Bites to Savor This Weekend and Beyond!

Food I’m enjoying around town:

20140525_195750 Chocolate mint ice cream bar from Treat House

Generally, I find these gourmet Rice Krispy treats overpriced and dry – nothing beats licking the spoon of some still warm, freshly made treats. But this ice cream version does surprisingly well. The ice cream is what kicks it up the notch – it’s really, sharply minty 0 this is a grown up’s treat. It’s coated in a thick layer of crisp chocolate and the “cookies,” which are really Rice Krispy treats, provide a crunchy, chewy counterpart. This is a fun, light ending to a meal out on the UWS.
20140809_115858 Haul from Tucker Square Greenmarket

SUNGOLD TOMATOES SUNGOLD TOMATOES SUNGOLD TOMATOES. This year, the sungolds are INSANE. Sweet, light, juicy, firm…they are perfect raw and even better slowly roasted. The peaches are just going out of season now, but you can still find some wonderful late season ones - yellow peaches;  the whites have been super mealy. Tiny bell peppers and sheep’s milk cheeses in pungent blue and tangy yellow. This farmer’s market is never too crowded and never too expensive – the vendors are lovely and invite you to try anything that looks delicious and the variety is usually excellent. Give it a go, and say hi if you see me! 20140819_184057 20140819_191126 Mexican food at Dahlia’s

Nothing groundbreaking, but there are strong margaritas, fair prices, and an adorable patio looking over Harrison Street – worth the price of admission! You have to savor this sunlight as long as you can – September is upon us and this lovely weather will be but a memory sooner than we can imagine. The guacamole is plentiful and not crazy expensive and the menu is full of lots of familiar Tex-Mex fare – order up and enjoy!

Fabulous Haute Korean Fare at Jungsik

Settle in for a good long read.

Because I had the pleasure of a truly phenomenal meal at Jungsik.

By phenomenal I mean unexpected. Playful. Luxurious. Long. and…of course…delicious.

Jungsik is a high end Korean restaurant in Tribeca that took over the Chanterelle space.

This ain’t your standard 24 hour bulgogi place in Koreatown.

20140705_195915 This is all sleek lines and light wood, with orchids on the table and formal waitstaff anticipating your every desire. Unless you tell them that you are in a rush, you will be treated to at least 2.5 hours of an elaborate, attentive, and ever exciting meal.  20140705_203329 Amuse bouche

Shot glass of seaweed and cucumber gazpacho – chilling. Refreshing. Clean tasting with just an after-note of salty, briny seaweed. Not at all fishy or overwhelming as some seaweed dishes are.

Smoked eel cream cigar – Oh you mean the bacon mousse inside the crispy wafer? It tastes exactly like bacon – and that’s a good thing. Creamy, crispy, and utterly appetizing.

Marinated mussels – Fresh, piquant, and mild. An excellent cold seafood starter

Fried chicken with spicy mayonnaise – I mean, you know this is great, right? Juicy, crispy, spicy – the absolute PERFECT morsel to get those appetites revved up. I could eat 100 of these.

20140705_201716 Cocktail with vodka, tomato water, and a spicy seaweed salt rim

Um, yeah. Like a dirty martini with an added sweet note of tomato (just a little from the very light tomato water). The seaweed rim is salty and spicy – this is excellent. So is the thyme-inflected yuzu cocktail that tastes for all the world like a grown up version of lemonade.
20140705_204037 Sweet potato and green peppercorn bread

The green peppercorn baguette is exemplary – a thick, crunchy, floury crust conceals an airy, peppercorn studded interior. However, the sweet potato roll is what really surprised me. It looks like an average supermarket bun but the texture is moist and dense with an almost sticky texture. It is very soft and has a buttery, sweet taste…this is just unreal. I could eat 3 of them.

In fact, I did.

20140705_204537 Squid ink fried oyster with anchovy aioli

Very tasty. A thick, crunchy crust with no discernible squid taste but a pleasantly stiff texture. Inside, the oyster is piping hot and nearly melts away without chewing. It has th wonderful, elusive salty-sweet taste that only oysters have. I didn’t really taste too much anchovy in the sauce, but I didn’t crave it – the oyster is perfect and of itself.
20140705_205740 Foie gras, truffle, and kimchi bibimpbap

Stop the presses. I mean just stop them.

This is what I consider to be the restaurant’s signature dish. It’s simply perfect.

