Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Monday, April 8th, 2013
A bike basket of bao from BAOHAUS, NYC is absolute bun yum!!! Amazing taste and texture come together with these Taiwanese-edged street food eats. The BirdHaus Bao’s got 24 hours of brining and the Waygu Haus beef is from Snake River Farms at this hole in the wall where the buns could be some of the city’s best.
BAOHAUS, 238 East 14th Street (between 2nd & 3rd Avenues), East Village, New York City. Open daily 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. and Thursdays through Saturdays until 4 a.m.
Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
Sounds off-putting, a liquid paste of wheat flour and boiled oct0pus but, really, there’s something to these Japanese “takoyaki” balls.
At OTAFUKU, NYC, the glutinous mixture of the takoyaki is grilled in special spherical pans to create a wonderfully crunchy skin. Once done they are finished off with a squeeze of sweet okanomiyaki sauce and spicy mayo and then topped with a shake of grated seaweed and bonito flakes.
I’ve never been to Japan but I’m told that these tasty orbs are the real deal in Japanese street food eats. The six ball portion arrives slathered high on a paper tray and, even with the recent $1 price increase, they’re still a total deal at $6. Heck, you might want to split these big balls - after a few of them you’re likely to peak on the salty-meets-sweet and crunchy-meets-gooey texture bombardment that pleasingly takes over your palate and gullet.
The shop is fun with its
menu covered walls but the kitchen and counter take up most of the closet-sized space with no room to eat but for a small bench in front of the shop. Standing street-side eating might be awkward but theseJapanese balls arrive hot and need to be eaten on the spot. So, that’s what we did on a chilly March day and, in the midst of a wonderful umami moment paid the price when a wind gust sent a dusting of bonita flakes on my frustrated companion’s Burberry coat. Even still, she had a ball.
OTAFUKU 236 E 9th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, East Village, New York City, tel. 212-353-8503
Friday, February 22nd, 2013
At OTTO, the restaurant
at One Fifth Avenue, a 1927 Art Deco apartment house at the corner of 8th Street in Greenwich Village, you’re in for some rustic Italian eats courtesy of the media-meal-man of Food Network fame, Mario Batali. He’s often in residence and easy to spot – there’s no mistaking the signature trademarks of thinning ginger frocks and fulsome girth atop the Crocs of this chef and restauranteur extradordinaire.
Years ago we’d stop for a drink at the bar of One Fifth, the longtime restaurant that was all about clubby 20th century dining style. Now, however, instead of a martini and steak you’re likely to be pairing vino to pasta, pizza and antipasti. It’s a good thing that Mr. Batali aims to please your palate as well as your pocket – you’ll be hard pressed to find another restaurant in NYC, or for that fact, America, where an exceptional bowl of fusilli con escarole and sausage comes in at $10. Ditto for tasty thin-crusted pizzas like a Margherita with buffalo mozzarella ($11) and flavor-packed antipasti plates. At OTTO,Get ready for lots of soddisfacente delizioso-ness at this trattoria that is as much neighborhood hangout as it is destination dine.
About that dine, skip over the dining room – gone are its prewar charms, replaced with a middlebrow hotel sensibility of bad light fixtures and budget-issue furnishings that are all tied together with sensory dulling maroon colored carpeting. Thankfully the front-of-house barroom has a design of its own.
Reminiscent of a train station by way of Italy, stand-at-only counters populate a polished space anchored by a long wide white marble bar. Shelves stocked with wine are a backdrop of the bar packed with regulars and attended by barmen that guard the seats by the kitchen door should Mr. Batali pop-in to hold court. These keepers-of-Mario can be a bit gruff – almost as if they were protective childhood pals – in these otherwise welcoming environs. Even still, they know they’re stuff and are easy to ignore with all the comforts of this bar – the day’s New York Times and Daily News strewn about, the paper-wrapped crusty bread and, of course, the simple yet immensely satisfying arrives-in-no-time-flat you’re-in-Italy fare.
No doubts about it, the bar is the star at OTTO, NYC.
Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Welcome to affluence central where Eurocrats, Expats, and Arabcrats make their mark along retail dense thoroughfares and posh restaurants nestled into gilded London environs. Be ready for a mash-up of Brits on weekend shopping sprees and the tour
ist hordes cramming the streets with Harrods bags in tow. Top off your debit cards – while you might get a bargain at the middle-brow big box retailers, Knightsbridge is not for the faint at wallet.
Away from the hustle-bustle of Brompton Road you’re in white glove neighborhoods of Georgian, Victorian & Edwardian townhouses, terraced crescent blocks and small mews. Pretty as they may be they repeat themselves and, unless you’re one of the residential advantaged denizens who live here, you’re not likely to get much
out of a detour into these upper-crust enclaves.
Have a “wow” moment when you see the behemoth that is the BROMPTON ORATORY but otherwise there’s not much else to hold your interest at this colossal church. Head in the direction of HYDE PARK CORNER and drop in at APSLEY HOUSE, aka the WELLINGTON MUSEUM, for a glimpse of well preserved aristocratic life in all of its 19th century grandeur. While it is a public museum, a portion of the house is still used by the Duke of Wellington’s descendants, period furnishings and all. If this gives you a hunger for living the rich life, look beyond Constitution Arch to the gilded world of Buckingham Palace and Mrs. Windsor, her Royal Majesty the Queen.
Up for a splash of tasteful home design? Our favorite shop is the mid-century-centric gem that is SKANDIUM. Pass over the handful of service shops and tourist marts and it’s fashion, from the low to high ends of the retail spectrum, that figure prominently on Brompton Road, the high street in Knightsbridge. It’s here that fashionistas and the burka-cloaked collide with shoppers and glazed over tourists. A stroll down Sloane Street is for those with an expensive taste of couture on their palate. In the department stores it’s a bit of a frenzy at the ginormous HARROD’S while HARVEY NICHOLS makes for a more subdued shopping experience.
Lots of fine dines if you’ve got money and a bit of time. Nestled within the grandly Edwardian MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL are BAR BOULUD and DINNER BY HESTON BLUMENTHAL. Chef Boulud gives you his usual French par excellence while chef Blumenthal presents a British menu with a unique English historical culinary twist. The trendy American plays itself out at FRANKIES NEW YORK ITALIAN , a restaurant tethered to chef Pierre Marco White, but, sorry, this thematic supper spot is in the basement, literally, and we’re not fans of below ground gimmicky dines.
There’s lots of mediocrity to the hookah touting restos along the Brompton Road strip and of course, there’s the HARRODS FOOD HALLS, a cavernous space of staged restaurants and food counters that is more theme park attraction than the culinary destination it was back in the last century.
For an open and airy alternative to an in-store dine by all means make a stop atop HARVEY NICHOLS at its FIFTH FLOOR restaurant. While you’re there bring your grocery list for a walk down the the aisles of its FOODMARKET . French is very smart at the enduring RACINE and for a bit of classic Chinese find your way to THE GOOD EARTH though, under all circumstances take a seat at the cool circa 1970s bar or a table upstairs before the hostess makes a play to seat you in windowless downstairs confines.
It’s worth the trip to the oh-so-close Belgravia and the cobble stoned Motcomb Street with exceptional pub eats at THE PANTECHNICON PUBLIC HOUSE & DINING ROOM, Indian fusion at AMAYA and a fine Italian at ZAFFERANO. Not hankering for a sit down dine? Well, lucky you there’s the luxe to-go offerings from OTTOLENGHI and you can always play it safe at upscale grocer WAITROSE’S topnotch packaged plates.
With all this savory, what about the sweet? No question to the top-notch bakes prepared at Ottolenghi in Belgravia. In Knightsbride COCOMAYA is a charmed spot for superior morning cake bakes and chocolates (at publication date this location, 235 Brompton Road, was not listed on their website). There may be a handful of other options but it’s LA DUREE, nestled into a corner of HARRODS that, even with all its rococo-ness, is patisserie and viennoiserie extraordinaire. Problem here is
enduring the conspicuously rich tea-goers and the preciousness of it all. With that in mind, you might opt for your mille feuille and macarons to-go.
Sunday, April 29th, 2012
First it was the napkins, horrid polyester that scratched and irritated the legions of adoring diners at JOSEPH LEONARD. Luckily those serviettes were put out of service following a fire that temporarily closed the restaurant but now, even with all its culinary coolness, there’s another sensory affront afloat with “pour lines”, the white demarcations etched into stemware bowls (the part of the glass that holds the wine) to achieve optimum portion control.
