Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Great Find: Burger & Barrel

For over a year, I walked from the East Village to Soho across Houston Street to work. The space at the corner of Mercer & West Houston always looked like a spot that would work well for a restaurant, but nothing good was ever there. Until now.

After a day of Christmas shopping around the city, Patrick and I found ourselves hungry in Soho. We passed by Burger & Barrel noting that it looked good, and after checking out the menu, we were sold, it looked awesome. We walked in the door and we were greeted by a trio of friendly ladies and shown to a table for 2 near the bar.

The decor of the restaurant was the first thing I noticed, all dark wood and red tiles arranged to look like exposed brick. Our waitress was attentive and friendly, and she loved that I took pictures of the food (seriously, she high-fived me.)

Patrick & I decided to share 2 appetizers and 1 entree, so we each picked an app to start with. I chose the Short Rib Tacos and he chose the Tuna Tartare. The waitress assured us we had made solid choices, and brought us the wine and beer we had ordered.

When the food came out, it looked delicious. Two small tacos that were bursting with color and a perfect circle of Tuna Tartare topped with Avocado Mousse and surrounded by crunchy chips were placed on our table. The tacos tasted even better than they looked. The Short Rib was tender and full of rich flavor, not at all dry as Short Rib can sometimes get. The veggies inside the taco were fresh, and served as the perfect compliment to the meat.
The Tuna Tartare was the perfect shade of red/pink and tasted exactly as it should: chilled, with a great texture and taste. The Avocado Mousse on top was awesome and paired really well with the fish. The chips were the right amount of salty, and served as a great serving utensil for the fish and avocado. When all 3 elements were eaten together, the result was perfection.
For our main dish, we chose to share the Fried Cornish Hen with Mashed Potatoes, Gravy & Cole Slaw. The waitress again assured us we had made a great choice, and I only believed her once I tasted it. Frying a Cornish Hen results in a less greasy, juicier take on classic Fried Chicken. While I wish the portion had been a little larger since Patrick and I were sharing, that is my only complaint. We "ooed" and "ahhed" our way through the entire dish until our plate was completely empty.
When we were finished with our meal, we decided to share the Salty Peanut Butter Brownie Sundae, which was good, but I wouldn't recommend it. The brownies were cold and the Peanut Butter drizzle was just okay. This further confirms my theory that dessert isn't worth saving room for, but I'll leave that argument for another time. Overall, the meal, the drinks, the decor and the service were all outstanding, and I highly recommend everyone try this place as soon as possible. It's only been open for 3 months, and it's only a matter of time before it turns into a Soho gem.

On the dessert topic, I'm interested to hear your take on ordering dessert. Do you always order it? Never order it? Do you specifically leave room for it, or are you one of those people who proudly shouts "I always have room for dessert!" after a meal? Let me know, I love hearing from you.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Best Steak I've Ever Had

If you're a Manhattanite who loves steak and you haven't yet made the (very short) trek to Williamsberg for a piece of Peter Luger beef, do yourself a favor and pick up your phone right now, call (718) 387-7400 and make a reservation. I'd say you should just go there now, but let's be honest. You and I both know there's no way you'd get a table. Your best bet is to put up with the less-than friendly receptionist, pick a date at least a month in advance (unless you don't mind going on a Monday night at 5pm) and make the reservation that will change your life.

There are few foods I love more than a good steak. Over the years, I've gone from ordering them medium well (the horror!) to a super bloody rare. I'd bet my mother is gagging while reading this, but she raised a serious carnivore. I've found my favorite steaks in Manhattan (Del Friscos, Old Homestead & Wolfgang's), but have been told by many people that I haven't tried a steak until I've been to Peter Luger.

About a month ago, I made the plunge. I called at the beginning of November and asked about availability for every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night in the month of December. The receptionist said, "I have 8pm on December 24th, do you want that?" I didn't. I'll be home for Christmas Eve, and I knew I better be ready to settle for a non-weekend night reservation. By the time it was said and done, I had made an 8:45pm reservation for Monday, December 13th. I started counting down the days.

Patrick and I decided this meal would be what we gave each other for the holidays, and both became very excited about it. As we got closer to the date, we realized it was the same night that his beloved Ravens were playing Monday Night Football, and I asked him if he wanted to move the reservation. Because he's awesome and knew how long it took to get the reservation, he declined, and I hoped more than ever that this would be the best meal of our lives.We took the M-train to Brooklyn and emerged from the subway into the snowy evening. A quick 3-block walk, and we were there. We walked into the brightly-lit restaurant and gave our name to claim our reservation. They told us it would be a few minutes, and it truly was. Before we could order a drink at the bar, our table was ready. My heart was literally beating in foodie anticipation.

We were seated at a lovely corner table and started to take in the menu. We ordered cocktails and decided on one piece of Luger's Sizzling Bacon and the Sliced Tomato with Luger's own sauce. The bacon tasted like heaven. Smoky and juicy with just the right amount of crisp on top. The tomatoes were enormous, bright red and delicious, especially when we dunked them in the sauce and covered them in salt and pepper. These fabulous appetizers had us very excited for the main course. Our dinner order consisted of the Steak for Two, the Onion Rings for Two and the Creamed Spinach for Two. Then we sat, and we waited. Other steaks came out, and we looked at them longingly, but we were patient, and then Patrick saw a waiter point at our table with a giant plate of steak in his hand. It was time.
When he put the plate down on our table, we were silent for a few moments. It was the most incredible steak I'd ever seen in my life. It was drenched in a mysterious yellow liquid (obviously butter, but I think my brain ignored this fact so I could enjoy it more[for those who don't know, I'm quite allergic to butter]) and a beautiful shade of bloody red. The waiter placed a piece on each of our plates, and we began to eat.
Between grunts and other sounds of approval, all we could talk about was how delicious the steak was. Don't get me wrong, the onion rings and creamed spinach were both incredibly good, but the steak was transcendent. It was not only the best steak I'd ever had, it was pretty much the best meal I'd ever had. We quickly ordered ourselves a bottle of red wine and went to town on the behemoth piece of meat.
With a few pieces left, we were both so full that we almost couldn't speak. But waste a single bite of this steak? NO WAY! I kept going. Patrick threw in the towel, but I didn't back down. I finished every last piece, and then started working on the precious meat left on the bone. Don't judge me until you've tried this steak.
When the waiter came back to ask if we wanted dessert, I think the looks on our faces was all he needed to know that the answer was a big, fat "No!" We sat in silence as we slipped into food comas, and waited for the check. I couldn't stop smiling, even though my stomach was killing me (both from fullness, and that blasted butter) but I didn't care. We paid, exchanged a quick "Happy Holidays!" to each other, and set back out into the night.

You better believe we took a cab home.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Brunch Spots: Stanton Social

To write about brunch spots in NYC and not include Chris Santos' Lower East Side gem Stanton Social would be a crime. Stanton Social is a beautiful restaurant and bar that I first knew as the place to get an awesome dirty martini amid beautiful people on a Saturday night. The first time I tried it for brunch, my life was forever changed.

The first thing that sets Stanton Social apart from other brunch spots is the fact that the menu is tapas-style. Tapas? For brunch? Oh yes.

If you're anything like me, you'll order eggs for brunch and when they come, you'll wish you ordered pancakes, and vice versa. Or, you'll go all out and order the special that has eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, pancakes, biscuits and waffles, eat everything and then need to lie down to take a 100-hour nap. (And if you're a Dane Cook fan, you'll note that this is also called "taking a coma.")

But not at Stanton Social. Here you can order a stack of Silver Dollar Pancakes, 1 small Bacon, Egg & Cheese Slider, a tiny plate of Huevos Rancheros and an order of Pumpkin Mini-Muffins and still have room for the famous French Onion Soup Dumplings. This concept is brilliant, and I went for brunch this past Sunday with Patrick, Caroline and two of Pat's friends from Baltimore. Here is what we had.

Caroline and I started with the Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon Butter. Seasonal, moist and absolutely delicious. Pumpkin is one of my favorite flavors, so if there is a pumpkin item on the menu, I will usually order it. These muffins didn't disappoint. Patrick got the Ricotta Fritters with Raspberry Jam, and they were sweet with a wonderful ricotta flavor. We all know I'm not one for sweet, but if there is any kind of cheese, I'm in.
The next dishes to come out were the Huevos Rancheros, Red Snapper Mini Tacos and Spicy Lobster Benedict. The Huevos Rancheros are the perfect minature portion of the classic dish with scrambled chorizo & eggs, black beans, 'salsa fresca' & aged cheddar.
The Snapper Tacos were a delight, although I thought they were a little too tiny, and I didn't try the Lobster Benedict, but Caroline & Pat seemed very pleased with it.
One of my favorite items on the menu is the Double Smoked Bacon, Egg & Cheese on a Buttermilk Biscuit. This comes with a side of crispy salt & vinegar chips, and I have to say, this version of the classic blows away every other I've ever had. The biscuit is buttery (stomachache alert!), the bacon is smokey and the cheese is oozy. This is the point in the meal when I've stopped trying to make conversation with my friends and am just sitting there in awe of the delicious food I'm eating.

Another item that my friends ordered that I didn't try was the 'Kobe Philly' with Truffle & Goat Cheese Fondue. Those who did have it said it was their favorite thing they had. Sounds like I missed out, but there's always next time!

We rounded out the meal with the Spicy Lamb Souvlakis with Tzatziki, Lime & Harissa Aioli, the Social Mac & Cheese with Chorizo & Ovendried Tomato and the aforementioned famous French Onion Soup Dumplings.
The Lamb Souvlaki is delicious and is one of Pat's favorites, the Mac & Cheese was very good, although a bit heavy for me, especially after everything I'd already had, and the French Onion Soup Dumplings were, as always, incredible. A beautiful dumpling filled with piping hot French Onion Soup on a toothpick topped with a crouton and tons of ooey gooey cheese make for Stanton Social's top brunch item and my personal favorite. I'm not kidding when I tell you, if you try nothing else on the entire menu, go to Stanton Social and order yourself these dumplings. You won't be disappointed.

All 5 of us ended our meal absolutely stuffed, and the ONLY bite left on the table was the end of the Mac & Cheese. We were all too full to take the last bite. This is a brunch that I will recommend every New Yorker try at least once, go with a good group and share everything on the menu. The food is incredible.

Chris Santos has just opened another restaurant called Beauty & Essex around the corner form Stanton Social. I have dinner reservations there next week, and I can't wait to try it and write about it.

Well done, Mr. Santos. Well done.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Necesita Más Comida!

It's been a few weeks since I've blogged, but boy have I been busy! Not only was last week the greatest food holiday ever, but I spent the week before that in beautiful Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica with Patrick & a group of our friends. We did a lot of awesome stuff like ziplining through the jungle, repelling down the side of a waterfall, horseback riding, white water rafting and surfing, but one of the very best parts of the trip was the incredible food!

