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.

minibar by Jose Andres

April 5, 2015 § 1 Comment

Took a short vacation in DC at the end of February and got to enjoy a super-fun, whimsical meal at minibar by Jose Andres with Ameya, my dining partner-in-crime for the weekend. Just 6 seats at the counter, 4 hours and a slew of small courses and wine tastings. Once again, I’m too lazy to go into descriptions for each of the dishes but highlights were the almond tart with blue cheese, the “burger” with wagyu and uni, the crispy, fatty vietnamese pig ear balanced with pickled vegetables and chili oil, the andalucian tofu (which was really an almond garlic gazpacho treated to have the texture of silken tofu) and ultra rich shabu shabu, the iberico tendon, the refreshing palate cleanser called “first frost” and the gorgeous breakfast in hokkaido dessert. Favorite part was probably watching the chefs prepare each dish with perfect choreography and engaging with them and the other diners. For our dessert courses, they also took us into barmini, the swank cocktail bar next door, where Murphy joined us and we indulged in more tasty libations (such a smart move on their part). If you can get a reservation for either venue, you’re seriously one lucky (foie-gras stuffed, rubber) ducky.

The luxe entrance way, where we were greeted with a glass of cava and a book of dried edible flowers

hot and cold pisco sour; parmesan canele; pineapple shortbread; pizza Jose’s way – 2012 Dr. Herman Urziger Wurtzgarten Riesling from Kabinett Mosel, Germany

almond tart with blue cheese; rubber ducky – 2013 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosato from Randazzo, Italy

late-night chicken shawarma – bodegas hidalgo manzanilla la gitana “en rama” from sanlucar de barrameda, spain

burger

vietnamese pig ear – pain killer (dark rum, roasted coconut milk, pineapple and orange)

fusilli – 2013 abbazia di novacella pinot grigio valle from iscaro alto adige, italy

andalucian tofu + shabu shabu – sho-une junmai dai ginjo hakutsuru sake from kobe, japan

iberico tendon – 2013 domaine de roches neuves thierry from germain saumar champigny loire, france

espardenyes with bone marrow – 2013 guimaro mencia from riberia sacra, spain

squab and oysters – 2002 r. lopez de heredia vina tondonia from rioja, spain

bonne bouche cheese puff; first frost; breakfast in hokkaido – 2012 oremus late harvest tokaji

sesame pocki; raspberry chocolate bar; yuzu-mallow; raspberry wasabi bon bon; eat the rocks; doughnuts; boozy bear – amaro from montenegro, italy

A delicious cucumber gin-based cocktail at barmini; old friends

February food randomness

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

Bowery Meat Company

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.

Momofuku Ko

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

vegetable roll

millefeuille

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

apple soda

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

mignardises

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!