Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hail Hirata

Chef Hirata of Ippudo gets fancy and serves us up his latest off the menu creation! A piece of duck meat, wrapped in shiso leaf drizzled with balsamic vinegar AND a homemade tortilla cracker with cream cheese and fish stomach over the top. Since moving to New York to head up the kitchen at Ippudo, he has been inspired by local western ingredients and tastes and has been playing with mixing them into traditional Japanese recipes. Back in June, he snuck this amazing spicy ramen on the menu with cilantro and came with limes that you squeeze in to cut the heat and it gave it this whole mexican-inspired taste that really worked! It's exciting and can't wait to see what he gets me to try next! He plans to maybe put the duck dish on the menu next month.

Also line ups at Ippudo have now gotten even worse with the cold weather and the average wait time on a weekday night is approximately 2 hours! I recommend coming in 2 hours before your desired dinner time and putting your name down for that time. Then come back for your reservation. They do not take reservation unless its in person and 2 hours ahead on the same day.

65 4 Ave
New York, NY
(212) 388-0088

Pig's Head Anyone?

I was really lucky to get invited to the soft opening of Breslin to sample some of the Brits' favourite foods. The Breslin, which I think is now open to the public is located inside the new Ace Hotel. The chef from the very famous St. Johns in London was there for the opening standing around all proud in his St. John's apron. I was invited by two friends visiting from London that know the food industry. My friend James was there by chance too, so he joined our table and we ended up making friends with our neighbours too and all shared our food. This way we really had a chance to sample everything on the menu, including their famous dish, the pigs head! It was sure a lot of work but tasty enough. We had the marrow and terrine for starters, both fine. For mains we tried the pork belly, halibut and quail dishes. British food in general isn't really my cup of tea but we had a lovely time sampling the menu and enjoying each others company.

The Breslin
20 w. 29th Street (at Broadway)

Dumpling Downer

The Dumpling Festival, that took place last Saturday in the lower east side, was anything but delicious... and a total letdown. For someone who loves dumplings I was really looking forward to the idea of all kinds of dumplings from all over the world. There was really only 6 stands, a Mexican, Chinese, Italian, serving up gnocchi (not sure how that's a dumpling?), Perogi, Filipino and Malaysian. It was really expensive and super commercial. You had to buy food tickets, which were $5 per ticket, and 1 ticket got you a plate from one of the stand. The amount you were given was depending on the stand. In the case of the Malaysian stand, you get 2 of these little dessert dumplings. (pictured here) And the Chinese potstickers came with 4 potstickers and 1 egg roll, neither of which were really good. I thought the frozen gyozas from Trader Joe's taste better! The malaysian one was packaged beautifully, 2 little green triangles, wrapped in a bamboo leaf. You unwrap it to find a soft mochi-like dessert dumpling inside. It was too sweet for the morning but much better than the other food I tried. Although the food was bad, the cause was good! All the proceed go to the New York Food Bank. And all the profit gets matched by this Chef One sponsor, so basically the $10 I spent is $20 that goes to feeding the hungry and homeless. I was surprised how many people turned out despite the rainy weather so hopefully they made a lot of money for the Food Bank.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Brunch I Can Back Up

My friend and I have been on the hunt for now for new brunch spots in the East Village. Our big thing on Saturdays now is to hit up a new brunch spot every week and have a bloody mary with our breakfast before hitting up our french class. It's been great both for doing our homework before class and also getting slightly sauced so that the french starts flowing freely by the time we make it uptown for class!

This week's discover was a great success. I had walked past this spot before thinking that it looked cute but of course completely forgot about it until I found it online after a little digging around. Back Forty is a cute resto on Avenue B, around 13th, so nice and close by. When I walked in at 11:45 it was nice and quiet and waited at the bar. But before I knew it the space started to fill up. The interior is cool, simple and open.. rustic but modern. The bartender was super nice and gave me a breakdown of all the good stuff.. and I of course follows his recommends... I went with the over easy eggs and short rib hash which was awesome! The menu is small and tight and the portions are perfect size. We left feeling good but not stuffed which I love... and of course we left warm and fuzzy from the bloody mary, which by the way, was delicious!

Back Forty
190 Avenue B
New York, NY
(212) 388-1990

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Love With Lucali

I was really excited to finally try Lucali's pizza after hearing that its some of the best pizza in the country. This place is great! It's a super local neighbourhood spot. The owner is young and very handsome and seems to have opened this pizzeria just for his friends in the hood. The locals don't seem to have to wait but everyone else does... an hour to two hours depending on the night! We went a Monday night and still waiting an hour, but it was SO worth it. Great flavour, high quality ingredients and light and crispy crust! I can't wait to go back. It was so cozy and low lit which made it bit hard to take pics.

575 Henry St. (nr. First Pl.)
Brooklyn, NY

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blue Balls

This late night trip to Smith & Mills proved rather interesting. After way too many drinks at another bar in Soho and no food, we decided that we needed a Dark & Stormy at Smith & Mills... and maybe a snack. The Dark & Stormy was good as usual but the dish that showed up was definitely interesting. This plate of cold balls, which I suppose I ordered (although I'm not really sure why) was actually good. It's been a really long time since I had food at Smith & Mills and I had heard mixed reviews about the food there over the last year or so. The photo I discovered on my camera the next morning, along with my killer hangover, was a bit nauseating but i thought it was worth putting up here just for kicks!

Smith & Mills
71 N Moore St
New York, NY
(212) 226-2515

Pink and Perfect

After work, we decided to hit up this local tapas spot for a little sangria and snacks. Boqueria is modern and good looking on the inside. The food, which was decent, is a fusion version of spanish tapas. We shared a few appetisers; potato croquettes, Brussels sprouts and chrorizo, and this cheese and chorizo fondue. The fondue (not pictured here) and Brussels sprouts were hands down the favourites! We also ordered this rice dish, which was basically risotto that had been panfried to give it a crispy layer around it. Although the presentation was beautiful, the taste was not. It was really oily and at the same time really bland. We told our server our thoughts and she seemed at bit embarrassed because she recommended it. Anyway, let's get to the main hero here who was the sangria! It was a rosé sangria, which I had never had before and it was amazing! The secret ingredient was tequila which gave it this nice kick against the fresh fruit in the sangria. Refreshing, pink and perfect, we downed a few pitchers of those and left glowing!

53 W 19th St
New York, NY

Rolled With Love

My girl Sarra has been hosting a few dinner over the past few months. The idea is good friends, good food, and good fun. We gather a few friends together, stay in, save money and enjoy time together over bottles of wine and wonderful homemade food. Sarra, who loves to cook, is half Palestinian and shared her grandmother's recipe with us this week, Stuffed Grape Leaves (Warak enab mehshi). These grapes leaves are very different than the Greek Dolmas and are served as the main dish because they contain meat. They are carefully wrapped by hand (taking up to 2 hours apparently) and filled with ground beef. She also served up labne, hummus, pita and a lovely arabic salad... it was amazing! I've been dreaming of these little rolls for days now.

New York's Best Gets a Big Bad Boo

Stand in line for over an hour to get bad pizza... what a joke! Grimaldi's was more than disappointing. I had been eager try it since I arrived in NY... to do the tourist thing walk over the bridge on a lovely day and enjoy some great New York pizza. I guess it's a good thing you have to wait an hour so at least you are hungry enough to somewhat enjoy the food. This place is claimed by some to be some of the best pizza in New York so I was really suprised to find it so subpar. The pizza was nice and floping enough in the center with decent taste of cheese and tomato but the crust was really dry and thick. I usually don't like wasting food and always eat the crust but this time I couldn't. It wasn't worth putting those eating carbs in my body! Luckily our half bottle of wine helped ease the experience but overall I found it to be annoying, loud and definitely over-rated!

under the brooklyn bridge

Serious Chicken

Our in house chef Philippe has been creating some amazing chicken dishes over the past few months so I wanted to share a few of my favourites. The first is chicken wings that have been marinated in chili and olive oil, giving it a wonderful moist and slightly spicy finish! The second was a mustard rub Cajun style chicken breast that had a surprisingly strong taste. Since I'm not that familiar with Cajun food it's hard to say how dead on he was but it was sure refreshing to get hit with this mad flavour! Both dishes were accompanied by a side of basic pasta (capellini and spaghetti) in tomato and basil sauce. Pure and classic, I like!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

All Four Char 4

I've been trying to start exploring Brooklyn. This whole area is unknown to me so it's exciting to discover and check out all the great restaurants. I had the opportunity to check out Char 4 on Smith St which at first glance seems to be full of great restaurants. We started with the smoked and fried pork nuggets with a nice chili sauce. Then for mains we ordered the BLT and the lamb pastrami sandwich, both were nothing like I expected. The BLT was small in size but packed full of a chunk of pork belly that had been battered and deep fried. Very good and very rich. The lamb pastrami was really interesting, it was basically super thin sliced smoked lamb (almost like prosciutto) with a nice mayo sauce and greens on top. It was served with a thick slice of grilled brown break and you spread the mayo and meat on the bread in a sort of make it yourself kind of way. The space is really beautiful and modern. There's a wonderful backyard terrace, where we sat for dinner, that's all enclosed with lovely simple wood slats all around it to create a very private space. I really want to try the brunch there and the rest of the menu. They specialize in whiskey and bourbon so would love to go back for drinks as well. (Please excuse the low fi photos, very low light situation)

Char No.4
196 Smith St (between Warren St & Baltic St)
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 643-2106

The Chocolate Revolution

This speciality chocolate has nice packaging and tastes pretty great too. I've only tried the one flavour, made with sea salt. The heavily bearded brothers who make this chocolate are based in Brooklyn and handcraft each bar with the upmost care. They are hoping to start a chocolate revolution.

Mast Brothers Chocolate

The New Cool Coffee in Town

The new hot coffee spot, Stumptown, is already the coolest kid on the block. Which isn't hard to do considering it's located in the middle of nowhere, I mean midtown... or curry hill... or Chelsea. Everyone is trying to make this location sounds cooler than it is. But regardless of that the new Ace Hotel, which houses the new coffee house, IS cool. Stumptown, which originates from Portland, is famous! Although it's annoyingly packed full of hipsters and coffee snobs most of the day, the coffee is actually quite good. They make a beautiful and tasty cappucino and the boys are easy on the eyes. The staff is all too cute, dressed in button-down shirts, ties and hats... it's pretty adorable and makes for a lovely morning coffee experience.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters
The Ace Hotel
20 W 29th St
New York, NY 10001
(212) 679-2222

Wicked Wings

This Japanese takeout spot was recommended to me by a friend. And it's exciting because again it's located in the neighbourhood where good food is hard to find. I didn't really do my research before hitting it up so went with what she recommended, the teriyaki chicken box. I walked into this hole in the wall spot and ask the lady working there what the best thing on the menu was and she replied "the wings" of course! This was the first time that I haven't followed the advice of anyone Japanese... big mistake! (NB. You can always trust a Japanese person when they tell you what's best : ) The teriyaki chicken was tasty enough (and sadly I am eating at my desk) but luckily my workmate also got a small order of the wings for us to try and they were AMAZING! They had a strong black pepper taste with a sweet sesame flavour. Once I finished eating, I researched online and found out from all the reviews that this is the place for wings, so I am definitely going back for the wing lunch special! Also you get a free cold tea of your choice (green, jasmine, hochicha, black or oolong) included with the lunch special! .....Itadakimasu!

144 W 19th St (btwn 6th + 7th ave)
New York, NY
(212) 924-3335

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Dear Delmano

Hotel Delmano is still one of my favourite bars, despite the bad luck I seem to always have there. Maybe a ghost that's out to get me haunt's that place. The first time I went there, the ladder behind the bar tried to kill me, somehow falling off its track and landed an inch away from my face. This time the bartender repeatedly spilt drinks all over me. At least we got free drinks out of it! Regardless of my usual mishaps here, I love love this bar. It's so cozy and full of attractive and interesting people. The interior is really beautiful and their cocktail menu is great. I tried two different ones this time, both based on the Old Fashion, with elements of bitters. I've always loved any drink with bitters, guess it feels nostalgic after growing up with campari & soda as an aperitif before dinner. The bartender was surprised by my love of "boy drinks" and actually Josh Hartnett, who happened to sit next to us, decided to order my drink after I recommended it to him. Guess I do drink boy drinks after all ;)

Hotel Delmano
82 Berry Street (& North 9th)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY

The New Truck in Town

After bar hoping around the burg, we were well ready for a little snack. Our friends that live in the neighbourhood told us about this new food truck located nearby so we hit it up. Eurotrash, which is also known as The Swedish Meatball truck, has a vibrant shit mix menu of european favourites, belgium fries, bangers and mash, corn dogs, fish and chips, and of course Swedish meatballs. I'm sure they just buy bulk from IKEA but who cares when it's 3am and you need some gravy and mash to absorb the alcohol.

EuroTrash Vending Truck
106 North 3rd St. (nr. Berry St.)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn