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Del Posto’s Eight-Course Captain’s Tasting Menu
Jan 24th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

When I wrote in my Torrisi Italian Specialties review that Italian food in NYC is terrible, bland, and uninspired, the good people of the Chowhound message boards went crazy, telling me that I didn’t know what I was talking about if I hadn’t been to Del Posto, the Joe Bastianich/Lidia Bastianich/Mario Batali behemoth with one Michelin star.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu

So in the name of knowing what I’m talking about, my boyfriend took me there for the $165, eight-course Captain’s Menu for a tasting of Chef Mark Ladner’s finest. Our first impression was that the place was gigantic and cavernous, decorated in dark, heavy fabrics that made it seem like the perfect setting for cigar smoking, back door dealing, and hiding mistresses from wives. The staff was friendly despite the ominous feel, we were seated at the most perfect banquette that allowed for plenty of people-watching, and our server treated me like I was the first blogger to have ever entered the place once she saw my camera. Likewise, the sommelier kept talking up the special bottles he was opening up for us and even introduced us to this new contraption called a corovan or coravan or cordovan that separates the cork from the wine bottle without puncturing it so that the wine can be enjoyed without fully opening the bottle; he said that it was invented by a heart surgeon and that Del Posto is the only restaurant on the East coast to have one. Ooh-la-la.

Now, on to the food!

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
amuse

Cauliflower and leek vellutata in the little cups
Bacalao (cod) on a very crispy cracker
Chicken salad tea sandwich with chicken cooked for five hours, which made all other chicken salad sandwiches seem classless

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
Ca’ Del Bosco, Franciacorta, Erbusco

secondi assaggi (second samples):

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
tuna wrapped in daikon, jalapeno, sea salt

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
chickpea, black truffle, lemon

Like eating truffle hummus.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
fried mozzarella with tomato powder

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
bread

A beautifully diverse bread basket that was replaced halfway through the meal when it became cold. Our server also switched out our napkins at that point, which I loved.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
lardo and sweet cream butter

For the bread. In case you thought it was just for spooning.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
Paolo Bea “Arboreus” 2008 Umbria

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
insalata di verdue, robiola, swiss chard, sour apple

They call this vegetable salad brutte ma buone–ugly but good. I didn’t even think it was ugly, but it certainly was good. The sugary carrot cake crumble under this was almost candy-like and really worked with the super-acidic apple cider vinaigrette. The dressing was so sour that I felt like I was choking when I encountered too much of it resting in a little cup formed by the curve of an onion slice, in fact. But hey, what’s a little choking amongst friends?

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
Gravner Ribolla Gialla “Anfora” 2004 Friuli

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
fluke, chestnut due, shallots, watercress, truffles, trumpet mushrooms

The many crunchy elements–watercress, water chestnuts, black trumpet mushrooms–made the dish what it was. I’ve never cared at all for watercress, but it was welcome and almost necessary here to add just a touch of freshness. This was also the first time in a long time that I’ve thought truffles really added something more than just an extra $50 to the bill. All in all, I think this was my favourite of the night, and I say this as someone who still totally thinks of fish as poo-drinkers.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
Aldo Conterno Barolo 2007 Piemonte

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
tortello puzzone, taleggio dolce, black truffle butter

I think the name of this dish literally translates to stinky tortello, which is entirely correct. I’m not used to such a strong cheese in my ravioli, so the juxtaposition between the creeeeeamy, buuuuuttery texture of the cheese gushing from the broken tortello and its pungent taste was intense. In a good way.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
Scarzello Barbera d’Alba 2008 Piemonte

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
orecchiette, lamb neck ragu, orange carrots, toasted rye

My boyfriend thought this was a little too one-note, especially following a dish that really was quite simple, but I actually found it complex with plenty of depth of flavor. The pasta was of course cooked perfectly, and then the spicy lamb sauce so complemented the sweet dollops of carrot puree and the dark, rich rye crumble.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
Maine Beer Co. “Peeper” American Ale, Portland, ME

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu

A plate of assorted sea creatures arrived,

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu

a broth was poured over them,

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
cacciucco (fish soup), diver scallops carpaccio, garlic bread soup

and the result was a seafood soup with tons of garlic and super-bright, super-acidic tomato flavor. The tender seafood was complimented so nicely by the citrusy marjoram in the broth.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
Fontodi ‘Vigna del Sorbo’ Chianti Classico Riserva 2000 Toscana

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu

A veal medallion surrounded by beef deckle was placed in front of each of us,

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
veal and beef, cosa viene prima, potato torta, soft spinach, Calabrian spicy tongue stew

and then a ragu of tongue was added tableside. I was more excited about this dish than any of the others because of its familiar beefiness, but the lack of seasoning on it was a real letdown; both the veal and potato torta seemed to be entirely lacking salt. However, the deckle (fatty brisket) was perfectly seasoned and perfectly crusted, and the tongue stew was both tender and spicy. Cosa viene prima translates to “what comes first”, which I took as a play on the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg–or in this case, the baby veal or the adult beef.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
Chartreuse

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu

I had never had Chartreuse before this. It’s a monk-made herbal liquor from France, and it made my mouth pucker worse than any lemon ever could. It’s interesting. And beautiful. And vegetal.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
sfera di caprino (sphere of Caprino cheese), celery, fig agrodolce, celery sorbetto

This was like a cheesecake rolled in thick, crispy breadcrumbs, paired with the most celery-flavored and refreshing sorbet and a fig dried as sweet as a raisin.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
Marion Valpolicella Superiore 2007 Veneto

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
warmed La Tur, charred bread, chocolate

