March 26, 2017 § Leave a comment
I’m a huge fan of solo bar dining when I get a lazy and quiet Saturday or Sunday. Some people are tentative about dining alone but it can be really enjoyable to take some time to oneself with a good book or even your phone. Usually, I try to go to a restaurant during off hours, around 3pm (assuming the restaurant remains open between lunch and dinner service), so I can take up my little slice of the bar and chat with the bartender or other patrons without having to yell. Below are some places I’ve gone to recently where I really enjoyed my experience:
Via Carota: Spicy shrimp pomodoro atop a super flavorful, slightly cheesy polenta. I also always start with the fried olives wrapped in pork sausage…the perfect bar food.
Aquagrill: Oysters and littlenecks with house cocktail sauce, horseradish and mignonette. This place has been open for 20+ years and tends to get pretty packed during prime lunch, brunch and dinner hours but around 3pm, you can usually snag a seat. My usual approach is ordering 6 west coast and 6 east oysters – I leave the particular details to the awesome shuckers – and then some sparkling white wine and maybe french fries on the side.
Union Square Cafe 2.0: The new space is gorgeous and definitely evocative of the original. Service was, as expected, incredibly friendly, and I really enjoyed my spontaneous lunch here when I took a day off. There’s a small bar on one of the upper levels as well so will definitely want to go back and get a seat there next time.
Fried calamari with peppers and anchovy mayonnaise
Rainbow trout with roe, rye, leafy greens, buttermilk and fingerling potatoes
Babbo: I came here for an early dinner after skipping lunch. Vibe at the bar is super casual and low-key even though the food is a bit more high end than Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s more casual places in the neighborhood like Lupa and OTTO. Here, a fantastic roasted butternut squash with goat cheese and black truffle honey that was the right balance of sweet and savory.
Chianti-stained pappardelle with wild boar ragu. Excellent for the early cold evening.
Augustine: There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this place (it’s Keith McNally’s most recent restaurant) but have to say the food and the ambiance lived up to expectations. It really does feel like you’re in an old school Parisian bistro (also…the way to the bathroom takes you through the incredibly beautiful Beekman Hotel lobby that’s perfect Instagram fodder) and my cheese souffle with cave-aged gruyere and parmesan and horseradish fondue was absolutely insane. Rich and cloud light at the same time.
I also ordered the sea urchin spaghettini with king crab and pickled jalapenos with my main and they did not skimp on the ingredients. So damned good, and at 3:30p on a Wednesday, so quiet compared to what I’m sure is a madhouse on a Friday night!
The lobby inside the Beekman Hotel
Finally, the NoMad Hotel: Excellent cocktails and a sandwich version of their famous roasted chicken dish, with black truffle and foie gras on brioche and a side salad (because I guess you need some green every once in a while). The cocktail was called the Start Me Up, a super tasty concoction of bourbon, rum, strega, honey, ginger, lemon bitters. A great Saturday afternoon.
So even if you’re tentative about dining alone at the bar, I really do think it’s one of the most relaxing and stress-releasing things you can do for yourself. It’s probably easiest to go to a restaurant you’re already familiar with so you feel comfortable and just remember to bring a good book (or your iPad) and open yourself up to conversation with the bartenders or other customers. Sometimes you meeting really fascinating people!
January 26, 2016 § Leave a comment
Girls’ night at John Dory Oyster Bar, where we loaded up on the lobster with tomalley vinaigrette, Parker House rolls and tons of raw oysters
A stop at Rouge et Blanc for a low-key dinner at the bar. Below are the Vietnamese beef cheeks with green papaya, rice cakes and roasted enoki mushrooms, an old favorite.
Charlie Bird for a late Saturday lunch
Cahill dinner at Polo Bar. Definitely don’t think you’d be missing out by not going, the high prices reflect the ambiance and pretentiousness more than the quality of the food or wine. If you’re looking to do a large format steak dinner (with much better service), I’d recommend Minetta Tavern or Bowery Meat Company instead, both of which are still pricey but not as ridiculous as here and so much better generally.
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.
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. 🙂
June 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
Scotch eggs and steak tartare with Christine at Dead Rabbit, where she first told me she was going back to California 😦
A relaxing night in with Spunto
My first time at i Sodi with Artemis – an enormous steak with arugula and rabbit prepared porchetta-style with spinach
Enjoying a beautiful plateau and more oysters at John Dory with Christine and Laura
Trying a new dish of scallop and ham crudo at Momofuku Ssam Bar to celebrate Laura’s decision to attend Yale’s architecture grad program
An old reliable while dining solo – steak tartare and red wine at Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen
El Luchador – a new lunch option near the office with outdoor seating
Hot pot during a brief trip back to Edison, NJ
Shots from the beautiful China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (GO)
Pork belly appetizer from Han Dynasty
Christine’s good-bye, hosted by Artemis and one of my favorite wines of the night
Excited about the next few posts coming up…whenever I manage to get to them.
