Tower of Macarons in Paris
Oct 19th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

Peeking through a Paris shop window at a literal tower of macarons, giant chocolate eggs, and edible cars! Is that a little camera in the corner so they can see how many people press their faces to the glass and drool?

Peeking through a Paris shop window at a literal tower of macarons, giant chocolate eggs, and edible cars! Is that a little camera in the corner so they can see how many people press their faces to the glass and drool?

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La Bossue, Paris
Oct 10th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

Of course we needed some treats after our pizza lunch, so we stopped in La Bossue looking for a Paris-Brest pastry, but we had to settle for all of these canelés and financiers.

Of course we needed some treats after our pizza lunch, so we stopped in La Bossue looking for a Paris-Brest pastry, but we had to settle for all of these canelés and financiers.

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Il Brigante Pizza, Paris
Oct 9th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

I’m a really bad tourist and always want to eat pizza wherever I am in the world, so during our day in the neighborhood of Montmartre in Paris, I found a pizzeria called Il Brigante, run by an Italian transplant. We walked in and nicely asked him if he spoke English (in French, of course). He said no. And then he started to tell us in French that he spoke French, Italian, Spanish, German . . . I WISH we would’ve asked him if he speaks Polish, since Jack does, but we just smiled, because everyone in France had been so nice to us, and we couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. In the end, he spoke perfect English, and we got a fantastic pizza.

I’m a really bad tourist and always want to eat pizza wherever I am in the world, so during our day in the neighborhood of Montmartre in Paris, I found a pizzeria called Il Brigante, run by an Italian transplant. We walked in and nicely asked him if he spoke English (in French, of course). He said no. And then he started to tell us in French that he spoke French, Italian, Spanish, German . . . I WISH we would’ve asked him if he speaks Polish, since Jack does, but we just smiled, because everyone in France had been so nice to us, and we couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. In the end, he spoke perfect English, and we got a fantastic pizza.

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Emmy Squared, Detroit-Style Pizza in Williamsburg
Apr 27th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

To me, the Clinton Hill pizzeria Emily is famous because my neighbor and her husband own it. My boyfriend and I started going there because they offered everyone in our building a free dessert, and there aren’t many places I wouldn’t go for a free s’mores calzone. We kept going to Emily because it turned out the pizza was really the epitome of what great NY wood-fired pizza can be, with an airy, crisp crust that wasn’t hard and overly chewy. And then all of NYC went there, too, not only for the funky pizza concoctions (like the Colony with pickled chilis and honey) but for the award-winning burger that the Internet couldn’t stop talking about. Now there’s Emmy Squared in Williamsburg, an offshoot offering Detroit-style pizza because it wasn’t enough for Matt Hyland to just be a master of NY pies.

Emmy Squared

Emmy Squared

Emmy Squared
crispy cheddar curds

These things must be triple-battered, for all of the crunchy stuff that falls off of them onto the plate as you pull them apart. Growing up in Ohio, we asked for “extra crispy stuff” or “more crunchies” at Long John Silver’s to get a little pile of fried batter on the side of our hush puppies. These are the adult version of that. Dip those little nuggets of cheese into your spicy “sammy” sauce or tomato sauce, and don’t forget the crispies.

Emmy Squared
The Emmy — mozzarella, banana peppers, onions, ranch, side of tomato sauce for dipping

Emmy Squared
Glorious thick crust, loads of toppings, I love you.

Emmy Squared

Emmy Squared
Angel Pie — mozzarella, ricotta, mushrooms, Truffleist mushroom cream

Emmy Squared
Roni Supreme — sauce, mozzarella, lots of pepperoni, calabrian chiles

When I was a kid in Ohio (and truthfully, up until about five years ago), Pizza Hut was my favorite pizza. The popular pizzas in Ohio–Donatos, Massey’s, every mom and pop shop in my little town–had the Midwestern cracker crust, but if my pizza wasn’t piled on an inch of bread, I wasn’t interested. Emmy Squared takes the idea of that pan pizza and makes it so your stomach won’t explode. It has that same crust that rises up along the side of the baking pan, but here, the cheese spills over the side and fries up crispy to give the crust a crunch and a buttery-ness that you can’t get with wood-fired pizza. And the dough at Emmy Squared isn’t a brick that expands in your stomach; it’s a light, airy thing just weighty enough to support the loads of toppings.

I ordered the Roni Supreme to harken back to those days when we used to use the crispy curled-edge pepperoni of Ohio pizzas as bowls for other toppings. It wasn’t for the faint of heart, with clumps of chile seeds to make your eyes water. My boyfriend’s mom got the Angel Pie, because mushrooms are a hot commodity back in her native Poland, where every member of the household is a fungus-picking expert in the forest. We all loved the texture of the ricotta and the sauce replacement of truffle cream. But our favorite was The Emmy, which we added sausage to like hedonists. But of course it was going to be our favorite, because it had all of the best things in life: banana peppers, red onions, and RANCH. Homemade ranch, with extra herbs in it to make it green. I didn’t even know there was a way to make regular ranch better. I couldn’t stop exclaiming about how this was my new favorite pizza. And it wasn’t just the Moscow Mules talking.

Emmy Squared

Emmy Squared

Remember GreenBox from an episode of “Shark Tank“? Emmy Squared uses them! How environmentally responsible and convenient!

Emmy Squared

Emmy Squared
364 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211 (map)

Pizza Italia’s Grandma Slice
Aug 14th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

I’m writing pizzeria reviews as’s Manhattan Pizza Examiner. I know it shows that I have the palate of a 5-year-old, but pizza’s easily my favourite food, so you can count on me for plenty of fangirling over crust and sauce in these articles.

Grandma Slice

Pizza in New York City is as varied as the people who eat it, and everyone here does. During the typical lunch rush at the Financial District’s Pizza Italia, you’ll see families on their way to the Statue of Liberty, the IT guy from your office with the ponytail and ironic t-shirt, and the slick lawyer in the even slicker suit all waiting their turn to order from the glass cases on the counter. But one thing they all have in common is that they’re ordering the grandma slice. Read the rest here!

An Icy Introduction: SnoBalls, SnoCreams, & Slushes in the Lower East Side
May 14th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

My boyfriend and I were on one of our infamous walks around the city this weekend, hiking from Midtown East to Chinatown and back again, when he got a hankering for a shaved ice. It had started when he saw the watermelon slush at Bubbly Tea mere moments after he’d received his less-desirable honeydew milk tea and was in full swing by the time we were nearing Astor Place.

And there, serendipitously, we found An Icy Introduction: SnoBalls, SnoCreams, & Slushes, a popup stand attached to the Brow-NY clothing store. From now until September 30th, it’ll offer shaved ice saturated with dense unprocessed sugar syrups (and sugar-free ones!) and topped with sauces like marshmallow cream and peanut butter or made into a snocream in the Caribbean style with condensed milk and vanilla.

An Icy Introduction SnoBalls

There are the traditional American syrup flavors like blue raspberry and cherry for the nostalgic, but the more adventurous can try the red velvet cake, egg custard, or cake batter. Then there are the “signature Caribbean flavors” like ginger beer, mauby, peanut punch, and sorrel. You can have each half of your ice flavored differently; $3 for a small 12 oz., $4 for a medium 16 oz., or $5 for a large 20 oz., plus $.50 for toppings.

My boyfriend and I are obsessed with natural ginger sodas like Bruce Cost’s Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale, so I had to try the ginger beer. Mauby was described on the list of flavors as “tree-bark-based, initially sweet, like root beer, an acquired taste”, and the “resident Caribbean Snoball-logist” manning the booth, Kafi Dublin, said that I’d be the first white girl to like it, so of course I took that as a challenge and requested it for my second flavor.

