Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Recent Eats Part II

Brunch at Alias
Alias is great for a low-key brunch on a Sunday morning, a great contrast to the mostly crowded lines-out-the-door types of places that populate New York City. The menu has a vaguely Southern bent to it and manages to provide lots of options that help you to customize a plate that covers all the bits and pieces you might want to try.

The buttered cornmeal waffle is a terrific morning starter. The cornmeal gave it an added crunch where waffles often turn soggy. It was served with sweet blueberries and strawberries on the side and a fried egg.

My dining companion and I knew we both wanted to try the fried chicken and biscuits. So the simple two eggs plate was the way we went — you could choose grits or a salad and had an option to add fried chicken (which you definitely want to do in some form or another on this menu).  The fried chicken had a delicate, flavorful crunch and a buttermilk richness. I only lament that there wasn't more. I'm not a big grits person, but these (Anson Mills) were good, thick rather than soupy. The biscuit, which looked like it had whole grains in it, was fluffy and buttery the way a biscuit should be.

 Alias also offered us a chance to try a food I had never before tasted: goetta. The menu had a small explainer that this is a food of some uncertain origins but that is a specialty out of Cincinnati and usually involves oats and some pork bits and is sometimes likened to haggis. This turned out to be quite innocuous,  a paper-thin woven hash brown with tiny pork bits mixed in. It reminded me a bit of fried dim sum dishes, probably because Chinese food involves much pork.
By coincidence (really!), as we walked to our next stop of the day, we ended up on the street facing Doughnut Plant. We couldn't resist peering at the daily specials board (of course that's where we knew we wouldn't escape these treats). Behold, the carrot cake doughnut and the peanut butter doughnut with blackberry jam. The carrot cake was a cake doughnut speckled with raisins and with a cream cheese icing filling. So eager were we to eat that the innards photo nearly turned to a blur.
The peanut butter dougnut tasted more peanutty than I expected, with that same sesame tinge I had experienced the night before with the gelato at Otto. Bits of peanuts were melted into the glazed exterior and the jam was piped through the ring. I wish the jam had a stronger berry flavor and for that, the carrot cake won out.

Hester Street Fair
I'd recently read about the new craft and food fair at Hester and Essex Streets and with the mention of several specialty food stands, knew I'd make it here sooner rather than later.

It was another hot afternoon, so we grabbed drinks from Broadway East's stand: lemonade with fennel (undiscernible) and iced tea with hibiscus (just a slightly flowery touch). The stacks of pretzels at Sigmund's Pretzelshop called to us. Hello, gruyere paprika pretzel! Yes, we'll take wholegrain mustard on the side. Yum.

And then a chocolate chip peanut butter cookie with pretzel chunks for later. Later was made good by this monster. A good amount of good quality chocolate chips swarmed this thick cookie (that tasted more like peanut butter — finally!) and the pretzel bits added a bold crunch.

Cherry Almond custard at Shake Shack. A smooth custard infused with that squirt you get in your mouth when you bite into a sweet cherry. Almond is such a complementary taste that it's barely noticeable here, perhaps serving only to boost the intensity of flavor.


My second visit to this Upper West side spot was perhaps even better than the first. I'll have to believe that my dining companion's mention of my blog had nothing to do with that.

We did receive this complimentary Chickpea, Morcilla & Apricot crostini, but we attributed it to the long wait for our main course. This was a delicious complex mix of ingredients on crispy slices of toast. The chickpea provided a smooth texture and the apricot a bright spot of sweetness.

My dining companion and I settled on one of the day's three specials, which came recommended by our waitress — the chicken. Chicken is a tough dish to impress with given that it often seems like the most boring option on a menu; chicken is something that can be made at home. The key is that truly good chicken is hard to come by —it's easy to churn out something dry or tasteless —but when it's done well, it stands out. This is one that stands out. The chicken was perfectly tender, the skin gorgeously crispy. The meat teetered on the edge of being too salty but swayed back to the side of well-seasoned. The bed of sauce had the quality of a mushroom bisque. The morel mushrooms were a nicely interesting side along with the thin (thus, less chewy) stalks of asparagus. The pea puree also bumped up the market freshness of the dish. An overall success.

The Belgian Chocolate Mousse served in a glass was topped with pieces of chocolate wafer, a drizzle of a sweet chocolate sauce and a dollop of cream. The mousse was rich, but not too sweet and I appreciated the wafers as a texture contrast. It should say something that after a day filled with many other sweets, this was still a really delightful ending.


  1. what a night!
    so great...
    sometimes you gotta love the UWS...

    but looking over all that you ate in one day...oh my!

  2. i LOVE the idea of the pretzels in the chocolate chip cookie! i'm going to try that!