January 2012 | I just want to eat!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Where is my lunch??? 10th and Willow Bar and Grill in Hoboken, NJ

We decided to go to 10th and Willow in Hoboken for Brunch. The place is nice with a warm atmosphere rendered by the wood from floor to ceiling (high). We were given the choice of sitting in the bar room on high chairs and high tables or go to the dining room in the back. We picked the bar as it had a certain charm.

The menu offers classic brunch dishes or meals you would find in tailgate such as chicken wings or burgers (build your own). We ordered French toast and Huevos Rancheros (one of my favorites). I am not sure if they prepare the food out of town, but it took more than 30 minutes to get served and I had to ask the waitress if there was a problem with the kitchen so she took care of us!!! Clearly poor service! The table next to us arrived before us and when we left, did not even have their food! I have to say that I admired their patience; the Bloody Mary may have helped them...I did some research on the internet and it seems that poor service is one of the characteristics of this place!

So, 30 minutes later, our food arrived:

First was the cinnamon raisin French Toast, served with toasted coconut butter and fresh fruits. When we asked for some more coconut butter, they were nice enough to bring a lot more, although I was a bit scared that it would take another 30 minutes! The French toast was very good: crunchy and moist. 
The coconut butter was awesome and I am not a coconut addict!
I also appreciated the fact that they served the dishes with fresh fruits: it gives an impression of a complete meal.

Then there was the Huevos Rancheros: two poached eggs in a crispy corn tortilla shell with black bean salsa puree, shredded cheddar, spicy salsa, guacamole and home fries. The price of this plate is $15 so I was very surprised when I saw the quantities they were serving. It was probably worth $12. However, I am ready to pay a good price but it has to be real good! The guacamole was good, although missing a bit of acidity; in term of quantity, it was perfect. The eggs were well poached and the tortilla crispy as advertised. But, the black bean puree should have been called "thin layer of black bean puree"! I could barely taste it! And where was the spicy salsa? It was not spicy at all. So it was kind of disappointing. For good Huevos Rancheros in Hoboken, next time I will go to La Isla!

I am not sure it is worth giving another try. Especially considering the other good restaurants in the area!

Enjoy (meh)!

If you had a similar or different experience there, let me know by posting a comment!

10th & Willow Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Great Steak at Dino Harry's in Hoboken, NJ

Yesterday we went with close friends to one of my favorite Steakhouses: Dino & Harry's in Hoboken. I love this place: great service and most importantly great food! We did not have a reservation so it was good that we went early as the place got packed later! I do not think that it is because it was Restaurant Week, although I am sure it attracted some additional crowd. Of course, we followed the rule of not getting the Restaurant Week's menu in a Steakhouse. I did the test once at Dino & Harry's and it was disappointing (to learn more, click here). 

Here is an interesting story about this restaurant in Hoboken:  it opened in 1991 in a 1800's building, under the name Frankie and Johnnie's, a family owned venture that was created in New York during the prohibition by two waiters from Philadelphia. But in 2008, a legal battle between Dino Panopoulos, Harry Panopoulos' son and their cousins forced them to rename the restaurant to be able to have the sole control. This is how Dino & Harry's (re)started.

There is definitely a certain atmosphere in this restaurant, probably thanks to the decor: tin high ceiling, tiled floor (similar to the logo of the restaurant), warm red color of the walls, cherry bar and a more than a century clock. There is also a piano near the entrance, used on Fridays and Saturdays. I regret that they only serve dinner (at the time of publishing): they would open for brunch, I am sure they would have a great burger...

Each time I went there, the service has been efficient and courteous. Concerning the food, I always had great meat there (except in the Restaurant Week's menu)! The meat is usually tender, juicy and cooked to perfection (I typically ask for medium, sometimes medium rare).

I think I have tried most of the pieces of meat they propose:

  • My favorite is the porterhouse, a piece of meat taken from the short loin, with a T-shape bone that has on one side strip steak (usually the larger piece of meat) and tenderloin on the other side. They serve it with butter, so they always tilt the plate with a smaller plate when serving at the table. This is big piece of meat (for 2) and they cut it into slices so you do not have to fight with the person you ordered it with.

