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