Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Alice's Tea Cup Chapter III

220 E. 81st Street
(btwn 2nd and 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10028
(212) 734-4832

Alice's Wonderland is closer than you think

Every little girl dreams of jumping into her favorite fairytale for a day. At Alice's Tea Cup Chapter III, the little girl inside all of us can do just that.

The minute you step into Alice's you are whisked away from the noisy, dirty streets of Manhattan and transported into a whimsical, glittery, delicious Wonderland.

Colorful fairy wings hang from the ceilings and adorn the walls. Bookcases are stacked with beautiful tea pots, books, and girlie gifts. The upholstered benches look like they were taken straight from the house of The Queen of Hearts. And the walls are painted with scenes right out of a fairytale.

You're essentially at Alice's Tea Cup for your own, private Tea Party, so choosing your tea is the first step. There are no cups of tea, only pots. And with over 100 varieties to choose from, my friend Carri and I asked our waitress for recommendations based on flavors we like. The waitress was very knowledgeable about all the teas and made good suggestions. I went for something fruity, while Carri tried something stronger and darker. Not only are the tea pots they bring you colorful, and super cute, but the the teacups and plates all have beautiful little floral designs.

Onto the food. We were pretty hungry and wanted to try some different things, so we ordered The Mad Hatter for two. It came with: 
  • Two pots of tea
  • Choice of 3 scones with preserves and cream (we got 1 regular, 1 ham, and 1 fruit)
  • Choice of 2 sandwiches (we got the Lapsang souchong smoked chicken breast with granny smith apples and goat cheese on 7 grain bread AND the Albacore tuna with capers, cornichons, and shallots in a whole grain mustard vinegarette on semolina with black sesame seeds.)
  • Choice of Jean's 'not-yet-but-soon-to-be-famous' mocha chocolate chip cake, queen of hearts french vervain-infused lemon fruit tart OR chocolate mousse with assorted cookies (we opted for the latter)

Well, needless to say, we ordered too much food, but it was delicious! The scones were big, fresh, and buttery. I thought I would like the fruit one the best, but the ham was the winner. And since they have a different scone selection every day, there's always something new to try. The sandwiches were cut into perfect, little bite-sized pieces and were also very tasty. The mustard in the tuna sandwich was strong, but gave it a tangy kick and the chicken sandwich was a little more basic, but the apple and goat cheese combination gave it a nice sweet and salty addition. Sadly though, I was unimpressed by the desserts. I am a savory person, so I was satiated with the scones and sandwiches, but I always like to end with something sweet and I didn't really enjoy any of the cookies. And since I am not a chocolate lover, the mousse was a bit rich for me. I think next time I'll skip dessert altogether, because I certainly had my fill with the rest of the items on our lovely 3-tired serving tray.

Whether it's a bridal shower, baby shower, your little daughter's birthday party, or lunch with the girls, Alice's Tea Cup is a fun choice that will leave you feeling full and like a kid again. (But leave the guys at home. Trust me, they'll thank you.) Oh, and even though Alice's has 3 different locations in the city, be sure to make reservations. Apparently, a lot of people want to feel like kids again.

Monday, March 7, 2011


111 E. 29th Street
(between Park and Lex)
New York, NY 10016
(212) 685-5585

Bring your appetite, and leave the Resto to them 

Let's face it, Murray Hill isn't really known for its gourmet dining options. It's better known as a place where overgrown fraternity guys go to die. So when I stumbled upon Resto, in desperate search of a hamburger one night, I felt like I found a white swan in a sea of ugly ducklings.

Resto's inviting atmosphere welcomes you into a cozy Belgian beer bar and restaurant. Right away you feel like you've been transported to a different city (or at least to a different part of New York City.) While it's minimally decorated (wooden floors, wooden slab-like tables, and brushed metal chairs and stools), Resto has a warm and homey feel. And whether you get drinks at the bar or sit for a meal, you get to select your beverage from a big book of beer options. (Literally, they hand you a novel that has their beer list printed over the pages.)

