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
April 17, 2015 § Leave a comment
Day 3 in D.C. started off with a leisurely lunch at an old favorite of mine, Hank’s Oyster Bar, in Dupont Circle. Fred and Joanna came down from Bethesda for the day (always so great to catch up with them) and we had ourselves an oyster and seafood feast. Started with a spicy bloody maria with tequila and an enormous assortment of raw oysters that Hank’s had listed on their blackboard. I don’t remember all the different types but Ameya and Fred did insist that we get extra Rappahannock oysters, which turned out to be a good call as they were sweet and buttery with a nice, crisp finish. Awesome.
Our other starters were the perfectly fried and well-seasoned popcorn shrimp and calamari with their crack house sauce that’s similar to a spicy remoulade and the BBQ’d oysters, Hog Island style. Lots of buttah, some white wine, garlic and Tabasco made for some scaldingly hot, albeit tasty bites.
Fred and Joanna shared the shrimp and grits, which looked enormous and delicious, Ameya ordered the smoked trout hash with poached eggs, potatoes and dill cream sauce, which came out smelling amazing and very rich and I tucked into their lobster roll (bursting at the seams with tender lobster meat lightly dressed with mayo and celery, the way I like it) with Old Bay fries. Everything was so fresh and the atmosphere was chill and casual that it just cemented my belief that Hank’s will always be one of my favorite D.C. restaurants.
By the time lunch ended, we were feeling pretty full and lethargic, and since the Phillips Collection was only a couple blocks away, I dragged our group to visit the Rothko Room and the Man Ray-Human Equations exhibit so we could get a bit of culture and a good walk in before our evening at new hot spot, Rose’s Luxury.
April 13, 2015 § 1 Comment
Second day of my DC weekend started off with a frigid visit to the Washington Monument and then some delicious raw oysters and fried seafood at old school restaurant, Old Ebbitt Grill, with Murphy.
Spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the Smithsonian and Georgetown. The Museum of Natural History was holding its annual orchid show as well as photographs from the annual National Geographic competition and I got to take in the Piero di Cosimo – Italian Renaissance exhibit at the National Gallery. Rounded out the day wandering around the intersection of M and Wisconsin and all over campus, which was still beautiful as ever, before heading to dinner at Proof, known for its refined American food and extensive wine list.
Orchids at the Natural History Museum
Monet at the National Gallery
Good ol’ Healy Hall at Georgetown University
At Proof, we started with a couple cocktails (super potent) and their complimentary crackers with house made labneh with olive oil and chives. Deliciously creamy with a bit of tang. Because we decided ahead of time that this would be one of those ridiculous marathon meals, we ordered three appetizers – the sauteed potato gnocchi with pumpkin and wild mushrooms accompanied with brussels sprouts, butternut squash agrodolce, sage, brown butter and parmesan, the crispy veal sweetbreads with hedgehog mushrooms (served atop creamy white polenta, scallions, bacon lardons and a honey gastrique) and then the pan roasted Hudson Valley foie gras on a sweet cherry short cake, pistachio, cocoa nibs and bing cherry jus. The potato gnocchi were golden brown and crispy on the outside with pillowy centers; the sweetbreads were perfectly cooked and tender and the foie gras, the best of these three awesome dishes, had the perfect balance between sweet and savory. Really lovely and could not get enough.
For our main dishes, we ordered the generously portioned sauteed lamb chops with ragout of nutty farro and tender lamb shoulder (served with pistachios, dried apricots, pomegranate, whipped yogurt, almonds and sumac) as well as the roasted Long Island duck breast with smoked ham hock & pumpkin risotto (served with toasted pumpkin seeds, duck cracklings, sage and crispy collards) and paired them with a delicious bottle of Brunello di Montalcino. It was probably too much of a good thing, especially after our three starters, but we just kept eating and eating until we realized we should probably try to save room for the cheese/dessert course.
Instead of ordering something sweet, we opted for a platter of three cheeses – a Jasper Hill cow’s milk cheese that was soft and floral; a creamy goat cheese called Leonora from Spain that tasted of lemon and herbs and finally, one of my all-time favorite cheeses, a pyrenees-brebis, a semi-firm, sheep’s milk cheese with hints of nuttiness and caramel. So amazing and even more enjoyable with a glass of 1990 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes. It was the perfect, not-too-sweet ending to a relaxing, three hour meal and though totally different from the minibar dinner the night before, just as memorable and indulgent.
March 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
Artemis and I took advantage of the BYOB offer at Union Square Cafe during one of the several snow storms that pummeled NYC this winter: fried calamari with spicy anchovy mayonnaise and chicken liver crostini with shaved brussels sprouts salad; Berkshire pork with winter squash and polenta, the winter beef entree and a side of broccoli rabe; two bottles of Italian red
Weekend lunch with Melissa at my favorite neighborhood spot, Lupa: black and white tagliatelle with mussels and jalapeno; succulent heritage pork arista and a plethora of sides (fingerling potatoes, more broccoli rabe and brussels sprouts)
Catching up with Hussam over the braised beef tongue tacos at Empellon Taqueria, another one of my go-to’s in the Village:
Galentine’s Day dinner of linguine alle noci and eggplant involtini with a dessert of Molly’s Cupcakes courtesy of Alice:
Snow day lunch with Laura at Do Hwa: seafood dolsot bibimbap and the daeji bulgogi with watercress salad
A belated Chinese New Year’s lunch with the family at BQ-HQ: roast duck and pork, fried whole fish, lots of greens and Mama’s dumplings
March 19, 2015 § Leave a comment
A couple days after Momofuku Ko, Artemis, Chris, Tim and I had dinner at the relatively new Bowery Meat Company, operated by the same team behind the scene-y Lure Fishbar and Burger & Barrel. Our reservation was on possibly the coldest night of the year so the idea of tucking into some red meat and red wine sounded perfect. The interior is huge with a mid-century feel (lots of Eames chairs and the like that I wanted to just pick up and take with me). I’m also really digging all of these recent restaurants emphasizing spaciousness instead of cramming as many tables as possible into a given space. It makes a huge difference when you don’t have to yell over the conversation of the people next to you and you’re not elbow to elbow with your fellow diners.
Starters: hand-cut steak tartare with grilled bread and baby romaine, which wasn’t as memorable as some other steak tartares I’ve had and needed more acid or spice to cut the beef flavor (also, nobody at the table cared for the romaine), and Chinese BBQ pork belly with butter lettuce and pickled vegetables, which had good flavor and freshness from the pickles. My favorite starter was the dish of broiled oysters with garlic, romano cheese, bread crumbs and parsley. Normally I favor raw oysters because their flavor doesn’t get lost in accompaniments or sauces but these were barely cooked through and smothered in piping cheesy, garlicky goodness, so who am I to complain? We also received some complimentary croquettes (one meat and one basil, cheese) from our server that were quite tasty.
We also had a middle course of the duck lasagna for two with caciocavallo cheese and parmesan. The portioning is highly misleading because I’m pretty confident this lasagna, which comes out of the kitchen in an enormous, steaming casserole dish and is then divided table-side, could easily put four people of average eating capability in a cheese-carb coma, especially if combined with a magnum of Chateauneuf du Pape. It was SO good, especially on a night that was 10 degrees below 0 outside. At one point, I thought to myself that if I were to ever come here again with just one other person, I’d get the oysters and the lasagna and completely ignore the red meat (keep in mind we hadn’t gotten our steaks yet). I still kind of think that actually. I bet the lasagna would make for some amazing leftovers.
Our mains were the insane and beautiful 20 oz chateaubriand with charred brussels sprouts, parsley potatoes and sauce chasseur. No idea what a sauce chasseur is (a quick Google search mentions a sauce of demi-glace, mushrooms, shallots and sometimes tomato sauce) but it seriously made the dish. It kind of reminded me of salted toffee, with its sweet and savory qualities. I even dipped some of the frites in that ish.
We also shared the Bowery steak (Grub Street did a write-up about this interesting cut created just for BMC) with salsa verde and whipped potatoes; an enormous sour cream and onion hash brown of perfect crispiness, compliments of the kitchen; and a bottle of 2009 Saint-Estephe by La Dame de Montrose. Needless to say, by the time we finished our meal and went back out into the cold and windy night, we were well fortified by some seriously tasty (albeit heavy) food and wine in our system.
And because I hadn’t given enough money to Lelabar at that point, Artemis, Chris and I went and shared a killer bottle of 1989 (my birthday year!) Cos d’Estournel and 2013 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. There was a point late in the evening, which included a hilarious run-in with a co-worker, when I probably should’ve stumbled home but thanks to Chris’ enabling, I was persuaded to get a bottle of the 2012 Golgotha from Scholium Project in California. Only about 22 cases were made of this period and 2012 was a standout year that yielded an intensely perfumed wine that for some crazy reason, reminded me of those tiny Asian yogurt cartons you sometimes get at the end of a meal in a Chinese restaurant or eat when you’re a kid (not sure where I was getting the yogurt component – possibly because of its three fermentations?). Bizarre, I know, but strangely evocative of my childhood in the best possible way and I could not get this wine out of my head. About a week later, Chris and I went back to Lela and had the very last bottle and in despair, I went home tipsy, scoured the internet, found it at a store in Dallas and ordered three bottles. It will take all the will power I have to not drink them all within a month.
