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.

Lazy Creamy Spinach

I have always loved creamed spinach.

My earliest memories it involve the California institution Lawry’s. I haven’t been back in years and don’t know if I can bear to every visit again. From what I hear, it is an overpriced tourist trap with salty meat and overpriced drinks, but I remember it as my first truly fine dining experience. I loved getting all dressed up and eating prime rib as heavy as I was, a baked potato that came with a cute little poem encouraging me to eat the skin, and  - of course – that creamed spinach.

Lawry’s spinach was dense and rich – it barely tasted of spinach at all, it was really just a vehicle for gallons of cream and loads of butter.

Look, it was so delicious that it upstaged the Yorkshire pudding. How many dishes can say that?

This dish isn’t creamed spinach and it isn’t nearly as delicious as I the version that I recall from Lawry’s.  But, then, I wonder if anything would be as delicious as that memory?

Lazy Creamy Spinach

spinach and meatloaf quesadilla

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 lb. fresh spinach

1 tbsp. butter plus 2 tsp. oil

1/4 cup creme fraiche

a few dashes of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

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1. Sautee the garlic in the butter and oil over medium heat until it is fragrant but not brown – we don’t want any bitter taste here.

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2. Throw in the spinach. Turn it for the next 5 minutes or so. It will wilt down very quickly.

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3. When it is wilted – I mean really wilted – turn off the burner and add the creme fraiche. it will get a little soupy but not too much.

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4. Add seasonings, taste, and serve piping hot.

This is such a great side dish to meatloaf or honey mustard chicken. It’s rich but not super heavy and the creme fraiche adds and unexpected tang along with its creamy richness. You don’t have to boil cream forever or strain out any complicated spices – just sautee, add the creme fraiche, and go. It’s similar to sour cream but with an even denser texture and slightly sweeter taste. Speaking of sweet, if you don’t have fresh nutmeg you can skip it, but it really does add that “je ne sais quoi” - like how orange rind perks up carnitas or a bay leaf enriches chicken stock. This is comforting, savory, and tastes leagues better than the frozen stuff. It isn’t the same as real creamed spinach, but it does the trick.

You can’t go back to your youth, but it doesn’t hurt to update your classic memories. 

Tocqueville – A Second Look at a Long Ago Post

When you write a blog for almost 4 years, stuff gets lost in the mix. So, I occasionally republish posts that are especially meaningful to me. This one is about a restaurant that, time and again, has proven itself to be consistent, elegant, and truly delicious. In the three years since this post was written, the head chef has changed and the menu changes with the seasons, but the dedication to service, wine, and food, is exactly the same. 
That is, to say, exemplary. 
So, enjoy the heartfelt review, questionable photography, overly flowery prose, and liberal use of caps lock. Because though the wonderful Tocqueville restaurant hasn’t changed, my blogging skills have…thankfully. 
Although I (clearly) love everything about food, I get bogged down like everyone else does. Between work, play, blogging, sleeping and occasionally fitting in time to go to the bathroom, I use food as fuel. I don’t have the time to enjoy and respect it as I should.  I forget what it is like to sit and enjoy a meal for hours. To comment on and discuss the food. To learn about the chefs and farmers who created the  dishes. To revel in the romance that a wonderful meal is about.
When I feel a need to really “be about’ food” again, I will head straight to  Tocqueville, for the $68 chef’s tasting menu, inspired totally from seasonal ingredients, many from the Union Square Greenmarket next door.
This photo does not do justice to the elegant, quiet and refined space. The music playing is low and relaxing, the decor is classic but not stuffy and the high ceiling-ed room infused me with both relaxation and giddy anticipation. I knew something special was in store.

The house baked breads
Baked fresh, every day. If the sourdough’s hole structure was not perfect, I did not care. It was so sour, with such a crisp, nicely charred crust that went perfectly with the house churned butter. The focaccia was still warmed from the oven, with a gentle slick of olive oil on top that accented the woodsy rosemary and briny olives within. The brioche (unpictured), was butter, butter and…more butter. I simply love a good bread program!
The chef’s tasting menu (which changes every day and can be altered to include/exclude specific requests) started off with a warm apple cider. My dad said it was “apple pie in a glass.” I would say that just about says it. Tart, sweet, spicy, rounded out with a strong vanilla taste, this was simultaneously satisfying and appetite inducing. Really, it was just perfection.
 Beet Tuile filled with Goat Cheese
The server told us that the beets were pureed, then sprinkled with powdered sugar before being baked, rolled and filled. These were so extremely beet-y: that sweet, earthy taste that was just all the more vegetal tasting with the grassy goat cheese. The powdered sugar worked with the beet’s natural flavor and brought out its sweet, lighter flavor profiles.
 