You may remember that I've been searching for a new favorite hamburger place after the infamous PJ Clarke's meat-switch fiasco. Well, after having the burger at Resto, I think I may have found it. On the menu, the burger is simply described: gruyere, red onion, pickle, mayo, frites, greens. It took me by surprise though, that when I told the waiter I wanted my burger medium rare, he said they cook all their burgers the same way, but promised I'd be happy with the outcome. I was extremely skeptical. Especially because if a burger is cooked a shade more than medium rare, I won't eat it. When I asked the waiter why this was their policy, he said something about the meat having pork fat in it, which has to be cooked past a certain temperature. Anyhow, I took my chances and put my fate in the hands of the chefs at Resto.

Let me just tell you, that thinking about the Resto burger is making my mouth water. It's a shame that on my first visit there I agreed to share the burger and the mussels with my boyfriend, because I wanted the burger all to myself. (Side note, the mussels were nothing special.) Anyhow, I don't care what kind of fat they put in that burger or how they have to cook it, it was one of the juiciest, most flavorful burgers I've ever had. It was perfectly pink and served modestly, with the gruyere melting off the sides, on a soft, supermarket-style bun. The pickles added a delicious crunch, and for an extra bit of flavor, I put some of the side greens on top.

The frites at Resto are also worth an honorable mention. They are cut short and chunky, and have a thick, crunchy outer shell. Some of the dishes come with frites, but they also offer a frites platter that comes with all 10 of their dipping sauces. Write down the ones you like because you'll never remember for next time. So far I can only remember the gribiche, it was my favorite.

After doing some research, I read that Resto is also known for its brunch, so my second and third trip there were on weekend mornings. I was always seated promptly (they accept reservations) and I appreciated that it's not a "scene." My first brunch experience, though, was mediocre at best. I ordered the Egg Sammy: eggs, gruyere, guanciale, hollandaise, english muffin. I could have ordered the Egg McMuffin at McDonalds and it would have been the same; maybe better. Big disappointment. My friend got the Eggs Benedict served over a lardon liege waffle with hollandaise, homefries, and greens. I didn't taste it, but on looks alone, I'd say she made the better choice. She said it tasted as good as it looked. On my second brunch visit, I was a lot wiser and ordered the burger. (It was a late brunch.) My sister ordered what I am calling the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich ever made. On the menu it was described as: vermont cheddar, gruyere, bacon, pork belly, greens. As you can see by the pictures below, this was a behemoth of a sandwich to begin with. The texture of bread reminded me of sourdough with a rich butter crust. The cheeses were plentiful and gooey and the bacon and pork belly added the most delicious smoky, salty flavor. Every bite of that sandwich was worth the calories of  butter, cheese, and bacon.

For a restaurant whose tagline is "bringing fat back," I'd say Resto is living up to its name!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

690 3rd Ave
(Btwn 43rd and 44th St)
New York, NY 10017
(646) 783-5060
Various other locations
Five Guys, Definitely NOT Five Stars

If you live anywhere in America, you know that Five Guys chains have been sweeping the nation, particularly the East Coast. There's been a lot of hype about Five Guys, especially since Zagat voted their burger the "Best" Fast Food burger in America in 2010. Now, I am not really a fan of fast food. The only time I'll make an exception is on a road trip (and even then, I usually get chicken). But with all the buzz and a new location right around the corner from my office, I had to give Five Guys a chance. If anything, for the sake of research.

Well, sorry Zagat, but my official vote is in, and I think Five Guys stinks. Granted I haven't had a fast food burger in about 11 years, and I can't for the life of me remember what a McDonald's burger tastes like, but I can say with certainty that I'll never go back to Five Guys. If this were a comparative review, as Zagat's was, maybe Five Guys would rank the best compared with Mickey Dee's, Wendy's, Burger King, and the like. But it's not that kind of review. And I'm not willing to do that much for the sake of research. Therefore in the case of Five Guys v. nothing else, nothing else wins.

I have to say that I did really enjoy the atmosphere inside the Five Guys on Third Avenue between 43rd and 44th. The staff was really jovial and friendly. They looked like they were having an awesome time preparing mediocre burgers. I was there during the lunch rush but the line moved pretty quickly and everyone on line seemed really excited about being there. At the time, I felt really excited too. I felt like I was part of something new and big and different. Well, that didn't last very long.

