Archives for January 2011

Plum Pizzaria’s Perfect Pasta

I attended a press dinner at Plum Pizzeria. From the moment I walked in, I felt right at home. The congenial and friendly owner, Alex Alexopoulos, created a warm and casual atmosphere in this place that is causal enough for dinner with the family but nice enough for a date. 
But how did this Greek man fare in the Italian food department?
Insalata Caprese with fresh mozzarella, pesto and house roasted peppers.

WOW! I really miss the bright, sweet taste of summer tomatoes,and I don’t know who these people had to pay to get these tomatoes, and whatever they had to do, it was WORTH IT!!! These tomatoes were nothing less than totally amazing. with the garlicky pesto, velvety peppers, tangy balsamic, and slightly salty, creamy mozzarella. Really a great way to start the night!

Penne Alla Vodka. 
All the pasta here is house made, and is all wheaty, hearty and just perfectly al dente. This penne was perfectly constructed to capture the gentle, lightly creamy sauce tempered by salty pancetta and those acidic tomatoes. The sauce was not at all heavy or gloppy, just warm and comforting.

Yellow Pumpkin Ravioli with Pistachio Sauce.
Um, YES!
I have not had a whole lot of savory pumpkin things, and I have been missing out big time! The naturally sweet, vegetal flavor of pumpkin blends so well into savory dishes, adding different levels of tastes. The pistachios and raisins in the sauce added hearty, tangy nutty qualities to the cheesy sauce and the nutmeg added a bit of spice to the whole affair.

YES pumpkin ravioli! My second favorite pasta of the night.

Fettuccine Carbonara.
This was the only pasta course that didn’t totally send me. The mushrooms were quite delicious and the green peas were fresh and sweet, but it was more of an Alfredo than a carbonara. It was creamy, soupy and a bit too bland for me. It just lacked that rich, salty quality that true carbonara has. If they renamed it Fettuccine Alfredo and added a bit of Parmesan cheese and some caramelized onions, then we would be in business!

Rigatoni Alla Bolognese.
So simple. Who hasn’t had spaghetti and meat sauce?
But so, so perfect.
Beef and veal giving a hearty, umami taste. A rich sauce made with a classic mirepoix to give it a complex, earthy flavor. Sweet tomatoes, zesty oregano, just a hint of red pepper. The thick ridged noodles held the juicy meat in each and every crevice.
This is the best spaghetti bolognese I have had in New York.
Sorry, Marmie.

The namesake pizza! Plum Pizzeria does their own version of pizza, with a sturdy, medium thick crust and premium toppings.

That is one sturdy crust! Though the crust was a bit too thick for me, the toppings were nothing less than OUTSTANDING! The sauce was a little spicy and intensely tomatoey, a perfect foil for the stringy cheese, fresh vegetables and some of the most spicy, least greasy pepperoni that I have ever tried. The toppings are really the reason to get the pizza here.

Chocolate Mousse Cake. 
Wondering why the picture is taken halfway through the eating experience? Oh, it’s because the cake was so freakin outrageous that I could not even take a picture before I devoured half of it. Who the heck comes to a pizzeria for dessert? Now, I do. Think the creamiest, lightest mascarpone cheese over rum soaked spongecake and all enveloped in a sweet chocolate ganache.
If you aren’t drooling, you did not read that whole description.
Plum is a great place! It is odd that the pizza was what excited me the least, but hey…let’s go with it! The pastas, starter and dessert were so delicious and well priced. There is an extensive wine list, a daily happy hour, great food and a relaxed atmosphere.
Now THAT is a plum restaurant.
*Note: My meal was paid for by the restaurant.  I was not paid or required to write a review, and my opinions are my own and, I feel, impartial.*

Plum pizzeria and bar on Urbanspoon

Guest Post: Long’s Donuts, Indianapolis

And now, a guest post by resident Fritos and Foie Gras Sweet Tooth, Kate:
Indianapolis, home of the Indy 500, The Colts, John Mellencamp and -originally – me. I haven’t lived in Indianapolis for several years, but I manage to make it there at least once a year to visit my abnormally large family, consisting of about 50- 70 people. (I’ve lost track due to the latest addition of great-great grandchildren). After so many years of visiting I developed all my “food hot spots”, but the place closest to my stomach, is Long’s Bakery. And every year I manage to make it to Southport Road to bring back rich homemade desserts to my grandma’s kitchen table.
As you can see Long’s makes a wide assortment of sugary treats, from wedding cakes…
to brownies.
However… THE BEST thing at Long’s Bakery will make the edges of your mouth greasy, and sugar that will flake off these hand held treats. They come in many shapes, flavors and classically will always have a big ole hole in the middle… that’s right folks, LONG’S FAMOUS DONUTS!

