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Entries in New York (64)

Monday
Jul302012

Cupcakes from Sweetooth, The Ultimate Recovery Snack

The other week, I travelled up to Yorktown Heights for a ride with my teammates and friends Caitlin and Sarah.

We rode a 45 mile course, taking it a bit easy as we were still recovering from a big race. The ride was beautiful, we passed through such towns as Bedford where Martha Stewart keeps a small cottage....

I thought if Martha knew we were waiting outside, she would invite us in and offer us some tea and scones. ALAS! It was not to be. I was a little downtrodden at first, but Caitlin suggested that we instead visit Sweetooth, a cupcake bakery in Katonah

Katonah, New York is a pretty cute town. And Sweetooth is intensely so.

The interior is decorated in a color palette of hot pinks and browns with a gleaming white counter top showcasing the cupcake goodies.

I chose the S'mores cupcake (shown above). Its nicely coiffed icing was perfectly toasted in a handsome replica of a campfire marshmallow.

I purchased two: one to eat immediately, and one to take home and photograph with my fancy camera.

Biting into the cupcake unleashed a plethora of pleasant surprises. First, the dark chocolate cake was wonderfully moist (a MUST in my mind). And just as soon as I registered moist cake, I was equally thrilled to realize I had just unearthed a treasure-trove of s'more ingredients, as the inside was filled with graham cracker crumbs and a deep chocolate ganache.

All of this was surmounted by the afore-mentioned toasted marshmallow frosting which proved to be very light and...well...fluffy.... like a marshmallow, but with non of that sickly sweetness. It was actually quite airy like whipped egg whites with just a touch of sweetness.

I was very impressed with my recovery meal, and immediately felt I could bike another 45 miles. However, a much more challenging task awaited me – that of getting the uneaten cupcake back to the car, which meant riding my bike, cupcake in hand, for about a half a mile.

I placed the cupcake gently and (what I thought was) securely inside a screaming pink box. Then, I attempted a slooooow ride to the car. This is what happened:

I am happy to report that this little guy tasted just as good as it's brother even though he looked quite a mess.

I need a cupcake attachment for my bike.

Sweetooth
43 Katonah Avenue
Katonah, NY 10536
(914) 232-7700

And this is a map of our ride:

 

Tuesday
Sep272011

The Kraken – Grilled Up Proper by The National!

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...I dined in Midtown last week! Yes, it's true. I threw caution to the wind and set sail for Lexington Avenue at 50th Street where The National Bar and Dining Room holds court.

The National is a restaurant to be reckoned with. It is impressive. It has made Sam Sifton's "Sifty Fifty" list of impressiveness. They also decorate their website with engravings of elk smoking bubble pipes. I can get behind that.

The National boasts both an expansive bar and spacious dining room, decorated with a retro 1940's flair with a dash of Restoration Hardware thrown in (not a bad thing, by the way). Clean, sophisticated and decorative all at the same time.

I began with the National Mule, a combination of Imperia Vodka, Fresh Ginger & Lime, Fever Tree Bitter Lemon and Ginger Beer. Fizzy (from the ginger beer), refreshing just slightly tangy (the lime and fresh ginger), it was a perfect lead in to.....

THE KRAKEN!

OK, so in the real world people call this "Grilled Octopus." But this dish with its delicate mix of chorizo, fennel, cannellini beans and piperade was something mythical. And it deserves a name of mythical proportions. Thus, THE KRACKEN! The Kracken (you might like to check Wikipedia for more information) is a legendary sea monster of epic proportions that attacks off the coast of Norway and Iceland.

We are off the coast of Norway and Iceland. Way off...

Anyway! The tentacles (my favorite part) were blackened almost Creole style, crispy on the outside and so, so juicy on the inside. The outer crust managed to lock in both flavor and moisture. The chorizo bumped the taste up into the "epic proportions" category.

The piperade glaze was just a hint spicy, and oh-so deep and rich. Just a drizzle (as seen above) was just perfect.

I would also recommend the French Fries, served upright and delicately dusted with a light seasoning. They were accompanied by the great Sir Kensignton in his spicy formulation, which is my personal favorite variation.

Finally, a trip to the bathrooms confirmed that the National leaves no (porcelain) stone unturned.

Beautifully patterned floor tiles in seafoam greeny-blue where complemented by a simpler blue tile backsplash. An ultra-streamlined soap pump was stood out amongst the modern fixtures, and the lighting was soft and flattering. Very nice.

Overall Dining Experience: Heat

The National Bar and Dining Room
557 LEXINGTON AVE (AT 50TH ST)
NEW YORK, NY 10022
212 715 2400

Wednesday
Sep212011

Highlights from the Bedford Cheese Shop

My friend Kaz was in town over the weekend from The City of Angels, and on our list of to-do's were the following items:

1. Find tasty food to eat.*

2. Wander in and out of places that sell tasty food.

3. Have 13 million concurrent conversations while wandering around eating/looking for tasty food.

* Some portion of said "tasty food" should be devoted to cheese.

As I dragged her from one borough of the city to another, we stepped lightly into Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn and busted through the door of the Bedford Cheese Shop.

Our plan was simple: it was nearing cocktail hour. We were getting peckish even though we had an enourmous brunch featuring at least 4 buttermilk biscuits. We decided on a "pick and mix" dinner which would include any number of random items as long as it heavily featured both WINE and CHEESE.

And so, Kaz is partial to the Aged Gouda above. It was quite snappy, with some caramel flavors that gave it a nice deep undertone. Plus, aged Goudas tend to have little white "crystals" which are actually calcium nuggets. They're crunchy! They provide texture! Like nuts in your ice cream.

Recently, I've become a fan of Sharfe Maxx. It's firm, but not like an aged Gouda, as it's still pliable. It's an aged cow's milk cheese. It's sharp and creamy all at the same time and has a hint of "barnyard-y" flavor that I really enjoy. It's almost like a light oakiness in wine.

I then picked up this Lemon and Vanilla Bean preserve from Maiden Preserves. You can actually see the real vanilla bean action in there – look at the spoon! After one spoonful, I started putting this on everything, finally forgoing the various vehicles (assorted crackers, both varieties of cheese) and just took a spoon to the jar. I can do that kind of thing with Kaz. And even if I couldn't, I would probably do it anyway.

For dessert, we picked up this Lemon Ricotta Poundcake from the Bedford Cheese Shop. Kaz spotted it on the counter and insisted we get a chunk. I was skeptical. Ricotta cheese cake? Do they know how to do that at the Bedford Cheese Shop? Pardon my wariness, but it IS an Italian dessert...and even though the BCS knows their cheese...do they know their cheese-oriented Italian desserts?

Oh yes. Yes they do. Alarmingly well. As you can see above, this was the only tiny piece that remained to photograph. And then I ate this final piece right after the beauty shot was taken. Dense, with a creaminess that felt almost ice cream sandwich like. The lemon flavor was refreshing and light...not  too much at all.

I am a HUGE fan of this cake. And of the Bedford Cheese Shop. Pop in and get cheesy.

Bedford Cheese Shop

229 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Tuesday
Sep202011

The Darker Side of Meat – Prime Meats in Brooklyn

Sometimes the lighting in a restuarant can be less than optimal for food photography. I get it, it's mood lighting. No one wants to have all their pores exposed and chewing nuances uncovered under glaring tungsten lights. Even though that would work better for me.

Instead, it is often too dark to capture the beauty of what is before me. In my plate. And I usually refuse to use the flash.

It's distracting. I find it hard to hold a conversation with the person across from me if lights keep going off at the next table. But maybe I should just find a new dinner partner.

Either way, I try not to use my flash when dining at restaurants, and respect the delicate lighting balance of those around me. Consequently, I get photos like the above.

Photos like the above, which for some reason I thought would be funny to post today in my review of Prime Meats in Brooklyn which had the moodiest of lighting during my dinner last week.

Make no mistake – I plan on being flippant about the lighting sources, but not the food. I have never been so delighted by meat products. So, let's sink our teeth into the meat of things here:

As the pretzel above was too dark to see, I drew it for you:

This, funny, slightly human, smiley pretzel accompanied by a wonderful just-a-touch-sweet dijon mustard began our meal. The base of the pretzel is large, round and doughy. As you move to the top where the ends will eventually entwine around each other, it gets thinner. It's quite a feat of architecture. And it affords you, the eater, to have both the satisfying squishy part of the soft pretzel at the fat end and a crispier texture at the thinner ends. Geunius. As was the even, prefectly brown crust that encased it.

Next up was the Vesper Brett – a sample board of various cured meats, accessorized with pickled veggies of the sweetest-tangy variety.

Our plate included:

Landjager: This is traditionally a gamey sausage. This variety was venison. Soft, mild and smooth.

House cured bacon: This bacon was not pan fried and crispy, but cured. It was soft and suppple with a delicate and delicious ring of fat to one side.

Pastrami calf tongue: This had the texture of bologna - by which I mean there was very little striation in the meat (which would make sense as it's tongue). The pastrami flavor was quite nice, giving it a little herbed-pepperyness.

Smoke maple ham: Perhaps my favorite of the single meats. Juicy, dark pink and just maple-sweet enough. A triumph in sweet cured meats.

Chicken liver pate: Oh dear. I know you all think I'm strange for loving chicken liver pate. I don't just love it. I LOVE it. I would eat it every day. Prime Meats' liver pate might be my favorite that I have ever had. I'm serious. I like it better than Marmo's. Shhhhh....don't tell her. It was whipped up into a frenzy, so that not one chunk in the texture remained. Smooth like butter. And flavor? Oh yessss....so much. Chicken liver pate butter. I was smearing it on my funny face pretzel.

And now for the main act: The Burger. A 1/2 lb Creekstone certified Black Angus topped with Faicco's thick cut bacon, Grafton Cheddar nestled in a house made sesame bun.

I would like to say something about burgers and toppings: A beef patty is NOT a vehicle for toppings. It can have them, yes, but it SHOULD be able to stand alone. Meaning that it should have its own flavor, be rich and juicy and deep and tempt you to take another bite regardless of whether or not you get a mouthful of cheese or bacon along with that bite.

Prime Meats' burger was all that. And a side a hand cut French fries. We ordered ours medium rare (is there another way?), and I made sure to take bites that did not include the toppings. This burger had so much going for it.

Juicy? Yes! The juices happily blended with the sesame bun to create a wonderful pink gravy.

Flavorful? Indeed! It hit my tongue like a full bodied glass of red wine. The tasting notes would fill a book.

Again, the lighting prevented me from photography. So I drew you a picture:

Pretty, yes? YES!

And now, let's get back to the toppings, because I believe we chose expertly when we selected the bacon and cheddar. For comparison, here is a bacon-to-french-fry width chart:

Look how thick! This bacon was nicely salted, crispy and still chewey with a perfect fat-to-meat ratio. The Grafton cheddar glued everything together with a little bite that was just right. And the bun was dense, but not too bready. And moist! I hate a dry burger bun.

So while a burger should not be a vehicle for toppings, some power steering (the bun), functioning blinkers (the cheese) and a horn (definitely the bacon), make it a lot more fun to drive (by which I mean eat).

Additionally, while a restroom does not make a restaurant, it sure can enhance the overall dining experience. Consider Prime Meats' expertly tricked-out commode:

That floor is pure Italian geometry! And it matches the toilet!

And some nice old-timey wall scones adhered to smooth, blonde wood paneling.

With just enough room for a teeeny-tiny sink. Well done! Uhh....the bathroom, not the burger. That was medium rare.

Anyway, please get your carnivorous selves to Prime Meats. It's not a suggestion, it's a demand. I've never had a better burger. I may not be the final word on "The Best Burgers," but this one is mine.

Overall Dining Experience: The Godfather

Prime Meats
465 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY

Monday
Sep192011

Tapas Off the Port Side! Weigh Anchor for Tertulia, Scallywags!

Ahoy, mateys! Have ye any earthly idea what day has dawned? Talk Like a Pirate Day! That's right, ye scurvy curs! Don your eye patches, polish off your peg legs, and set your compass for the Spanish Main – Tertulia in the West Village. Savvy?

A pirate's life o' plundering works up a mighty appetite, me hearties....not to mention a case of the scurvy. Tapas style eatin' gives a pirate just what he wants – a little o' everything. Plus grog (wine) on tap!

The Scene:
Tertulia offers a spacious eatin' hall – packed hull to mast with barnacle-encrusted landlubbers! And the deck had been mightily swabbed – not a bilge rat in sight as far as me good eye could see.

A bar with several pilots was located near the bow, while an exposed kitchen was astern.

The Grub (standouts):
Famished we were, and when our handsome serving wench arrived with menus, we called all hands on deck to peruse the options, which were aplenty.

Meat is what a pirate misses most while at sea, and so I ordered up some thick, hand cut Iberian cured meat (Jamón Ibérico de Bellota). Not unlike prosciutto (I plundered a ship stocked with prosciutto in the Mediterranean a fortnight since and sold the lot for 10,000 dubloons!).

This Spanish version was smooth – a wee bit milder than its Italian counterpart, with hearty bits o' fat skimming the edges.

A nice, soft cheese is also hard to come by on the high seas. It's enough to make you want to abandon ship and swim for the nearest milk-bearing beast. But Davy Jones' Locker is dark and deep, me hearties. So save it for Tertulia, were you can get a Smoked Ricotta Tosta awash with onions, mushroom and pine nuts. Smoky (cheese), tangy (onions), savory (mushrooms) and crunchy (nuts).

And the bread - ye gods! It wasn't stale!....If I had a pint o' grog for all the stale bread on board the ship, I'd be a-drinkin' all the time.

The Bathrooms:
And speakin' o' grog....it was high time to heave to for the little pirate's room.

Plumbing is somewhat of a luxury on board, and so pirates like to make good use of it on land. Tertulia's loo was a touch small – not enough room to swing a cat! The sink was appropriately sized to fit such accommodations.

Queen's orders or no, I'll be back next time the call from the crow's nest is LAND HO! And don't miss the dessert: Ice cream swimmin' in a sea of grog-soaked fruit. Like a buried treasure.

Overall Dining Experience: Napoleon Dynamite

Tertulia
359 6TH AVE. (@ WASHINGTON PLACE)
NEW YORK, NY 10014