The first thing I didn't like about Five Guys is that the place smelled like a typical, greasy, fast food joint. The kind of place where after you walk out, you want to take a shower. I assume you really can't help that when you're searing cheap beef and frying pounds upon pounds of potatoes in peanut oil, but I guess I was hoping for something better. I ordered the Little Cheeseburger, which is really just a regular-sized fast food cheeseburger. (The regular burgers at Five Guys have 2 patties.) They offer a choice of 15 free toppings, but I tried to keep it simple and went with ketchup, lettuce, tomato, and pickles. I didn't get their famous fries that notoriously soak the brown paper bag with grease, which in hindsight, may have been Five Guys' saving grace. But I was really there for the burgers.

Let's talk about the burgers, shall we? First of all, they are a complete mess. You open the foil wrapper and there's lettuce falling all over the place, thick slices of tomatoes sliding out of the mangled bun, and globs of ketchup everywhere. I couldn't even hold the damn thing. Five Guys' burgers are a contradiction to the idea of Fast Food; which you should be able to eat on the go, in a hurry.

Secondly, the meat patty (if you could even call it that) was also a complete mess. It looked very unappetizing and had no patty-esque shape whatsoever. It looked like they balled up a wad of overcooked ground beef, slapped it on a bun, covered it with toppings, and called it a day. They do use fresh, not frozen, meat. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's good, fresh meat. Thirdly, just because you throw a slice of cold American cheese on your hamburgers and hope the heat will melt it, doesn't give you the right to call them cheeseburgers. 

Lastly, the meat had no real flavor. It tasted like a typical fast food burger that you could get anywhere off I-95 (or your Interstate of choice). Not to mention, it was difficult to even taste the beef without choking on ketchup or a gargantuan pickle slice. To top it all off (no pun intended) I had indigestion for the next 6 hours. Thanks Five Guys!

Now I understand why Five Guys offers 15 free toppings. They have to mask the generic, fast food burger taste with something.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mesa Grill

102 5th Ave
(between 16th St & 15th St)
New York, NY 10011 

(212) 807-7400

Bobby Flay Doesn't MESA Round

Restaurant week gave me the perfect excuse to experience my first Bobby Flay Restaurant. And after I did, I can say that I would definitely pay full, non-restaurant week prices to dine at MESA Grill again.

Since Restaurant Week menus are always small snippets of the full menu, I had to choose wisely. Luckily, I was with a big group and there would be a lot of sharing. Before anything, they brought out a delicious breadbasket. My favorite was the little marbleized blue and yellow corn muffins. They even had bits of corn and peppers inside.

Bread Basket

For appetizer, I started with Sophie's Chopped Salad with her own Special Dressing + Crispy Tortillas.  My sister got the Tomato Soup with Charred Corn, Blue Corn Tortillas Avocado + Queso Fresco. I wanted to start light, as to leave room for the main course and dessert. The salad was just okay. It could have been on the menu of any other restaurant, of any other cuisine, of any other chef. But the Tomato Soup was divine! Rich, creamy, a little nutty and a hint of spice on the way down. The table shared the Spanish Chroizo Quesadilla with Fried Egg, Smoked Tomato Salsa, Grilled Green Onion + Crispy Artichokes. Not only was this dish beautiful to look at, the combination of flavors was exquisite. Salty, sweet, crunchy, acidic. Delicious. Luckily it was being shared or I would have eaten the entire thing. The other amazingly delicious appetizer we shared was the Goat Cheese Queso Fundido with Rajas (roasted chiles and onions) + Blue Corn Tortilla Chips. Thinking about this dish is making my mouth water. In my world, there's nothing better than cheese. That is unless, it's melted, baked cheese. I mean how simple a concept, right? I'm telling you though, this baked goat cheese with roasted peppers was so tasty, so salty, so greasy, so perfect.

 Spanish Chroizo Quesadilla

Goat Cheese Queso Fundido

For my main course I wanted to try something different. Everyone was getting either the fish or the chicken, so I decided to get the Cornmeal Crusted Chile Relleno filled with Roasted Eggplant and Manchego Cheese with Sweet Red Pepper Sauce + Balsamic Vinegar. First off, again, another beautiful dish. The large green chili was wrapped beautifully in a cornmeal jacket and sitting on the vibrant orange red pepper sauce. Cutting it in half was painful, but when the creamy eggplant and cheese oozed out, I felt no remorse. This dish was truly delicious and truly unique. I would definitely order this again and again.

