Pasta tasting at Babbo

December 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

A second visit to Babbo during the early fall, but this time to sample their pasta offerings and wine pairings. So delicious (the casunzei and the garganelli were probably my favorite dishes of the night) and so nice to ignore work for an evening:

Black tagliatelle with charred corn and castelmagno paired with Acari e Danesi, Dosaggio Zero NV

Casunzei with poppy seeds paired with Bastianich, Ribolla Gialla 2011

Garganelli with Funghi Trifolati paired with Crivelli, “Collina La Mora” Barbera d’Asti 2013

Agnolotti al Pomodoro paired with La Mozza, “I perazzi” Morellino di Scansano 2013

 

Pappardelle Bolognese paired with Masciarelli “Marina Cvetic” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010

Olive oil cake and gelato paired with Santa Vittoria, Vin Santo Valdichiana 2009

The tasting menu at Semilla

December 12, 2015 § 1 Comment

Had a really lovely and vegetable-heavy dinner at the intimate, 18-seat Semilla in Brooklyn (yes, I traveled all the way out to BK) a few months back that surprised and lived up to all of the hype it’s been receiving since it opened. 10 courses with beverage pairings in an intimate setting with friendly, open staff and good Cahill company.

Tomato gazpacho with peaches, rat tail radishes and black olives paired with Cremant d’Alsace, Dirler-Cade, 2012 from Alsace, France. I’d just been telling Chris and Wes that I don’t really like fruit in savory dishes but this cold soup proved me wrong. So flavorful and clean. I also don’t like olives that much and was crazy about them in this dish.

Tomato salad with cucumbers and scallops and stuffed tomato with ricotta and basil with Dupont cidre, bouche brut from Normandy, France. I didn’t get a photo of the cute stuffed tomato but it was pure summer in a bowl and one of the most memorable bites of the night.

Sweet corn chawanmushi with matsutake mushrooms with Grimm, Rainbow Dome, from New York. Perfect balance of sweet and richness, with lots of umami and unctuousness.

Roasted eggplant with pepper leaves and grapes with Gamay, Les Chamins de Traverse, Bachelard, 2013, from Beaujolais, France. The most distinct characteristic of this course was the heavy smoke.

Bread course of Anson Mill’s grits sourdough with Cowbella butter and buttermilk…which I could not stop eating. Buttermilk with butter is a genius idea.

Tomato tart with Feints Cuvee Zero, Ruth Lewandowski, 2013, California/Utah. Also deceivingly simple but everyone really loved this dish. I have no idea what was in the crust but it reminded me of a Cheez-it (my favorite childhood snack) and was kind of mind-boggling to have it paired with floral shiso.

Lobster mushrooms with corn and mole with Chenin Blanc, Els Bassots, Escoda Sanahuja, 2013, Conca de Barbera, Spain.

Another reminder of childhood – peaches, saffron & bitter almond. Growing up in a Chinese family, the only dessert we’d ever serve (other than straight up fruit) was almond jello that came in a packet served with fruit cocktail. Think of this as a highly refined, delicious version.

Tarragon profiterole with wild blueberry and buttermilk with Chinato Americano, Vergano, from Piemonte, Italy. To be honest, I wasn’t crazy about the tarragon/anise-y element but it was still a nice end to a meal that surpassed expectations and showed how creative cooking with vegetables can be (we really did not miss the meat at all). Would definitely visit again, especially since chefs Jose Ramirez-Ruiz and Pamela Yung change the menu according to the seasons.

Costata

November 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

Had a great catch up dinner with Tim, Sebastian and Christine at Michael White’s Italian steakhouse, Costata, in Soho. I always enjoy eating at two of his other restaurants, Marea and Osteria Morini, so had high hopes for this and wasn’t disappointed. We decided to share everything, starting with the heirloom tomato and burrata salad (this was during late summer when they were at their juiciest and most flavorful), the fusilli alla convivio with pork shoulder ragu, pomodoro and robiolina and the garganelli alla fiamma with peas, con speak and truffle cream (there is usually a similar dish on the menu at Osteria Morini). Amazing, amazing, amazing. The pastas at any of Chef White’s places never fail to satisfy and my favorite was the fusilli, which was cooked perfectly al dente and nicely balanced between the rich ragu, the slight sweetness of the simple pomodoro sauce and tangy creaminess of the robiolina cheese. Sometimes, when I’m at home and feel like splurging on delivery food, I order this dish on Caviar with some creamed spinach and it feels like such a treat. It was good that we’d ordered the tomato salad, which was a lovely, lighter compliment to the much richer pastas.

