Acqua at Peck Slip – Supporting the South Street Seaport

This was originally published about 3 years ago. Since that time, Hurricane Sandy ravished this part of Manhattan and many restaurants were badly hurt. So many closed and even more are struggling. I am republishing this in hopes to get people out of their ruts and into these restaurnts that want and deserve your business. 
If you think I spend a lot of time in the financial district…you are right.  I want to put the word in on a reliable, if slightly pricey, trattoria-esque option!
 Acqua Restaurant is located at peck slip downtown.  This is the oldest part of the city, and is covered in cobblestones and surrounded by buildings where Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill Cody used to eat and drink when they performed at Madison Square Garden!
White pizza with potatoes, onions, prosciutto, and house made mozzarella
 Just what you expect in the best way possible.  This is reminiscent of one of my favorite CPK pizzas of all time, the late, great, rosemary chicken potato pizza.  Many a tears were shed when that pizza was retired.  But replacing the chicken with salty, silky, gently charred, fatty PROSCIUTTO?!?!  OK, this pizza raises the potato pizza BAR!  The crust is thin, crunchy at the edges, and tender within.   The potatoes must be par-boiled because they are meltingly soft as well as fried to a crunchy crisp at the top layer.  The onions are sweet and the mozzarella is the final taste layer of creamy goodness.  This pizza is a salty, creamy, sweet, crunchy, flavor bomb. 
Steamed snapper
 The fish is excellently, if simply, prepared, and the moist, sweet flesh sings with just a squeeze of lemon.  The spinach is perfectly cooked, tasting of all it’s minerally, vegetal goodness without too much overwhelming garlic.  The potatoes are also great-crispy, rosemary flecked, steaming hot and fluffy within,..this place is great with tubers!
Great food, nice atmosphere, good service…are there any downsides here? Ummm…yes.  This is pretty overpriced.  The pizza was $16 and the fish is $26.  In the east village, those prices would never fly, and even in hell’s kitchen you can do better than that.  But this is the FiDi.  And pickins are slimmer.  So…they can overcharge.  Is it fair?  No.  Is it the way of the world?  Yes.  Is it insanely expensive and overcharged? No.  Will I return?…Probably, yes.  For that pizza.  Because I love it.  And because in this neighborhood, it’s one of the only places to get this kind of meal…and because, once again, it’s carbs on carbs.  How can you really put a price on that?

Deja Vu with Plein Sud

Here’s one from the archives – since I visited, the chef has left and my pictures have CERTAINLY improved, but  it still might be worthwhile to give the place a try!

Despite a dismal NY Times review, I decided to check out Plein Sud for lunch.  Run (at the time) by Top Chef alum Ed Cotton, Plein Sud is an upscale casual brasserie in the Financial District.  It is a large, laid back space with a quiet elegance about it; perfect for a business lunch or casual brunch.

Bread

The bread deserves special mention. Thick, tangy slices of sourdough embedded with salty, meaty green olives. Smeared with creamy butter, it is an auspicious start to the meal.

Celery remoulade with apples

Unfortunately, this version of one of my favorite dishes is like a bad drunk – a little coarse, a little dull, and totally sauced.  The mayonnaise is far too cloying.  It dulls the naturally crisp, clean flavor of the celery root, and there is nowhere near enough acid, salt or pepper.

Chilled Leeks

Served in this light vinaigrette with just a sprinkling of chives, these are refreshing, light, and savory.  Simple but very well done.

Lentilles Ravigote

Delightful.  Served in a vinaigrette with chives, shallots, and hints of capers and chervil, the lentils take on these bright flavors beautifully.  It tastes simultaneously fresh and earthy-something not easily achieved!  This appetizer plate is ample enough to be a light meal all on its own!

 Thai Mussels with  coconut milk, lemongrass,  and madras curry, with French fries.

Fantastic. The fragrant lemongrass really elevates the combination of the sweet coconut milk and mildly spicy curry.  The cilantro ties in both the Indian and Thai elements, and the mussels are just perfect.  Sweet, ocean scented mussels wading in a spicy, rich broth that is so good I asked for a spoon to finish it off!

The fries are also first rate.  Served PIPING hot, with a light cornstarch coating and a dusting of parsley, these avoid salt overload.

Plein Sud is a delicious meal!  A few missteps, but far more hits than misses.  It is reasonably priced, well prepared food in a lovely atmosphere with excellent service.

