Tag Archives: New York City

National Donut Day!

donuts
In the past few years, somehow, inexplicably, donuts have become one of my favorite foods. I can’t explain it. My grandfather was a baker so maybe it’s in my genes or something.

Anyway, celebrate National Donut Day today! Dunkin’ Donuts is giving away a free donut with every beverage purchase and that’s reason enough for me.

If you’re in NYC my favorite donuts are at The Donut Pub in the West Village. Pop on in and tell them Lauren sent you! They’ll have no idea what you’re talking about and it will be hilarious.

Happy weekend!

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Per Se (or Crossing One Off the Bucket List)

Fair warning: this post is long. I don’t want to leave a single detail out, so please know going in that this is a short story, not a friendly paragraph of snark. Here we go.

For the last few years I’ve said that before I move away from New York I would like to eat at the best restaurant in the city. For awhile I had my sights set on Le Bernadin but the more I read and researched the more Per Se came to the top of that list. Owned by famed restaurateur Thomas Keller, it is repeatedly voted the best restaurant in New York City by most food critics, has four stars (the highest rating) from The New York Times, and 3 Michelin Stars (one of only seven restaurants in the US to hold such an esteemed honor). Simply put: it’s the best. I had to go to there.

About nine months ago, The BF and I decided if this was at the top of my list, why not make that dream come true? We would just save our money. We both thought it was worth the incredible investment of $300 for the prix-fixe menu (come on, that’s a lot to people who make poverty-level-salaries in the most expensive city in the country), so we would just put away a little bit of each paycheck every month and by the time our two year anniversary rolled around in October, we’d have enough saved up to celebrate.

And then I got laid off.

Suddenly $300+ for a meal was completely off the table. “Per Se will always be there,” The BF tried to comfort me. “We’ll go somewhere else you’ve always wanted to go for our anniversary.” But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.

Cue Boyfriend of the Year. The guy still wanted to go, and he wanted to foot the bill. Despite the fact that he’d been picking up tabs left and right for his no-income-live-in-lady since the lay off in August, he wanted to celebrate and he wanted to take care of it himself. I am a pretty lucky gal. And so began the great race for a reservation.

To secure a reservation at Per Se you must call one month prior to the date you want the reservation on, at 10AM, and they are notorious for booking up immediately. The BF started calling on September 10, one month before our anniversary, and surprise surprise, they were booked. He put his name on the waitlist for several dates but we started planning for other restaurants just in case. I did not have the highest of hopes.

Until Monday night, two days before our anniversary. They called. Someone canceled.

So on October 10, 2012, two years after we said, “Okay, let’s give this boyfriend/girlfriend thing a try” we set out for a meal at my dream restaurant. Per Se is located on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, overlooking the statue with an amazing view of Central Park and the east side of Manhattan. We approached the restaurant, tucked away in a corner of the floor, and the sliding doors slid open to welcome us.

The pleasant hostess welcomed us right in and showed us to our table, a private little space up a level in the main dining room with an even better view out the huge dining room windows. “Do you think we look like we have money?” I asked The BF as we sat down. “No,” he answered, “I think you were smiling too big when we walked in.” I have to learn to play it cool.

The waitress handed us a wine menu… on an iPad. Yes, the wine list comes on an iPad. You can scroll through and touch the names for more information and prices and then choose your wine. We settled on a red that I can’t even remember, and it was absolute perfection. “So this is what a fifty dollar glass of wine tastes like,” The BF said. I gasped. “Oh well,” he said, “If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do it right.”

Per Se offers two tasting menus: the vegetable tasting menu and the chef’s tasting menu. The menus are constantly changing. I accidentally told The BF there was lobster on the menu because I saw it on the October 8th menu posted online. It was not on the October 10th menu and he was disappointed (I mean, after the fact who even missed the lobster? But even so, I was sorry I brought it up). But that just goes to show you the precise attention to detail and seasonality and availability this restaurant demonstrates. It’s mind boggling.

We chose the chef’s tasting menu (no pansy vegetarians here!) and made our choices (a few courses have options that you can decide between, including special additionally-priced options that you have to pay a little bit extra for). The following is a run down of each dish we were presented with:

AMUSE-BOUCHES:
Cheese gougeres: tiny, cream-puff like bites that are light and airy on the outside with a bit of warm, melted cheese in the middle. Verdict: the perfect first bite, setting the tone for the entire meal; unexpected and delectable.
Sweet Onion Cornet with Salmon and Cream Cheese: a mini cone made of sesame seeds and filled with a light cream cheese, topped with raw salmon. Verdict: absolutely incredible; my eyes grew three sizes after I ate this and I wanted about 10 more.

FIRST COURSE:
“Oysters and Pearls”: “Sabayon” of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters ad sterling white sturgeon caviar. Verdict: rich and buttery, with tiny pearls of caviar that exploded in your mouth and little sweet oysters swimming on top; I couldn’t have eaten any more of this incredibly rich dish but it was the perfect portion size and the ideal luxurious first course.

SECOND COURSE:
Salad of Matsutake Mushrooms: broccolini florettes, Meyer lemon confit, pine nuts, mizuna, and nicoise olive oil. Verdict: I felt like royalty eating this crunchy, sweet, and tangy salad because our waitress told us that matsutake mushrooms are only in season for an extremely short time of the year and this just happens to be the time. The mushrooms were not spongy in the least, and in their raw form were almost crunchy. The kicker on this dish was a shaving of dehydrated mushroom on top that tasted almost like a freshly cut potato chip.

THIRD COURSE:
“Rouelle” of Dover Sole: “Farcie aux feuilles de blettes,” scarlet grapes, brioche croutons, English walnuts, crispy sage and brown butter gnocchetti. Verdict: hands down the best dish of the entire meal. The fish was buttery and firm, the croutons added the perfect crisp, and who would ever have thought to add grapes to a rich dish like sole with gnocchi? This is why Thomas Keller is such a genius. I could’ve eaten 100 more plates of this.

FOURTH COURSE:
Scottish Langoustines “A La Plancha”: spiced cashews, coconut “nuage,” Yuzu-Honey, garden mint and hass avocado “potage.” Verdict: What struck me about this dish was that even with such strong flavors as spicy cashews, mint, and lobster (langoustines are a small variety of lobster) you could still taste the creamy avocado that served as the base of the dish. The flavors blended perfectly and once the four little langoustines at the center of the dish were gone, The BF took his spoon and lapped up, in as refined a manner as possible, the remaining liquid at the bottom of the bowl. It was just that good.

FIFTH COURSE:
Buttermilk-fried Thomas Farm’s Squab: Anson Mills’ polenta, romaine lettuce ribs and “sauce diable.” Verdict: my least favorite dish of the entire meal. That’s not to say it wasn’t better than most other things I’ve ever eaten, but in the grand scheme of the meal it wasn’t a standout. The squab, a little bird like a chicken, was crispy on the outside and lightly breaded with a flavorful bed of polenta underneath.

SIXTH COURSE:
Herb-roasted Marcho Farms’ “Selle de Veau”: Applewood smoked bacon, pumpernickel “pain perdu,” Blis maple syrup glaze, butternut squash, caramelized pearl onions, Brussels sprouts and Bourbon jus. Verdict: Sorry, mom! I ate veal. It was freaking delicious. Supremely tender and complemented perfectly by a crispy little Brussels sprout, a deliciously sweet pearl onion, and a little bread cake made of pumpernickel. I was so full at this point I couldn’t even finish it… but don’t worry. The BF cleaned up.

SEVENTH COURSE:
Andante Dairy’s “Vivace”: Per Se “BLT”, honeycrisp apple, young fennel and black truffle puree. Verdict: Imagine the most perfectly prepared cheese plate you’ve ever consumed. The Per Se “BLT” is a teeny tiny sandwich wrapped in a linen napkin on your plate made of 2 little hunks of oiled bread spread with black truffle puree and surrounding a fat chunk of bacon. The cheese that served as the center piece was a creamy goat cheese and the slivers of sweet apple and crunchy fennel were freaking perfect. Just… perfect.

EIGHTH COURSE:
“Prickly Pear”: “Biscuit Cuillere,” Limoncello “Panna Cotta”, pear soda and white wine granite. Verdict: the sparkliest, most refreshing palate cleanser ever. I wish I had a photo of every first bite I took during this meal because I have a feeling they’d all be the same: wide-eyed and completely dumbfounded. This little “sundae” was served in a short, narrow glass with a long spoon so every bite included crunchy ice and sparkling soda and a little bit of sweet cake from the bottom.