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It’s al dente barley that is incredibly nutty and pleasantly chewy. It’s truffles on top that are thickly layered and release an otherworldly scent that makes me almost dizzy with their deep, savory aroma. It’s a small nugget of garlicky, fiery kimchi that laces the entire bowl with its salty, punchy flavor. And, especially, it’s the omnipresent taste of the foie gras that must be melted into the dish – it seems to coat each and every grain of rice. It’s buttery and meaty and delicate. This dish really has it all –  I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s the apex of our excellent meal.

20140705_205756 Pork belly bibimbap

The haute Korean version of a BLT. Fatty, crispy pork belly, tender greens, and sticky, soft rice underneath. Though I miss the layer of crispy rice that comes in a traditional stone bowl bibimbap, the pork is so juicy-meaty-salty that I am wiling to forgo it.  20140705_211644 Char with smoked eel broth and lime yogurt

More of that smoked eel that –  again - tastes just like bacon. Here, it’s paired with delicately cooked char that has a burnished top but a light, soft interior. The char is such a  naturally mild fish that it really takes on the flavors of the smoked eel and the tart lime yogurt sauce. Sticky-salty pops of salmon roe complete the dish. I would order this again and would tell anyone who likes trout or salmon to give char a try.  20140705_213155 Wagyu galbi

Did I mention that this isn’t like any Korean restaurant you have ever been to? Because if I forgot to say that…this dish will say it loud and clear. I have never had galbi like this before and unless I come back here, I doubt that I ever will again. These boneless shortribs are insanely tender and still wonderfully beefy and savory – how does it have the tenderness of filet with the beefy, rich taste of skirt steak? This is truly the best of all worlds. It’s in a complex marinade that is spicy, nutty, and salty – really galbi for the ages. It’s served with mushrooms and other assorted vegetables, but let’s be honest…this is all about the meat. It started me on a week-long beef bender.

That’s what she said.  20140705_221027 Green apple sorbet

Complete with a little something-or-other to look like the stem. Tart, sweet, cooling, and delicious.  20140705_223138 Truffles and mignardises.

In a flower pot. Because, of course.

This is a very special restaurant. It serves food that takes its inspiration and ideals from Korean cooking and then branches out. It isn’t brash and overt like Momofuku restaurants, but it isn’t too tame either. You really feel like you are dining at the home of a Korean dignitary - this is certainly the way that I would like to eat if I could afford to do so every night. It’s high-end but approachable because the servers are so kind and so interested in your dining experience. The foie and trufle bibimbap and the galbi are highlights, but there wasn’t one clunker, from drinks to an unmentioned dark chocolate and hazelnut dessert. We ordered a la carte, but you can do tasting menus as well. We had one kosher member of our party and that person was so well taken care of that you wouldn’t even know that there were any changes in the menu. He was simply swiftly offered different courses when we chose ones that would not be appropriate for him and I have no doubt that any other eating restrictions would be taken care of with as much grace and attention. This post was long, this meal is expensive, and both of those facts speak to the point that this restaurant is fabulous.

I hope I can return sooner than later.

City Winery – Where Food and Music Lovers Unite!

City Winery isn’t somewhere I thought would have great food. I thought that I would go see a great concert, eat some serviceable treats, and have a swell time with friends.

The concert was meh, the food was awesome, and…well…it was a swell time with friends.

Did you hear what I said? The food was actually awesome.

City Winery is a beautiful indoor concert space that happens to be a winery as well. The seating is a little tight but it fits well in a cabaret style atmosphere. The music can be loud and your neck might cramp if you have to look behind yourself to see the musician, but that’s all my complaining for the night.

Because the food was great!

IMG_20131203_192227_010 Mushroom and goat cheese flatbread

Wow – this pizza is surprisingly tasty! It doesn’t have any real char and the crust is a little fluffy, but the flavor is delightful. The mushrooms are tender and meaty - they really replace the craving for pepperoni or meat on a pizza. The goat cheese is light and creamy, tangy next to those meaty shrooms. It’s not too heavy or greasy but it’s still creamy and fulfilling.
IMG_20131203_192411_473 Beets whipped with feta and tahini

So fresh and well rounded that it would be at home in any Mediterranean restaurant in the city. The beets are very light and not too earthy, or as some might say “dirty” tasting. Not me, I havent’ ever tasted a beet I haven’t loved. Anyway, it is really aggressively seasoned. Nutty tahini, salty, creamy feta mousse, and more than a hint of garlic make for a fresh take on beets and cheese. It’s a really punchy, flavorful dish that is far more savory and robust than I normally picture a beet dish. The warm pita alongside didn’t hurt either.
IMG_20131203_192903_520 Squash arancini with tallegio fonduta

Oh yes! My major bone to pick with arancini  is that it is too heavy or greasy. Usually this is due to meaty, pork or geef based fillings. By filling these compact balls with squash, it manages to be crispy and creamy but not overly heavy. It’s sweet and savory , with the ideal sprinkling of cheese to keep it nicely salty. It can even take a dunk in the winner of the night, a fragrant, creamy, lightly aromatic tallegio fondue. Think cheddar meets brie. Yeah. It’s that good.
IMG_20131203_192932_680 It’s also soft and not too dense. These little bites were my number one winner of the night.  IMG_20131203_193200_518 Crispy tofu hot pot with butternut squash, mushrooms, bok choy, and sweet chili sauce

Another tasty dish! Nothing super memorable, but the tofu is tender and the thin crust is light and crunchy. The chili sauce is sticky sweet, but he squash soup has a really spicy kick! It’s loaded with ginger and coriander, and enough chiles to make me sit up and take notice. This isn’t the most intricately flavored dish on the menu, but it is satisfying and recommended even for meat eaters like me.

City Winery’s food actually outshone the concert – I am totally surprised! The service was efficient and competent, the prices were fair, and even the wine on tap was excellent (an unoaked chardonnay…buttery, no sign of smoke or oakiness…totally drinkable!).

The food was also great. If you go with great company and don’t mind the slightly cramped seating, it’s a wonderful way to spend a night!

City Winery on Urbanspoon

American Cut Brings Modern Steak to Tribeca

When the most happening gal in town asked me to dinner, I knew better than to say no.

After all, it was for a preview of a restaurant by a chef I already adore. What could be wrong?

The answer: I now need a bigger size of pants.

American Cut is the new Marc Forgione restaurant. He already has a branch in Atlantic City and is now bringing his updated steakhouse to Tribeca. The restaurant is huge and dark, with a very cool bar and lounge area and a dining room that is part clubby steakhouse, part hip downtown eatery. It has many large booths, two private dining spaces, and a huge communal table down the center of the room. It would be awesome for a celebratory dinner or a bachelor party.

IMG_20130925_193418_761 Caesar Salad

This arrives to the table in whole leaves and is then mixed and chopped to your specifications, tableside. It is just one of the cheeky nods to old fashioned steakhouses,  where salad is often  presented in front of your very eyes.

IMG_20130925_193818_700

It is delicious, if a bit muted in taste. The egg is perfectly cooked, with firm whites and a rich, smooth yolk that enriches the creamy, Parmesan flecked dressing. Soft cloves of garlic are roasted until sweet and soft and the crouton is particularly memorable – thick, buttery, and wonderfully crunchy. This could use a bit more acid and pepper, but other than that, it’s perfect.

IMG_20130925_193446_777 Chili lobster with Texas toast

This is a Marc Forgione signature dish, and now I know why. It is the single best lobster dish I have ever had. Sorry, lobster roll. Sorry steamed lobster. This is it. A tail and some claw meat arrive, already separated from but still served with the shell. It is incredibly soft, like it is poached slowly and served the very SECOND it is cooked, not a minute later. The broth is creamy but not heavy, and is fragrant with garlic, chili peppers, and bright tomato. It isn’t really hot – juts a little spicy. It’s like the best spicy mussels ever, because the lobster meat is so naturally sweet and creamy. The airy Texas toast is ideal for sopping up the rich broth – its totally addictive.

IMG_20130925_193533_808 Tuna tartare with quail eggs and yuzu

Um, is this a joke?! It’s insanely delicious – fresh, soft ahi tuna with crunchy green beans and tht bright yuzu accent. That’s tasty – its tart and fresh. But what really,truly elevates this is the quail egg. Forgione is a master of the egg. He knows exactly how to use it indifferent dishes to highlight the main ingredient, not overpower it. Here, the quail egg is buttery but not overly rich – it merely adds a layer of fat that accentuates the tuna’s naturally lean flavor and pleasantly firm texture. It is well seasoned and one of the better tuna preparations I have had.
IMG_20130925_200505_358 Pastrami porterhouse

Hello, mashup of my dreams. High end, beautifully marbled steak meets downtown, coriander and mustard dusted pastrami. The meat cuts easily but has a good, steak like chew – nothing mushy here. Its crust is thick with pastrami spices, a little on the spicy side but, then – so is pastrami. It’s served on whole grain mustard seeds that pop gently in the mouth and adds a pungent taste.

IMG_20130925_200603_913

This is a fatty cut of meat, so be aware that you may have to leave few bites at the table. But the steak is so flavorful, deep, and satisfying that it’s worth it. I really can’t recommend this steak highly enough.

