Ruffian & Salvation Burger

July 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

Two relatively new places that couldn’t be more different (and one that is now temporarily closed due to a fire). I’m a bit conflicted posting about Ruffian because it’s a matchbox of a place and I don’t like the idea of someone else taking up my seat but at the same time, it totally deserves the publicity and recognition. I’ve posted about West Village wine bar, Lelabar, on this blog multiple times and have been a visitor ever since I moved into the neighborhood. One of the first Lela sommeliers I got to know was Patrick – a super friendly guy who’s seriously passionate about his wine, especially anything particularly funky or strange – and when I heard he was opening his own place in the East Village, I knew it’d be a gem.

He’s assembled a great team – I know Alexis, the other sommelier, from Lelabar and the chefs, Josh and Andy, are turning out some crazy ambitious Southern French small plates in a kitchen that’s tucked right behind the bar and tinier than mine. One thing to note about Pat and Alexis is that by now, whenever I visit either Lela or Ruffian, I have no idea what I’m drinking since they know my preferences and I always defer to them…it’s an approach that’s never steered me wrong.

On this visit – Cindy and I started with a refreshing rose wine and this dreamy dish of scrambled eggs with shaved bottarga, ramps and mushrooms. Texture of the eggs was perfectly creamy and I loved the raw earthiness of the mushrooms against the briny, funky bottarga and the garlicky bite of the ramps. Seemingly simple but surprisingly complex.

Josh and Andy also had us try this slightly Asian take on a steak tartare – unfortunately I can’t remember what the other components were but I can tell you it was a lighter version compared to classic iterations and so delicious.

Here we have the octopus dish with pickled sunchokes, cilantro and a sauce made with octopus ink. The octopus was tender and I quickly became addicted to the sunchokes, which I’d never had pickled and sliced that thinly before. Chilies added some heat and a generous glug of fruity olive oil rounded out the dish.

Somehow we managed to eat even more food after all the above – below is some sliced finocchiona, a salami from Tuscany that’s heavy on the fennel, a generous wedge of soft coupole cheese (one of my favorites and not too strong), a selection of crusty bread and then more pickled sunchokes (I’m telling you, I couldn’t get enough) and pickled grapes. We had a really lovely time catching up with Pat and Alexis, meeting Josh and Andy and can’t wait to see what they turn out next. The menu is constantly changing and it’s always a new surprise every time I visit.

Much further uptown is April Bloomfield’s newest NYC place, Salvation Burger. Note that the restaurant is temporarily closed due to a kitchen fire they had at the end of May but they should be opening up again soon. If you’re ever in Midtown East and craving some satisfying, greasy food, this is definitely the place to go. We came here right before seeing Fully Committed, a totally hilarious one-man play starring Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson about the restaurant industry, and thank god we had enough time before the show to walk some of this off. We split two burgers and a giant side of fries (super crispy on outside, creamy on inside and nicely salted, just how I like them).

The Classic Burger (second photo below) was basically what you dream a Big Mac could be – a double patty burger with American cheese, some special sauce and pickles – and the Salvation Burger (third photo) had ramp butter, taleggio cheese and a whole mess of mushrooms. Both were cooked to a medium rare, super juicy that I think I used about a dozen napkins, and not too heavy handed with the garnishes, but my favorite of the two was the classic version. It’s a wonder I didn’t start snoozing during the play and I mainly credit Mr. Ferguson’s talent with keeping me awake and entertained.

Here’s hoping that Ms. Bloomfield’s team will be able to get the kitchen running again soon…there are admittedly a ton of burger joints in NYC but this one is turning out some seriously good food and the neighborhood needs an upbeat restaurant like this.



Stops at old favorites

December 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

Whew! It’s been a while. I’m finally on winter break (until forever it seems) and spending most of my days on the couch in front of the television with my laptop. Yesterday I did finally manage to leave the house to reunite with high school friends in New York City and we managed to get a lot of things done.

Jiawen and Cathy with Mario, the apartment bear

First, an obligatory trip to Shake Shack, Madison Square Park with Jiawen and Cathy because I needed to get my burger fix. Between Cathy and me, we ordered our individual single Shack burgers and then split some fries (which seemed to have crispier exteriors and creamier interiors than I remembered) and a Shack-ago dog. Cathy said she still preferred a classic hot dog with ketchup and mustard, but I actually quite like all the vegetables and celery salt, even though structurally, the hot dog becomes a very hard thing to eat with all those toppings.

Oh, how I've missed you

Madison Square Park


A beautiful Shack burger

The fat squirrels of Madison Square Park

On our way back to Jiawen’s apartment, we also stopped by nearby Eataly, which was completely packed with tourists and people doing their holiday shopping. Is the place ever not super busy? Every time I go and want to take my time and look at all the jams and spreads, cured meats, and cheeses, I lose my patience because people are constantly shuffling along and end up giving up within 10-15 minutes. I can’t even imagine waiting for a table at one of the restaurants.

