Archives for August 2012

DB Bistro Moderne – The OG of Luxury Burgers

There is something to be said for the plain burger. The fast food burger. Even the occasional turkey burger. But the king of all burgers, the big mac-daddy of them all has to be the DB Bistro burger. When Daniel Boulud introduced his foie gras and truffle stuffed burger, all bets were off. This ushered in an era of burgers made with Kobe beef, topped with lobster, and served with everything except a black AMEX card.

But many of these burgers were merely an exercise in opulence with no thought towards balance of taste or texture.

Boulud’s burger is still around, the OG of luxury burgers. Is it worth they hype?

The dining room is nothing to brag about. Attractive? Sure. But, also in the middle of Times Square, it is best described as business casual and utilitarian. I would feel equally comfortable dining in nice jeans and a shirt as in heels and a cocktail dress.

Cheese Crisps with Red Pepper and Olive Dips

These little cheese crisps were light and incredibly flaky. Infused with the mellow, nutty taste of Gruyère cheese, they were comprised of at least 12 layers of crisp,  buttery pastry. Dipped into the roasted red peppers, which tasted like they were warmed by the sun then sweetened with fruity olive oil. Also enjoyable was the garlicky, anchovy laden tapenade. This elevated bar snack was a welcome starter to what would be a very decadent meal.

Country Duck Pate with Pickled Vegetables and Dijon Mustard

This pate is outstanding. It is more than just a hodge podge of different offal, it is a carefully constructed mixture of tender meat, iron-y offal, and luscious duck fat. It spreads evenly at room temperature, infusing the warm toast with a deeply duck-y taste and soft texture. There is the fragrant scent of cloves, tart pickled vegetables and spicy, grainy mustard. This is like very rich liver pate with bits of tender, moist duck meat scattered throughout.

Sauternes

This sauternes, a 2004 Château Doisy-Védrines, was superior to the glass I had in Palm Beach and complimented the duck beautifully. Thick, topaz liquid slid down my throat, warming it and bringing out the sweet, delicate notes of the duck fat. It was really a beautiful combination.

House Made Fettucine with Crispy Pancetta, Brown Butter, Aged Parmesan and Shaved Summer Truffles

This dish surpassed expectations. The house made pasta proved yet again that fresh pasta is a different beast than dried pasta. So toothsome, chewy yet delicate, the noodles threatened to melt in my mouth but held their own against the garlicky shards of pancetta. The brown butter was thick and rich, coating each noodle and shred of salty Parmesan cheese. The crowning glory was a veritable windfall of truffles – they are not shy on the truffles here. We actually saw a gentleman come out and present a server with a whole truffle, then shave it on, just to ensure she felt she got her money’s worth. My plate came with plenty of truffles the first time around. Less earthy and dominant than black truffles, summer truffles are light, ethereal tasting, a shroud of umami around rich, buttery flavors. It gives it an aromatic, fragrant to a dish that could otherwise seem rather heavy and one-note. This dish is not to be missed.

Black Sea Bass with Summer Squash, Mosto Vinaigrette, Tomato Confit Hen of the Woods Mushrooms

Delicate black bass was filleted beautifully and cooked until flaky but still moist, with a crispy, delightfully salty crust. The vegetables made a light, vibrant summer ragout and the  tomatoes were of special note. Peeled and cooked gently for hours, they burst with a sweet, tangy,almost jam-like taste. This fish was beyond reproach and yet…it went almost uneaten. That is because of:

Original DB Burger – Sirloin Burger Filled with Braised Short RibsFoie Gras and Black Truffle, Served on a Parmesan Bun with  Pommes Soufflées

I had my doubts about this burger. How could a burger this overloaded with ingredients retain its integrity as a burger? Furthermore, how could a burger with this many tastes manage to respect all of its fine ingredients. This was going to be a disaster, I was sure of it.

I was so, so wrong.