Or at least it was when I went…seems like it’s time for a re-visit!

 

Plein Sud on Urbanspoon

Milk Street Cafe

There have got to be a million delis in New York. The kind where you run in, grab a coffee and a bagel and run out just as fast. But then, most delis don’t have kosher-grade sushi bars in the place, as many food stations as a Las Vegas Buffet, and enough seating for everyone to relax for 5 minutes outside of their offices. 
Milk Street Cafe started in Boston as a catering company, and is expanding to Wall Street. 
 The eatery, which offers quick service options ranging from an Asian station to Italian food to several kinds of roast meat, has seating for hundreds of people and is bigger than some entire apartment buildings! This place was crowded for the press event, yet I had plenty of room, easily found a seat and only once wanted to punch someone in the throat (usually that happens a LOT when I am in a deli and can’t get served fast enough).
 The risotto was a little gluey for my taste, but that happens in a place where a big batch is made and it sits around. Risotto HAS to be served instantly, or it just turns mushy and the starches leach out. Still, this was not bad, as far as deli risottos go. There was clearly some quality cheese in there that was salty but not overkill, and the peas were sweet and fresh. 
 These were those frozen blends that call themselves smoothies or frappes but should really just be called “weight that goes right to your hips.” And, men and women…that is a good thing. I had a mocha whip and it was as good as any coffee dessert drink I have ever had at Starbucks – better, in fact. Thicker, deeper without being bitter, and loaded with tiny dark chocolate chips. 
 I mean, I don’t just show that kind of attention to any old dessert drink that walks into my life. 
Unfortunately, not everything was so delightful. This eggroll was rather tasteless and overly greasy, and the accompanying vegetables tasted unpleasantly of sulphur. Luckily, the night’s menu picked right back up…
with the small sushi station that was serving made-to-order sushi. The whole restaurant is kosher, and while the phrase kosher sushi doesn’t tend to make my mouth water, this sushi actually DID!
 The tuna was mild, the salmon was wonderfully fatty and tender. Both fish were fresh and cut well, with no sinewy strands or offputting smell. Even the rice was excellently cooked, al dente with a tangy taste from rice vinegar. 
The hand rolls were also exemplary, with crispy, slightly salty seaweed, buttery avocado and hot smears of wasabi paste. I would absolutely come back here for the sushi alone!
And I mean that! I would REALLY come back here! It isn’t a destination restaurant, for sure, but compared to the other delis and take out places in the area, this is LEAGUES above in quality of food, value for your money, and comfort while you dine. 
And hey, this place made me believe in Kosher Sushi…pretty much the first Kosher ANYTHING that I really enjoy.
*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.*

In The Mood for Plein Sud!

Don’t trust me.  That’s my first recommendation from this review.  Why should you trust me? If something looks great to you, but I hate it, who is to say that I am right?  I mean, I’m just one person and it’s just my opinion.  Conversely, if I love something, it doesn’t mean you will.  I mean…I DO tend to be right, but that is just because I , like Mary Poppins, am practically perfect in every way
ANYWAY…
My whole point is, reviews are subjective.  There are a few people whose opinions I take very highly-you can find their blogs on my blogroll on the left-but even then, I like to check out a restaurant for myself to see what I think of it.  People take all reviews-of movies, of theatre, and of restaurants-WAY too seriously.  It isn’t the gospel truth, it’s someone’s opinion! 
Which is why, despite a dismal NY Times review, I decided to check out Plein Sud for lunch.  Run by Top Chef alum Ed Cotton, Plein Sud is an upscale casual brasserie in the Financial District.  I had walked by it quite a few times and decided to check it out for myself.  It is a large, laid back space with a quiet elegance about it, but no stuffiness.
Soon after being seated we were presented with one of the best slices of bread I have had since Aquagrill.  Thick, tangy slices of sourdough embedded with salty, meaty GREEN olives.  Can we just talk about how superior green olives are to black olives? Because, um…they are.  This bread was just awesome, properly sour sourdough bread with the olives giving it an extra briney kick.  The sweet butter added a layer of creaminess, and I am not embarrassed to say I ate two slices before the appetizer came!

