Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Fund for Jennie

Sometimes things happen that really make you wonder, really make you feel like life just isn't fair. A few weeks ago, I noticed my Twitter stream come alive with the hashtag #apieformikey. Upon further investigation, I learned that the husband of a well-known and well-respected Food Blogger, Jennie Perillo of In Jennie's Kitchen, had died suddenly of a heart attack leaving Jennie to care for their two young daughters and mourn the loss of the love of her life. I don't know Jennie, and I had never read her blog, but my heart broke.

Jennie's request to the food blogging community: make a peanut butter pie and share it with someone you love. What happened next brings tears to my eyes, as this incredible community of wonderful people started to bake. The White on Rice couple, a lovely couple I have had the pleasure of working with at my new job, made this incredible video tribute to Jennie (warning: this made me sob at my desk).

That same incredible community of people then started A Fund for Jennie to raise money to help Jennie with the financial troubles that resulted from Mikey's passing. Almost every single food blogger I have ever heard of, met or worked with either made a Pie for Mikey, donated an auction item to A Fund for Jennie, or did both.

I have been lucky enough to get to work with Bloggers Without Borders on A Fund For Jennie, and there are still some live auctions, so head over to their website and check it out. You can also donate directly through PayPal to Bloggers Without Borders, and the money will go to A Fund for Jennie.

This story has moved me very deeply, I still sometimes sit and cry when I think of what Jennie must be going through, and I hope the love and support of her friends in the food blogging community has helped ease some of the pain.

This story has made me take extra time to stop and tell the people I love how I feel, especially my incredible family, my wonderful friends and my amazing boyfriend who I feel lucky to know every single day of my life. I love you Patrick.Jennie, I know I don't know you, but I think your strength is simply amazing and I want you to know that I keep you in my thoughts. I'm deeply sorry for your loss.

-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Classic Ukrainian Fare at Veselka

The East Village is home to a whole lot of amazing food. When I lived in the neighborhood from 2008-2009, I was lucky enough to live on one of the most amazing food streets in NYC, East 7th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A. Without a doubt, Veselka Ukrainian restaurant is a New York City institution. Not only is it open 24 hours, 7 days a week, but it serves up some of the best grub this city has to offer.
(photo courtesy of yonyc.net)
Once I heard the restaurant had celebrated its 55-year anniversary, I knew it truly had to be something special. In a city where nothing is permanent and restaurants come and go on a daily basis, 55 years is like 10 lifetimes in the restaurant world. I have a feeling there's good reason for this.

A few Fridays ago, Patrick and I were hungry and wandering around the East Village looking for some grub. We had put down a few beers at Schillers and we were both craving some good comfort food. We were lucky to get a table for two outside on the sidewalk and opened the giant menu to make our selections.

While neither of us had ever had borscht before, we were intrigued by the bright pink liquid being served around us. Since it was warm out that night, we ordered the Cold Borscht and I have to say, it was such a hot shade of pink when it came to the table that I was almost afraid to try it.But I'm so glad I did! It was actually very tasty. The broth was rich and bright with the the flavor of beets, but was not overpowering at all. The egg was a delicious addition to the soup. I could have done without all the onions floating in the broth, but I really enjoyed the borscht and was happy to try it.

Next we ordered a plate of pierogi, which are Ukrainian dumplings. We got 7 of them, boiled, with a variety of fillings: 2 cheese (for me), 2 arugula & goat cheese (to split), 2 meat (for Pat) and 1 sweet potato (for me).They were all really good, but the sweet potato was definitely my favorite. The plate came with apple sauce and sour cream, and I immediately wished we had ordered 7 more.

Finally, I ordered myself a potato pancake. Patrick ordered Goulash which is veal braised in a creamy herb sauce with mashed potatoes. I was way too full for something that heavy, but the potato pancake was perfect for me. I've eaten a lot of potato pancakes in my day, and I have to say, this was the best one I've ever had.It was crispy and flaky and there wasn't one drop of grease to be found. The flavor was incredible and the texture was perfect. This also came with apple sauce and sour cream and once I finished the delightful dish, I was incredibly full.

A friend told me Veselka allegedly has some of the city's most delicious pancakes, so I definitely plan to return for either brunch or 4am pancakes sometime soon.

What's your favorite classic restaurant, whether in NYC or somewhere else?

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Great Tasting Menu at Mas (Farmhouse)

Oh how I've missed you all! Please accept my deepest apologies for how long it's been since my last post. Life has been a little hectic lately as I recently got a new job. I am now the Manager of Community Management for two major food industry brands at a large advertising agency in New York. This is truly my dream job, and I feel so lucky to have gotten it. I'm working with wonderful people, and I'm working with what I love: food and social media. Thanks to my friends, my family and my amazing boyfriend for all the love and support.

Now, on to the important stuff. I recently decided I wanted to take Patrick out for a special meal to thank him for the aforementioned love and support, especially during these last few months as my professional life got a bit overwhelming. I told him he could pick anywhere in NYC, and while we entertained thoughts of the tasting menu at WD-50, incredible fish at Le Bernardin, he finally decided on the West Village's Mas (Farmhouse).This was a restaurant we used to pass daily as we walked into our old job in Soho, and somewhere we have both always wanted to try. We waited until a holiday weekend in New York, knowing the city would be very quiet (just the way we like it) and ventured down to the Village for our meal.

