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Weekend Moments

Hi guys! I made another video of tiny moments of my weekend. I tried to keep each clip really short, so it would just be a kind of glimpse at things.

Details:

  • On Friday we met friends at Nubian Queen Lola’s for dinner. We shared gumbo with cornbread. I had the best fried catfish and shrimp with cabbage and yams, and Justin had the most awesome pork chop sandwich ever. Lola cooks and serves every dish herself. She sat down at our table to take our order, and each time we chose something, (“I’d like the cabbage, please”), she’d say, “Ooooh, you’re gonna love that.” She’s amazing.
  • After dinner we hopped over to the Volstead for drinks. Justin (the bartender) whipped up some lovely beverages for us. After that, E. and N. came to our place and I played bartender to them (I love making cocktails).
  • On Saturday, we spent the day reorganizing the kitchen and cleaning. Yuck.
  • Saturday night, we went to Foreign & Domestic for dinner. They were slammed – so many people! We sat at the counter (our favorite spot) and ate and ate and ate. Ned likes to play this game with us called “I will send you 800 dishes and laugh at you when you can’t finish them all.” We ordered two appetizers, two entrees, and one dessert, and ended up with four appetizers, two entrees, and three desserts. (Sigh, Ned.) We had beef tongue pastrami, white anchovy tartine, beef heart tartare, and pigs brains with huckleberries. Justin had the gnocchi with bacon and broccoli, and I had the redfish with sweet potato puree, rutabagas, and persillade. We shared Jodi’s chocolate trifle, topped with almond sherbet and a pomegranate macaroon. Then Ned sent out the banana tart and the cranberry and chocolate bread pudding. He’s so mean. We love him. :)
  • After dinner, we hopped over to Hotel San Jose for drinks with Jodi and friends, and then our friend J. and Ned popped in. Ned and Justin made plans to play basketball at lunch. There was a lot of trash talking.
  • After that, J. and N. came to our place and I whipped up drinks for everyone. I love being a hostess.
  • On Sunday, I finished up cleaning and rearranging the kitchen. I still need another shelf divider and a few other things, but it looks much better!
  • I had some vegetable soup and avocado toast with sea salt and pepper for lunch.
  • I spent the afternoon at my desk, working on book stuff. I organize things with post-it notes on my bulletin boards.
  • We decided pizza was needed for dinner, so we drove down to Home Slice. We were lucky enough to grab seats at the counter, and had our favorite: half Caesar salad for me, half Greek salad for J, and a tomato pie. Yum.
  • Also, I love my cats.

So, it was a weekend full of food and cocktails. I would say that this week I’m going to cook at home every night, but that would be a lie – Monday we’re going to Asia Cafe with E. and N.

NYC Food, Part 2

Here’s part two of our NYC eats!

The Breslin

The Breslin was conveniently located off the lobby of our hotel, so we decided to hang out for dinner one night. We found some seats in the bar and enjoyed French 75s and prosecco cocktails with blood orange liqueur and hibiscus syrup. The bar and the restaurant were definite hot-spots, full of young, hip New Yorkers and hotel guests dressed to the nines.

We started off with salt and cracked pepper crisps, which were just well-seasoned potato chips. We also had a crazy crisp bread with lardo to spread on top, which was awesome. But the best dish was the curried mussels with chickpeas, cilantro, and flatbread. The broth was stellar, the mussels plump, the chickpeas velvety. I think we might have licked the bowl clean.

We also shared seared char – I can’t remember the details of this dish, thanks to multiple prosecco cocktails, but I remember it was good. :) I do remember the creamed escarole side dish – I pretty much devoured it, twirling the greens around my fork and closing my eyes with each creamy bite. Dessert was a dark chocolate torte with toasted marshmallow ice cream, white chocolate ganache, and a biscuit. We really enjoyed this meal – the mussels and the escarole took it over the top. It also helped that home was just an elevator ride away.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Williamsburg was by far my favorite neighborhood, quaint and cute and clean and lovely. It was quiet on Sunday morning, when we stopped in for cappuccinos at Blue Bottle Coffee. It’s a lovely spot – the cafe itself is beautiful, and in the back is the open roasting warehouse. Justin thought that the cappuccinos at Stumptown were slightly better, but the atmosphere at Blue Bottle was great.

