72 Hours in The Middle East: Afternoon Tea at The Burj Al Arab’s Skyview Bar

Continuing on with some of my Middle Eastern Adventure – it’s afternoon tea at the Burj al Arab hotel.

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In case you haven’t seen the Travel Channel special (and who ARE you…it’s amazing), the Burj is the world’s first and only 7 star hotel – they said so. Each room comes equipped with a golden iPad. Each room is at least 2 stories and 2,000 square feet. You have to bring your printed out confirmation for meal or hotel room just to get up the driveway – there are plenty of lurkey-loos but they all have reservations somewhere in the enormous hotel.  The lobby is – well, let’s just let the photos speak for themselves:

20150201_090528 Dancing fountains.  20150201_090806 A Technicolor atrium with an escalator and gold columns. I think Liza Minelli wept for its gaudiness.  20150201_090811 A gargantuan tropical fishtank.  20150201_090921 A multicolored fountain.  20150201_090933 Aladdin’s coffeeshop? 20150201_091834 And this little setup – the tea at the Skyview Bar.

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An oasis in the clouds where white gloved servers whisk your coat way from you and encourage you to take photos of Dubai’s famous Palm Island from the vast plate-glass windows at your side. Where harp music drifts in and our of your world as you are plied with plate after plate of food and see others without reservations getting turned away coldly.

20150201_092529 A place where I almost stole the toilet paper from the bathroom because – come on – when am I going to get back here again?
20150201_092732 A place where I so lathered myself in the free amenities that I’m sure that the attendant was rolling her eyes behind my back. 

IMG_2115 A place where plump, syrupy dates are stuffed with almonds and candied orange peel. Dont’ skip these – they are so delicious all over the Middle East. 

IMG_2126 Where the amuse bouche is a buttery shortbread topped with chantilly and a forest of tiny, sweet berries that are bright and juicy as if they were just picked that day. 

IMG_2135 A place where the lamb comes to a nice, steely gray and the potatoes are little more than mealy mash. So far, the portions are small and the food is unimpressive.

IMG_2140 A place where every course is everflowing. 
20150201_095510 A place where the tea sandwiches are lovely and sprinkled with gold and caviar. The saffron bread is aromatic and the salmon salad is soft and lush – easily the best savory bite of the afternoon.
20150201_102225 A place where the tea tower looks like the hotel. Every detail is thought of here, down to the very tea tower that they use. 

20150201_102355 A place where the jam offered with the clotted cream is date jam… DATES and clotted cream. It was dreamy.

IMG_2147 A place where litchee sorbet and candied rose petals seems almost pedestrian next to the $500 whiskey that the table next to you just ordered…at 1 in the afternoon. 

The surroundings are gorgeous. The service is deferential almost to a fault. The food is…well, it’s meh. And it’s way too expensive, even with a glass of lovely, dry Louis Roderer champagne at the beginning. But it’s the only way to get into the Burj al Arab without ponying up for a room there – that’s right, you have to pay for this rather mediocre tea at a rather extraordinary price just to get inside the gilded gates.  And it’s a once in a lifetime experience.  20150201_110705 And I still wish that I had stolen that cool toilet paper.

Makin’ Matzoh Candy

The title says it all. I’m up to my elbows in butter and sugar, and I’ll see ya back tomorrow!

Montmartre – Delectable French Cuisine on 8th Avenue

I haven’t been to Montmartre in quite awhile – it was time to give it another go.

It’s still that beautiful space, perfect for a girls night or an awesome date. And the food is better than ever.

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Radishes with butter

A lovely, simple, delicious amuse bouche. Spicy radishes, tangy cultured butter, and a few sprinkles of grainy salt. All that’s necessary is a slice of the fresh sourdough bread that also lands on your table.

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Chicken liver pate

Very damned good. Sweet, mild, fluffy mousse topped with a layer of sweet onions. It’s minerally without being too rich, thanks to the air incorporated into the mousse. It’s smooth and earthy – very good, though not quite to Sammy’s ethereal level.

