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