IMG_20130925_200510_999 Latkes with gribenes, sour cream, and apple sauce

Mother forgive me, for I am about to speak blasphemy: These latkes are better than ours I am so, so sorry. And ashamed, too. These are just too perfect. Too crispy on the outside but still fluffy on the inside. Too perfectly spiked with zippy onion flavor interspersed throughout the creamy-crunchy potato pancakes. Too ingeniously sauced with both cool, tangy sour cream and sweet apple sauce for the best of both flavor worlds. Too well layered with incredibly crunchy chicken skin that is even better than its smoky counterpart – bacon.

I am ashamed. And I am now fat. These latkes are unbelievable.

IMG_20130925_200522_314 French onions with melted Gruyère and Amy’s Bread croutons

Because who needs all that broth when you have sweet, soft caramelized onions under a blanket of melted Gruyere cheese and perfect rounds of Amy’s sourdough bread. Be aware that this dish is aggressively peppered – if you aren’t a fan of pepper then this isn’t for you.
IMG_20130925_204250_525 Crackerjack sundae

Though it isn’t the best ice cream dessert in Manhattan, it’s certainly up there. It’s perfect for someone who can’t have the classic tin roof sundae because of peanut allergies – it has the same buttery, crunchy qualities with none of the dangers. The whipped cream, homemade poapforn ice cream, and crunchy brittle absolutely make this fun, nostalgic end to a fabulous meal.

You should totally go here. This place is awesome. It’s highly priced, but the staff is wonderful, the cocktails are plentiful, and for a special occasion meal, what could be better than pastrami spiced high end, perfectly medium rare steak?

Oh yeah…the fact that its cooked by an Iron Chef.

Bigger pants, coming my way today. 

Disclaimer: This was a press meal. I was not required to write about my experience, and my opinions are my own and unbiased. 

With a Name Like Bubby’s, It Has to be Good

When you walk into a restaurant called Bubby’s, with a tall display case of pies and cakes, homemade jam on every table, and cute servers in hipster jeans and tortoiseshell glasses, you know that the food is gonna be ironic and retro.

What you might not know is that it’s also gonna be really, really tasty.

Bubby’s is a 24 hour restaurant in Tribeca that’s part diner, part locavore scene, part after-hours coffeehouse. They offer midnight brunch, an awesome kids menu, and a full cocktail list. This is the ideal neighborhood restaurant for families or groups of friends. It’s delicious but not fancy and cool but not pretentious.

Roasted sunchoke salad

This daily special was awesome. Sunchokes are like a cross between potatoes and artichokes – when roasted, they become tender with crispy brown outsides and a distinctly grassy taste. Here, they are served with shaved Parmesan cheese and arugula dressed in a bright, acidic dressing. The sunchokes soak up the dressing and next to the salty cheese and bitter arugula, make for a really interesting and satisfying salad.

Carrot and ginger soup

Not what I was expecting, but tasty nonetheless. Usually  carrot ginger soup is creamy and rich, with a strong taste of coconut milk or cream and a slight warmth from the ginger. Here, it is thin with some strings of carrot pulp and a big wham POW of ginger flavor – that stuff knocks you off your feet. The soup is incredibly bright and light, with a rich vegetable stock anchoring it. Though I don’t love the pulp, the taste of the sweet carrots and that fiery ginger is warming and soothing; ideal for a wintry day.

Chickpea fries with harissa aioli

These. Are. GOOD. These falafel sticks are moist, dense, and flecked with fresh herbs and a heavy hit of pepper. They are creamy, crunchy, and altogether delicious. The harissa mayo is smoky and cool with just a touch of spice – not enough for real chiliheads like me, but still an ideal accompaniment. These are a must order.

Peanut butter pie

As is this pie. Wow. A mountain of incredibly intense, sweet and salty peanut butter on a layer of gooey chocolate gananche and buttery graham crackers  It’s dense, it’s in your face, it’s utterly simple. And duh, stupidly tasty. I ate it till I got a stomach ache. So worth it.

Bubby’s is a great neighborhood spot. It’s well priced with efficient service, fun atmosphere, and super tasty food.

With a name like Bubby’s, it has to be good.

Thanks for that line, Smucker’s.

Bubby's on Urbanspoon

Marc Forgione – Triumph in Tribeca

Well, I just discovered a new favorite restaurant.

Not everything was perfect. But enough little things came together to make the evening totally ideal.

