Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From Indian to Italian

As Tabla closes its doors after 12 years, I found myself in need of a job. I wanted to stay within the restaurant group, Union Square Hospitality Group, not only because they all seem to be successful restaurants; but because its a great culture to be apart of.
In January, I will be joining Danny Meyer's latest venture, Maialino. Maialino is a new Roman-style Trattoria in the Gramercy Park Hotel featuring the food of executive chef Nick Anderer. The menu draws its inspiration from classic Italian dishes found throughout Rome. Maialino, like most other USHG restaurant, features fresh and seasonal ingredients found in the Greenmarket or local farms.

Only being to Maialino for a class trip and interview, I wanted to grab some dinner to see what I was getting myself into. I was immediately impressed as the restaurant was packed. The bar was bustling with guests waiting two deep. My roommate Greg and I were lucky to find two spots open at the communal table in the bar area. I like the idea of a communal table, because it allows you to interact with other people--sharing thoughts on the food and giving your own suggestions. I found myself giving the lady across from me a brief history on the restaurant as she asked, "what does Maialino stand for"? Maialino translate into English as "little pig"--a nickname given to Danny Meyer.
The restaurant was designed by David Rockwell, world-famous architect and designer. Rockwell has designed many restaurants and hotels such as the W (Union Square), Bar Americain, Nobu, and many more. Although reviews of the restaurant have called the space Pottery Barn, I think its a warm, comfortable atmosphere much like some of the trattorias I've visited in Rome. Our server was very knowledgeable on the menu and the wines. Her timeliness seemed a little off, but I'm sure she was busy helping other tables. Unfamiliar with the menu, our server helped us pick out an awesome dinner.

An assortment of bread and olive oil was a good introduction to the Roman-styled menu. Water was kept at the table in old wine bottles, which I love. We started off with a complimentary dish of shrimp sent out by the kitchen. The shrimp were magnificently prepared as it got me real excited for the rest of my meal.

We then split the Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe which was amazing. Not only was it a perfect portion size, but it had such awesome flavor. This dish is a classic Roman dish of pasta with pecorino and black pepper--simple but delicious. Tonnarelli is made in a similar way to spaghetti except that the machine that extrudes the pasta produces a square cross-section rather than a circular cross-section. The kitchen sent out another complimentary pasta dish, but I had missed the name of it. This dish was also very good, but hit me as more of a traditional pasta dish covered in tomato sauce. Both pastas were good, but the edge goes to the Tonnarelli as my roommate said, "I can eat that everyday".

Our main course was Maialino's centerpiece item--the suckling pig for two, served with with roasted potatoes. We ordered a side of spinach to get some vegetables in our diet, but we definitely didn't need it. The spinach was great, but I was already feeling full after my pasta course.The New York Times describes the dish as "pork at its best" after describing its simple preparation of rosemary, cracked fennel, salt, and pepper. The crispy skin and the tender, flavorful meat made this dish something to remember.

Too full for dessert, we headed out in a self-induced food coma. Overall, Maialino was a home run. I look forward to working there. I would definitely recommend this restaurant if looking for a nice glass of wine or a great Italian meal. Since they are in a hotel, they are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Monday, December 13, 2010


"Santacon is a non-denominational, non-commercial, non-political and non-sensical Santa Claus convention that occurs once a year for absolutely no reason."

Santa's Rules:
  • Don’t Fuck With Kids
  • Don’t Fuck With Cops
  • Don’t Fuck With Security
  • Don’t Fuck With SANTA!

This is my second Santacon and I have to say that it gets bigger and better every year. Basically, you dress up like Santa and get drunk. Many people bring canned food to prove that Santacon is more than just getting drunk, but about the Christmas spirit of giving. Many people dress up as Santa, while others opt for different Christmasy costumes such as elves, reindeer, snowmen, etc. Its a day where "Ho Ho Ho" chants are OK and everyone gets drunk whether they're naughty or nice.

There are designated stop set up by the people who created Santacon, but you're more likely to meet up with some friends and make your own bar-crawl. I went to Stitch, Village Pour House, and Galway Hooker (West village)
Honestly, its one of the best days of the year. Just don't blame me when your Facebook status says "What happened yesterday???"

For more info...http://nycsantacon.com/

Village grub

Giving myself a little too much time before meeting a friend for a movie, I decided to grab some food. I found myself wandering around the East Village on 3rd ave, looking for a quick bite. I was immediately attracted to 99 Miles to Philly, but was disappointed when I saw a sign that said "cash only". I never have cash on me, so these signs really piss me off. I know credit card fees are high, but you are missing out on business...my business!

