Paris, Part 1

April 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

Vanessa and I recently went on a dream trip to Paris and by the end, neither of us wanted to come back. Both of us had visited before so our main objectives this time around were simply eating and drinking as much great food and wine as possible, wandering aimlessly a la flaneur, meeting cute French guys and getting in some serious shopping, all of which we handily accomplished and then some.

We stayed in a seriously gorgeous AirBnb 2 bedroom apartment on the left bank in the St. Germain area, a neighborhood I fell in love with the last time I visited, full of charming boutiques and bistros and of course…the department store, Le Bon Marche. Assuming that I get to visit Paris more regularly in the future, I would stay here again and again.

We had our first lunch at Cafe Varenne, just down the street from our apartment and a sentimental favorite from my last time in Paris. A bottle of red wine (by the way, we couldn’t get over how inexpensive great red wine was in Paris…it made NYC prices look like absolute gouging), steak and frites and we were super happy campers, despite the lack of sleep.

Dinner at the super hip, draped-in-velvet Hotel Costes…where you could smoke on the terrace and all the servers were beautiful. We shared a bottle of champagne and then I had a lighter dinner of sweet, freshly grilled langoustines with some greens.

Another epic meal of the trip at L’Avant Comptoir, the standing-only bar next to the famous bistro, Le Comptoir. We had SO much fun here just drinking and eating small bites and shocking the bartender, Baptiste, at how much we could stuff down our gullets over the course of about six (yes, that’s right, six) hours. I really loved the communal Bordier butter (Vanessa became obsessed) and bread as well as the giant jar of cornichons (NYC DOH would have fainted). Also…there were a lot of cute, friendly French men here which may have contributed to why we stayed so long…

Menu items hanging from the ceiling

Some of the 16 dishes (again…it was an epic meal) that we ordered over the course of several hours – duck sausage hot dog, blood sausage with brandied apples, shishito peppers, giant slab of Bordier butter, gratineed scallop and oh…just our third bottle of wine…

One of the most special meals we had was a lunch at L’Arpege, a 3-Michelin starred restaurant with a focus on vegetables (which we were actually thankful for after our meat-heavy binge at L’Avant Comptoir). We started with more champagne (a habit we eagerly adopted during the rest of our trip) and the lightest black pepper and onion pastry.

Some other highlights of the tasting menu were the perfectly cooked Dover sole with charred cabbage and their version of bouillabaisse. Such bright and clean flavors and again, surprisingly light. Just look at those pops of color!

Some non-food related activities: a visit to Sacre Coeur in the Montmartre neighborhood and then seeing Dita von Teese (one of my ultimate girl crushes) perform a seriously amazing show at the famous club, Crazy Horse.

Stayed tuned for more in the next post!

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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)

Toro

January 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

Lately, one of my favorite restaurants in the city has been Toro, the giant Spanish restaurant owned by Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette in the Meatpacking District, right next to the West Side Highway. They manage to do everything right here (which is impressive considering their extensive and varied menu) and the service is absolutely awesome. There have been many instances where I’ll go with a few friends after a late night at work, grab seats at the bar and order a bunch of tapas along with whatever wine/cider/cocktail the bartenders recommend that evening. Sometimes we end it after a couple bites but most nights (especially if it’s during the weekend or a special occasion), we’ll order multiple rounds and even partake in trying the porron, a traditional Catalan drinking vessel, or bone marrow luge. I even decided to have my birthday dinner here. Below are some of my favorite dishes after multiple visits and menu changes. If you ever have a chance to go, I seriously recommend it for a fun, casual night out.

Classic jamon serrano – rosier and less salty than its Italian counterpart, prosciutto

Grilled corn with alioli, lime, espelette seasoning and aged cheese – super rich in the best possible way

Fideos with clams and peppers (I actually like this broken-noodle dish more than the paella below)

Grilled razor clams with piquillo pepper, garlic and lemon – briny with a touch of acidity and a good amount of meatiness

Caviar, sea urchin and quail egg with jamon iberico – ultimate indulgence in a single spoon and understandably, my friend Vanessa’s favorite dish of them all

Bacalao (salt cod) fritters with tempura lemon rings and aioli – a classic and exemplar of anything fried

A sea urchin crudo special with shiso strongly recommended by our favorite bartender, Ken

Seared foie gras with seckle pear and marcona almonds

Paella with shrimp, mussels, clams, chorizo and chicken, complete with the required crispy and slightly burnt soccarat on the bottom

Mushrooms, cooked on the plancha (a sort of super-hot flattop), with a beautiful farm egg

Roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad, beef cheek marmalade and grilled bread. This is probably my favorite (and one of the most gluttonous) dishes at Toro. It’s well-balanced between the fatty marrow and the tart and peppery salad AND it enables you to do the bone marrow luge (where you pour some dry sherry down the scooped out bone and take it like a shot).

 

Brunch at Tertulia

December 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

An impromptu brunch with Cindy at Seamus Mullen’s Tertulia on 6th Avenue in the West Village, one of my go-t0 casual spots in the city. Our conversation earlier that day (which resembles about 80% of our conversations period) basically went: “Have you eaten yet?” “No” “Brunch?” “Meet you at Tertulia at 1pm” “OK, yayyyy.”

Tertulia is known for its traditional and modern tapas, and the interior does make you feel like your inside a bar in Barcelona. I’d only ever visited for dinner and didn’t really know what to expect for brunch. As it turns out, our meal, though enormous and probably difficult to finish for two much larger-sized males, admittedly didn’t include your typical brunch fare, but it was perfect for someone like me who isn’t big on sweets. The nuestras patatas – crispy potatoes with pimenton and garlicky aioli – were spud crack. So addictive that I kept going back until the large pan was empty. I’m also always a sucker for fried shishito peppers (you’ll see that fried is a theme here, despite it being a veg-heavy meal), sprinkled with sea salt at the last second before serving. Although the tortilla espagnola (eggs, potato, onion and olive oil cooked in a small skillet) was delicious, it wasn’t as exciting as the other dishes.

Probably the best dish were our brussels sprouts (again, fried to crispy) with smoked sobresada, pork belly and sheep’s milk yogurt. I had this the first time I ever went to Tertulia a few years ago and went bonkers over it, but since then, I never saw it on the menu during subsequent visits and figured it was a seasonal item. Super savory, with fatty chunks of pork belly and a creamy yogurt dressing, it’s a dish I would order at the bar with some red wine on a solo visit (if I ever actually did that kind of thing).

Our last dish – a seasonal dish consisting of grilled broccoli, lamb bacon, olive oil fried egg and some peppers – though good, paled in comparison to the potatoes and the sprouts. The broccoli was a bit raw for my taste and the dish overall seemed a bit dry to me and could’ve used some kind of sauce or dressing. All in all, however, a really satisfying, fry-tastic not-really-brunch that reminded me why Tertulia is one of my favorite restaurants in New York City.

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

Tertulia

March 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

Of all the places in the world, Spain is the country I want to visit most. Barcelona, San Sebastien, Valencia, Madrid – they all sound like food-lovers’ paradises to me, with their beautiful and vibrant markets, fresh seafood, and ubiquitous tapas bars and cider joints. Tertulia is a place I’ve been wanting to visit for a while now. The chef, Seamus Mullen, has gotten great reviews from the New York Times and NYMag, and looking at the menu, I like that he sticks with traditional Spanish fare and does it very well instead of trying to twist it into something super modern. Another testament to the food? The fact that other chefs – like Mario Batali’s Iron Chef America sous chef, Anne Burrell (peeking at the camera in the first photo) – enjoy dining there on their off time. By the way, I was taking a picture of the interior and totally not being a creepster.

In an effort to eat (a lot) more vegetables lately, Laura and I started with the pimientos de padron – fried Shishito peppers with lots of sea salt – and the nuestras patatas – crispy potatoes with pimenton de la Vera and garlic all i oli. Holy crap, both of these dishes were so effing good. I would have been satisfied with these alone. The peppers were blistered and slightly sweet, and they had the crispness of a perfectly blanched green bean. Of course, tossing them in sea salt added exponentially to their flavor. Out of about 16 on our plate, I managed to get the only spicy one.

As for the spuds, I couldn’t figure out if they were fried or roasted, because these potatoes were expertly seasoned, super crispy on the outside, and creamy on the inside without any grease, and the all i oli was out of this world – garlicky and rich. Laura and I scraped up  every last drop.

