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The New Brunch Menu at Ted’s Montana Grill
Sep 29th, 2014 by donuts4dinner

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.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

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.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

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.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

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.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC
bison short rib hash

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.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC
Absolute Best Fish sandwich

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.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC
huevos rancheros

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.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC
French toast

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.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

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.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice Large-Format Dinner
Feb 21st, 2014 by donuts4dinner

I’m often made fun of for being a Momofuku fangirl, but up until a few weeks ago, I’d blasphemously never been to the most recent addition to David Chang’s assemblage of NYC restaurants, Ma Peche. But my friend The Pretender set up one of the large-format feasts for a group of 12 of us, the Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice dinner ($450), and now I can say that I’ve been to all of the Momofukus and that each one is just as amazing as the last.

My friends who’d rather spend their money on shoes than food were initially skeptical about the idea of a dinner involving chicken that wasn’t even battered and fried, and I’ll admit that I had lower expectations for this dinner than, say, the Momofuku Ssam Bar Whole Rotisserie Duck or the Momofuku Noodle Bar Fried Chicken Dinner. The website says that “the meal is comprised of your meat of choice, yellow rice, pita, and sides and condiments, including iceberg lettuce, wheat berry, chickpea, eggplant, tomato chutney, pickles, white sauce and red sauce”, so I was picturing a small assortment of condiments. What I actually got was bowl after bowl of Momofuku-quality sides that at times outshone the meat itself.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC

Before the meal began, we were shown the two deep-fried chickens and the lamb shoulder in their whole forms.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
Salty Dog

My boyfriend made the mistake of mixing the black salt into the drink. NO.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
horchata: rice milk, cinnamon

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
Midtown Collins: gin, calamansi, elderflower

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
pork buns: hoisin, cucumber, scallion

Because at this point, we didn’t know that we were about to be treated to a tableful of side dishes. And you know, even if we had, we all probably would’ve ordered these. No one goes to Momofuku without eating these pillowy buns loaded with tender fatty pork and sweet hoisin.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
chicken

Sous vide and deep-fried, these thick slices of chicken were covered in a salty, spicy crust. The pile of herbs is a Momofuku staple and something I look forward to at all of their large-format dinners.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
lamb

Lamb shoulder, confited, smoked, and roasted. Most people thought this was the more consistently-delicious of the two meats. While the chicken had more of an initial impact with its layer of salt, the uncrusted center of each slice was pretty typical chicken. The lamb was flavorful through and through, so I guess I’d go with the lamb dinner for 6-10 people ($325) over the chicken dinner for 4-8 people ($175) if I had to choose just one, but getting both is really the way to go.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
chickpeas

My favourite of the side dishes. It was like eating some of my favourite spicy hummus. I evidently didn’t get a picture of the eggplant side dish, which other people argued was the best of the sides. Point is–the sides were so good we fought over which was best.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
curry rice

Of course a Momofuku restaurant isn’t going to serve you steamed white rice.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
crispy chicken skin salad

I think pork rinds are kind of weird, and yet I tried to steal as much chicken skin off of this as I could before anyone noticed it was on there.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
tomato chutney

I still can’t stand fresh tomatoes, but this was truly delicious. It hit all of the sweet/sour/savory notes, and I loved the chewy texture to boot.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
pickles

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
pita

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
wheatberry salad

The one light and refreshing aspect to the entire meal. Which is just as I would have it.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
the whole shebang on one plate

What a meal. I know $45 per person for 10 people isn’t exactly cheap for a plateful of food, but somehow these Momofuku dinners always make you feel like you’re getting a steal. Maybe because there’s always at least one insanely delicious aspect of the feast that’s not even supposed to be the highlight. I dream about the scallion pancakes served with the Momofuku Ssam Bar Whole Rotisserie Duck and the sauces that come with the Momofuku Noodle Bar Fried Chicken Dinner; now I’ll dream about the tomato chutney at Ma Peche, too. Or the chickpea dish. Or the eggplant. You get the same friendly service at Ma Peche that you expect at the other Momofukus, but the space was clearly designed with its location in mind. It’s inside the Chambers Hotel, near MoMA and Carnegie Hall and Central Park. While the downtown restaurants are geared toward hipsters, Ma Peche is draped in fabric and colored orange in a way that brought to mind The Gates art exhibit by Christo and Jeanne-Claude that filled Central Park nearly a decade ago. And the food is just as sophisticated.

