The Sexiest Pasta on Earth

This post is not for Puritans, vegetarians, or children.

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This post is for those of you who want to embrace life while you eat.  Who relish the innate, sensual experience that is eating.   And it is for people who like the three basic food groups:

 

Bacon, Eggs, and Cream

That’s right bitches.  We are making bastardized carbonara.

Get an onion.

Dice it.( in case you want a little reminder on a great way to dice an onion, click here)

Get like a bunch of bacon…let’s just say a whole packet.

Dice it.

Throw both of them into a pot with a few good glugs of olive oil on medium low heat to sloooooowly render the fat. The bacon  becomes crispy and golden and the onions translucent and sweet as honey.

Take the mixture out of the oil when the bacon is dark brown NOT black, and the onions are light brown and caramalized.  If there are a few black-ish onions, that is ok.  They will still taste divine.

 

If you are sitting next to someone right now and their mouth is not watering, THEY ARE AN ANDROID! YOUR FRIEND’S BODY HAS BEEN STOLEN. Cause this stuff is…just freaking delicious

I could stop right here.

But I won’t.

While that is resting, boil your pasta.

Use this pasta if you are totally indulgent with your food budget, and still wear the same jeans that you wore in college so that you can justify spending clothes money on imported foodstuffs.

It has saffron and truffles in it, and smells like angels and world peace.

(any old cheapo pasta will be just delicious in this sauce, too )

While that cooks, separate two eggs.  That is, crack an egg, and taking the two halves of the shell,

Flip the yolk back and forth a couple of times so the white falls out into a bowl beneath,

And you are left with just a yolk, which you dump into a different bowl

*But save those whites!  You can turn them into meringues, souffles, omelettes, or an angel food cake!  If you put them in an ice cube tray and freeze them, you can pop those whites out whenever you need them*


Now back to the food porn

Told you this was too steamy for kids.

Pour a couple tablespoons of HEAVY cream into the egg yolks.  By a couple i mean try to stop yourself from emptying the full pint in there

Sweet Cream.  Velvety egg yolks.  Your pulse should be quickening just at the thought of such a combo

Now throw tons of black pepper and whip the whole mixture with a fork…whip it good ;)

By now the pasta is still has a teensy bit of bite in it-it shouldn’t  disintegrating in your mouth, because it continues to cook from residual heat for a couple of secs after it comes off the stove.

Pour the egg mixture into the drained pasta while furiously tossing the pasta so the eggs don’t scramble

The heat from the pasta gently cooks the eggs and cream into a slippery, luscious sauce.

Time for a decadent downpour of  pecorino romano cheese (it is a sheep’s milk cheese that is very sharp and salty, but parmasean would also work in a pinch), and throw in the bacon and onion mixture.

 

Oh for Pete’s sake.

I mean, really

Guys, this will get you the girl.  Girls, this will get you the ring. Taylor Momsen, this will make you respectable again

 

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Well, not even bastardized pasta carbonara can solve all problems.

Peas or asparagus would be great in this.  A green salad with a light vinegarette would be a wonderful addition.  Rasberry sorbet with chocolate chips would be a light yet decadent dessert.

But why bother?

Turn on the tv, turn off your phone, and eat the creamy, salty, umami, meaty goodness that is this meal.  Then later when your hot next door neighboor comes over to ask if you have a fan he/she can borrow, offer him/her some of the leftover pasta.  Don’t be surprised when he/she decides to linger a little longer then necessary.  Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do that first night ;)

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And remember-it isn’t you who has these bewitching charms.  You owe it all the the sexiest pasta on earth.

Les Halles Brunch

Saturday in New York means two things:

1)nursing the hangover from having too many of these:

2)having a delicious brunch, hopefully from somewhere like this:

Ah yes, Les Halles.  Famous for being associated with the celbrity chef, writer, television host, and former chain smoker, Anthony Bourdain.

 He wrote this book called Kitchen Confidential in 2000, and totally kicked off the bad ass chef tour de force that Gordon Ramsey and others would later join.  Bourdain exposed the drug use, foul language, and questionable freshness/cleanliness practices going on in kitchens at the time.  To this DAY I don’t order sushi on a Sunday or a Monday.  The book is kinda raunchy, VERY funny, and simultaneously grosses you out and makes you hungry.  Kinda like eating a fast food meal in your car at 3:00 in the afternoon

So GOOD yet so bad for you!

Anyway, after he became a big success, he opened up the first of his Les Halles restaurants, named after the famous open air market that serviced Paris for many years.  He is no longer affiliated with the restaurant, but it still operates with the same menu, and (presumably)the same standard of cooking.   It is now a mini chain serving delicious and reliable bistro fare.

 

As we walked into the John Street location, we noticed it was hot.  Reeeeallly hot.  This location has no air.  Luckily, it has about 20,000 fans that keep the air from being too still.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still so hot I secretly started siphoning ice cubes out of my water to put in my bra.  But the management was trying, at least.

The restaurant is surprisingly large for a New York City space, with a medium size front room opening up into a long and narrow second dining space (where we ate), and upstairs seating area, and a small room in the back for private affairs.

 

We were seated at a spacious circular table, and before our orders were even taken, this beauty was dropped off.

BREAD.  LOVE IT!  There was a nutty whole wheat bread that was a little too fluffy and textureless for my taste, and a PERFECT baguette.  This is almost as good as what you would have in Paris.  Crusty but not crunchy exterior. Tangy but not sour insides.  Perfect hole structure.   Excellent foundation for LAYERS of sweet unsalted butter.  Yeah this carbolicious start promised great things to follow!

The attentive and speedy waiter soon brought my dad’s appetizer:

Betterave rôtie au fromage de chèvre (Roasted red beets topped with goat cheese).  Though I didn’t try this, my sister and dad both swooned over it!  They said there were some lightly sauteed shallots in with the sugary beets, and that the goat cheese on top was earthy and creamy (ok, ok, they didn’t use those EXACT words, but i am telling you, that’s what my dad meant when he said “yeah, it’s great!”).  I have had this appetizer before at Les Halles, and while I don’t think it is particularly a revelation  on beet preparation, beets and goat cheese were just made to go together, and this is an excellent execution.

I got the Salade de poulet grillé (Grilled chicken salad with arugula, parmasean cheese, and basil oil).  Boring and seemingly a waste of a lunch out?  Sure!  Delicious, light, and perfectly prepared?  You bet your life it was!  The chicken was 3 white meate fillets, grilled until just perfectly cooked, juicy, and redolent of woodsy and earthy rosemary.  The tomatoes were also roasted with thyme, rosemary, and marjoram that made the them take on a richer more savory taste than plain tomatoes tend to have.  With these deep flavors, the fresh, slightly bitter arugula dressed in lightly fragrant basil infused olive oil and lemon was perfect.  Not all foods must be new or thrilling.  Some can just be perfectly rendered dishes that fulfill your body and your spirit,and that is totally what this was.

 

Sandwich de Poulet, frites (Roasted chicken sandwich with herbed mayonnaise and French fries).  Most of the brunch party ordered this, and that’s because I told them to, because this sandwich would turn a PETA member into a meat eater.  It’s that outstanding.

This is what I order almost every time I come here.  Roasted white and dark meat, yielding delicious juices onto supple yet crusty baguette.  Freshly made mayonnaise dotted with parsley, tarragon, and other fresh and zesty herbs. Meaty roasted tomatoes dripping sweet seeds onto the delicate balance of meat, mayo, and bread.  This is simply the BEST CHICKEN SANDWICH I HAVE EVER HAD OUTSIDE MY OWN KITCHEN.  Or maybe even in my own kitchen…damn it.  The homemade mayo is really what puts it over the top.  It’s just gently lush with a yellow appearince and a lemony, herby taste that hits all the tastebuds.  The sandwich is served warm and tastes like heaven.  Just get it already.

With it is a fresh but nondistinguished side salad and some truly FAB fries. Those tender little sticks of potato were creamy and fluffy inside, crunchy and golden outside. They were liberally salted-just how i like them-and to dip them into some tart ketchup, then feel the salty, oily, earthy potato slide down your gullet is one of life’s true pleasures.  These are some ASS KICKING fries.  And they made me feel better about wasting a whole meal on salad. Eating a salad means I must eat fries as well.

The meal was around $75 for 5 people ordering entrees, with one appetizer and a large bottle of sparkling water.  It is moderately priced, well prepared food in an elegant and servicable dining space.  It is not as exotic as the food Anthony Bourdain eats on his tv show “No Reservations”

…but it is at LEAST as delicious!

Les Halles Downtown on Urbanspoon

Boi Noodles Review

I love Vietnamese food.  Fresh flavors of mint, cilantro, and lime; pungent fish sauce that makes my mouth pucker and my tastebudds sing, springy and tender rice noodles…it is as spicy as thai but without the heaviness(Though DAMN I love me some pad kee mao!) When I heard this casual offshooot of the upscale Vietnamese restaurant Boi opened in my neighborhood awhile back, I just KNEW I would have to give it a try!

Set up like Chipotle, you go down the line and pick what you want from a list of menu options, including pho, banh mi, and make your own Asian Burrito/Rice/Noodle bowls.  The restaurant was clean and sparse, with a dining section upstairs, much like any NYC deli.  The food looked clean and fresh, and the smell of lemongrass pervaded the air-things were promising!

Then I tried to order.

Have you ever been to the DMV?  Or the Post Office?  Or-my personal favorite-Wal Mart customer service? Then you have the basic idea of how difficult it was to order my meal.  In their defense, the people helping me were incredibly nice and genuinly conerned that I wanted two-yes TWO-diferent kinds of meat on my rice bowl.  After about 7 million years of me convincing them that YES I would pay the extra charge, and NO I was not going to eat all this food by myself, I got my order and left…slighly exhausted, and even MORE hungry

The first thing I unpacked was this beef pho:

.  Pronounced like “fun” without the “n”, pho is a national dish of Vietnam.  It is Vietnam’s version of American chicken noodle soup-everyone eats it when they are a kid, everyone’s own mom makes it the best, and everyone’s recipe is slightly different.  This pho was chock full of thick rice noodles, thin rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, and thinly sliced beef.  Looked great and tasted…

Like lemongrass scented dishwater.  Really.  No salt, no kicky bite of spice, no acid of lime, NADA.  It was warm and insanely lemongrass-y.  Now i like lemongrass as much as the next gal, but this was like I swallowed perfume-it had so much of that floral note, I felt like all the taste was at the back of the palate, going up into my nose.  Usually I am a huuuuge fan of cilantro and mint, but with all the lemongrass, these herbs just made the grassy taste of the soup even more apparent and unpleasant.

Additionally, the beef was cooked till it resembled silly putty-rubbery through and through.  Though I have been called a vampire by those who say I like my meat too rare (if the cow ain’t moving anymore, it’s fair game for me to eat), this beef was totally reprehensible in anyone’s book.  It seems to have been steamed beforehand-with ZERO seasoning-then left in a warming drawer or something before it was thrown into the underseasoned soup.

