• Daniel (2)
• Eleven Madison Park
• Eleven Madison Park (2)
• Eleven Madison Park (3)
• Gabriel Kreuther
• Le Bernardin
• Per Se
• Per Se (2) (extended tasting)
• Per Se (3) (vegetarian tasting)
• Per Se (4)
• Senses (Warsaw, Poland)
I’ve been a pretty bad food blogger lately, in part because I’ve been a pretty bad restaurant-goer lately, in part because I’ve been a pretty great home-cooker lately. (If you’re looking for recipes involving all manner of melting cheese on things you find around the house, I’m your gal.) But my friends and I were all still off our diets on Saturday night last weekend after Thanksgiving, so we headed off to find some sloppy Brooklyn Heights Mexican food. But on the way, my boyfriend decided he wanted Bareburger, because there’s really nothing sloppier.
I only had my camera phone with me, so the pictures are crappy, but I think they give you a good idea of what Bareburger is all about, which is DEEP-FRIED STUFF on top of JUICY THINGS, with a side of BACKFAT and BELLYROLL. I got the brisket burger, which is stacked with smoky brisket, pepperjack cheese, raw red onions, smoked paprika mayonnaise, and panko-crusted butter pickle chips. They recommended bison for the burger patty (there’s also elk, ostrich, wild boar, lamb, turkey, etc.), but I said NO and took mine with beef. Of course. And I mean, it’s just sort of unfair; there are crispy fried pickles on top of the thing and in between the buns. I’m not going to not love this.
Of course we split a side of onion rings and fries (the Bare Snacks size, not the Bare Sides size, because the much-larger Snacks size also comes with four dipping sauces), and then I had the Banana Fritter Sundae, which was their organic vanilla ice cream topped with caramel sauce, studded with deep-fried fritters, and served with toasted walnuts, which I asked for on the side, because nuts ruin ice cream and everyone knows it. The ice cream was pretty standard, but the fritters were super crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside and full of that special much-better-flavor that bananas have when they’re cooked.
And that, of course, led to GIANT BEERS, which my friend Kim is so tastefully modeling below. This is the medium size. She couldn’t actually lift the glass with one hand until the beer was half gone. But the best drink, if you ask me, is their Moscow Mule, which they pump full of tangy, spicy, legitimate ginger and then plop a piece of candied ginger in.
Sometimes I try to quit Bareburger for the sake of my wallet, because that brisket burger is $14 on its own, and I’m not a woman who’s going to forego the fries. It’s not even my favorite burger in NYC, and Shake Shack is even closer to my apartment. But sometimes I just really want the tallest, fattest, finger-lickingest burger I can get my hands on, and Bareburger has it.
If you’re like me, you probably think of Ted’s Montana Grill as a place for business deals, happy hours, and big, juicy bison steaks. The Midtown location in NYC is great for all of those things, with its hardwoods and low lighting and intimate booths, but when Creative Communications Consultants invited me in to try a complementary meal at Ted’s Montana Grill, they encouraged me to give the newly-revamped brunch menu a chance.
Because Ted’s is in a more business-oriented part of town, I would’ve never thought of it for brunch, and the massive space was pretty quiet when we arrived at 1 p.m. An hour later, though, things were filling up, so I guess it just takes people a little time to make their way uptown. The staff told my boyfriend and me that when designing the new brunch menu, they wanted to please the people who were there for breakfast foods and the people who wanted to eat the Ted’s signature items no matter the time of day, so we ordered a mix of the two.
There’s a dim lamp in each of the high-walled booths and a map of the American West covering each table. It’s very handsome and atmospheric.
We had just come back from a trip to the Philippines, so my boyfriend adorably tried to order a glass of pineapple juice. Ted’s doesn’t have that, but they do have fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices with thick paper straws.
Some nice half-sour pickles arrived for us to savor while we admired the gigantic bison head on the wall behind us. These were perfectly salty and still retained so much of their cucumber flavor. I wanted to put them on a burger immediately.
They’re not lying when they say everything is made in-house here; we could tell that the sweet corn had been cut right off the cob for this dish. It was filled with tender, fall-apart bison short ribs with tons of BBQ flavor. They tasted so beefy, yet with just a hint of something extra. The rich flavors of the onion and peppers hit us first, but then a little brightness from the cucumber came in at the end. There was so much depth in this plate; certain bites had a combination of flavors that made me pause to enjoy the bliss.