Our favorite dish by far, however, were the croquettes de jamon. Chef Mullen mixes scraps of prized jamon Iberico into his creamy bechamel and then quickly drops them in oil to give these babies the texture of fried soup, velvety and lovely on the inside. To make them even better, they come served with membrillo sauce, made of the quince fruit, and the sauce’s tartness cuts the luxuriousness of the croquette.

Our final dish were the crispy brussel sprouts with pork belly and mojo picon, a Spanish red pepper sauce. Our one, very small, gripe with this was the almost excessive use of vinegar which had us occasionally puckering our lips, but this was still an excellent take on sprouts, and I would still order it again.

So there you have it – a Spanish gem in the Washington Square Park area. It’s good that I don’t live in the neighborhood (yet), because I’d come here all the time, especially after a long day at work when I need a good glass of wine and some soul-warming food. Next time I visit, I plan on just ordering the classics – unadulterated jamon Iberico, boquerones, and pan con tomate – but this was a great vegetable-oriented introduction to Tertulia and fueled us for an entire afternoon’s worth of shopping in downtown Manhattan.

Tertulia
359 6th Avenue
New York, NY
646.559.9909

Spinach Catalan style and Shrimp with Garlic

August 19, 2009 § 1 Comment

Here are two more recipes from the tapas party that I promised. I first had the spinach dish at Jaleo in D.C. and I think it’s part of the reason I recently overcame my aversion to green and leafy vegetables (yes, I was one of those kids). The toastiness and crunch of the pine nuts adds really great flavor as well, and plumping the raisins in the hot water beforehand makes all the difference.

The shrimp was definitely the most popular dish of the night. We didn’t even bother with transferring it to a nice serving platter; I just moved the hot saute pan from the stove and set it on the counter, right before every one attacked the garlicky olive oil with crusty slices of bread. I think we bought about 2 pounds of smaller sized shrimp, and within 25-30 minutes, we had eaten it all. It was so good that we couldn’t even stop eating it even if we wanted to! It’s also something that anyone, even complete kitchen novices, can make so if you’ve never cooked anything before, I HIGHLY recommend letting this be your first attempt.

Spinach with raisins and pine nuts

1/4 cup raisins
1 pound of fresh spinach, stems removed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nutes
salt and black pepper to taste

Soak the raisins in hot water for about 10 minutes, until they become plump. Wash the spinach, but don’t completely dry the leaves. Steam in a large saute pan until they’ve become wilted and tender, less than 5 minutes. When the spinach is cooler, squeeze out all excess moisture and chop roughly.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, drizzle in olive oil over medium heat and add the pine nuts and raisins. Stir occasionally, until the pine nuts have become toasted and slightly golden. Add the spinach and sautee for about another 4-5 minutes until everything glistens. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot or at room temperature.

Shrimp with garlic

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (it must be EVOO, the fruitiness really adds to the flavor)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced as thin as possible
1 pound peeled shrimp (in this case, it’s better if the shrimp are on the smaller side)
coarse salt to taste (NO black pepper)
chopped parsley for garnish

On medium heat, combine oil and garlic in a deep skillet or saute pan. When the garlic begins to sizzle and turn golden, add the shrimp. Cook and stir until the shrimp have become opaque. About 3-4 minutes. MAKE SURE that you don’t overcook the shrimp, otherwise they get all nasty and rubbery and the dish is ruined (no pressure!).

Stir in however much salt you want, garnish with parsley and serve immediately, directly from the pan. The sauce tastes AMAZING with good country bread.

Straightforward sangria and crispy patatas bravas

August 5, 2009 § 2 Comments

As promised, two of the many recipes from tapas at Phil’s.

Sangria

1/2 cup sugar syrup (half part sugar, half part water, heated until sugar dissolves)
two bottles of fruit red wine or red Zinfandel (we used one of each and doubled the recipe)
juice of 2 lemons
2 oranges, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
2 apples, sliced
2 peaches, sliced
1 large bottle of sparkling water

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or large punch bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Serve with ice.

