Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

•June 15, 2009 • 3 Comments

I was craving some good BBQ over the weekend which prompted me to make some pulled chicken sandwiches for dinner. After grocery shopping and making another batch of cookies, I got started by heating up the grill in preparation for BBQ chicken greatness. Armed with 2 pounds of spice-rubbed boneless skinless chicken thighs, I made my way outside to throw them on the grill. Since I was looking for an easy dinner, I put them over a medium heat and just let them sit there under a closed lid. I turned them after 15 minutes and they only took another 5 to cook most of the way through to 165 degrees. I didn’t want to cook them all the way on the grill because the BBQ has a knack for drying out chicken completely. I stuck a thermometer in the thickest piece and let them rest on the counter under a foil tent until it read 180 degrees. Perfect doneness without being dry!

Spice Rubbed Chicken Thighs

Spice Rubbed Chicken Thighs

While the chicken was resting, I whipped up a sauce. I sweat half an onion for about 5 minutes in 2 teaspoons of oil. After the chunks were soft, I added some spices and let them mingle before mixing in reduced sugar ketchup (I already had sugar in my spice mix), molasses and apple cider vinegar. The sauce turned out fantastic! I let it simmer while I pulled the chicken with two forks and then added it to the sauce to coat it and get it warmed up again.

While all of this was going on, I roasted some asparagus in the oven that was brushed with some spicy pineapple preserves. I also cooked up a pot of my new favorite side dish, the curried-coconut basmati rice! When everything was done, I plated up the pulled chicken on whole wheat buns and added dill pickle slices to each one. The flavor was simply wonderful–sweet, savory and a touch of spice. Just what I was looking for! I will make this again which is the true sign of recipe success since I rarely repeat anything.

Pulled Chicken Sandwich

Pulled Chicken Sandwich (without pickle)

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
Makes 8 servings

Chicken:
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs

Sauce:
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about 1/2 onion)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses

Remaining ingredients:
Whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
Dill pickle chips

Prepare grill at medium heat for direct cooking. To prepare chicken, combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture evenly over chicken. Place chicken on the grill rack coated with cooking spray. Cover and grill 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 180°, turning occasionally. Let stand for at least 5 minutes. Shred with 2 forks.

To prepare sauce, heat canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook for 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 tablespoons sugar and next 5 ingredients (through pepper); cook 1 minute. Stir in ketchup, vinegar, and molasses; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in chicken; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Place about 1/3 cup chicken mixture on bottom halves of sandwich rolls; top each serving with pickle chips and top roll half.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 365 (23% from fat)
Fat: 9.1g (sat 2.8g,mono 2.6g,poly 2.6g)
Protein: 28.2g
Carbohydrate: 42.8g
Fiber: 2g
Cholesterol: 94mg
Iron: 3.4mg
Sodium: 877mg
Calcium: 78mg

 

Curried Coconut Basmati Rice
Makes 2 servings

2 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots or onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup College Inn Culinary Broth, Thai coconut curry variety

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic; sauté about 2 minutes. Stir in rice; sauté about 1 minute to toast rice. Stir in wine and cook for about 1 more minute. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Fluff with fork. Serve hot!

Nutritional Information
Calories: 210
Fat: 3g
Protein: 3g
Carbohydrate: 37.5g
Fiber: 0g
Cholesterol: 10mg

To roast asparagus, simply spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet coated in foil. Toss with a tsp or two of olive oil. Add spices and seasonings to your taste. Roast at 500 degrees for 10-15 minutes depending on thickness of asparagus spears and desired texture.

White Chocolate, Strawberry and Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

•May 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The boy just started a new job last week–hooray! In an effort to help him win over some of his co-workers, I decided to bake cookies that he could take to work. Not that he needs to win over his co-workers since they love him already, but this did give me a good excuse to bake and a guaranteed place to dump my goods.🙂 I had originally planned to make cupcakes but decided against it since I can’t be trusted with a bowl of buttercream frosting. Cookies were the next logical thing.

White Chocolate, Strawberry and Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

White Chocolate, Strawberry and Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

What I wanted to do was make a healthier cookie that I could enjoy with very little guilt but also pass along to others as a simply delicious cookie, light or not. Sometimes baking on the lighter side can be tricky—cookies end up cake-like or the end product is dry. Such is not the case with these cookies which pass the fat-kid-in-skinny-clothing test. The cookies are a bit small but they pack a large punch so their size doesn’t matter by the time you reach the end. Loaded with oats, dried fruit and white chocolate, there really is something for everyone with a lovely combination of flavors. I used dried strawberries and blueberries since it’s spring. You could also make them with dried cranberries and raisins or apricot and pineapple. In the fall, I would like to make them again with dried apples and cinnamon! The possibilities are endless.

If you want to make these cookies even lighter, you could cut the butter and use unsweetened applesauce instead. You could also use egg substitute if you wished. You could even go wild, doing both, and also substitute whole wheat or honey wheat flour, add some flax seed, so on and so forth. Keep in mind that, while they will still taste the same, these changes will affect the texture of the cookie. I don’t have a stand mixer so I used a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar and then stirred in the remaining ingredients by hand.

Closer: White Chocolate, Strawberry and Blueberry Oatmeal Cookie

Closer: White Chocolate, Strawberry and Blueberry Oatmeal Cookie

White Chocolate, Strawberry and Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

Yield: 2 dozen (serving size: 1 cookie)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
1 cup regular oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried strawberries
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in a bowl; beat at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes). Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing with a spoon until blended. Add strawberries and chips; mix just until blended.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets covered in parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; cool on pan 1 minute. Remove cookies from pan; cool completely on wire racks.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 98
Fat: 3.3g
Protein: 1.7g
Carbohydrate: 16g
Fiber: 1.6g
Cholesterol: 14mg
Iron: 0.5mg
Sodium: 73mg
Calcium: 11mg

NYC – Monday – Jean-Georges

•May 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Waking up on Monday, we decided to keep breakfast light with fruit and coffee. After a few slices of mango and strawberries, we started to get ready and pack up our suitcase. We lazed around a lot on Monday morning, something that’s a luxury for us during the week so it was really nice compared to the usual “get up and go!” routine. After getting nicely dressed again, we made our way in a cab to Jean-Georges in Columbus Circle. We had heard rave reviews about both Jean-Georges and Eleven Madison Park and had decided that we needed to go to both and compare. Deciding that EMP was more aligned with our interests, we saved Jean-Georges for lunch. Realizing they weren’t open for lunch on Sunday, we had to get new departure tickets and stay at our hotel for an extra night just to take advantage of the $28 prix fixe lunch menu.