I got a selection of veggies for my appetizer, starting with the celery remoulade with apples.  Celery remoulade is actually made with celery root in a mayonnaise and vinegar sauce and it is one of my FAVORITE DISHES OF ALL TIME!!! When well prepared, celery remoulade is creamy, acidic, tender, and refreshing.  It is like potato salad’s more refined cousin.  Unfortunately, this version was more like potato salad’s cousin who just got arrested for public urination-a little coarse, a little dull, and totally sauced.  The mayonnaise was far too cloying and apparent.  It dulled down the naturally crips, clean flavor of the celery root, and there was nowhere near enough salt of pepper.  It needed way more acid as well. The apples were a delicious note of sweetness, but it was just lacking the diversity of flavors. 
The next veggies were the chilled leeks with oeufs mimosa.  Though I never did receive the oeufs mimosa(and i do SO love deviled eggs!), the leeks were tres bien (yes, i speak French, too…sometimes I amaze even myself…)!  Leeks are like the sweetest, most mild summer onions you can imagine, and when they are gently poached in broth or wine, their sugars all come to the surface and they are simply heavenly.  Served in this light vinaigrette with just a sprinkling of chives, these were refreshing, with just enough of a bite to remind me it was indeed an onion, of sorts.  This was a lovely rendition of the dish, though their light flavor would have been greatly enhanced by those yolky, creamy oeufs mimosa…i am SO not over not getting those eggs!

The last part of my appetizer were the lentilles ravigote.  I LOOOOVE lentils, so i was thrilled that these were cooked perfectly al dente, with just enough bite to not be overcooked mush.  Served in a delightful vinaigrette with chives, shallots, and hints of capers and chervil, the lentils took on these bright flavors beautifully.  It tasted simultaneously fresh and earthy-something not easily achieved!  The vinegar and capers worked perfectly off those sweet shallots and meaty lentils.  scooped up with slices of the leeks and mouthfuls of that tangy bread…this appetizer plate was generous enough to be a light meal all on its own!
But don’t worry, I didn’t stop there…because too much is never enough, I always say! For my main I got something the extremely efficient and knowledgeable server recommended, the Thai Mussels with  coconut milk, lemongrass,  and madras curry, with french fries.  Though this is more of a southeast Asian mussel dish than Thai mussels, this oddly named dish was just fantastic.  The fragrant lemongrass really elevated the combination of the sweet coconut milk and mildly spicy curry.  The cilantro tied in both the Indian and Thai elements, and the mussels were just perfect.  Not a bad or gritty one in the bowl, just sweet, ocean scented mussels wading in a spicy, rich broth that was so good I asked for a spoon to finish it off!

The fries were also first rate.  Served PIPING hot, with a light cornstarch coating and a dusting of parsley, these avoided salt overload.  So many times after I eat fries, I feel my body slowly expanding from salt retention like I am Violet Beaugregarde:
Not cute.  Here, the fries were just barely dusted with salt so the potatoes really shined through.  They were crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and just delicious for sopping up the curry tinted sauce from the mussels.  Needless to say…I ate them all.  

For dessert I tried the lemon tart with coconut sorbet.  This was sadly disappointing.  The texture was a bit stiff for me-like there was gelatin used in it-and it was insanely sweet.  I went into a little bit of insulin shock after a bite, not gonna lie.  The sorbet, on the other hand was awesome!  Rich, creamy, coconut-y,and not at all too sugary, instead letting the coconut’s own tropical taste shine through.  Next time I would get only the sorbet and skip the tart.
Plein Sud was a delicious meal!  A few missteps, but far more hits than misses.  It was reasonably priced, well prepared food in a lovely atmosphere with excellent service.  If I had ignored my instincts and just blindly followed the NYTimes review, I would have missed out on a really great meal!  So go on…go to a restaurant I don’t like…and love it!  Prove me wrong! After all-I would do it to you  ;)

