Saturday, March 19, 2011

Boat Basin Cafe: W. 79th at Riverside Drive. New York, NY

This might be the absolute perfect ending to a beautiful 5 mile run on a sunny Saturday. My friend and I wound up here at the end of our route today and decided to have lunch outside. Within a few minutes of sitting down, we were freezing and decided to go sit by the heat lamps in the covered section instead...Muuuuuucccchhh better. I <3 heat lamps.

We both had turkey burgers with cheese (that came with potato chips) and they totally hit the spot. Nothing to write home about food-wise, but it's the location that's key here. Where else can you eat a $10 lunch while looking out onto the Hudson? And the burgers really were pretty good. Was it because we'd just had a great run and were starving, or were they actually really good? I'm not sure...and I'll probably never know since I most likely will only be eating here post-run.

That said, I plan to do that pretty often from here on out now that I know about it! The menu was small and simple, but had the things I'd want for lunch like a burger, a grilled chicken sandwich or a caesar salad.
I also REALLY liked the crowd...Mostly filled with my type of people... bicyclists and runners pre or post exercising. It felt like really comfortable group to be around when I was in no makeup, hair in a ponytail, sweaty and in running clothes. I imagine that might change as we get into warmer months ahead and the crowds get thicker. Today was a quiet day (the outside picture up on the top left is not from today) and there were only about 30 people total there.
Next time I go for a run on the west side I will surely be back!

Friday, March 18, 2011

FIKA: 66 Pearl st. New York, NY (multiple locations)

 I recently had the pleasure of teaching intensive private voice lessons to a lovely young woman who was here visiting from Sweden. (17, hour long lessons in one month!) ( for more info)
 In one of our conversations I asked her about her findings, if any, of good Swedish food in NYC. I do not know enough about Swedish food to be able to judge whether it's a good representation or not, but I DO know that I like every single Swedish meatball I've ever tried. Be it the Lean Cuisine frozen dinner (which I imagine would offend the Swedes), the cafeteria style ones at Ikea, or the various Bar/Bat Mitzvah/Wedding appetizers on toothpicks, they are all pretty tasty as far as I'm concerned. When this student finished up her series of lessons, she surprised me with a generous gift of a credit at the restaurant she had discovered and raved about.
There are a few locations for Fika, and my first attempt was actually to the one in midtown. It was so tiny and crowded, with only a couple of stools and small tables that my friend and I decided to go somewhere else for lunch that day (If you'd like to read about that one, please see and retry a different Fika location next time. We did a little looking around online and found that the Pearl street location looked much more promising as far as getting a seat and relaxing over lunch.
Although their business was steadily hopping, there were plenty of places to sit when we arrived. We ordered our Swedish meatball platters and a salad to share and were told that they'd bring it out to us when it was ready.  As we sat down I had a moment to notice my surroundings. It does sort of feel like it was designed at Ikea. It has a sleek decor, shiny black tables with sharp edges, bright, modern lighting, a view of the chefs making chocolate, plenty of gift items and cases of delicious looking sandwiches and desserts. The crowd was a mix of financial/business types and international tourists. The items they serve seem to all be authentically Swedish- but what an odd mix. It's essentially an espresso bar that serves fresh chocolates and meatballs among other things.

Our salad was lovely and large, more than enough for the 2 of us to share. Fresh ingredients with a great, light balsamic dressing. The peeled orange slices and slivered almonds were a nice touch on the mesclun/radish/tomato salad. The meatball platters arrived and we joked a little about our 'light' lunch of meatballs and a mound of mashed potatoes the size of 2 fists. We probably could have shared one order- but they were so tasty that both of us pretty much filled our tummies to the brim. Delicious. So THIS is what 'real' Swedish meatballs should taste like. It's a really interesting flavor, complex and earthy with a pungent, sweet accent. We had trouble figuring out exactly what the herbs were- but maybe sage and/or rosemary? It came with a side of lingonberry sauce- which frankly, tasted exactly like cranberry sauce to me, and it was perfect alongside the rich meatballs. The mashed potatoes were ohhhhhhhhh so good. Creamy with just the right amount of lumps. A treat I rarely consume but can't turn down if they are right in front of me. I guess tomorrow's run will be extra long to compensate- but it was sooooooo worth it. I had every intention to get an espresso drink and dessert, but was way too stuffed to even contemplate it by the time I finished my lunch. I will plan to go back on another occasion to try a few things. There was a marzipan covered cake with my name all over it, not to mention the tiny, perfect looking pieces of freshly made chocolate. I'm so glad I was introduced to this restaurant. It's definitely not the same ol' same ol' menu-wise, or in a neighborhood I usually venture to, and I look forward to returning soon.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chez Carey! Cheesy crab & veggie pasta bake

It's one of those rainy, dreary NYC days where I didn't really feel like doing anything except hanging around and cooking for the week ahead. I recently had a wonderful pasta/seafood dish at my friend Deb's house, and I wanted to see if I could recreate something similar. I was just playing around with things I almost always have on hand (except for the crab which was in the freezer- not a common ingredient in my house at all) and this pasta bake surprised me and came out great. It will surely feed me well for a bunch of meals in the coming week.  I usually try to go heavy on the veggies and light on the carbs in this kind of creation, and it worked really well in this one. As always, my recipes are just concepts- meant to be played around with and loosely interpreted.

The quantities of the following ingredients are all according to your taste.

Pasta (I used elbows)
olive oil
brussels sprouts
flaked crab

Cook some pasta and set it aside. Chop up some broccoli, brussels sprouts and anything other veggies you have laying around and steam them. Sprinkle with lemon, salt and pepper.
Lightly saute the crab and the chopped up mushrooms in a little olive oil. When they are almost done (2 minutes or so) throw in some chopped arugula just until it wilts. Add a splash or 2 of white wine (If you've got an open bottle in the fridge) and some lemon juice. Stir well and remove from heat. Add a little milk and about 1/2 cup of shredded gruyere or other cheese and stir well. 

Combine everything in a baking dish and shred some gruyere or other cheese over the top.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

Enjoy! I REALLY did!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dovetail: 103 West 77th street. New York NY

I'm convinced that having a compatible dining partner  is almost as elemental to NYC life as having a stack of delivery menus, comfortable-yet-fashionable shoes and a metrocard. 'B' and I try to go out to eat once a month or so. We have intellectually stimulating conversations, share a love for trying interesting restaurants, enjoy schmoozing with the waitstaff, and share a similar schedule with Fridays off. Perfect!
Today we went to Dovetail on the Upper West Side. I always preview the menu online before I go to a restaurant and was instantly drawn in to their website with such beautiful photos showing inventive and creative dishes.  I had an idea of what I'd order, but as always planned to ask the waiter for his suggestions. Since I have very few dislikes when It comes to food, I almost always take staff recommendations to heart and today was no different.
We each ordered a glass of wine, a Sauvignon Blanc for me and a Rose for 'B'. I loved mine right away, but 'B' was not thrilled with hers and switched to a Pinot Noir that made her much happier. I wondered if they'd charge for the rejected Rose, but they did not. Excellent customer service. Speaking of which, our waiter was fun and friendly and helpful. I took recommendations for all of my courses and he was spot on. Judging by the very appealing prix fixe menu, I think it's hard to go wrong. Everything sounded delicious.
An amuse-bouche was brought out first. It was a mushroom gelee with radish. Very interesting texturally, but I doubt I'd want more than that one little taste. It made me think of mushroom flavored gefilte fish jelly. I guess I'm not a big fan of gelatinous foods because I will always associate them with that dreaded fish jelly that I always had to scrape over to the side of my Passover plate as a kid. I won't hold it against anyone except whoever came up with that horrible idea in the first place. We also got two pieces of warm, fresh, cheddar cornbread that was totally scrumptious.
For my first course, because the waiter recommended it and because it sounded whimsical and silly, I ordered the salsify soup with marshmallow, chives and apple. Wow- SUCH a great presentation when the waiter brought the bowl of marshmallows and apples out, and then poured the hot soup over it at the table. The small, perfectly cubed homemade marshmallows started to slowly melt into foamy, sweetness and were an amazing compliment to the hearty, earthy soup. The apples were peeled and cut into tiny little marbles and the combination of all of those flavors and textures was incredible. This kind of creativity is what I love most about NYC restaurants.

For my entree I had the hake, a fish I don't believe I've tried before. It was flaky and light, with a bright, lemony flavor, peppers, potatoes and artichokes. A great choice for lunch, and the perfect portion size. I know a lot of people would disagree with me, but I prefer a small portion, especially at lunch time. A tiny plate of excellent quality beats out mass quantities of anything in my book. This was satisfying without being filling, and to walk away from a three course lunch without feeling full to the brim is a major perk to me. 
My dessert was, as it always is, the chocolate option on the menu. I am a big fan of the salty/sweet trend that's been going around and was excited to try their take on it. I was not particularly excited about the beer ice cream that came with it, but figured it was worth a shot. The cake was not at all as dense as it looked. Sort of light actually, with a deep dark chocolate flavor that spoke of top-notch ingredients. The salted caramel pretzels and beer flavored ice cream were very 'take it or leave it' for me, I would have preferred just a bigger hunk of the cake all by itself.
Overall, Dovetail is a definite winner in my book. I would happily go back- and would actually be really interested in going back for their Monday night veggie menu which looks amazing. Who wants to join me?