Dehydrated Pineapple on Fresh Mozzarella, Peekytoe Crab Fritter and Herbed Broth

Dehydrated Pineapple on Fresh Mozzarella, Peekytoe Crab Fritter and Herbed Broth

We were seated at a table at the back of the dining room. Again we were side by side and facing the whole room, which we loved. The space was very bright but also very stark—there was just one lone lighting structure on the ceiling and some tiny flower arrangements on the tables. After placing our orders and refusing wine (I don’t like to be tired after lunch), we were treated to a trio of amuse-bouche. The crab fritter was the standout offering of the bunch, with it’s flaky crab meat and sprinkling of spices. The dehydrated pineapple on mozzarella was nothing exciting even though the mozzarella was good. I’m not sure what would make anyone pair mozzarella and pineapple but it just didn’t work as well as some layered cured meat or even roasted vegetable would have. The herbed broth wasn’t hot enough for me and tasted suspiciously like dishwater by the time I got to the bottom of the glass. I should have stopped after the first sip which was the best of the three I took.

Foie Gras Brulee on Brioche with Pineapple-Meyer Lemon Jam

Foie Gras Brulee on Brioche with Pineapple-Meyer Lemon Jam

Closer: Foie Gras Brulee

Closer: Foie Gras Brulee on Brioche

Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Caramelized Baby Artichokes and Parsley

Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Caramelized Baby Artichokes and Parsley

For my first course, I choose the foie gras brulee on brioche with pineapple-Meyer lemon jam. The foie was FANTASTIC; however, I would have liked to have the brioche on the side as opposed to under the foie because it made it harder to eat. That’s just a small complaint, though. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about the foie because it truly was delicious. Buttery yet firm, cool but not cold, crispy but not burned, it was perfect for me. I had been worried that, as a result of being bruleed, it would be too sweet or taste like flammable fruid but was very pleased to learn it did not. The boy seemed to really dig it as well but we both agreed that the jam didn’t do much for it. The jam was good on it’s own but the flavor was completely lost when paired with the foie. I think a savory jam, instead of sweet, would have paired better with the rich-tasting foie. The boy was presented with a dish of goat cheese gnocchi with caramelized baby artichokes and parsley. I was a little surprised when it was set on the table because I felt that we had been lied to. Where was the gnocchi? These were balls of goat cheese sitting in a little pool of plain olive oil. I was so confused. They were good, don’t get me wrong, but… really? I was expecting gnocchi that tasted of goat cheese. If I take chocolate and make it into the shape of ice cream, I cannot call that chocolate ice cream just because I feel it resembles it. Or can I? I guess if you’re Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, you can. The artichokes and parsley were a little lost in the big bowl but they were good after I took the time to dig some out. I don’t want to say this dish was bad, because it was not, it was just misleading. Had we known it was just lumps of cheese, we may have ordered something else.

Roasted Sweetbreads, Pickled Asparagus, Coriander and Orange Oil

Roasted Sweetbreads, Pickled Asparagus, Coriander and Orange Oil

Halibut with Snow Peas, Ramps, Almond Milk and Chili Oil

Halibut with Snow Peas, Ramps, Almond Milk and Chili Oil

The boy was happy to see sweetbreads on the lunch menu and, after such success at EMP, he wanted to give the sweetbreads at Jean-Georges a chance. They were nicely pan fried and contained the perfect mixture of creaminess and fattiness. I didn’t taste the orange sauce with it (mild allergy, not worth it) but the boy said it was a very bright flavor. The pickled asparagus that came with them was especially interesting. I truly am a big asparagus fan and seeing it all over menus in the spring tickles me pink. All things considered, the sweetbreads were excellent. My dish, however, sucked. I’ve tried to come up with some positive words for the halibut dish I was served that was swimming in almond milk but there are just none. I don’t even think a fan of almonds would like this dish unless they like to drink sugared almond extract. The flavors of the chili oil, peas, ramps and halibut were all completely lost. I had been especially excited about the ramps and the chili oil, a combination I’ve never had. I’ll still never know if they worked together. Very rare for me, I actually said something to our server about how let down I was with the halibut dish. I love halibut and I’ve had it more times than I would ever care to count. It wasn’t just a case of being unfamiliar with the fish–this fish was ruined. I would not recommend this dish to anyone.

Raspberry Macaron with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Fresh Fruit

Raspberry Macaron with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Fresh Fruit

In an effort to make up for the halibut fiasco, the kitchen sent out a complimentary dessert of raspberry macaron with vanilla bean ice cream and fresh berries. It was good and it was very nice of them. How were they to know I don’t like raspberries?🙂 I ate a few spoons of the ice cream portion and, of course, all of the blueberries. (Sidenote: Why won’t someone make blueberry macarons? I should write to Chef Humm and suggest that he make them for EMP but mail me some in advance to taste test…) The boy said the macaron base was very good but I had already moved on to our other dessert.

Rhubarb and Birch Beer Ice Cream Float, Green Tea Cake with Hibiscus Poached Rhubarb

Rhubarb and Birch Beer Ice Cream Float, Green Tea Cake with Hibiscus Poached Rhubarb

Petit Fours Chocolates

Petit Fours Chocolates

The rhubarb offering was 1/2 great, 1/2 just okay. The rhubarb and birch beer float was fantastic and I was happy to get a little spoon with it so that the boy and I could both get a bit of the ice cream in the small cup. The green tea cake, however, was a little dry and had nothing that really gave any creaminess to it. The rhubarb alongside it was delicious but nothing to write home about. The petit fours chocolates stole the show from the meticulously plated rhubarb dessert even though they seemed like more of an afterthought. We couldn’t help but ask for an extra PB&J chocolate for each of us after fighting over how we would split that one. I was surprised that the boy liked it as much as he did since he is not a fan of chocolate! It was sweet, broke apart nicely and had a salty aftertaste due to some large crystals on the outside of the hardened dark chocolate. I wish I could buy them in a store somehwere!

Macarons - left to right - PB&J, Caramel and Chocolate

Macarons - left to right - PB&J, Caramel and Chocolate

Homemade Marshmallows! Left to right - Vanilla, Rose Water and Ginger

Homemade Marshmallows! Left to right - Vanilla, Rose Water and Ginger

Just like at EMP, we were offered macarons. Unlike EMP, the macarons were different sizes, mismatched and flavorless. Perhaps I’m spoiled after eating macarons at Pierre Hermé. Perhaps my taste buds were already killed from the coffee we were sipping on. Perhaps I was just in a bad mood. I’m convinced, though, that two of them tasted like cardboard and the PB&J was just passable. The homemade marshamallows, however, were great. I was really excited to have these fresh, fluffy pillows of sugary goodness plated in front of my eyes. Cut from long strips in a jar, we were treated to vanilla, rose water and ginger. The rose water truly tasted of rose water while the ginger was the best. I could have done without the vanilla but it was nice to make the progression from vanilla (plain) to ginger (unique). In hindsight, I regret not asking for more of the rose water and ginger marshmallows to take home as I sat at the table and dreamed up some upscale s’mores I would make with them.

