It's an exciting day for this food-dork when Adam Platt comes out with his annual 'Where to Eat' Guide. It's like a secret roadmap for some ever changing underground city. A travel guide for my endless journey to discover what this city does best - eat. Today is that day. I have mixed feelings about this years guide. I don't know about you, but I'm sick of pork ten ways, fancy burgers and suggestions that I must try the mac n' cheese. Oh, and harem pants, but I digress. Well, Adam agrees with me on one of those points (au revoir Porky Pig), but I'm sorry to say, big ticket burgers and classy comfort food are still en vogue.
Last year, I put a good dent in Adam's 2009 list, making it to seventeen of his restaurant recommendations with a handful added to my ever growing must-try list. Lets add to the madness, shall we?
Trends in 2010 I'm excited for:
Seafood Renaissance: The antithesis of 2009's trend of going out for staying-in food. For example: my much adored grilled cheese and tomato soup - five ingredients, ten minutes, maybe ten dollars. Sure, it was kitschy and fun the first time I had a truffled grilled cheese, but not the tenth. And my hips don't lie. When I go out for a meal, I want something I'd have trouble cooking myself. Sea urchin with lardo, cuttlefish tagliatelle and lobster with buratta all fall lovingly into that category. And for that reason alone, I welcome newcomers Marea and Fishtail.
Unexpected Gourmet: Now, don't get me wrong - I love Italian food. I love French fare. And I love whatever American cuisine means these days - but what I really love about New York is the accessibility of other, less common fodder. My wallet may not allow me to travel the world, but I can at least get a taste of it here. Aldea for Iberian. Seasonal Restaurant and Weinbar for Austrian. Sho Shaun Hergatt for what only can be described as 'eclectic'? Yes. Yes. Yes.
Southern Comfort: ...with lime - I just gagged. Okay, it may sound shockingly close to the comfort food trend I just hated on so much, but please let me explain. I'm not looking for another dish of baked mac n' cheese. I'm going to Joseph Leonard for some low-country grits - a dish that's like urban legend to a Long Island girl. (I'm not taking advice from some girl from Long Island!! - Estelle Costanza) Or to the Tipsy Parson for some fried pickles. Maybe Momofuku Noodle Bar for some Old-Bay fried chicken - as I can't even fathom owning a deep fryer.
2010 trends that I am not stoked about:
Second Acts: Revivals of relics and restaurants that I couldn't afford the first time around, pre-recession. I certainly can't afford them now. Thanks for the reminder.
Bull Market Italian: Anyone else have a problem with this one?! Last I checked the unemployment rate was at 10% and counting. I'll stick to the likes of Frankie Spuntino and Max for my spaghetti and meatballs this year, thank you.
Celebrity Chic: Secret reservation numbers and three month waiting lists doesn't mean your food is good. Neither does a group of anemic, teen celebrities who frown and pick at their food. Open the doors and let the people judge!
No, this is not my Christmas tree. It may be a recession, but Christmas trees aren't something to skimp on. After all, it has to be big enough for Santa to fit my gifts under. And while small gifts can be great, this year my wish list consisted of more practical items such as a food processor and a dutch oven - no, not that kind of dutch oven. Sick.
The above picture is of a romanesco, or Roman Cauliflower, that I picked up at the Greenmarket last week. It's sort of a blend between broccoli and a cauliflower and can be prepared and cooked similarly to them. Steam and finish with a squirt of lemon, roast in the oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese, or saute it with garlic and oil and use as a side dish. I chose to toss it into a simple pasta dish, where it's woody taste would be complimented by the citrus of lemons. I found the recipe in Rachel Ray's magazine, though I added my own twist by adding some frozen petite peas to bulk up the health factor and squeezing lemon over the top of the dish, rather than more cheese, to finish. Give it a whirl.
1 pound rigatoni pasta
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 head romanesco broccoli cut into florets
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2/3 cup grated pecorino-romano cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Optional: handful of frozen peas - add along with the romanesco
1.Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a couple of ladlefuls of the pasta cooking water.
2.While the pasta is working, in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until golden, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the wine for 1 minute, then the chicken stock. Add the broccoli, lemon peel, rosemary and crushed red pepper; season with salt and black pepper. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
3.In a serving bowl, toss the pasta, reserved pasta cooking water, cooked vegetables, cheese and nuts for a minute. Season with salt and black pepper and a squirt of lemon over the top.
The week before Christmas is crazy - holiday parties, last minute shopping, traffic, a foot of snow - which is why I decided to slow things down at Il Buco. Dark, cozy and rustic, it was the perfect place to hide from the cold and craziness. What I didn't realize, was that this time of year, there is no escaping the crazies. Grabbing a seat at the bar, I quickly realized I had sat down next to a woman whom I can best describe as Snooki's wicked step sister - let's just call her Snickers. Large attitude with even larger boobs, which outright refused to stay in her dress, she must have drank the whole bar before I arrived. Bartender, boyfriend and coworker were all enduring the wrath of Snickers, while I quietly enjoyed my late night dinner, simultaneously snapping away at the scene with my iphone. Sadly, due to the low lighting in the restaurant, this is the only picture that came out - and try as I might, Il Buco didn't have anymore pickles.
While enjoying our free entertainment, we had a wonderful late night meal of creamy leek and potato soup, a salad of persimmon, arugula, pecans and blue cheese and their garganelli al ragu, homemade pasta with a rich tomato based sauce of roasted chicken and salty olives. All were delightful, as was our bartender, despite being berated for making Snicker's gimlet 'too weak'. The barkeep even threw in a few glasses of a fantastic barolo, free of charge, for enduring the pain.
My favorite dish was the salad, which allowed me to try persimmons for the first time. Persimmons look like orange tomatoes, but have a sweeter, citrusy taste. They have been showing up at the Greenmarket recently, though I have been too intimidated to try them. My only knowledge of persimmons are as a holiday decoration, as part of a centerpiece. Little did I know, they are a wonderful, seasonal addition to pies, puddings, and cookies. However, for my Christmas dinner, I have decided to mimic Il Buco, in fond memory of Snickers, and slice them into this lovely salad of frisee, radicchio, pears and pomegranites. I encourage you to try the fruit this holiday season any way you can. Happy holidays!!
- The Heat
Mission: To eat at every restaurant on my list. Location: 7th street between 1st avenue and avenue A. Itinerary: my plan Results: Lukewarm
Luke's A new addition to the battle of the lobster rolls, this tiny storefront claims to serve heaps of meat at wholesale prices with the help of the fratboy owner's lobster-hunting father in Maine. Turns out, $14 gets what you'd expect - an embarrassingly small meal. The lobster salad was practically mayo-less, sans celery, and with entirely too large chunks of lobster. I had a full claw, cartilage and all, in mine - pretty, but not practical. I will give them kudos for their perfectly toasted, buttery roll. They just need to extend it by about three inches. I shiver at the thought of their 'snack size' roll ($8) - it can't be more than a two-bite slider. And with no beers to wash down the six that I'd have to eat to feel full, I won't be rushing back.
Caracas Arepa Bar What is an arepa? One description is a Venezuelan, stuffed, corn muffin. Another - a Latin Sloppy Joe. Well I like corn muffins and I like Sloppy Joe's. I'll let you know if I like arepas next week. I love arepas!! So much so that I contemplated walking back across Manhattan to order a few more (three for two people didn't cut it). Arepas are like little corn paninis - but the bread is softer and sweeter than your average ciabatta. My favorite was La De Pernil (roasted pork shoulder, tomato slices and spicy mango sauce), which was like a Venezuelan version of a bbq pulled pork sandwich. Try the La Surena (chicken and chorizo, avocado, and chimi-churri sauce) and De Pabellon (shredded beef, black beans, cheese and plantains) for a more traditional experience.
Pylos "Rustic Greek Home Cooking". Long since gone are the days where we'd just call it GREEK, but I digress. The space is sleek and the menu arranged in a way that encourages the ordering of many little plates, allowing me to satisfy my cravings for moussaka, stuffed grape leaves, spanikopita, and tzatziki all in one seating. Because there just aren't enough good Greek places in NYC - and no, I'm not moving to Queens. Pylos, oh Pylos (pronounced Pee-los fyi). Why are you so difficult?! I tried to get reservations both Friday and Saturday nights, as well as last night - nothing. Pylos was closed for holiday parties every night. In the words of California's beloved governor - I'll be back!
