I never thought there would be a day when I would hop on the Path for dinner n Jersey City. But there we were, trekking through the quiet streets off of the Grove Street stop eagerly, in one of the numerous steadily falling snow storms of this winter nonetheless. Our destination was Thirty Acres, a new hot spot in Jersey City with a former chef de cuisine from Momofuku Noodle Bar at its helm.
Finally, after a brisk 15 minute walk which would have been shorter had we not gotten a little lost, we found Thirty Acres and ducked inside quickly. The four of us were seated by a bay window warmly lit by the street light. The restaurant was quiet with a handful of tables of patrons enjoying an early dinner but it was a rather snowy Sunday night after all. We were famished and didn’t waste much time debating what to order from the short menu that meandered all cuisines and continents for inspiration.
The starter section of the menu made up almost half of the dishes offered so we started there with a beautiful plate of kombu cured mackerel with blood orange, seven spice and beets.
Followed by a bowl of scallop ceviche dressed with celery, serranos, and grinnel caviar. The spicy serrano peppers play off the sweetness of the scallop creating a dish that makes you pay attention.
From the raw dishes we ventured into the offal section with the pig’s ear salad with chili oil and celery. I am so glad that I have such adventurous eaters as friends. Honestly, I don’t know that many others who would have let me order this let alone fight me for bites of this spicy salad.
The next offal dish we ordered was a spicy bowl of tripe stew. The tripe had been stewed into a tender delicious mess hidden beneath a bed of finely shredded napa cabbage, rye croutons, country ham and a soft poached egg. I could have been easily satisfied with a big bowl of this on the cold day and a piece of bread to grab every little bit of the sauce.
Just to make sure we ate our vegetables, we added on an order of the roasted carrots. Served in a hot and sour broth, the sweet roasted carrots contrasted with the shaved cauliflower and tender watercress.
Feeling like we have fully explored the smaller plates, we moved onto the pasta section. The menu included three and since we wanted to save some room for an entree, one had to be trimmed. With that, we were left with a bowl of tender fogli di pasta with earthy buttery trumpet mushrooms, thyme and a flurry of stravecchio.
What was even better than a big bowl of buttery cheesy mushroom pasta? The delicate and rich agnolotti filled with chicken liver and ricotta in a cranberry, mint and wakame sauce of course. For someone who usually prefer spaghetti or linguine, I was won over by Thirty Acres’ chicken liver agnolotti heart and soul.
Finally, our last savory course of the night. I normally would never order chicken as the only entree but Thirty Acres’ roasted chicken came so highly recommended that I could not ignore it. A half piece of perfectly roasted moist chicken with crispy skin came with a spicy lobster sauce and rye berries. Who would have thought to pair lobster sauce with chicken? The result is absolutely fabulous and had me scooping up every last bit of the rye berries which were soaked in the sauce.
The dessert menu at Thirty Acres is short so we decided what the heck and ordered all three items since we were already indulging. The first on the list was Kevin’s Mom’s lemon bar. I don’t know who Kevin is but his Mom does make one deliciously tangy lemon bar.
I love rice pudding of all kinds and the one here was no exception. Served with a coffee salty caramel sauce, the rice pudding tasted almost as if the rice kernels were folded into a soft pillowy bowl of pudding. I loved how bitterness of the sauce cuts through the sweet rice pudding and how each kernel still retained a nice bite.
And finally, the last dessert to grace our table was a lovely apple cake that came highly recommended by our waitress. The warm cake was drizzled with a delicious walnut maple syrup that sunk deep into the crumbs making it unbelievably moist. Topped with crunchy walnuts and little tiny pearls of apple, cake was made even more lovely by the whipped mascarpone.
By the time we devoured all three of our desserts, we were plenty full and quite happy might I add. The meal had been so charming and unique that I could have sworn that we were in the heart of Manhattan instead of in Jersey City. That illusion unfortunately disappeared when we ventured outside onto the streets that are now fully coated with fresh snow making our way to the Path. Despite the slight commute, I was happy to find a restaurant worthy of the short ride on the Path on the other side of the Hudson. After all, a little adventure never hurts anyone, especially not when there is such delicious creations awaiting at the end of it.