  • Then they have the filet mignon (filet de boeuf in French) that is the smaller part of the tenderloin. This is also a very tender piece. They prepare it with mushrooms that are a nice addition. I hate to order a steak and discover that it is swimming in a disgusting sauce that overpowers the taste of the meat (yes The Palm, you know what I am talking about)! Be aware that in France, Filet Mignon will refer to pork, so you might be disappointed when they bring the plate...
  • The ribeye is more fattier, still juicy and they served it with a nice char. 
  • If you do not like beef, you can have lamb: their lamb chops are huge! You can get 2,3 or 4 of them. The first time I tried, I went with 3...2 was enough! They are so juicy, that when you cut them the knife will make all this delicious juice go on the plate. 
You can add a sauce for an additional cost: bearnaise, poivre (pepper) or roasted garlic aioli. The bearnaise sauce is very good and homemade. One serving is ok for two.

To go with the meat, you can order sides. This is in this restaurant that I had the Italian Mac & Cheese that I tried to recreate (recipe here)! But this time, they did not have it! What a shame! I have noticed that it comes and goes, so do not desperate if you go there: they might serve it! 
Otherwise they have the classics: mash potatoes, fries, onion rings... Yesterday, they had three cheese gnocchi: it was an amazing dish! The gnocchi were very light and the cheese sauce delicious! It was so good that we should have ordered another one!

Last is of course desserts: the menu changes regularly. Their creme brulee is perfect. They also have the Snowboken that is vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge, and chocolate cake and coconut. The presentation is great: they use a glass of wine that will be completely black thanks to the fudge. 

So it was definitely a great dinner! I should probably buy a pair of pajama jeans and wear them next time I go there!

Enjoy (I surely did)!

Let me know what you think about Dino & Harry's by posting a comment!

Dino & Harry's Steak House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 28, 2012

NY ChiliFest this Sunday at Chelsea Market!!!

From 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sun. Jan. 29 at Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Ave

If you like Chili, it is the place to go tomorrow! But you really need to like it as you have to purchase a $55 ticket in advance, not at the door, that will give you access to a 500 feet concourse with all you can eat chili, beer and music ($45 without the beer)!

The chili will be prepared by NYC restaurants who will compete in front of a panel of judges (one of them is Michael Symon, the Iron Chef) to win the Golden Chili Mug. 

For more information, visit: http://chilifest2012.com

Enjoy and let me know your experience by posting a comment!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ali Baba in Hoboken, NJ

This post has nothing to do with the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves! It is a restaurant located in Hoboken, NJ, that I heard whose owner is of Lebanese origin. It is one of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in the area, with good food and good prices. The restaurant is nicely decorated and the service courteous and good.

The photos above are from their vegetarian party platter that serves 3 to 4 people. I love this platter, although I just realized that they closed to double its price(!!!): you can pick 5 different appetizers: from hummus to baba ganoush (both I believe homemade), to taboule or falafel. They always add delicious olives and peppers, and are very generous with the pita (packaged)! The falafel are small and crispy, never greasy. The taboule is typical, very tasty and fresh. A great platter if you have a party (hence its name!).

I also love their sandwiches that are served in a pita. My favorite is the tandoori chicken one. It is a bit messy to eat because of all the sauce they put, but it is so good that I do not care at all! They also serve other typical dishes like couscous or kufta (type of meat patty).

For dessert, they serve baklava: sometimes good, sometimes too dry. Not the place to go for dessert for me!

Last, if you want, you can enjoy some Hookah (instrument for smoking flavored tobacco in which the smoke is passed through a water basin before inhalation), but I cannot comment about that!

Leave me a comment to tell me if you shared the same experience or what you think about this post!

Enjoy (I did)!

And remember: I just want to eat!
Ali Baba on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Old Homestead: home of the steaks and burgers!

