Puttin’ on The Ritz – Afternoon Tea Edition

So, you want to know what my number one favorite thing about Great Britain is?

It isn’t the royalty. It isn’t the respect for tradition. It isn’t the avant garde fashion.

It’s afternoon tea.

And nowhere…NOWHERE…have I had an afternoon tea experience like the one at The Ritz.

First, let’s get the cons out of the way.

1) You need to make reservations many months in advance. Think, as many as 8 months in advance. It books up that quickly

2) You only have 2 hours in which to enjoy your meal.

3) It’s expensive. Anniversary-40th birthday-once a year special treat expensive.

Now, the pros:

It’s the most beautiful, luxurious, over the top dining experience I have ever enjoyed. It makes Tocqueville look minimalist.

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Tea is served in this Palm Court, the original one that so puts the one at The Plaza to shame that it seems embarrassing that they should share a title. It’s all elegance and huge angel statues and live piano music and light and palm trees. Violet Crawley would be extremely at home here.

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It seems incredible that you will use each and every one of these pots and cups and creamers, but oh…you will.

20140508_132511 Not without a glass of champers first. Because what improves tiny tea sandwiches more than a crisp, icy glass of champagne? And don’t worry…it, like everything here, is bottomless.

That’s right…eat and drink until your pants burst open.

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Choose from any number of the exceptional teas on the menu. I recommend the passion fruit, which is one of the few teas that I can drink without totally gagging. It has a full, fruity taste with only a SLIGHT hint of hibiscus in the background. It’s also ostentatiously pink.

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Then it arrives…the glorious tea platter.

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Start with the sandwiches. Sharp cheddar and tangy chutney. Creamy egg salad with just a hint of bitter watercress. Freshly roasted turkey with rich mayonnaise and crunchy salt. Smoked salmon so mild and smooth at it fairly melts into the bread and long, thin slices of cucumber with dilled cream cheese.

I DARE you to order fewer than two more plates of these.

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Cakes and sweets

Peanut butter and chocolate macarons, a rich chocolate fudge cake, a rhubarb and cream sophisticated type of snowball, and a Napoleon to END all Napoleons. I mean Naploeon would have traded empress Josephine to taste half of this slice. The pastry is buttery and crisp but not too hard. It retains its texture between the layers of fluffy, airy vanilla custard. Some Napoleons are heavy and sodden with loose, lackluster cream, but this really does it right. The crowning touch is a thick, crackly layer of white icing – a sugary touch to an elegant dish.

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Oh yeah, you could make a meal out of these alone.

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But then, you would miss these. These lovely, buttery, flaky, soft, and creamy scones.

20140508_134601 Oh, you KNOW that I split those babies open and slathered them with fragrant strawberry jam and clotted cream so rich that it might actually BE Prince Harry.

20140508_141149 Don’t forget the sweet, moist marmalade cake or the sticky toffee pudding from the cake trolley. 
20140508_143548And don’t forget, this stuff is all unlimited.  They keep bringing it until you cry uncle. They keep pouring and refreshing tea with white gloves and lovely British accents. They keep bringing warm scones and pots of clotted cream. And they don’t judge. no they don’t.

Trade in your car if you have to, to go to this tea. It – and the love handles it puts on you – will stay with you forever.

 Disclaimer: This tea was compliments of the Press team. I was not required to write about it, and my opinions are my own and unbiased. 

Pieminister – Merry Olde England in Amsterdam

You know how you can’t get a decent burger in Amsterdam to save your life?

Well, as it turns out, you can get a meat pie so perfect that Katie M herself might mistake it for one of her country’s own.

amsterdam day 2 093Indeed, Pieminister is a UK based company, but its outlet in Amsterdam exactly follows the model that you might see in merry olde England. Choose your pie filling, choose your toppings, and choose your side (if any).
amsterdam day 2 095Then, sit at one of the modern tables and wait for your food to be delivered. As you can see from the decor, it’s a modern, hip place that has taken the British classic and updated it with local, seasonal ingredients that come almost entirely from Great Britain.

amsterdam day 2 097I especially appreciate the rather English accompaniments of nasal-searing Coleman’s mustard and pungent Worcestershire sauce. And, of course, the not-so-English inclusion of Tabasco.
amsterdam day 2 098The Motherlode Chicken of Aragon pie with tarragon, smoked bacon, and free range British chicken

So good that it made me sit up and remember tarragon. Why don’t I use it more often? Its faint, sweet, licorice-y taste goes so well with tender chicken. Especially in this rich sauce, loaded with crispy smoky bacon, creamy potatoes, and fork tender chicken. If you get it Motherlode style, it comes topped with mashed potatoes, gravy, cheese, minted mushy peas, and fried shallots.

