The Taco Truck on the High Line

Summer in NYC isn’t just about the subway smelling like workout socks and hoards of tourists descending upon Times Square. It’s also about summer Fridays, movies at Bryant Park, and the High Line.

This elevated park in NYC is one of my favorite places. Sure, it’s open year round, but in the summer it really comes to life. That’s when people sit sunbathing on benches, stroll with loved ones, and genuinely enjoy life in the city. Try to see someone enjoying life in the city on a February day after a snow storm.

The High Line is right near Chelsea Market, where there are a bunch of delicious dining options, but now there are a few options smack dab on the High Line. Grab a bite, grab a chair in the sun or under the covered section, and enjoy yourself.

The bite that I tried was from The Taco Truck.

This food cart, featuring Mexican street food, uses organic, sustainable, and homemade ingredients as much as possible. There are freshly made salsas, overstuffed tortas, and crisply fried tortilla chips, but the real reason to come here is for the small, flavorful tacos.

Get a Mexican coke or a homemade agua fresca, pay for your meal, and wait for it to be cooked to order.

Each meal is made to order, so you may need to wait a few minutes for your food. Don’t worry – it won’t be too long. Use the time to find a seat in the shade.

Carnitas Michoacan with Guacamole and Habanero Salsa

Slow braised pork with onions, cilantro, habanero salsa, and guacamole. Usually, carnitas are shredded, like Southern pulled pork sandwiches, but these were in small nuggets. They were not as juicy as I prefer, but the flavor was sweet and rich. The corn tortillas were excellent – thin and pliant, loaded with fiery (but not crazy hot) habanero salsa. This salsa is fine for people who like relatively spicy but not burn-your-face-off-spicy food. The guacamole is a must – fresh, buttery, filled with cilantro and sharp onions. A spritz of lime ties it all together.

The Taco Truck doesn’t make my favorite taco in the city. But it does make a tasty taco, for a good price, in a fantastic atmosphere. Though it isn’t worth a special trip, it does feed a yen for Mexican food if you are on the High Line. And sometimes, that’s all that summer in NYC needs.

Brasserie Beaumarchais – Delicious Dining in Meatpacking

Why am I spending so much time in the Meatpacking District recently?
I guess it’s because, even though I hate those loose cobblestones and can’t afford even a vodka soda in most of the bars, there some pretty great restaurants down there.
Case in point:
 Beaumarchais used to be a restaurant called Bagatelle. Now, since some partners have left and the kitchen got a new head chef. I was invited to a tasting to give the new menu a go. 
 The dining room was incredibly beautiful – chic and upscale with elegant lighting and tablescapes juxtaposed against large portraits of rock and TV stars. 
 There was also a small bar area, perfect to congregate around while waiting for your table or catching a post work drink.
 Douseur
Champagne, Amaretto, cucumbers. 
This was a dangerously delicious drink. Crisp and lightly acidic champagne was tempered by sweet, mellow amaretto and the lightness of cucumbers. I downed one of these and felt fine. After two…well, let’s just say it’s a good thing that there was bread on the table.
 Crudites with Tapenade, Aioli and Mint Yogurt
This might seem a little expensive, but it’s actually totally worth it. The vegetables are served in copious amounts, shining like jewels and bursting with freshness. Cucumber, endive, tomatoes, cucumbers, fennel and a variety of other vegetables crowd into a ceramic crock. Dip them into the pleasantly salty tapenade or the herby yogurt if you must. Leave the aioli to me. Rich, eggy, tasting faintly of garlic, nothing compliments the vegetables as well as this does. In fact, this could compliment anything. 
 Lobster Bisque
This was sadly disappointing. The bisque was entirely smooth, with none of the large hunks of succulent lobster meat that I craved. Yes, I said desperately…who orders lobster and doesn’t want to chew? The soup was creamy, with a nice, sweet lobster taste, but without the depth of sherry or long cooked seafood stock. It was a bit flat and one note – not bad, but not good enough to order again. 
Pommes Frites
Please get these. The best fries I have had in the city in I don’t know how long. Piping hot, properly salted, fried at least twice so they are crispy without and creamy within. Extremely potato-ey – hearty and satisfying.  Don’t bother with ketchup…just ask for more of that aioli.
Steak Tartare with Handcut Beef, Quail Egg and Truffle Toast 
Let’s start with the toast. I don’t know how much it cost to make this butter, but the plethora of truffles in it alone justified the cost of the dish. The toasts were positively sheathed in black truffle specs, and the warmth of the toast melted the butter slightly and activated the heady, intoxicating scent of the truffles. Reminiscent of beef in its robust aroma and ability to make my mouth water, the truffles complimented everything from the bread to the french fries (yes, I dipped my fries in the butter) to the…
beef. Handcut beef is such a special thing – it allows the natural texture of the beef to shine through. Beef should have a nice chew and a smooth texture on the tastebuds. Rare, it should be grassy, fresh, almost sashimi-like in its delicate nature. The quail egg, with its small but intense yolk, enriched the beef and played off the gentle heat of the jalapeno and the tang of the pickled onions. This was an excellent beef tartare, and one I would order again. 
Cheese Plate
A simple dessert, but a supremely satisfying one. Sugared, cinnamon laden walnuts, toasted to bring out their oils and hearty taste. Pleasantly charred bread, bitter in some parts to contrast with the creamy, mild triple creme cheese served with the bread. There was also a stronger cheese, a funky, pungent blue cheese that brought out the sugar in the walnuts. A decadent ending to a delicious meal.

