Monday, December 27, 2010

Chez Carey! Apples & Cinnamon overnight crock pot oatmeal

 Okay, I know what you're thinking. Oatmeal is really NOT something I would normally think of as a culinary adventure. It's not glamorous or exciting. It's certainly not exotic or beautiful. That said, on the morning of a 2 foot blizzard in NYC, waking up to a piping hot, delicious-smelling, crock pot full of fresh apples & cinnamon oatmeal IS a really special treat, and a super healthy one at that!
Since I am a night owl, this works out perfectly for me. I put the ingredients in, turn it on around 1:30am and by the time I wake up, it has become simmering, golden wonderfulness. I am pretty particular about using high quality steel cut oats and McCanns is my current
favorite brand. I also like Silver Palette rough cut oats when I can't find McCanns, although it seems to have caught on and most grocery stores carry it now. This recipe, like most of mine, is merely a concept. Nothing strict about it. It actually takes a little practice to get the right ratio of liquid in there- my first attempt a few years ago turned out to be a burnt-to-a-crisp, stuck-on mess. Thus, the importance of spraying the inside of the crock pot generously with Pam before adding the ingredients. Here's the concept.
Mix together 1 cup of oats and a dash of salt and pour 2 cups of water over it. In the crock pot, mix together a peeled, diced apple with some brown sugar and cinnamon. Pour the water mixture over it and DO NOT MIX. Cook on low heat for 8-ish hours. If I wake up in the middle of the night I will check on it and sometimes add more water if it is looking too dry. When it's done, mix it all up and enjoy! I like to put a little maple syrup on top for extra sweetness. It's SO good!
Some variations I play around with are using milk and or half and half in place of some or all of the water. I also like to add in cut up dried mangos or cranberries, almonds, etc. It's a fun breakfast to experiment with, and I usually make enough for a few days. It does microwave very well.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tsuki Japanese Restaurant: 1410 1st Ave, NY, NY.

 It always seems to take me the longest time to try the restaurants that are closest to my apartment. I've walked past Tsuki a thousand times, but never went in because I have never seen one person in there. When I passed by today, I read a few of the reviews in the window and was prompted to search further online. Much to my surprise, almost all of the sites I checked out had averages of 4 stars and glowing reviews.
My favorite local sushi places are astronomically expensive, (Sushi of Gari and Sasabune) and loved for their excellent Omakase. (I hope to return to both at some point since my last visit was before I started

writing this blog, but the price tag means that they warrant special occasions.)
Tsuki, given the rave reviews is very fairly priced, and I actually had a little too much food for $23. I ordered the special sushi sampler and one piece of sushi tamago based on someone's praise-filled review of it.
The sampler was excellent. I'd say it's not quite as high quality fish as the two others I mentioned, but the preparation is respectable and the quality is much better than what I often refer to as run-of-the-mill sushi places. The marinated white and red tuna, fluke and salmon sushi were all delicious. The marinades complimented the fish and helped to tenderize it. I happened to really love the fluke with sea salt and yuzu, and fluke is not usually one of my preferences. The tuna roll was pretty good, but not the best.
 Tamago is one of my favorite Japanese treats- an egg omelette stuffed with rice, and when I took sushi classes, one of the unexpected pieces of information I walked away with is that one criteria you can judge a great sushi chef by is how well the tamago is made. Is should be pale yellow throughout with no brown. Soft and custardy, light but with a tofu-like firmness to it. You should be able to just barely make out the fine, parallel lines of the omelette's many folds. Unfortunately, this one was way too thick, too fluffy, brown-spots throughout and not dense enough. It was, however, the only thing I wasn't impressed with.
I agree with what so many other reviewers have said; this is not a 2-roll-deal kind of place, this is a place to branch out and get the pieces the chef suggests. Don't let the lack of atmosphere and crowd keep you away, it's worth a visit!
P.S. The delivery took less than 25 minutes. The order-taker phone person was courteous, clear and's the little things. Overall, pretty awesome.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cafe D'alsace: 1695 Second Ave. New York, NY

I met an old friend and his lovely wife here for lunch today. As a fellow foodie, I had total trust in his choice when he said it's one of his favorite neighborhood spots and the many excellent reviews I found online confirmed his great taste. Walking in and seeing Anthony Bourdain sitting at the table next to us cleared up any chance that this wouldn't be a great meal.
I ordered the Omelette D'alsace which was filled with mushrooms and comte. It was cooked beautifully and even though I was stuffed after half of it, I managed to clean my plate. Light, fluffy eggs, juicy mushrooms and the perfect amount of melted cheese. The fries arrived well-done per my request and were crunchy and perfect, not too greasy. The side salad was lightly dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette and a refreshing complement to the heavier foods on my plate. I sipped a delightful lemonade and took in my surroundings. Brightly colored seltzer bottles circled the bar, a hoppin' UES crowd of all ages filled the tables. The noise level was a little louder than I like- but overall it was a fantastic lunch and I'm sure I'll be returning!