Chile Relleno

I probably shouldn't have poo poo'd the chicken so quickly, because, it too, was incredibly flavorful. It was a 16-spice seared half chicken over Yukon Gold potato smash with creme fraiche and scallions with bing cherry and cascabel reduction sauce. The chicken was extremely juicy and the cherry sauce formed a sticky glaze over the skin. The chicken, combined with a scoop of the creamy potato mash, was like the ultimate (dressed up) comfort food on a fork. I wasn't a fan of the Grilled Red Snapper, that came with Tomato-Red Chile Sauce, Capers, Olives, Charred Jalapenos, Basil + Crispy Squash Blossom. It was bland and overcooked. I was really happy to have gotten the Chile Relleno after tasting the fish.

16-Spice Chicken

Red Snaper

Lastly, for desert, I got the Summer Peach + Berry Bread Pudding with Raspberry Salad. And my sister got the Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake with Chocolate Chip Marscapone Whipped Cream. I know what you're thinking. "Bread pudding?" But I swear, this bread pudding was up there. It was moist, and sweet, and a bit tart. The Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake was beautiful too look at, but a bit too rich for me. The rest of the group seemed to have loved it though.

Bread Pudding


I will definitely go back to MESA Grill for another taste of Bobby Flay's creations. My parents were recently at MESA Grill in Vegas (upon my recommendation) and loved it as well. The one question I have though, is Bobby, what's up with the decor?! 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

P.J. Clarke's

915 3rd Avenue
(between 55th St & 56th St)
New York, NY 10022
(212) 317-1616

UPDATE: 8/22/10

I Have Major Beef With PJ's New Burgers
It is with a heavy heart that I report that PJ Clarke's, my favorite burger in New York, changed its meat distributor and lost a customer. 

As you may know, PJ Clarke's has been my FAVORITE hamburger joint for many years. I have ranted, raved, and blogged about their burger. My bosses took me there to celebrate a promotion. My boyfriend took me there for our anniversary. I've sent friends, tourists, and enemies alike to taste the delicious, signature, always-on-the-mark burger PJ's used to serve up. But now, I honestly don't think I'll ever go back there for a burger again.

So what happened? Well, several months ago, I went to PJ Clarke's for a burger fix, and to my surprise, it tasted nothing like its regular burger. For someone who would usually gobble down the burger in five bites (hardly taking a breath in between), finishing half was a struggle. I didn't want to believe something had changed, so I chalked it up to my taste buds being on the fritz...or maybe I was getting sick. But no..it couldn't have been their burger. Several months passed and last week the itch came back. I needed my burger fix again. So my boyfriend and I hesitantly went back to my trusty burger joint, and again, the burger was off. We both noticed it immediately. It tasted just like the impostor burger they served us last time. What's funny is that the new burger actually seems bigger, but it's less juicy, has less taste, less grease, tougher meat, and an intensely overwhelming beefy flavor (and NOT in a good way). Again, I only fished half. HALF!  It was actually difficult to swallow.

I had to know what the hell happened to my delicious burger of the past. So we inquired with the waitress. She seemed taken back and assured us nothing had changed. But when we told her that we liked the new-tasting burger (lie), she changed her tune and told us PJ Clarke's DID indeed change its burger about 8 months prior and pointed to a plaque on the wall above the kitchen that read: All beef is raised exclusively on Mr. Robert Meyer's Ranch in the Blackfoot River Valley just West of the Continental Divide. Now, I don't know who the hell Mr. Robert Meyer is, but the cows he's raising really suck. The waitress also told us that when they first changed the meat, a few people did notice the change, but not as of late. Then she told us we had "discerning taste buds." Lady, if someone sneaked into your house late at night and swapped your baby with another baby, would you notice? Exactly.

Well, to tell you the truth, I felt like crying after she told me about the new meat. I'll never get to taste my favorite burger ever again. I also had to know what other people were saying about this tragedy. And I couldn't even wait to get home, so I googled right there from the restaurant table. Surely enough The New York Post had done a write up about the very same thing back in April. I guess I was late to the party. But I was relieved that reporter Steve Cuozzo felt the same way. According to him, PJ's traded "trusty for trendy." Food blogger, Nick Solares, from a ham burger today (part of seriouseats.com), said the new burger left him "longing for the old." Both articles mention that PJ Clarke's revamped its entire menu by hiring "the Godfather of American cuisine,"  Larry Forgione, to create a locavore- (locally grown food) focused menu. Well, apparently the burgers aren't the only thing Larry changed. He did away with the buns too, going from Arnold's to a local bakery in the Bronx.

