Smile – To Go

I’ve been wanting to check out The Smile for a while now but haven’t gotten around to it. I did, however, finally make it to their take away outpost Smile To Go. It’s close to my office and always has delicious sounding sandwiches and salads. It was busy when I got there at 12:15 but not crazy and the line moves quickly. This is probably because their sandwich selections (which are updated daily, though seem to always be the same) are pre-made. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I found out. They also roast their own chicken, make their own salads and have generally tasty looking pastries available. I had trouble deciding what to get but made a last second decision to go with the mini maple bacon sandwich with a side of their kale salad.

Kale with pickled apples

Delicious indeed. The kale salad comes with pickled apple slices and light coat of vinegar and olive oil. Very simple and refreshing, especially on a beautiful summer day like today. It was exactly what I was hoping for. It tasted very…green and fresh. That’s the best way to put it.

Bacon Sandwich

The mini maple bacon sandwich has frisee and date mayo on an itty bitty buttery bun. Did you like that alliteration? You can never go wrong with a bacon sandwich and this was one was a solid choice. It’s small enough so you don’t feel gross for eating a sandwich almost entirely comprised of fatty meat but just enough so that you feel satisfied. I’d definitely say you need one of their side salads or a pastry to go with it though. Not quite enough for a full lunch. At only $4 it was worth every cent.

Tasty Dumpling

Tasty Dumpling is a tiny hole in the wall dumpling place on Mulberry in Chinatown. I can see the yellow awning from my office window, making it incredibly convenient. Luckily, it’s not only convenient but also DELICIOUS. Don’t be fooled and/or freaked out by the crappy interior – they make a mean dumpling and one hell of a pork pancake. I don’t have any pics of the pork and chive dumps (5 for $1.25) but I do have a picture of the pancake, which is essentially just a giant dumpling ($1.50).

Mmm Tasty

Looks tasty doesn’t it? That’s because it is. The filling is pork and cabbage. It’s juicy, meaty, and gets an added kick from the Sriracha I doused it with. The dough is definitely thicker than the dumpling skins but that’s a good thing because the pancake is extra juicy. It’s big enough to fill you up but not so big that you feel sick afterwards and for $1.50 that is an extremely cheap lunch. Booya.

 

Hooray for Pizza Day!

In NYC there is always a new pizza place to try. It’s virtually impossible to keep up with them all. My friends and I love pizza. I mean, how could you not? We talk about trying all these new places but with a group as large as ours it rarely happens. Last week Ivana and I decided that we were going to try Don Antonio’s this week, no matter what. Friends be damned, we were going to have our pizza and eat it too. We set the date for Wednesday, sent out an email inviting anyone who wanted to tag along, and counted down the hours until we could dig in.

Don Antonio’s is run by Robert Caporuscio, of Kesté fame, and his teacher, Antonio Starita. Both are well known in the pizza world and for good reason – they make a mean pizza. Kesté is probably my favorite pizza in NYC, though Motorino has really grown on me (they deliver to Rick’s apt), so I was incredibly excited to try out Caporuscio’s new place.

Burrata & Fried Dough Balls

Ivana, Dave, Emily, Rick, and myself arrived at 6:45 and were seated immediately (something that would never happen at Kesté, where waits can be very long). The 5 of us did not mess around when it came to ordering. 3 apps, 5 pizzas, 1 dessert. Bring. It. On.

We obviously had to try their homemade burrata, which came with prosciutto and a drizzle of some really excellent balsamic. This is the best burrate I’ve ever had. Granted, I never had it in Italy and I assume it would be better there, this was the best I’ve had in NYC. So creamy and delicious. It’s also a HUGE portion. The 5 of us each had plenty of it. We also opted to get 5 of each of the fried dough balls. One was topped with tomato sauce and the other with caramelized onions. Frying is something they know how to do here. They also have a fried pizza but I’ll get to that later. They tasted like savory zeppole, only airier and lighter, with no grease.

Prosciutto & Arugula, Pizza del Papa, and Montanara

As for the pizza, we ordered the Montanara Starita, which is the fried pizza they do. There’s now a couple places in NYC doing this but this was my first experience. They fry it, top it with sauce and cheese and then put it in the oven. It was delicious. Really smokey, which I didn’t expect, very light, and not greasy at all. It didn’t have an overwhelmingly fried taste but it was crispier than the rest of the pizzas. Really good. We go the Pizza del Pap (the Pope’s pizza), which had zucchini, squash, roasted peppers, and smoked mozz. I really liked this one. It was one of my favorites. Again, smokey, thanks to the mozz. All the vegetables were cooked perfectly and not at all soggy. Next we had the prosciutto and arugula pizza. I am always a fan of this combination. Peppery arugula and creamy salty prosciutto is never a bad combo. Enjoyed this pizza but not quite as much as I thought I would. I don’t know why. It was delicious but it didn’t blow me away.

Regina Margherita & Diavola

After that came the Regina Margherita and the Diavola. You always have to get the margherita when you go to a good pizza place because it’s the best way to judge it against other places. They use buffalo mozzarella and their incredibly fresh, bright tomato sauce. I approved of their sauce (one of the reasons I love Kesté). The diavola had the addition of soppressata, which is a spicy salami. Another quality pizza, though the spice was minimal. Usually when I think of diavola, I think of a spicy tomato sauce but the onyl spice from this was from the meat. Still, I would happily eat it again. My only complaint about the pizzas was that after sitting out for a few minutes they became incredibly soggy. I realize this is the case for any Neapolitan style pizza but this seemed especially egregious. Right out of the oven though, this dough knows no equal. It was awesome.

Hello Nutella, I’ve missed you

Finally, though we were completely stuffed and had passed our leftovers to Kim and Billy after they showed up, Ivana insisted on ordering dessert. What could be a better ending than fried dough covered in the good European Nutella? Nothing. It brought me back to Italy when I had Nutella every morning. And yes, there is a difference between the US version of Nutella and the European one. Ivana has done the taste test to prove it. The European is nuttier and less sweet.

That concludes my analysis of Don Antonio’s. I can’t wait to go back. It’s essentially Kesté without the wait.

 

Sarong Party Girls at Masak

Masak Menu

Last Friday was our first monthly group dinner in a while. We wanted something a bit cheaper (it’s wedding season after all…) and in a fun location so we could grab drinks afterwards. Masak definitely fit that description. It’s a small restaurant in Alphabet City serving food from Singapore. It’s been getting some hype lately so we were happy to check it out. The first order of business was getting some libations. Masak has a pretty stellar drink list. It’s short but interesting. I got the Sarong Party Girl and man was it good. Bourbon, pineapple, and ginger is apparently a fantastic combo.

Chili Crab Dip with Mantou

We ordered 2 apps for the table, which came recommended by our very cheerful waiter: the Chili Crab Dip and their special Spring Rolls. The crab dip came with mantou, which are fried golden rolls. They’re dense but fluffy on the inside and perfect for scooping up the dip. Nothing to complain about here. They even gave us extra mantou when we quickly finished off the ones provided to us. The spring rolls were good and honestly I couldn’t even tell you what was in them. Spinach? There was some green leafy vegetable inside. They were fried to a crispy perfection.

Burger & Fries

Almost everyone at the table got the burger for dinner since I had read a review saying it was a good one. The burger was HUGE. This is not for the faint of heart. You must be hungry to devour this monstrosity. I’ve only recently begun to like burgers and my preference is for thin ones with less meat. This is not one of those burgers. It still tasted good, just not what I look for in my burgers.

Kim, Me, and Megan

Kim ordered the Spicy Rock Shrimp and Grits. It was good and spicy but in the best kind of way. Sometimes things are spicy just to be spicy but this was a good kind of heat. Not that I know the first thing about grits but these tasted good and creamy, which is what I suspect they should be like? Definitely enjoyable.

I had the soft-shell crab (picture to be added later), since I’ve been craving one for a while and didn’t get any while down in Rehoboth. Even though I ordered the appetizer portion they did not skimp. It was a hefty crab. It was light and crisp and definitely cooked just right. It came with mushrooms and asparagus over a chive sauce. Everything was good but there was definitely something on the plate that was a bit too salty. It started to overwhelm me by the time I finished the dish. For $15 I definitely got my moneys worth and even if it was a little too salty I enjoyed it.

Dave, Mari, and Liz

I’d like to go back and try some of their other main courses to see how they stack up. I don’t know much about Singaporean food but I’d like to experience more.

4 Year Anniversary at Gwynnett St.

Crazy to say but Rick and I have been together for 4 years. I can’t believe it myself. Time flies. To celebrate, Rick booked a reservation at new Williamsburg hotspot, Gwynnett St. The head chef is Justin Hilbert who worked previously at wd~50. Needless to say, he has a few culinary tricks up his sleeve.

Slow Poached Egg…and the shadow of my iPhone

Every review we read raved about their whiskey bread so we obviously started with that. It comes out warm and looks a lot like corn bread. It’s got a touch of sweetness and just a hint of whiskey and came in really handy with our other appetizer. We ordered the slow poached egg, which came with pork, peas, pecorino, and the most flavorful broth I think I’ve ever come across (save maybe Ippudo). Dipping the bread in that delicious concoction is about as good as it gets. Plus, it’s so pretty!

Chicken & assorted veggies

Rick decided on the Amish chicken with  Japanese cucumber, potatoes, and hay ash (apparently it is cool to cook with ashes?). From what I’ve read (NYTimes review) the chicken is brined with the ash but it didn’t taste overly smokey to me. Just incredibly moist and juicy. If you can use those two adjectives to describe chicken, then it’s been cooked perfectly. Rick and I loved it.

The Best Duck Ever

I ordered the duck and wild rice. I don’t think I’ll be able to order duck anywhere else because there is nothing that can possibly compare to this dish. The skin is crispy and under it is a layer of fat that has so much flavor it might make your brain explode from over stimulation. The duck breast is cooked to medium rare and is truly fantastic. This dish made my night.

Mint Sponge Cake & Pickled Green Strawberries

Then we got to dessert. It’s an experience. The menu in no way prepares you for whatever you’ve just ordered. My dessert was simply called, “Mint, milk, and green strawberries.” What I got was a mint sponge cake, with pickled green strawberries, ice cream, and some sort of crunchy salty concoction. It was totally different and felt light and refreshing. I preferred Rick’s choice though. He got the “milk chocolate, peanut, and black currant.” Essentially a slab of milk chocolate, with crunchy, salty peanuts, and black currant ice cream. As Rick pointed out, it almost tasted like a PB&J, except with the addition of chocolate. Yum.

Chocolate & Peanuts

We agreed that we’ll have to come back and try everything else out on the menu. It’s small and cute and the food is fantastic.

25 at Osteria Morini

This past Friday was my 25th birthday. Hard to believe I’ve been alive for a quarter of a century but here I am. Seeing as how I’ve been shirking my blogging responsibilities for the past month or so, I figured 25 was a good time to get back on track.

As anyone who knows me knows or anyone who actually reads this thing can tell, I love Italian food. Such a cliché, I know, but I could eat pasta every night of the week and never get tired of it. Obviously for my birthday I wanted to go somewhere with fantastic pasta and Chef Michael White makes perhaps the best stuff in NYC. Rick and I had gone to Convivio for our anniversary – this was before it was handed over to White’s business partner and then subsequently shut down. It was quite the meal and I had been wanting to go to one of his other places ever since. Sadly, Marea, is a bit out of my price range but Osteria Morini, with its rustic Emilia-Romagna dishes seemed perfect.

Truffle Sformato

Having studied the menu extensively prior to arriving, I had already decided on the sformato as my appetizer of choice. The sformato was a truffle, parmigiano custard with mushrooms on top. Hello, all of my favorite things in one compact dish, smeared over crusty bread. And it did not disappoint. Creamy, rich, and smelling pungently of truffles it’s a heart warming dish. I only wish there had been more of it…sigh.

Duck Confit

We also tried the duck confit crostini. It came with a good size portion of the confit and two pieces of crusty toasted bread to smear it on. It was good, definitely enjoyable, but I wasn’t totally in love with it. No matter, I didn’t want to fill up on anything before I got my pasta.

Gramigna with Sausage and Tomato

Deciding on what pasta to get was a difficult decision…so difficult that I agonized over it for days and still hadn’t made up my mind by the time we got to the restaurant. I ended up going with the gramigna, a shape of pasta I had never even heard of, that came with a creamy tomato sauce and sausage. Gramigna, it turns out, is a short curled spaghetti type pasta. The sauce and crumbled pork sausage were of course done perfectly and the pasta complimented the sauce well. While it was completely delicious and I loved every bite, this is probably something I could have made myself. In retrospect I wish I had gone with the gnocchi, which is something I almost never get to have. Oh well, there is always next time – believe me, there will be a next time.

Short Rib with Polenta

Rick got the stracotto, which was braised short rib, polenta and caramaIized onions. The meat was falling apart it was so tender and the polenta was creamy. The whole dish was very hearty, the type of meal you want to have on a cold winters night. It was, however, as Rick pointed out, something he could probably get at a variety of restaurants. A delectable plate of meat to be sure, just not very unique. Then again, you’re not really coming here for unique food. It’s just good, hearty, Italian fare done the best way possible.

Torta di Mele

We of course got dessert, since it was my birthday and all. Rick got the Tiramisu, which is his favorite dessert. I’m not always the biggest fan but it was good. I got the torta di mele – apple brown butter cake with caramel sauce and vanilla gelato. Yeah, it was as good as it sounds.

It was a fabulous meal, everything tasted fantastic. I’ll definitely be altering my order next time but every bite was divine.

Lunch at Caffe Falai

Last week on a rainy, disgusting, but warm Tuesday, my mom came into the city to get lunch with me and do some Christmas shopping. I got to show her my office and the Courthouse. All very exciting things. I decided to take her to Caffe Falai on Lafayette St., which I had been wanting to try for a while. There were two other branches of this restaurant on the LES but both have closed. When we walked in at noon it was nearly empty and the waiters and management were speaking Italian to each other – always a good sign in my opinion. The space is clean and welcoming and once they got cooking it smelled heavenly.

 

Tuna Panini

 

They start you out with a good bread basket and even better olive oil. It was peppery and fragrant, just asking to be soaked up by their fresh bread. We each ordered a panini. My mom went with the tuna, which looked delish. The bread was crusty and crispy on the outside but broke apart easily so that the innards didn’t squish and fall all over the place – that has to be my biggest pet peeve when eating a sandwich. Don’t you just hate when the stuff inside slips out the sides? Drives me nuts.

Mortadella Panini

I went with the mortadella panini, which came with a truffle robiola type cheese. I can’t remember the exact cheese and it’s not on their menu online. Oh well. It was delicious. They did not skimp on the cheese or the meat. The truffle taste was mild but that was good because it was already a pretty rich sandwich. It came on the same bread as the tuna panini.

I’d love to come back here sometime and try out their pastas and other offerings. Their breakfast menu also looks quite good.