MacDougal Street’s Greatest Hits – Mamoun’s and Artichoke Basille’s

You may, someday in the future, find yourself in Greenwich Village, near MacDougal Street.

You may be wearing a shirt that says “The Peach Pit” and carrying your backpack.

And yet , you are not 19.

But you still want to eat with the cool kids.

So you go here:

20140719_175214 Mamoun’s. Where you will hob knob with prepsters visiting from Virginia, tourists from Japan with cameras larger than my bedroom, hospital residents on their 20 minute dinner break, and middle aged New Yorkers just looking for a standing room table and a hot falafel. Don’t miss the sleeper hit – tender, warm spinach pie that is mildly spiced and wrapped in what must be homemade pastry.

This place isn’t my favorite falafel in NYC, but it really does hit the spot and the price can’t be beat.
20140719_175457 Schwarma

Chargrilled with deep, smoky flavors and crispy edges surrounding juicy meat. The meat isn’t as tender as I like it, but when it’s served up with tahini and crunchy veggies in a warm pita, how can you resist? I can’t! The hot sauce her is VERY hot…not a lot of other flavors, but it does liven up the sandwich.  20140719_175509 Falafel

Mmm-mmm good! Soft and wide so it spans the width of the bread – no sad, falafel-less bites in this sandwich! The chickpea patty is gently spiced with fragrant herbs so it blends with the tart radishes and that nutty tahini. I liked this a lot, and for the price -well, it’s sensational.

Also ,these sandwiches are the perfect size – one will fill you up but not make you overstuffed.

That’s why you might want this after a few hours: 20140719_203743 Artichoke Basille’s Pizza

I mean, of course I waited this long to get to this popular pizza joint – that’s how I roll.

And though it’s not my be all-end all pizza  - I totally get the hype. It’s cheesy. It’s creamy. It’s laden with chewy artichokes and slivers of spinach. It’s salty and garlicky and indulgent. The crust is way too thick and stiff for me, but my husband loved it. I guess it’s to hold up to the slippery, uber thick and rich topping, but I like cracker thin pizza crust.

I mean, I still ate it…it was still pretty great.

Add in the 2 drinks I had earlier that night and you can see why I got the hype.

Trust me, when you are on MacDougal street, you will have had at least 2 drinks too. And then these 2 places will taste even better.

Minetta Tavern – Your Everyday 4 Star Neighborhood Joint

I have a habit of visiting hugely popular restaurants 4-5 years after they burst onto the scene. I hate scouring for reservations. I can’t stand a big scene. And I really don’t like to be like everyone else, all clamoring for the same tuna crudo.

That’s why I finally got to Minetta Tavern on July 4 weekend, when I could finally get a reservation. Yes, it’s still super hard to get.

Keith McNally’s American-French bistro is clubby and steakhouse inside – kind of Old Homestead meets Sardi’s. You can feel comfy in jeans and a t-shirt or in a suit and tie. As long as you have a reservation and are prepared to pay the prices, you are a valued customer.

20140704_175307 I embarrassingly have no recollection of what this cocktail was called, but it had sherry, vermouth, Benedictine, and some other delicious spirits in it. It was made expertly by a friendly but professional bartender who directed my husband towards a delicious, rare rye. The wines are varied and fairly priced, but the cocktails are too special to miss.  20140704_181125 Gougeres

Not to the level of Marc Forgione, but puffy, cheesy, and airy. Very appetizing.  20140704_184341 Black label burger

Don’t worry, the excellent salty thin cut pommes frites were served on the side. This $30 burger was the toast of the city when it was premiered. It was called the burger to end all burgers, beefy beyond all beefiness. I couldn’t wait to try it. This is an excellent burger. It’s soft but not mushy and there is an overtly steak-y taste to it. The bun is awesome and the onions are too.  20140704_184439 But for a fancy pants burger? I’ll go here.  For a steak-y burger? I’ll go here. This is good, but not worth its cultish status. It was neither over the top decadent nor cheekily low end-high end. It was worth $18 – not $30. 20140704_190526 Cote de boef for 1

Now THIS was worth every pretty penny. I have rarely had steak this good in an actual steakhouse. Juicy, funky, umami heavy ribeye, seared until the outside is charred and the inside is bright red varying to a saturated rose color with nary an ounce of blood – perfect medium rare. It has a beefy chew but is quite tender, and the fat is rendered so it is crispy and irresistible. It comes with 2 huge marrow bones, seasoned with salt and meat drippings. It’s really the perfect accompaniment for bread. I would get this again yesterday – that’s how good it is.  20140704_200307 Berry and lemon cake

Light, creamy, all-American. A whimsical end to a very good meal.

