January 18, 2016 § Leave a comment
Super delayed post on a trip to San Francisco and my first time in California (gasp). As expected, a lot of my activities were planned around meals and restaurants and, for dinner the night of my arrival, we went to Traci des Jardins’ French-influenced restaurant, Jardiniere. Being from New York, I’d decided to walk there from my hotel (only about 30 minutes or so), not realizing that my route would take me through the sketchy-ass Tenderloin neighborhood, but I managed to get there in one piece (albeit, slightly shocked by the sight of multiple people shooting up heroin out in the open).
The restaurant itself was beautiful and maybe a little bit fancier than I’d anticipated, and we started out with some raw oysters with all the typical fixings, delectable little bites of sea urchin, lardo and zesty meyer kosho on crostini and a colorful salad of juicy heirloom tomatoes with crisp romaine, fried bread and crescenza (a soft, creamy and very delicate cow’s milk cheese). All the hype that I’d heard about California’s fresh and amazing produce rang true and I started getting super excited about tucking into a big meal after a morning of traveling.
For our next course, we ordered an absolutely killer gnocchi dish with lamb sugo and cabbage, which I absolutely fell in love with, the duck breast and confit with sweet corn and pumpkin seed mole and a side of creamy polenta and goat cheese. It turned out to be a ton of food (I still felt stuffed the next morning) but everything was delicious. You could tell that the pasta was made from scratch (so fluffy) and the duck was perfectly seasoned and prepared a nice medium rare. The polenta also had a ton of corn-y flavor and I appreciated the tangy accent from the goat cheese. Let’s just say that by the end of the meal, after a bottle of red wine, I was certainly succumbing to the charms of the West Coast.
January 5, 2016 § Leave a comment
Lately, one of my favorite restaurants in the city has been Toro, the giant Spanish restaurant owned by Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette in the Meatpacking District, right next to the West Side Highway. They manage to do everything right here (which is impressive considering their extensive and varied menu) and the service is absolutely awesome. There have been many instances where I’ll go with a few friends after a late night at work, grab seats at the bar and order a bunch of tapas along with whatever wine/cider/cocktail the bartenders recommend that evening. Sometimes we end it after a couple bites but most nights (especially if it’s during the weekend or a special occasion), we’ll order multiple rounds and even partake in trying the porron, a traditional Catalan drinking vessel, or bone marrow luge. I even decided to have my birthday dinner here. Below are some of my favorite dishes after multiple visits and menu changes. If you ever have a chance to go, I seriously recommend it for a fun, casual night out.
Classic jamon serrano – rosier and less salty than its Italian counterpart, prosciutto
Grilled corn with alioli, lime, espelette seasoning and aged cheese – super rich in the best possible way
Fideos with clams and peppers (I actually like this broken-noodle dish more than the paella below)
Grilled razor clams with piquillo pepper, garlic and lemon – briny with a touch of acidity and a good amount of meatiness
Caviar, sea urchin and quail egg with jamon iberico – ultimate indulgence in a single spoon and understandably, my friend Vanessa’s favorite dish of them all
Bacalao (salt cod) fritters with tempura lemon rings and aioli – a classic and exemplar of anything fried
A sea urchin crudo special with shiso strongly recommended by our favorite bartender, Ken
Seared foie gras with seckle pear and marcona almonds
Paella with shrimp, mussels, clams, chorizo and chicken, complete with the required crispy and slightly burnt soccarat on the bottom
Mushrooms, cooked on the plancha (a sort of super-hot flattop), with a beautiful farm egg
Roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad, beef cheek marmalade and grilled bread. This is probably my favorite (and one of the most gluttonous) dishes at Toro. It’s well-balanced between the fatty marrow and the tart and peppery salad AND it enables you to do the bone marrow luge (where you pour some dry sherry down the scooped out bone and take it like a shot).
October 31, 2015 § Leave a comment
Dinner with Bert, Cindy and Artemis at Marea a few months back (so behind on posting) included some seriously tasty food. Dainty amuse bouches, compliments of the chef, and some cocktails to start (Bert’s is the girliest looking of the three).
Starters of lobster with burrata (my favorite despite the weird combo of seafood and dairy), crab cakes with artichokes and seasonal soft-shelled crab.
For our pasta course, we all opted for the justifiably famous fusilli with bone marrow and baby octopus in red wine sauce. Always so satisfying and perfectly balanced.
Main courses included the giant seared scallops with potatoes and morels (again, one of my favorites from the last time I visited), roasted halibut with nettles and the most enormous portion of rack of lamb I’ve ever seen.
We were so stuffed by the time dessert came around that I didn’t even take photos but that didn’t stop us from first going to the bar at the NoMad Hotel and helping ourselves to some Manhattans and then even more wine at Lelabar. Such a fun evening with a great group of people.
June 13, 2015 § Leave a comment
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.
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.
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
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
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
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!