Saturday, February 26, 2011

Andaz Indian Restaurant: 1378 First Ave. New York, NY

I ordered delivery last night from Andaz Indian Restaurant because I had a 25% off coupon. I am not a huge fan of Indian food, but a few times per year I get an intense craving for it- and this was one of those times. 
I ordered 2 of the most highly rated items on the menu, putting my trust in Yelpers and The Saag Paneer (spinach with cheese) was awesome- huge chunks of the paneer cheese and fresh spinach and spices. The lasooni Gobhi (cauliflower in a sweet red sauce) was also good, but the sauce was a bit too sweet for my liking and tasted like it  was definitely ketchup based. Both dishes were quite tasty when eaten folded up on the nan, even though the nan itself was on the greasy side. I always love the sauces that come with Indian food, and the cilantro sauce cut the sweetness of the cauliflower just enough. I also ordered a mango lassi - a mango yogurt drink, that was such a bright shade of orange that I assume they must either add food coloring or perhaps some canned fruit to get that intensity. It tasted excellent, and I wished I had more when I finished it. The basmati rice that 
came with my meal was fine, but it's just plain rice, so I put it in the fridge to use for something else. The nan bread was plenty of carbs for me, and I didn't feel the need to waste my appetite on boring rice. They also included some kind of dessert, free of charge. As much as I love free stuff, when it's an orange rice pudding-ish, jello-y thing with soggy cashews and raisins, It goes straight  to garbage-land. Yeah. Not interested. 
Overall, Andaz was reasonably priced, quickly delivered and tasty. I have heard that the buffet is also totally worth a visit- but my next craving most likely won't be for many months. We'll see...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Le Perigord: 405 East 52nd St. New York, NY

It was a special day today, my beloved Grandma's 95th birthday! To celebrate, My aunt took; me, my cousin, her boyfriend, and of course G'ma to have lunch at Le Perigord in midtown. I read some mixed reviews online and learned that it's a 45 year old, traditional, French restaurant that is well loved among the older generation, but is not particularly popular with the under 50 crowd. Always excited to try something new, (especially when I am being treated by someone else, thanks Aunt Roberta!) I looked forward to forming my own opinion about it. As far as I'm concerned, any restaurant that can survive 45 years in this tough city must be doing something right.

When we arrived, there was only one other table of patrons there and plenty of waitstaff on hand. The atmosphere is definitely traditional French; white tablecloths, white plates and light green chargers, polished silver, with lovely floral displays of forsythia and gorgeous roses. There is nothing at all trendy about this place, and there shouldn't be. It is truly a taste of what classic, refined NYC once was, and it's one of the few that remain unchanged. This is not a place to come with a group of friends, but your grandparents? Absolutely.
The waiters were neatly dressed in tuxedos and were slightly rude at first. Apparently changing a reservation from 4 people to 5 was a huge inconvenience to our waiter. Being that the whole entire restaurant was empty except for 2 other people, I thought his reaction was a bit dramatic. Also off-putting was his snarl at my aunt who dared to interrupt him with a question while he was trying to tell us the specials. He actually said, "If you would wait until I finish..." How dare she! The nerve!  Luckily, my multilingual cousin was able to win him over with her impressive fluency in his language. Thank God, because I think he was about to snap. Way to go Steff, you saved the day! From that point on, he treated us beautifully, almost like family- and it made for a great meal.
We were given a choice of baguette or brioche, and  both were delicious and very fresh. I started with the little neck clams, which were very good- but very simple with just lemon and a shallot vinaigrette to top them with. For my entree I had the roast chicken with morrels (the best part of the whole meal), spinach and potato gratin. This entree was not exciting or bold but it was actually refreshingly simple. In a city where all of the chefs try to out-invent each other in a competition of creativity, this was just good food. No frills, no pomegranate caviar flan, no macadamia brittle prawn flambe, just seriously good food. Exactly the kind of food that Julia Child would have loved. Loads of butter, loads of wine and liquor, top quality ingredients, old trusted recipes.
The desserts were plentiful but only so-so. The chocolate souffle that we ordered for the table was tasty. What hot-out-of-the-oven chocolate item is NOT tasty? But, it was really not a souffle. It was something else more like a pudding cake. Or an undercooked pudding cake. We also tasted the chocolate mouse with Grand Marnier whipped cream, the caramel apple tart and the berry tart and all were good. Not fabulous, but pretty good.
Overall, the company I was with made this into a very memorable lunch, but the restaurant itself was not my favorite. I would not, however, hesitate for one second to recommend it to others- especially if you like the flavor of old NYC history. I guess the truth is that while I appreciate a good roasted chicken with a little history on the side, I really do prefer the macadamia brittle prawn flambe and a little trendiness when given the choice.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shanghai Pavilion: 1378 3rd ave, New York, NY

 A friend who lives nearby and I decided to meet here for an impromptu dinner tonight. Funny that I'd never been since it's a whopping 3 blocks from my apartment. Of course, I read some reviews online before going so that I knew what the best liked dishes were. The dumplings were mentioned repeatedly, so they were surely going to be ordered.
When we arrived, it was pretty empty. Only 2 other tables had patrons and a third one filled by the time we left. It draws an older crowd, if I base my assessment on tonight's small  sampling of diners, and although the walls and ceilings are painted in rich hues of oranges, reds and pinks, it feels strangely stodgy.
We were a little bummed to find they did not offer the crunchy noodles with duck sauce to munch on while we looked over the menu, but they did bring out a little bowl of peanuts and another of sweet, pickled cabbage and carrots that was pretty enjoyable.
We shared the pork juicy dumplings to start and the mango chicken with brown rice as our entree. The dumplings really were excellent- some of the best ones I've had around here. Apparently, they use a small cube of frozen broth inside to keep the filling moist and their technique works beautifully. Careful though, those little packets of yumminess  are piping hot. The chicken dish was also quite good. Tender, thinly cut white meat with sliced mango, red pepper and snow peas in a tangy sauce. Although I really did enjoy all of the food- probably more than a lot of other uptown Chinese restaurants, I probably won't ever go back because it's ridiculously overpriced. One appetizer, one entree and one beer came to almost $50 with the tip. Outrageous, especially for the skimpy sized plates. Usually, you expect to take home abundant leftovers from a meal like this, but the portions were so small that we finished everything. The service was very good and the atmosphere allowed for lingering and chatting, but unless that's worth $30 to you, go get the same meal somewhere else for $20.

Monday, February 14, 2011

16 Handles: 1569 2nd ave New York, NY (multiple locations)

The lovely manager of this new location was kind enough to invite me in for a tasting a couple of weeks ago and I finally had a chance to stop by today. 55 sunny degrees in February in NYC made for a pretty crowded afternoon with the seats filled mostly with Upper East Side moms and their kids.
 It is SUCH a cute shop, decorated in funky, bright, cheery way, and totally inviting with it's cushy mint green benches and plenty of clean tables. The staff is warm and outgoing, and made me feel very comfortable sampling the many flavors. I was even presented with a gift card to return another day for a full sized treat, how awesome! It
will definitely be used soon.
I have to say, this is the end of yogurt at Pinkberry for me. I would be shocked if it's not closed within the next few months since it's on the same block. This place is FAR superior. The choices alone make it an easy choice, not to mention the fact that the yogurt is much creamier, the flavors more exciting and the atmosphere more accommodating than their tiny competitor.
I sampled a bunch of different flavors, some low-fat and some non-fat and was pretty impressed with all of them.
 I anticipated a similarly chemically taste to tasti-delight (1/2 a block away), but these were surprisingly authentic and pure tasting. My favorites were the pistachio and the birthday cake. Knowing that they change out the flavors frequently, it will be fun to go back to try some other options. The toppings bar is extensive and appealing. Just about anything you can imagine was there. There should be a warning sign though...I imagine a lot of people think they are making a relatively healthy choice by going for fro-yo instead of ice cream, but then they load on cookies, chocolate, candy etc and by then it's probably approximately 800 calories worth. It is kind of funny to see adults like kids-in-the-candy store at the bar though. Watching people loading on a little of everything was totally amusing. I was really temped by the little squares of rainbow cake (one of my favorite things in the world) but this time just wanted to taste the yogurt by itself to really be able to evaluate it. Next time, bring on the myriad toppings! I'll be back soon...especially if the weather stays this spring-like.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fornino: I87 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

 I've passed this popular Williamsburg restaurant a bunch of times since it's right near the Steven Hero Productions studio I record at frequently. (check out and www.careyspassionvoicestudio if you are curious about what I'm talking about) It smells so tantalizing as I walk by that I think they must pump the smell out onto the sidewalk to lure you in. I often think about stopping in to try it out, but they don't do slices and often have a ridiculously long wait. I finally had the opportunity today when I met a friend in the area for a run and headed there for lunch afterwards.
We decided to share a salad and 2 personal pies. It was a little bit too much food for lunch, but we both managed to find room. Funny how whenever truffle oil is involved, it becomes pretty difficult to leave food on the plate.  Next time, 1 pizza and 1 salad will be plenty unless we've just run 6+ miles. The salad was light and refreshing with arugula, roasted pears, Gorgonzola and a lemony vinaigrette. It came with 2 triangles of crusty, cheesy flatbread that was clearly a excellent preview of the pizza that was on it's way. The pizzas were seriously fabulous: on top- baby spinach with pine nuts, mozzarella, ricotta, peccorino and white truffle oil. and on the bottom- mixed wild mushrooms, caciocavallo, mozzarella and white truffle oil. Chewy and crunchy crust, stretchy, stringy, flavorful cheeses, fresh vegetables and the perfect amount of truffle oil to finish them off. I couldn't pick a favorite- they were both pretty close to perfection. The only tiny negative about our lunch was our waitress, who was sort of flighty and inattentive. Luckily for us, we were happy to stay and chat for over an hour since she had no interest in bringing us the check.  Oh, and it was freezing in there...until we were finally getting ready to leave when all of a sudden the heat came on. Overall, I would absolutely recommend it and will surely go back. If I lived in the area I'd be ordering delivery weekly.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Todd English's The Plaza Food Hall: 1 W. 59th st. (in the Plaza Hotel downstairs) New York NY

 This might be the most perfect place to meet a friend for lunch that I've found in my culinary adventures thus far. It's basically a combination of a fancy cafeteria with table service and a interspersed gourmet gift market. Kind of a mini Eataly. (please see my review of Eataly if you haven't already) Todd English's restaurants have always been my favorites, and this one is a fantastic combo of all of his best ideas in one place.
The Plaza Hotel, in it's smack-in-the-middle of Manhattan location, makes meeting here pretty convenient no matter where you are coming from. The hostess will give you a buzzer so that you can stroll around the shops while you wait to be seated, about 15 minutes for us. There's plenty to look at
 and we were seated before we knew it. Knowing what I   know now, I think it would be worth waiting an hour for a seat if need be, especially if you are with people who all have different tastes....Or not. It's REALLY great when you're with someone who likes the same things as you AND likes to share. Yup, perfect for that.
The menu is extensive, but not overwhelming. We were seated at the sushi bar, which was fun to watch but not what we felt like eating. We were happy to find out that you are not at all restricted by the area in which you are seated. Our waitress was very friendly and knowledgeable and made some great recommendations when we asked. The only negative was that they seemed to be understaffed and the wait between courses and trying to get our check was a little annoying. No biggie since we were just there socially and had nowhere to scurry off to, but it would maybe be an issue if this was a work-day lunch break. My friend and I (who both spent a long time living in the Boston area) were SO excited to see a sampling of the pizzas from Todd's Massachusetts pizza restaurant, Figs. We both had drool-worthy memories of it and couldn't WAIT to order the famous fig pizza. Ahhhhh. It was just as incredible as we both recollected. A crunchy rosemary crust, sweet figs, tangy Gorgonzola and salty      prosciutto. I also remember the golden potato one
 well and intend to go back very soon for it.
We also shared a Greek salad which was excellent. With an oregano dressing, flavorful olives, creamy feta and fresh veggies, it was the perfect accompaniment to our pizza.
When we finished everything, we were still a little hungry and chatted with our waitress about a 3rd little dish. They have so many tasting-sized, awesome sounding options that I can't wait to go back to try more. We were tempted by the stuffed dates, the baby beets with pistachios and manchego and the lobster/artichoke pasta, but decided to take our waitress' very strong recommendation for the risotto 'tater tots'. YUM. This is not what one would call a little light snack, even though it's a reasonable portion. Creamy, cheesy fried risotto balls with a creamy dipping sauce were SUCH a treat. I would have preferred a stronger flavored sauce- maybe with a spicy, mustardy kick to it, or a tomato/ketchup-type sauce, but they almost didn't even need a sauce at all. Full of flavor and texture, I think these along with a salad would make a great lunch next time I'm in the area. Oh, who am I kidding!?!? There's no way I would order the same thing I've already had when 90% of the unexplored menu is begging me to try it. Maybe I'll see ya there...I LOVE that this is only a 30 minute walk from my apartment. I think it's going on my heavy rotation list immediately.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chez Carey! (or Casa de Carey for today...) Fiesta Stuffed Peppers with guacamole.

As always, this recipe is just a concept. Sometimes I add corn, onions and brown rice into the mixture or fill hallowed out zucchinis instead of peppers. Be creative...Like most of my concepts, this one is pretty hard to mess up.

For the peppers:
Mix up a can of black beans, some cilantro, a few tablespoons of salsa, and a diced shallot.
Scoop the bean mixture into peppers that have been cut in half, membranes and seeds removed, I used red and green bell peppers and jalapenos.
Put some olive oil in a baking pan.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
Top with some shredded cheddar.
Bake for another 10-15 or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

For the Guacamole:
Mash up 2 very ripe avocados with some lime juice, diced jalapeno, diced grape tomatoes, chopped cilantro and a shallot. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.


Radiance Tea House and Books: 158 West 55th st. New York NY

      I personally HATE midtown. So many stressed out people hurrying somewhere. So many taxis screeching, ambulances with their sirens blaring, buses splashing pedestrians, suits cutting each other off walking and talking on their cell phones. Yuck. It's just basically all of the things I hate about NYC (which I generally love) lumped together in one hectic 20 block radius. Radiance Tea House is a little bit of peace and quiet amidst the crazy fast paced surroundings and it was truly a lovely place to meet a dear friend for lunch to catch up. I found it on and am thankful to the great reviews that led me to pick it as our meeting place. It is beautifully decorated and has a really nice gift shop inside. The high-backed  wooden chairs are surprisingly comfortable and had an antique, handmade look to them. Very appealing and perfectly coordinated with the rest of the decor. The service was polite, attentive and friendly. The menu was healthy, diverse and very reasonably priced, although the teas were astronomically priced. I had a small pot of apricot tea for $7.50, and would probably not do that again even though it was excellent tea. I understand that high quality tea really does cost a lot, but I am perfectly happy with a cheap bag of Yogi tea instead. For lunch I had salmon, baby bok choy, rice and edamame on the side. It was absolutely delicious. Light, healthy, cooked perfectly, flavored exquisitely. I would absolutely return to this little haven in midtown. Of course, that is only if I have to be in that dreadful part of the city again for some reason.

Maz Mezcal: 316 East 86th st. New York, NY

I had dinner with 2 friends here last night and for an enjoyable meal at a very convenient uptown spot, I was glad it was suggested.
When we walked in, we were greeted by a friendly hostess and seated immediately. She asked us the name of our 3rd party who hadn't arrived yet, and sat us in the dining room.
The vibe is warm and cozy, decorated with dim lights, primary colors, and authentic (I think) Mexican statuettes. It had the faint smell of a fireplace, which added to the ambiance on a chilly, rainy, winter night. It is a much bigger space than I thought, and I wondered how I had never been there before. Nice touch: When our third party arrived a little later, he was immediately greeted by name and sent over to us.
Water glasses were quickly filled. Fresh tortilla chips in 3 bright colors (red, yellow, and green) were put on our table (and speedily refilled when we polished them off) with their accompanying salsas; a spicy green one, a chunky tomato salsa and a smoother red salsa. Drink orders were taken- I had a mango mojito that was sweet, summery (wishful thinking) and delicious and my friends had margaritas that they loved.
Upon my friend's recommendation, I had the Enchilada De Pollo con Mole. It was SO tasty and the perfect meal on such a damp, cold night. Served with sides of yellow rice and refried beans, even though it was very filling I cleaned my plate. We looked over the appealing dessert menu, but none of us had any appetite left. We also couldn't really see why Ben & Jerry's Ice cream would be on this menu- especially at almost $7 for a serving.
I know that in the warmer months they have a lot of outdoor seating and I will definitely plan to revisit at that point. I was very impressed with the efficient and polite service, we had at least 2 people waiting on us and making sure that our water glasses were kept full. A delightful neighborhood spot that I will certainly return to. Muy bien.