The first thing I said when I tasted this was “I felt like I have never eaten beef before.” This was SO beefy, with its double hit of medium rare ground sirloin, rosy and robust in taste with the tender shortribs. The short ribs were not stringy or gamy, but cooked until the flavor was mellow and deep against the vibrant ground beef. The bun was soft and squishy, but did not deteriorate from the copious meaty juices. The taste of truffle was delicate but ever-present, savory and heady next to the sweet madeira in the short ribs. The piece de resistance was, of course, the sizable disc of foie gras, melting and rich. It swam in my mouth, almost dancing, the sweet, buttery component of the dish. I still don’t know how these ingredients all worked so well together – even describing it seems like overload – but the taste is one that I will never forget. One half was perfect – more than that and I would have gone into cardiac arrest. Happy cardiac arrest.

The pommes souffles are potato chips meet french fry. The world’s crispest french fry that has been hollowed out, so only warm, potato-scented air remains. Delicious dipped in the house made mayonnaise.

Did I mention that I ate the hamburger with no condiments? It needed none. It was ideal.

This meal, starting with the excellent, attentive service (our server noticed we were on a romantic dinner outing and was sent over a celebratory glass of sparkling wine) and ending with a plate of indulgent mignardises, was spot on. Though the dining room’s temperature was a bit warm and certainly more casual than the food would suggest, the dinner was memorable in every way. It is, also, extremely reasonably priced. It offers a prix fixe menu, brunch, and the burger itself is only $32. There must be $35 of foie gras in that patty alone. This burger is the best I have ever had. It is the best I will ever have.

The search for the perfect burger is over – it is right in midtown and it lives up to its storied hype.

db Bistro Moderne on Urbanspoon

Pasta e Fagioli

One of my favorite childhood memories is of being sick. Not really sick, mind you – not sick enough to vomit or have a headache. Just sick enough to lay in my parents’ bed all day and watch reruns of I Dream of Jeannie while everyone at school was working on long division.

My favorite thing to eat on those days was Progresso’s Pasta e Fagioli soup. I remember carefully bringing the steaming broth to my mouth, inhaling the sweet tomatoes and delightfully squishy pasta. I always shook the green can of Parmesan cheese into the bowl so that a thin layer of white covered the top, adding a salty (and-now that I know what real Parmesan cheese tastes like-somewhat dusty) taste to the soup.

This is a dramatic upgrade on that classic. It takes only about 45 minutes to make, but the addition of pancetta, mushrooms, and a heavy hit of cayenne pepper create a complex, multilayered soup that is a real showstopper. It is thicker heartier than the original, so increase the stock if you want a thinner soup. Also, be sure to use a very large stockpot, since the pasta in the soup swells and increases in volume.

Pasta e Fagioli

Ingredients:

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

4 cups chicken stock

4 oz. pancetta, diced

1 onion, diced

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, diced

1 tbsp. dried oregano

cayenne pepper to taste (I use about 2 tsp.)

2 cups ditalini or tubetti pasta

1 can cannellini beans

1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and sliced or quartered

1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

1 large handful basil, chiffonaded

1. Sautee the pancetta in a large stockpot over medium high heat, until it is translucent and has rendered some of its fat.

2. Add the onions, garlic, oregano, cayenne, and mushrooms. Let sautee for about 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft, the pancetta is entirely crispy, and the onions are fragrant.

The mushrooms will release a lot of juice in the first 10 minutes, and most of it should evaporate by the time you are done with this step.

3. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then add the ditalini. This pasta should take about 10 minutes to cook. As it cooks, it releases starches and the soup will thicken dramatically.

