Skalli Wines – Demystifying Delicious Wine

Have I mentioned before that I am stupid? 
Because I am. Really, I’m quite dumb – about wine, anyway. As much as I know how my food should look and taste, I am just clueless about wine. So many times, I have bought a $30 bottle of wine because I am intimidated, when the truth is that I could have probably found one for half that price that I liked just as much. How is a gal to know what wines are delicious when her palate is…to put it kindly…inexperienced?

Feisty Foodie recognized my ineptitude (she didn’t quite put it that way), and invited me to a luncheon held by Laurent Sauvage, head winemaker for Skalli wines.

Now, Skalli  is not the type of wine that I would ever think I could understand. The winery owns land in Napa, France and Corsica, produces several different varieties and grades of wine, and focuses on how the terroir of each of the different vineyards can produce the most complex and intricate wines. What I can understand is when Sauvage said that Skalli’s goal is to bring delicious wine to America for less than $150 a pop. When Skalli started in the 1980s, there was table wine that tasted badly, expensive wine that tasted delicious, and nothing in between. Skalli thought that this was ridiculous and has committed itself to producing wine that is both affordable AND delicious. That is something I can understand. Especially when it is paired with food. 
 Chicken Liver Pate
The luncheon was held at The Lambs Club, so I knew that the meal would be delicious, and this amuse bouches started things off on the right food. The pate was incredibly delicate and nuanced. There was no overtly offal-y taste or iron-y overtone – just the rich, hearty, gently spiced taste of chicken liver in a smooth, spreadable texture. The gelee on top added acidity and sweetness, and the celery leaf was small but added a hit of vegetal freshness.
House Cured Gravlax with Tarragon Aioli
Salty, silky, and just a touch briny, this was a burst of freshness. It was light, but with a rich mouthfeel that tempered the bright, oceanic glamors. The tarragon mayonnaise, licorice-y and creamy, added a fattiness that also helped temper the brightness of the dish. I could eat about 6 plates of this, no question!
 Forant Chardonnay, 2009
The Forant wines are part of the Skalli family, and come from vineyards in the South of France. Chardonnay is not the type of wine that I usually like – it is often over-oaked, which to me tastes just like licking a tree. Or, it is overly “buttery,” which is not a flavor that I want from my drink. This chardonnay was, no exaggeration, a revelation. It was clean, crisp but not at all acidic or bitter, and smelled and tasted like pears – sweet but not saccharine. The taste was round and soft, developing warm, nutty flavors on my tongue. The best part? It retails for about $12. If I did not know better, I would swear this cost 3X as much, if not more. It is that balanced, that complex and that easy to drink. The best part of this was how well it complemented my appetizer:
 Amberjack Sashimi with Fennel and Apples
Amberjack is a member of the tuna family, and I find that it has the meaty texture of tuna but the slightly brinier taste of yellowtail - still mild, but with a bit more of a sharp, salty kick. here, it was served with tart apples, sweet fennel, and the subtle bite of chives that made the fish even richer and more luscious. Pairing it with apples was a particularly inspired touch, making the fish seem sweeter and softer than ever. The chardonnay paired beautifully with this dish, refreshing and light. 
Chateauneuf du Pape, La Tiare du Pape, 2008
 Though we also tried an (unpictured) Cote du Rhone, retailing for a very reasonable $15, my favorite wine of the entire luncheon was this Chateauneuf du Pape, La Tiare du Pape, 2008. Produced in France’s Rhone Valley, this wine blew me away. Red wines can often have so many tannins and be incredibly dry. This was only gently tannic, enough to bring out the rich, almost meaty flavors of the wine. If the chardonnay was a sea scallop, this was a small piece of foie gras – intense, full bodied, and leaving me wanting more. At $38, it was the most expensive of the wines we tried, but the taste was simply incredible. I would love this paired with a slightly funky blue cheese, a piece of red meat, or…
Rigatini with Butter, Cream, Parmesan, and White Truffles
I know, you probably think I have had too many white truffles recently. I don’t care what you think. White truffles have a limited season, and as long as they are available, I must eat them every chance I get. Dare I say that this pasta was even better than the ravioli I enjoyed at Locanda Verde? The housemade rigatini was chewy and hearty, bathed in just pure cream, sweet butter, and nutty Parmesan cheese clinging to all its ridges. The truffles on top were the star – meaty, earthy, funky…they were divine. And they blended perfectly with the wine, bringing out the sweeter, lighter notes. 
This luncheon was not only delicious, but eye-opening. I learned how a lot of wines costs have to do with branding, not always taste. Wine does not have to be intimidating, expensive or complicated. Just In this case, not at ALL – the wines I tried are reasonable priced enough for weeknights, with tastes that knocked my socks off. Feisty Foodie and I both swore to run right out and buy the chardonnay, and I will not hesitate to purchase the Chateaunuef du Pape the next time that I crave creamy bone marrow spread on baguettes. 
And best of all, I’m not stupid any more. 
Well, not about wine, anyway. 
Special thanks to Feisty Foodie for inviting me.
*Note: My meal was paid for by Skalli.  I was not paid or required to write a review, and my opinions are my own and, I feel, impartial.*

