Sunday, February 28, 2010

NYC Trip

This week we had "Friday Night Dinner" in New York City. We took the train out of Providence on Friday about noon time and by the time we checked in to The Waldorf-Astoria (Tony had enough Hilton Honors points for a couple free nights) and got going it was about 4 or 4:30. We tried to cancel that morning because we watched the news and it looked like the snow was going to make it hard to walk around. The news showed pictures of the roads in NYC and they were pretty bad. Al Roker said NYC could see another 9 inches. When we called the Waldorf-Astoria they said if we wanted to cancel we would be charged for one night, so we, we'll be there... It turns out Friday was the worst and it wasn't that bad. Saturday it was really just dealing with the puddles (every one's pants were wet on the bottoms, unless you were a smart New Yorker and you wore your snow boots with your pants tucked in). It was chilly but really, not as bad as we thought it would be, and all the fantastic food made up for it.

We visited quite a few restaurants from Friday 4:30 pm- Sunday 9:00 am. Friday was "The Spotted Pig" and "Momofuko" and "The Milk Bar". Saturday was "Jacques Torres Chocolates", "Bar Boulud", "Carmine's", "Blue Smoke" and "Les Halles". Sunday was only one, "The Bread Factory Cafe'".

Lets start at the beginning. The Spotted Pig was awesome. We heard about it, where else, but on the Food Network. On the show "The Best Thing I Ever Ate", Danny Boome talked about this place and he said...the deviled eggs and the devils on horseback were great... so that's what we had. These were on the menu as "Bar Snacks". The Deviled Eggs were very tangy with rice wine vinegar (my guess) and Flur De Sel (sea salt). The salt gave the eggs a salty crunch, the vinegar was great and it was finished on the plate with a drizzle of olive oil. I just tried to recreate it and I have to say I was pretty damn close. The Devils on Horseback was different and really good too. It's prunes stuffed with a pear wedge and then the whole thing is covered with a piece of bacon and it's broiled. There may have been a touch of maple syrup on the bacon. The crunchy, salty and chewy bacon on the outside was nice with the crispy but somehow cooked pear on the inside. I will guess that the pear is roasted for a short time before being stuffed in the prune. The prune may have been soaked in wine to rehydrate a bit. That is something I have to try to make in the next day or two while it's fresh in my memory.

We also got the"Fried Buffalo Mozzarella Ball". It was an appetizer that we shared. It was a softball sized piece of cheese wrapped in Serrano Ham and then it was breaded with eggs and Panko bread crumbs and the whole thing is put into a deep fryer until it's golden brown. It was served with more Serrano Ham on the side and a nice Mescalin Salad. That was good too.

The next stop was Momofuko Ssam Bar. We got lucky and got a seat at the bar, they don't take reservations and it was packed. Tony got a drink called "Pickle brine Martini", it had something that was probably... lemon oil? The bartender only put a few shakes in the bottom of the glass then a little pickle brine, gin and vermouth. At the very end he peeled off a good sized section of a fresh lemon and just twisted it over the top of the glass and then threw it out. The amount of lemon smell was amazing, that's why I think there was lemon oil at the beginning too. I had a glass of Pinot Noir. The owner of Momofuko has other restaurants and they all have an appetizer of Steamed Buns with Braised Pork Belly, Hoison sauce, cucumbers and scallions, so we had to get that. Something else caught our eye and it was Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette. The Brussels sprouts were in a tempera batter and deep fried and then tossed in the vinaigrette with fresh mint and fish sauce and it wasn't fishy at all, which was what I was worried about, to finish it off they added rice cake pieces for a nice crunch.

The main dish for me was Wild Striped Bass with Kabocha Squash, Sassafras and Honshimeji Mushrooms. Anybody that knows me, knows that's is not like me, but I wanted to step out of the box and order some different things. I am just starting to try more fish and salmon is really good, this Bass was more fishy but it was OK, I ate almost the whole thing. The mushrooms and squash flavored with sassafras were really good too. Tony had the Corned Beef Terrine. He really enjoyed it. It came with Fried Egg Sauce and Tea Brined Egg Salad.

We left Momofuko's Ssam Bar and went next door to Momofuko's Milk Bar for dessert. It was packed so we almost said forget it let's go somewhere else, but the line seemed to be moving quickly so we went in and boy am I glad we did! I normally would get one of the chocolate cakes or some ice cream but I thought, OK what's something different...the Banana was really super duper good! The moist banana cake, the layer between each cake layer that I am guessing was Dulce De Leche, which is like a caramel. There is a layer of Gianduja Chocolate which is a hazelnut flavored chocolate. Then the layers are also sprinkled with hazelnut crunch (praline, I'm guessing). Tony got Chocolate Malt Cake which was layered with malt fudge, malted milk crumbs and charred marshmallow between each layer. Wow they know their stuff!

Saturday morning we decided to walk to the upper west side because there were some food stores we wanted to check out. We had breakfast at a cafe', nothing special. On our way we wanted to stop at Jacques Torres Chocolates, cafe'. It was featured on the Food Network, on The Best Thing I Ever Ate show. Giada DeLaurentiis said the Wicked Hot Chocolate was the best chocolate dessert she ever had, so we got two of those and sat by the window nice and toasty warm as we watched the people walk by who were obviously chilly. The ingredients in the hot chocolate is Cocoa powder, corn starch, vanilla, whole milk, spices and chili. The corn starch gives it a slight pudding consistency. The chili which I think is cayenne pepper gives a nice warmth and that's the "wicked" part in the title. They were served in small cups and at first I thought, that's it, it's so small. But it was so heavy duty, we wouldn't have wanted any more than that. It was really delicious and if you want chocolate, this hot chocolate really delivers!!

We went to Fairway Market and Zabar's on the upper west side. I found some wheat berries and some green french lentils. I had been looking for both and haven't come across them at home so I carried them around all day, which was fine.

After the food stores we headed south on our way to our next destination we came across, Bar Boulud. Daniel Boulud has cookbooks and restaurants and he has been on different shows. He's a French chef and as soon as you walk into Bar Boulud it's got French written all over it. We sat at our favorite spot, the bar, and the fancy wine bottles were everywhere. We hadn't planned on going to this restaurant but I think it was meant to be. The slices of fresh bread were placed in front of us with a really fresh round of butter, something was special about that butter. We ordered a drink. I never ordered a Mojito anywhere, I know I've had one before, but this was a Brazilian Mojito and let me tell you I am still thinking about it. It was made with Cachaca and fresh mint, ginger, and there were bit's of "sugar in the raw" every so often. I have to figure that drink out. Tony got a Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA beer. I got the Cauliflower Soup. Tony got the Smoked Salmon Club and the waiter asked if we'd like an order of French Fries and we said yes. The fries were good but not as special as we thought they might have been. My soup was buttery and absolutely perfect with some ground black pepper and a few pieces of cauliflower for garnish. It was cold outside so it warmed me up nicely. Tony enjoyed his smoked salmon club that came with house made potato chips.

We made our way to the next stop, but before that, we stopped for a beer at Carmine's restaurant. It's a great Italian restaurant that has family styled service, big bowls of pasta served in the middle of the table and you help yourself. We didn't eat anything there, we just wanted to take a break from walking and have a beer.

Next, we made our way to the Blue Smoke restaurant. It's a fancy BBQ restaurant, we were hoping to get some appetizer sized potions of barbecue, but we ended up getting BBQ Potato Chips served with a Blue Cheese Dip that had fresh chives and bacon sprinkled over top. I liked that idea. Everybody loves chips, these were house made and it was a good idea for something to do at home for a party.

Our final destination was Les Halles on Park Avenue, a French restaurant that Anthony Bourdain worked at for a long time, he now has a show called "No Reservations" on The Travel Chanel. We actually went to this restaurant before, but we went to another one that was in the financial district, we didn't realize there were two of these restaurants. Last time Tony got the Muscles and this time he got the Muscles again! This time he ordered 1/2 of an order. I got an appetizer that was a big wedge of brie cheese on top of lightly toasted French Baguette slices. The cheese on toast was placed under the broiler to melt the cheese a bit and then a honey and black pepper sauce was spooned over the cheese. It was served with a bit of mescalin salad with candied walnuts and shallot vinaigrette on the side. I already tried to recreate this dish and it was just as I described but I think they used another kind of honey than Clover Honey, basically I heated the honey in a saucepan and sprinkled in cracked black pepper corns. It was very close to the restaurant, maybe the honey should be more mild.

We stayed for dessert at Les Halles and got the Rum Raisin Crepes with Chantilly Cream and Caramel Sauce. It was very good! It tasted like something I would make for dessert. Chantilly Cream is just whipped cream sweetened with sugar and flavored with vanilla. The Rum Raisin part was just raisins soaked in rum until they plump up. You make some crepes and caramel sauce and there you go!

That's it! The next morning we had to catch the train at 10:00, so we left the hotel thinking we would stop at an interesting cafe', whatever looked good. Well they say "the city never sleeps", we know when they sleep, on Sunday morning! Everything was closed, we found a place called "The Bread Factory Cafe". Tony had an authentic NYC bagel with smoked salmon cream cheese that he enjoyed.
Here's the google map of our little trip:

View Feb 2010 NYC Trip in a larger map

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