Fish tacos happen to be one of my favorite foods, so I was excited to eat them non-stop for the whole week I was there. The best one I had, which also happened to be the first one I had, was at a small surfing hang-out called "Eat at Joes." It was called the Mega Taco and was the size of an overstuffed burrito. The main fish used in Costa Rica is Mahi Mahi, and this taco was a delicious mix of the fish, fresh vegetables and a homemade tortilla with a side of rice. I have always really loved rice as a side-dish to most meals, but when it comes on the side of a taco, I always stuff it into the tortilla too. This taco truly was one of the biggest tacos I've ever had, and also one of the best. The trip was off to a great start!
For dinner, we tried a place called Nogui's Sunset Cafe that had been recommended to us by several locals. We were all craving surf and turf and were told this was the place to get it. Patrick and I shared mixed seafood ceviche (delicious) and shrimp tacos (amazing) to start, and I ordered the surf and turf with a filet (medium rare) and tuna (also medium rare.) Everything was perfect and cooked just the way I like it. I was truly in foodie heaven.
Throughout the week, I tried lots of great food including a huge plate of tacos for $2 each during "Taco Tuesday," a flat crust pizza with mozzarella & Parmesan, Mahi Mahi stuffed with shrimp and LOTS of rice and beans. Costa Rica was a beautiful place to visit, and I really enjoyed the local flavors. I hope to return one day!
When you go on vacation, do you try the local cuisines? What has been your favorite dish you've had while on vacation? I am most looking forward to traveling to Italy and trying the local pasta, wine, cheese and bread. Mmmm!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ciano: The Food Shines

I'd been hearing about Shea Gallante's new restaurant, Ciano, for weeks. Email newsletters, Twitter updates, NY Times' Diner Journal articles... everything promised delicious, non-pretentious food in the Flatiron District.

When I logged onto Open Table, my go-to source for restaurant reservations, I was excited to see one single 8pm reservation left for Ciano's opening night, November 5th. The menu looked fabulous, and the restaurant seemed very promising.

As soon as Patrick and I stepped in the door, I was impressed with the warmth of the restaurant and the inviting decor: low lighting, candles, bustling but not too loud. After waiting a few minutes, we were shown to our table, a cozy two-top, and our meal began.

Right off the bat, we could tell the waitstaff didn't quite have their act together. But, we both realized it was opening night of a new restaurant, and we'd be patient. We ordered two glasses of wine and started to look over the menu.

Immediately, we both decided we had to try the veal meatballs. When our waiter finally came over to our table after waiting about twenty minutes, we were told they were out of the meatballs. No problem, we ordered the Scallops with Brussels Sprouts.

After waiting about another twenty minutes, the waiter came back over to take our dinner order: we decided to share both the Pappardelle with Duck Ragu and the Slow-Roasted Lemon-Rosemary Chicken.

When our scallops came to the table, I was impressed with how delicious they looked.
At this point, we were starting to get slightly annoyed at how impossible it was to get our waiter's attention anytime we needed anything, but then we tasted the dish. The soft, tender scallops were bursting with flavor, and the Brussels Sprouts added the perfect texture and taste to the dish. We both let out a long "mmmm" as we attacked the dish until there was nothing left. "Okay," I thought "maybe they have some work to do on the service front, but this food is GOOD."

After another very long wait, our main courses arrived to the table. The delicious smells were overwhelming, and the presentation of the food was beautiful. Patrick ordered another glass of wine and we started to dig in. At first we ate slowly to wait for his wine, but minutes ticked away and it never showed up. When we finally did get the waiter's attention, he assured us the wine was "being poured." We continued to eat, but the wine never showed up. We were finished with the food before the waiter came back to the table, at which point Patrick pointed out that his wine had never shown up. The waiter apologized, and we canceled the wine order.

In spite of the wine debacle, I must say, the food was incredible. The pappardelle was perfectly-cooked al dente, the duck ragu was absolutely delicious and the chicken was quite honestly the best roasted chicken I have ever tasted. Juicy, tender and flavorful, the skin was crispy and the taste was amazing. We finished every last bite, and agreed that the food was fabulous.
Now, we all know how I feel about dessert, but the salt from the meal actually left me craving a taste of sweet, so we thought we'd look over the dessert menu. We asked our waiter to bring some over, and he said he'd be right back with them. 5 minutes passed. 10 minutes passed. 15 minutes passed. The waiter was nowhere to be seen. Before we knew it, another waiter brought over our check, and told us to have a great night. I guess that was the end of that!

We paid the bill and still left a nice tip, because we were sure the waiter was trying his hardest and we realize that opening night is difficult.

Because the food was SO good, I decided to give my feedback to the restaurant on their Facebook page. I wrote that I was disappointed in the service, and waited to see if a response would come from the Ciano team. I only half-expected to hear anything.

Well, let me tell you, not only did they write back promptly, but I heard directly from Shea Gallante himself! He wrote me a personalized, long Facebook message apologizing for the service, assuring me that it was the pains of opening night, and letting me know that this is not the experience his team is striving for. He wanted to know what he could do to make me happy.

Mr. Gallante, you've already done it. We were initially upset with the service, but I do understand that opening a restaurant is difficult, and the service shown on opening night doesn't necessarily predict how the service will be moving forward. Your food was absolutely delicious, and your personal response to me made up for the service we received on opening night. We will be back to Ciano to again eat your amazing food, and we will certainly give the waitstaff another chance.

Chefs and restaurateurs, take notes from Mr. Gallante. He knows what he's doing in the kitchen, and he knows how to treat his patrons.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Monday, November 8, 2010

Brunch Spots: Cafeteria

Cafeteria, a popular 24-hour restaurant in Chelsea, has a motto: You Are. You Eat. If that's true, I'm 3 amazing little bowls of the best Mac & Cheese I've ever had, and I'm perfectly okay with that.