Desserts and Dishing the Dirt

Afternoon tea is just NOT understood in this country.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have secretly WISHED on the fourth of July that we were still a colony to Great Britain, so we could have those cute little accents and afternoon tea…DAMN taxation without representation!  It ruined all the good stuff for the rest of us!  But for those afternoons when you have a little extra time to have a cup of coffee, a bit of gossip,  and a delightful sweet, Financier is just the place to indulge in this European tradition.
A mini-chain in NYC, Financier is a combination French patisserie/tea room that offers delicious pastries and light food at VERY reasonable prices.  They have a dynamite Croque Monsieur, and delicious coffee, and Kyle, Marmie, and I dropped by the William St. location to talk some smack about people we know…um, I mean, try some desserts…
The shop is casual and self service-or, rather, you order at a counter, then wait at a table for your hot food to arrive, or take your pastry selections with you when you pay.  The room seems small at first, but extends to a much larger seating area in the back.  It is extremely clean and manages to feel charming rather than cafeteria-like.
Marmie got the namesake financier. Similar to a madeleine in taste and texture, it was just lovely!  Tender and finely crumbed, it was moist within and just barely crunchy at the ends.  Each bite was saturated with butter and vanilla and tasted both sinful and light-what does THAT?!  This could only have been improved upon by adding a swipe of nutella, but then…what wouldn’t improve by addding a swipe of nutella, right?!
*Nerdy food fact alert: financiers are so named because that is the French word for “banker”, and bankers used to eat these for breakfast on their way to work because they were hand held and not messy! Okay, end of nerdy food fact*
I continued my macaron obsession by getting a lemon macaron.  Sadly, this was not amazing.  It was good, but the texture was a little soft and sticky-probably the result of sitting around for a little too long.  It just lacked that snap and crispness of a truly great macaron.  On the upside, it balanced sweet and tart, and the ganache was like lightly lemon flavored Oreo cream-and yes, that is a good thing!
All in all-what a great place!  The food is WAY better than the prices indicate, the atmosphere is adorable, and it’s not so well known that it is mobbed by people.  And when the sweets are this decadent, the only thing more evil is the gossip that accompanies it…not that I’ll ever tell what that was ;)

This Little Piggy Went to Market

Is it just me or do you love a farmers market?  Forget the fact that it is a great, delicious way to get to know the city you are now in.  Think nothing of the fact that you get to meet vendors and ask questions to people who actually grow and prepare your food.  And let’s not even discuss the fact that many of the items at farmers’ markets are unavailable in grocery stores, and if you don’t get them here, you don’t get them.
Guys-farmers markets are samples GALORE! It is a cheap foodie’s DREAM to waltz around an open air market, sampling delicious meats, cheeses, sauces, and sweets for free.  And then if you like it-you can BUY it!  Usually quite inexpensively!  I mean…I seriously LOVE farmers markets.  And the best one I have been to in NYC was the New Amsterdam Market.  It is a market devoted to helping small and local businesses grow and sustain an ethical and delicious way of life!  Sometimes there are themes, and when Lauren, Kara, and I went to the Hudson Valley theme, we had a blast!  Here are the top highlights-though they were ALL great!
Schoolhouse Kitchen Mustards and Jams.  This stuff was so delightful! All the ingredients are natural and pronounceable and unique! Not the usual grape jelly, I’ll tell you that! My favorite jam-not that it was even a jam-was the squadrilla chutney.  Orange and chili made this the world’s most fabulous marmalade.  Tart, pleasantly bitter, slightly hot, with just enough sweetness to make this perfect for a breakfast companion for toast schmeared with ricotta.  Of course, it wouldn’t be too shabby with a chicken tikka wrap either!  And the standout here was the dill horseradish mustard.  Thick and sturdy, this mustard was the stuff dreams are made of.  It had quite a bit of horseradish kick, so if you don’t like the nasal clearing stuff, don’t get this…and if you don’t like the stuff…gosh I don’t know how you enjoy life!  It was balanced out by a little butter and flour in the mustard, and the naturally sweet, floral scent of the dill.  This was great on the cracker I tried it with, but it would REALLY shine with a turkey and Havarti sandwich…i mean REALLY…i bought some.  It was that good.  Get it.  For reals.
Cheese at the Vermont Creamery.  This was some kick ass lactose action.  I tried and LOOOOVED the Bonne Bouche.  So did the American Cheese Society, which awarded it the Best Goat Cheese of 2010 award. That’s serious street cred in the dairy world, yo.  Okay, I will stop trying to be cool like the young kids.  This cheese was an excellent example of an aged goat’s cheese-sweet, grassy, smooth, and creamy.  What set this goat cheese apart was the ash ripened rind-it was soft and slightly piquant-that is to say, mouth puckeringly tart, a welcome contrast to the delicate, soft interior.  This cheese rocked my world…which is why i took the rest of the samples right after I took this picture.  Sorry other cheese lovers…you snooze, you lose!
Tamale time!  Katchke Farms was serving up beet chips, fall vegetable tamales, and salsa verde for the measly price of $4. YES PLEASE!!!  I have long been a fan of the sweet, fresh, chewy-crispy, barely salty beet chips, but this was my first time trying a tamale there!
I just love tamales of any sort, so it was basically a given that i was going to like these. What i did not know is that I would be OBSESSED with them!  These were soft but not mushy, perfectly steamed in their corn husks, and mixed with sweet butternut squash and stringy, melting white cheese.  The tamale on its own was sweet, savory, and a myriad of textures, but the salsa verde really pumped this baby up.  Tart, spicy, salty, with fruity undertones, this was as good as any salsa I have ever had.  Ever.  I often buy jars of this at the Port Authority Farmers’ market, so I did not need any more for my stockpile. But Kara bought some. She is pretty smart-she knew I wasn’t going to share.  DEF the best jarred salsa verde EVER.
Table Tales was serving Sunday gravy and butternut squash soup.  Though Lauren did not attempt to put a dirty fork straight into the serving pot like the woman next to me (don’t worry, she was caught and kindly but sternly admonished-what a new york experience, right?!), she did ask for a sample of the butternut squash soup.  She swooned.  Literally, swooned.  That was enough to convince me to buy some of their jarred marinara sauce.  YUM!  I have been eating it like soup all week!  Intensely tomatoey, with a strong hit of garlic and laced with sweet basil, this sauce is not overly salted and has a gentle mouth feel from the addition of excellent olive oil.  All it needs is a microwave, some Pecorino Romano, and my mouth.  I will def be trying this restaurant soon!
Our final taste of the day was the namesake sandwich from Porchetta.  
I have once again failed you by not showing you a picture of the sandwich, but…well…you know why that was.  Sweet, luscious pork fell in salty, fatty ribbons in my mouth.  Piled on a soft roll that tore when I bit it, the  umami-licious juices moistening the bread…there were hints of rosemary and sage and HEAVEN!  My biggest bone to pick  was that there were far too few crispy bits of skin in this delightful pig bomb…it was great but could have been DIVINE with a few more shards of those yummy little cracklings.

