Crêpes du Nord – French/Scandinavian – Financial District
Feb 18th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

It only makes sense that the ladies behind Goodies First and donuts4dinner would team up for a crepes luncheon, right? And we even had the good sense not to skip straight to dessert.

Crêpes du Nord opened about a year ago just a few minutes from my office in the Financial District, but that whole Stone Street restaurant conglomerate sort of scares me with its frat house feel. The street is closed to traffic and filled with umbrella-shaded picnic tables, which would be lovely if they weren’t constantly crowded with light blue dress shirts and uncomfortable heels. But that’s New York, I guess.

I had a gift certificate, which made the decision to go quite a bit easier, and it turns out you can enter the restaurant through the William Street side, which is considerably more relaxed. The restaurant can only hold about 20 people, so I recommend getting there well before or after the lunch rush. And if you get a table near the front, you can watch your crepe being skillfully made.

Crepes du Nord
Prosciutto di Parma, ricotta, arugula, black pepper, lemon

Krista described her openface prosciutto crepe filled with ricotta as a nice sandwich alternative that “certainly” beats the offerings at Subway, which I’m not sure is much of a compliment, but she did say she liked the buckwheaty heftiness of the crepe.

Crepes du Nord

Crepes du Nord
Country Herb Chicken, ricotta, ratatouille

The reviews I read all suggested the Country Herb Chicken crepe, and while I felt pretty pedestrian ordering fowl when there was herring, shrimp, and short rib on the menu, I just had to hope the reviewers weren’t all Statue of Liberty visitors with Ohio palates. I couldn’t have expected more from the crepe, though; side by side with tender summer squash in an herbed tomato sauce, the chunks of chicken were juicy yet firm to complement the creaminess of the cheese.

Crepes du Nord
Dulce De Leche, caramel, fresh banana, whipped cream

Again, this was probably the boringest of the dessert crepes, but it really hit my soft spot for caramel. The whipped cream could’ve been thicker for me, but once you’ve had the Peter Luger schlag, all other whipped cream is a fail.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarBlank StarBlank Star

My co-workers were concerned my lunch date wouldn’t be able to keep up with me in the gluttony department, but it turns out I couldn’t finish either of my dishes. For $5 to $12 each, the crepes were just as filling as any generic sandwich but with twice the taste and skill required. Plus, the subtle but sleek decor makes it a great place for a lunch date.

Crêpes du Nord
17 South William Street
New York, NY 10004 (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)

The Lemongrass Grill Curry Puff – Financial District – Thai
Aug 18th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

The curry puff is common to Thai, Malaysian, and Singaporean cuisine, but none of those cuisines is common to me, so the first time I tried one, I was in heaven. Sort of like an empanada, sort of like a samosa, it’s pastry stuffed with a thick curry, chicken, potatoes, and onion and deep-fried.

Since that original curry puff, I’ve tried as many as I can find in NYC, but I always go back to the one at Lemongrass Grill.

It’s the flakiest, the curry-est, and the most way-too-delicious-to-last-more-than-two-bites. The puff isn’t hard like a samosa’s, so the filling gets to mingle with it.

But really, it wouldn’t be anything without the dipping sauce it comes with. It’s vinegar-based with chunks of cucumber that taste a little bit pickled and a little bit sweet. I didn’t even like cucumbers a couple of years ago, but I would still dig those things out of the little cup with my fingers when my boyfriend wasn’t looking.

And I always follow my curry puff up with their chicken pad thai (which is also my favourite in NYC), or the Gai Tom Kha soup.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

Lemongrass Grill
84 William Street
New York, NY 10038 (map)

138 East 34th Street
New York, NY 10016 (map)

2534 Broadway
New York, NY 10025 (map)

61A 7th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217 (map)

156 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201 (map)

Restaurant Week Summer 2010: SHO Shaun Hergatt – French/Japanese – Financial District
Jul 19th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

Two of my co-workers and I decided to hit SHO Shaun Hergatt for a Restaurant Week lunch at the last minute, and their dress code was listed as “jacket preferred”, so I changed into a pair of open-toed red patent leather wedges from my usual flip-flops and hoped no one would notice my jeans and my co-worker’s t-shirt. It must have worked, because they let us in (and were even nice to us!). And I’m sure glad they did.

SHO Shaun Hergatt
potato-yuzu dip

Our crusty rolls came with the usual butter but also this dip, which our server told us is one of the chef’s specialties. It had the consistency of mashed potatoes and tasted very fresh and citrusy, thanks to the yuzu.