The Old Homestead is definitely an institution: located in the famous meatpacking district in New York, it is one of the longest continually serving restaurant in the USA that opened in 1868! For me, it is one of the best Steakhouses in New York and trust me: I tried many! Their meat is of great quality, perfectly cooked and each time I went, I was never deceived! Their filet mignon is awesome, but my favorite is the ribeye: juicy with an incredible taste! I am drooling just thinking about it! However, one thing they removed from their menu is the truffled Mac & Cheese; they replaced it with a Lobster Mac & Cheese. I think it is a mistake: Mac & Cheese is a great side for a steak house, that changes from a regular mash potatoes, bland broccolis or fries. But not everybody likes seafood in it! I would have kept the truffled Mac & Cheese: it was incredibly delicious!

This restaurant otherwise is like many steakhouses: dark atmosphere with dimmed light, wood and leather for a warm and cozy feeling. They have a big cow on top of the entrance, outside, that clearly defines the place! The service is attentive and courteous.

These days, for lunch, they are serving the Burger Diamonds: a lunch menu that includes a beer or glass of wine, a caesar salad (nice portion), three sliders and tater totes. 

The three sliders were:
  • Filet mignon with truffled mushrooms and an onion ring on top. 
  • Kobe beef with caramelized onions and bacon. In fact, this restaurant was one of the first in America to serve Kobe beef.
  • Sirloin with cheddar.
All the sliders were great: juicy, tasty and perfectly cooked (medium for me), that is difficult considering the size of the piece of meat they have to work with. They give you a very decent portion. My favorite was the sirloin: it was the juiciest of the three and the sharp cheddar was awesome! The burger bun was a brioche (not dry at all) and there was a nice proportion bread/meat. The tater totes were also delicious, not greasy and crispy. All of this served in a playful way, with on the bottom some reproduction of a newspaper and a cauldron to serve the tater totes. Last, they give you enough ketchup and mayonnaise, so you do not have to beg for more!

This restaurant remains one of my favorite steakhouses in New York!

Enjoy (I did)!
Old Homestead Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 23, 2012

xīn nián kuài lè - Happy Chinese New Year!!!

This is the year of the Water Dragon, that begins January 23, 2012, and ends on February 9, 2013! The water Dragon symbolizes intense power, abundance (of food???) and good fortune! 

It is a good opportunity to have Chinese food (let's not forget that this blog is about food)! If I were to pick, I would probably go for Peking Duck! My favorite! For that, I would go to the Peking Duck House in New York: each time I went, I had a delicious and delicate meal! 

So Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Delicious Banana Cream Pie from Billy's Bakery in NYC! Updated on 1/22/12

My wife has always been a big fan of Billy's Bakery in Manhattan for two things: cupcakes and coconut cream pie. I am not a coconut guy, but I have to say that their coconut cream pie is pretty good and they are pretty generous in portions, with very reasonable prices (we just bought two slices of banana cream pie - photo - for $9!).

Billy's bakery has several locations, but I only know the one in Chelsea. The bakery is kind of retro with an old red formica table set (one, so it is more a grab and go). You also get to see the kitchen where all the magic happens! On top of that, from the kitchen, emanates the fantastic smell of freshly made cakes. No way you can leave without buying something yummy!

Besides, the coconut cream pie, I have tried the cheesecake, that is good, but not as good as Junior's and the banana cream pie that is delicious. In fact the banana and coconut cream pies are identical in the way they are made (I guess it is creme patissiere - a rich, thick and creamy custard made from a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, flour and cornstarch), but one has bananas and the other one coconut (try to guess; you can do it). The banana cream pie is light and not too sweet. It is perfect with a coffee or tea.

Apparently, their pineapple upside down cake is awesome, but they did not have it this time. So I guess I found a good excuse to go back...

Update on 1/22/12:
well we went back today and I tried their pineapple upside down cake: good with a very moist cake, but I would have liked more pineapple juice and flavor in the cake! Fortunately, I also had some more of the banana cream pie! I am telling you: having a food blog gives you plenty of excuses to indulge!!!

Enjoy (I did)!

And remember: I just want to eat!
Billy's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Reference: www.billysbakerynyc.com

Bistro 1051: Japanese and Italian food...but no fusion!