Carb-tastic Pizza!

If you think I spend a lot of time in the financial district…you are right.  I want to put the word in on a reliable, if slightly pricey, trattoria-esque option!
Acqua Restaurant is located at peck slip downtown.  This is the oldest part of the city, and is covered in cobblestones and surrounded by buildings where Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill Cody used to eat and drink when they performed at Madison Square Garden!  I swear, it would have been so neat to grow up on the east coast-everywhere is living history!  I heard that Acqua is a casual but delicious option, so we sat down in the relaxed, open space.
We ordered the white pizza with potatoes, onions, prosciutto, and house made mozzarella.  WOW!  I forgot to get an upskirt shot because i SCOFFED this so fast!  This was reminiscent of one of my favorite CPK pizzas of all time, the late, great, rosemary chicken potato pizza.  Many a tears were shed when that pizza was retired.  But replacing the chicken with salty, silky, gently charred, fatty PROSCIUTTO?!?!  OK, this pizza raised the potato pizza BAR!  The crust was thin, crunchy at the edges, and tender within.   The potatoes must have been par-boiled because they were meltingly soft as well as fried to a crunchy crisp at the top layer.  The onions were sweet and umami-filled, and the mozzarella was the final taste layer of creamy goodness.  This pizza was not greasy, but had enough fat to keep it pleasingly moist, and was a salty, creamy, sweet, crunchy, umami filled flavor bomb.  I loved it and consider it on par with any pizza in the city.
We also got the fish of the day-a snapper, steamed and served with sauteed garlic and roasted potatoes. The fish was excellently, if simply, prepared, and the moist, sweet flesh sang with just a squeeze of lemon.l  The spinach was perfectly cooked, tasting of all it’s minerally, vegetal goodness without too much overwhelming garlic-just enough to remind me that life is worthless without garlic breath ;) .  The potatoes were also great-crispy, rosemary flecked, steaming hot and fluffy within..this place is rad with the tubers!
Great food, nice atmosphere, good service…are there any downsides here? Ummm…yes.  This was pretty overpriced.  The pizza was $16 and the fish was $26.  In the east village, those prices would never fly, and even in hell’s kitchen you can do better than that.  But this is the FiDi.  And pickins are slimmer.  So…they can overcharge.  Is it fair?  no.  Is it the way of the world?  yes.  Is it insanely expensive and overcharged? no.  Will I return?…Probably, yes.  For that pizza.  Because I love it.  And because in this neighborhood, it’s one of the only places to get this kind of meal…and because, once again, it’s carbs on carbs.  How can you really put a price on that?

