May 8, 2016 § Leave a comment
Sometimes on lazy Sundays, I really love walking up through Union Square and wandering through ABC Carpet & Home, which has kitchen supplies, decor, carpets, furniture, everything you’d need to decorate your dream home if you had no budget. Yes, the goods can get insanely expensive but the presentations always looks so goddamn gorgeous that I can’t help fantasizing about buying up all of their ceramics, objets d’art and wall decor. The store is also wonderful because of the well-known farm-to-table restaurant next door by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, which is beautifully appointed with ABC Carpet & Home wares and offers a lot of vegetable-heavy dishes. It’s usually difficult to get reservations on short notice, but one night, Alice and I managed to get a table and dig into some of the lighter fare they had to offer.
Crab toast with lemon aioli with blood orange negroni and clementine mojito. A nice start that was a surprisingly large portion.
One of my favorite dishes from last time: roast carrot and avocado salad with seeds, sour cream and citrus. It may look like a mess of greens but it’s incredibly flavorful and full of different textures – crunchy seeds and croutons, smooth and creamy avocado, toothsome carrots spiced with cumin. Good for you but delicious too! I’ve tried to replicate this dish at home but there’s always something missing in my version.
Another favorite from my last visit: the insane mushroom pizza with parmesan, oregano and a farm egg – completely meatless but very satisfying and perfectly presented, with a runny bright yellow yolk and crispy, charred crust. We also ordered the roasted hake with crispy potatoes, broccoli and red chile garlic sauce, which was super delicate and fell apart with a fork and had a nice kick thanks to the sauce. All in all, a really lovely and light low-key meal in a beautiful venue.
April 30, 2016 § Leave a comment
My favorite restaurant, without a doubt, is Momofuku Ko in the East Village, and lately, I’ve been lucky enough to visit multiple times. Everyone there is so warm and friendly (they remember your name and your favorite dishes by your second visit), the food that chef Sean Alex Gray and his hard-working team are putting forth is as creative as any I’ve ever had (and absolutely gorgeous on the plate, without being too fussy) and the interiors and details at the new location on Extra Place are as particular and unique as the food that’s coming out. All of the accolades and praise they’ve received since their relocation and revamp are well deserved (though the only downside is that it’s now harder to get those already super-coveted counter seats). Below are the dishes (note some are older and might no longer be on the ever-changing menu) that I’ve had recently, some in their final form and some in development. One cool thing about multiple visits is seeing how specific dishes are conceived, initially executed and then refined over and over again until they’ve reached their final iteration, which still sometimes undergo changes depending on ingredients and season. That being said, I’ve never had a dish, work in progress or otherwise, that’s disappointed. Below are some standout dishes…but because I’m lazy and it already took me forever to get this post up in the first place, all you get are minimal notes from what I remember:
Bites of potato waffle, pommes soufflees, lobster paloise and millefeuille. Super high end finger food. The lobster paloise, which I’ve had multiple times now, is my favorite of any of their amuse-bouches offered so far.
Madai – consomme, shiso and finger lime…a relatively newer dish that’s now one of my favorites for its pure flavors. Lately, they’ve been serving it with sea bass instead of madai, which is a bit firmer and stands up really well.
Raw scallop with tonburi (a Japanese herb known as “caviar of the fields”) and citron. Here, paired with Kaika “Tobindori Shizuku Daiginjo” from Togichi, Japan.
An old favorite and Ko staple: uni with chickpea and hozon. I love everything about this dish – the colors, the slightly different textures and the olive oil and sea salt that make everything pop.
Razor clams with apple and basil seeds, paired with two 2014 wines from Peter Lauer. Stunning.
Oh my god…this. Caviar with potatoes that would make Joel de Robuchon cry they’re so buttery and addictive and hidden fermented radish on the bottom to cut through all that richness, served with sourdough bread and cultured butter and Tarlant champagne. Just look at those velvety potatoes and the way they’re draped in the bowl. Ugh.
Monkfish with a sauce of its liver and a sauce of poblano. Love the heavily white presentation accented by the green (also I need to figure out where the dishware came from). I was never really interested in monkfish prior but damn if this didn’t change my mind. So tender and ingenious to serve it with its own liver. Now I try to see if anywhere else has a better version. So far…no.
Crack pasta. Actually, pyramidi with broccoli and aged cheddar with just a little black truffle shaved on top. Who knew broccoli pasta could be so exciting? If they figured out a way to freeze and package this, I’d eat nothing else, carbs be damned. Paired with Andre et Mireille Tissot Cremant du Jura “Indigene” NV rinsed with Tissot “Chateau-Chalon,” Vin Jaune, both from Jura, France.
Venison with kale and olive berry, paired with 2011 Chateau Moulin de Tricot from Margaux, Bordeaux.
Another Ko favorite: foie gras with lychee, pine nut brittle and riesling jelly. Don’t really have anything to say about this other than it’s always wonderful.
Ko’s version of a creamsicle – carrot cardamom and meringue, paired with a 2013 pear cider from Cidrerie de Vulcain from Switzerland.
Chocolate cake with mint and fernet branca, paired with Zucca and root beer (?). Not typically one for desserts but the above creamsicle and this were just sweet enough without being cloying. Also, any dessert with fernet is OK by me.
And on visits that followed, some new dishes included:
Happy Valley beef with accoutrements I can’t recall that was perfectly cooked and beautiful to look at. I think the green is some kind of parsley puree. Ko also started my obsession with MUD Australia ceramics that has by now cost me a pretty penny.
New amuse-bouches: fried chicken oysters with dried honey mustard (take that, Wendy’s!), potato waffles, Ko Cheez-its and a shot of kimchi granita to offset all that fried goodness. On a following visit, we ordered another 6 pieces because we are crazy and the people there are awesome.
Lobster “bouillabaisse” with new potatoes and aioli. Just look at those colors. That sauce is one of the most shellfish-y (in a good way) sauces I’ve ever had and each time, I use their new flatbread to mop it all up.
Duck pie and greens. Can’t imagine the technique and time that goes into making this dish come out as great as it did but it was gone within 30 seconds.
An early version of the chocolate mousse and olive oil ice cream dish that’s now on the counter menu. Again, slightly bitter and barely sweet, with a nice contrast from the bergamot sauce drizzled on top.
Happy Valley beef again with a fried potato churro. That’s right. Potato. Churro. Think on this visit we had way too much wine (including a 1997 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino…life was not bad that day) so when I was hungover the next morning, 50 more of those churros delivered to my bed would’ve been really nice.
So if those above photos don’t make you go straight to the Momofuku Ko website and try to make a reservation (by the way, they’re actually open for lunch now as well), then I don’t know what will…Just do it and I can guarantee you’ll have a meal of a lifetime.
Paris, Part 1
April 17, 2016 § Leave a comment
Vanessa and I recently went on a dream trip to Paris and by the end, neither of us wanted to come back. Both of us had visited before so our main objectives this time around were simply eating and drinking as much great food and wine as possible, wandering aimlessly a la flaneur, meeting cute French guys and getting in some serious shopping, all of which we handily accomplished and then some.
We stayed in a seriously gorgeous AirBnb 2 bedroom apartment on the left bank in the St. Germain area, a neighborhood I fell in love with the last time I visited, full of charming boutiques and bistros and of course…the department store, Le Bon Marche. Assuming that I get to visit Paris more regularly in the future, I would stay here again and again.
We had our first lunch at Cafe Varenne, just down the street from our apartment and a sentimental favorite from my last time in Paris. A bottle of red wine (by the way, we couldn’t get over how inexpensive great red wine was in Paris…it made NYC prices look like absolute gouging), steak and frites and we were super happy campers, despite the lack of sleep.
Dinner at the super hip, draped-in-velvet Hotel Costes…where you could smoke on the terrace and all the servers were beautiful. We shared a bottle of champagne and then I had a lighter dinner of sweet, freshly grilled langoustines with some greens.
Another epic meal of the trip at L’Avant Comptoir, the standing-only bar next to the famous bistro, Le Comptoir. We had SO much fun here just drinking and eating small bites and shocking the bartender, Baptiste, at how much we could stuff down our gullets over the course of about six (yes, that’s right, six) hours. I really loved the communal Bordier butter (Vanessa became obsessed) and bread as well as the giant jar of cornichons (NYC DOH would have fainted). Also…there were a lot of cute, friendly French men here which may have contributed to why we stayed so long…
Menu items hanging from the ceiling
Some of the 16 dishes (again…it was an epic meal) that we ordered over the course of several hours – duck sausage hot dog, blood sausage with brandied apples, shishito peppers, giant slab of Bordier butter, gratineed scallop and oh…just our third bottle of wine…
One of the most special meals we had was a lunch at L’Arpege, a 3-Michelin starred restaurant with a focus on vegetables (which we were actually thankful for after our meat-heavy binge at L’Avant Comptoir). We started with more champagne (a habit we eagerly adopted during the rest of our trip) and the lightest black pepper and onion pastry.