All things considered, we left happy but the meal definitely had some low points. I expected more from “one of the most celebrated chefs on the planet.” I do have to say that I’m not sure I understand the three Michelin stars awarded to Jean-Georges after our experience there. There were some hits but it really seems like there were more misses. I really doubt that we will return to JG on our next trip to NYC.

NYC – Sunday – Katz’s, Pommes Frites, Dessert Truck and More

•May 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

We made our way to Central Park on Sunday morning after breakfast. We stopped first at The Dakota where John Lennon was shot and then crossed the street into Strawberry Fields. The little Imagine monument was pretty cute as some guy was decorating it with flowers. We spent some time strolling through the park, which was great because it was such a nice day. I loved seeing all the people with their dogs. Then, much to my excitement, we hunted down the pond and bridge where Kevin met the pigeon lady in Home Alone 2. After that, we walked into The Plaza, again because of the movie, and took a few pictures there before leaving the area to go get lunch.

Pastrami on Rye

Pastrami on Rye

Lunch was awesome! We went to Katz’s Deli for pastrami on rye where Harry met Sally. I was tempted to act out the scene from the movie. The sandwich itself was incredible but, sadly, I have nothing to compare it to since I’d never had pastrami before. It truly was a flavor explosion, though: warm pastrami, run-off juices, mustard and rye bread all coming together in perfect harmony. My only problem with this was that the sandwich was a ridiculous size. Normally the boy and I do a 70-30 split of our food but there was no way I could eat 30% of this sandwich knowing we had another part of lunch coming as soon as we left Katz’s. The sandwich was so thick and piled very high–there was easily over 1 pound of thick-cut hot pastrami on there. It was nicely seasoned and complimented perfectly by the mustard, something I am not normally fond of. I would order it again if they had a children’s menu. Haha. As my friend K put it, “that’s not a sandwich, it’s a full-on attack of some innocent bread!”

Pastrami on Rye with Homemade Pickles, Potato Salad and Dr. Browns Cream Soda

Pastrami on Rye with Homemade Pickles, Potato Salad and Dr. Brown's Cream Soda

Our sandwich came with some homemade pickles, potato salad and Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda. The drink is the boy’s favorite soda and he’s a lover of potato salad and pickles so I think this meal was an all-around win for him. For me, it was just potatoes and mayo–nothing special. The darker pickles were great while the lighter ones tasted like bland cucumbers. I suppose my conditions for returning to Katz’s for some delicious pastrami would be a child’s menu with no sides.🙂

Nova Salmon Lox on a Plain Bagel with Scallion Cream Cheese

Nova Salmon Lox on a Plain Bagel with Scallion Cream Cheese

After Katz’s, we walked one block to Russ & Daughter’s for lox and cream cheese on a bagel. I picked the Nova lox (Nova Scotia, represent!) and the scallion cream cheese. It was a perfect combination and we were both surprised at how good it was. The best part of Russ & Daughters was that the man behind the counter let me taste a few different kinds of lox before we settled on one. I also found a black and white cookie when we were in there and just HAD to get one.

JERRY: Oh look Elaine, the black and white cookie. I love the black and white. Two races of flavor living side by side. It’s a wonderful thing isn’t it?

JERRY: Uhm, The thing about eating the black and white cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate. And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved.
ELAINE: Your views on race relations are fascinating. You really should do an op-ed piece for the Times.
JERRY: Um, um, Look to the cookie Elaine. Look to the cookie.

The cookie was surprisingly good. Far too big for one person to eat after having a meal but we managed to get through half of it by working together. The cookie was more like a flat cake and the fondant icing was really dense. I made sure to take some bites with black and white in each bite for the perfect harmony.

After lunch, we made our way to Chinatown and Little Italy for a little while just to check shit out before heading back downtown. We went back downtown thinking we would go to MoMA. However, $20 each seemed a little steep to spend on something that was (a) not food and (b) not something we were totally stoked about doing so we decided to pass. We wandered around some more, checked out the cathedral on 5th street and window shopped a little.

Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Rosemary Caramel Sauce and Blackberries

Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Rosemary Caramel Sauce and Blackberries

Knowing we had to catch Stomp at 7 in the East Village, we made our way back out there and made our next food stop at Dessert Truck. I was so excited to find it. I had been looking forward to trying their goat cheese cheesecake. This tasty nugget was served with a crisp cookie, rosemary caramel sauce and fresh blackberries… in a paper cup with a plastic spoon. It was a bit of a novelty and we didn’t eat the whole thing but I love the concept. The flavor of the cake itself was fantastic but I did not detect any rosemary in the caramel sauce. The blackberries were a little too sour. It wasn’t a total swing and a miss since the cake was good but, if I ever go back to Dessert Truck again, I will try something else.

Belgian Fries with Vietnamese Pineapple Mayo

Belgian Fries with Vietnamese Pineapple Mayo

After tossing the sad remains of our cake, we walked through the Village until we found Pommes Frites. This was a very exciting find for the boy who is a major fried potato fan in all of it’s delicious forms. He is also a sucker for sauces, salsas and dips so we knew this would be a winner for him. There was a line out the door in an area not too packed with tourists so we took that as a good sign. I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat more than 4-5 fries but I still wanted my fair share of input on the accompanying sauce we would get. Looking at the menu, he waffled over wasabi mayo and sundried tomato mayo. My first choice was Vietnamese pineapple mayo with pomegranate teriyaki coming in a close second. I usually win the culinary battles and Pommes Frites was no exception. While I hunted for a washroom, the boy braved the line and emerged victorious with his hands practically shaking over the prospect of twice-fried Belgian fries in his little paper cone. I’m happy to report that he was not let down and ended up being very pleased with the Vietnamese pineapple mayo! AHHHHHHHH these were some DELICIOUS fries and WOW, the sauce was awesome. It was clearly the right choice for these fries–sweet and tangy with a slight kick, something that complimented the grease very well. Besides the mayo, the fries themselves were fantastic. It’s all too common these days to get naked, cold fries with no skins and no character. Pommes Frites lacked none of that. After having to eat much more than his 70% share to make up for my smaller stomach at lunch, I didn’t think he would finish but he surprised me as he tried to dig out the last little pieces from the bottom of the cone.

