s quarters and mushroom cream. The morels and greens had a lovely, earthy flavor that complemented the sweet and tender scallops. Alice’s monkfish with romanesco and mushrooms was also a beautiful looking dish. At this point, we were starting to really struggle with how much food we’d eaten at this point as the portions for the prix fixe were very generous.
Finally, dessert. Both were gorgeous looking dishes but I could only take a few bites of my budino al limone (a lemon pudding torta served with honey and blackberry fennel sorbetto) before throwing my hands up and surrendering. They also presented some mignardises and a mini crumb cake to take home for breakfast the next day, which was a great end to a hell of a meal. I will definitely be back.
June 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
Scotch eggs and steak tartare with Christine at Dead Rabbit, where she first told me she was going back to California :(
A relaxing night in with Spunto
My first time at i Sodi with Artemis – an enormous steak with arugula and rabbit prepared porchetta-style with spinach
Enjoying a beautiful plateau and more oysters at John Dory with Christine and Laura
Trying a new dish of scallop and ham crudo at Momofuku Ssam Bar to celebrate Laura’s decision to attend Yale’s architecture grad program
An old reliable while dining solo – steak tartare and red wine at Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen
El Luchador – a new lunch option near the office with outdoor seating
Hot pot during a brief trip back to Edison, NJ
Shots from the beautiful China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (GO)
Pork belly appetizer from Han Dynasty
Christine’s good-bye, hosted by Artemis and one of my favorite wines of the night
Excited about the next few posts coming up…whenever I manage to get to them.
May 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
Family dinner at Rouge et Blanc, an awesome French-Vietnamese wine bar and restaurant just a couple blocks away from the apartment, to celebrate Katie’s birthday back in March:
The menu consists of mainly small plates divided into vegetables, proteins from the earth and sea to be shared with the whole table and Tom, the owner and wine director, is super friendly and great at choosing the perfect wine to go with your meal. They have a killer version of brussels sprouts with Korean chili vinaigrette and corn nuts and crispy broccoli and kale with sesame, ginger and yuzukosho, which adds a hit of umami.
We also ordered the grilled duck hearts with ponzu, celery and scallion – very tender and surprisingly refreshing due to the herbs – and the special of fried chicken skins (yes, just skin) and honey scotch bonnet sauce, which was so hot it basically melted my face off. For some more veg, we also got the slow roasted carrot with maple chipotle glaze, goat feta, sunflower seeds and dill, sweet and smoky with some tang thanks to the cheese.
The larger plates were the pork belly pho and the Vietnamese beef cheek with rice cakes, green papaya and roasted enoki, my favorite dish of the meal. Both were really comforting and savory and I really loved the roti and the rich sauce that came with the fall apart beef cheek.
We also split a couple desserts with the port that Tom generously shared – I don’t remember exactly what these were but the chocolate covered cake with burnt marshmallow was amazing. As someone who doesn’t usually order dessert, I was pretty blown away by this one. Definitely recommend Rouge et Blanc as either a romantic date spot or place for special occasions if your group is the type that likes ordering a bunch of dishes to share.
April 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
Had a fun girls’ dinner at Vic’s a while back when it was still brisk outside that featured lots of flavorful, casual Italian food. To start: mussels with chilies, fennel, curry and basil and baby squid with black olive oil, meyer lemon and radicchio, which we didn’t order but the kitchen offered free of charge after they accidentally sent it out. Really loved the seafood broth the mussels came with and the chunks of crisped bread to soak it all up.
A solid cacio e pepe with black peppers, pecorino and parmigiano that was generously seasoned and cooked perfectly al dente. I do think that the versions at I Sodi and Maialino are slightly superior.
For my main, a large portion of the roasted oxtail with brisket, chili agrodolce and mint – really well balanced dish showing the contrast between the earthy, rich and tender oxtail versus the sweet and sour agrodolce and coolness of the herbs. The chili added a bit of kick as well. A pretty memorable dish that I would love to have again, especially on a cold and windy winter day.
And because I couldn’t resist, a snapshot of the seriously fabulous and textured wallpaper in the women’s bathroom downstairs.
April 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
Nothing like a black truffle tasting menu lunch at Babbo in the Greenwich Village to start off a relaxing weekend:
Beef carpaccio with shiitake and parmigiano, showered with black truffles – paper thin beef paired with sharp, nutty cheese made for a flavorful but surprisingly light start
Agnolotti filled with braised beef, covered in black truffles – probably my favorite course of the four because I am a pasta slut…especially when it comes to any version that comes dressed in a buttery sauce
Porcini-rubbed hanger steak with new potatoes and shaved black truffles – a pretty small portion but super generous with the truffles (as were all our courses, actually). Cooked perfectly.
Tartufo of vanilla gelato with cherries, Sicilian pistachios and black truffle shell – simple and straightforward dessert use of black truffles that I wouldn’t have considered