Buvette Doesn’t Ring my Breakfast Bell

I have wanted to try Buvette for a long time. I have heard that it’s so Parisian. That the food is wonderful. That the space is cramped but comfortable. That it’s SO SO AMAZING.

Let’s see how it measures up.

First, the pros:

20150228_090414 1. Adorable.

This place is super cute – great for a breakfast with your love, a coffee at the bar, or an indulgent lunch all on your own. 
20150228_091838 2. The food

Downright delicious. Fresh, seasonal, well portioned. You get up feeling satiated but not stuffed. You can try several dishes, because you don’t feel overloaded with sodium or carbs. The beets are excellent – sweet, earthy, and toothsome against the tangy, cool yogurt.  20150228_091848 Avocado toast

A special that day, and clearly my favorite dish in my current rotation. This is a thick, nutty piece of brown bread topped with buttery avocado, a swath of vegetal celery yogurt, and more than a few pepper flakes. The radishes and dressed watercress, highlighting the fruity olive oil and the avocado. Certainly recommended.  20150228_092005 Bloody Mary

Delicious! Well balanced, none too alcoholic, freshly grated horseradish, and good enough to stand on its .own without any insane garnishes 20150228_093937 3. The service.

Excellent – friendly, prompt, professional.

Now, for the sad part – the cons:

1. Cramped.

I knew this going in and didn’t mind at all, but you won’t want to come here with more than 4 people MAX. I couldn’t imagine being comfortable with more than 2 people, honestly.

2. No reservations.

One of my biggest pet peeves. I hate showing up to a place  starving and then having to wait 45 minutes to get seated. I also hate having to wake up super early to beat the crowds because…dude…it’s the weekend. Luckily, we arrived right at opening time and had no wait, but this is a major downer in my book.

3. Expensive.

Like, way way expensive. This little meal was STUPIDLY pricey. I actually wouldn’t come back because the cost is – in my opinion – over the top.

Buvette is adorable, the food is delicious, and the service is great. But no reservations and lots of $$$ translates to me heading elsewhere for my Saturday morning avocado toast.

Weekday Mimosas at The Standard Grill

Weekday mimosas. 

Who doesn’t love ‘em?

However, they can be SHOCKINGLY difficult to find in NYC. It’s like people only like to drink on the weekends.

Pffffft.

That’s how I feel about people who don’t believe in a little weekday indulgence. 

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Luckily, the servers at The Standard Grill feel the same way. That’s why they will bring you a mimosa with freshly squeezed orange juice and fizzy sparkling wine, even though it’s not on the menu. It’s so tasty that I didn’t even snap a photo until I was already halfway done – this is a fabulous mimosa. Not too sweet, not too watery, and not too stingy with the good stuff!

20150227_094418 Located inside The Standard hotel, The Standard Grill is almost unspeakably hip. It’s all tweed and plaid uniforms, models sipping espresso, and dark paneled dining rooms. However, there is also a casual, sunny front room that is perfect for a relaxing breakfast with friends. It’s spacious and well designed – I wouldn’t hesitate to come here with a crowd.

20150227_103210 Egg scramble with Gruyere and herbs on toast

THIS is how egg whites should taste

Soft and creamy – perhaps they lack the richness of whole eggs, but the texture need not be that of a rubber bouncy ball. The cheese provides both tang and a little fat, and the herbs are fresh, sweet, savory, and sharp by turn. Served atop thickly cut sourdough toast and adorned with bright, lightly dressed greens – this is a breakfast that is both virtuous and delicious. It’s so simple but it’s so often butchered by lesser restaurants.

20150227_103201 Mushroom omelette

My girlfriend got a goat cheese and mushroom omelette and was extremely pleased. On another note, the bread here is fantastic – hers is a seven grain. Thick, wheaty, a little sweet, and studded with nuts and seeds. Fabulous. 

20150227_094527 The Standard Grill is an AWESOME place for a chic, but not snobby or uncomfortable, meal. The prices were a little high, but it’s commensurate with the neighborhood, and the service was so attentive and sweet that I would come here before I return to other places nearby.