Ma Peche
15 West 56th Street
New York, NY 10019 (map)

Don Antonio: Pizza Fried, Stuffed, and Racquet-Shaped
Feb 22nd, 2012 by donuts4dinner

If there’s one thing I love about NYC, it’s that for every diehard fitness fanatic waiting impatiently at the gym’s front door at 6 a.m., there’s a fried pizza fanatic who thinks four pizzas for three people might not be enough food. It used to be that you had to go to Park Slope’s Chipshop for a deep-fried slice, but Forcella took the fried pizza from an outer borough novelty to a full-on Manhattan sensation. Of course I was interested from the words deep-fried and pizza, but it was New York magazine’s article about the new Don Antonio by Starita that made me finally put down my Papa John’s and venture to Midtown:

Just when you thought the market for Neapolitan pizza had reached saturation, along comes Kesté’s Roberto Caporuscio and his old mentor Antonio Starita, who’ve teamed up to open Don Antonio in Hell’s Kitchen next Tuesday, February 7. In certain pizza-world circles, this is huge — like Gennaro Lombardi rising from the grave to sling slices with Dom DeMarco. For the uninitiated, Starita is third-generation pizza royalty. Along with Sophia Loren, his family’s Naples pizzeria starred in the Vittorio De Sica film L’Oro di Napoli. The man has served pizza to popes. He has tomato sauce coursing through his veins. In short, there is nothing about dough he doesn’t know. His student, Caporuscio, the U.S. president of the Association of Neapolitan Pizza Makers, is no slouch either.

How could I resist when my friends The Pretender and Lucy invited me out on a whim one night last week? And luckily, Lucy had her camera on hand to take these glorious photos:

Don Antonio NYC
Potato Croquet, Arancini, Fritattine

Henry ordered these three starters–fried potato with homemade mozzarella and bread crumbs, a rice ball, and a spaghetti cake with baked Italian ham and mozzarella–and seemed pleased but not overwhelmingly excited by them. I really wanted a spaghetti cake of my own but knew I was already going to have a hard time finishing the four pizzas we’d ordered.

Don Antonio NYC

Don Antonio NYC
Margherita S.T.G.

The S.T.G. is for guaranteed typical specialty, the pizza by which to judge all other pizzas. Typical as it may have supposedly been, I was pretty impressed. It needed more basil, but the sauce–which seemed a weak tomato-only puree at first glance–was somehow extremely flavorful. The crust was this perfect not-too-burnt-and-crispy, almost-chewy texture, bready enough and airy enough to please everyone.

Don Antonio NYC
Montanara Starita

Despite the similar toppings, the fried pizza was wildly different from the S.T.G. Every bite was noticeably smoky, and well, the crust was something special: crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, like a funnel cake or a French fry. And with that specific French fry/funnel cake soaked-through-with-oil-ness. It’s a magical mix of frying and oven-baking, and it was my favourite of the four.

Don Antonio NYC
Racchetta

It’s shaped like a racquet! And the handle is full of cheese! And is a big disappointment!

Overall, this pizza was awesome, and I say that as someone who barely like vegetables on pizza at all, especially when those vegetables are mushrooms (half-blergh!) and tomatoes (double-blergh!). But these vegetables were cooked down so flavorfully and lent a level of heartiness to the pizza that meats don’t. The disappointment was in the handle, which was lightly stuffed with creamy ricotta cheese and should have been the best stuffed breadstick ever but was just sort of okay–not quite flavorful enough and not quite cheesy enough. I need some oregano stuffed into that sucker.

Don Antonio NYC
Vesuvio

With ricotta, mozzarella, and salami stuffed inside the crust and Italian ham, mushrooms, and basil on top, this is the pizza you order if you want to fill up on just one. We made the mistake of saving it for last and only ate half of it, because each piece feels like two. The spice of the salami contrasted the sweetness of the ham, and the cheese spilling out of the center made it a messy fork-and-knife feast.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

Don Antonio by Starita
309 West 50th Street
New York, NY 10019 (map)

Le Bernardin – Seafood/French – Midtown West
Feb 3rd, 2012 by donuts4dinner

For the longest time, the list of restaurants in NYC with three Michelin stars was three long, and there was one I couldn’t visit: Le Bernardin. My boyfriend, god bless him, didn’t want to drop a few hundred on a bunch of fish that he knew I’d only complain about, even after he went to the restaurant with a client and came home unable to stop talking about the things he’d seen. But after proving myself capable of continuing to gulp down guppies even in the face of great adversity recently, he finally relented and invited me to the three-course, $70 lunch.

And just as he suspected, I’m going to complain about it.

Le Bernardin NYC

The place settings waiting at the table were some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. The white plates were immediately replaced with fresh ones on which to eat our salmon rillettes.

