winner, winner chicken (and bubbles) dinner

I was just reading about Sarah Simmons’ new restaurant, Birds and Bubbles, as I received an invite from N to go check it out during her recent trip to NYC in September. The wait to get a prime time seat was a bit on the longer side, so I felt super lucky that my friend from Detroit was so on top of the Manhattan food scene. I went to one of Simmons’ City Grit dinners back in 2012 and had been planning on coming back. This was a good alternative!

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When T and I arrived, they had already been seated and were perusing the fabulous menu. The selection of bubbles to accompany your order is extensive. We had the H. Billiot Fils Brut Rose, which was a raspberry rose that was amazing. The list on their website gives you an idea.

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They started with an order of deviled eggs. I didn’t have any (not a fan) but as I have always heard, the verdict was that they were amazing (especially the flavor added by the sriracha flakes).

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For main course, we ordered several of the winner, winner, chicken dinners – which is a whole chicken, three sides, and a bread basket. They tried to dissuade us from ordering two for our party of six, especially since one was ordering their own dish, but we insisted. Note: their leftovers reheat fabulously, and make a perfect dish to bring to potluck brunch the next day. Just saying…

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The chicken itself was outstanding. Not greasy at all. The breading was not very thick and was slightly crispy, just the way it should be. Being from the South, you could say I am a bit picky when it comes to Southern food, but knowing Simmons’ North Carolina roots and passion for fried chicken, I did not expect anything but the best.

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For sides, the grits were good. The green chiles were a nice addition. I was not a big fan of the vidalia onion soufflé. It was somewhat runny and soggy. It was the only low point out of the dishes on the table. For me, the unexpected winner of the entire meal was the slaw. Slaw, you say? Yes, slaw! I’m not usually a big fan of slaw, usually avoiding it. This slaw though is amazing. Definitely a must have on the menu. The buttermilk biscuits were definitely the star of the bread basket, but I pretty much knew at buttermilk.

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For dessert, I highly recommend the banana pudding. It’s a perfect balance of savory (touch of salt) and sweet. It’s enough for two if you’re looking for a smaller dessert option. So good. We went shortly after the restaurant opened, which is likely why the service was on the slower side. I look forward to going back again to check it out again in the future.

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Much thanks to Ms. N on the reservation!

Birds and Bubbles – 100B Forsyth Street (b/w Grand and Broome Street) – 646.368.9240
Reservations Required

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

les turned hamptions at grey lady

I’ll admit that I randomly opt in for lots if Urban Daddy and Thrillist specials. I try to remember to check and see if they have appalling reviews but, more often than not, when friends email wanting to go, I’m in. Especially if it’s a good offer. And chances are if, like this one, it involves lobster – I’m in.

Grey Lady - Lower East Side

Grey Lady – Lower East Side

It wasn’t until I was sitting in Grey Lady that I realized why it was so oddly familiar. A quick peek on the Googles confined what I suspected – this was the old White Slab Palace space. A place that served generic cocktails with an inflated pricetag that tried way too hard. It was quite different to see it now as such a bright space. I mean, I could actually see my friends’ faces – though to be fair, it was all of noon on a Saturday. The feel of the restaurant was crisp yet cozy. I felt like I was in the Hamptons. Mission accomplished without requiring the LIRR. 

Dark and Stormy - Grey Lady

Dark and Stormy – Grey Lady

The special included a brunch main and unlimited cocktails for $35. For cocktails, you could choose from filling your glass with a mimosa, bloody mary, or dark and stormy. I started with a mimosa, which was good but standard, before progressing to the dark and stormy. Warning – that one means business.

Lobster Roll - Grey Lady

Lobster Roll – Grey Lady

For mains, it wasn’t a true choice as far as I was concerned. I knew coming in that it was all about the lobster roll. On their regular menu, that alone will set you back $25. The preparation was simple. There’s a buttered split top roll. Lobster was plentiful – check out this claw meat! Mayo was light – just like I prefer it to be. It’s paired with a light portion of potato chips and a celery salad. Summer on a plate!

I’d like to come back and check out their dinner menu. In the meantime if you’re like me and are not quite ready to let summer go, add this one into your rotation. It’s almost like you’re at the beach. Almost.

Grey Lady – 77 Delancey Street (at Allen Street) – 646.580.5239

return to rayuela

Always love to see a place deliver the same level of service and quality each time I return as I experienced on my first visit. Last night I went with a friend of mine and her boyfriend back to Rayuela. We started with their ceviche special – seven types of seafood, including grilled octopus, shrimp, and lobster. It was prepared with coconut milk and was deliciously fresh.