For our main course, we shared everything again and it turned out to be the perfect amount of food – not too much that there was a lot leftover but still pretty gluttonous. We ordered the enormous, beautiful Costata, a 40 day dry aged 44oz tomahawk ribeye, with the bearnaise, salsa verde and creamy horseradish sauces and then two sides, the creamed spinach and french fries. Everything was so well done – the beef was a perfectly cooked medium-rare with a slight bit of funk thanks to the aging (and flecked with sea salt, which makes a huge difference IMHO), all of the sauces were super tasty and I actually really liked the salsa verde since it was refreshing and lighter than the others. The sides, especially the creamed spinach, were great takes on classic steakhouse sides. Pair that with a killer bottle(s) of Brunello di Montalcino and I was in heaven. I’ve had a few large format beef dishes (Minetta Tavern’s cote de boeuf, Bowery Meat Company’s chateaubriand, etc.) but this was a great version and would be something really fun to order for a birthday dinner or when your parents are visiting (and paying).

We really got to take our time eating the ribeye and sides (service was super friendly and never hovered over us) and actually had interest in some light dessert by the time our table was cleared. We got the affogato (freshly brewed espresso with ramazotti amaro and vanilla gelato) and then a trio of flavor-packed sorbets – lemon-basil, which was my favorite and perfectly tart and herbaceous, blueberry-limoncello (another standout) and strawberry. A nice, low-key dessert to a super satisfying meal.

The Clocktower

November 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

Sometime in August, Cindy and I had a date at newly opened restaurant, The Clocktower, by Stephen Starr.  It’s located in EDITION Hotel right by Madison Square Park and helmed by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton, who leans toward seasonally-inspired (though it seems like no one intentionally does out-of-season cooking these days anyway) contemporary food with British influences.  You enter the dimly lit hotel lobby and then go up a flight of stairs, leading to three different dining rooms, a billiards room and a room with a bar, all sumptuously decorated with works of art covering almost every inch of the walls. This is definitely a great place to bring a date – it looks super fancy and might seem a bit stuffy at first, but the service is warm and very helpful when you ask them for recommendations (food or wine).

We started with some bread, right out of the oven, and cultured butter, a hand chopped steak tartare au poivre with roasted bone marrow, sourdough, pickled artichokes and mustard leaves (nicely balanced with fattiness from the marrow and zing from the pickles) and finally, uni risotto with peekytoe carb and bottarga. The dishes were all well executed and I fell in love with the uni risotto – comforting and luxurious but not too heavy for a starter. I could have maybe used a different textural element (some crunch on top?) and slightly more seasoning but that’s mainly me just being a little nitpicky.

For her main, Cindy ordered the beef wellington with carrots and potatoes gratin, which looked absolutely amazing and a nice medium-rare, and I got the classic Long Island duck with sauce l’ orange, fennel, endive and salt baked turnips. These were pretty substantial portions and I liked that the sauce in my dish was not overly sweet, which can often happen with orange sauce, and the breast pieces were perfectly cooked for my taste. All of this washed down with a round of cocktails and then a bottle of smoky red wine, and Cindy and I were happy campers, ready to walk all the back to the Village from Madison Square Park.

A second time at Marea

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.

Out and about

October 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

Family dim sum at Chinatown classic, Jing Fong:

Drinks at Dead Rabbit right by the office:

More dim sum, this time while working from home and ordered from Nom Wah:

A lunch of white wine and fresh, grilled seafood at Via Carota before my trip to Croatia:

Square pizza at Harry’s Italian as my first meal back in the U.S. after Yacht Week:

Simple summer meal at home with tomatoes and basil from the Union Square Greenmarket, Murray’s Cheese ricotta and Blue Ribbon country bread:

Late-night drunken eats at Crif Dogs on St. Mark’s:

Ordering in Xi’an Famous Foods for Laura’s birthday meal:

The #1 at Black Seed Bagels in Nolita (so good):

Via Carota in Late Summer

September 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

From an impromptu dinner at the Via Carota bar sometime in late summer:

Juicy, fresh heirloom tomatoes with bottarga and scallions; thinly sliced beef carpaccio with porcini mushrooms, sharp parmesan and black truffles

Garlic scapes with grilled polenta and pancetta, something that would be equally great for breakfast (maybe with the addition of a fried egg)

