Archive for the 'New York' Category

Casa Mono – New York

Monday, October 9th, 2006

I went to the Batali/Bastianich-owned Spanish tapas restaurant Casa Mono in Gramercy Park two days before I left New York, and I wish I’d had more time left to go back…  and try everything on the menu — from the exotic (like Cocks Comb) to the ordinary yet different (like Cauliflower with Black Olives).

Each dish was its own perfect world, showing off its own laws of flavor and texture for delicious, unique results. Just after I started eating, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to do the food justice with my descriptions, and I still worry about that. So, it’s all I can do to recommend it so that you can experience it yourself. You can also read about its genesis, among many other things, in Heat.

I’ve read about long waits at dinner, but we went for lunch around Noon on a Friday and it was fine. It’s a very small space, though, and it did just about fill up by the time we’d left.

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Artichokes with Mint. By some process of deep frying, these wedges of artichoke hearts acquired golden crisp curls of trimmed leaves on top and green morsels of tender meatiness on the bottom… it was like the artichokes had been allowed to let their hair down and play. And the mint leaves seemed to bring out the mintiness of the artichokes themselves, which was a revelatory taste. I have to try making this at home. Curiously, the meaty parts were barely crisp, so maybe they were briefly fried at a high temp to barely penetrate the meat part.

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Duck Hearts with Fabada. I half expected duck hearts to be gummy masses of ventricles, but they were actually quite meaty, almost like steak with a hint of kidney flavor and a thin layer of skin on the outside. It was a bit tough to cut through, but it was very tender in the mouth… and the hint of thyme on the outside was wonderful, as were the just slightly spicy/sweet and earthy beans, silky greens, and quail (I believe) egg. This is what a cross-section of a duck heart looks like.

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Cockles with Huevos Revueltos. The saltiness here was perfect w/ the cockles (baby clams) and moist eggs. Even the bit of sauce on the bread was great — a smooth orange, if I remember correctly.  I liked the plating; it demanded interaction and discovery.

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Scallions with Romesco. The peppery romesco studded with chopped almonds went so well with the slightly charred scallions. It was a little difficult to eat — the scallions tangled with each other and were hard to cut, but it was worth it.

Bouchon Bakery – New York

Friday, October 6th, 2006
You can now purchase my handmade candy bars and marshmallows at http://www.bonbonbar.com/
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The Time Warner Center Bouchon Bakery is not your Yountville Bouchon Bakery. It’s actually more of a cross between Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, since there are separate bakery and bistro areas (the bistro has some Bouchon dishes, but is a bit more American casual, with many salads and sandwiches). Instead of being nestled into a cute Yountville Street, the restaurant area is perched over Columbus Circle, with this bewitching view. The design is more sleek modern than rural quaint. They also have chocolates for sale, which I don’t remember seeing in Yountville.

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Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese – Roasted Satur Farms Beefsteak Tomato Soup with Grilled Fontina and Gruyere Cheese Sandwich on Pain au Lait. A very satisfying take on a classic. Buttery, cheesy, tangy, and perfectly hot. It’s rainy and chilly in Napa today, and this is what I crave.

Although there are many wines available, I kept it true to the borough of my birth and got a Brooklyn Brewery Pilsner.

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Chocolate Butterfly. I really liked this variation on a classic pastry.

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Cheese Danish. This was the lightest danish that I’ve ever come across, and I discovered that I don’t like my danishes light… It wasn’t moist enough and was almost hollow inside. I wasn’t into the almond slivers on top, either.

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La Fromage Blanc. I think of this style of pastry as a kind of entremet tart; they were at Bouley, too. It looked like this inside…

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Desserts with many thin layers don’t really do it for me — this was crust, muscat grape jam, cake, jam, biscuit, mousse, gelatin, grapes, gelatin — it was very dense. I would have appreciated the mousse on top to lighten things up a bit, but it had too much gelatin — it was very firm — there was even more to hold the grapes in place and sprinkled on top.

But I love the idea of a grape tart that takes grapes seriously (no peanut butter in sight), and the contrast between the muscat grape jam and fresh green grapes was nice.

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Caramel Noix.

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This featured pear, walnut, and caramel flavors, with touches of chocolate on the side for good measure and a dacquoise layer… and again was very heavy… but the flavors were even more vibrant here, and it was fun to eat. And that candied walnut was terrific.

