Sunday, June 27, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
So I’m all decked out, wearing my black Burberry pencil skirt, a sunshine yellow sleeveless silk shirt, a bluish gray fitted cardigan and my Charles Jourdan vintage crocodile shoes. I’m probably a tad overdressed for work, but this attire wasn’t for my colleagues, it’s for my afternoon delight.
I leave work around noon to take the F train uptown to Le Parker Meridien located right off West 57th, for my lunch date. I’ve been looking forward to this day. Even before the plan was made concrete. I guess that explains why I was dressed to the nines. The train ride felt longer than it really was. I just want to get to my date at Le Parker. And after few subway stops later, my date and I were attended to, so we can proceed to have our fun.
No, it is not the afternoon delight that you had in mind, despite the fact that it was a lunch date at a fancy New York City hotel. Sorry to disappoint some of you, but this is about brunch at Norma’s. This is a famous establishment, usually filled with suits during the week and tourists on weekends. We get there and I looked for the restaurant sign, which is none, you just pretty much have to figure out that its there in the lobby of the Le Parker Meridien Hotel. This place is infamous for its foie gras French toast and lobster omelet, which the names alone, one can expect richness and decadence. But we ordered something different. As soon as we ordered, our waiter brought us two strawberry smoothies in adorable shot glasses. I had the you-can-never-go-wrong French Pressed Coffee, and my date ordered the Freshly-Squeezed-Orange Juice for beverages.
As we wait for our courses, we got busy... No, not the kind that you hand in mind (geez). We got busy looking at other tables and their orders, their meals (which all looked so delicious) and just people watching (Norma’s is known to be visited by the rich and famous, celebrities, not just yours truly, a foodie-extraordinaire ;-)
We ordered: (The One That Didn’t Get Away)
Flat-As-A Pancake Crabcake, spiced with Habanero Peppers served with Dill Yogurt Mustard Sauce
Chunks of Lobster Swimming in Cheesy Macaroni
(Crepes with Style)
Chocolate Blintz – with mascarpone Cheese and Valrhona Chocolate
The chocolate blintz was delicious. You can’t go wrong with mascarpone cheese and Valrhona chocolate, topped with berries, more chocolate sauce and whipped cream. When the waiter brought the dish to our table, our neighboring table was salivating in envy.
The crabcake was good, with big pieces of crab; you can definitely taste the habanero peppers, but not so overpowering. The dish came with a side salad and the Dill Yogurt Mustard Sauce that tasted pretty fresh. The portion was generous, but with a whooping price of $24.00, we should be getting a Harold Deli-sized crabcake.
I had to order Mac and Cheese. I needed to try it, to see how this $28.00 Lobster Macaroni and Cheese is in comparison to the other macs that I’ve had. It was definitely cheesy, but the lobster chunks were tiny. Definitely not the big lobster chunks that I’m used to from Capital Grille. It was okay. It was different. But, I’ve had bigger. I definitely had better….. Oh stop it... I’m still talking about food here. (Geez)
Overall, this was an experience, but it’s not something that I’d run back to when I want some…. Mac and cheese, that is... But I can definitely write on my book...
“Norma’s? Been there, done that.”
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Alto is one of Chef Michael White’s NYC restaurants, and was recently awarded two Michelin stars. I know, before I was food-obsessed, when I hear “Michelin” I immediately think of the Michelin Man, the company mascot that was made up of white tires. But yes, the same company issues what is called the “Michelin Guide” which is known to operate on the principle that the reviews are done anonymously by professionally-trained experts to assess the restaurant’s food and service. Michelin’s highest accolade is three stars.