March 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
About a month ago, yours truly got lucky enough to experience the tasting menu and beverage pairing at the newly relocated Momofuku Ko on Extra Place right off the Bowery in the East Village. It’s a much bigger place than the original location, and along with roomier counter space for the diners (Ko is pretty unique in that all seats are at the counter so you can see the cooks preparing the food and even interact with them), there are beautiful glass cases full of hanging meats and all other kinds of ingredients that catch your eye. The restaurant is probably also home to one of the largest works by the artist David Choe, whose gorgeous and frenetic handiwork is sprawled all over the walls.
Right from entering, everyone was super friendly and inviting (shoutout to Su Wong Ruiz who was especially great!), and my dining companion Chris and I even got to make small talk with David Chang himself for a little bit (FYI, he recommends the carbonated cocktails at Booker and Dax if your goal for the night is to get very drunk, very quickly). The menu changes pretty regularly based on the season, so if you get to go, you’ll probably have dishes and pairings totally different from what we did.
Honestly, at this point, I have a hard time remembering the components of each individual dish (many of which were served on beautifully crafted MUD Australia ceramics) but I will say that the major highlights were the madai (super clean and refreshing); the sunchoke (which was very meaty and unctuous despite being all vegetable); the gorgeous, gorgeous uni with chickpea and hozon (as soon as Momofuku starts selling bottles of this stuff, I will be hoarding it) covered in olive oil (when I tasted this dish, I almost cried it was so delicious); the kabocha agnolotti with smoked duck – katsuobushi-style – and parmesan (just loads and loads of umami and deliciousness paired with a pear cider from Switzerland that I need to get my hands on somehow); the famous frozen foie gras over pine nut brittle, riesling gelee and lychee and the venison with pommes puree and epoisses (literally a layer of warm epoisses covered in fancy mashed potatoes that I’m pretty sure were composed of at least half butter). Hell, every single dish was standout. Even looking at these photos again, I’m salivating and checking out their availability for the coming week. Just know that this meal was probably one of the most memorable and enjoyable dinners of my life and I cannot wait to go back again. See below for each course and dish/pairing descriptions.
lobster paloise; tartlet w peter lauer, saar riesling sket, brut from mosel, germany nv 2011
madai – green chilli, shiso, consomme
bay scallop – pineapple, basil with peter lauer, saar riesling sekt, brut reserve from mosel, germany 1991
sunchoke – blood orange, tarragon with goose island ‘lolita’ from chicago, illinois
uni – chickpea, hozon w shimaoka shuzu yamahai junmai izumi from gunma, japan
mackerel sabazushi – wasabi, dashi ponzu w savart ‘bulles de rose’ ecueil from champagne, france
mackerel dashi – oyster mushrooms, asian pear
soft scramble – potato, osetra, herbs w matthiasson “linda vista” chardonnay from napa, california 2013
bread and butter
kabocha – smoked duck, parmesan w ciderie du vulcain “poire doux” from fribourg, switzerland 2013
halibut – watercress, artichoke, truffle w j.f. ganevat, cremant ‘oh’ blanc de blancs from jura, france 2010 rinsed with j.f. ganevat ‘vin jaune’ from jura, france 2003
foie gras – lychee, pine nut, riesling jelly w karthauserhof, eitelsbacher ‘karthauserofberg’ riesling auslese from ruwer, germany 1998 (magnum)
venison – pomme puree, epoisses w domaine monier perreol saint joseph from chatelet rhone, france 2011
huckleberry – laurel bay, bee pollen
chocolate – mint w dr pepper, rhubarb, scotch and amaro
And of course, because we don’t know how to stop being gluttonous once we’ve started, I introduced Chris to Lelabar, which in retrospect was probably a terrible idea for both our livers and wallets. A bottle of 1985 Chateau Leoville-Barton and 2000 Vietti Barolo to cap off an epic night of eating and drinking!
March 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
Had a fun girls’ dinner at the relatively new Upland right off Park Avenue a while back and got to tuck into some Italian-influenced food with a California twist. Initially, I was a bit apprehensive because my co-worker Artemis went right after their New York Times review had come out and she ended up unimpressed, but based on our experience, it could have been attributed to them still working out the kinks so shortly after opening. I didn’t get any great shots of the interior but the restaurant itself is very spacious, follows the recent trend of having more banquettes than stand alone tables (meaning more room per group, always a plus) and houses shelves and shelves of bottles of olive oil or jars of preserved lemons glowing prettily in the dim lighting.
