Big Star Chicago

June 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

After so many years of saying that I’d visit, I finally took a trip to the Windy City as a short break before bar review began. Much eating and touristy activities ensued, including an inaugural meal with Esther (who, together with her husband Bryan, graciously housed Jee and me during our stay) at Paul Kahan’s super chill restaurant Big Star in the hipster-ish Wicker Park neighborhood, where we indulged in Palomas, margaritas, and an assortment of tacos.

My favorite dishes were definitely the queso fundido, a molten mixture of queso Chihuahua with poblanos, and housemade chorizo generously smeared on warm corn tortillas, and the fish tacos with beer battered tilapia, chipotle mayonnaise, cabbage, lime, and cilantro.

Classic margarita and La Paloma

Tacos de panza with crispy braised pork belly, tomato guajillo sauce, queso fresco, onion, and cilantro

Tacos al pastor – marinated spit-roasted pork shoulder, grilled pineapple, grilled onion, cilantro

Queso fundido – my favorite

Tacos de pescado


Big Star
1531 N. Damen Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60622



Happy place

June 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

From a recent visit to Ithaca Farmers’ Market (Macro Mamas always a must) at Steamboat landing + Taughannock Falls. Sometimes a retreat to nature is the perfect cure for stress.


Summer RW meals at Nougatine and Colicchio and Sons

May 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Better late than never, right?

The last week of work, Alice, Komal and I had a lovely dinner at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Nougatine at Columbus Circle. Beautiful interiors, great service, and delicious and surprisingly light food. I really loved the tomato and avocado gazpacho (even though I don’t tend to like cold soups) and the salmon entree I had.

A bottle of Morgon 2010

Corn cucumber shooter

Tomato and avocado gazpacho

Roasted salmon, greens and sweet chili vinaigrette

Roast chicken dish

Summer dessert and poached fruit

The classic Jean-Georges molten chocolate cake

Cindy, Beth, and I also snuck out of the office during one of the last couple days of work to have a long, leisurely lunch at the Tap Room at Colicchio & Sons. Again, a great cold, corn vichyssoise, a wonderful meaty entree, and heavenly beignets to top off the meal. If only work life could always be like this.

Inside the Tap Room

Cold corn vichyssoise

Steak tartare and chips

Panzanella with burrata cheese

Steak with bone marrow butter, greens, and horseradish cream

Chicken with farro and mushrooms

Heavenly beignets

Think that finally might be the last of the summer 2012 posts. Now to get through Winter and Spring 2013!

Trump Hotel Central Park
1 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023

Colicchio & Sons
85 Tenth Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Southern Road Trip I – Richmond, VA

March 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Back in late December, our family realized that it would be Katie and my last winter break and decided to go on a road trip to the south, having never traveled there before. Our first stop in Richmond, VA included a visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, during their stunning Chihuly exhibit, a long walk through the James River Park System and Belle Isle, and a comforting, uber-rich meal at Tarrant’s Cafe – chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, fried seafood platter, you name it.

Pendleton blankets

Oddly hypnotizing organic forms

The bridge to Belle Isle

Tarrant’s – shrimp and grits

A Day in Newport, RI

March 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

The weather in Ithaca has been especially miserable lately, not extremely cold or anything but just disgusting and sloshy. Also, I feel like I haven’t seen the sun in ages, so these photos from a family day trip to Newport, RI are a welcome reprieve.

We left home early in the morning and arrived in Newport at around 9:30 in the morning. We spent some time just driving around a beautiful, secluded Hampton-ish neighborhood with shingle style homes and private coves before doing the requisite Newport Mansions tour of the Breakers, Elms, and Marble House, dug into some delicious seafood (lobster mac ‘n’ cheese anyone?) at Brick Alley Pub downtown, took a detour at a local farm stand, and then ended our day with a scenic stroll on the Cliff Walk. After years of practice, I’d say our family has become seasoned pros at the jam-packed day trip.