Here's the thing PJ Clarke's: you are one of Manhattan's oldest establishments. You've been around for over a century. Clearly, you've been doing something right for all these years–until now, that is. It's like they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." And you freaking fixed it. I am all for supporting local farmers, but maybe you could have changed the lettuce, tomatoes, onions–hell, even the bun. But shame on you for changing your beloved burger. Good luck with the locavore thing. You'll need it.

The Food Femme's final burger at PJ Clarke's

Original Review from July 30, 2008:

Badass Burgers

The burgers at P.J. Clarke's ARE AMAZING. They might be the best in Manhattan. I know that's a bold statement, and while I haven't tried every burger joint in NYC, I can say that the burgers here are the best I've had so far. (And they're always consistent.)

What's especially nice (in a world of bigger=better), is that he burgers are no-frills. You get your perfectly-cooked-to-order, 8-oz burger on a little white plate. (Lettuce, tomato, and onion come on the side). The buns are super soft and a little buttery. I sometimes get the chili burger, and it always has the perfect amount of chili on it, so you're not left with a lap full of meat. The fries, which you have to order separately, are awesome (think McDonald's gone gourmet) and served in a little cone stand. The food is a little pricey for a pub, but you're in Midtown for lord's sake.

There's also a fresh raw bar in the front, which you can also order from while you wait to be seated. They always have a good selection of East and West Coast oysters that I like to get as an appetizer. 

You can always expect P.J. Clarke's to be jam-packed, but the burgers are worth the wait. What's neat is that P.J. Clarke's is one of the city's oldest establishments, and it doesn't look like it's changed much in over 100 years--which is a good thing. It's a really laid back place that has an old school feel--picnic-style table covers and all!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Faustina (24 Hour Restaurant Battle Screening)—CLOSED

25 Cooper Square
New York, NY 10003
(212) 475-3400

At Faustina, the real battle is deciding what not to eat. 

Last Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending the exclusive screening of Food Network's new show 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. And who better to host the event than the show's host (and judge), chef Scott Conant?

Scott welcomed a huge (and hungry) crowd at his new restaurant, Faustina, at the trendy Cooper Square Hotel. The event was limited to the bar area, a simple, yet elegant space with high wood-topped tables and a large communal table in the back. Though, you couldn't even see the large table since it was covered, from end to end, with a colorful spread of antipasti. Most of the dishes were from Faustina's menu. And let me tell you, the antipasti was as delicious as it was beautiful. On one end, the cheeses. Ohhh, the cheeses. My weakness. I tried to restrain myself, as there was so much more on the table to choose from. Next came the meats. Among them, thinly sliced cacciatorini, prosciutto, and soppressata, a perfect compliment to the cheeses.

Then came my favorite item on the table, stromboli with proscuitto & smoked mozzarella. It was moist, flavorful, salty, and even a little sweet from the cheese. I would have eaten every single piece, but I didn't think that would be fair to the other guests. There was also some foccacia served with beautiful little scoops of ricotta and olive oil. But with the stromboli, who had time to waste on foccacia? I did  spread some of the creamy ricotta on the stromboli. Delicious. Last on the table were the veggies. Artichoke, beets, tomatoes, baby carrots. The colors were so vibrant. Again, I limited my vegetable consumption because I knew pasta was on its way. 

Foccacia with ricotta and olive oil
 My plate
Finally came the pastas. What I was really there for. (Oh, and for the show, of course.) Two waiters were serving up three different pastas. From Faustina's menu: Strozzapreti & Suckling Pig Ragu and Mushroom Ravioli. And from Scarpetta, Scott's other restaurant: Spaghetti + Tomato & Basil. I tasted all three (of course) and my favorite, hands down, was the spaghetti. It was everything you want spaghetti to be. The pasta was al dente. The sauce was bold, a little acidic, and thick enough to stick to the pasta. And the basil gave it a light, fresh touch. I was surprised that the other two pastas didn't impress me as much. The Strozzapreti & Suckling Pig Ragu looked delicious but had a very strong pork/meaty flavor that overwhelmed the dish. And as for the Mushroom Ravioli, it also looked great on the plate, was full of flavor, but was too salty for my taste. Luckily, Faustina's menu has a lot more to offer, so when I go back for a full meal, I'll have plenty to choose from.

