Split Pea and Smoked Ham Soup

Sometimes, being married means making sacrifices.

Split pea soup, to me, was a sacrifice. I don’t love smoky, heavy, grainy soups. I like light, fresh, vibrant soups. Creamy, spicy, fragrant. I love a stew.  But split pea soup…never my thang. Mushy peas, rubbery ham, too much salt. Blech.

Until, that is…I made it myself. This took awhile to make but was easy as could be. It could be made vegetarian, but I have to tell you…that ham hock broth has made me a believer.

Split Pea and Ham Soup

1 lb. split peas (or lentils of any color)

1 smoked ham hock

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 bunch carrots, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 bunch celery, roughly chopped

8 cups stock

4-6 cups water

2 bay leaves

salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste

1 glug balsamic vinegar

1 cup milk

IMG_2190 1. Toss the veggies into a large stock pot with the oil over high heat. Sautee for about 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are fragrant and the onions are translucent but there is no browning and nothing is softened. I put shrooms in here, but only because they were about to go bad. I don’t think that they are necessary. IMG_2191 This is a ham hock. This good Jew hadn’t ever seen one up close before, much less cooked with it. I did a little online research and it seemed like any osso buco or short rib to me. Basically, boil it for hours into oblivion. IMG_2193 2. Toss in the water, stock, herbs, and seasonings, and let that thing boil, covered, for between 2 and 3 hours You know that it’s done when the ham meat falls off of the bone easily. Keep it at a medium-low simmer so it doesn’t boil over. The house…the house is gonna smell goooood.

IMG_2201 3. When the ham hock is really soft, with the skin falling away, strain out all of the solids and return the broth to the pot. Add the lentils and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the soup is thick and the lentils are soft. IMG_2206 4. Taste for seasonings, add the balsamic and the milk, and then taste for seasonings again.  IMG_2210 5. Shred the the meat away from the fat and skin and fold it into the soup. IMG_22166. Serve (if you are like us) with Greek yogurt and a little hot sauce.

Okay, I have seen the light – this is the way that split pea soup should taste. Creamy, comforting, and deeply layered with flavor and sweetness. The pork stock is unlike any I have ever made – it tastes almost like rich tonkatsu broth. It’s so filled with body and round with fat and flavor. It isn’t smoky, just savory and earthy. The milk rounds out the edges and the balsamic adds a fresh, tart edge. This was perfect with a Caesar salad.

Sometimes marriage is about making sacrifices…and sometimes it’s about learning that those sacrifices are actually awesome, delicious bowls of soup.

Weekday Mimosas at The Standard Grill

Weekday mimosas. 

Who doesn’t love ‘em?

However, they can be SHOCKINGLY difficult to find in NYC. It’s like people only like to drink on the weekends.

Pffffft.

That’s how I feel about people who don’t believe in a little weekday indulgence. 

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Luckily, the servers at The Standard Grill feel the same way. That’s why they will bring you a mimosa with freshly squeezed orange juice and fizzy sparkling wine, even though it’s not on the menu. It’s so tasty that I didn’t even snap a photo until I was already halfway done – this is a fabulous mimosa. Not too sweet, not too watery, and not too stingy with the good stuff!

20150227_094418Located inside The Standard hotel, The Standard Grill is almost unspeakably hip. It’s all tweed and plaid uniforms, models sipping espresso, and dark paneled dining rooms. However, there is also a casual, sunny front room that is perfect for a relaxing breakfast with friends. It’s spacious and well designed – I wouldn’t hesitate to come here with a crowd.

20150227_103210Egg scramble with Gruyere and herbs on toast

THIS is how egg whites should taste

Soft and creamy – perhaps they lack the richness of whole eggs, but the texture need not be that of a rubber bouncy ball. The cheese provides both tang and a little fat, and the herbs are fresh, sweet, savory, and sharp by turn. Served atop thickly cut sourdough toast and adorned with bright, lightly dressed greens – this is a breakfast that is both virtuous and delicious. It’s so simple but it’s so often butchered by lesser restaurants.