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Fries

If you don’t get these, you are a tool. The fries here are WOW-TASTIC. Crispy and well salted with lip-puckering malt vinegar and the greatest garlic aioli…well, ever. That aioli is good stuff – not quite to Amsterdam’s level, but not too far off, either. Smooth and eggy with just a hint of sweet roasted garlic. Excellent.

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Steak tartare

Lovely and a great portion. None of that paltry-appetizer crap here. A hearty portion of tender, meaty beef, hand cut so it still has some heft and pleasant chew to it. It’s not too rich and is properly spiced with pepper, salt, and capers. It’s topped with a tangle of slippery pickled hon shimeji mushrooms and a large paper cone of fresh, whisper thin potato chips. I would get this again in a heartbeat.

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Clementine pot de creme

Rich. bright. Topped with buttery shortbread and juicy citrus. What better way to end a lovely meal?

I love Montmartre. It isn’t cheap, but the portions are ample, the food is wonderful, and the service and surroundings are lovely. I can’t wait to go back ASAP.

WastED NY with Brooks Headley

I was treated to an extraordinary experience last weekend.

Well, I treated myself to it. After all, I do know best what I would like.

I was lucky enough to snag 2 seats to WastED, a pop up by Dan Barber. His goal was to show diners how much food we waste and how it is all so delicious. And boy did he succeed.

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He transformed Blue Hill into a different restaurant – the walls were covered with paper that farmers use to prevent crops from inclimate weather and the tables were actually grown from the ground up. It was surreal!

But then, so was the dinner.

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Beef tallow candles

These candles, actually made of beef tallow, turned into the world’s greatest shchmaltz when warm! To say nothing of the spent grain bread, made from leftover brewing grains.

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The bread was slightly sweet and very soft, served with whipped lardo alongside the beef tallow. When the tallow congealed it was even better. ACTUAL beefy butter.

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Dumpster dive salad

Pistachio, damaged storage apples and pears, whipped chickpea water

Stop it, Dan Barber. Don’t make me start hitting on you. This was the best salad of my or my husband’s lives – and we have eaten a lot of Caesar between us. This is…amazing. Sweet and bright and deeply savory and herbaceous. The chickpea water is just the liquid from a can of chickpeas, whipped and whipped until it is lighter than air and just a little earthy to counteract the vibrant flavors of the vegetables. How can this be REFUSE?

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Blue Hill Farm Egg from table scrap fed hens

Old bresaola, outer layer onions, cheese broth from Mateo’s 3%

This would be at home at any haute dining table in Paris. A softly poached egg so rich and buttery that it might have stopped my heart then and there. The bresaola is softer than most, and has a mild flavor. The outer layer onions are especially sharp, perfect for cutting through the egg’s richness. The cheese broth is perfect – not too heavy or salty, more like a teensy, tiny bit of tang. Delicious.

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Juice pulp cheeseburger

Let’s dissect this:

Repurposed bread buns – leftover bread from Balthazar soaked until soft and then repurposed into entirely new buns. Soft but crusty, not too dense, and pleasantly sour.

Juice pulp patty – made from leftover veggie pulp from Liquiteria. Spiked with harissa and chock full of hearty, spicy flavors. Doesn’t taste like beef. Does taste like heaven.

Reconsider cheese – pungent, tangy, sharp, and salty.

Bruised beet ketchup  – sweet and piquant.

We fought over this one. Sharing was difficult. 

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Dog food with wasted potatoes and gravy

Actual dog food, made from Dickson’s Farm Strand’s recipe. I actually ate dog food. And…I loved it. Filled with liver, sweet potatoes, and a myriad of spices; this is like country pate meets meatloaf. Add in some soft, mayo-dressed potatoes and a girl could get used to eating with the dogs.

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Brooks Headley Special Dessert

Filone crust pavlova with candied leftover fruit peel, expiring ricotta, and leftover verjus-vinegar sobet

Fresh, sweet creamy. Chewy, sugary bits of candied peel and that super refreshing sorbet. I can’t believe that this is made from “trash,” and yet…I can. Brooks Headley isn’t a Del Posto superstar for nothing.