And if you don’t get it Motherlode style, you must be certifiably insane.

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She isn’t the prettiest girl in town, but wow is this dish tasty! Salty gravy, tangy cheese, crispy shallots, and lightly minted peas (no mouthwash overload here) add brightness and texture to an otherwise rather heavy, creamy pie. I also recommend adding a shot of Tabasco to uplift the flavor profile.

Oh, and there were just-like-mom’s mashed potatoes, too. Because one can never have to many potatoes.

amsterdam day 2 100Heidi Pie with Somerset goat cheese, sweet potatoes, spinach, and red onion

 Dare I say that I enjoyed this pie even more? It is a totally out-of-left-field flavor combination. Goat cheese and sweet potatoes? Wouldn’t’ that be too heavy or sweet?

No, it’s pretty much perfect. It’s creamy and earthy, with a hearty minerality from the spinach and the sweet tang of red onion. The caramelized onion highlights the more savory taste of the sweet potato and the warming the  goat cheese mellows  it from grassy to buttery. This I got plain, though I would get it with gravy next time.

When in doubt, go with gravy. 
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Spicy sausage roll

Simply a zesty, vaguely spicy sausage that is so soft it almost melts in your mouth. Oh, and it’s wrapped in an impossibly flaky dough that is so light that it has no calories.

That’s what I told myself.

Pieminister may not be the most Dutch establishment, but it’s one of the tastiest. The price is fair, the service is helpful but not overbearing, and the food is so delicious that it is worth losing an hour in the afternoon when you sink into a food coma.

Just remember…it’s Motherlode all the way or I will have to pretend that I don’t know you.

The Best of British Food at Jones Woods Foundry

Anyone who says that British food isn’t tasty has either seen Oliver! one too many times or is just working off of jokes made in the 1980s.

Because British food is just delicious – clotted cream, savory pies, and fresh, briny seafood.

Jones Woods Foundry brings the best of British food to the Upper East Side in the form of a cool, beer-focused gastropub.

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The restaurant has a long, narrow bar area that expands into a larger (but still pretty cozy!) dining area. By 7 pm on a Tuesday night, the area was hopping and we had to wait for a seat at the bar. Though there is a comprehensive bar menu, if you want a longer, more comfortable meal, you should definitely make a reservation. The dining room reaches pretty high decibels, so keep this in mind more for a dinner with friends than one with your grandparents.

[ox 360Cod mash toast

One of my dining companions laughed as he took a taste and said “it’s whitefish on toast!” This is a lot like my favorite whitefish salad – creamy, slightly salty, mixed with fluffy mashed potatoes. However, I would compare it more to baccala. It has a faintly, smoky fishiness that is pleasant if you like lox or other smoked fish. It’s spread on crunchy bread and is a great starter.

jones liver

Chicken liver and foie gras mousse

Now THIS is chopped livah. Incredibly smooth and rich with foie but airy, too. It balances the mineral-heavy chicken liver with the fatty, almost sweet taste of the foie. It actually does melt in the mouth, leaving behind only the memory of the  umami-heavy spread. Sprinkled with coarse grains of  salt, it disappears all too fast. Don’t share this…it’s just too delicious.
jones grouperFlorida grouper with whipped cauliflower, spinach, and sweet onions

Another winning dish. Brits love combining salty and savory, and often pair a sweet chutney with salty cheese or hearty meats. This play on sweet and salty works so well with fish that I may have to make it on my own at home. The onions are cooked slowly with red wine so they become very sweet in the way that only onions can. Layered upon the mild white fish, the tastes blend and become savory-sweet-salty-meaty. Really, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The cauliflower is creamy and light and the garlicky spinach is the perfect accompaniment. This dish is fantastic and I would order it again in a heartbeat.

jones menuJones Woods Foundry once and for all puts to sleep the notion that British food isn’t delicious. Because it just is! The food here is different than what you see on American gastropub menus and is made carefully with thought to texture, aroma, and flavor. The beef and cocktail menu is varied, the service is excellent, and the atmosphere is always a party. The one downside is the expense – the food is a little pricey for the portion size. However, for a real taste of British food (the lamb and rosemary pie is also a winner!), you can’t do better than Jones Woods Foundry. 

