Last week, my brother stopped by to see us on his way back to France. On top of the fact that it was great to spend time with him, it was a great occasion to make him try some cuisine or food that are not that common in France or that he cannot find in the city where he is living. There is so much diversity in New York that I had to pick just couple of choices that I proposed to him. I'll pass on the first night when we went to Benny Tudino's in Hoboken so he could have a good taste of pizza. We also ordered chicken wings as it is something that he never tried (it is only served in few restaurants, mainly in Paris, such as the Indiana Cafe where I used to go with my cousin Sandrine when I was living there).
The pizza was good as usual, but the chicken wings were like fried chicken...Disappointing...In fact, I never ordered anything else other than pizza over there and several people told me that the rest of the food is not very good!
The next day, I proposed to go for Venezuelan as where he lives, there no such restaurants and he never tried before. We ended up at Caracas Arepa Bar that is one of my favorites! Caracas Arepa Bar is a small place in the East Village that has these amazing arepas, which are some sort of buns that are grilled and baked, filled with different ingredients, from chicken to beef, to beans and cheese. They offer a nice selection of vegetarian dishes.
The decor has an authentic feel with its wooden tables and chairs that are a bit run down and plenty of religious figurines on the wall.
as well as satiric figurines of politicians...
I admit that the only one I recognized was Hugo Chavez...
The service in the restaurant was efficient and extremely courteous. The menu is simple and features items that cost less than $8, at the exception of course of the tasting platters that they propose.
We started by ordering some banana milkshakes.
They had a little bit of cinnamon on top. It was more liquid than a traditional milkshake, that is good considering that it was more a drink to go with the meal rather than being a dessert. Unfortunately and contrary to the last time we went there, it did not have as much banana taste.
For appetizers, we first ordered the guasacaca & chips.
It is in fact guacamole with chips made with plantains and taro roots. The guacamole was very good and fresh, while the chips were deliciously crispy and not at all greasy.
The second appetizer was the tajadas.
It is fried sweet plantains with cheese. The cheese was salty, making it a perfect ingredient to counterbalance the sweetness of the plantains. This was a fantastic appetizer and I could not stop eating it!
Then came the arepas. My brother picked the one called "De Pabellon".
It was made of shredded beef, black beans, white salted cheese and sweet plantains. I did not try it, but my brother loved it and told us that it was his favorite food from the whole trip!
Jodi chose the one called "La Del Gado".
It is an arepa composed of plantains, avocado and white cheese. These are simple ingredients, but I have to say that it was the best! It has some nice flavors and the avocado added some freshness to the dish. The salted cheese and sweet plantains complemented each other well. This was a hit!
On my side, I picked the "La Mulata".
An arepa filled with sweet plantains, black beans, jalapenos and sauteed red peppers. This was very good, but when you eat the jalapenos, your mouth starts quickly to get on fire! It is a bit attenuated by the cheese and plantains, but still, it is a bit hot!
We skipped dessert as we were full! When you see the arepas coming, you may think it will not be enough, but trust me: it is!
For dinner, we went to have a steak at Dino & Harry in Hoboken (review of Dino & Harry here
). Each time I have visitors from France, I tell them that they should try the meat in a steakhouse; there is no doubt in my mind: the meat in the US is way better than the meat in France.
Dino & Harry is a great steakhouse, but, as most of the restaurants of that kind, it is pretty dark inside, so the photos are not great...I therefore decided not to publish them!
Jodi and my brother ordered the petite filet mignon that was very tender and juicy, served with mushrooms. I decided to order the ribeye that was magnificent: perfectly cooked medium rare, juicy, extremely tender with a nice char. For sides, we went for the French fries (mediocre) and the onion rings (delicious and not too greasy). Oh, I forgot to mention the sauces: the bearnaise sauce is always perfect, but I did not really like the roasted garlic aioli.
As we had a bit of space left after this fantastic dinner, we went for the chocolate mousse: it was very dense, not too sweet with a very pronounced chocolate flavor.
I have never been disappointed in that place!
On Friday, we decided to go to Little Italy and see if for San Gennaro, we would find some succulent food!
I was a bit disappointed because, besides the stands for iconic places such as La Bella Ferrara pastry shop, it was the usual sausage and meatball stands you would see in a street fair. So we decided to eat in one of the restaurants over there. We first went to Da Nico, but nobody bothered taking care of us. So we left and ended up at Benito One.
We picked this restaurant simply because we saw people already eating there and we were in kind of a rush (I tried to check on the internet which restaurant was the best, but unfortunately had no service...).
Jodi ordered a tomato and mozzarella salad.
It was served with roasted peppers and basil leaves. I think it is the worst tomato & mozzarella salad I ever had, that is pretty incredible considering how easy it is to make! It was under seasonned, had barely any olive oil and the mozzarella was horrible! The roasted peppers were the only things I enjoyed.
My brother ordered the homemade cheese ravioli.
They were served with a tomato and basil sauce. It was a good dish: the ravioli were not too doughy and the sauce was good although simple.
On my side, I ordered the homemade gnocchi.
They came in a tomato, shallots and cream sauce. The gnocchi were ok, but overall, the dish was bland.
Benito One was clearly not a good choice for lunch! I will definitely have to try to find the best Italian restaurant in Little Italy: this will be my next quest! Anyway, if you know any, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
So, of course, we skipped dessert at Benito One and walk few feet away to the Stuffed Artisan Cannolis! We saw them on a TV show and were dying to try them!
They started 5 years ago and their idea is to put a twist to the traditional cannoli. So, for instance, they have coconut, French toast or nutella.
We decided to try (from left to right): nutella (of course!), French toast, Birthday cake, regular, regular and chocolate. Of course, these cannolis are not full size! They are half the size of regular ones.
The shell of the cannolis was good and crispy, but the filling was not: the nutella one barely tasted nutella; the regular had an off taste; the birthday cake was just ok. The French toast was good with a nice maple syrup flavor, but it was not something I would crave.
For dinner that Friday, we decided to go to Southern Hospitality (review of Southern Hospitality here
). BBQ is an amazing thing to discover as we do not have that in France. We have grilling, but not the slow cooking so particular to BBQ! And Southern Hospitality is the perfect place for some tasting!
We decided to order several dishes: for appetizer, we went for the fried green tomatoes.
These are amazing! Not greasy, very tasty, the tomato had a nice crunch. It was served with a BBQ ranch dipping sauce that is so good that I would just drink it!
We also shared some corn bread and Mac & Cheese.
The corn bread was wonderful and came warm with a delicious honey butter. The Mac & Cheese was perfect! Creamy and full of cheese!
Then came the meat! What I like about Southern Hospitality is that they propose some tasting portions so you can try different meats. We started off with the fried chicken.
It was good, but not the best I ever had: the breading was falling off as we started cutting the bird...Southern Hospitality also proposes fried chicken and waffles that I love!
By the way, as an anecdote, the first time I tried fried chicken when I was leaving in Paris was at...KFC...
Then we got the brisket.
That was a fantastic piece of meat!!! I did not even need a knife to cut it! It was amazingly good, tender and moist, that is what is sometimes a miss with brisket. I would have eaten more...
Last was the dry rub Memphis style spare-ribs.
Delicious as usual: the meat was falling off the bone and was incredibly tasty with some nice fat in some areas (yes, fat can be good!).
We could not leave that place without having a dessert...My brother went for the key lime pie.
It was very good: creamy and not too sweet with a nice whipped cream on top to counterbalance the acidity of the lime.
But my favorite was the banana pudding.
The banana pudding at Southern Hospitality is the best I ever had! It has vanilla wafers and caramelized bananas on top. It is pure heaven: very creamy and rich, each bite makes you want more. Then you reach the bottom and you get some crumbled cookies, wishing that there was more! It is definitely something to try!
That dinner at Southern Hospitality was definitely a hit and a perfect way to showcase some specialties from the South.
Saturday was the last day...We decided to go to brunch. The brunch concept is not as popular in France as it is here. Many years ago, when I was living in Paris, I used to go with my friends for a Sunday brunch, but it was a novelty (we used to go to Le Loup Blanc that still serves a brunch for 22 EUR with all you can eat croissants and chocolate croissants!).
I checked on opentable.com and found this place few blocks from Times Square as it was one of the places we were supposed to see. We ended up at 44 1/2 on 44th street and 10th Avenue.
This place is pretty cool, very modern and very bright.
It has a nice patio in the back...
...that you can see behind the corn bread!
They serve traditional brunch dishes such as eggs, French toast...
Jodi went for the California Omelet.
It was made with egg whites, tomatoes, spinach, mozzarella and avocado on top. It was pretty good. The eggs were perfectly cooked and it was a great healthy dish. On the top left side, you can see some fruits cut into cubes: all the dishes had some. Great idea to clean your palate at the end!
My brother ordered the andouille sausage frittata.
It was made with green onions, white cheddar and truffle oil. Very good dish too, although I missed the taste of the truffle oil...
On my side, I ordered the crab cakes benedict.
It was served with a homemade Hollandaise sauce that was delicious. The crab cakes were not the best I ever had, but I enjoyed it! It had a bit of sweetness that reminded me my first attempt at crab cakes!
This was a great brunch, but we were so stuffed at the end that we decided to pass on dessert and walk on the high line...
Of course, after that walk, we needed a snack and we thought that it would be a great idea to go, before my brother took his flight, to the Doughnut Plant (review of the Doughnut Plant here
Jodi got her coconut donut, my brother the peanut butter and banana one and for me, I simply ordered the tres leches that is one of their best selling and always a hit!
We had a great time with my brother and wish we had more time together. I would have had for sure found so many other places to try: deli (Junior's), bagels,...It will be for another time!
We enjoyed (we did)!
And remember: I just want to EAT!
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