Sea Dog Bluepaw Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale

Sea Dog Bluepaw Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale

After gorging ourselves, we grabbed a drink at a corner bar and then took our seats at Stomp. It was a good show, although it dragged in parts and was much too warm inside the theatre for about a 20 minute stretch. We’re glad we went on a Sunday when tickets were cheaper. After Stomp, we walked through the Village until we found Spitzer’s Corner, a gastropub recommeded by some foodie friends who had spent some time in NYC. They made a great recommendation! We got a nice table at Spitzer’s and enjoyed a night of some interesting pub food and a great beer selection. They have 40 craft brews on tap as well as a nice bottle selection. Not being much of a beer drinker (okay, not a beer drinker at all), I was wary to choose one but made a great call with Sea Dog Bluepaw Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale. It tasted nothing like beer, really, so might not be a good choice for many others but was perfect for me. I even ordered a second bottle! Yum. It comes as no surprise that the first and only beer I’ve ever really liked is (a) blueberry and (b) hard to find in PA. Boo.

Panko-Crusted Asparagus Spears with Citrus Soy Dipping Sauce

Panko-Crusted Asparagus Spears with Citrus Soy Dipping Sauce

Three Cheese Truffle Mac and Cheese

Three Cheese Truffle Mac and Cheese

I started out with the panko-crusted asparagus spears which came with a citrus soy dipping sauce. I would have liked the sauce to be a little thicker so that it stuck more to the asparagus but, overall, the dish was okay. Then again, I love all things asparagus so I may be a bit biased. The panko was a little lost on me and could have been any kind of crumb topping. The panko definitely could have used some seasoning to punch up the woody asparagus a little. The boy started out with truffle mac and cheese, much to no one’s surprise. This was some seriously yummy mac and cheese. Mixed with parmegiano reggiano, white cheddar and fontina, the cheese complimented the generous helping of truffle and panko topping. I wasn’t sure if the boy would finish this one but he did, quite happily I might add.

Hickory Short Rib Burger with Hickory Sauce, BBQ Onions, Lettuce and Pickle

Hickory Short Rib Burger with Hickory Sauce, BBQ Onions, Lettuce and Pickle

PBLT - Braised Pork Belly, Sweet and Spicy Jus, Baby Lettuce and Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

PBLT - Braised Pork Belly, Sweet and Spicy Jus, Baby Lettuce and Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Next up for me was the short rib burger with hickory sauce, BBQ onions, lettuce and pickles on the side. This was a mighty tasty burger but I just wasn’t feeling it. It was cooked well and presented nicely but something was just amiss. Perhaps I should have taken the server’s suggestion to add cheese, bacon or a fried egg. I’m not sure what would have saved my impression of the burger but I only took 3 bites before calling it quits. This may have had something to do with the fact that I was so full from the rest of the day! The boy wasted no time plowing through his PBLT of which I was happy to taste a few bites. The braised pork belly had the perfect jus dancing around its fatty layers. Accompanied by a simply dressed green salad and some slow-roasted tomatoes, this dish came in a loud second place to the boisterous mac and cheese.

I will go back to Spitzer’s for another blueberry beer and some truffle mac and cheese. I’m sure that, in the afternoon on a hot summer day, they will combine their powers to send me into a delightfully hazy food coma. Long live the carb crash!

NYC – Saturday – Eleven Madison Park

•May 25, 2009 • 1 Comment

I have been holding out on writing my post for Eleven Madison Park because I feel like, no matter what I write, nothing will do it justice. I’ve come to accept that as the truth and decided I will just give it my best shot without saying so much that the underlying message gets lost. That message, of course, is that my experience at EMP was the best meal of my life and quite possibly the best dining experience I’ve ever had. Start to finish, everything really was exceptional. But let me rewind…

The boy and I put on some nicer clothes and had a cab drop us off in front of Eleven Madison Park on Madison Ave. in NYC. Walking through the revolving door, you could tell right away that this would be a special experience as the host at the door started pushing as we stepped in in an effort to make the revolving door easier for us. We were greeted very warmly and brought to our table. The table we had was perfect; it allowed the boy and I to sit side by side with a view out to the rest of the restaurant so we could easily share our food and people watch at the same time. The dining room itself was breathtaking. The high ceilings in the space may have looked gothic anywhere else but EMP dressed it up with classy, soft lighting and white flowers everywhere.

Gougeres with Gruyere Cheese

Gougeres with Gruyere Cheese

After we sat down, we were presented with a small dish of warm gougeres by our captain for the evening (not to be confused with the waiters, servers, water glass refill person, etc. etc.). They had a light, puffy texture with the nutty aroma of Gruyere cheese. After he set the dish on the table, he asked if we would like to start the evening with a glass of champagne. I happily took him up on his offer and he strolled over with the champagne cart. After explaining some of the differences in the bottles they had, I settled on a rose champagne that wasn’t too acidic or too sweet–it was perfect and it really showed how well he was listening to what I like. As we drank our champagne, we were given a wine menu, which was actually a book. I decided I was a little overwhelmed by the book once I saw there was a table of contents. At first I was like, “Wow, a bottle of Pinot for only $30??” until the boy helpfully pointed out that the Pinot list started on page 30. Heh. Narrowing it down to a Pinot from Oregon (my fave), I decided to leave the rest up to the pros. The sommelier came over shortly after I’d flipped through the book a little and he, too, listened intently to what I had to say. He made a suggestion for a bottle–St. Innocent Pinot Noir ‘White Rose’ 2006 from the Willamette Valley–and it could not have been more perfect. It wasn’t too sweet, it wasn’t dry, it had an interesting violet and vanilla combination. The boy and I both loved it and I would love to have it again.

Array of Hors D’oeuvres: Shaved Cucumber with Smoked Salmon, Bacon and Leek Quiche Tart, Foie Gras with Asparagus Gelee and Crispy Cornets of Veal Sweetbreads

Array of Hors D’oeuvres: Shaved Cucumber with Smoked Salmon, Bacon and Leek Quiche Tart, Foie Gras with Asparagus Gelee and Crispy Cornets of Veal Sweetbreads

While we were looking over the menus, Chef Daniel Humm made his way around the restaurant, stopping at each table to chat for a moment and thank us for being there. I’m not sure if I responded with anything more intelligent than, “thank you for having us!” but I’m pretty sure I spoke at a bare minimum. I thought it was nice that he came around to check on everyone. After looking over the menus for a little while, we made our selections. The boy picked the 5 course suckling pig menu and I went for the 5 course spring menu. We had already resolved to share everything. After placing our orders, we were presented with a rectangular tray of hors d’oeuvres. There was cucumber with smoked salmon, a bacon and leek quiche, foie gras with asparagus gelee on a cracker and crispy cornets of veal sweetbreads. We were delighted to see right away that there was one of each for both of us.

