Deborah, July 31, 2005

43 Carmine Street

Danna asked me on Saturday if we could have brunch with her colleague and friend Donald, aka "Dawg" on Sunday. I think I may have blurted "yes" before she finished the word brunch as I've been anxious to try some places, one of which was Deborah.

With all of the places to eat brunch in this city, how to choose? Well, there are some parameters set by Danna after our disastrous brunch at Gascogne a year or so ago. Don't get me wrong, the food was fine (service was pretty mediocre) but it wasn't at all the brunch Danna, her cousin and his girlfriend were expecting.

So after a scan of the menu on MenuPages, we went for Deborah.

The first things I noticed (other than the fact that a shop of some kind shares the same address as Deborah) was a) the use of red in the logo and inside the restaurant, suprised me (I was thinking blue and green for some reason) and b) this is the second restaurant I've been to in a row that uses additional words in its name to emphasize its mission. Last night it was Copper Chimney : Tasty Indian Food and now its Deborah : Life Love Food.

This is annoying.

Please people, don't add words to the name of your restaurant. It's sophomoric.

Anyway, thinking we'd be waiting (we arrived around 12:30) for a bit, we were pleasantly surprised to get a great 4 top in the front room right away. A "non-waiter" took our drink orders. Danna and I had a champagne-first-OJ-as-a-second-thought mimosa, which was quite nice compared to what you can often get. Donald stuck to coffee.

Today was all about brunch, so I neglected to even look at the lunch menu. Danna went for the Homemade Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwiches and Eggs (with bacon, cheese and two eggs and mesclun salad). Donald had the Rachero eggs (with crispy red pepper tortillas, fried eggs, black beans, pickled jalapeno, lettuce, tomato and potatoes topped with melted cheddar and sour cream). Danna got through most of both of her sandwiches and Donald's, which looked like a gigantic plate of nachos, was also well consumed, although the sheer volume of food made it impossible to finish.

I was stuck between the Duck Confit Hash (hand shredded roasted duck, garlic potatoes, topped with two eggs, herbed tomatoes) and Deborah's Shirred Eggs (roasted potatoes, cheddar cheese, bacon, scallion, topped with eggs and "married" in the oven).

I went for Deborah's signature dish and when ordering, was incorrectly corrected by the waitress. I asked to have the shirred (shurd) eggs. Our waitress restated that they were "shired". Um. No. Look it up. I later heard (not to be pronounced "hired") the same waitress call back to the chef (its a tiny, open kitchen) for an order of "shired" eggs. Does nobody know how to pronounce them here?

Phonetics aside, the shirred eggs were very good. The potatoes, which are mashed and heavy, anchor the bowl that it comes in. The eggs, unfortunately, get overpowered by everything else that it comes with. There was no egg flavor whatsoever, but I think you would be hard pressed to find a better dish to nurse a hangover. I was not, however, nursing such a hangover, but I can imagine that this would be the perfect panacea for one.

We also ordered a side of sausage and honey-jalapeno corn bread that they make in-house. The sausage was very good and of a large portion (at least 6, large halves) and the cornbread, was decent, perhaps a bit too crumbly-like-polenta for me, but tasty.

Our overall experience at Deborah was good but not necessarily worth going out of our way to return to with the abundance of brunch options in the city. The food, service and ambience were great for what the three of us were looking for in a Sunday brunch before shopping. Which, in hindsight, is not a recommended activity after eating at Deborah. The food is VERY filling, and trying on clothes (especially at Marc Jacobs, which rarely has my size to begin with) was not an enjoyable affair. I stuck with buying some accessories instead.

One more thing... I should have said that its not necessarily a place to go out of your way to get to for brunch more than once. If you live in the neighborhood, or rather, if I lived in the neighborhood, I would probably eat there more regularly, but alas, I don't, and probably will try several other places before returning.

Copper Chimney, July 30, 2005

Having lived in the area for more than a year now, we felt sort of awkward going to Copper Chimney before checking out Pongal, both of which are owned by the same family. I suppose its the menu of vegetarian options that I am not at all clued in on at Pongal that has made us hesitate going there. The owners are certainly nice enough, as I see them regularly (I live between the two restaurants), so we gave the new, carnivore-friendly restaurant a go.