Let’s start out by saying that we love JOSEPH LEONARD owing to its satisfying comfort plates, faux pub charms and hi-I-am-from-Williamsburg friendly but not-in-your-face staff. Ditto for JEFFREY’S GROCERY, and to a lesser extent the glossier FEDORA. With restauranteur Gabriel Stilman’s newest restaurant PERLA, the menu heads south to Italy and, even with baby-bear pasta portions that wouldn’t satisfy a peckish Goldilocks, he’s likely to add another hit to his growing collection of eats houses.
Mr. Stilman is a good producer – he could be on his way to becoming the Danny Meyer of small quirky restaurants with unifying thematic charms, good food and wine. But, about that wine: where Mr. Meyer knows how to fill a glass at the many outposts of his Union Square Hospitality Group that includes THE MODERN & UNION SQUARE CAFE, Mr. Stilman does not. His bar staff meets its five ounce mark with those glasses, no more and, ever so frustratingly to my dining companion on a recent
visit, on occasion even a little bit less. After all, we’re not talking about Château Lafite Rothschild so, give or take a drop the margins on a standard twenty five ounce bottle are high.
Beverage portion control might be culturally commonplace in Switzerland or budget-minded chains across the globe. Heck, we’re even fine with it at the theme park eats extravaganza that is Eataly. It’s not so much the ouch from the sting of stinginess (absolutely no generous pours here) – it’s just that in beautifully staged restaurants where design is as much a part of the experience as the food that brazen line’s lack of subtlety makes for one classless glass.
The bottom line is one thing and a poor
pour line is another.
Friday, April 13th, 2012
Was a time if you were gay or having a gay retail moment you’d make Chelsea a destination. From the main drag that runs from 14th to 23rd street, the onetime working class Latino-leaning strip became the “Great Gay Way” in the 1980s and 1990s. No metrosexual or heterosexual moments here: bars, restaurants and retail, from clothing and gifts to personal accoutrements, were all homo-minded endeavors.
There’s still a gay edge but with the gentrification of the neighborhood, the nearby High Line park and art gallery scene in western Chelsea, there’s more at play than just the boys.
Many of the old shops have given way to deep-pocketed retailers like Banana Republic and American Apparel. Yawn, yawn, yawn.
The sartorial minded male – homo or hetero – can skip over those ho-hum offerings with a stop at CAMOUFLAGE where fashion takes a well hung and tasteful turn. Same holds at BARNEY’S CO-OP where girls and guys can splurge among the au courant pret-a-porter. There’s nothing special to the slew of worn looking service shops, though it’s easy to have a soft spot for harmed little flower shop SPRUCE. If you think you’re likely to uncover a treasure at the Salvation Army “Family Store”, think again – that special vintage find is more likely to be found at a consignment shop or on Ebay rather than in this dank and depressing repository for unwanted crap.
Not much in the way of home shops but there is LES TOILES DU SOLE with its beautiful fabrics and accessories for that French Catalan decor moment – oui, oui, oui! For the retro-minded stop at AUTHENTIQUES where for a quirky selection of 20th Century bric-a-brac and collectibles. Oh yes, if you need a toy, porn or suggestive card there’s still a handful of sex shops in the mix of 8th Avenue retail.
Wow, is it easy to eat with the slew of restaurants vying for your dining dollars! But, eating well is a different story. For the most part, the themed chow houses that line the avenue are best avoided unless you’ve got a meal to waste.
Skip over MARYANN’S and go to ROCKING HORSE CAFE where guacamole and margaritas are paired to tasty Tex Mex plates. At SEUNOS the food may be a bit more polished but it’s starting to show its age and that internal dining room is too darn claustrophobic. The neighborhoods Latino luncheonettes, LA TAZO DE ORO (no website) and CAFE HAVANA, are worthy throw backs for their counter charms and filling eats but this is not your stop for the sustainable and organic. Paella lovers are in luck with the top notch cocina Espana at the crowd pleaser that is SOCARRAT PAELLA BAR. Seems that even in this South of the Border pack of restaurants there’s room for another player for cantina Mexicana in addition to the safe for the dinero eats at the ever-expanding CHIPOTLE.