An Icy Introduction SnoBalls

It looked pretty boring to me, especially compared to my boyfriend’s, which was blinding small dogs nearby with its neon colors. But the color of mine was inversely proportional to the flavors, which were like ginger and root beer but boiled down to their most concentrated forms. The ginger was biting, dry, and refreshing in a way that more sugary flavors can’t be. The mauby was distinctly earthy, very much related to root beer and tree bark and black licorice. They were the perfect compliment to each other, and I enjoyed the grown-up-ness of them.

My boyfriend’s pina colada and watermelon flavors were much less exotic but still just as intense. By the bottom of the cup, where the ice was really doused in the syrup, the sugar was catching up with him. To say these were not your “standard watery syrups” is an understatement.

An Icy Introduction SnoBalls

And we’re going to be back every weekend until we try the entire list of them.

An Icy Introduction
345 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012 (map)

Per Se – French – Columbus Circle
Mar 18th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

Proving I like seafood enough to make a trip to Per Se worthwhile has been my goal for a couple of years now. I’ve made an effort to eat every oyster, every bit of fish roe, and every octopus mosaic my boyfriend, Kamran, has offered me in the hope that I could weasel the tasting menu out of him. So when he finally relented, it felt like a real victory for me. Even if he really just wanted to reward himself for finishing the New York bar exam.

Getting a reservation at Per Se is quite a complicated maneuver, at least in our experience. We watched OpenTable for weeks and never saw a Friday or Saturday night free, and calling the restaurant was always fruitless, too, but they’re very quick to offer to put you on the waiting list for a stretch of three nights. Starting a week ahead of time, you can also check OpenTable for weeknight availability. I put us on the waitlist for a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and did get a call about a Sunday spot early in the week, but we saw a Thursday night on OpenTable and took that instead so we wouldn’t be drunk on food and wine for Monday.

And all of the work was definitely worth it. Here’s the chef’s tasting menu in all of its having-to-wait-for-it-makes-it-even-better glory:

Per Se NY
Gruyere cheese gougeres

I’m a lover of choux (especially its pronunciation), and this half-a-bite of pastry stuffed with cheese was an excellent indication of what was to come. It tasted exactly like a Nips cracker! But didn’t leave the nasty soggy bits clinging to my teeth.

Per Se NY
salmon cornettes, chives

Biting into this was like eating a fishy potato chip. With chive!

At this point, our server brought me a tiny cushioned stool for my purse (apparently this is a thing now) and a Per Se notepad. I was taking notes in the little 3″x5″ notebook I always use, but apparently he thought it was too small and offered me the notepad. I declined, but he left it at the table just in case, and I ended up liking it and the protective cardstock cover that wraps around it so intricately that I’ve since used it at other restaurants, no doubt causing jealousy and scorn.

Per Se NY
“Oysters and Pearls”: “sabayon” of pearl tapioca, island creek oysters, sterling white sturgeon caviar

If you’ve never had oysters because you’re afraid of the texture or don’t know how to eat them, these are the first you should ever try. Unlike raw oysters, which you sort of massage between your tongue and teeth to extract the flavor before swallowing them, these cooked oysters fell apart in our mouths. That pure, clean ocean flavor I associate with oysters was still there, but otherwise, it was like eating a bowl of dumpling soup made extra-thick by the tapioca. Caviar is one of the more recent fruits of the sea I’ve begun to sample, so I usually find myself remembering what it is and getting weirded out halfway through any dish and leaving some of it behind; this just blended with the thick broth and the bite of the scallions so well, though, that I finished every last bite.

Jose’ Dhont, Blanc de Blanca, Oger MV

Per Se NY
egg custard, black truffle ragout, potato chive chip

The custard filling this eggshell (one of the best presentations possible, right?) was unflavored save a slight egginess, but I think it was the dense texture that was the point of it. The flavor came from the rich black truffle ragout, a buttery layer of liquid on top of the custard. The chip was oddly chewy but made for a nice truffle vessel.

Per Se NY
salt tasting

We were given salted and unsalted sweet butter, warm brioche rolls, and this array of salts ranging from Hawaiian volcanic to Himilayan to deep ocean. We basically had no idea what to do with them, so we spread a little butter on our rolls and sprinkled a little salt on top. Because of the tininess of the rolls, we were each only able to sample two or three of them. We were a little bewildered. As expected, we couldn’t taste the differences between them, but the texture differences were . . . interesting.

