WastED NY with Brooks Headley

I was treated to an extraordinary experience last weekend.

Well, I treated myself to it. After all, I do know best what I would like.

I was lucky enough to snag 2 seats to WastED, a pop up by Dan Barber. His goal was to show diners how much food we waste and how it is all so delicious. And boy did he succeed.

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He transformed Blue Hill into a different restaurant – the walls were covered with paper that farmers use to prevent crops from inclimate weather and the tables were actually grown from the ground up. It was surreal!

But then, so was the dinner.

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Beef tallow candles

These candles, actually made of beef tallow, turned into the world’s greatest shchmaltz when warm! To say nothing of the spent grain bread, made from leftover brewing grains.

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The bread was slightly sweet and very soft, served with whipped lardo alongside the beef tallow. When the tallow congealed it was even better. ACTUAL beefy butter.

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Dumpster dive salad

Pistachio, damaged storage apples and pears, whipped chickpea water

Stop it, Dan Barber. Don’t make me start hitting on you. This was the best salad of my or my husband’s lives – and we have eaten a lot of Caesar between us. This is…amazing. Sweet and bright and deeply savory and herbaceous. The chickpea water is just the liquid from a can of chickpeas, whipped and whipped until it is lighter than air and just a little earthy to counteract the vibrant flavors of the vegetables. How can this be REFUSE?

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Blue Hill Farm Egg from table scrap fed hens

Old bresaola, outer layer onions, cheese broth from Mateo’s 3%

This would be at home at any haute dining table in Paris. A softly poached egg so rich and buttery that it might have stopped my heart then and there. The bresaola is softer than most, and has a mild flavor. The outer layer onions are especially sharp, perfect for cutting through the egg’s richness. The cheese broth is perfect – not too heavy or salty, more like a teensy, tiny bit of tang. Delicious.

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Juice pulp cheeseburger

Let’s dissect this:

Repurposed bread buns – leftover bread from Balthazar soaked until soft and then repurposed into entirely new buns. Soft but crusty, not too dense, and pleasantly sour.

Juice pulp patty – made from leftover veggie pulp from Liquiteria. Spiked with harissa and chock full of hearty, spicy flavors. Doesn’t taste like beef. Does taste like heaven.

Reconsider cheese – pungent, tangy, sharp, and salty.

Bruised beet ketchup  – sweet and piquant.

We fought over this one. Sharing was difficult. 

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Dog food with wasted potatoes and gravy

Actual dog food, made from Dickson’s Farm Strand’s recipe. I actually ate dog food. And…I loved it. Filled with liver, sweet potatoes, and a myriad of spices; this is like country pate meets meatloaf. Add in some soft, mayo-dressed potatoes and a girl could get used to eating with the dogs.

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Brooks Headley Special Dessert

Filone crust pavlova with candied leftover fruit peel, expiring ricotta, and leftover verjus-vinegar sobet

Fresh, sweet creamy. Chewy, sugary bits of candied peel and that super refreshing sorbet. I can’t believe that this is made from “trash,” and yet…I can. Brooks Headley isn’t a Del Posto superstar for nothing.

This meal was…beyond. It made me rethink how I view food and feel ashamed about how much I waste. I can’t wait to save the scraps of potatoes the next time that I make latkes and to use the peach peels from my summer pies for some infused vodka.

I really preach eating the whole animal and it’s time that I started practicing that.

After all, a fish bone/apple peel/heel of bread is a terrible thing to waste.

Rice to Riches and More

This was a gooood eating weekend.

So good that I’m really pretty bummed that it’s over.

Let’s go over the highlights, shall we?

20150327_093148 Loaded oatmeal at Trestle on Tenth

Wow is this gem of a restaurant in need of a re-review. I forgot how fabulous it is! The oatmeal seems plain but is obviously made with plenty of butter and whole milk. It’s rich and sweet, with loads of dried figs, pineapple, and other treats. Just what you need on a snowy ALMOST APRIL morning…kill me. 20150327_210046 Gyros at Uncle Nick’s 

Sure beat the hell out of the gyro platter I had in Athens. Fresh, warm pita bread, juicy, spiced meat, and a meager portion of wonderfully tangy, garlicky tzatziki. You’re going to want to tack on an extra order of that stuff for the crispy-soft potatoes and vinegary salad alongside. This is highly recommended.

