Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pancake Month at Clinton St. Baking Company

When my brother Josh and I were little, we knew that staying at our grandparents' house meant we'd get to eat pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We both just loved our grandmother's pancakes, and when you're a kid, what could possibly be better than eating nothing but big, fluffy pancakes for 3 meals a day?

Clinton St. Baking Company in the Lower East Side is known for their incredibly delicious pancakes, and they have deemed February 'Pancake Month' where they feature a new flavor each night of the week. My friend Michelle devised the brilliant plan to have some of the girls over to her apartment, also in the Lower East Side, and get a pancake dinner delivered since the actual restaurant is a very small space with waits sometimes exceeding 2 hours. I love my friends for a lot of reasons, but their enthusiasm for this idea just reinforced why they're my friends in the first place.

Last week, we all sat around Michelle's coffee table in her beautiful 1-bedroom apartment and listened as she placed our order over the phone. The woman on the other end of the phone joked, "Wow, is this all for you?" to which Michelle replied, "Yeah, I'm REALLY hungry!" Our order came to over $100 (don't judge!) and we anxiously awaited the delivery of our meal. That night the special was Crunchy Banana Pancakes with Cinnamon Chili Chocolate Sauce and my friend Caroline and I decided to split 1 order and a side of Onion Rings. Yes, of course I had to get something savory on the side since pancakes are typically sweet.

When the buzzer rang, we literally cheered with excitement. The delivery guy dropped off our 2 huge bags of food and we got to work handing out each container to its proper owner. Once all the girls had their food, we dug in.
I was really happy that Caroline and I had decided to split an order of pancakes, because these suckers were very sweet. I had to skip the butter that came on the side, but I poured a healthy amount of maple syrup all over my portion and the liquid began to disappear, being soaked up by the porous pancakes.
Slightly crispy around the edges, soft and light in the middle and covered in crunchy bananas, I was delighted by the textures that mingled on my tongue. I only used a small amount of the chocolate sauce, but it truly made the meal since the result reminded me the of banana/chocolate chip pancakes I used to eat when I was little. I put the Onion Rings on the plate right alongside the pancakes, and the salt enhanced the flavor of the pancakes to create the perfect bite. Some maple syrup definitely ended up on those onion rings, but somehow it worked and was absolutely delicious. The Onion Rings were not the typical fake fried circular version that you get at a lot of restaurants. You could tell these were homemade, irregular in shape and covered in a skin that was flaky and lighter than I expected.
I cleaned every last drop of food from my plate and leaned back on the couch as the food coma began to settle in.

While I may have been able to eat pancakes several times a day when I was 6 years old, 20 years later one serving is about all I can handle. All the girls enjoyed their pancakes, orders ranged from the Crunchy Banana with Onion Rings to Blueberry Pancakes with a side omelet to just Regular Pancakes, and there was barely a bite left over by the end. My friend Meg was kind enough to save a few bites to bring home to her boyfriend, but like I said, I cleared my plate. Sorry Patrick!

If you haven't had a chance to try Clinton St. Baking Company's pancakes, hurry and get them soon to take advantage of Pancake Month, or head down to the Lower East Side and wait for a table that will be well worth your time. I'm so happy I got to avoid the wait, but still enjoy the pancakes with my friends.
How do you feel about eating breakfast food for dinner? Do you think there are pancakes in NYC better than Clinton Street's? Let me know, I'll have to check them out.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tonnie's Minis

I'm about to break every single one of my own rules regarding food, and I'm perfectly okay with it. No, I don't like sweets. No, I don't usually order dessert when I go out to dinner. But I do enjoy the occasional "dessert" if it's not overly sweet and I'm in the mood for it.