20150227_103201Mushroom omelette

My girlfriend got a goat cheese and mushroom omelette and was extremely pleased. On another note, the bread here is fantastic – hers is a seven grain. Thick, wheaty, a little sweet, and studded with nuts and seeds. Fabulous. 

20150227_094527The Standard Grill is an AWESOME place for a chic, but not snobby or uncomfortable, meal. The prices were a little high, but it’s commensurate with the neighborhood, and the service was so attentive and sweet that I would come here before I return to other places nearby.

Plus, those weekday mimosas. YES.

Birds and Bubbles

Birds and Bubbles isn’t somewhere that I would go of my own accord. It’s a schlep, we didn’t have reservations (though they do take resys), and it’s fried chicken. I don’t normally love fried chicken.

Fried chicken doesn’t normally taste like this.

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Sarah Simmons, acclaimed City Grit chef, houses her chicken and champers emporium in a tiny, subterranean space with a bar space that also serves the entire menu. Don’t come here with more than 3 people at the bar or maybe 4 people at a table. It’s small – not cramped – but that’s part of the excellent service and charm.

20150217_185834 Simon Selosse Extra Brut

The by the glass list is fabulous – not cheap, but varied and interesting, with actual champagne, not just sparkling wine. The super dry champers cuts straight though the butter and fat in the rest of the meal and is the IDEAL counterpart to fried chicken20150217_193307 Bread basket with Steen’s cane syrup butter

Don’t be a chump – pony up for the bread basket. The biscuits are among the best that I have ever eaten – light, flaky, warm, and buttery. The butter fairly melts away with just a touch of sweet cane syrup complimenting the nutty sesame seeds in the benne (sesame seed) roll. The cornbread is the lone straggler – a little dry and cottony for me.
20150217_194026 Fried chicken

The piece de resistance. I am so sorry that I didn’t get a picture of the juicy, tender meat within. I just inhaled it too quickly. This isn’t quite the level of Hominy Grill’s chicken, but it’s close. So juicy within and crispy without. Nothing soggy or leaden. So hot that it might burn the roof of your mouth. Even the white meat is incredibly moist and flavorful 20150217_194149 Don’t forget to drizzle some Mike’s Hot Honey on top. Simmons really know how to mix sweet and savory. The touch of hot pepper with the sweet honey and savory, salty chicken is out of this world. 20150217_194234Crispy potato salad

The sleeper hit of the night. I have been dreaming of this for 72 hours straight. This is reminiscent of patatas bravas – crispy smashed potatoes in a salty, tangy, garlicky aioli. It’s so craveable. Strong with the shallots and a little on the salty side, but if you like strong flavors, then you will LOVE THIS. I certainly do.

Birds and Bubbles is fun, fairly priced, and delicious. It would be a great date night or solo meal at the bar with just you and a magazine or friendly bartender. Good things come to those who venture outside of their neighborhoods.

Especially in the polar vortex. Ugh. 

Colicchio and Sons Delivers on Black Saturday: Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day rocked.

Not because of cards, jewelry, or even candy.

It was dinner.

Dinner was on POINT.

Colicchio and Sons has been on my list forever, but we didn’t get around to eating there till last weekend. For Valentine’s Day. Black Saturday. Ugh. How fair is it to judge a restaurant by its most difficult, busiest, overpriced day of the year?

Even with those prejudices, Colicchio and Sons still delivered.

The restaurant is high ceilinged and beautiful – chic and trendy with a grown up, elegant feel. A perfect date night.