Closer: Foie Gras with Asparagus Gelee and Crispy Cornet of Veal Sweetbreads

Closer: Foie Gras with Asparagus Gelee and Crispy Cornet of Veal Sweetbreads

All were delicious but the sweetbreads were the clear winner. Wow, what tasty little morsels they were. The texture of the sweetbreads was absolute perfection. If I have to describe them, I’d say they were creamy like a soft cheese filling in a ravioli. The crispy exterior gave way easily and didn’t overpower the flavor of the sweetbreads. Amazing. And the presentation was top notch! We knew we were in for a great night at this point.

Our captain reappeared and gave us bread and butter. However, this wasn’t just any old bread and butter. Two small silver servers filled with a sweet yellow cow’s milk butter, Beurremont from Vermont, and a goat’s milk butter, Meyenberg from California, were placed before us. The goat’s milk butter was like nothing I’d tasted: as white as lard, with a tangy flavor of barnyard goat cheese and the soft, creamy texture of butter. The cow’s milk butter was left unsalted but we were also given a small dish of fleur de sel (no cutting corners with regular salt here at EMP) incase we cared to salt it ourselves. The silver servers the butter sat in were perforated at the bottom should the butter start to melt. The bread we had was baked into individual small baguettes. We had a selection of plain French and olive. The olive bread, even though I am not a fan of olives, was fantastic and the clear winner. It was warm, the butters were both at room temperature… it was the perfect marriage. It’s not often you actually write about the bread and butter at a restaurant! I need to, though, because I wouldn’t do EMP justice by leaving out details and I also want to document this for myself so that I never forget.

Smoked Ham Sabayon

Smoked Ham Sabayon

Alternate: Smoked Ham Sabayon

Alternate: Smoked Ham Sabayon

Next our hors d’oeuvre plate was whisked away and we were given a dish of smoked ham sabayon served in an egg shell with some edible silver on top. The sabayon was creamy without being too thick like yogurt. It was warm and savory; it was perfect. I laughed pretty hard at one point when the boy broke his egg shell trying to get every last drop from the bottom. He looked like he wanted to crawl under the table and die. I told him not to be so worried because the overall goal of the evening was to be comfortably spoiled! We had no idea how true this would be.

Tete de Cochon Torchon with Cornichons & Baby Radishes

Tete de Cochon Torchon with Cornichons & Baby Radishes

Asparagus Variations with Parmigiano Reggiano and Jamón Ibérico

Asparagus Variations with Parmigiano Reggiano and Jamón Ibérico

Our first course came out after a nice pause. The boy was served a terrine of various parts of the pig’s head with cornichons and baby radishes. I was treated to a plate of asparagus with mixed preparations, Parmigiano Reggiano and smoked meat. The terrine was fantastic but my favorite element of the two dishes was the asparagus ice cream. It was so unexpected for this little dollop to be cold and tasting so much of asparagus. They really knocked that one out of the park.

Suckling Pig Belly with Garden Peas a la Francaise

Suckling Pig Belly with Garden Peas a la Francaise

Atlantic Turbot Slow Cooked with Spring Peas, Lemon Thyme and Terre Bormane Olive Oil

Atlantic Turbot Slow Cooked with Spring Peas, Lemon Thyme and Terre Bormane Olive Oil

For his second course, the boy was presented with suckling pig pork belly with an array of vegetables. I had Atlantic turbot with spring peas. My turbot was okay but not fantastic. It was still miles ahead of anything I would make for myself but I felt the peas overpowered the fish. The sauce was delicious and light. Perhaps I’d have felt my dish was much better had the boy’s pork belly not been so fantastic. Honestly, I think we were fighting over the last few vegetables on his plate. The pork was a great mixture of spices, salt, fat and juice. The vegetables were truly outstanding. You could tell that someone labored over these vegetables in the kitchen. They weren’t there just to make the plate look pretty or more interesting. I think the only thing from his plate that wasn’t eaten was a small sprig of grass with a clover hanging from it. Outstanding.

Confit with Cipollini Onions, Dried Plum Chutney and Five Spice Jus

Confit with Cipollini Onions, Dried Plum Chutney and Five Spice Jus

Atlantic Halibut Seared with Meyer Lemon, Capers and Parsley

Atlantic Halibut Seared with Meyer Lemon, Capers and Parsley

Up next for the boy was pig confit with cipollini onions, dried plum chutney and five spice jus. This was easily the best dish of the night for him so far. A (very) slow-roasted chunk of pork was pulled, then compressed under a layer of crispy pork skin. The top layer was a wonderful contrast to the base. It was a crispy, salty crown to the little cloud of heaven that laid underneath. The remarkable thing about the meat was the way it felt on the tongue. There was the rich, full flavors of fat and meat but none of the greasy mouth feel that so often accompanies these types of dishes. The dried plum chutney, the five spice, the caramelized cipollini and the green onion all complemented the pork so well, too. Just a remarkable dish, all the way around. The boy was ready to call it the best dish of the night… until he tasted mine.

Closer: Atlantic Halibut Seared with Meyer Lemon, Capers and Parsley

Closer: Atlantic Halibut Seared with Meyer Lemon, Capers and Parsley

My seared and lightly poached Atlantic halibut with Meyer lemon, massive capers and parsley was the best dish ever. Ever. Not just “of the meal” or “of our trip” or any other qualifiers like that. Ever. It was simply the best dish I have had and it will be very hard to top it. It sounds so simple but I think that’s what made it so delicious. The perfectly cooked fish, the crispy wafers, the Meyer lemon… wow, that lemon was outstanding. The texture was just right for making it’s way onto a bite of fish without being too heavy to overpower the flavor of the halibut or being so runny that it was lost during transport. This dish was so unbelievable that adjectives fail me and wouldn’t do it justice anyway. The boy commented that he was totally floored with his confit until he had a bite of my fish. At that point, he felt completely depressed because mine was so good that his now sucked. Haha.

Rack with Roasted Asparagus and Oregon Morels

Rack with Roasted Asparagus and Oregon Morels

Milk Fed Veal Glazed with Ris de Veau, Morel Panna Cotta and Fava Beans

Milk Fed Veal Glazed with Ris de Veau, Morel Panna Cotta and Fava Beans

Thinking nothing could top my fish and how much we raved about it, I have to admit the next two dishes came close. The boy had a pork rack with morel mushrooms and roasted asparagus. I had a milk-fed veal glazed with ris de veau, morel panna cotta and fava beans. The stand out item in both dishes were the morels. I had to have the boy eat more than his fair share of my veal because I was starting to feel full and wanted to pace myself for dessert and macarons. We happily fought over the regular morels and morel panna cotta, the latter of the two being a favorite for me.

