Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nobu Next Door Restaurant Week

Restaurant week is when you get a $35 meal out of a restaurant that usually costs $100, but for food that you wouldn't usually order. Nobu is one of the better participants because you *would* actually order their choices even if you went without a budget.

For appetizers, they had yellowtail tartare, miso cod with butter lettuce, and rock shrimp tempura. The latter 2 are classics at Nobu and have spread to almost every Japanese restaurant in Manhattan and possibly other places.

This is the cuter version of the classic black cod. You pick it up like a taco and eat it with crunchiness and all. They were a little stingy on the portions, but it's hard to complain because it's restaurant week.

After trying rock shrimp tempura from a lot of different places, Nobu still makes it the best. I think it has something to do with making sure that the mayo completely coats the tempura without making you feel as if you're eating dressing.

We did not get the yellowtail - it's not that special even if they serve it with gold flakes and yamamomo.

For main, they had beef teppanyaki, arctic char, and sushi. Though I love sushi, after watching "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," I was worried that it would not be up to par.

The beef came sizzling hot (as the name implies)! It is a delightful manly dish. The only problem is that I try to coat my slice of beef in sauce, but then it accidentally overcooks. Maybe next time I will order it raw.

The arctic char was slightly overcooked... I was rather disappointed. But the dish was still pretty good overall. I love spinach, and I've been trying to make this crispy dry spinach at home. I feel like they cooked it with garlic somehow, and I think it's been sprinkled with sea salt.

For dessert, they did not have the profiteroles this year. They had this pina colada thing with white chocolate mousse. The random pieces on top are what corn flakes would be if they served corn flakes in heaven.

We did not order the super yummy cocktails because drinking cocktails *that* good in front of someone underage is about as offensive as smoking in front of a baby. But if you go and want to know what to order, the lychee martini is THE BEST. The cucumber thing is a good not-too-sweet drink where you think you're drinking cucumber juice, but you're actually drinking a lot of hard liquor. White rabbit is a good girly drink for the less ambitious. Then there's always sake.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Black Pasta with Shrimp and Soppressata

First, I made black pasta, which is just regular pasta with squid ink. It tastes more complex, and looks a heck of a lot cooler than regular pasta.

I put this on the 2nd thinnest setting, which meant that it would take 6 minutes to cook instead of 2. But that's okay. It was going to be chewier and more robust for my sauce, which was pureed jalapeño, red onions, cashews, olive oil, and salt.

While I was boiling the pasta, I sautéed some shrimp, soppressata, and thinly sliced garlic for my pasta topping.

Look at that! It takes around the same time for the garlic to become fragrant, the soppressata to harden a little on the edges, and for the shrimp to be perfectly cooked through. This is fitting for the chef who came up with this recipe - who is lazy at heart and is a closet ignoramus - but still one of the best Italian chefs around.

I picked up this funky pretzel baguette. It was very good! It was moist and good for scooping up the leftover sauce from the pasta.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pearl Balls

"Pearl Balls" is an unfortunate name for an oh-so-delicious festive Chinese dish.

This is what it looks like right before you dip it in whatever delicious salty soy-based sauce you choose:

I have to admit that it's a tad more time consuming than your average Chinese dish, but it's very easy to make.

If you're making this in the evening, you'll want to soak about a cup of sticky rice in water, and soak about 8 dried portobello mushrooms in water... separately... in the morning.

When you're ready to start, you want to drain the rice and lay it out in a pan or something to dry.

I know this doesn't look like a cup of rice, but that's because I had already used most of it at this point.

Then in a separate bowl, mix ground chicken/turkey/pork, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, corn starch, diced mushrooms, shredded carrots, thinly sliced green onions, and minced garlic.

All the chopping and shredding is the time consuming part. Once again, this is the very last shred of the mix.

You then make meatballs, and roll them around the damp rice.

To cook, you steam them for about 25 minutes... and TA DA! You have festive poorly-named delicious Chinese food.

Locanda Verde Brunch

We had brunch at Locanda Verde. The service was lackluster as usual, but the food did not disappoint.

I ate the pesto and tomato bread, which was pure buttery goodness, and the scrambled eggs crostini before I remembered to take pictures.