Jones Wood Foundry on Urbanspoon

Bites and Sips Around the City

There is just one burning question every New Yorker needs to know (now that we know that Dan was Gossip Girl):

What are the tastiest snacks, bites, and drinks around town, and where can you get them?

Read on, hungry city dweller:

Hummus Plate at Le Pain Quotidien

Ah yes, this upscale coffee shop/bakery does more than just great breakfasts. Order the hummus plate and you will be surprised at how tasty it is. The hummus is thick and lemony, slick with fruity olive oil. The kalamata olives atop are juicy and soft, the perfect salty counterpart to the hummus.Also on the plate is garlicky, almost velvety babaganoush and quinoa tabouleh that is earthy, herby, and chock full of juicy tomatoes and diced onions. The sour wheat, crusty white, and sweet raisin breads served alongside complete the dish. This is enough for a very satisfying lunch or a shared snack plate among 3 friends. It’s amazing how well this Belgian place does a middle eastern plate.

Foccacia de Recco at Rosemary’s

This locavore west village restaurant is a little too pricey for what you get, but there is one thing worth trying here. The foccacia filled with milky, creamy stracchino cheese is among the best breads in the city. Your order arrives piping hot, slick with slightly spicy olive oil and topped with grains of coarse sea salt. When you tear a chunk off the bread, the first scent that hits you is the rosemary, deep and woodsy. Then, the tantalizing smells of yeast and spicy olive oil hits your nostrils. The taste is as good as the aroma. The bread is pliant and soft, with a thin crust, punctuated by sharp rosemary needles. The inside is filled with that mild, creamy cheese, so soft that it makes mozzarella look hard and pungent. This is like grilled cheese on steroids, and it’s worth a visit to the restaurant to try this.

Any cocktail at The Dutch

I have been here several times, and each time have ordered a different cocktail. Every single one has been exemplary – well balanced, interesting but but not different just to be weird, nuanced and also pronounced in all the right places. The bartenders are knowledgeable but not snobby, and have no problem recommending something that you will like. The bar is small but comfortable and the vibe is extremely laid back. Of course, also order something to eat, but this is a great place to get a little tipsy before dinner.

Beef Carpaccio with Truffle Oil at Slightly Oliver

I know I have talked about this place before, but it deserves more mention because I just love it. The cocktails, the  faux-British vibe, and the tasty small plates make this a real gem on the Upper West Side. This carpaccio, made with tender slices of beef and dressed with a peppery arugula salad with a tiny fried quail egg and toast, is a perfect appetizer or even light meal. The addition of truffle oil just elevates it. Mushrooms and beef are always a win, especially when the beef is filet mignon and the mushrooms are truffles.

#winning

A Salt and Battery – NYC’s Own Fish and Chips

If you have ever been to England, you have undoubtedly looked the wrong way when you crossed the street, marveled at how the entire country closes early on Sundays, and eaten fish and chips.

I don’t mean fried fish and french fries. I mean fish and chips. Fresh British fish, served  under puffy golden batter alongside fat, pale yellow chips, doused with sour malt vinegar.Preferably eaten standing up. Preferably eaten slightly drunk.

There is, thankfully, a place to pretty much recreate that experience on this side of the Atlantic.

A Salt and Battery has been in Greenwich Village for a several years – it has beaten Bobby Flay in a Throwdown, been touted as the finest fried fish by The Village Voice, and has been the late night haunt for many NYU students.

The tiny shop, in a row of 2 other same-owned shops offering British candy and tea service, has only a few stools and a counter. Read the menu on the wall and order fast – if you are lucky enough to snag a seat, do it now. And do it with someone you know well – the food here isn’t right for a first date.

Fried Haddock and Chips

The real deal. Thick, flaky haddock is mild and clean tasting under a puffy, perfectly crispy sheath of golden batter. It is moist within its greaseless cage. It sits atop beautifully fried potatoes, thick and creamy within, crunchy without – just like in London. Doused with vinegar and salt until my mouth puckered, this was the best fried fish I have had in this country, without a doubt. The tartar sauce was also good, though a bit less tart than I like.