Telepan And My Poached Egg Memories

Telepan is an unassuming sign on the UWS that houses one of the best lunch deals in NYC and gave me a Proustian memory.
The chef, Bill Telepan, is a classically trained chef who worked at some of the best restaurants in the world before opening his eponymous restaurant. His restaurant focuses on local, seasonal food and offers a 2 course lunch prix fixe for $24.

The dining room is sedate and spacious. Though not exciting, it is warm and comfortable, with small banquettes perfect for even one person to sit and have lunch with a book.

House Smoked Brook Trout with Celery Root Blini and Green Apple Sour Cream

Totally different than the ethereal smoked whitefish salad at Barney Greengrass, this was more refined and complex, The bite-size slices of trout were only gently smoked – just enough to cook it, not enough to impart any heavy, charred taste. It was citrusy and tart, bringing another facet to the gentle salinity of the trout. It was slightly “fishy” in the way that lox is – not overtly seafoody or at all off-tasting, just bursting with clean, oceanic flavor. The green apple sour cream was a bit too sweet and viscous, but the celery root blini was a revelation. Like a latke made with mashed potatoes, it was golden brown on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. It was incredibly buttery, paring well with the light trout, and had the distinctly verdant taste of celery root. Can’t wait to try my own riff on it at Hannukah time with celery root-potato latkes.

Poached Egg and Frisee Salad with Wild Mushrooms and Mustard Vinaigrette

The salad itself was delicious. Slightly bitter, crispy, curly frisee was liberally doused in a bracing, tangy vinaigrette redolent of white vinegar and strong mustard. The mushrooms were warm and wilted the lettuce gently, bringing out the earthiness of the greens. The mushrooms themselves were meaty and rich, lightened up with the addition of fresh herbs. 
Then there is the egg. 
This is going to sound dumb but…this is the best poached egg I have had since I was a 3 year old kid. When my mother was pregnant with my little sister and could only stomach white foods, she would have a poached egg on toast every morning, and I remember crawling into bed and eating it with her. I have had a million poached eggs since then, but this was the first one that made me so distinctly smell my mother’s perfume and see her 1980′s flowered bedspread. The yolk was incredibly buttery and rich, the white was just barely congealed and the taste was just eggy. No herbs, no sauces to get in the way. It was just a lovingly poached egg that reminded me both of my youth, and why food is powerful. Food is not just sustenance and it is not just hedonistic pleasure. It is a bridge to our past and a connection to people who love us. I need to be reminded of this every now and then, and a simple poached egg did it for me.

Telepan had excellent service, excellent prices, and excellent food. It isn’t the most exciting spot in town, and is more for PTA parents than cool club kids, but that is part of its charm. It is unassuming, unpretentious, and totally delicious. And it sent me back to one of my sweetest memories. That added bonus wasn’t even mentioned on the prix fixe.
Telepan on Urbanspoon

Spaghetti Pie

Remember the Spaghetti Pie at M. Wells? It was seemed delicious, so comforting, and so simple that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made it myself. There was only one way to fix this – I would have to make it, of course. All I needed was left over spaghetti and sauce, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t make too much spaghetti when they make it. I used my chicken meatball sauce for this recipe, but any sauce you have will work great! And the recipe could not be easier:
Spaghetti Pie

Ingredients:
About 1 lb total of leftover pasta and sauce (you want more pasta than sauce – not too soupy)
7 Eggs
1 tsp. each Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Cups Parmesan or Pecorino Romano Cheese

1) Put the eggs into a large bowl and whisk them so all the yolks are broken. Also, preheat the oven to 350 F

 2) Add the cheese, salt and pepper, and whisk until the eggs and cheese are emulsified.The mixture should look sort of white and be pretty thick.