The noodles were the sole redeeming quality of this soup-not that they were homemade or especially memorable.  I just love the slippery, chewy texture of rice noodles.  So this is kind of a default compliment-sorry! :(

Next I got a rice noodle bowl with barbecued pork AND curried chicken meatballs (this was the cause of the  confusion when i ordered).  I topped it with all the options available-corn, carrots, lettuce, cilantro, onions, and for a sauce I chose honey hoisin (there are many differnt sauce choices-your first one is free and each one after that is a nominal charge).

Ok Boi Noodles, now we’re talkin!  The veggies were fresh, the rice noodles supple, and the pork was really great!  It tasted like a mix between Thai satay and Chinese Cha Su Bao-sweet, caramalized, and intensely porky.  It was tender enough to cut with a fork, and lean enough so you tasted the smoky, rich flavor of pork instead of unctuous fat.

The curry chicken meatball was even better!  It was made of ground chicken, rice, herbs, and coated with a light, non spicy, Japanese style curry sauce.  Fluffy, tender, and fresh with cilantro and curry, these meatballs were a standout and paired especially well with the sweet hoisin sauce.  I can’t WAIT to try to make an Asian Meatball Sub based on these babies!

 

My final dish was the classic banh mi.  When Vietnam was a French colony, the French officers who lived there brought many of their cusoms, including the famous French baguette.  Adapting to what was available locally, the French and Vietnames alike filled the baguettes with locally available fillings, and-voila!  the banh mi was born.  It is essentially an Asian style sub sandwich.  The original fusion dish!

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This banh mi is the most classic variation, though you can now get banh mi filled with anything from spicy catfish to all veggies.  Mine had ham, pate, bbq pork, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, jalapenos, and sriracha.  It was also, as seen above, as big as my arm.  You definitely get your money’s worth as far as SIZE goes here.  But as far as taste? meh.

 

The pork was great and so were the tart pickled veggies.  But the pate was overly mushy and peppery, lacking the true liver-y taste i wanted.  The ham was a bit gristly, the jalapenos virtually heatless, and i found the bread cottony insteand of crackly and dense.  What should have been a symphony of sweet, sour, spicy, meaty, and lush, was merely a symphony of…oh well.

 

I’m bummed!  i wanted to looooove Boi Noodles!  But they are either cutting corners or simplifying the food for New Yorkers.  Either way-it just isn’t doing it for me.  Additionally, it was not especially cheap-just under 28 dollars for my order.  I did like the make your own bowl, but not enough to be able to wholeheartedly recommend it.  Come on guys-up the heat level!  give me some rare beef in my pho!  Ease up on the friggin lemongrass!  Cause I absolutely want to love ya!

 

incidentally…WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VIETNAMESE DISH?  POST IT IN THE COMMENTS :)

Boi Noodles on Urbanspoon

Gazala Place Review

It’s hot.  You are hungry.  You are poor. 

ANYWAYAs you and Stephanie walk through Hells Kitchen, she pulls you into this restaurant:

 

 

 

And she says-”omg i have eaten here before!  We MUST go in and get falafel!”

 

You love falafel. You know Stephanie takes food very seriously. You say ok.

 

As soon as you enter, you see these things sitting on the counter.

 

Buttery, pillowy, croissant like dough in yeasty layers folded into a cinnamon roll shape.  The scent of spinach, garlic, and sesame wafts towards you.  You start to drool a little

 

 

You are embarassed.  So is Stephanie.

 

You squeeze into a teeny tiny booth in this teeny tiny restaurant.  Pillows line the booths, and though the space is a little bit cramped, it is clean and functional.

 

After an enthusiastic waitress takes your order, you talk about how crazy Mel Gibson is and how you need to start watching True Blood.  Cause you totally do.

 

Then the bounty starts to arrive…

 

 

The tabbouleh comes first.  Parsley, mint, tomato, lemon, bulgar wheat and olive oil.  It is like pesto without abrasive garlic, or a chopped salad with carbolicious nuggest of the pasta-like wheat.  It is summer in a bowl-subtle, refreshing, tart. It is not salty or spicy.  It is just refreshing and you shovel it into my mouth like you’re going to the chair.

 


Then the LEHEM BELAGEEN arrives.  Flakey, crispy, nutty whole wheat dough topped with mint infused ground meat,  pine nuts, and sundried tomatoes. The crust crackles as you drag your knife through it to spear yourself part of the meat pie.  The beef is charred on the outside but soft and lucious on the inside, spilling umami filled juices onto the bread underneath.  Salty, crunchy, soft, and filling all at the same time.  The pine nuts are not noticeable, but the sundried tomatoes are plump and vibrant- nothing like the oil packed variety we get in the grocery store.  This is a hamburger out of “1,000 arabian nights”.


About now you wish you were eating here alone.  Stephanie is enjoying sharing a little too much.  You need to get friends with smaller appetites



Falafel.


Parsley, oregano, garlic.  Chickpeas.  Thickly crunchy on the outside, smoothly creamy on the inside.  Like heavily spiced potato croquettes.  Nary a speck of grease on my hands.  So hot the steam burns your tongue when you eat it.

Rich sesame tahini.  Homemade saag pita which tastes like a very thin, very delicious whole wheat flour tortilla.  Crispy iceberg lettuce.  fresh tomatoes.