4. Add the beans and cheese, and stir to heat through

5. Taste for seasonings, top with basil, and serve.

This soup is even better than my childhood favorite. The tomatoes have a sweet, concentrated flavor and the beans add a creamy component. The pancetta is salty, the mushrooms are meaty and savory, and the oregano adds an earthy, grounded note. The pasta should be cooked until it is al dente, not falling apart, and the trick of seasoning with cheese instead of salt means that the soup is not overwhelmed by sodium. The cheese melts and becomes crispy in some places, stringy in others. The cayenne adds a heat that is reminiscent of fra diavolo, and the basil is a fresh crowning touch. The soup is even better the second day and may need some water or stock added when it is reheated.

Still best enjoyed while watching I Dream of Jeannie reruns.

Pumpkin Pie Praline Toast

This recipe is an example of how too much of a good thing is never enough.

Case in point: Cinnamon toast.

People love cinnamon toast, and why not? It’s sweet, it’s crunchy, it’s buttery…give it a cute butt and I would date it!

But it is a side dish. Not the main event. Not sweet enough to be a dessert item or substantial enough to be a main course. If you want something with the substance of a cinnamon roll but the taste of cinnamon toast with a slight hint of pumpkin pie, this is what you are looking for:

Pumpkin Pie Praline Toast (adapted from here)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 dash pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup walnut pieces

4 slices sandwich bread (white is best, but wheat will do)

1. Combine the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice. Really mash it together.

You may have to get your hands in there to make it a homogeneous paste. Also, preheat your oven to 350F.

2. Add the walnuts and mush to combine.

3. Lay your bread on a cookie sheet and pile on the spread. Make sure that it is evenly spread all the way out to the edges of the bread. Because the only thing that’s sadder than a kid with no toys on Christmas is a dry piece of cinnamon toast.

4. Put the tray in the oven. Almost immediately, the sugar and butter will start to melt, becoming dark and slick.

5. After 7 minutes, or when the mixture bubbles and turns dull, take it out of the oven and let it cool until it is only warm to the touch. It needs this time to become solid.

6. Serve with a glass of ice cold milk.

This is the best cinnamon roll substitute around. It takes only minutes to prepare and cook, but the taste is as decadent and sweet as candy that has been cooked for hours. The bread is crunchy but not rock hard, and the butter and sugar creates a crystalized topping. The sweetness is tempered by the spicy pumpkin pie seasoning, fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg. The nuts release their buttery scent as they bake in the oven, and the dish is ideal for breakfast or even a dessert if you add some unsweetened freshly whipped cream. Top this with a few flakes of sea salt for a more complex taste.

Or just enjoy it as is, and remember what Ben Franklin said:

“Everything in moderation…including moderation.”

Making the Perfect Omelette with Chef Neil Kleinberg and Zwilling Thermolon Pans

Omelettes are on of my favorite foods on the planet. I love them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I love them loaded with spicy meats, creamy cheeses, or fresh vegetables. I love them served on toast and I love them plain.

I am an omelette fiend…get the picture?

When I got the opportunity to have a cooking class with Neil Kleinberg, of Clinton St. Baking Company fame, I jumped at it. This man is the Master of NYC Breakfast – who was I to turn down this opportunity? Following are the expert tips I took away from the man who put pancakes on the map:

Mise en Place is Your Key to Success

As Chef Kleinberg pointed out, eggs cook quickly. So quickly that if you try to chop the tomatoes and grate the cheese after your eggs are in the pan, you are likely to end up with egg flavored rubber. By preparing all of your ingredients ahead of time and just having them there in toss into the omelette, you won’t waste any cooking time.

Whip it Good

Don’t be a lazy whisker. Get those eggs really well aerated. The key to a light, fluffy omelette isn’t cream or milk, it is incorporating enough air into the eggs before you get them in the pan.

Froth the Butter

The butter should not just melt, it should bubble slightly and create a light foam. Do this over medium heat, and once the butter foams, be ready to add your eggs so the butter doesn’t turn brown. If the butter browns, you have to wipe it out of the pan and start over.