 

Mushy Peas

The perfect food for those of you who love squash puree and carrots cooked to oblivion. These are verdant and fresh without being overly grassy. They are served piping hot and need only a touch of salt to make them the perfect accompaniment to the main event.

Coleslaw

Incredibly crunchy though being very thickly sauced with a heavy, creamy dressing. Traditional without being overtly  seasoned, it provides a cooling and crispy component to the meal, juxtaposing those gloriously mushy peas.Don’t miss it if you love coleslaw – it’s a solid rendition.

Deep Fried Mars Bar

What, you though that state fairs invented these?

Imagine the world’s gooeist brownie with a molten, creamy nougat center, enclosed in doughnut batter. Yeah. Share one…don’t try to eat one on your own.

Your heart will actually beat slower from all of the fat.

 

The food is great, the service is charming, and the price can’t be beat. Don’t expect fast food – this stuff is made efficiently, but it’s made to order. And it’s worth it. Grab a  Boddignton ale, a jar of malt vinegar, and sit down to wait for one of life’s great pleasures.

And, be warned, A Salt And Battery…next time, I’m coming for the eating challenge. And I’m not going home until I win.

DeKalb Market – Hidden Treasure in Brooklyn

Friendship has to be mutually beneficial. You add something to the relationship and the other person adds something. Otherwise…what’s the point? If that’s the rule of a good friendship, Justin and I have a great one. I send him crazy British potato chips from when I go abroad, and he shows me one of the coolest markets in the NYC area.

DeKalb Market, ongoing 7 days a week through September 30, is an outdoor market with artisanal clothing, tchotchkes, and food. The weekends are supposedly packed, but on a weekday afternoon, the place was pretty empty. Perfect for  either a quick lunch or a delightful afternoon sampling treats from many different establishments.

Mahrlinka Longganisa with Spicy Chiles, Pickled Vegetables, and Mayo

Hello, garlic breath. The first bite of this is extremely garlicky – that spicy, punchy hit of raw garlic that some people love and some hate. I love it. It avoids being overwheming here because the next taste is that of sticky, sweet, pork. The chunks are big and moist, more of a loosely packed sausage than a hot dog. There is a very umami, salty hit that has to be fish sauce.  This sausage is funky, powerful, and definitely not for those who are shy about strong garlicky flavors. The tangy pickled vegetables, creamy mayo, and the heat of green chiles finishes what is one incredible sandwich.

I let Justin have a bite because he led me to this wonderful place. But just one.

Dubpies Curry Chicken Pie

This was one of Justin’s picks. A flaky, crisp curst surrounds a lightly curry flavored filling with moist chicken and tender vegetables. It was incredibly humid out, so I didn’t have more than one bite, but the one I had was quite good, if rather subtle.

I like a curry that kicks me in the face.

Cheeky Sandwiches Shortrib Sandwich with Horseradish

This place also has a location on Manhattan’s LES, and is known for its New Orleans style sandwiches. Though Justin swears by the chicken biscuit, we both decided to branch out this time.

Soft, savory beef layered with wilted arugula, sweet tomatoes, and an almost unholy amount of horseradish. The horseradish is nasal clearing, counteracting with the fruity tomatoes and buttery toasted challah. The sandwich is fantastic in every way – run, don’t walk, to get one.

Cuzin’s Duzin Donuts

These handmade mini donuts, made to order, were good, but not great. Justin and his girlfriend loved them, but I prefer a lighter, yeastier doughnut. These are cake donuts, and thus heartier with a denser texture. They were quite good, just not to my taste.

 I still ate them, of course…

Get yourself to DeKalb Market before it closes! The food is delicious and varied, the weekdays are not crowded, and there are so many more food stalls to try that I didn’t even cover here.

Thanks, Justin, for bringing me here!

Sausage sandwiches – improving friendship, one link at a time.

Cheeky Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Afternoon Tea Chicken Salad Sandwiches

This is a recipe for those of you who love an afternoon treat that hearty enough to tide you over until dinner but light enough not to ruin your appetite. It is for those of you who love to take leftovers and turn them into something new and extraordinary.

It’s for those of you too lazy to chew a sandwich made with crusty bread.