This meal was…beyond. It made me rethink how I view food and feel ashamed about how much I waste. I can’t wait to save the scraps of potatoes the next time that I make latkes and to use the peach peels from my summer pies for some infused vodka.

I really preach eating the whole animal and it’s time that I started practicing that.

After all, a fish bone/apple peel/heel of bread is a terrible thing to waste.

Rice to Riches and More

This was a gooood eating weekend.

So good that I’m really pretty bummed that it’s over.

Let’s go over the highlights, shall we?

20150327_093148 Loaded oatmeal at Trestle on Tenth

Wow is this gem of a restaurant in need of a re-review. I forgot how fabulous it is! The oatmeal seems plain but is obviously made with plenty of butter and whole milk. It’s rich and sweet, with loads of dried figs, pineapple, and other treats. Just what you need on a snowy ALMOST APRIL morning…kill me.  20150327_210046 Gyros at Uncle Nick’s 

Sure beat the hell out of the gyro platter I had in Athens. Fresh, warm pita bread, juicy, spiced meat, and a meager portion of wonderfully tangy, garlicky tzatziki. You’re going to want to tack on an extra order of that stuff for the crispy-soft potatoes and vinegary salad alongside. This is highly recommended.

20150328_183005 Siu mai and har gow at Dim Sum Go Go

Yep, this place is as great as ever. The shrimp is thoroughly cleaned and soft in its delicate, thin wrapper. The siu mai has a bouncier texture and the har gow fairly melts on the tongue. Use the ginger-leek sauce and you will be transported to China for fewer than 5 bucks.  20150328_201026 Rice pudding at Rice to Riches

One of the greats. This spot has been buzzing since it opened in 2003. We are talking every day and night, no matter the weather, lines almost out the door buzzing. And with good reason. This rice pudding is BEYOND. It’s creamy and light with rice that is plump and soft but nowhere near mushy. And the FLAVORS. The flavors range from Nutella to cheesecake to butterscotch. The toppings include everything from roasted cherries to Oreo crumbles. And the decor is just plain fun. It’s a tiny shop, but it’s worth it to brave the crowds for the sweet white chocolate cookies and creme or the lush mascarpone rice pudding. And don’t be dumb – get the container that fits 2 flavors. You know that you want it.

Oyster Omakase with In a Half Shell

Julie Qiu is an oyster enthusiast.

No, make that an oyster-pedia.

Oyster-tainer?

Well, she is the coolest, most interesting, passionate oyster lover I have ever met. And now – great news – her business, In a Half Shell, hosts pop ups! Yes!

Each pop up includes 6 oysters total (3 differet types), 2 wine pairings, all of her information about how the oysters are grown and how they shoudl taste and…well, I’ll just let the appisode guide you:

I can’t highly enough recommend attending one of Julie’s oyster omakase classes. I mean…she had me loving an oyster from ALABAMA!

Have an awesome weekend, all! See you on Monday!

5 Best Places to Celebrate Taco Tuesday

Yes, I know that it’s Thursday, but I missed taco Tuesday…so hit up these joints tonight! You’ll definitely see me at one of them!

Oaxaca Taqueria

Small, casual, awesome tacos at a great price. Plus, the collection of hot sauces is dynamite!

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Otto’s Tacos

The homemade tortillas here are sensational, and so is the charred, meaty carne asada. Don’t miss the masa fries!

Empellon

Simply the greatest fish tacos east of the Mississippi. Light, crispy, moist, and mild. Fish fingers be gone – this fish taco is stuff of the angels. Plus, the restaurant is lovely, chic, and has killer margaritas. Order at least 2 taco plates per 2 people – sharing is rough. 

Gabriela’s

Family friendly, budget conscious, but still nice enough for a casual date. Don’t miss the LETHAL frozen margaritas or these juicy carnitas tacos

So, where will you be dining tonight?