Recently, I went to Bistro 1051, an Italian seafood bistro and sushi bar located near Clark, NJ. Ok, let's say it again: an Italian seafood bistro and sushi bar. When you read it, you think that it would be some kind of fusion food and that you would end up with a tortellini roll! In fact, it is not the case. Italian and Japanese are two different menus. 
They claim that their decor is an award winning. Let me tell you: if Gordon Ramsey were to come for Kitchen Nightmare, the first thing he would do it to change the decor! I do not know if it was the because of the dimmed light, but it looked old and cheap. The noise level is also bad, so do not go for a romantic dinner! However, the service was very good and attentive and the food quite decent! I went all Italian, sorry Mr Sushi! The menu looked delicious with plenty of mouth watering dishes: brick oven flatbread, pasta, chicken and veal, seafood, etc...

As an appetizer, I tried the Spicy Maryland Crab style soup: it was very creamy and tasty, with a nice kick. I suspect they microwaved it and let it sit few minutes because of the film of cream on top of the soup when they brought it to the table. They also had a nice Pear endive salad, that was very refreshing and well dressed. For the entree, the penne vodka was the perfect choice: creamy, a bit spicy, with well cooked pasta.
Of course, we finished with a Tiramisu, that was perfect: light and not too sweet, a perfect balance. It was a very good dessert.

This restaurant is definitely a little hole in the wall. I am not sure if I would go for the sushi, but certainly for the Italian cuisine, to try some other dishes they have on the menu!

Enjoy (I did)!

Bistro 1051 on Urbanspoon

Hudson County Restaurant Week!

Another Restaurant Week, but in Hudson County from January 23rd to February 3rd! Once appetizer, one entree and one dessert for $18 for lunch and $35 for dinner in average!

Check the list of participating restaurants and menus by clicking here!

Enjoy (I am sure you will)!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts!

When I was a kid, I hated brussels sprouts! I could not stand the smell or the taste. I remember that my mom used to prepare them with merguez (lamb sausages) and unfortunately, the sausages were absorbing all the taste of the brussels sprouts! Many years later, I ended up with brussels sprouts on my plate, in a restaurant in New York City. I tried and kind of liked them! So, if you are struggling to get your kids to eat vegetables, it is not desperate and you should try to roast them (the vegetables, not the kids!!!). 

The way I roast brussels sprouts applies also to other vegetables like asparagus. I like them slightly burnt so it caramelized them. 
First, after washing the brussels sprouts, I remove the buds from the stalk and discard any loosen leaf from the surface. Depending on the size of the sprouts, I may cut them into two parts. Then, I put them on a tray with olive oil, salt and pepper. With my hands, I mix the brussels sprout with the oil, salt and pepper to ensure they all get their little bath. I then cook them in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Et voila!

Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

La Piazza at Eataly: I wish I was living there!

As you probably know from reading my other posts on Eataly located in New York City, I love this place! The only negative is that it is crazy other there with all the people who, like me, want to enjoy some great Italian delicacies! This time, we tried La Piazza, with its delicious cheeses and salumi. The setting is awkward: you either eat at the bar or on the marble high standing tables (no chairs), in the middle of the marketplace, with people passing by. Not the best place for a quiet meal! The service was great and I loved sitting at the bar, watching the preparation of the orders. 

The menu is mainly centered around wine, cheese and meat, but you can get some specialties from restaurants nearby such as Il Pesce (for seafood). They also make fresh mozzarella daily. We went for the Grande Piatto Misto Di Salumi & Formaggi that is a selection of meat and cheeses. The cheeses that day were (from left to right): ricotta, parmigiano reggiano, pecorino toscano, taleggio and gorgonzola. For meats, they served us prosciutto di Parma, prosciutto San Daniele, Mortadella, prosciutto Cotto, speck and Salami.
They also gave us, with the bread, some almonds in honey, candied orange peel and figs, to eat with the cheese (good call for people who do not like strong cheeses). 
The presentation on a wooden cutting board was awesome, with the different colors and texture of the meats and shapes of the cheeses! It gave a rustic feel to the entire dish. Although the quantity was not enormous, I really enjoyed it, alternating cheese and meat. 

I also got a crudo from Il Pesce, composed of pink snapper, fluke and Halibut. I like raw fish so the texture was not a problem for me. It was served with some olive oil and salt. Simple and delicious.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wild Ginger Thai food in Maplewood, NJ

I like having great food in small restaurants that have no pretension. I believe Wild Ginger in Maplewood, New Jersey is one of them! The restaurant felt cozy and warm and the service was very good!