20150214_190600 The Collins

Tomato infused gin, mint syrup, and lemon. Tasty but not amazing. It lacks that earthy, sweet tomatoey taste and the mint syrup is too sugary-sticky for my taste. I wouldn’t rush to get this again – it sounded so promising but failed to deliver. 20150214_192053 Parker house rolls

Warm, soft, and slick with butter and salt. Even better, after we ate 2, they were replaced with an entire new, hot pan. Excellent service on this front. I ate 2 and should have eaten more.
20150214_192104 Crab and cannellini bean fonduta

The warm crab dip of my dreams. Rich, buttery, and creamy. Hunks of sweet crab and soft cannellini bans. Garlicky, salty, and magnificent. This plus the Parker house rolls is quite the combo.
20150214_192849 Egg with caviar and garlic chips

Another winner – light but rich. This is the perfect way to start a meal. The tastebuds are awakened, the senses are aroused, and there are a million textures going on. Soft, crunchy, popping, smooth, salty, eggy, savory…this had it going ON. What’s more, no one could eat more than a few spoonfuls of this, so the serving size.
20150214_192918 Oh yeah. Egg on egg. Just the way I like it. 20150214_193712 Hamachi with citrus and yuzu-ginger emulsion

Wonderful. The hamachi is excellently butchered – entirely smooth and buttery with no unsightly or sinewy pieces. The citrus is vibrant and juicy and that ginger emulsion is cool and spicy – the combination of flavors and execution of this dish is pitch perfect.

(need I say that it was aca-awesome?)

20150214_195536 Squid ink campanelle with whipped lardo and piment d’espelette

The best dish of the night. I was shocked at how fantastic this was – better than any NYC pasta in recent memory. Squid ink occasionally has a bitter or “off” taste to me. This was so subtle. The pasta itself, obviously house made, with a toothsome, chewy bite. The sauce is soft and light, with the unmistakable taste of sweet and earthy pork. the piment d’espelette is spicy but not overpowering, and the sprinkle of breadcrumbs is just perfect – crunchy and sharp against the lush sauce and thick pasta. Colicchio and Sons does pasta RIGHT. 
20150214_195706 Agnolotti with black truffle

Less inspired than the campanelle but no less delicious. Pillows of soft, buttery pasta laden with cream and the heady scent of black truffles. I mean, this is just damned delicious. 20150214_201624 Sea bream with bok choy, coriander blooms, and spiced beets

By this time, I was filled to the brim, but I powered through. The sea bream is fantastic – seared with a crispy skin and moist, flaky meat. The beets are an unexpected and delicious twist on sea bream. They provide a minerally, super earthy counterpart to the fish – soft but not mushy and sweet/fragrant with the coriander blooms. I wish I could have eaten more of this!

20150214_203446 Coconut doughnuts

GOOOOOOD!!!! Macadamia nuts, passion fruit sorbet, and some sort of cherry gastrique. Like the pineapple upside down cake I always wanted, but with coconut. Coconut>pineapple. It’s simple math. 20150214_203452 Lovely mignardises, including an awesome passion fruit chocolate. 20150214_204634 Treasure chest20150215_144524Filled with tasty chocolate red velvet bar. For breakfast. Because Colicchio and Sons just gets me.

This was a fabulous Valentine’s Day meal. The food was wonderful, the surroundings are lovely, and the service was a little slow, but for Valentine’s Day, fantastic. I can’t wait to come back on a normal day and try more of the pasta.

Valentines Day 2015 – you win.

Spicy Baked Kale and Artichoke Dip

Happy New Year! I hope that you are ready to eat some KALE!

Don’t worry…this kale is loaded with cheese, cream, and hot sauce.

Basically, I made a fabulous kale salad for dinner the other night – don’t worry, I’ll blog it! Anyway, no one ever eats THAT much kale, and my remnants usually go into a frittata or waste away in the fridge. But after NYE, we had some cheese left over.

Like, a TON of cheese.

And some artichokes.

And I was feeling blue that the holidays are over and just felt like being fatty and indulgent. I used bacon fat in this recipe, riffing off of this one, but butter works just as well. You could certainly throw some ground sausage in here, as well as olives, roasted red peppers, etc. The sky’s the limit – all that you need to do is use up the random ingredients in your fridge.

