Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekend Roundup

The summer has not quite left us. On a dreary, rainy afternoon, the Van Leeuwen appeared before me to brighten my day with Earl Gray Tea ice cream. I knew there was a reason I had resisted any of the treats at Kee's Chocolate shop (no easy feat) when my friends and I made a post-brunch stop there.

Though I was already stuffed, I ordered a cone. I think I was happier for it. It always seems like it's more value for your money even if you don't want to eat that cone, but also, the act of licking an ice cream cone is just more fun than dipping into a cup. The Earl Gray ice cream was terrific - boldly made in such a way that I could distinctly taste both the black tea and the hints of citrus from the bergamot. The ice cream was a nice solid scoop that didn't drip down my hand before I could finish it. If Van Leeuwen were to manage to keep selling ice cream through the winter, I wouldn't let the cold stop me from coming back order more!

The brunch that came before this was in Noho at Hundred Acres, opened by the same owners of two other popular brunch spots, Five Points and Cookshop. The place was large and though it seemed to have the potential for being sceney, it was low-key enough to allow for a group of friends to catch up on conversation without shouting while still maintaining a bustling atmosphere. There is a diverse menu (with a couple of added specials) - a good mix of classics with a twist and some less-often-seen dishes and huge portions.

Our group indulged in chilaquiles; poached eggs with jalapeƱo grits and sausage; blue fish hash; smoked salmon with potato pancakes and a fifth plate to share between all of us - semolina raisin french toast with honey yogurt and caramelized pineapple. Everything was delicious with only the french toast being slightly less than great. I'd definitely return here and especially over either of the sister restaurants.

This weekend I also tried out a little nook of a place on the Upper West Side called Recipe. This narrow, intimate space with just a few tables in back serves well-prepared seasonal food. My dining companion and I chose a balanced trio of dishes: a tomato and buffalo mozzarella tart with basil pesto and black truffle oil; seared Hudson Valley duck breast with wild mushrooms, baby turnips and blackberries; and a special of red snapper with asparagus and parsnips.

The tart was a light puff pastry topped with all the ingredients, a perfect appetizer. The snapper had a nice crisped skin and a pure fish flavor - a dish that tasted good and at least had the impression of being healthy. The sliced medium rare duck also had crispy skin and was just salty enough and flavorful. The only misstep came with dessert. We ordered the special  - a black mission fig rum cake topped with pistachio ice cream. This was flat in flavor and the bottom was too burned to even get much of the cake out. When asked, we were honest with the staff about not liking the dessert and though we weren't offered anything else instead, the cake was, appropriately, taken off of our bill. If Recipe can keep it up, it should succeed as a nice, little neighborhood restaurant.

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