Le Bernardin NYC
salmon rillettes

I’m to the point with fish where I could eat raw salmon all day long, but smoked salmon is still fairly unappetizing to me. Still, I took a heaping spoonful of this spread and applied it to my chewy bread hopefully. It tasted just like I expected, which is to say smoked salmon. I was hoping for a tuna-salad-like flavor experience, where I could be distracted from the fish by the celery or the pickles. I’ve seen recipes for this that involve leeks and onions, bay leaves and peppercorns, but this tasted much simpler, like smoked salmon slightly subdued by mayonnaise, slightly perked up with chives. I was a bigger fan of the Parker House roll I chose from the bread basket.

Le Bernardin NYC
Peter Lauer Ayler Kupp Riesling “Senior” Faß 6, Mosel, Germany 2010

The wines-by-the-glass list wasn’t very extensive, but the one Riesling on hand was sweet enough for the citrus in my appetizer but dry enough to pair well with the beefiness of my entree. Perfect for my needs.

Le Bernardin NYC
peekytoe crab: warm crab “cake”, tequila guacamole, potato crisps, aji pepper-lime emulsion

Our other dining companion had this, and I failed to ask her for impressions. It’s highly recommended on all of the review sites, though, so do with that what you will.

Le Bernardin NYC
octopus: charred octopus, fermented black bean-pear sauce vierge, purple basil, ink-miso vinaigrette

In this preparation, octopus was the steak of the sea. It was thick, meaty, and hearty, yet tender, too. The charred suckers were the perfect crispy topping, and the sweetness of the meat was complimented by the savory black bean sauce and pears. My boyfriend said the “major flavor drama” was the charred shellfish against the tart tang of the bean, pear, and ink.

Le Bernardin NYC
Nantucket bay scallop: progressive scallop tasting, “Ultra Simple to Complex…”

Le Bernardin meant it when they named one of their menu sections “almost raw”. If these were “cooked” at all, it was by the citrus in many of the preparations. Clockwise, there were plain scallops, scallops with olive oil and sea beans, with piquillo peppers, with wasabe and roe, and with yuzu and shiso. It truly was a progression from simple to complex, starting with the purest scallop flavor, moving to the crispy bean and lemony olive oil, then to the sweet pepper, to the spicy, crunchy roe, and ending with the big kick of the yuzu. I certainly prefer the texture of seared scallops, but I couldn’t have asked for better accoutrements.

Le Bernardin NYC
skate: baked skate “en papillote”, fennel compote, “zarzuela sauce”

This was another dish ordered by our friend, and again, we were too busy yakking about other things for me to catch her thoughts on it.

Le Bernardin NYC
codfish: baked cod, artichoke “barigoule”, perigord truffle butter

My boyfriend ordered this, and I was shocked to see the pile of truffle slices on top! He said the truffle butter was the star of the dish, and I agree that buttery is the best descriptor for his dish in general, but I’m surprised that big ol’ stack of truffle wasn’t written somewhere on the menu.

Le Bernardin NYC
black bass: crispy black bass, pickled cucumbers, black garlic-Persian lime sauce

I’ll admit that I ordered this a little bit to suck up to my Persian boyfriend and a little bit because I’ve had a hankerin’ for his mom’s cooking lately. This was all the flavors I’ve been craving. The sauce was like a rich beef broth, the cucumbers fresh and sour with a bite. The garlic cloves were sweet and jam-like in texture, spreading smoothly onto the bass with my fork. I loved the crisp skin and the seared edges of the fish and longed for more surface area.

Le Bernardin NYC

Le Bernardin NYC
pistachio: roasted white chocolate, mango pearls

When the server set this in front of our dining partner, she said, “Oh, I ordered the pistachio,” and the server nodded. I think she actually expected to see pistachios somewhere on the plate.

Le Bernardin NYC
“Religieuse”: elderflower ‘crème mousseline’, crunchy choux, pear coulis, black currant powder

My boyfriend only ordered this for the name, and it looked like the least interesting thing on the menu to me. When he gave me a bite, though, I was ready to trade. The choux pastry had a crunchy sugar top and the flavor of brown butter with a little sourness from the powder. I usually want to eat choux for the filling, but this was all about the shell.

Le Bernardin NYC
yuzu: yuzu parfait, crispy sesame-rice, ginger, green tea ice cream

I was concerned that this dessert would be too light and that I’d miss having chocolate, but I couldn’t resist the call of the spicy yuzu and ginger and am so glad I went with my gut instead of my brain. The yuzu parfait was a cold cross between mousse and meringue, supplemented by the thick white yuzu foam. There was a chewy green tea cake under the ice cream and dots of a sweet and sour sticky ginger sauce. I loved the crisp of the rice but thought that the green tea was enough of a savory element that the sesame wasn’t necessary. Otherwise, a flawless dessert.

