Monday, March 19, 2012

Costa Rica: La Dolce Vida

Not only did I have the time of my life in Costa Rica with 29 amazing people, but I got to eat some great food. Every breakfast was spent at the Beach Dog cafe where the waitresses were hot and the breakfast tacos were even hotter. Don't know if that makes sense, but the breakfast tacos kept me coming back. Breakfast tacos, powerade, and a large water was the perfect trifecta that abled me for all day drinking and fun. Sometimes I'd even have lunch at Beach Dog. The mango chicken quesadilla was delicious!

Robins was an everyday stop for ice cream and the occasional wrap. The chorizo wrap and ice cream kept us coming back despite the owners bad attitude. The pork taco stand became an everyday stop as well. I've tried their three varieties of tacos (tuna, chicken, and pork), but the pork tacos were definitely the best. The service was slow, but it was just the way of life down there and that was totally ok with us. After smoking pork spareribs, they cut the meat off the bones and put them in a flour tortilla. The pork was topped with a crunchy slaw that added a freshness and a great textural component. Overall, it was tied with Beach Dog for my favorite Costa spot.

We had a ton of other great meals during our stay. Marlin Bill's was a solid dinner spot and so was Toucans. We had a great dinner at Cafe Paris the night of our fishing trip. They prepared our fish three ways while also preparing sides to accompany the fish. La Dolce Vita was another great dinner-- an Italian feast with our friend "Scarpetta". Our family dinner also ranked among my favorite meals, but thats because food always taste better when you cook it! There was also alot of love in the air being the last night together in a tropical paradise.

Olga's and La Banana were great spots to visit. Olga's despite the ugly name had amazing views of the sunset while La Banana was our dancing haven.

Costa Rica-- the sweet life.

St. Patrick's Day

Actually, there's not much to say about St. Paddy's day in NYC. It seemed like amateur night, but I guess that's what happens when you start ripping shots of jamo at 10am. Unfortunately, I had work till 4pm and everyone was already wasted. Spent some time at the Irish American in my neighborhood with some friends and called it an early night. My liver and wallet were happy.

Korean Flavor

Danji is a 36-seat Korean tapas restaurant on West 52nd Street. Hooni Kim, who we had the pleasure of meeting, is chef/owner of this small Hell's Kitchen restaurant. He seemed genuinely interested in meeting us and chatting about food. I went with some friends from culinary management school, so we're all very much into food. Chef Kim told us that he was happy doing his food and that people were liking it. People weren't liking it, they were loving it. As I waited outside for the rest of my party to arrive, Danji attracted the attention to nearly every passerby. "This is my favorite place" or "we have to go here" were only a few things said about Danji. Walk inside and the bartender immediately lets you know that the line starts at the wall. There's limited space, so hopefully its nice enough to wait outside--or at the bar next door like we did. Although standing along the wall might be awkward, it is hilarious to see people wrestle through the huge curtain in the doorway.

Finally we were seated at a bar table that came equipped with drawers that held our menus. The space itself looked like it was designed by a Korean Ikea and it also felt like it--uncomfortable if you haven't experienced the wonders of an Ikea bed or couch. The decor matched the concept though, a nice juxtaposition between old and new similar to its menu. Danji's menu explores Kim's take on both traditional and modern Korean food. Order a bunch of dishes to share and if something is delicious--order some more. Meals go quick here and there's a no reservation policy so somebody is probably eyeing you for your seat. Small plates range from $8-$20 and will come out of the kitchen in waves allowing you to enjoy dishes as ready. Taste around the menu. The spicy whelk salad with buckwheat noodles, poached sablefish with daikon, and spicy yellowtail sashimi were all delicious fish dishes, but Kim's meat dishes sure did shine. Bulgogi sliders with spicy pickled cucumber and scallion salsa were so good we had to get seconds. The pork sliders, bossam, and kimchi bacon chorizo paella were also hits at our table. Definitely explore the menu. And don't forget to grab some drinks--I would recommend a shot of soju and an OB lager (or a 16oz Sixpoint can). CHECK IT OUT!

Birthday Week #2

Corner Bistro
If you consider yourself a burger connoisseur than you MUST check out Corner Bistro in the West Village. Coined as the "last bohemian bar in West Greenwich Village", Corner Bistro should be on every New Yorker's radar. You get the old New York vibe from the scenery to the service. An old man rocking a mets cap served the whole place. Unless you were ready to order, he didn't have time to chat or answer questions. The menu is on the wall, but most guests don't need it. The Bistro Burger is their signature burger with bacon and cheese; but they also have a Chili Burger if you're feeling spicy. They also have a chicken sandwich or BLT if you're not feeling like a burger. But you should get a burger, its delicious and pretty cheap. Granted you could probably order two, but one 8oz burger proved to be a great afternoon snack. Wash it down with a McSorly's ale to keep with tradition and you will be one happy camper. An afternoon is the perfect time to go if you want to avoid the long lines that keep Corner Bistro bustling with business.

It's hard to judge Crispo, because I didn't get to enjoy their menu as I wanted. It was a Friday in lent and for some reason, I felt guilty about eating meat. I went with Colette and we both laughed at the idea of adhering to this Catholic tradition when neither of us have been inside a church in months, maybe years? We looked over the menu, a rather large collection of Northern Italian trattoria fare. Sometimes I get nervous of a large menu, because I wonder how a restaurant could keep everything fresh. But Frank Crispo, chef/owner of Crispo does a brilliant job in creating dishes that reuse ingredients. Besides the same ingredients being used throughout the menu, Crispo is always busy from what I hear.

Crispo opened in 2002 on 14th Street in Chelsea and has gained quite a reputation. The 150 seat restaurant is dimly lit and cozy. The food was good, but the company was even better. Our attempt to abstain from meat was successful! We enjoyed fresh mozzarella/peppers and fried calamari/zucchini for appetizers while I got the branzino for an entree. Crispo is a classic example of trattoria fare done right. Nothing here will blow your mind creativity wise, but the flavors are all good--familiar flavors. Then again, Crispo was recommended to me by my sister and G-mart--two of the harshest restaurant critics I know. So maybe I need to give Crispo another go -around.

I always wanted to visit one of Tom Colicchio's restaurants after seeing him serve as the main food authority on Bravo's Top Chef. Although I wanted to go to Colicchio and Sons, I found myself with Kayte and Schopp in the Flatiron area; so we stopped by Craftbar to grab dinner.

We sat at a communal table in the bar area and started with a nice bottle of Malbec, a crowd pleaser. The menu is divided into snacks, small plates, salumi, cheese, large plates, and sides. The menu is pretty exciting--you see things that might seem unusual--like guinea hen mortadella and beef tongue wagyu--two things that we got to try. The homemade salumi was delicious and paired well with the Pecorino Fonduta--a bowl of pecorino cheese, pine nuts, honey,and pepperoncini with crostini for dipping. For main course, Kayte got the spaghetti and veal ricotta meatballs which showed the kitchens skill in Italian cooking. Schopp got the pork chop and I got the pancetta wrapped guinea hen--both solid dishes. The food itself was good, but easily forgettable. Service was decent, pushing toward good rather than bad. Our server seemed a bit rattled by the busyness of a Friday night, but she stayed afloat.

My meal at Craftbar was solely memorable because of my company. The food was good, but the prices didn't align. I don't mind spending money on a good dinner, but this place might have been a bit expensive for what we experienced. Maybe Colicchio and Sons or Craft might be better value restaurants--I guess we shall see.

Pok Pok
Wings were OK! Flavor was good, but the quality of chicken was offputting. Greg and courtney disagreed. Small place on Rivington could get stuffy, so it might be better to take these treats elsewhere. Also, wasn't crazy about the water that was served from a sketchy water jug. It tasted like they added some herbs to the water--not really sure. They had a delicious limeade to wash down your order of Andy Ricker's famous Ike's Wings. Ricker's, a Portland based chef, became famous in Oregon for these wings before bringing them to NYC. The wings are meaty and the Vietnamese fish sauce will have you licking your fingers clean. But for some reason, there was a flavor that made me think the wings were freezer burnt or something? I couldn't put my finger on it, but something was taking away from these wings that had so much potential.

Another interesting thing about Pok Pok was their drinking vinegars. We didn't try them, but they definitely stood out, especially because that's all they offered besides their weird water and tastey limeade. I think I may have to try Pok Pok again.