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Archive for the ‘Food Establishments’ Category

As a vegetarian who loves dining out, I used to find it frustrating that my choices at fine dining establishments were limited to pasta/risotto dishes, eggplant parm, or a stuffed portabello mushroom. I’m lucky that I live in NYC where restaurant options are broad and competition is fierce, forcing everyone to step up their game, but the lack of creativity in vegetarian options is one of the main reasons I started trying my own hand at the culinary pursuits.

Vegetarian cuisine has come a long way in the past few years, and today many of the most coveted restaurants like Bouloud, Eleven Madison Park, and the Modern all offer vegetarian tasting menus for those herbavoraciously inclined. This past birthday, the mister surprised me with the ultimate fine dining experience of all – an all-indulgent, pampering, hedonistic meal at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. While the food wasn’t without its flaws (some dishes were a little on the salty side), the creativity behind the concepts, the undeniably sophisticated  techniques utilized, and the impeccable, almost perfectly choreographed service made this the most out-of-this-world experience I’ve ever had with food.

Now on to photos:

Vegetarian 9 course tasting menu

Amuse Bouche - Cones of Fava Bean & Tuna Tartare

"Artichaut Barigoule en Gelee". Translation: Spring veggies like carrots, turnips, and herbs encapsulated in a jelly formed with the veggies' own broth. Clever, and delish - tasted like a mouthful of spring!

"Meyer Lemon Ricotta" with country bread croutons, heirloom radishes, english peas, and mint. The lemon was the real star of the dish and pulled all the flavors together. The ricotta was delishly crispy on top, giving the dish a complex variety of textures

"Slow Roasted Beets" with dates, celery branch salad, and sicilian pistachio mousse. This dish is great if you're a beet lover. There were slow roasted beets with a sweet hint of honey, pickled sour beets, and beet puree solidified to crunchy sugary beet chips. The pistachio mousse was a good companion, but I wasn't such a big fan of the pickled beets, which lowered my estimation of this dish. Overall, was still yummy though.

This was a dish off of Brian's regular "meat" menu. We didn't take a meat menu home so I don't know what this is called. All I know is that it was an asparagus and hearts of palm dish, and I COULDN'T STOP EATING THAT BROTHY SAUCE. Yes, it was that good. This remains one of our favorite dishes of the night. Hard to tell just from the simplicity of the photo, isn't it?

"Fried Green Tomatoes" with green asparagus, mizuna, young onions and "ranch dressing". Hands down, my favorite savory course off of the veggie menu. Granted, I love my fried food so that didn't hurt either, but the tangy, crispy, flavors just worked so well together. It was the ultimate inventive take on a classic. Only criticism was that the lump of "ranch dressing" was so excessive that I only had about half of it. For me, the perfect dish should have the perfect balance of all elements and the ranch was just too over the top. Nonetheless, I was still a huge fan of this dish!O

"Braised Holland White Asparagus" with poached quail eggs, petite lettuce and black olive puree. How is it possible for asparagus to be so juicy? Did they inject some super veggie potion into it? They had me at asparagus, but the ooey gooey quail eggs sealed the deal. The olives, I could do without - added too much salty factor to the dish.

Red Adirondack Potato "Dumplings" with cornichons, arroleaf spinach, parsley shoots and caper emulsion. Disclaimer: Our nice camera died at this point so this was an iphone photo. The quality does not do justice to the dish! So you know what I'm thinking when I saw "potato dumpling". I thought "gnocchi" and then thought "A PASTA DISH"?! This is what i came to Per Se to avoid! Well it wasn't gnocchi at all but a delicious gathering of starchy goodness. Not the best of the courses but definitely not the pasta dish I had expected

Now it’s important to note that at this point, I started to get pretty full (who wouldn’t after 5 course?!) But power on I must, so on to the dessert courses:

Trio of cheese was the perfect segue to the sweets that were to come

Black Sesame Ice Cream with whipped champagne mango, thai basil and lime puree. Holy Bliss, I was in heaven! As full as I was, I couldn't help but think about the marriage of flavors. I'm sure I've had these flavors at various points in my life but I don't believe I've tasted anything so refreshing, succulent, and mouthwatering as this dessert!