Friday, November 19, 2010

ABC Kitchen: 35 East 18th st. New York, NY 10003

         I've been looking forward to this meal at the newest Jean-George restaurant for weeks. Teamed up with ABC Carpet and Home, this environmentally-conscious concept uses organic, local and sustainable goods and is committed to growing whatever they can in the rooftop garden. They use recycled goods and natural cleaning products, and they support local artisans.
         I walked in through the rustic doors to a modern, magical, snow-kingdom fairytale.  A vast space with a loft-like feel to it, high ceilings, exposed beams, and silver and white everywhere. Crisp simplicity. What an absolutely lovely setting! Natural tables with leaf-covered chandeliers, tiny mismatched antique bread plates and glass cube vases with miniature flower arrangements. This may be the perfect combination of minimalist and elegant. So hip, but something so timeless about it. It looks exactly the way the exquisite food tastes.
          When we realized there were WAY too many mouth-watering options to choose from on this beautifully written menu, my two girlfriends and I decided to order a bunch of small plates to share. We asked the waiter what the most outstanding plates were and ordered pretty much everything he suggested. It really sounded like we were overdoing it, especially for 3 petite ladies, but we managed to cleaned our plates with no problem.
           From top to bottom the dishes are as follows: The fresh crab toast was a hit with all of us. Flaked pieces of crab simply dressed on crunchy sourdough.
A salad made from julienned pear, endive, candied pecans and some of the best bleu cheese I've ever had was impeccable.  This would be a great summer dish- not too filling but full of flavor and textures. I will definitely be trying to replicate this at home.
 This was my favorite dish: Arugula with homemade mozzarella, figs and balsamic. So incredibly simple, but it totally showcased what a few top notch ingredients can do together. Nothing overpowered the other, just complemented the distinct flavors of each component. The figs, as they are when they're in season (but wait, isn't this actually pretty late for them? How did they get such good ones?) were so velvety, sweet, and succulent that I wanted to marry them...or at least eat about a million more. The cheese was....just wow. I don't even have words for how good it was. Melty, soft in the middle with a slight pull to the outside layer. Seriously the kind of food I'd like to eat every day.
The pizza was the only dish that we didn't think was noteworthy. The crust was slightly soggy except for the crunchy edges. It was a little too salty overall, and the fried egg- that was supposed to be on top judging from other blogger's photos, was undetectable. We actually think they might have forgotten it altogether. The mushrooms however, were superb- and although one friend felt there were way too many of them, I am a funghi-phile and loved them.
 The bruschetta with butternut squash, ricotta and mint was an autumnal delight. This was the collective favorite dish of the day. The squash took on a caramelization that could have earned this dish a spot on the dessert menu. Again, the quality of the cheese here proved itself again with sweet, creamy goodness.

 The pretzel dusted calamari was also delicious. Given the creativity of the rest of the menu, I felt that the dipping sauces- though excellent for marinara sauce and mustard, were a bit on the boring side.

 We were so full at the end of our many courses that when the waiter asked if we'd like dessert, we explained that although we really DID find the dessert menu appealing and tempting, we were just too full to attempt it. At that point, I gave him my blog business card and told him that I'd be writing a fantastic review of my new favorite restaurant. He must have taken that as a cue to make sure it held it's new top spot because the next thing we knew, he reappeared with two comped desserts for us to try. Wow. Niiiiiiiice. Even cooler was the fact that they were the two we'd been eyeing- maybe he overheard us debating whether or not we should order either. The first was the pumpkin spice cake with maple cream cheese frosting. To be honest, I wasn't crazy about this one, it wasn't particularly pumpkin-y and I actually though the spices were too strong. I do realize that my about-to-burst stomach might be too blame here though...However, I DID find PLENTY of room for the  salted caramel ice cream sundae. It was topped with fresh whipped cream, candied peanuts and popcorn and some of the best hot fudge I've ever had. Where there's a will there's a way.
 I can't WAIT to go back !

