Solo Dining at the Bar

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!

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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.

Santina and High Street on Hudson

May 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

From a while back: dinner at Santina, right next to the Whitney Museum and the High Line, with Cahill folks and then two separate visits to hit bakery/restaurant High Street on Hudson for dinner and breakfast. Completely different restaurants but great experiences at both (Santina was surprising since I think the Torrisi restaurants tend to be over-priced and too hip for me and generally avoid them).

At Santina, we sat in the atrium outside under heat lamps, which was actually nice and almost felt as if we were outside in the middle of winter. We started with squash carpaccio with honey agrodolce – my favorite dish of the nice and completely new. The squash was thinly sliced and tasted almost as if it was bruleed, a wonderful mix of textures and savory against sweet.

Cecina pancakes with lamb tartare, green olive and aioli.

Family-style mains – rice of guanciale e pepe, spaghetti with blue crab with tomato and chili, lobster catalan with garlic and anchovy butter, grilled lamb chops, spicy fried potatoes. The rice was underwhelming and didn’t pack as much flavor as one would hope but the spaghetti stood out with its bright and briny notes. In the end, I was happy to try Santina but don’t think I would ever choose to go again given all the great restaurants constantly popping up in the neighborhood (as well as all of my time-tested favorites).

Turning to a totally different restaurant – High Street on Hudson. The original location is in Philly and ever since the owners announced that they were opening a NYC version, it’s gotten a lot of press and well-deserved love. Artemis, Cindy and I went for dinner during the week not too long after they opened and it was packed. We started with an addictive dark bread called vollkornbrot with creamy charred rutabaga hummus and long hot chermoula and black sesame oil and perfect, crispy fried razor clams with habanero buttermilk, which made me wish for summer.

Next, another (and in my opinion, superior) lamb tartare with burnt celery root, sunflower, cultured cashew and malted rye and tripe diavola with sunchoke and grilled cucumber (kind of an oddly textured element that I wasn’t crazy for). Both absolutely gorgeous on the plate and wolfed down within seconds.

Highlights of the meal were the main courses of seawood bucatini with njuda, lobster bottarga and breadcrumbs and Happy Valley beef with sweet potato and fermented broccoli. Stellar examples of dishes from the earth and sea…I was in such a happy place by the time our dinner came to a close.

And for good measure, Cindy and I went back to High Street not long after for breakfast to try their super-hyped sandwiches and they did not disappoint. We got the bread basket (so ambitious), the bodega sandwich of malted breakfast sausage, egg and aged cheddar on a giant sage-black pepper biscuit about the size of my head and old bay fried potatoes that I kept popping into my mouth even after I felt completely stuffed. I don’t think I ate another meal for the rest of the day but it was completely worth it.

Recently

February 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

3:00 am Korean BBQ at Miss Korea in K-Town…

An impromptu, late night meal at Benchmark in Park Slope with the most awesome foie gras dish served with peppered pineapple, pecans and bourbon glaze (so good we ordered a second one) and filet mignon with purple potato gratin and caramelized marrow

Pecorino, golden raisin and pine nut kale salad to balance out all the gluttony

Homemade chicken parmesan during the night of the snow storm that turned out to be no big deal…

The roast beef press during lunch with Cindy at that old standby, Grey Dog

Greatest delivery pizza ever from Spunto (with caramelized onions, mushrooms, hot Italian sausage and a ton of red pepper flakes)

Murray’s Melts

February 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve always loved Murray’s Cheese Shop in Greenwich Village (such an amazing selection of cheeses, cured meats, and other gourmet items and super-friendly staff), but it took me a whole summer of living literally right down the street to discover their Murray’s Melts. Probably for the best; otherwise I would’ve been there all the time and eventually unable to fit through the door. The owners also just recently opened Murray’s Cheese Bar, which I’ve heard great things about, but this is probably a better idea if you want something quick and on-the-go.

Below is a “Da Bomb” sandwich that’s unfortunately no longer on the menu – short ribs, Murray’s secret cheese blend, caramelized onions, and fresh arugula on Pullman bread – but you really can’t go wrong with any of their melts. The current ‘Shroom Melt (brie, mushrooms, truffle-pesto aioli) and the Mayflower (smoked gouda, turkey, bacon, cranberry chutney, and a “stuffing” aioli) sound especially delicious.

Look at that gooey butteriness… Just this side of too rich for me, the sandwich’s arugula and sweet onions did a good job of complementing all that dairy and meat.

Afterwards, a walk on the beautiful High Line is the best way to work off the cheese bomb you just ate.

 

Murray’s Melts (at the Murray’s Cheese Greenwich Village location)
254 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014
212.243.3289

Dominique Ansel Bakery

January 22, 2012 § 3 Comments

Lately, whenever visiting New York City, I’ve been more interested in exploring small, cozy coffeeshops (or places that serve afternoon tea, which is a topic for another time) or casual bakeries as opposed to more formal, sit-down restaurants (my wallet has been grateful). One such place that Laura and I visited was the relatively new Dominique Ansel Bakery tucked in the Soho district. Ansel used to work at the famous Daniel Boulud, including when it won its first three Michelin stars, four-star New York Times rating, and James Beard award but then decided to venture out on his own by opening a neighborhood cafe.

The space was much bigger than I anticipated, with plenty of indoor seating and a covered atrium with heating, and as with all great bakeries, there were cases of Ansel’s beautiful pastries, cakes, and desserts, a feast for the eyes.

The bakery also has a decent amount of savory offerings for lunch, so Laura and I ordered the roasted pork club, the truffle grilled cheese, and a Paris-New York pastry for dessert. The roasted pork club came stuffed to the brink with surprisingly tender and flavorful pork, halved hard-boiled eggs, tomato, lettuce, and a killer spicy mayonnaise that tasted slightly of chipotle. Laura’s truffle grilled cheese was an inexpensive indulgence, with slices of garlic rosemary sourdough bread slathered in butter on the outside and oozing with mozzarella, Gruyere, and Fontina cheeses on the inside. I’m considering buying a small tub of truffle butter to attempt a recreation at home. Our Paris-New York, a twist on the Paris-Brest, was a beautifully-presented pate a choux dough filled with peanut (the candied peanuts on top, so tasty!), caramel, and chocolate. What more could a girl want?

Places like Dominique Ansel – with their calm atmosphere, excellent and beautiful food, and friendly service – always make me a little (read very) jealous of my sisters living in the city, especially Laura, who lives close to Union Square and could easily walk to Dominique Ansel. How nice would it be to spend a day window-shopping and wandering in Soho and then indulge in some eclairs and coffee? Summer in New York can’t come soon enough, but in the meantime, I’m stuck in the frigid cold subsisting on painfully ordinary food.

Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 Sullivan Street (btw Spring and Thompson)
New York, NY 10012
212.219.2773

Buttercup brie sandwich

April 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Buttercup brie from Cherry Grove Farms

One of the three cheeses we picked up at Bedford Cheese Shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was a rich and creamy Buttercup brie from Cherry Grove Farms in Lawrenceville, NJ. I usually like to keep things simple and bake Brie with honey and walnuts or caramelized onions, but this weekend I picked up a loaf of buttery brioche from Just Desserts at the farmer’s market and apples at Wegmans, so, with the addition of Honey Dijon I had in the pantry, I decided to make a grilled cheese sandwich instead. I’ve also seen other combinations, like pears instead of apples, maybe a bit of thinly sliced ham or even crisp bacon, etc but you want to make sure you don’t overpower the subtle richness of the cheese. Easy, quick, but still very special.

Assembly

Buttercup brie sandwich

2 oz creamy brie, at room temperature and thinly sliced
1/4 tart-sweet apple like a Gala or Empire, thinly sliced into wedges
honey Dijon mustard
sea salt and black pepper
2 1-inch slices buttery, eggy bread like brioche or challah
1 tablespoon butter

Assemble first five ingredients, adding or subtracting amounts depending on personal taste, on the brioche slices. Add butter to a non-stick skillet on medium heat. When the butter’s melted, grill the sandwich for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden-brown and the cheese has melted.

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