When my friend Jill and I wanted to get brunch one Saturday afternoon, we chose Cafeteria because we'd both eaten there before and remembered the food being delicious. We had both never been for brunch, so we decided to give it a try. And boy am I glad we did!

At first, I was a little intimidated by how many people were waiting for tables, but the hostess told us it would only be about 25-30 minutes, so we decided to belly up to the bar and order some mimosas to kick off our Saturday afternoon. At only $10 a pop, I had a delicious grapefruit mimosa while Jill had an equally yummy OJ mimosa.

When our table was ready, the two of us agreed on one thing: We HAD to try the Mac & Cheese. Several orders of the ooey gooey deliciousness had passed by while we waited at the bar, and we just had to have it for ourselves. We ordered one "Mac Attack" while we looked over the rest of the menu. The Mac Attack consists of a taste of each of their 3 Mac & Cheese flavors:
-Cheddar & Fontina
-Smoked Gouda & Bacon
-Truffle Oil
All 3 were incredibly good, but my personal favorite was the Smoked Gouda and Bacon. I highly recommend the Mac Attack if you're planning a visit to Cafeteria.

Although the portions of Mac & Cheese look small, they were very filling, but we still went ahead and ordered brunch main courses. Jill opted for the BLT with chips while I got cheesy egg whites, turkey bacon, side salad and a biscuit.

When the BLT came out, we were both shocked about how huge it was. Jill knew right away that she'd only be able to finish half of her sandwich, if even that much, and that she'd be taking the other half home to eat later. The portions at Cefeteria are definitely very good for the price.
My scrambled egg whites were perfectly fluffy and cheesy, the biscuit was delicious, the side salad had a great-tasting balsamic dressing and the turkey bacon was very tasty.
Neither one of us did much damage to our meals because we were quite full from our appetizer, but regardless, all the food was very good, and I can't wait to go back to Cafeteria for brunch again.

Mac & Cheese, in its purest form, comes out of a blue box, but a lot of restaurants love putting their own spin on it. What is the best Mac & Cheese dish you've ever had? Do you prefer it as a gourmet dish, or as Kraft originally intended? Let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fabulous Food: WD-50

If you're going to claim to be a foodie in NYC, there are certain restaurants that just have to be on your "must try" list. Per Se (it can't be the #1 restaurant on every NYC list for no reason), Del Posto (to see if it really deserved that 4th Michelin star) and, as the title of this post suggests, WD-50 (because what does "molecular gastronomy" really taste like, Mr. Dufresne?) Ever since I met my boyfriend Patrick a few years ago, this restaurant has been at the top of his "must try" list. For his birthday last week, I decided to surprise him with dinner at WD-50.

Let me start off by saying that I decided to take Patrick to WD-50 in mid-September. When I went on OpenTable.com (a popular reservation website) to make the reservation, I noticed there were only 6pm and 9pm reservations. How could this be? I was looking at dates that were a month out. I figured I'd give them a call. I told them I wanted a reservation at 7:30pm on October 21st. "Would you like to take 6pm or 9pm?" Seriously?! On a Thursday night a month in advance? Now I, too, was intrigued. I took the 9pm reservation and figured we'd just make a late night out of it.

We ended up at a bar in Soho for our friend Sam's last day at her old job before dinner, so we got into a cab around 8:30pm. I whispered the streets to the cab driver and made Patrick close his eyes. I was so excited to surprise him! We finally arrived on Clinton in the Lower East Side and got out of the cab across the street from WD-50. When he noticed the restaurant, a huge smile spread across his face. He looked like a little kid in Disney World. Finally we'd get to eat at the restaurant he's been pining after for years!

We stepped inside and were told our table was not yet ready, which was fine because we were early. We sat at the bar and ordered drinks. I had a fantastically crisp Savignon Blanc while Patrick, as usual, ordered the most intriguing cocktail on the menu, which was a mix of tequila and about 10 other ingredients. He loved it, and we were off to a good start.

When our table was finally ready, we were lead into the dining area and that is when we saw Wylie Dufresne himself in the open-layout kitchen. We were instantly starstruck. Great chefs are huge celebrities to us, and this was truly exciting. We sat down between two couples who were clearly enjoying the $140 tasting menu with $85 wine pairing, and we started to look over the menu.

Before we had decided what we wanted, the waitress came over with a bottle of Rose Champagne. She popped it, put it on our table and said "Happy Birthday, Love Mom." How sweet! Patrick's mom had sent a bottle of champagne to our table for his birthday. Thanks again Mrs. Patty & Mr. George, it was delicious! The bottle was a mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and it went perfectly with our meal.

Speaking of our meal. We decided to split 2 appetizers: The first was aerated foie with pickled beet, mashed plum & brioche. The texture of the foie was incredible, much like that of a chocolate mousse. When you took a bite with all the elements on the plate together, the taste was like nothing I'd ever had before.
The second appetizer we shared was the Peekytoe crab roll with salt ‘n vinegar chips & celery mayonnaise. Again, the taste was out of this world. The color of the celery mayo was incredible. The salt 'n vinegar chips added just the right texture and flavor to the crab roll. Patrick and I would take a bite of one of the appetizers and then trade plates until every last bite was gone. If our entrees were going to be anything like the appetizers, we were truly in for a treat.
For dinner I decided on the Duck breast with apple, cheddar & kimchee-cous cous while Patrick ordered the Iberico pork neck with smoked paprika spaetzle, peach & marcona almond. When they came out, I was pleasantly surprised at how large the portions were. Both dishes were cooked to perfection and smelled incredible. The dish with the broth is the duck, and the broth was a cheese-based broth (not butter, as I feared.) As we ate, we traded bites and marveled at how delicious it all tasted. Duck dishes I've had in the past have been both over-salted and rubbery, but this dish was both well-seasoned and very tender. I enjoyed every bite.
Patrick also seemed to love his pork dish, which I thought was one of the most delicious bites of pork I had ever tasted. The spaetzle was a delicious accompaniment to the meat, and the peach and almond added a nice flavor.
When we finished our dinner, we decided we had to try a dessert. As you know, dessert is a course I usually skip, but I already knew they were bringing out a candle for Patrick's birthday so I decided I would split something with him. I let him pick, and he chose the Hazelnut tart with coconut, chocolate & chicory. The dessert was actually more salty than it was sweet, so even I enjoyed it!
When we had finished the last bite, we thought the night couldn't get any better. That was until the waitress took us back into the kitchen to meet Wylie Dufresne himself! Amazing! He was so nice and humble, and it truly made the night one that neither of us will ever forget.
Happy Birthday, Patrick! I can't wait to go back and try the amazing tasting menu!