We got the spaghetti with pancetta, which was a little too hard for my taste, but the red sauce was excellent.

The ravioli with mushrooms, english peas, and fava beans were much better. The ravioli skin had just the right amount of give. The filling was a little salty, but it worked well if you ate the beans/peas at the same time.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pot Belly's and Joe's Ginger

For lunch, we had Pot Belly's. An old friend first introduced me to the roast beef sandwiches, and after trying most of the rest of the menu and various permutations of the toppings, I found that her original order was still the best.

Roast beef on wheat with mayo, lettuce, pickles, and hot peppers. I felt that adding tomatoes or onions diluted the hot peppers and pickles too much, and you need the acid and heat to cut through the rich roast beef, provolone, and mayo.

I love their shakes and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but since we had lots of fatty meals coming, I settled for just a drink.

Luckily they had my favorite Nantucket Nectar flavor!

After a dinner at Gyu-Kaku (the rain and timing kind of forced us there), we spent a long day wandering about, and had a late night snack at Joe's Ginger.

Joe's Ginger is to soup dumplings as Shake Shack is to burgers.

Even though I know from personal experience that these things will make you very fat, we ordered an entire "long" each. (that was Chinese in the quotes btw, for those layers of bamboo steamers)

They come at $5 for 8, and you pay cash only. That's how the restaurant passes the savings onto the customer.

They are served with vinegar and ginger.

They are the best because of the thin translucent skin, minimum dough top - just enough to pick it up - but it's not nasty and thick. The meat inside is tender and melts in your mouth. And the soup! The soup is flavorful and has a nice balance of soup and fat.

It was so good that I think that they deserve a closeup.

We ate them all properly by biting off the top, adding the vinegar/ginger, and eating the rest with all the best parts mixed together.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Blue Smoke: KC vs. Texas Ribs

My favorite ribs place in NYC is Rack 'n Soul, but it's 9pm, and we weren't about to go to Harlem, so we went to Blue Smoke.

I really like their Kansas City ribs, which are sweet and tangy as advertised, but most of all, really tender and moist. Sometimes you need a little fat! I also like their Texas ribs which pack the most punch with the peppery dry rub.

Kansas City


The verdict was pretty obvious by the end:

There was a KC rib carcass pile too, but it was much smaller.

Cupcake of the month - Blueberry cheesecake. the cupcake was FILLED with fresh blueberry jam, and the frosting was cheesecake.

After that meal I just want to go into hibernation... btw if you go, you should probably just stick to the ribs and dessert. The sides are subpar. Only get them if you really need something else to munch on.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Turkey Meatballs in Soup

I wanted something filling and soothing after the disastrous dinner last night, and my bf wanted protein, so I decided to make turkey meatball soup!

In my opinion, when you make meatballs in soup - unless your meatballs are made of fish - you must pan fry them first! They taste *so much* better. It leaves a nice crispy crust and smoked flavor that contrasts well with soft noodles/vegetables and light soup.

The meatballs were made with turkey, garlic, minced onion, parsley, corn starch, egg, olive oil, salt, pepper, and (because I ran out of tomato paste) ketchup.

I browned the meatballs on all sides, and then simmered them with onions and carrots for about 15 minutes before putting the penne in. I added the parsley at the very end just to give it some color and brighten up the soup.

Although real chicken stock is always better, I used a bouillon cube. I think for something like this where I'm adding a lot of additional flavors, the bouillon cube tastes fine and is a lot more efficient.

And then after dinner, for dessert, I had some of this delicious Barcelona bar.

I opened it... and I thought I was going to meet Willy Wonka.

But I got a 15% off coupon! Not bad. I hope I didn't eat one by accident in the past. I've had so many of these bars and I've never gotten one before!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Baluchi's, you know, the Indian place

We didn't feel like cooking, so we got Baluchi's. It's an Indian food chain, and (usually) has very average but dependable food.

We got two very dependable dishes. Chicken Tikka Masala (tangy sweet tomato based sauce), and Chicken Saagwala (spinach sauce).

We had it with their long grain rice, which is usually topped with peas and toasted coconut, and some onion naan.

I didn't get my usual mango laasi. Maybe it's that, or maybe it's because they're currently "Grade Pending" and they were too busy cleaning in the back, but we didn't feel so great after dinner.

I have to give this place a C! We're on strike until we're really lazy and happen to be stuck in the area without a reservation again.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Coconut Chicken Salad

Another super fast meal. It takes about 15 minutes to make.


Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the chicken, and then cook it in coconut oil for about 2 minutes per side. If you're not sure if your chicken is cooked, take it out of the pan, cut it open at its thickest point, and make sure that the juice that comes out is clear.

I sometimes cut up pieces of chicken thigh. If you want to cook chicken breast then you have to be a little more careful about not overcooking.

The coconut oil tastes great on both meat and in desserts, and it just makes our life easier because you don't have to mix additional seasoning.

I had to eat something light because I had 6 pieces of prime rib and a lobster roll for lunch.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pan Con Tomate & Shrimp Crostini

When we were in Barcelona, we loved waking up to "that tomato bread". This morning I woke up and said "why not!" It was cheap and fast.

Balthazar Baguette: 2.99
Garlic: .49
Tomato: 1.49
Drizzle of olive oil: negligible

That's at most 5 dollars for more of this stuff than we can possibly eat. It took about 5 minutes to prepare. The picture below was only about 60% of the bread, and not nearly all of the garlic or tomato.

1. Slice bread
2. put bread under broiler for 1 minute
3. take a clove of peeled garlic and scrub it against the now slightly scratchy inside of the bread
4. drizzle with olive oil
5. Take a slice of tomato and scrub it against the bread as well.

I love making my meals a little fancy, so I made a shrimp topping as well... just in case I wanted to eat this all crostini-like.

I boiled the shrimp for just under 3 minutes until it was pink and bouncy. And then I chopped it coarsely and mixed in... The left over burrata from yesterday, wasabi mayo, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, dill, and green onion. I'm pretty sure that this combo would taste pretty good however you mix it, so I just did it to taste.

As a result we had a rocking mediterranean brunch!!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Just saw Jiro Dreams of Sushi today. What an inspirational man. This is not to say that I want to become a sushi chef, and certainly I am more passionate about some other things that won't involve enlisting myself for servitude for 10 years so that I can make the perfect tamago.

I found two things in the movie particularly inspirational. One is the shokunin spirit that Jiro kept talking about throughout the movie - The idea that he was willing to do the same routine day after day and try to make his craft better each day - little by little. The man decided to massage his octopus for 40-50 minutes instead of 30 minutes, and then eagerly watched his customers' expressions to see if they had indeed achieved a more tender texture - and a more enjoyable experience.

The second was the idea that when you go to work, you are supposed to go without ever complaining and dedicate yourself completely to doing the best job possible. Although a great thought, I feel that this would only work in societies where everyone felt the same way. I do not think that it's wrong to wish for something greater than what we were given, but all too many people are spoiled these days, wanting to have everything for very little work.

In the end, all I wanted to do was eat sushi and visit Jiro before he retires. I'm coming to visit, Jiro!

Steak and Eggs

I think we only had one proper meal today - Linner. That would be between Lunch and Dinner.

We made quick steak and eggs. It's a very fast meal because the steak was cut so thin, that it really only needed 2 minutes per side (at most). I had extra parmesan from the spinach ravioli, so I threw it into the eggs. I really could have used more.

I was also thinking that if I had some caviar, I would pour my fluffy scrambled eggs back into its shells and top it with caviar - it would be almost like what we had to Brooklyn Fare a year ago.

To give the eggs and steak extra flavor, we ended up putting some Frontera Grill green salsa in it. I thought about buying tomatillos and herbs and making the eggs green myself, but I didn't think that it would be green enough.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spinach Ravioli

There's nothing like home made pasta. It's such a great luxury and yet so accessible. It takes about 15 minutes to make the dough once you get used to it. For the stuffing, I used spinach, ricotta, parmesan, salt, pepper, and an egg yolk.

Pasta maker - $50 well spent. I was a little worried at first that everything was in Italian, but it only had 4 parts. I decided to go rustic with the ravioli because I was too lazy to wash my ravioli mold.

I gave in.. the mold was still faster.

And the ravioli were prettier! and arguably fatter!