Oh, and don’t plan on wearing a bathing suit the next day. Because this goes straight to your love handles. It’s okay, those resolutions can start tomorrow.

Spicy Baked Kale and Artichoke Dip

hot kale dipIngredients:

3-4 cups washed, dried, and cut kale

1 tbsp. butter or bacon fat

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 serrano pepper, diced

2 cans of artichoke hearts or crowns

1.5 packages of cream cheese (assorted varieties are fine – I had leftover veggie and scallion, but use whatever works best for you)

salt and pepper to taste

Tabasco sauce to taste (about 8 dashes for spicy but not painful)

1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar and Asiago, but fontina and Parmesan would also be fabulous)

20150101_172351 1. Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat with the fat of your choice for about 15 minutes, or until the veggies are softened and translucent. You could let these go for even longer on a slower heat if you are patient. Obviously, I’m not – the point here is to get the alliums soft and remove their bite. 20150101_172804 2. Add the kale and cover. Reduce the heat slightly and let cook for about 10 minutes. When you remove the lid, the kale should be quite soft and the scent should be damned near intoxicating – especially if you use bacon fat. Wow. 20150101_174059 3. Add all of the ingredients except half of the shredded cheese into a baking dish and mix well. Really incorporate those veggies into that cream cheese and mayo mixture. Preheat the oven to 350F.20150101_174331 4. Add the rest of the cheese to the top, and bake for 35 minutes or until the cheese is melted, brown, bubbly, and every other type of delicious word that you can imagine.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXtDB1hl640&feature=youtu.be

Click here ^ to hear the sound of delicious. 

That’s what it should sound like (minus your husband on the phone in the background.)

20150101_1857515. Eat with tortilla chips, celery stalks, and spoons. 
20150101_185811But mostly just tortilla chips. Maybe very thick potato chips – they need to be able to stand up to this rather thick, substantial dish.
20150101_185819This is just so indulgent. Creamy, cheesy, and just on the border of bieng too rich. Velvety artichoke hearts, zesty Serrano peppers, and that wonderful bacony kale. This recipe is great for kale that is perhaps JUST past its prime. After all, you don’t want the kale to be too crunchy – you want it nice and soft. It’s reminiscent of  cheesy garlic bread, but even better. The kale really does add a meaty, minerally content that cheesy garlic bread lacks. Bring this to a party and you will be the most popular kid there.

Of course, make it at home and eat the whole pan and you will hate yourself.

Like I said, resolutions can start tomorrow.

Beefy Tomato Rice

This is comfort food 101.

It’s what my mom used to make when I was sick. Or when my sister had friends over. Or when it was Tuesday.

You know, just any time that we wanted some delicious food quickly.

My husband calls it grown up Beefaroni.

Anna Wintour would call it hideously ugly.

You will call it delicious.

Beefy Tomato Rice

2011-12-18 tsimis brisket liver hummus latkes1Ingredients:

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 onion and 2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup rice or orzo

3-4 cups broth or stock

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3 tbsp. ketchup

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or Parmesan cheese

20141125_1732141. Sautee the onions and garlic over medium heat until they turn translucent and soften – the picture here is a little bit too far gone. You don’t want the garlic to color like it has here. 20141125_173720 2. Add the beef and cook until it’s browned. Drain off any excess fat. 20141125_173733 3. Add the orzo or rice. Stir to coat in the residual fat. 20141125_173924 4. Add the tomatoes and one ladleful of stock. 20141125_174034 5. Stir the rice continuously until it absorbs the stock. You continue adding stock and letting the rice or orzo absorb the liquid until the grain has become creamy and plump. This should take about 30 minutes and must be continuously stirred so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. 20141125_175821 6. Add the tomato  paste, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly. 20141125_180145 7. Stir in the cheese. 20141125_192144 8. Serve

And be sure to serve youself a much heartier portion than this piddly little serving in the photo.

You are going to want a LOT of this stuff. Creamy, starchy, warming. Juicy tomatoes, sweet onions, tart ketchup. Not too salty and not too spicy – really different than the type of food that I normally enjoy.

And yet…perfect. So delicious. So easy and cheap to make for a big crowd or just for yourself. 20141125_192149

It makes me feel like I’m home again.

And yes, it’s pretty much grown up Beefaroni.

Melt Shop – More Than Just an After-Tot

Sometimes, you want a good grilled cheese.

And other times, you want to go to a grilled cheese restaurant after you have already eaten dinner and indulge in some tater tots.

I didn’t plan on it, it was a total after-tot…get it?

I know, my dad humor is wasted on you foodies.

I went to Melt Shop after dinner but before seeing the inimitable Aaron Lazar in “The Last Ship” especially for these:

20141122_191416Loaded tots

Do you see anything wrong with this photograph? Because if you do, you should probably find a different blog – this one just ain’t for you. These are decadence personified – Yeah, Amurrica! Crispy tater tots positively LOADED with creamy cheese sauce, crunchy bacon, slightly spicy pickled jalapenos, and a generous shower of garlicky Parmesan cheese. This is too much and yet just enough. It’s over the top and low end. It’s crispy bacon and salty parmesan cheese. It’s wonderfully rich nacho cheese and tart, none-too-limp jalapenos. It’s just about perfect.

20141122_191307Heath Bar crunch and Nutella-fluff milkshakes

As if you couldn’t guess…these are also exemplary. The Nutella-fluff is almost intimidatingly sweet, with ribbons of smooth Nutella and the sugary, sticky backnote of marshmallow fluff – only serious sweet tooths need apply to this one. The Heath Bar crunch is more my style – floral vanilla milkshake studded with chocolatey, crunchy bits of Heath Bars. Both shakes are thick but still sippable, which I like – I hate a milkshake that is too thick to sip with a straw. 

I have to go back for the sandwiches, I know this. But for quick counter service, a friendly and clean dining room, and a location literally at Broadway’s doorstep…you can’t do better than Melt Shop for a delicious snack.

Don’t make it just an after-tot. 

Charming Charleston – One Fabulous Dinner at Husk

It’s been a long time since an American focused fancy restaurant has really wowed me. Maybe that’s because I generally prefer the assertive tastes and spices of Southeast Asian cuisine. Maybe it’s because if I have a special occasion meal, I want the pomp and circumstance that French restaurants offer. Maybe it’s because I have been known to eat a slow cooker full of meat and cheese dip on Superbowl Sunday.

Whatever the reason, I just don’t usually get fine dining American restaurants.

But then, I don’t usually get to eat at Husk.

Sean Brock’s restaurants have earned him cookbook deals, James Beard Awards, and the respect of the entire country – it’s easy to see why. Husk prides itself on being an entirely Southern restaurant. As in, everything that you eat has originated in the South and will be prepared in traditional Southern ways, with a few fusion and high end touches thrown in for good measure.

20141115_203652The board that shows where the products come from each day. Pork, beef, fish, kale, sesame seeds…every damn thing comes from the South. It takes locavorism to a whole new level.
20141115_211738 Though this restaurant is widely regarded as one of Charleston’s best, but it isn’t at all stuffy. You want to wear a collared shirt or a cocktail dress, but you are greeted warmly and practically expected to pick up chicken bones with your fingers to be sure to get every succulent morsel. This place is perfect for a night out with real foodie friends. 20141115_214302 Benne seed rolls and pork butter

Sesame seeds are widely used in Charleston’s cuisine and are called benne seeds, from the African word for sesame seeds. The rolls are warm and fluffy – a little sweet and cottony for my tastes, but he butter absolves these of any evils. Pork butter. Sweet, savory, and a little salty. It compliments the slight nuttiness of the seed-topped bread and as it melts in yellow rivulets onto the rolls, it brings bread to a new level. Great way to start the night.