The restaurant has a very romantic ambiance, I feel like I should get a marriage proposal by the end of the meal… Or not... Okay, just let me use my cellular phone, that’s romantic enough for me. The wine selection is unbelievable, on one side of the room; the entire wall was filled with bottles of wine, from floor to ceiling. Alto is known to feature a selection of over 2,000 different wines. When they brought the wine menu, it was a book, with tabs for different wine regions. I was overwhelmed. I ordered a glass of Chianti.We opted for the “Menu Prezzo Fisso”, a 4-course tasting menu priced at $84.00. The menu has 7 selections of Antipasti, 7 selections for the 2nd course (6 Le paste and I risotti), 6 selections for the main course (3 I Pesci, 3 Le Carni), and 7 selections for Desserts.
The first set of Menu Prezzo Fisso, we ordered:
Terrina di Coda di Bue e Fegato Grasso – country-style oxtail and foie gras terrine,pear mostarda, pickled chanterelles
Pappardelle con Agnello e Santoreggia – hand-made pasta ribbons, roast baby lamb, savory, pecorino
Astice con Bagna Caoda e Caviale – poached lobster, trout roe, roasted cauliflower, piemontese anchovy sauceTorrone – piemontese nougat semifredo, hazelnut cake, warm chocolate sauce
The second set of Menu Prezzo Fisso, we ordered:
Capesante Dorate e Agrodolce di Uva, which is seared scallops, grappa-soaked raisins, toasted marcona almonds
Tortelloni Tartufati con Talleggio Fonduta - braised veal and truffle ravioli, veal reduction, talleggio fonduta
Tagliata di Manzo con Funghi e Midollo – creekstone farms sirloin, hen of the woods, parsnip puree, roasted fingeling potatoes, red wine-bone marrow saucePanna Cotta al Cocco – coconut panna cotta, passion fruit foam, hibiscus gelee, coconut shortbread
The seared scallops were delightfully delicious, a must to order at this restaurant. The country style oxtail and foie gras is interesting, definitely fit for foodie, not a typical menu item anywhere else.
The roast baby lamb was cooked well, very tender; the sauce was aptly called savory. I’ll pick this over the veal and truffle ravioli, which was also a good dish.
O.M.G. The poached lobster was a triple D in my book: delicious, delightful and devilishly mouth-watering good. The lobster meat was substantial, soft, tender and juicy. The trout roe provides the dish with that perfect saltiness as you bite into them, the sauce is perfect (not too thick, not too watery). I could have another serving of this.
The Panna Cotta al Cocco, not a big fan of the passion fruit which was put on top of the panna cotta. Ended up eating from the bottom up. The hazelnut cake was decadent, and made even richer by the warm chocolate sauce that was drizzled on top.
Overall, an enjoyable dining experience, the staff is very attentive (there were so many wait staff that were attending to us, we stopped counting after 7), the menu was delicious (definitely pick the seafood over meat on all courses), and the crowd was a mix of young and old, couples and groups (mostly group of men not women though). It’s a great destination for special occasions or romantic evenings, with that special someone, even I won’t need to be told on paper to “Kindly refrain from the use of cellular phones while in the dining room”.
The photos, the menu, the website, the witty lines and wordings on both the menu and website, the zillion dollar lobster frittata with the super size 10oz sevruga caviar that's priced at $1,000.00 (okay most definitely not about that! Although, Norma urges you to order that and on its menu it states, "Norma Dares You to Expense This". hahaha.) So you see what I mean? On the (menu) paper alone, we are on the same exact page as far as sense of humor is concerned!
A sample of Norma's wit:
(as seen on their website)
Breakfast for lunch? Always.
Will I still be hungry? You gotta be kidding.
Do we like kids? More than whipped cream.
Dinner? Get outta here.
When can I eat there? Every day until 3.
Telephone? We've got one. . . 212.708.7460
If this has not gotten you to break a smile or a tiny bit of "ha!" sound, then you need to go and buy yourself a smidge of sense of humor.. Seriously... Yes, go get some.. NOW.
On top of that, Norma sends me an email that had me excited, giddy and giggly like a silly little girl all over again. (wow, I wish I can say the same for some of my (ex)dates. How I wish, yeah.)
The email goes..