Marc Forgione is a chef who I have admired on television,and his epyonymous restaurant has long been touted as excellent. The vibe is totally Tribeca – cool, with a hip soundtrack, rustic interior, and casual-elegant decor. Our tattooed server was sassy, knew the menu backwards and forwards, and was totally helpful in assisting us with making our own mini tasting menu entirely of appetizers.

*note – the only real issue I had the whole night was when I noticed the table next to us got a few extra dishes from the chef that we did not receive. They didn’t get the tasting menu, they didn’t seem to know the chef, it just seemed that these dishes were coming out willy nilly. I have been on the receiving end of this and it’s great. But when you are sitting next to the lucky table, looking forlornly at softly scrambled eggs topped with trout roe, you feel a little…uncool. And jealous. But this still wasn’t enough to mar the evening, just a point that I would like to make – it’s just not the greatest feeling.*

Potato rolls and caramelized onion butter

The rolls are soft and warm – a little cottony inside for my tastes, but a good vehicle for the butter. Butter of the heavens, that is. Caramelized onions are sweet and savory, making this taste like the world’s best chip dip. Crunchy flakes of sea salt complete the flavor, and as it melts on the bread, it creates the most multi-layered butter experience I have had…maybe ever? This butter alone is worth a trip to the restaurant.

Everything gougeres and apple cider pate de fruit

The gougeres were light as air, sprinkled with poppy and sesame seeds, onion, and garlic, before being filled with cream cheese. Warm and melty on the inside, they were the most elegant bagels on the planet. The gelee is soft and very apple-forward, cleansing the palate and preparing you for the meal ahead.

Kampachi Tartare, Avocado, Sechuan Buttons, Toasted Pinenuts, Saratoga Chips

The server said that this has been on the menu since the restaurant’s incarnation, and it’s not hard to see why. Just eat the dish as you are instructed:

First, put the Sichuan button in your mouth. Roll it around, let it’s oils release. You will soon feel a tingling sensation, like a cross between a Sichuan peppercorn and really strong mouthwash. Swallow the button. Then eat the long, soft slice of kampachi on the spoon. Feel the way that the tingling sensations adds a bite and sharpness to the mild fish. Then dig into the main event. the cubes of kampachi, as mild as hamachi with the fattiness of salmon colliding with the rich, buttery avocado in a citrusy sauce. The chips are tasty, but the real winner here is that Sichuan button. It adds an electricity to the dish that makes it totally unique, a standout in a city rife with fish tartares. This is a must order.

BBQ Baked Olde Salt Oysters with Asian spices

I have never had a oyster quite like this. Baked under a thick layer of breadcrumbs, it is extremely mild and only a little salty – the oyster has trouble shining through all the spicy, wheaty, smoky toppings. And yet…that’s okay. Here, the oyster is part of the dish, not the entire dish itself. The smoke from the bbq, the spice of the Sichuan peppercorns, the wonderfully moist topping…they all play a part in this dish. This again highlights Forgione’s creativity and the fact hat he is unafraid to make you look at familiar foods in different ways.

Foie Gras with 4 different Salts, Kumquat Marmalade, and Texas Toast

Delightful, if not the most inventive dish of the night. The terrine is soft and rich, spreading easily and melting into meaty butter on the warm, soft, eggy toast. The salts, especially the vanilla salt, are interesting with the foie, highlighting its different flavors, but really…the foie is great on it’s own. Or with the sweet, bright marmalade.

Or(I’ll say it again) alone. Foie is just awesome.

Wild Boar Cavatelli with Breadcrumbs and Herbed Mascarpone Cheese

Sorry I can’t remember a better description for this dish. It isn’t my fault. Once I took the first forkful of chewy cavatelli, crispy breadcrumbs, and salty, robust wild boar…I lost my mind. I went totally gaga for this dish. This is just what truly great pasta should be – al dente, rich but not greasy, with a meat that complements the sauce not competes with it. The creamy cheese melts into the crisp breadcrumbs, making a fabulous sauce for the dish. There is a bit of kick here too, reminiscent of spicy italian sausage. This was my favorite dish of the night, and probably of the month. I loved, loved, LOVED this – it isn’t too gamey or too bland or too garlicky. It’s just perfect.

I didn’t even get to take a picture of the banana pecan pie bread pudding – crumbly and sugary and eggy and fabulous. That’s cause we snarfed it down to fast. This whole meal was very snarfable, and though not cheap, totally fairly priced. It’s great for a date night that is hip instead of romantic or a solo meal at the bar.

