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.
When we went to Rouge Tomate Chelsea, I did not know what to expect. On one hand, I remembered a dinner that I found ok and quite pricey at the time they were Uptown (they closed in 2014); on the other hand, I was intrigued by their Michelin Star. So we decided to give it a try on a Friday night. The place was nice, with its open kitchen in the main dining room, exposed brick and reclaimed wood, as a testimony to the commitment of sustainability of the owners.
When we booked our table at Nix for Memorial Day, I not only did not know what to expect, but also did not know where the name of the restaurant came from, until they gave us the check and a post card with Nix vs. Hedden was attached to it. This is an interesting case that made its way to the Supreme Court: Nix v. Hedden, was a decision by the Supreme Court in 1893 that, under U.S. customs regulations, tomatoes should be classified as a vegetable and not as a fruit. The Washington Post gave last year an interesting insight on this case:
Two weeks ago, we decided to try Surf Tacos in Hoboken, NJ. This place replaced the fantastic Taco Truck that unfortunately closed last year, the brick and mortar restaurant not being as successful as the trucks. So the stakes were high, any place serving tacos in that location being for sure compared to its predecessor.
We spotted Il Falco few months ago, while going to LIC Market in Long Island City. And, as we were planning to have dinner in that same area, we decided to try it. Interesting place: quite dark, you will hear the waiters speak Italian, in a setting that makes you think you are in an old school Italian restaurant.
Continuing my quest to try all the Michelin Star restaurants in New York City, I was intrigued by Casa Enrique, a Mexican place located in Long Island City. Some may ask how come Long Island City, also called LIC, can be considered part of NYC: know that some of its neighborhoods are located in Brooklyn, a borough of NYC. At least, besides stuffing my face with a Mexican meal, I learned something...Anyway, Casa Enrique, the restaurant of Executive Chef Cosme Aguilar can show off one star, already a good accomplishment. What is interesting, is that there seems to be a gap between a one and two stars: you will find lots of casual restaurants like Casa Enrique in the one star category, but certainly not in the two stars section where Daniel, The Modern or Marea share the fame.
I recently went to Canada and flew for the first time out of LaGuardia airport. Not such a good idea considering how messy this airport is with all that construction, but I admit that I was impressed by the digital experience they offer to the passenger, especially in their food court. Each table was equipped with an iPad where you could select your order and then check out, so it would be taken into account by the kitchen. Of course, you had to be careful to close the tab because otherwise the next person sitting at your spot could enjoy a nice meal thanks to you.