Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Remembering 2009

73 best eats and drinks of 2008. Though the postings never came, seasonality and restaurant closings took dishes away from me before I could sample them, and balancing work and studying and spending time with family and friends kept me from reaching the century mark, I accept no excuse as redeeming and bestow upon myself a scarlet letter. 73 dishes. I know that the best 27 were yet to come.

What I have to be grateful for, however, is for the culinary opportunities taken in the last twelve months, the courses sampled that will forever take their place on my "best of" lists, and the experiences that redefined what I thought were simple ingredients and familiar tastes.

On one end of the spectrum, 2009 was the year I first dined at Le Bernardin, made my first trip to Momofuku Ko's eden, and allowed myself to be fooled again and again at wd-50. Salt Lick in Texas, John Besh's August in New Orleans, Blue Hill in NYC, deep-dish pizza in Chicago, waffles in Brussels and herring in Amsterdam would round off a year in culinary excursions that will be difficult to match.

On the other end, it was the year of the food tour, the exploration of the neighborhood gems in Queens and Brooklyn. Dumplings in Flushing, kielbasa in Greenpoint and chaat in Jackson Heights have earned their spot as regular destinations.

Levain, Momofuku and Jacques Torres cookies. Shake Shack, Burger Joint and Royale burgers. Tacqueria burritos, Little Poland dumplings, Dinosaur chicken wings, Salt Lick brisket, Redhead peanut brittle, Crazy wings in Waco, Clinton Street pancakes, Juan in a Million tacos and 50lb burgers.

2010 has a lot to live up to.

Eggs Benedict at wd-50

Juan in a Million breakfast taco

The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas

50lb Burger at Clinton Station Diner

Monday, July 13, 2009

King's Carriage House

Kings' Carriage House
251 E 82nd Street

I want to begin this entry by thanking my gracious hosts, the owners of Kings' Carriage House and Naomi for arranging the evening. I was fortunate enough to dine at Kings' Carriage House as a guest of the owners, and was even more fortunate to dine with Naomi and my co-worker Dan who were both willing to order a variety of dishes for our table to sample. Disclaimer: Our table received a meal on the house.

Kings' Carriage offers a 3-course prix fixe menu for $49, with $4 supplements on select menu items, and with a menu that is updated daily, certain items may not be available on any given night. Our evening began with a glass of champagne and an amuse bouche of smoked salmon with cream cheese; a clean, fresh sampling to start off what would be a gluttonous adventure of food and drink. Always a fan of an amuse...

We started with orders of the french onion soup as a bonus course, which came with a delicously buttery crouton.

French Onion Soup:

For our appetizers, we quickly devoured an order of grilled sea scallops with shaved fennel and baby arugula salad, which were perfectly grilled, meaty and fresh. For an appetizer, it was quite a generous portion. The prosciutto wrapped quail with port wine syrup was tender and juicy, while the portobello & goat cheese terrine with roasted asparagus and beets offered a creamy and sharper dish.

Grilled sea scallops:

Grilled Prosciutto wrapped Quail:

Portobello & Goat Cheese Terrine:

After bouncing back and forth between several options for our entrees, we settled on the pan seared salmon topped with mango salsa, which provided a tangy and sweet compliment. Duck breast over sweet potato was moist with a hint of sweetness. Rosemary roasted loin of lamb over eggplant was tender and fresh.


Duck Breast:

Roasted lamb:

I think that the key takeaway from my meal was that while no one particular item blew me away, Kings' Carriage offers dishes that are prepared meticulously, with a focus on using fresh ingredients and providing well-executed dishes that would leave anyone satisfied. Everything is presented and served with that sense of precision; each dish carefully constructed. I can see why this restaurant has developed a regular following. It's comfort food, done simply, with immaculate attention to detail.

Dessert was no less precise. Creamy cheesecake, a perfectly executed creme brulee with candied mango, and a warm apricot crumble with fresh mint. Each more enjoyable than the last.


Mango Creme Brulee:

Warm apricot crumble:

We left our table stuffed, each dish marked by generous portions. Fresh ingredients, expertly crafted dishes and a rotating menu with options for anyone. For $49, Kings' Carriage House isn't the most affordable option for dinner, but it's certainly a spot that I will keep in mind for special occasions with family or for a romantic evening.

Thank you again to our hosts and to Naomi.

Been to Kings' Carriage House? Have a recommendation in the area? Post a comment!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Clinton Street Baking Company

Clinton Street Baking Company
4 Clinton Street (just south of Houston)

After hearing about how awesome Clinton Street Baking Company is from my roommate, and seeing the pancake throwdown on Food Network, I knew I had to try them for myself. Recognizing that the line on weekends stretches to multiple hours, I did what any normal person would do. I took the day off from work to take care of a few errands, namely, to come check out pancakes on a weekday when there would be less of a crowd. 9am. Table for one. Right this way...

I was a bit skeptical of the price, as $13 for pancakes is a bit absurd. The margins have to be pretty crazy, but if it's that good and people are willing to pay it, congrats to them for cashing in on a successful product. After my first bite, I understood.


Pancake Guts:

Sweet, but not too sweet. Tart, but not too tart. Fluffy, filling, fantastic. From what I remember from the episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, they mix the batter, pour it onto the griddle and then sprinkle on the blueberries, such that they don't break apart as they would if they were mixed into the batter. Clinton Street fires on all cylinders:

1. They are fluffy, with plenty of blueberries.
2. The maple butter syrup is incredibly sweet, yet I couldn't stop eating it.
3. So much pancake! Yeah, it's $13 for pancakes, but they could easily be split with another person if you ordered a couple of $2 buttermilk biscuits which looked amazing ($13 + $4 / 2 is $9 per person for a biscuit and a half order of awesome pancakes. That is a steal!)
4. They offer the pancakes for dinner. Let all who are hungry come and partake of the pancakes, regardless of time of day.

Sure, coffee and pancakes cost $20 with tax and tip which is pretty ridiculous. But forgo the java and split it with a friend and pancake nirvana is much more affordable.

Been to Clinton Street? Want to go with me next time? Post a comment!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Bleecker around the corner from MacDougal

Shame on me for the lack up updates. After speaking with some friends about potential food tours, we decided upon a buffalo wing outing. Scheduling and locations have yet to be determined, but if you're interest in attending or have a suggestion on a location, please drop a comment!

Meanwhile, take a gander at what could be the front-runner going into the competition, buffalo wings from 1849 Bar & Grill on Bleecker. $.20 wings during happy hour and all night on Wednesday, make it one of the best wing deals in the city.

Monday, June 22, 2009

HB Burger

HB Burger
43rd between 6th and Broadway

The same crew that brought you Heartland Brewery, an overpriced mediocre establishment with multiple locations, has now re-branded one of their locations as HB Burger, a Times Square restaurant that plays into the times with a menu that prices all choices under $10. Gimmicky? Yes. Was the only reason I wanted to go the coupons they were handing out on the street for a free milkshake? Undoubtedly so. While it may have been my low expectations that played into my experience, HB Burger has earned my support.

What you soon realize upon first looking at the menu, is that they did, in fact keep to their word of pricing items below $10, with specialty burgers priced at $9.00 (well below what Ruby Tuesday's or any other Times Square restaurant would charge for a hamburger). However, HB Burger charges $3.50 extra for fries, normally considered a standard accompaniment, bringing the total bill to $12.50 for a burger and fries, and back on par with any other spot. There goes the value play.

Without the cost sensitive focus, the attention is placed squarely on the product itself, though I will mention that sauteed onions are included at no charge. My buffalo burger ($7.50) was fairly dry, as expected from a buffalo burger, but enjoyable nonetheless, and the fries for $3.50, while good, were grossly overpriced.

Buffalo Burger:


Where HB Burger really flexed its muscles was in the good ole' plain hamburger ($7.50) from a "local, family owned steak purveyor," which they were unable to identify for me. Juicy, salty, and fatty, it's one of the better burgers I've had in midtown.


To top it all off, an addition to the 2009 "Best of" list that came out of nowhere. Tator tots. Not just any tator tots. Tator tots made with smoked bacon and jalapeno jack cheese. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Here's the value proposition for $4. Great bar snack? Or greatest bar snack?

Tator tots:

The coupon included a free milkshake, soda, egg cream or sundae. With two coupons, we got a milkshake and a sundae. They really mean it when they say they have the world's smallest sundae. It's basically a shot glass. The mint milkshake was quite good, though it's hard to mess up a milkshake.



HB Burger, I was pleasently surprised, and if I can order a burger and split an order of tator tots, I can still hit the value play at under $10 for lunch.

Friday, June 12, 2009


59. Cabrito
50 Carmine between Bleecker & Bedford

Marked by its pink goat that hangs above the doorway, Cabrito has become a popular West Village destination for those seeking out traditional Mexican fare since it opened in 2008. Sneaking in at 6:58, I noticed that happy hour ended at 7:00pm, and the bartender was nice enough to let me sneak in a round of Dos Equis on tap ($3/each) and a chorizo taco ($3 - normally $5) before time expired.

As I waited for my taco to arrive, our party of 3 was seated at an awkwardly positioned table facing the wall. It's a small space and I understand the need to maximize seating, but this table is kind of ridiculous. Alas, we were only there to sample a few things and move on, so we weren't about to cause a scene...

The taco arrived, and sure, it was good, but it was great, and for $3 there are so many other taco places in the city that offer higher quality at a lower price. Even during happy hour, I think I'll pass next time. Scanning through the menu, we opted for the TONY recommended Cabrito dish ($26), made with sour orange, garlic, and slow-roasted chili rubbed goat, served with flour tortillas, and the pork and purslane stew ($19), made with pork and purslane flower in a spicy tomato broth.


Maybe it's because I'm price sensitive that I had a hard time not comparing the two dishes on taste alone, but the discrepancy in value was so distinct that I couldn't help but let that discrepancy spill over into my overall feeling about the two dishes. The cabrito was moist, spicy, fatty, and whether eaten alone or as part of a taco with chopped onions and cilantro was something that I could see myself eating regularly. That is, if it were half the price. It's the same amount of food as 3 or 4 of their regular tacos, so why is it priced like its 5 or 6?


The pork stew offered the better value play, though at the same price, I'd go with the Cabrito. Sizeable portion, spicy broth and tender meat. On a pure happiness per dollar valuation, I'd have to go with the pork stew, though it's still no bargain.

Pork Stew:

Yeah, it's good. But certainly not worth the price or the cramped atmosphere.

La Superior

58. La Superior
295 Berry Street, Brooklyn

Just around the corner from Marlow & Sons, lies La Superior, a small restaurant offering affordable and unique Mexican cuisine including pig's feet tostadas and fresh made guacamole. The TONY item, however, was ezquites; corn kernels cooked with epazote leaves, served with fresh cheese, lime, and Mexican mayo ($4.00). Cheap, interesting and there's cheese. Sounded like a sure winner. Disclaimer: We got it to go, so your experience may differ. Unfortunately, here's what I think the recipe is: Open up a can of corn and pour it into a plastic cup. Top with a sprinkling of cheese and a dollop of spiced mayo and charge $4.00. Maybe I missed something, but I didn't get it. It's corn and it tastes good, but only to the extent that corn from a can tastes good. This dish left me more confused than any other TONY offering. What's the big deal here guys?