20150328_183005 Siu mai and har gow at Dim Sum Go Go

Yep, this place is as great as ever. The shrimp is thoroughly cleaned and soft in its delicate, thin wrapper. The siu mai has a bouncier texture and the har gow fairly melts on the tongue. Use the ginger-leek sauce and you will be transported to China for fewer than 5 bucks. 20150328_201026Rice pudding at Rice to Riches

One of the greats. This spot has been buzzing since it opened in 2003. We are talking every day and night, no matter the weather, lines almost out the door buzzing. And with good reason. This rice pudding is BEYOND. It’s creamy and light with rice that is plump and soft but nowhere near mushy. And the FLAVORS. The flavors range from Nutella to cheesecake to butterscotch. The toppings include everything from roasted cherries to Oreo crumbles. And the decor is just plain fun. It’s a tiny shop, but it’s worth it to brave the crowds for the sweet white chocolate cookies and creme or the lush mascarpone rice pudding. And don’t be dumb – get the container that fits 2 flavors. You know that you want it.

Oyster Omakase with In a Half Shell

Julie Qiu is an oyster enthusiast.

No, make that an oyster-pedia.

Oyster-tainer?

Well, she is the coolest, most interesting, passionate oyster lover I have ever met. And now – great news – her business, In a Half Shell, hosts pop ups! Yes!

Each pop up includes 6 oysters total (3 differet types), 2 wine pairings, all of her information about how the oysters are grown and how they shoudl taste and…well, I’ll just let the appisode guide you:

I can’t highly enough recommend attending one of Julie’s oyster omakase classes. I mean…she had me loving an oyster from ALABAMA!

Have an awesome weekend, all! See you on Monday!

5 Best Places to Celebrate Taco Tuesday

Yes, I know that it’s Thursday, but I missed taco Tuesday…so hit up these joints tonight! You’ll definitely see me at one of them!

Oaxaca Taqueria

Small, casual, awesome tacos at a great price. Plus, the collection of hot sauces is dynamite!

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Otto’s Tacos

The homemade tortillas here are sensational, and so is the charred, meaty carne asada. Don’t miss the masa fries!

Empellon

Simply the greatest fish tacos east of the Mississippi. Light, crispy, moist, and mild. Fish fingers be gone – this fish taco is stuff of the angels. Plus, the restaurant is lovely, chic, and has killer margaritas. Order at least 2 taco plates per 2 people – sharing is rough. 

Gabriela’s

Family friendly, budget conscious, but still nice enough for a casual date. Don’t miss the LETHAL frozen margaritas or these juicy carnitas tacos

So, where will you be dining tonight?

72 Hours in The Middle East: Ristorante

Now that I’m back in the thick of things – laundry, working, days where potato chips are my main source of fuel – I almost forget that I had a mystical 72 hours where I ate caviar, drank champagne, and cuddled with (okay, stalked) Kylie Minogue.

But I owe you another few reviews, mainly about the ultra opulent Armani Hotel, housed in the Burj al Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

I can’t go into all of the specifics until my article is published, but I think that it’s safe to talk about the world class Italian meal that I ate at Ristorante.

20150201_161305 The restaurant itself is exquisite. White and gold and domed and high ceilinged. It’s definitely Italy by way of Dubai. Bring on that bling bling. 
20150201_161724 Start with a crunchy, buttery breadstick on a golden plate. Golden forks, too, of course. 20150201_161735 The champagne list is vast, but why not go with the rose Veuve Cliquot? It’s a little sweet, light, and has a full, round flavor. Champers pairs with everything, after all. 20150201_162819Your server won’t be turned off if you choose one of every bread.
20150201_162841 The Parmesan bread is good but the artichoke bread is unmissable. Soft and warm with meaty artichoke hearts. Ideal with a ramekin of spicy Italian olive oil.

IMG_2162 Parmesan truffle custard

Cold and refreshing, which isn’t often a word that I associate with truffles. It’s a thick, dense custard covered in a layer of lighter-than-air foam.20150201_163313An ideal way to whet the appetite.
IMG_2166 Soft boiled egg with truffles, potatoes, and croutons

They do everything over the top here.

I can get into it. 
20150201_164951 Soft, rich egg. Crunchy, buttery croutons. Salty potato chips and a flurry of dark truffles…this is just decadent. And delicious. Well planned and executed.

IMG_2165Salmon tartare with caviar, capers, and shrimp

The tiniest, sweetest little shrimp on mild, delicately sliced salmon. Quenells of salty caviar, whisper thin beet shavings, and a bright, herby vinaigrette. The combination of seafood is really delicate and surprisingly subtle – not over the top at all.

