Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Two days after Bloomsday, it was our 4th anniversary. So we went to Daniel to celebrate. We planned on getting the prix fixe, but our resolve crumbled after we saw the menu. We justified our change in decision the way we usually justify our weakness of will with such matters - we work hard, we don't buy nice clothes, we may not be in the city in a few years, and therefore wouldn't we regret not getting the tasting menu?

So we did. The food was delicious - more obviously and satisfyingly so than at Le Bernadin. The timing of some of the dishes were off, but we didn't care - we weren't in any hurry. We speculated that someone was on vacation. The restaurant was beautiful. It is hard for me to remember specific dishes, they were all so good. It is just all awash in one long memory of spending four happy hours at Daniel.

The wines were excellent, though not as life-changing an experience as at Le Bernadin. The pours were quite generous and Dave had to take a quick break at the pinot noir, though he bounced back quickly. We liked our sommelier a lot even though we couldn't understand his descriptions very well due to his thick French accent.

There was a point in the dinner when I dropped a piece of food on my dress. We were startled when two or three people rushed over with a real look of concern in their eyes to ask if everything was okay. It was a funny moment.

Towards the end, as the restaurant was emptying out, it seemed like some of the staff were feeling a little giddy. Our sommelier took this photo of himself with our camera:

Then we decided to take a nicer picture of him and the person-who-took-our-order-and-orchestrated-our-dinner:

At the beginning when we told the person-who-took-our-order-and-orchestrated-our-dinner that it was our anniversary, the look that flashed across his face made me realize how neat it must be to work in the kind of restaurant where people come to celebrate such events.

And that's us - we're 4 years old!

60 E 65th St
New York, NY 10065
(212) 288-0033

Le Bernardin and Bemelmans Bar

Dave took me to Le Bernadin for my 30th birthday. We realized en route to the table that there was Le Bernadin staff everywhere. I was pretty nervous when we sat down - I had a feeling we were going to be watched pretty closely. But we had a cocktail, and the uneasiness melted into the sensation that we were actually in one big Le Bernadin hug, and that the staff was going to take really good care of us. It was an excellent cocktail.

We ordered the tasting menu with the wine pairings. The flavors at Le Bernadin were clean and delicate, but perhaps a bit too muted. The real accolades belong to Le Bernadin's impeccable technique. That which was supposed to be crispy was perfectly crispy, the dish components were cut incredibly precisely, and all the seafood was cooked exactly as it was supposed to be cooked with not a surplus moment under the heat. I have never encountered this kind of execution with food. Eric Ripert runs a tight ship.

Even better were the wine pairings. You could tell which of the staff were sommeliers because they had silver necklaces with these large silver medallions. The sommelier we had was very nice, and she led us through a variety of wines that were classic examples of their type. The whole experience was actually pretty incredible, but the wine I loved the most was the chablis. I learned that I am a huge fan of minerally whites.

At the end of the meal, there was one awesome moment when one of the staff came by with a second set of petit fours by accident. There was a glitch in the flawless machine that was Le Bernadin! She grimaced when she found out there had been a miscommunication, paused for a microsecond, and then resolutely gave us the second set anyway.

We felt a little shy about taking pictures in such a nice restaurant. But we snuck one of this painting:

We love the dog!

After dinner, Dave and I met up with my brother at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel. The bar was beautiful; there were murals all along the walls and this feeling of old-time swankiness. I felt right at home in my cocktail dress. The cocktails were excellent, as was the live jazz. It was the perfect place to hang out, relax, and end the evening.

Le Bernardin
155 W 51st St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 554-1515

Bemelmans Bar
35 East 76th Street
New York, NY 10021
(212) 744-1600‎

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Back & Foot Rub (and Minca)

One of the peculiarities of the West Village is the density of cheap Chinese massage places. I had found a gem on Carmine Street that charged only $48 for an hour ($40 between 11 am and 3 pm, if you can believe it) for an extremely intense and effective shiatsu/deep tissue massage. I was looking forward to getting a massage one day when, Jane-Eyre/burnt-Thornfield-style I found the store cleared out and a sign tacked on the window stating, "Thank you customers, Moving to 10th and McDougall." I was crushed, but not truly heartbroken until I looked for 10th and MacDougal and realized that it didn't exist.

Fast-forward a few months. Fleurise convinced me to go on an expedition to find my old massage place by walking up and down MacDougal. I got pretty discouraged, but then on the intersection between 8th and MacDougal, we found this:

And it was the right place!! Fleurise and I got our massages and then went to Minca to top off our day with ramen (which, by the way, is my new favorite ramen place; get the Shoyu ramen with thick noodle - the broth is flavorful and rich, and the noodle has an addictive and perfectly calibrated amount of chewiness. Better, I'm sorry to say, than the hand-pulled noodles at Food Shing.)

Falai Panetteria

I have been semi-obsessed with tomato tarts ever since I had one on a flight to Paris (can't remember the airline - Northwest?). Maybe it wouldn't be that great if I had it again now, but I was new to savory tarts at the time, and I really enjoyed it. So when I found out that Falai Panetteria in the Lower East Side made tomato tarts, I knew I had to make a trip.

The first time I went they were out. I went back a second time and I bought two tarts for $4.50 each. Given that Iacopo Falai was the former pastry chef at Le Cirque, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at how delicious the tarts were.

That day, I decided that I love places where I can get a glass of wine with lunch. It was a laid back and comfortable little corner restaurant when I went, although I heard it can get busy, crowded, and hectic during the peak hours. I'm definitely going back - to get more tarts and also to try their other pastries.

Falai Panetteria
79 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002-3451
(212) 777-8956

Shopsin's General Store

Note: Dave and I are both on vacation, and we are hoping to get a bunch of posts in before the next onslaught of rotations. Here are some of our adventures from the past few months...

Fleurise and Jeremy (both post-call) and Mike and I (on our vacations) decided to go to Shopsin's General Store for brunch on a random Wednesday morning.

Contrary to its name, Shopsin's is actually an eatery (Stall #16, Essex Street Market, Lower East Side), although if one expects to be able to buy most anything at a general store, then their ridiculously extensive menu does contribute to a feeling of being able to order anything you might possibly feel like eating, or at least something very close to it.

Seating is extremely limited, and once the establishment found out that I was running late and not yet with the group, they made the other three get back up from the table, leaving them to pace anxiously while a few hipsters took over one of the other tables. I did show up soon thereafter and the four of us ordered blueberry lemon ricotta pancakes, lemon ricotta pancakes, slutty pancakes, and a combination of pancakes, along with bacon, fried brussel sprouts, and andouille sausage.

The ricotta pancakes were made as regular pancakes but with a ricotta filling; they were light and delicious. The slutty cakes (peanut butter, pumpkin, pistachios) and combo pancakes (3 way between slutty, lemon ricotta, cinammon raisin), with their unusual fillings, had a nice texture, and were fun to eat. The bacon was incredible!! It was crunchy with honey or maple syrup drizzled all over - probably the tastiest way to serve bacon, ever. We liked that we could order brussel sprouts for brunch and were tickled to discover that the dish comes with a bottle of Brussel Sprout Sauce.

Definitely come here for brunch, although be warned that Shopsin's will not serve groups larger than 4, requires that everyone order a meal, and takes only cash. Afterward, you can stroll around the market and maybe pick up cheese from Saxelby Cheesemonger for later (she is in the stall next door and has a small cheese cave you can view.)

120 Essex St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 924-5160

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Big Apple BBQ 2009

Mabel and I just got back from the 7th annual Big Apple BBQ at Madison Square Park.

It was fun, the weather was perfect. We went for lunch.

The strategy was to go to 2 places, a rib place from Texas and a pulled pork place from the Carolinas. But there were ridiculously long lines at some of the places we wanted to go, so we skipped them. And the portions were very small so we went to 3 places.

The first place we went was to Baker's Ribs which is based in Dallas Texas.

The ribs were pretty good. There was a unique flavor to them that was nice. They weren't so smokey, and didn't have that pink smoke ring, but they were still good to eat. The cole slaw was fantastic and had some jalepeño kick to them.

Then we went to 17th Street Bar & Grill which is based out of Murphysboro, IL and Las Vegas.

The baby back ribs were really good. There was a satisfying chewy quality to them, and they were nice and smokey. I could probably eat two racks of these if given the chance.

We walked around a bit and ran into this useful sign.

So we turned the corner and went to our last place of the day which was a whole hog place, The Pit run by Ed Mitchell in Naleigh, NC.

It was good eats.

On our way out of the park, we passed by this probably illegal cupcake stand.

At least it's for a good cause.

All-in-all a fun lunch. We went in, ate, and made a quick getaway. I like BBQ.