Plus, those weekday mimosas. YES.

Colicchio and Sons Delivers on Black Saturday: Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day rocked.

Not because of cards, jewelry, or even candy.

It was dinner.

Dinner was on POINT.

Colicchio and Sons has been on my list forever, but we didn’t get around to eating there till last weekend. For Valentine’s Day. Black Saturday. Ugh. How fair is it to judge a restaurant by its most difficult, busiest, overpriced day of the year?

Even with those prejudices, Colicchio and Sons still delivered.

The restaurant is high ceilinged and beautiful – chic and trendy with a grown up, elegant feel. A perfect date night.

20150214_190600 The Collins

Tomato infused gin, mint syrup, and lemon. Tasty but not amazing. It lacks that earthy, sweet tomatoey taste and the mint syrup is too sugary-sticky for my taste. I wouldn’t rush to get this again – it sounded so promising but failed to deliver.  20150214_192053 Parker house rolls

Warm, soft, and slick with butter and salt. Even better, after we ate 2, they were replaced with an entire new, hot pan. Excellent service on this front. I ate 2 and should have eaten more.
20150214_192104 Crab and cannellini bean fonduta

The warm crab dip of my dreams. Rich, buttery, and creamy. Hunks of sweet crab and soft cannellini bans. Garlicky, salty, and magnificent. This plus the Parker house rolls is quite the combo.
20150214_192849 Egg with caviar and garlic chips

Another winner – light but rich. This is the perfect way to start a meal. The tastebuds are awakened, the senses are aroused, and there are a million textures going on. Soft, crunchy, popping, smooth, salty, eggy, savory…this had it going ON. What’s more, no one could eat more than a few spoonfuls of this, so the serving size.
20150214_192918 Oh yeah. Egg on egg. Just the way I like it.  20150214_193712 Hamachi with citrus and yuzu-ginger emulsion

Wonderful. The hamachi is excellently butchered – entirely smooth and buttery with no unsightly or sinewy pieces. The citrus is vibrant and juicy and that ginger emulsion is cool and spicy – the combination of flavors and execution of this dish is pitch perfect.

(need I say that it was aca-awesome?)

20150214_195536 Squid ink campanelle with whipped lardo and piment d’espelette

The best dish of the night. I was shocked at how fantastic this was – better than any NYC pasta in recent memory. Squid ink occasionally has a bitter or “off” taste to me. This was so subtle. The pasta itself, obviously house made, with a toothsome, chewy bite. The sauce is soft and light, with the unmistakable taste of sweet and earthy pork. the piment d’espelette is spicy but not overpowering, and the sprinkle of breadcrumbs is just perfect – crunchy and sharp against the lush sauce and thick pasta. Colicchio and Sons does pasta RIGHT. 
20150214_195706 Agnolotti with black truffle

Less inspired than the campanelle but no less delicious. Pillows of soft, buttery pasta laden with cream and the heady scent of black truffles. I mean, this is just damned delicious.  20150214_201624 Sea bream with bok choy, coriander blooms, and spiced beets

By this time, I was filled to the brim, but I powered through. The sea bream is fantastic – seared with a crispy skin and moist, flaky meat. The beets are an unexpected and delicious twist on sea bream. They provide a minerally, super earthy counterpart to the fish – soft but not mushy and sweet/fragrant with the coriander blooms. I wish I could have eaten more of this!

20150214_203446 Coconut doughnuts

GOOOOOOD!!!! Macadamia nuts, passion fruit sorbet, and some sort of cherry gastrique. Like the pineapple upside down cake I always wanted, but with coconut. Coconut>pineapple. It’s simple math.  20150214_203452 Lovely mignardises, including an awesome passion fruit chocolate.  20150214_204634 Treasure chest 20150215_144524 Filled with tasty chocolate red velvet bar. For breakfast. Because Colicchio and Sons just gets me.

This was a fabulous Valentine’s Day meal. The food was wonderful, the surroundings are lovely, and the service was a little slow, but for Valentine’s Day, fantastic. I can’t wait to come back on a normal day and try more of the pasta.