Beaumarchais is right in the middle of the Meatpacking district, but you would never know it. It is an elegant restaurant with professional, respectful service and delicious food – really, just delicious. I would take my parents here for brunch or come here after a night of dancing for some midnight frites and aioli. 
Beamarchais is one more reason that the Meatpacking District is a place to visit not just for overpriced drinks and people watching, but for truly delicious food.
*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.*

Fig and Olive – The Whole Shebang

What’s the last time that you ordered everything off the menu? That you just gave into all of your gustatory whims with reckless abandon and tried every damn thing that struck your fancy?
The last time I did that was at brunch at Fig and Olive.
 The casually upscale mini chain, with several NYC outposts, features a Mediterranean menu with a plethora of appetizers, main courses and tasting plates.
 The large Meatpacking branch of the restaurant was elegantly decorated, classic and inviting enough for bunch with my parents but also classy enough for drinks with a coworker.
 Bread Basket
This really should come gratis to every table. When you are at a nice restaurant, you should just get a basket of bread. I’m not asking for a slab of pate or an escargot amuse bouche, but a nicely made loaf of sourdough? That isn’t asking too much. 
 This was certainly a delicious bread basket, with crusty French bread, tangy country bread and crispy-doughy croissants among other tasty treats. The sweet whipped butter, tangy marmalade and homemade fig spread were tasty as well, but to charge for a bread basket at brunch? That was a little pretentious. I mean, they know all brunch customers are hungover. They KNOW we need carbs, stat!
 Every Crostini on the Menu
That’s right. My father and I decided to share every crostini on the menu. Soft prosciutto, tangy yogurt, nutty cheeses and a plethora of other ingredients topped these crunchy breads. Though they were all delicious – really, every SINGLE one was fresh, vibrant and light – there were a few standouts:
Crab, Avocado, Cilantro, Pine Nuts – the most fragrant, intoxicating crab I have had in recent memories. Crab is so often sweet, but here it was earthy and savory. A heavy hand with garlic and cilantro grounded the crab, making it meaty and breaking up its inherent richness. The avocado echoed the buttery texture of the crab while adding a decadent, fatty texture. It was perhaps my favorite crostini.
Crushed Tomato and Olive Oil – everything I hoped the Pan con Tomate at Socarrat Paella Bar would embody. The crisp crostini was rubbed with a garlic clove, it’s pungent taste mingling with the wheaty bread and the sweet, acidic tomatoes. The olive oil mellowed the strong flavors of the garlic and the brightness of the tomatoes – it was an entirely cohesive dish. 
Roasted Bell Pepper, Ricotta, Capers – the bell peppers were heavy with sweetness, velvety and thick. The capers added bursts of salt and the ricotta enveloped the whole dish with its mild sweetness. The strength of all the ingredients worked well, playing off each other. 
Salmon, Ricotta, Citrus, Cilantro - I would NEVER have put these ingredients together, but hey worked so well! The salmon was done ceviche style – cured with lime and lemon, so the outside was barely “cooked”, adding a slight snap to the bite outside the silky, decadently fatty fish within. The predominant tastes here are sour and fragrant, with the cilantro providing a grassy, spicy punch. The ricotta acts as a backdrop, not as greasy or rich as mayonnaise, but creamy enough to temper the citrus. This was out of this world. 
Every Single Ceviche and Tartare on the Menu
I love ceviche – fish that is “cooked” by marinating it in lime juice until the fish’s flesh is cooked on the outside and still incredibly rare within. It is Peruvian in origins, but here there is a decidedly Mediterranean flare. Tartare is just something served raw. Two of the ceviches/tartare – the salmon and the crab – made an appearance on the crostinis, and were huge hits. The other two were:
Sesame Tuna Tartare with Chive, Shallot and Cucumber – this was the most Asian influenced dish of those that we tried, and while it was good, it was not outstanding. The tuna was fresh and tender, but not mushy, well accented by biting shallots, mild cucumber and salty soy. Unfortunately, the sesame flavor was not prebalent enough, and the dish felt a bit one dimensional – all bite and salt, with no lush or nutty notes. It was good, but not a must order. 
Branzino Lemon Ceviche with Red Onoin, Tomato, Fennel and Dill - the BEST dish on the table – and, as you see, we ordered quite a few dishes. The branzino, cut into large but not unwieldy slices, was saturated with the fresh taste of lemon, verdant dill, pungent red onion and sweet fennel. The branzino itself was tender and pleasantly salty – it tasted incredibly fresh and bright. The tomatoes were added in right before we got the dish, so it was not mushy or mealy. The fennel added a crunchy texture and the marinade itself was so fresh and mouthwatering that I was spooning it into my mouth like soup. This was remarkable. 
The whole brunch was pretty remarkable. The ambiance was lovely, the prices were fair and the food was inventive and flavorful. Plus, I got to fulfil my lifelong dream of ordering everything off at least one section of the menu.
Fig & Olive on Urbanspoon