This recipe is dainty, elegant, and extremely tasty. The secret ingredient is a touch of curry powder – not enough to make it taste Indian, but enough to make the diner wonder why the sandwich is so darned tasty. The bread is very important here – using mini croissants really elevates this to company-worthy food, but even very soft, crustless white bread will do. Don’t even think of using something high fiber here.  The main adjectives here are smooth, buttery, and soft.

Afternoon Tea Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded chicken (leftover poached or roasted chicken works well, or use a store-bought rotisserie chicken)

1 cup mayonnaise

4 celery stalks, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1.5 tsp. curry powder

2 tsp. mustard (your favorite…I like Dijon for it’s mild tang)

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

salt and pepper to taste

8 mini croissants, split open

8 leaves iceberg lettuce

8 mini croissants

1. Combine the mayo and the chicken in a bowl and mix to combine. Don’t worry if the chicken gets a little mashed during the mixing process – you want a uniform texture.

2. Add the pepper, onion, and celery.

3. Add the curry powder, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper. Now let the salad marinate in the fridge for 3o minutes. This step is very important. The flavor profiles change and intensify with time, so it’s very important to let the salad rest. After it rests, let it come to room temperature, taste it again, and modify the seasonings if necessary.

4. Spread the salad on the croissants…

and add a lettuce leaf to each sandwich.

5. Close each sandwich and serve, preferably with freshly brewed tea and a slice of cake.

This sandwich is elegant, subtle, and very satisfying. It is creamy but with the textural components of the juicy chicken, crunchy celery, and sweet bell peppers. The lettuce provides a refreshing taste, and the Worcestershire sauce and curry give the chicken salad a distant, mysteriously umami taste. This is delicious served at a party or in a lunchbox. Please don’t leave out the curry – try just a dab and you will be shocked at how subtle and vital it is to this recipe.

Toldja fiber had no place here.

 

gDine at Desmond’s

And this is why I love living in the 21st century.

GDine. This company, that has recently expanded to NYC,  is the answer to all of your group dining prayers. You know, that time when it comes time to pay the bill and all of a sudden, people are in the bathroom, or don’t want to pay for the wine they didn’t drink, or all of a sudden get amnesia and just walk out without paying a dime?

GDine solves all that by offering  ”a multi-course menu with many options at exclusive discounted rates.” Basically, you can go online, choose a 3 course menu for as low as $30 or so, have everyone pay online before they go, and BOOM…then all you have to do is go and enjoy. The dining experience couldn’t be easier or more welcome.

To try this out, I selected a 3 course option at Desmond’s, a modern British restaurant in Midtown East

Desmond’s is a casual restaurant, and although the food is upscale, the atmosphere is extremely relaxed. This is a perfect place to take a mid-day break from shopping – you would not be out of place in nice jeans and a sweater.

Biscuits and butter

An identity crisis of sorts – buttermilk biscuits in a British restaurant? – but the nicest identity crisis across which I have ever come. Warm, fluffy biscuits are light and tender. The whipped butter is creamy and light, delicious when spread over the steaming bread, melting into little pools and rivulets.

Pork Belly with Salted Caramel and Apple Salad

Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, incredibly sweet and undeniably porky. No over seasoning or complex sauces here, just the thick pork belly, with its crackling layer of fat and its tender but not mushy meat. The fat is perfectly rendered, with no gummy or undercooked parts, and paired with the salted caramel, it becomes more savory and earthy; almost wild-tasting. The salad is simple but refreshing, with a light vinaigrette that adds a necessary acidity to the dish.

Salmon Fishcake with Parsley Sauce and Poached Egg

Once again, the interplay of textures is excellent. A thin, extremely crisp crust covers flaky salmon, mixed with soft potatoes and fragrant herbs. It is comforting and mild tasting, and when punctured, the perfectly runny yolk of the poached egg provides a rich sauce for the fishcake. The parsley sauce is herbaceous without being too floury, merely accenting the herbs inside the fish cake. Served with some gently wilted spinach, it is a light but filling lunch.

Meyers of Keswick Bangers and Mash

Of course, if you want to go the heavier route (and more respect if you do), go with the excellently prepared bangers and mash, served with winey caramelized onions.