Le Bernardin NYC
madeleines

We were only disappointed that the bottom of this bowl had a little pedestal in it to prop up these warm, chewy pistachio madeleines to linen-parting heights and make it look more full; we thought we’d be there snacking all afternoon.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

Le Bernardin NYC

The reason I don’t think Le Bernardin stands up to the other 3-Michelin-star restaurants in NYC surprisingly has nothing to do with the fish; our fish was cooked perfectly, sauced perfectly, presented perfectly. What was lacking was the rest of the dish; all of the entrees seemed incomplete. Each dish was just fish, and no plate of pickles will convince me otherwise. Dishes at Per Se, for instance, are also composed of a protein, a sauce, and small side items, but the difference is that those sides items are creative, intricate creations like cauliflower panna cotta and spinach pain perdu. On the other hand, I found the service and decor luxurious (finger bowls with lemon between courses and plush banquettes that begged to be lounged upon), and I loved seeing that Chef Eric Ripert was actually working in the kitchen. I’d return to Le Bernardin for exceptional desserts and a perfect piece of fish, but I’d bring a purse full of side dishes from somewhere else along with me.

Le Bernardin
155 W 51st St
New York, NY 10019 (map)

Skip the Sandwiches at Bouchon Bakery – Sweets – Midtown West
Nov 8th, 2011 by donuts4dinner

Bouchon Bakery is part of the Thomas Keller empire of restaurants you can’t afford. You think you can, because from the outside, it appears to be an innocuous bakery, twenty times more casual than Per Se and without the need to make reservations a month in advance. But as soon as you walk in the door of the Rockefeller Center location, you notice the display of peanut butter cups for $3 each. (And those are mini ones; the regular-sized cups are $5+.) The sandwiches are $9, the French macarons $3.25.

Bouchon Bakery

What my boyfriend and I ordered was a little hit or miss depending on which one of us you ask. I wish we’d been hungrier so we could’ve sampled more than a sandwich and a cookie apiece (which still set us back a healthy $31), but it gave me a good idea of what I’ll come back for.

Bouchon Bakery
ham and cheese

The sandwich selections were paltry on a Sunday night, so I went with a classic belly-warmer to see how Keller’s team could transform it. On paper, it sounds pretty incredible: this sandwich, inspired by the traditional French charcuterie, is prepared with Madrange ham, a slow-cooked, delicately flavored ham. The combination of sweet butter and Dijon mustard complements the subtle nutty flavors of Emmenthaler cheese.

In my mouth, it tasted like a pretty standard ham and white cheese. The one thing this sandwich has going for it is that the bread couldn’t be better-suited to it. It was crunchy on the outside but didn’t flake into a million crumbs with every bite. The buttered interior was chewy and light in contrast. I wish the filling had done it justice.

Bouchon Bakery
roast beef

This was quality beef, cooked tender and sliced thin, but there was unfortunately very little of it on the bread. My boyfriend liked the roasted tomato garnish, but I needed more of the acidity to be cooked out of the tomatoes before they could be sweet enough for me. This tasted like a more complete thought than the ham and cheese because of its bright vegetable filling, but I couldn’t help but think of the $7 sandwich we buy on weekends from Tudor Gourmet, piled high with spicy pastrami and crisp arugula and served with a friendly joke instead of a haughty scowl.

Bouchon Bakery
nutter butter

After the disappointing sandwiches, I was prepared to roll my eyes at this $7 peanut butter cookie sandwich, but I walked away from it feeling like a little whipped cream and bittersweet chocolate shavings would make it into a plated dessert I’d willingly pay $12 for. I was expecting–and desiring–a soft, gooey cookie, but what I got was this crispy thing that snapped and crumbled apart. And I loved it.

The pastry chefs must be using a stick of butter per cookie, god bless them, because this thing was greasy as a pig in a wrestling contest and twice as delicious. The peanut butter filling, leaden with sugar but then whipped into a fluffy frosting, spilled out the sides of the cookie with each bite. My last mouthful was nothing but the peanut butter left on my hands, and it was perfection.

Bouchon Bakery

Bouchon Bakery at Rockefeller Center
One Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020 (map)
(other locations here)

Quality Meats – Steak – Midtown West
Aug 31st, 2011 by plumpdumpling

After a totally-not-heated debate over on my personal blog, I decided to watermark my photos until enough people complain about them being ugly. Well, as luck would have it, Dr. Boyfriend invited me to Quality Meats for lunch on a whim last week, so I didn’t have my DSLR with me, and I forgot to set my point-and-shoot to take RAW photos, so the first time you’re going to see my watermark is on these less-than-stellar pictures. I recognize the error of my ways! No need to publicly mock me!