This is a reminder that you have an upcoming OpenTable reservation at Norma's at Le Parker Meridien.Done. You’ve booked and you’re ready to go, almost…
In preparation for your meal at NORMA’S, this is what the doctor, oops Chef, prescribes:
• 24 hrs to go—print out the menu http://parkermeridien.com/eat.php
• 24-12 hrs to go—show off the menu and seek advice on what to order (yeah, they’re all jealous!)
• 18 hrs to go—aerobic exercise and strength training (preferably the Quickie) http://www.parkermeridien./gravity/
• Lunch the day before—remember, you’re in training, so have a protein shake • Dinner the day before—no eating after 7pm—only bread and water allowed
• Night before—dream sweet dreams of beautiful food floating through your subconscious
• Morning of—do a full yoga session with Swami Ramdev Ji http://www.divyayoga.com/freePranayamTraning.htm
• Arrive on time and tell me that the “Swami sent you”
• You’ve made it, now time to eat!
See you soon,
So you see.. It's humorous, sounds fun and delicious, exactly what we all wish our dates would be. Oh Norma, I seriously cannot wait..
Monday, June 14, 2010
Zafra is located off Willow Avenue and 3rd street in Hoboken, NJ. It’s such a quaint atmosphere with a laid-back feel, and after 2 bottles of red (it’s BYOB!!) that was crafted into pitchers of sweet sangria, you are guaranteed to feel relaxed. So relaxed that you won’t realize that you’ve been dining for 3 hours, only to get up for either a cigarette or bathroom break. So relaxed that you think you’re in the comfort of your own home, browsing the internet and doing a little bit of investigation (thank you iPhone).
The service was great, we were seated within 5 minutes upon arriving (we got to Zafra’s at 7’ish), and this was on a clear (a bit humid but rainless) Saturday night. The wait staff asked if we wanted to open up one of our bottles of red wine, to be made into a pitcher of sangria (we nod simultaneously, smiled and yes, yesss, yyeesss). We ordered our appetizers and they brought us some bread.
For appetizers, we ordered:
Empanadillas con Pebre - crisp empanadas filled with beef picadillo, served with spicy Chilean cilantro sauce
Chorizo Encebollado – sautéed chorizo with onions and green olives
Albondiguitas de Carne – tiny Cuban style meatballs in a savory sofrito sauce
My personal favorite was the Chorizo, it’s a little oily, a little spicy, with enough saltiness from both the sausage and the olives. The portion was enough to be shared by a couple, but if you’re on your first date, guys please order your own appetizer (that’s just my opinion). The empanadillas’ spicy Chilean cilantro sauce tasted fresh and I highly suggest for other diners to make it as a spread on the warm and buttery Zafra bread.
The sofrito sauce was flavorful; I definitely tasted the basic ingredients of onion, tomatoes, garlic and oregano. It served as a great dip to the bread. The meatballs, I’m not too “loco” about, it was a bit overcooked, but it did provided a good offset to the sauce.
For main course, we splurged and ordered three dishes:
Ropa Vieja – a classic Cuban shredded beef, braised in a wine sauce
Churrasco (entrana) con Chimichurri – an Argentinean-style skirt steak, with Chimichurri sauce
Cerdo Brujo con Yuca – a roasted pork marinated in a Cuban allspice-Cumin adobo, served with Yuca in Garlic mojo sauce
The steak was cooked well, but not the best Argentinean style skirt steak I’ve ever had. When they brought it to our table, it was a bit of a mess, you can see from the picture that the sauce was all over on one side of the plate. It could be that the meat moved around while it’s being walked over to our table. But I’d prefer to make that type of mess on my own.
The shredded beef was flavorful; I loved the pieces of bell peppers in there. They were cooked just right, soft enough but I can still hear the crunch when I bite into them.
The roasted pork is absolutely amazing. The right amount of saltiness, the skin was crunchy and oily; the pork meat was soft, tender and tasty. I’m not sure how long this meat was marinated before it was cooked, but every bite was mouth-watering good. (I’m salivating while writing about it!!) The yucca and garlic mojo sauce is delicious.
We also had a side order of Planatos Maduros, which are golden fried ripe plantains. The plantains were cooked like any other Latin/Spanish restaurant would've cooked it, nothing special to distinguish it or make it special from the rest of the world.
And last but not the least... DESSERT.
We ordered the Panqueques de Dulce de Leche – a crepe with dulce de leche filling. It’s a great end to a good meal. It’s the right kind of sweetness that you’d want in your mouth after having a meal with emulsion of spices.
So after 3 appetizers, 3 entrees, and 3 hours or dining, drinking and some cyber investigating later, we went on our merry way to explore the rest of what Hoboken has to offer on a beautiful Saturday night, only to be asked, “So who keeps you warm at night?”
Friday, June 11, 2010
C U P C A K E S
I am a sucker for sweets... I love sweet food (pastry, chocolates, candies), sweet deals (on clothes, vacations, and shoes), sweet guys (yes, especially the ones that stay sweet after the probationary period), sweet job (that job that is still a sweet gig after the probationary period). Sweet Mary, I could go on and on with my list of sweet loves!! But you get my point.
I wish I can be one of those people that can just casually peruse through a bakery or a chocolat place. Oh no, I take that back, I don’t wish to be one of those people. I could never be one of those people. I’ve already embraced the fact that I have a sweet tooth (actually its more like all of my 32 teeth, I probably need to include my tongue too). There’s no going back.
Its lunchtime and I saw my colleagues brought back their salad bowls from the Big Apple Deli, Prêt, McDonald’s, etc. yet all I could think about is… Magnolia Bakery!! As I get up to walk 3 blocks (I really needed this walk to burn some much needed calories, to make room for the cupcake calories) to pick up my sweet lunch, Joe, my work neighbor asked what I’m having for lunch. My reply...
“Cupcakes for lunch... Anyone?”
Maybe I shouldn’t have said that out loud, especially after seeing their salad bowls. I can just hear these guys muttering under their breath, “Beeatch, cant you see I have a salad, trying to eat healthy. Must you mention cupcakes?!” But Joe surprised me as he asked to pick an extra cupcake for him. My other neighbor, Sean asked for a mini cheesecake pickup as well. This is fantastic!!!
As soon as I open Magnolia Bakery’s doors, the smell of cookies, pastries, cakes, pies, banana puddings, brownies, bars is just absolutely euphoric. I went there with a purpose, so I should be able to control myself as I can just go on my happy way and straight to the cupcake and cake lines (Magnolia has a separate line for drinks, cakes, cookies, cupcakes, etc.). I ordered a red velvet cupcake for me, 2 Carrie cupcakes for Joe and myself (he wanted the hummingbird cupcake but its all gone, and he does not like chocolate cake or red velvet cake, but they have a countless supply of the Carrie cupcakes), and a Red Velvet with a Chocolate Cookie Crust mini Cheesecake for Sean.
I got back to the office with all these goodies, feeling like I’m Santa Claus. I had to tell Joe that Magnolia ran out of Hummingbird so I picked up a vanilla cupcake with butter cream frosting. I made sure to omit the fact that it is called the “Carrie” cupcake and it is in fact topped with PINK butter cream frosting. My neighbor is a big guy, over 6 foot and 250+ lbs; surely the last thing that he would want to know is that his cupcake is called Carrie (from Sex and the City)!
As Joe digs into his (Carrie) cupcake, I hear him say, “HHmm”, “Woow”, “Ohh”, “This icing is unbelievable”. I am dying (LOL’ing) inside as all I could think of is the SATC episode when Carrie and Miranda were eating this same cupcake while they talk about Carrie’s new crush, Aidan.” Hahaha, oh gosh.
