If You Crave a Dessert, This Place Hits the SPOT

Spot Dessert Bar - 13 St. Marks
I'll be the first to comment how location is everything - but really - in spite of being on St. Marks between 2nd and 3rd, this place is 'spot on' in terms of everything else.

You'll won't find it by looking for it at street level... you have to take the steps down to the little locale and you'll walk into a very cool, trendy Asian-infused dessert bar called Spot. I loved the interior right away. I was happier just to know that I wouldn't be staring out the window at tourists gawking at socks and fedora Britney Spears hats available by the various vendors that ARE St. Marks. This place just seemed special with the first walk-in the door.

We were greeted with the familiar East Village quirky-friendliness -that is always a welcome treat. (It's part of the reason I'm so inclined to go there for foodie adventures before other locations, I just really LIKE the EV - but couldn't live there sort of thing.) A few more steps inside and we're seated where we have full view of the dessert counter and the pastry chef is busy creating some angelic alchemy that I can't wait to sample.

Kabocha - a Japanese Pumpkin
For brevity's sake, I ordered a few things to go. (Hey! I can't help that I just stopped in for a moment during my lunch hour! No time to dawdle.) My initial order included a concoction that included a whoopie pie made with kabocha (a Japanese pumpkin/squash) -not to be confused with kambucha (a fermented drink) and a ginger kabocha cookie. We topped it off with an iced Ovaltine and a spiced hot chocolate.

The menu has so many unique options, I really want to go back as quickly as possible. They have cupcakes that include flavors like Vanilla Yuzu Lemon and Chocolate Green Tea Fruit Jam. The gelato menu is also intriguing with Vietnamese Coffee with a topping of caramelized Rice Krispies. But their seasonal tapas is, by far, the most tantalizing: White Miso Semifreddo, Satay Peanut Crema and the Ovaltine Malt Roll. (*Commence drooling now.*)

You can also bring your friends and go in as a group to order a dessert sampling with your friends for a very reasonable price. It reminds me of a not-as-fancy ChikaLicious Dessert Bar on E. 10th Street, but with a bigger cool factor PLUS a brunch menu... Which, since it is now the beginning of the week when I write this, it is so sadly far away -but genuinely gives me something to look forward to this coming weekend!

I'd recommend getting there at off-peak times since I also noted that they accept NYU Campus Cash at the register. What does that say to you? College kids eat very well at their parents' expense.... and I wish I had THAT card-carrying advantage myself.

Osteria Morini - Michael White's Latest Venture

Exterior shot of Morini - courtesy of NY.Eater.com

We made an OpenTable.com reservation for the newest Michael White restaurant, Osteria Morini -just tried it out tonight.If you've been to Alto, Marea or Convivio, this place is fine-tuned in terms of the type of cuisine that one expects when dining at a Chef White's creation -it doesn't disappoint.

The menu included the typical Italian antipasti that could be found in his other locales - olives, sardines, et al. In particular, the Bolognese style street food was good -albeit way overpriced. Two mini-skewers of ham and cheese, three tiny droplets of polenta cakes along with 2 deep-fried Italian style cheese sticks... not to say that it wasn't yummy... but it was just minuscule according to price versus portion.

For a restaurant that hasn't been open a very long while... a few weeks at best, we dined there fully knowing that things probably weren't a well-oiled machine. That's ok - and to be expected. Even their website is dysfunctional at present.... hopefully that will be up and running soon, too. (Hint, hint!)

Requesting to order appetizers first was something our waiter wasn't willing to do. He wouldn't take an order until we knew what we wanted for the main courses. The wait time for drinks was a tad slower than normal but they were quick to keep our water glasses replenished!

Side orders of polenta and spinach were very tasty! And I'd recommend ordering these two items together.The main courses of stuffed pasta (I can't resist - even when I WANT to do something more adventurous on the menu) were practically licked off my plate, one by one. The tortellini della nonna had just that extra va-va-voom to its delicate texture and combined some tasty bits of prosciutto intermingling with the buttery sauce that begged me not to leave any of it to go back to the kitchen uneaten. I happily complied. Hey, I did what I needed to do, ok? Don't judge me.

All in all, the service was good but has room for a substantial improvement (except those bus boys - they were really good with the attentiveness). The atmosphere was rustic but not too remarkable -it's a large space and can get pretty loud as the diners try to talk over one another. Don't get me wrong, the interior design is amicable, but it reeks of Pottery Barn-ish catalog. The bright lights and constant bustle could be a big turn off for the tables seated close to the windows and swinging door of the kitchen area. Avoid that if you possibly can.

I'd recommend a visit -but give them a few weeks to work out some service and let them play with the menu offerings (and prices) before booking a reservation.

Surprises, Starvation and Salivation: Where's the Salvation?

Terrible me... but seriously, without making up excuses, I really DO have a good excuse!

I learned recently... (ok, maybe not terribly recently... but not too long ago, ok?) that I am expecting a baby. At my age, a mere almost 40 year-old woman, was going to have another baby. That's terrific news, right?

Yes and no.