 

 

This meal is transportive.  It is swimming in the salty Dead Sea, feeling the warm sun on your face, eating food that has been feeding many cultures for THOUSANDS of years.  We hear so much about the middle east, yet never about the totally transcendent food of the Druze that Gazala Place executes with love and passion.  You taste the passion in the soft, housemade pita.  You smell the love when that mint and garlic laced beef pie hits the table.  You know you are in for something special when the salty, savory,  fresh falafal sandwich graces your palate.  And you know you are lucky when the bill comes to $21 for the two of you.

 

As you step back into the blazing July heat, you are somewhat shocked to rediscover that you are not in someone’s kitchen in the middle east after all.  You have been in New York all this time.  You are just a lucky food lover, who has to start watching True Blood.  Who loves falafel.  Who writes about it on her blog.

 

Gazala Place on Urbanspoon

Yerba Buena Perry Street es Muy Bueno

…ps I took French in high school…so if I misspelled the above title…tell it to the judge!  Cause I parle Francais!

 

ANYWAY-my boyfriend decided to take me out to an awesome dinner for Restaurant Week.http://www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek/

 

 

 In case you do not know, Restaurant Week is one week in the summer and one in the winter where high class restaurants do specially priced menus, so pretty much anyone can afford to go to them.  Lunch is usually $25 and dinner is $35. REALLY awesome, four star establishments participate. While some people feel you get lesser quality and service during Restaurant Week, I think it is a wonderful opportunity to experience  upscale dining at pennies to the dollar.  You just have to do your research carefully, and choose restaurants who really care about getting repeat customers, and rely on Restaurant Week to spread their customer base. Which is why Kyle and I chose Yerba Buena Perry Street http://ybnyc.com/index_nm.html

 

Yerba Buena Perry Street is a restaurant run by Julian Medina, who runs Mexican restaurant Toaloche.  It is a Latin American restaurant with Argentinian, Brazilian, and Venezualan influences.

 

 

Located right hear the 123 stop at Union Square, Yerba Buena is an unassuming, almost incognito spot that you would miss if you weren’t looking for it.  Inside is a small, dark, modern dining space with a beautiful bar.

 

 

 

After we sat at a booth, we were presented with the Restaurant Week menu.

 Tacos de Pescado - Tilapia Baja style, mango slaw, chipotle salsa.

 

 

 

These beer battered fish were lightly coated and quickly fried.  The fish was flaky, greaseless, and resting on clearly homemade, bursting with corn flavor tortillas.  The rough, deliciously grainy tortillas perfectly folded into the sweet mango slaw, spiked with pungent cilantro, and the only vaguely spicy chipotle salsa. I loved this appetizer. If you like fish and the briny taste that only wonderful seafood brings,  you will definitely like this appetizer.  If you don’t like fish…I just feel sorry for you, and hope whoever caused you to hate fish…

 

Mean Old Lunch Lady Royalty Free Stock Photos

…is justly punished!

 

 

 

I chose the Arepa Peluda-braised beef short ribs “carne mechada”, Chihuahua cheese.

 

DUDE!!! These tasted like…and I mean this in the MOST complimentary way…TACO BELL SOFT TACOS ON CRACK!  They were gently cooked till they just about melted in your mouth, seasoned with cumin and garlic-not spicy at ALL-then topped with mozzerella like cheese!  They were sandwiched on airy  yet crispy arepas, which are made out of corn.  These were outSTANDING.  I mean-look at the FLAVA speckling the plate and bun in delicate orange droplets that signify the lushness that only beef can yield.

 

 

 Was it greasy?  YES.  Was it worth it? YES. Do i want more right now? WHAT DO YOU THINK?!?!

 

 the Chaufa de Pato - duck carnitas, cilantro chaufa fried rice, scallions, piquillos, duck egg, rocoto crema .

 

 

 

Not gonna lie, I was not crazy excited about this dish. I mean-I go to Chipotle.  I know what carnitas are.  I’ve gone to Chinese restaurants.  Duck is great in one of those little mushu pancakes but-duck carnitas?  Who the hell cares about that?

 

Boy was I an IDIOT!!!

 

 

This was a standout dish, if for no other reason than that I was expecting it to be pretty dull.  Imagine duck confit-that is, duck cooked for hours in it’s own fat until it is falling off the bone in supple submission.  Then add  cumin, and coriander to that.  Then add fried rice made with sweet and spicy red peppers and the most tender, creamy, yolk-y scrambled egg in the world,  Then add a little bit of spicy sour cream.

 

 

 

That is what i ate.  And yeah, I liked it.

 

If you like Asian food.  If you like Arroz con Pollo.  If you like Duck A L’Orange.  If you have ever believed in Santa Claus.  GET THIS DISH!!

 

It is meaty, rich, spicy, tender, soothing, and filling.  It is absolutely outstanding.  though a bit of extra heat-like from some Portuguese Pio-Pio sauce-would have been welcome, the dish was a home run.. In that, if it was the first date, I would have slept with it…Anyway…

 

 

The Trio of Fries  included watermelon, hearts of palm, and avocado battered, fried, and served with housemade ketchup and a very mild chipotle crema.

 

 

 

This was my number one favorite dish of the meal.  i mean WATERMELON FRIES??? That sounds gross.  But pair some watermelon with some salty, panko like batter and some tart, tomato-ey housemade ketchup-and its like Edison invented the telephone all over again!

 

 

I mean it is THAT life changing!!  If you are someone who loves the sweet and salty of chocolate dipped pretzels or the sour and spicy of pad thai-you are gonna love the HECK out of these fries.

 

The hearts of palm fries were just like regular old potato fries, and the avocados actually turned kinda mushy in the heat of the fryer, but the watermelon fries are a brilliant and totally unexpected take on my all time favorite snack food!  Do yourself a favor and GET THESE BABIES!!

