Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sick in the 60s, 12/19 & 12/20

I'm sick. And the best part about being sick in the city is that you can still get whatever you want without leaving your apartment. Here's how I survived:

Day 1 - Sable's, 2nd Ave between 78th & 79th St. On the way home from the Dr. yesterday I needed some matzoh ball soup. I actually went in (but they of course deliver) to Sable's to experience some of NYs finest Jewish home cooking. I asked for the requisite matzoh ball soup and then scoured the cases for something else while waiting for them to heat it up. Lobster salad? Which they actually gave me a taste of without asking, but not today. Noodle kugel? No. Rugelach? No. Latkes? Yes! I asked for a small order of latkes with apple sauce.

When I got home I had a bowl of soup first. The matzoh ball was a little chewy but the broth was right on. I then had the latkes and applesauce to complete the meal. I was perfectly sated and slept all afternoon.

When I woke up I heated up the rest of the soup and it was even better. JB brought me home an ice cream.

Day 2 - Spice, 2nd Ave between 72nd & 73rd st. Spice is one of my go-to ordering places. I don't love their food, but it is convenient and usually predictable. I read that they had a reasonable lunch special on menupages.com. So I called them up. I called and called. No answer, then busy. Transit Strike, I thought. Finally I got through. 1 hour and 15 minutes later my cold food arrived. Starving, I ate it anyway. Steamed shrimp and chicken were OK and my black noodles with chicken was not only cold and tiny, but relatively flavorless. I saved the vermicelli noodle soup for later. And was awake almost all afternoon.

I just heated up the soup and its the best part of what I ordered from Spice. Chicken, noodles, garlic. Maybe Spice just had a rough day. Kind of like me.

Until we eat again, KLB

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Rectangles, 12/18/05

I'm so over brunch. I like eggs just as much as the next person, but waiting in line at EJs for an hour seems so 5 years ago. I still like to eat at the brunch time, but not your typical brunch fare.

JB and I, exhausted from holiday parties, set out this morning (or early afternoon)and wanted something different. We settled on Rectangles, a relatively recently relocated Israeli Kosher restaurant on 1st Avenue in the 70s. We both had a strange craving for falafel.

There was not a yarmulke in sight at the restaurant but there was Israeli TV. The menu was filled with kabobs, stuffed cabbage other typical Israeli staples. We chose two falafel platters and a white bean soup. Oh and JB wanted french fries.

The tomato-based white bean soup came with hot, fresh from the oven pita. We shared the bowl which was simple and tasty. Midway through our soup the fries came which we found a bit strange. We asked if we could get them with the falafel instead and they happily obliged.

The falafel platters came with five balls each on a bed of tahini and more pita. I found the falafel had a good crispiness, but the tahini too smoky. JB thought it was perfect. New fries arrived which were good, although nothing special.

All in all, we were happy with our choice. There was no wait and no $12 egg whites. In fact, our whole meal with a nectar soda for JB came to $24. Definitely a bargain. The one thing I did miss those sweet potato fries at EJs....

Until we eat again, KLB

Berger Review! Sparky's 12/17/05

Amidst our Holiday shopping, we needed a snack. I told JB that when we got out of the subway at Lafayette and Bleecker we'd find a place. And, boy were we lucky when we walked up from underground and saw Sparky's. Then I remembered, Sparky's was a burger place in Williamsburg that had just opened a Manhattan location. We charged the door.

The space is the weird triangle just north of Houston on Lafayette so Sparky's has tons of light. They are known for having all organic ingredients and famous for burgers and dogs.

I ordered up a cheddar cheeseburger and JB had a hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut. We grabbed a table and waited for our food. Less than 10 minutes later I had a gourmet-looking burger with melted cheddar, raw onion, lettuce, tomato and pickles on a brioche-type bun. Boy was it juicy, JB had several bites as well, claiming me the winning orderer. My only complaint was that the bun was a little big so there were a few burger-less bites at the end.

JB certainly liked his hot dog, but will opt for the burger on our next visit. And we'll get the fries, too. I hear they are outstanding.

Until we eat again, KLB

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cesca, 12/13/05

Tonight was a pre-holiday treat with my parents. True to form, the first part of the evening was same-sex events only. JB & my Dad went to the University club for cocktails and my mom and I went to the Nutcracker. We met up for dinner, of course.

My mom had picked the restaurant, Cesca, since it was sort of close to Lincoln Center and she thinks it's "hot". JB and I, having never been, happily agreed and a I booked a reservation on opentable.com.

We arrived early at 8:20 for a 9:00 reservation. We asked if something was open and they said no, but to keep checking. We sat at 8:45 in a side room that seemed to have just opened. I'm not sure I would say Cesca is "hot" although it was certainly bustling.

I had heard about the parmesean fritters so I ordered those for the table. Everyone loved them. Who can disagree with fried cheese? There was a meat, pork maybe?, in the mixture, but it was pretty much 100% cheese tasting. A must order.

Because of the frigid temperatures we ordered two soups. My mom had mini-veal meatballs in a beef broth with acini di pepe. JB, my dad and I split a carrot soup. Which was light years ahead of the pumpkin soup JB and I made for Thanksgiving.

Main courses came quickly, too quickly. They had barely removed the soup bowls when the hot plates were put down.

My mom, who always has to have the most expensive thing on the menu, had the whole fish which was roasted dorado. A bit fishy for me, but the roasted tomatoes were perfect. JB had bacon wrapped pork tenderloin. I found it interesting to have two parts of the pig at once and so did he. I did not taste it, but JB devoured it. His plate also came with a surprise - fried broccoli rabe. Imagine broccoli tempura, this was amazing.

I had the smallest dish of all, a pasta with asaparagus and ricotta salata. The food was fine and the portion allowed me to try a lot of other dishes.

My dad had the lasagna and did not share, which I guess means he liked it.

Overall, the food was delicious. But we all agreed that the service was way too fast. They should have a dollar to minute ratio for food. If your dish costs less than $10 it should come out in less than 10 minutes. Less than $20, less than 20 minutes and less than $30 you get the idea. Otherwise, I think I'm getting ripped off.

Until we eat again, KLB

Monday, December 12, 2005

CamaJe, 12/12/05

Tonight was a funny night. JB and I got invited to an NYU Holiday Party where we could not say no to the free food and drinks. It the least they owe me after what I paid for grad school. And since we were in the neighborhood we met Matt, who is mid-finals, and Kimberly for dinner.

Kimberly and I, of course, debated where to go, but location won and it was off to CamaJe on MacDougal for some student eats.

I don't know what I expected, but the restaurant was not it. It was really small, I mean really small. Just a few tables, one of which was a table of 12 or so who appeared to be doing a Secret Santa/cooking event. Weird.

We opted for simple fare. A kobe beef burger for JB and Kimberly. A tuna salad for Matt and a hangar steak sandwich for me. Of all the dishes, Matt enjoyed his most. No fair, he's been before. I guess experience counts here.

We did split a delicious chocolate crepe for dessert, the highlight of the meal.

As Matt said, its good for lunch at school. But JB and I would take Mamoun's falafel up the street over this any day of the week.

Until we eat again, KLB

Welcome Back at Stantion Social, 12/2/05

Marius fell. And then he got up, a few months later after back surgery. So went out to celebrate, to welcome him back (pun intended). Laura organized 28 people on a Friday night in the holiday season, place cards and all. No easy feat.

The location was perfect. Stanton Social on the Lower East Side. IÂ’d been wanting to go there for ages and now here was my chance. Laura designed a set menu which allowed us to taste about a third of the menu. HereÂ’s what we had:

1st course
Sweet & sour chicken & cashew spring rolls: These were the standouts. They flew at our table. Delicious.

Wood grilled pizzetta with figs, smoked bacon, blue cheese and truffle honey: A mixed bag here. I typically don't like blue cheese, but I liked this. JB vehemently did not.

Red Snapper Tacos with fiery mango and avocado salsa: I was excited for these and found them a disappointment. Taco shell seemed ordinary. JB, however, loved this. No wonder Laura sat us at opposite ends of the table!

2nd course
Warm spinach salad with roasted corn, smoked goat cheese, & chile cashews: Again, this dish was a mixed bag. I found it a welcome treat, just to have one item and a light one at that. Others at our table were not fans.

3rd course
Wasabi pea crusted wild salmon with asian pesto and soba noodle beet salad: I do not like salmon or beets, but I liked this, the pesto gave it a kick. A testament to them.

Dry-Aged Hangar Steak au poivre with carmelized cippolini onoins: This dish was the one least touched at our table. It was perfectly fine, just not as complex as the other flavors.

Spaghettini with sweet roasted tomatoes, fava beans, arugula, lemon and pecorino: JB happened to love this dish. I found it ordinary but good. JB always loves a simple pasta.

Herb dusted frites with red chile mayo: No complaints here other than not enough for our table of 10.

Haricots Verts with garlic, olive oil, almonds and a sprinkling of cheese: These I liked, but most others didn't. Lucky for me, I'm married so I can have as much garlic as I want and there was a lot of it.