The menu is simple with not too many choices, but with the basics: Pad Thai, Massaman Curry, Penang Curry, Lo Mein...No frog legs for me (I mainly find them in Thai restaurants).

They have a good and affordable lunch menu served with a soup or vegetable spring roll, brown or white rice. For the entree, you first pick the protein (chicken, tofu, beef or shrimp), then the way it will be prepared. It goes from traditional curry (red, green, Penang, Massaman, Thai) to classic vegetable dishes like broccoli with garlic sauce or string beans with soy and ginger sauce.

So, here comes the interesting part: what did we eat?
First of all, when I have Thai food, I always order a Thai ice tea. It was delicious, refreshing and not too sweet. A perfect start and believe me I got some bad ones! 

Then, as an appetizer, we picked the roti canai that is a roti bread served with a curry dip. I was surprised to see a roti in a Thai restaurant as I thought it was more an Indian / Pakistani bread (note: as opposed to the naan, it is an unleavened bread). In fact, Roti can be found all over South Asia with different names and declinations. It van also be found in parts of the Southern Caribbean, particularly in Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.
This dish is wonderful! Yes, the bread is a bit greasy because it is fried, but the only regret I have is that I did not order it for myself alone! It was so good! The curry dip is similar to the Massaman curry that has a bit of sweetness. It is more like a sauce than a traditional dip that would be thicker. Definitely an appetizer to recommend!

Then we got the appetizer: we all picked the vegetarian spring roll: good choice and nice presentation. I just wish it was bigger!
For the entree, we tried: the Tofu in the red curry (tomato, potato, string bean, pineapple, onion and coconut milk), Chicken Penang curry (string bean, carrot, broccoli and coconut milk) and tofu with string beans in a soy and ginger sauce. All of these dishes were served with brown rice, that was in fact not brown but had a mix between red and black! I loved it: it was a nice surprise and was a festival of colors with the different dishes (you eat first with your eyes, remember!). 
The food was pretty good: I am not a big fan of vegetables, but the string beans were very tasty and cooked to perfection. I preferred the tofu with the string beans rather than the one in the red curry because it was roasted and steamed tofu does not have that much flavor, despite the delicious red curry sauce it was sitting in. The Penang curry was awesome! Not too spicy, good texture and with a bit of sweetness. From the three entrees, it was my favorite!

So it was definitely a nice lunch experience and I hope plenty of people will go enjoy Wild Ginger as we did!

Enjoy (I did)!

And remember: I just want to eat!
Wild Ginger on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2012 - 20th Restaurant Week Edition in New York City!

Here it comes again: for its 20th year, Restaurant Week is back in New York City! From January 16th to February 10th. So, not a week, but 20 days! Restaurant Week started in 1992, during the National Democratic Convention where restaurateurs proposed prix fixe meals for visitors. Twenty years after, it is still popular!

This time, you can get an appetizer, one entree and a dessert for $24.07 for lunch and $35 for dinner. This is a great opportunity to discover restaurants or to go to places that are usually expensive, but it is true that a lot of restaurants will sacrifice quality during this event. That is why I always tell people to avoid Steakhouses: I had bad experiences at Beacon, Steak Frites or Dino & Harry in the past. On the other hand, I discovered good restaurants like Fig & Olives. 

Click here to get the list of restaurants participating in Restaurant Week!

Enjoy (I am sure you will)!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Great News on I Just Want To Eat!!!

Couple of important news on this site! So exciting!

First of all,  if you did not notice, there is no need for you to remember the full complicated address from blogger jp-ijustwanttoeat.blogspot.com. Now, just remember I just want to eat! Yes, the address is:

Also, instead of a boring link on your page or blog to I Just Want To Eat!, you can now add a button that you will find in the tools section (click here). 

When people click on it, they will be brought directly to this blog.

If you need a smaller size, let me know by email and I will prepare it for you!


I created a page for you so you can share with all of us your experience (click here)! To ensure a level of quality and integrity of this site, any comments will go to moderation, to avoid people who are just advertising a restaurant as well as spam and profanity!

