Saturday, October 22, 2011

I'm Going Going Back Back to Back Forty FORTAYYYY

What up home slices? I know, I've been neglectful as per usual. In my defense I was stuck in a few extra days Florida due to the hurricane.... two months ago..... err yea...

Anyway, jumping to something completely different, fall might not be my favorite season, however it is a great time of year for brunch. Yes, I'm sure that I've written that about every other time of year, but just roll with it. While Manhattan is a large borough, my favorite 'hood for a cup of coffee and something delicious on a Sunday at high noon is the East Village/LES. Maybe it's just my favorite area in general because I fit in with the ironic twentysomethings that teeter the line between hipster and awkwardly amazing. Ray-bans, Vampire Weekend, and MK watches anyone?

Unfortunately, there's a lot of hungry hipsters, hippies, homies, happies, and hippos in the EV. After once being told that the wait for Clinton St. Baking Co. was "hours" - no not an hour, not two hours, just "hours"- I decided I needed a plan. I suddenly had an epiphany - why put your name on one list when you can put it on two? So that's what I did. First stop, as always, was Prune. Hour and a half wait? No biggie, I had already planned to run the 15 or so blocks to Back Forty and attempt to get in there. I may not be religious but God/Buddha/Allah/Tom Cruise must have known the extent of my hunger because at 12:15pm on a Sunday I was able to get a table for two RIGHT AWAY. No, I'm not kidding. I couldn't believe it either.

Scanning the menu caused a little confusion - do I want eggs? No no, maybe a burger? Maybe some doughnuts? why does EVERYTHING sound so good? PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER WOMAN! I took a deep breath and was finally able to find exactly what I was looking for: Brisket with a yucca hash. Amazing, and also a nice deviation from the usual corn pancake pairing. Focusing my energy on rearranging my utensils, I anxiously waited for the first bite. Delicious. The brisket fell apart with the touch of my fork. Perfectly fried eggs sat atop the dish, longing to be blended into the brisket, yucca, bread and red onion mixture. Each bite was divine. Chris had ordered the soft scrambled eggs and romesco with peas, sweet corn, ricotta, and bread. Perfectly cooked eggs with a balance of sweet and salty from the corn, peas and ricotta. It was delicious, but mine was better.

And for that, Back Forty, I thank you. Even though I know next week you'll probably have at least an hour wait and I'll be forced to run around the EV.
Back Forty on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

'Tis the Voice of the Lobster

Lewis Carroll has nothing on me.... well maybe a famed writing career, mathematical conquests, and a myth about pedophiliac suggestions in his literature. But, I am better off than Lewis Carroll. You may at this point be asking for a sense of relevancy and be thinking "what the fuck". Let me explain:
I live in the present. I am able to eat at Ed's Lobster Bar. Lewis Carroll does and is not. Therefore, I am better. A simple axiom.

After scouring Michelin's Bib Gourmand list, lobster seemed the be a perfect treat on a hot summer day. Since I'm not white enough to have a summer house in Maine, Ed's would have to do. A small storefront across from the 6 train, the restaurant has a 1950's soda bar feel to the decor - pristine, homey, and inviting. The menu consists of various shellfish items, with a section dedicated to all things lobster. Yum.

Some may find it hard to decide between the shelly choices, but I knew immediately what I wanted - a lobster roll. Not ordering one would have been like leaving half a pint of beer unfinished. You just don't do that.

While lobster rolls are some of my favorite goodies, I haven't had one that satiated me quite the way James Hook & Co in Boston had.... that is, until now. One thing was for sure - SIZE MATTERS. Ed's was great AND there's enough to fill you - unlike some other great lobster rolls that are meagerly sized and leave you frustrated, wanting more. The roll was buttered and crisped to perfection. The lobster meat was ample. Vinegar soaked pickles and a side of fries accompanied the roll. The pickles were a nice acidic cut to the fattiness of the lobster roll. I also tried some of my friend's lobster pot pie, which was basically flakey pastry in lobster bisque awesomeness. A little salty but sooooo yummy.

Since the waiter/bartender was super nice, I trusted his dessert suggestion. We had an ice cream sandwich which was basically homemade vanilla ice cream on the same buttered roll used for the lobster roll. Yes mom, ice cream on a buttered roll. While it may not have been the healthiest thing I've eaten, it definitely was delicious.

Now reader, I do my research. I've seen some mixed reviews online about the lobster rolls, but TRUST ME. I'd almost never let you down.
Ed's Lobster Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Challenge Accepted.