Bonus dish
Kobe Beef Burgers: JB & I table-hopped and convinced Matt & Aubrey to order the Kobe beef burgers with us. They were OK which was the disappointment of the evening. Laura was right in not putting them on the menu.

Jamie's Dessert Platter: At this point, dessert was almost a no go. There were black and white cookies and donuts. I had a small taste of each. Go with the donuts and dip them in caramel. Serious yum.

To recap, it was an amazing party and Laura did an amazing job. Everyone had fun and everyone ate a ton. A lot of cheese and a lot of nuts, but that may have just been the menu.

There are a lot of items on the menu and JB and I have already decided that we must return for some more signature items. Especially the French Onion Soup dumplings, now that sounds awesome.

Until we eat again, KLB

Monday, December 05, 2005

Asian Culinary Tour, 11/20/05

Two weekends ago (I’m a little behind!), JB & I decided to spend the day on a Culinary Tour. We (I) picked out a few snack-type spots and decided to walk around the city eating. Cheap eats was the goal and as it turned out they all had an Asian twist. Here are the highlights:

- Rickshaw Dumpling Bar, 25 W. 23rd: We took it easy here since it was our first stop on the tour. Only one order of dumplings for the two of us to share. We decided to go traditional and had the pork & chive dumplings which were seriously awesome. We wished for another order, but were on our way for our next snack. Total cost: 9 dumplings for $8

- Tebaya, 114 w. 19th: Our friend Cynthia had told us about a place that specialized in Japanese chicken wings and we had to try them. Tebaya is a tiny store front with a just a small counter, but they churn out the best snacks. We had to get the chicken wings which were spicy and delicious. I also got kushikatsu which is basically chicken fingers on a stick and potemochi, which is similar to gnocchi but fried and in a soy sauce. These are definitely not your run of the mill snacks. If it were closer to us, I think it would give our pizza place a run for its money.

- Momofuku, 163 1st Ave: We slowly meandered from Chelsea to the East Village, stopping at Paragon for golf stuff (of course),Astor for wine and made it to 1st Ave. We walked past a few times before finding the sliver of a restaurant. The inside is a series of counters and at 5:45 it was already crowded. We sat where we could see them make our food which also happening to be under an air conditioning vent. I froze. We went there for the ramen which is one of JB’s favorites. He found it “eh”. The ingredients were fresh, pork, egg, noodles, but overall it was nothing special and not worth $14. Isn’t ramen supposed to be cheap? I was really full from Tebaya so I had an order of pork buns which I’d heard were standouts. They were. The pork was placed inside a biscuit with fresh cucumber. It was probably the best thing I had all day.

We’re thinking if planning another tour, so if you have any ideas, let us know.

Until we eat again, KLB

Monday, November 21, 2005

Zeytin, 11/18/05

Friday night kicked off our first full weekend in the city since probably April. It had been a long time. JB & I planned a weekend to catch up with friends, see family, visit museums and eat food.

Friday night after work we zipped over to the MOMA to see the Pollocks. Since our visit to the Pollock-Krasner house in October, JB has had a mild obsession. And Friday nights at the MOMA are free so it was a no-brainer. Luckily it was not as crowded as anticipated (as an aside, the Van Gogh exhibit which we saw at the Met the next day, was not free and was ridiculously crowded.) After our art fix, we headed to the Upper West Side for dinner with our friends Ed & Vanessa.

Vanessa, who lives in the neighborhood, suggested Zeytin, a Turkish restaurant on 85th & Columbus. JB & I love Turkish so we were quick to agree.

Having done my research, I knew to order the lamb dumplings as an appetizer. They were tiny dumplings in a tahini like sauce and they were delicious. We had red caviar spread that everyone loved except me (I don't eat caviar). And finally, mashed eggplant and grilled octopus, both of which were just OK.

Since our first dinner at Turkish Kitchen in the Kips Bay area, we have always LOVED Hunkar Begendi. It is a lamb dish served on a bed of pureed eggplant. It is the eggplant that makes the dish. Its almost like mashed potatoes except it is eggplant. JB & I both had to order it and of course cleaned our plates. Ed followed with a lamb special which had some supposedly amazing rice and Vanessa a quail in grape leaves. I didn't try either of their dishes but everyone seemed to enjoy it their meals.

We finished our dinner with some Turkish desserts, a milky creme brulee-type dish and a baklava. The baklava was a standout.

Service was a low point, so we decided just to focus on the food which was a good move.

Overall, it was a fun evening, with good friends and good food. And I'm looking forward to our next Turkish meal.

Until we eat again, KLB

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bistro 61, 11/17/05

Scheduling is tough. So much so that we had not seen Kimberly & Matt since their wedding in early October. Between the four of our schedules, we were able to squeeze in dinner tonight for almost all of us. Unfortunately, JB got stuck at work. I was the lone newlywed at the table.

We met at the Terance Conran shop where they were having a shopping event. 20% off all items and I thought I'd get a jump on my holiday shopping. I came away with only a gift, for myself, the much-written about 2006 NYC Michelin Guide. I even got a picture with myself & the Michelin man. I can't wait to read it.

After our botched shopping trip, we looked for a neighborhood spot. Bistro 61, on 1st & 61st (obviously) was where we landed. As Matt called it, the decor is "formulaic". Trust me, the exposed brick with cutouts for candles did not exist when this same space was an Indian restaurant.

The menu has typical bistro fare like mussels, french onion soup and frites, but also has some pasta dishes and salads. Our waitress was so skinny we felt guilty ordering. Nonetheless, Kimberly & I ordered a tuna tartar to start while Matt had a tomato/mozzarella tart. The tuna was served in a martini glass with rather large chunks of fish which pleased me. Matt silently ate his starter, so I can't really comment.

When we had been ordering our main courses, Kimberly had asked for the burger with foie gras. "A bargain!" she exclaimed, especially when compared to DB's burger. The waitress then let us know that that was the last one of the evening. We found that quite strange considering it was only a little after 8:00 but oh well. I did taste it and thought it just OK. The foie gras was pate-style so it was not for me. The fries, however, were close to perfect. They are on the list.

Matt & I each opted for the pasta. Mine was a rigatoni with eggplant & zucchini which I thought was somewhat healthy. Matt had black linguine, which he deemed fresh, with crab, which he deemed not.

All in all, we agreed that it was a good neighborhood spot. We then talked about their neighborhood bistros like Park Bistro & Cossette and said we'd go there next time.

Until we eat again, KLB

PS - Matt, good luck in the marathon on Sunday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Applausi, 11/15/05

My parents had been begging us to come out to Old Greenwich to see them. Its hard with our weekends away and our late hours during the week, but my mom had essentially put her foot down, so JB and I dutifully boarded the train and headed to the land of suburbia.

My dad greeted us in his new Mini. Boy is that car small, but awesome. Especially awesome because my mom won it for him at a charity event. That $25 raffle ticket is probably the best return she’s ever gotten on her investment.

After spending some time at the house and opening a few wedding gifts, we headed up the road to Applausi. If you’ve never been to Old Greenwich, it’s a small town. One main road with a few restaurants and shops. Everyone knows everyone. So sitting in the window at Applausi I thought we were doomed to never catch our return train home, but luckily my mom only knew the people at two tables.

The setting is pleasant and the waiters congenial. The food is Italian, in a fancy way. Home-made pastas are in the low $20s and entrees are in the $22 - $34 range.

The bread was the best part. Crusty Italian and focaccia with delicious olive oil.

We moved on to salads, a mixed and a Caesar, which were both ordinary.

We all had pasta for dinner. Sadly, I was the loser of the evening. I chose a fusilli with pesto and shrimp. The shrimp was small but tasted fine. The pesto sauce did not. Way too creamy, and since when is there cream in pesto sauce? I ate some but not all. JB and my mom had ravioli, my mom’s plain and JB’s with lobster and crab. I tasted my mom’s and found the ravioli hard and almost cheese-less. My dad quietly consumed is spaghetti with shellfish. I think he won.

We didn’t have time for dessert because we had to make the train, but I think I would have passed. My parents come here often, I don’t think the place is bad, I just think we did not order right. Next time I’m staying away from the pasta.

Until we eat again, KLB

Monday, November 14, 2005

3 Bergers, 1 Weekend, 11/11/05 - 11/13/05

We just came back from spending a fun weekend with JB's mom at our villa in the Hamptons. We walked on the beach, we shopped, we saw art and we ate. Boy did we eat.

Here are the highlights:
- Dinner, Friday, Triangle Pub in Eastport: As I've mentioned time and again this place has the best burgers around. $5 of perfection. See our August review for the full report.

- Lunch, Saturday, Sydney's in Westhampton Beach: We knew we were having a big dinner so we split some curried chicken salad after shopping in town. The three of us downed that pound of chicken. It was delicious, not too mayonnaise-y and complete with currants (yes I picked them out, but the others enjoyed them). We also had the most amazing bag of olive oil and rosemary potato chips. You should order them online, they truly are awesome. www.goodhealthnaturalfoods.com/oliveoilchips.html

- Dinner, Saturday, The Almond in Bridgehampton: We were big winners at the Almond with their prix-fixe. Before 7PM they offer three courses for $19.95, a steal in any season. JB & his mom started with the mussels while I chose a simple goat cheese salad. I tasted the mussels which were plentiful and full of garlic. All three of us had the roast chicken which had a breast and a thigh. JB traded his breast for my thigh since I don't love dark meat. Potatoes and spinach complemented the dish which disappeared from all of our plates. Dessert was ice cream or sorbet, neither were noteworthy, but by then we'd had our fill. We also enjoyed a great bottle of Lieb Chardonnay from Mattituck. Truly a perfect evening.

- Brunch, Sunday, Trumpets on the Bay in Eastport: As if we weren't full enough, we opted for a fancy brunch overlooking the bay. JB and his mom continued the festivities with Bloody Marys while I stayed with water only. The bread basket was huge. Sweet buns, cheddar rolls, flatbreads, I think we finished three baskets. Our 12 year old busboy was not thrilled, neither was our waitrees. Alas, we also paid for food. Trying to get back on track, I had an egg white & asparagus omelette but wound up eating much of my new mother-in-law's steak frites. JB had tuna tartar to start which was not original but good and then had an escalar salad. A strange finish if you ask me, but he liked it.

We waddled back to NYC full, happy and relaxed.

Until we eat again, KLB

Thursday, November 10, 2005

$1 Dinner at Dumpling House, 11/10/05

All Bergers love a good bargain. Tonight we had one of NYC's best.

Our dumpling quest occurred circumstantially because we went to a Golf Digest gallery opening on the edge of Chinatown. Art, golf, Grey Goose and free food. Paradise for JB. The food was ordinary but everything else was spectacular.

And so since we were in the neighborhood I thought we should try a dumpling place to see what they were all about.

The Dumpling House is on Eldridge Street just south of Delancey. A few more blocks and you're in the familiar Lower East Side, but Eldridge Street is far from familiar. Its Chinatown without the tourists.

Dumpling House's special is, of course, dumplings. 5 for $1 or 10 for $2. They come boiled or fried; pork, vegetable or a combination of the two. They also have some soups and scallion pancakes that resemble pizzas. Everything is made on site and the kitchen workers constantly run to the front of the house with freshly made dumplings.

We had dumplings. 20 to be exact. 10 fried pork & chive, 5 boiled pork & chive and 5 boiled pork & vegetable. They all won. The boiled dumplings are round and compact whereas the fried ones are longer and flatter. Yum all around.

Dumpling House is not a dining destination. We were there only about 15 or 20 minutes, you can't make a night of it, but its the perfect stop if you're (sort of) in the neighborhood.

Oh, we took home a bag of 30 frozen dumplings for $5 so we can make them at home. We'll let you know how that goes.

Until we eat again, KLB

Monday, November 07, 2005

Berger Review! Good Bergers at Goodburger

JB and I have been waiting for Good Burger to open. We saw the signs on the windows, we read the news of the its opening and today we ate it.
And it is a good burger.

Burgers are small, very juicy and delicious. I opted for a plain hamburger with lettuce, tomato & onion. JB had a cheeseburger with the works which, in addition to what I had, has mustard, mayo, ketchup and pickles. We split the fries which were Mickey’s D style but not quite as good.

It was super crowded at 1PM on a Monday. Its on 43rd & 2nd so it is packed with business people and tourists. There are very few seats. JB stood while I was on a stool at the counter.

Here’s the complaint. This place is expensive. A hamburger, fries & a drink make a combo which is priced at $8.00. The hamburger alone is $4.75. And neither of those prices includes cheese. But is it worth it? Sometimes. I think its worth a try, I mean I have to try every Berger place out there. But I’ve had better for less.
Shack burger anyone?

Until we eat again, KLB

The Bergers Drink Beer & Eat a Great Meal, 11/5/05

Free Beer. Two of the best words in the English language for many people. And we found it in Patchogue.

JB and I decided to go on a Long Island excursion. Instead of going east as we typically do, we went west in search of the Blue Point Brewery.

We found it not in Blue Point, but in an unassuming warehouse in Patchogue. We walked in and found a crowded bar. Its crowded because its free. All the beer is free except one or two kinds which cost $1.

We found a spot at the bar and JB had a taste of each of the 10 or so on tap. 10 beers for free. They were small cups and JB couldn't drink them all, but some people do and then some.

I stopped on the light beers but JB went all the way to darkest & stormiest brew. And we got a free tour from one of the brewers. He tastes each beer every day. Tough job.

After all the drinking we were hungry. A guy we befriended at the bar urged us to go to a patches seafood restaurant, but we had had enough of patches and decided to try a new town - Bellport.

We had heard that Bellport is a mini-Hamptons and wanted to see what it was all about -- in the off season. With my trusty Long Island Zagat we read about a restaurant called Bellport Restaurant.

In a word, it was awesome. Some of the best cooking we've had in a long time. Food was simple and delicious. All the ingredients were fresh, portions were large and prices were reasonable.

I splurged on the buttermilk fried chicken, a self-reported favorite, with chive mashed potatoes and string beans. I almost ate the whole thing.

JB started with a lobster bisque, that didn't quite have enough lobster, but finished strong with the Long Island duck. JB is a duck snob. He rarely likes it, but always gets it and is disappointed. Tonight he was thrilled. The duck came in a wine sauce with the leg and the breast, plus a pile of stuffing. (I cannot wait for stuffing at Thanksgiving).

We skipped dessert, and drinks for the matter, but still had a lovely dinner. It was the polar opposite of the Blue Point Brewery, including more money. But it was so worth it. We will be back.

Until we eat again, KLB

Le Zie, 11/4/05

Happy Birthday Emily! We missed the official celebration on Saturday night so we decided to have a birthday weekend kickoff dinner on Friday night at Le Zie. Emily loves Italian and we needed to be close-ish to Penn Station to get our 10:29PM train, so Le Zie on 7th Avenue & 20th Street was a great fit.

When considering Le Zie we were worried that they didn't take reservations. But they did for a party of 6, which we were, so an 8:00 dining time was set. When we ran into Emily & Greg on 7th Avenue at 8:15 I was slightly worried the table would be gone, but Le Zie is very casual. Very casual. They sat us at our 6-top with only 4 of us and were accommodating when Seth & Emily (a different Emily) appeared from the back garden.

Now the food. I had heard lots of rave reviews on Chowhound.com. Plus my friend Laura recommended the Mac & Cheese and/or the gnocchi. We were set.

JB & I did a mini pasta tasting menu. A pumpkin ravioli to start, followed by the macaroni & cheese with black truffles and the ricotta & spinach tortellini. We shared well, passing back & forth every few bites.

But there were problems. Almost all of the dishes were cold. I do not like cold food. Emily sent her gnocchi back it was so cold.

The pumpkin ravioli was super sweet. Birthday girl Emily had an entree size worth and could not finish.

The macaroni & cheese, as Laura had recommended was the clear winner. Clear winner. Greg & Seth had opted for more meaty dishes, veal and lamb respectively, but all took from the macaroni & cheese.

We did have a fun, and a lot of prosecco.

Oh and by the way, we caught the train by about two minutes. I would not recommend trying to catch a train after a birthday dinner. The buzz goes right through you when you're running for a train.

Until we eat again, KLB

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Bergers are Back! 10/31/05

Friends and fans,

We're back. The past 4 weeks have been a whirlwind of healthy food, fast food and downright boring food. Seriously, I was close to becoming Jared after all the Subway sandwiches I consumed. But the good news is we saved a few bucks and shed a few pounds, so we can't complain.

Below is a quick snapshot of some of the more memorable meals. Trust me there are more to come and soon!

- Amber (NYC): I became obsessed with takeout sushi and jumped at the chance to order from this newish spot on the Upper East Side while visiting Jenn at her new (and awesome) apartment. Sushi was fresh but delivery was slow. I'll have to take JB there one night before the movies.

- Cottonwood (Boston): My co-workers and I had an hour before our flight so we had a late lunch at this Tex-Mex restaurant Back Bay. I thought it was unremarkable, I had some type of salad, and therefore was shocked when I logged on to citysearch where it is highly rated. Must be a Boston thing. (Note: To all in Boston, it was just a day trip, I will call next time there is an evening involved)

- Babette's (East Hampton): This was one of our super healthy meals. I dined on egg whites and fruit on the patio watching East Hampton go by. JB scoped for talent. I hear its mobbed here in season.

- Mt. Fuji (South Hampton): More Sushi. JB was excited to sit at the tatami-like table. I was a little tuna'ed out. JB's sushi platter though was better than expected. No crab stick (Yeah!)

- Caffe Linda (NYC): Lunch with Mom and Dad was rushed, but the atmosphere is great for Midtown Manhattan. Only a block from my office, it was the perfect place to forget about the workday for a little while. The food not stellar and my shrimp salad was miniscule, but that wasn't the point. I bet the pasta is good.

- Baby Moon (West Hampton Beach): Finally, some real food! JB had spaghetti and meatballs, I had baked eggplant. They give you a lot including salad, garlic knots and bruschetta. It almost made up for the REALLY BAD service. Almost.

- Tir Na Nog (NYC): We missed the train, I lost JB in Penn Station, I was a wreck. We went to Tir Na Nog to calm down. Two beers later, some baseball, a lot of U2 fans and chicken fingers, it was the best thing that happened all week.

We also tried something different this month: home cooking! Two standouts were JB's tilapia and Christie's salmon. I don't even like salmon and I liked this.

I'm taking recommendations on where to go next. Obviously I have my list, but if there's a place you want to know more about, send us! After this past month the Bergers are ready for some amazing meals.

Until we eat again, KLB

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tsuki, 10/4/05

So for New Year's Part II, we were full. After a night of brisket, chopped liver and gefilte fish and a lunch of hot dogs and pastrami, our pants were bursting. But you have to eat, especially on the Jewish holiday.

We thought sushi was the next best thing to a traditional Jewish homecooked meal. So we met JB's mom at Tsuki on 1st Avenue and 75th street for some simple and tasty fish.

Like I said, we wanted to eat light so it was raw fish all around.

I had tuna over a bed of rice and JB and his mom has sashimi.

The sushi at Tsuki is high quality. You pay more for it sure, but it's worth it. They have some of the best white tuna around.

It's a great place before a movie or a weeknight dinner. There is no atmosphere to speak of, but you're not there for the experience, you're there for the food.

Try it some time.

Until we eat again, KLB

Happy New Year at Katz's Deli, 10/4/05

JB and I conveniently chose to celebrate the New Year at a temple on the Lower East Side. Convenient because it was only two blocks from Katz's Deli. And that's where we headed after services yesterday.

I'd technically never eaten there. Sure, I'd been in a few times, I think JB may have bought a hot dog, but this was my first official experience.

It was mobbed. And it was a Tuesday at 1:30PM. Tourists clutched their maps as we fought our way through the lines.

At Katz's you get a ticket and then go to a specific line depending on what you want to eat. At the line they mark your ticket and at the end of the meal you hand in the ticket and pay. Some system.

We first headed to the hot dog line and the drinks line. Two hot dogs and two Dr. Brown's. We were in full swing and ready for our next course.

JB needed pastrami. I abhor it, so we compromised with a soup and half sandwich deal. I had the matzoh ball soup, JB had half a pastrami sandwich.

The matzoh balls were nice and firm and the soup just salty enough. JB kvelled over his pastrami.

Here's the thing about Katz's. It's crazy and it's expensive. Don't go for a quick bite or a cheap snack. Go for the experience and what a better time than New Year's Day.

Until we eat again, KLB

Tello's, 9/30/05

Every once in awhile, you happen upon a big group dinner. You know the type - long table, new people, lots of wine.

Friday night we found ourselves in the epitome of the group dinner. Lindsay and Carter, recently married, were up in NYC from Charlotte. They had lived here for several years and picked up various friends along the way. And now we were all together for dinner, all 12 of us.

We knew they would pick a good place. Tello's is a classic Italian joint. Hidden in Chelsea on 19th street, it is everything quintessential New York Italian should be. They have the requisite checked table cloths, christmas lights and menus with melted edges from getting too close the candles.

While the food wasn't the main point of the evening, we were pleased. JB and I ordered simply. We split a Caesar salad and we each had penne with meatballs. Personally, I would have preferred spaghetti with my meatballs. So I ate more meatballs than penne, and isn't that the point?

It is definitely a red sauce place, although Lindsay who must be suffering from lack of water in Charlotte, ordered the lobster.

I don't recall the wine but there was lots of it. And suddenly, our table of 12 became instant friends. A perfect New York evening.

Until we eat again, KLB

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Original Spice Market: Sripraphai, 9/27/05

Last fall my friend Kimberly scored us a Saturday night table of 6 at Spice Market during its height. Fun, yes; spicy, no. It is only fitting then that last night we had dinner with Kimberly and Matt, her almost-husband, at Sripraphai, the oft-lauded Thai restaurant in Woodside, Queens. It is indeed the original Spice Market.

Now most of us don't ordinarily travel to Queens for dinner, but Sri. is ALWAYS mentioned as the best thai place in NYC. So we had to go.

Its actually quite close to Manhattan, maybe two miles over the Queensboro and just a few stops on the 7 train. Oh and they have parking there if you have a car.

We were expecting a hole in the wall type place. But they must have recently renovated to have a relatively trendy dining room and a large back garden. They've also changed their alcohol policy which was BYO and is now BYO with a $10 corkage fee or drinks from the menu. We had schlepped the bottle so we sprang for the $10.

Ordering was a challenge. The menu is huge making the choices endless. And it is supposed to be authentic so we decided not to order pad thai.

We ordered a duck salad, a mango salad and chicken pot stickers to start.

Starters were tame. The duck salad was sweet and delicious. The pot stickers were ordinary in a good way. Then hilarity came with the mango salad.

Matt is a current vegetarian. He asked for no meat on the mango salad and was told he could have tofu. He agreed happily. He bit into his tofu and it tasted like meat. JB and Kimberly tasted it and could not discern the taste. It wasn't chicken that was for sure.

The waiter came over to tell us it was "Mock meat". The way she said it we thought it was either a thai word for chicken or an Egyptian's name. After about five times, we figured it out and Matt continued on.

Main courses included two orders of drunken noodles (one w/chicken, one w/out), a duck and eggplant dish and a chicken curry. JB also ordered a side of rice.

Two bites into the main course, we all wished we had ordered rice.

JB and Kimberly almost immediately surrendered. Matt and I plowed through. Everything was spicy, really spicy. We had to take breaks. While each dish was different they all had the same net effect - WHOA.

And so it leads me to the question. Are my tastes too Americanized for authentic food? Or is everyone just trying to be a food-elitist with the outer-borough restaurant find?

Most food critics complain that you have to go to Queens for real Thai food. I think I'll stay right in Manhattan.

Until we eat again, KLB

PS -- If you love Thai food but not spice, go to Chicago. Best Thai food I've had.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Persian Grill, 9/25/05

Tonight we had dinner with my parents at the Persian Grill. I think. Or maybe its called the Persia Grill. Point being, this is place is so new they don't have their name down. Nor is it on the menu, nor was it on the check.

I've heard that going to restaurant in its infancy can have it ups and downs. Ups include the excitement of going somewhere new, the potential of freebies and maybe, just maybe, lower prices. Downs, however, can easily outweigh the ups. Bad food, bad service, overcrowded, undertaffed -- in short, too many kinks.

Persian Grill opened yesterday on 1st Avenue and 67th Street. So here we were, JB, my mom & dad and me hoping for a quick bite before they drove back to CT. Quick it was not.

Ordering was confusing. Our waitress was a sweetheart, but knew little English. "I'm from Russia" we learned after my mom probed.

The wine list was non-existent even though we had asked if they had wine when we walked in and were told yes.

As it turned out, they had a bottle of Mondavi that they were pouring from but had no liquor license. JB later figured out that the wine would then have to be free. (1 point for the new restaurant!).

But they only had red, and my high maintenance mother only drinks white. So JB went to the deli down the block and bought a 40, yes a 40, of Corona. If her Greenwich friends could see her now.

My mom and I split a 40 out of a paper bag. Classic.

But the food. When it finally came, it was delicious all around.

JB opted for mezzes, hummus, yogurt dip with mint, picked vegetables. He shared all willingly and then devoured it for himself.

I had the chicken kebab with grilled chicken, and my mom had the traditional chicken kebab. Both came with huge portions of rice. Really huge.

My dad ordered a main course for a change and had a pepper stuffed with lamb. He ate mostly the lamb and that was enough for him.

Mint tea was offered at not cost at the end of dinner. A nice touch. Especially since we found out at the end of the meal that they did not take credit cards or checks and between the four of us we had $15.

Overall, this place really has potential - wonderful food, genuinely nice staff and tame prices. Dinner for 4 came to $51 without tip.

I have a feeling it will be added into our repetoire...when a few more weeks have passed.

Until we eat again, KLB

Puttanesca, 9/22/05

Thursday nights are back. Actually, I think they never left it was just that JB and I were practicing being married and boring. But as of this Thursday we are back in action.

We each had a work function in the early evening that coincidentally both involved margaritas and were both at 38th & 3rd. I had the grain-alcohol specials at Rio Grande and JB had a slightly more refined margarita or two at Margarita Murphy's.

The two of us were in good spirits (pun intended) as we cabbed it to the Hudson for drinks to celebrate Emily's new job. I was concerned that the bar would be mobbed but our friends had secured a table outside and I lounged as I sipped my champagne.

Next up dinner. There were six of us and we had to make a decision. The Hudson Hotel is not necessarily far from good restaurants, but there is nothing in the immediate vicinity except Per Se and Masa of course. (One day I hope!)

We debated going to Bar Pitti in the Village but instead ambled over to Puttanesca on 9th Avenue.

Here's the thing about dining after drinking -- lack of attention to detail. But here's the good news, I remember what I had and what JB had.

I had a simple gnocchi with mozzarella and tomato while JB opted for a chicken paillard.

Everything was good, nothing was stellar. Prices, however, were great! $12 for pasta, $14 for chicken. And everything always seems more reasonable when you've had a few drinks.

I think everyone else had the table had an enjoyable pasta dish. Emily's had some sort of creme sauce, Cartwright's had veal. Oh, and everyone had the San Giovese.

I looked around on some websites to try to jog my memory of the evening and I read that they are supposed to have a spectacular brunch.

I'm not sure I would run back, but if I'm at the Hudson again, I may just stumble over there.

Until we eat again, KLB

Thursday, September 22, 2005

F & B, More F than B, 9/22/05

I was lucky enough to meet my friend Vanessa for a quick (read quick especially for those at my new job) for lunch today.

We chose F & B, the haute hot dog place for lunch since it was near both of our offices. I had been several times with JB but not recently and its has gone way downhill.

The first thing I noticed when I got there, late - sorry!, was that the menu was different. Apparently the low-carb craze is over at F & B. I used to order something called "Little Pups" which was mini hot dogs with mustard, no bun, and a side of green beans. High fat, low carbs - perfect.

To my dismay the Little Pups were no longer, so I opted for chicken fingers. The green beans were still on the menu, thankfully, and I ordered those, too.

Vanessa seemed confused by the menu but settled on a veggie dog and sweet potato fries.

We headed outside to a table on 52nd Street to sit in the shade and enjoy a few minutes in the last few hours of sumer.

Vanessa got our food and brought me two breaded dishes. I suddenly realized that the beans now had breading. Why? They were so good and garlicky before. Now the breading almost separated from the bean. Gross.

The chicken fingers, which resembled french fries, were tasty so I concentrated on those.
Vanessa picked at her veggie dog but finished it. She did enjoy her SP fries.

So to sum up a quick meal quickly, closer to an F than a B.

Until we eat again, KLB

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Berger Review! Houston’s, 9/20/05

Last night we were exhausted, actually yesterday afternoon we were exhausted. All I wanted was something familiar, something good and the obvious choice was a burger.

Proximity and timing were also key last night. Everything fell into place and JB and I were seated at Houston’s in the Citicorp building before 6:30.

Houston’s is peculiar. It’s a chain. You almost always have to wait (unless you get there before 6:30). And yet people in New York seem to love it, including myself.

I knew what I wanted before I looked at the menu. Burger please. There were two to choose from, a Cheeseburger or a Hickory Burger which promised cheese, bacon, onions and BBQ sauce. I opted for the classic and it was phenomenal.

I don’t know what they put in that cheddar but it made the burger. I could have had another order of the cheeseburger, hold the burger. I ate each bite faster and faster. JB told me to slow down but I just could not stop the enjoyment. After I finished the burger I picked at the shoestring fries, lettuce, tomato and sesame seed bun scavenging for more juicy meat or cheese.

JB avoided the Burger route (self-imposed health kick for the evening) and had the mushroom barley soup and grilled chicken salad. Both were fine, but neither rose to the top. And a few hours later he was begging for a slice of pizza, some health kick.

When we left at about 7:30 the bar was filled and the line for dinner was halfway to Barnes & Noble upstairs.

We headed home to watch our Tuesday night shows, Biggest Loser, Big Break IV (a golf reality show, of course) and Nip/Tuck. Can you guess whose choices were whose? Hint: One is my obession, one is JB's and one is joint.

Until we eat again, KLB

Monday, September 19, 2005

Dockers, 9/17/05

The fall, from what we've heard, is the best time in the Hamptons. Its still warm, but everything is less crowded. You almost feel as if you have the place to yourself - almost.

We spent Saturday night at Dockers with my parents and their two friends who live out there semi-permanently. They did not hit Dockers all summer because of the crowd factor and neither had we. We soon found that we did not miss all that much.

The setting is the best part of Dockers. Nestled in the reeds over looking the bay in East Quogue, it is one of the most picturesque spots on the South Fork.

As we sat down to dinner, we were greeted by the warm air on the deck and the sounds of the live band. It was a perfect evening weatherwise.

The last time I had been at Dockers was in the summer of 2004 when we were at the height of wedding planning. We had had lunch on the deck and enjoyed simple salads of seafood. It was a memorable meal.

Tonight we had memories, but none culinary-related.

My dad is a creature of habit. He likes to save money. Hence he prefers the two-appetizer trick. Instead of a main course, he orders two apps. Sometimes its a bargain, sometimes he's left starving. Here had had mussels followed by clams. Not too tough to mess up.

My mom followed suit with a salad and fried calamari. She deemed the salad fine but the calamari too rubbery. I am officially over fried calamari after loving it for years. I think it can be good in some places, but most restaurants destroy it. However, give me grilled calamari any day and I'll devour it.

JB and I split a tuna tartar which had more avocado than tuna but had flavor at least. My scallops had a heavy hoisin-type sauce, which masked the fish taste. It was served with fried root vegetables which I could have done without.

Between courses we watched the band. There were two women dancing up a storm. They were the only participants. I was convinced they were married to the band members.

JB had a Phil Mickelson moment and ordered the lobster ravioli. Most likely because Brian was telling of his astounding 76 on the course from earlier in the day. And while the lobster ravioli helped JB on his game on Sunday, he said it was a blah dish.

I did not get to taste it since my mom had strategically positionedus as far apart as possible. According to her, it's not socially acceptable to sit next to your husband. I wonder who came up with that idea, my mom or my dad.

Our new friends, Rosemary and Brian, each had a fish. Brian's was frenched sole that looked reminiscent of fried scrod and Rosemary had a simple salmon. I hope they liked their food, but if they didn't I wouldn't be surprised.

Along with the great September weather, came a great torrential storm. And we ran for c0ver as they cleared our mains. We tried the tent first and then went inside for dessert.

Desserts were of the pre-fab variety. My peanut butter ice cream pie was tasty, but obviously frozen. No one had anything else, save for some sorbet, and we rounded out the evening.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening of good company and good setting. If only the food could have matched it.

BTW, the next day at the beach, JB saw the band groupies. As it turned out, they were not with the band, just avid dancers. I wonder if they'd be there if we were to go back next weekend. I guess there's only one way to find out.

Until we eat again, KLB

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Uva, 9/14/05

Uva is a chic-magnet. Seriously, when I arrived at Uva at 7:00 tonight after booking up 2nd Avenue for 30 blocks, I realized that this place was chock a block with females. Uva, located on 2nd Avenue, between 76th & 77th is a single guy's dream.

JB did not have the pleasure of this male paradise tonight, instead I blended with the crowd by meeting my friend Laura for some wine and snacks.

Uva is essentially a wine bar with food. When you arrive they give you the wine list first, 3 pages of by the glass, two pages of by the bottle and one page of beer. We needed to ask for the food menu.

What we had was pretty good. I like to call them snacks, but we really had enough for a meal. Laura and I started with a traditional bruschetta and a cheese plate.

Laura loved the bruschetta. It was crispy and not too oily.

The cheese plate confused us. You get to pick three cheeses for $16. We chose a goat cheese, a parmesan and something that said it was made with buffalo milk which we assumed was mozzarella-like. When our cheese plate arrived we recognized the parmesan, or at least we thought we did, and something that looked like brie. The third cheese a mystery.

When our server finally came over, we had had a few confirming bites and knew something was not right. She took it back and said she would fix it. She came back with the same remaining cheeses declaring that the mystery cheese was a goat cheese and the brie was the buffalo. She also had a replacement parmesan. Strange. Still we ate on and sipped our wines. Almost all cheese is fine with us.

The bread served was fresh and delicious. Doughy, not hard and it was refilled frequently. The olive oil, once we got it separated from the vinegar, was an adequate companion.

Finally, we had a salad of capon, apple and a mustard dressing. It was our server's favorite. And it was good, the chicken especially.

Next time (and there will be a next time since JB will sprint here for the female factor), I may consider some of the more substantial dishes like ricotta gnocchi or pesto shrimp, but for tonight this was perfect.

When we looked up from our meal, we noticed that although a few men had straggled in, women were still in the lead. And at this place, I think they always will be.

Until we eat again, KLB

Monday, September 12, 2005

Cafe Evergreen, 9/12/05

Monday nights we are always faced with the same question. What's for dinner? We are usually too tired to shop and cook or to really enjoy dinner out. So we find ourselves eating a bowl of Special K or pizza from our friends downstairs or, like last week, both. Tonight, though, I wanted a restaurant. It didn't have to be fancy by any means, just have a waiter and maybe a tablecloth.
Without a specific destination in mind, we headed uptown on 1st Avenue. After seriously considering McDonalds (JB's idea) we went a few doors further north to Cafe Evergreen.

We've been to CE several times before. Its not Shun Lee, but its not your typical Chinese place either. They have wine and wine dinners in fact. And they have dim sum.

I followed JB's lead and agreed to share a largely dim sum dinner. Pork was the star tonight. Soup dumplings were sweet, doughy and hot just like the ones at New Green Bo in Chinatown only a lot closer to home. Seared pork dumplings were crispier and full of flavor.

To make ourselves feel slightly healthy we ordered an entree of string beans and eggplant. We welcomed the dish after eating so much pig. But we returned to the swine for dessert. Three delectable pork buns.

Its funny, I would never order pork tenderloin or a pork chop, but put it in soy sauce and I'm all over over it.

I wouldn't call it the most orthodox meal (or Kosher for that matter), but certainly a good one. And those old sayings about not being hungry an hour after you each Chinese....I'm still full and probably will be all week.

Until we eat again, KLB

A “Lovely” Day on the North Fork, 9/10/05

I admit, I like Rachael Ray. I know some people think she’s annoying or, frankly, a bad chef, but I am obsessed with her show $40 A Day. So much so that I’ll often find myself at a meal with JB saying in my most RR-like voice, “The way the cheese just blends with everything ….mmmmmm.”

For those of you who are not Food Network junkies, on $40 A Day Rachael goes to a city or region and has only $40 for all of her meals. Typically, she has 3 squares plus a sweet or a specialty cocktail amidst hitting the local tourist spots.

I think that Rachael needs to go to the North Fork of Long Island. We had a very RR day on Saturday. First, we went raspberry picking at Harbes Farm on Sound Avenue. It’s a veritable bargain since you get to eat as many berries as you want while picking and then you only pay for what actually stays in your $3 basket.

Then we headed to Mattituck, Love Lane, specifically. Love Lane has the requisite grocery store and deli, but it also houses a boutique complete with Lacoste and Juicy, a great cheese shop that has delicious fondue and Connie’s Bake Shop.

Connie’s Bake Shop is a gourmet delight. Delicate pastries and ginormous cookies fill the cases. But the sandwiches are the real winners here. JB and I split a chicken, pesto, and mozzarella sandwich on ciabiatta for $10.

It took awhile to come as we sat outside watching the slow pace of Mattituck life, but it was worth the wait. The chicken was super-fresh and who can argue with great mozzarella. We ignored the meager salad with scary pink dressing and focused on each bite in Rachael Ray style.

To finish off our meal and give us fuel for our golf game, we split a big cookie ($1.50). Believe it or not, it wasn’t that great. “Too cakey.” JB declared.

While we didn’t get to spend a full day on the North Fork, Rachael would have had plenty to see, do and eat. All within her budget. You can hit a number of vineyards, see historic Greenport which has expensive and inexpensive foodie restaurants or you can do what we did.

Drive a few miles further east to Cutchogue and play par-3 golf. For $10 you get 9 holes, $1 extra gets you a pull cart. And just off the 6th hole there’s a local kid selling lemonade and golf balls. Now that’s my kind of career.

Until we eat again, KLB

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Jacques Strap, 9/8/05

JB, his mom and I have a thing for Jacques. Amidst the throngs on 86th street and the idiot bars on 2nd Ave, Jacques is a charming French bistro hidden on 85th street near 3rd.

This was a our fourth time there. The third time was definitely the charm. JB's mom threw a party for us in honor of our engagement. They gave us the back room and a simple, but delicious prix-fixe of chicken, trout or hangar steak.

I had booked the reservation on opentable.com (another fave site) and JB's mom was greeted by name by the manager. I immediately thought this was a good sign. I envisioned champagne on the house for the newlyweds or at least an amuse-bouche. Nothing at all. In fact, that was the last time he spoke to us all evening.

Notwithstanding, our server was sincere and helpful. Remembering our party in November, I leapt for the hangar steak as did my mother-in-law. JB opted for the mussels & frites in a provencale sauce.

To start we shared tuna tartar and bluepoint oysters. Not your typical bistro starters, but they were adequate. The crackers did nothing for the tuna they accompanied, but the fish was good. The bluepoints went fast, I did not opt for a bite.

JB demolished his mussels & frites. The only complaint here was that there was no bowl for his discarded shells which created a minor mess. The steak was OK. I think they changed it since our last visit. I ate it all, but again, had ordering remorse.

JB lectured me that I should have ordered the roast chicken for multitude of reasons. Always good, better for you, less cholesterol -- blah, blah, blah. Next time I'll consider listening to him.

We ended on a high note of tarte tatin. Personally, I like to order it because I like to say it with my 8th grade French teacher accent, "tarte tatin". But it was good. Vanilla ice cream, cinnamon sugar, caramel and then the apples. It vanished as soon as it hit the table.

I'm not sure if there will be a fifth time. As you can tell, they sort of left us strapped. Like but not love.

Until we eat again, KLB

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Berger Review! Dave's Bun 'N' Burger, 9/3/05

Captain's Log, Berger date, September 3, '05, exploring Hamburgers. The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast. Our destination is Bun 'N' Burger which rests in the town of Westhampton Beach. My orders were to examine a bold new spot where we had not been before. I am becoming better acquainted with my role as a blogger and so I decided that it was time for me to take a turn at the helm. Burgers are our obsession, restaurants are our passion, food is our drug. It was time for a fix.

The grill started when I placed my order for breakfast. That was why, our waiter explained, it took an inordinate amount of time to receive our food. My burger deluxe was the joint's first of the day. A burger deluxe comes with fries, lettuce and tomato. There's coleslaw on the side but it's nothing to write home about. The burger was of the small delicious variety, the fries were a bit inconsistent with some being crispy and some soggy. The bride decided that to start her dining for the day, she would have a very plain egg white omelet with a side of requisite hashbrowns. Those whites could have used a splash of green or red hotsauce but they tasted just fine the way they were. A cup of coffee that I had accompany my meal was tastier than I could have hoped for at 65 cents. I expected the worst but got the best diner coffee I can remember. It was also nice to be refilled often as coffee pots were walked around the restaurant by the staff.

By the time it was time to leave, the bill came to around $10. We know why we'll be back, we couldn't figure out why we hadn't been. Until we eat again. JB

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Airport Dining, Belle's Cafe, 9/3/05

JB and I are on a kick. Its called “Dining Off the Beaten Path”. A few weeks ago it was golf courses, last week a car dealership and this week the airport. Gabreski airport is no typical airport though and, for that matter, Belle’s Café is not a typical restaurant.

Chances are you will never fly into Gabreski, aka the Westhampton airport, unless you are on a private jet or a military chopper. You just can’t fly commercial to the Hamptons. But you can go to the airport and eat at Belle’s Café.

Belle’s serves southern food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can sit outside and watch the planes land while you eat your ribs. And it’s BYO which us bargain hunters adore.

We arrived at Belle’s on Saturday night around 9:00. The place was packed and they were only allowing big parties to sit outside. The inside dining room was filled with several parties who had BYOBed a little too much, so we asked if there was anyway to avoid sitting there.

After a few minutes, they moved a two-top out to their back porch. You couldn’t see the planes, but you also couldn’t hear the loons inside, so we decided to stay.

We had brought our soft cooler with a few beers so we each cracked one open and discussed our other airport dining experiences. JB and I loved eating at the airport in Key West; it was one of the best meals of our vacation. JB dined at the West Palm Beach airport when he was trying to save the election for Al Gore. And my dad is a huge fan of airport dining, especially Westchester and Nantucket airports. (Coincidentally, he frequents the public golf course in Greenwich for lunch.) Guess it runs in the family.

The menu has all of your southern favorites: Gumbo, catfish, jambalaya, ribs. We opted for the jambalaya and the meatloaf. Coincidentally, they are the cheapest entrees on the menu at $18.95 each.

We were treated to a bowl of succotash and a loaf of cornbread with a fruity butter. Yum all around. We scarfed down the succotash and tried our best not to consume the whole loaf of cornbread.

When our entrees came, we were a bit disappointed. The meatloaf had the black beans it promised, and it was bacon-wrapped, but it still was pretty dry. The jambalaya had chicken, ham and sausage – no fish. Since I don’t eat ham, my choices were limited. I ate A LOT of the rice which tasted oddly of ketchup. Both dishes came with grilled peaches and sweet potatoes which saved the meal for us. Those sides went fast. It’s too bad because I think the food is good and that we just ordered wrong.

The only semi-bizarre thing about Belle’s is that they charge you a music cover charge, $5 per person because there is a live band. But as I mentioned before, we sat outside, we were not dancing (as the waitresses were) and the band was on a break for much of our meal. Still we had to shell out the extra $10.

All in all, another odd locale for dinner. Here’s hoping that next time I’ll be posting about a plain-old restaurant. But with the Bergers, you never know.

Until we eat again, KLB

Thursday, September 01, 2005

RUB A Dub, We Love Their Grub, 9/1/05

Continuing with JB's golf fixation, we spent the first part of our evening at the driving range of Chelsea Piers. After JB had hit 200 balls and I read through Golf for Women a few times, it was time for me to be in charge.

JB was tired and hungry, still I dragged him from 11th Ave & 18th St to 7th Ave & 23rd St so we could get some grub at RUB.

RUB (stands for Righteous Urban barbecue) is one of the many BBQ places that has sprouted this year in hopes of bringing real BBQ to NYC. So far, they're blowing the competition away.

My only fear was that they wouldn't have ribs, I had heard that they run out of items quickly. So before we sat down I immediately asked the hostess the food status. We were told they had everything except buns (go figure) and rib tips.

We were starving so we ordered quickly, ribs and a meat platter with brisket, sausage, greens and onion strings. We also agreed to share everything.

After JB had finished his sweet tea, plus about three free refills, the food arrived and we dove in right away. The baby back ribs rocked. Seasoning was perfect and no sauce was necessary. I wished I hadn't agreed to split the order.

The brisket on the meat platter was so good that we both decided that RUB will be catering this year's Rosh Hashanah dinner. It's Kosher right?

The sausage seemed a bit off and JB pointed out that it was probably the caraway seeds. I'm not a fan of rye bread either.

The sides were adequate, although I agree with other reviews that they could use a macaroni & cheese or mashed potato side dish. Their offerings consist only of coleslaw, fries, beans or potato salad in addition to the greens and onion strings.

We still managed to eat everything, but sadly did not have room for their one dessert, one of my favorites, Fried Oreos.

A few years ago, after too many glasses of Chianti at the San Gennaro festival, I ditched my friends in search of a fried oreo. My friends found me covered in powdered sugar with a big grin on my face and oreo in my teeth. I really think that they are an awesome dessert. I will have to go back to try them.

In fact, we can't wait to go back. There's a lot more meat to be had including pulled pork, St. Louis ribs and barbecued chicken. And next time, I'm saving room for the fried oreos and I'm not sharing!

Until we eat again, KLB

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pan-Asian Invasion, 8/30/05

We Bergers like traditions. We have specific traditions for specific occasions. For example, for JB's birthday we always go to sushi. And when JB gets a new job we go to sushi. But when I get a new job, we go to Fusha. Since I've only gotten two jobs, we've only done it twice, but two times make a tradition in this family.

We got to Fusha at about 9:00 after sharing a few drinks with my now former co-workers at Redemption on 2nd & 53rd. The highlight of Redemption was the Bacardi Vanilla which resulted in multiple free shots for those were interested. I wasn't, but JB and others certainly were.

Fusha, a pan-asian restaurant located on 1st Ave on the corner of 58th, was packed. Not bad for a Tuesday.

We were four and luckily there was one free table for us. Our luck ended there. Service was abysmal. We laughed at how many times the waitress walked passed us before she even asked for our drink orders. Our first courses came in about three minutes, but not everything at once. And in the end our bill was wrong.

The food went from fine to bad. JB's wonton soup was ordinary, Emily's calamari didn't taste like fish and my shrimp tempura roll was bathing in mayonnaise. Larry was the winner by default here with an eggplant starter. Eggplant is pretty tough to ruin, even I can cook it.

We had hoped for better with our main courses. Having been before I knew that the Malaysian noodles were a safe bet, so I had those with shrimp. JB had sushi, of course, which he said was average. Poor Larry & Emily had both been craving pad thai. To quote Emily, "This is the worst pad thai I've had in the city." Larry practically drowned his in hot sauce so he could finish it.

This is the problem with the pan-asian invasion. Typically, there's one chef and he's only from one country. He's not from Pan-Asia. So at a pan-asian restaurant, you should ask where the chef is from and then order the dishes from his or her region. Case in point being Fusha's Malaysian chef and my Malaysian noodles being the most superior dish.

Needless to say, Larry & Emily, probably won't join us the next time we have to celebrate this tradition. But frankly, the next time I wonder if Fusha will still be in existence.

Until we eat again, KLB

Monday, August 29, 2005

Car Dealership Dining, Seriously 8/27/05

Lately JB and I have been frequenting golf courses for meals, so this weekend we decided to rev it up a notch and dine at the newish restaurant Annona above the luxury car dealership in Westhampton. With Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Lotuses and the like, this is car dealership dining at its very best.

Everything at Annona is expensive from the 2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom to a bowl of spaghetti. In my opinion, the car is a better deal.

Saturday nights in the Hamptons are filled with lavish parties and opulent openings. We have yet to attend one, but here’s hoping for summer 2006. We did, however, arrive at Annona 30 minutes early to check out the cars and found ourselves in the middle of the Phantom viewing party. Lucky for us, that included gratis champagne and high-end hors d’oeuvres including shrimp & caviar. Throw in a new set of golf clubs and it would be JB heaven.

We headed up the elevator to the restaurant and were immediately struck by the size of the room. Compared to the mammoth showroom, Annona is tiny. We were seated a nice banquet and tried to soak it all in. Upon further thought, I realized that this was a strange place. I felt as if I was in another world, or at least New Jersey. Everyone was farpootzt and the wine list contained $800 bottles, yet we were a stone’s throw from the oil change place. With a setting like this, we were eager to try the food.

Our server, Matt K. if my memory serves me, was a delight. He talked about the cars downstairs and the event that we had crashed, plus he told us the dogs on the menu. (Corn pudding and homemade sausage in case you were wondering.) I ordered the eggplant ravioli, being a fanatic of both eggplant and cheese I opted for the entrée size ($30!) and decided to skip a first course. JB ordered the tagliatelle with a rabbit ragu to start and the albacore tuna for his main course.

As we settled into our selections from the plentiful bread basket (focaccia and proscioutto parmesan were the standouts) I was told that they had just run out of the eggplant ravioli. I was suspicious since two tables consisting of the dealership owners had just ordered, but did not put up a fuss. I am convinced through that they stole my ravioli. That said, I had to pick a new dish. I stayed with the pasta course and opted for the pennette with zucchini, squash and saffron.

The food was good, but not $35 for a tiny piece of tuna good. Or $28 for noodles, vegetables and a very expensive spice good. The rabbit ragu on the tagliatelle had the best taste, but it was the least artfully presented. Think deconstructed lasagna with no cheese.

As we left we picked up the latest issue of Hampton Style. Hampton Style is Dan’s Papers attempt to play with the other Hamptons glossies like Hamptons and HC&G. Of course, there’s an article about Annona. The owners are quoted as saying that they opened the restaurant so they could have a place to entertain their high end clientele. With that it made perfect sense. This was a restaurant for salesmen, that was the other world.

And I guess since I won’t be buying a Rolls anytime soon, we won’t be back for awhile.

Until we eat again, KLB

Friday, August 26, 2005

Berger Review! Pop Burger, 8/25/05

A lot of people say that the Meatpacking District is over, its become ridden with tourists and therefore has lost its appeal. But Pop Burger is still alive and kicking.

A large group of us headed to Pop Burger last night after celebrating Laura's birthday at the Cabanas at the Maritime. We all needed something to eat and Pop Burger was the obvious and nearby choice.

The menu, like the place itself, depends on where you sit. If you sit up front, its a take out place with burgers, fries and the like. If you sit in back its a lounge that serves interesting-named cocktails and bar food including the requisite mini-burgers. I guess they think that if you're drinking you wouldn't want to consume an entire burger. (I think they may have that backwards.)

We opted for the lounge so some less hungry members of our party could continue the festivities. The rest of us, which included the insatiable JB and myself, ordered mini-burgers and fries all around. Each plate of mini-burgers comes with three burgers and a ketchup dipping sauce. Their burgers are simple, small (of course) and come with cheese, lettuce, tomato and pop sauce, which my friend claimed was merely Russian dressing. Its certainly not the best burger I've ever had, but it gets the job done. Fries are hit or miss. We had several cones of them. I sampled almost every batch, each having a different level of crispness.

My friend V.J. , who lives close by, says he makes Pop Burger a frequent stop. And that's just what it should be - if you're in the neighborhood or need a burger after a few drinks, its a great nightcap on the evening.

But next time, I'm getting a full size burger. This mini-stuff is definitely not my style.

Until we eat again, KLB

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Golf Course Dining Part I, 8/13 & 8/14

As I've already mentioned, JB is obsessed with golf. Since it was PGA weekend, to make it fun for me, we decided to hit some golf course restaurants and simultaneously watch the tournament.

Saturday was hot & muggy. I was stuck to the plush interior of Barney, our non-air conditioned 1992 purple Ford Taurus, when we pulled up to the Cherry Creek golf course in Riverhead, NY. I was also cranky after unsuccessful visits to Target and Home Depot. My spirits lifted when I opened the door of the clubhouse and was hit with a blast of A/C. It really is an amazing thing.

This was no typical golf course, it had a fine French restaurant. And I enjoyed the french waiters and white tablecloths. JB and I each had a grilled chicken salad with goat cheese, bacon and tomatoes while cheering on Phil Mickelson. I asked for no balsamic, which was smart because JB's salad was more like a vinegar soup. Being a fan of vinegar though, he did not complain, just drained off some of the excess.

The next day we went to Indian Island golf club, also in Riverhead, for a more proletariat golf course lunch. A turkey club for me and a steak sandwich for JB. Nothing to write home about but we had a good view of the TV and they let us stay as long as we wanted.

In the end, there was rain so the tournament finished on Monday and to JB's delight, Phil Mickelson pulled through. I've heard his favorite meal is lobster ravioli. We should have that one day soon to celebrate his victory.

Until we eat again, KLB

Berger Review! Triangle Pub, 8/12

Now that I am a Berger, I love to eat them even more. JB makes a terrific burger, but I am always on the quest to find one that lives up to my new name. One recent discovery is the Triangle Pub in Eastport, NY. For those of you who are not Long Island geography experts, Eastport is just west of Westhampton, and calls itself the "Gateway to the Hamptons." One of the best stops in this "Gateway" town is the Triangle Pub.

We passed it countless times without considering going, its right off of Sunrise Highway and the parking lot is usually packed with Harleys. But I saw a post on Chowhound.com (one my fave websites) that raved about their burger. So we gave it a try.

At $6 for a large burger, the small is $5, its the best deal in the almost-Hamptons. All sides are extra, including lettuce and tomato. But for about $8 you can build a great burger. They are large and filling with the meat packed loosely, similar to a Jackson Hole burger.

The atmosphere is non-existent and the rest of the menu I'd skip, but if you want a good burger and still have miles to go until you hit a real Hampton, its a great stop.

Until we eat again, KLB

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Prix-Fixe Steals? Trata, 8/17/05 & Bamboo, 8/20/05

JB and I are supposed to be on a budget. We're newlyweds with a mortgage, a golf obsession (JB) and a Marc Jacobs problem (KLB). But we still have to eat. So we decided to give the whole prix-fixe deal a whirl.

Last Wednesday was a beautiful city summer night, not too hot with a breeze. The perfect night to eat outdoors. We were celebrating my new job, but had to keep the costs in mind. JB picked me up at work at 6 and we headed up 2nd Avenue looking for the perfect spot. I was thinking about something in the high 70s but we stopped at Trata just north of 70th.

I had always passed by Trata thinking it was too expensive, maybe a parents place. I'd heard nightmares of fish by the pound gone awry, so I had avoided it. But I remembered they had a prix-fixe. Actually, Trata's prix-fixe is from 5 to 7 so arriving just before 6:30 gave us plenty of time to linger over the menu.

We each had a glass of Greek wine, which is all they carry, and pondered the prix fixe, soup or salad; salmon, halibut, chicken or mahi-mahi; coffee and dessert. Not a bad deal for $19.95.
When we ordered our waiter said that it was too late for the prix-fixe. We reminded him that it was only 6:40 and ordered away. This happened again when we asked about dessert and he said that it was not included in the prix-fixe. We asked him to check and he came back to tell us that he was mistaken. He was nice about both errors, we just found it humorous, it was as if he really did not want us to get the prix-fixe. He was partially right.

The salad which we both had, was a plate of greens. We had at least thought it would be a Greek salad, but, nope, just lettuce. We asked for a little feta on the side which they brought out, and at no extra cost, to our great surprise.

The main course was fine. JB has the salmon and I had the mahi. The fish was OK and the grilled vegetables were tasty enough, but nothing wowed us. I've never liked salmon and after this meal, I may not like mahi-mahi either. It actually tasted like salmon. Maybe they cooked them together.

Our dessert was a walnut cake that did not look pretty but was actually delicious. And all in all we decided that for $19.95 a person, three courses and a sidewalk table on 2nd Avenue in the height of the summer, it was worth it.

Following our theme, we wound up in East Hampton on Saturday night at 6:30 looking for a similar deal. We had meant to go to Pacific East in Amagansett but their prix-fixe had already ended so we decided to try Bamboo instead. I had promised JB sushi after all.

Typically taking JB out for sushi is an expensive evening. He orders sushi for his appetizer, entree and dessert. You know how at a restaurant your server will ask you if want to hold on to the menu, well he always holds on to it and keeps on ordering. Meanwhile I am usually doing math in my head for each additional piece of toro.

The prix-fixe at Bamboo is more than Trata's at $25, but I think its even more worth it. There are plenty of appetizers and entrees to choose from. JB, staying the course, had a spicy tuna roll to start and a sashimi platter. I had the shrimp tempura as my first course and the chicken as my second. The chicken butterflied with the bone in a soy-heavy sauce with fried rice. I rarely order chicken with the bone, but this was pretty good. The shrimp tempura was the standout dish of the evening and huge, too. We ended the evening with coconut sorbet which was a great end to a great meal. Hamptons prix-fixe's really are no joke.

Bamboo was empty when we got there. We had our choice of seats in the bamboo garden so could enjoy the last hour of sunlight and our Sapporo. When we left, it was packed. JB did not want to leave when he saw the "talent" (as he calls it) lining up at the bar. I'm sure he'll want to go back next weekend.

So back to the title, Prix-fixe steals...I don't think they are a steal. Sure, if we added up the money for ordering all 3 items it equals a lot more than we paid for it, (JB's sashimi at Bamboo would have been $27 an hour later) but we may not have ordered so much food. I was pretty full after both meals. It is also is not so fun to head home when a restaurant is just starting to buzz. Nevertheless, I think we'll keep trying to find the perfect prix-fixe meal, its almost as much fun as not paying retail.

Until we eat again, KLB

Golf Course Dining Part II, 8/20/05

JB is obsessed with golf. So much so that since we're both obsessed with food, we now have to go restaurants at the golf course. After spending last weekend at 2 different golf courses (see Golf Course Dining Part I to be posted later this week), we were on to our 3rd golf course.
I had planned a "Day of Fun" for JB which included tennis, a golf course lunch, some putting, the Writers & Artists solftball game in East Hampton and sushi.

After looking through my Long Island Zagat, I saw that there was a restaurant called The Fairway in Sagaponack at a public course. It was on the way to East Hampton, so we braved the traffic and the heat (our purple Ford Taurus has no A/C) and hit the course.

JB was immediately in love. It was a diner on the golf course. And this diner had outdoor seating with a view of the putting green and the final hole. JB had to strategically position himself so as not to miss any action.

Unfortunately, the food was not good. JB's cheeseburger came with cheddar that was still cold. He picked at the burger and then said he wasn't that hungry after all. I tasted the meat and it was just plain ordinary, especially after the PJ Clarkes burger from the day before.

I had a grilled cheese which had promise since it offered four different kinds of cheeses, American, Swiss, Cheddar and Mozzarella, plus bacon on whole wheat toast, double decker style. Here the cheese was melted, but they were separated and not blended together.

Although the food was not great, I think we'll be back. There aren't that many golf course dining options. Hopefully, we'll each have something better next time.

Until we eat again, KLB

Berger Review! PJ Clarkes, 8/19/05

Friday afternoon, I actually ate lunch on my lunch hour, with two friends from high school. Vicki was visiting from Boulder having just gotten engaged and Laura, a fellow NYer, was recently back from a trip to Italy & Spain. I, being the only one crunched for time, chose the closest place to my office, PJ Clarkes.

When I arrived there was a line, I had thought it wouldn't be crowded since it was a summer Friday, but I guess not. Vicki and Laura perservered and we were seated at the corner table. Its perfectly fine for three females, but JB (Mr. Berger) would not have enjoyed such a tight space.

The three of us had the same burger, cheddar, medium. As good as I remember it, not too big and not too small. The bun was spectacular. It may be that I've given up my "no-carb lifestyle" for a "some carbs are good, especially at restaurants, lifestyle" but the bun was so soft that I ate both sides. I have not done that in a long time.

Speaking of old habits. As a part of my no-carb life, I stopped eating french fries, cold turkey. I remember eating a large fries from McDonalds somewhere in Connecticut on New Year's Day 2003. We had just spent a week in Vermont doing some heavy eating and drinking, after finishing my McFlurry I vowed to my parents and JB that I would not even touch a french fry for 1 year. The self-imposed ban lasted two and half years, until on our honeymoon I reached over and grabbed a few fries off of JB's plate. For the past two months, I have a had a fry here and there. I'm not over them, but I don't crave them. But the fries at PJ Clarkes were excellent. They brought me back to that day in January. I had missed fries. (We also had the onion strings, which did not receive as much fanfare, but were spicy and tasty nonetheless).

As a Berger, I'd like to think that I can pick out a good one. I picked out JB after all. PJ Clarkes is definitely on the Berger list.

Until we eat again!