Per Se NY
cauliflower panna cotta, Iberico ham croquette, Big Island hearts of peach palm, compressed Granny Smith apple, hazelnuts, cilantro

Kamran called this “the baby food course” due to the texture of the dish’s focal point. The panna cotta was perfectly creamy, sweet, and salty with cool, refreshing tones provided by the apple and cilantro. The croquette, surprisingly, seemed like an afterthought; it was just a breaded chunk of ham. On the opposite end of the surprise meter were the simple hazelnuts sprinkled on top of the panna cotta, which were highly present both in their flavor and crunch.

Per Se NY
terrine of Hudson Valley moulard duck foie gras, white celery glaze, “Parisienne de Betteraves” (Parisian beets), baby leeks, sorrel, Blis Elixir (sherry vinegar), toasted brioche

This was the creamiest little sliver of foie gras with absolutely none of the bite organ meats sometimes have. We loved the ring of pepper on one side of the plate and the very pungent celery flavor from the glaze. We secretly wanted to spread it all over the soft rolls from the salt tasting course, but the crusty brioche was nice if extremely messy.

Per Se NY
herb roasted sturgeon “ail confit en persillade” (garlic confit and parsley): violet artichoke, parsley shoots, English pea coulis, Meyer lemon emulsion

This dish was such a pleasure because it was such a surprise. The drab colors on the plate made us think it was going to be a boring, throwaway course, but in fact, both the fish and the garlic packed a punch in entirely different ways. The confit garlic was soft enough to be made into a paste with the slightest fork-touch and sweet enough to not even be recognizable as garlic. The sturgeon was soaked through with this wonderful salty, smoky flavor that really complimented our dark, almost leathery wine. But as always, we couldn’t used a lot more lemon in that lemon emulsion.

Selbach-Oster, Riesling, Kabinett, “Zeltinger Sonnenuhr”, Mosel 2009
Willi Schaefer, Riesling, Auslese, “Graacher Domprobst #6”, Mosel 2005

Per Se NY
butter poached Nova Scotia lobster, brioche melba, caramelized salsify, romaine hearts, watercress, Squire Hill Farms’ hen egg purée

The meny changes daily at Per Se, so I was not only super-pleased but also a little relieved that it was a lobster night and not an octopus night. It makes sense that the colors in my photo look like neon puffy paint from the 90s, because this dish was a stand out. I wrote the word “buttery” down on my notepad three times, if that’s any indication of what the overarching flavor of it was. Even the romaine lettuce, probably the most boring ingredient ever next to boiled chicken, shocked me with how buttery it was. The crunchy melba with the springy lobster and the creamy puree was dreamy. The pairing of this with our wine made the wine taste like butterscotch.

Per Se NY
Liberty Farm’s Pekin Duck (Long Island duck, not Peking duck!) “Rôti á La Broche” (spit-roasted): Meiwa kumquats, Persian cucumbers, French breakfast radishes, red ribbon sorrel, basil-sesame purée

Maybe it was the sesame, or maybe my mind was tricking me with the distinction between Pekin and Peking, but this dish did taste Asian-influenced to me. I loved the spicy radish with the cool cucumber and the crispy skin of the tender duck.

Patrick Javilier, “Les Tillets”, Meursault 2008

Per Se NY
tenderloin of Marcho Farms’ veal, “coeur de veau” (veal heart), pickled cabbage créme fraîche, new crop potatoes, braised shallot, mâche

Beef heart! It was new to me, but the way it was sliced so thin made it taste as familiar as deli lunchmeat. The tenderloin itself was entirely undersalted, but we realized why when we tasted the salty accompaniments like the sour cabbage and soft potatoes.

