Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Delica Sushi So Fresh

I've always liked Delica for its bento box lunches—fried croquettes, potato salad, chicken teriyaki anyone? But I hadn't yet tried out the sushi counter. Until now.

Wow. Sushi so fresh, sushi like buttah ... and the hamachi tartare with a drizzle of olive oil, diced shallots, chopped chives and kumquat slivers was inspired.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bloody Good Marys

Nothing like a bloody Mary to get your brunch on. I decided I'd order myself one of Peels' bloodies with extra olives on my first day in NYC.

Man, was it ever so spicy. Tons of horseradish to invigorate the soul.

I figured I'd filled my quota for bloodies that weekend. But when I went to go meet my ex-cook pal at Marc Forgione's in Tribeca the next day, I spied this at the bar: Grandma Forgione's spicy bloody Mary.

Stuffed to the gills with everything but the kitchen sink: citrus slices, a pickled jalapeno, shrimp, an olive and a chunk of dill havarti, it was practically a meal unto itself. And it had my name on it.

One recent afternoon, I talked to the bartender and bar manager at Bar Agricole about this fantabulous creation and got the smackdown "it doesn't fit our aesthetic" retort. Undeterred, I replied, "Ah, you think my taste runs towards trashy. That's cool." They were quick to deny it, afraid they'd insulted a guest (me). I didn't mind. Instead, I switched gears and made a pitch for getting a spicy bloody with a single shucked oyster floating on top—a la the Hundred Acres version, which I'd had the last time I was in NY. I'm hoping someone's gonna catch on in SF. The Bar Agricole folks perked up a bit, saying that sounded more in line with what they did. Sigh. If not Bar Agricole, then maybe Foreign Cinema? Hmmm ...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Trip to Caracas

Snack time at Caracas in the East Village with the De Pabellón empanada: a piping hot-out-of-the-fryer crisped-up sweet corn pocket stuffed with a sweet-savory medley of shredded beef, sweet plantains, black beans and salty white cheese. Oh, and with plenty of there's-gotta-be-crack-in-this-tangy-citrusy house "secret" sauce sluiced into it. God, I love Caracas.

Best New Restaurant: ABC Kitchen

Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's ABC Kitchen was just named Best New Restaurant 2011 by the James Beard Foundation, and I can see why. "Artful design and exquisite, locally sourced food" are what got this gorgeous eatery the distinguished nod.

Anywhere from 70-85% of the menu is sourced from within 90 miles of the restaurant between the months of May and October. What that translates to is fresh food bursting with really bright flavors.

Some highlights of what we had at ABC Kitchen:

Rich, juicy cheeseburger with creamy herbed mayo and tangy pickled jalapenos with just a hint of heat to them. The garlicky side of herb-laced fries had the right amount of crunch.

Loads of moist peekytoe crab on crispy toast dotted with lemon aioli. Absolutely divine.

Fresh-from-the-farm sweet sugar snap peas balanced against sharp, slightly bitter endive spears dressed in a crumbly Parmesan dressing with fines herbes.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Meatball Shop for Ice Cream Sandos

The Meatball Shop in the Lower East Side hasn't just made it onto my must-have list of good eats because it's got this great make-your-own meatball meal—I favor the 2 smashed spicy pork meatballs with spicy meat sauce and melty mozzarella cheese sandwiched between a couple soft cushions of brioche bread. But it's on the exclusive short list for the genius mix-and-match dessert menu of homemade cookies and ice cream sandos bringing up the rear.

You can combine 2 chocolate chip, peanut butter, brownie, oatmeal raisin or ginger snap cookies with a mongo scoop of espresso, chocolate, vanilla, mint, caramel or The Meatball Shop's special ice cream of the day.

My choice, chocolate chip and espresso, was hands down the winner.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Walter Foods ... worth the trip to Williamsburg

AC had been telling me about Walter Foods for years—all good things. So I decided to get out there on the first night of my week-plus stay in NY. DY and JC came along for the ride.

Ah, Walter Foods. I heart you. I'd rate the experience one of the best stick-to-your-ribs comfort food meals I had while in NY. From the succulent lamb chops with fig puree to the filet mignon French dip with perfectly crisped pile o' fries, the humble and homey eatery brought it in spades. Really liked the Pimm's cup and the silky cheesecake ... heck, there was nothing I didn't like.

Definitely going to drop in when I'm back in town again.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ai Fiori Is Amazing

Ai Fiori's chef de cuisine Chris Jaeckle, for whom I used to work at Tabla, recently got the three-star nod from The New York Times' Sam Sifton. So, when I was in Manhattan, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I'd already been hearing raves about Ai Fiori from my besties, who know Chris too. CJ kindly put us on the books late one Friday night, and we partook of a culinary-palooza for 3-plus hours. Have a gander ...

Compliments of the chef: a flavor and color explosion that came in the guise of a hamachi sashimi palate cleanser.

Heavenly foie gras torchon with a crunchy crumble of pistachios, tangy-sweet rhubarb mostarda (aka chutney) with pickled chunks of rhubarb and plenty of brioche toast.

My fave pasta: agnolotti—described as "braised veal parcels" on the menu—accompanied by a handful of fava beans and dressed in an earthy black truffle sugo.

DY waxed poetic about the semolina saffron gnocchi swimming with hunks of blue crab, bits of sweet sea urchin, chopped tomato, and a sprinkle of fresh herbs and toasted breadcrumbs. It was just a smidge too salty for me—still good though.

The trofie nero (thin twists of pasta infused with squid ink) came tossed in a Ligurian crustacean ragoût, cuttlefish, scallops and spiced breadcrumbs. I gotta say, it was a tad saltier than the gnocchi, so not a perfect dish for me, though DY liked it lots. Still, it's better than most pasta creations I've had.

I chose the bouillabaisse as my main and was ever so pleased with the subtly seasoned saffron fumet, garlicky rouille, and tender pieces of red snapper, scallops, langoustine and manilla clams.

DY's main was insanely rich: lamb chops with foie gras wrapped in caul fat sitting on wilted Swiss chard. I'd agreed to go splitsies with DY, but after two small bites, I was done with this dish and happily dove back into the bouillabaisse.

Of course, these are just a handful of the awesome dishes we enjoyed at Ai Fiori. Also, not pictured:
- warm chocolate sformato, lemon-honey, stracciatella gelato
- Ligurian olive oil cake, ricotta, pear confit, port, gelato al caffé
- plus 2 other decadent desserts