I’m a little bit skeptical when you start using too many superlatives, but this really was one of the finest fish sandwiches I’ve had. The breading was crunchy but not too thick, the cod was so flaky it didn’t want to stay contained in the breading, and the grainy bun added earthiness and made the sandwich feel more upscale. I’m such a tartar sauce snob, but this one was very flavorful with its chives and capers and totally passed my test. The coleslaw was so tangy, and I loved the green onion in it. And the fries–OMG, perfect. They were like county fair fries, super crispy and with the skin still on, extra salty and oily without being greasy. This wasn’t only a great fish sandwich but a great plate all around, where even the side dishes were stars.
This isn’t usually something I’d order (I want carbs on carbs with extra meat for brunch), but the manager told us it was one of her favorites and that we’d want to eat the house-made tomatillo salsa on everything. Apparently the chef had a Latino friend consult on how to make it extra-authentic, and we did think it was a winner. It actually tasted like it had mango or pineapple added to it, but it turns out that was just the natural sweetness of the tomatillo. It gave us a slow burn in the back of the throat, tamed by the egg and crispy tortilla. It could’ve actually been spicier for my taste, but this was a really hearty dish, great for vegetarians who still eat eggs.
This is exactly what I want from French toast. It was like someone took the very best banana bread from their grandma’s kitchen to make this. The outside had a crunchy coating, and the inside was nice and fluffy, not too dense. The bananas on the side were cooked down to sugary-sweetness, and they imparted a little of their flavor onto the dollop of smooth whipped cream. Even the butter served alongside the dish somehow seemed exceptional, just because it was salted. I would order this every time, with a short rib hash to take care of the part of me that loves savory alongside my sweet.
Growing up in Ohio, my family farm was down the road from a field full of bison, and my mom used to take my little sister and me to the field on summer afternoons to visit them. I have such fond memories of those times and remember how majestic I used to think the bison were, so it sort of warms my heart that Ted’s Montana Grill brought the bison back to the American table and made a market for bison farmers. On top of that, I loved everything I ate at Ted’s. I’ll think about that tender short rib, those county fair fries, and the crispy coating on the French toast for a long time to come, and with bottomless brunch cocktails, I know other New Yorkers are going to love this new menu, too.
Recently, I’ve been watching the movie Silver Linings Playbook a lot, both because it’s been on HBO and because I’m a sap. There’s this epic scene where Bradley Cooper’s character is desperately trying to find his wedding video in the middle of the night, and Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” plays over his frantic search. I try to imagine the scene without the song, and it’s just nothing by comparison. And I’m sure we all have these movie moments where the music mattered so much to us and really made the scene. Chef and author Barbara Werner has figured out that the same can be said for music and food with her new book series and app, Musical Pairing: The Art of Harmonizing Music to Your Meal.
When Barbara invited me to a nine-course music-paired tasting on her at the Ruth’s Chris Steak House near Times Square last week, I expected that she’d just rented out the upstairs meeting room for the atmosphere and would be having a caterer serve us tiny one-bite plates, enough to give us a sample of what an actual musical pairing dinner party could be like. After the first course, I was dying to know the caterer’s name. Because I am dumb. Of course it was Ruth’s Chris food we were eating, and it was all incredible.
My friend Kim and I were seated at a U-shaped table with other journalists, bloggers, photographers, and eaters,
and in front of each of us was a set of Frends headphones in either rose gold or black that were ours to keep.
When Barbara Werner began speaking, we couldn’t help but stop sipping our champagne and admiring our new electronics, because the woman is a real charmer. She was funny. She was honest. She spoke openly about being divorced and how much she loves being a single woman but how she hates the way restaurants announce to all of the other diners that she’s alone the moment she walks in the door. “Table for ONE? Do we have a table for ONE LONELY PERSON?” She didn’t want to have to join Match.com just to be taken out to dinner, she said, but she hated the stigma attached to treating just herself to dinner. So Barbara started wearing headphones while she ate to block out the clatter of silverware as the server removed the extra setting from her table for two, and that’s when she realized that something special was happening.