Anyway. Niko from Dessert Buzz was kind enough to link to one of my posts last week and also mentioned this post from Midtown Lunch that featured this sundae. Which I obviously had to have. So I linked it to my not-usually-impulsive Dr. Boyfriend, and he said he wanted to go. For lunch. Right then. I called and asked if it was okay for me to show up in jeans, the hostess laughed at me, and I hopped on the subway post-haste.

Quality Meats NYC

Quality Meats NYC

We love Quality Meats. This was our fourth time there, I believe, and it never gets less delicious. The decor is maybe a little three years ago, with those old-timey exposed filament lightbulbs and dark, dark wood everywhere and the feeling that someone may butcher a cow right next to your table. But I’ll never get tired of that decor; to me, it feels casual and expensive at the same time.

Quality Meats NYC

The rolls are the very best bread service in NYC. I dare anyone to contest that. Topped with chunky salt and so much rosemary you’d think you were dining with the Virgin Mary, the rolls are soft, warm, buttery, and taste like a forest full of evergreens. We asked for seconds, and I am not ashamed.

Quality Meats NYC

I’m not a huge fan of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s food, but I credit him with the surge in homemade sodas simply because I had them there first and have ordered them everywhere I can since. So I guess it’s my own surge. Either way, these were far more elaborate than the Jean-Georges versions, with ingredients like whole lemon slices, strawberries, and hibiscus in mine and cucumber and jalapeño in Dr. Boyfriend’s.

I’m not saying they were better than J-G’s, because the ones at his restaurants are a little more intensely flavored, but I really appreciated how huge the drinks were for the price and the fact that they’re served in to-go cups so I could enjoy mine well into the afternoon. And then suck dry all of my hibiscus leaves while my co-workers’ heads were turned.

Quality Meats NYC
colossal crab cocktail

Huuuuuge chunks of crabmeat served with sides of cocktail sauce, a soy-sauce-based sauce, and an herbed mayo. There’s not really much I can say about this, because um, crabmeat is kind of just crabmeat. I guess that’s why I’ve never jumped at the chance to share a plateau de fruits de mer with Dr. Boyfriend, much as he’s dying to. I like the taste of crab, and oysters are fine, and lobster has one of my favourite textures ever. But I’d much rather see what a chef can make with the meat than to just be served the meat alone, which is why I’m a crabcake kind of girl.

Quality Meats NYC
truffled chicken salad, apple butter brioche

I have to admit that the presentation threw me off a little. It’s a . . . log . . . of chicken salad. But really, what else are you going to do with chicken salad? Take a big scoop of it and plop it down in the center of the plate? Classy. Fill a lettuce wrap full of it? Tired. So I guess chicken salad meatloaf is the only option.

If you like chicken salad, and I do, this is a fine one. Crunchy from the celery, biting from the onion, and rich from the truffle, all on top of a buttery bread with a millimeter of crust on the top and bottom. The Marcona almonds and red grapes were the perfect crunchy, sweet accompaniments.

Quality Meats NYC
The QM Burger

I kind of secretly wanted a steak, but I didn’t think I could handle a porterhouse for two all by my lonesome at lunch, so I went with the burger. I love ordering burgers, because:

1) there’s no such thing as a bad one, and
2) they’re both super-familiar and super-nuanced.

I haven’t really had, say, enough halibut in my life to be able to say how this one’s flakier than that one. But I’ve had a lot of burgers, starting with the ones made from the meat from my family farm’s own cows. This one tasted like steak. Not like regular ground beef but like a slab of prime rib slapped on a focaccia roll. It was seared so dark on the outside yet dripped juice all over my hands with each bite. With cheddar and crunchy pickles and spicy mayo and all that steak flavor, it was not a kids’ meal burger.

Quality Meats NYC

Quality Meats NYC
Parmesan waffle fries

Accompanying both of our meals were these cross-cut fries with some well-aged Parmesan on top. These were the crispiest fries ever. I really mean that. Crispy to the point of too-crispy almost. There was no soft potato left inside of them, just oil-soaked snap-off-in-your-teeth crispiness. It was interesting but probably not my favourite way to prepare fries.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

. . . and that’s where the meal ended. Dr. Boyfriend remembered halfway through the bread that he had a conference call and would need to leave in a half an hour. So we plowed through our appetizer and entrees and left entirely sundae-less. Which, of course, was the entire reason for the meal. I wept at first but later realized this just means we have to go back again now, and obviously there’s no complaining about that.

Quality Meats
57 West 58th Street
New York, NY 10019 (map)

Whole Suckling Pig at The Breslin Bar & Dining Room – Gastropub/American – Midtown West
Apr 8th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

As a fairly new food blogger originally from three states away, I sometimes feel out of the food-blogging loop. And as a pig farmer’s daughter, I really love me a good pork roast. So it was a delight to be invited to eat a whole suckling pig at The Breslin Bar & Dining Room with one of my favourite food bloggers, Chubby Chinese Girl, and her pals Henry from Ramblings and Gamblings, Tia from Bionic Bites, Addie from Gypsy-Addie’s Food Diary, and other friends who actually eat things without blogging about them.

