Decadent Desserts at Payard

When I happened upon Payard with some of my friends last weekend, I could have just walked right by and gotten some frozen yogurt down the block.

Fro yo is healthy, it’s tasty, and it’s cheap.

But then you would have had to check my body for foreign hosts because there is of course no way in HELL that I would ever pass up pastries for frozen yogurt.

Francois Payard isn’t just some flash in the pan. He is the man who created perhaps the world’s most sought after flourless chocolate cake, the man who brought fine French pastries to the masses before cronuts were even a twinkle in a rat’s eye, and the man who would not let a rent dispute shutter his much-loved cafe.

The newer version of his eponymous restaurant and bakery is sleek and bright, with a friendly, casual atmosphere that belies its pedigree. We dined there with a family with kids,a couple on a date, and our rag-tag foursome – it’s really one size fits all.

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Macarons

Sadly, these don’t measure up to my favorite macarons or even those at Francois’s more casual outlet, FPB. These must have been made in the morning and are a little dried out and chewy – not the airy, crackly, rich confections that I prefer. However, the flavor is dead on. The passion fruit chocolate is fruit forward and tangy with smooth, creamy chocolate ganache in between the cookies. I would try these once more, but only if they were freshly made.

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Tarte Dulce de Leche

Oh, so THIS is why the man is a living legend. Buttery, nutty crust that reminds me of an especially rich, refined version of those addictive almond cookies at Chinese restaurants. It’s covered in gooey caramel that is more like buttery toffee and less like the rather bitter, burnt stuff that sometimes passes as caramel. Atop THAT is whipped cream so light and fluffy that it seems like a health food. It’s fragrant and lightly flecked with vanilla beans…perfect with a couple of crunchy candied almonds on top. This is elegant, varied in texture, and delicious.

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Geroge V

A grown up Milky Way candy bar. Dark, sticky, rich, dense. Creamy, chocolatey, shiny, and moist. Decadent in every way, but I could only eat about 2 bites before I cried uncle. This is all chocolate and caramel, with just a hint of nuttiness at the very end of the bite.  This is incredibly rich and heavy. Just the way I like ‘em.

Come here for some wonderful, elegant desserts, but get them to go. The service is worse than bad. It’s scattered, uniformed, and very sloowwww. However, the desserts are really special. I would get them for any dinner party or elegant event. I could probably wreck one of those tarts all on my own, but I’m not supposed to admit that, right?

So glad that I never choose the fro yo.

Russo’s – The Pizzeria of My Youth

On my little suburban jaunt, I needed more than lunch with appetizers and dessert.

Because once I am out of the 212, calories don’t count.

Luckily, my sister directed us to Russo’s Pizzeria.

I don’t know wheer she found it – it isn’t on any blog that I can find.

But it is one of the best old school slices I have ever, ever had.

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The joint is just like the one that I grew up going to - Winner’s, in Westlake, for any of my 818 peeps (ok that’s it for the area-code slang).

It’s family owned with some vinyl covered table, an ancient menu on the wall, and a bulletin board with business cards for towing companies, fliers for babysitters, and advertisements for local school plays.

It’s impossible not to like this place immediately.

And that’s before you even try the pizza.

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Sausage, Meatball, and Cheese

Be still, my heart.

The slices are thin and properly floppy, with doughy, floury bones. They aren’t too charred, but the best street slices aren’t. The sauce is mild and oregano heavy and the cheese is stretchy and tangy, put on with a light had so as not to overwhelm the delicate sauce. The meatballs are soft, spiked with fennel, and this sausage…oh this sausage. Shaved into thin, garlicky ribbons that almost melt into the cheese with porky goodness. Tiny crisp edges and melting, soft meat…this is the best sausage pizza I have ever had.

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This place is ridiculously cheap and the owner couldn’t be more efficient or kind. If you find yourself in town, come here.

After all, when calories don’t count, what do you have to lose?

What is my Excuse?

I have 2 posts waiting to be published. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t post Friday, and when I realized (in shock and fear) that I hadn’t posted today, I knew that something was wrong. 

Luckily, I am skilled in the art of self diagnosing. 

I am getting married in way, way less than a month’s time.

Via Urban Dictionary:

Bride Brain

A less invasive, but more expensive version of a frontal lobotomy. Experienced by most brides, as they enter a catatonic state which renders them incapable of sustaining any thought or conversation that does not involve cake, caterers, flowers, wedding dress designers, Chinese wedding dress knockoff designers, updo’s, hair pieces, color schemes, wedding themes, and personalized M&M’s.
Bride Brain symptoms include, but are not limited to, driving erratically because they can’t stop staring at their shiny diamond ring; being amused by the resentment of all their single girlfriends, rewinding songs several hundred times while imagining themselves walking down the aisle, and starvation induced bitchiness which is generally followed by late night binging at a Dairy Queen. (Note that this can only occur outside of the bride’s native geographic area, where they can’t possibly run into anyone they know).