As I've previously mentioned, I do enjoy very good food. I enjoy it a lot. Maybe more than some, since I don't like to cook and appreciate those who can -even more so when they do it WELL.

So who cares if I'm pregnant? Big deal, right? I know, I know... I'm thinking no BFD too. But wait. The first trimester of hell kept me away from anything green, spicy or flavorful. I lived in the World of Bland. Everything I ate was booooooring. Beyond boring.

I was held captive to plain pasta and tomato sauce for months. Anything else -to include the odor of passing by garbage trucks would send my stomach messages of hurling fury.

Very, very, very uncool my friends! To starve is one thing... and I'm not good with not eating for longs periods of time. I don't know too many of us homosapiens that are.

Anyway... fast-forward, I am beyond the nauseating life that kept me hostage in my own body... but I'm still not a big greenie fan... nor can I eat anything too spicy without the help of my newly found friend: Zantac 75. (TUMS do not work. It's all a lie for preggy women. Trust me, even my doctor knew that he was fibbin' it when he said to take TUMS in the first trimester. Psychosomatic, my peeps! All in the head!)

But now what? What CAN I write about? How I suddenly have bursts and cravings of must-have foods?

This is not a mommy blog about what to eat when you're expecting... but a blog about some great places in NYC for some fantastic culinary treats. I hope what I write about will tempt you try out some really great noshes and nummy nourishment.

My little favorite NYC foodie secret of all time is 7th Street between 1st and Avenue A. Pretty much every restaurant there is worthy of a blog mention. The Luke's Lobster's luscious lobster roll, awesome arepas at Caracas and Porchetta's plump pork sandwiches -not to mention the smoothies at Xoom are favorites... and quite frankly, have me salivating up a storm right now.

So my pregnancy was a surprise (and yes, my husband and I are quite frankly THRILLED - so it's good news).... but my esculent, venturesome self has not returned fully yet. That's not so wonderful. But I'm getting there. Slowly. So wait for it... I promise to give some more tips on where to find food in this fantastic playground I call Manhattan. Just as long as it isn't too fishy, spicy or loaded with carcinogens.... I'm back baby!

Three Words: Artisanal was Dismal

At least the fondue was insect-free.
It's Restaurant Week in NYC, and I wanted take advantage of some real culinary delights that the best city on the planet has to offer.

Which is why I got upset when I ended up here, of all places: Artisanal Bistro.

For the love of God, why do I always pick these rotten restaurants?

I don't seek out these places! Instead, I had hoped for a blog full of flavorful, insightful places to dine. Instead, I have had more bad experiences recently, than good.

It's really unfortunate.

And at the same time, it's perfect blogging material!

Here's the scenario:
It's a Sunday afternoon and I'm browsing OpenTable.com for a reservation. Not sure what I want, but it seems the places that I had earmarked were not available. OpenTable allowed me to look at available time slots for all restaurants participating in Restaurant Week.

I went through the list once, then back to the top. Artisanal is pretty close to my apartment. I have walked by there a few times...and began to think, "Hmmmm.... fondue might be good tonight!" I've never been there before, so why not finally take the chance?

Bread and cheese. What's not to like? 

So I booked the reservation and we were out of the house in about an hour. All ready for some cheesy action!

I always approach a new restaurant with a great deal of enthusiasm. I'm looking forward to something new and I can only hope that it will be a terrific experience.

Alas, this is my downfall.

After getting there on time and taking our seats, we hear trays falling. This wouldn't be the first time. It was an on-going event at Artisanal. Apparently bus boys and wait staff have issues holding trays, glasses, silverware; anything that could hit the floor, does. And frequently. Coordinated, they are not.

I ordered fondue (I know, shocking). My significant other ordered the Prix Fixe: Wild Mushroom Risotto, Mussels Frites, and the dessert that would come later. Much, much later.

[FYI: I should also put out the disclaimer that I have traveled in Switzerland extensively. I know fondue. I know all about cheese. If it is possible to be a Fondue Snob of Non-Swiss Decent, I'm it.]

When ordering, I also asked for some iced tea. Not a tall order to go along with a plain fondue dish. I thought we were ordering simple.

Food arrives. No iced tea. At least not right away. Tap water was on the table, so I wasn't dying of thirst like I had at another bad restaurant. (You can read all about that disaster, here.)

A runner brings over the iced tea after about 6-8 minutes passed with my main course. I see something in it that resembles a segmented insect. Uh. No. Not going to drink that. However, could I find ANYONE in the immediate area that was NOT dropping something loudly in the vicinity or could actually help me get a new glass of ant-free iced tea? Anyone? At all?

Finally told the waitress. And she quickly took the glass away with promises to give me a new one. Ten minutes later, still no iced tea. No action. The water glass is close to empty now too, and again, where is the waitstaff? Still dropping things, apparently.

I continued to eat the unremarkable fondue. (It was just cheese. There was dried out bread cubes that tasted more like sawdust. For a restaurant that bills itself as having these incredible cheeses, ummmm... I'm not feeling it. Or rather, tasting it.)

The prix fixe was tolerable. That's about all I can say. There just isn't anything else to be said about the food.

The waitress comes by once more, and has the "Oh! Iced tea!" moment. She goes back and brings me a glass of iced tea. She quickly sets it down and rushes away.

I'm staring at this glass set down before me. Curious. It already has a straw in it. The last iced tea came with a fresh straw and a lemon on the outside of the glass. This lemon was IN the glass. Oh. And sugar was already added. Along with an ANT IN THE FREAKING GLASS. The dingbat GAVE ME THE SAME GLASS OF ICED TEA!!!!!!  Lord only KNOWS WHERE SHE PICKED THAT UP after it SAT for over 10 minutes in another location! Is this waitress OUT OF HER FRICKIN' MIND?!?!?!?!?!???!??!???!??

The ding-a-ling, of course, was no longer around - she had disappeared. We wouldn't see her for over an HOUR. That's right. An hour. The waitress was just overwhelmed -or just stupid. Not sure which. Maybe a combination.

At LEAST another waiter brought me a FRESH iced tea after another 5 minutes of waiting. Although, at that point, I was a little leery of this restaurant's hygienic practices.

About 45 minutes later, we got the prix fixe dessert and waited ANOTHER 25 minutes after the plate was cleared for the check. We actually had to request that the General Manager to find out where our waitress had hidden in order to LEAVE this Dismal Artisanal. The GM returned with a check and had comped a couple of items from the final charges. I mean, at least he tried....

It was too late to care anymore. I was still in shock over my tainted tea and the total lack of service.

Final thoughts: Artisanal is NOT a French bistro in ANY way, shape or form. It is a loud diner. The food is just about the same quality as any NYC diner too, but be ready to pay a French bistro price. Bring ear plugs if you have them as well as a florescent wand to flag down staff (you know, the kind they use on the tarmac at the airport to wave the planes into the gate). Don't have plans to go anywhere and bring a can of Raid, just in case.

What About You?

It's the beginning of NYC's famed Restaurant Week -and I'll admit: I'm overwhelmed. And it's 2 weeks long, not ONE - so how sweet is THAT?!

There are so many choices, so many options!

I will target my favorites like A Voce (Columbus), Cafe' Boulud, Convivio, db Bistro Moderne, Gotham Bar and Grill, and for my pasta fix, I've circled Lupa Osteria Romana.

What about you? Any ideas or thoughts on places you might try?

Don't Go THERE: D.O.B. 111

Rarely can I truly be appalled -at the level I was last night.... Trying out a new-ish restaurant D.O.B. 111. They have been open for a few months or so, but NO EXCUSES, people! This establishment went WELL beyond the AVOID this AT ALL COSTS kind of notice.

Let me try to explain....

First, we approached the door and "BYOB" was written on a piece of paper on the front (of the door), along with a smaller scribbled "cash only" note... handwritten with that East Village who-cares-about-our-signage-appeal.

Whatev. I like the East Village. Embrace the quirkiness. Plus, I don't need alcohol - I'll get a different beverage tonight. NBFD.

We had a reservation and were on time. Yet, we all noticed that when we walked in the door, people were crowded around -looking for guidance. ONE  female was supposed to be the hostess -yet she was also a server. And not a friendly or happy employee, either. She had issues that were beyond a mere PMS moment. She was just a first class b!tch. Yes, that is what I said.

It's not often that I meet someone with zero service experience. Oh wait. I may have read about this somewhere... I think guards at Dachau may have had the same mannerisms. Yep. That's it. Bingo.

After 3 kind requests for TAP WATER, we were told, "Sorry, we just don't have enough glasses. We've only been open for a small time, and we're not stocked to give all customers water." She then huffed and puffed away, as if we were being pains in the asses for expecting a drink of ANY sort, much less water. We must have been out of our minds.

Are you EFFING kidding me?

Wait... it gets better. In a "better" means "WAAAAY worse" kind of way.

After Miss Huffy the Beotch made her Gestapo announcement that there would be no water for us, the gentlemen at our table immediately departed for the kosher bodega across the street to purchase bottled water for our table. (I really fell in love with one of them. He's my hero. And my waterboy. God bless him.)

While waiting for them to return, the rest of us perused the menu. I reminded myself that the chef was supposed to offer some haute Vietnamese-French goodness on a plate. I was still hopeful. Just parched. Maybe it was the 100 degree weather that made me thirsty. My bad.

The guys returned with super-sized water bottles for each of us. Life would be fine. Or so we fooled ourselves into believing.

We seriously ordered a large sampling off the menu thinking we would get redemption. We were HUNGRY! We wanted to sample. Scallops, soft shell crab, quail satay, filet mignon, beef carpaccio, pork belly, black cod and fried rice cakes.... Oh the possibilities.

Oh no.