After we finished up with our plates, our captain brought around a cheese cart. I almost turned him away but something told me not to. I was right. He asked what kind of cheeses we liked and I explained my preferences. He thoughtfully made up small cheese plates for both of us based on our preferences and, let me tell you, he hit it spot on. One of the cheeses we had was the Lynnhaven “Chèvre Frais” (goat cheese) that is made only for EMP. It was truly outstanding and I wish I could have taken a block of it home with me. I love goat cheese so much and, outside of Paris, this was the best I’ve had.

Strawberry Cheesecake

"Strawberry Cheesecake"

Next it was time for a small taste before dessert. A pre-dessert amuse, if you will. When they were set on the table, the captain said this was Chef Daniel Humm’s take on strawberry cheesecake. One spoon had a soft ricotta cheese with graham cracker crumb (fantastic) and the other was a tiny ball of strawberry liquid that literally exploded in your mouth once bitten. I was so shocked by this that I think I dribbled a little on my dress. Thankfully, it blended in and I was laughing too hard to mind. The captain had warned as he walked away, “careful, they can be dangerous” but only smiled knowingly when I repeated, “dangerous?” I’ll know better next time!

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich with Araguani Chocolate

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich with Araguani Chocolate

Jivara Chocolate Moelleux with Meyer Lemon, Olive Oil and Vanilla Malt Sorbet

Jivara Chocolate Moelleux with Meyer Lemon, Olive Oil and Vanilla Malt Sorbet

Dessert was fantastic for both of us although I don’t know that we finished either plate. We took our time over coffee but I knew there were still macarons to be had so I was determined not to fill up my last few free spaces in my belly. I decided coffee didn’t count so we both indulged in that as well. The boy’s ice cream sandwich was actually pretty remarkable. We each took a bite expecting it to taste like mint chocolate ice cream but it actually tasted of real mint. There was none of that sickeningly sweet fake flavor to be had in this mint ice cream at all! It was exceptional. As for mine, it was chocolate and malt ice cream with some more fantastic Meyer lemon… what more could a girl want? I happily dived into my upscale lemon Whopper, pausing only for a few moments to appreciate the carefully constructed lemon gelee layer over the soft chocolate base with a delicate offering of edible gold flake. The remarkable thing worth noting about this dessert is the yellow smear you see in the photo. That was olive oil sauce which was the sauce version of gelato as far as the depth of the olive oil flavor was concerned. I laughed as I let the boy have a taste because it was just so odd but worked so well. Suffice to say, we were both very pleased with everything up to this point and only had more goodness to come.

Macarons

Macarons

Front row, left to right: Hazelnut Brown Butter, Chocolate and Banana, PB&J, Violet, Candied Black Olive, Pistachio Rose and Toasted Sesame

Front row, left to right: Hazelnut Brown Butter, Chocolate and Banana, PB&J, Violet, Candied Black Olive, Pistachio Rose and Toasted Sesame

Macarons. Time and time in food and wine, it’s apparent how dead on the French are in their approach to food combined with pleasure. Macarons are proof of this. The captain presented the tray and asked which ones we would like. Quite obviously, I asked for one of each. Before he left, he said his favorite was the violet but that one was just a little too bitter for my liking. Standouts in the macaron offering at Eleven Madison Park, for me, were the candied black olive, PB&J, hazelnut and brown butter and the chocolate banana. The PB&J was especially delightful for me because, for some reason, there’s not much that can beat a plain peanut butter and jam sandwich. And, yes, I call it jam.

So there it is. A full account of our meal at Eleven Madison Park. The only thing I would like to add is another note on the exceptional service. I am sure some people have come to expect service like that but let me just say I was blown away and it will be hard to top the level of unpretentious but professional friendliness we encountered at EMP. The staff there are truly a class act from the girl who refilled our water with a drip cloth so as not to get any on our table to the man who quickly swept the crumbs from our table between each course. As an example of how great the service is, allow me to share one more story. At one point during dinner, I dropped my knife. There’s no way any of the wait staff saw me, but it made a noise and I knew it had fallen. I looked down and I could see it on the floor. I looked to the boy and I asked him if he thought I should attempt to pick it up on my own. Due to my position at the table, it would have been awkward for me to get it on my own. He suggested I flag someone over for a new knife, since I would need a new one anyway, and was happy to see our captain walking toward us when I looked up. He came over and, without saying a word, he lowered a silver platter covered in felt that held only one knife… no other silverware, just that one knife, the same as the one I had dropped. He placed it at my setting and picked up the knife I had dropped at my feet. I looked from the knife to him and he exclaimed, “believe it or not, I have trained my ear to identify which piece of silverware has fallen from which table in the dining room.”

I believe him.

Eleven Madison Park was truly an exceptional experience. I hope it goes without saying that we will be back… next time, for the 11 course Chef’s selection Gourmand menu!

NYC – Saturday – Ssam Bar and the Cupcake Tour

•May 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Let me preface this post by saying the boy and I went out for dinner at Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park on Saturday evening in NYC. It was so special that it deserves a post of it’s own. More on EMP after this.

Saturday was the best food day of my life!! No kidding. Soup to nuts, I don’t know if anything will beat it. :sigh:

The boy and I lazed around in bed a bit before getting up to start our day. While I showered, he ran to a shop on the corner for blueberries, bagels and coffee. After we were both cleaned up, we made our way to The Village in search of Momofuku Ssam Bar. I’d heard all about the pork buns there and just had to try them. Since we still needed some time to feel hungry again, we wandered into an open street fair which was pretty cool. A man was walking his cat on a leash through the street. The cat frequently climbed his back and sat on top of his head. I thought that was pretty funny. After some browsing and people watching (our favorite activity), the boy and I grabbed a spot at the bar inside Ssam Bar. The bar itself had some great stools lined along either side of it, dark wooden tables and semi-loud rock music filling the inside of the small space. The waitstaff all looked cool and laid back. After walking in to a good scene and seeing some of the plates belonging to other diners, I became really excited for my Korean lunch.

Steamed Pork Buns with Hoisin, Cucumbers and Scallions

Steamed Pork Buns with Hoisin, Cucumbers and Scallions

Ssam Bar had a $25 prix fixe lunch that included dessert so we both ordered from the set menu. I ordered the steamed pork buns (of course) and the spicy rice cake dish. The boy ordered the beef tendon and braised beef brisket. The pork buns were exceptional. They were made with fatty pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers and scallions. The cucumbers were unexpected and really rounded out the heaviness very well. The bun itself could have used a bit more hoisin sauce but that’s just me being fussy for a little more moisture. The bun itself was soft, fluffy and folded. Wait, folded? I was expecting it to resemble a steamed empanada but the dish looked more like an Asian taco.

Sichuan Beef Tendon with Green Mango and Peanuts

Sichuan Beef Tendon with Green Mango and Peanuts

The sichuan beef tendon was served with bitter green mango and peanuts. The tendon was easily the most surprising dish of the weekend for both of us. Neither of us had had it before and it was not what I expected at all. I thought it would be chewy in texture–kind of like a beef version of calamari–but it was buttery and soft. For a beef dish, it was almost oddly sweet without being sickening or over sugared. The bitter mango offset the sweetness quite nicely. I avoided the peanuts–or, rather, they avoided me and my less-than-steller chopstick skills–but I’m sure they’d have added a nice saltiness. The saltiness is precisely why I saved them for the boy because he is such a salt fanatic.

Spicy Rice Cakes with Crumbled Pork Sausage, Chinese Broccoli and Crispy Shallots

Spicy Rice Cakes with Crumbled Pork Sausage, Chinese Broccoli and Crispy Shallots

The braised brisket was tender and juicy served pho-style in broth over rice noodles with thai basil and cilantro. The meat was cooked perfectly as a result of being braised but the clear broth fell a little flat for me. It was good but not as great as my spicy rice cakes with pork sausage. The rice cakes themselves were funny looking. I asked the server and she said they’re made from a huge roll that looks like a tube–I’m pretty sure it was tteokbokki. They cut the tube into little pieces so they looked like mini-marshmallows or gnocchi on my plate. They were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The sauce in the dish was red chile based and complimented the crumbled pork quite nicely. It was spicy enough to sting my lips when I licked them but not so much to make me regret ordering the dish, which is a good sign of a comfortable spice level. I’d consider ordering it again but only if I had the boy with me to finish off everything under the top layer again because it was really oily.

Thai Iced Tea Parfait with Lemon Mascarpone and Almond Tea Crunch

Thai Iced Tea Parfait with Lemon Mascarpone and Almond Tea Crunch

For dessert, the boy ordered the cashew blondie pie. We’re pretty sure there was a whole stick of butter in that one piece of pie. The crust was like brittle. It was very good but very, very rich. I wasn’t sure the boy would finish off something so dense and sweet but he managed with a little help from me. I commented to our server that the pie brought back memories of my grandmother’s home baked sweets and she laughed saying how true that was. I had a Thai iced tea parfait with lemon mascarpone and almond tea crunch. This parfait was simply amazing. It was light and refreshing with a nice crunch to compliment it. The lemon mascarpone was worth a round of dueling spoons between me and the boy as we tried to scrape up the last little bits.

The sad remains of Momofuku Milk Bar cookies

The sad remains of Momofuku Milk Bar cookies. Blueberries and Cream to the left, Cornflake and Marshmallow to the right.

After we finished dessert, we walked into the adjoining Momofuku Milk Bar (Momofuku has a whole line of spots) for cookies. There was something special drawing me to Milk Bar that I had heard about and just had to hunt down. The boy got the cornflake marshmallow cookie and I, of course, got the blueberries and cream cookie. I almost had a spaz attack when I bit into the cookie. It was soft and chewy with a just-crunchy-enough base to support it. And WOW!! The blueberry flavor was strong without being fake. I ate it in shifts over the next 3 days and was very sad when it was finally all gone.

The cupcake display case at Sugar Sweet Sunshine

The cupcake display case at Sugar Sweet Sunshine

After Ssam Bar, we wandered around for a bit more in the Village to digest. I’m not sure if I digested very much since I had major butterflies of anticipation over what was coming next: my cupcake tour!! We checked out some shops and mostly just people watched. The boy makes the best comments about strangers that he would never say to anyone’s face. After we felt like we could nosh again, we started the cupcake tour. What a fantastic event for me. I had put a lot of thought into it and knew which places I wanted to go to. I wanted to avoid tourist traps with dry cake like Magnolia and I wanted to make sure that each place would take me on a round trip walk of about 3-5 miles to hopefully burn off a few scraps of frosting. After a lot of planning, reading reviews, making up my mind and then changing it again, I was ready. Map in hand, we set off to find the first shop called Chikalicious Dessert Bar.

Banana and Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

View of the ganache in the middle of the Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

First up was the triple chocolate cupcake. This was a chocolate cake with a dark ganache center with chocolate buttercream frosting. Holy wow. I promised myself I wouldn’t eat the whole thing and promptly broke my promise. The ganache center was amazing. My only complaints were with the frosting to cake ratio and the temperature. I would have liked more frosting but the size of the cupcake (reasonable, not too large) and the ganache made up for it. The cake itself was a little too warm and the frosting was kind of melted because of that. Ranking: #3.

Banana and Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Banana and Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Second on the list and choosen by the boy was the banana cupcake. This was so awesome. It was like really moist banana bread with cream cheese frosting. It was like the banana version of carrot cake, essentially. The cake itself wasn’t as dense as banana bread which was what made it awesome. Ranking: #4.

Red Velvet Cupcake

Red Velvet Cupcake

After filling our bellies at Chikalicious, we took off on foot to a shop called Pinisi Bakery for their famous red velvet cupcake. This cupcake was a huge letdown because it looked fantastic but tasted awful. You could only taste the cream cheese frosting which wasn’t even sweet enough. NONE of the red velvet cake taste came through. The cupcake itself was too large to really be a cupcake and it was also cold. Who refrigerates cupcakes? Ugh. I’m sure I could have gotten a better cupcake at Magnolia. This was a ‘one bite to the trash’ cupcake. Ranking: #7.

Pumpkin Cupcake and Black & White...Just Right

Pumpkin Cupcake and "Black & White...Just Right"

Weighed down with wasted calories and disappointment from Pinisi Bakery, I anxiously made my way to Sugar Sweet Sunshine. I was expecting the best from this place and they did not let me down. When I walked in, I was drawn to the display case (pictured above) and almost ordered one of each. I knew I had to make choices, though, so I carefully picked out a few I hoped would be winners. First up was a cupcake called “Black & White…Just Right”. I know that’s the actual name but I went for the one with the blue tinted frosting because it looked more fun (and reminded me of blueberries). This was a chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and it actually was “just right”. The frosting to cake ratio was PERFECT. It had a few sprinkles but not so many that it altered the taste of the frosting or the texture. The cake was moist and the temperature was the best of the bunch. Cool but not cold. Loved it. No complaints for this classic cupcake. Ranking: #2.