20141115_214753 Kentuckyaki Pig’s Ear Lettuce Wraps, Napa Cabbage and Shiitake “Slaw” with Toasted Peanuts, Cucumber-Lime Dressing

The best pig’s ears I have ever had – and I love pig ears. These were highly recommended by our gregarious server, and he was dead on. These put bacon to SHAME – they are so crispy, so crunchy, but not too hard or stiff to easily bite. They are infused with barnyard, porky flavor that is intense and complex – to me, it tastes almost like boar in its flavor. Not gamy, just deep. They are tossed in a sweet and salty Asian bbq style sauce. The ears are topped with a crunchy, tart slaw and wrapped in sweet butter lettuce leaves. This is an excellent balance of flavors and textures, using an ingredient that we don’t see too much up here in NYC. It’s also the restaurant’s philosophy in a single bite. Local ingredients, traditional techniques, fusion and high end flavors. Fantastic. I almost ordered another one of these for dessert. 20141115_214806 Wood Fired Clams, Sweet Corn “Chowder,” Hot Sauce with Herbed Chicken Fat, Mustard Greens and Crispy Chicken Skins

Finally, Jewish comfort food and Southern comfort food united in all of their savory glories. This is talk stoppingly delicious. Corn chowder is sweet and rich, but not at all greasy – it’s just rich with the corn milk and probably some butter. The clams are juicy and soft, offering some briny, salty flavor to the earthy soup. The chicken skins are…unreal. Almost like fried clams themselves, with a feather-light textures and crispy, potato-chip crunchiness. And get a load of that beautiful wooden serving bowl!
20141115_221719 Amberjack from Mark Marhefka, Roasted Cauliflower and Butternut Squash, Tuscan Lacinato Kale, Brown Butter

Amberjack is one of my favorite fish and I was incredibly pleased with this preparation. I liken this fish to a slightly firmer Chilean sea basS (Which I haven’T had in years, since it’s in danger of becoming extinct). It’s mild, soft, and extremely delicious. The brown butter is so..buttery. Nutty, rich, sweet. It really anchors the fish and is perfect with the tender kale. The squash is a little underdone, but the cauliflower is crispy, brown, and addictive. 20141115_224715Espresso and Doughnuts

Espresso cake and doughnut ice cream. Super caffeinated and super sweet. I especially love the extra smooth ice cream with crumbles of doughnuts beneath.

Husk is a must visit when in Charleston. It’s so wonderful that it’s almost worth a trip just to eat there. I never really GOT Southern food before  I visited Charleston. This meal was delicious, the portions are great, and the prices are beyond fair. I can’t wait to go back for more pig ears.

I’ll see ya soon, Charleston.

Blue Smoke – My Favorite BBQ in NYC

I’m not a big one for BBQ. I would almost always rather have the Korean version or some steak. But, when the group wants some ribs and beers, I can hunker down with the best of them. This particular group voted to try Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke.

20141109_182410This restaurant is huge and casual – big bar playing sports on the televisions, massive tables, and Texan sized booths. This is perfect for a rowdy crowd of friends, a family with young kids, or some folks who want some wings and beer while they watch the game.


20141109_184455BBQ potato chips with blue cheese bacon dip

Sleeper hit of my LIFE! This is almost perfect – greaseless, crispy chips that are HUGE, smoky, and a little sweet. Then they are dipped in some of the greatest blue cheese dressing that I have ever enjoyed. I mean, really…excellent dressing. Super tick and tangy with hunks of salty, funky cheese, sharp chives, and crispy bacon crumbles. The only way that this could be better is if the chips were warm, which the menu stated that they should be. These are a MUST GET.
20141109_191320 Grits

Soupier than I normally have, but delicious. A little sweet, super buttery,and the perfect vehicle for the vineagary house made hot sauce. 20141109_191325 Sampler platter

A must get if , like me, you are new to this ‘cue.

