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.

- 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 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