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.

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.

The Dutch

The Dutch is Andrew Carmellini’s new and oh-so-popular restaurant in SoHo. My friends and I had eaten at his other establishment, Locanda Verde, for our November dinner last year. Locanda Verde was delectable and I had high hopes for The Dutch. We arrived for our 9PM reservation on the early side. With the bar too crowded for all 7 of us to fit, we stood near the hostess stand but were quickly shunted downstairs to their “living room.” The living room consisted of one hard bench situated next to the bathrooms and kitchen. Apparently we were in the way and/or not attractive enough to be seen by the front entrance. 15 minutes after our table was supposed to be ready we were finally seated. They immediately sent out two bowls of their eggplant dip, on the house – well-played sir, well-played.

Burrata & Figs

Shrimp & Grits

Along with the eggplant dip, which was delightful (as were the crispy cracker chips that came with it), we received two loaves of cornbread. The cornbread is given to every table, which is lucky because it’s damn good. Who doesn’t love warm cornbread with a slathering of butter on it? Of their appetizers and snacks we ordered the burrata with figs, the shrimp and grits, the little oyster sandwich, and the asian white boy ribs. Jackie and I established that figs are absolutely under appreciated. The creamy burrata with the sweet figs on a crusty piece of bread was definitely a highlight of the evening, at least for me. I do have a soft spot for cheese…yum. The shrimp and grits was topped with an egg and what I tasted of it was good. I’m not much of a shrimp person. The little oyster sandwich is a like a tiny oyster po’ boy. Perfectly fried and crispy. I didn’t get a chance to try the ribs, as Dave ordered it for himself, and refused to share because they were so good. The meat fell entirely off the bone so that certainly bodes well for how delicious they are.

Halibut with Yuzu Butter

Pecan Duck with Dirty Rice

highlights from the entrée portion of dinner included the pecan duck with dirty rice, the pork chop, and the grilled tuna. The duck was insanely flavorful, the pork chop was the size of my head (but tasted great!) and the tuna was extremely fresh and tender. The halibut and scallops were also superb. In fact, I can generally sum up the entire meal by saying that everything was done perfectly. Everything was cooked perfectly, seasoned perfectly, and there was never a disappointing bite of food. I wouldn’t say that any of the food really wowed me or made me think “I have to have this again!” but sometimes having a meal that is done to perfection, even if none of it shocks your taste buds, is really all you want. I don’t need some crazy molecular gastronomy, I just want a meal that is enjoyable from start to finish. That is what The Dutch does so well.