Mushroom varieties at Eataly


We also dropped by Doughnut Plant, right by Jiawen’s apartment, to pick up a couple donuts: tres leches cake and pear yeast (a holiday flavor). The tres leches was indulgent as ever and still one of my favorite flavors (aside from carrot cake and peanut butter and jelly yeast, which were both gone by the time we got there), and even though the pear was quite good, the glaze was a bit too sweet for my taste.

Doughnut Plant


Tres Leches

Finally, we found our way back to Jiawen’s couch and had some time to relax before an evening of Korean food, drinking, and intense karoake. Cathy and I did, however, manage to slip out for a bit in the middle of watching The Adjustment Bureau to visit Whiskers in Wonderland at the Metropolitan Pavilion at 18th Street and 6th Avenue, where there were tons of cats (and not many dogs) looking for a new home. As expected, there was a lot of cooing and “awing” going on, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take home any cute critters this year.

Whiskers in Wonderland


Huge, huge thanks to Jiawen who arranged everything and happy holidays to everyone!

Shake Shack Snapshot

September 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

Saturday, 1:30 PM with Laura: Shake Shack, Theater District. Home of the Jelly’s Last Donut Concrete.

Double Shack burger, 'Shroom burger, fries, lemonade, and concrete

Jelly's Last Donut - vanilla custard, Doughnut Plant donuts, strawberry preserves, cinnamon sugar

End to summer

August 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

There’s still one and half weeks left before school starts up again, but summer is undeniably coming to a close. Some have already left, and I probably won’t see them for another 5-6 months or so. Others are just returning from trips abroad or finally finishing up work, and it’s really a shame that the timing all around didn’t work out better.

Yesterday, though, a group of us did manage to snag a last slice of summer bliss. After two years of discussion, we visited White Manna in Hackensack, NJ to try their no-nonsense sliders, which have had coverage in Food and Wine, Food Network, etc. And while the food was great (smothered onions in the beef, extra meaty flavor imbued from all those layers of previous grease on the griddle, soft and squishy Martin’s potato rolls) and satisfied our high expectations, friends and atmosphere added so much more.

White Manna cheeseburgers

For some odd reason, I felt a strange sense of closure, not to our friendships by any means, but just this chapter in our lives (even though I’d done the whole “graduated college, living on my own” spiel the summer before). It felt almost like one of those cheesy final scenes in movies, where, after a long trip or a huge, tumultuous conflict, two childhood buddies found themselves sitting together at the local diner and nothing else really needed to be said. Things would be ok. Different, maybe, but ok.

Visible Storage at the Met, Return to Financier

April 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m home for Easter Break this week and since my roommate Emily and her high school friend, Jayme, are staying with us, we went into the city on Thursday to make the most of the excellent weather.

Laura had yet another list of places to go for AP US History extra credit. This time, we started out at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a quest to find the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware, but unfortunately, the painting had been moved to be restored to its original frame. Luckily, a security guard recommended that we go up to visible storage where many other works were on display. Here, we came across the largest treasure trove of silver, porcelain, and ceramics that I have ever seen.

There were also many other paintings being housed in storage, such as Sargent’s famous Madame X and The Last Moments of John Brown, which I have seen in every US History textbook I’ve ever read. If that doesn’t count as a piece of US History, I don’t know what will.

Other places we visited that day were Belvedere Castle in Central Park, the Upper West Side’s Shake Shack, where I got an Upper West Slide concrete (vanilla custard, strawberry puree, banana slices, and shortbread) for the first time, and a bunch of places in the Financial District, including Trinity Church and Federal Hall.

One of our last stops was an all-time favorite bakery of mine, Financier Patisserie. Located right by the NY Federal Reserve, this place was my go-to for tartes, sacher torte, and all kinds of French pastries during my internship in New York. Laura and I split one of their signature berry tartes with almond frangipane before heading home.

Berry tart


Shake Shack and Otto

January 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Wednesday was a really good day. Anne, Maria,Tonia, and I went to the Tim Burton exhibit (photos on dessin numero 1) where we didn’t have to wait in any lines because we’d ordered timed tickets beforehand. His drawings were amazing, and there was even a letter to Johnny Depp asking him to insert the “everything’s edible except you because if i could eat you, that would be called cannibalism” line! The only gripe I had were the crowds, but I guess that could only be expected with such a popular exhibit.

Because it was way too cold to eat outside, we headed to the Upper West Side to grab some Shake Shack. On the way, we passed the Fordham Law School area, which was wonderful. Going to school there would definitely spoil me.

Shake Shack was awesome, as always. Delicious, well-seasoned burgers with a tart freshly squeezed lemonade. Even better? They had Food Network playing on their televisions, so we got to jeer at Sandra Lee combining canned ingredients while we chomped on our food. Whatever’s going on with Scripps and Cablevision better be solved soon, because I will not tolerate being parted from Food Network for very long.

Afterwards, we spent a good chunk of time in Soho, mostly on Spring Street. We checked out the crazy skeletons and bottled penis bones at Evolution (where I seriously contemplated buying a butterfly wing pendant and Tonia had an equally hard time deciding whether or not to get the beetle wing earrings), made the obligatory trip to Uniqlo, and had a good scrub down at Sabon, where I bought a lavendar apple scrub that may just be my new obsession.

Dinner was at Otto, because we wanted something light. The pizzas definitely surpassed our spaghetti alla carbonara, which I’m going to remember for next time. My favorite was definitely the prosciutto arugula, mainly because I can’t resist good prosciutto and the greens balanced out the meat’s delicious fattiness.

However, the best part of the meal was definitely the Olive Oil gelato. So creamy, so tasty. My first bite got all the sea salt sprinkled on top so that wasn’t too pleasant, but after that, sigh. The olive oil taste doesn’t really hit you until later. At first, you just taste the rich sweetness. Maria and I also ordered a tangerine sorbetto that was packed with citrusy flavor.

SO: culture, shopping, and delicious food all in one day. We traveled from midtown to the UWS to Soho, covering most of Manhattan. Can you think of a better way to spend your time?

Eatin’ Good Stuff

November 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

It’s been such a good weekend! Last night was the Maroon 5 concert and this morning, Emily and I went to the Library of Congress today to do research in the reading room, and for lunch, we went to Good Stuff Eatery, the excellent burger and milkshake place helmed by Spike Mendelsohn, of Top Chef Chicago fame.

Even though it was Saturday near Capitol Hill, the place was busy with tourists and DCers. I ordered the Colletti’s Smokehouse burger with applewood bacon, sharp Vermont cheddar, and fried Vidalio onion rings with chipotle BBQ sauce, and Emily got the turkey burger with lettuce, tomato, cheese, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. We also got accompanying strawberry and chocolate milkshakes.

The patties were well seasoned (the last thing I want is something with no salt) and cooked a medium-rare, and the buns were squishy but toasted at the same time. Surprisingly, there was no burger juice soakage into the bun. I was surprised that the fried onion ring in mine managed to stay so crispy, and if Spike ever decides to bottle that chipotle BBQ sauce, I’ll always have one in my pantry.

I loved my strawberry milkshake. At first it was a bit too dense due to the custard, but after a couple swirls with the spoon, it thinned enough to be slurped by a draw. My favorite part was the HUGE dollop of whip cream that wouldn’t disappear no matter how times I smooshed it around in my cup.

I hope we can keep this little tradition. Since I most likely won’t have classes on Fridays next semester, we’re going to try to go to Capital South once a week and get to know the neighborhood better. Who knows, maybe I’ll even work there as an intern in the spring!

Stand at Union Square

June 23, 2008 § 2 Comments

Last Friday I was in the mood for a relatively cheap burger at a restaurant that wasn’t too far from the office. A search narrowed my choice down to Stand near Union Square, which is only two stops away on the 4 train from Fulton Street.

NY Magazine recently mentioned that the restaurant recently changed its burger buns from a doughy, chewy bun to a brioche-like, fluffy bread, and though I hadn’t tried the original, I thought I’d see if the burger was up to the hype.

First though, was my honey lavendar milkshake. Stand uses gelato from the famed Il Laboratorio del Gelato in New York’s Lower East Side to make their gelato and it shows. It wasn’t extremely dense and surprisingly light given that honey and lavendar aren’t as heavy as chocolate or peanut butter to begin with. I loved the herbal undertones and the naturally sweet taste – there’s nothing artificial about this baby. Considering it’s a combination I never would have considered for a milkshake, I was impressed.

Honey lavendar milkshake

I didn’t order fries, no onion rings. I just wanted a big, fat, juicy burger plopped down in front of me that I could bite into. The classic burger I ordered landed with some homemade ketchup (tangy and a bit sweet, but I couldn’t really care less) and looked quite amazing. The bun certainly looked light and soft, and the patty, huge. Oh but what I loved most of all were the glorious juices that spewed out the moment I sunk my teeth into the beauty, probably due to the 70-30 lean-to-fat ratio that Pat La Frieda uses. Oh yeah, the bun was excellent. It held up to the burger and still managed to be all fluffy in my mouth. To be honest though, I had forgotten all about the bun controversy while wiping my hands from all the burger juice.

The Classic

However, despite the abundance of burger juice, the flavor was lacking. Maybe they hadn’t seasoned the meat as much as they should have, but there was definitely something missing that the Shake Shack always delivers, and I’m not talking about the Shack sauce. My taste buds just didn’t have that happy-dance reaction they usually have when I bite into a Double Shack Burger. It was still good though, considering I didn’t have to wait an hour for it, but S.S. still comes out on top in the burger division.


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