THEN my bf called. He wanted dinner after all. That's when I realized that I was making a vegetarian dinner... and I didn't want to deal with grumpiness, so I threw this together in a jiffy:

You never see these two ingredients together, but WTH. Protein is protein, and I had very little advanced notice.

First batch - the ugly ravioli. I kept them warm in the microwave. I'll divvy up the pretty ones for work so that people think that I'm Martha Stewart or something... but less neurotic... and not a criminal.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

15 minute Salmon

I started the timer just before washing my hands, and I stopped the timer after I set the plate down in front of me to eat. It took just under 15 min (14:37)

I started with no knives, utensils, or cutting boards out. The stove was not on. All the groceries were in the whole foods bag.

Salmon and fennel adorned with salt, pepper, olive oil, and a little lemon.

I can't eat such quick meals every day though.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nomad - The Cupola

Dinner at the Nomad hotel

I was momentarily disappointed that we weren't in the library, where I could look for hidden liquor in the books... but once we reached the penthouse, walked past the lounge area, and through the outdoor seating with the white tablecloths, I was over it.

We had the cupola all to ourselves. The decor came out of a medieval times fairy tale. We sat at a round table with an oversized brass chandelier in a comfortable (but almost claustrophobic) dark blue dome with colorful framed butterflies all around us. No wonder one of the guests asked about Rapunzel.

The blackberry and ginger cocktails looked very interesting and spurred a lot of conversation, but I never got to it, so it's all hearsay.

7/10 Honestly I was so hungry at this point that I wasn't listening, and now I can't remember what it was. If I bother to find out tomorrow, I will post an update. It was fish with creme fraiche and lots of little chunks of different radishes and salmon roe.

It was very citrusy and fun with the pop of the roe and all the different textures and the lime ice, but apparently they over salted some of the portions.

10/10 Zucchini bread with melted cheese. I had 2 pieces, and that's why I'm hurting. 'Nuf said.

8/10 Tagliatelle with lobster. Everything was perfect except that it was too sour. The appetizer was sour, and the bread did not completely clear my palette, so I found the lime in this dish a little overpowering. Clearly I liked it enough that I nearly forgot to take a picture.

5/10 Eggplant. The eggplant was okay... the barley pieces and sauce were great... but the crazy assortment of greens were a little tough and quite bitter. I'm not sure if they added anything to the dish. There was also some sausage that was halfway between a blood sausage and a chorizo that caused confusion. In the end, I barely tasted the eggplant.

9/10 Lobster was tender and very well poached and the sauces were nice and creamy. All the beans around it were fun to eat and were very playful in size/shape/flavor etc.

8/10 Black bass. I only said 8/10 because the portion was miniscule. This is a main course! No one ordered a carpaccio. The asparagus was a great pairing with the fish, and the salad was much better in this dish. I was very full in the end, but imagine if I didn't have that extra piece of bread! I would have wanted more fish.

9.5/10 The duck was excellent. I deducted 0.5 for whatever it was under the slice of carrot was really sour and shocking. Also the flowers in my food looked like bumblebees. Otherwise the duck was perfectly cooked. The fat melted in your mouth, and the rest of the dish complimented the fattiness of the meat.

10/10 This had everything you would possibly want in a dessert except chocolate. There was cherry sherbet and marinated cherries, roasted pistachios and pistachio sponge cake, mascarpone ice cream, and brittles (that were more like light rice crackers) made of cherry and other random goodies. Every bite had a different combination of flavor and texture. The moment this was served, conversation died.

8/10 We finished with a palette cleansing strawberry, coconut, and lime shaved ice. It was a great way to end the meal. I was already about to burst by the time they gave us our spoons, so I was glad to find out that it was something that wasn't actually a solid.

Overall, I thought the style, approach, and citrusy undertones were reminiscent of Eleven Madison Park (and for good reason), but it was a different atmosphere and experience. It was great food all around, but the ambiance and company made the meal.

I hope to come back some random Friday night for one of the themed dinners on the roof!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Last Second Curry

Sometimes we just love us come curry (because someone didn't want to watch me gut, scale, and cook a branzino)

Carrots, cumin beef, onions, couscous, and a soft boiled egg on top, and some day-old baguette to dip in the soup.

We turned on the air conditioner full blast so that the hearty warm goodness went well with the frigid air (even though it's nasty hot outside)