Tag Archives: New York City

Love That Dutch Design

photo from vandaagnyc.com

For the first time, I thought I could live in a restaurant.  Vandaag is light and airy, clean lines, modern, the loudest details being subtle textures like wood slab ceilings and tiled walls.  There are big windows looking out onto the East Village Streets.  An old Lynyrd Skynyrd song plays.  The servers wear cute printed aprons and converse.  The restaurant has a clear focus: food from Denmark and Holland, genever (gin) and aqvavit.  Not a bad focus.

I know nothing about Dutch food, but I do know I was in the mood for simple comfort food, whatever that may be.  We tried a romaine salad with crumbled sausage, bitterballen (braised oxtail croquettes), and gravlax.  They sent out an amuse bouche of hen pate, which was lovely, but made me feel like I was due to have a fancier meal than expected (or desired).  The food is super creative and thoughtful.  The owners come from Mayahuel, an expertly conceived tequila restaurant, so it’s no surprise they left no Dutch detail untouched.  It’s a niche restaurant in fine form.

Will I return?  Yes.  I really want to try their Ham Burger, with gouda and charred onion, and maybe one of their beer cocktails.  I might come with a group, as they have nice big booths to squeeze into, and the airiness of the restaurant is such a refreshing change to the usual table-upon-table setup of most New York restaurants.  You almost feel like you left the city altogether.

Vandaag, 2nd Ave bet 6th and 7th Sts, East Village.  For more information visit vandaagnyc.com

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Sunday Brunch?

Joan's Eggs Benedict-Florentine

It’s that day of the week, folks.  Sunday, when most of us make breakfast the singularly most important event of the day, surrounding ourselves with our best friends and celebrating the fact that it’s a day with no obligations with various cocktails.  It’s an institution in this city, and while I dream of my mother’s Egg Benedict-Florentine (see above, she made that for me on a recent visit home) I might be visiting one of these spots today (also, check out my other posts on brunch in NYC, here and here.

If I’m feeling over-the-top:

The Oak Room at the Plaza.  It’s a $65 prix-fixe, which gives me options like smoked salmon “benny” with potato cake and horseradish hollandaise, french toast holes with orange marmalade and nutella, a raw bar and lobster roll sliders.  It’s decadent on every level, and about as classic New York as you can get.

10 Central Park South, 212-758-7777.  Visit their website here.

If I want traditional, good ol-fashioned brunch:

Clinton St. Baking Company.  Be prepared to wait upwards of two hours, because the food here is so good and everyone knows it.  Their buttermilk biscuits, warm crumbly wonders, are served with jam and their bloodies in pint glasses (this is important).  I’ve never tasted more deliciously fluffy blueberry pancakes.  For excellent, traditional execution of brunch, this place is it.

4 Clinton St between E. Houston and Stanton, 646-602-6263.  Drool over their menu here.

If I want charming and quaint:

Tartine in the West Village is great if you’re having an intimate brunch with your best friend.  It’s tiny and you may have to wait in line.  The menu is small, but it’s only $14.95 and it includes items croque monsieur and french toast.  The location is ideal, looking out onto a pretty corner of brownstone-lined Village.

253 W. 11th St at W. 4th, CASH ONLY.

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A Day for Burgers

There is a strong relationship between heavy snowfall and my eating habits.  It’s like all dietary rules and worries go out the window when there’s more than six inches of snow.  Maybe my subconscious thinks school is cancelled, which means I play all day.  Today, I can’t stop thinking about burgers and beer.  No, not beer.  Dark’n’Stormy’s.  Some of the best burgers in the city:

1. SHAKE SHACK: because of the special sauce, thin patties, and concretes for dessert.  You needn’t wait outside because it’s a blizzard, so let’s go to the Upper West Side.

2. J.G MELON: Because crotchety old places that haven’t changed a bit are comforting, especially when the burger’s good.

3. MINETTA BURGERS- BLACK LABEL OR THE $16 ONE

And to drink, a cold frosty beer sounds delicious, but I might splurge for dark’n’stormies, because it’s that kind of day.  It’s Gosling’s Dark Rum (or a dark rum if you can’t find Gosling’s) and ginger beer (not ginger ale) with some fresh lime.

Where to go:

Shake Shack: 366 Columbus at 77th St, shakeshack.com

J.G. Melon: 1291 Third Ave at 74th St, 212-744-0585 (read nymag’s review here)

Minetta Tavern: 113 MacDougal St bet Bleecker and W. 3rd, minettatavernny.com

And a great dark’n’stormy can be had at Lure Fishbar, 142 Mercer St in Soho, lurefishbar.com

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Ronnybrook Milk Bar

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Chelsea Market , housed in an old factory building, is essentially a gourmet foodie mall, which is why I get sucked in everytime I’m within a 3 block radius.  Buon Italia, Bowery Kitchen Supply, Amy’s Bread, Fat Witch Bakery, T Salon, Chelsea Wine Vault all reside in the raw, rather industrial space.  I stopped into Ronnybrook Milk Bar recently to pick up one of their yogurt drinks (honey vanilla, mmmmm) and noticed a man sitting at the counter eating a plate of hummus and reading a book.  He seemed so content. I thought, hummus at a milk bar?  Why not? So I sat down at the counter and ordered one for myself.  It’s incredible hummus, served with sliced egg, pickles, and a basket of warm pita.  What a  cozy little spot for lunch!  Plus they have sundaes and milkshakes!  The rustic diner feel of the place, with walls made of milk crates and a line of glass refridgerator cases offering up the myriad of Ronnybrook products make it all feel wonderfully old-fashioned and homey.  I highly recommend.

Ronnybrook Milk Bar: 75 Ninth Ave bet 15th and 16th, inside Chelsea Market

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Two Restaurants and How They Grew

 

 

 

Last summer, two little restaurants came forth into the world, very different, but full of promise.  I first visited them last summer (you can read my first posts on them if you like), and then I had the interesting experience of revisiting each one within days of each other last week.  One is trendy and a bit of a joke, the other  is quiet and so good as inspire a standing ovation (from the people at the next table).

One restaurant was destined to be a fashion-y, scenester place, as its owners came from places like Waverly Inn, Freeman’s and Pastis, three spots that ooze coolness like jelly from a donut.  The location is the basement of a charming townhouse in the West Village, and the design, like so many restaurants in New York these days,  is a throwback to the Prohibition era 1920s.  This restaurant is called Hotel Griffou, but you wouldn’t know it by walking by, because like all wannabe speakeasies in this city, there’s no sign.  The “history” of Hotel Griffou includes a, long-deceased Madame Griffou, who apparently ran a pretty nice brothel and liked things like steak Diane and lobster thermidor.

Griffou cocktails: the highlight. Photo from nytimes.com

The mushroom ravioli amuse bouche at Aldea

The amuse bouche at Aldea. Bliss in liquid form.

 

The other restaurant is called Aldea.  Its owner, George Mendes, is its chef, and he did time at Toqueville, Wallse, and Bouley, the last of which has given birth to a remarkably high number of chef-restaurateurs.  Aldea lives on a rather uncharming stretch of 17th Street whose most famous resident,  looming large a few doors down, is BLT Fish.  Where Hotel Griffou is all bordello chic, Aldea is clean and modern with a noticeable zen factor.  Hotel Griffou wants you to take off your clothes (judging by the various photos of topless women), Aldea wants you to clear your mind.  It took Mendes about two years to build his restaurant, and it shows most in the open kitchen, a superbly organized wonder of polished steel and white tile that invites no shortage of kitchen envy.  

Griffou's Lobster Thermidor

Market Vegetables with Boquerones at Aldea

 

Fulfilling the cliche of what Griffou attracts, I was there for a fashion-related dinner with the French-Canadian designer of Fluxus, a contemporary line known for their drapey way with jersey.  We ordered lobster fondue and tuna tartare and I, having a sinking feeling the food was just going to suck, decided against unworthy calories (the special du jour was veal osso bucco) and went for tuna under the amusing section called “Simply Grilled,” clearly targeted for the room full of skinny people who need something light with their cocktails.  That said, the cocktails are the best part of Griffou.  They’re creative, with good ingredients and well-mixed- they’re generally awesome.   Then again, at $15 a pop they should be awesome.   The food at Griffou must be an afterthought.  I have no other explanation why grilled tuna should taste like it just came out of a freezer.   It should be a lot better because when I first went there it was better.  I wonder what will happen to Griffou if the food isn’t worthy visiting, and the scene has moved on to the next hotspot?

Pork Cutlets at Griffou. Photo from nytimes.com

Cuttlefish and Squid Ink at Aldea

 

Fast forward to Aldea, two days later.  I have just sat down with my friend Tarra at the chef’s counter in the back of Aldea, to swoon over the open kitchen.  I order a glass of Cava and am admiring the precise movements of the many cooks, all seemingly choreographed to produce a culinary recital, sans music.  A group from the table behind us has finished dinner and they move towards the kitchen, where Mendes is expediting.  They start clapping, cheering with so much appreciation and grace you’d think they’d spent the last month eating at Griffou.  It’s rare to see people cheer the chef after their dinner.  It’s a good sign.  