A few nights ago, Patrick and I went to Harlem for dinner at Red Rooster. As any foodie would be, I was excited about the meal. I expressed my excitement on Twitter (@FabFoodieBites) and received a Tweet from a handle called @Tonnies_MINIS telling me that when I'm up in Harlem for my dinner at Red Rooster, I should stop by their store Tonnies a few blocks away (at 123rd & Lenox, right off the 2/3 train) and try some cupcakes.
In addition to loving food, I also love social media, and I was impressed by this outreach. I went back and forth with them a few times, and they asked if I would come and order the Carrot Cupcake (since I like Carrot Cake). I asked Patrick if he wouldn't mind heading to Harlem a little early to stop by Tonnie's, and of course he said he wouldn't. So off we went to Harlem! Tonnie's really is only 3 blocks away from Red Rooster, so we went inside. I asked to talk to the person who manages their Twitter account, and it turns out I had just missed him. Chris, if you're reading this, I'd love to meet you! Patrick got a Red Velvet Cupcake and I ordered the Carrot Cupcake.
Since we were heading to dinner, we saved them for after, and we went to Red Rooster for a fabulous meal (more on that later!)

When we got home that night, we were stuffed, but I had to try the cupcake. I know there is a HUGE debate over the best cupcakes in New York City (Tonnie's Minis made the top 12 in that list!) and I'm certainly not the right person to make that decision, but these cupcakes were fantastic. Moist cake, creamy frosting and the perfect balance between the 2 made for a dessert that I actually enjoyed (!!) Patrick agreed that the cupcakes were great.

Tonnie's, your cupcakes are worth traveling from Chelsea all the way up to Harlem for a taste, and your social media outreach is impressive. Keep up the good work, I'll definitely be back, and I'll be sending you many more customers.

Alright everyone, let's hear it- what is your favorite cupcake in New York City, and why?

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Monday, February 21, 2011

Prix-Fixe Valentine's Day at Spasso

Deep in the heart of the West Village, at the corner of Hudson & Perry, Spasso opened its doors to patrons less than two months ago. With names like Bobby Werhane of Choptank, dell’anima and L’Artusi and Craig Wallen of Convivio and Lupa, Spasso's birth was sure to cause some buzz.

So much buzz, in fact, that I decided early in January to make a Valentine's Day reservation there for Patrick & me. I had read in the Urban Daddy write-up that there was a communal table inside the restaurant's kitchen where diners could sit and watch the food preparation as they sip on a glass of wine from Spasso's expansive wine list. When I made the reservation, I requested 2 seats at this table because who wouldn't love to sit in the kitchen?
We arrived early for our Valentine's Day reservation expecting to get a drink at the bar, but it turned out that 2 seats were available so we sat down. Sitting in the kitchen was a very cool experience, watching the chefs prepare the dishes had us both mesmerized. The waiter came over to introduce himself, and then he dropped the bomb on us. He said, "Welcome to Spasso, tonight our menu is a $75-per-person prix-fixe selection." My jaw dropped. Not because $75 per person is a ton of money for dinner, but because no one had told us this. Not when I made the reservation, not when they called me to confirm earlier that day. I was taken aback because Patrick & I had both looked at the menu and picked out the dishes we were planning to order, and this put quite a kink in our plans.

When the waiter went on to explain that we would get to choose, between the 2 of us, 3 appetizers, 2 pasta courses, 1 entree to split and 2 desserts AND that each of the 4 courses came with a wine pairing, I began to feel a little better. When he ran through the list of dishes available, I felt a lot better; he named every single dish we had already planned to order. So, while I was initially almost upset over the surprise prix-fixe menu, it actually turned out for the best.

Our first glass of wine, a sparkling Rosé, was poured, and we began to truly enjoy our evening. For our 3 appetizers, we decided on the Eggplant Arancini, Tuna Crudo & Fried Oysters. If you haven't noticed, we're kind of on a Fried Oyster kick these days! Life could be worse...