And this was a very good meal.  I didn’t even photograph the excellent stretchy, buttery aligot, the rich crab sauce of the trout Meuniere, or the truly memorable butter and thyme carrots (literally my favorite carrots ever).  The service is unmemorable – a little rushed and somewhat lackadaisical. But this is just a very good, high-end neibhborhood bistro. It isn’t mind altering fare. It isn’t the most special meal ever. It isn’t even the greatest burger ever. It’s just a great meal that is delicious if you can foot the bill (thanks, wedding gift certificate!) and love steak.

Glad that I didn’t break my back to get here earlier, because while it’s delicious, it’s also a lot of hype.

It’s Summertime – Here’s Where You Should be Eating Ice Cream!

It’s summer and it’s hot. I mean shorts wearing-sunscreen slathering-ice cream eating hot.

1. Shorts – cheap ones. So you don’t care if they get grass stains.

2. Sunscreen – at least spf 50 if you are a redhead, like me. Just call me Casper, the skin cancer-free ghost.

3. Ice cream – well, either of these will work:

20140529_145643 Oddfellows

This cult favorite import from Brooklyn has a tiny storefront in the East Village. I don’t think that the ice cream is worth a special trip, but if you are in the ‘hood and want a sweet, cold treat than come here. Though you could go for the very good, very rich chocolate ice cream, I suggest that you go for something a little more out of the ordinary.
20140529_145911 Thai iced tea ice cream

Well, there goes my of Thai iced coffee. This ice cream is so many times better than my favorite southeast Asian drink that I doubt I will ever order another iced coffee with my pad see ew ever again. This is smooth and dense but not hard – easy to eat with the plastic spoon. It’s very creamy and has a rich, buttery taste upfront followed by a light, herbal tea flavor. It’s refreshing but still indulgent and I would definitely get his again.

20140627_123824 Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

Destination worthy. The Salty Pimp is where it’s AT. Soft serve that makes Mr. Softee look like the fraud he is. Deeply chocolaty Magic Shell. And, best of all, a salt flecked drizzle of ducle de leche that is so buttery and sweet that you might propose to it.

20140627_123843 I dare you to share it with someone. You will each need at least 2.

Gotta love summertime. 

Sandwiches – America’s Pride and Joy

Quick break to say…Hi!!! I may be recapping Europe, but I am back in the good ole US of A and am indulging in what we do best:

Sandwiches. 

(and a couple of tacos)

Here is what I have been enjoying lately:

image (1) Al pastor tacos from Taqueria Diana

This East Village isn’t more than a  hole in the wall and the tacos cost less than $5 per, but they are delicious. Greasy and messy in the best way possible. The pork is slowly roasted on a spit with pineapple, then diced into sweet, salty, juicy hunks that fall apart if you look at them the wrong way. Get yours with some of the vibrant, cilantro-y guacamole and you won’t regret it. It’s not as spicy as I could take it, but nothing is, and this is as good sober as it is drunk – NOT true of all tacos!
image (2) Green chile mac and sliders from Mexicue

This Mad Square Eats spot was win and lose. The green chile mac is insipid and lacking in both real chile bite and sharp cheddary tang. The sandwiches, however, were great! The pulled chicken slider with cheese and pickles is juicy and bright with a vinegary, bright BBQ sauce. The brisket burnt ends chili is PHENOMENAL! Burnt ends are those wonderfully charred bits of meat and fat that get incinerated when a large brisket is cooked. They are only improved by the addition of a chipotle-rich sauce, horseradish crema, and some pickled jalapenos. Slap it all on a soft potato bun and y’all are in business.  image (3) Pomme Palais roast beef sandwich