Enjoy (we all will)!

Recipe: vegetarian chili

Before watching a chili competition on TV, I did not know that the original chili does not contain any beans (I am sure some of you would be grateful about that omission...). In fact, chili was made by American settlers using  dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers (usually chilipiquenes), and salt, which were pounded together, formed into bricks and left to dry. They would then boil the bricks during their trip. I think I made my own chili when I was not even 10 years old, probably after seeing a John Wayne movie or, I have to admit, a Terence Hill movie (shame on me). My attempted were not always successful, especially that time when I did not really cook the beans (my cousin Sandrine still remembers me that one). One day, I decided to make a vegetarian chili. I went on the internet, checked few recipes and made my own which is as follows:

Ingredients for 4 servings:
- 14 oz of firm tofu
- 15 oz tomato sauce unsalted
- 2 cans of red beans (15 oz each)
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp of soy sauce
- olive oil
- chili powder
- cayenne pepper

It is important to use unsalted tomato sauce as the soy sauce is already salty.

In a dutch oven, put the olive oil, minced garlic and tofu cut in small cube at medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce and cook until half the liquid (soy sauce and olive oil) has evaporated. Then, add the tomato sauce, red beans, chili powder and cayenne pepper (to your liking). Cook at low heat for 45 minutes, uncovered. 
I suggest eating the chili the next day to rest it all night so the tofu will get more flavor from the sauce.

You can add to the recipe peppers, jalapenos, etc...I personally like to it it with sour cream, guacamole and cheddar cheese.

Bon appétit!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Another attempt at making Crab Cakes Benedict!

After the not so bad attempt to make Crab Cakes Benedict few months ago (click here), I decided to try again. This time, it was much better! First, I used crab meat and not claw meat. That makes a big difference. Then I decided not to put too much of anything else to really feel the crab. Below is the result. Not bad, don't you think?

As you can see on the photo, I served it with roasted asparagus and roasted brussels sprouts. I found it was a good alternative to the classic roasted potatoes and gave me the impression I was cooking a healthy meal...

So, this time, this is what I did:
For 4 crab cakes:
- 1 lb crab meat
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp of butter
- salt and pepper

I made sure that I removed all the water from the crab meat by pressing it in a strainer. I then added the salt and pepper, melted butter and the egg, beaten. I mixed everything. With my hands, I made 4 cakes and delicately put them in a pan on medium heat where I previously put olive oil and butter. I then covered and cooked for 10 minutes.

Hollandaise sauce:
- 4 yolks
- 5 tbsp melted butter
- salt and pepper

Put the 4 yolks in a bowl with salt and pepper and beat them until obtaining a thicker consistency. Slowly add the melted butter. Once the butter is incorporated, put in a sauce pan at low heat and continue stirring so the yolks do not start cooking too fast and scramble. Once the sauce is warm enough, serve immediately. 

Note that you can put any twist to the sauce: you can add cilantro or truffle oil for instance.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Indian Sweets: Kaju Katli

One of my colleagues just came back from India and brought some traditional sweets called Katju Katli from the original maker, Haldiram's who is based in New Delhi It is made of cashew nuts paste, sugar and silver leaf. It is very good! On the sweet side with a subtle cashew taste.
Apparently these sweets are only made in India and, if you are lucky, you can find them in the US as they import them here.

I enjoyed (I did!)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

BBQ at Hill Country in NYC!

I love BBQ. I kind of miss it sometimes: the smokiness, the smell and the delicious taste of the meat.  Yes, I wrote meat and not fish as for me BBQ is all about meat! Although fish on a BBQ is not bad...I remember one time going to a shack in France for Mother's Day where you first catch a trout that would be cleaned by the owner and then grilled on...a barbecue! That was very good.
What is interesting is that BBQ differs by country. What we call BBQ in France is in fact grilling in the US: grilling would refer to fast cooking over high heat, while barbecuing refers to slow cooking over indirect heat and / or hot smoke. From what I understand, especially after seeing the last Top Chef episode, Texas is the land of BBQ: you do not need to tell me more to think about going there...