But I do agree with Joe’s assessment on this batch of Carrie cupcakes. The icing was indeed smooth, creamy, fluffy and not sticky and not too sweet (yes there is such thing as too sweet). As I bit into the cake, it gives you those little crumbles, but the pieces are moist enough to mold those little crumbles back together.
The red velvet cupcake is as moist as well, and the icing is light and creamy (it’s a whipped vanilla icing, made from butter, vanilla and sugar. I do miss having the cream cheese here). Overall, it’s a pretty solid lunch, I’m happy.
I hope that one day, the lil Magnolia Bakery helpers start spreading the frosting very liberally on the cupcakes.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Okay, I just compared food to love, didn’t I ?! Ha!
So, come 4’ish, I’ve already made plans with a friend who suggested to go get some lobster mac and cheese from Capital Grille, by the Financial District area – after a couple of drinks at Stone Street. I could never and DO NOT ever say no to mac and cheese – especially after a not-so-great lunch. It is the ultimate comfort food (for the soul), the ever-familiar and go-to-meal that leave you feeling good again. You know, sort of like that ex that you know you can always ring up when that someone new did not pan out?
Okay, I just compared mac and cheese to an ex, didn’t I ?! Ha!
I wrapped up work and made my way from Midtown to Wall Street to meetup with friends for a couple of drinks at Ulysses (so original, I know) before the mac and cheese dinner. After a few glasses of cabs later and being outside under a clear sky, everything is wonderful. Suddenly, the smell of that greasy and over-priced French fries is intoxicating in a really good way. Yeeah! So we asked the wait staff for a bar menu and ordered mini cheeseburgers and potato skins with crispy bacon and sour cream. Our bar(f) food came after a relatively good wait time, nothing really exceptional about the taste, except that it was so convenient to just order it while we’re still working on our glass of wine. The mini cheeseburgers were quickly eaten to fill the empty stomach, they were definitely not ordered to be savored and enjoyed with each and every bite.
You know, the bar(f) food is sort of that first guy who approaches and buys you a drink the first time you finally go out after breaking up with someone. It did not matter if the guy was your type or not, the fact that he’s there and making you feel good again is enough. At that moment. (Oh red wine, must you cloud my judgment each and every time?)
Okay, I just compared Ulysses’ mini cheeseburgers to a (random) guy, didn’t I?! Ha!
In the end, I am still craving my mac and cheese. Surely, I will have my mac and cheese. Soon..
Today, I am finally starting my food blog.
Close friends, family and colleagues had consistently urged me to start one - and I am finally starting it. Why now, I asked myself. Why not the time when I had that melt-in- your-mouth Berkshire Pork at Asiate over at Mandarin Oriental Hotel while appreciating the stunning floor-to-ceiling views of Central Park and Columbus Circle.
I remember having the Berkshire pork that night, which was
After many reservations to countless restaurants and 8,100 Open Table Dining Points later (from my account alone, not including the many dinners and meals that I joined in with colleagues, ex-colleagues, friends, ex-friends (haha), families, ex-families (lol, yes its possible) dates, and ex-dates (roflmao), I picked today Thursday, 10th of June 2010 to embark on my food blogging adventure.
Yes, why now? When the lunch that I just had was totally forgettable, nothing special that should drive me to have an epiphany, or not even near what I would consider foodgasmic. In fact, it left me pretty unsatisfied that I had to run to the vending machine for a bag of M&M peanuts to hold me off until my next feeding time (yes, I am talking about dinner). I must admit, the meal did drove me to tears. That’s because I was trying to drown the “plain”-fully taste of hardened sushi rice with a big piece of wasabi.
I sit here writing about my uninteresting lunch and I have to bear a few more hours of being reminded of the experience as I still smell the leftover soy sauce that I chucked in my recycling bin (which now serves as my garbage can). Well, how much (satisfying) taste can I really expect from a $3.99 Salmon Snack (lunch) Bux that I bought from Pret, right?
As always, I look at every (good and bad) experience, dining included -- in my glass half full perspective. I am therefore looking forward to my next meal !!