Monday, February 27, 2012

Market Table

Picking a restaurant for my birthday is a lot harder than you think. Momma dukes and Kim were coming into the city to take my to lunch and they left me to pick the restaurant. I consulted my book with tons of restaurants that I want to go to, but I kept doubling back unsure of what I felt like...or what they were in the mood for. I decided to check out Market Table in the West Village. On the corner of Bedford and Carmine, Market Table has the warm neighborhood feel with seasonal, American cuisine by chef Mike Price. It was actually exactly what I wanted.

Market Table was the brainchild of Gabe Stulman and Joey Campanaro (Little Owl), but their partnership soured as Campanaro took over and Stulman went on to open Joseph Leonards and take over Fedora.

We arrived early, so we were able to grab a seat; but when we left the place was mobbed with people trying to get a table. The vibe was cozy and allowed for conversation. The corner spot combined with big windows allowed us to gaze out into the picturesque streets of the West Village. Our server was very nice and did a pretty good job. He didn't really say much other than recommend the duck appetizer over the scallops. The duck confit with a poached egg was a treat, but I'm a sucker for scallop crudo. Even better than the duck was the warm octopus salad which came with fingerlings, chorizo, frisee, and an olive puree.

For entrees, my mom decided to go with one of the chalkboard specials-- a fried oyster sandwich. Her oyster sandwich was quite good, although I prefer oysters raw (thats just me). My mom loved the sandwich! Kim got the chicken salad sandwich which I didn't try, because I was too full from my massive burger. This burger had great flavor from the properly seasoned beef to the carmelized onions and cheddar. Market Tables fries were also pretty good and for some reason I didn't feel as bad eating them.

We ended with Kim's favorite part of the meal-- a chocolate terrine. The chocolate terrine was accompanied by sea salt, caramel popcorn, and pistachios. It was a really good, especially when you had all those flavors on one spoon-full. Overall, I was very happy we decided to go to Market Table. The ambiance was perfect and the food was delicious and reasonably priced. Market Table adds to the list of awesome West Village restaurants!

Bartenders Night Out

(drinks at Lani)

AOC in the West Village was our first stop on my birthday bar/restaurant crawl. After some beers and sandwiches, we headed to Lani Kai for some cocktails. After a few Queens Parks Swizzles and Mai Tais, we went to the Pegu Club for more cocktails. Being bartenders, we definitely appreciate a well crafted cocktail. Up a flight of stairs at this quiet West Houston spot is an awesome cocktail lounge that exudes a sexy and exotic vibe with its subtle asian accents. It's named for, and inspired by, a hangout for British colonial officers in Rangoon in the early 20th century. We had reservations otherwise we would have stayed longer.

(drinks at Pegu Club)

We headed east to Fourth Ave for our 8:00 reservation at Ippudo--an east village ramen favorite. Even with a reservation, our party of six had to wait in the packed bar area as tables were being turned. We didn't wait long although the crowded room made it seem longer. We were lucky enough to post up against the bar for a Sapporo while we watched the masses try to score a table. We were seated in an awesome three-sided booth that aligned the back wall. Ippudo is known for their ramen, but there were other delicious treats on the menu. The pork buns were among the best I've ever had while the baby octopus with wasabi was a nice treat. Shishito peppers were another delicious appetizer to stimulate your appetite before your ramen.The Ramen was incredible! The broth was so rich and flavorful that I barely spoke during dinner. I got the original "Tonkotsu" noodle soup topped with Ippudo's secret "Umami Dama" miso paste, pork chashu, cabage, kikurage, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. I topped my ramen with pork belly! Now I know why they consider ramen Japan's soul food.

Next, we headed to Bowlmore; but there was a 2 hour wait so we headed to Fat Cat in the West Village. Fat Cat is an awesome place to go whether with friends or on a date. Ping pong, billiards,
shuffle board are just some of the games available. So grab a beer and get the competitive juices flowing. Live jazz plays and everyone is merry.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Move Over Beef!

"Get steak for your birthday", said Chris, one of my coworkers, when I asked: where should I go for my birthday? I don't usually go to steakhouses--not because they're not good; but because you could have a more elaborate and exciting meal for the price. But Chris was right, you should treat yourself to a good steakhouse atleast once a year. Only Keen's isn't known for their steaks, they're known for their "legendary mutton-chop". Don't get me wrong, Keen's puts out some of the best meat in NYC; but the mutton is what separates them for the competition.

Dodging people only seemed right as I walked against the flow of traffic at rush hour. People were hustling to Penn Station to catch their train as all rules of politeness are tossed out. Keen's is on West 36th St--only a few blocks away from Penn Station. Keen's was very much like any other steakhouse I've been in: a man's club. To Keen's credit, I felt like it had a bit more character. You definitely got that old school New York vibe, especially when you looked up all the pipes that lined the ceiling. Back in the day, Keen's had a pipe club so the pipes belonged to the members before smoking was prohibited in restaurants. There was a lot of history if you took the time to check it out.

So on to the legendary mutton chop-- a 26 oz saddle of lamb that can please any carnivore's appetite even if they thought they were coming for steak. The mutton chop served at Keen's is among the best lamb that I've ever had--only probably is that its hard to get all that delicious meat. its one of those dishes you wish you were eating at home, so that you could pick it up with your hands enabling you to get the hard to reach crevices.

The t-bone was not to be overlooked as Ed and I split both. It was our birthday dinner and both of us were well pleased. A light Bordeaux paired beautifully with our meat and brought us further into food ecstasy. Get some hash browns and some asparagus to round out your meal. Overall, a great dinner. Keen's should definitely be on your radar!

Treat Yourself!

Its been a few months from my last visit to Marea and I couldn't stop thinking about the octopus and bone marrow fusilli. Being my birthday week, Genesa, fellow bartender, and myself decided to treat ourselves to a three course lunch and a bottle of their cheapest Chablis. She started with the grilled octopus; which was accompanied by smoked potatoes, pickled red onions, radish, chilies, and tonnato (creamy mayo based sauce flavored with tuna). I got the trio of crudo: seppia, pacific jack mackerel, and marinated razor clams. The seppia might have been my favorite of the three, although all were very delightful. Both antipasti were delicious and got us ready to our pasta course. For pastas, Genesa got the spaghetti with crab and sea urchin while I got the fusilli. We ordered full orders of pasta, which was probably a bit ambitious; but we managed to eat all of it (thanks to G!) For secondi, G got the creekstone farms' prime sirloin with bone marrow pazanella and braised romaine while I got the scallops. Although I didn't need more food, I thought the scallop entree was a bit small. Only three scallops made it to the plate--but I guess thats normal? The scallops were cooked nicely although they might have gone a couple seconds too long. The pearl onion agrodolce combined with caperberries and parsley root was a nice touch. House made biscotti came with my espresso while house made chocolates came with the check. An expensive, but awesome lunch! Remember you need to treat yourself!

"Hogwarts for Hipsters"

In Sam Sifton's NYT review, he calls The Breslin "Hogwarts for Hipsters." He goes on to compliment Chef April Bloomfield for putting out delicious food, although he kind of rags on how heavy and fatty the food is. Yes, the food isn't healthy by any means; but the flavor is there. We started with scrumpets (braised lamb that is breaded and deep-fried) off the snacks menu. For appetizers we got the razor clams, the duck salad, and the seafood sausage. This was definitely my favor part of the meal. Razor clams sat in a chili broth and were topped with a ham which added a beautiful saltiness while not overpowering the clams. The seafood sausage with a beurre blanc sauce was another winning dish. My favorite was the balsamic duck salad made with brussels sprouts and pomegranate seeds. For mains, I got the grilled trout which was the whole fish--head and tall on. The fish itself had good flavor, but there's something unappetizing about picking tiny bones out of my mouth while trying to enjoy. I guess that's what I deserve for not getting the pigs foot. I tried Greg's poussin--baby chicken smothered in vinegar which was decent, but the lamb burger stole the show. Chargrilled lamb served medium rare with a house made cumin mayo and feta cheese on a sourdough bun. The burger came with thick steakhouse fries that were cooked three times. A side of braised escarole was way to heavy to be a veggie; but the flavor was good. We ended the night with a chocolate dessert and shots of whiskey sent out by my friend Peter. I really enjoyed my meal there while the others seemed to be underwhelmed.