Because trust fund babies want to eat well, too. This isn’t insanely expensive – it’s what you might be spending at a casual sit down place in the East Village, but the shop is cute enough to eat in and the sandwiches are GOOD. The roast beef is juicy and tastes like a great steak sandwich. It sits on bread that is floury and substantial enough to house the nutty Gruyere and horseradish mayo, but still tears apart easily. This is filling but not heavy – I work for the place, but I have gone back here and paid full price to eat it more than once.

image Fish tacos at El Toro Blanco

Shi-shi but really delish. Mild, flaky cod inside a puffy, crispy beer batter. It’s served in warmed flour tortillas with radishes, buttery avocado, and just a smidge of jalapeno aioli. So many places bury their delicious fish under mountains of goopy sauces – not necessary when the ingredients are so fresh and tasty. A squirt of lime is all that’s needed to complete this plate.

Sushi Nakazawa – A Transportive Experience

I talk a big game, but a lot of times – dinner is just dinner. My family is hungry and so we go out for Korean or order in pizza or I make a quick quesadilla with some fresh guacamole. We eat, we chat and laugh, and then the meal is over – we really don’t think about it beyond that.

However, every now and then, when all the stars align perfectly, I eat a dinner that is more than a meal. It’s a total experience. It’s transportive, it’s intoxicating, and it’s something that I think about for days and months to come. Occasionally, it even changes my life.

Such was my dinner at Sushi Nakazawa.

This restaurant, given four stars by Pete Wells, is the hottest restaurant to hit New York in ages. It makes NoMad look like a positive sleeper hit, that’s how hard it is to get a seat. I logged onto the website for days at exactly 12:01 am, trying to get a seat at the sushi bar, only to fail again and again. It’s easier to get a seat in the dining room, but that’s not where you want to be. You really want to be at one of those 10 seats at the sushi bar, where you get your fish mere moments after the chefs prepare it. I happened to get the seat from the kindness of a stranger on an internet forum who wanted to make my fiance’s birthday a special one. That’s right – I posted for help on an internet forum and someone actually gave me his reservation. I can’t imagine anything more kind and unselfish. HM, you are a gentleman and a scholar. I hope that I can one day repay your kindness.

Now, onto the main event.

You might recognize the head chef, Nakazawa-san from Jiro Dreams of Sushi. He is the apprentice who worked for years to make the perfect omelette,a dn when he finally made one fit to his master’s approval, he cried from frustration, joy, and gratitude. It is one of the film’s most moving parts. He is just as sweet and focused in person – not overly chatty, but if you speak a little of your rudimentary Japanese with him, he is so gracious and overjoyed at your efforts that you may feel like you just served him dinner instead of vice versa.

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Much is made of the $40 sake pairing, but take my advice and go up a level for the $80 version. It is filled with so many delicious sakes that are both tasty on their own and paired ideally with the flights of fish. One is effervescent and bubbly, the next tastes oddly medicinal until it is eaten with the aged mackerel – then it becomes woodsy and cinnamon-y. It’s truly an excellent parings with a sommelier who is helpful and knowledgeable without being a know-it-all or overly chatty. In fact, when I mentioned that I liked nigori sake, he changed the entire sushi bar’s pairing to make sure that everyone could try this creamy, coconut-y type of unfiltered sake.

Once you are seated at the sushi bar, take in the serene black and white surroundings and relax into the  comfortable padded chair.

It’s going to be a long and luxurious night.



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Salmon from Hokkaido

The first bite of the evening – the bite that made my fiance look like he had never before used his taste buds. As his lips closed around the soft salmon and the chewy, slightly warm rice, his eyelids fluttered and he had a strange look on his face.

Oh great, I have created a giant sushi snob.

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Hay smoked salmon from Hokkaido 

The same soft texture with a slightly earthier, smoky taste.

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Scallop with yuzu and sake sauce

Buttery but clean. The yuzu is slightly spicy, with a heat that keeps deceloping long afte the bite is gone.

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Giant clam seared with soy

The only misstep of the night, and not because it isn’t repreared ideally  -it is! But I do not like the crunchy texture of these large, slightly tough clams.

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Black fin sea bas from Nakasaki with daikon

Mild and clean with a light snap from the daikon

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Golden Eye snapper from Japan

One of my favorites of the night – like a less fishy albacore with the buttery texture of maguro and the light taste of white fish.

photo 3 (11) Spotted knife jaw

Sorry for the lack of notes here…I’m blaming those generous pours of sake.

photo 4 (12) Horse Mackerel

photo 1 (15) Kohara (Shad)

A strong tasting fish – ideal for someone who loves briny, deep, metallic flavors. Notice how it is scored so it is the ideal texture.

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Mackerel, aged 7 days with Japanese mustard

One of the best pieces of this fish that I have ever had. It’s scored so that it is tender, and though it has an oceanic taste it isn’t at all fishy. The Japanese mustard clears your nasal passages and wipes away any muddy residue. Beyond sensational. Worth the ticket price for this piece of fish alone.

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Florida shrimp

Seconds before I ate this, it scampered across the counter in front of me. Then, deftly and without gore, Nagasawa-san and his sous -chefs deftly killed and cleaned the shrimp, ensuring that the taste was soft and sweet.

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Madagascar Prawns

The best tasting shrimp in the world is Madagascar shrimp. The sweetest, the lightest, the most tender. This is the way that all shrimp should taste.

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Yellowtail, aged 10 days

The ageing process is what is most interesting at Nagasawa. I always thought that the best fish was the freshest fish – that isn’t necessarily so! The best fish is sometimes the fish that has been cured, that has had time to develop its flavors and become tender. That’s certainly the case with this yellowtail, which taste deeper and fuller than its unaged counterparts.

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Bonito

Tuna. Good.

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Medium fatty tuna with spicy mustard

Slightly fattier tuna, with some of that spicy mustard to cut through its rich taste. Very good.

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Toro

Exquisite. My fiance’s favorite taste of the night. Simple – fish so fatty that it literally melts upon the heat of your tongue. Served on slightly vinegared rice. No marinades, no garnishes. Just the perfect fatty, clean, singular bite.

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Santa Barbara Uni

The queen of uni. Creamy, soft, with the mineral-y taste of foie gras. Balanced between toasty nori and the bite of the rice.

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Ikura from Japan

Briny little jewels that pop in your mouth and release the taste of the ocean. Not too fishy, with the signature tense, hard bubble that means it’s fresh.

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Anago from Japan

Not quite up to the level of Yasuda, but wonderful all the same. Meaty and rich, with just enough sweet sauce to emphasize its buttery texture and taste.

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Tamago

Perhaps the world’s most famous omelette. Fluffy and very sweet. I have heard that here are yams in here, along with shrimp…who knows? This is the best dessert on the planet – bread putting or egg custard in a fluffy slab. Ask for seconds and you will get it served on some of the expertly made rice. You can taste Nakazawa-san’s blood, sweat, and tears in this omelette. It is a revelation.

This meal is so expensive. It is hard to get a reservation and the dessert is just a sorbet. But its the best meal I have had in oh so long. It made me thing of focus, of passion, of how hard my parents worked to give me the life that I now enjoy. It made me think of my dreams and of how to achieve them. It made me think of how food is not just for filling the belly, it’s for filling the soul.

Oh, and how did it change my life?

Well, the old ball-and-chain and I are currently talking about our first trip to Japan together.

A totally life altering meal. 

Where to Gain Your Winter Weight

Welcome back to the coldest, slushiest, wintery week ever.

Get out those snowboots and turn on those sun lamps, because boy will we need them!

Or, just eat some of these foods. Because nothing makes the winter better than the enjoyment of  gaining winter weight:

Carbone

I went to this much-lauded Italian eatery courtesy of Gallo Wines. They are celebrating their Hearty Burgundy’s 50th year. This wine is rich, juicy, and tannin-y, but I liked the pinot grigiot even more. It’s light, crisp, and slightly aromatic with pears. The price point is great and I would TOTALLY buy this wine for any dinner party.

Now..to the good stuff…

Carbone is extremely cool. It’s retro to the max. Think waiters in wide lapel maroon suits, tableside Caesar salad (a little bland with the world’s best croutons), and veal Parmesan. It’s Park Side done the cool, hip way.

But while the food is good, it doesn’t measure up to the outrageous price tag.

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The Clams Fantasia are as close as I got to really seeing the point of the hype  - juicy, tender clams layered under uni and lardo. This trio is a total winner. The uni is soft and so mild – not at all metallic or fishy. It is creamy underneath that layer of glistening, melted lardo. It’s a very upscale version of clams casino – warm, porky, and savory. Yet, it is more subtle and the flavors run deerper. This is a fabulous dish.