 

 

All in all, the service was kind and attentive, the atmosphere was romantic and private, and it is a WONDERFUL Restaurant Week deal!

Yerba Buena Perry on Urbanspoon

Del Posto Lunch Review

Marmie taught me everything I know about food and eating.  My sister could eat the same thing for every meal and my dad’s favorite food is White Castle sliders (don’t even TALK to me about it), so when my mom realized that I was as food obsessed as she was, we formed a very special personal bond.  When Marmie comes into town, money concerns fly out the window-eh, who am i kidding, they were never even IN my window-and we go all out.  Especially if there is an AWESOME lunch prix fixe deal like at Mario Batali’s Michelin starred restaurant Del Posto

www.delposto.com

 

 

 For anyone who doesn’t know, the Michelin Star rating is the PLATINUM STANDARD for restaurants.  To get one star from the organization is a coup, to get two means you are insanely respected, and to get three means tiny angels float above your head and deer will magically appear at your window and eat out of your hands.

Del Posto’s one star is a reflection of Batali’s effort to have Italian food in this country taken as seriously as French food is.  Americans tend to think of Italian food as one big conglomeration-spaghetti, veal parmigiana, and tiramisu.  But just like America has southern BBQ, Midwest casseroles, and California cuisine, Italy has regional variations as well.  In the northern region of Italy, with cooler climates, more butter and pork fat is used, and down in Sicily, more tropical climate results in a cuisine utilizing capers, raisins, and honey.  Batali has long made it his mission to teach Americans about the regional cuisine of his ancestry, and the result has been successful restaurants such as Babbo, Esca, and Del Posto.  And he was the first celebrity who I know to wear Crocs.   Now, of course, we all wear those fugly shoes like he did.

 

Now that is a man who has influenced America.

 

 

Anyway…when you walk into Del Posto, you are greeted warmly, asked if you prefer a booth or a table, then quickly escorted to a cloth laden table in a room designed in jewel tones and dark woods.  The two story restaurant is huge, so rather than the dark colors making the space appear cramped, it instead makes it feel intimate and elegant.

 

 

 

 

Marmie and I ordered some EXCELLENT sparkling water-extremely fizzy, small bubbles that tickle one’s nose rather than burn the back of the throat, and a clean, minerally aftertaste- and our order was taken.  For lunch at Del Poto you have two options- 1)if you are indulging your inner fat kid, you can order the 6 course tasting menu for $75, or 2) you indulge your inner slightly chubby kid and order the 3 course menu for $29.  We were on a time constraint or TRUST ME i would have ordered the fat kid tasting menu.  For the amount, and quality, of food you get, either one is a STEAL.

 

 

The first thing brought after our order was an amuse bouche, which literally translates from French to “amusement for the mouth”.  It’s like those little passed appetizers you get at weddings if the appetizers were made by Julia Child and plated by the Queen of England

 

The first amuse was a soy poached salmon, flaked and served with tarragon and soy (?!) mascarpone cheese. It was served sandwiched between two polenta crisps baked with black pepper.  This was Marmie’s second favorite  bite of the meal.  The salmon was unbelievably tender and moist, with the bracing licorice taste of the tarragon and the creamy smooth of the cheese.  The crisps broke gently, rather than shattered, when bit, to allow one to eat the sandwich as a whole entity rather than have salmon dripping down one’s arm while shards of polenta poke the corners of your mouth.  Yeah if I made this, that is definitely what would have happened. This is the salmon salad of your guys’ DREAMS.

 

 

The next bite was MY second favorite part of the  meal. It was a tiny ball made out of escarole(similar to collard greens, a little like a more toothsome arugula) and prosciutto, coated with fried potato bites.  This thing was outSTANDING!!!  The escarole and prosciutto must have had quite a bit of egg, and i am guessing some potato in the batter, because it was dense and creamy-like the BEST pureed potatoes accented by hints of pork, the vegetal bite of the escarole, and a tiny hint of garlic at the end of the flavor notes. And then to roll the whole thing in what was essentially TATOR TOTS?!?!  It was bacon and potatoes in the SAME DISH…’NUFF SAID!

 

 

The last amuse bouche was a Sicilian gazpacho, or  cold tomato soup.  It was mostly tomato, with hints of celery, bell pepper, and tabasco in the flavor.  It was refreshing, sweet from the tomatoes, and a little kicky from the tabasco.  The bst part of this amuse was the how the cup was edged in dried capers and dried vinegar.  So when you drank it, you got this awesome bit of saltiness and sourness that SO WELL goes twith the Sicialian’s love of all things sweet and sour.  A+ on this one

 

Now came what would be my FAVORITE part of the meal: BREAD

 

 

GEEZ i love carbs!  fluffy, crusty, soft, sour, sweet, mild, sharp…a good bread will have all of these characteristics and more.  The bread offered here was exceptional-there as a pungent and pleasingly salty olive multigrain, a fluffy and pliant focacia, and a crunchy on the outside, pillowy on the inside baguette.  All seemed baked on premises and all were stand alone fantastic.  I predominantly liked the baguette since i wanted to really taste the flavor of what came next…

 

 

the greyish stuff closest to you is house smoked, whipped LARDO!!! This is just what it sounds like.  It is the best stuff on G-d’s Green Earth, the stuff that my people are forbidden to eat, the stuff that makes me weak in the knees…PORK FAT!  It is like the white part of the proscuitto whipped into a buttery consistency and mixed with rosemary and pepper.  Spreading it on bread was like filling one’s mouth with the essence of pork-smokey, luscious, evocative of childhood, and UTTERLY appetite whetting.  The whipped butter also served was delish too but really-if i have a choice between butter and pork…what do you think i am choosing?

again

 

and again

 

and again

 

 

 

 

After i embarassed myself with the lardo consumption, our first courses arrived.