Bakeri

Bakeri. What can I say about this place without launching into a 10-page treatise? I. Loved. Bakeri. It was made for me – cozy and quaint, homey and feminine, comforting and lovely. The pastries were excellent, but the atmosphere sealed the deal. It was tiny – think of the tiniest cafe you’ve been in, then shrink it by half. Then add vintage mismatched plates and cups, cake stands loaded with lemon-ricotta-leek galettes and brioche, garlands of popcorn and cranberries, mirrors with ever-changing specials written on them, a baker in the back rolling out baguettes, tin cans filled with breadsticks, staff members wearing blue coveralls, and a never-ending line of people waiting for treats. It was wonderful, and I am busy scheming how to rope in a friend to create something similar in Austin.

Mast Brothers Chocolate

We stopped into Mast Brothers, which was just as beautiful as I had imagined. I tasted a few bars, then stocked up on bar after bar of hand-wrapped chocolate.

Ippudo NY

Ippudo was swanky, super-cool, smooth and hip. We waited in the bar for our seats and sipped on Yebisu (an ode to Ai). The host was the coolest guy ever – Japanese (like the majority of guests and staff), with bleached-blond, slicked back hair, jeans that were worn in where he obviously always carried his iPhone, cigarettes, and wallet, a stylish infinity scarf, and super-awesome shoes. In fact, I found more amazing shoes here than anywhere else in town. These people were stylin’.

In the dining room, there are communal tables and bars, hip hop tunes, and waitstaff yelling out “Irasshaimase!” as guests entered. We ordered the shiromaru kakata classic – original “tonkotsu” ramen with pork belly, and the miso ramen with seasoned soft boiled egg. They. Were. Insane. The noodles were so flavorful, the broth so deep and sustaining, the toppings tender and flavorful. We slurped as quickly as we could, but still couldn’t keep up with the speedy Japanese eaters around us. Afterward, we sipped tea and jammed to the hip hop music – as we were leaving, Ice Cube’s It Was a Good Day came on, and I knew that I truly loved Ippudo.

Momofuku Milk Bar

We stopped in to the tiny Milk Bar and picked up crack pie, a compost cookie, a cornflake-marshmallow cookie, and a corn cookie. We ended up eating these throughout the trip – the crack pie was my hands-down favorite. It was like a pecan pie without the pecans. Of the cookies, we loved the compost and the cornflake-marshmallow the most.

Osteria Il Paiolo

On our last night in New York, we couldn’t decide where to eat. Should we take Kate up on her offer to get us into Spotted Pig? Should we try pizza at Franny’s or Paulie Gee’s? We ended up just walking to the subway and deciding there to catch the L train to Brooklyn. When we emerged, we realized we were too far from Paulie Gee’s to get there before closing, and too far from Franny’s to get there without freezing. So I pulled up my Google map and said, “Well, there’s an Osteria down the street.” And so we ended up at Osteria Il Paiolo.

It was pretty quiet, being a Sunday night, and we were seated right away. We had a rustic lentil soup drizzled with very good olive oil, and burrata smothered in shaved black truffles. Justin had potato gnocchi with lobster in tomato sauce, and I had house-made spaghetti with leeks and wild langoustine. The pasta was amazing – so tender-chewy, so flavorful, so well seasoned. We shared a chocolate cake with vanilla gelato for dessert.

Dram Bar

After dinner, we made our way to Dram Bar, which I had singled out as a place I wanted to try for sure. It’s small and dark, but still beautiful and hip. We sat at the bar and chatted with Jeremy, the bartender, and tried out several cocktails. I started with a Loose Noose, made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, amontillado sherry, carpano antica, cinnamon, and allspice dram – it was perfect for a cold evening. Justin had a Oaxacan old-fashioned, made with tequila and mescal. We switched to sazeracs and last words, and then Jeremy made us each a little something special – another mescal drink for Justin, and a Greenpoint for me. I loved it so much that he gave me the recipe, for which I am seriously grateful. We had such a great time with him that Jeremy bought us a shot of El Dorado 12-year rum to end the night – which I couldn’t possibly shoot, so I sipped it gratefully and enjoyed its sweet caramel tones.

Utz Potato Chips

When we got back to the hotel, I was quite tipsy, so I needed some salty snacks. Thankfully, the Ace provided us with a bag of Utz potato chips. People! I’ve never had Utz before, but they are so good. They’re like a heartier Lays chip – still thin-cut potatoes, but somehow crunchier and perfectly salted. I’m going to be looking for these at Central Market.