The boy happily noshed on (and shared) the pumpkin cake which had the perfect blend of fall spices and we really enjoyed it even though it was 90 degrees outside. It was paired with cream cheese icing which was a million times better than the cream cheese frosting on the red velvet cupcake. I found the cake part to be a little dry but the boy really seemed to love it. Ranking: #5.

Pistachio Cupcake

Pistachio Cupcake

The next in the bunch was pistachio. I ordered the pistachio as an afterthought because I really wanted two more cupcaked from Sugar Sweet Sunshine but I didn’t want to load up on chocolate since the boy won’t share chocolate with me. I figured pistachio would be a choice we could both enjoy. This was easily the best cupcake choice I’ve ever made. This was, hands down, the best cupcake I’ve ever had in my life. The buttercream frosting was simple vanilla with some crushed pistachios sprinkled on top. The cake itself was moist and full of pistachio flavour. I don’t know how they did it! It tasted like they would have needed to create their own pistachio extract for this. The cake was pretty, too. It was green!🙂 Ranking: #1.

Lemon Yummy Cupcake

Lemon Yummy Cupcake

Finally, we had the Lemon Yummy cupcake. This was surprisingly good and tasting very much of lemon but sickeningly sweet. I’m not sure if anyone could finish more than a few bites of this cupcake. The flavour was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but it was like lemon and sugar overload. It would have been much better as a mini-cupcake where you take one or two bites to the finish. The cupcake looked really pretty but, sadly, the top layer of the frosting had gotten slightly hard so I couldn’t lick a part of it off with my finger. Ranking: #6.

Sadly, I could not make it to the last bakery on the tour, Butter Lane. Now I have unfinished cupcake business in NYC, though, so I know I will be back. After all the cupcakes, we made our way back to Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza to go to The Top of the Rock observation deck where we had some great views of the park and the rest of the city. We spent some time shooting photos, goofing around and digesting. We walked around for a bit after that to do some shopping (I bought two new shirts!) and then went back to the hotel to get ready for EMP. As mentioned above, EMP deserves it’s own post and is 95% of the reason Saturday was the best food day of my life.

NYC – Friday – Street Food and Pizza

•May 23, 2009 • 2 Comments

Getting to NYC was a slight pain in the ass since we insisted on doing it as cheaply as possible. We took the $1 Megabus from Philadelphia to NYC in order to save the $90 we would have spent on the train. The deal with Megabus is almost too good to be true. If you book well enough in advance, you really do get your tickets for $1 plus a 50 cent processing fee. A round trip ticket for one person from Philly to NYC comes out to $3! It was a great choice…until we got to the Lincoln Tunnel and traffic was backed up for miles. It took an extra hour to get into the city all while we sat on a clunky bus in traffic. That part wasn’t very fun especially since the boy and I couldn’t sit together. Oh well. We arrived a little later than planned and made our way to our hotel. After going in the wrong direction for a few stops on the subway line, we dusted ourselves off and switched over to “we know what we’re doing mode”. We found our hotel with no trouble after that. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott on the Upper East Side simply because we got the hotel incredibly cheap through Priceline. For those of you who have never used Priceline, it’s a web service that will allow you to bid on hotel rooms. You punch a price you’re willing to pay into their system and they will try to find a hotel for you that will accept your price. The only catch is that you don’t get to review the hotel before paying. Once a hotel accepts your bid, you’ve paid your listed price in full with no refunds. It’s a bit risky but it’s a great deal if you’re willing to be pretty low maintenance for the sake of saving a few hundred dollars. You also have to be willing to place your bid over and over every day until they stop rejecting it. In our case, our persistence paid off and we got the room for 70% off the rack rate! Score.

The only food cart in NYC with a line

The only food cart in NYC with a line

It was a very tame food day on Friday in NYC. All I wanted to do was hunt down this particular Halal food cart I’d heard rave reviews about for lamb and rice and also grab a slice of NY style pizza. The food cart was easy to find at 53rd and 6th, mostly because of the massive line. There are thousands of food carts in the city and this was the only one I saw with a line. I knew I was in the right place because people writing about the cart were very specific in their description of a plain cart with round containers and yellow bags. Apparently a bunch of other carts serving similar food cropped up in the same area and tried to make money off the success of this cart combined with the confusion of people trying to find it since it has no name or sign.

Lamb, Pita and Rice from THE Halal Cart on 53rd and 6th

Lamb, Pita and Rice from THE Halal Cart on 53rd and 6th

We ordered the mix combo which came with spiced long grain yellowish-orange rice, chunks of chicken meat, gyro meat, warm pita bread and some sad looking squares of iceberg lettuce. I’m sure the lettuce was there to add a splash of color and nothing more. I’m not sure if anyone eats the lettuce with all that lamb, rice and chicken goodness in the container. The lamb was the winner–it was amazing. It was perfectly cooked, cut and seasoned with a mixture of Middle Eastern spices. The food itself was served hot and the sauces that went with it were at standing temperature. My favourite! I hate it when cold sauces make hot food cold. This was such a delicious meal for both of us. I say that without the addition of “for a food cart” because this was exceptional street food and kicked the ass of many restaurants. I have no idea how to describe it other than that. It was so delicious that we were face down the whole time besides saying “Oh my god, wow!” every so often and forgot to take pictures. The picture above was stolen from the web. (Bad girl, I know.)

The dish came with two sauces, as mentioned–a white sauce and a red sauce. The white sauce tasted a bit like a mix between Donair sauce and ranch dressing. It was perfect with the lamb but especially with the chicken which needed a little punch of flavor. The red sauce was most likely spit from Satan himself. It was hotter than hell! I put a tiny drop on my tongue and it instantly burst into flames. The white sauce was very cooling and enjoyable so we mixed that into the plate and chowed down.

We toured around Times Square, saw a movie being filmed with Nicholas Cage, walked along Broadway, etc. Standard stuff. I got some pictures with some sailors, as some of you know.🙂 It was Fleet Week in NYC when we were there! Woo! After checking out the sights in Times Square and around Rockefeller Plaza, we grabbed a slice of pizza from a shop called Delizia on 92nd on the Upper East Side close to our hotel. We shared a slice of white pizza with ricotta, mozzarella, pecorino romano, tomatoes and basil and a square Sicilian slice of what they called “grandma’s pizza”. Bothwere delicious but the white pizza was better. Sadly I didn’t get photos of the pizza, either. We ended up being distracted by the guys sitting next to us who were very friendly guys from the neighborhood. They started chatting with us over our pizza and the camera had been forgotten.