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Sunday Tacos and Ice Cream Cones

August 21, 2014

“Sorry, we stop serving the breakfast items at noon.”

With that, my dreams of breakfast tortas and egg filled Tex Mex style tacos evaporated.  I guess that’s what we get for arriving in the early afternoon for brunch.  I had been looking forward to them all week ever since I read about the delicious breakfast offerings that Choza Taqueria at Gotham Market West.  Why would you not serve breakfast around the clock?  It’s baffling to me in particular because I am someone who firmly believes that everything, pretty much everything savory in life, tastes better with an egg on top.

A little disappointed, we settled instead for a selection of tacos and torta sans egg from Choza Taqueria along with a Mexican coke and watermelon agua fresca.

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The best part about Choza Taqueria is that you can mix and match the nine different fillings with seven various vessels to deliver them to your stomach.  We decided to sample three tacos and one torta, all made with various fillings.  Out of the three tacos, we both agreed that the barbacoa was the favorite.  Tender pieces of lamb shoulder braised in banana leaf with cinnamon, cumin and garlic were topped with roasted corn salsa and queso fresco.

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The chorizo was a close second.  Crumbles of flavorful sausage came with a mix of ranja, salsa and queso fresco.  I kept thinking with each bite how wonderful a little bit of scrambled egg would taste with it.

 

 

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Not that the fish taco wasn’t great, but after the barbacoa and chorizo tacos, the pescado just didn’t quite stand out in flavor.  I do appreciate the fact that the fish tacos here came lightly grilled, instead of fried, with pickled cabbage and chipotle cream and mango salsa.

 

 

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For the torta, we went with carne asada, a wonderful savory mix of grilled steak in a chipotle chili marinade and salsa roja.  To round out the sandwich, generous scoops of salsa, guacamole and black bean paste along with cheese and chili cream were tucked into the Telera roll along with the carne.  This was one flavorful bite after another that I polished off in no time flat.

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To kicks, we threw in an order of the ceviche coctel as well.  Fresh grouper and shrimp were mixed with avocado, lime juice, tomato and serrano peppers.  A little too tomato heavy for my taste, the ceviche felt a little too much like a Mexican style cocktail sauce instead of a proper ceviche.

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Truth be told, even though we ended up having a wonderful meal at Choza Taqueria despite missing out on the breakfast items, I was still sulking a little after the meal.  Luckily, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Stand was a few steps away inside the market.

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In addition to some classic flavors such as salty caramel, they were also serving a special to Manhattan flavor, milk chocolate Bombay.

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One cone with salty caramel and dark chocolate and another with wild berry lavender and sweet cream biscuit with peach jam please!  One bite and it was pretty evident why Jeni’s has such a cult following.  They were melting fast though so I frantically tried to keep up as I watched my wild berry lavender and sweet cream biscuit with peach jam cone soften in the summer heat, disappointment over missing my breakfast tacos long forgotten.

Choza Taqueria and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream | 600 11th Avenue, New York, NY 10036 | http://gothamwestmarket.com

Narcissa at the Standard East

August 20, 2014

I don’t even know how many years ago it was but John Fraser had a restaurant on Lafayette in Nolita called What Happens When (three to be exact but it certainly feels like eons ago).  It was an experimental restaurant where everything from the decor to prix fixe menu to the wait staff uniforms changed every month, and I mean everything.  I remember loving the two times I had dined there and how delicious the food had been.  Of course, being in New York, the restaurant came into various troubles including a rather difficult to secure liquor license and was forced to close after only 10 iterations.  The few of us who loved What Happens When lamented its closure and moved on in due time.

Fast forward three years and John Fraser popped up once again on the restaurant scene, this time at the helm at Narcissa at the Standard East Hotel.  The food at Narcissa is categorized as California style, featuring seasonal local ingredients in dishes that emphasize freshness and various cooking techniques.  A quick look at the menu and you will definitely find more similarities to the eclectic local ingredient driven menus found in San Francisco than more thematic menus in New York.  While the eclectic style might work in the kitchen, it fails to wow in the decor.  As much as I love an open air kitchen and an abundance of outdoor seating, the interior felt a bit schizophrenic, not quite succeeding in translating the feeling that the restaurant wanted to convey.