Unlike the next course.

IMG_2168Parmesan lemon  risotto with langoustines and caviar

Not since London have I had such sublime langoustines. Tender and velvety with a positively sweet taste. They almost melt in the mouth. The risotto is al dente but soft, thick but not dense, with layers of creamy, salty, and bright lemon and Parmesan flavors. The caviar on top is really over the top, but I’m not one to refuse it. This is a MUST get.

IMG_2169Chicken and foie gras pasta pockets with truffles

You would think that I would be getting truffle overload by now, but you would be wrong.  Truffles beget truffles, that’s my takeaway. This is a standout – soft, tender pasta with a meaty, deep, light but round flavor. In a meaty, rich demiglace that is enhanced by the headiness of the truffles.

IMG_2174Scallops with truffles

Wonderful. Where the hell do they get scallops in such warm environs? These are huge and soft, with a buttery flavor and a lovely, crispy sear. More truffles, natch.

IMG_2180Sugar dome with meringue, passionfruit, and cream inside

20150201_180932Pretty much what angels eat for dessert. Don’t skip that passion fruit on the bottom – it’s bright and adds another aspect to the sweet dish. 

Il Ristorante is…over the top. The food is truffles, caviar, champagne,and more. The restaurant is like a Faberge egg. It’s ornate, plush, and has a view of dancing fountains that make the Bellagio fountains look liek a wishing well at your local strip mall. The service, while not quite up to Asian standards, is enthusiastic and warm – one more artichoke roll isn’t enough, try the whole wheat, too! And though the price is WAY up there, it’s a world class meal that rivals the best that I have had in Italy or France. 

It’s an unforgettable, truffle-licious experience. Bring your A-game.

Disclaimer: This meal was part of a press package. I was not required to write about my experiences and my opinions are my own and unbiased. 

From the Vault: Apple Brussels Sprout Hash

*Because this didn’t quite make it over when I switched blog platforms 3 years ago and it’s still cold enough to justify bacon for dinner.*

If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, this dish may change your mind.

Apple and Brussels Sprouts Hash

Ingredients:

1 small container Brussels sprouts, washed and halved (with outer leaves removed)

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 package bacon

1 peeled apple, diced

2 – 3 Tbsp. maple syrup (plus extra, to taste)

olive oil, to saute

salt and pepper, to taste

 1) Preheat the oven to 350 F, place the halved sprouts on a tinfoiled baking sheet, drizzle heavily with olive oil, and stick them in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the sprouts are charred without and tender within.

 2) While the sprouts roast, pour some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When the oil starts to make ripples, add the…

 onions and apples. Let them sautee for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the apples start to turn golden.

 3) Add the bacon

 and sautee for about 20 minutes, or until the bacon is brown and crispy, the onions are sweet, and the apples are soft. You want really nice, crunchy bacon here to contrast with the soft elements in the dish, but don’t turn up the heat. The point is to render the fat slowly so the bacon cooks evenly without being black on the edges and raw in the middle.

 4) When the sprouts are done (just taste them…when there is a tiny bit of resistance to your teeth, they are done), take them out and add them to the pan.

 5) Add the Brussels sprouts and maple syrup to the pan. Stir the ingredients around gently, so you don’t break the sprouts apart but so that the maple syrup melts into all of the components.

 6) Taste for maple syrup, salt and pepper and serve!

 This is a side dish for people who love sweets. The apples, onions, and maple syrup make this positively sugary. In fact, I add a heavy dose of pepper to balance out the sweetness, though my sister likes it au naturale. The crispy bacon mimics the crispy sprouts, and the entire mixture is a sweet, salty, crunchy, and tender delight.

I could top this with a fried egg, or it is also delicious over a baked sweet potato.

Might as well eat it now, since it’s obviously going to snow until July. 