What is the #1 restaurant you're dying to try? If you could meet any chef, who would it be? My next goal is to meet Tom Colicchio, my favorite chef!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Brunch Spots: The Bluebell Cafe

When I wake up on the weekends, the only thing I can think of is a big plate of eggs, potatoes & bacon. I like The Bluebell Cafe because it feels like home, and the food tastes like home.
The staff is friendly, the decor is very comfortable & inviting and the food is really good. When Patrick and I went a few weekends ago, I ordered the Bluebell Breakfast for $13.00.
It comes with two eggs any way (I got them sunny-side up), bacon, Cumberland sausage, buttermilk biscuit and potatoes. I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for biscuits, and the one at Bluebell doesn't disappoint. My eggs were perfectly runny, the bacon was crispy and the french fry-like potatoes were delicious. The breakfast also comes with a few pieces of fresh fruit, which makes quite a lot of food for $13. The breakfast also comes with a fresh-squeezed OJ.

Strangely enough, while we were sitting eating our food, a man ran into the restaurant, went into the kitchen, and ran out a few seconds later with the fire extinguisher. It turns out that awning over the store next door had caught on fire, and this man was just walking by when he noticed the fire. Acting quickly, he ran into our restaurant to get the fire extinguisher, and then went and put the fire out before the fire department arrived. That day I had my eggs with a side of excitement!

Has anything exciting or unusual ever happened while you've been out at a restaurant?

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Friday, October 8, 2010

FoodParc: A Gourmet Food Court

When I heard that there was going to be a new restaurant in Chelsea that puts a gourmet spin on the food court theme, I have to admit that I was a little skeptical. Visions of MSG-laden Chinese food & 3,000-calorie Cinnabons danced in my head.

I asked my friend Sarah to meet me at FoodParc (6th Ave between 29th & 30th) last night because I wanted to see it for myself. She loves food like I do, so it was an easy sell. From the minute we walked in the door, our mouths were hanging open in delight & surprise.

First of all, there were so many things to choose from! Sandwiches, salads, delicious-looking Asian-fusion dishes, smoothies, coffee, even a bar! I was instantly excited. Then we realized that for the actual ordering, you use a touch-screen computer with a built-in credit card machine. Cool! Once we made our selections (a process that took no less than 20 minutes) we paid for the food. I ordered half of an Eggplant Parmesan sandwich & a shrimp eggroll, and it only cost $9! That was a very pleasant surprise.

I then opted to receive a text message when my food was ready. Sarah & I took our receipts and watched as our order numbers appeared on a giant TV screen. Once my order was ready, I instantly received a text message and they called out my number for pick-up. Talk about efficient!

Once we had our lovely bags of food, we went to sit by the window. I opened the boxes and was delighted to find that the food looked incredibly delicious.
And it was! It truly tasted as good as it looked. Both dishes were piping hot and not the least bit greasy. The egg roll was crunchy and flavorful while the sandwich was cheesy and delicious. The only downside to the entire meal was that the tomato sauce on the sandwich was just a tad bit too sweet for my taste, but it still tasted so good!

I am very excited to visit this restaurant many more times to try everything on the menu. I noticed there was a build-your-own burger station that also had not only a BLT menu, but a grilled cheese menu as well. This place is too good to be true!

What is your opinion on one-stop shop dining? Do you prefer restaurants that stick to just one thing, or do you like this "food court-style" dining trend? If you live in NYC, have you tried FoodParc yet? Do you plan to? I'll definitely be returning.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Adventures in Cooking: Italian

Living in NYC makes it very difficult to find the motivation to cook. Being Lactose Intolerant and extremely allergic to butter is often the one thing that pushes me to cook, because most delicious dishes use butter.

One meal that I absolutely love is Chicken, Broccoli, Ziti with Garlic Bread, but there is usually a stick of butter in each serving, and the pasta is sometimes also loaded with heavy cream.

But not this time.

I told Patrick (my boyfriend) that I would be making dinner a few nights ago, but that he had to be okay with "fake butter." Because he's awesome, he didn't mind at all, so I stopped at Trader Joe's to buy all the ingredients.

Here is the recipe I used:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white wine
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
1 bunch broccoli
1 pound box ziti
5 cloves garlic, minced
grated Romano cheese

Melt butter in deep skillet. Add oil and garlic. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low for 20 minutes. Cut broccoli into small bite size pieces and steam in microwave for 8 minutes. Cut chicken into thin bite size pieces and cook in the butter, garlic and oil. Remove chicken when done and saute broccoli in butter, garlic and oil for 5 minutes. Sprinkle broccoli with Romano cheese. Add cooked ziti with broccoli and chicken, and add more Romano cheese.
Of course, I substituted Smart Balance Light Original Buttery Spread in place of the butter because it is dairy-free. After tasting the food, you'd never even know.