Celery Root and Potato Croquette topped with a Black Truffle
Warm. Crunch. Creamy. Hearty. Heady. Umami. Could have eaten these for my main dish. Every day.
Any other questions?
 Butternut Squash Confit with Creamless Sunchoke Soup with Black Truffles
The squash confit was good but not amazing – sweet, smooth…just nothing totally memorable. The soup? My favorite dish of the day.
So incredibly rich without being heavy, it had the most wonderful taste. I have not had sunchokes too many times, but this was a celery root-potato-ey flavor that was both familiar and totally new. The truffles were generously added, giving the soup an intoxicating layer, and some tangy balsamic vinegar made everything seem lighter and sweeter. The soup was served lukewarm – which I tend to hate – but, it actually made the truffles taste different. More substantial, less ethereal, somehow. It was interesting and wholly successful.
 Cato Farm Cheddar Salad with Frisee, Roasted Bosc Pears and Hazelnut dressing
My dad requested that this be part of the tasting menu, and though I doubted his choice at first, I was totally mistaken. This was a wonderfully constructed salad. The cheese was sharp yet with a creamy finish, the frisee was soft and lightly bitter, the nuts were meaty and toasted well, and the pears were nothing short of perfection; nothing but creamy sweetness within and shattering caramelization without. The balsamic reduction on top added a tangy taste to the otherwise subtle dish, elevating it further. The ingredients were excellent and the flavor combination could not have been improved in any way.
 Parmesan Poached Lobster Sauteed in Butter with Espelette Chili, Sea Beans, Celery Root and Dill
This was the best lobster I have ever had. That is a bold statement, and also true. The lobster was positively silky, and cut with the merest touch of a fork. The chili was spicy but not hot, it just melded perfectly with the luxurious butter and salty Parmesan cheese. The celery root was toothsome but tender, the sea beans did not have the iodine-y taste they sometimes have and the dill was fresh and fragrant with the otherwise rich dish. The ingredients did not seem like they would pair well with each other, but really worked in total harmony. Inventive and totally delicious.
 Roasted Venison Loin with Black Pepper and Blackberry Glaze, served with Black Trumpet Mushrooms, and Chanterelles
I had never had venison loin before and this was outstanding. Satisfying as beef, light as pork tenderloin. It was very rare, but had no blood, like beef would have. It was tender like filet mignon, but with a lightly gamy, very pleasant flavor that was far more pronounced than that of filet. The peppercorns made the meat spicy and the glaze was sweet, tart and delightfully sticky. The mushrooms were soft and flavorful – mushrooms and meat are always the most wonderful combination, aren’t they? The buttery potato and herb purees on the dish completed this version of “meat and potatoes.’

 

 A cheese plate with a Vermont Blue Cheese, a Spanish cheese similar to Mangchego, served with quince paste, honey, a candied walnut, and a citrus-y, sweet, soft kumquat. Literally, in LOVE with that kumquat – it was like a soft candied orange rind or maybe a slightly less sweet gumdrop. The blue cheese was slightly smokey and extremely pungent, and the Spanish cheese was nutty and salty. The house-baked raisin crostini were perfect foils for these dairy delights. A well thought out and complimentary cheese plate.

 The selection of house made sorbets: Chocolate, passion fruit, blood orange, litchi and green apple
All well balanced flavors with  creamy textures, unlike the icy way many sorbets feel in the mouth. The passion fruit was my favorite – it was tart, not too sweet, and seemed insanely bright and summery for the middle of January. My dad preferred the rich and deep chocolate sorbet.
 Coconut flavored Tofu with those same amazing candied kumquats and a Citrus Broth
Tofu for dessert? Simply put, it rocked my world. It tasted exactly like a tofu panna cotta-just that rich and indulgent. The creaminess paired well with the light and acidic citrus broth and those heavenly candied kumquats.
 The Chocolate Tasting Plate, with Chocolate-Hazelnut Crunch Mousse Cake, Bittersweet Chocolate Molleux, Molten Chocolate Cake, and that wonderful Chocolate Sorbet
What can I say except that it was all complex and wonderfully chocolatey. The bittersweet chocolate Moelleux was especially exceptional – bitter in the way perfectly roasted coffee beans take bitter, and just sweet enough to make the cake more sweet than savory.
After the meal’s conclusion, we were invited down to tour the kitchen by our extremely sweet, attentive, and food-loving server. We met the world’s kindest and most passionate chef, Chef Gregory Vernick. He gave us a complete tour of the entire kitchen, introduced us to everyone, talked about his philosophy of cooking each item daily with as few preserved goods as possible, and told us that we ‘made his day’ by ordering the tasting menu. We saw the ducks that they butcher and hang themselves, the extensive spice cabinet, the foccacia being baked as we spoke, and only one tiny closet filled with the barest necessities of canned and dried goods. Everything else is always fresh, all the time. Chef Vernick reveled in the fact that the owners, Marco Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitzky, let him cook whatever was fresh, versus being confined to a written menu, as long as the price was not exorbitant. He knew everyone in the kitchen and clearly had the utmost respect for them, and vice versa.  His passion and excitement for food was both thrilling and inspiring. I am so lucky to have dined here, and for only $68, it was a steal. I suggest you dine here soon, for not just a meal, but a deeply personal and communal experience.

