Archive for the ‘new york’ Category

A Night Out at Babbo, Pt. II

March 19, 2008

A Night Out at Babbo
California Soul: Osteria Mozza (LA)

To celebrate Christi’s bday the other night, we went to Babbo. I would be too embarrassed to blog this–regularly patronizing such the hype machine that Batali is–but the food was just too good not to share with you.

We walked in without a reservation- figured we would get there around 6:30 and take our chances. The guy at the front, who was there the last time I went, is a gentile fellow, and told us to wait for seats at the bar. Fine. We ordered drinks, we waited. “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?” blasted in the background. Oh, Mario and his music. We loved the Mode though. Violator!

It’s really cramped when you walk in, between the bar and the dining room. Servers taking orders, delivering food. Some drunk asshole totally fell into Christi. It was kinda funny. Anyway, standing there in the middle of all this commotion is not fun. But you gotta suck it up for the ultimate prize.

Just about an hour later, we actually got a TABLE! Right by the bar, tucked into a corner. It was romantic. The world doesn’t need another Babbo review (or a second one from me- you’re over it), but just let me show you the pics.

Babbo salumi: assorted meats cured in-house. Marinated onions (sweet) and olives. This was better than the Armandino salumi I got last time. Christi liked the veal (?) tongue. The “fatback” pictured below, is just cured pork fat! Like white sheets blowing in the wind. It was super intense- like nothing I have ever tasted. It was good with the onions.

Grilled octopus with “Borlotti Marinati”: this was pretty awesome. Better than what I had at Mozza. Drizzled with this limoncello vinagrette, and sprinkled with some candied orange rind or something, on a bed of white beans. SO GOOD. It was too “oceany” for Christi though. I loved the tentacles.

Our server was super great- Travis. Props to this guy. He totally arranged the order of our dishes and suggested good, cheap wines. We asked him for his recommendation of a pasta, and he suggested the black pasta. BINGO. This was definitely my highlight of the meal. (At this point I was pretty boozy, and abandoned my camera inhibitions and started shooting with flash. Tacky!). They are also nice about splitting the orders for you.

Black spaghetti with rock shrimp, spicy salami calabrese and green chile: I have nothing to say except GET THIS DISH.

Mint love letters: just as good as the first time. Surprisingly hearty. A good way to end a meal.
When all is over, this is my side of the table, vs. Christi’s side. Basically, you can’t take me anywhere.

But then, this guy comes and magically puts a napkin over the table to make all my spills disappear.

So it’s official- I am obsessed with Mario Batali’s food. All the hype… well, it’s all true. Batali is an ace. Classic and straightforward. Consistent. Casual and reasonably affordable considering it’s a white table cloth joint. Our meal, all of this, plus 2 quarter things of wine, 2 glasses of sparkling wine, and a bottle of fizzy water was $140 total. You could spend as much at Lupa, his even more casual joint around the corner (I am not a fan of Lupa). You would no doubt spend even more in the shithole tourist traps in Little Italy.

As someone who spends her entire income on eating in NY (after rent), I’m telling you: surrender to the hype. Splurge a little. Wait an hour for a table.

110 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10011

Get Directions
T: 212.777.0303

Cupcakes Amongst Tragedy

March 18, 2008

Walking down towards work yesterday, I was rerouted several blocks due to the horrific crane incident on Saturday. 52nd was blocked off completely to 3rd Ave., and 2nd Ave. was a mess of dust and debris; firefighters and cops running around with walkie talkies; St. Patrick’s Day freaks; and tourists and NYers stopping to look at the crumbled buildings and now vacant lots.

It was a devastating sight.

Buttercup Bake Shop on 2nd Ave, offered their soul-satisfying cupcakes and coffee for free out in front of their shop. They said it was for St. Patty’s Day, and it shed a little bit of light onto those 5 blocks, bringing together the community in these moments of tragedy.


"It’s Fried!"

March 12, 2008

Went to Elias Corner for Fish the other night- a reputable Greek seafood joint in Queens that Aya wrote about a few months back. It was awesome!

Aside from the soft, char-grilled octopus, the gooey garlic musselfest, and the plethora of grilled fishes we ordered (red snapper, salmon, the kickass monkfish), my favorite part of the meal was a little something our gregarious server plopped down on the table after our meal was over.

“This is on the house,” she said. Big smiles all around here.
“What is it??” I asked.
“It’s Fried!!!!” she exclaimed.

Best answer EVER! This plate consisted of beignet-like fried dough pieces, coated with a pint of honey. One word: orgasmic. It was sad when it all had to end.

Vestiges of our meal:
Red snapper- the head is the best part! David ate the eyeball. Then swallowed it. Brian freaked out.

Garlicy oozy mussels- very original.

I accidentally dropped a mussel into our carafe of white wine. How does one do that?? I finished it off anyway. No shame- it was fine. You figure that there’s wine IN the mussel dish, so why not the other way around?

Hyoe- we’re devastated you’re leaving the city, but happy we got to send you off with a good meal. You’ll be back though!

Elias Corner for Fish
24-02 31st St.
Astoria, NY11102
T: 718.932.1510

Afterthought: Andy just informed me that these fried donut pieces are called Loukoumades. Here’s the recipe. Yamahomo, get on it, pronto! These are heavenly!

Umamiventure #7 : Pacificana, Sunset Park

February 22, 2008

This past Sunday we intrepid Umami Marters made the trek to Sunset Park for an Umamiventure visit to famed Chinese joint Pacificana. Although Pacificana is best known for dim sum, we threw caution to the winds and reserved a table for dinner.

Waving aside the free (maybe? we weren’t sure…) soda awaiting us at our table, we ordered a bottle of wine and some frosty Tsing Taos and got down to the business of serious face-stuffing. $30 and about 10,000 calories later, we were a happy group.

Our first main dish and the undisputed hit of the evening was Peking duck (above), chopped up and served right at the table. While the pancakes served with the duck were thicker and fluffier than most of us were expecting, the overall package was fatty-salty-deeeelicious and well worth the longish trip on the N train.

Pacificana is (as its name implies) all about the food of the sea, and we put its substantial fish skills to the test. Two kinds of crab (“Hong Kong Style” and “Ginger and Scallion”) were both tasty and fun, requiring a sizable amount of upper body strength to get at the sweet sweet (and occasionally spicy) meat within. We also devoured a whole striped bass (the time lapse between the before and after photos below is about 5 minutes) and a number of shrimp dishes. Crispy baby bok choys and some “pea leaves” (which I’d never had before) were good, too, and made me feel a little bit less like I’d just consumed my weight in fried shellfish.

Was Pacificana good? Yes indeed. Was it as good as Chinatown stalwart Congee Village, where dinner never seems to cost more than $11, no matter how much you eat? That’s a toss-up. The specter of Congee Village was certainly raised during dinner (as is pretty much inevitable whenever you’re discussing New York Chinese Food That Is Totally Awesome), but we never did reach a verdict on whether Pacificana’s substantial charms were really worth the higher pricetag. Either way, the trip was worth it—as head Umami Marter Kayoko’s fortune cookie wisely noted “a gathering of friends brings you lots of luck this evening.”

Pacificana Restaurant
813 55th St @ 8th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11220
(718) 871-2880

Past trips include:
Jackson Diner – 01/08
Sripraphai Restaurant – 11/07
Taste of Jackson Heights – 10/07
Red Hook Ball Fields – 06/07
Ocean Jewel Restaurant – 06/07

A Saturday Lunch at Peter Luger

February 13, 2008

“No other steakhouse serves a porterhouse so breathtaking” –Frank Bruni, The New York Times

Mr. Bruni, I coudn’t agree with you more. Some of you might already know that I am a huge fan of a tasty piece of steak. Many might also know that I am an even bigger fan of delicious burgers.

Recently I had the pleasure of indulging in both. A few weeks ago I went to Peter Luger Steakhouse (PL) with three wonderful friends, I enjoyed my meal so much that I have decided to share the experience with you. A good friend was in town and my roommate was smart enough to book us a table on a saturday. You see it isn’t always easy to get reservations at PL’s. Our friend, a steak loving man, was truly delighted when he heard the news that we were off to PL’s. For those of you who haven’t been, when you walk into the Brooklyn location you can almost imagine the hustle and bustle of its early days. You see the Brooklyn location was established in 1887 and was initially called “Carl Luger’s Café, Billiards and Bowling Alley” and was frequented by the predominantly German residents of the area. In fact PL is so old it predates the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge. Holy Smokes!

Anyways back to the meal. Since I am still a hard working student PL’s steak prices are a little too steep for me. Luckily for those who are on a budget, PL offers an AWESOME lunch menu that includes a Luger-Burger for under $10! Yes, I am serious!

So since I am on a budget I ordered the delightful yet simple burger. This is not your fancy sauce filled burger, it is a meat lovers burger. The ground sirloin patty is amazing to the taste. The only toppings you get are an onion chunk and cheese all on a toasted sesame bun. SOO GOOD!

To make a long story short I truly enjoyed every bite. What made the lunch even more memorable were the good times shared with my friends AND a Diane Feinstein look-a-like sitting behind me (that’s her walking away in the pic!). I literally stared at her 100x. It was great. And it helps to have generous friends who order the steak, wink wink.

Oh and by the way the steak is better to the taste if you let it sit for a few minutes to let the meat soak in the juices.

Peter Luger Steakhouse
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Get Directions

(718) 387-7400

* approximate times

Gift This: Kyotofu for Vday

February 6, 2008

Valentines Day is coming up (BARF), and while I am usually cynical about this day, you can win me over with a box of yummy treats from Kyotofu. I’m so easy!

As Sonja reviewed in December, Kyotofu is a cutesy little restaurant specializing in nouveau t0fu in the unexpected neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. They’ve recently expanded their menu to include savory items, but their “thing” is definitely the sweets. Lucky for us they sell their cute little cakes togo in the front of their restaurant.

Chocolate souffle cupcakes

Matcha, almond, hojicha, and chocolate financiers– these are my favorite- so dense and delicious

Hand-dipped green tea chocolate tea cookies

Maple honey muffins

Blue cheese muffins

Chocolate souffle cupcakes– so light, lovely, and darling!

There are selling a special assortment of their cakes and house-made truffles in this nice box for Vday for $25

Or, just pick and choose as you wish and take it all home in this box. Just like cake boxes in Japan!
Kyotofu will also be hosting a special Vday night with a prix-fixe 3-course dessert menu which will include sake and champagne. Ooh la la.

My calendar is currently wide open on February 14- c’mon boys, ask me out!!!

705 9th Ave (btwn. 48th & 49th Street)
New York, NY 10019
(212) 974-6012

Katsuhama Lunch

January 31, 2008

We took our colleague David out for lunch yesterday cause he’s jumping ship. Sad for us he’s leaving, but happy cause we used it as an excuse to make a little excursion to Katsuhama. You see, I work all the way on 1st avenue in midtown, which means that it has to be a pretty special occasion to go all the way to 5th Avenue (crossing 2nd, 3rd Aves, then Lex, Park and Madison- whew!).

Katsuhama is a little non-descript looking restaurant that looks like a Japanese take-out bento place from the outside. But don’t be fooled! Keep walking past all the people waiting in line for sushi packs (no tuna please!- sarcastic face here), and you will find yourself in a little wonderland of yellow walls and cute hanging paper lights. They specialize in tonkatsu, which is deep fried pork loin- Japan’s ultimate comfort food, and I would probably say that it’s the best in town (not very many places in NY serve tonkatsu).

They give you a little Japanese version of a mortar and pestle, that is used specifically for grinding sesame seeds– it’s a fun and campy way to wait for your fatty meat lunch to arrive. Here’s a demonstration:

Ryo told us that in Japan, to “goma suri” or grind sesame seeds, is to bullshit someone. We pondered that for a minute.

Our food came out super quick– let the meat fest begin! I got the menchi-katsu, which is basically a deep fried beef/pork/onion hamburger. Yum.

Everyone else got the tonkatsu. We all shared.

Mix their special sauce into the sesame seeds, and dip away! I like mine with a lethal dose of that yellow mustard. The cabbage is a must have with tonkatsu, as it eases the fattiness from all that deep fried meat you’re consuming. The waitstaff even walks around a plate of cabbage and tongs to serve you more! So cute!

After Bittman’s preaching about cutting down on meat intake I actually felt kinda bad after this meal. But not that bad. I save tonkatsu for special occasions, and it helped eased the pain that David’s deserting us.

11 E 47th St (btwn 5th and Madison)
New York, NY 10017
(212) 758-5909
Lunch: $15-20
*Expect to wait at least 5 minutes to be seated.

Umamiventure #6: Jackson Diner

January 28, 2008

Trekked out to Jackson Heights on Saturday for our monthly Umamiventure- a food field trip that we take to cult-following foodie places all around the 5 boroughs (that the DOH wouldn’t necessarily recommend). After all the hoo-hawing about the Indian food at Jackson Diner, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to check out what all the hype is about.

Honestly, I was sorta skeptical about this choice, and even thought about changing it last minute– I heard so many mixed reactions from people! But since it’s such a famous destination spot, we figured we should all try it at least once. As my friend Radhika says, “Makes me giggle that the Indian restaurant with the most street cred in all the burrows is called ‘Jackson Diner’.” SO TRUE!!!

All in all, we had a great time. There were 14 of us, and even though I had only made a reservation for 8, they were really friendly and accommodated us in a smaller dining room upstairs (which was much better cause the downstairs area is really loud because of the high ceilings).

The lunch buffet is only $10, all you can eat, and they had all sorts of dishes: chicken tandoori/ makhani/ with chili sauce; goat curry; grilled veggies; pekoras; saag paneer; and even a man making dosas. Favorites around the table included the veggies, chicken makhani, chicken in chili sauce, pekoras, the saag, and the coconut rice dessert.

To be fair though, I would say the food was so-so– I’m a Indian food novice to say the least, but there wasn’t anything super spectacular about it, I didn’t think (Radhika agreed- she being my Indian food expert). People say that Jackson Diner isn’t what it used to be from 10 years ago, which may be true, I couldn’t say. This is why I normally don’t blog a place I haven’t been to at least twice though- it’s just not fair to rate the food on your first occasion. Radhika says that Saravanaas in the city is much better, so we need to try that pronto.

But for $18 after tax and tip for all that food and a Kingfisher beer, it was a fun day trip to Queens. After the meal, Mariana led us into the depths of Jackson Heights to an Argentinian bakery– they sold all sorts of Argentinian goods, and even bags of mate! Walking around the neighborhood (Betty Suarez born and raised), you really do feel like you’re in another place– makes you remember how great New York can be.

All photos by Christy Jones and Matt Myers.

Jackson Diner
37-47 74th Street

Jackson Heights, Queens

T: 718.672.1232

*PS- Umamiventures are open to everyone! I do post information about it under “UM News” or on our FACEBOOK page whenever they are coming up so don’t be shy and join us!

Past trips include:
Sripraphai Restaurant – 11/07
Taste of Jackson Heights – 10/07
Red Hook Ball Fields – 06/07
Ocean Jewel Restaurant – 06/07

The Sake Samurai at Astor Center

January 25, 2008

Last week, Urban Sake‘s Timothy Sullivan was kind enough to invite me to his ongoing sake tasting course, “The Elements of Sake” at the Astor Wine and Liquor Shop’s very new and swanky Astor Center (just around the corner from the shop). It was the second class ever to take place in the gleaming space– complete with sparkling white tile counters, a censored stainless steel sink between every other person, reclining leather chairs, a beautiful test kitchen behind the front counter, and LCD screens right above it.

The place was packed! Every seat was taken– I took Erin* as my guest and we sipped while listening to Tim talk passionately about sake. He went through the types of sake (Junmai, Ginjo, Daiginjo), must-know terms, ingredients, the brewing process, and added his own personal tidbits of how he came to learn about sake. He was recently invited to Japan in honor of his devotion for sake, and he’s been awarded the title of “Sake Samurai”, which only two Americans hold. WOW!

Here’s a list of the sakes we tried (with my notes- increasing in quality and price I believe):
– Urakasumi (Junmai- sweet, full, good to serve warm)
– Hakkaisan (Ginjo- crisp, smooth)
– Rihaku (Nigori- creamy, sweet)
– Wakatake (Nama- sweet)
– Dassai (Junmai Daiginjo- fruity, sharp, clean)

We all had these little remotes that we used to “vote” for our favorite sake. I think everyone loved the last three– I personally always like the second one, which is what my pops drinks.

Tim’s love and knowledge of sake runs deep, and his excitement about it was really infectious. I guess if I could relay one thing that I learned that night, it’s that sake is at it’s best in the season its made for (usually spring or fall). Unlike wine where you wait for years for it to peak, sake should be consumed while it’s still “young”. Astor Wine has a great selection of sakes, as does NY’s own sake shop Sakaya in the East Village.

In total the tasting lasted about an hour and a half. The class is well-paced with great visuals and Tim encourages questions and dialogue- so it’s a great course for sake novices. He’s teaching through the spring for $95 a pop (Mon. 2/18, Wed. 3/19, Fri. 4/18; here’s a 2 spots for 1 promo code I found (sneaky!): ACWelcome)– hurry and sign up cause it’s gonna fill up fast!

*I have been informed by the nice people at Astor Center that the promo code is only available for February programs. A post-Valentines day date maybe?

*All photos by the one and only Erin Gleeson.

Masitas in Jackson Heights!

January 24, 2008

Masitas are teeny-tiny Argentine pastries. I’ve been obsessed with them since always and photographing them in their natural habitat for the last three years, but I only learned recently that these miniaturized pastries are basically the same thing as petits-fours. But do not confuse them with dumb squares that look like wrapped presents!

You can find them at bakeries all over Buenos Aires, and also in Jackson Heights at La Nueva Bakery on 37th Ave. La Nueva may have a smaller assortment than your typical bakery, but the classics are all there, like this little cone of dulce de leche bathed in chocolate:

Or this coquito, cousin of the macaroon:

This one has dulce de leche between cake layers:

Here is a masita with a local twist–tiny carrot cake!

La Nueva Bakery
8502 37th Ave,
Jackson Heights, NY 11372

T: (718) 505-3700