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

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.

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.

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

 

Food of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast

August 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

I spent my first week of August in what seemed to be a sun-soaked dream – sailing, swimming, eating and drinking along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. My co-workers, Alice and Meredith, two chill and super nice Canadian girls we met via an online forum called crewfinder, Brooke and Shay, and our awesome (and cute) skipper, Ivan, spent 7 days living on our boat, the beautiful Violeta, as part of The Yacht Week, an organized event that took us to various locations, from busier ports to smaller fishing villages, and held huge parties at designated beach clubs or venues each night. We got to meet awesome people from all over the world and somewhere in between all the heavy alcohol consumption and dancing, we took in the natural beauty, culture and of course, food, that Croatia had to offer. I took so many photos during the trip but this post is just on the food, which for the most part was very simply prepared but because of the higher quality of produce/ingredient compared to what we get in the States, tasted absolutely phenomenal. Even the locally produced wines were on point and paired perfectly with the food.

A good number of the restaurants we visited during our trip were recommended by Ivan, who took such great care of us and made sure we never went hungry (which was super hard to do despite us being five girls!), so I actually don’t know some of the names but from what I could tell, most of the restaurants in the places where we stopped were mom-and-pop run eateries that focused on local specialties.

First stop – Split, Croatia. Meredith, Alice and I had dinner at a spot right by our hotel called Poseidon and dug into some local cheeses, olives and fruit to start. For our main, we split an enormous “Poseidon” platter that featured shrimp, large langoustine (think almost miniature lobsters), mussels, whole grilled fish, the whole shebang. Drizzle over a bunch of peppery olive oil, fleck with some extra salt and we were in seafood heaven.

The daily catch, we soon discovered was a normal thing. Typically, in NYC, being able to order a fish that just came off the boat that day is pretty rare but in Croatia, it’s totally expected for the server to bring you to a cooler full of sea critters caught just a couple hours ago and for you to pick whatever looks best to you. I absolutely loved it. We had these two grilled fish as part of our first official crew dinner in Milna.

I was also completely addicted to the langoustine, which are nosebleed expensive and usually offered by the piece at restaurants in NYC. The version below was at a restaurant in Hvar and came in some ridiculously tasty garlic, boozy sauce. Don’t be grossed out but it was so much fun to suck the innards out of the heads (as Mark Bittman of New York Times calls it, “god’s soup”).

My favorite stop by far though was Vis and the dinner we had the first night there was spectacular. We started with this enormous platter of cheese, tuna prosciutto (almost like smoked salmon), mussels and roasted vegetables and then moved on to the freshly grilled sea bream with roasted peppers, french fries and salsa verde. Again, so simple but so good (especially with copious amounts of EVOO drizzled all over). Something about the potatoes in Croatia made us keep ordering them – somehow they tasted so much more spud-y than those in the U.S.

My favorite dinner took place at Konoba Magic, a hidden gem in Vis that also had a vineyard on the premises. Per usual, we had dinner late at night so I would’ve loved to have seen the property during the day but one thing we noticed immediately when we arrived were these giant clay pots sitting right by a hot, hot fire.

We started our meal with the usual – cheese with homemade marmalade,  tuna prosciutto with arugula, anchovies with capers in (you guessed it) more olive oil. Is it possible to ever get bored of this kind of food? I don’t think so.

Ivan also recommended these insane fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with farmer’s cheese and anchovies, which was probably my favorite bite of the entire meal. They came with something very similar to tartar sauce and there was a collective moan of delight as we all bit into these clouds of awesomeness.

But turns out the real showstopper was being hidden in those large clay pots all along – behold peka, a local specialty of stewed veal shank, the creamiest potatoes and sweetest carrots you’ll ever have in your ENTIRE LIFE. Those damn potatoes, man. Oh yeah, and we finally managed to get a photo of our crew, about five days into the trip…

After Yacht Week ended (tears), Alice and I stayed an extra day in Split to decompress and take in some of the sights that we might have missed the first day, including the fresh market filled with beautiful looking fruit and vegetables. Loved seeing old ladies haggle for produce.

The second half of the afternoon was admittedly spent with me either passed out in one of the world’s most comfortable beds or under the giant shower head in our beautiful room at Palace Judita, one of the prettiest hotels I’ve had the pleasure to stay at (the receptionist was a frikkin’ hoot as well). Seven days of sleeping (or not) in a stuffy, tiny cabin and showering either off the side of a boat or in a public marina rest room with a queue of women waiting impatiently behind you will take inevitably take its toll after all. And they had AC! Such a luxury.

Luckily, even though Yacht Week was over, we were able to meet Shay and Brooke for one final (albeit incomplete) crew dinner at local restaurant Apetit before they departed for Italy and we headed back to the U.S. We pulled out all the stops and ordered grilled langoustine, grilled lamb with roasted potatoes, homemade tagliatelle with black truffle (apparently a big thing in Croatia) and small prawns and octopus carpaccio. A perfect meal with a little bit of everything to end one of the best vacations of my life.

Needless to say, I was kind of a wreck inside when it finally came for us to leave this beautiful country the next morning. Alice and I had a layover in Frankfurt and were feeling pretty glum, but a surprise and complimentary upgrade to business class certainly brightened things up a bit! Here’s one last shot of me almost fully reclined while eating some smoked duck salad with a glass of Bordeaux and watching Carey Mulligan being ridiculously gorgeous in Far from the Madding Crowd before dozing off for the next four hours (and I can never fall asleep on flights).