Valentines Day 2015 – you win.

Zuma – Bring the Black Card and Expect Fabulous Food

I have been to Zuma in London and Hong Kong, so I knew what to expect.

Basically:

1)Wear your trendiest duds.

2) Have a reservation.

3) Leave your cash at home, just bring your credit card and prepare to pay a LOT.

4) The vibe is sexy. The drinks are really well made. And the food is mother-freakin’ fabulous. This is the perfect place for a blow out birthday meal or bachelor/bachelorette experience.

20150209_191953 Old fashioned

Whistle Pig bourbon and an entire shaved iceberg in the glass. I don’t even like old fashioneds and this was excellent. Side note – they need to stock their bar with all of the booze that’s on the menu. The one murky spot in otherwise awesome night.  20150209_195543 Soft shell crab

Where the hell do they get soft shell carb so great in the off season?  Creamy, crunchy, and buttery with the slightly salty taste of the sea. Flash fried and greaseless, well salted and served with a tangy yuzu dipping sauce.  20150209_202229 Wasabi scallion scallop sashimi

Light, soft, velvety and punctuated with sharp scallions and a tiny hit of wasabi. One tasty sashimi dish.  20150209_202647 Negitoro maki

Excellent, though for the price, I would get another fusion dish, like the excellent miso black cod. This is really great, don’t get me wrong – I just prefer to do my sushi eating at the bar. I know, I know – I’m snobby and I like it that way.
20150209_204303 Ginger-ponzu asparagus

Oh yeah, this was the night’s sleeper hit! Who would have thought that some simple, char-grilled asparagus could be so satisfying?! Meaty, fresh, crispy, and topped with a tangy-sour-sweet sauce that was so good that we ended up drizzling it all over everything else at the table.
20150209_211208 Steak

A HUGE portion and a really satisfying steak. Grilled to a succulent medium – totally pink with no bloody red or overdone gray. Cut into bite sized pieces and served in a sweet teriyaki marinade. This really satisfies those red meat cravings.

Zuma is super pricey but also super beautiful with great service and an interesting, utterly crave-worthy menu. Think Morimoto with a location that’s more convenient to uptown with a sexier, darker decor. I would come here again as soon as I could either apply for another credit card or at least justify the expense.

How does tomorrow sound?

Gradisca – Ideal for the Thin and Rich

I haven’t always been a food blogger, but I’ve always been a foodie. One of my favorite things is to go back to restaurants that I haven’t visited for many years to see if my fond memories are because I always had good taste or because the past is always seen through rose colored glasses. Let’s see how Gradisca fared:

20150207_191513 The small Greenwich Village restaurant oozes charm. It’s all exposed brick and cozy tables with a small bar in the middle of the restaurant. It’s loud and buzzy, but can feel a little cramped. It’s really only good for 4 people or fewer – any more than that and you might start to feel a wee bit like sardines.
20150207_194158 Bread

Sadly, unremarkable. Okay at best – don’t waste stomach space here.  20150207_194900 Caprese salad

Excellent! The mozz must be homemade or well sourced, because it has the thick, bouncy texture of mozzarella with the creamy, fatty richness of burrata. Truth be told, I prefer this mozzarella to some lesser, weaker burratas that I have eaten. The pesto is garlicky but sparingly applied so that it compliments the tart, juicy tomatoes. For the middle of winter, this is a damned good caprese salad and I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again.
20150207_194906 Meatballs

Surprisingly good. They are expensive and very small, but wow – the flavor is there. It’s flavor packed and bold in a really bright, herbaceous tomato sauce. Nothing about this is soft or muted. This dish is bold, in your face, and filled with flavor. I just think it’s a little too pricey for the serving size.

20150207_202737 Spaghetti carbonara

My all time favorite pasta dish. I just love carbonara. It’s rich and bacony and peppery and everything wonderful. This is a fantastic version. The homemade pasta is chewy and the bacon is crispy and thick. The eggs are rich but not at all gooey or cloying, and the pepper is freshly ground. It cuts right thought the fat and the salt, making the dish sharp and vibrant. This is a craveable rendition of my favorite pasta – the portion is just so damned tiny.