In New York City, there are plenty of BBQ joints. This time, I went to Hill Country. I guess the decor is supposed to render the atmosphere of a typical texan BBQ restaurant with wood everywhere and a big Lone Star that you cannot miss when you enter. The way it works is unusual: they give you a meal ticket that will be stamped (stickered would not be better if ever this word existed) at the stations (one for the meat, one for the sides and one for the drinks and desserts). Once you finish eating, you go to the cashier, present your menu cards and pay accordingly.

The menu offers all the items meat lovers would like: beef, pork, chicken, in the form of ribs / prime ribs, chops or sausages. The selection of sides is mouth watering: Cheddar Mac & Cheese, corn pudding, baked beans, chili, deviled eggs...
The meal ticket offers combos at reasonable prices that can fulfill any appetite. I went for the pitmaster: 1/4 lb Lean Brisket, One Pork Spare Rib, One Beef Rib, Quarter All Natural Chicken and two sides. For the sides, we chose: Cheddar Mac & Cheese, White Shoepeg corn pudding, green beans casserole with Durkee onions and smokey chipotle deviled eggs. Let's talk about these items:
The meat:

  • The way it was presented was very rustic: they put 4 slices of white bread on brown paper and then disposed the meat on top of it. I guess this is a Texan way: Texas toast. The packaging was like a little gift that you have to unwrap slowly, to discover some amazing pieces of meat. 
  • In term of taste, I loved the chicken: it was well cooked and moist. The brisket was good but a bit dry: I had to put some BBQ sauce that was on the table to eliminate the dryness. The beef rib was good but a bit tough: I was expecting the meat to fall off the bone. Then I got the pork rib: it was so salty!
The sides:

  • My favorites were the Mac & Cheese and the corn pudding. The cheese in the Mac & Cheese did not taste like processed cheese and it was pretty good, not dry. Then the corn pudding was a nice addition where you could taste, but not too much, the sweetness of the corn.
  • Then, I did not like the green bean casserole (bland) and the deviled eggs (off taste for me although I love mayonnaise). Bad choice on our part.
I was a bit disappointed by the experience, especially as I heard good things about it. Was it an off day? I do not know. Considering the number of BBQ places in New York City, I will try somewhere else next time...

Enjoy (I did not really)!

Hill Country on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hot cocoa and chocolate cake at Koryodang in NYC

Perfect day for this. The hot cocoa is good and the chocolate cake moist and very chocolaty!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fig & Olives in New York City

Olive oil has a fantastic reputation in Mediterranean countries: it is said that it contributes to the longevity of their inhabitants. In fact, the main type of fat found in the different kinds of olive oil is Monounsaturated Fatty Acids or MUFA, that is a monounsaturated fat, better than saturated or trans fat. These MUFA help lower the risk of heart disease, helping to lower, for instance, the level of cholesterol (the bad one!). It is also supposed to help blood clotting. Some research show that it may benefit blood sugar control and insulin levels, therefore benefiting people who have a type 2 diabetes (when did I get my PhD???). But, know that Olive oil is high in calories and all the beneficial nutrients it contains can be affected by heat, light and air. That is why it is better to keep it in a dark place and consume it between 6 months to a year maximum. Concerning the heat, that is true that I heard in the past that olive oil is not good for cooking: not sure what to think about it. A lot of chefs are using it instead of vegetable oil and it is true that the taste is better even in these circumstances.

So, now imagine a restaurant specialized in olive oil: it is what Fig & olives is about. They have several locations in New York and in each of them, they have an entire wall of bottles of olive oil that they sell. When they bring bread, they replace the butter by an olive oil tasting. I think this is interesting: who would pay attention to the different tastes of olive oil? There are so many different, that I find it clever to offer a tasting.
Their menu is definitely Mediterranean, with cuisines from France (the owner and chef are French), Italy and Spain. We discovered this restaurant during Restaurant Week and it was a great experience: everything was fresh and delicious. They did not degrade the quality of their menu like other restaurants do, probably understanding that a happy customer is a customer who would come back and recommend this restaurant. One of the things I appreciate is that they offer, all year long, a tasting entree for $30 (time of posting), called the Mediterranean tasting. It includes:
  • Grilled chicken breast, grilled provence vegetable, marinated red bell pepper - Nocellara Olive Oil
  • Grilled steak on rosemary skewer, bell pepper, Greek yogurt & honey, couscous - Koroneiki Olive Oil (photo 4). Note that the couscous is in fact a taboule salad.
  • Grilled shrimp on rosemary skewer, cherry tomato, saffron rice - Pimenton & Oregano Hojiblanca Olive Oil
This tasting platter is a feast not only for your stomach, but also your eyes. The presentation is perfect. Of course, some may say that the quantities are not enough. Well, it is reasonable and considering the quality, I do not see any problem. On top of this, it gives you an opportunity to try their desserts!