The first thing you notice about The Breslin is just how gastropubby it is. It’s a bar, but it’s the kind of bar where the bartender’s serving more burgers than beers. Every inch of wall space is covered in something farm-related–mostly ceramic animals in all shapes and sizes–and all of the fixtures are old-timey. The place is dark but for the bright light coming from the sparkling white open kitchen in the back. And we especially loved the use of what appears to be the original ceiling, which was cracked and peeling and beautiful.

Breslin Suckling Pig

Breslin Suckling Pig

Breslin Suckling Pig
herbed Caesar salad, anchovies, croutons

I’m really not an appreciator of salad. I get that some people like light, fresh foods, but I’m going to chase my oysters with a big buttered steak every time. Our first course was a salad even I could’ve eaten as a meal, though. The Caesar dressing was just so flavorful, the dried herbs so crunchy. The anchovies weren’t fishy at all, really, but just added some salty depth. I would order this again in a second.

Breslin Suckling Pig

And then the pig arrived as the entire restaurant spontaneously broke into applause.

Breslin Suckling Pig

Its little piggy face was right in front of me, its eyeless sockets staring at me and its puffed ears floating alongside its head, begging to be popped like balloons at a county fair dart game. It was much smaller than I’d expected, but I guess we were feeding a table of nine and not a whole neighborhood of smalltown Ohio hillbillies.

Breslin Suckling Pig

Our pig-carver deftly removed the legs from each side and then tonged shoulder, belly, loin, and butt onto our plates.

Breslin Suckling Pig

My plate of crispy skin and shoulder was heavenly. The forkfuls alternated between completely falling apart and so crunchy I couldn’t cut them. It was all of the best things about pork with the benefit that I could sample all of the cuts in one dish.

My boyfriend’s experience wasn’t quite as good as mine, because the skin he got was floppy rather than crispy. I had to give him a piece of my skin before he understood why everyone was salivating over it. I guess that’s one of the side effects of EATING A WHOLE PIG.

Breslin Suckling Pig
duck fat roasted potatoes

It was served with sides of potatoes roasted in duck fat, roasted fennel, broccoli rabe, green sauce, and red sauce. The potatoes were the star with their extra crispy/extra fatty exteriors and soft insides, but really, all of the accoutrements held their own. The garlicky broccoli rabe and tender fennel were both spicy to accent the sweetness of the pork, while the chunky red sauce of peppers and tomatoes only added to its sweetness by tasting wildly of apple pie.

The apple that had been roasted in the pig’s mouth, on the other hand, was funky. My first bite was just nice, mushy apple, but my second bite was freaky, pig-saliva-flavored mushy apple. Lesson learned.

Breslin Suckling Pig

We spent an hour or so really ravaging that carcass, peeling back the cheeks and breaking off the ears, making excessive mentions of the butt meat and trying the doubly-flavoured neck meat.

Breslin Suckling Pig

Even my boyfriend, the salad-lover, found himself ravenous.

Breslin Suckling Pig

In the end, only this

Breslin Suckling Pig

and this remained.

Breslin Suckling Pig

And that’s when they brought the chocolate tarts

Breslin Suckling Pig

and ice cream.

Breslin Suckling Pig

The tart was very good, especially the parts with course salt sprinkled on top, but the ice cream was the really delicious part. I don’t want to pretend like I have any idea what to compare the flavor to, but the ice cream was extra sweet and just had a really wonderful smooth texture. I wondered if there was Marshmallow Fluff or something mixed in.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarZero Stars

Breslin Suckling Pig
see larger (still impresses even me)

This was a difficult rating for me. On one hand, I really appreciate the novelty of being able to eat an entire pig in a fairly small NYC restaurant. I appreciate the work and care that had to go into preparing it. The side dishes were all better than expected and were flavorful enough not to become just afterthoughts next to the pig. I’m still thinking about that ice cream. But at the end of the day, if I’m going to spend $85 for a plate of food, I’d rather have it be an uncommon preparation made with ingredients I have to Google before I leave for the restaurant. Had this been anything but a whole pig, it would have been much less expensive, and there wouldn’t have been any floppy skin to deal with.

But my boyfriend said, “I mean, I just ask myself how much better they could have done with that, and it seems like, for what it was, that’s about as good as you could expect,” and I think that’s reasonable. It was a really neat experience, and I’m very glad I got to be a part of it. I found out that for me, eating an animal that still looks like itself isn’t weird at all! And I met some great people in the process.