 3) Add the spaghetti to the bowl.

4) Mix the spaghetti in with the egg mixture until it is all incorporated.You might as well just use your hands…its such a gloppy mess, there isn’t any other way to make sure you get it all incorporated. Be sure to break up your meatballs into smaller pieces if you are using meatballs – you want them to be in bite size chunks.

 5 )Pour the spaghetti mixture into a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, for about 20 minutes.The pan MUST be nonstick, or the pasta won’t come out properly. This way, no olive oil is necessary, which is great because then the pasta won’t absorb it and become leaden and heavy.

 6) When the edges of the pasta start to firm up, like an omelette, pop the whole pan into the oven for another 30 minutes.

 7) The dish is done when the pie is firm to the touch and a knife put into the middle of the dish comes out cleanly(some sauce residue is expected, but you don’t want any runny eggs).

8) Invert the pasta pie onto a large plate or sheet tray(it seems scary, but it’s really not too difficult),

and Ta-Da!

9) Serve!
This is one of those things where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Pasta, eggs, and cheese all combine to make the most delicious dish. The combination is just unreal. Crispy, caramelized crust crunches down into soft, creamy, cheesy interiors. Fresh with tomatoes, sharp with cheese and hearty with the pasta, this really gives new life to your old spaghetti. It is quick, it is inexpensive, and you can make it with any pasta you have left over – perfect for a party or for vegetarians. Dare I say that it’s better than M Wells’ version?
Oh, I dare.

Saxon and Parole – Special Enough for NYC?

When a new restaurant opens, you can wait until the reviews come out to see if you want to attend, or you can chance it and see what you think for yourself. If reservations are not too hard to come by, I prefer option #2 – never trust someone else’s opinion, I say. 
 Saxon and Parole is Brad Farmerie’s ode to locally, humanely raised and produced food. That is a huge fad in NYC that shows no signs of going anywhere, but Farmerie is well known for his Michelin starred game menu at Public, and I was interested to try his spin on the fare here. 
 The restaurant, in the old Double Crown space, is a large, hip restaurant that is teeming with lovely people who have no qualms dropping serious dough on upscale comfort food. 
 Sourdough Bread, Butter and Foie Gras Butter
Warm sourdough rolls with chewy, crackly outsides and moist, sour insides, as good as anything I have had on the West Coast. While it was good with a pat of salted butter melting on the pliant dough, it was even better with a generous smear of the whipped foie butter. Airy and fluffy, almost like mousse, the taste at first was purely butter – rich and creamy. Then, as it warmed on the bread, a meaty scent wafted up and the unmistakable umami, minerally taste of foie gras entered the scene. All too soon it was gone. The combination of rich taste and light, almost ethereal texture was perfect. Little did I know it would be the single best bite I had all night.
 Prince Edward Island Mussels with Fire-Roasted Piquillo Peppers, Capers and Tomato Broth
These mussels were all sweet and opened, with a gentle brininess and very mild flavor. So mild, in fact, that the broth totally overtook the mussels with charred, smoky, salty and acidic flavors. Mussels are delicate creatures, and can’t be thrown with harsh, abrasive flavors. This had no cream, sugar or butter to temper the tastes of the broth. The garlic and salt onslaught had me thirsty all night, and though it was tasty at the time, the broth just did the mussels no favors.
Meat and Cheese Plate with chicken Liver Mousse, Country Pork Terrine, House Smoked Lavender Ham, Coppa, Salame, Mangalista Ham, Various Cheeses and Accompaniments
This plate was…how can I put it? Nothing was bad. Some things, like the delicate lavender smoked ham, which married floral with earthy, and the chicken liver mousse, which was sweet, rich and incredibly meaty, were quite good. But by and large, it was…blah. I enjoyed it, but I can’t remember it. The cheeses were good but not great, the accompaniments were tart and sweet as they need be, and the meats were properly salty and silky, as they should be. But it wasn’t memorable. Every joint in this trend-crazed town is doing charcuterie, and for $30 a plate, yours had better be the best. This wasn’t. 
Unfortunately, that is how I felt about Saxon and Parole. It just wasn’t the best. The food was good, but for the price point it wasn’t a great deal and it wasn’t memorable enough. The service, while kind, was somewhat lacking – this simple meal took well over 3 hours, and not because we were lingering, but because there seemed to be miscommunication between the servers – there were seemingly hundreds of them wandering around, but we couldn’t get anyone to refill water glasses. Saxon and Parole has potential, but it is priced too high and the menu is too unrefined. If this restaurant was in a small town or if the price point were different, it would be a must go. As it is, I would stop in for a drinks and people watching and go elsewhere for dinner. 
Saxon & Parole on Urbanspoon