Spaghetti + Tomato & Basil 
Strozzapreti & Suckling Pig Ragu
Spaghetti + Tomato & Basil and Mushroom Ravioli

The last dish I tried was the Short Ribs of Beef, Spaetzle & Horseradish. I almost passed it up, but received a strong urging to try it by a friend who had. And I'm glad this was my last bite, because it was amazing. The meat was juicy, and flavorful, like Grandma makes it. And the soft pieces of spaetzle were a perfect compliment to the meat.

 Short Ribs of Beef, Spaetzle & Horseradish

Not only did I get to eat and drink to my heart's content, I got to chat with Scott Conant! It was really exciting to meet a famed chef and Food Network celebrity, since it's pretty much the only channel I watch. When I asked Scott how he chose the menu for that night, he said he really wanted to feature his signature dishes. He mentioned that the Spaghetti from Scarpetta is a dish that has made him a lot of friends, so it was an obvious choice. (Good decision!)

The Food Femme with Scott Conant

24 Hour Restaurant Battle premiers on July 21 at 10 p.m., and features dueling teams of aspiring restaurateurs who have 24 hours to conceive, plan and open their own restaurants for one night. Unfortunately, most of my time at the screening was spent eating, so I didn't really get to watch the show, but I'm looking forward seeing it this week. Catch the sneak peek tonight at 10 p.m. on Food Network.

Monday, May 24, 2010


156 E 2nd Street
(between Ave A and Ave B)
(212) 477-7600
 A Supper Jesus Would Have Been Lucky To Call His Last

When you think of music, you think of iPod.

When you think of sports, you think of Nike.

When you think of erectile dysfunction, you think of Viagra. 

When you think of amazing Italian food in NYC, you think of the Frank Family of restaurants.

Supper was the last of Frank Prisinzano's three famed East Village Italian eateries that I tried. And it's quickly becoming my favorite. While Frank, Lil' Frankie's, and Supper all have a similar vibe and similar menus, I find something extra-magical about Supper.

At prime time, the wait will surely be an hour, as they don't take reservations (though, I'd even wait two if I had to). But not to worry, they'll set you up nicely at their bar next door for some Italian wine or imported beer. If you can snag a table in the micro-sized bar, you can eat there if you wish. But the ambiance is far better in the dining room.

Comparatively, there's a little more variety on the menu at Supper, but it still maintains the Italian classics and does them extraordinarily well. And like its sister restaurants, when you walk in to Supper, you feel like you were taken back a thousand years to your Italian grandmother's kitchen. (And if you don't have an Italian grandmother, you do now.) The low lighting and beautiful, shimmery chandeliers add to that magical feel. The open kitchen bustles with rapidly moving chefs, and steam from the pasta pots whirls up to the ceiling and into your nostrils.

Speaking of pasta, the daily specials change like clockwork. But if you're lucky enough to land on Spinach Gnocchi night, don't think, just try it. The pieces of plump potatoey perfection melt in your mouth. But let's take a step back for a moment. To start my meal, I usually get one of their crostinis. My favorite is the one with freshly sautéed mushrooms. Since they also serve a garlicky white bean/olive oil mixture with the bread basket, that I like to mix into my crostini too. I've also tried the baby veal meatball special for appetizer. And while I have to say that I was a little put off by the color of the dish (kinda grey), the flavor of the meatballs more than makes up for it.

For main course (besides the aforementioned gnocchi), the Veal Scallopine alla Milanese is a dish you'll see the waiters carrying around quite often. It's enormous (think, larger than the dish it's served on), paper-thin, tender, and with a couple of drops of lemon juice, it's delicious. Last week I was fortunate enough to try their Wednesday special, Lasagna aLLa Bolognese. What is to be said of a dish so close to a masterpiece? Well, let me try. It's baked in a single-serving ceramic dish that leaves the cheese sizzling when it's served. Each layer has just the right amount of ingredients. Frank has perfected his Pomodoro sauce and it's mixed with just a hint of bolognese. (If you're looking for chunks of meat, look elsewhere.)

Veal Scallopine alla Milanese
If you have room for dessert, I recommend the Hazelnut Panna Cotta
served with fresh fruit. After it's served, the waiter holds a gravy boat in the air and slowly pours a rich chocolate sauce over it as a sweet finishing touch. (Oh, and bring cash, that's all they accept.)

