Archive for the ‘eating out’ Category

Last night Alex and I braved the tourist trap that is Midtown this time of year (fraking Radio City Music Rockettes and Rockerfella Center skating rink and tree) to eat at Le Bernardin. This was meant to be our only meal out this month — something special to celebrate our birthdays and round off the year. Of course what actually happened was that we got a table at Momofoko Ko two weeks ago, and then because I had family coming into town for Christmas we booked a table at Barbuto (as I didn’t feel up to cooking for six) for the 27th. Then my aunt’s flight get canceled to we end up having Christmas dinner at a French bistro with my snow orphaned cousin.  We’ve eaten out way more in the last two weeks then we normally do; so much so that our dining out budget has been blown for the next few months, and the thought of eating at Le Bernardin was feeling less special by the minute. Especially since I still have the divine taste of gnocchi with walnut pesto and a shaved brussel sprout salad (that should not have been as awesome as it was) haunting my dreams in a good way.

Anyway, that was how I was feeling until we started to get ready. Since it is French fine dining then it was a suit for Alex and a dress for me. Getting dressed up can’t but help make you feel excited about the night ahead – even if you are feeling a little gastro-fatigued, having to hunt through your closet for a warm frock because it is chilly outside, and the thought of having to navigate snowbanks in something other than wellie boots makes you sad. I should probably explain why we picked Le Bernardin as we don’t normally go in for French fine dining. We had heard lots of good things about it (it’s an outstanding fish restaurant with awards up the wazzoo), there is a whole chapter devoted to it in Anthony Bourdain’s latest book, and Eric Ripert, chef, is a frequent judge on Top Chef (and we are so obsessed with Top Chef it’s scary).

So we gastro ninjas headed out in a best clothes to dine on the best fish in Manhattan, and oh-my-word we were not disappointed. Fine dining can be a little overwhelming. There are just so many staff buzzing around, and funny little touches that throw you off. For instance, there was a tiny leather stool in between our chairs for me to rest my handbag on! The staff at Le Bernardin were wonderful, and make even the most fishiest fish-out-of-water feel at home. The dining room is gorgeous and feels like it is channeling Frank Lloyd Wright in all his art deco loveliness.  I think Alex was a little disappointed that I wasn’t in the mood for the tasting menu but the dinner menu was four courses, and gave us a good variety of dishes. I started with the tuna tartar, then a grilled salted cod, for mains a poached halibut with daikon, baby radishes and turnips, and for pud a pistachio mousse with caramelized white chocolate, lemon and bing cherries. I wish I could have taken photos of every course because the plates were like works of art but it didn’t quite feel like an Instagram environment so the only photo I took was in the bathroom.

It was an amazing experience, and the tuna tartar knocked my socks off. It also, didn’t hurt that we spied Eric Ripert, the silver fox himself, making a couple of tours of the dinning room. It was a good way to round-off what has been the most challenging of years.

Last week was Alex’s birthday, and as luck would have it I had been able to book a table at Momofuku Ko for the Friday night. Perfect way for us gastro ninjas to celebrate. Now I am not sure how much luck was involved in getting a reservation at Ko as it was probably more down to sheer perseverance.  Ko is a tiny 12 seat restaurant, part of David Chang’s Momofuku empire, and to keep things fair you can only book a table through their online reservation system which springs into life at 10am each day. Trying to get a table this way is not for the faint hearted, many wannabe dinners get dispirited after a few rounds of battling their fellow foodies and give up. Not me though because I knew that Alex really wanted to eat there and after a month or so I was able to snag a reservation for 9:50pm. Ugh – so late but so worth it.

The first thing you need to know is that Ko is tiny. The space could house a sandwich shop or some other hole-in-the-wall eatery but you wouldn’t expect a restaurant serving this type of food. All twelve diners are seated at the bar facing the galley kitchen, and watching the magic happen. Chang has managed to create a fine dining-esque restaurant without the restaurant just the kitchen table. Genius.