Thirty Acres | 500 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City, NJ | http://thirtyacres.tumblr.com/
I have been waiting a very long time for the opening of the second location of Laduree. After so many months of anticipation, the colorful wood boards on the front of the West Broadway store front finally came down and so start many future trips to Soho to fulfill my macaron cravings. What makes the Soho location of the French classic even better than its UES sister location is the addition of a restaurant and tea salon to properly enjoy macarons and desserts with a pot tea.
Such a special spot calls for a ladies’ Sunday tea with JL, DC and SB. We made a reservation only a week or so ahead of time so were able to skip the rather lengthy wait on a busy Sunday afternoon.
The elegant dining area is divided up into two sections, one cozy and dark and another bright and light filled in the back. We were luckily seated in the center of the back room which faces an outdoor garden that is still a work in progress so for now, only a large board depicting a sketch of Paris.
We all started with our very own pot of tea from an extensive list filled with varieties on the classic black tea such as a rose and citrus The Marie Antoinette and a cinnamon and cardamom The Othello. Each were steeped in a personal silver pot and poured carefully by our waiter.
Because it was around lunch time, we decided to start with a few savory bites before diving into the desserts. SB and DC split the smoked salmon club sandwich and the leafy kale salad with grilled chicken and red onions. The sandwich was cut into adorable rounds and served with four thick cut fries that were crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.
I had a hard time making up my mind and after much debate, I settled on grilled duck foie gras with a sweet apple puree and a balsamic reduction. The rich foie gras was beautifully seared and so rich that I was glad that the portion was on the smaller side.
JL had a head start on us with the desserts and was already well into her Mille-feuille Praliné while the rest of us were working on our savory dishes. Delicate caramelized puff pastry was layered with praline cream, almond pralines and crunchy hazelnut. A single bite delivered so many different varieties of hazelnut and caramel that you had slowly savor the dessert.
SB was also in a hazelnut state of mind but since they had just run out of the mille-feuille praline, she settled on a tiny bar of the Plaisir Sucré. This might look small but it was packed with even more layers than the mille-feuille praline! Dense and creamy, the hazelnut meringue sandwich cake had crushed hazelnuts, crusty praline, thin milk chocolate leaves, chantilly cream and milk chocolate.
DC stayed on the chocolate theme and chose the Carre Chocolat, a dense and rich square of chocolate layers upon chocolate layers. Chocolate mousse, chocolate fondant, bitter chocolate ganache, and chocolate cookies, there is really nothing more a chocolate-holic can ask for in a dessert.
Since we were already overloaded with chocolate and hazelnut desserts, I went with the Ispahan. Ever since I had this dessert in Paris three years ago, I have been dreaming about it. The Ispahan combines lychee, rose and raspberries in a light floral scented pastry. There is really nothing like it and one bite, I traveled across the Atlantic back into Paris.
One last final bite to accompany the last few drops of tea. Now this is the right way to do a ladies’ Sunday tea, holding conversations leisurely over cups of fragrant tea with delicate desserts and pastries in an elegant setting.
Laduree Soho | 396 West Broadway, New York, NY 10012 | http://www.ladureeus.com/
Early Friday night was a perfect time to pop by The Marrow, a cozy little spot tucked away on a quiet part of West Village on the corner of Bank and Greenwich. While the booths might have been reserved long ago, the granite topped bar is first come first serve. It struck that perfect comfortable and cozy vibe just begging for us to perch ourselves at the corner to enjoy our meal, served by a friendly and attentive bartender.
Dinners here kick off with a warm pretzel roll. Pillowy soft, no need for butter or olive oil. Perhaps just a smear of grainy mustard will do.
There are a lot of delicious options on the German and Italian menu. We started off the meal with a simple crab spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce. Finished off with bread crumbs and basil, this could easily compete for one of the best bowls of pasta in the city.
The special fish of the night was a seared local white fish served on top of cauliflower puree. Perfectly executed, this was definitely one of the lighter dishes from the entree section.
For a taste of German cuisine, we made sure to place an order for the duck schnitzel. Served with quark spaetzle, hazelnuts, cucumber salad and stewed wolfberries, this was complete meal all on its own. I love the modern take on the traditional German/Austrian dish and while I am still unsure what wolfberries are, they imparted a lovely sweetness on the crispy crunchy duck schnitzel and tart vinegary cucumber salad.
Ending the meal on a sweet note with what else? A slice of the moist and flavorful ginger stout cake served with a riesling poached pear and a scoop of honey ice cream. I carefully constructed each bite to make sure to include a little bite of each component, especially that smooth honey ice cream with just a hint of floral note.
The Marrow | 99 Bank Street, New York, NY 10014 | http://www.themarrownyc.com/
AM and I braved the snowy weather Saturday morning and made it to a morning spin class. As a treat to ourselves, we stopped by Little Collins, a newcomer to Midtown East coffee scene, for a leisurely brunch.
A flat white for me and English breakfast for AM…
Everything on the little cafe’s menu looked absolutely delicious and since we were ravenous, we decided to share two savory dishes and one sweet.
The Pick Me Up from the Brekkie menu is filling. A sage omelet sandwich served with balsamic tomato and sauteed onions, this is one breakfast sandwich packed with flavor.
The shakshuka from the brunch menu caught my eye. Little Collins’ version was served up as a sauce on top of two poached eggs with a side of arugula salad and slices of whole wheat bread. Even though they mentioned that it was spicy, the heat was very tame so don’t be afraid to order up this hearty brunch dish.
And lastly, we ended the meal on a sweet note with an open face peanut butter and jam sandwich. Sometimes, there is nothing better than a well made good old fashion PB&J. To top off the sandwich, they added a sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes for a little bit of crunch and hint of coconut flavor.
We lingered a bit longer after devouring our delicious bites and enjoyed the scenery inside the adorable new addition to midtown east as well as the snowy outdoors. Finally, one more flat white to-go before we ventured outside into the cold.
Little Collins | 667 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10022 | http://littlecollinsnyc.com/
Mexican is what is for dinner at NY Bite Club one chilly Saturday night in January along with some delicious tequila and mezcal based cocktails mixed by Philip Ward of Mayahuel.
I came prepared in the mood for some south of the borders that night to warm up and we started off on a fabulous note with fresh guacamole, black bean dip and fiery salsa.
There was plenty for the table so of course we weren’t shy about digging into the trio of dips for the crisp tortilla chips. There is really nothing better than fresh guacamole and spicy salsa, is there?
First course was a wonderfully homey posole, a Mexican pork and hominy soup. The toppings were beautifully arranged on the edge of the bowl, waiting for the diner to add and mix to their liking.
I am a sucker for all things spicy so I immediately put the entire spoonful of the jalapeno and red onions in. Next, a little bit of creamy avocado, crunchy tortilla strips and a squeeze of lime. I kept the pork cracklings to nibble on, savoring the intense taste.
Next, we were presented with a little package of pork tamale. To accompany this little packet of corn goodness was a sweet pineapple sauce. I unwrapped the corn husks and generously poured the pineapple sauce on top, making sure that I grabbed every single pineapple chunks.
At this point, our stomachs were already happily satiated but mine always has room for goat. Our next dish was a small bite of taco filled with braised young goat. One bite and I was in heaven. The goat was so tender that it melted in my mouth and the flavor was earthy and spiced but not spicy.
The final savory dish of the night was a beauty. Two hand rolled enchiladas were filled with shredded meat and topped with a dark mole sauce and a creamy tangy queso sauce. I hate leaving things on my plate but the portions of this entire feast has been even out of the realm of my reality.
Lastly, a soft light flan for little sweet bite to end the meal. Again, another fabulous meal from start to finish thanks to Daniel and Alicia!
On a recent trip to Miami, I decided to eat like a normal person. Yes, that’s right, I left my camera behind for an entire week even though I had some pretty scenic meals by the pool side as well as delicious plates at The Bazaar. It was a very tough thing for me to do and by the time Sunday rolled around, I have had enough. Luckily, we stumbled onto a pretty awesome spot that was very worthy of some long overdue photo snapping.
The Yardbird is located off of the main strip of South Beach’s Collins Avenue with a large sun-drenched dining room (what isn’t sun-drenched in beautiful Miami?). I had a good feeling the second I walked into the packed restaurant that was buzzing with Sunday brunch goers sharing some fabulous looking dishes.
Everything here is made to be shared family style which in my opinion is the best way to go explore a new menu in one single visit. To start, we shared a few bites from the appetizer section relying mostly on the guidance of our cheerful waiter with a pronounce Southern drawl which made us trust him almost immediately.
The fried green tomato BLT came in a set of three, perfect for SB, JL and me to share. Crispy fried green tomatoes created a base for the deliciously lightly fried pork belly with a house-made pimento cheese and tomato jam to hold it all together. One bite and we all shared the same look of bliss and happiness that made it pretty clear that we were in for a treat.
With the guidance of the server, we went for the maple glazed bacon doughnut. I will not deny that I was a little disappointed at how plain the doughnut looked when it first arrived. It looked like any other maple bar with a piece of bacon on top. Fortunately, our server has good taste and this was one to savor slowly as you rip into the pillowy soft dough and fight for each piece to have that perfect balance of sweetness of the maple glaze and crunchy saltiness of the bacon.
An order of the country chicken liver toast might seem like a bit of an odd choice for brunch but boy was this delicious. The liver was whipped into an airy mousse and slathered generously on top of a piece of chewy country toast. The little dollop of cucumber and fresno pepper relish added a nice vinegary bite to the satiny sweet mousse.
And finally, we were ready for the entrees. When we were told that the locals all clamored for one particular dish that was taken off after a few months on the menu, we were curious. What could it be that had everyone so up in arms that they had to bring it back as a secret off the menu item? It should come at no surprise that it was a good old plate of fried chicken with waffles and a side of chilled watermelon spiced with pepper and lemon and herbs. The order came with a half chicken made with a 27-hour recipe and served with a side of Tabasco honey like it should always be. The large fluffy waffles was accompanied by a bourbon spiked syrup and a scoop of vinegary green tomato chow chow. There was really nothing to not like this giant plate of some of the best items on the menu at Yardbird.
And the only other thing as Southern than chicken and waffles was a plate of shrimp and grits. The grits at Yardbird was topped with crispy Virginia ham and plump Virginia shrimp in a deep gravy. The grits themselves had a lovely sweet bite that paired so well with the salty gravy. I will admit that we neglected the plate a little as we worked our way through the large platter of fried chicken and waffles but if this had been the only entree, we would have been just as satisfied.
A final look at our table filled with delicious eats with a classic bottle of coca-cola and ice tea. Even though I have no photo to show but I promise you that we devoured everything here and I was happy to have my camera in hand once again table side. Now how about that for ending a week in the sun on a wonderfully delicious note.
Yardbird | 1600 Lenox Avenue, Miami, FL 33139 | http://runchickenrun.com/
What a winter we have had so far! One good thing that has come out of the frigid weather outside is that we have another reason to visit Corocon on the edge of Chinatown. The new space is much bigger than their old minuscule location a few blocks away but it’s still just as packed on a cold weekday night.
We start the meal with toasted soba tea…
And a slice of mochi daikon cake topped with shaved daikon. Seared lightly on both sides, these reminded me of a chewier version of the delicious daikon cake dim sums.
And of course, every meal here has to include a bite of the silky homemade tofu with all the fixings, a house specialty.
JL ordered the spicy dip soba while I opted for a bowl of the warm stamina soba. I loved the subtle fragrant yuzu flavor from my broth but really appreciated the bite that the cold soba still retained when dipped into the bubbling hot broth. The spice was a little too much for JL so I selfishly swapped bowls with her.
To cool off our mouths, we ended the meal with a small bowl of frozen bananas and tapioca dessert. The dessert was topped with frosted frozen berries and a healthy drizzle of coconut milk. This is so light and delicious that it almost feels healthy, not like a dessert at all. It is only a weekday after all so we can’t go too crazy!
Cocoron Soba | 37 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10012 | http://www.cocoron-soba.com/
Even though I was in Texas for almost two weeks, I only had a short day in Austin so my bites here were literally just that, a few bites here and there.
We made a little detour on our way to Austin in the town of Lockhart in search of some good old fashion hill country BBQ. The first stop was Kreuz Market, a large shop on the edge of town known for its briskets and sausages. And when I say large, I mean large.
