Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Quicksie NYC Lunch: Financier Patisserie, New York, NY

Today, I channeled my inner Joey Tribbiani and had a sandwich for lunch.  Most of my NYC work trips involve a visit to ‘wichcraft for the turkey salad.  I broke tradition and ventured two more storefronts to Financier Patisserie.  

Financier is an ideal spot for a quick work lunch: fast counter service, a few sandwiches and a few salads.  Simple, good ingredients. Oh, and pastries. No, I didn't have macaroons for lunch, not that I didn't want to...

Instead, the Le Vegetarien called my name.  This was a panini comprised of a fried green tomato, basil pesto, mozzarella and arugula and it was almost perfect.  Perfection would have been slightly more basil in the pesto, but it came close. 

Consider this added to the NYC work trip repertoire.  

Until our next Berger, 

Financier Patisserie
10 locations in NYC, find the one closest to you or where your travels take you

P.S. On my walk to the Jitney, I passed an amazing-looking Cambodian sandwich shop - Num Pang - it's been added to the list

Friday, May 23, 2014

A 2-Step Plan to Montauk: Montauk Brewing Company and Swallow East, Montauk, NY

By now you know how us Bergers prefer to have more than just one stop on a dining adventure.  A recent trip to Montauk was no different.  Step 1 - Brewery. Step 2 - Dinner. Try it, you'll like it.

Step 1: Montauk Brewing Company
Before dinner, it was beer time.  Montauk Brewing Company is a 2-year old brewery founded by three local guys who according to their website are "lifelong friends...living the no frills good life."   Pull up to their tasting room/house and you can feel the vibe right away.  Seating options include picnic tables outside and bar stools inside.  (Note to parents: the brewery is directly across from a playground so there's even a chance that some kids could hang on the playground while you hang at those picnic tables.)

JB and I split a tasting of 4 samples for $8.  Our favorite was the Arrowead Red Irish Ale.  This went down easy, that half pint was gone before we knew it.  I started to rethink this splitting thing.  The IPA was OK, still good, but miles away from the Arrowhead.  JB liked the Stout.  And we both loved the collectible 5oz. glass that comes with each tasting.  We may have taken more than one home.

Bonus: You don't have go all the way to Montauk to try to these brews.  They are selling in grocery stores and restaurants all across Long Island.  See their website to grab some for yourself.

62 South Erie Avenue
Montauk, NY

Step 2: Swallow East
Those of you who have seen the list, know that Swallow East was on it.  I wasn't going to Montauk and not crossing this off.  All that I really knew about Swallow East was that it was a small plates style restaurant and that it was a must go.  I trusted my sources and they turned out to be spot on.

The restaurant sits in a marina just before Gosman's Dock.  You don't even realize what a pretty spot it is until you get inside.  We parked ourselves next to the windows about 5 feet from deep water in the very bright and sunny whitewashed dining room.  They also dedicate a lot of space for the bar scene.  I'd like to come back on a busy Saturday in summer sans kids and imbibe on their deck.  But this was an eating visit, although I did have two glasses of rose to help pretend like it was summer.

The menu was daunting, really everything looked delicious.  And as we sat and saw other people's food come out, we kept noting "oh that would have been a good choice."  With the help of our waitress we settled of some of our favorites and some of hers.

First Sharing Course:
- Lobster Roll: Nothing beats fresh Montauk lobster (well maybe Maine lobster, but that's another story).  This celery-free (Yeah!) light mayo concoction hit the spot.  I'd recommend a double order and perhaps a little extra butter.
- Shrimp Tacos: Swallow East offers 5 different kinds of tacos - shrimp, fish, chicken, veggie and clam.  It was the tomato, red onion and chipotle mayo that pulled us in.  Two to an order made for easy sharing, a tiny bit dry, but still very good.