Let it be, Let it be

Once your eggs are in the pan, scramble them once or twice then leave them alone. In a very few minutes, the outer corners of the omelette will start to set. Don’t disturb the omelette yet! Just let it gently cook while you add…

Toppings all Around

The importance of adding toppings is twofold: Distribution and Symbiosis. The toppings should be added in rows, which allows for an even amount of each topping in each bite. The toppings should also mix well with each other – you don’t want cream cheese, avocado, and pate – who wants an entirely mushy omelette? You also don’t want brie, chorizo, and sundried tomatoes – there is an umami overload if there ever was one. Choose fillings that are creamy, crunchy, fresh, savory, and sweet – you want a mixture of tastes and textures. Goat cheese, bacon, tomatoes, and caramelized onions, is a great combination.

The Flip

To create a classic French filled omelette, simply fold the omelette over with your spatula about 1/3 of the way when it is stiff, but still a little jiggly in the very center top layer. Then, move the omelette over to the edge of the pan and, with your spatula, flip it out on the plate. Tuck in the sides and…ta-da! If your omelette breaks a little, just cover it with some chopped chives. 

Of course, it comes out a lot easier if you have this Zwilling Thermolon pan. Yes, this was a press event, but I was not required to write about it. But I am. Because this pan was incredible. It heats evenly, has cool-touch handles, and a nonstick surface that is not that insufferable plastic coating that I can’t stand. This is ceramic, unscratchable by metal spoons or forks. The omelette nearly flew out of the pan when I was ready to remove it, and the residue was nada. Chef Kleinberg uses these pans, and I am a fan as well.

And there you have it – instructions on how to make the perfect omelette, for those days when the diner just won’t cut it.

Next up, maybe I will try to cure my own bacon?

Maybe not.

 

Brick Lane Curry House – I Phought the Phaal

Some people skydive to get their thrills. Some people race cars, or even shoplift.

Me?

I eat food so spicy that even Adam Richman threw in the towel.

Brick Lane Curry House is an English style curry house. This means that it has a huge menu with classic British-Indian dishes like chicken tikka masala, aloo gobi, and naan. It also has phaal, which is listed on the menu as:

“An excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavor! For our customers who do this on a dare, we will require you to state a verbal disclaimer not holding us liable for any physical or emotional damage after eating this curry. If you do manage to finish your serving, a bottle of beer is on us, as is a certificate of completion and your picture in the (P)hall of fame.”

It is considered by many to be the spiciest dish in NYC, so hot that all flavor is obscured and those who eat it are solely doing so because they are masochistic.

So, of course, I had to do it.

The restaurant is just what you imagine in an Indian restaurant – sitar music playing, cloth napkins, servers carrying burnished bowls of curry and biryanis. The vibe is one you have seen a thousand times before, and it is welcome every time. It is equally good for families, a group of friends, or even a date.

Maybe not a first date. Unless you are really sure that the other person will be turned on by seeing you snarf down smelly Indian food.

Pappadums and Chutneys

Each table is brought a crisp, lentil infused pappadum and a selection of chutneys – sweet tamarind, fragrant cilantro, and fresh tomato and onion. The basket is not incredible, but it is welcome and introduces you to the pungent, tangy flavors that will permeate the rest of the meal

Lamb Samosas

The measure by which I judge any Indian restaurant. The samosas arrived piping hot, and the flaky exterior broke open to reveal minced lamb and juicy peas. The aromas were of cinnamon, cumin, and the slight sweetness of fennel. The lamb was mild, with just enough gaminess to counteract the sweet tomato chutney served alongside.

These are some of the best samosas in the city, and I could make a meal of these alone.

Onion Kulcha

Fluffy, hearty, stuffed with sweet onions, this bread is not only delicious, but necessary to sop up the many sauces.

Saag Paneer

A generous portion of creamed spinach served with soft, creamy paneer. This Indian farmer’s cheese has the mild taste of cream cheese and the texture of soft tofu, and is a welcome accompaniment to the garlicky spinach. This dish is ideal for anyone who loves creamed spinach or is new to Indian food – there is no pervasive cumin or ginger flavor, and the spinach is so thick and savory that it is a main dish all on its own.

