Irving Mill, November 30, 2007

Irving Mill

Irving Mill could be my kind of restaurant. It makes a great effort to create country charm in a bustling part of the city. I love the imported mill stone in the center of the restaurant and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow text on the banquettes brings a modern edginess to the room - despite the antique typeface. The for-asthetics-only wood beams, tall ceilings and otherwise appropriately appointed room creates a very warm and inviting space.

Service comes with a smile and is, as reported elsewhere (Grub Street/New York Magazine I believe), very attentive. Then again, there weren't many people having lunch there the day I visited.
The menu is fairly limited...and though everything looked good, nothing at first really grabbed my attention. The appetizers that I thought looked good didn't seem to have an entree companion that would make sense.

In the end, I went for the chicken liver crostini to start and the monkfish dish with chorizo and potatoes as my main. Both were good. The crostini was equal in quality to the amuse you get at BLT Prime - but that being said, the one you get at BLT Prime is a freebie. The monkfish was cooked adequately but didn't necessarily wow me. The menu needs to get deeper here but the cooking, decor and service tells me that this place has just needs to be brave enough to show a little more of them.


Restaurants I Want to Go to: A top 10 list

An updated list of places I'd like to go...

I'm sure I'll go to others before these, but nevertheless, these are on the must-try as soon as possible list.

The second list are ten restaurants that I'd eventually like to get to but aren't top priorities. Note that some of these are not in New York City but all are in the States.

Visitors are welcome to suggest dishes for any or all of these. Thanks


1. The Tasting Room
2. Irving Mill
3. Blue Hill (in NYC)
4. Little Owl
5. Cookshop
6. Applewood
7. Saul
8. Hill Country
9. Chanterelle
10. Mas (Farmhouse)

Missions Accomplished
Al Di La
Cafe Boulud
L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon

Everything's Eventual

1. Masa
2. Per Se
3. French Laundry
4. Chez Panisse
5. Bouley
6. Cru
7. Peter Luger
8. Alinea
9. The Herbfarm
10. Inn at Little Washington

P.S., if you need a date for one of these restaurants, just let me know.

Thanks, MM


Al di La, November 9, 2007

Al di La

Doug and I went out to Brooklyn on Friday night for two reasons, the first to support my friend Jeff's business and/or clients, two of whom were having a gig at Southpaw, and secondly, to check out Al di La, a restaurant that has been on my To Do list for two years.

I dropped Doug off in front so that we could get a table or get on line, as this place is known to fill up fast. I finally found parking a block away (after circling several blocks) and entered to see Doug sitting down with menus at the ready. A very good sign, as there were about four groups of people coming in behind me.

Al di La is a perfectly charming restaurant on a nice street in Park Slope and despite the constant action inside, the staff is very cordial. It took awhile for them to get back to us to take our order, but the food made it to our table in good time and the space between courses was also respectable. Here's what we had:

Doug ordered the pasta special...which was a dry (not fresh) pasta with shredded pork shoulder. Cooked to perfection, this dish was a winner and is a good example of why the restaurant has been compared to places like Babbo. Everything about it was "good". Might not have "super incredible" but exactly what our expectations could be for it. Solid.

I ordered the ricotta gnocchi in sage and brown butter sauce. This was luscious and similar to the gnudi you can get at the Spotted Pig. Very tasty, but I would give the Spotted Pig the edge if I had to compare.
Doug ordered the fish special which was hake served with carrots and lentils. Very solid dish. I ordered the quail special, a slightly hefty sized quail filled with mushrooms and served atop a delicious starch. Solid dish overall.
We didn't have time to order dessert, and sadly I don't recall the exact name of the bottle of Barbera D'Alba we ordered, but it was solid (nice, inexpensive wine list!).
I'd like to throw some props out to two bands: Care Bears on Fire - who were incredible regardless of their age (11 years old) and Mink who also put on a fun show, even including the little kids on stage toward the end of their set. They were truly good sports and made some kids' nights. Good times.


Jean Georges, November 9, 2007

Jean Georges

I eat at the bar at Jean Georges fairly regularly. The food is nearly always delicious and the service when it's "on" is terrific despite the occasional, lengthly lag time between appetizers and entrees. And overall the staff is a delight. There is, however, one person I would love to see removed from the staff, and though I don't recall her name, she's a bartender in the Nougatine room. Everytime she is working, I sigh. She doesn't pay attention to customers, she's slow at doing just about everything from making drinks to tagging wine bottles, and just has a "way" about her that is inately annoying. But today she was outright wrong in serving her customers, in particular - me, equally.

I took my usual seat at the bar (far corner spot nearest the kitchen) and she politely asked me to move as it, and the seat next to it, was "reserved". Fine. I've never seen a bar seat reserved before, but went about my business three seats in. A few minutes pass by and another individual (who couldn't do the common courtesy of taking off his hat) sits down in the same seat. Now, he was alone and was not the reserved diner. But this witch of a bartender took his order. As he left to use the men's room, I asked her why she allowed him and not me. She said that she didn't realize he sat there as she wasn't paying attention. So then why did you take his order??? There were other seats at the bar she could've asked him to move to, much like she did to me...but she didn't. And she got a crap tip (still more than she deserved, but I like the other guys that get some of the tip) for it and an official complaint to Pierre Vongerichten the next time I see him.

In any event...this what we had today...which was good but sadly ruined by this awful girl.

(pics and descriptions to follow).

Today's flower arrangement made the most of the season's changing leaves.

Arguably the best mushroom soup I've ever had. It was served with a shredded chicken confit and enoki mushrooms. Fantastic.

This was the petit filet served with brussel sprouts and a pepper that really gave the dish a zing. The lime was a good foil to the spicyness. Overall a very tender piece of meat and I love the brussel sprouts at JG. This is the third time I've had them in as many weeks. Can't get enough of them.

This was a cranberry brunoise (I think) served with a trail mix of candied walnuts and dried fruit. It's construction made sense...just was not a dessert for me.


Pamplona, November 6, 2007


Went to the Taste of BlackBerry event tonight - basically a gathering of Research in Motion (RIM) users/developers - and had the luck of being invited to dinner by some of the fine folks who work for Handmark - and the developer's of its PocketExpress.

When asked for a suggestion on a place to eat, we (after busting out our ZAGAT TO GOs on our BlackBerries) stayed nearby to the event and checked out Pamplona, Alex Urena's latest restaurant concept in the same space that was Urena. I had a slightly better than good, not quite great dining experience at Urena several months back and was excited to see how he'd handle a more casual concept.

Fortunately, as Frank Bruni would agree the following morning in his New York Times review of the restaurant, the makeover was in fact very good - worthy of 2 stars from the Bruni.

Our generous host, Steve, ordered quite a bit of food for the table. We started with a pitcher of sangria, but I think we'd all agree that it was awful. In fact, it was bitter. We quickly switched to two different (and unknown to me) Spanish red wines, which was a much better route to take.

Pretty much all of the tapas items we had were good, which included the Buñuelos (De Queso iberico, manchego cheese and cider fritter, $5), Pincho De Chorizo Y Gambas (fresh chorizo and shrimp skewer over goat cheese toast, $4), Albondigas (meatballs eggplant, sherry vizcaina sauce, $6), Bocadillo De Jamon (jamon serrano, iberico cheese, $6) and some Blue Point oysters, $12.

We shared all of the main dishes as well including the best dish of the night, Cochinillo (confit suckling pig, chestnuts puree, swiss chard, celery root gratin, $35), Paella Mar Y Montaña (braised rabbit, fresh chorizo, squid, mussels, shrimp, bomba rice, $30), 16+oz Chuleton rib eye steak (patatas bravas, onion vizcaina, $38), Ensalada De Pollo (stuffed chicken - baby greens, jamon serrano, morcilla, $12), and the Atun Y Sopresada (cured tuna sliced thin, sopresada aioli, $12).

The only problem with this restaurant, well, actually two, is that it's still not in a location you might normally find yourself (despite the fact that I recently moved from the neighborhood) and isn't a terribly exciting restaurant. I'm not alone when I say that I think if Chef Urena can find a new location for his cooking, I think he will really take off.


Taste of New York

The 2007 Taste of New York event, held at the Puck Building, was a success on many fronts. For the magazine, restaurants and City Harvest - they couldn't be happier with the turnout. For the attendees, we were treated to some incredible food and drinks and got a chance to meet and/or catch up with fellow food bloggers and friends.

Some of the highlights for me included Marco Canora's tortellini (Insieme), Dan Barber's take on a V-8 (Blue Hill at Stone Barns), ilili's veal breast skewers, Jean George's goat cheese parfait and Hill Country's beef ribs. There were some excellent drinks too - especially the St. Germain (Hi Gerri!) champagne cocktail and an interesting display by Virgin Atlantic, featuring both the business class "beds" and roomy coach seating.

Though there were some great food items, there were also some clunkers. Alto/L'Impero's sardine dish was pretty weak, Butter tried to hard with their lamb chop, Chinatown Brasserie's chef looked like he'd rather be elsewhere, and Michael Lomonaco, who I like on a personal and professional level served a hefty portion of a cold seafood salad...which was fine, but if your restaurant is Porter House and are considered a steakhouse...,

The folks at Devi are remarkably nice, Marcus Samuelson's Merkato looks promising and I tip my hat to Wylie Dufresne for his amusing popcorn soup though confess it wasn't satisfying as a food. Oh, and JGV, dressed in his normal chef's whites looked pretty cool, as usual, sitting in his black Mercedes Gelaendenwagen out front. Good times.