 

 

 

 

 

Marmie got (for a $10 supplement) Lidia’s LOBSTER SALAD alla Catalana.  It was gently poached lobster served with hearts of palm and tomato seeds.  Let me just say that if the lardo had not won me over, the tomato seeds would. I love tomato seeds.  everytime someone “seeds a tomato” on the food network, the child inside me cries out “no! That’s the best part!  those fresh little jewels shimmering in the cavities of the fruit hold the all of the tomato’s sweet, tart, fresh flavor!”.  But they never listen.  Jerks.

 

The lobster was just perfectly cooked, not stringy or tough-and matching it’s richness with the tart, artichoke-like hearts of palm and the fresh, sweet tomato…this dish was was light and decadent at the same time.

 

 

 

I wanted to continue my pork theme and got the Warm Cotechino with Umbrian Lentil Vinaigrette & Dried Fruit Mostarda.  This was a house made pepper and garlic spiced pork sausage with lentils bathed in a warm, vinegar filled dressing. Raisins, orange zest, and figs were on the side in a sweet/savory mustard seed syrup. It was good but not great.  The sausage was too heavily flavored for my likes-I wanted to taste more pork and less garlic.  The lentils were wonderfully cooked-GAWD i love lentils, and they soaked up the vinegar beautifully-and the mostarda was the real star.  I just love sweet and savory and the gently plumped fruits in the sweet and piquant mustardy syrup struck me as something that would go PERFECTLY with roast turkey.  Hmm…an Italian Thanksgiving next year perhaps…


 

 



For a main course Marmie got the CACCIUCCO with Red Mullet Crostino Aglio e Olio.  This was a Sardinian shellfish stew served with mussels, blue crab, scallops, shrimp, and squid.  


This thing was GOOD!!! The broth was tomatoey and vaguely tasted like sweet and hot peppers. The shrimp in particular was cooked to PERFECTION!  De-veined and cooked just until they were BARELY done, they sliced easily with a fork.  The taste was like seafood tinged butter, in that it invaded your mouth with richness and the sweet, clean taste of the ocean then fairly dissolved on the tongue so fast that you weren’t even really sure if you had tasted it or merely dreamt it.

 

The mullet crostini with olive oil, garlic, and parselyw as aperfect on the side-it was salty, delicate, herby-everything you need on the side of a protein filled, warming stew.  These garlicky little toasts were Marmie’s favorite part of the meal.

 

 

I got the skate with Sicilian caponata and bonito broth. Caponata is a sweet and savory stewed vegetable dish usually made with raisins, eggplant and other squash-similar to a rattatouille but with more vinegar and no herbs de provence.   Bonito broth is a common Japanese soup base made out of reconstituted fish flakes-ok it sounds weird but it tastes very delicate-to me, it tastes like very delicate chicken broth.

 

 

 

 The skate itself was pan seared in i THINK butter-it just seemed so lush and had a depth i don’t really think oil gives-and scattered with gently stewed, uniformly cut veggies.  Eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, orange zest, currants…every flavor was unique and yet in harmony. Crispy ouside, soft and flaky inside…skate is a really delicious, light fish similar to sole, sand dabs, or flounder.  i wish i had some now…and some lardo…LARDOOOOO!!!!

 

Luckily we still had room for our dessert courses-HAH!  like we would have missed THAT!

 

 

 

  Marmie chose the Butterscotch Semifreddo Melon Agrumata, Crumbled Sbrisolona &; Milk Jam.  Wikipedia says semifreddo “ is a class of semi-frozen desserts[...] It has the texture of frozen mousse because it is usually produced by uniting two equal parts of ice cream and whipped cream ”  Yep.  That was it.  It had all the sweetness of caramel with none of the bitter, burnt aftertaste.  The milk jam was sweetened condensed milk boiled till it is sweeter than before.  any problem there? No, i didn’t think so.  This is perfect for someone who has sensitive teeth like marmie, since the semifreddo is not as cold or hard as ice cream.  It’s like a very dense, cold pudding.  and its really freaking yummy.


I, weird as ever, ordered CELERY for dessert! 


Sfera di Caprino with Celery, Fig Agrodolce & Celery Sorbetto.  That translates to these little balls of goat cheese coated in olive oil toasted breadcrumbs, served with celery sorbet and  a fig and celery syrup.  Three words people.  To. Die. For. 


 The cheese was surprisingly sweet as well as being creamy-somewhat like a cheesecake ball, and the bread crumbs were the perfect base for such a rich componant.  The sorbet was light, refreshing, and cut right through the almost cloying richness of the cheese, and the fig syrup added the necessary sweetness to round out the dish. I guess the dessert was kind of celery and cream cheese all grown up-and freakin AWESOME.  The perfect finale if, like me, you crave salty over sweet.  


Before we left, we got this cute little drawer full of awesome candy and pastries!



We got:

Caramalized blood orange candy:

 

Sweet, caramlized, sticky, a little bitter.  Very one note for me-not my fave

 

A teeeny polenta crostata:

 

Perfect to showcase summer strawberries!  light vanilla pastry cream and perfectly crumbly, none too sweet crust

 

High Class Ice cream bar

 

 

That’s just what this is.  A made in house, fancy pants ice cream bar.  The flavor was olive oil, but it was not the best olive oil gelato I have ever had-the flavor was more bland than fruity, the way olive oil ice cream should be.  Whatever-it was ice cream.  And it was good.

