Every week end has its own food activity! Some people plan for a trip: I plan for Food! This week end is no different than the others, so I decided to give you a glimpse of what it means and to narrate our food quest last Saturday!
Jodi and I made a plan to meet with Jodi's cousin in the city. We were supposed to meet at 1pm at B Cafe, a Belgian restaurant located on the Upper West Side. It has been a while I wanted to try it: one of my co-workers told me that they serve a great merguez sandwich. A Merguez is a lamb sausage packed in spices, that you would mainly find in North African inspired restaurants like Le Souk, Tagine, Felix or Cafe Mogador.
The photo below shows you how a merguez looks like:
The best way to eat them in a sandwich with simply some ketchup or honey mustard; of course, the bread is key. When I lived in Paris, I use to go to some kebab places that were serving merguez sandwiches with very greasy fries: a pretty comforting meal! In my family, we also use to cook them on a grill (in France, you can find merguez in any supermarket): fantastic! I remember that when I was a kid, merguez used to be very, very spicy and my cousins were adding Harissa (chili paste) to it to make it even spicier; nowadays, they are not so spicy, maybe to satisfy the taste buds of everybody: after all, it is easy to make something spicier than the contrary!
So, anyway, we were on our way to the city and for me, even after having a breakfast, I was still hungry. So we decided to stop by first at Francois Payard for a small snack.
We shared a chocolate croissant and I got a delicious double expresso with it. The expresso coffee was good, but it is not as good as the one you would get at Eataly! The chocolate croissant, made in a shape of a croissant, was very disappointing! I do not know if it is because it was made earlier that day, but it was a bit dry and I could not taste the butter I tasted when I reviewed this location few week ago (click here to see the review of Francois Payard).
We continued to walk up leisurely, until we arrived at B Cafe:
B Cafe (B is for Belgian) is a nice little bistro style restaurant located on the Upper West Side. The dining room is located in the back of the restaurant and has definitely a European feel to it. Surprisingly, they did not put any air conditioning that day, although the weather was very humid. Maybe they are saving on their electricity bill! The service was very courteous and they graciously moved us to a cooler part of the restaurant.
As planned, I ordered the merguez sandwich:
The sandwich came with some salad and fries. I was pleased to see that they served it in an old fashioned baguette and was made with lettuce, diced tomatoes and caramelized onions.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the sandwich: the bread was tough and they made the mistake of butterflying the merguez instead of serving it as a whole, that would have allowed more flavor, but also the sausage to keep some of the fat that makes it so distinctive. Because of that, it was also very messy to eat! Clearly a miss! Fortunately, I enjoyed the fries...
Jodi went for the omelet jardiniere:
Served also with salad and fries, it contained mushrooms, tomatoes, asparagus and cheese. It was an ok omelet for me: although well cooked (meaning not overcooked), it was watery, thanks to the veggies it contained.
B Cafe serves also mussels, but it seems that they did not taste as fresh as they should...I did not try and will probably never! So B Cafe is a forgettable experience...
The next stop was for something sweet as we did not get dessert a B Cafe. We decided to go to Levain Bakery that was on our way downtown. We went the first time few years back, after seeing the bakery featured in Throw-down with Bobby Flay.
The bakery was opened by two women who use to run marathon and decided to create a cookie that would be packed in energy so it would help them go through their favorite activity. They created a 6 ounce cookie that is very good, but very heavy!
It is a tiny place and it was packed! When I entered, my nose was filled with a strong and delicious chocolate smell!
We chose the dark chocolate chocolate chip cookie:
Judging by its appearance, it is not the most appetizing cookie. But if you like chocolate, this is the best you can ever have! The chocolate flavor was intense and the cookie was oozing chocolate!
We continued walking leisurely downtown, until it was time to have dinner. We decided to eat at Miss Lily's, a restaurant in the West Village that we noticed each time we passed in the area, because of the line outside, especially at brunch time.
I had no idea what kind of restaurant Miss Lily's is! It is a pretty colorful place (lots of red) and the way the menu is displayed on top of the bar, gives the impression you are in a self service restaurant. The cuisine is from the Caribbean, mainly Jamaica. Per the waiter, they have three popular dishes: jerk chicken, Jerk pork and oxtail stew. I decided to order the jerk chicken and to start with the watermelon gazpacho, a special of the day.
Gazpacho is a cold tomato based soup that originates from Spain. It is the perfect dish for a hot weather and a nice starter for a meal. This soup was very good: they added some feta cheese on top to add some saltiness to the dish and the tomato and watermelon flavors were well balanced. There was pepper in it that gave a nice but subtle kick to it.
Then came the long awaited jerk chicken!
Jerk is, according to Wikipedia, "a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice". And I can tell you that this was packed with spices! They served a nice portion of chicken with a marinated cucumber salad and a sort of apple compote. What I liked, besides the fact that the chicken was moist, is that it was not overly spicy at first: it just built up in the back of my throat, until becoming very hot! The apple compote (sort of) helped a bit to counteract the spices, but still: it is a hot dish! What helped also is the rice and beans that came with it.
It was good, although on the dry side and had a nice coconut taste that you lose after having your mouth on fire...
Jodi chose the vegan bushman plate:
It was composed of jerk seitan (left), quinoa, stir fry vegetables & plantains (center), callaloo (right). Callaloo is a traditional Caribbean dish made with a leaf vegetable such as taro, amaranth or xanthosoma. To be honnest, I do not remember which one the waiter said it was, but it was similar to spinach, maybe on the sweeter side. The callaloo was also very spicy. The dish was ok and I thought that it was overpriced ($19).
So, my dinner was good at Miss Lily's, but Jodi was a bit disappointed. I think that if you like meat and like spicy, Miss Lily's can be a good spot!
We did not get any dessert this time, considering the amount of food we ate that day...I am sure you understand!
Enjoy (I did)!