The Back Room at One57 – Foie Gras for Breakfast?!

The title just says it all, doesn’t it?

I’ll quickly set the scene so I can get you to the good stuff without too much delay.

20150510_092116 The Back Room at One57 is the NYC Park Hyatt’s flagship restaurant. It’s modern and elegant with a cool, open exterior that feels upscale but not cold. 20150510_092123Details like these sweet flowers and a huge display of fruit in the middle of the room keep the space from being too antiseptic. There are a fair amount of hotel guests eating here but I think that it will be popular with NYC dwellers too.

20150510_094117 Shakshuka with baked egg, merguez, and ciabatta

Excellent. Well spiced and fragrant with harissa and cinnamon-scented merguez. The eggs are ideally baked so the yolks are still runny and the only thing that you need is some more ciabatta to soak up that delicious sauce.

20150510_094137Fruit plate

Not your standard melon and green strawberries. Sweet lychee, plump and taut blackberries, beautifully supremed grapefruit – this is worth ordering. Especially because you need something to lighten up your main dish.
20150510_094124 Seared foie gras with poached egg, creamy mushrooms, and black truffle butter
20150510_094322 Take that in for a minute. That’s fat atop umami atop buttery atop creamy. That’s thickly seared and salted foie melting into buttery egg yolk and some of the best mushrooms I have recently enjoyed. The truffle is subtle – it doesn’t overwhelm the foie, it accentuates it. If it isn’t for the tangle of vinegary greens, you might just have a heart attack then and there. 20150510_094653What a way to go.

The Back Room at One57 is officially the most decadent breakfast spot in the city. It’s pricey but the service is great, the food is delicious, and the atmosphere is impressive. Sure, you need a Lipitor and a nap at 9 am if you dine here, but it’s SO worth it. 

The Great Noodle Tour: Peking Duck at Wei Jing Ge

The last night of our stay, we ate at our hotel’s restaurant, Wei Jing Ge.

We had early flights the next morning. We were tired from sightseeing all day. And we wanted some Peking duck before we left China. Wei Jing Ge delivered on all counts.

20150428_065257 Pardon the dark photographs – the restaurant is very elegant (though quite empty) and it’s dark. I couldn’t put my flash on without being “that ugly American.” This is a great place for a client dinner or an elegant night on the town with a loved one. 20150428_065304-001 Or a family who is about to travel 17 million hours across the ocean soon. 20150428_065310-001 Beautiful Chinoiserie place setting. 20150428_072140-001 Crispy pork belly served with sugar and mustard

That’s right sugar and mustard! You dip the pork into the mustard first and then just a touch of the sugar. The result is a granular, spicy, sweet marinade that you will soon be eating off of your fingers. It’s awesome. So is the pork belly. The meat is firmer than I’m used to and with a more distinctively barnyard-y, hay taste. It’s like wild boar – I love it. The fat is only rendered on top – a golden, crispy, sharp crackling – so if you don’t like that squishy fat feeling of un-rendered fat, this won’t be for you.

Again, I love it. 20150428_072554-001 Sauteed Chinese greens with ginger

You might think that this is bok choy, but you would be mistaken. Our lovely server told us that there is no English name for this Chinese green which is sweeter, more tender, and much less fibrous than bok choy. With some ginger, it’s an excellent palate cleanser to a meat-heavy meal. 20150428_072558Honey-lacquered bbq pork

I’ll just let you guess how melting, tender, juicy, soft, and sweet this was.