Rayuela, LES - before the crowd arrived

Rayuela, LES - before the crowd arrived

This time for my main course I went with the Cochinillo en Tamarindo, a tamarind-seasoned baby pork chop, ginger pumpkin purée, spicy sausage, apple pear escabeche, with Oaxaca mole. So many strong flavors that mixed together into one wonderful dish.

Cochinillo en Tamarindo - Rayuela

Cochinillo en Tamarindo - Rayuela

Paella de Concha - Rayuela

Paella de Concha - Rayuela

Rayuela – 165 Allen Street (b/t Rivington & Stanton) – 212.253.8840
Reservations Recommended

romantic tapas at rayuela

Clearly in keeping with my trend to visit romantic restaurants on girl’s night outs, I recently went one Saturday to Rayuela in the Lower East Side. I found the decor refreshing yet simplistic from the moment we walked through the door. The bar area was small on the right-hand side before you enter the main dining area, which continues up a set of stairs to a second level. There are a few white curtains and candles were lit throughout. Nice and elegant.

As much as I am usually a proponent of solo dining, I’d recommend this be a place you go with at least another person with you. Many of the plates are intended to be served tapas style and even those which are main courses can be easily split between two or among more if you want to be able to try more of the menu. I had read much of Rayuela’s inventive cocktail menu, but in the end it was the sangria that caught our eye. The blanca contained mint, limes, sugarcane juice, and Brugal Anejo. I always love to try sangria. No matter how many times I try it out places, it’s always different. I prefer white to red, even though I oftentimes find it too sweet. This was just the right touch of sweet, without being too sweet. It almost tasted like sangria trying to masquerade as a mojito. Highly recommend that if you come here, you consider giving this a try ($10/glass or $36/pitcher). Continue reading

clinton st baking company – pancake month!

Chocolate & Blood Orange Pancakes - Clinton St Baking Co

Chocolate & Blood Orange Pancakes - Clinton St Baking Co

For those of you in NYC, if you haven’t already seen me tweeting right and left about this, it’s Clinton Street Baking Company’s annual pancake month. Ahhh the pros of February. Doesn’t sound appealing yet? What about chocolate & blood orange pancakes with a candied orange glaze? No (well, I thought they were yummy)? How about fresh blackberries, pecan streusel, and warm maple butter? Or maybe chocolate chunks, fresh raspberries, and raspberry-caramel sauce is more your speed?

At any rate, we’ve still go over half of the month to go. Check out their pancake line-up over on the main page of their website. They offer their pancakes in the evening, which means you can escape the crazy lines you inevitably encounter when you try Clinton Street during brunch hours (oh no – don’t do it!). At night, you can either go with their pancake of the day or their yummy staple, blueberry pancakes. Note they’re open during the week from 8am – 4pm with a couple of hours break before reopening at 6pm. Be sure not to miss out on the paper baggies sitting on the table close to the hostess stand when you leave. Complimentary scones from that day’s breakfast makes a wonderful treat for the following day!

Clinton Street Baking Company – 4 Clinton Street (at East Houston) – 646.602.6263
No Reservations
Pancake month runs all through February!

dish buzz: cafe katja

Menu - Cafe Katja

Menu - Cafe Katja

I’ve wanted to try Cafe Katja since they opened (I recalled it being recent, though I learned they’ve actually been there about 2 years now) but somehow have never made my way there. Perhaps because I knew it was supposed to be small, is most known as a spot to hit later at night, and nothing makes me more cranky than trying to grab a bite to eat late at night when you’re ready to get down to business and being asked to wait. My typically scant patience really becomes nonexistent at that point.

Somehow though on this particular Thursday evening, we were on our way back from Obliterati at R Bar, one of the final big social blow-outs for Social Media Week NYC and were very close to Orchard Street – so I recommended we try to stop in. It was around 10:30pm, and the seating area was packed. However, the server was quick to state repeatedly that they could easily accommodate our table of five if we could hang tight a few minutes. We did, it came to pass, and we were soon seated in the prime seat in the main window for the restaurant. The restaurant has a nicer menu, but is essentially an Austian bar tiptoeing to that restaurant line, not prepared to give up the character to fully cross. Perfect for a late night stop. Continue reading