Brick Alley Pub
140 Thames Street
Newport, RI 02840

Murray’s Melts

February 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve always loved Murray’s Cheese Shop in Greenwich Village (such an amazing selection of cheeses, cured meats, and other gourmet items and super-friendly staff), but it took me a whole summer of living literally right down the street to discover their Murray’s Melts. Probably for the best; otherwise I would’ve been there all the time and eventually unable to fit through the door. The owners also just recently opened Murray’s Cheese Bar, which I’ve heard great things about, but this is probably a better idea if you want something quick and on-the-go.

Below is a “Da Bomb” sandwich that’s unfortunately no longer on the menu – short ribs, Murray’s secret cheese blend, caramelized onions, and fresh arugula on Pullman bread – but you really can’t go wrong with any of their melts. The current ‘Shroom Melt (brie, mushrooms, truffle-pesto aioli) and the Mayflower (smoked gouda, turkey, bacon, cranberry chutney, and a “stuffing” aioli) sound especially delicious.

Look at that gooey butteriness… Just this side of too rich for me, the sandwich’s arugula and sweet onions did a good job of complementing all that dairy and meat.

Afterwards, a walk on the beautiful High Line is the best way to work off the cheese bomb you just ate.


Murray’s Melts (at the Murray’s Cheese Greenwich Village location)
254 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014

Branching out at Ssam Bar

January 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Photos from Esther and my summer meal at Momofuku Ssam Bar, which is still one of my favorite places to eat in the East Village.

A seasonal cocktail and the Penicillin – scotch, lemon, honey and ginger…all my favorite ingredients in one beverage with a giant ice cube.

The famous steamed pork belly buns with hoisin, cucumber, and scallions. Still so good that I could make a full meal out of these babies.

A new addition to the menu since my last visit – bbq buns with crispy pork belly, coleslaw, and smoked mayo. Maybe it was the novelty of the dish, but I think I actually preferred this version to the original, and Esther and I seriously contemplated ordering more.

A classic – spicy pork sausage and  rice cakes. I always tell myself that I won’t order these again, but something about the crispy starch mixed with the crunchy Chinese broccoli and spicy meatiness of the sausage just keeps calling me back.

Silky Santa Barbara uni with some melon ice and a strange but tasty gelee (I vaguely remember a porky, ham flavor) with summer tomatoes.

Beef, two ways, with bulgur, fava beans and soubise. I think this may have been the first time I’d had bulgur actually and it was totally great – nutty flavor and a toothsome texture. The meat, as you can see, was also perfectly cooked. Just goes to show that while it may be easy to fall into the same great dishes again and again, it’s definitely worth your while to try new dishes at places where you’ve eaten many times in the past.

Eleven Madison Park

January 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

Finally, exactly six months later, I’ve managed to post about Eleven Madison Park. This was without a doubt the longest (by the time Cindy and I finished this most expensive date ever, it was 1:30am), most extravagant, most memorable meal of Summer 2012 and going through the photos felt like I was reliving it over and over again. Apparently, a lot of the menu has changed since we visited – Daniel Humm, the chef, and the kitchen have revamped the menu twice, I believe – but I can’t imagine that the attention to detail, the warm service (unlike my initial impression of extreme fine dining restaurants, EMP’s staff was very friendly, un-pretentious, and patient, given our very late conclusion to the meal), and the exquisite food has gotten anything but better. I’m too lazy to go into detail about every dish, so just believe me when I say that every single course actually felt necessary (if that’s the right word) towards the overall progression of the meal and distinct in its own right, whether it was the concentrated flavors of the tomato tea, the nostalgia of the clambake, or the sheer unique-ness of the whey with curds and gnocchi.

Beautiful arrangement in the dining room

Beginning with savory miniature black and white cookies

A bit of New York City to start

And a lemony, gin cocktail

Tomato tea with parmesan lavash and lemon thyme

Mackerel and Scallop – horseradish and mustard; chip with pickled daikon and sesame

Yogurt lollipops with curry


Chickpea panisse with yogurt

Trout roe marinated with dashi, cantaloupe, zucchini and watermelon snow

The clambake – one of my favorite courses of the evening

Clam with chorizo, corn and zucchini

Pouring the most velvety clam chowder ever


The extra bread course – with goat and cow butters

A gorgeous plate of couscous smoked with tomato, yogurt, and olives

Foie gras marinated with nepitella and blackberry

Our wine for the evening, recommended by the sommelier

Whey with fresh curds, caraway gnocchi, and spring herbs – very different yet still delicious