To start the evening, Barbara’s assistants hooked us all up to iPods,
and then servers brought our food to us as we began listening to the song Barbara had decided to pair with that particular course. She said that she’d specifically chosen headphones versus piping the music throughout the room over loudspeakers to ensure that we’d know it was the music that had made the meal so memorable and not the fantastic conversation we were having with the people next to us.
Our example course was a single scoop of vanilla ice cream, something we all knew well and could use as a baseline. As our dishes arrived, a classical music piece began playing. It was fine. The ice cream tasted like ice cream. But when they switched us over to “Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major”, the ice cream suddenly tasted . . . different. Brighter. Creamier. I knew it was just the power of suggestion, but did I care? If I stop feeling pain because of a placebo pill, I’ve still stopped feeling pain, right? It was a little bit exciting to me to think that my brain could be won over by a couple of violins. I was also probably won over by the fact that this woman was serving me ice cream for an amuse bouche.
The rest of the night would only get better from there, thanks to Barbara’s song choices and this sampling of the Ruth’s Chris menu.
Barbara explained that her pairings are derived from a simple mathematical formula that takes into account the type of protein, the way it’s cooked, and then all of the side dishes and sauces. Since this tuna wasn’t cooked, its musical pairing number was small, so she needed a song with a matching small number. She was looking for a steady beat with no big sweeps, not a lot of dynamics. What she ended up with was “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Go’s. I absolutely loved the spicy wasabi and ginger with the freshness of the tuna and cilantro.
Barbara has a culinary degree and comes from a long line of butchers. She was a self-described nerd in school, a choir geek, and learned about whatever music her crush of the moment was into to make boys like her. And she’s great at talking about food. The way she described the classic veal osso buco had my mouth watering even before the dish was anywhere in sight. This one was infused with saffron and was so rich and buttery. I’m not sure I’d heard of Florida Georgia Line before the dinner, and I don’t usually listen to country music, but “Cruise” had me wanting to dance in my seat and sing along.
I don’t eat a whole lot of squid in my life, and I was actively trying to control my portions so I’d be able to save room for the THREE COURSES OF DESSERT, but I couldn’t stop shoving this stuff in my maw. Set to the tune of Carly Simon’s “Let the Rivers Run” (the theme from Working Girl), it was bursting with red pepper flavor that’s making me salivate even as I type this. The lemon we squeezed over the whole plate was the perfect bright contrast to the heavy batter.
And speaking of heavy batter, next up was the biggest onion ring I’d seen in my life. Barbara called this “the greatest stoner food known to man” and paired it with stoner music, “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones. The coating on this was so thick it went from crunchy on the outside back to doughy again on the inside. I loved getting the best of both worlds, and really, the fact that this was a tempura batter meant that it was surprisingly light. I loved the Thai flavors of the dipping sauce.
Next up was a roasted chicken breast paired with Cream’s “White Room”, perfect for the herbaceous cream sauce that burst out of the chicken when I cut into its crisp skin. But the star of this dish, and maybe reason enough on its own to visit Ruth’s Chris Steak House, was the sweet potato casserole with a pecan crust. It was CANDY. It could’ve easily been dessert. And did I taste a hint of orange in it? The fact that no one is writing love poems to these sweet potatoes is a crime. The Best.
Finally, we got to the Ruth’s Chris signature: a petite filet mignon medallion with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus. This is the dish that inspired Barbara to write her Musical Pairing series. She was at Ruth’s Chris one night by herself, listening to Luciano Pavarotti sing “Nessum Dorma”, when she was inspired to figure out why this song and this food went so perfectly together. The song was so epic–probably too epic for my taste in any other setting, actually–but there was this moment when I was spooning these potatoes drowning in butter into my mouth that I thought I’d never be able to eat steak without music ever again after this.
Harry Connick, Jr. sang “It Had to Be You” to us as we ate this mini banana cream pie that was more fresh banana than pie. We loved how it was just lightly sweet and how it was so much more “real food” than banana pudding is. The espresso martini it was served with was all chocolate and sugar, on the other hand, and of course I loved that in an entirely different way.
This was like an apple pie stuffed into a bread pudding with all of its cinnamon and fruits. It was paired with The Mamas and the Papas’ “Words of Love” and a creamy whiskey sauce that seemed to also have a whole lotta powdered sugar in it.