Chopped Caesar Salad at Odeon and Other Weekend Eats

This weekend was a mish-mosh of snacks, eating out, and cooking at home. There may have been the undocumented bowl of cereal or sample of Australian cheddar cheese at Fairway (sharp and VERY good), but here are the highlights:

20150320_133916 Chopped Caesar salad at Odeon

I can’t believe that I hadn’t ever been to this Keith McNally classic. I can see why it has stood the test of time. It has a broad menu, excellent staff, and really delivers. My favorite course at lunch was this chopped Caesar. Wonderfully cheesy and savory without being too fishy. Lacy crisps of croutons, well chopped lettuce, and – thanks, Chef! – enough dressing. I would totally come here if I was in the ‘hood.20150320_200841 BLAT with turkey

Sometimes, simple is best. From the bottom layer up:

sourdough bread

mayo (don’t be stingy here)

bacon (diced and cooked until VERY crispy)

tomatoes (sungolds are always the best, even in the winter)

butter, iceberg, or red oak lettuce (just one leaf)

2 very thin slices honey or maple roasted turkey (nothing too smoky – with the bacon, you don’t want a smoke overload)

1/2 mashed avocado, about 3 seconds away from being too ripe

mustard (honey dijon or horseradish, depending on if you want a sweet or a spicy edge)

sourdough bread

Did I mean simple? What I meant was exact precision is sometimes best. 
20150321_084353Fake out indulgent drink

1 double expresso

1 layer of whipped cream right out of the can

Sweet, thick, frothy, bitter. So amazingly good that I can’t believe that it isn’t a “thing.”
20150321_184704Marzullo’s rainbow cookies

The only rainbow cookies that I enjoy. These are less cookies and more cakes. Tiny, hand cut, freshly baked cakes. Layered with cherry and apricot jams. With soft, almondy, spongy layers of cake. And a thick, dark, fudgy layer of chocolate on the top and bottom layers. No gross fake cherry flavoring or stale, crunchy layers here. Wipe up that drool and get yourself some of these treasures.

And how was your weekend?

Kura – Hidden Entrance, Unforgettable Omakase

I had an awesome sushi meal the other night.

It was pricier than I thought it might be…but it was really good. In fact, I think that it was worth the extra cost.

If you see an unmarked door on St. Mark’s, don’t pass it by.

Unmarked doors are often the best kept secrets.

20150318_182838 Kura is a small restaurant that delivers big omakase. At 3 set price points – 85, 105, or 125 dollars – your only decisions are if you want sake (you do) and how many pieces of sushi you want (even the smallest set really delivers, thanks to amuse bouches and dessert). The vibe is casual and friendly but you can see that the sushi is serious. There is just one long, blonde bar and a single table. We walked in,but make a reservation to be sure that you aren’t turned away. The chefs are kind and jovial and the music is relaxing – a great place for dinner with a friend or loved one.

Though there were some dishes I’m not featuring here, including a wonderful amuse bouche of delicate samon roe over warm rice and crisp nori and a TO DIE FOR toro hand roll at the end of the meal, here are a few highlights:20150318_183453Medium fatty tuna

I was surprised to start the meal with this fatty fish, but I liked it! It wasn’t too fatty or full flavored – it was just fatty enough to be indulgent without overwhelming my tastebuds.
20150318_184029 (1) Scallops

An impeccable scallop. Buttery, soft, mild. Atop crispy nori for a textural contrast and vinegary rice. A big of sharp ginger to cleanse the palate and I was in heaven. 20150318_184331 Fluke

Cool and clean tasting with a zing of lemony, spicy yuzu underneath the fish. Delicious. 20150318_184806 Clam

The most tender clam I have ever had in the sushi arena. Usually it’s crunchy – not my fave. This is tender and smooth. It tastes gently salty and very fresh. 20150318_184901 Mackerel

Broiled mackerel atop warm sushi rice. More like eel than mackerel I have had before in sushi – meaty, rich, pleasantly oily. 20150318_185537 Eel

Excellent! No need to hide eel this succulent, soft, and buttery beneath a shellac of sugary sauce. This eel stands for itself and it’s phenomenal. 20150318_185753 Uni

My favorite sushi of the night. Simple, clean uni (must be Santa Barbara) brushed with soy and served on lukewarm rice and crispy nori. Cold, warm, salty, sweet, crunchy, soft. Beautiful synthesis of flavors and texures. 20150318_190428 Miso soup

Astounding, largely because it was unexpected. Miso soup at the end of a sushi meal is pretty common, but THIS miso soup isn’t. This miso soup tastes nothing less than gourmet. It’s gentle and deep, with an intense umami taste but nothing too salty or bitter. There are tender, sweet clams. Clouds of red miso. It’s just phenomenal and really filling. 20150318_191525Mochi with sweet soy glaze

Less of a dessert, but hey – it’s Japanese, right? Chewy, sticky rice balls in a sweet and salty teriyaki-esque glaze.

Kura is sensational. The fish is sublime, the service is lovely, and though it’s not cheap, it’s a great splurge meal.

Unmarked doors are ALWAYS the best.

Boucherie – Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding and So Much More

It happened…Boucherie, that is.

The meal that I had been waiting for for months. I had heard nothing but outstanding things about this NOLA area restaurant.

Did it deliver?

Wait and see…

20150314_210845The service is excellent – friendly and knowledgeable. The pace here is relaxed, but it’s that way all over the South. Get used to long, lazy dinners and “relaxed” seatings for reservation times.
20150314_210852 The restaurant is dark and relaxed but still upscale-homey-chic. Like your Southern grandma started a restaurant in Santa Monica. 
20150314_211655Smoked drum amuse bouche

Whitefish salad with a southern name. Smokey, creamy, whitefish salad on tiny toasts. I loved it, but if you aren’t into fish, this might be too strong for you. 
20150314_215644 Shrimp and grits cake

Fabulous. The shrimp is sweet and very mild, coated in a spicy, peppery, garlicky glaze. The grit cake is like fried polenta – a thin disc, but still creamy inside and wonderfully crispy without. 20150314_215725 Boudin balls

EXCELLENT. Not as creamy as I prefer, but with a very complex, porky, sweet and savory falvor that surpasses other boudin balls I have enjoyed. Similar to chicken croquettes, but with more texture and that fabulous pork.20150314_225932Baby back ribs with pimento cheese toast

Standout of the night. These are not wet, sweet ribs. These are dry rub ribs, with a sugary, sticky crust that conceals juicy, tender meat. It has a deep, pleasantly charred taste and a wonderful soft but not mushy texture. The meat really tastes of meat, not of sauce or spices. And the pimento cheese toast…well, that’s just a cheesy, spicy, gooey, garlicky slice of heaven. Much enjoyed. These are unmissable.
20150314_225954 Pan fried drum with artichoke and crab

The fish is good – light, flaky, crispy yet moist – but that artichoke and crab relish is where it’s AT. Room temperature and almost disarmingly sweet, this is the stuff that makes me think that artichokes are the unsung hero of the veggie world. reminiscent of artichoke-spinach dip but with the addition of sweet crab and some fresh herbs. This isn’t too salty or at all fishy. It’s sublime with a piece of toast or bread. Or, ya know, your mouth. 20150314_231716Krispy Kreme bread pudding

Say it with me, y’all. Krispy. Kreme. Bread. Pudding. FULL STOP.

Pound cake. Doughnuts. Homemade vanilla ice cream. The crispest, moistest, most fragrant bread pudding ever.

GET THIS. GET 2 ORDERS OF THIS.

Boucherie isn’t conveniently located, but if you are looking for a special occasion dinner, they do a great job with large parties. The food is VERY reasonably priced, the atmosphere is lovely, and the food is delish. don’t be in a hurry, don’t skip dessert, and don’t be kosher, and you will do well here.

Till we meet again, NOLA!

Brunch in NOLA: Cafe Amelie

If you are looking for bunch in The French Quarter, you could do worse than Cafe Amelie.

This sweet little cafe, with ample outdoor seating and a spacious dining room, offers elegant Creole-inspired food at excellent prices. Plus they take both reservations AND walk-ins – great for whatever you need.

Just be sure to wait in line early if you want to be seated at 11 am when the doors open.

20150314_121734 Bread and butter

True to its French roots, New Orleans offers only exceptional bread in its restaurants. The carbs here are unbeatable. And the butter is pretty damned good, too. 20150314_123453 Egg sandwich

My girlfriend ate this so quickly that I didn’t even have time to steal a bite. Of course, I repaid her by snarfing down my entre just as quickly. 20150314_123510 Sunny side up eggs with cochon de lait and spicy gravy over a chive biscuit

Beautifully fried egg atop a dense, buttery biscuit that soaks up all of the spicy, smoky, porky gravy. That cochon is soft and juicy, with a slightly earthy, almost gamey taste. It goes will with the rich egg and that buttery biscuit. The portion is huge, but clearly…
20150314_124639I had no problem cleaning my plate.

What a find! Cafe Amelie is very fairly priced, the Bloody Marys are strong and spicy, and the food (while rich) is totally New Orleans. It’s a wonderful place for brunch with a group and it couldn’t be better located – right near Bourbon and Royal streets yet secluded and charming. If you’re in a rush, there is even a casual offshoot at the corner that looks like a great spot to grab a very quick bite.

Just don’t miss that insane cochon de lait…it puts roast pork to shame.

Tomorrow: Dinner at Boucherie.