Below is a picture of the result. As you may already know, I can't live without cheese. Thankfully it doesn't affect me the way butter does, so of course I covered both the garlic bread and the pasta with tons of cheese.
I could have taken the garlic bread out of the oven a few seconds earlier, but I actually really enjoyed how crunchy it came out.

After the meal, I thankfully didn't feel sick at all. Just full & happy. Do you ever substitute ingredients when you cook? Is it for health reasons? Allergies? Can you even taste the difference? I can't wait to try some more recipes that call for butter and trying this delicious non-dairy substitute again. The recipe made so much pasta that Patrick and I both had it again the next day for lunch. Yum!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Monday, September 27, 2010

Eating Our Way Through Boston

If you know me at all, you know it's no secret that Boston is my favorite city. While the food in NYC really is incredible, Beantown will always edge out The Big Apple in my heart (the fact that both cities have nicknames with food in them is not lost on me, either).

Last weekend, my boyfriend Patrick and I took a trip up to Boston to enjoy the sights and some of the local cuisine. Our meals included the following highlights.

Dinner at Sonsie on Newbury Street, a trendy, upscale place with good food and fabulous tables for people-watching, was delicious, and I had a great roasted chicken dish. The chicken was tender and juicy and the green beans on the side were crunchy and fresh. Whenever I go to Boston, I make it a point to dine at Sonsie.
A funny food fact about me is that I say I don't like onions, but I LOVE both Onion Rings & French Onion Soup! And I LOVE Abe & Louie's! Abe & Louie's is a steakhouse on Boylston Street in the Back Bay neighborhood in Boston, and it's one of my very favorite places. They make a mean French Onion Soup, so of course we had to stop by for lunch. All I can say is "Holy Cheese!" This is my favorite French Onion Soup of all time, and I'm sure you can see why.
The next stop on our food tour was Giacomo's in the North End, Boston's Little Italy. A meal at Giacomo's feels like a huge family-style Italian dinner with a real Italian family, and they have some of the best seafood/pasta dishes in the city. I opted for the Fusilli with Shrimp & Scallops in a white wine garlic sauce, which I promptly covered in Parmesan cheese (another fact about me if you haven't already figured it out: If it's covered in cheese, I LOVE IT!
Brunch isn't as big of a big deal in Boston as it is in New York, but Zaftig's in Brookline is truly wonderful. They serve incredible breakfast dishes all day, 7 days a week. We used to go all the time in college, and this time, it was just as good as I remembered. The highlight of our brunch? The potato pancakes with homemade apple sauce.
If you've read my previous post on the topic, you'd know that no trip to Boston is complete without a delicious plate of nachos at the Sunset. I've been telling Patrick about these particular nachos for awhile now, claiming that I have yet to find better nachos anywhere in New York. Don't believe me? Read all the other reviews at that link. These nachos are epic!
As you can see in the picture, these nachos are loaded with deliciousness. A perfect distribution of guacamole, melted cheese, sour cream, shredded lettuce & crispy chips surround a delicious, hot serving of chili underneath. My mouth is watering just looking at the picture! I think Patrick agreed how great these were.

Leave me some comments. What's your favorite food city? Why? I'd love to hear from you!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fabulous Food: BONDST

BONDST has been my favorite restaurant since before I even moved to NYC. Why? I could go on all day, but here are a few reasons:
1. The food is exceptional
2. The atmosphere is sexy & intimate
3. Their Restaurant Week menu is to die for
4. Did I mention the food already?

Upon my first visit to BONDST a few summers ago, I tasted the Spicy Crispy Shrimp and the Chilean Seabass Skewer. Both dishes are amazing, but the Chilean Seabass Skewer may very well be one of the most delicious dishes I have ever eaten in my life. That is a bold statement, as I have certainly eaten a LOT of dishes in my time, but one taste and most would agree.

I have been telling my boyfriend about this restaurant for probably the last year. We had our anniversary last week, so I thought there was no better place to celebrate than BONDST. Personally, I prefer to sit downstairs in the lounge where they don't take reservations because you can't get the Seabass Skewer in the main dining room upstairs. Such a shame!

We stepped inside, sat down and began drooling over the menu. We decided we'd order 3 hot appetizers and 3 sushi rolls. I, of course, took pictures of everything. We started off with...
The Spicy Crispy Shrimp
The Goat Cheese Crab Cakes
And The Chilean Seabass Skewers
All 3 dishes were delicious, but that skewer has a special place in my heart. My boyfriend completely agreed. He noted, "The fish is sweet & smokey at the same time, and it flakes apart as you eat it." I'm telling you, get yourself to BONDST, sit downstairs in the lounge, and order this dish.

The miso glaze on top of the fish truly is both sweet & smokey, and even the mixed greens that come on the side have a delicious, fresh taste. I am always glad the dish comes with 2 skewers, because as I mentioned in my Tapas post, I'm not the best at sharing...
The 3 sushi rolls we ordered were Hot Eel Dice (top), Sesame-Crusted Shrimp with Citrus Curry Dipping Sauce (middle) and Spicy Tuna (bottom)

The rolls were great! I used to love eel, but all it takes is one bad eel experience. I remember getting an eel avocado roll one day from a West Village sushi spot, and the eel was a horrible, hard consistency with a terrible taste. I was skeptical to ever order eel again. The Hot Eel Dice roll at BONDST changed everything. The meat is tender and full of delicious, rich flavor. My faith in eel has been restored.

Patrick and I each ordered a drink, neither were anything to write home about, but I don't go to BONDST for their cocktails. I can't wait to go back, and I can't wait for Winter Restaurant Week! I make it a point to stop at BONDST every time Restaurant Week comes around, and as often as I can in between.