Yeah, it is practically dessert. 
20150428_073253 Spicy sesame noodles20150428_073447-001 Oh, get the hell out of here, NYC delivery guy. This is such a far cry from the crap on Seamless. These noodles are bouncy, wheaty, airy enough to soak up the sauce. The sauce is salty, sweet, nutty, almost meaty. It’s complex and scattered with scallions and bits of sweet sautéed garlic. It’s just…wow. The dreamiest noodles I had on the entire trip. 20150428_074747-001 Peking duck

I wish that I had a better video or photograph of this. This Peking duck…damn. First of all, the whole duck is carved down to, what must be, an ounce per person of meat and fat. You look at it and you’re like…wow, is this the diet portion? Then you eat it and you’re like, wow…I won’t be able to finish this. And you aren’t. You are served meat with skin that is juicy, tender, and covered with sweet skin. You are served plain skin that is sharp and sticky, crackly and potato-chip-y in the best way possible. You layer them all in pliable pancakes topped with cucumber, scallions, chilli, and hoisin sauce. You think about how this is the greatest duck you have ever had. 20150428_074943-001 You eat these little tacos until you can no longer imbibe. 20150428_085720You finish off the meal with the world’s greatest coffee frappe at the hotel’s famed Long Bar. It used to be that the people with the highest social status sat closest to the window and those who were still climbing the ranks sat toward the other end of the bar.

This meal is worthwhile no matter where you are staying. It’s on the pricier side of Shanghai dining, but with that price comes air conditioning, excellent service, and a memorable dining experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2115A place where plump, syrupy dates are stuffed with almonds and candied orange peel. Dont’ skip these – they are so delicious all over the Middle East. 

IMG_2126Where the amuse bouche is a buttery shortbread topped with chantilly and a forest of tiny, sweet berries that are bright and juicy as if they were just picked that day. 

IMG_2135A place where the lamb comes to a nice, steely gray and the potatoes are little more than mealy mash. So far, the portions are small and the food is unimpressive.

IMG_2140A place where every course is everflowing. 
20150201_095510 A place where the tea sandwiches are lovely and sprinkled with gold and caviar. The saffron bread is aromatic and the salmon salad is soft and lush – easily the best savory bite of the afternoon.
20150201_102225 A place where the tea tower looks like the hotel. Every detail is thought of here, down to the very tea tower that they use. 

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

IMG_2147A place where litchee sorbet and candied rose petals seems almost pedestrian next to the $500 whiskey that the table next to you just ordered…at 1 in the afternoon. 

The surroundings are gorgeous. The service is deferential almost to a fault. The food is…well, it’s meh. And it’s way too expensive, even with a glass of lovely, dry Louis Roderer champagne at the beginning. But it’s the only way to get into the Burj al Arab without ponying up for a room there – that’s right, you have to pay for this rather mediocre tea at a rather extraordinary price just to get inside the gilded gates.  And it’s a once in a lifetime experience. 20150201_110705And I still wish that I had stolen that cool toilet paper.

WastED NY with Brooks Headley

I was treated to an extraordinary experience last weekend.

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

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

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

But then, so was the dinner.

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Beef tallow candles

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

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

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Dumpster dive salad

Pistachio, damaged storage apples and pears, whipped chickpea water

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

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Blue Hill Farm Egg from table scrap fed hens

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

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

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Juice pulp cheeseburger

Let’s dissect this:

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

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

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

Bruised beet ketchup  – sweet and piquant.

We fought over this one. Sharing was difficult. 

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Dog food with wasted potatoes and gravy

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

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Brooks Headley Special Dessert

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

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

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

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

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

Kura – Hidden Entrance, Unforgettable Omakase

I had an awesome sushi meal the other night.

It was pricier than I thought it might be…but it was really good. In fact, I think that it was worth the extra cost.

If you see an unmarked door on St. Mark’s, don’t pass it by.

Unmarked doors are often the best kept secrets.

20150318_182838 Kura is a small restaurant that delivers big omakase. At 3 set price points – 85, 105, or 125 dollars – your only decisions are if you want sake (you do) and how many pieces of sushi you want (even the smallest set really delivers, thanks to amuse bouches and dessert). The vibe is casual and friendly but you can see that the sushi is serious. There is just one long, blonde bar and a single table. We walked in,but make a reservation to be sure that you aren’t turned away. The chefs are kind and jovial and the music is relaxing – a great place for dinner with a friend or loved one.