When the appetizers arrived, we were both excited to dig in. The Fried Oysters were the clear winners of the course, they were light (yes, light!), with a slight hint of the fresh lemon we had squeezed over the plate.
The other 2 appetizers weren't far behind. I have had Arancini before, but never with Eggplant. It added a smoky flavor that rounded out the entire dish. I thought they were absolutely delicious.
The Tuna Crudo was undeniably fresh and bright, with a small taste of Sea Urchin on top. While Crudo can sometimes lack flavor, this version certainly did not.
Patrick and I loved our appetizer selections, and we moved on to ordering pasta. I chose the Orecchiette with Rock Shrimp, Crab & Breadcrumbs while Patrick chose the Ricotta Strascinari with Braised Duck Leg and Smoked Scamorza (a kind of cheese.) The waiter explained to us that all the pasta was made fresh in-house, and that he thought the Ricotta Strascinari was incredible. We were excited for our food to arrive.

He brought the bowls over and set them down in front of us, and the aroma was delightful. They looked as amazing as we had hoped, and we each went in for our first bite. After 2-3 fork-fulls, we traded bowls. The dishes were so different from each other that it's impossible to say which one I liked better. I love orecchiette, and mine was perfectly-cooked. The shrimp and crab added a lovely taste of the sea and the breadcrumbs introduced a nice crunch.
The homemade strascinari was amazing. Pasta infused with cheese is pretty much the most wonderful food I can think of, and the taste matched the concept. The braised duck was tender and succulent and practically fell apart on my fork.
When we were done, our plates were practically spotless. Only once my pasta was gone did I even notice the glass of white wine that had arrived to pair with this course. It was nice and light.

At this point in the meal, I was thoroughly convinced that we had already gotten our $75 worth, but we still had to choose a main course. We decided to share the Trout wrapped in Prosciutto with Sage. The fish was placed between us, and a nice glass of red was poured. I would have liked to have the red wine with the pasta and the white wine with the fish, but I'm not complaining. The fish was light and flaky while the meat wrapped around it was smoky, flavorful and just the right amount of salty. We managed to finish the entire piece, but someone was going to have to roll us out of there.
Dessert?! How could we possibly eat dessert?! Chocolate Torte with Salted Caramel & Cornflake Crust? Okay, FINE! Dessert it is. We all know how I feel about dessert, but this wasn't sweet, it was salty and rich and wonderful. I could only have a few bites to accompany my glass of dessert wine, but the dish was fantastic.
Patrick had an apple cake that was too sweet for my taste, and we were officially stuffed.

While I was initially turned off about the prix-fixe menu that we only found out about once we sat down, we definitely got our money's worth. I'm looking forward to returning to Spasso to try the rest of the menu. I'm curious to know what you think. Do you think the restaurant should have told us about the mandatory prix-fixe menu? Do you think it should have been an option? Has the same thing ever happened to you? I wish they had told us, but the rest of the meal was simply fabulous.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Connecticut's Best Chinese Food

Lucky for me, I live in one of the most amazing food cities in the world. Sometimes when I'm not busy eating my way through New York City, I visit my family and my favorite hometown restaurants in Connecticut. These include Pepe's Pizza in New Haven (you have to try the White Clam, it's life-changing), Firehouse Deli in Fairfield and Panda House in Stratford.

Ever since I was little, I've been going to Panda House with my grandparents for Connecticut's best Chinese food. Since their birthdays fall within a few weeks of each other, the 3 of us went to Panda House to celebrate last weekend. The restaurant is owned by a man named Jack Yih, and he is a close friend of my grandparents.

As always, Jack was standing at the front door ready to greet us as soon as we arrived. We sat down in the main dining room, and the aromatic food immediately came flowing out of the kitchen. We started with dim sum; Shrimp Shumai and Chicken Gyoza. These were so good that I ate them before I had the chance to take a picture. Then we had Chicken Lettuce Wraps. The lettuce was fresh and crunchy, and it was filled with chicken & vegetables. I often find that Chinese dishes can be heavy and loaded with salt or sauce, but the food at Panda House is light and still manages to be full of flavor.
When we finished the delightful appetizers, we ordered our main dishes. I opted for Chicken & Shrimp with Snow Peas & Water Chestnuts and when it arrived to the table I was delighted to see the a beautiful purple flower sitting atop an incredibly colorful plate of food.
Water Chestnuts are one of my favorite vegetables because they add a unique crunch to any dish. I enjoyed how crisp the vibrant green snow peas were, and both the chicken and shrimp were tender and delicious.