Each year, I await the day that I wake up with a present so marvelous and enticing, the previous night's sleep is interrupted. No, I'm not talking about Christmas. I gave up on Santa around age 3 (the guy in the red suit at our holiday dinner looked a little too much like my father). No, no.. not my birthday... I'm talking about the release of the NYC Michelin Guide.

While I would love to eat wagyu beef and a rack of lamb at Le Bernardin, I have to keep myself on somewhat of a budget. Never to fear reader, Michelin loves all types of people, including poor hippies who want to work with children like myself. Enter: Michelin Bib Gourmand.

Never heard of it? Well I am EXTREMELY sorry. Putting it lightly, your life must suck.

Bib Gourmand is Michelin's list of delicious restaurants that average $40 or less per meal. Now that I have some time off from school, I've decided to try some restaurants on the list. I know I'm a flakey blogger but I will try to keep you posted on my adventures.

Emphasis on the "try" -- I need to improve my Words with Friends skills.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Brunch: A Modern Marvel

On random Sundays, I force my boyfriend to take me to brunch so I can eat eggs and some of whatever he ordered at 1pm to nurse my hangover. Brunch is one of the best creations modern man has ever constructed. Some other things in the category with brunch naturally include the wheel, the internet, the light bulb, and Toddlers and Tiaras. Obviously.

This past Sunday began no different than any other brunch Sunday. I woke from my dream of sugar plums (with a side of cornbread hash) dancing in my head, planned to annoy Chris until he woke up, and pondered how I wanted my eggs. Did I even want eggs? Maybe I'd go for more the "unch" side. Or maybe I'd get some french toast. Who knows! That's the crazy thing about brunch, you could have anything you want. Oh brunch....

Now, I do owe you a brunch themed week so I can banter about all of the glorious things I have eaten early Sunday afternoons but right now, I'm just going to focus on my most recent endeavor: Cookshop.

You might be thinking "what an adorable name!" as I did. That's because Cookshop is a happy place and happy places are named happy names. Some of you may remember my Five Points mishap. Since I wanted to redeem myself and Cookshop is also owned by Marc Meyer, Vicki Freeman and Chris Paraskevaides, I felt that this was my chance.

After scanning the menu and having a mini-crisis about what to order - eggs or french toast OH THE PRESSURE! - I decided on the Cookshop Scramble (caramelized onions, creme fraiche, chives, and pork sausage with a buttermilk biscuit) and Chris ordered walnut-raisin french toast with vanilla-mascarpone cream, toasted almonds, and strawberries. "They had me at mascarpone," he joked. Comments like that are why we're together. Adorable.

While I acted interested in our conversation, all I really could focus on was taking that first bite. After all, it is my favorite of the bites. And then it came. Delicious. Though I probably could have put some of the scramble on the biscuit and eat it like a sandwich, I choose to cut it up and mix it in the goodness. Best decision I'd made in days. Naturally, I asked Chris for some of his food while trying to look as innocent as possible. It worked and the french toast was also freaking delicious.

I kind of wanted to hug the waitress, demand I meet the chef, and cry to him about how thankful my taste buds were... but you know, that's not socially acceptable.

Not yet anyway.

PS Cookshop is right across from the 20th st entrance to the Highline. Food and fun!

Cookshop on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ευχαριστώ, Pylos

You caught me. I lied to you, reader. I know I promised more frequent posts but I still made you wait.... patience is a virtue. I was clearly testing your authenticity as a human.

Now, as some of you may not know, I love all things Greek. From their affinity for the olive to my friend Constantine's ridiculously beautiful hair - the Greeks could teach us Americans a thing or two about living the good life. So when my friend shared that we were going to Pylos for her birthday, I was ecstatic... maybe a little too much. These are new friends, I should try to hide the odd side of me. But Pylos? COME ON! Ever since my sister moved to the East Village, I've been waiting for the day I'd eat at Pylos. I was excited.

I met my friends - and besides for the self-loathing woman next to us out for her anniversary with the husband she clearly abhorred - all was perfect. Once our Greek friend arrived, we were ready to order. Think I'd go without a Greek? Yea, okay. Now, I cannot stress how effing delicious each morsel was. For appetizers, we shared a little of everything with one another since we all were gaga over the dishes. My personal favorites were the anginares moussaka (artichoke moussaka) and soutzoukakia smyrneika (awesome meatball things, yea don't try to pronounce it - that's why we invited a Greek). As per my friend's suggestion, I ordered the arni kotsi me meli, gigantes skordalia kai psiti tomata, which roughly translates into huge lamb shank awesomeness with bean puree and ridiculous roasted tomatoes. So maybe I added an adjective or two. You get the point.