This was Del Posto’s take on s’mores, and while it seemed simplistic to me at first, I thought it was a really nice take on a cheese course in the end. The La Tur was really funky, but the sweetness of the chocolate balanced it so nicely, and their flavors were so complimentary. I always love the difference in flavor between raw cheese and melted, so I was pleased to find this gave me an idea of both states of a La Tur.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
“10 Anni,” Marsala Superiore Riserva, Marco de Bartoli NV

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
butterscotch semifreddo, melon agrumata (citrus), crumbled sbrisolona (cake)

This semifreddo was like a thick, rich, brightly sweet dulce de leche with a crunchy crumble. I thought the fruits on the side seemed like such a weird, uncomplimentary addition, but I actually loved them–particularly the melon. And I’m not a person who cares about melon.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
torta di zucca (pumpkin pie), candied pumpkin, sage gelato

My boyfriend got the raw end of the deal with this course. Instead of the semifreddo, he was served this pumpkin cake that was a little too dry, a little too simple, a little too not-at-all pumpkin-flavored. The sage gelato, on the other hand, was so overwhelmingly sage-y that I didn’t care much for it, either. It sure was pretty, though.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu
chocolate sculpture

To end the meal, our server brought a drawer full of small bites, this chocolate sculpture, a cookie jar, and a plate with a giant almond cookie on it. She held the cookie up to show how delicate it was while my boyfriend and I secretly thought, “Why are you touching our cookie?” She explained to us that this type of cookie is commonly passed around the table after a family meal so each person can take a piece for dessert. The Del Posto version of this involved our server smashing the cookie down on top of the cookie jar so that cookie chunks went all over the table. It was quite the spectacle. And quite the delicious, crisp cookie.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu

The contents of the cookie jar, dumped out onto the table for us.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu

Little tastes of things like Campari grapefruit, apricot cookies, and lemon curd doughnuts. We were too full for any of this, so it was wrapped up and left at the coat check for us to take home.

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu

Del Posto NYC Tasting Menu

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

Del Posto was solid on all fronts, from food to decor to service. It’s clear why the restaurant has a Michelin star, and it’s clear that the staff are working hard to make it a destination, a place where you can expect a special bottle of wine to be opened for your special dinner. If this was an up and coming restaurant, I’d bump it up half a star, but I expected a little more wow from the food of the Bastianiches and Batali; I didn’t feel creative boundaries being pushed here, and I realize that’s probably because the restaurant is known amongst out-of-towners who don’t want any surprises, just traditionally good food. The better choice for dinner here for us probably would have been the five-course menu, which focuses more on pasta–the thing Del Posto is doing so well. I think this is the sort of place you only have to go to once to get the full experience, and I’m happy to have had mine.

Del Posto
85 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011 (map)

Doughnut Plant and Its Impossible-to-Pronounce Treats
Apr 25th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

You know how I have a blog? That’s called donuts4dinner? Well, until a couple of weekends ago, I had never been to Doughnut Plant.

Dunkin Donuts, where the doughnuts come stale and in ultra-boring flavors and always seem way more delicious in my mind than they actually are? All the time.

Doughnut Plant, where the doughnuts are continuously made fresh while you watch and come in flavors you’ve never seen before and are actually more delicious than you expect? Never.

Doughnut Plant NYC

I won’t tell you all of the things my boyfriend and I had already consumed during our walk around Chinatown and the Lower East Side that day, but suffice it to say that we only needed one doughnut.

After much deliberation–coconut cream? cinnamon bun? tres leches?–

OH, CRAP. I just remembered the most amazing thing that happened while we were waiting in line. It was all quiet in the store, and behind us, I could hear this skinny blonde saying, “Should we get the tres leches?” to her companion. Only she was pronouncing it tray lesh. You guys, she thought it was French or something. Which is hilarious on its own, because what kind of hole are you living in that you’ve never heard of tres leches cake and can’t figure out that it has a Spanish pronunciation?

But MORE IMPORTANTLY, if leche is a word in French–and I’m not even sure it is–it sure doesn’t mean “milk” like it does in Spanish. So what did she think this doughnut tasted like?!

I swear I’m not trying to be elitist here. I’m just so interested in what was going through this girl’s mind and am dying to know if she was visiting from Ohio, because that’s the only place I can imagine tres leches cake still being unknown.

Doughnut Plant NYC Peanut Butter and Banana Square Doughnut

Anyway, we ultimately decided on the peanut butter and banana square doughnut, because

1) the squares are the biggest and most gluttonous,
2) jam filling is too healthy,
3) peanut butter is, like, my favourite thing in the world next to pizza.

It did not disappoint. This thing was fluffy, fresh, crunchy, sweet, nutty, banana-y, and huge. I have to be honest here and say that I don’t even really care about bananas, and I loved the banana cream. I’m not saying marshmallow cream wouldn’t have been better, but still. I also don’t like eating sweet things with nuts in them, because long after the sweet taste has vanished, I’m still finding savory nuts in my teeth, but these nuts were brittle and easily crunched, as if they were caramelized. And when I found them in my teeth later, it was a treat.

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002 (map)

220 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011 (map)

Muscle Maker Grill – Healthy/Sandwiches – Tribeca
Dec 2nd, 2011 by donuts4dinner

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.

Muscle Maker Grill Rocky Balboa Wrap
Rocky Balboa wrap

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.

Muscle Maker Grill Turkey Meatball Parmesan Wrap
Turkey Meatball Parmesan wrap

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.)

Muscle Maker Grill Turkey Meatballs
turkey meatball side item

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.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

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.

Muscle Maker Grill
10 Murray Street
New York, NY 10007 (map)

and

92 8th Avenue #1
New York, NY 10011 (map)

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