After we finished our meal, Jack brought over three small desserts to celebrate my grandparents' birthdays. What a great way to end our excellent meal! Before we left, I snapped a quick photo of the 4 of us to capture the afternoon.
If you ever happen to find yourself in southern Connecticut, be sure to stop by Panda House in Stratford, CT for a warm atmosphere and fantastic food. And while you're there, please tell Jack I say hi.

If you have family in another state, is there a restaurant you make a point to eat at when you visit them? Or, when family visits you, do you have certain spots you like to go to? Let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Colicchio & Sons, Where Foodie Dreams Come True

When I was 14, the celebrity I would have been the most excited to meet was Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys (no judgement please). More recently, my adoration switched over to Tom Brady, quarterback of the (THREE-TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPION) New England Patriots. And even more recently, to a less likely guy,Mr. Tom Colicchio, host of Bravo TV's Emmy Award-Winning Top Chef, winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 2010 and owner of the Craft brand of restaurants as well as Riverpark and Colicchio & Sons. Yes, he is a middle-aged, bald dude who loves to make bad food puns on Top Chef ("Tonight, your short ribs fell just short") but there is just so much to love, and trust me, I do. I also just learned his middle name is Patrick, so maybe that has something to do with it...

Tom Colicchio is an incredibly successful chef and restauranteur apart from his role on Bravo's hit show, and that alone is enough to impress. He owns several restaurants in New York City, his home base, and also Craft restaurants in Dallas, LA, Las Vegas and Connecticut. He was the co-founder of Gramercy Taven, a very successful NYC restaurant, and he served as the co-owner and executive chef until 2006 when he sold his interest.

Why am I giving you the details of Tom Colicchio's chef biography? Because last night, I met him.

Jill and I were trying to think of places to have dinner. When I saw a 10:30pm reservation for 2 open at The Tap Room at Colicchio & Sons, I immediately snagged it. We met around 9:30 and had a drink at nearby Fig & Olive before heading over to the restaurant for dinner. We walked a few blocks to 10th Avenue & 16th Street, and I was reminded of the river-side location of Riverpark, another of his restaurants, located on the East River. This one was so close to the Hudson that I could feel the breeze coming off the water as we opened the door and stepped inside.

I looked around the gorgeous space and was immediately transported from the cold winter night outside to the warm, inviting atmosphere of the room. We gave our name at the front and were immediately shown to a cozy table in the Tap Room near the bar. I was facing a wood-burning stove where several chefs were cooking a few feet away from me, and I began to take it all in.

Jill ordered a flight of beers and I ordered a glass of Bodegas La Cartuja Priorat, a Spanish red blend of Garnacha, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. We looked at the menu and made our selections as the waitress brought over our drinks. I took a sip of the wine and it was literally one of the best red wines I had ever tasted. Bold in flavor and low in acidity, it was incredibly smooth and drinkable. For our meal, we decided to share the Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Pizza as an appetizer, I ordered the Surf & Turf (Scallops and Pork Belly with Bacon Mayo and Citrus) for dinner and Jill ordered the Crispy Chicken with Garlic Sausage, Pepper Stew and Mustard Jus. We sat and enjoyed our drinks until the pizza came out.Large chunks of sweet, ripe tomatoes and melted mozzarella cheese covered a perfectly chewy crust to create an incredible flavor. The pizza was cut into four pieces, so we each got to enjoy two. My wine paired perfectly with the pie.

Then our meals arrived and I couldn't wait to taste the Surf & Turf I had ordered.The Scallops were big, sweet & tender and the Pork Belly was smokey and succulent. I don't typically enjoy mayo, but flavored with bacon? Yes please! Everything on my plate was sensational, and when I gave Jill a taste (yes, I shared), she agreed. I also tasted her Chicken, and just like the Crispy Chicken at Riverpark, the skin was well-seasoned and crispy and the Chicken was moist and full of flavor. Is there any protein Tom doesn't know how to cook?