Trufflepalooza 2011

I don’t often write about the same restaurant twice – too many places to cover!
But, every now and then, there is something so special and unique that it merits a second visit. 
That is the case with Locanda Verde’s Trufflepalooza.

Just like last year, 3 courses of white truffle dishes for $50. 
Just like last year…unbelievable

Sheep’s Milk Ricotta

Each table pillowy slices of house-baked foccacia, but the ones in the know all order the sheep’s milk ricotta. This was as delicious as ever – thick, creamy cheese with the texture of ricotta but with the tang and grassiness of a great Pecorino. Served with slightly floral honey and some fresh herbs, it was a multi-layered dish that was so simple but so satisfying.

 Feather Ridge Far, Poached Egg with Frisee, Polenta, Porcinis and White Truffles

What is it about eggs and truffles? Is it the combination of earthy upon earthy? The hit of umami and fatty? The warmth of the eggs making the truffle’s scent multiply and intensify? Whatever it is, combining eggs and truffles are my favorite way to have either ingredient, and this satisfied my craving. The egg was perfectly poached, with runny yolk that  mixed with the lightly dressed frisee and the cheesy, slightly salty polenta. The porcini mushrooms were so deep that they sort of took focus from the truffles – in a good way. They were so meaty and rich that they made the truffles seem lighter and more fragrant. Truffles are usually so hearty that it was a pleasure to taste their more subtle flavors.

Fonduta Ravioli with Water Chestnuts, Leeks and Truffles

The ravioli was just delicious. The noodles, while not thick, had a good chew and smooth texture. The filing inside was incredibly mild and buttery, allowing the focus to be on the sweet water chestnuts, the onion-y leeks and those delicate white truffles. The taste here was heady and rich, with each bite of truffle invading my tongue, nose and even my head as I felt the taste and aroma travel up and around my whole skull. It was really that intense and special.

Duck Agnoletti with Artichokes Sugo, Parmigiano Regianno and  Truffles

The best pasta I have had since Ai Fiori. Small parcels of pasta were filled with moist, incredibly duck-y meat – rich, fatty, slightly gamey. Tempered by a light, slightly tangy artichoke sauce with balsamic vinegar, it was rich but not heavy or cloying. Hunks of vegetal artichoke were light in comparison, and a welcome textural component. The truffles interacted so well with the duck, becoming woodsy and deep next to the duck. I can’t say enough about this dish, except that I could eat it every night with pleasure.

Truffle Honey Cake with Whipped Ricotta and Chamomile Granita

The perfect way to end the meal. Moist, spicy cake not unlike Jewish Honey cake. The truffle taste came through in the honey underneath the cake, adding a slightly savory edge to the sweet cake, along with the candied hazelnuts served alongside. The creamy ricotta topped with the herbal granita lent a cool, refreshing component to the dish. Sweet, savory, moist and warm. Could there be anything wrong with that?

There was nothing wrong with any part of this meal. We had a particularly wonderful server, Andrew, who was attentive, informative and went out of his way to tell us which dishes had nuts in them (one member of our party has a tree nut allergy). The price can’t be beat and neither can the food. These reservations always sell out quickly, so keep your ear to the ground -there is apparently another Trufflepaolooza with black truffles coming this January. 

I’ll be waiting by my phone. 

West Side Stories: B Cafe and Miyako Sushi

This is just what it sounds like – a couple of quickie reviews of UWS restaurants. Both are reasonably priced, with relaxed atmospheres and good service. So, how do they fare?:
B Cafe is a small Belgian restaurant that is casual, quiet, and perfect for having a beer with a friend or a relaxed night out. 
 Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Mache, Walnuts and Olive Oil
Such a simple salad, but a perfect one. Tender, herbaceous mache, grassy, creamy goat cheese, meaty walnuts, licoricy fennel and a bracing, mustard dressing that cut through the richness of the cheese and the sweetness of the beets. Oh, those beets. Miniature sized, yellow and purple, so sweet and delicious that my dining partner who “hates” beets promptly ate them all. 
Yeah, I was pretty pissed off about that.
 Macaroni and Cheese
Bad blogger that I am (that was a test, you should disagree with me now), I did not write down the types of cheese used here. But they were extremely strong – pungent, sharp, woodsy, with underlying levels of funkiness similar to a blue cheese. I love strong cheese, and at first bite, it was a bit strong even for me. However, as I kept eating the flavors mellowed out and I enjoyed the stringy sauce, crunchy cheese on top, and al dente noodles. A large portion and well priced. 
Miyako is one of those sushi restaurants you don’ really frequent – if you want the food, you order it in. There is nothing wrong with the small, clean restaurant, it just isn’t a destination -not for a date, not for dinner with the folks, and if you are taking yourself out alone, you might as well go somewhere fancy and eat at the bar, right? Regardless of all that, Miyako is a reliable spot for some fresh, tasty sushi. 
 Gyoza
Um, no. I love me a good fried dumpling and this ain’t the real stuff. Greasy, limp, chewy skin surrounded flaccid vegetable filling. Not bad so much as…a waste of stomach space. And since dumplings are next to Godliness, this is really a sin. 
Yellowtail Jalepeno Roll
Just want chili heads like myself crave. Fresh, silky yellowtail atop still-warm sticky rice, spicy yellowtail and avocado. Topped with a razor-thin slice of jalapeno, the taste is at first mild and slightly salty, followed by the creaminess of the avocado and finishing with the lip-prickling heat of the jalapeno. Fresh, clean, spicy and delicious. 
So, there you have it – 2 very good restaurants. Not destination worthy, but I would be pleased to have them down in my neck of the woods.
B. Cafe (west) on Urbanspoon

Barney Greengrass – My Place of Worship

My parents can relax and my grandparents can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. I have paid homage to my past and will continue on in the Jewish faith in a new and focused light.
 I have been to Barney Greengrass
This legendary smoked fish emporium has been popularized by Larry David, Larry Seinfeld, and countless other Larrys as having the most delicious smoked fish this side of the Odessa. Sure, there are other Jewish delicacies like matzo ball soup, chopped liver and latkes, but if you come here, you get smoked fish.
The shop has been around since 1908, and I think that’s how long most of the servers have been working there. It certainly hasn’t been redecorated since then. Think ancient posters publicizing the “Sturgeon King,” 25 tables crammed into 4 sq. feet of space and a tiny counter where your posterior will most surely be in other diners’ faces. The surroundings might not be plush, but they are perfect for eavesdropping and somehow make the whole experience seem more…authentic? What can I say…I like being elbowed in the ribs while eating my breakfast!
Whitefish Salad Platter with Cream Cheese, Sesame Bagels and Bialys
If you like tuna salad, this will blow your mind. If you don’t like tuna salad, this will blow your mind. If you like smoked fish, this will thrill you, if you don’t like smoked fish, this will thrill you. What I am saying is that there is NO WAY that you will not like this. The taste is so delicate, so barely salty and pleasantly smoky that it is faintly reminiscent of bacon. The texture is tender but not soft, with whole pieces of delicate, mild fish bound by only enough mayonnaise to make it the proper consistency – thick enough to eat on a fork, spreadable enough to smear, NO greasy, gloppy residue. Spread a toasted bialy with the rich brick of cream cheese, add some tomato for sweetness, some onion for bite and some of that incredibly mild, satisfying whitefish salad. Eat, and as you do, feel a wave of nostalgia from tuna fish sandwiches of your youth or a breakthrough “Aha!” moment as you wonder what you have been missing your whole life. 
A lot. You have been missing a lot. 
Scrambled Lox, Egg and Onion
I have often ordered this dish, but have never enjoyed it so much. Thick, velvety slices of Nova salmon (less salty than traditional smoked salmon) mingled with soft, sweet caramelized onions and hearty eggs. The eggs were, wisely, not too loose – that would have made the dish too rich and unctuous. The salmon was clearly the star here – gently brined, it was fatty and meltingly tender. It was such a subtle, refined version of the dish – it, too blew me away. 
What can I say about Barney Greengrass that hasn’t been said a million times by several generations? The lines are horrible, the servers are surly and the prices are high. But the food is unbelievable. It is made with so much heart, so much reverence, and is just so darned delicious. 
Grandma, you were right. THIS is officially my place of worship.
Barney Greengrass on Urbanspoon