  Marc Forgione is the ideal of what a restaurant should be – not everything needs to be uber high-end, but the entire menu should be interesting, well priced, and most importantly, delicious.

Marc Forgione on Urbanspoon

NYC Wine and Food Fest – Modern Jewish Food and Wine with Josh Wesson and Kutsher’s

This weekend, the New York Wine and Food Festival hit NYC and it was a juggernaut of food, drinks, and general gluttony.

Of course, I had to partake in a few events. Gluttony should be my middle name.

The first event that I attended was Jewish Food and Wine pairing with the team from Kutsher’s and Josh Wesson.

Lesson #1: If you come across Josh Wesson in the future, hug him. Kiss him. Buy him a house. At the very least, take one of his classes or wine seminars. He is, hands down, the best, most knowledgeable  most down to earth, most interesting wine person I have ever had the pleasure of learning from. He made the hour class simply fly by, was gracious with criticism, and modest with praise. He loves to eat, loves to drink, and clearly loves his job. If It sounds like I have a crush, I do.

Marry me, Josh Wesson.

Lesson #2: If you go to a seminar on Jewish food, the average age in the room will be 107. The other people will vacillate between overenthusiastic and caustically disapproving of the food. And there will be many jokes about who has the best looking grandson.

The event paired wines that Wesson chose with food from Kutsher’s, an upscale Jewish home cooking restaurant in Tribeca. How could Jewish food be upscale? And how could it pair with anything except Manischevitz? Prepare to have your mind blown…

Chopped Liver on Brioche and Sweet Smoked Salmon with Horseradish Cream Cheese

These bites were the first two of the day, and the best of the day. The chopped liver, made with liver soaked in milk then gently pureed with eggs, onions, and topped with crispy chicken fat (gribenes). The liver is very mild and sweet, creamy against the crisp skin and the crunchy brioche croutons. Paired with a nutty Sherry, this is a satisfying little bite. The salmon was at least as good, if not better. Kutsher’s wants this to be reminiscent of bacon, and it really is! Sweet, salty, and smoky, it pairs soft, fatty salmon with enough spices to quell its overtly fishy flavor. The fresh horseradish cream cut right through the fat and spice, and the result is something both decadent and upscale. Served with a none-too-sweet moscato, the delicate bubbles provide another respite from the luxuriously fat of the salmon.

  Pickled Herring

You either love this stuff or you hate it. I love it. It is salty, tangy, and really tastes “of the sea.” The herring here comes from overseas, then is cured in house with sugar and salt, giving it a milder, sweeter taste than some. It is tender, served with tangy pickled onions and a dash of creme fraiche to cut through the fish’s strong taste. The effervescent vino verde served here was bright and light, picking up on the tangy notes of the bite.

Duck Pastrami with House Made Mustard and Rye Bread

Don’t look for the traditionally garlicky, peppery pastrami here. Look for a more herbal, coriander infused pastrami here. Lightly gamy and very tender, with a melting layer of fat. The rye bread, coarse and sour, cradles some of the best mustard I have had in recent memory. Spicy, sour, and extremely fragrant. It was delightful – a must have. Pastrami was originally a way to preserve poultry, and this showcases how well the smoky, hearty flavor of the duck works with the overtly flavorful pastrami spices.

 

The last bite was flanken, or Jewish short Rrbs. Sweet and spicy, like Jewish BBQ, it was served on a creamy square of polenta. The red wine served with it just proves that I do, indeed, hate red wine. It also proved that the flanken is so tender and crave-worthy that even the red wine couldn’t diminish my love of the dish.

This meal was fantastic. It proved that a light, sparkling moscato works well with my favorite lox and that a slightly more acidic white wine works well with stronger fish. It showed me that I don’t like red wine, but I love how well sherry pairs with rich organ meats. It showed me how Jewish food doesn’t have to be the same old salty pot roast I have eaten at so many Passover dinners.

It showed me how excited I am to see my culture evolving in this delicious way.

And, of course, it introduced me to Josh Wesson, my ultimate crush.

 

3 Hot Cocktail and Wine Bars in NYC

It’s about that time again, where I take off my eating pants and put on my drinking hat. Time for a round up of the most delicious cocktails I have had in recent memory!

PDT

This is one of the coolest bars I have ever frequented. Hidden inside a divey hot dog shack, you go into an old telephone booth, pick up the receiver, and give your name (reservations are a must – call at 3 pm the day you want to go). Then, the back of the telephone booth will open and you will be led into a small, elegant space where a James Beard nominated cocktail program awaits you. Everything from a bourbon-bacon fat cocktail to a peanut butter and celery concoction to the cocktail in the photo above, with the flavor of candied apples and rum, is complex and unexpected. The price is steep, but the payoff is excellent. As an added bonus, you can get hot dogs and tator tots designed by chefs like David Chang and Daniel Humm – really Haute Junk Food. This is a destination cocktail bar that is sure to impress.