Spice Market Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week. Some people aren’t into it, and I understand why. Reservations are difficult to get, restaurants are always crowded, and if you don’t choose your restaurant carefully, you can end up with a mass produced menu that is not a real reflection of the restaurant’s abilities.
But…I get up early to get reservations. I don’t mind crowds or a little research. And – mostly – I’m cheap.
Thus, we hit up Spice Market for restaurant week.
Having been to and loved a Jean-Georges restaurant before, I expected wonderful food. What I did not expect was a humongous, gorgeous restaurant that looked like it was straight off the set of Indiana Jones! I felt like I was somewhere in between Morocco and Malaysia amidst the intricate carvings and dark wooden details. A hip and totally beautiful space.

I started off with the house made ginger ale. Sweet, slightly spicy and intensely fizzy, this was more of an aperitif than a drink. It was complex but not at all floral or overpowering – it made savory dishes more savory, spicy dishes spicier and brought out the sweet undertones in other dishes. It was one of the finest non-alcoholic drinks I have ever had.

Indian poppadums and spiced tomato chutney. The lentil crackers had a distinctively legume-y taste and shattered at the merest glance. Their crispness was a perfect counterpart to the chunky tomato chutney that was sweet, spicy, and fragrant with mustard seeds. I could have finished this off on my own…damn dining with other people!

Salmon Tartare with Avocado, Radish and Soy-Ginger dressing.
This was not life changing, but it was delicious and well prepared. The salmon was fresh as could be, with that fatty taste that such good salmon has. The avocado was creamy and fruity, the radish had a peppery kick and the soy-ginger dressing was a spicy-salty-savory delight. Despite not being revelatory in any way, it was an expertly prepared twist on a classic.

Charred Chili-Rubbed Beef Skewer with Thai Basil Dipping Sauce.
SOMEONE SAVE ME FROM MYSELF! These beef skewers ROCKED MY PLANET!!!  I mean, these are the best kebabs I have EVER eaten! Sweet, juicy, hearty beef with a crispy and lightly spicy crust giving way to the softest innards imaginable. The way that the char played off the beef’s inherent sweetness was cooking at its finest – really letting the ingredients shine. The Thai basil dipping sauce was cool and fragrant, cutting through the fabulous fatty taste of those skewers. I could have eaten about 19 of these as my main course.
Or for breakfast, every day.

For my main, I got the Cod with Malaysian Chili Sauce and Thai Basil. It was, in a word, perfection. The cod had an almost impossibly crisp crust that surrounded luscious, velvety fish. The chili sauce was almost entirely sweet, in contrast to the mellow fish, but there was just the fainest hit of spice at the end. It was so late on the finish that I almost missed it – but then my nose started to run from the heat! The chiffonade of cucumbers and basil on top added a light and vegetal taste to the dish, and completed it perfectly.

I ate the Ovaltine Kulfi with Spiced Milk Chocolate Sauce and Caramelized Banana for dessert. This creamy dessert, rich as ice cream but light as mousse, was a chocolate BOMB. I mean it was sweet, it was heavy and it was perfection. I could not really detect any spices in the chocolate affair, just sweet milk chocolate topped with some light-as-air whipped cream and whimsical caramel corn. De. Lish.
That’s what this whole meal was, really – de. lish. I got some awesome service from our excellent server, AND I got four courses for only $35. Most restaurants only offer three courses, and most restaurants do not have such excellent food, atmosphere and service.
And no restaurant has ever made me want to eat a beef skewer for breakfast.
Until now.