I had to leave dinner early to visit my newly engaged friend and oogle her ring. I was a little sad.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

Pylos on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Day I Broke My Own Heart

Oh reader... Reader, reader, reader. Some times even the smartest of people, like myself, make the biggest mistakes. Not since one of the few times I faked a "go with the flow" attitude which led to me and my friends missing our flight to New Orleans have I been so disappointed in myself - in case you're wondering, we made it on the next flight and it was awesome.

Last Friday, I decided to meet my boyfriend for dinner after I coerced my sister into picking up a dress for me and was going to "meet her" to help her travel home. Obviously I needed to eat before I could help her carry my packages. Chris and I wandered into Five Points after ogling the menu on menupages. Thank (insert name of respective Higher Power here), for smart phones! As we debated whether or not to sit inside or out, something wonderful happened...... I smelled something amazing and instantly I smiled. White truffles. I'd always recognize that smell.

We sat down at one of the tables by the bar and glanced at the menu. Potato and truffle pizza? Why did that sound familiar? Did I really want pizza? Could I even eat something that heavy and still fit into the dress that I had to track down in two states and three boroughs? No.... I was no longer intrigued by the truffle dish, my mind had jumped to another entrée that sounded awesome. We ordered the frito misto for an appetizer, Chris had the spinach pizza with crescenza cheese, pecorino cheese, and garlic confit, and I ordered the homemade semolina spaghetti, with littleneck clams, white wine, and chili. I was excited. Semolina is basically my middle name and I LOVE clams.

Then it happened - I felt regret... the same regret I felt when I decided not to buy myself a Fendi while in Sicily back in 2005. I knew I'd never let myself down. The food came and it was delicious. The fritto misto had different veggies, shellfish, and cod. We ate, talked, and laughed, but I still felt a little saddened by my decision. Chris was supportive; it was difficult for him to turn down truffles too. I assured myself that it wasn't like I missed shaved black truffle... it was white truffle oil... totally different..

Our entrées arrived and they were delicious. The broth that the clams had been cooked in was a perfect compliment to the semolina pasta that tasted as if they stole a nonna and only let her eat if she sat in the back and made pasta all day. The waiter then came over to talk to us about desserts. Fine, Five Points. You and your fantastic food win. I'll stop my whining and enjoy my salted caramel gelato.

Five Points
31 Great Jones St
(between Lafayette St & Bowery)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's not really spring in NY until it's warm enough to stand on the Shake Shack line

While the 80 degree weather and the fact that tomorrow is June 1st may make the title of this post seem horrifyingly late, it is a truth accepted by most New Yorkers. Now that that's settled, let's talk about something of the utmost importance: Shake Shack.

A New York staple, I first stumbled upon the Shack as a college junior while walking through Madison Sq Park to go to an internship. My first thought, "why are all these people waiting on line?", was quickly followed by my second thought, "I want some too". Since my first tasting of the Shack, I have been hooked. Not hooked, addicted. While the shack menu boasts multiple choices, I stick to the Shack Burger and cheese fries. After all, people aren't waiting over an hour on line in the heat for Shack-cago Dog. Or maybe they are.... But I can't get myself to order anything else (except adding an Arnold Palmer or a concrete) because while MGMT sings about drugs, I'm singing (and occasionally dancing) about the Shack Burger.

Yes I make fun of franchised food a lot but Shake Shack doesn't really count. The company uses mainly local ingredients, sells alcohol, and the staff looks is happy. When was the last time a server at McDonald's told you that their custard of the day was (and I quote) "SOOOO yummy"? Plus the more locations, the more people around the world can enjoy the Shack and the bigger the chance that the line isn't ridiculously long.

While I'm sure the other Shake Shack locations are still ridiculously good, I'm loyal to Madison Sq Park. Even though there are different concretes at each location, it's still not enough of an incentive for me. I love the MSP location: the website shows how long the line is so I can prepare myself accordingly and it's effing powered by wind! It's my first, my last, my everything.

P.S. Shack-tastic slang you should know:
a) concrete: custard mixed with yummy toppings blended super fast, making it strangely thick and extra delicious
b) Shack Burger: the greatest burger ever made
c)Poochinis: custard that dogs can eat... that's right, the Shack cares about your dog too

Shake Shack for locations


As part of my "PLAYING CATSUP (CATCH UP, get it? Oh.... I made this awkward) Series", I owe you quite a bit of yummy banter. For example, a report from my cousin's going away party in December and yummy brunch dates. I know... I KNOW! Shake your head all you want, Vanessa. Some of us have been busy doing important things, like unfriending people with babies on FB and chatting up the Starbucks barrista in hopes of a discount.