Patatas bravas

These are a classic tapas dish in Spain, and as with anything involving potatoes and extra virgin olive oil, they are so delicious without the heaviness of something deep-fried. Really easy to make too. They’re traditionally served with a spicy tomato sauce and/or allioli, the garlic mayonnaise.

16 small red potatoes, quartered. Leave skins on.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or enough to coat all the potatoes
coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the potatoes in large pot and cover by 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, and then turn heat to medium. Leave for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.

Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet, toss with the olive oil and salt, and spread into one even layer. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with tomato sauce.

Tomato Sauce

2 cups plain marinara sauce
cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika to taste

Combine to personal taste and heat.

Tapas party at Phil’s

August 3, 2009 § Leave a comment

My friend Phil recently got his entire kitchen renovated (it’s soooo beautiful!) so a bunch of us invited ourselves over there to cook up some Spanish tapas dishes. Needless to say, after three hardworking, sweaty hours, and two rounds of delicious food (and before we were even able to get to the churros and Spanish hot chocolate), we were gut-bustingly full on gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic), patatas bravas (crispy, peasant-style potatoes dipped in tomato sauce), and other dishes. And I just wanted to thank everyone for putting up with me barking orders at them, especially Phil, who had his kitchen taken over by a food-obsessed mad woman and his parents who trusted that we wouldn’t destroy their house, and Julia, who took all the pictures while I was running around the kitchen.

Menu

 

  • Spicy and candied almonds
  • Gambas al ajillo, shrimp with garlic
  • Sauteed wild and cultivated mushrooms with parsley
  • Patatas bravas, peasant style potatoes
  • Pan con tomate, bread with tomato rub
  • Espinacas a la catalana (Spinach Catalan-style)
  • Steak au poivre (which, yes, is French and really had no business being there but we needed beef)
  • Sangria

The shrimp, potatoes, and steak (no surprise with this meat and taters loving group) were the biggest hits of the night but what made me happiest was everyone seemed to be eating everything. Even the spinach wasn’t neglected.

The Quans go to Washington

April 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

There’s only about 3 weeks left in the semester, and to help me through to the final stretch, my parents and youngest sister Jackie came down this past weekend to keep me company during my Easter break. At first I was a bit nervous since the weather didn’t look too good, but Friday, it was sunny and clear and we spent the entire day downtown at the National Mall and Smithsonian museums – American History, National Gallery (of course) and Natural History.

My parents left all the eating up to me, and I have to say I planned out a pretty damn good itinerary. We had a lovely light lunch at Teaism which was fast and cheap, but the bento boxes and other food were surprisingly fresh and tasty. Jackie really liked the mango lassi and the salty oat cookies (which I could eat with the tea alone), and I loved the little pot that the tea came in. The adjacent tea shop next doory wasn’t open at the time, but I think I might go back there to get a Mother’s Day gift or something. I could see how people go there day after day for lunch; there are so many different choices, so many possible combinations.

We started on campus, which was absolutely beautiful because all the tulips and flowers had already started blooming. Plus, mom and dad had to get the requisite shot of them in front of Healy Tower. My parents really enjoyed the National Gallery, especially the large rotunda on the second floor with the giant marble columns. I don’t think my mom realized that there were so many important paintings in DC, so she was pretty impressed with the Monets and Van Goghs housed upstairs. There was also a temporary orchid exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, so if you’re in DC during the next month or so, I’d recommend stopping by there as well. All Smithsonian museums have free admission! One reason why I really love going to school in DC. Free culture!

Finally, we had dinner back at Jaleo in Penn Quarter since my parents had never tried Spanish tapas before and Jaleo was one of the first restaurants that I had reviewed for The Hoya. I have always loved Jose Andres food since then, so I thought it would be a special treat for them to try a lot of his small dishes. Everything we ordered was delicious, especially the classic tuna salad ensaladilla rusa and the semolina cake for dessert, which had a lovely light texture, paired with the cinnamon ice cream.

So that concludes the first day while my family was down here. We spent the rest of the night at my mom’s college friend’s house in Fairfax, VA where a bunch of them got together and just drank cocktails and ate snacks while reminiscing about college life and passing along gossip about other classmates. The next day we went to Old Town Alexandria and had some of the best seafood of my life, but that’s for another day’s post.

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