Almond Joy Pie – Pie Party Live

When I heard about Pie Party Live, I knew that I couldn’t compete with the best of them. I mean, look at all these pies:

Savory pies. Sweet pies. Pies with homemade crusts and sweet fillings and savory fillings, pies made with liquor and exotic fruits, pies with homemade whipped cream and pies with fancy salsa toppings.

Yeah, I’m that lazy girl who likes to eat pie more than I like to make it.

So what’s a gal to do? I guess make the world’s easiest pie. No eggs, no measuring ingredients, no turning on the oven:
Almond Joy Pie
Ingredients:
1 Pie crust (graham cracker, Oreo, or dough are all fine)
1 Can sweetened condensed milk
1 Bag shredded sweetened coconut
1 Bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Cup silvered or sliced and toasted almonds
4 Tbls. heavy cream, room temperature
Water, to taste

1) Put the chocolate chips into a double boiler, and start to melt it.

2) When it starts to melt, add the cream. Make sure it is room temperature so the cold temperature won’t make the chocolate harden or “seize.”
If the chocolate starts to lump into a grainy ball, add some water and continue to stir. It should break up.

3) When the chocolate is smooth and glossy, pour it into the pie shell, and put it into the fridge to firm up – an hour should be sufficient.

4) In the meantime, blend the sweetened condensed milk and coconut in a bowl.

5) When the ganache (just a fancy word for chocolate and milk/cream that has been melted together)has hardened…

spread the coconut mixture on top in an even, fluffy layer.

6) Arrange the almonds on top in concentric layers - or, what the hell, just toss them all on top.

7) Serve!
This might not be gourmet, but it’s a great dessert. Rich, smooth chocolate underneath sticky, sweet coconut and the crunch of almonds. It really does taste like an Almond Joy Bar! Of course, you could use dark chocolate here, but I am a milk chocolate lover. And if you like coconut, chocolate or almonds, you will love this pie. Thanks to Rodeo Bar for hosting this fun event, and to Jackie and Ken for organizing! Maybe next time, I will even turn on the oven to make my pie…
Yeah, well, probably not.

Park Avenue Tavern: It’s a Good Thing

Call me crazy, but Grand Central Station’s surrounding environs aren’t exactly where I go when I want a great meal. Known for office buildings and quick-service delis, this neighborhood is anything but destination-dining worthy. 
Until now. 
Park Avenue Tavern is a new restaurant that is serving some pretty awesome food in a pretty awesome setting. What makes it awesome?
Oh, just this:
The fact hat you have your own private taps at the downstairs tables. Call ahead and you can even get your favorite beer put on tap for you.
Just for you. Now you can support your alcohol habit from the privacy of your own booth! Seriously, I don’t know what it is, but something about cooking your own food/pouring your own beer is thrilling, right? 
As for the food:
 Margherita Flatbread with Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella
This is wisely called a flatbread, because, while it would be a terrible pizza, it is a fantastic flatbread. Slightly pillowy, stretchy crust underneath a thin swath of crispy, mild mozzarella cheese, juicy diced tomatoes and punchy, garlicky pesto. The pesto really brought the pizza to life, making it lighter and brighter after the heaviness of the cheese and the dough. 
 It would be a bad pizza because of the crust, but that is why it is a GOOD flatbread. The bread is really bread here – substantial, with varying textures of pliant and crispy, serving as the main attraction of the dish. I like a thin, coal-fired crust, but for a flatbread, this char-grilled dough was fantastic.
 Crab Cake with Peekeytoe Cragb, Arugula, Pickled Onions and Red Pepper Conserve
This crab cake satisfied all my crab cake necessities.
Soft, not mushy texture? Check
Sweet lump crab with no shells or stringy bits? Check
Mostly crab with only a bit of filler and sauteed vegetables? Check
Moist, gently hinting of seafood but with absolutely no fishiness, its richness was nicely cut by the vinegary pickled onions and the surprisingly spicy conserve. I would absolutely order this crabcake again  -it is as good as any I have had. 
Mussels and Fries
Warning: This dish is NOT for people afraid of garlic or butter. It is garlicky in the fullest sense: pungent, spicy, aromatic, not bitter but totally full bodied. It is also buttery, but then…if you are afraid of that, just find another blog to read. The mussels were all open and free of grit – creamy, mild, but somehow light next to the rich butter and the strong garlic. For some reason, the garlic all works here – perhaps it is the butter’s richness tempering it or the mussels’ gentle seafood note adding another layer to the flavor, but somehow it just works. The firs, fresh cut and crispy, were a bit too salty for my taste, but also incredibly delicious dunked in the mussels broth.
 Park Avenue Tavern is totally destination worthy dining! The prices are very reasonable, the service is excellent, and the food is just delicious. Moreover, you get to support your alcohol habit in the privacy of your own booth. As Martha Stewart might say “that’s a good thing.”
*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.*

Tomatillo Slaw

In case you were wondering…guacamole wasn’t the only vegetable component of my fiesta. I guess corn is a vegetable, but somehow tamale pie doesn’t really count as a salad in my book – when you are eating hearty, spicy food, you need some cool, crisp, refreshing side. It should be raw, it should be crunchy, and since the other dishes are so rich and intricate, it should be simple.
It should be Tomatillo Slaw. This coleslaw uses traditional taco accompaniments, like lime, cabbage and radishes to create a light, tangy coleslaw. There are many variations you could make here – use yogurt instead of mayo, leave out the cumin, add some chipotle powder, add cilantro but not scallions…the whole thing here is to make it your own. This isn’t about a decadent, creamy dish, it’s about a bright, clean tasting one. And it’s about using jarred salsa to make your life easier. It’s about:
Tomatillo Slaw

Ingredients:
1 Head cabbage, cut into thin strips
2 Cups mayonnaise
1 17.6 Oz jar tomatillo salsa(salsa verde)
Zest and juice of 6 limes
12 Radishes
Cumin, salt and pepper to taste
 1 Bunch each cilantro and scallions(optional)

 1)Wash the radishes thoroughly under cold water, then cut the top and bottom off the radishes…

 and slice them as thinly as possible(that is my sister’s murderer’s thumb, not mine. I should only be so lucky!).

 2)Place the radishes and cabbage in a large bowl.

 3)In another bowl, combine the mayonnaise,

 salsa,

 lime zest, juice and scallions/cilantro if you are adding them.

 4)Mix to combine and taste for seasonings. Add the spices in quantities that please you. If it is too tangy, throw in some more mayo. Too bland? Add some salt or scallions. You need to make this the way that YOU like it.

5)Add the dressing to the slaw, mix to combine and let it rest for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours. Before you serve it, taste for spices again – you may need to ad more salt or pepper, since the cabbage absorbs the flavors quite thoroughly.

6) Enjoy!
This coleslaw is deceptively easy to make. I say deceptively because the tastes are so complex – the tangy tomatillos, the slightly bitter radish, the smoky cumin and the sharp lime juice all combine to create a layered dish that is really more like a salad than a simple slaw. The cilantro and scallions add fragrance and pungency that I enjoy, but if the rest of the meal is strongly flavored, you may want to leave them out and make the slaw milder and more of a background flavor. 
Perfect with tacos, chili or a hearty chicken mole, this slaw is one you will make again and again, because every fiesta needs some fiber.