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Archive for October, 2006

I was shopping at Urban on 2nd this weekend and noticed that there is construction going underway on 9th street and 2nd Ave for a new Max Brenners– only a few avenues and blocks over from the Max Brenner’s on Union Square.  Hmm… why would you put these two so close together ?  *shrugs.  I’m still excited regardless.  Hmm.. I guess more people will flock to the East Village now, eh?  I just checked the website and it says opening soon.

max brenner

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Some of us got together to go with Jess to Essex to start off our birthday celebration.  I’ve been to Essex for brunch before and loved it, but I went this weekend and was fairly disappointed.  The pancakes were still as good as ever but they just didn’t do the eggs well.  The kitchen staff should’ve paid more attention to our eggs.  Eggs, to me,  are practically the most essential part to brunch-  next to mimosas and bellinis that is.  I’ve always been drawn to this place due to it’s high ceilings and the skylight that allows ample daylight to stream through.  Also, brunch for $15 with 3 brunchtails [brunch cocktails] in no way, shape, or form, a bad deal. 

I ordered the eggs benedict with gravlax– I know, I’m becoming way too obsessed with this whole gravlax thing and I will stop.  My eggs came on an English Muffin topped with hollandaise sauce with a side of spinach greens and home fries.  My biggest problem is with the eggs!  Apparently all our eggs were overcooked.  The poached eggs, Jenn’s sunny side and my benedict- none of the yolks ran.  =(  I guess it makes my dish easier to eat and distribute bites around the table, but I was expecting some runny eggs.  The gravlax just tasted like regular salmon to me, I didn’t taste any dill or anything else for that matter.  I read that Essex cures their own gravlax, so maybe they should do it for longer or look into their method.  *shrugs.  The homefries were soft and flavorful- I’m not sure what they put in it unfortunately but they’ve got a good recipe for homefries.  I stuck my greens onto my eggs benedict and ate them with the salmon.  Hollondaise sauce didn’t disappoint either, but there was nothing special about it.

eggs benedict w/ gravlax eggs benedict half

The pancakes at Essex were amazing, but I’m almost positive I wrote about that last time.  Phil got it today and he was absolutely in love with it.  He couldn’t finish them so he offered it to the table, where everyone was all over his pancakes… like gravy on mashed potatoes. 

Jess got the aristocratpotato pancake topped with house-cured salmon gravlax, poached eggs, and salmon caviar.  Do you see how her eggs are overdone too?  =/  The redeeming part of this dish is the potato pancake, or hash-brown I guess you can call it.  It was light and crunchy on the outside and soft and warm with distinguishable strips of potatoes on the inside.  Mmmm.  It also wasn’t too oily [but meh, some people like the greasiness].

eggs and potato pancake

Meh, I will give Essex the benefit of the doubt this time because they haven’t failed me before.  I will be very mad if they do it again though. 

What do you have after a brunch and brunchtails?  Cupcakes!!!  Before I met up with my brunch buddies, I went across the street to get some cupcakes for us from triple s aka Sugar Sweet Sunshine.  I got a variety of flavors, but I only ate one- my fave- the sexy red velvet.  It was light, airy, and flavorful as usual.  There were only three left in the batch and I swiped them all.  I saw them working on frosting and sprinkling sprinkles on top of some more in the back of the store though.  The frosting was creamy and not hard like a shell of candy frosting.  It also isn’t as sweet as ones from Magnolia’s. 

sss cupcakes

That night, I met up with Sherman for some shopping and we had a small dinner at Serafina in Noho because we were going to eat while singing karaoke later on.  Serafina is diagonal from Tower Records, which sadly, is soon to be out of business.  This is one of those extremely dim restaurants on the inside, where you almost have to read by candlelight.  Actually, at some tables, I bet you really do have to read by candlelight.  There’s an open grill where you can see the brick oven for the pizza, and that is where I’m assuming they make the bread for the bread basket. 

serafina

The bread sticks they provided were really good.  I’m a fan of butter with my bread, but they provided olive oil like a good Italian restaurant.  The bread was good enough to eat alone so I didn’t complain.  This bread, I swear, comes from the same dough as their pizza crust.  It certainly smells like it.  I remember when I was in Junior High School.. back in the day when Pizza Hut was still good and it was still alive and kicking on 21st & 2nd.  Their crust was the best I’d ever tasted.  I went to a Pizza Hut about two years ago, and it was..  in a word, gross.  The pizza was cold and the crust was not warm and had a different texture from what I once remembered it to be.  I think greased the pans with butter or some other lub to make the pizzas come out easily, and that was the key to their yummy crust.  I wonder if I had the same exact pizza today– would I have the same appreciation?  Maybe, maybe not.  But either way, this is what Serafina’s bread reminds me of.  Sherman, my friend who has been ‘cutting down’ the carbs, ate a whole stick and then some by herself. 

bread

  pumpkin They even decorated each table with a tiny pumpkin for the upcoming holidays.