Bloomfield's elevated bar food is good, but I think the place is more of a scene than anything else. Whether you're in the bar room or the dining room, the restaurant has a hipness that ropes you in. It also has a built in clientele being in the Ace Hotel. I will definitely be back at the Breslin to try that pigs foot; but I want to hit up the John Dory first.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Lamb Chops at Union Square Cafe were delicious.


In a city full of flash in the pan restaurants, Freeman's has endured the finicky and spoiled NYC restaurant scene. Freeman's opened back in 2004 by William Tigertt and Taavo Somer and despite a less than great NYT review it is still jam packed. So packed that we had to wait an hour to be seated for brunch. But is the meal worth the wait? Its hard to say. I often ask myself that after waiting in the Shake Shack line.

But brunch was good! I think it was more the company than the food; but thats all that really matters. Then again, my burger was quite delicious. Cooked perfectly medium rare, this burger had great flavor --you could tell they used high quality meat. The fries that accompanied the burger were also delectable. I NEVER finish my fries, but my plate was clear after my meal. We started off with Devils on Horseback and the artichoke dip--both good, but nothing to call home about. The hot toddies seemed more citrus forward rather than spice forward; but they still were enjoyable especially after waiting for our table in the alley.

All in all, I would recommend Freeman's. Its moderately priced, so its a good place to go without breaking the bank. Also, it almost feels secretive being down the alley off the street; which adds to its excitement. We lucked out in a back room that looked like a dining room in the country. We shared a table with a couple of ladies; but pretty much felt alone. It was quiet in this room and allowed us to enjoy conversation--an essential element to every brunch. The decor was a bit stranger with ram's head and other stuffed animals on the walls; but it added to the mystery of Freemans. I'm not sure how this restaurant hasn't gotten old; but I'm glad it hasn't. Its interesting to see if Peels (its sisters restaurant) will last as long!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

From Sushi to Spanish

I started the day in my neighborhood at my favorite sushi spot, Suteishi. While on Front Street, I stopped at Jack's for a cappuccino. Luke, a former co-worker was there manning the barista station. That was the first time I've been to Jack's and it might just be a go-to for a caffeine fix. Later that night, I met with an old friend at Tertulia
to catch up and eat delicious Spanish tapas.Tertulia describes a gathering of friends marked by good conversation, food, and drink. I wanted to come back to Tertulia after the last time I sat at the bar and watched food all around me make people smile. Caitlin and I shared in that joy of Seamus Mullen's cooking as we got a bunch of small plates to share. Smoked pig cheeks topped with a quail egg were perfect bite size starters. We also had a hake chin, which was served atop delicious crushed fingerlings. Monkfish also graced our table in the form of suquet-- a bowl of monkfish, ruby red shrimp, and root vegetables with an almond picada and safron aolio. Crispy brussel sprouts with pork belly was delicious but a bit too salty for the both of us--that didn't stop us from finishing the entire dish. Jamon croquettes were a treat as they sat on a dash of quince paste. The Cordero was one of my favorite dishes--grilled lamb breast on a bed of creamy farro. We ended with a cheese board that came with candied walnuts, cranberry bread, quince paste, and honey.