Bouley Bakery – New York

Friday, October 6th, 2006
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An Ispahan in New York??? Thank god. I didn’t get to try the traditional one when I was at Pierre Herme in Paris, so I was grateful for this second chance. It’s made of rose macarons, raspberries, lychee buttercream, and lychees. It looks like this inside.

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This is such an amazing pastry. And unusual. I didn’t realize how wet and refreshing it would be — thanks to the chopped lychee and raspberries. The macarons ameliorated that and added another soft texture with a hint of crispness. I like that the bulk of it is composed of fruit, pure and simple, and that the flavors worked so well together.

I had another one — a “Goodbye Ispahan” — the day before I left New York, but the macaron was too chewy that time. It still tasted like magic, though.

There are other pastries in the shop that look the same as the pastries at Pierre Herme and have the same names, too. I quizzed an employee, and altogether was told that Bouley and some of his patissiers were trained in Paris and that they use the same recipes as Pierre Herme. From the internet, I can only cobble together a story about a deal gone bad btw David Bouley and Pierre Herme over a proposed joint venture and maybe a former chef from Pierre Herme working at Bouley, so that would reasonably explain the presence of Herme’s pastries here.

Remember that Tango that I didn’t get on my last visit to Pierre Herme because I didn’t want to try a risky pastry? That was here, too…

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It had a sesame seed crust, red pepper and raspberry puree, parmesan cream, raspberry glaze, fresh raspberries, and a crispy parmesan tuile. It was a little too heavy for me, and the aftertaste of parmesan and sesame lingered too much, but during the bite, the flavors worked well together. It looked like this inside.

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Vanilla Cupcake. The cake part was one of the best that I had in NYC — moist and strong with vanilla; a little heavy, but in a good way. Although the speckles of vanilla bean in the frosting showed immense promise, the frosting was too strong on the butter for me.

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Envie (Left) – with Bergamotte Sable Breton, Violette Creme Brulee, Black Currant Preserves, White Chocolate. Coffee Tart (Left) – Coffee Chantilly, Coffee Soaked Biscuit, Coffee Streusel, Coffee Ganache.

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The Envie grew on me up to a point, but the preserves dominated its flavor and texture, and it got a bit monotonous. I do admire the engineering, though, with the enrobed box of creme brulee and preserves that’s adhered to the rectangular flat crust.

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The Coffee Tart was pretty good, and I especially liked the coffee streusel bits on the top with the coffee chantilly and ganache. The mirror glaze was too thick, though, and the biscuit got lost amidst everything. I liked all the different forms of coffee in this, but maybe a contrasting flavor would be welcome, too.

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Lobster Sandwich w/ Yuzu and Herbed Mayonnaise on Brioche. A little too much mayo and not enough yuzu, but a lot of tasty lobster.

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Le Noeud – Cardamom & Hazelnut Flour. Crispy, flaky. Tasted like butter more than anything else.

Sundaes & Cones – New York

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

When the wait for a table at Chikalicious Dessert Bar was too long one night, we stopped into this bright, clean ice cream parlor in the East Village. They have slew of traditional and Asian-inspired flavors.

I sampled the Wasabi Ice Cream. A guy next to me in line told me that “You’ll feel the wasabi come out your nose.” So true.

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Honey Ginseng and Taro. Although the honey ginseng tasted as it should and was creamy, the taro was the superstar of this dish. It was extremely creamy, to the point of reminding me of a homemade marshmallow turned ice cream, if that makes sense. The starch in the taro must cause that. And its flavor was nice, like a sweet, slightly nutty potato. The two ice creams went well together — the ginseng picking up where the taro leaves off, and the honey mellowing it out.

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Chocolate and Green Tea. Here was a case of two flavors that can go together, but not always — and not here. The chocolate was too bitter and the green tea too mellow for them to work in one dish.

Blue Ribbon Bakery Market – New York

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

This is a just brief note to say that I stopped into this bakery (an annex of the restaurant) in the West Village out of curiosity, promptly chose this arugula, red pepper, and goat cheese bread, and was amazed by how good it was — still warm, a little chewy but with a healthy crust, and with flavor to spare. Blue Ribbon, I wish I’d gotten to know you better.

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