From the moment we stepped into the restaurant, I knew this was going to be an experience like nothing we'd ever had before. We were shown to a cozy table for two in the busy but not overly crowded restaurant, and settled in for our food adventure. We noticed the menu mentioned a 6-Course Tasting Menu, but we couldn't find the actual menu for that anywhere. We asked our waiter, and he explained how it works.

You tell him your food likes and your dislikes, things you want to try and things you want to avoid, and the chef creates a custom tasting menu based on your preferences and based on whatever is fresh that day. True "farm to table," this was a concept that was just too good for us to pass up. I told the waiter that I liked almost everything, just nothing too spicy and nothing with too much butter. Pat noted that he did like spicy and would pretty much eat anything. And with that instruction, our meal was underway. It's no secret that I like to take pictures of my food, but this place, and this night and this vibe, it just didn't seem right. I decided to put the camera away for the night and just take everything in. Hopefully, I will be able to describe the food to help you envision it, but apologies for the lack of photos.

We had some very yummy cocktails while we waited in anticipation for what was to come. I had a vodka grapefruit concoction while Pat opted for his usual Manhattan. The first dish that came out was fresh shrimp with several fresh vegetables, and it was quite delicious. I know I just said fresh twice, but that doesn't even begin to describe it. It was as if the shrimp had just been plucked from the sea and the vegetables picked from a garden outside. This was a great start to our meal. Also, each dish was brought out by two people who placed the plates on the table, in front of each of us, in perfect unison, and then plucked the empty plates from us as soon as they were empty. A nice touch.

The next course needs not only its own paragraph, but its own blog! It doesn't sound spectacular, but oh boy, was it ever. The two waiters placed small bowls of green liquid in front of us and we truly had no idea what we were in for. Asparagus soup with shaved white truffles, poached scallops, sweet corn and trumpet mushrooms. One bite of this soup and Patrick and I looked up at each other in a moment of pure food bliss. The broth was a little sweet, incredibly fresh, full of intensely amazing flavor and the epitome of absolute perfection in a bowl. There is no way for me to emphasize this enough, it was simply the most divine thing I have ever tasted. The scallops were buttery and tender, the corn was sweet and the truffles and trumpet mushrooms added an earthiness to the soup that knocked it out of the park. I literally picked up my bowl for the last sip and almost licked it clean. Then I remembered my manners and didn't, but I REALLY wanted to!

When the waiters surrounded our table to lift the plates away, it was like saying good-bye to an old friend. I knew that I had to have that soup again and that any dish that came after would pale in comparison. At this point our waiter seemed to have realized that he forgot something pretty big and asked us if we'd be interested in a wine pairing with the rest of our courses. We were interested, but a little annoyed that he was only asking us now after we were two dishes in. At this time, new plates were placed in front of us and we prepared ourselves for the next dish. A simple piece of Halibut sat in the center of the plate and we were served two glasses of red wine. I was surprised that the wine was red to pair with fish, but it was actually perfect. Light, slightly chilled and crisp, it paired very well with the dish. Halibut is one of my favorite fishes for its sheer simplicity, so I was pretty excited. And for good reason. The fish was light, flaky, buttery and fresh. It was unspoiled by any heavy sauces or seasonings and was just very simple and delicious. The piece of fish wasn't very large, but was just enough to be a satisfying seafood course. Again our plates were whisked away, and we were ready for the next course.

Roasted chicken with crispy skin was again paired with a delicious red wine. The chicken was moist and full of flavor, the skin was perfectly crispy and salted just to my liking. The wine was smooth and paired beautifully. We thoroughly enjoyed this course but we were both hoping for a heartier meat to finish off the pre-dessert courses. And speaking of dessert, I actually asked the waiter if my final course could be something savory, like a cheese course, and he told me it wouldn't be an issue. The next plates were brought out, and we were both very excited to see that the final dinner course was a crispy pork belly. Patrick and I both love pork belly and this dish certainly didn't disappoint. Properly fatty, tender, savory and yummy, our plates were empty almost immediately. A third glass of red wine, this time a bolder, richer wine, was paired with the pork and was really able to stand up to the flavor of the meat.

As we waited for our dessert course and finished our final glasses of red, we began to look back on the meal and discuss how much we both enjoyed it. We really couldn't get over how incredible the asparagus soup with scallops had been and we discussed how we'd go about describing it to friends before deciding we'd never be able to do it justice. Even now, as you're reading this, you won't be able to fully appreciate this soup unless you go to Mas yourself and try it. It's just that good!

Unfortunately a piece of cake was placed in front of me, and I was disappointed that the waiter had messed up my final course at such a nice restaurant. I didn't want to complain, so I ate some of it (confirming how little I really like cake) and the waiter stopped by the table to check on us. He looked at my plate and realized his oversight. Now don't get me wrong, I'm okay with mistakes as long as they're handled properly. This was not. To make up for accidentally bringing me out a sweet dish when I told him I favored savory to sweet, he poured us a complimentary glass of sweet dessert wine. It was really surprising to me that he thought this was an acceptable make-good, but our meal had been so incredibly good that I let it slide.

I paid the bill and we were back out into the New York City night with our stomachs full of incredible food. For a wonderful tasting menu experience, I highly recommend Mas (Farmhouse) and hopefully they will work out the small service glitches to make it a truly perfect experience.

Do you enjoy tasting menus or do you prefer larger portions of less dishes during a meal? There are a lot of tasting menus I still want to try, but I'm so happy we tried Mas.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie