a hat tip to wd~50

Yesterday evening, the final meal was served at wd~50. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get seats for one of the final meals, which looked like a wonderful way to close out the restaurant’s over eleven and a half year run. I was lucky enough to get to go once back in February 2012, when T and I were celebrating our first anniversary. I never posted about it since even though the food and majority of the service was outstanding, our actual waiter for the evening was the worst I’ve ever experienced. It was one of the most innovative meals I’ve ever had – very varied in composition and featuring so many plays on the food that even in looking at the menu, I wasn’t expecting. Regardless though, looking back through the photos, it was quite a meal. I actually found the full paired tasting menu still sitting in my email drafts, so seems fitting to share it now. We didn’t do the pairings, but I’m leaving the details in the listing.

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Hamachi, lychee-buttermilk, asparagus, cashew
Cremant d’Alsace Brut Reserve Francois Baur NV (Alsace, France)

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Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese
Cremant d’Alsace Brut Reserve Francois Baur NV (Alsace, France)

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Foie-lafel
Riesling Belle Pente 2006 (Willamette Valley, Oregon)

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Poached egg in the shell, pumpernickel, caesar dressing, bean sprouts
Assyrtiko Koutsoyiannopoulos 2009 (Santorini, Greece)

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Sweet shrimp, miso noodles, chicory, yuzu
Rosé ‘Ròdon’ Le Fraghe 2010 (Veneto, Italy)

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Monkfish, smoked barley, beet-mustard, nori
Mencia ‘Dargo’ Raul Pérez 2009 (Bierzo, Spain)

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Quail, chartreuse yogurt, turnip, nutmeg
Mencia ‘Dargo’ Raul Pérez 2009 (Bierzo, Spain)

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Lamb loin, ‘red beans & rice,’ chayote squash
Shiraz ‘Gundagai’ Eden Road 2010 (Gundagai, Australia)

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Mango, sake caramel, yoghurt, cashew

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Menthol, ginger, pomelo, chamomile
Muscat ‘Samos Nectar’ U.W.C.S. 2002 (Samos, Greece)

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Milk chocolate, black bean, plantain, soy, peanut
Porto Noval Black NV (Douro, Portugal)

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Rice krispy treats

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wd~50 – 50 Clinton Street (between Stanton & Rivington) – Closed

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brunchx2 at the dutch

Back in December, I went to brunch with my sister to celebrate her birthday before we went to the Pink show. I sent over a bunch of options, but she came up with her own idea – The Dutch. I had been curious for a long time about The Dutch but kept forgetting to go. Problem solved. It was a day where light snow was coming in, a common occurrence for me, food, and SoHo.

I was having a hard time making a choice when it came to the menu, as there are so many great options. There is a crispy whole grain waffle, apple, maple-bourbon, and pecans. And then there’s the soft scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, trout roe, and a bagel. Or what about the shrimp and kimchi fried rice served with two eggs and grilled pork belly? So much awesome, only one plate.

When it came time to make a choice, I was thankful to not have to! As is often the case, my sister and I chose to go the “best of both worlds” route, mixing savory and sweet. First, we got the hot fried chicken served with honey butter biscuits and slaw. Fellow brunch splitters rest assured – the dish comes with two biscuits!

And for our sweet option, we had the cornmeal flapjacks, which were served with salted butter and blueberry syrup. The cornmeal made for an interesting addition – it made it a bit more savory than your typical pancake, as did the lovely salt they added to the butter. I really liked the blueberry syrup, which was nice and sweet but not that super sugary version you often find with syrup. Nicely done.

On New Year’s Day, I found myself back over in the area with a group of girlfriends. When the restaurant we had a reservation at was closed (I’ll be kind and leave them unnamed but restaurants accepting reservations when they’re closed is the worst), I found myself back at The Dutch. I was again torn by what to order (even more so having had the magical mix). Thankfully another friend wanted to order the same mix. What can I say – fried chicken, honey biscuits, and cornmeal flapjacks. It’s just magical.

The Dutch – 131 Sullivan Street (@ Prince Street) – 212.677.6200
Reservations Recommended

4 course dinner at ai fiori

Earlier this week, I sat down and went through Zagat’s listing of NYC’s 100 Best Restaurants. It turned out I’d been to 19 of the 100, and I was excited to realize that our team’s dinner with our team at Federated Media would not only mean an evening of great conversation, but also bring me up to 20! I’d always been curious about Ai Fiori. I’m sure I’ve walked by countless times never realizing that’s where it was.

We were in the back room, with a very official door sealing our group off from the rest of the restaurant. We had a special menu from which to choose one of two selections for each of our four courses. To start, I had the Insalata di Astice – which was Nova Scotia lobster, charred corn salad, and ricotta salata. This was a nice thing to see as I feel like we’re bidding adieu to lobster until warmer weather returns. It’s like Ai Fiori knew I am not quite ready to see it go.

For the pasta course, I had the Pansotti di Anatra, which was duck confit parcels, romanesco, parmesan, and lemon. It was nice to have duck in pasta form. Sometimes a full entree of just duck can become overwhelming. Having it not only in smaller bites but also if being confit made it a lighter take on duck, and the parmesean was a nice touch.