All in all, it was a great experience. I was super-impressed on how attentive the staff was on filling up water. The water glasses here were so small that I would honestly down half the glass in one sip, but never was my glass empty. Our server was friendly and was not pushy even though we camped a little. He seemed pretty knowledgeable on the food and wine and therefore guided us through a really nice experience. Tertulia gives off a casual vibe, but the food is serious. Definitely a spot to check out.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Running on fumes, I packed and headed to LGA. Beers and paninos started the trip in the airport as we were about to embark on a wild weekend. After a short flight, we landed in New Orleans and hit up the town. Being a bachelor party, we spent most of the weekend visiting the fine establishments on Bourbon Street. It was the start of Mardi Gras and superbowl weekend, so the streets were packed. The variety of people on Bourbon Street was quite remarkable. You had people of every age from all over enjoying the debauchery of Bourbon Street. Most of the bars blend together on Bourbon Street, but if you want to change things up--head to Frenchman Street for more of a local scene. New Orleans is said to be one of the best cities in the United States and I couldn't agree more.

Giants taking the superbowl at Mannings.
(duck wings and gator sliders + lots of beer/whiskey)
Po' Boys @ Mothers
Seafood feast @ Deanies
Monsoon's and Burgers @ Port of Call
Hurricanes and flaming shots @Pat O'Briens
Cat's Meow
The Beach
Gator Tour
Double-Dutching with Bubba Gump Shrimp girls


Last week, My friend Jared and I spent the night on 17th Street and two awesome cocktail bars. The first, Rye House, might not be considered a cocktail bar per se, but the bartenders treat it like one. We were lucky enough to sit at the bar and watch the lady barkeep do her thang. She had great technique and could tell she knew what she was doing. Both the house cocktails and classics were well balanced and delicious. The food was OK--nothing special. The French dip sandwich fell short of expectations while the house-made jerky almost made me order two. Mac and cheese balls lacked salt and were easily forgettable. But Rye House got a lot going on that might keep you coming back. Its a bar that you could get a well crafted cocktail or a great tap beer without being in one one of those dark intimate rooms that most cocktail bars are in. You get more of a sports bar feel, which is kind of different...kind of cool. The atmosphere allows you to talk a little louder and mingling seems to be appropriate. Rye House seems to draw on a young, affluent demographic. Jared prefers the beagle, but I think Rye House is definitely easier to get to. A good spot for sure.

While on 17th Street, we hit up a more traditional cocktail bar--Raines Law Room. By traditional, I mean that Raines has the speakeasy feel to it that most cocktail bars are going for. Dimly lit caves with no windows, comfortable couches, and soft music. Raines is an awesome spot for a couple cocktails on a low-key night. Choose from their extensive cocktail list, ask for an old favorite, or allow the well-trained barkeep whip you up something new. Don't expect to see the bartender at work, because he's in the back in a prep kitchen space surrounded by a plethora of tools and glassware. Not only did I try some of their house cocktails, but I also enjoyed a delicious negroni and an awesome mint julep. Each table comes with a buzzer that signals your waitress, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the ambiance and your cocktail of course. I would definitely recommend stopping by Raines especially if you enjoy other cocktail bars like PDT, Death and Co, Milk and Honey, Flatiron Lounge, Etc. The only down side is actually getting a table!

A night with the Maialino crew

Latest trip to North End Grill proved to be a good time. They got their liquor license so I enjoyed a delicious Brooklyn Brewery Saison on tap while enjoying some oysters. It was packed with businessmen drinking beer and whiskey. North End Grill boasts an impressive list of scotches and had a Cold Draft machine which cranks out huge block cubes that are perfect for drinks worth sipping. N.E.G. has recycled some of Tablas drink menu with the ever-so popular Kachumber Kooler and Tamarind Margarita.

Chef Cardoz's kitchen seems to get better every visit, so I'm excited to see where it goes.

After North End Grill, I went to Gramercy Tavern for dinner. I sat in the tavern with Jen, a fellow Maialini. GT always provides an excellent meal with an unbeatable ambiance, superb food, and incredible service. We got the mushroom lasagna and smoked kielbasa for entrees and the roasted oysters with hot sauce and an octopus dish both off the daily specials. A nice bottle of Carema drove us through the meal until dessert when our server brought us Madeira to complement our cheese plate. The desserts were also noteworthy and delicious. I look forward to my next visit!