Switchback Ridge, Merlot, Napa Valley 2007

Per Se NY
“Caerphilly”, heirloom carrots, young fennel, arugula leaves, fennel pollen grissini (breadstick)

This hard white cheese from Wales had just the right amount of funk to contrast the sweet yellow carrots (with their tops still on!) and to compliment the bite of the arugula. We loved the bacon, the spicy mustard, and the wheat beer pairing.

Allagash Brewing Co., “White”, Maine

Per Se NY
Young Coconut and Lemongrass “Float”: young coconut and lemongrass mousse, passion fruit meringue, coconut sorbet

This was a neat way of introducing the DESSERT ONSLAUGHT that was to following. The layering of different flavors in a cup is nothing new–I can’t count the number of times we’ve had a palate-cleanser of one or two bites thrown into a shot glass–but this one added a texture dimension that kicked it up a notch with everything from freeze-dried to foam. I can still taste the passion fruit meringue with its super-concentrated flavor.

Per Se NY
“Opera”: candied Marcona almonds, Manjari chocolate mousse, almond ice cream, “Whiskey Tonic”

The best thing about this dessert was that alienesque chocolate ball on the left. Its gelatin-like chocolate skin enveloped the chocolate mousse, so it was a weird, though enjoyable, soft-on-soft texture combination. Being a lemon freak, I loved the citrus gel and the way it so smoothly transitioned us into the next course of pure tang overload.

Per Se NY
“Florida Cocktail”: ruby grapefruit “biscuit,” Buddha’s hand soda, candied Cara Cara oranges, Okinawa brown sugar ice cream

This was another dish that displayed all that the Per Se pastry chefs can do with texture. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t pay better attention to the server’s description at the time, because this is certainly the first time I’ve ever been served Buddha’s hand, and not only can I not remember it, but I can’t even see anything in my photo that resembles soda. Maybe someone else who’s had the dish can remind me where I tasted it.

Felsina, Vin Santo, Chianti Classico 2001
Domaine Huet, “Clos du Bourg”, Moelleux, Vouvray 1985

“MIGNARDISES”: the barrage of post-dessert desserts that you have absolutely no chance of even making a dent in

Per Se NYPer Se NY
homemade chocolates

The best. We only took two each despite the lesson we learned at The Modern, but that’s okay where there are THIRTEEN KINDS OF SWEETS coming your way.

Per Se NY
bottom layer: coconut, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate truffles; middle layer: French macarons; top layer: caramels

I mean . . . come on. These are all of my favourite things in one neat little tri-level hinged box. To call these desserts “the best way to end a meal. ever.” is to do them a total disservice. The truffles were solid on the outside, creamy on the inside, and the kind of complimentary flavors that make you want to start over at the beginning once you’ve had all three. One of the macaron flavors was cinnamon, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t let Kamran have a single bite of any of those. The caramels weren’t the super-chewy, get-stuck-in-your-teeth kind but the super-homemade, melt-in-your-mouth kind.

Per Se NY
hard candies

These little slivers of candy were about the thickness of a chive and packed that much flavor, too. Even the anise one was delicious. We didn’t want to waste the already-nonexistent space in our bellies, so Kamran just shoveled handfuls of these into his jacket pocket so we could enjoy them for days afterward. Don’t tell anyone.

Per Se NY
chocolate-covered hazelnuts

These sweet nuts were dusted in about a pound of cocoa each, making for a thick layer of chocolate to bite through. It was perfect for those people I have nothing in common with who like not-sweet desserts.

Per Se NY
popcorn-flavored ice cream

This one-bite dish really did taste just like buttered popcorn! The outer shell was solid and had the crunch of the popcorn bits on its side, but the inside was pure creaminess.

Per Se NYPer Se NY
“coffee and donuts”: coffee ice cream and beignets

I like coffee, but I love coffee ice cream, so it was a real delight to dip my spoon into my little cup and find out it wasn’t filled with liquid. The beignets were perfectly light and fluffy and tasted much better with the coffee than they do with your usual chocolate sauce.