Glass of Fino Sherry, Terroir Tribeca

This wine bar is known not only for its delightful small plates (anything fried is a good bet) and excellent by the glass wine selection, but for its very reasonable happy hour. So reasonable, in fact, that if you get there before 6 pm, your glass of sherry is FREE! This is a wonderful introduction to sherry, a potent fortified wine. This is much less sweet than I expected, with a strongly nutty aroma that was perfect with a wedge of manchego cheese. One small glass of this and you may, as I did, find yourself hooked! And hey, the price is right!

NYC and the Orient at Slightly Oliver

This cocktail bar can’t possibly be on the Upper West Side. Except that…it is. Large, decorated like an eccentric English library, and with a collection of delicious craft cocktails, this place is so swanky that it seems more like the East Village than neighbors with Barney Greengrass. This drink, with Thai Basil infused Gin, Yellow Tomato Water, Reduction of Tangerine and Peppercorn, and Habanero Bitters speaks well to that point. Light, herbal, with a slight kick from the bitters and a note of sweetness from the Tangerine, it is like a subtle bloody mary – the best one I have had in NYC. If you like Bloody Marys, get this. If you don’t, there is a cocktail menu filled with expertly crafted libations, one of which is sure to tickle your fancy.

And if you don’t drink, sorry for this post…and really sorry that you don’t drink.

Slightly Oliver on Urbanspoon

Trufflepalooza 2011

I don’t often write about the same restaurant twice – too many places to cover!
But, every now and then, there is something so special and unique that it merits a second visit. 
That is the case with Locanda Verde’s Trufflepalooza.

Just like last year, 3 courses of white truffle dishes for $50. 
Just like last year…unbelievable

Sheep’s Milk Ricotta

Each table pillowy slices of house-baked foccacia, but the ones in the know all order the sheep’s milk ricotta. This was as delicious as ever – thick, creamy cheese with the texture of ricotta but with the tang and grassiness of a great Pecorino. Served with slightly floral honey and some fresh herbs, it was a multi-layered dish that was so simple but so satisfying.

 Feather Ridge Far, Poached Egg with Frisee, Polenta, Porcinis and White Truffles

What is it about eggs and truffles? Is it the combination of earthy upon earthy? The hit of umami and fatty? The warmth of the eggs making the truffle’s scent multiply and intensify? Whatever it is, combining eggs and truffles are my favorite way to have either ingredient, and this satisfied my craving. The egg was perfectly poached, with runny yolk that  mixed with the lightly dressed frisee and the cheesy, slightly salty polenta. The porcini mushrooms were so deep that they sort of took focus from the truffles – in a good way. They were so meaty and rich that they made the truffles seem lighter and more fragrant. Truffles are usually so hearty that it was a pleasure to taste their more subtle flavors.

Fonduta Ravioli with Water Chestnuts, Leeks and Truffles

The ravioli was just delicious. The noodles, while not thick, had a good chew and smooth texture. The filing inside was incredibly mild and buttery, allowing the focus to be on the sweet water chestnuts, the onion-y leeks and those delicate white truffles. The taste here was heady and rich, with each bite of truffle invading my tongue, nose and even my head as I felt the taste and aroma travel up and around my whole skull. It was really that intense and special.

Duck Agnoletti with Artichokes Sugo, Parmigiano Regianno and  Truffles

The best pasta I have had since Ai Fiori. Small parcels of pasta were filled with moist, incredibly duck-y meat – rich, fatty, slightly gamey. Tempered by a light, slightly tangy artichoke sauce with balsamic vinegar, it was rich but not heavy or cloying. Hunks of vegetal artichoke were light in comparison, and a welcome textural component. The truffles interacted so well with the duck, becoming woodsy and deep next to the duck. I can’t say enough about this dish, except that I could eat it every night with pleasure.

Truffle Honey Cake with Whipped Ricotta and Chamomile Granita

The perfect way to end the meal. Moist, spicy cake not unlike Jewish Honey cake. The truffle taste came through in the honey underneath the cake, adding a slightly savory edge to the sweet cake, along with the candied hazelnuts served alongside. The creamy ricotta topped with the herbal granita lent a cool, refreshing component to the dish. Sweet, savory, moist and warm. Could there be anything wrong with that?