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The garlic bread is pretty great, too. And the service is wonderful. Long story short – on someone else’s dime, this is an delicious restaurant. Otherwise, there are other Italian places to head until the menu gets cheaper or it’s easier to get a reservation.

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Kefi

Now THIS is a restaurant. Loud, crazy, late for our reservation, and too hot. BUT – they gave us a round of drinks to apologize for the late seating time, sat us at an ample table with a super efficient waiter, and served us a ton of delicious Greek food for a MORE than reasonable price. I hope to give a full review very soon in the future, but for now, stick to the ultra smoky babaganoush, the creamy, garlicky tzatziki, and whatever the grilled fish of the day is. This brook trout came swimming in a bright wine sauce, flecked with earthy oregano and parsley. It is flaky, moist, and light – delicious. With a side of buttery, tender broccoli rabe – get that stringy bitter stuff out of your mind – this is so good that you will forget that it is good for you.

Don’t worry, you can rectify that with the glasses of sugary sangria that come your way.

Like I told you, gaining weight is one of the best parts of winter – so let’s make it happen, ASAP!

Carbone on Urbanspoon

Mas (la grillade) is a Lunch Worth its Weight in Oysters

Lunch at Mas (la grillade) isn’t something to be taken lightly. It takes awhile, it takes some amount of money, and it takes forethought.

Because the food here is so delectable that it will make everything else that you eat that day taste like crap.

So don’t plan an y important meals that night.

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Mas (la grillade) is a 2012 offshoot of the very popular Mas(farmhouse). The decor and atmosphere remind me very much of Union Square Cafe – elegant, light flooded, but still relaxed and casual enough to go wearing jeans (not ripped of course, and not paired with a tank top). It’s the perfect place for a special date or a lunch with long-lost friends. The banquettes are spacious and the table space is ample.

photo 1 (5)  Bread

Served piping hot from the oven. Yeasty and slightly sour. Spread it with the room temperature butter and don’t forget to spread that truffle salt around – savory and delicate aromas waft upwards as it hits the hot bread. I only ate one piece, but it took a lot of self-control.

Self control is overrated.

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Oysters with shallots and thyme

Quite simply, perfect. I love oysters in all iterations, and these are prepared beautifully. Winter oysters are the most sweet and creamy, and these gently grilled oysters are brimming with that mild, buttery, faintly salty flavor. The heat actually makes the oyster milder than it is when raw. The butter sauce complements the oyster well – it echos the richness without overwhelming it, and the shallots are sweet. The thyme is especially surprising, since it adds an earthiness that oysters don’t typically have. Served with a glass of white wine recommended by our fabulous server (really…the service here is informed, friendly, and totally adds to the experience), my only complaint is that I could eat 35 of these and still want more.

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Grilled romaine with buttermilk blue cheese dressing

I haven’t had cooked romaine in a long time, and why not? I forget how wonderful it is – really hearty and filing with a delicate smokiness that makes this so much more satisfying than a cold salad is on a freezing day. The bacon is crispy but not too smoky so it doesn’t overpower the lettuce. The tomatoes are just a half-hearted afterthought but the dressing is wonderful – more ranch than blue cheese, with cool creaminess punctuated by a few funky, salty nuggets of soft blue cheese.

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Grilled scallops with white radishes, squash puree, and broccoli rabe

The greatest scallops in recent memory. Lightly seared with a golden (NOT black) crust on both sides, but still soft enough to cut with a spoon. Buttery is the best way to describe these in both flavor and texture. Soft but not slimy, warmed all the way through, with a very lightly seasoned crust so the scallops delicate flavor shines through. The broccoli rabe is pleasantly bitter and the squash amplify’s the sweet note in the scallops. The serving is also very ample –  6 gargantuan scallops when most places give you 4 and call it a day. This is a treat for scallop lovers.

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Olive oil cake with blood oranges, lime sorbet, and lemon and vanilla curds

Oh yeah. The pastry chef knows what (s)he is doing. This cake almost has a corny, earthy taste. It’s very moist. The lemon curd is tart and creamy and the vanilla is sweet and fragrant – mix them together on your spoon and it’s like a sophisticated Creamiscle. The sorbet is like the best lime popsicle you ever had, and the entire dessert is so bright and flavorful that it jolts you out of your wintery blues.