 

Best for Last…Bomboloni.  These ain’t no Dunkin Donuts.

 

 

 

These are miniature sugar and cinnamon coated donut holes filled with vanilla bean flecked, orange scented pastry cream.  Sound good?  Well multiply it by a thousand.  Then pretend you won the lottery.  That’s how good it was.

 

 

 

With that, the meal was complete.  $29 for mine and $39  for Marmie’s (since she got that lobster salad supplement). The service was professionally unobtrusive yet friendly, live piano music flowed through the dining room all lunch, and the atmosphere was quiet yet alive with the energy of the diners that slowly filled up the room.

 

People who come here love food.  People who work here love food.  People who cook here CLEARLY love food.  This is a place to come if you want to know more about fine dining, especially in the Italian sphere.

 

Quite frankly, there just aren’t many chefs doing what Batali is doing, in reference to regional Italian cuisine at this high of a level.  And at the prix fixe lunch price like this, there is just no excuse not to go.  Well, there is no excuse not to have your mom take you when she visits.  And if she is like MY mom, there is no excuse not to put the whole experience on your blog.  So here’s to Marmie-my all time favorite foodie!

 

Now, um…can we go get some lardo???

 

 

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Chino-Latino Quesadillas

Recipe time!!!   All I ask is that you not be a whiny little girl about it.  Just TRY it.  there are a few things that may seem a little scary to you, and we will go through those now:

KIMCHEE



Kimchee is a fermented vegetable dish that is pretty much the national food of Korea.  Now before you get all weird about it-have you ever had sauerkraut on a hot dog?  or enjoyed the cold crunch of a Claussen pickle straight from the jar?  Then you have had something related to kimchee!  I mean WINE is fermented-and if you haven’t had that, please comment on the bottom of the page and I will send you a bottle STAT.  Unless you are underage.  Then I will send you two bottles 


(I joke, I joke). Fermentation is just a way to pickle and preserve the vegetable, and kimchee has varieties that come with cucumbers, daikon, radish, and all other sorts of veggies.  The most common one, however, and the one that I love, is cabbage.  There are a thousand varieties of kimchee out there-you will just have to try them out to see what you like.  I love this brand that you can get at www.mitsuwa.com, in Edgewater, NJ.   

                                 


But any big grocery store or certainly any Asian grocery store should carry it. All kimchee uses stuff like ginger, soy, green onions, and chili paste.  Bottom line-if you like pickles and/or slightly spicy Asian cuisine, you should like kimchee.


Most varieties are spicy.  Some are blow the roof off your head hot, some are just mildly warm.  But a little goes a long way.  You can use this condiment in fried rice, omelets, Asian inspired stir fry, or as a topping for a sandwich.  And when you finish the kimchee-SAVE THE JUICE AT THE BOTTOM!  You can use it to flavor marinades or salad dressings-it would be perfect to make an asian buffalo wing sauce.  The funkiness of the kimchee would go well with the aged blue cheese dressing you serve alongside wings…I see this recipe in my future…I hope this doesn’t mean I have to watch a sports game to enjoy hot wings…yeah I’m that girl who doesn’t watch sports-so sue me.


CUCUMBER SALAD:

This is WITHOUT A DOUBT my most requested recipe by family, friends and pupils.  Not gonna lie, it’s basically amazing.  What you need-in descending order of proportion- are:

sliced cucumbers

cilantro (washed, only the leaves-pick them off the stems)

*optional*tomatoes, bell peppers, scallions, onions

rice wine vinegar

*optional* ponzu sauce

soy sauce

pickled ginger(from the asian section of your grocery store-chop it)

sugar (white or brown works, if you have superfine that is even better)

sambal or sriracha (or you dont need any if you don’t like spice…but i am judging you)

sesame oil



You see that I didn’t give measurements for the ingredients.  That’s cause I don’t cook like that-and really, neither should you.  Baking is a science, and must be done with precision, but cooking is an art.   It’s interpretive and deeply personal, so every person’s version SHOULD be  a little different.  Don’t get me wrong, a recipe is a wonderful jumping off point for a first time endeavor.  But with something like this, where there isn’t even any cooking involved-meh!  wing it!  taste as you go!  if it’s too salty-add some chili!  if it’s too sweet-add some more vinegar!  You can’t screw it up-i PROMISE–Girl Scout’s Honor!


Now, just combine the ingredients as they are written in the list, in descending order of proportion- i.e. you want mostly veggies and vinegar, then soy, and so on and so forth until you use only a splash or two of sesame oil-it is very potent stuff!


When you are done mixing together all the ingredients in a huge bowl, and it tastes to your liking, let the salad marinate for a couple of hours in your fridge.  This is what mine looks like, but it’s a couple days old and almost gone:


Still delicious.


Ok now that we are done with that shtuff, here is the recipe for my AWESOME chino latino quesadilla



2 tortillas (i prefer flour, but use corn if you must)

grated cheese (This is sharp cheddar, but a manchego, fontina, or jack cheese will also work well-basically anything with some sort of bite and a good melt factor)

kimchee

cucumber salad

salsa (this is katchkie farms salsa verde, but use whichever kind you like)

guacamole(or just tomatoes, onion, and avocado kinda mushed up)


Now you are going to put a skillet on the flame, medium high, nothing in the pan



Put your first tortilla down

when it starts to bubble, you are going to check it.  If it is nice and brown, or even a little charred in some spots, that’s perfect.  Flip it and put on your grated cheese and the kimchee


now put the other tortilla on top




After maybe a minute, or when the cheese starts to melt, check underneath the bottom tortilla with a spatula.  It should be hot and feel a little crispy.  When it does, put your hand over the top of the quesadilla and the spatula under the bottom and carefully flip the whole thing.




now you just want to wait for the cheese to melt-then it’s done!  at this point, you may choose to put the burner to medium low so you don’t burn the bottom tortilla.