Our first starter were the crispy duck wings with lemon, olive oil and yuzu kosho, this funky Japanese fermented paste of chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt, which kind of hit you over the head with their spice and tang. Really delicious and intriguing since I also don’t think I’d ever had duck wings before. We got the much-hyped estrella (long tubular pasta stars perfect for picking up sauce) with creamy chicken liver, sherry, rosemary and sage and the delicious pappardelle with spicy pork sausage, kale and parmigiano, all giving great first impressions. Also would point out that chef Justin Smillie even pays close attention to the bread and butter, which is just-out-of-the-oven toasted sprinkled with coarse salt and the butter is room temperature with a smattering of chives and a smidge more salt. It’s little details like this that count, people.
For my main, I ordered the crackling porcelet, an interesting cut, accompanied by jimmy nardello peppers, charred onions and permission. A nice balance between savory and sweet from the fruit, this came in a pretty large portion and turned out to be quite rich thanks to that crunchy, slightly fatty strip of pork crackling running along the right side, though honestly, I had no problem finishing. The other entrees looked amazing as well – a very colorful cioppino with a melange of shellfish and striped bass and a whole grilled branzino with citrus scallion vinaigrette. We also ordered a side of the slow roasted celeriac with black truffle butter and sea salt (because, you know, vegetables) which was earthy and surprisingly light given that I’m pretty sure it came out doused in butter or olive oil.
After a break between courses, we ended our meal with a solid, though not particularly interesting, apple tart and some kind of caramel custard with devil’s food cake and ginger ice cream, which I could only take one bite of since it was too sweet for me.
While I don’t think I’d necessarily revisit Upland that frequently (the food and service were good but I think some places further downtown and closer to my apartment that I’ve recently visited have been more memorable), I’m definitely glad we went, despite hearing some mixed reviews, and our group had a great time. This place would be really fun for birthdays or special occasions with larger groups so you can order a lot of different menu items.
March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
The lunch at Bouley in Tribeca may be one of the best deals (five courses for $55) in New York City, especially since it happens to be in one of the most beautifully decorated and ornate restaurants I’ve seen. To start – some complimentary amuse bouches that I honestly don’t remember too much about (except that the cracker looking bite had caviar and some kind of black truffle cream). For the first course, I chose the “blini” of Scottish smoked salmon with roe and white truffle honey. The dish was topped with some sort of apple meringue that was a bit too sweet for my taste, especially since the truffle honey was already sweet, but the roe provided some necessary saltiness.
Next, one of Bouley’s most famous dishes, the porcini flan with golden princess crab and black truffle dashi. This was amazing – it came to the table with a cover and when removed, all one could smell was black truffle and brininess from the crab. Really warm and comforting, like a Japanese chawanmushi or egg custard, the portion initially seemed kind of small but was so packed with flavor and richness that it turned out to be just the right amount. I would go back to Bouley just to have this dish again. Also, what I forgot to take a picture of was the amazing bread cart that they wheel to each table after this course. I think there were about twelve different varieties (the usual sourdough all the way to a pistachio and apricot version) and you could potentially try every one of them, but we had to keep in mind that we had more courses coming.
The main dish, a slow braised Kobe-style beef cheeks with blue kale gnocchi, also hit the spot. I don’t have beef cheeks very often but always love how tender and unctuous they can be when done well and the sauce that came with was super savory and just this side of being over-seasoned. Also really enjoyed the perfectly cooked gnocchi (because who doesn’t love some butter soaked starch with their beef?).
For a palate cleanser after our savory dishes, a chilled coconut soup with pineapple granite, 10 exotic fruit sorbet, passion fruit and coconut ice cream. Really refreshing with a good balance of sweet and tart – this almost punched you in the face with its coconutiness. Around this time, we were struggling to stay awake, so a cappuccino was in order. My dessert was the hot caramelized Anjou pear with Valrhona chocolate, biscuit Breton, hot toffee sauce and huckleberry and Tahitian vanilla ice cream, which was a bit too sweet for me and since I was so full, I was only able to take a couple bites. However, when the tower of mignardises and petits fours came out, I had no problem popping a few chocolate bonbons in my mouth.
So there you have it – one of the best lunch deals in the city. At some point, I’d like to go back and try everything with their recommended wine pairing, which brings the meal to $110 before tax and tip. I think this would be a great place to bring parents when they’re in town and or a special date. Here’s a shot of the entryway, which is lined with apples to greet you and say farewell with the most heavenly smell (we kept wondering how often they have to check and change them out). Oh and I almost forgot to mention that when you leave, they send you off with not one but two individually wrapped cakes (lemon pound cake and stollen) for you to peck away at as soon as you’ve recovered from your lunch food coma. :)