Long’s Bakery has the BEST donuts I have ever tasted in MY LIFE. Let me clarify that this statement carries a lot of weight, seeing that I am a hard core, freak of nature sugar addict, which is obvious when perusing the  pictures I captured while visiting the bakery. Frankly, I don’t even have a car while I an in Indiana, which means I have to pawn one off one of my 9 aunts just to get my fine self to Long’s! I mean, who else would so enthusiastically skip around a small, local bakery, camera in tow, making best friends with the drug dealer aka the bakers? Me – the girl who will try every pastry on this planet before I say sayonara. Their donuts are light, yet chewy and moist with lots ‘o buttah- their traditional glazed is by far my favorite, with the chocolate iced crème filled long john coming in a strong second place.
(Please note that I did in fact try every one of these donuts, in addition, I helped myself to 1 long john and 1 yeast glazed.. since they ARE my favorite.)
When I told the nice woman behind the counter “I am addicted to these donuts- I actually live in New York, but I have to make a pit stop here every time I am in Indy,” she laughed and said that wasn’t the first time she’s heard that story from a customer. Looks like I’m not the only sugar addict in town!
Long's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Barzinho, Quinto Quarto and Hats Off to Fedora

Sometimes you don’t want a full meal at a restaurant. You just want a quick drink, a little snack and a good time. I had a couple experiences like that last week, at 2 restaurants I had never heard of.
Do you know how hard it is to get someone to serve you a drink before 4 p.m. on a weekday?! It is like we live in a Puritanical society or something!
Or like some people don’t drink…
Whatever that means.
Anyway, my party and I happened upon Barzinho, a tiny Brazilian restaurant that is open all day and has a 4-7 p.m. happy hour offering 2-for-1 caipirinhas.

Within a few moments of sitting down in the small but cheerful space, we were each handed a sugary, limey drink that was reminiscent of a sweeter gin gimlet. It is made with cachaca, which is a Brazilian liquor that is similar to rum.  The first sip was nothing less than BRACING – as in, I thought i would have to ask for a glass of wine, because this was just too strong.
But something sort of remarkable happened between the first and second sips. By the time I returned to my drink, the flavor of the booze had mingled with the citrus and the sugar to create a bright, smooth drink. The melting of the ice tempered the alcohol’s bite, and by the end of the glass, I was SO ready for another one!

We ordered some Pao de Queijo to share – Brazilian cheese bread. These are tiny, soft puffs of airy bread surrounding stretchy and gooey mozzarella-type cheese. Literally nothing was wrong with these, although they would have been delicious if they were served with some sort of dip…

like the dip served with the delicious Yucca Fries. Yucca is a starchy plant and these fries were awesome. Some people might think they were too mushy, but I rather enjoyed the soft, bland interior next to the crisp exterior. Dipped in the zesty, but not incendiary, jalapeno-cilantro sauce, it was perfect for sopping up the alcohol. Barzinho is an inexpensive, sweet and delicious bar serving very serviceable snacks.

A few nights later, I visited totally fabulous Fedora.
*Where, by the way, I had the most wonderful applejack and apple cider based drink called Louisa May’s Favorite Table – it was a tart, light, sweet ode to the apple. Totally drinkable with that smooth, deep taste of applejack. And when the management very apologetically asked my party to move from the bar so that patrons could order dinner there, they were gracious enough to buy us a round of drinks. That level of class is rarely seen, especially by trendy establishments, and I will ABSOLUTELY return. I just SO appreciate a management that appreciates the diner. One gratis drink bought them a lifetime loyal customer. And next time, I’m getting those shoestring fries!*

When we tried to get into ‘ino to try the famous truffled egg toast, the wait was over an hour, so we walked across the street to a small Italian trattoria called Quinto Quarto. The small, rustic restaurant was positively booming at 10 p.m., and service was quick and friendly. Though the bread was sub-par and the pasta was merely serviceable, there were some totally outstanding soups.