When it came to choosing an entree, I was intrigurd by a halibut option but ultimately just had to go with the Tagliata, whcih was a prime dry aged strip loin, endive, potato terrine, “cacio e pepe,” balsamico, and bordelaise. The meet was super tender, and the endive ended up being a perfect paring. If it was possible to choose to get a portion size along these lines off of the main menu, I think I’d order much more red meat. Just perfect.

For dessert, I elected to skip the chocolate and instead try the Panna Cotta, which was served with blackberries, grapes, and a very light sorbet. It ended up being a perfect finale and was a nice balance to the meat dish preceding it. I’ve been underwhelmed by panna cottas as of late, but this one was spot on.

Overall it was a wonderful evening, much worth of their spot on Zagat’s listing. Ai Fiori is a fabulous spot for a special occasion dinner (or just a special treat, as well).

Ai Fiori – 400 5th Avenue, 2nd Level – 212.613.8660
Reservations Required

sunset special menu at firefly

Last week was filled with lots of sleep, early bedtimes, hours of hours of prime beach time, and footwear consisting of variations on sandals. The weather was gorgeous – few if any clouds in the sky, and no rain to be seen anywhere.

One day, we chose to head over to Panama City Beach from Destin, primarily in order to check out a restaurant called Firefly that my parents love. The trip was quick and, as I’d been warned, the restaurant was actually tucked into a generic looking strip mall. This place is supposed to be really nice?

Once I walked through the door, it was like a totally different world than where we’d just been outside. They have a portion focused on sushi off to the left of the entrance. You walk through the bar area before you reach the main dining area. In the center, there’s a grand magnolia tree, with branches extending over the surrounding tables. There’s additional seating bordering the main floor, slightly elevated with a great view as well of the twinkle-light adorned tree.

We came early for their sunset special menu, a menu I understand used to be offered 5-7pm – a window that’s since been reduced to end instead at 6:30. Entrees come with a house salad, soup of the day, a chicken, tomato & rice soup, or, for a small additional charge, you can get their she crab soup. Seeing as they’re known for the soup, I had to try it. It did not disappoint. The crab was in such small pieces that it almost melted into the creamy soup. You can even add a drizzle of sherry on top tableside, if you so choose.

For my main course, I tried their shrimp and crab newberg, which was shallots garlic, tri-colored peppers, and sherry cream over jalapeño cheddar corn bread. In hindsight, picking a cream-based dish to accompany a cream-based soup was probably not the wisest of choices. The dish was quite good though, featuring large shrimp and much more prominent chunks of crab than the soup. Other choices included sesame tuna, stuffed chicken, medallions of beef tenderloin, salmon, and crab cakes.

For dessert, my mom and I tried their white chocolate crème brûlée, which was actually fired table side. I’m not sure it made an actual difference in the flavor – perhaps it’s a mental thing, but I would have sworn it had an even smokier flavor as a result. My dad had their warm seasonal bread pudding, which looked delicious and was quite a healthy portion (read: perfect for sharing!).

Overall, it was a great first experience at Firefly and highly recommend checking them out should you find yourself in the area.

Firefly
535 Richard Jackson Blvd, Panama City, Florida – 850.249.3359
Reservations Recommended

city grit’s tour of the 5 boroughs

When T asked if I wanted to catch one of the two “Tour of the Five Boroughs” dinners City Grit was putting on, it was a quick yes from me. I knew after my first experience for their PDX Comes to NYC dinner that I wanted to come back – it was just a question of when. Last night’s dinner was the second of two dinners to benefit the Tunnel to Towers Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund to help fund the rebuilding of Staten Island (with 50% of profits for both nights going to the cause). Sarah Simmons explained that the menu had been used previously during the year, but that she thought it was appropriate to use again as they were just reoccupying the kitchen post-storm and because it highlighted the various elements of the city.

City Grit

Our starter represented the Bronx and was a spicy sausage fondue served with pretzel roll crostini. When I saw pretzel roll crostini, I knew I was going to love this one. I’m a sucker for pretzel bread and this variation was a great start to the meal. It was a play on the various elements so prominent at baseball games – melted cheese (as in nachos), sausage, pretzels (slight variation from the big, soft form), and beer. The fondue was just a touch spicy. Having just come in from the chilly outside air, it was a nice way to settle into the meal.

Sausage and Beer Fondue - City Grit

Next, we had a spicy curry soup with soba noodles, representing Queens. It was topped with a kale salad and pickled vegetables. The curry soup was more of a nod to a recipe Sarah mentioned she’d learned to make in Africa, but the noodles were a nice nod to areas such as Flushing and to the diversity that one thinks of when thinking of Queens.

Spicy Curry Soup with Soba Noodles - City Grit

Then we were treated to a family style course – pesto lasagna with a shaved fennel salad, representing Staten Island. I’d never had a pesto lasagna –  but really enjoyed this version. It was on the lighter side for a lasagna (a compliement) with a very rich pesto flavor. The pasta was nicely balanced by the shaved fennel salad, which was very fresh and also light.