Recently, my cousin Ali decided to attend culinary school in Paris. While I don't doubt that she would have eventually figured out that she'd be a great chef, I do have to note that her decision to leave was quickly made after I beat her in Scrabble and then forced her to watch a "Sister Wives" marathon, whilst snuggling up on her arm. As she also inherited the foodie gene, her friend quickly planned a going away dinner. Now, you might be thinking "why the hell do I care about a going away dinner?". Two reasons: 1)DBGB has awesome food and 2) I said so.

 As a typical gastropub, DBGB serves jazzed up burgers, soups, and other classics. Untypical of other gastropubs, DBGB is Daniel Boulud's proof that he can turn regular food and into a dish that you literally will have dreams about for weeks. Additionally, any place with a 29 page beer and wine menu is worth talking about.

As I usually approach a restaurant after doing a substantial amount of research, I was well prepared for my night at DBGB -- until I got there and immediately wanted everything on the menu. Soon my mind was panic stricken. How is it possible to choose between the Frenchie or the Piggie? Can I flip a coin? Maybe I'll get mussels.. who am I kidding? Oh, there's lamb! I quickly scanned the drink menu, ordered myself a Session Lager (delish!) and collected my thoughts. Now now, you know you want the matzoh ball soup and everyone's getting the Piggie so you can steal a bite of theirs and get the Frenchie all to yourself... Decision made.

Reader, I may or may not have previously mentioned my strange love of all things soupy. Whether it's Top Ramen or the chicken noodle soup at Morimoto, I love soup. Perhaps I never fully got over my phase of only eating soup or canned black olives (yummy and metallic!) that I had when I was three. Whatever the reason, I was super excited when the waiter brought my soup. This soup, I feel, epitomizes the reason gastropubs are so fucking fantastic. Something so mundane as matzoh ball soup is made delectable. Don't believe me? Well this soup is so good that NY Mag listed it as one of the city's 50 tastiest soups. So there. I may not have a bubbie, but if I did this soup would be better than her's (of course, I wouldn't have the heart to tell her).

DBGB also knows how to cook a burger. I may have only had a few bites of the Piggie, but I know that I will crave that burger sporadically for the rest of my life. The Piggie, a burger topped with Daisy May's pulled pork, jalapeno mayo, and lettuce on a cheddar bun, makes your backyard grill jealous. But, there's a better burger on the menu. Now, ordering the Frenchie may have been one of the best decisions I've made in a while. The Frenchie - topped with confit pork belly, arugula, tomato-onion compote, and morbier cheese -  is a superior burger. And I had it all to myself. There were a few seconds where I nervously thought my sister would have wanted a bite, but she is also cursed with being petite and decided to concentrate on her own food. CLOSE CALL.

299 Bowery
New York, NY

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I may not be that social but Stanton is

Hello readers. I know all three of you have been anxiously awaiting my newest post, grinding your teeth in suspense. Between grad school, catching up on Fringe, and sleeping, time has really flown by in between my posts. For that, I am sorry. Please forward me the bill for the meds you've been taking to deal with my absence.

Anyway, after my vacation to Paris then my boyfriend's business trip to California, we needed to have a date to spend some alone time with our threesome partner, Good Food. I've been itching to go to Stanton Social for a few weeks ever since my sister suggested we double date. Like the great sister that I am, I decided that we should go to Stanton Social without her and her new guy since reservations for two are soooo much easier to get than for four. Sorry sis, but between you and a good meal, I will most likely choose the latter. Now reader, by now you're familiar with my proclivity of using abbreviations, but something feels inherently wrong with praising "the SS" several times in a post, so bare with me.

A few $3 Stellas later (thank you Epstein's), Chris and I walked into Stanton Social. For those of you unfamiliar with the restaurant, S Soc is the love child of chef Chris Santos, Richard Wolf, and Peter Kane that serves up tapas style revamped American classics. Sound awesome? That's because it is.
Since the tapas sized portions allows for tasting more of the menu, Chris and I avoided our usual debate over which dishes to get which usually evolves into tension. Again, I wish I were a true fat kid and not just one trapped in a petite frame... oh the places I could go! We both agreed that 5 dishes would probably satiate the both of us and leave some room for dessert, considering I only ate a slice of cheese and three crackers that day in preparation for dinner. Eliminating some dishes were tough so we ordered more than we originally planned: french onion soup dumplings, red snapper tacos, barbecued duck confit and black bean empanadas, crabcake corn dogs, and two sliders (the Kobe Philly and the Rhode Island style lobster roll). Oh helllllll yeah.