Scallops had SHELL pieces still on them. POORLY prepared and cleaned. The crab was just deep fried with little flavor, quail was swimming in a heavy peanut sauce (ewww!), filet mignon was overcooked and dry, beef carpaccio was unbalanced with its overdone spices, pork belly was fatty and like eating a wet sponge, black cod was just a bad, uncooked piece (and I like raw), plus the rice cakes just did not do it either. Flavorless and a whole lot of WTF glances went around our table. It was a mutual feeling of, "Let's get the HELL out of this place. Now. RIGHT NOW."

We begged and pleaded for the bill several times -because Miss Nazi Genius (aka Hostess from Hell) couldn't get her act straight.

I'm not kidding. The table next to us alerted her to several billing errors. Apparently, the prices in the computer differ from the menu - as in, the billed prices are HIGHER than the menu prices. If a customer doesn't check, OH WELL. And if you call her out on the obvious errors, she yells that she can't HELP it. She blames everything on the computer. When the customers look at her in horror, she continues to loudly announce that it's not her fault but she will take it out of her TIPS... The restaurant is silent. And scared. (BTW - if you think I would even tip her fifty cents!?? M-F'er puh-leeeeez!) I'm sure she sends money to the Communists Against Humanity Fund anyway....

Sooooooo.....after sampling a ton of the shite that Chef Michael Bao Huynh sent out, drinking our own BYOW and waiting relentlessly for our overpriced bill that almost never came, I was glad to get out of there without purging my stomach's contents.

DOB 111: Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

In the words of our table neighbors, "Wonder what might be in that space in a few months?"

Survival of the fittest will surely kick this place out of it's rat hole it's in... and Frau Verbissener will have to get another job at Child and Family Services or something.

Top 3 Tastes to Try Before You Die

So if you want to be a little adventurous in your dining experiences, you should try something different on the menu once in awhile. Go for something that might be a little avant garde -especially if you're a regular at Olive Garden (which, I hope you're not!).

The following 3 suggestions are just the top three that I picked from my small brain and limited memory capacity. Maybe you might have something to add that I can try out, too.... that's why you can post a comment. I'm game, are you?

Ok. Here we go:

Tripe - I know some of you cringe at the mere thought. So ok....it's stomach lining, but if it's prepared right, it can be really good. Most Momofuku restaurants (of the David Chang Empire) do amazing things with tripe. However, Locanda Verde has the market share on incredible tripe goodness:
Tripe alla Parmigiana with a fried organic egg. Try it. Don't fear the tripe. Embrace it.

Foie Gras - Ok, I know. There are haters out there. There are those who say it is unethical. And I AGREE -to an extent. If the geese are force-fed, that's one thing and it is bad. However, if it is a natural liver that's unaltered, then it's no different than eating the chicken or the egg. Daniel Boulud's creations with the FG is of the ooh la la type.

Uni (aka Sea Urchin) - Not for everyone. But at least give it a try before you say you hate it. Sample it in real Japanese style if you're feeling up to something really "uni-que": Sakagura's Onsen Tamago is a good bet. It is a soft boiled egg topped with sea urchin and salmon roe in cold soup.

Eating Gluten-Free at Tu-Lu's

I've been up and down this crazy island trying different flavors, new tastes and some downright sensational food. (Yeah, I know - I called Manhattan a "crazy island" - but it is what it is.) The challenge that I have faced is eating in a gluten-free world lately.... (for health reasons, not just "cuz"!) has been.... minimal.

I'm really lucky. In this particular geographical location, we have a ton of amazing culinary choices. Some phenomenal, some only worthy of a Department of Health code violation with permanent closure.... but that's for another blog post.... Anywaaaaaay.....

One of my favorite picks lately is Tu Lu's Bakery - O.M.F'ing.G!!! I've gone gluten-free for a ton of reasons, but seriously - you do not have to be a gluten-free consumer to enjoy these delicious treats of wheat-free-ness. Really! They are THAT good. The cupcakes and cookies are tasty! And they even have a panini that doesn't consist of bread that would give you TMJ - the bread is so good, I found out who their supplier is, and ordered from the online catalog immediately that same day. Honestly - if you have sampled gluten-free breads in the past that tasted like sawdust or it was made of something out of a quarry, you know what I mean! So Tu-Lu's has my vote for BEST GLUTEN-FREE BREAD in the City. As well as cupcakes.

The cupcake thing really impressed me.

And for me, my life seems to evolve around these precious little tidbits of yummy cakery in a mini-form. Ok, and this blog is a little top heavy on the cupcake thing, too. I'll be the first to admit it. And after this, I promise to take it down a notch, or two, on the whole cupcake deal.

If you haven't seen my previous post about Baby Cakes (God, the mere mention of that place makes me throw up a little!), then you should check it out that writing BEFORE ever going there. If it is Vegan and Gluten-free cupcake - WTF are they using to make their products? No eggs, no milk.... the products coming out of there are better served as paperweights. I'm not freaking kidding! The frosting on a Baby Cakes' cupcake tastes like melted plastic - yes, you feel like you're eating liquid toxins on top of a dense, tasteless piece of granite. Some are lighter and fluffier - like a candle that's been sitting on Grandma's window bench since 1934. Ugh.

Sorry. I digress. Let me take a few Tums and get back to better thoughts and praises....
Ok. Tu-Lu's Bakery in the East Village is a great stop and fits any budget. You can get some
little cupcake minis to go, a bag of cookies or get a panini to eat in the cafe. And their hours of operation are insane - they don't know the phrase "close early on Sundays". Or any other day for that matter.

The only downside is that their brownies are so-so. Another favorite of mine, Risotteria, will beat anyone in the city for a gluten-free brownie or black and white cookie (known as "half moons" in upstate NY). They also have a spankin' good gluten-free pizza - you can find them on Bleeker St -or click that link above for their website to get directions.

I'm now getting hungry. (Eating salad and yogurt only goes so far in this diet of mine.) It's time for my gluten-free fix... and I've got nothing "tu lu's".... (Sorry. That was just too easy.)

Oh Maialino! An Arterial Experience

The campy furniture and the waitress made me feel as though I walked into a local Chili's or maybe even a Crate and Barrel catalog, but the food was remarkable at Danny Meyer's Maialino and worthy of some blogging here.

I started off with the raviolo al ouvo (pictured)- which, by the way, I thought would be more than ONE stuffed pasta piece, but guess what? I'm not fluent in Italian.... otherwise, I would have known that the "o" instead of an "i" at the end of the raviolo meant UNO, or ONE piece. But it was a large raviolo - and "O" my gawd - it was so incredible. "Ouvo" means egg - and it was RIGHT in the middle of the pasta, inside and cooked. It was like this little magic dream of yummy. The ricotta and herbs were just right for this delicate "primi" dish.

Yes. I know. The Italian names and lack of explanations on the menu were beyond annoying. Especially with the overly positive, happy-go-lucky waitress... not that I don't like friendly - but again, I already felt like I was in a chain restaurant with the overall decor - now it was like I was experiencing a server that worked previously at the Disney Store as a flippin' cast member.

I also ordered a salad - yes, again with another egg. It was good, but not that it hadn't been done before. It just wasn't overly good, terribly bad or worthy of additional commentary.

But the "Maialino al Forno"- wow! We ordered this along with the salad and the raviolo thinking that this was a main course for one. However, this dish was, to my surprise, dinner for two. Oh. Ok. Why not? We weren't that hungry, so splitting a meal sounded like a good deal. (I was dining with my significant other, who was also put off with Miss Happypants and her oh-so-lovely day in the neighborhood attitude.) The Maialino al Forno is a roast suckling pig with roasted potatoes - if you've been to Porchetta in the East Village (7th St. between 1st Avenue and Ave A), then it's kind of like that, but in a HUGE portion. We ended up taking the bulk of it home -where it tastes even BETTER on day two. We'll have it for day three, too. It was reasonably priced and well worth the money - since it lasted so long. (Did I mention that it was HUGE? See above and repeat to self.)

The pork was so aesthetically pleasing and had such a tremendous, captivating aroma that the table next to us (a party of 4) ordered it because they couldn't resist. You could hear our arteries collectively screaming in our corner of the restaurant. The dish is really not for the weak at heart. No pun intended - I'm being serious. It's a bit on the fatty side - but it's certainly the freshest, most delicious pork rind I've ever had, too!

The wine list was mediocre and we really felt like we were being pressured into sampling a particular vintage. To be totally honest, after being to other establishments with fine wines and sommeliers, you kind of get to know when you're getting a sales pitch -and that the waitstaff is being pressured to get something out the door. Oh well. The food made up for it.

So if you want a heart-clogging, but amazing dinner direct from the pages of a furniture catalog- I wouldn't hesitate to go back here. I just would prefer less pressure from the Disney characters that are serving and a menu that is more descriptive in "inglese"!

Don't Pronounce, Just Eat: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Trust me, dear readers, while the name of this restaurant is weird to pronounce, the food is simply magnificent.

In one sentence: L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the Four Seasons in NYC is simply mahr-velous.

And let's face it: I do NOT say that about everyone. Only those places that deserve the positive recognition, get it on this blog. (If the place is bad, they get THAT recognition, too.) No mincing anything. Especially words.

Ok. So....when we arrived, we were seated right away and treated to a nice spot at the counter - which I personally enjoy more than being at a table or seated in a banquette. Why? Because I sincerely love watching the kitchen prepare my meal and experiencing the action. At the table, you're a guest. At the counter, you're a diner. It's more interactive and the staff is extremely attentive.

Speaking of staff, If you're REALLY lucky, you'll have Sandjerma at your personal service. The best part about this restaurant is that the staff knows the food and the right beverage that you should order. You'll get the perfect pairing for your various selections. Even if you don't know what to order, just ask for a recommendation. In my case, Sandjerma knew what went along with what and every course came out of the kitchen on time, exquisitely presented and was an incredible culinary experience.

A few suggestions from the menu:
  • Chestnut Veloute with Smoked Cream, Celeriac and Cardamom - Oh the flavors! I am salivating just thinking about this superb concoction. It was delicate, yet hearty.
  • Foie Gras Ravioli in Warm Chicken and Oriental Herb Broth - This dish is a melt-in-your-mouth gourmet pleasure. I had a hard time keeping this particular menu item to myself - as my guests were wanting to sample my ravioli! (Hey! Get yer own next time!)
  • Free-Range Caramelised Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras, Potato Purée - Again, the flavors and the perfect blend of herbs just make the poultry so delectable. Sure, you can call it potato purée.... but in my book, it's "mashed potatoes" -and probably one of the BEST I've ever tasted!
Desserts won't disappoint either. If they did, I wouldn't be saying such nice things. When I was there, we ordered a sampling of various sweets. All of them were unique and amazing. I don't have a favorite to share - just GO there. Try something. Ask if they have something to recommend. If not, close your eyes and just point your finger on the menu somewhere! Just don't do it too much, or your bill will be worthy of taking out a Home Equity Loan. ;)

Certainly, this is not your everyday dining locale, but it's a special occasion spot that is most memorable. And FYI: If my special someone is reading this, he knows that I'm ready to go back ANY TIME (Hint! Hint! DOUBLE hint!)

The Cupcake Wars: Butter Lane is STILL the Best!

If you HAVEN'T had a Butter Lane cupcake, then you're really not enjoying deliciousness at its best.

Read my previous post- you'll see that I tried the gluten-free BabyCakes NYC (egads, never again - not for cupcakes!) and even went over to Magnolia Bakery recently - which, trust me, is NOT even close to Butter Lane. Not EVEN.

Magnolia Bakery is apparently where the whole cupcake crusade got started here in the Big Apple - but it won't END there! (Thank the deity of your choice!) I mean, they put sprinkles all over their cupcakes. Why? Hell if I know! It doesn't help them taste any better.

I found their cupcakes disappointing. I really did. Not like the wildly waxy world of BabyCakes, but I thought that it was beyond ridiculous to get a cupcake from Magnolia's little "self-serve" table AND THEN they have the AUDACITY to have a TIP jar? For what???? They didn't even put the dang overly-sprinkled sugar confection in a box for me. It was done by ME. They should tip ME for the effort -or give me a self-serve discount! And how about the germs that are spread with this less-than-sanitary way to serve cupcakes? You pick out your cupcake with your HANDS (that probably weren't sanitized since your cab ride) and put it in a box. Meanwhile, Nancy Nastyfingers and Sammy Scummynails are touching and prodding every cupcake in the containers -licking their fingers after each one. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

Don't even ASK me why I still selected two cupcakes!??! I will, however, mention that I chose 2 items from the containers not handled by the Germinators - and in the far corners - where they looked relatively untouched. As if that would have helped.

It didn't.

The icing was sub-par and again, do I need to mention sprinkles? C'mon! I'm not 3 years old any more! Give me a good cupcake with incredible flavors and top-notch ingredients and you don't need to do the aesthetics.

So... again, I mention Butter Lane in the EV as my favorite. I challenge anyone to find me a better cupcake at this point. Don't even TRY to mention Crumbs or Junior's! They should be left to the city's rodent population. (I am pretty anti-chains anyway....)

Anyway, I am currently checking on the two-for-one offer given to those who MENTION NYCFOODIEGIRL when they go into Butter Lane during the month of February. They are offering a great deal to anyone who mentions this blog post.... which, if it were possible, would make me an even BIGGER fan of their delectable delights. And they do not know me... I'm no Gael Greene, people! This blog is 100% anonymous. I give 100% bias-free reviews. I will attest that "Butter Lane is the Better Cupcake" -whether or not 2 for 1 deal is authentic (I'm pretty sure it is, so stay tuned for an update!). But, I think it is, so MENTION NYCfoodieGirl as the place where you heard about Butter Lane! :) Keep in mind that they deliver and are located at 123 East Seventh Street, New York, New York 10009 (p) 212.677.2880.

Baby Cakes NYC: Where's the Wick?

I know, I know. Before I even write this, there will be angry people. But one thing about my blog: I don't lie. I don't sugar coat. Although... I wish some people would. Especially if you're a bakery!

Ok. Let me explain.....

I've been trying to eat gluten-free for about a month now -and fell off the wagon now and again.... (damn those bakery goods!)! However, back to gluten-free and my story....

I tried the change in diet because my significant other has Celiac's disease. He can't eat anything with wheat flour (gluten). I always felt guilty eating scrumptious Butter Lane cupcakes in front of him... but I couldn't resist them. Really. They are THAT good. I'd share the frosting with him though! (I'm not THAT bad of a girlfriend, honest!)

One fine day, my sweetie brought home some Baby Cakes NYC- just for me. (It's ok, you can "Awwww!" -because I sure did!) However, that loving moment was short lived. Baby Cakes cupcakes can only be loved by those who CAN'T have anything else, ever. They make an ok-tasting brownie, but the cupcakes? As my friend would say when she was unhappy with something, "Them some nasty!"

