Monday, July 26, 2010

Nelson Blue..... i heart you.

Nelson Blue
36 Peck Slip
New York, NY 10038

The first time I heard of Nelson Blue was from my friend Jenn. Is this because Nelson is a relatively new resto(only three years old) and I’ve been living in Florida for at least a year and a half since it opened? Is it because Nelson Blue is NYC’s first New Zealand restaurant and bar (really, how is that possible?)? Or is it because I am relatively ignorant of everything New Zealand, except that (a) it is next to Australia, (b)some/most scenes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy were shot there, (c) Peter Jackson is from NZ and (d) the comedic duo of Bret and Jemaine of Flight of the Conchords are also kiwis (thanks to Jenn, now I know that kiwi’s are not just short for kiwifruit or the flightless birds; Kiwi’s are also people).

I am definitely in need of culturalizing myself about this country and its beautiful people, and the first step is to pay Nelson Blue a visit. The restaurant is located around the corner from the South Street Seaport (corner of Front & Peck Slip) with an outdoor seating that provides a view of the Brooklyn Bridge (always a plus!). The place was pretty packed as the televisions were tuned in to the 2010 FIFA World Cup (South Africa) Netherlands vs. Spain. Kelly and I did managed to squeeze among the crowd (men mostly) to find our friends Christine, Jenn and Sonja. As we sat down, I noticed that we were sharing half of our table with a husband and his wife and their toddler who was taking a nap (inside the bar, during World Cup ?? I guess this kid is a deep-sleeper. Oh I’m jealous!).

Kelly and I were coming from our Nike Bunker Loop Challenge 5K Run and Christine and Jenn from their bike ride, so we were famished and parched. We ordered beer (lol. we did asked for glasses of water as well), although I should have tried their New Zealand focused wine list. It’s just that really cold beer in a hot, humid day goes so well together. Our food order were delivered in a timely manner, the wait staff were friendly and helpful the entire time. Christine and I shared the following dishes:

Fried Eggs Club – sandwich that’s layered with fried eggs, smear of avocado, roasted tomato, bacon, lettuce and curried, (a lil spicy) mayo on toasted (your choice of) bread, served with pickles. I love putting ketchup on my egg sandwich, but the roasted tomato in here is definitely a great alternative, especially having the smooth, creamy and a bit buttery taste of the avocado and the spice on the curried mayo layered in this sandwich. I would definitely order this again.

Mac & Cheese – this was an ample portion, for a bargain price of $6.00, this dish was shared by 5 hungry ladies. It’s not the best mac & cheese in my book (and I’ve eaten enough of this dish for the past 5 years, whatever city I’m visiting, I’d search for restaurant/s that serves mac and cheese, so I can give it a try.) but its cheesy enough, they used elbow macaroni (good pick!) and sprinkled with tiny pieces of fresh scallions. Coming from a 5K Run (a course that has a leg called dead man’s hill/hang – eeekkk), this carb-loaded dish was what I needed. Not the best, but it’s a solid dish and for just $6 – you can’t go wrong.

Braised Beef sliders – this was the best dish that I tried from Nelson Blue. The braised beef was very tender and generous (yes, you can see from the picture of the dish here that the beef is actually thicker than the fresh mini ciabatta.. Seriously awesome!). With caramelized onions, soft fontina cheese (yum, more cheese =) and tasty barbeque sauce, this dish was delicious. The combination of soft Italian fontina cheese and the American flavors of the barbecue sauce and the braised beef, a bit of sweet taste from the caramelized onions all squeezed inside a fresh Italian bread – it’s pretty amazing. You gotta let this taste linger in your mouth for a couple of minutes or so before washing it down with that oh so refreshing cold beer. I highly recommend this dish, it is a bit pricey, 3 sliders for $15 – but every bite was delightfully worthy of every dollar spent.

We stayed wwwaayyy after finishing our meal. We made our way to the cute enough bar from the cozy tables (loud but friendly fellow diners, so it’s all good). Service is always friendly and attentive – Brian, the bartender happily charged my dying iPhone for me! He even stopped charging his own phone to let me cut in, that’s probably because I told him that if my iPhone dies, I might suffer from a cardiac arrest. (I know, any bartender that gives that kind of service is heaven sent. And yes, like I said, we stayed waaayyy too long at Nelson’s that my phone batt needed to be charged.)

