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