We shared an order of the Chicken Sixty-Five which was tender, crispy and well spiced. I have no idea why its called Chicken Sixty-Five, but it was really, really tasty.

Danna ordered the curry lamb chops. The bone was cooked to the point of brittle but the lamb itself was well seasoned and perfectly medium - per my wife's request. She said, "I just want to pick this up with my fingers and go to town on it" as if she would if we were at home.

I ordered the Chicken Chettinad which was exploding with flavor, spice and heat.

Add a side of poori and a refreshing cocktail with cucumber in it (I can't remember what it was called - but it wasn't a Pimm's Cup) and the meal was a definite success. I can see myself ordering Chicken Sixty Five for an app. every time I go there or even for takeout once in awhile.

Next up...Pongal, so if anyone has recommendations, by all means let me know. Thanks.


Katz' Delicatessen, July 28, 2005

review coming soon.

Photo credit to

Photo credit goes to

Park Bistro, July 21, 2005

I've since revisited Park Bistro (this time ordering the wild mushroom ravioli and an order of mussels - both appetizer size.

I've been seriously craving their mussels since the last time I had them.

So, after tucking Danna into bed (she was sick with the flu) and I, hungry after a day of work and night class at the Institute of Culinary Education (where my "visual walkthrough" presentation of my concept was well-received), I headed over to my newest "standby".

I sat at the bar and decided to go for a Kronenberg, a French beer, simply because it piqued my interest. Not an especially well-crafted beer by any means, but it did go very well with my dishes and one I will probably return to when I go back by myself, if Danna is out of town.Also in the dining room this evening was my friend Matthew Cortellesi who was, as is his nature, entertaining a group of five other guys...coworkers? Most likely.

The lovely, tall, red-headed girl (bartender doesn't sound right - she's more like a captain) served me my beer and brought me out some bread, that I have to admit was dry. Perhaps solo male diners at the bar get older bread without butter.

No worries. I later asked for some fresh bread, which I received in time to enjoy my mussels.But first I had the wild mushroom ravioli. One of my favorite dishes at L'Express was there version of the fungi favorite.

The two were quite different. These having a slightly more subtle taste and nary a hint of the truffle oil they advertise. The L'Express version (of years ago, I can't currently attest to their current offering) had more of a powerful taste. Perhaps it was the fresh ground pepper they offered or the extra cheese they topped it with. I am certain that the Park Bistro version is "technically" better, but if I had to choose between the two for taste...I might have to lean in the direction of my old favorite.

The mussels came out and they were a nice mix of big, large and average sized. All very flavorful and most were easily accessible, although I did find myself slightly covered in broth before the night was over by a stubborn bi-valve. Bastard.

The broth, however, had me confused. It was noticeably saltier this time, but why did it taste lemony and not lime-like? Am I getting the summer flu from Danna and losing my taste? No. The red onion and tomato made me realize that I got the "traditional" version of the dish instead of the drug I'd been craving. No matter. The dish was still good, but not the gem that is coconut-lime flavored.

The service, again, was wonderful. The hostess, a twenty something with remarkably curly hair was very nice and cheerful, and not afraid to share her opinion of guests' ordering choices. I quickly learned that I made good choices and the woman to my left, who also ordered the mushroom ravioli, had found that she ordered the hostess' favorite dish. It was all in kind and sort of made it feel more like the neighborhood restaurant that I think it strives to be, but something you wouldn't expect to see at Artisanal, for example.

I got to meet Richard, the Chef and owner, who was very hospitable. I caught him again outside after I'd paid up (beer, ravioli, mussels = $27, tax incl.) and asked him if the mussels were different. I explained my preference for the other kind after he apologized that the sous chef may have served the incorrect kind. He offered to correct the order upon my next offer I'd be a fool not to accept, as the coconut lime version really is all that.

Despite some flaws this time around, I am still a big fan. The crowd was very representative of how I see myself and what I like to be surrounded by, the food was still solid and the hospitality is warm and true. A real gem in the city.


Pearl Street Diner, July 20, 2005

Pearl Street Diner
212 Pearl Street

Seeking out new places to eat lunch in the Financial District using good ol' MenuPages, preferably with costs in the lower digits, I came across the Pearl Street Diner. Now, I could say that I wanted to go here because of cost, proximity to the office or giving myself the chance to try yet another of New York's burgers. All of which would be true.

But as faithful readers of this blog may notice...I tend to group my eating habits in some way. Most recently I've been in a bit of a bistro rut. Try saying that ten times fast.

I've also been in a New American rut, a Lower East Side rut, a Union Square Hospitality Group rut and many others. Some of which are self-imposed.

And this visit to the Pearl Street Diner will hopefully be the start of another self-imposed rut. You see, I've been trying to get to the Black Pearl and the Mermaid Inn but I never seem to be in that area or people back out on dinner plans or something. So by starting with Pearl Street Diner, I hope to keep the momentum going.

So anyway, I walk over to the diner and am immediately seated at the counter top next to a hefty guy eating a caesar salad with grilled chicken (the chicken are not strips so much as thick pieces - it looked excellent), with a rare, but vacant seat to my right. The rareness proves to be true as a new patron quickly grabs the last seat in the diner. A waiter in front of the counter asks what I'd like to drink. My unsweetened iced tea is in front of me before I even have a chance to look at the menu. But with the grill in front of me and burgers sizzling away, my mind was made up. It was almost as if they knew I wanted that burger from the minute I walked in, as that burger cooking was slipped on a bun, fries dumped on a plate with a small split pickle and a tiny paper ramekin of very white cole slaw and delivered to me in about 2 minutes total time.

Despite not really having to rush my lunch today, I was in and out of that diner in what seemed to be 4 minutes. Truth be told, I wasn't, but it seemed that way. And they weren't trying to rush me either. It's just one of those super-high turnover diners where the food is ready right away and the check is there close behind.

I loved this diner. The food was your typical NYC greasy spoon kind of stuff - but made well and tasty, but the atmosphere was electric. I could have sworn I'd been in this diner before. And in fact, I'm sure of it. My dad used to work for Emmitt, Marvin and Martin on Wall Street back in the day (they still have the old fashioned elevators with elevator operators at 48 Wall St. which is super cool) and I'd bet anything he took me there, though he can't remember one way or another.

So, I'll probably head back there later this week again - the Turkey Club looked good, but then hopefully to the Black Pearl for a lobster roll. If you know of any "pearl" related restaurants that I should know about, please let me know. Thanks.


Salud, July 12, 2005

144 Beekman Street

On my way over to try Quartino for a third time for lunch I stumbled across Salud. I've walked by it once before but didn't really pay any attention to it. But there was a blackboard outside advertising a prix fixe lunch for $15, that included two dishes (not courses) and a beverage. A beverage included! I've yet to hear of such a thing.

Once you've crossed the threshold, you are immediately transported to a plantation-style home or restaurant in Havana (during the good years) or maybe (*gasp*) Key West today (as opposed to the 80s).

White walls and wainscoting with dark wood accents including lotus leaf-shaped blades on the ceiling fans, sturdy chairs and tables as well as several wrought iron candelabras are punctuated by green palm trees of unknown genus. Part Pottery Barn, part Bagatelle Restaurant (at least how I remember it) .

The room is split level, with the bar and main dining room at street level and a small/narrow seating area four or five steps up and adjacent to the main dining room. Another small set of stairs lead downstairs to the kitchen.

Behind the bar, which is the first thing you see when you walk in, is a semi-oxidized copper piece of art depicting palm trees. Behind it is a depression in the wall, painted a rich goldenrod, giving the impression that you are looking out of a window at sunset somewhere south of the border.

The manager on duty, Anne, was as pleasant as the feeling in the room. She gave me both the a la carte and prix fixe menu. Here's what I had:

Sauteed Shrimp in a wine and garlic sauce
The shrimp were of the regular variety - no ruby/royal red shrimp today, but came seven, yes seven, to an order. Wow. They were excellent as well. Firm and not flabby, very fresh tasting and just as you'd want them. The thicker plaintains that they served with them were fine as well, just sweet enough to balance the garlic sauce.

Paella with lobster, shrimp, clams and mussels
The saffron-colored rice was in a bowl-fitted dome of larger-than expected proportions for a tapas. Around the rice were two clams and two mussels. Within the dome of rice were a few chunks of perfectly cooked lobster (everything from claw to tail pieces could be found) and two more shrimp - although these still had their shells as well, which was fine. The dish was rounded out with peas and your traditional flavors but no sign of chorizo. An excellent dish, and definitely a better paella, even in the smaller sample, than what I had at Blue Ribbon.

I chose iced-tea for my prix fixe beverage, which I believe was sweetened to order. I could be mistaken. In any case that was fine, and water was provided (no tap/bottled/sparkling questions here. You get tap. Really saves you and the server the silly formalities that take place too often these days).

The prix fixe menu offers twelve items (of the 20) from Salud's tapas menu. I look forward to sampling all of them. I would recommend this combination though, as it kept the flavors consistent throughout the meal.

Total after tax came to $16.30. I challenge anyone to find me a deal this good in the Financial District. For the quality of food, pleasant host and simply relaxing room, you cannot ask for more. I'll be back once a week, hopefully at least one Thursday for an early dinner just to see the live music. It's no wonder they received "Best Small Restaurant" by Citysearch.

Alfanoose, July 11, 2005

8 Maiden Lane

You may ask yourself (no this is not a Talking Heads song), "Is the wait really worth it?" and you may ask yourself (ok, ok) "Why is there all this wasted space?" I am here to tell you that yes, it probably is worth it to wait for their food, in today's case for their chicken shwarma and falafel balls.

Indeed, I waited no less than twenty minutes to place my order, but when I got up there, it took but a minute or so to prepare, wrap and cash out my order. And twenty minutes is probably a lot less than what other people are going through in Madison Square Park this afternoon.

While waiting on the line that seriously didn't move for several minutes, I noticed that the restaurant could be half as big and still be able to handle the amount of covers it goes through in a day. The entire right side of the room was useless. Sure, it had a soda/"juice"/water fridge over there but that could be moved. It also featured a very long refrigerated cabinet in which only a few pastries and a box of dates found themselves temporarily stored. At least 60 square feet of space was hardly being used at all, space that could cost up to $60+ per square foot a year in rent (just a guestimate). That's $3600/year minimum, which is a lot of falafel, about 750 orders, that's 4,500 falafel balls!!).

On a hot day in New York city, the air conditioned (albeit loud -- all that empty space = echo issues) space should be a haven for diners...but instead, the seating arrangement practically forces you into communal dining and nobody wants that on their lunch break. I was one of just a few who, after waiting 20 minutes to get my food, decided to stay and eat there. Maybe the time it takes to get the food discourages people from staying -- then in which case they should be even more aware of the poor use of space in the restaurant.

None of this affects me as a diner. But in the eyes of a potential, future business owner, it drives me mad. Who knows, maybe the owner has an amazing lease and doesn't care so much. But man oh man.

The food, most importantly, is very good. The chicken shwarma was pretty hefty and although the chicken was a little on the dry side, the pickle and radish add-ons were really quite good and brought the sandwich/wrap to different directions on my tastebuds. The falafels are as good as everyone says, and, as properly advertised, made to order. They are piping hot upon arrival from the frier. These falafels have actually inspired me to work on a falafel-style burger for the Hamburger Contest that's been showing on Food Network lately, and who's advertisements for recipes/entrants have been all over the NYC-based periodicals.

Very good food, and pretty cheap. The above set me back $11.50 and was way more than what I needed. I'd suggest sharing an order of the falafel and two sandwiches with one other person, which would really give you a good idea of the food for which Alfanoose is known.


Il Buco, July 10, 2005

Il Buco
47 Bond Street

Danna and I took her parents out to Il Buco for their anniversary knowing that they would love the atmosphere. My good friend Alex and his then-girlfriend Jen (not to be mistaken with his fiance Jen) took us to Il Buco about three and half years ago and we too fell in love with the place. Truth be told, I can't remember anything we ordered back then other than the cheese plate with 10 year old balsamic vinegar.

We wanted to grab a drink somewhere nearby before dinner but this neighborhood is simply not set up for that. Remote Bar? I don't think so, not with the in-laws. I thought Buddha Lounge would fit the bill but upon arrival it was bordered up. Ugh. So we went right to the restaurant, which was nearly empty at the time (7:00pm). The hostess was, I'll just come out and say it, really out-of-place for the restaurant. I was reminded of that Sesame Street song "One of these things is not like the other" when trying to communicate to this trainwreck of a girl.

"Hi, we have a 7:30 reservation and are a little early, so can we just have a seat at the bar for a drink for a little bit".

"Um, well, um. Ah. [long pause]. Oh, 7:30. Um, yeah."

Oh boy. So we sit at the bar and we buy (actually, Leo, my father-in-law, insists on paying for the spirits tonight) a bottle of the Barbera D'Asti Montruc 1997. This will do perfectly.

About twenty minutes later, we start to get rushed around a little by the manager (who is wearing blue jeans and general attire completely different than the rest of the staff or anyone eating dinner for that matter) and decide to sit. He pleasantly suggested this spot as the back room was very hot and more tightly situated. We did get a very nice table, the round four-top right behind the hostess stand and adjacent to the long communal table.

We decide on making this a sharing affair so that we can try a bunch of different items, at least for the apps. Here's what we ordered:

The pizzetta was a small, flat pizza with carmelized onions and some cheese that I can't remember. This was good but in my opinion not good enough to justify the $10 price tag. For 50% more you get a much bigger and much better pizza/pizzetta at Otto.
This was quail, stuffed with figs and wrapped in prosciutto. It came as four pinwheels on a dish with a light balsamic vinegar based sauce beneath it. Very, very good, but portion sizes (I know its quail but...) were again a bit small.
This was fried oysters, served in their shell and topped with a roumelade of sorts. A pretty decent dish...served six pieces but well overpriced at $14.
This was a peach salad of sorts that's description was mouthwatering. The end result = I can't really remember what else it had in it.

About seven minutes after we ordered our appetizers, we were brought a cold octopus salad. We said that we didn't order this. Bickering between the server and the waiter resulted in asking us again if we ordered it. We again said we didn't. About two minutes later we are served a farro salad of sorts by a different server. Again, we have to tell them that we didn't order this. This server, who seems to be on the ball more than anyone else in the place (he's the younger guy with the reddish, poofy/afro-ish hair) says, "Strike two. Sorry about that. Enjoy this on the house". Fine, thank you...and it turns out to be my favorite of the appetizers.

So for our entrees we order the following:

Tagliatelle con Gamberi e Gallinacci
Fresh egg pasta with ruby red shrimp, chanterelles and corn
Ruby Red Shrimp is, after some researching, actually Royal Red Shrimp but, for marketing purposes have gone the way of the Patagonian Toothfish (Chilean Sea Bass for most people). It is a deep sea shrimp known for spending much of the day at the bottom of the deeper reaches of the Northeast Atlantic Ocean and recently caught as a measure of preserving the traditional shrimp caught off of New England's coastline. They just happen to be delicious, with a hint of lobster. This dish, that Danna ordered, was the best entree of the night and I suppose reasonably priced.

Ravioli di Coda di Bue
Braised Grass-fed Oxtail-filled fresh egg pasta with summer beans, golden beets & grated horseradish
Carin, my mother-in-law, ordered this dish, and having tried a ravioli of hers can attest that its flavor was excellent. The portion size was perfect for her, but I would have gone home starving if I ordered this dish. Especially for a very low-cost item. Oxtail, homemade ravioli and the other ingrediants won't set you back that much as an owner. All of this at the same pricepoint as the shrimp dish. Something didn't calculate there. Aside from that, a pretty good dish.

Bistecca alla Griglia
Grilled, Over the Hill Farm grass-fed Ribeye steak with wild arugula salad
Both Leo and I ordered this. He chose medium well, I went for medium rare. The beef smelled wonderful when it came out, but Leo's was undercooked, so we had to send that back. The one basic waitstaff rule was dented, not broken, but dented at this point. The server said, "I see sir, our medium-well is slightly more medium." No. Your medium-well should be what the customer says it should be. The server did redeem himself however, by asking (nicely) what color my father-in-law wished the meat to be. Upon the second arrival of his dish, all was good and he, Leo, couldn't be happier with the dish. For that I was grateful. My order, unfortunately, was far too grisly. 15% of my steak was unedible gristle. And for "grass-fed" beef, that seems a bit much. The beef that was edible was good, especially after coating it with the roasted garlic bulb that they serve it with. The arugula salad was simply a bunch of very crisp arugula that was good, but really just a bunch of arugula. Overall I was slightly disappointed with my dish - especially when the price tag read $35.

We ordered some cheeses too:

Parmigiano Reggiano (Parma, Italy) - Farm #2895 Aug. 2002
Organic DOP mountain cow's milk cheese by Santa Rita

Ouray (Poughkeepsie, NY)
Made with grass-fed jersey and guernsey cow's milk from Sprout Creek Farm

Bayley Hazen Blue (Greensboro, VT)
Raw Ayrshire cow's milk based on a Devon Blue recipe from Jasper Hill

All of these were fantastic. The parmigiano being exceptionally flavorful (the 10 year old balsamic vinegar certainly helped) with the most amazing texture and crunch. Yum.

We also ordered the ricotta fritters - basically fried dough in the same vein as a zeppole or, in the Marino household, Sfeengee (this is phonetic), except these were chocolate flavored. Whatever they were, they were excellent, and really, really hot. The served about eight of these.

We also ordered Sgroppino, a lemon gelato that was really soupy and just not good at all. Disappointing.

We also ordered some awful grappa, one a framboise and the other I can't remember. Truly terrible. I've had excellent grappa before. These were not.

Total bill with tax, excluding the wine and grappa came to $219. Tack on about another $220 for the two bottles of wine and the grappa and you have a pretty expensive night.

Leo, Carin and Danna all loved the dinner. Which is all that matters. Danna even said at one point that she wishes this were her regular spot. Personally, I enjoyed my dinner immensely, but it had more to do with the company and the charming restaurant than anything else. The food was good for the most part, but the value is really questionable. Something about paying that much for some of those dishes made me feel dirty. I'm glad we returned after a three+ year hiatus and I'm thrilled my in-laws and wife had a wonderful time (I did too, because of them) but I see absolutely no reason to go back here when L'Impero, Alto, Babbo and many others are still serving equally, if not higher quality dishes at similar pricepoints.


Employees Only, July 9, 2005

Employees Only
510 Hudson Street

After a long day and night of drinking with Danna's coworkers, we were back at it again, this time at Employees Only for a supposedly quick round of drinks before huffing it to Jersey City for a house party. I know I know...let's not even delve into that one.

I was very excited about my first visit to EO, and the anticipation was handsomely rewarded. The speakeasy vibe, the charming outdoor garden, the comfortable bar stools and the engaging bartender staff (Igor and Akiva tonight) was just the start of a great evening.

Learning from my mistake the night earlier, I decided, well, Danna suggested, to get some food before the others arrived so that I don't have to run off in the middle of the night to sate my appetite. I ordered a half dozen oysters and a pear and endive salad with goat cheese crouton. The oysters, Kumomoto, were excellent and lacking any shards of shell, and were served with a strange, icy and relatively flavorless accompaniment. I tried them with the oysters but concluded that it didn't help. The endive salad was good, with my last bite being the best (rarely does that happen). Danna and I agreed that this was not something that would provide a great base for a night of drinking, so I ordered the steak tartare as well.

Akiva made this at the bar in front of me, asking how spicy I wanted it. I went for "pretty spicy" and was treated to the best tartare I've ever had, although, truth be told, its been years since I've had the dish. The crispy toast points it was served with were just the right amount, not too few, not too many, and acted as the perfect vehicle for the dining experience.

As you may have already heard, Employees Only is really about the drinks. And for good reason. These are not just bartenders. They are mixologists. Maybe even something more than just mixologists. Making a drink is a serious endeavor at this place and it's clear that the proper making of a drink is more important than anything else in the world at that moment for these guys. From smelling the glass before anything is poured into it, and then again once its been properly muddled and then tasted before serving to ensure the best cocktail, these guys, as Danna put it, "are no joke".

I started with the Negroni, and yes, it was perfectly made, albeit quite strong. Nothing wrong with that. I followed up with a Pimm's Cup, which is quite possibly the best cocktail I've ever had. Superbly made, delicious tasting without being overly sweet and providing a wonderful buzz without risking the headache in the morning, this cocktail rules. The traditional drink includes Pimm's No. 1, 7-Up, a slice of cucumber and a twist of lemon peel. This version added a bit of mint and replaced the lemon peel with a lime peel. Think of a cross between a mojito and a Long Island iced tea. I had at least two of these, a shot of Patron with some of the guys and a specialty shot Akiva made up for us that was excellent, and tasted somewhat like grapefruit. No idea what else was in it.

We left this den of heavenly libations (and the tarot card reader in the front window) to find ourselves on our way to Jersey City to drink Amstel Lights and Sierra Nevada Pale Ales (it was BYOB) at Danna's coworker's house. I can't lie that it was a huge downturn but we had fun nonetheless. My wife, practically holding me up on the last stretch of walk home later that evening. It was the beers that brought me down. Those cocktails would've kept me in much better shape had we stayed there. Alas, I know where Employees Only is and by the looks of things, they aren't going anywhere for quite awhile.

A great review can be found here:


Artisanal, July 8, 2005

2 Park Avenue (32nd St.)

I've eaten here a couple of times already but this is the first since I started my blog. And if you've been keeping track, I've been going with the french brasserie theme for the last couple of weeks. Not sure why either, truth be told.

Anyway, we were out with several of Danna's coworkers at the Rodeo Bar for countless hours and I needed to leave the group to get some sustenance before I would be able to continue with them at their next bar. So I went to Artisanal, pulled up a barstool, ordered an entree portion of the mussels and a glass of water (I'd been drinking a lot, and I think the bartender had no problem with me not ordering a glass of wine).

The mussels came out pretty quickly, piled high in a oval, cast iron bowl with a side of frites. The mussels were excellent. Some were monstrosities and thick with flavor. The broth was like a pesto-tomato broth that was great. The bread and butter they serve is, of course, top notch, but they also supplied a crustier garlic bread for dipping in the broth. Heaven. The frites were amazing with either the ketchup they serve or the dipping it in the broth.

You can't ask for a better mini-dinner. Walked right in. Service was attentative and courteous. Food was brought out quickly. Food was excellent. Bill was paid and changed returned efficiently. Satisfaction.

Now, to be critical, the broth at Park Bistro, in my opinion is better or at least more original and more addictive (I nearly took the busboys arm off when he tried to take the nearly empty bowl of broth away from me at Park Bistro). But you really can't go wrong.

So you are probably wondering...where the hell is the cheese review. Well, I did order some cheese, but had to cancel my order as my cell phone was ringing off the hook from others telling me to get my ass over to the bar. But it is what it is. I can give you a brief review...the cheese is awesome...wait till I open my cheese and wine shop in the next couple of years and then we can discuss the cheese.

La Petite Auberge, July 8, 2005

La Petite Auberge
116 Lexington Ave.

I worked from home today in an effort to get some work done around the house. During a much needed lunch break before a 2pm conference call, I went next door to take advantage of the $17 prix fixe lunch menu at La Petite Auberge.

I've had dinner here before with my family when we first moved to the neighborhood, Danna's grandparents used to dine there regularly back in the day and I assume that their dining experiences twenty five years ago are similar to what you get today. It's a time capsule of sorts. And that's great to see, especially in an area dominated by Indian/Pakistani restaurants.

The restaurant reminds me more like an old French countryside home than a restaurant, neither evoking a sense of bistro nor brasserie, which it should just by the literal translation ("little inn"). Its basic, no nonesense and hearty french cooking mimics the ambience of the room. Jean Georges this is not.

I was the first person in the restaurant and was promptly welcomed by Raymond (the other owner, Marcel, was in France - according to a phone call conversation I overheard) and offered to put my umbrella in the rack. I was sat at a two top to the left and appropriately sat in the 1 position, facing the front of the restaurant to see the incoming patrons.

I was given both the prix fixe and a la carte menus and quickly ordered so that I could get back to my conference call.

I ordered the potage du jour, a lentil soup; the chicken of the day, a chicken breast with mustard sauce; and for dessert, creme caramel.

The lentil soup came in a small but deep bowl and was served with an ample amount of lentils - of which I think some but not all, were du Puys. The soup was good. Not great, but good and slightly cooler in temperature than I like my soups. But otherwise it was fine.

The chicken breast and mustard sauce was, truth be told, nothing at all special, but for $17 for three courses, I wasn't expecting ground breaking advances in cuisine. The chicken breast was pre-sliced for my ease of dining, and was juicy enough but probably not the best quality chicken I've ever come across.

The mustard sauce was so rich with butter that the butter nearly overpowered the mustard. A simple sauce that has been recreated better in my own kitchen, but certainly passable. It was served with haricots verts and rice. The greens were fine and also quite buttery but the rice was awful and nothing worth eating.

The creme caramel was simply delicious. Wow. One of the best versions of this dish that I've ever had. Sometimes the caramel gets overcooked on this dish and thus gives off a burnt-like taste, but not this time. Perfectly made creme caramel that I'd consider going back for even if it meant as a take out for dessert at home. Yum.

Service had its ups and downs. The captain, who I remember from my last visit, lives and breathes the restaurant and is very comfortable in his surroundings. The waitress was, for the most part, awful. I believe she was a French student visiting New York, and it looked like she was a caged animal. She was visibibly nervous when I asked her what the wines by the glass were (not listed in the wine menu). She even had a coughing fit as she was bringing out my food (possibly the only thing, other than a sneeze, that you don't want to hear as you are being served your meal). She really was a train wreck. The good news is that I doubt she will ever work the dinner shift.

The bill took forever to get, and with only five patrons in the restaurant, there was no excuse for the delay in getting me my bill.

Nonetheless, a three course lunch, glass of wine (an unknown cabernet) cost $27 after tax. Not bad at all and worth it, even beyond the glitches mentioned above. I will go back here again for the relatively inexpensive food, proximity to home (maybe 15 paces) and the old-school charm of the place.


Rickshaw Dumpling Bar, July 7, 2005

Rickshaw Dumpling Bar
61 W. 23rd Street

For a late lunch/early dinner before class across the street (Institute of Culinary Education), I stopped off to try this hotly contested (at least on dumpling outpost to make my own opinion.

I ordered six classic pork and chinese chive dumplings, steamed as well as an order (three) of the chocolate soup dumplings and a glass of the watermelonade.

The dumplings are terrific. A blessing after the last ones I had at Noodles on 28 which were downright awful. After my second one I wished I'd ordered nine instead of six.

The watermelonade was excellent as well, a far better option than the fresh squeezed watermelon juice being served all over the city this summer.

The chocolate soup dumplings were also very good although, perhaps by design to prevent the molten chocolate from splattering, the skin of the dumpling was remarkably thick. The black sesame seeds are good and add a nice texture to it, but became somewhat tiring of a flavor. Still, it was worth trying at least once.

The space was much different than I thought it would be. Very tall ceilings, remarkably simplistic (read: cheap) design and mostly deep and narrow. Very comfortable for dining in and boring enough to want to eat and run/not get comfortable.

The place is a goldmine and will do remarkably well if it hasn't already. I think I will be visiting this dumpling bar several times in the near future, but I do wish that they would offer a sampler of some kind. Or at least allow you to split an order of six (three each of two different types) so that you can mix it up a bit. As business practice, it makes sense not to, but makes it rotten for the diner.

Bread, July 1, 2005

I really do like this place. I've been several times whether as a sit down with the wife, a quick bite at the bar with a friend, take out to bring across the street to Sweet and Vicious or, in this case, to grab a late lunch on a Friday afternoon before heading to the beach for the weekend.

The place was relatively busy as usual, but I had no problem finding a tall two top waiting for me to plunker down.

The only waitress on duty acknowledged my arrival and after a minute or two dropped off a menu.

Do I get the ol' standby (prosciutto sandwich with mozzarella and arugula) or try one of their main entrees? Neither, said I, and ordered the Gorgonzola Dolce with Golden Delicious apples.

What a great sandwich. Simple but with excellent ingredients that fills you up just enough. The club-styled sandwich has three pieces of thinly sliced and toasted cranberry walnut bread and in between each is a spreaded layer of gorgonzola topped with honey and a quarter inch thick layer of slightly crunchy and not overly juicy golden delicious apples.

Many textures and flavors swirl (or rather bump and grind) together to make a very pleasant meal. The mini mesclun salad they give you with the same dressing they've used for years (it has a bit of a sharp zing to it...and its just right) adds to the dish. A metal skewer holds the two sandwich sections together (on top of each other - nice presentation) with a strawberry resting on the top piece of bread.

I opted for the watermelon juice instead of the temptation of a glass of wine. It was okay, though I much prefer the watermelonade at Rickshaw Dumpling House.

I will continue to return to this place for their no nonsense but delicious sandwiches and someday will break out of my sandwich rut and try their entrees. I liked the sandwich so much that I will be recreating it myself and will be demonstrating how to make it for a presentation in my Culinary Management class at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE)