Paris, Part 2

April 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

Second half my Paris re-cap: Vanessa and I ate lots and lots of raw, super fresh oysters throughout our trip. It was crazy how ubiquitous they were and always so delicious (didn’t get a stinker the entire time we were there). Here is a starter before a much heavier meal at seafood-oriented Marius et Janette, right before Dita’s show at Crazy Horse.

We visited the Musee d’Orsay, one of my favorite museums in the world, and got lost in some Impressionist art one afternoon.

Browsed beautiful Astier de Villatte ceramics while shopping on the super luxurious Rue Saint Honore.

Stopped by Cafe de Flore for champagne and potato chips. This is what we loved most about Paris…falling into the leisurely habit of sitting at a sidewalk cafe, people watching and not worrying about where to hurry to next. By the end of the trip, we were total pros.

A crazy good meal at Le Servan, run by sisters Tatiana and Katia Levha, where they’re cooking up some seriously creative and slightly Asian-inflected food in an airy and almost Williamsburg-esque bistro. This was the first time Vanessa had ever had veal sweetbreads (this version was roasted and perfectly tender) and I don’t think she was disappointed.

After Le Servan, we stopped by Prescription for some really great cocktails…I think I had about 10 different kinds of booze this night (something gin + citrus based, their version of a Negroni, their version of a Penicillin, shots of rum and on and on and on) while Vanessa fell in love with their gin + tonics and kept throwing them back. By the time they were closing up shop, we were so hammered that we asked the bartenders for their late night food recommendations and at their suggestion, ended up at a place called Chez Denis in the middle of nowhere that was literally just a bistro open late. Groups of inebriated people were eating full meals with bottles of wine at 5 in the morning and neither of us could comprehend how the French could eat so much but there you have it.

Some more culture…this time at the Musee de l’Orangerie right on the edge of the Jardins des Tuileries, which I’d never visited before. We started with the two stunning circular rooms of Claude Monet’s water lilies, where we just sat there for a long while to take everything in, and then progressed through the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection.

I also really love works by the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, so when I found out there was a standalone exhibit of his works and studio near the Centre Pompidou (admission is free, by the way), we popped by for a quick visit (the atelier is only four rooms). I mean…just look at that! I really liked that he was so particular and personally tied to his pieces that he planned exactly which sculpture went where and even refused to sell pieces that were especially dear to him.

Tasting menu at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in the Saint Germain neighborhood. While not as thrilling as I thought it would be (there were also a lot of Americans there, which made it feel more like a tourist destination than anything else), the service was impeccable and some of the dishes were truly standout, such as this chestnut soup with seared foie gras hidden beneath.

A flower vendor on a romantic rainy day…

The awe-inspiring stained glass windows at Sainte-Chappelle on the Ile de la Cite in the heart of Paris.

My crazy-good braised veal cheeks and buttery potatoes at the homey, modest-looking Chez L’Ami Jean. This meal, even though relatively low-key compared to some others we had, was among my favorites. We started with a comforting Parmesan soup that was perfect for the rainy weather, this as a main dish (goddamn, those potatoes) and then the biggest and richest bowl of rice pudding (with candied nuts and salted caramel sauce) that anyone had ever seen. It was also very cool to see the chef Stephane Jego and his cooks plating each dish in the open kitchen.

More art, this time at the relatively new Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation, which was currently featuring contemporary Chinese artists. Below is a photo of the gorgeous grotto on the lower level.

Our last dinner at David Toutain was another highlight. Everything about the restaurant – the interiors, the ceramics and flatware, the service (our hip-looking server actually lived and worked in Brooklyn for a while) and of course, the food, was incredible. There was a smoked eel dish in black sesame that absolutely blew our minds and the below, perfectly cooked lamb with asparagus and spring vegetables. Amazing. We were so sad our trip was coming to an end.

After dinner, we went to a bar called Le Calbar, where all the friendly bartenders were serving well-made cocktails in their boxers. Yet again, we met some friendly locals and ended up closing down the bar. A great last night out.

Our last day in Paris consisted of a lot of shopping and running errands before our flight. I stopped in Deyrolle, mainly to ogle the gorgeous displays of insects and butterflies, and considering picking up something but couldn’t figure out how to fit a fragile glass frame in my already-stuffed suitcase. So sad.

Sigh…last lunch at our good ol’ Cafe Varenne. It’d become our place for morning coffee and breaks in the middle of the day and now, we were having our last meal of charcuterie, cheese and frites. It was a beautiful sunny day and we got to sit outside and enjoy our last bit of freedom before heading home to New York. It was, all in all, a dream trip where we got to eat and drink extremely well, meet some warm and friendly locals, experience art and culture and most importantly, just relax and soak up the beauty of Paris as much as we possibly could. It was so hard to leave (I was thinking about my next trip on the flight back) and settle back into reality upon our return (though I did pick up some good butter and a jar of cornichons at Murray’s Cheese the morning after I got back) but I know that I will be back soon.

 

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)

February food randomness

March 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

Artemis and I took advantage of the BYOB offer at Union Square Cafe during one of the several snow storms that pummeled NYC this winter: fried calamari with spicy anchovy mayonnaise and chicken liver crostini with shaved brussels sprouts salad; Berkshire pork with winter squash and polenta, the winter beef entree and a side of broccoli rabe; two bottles of Italian red

Weekend lunch with Melissa at my favorite neighborhood spot, Lupa: black and white tagliatelle with mussels and jalapeno; succulent heritage pork arista and a plethora of sides (fingerling potatoes, more broccoli rabe and brussels sprouts)

Catching up with Hussam over the braised beef tongue tacos at Empellon Taqueria, another one of my go-to’s in the Village:

Galentine’s Day dinner of linguine alle noci and eggplant involtini with a dessert of Molly’s Cupcakes courtesy of Alice:

Snow day lunch with Laura at Do Hwa: seafood dolsot bibimbap and the daeji bulgogi with watercress salad

A belated Chinese New Year’s lunch with the family at BQ-HQ: roast duck and pork, fried whole fish, lots of greens and Mama’s dumplings

Bouley lunch

March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

The lunch at Bouley in Tribeca may be one of the best deals (five courses for $55) in New York City, especially since it happens to be in one of the most beautifully decorated and ornate restaurants I’ve seen. To start – some complimentary amuse bouches that I honestly don’t remember too much about (except that the cracker looking bite had caviar and some kind of black truffle cream). For the first course, I chose the “blini” of Scottish smoked salmon with roe and white truffle honey. The dish was topped with some sort of apple meringue that was a bit too sweet for my taste, especially since the truffle honey was already sweet, but the roe provided some necessary saltiness.

Next, one of Bouley’s most famous dishes, the porcini flan with golden princess crab and black truffle dashi. This was amazing – it came to the table with a cover and when removed, all one could smell was black truffle and brininess from the crab. Really warm and comforting, like a Japanese chawanmushi or egg custard, the portion initially seemed kind of small but was so packed with flavor and richness that it turned out to be just the right amount. I would go back to Bouley just to have this dish again. Also, what I forgot to take a picture of was the amazing bread cart that they wheel to each table after this course. I think there were about twelve different varieties (the usual sourdough all the way to a pistachio and apricot version) and you could potentially try every one of them, but we had to keep in mind that we had more courses coming.

The main dish, a slow braised Kobe-style beef cheeks with blue kale gnocchi, also hit the spot. I don’t have beef cheeks very often but always love how tender and unctuous they can be when done well and the sauce that came with was super savory and just this side of being over-seasoned. Also really enjoyed the perfectly cooked gnocchi (because who doesn’t love some butter soaked starch with their beef?).

For a palate cleanser after our savory dishes, a chilled coconut soup with pineapple granite, 10 exotic fruit sorbet, passion fruit and coconut ice cream. Really refreshing with a good balance of sweet and tart – this almost punched you in the face with its coconutiness. Around this time, we were struggling to stay awake, so a cappuccino was in order. My dessert was the hot caramelized Anjou pear with Valrhona chocolate, biscuit Breton, hot toffee sauce and huckleberry and Tahitian vanilla ice cream, which was a bit too sweet for me and since I was so full, I was only able to take a couple bites.  However, when the tower of mignardises and petits fours came out, I had no problem popping a few chocolate bonbons in my mouth.

So there you have it – one of the best lunch deals in the city. At some point, I’d like to go back and try everything with their recommended wine pairing, which brings the meal to $110 before tax and tip. I think this would be a great place to bring parents when they’re in town and or a special date. Here’s a shot of the entryway, which is lined with apples to greet you and say farewell with the most heavenly smell (we kept wondering how often they have to check and change them out). Oh and I almost forgot to mention that when you leave, they send you off with not one but two individually wrapped cakes (lemon pound cake and stollen) for you to peck away at as soon as you’ve recovered from your lunch food coma. 🙂

Little Park in Tribeca

March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’m a huge fan of chef Andrew Carmellini’s restaurants (Locanda Verde, Lafayette, Bar Primi and others), so when he started getting positive reviews for Little Park, his new farm-to-table, vegetable-focused restaurant in the Smyth Hotel in Tribeca, I knew I wanted to try it. Like all of his other restaurants, Little Park is on a corner and it’s right by the Chambers Street subway stop, making it a maybe too convenient place to stop by on my way home from work. The interior is very neutral in color and there are a lot of large banquettes which means more room for each table. Our lunch group of four started with some spent grain bread and a nice tangy cultured butter, both of which I’m guessing come from farms in NY state and are probably processed and made in house.

For our starters, we ordered the wild mushroom broth with short rib raviolini and black garlic, the crispy brussels sprouts with smoked parsnip and apple and the girandole pasta with black kale, squash and pine nuts. These dishes reminded me a lot of the offerings at ABC Kitchen – lots of vegetables that you almost feel virtuous eating them but flavorful and different enough that it nevertheless feels like an indulgent treat. The mushroom broth tasted super clean and light and actually, when tasted alone, I thought lacked some seasoning, but the miniature ravioli it came with packs a petite yet meaty punch to counteract the mildness.

As for the brussels sprouts…these might give my favorite ones at Tertulia a run for their money. They’re also fried to the point where they’re almost charred and super crispy on the outside but tender on the inside, and instead of using pork belly to give it that umami and smokiness, Carmellini adds smoked parsnip and apple for some sweetness. So addictive. Finally, the girandole was probably my favorite dish of the meal – comforting and cheesy with different textures from the crunchy pine nuts, slippery pasta and soft butternut squash. And it should be noted that while none of these dishes had any meat, we didn’t miss it at all!

Our main courses were the grass fed hangar steak with charred broccoli and green sauce, the spatchcock chicken with New York state freekeh and sweet mustard and the steamed black bass with beluga lentils and oregano. I didn’t try the chicken or the black bass (both of which looked gorgeous on the plate) but really enjoyed my hangar steak – super flavorful and well seasoned without being too chewy – and whatever that herby, green sauce was. And the nicest part about this meal was leaving feeling completely satiated but not gross and bloated, which happens quite often because I can never restrain myself from eating everything in front of me. Carmellini’s restaurants each have their own character and feel and Little Park is no different. While it doesn’t necessarily focus on a particular cuisine (like Italian pastas at Bar Primi or French bistro at Lafayette), it delivers some seriously delicious and refined food that made this unapologetic carnivore think about vegetable-driven food in a different, and definitely positive, way.

Momofuku whole rotisserie duck

August 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Three months later…another large format meal at Momofuku Ssam (I swear that I eat at places other than Momofuku).

This time, we had the whole rotisserie duck stuffed with duck and pork sausage (and served with chive pancakes, bibb lettuce and four flavorful sauces) with the broccoli salad (smoked bluefish vinaigrette and crisped duck skin), spicy rice cakes and sausage (because it’s too good to not order), pork belly buns (for the Momofuku virgins), and crispy fingerling potatoes (with crab mayo and chili). 

Yet again, so much food for the five of us (the maximum allowed is six), even with multiple rounds of eating, but we still managed to knock back a few Blood Mary’s (which had country ham in them) and dig very deep when it came to the dessert of Concord grape sorbet with black sesame and peanut crumble (in other words, the best iteration of the PB&J ever) and mint julep truffles (which were a little too dense and sweet for my taste). 

Afterwards, I wanted to pass out so badly but amazingly, an iced coffee from Third Rail and a 45 minute walk all the way downtown managed to keep me upright for the rest of the day. 

 

 

GT Fish & Oyster

October 1, 2013 § 2 Comments

From a trip in May – upscale seafood at GT Fish & Oyster in downtown Chicago. The mussels, which came in a large cast-iron skillet with crusty grilled bread, were the hands down favorite dish of an all together great lunch.

Assorted oysters with ponzu mignonette and GT cocktail sauce

Fish and chips with dill pickle remoulade and house malt vinegar

GT lobster mac and cheese with English peas

PEI mussels with roasted tomato, basil and ciabatta

GT Fish & Oyster
531 N. Wells Street
Chicago, IL
312.929.3501

Food blitz

May 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

Crap, has it been more than a month since the last post? As usual, finals chaos is to blame. That and moving to NYC for the summer (YAY!) Here are (some) bites I’ve had since April. Looking forward to a super delicious summer.

Scones benedict at Alice’s Tea Cup

More blueberry crisp

Nibbles on a Friday night

Roasted Old Bay fingerling potatoes

Lunch plate with southern roasted pecans (i.e. crack)

Afternoon tea with homemade irish scones, raspberry jam, clotted cream

Cocoa pecan brownies

Champagne mangos

Yukgaejang + brown rice

KFC to celebrate the end of exams

First margarita of the summer at Mercadito

Korean dinner spread in K-town

Benedict Jane at Jane Restaurant (just round the corner from my apartment!)

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