Second Sharing Course:
- Shrimp with Grits: Our favorite course by far.  Shrimp, chorizo, tomato and grits -- just as good as any I've had in New Orleans.
- Orzo Mac & Cheese: The biggest disappointment dish came in a mini Le Creuset-like vessel which gave us high hopes.  I did like it but JB could not stand the asiago parmesan cream sauce that covered the orzo, peas and bacon.  Oh well.  A restaurant can have one miss.

Boys Course:
- Sliders and Fries: Yeah we did the double order here.  These fries should be at the top of any best fries list in the Hamptons.

- Key Lime Pie: I couldn't resist my favorite dessert of all time.  I have to say that their version was pretty decent.  Not Key-West transporting but for Montauk, definitely a keeper.

474 W. Lake Drive
Montauk, NY

Have any other 2-step plans for us?  Tell us your faves and we'll go. You can even come, too.

Until our next Berger,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to Turn a Cracked Windshield into a Steak Dinner: Cliff's Elbow Room, Jamesport, NY

When you dine out a lot, the credit card bill adds up quickly.  To help lower the cost of my expensive habit I leverage all the discounts possible including Groupon, OpenTable certificates, pre-fixe and happy hour specials.  So you can imagine that when JB went to get his cracked windshield replaced and came home with a $45 gift certificate towards Cliff's Elbow Room in Jamesport, I was pumped.   Upon further examination of the gift certificate, I discovered its many limitations - only available on Wednesdays, only good for main courses and expires in 30 days.  I immediately consulted our calendar and picked the next available Wednesday.  We would not be missing out.

Cliff's Elbow Room is not a fancy steakhouse, it's more a steak "joint".  Decor is homey at best, service is surly and slow and the wine list despite being in the middle of North Fork wine country should largely be avoided.  Yet it is packed every night.  We joked upon seeing the crowded dining room that night "Looks like a lot of people got their windshields fixed." But seriously, there is a crowd at Cliff's every night because of the marinated steak which is that good.  

Each steak dinner comes with bread basket, a limp salad and potatoes (fried or baked).  We ordered and waited and waited at our bar table.  The boys pounced on the bread basket of hot rolls and semi-stale bread sticks while precariously balanced on their bar stools.  

Steaks finally arrived completely charred black on the outside in their special marinade.  A porterhouse for JB and a shell steak for me.  Both looked and tasted amazing.  This is not a prime piece of meat, but the marinade makes it juicy and delicious.  A good steak is always a treat, I'd call this a very special treat.  We ate until our plates were clean and we probably could have had more.  

The boys each had the chopped steak (aka hamburger) which as you can imagine was almost as good as either of our traditional steaks.  And I would have definitely pegged Cliff's as a steakhouse-style fry kind of place - I was pleasantly surprised by the crispy shoestring, McDonalds style-fries.  

With the porterhouse at $32,  my shell at $28 and the boys' burgers each at $8, the $45 did not exactly cover the whole meal, but I'll take $45 off the bill anytime. 

And by the way, if you ever need a new windshield and want some free steak, go here: http://www.actionautoglassli.com/Auto_Glass_Shop_Dinner_Offer_Speonk_NY.html

Until our next Berger, 

Cliff's Elbow Room
1549 Main Road
Jamesport, NY

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Family Dinner: Harlan Social, Stamford, CT

The family dinner.  You know the one with Grandparents and Grandkids that's usually before 6PM? Not in our family.  In our family, that dinner is primetime at 7:15 with a bustling bar crowd and some awesome food.  That's how we roll and that's how we rolled into Harlan Social in Stamford, CT on a busy Saturday night.

This part of Stamford is definitely having its moment and Harlan Social is a huge part of that. The chef hails from NYC and is trying hard to combine a lot of current food trends into one - open kitchen, small plates, charcuterie, mozzarella bar, bacon-centric.  Is it eclectic? Yes.  Does it work? Mostly.

Our party of six was determined to share and mind you this is not the best group of sharers.We shared:

- Harlan's Homemade Potato Chips: They had me at bacon and scallions.  Blue cheese was just a bonus.  The bacon pieces were large and substantial.  This was a fave.
- Asian Style Fried Chicken Wings: These were coated in peanuts, scallions (again) and chili oil.   JB and my parents did a great job of demolishing this double order (I am not a wings girl).  Licking the bones was involved.
 - Local Burrata: Burrata is always at the top of my list.  For a place with a mozzarella bar, this could have been better.  Truthfully, the burrata was fine.  I think the oven dried tomatoes and asparagus did not do it justice. 
- Spicy Lamb Meatballs over Polenta: Another double order here was liked by some but not all at our table.  The polenta was the best part.  

And that was it for sharing.  Sounds like a lot?  Well, really, the boys shared a Harlan Burger with fries (obviously) which they adored.  But some people were still hungry.  So we ordered dessert.  

Mini Donuts with Various Dipping Sauces, Chocolate and Caramel Tart and Corn and Goat Cheese Ravioli.  Yup, ravioli.  No harm in sneaking in a plate just for yourself.  From what I hear, it was a good choice.  As were all of the desserts. 

Good Family Dinner, indeed.

Until our next Berger, KLB 

Harlan Social
121 Towne Street
Stamford, CT

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mini North Fork Round Up: Roanoke Vineyards, Paces Dockside and Magic Fountain

The Open Table $50 check was nearing it's 6 month expiration date. How it lasted so long is a mystery. Obviously it was not a case of not going to any restaurants in the past 6 months but instead a product of me moving the actual check from pile to pile and never taking it along with me.  (Note to OpenTable: Can you please allow for online redemption of these things.) Enter the plan to go the North Fork to try out Pace's Dockside. And since we were heading to vineyard territory, throw in a stop at one of those along the way.

Stop #1: Roanoke Vineyards
We picked Roanoke for two reasons - they are open until 7 and they have an award-winning Cabernet Franc (Even though it's spring and still feels like red season to me).  What we didn't account for was that Roanoke would be a popular Happy Hour, post-work kind of stop.  When we arrived just after 5, it was still quiet as we enjoyed our flight of reds for $12, but come 5:45 it was packed with the working crowd.  So we bought a delicious bottle of that Cabernet France for later and headed East.

3543 Sound Avenue
Riverhead, NY

Stop #2: Pace's Dockside
Again, we found a happy hour crowd here at the bar.  The restaurant itself was quiet though I imagine come summer, this place will be mobbed with couples and families taking in the view while dining al fresco.  Pace's Dockside opened in the winter at Strong's Marine in Mattituck a place where you can dock your boat or just come hang waterside. We found a combination of locals and visitors making it a nice, inviting crowd.

There are two Pace's Steakhouses already on Long Island and while this place does focus on steak, they have an abundance of other options.  Keep in mind, though, that the steak is only aged, not prime-aged.  In my mind, if I'm paying $40+ for a steak, it should be prime-aged, so we didn't taste the steak.

Instead, I opted for one of the freshest pieces of fish I've had in a long time.  A huge black and blue tuna hung off my oversized dinner plate.  It wasn't a steak, but it sure looked like one.  Perfectly cooked and coated with black sesame seeds, I knew I had made a good choice.  The accompanying wasabi mashed potatoes had the requisite spice although I could have done without the limp leeks and roasted red peppers.

JB also steered away from the beef and chose the country style fried chicken.  Again, huge.  And again, tasty.  I almost enjoyed his sweet potato mash better than my wasabi mash.

As you can imagine, a steakhouse also has good burgers.  The boys each had an appetizer slider and shoestring fries with a nice touch of rosemary.  Smiles all around.

2255 Mattituck Avenue
Mattituck, NY

Stop #3: Magic Fountain Ice Cream
And then dessert.  What better way to end the day than ice cream.  It was late so we took it to go.  This old school institution hand packed us a quart of vanilla for $10 for the boys (including JB) to split when they got home.  Lucky me, they had key lime pie flavor, which I got to enjoy the whole car ride home.

9825 Main Road
Mattituck, NY

North Fork Round Up: 
- Roanoke Vineyard: Go
- Pace's Dockside: Go
- Magic Fountain Ice Cream: Go

That's 3 Gos.  So what are you waiting for - GO!

Until our next Berger,

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Real Deal Mexican: La Hacienda, Southampton, NY

Mexican food in Southampton.  Sound expensive, right?  Are you envisioning $15 margaritas and $28 shrimp fajitas?  Think again.

La Hacienda in Southampton is the real thing: truly authentic Mexican, low prices and a crowd whose first language is definitely not English.  Yes, just a stone's throw from Tutto Il Giorno, delicious and pricey as I recall, is a true find.

There is a crowd at lunch.  Orders are taken at the counter and you can choose from a few simple tables or take it to go.  If you see a seat, grab it. Tacos, tortas, burritos, quesadillas - everything is good here.   In the winter, chicken soup with posole is my fave and JB is a tripe fanatic.

Simple fare was on our plates today.  JB opted for the beef burrito and I savored the nachos.

Nachos are atypical.  Chips are piled high with stewed beef, lettuce, tomato and guacamole.  They are finished with a very generous helping of fresh cheese, i.e., not melted.  I was taken aback by the no-melt nacho but with each bite I was more and more convinced.  This was a good thing.

JB's burrito was a step above your Moe's or Chipotle.  For some reason, their combination of chicken, beans, rice, onion and cilantro is just so much better.

And did I mention that our lunch including a Mexican soda was only $17?

La Hacienda serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week, so there's really no excuse not to go.

Until our next Berger,

La Hacienda
48 Jagger Lane
Southampton, NY

Friday, May 09, 2014

An Unlikely Hot Spot: Perabell Food Bar, Patchogue, NY

Visit the greater Westhampton Beach area on a rainy Thursday night in May and it will be somewhat deserted.  Visit Perabell Food Bar in Patchogue on rainy Thursday night in May and it is packed.  What a difference a few miles can make.

Perabell Food Bar caught my eye when they won last year's Battle of the Burger contest put on by Long Island Pulse (Note: We are contemplating attending this year's August event, let me know if you want to join us).  And it came recommended again to us by a local restauranteur and so we found ourselves on said rainy night in Patchogue.

The space is comprised of a large dining room and a bustling bar that offers some pretty sweet happy hour deals - half price burgers and wine! Our foursome settled into an oversize booth among the groups of moms on their night out, dates and a few families, like us.

Adult Chicken Fingers and Shrimps Tacos had come highly recommended from our friend.  Sadly we couldn't find Shrimp Tacos on the menu so we settled for Chicken Empanadas, those Adult Chicken Fingers technically named Jumbo Chicken Fingers and a side of Tater Tots.  Yes, they did have plenty of healthy options including entree size salads, fish and steak.  But it was a fried apps kind of night.  High end fried apps, if that makes you feel any better.

And we can't forget about the burger.  The boys order was a split Steakhouse Burger with fries and extra pickles for Little D.

Hot rolls with a pesto butter arrived first.  Being that pesto is a current obsession of mine, I was completely enamored by this choice.  Then we waited.   And waited.  That bustling crowd meant slow service.

Finally, I mean finally, the boys burgers arrived.  Certainly big enough to split, the patty was thick and juicy.  Skinny fries were piled high with the right amount of salt.  The boys went from starving to satiated in a matter of seconds.

We focused on our fried feast.  The only thing really extraordinary about the Chicken Fingers was their size, they were indeed jumbo.  Though when combined with the honey mustard, a new level was attained.  Same for the chicken empanadas, the inside combination of chicken, chorizo, chipotle and cheese was tasty but the pastry was overly flaky.  Dry even.  Again, the sauce, this one was avocado, saved the day.  And the best of all was alternating dipping the peppery tater tots in each of those two sauces.

Apps and few bites of the burger and fries were all we could handle tonight.  Perhaps we will venture next time with the tuna tartar pizza and thai glazed short ribs  or knowing us, it may just be burgers all around.

Until our next Burger,

Perabell Food Bar
69 East Main Street
Patchogue, NY