The Breslin Bar & Dining Room
16 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001 (map)

The Modern at MoMA – American (New)/French – Midtown West
Jan 7th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

The Modern inside the Museum of Modern Art always shows up on NYC’s Restaurant Week list and always gets completely booked well before I’m even aware Restaurant Week is upon me. This summer, my boyfriend and I attempted a walk-in and almost got laughed out of the place, so we decided to plan ahead and save it for our anniversary.

Here’s the tasting menu, served in the formal dining room:

The Modern
amuse bouche: porcini- and rosemary-dusted popcorn

The flavoring on this was too uneven to make much impact, but we liked the idea of it a lot.

The Modern
amuse bouche: deconstructed vichyssoise: russet potato, leek soup sphere

Quite an impressive presentation, right? Between this and the spork, the flatware coolness wasn’t lost on us.

The Modern
amuse bouche: nori rice crisp, celeriac purée, hackleback caviar

Surprisingly, though, this was my favourite of the amuses. Surprising because I haven’t traditionally been the world’s biggest fan of the flavor of the ocean. This was just so fresh-tasting and so salt-concentrated, though, that I couldn’t help myself.

The Modern
amuse bouche: pâte à choux, avocado purée

The Modern
my boyfriend’s red bell pepper cocktail

The Modern
fennel souflée, tomato confit, tomato gelée, candied fennel

Tomato even a bona fide anti-tomato activist like me could enjoy. I guess everything tastes good when you cook it in fat and garnish it in sugar.

The Modern
“milles feuilles” (thousand leaf, meaning layers) of summer truffle, diver scallops, and watermelon, arugula coulis, sustainable Osetra caviar

This was the only total miss of the night, probably because it had such potential to be a hit. With all of those luxury ingredients, you’d think it would’ve blow our minds with flavor, but it was bland and mushy. The truffle taste wasn’t detectable at all, and the only texture interest came from the caviar.

The Modern
chilled sweet corn soup, pearl onions, poached quail eggs, hickory smoke

The corn was freeze-dried! And it totally made the dish. I love corn anything to begin with, but everything about this soup was a delight, from the temperature to the herbs to the smoke to the soft eggs with their liquid interiors.

The Modern
grilled Sullivan County foie gras, champagne-vinegar-preserved strawberries, harissa tuile

The Modern
Maine lobster tart, fennel purée, red sorrel, “lobster granité”

To be completely honest, this dish didn’t pack a whole lot of flavor. But chewy, gummy lobster and flaky crust are such a good texture combination. Is that a terrible way of describing the way lobster feels in your mouth? It’s one of the few seameats I really, really like, so I don’t want to do it injustice, but you have to admit that it’s totally weird to eat.

The Modern
bulgur-wheat-crusted john dory, roasted black cherries, lemon verbena oil

I basically just wanted to try the john dory because Chef Gordon Ramsey serves it a bazillion times on every season of “Hell’s Kitchen”. It was a little too fishy for me, but I liked the earthy tones of the wheat and cherry.

The Modern The Modern
Modern “pot au feu” served two ways: New York prime strip loin, summer vegetables, basil emulsion; braised cheek, pommes fondantes

The little copper pot of ultra-tender and sweet beef cheek was definitely the best of the entrees for both of us.

The Modern
strawberry basil gelée, pistachios, strawberry balsamic foam

The Modern
buttermilk panna cotta, strawberry soup, pistachio ice cream, caramelized tuile

Dr. Boyfriend didn’t care much about this dessert, but I thought each component was delicious in itself and that the sum of the parts was even greater. The strawberries were refreshing but not too light in their syrupy cold soup, and that sweet, crunchy tuile was such a great texture addition. Dipped in the caramel on the side of the bowl, the tuile was probably my favourite part of the dish.

The Modern
chocolate petit fours

We made a major mistake at this point, and I want our blunder to serve as warning to you. We had seen this wheeled cart brimming with chocolate treats making the rounds, and figuring it was an additional charge, discussed whether or not we had the room in our stomachs to make it worth our while. Of course it turned out to be included with the tasting menu, and of course we pansied out and only got four pieces for the two of us. As soon as we tasted them, we realized what idiots we were and wanted to call our server back over, but we were too embarrassed to be seen as double-dippers.

LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKE. Take one of everything on the cart and store it in your cheeks for later if you need to.

The Modern
Chocolate Cones with Maple Ice Cream and Raspberry

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarZero Stars

This was a solidly delicious and inventive meal and probably would’ve received 4.5 donuts had we not been to other restaurants that just plain packed more flavor into their dishes. I do agree with the single Michelin star it’s had for several years, and I certainly think it’s a worthwhile member of the Danny Meyer restaurant group, but it just didn’t live up wholly to my expectations. There’s really something special about eating inside a museum, but The Wright at the Guggenheim is a better bet for your money.