NINTH COURSE:
Pomegranate “Soda”: honey-pine nut “nougatine”, Persian lime “bar”, and peppermint ice cream. Verdict: If this dish was served at Applebee’s, I’d be gagging. Pomegranate and lime and… mint? But oh wait, we’re talking about Per Se and we’re talking about Thomas Keller and we’re talking about unlikely flavors that somehow taste like they were made to be combined. A little bit of the lime ice cream bar, a touch of peppermint ice cream, a little sparkling pomegranate foam and you have a fresh, tart, almost spicy mouthful of blended complimentary tastes.
Butterscotch “Pudding”: Caramelized popcorn, chocolate custard, whipped Earl Grey tea and salted caramel ice cream. Verdict: I was only privy to one bite of this dish (The BF chose this one, I chose the pomegranate soda above) but it was superb. Creamy and rich but never overpowering.

TENTH COURSE:
Per Se “Coffee and donuts”: cappuccino ice cream with whipped foam and cinnamon sugar donuts. Verdict: DOOOONUTS! I could not contain myself. These little round donuts were incredible: airy and light on the inside with a crisp layer of fried dough and cinnamon sugar on the outside. The ice cream came served in a little cappuccino cup and I thought it was real coffee until I touched the icy cup. The tiny little cup of ice cream was the perfect compliment to the warm, fresh donuts.

The only picture we snapped at Per Se (I didn’t want to be that annoying girl with a flash going off at every course): Mignardises

Four hundred and eighty seventh course (sike: ELEVENTH COURSE):
Mignardises (little pastries traditionally served at the end of the meal): sour apple macarons (the mini-sized macarons were green and pink and I cannot, for the life of me, remember what the pink flavor was); wrapped caramels and nougatines; white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate truffles; and cocoa powder covered hazelnuts. Verdict: Holy deliciousness overload. I thought I might pass out, I was so full, but I managed to taste everything and pocket anything that was wrapped for convenient carry-out. Crunchy, sweet, chewy, rich… it was all so perfect and presented in a three-tiered silver box just to really push it over the top.

We walked away from that table, the last two in the restaurant, with the city skyline glittering outside the window, in a state of dreamy haze. As we left the dining room we were wished goodnight by every staff member who passed us by, and were presented with packaged cookies to go and a Per Se folder with our personalized menu inserts tucked inside to take home. All in all, it was a food lover’s dream come true. And I couldn’t have asked for more.

*One last special cheesy thanks to The BF for making it possible. ❤

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Red Rooster Harlem

I feel this post doesn’t need a giant intro. Simply put, this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Let’s dive in.

Red Rooster Harlem 310 Lenox Ave, Harlem, NY. Red Rooster Harlem is the brain child of Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef Marcus Samuelsson on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue in the heart of Harlem. The restaurant features an upscale, but still low-key, experience with a menu filled with Ethiopian-influenced soul food.

Bunny Chow: lamb stew with ricotta and fried egg

On the menu:
Disclaimer: I did NOT eat all of this myself. But I did taste every single plate…
Earl of Harlem cocktail (Buffalo Trace bourbon, Early Gray tea, spiced coriander syrup)
Crab cakes
Jerk bacon and egg
Corn bread with honey butter and tomato jam
Collard greens
Bunny chow (lamb stew on a roll topped with fried egg and ricotta)
Berbere roast chicken (Ethiopian spiced chicken with rainbow chard, asparagus, and peanut slaw)
Catfish and grits
Fried Yard Bird (fried chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy, and bread & butter pickles)
Sweet potato donuts
Lemon bread pudding
Kahlua truffles

Jerk Bacon and Egg

Verdict: Did I not already mention this was one of the best meals of my entire life? This is going to be one of my less informative restaurant reviews because how many times can I use the words “AMAZING” and “DELICIOUS” and “PERFECTION”? The spices blended, the sweet wasn’t too sweet and the spicy wasn’t too spicy, the crunch was crunchy enough, the portion sizes were enough but not too much, and the staff was attentive and friendly but never annoying. The restaurant itself is comfortable and our table was loud and jovial and no one seemed to mind. By the time we left the restaurant I had that warm, sleepy, happy feeling you only get after a truly incredible meal. I can’t say enough good things about Red Rooster Harlem and insist you try it for yourself. It’s on the pricier side, but it won’t break the bank, either. And for a special night out, I can’t think of anything better.

Earl of Harlem

Photos: c/o of Meagan Drillinger

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A Taste of Jamaica

Unless you live under a rock you’ve probably been watching the Olympics, or have at least heard about them on the news. There are only a handful of events I can sit through and enjoy (equestrian? yawwwwwwn) but I get seriously rowdy during track and field. How thrilling is it to watch the fastest men alive tear across a track and then not even breathe hard afterward? It inspires me to get my butt up off the couch…. and over to the kitchen for another slice of cake.

Guys, I’m not really an athlete, ok?

In watching Usain Bolt dominate every other competitor in the arena, I had a craving for Jamaican food. And only in New York can you think to yourself suddenly, “Man, I’d like some Jamaican food” and then walk 15 minutes to get some.

Well… you can probably do that in Jamaica, too. But… you get my drift.

Brown Stew Chicken with beans and rice and coleslaw

Jerk Pan 48th St. and Park Avenue, New York, NY. Jerk Pan is a food truck located in midtown Manhattan, just outside the JP Morgan-Chase building. It’s kind of amazing to see a run down old truck with five Jamaican men inside, slinging hot street food while 20 corporate yuppies stand in a line waiting for lunch to be served. But isn’t that New York? I think it is.

On the menu:
Brown Stew Chicken with rice and beans and coleslaw

Verdict: Hellooooo lunchtime! Did it take me 20 minutes in 90 degree heat to walk here? Yes. Was it entirely worth it? Yes. I only ate 1/4 of the food on a bench near where the truck is parked because it was pretty messy and I only had one measly napkin. But when I got back to my office? I really wanted to have it again for lunch the next day so I restrained myself as best I could but wow, wow, wow this was delicious. The coleslaw (which is basically just cabbage with corn, green beans, and carrots mixed in) is served hot. Have you ever had hot coleslaw? Well, try it. It is absolutely perfect. Tangy and crunchy, and not too shabby paired with the fall-off-the-bone chicken (covered in sweet and tangy brown sauce) and the chewy and mild rice and beans. The best part? The whole thing only cost me $8. That’s the price of a sad salad from Cosi for all you mathematicians out there. I also sampled the jerk chicken (I was afraid to order it myself in case it was super spicy) which was also tender and flavorful with a kick of spice and worth getting the next time. What I REALLY wanted to order was the jerk goat but the friend I lunched with quickly replied, “Goat… from a truck… in New York?” Good point.

This is my favorite clip of Usain Bolt and it has nothing to do with running:

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Rosemary’s: A Restaurant Review

Small plates to start

My birthday dinner was the cause of much discussion. My parents were in town, so the place had to be vegetarian-friendly (it’s no fun eating out with a vegetarian who is forced to order the side salad at every meal), have a celebratory atmosphere, and not be so over-the-top expensive that I’d be apologizing for suggesting it for years to come. I took to NYMag.com for suggestions and found a really cool spot that had just opened: Rosemary’s. It’s rustic Italian food (always veg-friendly), they source a lot of their produce from their rooftop garden (enviro-friendly), and it JUST opened in a trendy neighborhood (savvy-food-writing-birthday-girl-friendly). Win. Win.

Rosemary’s 18 Greenwich Avenue (near West 10th St), New York, NY. Rosemary’s is located in the West Village, on a corner, and in the summer months all the windows and doors are open to give a truly open-air feel. The menu is divided into 10 sections and all wine is served by the bottle for $40 or by the glass for $10* (the menu is wine and beer only). It should be noted that Rosemary’s does NOT currently take reservations, so if you show up around dinner time you should be prepared to wait at least an hour for a table. My party put our names down and then went next door for a cocktail while we waited two hours for our table. It definitely did not mar our evening in the slightest, but we knew what we were in for ahead of time.

On the menu:
Small vegetable plates: cabbages, pecorino, chilies, and almonds; beets, dandelion, and hazelnuts; zucchini crudo
Small seafood plate: octopus with basil
Focacce: caprese (mozzarella, tomato, and basil)
Entree: pork tenderloin with mustard and fennel
Dessert: olive oil cake with fresh cream and blueberries

Verdict: Delicious! Was this the best meal I’ve ever had in New York? No. My mom ordered a mint pasta that was overwhelmingly flavored, the lamb my dad ordered was a bit flavorless, and then there’s that epic wait for a table. But this meal was just what I wanted for my birthday. The small plates were incredibly delicious: spicy, crunchy, brightly flavored, and gone in seconds. The pork tenderloin was juicy and tender and the cake was perfectly “dry” as only olive oil cake can be. Rosemary’s is still working out the kinks as far as service goes (we had a plethora of waitstaff taking care of us and the host was visibly frazzled at the crowds of people waiting to get in), and I was curious as to why they have a rooftop garden but no tables up there. But for all the little bits to work out (and I’m sure they will) Rosemary’s is definitely a spot to hit in the summer while the weather is fine.

*I love, love, love that all the wines are the same price. I don’t know wine very well and always want to ask for recommendations at restaurants, but I’m very aware that waitstaff will most often recommend a more expensive glass. The across-the-board pricing allowed me to give the sommelier my preferences and then have him give me an honest suggestion back. Well done, Rosemary’s. Also, sorry for the terrible photo. I didn’t want to be that annoying girl at the table taking brightly-lit-flash photos of every dish.

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My New York Food Diary

I spend a lot of time trying to convince people that I don’t really have the appalling eating habits I appear to from my blog posts. People read this blog and say, “HOW do you eat like that?! Wheeeere do you put it?!” And I laugh and say, “Oooh, I just don’t eat that MUCH! I eat small portions. I’m not a total slob.” But you know what? I’m a total slob. I love junk food. And not McDonald’s, but junk food in general. Butter and sugar and chocolate and oil and carbs and starches and marbled meat and donuts and everything that makes people go, “Mmmmm” with pleasure when they ingest it. So as I read the New York Food Diary column on NYMag.com this week, I thought, I’m gonna do it and I’m gonna prove everybody wrong!

All I did was prove y’all right. So I’m just gonna ride this wave until my pants stop fitting. Read at your own discretion…

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Hot Dog Crawl

Have you ever been like, “Man, I could really go for a hot dog” but you have this weird hang up about all the weird bacteria that might be floating in the street carts? I know. I’ve been there. I feel your pain.

What you might not know is that there are tons options in New York City for “gourmet” hot dogs – and by “gourmet” I mean prepared in a real kitchen and served with top notch ingredients. Below are three of the stand out options, all within walking distance of the others. So… you know, should you choose to do a “hot dog crawl,” you could hit all 3 in one shot. But let me warn you, 3 hot dogs in one sitting is a lot. Some might call it too much. Not that I would know from personal experience… I’m just saying.

Jersey’s Finest at Crif Dogs

Crif Dogs, 113 Saint Marks Place (Between 1st Ave and Ave A), New York, NY. Crif Dogs is a tiny, hole in the wall place that you might walk right by were it not for the GIANT hot dog hanging outside the door. Take a walk down the steps and into hipster heaven: if there was any doubt, a note on the register tells you that they accept tips in the form of Tim and Eric quotes. I knew this was my kind of place. I ordered a PBR and a dog called Jersey’s Finest: taylor ham wrapped house dog smothered in mustard, onions & a secret chili sauce*. This was PERFECTION and my favorite hot dog of the three restaurants. It was a total guilty pleasure and probably had a bajillion calories, but who cares? A hot dog wrapped in ham topped with more meat? Ok!

Sidney at AsiaDog

AsiaDog, 66 Kenmare Street (Between Mulberry St and Mott St), New York, NY. I tasted an AsiaDog when they had a small stall at Madison Square Eats, a gathering of specialty food stalls in Madison Square Park. The line was epic, but I waited 45 minutes because first of all, I wanted that dog and second of all, everyone kept raving about how amazing they were. I purchased a Sidney: a beef hot dog with Thai mango relish (cilantro, red onion, and cucumber) and crushed peanuts, and a sparkling limeade. If a hot dog can be refreshing, this one was. The topping was super fresh and crunchy, and the peanuts added an entirely different element that I wasn’t expecting. I love, love, love foods with drastically different textures and this hot dog was one of the best textured dishes I’ve ever had. Well done meals from high end retailers… in hot dog form? I’m telling you kids, it can be done.

Terimayo at JapaDog

JapaDog, 30 Saint Marks Place (Between 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave), New York, NY. This was the last stop on my hot dog tour and I have to believe it had something to do with the fact that it was my least favorite. I ordered the Terimayo: a beef frank with teriyaki sauce, mayo, and seaweed. I scraped off all the seaweed because it reminded me too much of sushi (raw fish and hot dogs just don’t mix, you know?) and then it was pretty good, but nothing crazy or special. The hot dog did not have that crispy skin that I love and the bun was mediocre.

Overall, my hot dog crawl left me feeling full and like I didn’t want to see another hot dog for quite some time. So while I may not recommend hitting all three of these spots at once, I definitely recommend one (or two…) for a cheapo meal any hour of the day.

*For some reason, this item has disappeared from Crif Dogs’ online menu but you can custom build it if you want. I highly recommend that you do.

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