Ess-a Bagel

On our last day in NYC, we stopped at Ess-a Bagel to have what several friends called “the best bagel in the city.” We shared a plain bagel (not toasted – it didn’t need it!) with lox spread, and it was perfect. The outside of the bagel is toasty, crispy – the inside chewy and dense. The lox spread was delicious – this kept us full until late afternoon, when we had to submit to horrible airport food before our trip home.

Ess-a Bagel is such a cute place. It was COVERED in Hanukkah decorations, and the line was huge. There was a line steward, yelling, “Close the line, people!” so that people would squeeze in ever-closer. The girl in front of us ordered a “whole wheat plain bagel, scooped out, with tuna” for lunch, and I loved the idea of someone coming here for their favorite tuna sandwich on a cold New York day.

So that’s pretty much what we ate! There may have been a few other things, but they’re not coming to mind at the moment. All of it was so much fun, and so inspiring for my own cooking and eating in Austin!

NYC Food, Part 1

We ate a ton in NYC. We only had five days, but we packed as much food as possible into them!

I have very few photos, but I wanted to remember all the lovely things we tasted, so I’m writing about them here. :)

Sushi  Yasuda

This was one of the most zen-like restaurants I’ve ever been in. Everything was bamboo – walls, ceiling, bar, tables. There was a beautiful ikebana sculpture on display, and no sign on the awning outside – just a stamped image of a fish. We shared sake, which was poured into tiny little bowls. We ordered the flash-fried fluke bones for an appetizer – they were so delicately crunchy but still somehow fatty – like very thin slices of chicharron. We opted for the omakase dinner, and received a platter of sashimi, one of sushi, grilled fresh water eel, and a crisp maki of fatty tuna and scallion. The fish was impeccably fresh, and the flavors so delicate – it just melted in your mouth. Afterward, we sipped tea and talked about the flakiness of the shredded crab, the creaminess of the uni, the perfection of the rice.

Cocoron

Our friends Nat and Erin introduced us to this place – it was insanely awesome! It’s a teeny tiny place (like so many places in NY). We started with home made silky tofu topped with scallions, ginger, and nori, plus pork croquettes. The main thing here is the soba – we all opted for warm soba with hot dipping sauce. The noodles come perfectly cooked, ready to dip into the bowl of simmering dipping broth. My chicken and burdock root sauce was like crack – sooooo delicious. Justin opted for pork kimchee broth, spicy and meaty. Once you’ve finished your noodles, you’re bound to have a bit of dipping broth left – so they give you a tiny kettle of hot water to add to the broth, which makes it into a delectable soup that you can then slurp. Someone in Austin, please make this dish!!

Tofu Vendor in Chinatown

Nat had to stop at this little shop selling hot sweet tofu. We ended up with a tub of warm, silky tofu, and a tiny bowl of sugar syrup to pour over the top. It was like a silky pudding, and it was nicely warming on a cold day.

John Dory Oyster Bar

We stopped at this spot underneath our hotel for a snack before our late dinner at Prune. We shared half a dozen oysters, plus deliciously chewy whelks dipped in parsley-garlic butter. The castelvetrano olives with spices and tomato were too salty, and the parsley and anchovy toast did nothing for us except get parsley stuck in our teeth. But it was worth it for the whelks, the glass of bubbly, and sitting next to Kate, who is a restaurateur and music expert, who is hilarious and witty, who knows Jay-Z and Robert DeNiro, who offered to get us in without a wait at Spotted Pig, who is semi-retired at the age of 35, who told us about the jewelry shop across the street that advertised their wares in one-word sentences (“Bracelet.” “Earring.” “Necklace.”), who provided a Russian voice for the crazy man outside the window who was standing in the street in an expensive trench coat (“Ver is my driver? Ver is he?”), and who was just all-around lovely.

PKNY

This tiny tiki bar is one of the coziest spots we found. The entrance isn’t easy to spot, but once you’re inside, you’re surrounded by all things tiki. The drinks are serious here – both very strong and very authentic. Valentin and Natalie were behind the bar, whipping up all kinds of glorious things. I had a piña colada – which was made with fresh pineapple juice and house-made cream of coconut, blended and poured into a hollowed-out pineapple and topped with so many garnishes it was crazy. Justin had the Jet Pilot, made with lime and grapefruit juices, rum, cinnamon syrup, and other goodies. We chatted with Valentin for a bit, and he said we should come back after dinner, and he’d make sure we’d get in (the line is often out the door), and he’d buy us our first round. Of course we came back after dinner.