Like Mother, Like Daughter

My love of indulgent lunches is well documented.  I love the luxury of taking your time, the feeling of playing hooky even if it is a weekend, and the pleasure of knowing you have time to work off your meal versus going into a food coma the second you get home, like when you have a big dinner.
Though heaven knows I do love a good food coma.
Wall and Water is  a new fancy, market driven restaurant in the Andaz hotel downtown.  Normally I would stay away from restaurants associated with hotels, fearing cottony bread and tired club sandwiches, but Marmie swore this place was great.  And I trusted her…cause, I mean, she did birth me and all.
The space was really gorgeous-we ascended marble steps to a high ceiling-ed space decorated in a modern and sleek way.  There were beautiful, rustic tables that perfectly contrasted with the modern, streamlined decor.
We also passed a huge raw bar with people shucking oysters, shaving prosciutto, and slicing cheese…my first sign that Marmie would not be letting me down.
When we sat down, we were served some very good, chewy country bread with soft salted butter and mild, creamy goat cheese.  The goat cheese was a welcome addition to the normal bread and butter offering, and while not especially thrilling on it’s own, I appreciated the effort.
And these little glass coke bottles.  The soda is so much more bubbly and cold this way…does anyone else agree?
Tomato soup.  No doubt, the best tomato soup I have had ever.  Anywhere.  Sorry, random train ride in Switzerland, circa 1999.  You have been replaced.  Marmie and I agreed that this soup was the very ESSENCE of tomato.  Bright, acidic, sweet, vegetal, with a hint of spicy red pepper flakes in the background.  It was finished off with just a hint of cream, so the soup was not one note.  More like pasta sauce than the traditional cream of mushroom soup, but with no extra flavors or seasonings. It was really just like eating hot essence of tomatoes. The nutty, chewy Parmasen crisp gave the soup the salty edge it needed. I am seriously bummed about tomato season coming to an end, and this was probably the best tomato dish I will have for awhile.  Really…this tomato soup kicked ASS. 
Smoked trout with housemade pickles and beets.  Marmie liked this more than I did.  I found the fish slightly dry and too flaky-it greatly needed the excellent pickles and savory-sweet beet creme fraiche.  The fish was just kinda blah-not bad at ALL, but not supple and gently salty the way truly great smoked trout is.  Marmie just loved it, but she tends to like subtler flavors than I.  So sue me.
Swordfish confit with black olives and parsley salad.  COME TO MAMA!  Wow, I have never had confit-ed fish and it is GREAT!  Swordfish is a meaty, thick fish that has a distinctive taste and texture, not ulike mahi-mahi.  Now, I love this texture and meaty taste, but marmie and many others find it offputting.  No more. The confit treatment takes out any “fishy” taste by gently cooking it for a long time in olive oil-or perhaps other fat.  All i know is, this was like eating the mildest, sweetest, most silky smooth ceviche ever.  It was similar to scallop sashimi, but with a richer taste.  The parsley salad cut through the rich taste of the fish, and the olives added a necesary salty punch.  This was some of the best swordfish I have ever had.  It was totally indulgent but really pretty healthy…forget that it was cooked in fat…yeah it was healthy…
Wall and Water Caesar Salad with bacon, anchovies, caperberries, and chicken.  This was an excellent caesar salad-nothing more, nothing less.  The produce was fresh, the dressing lemony, garlicky, and cheesy, and the caperberries were a welcome punch of tartness.  The chicken was well cooked but a little thick for my tastes-it could have been juicier and more evenly cooked-it wasn’t bad, it just could have been better.  The standout for this salad was the anchovy selection.  I had never had white anchovies, and let me say-YUM!  Soft, delicately flavored, not too salty umami bombs that just melted away in your mouth!  It really contrasted with the crispy bacon and cheesy dressing.  Just excellent-as was the salad.
The meal finished with these complimentary dark chocolate brownies-rich, deep, delicious!
And with that we were done!  We had other plans for dessert-to be documented soon ;)  The service was well above par, the surroundings lovely, and the meal fairly priced.  That is, it was on the more expensive side, but that is to be expected.  And, as expected, Marmie did not disappoint in her restaurant picks-like mother like daughter, eh?