20150207_210228 Berry panna cotta

Not necessary. The jiggy, lightly vanilla scented panna cotta is served in a puddle of jammy blackberries and raspberries. It’s light and sweet but still indulgent. We mostly ordered it because we were still hungry.

I remembered Gradisca as charming and delicious, which it is. But did I used to be a lot richer and a lot thinner? I mean…how much more money could I have had that I didn’t see how expensive this was? How tiny could I have been that I didn’t think that the portion sizes were positively toddler sized? The vibe is neighborhood date night, but the prices and portion sizes are more model-appropriate fashion week. Though, to be fair, we did enjoy a few very nice drinks. Next time I would come for just a soda and that carbonara.

And maybe fit into my skinny jeans the next morning.

Molly’s Cupcakes – Peach Cobbler is the Greatest Cupcake Ever

Because a little Friday cupcake never hurt nobody.

20150210_141632 Molly’s Cupcakes is the cutest little cupcake joint you ever did see – albeit one that has won countless awards and is a Cupcake Wars champ. It’s large and well laid out, with a few tables, a large display of treats, and swings at the counter.

That’s right…you get to eat cupcakes on swings. Your inner 9 year old is very happy.

20150210_141701 I may or may not have added these to my coffee. Don’t judge.

20150210_141746 Chocolate raspberry cupcake

Excellent! Thick, dark chocolate ganache that’s the texture of satin with a very thick, almost chewy texture. The cake itself is moist and sweet, with none of the dusty dryness that chocolate cake sometimes gets. It’s layered with a judicious spread of sweet, tart raspberry filling Chocolate and raspberry is a match made in heaven – don’t you agree? This is also a good sized cupcake – one is enough for a very generous dessert.

20150210_141751 Peach cobbler cupcake

Simply the best cupcake I have ever had. It blows my beloved red velvet out of the water. The cake is almost like cornbread – it’s vanilla-y and sweet but with that sticky, earthy flavor of corn muffins. It’s filled with a thick, syrupy peach pie filling and topped with freshly whipped cream, streusel, and a stewed peach slice. This is as homey and comforting as grandma’s house, and is better than many a fresh peach pie I have made in summer. This is huge and rich, but really delicious.

Molly’s is destination worthy – there, I said it! Relax with one of the many board games and a few friends, with at least one cupcake per person. Maybe 2 if you’re feeling frisky.

And when it comes to cupcakes, it’s easy to feel frisky.

The Milling Room – Fabulous Pasta, but Will I Return?

Newsflash:The Upper West Side is now becoming  a PLACE. First, Parm. And now, The Milling Room.

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This new-ish restaurant in the old Corvo Bianco space is luxe and upscale with a downtown vibe. It’s a great spot for date night and there’s a happy hour in the cozy bar up front.

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Bread

It seems simple and awesome. Warm, pillow peasant bread served with wonderfully buttery, fruity olive oil. I forget how tasty bread is when it’s simply warmed. Even if you’re counting crabs, splurge for this.

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Beet salad

Standard but delicious – sweet, toothsome beets, a tangle of lightly dressed, bright frisee, and some really good creamy, funky blue cheese. The blue cheese is what makes this worth ordering – so often, lesser cheese is paired with beets and this high end cheese is a reminder of how complex and tasty beets really are. The creaminess and salt bring out the beets’ meaty, minerally flavor.

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Orzo mac and cheese

THE BEST mac and cheese I have had since S’mac. I wouldn’t even have ordered this – it was my friend’s choice – but now I could never NOT order it. Creamy and delicate, with no overtly sharp or salty tastes. Instead, it’s a deeply savory,m garlic and herb taste that takes center stage. It’s primarily a textural thing paired with that garlic – creamy orzo, crunchy topping, slightly spicy garlic. It’s not too heavy or salty – you eight want to order 2 dishes for an appetizer as a table for 4.