This meal isn’t cheap, thought here is a $38 three course prix fixe for lunch. However, the meal is very special. It’s leisurely, it’s delicious, and for the quality of the food and the portion you get, the prices really are warranted. The service is a total standout – I have rarely had someone who so loved food and the restaurant hat he stood around discussing the virtues of different oysters with me and poured my mom a complimentary taste of the wine I was enjoying.

So bring your expandomatic pants and cancel your fancy dinner plans – this lunch may be the meal of your week.

Mas (la grillade) on Urbanspoon

The Greatest Hash Browns Ever at The Grey Dog Cafe

I’m just gonna keep on posting these lost reviews and recipes…after all, I think only 12 people read my blog the first year it was up, so it’s new to everyone except my mom!

The Grey Dog Cafe is a review that is definitely worth revisiting. The location I frequented is sadly closed now, but this delightful mini chain has several other Manhattan locations, all equally well priced and tasty 

 The vibe in this location was eclectic and charming,  with small tables everywhere and large pictures featuring dogs. It’s the sort of home your odd Aunt Effie might have-filled with charming little oddities. Aah Aunt Effie…imaginary relatives are always the most charming, don’t you think?

You order at the counter from the large blackboard menu full of delicious sounding sandwiches, salads, breakfasts, and entrees, and then wait for your food to be delivered to your table. 

Look at this cool bookshelf – it’s the ideal place to have a relaxing solo lunch! Reading about eating while actually eating…that is one of life’s deepest pleasures.

Brie, sausage, and vegetable omelette

Simple and perfect. The omelette is gently cooked so the eggs are fluffy and creamy, not rubbery.  There are ribbons of melted brie, juicy hunks of sausage, and crisp veggies.  When the butter melts in luscious pools on the warm sourdough toast, there isn’t much more in this world that you need. Except these…


Hash browns

  Tiny shards of potato intermingled with sweet onions. They are fried within an inch of becoming charred, so the mixture is deeply browned but not burnt; like those tiny crispy bits of fries at the bottom of your french fry carton at a drive through mixed with the best fried onion strings in the world.  

 Carrot ginger soup with peanuts and chili oil

A showstopper.  Thin but powerful, like a ninja of the soup world.  At first bite, it is sweet, vegetal, and blazes with steam.  Then the softer nuances creep in-the crunch of the peanuts, the slight heat of the chili, the zip of the ginger.   With a few squirts of hot sauce to bump up the heat and salt quotient, it is perfect for a peckish gal like me.  

The Grey Dog Cafe is often just what the doctor ordered.  It is not haute cuisine or famous for the world’s biggest burger or anything like that.  It isn’t even worth a trip out of your way.  It is just full of fresh, delicious food in a laid back atmosphere. It has a great staff, fair prices, and a full bar to boot!  I could see people relaxing here with a book, a magazine, or a good friend. 

And, of course, about 3 plates of those hash browns.

 

The Grey Dog's Coffee on Urbanspoon

My Best Friend’s Wedding – A Scottish Feast

My Best Friend’s Wedding isn’t just a movie anymore.

It’s actually one of my favorite memories.

My best friend in the world recently married the love of his life. There were kilts. There were tuxedos. There were bagpipes and tears and about a thousand iphone photos.

There couldn’t be a lovelier pair of grooms.

And the reception introduced me to a restaurant I absolutely must try again.

Highlands is a modern Scottish gastropub in the West Village. The menu items and cocktails we had are usually on the menu at some point or another, and are indicative of the type of food that is served here.

That is, to say, hearty and tasty.