This really needs no description, because it’s all in the name. Eating this cake is a sin. Especially after eight previous courses and ice cream to start the whole night off. It was so dense and decadent that half of the room left their plate nearly untouched. I, on the other hand, ate nearly all of it but left behind a single bite to show that I’m in control of my appetite. And I’ll regret that decision every day of my life.
Several years ago, when I was a faithful minimum wage bookstore employee, I was so excited to read This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession the moment it arrived in the store. I was dying to know why music affected me so much, influenced my mood so intensely. What the book basically told me was, “We have no idea.” But even if I don’t know why my connection to music is so meaningful, it is. And well, my connection to food is embarrassing at times. As I sat listening to this Florida Georgia Line song I had never heard before and was finding it so unbelievably catchy, I wondered if the food had as much to do with me liking the song as the song had to do with me liking the food. It’s been a few months since I’d had a good tasting menu, so maybe it was partly just that I was experiencing the euphoria of an overly-full belly, but I kept exclaiming, “This is the best night of my life!” Loudly, so my friend could hear me through her headphones. And she was feeling the same way. Whether or not we can pinpoint the science behind musical pairing, we’re dying to host a music-paired dinner party full of the very best/truly, truly terrible songs our iPods can produce.
If you want to do the same, check out the beginnings of musicalpairing.com for videos and contests, and try the beta app at mpwebapp.com to see actual song suggestions based on your menu.
Thanks to Barbara Werner and Ruth’s Chris Steak House NYC for an amazing time!
There’s nothing a New Yorker loves more than feigning disinterest in other cities. We have everything worth having here, and Chicago can take its sparkling blue lake and shove it. But somehow, when it comes to food, New Yorkers have a fascination with everything from everywhere. Maybe it’s just that we want to say we’ve had it. Maybe it’s just that we want to be able to intelligently naysay it. Maybe it’s that we want to put it on a cronut.
In any case, I found myself at the made-famous-in-L.A. Umami Burger on its fourth day in NYC. Partly because I had planned to go to the park and it was raining, and partly because I figured not having to stand in the dinner line was one gift I could give myself as an unemployed lady. It turned out that the rain had dissuaded all of the half-hearted burger-eaters and left my friends Kim and Jack and me with a mere ten-minute wait for a table during what should have been the lunch rush.
We were seated in a not-quite-as-cramped-as-you-would-think booth in the corner and greeted by a super-friendly server who told us our burgers would be half-off because the buns that day weren’t as “pretty” as the Umami Burger standards would dictate. The unemployment gods were smiling upon me. Sadly, they weren’t serving the special five-spice duck burger only available at the NYC location that day, but they made up for it with a pastrami burger with an inch of spicy, smoky, herby lunchmeat on top of the hand-ground steak burger:
You can tell these things aren’t coming off some truck frozen because of the way they fall apart when you cut into them; they’re not the homogeneous rounds of your traditional fast food burger joints. The patty was seared to a crust that was only dwarfed by the dried exterior of the pastrami. A sour relish countered the deep, rich flavors of the burger but the cheese added to them, so there was no escaping the umami. I’d heard complaints about the $12 price tag on these burgers, but I wasn’t so offended; with fries, they’re just a dollar-ish more expensive than, say, 5 Napkin Burger, and a whole lot less expensive than the burgers at The Spotted Pig and Minetta Tavern. And this was just plain delicious with that pastrami so thick and spicy it became the whole point of the burger.
Kim is a lady and ordered the tuna burger with sprouts, avocado, ginger-flavored carrots, and a little wasabi kick. It was basically the exact opposite of my burger with its light sear and its freshness.
Jack took one for the team and ordered The Original, which was topped with shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, and a big round of crisp Parmesan. The Parmesan was the thing I was most excited about, but he acted like it was mainly there for texture.
For starters and sides, we got the complex House Pickle Plate with sesame ginger wax beans (who would think to care about beans at a burger joint?, but these were super lemony and tart), spicy green beans, smoked okra, bread and butter pickles, and beets,
the Truffled Beet Salad with arugula, smoked almonds, and truffled ricotta spread,
tater tots filled with cheese,
and shoestring fries served “manly” style with beer-cheddar, thick chunks of bacon, and onion strings. Aside from being supremely offended that cheese, pork, and onions are apparently for men, I loved these fries. Even more than Kim’s fries dripping with truffle cream.