If you live in NYC, have you ever eaten at BONDST? What did you think? What's your favorite restaurant? Leave comments, I'd love to hear from you!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Overrated: Alta

Last week, some co-workers wanted to go out for tapas. The whole concept of tapas is a little foreign to me, as I'm not the best at sharing and I also like there to be a lot of food on my plate. Tapas force you to share, and you really only get 1 bite of the dish before it's gone. Regardless, a friend of mine had recently been to Alta in the West Village and liked it, so I decided to give it a try.

We walked in and I was, at the same time, pleasantly surprised by the warm, inviting atmosphere, and a little turned off by the smell of the place. It smelled like cleaning solution, but I quickly got used to it.

Then the waitress brought over the tapas menus, and my mouth began to water. All the dishes on the menu sounded so delicious. One of the other girls ordered 6 tapas to share between the 5 of us to start, and we each got a glass of sangria. I found the sangria to be too sweet, and not all that tasty. I hoped the food would be better.

We ordered Bacon-Wrapped Dates & Olives, Fried Goat Cheese, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Grilled Shrimp & Chorizo Skewers, Pulled Pork Empanadas, and Black Truffle Gnocchi. I realize these are tapas, but when they came out, the portions were even smaller than I thought they would be. None of the dishes were anything special, and I even found the Gnocchi to be completely tasteless.

Of course we were still hungry after the first round, so we ordered Smoked Eggplant and Lebne Dip, Lamb Meatballs and Catalonian Flatbread. These were only a little better than the first round of tapas, but again, nothing special.

The real surprise came with the bill. This lackluster meal cost $200 without tip. I found this appalling, especially since the food was not good. I do not plan to return to Alta, and I do not recommend it to anyone.

What are your thoughts on tapas? Do you think they make a good meal for a larger group, or are they better for smaller groups? I'd be willing to try another tapas restaurant, but I would probably only go with 1 other person so I could get more than just 1 bite of each dish.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Best Salmon I've Ever Had

One of my very favorite restaurants in NYC is Extra Virgin in the West Village on the corner of Perry & West 4th. The food is fantastic, the atmosphere is great and they have an awesome wine list/drink menu. I've brought my boyfriend and friends to Extra Virgin, and this past Monday night, I brought my mom. Extra Virgin is also the home of The Best Salmon I've Ever Had.

My mom is what I like to call a "picky eater" because there are a lot of foods she just won't eat. She doesn't eat steak, she doesn't eat most pasta dishes, and she only sticks to what she enjoys, which includes salmon, chicken & meatball salad (don't ask). I have absolutely no idea how I am related to someone who isn't obsessed with food like I am, but I digress.

The first time ever I tried the salmon dish at Extra Virgin, I knew I had to bring my mom there, and I also knew that it was The Best Salmon I've Ever Had.
The fish is perfectly-cooked at "medium," and is accompanied by truffle mashed potatoes, grape tomatoes, sugar snap peas, frisée & a delightful red wine lobster sauce. I appreciate the fact that the sauce is under the fish, not poured over it. This allows you to dip the fish into the sauce and have only as much as you'd like. And not only is this dish delicious, but it's also very colorful and the presentation is just beautiful.

I was excited for my mom to try it, and as soon as she took her first bite, I knew I had made the right choice. She also agreed it was the best salmon she'd ever had.

I've probably been to Extra Virgin 10 times over the past few years, and I've only ever had the salmon. I know everything else is probably delicious, but it's just that good. I don't usually make a habit of only ordering one dish every time I return to a restaurant, but I worry that if I don't order the salmon, I'll immediately regret it.

How much does food presentation mean to you in the overall enjoyment of your meal? Do you tend to always order your "favorite" dish at a restaurant? Or do you like to always try something new?

I will continue to bring friends and family to Extra Virgin so that they too can try The Best Salmon I've Ever Had.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Monday, August 30, 2010

Brunch Spots: Tavern on Jane

Before moving to New York City, I never knew how serious the art of "brunching" was. In Boston, we'd often eat eggs & pancakes in the afternoon because that was when we rolled out of bed, but I never knew that brunch was considered an art form until I became a New Yorker.

When I woke up yesterday, all I could think of was how badly I wanted some eggs & a good cup of coffee. A few of my friends just moved to the West Village, so we knew that was the neighborhood we wanted to eat in. We wandered around near their apartment and stopped into Cafe Cluny, but the wait for five was 20 minutes, so we decided to keep walking. I have heard great things about Cafe Cluny though, so I intend to go back.

That was when we happened upon Tavern on Jane, a cute little spot on the corner of Jane Street & 8th Ave.
While I hadn't ever eaten there, I heard they had a great menu and I'd always wanted to try it. After checking out the brunch list, we decided there were tons of great options, and since there was no wait for the five of us, we were sold.

Upon sitting down, we were greeted with a friendly welcome from our waiter as he handed out the menus. We were all starving and knew what we wanted, so all five of us immediately ordered the Tavern Breakfast Burrito that had eggs, chorizo, peppers, onions & sour cream. The waiter brought us our basket of (warm) pastries, as well the coffee & drinks included in the $14 breakfast special. I had a grapefruit juice mimosa that was delicious, while my friends had bloody marys & regular OJ mimosas.

The coffee was good, the water glasses were kept full (the waiter even brought us our own pitcher!) and then our food came out. The burritos smelled amazing, and they tasted even better. Each meal came with home fries and a fruit salad, so after all was said and done, we each got warm croissants & muffins, coffee, an alcoholic beverage, a burrito, home fries and fruit salad for just $14. The restaurant was quite empty for a Sunday afternoon, but we were happy to have a corner to ourselves, and all five of us cleaned our plates. I will be back to Tavern on Jane for brunch again.