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Rabbit pappardelle

My new favorite pasta dish in the hood. I rarely order pasta –  prefer to get my crabs the French fried way – and when I do order it, it had better WOW me. This did. The house made papardelle is thick and quite al dente – this is a chewy, eggy noodle. It’s served in a buttery, winey sauce loaded with diced tomato and sweet onions ND roasted garlic flavors. The rabbit is luxurious. It’s not at ALL gamey -it’s juicy and tender without any rubbery fat or unpleasant gristle. It reminds me a lot of pork – it’s more mild, even, than lamb. I would get this again in a heartbeat, and in fact can’t wait to do just that.

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Apple pie

Buttery puff pastry, soft stewed apples, and a drizzle of caramel. Yeah, I knew that you would like it.

So, this place has awesome food, is fairly priced, and is right up the street…sounds perfect, right?

Hold those horses, chief,

There are service issues. Big, bad service issues. It took us FOREVER to get a cocktail list. We had to flag someone down for the bread. We waited 45 minutes in between when my glass of wine was served and when the rest of the party received their beers. What, were they brewing them in the back? The appetizers came out in an appropriate time frame and after we enjoyed we waited for our main courses. And waited. And waited. After an hour – yes an HOUR – my husband finally asked the server where the food might be waiting. The (very nice) server shrugged his shoulders and said that he would check. They were brought to our table about 3 minutes later. The restaurant wasn’t very busy and it wasn’t the first week of service. It was a 3 hour meal without needing to be one. We should have been better attended or at least given some sort of apology for the egregious lack of pacing. The isn’t a cheap dinner, and my husband was so put off by the service that he doesn’t want to return even though the food was great. I would return, but only once more to see if last week’s service was a fluke.

Because, like I said, the UWS is becoming a PLACE. And I would love to see The Milling Room become part of that.

Queen of Sheba – Memorable Food, Questionable Service

It was a cold, rainy Saturday. We hadn’t eaten since 11 am. And we needed food that we could eat in our ratty jeans at 530 pm.

Ethiopian, it was!

20150117_173209 Queen of Sheba is the type of place that you might have seen in Alphabet City in the 1990s. It’s half casual cafe/restaurant, half ethnic enclave with low stools and cool (I assume Ethiopian) woven tables with tagine covers. Obviously, we chose the tagine table. And waited to get served. For a loooong time. The service here is lackadaisical at best…at worst, it’s like sitting in coach on a flight all the way to Ethiopia. And this was at an off hour when the restaurant wasn’t busy.  20150117_175145 Tomato salad

Just fabulous. I know, it seems weird – how can a simple tomato, onion, and jalapeno salad be fabulous? But it was. In a bright, but not sour, dressing that is laden with fruity olive oil but surprisingly not heavy or oily. It’s fresh and vibrant, laying on spongy, pleasantly sour injera. The injera underneath the salad is the best part – it soaks up the juices and becomes wonderfully flavorful but not soggy. Oh, and roll up those sleeves – this salad, like all Ethiopian food, is eaten with the hands.

20150117_175153 Sambusas

Samosa-like pastries. Fried pastry pockets filled with cumin spiced ground beef and served with a tangy, spiced (but not spicy) chile sauce. Delectable. You can also get them filled with lentils, which might be even more delicious.  20150117_181740 Kitfo and Menchet Abesh Wot with collard grens, lentils, kidney beans, and cheese

Kitfo – Ethiopian steak tartare – not as good as Awash. Less heat and a bit smokier. Still very tasty, but not my number one fave.

Menchet Abesh Wot – Utterly delicious. Spicy, buttery ground beef seasoned with jalapeno, ginger,and just a hint of garlic. It’s like the best old school taco meat without cumin or coriander. It’s rich, well spiced, and I couldn’t stop eating it. The collard greens, lentils, and kidney beans were all excellent, reminiscent of Indian food. The feta cheese tasted like squeaky air, but that’s really the only  loser on a plate filled with winners.

Queen of Sheba is cheap, delicious, and great…if you aren’t too immediatelyhungry and don’t have anywhere to go. Look, the service is really bad…horrible. But if you are in the hood and have a hankering, I think it’s the bees knees.

Mei-Jin: Neighborhood Ramen and Great Fried Chicken

Upper East Side ramen. That’s what this post is about.

Mei-Jin isn’t somewhere I  purposely headed. But, after a late afternoon viewing of (the quite good) Into the Woods, it was raining. And I was powerfully hungry. So, ramen it was! This spot is very comfortable and large – there is no need for reservations even when it’s busy. The turn over is quick and there always seems to be more room.

20150118_190128 Chicken karage

Wonderful Japanese fried chicken. Piping hot and juicy, with a puffy, shattering crust. Squeeze lemon over it, sprinkle it with salt,and drag it through the slightly spicy aioli. The acid is key – it makes the taste pop and sparkle. This is better than even Korean fried chicken because it isn’t overly salty or spicy – the taste is really all about that chicken.  20150118_190334 Fried Chinese broccoli

Fried and indulgent. Pleasantly greasy but still crisp shards of tempura over crunchy Chinese broccoli. it’s dragged through sweet hoisin sauce. FRied, sweet, crunchy..PLUS vegetables? It’s a win win!
20150118_192103 Ginger chicken meatball ramen

So tasty on a cold night. Bouncy noodles and a (rather thin) gingery chicken broth. It’s filled to the brim with soft chicken meatballs and goodies like… 20150118_192322 a barely hardboiled egg,with a still translucent yolk… 20150118_192415 and those lovely, familiar ramen noodles. This bowl is gigantic and well priced – I could have shared it with someone and still been filled to the brim.

Mei-Jin isn’t destination worthy ramen, but it’s a great neighborhood joint. I miss the thick, velvety tonkatsu broth of other venerable spots, but this is really tasty and there is no need to queue for 6 hours beforehand. Excellent service, a great menu, and tasty food for fair prices. ON a rainy night, it hits the spot.

Brindle Room – The Best Burger in NYC

I don’t think that I have ever written an entire post on just one main dish at a restaurant that offered more than that dish. 

And yet, that’s exactly what I ‘m going to do:

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Brindle Room has been on my B list for awhile. I have wanted to go for the burger. But, let’s be honest – a lot of places have great burgers.  And a schlep to the East Village isn’t exactly my idea of a great Tuesday night.

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The restaurant is tiny – it looks more like a neighborhood bar or gastropub than anything else. I made reservations but when I saw the Lilliputian kitchen and the none-too-crowded dining room, I scoffed at needing them.

When I waited 30 minutes for the burger, I doubted my decision in coming downtown at all.

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And then, this arrived.

It looked good.

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Then I had a fry. These are good fries. Very good fries. Fresh cut and in between thick-and-thin. They are well salted with the crispy, translucent potato skins that I love most of all. Served with Sir Kensington’s ketchup and some of the best, spiciest, well seasoned hot sauce that I have ever enjoyed, these are worth a side dish order on their own.

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Then, the burger. Made from dry aged steak and deckle trimmings. With caramelized onions and a light topping of melted cheddar cheese.

This is a burger. This is better than Minetta Tavern, Corner Bistro, and In-n-Out combined. It’s the only burger, besides Louis Lunch, that has required no extra condiments. I did add a couple of the excellent pickles, but ketchup would have totally overwhelmed the meat. The meat is something else. It’s coarsely ground and lightly packed so it is tender but not falling apart. It holds together with seemingly nothing other than fat and a prayer. It coats your lips in the wonderful, slick layer of fat that marrow sometimes leaves behind. It tastes deep and minerally, but not at all funky or gamy. It’s the best burger I have had in NYC. No question. The onions are sweet, the bun is squishy, but that meat is where it’s at. I could eat 3 of these. Don’t order it to split with your friends – this is a small burger and you will not want to share.

And at $12 for brunch, the price is right.

Brindle room isn’t fancy. The service is a little slow. And the atmosphere is so hipster that you will feel as though your jeans will never be skinny enough. But the burger is so wonderfully, amazingly, totally, perfect that you won’t even notice.

I weep for this burger.

And the place filled up fast, so make those reservations and don’t doubt your decision for a second.