April 17, 2015 § Leave a comment
Day 3 in D.C. started off with a leisurely lunch at an old favorite of mine, Hank’s Oyster Bar, in Dupont Circle. Fred and Joanna came down from Bethesda for the day (always so great to catch up with them) and we had ourselves an oyster and seafood feast. Started with a spicy bloody maria with tequila and an enormous assortment of raw oysters that Hank’s had listed on their blackboard. I don’t remember all the different types but Ameya and Fred did insist that we get extra Rappahannock oysters, which turned out to be a good call as they were sweet and buttery with a nice, crisp finish. Awesome.
Our other starters were the perfectly fried and well-seasoned popcorn shrimp and calamari with their crack house sauce that’s similar to a spicy remoulade and the BBQ’d oysters, Hog Island style. Lots of buttah, some white wine, garlic and Tabasco made for some scaldingly hot, albeit tasty bites.
Fred and Joanna shared the shrimp and grits, which looked enormous and delicious, Ameya ordered the smoked trout hash with poached eggs, potatoes and dill cream sauce, which came out smelling amazing and very rich and I tucked into their lobster roll (bursting at the seams with tender lobster meat lightly dressed with mayo and celery, the way I like it) with Old Bay fries. Everything was so fresh and the atmosphere was chill and casual that it just cemented my belief that Hank’s will always be one of my favorite D.C. restaurants.
By the time lunch ended, we were feeling pretty full and lethargic, and since the Phillips Collection was only a couple blocks away, I dragged our group to visit the Rothko Room and the Man Ray-Human Equations exhibit so we could get a bit of culture and a good walk in before our evening at new hot spot, Rose’s Luxury.
April 13, 2015 § 1 Comment
Second day of my DC weekend started off with a frigid visit to the Washington Monument and then some delicious raw oysters and fried seafood at old school restaurant, Old Ebbitt Grill, with Murphy.
Spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the Smithsonian and Georgetown. The Museum of Natural History was holding its annual orchid show as well as photographs from the annual National Geographic competition and I got to take in the Piero di Cosimo – Italian Renaissance exhibit at the National Gallery. Rounded out the day wandering around the intersection of M and Wisconsin and all over campus, which was still beautiful as ever, before heading to dinner at Proof, known for its refined American food and extensive wine list.
Orchids at the Natural History Museum
Monet at the National Gallery
Good ol’ Healy Hall at Georgetown University
At Proof, we started with a couple cocktails (super potent) and their complimentary crackers with house made labneh with olive oil and chives. Deliciously creamy with a bit of tang. Because we decided ahead of time that this would be one of those ridiculous marathon meals, we ordered three appetizers – the sauteed potato gnocchi with pumpkin and wild mushrooms accompanied with brussels sprouts, butternut squash agrodolce, sage, brown butter and parmesan, the crispy veal sweetbreads with hedgehog mushrooms (served atop creamy white polenta, scallions, bacon lardons and a honey gastrique) and then the pan roasted Hudson Valley foie gras on a sweet cherry short cake, pistachio, cocoa nibs and bing cherry jus. The potato gnocchi were golden brown and crispy on the outside with pillowy centers; the sweetbreads were perfectly cooked and tender and the foie gras, the best of these three awesome dishes, had the perfect balance between sweet and savory. Really lovely and could not get enough.
For our main dishes, we ordered the generously portioned sauteed lamb chops with ragout of nutty farro and tender lamb shoulder (served with pistachios, dried apricots, pomegranate, whipped yogurt, almonds and sumac) as well as the roasted Long Island duck breast with smoked ham hock & pumpkin risotto (served with toasted pumpkin seeds, duck cracklings, sage and crispy collards) and paired them with a delicious bottle of Brunello di Montalcino. It was probably too much of a good thing, especially after our three starters, but we just kept eating and eating until we realized we should probably try to save room for the cheese/dessert course.
Instead of ordering something sweet, we opted for a platter of three cheeses – a Jasper Hill cow’s milk cheese that was soft and floral; a creamy goat cheese called Leonora from Spain that tasted of lemon and herbs and finally, one of my all-time favorite cheeses, a pyrenees-brebis, a semi-firm, sheep’s milk cheese with hints of nuttiness and caramel. So amazing and even more enjoyable with a glass of 1990 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes. It was the perfect, not-too-sweet ending to a relaxing, three hour meal and though totally different from the minibar dinner the night before, just as memorable and indulgent.