I ordered the Pappa al Pomodoro. It was this thick, spicy, tart tomato soup that lacked that sickly sweetness that so much canned soup has. This was clearly homemade, thick enough to coat my spoon, and redolent of bright tomatoes, hearty bread and salty Pecorino Romano cheese. Truly excellent.
Passata Di Cipolle-thick breaded and grated onion soup with Pecorino Romano cheese and rosemary. 

This came to the table looking and smelling like French Onion Soup. And then we dug in…

Can you see how thick that is? That isn’t a soup, that is a dip! It is actually thick enough to stand a spoon in upright, and equally as delicious. It was a tad too salty, but the bread played with that nutty cheese and those sweet, caramelized onions so well. It was MUCH more hearty than a standard onion soup, and, I felt, much more delicious. We all love dipping our bread into soup – here it was already done for you. There was so much bread that it actually soaked in all the moisture, and this was more a bread pudding than a soup. So delicious that I can’t wait to try it at home!
Barzinho on Urbanspoon

Yakitori Tori Shin

I am a Japan-o-phile. I love everything about it. The people, the history, the artwork, and – of course – the food. Japanese food is prevalent in New York City, but I rarely have yakitori here. I had just never found a restaurant that made yakitori in a way that comes close to what you can find in Japan. 
Enter Yakitori Tori Shin.
Yakitori means “Grilled Bird,” and in Japan, tiny yakitori stands run all underneath the elevated train stations, so people coming home from work can sit, have a beer, and eat every part of the chicken roasted to perfection over charcoal. 
Oh yeah, baby. Every. Part.
From the moment we sat at the sushi-style counter, we knew that this was going to be a totally Japanese experience. EVERY meal in Japan, even at the smallest, least expensive ramen joint, starts with a warm moist towel. We went with the ten skewer yakitori set, and let the chef make the decision.

We received a small dish of housemade pickles. The cucumbers were nothing much, but the daikon was excellent-crisp and sour with that particular radish-cabbage taste that daikon tends to have.

Tenderloin Meat with Wasabi. This was breast meat but was as juicy as dark meat. It had that same moistness but the light flavor of breast meat. The wasabi was the REAL stuff – nose clearing, mouth searing paste that totally brought the chicken to life. It just tasted so…chicken-y. It was simple but totally intoxicating.
Dark Breats Meat with Yuzukoshu. Now we were getting into some serious stuff. The chicken was all cooked medium rare, which is not way that I usually eat my poultry, but the chicken was totally amazing this way! It was so moist and the outside was charred and crispy while the inside retained its familiar chicken-y taste. The yuzukoshu marinade added acidic and spicy notes that perfectly complimented that nicely charred exterior.

Skin. That is what this skewer was called. Crispy, salty, meaty, fatty…is there any adjective there that does NOT sound amazing?

Zucchini. Sounds simple, right? A throwaway course?
Or…a freakin revelation.
This was HANDS DOWN the best zucchini that I have ever enjoyed in my life. It was salty and a bit caramelized on the outside and the inside was moist and bursting with that fresh zucchini flavor. Dragged through the slightly spicy mayonnaise, it was refreshing but also substantial with a meaty texture. Soft by not mushy, and with a tiny bit of bite, it was pretty outstanding.

Chicken liver. One of my all time favorite things. I especially love it yakitori style, and this was excellent. The combination of smoky, crunchy exterior wit that soft, minerall-y tasting interior is really special. Dipped in the house made ponzu, the liver was rich, soft and caramelized, with citrus form the ponzu. The heart, which I neglected to photograph, was even better, with a positively velvety texture and a taste in between liver and steak.

Gingko beans. The only miss of the night. The texture of cannellini beans, but I hated the taste. It was very bitter to me.

Quail. I have started to really love quail. It is similar to duck, with a meaty, moist flesh and skin that gets delightfully crispy. It is best served medium, or medium rare, which is how we got it here. It was just served so simply – you could totally taste the wonderful taste of the bird. 