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Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the decor, the food here was successful, in particular the vegetable centric dishes.  One of my favorite appetizers we sampled on our visit was the rotisserie-crisped beets.  Served with a bulgar salad, apples and creamed horseradish, the dish was a wonderful composition of texture and flavors.  I loved how the sweet crisp apples acted as a counterpoint to the earthy rustic beets and how the creamed punchy horseradish played nicely against the chewy bulgar salad.

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The crab salad might sound simple but in the heat of the summer, a light and refreshing appetizer was just what we needed.  Nothing out of the ordinary but a plate of well balanced fresh crab salad mixed with navel orange segments and hearts of palm.  The dish was finished with a sprinkle of hazelnuts for texture.

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Even though the little neck barley risotto had great flavor, something about the texture of risotto made with barley just didn’t work quite right.  Despite my reservations about the texture, the dish redeemed itself with abundance of clams.

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For one of our entrees, we decided to venture out of our comfort zone and try the carrot Wellington.  A playful twist on a rather stale classic from days by gone, Narcissa’s carrot Wellington featured sweet roasted carrots wrapped nicely in a flaky pastry on a bed of earthy mushrooms and sunchokes.  Not bad for a meatless entree.

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The entrees were a sample of global cuisines.  From the 1950s US, we jumped right into a fusion of French and Thai with the steamed black bass.  The perfectly cooked bass sat on top of a bed of French lentils and eggplant.  A smooth creamy curry broth was poured table side in a rather classic flourish.  Light yet flavorful, this was quite a lovely take on Thai curry.

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To supplement the two entrees, we chose a rather simple side, steamed new potatoes with dill butter.  Once again, chef Fraser made the often neglected potatoes sing.  Topped with a garlicky bread crumb topping, these were as addicting if not more so than regular french fries.

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For dessert, we chose the lightest item on the menu, Narcissa’s raspberry and lychee salad.  Fresh raspberries and lychee pieces were topped with an icy granita, mochi pieces, panna cotta and basil seeds.  For the most part, the fruit salad was light and refreshing until I took a bite of the mochi.  Unfortunately, the homemade rice cakes were hardened into unpliable pieces by the cold granita.

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Finally, a piece of pate fruit and chocolate truffles as send offs with our check.  As the seasons change, it will be exciting to see how the menu here evolves.  Much like many places on the West Coast, the focus here is on sourcing local ingredients and creating dishes that let the produce shine.  I think we could use a little more of that in New York once in a while.

Narcissa | 21 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003 | http://www.narcissarestaurant.com

The Non-Brunch Brunch at Montmartre

August 18, 2014

Brunch with SB means no eggs for her while I stick with brunch classics.  This time though at brunch at Montmartre, I decided to join her and “boycott” eggs.  I remember visiting Montmartre when it first opened over 2 years ago, before it had brunch service, before it renovated and opened up a secret back garden, back when Tien Ho was the executive chef.  Isn’t it crazy how things have changed so much in such a short amount of time, I thought as we settled into two seats at the bar in the quiet garden.

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SB decided to be healthy and chose the gorgeous Scottish salmon salad.  Broken pieces of salmon was intermixed with mesclun, asparagus and almond for crunch.  At the bottom of this tall salad was a bed of chewy sweet grains.  All dressed up in a light dill dressing, the salad certainly didn’t lack in flavor despite being the healthier option on the menu.

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As for me, just because I am not eating eggs doesn’t mean I was healthy.  Instead, I went all in for the dry aged beef burger with béarnaise cheese and spinach with a side of bacon.  In lieu of a traditional bun, the flavorful juicy patty was served in between two pieces of toasted buttery bread.  This burger definitely earned its spot on Eater’s best new burger list.

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When the bacon arrived, the choice was only too obvious.  There was no question as to where the bacon will be going.  Now if only I had been a little more clever, I would have ordered the burger with a sunny side up egg inside.  I am sure it will only be a matter of when, not if, before they start to offer that as a choice for weekend brunchers.