Besides this tasting dish, I also tried:
  • Yellow fin tuna carpaccio: Tuna, balsamic vinegar, cilantro, arugula, tomato marcona almond - Toasted Sesame Oil (photo 2): although the tuna was good, it was a bit bland and was missing some acidity. 
  • Penne Funghi Tartufo: Cremini mushroom, black trumpet, parmesan, parsley, scallion - White Truffle Olive Oil (photo 3). This was delicious! If you are a fan of mushrooms, you will be happy. The penne were perfectly cooked (al dente) and you could taste all these delicate flavors of mushrooms. Yum!
I am definitely a fan of this restaurant. The only negative is the noise level that is pretty high....

Enjoy (I did)!
Fig & Olive Midtown on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Recipe: olive oil oven poached tilapia

I tried a similar dish at The Franciscan, one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. Similar in the sense that I tried to recreate it and hopefully it is close enough! I love this dish: it is great for a nice dinner and very flavorful, mixing the flavors from the fish, the olives and olive oil and the sweetness of the butternut squash. It is not complicated, but takes time (close to 1h30)!

Here is the recipe:
For 4 servings
- thin white fish: I picked tilapia (4 filets)
- Pitted Manzanilla Olives (8oz)
- Peeled Butternut Squash (20oz)
- Potatoes (24oz)
- Salt and Pepper
- Olive oil

For the potatoes, I picked some baby potatoes, preferably the creamer ones, with a thin and tasty skin as I keep the skin on it when roasting them. They are usually moist and have a creamier flesh perfect for this dish. 
For the Butternut Squash, I prefer the peeled one as it is a pain in the neck (excuse my French) to cut a squash. I cook it in boiling water until soft as a first step and then will cut each piece in a size that will match the size of the potatoes that I will also cut in small pieces.
In a dish that goes in the oven, put some olive oil, salt and pepper. Put the potatoes and cook at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until the flesh is soft (test with a knife). This may take 30 to 40 minutes. Then, put the pieces of butternut squash and the olives. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add some more olive oil and put in the bottom of the dish the filets. Cover with the potatoes, squash and olives and cook for 30 minutes. Et voila!

Bon appétit!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Koryodang: Korean pastries???

One time, we were walking in Koreatown in New York City, looking for Red Mango and noticed this big (very high ceiling), modern and bright pastry shop with a calm atmosphere (probably the water fountain and stones). We right away saw the different pastries and decided to go for a lemon tart and a chocolate tart: this was delicious and reminded me the tarts I used to have in France. Who would have thought that I would find some delicious pastries in a Korean patisserie? We went back another time and tried their hot cocoa, that is pretty decent: they, at least, use milk and not water, and you can ask for some whipped cream.
So, after we got this memorable dinner at Il Bastardo few weeks ago, we kind of needed to end the evening with something sweet. And guess what: we ended up at Koryodang, again. They had a whole bunch of cakes, but, unfortunately, they did not indicate what was what. So we asked the waiter what it was and his answer was quite amusing: "it is cakes" he said, slightly annoyed! You know what? I would not have guessed!!! Of course it is cake! So we gently asked him to describe them; this would not happen if they put a description for each pastry (duh!). Finally, we came home with two cakes: a white tiramisu and a chocolate truffle cake. Both cakes were delicious, not too sweet and very light.

Koryodang is definitely a good address to know if you need a dessert! By the way, Koryodang is apparently a term used by a group of friends to call upon the only korean friend that they have.

Enjoy (I did)!
Koryodang on Urbanspoon