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chez Carey: Jordan's Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Raisins

I learned this recipe from my brother who made it a few Thanksgivings ago. I make it frequently for myself, often switching out the raisins for cranberries and pancetta for turkey bacon. It's a very adaptable recipe that lends itself for using whatever is in your pantry.
If you are in charge of the veggie side dish for next week's holiday, I strongly suggest this one.

Okay, I never measure anything so just use your best judgement. I'll try to give approximates. This probably serves about 4 people if my quantities are good guesses.
*1 basket of brussels sprouts, the small and tighter, thebetter. wash, cut in half, salt and pepper them, sprinkle with a tiny bit of lemon juice and set aside.
*1 medium thick slice of pancetta, cut into 1/4" squares.
*a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
*Garlic, minced. a clove or 2
*Shallot, finely chopped. Should equal about the same amount as the garlic
*1/2 cup golden raisins
*1/4 sherry wine or other white wine- actually, red would probably be lovely too.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet. Saute the garlic and shallots for a minute until they are starting to look like they need more oil. Add the pancetta and continue sauteing until the pancetta starts to get crisp- a few minutes on medium heat. Set aside. In the same pan with all of those delicious juices, add a tiny bit more oil if necessary and put those sprouts face down. Toss to coat, but then resist the urge to move them around for a few minutes. After they start to brown toss the raisins in and mix it all up. At this point the brussels sprouts should be almost fork tender. Add the pancetta/shallots/garlic mixture back into the pan and toss. Add the wine, bring up to high heat and cook down until the liquid evaporates. Deeeeelcious! Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

 I've always thought it would be really cute to get a Brussels Griffon and name it Sprout. :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chez Carey! An experiment...

I've been making a big effort to make my dinner at least mostly healthy and vegetable-based lately. I work until 9pm most nights and think eating a big dinner that late is really not a good idea. When I do my grocery shopping, I try to pick out produce that isn't in my normal go-to, quick and easy dinner repertoire and I sometimes stumble onto a good combo of ingredients by chance. Tonight I combined the squash, mushrooms and scallions I just bought with a bunch of stuff I already had in my fridge and it was a noteworthy success. I imagine this loose recipe concept is very flexible, and would go with plenty of other flavors as well.

Spaghetti squash: cut in half, cut side down in a pan with a cup of water. In oven at 350 for 30-40 minutes. Cool a bit and then shred with a fork.
Saute the following ingredients in a little olive oil, a couple of ingredients at a time until the mushrooms are cooked and the water has evaporated from the pan.
garlic, chopped
scallions, chopped
shallots, chopped
green pepper, diced
mushrooms, sliced

Add the following and saute for another minute.
cilantro, trimmed and cleaned, finely chopped
pepperoncini, chopped
marinated spicy olives, chopped

Add the sauteed stuff to the squash and mix it all up.
Top with crumbled feta cheese.

Deeeeeelcious! Enjoy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Eataly: 200 5th ave. New York, NY

My dear friend and I have been trying to plan an adventure to Eataly for about 2 months now...When I first read about it's opening, I was so excited and could not WAIT to go check it out. Our first attempt was thwarted by a pet-related emergency and we tried again. Salmonella was to blame for the 2nd missed attempt, and though at the time I felt like I'd never want to eat again, the ravenous, insatiable appetite quickly returned. Well, the third try was the charm and we picked a Sunday night to go check it out.
 I had read SO many mixed reviews since it's opening, and was a little nervous about being overwhelmed by the size and underwhelmed by the quality. As someone who is a bit over-sensory-aware in even calm situations, the 50,000 square feet filled with imported foods, 7 different restaurants, food stands for gelato, pastries, chocolates, Alessi cookware, and more could potentially have had my head spinning pretty quickly. I also worried that I'd built up the hype in my head for 2 months now, and was maybe setting myself up to be disappointed.
Not so! When we got there at 7pm on Marathon Sunday it was pretty quiet. Tables were mostly full, but not so full that we had to wait to be seated. There were lots of beautiful people, both NYers and tourists dining and shopping, but the crowds were no where near as thick as some people have complained about. I guess we picked the perfect day and time to go, and the previous missed attempts were for good reason.
We started at La Verdura, the vegetable restaurant, and decided to share an appetizer here along with a glass of delicious 2008 Friulani wine. We had the special bruschetta of the day which was spaghetti squash with brown butter, Parmesan and fried sage. WOW. So tasty and butterylicious. I tend to get in cooking ruts and don't do much with spaghetti squash other than cooking it like pasta with Parmesan and red sauce, but I was newly inspired by this and plan to make it at home soon.
The service was pretty good, although I will mention that the waitress poured me half a glass of wine from the end of one bottle and then topped it off with a new one. Well, that's not so cool. Luckily, I'm pretty much a wine novice so it wasn't a big deal, but it certainly did seem a little tacky to me.  It also took 3 requests to finally get the olive oil for dipping that we wanted. Other than that, our waitress was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable.
After our snack, we decided to do a little shopping before our next course. This market is SO beautiful. Pastas, breads, produce to die for, a seafood market that made me want to dive in and try fish I'd never heard of, meats and cheeses to entertain guests with, tons of friendly and helpful staff all over (although they DO, ew, all wear those horrible Batali-orange crocs. They sell them there too, just in case you'd like to emulate Mario's horrible sense of style) and the design and architecture of the building itself is pretty incredible. The spices, jams and sauces are packaged so beautiful it's almost like a food museum. I would not recommend a visit if you are short on time. This is a place that you'll want to browse thoroughly, and doing it in a rush would be stressful and not fun- especially if it's crowded. As gorgeous as the market is, I only bought a few things. The prices are exorbitant and I highly doubt I'll shop there very often- although for special occasions or hard-to-find imports it's perfect. One of the coolest features is a free-of-charge vegetable butcher who will happily prep your produce for you. Awesome. I had her work on peeling a bunch of baby artichokes for me and am excited to cook them tonight. I was also REALLY excited to see that the bread baker is a woman I know and love from when she used to work at Orwashers uptown. I missed seeing here and wondered where she went. It was a wonderful and pleasant surprise to see her here. She's the kind of woman who makes you want to hug her. Long, grey dreadlocks and a warm smile. I would trust her opinion on all of the breads, just ask her what's best and don't question it. Take my word for it. My friend bought a rustic fig bread that, as she emailed me about this morning, is apparently amazing. I plan to go back to buy one soon.
After we looked around for an hour or so, we were ready for another snack so we went to Il Crudo. We ordered a meat and cheese plate and mixed marinated olives. Everything we had was delicious, especially the olives and the best ricotta I've ever had. I wonder what my famous lasagna would taste like using THAT instead of the grocery store container I usually buy. I must find out soon. I will let you know. Maybe I'll even invite you over for dinner.
Until then, go to Eataly. Eat and shop to your heart's content and let the naysayers stay home.
Bon Appetite!
P.S. On our way out, we caught a whiff of hazelnut and chocolate pouring from a faucet in a glistening, melty display. We just HAD to have a little sample and bought a tiny piece of the most delicious little piece of heaven. And yes, if you were wondering, I did forget to take a picture of it. It was in my happy tummy before I realized it. Sigh, I suppose I'll just have to go back and do that part again.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sushi Hana: 1501 2nd ave. New York NY

A friend and I decided on some late night sushi for dinner and found ourselves walking past Sushi Hana. The picture windows and lovely atmosphere brought us in. I had been there once before a few years ago but frankly didn't really remember it and figured it was worth a second try. 
I loved the lighting fixtures which hang from the ceiling like stainless steel octopuses. The decor is really appealing, natural branches, sleek table settings and simple flower arrangements. Clean and simple, exactly the way I want my sushi to taste.
We each had a salad to start, and were pleased to see 'real' lettuce instead of iceberg, good tomatoes, carrots and radishes and a very nice ginger dressing on the side. 
We shared 3 rolls with seaweed on the outside as I always request it. Eel with cucumber, spicy tuna and salmon/avocado. They were all good, but nothing special. The standard sushi you'll find at any of about 40 restaurants on the UES. The wasabi, I will warn you, is EXTRA hot and we weren't sure why- or what made it that way. The ginger was better than normal, and I wondered if perhaps they pickle it themselves.
The service was attentive and quick and though she couldn't really answer most of our questions, she certainly tried.
We were rather entertained by the drunk guy on a date a few tables over from us. He kept yelling woooooohooooo and then getting yelled at by the middle aged couple sitting next to them. It was really quite amusing to me, but I couldn't figure out why his cute date tolerated it instead of taking off. 
All in all, this restaurant fine. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to avoid either. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010


If you are interested in auditioning, PLEASE EMAIL IMMEDIATELY:

