The Dutch and Little Park

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. :)

 

Maialino and some bar favorites

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.

 

Osteria Morini and Marea

June 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

Two Michael White-owned restaurants in this post today: Osteria Morini and Marea

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.

 

 

Here and there

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

More solo dining while on staycation – the omakase meal at Blue Ribbon Sushi and lunch at the Lupa bar

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.

Rouge et Blanc

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.

Vic’s in NoHo

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.

Truffle tasting menu at Babbo

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

Mignardises

Rose’s Luxury

April 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

My last meal in Washington D.C. was a blow-out dinner with Fred, Joanna, Ameya and Murphy at the newly opened Rose’s Luxury, which earned the top spot in Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants list for 2015 and is home to a chef who refuses to be pigeon-holed into any one particular type of cuisine or style of cooking. Initially, we planned to get in line around 4pm, knowing from reviews that there’d be a super long queue, but our late lunch at Hank’s and stop at the Phillips Collection meant that we didn’t get there until around 5. Turned out to be a pretty big mistake on our part as we ended up waiting until around 10:30p to be finally seated (luckily, most of those 5 and a half hours was spent drinking and playing shuffleboard at a nearby bar, not waiting outside).

By the time we finally got our foot in the door, we were delirious for some food and thankfully, our server immediately served us some toasty Japanese milk bread with whipped honey butter and fennel seeds. Perfect.

Given the enormous wait we’d had to endure and not knowing the next time we’d ever be back, we decided that we might as well try to order everything on the menu. To start: the smoked trout mousse with apples and chervil; sliced beef crudo, mustard oil, sea salt and watercress and chicken-fried oysters with raw oyster tzatziki. These were admittedly pretty small bites (we ordered seconds of the trout mousse and oysters) but so packed with flavor. Really loved the tart crunchy apple against the creamy mousse and those crispy crispy oysters with the cooling tzatziki. I could probably eat twenty of each of those bites and call it a meal.

Other small plates that we got were the famous pork sausage, habanero & lychee salad and the grilled avocado with tomatillo, poblano and cotija cheese. The lychee salad looked simple enough and you get to mix it all together after it arrives at the table but there’s such a great balance between the juicy sweetness of the fruit against the bite of the red onion and richness from the sausage and creme fraiche. The habanero also gives it some kick that burns the back of your throat. We also ordered a second of this dish.

Our pasta course comprised of the ricotta stuffed gnocchi with crispy sunchokes, mushroom butter and dill; mezze rigatoni “sausage & peppers” as well as a cacio e pepe that was on the house. My favorite of the three was probably the ricotta stuffed gnocchi – it definitely did not conform to what one normally pictures when thinking gnocchi and I loved its pillowy soft texture, the rich mushroom butter sauce it came swimming in, along with those crispy meaty sunchokes on top. The rigatoni was delicious as well, although a little more traditional but unfortunately, we all agreed that our cacio e pepe had been over-salted (though we still managed to finish the entire thing anyway).

For our next and last round of food, we got the Korean-fried catfish with cilantro and daikon pickles; hakurei turnips with spicy fish broth and tofu for something on the lighter side, the family-style smoked brisket, white bread, horseradish and slaw and finally, whole grilled quail with fall greens and mulled cider glaze. We were definitely struggling at this point; it was super late and we were among one of the last groups in the restaurants. Honestly, all I can really recall in my cocktail-wine-food-induced haze at this point is that everything was delicious, especially that spicy catfish, and each dish was unique and did not fit into any one particular category of cuisine. Chef-owner Aaron Silverman is doing a seriously good job of churning out great food in an environment that feels sophisticated but not stuffy.  The next time I’m back in D.C., I need to do a better job of planning my visit here because I will definitely be back.

Hank’s Oyster Bar, an old favorite

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.

A day in D.C. and dinner at Proof

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.