Though there were some dishes I’m not featuring here, including a wonderful amuse bouche of delicate samon roe over warm rice and crisp nori and a TO DIE FOR toro hand roll at the end of the meal, here are a few highlights:20150318_183453Medium fatty tuna

I was surprised to start the meal with this fatty fish, but I liked it! It wasn’t too fatty or full flavored – it was just fatty enough to be indulgent without overwhelming my tastebuds.
20150318_184029 (1) Scallops

An impeccable scallop. Buttery, soft, mild. Atop crispy nori for a textural contrast and vinegary rice. A bit of sharp ginger to cleanse the palate and I was in heaven. 20150318_184331 Fluke

Cool and clean tasting with a zing of lemony, spicy yuzu underneath the fish. Delicious. 20150318_184806 Clam

The most tender clam I have ever had in the sushi arena. Usually it’s crunchy – not my fave. This is tender and smooth. It tastes gently salty and very fresh. 20150318_184901 Mackerel

Broiled mackerel atop warm sushi rice. More like eel than mackerel I have had before in sushi – meaty, rich, pleasantly oily. 20150318_185537 Eel

Excellent! No need to hide eel this succulent, soft, and buttery beneath a shellac of sugary sauce. This eel stands for itself and it’s phenomenal. 20150318_185753 Uni

My favorite sushi of the night. Simple, clean uni (must be Santa Barbara) brushed with soy and served on lukewarm rice and crispy nori. Cold, warm, salty, sweet, crunchy, soft. Beautiful synthesis of flavors and textures. 20150318_190428 Miso soup

Astounding, largely because it was unexpected. Miso soup at the end of a sushi meal is pretty common, but THIS miso soup isn’t. This miso soup tastes nothing less than gourmet. It’s gentle and deep, with an intense umami taste but nothing too salty or bitter. There are tender, sweet clams. Clouds of red miso. It’s just phenomenal and really filling. 20150318_191525Mochi with sweet soy glaze

Less of a dessert, but hey – it’s Japanese, right? Chewy, sticky rice balls in a sweet and salty teriyaki-esque glaze.

Kura is sensational. The fish is sublime, the service is lovely, and though it’s not cheap, it’s a great splurge meal.

Unmarked doors are ALWAYS the best.

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.

Zuma – Bring the Black Card and Expect Fabulous Food

I have been to Zuma in London and Hong Kong, so I knew what to expect.

Basically:

1)Wear your trendiest duds.

2) Have a reservation.

3) Leave your cash at home, just bring your credit card and prepare to pay a LOT.

4) The vibe is sexy. The drinks are really well made. And the food is mother-freakin’ fabulous. This is the perfect place for a blow out birthday meal or bachelor/bachelorette experience.

20150209_191953 Old fashioned

Whistle Pig bourbon and an entire shaved iceberg in the glass. I don’t even like old fashioneds and this was excellent. Side note – they need to stock their bar with all of the booze that’s on the menu. The one murky spot in otherwise awesome night. 20150209_195543 Soft shell crab

Where the hell do they get soft shell carb so great in the off season?  Creamy, crunchy, and buttery with the slightly salty taste of the sea. Flash fried and greaseless, well salted and served with a tangy yuzu dipping sauce. 20150209_202229 Wasabi scallion scallop sashimi

Light, soft, velvety and punctuated with sharp scallions and a tiny hit of wasabi. One tasty sashimi dish. 20150209_202647Negitoro maki

Excellent, though for the price, I would get another fusion dish, like the excellent miso black cod. This is really great, don’t get me wrong – I just prefer to do my sushi eating at the bar. I know, I know – I’m snobby and I like it that way.
20150209_204303Ginger-ponzu asparagus

Oh yeah, this was the night’s sleeper hit! Who would have thought that some simple, char-grilled asparagus could be so satisfying?! Meaty, fresh, crispy, and topped with a tangy-sour-sweet sauce that was so good that we ended up drizzling it all over everything else at the table.
20150209_211208Steak

A HUGE portion and a really satisfying steak. Grilled to a succulent medium – totally pink with no bloody red or overdone gray. Cut into bite sized pieces and served in a sweet teriyaki marinade. This really satisfies those red meat cravings.