SHO Shaun Hergatt
carpaccio of black angus beef, fried capers, parmesan

I think this is the first time I’ve had fried capers, and I really enjoyed their crunch and their peppercorn-ish flavor. The presentation was so beautiful that my photographer friend, Anthony, had to take several shots of this of his own to mess around in Photoshop with. The texture of the beef was so buttery and tender it was as if it had been cooked for hours.

SHO Shaun Hergatt
organic red and yellow beets, Sicilian pistachios, espelette

I may have ruined this dish by starting a glass of sake before I tasted it, because I couldn’t taste the sauce at all. It reminded me of mayonnaise in texture, but the only taste I got were from the earthy beets and the toasted nuts, which of course I loved, because those things are objectively good.

SHO Shaun Hergatt
handmade porcini pappardelle

I think pappardelle is my favourite pasta. Thin yet broad, it soaks up flavor and doesn’t overpower other ingredients with breadiness like thicker pastas do. This dish was wonderfully creamy and umami-y, perfectly cooked and YUM.

SHO Shaun Hergatt
char siu braised pork belly

But the pork belly was better. I know I’ve said it before at Craftbar and at Sakagura, but I’m just so impressed that it’s possible for someone to take a half-inch thick layer of fat and make it not only edible but craveable. It tastes as good as the pork itself. Raw apples mixed with the soft cooked vegetables, and the salty-sweet soy-infused sauce had seeped into every inch of that belly.

SHO Shaun Hergatt
milk chocolate palet, yuzu chantilly, raspberries

I would be hard-pressed to call this milk chocolate if you asked me to describe it, because it was so dense and rich. The chocolate was substantial, too, creamy and whipped yet thick enough to stay on a fork. I admittedly didn’t taste the yuzu in the whipped cream, but the fresh raspberries were divine, as was the crumbly chocolate crust.

SHO Shaun Hergatt
peach tarte tatin, mascarpone ice cream, pistachio crumble

I loved the thin, nutty wafer on top, but the whole point of the dessert was the peach, which was so intensely ripe and sweet. I didn’t get more than a taste of it, so I want to go back and order it for myself.

SHO Shaun Hergatt
chocolate financier, passion fruit jellies

These were really better than either of the menued desserts. The spongey chocolate cake was buttery and piped with a hazelnut frosting-like cream. The caramelized hazelnut was . . . gah. I like to save the best thing on my plate for last, so I had left a bite of my chocolate palet behind, but I gulped it right down after I had the first bite of this.

The gummy was so sugary it might scare off lesser sweet tooths, but I loved the juxtaposition of the more savory financier with this. And I was mad that I had eaten more slowly than Nik and Anthony, because had I gotten to it first, I would’ve grabbed both of theirs, too.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarZero Stars

The great thing about eating lunch here during Restaurant Week (which SHO is continuing through Labor Day, by the way!) is that they give you a $24 gift certificate to come back for dinner. Which means that this lunch was essentially free. So go.

SHO Shaun Hergatt
40 Broad Street
New York, NY 10004

Financier’s Bûche de Noël
Jan 6th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

I figured it was too late to post about my first bûche de Noël experience before I left NYC to spend the holidays with my family in Ohio, but since Blondie & Brownie revealed that Financier is still selling them, it looks like I’m good to go.

Being from the Midwest and being very much culturally sheltered, I had no idea what a bûche de Noël was until my office decided on a whim to order a couple of cakes from the downtown Financier Patisserie the week before Christmas. When I called at 3 p.m., the order-taker told me that they were down to a couple of roll cakes, one in white chocolate and one in Grand Marnier. I told her I’d take them, but she kept stressing that these were not normal cakes and kept asking if I was sure I wanted them. I was like, “Lady, cake is cake.”

buche de noel

But no! A traditional bûche de Noël is a French sponge cake rolled up with frosting to resemble a log, complete with buttercream bark, meringue mushrooms, and protruding branches (made of chocolate, in this case). The Grand Marnier version was entirely untraditional, but the mound of berry-flavored mousse was no less delicious.

buche de noelbuche de noel

I usually think Financier’s cakes are too light and fluffy to really count as a decadent dessert (because I’m a glutton), but the yule log was a total exception and one that I’ll look forward to next year. It seems like the woman at Financier shouldn’t have been warning me about the cake but should’ve been asking why I wasn’t buying all three.

Is this something normal, non-Midwestern people often eat for Christmas?

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