Two classics – the fried rabbit with rosemary and garlic and the pappardelle with wild boar ragu, a killer pasta dish

Beautifully set panna cotta with olive oil, sea salt and macerated sour cherries – a perfect dessert with great texture and not too much sugar

Our view from the beautiful bar

 

The Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle

August 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

In early July, I was lucky enough to take part in an event called the Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle, a one-time only dinner where 37 of the world’s top chefs switched restaurants (and lives) for a single night. We wouldn’t even find out which chef drew Momofuku Ko (the venue we chose – other NYC restaurants included Mission Chinese Food and Blanca) from the lottery until the night of the dinner itself but I had chosen Ko out of the three New York locations due to its awesome interior and at-the-counter dining format. However, on the day of, some early sleuthing – Gelinaz had provided a posting wall for each restaurant and there were some hints (rainbow cookies from Carbone, red-white-green lasagna components) posted the morning of the event – as well as a too-conveniently timed Instagram post at Union Square Greenmarket had Chris, my co-diner, and me freaking out that it might just be Massimo Bottura, chef at Osteria Francescano in Modena, #2 restaurant on this year’s San Pellegrino’s best restaurants list.

Lo and behold, when we finally arrived at Ko, we were greeted with an enormous wheel of 27 month old Parmigiano Reggiano, a bottle of Massimo’s proprietary Villa Manadori Balsamico 2014 and refreshing spice-infused pink grapefruit and campari cocktails. And because I am lazy, below are photos of each course with just whatever notes I can recall months later but needless to say, it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of a meal chock full of intriguing, beautiful and above all, seriously delicious, food and Massimo was as charming, funny and warm as he seems on Chef’s Table (which I highly recommend you go and watch, available on Netflix):

Signed menu and personalized place settings

Massimo explaining his approach to the menu for the night and showing a component of his lasagna course

Corn off the Cob in Textures and Temperatures,
paired with Shimaoka Shuzo ‘Izumi’ from Yamahai, Junmai, Gunma, Japan
the essence of summer and so rich and flavorful

Wylie Dufresne of the dearly departed WD-50 joining us to explain his course, “Shrimp & Grits a la Wylie”

His “shrimp and grits”,
paired with Dom Perignon 2004

One of my favorite courses of the night: Naples to New York passing through Hokkaido,
paired with Villa Bucci Riserva 2010 from Marche, Italy,
pasta tossed in the richest uni sauce with smoked clams to evoke spaghetti alla carbonara and black-out good

The famous lasagna dish: Spaghetto wants to be the Crunchy Part of Lasagna with Bone Marrow and Bolognese
paired with Punta Crena 2013 from Liguria, Italy,
evoked the highly coveted corner piece of the lasagna which Massimo said was prized among children in Italy but ramped up with fatty, fatty marrow

Plating the lasagna with his trusty lieutenant, Taka

Beautiful Sonic Disco of Love and Hate at the Gate of Hell Painting with Wicked Pools of Glorious Color and Psychedelic Spin-Painted Lamb, Not Flame Grilled
paired with J.F. Mugnier 2006 from Burgundy, France
Yes, that is the name of the dish (the inspiration was art by Damien Hirst) and yes, it was as amazing to eat as it was to look at.

Massimo plating the Salad in Bloom course

Salad in Bloom
paired with Acqua Panna (a.k.a., fancy water) from Tuscany, Italy
Perfect palate cleanser and possibly the first dessert salad ever. Loved sommelier Jordan Salcito’s explanation for choosing water as the pairing and it made perfect sense.

Shaved Foie Gras, Three Cherries…Three Acidities
paired with Vollenweider 2008 from Mosel, Germany
Massimo’s take on Ko’s famous foie gras dish with pine nut brittle and Riesling gelee
(I actually liked his version more than the original thanks to the candied almonds and tartness of the cherries =X)

Oops I Broke the Cannolo as an Apple Pie
paired with Marco de Bartoli from Sicily, Italy
a mash-up of cannoli and apple pie, bringing together the best of American and Italian desserts

The super talented and hard working brigade who put up such an amazing meal

North wants to be South
A super refined version of pizza that we couldn’t get enough of!