Pass on the mediocre pizzerias on the avenue and go for the thin crusted pies from DONATELLA, even if that gilded coal oven is bit too glitzy. For the real deal in a satisfying localvore minded dine there’s the recently minted FORAGER’S CITY GROCER where you’ll eat well with takeaway provisions and prepared meals and, FORAGER’S CITY TABLE, a sit down dine tethered to the lobby of generic viagra THE GEM HOTEL. Even with so many choices it’s hard to find a compelling Asian eats moment so we’re likely to end up at SPICE, where Thai takes a satisfying if predictable turn. Play it safe with a smear of cream cheese on your selection at MURRAY’S BAGELS and there’s also the eco-minded burgers and fries at BAREBURGER (too bad they couldn’t come up with a better name!). And, while we didn’t forget the fowl and porcine budget environs of DALLAS BBQ, we think that you should.
We want to like the neighborhood’s “establishment” restaurants TELLO and TROIS CANARD but there’s a faux-ness to these joints and a disconnect with their uninspiring and formula menus. Even if its a bit fusty we’ll make do with the comfort French fare from GASCOGNE (gosh, do they need to lose those worn pillows in the window!) and we’re happy to partake in the satisfying Italian plates and enduring bistro style of COLA’S. There might be a destination in the works with the planned opening of POUNDS & OUNCES at the former VICEROY space – it was a smartly styled brasserie so at least it has good bones to work with.
All this savory, what about the sweet? At EMPIRE CAKE (formerly known as LULU CAKE BOUTIQUE) you’re in for good nostalgia-minded Americana bakes – think haute Yodels
and Twinkies – legions above the offerings at all those sub par cupcakeries. There’s also the bakes counter at FORAGERS CITY GROCER, where a cherry-picked selection of the city’s best baked offerings are yours for the taking. Too bad the newly minted KOFFEKAKE CORNER tries to be a please-all baker with too much selection and too little focus on good cake. And, about that coffee – it’s THINK COFFEE just below 14th Street and CAFE GRUMPY east of 8th Avenue where you’ll get an exceptional cup of joe.
Even with the upsurge in affluence, 8th Avenue can’t shake its dingy feel.
The former banks than once anchored 14th street still offer up their grand Neoclassic facades with the interior of one, the CVS pharmacy, beautifully restored: forget the sundries and have a gander at the grandeur – this was truly once a temple of commerce. But for the JOYCE THEATER and it Art Deco appeal, there’s little else as far as architectural wonderment goes. For enhanced sensory engagement you’ll have to head west, away from 8th Avenue to the old NABISCO factory that is now the huge food hall CHELSEA MARKET, to the elevated park of the THE HIGH LINE and, then to the former warehouses and garages that form the core of the art gallery District. Oh yes, did you venture by the CHELSEA HOTEL? Its days of super coolness have long faded – no Janis Joplin types roaming the soon to be condo halls – but the ghosts manage to linger on at this Chelsea institution.
Monday, March 26th, 2012
Who can’t help loving a pastry bag? Not for what it is but for what you get when its work is done. After all, it’s the cream filling and icing that often make the cake. But, what about when all that (sometimes too much!) sweetness is traded in for the savory with raw tuna, crispy shallots and ponzu?
At the DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids) Dining By Design event top designers lend their know how, energy and resources to create interesting, quirky and often beautiful dining table settings for public viewing in tandem with the ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST HOME DESIGN SHOW on Pier 94 in New York City. There was lots of eye candy at the Cocktails By Design party where the fashion-minded and fashion aspirational (curators of home design are not necessarily a sartorial lot) gathered for the opening night of the show but, what really got my attention was not what I saw but what I ate.
With all the food – the trays of hors d’oeuvres were good, the amuse bouches from THE LAMBS CLUB texturally questionable and the rice balls from TRIAMONTE’S inedible – it was a squeeze from BUDDAKAN that got the most oohing and ah-ing. To adoring
crowds Buddakan’s chef stood at attention with his pastry bag busily squeezing tuna tartare into crispy spring roll shells. The single opening made sure you kept your self clean while crunching away at this delectable treat. It was simply a brilliant complement to all that tabletop.
Thursday, January 26th, 2012
Even if the lemon tart was a best price cialis bit too sweet and slightly too chilled, as a three way share it was Baby-Bear a-okay. The gateau Basque impressed, the croissants satisfied and the macarons sated. All was fine as far as the French bakes are concerned at FPB (aka Francois Payard Bakery).
As far as his shop goes, too bad Mr. Payard just can’t keep it simple….
Somewhere in the transition from the overly wrought Rococo splendor of the Upper East Side’s now deceased Payard Patisserie and the trying-too-hard-to-be-hip industrial designed space on the border between Greenwich Village and Soho Mr. Payard’s branding went into overkill.
Yes, with Valentine’s day around the corner, heart shaped boxes of macarons make sense, even if they are a bit too thematic. And the chocolate squirt bottles – think high end dermatologist sunscreen packaging – are odd, but it’s not too much of a squeeze from his core bakes business, sort of. Candles? Well, that’s a different story.
I am not sure where Mr. Payard found these cloyingly Glad-like bougies but there they were front and center 0n the products display wall, a setting that was more gift fair than patisserie. “Gourmet Candles” with scents (or, should that be flavors?!) like “Cranberry Compote”, “Chestnut Souffle”, and “Lemon Biscotti” were all olfactory offenses that reeked of cheapness.
Mr. Payard walks the thin line between confection and affectation. Candles inspired by the teashop and perfumery are examples of when scents make sense. Food flavored candles in the bakery are an example when they do not.
FPB (aka Francois Payard Bakery) 116 West Houston Street, between Thompson & Sullivan Streets, NYC. Tel. 212.995.0888
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
So, it looks as though you might have to add cupcakes to the TSA 3-1-1 rules.
Check out this link by way of
HuffPost Travel and Newsy- wow, talk about flour power and one icy and sugary cupcake threat.
Story goes that a cupcake in a metal lidded glass jar set off bells at the airport security check point though, the cake nor its creamy center were the presumed danger – the security officer deduced that it was in the frosting. From what we could gather, that sugary crown was presumed a gel sufficient in amount to violate the 3-1-1 safety rules.
Goes to show you that even one uninformed of the bakery arts could see the potential danger inherent in over-frosting – there’s always danger when dealing with Cupcake Crack!
Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
CRUMBS BAKE SHOP, is a bakery that ain’t. Ain’t what you ask? Ain’t a bakery because nothing, I repeat, nothing is ever baked at your local Crumbs Bake Shop.
In the world of bakery theme park-like attractions there is something very satisfying to the nostalgia-minded Sensurround you experience at shops like BILLY’S BAKERY and MAGNOLIA BAKERY. While they are both commercial minded bakeries (no baking school grads or mom-and-pop in residence) stop by either of these cupcakeries and, besides lines, you’ll get a fresh baked and traditional-minded cupcake that is pretty to look at and tasty enough to eat. Not so at Crumbs.
Cupcakes arrive at your local Crumbs shop by way of an off-site baking plant. With their displays of abnormally large cupcakes, plastic containers of mini-cupcakes and the freakishly distorted Colossal Cupcakes, Crumbs is nothing more than a gimmicky cupcake outlet.
And then there’s the branding that comes along with these Crumby cupcakes. References to “love”, “handmade” and the “simple things in everyday life” abound. We’re guessing not too simple as there’s no information to be had on what’s in these cakey creations. A call to the main office and chats with counterpersons at a couple of the Crumbs shops left us with nothing beyond the basics – sugar, butter, flour – to what actually goes into these bakes. We also got
the warning that ‘if you’re allergic to anything at all don’t eat these cupcakes’. That’s not very comforting for comfort food and we are definitely not feeling the cupcake love.
So what is it that has so many people hooked? Well, we definitely know the sugar has something to do with it – that’s a given. Along with what must be a bevy of not-so-natural flavorings, sweeteners and who knows what, factor in Crumbs’ Candyland-like decorations (think of elementary schoolers in art class with their Halloween haul) and you’ve got a serious case of Cupcake Crack in the works.
CRUMBS, Multiple Locations Nationwide, www.crumbs.com