Parm

As Dana can attest, the guys behind Torrisi Italian Specialties know what’s up.  Having not been there for lunch, when I heard they were moving this part of their daily offerings next door to a place called Parm, I knew I had to go.  So within the first week they opened, on a Saturday, Emily and I made our way there.  For the less patient, this probably would have been a mistake, and I am not sure if it has died down at all (doubtful), but we arrived slightly before 2pm and were told it would be an hour.  We walked around the area for about 45 minutes, doing some preliminary Christmas shopping and then waited out the last bit inside the small, very crowded establishment.

We were seated at the end of the bar, as opposed to a table, but with a very friendly bartender and great view of the open kitchen, given the option I feel like I would have preferred it anyways.  Emily was dying for a ball o’ mozz after we had it at Torrisi, and I was set on trying their Chicken Parm.  When it came time to order, we were devestated (very briefly) to learn that they were out of mozz balls.  The bartender assured us that the mozz sticks were well worth it so we ordered those, the afformentioned Chicken Parm hero, and garlic bread deluxe (with ricotta and marinara on the side).

Mozz Sticks

The items came one at a time, with the mozz sticks first, eliminating any former sense of devastation.  While you can pretty much never go wrong in ordering these anywhere, I was truly surprised to find how superior they tasted to the countless fried cheese logs I’ve had in the past.  This is a testament to how amazing their fresh homemade mozzarella is. 

Garlic Bread Deluxe

I originally wanted the garlic bread to eat with the ball of mozarella we were no longer getting, but decided to order it anyways, and upgraded to the Deluxe.  While delicious, I can’t decide if I liked it better solo or not.  They do garlic bread perfectly and I almost feel like the add ons take away from that fact.

Chicken Parm Hero

Lastly came the Chicken Parm hero.  They offer 3 different sizes, the hero being the middle size, and it was perfect for sharing since we had apps as well.  Again, a classic that you would think is pretty good almost anywhere, but hard to make outstanding, clearly shined here.  I loved it.  Side note: Any marathon running champs out there who can’t have sesame seeds, if you ever go, make sure you let them know because the hero was seeded but it doesn’t say that on the menu.

This meal left me completely satisfied, having consumed the perfect amount of food for a delicious late lunch.  If you go, plan for a wait, although it is a fun area to walk around.  Or go to the Spring Lounge for a drink as it is a block away.  Or steal a garlic salt shaker from the pizza place across from the Spring Lounge, whatever (too many comments directed at very few readers but anyways).

Lastly, despite my satisfaction, sitting at the bar staring at the open kitchen, I watched them carve what looked to be some amazing turkey breast, and in looking at the menu again while writing this post, there are just so many great options that require more than one return visit.

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Ma Peche

About a week ago, I was sitting at my desk, hungry and not sure what to get for lunch.  That’s when I remembered I hadn’t had Ma Peche takeout in a while and, still reeling from my lack of Crack Pie, realized that the lunch pick up was at the bar through the Milk Bar.  Ma Peche is Momofuku’s midtown spot and the loacation is awesome for anyone working in midtown, looking for an upgrade to the work week lunch routine.  They had recently expanded the take out menu (available weekdays and Saturday til 2:20pm), so I knew I was due for a return trip.

Pork Buns

My heart was set on Crack Pie, so I wanted to go smaller for my main course.  I’ve had the Banh Mi there, and highly recommend it, but I opted for the Pork Buns.  I had them a while back at Noodle Bar, but I forgot how much I loved them.  Steamed pork buns are another food item I ate religiously while in Hong Kong for work, but David Chang’s version ups the elegance, making them both visibly stunning and extremely delicious.  If it weren’t for the 10 dollar price tag for two, I would easily have tripled my order.  These little guys are packed with flavor and juicyness.

Compost Cookie

While waiting in line to pick up my food and pay for my Crack Pie, I couldn’t help but also grab a Compost Cookie, because of course I couldn’t.  I had seen them mentioned almost every time I had read about Milk Bar so I figured trying one was a must.  The cookie is soft and packed with everything imagineable.  From chocolate and butterscotch chips, to oats, pretzels, and potato chips, each bite is packed with an awesome balance of salty and sweet.  Also, compared to the 5+ dollar asking price for a slice of Crack Pie, Milk Bar cookies are a steal at under 2 dollars.