Please put "HELL'S KITCHEN" in the subject title :
You MUST include your full name, age, telephone numbers, PHOTO, where you live-state, about your culinary experience, why you would be the perfect contestant for the show &
what sets you apart from the rest! Do not just send us your resume! YOU MUST WRITE US AN EMAIL and include the info requested!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rouge Tomate: 10 East 60th St. NY NY

My mother and I were spending a lovely day together and when lunchtime came, we found this listing recommended on her Iphone on Yelp. Yes, that's right. Mom is more technologically hip than I. Well, it came in handy for both of us when it pointed us toward this large, bright, open space with a menu that invited trying new things. I was hoping to find a current menu on their website so that I could give more precise descriptions of these unusual ingredients, but it looks to be an outdated version. I will do the best I can. The business lunch is a fair price for an upscale, 4 star restaurant and it included three courses. I started with a soup made from parsnip, mushrooms, (I think they were chanterelles but I'm not sure) thyme, (which added a warm, earthy undertone that I loved and initially mistook for rosemary) and honeycrisp apples. It was really excellent. Creamy- but not too rich and filling. Each flavor stood on it's own but complemented the others. The presentation was lovely, in a whimsical, lopsided bowl. My mother had the autumn squash soup which was also superb. The lovely foam on top was anisette flavor- but it was so subtle that it didn't disturb me at all. Maybe this taste is actually growing on me after many years of loathing it. With our soups we had some grainy rolls and sourdough with a cauliflower and curry spread. My mother really liked the spread, but I only appreciated the consistency of it. The bland flavor wasn't appealing to me at all,  and I couldn't detect the curry. For my entree I ordered the scallops which came atop a bed of salsilfy that was soaked in red wine (it looked like beets, but had a more crunchy, fibrous texture to it) and some awesome shredded brussels sprouts. The presentation of my entree was so beautiful with crunchy fried strips of yucca (?) on top and a red wine reduction in dots around the plate. The scallops were super fresh and perfectly seared, but slightly over-salted.  For dessert, I had the pumpkin pie with spice cake and pear sorbet. Although it was plated beautifully, my eyes enjoyed eating it more than my palate. The pumpkin part was a wonderful flavor, but no one wants creamy pumpkin jello and it was that springy. The cake underneath was spicy and moist, but I wanted a little sweetness to contrast the savory pumpkin and it was no where to be found. The pear sorbet on the other hand, was fantastic. My mother had rice pudding with fruit and an apple cider sauce. Also, not my favorite dessert, but it was creative, pretty and very seasonally appropriate. Overall, there was so much on the menu that I wanted to taste that I would definitely consider going back. I love that they clearly know what is good at the farmer’s market and showcase the best produce they can find. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

6 Train: MTA. NY. New York. (this was just on the way TO a culinary adventure, not the culinary adventure itself...but I thought I'd share anyway)

6 train

by Carey Yaruss on Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 10:35am
Wedged into the subway. Stuffed in by the doors and so sensory aware, it throbs. The lights flicker, the rhythm and motion should rock me into nap time but instead throttle my brain inside my head. We are squished. My messenger bag is rammed into my back as the desperate passenger throws all logic aside and becomes that one more person guaranteed to make this less than comfortable. The guy seated in the last bench spot keeps nodding off, his greasy hair touches my hand every time he dips and lands on the bars. The girl getting hugged by a man thrice her age has her goddamn overstuffed backpack on, taking up the space of what could be another 2 people. Why won't you middle-of-the-car people move further in? Assholes with plenty of room to gesticulate to one another in animated conversation. Give us a little break here would ya? Stop hugging the pole, lady in fur next to me. How do you not see the 4 other people vying for a handhold on your personally claimed teddy bear substitute? Older gentleman straphanger apparently feels that it is his right to lean his aching back down the whole length of the bar behind him. Are you really that oblivious to the rest of the situation? Don't worry, we'll all just fall onto you when the train stops and we lose our footing.  Dude with metal in your headphones, the whole car has no interest in hearing your mundane bass line, and no one will think you're cool when you have to wear a hearing aid at age 15 because of your lack of concern about it now.
I get a seat. I get a seat!
I get kicked 3 times by the suit next to me, presumably to make sure that I've seen just how quirky and cool he is for wearing orange socks, the same color as my shoes, underneath his seemingly conservative pinstripe grey. Someone should tell him that a grey suit with orange socks and brown wingtips does not make for an attractive fashion statement.  The 8 year old who ignores his mother's repeated urges to hold on to something air surfs until the train screeches to a halt and he falls into me. I smile at him and say, 'maybe now is a good time to start listening to your mother'. He reddens and sulks back to her outstretched hand, refusing to make further eye contact with me. Across the way, a 20 something wears a black and white striped shirt and pants with stripes that almost do, but don't quite match, and I look away rather than get a migraine from it. Beer belly drunkish dude weighs approximately 400 lbs and let's his jeans start well below where his shirt ends. This is not a muffin top. This is a whole new level of inappropriate. Popover. Woman with baby takes the seat graciously given up by Mr. misstriped and parks her stroller smack in the middle of the lane. Gives dirty looks to anyone trying to squeeze past. The greasy hair, acne prone, pierced chin boy who was nodding off wakes up and gives disturbingly dirty looks to the baby. We are only at 33rd st. 5 more stops to go and I think I'll make it. Oh yes. Increase my fare MTA. This is an experience I'll gladly pay more for. Or maybe next time I'll walk.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Burger Joint: Inside La Parker Meridian 118 West 57th Street. NY, NY