And that was that! We didn’t get to eat nearly as much of the dessert deluge as we wanted to, and I’m sure we could’ve knocked some more of it out had we been able to stick around longer, but A tasting menu with wine pairings is always much easier in thought than in execution. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t do it over and over again a thousand times.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Everything about Per Se is impeccable, from the service staff who know just how much attention to pay you to the houndstooth place settings to the ribbon-tied chocolate cookie sandwiches they send home with you. The view overlooking Central Park is one of the more romantic in all of NYC (so be sure you request a seat near the window when you make your reservation), and the decor is deep-hued enough to feel rich but modern enough to feel unpretentious. The food is the kind you remember long after you’ve forgotten what you had for lunch just yesterday, whether it be the actual taste of it or just the way your spoon felt in it. It’s truly a special kind of restaurant where you feel like the chef really considered everything from flavor to texture to what little extra might really knock your socks off when he imagined each dish. You sense that this is a restaurant always striving to do better than itself.

Per Se
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019 (map)

24 Years of Hating Seafood
Feb 17th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

Sushi Yasuda is considered by many to be the best sushi in New York City–indeed, much of their website is devoted to the formal customs and proper ways of eating it–and my boyfriend has been eyeing their omakase for years now.

The problem is that the omakase–which literally means “it’s up to you”–is a tasting menu of the chef’s choice, and while I’m down for anything an American or European restaurant might serve as part of their tasting, there’s some concern with Asian restaurants that I may get a whole squid or a live baby octopus.

And it’s not that I don’t want to be able to eat everything the chef offers, because obviously he’s not going to put anything in front of me that’s not intended to be mindblowing, but having spent the first 24 years of my life fish-free, I still have a little bit of a mindblock that keeps me from really enjoying the slimiest of seafoods.

Still, I’ve had a lot of advances in the eating of seameats thanks to seriously delicious dishes like the Chilean sea bass at Tao, the lobster at Seasonal Restaurant and Weinbar, and the scallops, shrimp, and lobster at The Wright. So it’s kind of funny to look back at our one and only trip to Yasuda in 2008 and see these pictures:

Sushi Yasuda Uni

Here’s Kamran shoveling in uni (sea urchin gonads!) like he hasn’t eaten in weeks. Meanwhile, I ordered things like . . . cucumber rolls.

Sushi Yasuda

Despite still being scared of live baby octopi, I think I’m ready for another round at Yasuda! I just have to remind myself not to look at all of the freaky stuff on Law & Food‘s review before I go.

Sushi Yasuda
204 East 43rd Street
New York, NY 10017 (map)

Addicted to Food Photography
Apr 9th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

My friend Beth sent me a New York Times article called “First Camera, Then Fork” about the growing popularity of photographing the food we eat and posting it online for others to see. I was at first amused by these lines:

Photographing meals becomes pathological, however, if it interferes with careers or relationships or there’s anxiety associated with not doing it. “I’d have to ask if they would feel O.K. if they didn’t do it,” said Tracy Foose, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, who treats patients with obsessive-compulsive disorders. “Could they resist the urge to do it?”

But then I realized that I actually do sometimes have problems resisting my urge to take pictures of all my meals. I’ll be dining with friends in Ohio, and I’ll see the way the light’s hitting the ketchup on my friend Katie’s daughter’s chicken nuggets just right, and I’ll be dying to ask to photograph it, but then I’ll stop myself and remember that I’m in a Dairy Queen and that normal people do not whip out their cameras in fast food chains.

The worst is that I also feel compelled to ask my friends to take pictures of their own food for me when we’re at dinner and they’re too far across the table for me to get a good shot. I was at The River Café with two friends recently, one of whom shares my photography aesthetic, and one of whom doesn’t. They both took photos of their dishes for me and then showed me the results, one of which was exactly the shot I would’ve taken, and one that was too far from the plate for me. Knowing that I wouldn’t like it, the first friend asked if I wanted her to re-take the second friend’s picture, and of course I did, and of course the second friend was sooooo offended. I didn’t mean it to be offensive, of course, but a good friend would’ve said, “No, the picture she took is perfect, and I’m happy to have a camera full of different styles of photography.”

But I couldn’t say that, because I have problems.

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