That's right. Let the hate mail commence. I don't like it. I don't like Baby Cakes AT ALL. They weren't just gluten-free, they were TASTE-free, too! I mean, HOW you can create ANYTHING without eggs or dairy or gluten is beyond my understanding of baking anyway. Baby Cakes is creating really nice looking plastic foods... because that what I thought I was eating. They LOOK normal - just like those fake pastries and goodies they create for magazines and high-end ads. I thought I tasted something remotely resembling sweetness, but no. Not. There was a texture that was anything but pleasing, too. I can't quite put my finger on it. It's difficult. They didn't taste real. It was an unpleasant, surreal experience. Not exactly the best thing to say about eating dessert, wouldn't you agree?

And don't misunderstand me, I like healthy eating. I love organic food. I shop at the Green Market and places like Whole Foods. I love vegan food, too. But there's better options out there. MUCH better.

For example, if I want terrific, gluten-free sweets and even get a great vegetarian Italian dinner, I head to Risoterria. That is a lot of O-M-G. They have brownies and even better-tasting-than-the-gluten-counterpart Black and White Cookies! And their gluten-free breadsticks and pizza - AWESOME!! I will go there before ever trying Nasty Cakes again.

Should I have tried the cookies instead of the cupcakes? I don't know. I'm honestly scared of Baby Cakes NYC right now. Talk about leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Chewing on a vanilla scented Yankee Candle would be more flavorful.

Ethos (1st Avenue): Ach! NO!

Did you ever go into a resto with a reasonable expectation, and then it was completely destroyed as soon as you set foot in the door?

Instead of running and screaming, you decide to stay because you really WANT to give a place an equal chance.... and the whole time you're questioning WHY you're still sitting there?

Welcome to my world.

Arriving at Ethos (U.N. - 1st Avenue location) was the first hint that something was awry. I used OpenTable.com to make my reservation as usual. Yet the hostess was completely dismissive when we arrived... as if we were bothering her to check in. There's nothing like a icy welcome to start off the evening.

However, we were seated in a decent spot within the restaurant and ended up with a friendly server. She seemed to care (at first), so this was a little better than the Ice Queen reception. But getting drinks -including just tap water- proved to be a long waiting game. Friendly, yes. Competent, not so much.

For the record, I ordered Tsatziki, Hummus and Kalamata (Black) Olives -because those are my staples in a Greek restaurant. They were to go along with the pita bread... which, well... was more like packing material as opposed to something deliciously consumable. And not everything arrived as ordered. Getting one out of three appetizers ordered was not terrible, but it's certainly not good business practice. I made a mental note to just check the receipt before paying so we weren't charged for items that never arrived. I was quite finished with the cardboard bread and didn't need to continue going down that bad, tasteless road....

But I hung in there as an optimist.... I was hopeful for the traditional Greek salad. Oh well. My bad. (Literally.) Another disappointment. The tomatoes were over-ripe and the cucumbers had no flavor. At all. I remember the experience in Athens and Rhodes to be much different. Reminder to self: that was Greece. This was New York City. Ok. Over it. Give the main dishes a chance, ok? (I repeated this to myself several times...)

My companion ordered the lamb - because most Greek restaurants can't screw that up. He was satisfied with it, but admitted it was a "bit overcooked." I think he was being nice. When I tried a piece, it was pretty tough. Last I checked, lamb should be chewable.

I ordered the Keftedakia (Greek meatballs) for myself. Why? I'm not sure. Why didn't I go for a fish dish? The Med has good recipes for seafood.... but I don't think what you would order from Ethos would make any difference... it was over-cooked or poorly flavored. The temperature of the dishes at this location were totally off. The salad was even room temp. I like mine crisp and chilled, thanks. Entrees are generally preferred hot and edible. Again, Ethos was a disappointment.

After we finished our so-called "meal", the waitress talked over 20 minutes to a neighboring table. She was nice and personable, just not very good at delivering food on time or listening to customer requests. After our initial order, she had completely forgotten us and another table -where that party was audibly annoyed and started to leave without paying for the bill (both tables - including us - had asked a couple of times for the check - but were left waiting for an incredibly long time).

Believe me: I won't return to this location. There were too many problems when there's an abundance of really good places in this city to eat. Ethos is an Eat? No! Avoid this locale. A food cart would be more deserving of your dollars.

DBGB: For the Scene and the Cuisine

Admittedly, once you've been to Daniel Boulud's other restaurants, you have a high expectation. Period. From Cafe Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, Bar Boulud and the infamous 4-star restaurant Daniel, it's just all French goodness. That's it. It's exquisite service combined with marvelous food. 5 Daniel restaurants all in NYC - a place to go every weeknight! (If you have deep pockets!) Let's focus on one not-so-denting-to-your-wallet location that is sure to be a City favorite for a very, very long time....

DBGB Kitchen and Bar takes things to a different plane. And no, I don't mean that the food tastes like airplane food. For God's sake, NO! What I'm trying to convey is that DBGB has a flair and a scene combined with the gourmet pleasures one would expect from a place with Daniel's name on it.