Eton Mess

This delightful dessert consists of crisp meringue cookies, freshly sliced strawberries, and strawberry coulis, all doused in freshly whipped cream. Served with some basil on top to cut through the sweetness, this is a delightful dessert – fresh, sweet, and not too heavy. I could have eaten a pile of this and…okay, well, I did!

Desmond’s is a great lunch stop, but more so, gDine is a great experience! You are presented with your choices for the meal, then simply eat and leave. Everything else is taken care of ahead of time. The only change that I would make is the fact that the tip must be paid beforehand – tip is something that can vary based on service, and I would prefer to leave it at the restaurant. Other than that, this is a pretty flawless system!

Eating well and not having to worry about splitting the check? Between that and air conditioning, the 21st century has paid for itself.

*Disclaimer: My meal was paid for, courtesy of GDine. I was not paid, nor was I required to write a review. My opinions are my own and, I feel, unbiased.*

Desmond's NY on Urbanspoon

Alice’s Tea Cup, for the Little Girl in You

When I was a little girl, I would have loved coming to Alice’s Tea Cup. Fairy wings on the wall, mismatched tea sets and sweet servers whose only desire, it seems, is to help you choose which color of tea will be prettiest with your party dress. 
 Hell, I know a lot of little boys who would have loved that too.
I was a Musical Theatre major, remember?
 And it is kind of hard not to like teapots with cute little animal figurines on them.
 There are literally HUNDREDS of teas and blends you can try. We are talking black teas, green teas, white teas, tea blends…I always thought tea kinda tasted like hot bathwater. I got the Christmas Blend, which tasted like cinnamon-y, nutmeg-y…bathwater. What can I say? I’m just not a tea person. 
My sister, who is a tea person, loved her iced passion fruit tea.
 Now THIS was the reason that I came. For 2 people for $37, you get 2 pots of tea, 3 scones the size of a small country with whipped cream and jam, 6 finger sandwiches and a plate of dessert offerings for the day.
That is a lot of food, people. And you can order it from 11 AM in the morning. My kind of brunch, indeed.
There is so much food and so many ways to customize this that it is nearly impossible not to enjoy your meal. 
Roasted Cumin Carrot Sandwich. Thin ribbons of carrots were roasted so their sugars caramelized but the vegetable still retained a bit of texture – no baby food here. The carrots’ natural sweetness melded well with the smoky spice of the cumin and the mild cream cheese spread. It was a simple sandwich that was elevated by the unusual pairing of ingredients (cumin and cream cheese?) and the truly awesome bread. All the baked goods here are house made, and this tangy, airy bread dotted with hearty seeds was a fantastic addition to the sandwich. 
They also have a great classic egg salad sandwich – creamy, fragrant with dill and peppery with watercress. Not too mushy, with ample chunks of smooth white and luscious yolk. 
Though there was a great pumpkin scone that was sweet, spicy with cinnamon and tasted like pumpkin pie gone rogue, my favorite scone of the day was the ham and cheese. Sharp, tangy cheddar mixed with salty bits of Southern ham and scallions. The scones were dense but not brick-like. I could really work my way through one without feeling like I was at war with a zeppelin in my stomach. That is why these large scones work well – they are delicate instead of leaden.
By the time you get to dessert, you might feel kind of full. That’s okay, because the lemon tart was a bit too sweet and runny for my tastes.
I like them tart and firm. 
Like I like my men.
Too bad I didn’t save room for this mocha cake.
But that is really my only complaint for Alice’s Tea Cup. It was delicious, it was well priced and it was well served. Consider yourself warned that there are plenty of families with small children here, the room is a bit warm for the summertime, and there is estrogen here. 
A lot of estrogen. 
My dad would kill himself. 
But, even though I’m not a little girl…I still love coming to Alice’s Tea Cup.
Alice's Tea Cup on Urbanspoon

Albert Hall Brings Gastropub Fare To Hell’s Kitchen

There is this new group in town, called [Exploration] Dining that, for a fee, allows you to pay half price at a number of restaurants around town. They also do excursions with dining groups, where people eat at either brand new restaurants that are under the radar, or old restaurants people have forgotten about. The whole point is to, literally, explore your own city. I mean, we do live in NYC…it totally makes sense to have this company here! I was invited to a press dinner at Royal Albert Tavern, so of course I am more inclined to like this company, but really…it’s kind of a simple but awesome idea!
Albert Hall Tavern is a new gastropub in Hell’s Kitchen…
HALLELUJAH!

