I know I've been a bad blogger lately, but for good reason: I've been eating my way across New York City. Although this is not a restaurant blog, I thought I'd share some highlights of what we ate.
Sala 19: I began with an unusual aperatif-- Fino, a very dry Spanish sherry. It was good. Then I drank some pretty tasty sangria. We had some incredibly tender grilled calamari-- large tubes seared with smoky grill marks and tossed with garlic and hot pepper-- and then a toast with lomo (marinated pork that tasted like beef) and melted gruyere and piquillo peppers. And you can't do Spanish tapas without gambas-- a dish of small shrimp swimming in garlic, olive oil, and chilies (perfect for bread dipping). Dessert was fried goat cheese in honey. Mmm....
The next day, we had a picnic in Central Park with H&H bagels, scallion cream cheese, and three kinds of smoked fish from Russ & Daughters: sable, pastrami salmon, and double-smoked salmon. They were all delicious but the sable was my favorite: buttery, lightly smoked, and delicately flavored. I wish we could get it here.
That night we ventured out to Flushing to Spicy & Tasty, where I had some of the best Szechwan food ever. We ate so much I can't list it here, but the Dan Dan noodles and the twice-cooked pork belly were definite highlights.
The next day we had lunch at Il Mulino. This was one of the best meals of my life. As soon as we walked in, we were showered with food: a basket of bread and incredible olive-oil fried bread-cracker-things; thin disks of fried zucchini; salami; incredible bruschetta with mussels; garlic bread; and maybe something else I'm forgetting. When it was time to order, we listened to the specials from one of six waiters hovering (I actually think they over-hovered, but it was pretty fantastic service). The list of specials was longer than the menu itself, and we ended up ordering three, to share. We began with langoustines in white wine butter and spring pea risotto; then porcini-stuffed ravioli in a truffle champagne cream sauce (that was SO good); then osso bucco with saffron risotto. We drank a half bottle of Pinot Grigio for the first two courses and a half bottle of Chianti for the last. I don't think there is anything I can add to express how incredible this meal was. Needless to say, we did not have dinner that night.
The next day we had pastrami sandwiches at Katz's, with half-sour pickles and pickled tomatoes, and a vanilla egg cream. The pastrami was fatty and hot and delicious. The egg cream was far too sweet.
That night we ate at Balthazar. With my appetizer-- chicken liver and foie gras mousse-- I drank a Cotes du Rhone, La Grange de Piaugier ‘05, which was surprisingly good (at only $34). With my main course, bacon-wrapped monkfish (and bites of J's confit, which I've had before and love), I drank a St Joseph, Offerus JL Chave ‘05, which was quite incredible.
The next day we went to Coney Island and rode the Cyclone, twice. Then we went to the original Nathan's and I had raw little neck clams and a hot dog with sauteed onions. Be sure to try their lemonade, if you go. It's surprisingly good.
That night our friends Ben & Suzanne took us to an Egyptian neighborhood in Queens where the air smelled like nargilah (hookah). We ate at Ali's Kebab Cafe and had great seats in the tiny place, right next to Ali and his kitchen. We started with a platter of hummus, babaganoush, foul (fava bean puree), and some of the best falafel I've had in this country. We also had a few cold salads and a lamb cheek & egg dish that was delicious. Then, at my nostalgic request, Ali went to his brother's restaurant next door and got me a bowl of Molokheya, a soup made of a mysterious leafy green herb that I used to love as a child and is impossible to find here. According to Wikipedia, the English term is "corchorus." I also learned that Sizzler in Japan is selling Molokhiya cookies. Weird. Perched in the center of the soup was a half leg of lamb that we picked at as we ate the soup. We also got a whole fish, a stuffed lamb breast, goat chops (those were SO good), and perhaps something else I'm forgetting? It was a lot of delicious food. I found some fresh carob at a market next door and had that for dessert.
The next night we went to Blue Ribbon Brasserie, which may have the most varied menu I've seen outside of the Cheesecake Factory. We split the Pu Pu Platter-- some things were very good (the riblets) and some weren't (the shrimp). Then I had the special, sauteed soft shell crab, which was fantastic, and a nice change from its classic deep-fried state-- the fresh crab really shone through.
Just some highlights... I will be back to blogging home cooking soon, at least until July, when I leave again.