48 Phenomenal Hours at the Trump SoHo

Okay, I won’t tease you any longer.

I promised a full review of the Trump Soho, so here it is:

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Public Spaces

Gorgeous. Sleek, elegant, dark, and very chic. It’s all angles, mirrors, and sleek wood. There is nothing shabby chic or rustic about this place – it’s all NYC all the way. The people who stay here all seem to have “resting bitch face,” but that’s because most of them are models and haven’t eaten since “Friends” was on the air. The staff is fabulous (more on that later), and there are tons of places to sit and play on your phone while you wait for your date to meet you for dinner. BTW, hit up the in-house restaurant, Koi. for dinner – it’s one of my favorites.

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photo 4 (17) Rooms

A really mixed bag. The room itself (we were upgraded – more on that in a minute) is exquisite – beautifully laid out with sumptuous linens, the softest bed I have felt in a hotel in ages, and a bathroom that has a huge mirror looking out over the Empire State Building. The bathroom is so big that there is a CHAIR in it, you guys. Which is perfect or when you are brushing your teeth and just want to take a load off. There is a state of the art espresso machine,a  full wet bar setup, and a really cool sliding wall that totally separates the bedroom and the living room into 2 separate rooms. There is a tv in the bathroom, 2 flat screens in the bedroom and living space, and floor to ceiling windows that make it hard to turn on any of them.

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The views are stunning – from sunrise to sunset they showcase the finest views that NYC has to offer, from the sparkling Hudson to the iconic Empire State Building – just ignore the hideous H and M logo that now mires our fair city’s skyline. That’s all the good. Now there’s some not so great. The water pressure is abysmal – the shower has a great shower head but it takes 20 minutes just to get your hair fully saturated. The sink in the bathroom was incredibly clogged – let the water run for more than 30 seconds and I ended up with a sink full of cloudy water. There were very few amenities in the bathroom - just the normal shampoo, shower gel, and conditioner. No lotion, no sewing kits, no toothbrushes. For these prices, these amenities should really be included. It’s not enough to tarnish my memory of the hotel, but it’s also a definite dark mark on what is otherwise a phenomenal room.

The Spa

Yikes. This is the iffy part of the review. It actually isn’t iffy, it’s really just negative. I had a wonderful experience so I don’t want to dwell on this, but suffice to say that the spa is not up to snuff with the rest of the ultra luxurious hotel. It’s small, ill laid out,and poorly equipped. the sauna is tiny, the steam room takes forever to warm up, and the pool is on an entirely different floor. It’s just not what I expect in accordance with the rest of the hotel.

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The Staff

The most fabulous aspect of this hotel and the one that made this hotel one to remember. From the moment we walked in the front door, we were treated as if we were Donald and Melania themselves, instead of two nobodies. They didn’t even know that I had a blog, let alone that I might write about it. When we walked in , we were offered warm lavender and lemon scented towels and bottles of water while we checked in. When we said that we were there for the bachelorette, our fabulous front desk person almost squealed in delight and called over the attache (concierge). The two of them immediately upgraded us to that ultra-luxe 1.5 bathroom suite and sent up a plate of the juiciest chocolate covered strawberries that I have ever seen. They fell over themselves trying to get us dinner reservations, helping my kick ass fiance send up a surprise bottle of champagne, and making sure that we were not disturbed when we got in after our fun night out. In fact, every person we dealt with at the hotel was extraordinarily helpful and friendly, from the chamber maid who serviced our room within the 45 minutes we left the room to the doorman who we had to beg to take a tip for catching us a cab. I have never received better service in any NYC hotel – it is almost Asian (How I miss you, Park Hyatt, Tokyo)in its service, that’s how great it is.