To be honest, I can say confidently that any dish (especially any pasta dish) you get at Supper will be out of this world. They truly put love into their food. And who can't use a little more love in their world?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Clinton St. Baking Company

4 Clinton St
(between Ave B & Houston St)
New York, NY 10002
(646) 602-6263 

Brunch That's Worth Its Weight In Biscuits

If you're like most New Yorkers, the weekend only means one thing: brunch.

But not just any ol' brunch. Because if you're a real New Yorker, your run of the mill Greek diner won't do. If you're a real New Yorker, brunch is a place to see and be seen. A place where the mimosas and bloody mary's flow from large bottomless pitchers. A place where you can walk in at noon and walk out at 4. And not to mention, if you're a real New Yorker, it's a place where they don't accept reservations and there's a minimum wait of 1 hour. (Good food helps too, but I'm convinced not as much as the other factors.)

To me, Clinton St. Baking Company (CSBC) is the New Yorker's quintessential brunch place.

My interest was piqued about CSBC a couple of years ago, after hearing about its notorious "2 to 3 hour wait times," but I really couldn't see myself making that kind of investment for eggs and waffles. Then Bobby Flay had to go and really mess things up by doing a Throwdown! with the owner to see who could make the best blueberry pancakes. (Bobby won, btw.) Not to mention that New York Magazine previously voted CSBC's blueberry pancakes the best in NYC and Time Out New York voted CSBC the best place for brunch.

Now, let me say that I prefer savory foods to sweet any day of the year, but I have a weakness for blueberry pancakes. And after all the hype, how could I not want to (need to) try CSBS's signature dish drizzled in warm maple butter? Luckily my boyfriend felt the same way and surprised me with a Saturday afternoon brunch trip to the Lower East Side. We immediately recognized the place by the congregation of people waiting outside for their names to be called (secretly praying the person before them in line hadn't come back yet.) We put our name down and went for a drink around the corner. About an hour later, we returned to the line and I found myself joining the masses, rejoicing every time the host called a name that didn't illicit a response.

I think we waited a little over an hour in total to be seated, which was awesome (considering the rumors). And when I walked in, I was really surprised at how plain-Jane their quaint, little 32-seat restaurant was. It looked your run of the mill coffee shop. But they definitely don't serve your run of the mill food, and don't offer your run of the mill prices.

My order was obvious, the blueberry pancakes. Mike ordered the Southern Breakfast (two eggs any style, sugar-cured bacon, cheese grits, and fried green tomatoes). We also got an order of biscuits and Bloody Mary's. Fifteen minutes after ordering, our waitress came by and admitted she forgot to put our order in and asked us what we wanted again. She assured us it would be quick and that the biscuits would be out in no time. I don't know why, but this really peeved me. This place has a reputation, a 1+ hour wait time, they only accept cash, they compete with Bobby Flay, they have the "best breakfast" in town, AND you mean to tell me their waitress "forgot" to put our order in? Not acceptable.

Luckily for her, the food was delicious. The homemade biscuits came out quickly, as promised, and they were piping hot. Each biscuit was the size of a softball and perfectly golden brown. The thick shards of dough crumbled off easily and were so flavorful that they didn't need any additional butter (or the raspberry jam they serve with them, for that matter). My pancakes also came piping hot, but I was disappointed with the blueberry sauce they glopped on the top of the stack. Luckily the pancakes were massive, so I put the first one to the side and dug in to the remaining two. There was a high blueberry to pancake ratio, which was a bit overwhelming for me. But the consistency of the pancakes was on point. Fluffy and moist. I don't typically use syrup on my pancakes (just butter), but I did try their warm maple butter on a couple of pieces. It was good--sweet and savory--just a bit too sweet for my taste. Mike enjoyed his eggs, but the winner on his plate was the cheese grits. I can't really describe what they tasted like, but if you like cheese and you like cooked cornmeal (and even if you don't), you'll be in heaven.

Massive Biscuits

Blueberry pancakes

Southern Breakfast. Check out those cheesy grits!

So, all in all, the blueberry pancakes were good. That's all I can say. Good. Have I had better? Yes. In New York? Yes. Would I wait an hour for these blueberry pancakes again? No. But I probably would wait an hour for those enormous biscuits and cheese grits again.