When we returned, the bouncer with a froggy voice asked us how our dinner was and ushered us right in – we sat at the bar and Valentin made us a Missionary’s Downfall (minty-pineapple goodness) and a Cuban Anole (rum and cinnamon and orgeat, oh my). We chatted some more, and he made us two drinks he’s been working on – for me, a mix between a piña colada and a mai tai, for Justin, a tequila-mezcal drink with cholula and sriracha. Insanely good. There was a group next to us sipping from a ginormous punch bowl with a dozen straws. Oddly enough, you can get most of the recipes for their drinks here.

Prune

After reading Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, I dreamed of eating at her restaurant, Prune. Needless to say, this was the first reservation I made when I knew we were headed to NYC.

Prune is tiny. It’s cute and lovely and lively and somehow feminine. The seating is so tight that the hostess had to pull out our table so that Justin could slip in. We were inches away from the tables next to us, which means we got the full argument of the couple next to us (she wants more from him, he doesn’t want to commit), but somehow it was still great.

And the food! Oh, the food. It’s as if Chef Hamilton is saying, “Here is this great ingredient. Taste it. There is no foam or aioli or topping or sauce that will make this any better than it already is. Just taste it.”

We shared the bone marrow with parsley salad and sea salt. Justin swears this was the best bone marrow he’s ever had – and I agree, it was divine. But my heart goes to the Trippa Milanese. It was tender, chewy strips of tripe, cooked with carrots and potatoes. I could have eaten a gallon of this. The flavor starts out like my mom’s chicken soup – simple but perfectly seasoned, with tender potatoes and carrots – but then ends with the chewiness and meatiness of the tripe. Oh, this dish. [sigh]

Justin had the grouper next, with a ginger-chili-cilantro broth, plus cabbage and potatoes. So perfect. I had the braised rabbit legs in vinegar sauce – the “sauce” was more of a broth, with thin slices of cornichon. The rabbit was juicy and tender and delicious.

And dessert! Oh, holy, the dessert. Candied pumpkin with sugared “hay” (which was sweetened, cardamom-scented crispy phyllo shreds), with a dollop of Greek yogurt and honey. Outstanding. This is the food I will miss the most. Simply but impeccably done.

Katz’s Deli

After the eleventy-four tiki drinks of the evening, we needed some food before our subway ride back to the hotel. Since it was sometime in the wee hours of the morning, we headed to Katz’s. Ned had told me I must order the pastrami on rye with extra Russian dressing and a Dr. Brown’s cherry soda. And so I did. At the counter, the deli guy gave us a slice of pastrami to taste – I honestly believe I had not tasted true pastrami until that moment. So tender! So rich!

The sandwich was perfect, the sour pickles perky, the soda sweet and refreshing. And it was equally fun to see people freak out when it was time to pay, and they had lost their meal ticket, and the big burly bouncers at the door would insist that they present a meal ticket before they could leave, and they would finally find it in some back pocket and all would be well.

Stumptown

We were incredibly lucky to have Stumptown at the bottom of our hotel. The line every morning was out the door, but the coffee was worth it. People, their mochas are insane. They add a huge spoonful of ganache made especially for them by Mast Brothers Chocolate, plus a sprinkling of cinnamon to the espresso and steamed milk. It tasted like a bittersweet chocolate bar doused in coffee. I’m going to try plopping a shard of dark chocolate into my coffee tomorrow and see how it goes.

Also of note is the Stumptown barista fashion – all of them wear hip hats, awesome shoes, suspenders, mustaches, black tights. I think Stumptown only hires beautiful people.

Old Yeah Shanghai Deluxe

Erin and Nat also introduced us to this corner spot in Chinatown, with its lazy-Susan tables and heaping baskets of dim sum. We came here specifically for soup dumplings, and they did not disappoint. How do they get soup inside a dumpling?! You pop the whole thing in your mouth and out bursts lovely soup. (Careful! They’re hot!) We also had pork dumplings and pea shoot dumplings and cuttlefish with salt and pepper and sweet red bean pancakes and tea… it was so cozy and warm in there, which was good, because it was about 24 degrees outside that day.

Grand Central Oyster Bar

We stopped here with Erin and Nat after walking a bit of the High Line. It feels like an old steak house, with paneled wood and a saloon. Justin and I shared a dozen oysters – unfortunately, a few of them were milky and quite disgusting, but at least the bubbly was good. We were also exhausted at this point, so we didn’t order anything else.

Whew! Next up, part 2!