We shared an appetizer and a entree and it filled the both of us up.  I don’t remember their entrees being this big, but *shrugs- always a good thing.  We ordered the il sashimi di tonno, which is finely sliced sushi grade tuna with avocado and their special dipping sauce.  The red strips on the side are ginger pieces- I thought they were peppers until I tasted one.  This dish definitely had an asian flare to it; the tuna was sprinkled with scallions and sesame and poppy seeds and the special sauce turned out to be none other than soy sauce.  Underneath the dipping sauce was a bunch of cilantro leaves.  The tuna was good wrapped around pieces of avacado and cilantro with the minimal amount of soy sauce.  There was definitely too many sesame and poppy seeds, so I had to scrape some of them off.  The juice of the tomatoes were also good with the tuna- too bad there weren’t more of them.

tuna

I wanted carbonara, but decided that the cream would be too heavy and I’d be too full afterwards so we decided on the i tagliolini di cortina; homemade with chicken mushrooms, peas, & touch of cream.  They split the dish into two portions for us and I thought that my plate was the whole dish.  I was all, “umm.. we only ordered one of these” and felt really happy and stupid when they said, “we split it for you.”  The cream for the pasta wasn’t heavy and the chicken was tender.  I don’t think they were paying attention to how much chicken they were putting in my portion because there was.. a lot.  I couldn’t finish all the chicken.  I always have to eat a bite with chicken, pasta, pees, and mushrooms so in the end, there was a lot of chicken left.  There was definitely chicken overload on my plate.  I didn’t want to eat it alone and I was full, so I just left it alone. 

 pasta pasta
my pasta before and after massive cheesing

 

Yes, I’m well aware of what a fatty day I had…  

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I recently had dinner at Park Avenue Cafe, which I discovered is part of the Smith & Wollensky team.  The restaurant catered to mostly an older classic American crowd [the man at the table next to us had on a suit and a bow tie] and served contemporary American fare.  There were a few youngsters like us and I’m guessing they were there for the same reason I was: to pay your age.   The reason why we came here is because from 8:30PM on daily, Park Ave Cafe has a “pay your age” for a 3 course prix fixe menu.  Prices start at $25 [so those under 25 will still pay $25 for the meal] and the most you’re expect to pay is $65.  There’s a different scale for kids of course.  For a restaurant with entrees mostly in the $30 range; this is too good of a deal to be true; especially for us young ones.  Everyone kept telling me kitschy this place is with a Kermit the Frog cookie jar and a huge American Flag mural behind is, but I didn’t think it was so bad.  I mean the cookie jars [there are others] do seem a bit out of place, but, meh, it doesn’t throw me off that badly.  The American flag reminds me of the restaurant America [now closed], whose whole theme is Americana.  I like that they change their menu constantly, but it doesn’t work out in my favor because I constantly forget what is in dishes I’ve eaten and can’t go back to search for information.  I can’t really trust my memory for much these days.  There are  just too many meals! 

indoor 

I love eating out with a group of people because I like to sample multiple dishes from a restaurant before making the assessment of whether or not I want to come back.  Yes, I am a pig- what can I say?  For my appetizer, I got some home made cavatelli with mushroom, black truffle, basil, and parmesan.  Can I tell you how much I love the flavor of truffles??  I love them so much I’d sell liver [not that anyone would really want it the way it’s been treated the last two months] for a year’s supply.  The truffles made this dish one of the most savory I’ve ever tasted.  I am salivating in my mouth as I try to find the words to describe this right now.  The noodles, which look like the shell pasta and the Japanese hand rolled version [the name escapes me], had a good texture; meaning the ridges on the pasta wasn’t too overwhelming.  The flavors of the mushroom with the truffles created a wonderful stock- akin to your favorite candy dipped in chocolate wrapped in caramel.  I could drown in the sauce and be a happy camper.

