I've just returned from my trip to NYC and wow, what a culinary extravaganza. I won't write too much, since it is New York and this blog is supposed to be dedicated to my dear Beantown, but I can't resist writing about the amazing food and drinks I tried.
So one thing I am in awe of in New York is how no matter where you are, there is some "hidden find" that is most of the time better than most restaurants in your average city. While New Yorkers consider them just their "local", visitors consider them totally destination-dining worthy.
First example. Arrived in Brooklyn late on Friday night and was immediately in need of some libations. Traveled probably about a total of 25 steps to Sample in Cobble Hill. Was a very long and narrow, darkly-lit bar with a smattering of votive candles. The idea behind "sample" is that you pick and choose tapas-style meats, cheeses, fishes, etc. to create a "sample" of foods you'd like to pick at. After awkwardly navigating the slightly-claustrophobic bar, and snagging a seat (probably the last two in the place), we immediately ordered drinks-- a sangria and a grey goose martini. The sangria was so refreshing (probably too refreshing; I drank it in all of 2 minutes). Since we had already eaten, we opted for the "cookie" plate, which was so cutely garnished with pistachio cotton candy! (that's another thing about New York-- all the great small details). We moved on to some also refreshing margaritas, which were tiiiiny (I'm going to say they are the same amount as two shots at Lucky's haha) Sample was definitely the type of restaurant you could find yourself sitting at for hours, continually ordering small drinks and food until you realize that oops, they are closing. It is so cozy and romantic and just the perfect neighborhood bar. However, the heat was turned up so high that my contacts were drying up! I had to leave, and gladly stumbled into the crisp New York night.
Whoops, already wrote a lot... But anyway, on Saturday had lunch at Jolie, also in Brooklyn, a small brasserie-type restaurant. Had (cliche alert) the croque monsieur, which was pretty much cheesy exctasy. Washed it down with a zingy Bloody Mary (Dish Gal's absolute favorite drink). On the way to the restaurant passed the apartment where Michelle Williams lives/Heath Ledger used to live... had flowers piled on the stoop.. quite sad and eery.
Anyway, moving on. Had dinner with my brother at Cafe Gray. I don't think I've ever had a dining experience in my whole life quite like this. (To put it in perspective, the last time he had eaten there, Iron Chef Morimoto was at the table next to him... and bowed to the chef on his way out). I started with a Sangria that was made with white wine, and garnished with dried cranberries and a fresh sprig of rosemary (there's that NY attention to detail again!). Every time I took a sip, my palate was struck by the constrasting flavors-- the white wine vs the rosemary. Exquisite.
After finagling a table with no reservations, we were escorted to a table where the waiter pulled my chair out for me as I sat down. This was just a hint of the superb service we received during the night. We had like 4 different servers! And one looked like he was the manager. But I digress.
We were started off with an amuse bouche. I love it. Felt like I was on Top Chef. God I wish I had Padma's job...
I started with tuna sashimi (take that, mercury !) that was a velvety thin sheet of red tuna, sitting atop a bed of chopped jicama with tiny breaded scallops and thin pieces of mint. Every bite was different, depending on what I picked up with my fork, and every bite was (to use a really lame phrase) a party in my mouth. The waiter selected my white wine for me to accompany this, which had, as my brother pointed out, notes of honey. It matched up perfectly.
I had the duck confit with saurkreut as my entree... It was so unusual tasting but so delicious. I can't even attempt to describe how it tasted for fear of doing it such terrible injustice. We decided to opt out of dessert, and the waiter kindly brought over a sampling of chocolate ganache and tiny little cookies. Gosh, why is it that the really expensive restaurants give out the fun free stuff? Oh right, because you just paid an exorbitant amount of money to eat there!
On our way back to Brooklyn, we made a stop off at Billy's, a bakery in Chelsea, for some cupcakes. My brother swears they are much better than the over-hyped Magnolia's Bakery, and while I've never tried Magnolia's, Billy's certainly swept me right off my feet with their buttercream frosting and soft and fluffy cake.
Ah, New York. How I love thee.