Pesto Lasagna with a Shaved Fennel Salad - City Grit  

Shaved Fennel Salad - City Grit

For our main course, we had Brooklyn Brewery chocolate stout short ribs with parmesean cream grits and braised collards. This dish was neither subtle or lacking in depth of flavors. The short ribs had a very smoky taste and the chocolate stout flavor was very prominent. The meat itself was fall of the bone tender and was flavorful throughout each bite. The grits were very different from any kind I have had before. I’m still doing a bit of research to try to figure out if it was perhaps a different type as it was slightly granier than any other grits I’ve ever had. They were definitely creamy and were a perfect contrast to the strong, bitter braised collards (so good).

Brooklyn Brewery Chocolate Stout Short Ribs with Parmesean Cheese Grits and Braised Collards - City Grit

Dessert was representative of Manhattan and was appropriately a complex assortment of fancy elements. It was a brown butter financier accompanied by a mango curd and streusel. There was also a thin chocolate bridge, representing the Brooklyn Bridge, topped by a truffle. I liked the presentation on the plate. The chocolate bridge was really a nice note to end on visually, and I liked being able to mix and match the various elements on the plate to try out the various flavor combinations. And the mango curd? I could eat this every day.

Brown Butter Financier with Mango Curd and Streusel - City Grit

It was another perfect night tucked into the cozy 70-seat dining room in an old school house in Nolita. Can’t wait to see what else passes through the doors and into this space in the comming months.

City Grit – 38 Prince Street
Reservations Required –  see website for future events

outdoor dinner at beast

Sunday’s weather made for a perfect night to finally try out Beast in Prospect Heights. Their outdoor seating isn’t plentiful, but we managed to catch it at just the right time – the brunch crowd having finished and the dinner crowd just starting to trickle in.

We ordered several things to share – the first no-brainer being their fried manchego cheese. When it came out it was just perfect – not too heavily breaded, nicely seasoned, warm, and gooey in the center. They source their cheeses from Stinky Bklyn and this selection did not disappoint.

Fried Manchego Cheese - Beast

Fried Manchego Cheese – Beast

We also went with their beet carpaccio – thinly sliced oven roasted beets, hearts of palm, and a goat cheese dressing. Fresh and simple, this dish was a perfect spring appetizer. The hearts of palm weren’t super flavorful, but they managed to add a nice crunch to the dish.

Beet Carpaccio - Beast

Beet Carpaccio – Beast

One of the daily specials was broccolini, prepared with crushed red pepper and pecorino cheese. Spicy broccoli is one of my favorites and the cheese sprinkled on top was a nice complement.

Broccolini - Beast

Broccolini – Beast

For our main, we had the marinated skirt steak with corn fritters, baby arugula, and a chipotle aioli. The steak was perfect – nice and pink at the center and nicely sliced into thin slices. The corn fritters were great and paired nicely with the steak. Only improvement would be if they were a bit thinner. I thought the aioli brought a nice flavor to the mix, but there was a lot of it on the meat. A little less and that fabulous steak would have been able to shine through even more!!

Citrus-Marinated Skirt Steak - Beast

Citrus-Marinated Skirt Steak – Beast

I’ve heard great things about their sticky toffee pudding, which I didn’t get to try. I’ve read people say they come here just to get this dessert, so it’s high on my must try list at the moment. Service was super attentive and the food fresh. They change up the menu often so I’ll definitely be returning back to this spot in the future!

Beast – 638 Bergen Street (at Vanderbilt Avenue) – 718.399.6855

light mex at agave

Several weeks back, okay probably more like months at this point, it was finally that first night where it’s warm enough to sit outside. Actually, to sit outside with a frozen drink even! We’d chosen to try Agave in the West Village based on our plans to see the documentary on Candy Darling at the IFC Film Center (fascinating film, by the way) and my pleasant experience there ages ago once for brunch. To start, we tried their frozen pomegranate margarita, which wasn’t overwhelmingly tart. Nice start.
Pomegranate Margarita - Agave

Pomegranate Margarita - Agave

We then opted for their guacamole, which they kindly allowed us to spice up. The presentation was very attractive, with the guacamole overflowing out of a small tortilla shell. However, I did notice the portion size was a bit on the small side due to the container. Just an observation. The blue tortilla chips were a nice change.
Guacamole - Agave

Guacamole - Agave

For my main course, I had their crab quesadilla. The portion size was just right, but I learned a lesson not specific to Agave that I just need to accept and move on. To me, crab just never works out in Mexican/Latin meals. Crab enchiladas I’ve had? Just not quite right. Something about the flavor of the meat mixed with the Mexican spices and sauces just combines to make something henceforth I’ll be skipping.
Blue Crab Quesadillas - Agave

Blue Crab Quesadillas - Agave

Overall, service was great and the food was fresh and flavorful. While I wouldn’t say I was blown away, good solid spot if you’re looking for somewhere to book in the West Village with outdoor seating, extensive menu, and reservations for larger groups. And next time, I’ll remember crabs and Mexican food? Shouldn’t be friends.

Agave – 140 7th Ave South (b/w 10th St & Charles St) – 212.989.2100
Reservations Recommended