Posts filed under ‘Eatin’ Out of Town’

Eatin’ In Las Vegas 5

In general, as stated before, we believe the food in Las Vegas is fine, but radically overpriced. Because of that, enjoying a meal in “Sin City” is extremely hard. Deep down inside, you know it is too costly and you can’t help but feel as though you’ve been “taken for ride,” much like gambling, so perhaps, it makes sense. Trying to put that aside, Jeff attended an industry event in the city and figured he’d ignore the price tag and try some new spots.

On trips to New York, Jeff grabbed a quick snack at the Bar at NoMad and a full meal at the NoMad Restaurant, so trying the new NoMad Library in Las Vegas seemed obvious. To find a mix with the quiet respite of the NY NoMad and the vibrancy of Las Vegas, the dining room has been placed in a multi-story library, adorned with multi-tier chandeliers. Heavy velvet curtains, like those separating spaces in the New York location, keep the Las Vegas buzz out and insulate the warmly lit dining room.

The food is equally comforting and definitely worth the visit. The Hamachi appetizer was served with beets, raw and pickled and was a colorful and appealing presentation. The Scallop entrée featured perfectly seared discs, served over a carrot puree base with whipped spring peas. The combination of the seafood, peas and spicy carrots was excellent. Dessert was a touch confusing. Coffee or Chocolate are the choices, so Jeff wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The “Chocolate” he selected was an excellent deconstructed cake-malt combo. Combined with a nice Port Wine and this was his favorite meal…on the strip.

Off the strip, about a $10 Uber ride away is Partage. This is not the kind of place you’d expect in the desert. A multi-course, French restaurant with an amazing wine list was a treat to find. Patrons have just a few choices before they can sit back and enjoy the parade of food. 5-courses? 7? 9? Want wine with that? They have a few additions, too. The meu changes regularly, so the things Jeff enjoyed are likely to disappear quickly. Rather than concentrate on what Partage has, approach them with open arms and an adventurous palette. There are smart, talented people in the kitchen, trust them and enjoy some of the most amazing food you’re likely to have in Las Vegas and probably in may other spots in America. It’s that good.

If NoMad is subtle, then Vanderpump à Paris is the polar opposite. This is decadence squared. The décor is over the top, the menu itself is memorable and the food is pretty good, too. Lots of dishes are oversized, so consider sharing. Jeff was by himself, so he selected the Crab Croquettes appetizer and the Coq au Vin Pot Pie entrée. The pot pie was very good, full of nice chicken pieces and lots of extras. The pile of Crème Brûlée Beignet served as dessert AND a nice breakfast treat the next morning. A visit to Vanderpump is a must, even if just for a drink. It is a microcosm of Las Vegas, wrapped in a compact restaurant.

Yardbird is the kind of place that demands a posse. The plates are large and beg to be shared. The atmosphere demands a communal outburst. Not the right spot for a single diner, but an excellent server helped Jeff select some good, smaller options. The fried chicken, the house specialty, was excellent, as were the Deviled Eggs. The fried Brussels Sprouts we ok. Next time Jeff is in Las Vegas with a group, this is the place he’s going!

Because of a late flight, Jeff did not eat. After checking in, he had just enough time to grab a bar seat at his fallback Vegas spot, Mon Ami Gabi. A quick Steak Frite with Béarnaise and a glass of Beaujolais and he was ready for the week.

Las Vegas is many things to many people. It can serve conference attendees, bachelorettes, gamblers and even a few foodies. Some would say they do a great job with all, other might argue that the city does nothing other than grab your money. We fall somewhere in the middle. We don’t gamble, we’re already married, we’re not really crazy about the Las Vegas Convention Center and the food is “pretty good.” Should you plan a trip to Las Vegas specifically for the food? Not unless you have unlimited funds. Can you get a decent meal while there? Yes. Start with this list and the other spots mentioned in pervious posts.

https://www.thenomadhotel.com/las-vegas/dining/ https://nomadlasvegas.mgmresorts.com/en/restaurants/nomad-library.html Park MGM 3772 South Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas, NV 89109 833-706-6623

https://partage.vegas/ 3839 Spring Mountain Road Las Vegas, NV 89102 702-582-5852

https://www.caesars.com/paris-las-vegas/restaurants/vanderpump-a-paris Paris Las Vegas 3655 South Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas, NV 89109 402-946-4217

https://www.runchickenrun.com/las-vegas/ The Venetian 3355 South Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas, NV 89109 702-297-6541

https://www.monamigabi.com/las-vegas/ Paris Las Vegas 3655 South Las Vegas Boulevard Las Vegas, NV 89109 702-944-4224

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August 1, 2022 at 9:36 PM Leave a comment

Eatin’ In New York 11

Jeff was back in New York with a packed list of new places to try. Of course, there was work to do, museums to visit and theater to see, but he had to eat!

During his last visit, he could not secure a seat at Ernesto’s. It was almost as difficult this time, but there was ONE seat left in his four-day visit and he grabbed it. It was definitely worth the effort. This was a remarkable meal. Ernesto’s is a Basque restaurant. He’s been to other places that serve food from the Basque region of Spain, Txikito in town and Cooks and Solders in Atlanta. The food is universally great and their version may be the best he’s had.

Ernesto’s Bikini Hemmingway

The Bikini Hemmingway were amazing pockets of shrimp, paprika-laden pork sausage and cheese on crunchy triangles. The entrée was Blood Sausage with Sepia (a type of cuttlefish) in a pool broth with peas, fava beans and mint. Forget the fork and grab the spoon to fully enjoy all this dish has to offer. A creamy pudding with pistachios completed a perfect meal.

Ernesto’s – Blood Sausage and Sepia

There have been some interesting articles about Ernesto’s in the press lately. (You may have heard about the very tough varietal of steak they occasionally offer.) None were defamatory, but some people might get the wrong perception. Don’t let that sway you. This place is worth the visit.

Running a close second (and the two spots have flopped favor multiple times!) is Kimika. Their Tuna Tartare was really special. The plate arrived with ingredients segregated, tuna, roe, pickled cucumbers, onions, etc. Jeff was instructed to mix them all together and use the accompanying Nori Sheets to eat it. The fishy, crunchy, salty and creamy combo was simply an amazing culinary experience. He couldn’t wait for the entrée. A Crispy Rice Cake Lasagna used gnocchi-sized rice cakes combined with sausage in a spicy tomato-based sauce. A small amount of cheese accented rather than blanketed the flavor. He can still taste it! The excitement did not stop at the dessert. A seemingly innocent “soft-serve” was mixed with rhubarb, a strawberry gel and topped with crispy chicken skins! Very memorable and a meal he has recounted multiple times since.

Kimika – Tuna Tartare
Kimika – Crispy Rice Cake Lasagna
Kimika – Soft Serve dessert with Crispy Chicken Skins

The Commerce Inn has completely reconsidered food. Rather than the over-the-top extravagance, this place has decided to pare down the dishes to their simplest form. Welsh Rarebit is just toast, cheddar and Worchester. Deep-fried Soft-Shell Crab, spoke loudly with only a minimal prep and a very basic rhubarb tartlet could never be described as “over the top”. These simply prepared dishes allowed you to fully appreciate the flavor of each individual ingredients. With the stark Quaker surroundings, you might not think you are in the middle of New York City. This place allows you to settle back, relax and appreciate subtlety.

The Commerce Inn – Soft Shell Crab
The Commerce Inn – Rubarb Tartlet

After a Sunday evening show, Jeff needed a spot opened late. He found Sweetbriar matched up with his need for good food and later hours. Lettuce Velouté? Really? Could lettuce deliver that much flavor? Indeed. The scent when the bowl arrived was amazing! You simply wouldn’t expect it. The added Crème Fraiche delivered just the tart profile needed. An entrée of Chicken and Clams sounded as unusual as lettuce soup. The airline breast was glazed and served with spinach and a citrus mix. The clams added yet another flavor. The combo was perfect. A decadent chocolate tart was wrapped in a chocolate glaze. Combined with a wonderful glass of port, it could not have been a better way to end the meal and the trip. Jeff was headed back home in twelve hours.

Sweetbriar – Lettuce Veloute
Sweetbriar – Chicken & Clams
Sweetbriar – Chocolate Tart

New York always has something exciting to offer. Basque food? A mash-up of Japanese and Italian? Quaker dining? Where else can you get this? As always, he’s look forward to the next visit!

https://www.ernestosnyc.com/ 259 East Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10002 646-692-8300

https://www.kimikanyc.com/ 40 Kenmare Street New York, NY 10012 212-256-9280

https://www.thecommerceinn.com/ 50 Commerce Street New York, NY 10014

https://www.sweetbriarnyc.com/ 127 E27th Street New York, NY 10016 212-204-0225

July 3, 2022 at 12:15 PM 1 comment

Eatin’ in New York 10

It has been a long time coming. Jeff had planned a trip to New York in the spring of 2020, but we all know why that didn’t occur! Eighteen months later, he was back in town…TWICE! Of course, the intent was work, but evenings, as usual are spent in the theater and in restaurants. Visiting both was surely different. Spots in the city ALL checked vaccine cards and identification. Masks were expected as well. New York is substantially different from Ohio, but once inside, there was a lot of comfort knowing everyone else was doing all they could to prevent the transmission of disease. That made exploring new spots very easy and he sure found a great new collection to recommend.

Top of the list, this trip and even when compared with some favorites from the past trips to New York, was Vestry. The room had a kinky, casual vibe. The food was unmistakably the best of the trip and Jeff can’t remember having a better time eating. Everything was perfect. It started with the flavored butter (perhaps uni?) and house baked sourdough and moved into a magnificent Maitaki Mushroom that was presented in flat, fanned out from the center of the plate. Dandelions decorated the top along with a drizzle of sauce that contained some citrus, perhaps horseradish aioli. It was a perfect starter.

The main-dish was even better. Cod was sitting in a bath of luscious cream sauce with a dollop of spaghetti squash on top. The cod was perfect, compelling him to use a spoon to scoop up a nice amount of sauce with the fish. This was one of those heavenly meals that you try to prolong for as long as possible. It was accompanied by a whipped squash that was so light, it felt like eating air.

The dessert was equally stunning. Tapioca was layered on the bottom and topped with a huckleberry gelatin. Fresh huckleberry was the crown. As a “thank you” finale, a candied, frozen cherry was presented in a stone container. There was not an element out of step here. This was a flawless meal and a flawless evening.

Rezdôra is a slender little basement spot with a buzz that has transcended the pandemic. Reservations are difficult, so bar seating is at a premium. Jeff arrived at opening to find a line already forming. The benefit of being alone placed him at the bar pretty quickly, all set to enjoy some amazing Italian cuisine. Rezdôra specializes in pasta, but the Gnocco Fritto was what he’ll remember most. These fluffy puffs of pastry/bread arrived inflated by the warm air inside. Each was stuffed with a different meat, one with prosciutto, anther capicola and the third with mortadella. While they looked huge, they melted in your mouth. What a treat. Jeff tried the “grandma walking through the forest near Emilia” pasta. (Yes, that is the name of the dish!) It is a green cappelletti stuffed with a creamy black mushroom filling and topped with roasted and fresh leeks. Each bite was heavenly. The Apple, Date and Caramel Torte was a perfect finish. Portions are not crazy-big, perfectly sized for a typical eater. The amuse bouche, tidbit-sized éclair with whipped spinach and dried spinach and the “exit sweet” a dot of dense dark chocolate exemplify their dining philosophy. Leave well, fed, but never overstuffed. If only all restaurants would do the same!

Jeff thought he was in for another mind-blowing dining experience when the appetizer at Benno arrived. It was flawless. The Rabbit Confit was beautiful to look at and equally delicious. The terrine was topped with red and white endive with a smattering of roasted almonds. This exciting combination of textures, flavor and color was unforgettable. The Monk Fish entrée was good, but he was sure expecting a bit more after the appetizer. The secret of this dish was to scoop up the red wine sauce, fish and braised greens all in once bite. The combination made it substantially more interesting. Having sunchoke as a side was also a nice surprise. The Gateau de Noisette dessert was OK, but in the first bite, Jeff hit a stale nut. All other nuts were fine, but the sour taste stayed in his mouth. While good, Benno needs to pay a touch more attention to details. The restaurant is priced to expect a higher level than delivered. One detail they have down pat is the host staff. Each of the people were real pros and exactly what is needed to welcome guests.

Jeff had only an hour between the end of work and ticket time at the theater. He decided to hit the basement of Hudson Yard and try Mercado Little Spain. This is a wonderful, if somewhat confusing adventure in Spanish cuisine. There are a variety of eateries within the space and a central area where most food can be sampled. One spot focuses on tapas (La Barra) another fire-roasted foods (Leña) and Spanish Diner is an open air spot. Honestly, he has no clue where he ate! Nonetheless, the food was very good. He sampled a bunch of different small plates, an Iberco version of salume, roasted potatoes with tomato and aioli, and my favorite, Pork and Cuttlefish. This is place that deserves another visit. Because of its proximity to the Javits Center, it is likely Jeff will be here again.

Jeff had two additional spots he tried to visit, Cadence and Ernestos. Cadence is a vegetarian soul food spot in the East Village and because they provide incorrect open hours on all of their media, He arrived before dinner hour. He missed Ernesto’s for the opposite reason. They open at 5:00PM and ALL of the bar seats and reservations were taken by 5:09! This place will surely be on the list for the next visit.

To take their place, Jeff ended up returning to some old favorites for a quick meal before and after the theater. A quick bowl of coconut milk soup at (The Mercer) Kitchen, Tempura Shrimp at Lure Fishbar and Orecchiette Alla Bari Vecchia (Broccoli Rabe & Sausage) at La Masseria. They are favorites for a reason! While Jeff likes to try new spots, it is always good to check in to old spots.

It was so nice to return to New York. With the exception of constantly showing COVID information and identification to enter anywhere, it was almost like old times. Let’s hope that stays the case.

https://www.vestrynyc.com/ 246 Spring Street New York, NY 10013 212-784-1350

https://www.rezdora.nyc/ 27 E 20th Street New York, NY 10003 646-692-9090

https://www.bennorestaurant.com/ 7 E 27th Street New York, NY 10016 212-451-9557

https://www.littlespain.com/ 10 Hudson Yard New York, NY 10001 646-495-1242

https://www.overthrowhospitality.com/venues/cadence 122 E 7th Street New York, NY 10009 833-328-4588

http://www.ernestosnyc.com/ 259 East Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10002 646-692-8300

https://www.themercerkitchen.com/ 99 Prince Street New York, NY 10012 212-966-5454

https://www.lurefishbar.com/ 142 Mercer Street New York, NY 10012 212-431-7676

https://lamasserianyc.com/ 235 W 48th Street New York, NY 10036 212-582-2111

December 30, 2021 at 9:50 PM 1 comment

Eatin’ in New York 9

Every year, typically in the spring, Jeff works in New York for a number days. Days are filled with exploring the city, chatting with design professionals and trying to understand where the trends surrounding home interiors will go and have gone. Miles, literally are walked. Then the conference closes, the galleries shutter and the stores end their business day. At that point, Jeff is off the clock, the night belongs to food and theater. Among his many passions, Jeff loves the theater and of course, food is crucial to a viable life. Over the years, Jeff and often Michele, when she decides to join him in New York have seen over sixty shows on Broadway. Before or after dinner is equally important and just as vigilantly planned, depending on the work, the length of the show and the hours of the restaurant. This year was no different.

Typically, each visit to the restaurants of New York provide one clinker, a place that simply does not live up to expectations. That spot was missing this year. It was replaced with a quintet of very, very good spots, none of which aspire to long-lasting memorability. That does not mean I did not enjoy each bite and each visit. They simply weren’t Estela, Don Angie or Hearth. Regardless, good food was served and consumed. First among equals, was Frenchette.

When I walked into Frenchette, I assumed this was a great old, lower-Manhattan tavern. The blonde wood bar and architectural trim, reminiscent of a city that disappeared fifty years ago. What a great find, I thought. Keep these fine old bones and add some contemporary elements. After a chat with the bar attendant, I learned everything, blonde wood included was newly installed. The Sinatra era I was embracing was all faux. As unexpected as the building, was the Brouillade appetizer. Scrambled eggs with escargot. Sort of like polenta, but nothing like polenta. Perhaps the most unique thing Jeff ate in New York this year. Ris de Veau and Sweetbreads in a very 50’s decadent way filled his entrée plate and the ambience of this criminally retro spot. Even the Passion Fruit dessert reminded you of Dinah Washington with a spot of Janelle Monae. Frenchette is indeed unique.

Almost as interesting was the Afro-driven, Henry at Life. The spices and tastes of the African continent have gone almost undetected and undiscovered in North America. Henry hopes to eliminate that problem from our American lexicon. With more spice, more push and more, more, Henry gives us a peek into the cuisine of the most foreign of cultures. Nutty tuna tartare, Yassa Mushroom with the addition of pork, sweet potato pie with dark underlay all tell you the Chef is driving you to new, yet unexplored territories of your tongue. Buckling his seatbelt, Jeff was a willing traveler and he enjoyed the ride. [Shortly before this post, it was announced that Henry has permanently closed.]

You simply cannot acquire reservations for Via Carota. They do not accept them. A quick search of Yelp and you will see that a 30 minute promise of a table turns into a two-hour reality. Because of Jeff’s schedule, he found himself ready for a late lunch/early dinner and in the vicinity of Via Carota. One remaining seat at the bar and he was in! A shaved Fennel salad? Yes, please! Especially with the hidden stack of olives buried under the mound of greens! Fried Rabbit? Again, yes, please! An overlay of rosemary and this alternate white meat was the star. Olive oil panna cotta? Yes! (of course) please! And could it have been better? Unlikely. Is there a reason Via Carota is a hot seat in New York? With food those good, the question should be, why more people are not lining up?

Jeff’s sister was in town, visiting her daughter. Jeff usually spends an evening at the theater with his niece, but this year was able to enjoy the theater and a restaurant with both. “What the Constitution Means To Me” provided loads of post theater conversation and a wonderful baseline for dinner at Alta. Alta is a Mediterranean small-plate, spot best represented by their Paella and Duck Confit. Less successful was the Hen in the Woods mushrooms. Regardless, the spot is warm and inviting. It is worth noting they have an arcane cash or Amex policy of payment. Not sure why the other credits cards are excluded, but you should be aware. Jeff, his sister and niece went elsewhere for dessert and more drinks and more talk.

The only possible fence-sitter of the trip was The NoMad. This option was not based on product, but instead price. The food at NoMad was great, but the price was a touch overstated. The price was offset by more than typical “extras.” A mid-course Coddled Egg was amazing. House-made Focaccia could have been a meal. This should not be construed to mean the meals were less-than. The Snow Pea salad was different and good and the Cod was perfect, but everything was $5 to $10 higher than most spots in town serving similar quality food. A few years ago, Jeff grabbed a quick lunch at the NoMad Bar. Hidden behind the restaurant, it was a real treat and more than fairly priced. A little price adjustment on the part of management here and this would be a much easier recommendation.

This year, Jeff was blown away by the eventual Tony Award winning new musical, “Haddestown.” He was equally mesmerized by the ultra-dark version of Oscar & Hammerstein’s, “Oklahoma.” The new restaurants he sampled this year were just a bit less memorable, but it is important to remember, like a Broadway show, this is New York. To be a great show or deliver great food in New York, the product is already at a superior level. Expectations are raised, too. Occasionally, you get Empellon and “The Band’s Visit.” Is “Tootsie” and NoMad really something to complain about? Of course not, but better is always a goal.

https://www.estelanyc.com/ 47 E Houston Street New York, NY 10012 212-219-7693

https://www.donangie.com/ 103 Greenwich Avenue New York, NY 10014 212-889-8884

https://www.restauranthearth.com/ 403 E 12th Street New York, NY 10009 646-602-1300

https://www.frenchettenyc.com/ 241 West Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10013 212-334-3883

http://www.viacarota.com/ 51 Grove Street New York, NY 10014 212-555-1962

http://www.altarestaurant.com/welcome 64 West 10th Street New York, NY 10011 212-505-7777

https://www.thenomadhotel.com/new-york/dining 1170 Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10001 212-796-1500

https://www.empellon.com/ 510 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10022 212-858-9365

August 30, 2019 at 8:37 AM Leave a comment

Eatin’ in New Orleans 5

Breakfast of Champions! Café au Lait and Beignets at Café du Monde.

This was a quicker than normal trip to New Orleans We arrived late on the first day and departed early on the fourth. This left us just enough time to catch a quick late-night snack at Kingfish, a place where we have twice had only a snack, but never sat down for a “bread to dessert” meal and we should. It has always been good. We also indulged twice at Café du Monde for our beloved beignet and chicory-infused Café au Lait before Jeff started work. Michele also snagged a solo lunch while Jeff worked one day. That left us with only two complete dinners at two new, never sampled places. We are happy to report that New Orleans food is alive and still able to surprise!

Snapper Escovich at Compere Lapin

Curried Goat with Gnocchi at Compere Lapin

The last time we were in New Orleans, we were blown away by Sac-a-Lait. It was our unquestionable favorite and we have been evangelizing on their behalf since. Our new religion is Compère Lapin. “Brother Rabbit” (in French) is run by a Chef from St. Lucia and she has combined the flavors of the Caribbean with the excitement of New Orleans cooking. It is a match made in heaven. We knew it would be good upon delivery of the biscuits. Warm, light and fluffy, they were served with two types of flavored butters, apparently different each day. We shared the Conch Fritters appetizer, but unlike the quiet versions typically served, these had a fiery snap that was cooled by the Remoulade dipping sauce. The Cobia appetizer reminded Jeff of crudo, this one prepared with passion fruit and grapefruit acids and of course, the perfect amount of spice. If you are in a restaurant run by someone who hails from the Islands, you must have goat. The Curried Goat was flawless. The sweet potato gnocchi that accompanied it was inspired and we believe helps to understand the level of sophistication you’ll find here. It also fully defines the Chef multifaceted culinary life that runs from the Caribbean, to French cooking school, into work at an Italian restaurant, culminating in the unique food of New Orleans. Michele normally does not eat Snapper, but the Escovitch version they offered was too tantalizing to pass-up. Escovitch could be described as a warm version of ceviche, where vinegar and spices are added to the fried preparation of fish. Served with a Beurre Blanc sauce, it was heaven on a plate. The Banana Zeppole was like a beignet stuffed with Nutella and served with a caramel-rum dipping sauce. From the factory chic interior to the energetic servers and especially to the food, Compère Lapin should be the place you visit on your next trip to NOLA.

Michele did not have an appetizer at Compère Lapin because she snuck away for a quick lunch at Muriel’s. Tucked into the northeast corner of Jackson Square, Muriel’s is a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of touristy New Orleans. We often stop here, if for nothing other than a cold Abita beer at the bar tuck WAY in the back corner. A quick bowl of Seafood Gumbo and a few minutes off her feet and Michele was ready to conquer the city again.

Our final new adventure for this trip was Coquette. Located west of the French Quarter along trendy Magazine Street, this is spot that has taken the wonder of area cooking and combined it with classic French cooking sensibilities. The result is fabulous food. To start, we had the massive Gulf Shrimp served on a bed of horseradish-based remoulade. Michele has been spoiled by New Orleans gulf shrimp, almost since our first trip and this is the reason. They taste like no other, even with this ultra-simple preparation. Likewise, she could not say enough about her Gulf Seafood Stew. When you are that close to fresh seafood, it is almost impossible to mess-up. Combine that with Chorizo and okra and you’ve got a real winner. Jeff could not believe the tenderness he found in the Smoked Short Ribs. It was also full of flavor, but the green mole added an extra element that mixed so well with the beef. The crispy rice upped the meal with extra texture and the pumpkin seeds scattered across the top finished it nicely. Basil semifreddo? What an inventive and refreshing finish. Coquette is a small place, but with food this good, it packs a big punch.

A lot has changed in New Orleans since our first visit in 1990, but the one thing that remains the same is the quality and uniqueness of the food. There is a New Orleans flavor that is unmistakable and indicative of the area. For that reason, we expect to return for at least the next twenty-five years!

https://kingfishneworleans.com/ 337 Chartres Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-598-5005

http://www.cafedumonde.com/ 800 Decatur Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-525-4544

http://www.sac-a-laitrestaurant.com/ 1051 Annunciation Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-324-3658

http://comperelapin.com/ 535 Tchoupitoulas Street (at the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery) New Orleans, LA 70130 504-599-2119

http://muriels.com/ 801 Chartres Street New Orleans, LA 70116 504-568-1885

https://www.coquettenola.com/ 2800 Magazine Street New Orleans, LA 70115 504-265-0421

October 7, 2018 at 7:35 PM Leave a comment

Eatin’ in New York 8

Another year, another set of trips to New York for Jeff. As with almost every trip to New York, he found some great new places and unfortunately experienced a major disappointment. Because the highs completely outshined the lows, it was a net positive.

Determining his favorite new place has become more and more difficult as time proceeds, but after continual internal arguments, the edge must be given to Don Angie. Honestly, it could because Jeff shared a dinner with his niece and they decided to split almost everything, so he was able to sample a very large portion of the menu. It could also be much simpler, the food was just damn good. They split two salads, one better than the next. The Chrysanthemum Salad was sharp, like a dandelion, but could as easily have been due to the garlic. The parmesan quietly tempered the hard edges. Similarly edgy, the Chicory, Pistachio Freekea Salad was an amazing combination. Chicory was all over New York this season (read on!) probably because of its tangy-peppery flavor. In this combo, the freekea (a grain that feels like a mash-up of bulgur, rice and couscous) became the settling agent. Course Two, the Garganelli Giganti. First, smash a giant meatball and cover it with a sheet of pasta. Dress it with bits of Guanciale and try to stop eating! Yikes was this good! Jeff loves Octopus in New York and their Octopus Puttanesca drops you in the Mediterranean with some tomatoes and croutons. Was it better than the Veal Da Pepi? Opinions changed with each mouthful. The veal delivered elements of salt and tart. Thin slices of Speck (a lighter version of Prosciutto) and mustard seeds heaped on the flavor. Could the dessert maintain this pace? Black Cocoa Tiramisu is all that you need to say! Imagine a traditional version of tiramisu with cocoa ladyfingers. Take all of this and combine it with a stellar staff and it is easy to understand why Don Angie is the place Jeff will recommend to anyone traveling to New York.

So close. So very close. Empellon is, without question the runner-up favorite restaurant for this trip. The reason it is not first is probably because of the Octopus Taco. Because Jeff has elevated New York Octopus to god-like status, he is VERY critical. The Don Angie octopus was perfect. The Empellon taco was good, but the taco accessories dominated the fragile flavor of the grilled octopus. The salsa was perhaps too fiery. The cilantro was too aggressive. For whatever reason, it just did not measure up. Nothing else Jeff sampled fell from grace and he would not hesitate a recommendation under any circumstances, if for no other reason than the Sticky Rice Tamal. The leaf-wrapped rice was opened at the table and the waiter dropped a spunky Red Chili Duck ragu over the top. To make it last, smaller and smaller bites are consumed. Eventually, it is gone and you ask yourself, “Would I be considered a glutton if I ordered another?” No need. The roasted Prawn is coming. Ordered individually, Jeff had but one and secretly wished more were requested. In this instance, the core protein was the star. A simple garlic-chili paste dressed the flawlessly prepared crustacean. It was perfect. After the dessert arrived, Jeff chatted with the waiter. The Avocado Mousse he ordered was apparently the most Instagram-reported dish in New York and for good reason. Today, days after the visit, he still talks about this dessert. Visually, upon delivery to the table, the dessert looks absolutely like a sliced half of an avocado. What did I order? A dip into the piece and you realize, you’re not in Kansas any longer! The avocado meat has been blended with Greek yogurt and re-molded into the shape of a half-avocado. That half has been placed onto a bed of shaved lime-flavored ice meant to resemble snow. Trompe l’oeil desserts? Only in New York!

What place is next in the ranking? Picking three and four is almost as difficult as one verse two. Honestly, L’Artusi and Loring Place are not only close alphabetically, but delivery as well. Jeff learned of L’Artusi while dining at King (below) While discussing restaurant he liked in New York with a restaurant publicist at the next bar stool, she told him to check out L’Artusi. She also warned him to keep the recommendation quiet. It was becoming increasingly difficult to secure a reservation there and the more people knew about it, it would be harder and harder in the future. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the cat is out of the bag. Reservations at L’Artusi are damn near impossible. They do, however have bar seating and Jeff snagged a seat, without waiting, moments after stepping into the door. (He is alone, so one seat is almost always easy!) It was worth the uncertainty. He had a fabulous meal there! It started with a flavorful amuse bouche of Butternut Squash soup. As indicated earlier, Chicory Salads are emerging as a “thing” in New York and Jeff loves the biting flavor, tempered by the finely grated Pecorino and this time a very complimentary anchovy dressing. He ordered the Tagliatelle with White Ragu and was treated to a Kale stuffed Ravioli, complements of the Chef. Both of the pastas could not have been better and it sure was nice to try two. Dessert was a Strawberry Crostata and it completed a beautiful meal at a hot spot. Shhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone about L’Artusi!

Loring Place could be the quintessential urban renewal project. The inside is fully modernized and frankly, just beautiful. From the street, you’d almost never know what was waiting for you inside. Like L’Artusi, this place has a buzz and without reservations, Jeff nabbed a bar seat for an early Sunday dinner. Many people were meeting others and the bar was a parade of people looking for other people. In the middle of the hubbub, Jeff enjoyed a tempura battered Crispy Cauliflower served with a lemon curd jam. The lemon added that little extra needed to spark up the vegetable. Bowtie Pasta was served with Shrimp. What made this interesting was the addition of heat. The butter sauce tempered the heat and what could have been plain, turned out to be anything but! Can you imagine a “light” Bread Pudding? The dessert was Grapefruit Bread Pudding and it was a nice light way to end a nice meal in a light and airy space.

Jeff needed a quick midday snack and the Nomad Bar at the Nomad Hotel was the answer. A cold cup of Pea Soup and a grilled Prosciutto and Gruyere sandwich and he was on his way. This place is hidden away in the back of the first floor, but plenty of folks found it for after-work drinks. We’ve heard good things about their dining room and look forward to trying this on another visit.

There are some mixed feelings about King, a hopping little spot in Greenwich Village. Not because of the menu or the creativity, but because of the raw material. Jeff had a huge Pork Chop that was flavorful and interesting, but the cut was less than stellar, thereby delivering more grain and grizzle than should have been. With a better piece of meat, this would have been a much better dinner, especially since the red wine cabbage and bean side was very interesting. The Gnudi appetizer was however, flawless. They were “melt in your mouth” delicious with shaved Spinach and Parmesan. He can still taste them! There are lots of great places to eat in this area of New York. With a touch more attention to raw ingredients, this could be a standout.

It seems, each trip to New York has to have one disappointment. We have never been to Balthazar. Over the years, it has counted up scores of accolades, so it must be good, right? Perhaps, not. Perhaps, it was a bad day. Maybe they are simple overextended. Jeff thought he was off to a good start. The Onion and Goat Cheese Tart was light and quite delicious, the side scoop of tapenade lending the right amount of tartness to combat the richness of the cheese and pastry. The Lamb Pappardelle was unfortunately a disappointment. It appeared hurriedly put together and the lamb was filled with fat and grizzle. A quick look at this place and it is easy to understand how something like this happens. Balthazar is a large place, tables are crushed together and scores of people are running around seating, serving, busing and cleaning. With a dining room that looks like this, you know the kitchen is likewise hectic. If the prices were more in line with this type of fast-food atmosphere, some of these flaws could be excused, but this might have been one of Jeff’s pricier dinners. With that, it is inexcusable. As can be said about New York dining time and again, if you can’t execute, someone else can and will. There are plenty of places in SOHO and the Lower Eastside. Don’t waste your time here.

If we’re in New York and we’re not at the theater, than we’re eating. If Jeff is not working, than he is likewise eating or at the theater or an art gallery. Life can be very simple here. Choices can however be VERY hard with so many great options. Securing reservation can also be a challenge (he is on two years trying to get into one restaurant!) If you’re planning on leaving Cleveland for a trip to the Big Apple, then remember to plan ahead, or allow yourself some adventure time and explore the bar-seating option. Either way, you’re sure to get some good food.

https://www.donangie.com/ 103 Greenwich Avenue New York, NY 10014 212-889-8884

https://www.empellon.com/ 510 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10022 211-858-9365

https://www.lartusi.com/ 228 W 10th Street New York, NY 10014 212-255-5757

https://www.loringplacenyc.com/ 21 W 8th Street New York, NY 10011 212-388-1831

https://www.thenomadhotel.com/new-york/dining/spaces/the-nomad-bar 1170 Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10001 212-796-1500

http://kingrestaurant.nyc/ 18 King Street New York, NY 10014 917-825-1618

https://balthazarny.com/ 80 Spring Street New York, NY 10012 212-965-1414

June 9, 2018 at 9:51 PM Leave a comment

Eatin’ In LA 4

There are a lot of things to dislike about Los Angeles dining. Traffic can be unbearable arriving there. Restaurant hostesses can be unsmiling mannequins you know are waiting for the Hollywood “big break” that will never arrive. Good restaurants are densely packed, almost beyond capacity. Despite all these negatives, when a stunning meal arrives, everything else disappears. During this trip to Los Angeles, Jeff was able to visit three new places and revisit an old favorite. While none were as good as his favorite LA spot, Animal; it was a good trip.

Without question, the best place on this visit was Gjelina. Located on the electric Abbot-Kinney, there is an energy in this place that adds to the vibe and charm. Jeff grabbed a friend who enjoys a wide variety of different foods and they set about sampling the menu. They started with the Wood Roasted Pears salad. The roasting added an unusual flavor to the pear. Once combined with the creamy Burrata cheese and salty Prosciutto, the flavor told us, we weren’t in Kansas any longer! Without asking, the fine server paired our selected vegetables and proteins into two mini-courses. The Tiger Prawns and Grits were served with Crispy Sunchokes. The prawns were delightful and it was nice to have the sunchoke, usually a supporting player on a plate, stand on its own. Neither Jeff nor his guest had had Turnips for a long time. Gjelina roasted them and served them with chimichurri. Combined with the wonderful Lamb Sausage, this was another winning duo. A touch of Butterscotch Pot de Crème and a perfect dinner was only made better with delightful conversation.

Almost as good was Rustic Canyon. After a day of work, Jeff asked a coworker to join him. It was later, so again, the place was packed and full of energy. Surprisingly, another Pear Salad jumped off the menu and onto a shared plate. This time mixed with jicama, endive, Bleu cheese and (wait for it) sunchokes! It was like kismet and it was wonderful. Jeff ordered the Pork Chop, designed for sharing, but just the right size for the only meal of the day. His guest fully enjoyed the Rockfish. For dessert, Jeff could not resist the Pavlova. A frail shell of merengue covered with a fruit mix of raspberries, pomegranate and white chocolate. It was a beautiful end to a very enjoyable evening.

Falling a touch under the wire was Petit Trois. Perhaps one of the most in-demand tables in Los Angeles is Trois Mec. Tickets are sold in advance and dinner takes place next door to Petit Trois in an old pizza parlor where the signage has not yet been altered. So popular, the owners decided to open a “no reservation” sliver of a dining room next door. Jeff arrived there around 4:00 after a day of checking out the art, culture and Frank Lloyd Wright aspects of LA and it was half-full. He grabbed a spot at the counter bar and started to eat. The Endive Salad was a delight. Mixed with walnuts, avocado, anchovy and Ubriaco cheese, this was a great salad. Based on this excellent primer, expectations were high. Unfortunately, that hope diminished once the entrée arrived. The Chicken Confit was VERY salty. The meal breading (corn?) fell off the meat and had an odd grainy texture. The meat was tender, but these failed elements were simply not in concert with a level of expectation Jeff had anticipated. The Flan Cake was perhaps the final blow. Good, but just not at a level of quality one would expect. Petit Trois, not linked with the buzz-about Trois Mec would likely be a has-been in the LA dining scene. Connected with this familiar pedigree, it attracts a legion of food-hungry people, like Jeff. Too bad. Taste buds could have been better spent elsewhere.

Before leaving, Jeff wanted to try another visit to an old favorite, Bäco Mercat. As before, everything was great. Haricot Vert was good, the Pork was better and the upside down cake was maybe best. As before, this place does not disappoint.

LA is many things. Trends begin their buzz here and Hollywood has invented hype and un-realized promise. Restaurants in LA receive an inordinate amount of attention, some deserving, but most the result of hype and buzz. It takes work to sort them out, when you can, it is worth it!

http://www.animalrestaurant.com/ 435 N Fairfax Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90036 323-782-9225

http://www.gjelina.com/ 1429 Abbot Kinney Boulevard Venice, CA 90291 310-450-1429

http://rusticcanyonwinebar.com/ 1119 Wilshire Boulevard Santa Monica, CA 90401 310-393-7050

http://petittrois.com/ 718 W. Highland Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90038 332-468-8916

http://www.bacomercat.com/ 408 S Main Street Los Angeles, CA 90013 213-687-8808

November 11, 2017 at 10:23 PM Leave a comment

Eatin’ in New York 7

Every year, Jeff must travel to New York (sometimes Michele joins him, but not this year) While he must work, he also has the opportunity to try a sampling of restaurants. Great things can come as a byproduct of necessity! This year, Jeff sampled a wide collection of interesting places, many that deserve recommending and one that deserves caution.

Without question and without reservation, Jeff’s favorite this trip is the new place Le Coq Rico. Le Coq Rico is a poultry-centric place that works to understand the flavors of each breed and capitalize on that individuality. While other restaurants may treat their chicken option as a “back-up” or an afterthought, Le Coq Rico forces you to pay attention to the chicken and respect it as a viable option and an integral element of haute cuisine. There is no question the lowly chicken has been elevated to superstar status here. Specific breeds are defined and quantified with flavor elements and culinary highpoints. Various locations and farming techniques are explored, as they relate to the bird. These are serious practitioners in a very narrow culinary band width.

Jeff and his dining companion started with the Terrine En Croute of Duck Foie Gras. This was lovely, rich, dense and flavorful liver wrapped in the lightest of pastry. What a nice combination! Unbelievably memorable. The entrée was a Chicken Pot that featured a rich, rich broth that cooked the vegetables and bird. The meat was amazingly tender and enjoyable. His dining companion could not say enough good about the Squab en Croute, again marveling at the tenderness and the delicate puff pastry. The final “home run” was a show-stopping dessert, L’lie Flottante. The meringue was formed into a “tennis ball”, surrounded with Red Praline and placed in a pool of Crème Anglaise. It is a dessert that will be almost impossible to forget, for a very long time. Le Coq Rico will force you to reassess your preconceived notions of poultry, in addition to what constitutes fine dining in America.

A very close second was found tucked away in a quiet corner of Greenwich Village at Babbo. Upon entering, a bar and bistro area is abuzz with people. Upstairs and in the back is a quiet, beautiful sky-lit dining room that matched the elegance of the prepared food. Jeff and this dinner companion split two appetizers. Fresh, new asparagus were topped with a soft duck egg and parmesan cheese. Once the toppings blended together the rich mix made for a full-flavored crunch of greens. The Baby Beet Salad featured diced cubes of an assortment of beets formed into a cylinder. These were equally fresh and flavorful. The Rabbit was prepared three different ways and Jeff simply could not pick which was better then the others. His dinner companion’s Pappardelle Bolognese was a nice blend of pork and veal. A different restaurant, but another merengue dessert, also very good. This is a place that wants guests to return, whether to the more formal area upstairs, or the rowdy barroom at the front. A lot of fun can be had at Babbo.

While working in New York, meals often need to be squeezed between assorted commitments. Regardless of the time and location, a good meal can almost always be had. Lure Fishbar is a perfect example. Jeff needed to eat at an odd time. A few places advertised a menu throughout the afternoon, but once inside he found that wasn’t the case. After two false starts, he walked down the steps at the corner of Mercer and Prince and enjoyed a handful of bar appetizers. The Clam Chowder featured full-sized clams and a rich broth. The Shrimp Tempura was accented with a spicy mayo that elevated this sometime average dish up a notch. With a delightful staff to compliment to good food, this was an enjoyable third-choice for food!

As Jeff was eating his Lyonnaise Salad at Bar Boulud prior to an evening curtain across the street at Lincoln Center, he asked himself, “When was the last time I ate Lyonnaise Salad?” This chicken liver, lardon, egg and crouton mix is much more an appetizer than “salad” (despite the frisee!) It remains a classic that we too often ignore or forget. As Jeff was finishing his Coq Au Vin, he again asked himself, “When was the last time I ate Coq Au Vin?” The chicken was rich with the flavor of red wine (especially the thigh) and the spätzle soaked up the dense cooking sauce. The Il Floatant (yes, another meringue dessert!) was a light way to end a meal of superstar foods. There is a reason foodstuffs become a part of the culinary lexicon. They are just so darn good that people continue to desire them. Jeff is surely glad he revisited this trio of staples and he was happy that Bar Boulud does them so well!

A few years ago, Jeff tried Scarpetta in Las Vegas. It was an excellent meal and that encouraged him to seek out the original in New York. This trip, he was in the Meatpacking District and found the parent to be even better than the sibling. The Polenta appetizer was unbelievably creamy. When the wild mushroom broth was poured over the top, it went on, beyond decadent! This was “lick the bowl” good! Jeff never heard of a Capretto cooking technique. His server called this a “wet roasted” preparation that adds moisture and flavor to the meat. He was right, the ultra-tender goat was heaped on a disc of chopped rapini and baby potatoes. The tartness of the greens and the mild game of the goat was mollified by the stableness of the potato. It could be a perfect meal. To finalize a fabulous evening, the Lemon Cake’s mix of sweet and tart was just right, just like everything else!

The disappointment on this trip was The Cannibal. A few months ago, a collection of Cleveland Chefs cooked at the James Beard House. It was a special honor and an article about their time in New York was featured in the Plain Dealer. When asked what restaurant they visited and enjoyed, many of the chefs said, “The Cannibal!” Jeff had high expectations but unfortunately was met with pedestrian and puzzling results.

Jeff and his dinner guest decided to share the Short Ribs, typically a luscious, rich and flavorful beef. Unfortunately, that is not what was served, The Cannibal’s was completely uneventful. The saving grace was the accompanying Parmesan Truffle Fries. They were wonderful. The Kielbasa was very good, but the side slaw was the most memorable, crunchy, and spicy with a touch of heat. It was excellent. It certainly is puzzling when the remarkable elements of a dinner is the sides at a restaurant called The Cannibal! Also good was the fine Mole Pudding. As the name defines, the flavors of Mole are imbed into pudding. Wow was it good, but again, not really in accordance with the restaurant name. Perhaps the most confusing thing was the “Chicken Sweetbread” appetizer. Do chicken have a thymus? Apparently they do. Were these thymus or chicken livers? They sure tasted like liver. At any other place, I might have taken them on their word. In hindsight, I’m not so sure here.

One last place that Jeff regularly visits, typically after an evening at the theatre is Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. This is a cozy little place tucked into the 6 ½ Avenue arcade between 51st and 52nd Streets. They have an excellent selection and a wide variety of wines from around the globe. The staff is very well versed and extremely helpful as you select a glass or a bottle. Often, a special bottle is available and there are some light appetizers and desserts on the menu. After a full evening in the city, this can be a great place to unwind.

As always, New York offers a wide variety of excellent dining options. We are fortunate to be able to sample many of the places whenever we are in the city. Fine dining certainly makes travel extra special!

http://www.lecoqriconyc.com/ 30 E20th Street New York, NY 10003 212-267-7426

http://www.babbonyc.com/ 110 Waverly Place New York, NY 10011 212-267-7426

http://www.lurefishbar.com/ 142 Mercer Street New York, NY 10012 212-431-7676

https://www.barboulud.com/nyc/ 1900 Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10023 212-595-0303

http://www.scarpettarestaurants.com/ 355 W 14th Street New York, NY 10014 212-691-0555

http://cannibalnyc.com/ 113 E 29th Street New York, NY 10016 212-686-5480

http://www.aldosohmwinebar.com/about 151 W51st Street New York, NY 10019 212-554-1143

June 18, 2017 at 9:34 PM Leave a comment

Eatin’ in New Orleans 4

This trip to New Orleans was different. We did not visit any of our favorites. Instead we concentrated on new places that have been well received, We couldn’t have been happier. Sure, we do miss the old favorites, but this is how new favs emerge.

Occasionally and oh, so rarely a new restaurant stuns you. Everything just plain works. The greeting is warm, the atmosphere is inviting, the staff is beyond prepared and the food, from the bread to the last spoonful of dessert is flawless. That was our experience at Sac-A-Lait. This place has almost immediately risen to “single-digit” status in our favorite places in NOLA. It was that good.

Before our meal started to arrive, the amuse-bouche did exactly what this opening act should. It prepares you for the meal to come. Buffalo Chicken Feet. While Michele politely passed, Jeff dug into the “unusual” food. Lots of bone, orange sauce covered fingers and flavor for days. Sac-A-Lait works with local Louisiana farmers and fishermen and uses EVERY conceivable part of the animal. If you’ve had any Cajun food, there are a lot of unusual “pieces and part” on a Cajun menu. Our Chicken Feet Amuse Bouche established a benchmark that the remainder of the evening achieved and even exceeded.

Even the bread and butter was noteworthy. The bread was a nice mild grain biscuit and the butter was goat-milk that provide a grassiness not found in typical butter. We shared an appetizer. A bowl of steamed oysters was topped with fries covered with truffle honey aioli. It took a second to realize the fried were dusted with black sea salt. The broth was rich and scooping up a spoonful (or four) was derigueur. Boy, was that good! Michele completely devoured the Whole Stuffed Flounder. With a gentle citrus topping and Oysters Rockefeller stuffing, how could she have left a morsel on the plate? Jeff ordered the seared Grouper served over a duck egg carbonara. Not typically a “fish guy” he couldn’t have been happier. After a Cane Sugar Cake (blessed with a hint of lime) dessert that equaled the entrées, a walk back to the Quarter was certainly in order!

After enjoying the Krewe of Boo Halloween Parade, Michele in costume and Jeff, still in his work suit had a late dinner at Angeline. Not to worry, personal oddities, even if it is dress are generously tolerated in New Orleans! Angeline is located in the former home of Stella! One of the New Orleans restaurants that managed to bridge the pre and post Katrina city. The chef comes from Sylvain, a non-touristy French Quarter haven. The provenance has afforded it an excellent foot forward and they delivered completely.

We shared the Crispy Cauliflower appetizer. The veggie was seared and combined with sheep’s milk cheese, served over a tapenade base. Crunchy and nutty, it was a nice reprieve from the obligatory roasted cauliflower found EVERYWHERE. After almost thirty years of traveling to New Orleans, Michele has become a “shrimp Snob.” She insists that no shrimp is the same as fresh gulf shrimp and the shrimp in New Orleans is both. She ordered the Gulf Shrimp and Country Ham and could not have been happier. Served over butter-beans, it was everything a shrimp-lovin’ gal could want! Jeff always knows rabbit in New Orleans is going to be special. The Mississippi Rabbit Milanese was no exception. The leg meat was extremely tender, served over collards, bacon and a remarkable tomato-carrot gravy, each mouthful was an event. On the side was a luscious spoon bread (something us “northerners” really experience far too little.)

Angeline was the perfect end to a “typical” parade day in New Orleans. Crazy people, crazy costumes, great food!

Michele needed to leave New Orleans before Jeff completed his work assignment. Because of this turn of events, Jeff of course orchestrated an evening of food for his coworkers. They decided to dine at Trinity. Trinity is on the Far East end of Decatur, not typically linked to fine dining, albeit a few places were opening there in the early 2000’s (pre Katrina). To begin, Jeff ordered a trio of Smoked Oyster Deviled Eggs. A decadent deviled egg was topped with a smoke oysters, and it was good!

While his coworkers enjoyed a plate of raw, fresh oysters, Jeff decided to try the Crayfish, Fontina Beignet. Likely a mistake. The beignet was pasty. Jeff had hoped for a gougere like consistency and instead got a heavy doughnut (yes, the menu did say beignet!) Perhaps this was his fault.

Dinner was better. The Lamb Chops featured a nice seared exterior and baby-tender, pink insides. It was SO good. His coworkers both ordered and appreciated the Gulf Coast Fruitte de Mare.

In our opinion, New Orleans is one of the top four restaurant cities in the United States (Chicago #1, New York and San Francisco) Each time we visit, the bar is raised farther up and up. With Sac-A-Lait especially, New Orleans only gets higher on the list.

http://www.sac-a-laitrestaurant.com/ 1051 Annunciation Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-324-3658

http://www.angelinenola.com/ 1032 Chartres Street New Orleans, LA 70116 504-308-3106

http://www.trinityrestaurantneworleans.com/ 1117 Decatur Street New Orleans, LA 70116 504-325-5789

November 19, 2016 at 11:50 PM Leave a comment

Eatin’ in New York 6

One of the highlights of Jeff’s travels continues to be his Spring, back-to-back trips to New York. Of course, days are filled with work, but in the evening he is free to experiment with almost any of the MANY restaurants in the city. Prior to leaving, he reviews a number of sources that talk about new eateries and exciting food options. Through the year, he also collects articles and comments about food. Before leaving Cleveland, he has a good idea where he wants to go and which places sound the most promising. Depending on his schedule, he can then slot in the most obvious choice from the list. On this latest trip, Jeff was fortunate to try five new places.

First, among equals this year was Hearth. Dining with his niece, a resident of the city they ate late. Despite the penultimate reservation time, everything was flawless. Starts were two vegetable dishes, a Fava Bean Salad laced with Pecorino over toast and Roasted Vegetables (pea pods, peas, seed humus with a lemony tinge.) Both were wonderful. We shared a bowl of Polenta so good, so buttery, so rich, so cheesy, crimes might be promised for an encore! The only negative was the excessive Rosemary on top. The flavor was welcome, but not to this extreme. Entrees were Cod and Hominy Crusted Pork Chops. Jeff’s niece enjoyed the Cod, but Jeff was blown away with the chop. Hominy? Really? Served with sausage and carrots it still makes his mouth water! For dessert the Chocolate Tasting was selected. This consists of a flight of dessert wines and a variety of chocolates from different locales and varying cacao percentages. While the name of the dessert might be deceiving, it sure made for a fun conversation about both elements. Jeff is already planning (plotting?) a return!

Equally tantalizing, in a totally different way was Gabriel Kreuther. The restaurant promises an Alsace experience, but Jeff felt it bent a bit more toward the German side, than French. That is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, too few restaurants share the wonderful foods of Germany. Many accompany elements on this menu were pickled and the German wine pairings seemed to be just a touch more meaningful than the others. He still can’t forget the Sauerkraut Tart, featuring a light mousseline hiding smoked sturgeon underneath. The Veloute was rich and creamy. The Duck was served in a unique way as shards of pink accompanied by a sausage and red cabbage. A tropical fruit dessert perfectly balanced the tart overtones of the meal. With a remarkably competent staff to guide you, this place is ready to help you experience a very unique meal.

When the guy behind the bar recommends the Roast Chicken in a city full of remarkable foods and brilliant chefs, you might just hesitate. Don’t make that mistake at Charlie Bird. It really is worth it. Their version is boneless and separated white and dark. Each “half” is then accompanied by a side that adds to the enjoyment of the basic cut. White meat has a rich pate alongside to add some depth to the traditionally drier breast. The fuller flavored leg meat is complimented with wonderful croutons. With just a touch less salt, this might be one of the best roast chickens Jeff has ever experienced. To get Jeff into the right mood for the bird, the salad was also unique. Green chickpeas (cici) were tossed with Pecorino, mint and a delightfully brilliant lemon vinaigrette. Dessert was a Budino unlike any other. Think of a “fresh from the oven” brownie, dripped with chocolate and topped with caramelized Rice Krispies. From the outside Charlie Bird looks like any other New York restaurant. Just wait until you get inside!

Walking down Greenwich Avenue, you might mistake Quality Eats for an old-style New York butcher shop. The sight gag is a crossed-out, letter “M” in front of the word “eats”. While the menu is indeed meat-centric, Jeff veered more toward the sea. With the successes of this meal, it might just demand another visit to sample the “land” portion of the menu. The Rock Shrimp Chowder was so buttery, Jeff was half expecting to scoop-up a ¼ stick of Land-O-Lake, but that richness was balanced with citrus and peppered spice. Jeff loves Octopus in New York. It is so fresh, so full flavored he can’t resist. When the waiter asks, uninvited, “Do you like octopus?” Jeff knows what he’ll be eating! This was a nice size piece, perfectly prepared and served over the top of a lentil and white bean mix. The banana ice cream dessert completed an excellent meal.

While dining at Upland, Jeff could not get out of his head how much this place resembled a plethora of places scattered all over America. It never felt like a “New York Restaurant.” He thought he was in Indianapolis, or Des Moines. It just has that “look.” Regardless, there were some interesting things here, none more so than the Hen in the Wood Mushroom appetizer. It was certainly unique, flash-fried version of these tasty treats. The lamb neck was also different. This is a meat not often found in a restaurant. Because of little use, it is most likely cheaper than most, but in the care of a quality chef, it can be transformed into a delectable meal. The Upland version was excellent, as was the entire experience. It just feels like this place should be in Schenectady…and by the way, even though the address is Park Avenue, the restaurant is really located on 26th. Perhaps Upland is suffering from some sort of identity crisis.

Eating in New York is always a joy. Many thing offered are seldom available in Cleveland, or simply not as good (read octopus) and the level of professionalism in the restaurant is always at a very high level. The argument about which city in America is really the capitol of food ALWAYS includes New York in the mix. For that reason, sampling New York dining is important to anyone who has a passion for food. From our first visit to the city with dinner at La Grenouille to this quintet, we have enjoy them all (well, almost all.)

http://www.restauranthearth.com/ 403 E 12th Street New York City, NY 10009 646-602-1300

http://www.gknyc.com/ 41 W 42nd Street New York City, NY 10036 212-257-5826

http://www.charliebirdnyc.com/ 5 King Street New York City, NY 10012 212-235-7133

http://www.qualityeats.com/ 19 Greenwich Avenue New York City, NY 10014 212-337-9988

http://www.uplandnyc.com/ 345 Park Avenue New York City, NY 10010 211-686-1006

June 21, 2016 at 10:17 AM Leave a comment

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