Some other highlights of the tasting menu were the perfectly cooked Dover sole with charred cabbage and their version of bouillabaisse. Such bright and clean flavors and again, surprisingly light. Just look at those pops of color!
Some non-food related activities: a visit to Sacre Coeur in the Montmartre neighborhood and then seeing Dita von Teese (one of my ultimate girl crushes) perform a seriously amazing show at the famous club, Crazy Horse.
Stayed tuned for more in the next post!
Eats around town
March 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
Blue Ribbon Sushi at Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place
Favorite dishes – bombolotti all’Amatriciana (sauce of spicy tomato and guanciale) and roasted sunchokes with almonds and brown butter – at Maialino during a leisurely lunch while between jobs
Introducing Laura to Toro‘s grilled corn and bone marrow (look at those gorgeous colors!)
Sadelle‘s pick up (sesame bagel with smoked Scottish salmon, chive cream cheese, red onion, tomato, capers). I was obsessed with their bagels for a while but now the lines have gotten too long and I’m pretty sure they upped their prices.
Matcha latte at Chalait – gorgeously prepared but not sure I’ll be getting on the matcha trend train any time soon
Spaghetti alla vongole at Rafele Ristorante, my parents’ favorite restaurant whenever they come to visit (though we introduced them to OTTO the last time they were here so now they may have a new favorite Italian place)
Lovely Sunday brunch with Bohee at the beautiful Untitled at the Whitney
Booze-free dinner at Balthazar with Cindy (clearly not skimping on French fries though)
Delicious and super spicy spread at Pok Pok lunch (finally tried it after years of wanting to go) with Wes
More Sadelle’s – this time dining in with the full-on smoked fish tower and endless bagels (much better than just picking up)
Empellon Push Project
March 20, 2016 § Leave a comment
Photos from this winter’s Push Project (super behind on posting), an amazing and delicious collaboration between Albert Adria (of the now-closed El Bulli) and Paco Mendez of Hoja Santa in Barcelona and Alex Stupak of Empellon Cocina. It featured a great mix of Mexican and Spanish food, traditional and super-modern, and tons of booze (let’s just say we started and ended with shots of mezcal). Such a treat and afterwards, I made a note to add Stupak’s Kitchen Table at Empellon Cocina to my list of reservations to make.
Wellfleet blood clams (a little bit strange looking but delicious and briny) with frozen sangrita and the aforementioned mezcal shot. Woo!
Pickled vegetables, crunchy hoja santa (literally tasted like a crunchy, slightly sweet leaf), cantina olives (an El Bulli classic…spherified olives that exploded in our mouths) and corn jicara with pipicha oil and chipotle with a giant, refreshing saffron margarita
Smooth and silky avocado gazpacho with a whole bottle of Allende beer (we ended up having two each actually)
Black truffle quesadilla
Mini Pueblan-style sandwich with fried abalone (a tiny po’boy)
Mixed seafood cocktail with spicy ketchup
Red onion x-ni-pek
Papantla-style pipian with Maine lobster (yes, we each had half a lobster for this course – so pretty and so good) paired with a cider
Pork ribs in Grandma Flor’s adobo (one of the more traditional dishes, but also one of my favorites)
Mole with sweet potato and fruit with a red wine
Milk-soaked sponge cake with kabocha squash and pecan ice with…sherry? I can’t remember and honestly, at this point in the dinner, with all the different kinds of alcohol we’d already had, I was feeling pretty lit.
Corn, chocolate and cajeta (the perfect dessert…not too sweet)
Chicory flan with duck egg yolk and orange sorbet with sal de gusanos
March 3, 2016 § Leave a comment
From a while back: dinner at The Modern at MOMA with CGR girls. I’d been to The Modern only once before and that was a few years back in the Bar Room when Gabriel Kreuther was still chef and I couldn’t drink because I was under 21, so it was nice to see the improvements they’ve made since Abram Bissell took the helm. In the more formal dining room, where we were, you can choose between three, four or seven courses so we decided to go with four. Service throughout was warm and attentive and Chase, the sommelier, provided some really great wine recommendations. It was a seriously special night out and so much fun to catch up with girlfriends I see in the office every day without actually talking about work. Some of these dishes have since dropped from the menu due to the season so apologies for not being able to remember the details or other diners’ dishes.