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Montmartre | 158 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10011 | http://montmartrenyc.com

Casual Tacos at Cafe El Presidente

August 10, 2014

Looking for Mexican in Chelsea or Flatiron?  There aren’t that many choices so the addition of Cafe El Presidente was a welcoming one.  The casual restaurant is set on a block just west of Madison Square Park and just north of Eataly.  It’s one of those blocks that I rarely find myself walking through until now.  The restaurant is cavernous and rather loud when fully occupied on a Tuesday night.  The best chances of hearing your companion is to find a seat by the large windows in the front, away from the lively dining area.

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The drinks here are as predictably Mexican themed, with variations on pina cola and paloma.  Watermelon agua frescas or a horchata (spiked or not) are never a wrong way to start the meal, especially in the summer.

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And no one will complain about an order of freshly made guacamole served with house made totopos.  Similar to tortilla chips, the totopos are crispier and just a touch sturdier which makes for better dipping.

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For those who love Mexican corn, Cafe El Presidente makes the experience even better by serving the smoky buttery corn off the cob.  Tossed with just the right amount of chipotle mayo and fine dusting of cotija cheese, all this needed was a squeeze of lime and watch them disappear.

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The tacos are separated into two sections, Tacos del Presidente and Tacos Especiales.  The Tacos del Presidente are served on freshly made corn tortillas and come four or five to an order.  The Seniorita Carnitas comes with generous amounts of Berkshire pork, slow roasted until they were tender and juicy.

 

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The El Pastor de Madison D.F. features the Bershire Pork again, this time spit roasted and sliced thinly, topped with pineapple, onion and cilantro.

 

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The Tacos Especiales are more adventurous takes on tacos and are served individually.  For those who are vegetarian, or even those who aren’t, the swiss chard and poblano peppers taco packed a surprising punch of flavor.

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The quesadilla maize azul is also another great vegetarian option.  Blue corn tortillas are stuffed with generous portions of chihuahua cheese, charred corn and poblano peppers.  The resulting quesadilla isn’t quite what we are used to but the flavors speak volumes.

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Two of my favorites on the Tacos Especiales section are the Sonoran shrimp taco and the crispy fish taco.  Fresh shrimp are simply seared and topped with a mojo de ajo and haberno sauce.  Crunchy cabbage adds a nice layer of texture to the flavorful fillings.  The best part is the flour tortilla.  Blistered in all the right places, the tortilla is warm and pliant, perfectly chewy.  It makes me wish all the tacos here are served on this tortilla.

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Usually when it comes to fish tacos, I prefer mine simply grilled but the crispy fish taco at Cafe El Presidente managed to change my mind for a split second.  A generous piece of Alaskan cod is coated in a crispy beer batter and topped simply with pickled cabbage and a crema.  The fish is moist and flaky and surprisingly light despite the beer batter.

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Cafe El Presidente offers a great spot to grab a drink and a quick bite to eat in a casual and relaxed setting, whether it’s after work with coworkers or on a Sunday for an early dinner.  Despite its rather hidden location on a deserted block in Flatiron, I think I will find myself there rather frequently for an order of guacamole and a taco or two.

 

Cafe El Presidente | 30 West 24th Street, New York, NY 10010 | http://cafeelpresidente.com/

 

Omakase for Two at Sushi Nakazawa

August 3, 2014

Two seats at the sushi bar at Sushi Nakazawa might be New York’s toughest reservation to secure at this moment.  I know because I too have sat at my desk with pointer finger on the refresh button and an eye on the clock as it inched towards midnight.  Even though I am as fast as can be, any remotely reasonable time for dinner 30 days in advance is never available to us commoners and even that 5PM less than ideal time slot dissipates into thin air the second you click on it.  It wasn’t for lack of trying but until recently, I had pretty much given up the idea of dining at Sushi Nakazawa, the New York sushi temple of Chef Daisuke Nakazawa, who was made famous by his appearance on Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

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Luckily, thanks for LZ’s persistence, I found myself turning a corner away from the hustle of 7th Avenue and onto a quiet and tranquil Commerce street one Wednesday night in June.  Sushi Nakazawa was lit up brightly, revealing a minimalist decor and when we arrived, the chefs were already behind the bar hard at work prepping for our 9.30PM seating.