This is a great place to just hang out, chill with friends, it’s possibly good for dates (ladies, just try not to stare and flirt too much with the cute bartender Brian) definitely fun for groups and expect some hangovers! This place is a great representation of New Zealand – so great that we ended up (while on the tipsy side at this point) planning a girls' trip to New Zealand in 2011…… Watch out kiwi’s =)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rachel…. my new BFF from Fire Island

I met Rachel in Fire Island, this past 4th of July weekend when Christine, Kelly and I decided to celebrate Independence Day at a nearby beach that’s nowhere near the Jersey Shore but still close enough from home, and that is – the beautiful, the one and only Garden State.

Rachel resides in 325 Bay Walk, Ocean Beach, NY – I heard that she’s been there for more than 30 years now, which means she’s right around my age, no wonder we got along well. In addition, over the course of this long weekend, Rachel has seen me through my best and my worst, and yet, she’s accepted and welcomed me without judgment whatsoever.

Let me see, I first spotted Rachel on our first day in Fire Island, after the 3+ hour commute from New Jersey (rode the Path, the Long Island RailRoad with a transfer, bus, then ferry/water taxi. No elephant rides, though) to Fire Island. It happened as we were doing our “checking” out the main street scene, I saw her at the corner of my eye, but there were no introductions that day.

I woke up pretty early the next day for my morning run and bumped into Rachel as I made my way back to my hotel. I tried not to stop as I wasn’t looking my best, in my sweat-drenched sports bra and running shorts (yes, sexy!). But she looked so fetching that I felt I had no choice but to go over and introduced myself over an iced coffee (aahhhh) and a slice of carrot cake. The carrot cake was a generous portion that I inhaled in a few minutes, the cake is moist, and topped with a decadently sweet icing. Haha, I know. I ate a cake after a morning run.. But its made of vegetable!! (carrot cake, come on give me a break). Say what you will, I enjoyed every bite of this cake.

I saw Rachel again during lunch with my friends Christine and Kelly when we decided to take a break off our beach session and cool off with a meal consisted of eggs, toast/biscuit and coffee of course. I think Kelly ordered an egg sandwich which she enjoyed, I ordered two eggs sunny side up, which was cooked the way I wanted it (a bit runny in the middle, but was a bit short on salt and pepper, and that’s fine). The service was super friendly and attentive, filling our cups with coffee as soon as we’ve downed our java. During lunch, I noticed that Rachel is pretty popular in this island, I need to come back and see her again when I’m not all sweaty from my morning run or from being cooked under the sun.

I did see Rachel again that night (or maybe very early in the morning) while taking a quick break (which means having a cheeseburger and some french fries!!) from the sweet, fun, and a bit naughty debauchery that started in (I think) Mermaid Bar and ended up at a house party where our newly-befriended host’s favorite phrase was, “Aren’t you having the best time?” I honestly don’t remember much about my meal when I saw Rachel this time around, but I did remember that I went out to eat with someone who does not like cheese, and he was not lactose-intolerant. (whhaatt? He told me that cheese smells like feet -- okay whose feet has he been eating and which cheese he's been smelling. Or maybe its the other way. Oh well, not a big deal, it just means...that’s more cheese for me.)

But all good things must come to an end, and I can’t leave this island without one last visit to Rachel. So, on our last day in Fire Island, we made sure to see Rachel for brunch where Christine, Kelly and I decide to have a cornucopia of classic breakfast selections that included cups and cups and cups of coffee, omelet with home fries (for Kelly), eggs benedict (for Christine),the Southwest Breakfast Burrito (for me!!) and banana pancakes for all of us to share. I tasted Kelly’s home fries and it is seasoned just right and I think I saw some small pieces of red bell peppers too. Christine’s eggs benedict looked tasty, with Hollandaise sauce and was served with fresh fruit. My selection, which was the Southwest Breakfast Burrito, is a soft flour tortilla packed and stuffed with scrambled eggs, potatoes, jalapeno peppers and cheese. It was the perfect meal to help me with my hangover, although in the end I did wish that the potato chunks inside the burrito were a bit smaller. I needed to leave some tummy space for the yummy pancakes. They gave us a generous portion of the pancakes, which is perfect because it was delicious, smelled buttery, tasted sweet enough even without the maple syrup. I am salivating just thinking and writing about these pancakes. I don’t think I can articulately describe the taste, but I do remember that it made me feel sooo good after a few “forkfuls”.