Now, for the main event…

Chicken Phaal

At first glance, this looked like chicken mole. A few peppers, a few scattered seeds…meh, I can handle that.  And, at first, I could. The aroma was smoky and a little spicy with red pepper, and at first bite chicken was moist and tender. At first it was a bit spicy and deep, like chipotle peppers. I became brave and took another spoonful of sauce. Then, it started. The burn flooded the insides of my cheeks,   then my lips. It went from a slight prickle to an insistent burn, and by the time that it stretched to the back of my throat it was an all out pounding, scraping, insistent burn. I was sweating and my nose was running. I was miserable. But beneath the misery…I was in heaven. The sauce was layered with ginger, coriander, and cumin. The spice made my heart beat faster and gave me a sort of high – I was drunk off the pleasure and the pain. Forget 50 Shades of Grey…you want hot, this is hot. Even a spoonful of cool raita couldn’t cool it.

Needless to say, I couldnt’ finish it. My raw, throbbing tongue and chapped lips made me give up. I got not beer. No certificate. No honor. But the very cheap prices, excellent service, and really wonderful food ensure that I will be back, and soon. That certificate will be mine.

You won the battle, Phaal, but not the war. I’ll be back.

Brick Lane Curry House on Urbanspoon

Artisanal – For the Love of Cheese

I take cheese very seriously.

If you don’t, just stop reading now.

If you DO…well then, you will want to make your way to Artisanal for dinner, as I did. This Terrance Brennan restaurant, an NYC stalwart for years, is the city’s most famous cheese emporium. The restaurant worships cheese. There are cheese tasting menus, cheese fondues, and even an entire room filled with the stinky stuff, where you can eat amongst the dairy.

If that doesn’t sound romantic to you, then again, please just stop reading now.

Artisanal looks like a huge bustling Parisian brasserie – a bit less authentic than Balthazar, but just as bustling. It is ideal for an upscale dinner with a group of friends, but since it gets so loud, it isn’t the best choice for a first date.

Lady Mary with Lillet Blanc, Citrus, Basil, and Champagne

It is rare that a restaurant makes a cocktail so extraordinary that I sit up and take notice. This is such a rarity. Lillet Blanc is an aperitif, a fortified white wine that is sweet and citrusy. It balances well with the peppery basil and tart lemon. The final touch of crisp champagne makes this bright cocktail both potent and eminently drinkable. This tastes like punch but after just one, you will be pretty buzzed.

Luckily, the restaurant serves plenty of dishes to soak up that booze.

Bread

Each meal here starts with crusty, tangy sourdough bread. There is a nutty whole wheat version as well, and both go well with the sweet, unsalted butter.

Steak Tartare

This starter is a classic bistro dish. Cubes of tender, robust beef, mix with egg yolk, capers, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce in this satisfying, if somewhat bland rendition. I prefer my tartare to be mixed tableside, extra spicy, but this is at least made with extremely fresh, coarsely ground beef. It is especially tasty when spread on warm toast, creating a carnivorous open faced sandwich. The frites that come alongside are exemplary. Piping hot, incredibly crispy, and not too salty – they really taste of potato. Order the truffle mayonnaise alongside for dipping purposes. The mayonnaise is rich and creamy, and the truffles are heady, deep, and incredibly savory. I started dipping my spoon into the serving vessel and eating the mayo plain.

No, I’m not embarrassed.

Fondue

When you come here, you eat fondue. There are 3 fondues to choose from – 2 standard choices, and one rotating fondue du jour. The one we tried, the fondue du jour, was made with leeks and Gruyère cheese. The fondue comes to your table with hunks of bread, and you of course have to purchase some add ons. The fondue arrives to the table in a pot on a burner, so it stays liquid and warm the whole time. The first thing about this fondue was the aroma. It smelled like that mouth-watering scent of onions bubbling away in butter, mixing with the light, high note of white wine. Dipping a chunk of bread in the fondue made the cheese stretch from the pot to my plate in a ribbon. The taste was…perfection. Nutty, salty, gooey, creamy. Studded with sweet bits of browned and caramelized leeks.

The bread is tasty enough, but when you add in juicy nuggets of garlicky kielbasa, sweet apples, and tiny, tart cornichons, the meal takes on a wholly different level of greatness. The tastes are so varied and customizable – the pot finished all too quickly.

Profiteroles

If you are eating French, you might as well do it all the way – am I right or am I right?

The profiteroles here are topped tableside with warm, viscous chocolate sauce that hits the perfect note between bitter, milky, and sweet. The ice cream is smooth and fragrant with vanilla, and the dough is crisp and light, crunching ever so slightly between the teeth. The best dessert on the menu, and possibly the best rendition in town of this dish.

Artisanal is a very special place. Not just because the prices are upscale but not obscene. Not just because the service is efficient and knowledgeable but not pushy. Not even because the food and drinks are spot on in preparation and execution. It is because this restaurant specializes in the ultimate communal experience. What fosters conversation more than eating together and sharing a meal like this? Dipping into bread basket together, laughing as cheese strings refuse to break, arguing over which fondue to get…this is what eating is about. It is about sharing an experience with another person. Artisanal is tailor-made for that kind of experience.

And if you love cheese as I do, it is tailor-made for you.

Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Cheeburger Cheeburger – If it’s Good Enough for SNL, It’s Good Enough for Me

On my trip to Florida, I did that thing where I woke up early for a flight, had a Diet Coke, and then didn’t eat for about 5 hours.

To say I was hungry by the time the plane landed would be an understatement.

To say I needed to eat rather quickly to avoid a meltdown would be the understatement of the century.

By the time we pulled by a Cheeburger Cheeburger, I was hungry enough to eat a nonfat American cheese slice, still in the plastic wrapper.
Luckily, I didn’t have to resort to that.

Cheeburger Cheeburger, named for the famous SNL sketch is a casual 1950s style burger shop that is ideal for a quick  meal with friends or young kids. Burgers, fries, milkshakes and the like all feature prominently on the well priced menu.

Fried Pickles, Mushrooms, and Jalapenos

Why choose fried potatoes when you can have fried jalapenos? This basket was the drunk food of my dreams, even though I was sober. Juicy mushrooms, tangy pickles, and spicy jalapenos were all fried in a crispy, zesty batter. Dragged through some smoky chipotle ranch dressing, the fried basket was indulgent but also well sized – enough to stave off hunger for a few minutes longer without being so huge that it ruined my appetite.

Classic Cheeburger

One of the selling points of this restaurant  is (in stark contrast to the sketch for which it is named) all the free toppings. Unlike many restaurants that add on the toppings for added fees, this restaurant includes most of them. Guacamole, pepperoni, coleslaw, and even peanut butter can all be added to your burger for free. Premium toppings like bacon cost extra, but even one cheese is included in the price of your burger. That is a pretty wonderful thing in this world of the $40 entrée with no sides.

This burger had Jack and Cheddar cheeses, onions, jalapenos, and thousand island dressing on it.Though it was cooked to a rather dry medium and the meat itself lacked flavor and a serious char, the burger was altogether satisfying. The cheese was melty, the dressing was tangy and rich, the onions had a fresh bite, and the jalapenos were delightfully spicy. The bun was sturdy enough to stad up to the many toppings without being cottony.

Clearly, I had no problem finishing it off completely.

Cheeburger Cheeburger will never be a destination restaurant. But the service is excellent, the prices are fair, and the food is just what you expect it to be.

If it’s good enough for SNL, it’s good enough for me.