Speaking of Tom...

Jill and I finished our food, had some after-dinner drinks and paid the bill. I was feeling quite satisfied and ready to move onto another bar for more drinks. We were standing at the front of the restaurant waiting for our coats when I looked back over at the open oven area and there he was. My heart jumped into my throat as I grabbed Jill's arm and managed to squeak out "Oh. My. God. Tom. Colicchio." It's true, there he was, in all his bald-headed glory. My heart began to race as I dragged Jill to the bar and demanded I buy us a round of drinks. While Jill waited for the bartender to pour our cocktails, I casually went over to the countertop area in front of where Tom was cooking and joined a large group of people that had begun milling about. Tom was cooking burgers, pizzas and small grilled meat and cheese sandwiches. Jill came over with our drinks, and there we stood for the next few hours.Tom was laughing and joking as he cooked, I was geeking out and admiring as I watched. At one point, an older gentleman began talking to Jill and me and I told him of my love for Tom. The man got Tom's attention and told him I was "his biggest fan" and Tom looked at me, smiled and gave me a fist pump of approval. I nearly fell over. A few minutes later, as Tom was taking a cooking break off to the side, I reached out and told him that I really was a huge fan and then, thinking that it wouldn't be sanitary on his part for him to shake my hand as he was touching all the food, I stuck out my fist and asked him for a pound. Yes, it's true, I fist-bumped Tom Colicchio, and I don't regret it for one second.

When I could finally tear myself away from watching my celebrity crush cook, Jill and I went to get our coats. As we were standing in the hallway near the coat room, Tom brushed right by us to bring some pans into the kitchen. I immediately whipped out my camera and gave it to Jill, bless her soul. As soon as he came back out, I asked him for a picture. He smiled and put his arm around me as Jill snapped one of my favorite pictures of all time:I thanked him, and floated out of the restaurant on cloud 9. I couldn't believe that we had almost left the restaurant without noticing that he had appeared by the oven, and I felt so lucky that I got to meet my favorite chef in the entire world.

Who are your favorite chefs? If you ever got the chance to meet them, what would you say? If you have met them, what did you say? Last night was really special for me, and I want to send a HUGE thank you to Jilly for sticking around with me all night. That's a true friend.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Social Media Week as Told by a Foodie

It's no big secret that I'm a food junkie. I love everything about it; eating it, photographing it, writing about it, cooking it. What you may not know about me is that I'm also a huge Social Media junkie. I love Facebook and Twitter, and I am always looking for the latest & greatest. So when I realized 2011's Social Media Week was upon us, I began to look over the events. I was so excited and happy to see how many great panels were being planned, and many of them were centered around food; food apps, food writing, sustainability, food blogging, etc. I signed up for several events & panels and waited for Social Media Week to roll around.

Here is a recap of the food-related events I attended:

Date: Monday 2/7
Event: Sustainable Flashmob, Hosted by Foodspotting and Whole Foods Market
-Moderated by Foodspotting’s Co-founder and Head of Partnerships, Soraya Darabi
-Award-winning celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson
-Ben Leventhal, founder of and The Feast
-Amanda Hesser, food columnist at The New York Times & founder of
Details: The Food and Social Media panel discussed sustainability, food blogging, technology & how it's changing the face of the industry as we know it. After the panel, the first 100 people that posted a picture of Marcus Samuelsson's meatballs on Foodspotting received a $10 gift certificate to Whole Foods, which I used to buy lunch. Overall, a great conversation between the panelists, and I had a total "geek out" moment when Ben Leventhal & Marcus Samuelsson answered my question about food blogging. They advised me to set myself apart, and write what I'm passionate about. Amazing!