All of the beverage pairings from the night along with Massimo’s book, “Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef”

Back to the NoMad

July 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

Visited the NoMad for the second time back in late May and had an even better experience than the first! Started with the fruits de mer “le grand plateau”, a beautiful selection of prepared raw seafood and the chicken liver mousse with pickles and rye bread, which was a favorite from the previous time. At this point in our meal, we got to meet Becky Quan (!), one of the NoMad pastry chefs who I’d spoken with online after my first post on the NoMad and who brought out their highly addictive potato-onion-caraway bread and butter. Such a small world! And the in-person introduction made the rest of our meal even more fun and memorable.

We then progressed to the mackerel cured with buttermilk, peas and nasturtium, which looked absolutely stunning on the plate and tasted so bright and clean. I hadn’t really eaten much mackerel before but since this meal, I’ve actually ordered it more often when on the menu because this dish left such a great impression (and only a few other versions have been as good). We also ordered the foie gras with rhubarb, celery and pistachio, which had everything you could possibly want in a foie dish. There was creamy and smooth against crunch, sweet and tart against fatty and herbaceous. So predictable of me but I really enjoyed this dish (and I dare anyone else not to). Our sommelier of the night also gave us a great wine recommendation – a Sicilian red with dry ripe fruit notes and hints of spice and tobacco – that paired well with all our courses and never overwhelmed.

For our main dish, we ordered the roast chicken for two (duh). Just as great as the first time – the combination of black truffles and (more) foie is so heady and I can never understand how they manage to keep the breast meat so juicy. And that “stuffing” of dark meat was just as outrageous and rich as I remembered.

For our dessert, we ordered the milk and honey with shortbread, brittle and ice cream and were also surprised with a complimentary strawberry cheese cake dessert courtesy of Becky Quan, Pastry Chef. While I loved both, I preferred the classic and simpler milk and honey, which had nice savory elements as well, which worked out perfectly because Ameya had basically finished the strawberry cheesecake by the time I looked up again from my plate. Can’t say enough how much we enjoyed our dinner here (thanks not only to Becky but also to James, our wonderful server who answered all of our questions and even shared the name of the artist who crafted all of the NoMad’s beautiful ceramics that I’d been obsessing over throughout the course of our meal). I’m already dreaming of the next time!

Also, even if you’re not able to stop by for a meal, I would highly recommend the NoMad bars (I like the Elephant Bar that’s connected to the restaurant itself but there’s also a separate, larger bar with its own entrance on 28th street that serves slightly more casual food). Well-crafted cocktails and though I don’t drink too much brown liquor, I’ve heard from various sources that they serve the best Manhattans in the city. 🙂

The Dutch and Little Park

June 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

Two mid-day meals at two different Andrew Carmellini joints:

First, weekend brunch with Julia at the Dutch in Soho on a beautiful sunny day. To start, a selection of the raw bar, including Glidden Point (ME), Island Creek (MA), Navy Point (NY) and Totten Inlet (WA) oysters as well as littleneck clams from NY. Beautiful clean flavors from perfectly shucked shellfish with a nice, punchy horseradish and tangy mignonette, just the way I like.

We weren’t particularly famished (a rare thing) so we shared the snap pea salad with spicy green pea curry and herbs and the famous hot fried chicken with honey butter biscuits and slaw. A nice balance between something green and fresh and something comforting and gluttonous. The honey slathered biscuits were out of this world – steaming and flaky on the inside – and the chicken, while not super spicy like I had imagined, had great seasoning and crispiness. The restaurant is only a few blocks away from the apartment but somehow I always forget that it’s there. I need to come back more often.

I had a short stay-cation in the middle of May and on one of those days met up with co-workers for a leisurely weekday lunch at Little Park, Carmellini’s newest restaurant in the Smyth Hotel in TriBeCa. This place does farm to table, vegetable-heavy dining without coming across as preachy or pretentious and all of the dishes are really well executed and unique. We got a bunch of small plates to share for our first course – the fried Brussels sprouts with apple and smoked parsnip (my favorite dish from my first visit); the beetroot tartare with horseradish and smoked trout roe and girandole pasta with duck ragu and crispy herbs. My favorite of the three was the beetroot tartare. I actually didn’t really miss the meat here and thought the separate components of rye, beet, roe and goat cheese came together in a really delicious and cohesive dish.

For my main, I ordered the duck confit leg with poached egg, stewed rhubarb and mustard greens. Actually not as memorable to me as our starters but I liked the tartness of the rhubarb against the rich, fatty duck. All of this food washed down with a couple glasses of wine and I was in a pretty buzzed and happy (and not terribly stuffed) mood when it came time to leave and move on to the next bar. 🙂

 

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