Zuma is super pricey but also super beautiful with great service and an interesting, utterly crave-worthy menu. Think Morimoto with a location that’s more convenient to uptown with a sexier, darker decor. I would come here again as soon as I could either apply for another credit card or at least justify the expense.

How does tomorrow sound?

Picholine – A Luxurious, Delicious Gem of a Restaurant

My photographs from my recent dinner at Picholine are terrible, but that’s because the lighting is soft and romantic.

Make no mistake…the food is nearly as good as it is at Daniel. I was shocked at how amazing it is.

The service is comfortable and friendly, and with very few missteps (forgetting a spoon here, misplacing a dish there), quite good.

Now, let’s get into it, shall we?

First off: the room.

A jewel box. A symphony in dove and lilac. Sparkling crystal chandeliers. Cozy banquettes where lovers, old and young, are seated cheek to cheek over sparkling glasses of rose champagne. Old fashioned and lovely.

The clientele: Your parents. Possibly your grandparents. And, on this night, Alan Alda. Yes, America’s national treasure, Alan Alda.

The food: Any number of set courses or tasting menus. Here are a few of the in every way flawless morsels that we devoured:

20141219_194227 Olive and fennel financier

Warm and subtle, with no overt licorice or olive tastes. Merely yeasty and fragrant with a vague earthy sweetness, studded with salty, juicy bits. My husband, who likes neither olives nor fennel, calls this “the perfect amuse bouche.”20141219_195245 Bread

At first I thought that this was a misstep, but later, I saw that the bread is served room temperature on purpose. It’s a surprisingly, salty, savory baguette, with briny green olives and a yeasty interior, but if it were warm, it would take away from the exceptional cheeses served on the cheese cart. 20141219_195558Warm apple cider with veggie crisp

Like a hug from a very wealthy grandma. Decadent and comforting.
20141219_200154 Seared foie gras

At least as delicious as that served at Daniel and Jean Georges, if not a million times better. Served in a delicate miso broth that is sweet, complimenting the foie’s delicate flavors, this is what foie should be. Soft, salty, buttery, creamy, melty, luxurious. It requires no overt ingredients, like truffle or sweet accompaniments, to make it shine. As you spoon off each bite of foie, its flavor infuses the broth and at the end you are left with a foie flavored miso broth that is pretty much what heaven would taste like. Please don’t miss this foie. It even makes versions in Paris cower at its glory.
20141219_200232 Uni panna cotta

One of Picholine’s signature dishes, and with good reason. Ever y bite is like a visit to the seashore. Smooth, creamy custard over wonderfully fresh and briny uni. Teh topper is a heaping quenelle of caviar, each tiny egg popping with a savory salinity that juxtaposes the sweet custard. They don’t skimp on the luxurious ingredients, which helps make the hefty price tag seem justifiable. 20141219_202126 Pastrami skate with mustard and sauerkraut

Unexpected, uninhibited, and delicious. Crunchy, breadcrumb crusted skate, seared until it’s still juicy but with a crispy exterior. When paired with the warm, punchy sauerkraut and the cool mustard remoulade, it’s a well-balanced melange of flavors, textures, and temperatures. It’s exactly what I didn’t expect at this elegant, French influenced restaurant. 20141219_205250 The cheese cart

Terrance Brennan’s piece de resistance. The best cheese cart in the city, I’mn now convinced – Artisanal be damned. This doesn’t rely on any fondues or nouveau accompaniments. It’s just fantastic cheese. Stinky, creamy, mild, sharp, grassy, cow, sheep, pasteurized, teeming with delicious bacteria…whatever you want, it’s here! The excellent cheese sommelier is helpful and evocative in her descriptions. Don’t miss the wonderful, soft, orange-scented raisins with at least one full fat, creamy  cheese. 20141219_210937 Mignardises

I mean, are these little afer dinner sweets ever not exactly what you wanted? None of these stand out as memorable, but hat could be because I was still in a cheese-fueled lactose haze.