After today’s brunch, Rachel is officially a new BFF (Best Food Forever) in Fire Island. She has welcomed me 4 times in 3 days, saw me at my worst, not so bad, so so and on recovery day. The 4th of July weekend in Fire Island, was fun and enjoyable but would not have been the same, had I not experienced Rachel’s Restaurant.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Porch... I'm not addicted (yet) after all.
2912 N Henderson Avenue Dallas, TX

I discovered Porch on my second (2010) visit from NJ/NYC to my cousin and his family in the Dallas/Forth Worth area just this past May. Porch is one of the few restaurants that came up on my google search when I typed in "mac and cheese, Dallas". I am not a connoisseur nor a trained critic for macaroni's or cheeses, or mac and cheese. But I do have this affinity, which probably just about borderline obsession for this dish. Everyone that knows me, my cousin in Texas included, is aware that a visit to a restaurant with Mac and Cheese needs to be checked off my list. Eventually, I will be needing a 12-step program for this obsession and it looks like I'm already on Step 1 - I have admitted that I am powerless to this obsession.

After visiting the Guadalupe Church, my cousin drove me to what looks like a cute and chic area, filled with furniture (both antique and artsy type of stores) and food establishments, like Porch. We got to the restaurant just in time for brunch, but did not wait that long to get a table. As we walk in the restaurant, I noticed the exposed rafters and "The Big Board" where a few items on the menu and the specials were listed. Since we were at The Porch, we opted and requested for a table at the Porch or the "front patio" where we witnessed numerous expensive cars like BMW, Mercedes Benz, few Porches and vintage cars, either parked or drove by. I looked around at the other patrons and saw families (big and small), young and trendy shoppers, and fabulous out-of-towners like yours truly (I mean who needs an A-List Dallas star like Steve Nash, if you got me in your restaurant, right? .. Right?).

The service is friendly, very hospitable, recited the specials of the day as if its the Pledge of Allegiance, and he smiled (without that judgemental look) as he witnessed my love of taking pictures of the food that we ordered:

Parm O' Rings - nice chunky pieces of deep fried and crispy Onion Rings, topped with Parmesan cheese (really nice combo). This would go perfectly with a nice cold draft beer, but my 9-year old nephew ordered this, so I think its a bit wrong for me to suggest that.

Stodg Burger - Aged Cheddar, Nueske's Bacon, Fried Egg & LTMO on Foie Buttered Bun with Pasta Salad. Ohmygoodness.. Ohmygoodness. Ohmygoodness. This burger is lusciously juicy, well-seasoned, perfectly cooked, plated just perfect, the Nueske (maker of America's Original Applewood Smoked Meats) bacon were thick and so yummy, fantastic cheese and not to forget that it was topped with the perfectly cooked egg with that slightly runny center. When you bite into it, the emulsion of juices from the meat, egg and the bacon flows is fantastic. This was a $14 - heaven in your mouth treat. After having this burger, I refused to eat any other burger especially the "fast-food" kinds, but eventually succumbed to a burger cooked at a family barbeque after coming home from an 11-mile hike.

Biscuits & Brisket - Poached Eggs & Asparagus Hollandaise, its a very solid dish, the brisket was seasoned well, very tasty with that nice good dose of smoke to it, offset by the buttery taste from the hollandaise sauce, the richness of the egg and the fresh asparagus. I highly recommend this dish to be a regular on their brunch menu.

This visit to Porch solidified my reputation to my family as a finder of good food, and it also confirmed that I wasn't addicted to mac and cheese just yet. I came to Porch for the purpose of trying their M-n-C, but ended up ordering something else. But I will be back to DFW in September, I think I'll have it then with some bread pudding.. Yuuumm.