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Archive for the ‘lunch out’ Category

Eleven Madison Park

I decided to take Jenn out for an early birthday lunch, as she was visiting NYC. Ever since Frank Buni upgraded Eleven Madison Park to a four-star rating, I had been wanting to try it out. So, I made a reservation and there we were alongside businessmen and ladies who lunch.

The meal was flawless, as was the slightly-over-attentive service. Having not eaten at a four-star NYC restaurant, I don’t have any means of comparison, but Eleven Madison Park definitely felt like one.

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Our meal began with two amuses: Gruyere puffs and a plate of salmon-stuffed cucumber and mayonnaise-dipped mini radishes. Gruyere is my favorite cheese, and the puffs were light, hot, and wonderful. They were small bites of perfection. Even the radishes, tiny as they were, were packed with flavor and had a pleasing bite to them.

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Next came the bread, a choice of two types of mini baguettes: plain and olive. We each sampled both. I’m not a huge fan of olives, but I couldn’t stop eating the crunchy-crusted treasures.

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For my first course I had the farro, which came in a light creamy broth with corn and chanterelles. I was formally introduced to farro, an ancestor of wheat, while interning at the Food Network and have been in love with it ever since. When cooked correctly, it has more of a bite to it than rice and this heartiness is exactly why I love it. Paired with the mushrooms and corn, this dish managed to elevate the somewhat pedestrian grain to a haute level. The creaminess around it was delicious, and I found myself wishing it was socially acceptable to lick your plate.

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Jenn started with the octopus salad, which was mostly salad greens with some well-placed morsels of the grilled cephalopods. I had a bite of the octopus and it was tender on the inside, lightly-charred on the outside, as good as it gets.

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Moving on the main courses, Jenn’s pork dish arrived, plated like a true work of art.  There were two pieces of pork, one larger chunk and the other what we came to call a “pork cake,” which Jenn was gushing about as she ate it.

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I went with the bouillabaisse, which came with red snapper, mussels, and squid in a delicate tomato-based soup. The potatoes alone, cooked to perfection, were enough to win me over. Needless to say, the seafood was also excellently prepared, and delicious.

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We shared two desserts, the linzer torte and a blueberry tart. I hadn’t been to a restaurant with a dessert cart since the churrascarias of Brazil, which are not necessarily bastions of high-end cuisine. But, our server managed to make even a dessert cart, with its vanilla cream that he so artfully smeared onto both plates, synch with the vibe of Eleven Madison. Both desserts were good, well-executed, but not the highlights of the meal.

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Before the check came a plate of colorful petit macarons, all different flavors. We were stuffed, but tried of few bites. My favorite was the passion fruit (yellow).

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Four star dining is easy to love. Being doted on by more wait staff than there are people at your table is a nice treat, though I’m not one who allows service to make or break a dining experience. For me it is all about the food, and Eleven Madison Park lived up to its reputation and then some. I hope to some day return for dinner, I’m sure it’s an even more elaborate affair. Until then, I can sit and daydream about Gruyere puffs, mini baguettes, and some of the best sauces I’ve had on food, perhaps ever.

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Eleven Madison Park in New York

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We decided to spend Dave’s last week before school in Vermont with my parents. Having only seen the town of Waitsfield under several inches of snow, I was pleasantly surprised at how charming it is. I had made it my goal to cook a lot while in Vermont, to get back on track after our California trip. That said, we did eat out a few times to explore the local offerings. Our first full day there we had a lovely lunch at The Green Cup.

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We took a table outside (Kuma was with us) and I went inside to order. I was about to order a sandwich, when I saw the frittata of the day sitting on the counter. Filled with potatoes, tomatoes, and leafy greens, it called out to me. It did not disappoint. I am used to frittatas with a higher ratio of eggs to vegetables, but was happy that this one was mostly potatoes and greens.

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Everyone else went with hot pressed sandwiches. My mom had the Thai style shrimp, mint leaves, cabbage kimchi, and chili marinated radish. From bite one she could not stop raving about it. In fact, my parents went back a few days later and both got this sandwich. My dad ordered his go-to: chicken salad (not pictured).