I’m a Spekulator

Did you know that I love waffles?  Well, I do.  Everything from crappy Eggos to decadent Belgian waffles at a hotel brunch…I love waffles!  For me it is a textural thing…I love the crisp edges with the fluffy innards…and of course the toppings.  Syrup, ice cream, CHICKEN!!!  Yep, waffles are pretty amazing.  
So when I passed the Wafels and Dinges cart downtown this weekend, I knew I had to give it a go!
Wafles and Dinges means waffles and toppings in flemish!  They specialize in the Belgian waffles known as liege waffles.  Now if you have never had a liege waffle…sorry, but you’ve never had waffles!  Liege waffles are special because they are incredibly light, a little chewy, and filled with these large grains of sugar that crunch when you bite them and make you remember that life is a wonderful and unexpected adventure.
Each waffle was made TO ORDER…you can imagine the scents wafting out of that cart! The last time I had a true liege waffle was over a year ago in Paris, and by the time I got to the front of the very fast moving line, I was drooling like a bulldog…Yep, I am pretty sexy.
Though there were toppings ranging from butter to nutella to ice cream, I opted for the spekuloos spread-what was it?  Why was it the owner’s favorite?  And what ever happened to baby jane?
…ANYWAY…
This waffle was OUTRAGEOUS…Easily the best waffle in America.  And I mean it.  Yeasty, fluffy, just barely chewy, with those big hunks of caramelized sugar pearls.  And that was the only sugar in this…the waffle was mostly savory with just sporadic hits of sweet.  and the spekuloos…
Gingerbread and peanut butter and graham crackers and LOVE. That’s what this tasted like!  Made out of crushed spekuloos cookies, this is the only place in  America that you can get the stuff!!  It is sweet, gently spicy, fragrant, indulgent, and nutty all at once…really, it is awesome stuff!
This is a great spot!  It is well priced, unique, and delicious.  And by the way…you can by a jar of the spekuloos to take home…and it is shockingly good all by itself on a spoon…um, i mean, I HEARD that it is good that way…and yes, my love of the stuff makes me a spekulator!

Oh Nicky’s, You’re So Fine, You’re So Fine You Blow My Mind, Hey Nicky’s!!

Is it possible to over-praise a great sandwich?  The simultaneous comfort and excitement?  The endless possibilities?  The food that can be enjoyed solo or amongst friends? It is the great food equalizer. I mean, everyone from Queen Elizabeth to The Naked Cowboy loves a great sandwich!
Though probably not together…
I was visiting my mom downtown today and stopped in at the brand new Nicky’s Sandwiches for a bite to eat.  Nicky’s specializes in Banh Mi, that fabulous Vietnamese Sandwich.   I had heard that Nicky’s, which has a location in Chinatown, was supposed to be really delicious…and so DUH!  I was all over it like a fat kid on cake…or a banh mi
I ordered a classic Banh Mi from the very friendly cashier in the front, and a mere $5.50 later, I had a sandwich the length of my arm.  It was seriously huge-what a deal!  It was also toasted, so it was warm, and the scent of cilantro and roasted pork wafted up towards me.  I tried not to drool as I hurried to Marmie’s house.
The classic banh mi came with Pâté, Vietnamese ham, roasted ground pork, pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro and mayo on a toasted baguette.  You could choose white or wheat bread…and I’m no sucker…I went for the good old white.  I ordered mine spicy, but when I inspected the sandwich before breaking in, I realized no sriracha had been put on the sandwich. BOO!  Luckily, I had my own stockpile of the spicy stuff and applied it liberally before I dug in . You know my credo-if my nose ain’t running, it ain’t fast enough!  Then I bit in….

YUM! This is a GREAT sandwich!!  The sauteed pork was crumbly, hot, and salty.  The ham was tender and sweet, and the pate…oh LORDY the pate!  I didn’t look at it cause I don’t want to know what is in it cause I LOVED it!  So soft, peppery, and just funky enough to remind me that it was liver.  That rich, minerally taste just melted into the soft, fluffy bread.  the bread!  It was yielding and tender with just the barest crackle when my teeth sunk through it to the crisp, vinegar-y carrots and cooling cucumber.  The mayonnaise was creamy, the sriracha punched it up a hit, and the cilantro added the freshest, zippiest, herby zing to the sandwich.  Bread, Meat, Mayo, Veggies.  So All American.  So all Vietnamese.  So all delicious.  Filling, cheap, exotic,  and fresh.  Can there be anything better?  Oh yeah…next week they are adding pho to the menu :)  Oh Nicky, you’re so fine :)