Crack Pie

This left me with what I had been craving for weeks.  A firm practitioner of “Saving the Best for Last,” the memory of this slice replayed in my mind for hours.  I am unable to give you any description or explanation of this experience that hasn’t been covered elsewhere on Dana’s blog or otherwise, but I did manage to snap a pic before it disappeared so I will leave you with that.  The box still tempts me at my desk, but I am incapable of throwing it away.

Thus concludes my multi-post arc of emo borderline crazy Crack Pie rants.  You may now sigh in relief.

Madison Square Eats Round 2

I spend a lot of my spare time reading up on new food/restaurants to try, so when I read Dana’s post about this festival, I was baffled that I didn’t remember hearing about it, but excited that it was still going on.  Last Saturday, when apparently half of the people I know had the stomach flu, I made my first trip for dinner and was pretty much determined to try all of Dana’s recommendations.  Emily pretended to feel okay enough to at least walk with me to give me company and for that I was grateful.  After walking through the actual park wondering where it was, we finally found it on the street close to Eataly.  We housed the Roberta’s Bee Sting, although the seasonal pie looked great as well.  Next, I had a Mel and Steve from Asiadog, and I asked for chicken but they definitely gave me beef.  I am not complaining though.  Next it was time to finish with the always enticing Crack Pie from Momofuku Milk Bar.  Having had it once before, I am officially a “Crack Head.” (I don’t know if that is a legit saying about people who love this pie but I imagine it is).  Anywho, I was devastated to find out that they were sold out for the night!!  I pulled myself together and “settled” for a belgian waffle from Waffles and Dinges.  We got it with Speculoos spread and whipped cream.  I have no idea what is in that spread but it is heavenly.  Kind of Graham Cracker/Gingerbread-y with the texture of peanut butter.  Having spent some time in Belgium in high school, I think the Belgian Waffle is the first “Yeah this is good, but you should try the real stuff from (insert country here)” food obsession I developed.  My Mom now stocks her house with them when I come home on holidays because I’m a brat I’m spoiled I’m her favorite she loves me.  Waffles and Dinges does measure up to some of the best, though.

Walking around the festival, however, I noticed there were so many good options I wanted to try that it warranted a second trip.  With the flu still trying to take down the city, I went solo Wednesday night and the rain meant no lines. 

Red Hook Lobster Pound Connecticut Roll

I had my heart set on Red Hook Lobster Pound for a Connecticut roll since Saturday so I went there first.  Rather than the more traditional style, this one comes warm tossed in butter.  You know they do it right when big chunks of lobster fill the roll and the warm butter added such great flavor.  I still think Luke’s Lobster is the best roll in town, though.

The Milk Truck Classic

Onto course number two.  I had recently read an article about the best grilled cheese’s in the country and so when I saw the tent for The Milk Truck, which was on the list, I thought this must be fate.  What I didn’t think about was, “Hmm, is all of this going to settle well in my stomach?”  But I was fine.  I digress.  I got the classic, which is gruyere on buttered bread from Balthazar’s.  I have always been a fan of classic grilled cheeses with no fancy shmancy add ins.  While this sandwich was indeed amazing, I still think my Mom makes the best grilled cheese I’ve ever had.  This is probably due to the fact that she uses the best secret ingredient ever, Velveeta but I cannot reveal it.

Sigmund's Truffle Cheddar

Finally, time for some Crack Pie!  Wait, you have got to be kidding me.  Why is the Momofuku Milk Bar tent closed up?  This can’t be happening.  I feel like Tyrone Biggums right now, here for the 5 O’clock free crack give away and there is no crack to be found.  (I hope someone gets that reference.)  I decided to finish my meal with a pretzel from Sigmund’s, and treated myself to an additional cookie from there too to eat my sadness.  I had the cheddar truffle pretzel which was good, but not memorable.  This was later followed by the cookie which was peanut butter chocolate chip, with pretzel pieces baked in.  Normally I am not big on peanut butter flavor in cookies, however, it was subtle enough that the cookie was actually awesome.  The pretzel added a great salty balance to the sweet and the cookie was probably the tiniest bit under cooked, aka perfectly cooked.

Sigmund's Cookie

Despite my need for an intervention, as well as my one too many Mama’s boy references, the festival was, all in all, quite a success.  (Ends today for anyone wanting to go one last time)

Rouge Tomate

So this time around, I made it to (the 1 Michelin Starred) Rouge Tomate for realz.  Emily and I met at the restaurant for a second time, and when no emergency phone call came, we were actually seated.  Black Rock must have had some event going on down on the lower floor because we could hear a woman on a microphone mumbling about something, which made it a bit too loud to always understand the waiter, at least I think it was the noise.  Anywho, we soldiered on nonetheless.  A quick scan of the wine and cocktails informed me that I would be drinking water that night.  And for Emily, the standard: “Could you bring lemon wedges for the water?”  It seems, the menu, although extensive, was pretty pricey.  We took a look at the dinner menu, made some decisions and ordered an app to share, followed by two entrees.

Soup, Bread, Oil, and Beets

To start, we were brought some delicious bread and oil with 2 beets on the side, as well as an amuse bouche of warm soup with cauliflower.  The beets were a nice little bite and the soup was a great start to the meal. It was warm and flavorful with a little kick to get you excited about the meal. I also just really enjoy when a restaurant does something like this because I feel like it can help make a diner feel like they are getting a worthwhile experience without much effort. 

Sauteed Montauk Calamari

For our appetizer, we ordered the calamari.  This was not your pedestrian fried calamari with cocktail sauce.  This calamri was sauteed to perfection and sat in a coconut lime broth, very similar to the one I mentioned in my post on the scallop dish at Kin Shop.  Tossed with a few veggies and cashews, I could not help myself from going fork to mouth on repeat until the plate was clean.  The plates were all cleared and we moved on to the main course.

Cow's Milk Ricotta Gnudi

Emily was in the mood for pasta, so she went with the Ricotta Gnudi.  While the accompanying ingredients were pretty tastey, especially the farm egg and mushrooms, the gnudi themselves fell a bit flat.  They just seemed bland in comparison to the rest of the dish.  In the few bites I had, it just seemed like they didn’t add much to the dish, and Emily agreed.

Long Island Duck a la Plancha

For some reason, I feel like I have been ordering game pretty regularly when out these days.  Needless to say, Duck a la Plancha caught my eye and so that is what I chose and was extremely happy I did.  This dish was as good as it was gorgeous.  Another plate licked clean of perfectly cooked duck, sauces, and sides.  When I spent some time in Hong Kong for work, duck was something you could get on your pizza at the CPK in the mall.  In New York, though, I normally leave it to the professionals and they delivered. 

One look at the dessert menu and we decided to pass.  I’m sure they make a good dessert, but much like the alcohol, nothing seemed appealing enough when compared to the price.  Plus we were two blocks from Sprinkles and that seemed like an awesome, and cheaper option.  Although the elusive Banana foiled my flavor choice yet again by not being there, the Belgian Chocolate (the special, no longer available) and Cinnamon Sugar were both delicious.  I could probably wirte a whole post on Sprinkles, or cupcakes in general, but I’ll save that for when I have more “experience.”  (Damn you for being so close to work.)  In writing this post, I noticed that the Sprinkles website shows what flavors are available on what days, which is dangerous but amazing and now I am off to try the special that came out today, Caramel Apple.

Bread & Tulips

My friday night was all planned out.  Dinner at Rouge Tomate after work and then off to meet up with my sister, in town for a bridal shower over the weekend.  If you couldn’t tell by the title of the post, however, no sooner had I made my way into the entryway of the restaurant did I find myself letting the Maitre D’ know I had to cancel and was back out in the rain.  My sister was locked out of my brother’s apartment, the key wouldn’t work, and she needed my help.  Upon arrival, I realized to my surprise, that an actual problem existed with the lock and my dinner plans were not cancelled due to incompetence.  While waiting for the super to arrive with some wd~50 (I do really want to make it there) WD-40, I took it upon myself to access the roof, scale the fire escape, and break in through the window that held my brother’s AC unit.  After taking a moment to feel truly badass, I wondered how I managed to not  break anything as I flopped through the window like a fish out of water Spiderman-ed into the bedroom.  I also spent most of the time convinced a nosey neighbor would be calling the cops to report a B&E. Segue to my dinner at Bread & Tulips.

Once the door was fixed, Emily and I were left with no dinner plans and my brother and sister were off to see Wilco in the pouring rain in Central Park.  We decided to check out Bread & Tulips, an italian restaurant on Park Ave and the younger sister restaurant of an UWS locale called Wine & Roses.  I haven’t been to the latter so I went in with no expectations.

Olives & Crostini

Feeling pretty hungry at this point, we ordered two apps, and two pasta dishes.  I also enjoyed a Pork Slap beer, which I found to be pretty delicious.  I had first seen it on the menu at Torrisi but had never heard of it before then.  Regretting not trying it there, I felt like I was seeing it everywhere I went and so I finally gave in, and was happy I did.  The restaurant provided a wonderful variety of bread and oil to start, especially their focaccia.  I figured, if it’s in their name, they better know how to do it right and I thought this confirmed it.  Sadly I changed my tune a bit later on.  Our starters consisted of the House Blend Olives and the Crostini.  The olives were perfectly juicy and salty, a great starter.  The Crostini, an interesting combo of foie gras, pickled blueberries, and toasted almonds, however fell flat for one reason.  The bread was burnt in many places and the crust was incredibly tough to get through.  For such an odd combination of ingredients, which really did work in my opinion, it was sad to be let down by the staple of the dish.

Carbonara (front) & Trofie Pasta (back)

To the entrees:  Both of us were in a pasta mood and so it was pasta all around.  I went with the Grano Arso Carbonara, that came with mushrooms, pine nuts, arugula, and a farm egg.  Emily chose the Handmade Trofie Pasta that had a delicious spiced lamb ragu.  Both pasta dishes were good, but I wasn’t blown away.  The flavors, while good, were a litte uninspiring.  The chantrelle mushrooms in my dish were easily my favorite part and they definitely put enough in the dish to satisfy.  As a whole, however, my dish was extremely rich and I had to leave a bit on the plate that I was too full to finish.  In the end, I felt like I had a good meal, but it did not leave me with the impression that I had to return.

ONE item, however, might have piqued my interest just enough to come back to try it, we’ll see.  We were way too full for dessert, but we glanced at the menu.  Immediately I wish I had had room in my stomach.  Robiola Cheesecake, what what?!?!? That reminds me, I also think I’m overdue for a trip to Uva.

Le Cirque

In an effort to squeeze in one last restaurant before Restaurant Month and a Half Week comes to an end (for reals this time) on Monday, I set my sights on Le Cirque.  As is tradition, I chose Le Cirque mostly because I could never afford the full price menu, and less so because of its history as one of NYC’s most well known eateries, although that did play a factor.

Emily and I were seated immediately in the main dining room and they quickly brought us fresh bread and butter.  If you are on a budget and eating at Le Cirque, well, you are clearly in the wrong restaurant, but you could easily cut it down to just an entree and this complimentary bread to get you through the meal.  It is an assortment but the stand out is the focaccia and I had at least three pieces.  I am a firm believer that all restaurants should give you something to start while you get situated and ponder the menu.

Ricotta Gnocchi

After a few minutes of consideration, we were set on starting with the White Gazpacho as well as the Ricotta Gnocchi.  My bite of the gazpacho was good and both dishes were very visually spectacular, but the true stand out of the night, for all 3 courses, to me was my ricotta gnocchi.  With a sprinkle of salame, olives and escargot, and sitting on a bright green pesto sauce, the gnocchi was hearty and salted to perfection.  The portion was perfect for an appetizer, not too small, but leaving enough room for the next course.

Mini Cheeseburgers "Le Cirque"

We decided to split our entrees, sharing the pork belly and the mini burgers.  I started off with the pork belly, which had a small side of some sort of watermelon salad that seemed like a throwaway addition.  The portion size was also relatively small.  It also didn’t seem picture worthy.  While the taste was there, I would have a real problem paying whatever the full price would be for the amount of food on the plate.  Which brings me to my next point, while some dishes on the RW menu were indeed on the regular menu, we somehow chose 4 dishes that, in looking right now, don’t seem to be listed.  If you are going to participate in RW, don’t cheapen the experience by offering less costly food.  The additional business must be offsetting the costs for the most part, so serve Le Cirque food, please.  Neither dish was stunning in the visual department either.  The burgers and fries were good, but its not like they stood out over a generic burger or fries in New York.  I kept debating if the burgers and fries were too pedestrian a choice but nothing else on the menu jumped out to me as a better option.

Formerly a Creme Brulee

The desserts that followed were Rocky Road for Emily and Creme Brulee for me.  Again, both good but nothing to write home about.  Additionally, I’m fifty-fifty on what appeared at the bottom of my dessert.  While it was cool to see the recipe right there in front of me, albeit a little gimmicky, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe I would be better off not being reminded how extremely unhealthy creme brulee is immediately after eating it.

I was once told Le Cirque doesn’t live up to the hype (JLaff shoutout).  Maybe they put a lot more effort into their main menu but I just felt so mediocre afterwards.  I had a good meal, but I’ve had better.  It gave me no desire to return for a more expensive meal.  While RW can be a way to try a restaurant you could never afford, it should be the restaurant’s goal to inspire diners to make the return trip.  At the end of the night, I think the meal just fell short of that.

Kin Shop

This past weekend, I was determined to cross another restaurant off of my ever growing list of places I want to try.  I threw a few ideas around in my head before telling myself I hadn’t had Thai food in a while, and that was enough to narrow the list down, which meant I would be heading to Kin Shop Saturday night. 

For anyone out there who is, like me, a Top Chef fan, the executive chef here is Harold Dieterle, season 1 winner.  While by no means does being on the show mean I will immediately run to the restaurant of any Bravo “cheftestant,” (nor does it make them a good chef for that matter), this place has been getting a lot of buzz in the New York restaurant scene, and has been on my radar for months.  It was time to head to the West Village, this time joining me were my brother and girlfriend.

The restaurant itself is not very big, but has a pretty open feel to it.  We were given some prime people watching real estate in the front by the window, (but once the food started coming, our eyes did not leave the table.)  Toward the back you could see an open kitchen, although I didn’t see if Harold was in this night.  The wait staff was extremely nice and accomodating as well.

Scallops (left) and Prawns

Time for the important part, the food.  For starters, we ordered the grilled river prawns and the snow peas and sea scallops as our two appetizers.  Both of these items were delicious.  We ended up with one scallop each and they were sitting in a bath of an amazing coconut curry sauce.  The prawns were served head on with a black pepper sauce.  One idea that I thought was pretty genius was that the prawns were priced individually and you could order as many or few as you wanted.  We ordered three so that we could each get one to ourselves.  This is something I think would be nice to see on more menus because often times apps can be some of the best dishes.  In this case, we all knew what we would be getting and no matter your party size, you don’t have to miss out on the app and know how much to contribute to the overall bill at the end of the night.  The sauces of each dish also provided some serious table debate as to which was better.  While I found myself scraping up the last of the peas and coconut sauce, my brother encountered an awkward exchange with the waitress as she wasn’t sure if, when clearing the plates, she should leave the pepper sauce for him to continue eating the sauce…by itself.  Needless to say, you will be satisfied with either dish.

Stir Fried Rice Flakes (back) and Pad See Ew (front)

The entrees: While we each ordered our own dish, plenty of bites were shared around the table.  The stir fried rice flakes entree came with rock shrimp and cauliflower.  While the taste was certainly on par with the rest of the food that night, I would have liked to see more substantially sized pieces of shrimp.  The pad see ew with white asparagus was also delicious, and certainly a level above what you would get from your neighborhood delivery.  The real winner of the night for me was the roasted duck breast with crispy roti.  The duck was phenomenal and the sauce added a little spice, but when combined with the roti, pure heaven.  I could live happily eating only that crispy roti for the rest of my life.

Duck Breast and Crispy Roti

We each had a beer to compliment the food that night and while my one complaint would be that when we thought of ordering a second, by the time our waitress came back the meal was pretty much over and we decided it’d be easier to just settle up.  The service was still pretty good, however, just I think bad timing in the last 10 minutes or so.  When the experience came to an end, I knew I had to come back soon for multiple reasons.  1. I often end a meal in one of two ways, having not had enough and going home to search my apartment for something to fill me up or having eaten way too much and going into a food coma.  This meal left me at that perfect point where I was full but not stuffed, and completely satisfied.  2. The food was very reasonably priced for a dinner out.  While with tip, I hit 50 dollars, you could easily settle for an amazing one course dinner here and pay half that price if you weren’t looking to splurge.  3. The crispy roti is 5 dollars as a side, which means I can order it no matter what else I decide to get  Trust me, I am not overselling it.