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The best part about the weekday sushi bar seats was being served personally by Chef Nakazawa.  The team of chefs wasted almost no time and started our 20 piece meal the second we slid into the plush leather bar stools.

The first piece was salmon hailing all the way from Russia with yuzu…

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Followed by another salmon sushi, this time a smokey Sockeye from Alaska, a little closer to home.

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A buttery and sweet Maine scallop with yuzu pepper was next…

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and a taste of the Pacific Northwest for LZ and me, a little sweet geoduck…

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Before we were served the next piece, Chef Nakazawa walked around the bar to each and one of us a picture of our next dish.

“Nemo!”  He happily pointed out the resemblance between the rare barred knifejaw fish and the beloved animated fish.  Luckily, I had no qualms about picking up the piece and devouring it one bite.  The fish had a lovely bite and had a surprisingly smokey yet lemony finish.

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Next was a red snapper from Japan.  The beautiful red skin was even more vibrant after a slight singe under the torch and the snapper was finished off simply with a touch of flaked salt.

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Following the red snapper was another new specie to me.  The silver pomfret from Japan a Pacific ocean dweller, most similar to butterfish or better known as black cod.  The silver pomfret was mild and decorated with a simple piece of black peppercorn.

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To counter balance the mild silver pomfret, Chef served up a duo of mackerel.  A fresh piece of Aji mackerel was accompanied by a piece of horse mackerel that had been aged for 7 days and a dab of strong Japanese mustard.

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From here, we moved onto shrimp.  Specifically, a piece of these beautiful spotted prawns from Catalina.

“Sayonara shrimp!”

Chef held up a trio of these gigantic crustaceans briefly for viewing before unapologetically ripping the heads off with a swift motion and prepping them.

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What we found on our plates were beautifully translucent pieces of sweet spotted prawns with a dab of soy.

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As a contrast, we were presented with humba shrimp, this time blanched quickly in a boiling stock and draped over rice.  For elegance sake, the giant shrimp were sliced into two for the ladies and left as a whole for the gentlemen diners.

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By this point, Chef stopped by each diner to ask if we were starting to feel full and if we would like to have smaller rice pieces.  Smaller pieces?  I felt like I could eat another 10 more so I graciously declined the offer and turned my attention to our next piece, a lovely amber jack from Japan…

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Followed by a smokey bonito, also hailing from Japan.

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The next three pieces came together as one masterpiece.  All belly of the blue fin tuna but of various fattiness.  We started on the left with the leanest piece, and then moved onto a medium fatty piece that was gentle torched.  Finally, we ended with the fattiest piece of the belly that literally just melted in your mouth.

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I knew that we were nearing the end of our omakase when uni made an appearance.  A piece of uni from Hokkaido was adorned with black truffle salt.  While I loved the taste of the uni by itself, the black truffle salt seemed a bit superfluous on such a beautiful piece of sea urchin.

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When there is uni, there will be ikura.  The rice parcels made for the perfect vehicle for a cluster of the gems from Alaska.

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Our last piece of sushi for the night was sea eel, barely glazed with a touch of sweet sauce.

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Before we moved onto dessert, we were all presented with a piece of tamago.  This was no ordinary tamago and we all knew.  This was the piece that caused so much blood, sweat and tears for Chef Nakazawa during his apprenticeship at Jiro.  Knowing this, we all slowly savored the delicate piece, one bite at a time, as if we can taste the years of training that went into the making of a skilled sushi chef.

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There were no desserts here at Sushi Nakazawa.  Instead, we were all presented with a sorbet of yuzu and mixed berries and hot green tea.  The icy and tart sorbet hit the spot as a palate cleanser, a nice light finish to the meal.  I didn’t realize how full I had become until I finally left my comfortable seat at the bar.  The chefs were already quietly cleaning up for the night as the diners lingered a little more, some to take pictures with Chef and others to finish the last bit of sake.  This was truly one of my favorite omakase experiences in the city.  The mix of familiar fish with some more exotic selections made the tasting exciting and kept us on our toes.  And while you can tell throughout the meal that Chef Nakazawa is clearly a professional artist who takes his craft very seriously, there was also a sense of enjoyment and playfulness that came out as he interacted with the guests.  This was someone who not only is amazing at what he does but also loves every second of it.

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Sushi Nakazawa | 23 Commerce Street, New York, NY 10014 | http://www.sushinakazawa.com/

Vive La Chez Sardine!

July 26, 2014

Or maybe not…  Chez Sardine officially closed its doors after almost two years in the West Village and reinvented itself as Bar Sardine this past Thursday.    Faced with a future without the delectable pork and unagi hand rolls or the savory breakfast pancakes or the maple miso glazed salmon head, we celebrated Chez Sardine with one more meal and went out with a bang.  So in memorandum, dishes from our last meal at Chez Sardine.  

Daikon radishes with bonito flakes…

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Pork and unagi handrolls…

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Artic char with eggplant and carrots…

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Crispy baby octopus with ham and pineapple…

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Breakfast pancakes with smoked salmon and ikura…

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Maple miso glazed salmon head…

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Clay pot ramen with coconut and chicken..

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Cheese burger okonomiyaki with kimchi and bonito…

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Greek yogurt soft serve with cheerios.

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Vive la Chez Sardine indeed.

 

Brunches at Co. and Tipsy Parson

July 24, 2014

I don’t remember exactly when brunch became a staple in my weekend routine.  Perhaps I was indoctrinated into this cultish New York ritual that one hot summer I spent in the city seven years ago.  Regardless, slowly but surely, grabbing brunch with friends has become a part of every day life.  I will share a secret with you.  Brunch menus don’t differ all that much place to place.  What makes a brunch place a favorite is really more a function of proximity to your apartment (or convenience for all parties involved) and whether or not there is a wait.  After all, even I have a time limit on how long I am willing to wait in line on a weekend before coffee.

And now, onto two of my favorite picks for brunch in the city.  Of course, given the proximity requirement, both are located in Chelsea.  The first is Tipsy Parson, a Southern comfort spot tucked away on 9th Avenue between a pharmacy and a boutique.  The food here is straight forward Southern fare with a modern touch.  Something I find hard to resist.  As part of tradition, brunch here starts always with a sticky bun.  It will arrive still warm and is best devoured within seconds which shouldn’t be too hard.

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The mac n’ cheese here is also a must have.  Even though for some this isn’t a traditional brunch dish but one bite and you will change your mind.  Creamy with a bit of crunch from bread crumbs scattered over the top, the noodles are coated with the right amount of savory cheese sauce that will make you want to scrape the bowl clean.

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For entrees, one of my favorites here is the mushroom toast.  Pillowy potato bread is grilled and smeared with a light herb ricotta and topped with tender fluffy scrambled eggs and earthy sauteed mushrooms.  Sometimes simple can be so delicious.

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For a lighter brunch option, the farmer’s plate is a great option.  Seasonal greens are grilled and tossed with mesclun and topped with two poached eggs.  I of course couldn’t resist adding in a few bites of spicy chorizo and an additional side of avocado.  Nothing has ever been made worse by extra avocado.

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My second favorite neighborhood brunch spot is located just a little further up the street.  Co. is better known for its pizzas but for me, brunch is a great time to stop by a sometimes busy Chelsea spot.  In addition to the full pizza menu, Co. offers a few delicious brunch additions that are very well executed.

One of my favorites there is the meatballs.  Nothing fancy, just well made tender veal meatballs in a light fresh crushed tomato sauce.  A drizzle of good olive oil and sprinkle of cheese completes the dish.  A great non-egg dish to start brunch off with.

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Like any good New York restaurant who is on point with culinary trend, Co. offers their version of avocado toast.  Even though it might be ubiquitous, the egg and avocado toast here is actually worth trying out.  The same amazing bread that Jim Lahey churns out next door is topped with creamy avocado, a barely cooked poached egg and shards of parmesan cheese.  A few basil leaves are torn and thrown in along with red pepper flakes for a little kick.