72 Hours in The Middle East: Ristorante

Now that I’m back in the thick of things – laundry, working, days where potato chips are my main source of fuel – I almost forget that I had a mystical 72 hours where I ate caviar, drank champagne, and cuddled with (okay, stalked) Kylie Minogue.

But I owe you another few reviews, mainly about the ultra opulent Armani Hotel, housed in the Burj al Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

I can’t go into all of the specifics until my article is published, but I think that it’s safe to talk about the world class Italian meal that I ate at Ristorante.

20150201_161305 The restaurant itself is exquisite. White and gold and domed and high ceilinged. It’s definitely Italy by way of Dubai. Bring on that bling bling. 
20150201_161724 Start with a crunchy, buttery breadstick on a golden plate. Golden forks, too, of course.  20150201_161735 The champagne list is vast, but why not go with the rose Veuve Cliquot? It’s a little sweet, light, and has a full, round flavor. Champers pairs with everything, after all.  20150201_162819 Your server won’t be turned off if you choose one of every bread.
20150201_162841 The Parmesan bread is good but the artichoke bread is unmissable. Soft and warm with meaty artichoke hearts. Ideal with a ramekin of spicy Italian olive oil.

IMG_2162 Parmesan truffle custard

Cold and refreshing, which isn’t often a word that I associate with truffles. It’s a thick, dense custard covered in a layer of lighter-than-air foam. 20150201_163313 An ideal way to whet the appetite.
IMG_2166 Soft boiled egg with truffles, potatoes, and croutons

They do everything over the top here.

I can get into it. 
20150201_164951 Soft, rich egg. Crunchy, buttery croutons. Salty potato chips and a flurry of dark truffles…this is just decadent. And delicious. Well planned and executed.

IMG_2165 Salmon tartare with caviar, capers, and shrimp

The tiniest, sweetest little shrimp on mild, delicately sliced salmon. Quenells of salty caviar, whisper thin beet shavings, and a bright, herby vinaigrette. The combination of seafood is really delicate and surprisingly subtle – not over the top at all.

Unlike the next course.

IMG_2168 Parmesan lemon  risotto with langoustines and caviar

Not since London have I had such sublime langoustines. Tender and velvety with a positively sweet taste. They almost melt in the mouth. The risotto is al dente but soft, thick but not dense, with layers of creamy, salty, and bright lemon and Parmesan flavors. The caviar on top is really over the top, but I’m not one to refuse it. This is a MUST get.

IMG_2169 Chicken and foie gras pasta pockets with truffles

You would think that I would be getting truffle overload by now, but you would be wrong.  Truffles beget truffles, that’s my takeaway. This is a standout – soft, tender pasta with a meaty, deep, light but round flavor. In a meaty, rich demiglace that is enhanced by the headiness of the truffles.

IMG_2174 Scallops with truffles

Wonderful. Where the hell do they get scallops in such warm environs? These are huge and soft, with a buttery flavor and a lovely, crispy sear. More truffles, natch.

IMG_2180 Sugar dome with meringue, passionfruit, and cream inside

20150201_180932 Pretty much what angels eat for dessert. Don’t skip that passion fruit on the bottom – it’s bright and adds another aspect to the sweet dish. 

Il Ristorante is…over the top. The food is truffles, caviar, champagne,and more. The restaurant is like a Faberge egg. It’s ornate, plush, and has a view of dancing fountains that make the Bellagio fountains look liek a wishing well at your local strip mall. The service, while not quite up to Asian standards, is enthusiastic and warm – one more artichoke roll isn’t enough, try the whole wheat, too! And though the price is WAY up there, it’s a world class meal that rivals the best that I have had in Italy or France. 

It’s an unforgettable, truffle-licious experience. Bring your A-game.

Disclaimer: This meal was part of a press package. I was not required to write about my experiences and my opinions are my own and unbiased. 