Amuse-bouche to start
Complimentary butternut squash soup with truffle foam (one of my favorite dishes of the night) and a glass of Billecart-Salmon champagne (well, 2 actually)
Bread course – pretzel croissants and rolls…I think we asked for seconds of these.
My first course: lobster and beet salad with creamy sorrel dressing. Super tender and sweet lobster that matched well with the more tangy sauce. Chase recommended a bottle of 1992 Vouvray – very smooth with a great acidity and a nice finish.
My second course: roasted foie gras with lemons, red endive and quince. I wasn’t about to pass up a chance to eat foie and this was a stellar take. There was sweetness from the quince, slight bitterness from the endive and acidity from the lemon and then when paired with 1989 Sauternes (my birth year!) as recommended by our server, I was in heaven.
Another second course dish (unfortunately I can’t recall what it was).
Third course: roasted beef and bone marrow with truffle jus, new potato and radishes paired with 1998 Cahors. Earthy and, surprisingly, not too heavy considering it’s essentially meat and potatoes.
Other third courses: one, I believe, to be seabass and another, duck.
Mango + coconut shumai as a nice palate cleanser.
My dessert: sweet corn custard with blackberry and mozzarella sorbet. Any dessert with corn, I can’t really resist, and I was also intrigued by the mozzarella sorbet, which turned out to be very subtle. Chase also offered complimentary glasses of Chartreuse to go with our dessert, a very nice touch.
Another chocolate dessert and the cheese course for Vanessa, who like me, usually doesn’t like super rich sweets.
Since this initial visit, I’ve been back to the Bar Room a couple times and though the dishes are different and the setting is a bit more casual, execution and service were still so on point. I’d highly recommend the dining room for special occasions and the bar room for more impromptu visits, especially if you’re just looking to get a couple bites to eat (the crab fritters were super tasty) and trying some of the stellar cocktails.
January 28, 2016 § Leave a comment
My last dinner in San Francisco took place at industry favorite and late night spot, Nopa. Multiple people had recommended it to me (both recent visitors and locals) and after a super fun but tiring day at a 49-ers game (my first NFL game ever!) in the brand new Levi’s Stadium and a nice long nap, I was ready to eat a ton of delicious food. We managed to get some seats at the bar after a half hour wait around 10 p.m. I ordered a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shirdoo got one of their whisky cocktails and we started with their fusilli with lamb sugo, scallions and toasted fennel. Comfort on a plate…so warm and flavorful and perfect for a chilly evening.
We also got the wood oven-roasted mackerel with pickled beets, egg salad, radishes and rye toast, which was my favorite dish of the night. Again, I am a sucker for mackerel and this was a really nice version that reminded me of traditional offerings at your classic New York Jewish delis. The skin was slightly charred and crispy and the meat lightly cooked and complemented by the pickles and rye. Being a total potato-whore, I also really enjoyed the french fries with ketchup and red pepper feta aioli but didn’t really pay much attention given how good our other dishes were.
Last dish of the night was also a show-stopper: grilled squab with marinated potatoes and Mediterranean salad. Seriously beautiful to look at and served with all the nasty, innard-y (and yummy) bits of the bird. The flavors from the accompanying salad were also really bright and fresh, with a slight sweetness from the pomegranate seeds. We finished our meal with a couple glasses of dry sherry that the bartender recommended (service, by the way, was outstanding throughout the night) and left around midnight super full and sleepy (will also note that the restaurant was still buzzing when we were leaving). A wonderful ending to my first time in California and I will definitely be back soon.
January 26, 2016 § Leave a comment
Girls’ night at John Dory Oyster Bar, where we loaded up on the lobster with tomalley vinaigrette, Parker House rolls and tons of raw oysters
A stop at Rouge et Blanc for a low-key dinner at the bar. Below are the Vietnamese beef cheeks with green papaya, rice cakes and roasted enoki mushrooms, an old favorite.
Charlie Bird for a late Saturday lunch
Cahill dinner at Polo Bar. Definitely don’t think you’d be missing out by not going, the high prices reflect the ambiance and pretentiousness more than the quality of the food or wine. If you’re looking to do a large format steak dinner (with much better service), I’d recommend Minetta Tavern or Bowery Meat Company instead, both of which are still pricey but not as ridiculous as here and so much better generally.