Cheeburger Cheeburger on Urbanspoon

Highpoint Bistro – A High Point in Chelsea’s Restaurant Scene

A recent lunch hour found me in Chelsea. Not the cool, food oriented part of Chelsea – more like the dirty, crowded part of Chelsea. I didn’t expect to find a great meal here, other than the hot bar at Whole Foods, but then I remembered that I had a freestanding invitation to dine at Highpoint Bistro and Bar. Well, okay.

Highpint Bistro and Bar is located on busy Seventh Avenue. It sits amidst nail salons, bars offering 2-for-one shots, and a few scattered fabric stores. Once you step inside, you leave all that behind. The bistro is slim but well designed, with comfortable tables and booths in the sunlit space. The high ceilings and long bar make it ideal for a leisurely lunch with a friend.

The menu is full of modern American dishes that take cues from Asian and Europe. Think your classic neighborhood joint with a bit more international flair.

Tuna Tartare Tacos with tobiko, avocado mousse, cucumber noodles, and spicy mayo

These 4 tiny tacos are an ideal starter because they are small enough to be light but flavorful enough to whet the appetite. Dices of mild tuna are marinated in a salty soy and ginger mixture, then topped with ruby beads of tobiko and a smooth cilantro-seasoned avocado mousse. Drag it though the Sriracha spiced mayo for a final touch of heat. The cucumber noodles are also delicious – sweet, sour, and a little spicy, they actually taste like al dente noodles.

Avocado BLT

The only way to make something with bacon better is to add avocado – Highpoint took that advice and did it to great effect. Buttery avocado lay on crisp, thickly cut bacon, juicy tomatoes and crunchy romaine lettuce. That same Sriracha mayonnaise added a bit of heat ot eh sandwich, and the combination of spicy, creamy, salty, and meaty, was thoroughly enjoyable. The one issue I had with this sandwich was that the bread was very dense and cottony – a thinner, more artisanal bread with better holes structure would better serve the excellent ingredients. The accompanying homemade potato chips were a bit salty, but overall a welcome side dish.

Spanish Flatbread Pizza with Manchego, Chorizo, and a Fried Egg

This pizza succeeds because it is properly titled – it is a flatbread/pizza hybrid. Thicker than a flatbread, but less charred than a pizza. My expectations were met in every way. A bright tomato sauce under nutty manchego cheese, thick slices of spicy, garlicky chorizo, and a perfectly baked egg. The egg was runny and rich on the pizza, adding another layer of indulgence. The final, inspired touch was a pile of lightly dressed arugula, adding acidity to the dish. This was the winner of the day.

Highpoint Bistro is a fantastic addition to a part of the neighborhood where a nice restaurant is in high demand. Service is amiable, prices are fair, and the food is really high quality. Next time you need a break from the unrelenting heat, stop in at Highpoint Bistro, and treat yourself to a really delightful meal.

*Disclaimer: The restaurant paid for my meal. I was not required to write a review, and the opinions are my own and unbiased.*

HIGHPOINT Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon

Agave – The Price is Right and the Food is Caliente

The West Village is a breeding ground for delicious restaurants. From upscale establishments to hole in the wall burger joints, this part of town is rife with delicious offerings. Chock full of beautiful townhouses and hip boutiques, it is naturally a neighborhood where beautiful people love to brunch.

It is also a neighborhood where sweaty, tired people decide to take a load off of their aching feet and have a beer at 2 pm and call it brunch.

Which one do you think I am?

Agave is a bustling, upscale Mexican restaurant right in the heart of the West Village. It has a small, sun drenched atrium, a spacious bar area with a few tall tables, and a large back room where festive music plays on the stereo. It is a great spot for brunch with friends or a happy hour drink. The feel of the restaurant is casual, but the staff at the hostess stand may think that they are working at Joel Robuchon. If you are dressed in schmuppy workout clothes, be prepared to be given the fish eye at first.