Take that baby out when the cheese is gooey and the tortillas are crispy, and serve it with the cuke salad, guac, and salsa.  And there you have it!  My Chino-Latino Quesadilla!  


*In the interest of being honest, this is of course NOT my quesadilla.  After reviewing the picture I took, I decided it looked like crap, even though it tasted fabulous.  So yeah…thanks go to the  Food Network for this picture! *


This meal is a perfect symphony of velvety, spicy, sweet, crispy, and refreshing.  It is quick to make, a little unusual, and totally satisfying. So make it…unless you don’t think it will taste good…in which case-make it anyway and give it to ME!!!

Sandwich Planet Review

I would do whatever this man told me to. I would cut off all my hair. I would join a nunnery. I would stop watching “For the Love of Ray J”…well maybe not THAT, but almost everything else. I mean, I owe him. We all do. This is the fourth Earl of Sandwich-and I bet you can guess what he invented.

I mean-what is more delicious than a sandwich? Melty, stretchy, sharp cheddar on buttery, toasty sourdough bread when it is cold outside. Smooth mozzarella, sweet tomatoes, pungent basil on pliant rosemary flecked focaccia when it is hot. Garlicky, tahini filled hummus with fiery mango sauce and falafel, crispy on the outside, dense and parsley filled on the inside, all tucked into a freshley chared pita-I mean that’s the meal to HAVE when you are in Israel!! But I digress….

 

This is where I went for lunch yesterday

On a somewhat abandoned stretch of Ninth Avenue, just past the Port Authority overpass lies Sandwich Planet.

sandwich planet

 

Do not be deterred by the tumbleweeds of soda bottles and other garbage rolling past you as you walk by Port Authority or the questionable old men who tell you that you have a pretty smile (because lets face it…you do)

Just go inside and be greeted by a very friendly server who shows you to a booth or table. It is a sunny, casual restaurant, with $3 beer happy hours and a VAST and inexpensive menu-it’s hard to spend over $10 a person here if you stick with the delicious sandwiches and salads. They use all kinds of bread from the Sullivan Street Bakery, imported meats, and cheeses, and homemade sauces that include everything from Bayou Mayo to Truffle Oil! There are entrees like Fish and Chips and Steak, but honestly-the place is called Sandwich Planet, not Entree Planet.I just stick with the sandwiches.

 

Kyle got the Bourbon Street, which is a chicken breast served blackened, with bacon, melted jack cheese, sauteed onions, and bayou mayo on toasted sourdough bread. Bayou mayo is like chipotle mayo’s redneck cousin-a little more familiar, a little less sophisticated, a lot less spicy.

The sandwich itself was AWESOME-a medium thickness chicken breast that was coated in cajun spices, charred on both sides but still juicy on the inside. And it was an even thickness all the way through-don’t you just HATE when a chicken fillet is thin on the outside then by the time you are at the middle of the sandwich, it’s a freakin double D chicken breast you are biting through?? Well I HATE that-and this avoided that quite nicely. The bayou mayo probably had Old Bay seasoning and a tiny bit of cayenne in there-any real chili heads will want to add the habenero bbq sauce that I am just dying to try! The bacon was not so crispy in tore the roof of one’s mouth,and with the sweet onions and melty jack cheese… Meaty, spicy, saucy…this was a man’s sandwich, and MAN did I like it! (insert laugh track)

 

I ordered the H1, with guacamole, salsa, cheddar cheese, onion, tomato, and bacon on toasted sourdough. Because no sandwich is not improved by bacon. This was served room temperature, though the cheese was melted to allow the tomato to adhere to it. The salsa was fresh and delicious, and though I thought the guac could have used a TOUCH more cilantro, it was limey, the avocados were fresh, and the serving was abundant. The trifecta of cheese, vegetable, and bacon was just shown off perfectly here-it was light yet filling, and had a south of the border air that makes you banish all other BLT’s to the tower (insert people who have read “The Other Boelyn Girl” here…).

 

Of course, man does not live on bacon filled sandwiches alone, so we got some fries…and hot DAMN were they deLICIOUS!! They took a little bit longer to get to the table than the main dishes, but by the time we were 1/4 of the way through our sandwiches, they arrived.  The fries were PIPING hot, clearly just fried potatoes coated in what seemed like a thin dusting of flour, paprika, and CRACK COCAINE. I didn’t stop till these babies were gone. They were clearly fried in very hot oil since the grease was minimal and the potatoes were fluffy inside and crunchy outside-not a limp one in the bunch (that’s what she said). Kyle liked to dip them in the bayou mayo, but  with all fries, I an a fan of ketchup. Something about the tartness of the ketchup seems to slice right through the fat of the fries, and before you know it…I have convinced myself I am eating a nutritionally responsible snack!

All this was under 20 bucks for the both of us-and I took home half my sandwich! (which of course i have eaten by now). So go. Its cute, it’s cheap, it’s delicious, and it is LOCAL. We have a responsibility to support local businesses so chains do not monopolize the wonderfully heterogeneous society that is NYC. This is a little step we can take to make sure NYC stays unique and original. And besides- you owe it to the Earl of Sandwich.

 

sandwichplanet.net

 

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