Brian's first dessert - some type of "Parfait". Layers of crunchy candy on top of cream and chocolate. Not bad, but was a bit forgettable, especially next to the black sesame mango dish!

White Hibiscus with biscuit cuiller, hibiscus jelly, white chocolate bavarois and creme fraiche sherbet. Very whimsical and playful dish. The tartness of hibiscus and sweetness of white chocolate was theoretically the ideal pairing to balance each other out. Unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate and the hibiscus was just too tart for me. However, I think it was one of the most inventive desserts I've seen.

Decadently Rich Chocolate Ganache Bar with Vanilla Ice Cream and a crunchy cocoa ball. So creamy, so rich, so filling...my stomach is calling for a stretch and I'm glad I'm wearing a loose dress at this point...

Bonus Chocolate Birthday Cake?! Probably the best of the second round of desserts (vs chocolate ganach bar and white hibiscus), but a girls' tummy can only fill so much. This was truly my limit!

And just when you think you can't possibly eat another bite, out comes their famous "Coffee and Donuts". Warm cinnamony mini donuts fresh out of the oven with coffee ice cream complete with cappucino froth on top. I later found out that this isn't something they offer to everyone, as the couple next to us didn't get it. Maybe because Brian had mentioned it was my birthday...but they do graciously offer this if you request, and believe me, it is worth every last waist-expanding bite!

And so concludes a romantic, unforgettable night to remember. The other thing to mention is really the crazy, impossibly perfect service we received. It should’ve been no surprise since Per Se has consistently won best service awards year after year, but never in my life have I been treated so graciously and sincerely by waitstaff, from laminating our wine label (yes, not only did they not make fun of us for buying one of the least expensive half bottles of wine at $80), they commended us on the good choice and said they’d laminate it so we can get it again next time (we later found out that the retail value for a full bottle at our local wine shop is about $29). They also send you home with goody bags filled with macarons, gelees, and rose brut – a small but wonderfully nice touch. It was everything we were hoping for and more!

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“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, EAT slowly, and lie about your age” ~Lucille Ball

Another year older, another excuse to eat cake! As we prepared to celebrate the “N”th anniversary of Brian’s 25th birthday, I threw ideas back and forth for a month. Should I cook him an extravagant 20 course meal? Should I table my experiments and finally follow directions to bake a cake? Finally I decided that birthdays should also be about giving back. So in the spirit of stimulating the economy, I planned an adventurous foodie day traipsing around NYC.

Feel the Zen Brunch at Five Points
One of my favorite brunch destinations, Five points has an amazingly relaxing ambiance, complete with a babbling brook & an airy skylight above the open kitchen. The menu changes seasonally, but always with creative and flavorful selections.

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Usually I am wary of Huevos Rancheros because a heavy breakfast of black beans + excessive cheese + salsa + guacamole makes me feel compelled to run to the gym afterwards, but at Five Points, it comes out fresh from the wood oven – crispy on top, and then delicately scrumptuous on the inside with mouthwatering Mexican flavors done just right. Brian had the Pork Fennel Benedict and though I could not judge the quality of the meat, the holladaise sauce was supremely created – creamy with the right balance of acidity and spice.

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But the real highlight of every trip to Five Points is really their Churro in Mexican Hot Chocolate. Let me just start off by saying, I never really liked Churros. Growing up, the only time I’d eat them was when I’d go to Costco and sample the oversweetened, soggy microwaved ones. But the Five Points Churros were MmmmMM! Crispy, not oversweet, and with just a hint of cinnamon. The Mexican chocolate with a blend of bitter cocoa, cinnamon flavor, and nutty aroma, is one worthy of the Inca gods.  It’s a must-have if you ever go!

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Ooh Baby Babycakes!
After an adventurous guided tour of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (highly recommended – it’s amazing “How the Other Half Lived”!) we worked up an appetite and I decided it was time for a birthday cupcake.  I was first introduced to Babycakes Bakery when my best friend’s Ayurvedic nutritionist claimed that she was soy, gluten, and dairy intolerent. It turned out, her upset stomach episodes were just due to stress, but we’re both glad it led us to this amazing, cozy bakery with its vintage girly but also funky atmosphere. Everything is organic, and most of the goodies are made without wheat, gluten, sugar, and eggs?! At first I couldn’t believe it, but after my first bite into that heavenly carrot cupcake, I was hooked and have been in love ever since!

Carrot Cupcake and Cinnamon Toastie

Carrot Cupcake and Cinnamon Toastie

Trust Me, I’m a Ninja!
The secretive Ninja castle (located in Tribeca – ha now everyone knows) impresses its visiters with an experiential dining affair, visually stunning presentation, and to my pleasant surprise, quality of food! As you descend into the subterranean space, you enter the mysterious world of ninjas, with danger lurking at every corner. But for us, the greatest danger was directed to our waistline, with the 5 course meal that left us wanting to unbuttoning our pants. Here are some highlights:

Fried "Dancing Plantain" with Guacamole and Tomato Dipping Sauce

Fried "Dancing Plantain" with Guacamole and Tomato Dipping Sauce

Miso Nasu - Eggplant broiled to perfection and infused with golden sweet miso and stuffed with cherry tomatoes and bell peppers - One of the best things I've ever eaten!

Miso Nasu - Eggplant broiled to perfection and infused with golden sweet miso and stuffed with cherry tomatoes and bell peppers - One of the best things I've ever eaten!

22 oz Ribeye Steak - I can't believe Brian ate it all!

22 oz Ribeye Steak - I can't believe Brian ate it all!

Bonsai - Sweet Potato Custard with Twisted Pie Crust. I ate about 2 bites before I couldn't go on anymore, but isn't it pretty?

Bonsai - Sweet Potato Custard with Twisted Pie Crust. I ate about 2 bites before I couldn't go on anymore, but isn't it pretty?

And last but not least, A Rock is not a Rock unless it’s TOP OF THE ROCK as the final surprise for Brian to top off the gluttonous night. This has nothing to do with food, but the views are just so stunning!

View of Central Park

View of Central Park

The Stately Empire State Building

The Stately Empire State Building

And so concludes an eventful and (hopefully) unforgettable day for Brian. We’re hard at work cutting back on the calories this week, but thankfully goodness food comes in all forms – even low-cal incarnations!

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After a grueling morning of back-to-back meetings, there is no sweeter feeling than to walk out of the office building and be welcomed by a bright turquoise truck toting delectable sweets.

Across the street - a dessert oasis greeting the work-weary

Across the street - a dessert oasis greeting the work-weary

The Street Sweets truck has been traveling around Manhattan since beginning of summer, but since I spend my 9-7 workdays locked up in my office (seriously, sometimes I don’t see the sun at all), this was my chance to finally sample the much tweeted and tooted dessert truck.

Featured among the menu selections are “create your own” croissants with creative fillings like nut butter, honey, and praline cream.  There are also cookies, macaroons, cupcakes, and other yummies enough to fill up your calorie quota and happiness meter for the day.  My eye was drawn to the Whoopie pies beckoning to me from the window pane. I bought a couple of each (chocolate and pumpkin) and…maybe it was my hunger, maybe it was my stress, maybe that Pumpkin Whoopie was just really good, because it was a “hallelujah” moment!

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One of the owners (I assume) was the one who said “The Chocolate is delicious. The Pumpkin is magnificent!” He also graciously gave me a sampling of their candied ginger shortbread cookie. It was a burst of spiced ginger, warm and cozy on a breezy fall afternoon. I’m definitely going back for more next time!

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To top it off, they use all natural ingredients, and run on energy efficient fuel – way to go for making us feel that somehow, eating sweets = doing good for the earth! I asked if they would make 50th St a regular location and they confirmed they’ll be at W 50th btwn 6th & 7th ave every Tuesday and Thursday. You can also follow their whereabouts on twitter http://www.streetsweetsny.com

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