The meal was delicious- there’s so much thought in every dish, so much complexity.  One of my favorites is the amuse bouche the kitchen sends out.  It was a mushroom ravioli in a butternut squash puree.  The mushroom “ravioli” resembled a translucent brown gelatinous egg.  (YUM, you say.  I know, my description is killer).  You scoop up the ravioli with a little of the squash puree, pop it in your mouth, and the ravioli pops, releasing a burst of liquid that is all wild mushroom.  It’s like caviar, or flavor burst gum.  It’s INCREDIBLE.  We tried a simple plate of crisp market vegetables, served with boquerones and a dash of earthy but bright coriander yogurt.  Cuttlefish with caramelized lychee and squid ink.  A beautiful sea-salted cod with cranberry and fava beans over a nasturtium parsley sauce.  And for dessert, Aldea’s donuts, which are off the hook.  They serve them with three dipping sauces and that night it was salt caramel, chocolate, and a blackberry jam.  You’ll only see a picture of the empty basket (filled with sugar!) because we entered inhalation mode (often happens with dessert).  

Chatham Cod with fava beans at Aldea

The basket that once held a pile of warm, fresh beignets

 

Griffou, with its mediocre food and bustling scene, is arguably more successful, but they have a strong bar built in.  Aldea has little interest in a bar business.  It’s about food, and chilling out, and being surprised, maybe even tickled, by something they’ve created.  Maybe it’s unfair to compare the two because they’re so different. But let’s say you’re choosing a place for dinner.  The loudest one in the room will always be heard, regardless of whether they have anything meaningful to say.  This is my plea to listen to the quiet ones.  Oh, and the quiet one is also less expensive.

Aldea: 31 W. 17th St.  Visit aldearestaurant.com. 

Hotel Griffou: 21 W. 9th St.  No website, so visit nymag.com for more info.

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Supper at Corsino

 

Inside the restaurant. Photo from zagat.com

For all intents and purposes, Monday nights are designated as a Domestic Duty Night.  Domestic duties include everything I spend a week avoiding: gym, laundry, cleaning out moldy leftovers in the fridge.  Last night, having accomplished step one: gym class, I was walking home, planning to stop at the market to buy healthy things for a virtuous dinner.  Then my phone rang.  It was the boyfriend.

“You want to have dinner at Corsino tonight?”

Ah, the classic struggle of living in New York hereby summed up: Restraint vs Indulgence.   Would I spend two hours cleaning my egregious piles of dirty laundry, where my entire population of socks now lived?  Or would I spend two hours at a cozy table in the West Village,  drinking good Italian red wine and a eating a bowl of perfectly cooked pasta and maybe some affogato for dessert?.  Restraint versus Indulgence.  I wavered.  Clean laundry.  Good Italian.  Staying in.  Going out.  Saving money.  Spending money.

“Give me thirty minutes.”  

I realize I can survive incredible amounts of time without clean socks, but I cannot stand to miss the opportunity for a good dinner.  Corsino is exactly that: a good dinner.  If you love Ino and Inoteca,  you’ll love Corsino.  It’s fairly inexpensive (no dish over $18, and most pastas around $15), although I would warn that it can be deceptively pricey… The cozy corner spot, filled with dark wood and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Hudson and Horatio streets, practically command you  to linger over multiple bottles of wine.  The food is not surprising, but simple and tasty- on the two times I’ve visited, I’ve left perfectly satisfied.  Tagliatelle with lamb ragu and fusilli with sausage and tomato are both outstanding, served in oversized white bowls.  Lots of crostini to nibble from.  For entrees, grilled lamb shoulder chops, braised pork, and Heritage brisket meatballs are fantastic.  I noticed lots of people on dates, and a few locals at the bar, nursing wine and pasta, the ultimate in Italian comfort food.  A group broke out into a raucous rendition of Happy Birthday.  People were happy.  It’s hard not to be at Corsino.

Corsino, 637 Hudson at Horatio in the West Village.  Their website isn’t up yet, so read their menu on menupages and their writeup on nymag.com.

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View from the Chef’s Counter at Aldea

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Here’s a hidden gem… Aldea is a little restaurant in the Flatiron serving up a sort of modernized Portuguese food, with some Spanish touches and seasonal and local produce.  The menu is tight,  gracefully toeing the line between high-end (foam on stuff) and rustic (my duck/rice dish was out of this world). We scored a couple of seats at the chef’s counter, which sounds deceptively fancy but really anyone can call up and reserve.  Go with a someone who appreciates the function of a professional kitchen- it’s like theater.  I’d take a date here, or my food-loving parents, or my best friend for a night out.   Here’s dinner…

 

foie

foie

 

amazing dish of bacon, soft poached egg

amazing dish of bacon, soft poached egg, peas and summer truffles.

crudo

crudo

super delicious take on arroz con pollo... but it's with duck and chorizo

super delicious take on arroz con pollo... but it's with duck and chorizo

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roast pork tenderloin

roast pork tenderloin

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Aldea: 31 w. 17th nr Fifth.  Read Platt’s very good review on nymag.com and the great review in the New York Times.

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