catavelli w/ truffles

Jenn ordered the house cured gravlax of king salmon with avacado, honey mustard, crispy toast.   here and I have to declare that this place has the best gravlax I’ve tasted so far.  I mean I don’t have much gravlax experience, but it was good.  There were the right amount of dill and wasn’t too salty like the one at Casanis.  The gravlax alone was flavored well, but it tastes even better with the mashed avocado.  The creamy-ness of the avacado with the smoothness of the fish came together really well.  I loved the presentation of this dish because I’m a collector of shot glasses and am always excited to see shot glasses used in the non conventional way. 

gravlax

Rich got the terrine of sonoma artisanal foie gras topped with fennel on a bed of fig marmalade and a side of brioche toast.  The brioche I’m usually use to is the one that looks like a cupcake, so this threw me off.  I wasn’t a fan of it because I thought the texture was too rough and it was bland.  I, personally am not a fan of foie gras [French for “fat liver,” ie. that of a duck or goose].  It’s considered a luxury item and is suppose to be an acquired taste and all, but I just never got into it.  Rich, however, loves the stuff.  My friend Joe says it tastes like lard so he’s not too into it.  I mean texture was good, and I liked the fig marmalade- it tastes like balsamic vinegar with sherry to sweeten it up. 

foie gras

 I didn’t know what I wanted for an entree, but everyone seemed to rave about the meat dishes.  I couldn’t order that because all that meat would be too overwhelming for me so I ended up getting the slow grilled cod with mussels and spaghetti squash.  The concept of spaghetti squash just boggles my mind- it’s so cool!  You use a fork and scrap the squash after you de-seed it, and the squash will come out in strips!  Everything in my dish tastes very bland by itself, but the flavors of the squash together with the cod was good.  I thought the skin to the cod was overly done, but the crispness served to be a good contrast to the soft fish meat and squash.  The flavors in this dish were very light and natural.

cod

After I heardseveral people rave about thier filet mignon, I had to try some for myself.  The filet mignon came with onion marrow marmalade, greens, whipped potatoes, and crispy onion rings.  I only had a small piece of the medium rare steak and it was tender and fairly juicy.  I can’t go much in depth here since I’m not a big meat person, but I can see why people would like it. 

pork loin 

I also tried a piece of Jenn’s duck breast confit.  It was a bit on the chewy side, which I didn’t appreciate.  Not only was the meat chewy, but the skin was too.  Usually the skin is very crisp, but overall, I just think it was undercooked.  It also wasn’t very flavorfull.  I’ve read previous reviews by other bloggers about this dish and they also didn’t enjoy it. 

duck confit

 I sampled many a dishes and ate my own dish, and I still had room for dessert.  Can ya believe it?  That’s fatty status for you.  Park Ave Cafe has a really good selection of sorbets, so instead of an ice cream sundae, I wanted a sorbet sundae.  Fortunately, the waiter didn’t look at me like I wanted to ask him to trade my first born for his and was quite nice about it.  I got a scoop of the pear and the grape.  Both were very good and tastes like their natural respective fruits.  The pear sorbet at Monkey Bar is also very good if you are ever in the neighborhood.  My sundae came with 6 different garnishes, which were catered to ice creams, but I still used it for my sorbets.  There were caramel, raspberry sauce with real raspberries, thick sweetened whipped cream, fudge, toasted rice crispys, and chocolate shavings.  The caramel was soooo good.  They added a little something to it to call it their own and Jenn and I just kept eating it straight from the glass. 

sundae garnishes sorbets

My other fave was Jen’s warm apple strudel with buttermilk-date panna cotta and chai-tea sabayon.  I have never tasted apple strudel that was so good in my life before.  This is mainly because of the buttermilk and the fact that it wasn’t very sweet.  I’m always afraid to eat apple flavored sweet stuff because there’s just too much natural sugar, and when it’s combined with regular sugar- bah- it’s like giving me a heart attack in sugar form.  I didn’t taste anything chai-tea, but the buttermilk flavor definitely seeped through and tasted good with my sorbet.  You see that piece of sugary zig zag substance in the back?  That’s what Jen used to dip into my caramel.  She was definitely on a sugar high after that.

apple strudel

Something I didn’t try but the guys really liked is their signature Chocolate Cube, which is a thin chocolate cube filled with caramel mousse and choclate sorbet.  It definitely didn’t look like there was any caramel in there, there seemed to be tons and tons of molten chocolate that spewed out by the color.  The presentation is lovely though.  So, chocolate lovers- the boys have given the okay on this one.

chocolate

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