Picholine is a special occasion restaurant hat deserves way more accolades than it gets. It’s as expensive as top-tier restaurants and just as delicious. The service is perhaps a tad less polished than its more illustrious counterparts and the cocktail list is very sad, but the food is exceptional.

Thank you so much to my incredibly romantic husband for surprising me with a date night that I will remember for many years to come.

It almost makes up for that time that you made me watch “How it’s Made: Heated Flooring.”

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.

California Dreamin: The Whimsical World of The Bazaar

When I love something, I love it all the way.

I watch all of The Real Housewives franchises.

I know every dance step to “Oops, I Did it Again” and perform it each and every time I hear it.

And I will eat at every Jose Andres restaurant until I have dined at them all.

This is where The Bazaar comes into play.

This Jose Andres restaurant kinda put him on the map for the West Coast. In the swanky SLS hotel in Beverly Hills, it bills itself as a molecular gastronomic palace that delivers both traditional tapas and nouveau ones. I knew that I had to check it out.

20140927_185223 The vibe is so cool. It’s irreverent and eclectic, like somewhere that your super cool sister might live if she came into a ton of money and went on a trip to Morocco to find herself. Think tribal masks, hologram maitre d’hotels, plush divans on which to dine, and a beautiful outdoor space that seems relaxed yet provides excellent people watching. 20140927_190539 Magic Mojito20140927_190553 Because when your mojito comes sweetened with cotton candy, it’s magical and you get it. It is sweet and tasty, but really…also so cool.

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Even cooler is the capirinha, which comes tableside and frozen with liquid nitrogen. It’s like bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble…but with booze.

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I  found it a little too bitter, but it is still very fun to order.20140927_191005Modern caprese

A little disappointing, to be honest. The flavors are all there – juicy, earthy tomatoes that have the thinnest skin ever…they are totally undetectable, which is great in my book! The pesto is garlicky and fragrant and the little fried croutons are delish. The mozzarella tastes great but the whole “liquid mozzarella” thing falls flat. It just seems like burratta, but less creamy. It delivers on taste but not the molecular gastronomy selling point.
20140927_191339Steak tartare on kimchi crackers

One of the winners of the night. Less molecular gastronomy, more fusion of great flavors. The crisps are made in house and have just the faintest memory of kimchi – some heat and a little fish funkiness that plays off of the steak tartare in a classic Worcestershire sauce way. The tartare is way above par. It’s so rich and hand chopped, so it has a good chew and a really minerally, deep flavor. It isn’t overly spiced or salted – the kimchi rice crisp does most of the flavoring work. Excellent. 
20140927_192617 Caesar Salad

Great idea, okay execution. The lettuce rolls are filled with cheese and caesar dressing, then topped with more cheese or a raw quail egg yolk. It needs some more acid, salt, and garlic to really come through.20140927_193241 Chicken croquettes

Just as delicious as I remembered them. Wow, I love these. 20140927_193319 Yellowtail ceviche with grapes, rice crisps, and yogurt

Good, not great – wouldn’t get it again. It just fell flat. The grapes are a surprising punch of juice and sweetness, but the yellowtail needs some more acid to keep it from tasting flat and/or fishy. 20140927_193748 Philly Cheesesteak20140927_193807I wish that I had a photo of the inside of these sandwiches because they were filled with homemade cheese whiz….yes, you heard that right…CHEEZ WHIZ…BUT HOMEMADE AND CREAMY AND SHARP AND CHEDDAR AND DELICIOUS! The bread is a very crisp, hollow cracker that is filled with that cheese mixture and the top is layered with thin slices of buttery, delicate Wagyu beef. I could eat another 4 of these, easily.

So, what did I think of Bazaar? Well, I liked it…a lot! It wasn’t insanely pricey (for a special occasion meal), the service was some of the best hat we had in LA, and the food was for the most part quite good. However..it should be billed as modern tapas. Not molecular astronomy. It doesn’t deliver on that front.

Where it does deliver is on the meat front.

Get that steak tartare and magic mojito, then sit back and watch people pull up with their Audis and their nose jobs. It doesn’t get any better than that.