Now, I'm not saying I was disappointed because I wasn't. The food was fantastic. But one thing bothered me - the FOS dumplings. Mr. Santos, I appreciate that you combined two of my favorite foods and amplified their flavor by creating some hybrid awesomefood but these are not french onion soup dumplings. They are french onion dumplings. When I see the words soup and dumplings in the same menu item description, I expect to have to strategically bite into the dumpling to suck out the soup. It's common sense, dude. However, Mr. Santos, the flavor was impeccable and I respect the added note of the toasted crouton. Bravo. Moving on, the crab cake corn dog was very tasty and the presentation was clever, but I expected a bit more of that deep fried crunch indicative of corn dog culture and the empanadas were more beany than ducky, which was a little bit of a let down. But I will give you crazy mad props for those sliders. Kobe beef, truffle, and goat cheese?! Genius. AND THAT LOBSTER ROLL! Me and my taste buds are forever in debt to StantSo.

Now we did get some crazy chocolate dessert thing for two that was HUGE. Chris being a great boyfriend understands that I'm very territorial when it comes to my food and I don't like to share, so he ordered some gigantic dessert thing. But, alas, I was full thanks to my inadequately sized stomach. Such hardships in life; this too shall pass. But, dear reader, by now you have also probably realized that I'm a lush and enjoy sucking back $13 cocktails, and I can say that StntScl has great cocktail choices. In the words of my father, "if there's no gin, I'm leaving", therefore I naturally ordered the Bea's Gin-Lemon Mojito, made with Bombay Sapphire, mint, and lemon -- tart and fabulous.

Yes it's difficult to get reservations but there is a trick - the upstairs bar offers a similar menu and doesn't necessarily require reservations if you get there early enough....

Stanton Social
99 Stanton Street
New York, NY

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Disgusting dating vs Degustation Reciprodating (I'd put my money on the latter)

There are several perks to being in a somewhat functioning relationship: compliments, presents for the holidays, someone to open jars/water bottles that are too tight, and some other reasons that I can't list here since several one family member reads this blog. However, these qualities are nothing if your significant other is incapable of reciprodating. What is reciprodating? Well, dear reader, reciprodating is showing emotion through a well thought out and planned date. Why does this sound mockingly simple? Because it is. But I am in my early twenties and men in their early twenties seem to lack some cognitive functioning - primarily organizing and prioritizing (Occupational Therapy Practice Framework, 2002). While I'm a huge fan of walking aimlessly around and having a spontaneous "oh hey this menu looks good" night, I could do that with anyone and feel special. HOWEVER, when I am reciprodated for purely being a great girlfriend well than I am inclined to feel even more special. This is where a great meal comes into play. Whether it's been 2 dates, 2 years, or 2 decades, a great dinner can always impress your significant other. While New York is filled with plenty of delicious restaurants that draw from cuisines from around the world, I am going to convince you that Degustation, a tapas restaurant, was one of my favorite reciprodates. Ever.

Now reader, I often write about food and maybe crack a joke or two at other aspects of the restaurant but, one thing to never joke about on a reciprodate is ambiance. The setting of the restaurant sets the tone for the date. I've recently had one of the best meals in my life (see Blue Hill) but the setting was not reciprodate-like, it was date-like or dinner-with-friends-like. On the other hand, Degustation seats sixteen people only, as the chairs surround the kitchen area. Not only is the space inherently intimate, watching your food being prepared is exciting enough to fuel the entirety of the dinner conversation. Reciprodating is a team sport. Therefore, the idea of tapas and small plate encourages sharing. Reciprodating requires excitement, so bring on the use of molecular gastronomy via the tasting menu. Degustation has two tasting menu choices - five or ten courses - offered at a somewhat reasonable price.

We opted for the 5 course menu ($50 per person) which consisted of hamachi, arugula salad with a perfectly cooked egg, clams and cannelloni, rabbit three ways, and a custard on crack and something deliciously s'more-like as dessert choices. I;m teasing you with a brief synopsis of the food because the tasting menu changes on a weekly basis and will most likely not be the same if you choose to dine at Degustation. But I will say this - hands down, best fried rabbit meatball I have ever had... okay so only fried rabbit meatball I've ever had, but you get the point.

P.S. I almost cried when I ate some of the perfectly poached egg... no, seriously...

Degustation Wine & Tasting Bar
239 East 5th Street
New York, NY
(212) 979-1012