Date: Tuesday 2/8
Event: Eats & Apps - A Food (App) Lovers’ Roundtable
Apps in Attendance:
-Hosted at 4Food
-Gourmet Live - Recipes, stories, interviews with chefs & more
-Foodspotting - Rating the best dishes & where to find them through food photos
-Food Network - Archive of Food Network recipes, tools & more
-Dinevore - Discover, organize & share restaurant advice
-Snooth - Using image recognition technology to find out where a particular wine is sold near you
-Gojee - Recipes, deals, tips & news based on your grocery store receipt
-Ratio - The simple codes behind the craft of everyday cooking
-Bread Baking Basics - Personalized recipes for making bread
Details: The event was a showcase of the newest & most useful food apps in the market today, from recipe archives to restaurant reviews. Each app had a representative showing off their stuff on iPhones & iPads, and answering questions from the attendees. 4Food provided delicious food including Edemame Sushi and Burger Patty bites. Each company that was represented at the event created their own signature burger that were on sale for $7 each. It was a great event for networking with fellow foodies and techies.(Photo Credit: Emily Cavalier, Mouth of the Border)

Date: Thursday 2/10
Event: The New Food Reviewers: Is Social Media Making Us Savvy or Snarky?
-Moderated by Maile Carpenter, editor in chief, Food Network Magazine
-Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue food critic; author of The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must’ve Been Something I Ate
-Alex Guarnaschelli, executive chef, Butter restaurant; host of Food Network’s Alex’s Day Off and frequent judge on Chopped
-Ben Leventhal, executive editor, The Feast; co-owner, the Curbed Network (including Curbed, Racked and Eater); co-founder, Eater
-Doug Quint and Bryan Petroff, founders, the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck
Details: Overall, this was one of the best panels I have ever attended. Ms. Carpenter did a fabulous job moderating, even when Jeffrey Steingarten attempted (several times) to steal the show with long-winded comments. Alex Guarnaschelli had the attendees roaring with laughter, and she brings a fresh (if not sarcastic) view to the food industry. Interesting questions such as "Do you just wish Yelp would go away?" were asked and Alex told a great story about how Prince ended up on the stage at the Darby after his MSG show earlier this month. For the lucky (and smart) few of us who stayed put after the panel, we were delighted to see Wylie Dufresne was in attendance, and I even got to speak to him and thank him for the incredible meal I'd had at his WD-50 a few months earlier.

Date: Friday 2/11
Event: "It's Lunchtime! Now What?" Presented by NearSay & SideBAR
-Moderated by Trevor Sumner, Co-Founder of
-Lea Marino, Community Manager at Bizzy
-John Buchanan, Co-Founder of Signpost
-Jane Kwett, Director of NYC Marketing at Yelp
-Lauren Drell, Social Media Manager at Luke’s Lobster
-Amy Cao, Head of Social Media at Foodspotting
-Emily Welby, Social Media Coordinator at SideBAR & Village Pourhouse
Details: The panel was great, and they discussed many interesting topics such as how to best interact with followers on Twitter, how to rise above all the "noise" in their markets and how to go about listening to the voices & opinions they trust. The event was very interactive, with a small, intimate networking session following the panel, and the panelists proved why they are good at what they do; every one of them was friendly, informative & took time to meet the attendees.
(Photo Credit: Jane Kwett, Director of NYC Marketing at Yelp)

Overall, this was an amazing week. I feel so inspired by all the people I met, and I feel so lucky to be a part of such a strong community of Social Media enthusiasts, foodies, writers, bloggers & all-around awesome people. I can't wait for Social Media Week next year! Thank you to everyone I met and connected with this week for being so darn great, I look forward to collaborating with you all very soon.

Did you attend any events during Social Media Week? Did you learn anything new? Please share your experiences with me, I'd love to hear about them.

Let's Eat! (And write! And connect on Social Media!)
-The Fabulous Foodie (@FabFoodieBites)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Winter Restaurant Week: A Recap

As I've mentioned before, I love NYC Restaurant Week the way a 5 year old loves a trip to Disney World. As soon as the restaurants are announced on nycgo, I go into a frenzy of menu-reading, Open Table reservation-making & emailing friends to invite them to join. I changed a few of the reservations I had initially made for Restaurant Week (had to cancel Primehouse & Nobu), and here is where I eventually landed:

1. BONDST to celebrate my birthday with Lauren & Jill
2. Riverpark with Patrick & 2 other couples
3. Mercer Kitchen with some more of the girls

BONDST is a constant favorite of mine during Restaurant Week and, to be honest, every other week of the year. The vibe is sexy, the food is incredible & the drinks are delicious. For my meal, I chose the Tofu Miso Soup, the Salmon Avocado & Spicy Tuna Rolls, and the New York Strip Steak with Caramelized Shallot Teriyaki & 12-year-old Balsamic. Every dish also comes with Spicy Crispy Shrimp, Age Dashi Tofu and a Steamed Chicken Dumpling. For dessert, I had the Ricotta Cup.The flavor of the Miso Soup was rich, the rolls were the perfect ratio of rice to fish and were incredibly fresh and the steak was a medium-rare masterpiece. Tender, juicy and packed with flavor, I savored every bite of the meat. The 3 accompanying sides were also delicious, each bite was a bold new flavor. And yes, I even enjoyed my dessert, the savory (not sweet at all) Ricotta Cup.

Riverpark has been on my "must try" list as soon as I first heard about its opening last September. Tom Colicchio is my favorite chef, and since I can't quite afford to dine at Tom Tuesday Dinner (yet!), I've been dying to go. I made a 6-person reservation and drooled over the menu for the weeks leading up to it. When Patrick and I got in a cab and told them "take us as far east across 29th street as possible," we knew this place wouldn't be easy to find. And boy were we right! After wandering around lost for about 10 minutes along the FDR, we ran into 2 of our friends who were just getting out of their cab and were as lost as we were. Together, we investigated the building and finally found a security guard to ask where to go. But, let me tell you this: don't let the location turn you off. This restaurant has both a beautiful decor and delicious food. I ordered the Cavatelli, Lamb & Mint dish for an Appetizer, the Roasted Chicken with Sunchokes as my Entree and the Cinnamon Pana Cotta with Pumpkin Cake for Dessert.The pasta dish was outstanding, the combination of lamb & mint reminded me of a great rack of lamb with mint jelly and the pasta was perfectly al dente. My roasted chicken was juicy and tender and had a delicious crispy skin. While the Panna Cotta was just okay, I think I just don't like Panna Cotta. I'd never had it before, and I just didn't enjoy the texture or the flavor of the dish. Lesson learned.

Finally, Mercer Kitchen. Deep in the heart of Soho, the atmosphere here is similar to BONDST. A hip lounge with food from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, any restaurant in NYC that's been around since 1998 must be doing something right. The 6 of us arrived early for our 8:30 reservation, and we weren't shown to our table until close to 9:30. The staff offered absolutely no apology, but we did get a nice corner table in the busy restaurant. For this meal, I decided not to order from the Restaurant Week menu because I'd had my share of desserts for the week. I ordered the Pizza Bianco (4 cheese & garlic, hold the red onions) as my Appetizer & the Breast and Confit of Duck with rhubarb, preserved lemon and wild rice as my Entree.I love a good white pizza, and this one was fantastic! The crust was both chewy & crunchy and the cheeses oozed with olive oil & garlic. I didn't want the dish to end! And then when I thought I couldn't be happier with my selection, my Duck came out and I was first surprised at how much food was on the plate. When I bit into the Confit, it was incredibly tender and full of hearty flavor. The Breast of Duck was medium rare, just how I like most of my meat cooked, and the juice from the duck spread out over the plate when I cut into it. It was moist, well- seasoned and practically fell apart in my mouth. I wanted to lick my plate clean, and I wasn't even a little bit jealous when some of the other girls ordered dessert. The service was lacking at Mercer Kitchen, but the food was not.

Now that Winter Restaurant Week has been extended until the end of the month, I may try to visit a few more spots, but overall, I'm very happy with the restaurants I visited this time around. Until Summer Restaurant Week!