Symptoms are ordinarily well controlled with valium, alcohol and endless hours of watching youtube “first dance” videos.

I have avoided it for a long time but I have been struck by the dreaded bride brain. I have contracted a stress-related illness, have hit my head HARD getting into cabs twice last weeks, have snapped at everyone from my dad to my sweet front desk person (I apologized), and have generally lost my damn mind.
I doubt I will forget to post again. But in case I do…I am so sorry. Coming up tomorrow, the pizza of my youth.

3 West Restaurant in Bridgewater – Why I Love Suburbia

On a recent rainy Saturday in suburbia, I had such a delightful lunch that I figured I should blog it. This restaurant isn’t just good for a lazy day road trip, it’s good for a New York City restaurant.

I know how snobby that sounds.

Don’t worry, I promise to watch trashy tv and eat an awesome Doritos Locos Taco as penance.

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I found 3 West on my favorite app, Foodspotting, and loved the atmosphere from the second my family and I walked in. Cozy, warm, and inviting with brass fixtures, heavy wood paneling, and a rumbling fireplace. It’s the kind of place that is upscale but not snobby and where you could easily take your well-behaved kids for a brunch treat. Even better, get a sitter and come here with your significant other for a few drinks off of the extensive cocktail menu.

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Crispy shrimp spring rolls

Just what you imagine. Crispy, light, filled with aromatic vegetables and such mild, buttery shrimp that it might as well have been pork. Served with sweet-spicy chili sauce and a garlicky aioli, these could easily be eaten by the tray. They are juicy but not soggy and served piping hot – nothing worse than an old eggroll.

If that isn’t a saying, it should be one.

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Wasabi edamame hummus

WHOA. I rarely order hummus off of a menu unless it’s at a mediateranean or middle eastern restaurant, and I didn’t order this – my mom did.

Mama knows best.

This hummus is craveable. It uses chickpeas, garlic, onions, lemon, AND edamame, wasabi, and various asian spices. It’s savory, it’s thick and has some texture, and it has that wonderful, nasal-clearing property that wasabi has. I wish it had a little nutty component form some sesame oil, but other than that it was top-notch and spot on. SErved with freshly fried wonton crisps, we made quick work of this.  Forget Tuscan Hummus, it’s all about this Asian version.

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Spicy chopped salad flatbread

This is pretty much everything I love about food.

Fresh vegetables – check. Creamy chip0tle dressing with a slow, gently burn that heats up to a pleasant frenzy? Check. Buttery avocado and crispy bacon? Check. Crumbly, salty feta – double check - they aren’t stingy here! Warm, freshly fired pizza dough with a charred underskirt and pillowy top? Check.

Yeah, I ate this like it was my job.

The desserts here aren’t special, but everything else is! The service is personalized and attentive (ie, they heard us talking about my upcoming nuptials and brought us a celebratory cookie at the end of the meal), the atmosphere is lovely, and the food is well priced and just delicious. If this were in the city, I would be here week in and week out. I just can’t say enough about it.

Plus, when you are done with lunch, you can go to Target.

Who doesn’t love suburbia?

Dan Tempura House – a Perfect Date with Myself

There is something to be said for the solo lunch. A break from work, only an hour from when you leave the desk to when you are back. A day when you can’t look at a computer screen for even one second longer. An afternoon when you have a wonderful novel or a terrible magazine. A moment by yourself where you don’t need to eat the best food for it to be…perfect.  20140328_122741 Dan Tempura House isn’t ever busy, especially at lunch time. That’s perfect for the solo diner. No one to look at you with pity while you pore over the latest issue of New York Magazine or Young Adult novel, thinking “what a sad soul who must eat lunch alone.” All you want to yell to those people is “are you kidding me?! This is better than therapy! Those silent monks don’t know what they are missing! THIS is the way to achieve ultimate happiness!!” 20140328_122750 Low sodium soy sauce, an unpictured Diet Coke, and a date with myself. Perfect.  20140328_122948 Ginger-miso salad

The same all over town. Fresh lettuce and taught tomatoes served with ample dressing that isn’t the water stuff found at some places. It’s thick and pleasantly pulpy with spicy ginger.

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Miso soup

The standard stuff you make at home – salty, warm and savory, filled with slippery tofu and a few scallions. Filling and exactly as expected.

20140328_123619 (1) Spicy tuna roll with avocado and asparagus

This is barely sushi. The rolls are huge and sloppy with rice that is too warm and borders on mushy. But the tuna is very fresh and very spicy. It’s minced with Japanese mayo and chili sauce until it is soft and creamy. The asparagus is crunchy and grassy and the avocado is buttery. It’s fresh and plentiful. It’s possibly the worst fresh sushi I have ever had. And yet…it’s perfect for a solo meal. It’s trashy. It’s delicious. It’s what I want to eat with no one to judge me.