Sure, the place has been written up by several bloggers and other foodie rags - and there's a reason why most everyone likes it: there is so much on the menu that there's literally something for everyone. That's maybe the only "bad" thing I have to say about DBGB... is the overwhelming menu! There are a lot of choices! Here's my personal recommendations after dining a few times in this hotspot:
  • Jim's Matzoh Ball Soup (and you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this!)
  • Fried Egg "Bourguignon" (I don't speak fluent French, but I'm pretty sure the last word means "yummy")
  • Escargots (Yea, I know - but foodies like me, like snails -but these don't taste like snails do in other restaurants - they are fantastic)
  • Just try a sampling of the sausages or order the Sausage Duo! Whichever one(s) you select will be terrific! I like the one called Beaujolaise -and it's funny to say it (plus, I think it's French for "yummier") - The Viennoise and the Vermont are also notable in my book.
  • The Red Curry Mussels are always on the table to share - the sauce makes these babies terrific - sop it up with the bread you'll be served and it's "voila"!
  • If you want to take the burger route - I like the Piggie over the other offerings - that with the fries and homemade mayo (yes, eat the fries WITH mayo, not ketchup) and I'm looking like a big (but happy) porker by the end of the night.
PLUS! If you like beer -and even if you don't... there's probably a beverage of choice that might just have you tasting some of the most flavorful ales, draughts, or bocks you ever had. Just be sure to ask for Colin - the in-house wine and beer director. He knows his drinks like none other.

The desserts are like the food menu: plentiful! If you've never had Baked Alaska, this is THE place to try it out. Presentation is everything and it seems like a birthday party is going on whenever someone orders it. There's also plenty of sundaes and other sweets that will satisfy the most discerning diner.

And honestly, the only "real" downside to DBGB is that I think everyone wants to be here at the same time. And people, for the most part, are loud when we're in groups. The overall set up of the space is very conducive to projecting and elevating loud noise. It's not first date material, but it's a place to go with friends and family or date #2. It might be helpful if you know some American Sign Language as you have a discussion, though.

Each time I've been to DBGB -and it's been numerous- there are always celebrity spottings. It's a scene and a cuisine that I would recommend every NYer to give a try. Just stop going on the nights when *I'M* there.....Ok? Thanks.

Fixated on Fuse

I can't help it! Normally, I focus on restaurants that have been viewed by the New York Times, Eater or other source. But I'm making an exception here because I am pretty impressed with my small local restaurant that features Japanese and Thai cuisine: FUSE.

Fuse is located on 2nd Avenue between 34th and 35th Sts. Talk about a great place to grab lunch or cheap dinner! I usually order one of the curries that are on the menu - along with the spring roll (the lunch special includes this). Very tasty and lots of good flavors that one should expect from a curry. Red curry is one of my personal favorites. (I have some leftovers in the refrigerator right now -and my mouth is salivating, knowing it's waiting for me to heat it up for a quick dinner tonight!)

If you happen to be in the 'hood and you want to go inside to eat, the service is fast and friendly. The overall look of the place is pretty hip and especially clean. There are ample places to sit and you don't feel rushed to leave.

Again, it may not be the best you've ever had, but this is great place to pick up a quick dish and dash -all under $20 for two people for lunch. Great deal!

Coming Soon: Choptank

Interesting name for a new, up and coming restaurant in the West Village (NYC) on 308-310 Bleeker: Choptank.

I attended the Friends and Family pre-opener this past weekend and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. For the F&F, it went rather smoothly. Of course, there's always a little room for some quirks and backups before any restaurant opens, and this was no exception.

What was good:
  • The seafood dishes are done by a former chef of Le Bernardin, he KNOWS fish! Chef Matthew Schaefer also has an INCREDIBLE Crab Chowder. That is a must-keep for the menu.
  • The Arctic Char was also well done -the lentils made the dish.
  • Old Bay Chips and Dip -maybe a bit salty on the chips, but the dip really evens it all out and makes a great combination. Have this with the K Viogner and HELLO yumminess! Great pairing.
  • The atmosphere is perfect for its location. Overall, it has so much to offer the local crowd. Great bar space, nice banquettes and such a big space (it *is* New York City, and big space is not like Midwestern or Texan big space, but it's all relative, right?). Fun spot all around.

What needs some improvement:
  • Staff knowledge of the menu (but of course, this comes with time).
  • Some of the dishes were a bit too salty for me (but it IS seafood, so I'm not knocking it, just making a suggestion).
  • Some others need a little more pizazz. Like the Roasted Wild Mushrooms are good, but there's not any real dimension to their flavor. They are just mushrooms right now.
  • Expansion of dessert menu. The citrus sorbet and cheesecake ice cream are delicious.
  • Timing of the resetting (of silverware, plates, crumb removal, etc.). Again, this is after a little more experience.

I liked so much about this up and coming restaurant, that I am trying to not be over the top. I'm honestly trying to be fair with my assessment. Keep in mind that there are seafood dishes, but also choices for the "not so crazy for the ocean wildlife" crowd, too.

Choptank goes live on Monday, January 11th, 2010. Not to be missed. Make your reservations now, this has all the potential to make it big!

Top NYCFG Posts