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Dave had an avocado, Vermont bacon, romaine lettuce, and tomato sandwich. Do you see Kuma’s head? Always begging for food that dog; finding him in this photo made me smile.

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We ended the meal with another treat I saw when I was inside: a hearty slice of peach cake. We all shared it, though Dave and I did the bulk of the cake eating. It was dense, buttery, and just what I wanted. Savory and sweet, I can’t have one without the other.

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Kyotofu

As part of  Columbia Business School’s orientation, Dave and I (along with our friend Maria, the wife of a CBS student in Dave’s class) took a group of incoming students’ spouses and partners out to lunch. We decided on Kyotofu, a place we have been wanting to try for a while. Owned by a friend of Dave’s cousin, the small restaurant built its reputation serving dessert and has since expanded its savory menu. The menu focuses on the use of fresh, organic ingredients and many dishes (especially the desserts) contain tofu.

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Most lunch dishes come with the choice of soup or salad. I went with the salad and was very happy when it arrived filled with mizuna, my favorite green of the moment. The dressing was light and refreshing. Dave went with the soup, carrot-miso.

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Dave ordered the chicken and tofu burger which came with a side of purple potato chips. He proclaimed, “it tastes better than it sounds.”

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I went with the barbequed unagi, pieces of eel wrapped in phyllo dough. When I read this dish on the menu I was excited as it sounded like my favorite dish on the menu at Matsuri, my go-to Japanese restaurants for special occasions. The portion was smaller than I was expecting, but that was fine as it left me with more room for dessert…

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To say that the desserts at Kyotofu are good is a huge understatement. They are beautifully presented, delicious, and the portions are quite generous. What more could you ask for in a dessert. Above is the passionfruit tofu cheesecake ordered by one of the women at the lunch.

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Dave went with their signature dessert, the chocolate souffle cupcake, voted best cupcake by New York Magazine. (They even printed the recipe. I have it saved at home but have yet to try making them.) The cupcake, which also comes in chocolate green tea, comes with a dollop of cream on top and a side of mixed berry compote. On their own, the cupcakes are delicious, with the cream and compote, outstanding.

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I had the soymilk soft ice cream sundae which comes with the compote as well as pieces of mochi and some sweetened cream. This dessert satisfied the frozen dessert lover in me and then some. The ice cream was cold, creamy, and paired superbly with the compote. If I had one complaint it was that the mochi was too gelatinous and not at all the right texture.

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Someone else ordered the sorbet trio which was a sampling of various tropical flavors. It came with some okara cookies.

Kyotofu is worth the trip to Hell’s Kitchen. Have lunch or dinner, whichever you prefer, but make sure that you save the bulk of your stomach for dessert.

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Kyotofu in New York

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The best lunch we had our entire trip had to be at Pizzeria Mozza in LA. Started by Mario Batali, the pizza joint is small and bright; reservations are a must. Aside from the fact that the woman seating us had some major attitude (making us wait unnecessarily long when our table was visibly ready), lunch was perfection.

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We dined with my friend from high school, Justine, and the pizza was the perfect compliment to our gossiping and catching up.

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We started by sharing a salad of arugula, parmesan, and mushrooms. I’m not a huge fan of raw mushrooms, but the dressing and combination of arugula and cheese were just right. It was also visually stunning.

The pizza was divine. The best I’ve had since we went to Grimaldi’s last year. The bottom crust is paper thin and crispy while the outer rim is puffy and chewy. This combination is everything that I look for in a pizza. Coupled with delicious toppings, there’s no going wrong.

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Dave had prosciutto and fresh arugula on his pizza. I had mushrooms. The mushrooms were smoky and tender, sprinkled with some fresh parmesan, I was in pizza-eating heaven.

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For dessert we all shared the house made gelato. We each chose one flavor and wound up with espresso (Dave’s choice), mint chip (mine), and vanilla (Justine’s). Mint chip is my favorite flavor of frozen dessert, and this one did not disappoint. The mint flavor was strong and pure, nothing artificial there. The wafer that came in the gelato was also great–light and crisp. A sweet end to a perfect lunch.