All I can really say now is thank you to everyone – Ivan, our awesome crew of Alice, Meredith, Shay and Brooke, all the super fun people we met on Yacht Week, the staff at Hotel Slavija and Palace Judita, Lufthansa, the locals, Croatia itself for being so goddamn beautiful, the universe for giving us all those free upgrades – for making it a trip to remember forever. I can’t wait to go back!

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”

Maialino and some bar favorites

June 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

One of my favorite bars in NYC is Booker and Dax, right next to Momofuku Ssam Bar in the East Village. They have really well made cocktails (I’ve never ordered something there that I didn’t like but the bee sneeze and the tropical thunder are my favorites) and there’s no standing so customers aren’t on top of each other and you can hear what your fellow guests are saying. One night after attending an opening reception for the new Whitney Museum, we were looking to get drinks and dropped by right before closing. Started with two rounds of cocktails and then escalated to the seriously awesome 13 year old Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye. It was my first time trying any of the Van Winkle offerings and one could only describe it as a warm, velvet strangulation. By the time we left the bar, we were tired and struggling and in a moment of weakness, walked over to Crif Dogs on St. Mark’s to get something to soak up all of the booze we’d consumed. Ordered the jon-jon deragon (everything bagel spices, scallions and cream cheese), the chihuahua (a bacon-wrapped dog with avocado and sour cream) and the loaded tater tots – a total (but amazing) gut bomb that saved us from terrible hangovers the next day.

 

Some time late in April, Artemis and I had dinner at Danny Meyer’s Maialino right near Gramercy Park and it was such a treat. We started with the fritto misto (super crispy and surprisingly light mussels, octopus and soft shell crab) with a mayonnaise-y dip and then split two different pastas – the bucatini all’amatriciana with spicy tomato and guanciale and the tonnarelli a cacio e pepe with pecorino and black pepper. Really well executed and super flavorful despite being some of the simpler primi options on the menu.

For our main course, we split the duck arista, served with morels, spring peas and charred scallions and roasted sunchokes with maple and anchovy. Both dishes were incredibly savory. It was probably only my second time trying sunchokes and this version got me absolutely addicted. They were slightly sweet and creamy on the inside with so much umami from the anchovy. They’re no longer on the menu which makes me sad but I’ll just have to go back the next time they’re in season. We also got the opportunity to try some really amazing wines thanks to our sommelier, Paula, who was very in tune to what we were looking for and even poured a couple extra tastings for us to try. The attention to detail in the food and wine and warmth from the staff throughout made this a really enjoyable experience and Maialino remains one of my favorite restaurants in the city. There’s a reason that Danny Meyer and his team have earned so many accolades over the years.

Another bar option down in the Financial District: the relatively new Cedar Local, which is conveniently located right by the office. FiDi isn’t really known for its dining and drinking options but Cedar Local has some pretty nice cocktails (my go-to is the East Side with gin, fresh cucumber, lime and mint) and slightly fancier versions of bar food, like their plantain and potato chips nachos, sliders with dijon mustard dipping sauce and fried macaroni and cheese balls. It’s a great place to unwind after a busy day at work.

 

Osteria Morini and Marea

June 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

Two Michael White-owned restaurants in this post today: Osteria Morini and Marea

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.

 

 

Vic’s in NoHo

April 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

Had a fun girls’ dinner at Vic’s a while back when it was still brisk outside that featured lots of flavorful, casual Italian food. To start: mussels with chilies, fennel, curry and basil and baby squid with black olive oil, meyer lemon and radicchio, which we didn’t order but the kitchen offered free of charge after they accidentally sent it out. Really loved the seafood broth the mussels came with and the chunks of crisped bread to soak it all up.

A solid cacio e pepe with black peppers, pecorino and parmigiano that was generously seasoned and cooked perfectly al dente. I do think that the versions at I Sodi and Maialino are slightly superior.

For my main, a large portion of the roasted oxtail with brisket, chili agrodolce and mint – really well balanced dish showing the contrast between the earthy, rich and tender oxtail versus the sweet and sour agrodolce and coolness of the herbs. The chili added a bit of kick as well. A pretty memorable dish that I would love to have again, especially on a cold and windy winter day.

And because I couldn’t resist, a snapshot of the seriously fabulous and textured wallpaper in the women’s bathroom downstairs.

Truffle tasting menu at Babbo

April 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

Nothing like a black truffle tasting menu lunch at Babbo in the Greenwich Village to start off a relaxing weekend:

Beef carpaccio with shiitake and parmigiano, showered with black truffles – paper thin beef paired with sharp, nutty cheese made for a flavorful but surprisingly light start

Agnolotti filled with braised beef, covered in black truffles – probably my favorite course of the four because I am a pasta slut…especially when it comes to any version that comes dressed in a buttery sauce

Porcini-rubbed hanger steak with new potatoes and shaved black truffles – a pretty small portion but super generous with the truffles (as were all our courses, actually). Cooked perfectly.

Tartufo of vanilla gelato with cherries, Sicilian pistachios and black truffle shell – simple and straightforward dessert use of black truffles that I wouldn’t have considered

Mignardises

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