Our last dish was the Chicken Oyster-a little piece of chicken near the thigh that is always the most delicious part. Each chicken only has one oyster, so this is a highly prized piece of meat. And it is utter perfection. Fatty, light, rich, salty, crispy, and the pure essence of chicken. A great way to end the meal.

Here is where all of our yakitori sticks went. We clearly had a grand old time.
Yakitori Tori Shin is a great spot! It is delicious, traditional food served for a more than reasonable prices. The owner and all the chefs are kind, informative and know what they are doing. The only problem now is…
How can I convince my building to let me install a yakitori grilling station in my kitchen? Cause I just can’t go back to plain old grilled chicken after this.

Tori Shin on Urbanspoon

Does Morimoto Live Up to the Hype?

I am prejudiced.
There, I said it.
Not based on someone’s color or creed…but by their HYPE. I tend to think that the more people like something the less great it is. I just never got over that ‘I’m an angry anarchist teenager’ thing, I guess.
Except for The Real Housewives Series. Everyone likes that because it is AWESOME.
I fought going to Morimoto. I watch Iron Chef. I love Japanese food. And yet…this guy must hardly ever be in the kitchen. The menu is so huge, how can it be good at everything? It is near the Meatpacking District, for the sake of all that is obnoxious and over priced.
Why do I always fight things that make me happy in the end?
The space was gorgeous-all glass and white fabric, with a clean and almost post-modern look. It was elegant and hip, but not especially formal, which I appreciated.

We had the night’s special appetizer, which was a serving of day boat Nantucket scallops with fresh uni and a bonito gelee.

Perfection. the scallops had that sweet, mellow taste that only TRULY fresh scallops have, and were as tender as could be. The uni was briny and clean and the gelee gave the whole thing a pleasing smoky aftertaste, not unlike bacon. What a perfect way to whet the appetite!

10 Hour Pork ‘Kakuni’-braised pork belly with hot rice porridge.
Oh. For. Pete’s. SAKE!
The pork was slow braised for hours until it was tender enough to be cut with a pork, but not too soft or mushy. It was incredibly pork-y tasting with no gushy fat, just a layer of crispy skin. The whole salty-sweet affair was lain on a loose rice ‘porridge’ whose creamy texture and neutral flavor PERFECTLY complimented the highly flavored and unctuous pork. Topped with crispy noodles, it was fantastic.
Beef Curry Bread. Brioche-like bread, fried to a crunchy golden finish on the outside with an airy finish on the inside. Wrapped around that particular Japanese type of curry that is a slightly sweet and slightly spicy sort of ground beef chili. this was basically like awesome finger food. I would eat this at a Super Bowl party.
Well, let’s be honest: 
I would eat like 16 of these at a Super Bowl party.

 Duck Duck Duck -crispy skinned breast of duck with a foie gras brushed croissant, roasted duck leg and duck egg.
Though I did not get this for my main, I am focusing on this because the bit that I tried was the best bite of the night. That duck leg was out of this WORLD. Meaty, not at ALL greasy, tender and juicy beyond compare. It had a primal, almost funky taste that usually only offal or aged meat gets, and it worked SO well next to the gingerbread-tinged flavor of the perfectly crispy skin. The duck egg is rich and creamy and I am pretty sure the croissant was great, considering how quickly it disappeared.
My new favorite duck in NYC.

Apple Turban, made with apples, apple cider vinegar and pineapple and served with cinnamon ice cream. This was an absolute ode to the clean, tart, sweet flavor of the apple. The apples were satiny smooth and melted on the tongue smoothly, with no graininess. They were sweet and the pineapple was a hit of tropical freshness. The sauce was simultaneously rich and lightly acidic, with the apple cider vinegar balancing out the sugary apples and the spicy-sweet ice cream.
What a delicious meal! I can’t believe that I judged it so harshly! The room was beautiful, the service was excellent, and the food was so darn delicious I am drooling as I type. Although it isn’t cheap, the prices are not out of line with what you expect to spend on a nice meal out. Most entrees are between $26 – $36. If you don’t drink, you can easily get out of here for about $115 for two people, totally satisfied, totally relaxed, and…if you are me…
Totally admitting that you have to get over your prejudice.
Morimoto on Urbanspoon

I’m Nuts for Chock Full O’Nuts

When Chock Full o’Nuts reopened in NYC, you would have thought that the Messiah came for my father. He laughed, he wept, he praised the heavens and then took the family to worship at the alter.
Which, for our family, is a restaurant. 
Would you expect anything else?

Chock Full o’Nuts was just a brand of coffee to me, but when my dad was growing up on the East Coast, it was a chain of coffee shops that had donuts, coffee and assorted diner-type fare.

Their stores basically went out of business, but in 2010, the first lunch counter in almost 30 years opened righ tnext door to Eataly. It looked cute, comfortable, but not especially interesting.
What gives, Dad?
Than I tried the Chock Classic.

Dense, sweet, moist date and crunchy walnut-studded bread that was more like cake than bread surrounded a thick yet impossibly light schmear of rich cream cheese. This is so simple, it is almost embarrassing to dedicate a post to it. But it was so delicious that I HAD to!!! I am not a gal who loves a thick, cold brick of cream cheese on my bagel. But this was so incredibly delicious that I simply had to.
It was less of a sandwich than an assembled dessert. The bread bled into the cream cheese, creating one sweet, nutty, lucsious lunch/dessert hybrid. I actually wouldn’t add a thing to it…
Except my mouth.
That’s what she said.
Chock Full O'Nuts on Urbanspoon

Tocqueville Takes the Cake

Although I (clearly) love everything about food, I get bogged down like everyone else does. Between work, play, blogging, sleeping and occasionally fitting in time to go to the bathroom, I use food as fuel. I don’t have the time to enjoy and respect it as I should.  I forget what it is like to sit and enjoy a meal for hours. To comment on and discuss the food. To learn about the chefs and farmers who created the  dishes. To revel in the romance that a wonderful meal is about.
When I feel a need to really ‘be about’ food again, I will head straight to  Tocqueville, for the $68 chef’s tasting menu, inspired totally from seasonal ingredients, many from the Union Square Greenmarket next door.
This photo does not do justice to the elegant, quiet and refined space. The music playing is low and relaxing, the decor is classic but not stuffy and the high ceiling-ed room infused me with both relaxation and giddy anticipation. I knew something special was in store.

The house baked breads. Baked fresh, every day. If the sourdough’s hole structure was not perfect, I did not care. It was so sour, with such a crisp, nicely charred crust that went perfectly with the house churned butter. The focaccia was still warmed from the oven, with a gentle slick of olive oil on top that accented the woodsy rosemary and briny olives within. The brioche (unpictured), was butter, butter and…more butter. I simply love a good bread program!

The chef’s tasting menu (which changes every day and can be altered to include/exclude specific requests) started off with a warm apple cider. My dad said it was ‘apple pie in a glass’. I would say that just about says it. Tart, sweet, spicy, rounded out with a strong vanilla taste, this was simultaneously satisfying and appetite inducing. Really, it was just perfection.

Amuse Bouche 1: A Beet Tuile filled with Goat Cheese. The server told us that the beets were pureed, then sprinkled with powdered sugar before being baked, rolled and filled. These were so extremely beet-y: that sweet, earthy taste that was just all the more vegetal tasting with the grassy goat cheese. The powdered sugar worked with the beet’s natural flavor and brought out its sweet, lighter flavor profiles.

Amuse Bouche 2: Celery Root and Potato Croquette topped with a Black Truffle.
Warm. Crunch. Creamy. Hearty. Heady. Umami. Could have eaten these for my main dish. Every day.
Any other questions?

Amuse Bouche 3: Butternut Squash Confit with Creamless Sunchoke Soup with Black Truffles. The squash confit was good but not amazing – sweet, smooth…just nothing totally memorable. The soup? My favorite dish of the day. 

So incredibly rich without being heavy, it had the most wonderful taste. I have not had sunchokes to many times, but this was a celery root-potato-ey flavor that was both familiar and totally new. The truffles were generously added, giving the soup an intoxicating layer, and some tangy balsamic vinegar made everything seem lighter and sweeter. The soup was served lukewarm – which I tend to hate – but, it actually made the truffles taste different. More substantial, less ethereal, somehow. It was interesting and wholly successful.

Cato Farm Cheddar Salad with Frisee, Roasted Bosc Pears and Hazelnut dressing. My dad requested that this be part of the tasting menu, and though I doubted his choice at first, I was totally mistaken. This was a wonderfully constructed salad. The cheese was sharp yet with a creamy finish, the frisee was soft and lightly bitter, the nuts were meaty and toasted well, and the pears were nothing short of perfection.; nothing but creamy sweetness within and shattering caramelization without. The balsamic reduction on top added a tangy taste to the otherwise subtle dish, elevating it further. The ingredients were excellent and the flavor combination could not have been improved in any way.

Parmesan Poached Lobster Sauteed in Butter with Espelette Chili, Sea Beans, Celery Root and Dill. This was the best lobster I have ever had. That is a bold statement, and also true. The lobster was positively silky, and cut with the merest touch of a fork. The chili was spicy but not hot, it just melded perfectly with the luxurious butter and salty Parmesan cheese. The celery root was toothsome but tender, the sea beans did not have the iodine-y taste they sometimes have and the dill was fresh and fragrant with the otherwise rich dish. The ingredients did not seem like they would pair well with each other, but really worked in total harmony. Inventive and totally delicious.

Roasted Venison Loin with Black Pepper and Blackberry Glaze, served with Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Chanterelles. I had never had venison loin before and this was outstanding. Satisfying as beef, light as pork tenderloin. It was very rare, but had no blood, like beef would have. It was tender like filet mignon, but with a lightly gamy, very pleasant flavor that was far more pronounced than that of filet. The peppercorns made the meat spicy and the glaze was sweet, tart and delightfully sticky. The mushrooms were soft and flavorful – mushrooms and meat are always the most wonderful combination, aren’t they? The buttery potato and herb purees on the dish completed this version of “meat and potatoes.’

A cheese plate with a Vermont Blue Cheese, a Spanish cheese similar to Mangchego, served with quince paste, honey, a candied walnut, and a citrus-y, sweet, soft kumquat. Literally, in LOVE with that kumquat – it was like a soft candied orange rind or maybe a slightly less sweet gumdrop. The blue cheese was slightly smokey and extremely pungent, and the Spanish cheese was nutty and salty. The house-baked raisin crostini were perfect foils for these dairy delights. A well thought out and complimentary cheese plate.

The selection of house made sorbets-from the top: chocolate, passion fruit, blood orange, litchi and green apple. All well balanced flavors with  creamy textures, unlike the icy way many sorbets feel in the mouth. The passion fruit was my favorite – it was tart, not too sweet, and seemed insanely bright and summery for the middle of January. My dad preferred the rich and deep chocolate sorbet.

Coconut flavored Tofu with those same amazing candied kumquats and a Citrus Broth. Tofu for dessert? Simply put, it rocked my world. It tasted exactly like a tofu panna cotta-just that rich and indulgent. The creaminess paired well with the light and acidic citrus broth and those heavenly candied kumquats.

The Chocolate Tasting Plate, with Chocolate-Hazelnut Crunch Mousse Cake, Bittersweet Chocolate Molleux, Molten Chocolate Cake, and that wonderful Chocolate Sorbet. What can I say except that it was all complex and wonderfully chocolatey. The bittersweet chocolate Moelleux was especially exceptional – bitter in the way perfectly roasted coffee beans take bitter, and just sweet enough to make the cake more sweet than savory. 
After the meal’s conclusion, we were invited down to tour the kitchen by our extremely sweet, attentive, and food-loving server. We met the world’s kindest and most passionate chef, Chef Gregory Vernick. He gave us a complete tour of the entire kitchen, introduced us to everyone, talked about his philosophy of cooking each item daily with as few preserved goods as possible, and told us that we ‘made his day’ by ordering the tasting menu. We saw the ducks that they butcher and hang themselves, the extensive spice cabinet, the foccacia being baked as we spoke, and only one tiny closet filled with the barest necessities of canned and dried goods. Everything else is always fresh, all the time. Chef Vernick reveled in the fact that the owners, Marco Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitzky, let him cook whatever was fresh, versus being confined to a written menu, as long as the price was not exorbitant. He knew everyone in the kitchen and clearly had the utmost respect for them, and vice versa.  His passion and excitement for food was both thrilling and inspiring. I am so lucky to have dined here, and for only $68, it was a steal. I suggest you dine here soon, for not just a meal, but a deeply personal and communal experience.
Tocqueville on Urbanspoon

Uni Donburi

These are sea urchins:
They are spiky. They are messy. And…oh yeah…they require an incredibly delicate touch to prepare.
They are also known as uni, i.e. “butter of the sea”.
I dubbed it that…but I am totally correct.
Excellent Uni is the palest shade of persimmon, It is sweet, briny, creamy and  tastes of the sea, with the texture of pudding. 
Good uni isn’t even worth getting.
Bad uni is worth running away from in terror, unless you like a metallic, fishy taste and the texture and color of baby poop. 
Unfortunately, I know this firsthand.
Want to know how to open a sea urchin? Well, you have to poke a hole in the top, where the little “button” is…
Then cut off the top in a little hat!

Ta-da! Now you toss the hat away… 
Now drain the uni of its liquid (pardon the blurry photography),

And carefully remove the little orange sacs (yes, the animal’s gonads). I started out using chopsticks and ended using my hands. Be careful here – slow and steady. You want to keep as many little sacs whole as possible. Some will break, so don’t worry…you just want to keep the breakage minimal. And there will be black gunk coming out too. Don’t worry about that either.
You want to make sure to rinse the uni in a sieve under a VERY GENTLE stream of water, so as not to break the sacs. But you want to get rid of all the gunk. Then, you want to lay it on a plate or (preferably) a wooden surface that will draw the excess water out of the uni.
Now you really NEED a hit of citrus. I used a fabulous yuzu, which Eataly is selling now along with some other exotic citruses. It has all the sourness of the lemon with an added layer of sweetness, as if the fruit were coated in powdered sugar. It is PERFECT for the delicate taste of the uni.

But a plain old lemon or lime would work well, too! You don’t want to drown the uni, just season it.

Now you take your freshly cooked pot of sushi rice (For the rice’s cooking, I use a 1:2:.5 ratio of rice:water:rice wine vinegar)

And gently push your uni onto the steaming rice.

If that isn’t a sight for sore eyes, then I don’t know what IS!

You now gently fold the uni into the rice. Once again…try to keep those sacs whole. As you fold, you will see the uni change from a pale orange to a creamy peach color. And the sweet-salty scent of the ocean should waft up towards you.

Now throw in a bit of ponzu soy sauce and sesame oil. Not too much…you can always add more if you need, but these tastes are to compliment the uni, not compete with it.

And then you serve it with silky ribbons of the freshest Sashimi you can find.  

This uni rice is amazing. The sticky rice turns creamy with the addition of the uni and its salty, briny, citrusy flavor and positively velvety texture. The whole dish is light and salty and the pockets of whole uni are a hit of ocean freshness – lightly firm, but able to melt in your mouth. The ponzu adds freshness to the dish and the sesame oil grounds it.
6 uni cost like $10. And, honestly, this dish would be perfect with just a fried egg instead of the sashimi. Which makes it like a $7-per-person meal. 
And also, a totally luxurious experience.

Philip Marie Does Fine By Me

My love of brunch is nothing new. But this place is…to me at least.
Philip Marie is a little bistro in the west village that serves up a very well priced brunch menu.  It is casual, takes reservations, and is known for reliable food and some great specials. On the weekends, you can order a la carte OR an entree with an all-you-can drink mimosa special.
I occasionally feel as if I am missing out on the best deals in life by not being an alcoholic.

But I still did my best. I really don’t drink too much early in the day, but this Bloody Mary had a heck of a kick. Sinus clearing horseradish with a peppery bite and wonderful green olives as a garnish. The tomato juice was bright and sweet next to the bracing alcohol. And yes…the pour was generous. All I would need is one of these to be EXTREMELY friendly to people who do not know me.
I didn’t really want eggs this morning. Didn’t want pancakes. Nope…I wanted a fresh, light fruit plate…

With a side of bacon. Fruit, bacon and Bloody Marys hit the major food groups-fruity, fatty, fiery. That’s what I want in the morning., The fruit was extremely fresh and delicious, and while not inexpensive, it was a generous order. The bacon was FAB. Crispy, piping hot and overflowing. A swipe through some ketchup was all that the porcine goodness required. 
And, yes, eating oranges cancels out eating bacon.
Thanks for asking.
Maggie ordered the crabcakes Benedict, and thought I did not try any, I can vouch for the surprisingly great potatoes. Soft in some parts, crispy in others, with sauteed bell peppers and a smattering of nutty Parmesan cheese, they were a fabulous counterpart to both her eggs and my bacon-fruit extravaganza.
Philip Marie was great in its category. Is it winning awards or changing the way we eat? No. Is it a sweet, reliable spot with excellent prices and a laid back vibe?
And lets not forget…it covers my three major food groups.
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Eataly’s Verdure Makes a Vegan out of Me

Everyone and their mom has been to Mario Batali’s Italian-supermarket-on-baseball-player-steroids, Eataly. Everyone, that is, but me. So I went with my mom.
The grocery store was amazing. Beautiful, clean, spacious, and – at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning – mostly deserted! 
Thank heavens…because, seriously…I hate most people. Not you, of course…but most people.
 I want to focus not on what I bought there (which was plenty), but on what I ate there.
I know, I know. I ate at the vegetarian restaurant. I know you are thinking that some alien has overtaken my body, because have I EVER eaten a meal without an animal product in it?
Well, this meal was VEGAN.
And it was ethereal, satisfying and impeccably crafted.
I know…I am shocked too.

The bread came wrapped in brown butcher paper. Very cute, but not very tasty. Dense, stale, kinda tasteless…just not feeling it.
And then…this happened.

The daily bruschetta offering. Cremini, Oyster and Shitake Mushrooms sauteed in olive oil with parsley and a touch of garlic, served on caramelized onion jam covering thick-cut toasted bread.
I mean…really?
This dish was so meaty, hearty and umami-filled that I would have sworn any NUMBER of animals had died in the making of it. The shrooms were thick cut, toothsome and incredibly juicy. The onions had clearly been cooked for HOURS, and were a sweet, sticky counterpart to the charred bread and meaty mushrooms. The parsley added a light and grassy touch, and the whole thing was just a perfect combination of flavors and textures. 

The Citrus and Fennel Salad. Thinly shaved fennel, redolent of licorice and a grassy, vegetal taste and grapefruit, blood oranges and oranges lending their sweet and sour tastes to the dish. All of the citrus was ‘supremed’, which I just LOVE. Theer was no sign of bitter pith or tough connective fibers, just the soft, juicy segments of the fruits. Plenty of pepper, a tough of salt, and extremely light olive oil brought all the flavors together. This dish is going on my ‘to cook’ list, stat!
A Selection of Warm Vegetables and Farro Salad  in a Nebbiolo Vinaigrette.  WHOA! So simple but sooooo divine! Think fennel, turnips, brussels sprouts, celery root, red peppers, asparagus and scallions all roasted with very light olive oil so the veggies are all a bit charred, a bit crisp, a bit caramelized and totally delicious. The salad was light, with a variety of flavor and textures from the bitter radicchio and tender frisee lettuces. Not going to lie, the farro reminded me a bit of couscous and nothing else, but the light and tangy vinaigrette added a light note to the hearty and root vegetable-focused dish. I would order this again and again.

Last, we tried the Braised artichoke with Tomato, Olives and Potatoes. This was Marmie’s favorite dish of the day, and I was quite taken with it, too! Think acidic, sweet tomatoes with creamy potatoes and softly braised artichokes. Add in the salinity of green olives, some well caramalized onions and some pillowy foccacia, and you have yourself a satisfying meal that anyone would want on a cold day. Or a warm one. Humidity. Whenever, really. The dish really accentuated the unique taste of artichokes without being too heavy or not filling enough.
This meal was totally vegan. It was delicious. It was casual. It was expensive, but hey…you only live once, right?
Next time, I can hit up the sausage counter for dessert.
That’s what she said.
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