How would I rate the Trump SoHo? A solid 8. The spa and room amenities leave something to be desired. But the room service, staff, beautiful views, and sensational location make up for it. I would stay here again and in fact I plan to do so – my sister and I plan to make this a yearly trip.

See you in 358 days, Trump SoHo!

Fancy Chocolates and Down Home Meals

Here are the delicious bites I have recently enjoyed!

2012-12-03_19-25-22_318 Middle Eastern food at Cleopatra’s Needle

Live music, unpretentious clientele and a plethora of middle eastern food. On the rather chi-chi and sometimes buttoned up UWS, this is totally refreshing. Go for the garlicky hummus, the smoky babaganoush, or the grape leaves. I love these grape leaves – they are clearly made fresh to order with tart, taught  leaves surrounding a creamy rice and mint mixture. It’s not too pricey and it’s not too fancy, but you can sit down and enjoy a glass of wine. What winner.
IMG_20131022_120011_769 Short rib and Gruyere sandwich at Pomme Palais

Disclaimer – I work for the joint. And this pic has been posted before, but I just had this sandwich again and realized that I never wrote about it. It is so decadent. Tangy, nutty Gruyère cheese blanketing melt-in-your-mouth short ribs. Rich, fatty, and soft between slices of crunchy toast. Ask for some hot mustard on the side to add that nasal-searing quality that mimics horseradish and roast beef. Its’ getting warmer (so they SAY), so enjoy this gut buster while you may!
IMG_20140316_185110_884 Bond Street Chocolates

For the connoisseur in your life. Choose flavors like absinthe, tequila, and rum. They are all miniature jewels, made with shiny, almost bitter dark chocolate or creamy, smooth milk chocolate. The filings aren’t just plain liqueur – they are infused into creamy ganaches or crunchy nut butters. They come wrapped beautifully and are the perfect hostess gift. Just make sure it actually gets to the hostess before you dig in.

54 Below Changes the Concept of Dinner Theater for the Way, Way Better

I am a dinner theater survivor.

That’s right, I have been known to sing Neil Sedaka songs while wearing wigs and false eyelashes, while octogenarians and kids eat prime rib and ask why the iced tea is so cold*.

It’s by far the hardest acting job I ever did. To warm up before a show, to say heartfelt lines, and to sing and dance to the best of your abilities while the scent of mashed potatoes waft through the air and servers drop dinner rolls on the floor is truly a difficult act.

Which is why it’s great that 54 Below has improved this ancient form of theater.

At this swanky supper club, orders for food and drinks are taken before the show. You sit at the table, enjoy a leisurely meal, and then take it the best of what the city has to offer, from cabarets featuring Broadway’s brightest to workshops of new musicals backed by Darren Criss’ production company.

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The space is classic supper club – dark wood, burgundy fabric, and well dressed servers. All of the servers here are gorgeous, so you indeed start eating with your eyes first. Though I didn’t photograph it, be sure to order the drink made with bourbon, paprika, and orange bitters. It’s really mellow, with brightness, a hit of spice, and a slightly sweet, buttery finish – almost like toffee. 

IMG_20140317_184838_243 Charcuterie plate (captured after it was demolished and as lights were dimming)

SO worthwhile! This plate is filled with soft, creamy brie, a tangy fontina-type cheese, and a wedge of lovely, rather mild blue cheese. Add to that juicy olives, marcona almost, cornichons, and a bevy of cured meats and you have yourself a really great meal! The smoky chorizo is especially excellent.

IMG_20140317_184902_159 Caesar salad

The only true misstep of the night. Fried shallots and torn basil are delicious, fresh takes on this classic dish, but they don’t save it. What did the dressing – the MOST important part of a Caesar salad – taste like? Beats me. There couldn’t have been more than a scant half teaspoon on this acre of romaine. It was like they were daring me to find it. Not a fan.
IMG_20140317_185214_371 Steak tartare

Here’s the stuff. I could have used some tabasco but other than that, it’s quite good. Coarsely chopped beef mixed with capers, mustard, and pepper get a final, luxurious touch when you mix in the raw quail egg. It’s rich but not heavy and is really well salted, which is key to a tasty tartare. Like I said, it could really use some heat, but what couldn’t? Schmear it on the toast points and you might even be able to pretend that you are in Paris, except that here, you can get ice cubes in your water.

Look, this food is not worth seeking out unless you are here to see  a show. It’s mundane and expensive. But it does the trick, and is leagues better than that hot turkey sandwich of yesteryear’s dinner theaters. Plus, it helps you reach your minimum without getting wasted on watered down vodka sodas.

And it does NOT make me have flashbacks to the old days. Thankfully.

*Yes, that was an actual question by a patron. Could I even make that up?