What are you favorite brunch spots in NYC? What is the longest you've ever had to wait for a table for brunch? Was it worth it? I look forward to hearing about your favorite places so I can try them out myself.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Friday, August 27, 2010

Adventures in Cooking: Lobster!

Don't get me wrong, I love going out to eat more than anything, but sometimes, there's nothing like some good home-cookin'. Last weekend, I went to the Jersey Shore (fist pump!) with some of my girlfriends, and on our way home my friend Lauren wanted to stop at The Point Lobster Co. to buy some fresh fish. My first thought was "I am not riding in a car with a bunch of stinky fish for an hour." But then I went inside the store.

Not only did this place have all kinds of amazing fresh fish, but the prices were very reasonable. I'm used to $13.99/lb. for Salmon in NYC, but Salmon at The Point was only $9.99/lb. As I debated what fish I could bring home to cook for dinner, I saw some amazing lobster tails for only $6 each. When I inquired about them, the guy behind the counter pointed to a bunch of 1-1/2 to 2 lb. bright red (meaning already cooked) lobsters for only $4 each!

After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided that the already-cooked lobsters would be a great "Intro to Making Lobsters" for my boyfriend and me, especially because I am terrified of live lobsters and the thought of cooking them myself completely creeps me out. I picked up 2 large lobster with well-sized claws & 1/2-lb. of fresh scallops for dinner.

While I was on my way back to NYC from the Jersey Shore, my boyfriend went to buy some vegetables to make with the seafood, and when I got home he started making magic in the kitchen. I'd love to say that I helped make dinner, but I wasn't feeling well, and he managed to create the following menu all by himself:
-Baked Lobsters
-Pan-Seared Scallops
-Wild Rice
-Steamed Spinach
-Cherry Tomatoes with Squash and Zucchini
-Haricot Verts with Garlic and Lemon

What's your favorite kind of food to cook? Do live lobsters (or crabs) creep you out, or are you okay cooking them yourself?

The lobsters were delicious, and it was fun teaching my boyfriend how to crack them open (he's from Maryland, and his specialty is crab-cracking.) The scallops were some of the best I've ever had. I look forward to visiting The Point Lobster Co. again for more delicious, fresh fish.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cheap Eats: The Cottage

Good Morning!

I've finally recovered from the food-and-free-wine-induced coma I put myself into last night. My boyfriend and I, joined by 4 of our friends, wanted to get together for dinner but didn't want to spend a ton of money. If you haven't yet been to The Cottage, I highly suggest you give it a try for the following reasons:

1. The Chinese food is actually good
2. The prices are incredibly reasonable (around $10-$12 for well-sized entrees)
3. The service is quick and friendly
4. You get free (although boxed) wine for the duration of your meal

Between the 6 of us, we ordered 3 egg rolls, 3 orders of pork dumplings, 1 order of edemame and 7 entrees. We probably downed about 6 carafes of boxed wine (don't judge) and we stayed at the restaurant for a good 2-1/2 hours. The staff never made a move to rush us out, which I appreciate, and they kept our water-glasses full, which is also very important to me.

As usual, I photographed the damage.
With so many over-priced restaurants in NYC, it's refreshing when you can have a good meal without paying a ton of money. The entire meal was just over $100 including tax and tip, and it was well worth it!

And on the topic of over-priced food, check out this list that EaterNY put together of 10 new over-priced dishes at NYC restaurants. If you're going to charge so much for your food, at least make sure it's good!

Looking forward to some good eating over the next few days. As always, I'll keep you posted.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Best Nachos I've Ever Had

As I document new things I try, I'd also like to pay homage to some of my favorite foods I've had in the past. As I mentioned, I'm on the hunt for the best ______ in NYC (sushi, steak, etc.) but I'm entirely convinced that I will never find better nachos than those at the Sunset Cantina/Sunset Grill and Tap in Boston.

These nachos are the perfect combination of crunchy tri-color chips, great distribution of toppings & melty, yummy cheese. I've tried many nachos in NYC, but they pale in comparison. I liked Professor Thom's version, maybe it has something to do with the fact that it's a Boston bar, but they're still not as good as The Sunset. I'm planning a trip to Boston in September, and a visit to the Sunset is at the top of my to-do list!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Just (No) Desserts

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to my food blog. I know what you're thinking, "Everyone these days has a food blog!" This is true. However, you've come to the right place if you love food, enjoy going out to eat, are into trying new places and HATE dessert. Yes, that's right. Hate. As in, "Why save room for a little flour and sugar when I can fill up on delicious apps & entrees?"

If you're anything like me, most meals only consist of the most important 2 courses: appetizers & entrees. Dessert happens rarely, if ever, and you just can't possibly understand what all the fuss over dessert is about.

I have a feeling I know where this came from. I am incredibly lactose intolerant, and while I can still eat cheese (Thank God!) and have milk if I take Lactaid® pills, the one thing that still kills my stomach is butter. Since butter is an important ingredient in almost every (good) dessert, I simply have to rule dessert out of my meals. Over time, I think I grew to accept this, and actually stopped enjoying sweets. A lot of my friends find this sad, but I'm perfectly fine with it. Bring on the cheese plate & pasta, hold the Tiramisu!

My current food-related obsessions are: Finding great places to eat, helping friends/family choose restaurants based on their requirements and my never-ending search for the best sushi, steak, pasta & cheeseburger in NYC. Please feel free to contact me if you need a recommendation, and I look forward to sharing my food adventures with you!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie