We finally made it to Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, the acclaimed Italian restaurant located few steps from Washington Square Park. This place, that opened in 1998 and got the “Best New Restaurant of 1998” award from the James Beard Foundation, is the first restaurant in New York of Chef Mario Batali. But, it is now owned and operated by Joe Bastianich, who used to be Batali’s business partner before the recent allegations of sexual misconduct of the celebrity Chef that, at the time of this post have not been to trial.
When my friend Benny proposed to go to Astoria to a Greek restaurant, I was excited. He got a recommendation to go to Stamatis, a family owned restaurant located few steps from the train station. We went on a Friday and this place was so packed with patrons coming and going endlessly, to the point that at 9:30pm, they were already out of desserts: that was a bit disappointing as we really wanted to end our meal with something sweet...
Located Midtown Manhattan, Café China is a discreet restaurant that won a Michelin Star this year. With its 1930s Shanghai decor, this non-pretentious place serves Sichuan dishes. Service there was good, courteous and efficient, but I found the food to be ok, not that amazing to the point that I would die to go back. Is it because we did not order the right dishes? Maybe. I let you judge after you read what we had:
Few minutes from Grenoble is La Corne D'Or a restaurant located in Corenc with stunning views of the city and its surrounding mountains. There, the Borrel family created a relaxed atmosphere in a wonderful setting, where Chef Alexandre Bonnel feeds hungry patrons not only stunned by the views, but also by the creativity of his food. This is not a Michelin starred restaurant, but it surely deserves to be recognized.
I love burgers and I am always curious to try something different from a classic cheeseburger. Few years ago, I discovered the Mac and Cheese burger at The Ainsworth in Chelsea, that I still consider the best of its kind so far, not that there are many places proposing a burger smothered with a good mac and cheese. As there is a Ainsworth in Hoboken, Jodi and I decided to go for brunch, early enough to see the end of the soccer World Cup game between France and Argentina (4-3 with a victory for France). The place was not crowded, that was great as I like a quiet environment when I eat and it seems that most of the people were routing for my country of origin.
I have been drinking whiskey for some time and wanted to learn more about it. Looking for classes, I stumbled upon The Flatiron Room, a restaurant with live jazz located near...The Flatiron. This place is incredible as they offer more than 1,000 variants of whiskey, from many countries that I did not even know produced whiskey. And they have classes for beginners and experts that take place in their upstairs tasting room. So I went there with a friend of mine, for their beginners class, whiskey 101, that consisted in tasting 6 different whiskeys. I should mention that they say in their description that they serve light appetizers, and it is...very light as there are only few slices of cheese with a small amount of bread.
Last Sunday, we went with our friends Jen and Gary to see the David Bowie exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and Jodi was tasked to find a brunch place. Her pick: The Vanderbilt in Prospect Heights, where Chef Saul Bolton of SAUL Restaurant in the Brooklyn Museum, Red Gravy in Brooklyn Heights and Brooklyn Bangers serves an interesting menu in a very relaxed atmosphere. And the food there was phenomenal! In fact, it has been a while I did not have such good brunch and I am talking about brunch in its literal sense, not a meal during brunch time that has nothing to do with what a brunch should be.
It might be easier to find somebody in Grand Central Terminal than finding Agern, a Michelin Star restaurant serving seasonal Danish cuisine. If I would not have found a directory in Vanderbilt Hall, I think I would have ended up calling them to ask for directions, Google Maps being useless once you enter in the beautiful train station that is Grand Central.
I admit that our initial plan was not to go to Juniper Bar for brunch last Saturday, but, after I saw a photo of their burger on instagram, we switched plan. The photo showed a big piece of brie on top of a patty: so mouth watering that I could not wait. So, on our way, we looked at their website, to make sure there were vegetarian options for Jodi and, on their menu, saw "The burger", an 8 oz Pat LaFrieda short rib blend burger where you could add cheese like American, goat, cheddar, pepper jack, fontina or camembert, or an organic fried egg or even bacon. At that point, I thought that it was a mistake: camembert and brie are two different French cheeses, but brie has cream in it, giving it a higher fat content.
The Uptown part of Hoboken can be challenging for restaurants and when Charrito's Uptown closed, we were wondering how long the space would be vacant and then what type of restaurant would open there. And then came Tosti, a breakfast and brunch place. Nice decor, much brighter than the very dimmer Charrito's, it has a relaxed atmosphere.
On one of the days, my sister proposed to go with my mom to Lyon, also known as the capitale of gastronomy in France, where many great chefs either started or made their own career, the most famous of all being Chef Paul Bocuse who unfortunately passed last year. So, not surprising, this icon of the French culinary world has a food hall named after him. This is where we started our visit. It was a week day so not all stalls were opened, but we got to salivate in front of lots of them: cheese, wine, cookies, pastries, chocolate, fish, foie gras and various animal pieces (some only French people would eat) were laid out in front of our hungry eyes.
Although I love French food, not just because I grew up with it, I admit that there is one item that I rarely order when going to France and it is red meat. I find the meat in the US much better, tastier and tender, and I am not even talking about the meat from Japan or Argentina that is fantastic. So, as I was visiting my family in Grenoble, I remembered that last year, there was a Steakhouse under construction and was hoping to try it. Unfortunately, it was not there, replaced by something else. I was so disappointed.
When visiting my family in France, there is always something bothering me more than anything else: restaurants’ hours. A lot of them are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays and in fact, few where we wanted to go to were unfortunately closed. But thanks to the internet, we found few options and this is how we ended up at La Ferme a Dédé close to the train station. We knew this place as we tried one of their restaurants a couple of years ago and I was raving about their farm raised chicken with morel sauce.
Located in a small street near the center of Grenoble, La Factory Gangi is an Italian restaurant where you would go for the atmosphere more than the food. Don’t get me wrong, the food, that also includes French dishes and is not what you would expect in a classic Italian place, is decent, with good prices, but it is more the sens of hospitality that stood out. And you could tell that regulars are going there to enjoy a good time.
When going to France, there are few things that i always want to eat and crepes are no exception. This specialty from Bretagne are so good! And you have an infinity of options for their fillings: the classic ham and cheese, smoked salmon with crème fraîche or less classic, a beef patty, like a variation on a burger.
We were recently at Le Singe, formerly known as Le Singe Vert in Chelsea, to meet Jodi's cousin Rebecca for brunch. It has been a while that I had that place on my radar and it was a good opportunity to try it. The dining room definitely had the feel of a French brasserie, as did the menu. We started our meal by sharing their French toast casserole, that is a crème brulée flavored baked French toast with caramelized apples, topped with crème fraîche. We added some maple sugar and that was perfect: delicious, it was caramelized on top, the best part in fact.
Ali Baba is a Middle Eastern restaurant located on Washington street in Hoboken. This place has been there for so many years. We often ordered but it has been a while since we had dinner there and, one day, we went as I really wanted to try their couscous. This is where we heard about Barbes, a Moroccan and French place that opened several weeks ago few blocks from there, that has an amazing food, especially the tagines and couscous.