From the Vault: Apple Brussels Sprout Hash

*Because this didn’t quite make it over when I switched blog platforms 3 years ago and it’s still cold enough to justify bacon for dinner.*

If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, this dish may change your mind.

Apple and Brussels Sprouts Hash

Ingredients:

1 small container Brussels sprouts, washed and halved (with outer leaves removed)

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 package bacon

1 peeled apple, diced

2 – 3 Tbsp. maple syrup (plus extra, to taste)

olive oil, to saute

salt and pepper, to taste

 1) Preheat the oven to 350 F, place the halved sprouts on a tinfoiled baking sheet, drizzle heavily with olive oil, and stick them in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the sprouts are charred without and tender within.

 2) While the sprouts roast, pour some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When the oil starts to make ripples, add the…

 onions and apples. Let them sautee for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the apples start to turn golden.

 3) Add the bacon

 and sautee for about 20 minutes, or until the bacon is brown and crispy, the onions are sweet, and the apples are soft. You want really nice, crunchy bacon here to contrast with the soft elements in the dish, but don’t turn up the heat. The point is to render the fat slowly so the bacon cooks evenly without being black on the edges and raw in the middle.

 4) When the sprouts are done (just taste them…when there is a tiny bit of resistance to your teeth, they are done), take them out and add them to the pan.

 5) Add the Brussels sprouts and maple syrup to the pan. Stir the ingredients around gently, so you don’t break the sprouts apart but so that the maple syrup melts into all of the components.

 6) Taste for maple syrup, salt and pepper and serve!

 This is a side dish for people who love sweets. The apples, onions, and maple syrup make this positively sugary. In fact, I add a heavy dose of pepper to balance out the sweetness, though my sister likes it au naturale. The crispy bacon mimics the crispy sprouts, and the entire mixture is a sweet, salty, crunchy, and tender delight.

I could top this with a fried egg, or it is also delicious over a baked sweet potato.

Might as well eat it now, since it’s obviously going to snow until July. 

Chopped Caesar Salad at Odeon and Other Weekend Eats

This weekend was a mish-mosh of snacks, eating out, and cooking at home. There may have been the undocumented bowl of cereal or sample of Australian cheddar cheese at Fairway (sharp and VERY good), but here are the highlights:

20150320_133916 Chopped Caesar salad at Odeon

I can’t believe that I hadn’t ever been to this Keith McNally classic. I can see why it has stood the test of time. It has a broad menu, excellent staff, and really delivers. My favorite course at lunch was this chopped Caesar. Wonderfully cheesy and savory without being too fishy. Lacy crisps of croutons, well chopped lettuce, and – thanks, Chef! – enough dressing. I would totally come here if I was in the ‘hood. 20150320_200841 BLAT with turkey

Sometimes, simple is best. From the bottom layer up:

sourdough bread

mayo (don’t be stingy here)

bacon (diced and cooked until VERY crispy)

tomatoes (sungolds are always the best, even in the winter)

butter, iceberg, or red oak lettuce (just one leaf)

2 very thin slices honey or maple roasted turkey (nothing too smoky – with the bacon, you don’t want a smoke overload)

1/2 mashed avocado, about 3 seconds away from being too ripe

mustard (honey dijon or horseradish, depending on if you want a sweet or a spicy edge)

sourdough bread

Did I mean simple? What I meant was exact precision is sometimes best. 
20150321_084353 Fake out indulgent drink

1 double expresso

1 layer of whipped cream right out of the can

Sweet, thick, frothy, bitter. So amazingly good that I can’t believe that it isn’t a “thing.”
20150321_184704 Marzullo’s rainbow cookies

The only rainbow cookies that I enjoy. These are less cookies and more cakes. Tiny, hand cut, freshly baked cakes. Layered with cherry and apricot jams. With soft, almondy, spongy layers of cake. And a thick, dark, fudgy layer of chocolate on the top and bottom layers. No gross fake cherry flavoring or stale, crunchy layers here. Wipe up that drool and get yourself some of these treasures.

And how was your weekend?