There was nothing wrong with any part of this meal. We had a particularly wonderful server, Andrew, who was attentive, informative and went out of his way to tell us which dishes had nuts in them (one member of our party has a tree nut allergy). The price can’t be beat and neither can the food. These reservations always sell out quickly, so keep your ear to the ground -there is apparently another Trufflepaolooza with black truffles coming this January. 

I’ll be waiting by my phone. 

White and Church

I have said before how I don’t often dine out for Italian food. But when I was invited to a press dinner for White and Church, how could I say no? It’s a free meal. And if it wasn’t great, I simply wouldn’t write about it. 
Well, I’m writing about it, so…spoiler alert. 
The restaurant, which used to be molecular gastronomically focused Il Matto, morphed into the more conventional White and Church after a rash of varying reviews. Some people loved the food, some people hated it. What it was especially famous for was its  dizzyingly long cocktail list, including a section filled with cocktails made with insects. 

That insect cocktail collection is still there, along with a more relaxed, traditional interior and a large projector playing Fellini movies.

 Breakfast Martini – Grey Goose Poire, served with Pear, Black Pepper and Parmesan
The vodka was smooth, with a slight kick at the end that was echoed in the black pepper. The pear provided fruitiness that amplified the sweet, crisp taste of the vodka, and the Parmesan cheese added a salty, savory kick to the martini. This was so simple but so well rounded. I will absolutely be making this at home.

Pecorino Creme Brulee
This was a holdover from the nouveau menu of Il Matto, and was a delicious dish that is so simple, I can’t believe I hadn’t had it before. A sugary, perfectly caramelized top shattered into smooth, lush custard that was exceedingly sharp but not too salty. The mouthful was creamy and crispy, tangy and sweet. It was not exactly savory nor sugary. It was so tantalizing I ended up scooping out the dregs with the crust of the very delicious sourdough bread.

 Avocado Salad with Caramalized Cauliflower, Sudnried Tomatoes and Mozzerella
Ignore any other iteration of avocado salad you have ever had. This is the only avocado salad you will ever have after you taste it. Because all others pale in comparison to the point of disappearing altogether. The cauliflower was crispy on the outside and creamy like potatoes on the inside. It was infused with spices that made it a a little sweet and tangy, in contrast to the mild mozzarella, the salty sundried tomatoes and the buttery avocado. There were also a few large truffle slices on the bottom of the dish, which added a heartiness to the dish, making the cauliflower more substantial and the mozzarella milkier. I would never put these ingredients together and perhaps I haven’t well described it. But the symphony of flavors and textures was out of this world and the surprise standout of the meal.

 Fried Polenta and Parmesan Custard
More melted cheese? Well…okay! Smooth, creamy cheese that was more salty than it was sharp, with a mellow, smooth taste. The fried polenta were like the best hash browns ever, but instead of creamy potatoes, toothsome, earthy cornmeal inside.

 Fried Gorgonzola with Pears over Balsamic Glaze
This restaurant fries lie a champ. This time, a small fried nugget arrived at the table. When I broke into it, a melty, pungent river of Gorgonzola cheese flowed out, joining crunchy pears and sweet balsamic vinegar. The result was a dish that was sugary, salty, animal and vegetable. It was a tiny portion, but I could have eaten 4 or 5 of these croquettes, letting the blue veins of the Gorgonzola invade my nose and mouth, changing as it mixed with the balsamic and the pears.

 Steak with Mushrooms and Veal Jus
Another example of something so simple that I should be eating it more. The flavor of steak is so well amplified by the grassy, light taste of veal. Here, it was in a rich glace, ripe with meaty, umami flavors. The meat itself was cooked perfectly, with a bit of chew and a robust taste.  The mushrooms, tender and earthy, added another hit of umami to the dish, making it a full, deep, rounded dish. Though this is not a steaknouse, I have rarely had better steak.

Eggplant Napoleon
I know, I know. Napoleon made with eggplant? Apparently, it’s a traditional Sicilian dessert, and, really…not too bad! The eggplant barely had a taste and its soft texture melded well with the vanilla scented cream and rich chocolate sauce. Napoleons are not may favorite dessert in general, being quite sweet and heavy, but as far as they go, this was a good, if not outstanding version.
That said…most of the food here was absolutely outstanding! From the complex cocktail to the best avocado salad ever to a piece of steak that still has me drooling, White and Church has a bright future ahead of it. There is a happy hour and an extensive menu and…well, food that I can’t make at home.
I guess I do dine out for Italian food more than I had thought!
*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.*