Backyard chicken – surprisingly delicious! The chicken is charred and smoky, with a hefty dose of salt and pepper. Teh meat inside is juicy and prime for the tangy housemade bbq sauce.

Sausage – I wasn’t even fast enough to snag this.

Pulled pork – excellent. Tender but not cottony with an equal balance of meat, spicy, tangy, and savory flavors. Didn’t need any other accompaniment.

Ribs – the best. I would get these baby backs again any day of the week. Sublime – almost as good as Chinese ribs. A thickly burnished, lacquered surface with fatty, soft, meaty flesh. The favorite of the platter, especially when enjoyed with the sweet and salty pickles.

20141109_200213Chocolate layer cake

Nothing that great – a little dry, a little flat in the flavor department. The banana cream pie fares much better, but best of all is the espresso, served with a side of amaretto.

This place is great! It’ ain’t REAL down home ‘cue, but it beats the heck out of Dinosaur and it certainly scratches the itch for some great ribs and grits.

Upland – A Tasty, if Pricey, Neighborhood Bistro

First the moral: Don’t run to a new restaurant just because it’s on Eater’s hot list.

Now the story:

Last Saturday night, we rushed to our reservation at Upland, the much buzzed about new restaurant by chef Justin Smille, lately of Il Buco Alimentari. It’s a seasonal restaurant with California twists from his native Upland. I used to do improv matches in Upland all the time, so I was obviously eager to see how someone could make my hometown comfort food seem high end and special.

Upland is casual but trendy, with a long, oval bar and plenty of seating. The space is dark but not too much so, and seems perfect for a double date or a quick appetizer with friends before hitting the town.

20141108_190739 Potato bread and butter with smoked salt, chives, and lemon zest

A high point of the evening. The bread arrives warm and light, with a fluffy but not cottony texture. The butter melts quickly on the bread, imparting a slightly sharp, slightly citrusy scent to the bread. We devoured this loaf and would have gladly asked for another. 20141108_193652 Beef tartare with puffed rice, anchovy, and egg yolk

Meh. The seasoning is all off for me – mushrooms make it earthy to the point of tasting like dirt. The puffed rice seems textually incongruent and the whole thing lacks salt and spice. Some tabasco sauce or lemon juice would do wonders for this, because the beef is tender and hand cut and the yolk is wonderfully rich. Unfortunately, this falls way flat for me. 20141108_193701 Crispy artichokes

Very good, if uninspired. The artichokes come in full, meaty bites with clumps of super crispy leaves. They are like potato chips, but even better because of their garlicky-buttery-lemony bath. They aren’t too greasy or too salty – bar food done really  well. 20141108_195736Farro spaghetti with uni, scallion, and sesame

The best entree that we ordered (skip the branzino, which is fine but nothing more.) The pasta comes chilled and is naturally al dente, with a lovely, wheaty taste. It contrasts well with the briny, clean, almost sweet uni. This must be Santa Barbara uni, judging from its mild flavor. The cold, chewy pasta is tempered with nutty sesame oil, sharp scallions,and just a hint of heat. This is an excellent dish – while not destination worthy, its certainly a must get if you are here.
20141108_203801Cinnamon sugar doughnuts

Warm, light, sweet. Very tasty, especially with the stracciatella ice cream.

20141108_190338If this meal were half the price, I would declare it a triumph. However, for the pacing and the price…well, this is just not a great value. The food tastes like a very good neighborhood spot, but the hype is that it’s the second coming of you-know who. If this were billed as what it is – a lovely neighborhood joint – I would have loved it. So, if you go there with those expectations and very deep pockets – you will be impressed. And don’t miss the carbs here – bread, spaghetti, and doughnuts make a mighty fine meal here.

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