Lobster poached with zucchini, avocado, and amaranth

Lamb roasted with artichokes, freekah, and lovage – another favorite and eye-opening course of the evening

Chevre meridian with strawberries, pistachio, and garlic

Our server preparing an updated classic tableside

Egg cream – orange, cocoa nib, and seltzer

Cheesecake – goat cheese, chamomile, and raspberry

Chocolate sorbet with lavender, orange and Maldon sea salt – everything I love in a dessert

Cognac, of which we could enjoy as much as we wanted

Additional mini desserts

And the bookend the meal, sweet black and white cookies

An empty dining room, 1:30am

The bar


Our menu – July 16, 2012

A gift to take home – literally the best granola I’ve ever had. I’ve already tried making this at home using Humm’s own recipe but it never comes out nearly as good.

There’s been a trend lately for high-end dining chefs to explore rustic, comfort food at a friendlier price point (chalk it up to the recession or whatever you want) but there’s still something to be said about taking the time (and money) to sit down and enjoy a long meal that lets you forget about everything else. It’ll be a while before I get to return to EMP (I’d love to try the duck course that everyone raves about), but I do think that, if you manage to get the hard-won reservation, it’s definitely well worth the splurge. Thank you to Daniel Humm, the EMP kitchen, and the amazing EMP staff for a truly unforgettable meal, and to Cindy for being crazy enough to go with me and spend so much on a single meal.


Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010





























ABC Kitchen

December 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

Horribly late with this post, a birthday dinner in July for Laura and Jackie at ABC Kitchen in Flatiron, a beautifully-designed restaurant inside/adjacent to ABC Carpet and Home. Possibly the best pizza I’ve ever had in my entire life (whole wheat with mushrooms, parmesan, oregano, and a fresh farm egg), a roast carrot and avocado appetizer that made me view “salads” in a whole new light, and some really gorgeous and tasty seafood – fried, steamed, roasted, you name it. This is a great restaurant for special occasions – friendly service that doesn’t hover, gorgeous interiors and wares, excellent, fresh food that doesn’t leave you feeling grossly stuffed.

Roast carrot and avocado salad, crunchy seeds, sour cream, and citrus

Pretzel dusted calamari, marinara, mustard aioli

Fried soft-shell crab with fried basil leaves and sweet chili vinaigrette


Maine lobster special of the day

Striped bass with baby spinach, potatoes and jus

A pizza to end all pizzas

ABC Kitchen
35 E. 18th Street
New York, NY 10003

Brunch at Maialino

November 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

First, I just want to say that my thoughts go out to all those affected by Hurricane/Superstorm/Shitshow Sandy (if you’d like to make a donation to the Red Cross and relief efforts, here is the link).  In light of all the destruction, it’s been amazing to see how people have come together and persevere through such difficulty. NYC in particular, hang in there! You’re still the best city on earth.

On a more positive note, I’m continuing with restaurant posts from this summer. This time, a brunch at Danny Meyer’s Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel with some Georgetown friends who’ve relocated to New York City. We ordered three snacks to share: potato skins with pecorino and black pepper, tomato risotto croquettes and mozzarella, and fried shishito peppers with lemon. All of them were well-executed; crispy potatoes that were well seasoned, creamy, comforting croquettes, and nicely charred and blistered peppers.

I wasn’t really craving anything sweet that morning, so I went with the spaghetti alla carbonara. It’s not a typical brunch dish but it includes creamy egg yolk and bacon-y guanciale, so it still hit the right note for me.

The other entrees were simple scrambled eggs with potatoes and mixed greens, ricotta pancakes with market fruit and fresh ricotta, and the daily omelette with a garden salad.

More than anything, this was a good meal accompanied by great conversation and lots of catching up. Maialino’s atmosphere and service is really casual and friendly, with lots of natural light during the day and rustic accents, and it’s the type of place where I’d love to have brunch with my girls every weekend, a la Sex and the City.

My hopes are with the NYC restaurants, especially those downtown, that were hit particularly bad by Sandy. Know that your patrons are rooting for your recovery and look forward when you’re able to open your doors again.



2 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010

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