Misc. Eats

June 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

Remembering when I still had it easy at work and weekends were free…just need to make it through June 30. Here – a lazy Sunday lunch at the Via Carota bar, starting with fried green olives with pork sausage and a superb negroni

A huge, hands-only kamayan feast featuring banana ketchup ribs, longanisa sausage, whole head-on shrimp, braised lamb, etc. at Filipino gastropub, Jeepney, in East Village with Cahill friends. Total gut bomb.

The Macho Man sandwich from a new favorite, Court Street Grocers – heritage pork shoulder, cabot cheddar, coleslaw, pickled jalapenos and duck sauce on garlic bread. Between this, the Delight and the Cubano, I can order from here about 4 times a week. So dangerous.

Dinner with Artemis at Mario Batali’s new restaurant, La Sirena, in the Meatpacking District. Bucatini with braised octopus in spicy pomodoro sauce and then ravioli all’amatriciana with spring onion butter…quite tasty but wasn’t crazy about the atmosphere, the service or the scene

Lunch at Legend near Washington Square Park with the family. We ordered our usual dishes – spicy lamb with cumin, spicy beef tendon with chili vinaigrette and a seriously delicious whole braised fish with spicy bean sauce – and went for a really long walk afterwards to recover

Sunday night shellfish bake at North End Grill – half a Maine lobster, head-on prawns, clams, new potatoes and corn in an addictive garlic butter and then sweet gem lettuce and blue cheese dressing on the side. Not pictured: duck fat fries and a lot of white wine.

The famous, substantial duck carnitas at Cosme…’nuff said.

Late night eats at Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken…my ultimate weakness.

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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

Empellon Taqueria

December 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Caught up with an old high school friend I hadn’t seen in years at Empellon Taqueria, right off Christopher Street in the Village, and had a bit of a taco-fest. After moving to a table further away from a bunch of obnoxious Santa-con participants, we started with a very generous dish of guacamole, a creamy smoked cashew salsa and a spicier, more vinegary arbol salsa (my favorite out of the three) with just-fried corn tortilla chips to whet the appetite. For our mains, we avoided the sweeter, more traditional brunch dishes and ordered a trio of tacos. Probably would’ve been fine with just two, but as former tennis players, we fell into old gorging habits as we reminisced about school and figured…oh, why the hell not?

The tacos were the chicken, black kale, crema and salsa verde; fish tempura, cabbage and lime mayonnaise; and lamb barbacoa, cucumber and salsa borracha. Of all of them, the classic fish taco was my favorite (something about the combination of cooling cabbage and lime mayo with crunchy, crispy fish), though I was surprised by how much I liked the chicken version, which was very juicy and flavorful. Really satisfying (probably even a bit excessive) and definitely warranted a super long walk afterwards.

Also had a rare chance to cook myself a meal this past weekend and went with the classic Marcella Hazan tomato sauce with butter, which made the entire apartment smell like heaven. So easy to make, all this requires is a white onion, 5 tablespoons of butter and a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (all of which I usually have in the pantry and fridge). Let it simmer gently on the stove for 45 minutes, stirring every once in a while, cook your pasta (I like to use linguine or some noodle-y pasta) during the last 10 minutes the sauce is cooking, and you have a homemade, seriously banging bowl of pasta. I usually grate a bunch of good Parmigiano-Reggiano, add some fresh basil if the flimsy plant on our kitchen windowsill has a couple fat leaves and maybe even some red pepper flakes to add a bit of kick. If you’re a cooking novice or just want to make something that doesn’t require a ton of work, this is a perfect recipe to start with. Go make it!

Cosme

December 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

A late Friday night dinner at Cosme – Enrique Olvera’s new Mexican restaurant in the Flatiron and one of the most-hyped openings this year since it’s his first restaurant in the States. It was still pretty busy by the time we arrived for our 9:30 reservation and it’s definitely a very hip setting but service was friendly and the vibe was casual. We were actually seated at a communal table with plenty of room and started off with some single-origin, just-fried corn tortillas and two salsas (the red one was super spicy even for me) and house cocktails, including a refreshing Paloma with homemade grapefruit syrup and ginger-packed El Ninja (mezcal, gin, vermouth, shiso shrub, lime, ginger and dehydrated pineapple).

Tortillas and salsa

Paloma and El Ninja

Cold appetizers were thinly-sliced raw scallops and poached jicama in a wasabi-cucumber-lime vinaigrette as well as a ripe avocado half piled high with raw seafood and horseradish to add a little bit of zing. Though I’m usually a sucker for anything avocado (see below), the scallops were my favorite of the two due to the clear, bright flavors of the sea and citrus.

Scallops and stuffed avocado with seafood

Our hot appetizers were actually two vegetarian choices: enfrijoladas with ricotta, hoja santa, creme fraiche and onion as well as the mushroom and squash barbacoa, chilpachole and hoja santa. The enfrijoladas had a lot of familiar Mexican flavors but the mushroom and squash dish was definitely an example of Mexican cuisine that none of us had really eaten before.

Enfrijoladas

Mushroom and squash barbacoa

Standouts of the night, however, were our entrees. I ordered the black garlic rubbed NY strip with shishito peppers (one of my favorite things) and avocado-tarragon puree (see?). Super flavorful, tender beef balanced with raw onions and crunchy, sweet peppers and then mellowed with a creamy, smooth avocado sauce.

The duck carnitas to be shared was the favorite dish by far – it came out in its own cast iron skillet, enormous and amazing-smelling, perfectly cooked (crispy skin with just the right amount of fat and meat) with spicy radishes and a punchy salsa verde. I’d definitely go back to Cosme with a friend and sit at the bar (which just started serving the full menu) with a glass of wine and order just that dish. The red snapper with thai curry, plantains and scallions and the half lobster pibil, chorizo, black bean and avocado leaf puree also got glowing reviews.

Black garlic rubbed NY strip for tacos, fried shishitos, avocado-tarragon purée

 

Half lobster pibil, chorizo, black bean and avocado leaf purée

 

Duck carnitas, white onions, radishes, salsa verde

 

Broiled red snapper, thai hoja santa curry, plantains, scallions

 

Somehow, even after drinks, appetizers and entrees (and we’d actually come from a coworker’s going away party chock full of bar food), we still had enough room for four desserts (definitely took a looooong walk after this meal). Having read early reviews of the restaurant, we all agreed that we’d get the popular and somewhat strange looking husk meringue with corn mousse dessert, which proved to be a good choice. Definitely a unique dish with strong corn flavor without being too sweet. I also really loved the carrot cake riff with cream cheese ice cream and the lemon cake with quince sorbet.

Nixtamalized carrot, cinnamon cake, cream cheese ice cream

 

Chocolate ganache, mezcal, blood orange, beet sorbet

 

Husk meringue, corn mousse

 

Lemon cake, grapefruit, quince sorbet

Word is that reservations for Cosme at prime dinner time are currently hard to come by, but if you can get even a late seating around 9:30 or 10:00 PM or a place at the bar and you have the time to indulge in a long leisurely meal, I’d definitely recommend getting the scallops appetizer, the duck carnitas to share (though honestly, I could probably finish this dish on my own because it was so frikkin’ delicious and I eat like a baby dinosaur) and then a husk meringue to finish.

Two posts within a week! Trying to be better about keeping up with this blog…

 

Big Star Chicago

June 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

After so many years of saying that I’d visit, I finally took a trip to the Windy City as a short break before bar review began. Much eating and touristy activities ensued, including an inaugural meal with Esther (who, together with her husband Bryan, graciously housed Jee and me during our stay) at Paul Kahan’s super chill restaurant Big Star in the hipster-ish Wicker Park neighborhood, where we indulged in Palomas, margaritas, and an assortment of tacos.

My favorite dishes were definitely the queso fundido, a molten mixture of queso Chihuahua with poblanos, and housemade chorizo generously smeared on warm corn tortillas, and the fish tacos with beer battered tilapia, chipotle mayonnaise, cabbage, lime, and cilantro.

Classic margarita and La Paloma

Tacos de panza with crispy braised pork belly, tomato guajillo sauce, queso fresco, onion, and cilantro

Tacos al pastor – marinated spit-roasted pork shoulder, grilled pineapple, grilled onion, cilantro

Queso fundido – my favorite

Tacos de pescado

 

Big Star
1531 N. Damen Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60622
773.235.4039

 

Dos Caminos and Tertulia (again)

May 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s been a whirlwind first week at work (in only a very good way), and between all the firm lunches and receptions, I still managed to explore some restaurants in the Greenwich Village neighborhood.

First, YJC and I dined al fresco at Dos Caminos on W. Houston Street after she had a long day at work. We weren’t too hungry since it was pretty late, so we shared a huge bowl of guacamole, a trio of salsas ranging from mild to scorchingly hot, and freshly-fried tortilla chips and a side of crispy sweet potato fries (though I’m still partial to the ones at Maxie’s Supper Club in Ithaca).

Dining al fresco at Dos Caminos Soho

I also ordered the chicken taquitos – pulled chicken rolled in crispy corn tortillas with shaved lettuce, queso fresco, and a tomatillo-avocado sauce and YJC got the Mexican chopped salad with a heap of tasty things like grilled corn, poblano chiles, green olives, and toasted cumin vinaigrette. No complaints – I like to think that I make a pretty mean guacamole and the version at Dos Caminos hit all the right notes of creamy from the avocado, sharp acid from the lime, and pungency from the onion with a good seasoning of salt. My taquitos, though on the small side, were filled with tender spicy chicken and the fried tortillas were fresh as can be. We’ll have to go back soon for their margaritas…the frozen prickly pear rendition sounds particularly intriguing.

While walking up 6th Avenue the next day, I happily discovered that Tertulia, Spanish tapas heaven, is only a couple blocks down the street from my summer apartment, so I rounded together some other food-obsessed summers for a dinner because I figured the more people we had, the more dishes we could try.

Radish salad and grilled prawns

We ordered my favorites from the last time I visited – the brussel sprouts with pork belly and mojo picon, the flash-fried shishito peppers and sea salt, and my favorite, the roasted potatoes with pimenton and garlic all i oli, and rounded out the meal with the radish salad with baby rainbow carrots and anchovy vinaigrette and grilled Mediterranean prawns.

Forever favorite dishes at Tertulia

Everything was insanely delicious, from the super crispy taters to the acidic and pork-coated brussel sprouts to the prawn heads, out of which we enthusiastically sucked out the brain juices. I was reminded of Mark Bittman’s quote, “the juice in the head of the shrimp can only be described as God’s soup.” Add two bottles of the house red wine (we are still law students after all) and great conversation, and it was a pretty awesome, noisy night.

The next day, while work was slow, we created a huge Excel spreadsheet of all the NYC restaurants (I think the current tally is around 80) we wanted to visit, so prepare yourselves for a summer of epic eating and good company.

Dos Caminos Soho
475 W. Broadway at Houston Street
New York, NY 10012
212.277.4300

Tertulia
359 6th Avenue
New York, NY
646.559.9909

NYC: Tacos, Soft Serve, and Big Bambu

July 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last week, Laura and I took our annual trip to see the rooftop and Costume Institute exhibits at the Met. This year, they’re featuring Big Bambu by Doug and Mike Starn and a display on the fashion evolution of the American woman.

But first, of course, we had to get some lunch. We decided to stop by Dos Toros (because I had a serious craving for Mexican food) and Momofuku Milk Bar (mainly because it’s only a couple blocks away from the Union Square station).

Dos Toros is a tiny restaurant with a set-up that’s very similar to the Chipotles and Qdobas in this world. You wait in a quick-moving line, choose your tortilla size, meat, and whatever toppings you want. In this case, we got two carne asada tacos with guacamole, salsa, and their green hot sauce as well as their carnitas quesadilla.

And while its appearance resembles Chipotle, the food Dos Toros offers is infinitely better. Far from bland, the tortillas themselves had a ton of corn-masa-y flavor and the carne asada was much more tender than I expected. However, I think what impressed me the most was the generous amount of meat they put in each taco. Normally, similar places would be stingy, but not here. Everything else, the salsa, the guacamole, was super fresh and well seasoned, adding even more layers of flavor. The quesadilla, though a bit on the thick side (I confess I’m used to those flattened ones from Taco Bell) was a little messy and incredibly satisfying, and I especially loved the extra browned bits of fresh tortilla. Considering that Dos Toros’ prices are almost identical to Chipotle’s, I’d much rather spend my money here than on a sodium-laden burrito from the latter.

Afterwards, even though we were already pretty full, Laura and I walked a couple blocks over to Momofuku, where we indulged in more porkiness and some sweets. The pork buns were still as fatty and delicious as always, and this time, since we were hankering for dessert, we got a cup of the bright fuschia raspberry lemonade soft serve (wonderfully tart and refreshing on such a hot day) as well as a couple cookies to take home for family…blueberry and cream, compost, and cornmeal.

Finally, after all that eating, we made our way uptown to the Met. When our elevator opened onto the rooftop, the view in front of us was jaw-dropping. The Starn brothers were not lying when they called their exhibit “Big Bambu.” There were even elevated walkways made of bamboo stalks that climbed 30-40 feet in the air. If you have time, I highly suggest that you get out to NYC before the exhibits ends, especially since people continue to work on the installation every day, making it a living and growing sculpture.

And while you’re there, also check out the American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity exhibit. We weren’t allowed to take photos, but the display is essentially a look at different periods in American fashion…from the “heiress” and the “Gibson girl” all the way to the “flappers” (the dresses in this part were exquisite) and “screen sirens.” There were gorgeous dresses by Liberty, Molyneux, and even Poiret and Lanvin, as well as some head-turning shoes and accessories in each section. So far, every Costume Institute exhibit I’ve seen has never disappointed, and this one is as good as the rest.

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