The Modern
9 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019 (map)

French Macarons at Financier
Nov 2nd, 2010 by plumpdumpling

As a lover of intense flavor experiences and creamy desserts, meringue cookies are about the least interesting treat in the entire world for me. They look nice and all, but their taste is always too weak, and biting into them is like biting into a hunk of diabetes-inducing chalk.

But after being served a mango macaron at The Wright for my birthday, I keep finding myself unexpectedly craving those little French cookies. They have the tiniest layer of crunch on their outsides, easily broken just by holding them, but then their centers are somehow super-moist, almost like raw cookie dough. And their flavors are always wildly dense, like heavily-concentrated versions of things found in nature.

So naturally I Googled “best macarons NYC”, because I am a master searcher who doesn’t type out entire questions like, “Where do I find the best macarons in NYC?” like everyone who finds my blog via Google. (I still love you, though.) The first viable result came from some snob from Serious Eats who wrote:

After Paris, the city whose macarons I’m most familiar with is New York City. Unfortunately, after eating NYC’s macarons I think I’d rather wait until my next vacation to Paris than eat another one here. I don’t mean to imply that they’re all horrible—obviously someone likes them or else these shops wouldn’t keep churning them out—but I’ve found most of them to be disappointing.

I kind of want to punch the woman in the crotch. Calling a macaron disappointing is like calling a flavor of ice cream disappointing. Or pizza. Or corndogs. Yes, some corndogs are better than others. And when you’ve had a corndog dipped in pumpkin sauce, I can see how other corndogs wouldn’t live up to it. But you’re still getting to eat an effing corndog, so shut it.

Sorry. I’m just jealous that I’ve never eaten a macaron in Paris.

The writer recommended La Maison du Chocolat for the best of the apparently-unsatisfactory NYC macarons, and incredibly, my boyfriend works right above one. I begged and pleaded and called him things like “darling” and “cuppycake”, but he doesn’t think women should be sitting around eating bonbons on a Tuesday night, so I was left to my own devices.

Luckily, a co-worker informed me that Financier, home of the famed Bûche de Noël, carries them. So I stopped after work and bought a package of 8, all in different flavors.

Financier French Macarons

YOU GUYS. Maybe it’s good that I’ve never been to Paris to compare these to the real things, but glurgglurgglurgglurg. They were so good.

Financier Patisserie
87 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017 (map)

93 Pearl Street
New York, NY 10004 (map)

1211 6th Ave
New York, 10036 (map)

983 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10022 (map)

Seasonal – Austrian/American (new) – Midtown West
Jul 7th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

When my boyfriend suggested Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar because it was awarded a Michelin star this year, I pictured a lively Austrian pub type place with comforting foods like bratwurst and sauerkraut and girls named Brunhilda serving them. What I got was a sleek formal dining room with an inventive menu that put me in the mind of wd-50 or Degustation.

This is one of those unfortunate cases where I had the dinner a couple of months ago and was so overwhelmed by the idea of writing about all of the awesomeness I experienced, so pardon my slim review and (hopefully) enjoy the photos.

The tasting menu:

Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar
octopus amuse bouche

I basically love anything with one of these green purees. They always taste so refreshing, and they make me think I’m eating something more exciting than leafy vegetables. I’d be so healthy if my life involved more green purees.

Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar
salmon with some sort of awesome powder stuff and the BEST, most flavorful microgreens

Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar
white asparagus soup, rock shrimp, morcilla, spring onion

I’ve had an interest in white asparagus since Leah said on season 5 of “Top Chef” that it’s her least-favourite ingredient (because, you know, she’s my least-favourite “Top Chef” contestant). Besides tasting fresh and springy, it also has the dubious honor of being the vegetable most resembling a penis. Win-win!

Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar
sweetbread, celery root, onion

The best-looking sweetbread you’ve ever seen, am I right?

Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar
soft poached egg, lobster, maitake, porcini

This might be the dish that really brings me around to mushrooms. I can handle mushroom flavor but hate the look of the things, so putting them in a foam is genius. And hiding the other kind of mushroom underneath that foam is über-genius. I think this may have been my favourite dish of the night because it was difficult and yet delicious.

Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar
trout, goat cheese, pumpkin seed, radish

Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar
wagyu, parsley root, black garlic, cipollini, lime

I still think about this dish once a day. There is no reason that lime flavor and steak go together, and the fact that they not only go together but bring out all of the best flavors in each other is mindboggling.

Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar

I have no idea what this was, but it really looks exciting, right?

Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar
extra dessert!

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarZero Stars

Seäsonal
132 West 58th Street
New York, NY 10019 (map)

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