The coolest thing about Burger Joint is that it's tucked away inside of the opulent Le Parker Meridian Hotel. You feel like you know about a wonderful insider's secret when you see the little neon burger hanging behind a hallway of dark velvet curtains and step inside. This tiny burger den looks like it could be found in the back of a bar in random small-town USA, but nope, here it is in a fancy NYC hotel lobby. The walls are covered in the scrawl of teenagers and tourists alike, and it was really surprising to see a sign urging patrons to stop doing so. Really? The wood paneling is so far gone, it looks like it's meant to be written on.
After waiting in a short line (which, as we saw can sometimes get quite long) we placed our order and scored a couple of seats. I had a cheeseburger with the works (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mayo, ketchup and mustard) and shared mediocre fries. I also had a taste of my dad's chocolate milkshake which was frosty and creamy, but a little bit icy. The burger was a complete mess, but a very tasty one. I wouldn't rank it higher than my favs: (J.G. Melon, Shake Shack and Dumont Burger) but definitely better than average. The hole-in-the-wall atmosphere actually enhanced the overall experience and I would love to go back to bring someone else who likes hidden finds there.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hale & Hearty Soups: 1129 Lexington Ave, NY NY

Today is the third rain, raw, chilly day in a row and I am pretty happy to have no reason to leave my cozy apartment. I walked the dog this morning and am working from home this afternoon/evening. I've also logged 15 miles in the past 3 days running-wise, so I really don't feel guilty about hunkering down and ordering in.
Hale & Hearty is a NYC chain that actually makes pretty good soup. I've tried a bunch of different flavors over the years, but have a new favorite as of today! I ordered the chicken and corn bisque with sourdough and it was really the perfect lunch for a dreary day. The velvety chowder was loaded with fresh kernels of corn and shreds of white meat chicken. Creamy but not heavy, with a touch of tomato and parsley. The sourdough is fresh and moist, but not quite as sour as it should be. It really tastes more like Italian or white to me. Either way, it's tasty and very useful for sopping up soup. Since they have a $7 minimum for delivery, I also ordered a small veggie soup with a piece of seven grain bread. All this for $11 including tip! Great deal for 2 meals! (p.s. other favorite flavors are broccoli/cheddar, Senagalese chicken with peanut, and clam chowder. I am not a fan of the chicken noodle soup, it's way too salty and there's too much 'stuff' and not enough broth)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Abitino's Pizzeria: 1592 First Ave. New York, NY

I have a very suggestible appetite. This morning, one of my friends had a Facebook status update about simmering meatballs in spaghetti sauce all day and it sparked an insatiable craving in me. This was at 10am. At noon I went for a 4.5 mile run and it was pretty much all I could think about the whole time. MmmMMM pasta and meatballs on a chilly autumn day. I ran pretty fast in order to get home in time to order delivery and chow down before my first voice student was due to arrive.
I chose Abitino's to try because it had some great reviews online and was priced very reasonably. Less than $20 total for a lovely green salad, a roll, and a huge portion (that will feed me for 2 or 3 meals) of ziti, marinara sauce and about 6 big meatballs. This is not your run of the mill average pizza shop trying to make decent Italian food. I was SO pleasantly surprised, especially since the expectations my all-day-craving had could easily have set me up for disappointment. The salad was made with romaine, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions and olives with a great light Italian dressing on the side. Yay! No useless iceberg here! The huge roll was also excellent! Fluffy, buttery, chewy, fresh and light. I'm guessing that they actually make their own rolls there instead of ordering from their distributor...Very nice touch. The meatballs themselves were very impressive. Very flavorful, not too dense, not too salty, not too breadcrumby. Just the way I like them. The pasta was not overcooked as it often is from similar restaurants, and the food all arrived steamy and piping hot. Overall, this lunch was a complete success...and I'm excited to eat the rest of it for dinner.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Otto: 1 Fifth Ave @ 8th st. New York, NY

How sad is it that I'm eating a pretty awful Lean Cuisine microwaved pizza for dinner as I'm writing about my amazing lunch at Mario Batali's casual restaurant, Otto? So sad I could almost cry about it. The food was so incredible that not once did I find my mind wandering to Mario's horrible trademark orange Crocs and gnarly hair!
My dear friend had been raving about this restaurant for months and I finally had the chance to join her there for lunch today. She affectionately calls it her second home and now I totally understand why she'd want to return twice or more per week. It really is a great choice for dining alone; with friends, with clients or even with a large group. There are so many wonderful dishes that are perfect for sharing that I bet it's really great to go with a party of 4-6. They also have a ridiculously long wine list that would impress the most selective connoisseur.
I let C choose for us since she has tried pretty much everything they offer. There was SO much on the menu that I wanted to eat. I think I may require at least few more visits for the meats, the pasta and the pizzas...not to mention the myriad flavors of gelato. The bread that came out right away was crusty and chewy and moist and ooooohhhhhhh. Yes, please. We shared 3 unbelievable cheese selections that were served with OMG the most outstanding dipping sauces. I wanted a straw. Or an I.V. catheter. Honey with truffles, brandied cherries and apricots. WOW. As if melty, creamy, velvety cheeses even need a dip...but oh, once you try it you realize that of COURSE they do and the bread does too! Wow. I'm truly almost speechless about how much I loved those incredible cheeses. We also had a few antipasti: corn with fregola- autumnal amazingness; octopus, celery and lovage-light, summery and wonderful; and  a small green salad of romaine and red onions over a thin slice of excellent provolone, which was fine but kind of on the boring side with just a simple vinaigrette. When we finished everything in front of us, I was comfortably full, but not overstuffed. I also wanted to re-order everything for a second round just to have a few more precious moments with all of those wonderful tastes.
For dessert we each had a delicious cappuccino and shared the Olive Oil Coppeta. What an interesting dessert! Olive Oil gelato has gotten very trendy around here lately and I was looking forward to trying it. As a true chocoholic, I'm can be a fairly tough crowd with non-choco desserts, but It was VERY good. I was surprised at how much I loved the olive oil flavor. It wasn't at all 'oily' which was what I was worried about. It was served with lime curd, basil syrup, raspberries and little anisette crumbles on top. Although I do NOT like the flavor of anise, I did really surprisingly enjoy the slightly bitter contrast to the sweetness of the berries. Overall, this was not my favorite sugary indulgence in the world, but very unique, unusual and refreshing.
Strong recommendations to visit Otto if you are in the area...or even if it's a little out of your way. It's definitely worth the trip.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Purple Elephant Cake Boutique: 1212 Lexington Ave. NY NY

I saw an online deal ( this morning to get 6 cupcakes for $8 and since this is a new bakery near me with a cute name and an even cuter logo, I figured I'd give it a shot. Normally, those same 6 would have cost a whopping $16.50.
It's a tiny, adorable storefront in a great location on Lexington ave, and the staff was smiley and welcoming.  There were 2 or 3 people mixing, pouring and frosting in the little open kitchen and it smelled woonnnnnderful in there.
I asked the person helping me which was his favorite flavor and his response made it quite clear that he adores these treats. Everything looked appealing so I decided to let him choose my 1/2 dozen for me. I asked if they freeze well and was told that yes they do, just take them out an hour before you want one. Hooray! My plan was to eat one and freeze the rest for another day. 
These cupcakes are a nice petite size- not the overwhelmingly enormous ones that so many of the other cupcake shops sell. The one I chose to eat today was the counter guy's favorite, chocolate sweet & salty. 
The salty, caramel frosting was excellent. I am VERY picky when it comes to frosting- I almost always prefer none at all. This had NONE of the qualities that I dislike about frosting. It wasn't the least bit oily or chemically, not too dense, light and fluffy and a deeeeeelicious combo of flavors. The salt cut the sugary sweetness so perfectly that the flavors really stood on their own rather than competing. The caramel swirl on top added a sticky, gooey component that enhanced the whole cupcake. The cake itself was the only part that I wasn't thrilled about, and that just seems silly. It pretty much fell apart after my first bite and was so crumbly that I wound up eating it with a spoon. The flavor of the cake was a rich, deep chocolate, but the texture wasn't impressive. Dry and crumbly instead of moist and spongy. It wasn't bad, but did not live up to the bar that was set by the above-average frosting. 
Then I put the remaining 5 cupcakes into the freezer.
2 hour later I went back in. 
I chose the cookies & cream. Instead of waiting the suggested hour before eating I dug right in. After all, they'd only been in there for 2 hours and weren't frozen solid yet. YUM! Good choice! Now I'm really not sure if this was simply a moister, better cake or if the freezer time actually helped but either way, WOW! It had a cookies and cream filling and frosting with a vanilla cake and it was fabulous. Now I'm confused. I need your input! Go visit the purple elephant and leave your comments here! 
Overall, I think it's a good neighborhood cupcake shop and If I have a craving without enough time to run down to Kyotofu for my absolute favorite cupcake in the city, I'll probably drop in again.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gustorganics: 519 Sixth Ave. New York, NY

I am SO lucky to have a friend who continually buys coupon deals for great restaurants and then realizes that they are about to expire. Being the friend of hers who works at night and is usually free for lunch, I seem to keep benefiting from these purchases with lovely lunches and great company.
Today we went to Gustorganics near Union Square. I looked up the reviews online to find a very mixed bag- some great and some horrible. Lucky for us, we had a great experience.
The atmosphere is bright, sunny, clean, modern and springy. We loved the 'living wall' behind the bar filled with beautiful growing plants. The tables and menus were woody/grainy organic-ness that coordinated so nicely with the whole feel. Grass green cushions on the benches and chairs felt earthy too, and were surprisingly comfortable.  Displays of stones and moss were tasteful and carefully placed in thoughtful stacks. Even the bathroom was cool- with a long wooden sink and open feel.
The menu was very reasonably priced for organic food- and really for NY food in general. Plenty of sandwiches, salads, pizzas and more to choose from for under $10. I sipped my tasty 1/2 iced tea,1/2 lemonade while we figured out what we wanted to order. We decided to share two entrees and a dessert. The flatbread pizza was delicious, covered in caramelized onions and fat, juicy mushrooms. The thin crust made it perfectly chewy without being too filling. The sandwich was grilled veggies and cheese on a folded tortilla with a small side mesclun salad. Again, it was all very tasty and fresh. Healthy, but satisfying.
At the suggestion of our waitress, we shared 2 cookies for dessert. Shortbread filled with dulche de leche cream. One was dipped in dark chocolate and the other was rolled in coconut. Both were rather enjoyable and different from any cookies I've had before. I would definitely recommend Gustorganics if you're nearby and like clean, healthy, organic food. Though I'm not a big drinker, I plan to go back for cocktails someday because the drink menu was extremely appealing with only organic wines and liquors. Great find!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fulton Seafood Exchange: U.S. Open food court

I always look forward to attending the U.S. Open each fall. I'm not a huge tennis fan, I don't know all the top players names and at best I'm only a semi-decent player myself, but there is something about the thrill of watching incredible sports played live and the buzz of the excited crowd.
The kind of people who go to watch tennis are so different than the type of people who go to see football or baseball, and the plethora of options in the food court reflect that. You'll only see a tiny of handful of people with hot dogs and beer here, these folk tend to gravitate more towards things like grey goose cocktails and sushi.
Following suit, my mother and I decided to share the lobster and shrimp salad and the salmon sandwich. Considering the generous amount of seafood in the salad, I actually thought that $18.75 was fairly reasonable for it. (The $4.50 soda was the real rip off- available in only one size which was medium-ish. If you wanted a bigger one, you had to buy the $6.50 souvenir cup which was ridiculous) The shrimp and lobster were totally delicious although there was a lot of mayo in there which neither my mom or I am a big fan of. Large pieces and cooked the right amount, the seafood was a pleasant surprise when we really expected to get just a tiny bit on top of greens. The salad was very lightly dressed with just a tiny bit of lemon juice, and it was a fantastic lunch on a hot summer day. The salmon sandwich wasn't quite as good, but it was fine- simply prepared with tarter sauce, lettuce and one really minuscule piece of under-ripe tomato. The roll was kinda crumbly and not that fresh....but still, MUCH better options than the expected hot dogs and beer.