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Of course, you can’t come to Co. without the pizza.  One of my favorites on the menu is the flambe.  A thin crust pie is topped with bechamel sauce and a mixture of parmesan for bite and mozzarella for that stretchy melt factor.  The sweetness from the caramelized onion is balanced by the salty bite of the crispy lardon.  There really is no bad time for pizza.  Not even brunch when eggs typically rule supreme.

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Tipsy Parson | 156 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10011 | http://tipsyparson.com/

Co. | 230 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10001 | http://www.co-pane.com/

My Chicago Bites: Girl and the Goat

July 20, 2014

June in Chicago can be a little bit unpredictable.  Thunderstorms are frequent visitors that will send all into hiding with their sheer force and strength.  Luckily, on my last business trip out to Chicago this June, we were blessed with one beautiful summer day.  When that happens, the best thing you can do is be outdoors as much as you can to soak up every minute of it.  We did just that by extending our time in the sun with dinner al fresco at Girl and the Goat.

Since it was my second time dining at Stephanie Izard’s West Loop spot, I had a pretty good idea of what dishes would make it onto our dining table and luckily with a larger group, we were able to sample a wide range of dishes to my not-so-secret delight. We started the evening with a maize and blue bread with goat cheese butter and pea puree and a gouda bacon bread with back fat butter and romesco.  As good as the maize and blue bread was, the competition was just too stiff and the cheesy savory gouda bacon bread with a smear of even more pork goodness known as back fat butter won out.

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One of my favorites from my last meal was the goat empanadas.  Two crispy fried pockets came in an order so we had to triple up on it.  The grilled blueberries were an unexpected yet pleasant summer touch to the meaty empanadas.

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Two more dishes to nibble on as we enjoyed our beers.  I love a good fried pickle and the ones at Girl and the Goat were pretty on point with their crispy yet not doughy shell.  The pickles came with shallot aioli and yuzu harissa.  Both paired equally well with the pickles but I favored the depth of flavor that the harissa dip had that was perked up by yuzu.

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And what can you do to make something as simple as french fries taste delicious?  Why not dust it with ham bits and serve it with addicting sauces like smoked tomato aioli and cheddar beer sauce!  Both were so equally delicious that I couldn’t make up my mind as to which was a favorite as I alternated dipping the crispy fries into the sauces.

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As the name of the restaurant has hinted, goat is a star ingredient in many dishes here.  It was my first time having goat liver mousse and I have to say, it was quite the experience.  The gamey flavor of goat definitely jumped out so if you aren’t a die-hard fan, I would caution against ordering the dish.  Served with warm and flaky crumpets, the mousse was whipped into a blissfully smooth submission.  A pot of blueberry mostarda and some pickled rhubarb balanced the dish nicely with a little bit of sweet and a little tartness.

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From there we moved onto lamb stuffed calamari, another creative dish, this time featuring lamb instead of goat.  The calamari pieces remained tender and were bursting with flavorful filling made with ground lamb.  What made this dish even more special was the accompanying ramp mole and lamb sweet breads scattered around the dish.

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The sugo with pappardelle, rosemary and cape gooseberries might have been the least photogenic dish of the night but it was one of my favorites.  The pasta was al dente and tender, served with a succulent and rich meat sauce.  The gooseberries were a nice surprise that added a hint of sweetness.

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Just so we can say we had our daily vegetable intake, we chose the wood grilled broccoli and sauteed green beans.  The broccoli salad outshined the weaker green beans with its smokey char, rogue smokey bleu and spiced rice crispies for crunch.  Now if this doesn’t make a broccoli lover out of you, I don’t know what will.

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There was just one last dish before we threw in the towel and called it a night.  The confit of goat belly with bourbon butter, lobster n’ crab and fennel was delicate yet balanced.  A great take on surf and turf that would have been much better appreciated earlier on in the night before we stuffed ourselves silly with the myriad dishes, many featuring one of my favorite meats, goat.

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Girl and the Goat | 809 West Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60609 | http://www.girlandthegoat.com/

Black Seed Bagel: When Montreal Met New York

July 10, 2014

When Black Seed Bagel first opened its doors in Nolita, they sold out of bagels within hours.  It made us all wonder if this was going to be the next big thing that us New Yorkers will spent countless minutes waiting in line for.  The good news is that since that fateful opening day, the folks at the hybrid Montreal-New York style bagel shop Black Seed Bagel have mastered the art of supply and demand and the fear of a Cronut 2.0 has dissipated.

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Even though there is no longer a never ending line found these days at Black Seed, it doesn’t mean that their bagels aren’t worth a special trip down to Nolita.  However, before you do, you must erase all expectations of what a bagel means from your memory because here you won’t find the large fluffy chewy bagels we know and love from the likes of Essa and Murray’s.  Instead, the bagels at Black Seed are more of the Montreal variety, smaller and denser with a sweeter finish than their New York counterparts.  What else sets this bagel shop apart from others are its innovative spreads and toppings.  You can either build your own concoction or chose from a list of premade sandwiches.

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One of my favorites here is the number two, a lovely sandwich of beet cured salmon with horseradish cream cheese, radish and herbs.  Here, I substituted out the horseradish cream cheese with a tobiko studded pink number just for a little more color, as if the brightly stained salmon didn’t stand out on its own.  The fresh herbs added another dimension of flavor to the already punchy sandwich.  And that bagel, fresh from the wood fire ovens in the back of the store, was still slightly warm and perfectly chewy.

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For a more classic number, the number one sandwich is a good standby.  Stuffed with fresh salmon, tomatoes, capers and onions, the sandwich is finished off with cream cheese of your choice.  When in doubt, you can never go wrong with scallion.

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What if you aren’t in the mood for salmon?  Well, you are in luck.  Black Seed also offers a fabulous sable fish which goes wonderfully with the horseradish cream although I would suggest throwing in some radishes and herbs for a little more crunch and color.

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Although Black Seed doesn’t offer any other proteins other than fish, you can actually make quite a delicious vegetarian number with the fillings offered.  Here we have an AM special with scallion cream cheese, avocado, lettuce and tomato.  This might sound simple but it was quite a flavorful sandwich and when the ingredients are this fresh, you really can’t go wrong.

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For a sweet finish, I highly recommend splitting the number eight sandwich (after all, these are quite small).  A simple combination of fresh ricotta, apple and honey on a toasted bagel is healthy yet sweet enough to feel like dessert.

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Black Seed Bagel | 170 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10012 | http://blackseedbagels.com/

My Charleston Bites: Martha Lou’s Kitchen

July 7, 2014

We started out the trip to Charleston with a traditional feast at The Hominy Grill and it just seemed appropriate to end our short stay here with lunch at another local favorite, Martha Lou’s Kitchen.  

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In comparison to some of the other restaurants we visited over the weekend, the pink little shack on the side of the road on the outskirts of town was bare bones.  From the one room dining room with the plastic covered tables to the Styrofoam plates and bowls to the cash only policy, this was not a fancy restaurant but the meal was nonetheless fabulous and the service genuine.  The best part was that the delicious Low country feast was all prepared by the very own Martha Lou who still is at the helm in her kitchen at over 80 years old.

A cup brimming to the rim with sweet tea and we were ready to eat.  The menu here is simple, there are fried chicken, which is a must order, as well as other fried goodies such as this fried shrimp platter that was served with a simple tomato salad, crinkle cut fries and toast.

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Even though we were still enjoying the fried shrimp platter, the second our fried chicken basket arrived, we dropped everything.  This might not look quite that impressive but trust me, one bite of the shattering crust into that juicy tender meat underneath, you will realize that there really isn’t any food better than a good piece of fried chicken.  There can not be enough said about a truly quality piece of fried chicken made from a recipe that has been perfected over so many years in the same hands.

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In addition to the baskets as well as some daily specials, Martha Lou’s also offers a variety of Southern sides that are almost just as delicious as the main star.  We sampled our way through a few including the baked mac n cheese, stewed collard greens with burnt ends and baked beans.

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But my favorite side by far was the giblet rice.  Flavorful as can be, these were infused with intense chicken flavors and even though by this point I was already full with fried chicken, I couldn’t help sneaking spoonfuls onto my plate.

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Now this was a feast to remember and a proper way to send us off, happy and full and already thinking about the next trip back.

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Martha Lou’s Kitchen | 1068 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403

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