My husband and I try to get to NYC every year and after years of crossing off big hitters from our list of restaurants we finally indulged in Shake Shack for lunch. Let’s just say we were disappointed we didn’t have more time in our schedule to go back. It was that tasty! Crinkle cut fries perfectly salted, a delicious cheeseburger (single or double) and the biggest mistake was not ordering wine and/or a concrete (frozen custard ice cream blended with whatever mix-in you desire). Next time! With 14 locations in New York alone, it’s not hard to find one close by. I guarantee there will be a line out the door but it moves fast.
Our trip to New York this past December was different from our others in the past such that we didn’t have any agenda nor did I make any reservations ahead of time. Typically I set my alarm for 6am 2 months in advance and call to get into whichever restaurant I have on my list and then I go back to bed. We’ve done the 3 hour Michelin star meals, the fussy food where you debate grabbing some street food on the walk home. This time we wanted to eat like locals, explore the different neighborhoods and that’s exactly what we did.
Our first night there we got in late and asked our concierge what they recommended for great Italian food near the hotel (The Mercer Hotel in Soho). Immediately she said, “Peasant!” and off we went to dinner. The ambiance is great, rustic but refined. Chef Frank DeCarlo really prides himself on the kitchen which is meant to be exactly like a true old world kitchen in Italy or France. Rustic brick wood-fired ovens, a rotisserie…the only gas is so they can boil water we were told. Let’s not forget to give credit where due…he laid the brick himself!
The food…where to start?! We couldn’t help ourselves and had to order the Burrata with wood-roasted tomatoes and the Polpi in Purgatorio (baby octopus, hot chiles). Both were outstanding! Perfectly presented, cooked, prepared…delicious and I would order them again in a heartbeat. For our main courses we chose the Gnocchi al Funghi (brown butter, sage, mushrooms) and Tagliolini al Ragu di Vitello (homemade tagliolini, veal ragu). I never use this blog as a forum to talk badly about a restaurant or dish (I just don’t write about them) but in this case I wanted to because I love this restaurant so much but this is where we felt there was something lacking. Neither dish had much flavor which was surprising seeing as our starters were incredible. The pastas lacked salt for one which probably would have made a huge difference. This all being said I would most likely order one of the pizzas and/or meat/fish dishes next time (we were told by other locals after the fact that their pizzas are to die for). For dessert we went with the Budino di Pane e Cioccolato Bianco (white chocolate bread pudding with almonds, figs and white chocolate gelato). I typically stray away from white chocolate but I’m a sucker for bread pudding and I’m glad we tried it because it was incredible!
One more thing to note, I guess there’s a great wine room down below that wasn’t even on our radar. Just something to note!
Not too long ago I got a Daily Candy SF (I still subscribe to be “in the know” of all things San Francisco) advertising a new website/company called Kitchit that acts as a search engine for chefs in the Bay Area that are for hire for private events. They also cater to Los Angeles and New York…hopefully Seattle in the near future:) Whether it’s a casual dinner or formal affair, there are chefs and budgets to fit any situation. The website makes it easy to check out each chefs profile and what they’re capable of not to mention you can read reviews from others that have used them. Pretty easy!
My good friend Jen hired Chef Anne Olsen for her fiancé’s surprise 40th birthday party and the whole night was amazing!!! She started us with a gorgeous farmers market crudité platter and then followed it up with an unbelievable first course of burrata with favas, English peas and speck. Next was oven roasted Halibut with Meyer lemon gremolata, pan fried baby potatoes, spring herbs and créme fraiche. For dessert…baked Alaska!!! All in all it was an outstanding night start to finish and I would recommend Chef Olsen and Kitchit to anyone!
Located in the basement of ABC Home (I didn’t get the chance to go there so it’s on my list for next time), ABC Kitchen is home to Chef Jean-Georges, winner of the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant of 2011. The space is very urban with all the exposed beams and air ducts as well as the mix of materials…wood and concrete with splashes of decorative lighting. The menu is well rounded offering a mix of seasonal ingredients all the while staying just small enough to not be insanely overwhelming. Our reservation wasn’t until 10pm (welcome to New York!) and was still packed and lively. Definitely a different city in comparison to Seattle but we already knew that:)
We had to get the Pretzel Dusted Calamari with Marinara and Mustard Aioli. I’ve never seen such a thing but in all honesty…it was so understated that I was barely able to detect the pretzel. Good and cooked perfectly but didn’t strike me as anything “different”.
Special of the night: Truffle pizza…yes please!!! Anyone who has had fresh truffles before knows that they’re much more subtle than the overly intense flavor of truffle oil. I love both but think you have to be careful with the oil. A little can go a long way. These on the other hand…keep ’em coming!
My husband and I split the Akaushi Cheeseburger with Herbed Mayo and Pickled Jalapeño. With all the other food we ordered this was the perfect thing to split. Packed with flavor, this wasn’t disappointing.
To end our already indulgent meal we decided on the Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sundae with Candied Peanuts & Popcorn, Whipped Cream and Chocolate Sauce…wow! I would definitely order this again. Although we hardly put a dent in it this was incredible! I loved the hot and cold, silky and crunchy, salty and sweet…it was everything you could ask for. Yum!
On our recent trip to NYC we met a few friendly locals at a bar who gave us some very helpful tips, one that lead us to Mandoo (the Korean word for dumplings), a little spot that’s easy to pass by in the heart of K Town (Korea Town). Being fans of Korean food already we knew we were going to love this and we did! Before you even walk in you know the food is going to be fresh seeing the Korean ladies in the windows making the mandoo. Because it was our last day and we were on a mission to finish out some mandatory eating spots, we knew we needed to eat light and just get appetizers. We decided on the Goon and Seafood Mandoo dumplings…both delicious in their own way. One is boiled, the other pan-fried. One is seafood, the other pork. If you’re in NYC and happen to be in K Town, I highly recommend this spot for either a light bite or a full meal (they’re open all day until 10pm). I’m dying to get back and try the Kimchee Mandoo – steamed dumplings filled with Korean Kimchee, tofu, pork and other vegetables. Yum!
Our good friend Stanford used to work and live in NYC and now lives in Seattle but still commutes from time to time for work and recommended this decadent spot to us on our recent trip out there. My husband happens to be a HUGE fan of donuts so this was definitely a spot on our to do list. The good news is we walked there therefore we felt validated in eating a donut…as if it were an award for our exercise. Sick…I know:)
When I asked what the most popular donut was, the cute gal behind the counter quickly replied, “The Créme Brulée”. I happen to not care for creme filled things so being boring I went for the cake style donut with sugar and cinnamon. Delicious despite how “safe” of a choice it was. I can’t say my husband did any better. He went for the Vanilla Bean yeast style donut. Similar in style to Krispy Kreme. I honestly don’t think you can go wrong here.
There are a few things you’ll see on about every street corner in NYC…hot dogs and pizza. Although we could have gotten them anywhere, we had a couple of particular places on our list. Gray’s Papaya in the West Village being one of them. Anthony Bourdain (yes, I’m a huge follower), claims this is one of the best spots! A place he goes to whenever he’s home. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting but I was a little thrown off when I realized how simple and small these hot dogs were. No wonder people order multiple. But satisfying and delicious they were. I can see why people stop here.