7A I ate a hungover brunch at 7A many, many moons ago and I was psyched to come across the bustling cafe again. I was a starving college student submitted to student cafeterias, so I fear my review would be stale and partly cloudy. My memory consists of a delicious plate of shrimp and avocado eggs benedict, a spicy bloody mary and a raging headache from my first encounter with mojitos. I'm excited for my second trip and the three other types of egg benedict to chose from - headache notwithstanding. I write this post from 7A - eating an average tuna avocado melt and a weak cup of coffee. Waiting an hour outside in the cold for eggs benedict wasn't happening this weekend - I stuck to homemade egg sammy's on my couch instead. So it turns out I was still drunk last time and 7A is mediocre. It seems like it can't decide if it wants to be a diner or a cafe. The menu has some creative flare amongst your run-of-the-mill diner fare - 6 types of burgers, health-centric sandwiches and two lowly burritos hanging awkwardly on the right side of the menu. But as only an indigenous Long Islander can say, not nearly the breadth of options a true diner should have. There's not even a grilled cheese on the menu! Make up your mind 7A - are you a cute cafe or a monster diner? And unless you start handing out VIP reservations for Sunday brunch, it's unlikely that I'll be returning.
Porchetta. As discussed, Sunday is the day of comfort food, and this Sunday I plan to stuff my face with pig. This place has gotten an absurd amount of press for their porchetta sandwich - a Sullivan St Bakery ciabatta roll stuffed full of their famous pork and made for walking. At $10 a pop, I think I'll get two and share with my trusty walking companion. Salt. Salt on Porchetta and salt on my pork. Salt on my potatoes and salt on my broccoli rabe. But not on my beans? At least be consistent. I sat down to wait for my porchetta plate and read an article posted on the wall about their famous salt. Infused with rosemary, garlic, sage and fennel seeds, it claims to bring out the flavor of all meats - but all I could taste was salt and I'm salty about it. Yes, the pork was pretty good - when you weren't cracking a tooth on the shards of glaze or cringing at your fifth straight bite of nothing but lard. The potatoes with burnt ends were startlingly dry and, wait for it, salty. The broccoli rabe a healthier salt lick and the baked beans a bland bore. I was so disappointed after all the hype that I nixed the promised sandwich for my puppy and bought her an arepa instead. Salt.
A few noteworthy additions to my 7th street post, though I won't be making that crosstown walk anytime soon:
Mini Bar: Newly opened small plates restaurant just a block away from Big Bar. How cute.
Saturday night - my night off from my self inflicted food crawl down 7th street - so I decided to mix things up at Momofuko Ssäm Bar - a David Chang experience for the bourgeosie. Larger, cheaper and less exclusive than it's predecessor, Momofuku Ko, Ssäm didn't fall short of my lofty expectations. I had a top ten best meal of 2009 - trophies can be picked up at the door.
COLD: No reservations and an hour wait on a Saturday night. There is a comfortable waiting area though- Momofuku Bakery and Milk Bar, which can be found in the back. Specializing in sweets, cookies and ice cream, you can easily spoil your appetite here - if you're into that sort of thing - I decided to hold out for their pork buns and fried brussels sprouts and they were well worth the wait.
HOT: Great for groups, with long tables and communal seating - also the best way to sample the entire menu - a goal of mine for 2010.
Must Try: Alas, we were a party of two and only able to try four of their dishes, three of which were instant favorites. Steamed pork buns were moist and savory - served with a personal bottle of hot sauce - awesome. Brussels sprouts are fried to a perfect crisp and served in a fish sauce vinaigrette - similar to 10 Downing's version and just as addictive. Their skate dish changed my life - crisp and tender like the best fried calamari you've ever had, served with old bay fries, spicy aioli and preserved lemon - it was heaven - and I will be going back to those pearly gates soon.
While on a walk with my dog in the East Village, I discovered a block littered with affordable restaurants whose names I recognized from my 'must try' list. Overly excited, I grabbed every take-out menu and began to plan my attack:
Mission: To eat at every restaurant on my list. Results: I will report my findings via a new post next Wednesday. Location: 7th street between 1st avenue and avenue A. Itinerary: my plan
Tonight:Luke's A new addition to the battle of the lobster rolls, this tiny storefront claims to serve heaps of meat at wholesale prices with the help of the fratboy owner's lobster-hunting father in Maine.
Thursday:Caracas Arepa Bar What is an arepa? One description is a Venezuelan, stuffed, corn muffin. Another - a Latin Sloppy Joe. Well I like corn muffins and I like Sloppy Joe's. I'll let you know if I like arepas next week.
Friday:Pylos "Rustic Greek Home Cooking". Long since gone are the days where we'd just call it GREEK, but I digress. The space is sleek and the menu arranged in a way that encourages the ordering of many little plates, allowing me to satisfy my cravings for moussaka, stuffed grape leaves, spanikopita, and tzatziki all in one seating. Because there just aren't enough good Greek places in NYC - and no, I'm not moving to Queens.
Saturday: 7A I ate a hungover brunch at 7A many, many moons ago and I was psyched to come across the bustling cafe again. I was a starving college student submitted to student cafeterias, so I fear my review would be stale and partly cloudy. My memory consists of a delicious plate of shrimp and avocado eggs benedict, a spicy bloody mary and a raging headache from my first encounter with mojitos. I'm excited for my second trip and the three other types of egg benedict to chose from - headache notwithstanding.
Sunday:Porchetta. As discussed, Sunday is the day of comfort food, and this Sunday I plan to stuff my face with pig. This place has gotten an absurd amount of press for their porchetta sandwich - a Sullivan St Bakery ciabatta roll stuffed full of their famous pork and made for walking. At $10 a pop, I think I'll get two and share with my trusty walking companion.
Saturday was our annual Tree Cutting Party, where friends and family gather at a farm in Connecticut to eat, drink, chop and be merry - all in the spirit of Christmas. Saturday was 40° with a wintery mix - what I consider prime chili weather. We had about four different kinds of chili - turkey, beef, veggie, and three bean. Time to add one more to the mix - a family favorite. Lighter and healthier than it's other chili cousins, it's great as a mid-week lunch or dinner. Save time by shredding a rotisserie chicken from your local grocery rather than roasting your own. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
White Chicken Chili: Adapted from Cooks Illustrated's Recipe
Ingredients: Serves 6 to 8.
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 jalapeño chiles
3 poblano chiles, cut into large pieces
3 red peppers, cut into large pieces
2 onions , cut into large pieces
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 14.5oz. cans cannelli beans , drained and rinsed
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions , white and light green parts sliced thin
Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.
While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 jalapeños; mince flesh. In food processor, process the poblano chiles, red peppers and onions until consistency of chunky salsa.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. Add minced jalapeños, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.
Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, and chicken breasts to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
Mince remaining jalapeño, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds, and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and remaining minced jalapeño (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. Salt and pepper to taste.
Have fun with your garnishes - I like to serve it with shredded monteray jack cheese and a squeeze of lime. Other ideas: sour cream, cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, red onion or scallions.
I cooked this on a cold, rainy weeknight for my book club and it turned out to be quite a hit. It's a simple recipe for roasted lemon chicken with root vegetables, but this time I cooked it on top of thick slices of country bread, which acted as a sponge for all the delicious juices. I had time to brine the chicken overnight, but it's totally optional. Brine or not, the end result will be a wonderfully browned chicken on top of the best crouton ever. Give it a try, but be forewarned: it smelled so good, a neighbor came a knockin'.
Lemon Chicken with Roasted Root Vegetables
1 whole chicken (4-5lbs)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp dried herbs
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
country bread or any other hearty bread cut into thick 1.5" slices
handful of parsnips, carrots or other root vegetable of choice, cut into uniform sized spears
olive oil to drizzle
1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Layer slices of bread on roasting pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
3. Soften unsalted butter (a few seconds in the microwave is sufficient) and add dried herbs.
4. Remove giblets from chicken, rinse with cold water and pat dry.
5. Cut one lemon in half and put in the bird's cavity.
6. Tie legs together with kitchen twine and place on top of bread and roasting pan.
7. Brush herb butter liberally over the chicken.
8. Thinly slice second lemon. Scatter root vegetables and lemon around the chicken.
9. Roast for 50-55 minutes, until bird is nice and browned.
10. Allow to sit outside of oven for ten minutes before carving.