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Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles

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The lobster roll seems to be the “in” dish this summer. From the much lauded one you can get at the Brooklyn Flea (I’ve yet to get my hands on one), to the great sandwich I had at Mermaid Inn, they are everywhere. I guess that’s summer in NYC. My parents, Dave, and I went to Bouchon Bakery the other afternoon after seeing Julie and Julia. They had a lobster roll special which came on a whole wheat brioche bun; everyone but my dad ordered it. I thought the bun was fabulous, the whole wheat creating a density that you don’t normally get in brioche. The lobster, topped with herbs and pickled onions, was good too (I wondered aloud whether it was leftovers from Per Se, where they only get the freshest, highest quality animals). Dave thought the lobster had a bit too many herbs and preferred the simpler, larger-chunked lobster from the Mermaid Inn. I agreed with him, but the Buchon one was not too shabby.

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Apologies

I am sorry for letting a week pass without posting, that is inexcusable. I have been caught up in so many exciting things–NYC Restaurant Week, booking my tickets for the New York City Wine & Food Festival, making SO much ice cream, more on that later–that the time has flow by. Oh, and my Blackberry broke (and I have been awaiting my new one for the past few days, long story). Life without a cell phone/electronic calendar has been strangely liberating, but I do feel as though time is standing still and I never know where I’m supposed to be or who I’m supposed to be meeting for dinner. I digress…

I kicked off this summer’s restaurant week with a lunch a Lupa with some friends from culinary school.

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We didn’t wind up ordering off of the restaurant week menu; each of us ordered a few of the small plates. I had the broccoli rabe (far left) and octopus (second and third from left). The broccoli rabe was mixed with ricotta and garnished with some lemon zest which went well with the bitterness of the greens. The octopus was cooked perfectly, its texture nice and tender, but I found the sauce to be a bit too creamy. I prefer my octopus grilled with a simple drizzle of olive oil. Not to mention the rosemary focaccia that was put on the table, just divine.

Kristen’s beets (far right) were superb, and she seemed to like her tuna with white beans (second from right) which I didn’t try. The best dish of the afternoon, however, was an escarole salad that Clare ordered (not pictured). It was cheesy and delicious with a wonderfully light dressing. Sadly we didn’t sample any of what they are famous for: charcuterie. But, I know I’ll be back, perhaps for dinner next time.

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Lupa in New York

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Saskatoon. What can I say but you can’t go wrong eating in a town named after a berry.

Nancy (a friend from culinary school) and I arrived in Saskatoon on Friday afternoon (Dave was to arrive the next morning). The reason for our trip was the wedding of Lene (who was also in our class), but, in the meantime, we were excited to eat our way through the small Canadian city. In the cab ride from the airport to the hotel our taxi driver informed us that the Taste of Saskatchewan food festival was going on right by our hotel. It’s like they knew we were coming.

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At the hotel, we met up with Kristen (another classmate) and her husband Mike and struck out for the Taste of Saskatchewan. As tempting as the deep fried Oreos and Mars bars were, the highlight of the many food offerings was the frozen yogurt from Homestead Ice Cream.

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We all went with the Saskatoon berry flavor, our first taste of something made with the fruit that is the ctiy’s namesake. Plain frozen yogurt is scooped on the spot and mixed together with the frozen berries of your choice, leading to a wonderful marriage of creamy yogurt and chunky berries. After having tasted the raw berries (more on that later) I will say that they are similar to blueberries, but meatier, with a slightly grassy aftertaste. In the context of frozen yogurt, however, they are simply divine.

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Nancy and I also tasted some lime melon trout: a piece of local trout poached to have a lime flavor and served over a slice of watermelon; and some sweet potato fries with chili lime sauce. We didn’t know that the chili lime sauce was mayonnaise-based, but after we scooped most of it out into the trash, we were able to enjoy some of the best sweet potato fries I’ve had. They were light and airy and not too greasy, with a wonderful crispness to them.

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The next day, between the wedding and the reception, I took Dave to the Taste so that he could try some frozen yogurt. Before that, though, he indulged in some “bison on a bun”: thin strips of tender meat in a smoky barbecue sauce, served on a slider-sized bun.

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Dave gave it, “an eight out of ten”

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