The second thing is that there is no menu, and vegetarians should go eat at the falafel cart outside because Ko does not accommodate those who aren’t willing to cheat on tofu. As we were working our way through the tasting menu I was trying to keep a mental note of what we were eating but I failed as I got lost in the creativity of each dish. But, I can tell you that there was an egg with caviar, scallops that had been drowned in butter, an Asian ricotta dish that baffled the taste buds (“Is this Asian? Is this Italian?”), duck, frozen shaved fois gras, and oatmeal ice-cream with a caramelized apple cake. I think there may also have been a pate and a panna cotta, and who knows what else.

It was an amazing experience, and the birthday boy left happy.

I love lattes, flat whites, cappuccinos, french press and drip. Straight-up without any flavoring because nothing beats the taste of coffee with milk. Perfectly happy to make it at home but I also appreciate a decent coffee shop. In fact that morning coffee (with the occasional almond croissant) over the summer was one of the only things that helped me hold my shit together for as long as I did.  I found a lot of comfort in my secular java ritual: the friendly faces at La Colombe, the extra shot in their iced coffee, the calm before the storm and gripping the coffee cup as if it was a lucky talisman.

So it is fair to say that I am a slave to overpriced coffee with steam milk. When I was staying with my mum for my exams this year I got her to drive to the nearest Starbucks so I could buy two flat whites to bring home and fuel me through my revision.  That sounds really bad doesn’t it? Forcing my poor mother to drive me 20 minutes to get coffee but I swear those flat whites were the key to me acing my Pompeii exam (not the hours I spent memorizing gobbet pictures), and hopefully the next house she buys she’ll take distance-to-the-nearest-coffee-shop into consideration.

When I was walking back to the station after my lunch date I passed the Nespresso Cafe/Store on Spring Street. I’ve never really paid much attention to it as it sells those pod style coffee machines but I noticed that its cafe area was jam packed, and as I was ogling those inside (always on the look out for my next celeb sighting) I noticed the menu board and the prices. A latte in this place will set you back $6.50. I am sorry how much? And does that even include tax, and I’ll need to leave a tip AND is the coffee any good? Why would anyone pay $6.50 for a latte when there are half a dozen other cafes where you can get one for almost half of that price. The mind boggles (even for this java junkie) and I am guessing that this means the economic crisis is over.

Today was the first day I’ve woken up not feeling like I was going to die from nasal congestion for over a week. Seven days is a very long time when you are battling the common cold. So to celebrate my return to health I obviously decided to embark on a two mile round trip walk to Doughnut Plant at lunch time to pick-up some sugary treats. Yes, two miles. One mile there. One mile back. Currahee.  Ages ago Alex had expressed an interest in the creme brulee donut, and I thought what the heck it’s not snowing and I don’t feel like I am made 95% of mucus.

The weather was glorious as I trotted to the outer reaches of Chinatown and I came back with three different types of donut  (or doughnut) to share. We have crystallized ginger (yum!) to the front right, blackout (super chocolatly so yum!) on the front right and at the back is creme brulee (so-so according to Alex).

Despite the cool reception creme brulee received I am glad that I went there so I now know where it is and how long it takes me to get there. I have a feeling I will be going back because someone is eager to try the peanut butter and jelly donut.

I had an amazing time when my mum was over, and it was sad seeing her go but I’ve had a lovely lazy weekend which was just the tonic.  Plus, mum now gets to spend Christmas with my brother and his fiance in their new house. Wins all round I think since Thanksgiving is a much less fraught holiday.

It was lovely just mooching about the flat, doing laundry and putting together our 2010 calendar. The calendar has become one of our traditions. It’s fun sitting down and going through all our photos trying to put them together in groupings.  We also ate out at a really good new Indian restaurant (Spirit of Laxmi) that has open near us. It was worth the trip out even in the horrid sludgy snow that was falling on Saturday night.  I guess winter has come to the East Coast and it is time to break out the hot water bottle.