The first thing I noticed when I walked through the restaurant was the wafting scent of sweet smokiness that permeated every square foot of the space.
And the second thing I noticed? This humorous sign that I am sure is taken with the utmost seriousness in this place. I wasn’t worried though. Luckily, I like people who take their food seriously and frankly have always preferred the no sauce BBQ. With that, I was ready to order and dig in.
I had all these grandiose plans to sample a bite of BBQ at Kreuz and then move onto the other famous spots in Lockhart. Unfortunately for me, the minute I stepped up to the ordering counter, my plans fell to the wayside as I was hit with another whiff of moist smokey brisket and my stomach took over the ordering process. This was how we ended up with way too much food for the three of us.
Even though I loved the moist smokey brisket, what really stood out for me were the jalapeno cheddar sausages. A beautiful snap of the casing revealed a juicy and flavorful filling studded with spicy jalapeno and melted cheese. As you can see, I had no problems digging in with my hands, the forks at the end of my arms.
As you can see here, we didn’t leave enough room to move onto other BBQ spots in town and had to drove towards Austin with a twinge of regret. Luckily, after a few hours of sight-seeing in Austin, we were ready for a little snack to tide us over on the drive back to Houston. A bit of quick googling led us to the newest branch of East Side King, a road side Asian inspired casual spot from a Top Chef winner, Paul Qui.
The menu here was made up of tacos and small plates, all so intriguing and delicious sounding. This time, I learned from our previous experience and exercised restraint when ordering. The first was the Poor Qui’s pork buns stuffed with roasted pork belly, hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchee and green onion. The pork was moist without being overly fatty and the piquant flavor of the sauce was tamed by the cooling cucumber and green onion. Even though pork buns are now so ubiquitous, they were so good that even my parents approved!
To accompany the pork buns, I went with the beet home fries, something you definitely don’t find on every menu. The deep-fried roasted beets were served with kewpie mayo, Shichimi togarashi, and green onion. The spicy togarashi dusted crust was slightly crunchy and the inside was sweet and tender. A swipe of the sweet mayo was a perfect accompaniment to the spicy beets.
So there you have it, a few choice bites in Austin. I wish I had more time to spend so I could have tried more hill country BBQ spots and amore of the creative dishes that Paul Qui’s serving up at East Side King. Until next time Austin!
Kreuz Market | 619 N Colorado Street, Lockhart, TX 78644 | https://kreuzmarket.com/
East Side King | 2310 South Lamar, Suite #101, Austin, TX 78704 | http://eskaustin.com/
A trip to Chinatown Saturday morning… not for dim sum though. Instead, we went searching for some Chinese style fried pork chops at Excellent Pork Chop House on Doyers Street.
Two chilled appetizers to start. The first is a cucumber salad with a biting garlic dressing and a julienned radish and jellyfish salad.
The second, a seaweed salad with marinated bean curd.
Of course, I can’t resist an order of Chinese fried chicken. No excess batter – just simply crispy skin and moist drum stick.
And finally, the star of the meal, the whole reason we found ourselves at this little hole in the wall, a big bowl of rice topped with fried pork chop and pickled cabbage. The meat was crispy around the edges and dusted with a five spice for flavor. So satisfying for just a little more than 5 dollars. What else can you ask for?
Dinner took me to a brownstone in Clinton Hill to Daniel and Alicia’s kitchen for a Mexican themed meal at NY Bite Club. More to come on the delicious meal a little later…
Sunday morning was an early one. It has to be one if we wanted to brunch at Shopsin’s where lines start at 10AM and even though we were only 3 minutes past the hour, we still had to patiently wait for a seat. To make up for the wait, we might have overindulged just a little too much starting with mini chicken tender slides with buffalo sauce and sauteed onions on top of mac and cheese pancakes.
Just to make it even more delicious, a drizzle of maple syrup right in between the pancakes.
Not to be outdone by the starter, we followed up the sliders with tupelo three part happy breakfast. And happy we were indeed. Part one were a small tiny stack of slutty cakes made with caramelized bananas and stuffed with peanut butter and bacon. Part two were mini maple pumpkin donuts and finally part three was a little something savory, a spicy and smokey chorizo pimento scramble. This three part breakfast tray kind of fulfilled everything I want for brunch, something sweet and savory. Now, why can’t all breakfasts be this well balanced?
Finally, the weekend ended with a home cooked meal of seared duck breast served with ginger scallion sauce with SB and KC. To accompany the medium rare duck, I roasted broccoli and kabocha squash finished with a drizzle of maple syrup and toasted walnuts. This is now my second time making canard de magret and I am happy to say, practice does make indeed makes things just a little closer to perfect.
Excellent Pork Chop House | 3 Doyers Street, New York, NY 10013 | http://excellentporkchophouse.com/
Shopsin’s General Store | 120 Essex Street, New York, NY 10002 | http://www.shopsins.com/
It seems that every year, I become obsessed with yet another member of the Little Wisco group. This year, it is Perla, the cozy Italian spot tucked away on the short block that is Minetta Lane. The rustic interior was dark and lit by warm and dim lights, full of leather booths and wooden tables. As a juxtaposition to the old school dining room, a low beat of hip-hop floated throughout, just the right level though so that you can carry on a conversation.
My dinners here have always started with a little bite from the kitchen. The deceptively plain toast with ricotta might seem understated but dressed up with a drizzle of floral honey and a sprinkle of black pepper, these were kind of perfect.
Moving onto the appetizers, where there were some true stars. Even though grilled octopus seem to be on every single menu lately, the version here at Perla is worth ordering. The tender pieces were perched on top of a piece of country toast topped with sweet and tart flavorful blend of eggplant and oven roasted tomatoes.
The beef tartare with bone marrow, mushroom and tendon all’amatriciana was a nice rendition on the typical tartare. The pickled mushrooms added a nice bite while the fried tendons added great texture. Even though I lapped up the dish, I seemed to have missed the bone marrow somewhere between the bites.
I love burrata and when it’s served with salmon roe, I really can’t resist. With the addition of burnt leeks and pumpernickel, the plate was a combination of all types of texture and flavors.
For that night when I was feeling a little adventurous, I opted for the veal tongue. Slices of tender tongue were served with crispy fried sweetbread, capers, Tokyo turnips and tonnato sauce. Another great plate full of fun and unexpected flavors and texture.
Of course, for those looking for a little green, the arugula salad with pomegranate, pumpkin seeds, treviso and parmigiano was a good starter featuring some autumn flavors.
While it is really hard to not get lost in the appetizer section at Perla, you must power through because the pastas here are quite fabulous. A standout is a rich duck ragu that coated each wide strand of the house made pappardelle. To make it even more unctuous, foie gras is added into the sauce.
Another favorite was the orecchiette with sweet Italian sausage and broccoli rabe pesto. Each lobe of the perfectly al dente orecchiette was coated with that delicious pesto, made from a blend of broccoli rabe and tiny sausage pieces. Even though I mostly prefer noodles over orecchiette, I couldn’t stop eating until the entire bowl had disappeared.
Of the two entrees I was able to sample at Perla, the winner was definitely the leg of lamb and belly with shallots, shishito peppers, yogurt and calabrian chile. The belly was fatty and fork tender while the leg had a nice bite. The yogurt cooled off the mild heat from the shishito peppers and the calabrian chile, creating a great balanced dish.
The second entree I sampled was the pork chop with jeweled yam, polenta and grain mustard sugo. While the flavors in the pork chop dish were fantastic, sadly the tough pork pieces left a bit to be desired.
Desserts at Perla were kept pretty simple. The most intriguing has to be their take on the tartufo. There was no easy way to approach this other than to dig in wherever you can. Once you do crack open the thin crust, the globe of chocolate ice cream will fall away to reveal a fig in the center. The combination was rich and dark, lightened by the dollop of ricotta and amaretto fudge.
Even though I have already visited Perla twice in close succession, I feel like I am ready to return to the cozy spot. I would love to start with one or two of the appetizers and definitely move onto one of their delicious pastas. Perhaps I will save room to explore another main dish there with a glass of wine and end with a sweet bite. There is something about the food and the atmosphere there that just combine to create near perfect experiences and one that I hope will happen time after time again.
Perla | 24 Minetta Lane, New York, NY 10012 | http://perlanyc.com