It’s a cheaply priced lunch special. It’s always efficient, properly performed service.

And it goes so well with People magazine.

It doesn’t go so well with other actual people.

It’s a lovely date with yourself.

Texas de Brazil and Maoz – My Favorite Salad Bars!

Really quickly: 2 different restaurants that I am loving:

1. Maoz
20140330_122755 This casual, counter service import from Amsterdam has some killer French Fries, well spiced shawarma, and the make-your-own falafel sandwich or salad of your DREAMS. A killer salad bar with cumin scented carots, tangy cabbage salad, tabbouleh, roasted cauliflower, and a litany of sauces. Creamy tahini, cooling yogurt, garlic sauce so potent that it might make or break you night, hot sauce so potent and fiery that it makes your toes curl. Herby, bright broccoli and fresh cilantro laden salsa. Don’t forget the inexpensive but delicious hummus and babaganoush you can add to your salad bar. And, of course, the fried eggplant, with silky innards and a crispy shell.

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The falafel sandwich starts like this…

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and should end like this, covered in pickles, sauces, and vegetables from the salad bar. It’s all included (one trip only, except for more sauce), so don’t worry. The falafel is piping hot, fragrant with cumin and parsley, an served in a fluffy pita with crisp romaine. This inexpensive place ain’t Israel, but it surely feds the yen when I am stateside.

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2. Texas de Brazil

Remember I said I had been to a Brazilian steakhouse? Well, I am now obsessed with them and this is the best one I have been to by FAR! Modern, clean (though, truth be told, a little “mall chic”) decor, extremely well informed waitstaff, and the food is about 19 times better that the other place. A smaller but better curated salad bar filled with imported cheeses, all varieteis of spicy peppers, a soup of the day, creamy pottaoes gratin, and a host of other items. Don’t miss those tiny red peeppers that are spicy enough to rip off your top layer of lip skin or the creamy, sweet poatoao salad – almost as good as Hawaiian potato salad!

20140329_194033 The meat here is even better than the salad bar. Tender lamb chops, garlicky sausage, and the flavorful, perfectly medium rare house cut ribeye are standouts. Avoid the pork products, but everything else is commendable. And don’t miss the mini chicken Parmesan that comes around on skewers towards the end of the meal.

 I am never going to fit into my wedding gown, am I?

 

Dessert Scavenger Hunt

Let’s play a little guessing game today.

Here is a spot that is insanely expensive and was featured in a movie.

20140329_212534 It usually has a very long line and a rather surly front of house staff (though the servers are often excellent).

If you come here on a rainy night, your chances are MUCH better of getting in sooner than later.

There is no liquor menu and if you come here for the savory food, then congratulations, you are the only one who has done that…ever.

20140329_212550 (1) There are a ton of impostor Tiffany lamps and wacky things for sale as you wait – thinks like purses with eyeballs and Troll hair and muffin tins that look like jeans (so you can bake “muffin tops”…get it?).

The main event often looks like this:

20140329_213835 The best hot fudge ever…sorry Eddie’s. With soft vanilla ice cream and cake so dense and rich that it feels like a tiny bomb in your stomach.

The whipped cream is piled high and sweet.

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The Can’t Say No Sundae  might be even better. Same ice cream, same whipped cream, same hot fudge, so substantial and rich that it hardens against the cold ice cream, but this time…there are fresh bananas. And peanut butter pie. Smooth, nutty, creamy peanut butter pie.

I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers.

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Frozen white hot chocolate.

The piece de resistance. The most vanilla-scented, smooth, purely milky taste in the world. It’s not too thick or too watery – you can drink it with a spoon. It’s mild enough for a baby to enjoy and tasty enough for 4 adults to fight over the last sip. It’s the best parts of white chocolate (sweet, buttery, rich) with none of the bad parts (waxy, overly sweet, plastic-y).

And it comes showered in edible glitter.

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Of course, this joint is Serendipity 3. It’s overdone, it’s overpriced, and they make you order at least $8.50 worth of food per person, so you are sure to over-eat and get a stomach ache. But, I have to say…for nostalgia or maybe even just for taste…it’s damned good and fun.

Thrice at Cookshop

Continuing with revisiting places I love…

Cookshop.