What restaurants did you try, in NYC or any other city you may live in? Any suggestions of places I just HAVE to try? I'd highly recommend all 3 places I went, but beware of the bad service at Mercer Kitchen.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Best Service I've Ever Had

I have eaten a lot of meals in a lot of restaurants and I truly feel that the service can greatly add to or take away from the overall experience. In my post about newcomer Ciano, I noted that the food was exceptional, but the service was bad (even though, I do realize, it was opening night.) It's no secret to anyone who knows me that Tom Coliccho is my all-time favorite chef, so for my 26th birthday Patrick took me to Craft, Collich's (my nickname for him because obviously, we're buds) spot on 19th & Park. I have been wanting to try this place for awhile, so off we went.

Upon opening the (very heavy) door into the gorgeous space, we checked in for our table and headed to the bar for drinks. I had the American Beauty (apple-infused tito’s vodka, apple schnapps, laird’s applejack, cinnamon syrup, tobacco bitters) and Patrick had the Bee Sting (maker’s mark, fresh ginger, cardamom-honey syrup, regan’s orange bitters). Both drinks were delicious, and then the bartender told us the drinks had been taken care of for my birthday by Patrick's family. Thank you again Ms. Patty & Mr. George!

We were shown to a lovely table near the bar, and we opened our menus to begin making our selections. That was when I started to notice how every single small detail was taken care of by the staff. When I dropped my knife on the ground (klutz!) the hostess was at my side immediately with a new one. When I got up to use the bathroom, a waiter walked me there and someone folded my napkin while I was gone. My water glass was NEVER empty (and we all know how I am about that!) And the service only got better as the night went on.

For our appetizer, we decided to share the Ricotta Cavatelli & Guanciale.When it came out, I was delighted to find a cooked egg in the middle of the plate. We immediately broke the yolk and let the delicious yellow liquid invade every part of the bowl. When I took a bite, the flavor was that of the most perfect bacon, egg & cheese I had ever tasted. I practically licked the plate clean.

For the main courses Patrick chose the special of the evening, the Suckling Pig Platter and I chose the Nantucket Bay ScallopsThe Suckling Pig was juicy and full of flavor with the Crispy Pork Belly as the succulent star, while the Diver Scallops were the perfect combination of tender & sweet. I have had a lot of tough & stringy Bay Scallops, so I was impressed by how good these were. After doing some research after dinner, I learned that Bay Scallops are no more tough than Sea Scallops, it's 100% about how they are cooked. So, Mr. Colicchio certainly triumphed with this dish.

Our sides were Duck Risotto, Brussels Sprouts & Hen of the Woods Mushrooms.The Risotto was packed with intense flavor and was full of tender duck meat. I found the consistency to be slightly too glue-y, but otherwise it was a perfect dish. The Brussels Sprouts had little pieces of bacon heaven scattered throughout the plate for a delightful crunchy surprise, and the mushrooms were earthy and rich. These sides perfectly accompanied the main courses, and we were happy campers.

The excellent service continued throughout the entire meal. Our waiter asked if we'd like to sit with our wine before bringing out our cappuccinos, not rushing us at all. They didn't miss a beat. This elevated our experience from great to extraordinary, and put Craft close to the top of my own personal Best Restaurants list. The waiter then brought out a little birthday treat that was the perfect end to the meal: Hazelnut Meringues.When we were done, Patrick paid (thanks again!) and we went to fetch our coats. As if the service hadn't already been stellar, the hostess struck up a friendly conversation with us while we waited and wanted to know how our experience had been. Because I (obviously) love to talk about food & restaurants, we chatted for awhile, and then she handed us both our perfect parting gifts: Two Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins wrapped in cellophane. Seriously?! A GOOD-BYE MUFFIN?! I had died and gone to heaven.

What other restaurants have outstanding service? How do you think it contributes to the overall experience? Let me know your thoughts, I'm now addicted to great service!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie