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Archive for January, 2009

I was hoping to put up more posts this week as I’ve eaten several blog-worthy meals in the past week (sneak peek…The Orchard receives a thumbs up with a few reservations and Mia Dona receives a thumbs down with no reservations…ah, the puns).  Those posts will have to wait as I have to tell you about my lunch at Rouge Tomate yesterday with a client/friend.  When Rouge Tomate opened, my reaction was “healthy, smealthy; if I want to eat something that’s good for me, I can do that at home, thank you very much.”  But then Frank Bruni published his one-star review and I was intrigued.  Still, I was more interested in the space than in the food.  The space did not disappoint – it’s absolutely gorgeous – but the food far exceeded my expectations. 

We started lunch by perusing the lengthy list of drinks from the restaurant’s juice bar.  I went with a basic iced tea and my friend opted for a Rouge Tomate lemonade (lemon juice, mint, agave, seltzer) from the “Cocktails No Alcohol” list, which includes lots of fun creations.  I had a sip of the lemonade and it was delicious.  Based on a quick review of the menu, I’d guess that the cocktails with alcohol are pretty fabulous and right up my alley with clean, crisp flavors. 

For our appetizer, we split the leek and potato flatbread with sheep’s milk feta, pine nut, market grape and caper.  When our appetizer arrived, I was very sorry that I was not toting my camera as the food was presented beautifully.  The flatbread was light and crispy and the toppings were perfect, particularly the toasted pine nuts. 

We both ordered scallops for our main course – specifically, Nantucket bay scallops with heirloom cauliflower, foraged mushrooms, and Pedro Ximénez (which Wikipedia tells me is white grape grown in certain regions of Spain and also a dessert sherry).  Again, the presentation was striking with three varieties of cauliflower (white, yellow, and purple).  The serving size was ample but, despite eating every last bite, I didn’t leave Rouge Tomate feeling too full.  Instead, I felt completely satisfied and delighted with my meal and ready to return again soon (with my camera in hand).

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Is Pio Pio a reason to move?

Pio Pio has been on the list for a long time and we finally made our way to 94th and Amsterdam on Sunday night to meet my husband’s aunt for dinner.  The restaurant was bustling with a diverse crowd at 7:30.  Pio Pio is known for its Peruvian rotisserie chicken.  Our Peruvian chicken standards are high as my husband grew up in Arlington, VA, home of the world-famous El Pollo Rico (I’m told Anthony Bourdain visited on a recent episode of “No Reservations”).  We’d give a slight edge to El Pollo Rico, but Pio Pio has nothing to be ashamed of in the Peruvian chicken wars. 

My husband and I split a Matador Combo – for $30 you get a whole chicken, rice and beans, tostones (fried green plantains with a garlic dipping sauce), salchipapa (French fries with hot dogs) and avocado salad.  Aunt Carol ordered – baked Chilean sea bass on a bed of sautéed mushrooms and spinach.  Not surprisingly, the star of the show was the chicken and the accompanying spicy Peruvian sauce.  It was fun to order the (enormous) combo to sample Pio Pio’s offerings, but the only side that I would order again was the rice and beans.  The French fries were good, but the hot dogs were unnecessary.  The tostones were surprisingly bland and I would opt for the maduros (sweet bananas) next time. 

My husband and I split two margaritas, which were perfectly enjoyable, but I think that a pitcher of sangria is the way to go.  I tried Carol’s sangria and found it surprisingly good (I don’t like sangria typically…baffling, I know).  Overall, a delicious meal at recession-friendly prices – what more can you ask for?  We are considering bidding on an apartment on 95th and Broadway and the proximity of the apartment to Pio Pio is squarely in the pro column!

Mero con Salsa de Porto

Mero con Salsa de Porto

Chicken Pio

Chicken Pio

Salchipapa

Salchipapa

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Mac and cheese, please!

We invited our friends, Jill and Greg (and sweet baby Theo, who barely made a peep), over on Saturday.  I turned to one of my favorite comfort-food recipes, Barefoot Contessa’s barbecue sauce for chicken (see my previous post).  To ensure that we would not be able not move after dinner, I also made macaroni and cheese using a recipe from one of my husband’s former colleagues.  The dish was delicious and highly recommended for a cold winter night.

Ingredients:
2 cups elbow macaroni
2 cups mastacceoli rigoti
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 eggs
24 ounces cheddar cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Preparation:
Cook the pasta, mix everything together in a large bowl and transfer to a 9×12 baking pan.  Cook at 375° until golden brown and crusty (45 minutes or so).

Suggestions for “lightening” the dish:
I made a few modifications, which were not noticeable, but made me feel ever-so-slightly better about myself.  I used half multi-grain pasta (I would be inclined to use all “healthy” pasta next time).  I used 2% cottage cheese and reduced fat sour cream.  Finally, I used three types of cheddar, one of which was reduced fat (next time I would opt for 50% reduced fat cheese).

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Just went I thought that I wasn’t going to have anything to post about today, we had Crumbs cupcakes in my office this afternoon to send off a colleague who has taken a new job.  I admit it – I really love Crumbs cupcakes.  There is a new location (on 3rd between 53rd and 54th) near my office, which is probably not a good thing.  We used to have Buttercup Bake Shop cupcakes for office celebrations, which were no problem to resist, but Crumbs is another story.

To be fair to Buttercup, I have never done a side-by-side comparison.  We tried to have a cupcake showdown – Crumbs vs. Buttercup vs. Magnolia – during the Superbowl last year.  Sadly, my sweet husband stood in line forever at Magnolia waiting for them to make more chocolate icing, which never materialized (troubling that the world’s most famous cupcake shop was out of chocolate icing…) so the showdown could not go on.  I am committing to rescheduling the cupcake showdown for later this year.  For you, dear readers, always for you.

In order to ensure that I had material for this post, I sampled all of the Crumbs cupcakes that we had in the office (oh, the sacrifices).  Here are my findings: (more…)

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I have been rather lax on posting lately.  Between our vacation in December, the holidays and our trip to Utah to ski last weekend, I haven’t eaten at many new spots and I haven’t cooked or baked any notable dishes.  (As a side note, should you find yourself in Salt Lake, make a beeline for Red Iguana.  Red Iguana serves up absolutely divine Mexican food, the likes of which you can’t find in NYC.) 

Across the next week, I have reservations at The Orchard, Salumeria Rosi (I learned my lesson after showing up without a reservation last time), and Mia Dona, which should give me plenty of material. 

In the meantime, I am borrowing inspiration from a colleague who went to Frugal Friday at Craft last weekend after I tipped her off to this post on Eater.  She and her boyfriend arrived around 6:00 and waited until 7:30 to be seated, killing time downing recession-friendly drink specials at the bar (including a $4 punch…yes, $4).  They sampled the menu widely; here’s the report. (more…)

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Co. revealed

With much excitement, we went to Co. on Tuesday night.  Jim Lahey – the man, the myth (who was in the house!) – has expanded his bread empire with a much-anticipated pizza restaurant.  I joined my husband and two friends after they were already seated at one of two long communal tables (they were told that the private, round tables are reserved for parties of five or more).  They were seated almost immediately when they arrived at 6:45.

We started with pizza bianca and olives.  I would skip the olives next time.  Lahey is well known for his pizza bianca – it took me back to studying abroad in Italy – and you can keep the extra olive oil on hand for your pizza crust. 

We ordered two salads – radicchio with shiitake, taleggio cheese, balsamic and olive oil and butter lettuce with roasted pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, lemon and olive oil.  Both were yummy.  I would have preferred for the salads to be served with (not before) the pizza – a minor tweak.

We split three pizzas among four people.  Without the olives, bread, and salad, one pizza per person would be appropriate given the size of the pizzas, but we had enough food.  We tried…

  • Boscaiola – tomato, mushroom, buffalo mozzarella, pork sausage, onion, chili
  • Flambé – caramelized onions, parmesan, buffalo mozzarella, lardons
  • Ham and Cheese – pecorino, gruyere, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, caraway

(more…)

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Addendum:  I beat Frank Bruni to the punch!  I agree with his one-star review of West Branch in today’s Times.  He liked the “Cuban,” too!

On account of the snowy weather on Saturday, we decided to “eat locally” by staying on the UWS.  First we tried Salumeria Rosi – I was surprised to learn that they take reservations and were booked until 11:00.  Noted.  Next we moved on to West Branch, Tom Valenti’s new addition to the neighborhood.

At 7:00, the restaurant was packed – the playoffs surely added to the draw as there is a large TV in the bar area.  West Branch reserves the tables around the bar (approximately eight) for walk-ins.  We were told that the wait would be an hour even though we were first on the list (?).  I think the host was a little overwhelmed.  A table opened within 15 minutes, but it took a while to clean the table and tell us that the table had opened (which we had known for 10 minutes).  I think the entire staff was a little overwhelmed.

We were seated at a table in the overcrowded bar area (walk-in diners can’t be choosers).  West Branch is clearly the new place to see and be seen on UWS for the late 30-something crowd.  The main dining area looked more civilized (quiet and spacious) than the bar.  The menu at West Branch is expansive – ranging from sandwiches to pastas to bistro-style entrees such as steak frites and roast chicken.  We opted to start with Italian and move on to sandwiches.  Here’s what we ate with my thoughts after the jump:

Mushrooms Arancini

Mushrooms Arancini

Butternut Squash, Tasso Ham Tortelli

Butternut Squash, Tasso Ham Tortelli

House Ground Hamburger

House Ground Hamburger

West Branch "Cuban" Panini

West Branch "Cuban" Panini

(more…)

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