So I continue my journey for a quick bite as the movie time is getting near. A few stores down, I find a pizza place called New Amici. Two slices later, I walk out a happy man. The pizza isn't anything special, but its a solid slice. The people are friendly and they have a good beverage selection of coke products, Boylans, and Snapple. My only complaint is that I just wish they served beer, because I was about to see Love and Other Drugs and my orange soda did not prepare me for that.

Union Square Area

In an expensive city, us New Yorkers are always looking for a good deal. Brother Jimmy's has Monday nights covered with their $19.99 all you could eat/drink special. I believe the Monday night special is honored at all their locations and offers guests 2 hours (from seated) of wings, rib tips, and bud/bud light drafts.

Its a perfect way to spend a Monday evening, especially during football season. Just remember to make reservations if its a Giants or Jets game as it gets packed. The wings are delicious and the beer makes the deal even more sweet. The rib tips weren't as good as I hoped, but they are worth a try. Just make sure to keep on your server because sometimes they get lost. Regardless of whether they bring out 4 wings at a time, you will get your moneys worth. Just remember to keep the pitcher empty, so they keep refilling it.

Beware of shots/jager bombs/etc when your deal is done, because that's when the bill will sky rocket. Definitely check it out if you love wings and beer.


L'express (249 Park Ave South)
A nice spot for a glass of wine and a good conversation. The bartender was friendly and seemed quite knowledgeable. Open 24 hours--always a plus!

Monday, December 6, 2010

California (Day #3)

Sunday started with a trip to Caffe Delucchi for some mimosas. We were going to grab some food here, but we thought we'd walk around and work up an appetite. After venturing around the city for awhile we ended up in the Mission District of San Fran at a spot called Baretta.

Baretta serves contemporary Italian comfort food in a very cool and casual environment. Everything on the menu is fresh, seasonal, and sourced from local farmers while organic ingredients are used whenever possible. I originally heard of Baretta from an Eater article I read before my trip. I did alittle research on San Fran's restaurant scene and wanted to hit good spots--from popular destinations to hidden gems. Baretta was on Eater's list of MUST VISIT San Francisco eateries, so we gave it a shot.

Baretta is known for their pizza and cocktails, so thats exactly what we got. The cocktail program impressed me as the drinks seemed simple, yet very complex. Simple by the means of using few ingredients and complex in combining the ingredients. Each cocktail has such as delicate balance, so pouring these drinks could be more complex that one would think. Some of Baretta's great cocktails include:

dolores park swizzle
rum, lime, maraschino, absinthe, bitters

the new rider
rye, lemon, ginger, maraschino, bitters, sage

mumbai mule
saffron vodka, lime, ginger, mint

improved whiskey cocktail
rye, bitters, dubonnet, absinthe, maraschino

gin, apple, lemon, basil, honey

Nadine got a pizza with mushrooms, tomatos, fontina, and thyme while I got the Pizza Carbonara (Pancetta, eggs, mozzarella). Nadine also got a brushette with fava beans and pecorino that blew her mind, but I was pretty content with my breakfast pizza.

Now I know why Baretta was on Eaters must visit list. Its cool, casual, and delicious...and cheap if you don't overdose on the cocktails.

For dinner, we met up with our friends who live in San Francisco. We all decided on Mexican, so we headed back to the Mission District of town. We had dinner at Puerto Alegre on Valencia Street. Puerto Alegre is a family owned Mexican restaurant that has been in San Fran for 40 years!

We decided to take the outside table, which proved to be a little small for 4 people; but we didn't seem to mind. The restaurant inside was jamming and had a half hour wait. The server started off with some complimentary chips and salsa--I think we got a few refills! Everyone ordered their own meal, while plates seemed to be passed around for trying. The pitchers of margaritas were surprisingly good. I'm always skeptical on margaritas as I've had some pretty bad margaritas in my time. Some margaritas taste like sour mix while others taste of stale tequila. I'm not sure if Puerto Alegre uses fresh juices or what type of tequila, but it was definitely a good margarita.

Good conversations and good food/drinks made Puerto Alegre a great experience. Just watch out if you dine outside, homeless people might come up to you and sing--looking for a tip. We packed up all our leftovers for the lady in lieu of a tip.

I would definitely recommend both Puerto Alegre and Baretta if in San Francisco. Both our reasonably priced and serve delicious food in a comfortable environment. Check em' out!