The restaurant itself is chic and old fashioned at the same time. It’s so  cute it might as well be in Brooklyn. This is a fantastic date spot.

pix 080 French 75 with cucumber gin, prosecco, lemon juice, and sugar

A classic cocktail made new with the addition of cucumber. Light, bubbly, and crisp, with just a touch of sweetness and the faint juniper taste of the gin.  The lemon juice makes the drink pop at the finish. This is as good as many drinks I have had at craft cocktail bars.
pix 083 Cullen Skink

This smoked haddock chowder packs a punch. It has the consistency of great New England clam chowder but with a smokier, saltier taste. Velvety and savory, with tender potato and soft pieces of haddock. This is for someone who really loves seafood, but if you are fan of smoked whitefish you might just love this soup. I certainly did.
pix 084 Oysters with mignonette

Simple but superb. Fresh, creamy Massachusetts oysters topped with a savory bacon and shallot mignonette sauce. The salty, acidic flavors make the sweet side of the oyster shine. These could not be fresher or more perfectly shucked. I would absolutely come here for a dozen or two of these with a french 75.  Outstanding.

pix 085 Mini beef and pork pies

I mean, are you kidding me!? These are cute, portable, and totally tasty. Flaky, buttery puff pastry surrounding savory beef and potato or juicy, slighlty sweet pork and sweet potato. These aren’t greasy or salty, they are just like what you would make if you had endless time and pastry talent. I ate about 4 of these and could have eaten more.

Fabulous food, lovely atmosphere, what looks like fair prices…what’s not to like? Even if this wasn’t my best friend’s wedding, I would like Highlands. But it will always be the place where my best friends celebrated their love.

So I guess I’ll always love it.

Highlands on Urbanspoon

Swine – Home to the Foie Gras and Jam-Wich

One of my girlfriends recently went to a restaurant that she said reminded her so much of me that I had to eat there, and fast.

That’s why it’s important to have good friends who really know you.

Swine is a west village restaurant specializing in all things barnyard. Yes, there is lots of pork, but also expect chicken, duck, beef, and anything else that flies, runs, or swims.

There are a few veggies on the menu too, but (luckily) most of them are drizzled in pork fat.

The restaurant is small ad dark, with a pinball machine at the entrance and a long bar. The vibe is great for a few drinks or for an intimate dinner with friends.

Duck fat cashews

Dining alone, I would never have ordered these, because I find cashews overly fatty and a little unctuous for my tastes. However, these totally changed my perception of cashews. Served warm and heavy dusted in a spice mixture, they are zesty, smoky, and redolent with Asian style spices. The duck fat gives the nuts a meat, grounded taste that somehow takes away their inherent greasiness.

Fat combating fat…it’s the way of the future, friends.

FG and J sandwich

Foie gras and strawberry balsamic jelly. If there is a more perfect sandwich in the world, I certainly haven’t found it. The first bite is a little sweet, but as you keep eating, the foie asserts itself. It is creamy and room temperature, melting in between the charred toasts. The jam is sweet enough to stand up to the wonderfully rich foie. This sandwich had us all licking our meaty, jammy fingers. This was a standout of the meal and in the neighborhood. It’s absolutely exemplary and at $18 a splurge, but a worthwhile one.

Bone marrow and brisket burger with potato wedges

A first rate ”cheffy” burger. Moist and thick, loosely packed and loaded with earthy, beefy flavor. The bun is substantial enough to stand up to its juices and the onions are sweet and soft. The potato wedges are also excellent – well seasoned and crisp on the outside while very fluffy within.

All that said…this burger is pricey for what it is. It’s high quality and well portioned, but just a wee bit overpriced, considering that it’s merely tasty and not totally craveworthy.

 

Braised chicken with garlic, peas, bacon, and mashed potaotes

Just like you wish your mama made. Dark meat chicken braised until it is totally tender but not at all mushy or stringy. The potatoes are smooth and buttery with a savory, bacon dotted gravy floating atop. The lardons are crunchy and salty and the peas and a welcome burst of sweetness. This bowl is elevated baby food, and I mean that as a compliment – the flavors are simple, direct, and focus on the ingredients. No fancy, high end products necessary. Just wonderful chicken, creamy potatoes, and the warmth of roasted garlic. This is something I can’t wait to reproduce at home, albeit with a tad less salt.

Swine is a very tasty restaurant. The food is a bit salty and the prices are a bit high, but the wine and cocktail list is wonderful and fairly priced. It’s better for a drink and a few bites than a full meal, but the FG and J sandwich is worth the trip alone.

 People always talk about how important it is to have friends when you are going through hard times. But sometimes it’s just as important to have friends when you are hungry for dinner. They should know just where to send you!

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