We ended the night at Lilly's for Megatron's farewell celebration. Solid afterwork place to drink beers and chat the night away.

The Smith

Croissant sandwich took way too long, but once it arrived it was delicious. Its always kind of hard to pay over $14 for breakfast sandwich though. I guess thats what ya get outside of Emma's $2.25 bacon, egg, and cheese. The waitress seemed friendly and the place looked pretty big. I'm sure its rocking for brunch, especially in that area.

I thought it was awesome how they give you two water bottles at the beginning of your meal. One is filtered while the other one is sparkling. I'm not a huge fan of sparkling water, but a lot of people are so I thought this was a great idea!

I'd go back, because my experience was cut short due to time crunch.

Food Adventures

In constant search of a delicious burger, Greg suggested BLT Steak on East 57th St. He persuaded me with pictures, because midtown is usually out of the question--especially in the cold rain. As we arrived, they sat us down and reminded us that the kitchen closed promptly at 2:30--we heard this atleast two more times throughout the BLT experience.

As we waited for Courtney to arrive, we ordered beer --a brown ale Greg and black seasonal for me. Courtney arrived shortly after as the servers dove in to get our order. After ordering they sent out pop-overs, which were probably the best part of the meal. Warm, light, crusty bread that didn't need butter but of course got it anyway. We started with the bacon appetizer which was quite delicious. Nothing like smoked, thick-cut bacon to get a meal going. We then quickly transitioned into our next course as backservers attempted to take away our unfinished appetizer. Trying to take bacon away from the three of us--thats how you lose a finger. Greg and I got the burgers while Courtney opted for the ribeye cheesesteak. The burger was delicious, but the cheesesteak wasn't too good. The flavor was OK, but the meat itself was chewy and not appealing. I did enjoy my burger; but not enough to go back for one. Then again, those pop-overs might be worth going back. The service was pushy and made us feel rushed. I know its not ideal to have a table sit at 2:15 when lunch stops at 2:30, but its not fair to guest when they feel rushed and not welcomed.

Our next stop was the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel on E 55th St. I've wanted to come here, because this bar is always on TOP BAR lists whether in NYC or the world, so I wanted to know why. As you enter the St. Regis, hang a left and proceed toward the mural. You will pass Adour, the restaurant inside the St. Regis where businessmen have lunch while listening to a lady on the harp. An old man in a tux was behind the bar, but that shouldn't be a surprise. We looked over the menu, which I was very disappointed with. How did this bar get so much hype? Maybe because it had that speakeasy feel and you mingle with the worlds richest? I'm not sure to tell you the truth. it was a comfortable space and that harp played beautiful background music, but one round here was almost as much as our entire meal at BLT. It hurt to see the guy uncapping a bottle and pouring it into a mixing cup while making a Manhattan. No jigger or no sense of measurement were used. It was quite sad. I would expect this from a bunch of places, but not a bar in the St. Regis, not a bar where you're paying $25 a drink and certainly not a bar that is one of the "worlds greatest bars." After the disappointed dissipated, I began to enjoy the warm atmosphere that kept us out of the rainy cold streets of midtown. We finished up our drinks and braved the weather, back downtown.

Later than night, I met up with my sister at Salud: a restaurant serving Latin and South American cuisine. Salud is on Front Street, so when I don't feel like traveling its a great neighborhood spot. We shared a bottle of wine and some tapas. The space itself is cozy, but comfortable. In the summertime its nice to sit outside and enjoy a bite of South America. The service good for the type of place. The food is solid. We got a bunch of small plates like the skirt steak, shrimp in chipotle pepper sauce, lobster tacos, and a braised seafood medley. For the price and location, Salud is a pretty decent spot that I will be sure to visit again I'm sure.