Chelsea Blonde Beer

The beer for beer haters. Light, citrusy, and not too hoppy, this is like an even less alcoholic version of a Corona. It is refreshing and sweet/tart, the perfect complement to greasy, spicy Mexican food.

Which is, of course, the best food on the planet.

Guacamole with Salsa Verde, Pico de Gallo, and Fresh Tortilla Chips

 A classic at any Mexican restaurant. This is not an innovative version, nor the best, but it is satisfying and sizable. This version is chunky, with slivers of zesty jalapeno, the  zip of lime, and enough salt to bring out the naturally sweet flavor of the avocado. It rests in a light, puffy tostada shell and is served with fresh chips that are a tad too salty. They are clearly fried to order, and I would order them without salt in the future. The pico de gallo is fine, but the salsa verde is the real winner – sour, spicy, and smooth.

Chipotle Chicken  Quesadilla

This quesadilla is enough for a meal for one person or a shared appetizer for 4. Mild jack cheese melts around grilled chicken, smoky, charred, and spicy with chipotles. Sandwiched between 2 crisp tortillas, the fresh pico de gallo, guacamole, and creamy sour cream complete this upscale take on a classic American Mexican favorite. Like the guacamole, it is nothing innovative, but it is utterly satisfying and comforting. 

Agave is not ground breaking, but it offers great prices on high quality Mexican food. The extensive drink selection alone is reason enough to come back for dinner, and the portions are commensurate with the prices. This food balances the greasiness that comes with fried, cheesy food with fresh ingredients and well cooked food that is not overly heavy or salty. It has some high end entrees as well as classic American Mexican dishes. If you can get past the slight snootiness at the hostess stand, you will be rewarded with great service and delicious food.

Of course, I might have looked down my nose at someone who dressed like I did that day, too.

 
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Lazy Girl’s Salad Lyonnaise

Sometimes I get a craving for Paris. The gorgeous people. The exquisite architecture.

But, mostly…the food.

Wild-tasting beef, fresh, cold oysters and coarse country terrines.

When these cravings hit, I do one of two things:

1. I go eat ramen, one thing that the Parisians really can’t do better than we New Yorkers can

or

2. I make a lazy girl’s salad Lyonnaise.

The real salad Lyonnaise uses  bacon lardons that are fatty, chewy, and crunchy all at once. The real salad Lyonnaise uses French frisee, which is sweeter and more tender than the bitter, overgrown stalks we get here. Real salad Lyonnaise is served as an appetizer, not a main course, because…

What French person do you know who would eat a salad as a main course?

So this is a salad Lyonnaise using ingredients you probably already have in your house. It can be made in a matter of minutes  and it is satisfying on every level. The best thing about this salad may well be the dressing – do not use olive oil here. The walnut oil is so subtle and nutty that it allows the flavors of the other ingredients shine through, whereas olives oil would overwhelm the salad.

Lazy Girl’s Salad Lyonnaise

Ingredients:

1 serving salad greens.

1 poached or soft boiled egg

3 strips bacon(preferably thick cut and unsmoked), diced

juice of 2 limes

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup walnut oil

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. honey

black pepper to taste

1. Fry the bacon in a pan over medium heat until the bacon is very crisp and brown.

2. Mix the citrus juices, oil, mustard, honey, and pepper together in a bowl. Taste it – it should be rather acidic, because the egg yolk will dilute it. Add the dressing to the greens.

3. Top with the bacon and the egg.

4. Serve.

This salad is such a great rip off of a classic dish. The tender baby greens work well with the bracing, tart-sweet dressing. The soft egg should spill its golden yolk over the leaves when you break it, mixing with the dressing and adding a buttery, fatty component. The bacon is salty and crunchy, and the entire effect is rich and also bright. This is ideal with a side of  rare flank steak or just a hunk of garlic bread. It is an ideal light lunch, or a perfect breakfast – it is bacon and eggs, after all!

Unless you have your ticket on Air France booked already, this is your fastest way to get to the City of Lights, in taste anyway.