Hell’s Kitchen has awesome Thai food and some great bakeries, but – with the exception of Danji – very few nicer places that I have not tried already. This eclectic, cheeky restaurant with a relaxed but upscale vibe seemed like it might be a welcome addition.

Sometimes you CAN judge a book by its cover.
Oysters - Malpagues and Blue Points.

These were absolutely perfect oysters. Briney, salty, fresh and tender, with just a slight bit of shallot to accentuate the natural oceanic taste. Oysters are always the perfect start to a meal – light but complex in flavor, they just whet my appetite!
Screaming Oysters from Hell-Fried oysters with a Sriracha relish, served over grilled pineapple.

FABULOUS! I don’t think these were from Hell, per se, but they were definitely from a a very sassy place. The oysters were those same fresh beauties as before, this time crispy breaded in a grease-less, albeit a touch thick, fried-chicken like coating. The garlicky, vinegary, spicy sauce added that hit of heat to the oyster that makes any dish more vibrant and interesting. The warm, slightly charred pineapple brought a sweet note that really completed the dish. A stand out dish.
Tuna Tartare with Quail Egg

Not innovative, but delicious. Fresh, buttery tuna melded with the rich, yolky quail egg and a bit of jalapeno peppers for a flawless rendition of tuna tartare. A little spicy, very fresh, on a fantastically buttery crostini.
Deviled Braised Short Rib with Horseradish and Mustard Seed.

Extremely tender beef, gently braised into a sort of meat jam…it sounds disgusting but tasted AMAZING. It was literally so tender that it actually did melt in my mouth. The mustard gave it a tangy edge, and the horseradish-tomato jam cut through the beef’s fat perfectly with its spicy-sweet taste. If this is what happens when you braise beef for 30 minutes longer than I normally do…I will have to give it a try!!
Pickled Sardines with Fennel Pollen and Meyer Lemon Cream.

My least favorite dish of the night. I just thought the sardines were too damn fishy. The fennel was a nice vegetal addition to the dish, bu the vinegary, fishy taste just overwhelmed the Meyer lemon. And this is form someone who really does like sardines.
Grilled Radicchio with Trifoline Cheese and Butternut Squash Carpaccio.
WOW! Why don’t I ever grill radicchio at home!!! This took all the bitterness out of the lettuce and imparted a smoky, almost meaty taste to the leaf. Wilted but not without some crunch, it paired so well with the cheese – somewhere between Roquefert, Tallegio and Guryere cheeses – this was for a lover of stinky cheeses! The squash underneath was a smooth and sweet component that really rounded out the dish, along with the delicious fatty snap of some slivered almonds. This was just an awesome combination of flavors and textures that I MUST recreate at home!

Stemed Mussels with charred rosemary and black garlic.

These were good if not great. The mussels themselves were delicious – plump and sweet with nary a grain of sand or a bad one in there. But, while the garlic was too subtle to detect, the rosemary was WAY too strong. It’s woodsy, earthy aroma totally overpowered the delicate mussels. This dish was prepared well, just was not to my liking – someone who likes meat more than fish might actually quite like this dish.
Roasted Suckling Pig with maple rum.

How have I never had suckling pig before? Suckling pig is to pork what Catherine Zeta Jones is to me.
One just blows the other clear out of the water.

This meat was so tender, so sweet, so fatty, so moist…I really have no words. It was the most intense explosion of porcine flavor next to the simplest, softest texture imaginable…it was a totally bizarre and wonderful experience. Though the skin was a bit tough to cut (okay, I’ll admit it…I just used my hands), it’s sweetness played perfectly with the sweetness of the meat. I loved how un-seasoned the pork was. No herbs, no sauces, very restricted use of salt…just total pork taste dominating my palate. Awesome.
This meal was excellent. The service was great, the atmosphere is nice enough for a date but relaxed enough to show up in jeans and a t-shirt and the food was sensational. The price point was very reasonable and the beer list was AWESOME…try the Estrella Galica or the Gavroche French Red Ale if you think you don’t like beer! [Exploration] Dining definitely peaked my interest in their group AND in Albert Hall Tavern.
And…in suckling pig.

*Note: My meal was paid for by the restaurant.  I was not paid or required to write a review, and my opinions are my own and, I feel, impartial.*





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