It’s not all about huevos rancheros but it IS all about eggs

20140326_095026 Egg white fritatta with roasted squash, DiPalo’s mozzarella, and walnut pesto

If you don’t think this looks good, just stop reading my blog. This is the PERFECT healthy breakfast. The squash is really sugary, which balances out the verdant, piquant pesto adds flavor to the egg whites. The mozzarella is creamy and stretchy, giving a little richness. And that pesto…wow. Fresh, garlicky, filled with basil and crunchy walnuts. This is just everything breakfast should be – filling but not heavy, multi-textured, and flavorful. Wow.
20140326_095030 Roasted broccoli and cheddar scramble

And if this doesnt’ get you salivating, please forget my name. I mean, for realsies. This is awesomely delicious. Ribbons of tangy cheddar cheese, stalks of sweet, tender but not mushy broccoli, and tons of sweetly caramelized onions. Creme fraiche enriches the scramble and makes it positively creamy. It sits atop a buttery, fluffy biscuit that is more doughy than flaky – hearty stuff that is the perfect antidote to the underdressed salad on the side. This is a great way to feel like a fatty without eating animal products.

Of course, a bellini doesn’t hut either – they make them strong and tasty.

If Cookshop was closer to my home, I would be in serious trouble.

Another Look at Koi

While reviewing  the Trump SoHo, I realized that I have been back to Koi uptown multiple times but had not re-reviewd it for years.

Let’s take another quick look, shall we?

20140325_174251 Spicy tuna on crispy rice

This never fails me. The rice is always crispy without and chewy within, with soft, fatty tuna atop. It’s pleasantly salty and a little buttery from the tuna. The kicker is that crisp, cold jalapeno that is mild at first with a heat that creeps up on you. Consistent and magnificent.
20140325_174756 Spicy and creamy shrimp tempura

So much better than Lure’s that it blows my mind. Tender, clean tasting shrimp in a crackling, thin coating and a sauce that is part hot sauce, part sweet Kewpie mayonnaise, and part crack cocaine. It’s really that good. Piping hot and a large portion. This is enough for a main meal for any appetite. It’s also a great way to get non-seafood eaters to eat shellfish. It’s crispy, mild, and covered in hot sauce…what other endorsements do you need?
20140325_175400 Shrimp chili roll

This is just damned good fusion sushi. It ain’t Nakazawa, but then, nothing is. This shrimp is wonderfully fresh and free of any off, iodine-y taste. It’s sweet and snappy atop the crispy shrimp tempura and creamy avocado roll. The sweet chili sauce is a tangy, zippy accompaniment that does nothing for its authenticity but loads for its flavor.
20140325_185125 Rice pudding brulee

Why didn’t I think of this? Sweet, rich coconut milk rice pudding under a sweet, thin sheath of crunchy sugar. Um, ideal.

This restaurant is a winner. Yeah, it’s overpriced, but it’s chic, it’s delicious, and it’s reliable. It’s a great gals night or out-of-towners rendezvous and that crispy spicy tuna is the best in the city.

So glad I took it for another spin around the blog.

Meatloaf and Mashed Potato Quesadillas

This is a sweatpants-appropriate recipe.

It’s not classy. It’s not dinner party-appropriate. Hell, it’s not even fresh – it came about when my fiance was hangry* one day around 3 pm. I threw some stuff together, served it to him, and then asked for a taste…and it was good. Real good.

Blog good.

So, here it is. Just dig around your fridge and pull out the leftovers and make this rather tasty, embarrassingly trashy dish.

Meatloaf and Mashed Potato Quesadilla

spinach and meatloaf quesadilla1 Ingredients:

2 tortillas

leftover meatloaf (the really good, glaze-y kind)

1 onion, diced and caramelized

1/4 cup mashed potatoes (yeah, we used purple ones)

Handful of shredded cheddar cheese (maybe 1/4-1/3 cup)

20140321_201744 1. Put the tortilla in a nonstick pan over medium/high heat.
20140321_201820 2. Add about 1/3 of your cheese.
20140321_201914 3. Add the meatloaf, the onions, and…

20140321_201946 the mashed potatoes. Add all of the ingredients to the center area of the quesadilla, because when you add the top tortilla, the toppings will spread and you don’t want them to fall out of the sides of the quesadilla.

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4. Top with the rest of the cheese and the other tortilla. When you top with the second tortilla, push down hard with your fingertips. You want to mash the meatloaf and the potatoes and also tho help the melty cheese glue the tortillas together.

20140321_202059  5. Pretty soon, your bottom tortilla should be golden and crisp, which means that it’s time to flip! Just let the other side cook for a couple of minutes and you are ready to…

20140321_202249 6. Serve (on a paper plate of course…toldja this was dirty food).
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This is a handheld guilty pleasure. It’s crispy, cheesy, and melty. It’s meaty, soft, and has buttery mashed potatoes. The meatloaf is even better than regular chorizo or ground beef because it’s extra soft, thanks to its breadcrumbs. The quesadilla gets its flavor from the spicy/sweet ketchup glaze that melts in the heat of the pan, and also the sharp, salty cheese. You can top this with sriracha or bbq sauce, but you don’t need to. This is everything that you need.

Oh, and you need sweatpants.

There…now you have everything that you need.

*Hangry: so hungry that you get angry. You know exactly what I’m talking about.