My Mexican Coke tasted like American Coke but with less flavor,
but my ice cream cookie sandwich with its gigantic gingerbread rounds, vanilla ice cream, and gloopy lemon curd was the perfect spicy-bright note to end a mega rich meal.
Owner Adam Fleischman says this isn’t a Shake Shack ripoff, and he’s right (even if there was a smashed burger a la Shake Shack’s on the daily specials menu the day I visited). Shake Shack is a fast food burger you eat in the park or squeezed in between tourists at whatever table space you can manage, and this is a leisure burger you enjoy with a beer and your friends with the biggest stomachs. Shake Shack is perfect in its simplicity, while this is the whole kitchen piled on a bun. There’s definitely room for both types in NYC and in my mouth, but which I’ll choose on a given day comes down to whether I’m in the mood for the best-tasting patty possible or a really great sit-down meal with appetizers that are just as strong as the main event.
I know it’s awful to talk about dieting on a gluttonous food blog, but the truth is that when I’m not shoveling sweets into my piehole at fancy restaurants, I’m trying to avoid carbs at home. Not being much of a cook, it can be rough trying to find anything for lunch, so I was pumped to randomly type “low-carb” into Seamless.com‘s search function and find Muscle Maker Grill. With a menu full of items made from lean meats and low-fat cheeses and served on low-carb and whole wheat wraps, this is the kind of place that makes me feel guilty about the food I’m eating until I remember that it actually fits into my diet.
With grilled chicken breast, turkey meatballs, reduced-fat mozzarella, and marinara, this is like a pizza in a wrap. And pizza is the thing I miss most while low-carbing, so this is one of my favourite items. I would never guess that the cheese is low-fat, and the marinara is present enough to flavor the wrap but not so obvious that I feel like I’m eating a bunch of sugary tomatoes.
I ordered this on my friend Ash‘s recommendation and found it to be a great substitution for the bready meatball parm sandwiches I love so much. It was so gooey-cheesy and well-seasoned, and they didn’t skimp on the meat at all. I actually didn’t like this as much as the Rocky Balboa nor the XXL Cheeseburger wrap, though, because both of those have two different kinds of meat, so every bite is diverse. (The XXL Cheeseburger with its turkey bacon and BBQ-esque sauce is my very favourite thing to order.)
All of the wraps come with a side of baked potato, brown rice, cucumber salad (cucumbers with herbs, Ash says), steamed broccoli, pasta salad, rice & beans ($1 extra), turkey meatballs ($1 extra), or turkey bacon ($1 extra). I love the option of broccoli but sometimes don’t feel like being quite so healthy, so the meatballs are a favourite. They’re well-seasoned, a little spicy, and a lot better than most of the meatballs I’ve had from non-healthy restaurants downtown.
Muscle Maker Grill is one of those places where you eat the food and think, “Why am I paying $10 for this? I could make it at home for much cheaper!” But you can’t, and you won’t. All of the ingredients are much more flavorful than you’d make them, and you’d never know that the cheese is low-fat nor the bacon is turkey here. On a scale with every restaurant everywhere, I’d obviously want to eat at the places with more butter and more sugar, but I have to give this place four donuts for making healthy food craveable.
My only problems with it are that they charge extra for low-carb wraps ($.79) and delivery ($1.50). I know that neither of those amounts is significant, but I find it pretty audacious to charge for delivery when I can only name one other restaurant in the city that does. It bothers me enough that I only let myself order from Muscle Maker once a week; I wouldn’t order from them at all on principle usually, but the food is just too good.
92 8th Avenue #1
New York, NY 10011 (map)
Last weekend, Dr. Boyfriend and I went to The Modern at MoMA for a tasting menu that included grilled foie gras with champagne-vinegar-preserved strawberries and a harissa tuile:
This weekend, we’re going to Outback for a Bloomin’ Onion:
The funny thing is that Dr. Boyfriend, I think, is waaaaaay more excited about Outback than he was about The Modern. He’s never been there and is under the impression that it’s just the chain version of Peter Luger.
This is going to be awesome.