Thursday, March 31, 2011

Small Bites

- Food companies are passing on increasing costs to customers not by raising prices but rather by shrinking food packaging, which people are less likely to notice.

- Food writer Amanda Hesser explains how Google's new recipe search is misguided and bad for home cooks.

- Some grocers oppose New York City's green carts because they are hurting their businesses.

- Serious Eats compares two of the most often recommended Thai restaurants in the city to see who has the best food: Sripraphai or Chao Thai?

- A sneak peek at the food from Grant Achatz's new restaurant Next.

- The Environmental Protection Agency is increasing its monitoring of radiation in milk after low levels of it were found in some milk on the West coast.

- The host of The Kojo Nnamdi Show, a radio show in Washington, D.C., takes a non-foodie approach to food coverage.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Scalini Fedeli Review

Tribeca's Scalini Fedeli is what I'd consider a hidden gem in New York City. It's not the high-end Italian restaurant that spills from people's mouths. It's not an "it" place, somewhere of the moment; it's been open for more than a decade. There are clearly plenty of people in the know, though —it will require advance reservations to get in on a busy Saturday night.

What you get during your $65 three-course prix fixe dinner is worth more than you'll pay for it. And if my word isn't enough, consider that when The New York Times reviewed it in 1999, the same meal cost just $5 less.

Seated in this warm room with vaulted ceilings and stained glass, you'll have an intensely satisfying experience, all the trappings of a fancy meal. You'll get to choose from a dozen or more options for  appetizers and entrees, and so many of them seem intriguing that the decision will be tough. There will be extras and the bread service keeps the slices coming — you'll definitely welcome several pieces and would be wise to try the cranberry walnut.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Small Bites

- Do restaurant patrons put up with too much bad treatment and should that be factored into the cost of a meal?

- A group of gourmet food trucks have formed a lobbying group to advocate for laws and conditions that make street vending easier.

- Some restaurants put an emphasis on music as an important part of their identities.

- Knives are precious things for chefs.

- Fears of radiation contamination in Japan could damage the perception of the country's food exports, even if they are safe.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory Review

When I think of diners, I think of New Jersey, where I grew up with them, and excess. Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory in Jersey City is no exception. The menu is loaded with options, including all the usual diner menu suspects — breakfast food, chicken in a basket, burgers. There's something to satisfy everyone.

The California omelet stuffed with avocado, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and cheddar cheese and served with home fries. Not quite enough grease in those home fries, but I like to see an omelet filled with ingredients so you'll never get a bite with just the eggs.

Breakfast for dinner — there's an undeniable pleasure in going against the norm. The pancake combo hits it all with eggs, bacon and sausage. The pancakes were buttery and fluffy with just that hint of crispiness on the edges and most importantly, delicious.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tipsy Parson and Little Giant Reviews

The Tipsy Parson is serving food that seems to be quite commonplace these days — biscuits, mac and cheese, pulled pork for example — but unfortunately it's not doing it all that well, based on a recent brunch visit. I knew it had received some mixed reviews, but some friends had had a good experience recently and so my dining companion and I had decided to give it a chance.

The buttermilk chive biscuit was large but not particularly buttery or soft and the honey butter wasn't noteworthy.

The catfish po' boy was a large fillet of spice-rubbed catfish, which was surprisingly not fried as po' boys traditionally are. I actually liked the fish, but as we overheard a neighboring table describe it, this made it more of a "faux boy." It also could have used a little less of the meyer lemon aioli.

The Pig in a Poke was a large ramekin filled with stone-ground grits and poached eggs topped with andouille sausage. If you like the smoked, spicy flavor of andouille sausage, this is a simple, nicely presented dish.

The mac and cheese was just okay. The noodles were good and chewy, but it was too creamy overall. I like my mac and cheese crustier and cheesier. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Small Bites

- Chicago chef Homaru Cantu has been experimenting with the miracle berry and its many potential benefits. He recently spoke at the TED conference about his ideas.

- A restaurant owner wonders how to deal with a complaint and a negative review on Yelp.

- Praise for green cuisine in Denmark.

- revisits toys that could really cook.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Van Horn Sandwich Shop Review

For those paying attention, it seems as though there's been a disproportionate number of restaurants dishing up Southern or Southern-inspired food among the recently opened in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Restaurants opening themselves up to judgment by transplants in the city who know authentic Southern food or that pass easily among New Yorkers who know no better.

Van Horn Sandwich Shop is one of these newer places, a small, casual restaurant on Court Street in Brooklyn that might be easy to miss, but shouldn't be missed. And one of my dining companions, a native of North Carolina (which, incidentally, is also where one of the owners is from) deemed it quite worthy. Although it's mostly a sandwich shop, Van Horn offers a few other sides, soups and salads that, based on our experience, were just as good as the main focus.

The Brunswick stew was a tomato-based dish with pulled pork, bacon, chicken, tomatoes, bell peppers, corn, lima beans and potato. It was hearty and delicious.

The hushpuppies — cornmeal, jalapenos, scallions and buttermilk —were crispy, well-seasonsed rounds that weren't too dense or dry.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Clinton St. Baking Company Pancake Month

Every February Clinton St. Baking Company has pancake month. Throughout the month, two special flavors of pancakes are offered for a couple of weekdays, changing each week. Whenever anyone asks for a good brunch place, I recommend Clinton St., with a caveat about the wait time and a rave for the masterfully done pancakes. This year, I finally got around to eating there during pancake month and tried the Japanese pumpkin pancake.

The pancakes came with a pumpkin seed streusel and warm maple butter. Heavy drizzles of pumpkin puree and powdered sugar made this a dazzling work of art. And the balance of flavor seemed so natural and effortless. The streusel helped bring out just a bit of sweetness in the pumpkin, so that the pancakes were more meal than dessert. They were wonderfully buttery with slightly crisp edges. A more perfect pancake I have not found.

Friday, March 11, 2011

On the Road Eat: Vail, Colorado

More recent eats from Vail, Colorado.
Dinner at Sweet Basil.
The pear and Pecorino Romano ravioli was served with sage brown butter, lemon flashed broccoli rabe, and puffed Anson Mills farro. It was wonderfully light and savory and the puffed farro was a delightful jolt of energy in the dish. But the portion was awfully small (three small ravioli, which each required just one bite), especially compared to other appetizer portion sizes.

Though I had my doubts about the accompaniments for the herb-crusted Colorado lamb t-bones, the execution wiped them away. The lamb was cooked with a nice char on the outside, but to a juicy medium rare on the inside. The meat, fairly mild in flavor, was topped with a tarragon salsa verde. And it turns out I might have been turned off by the idea of Anson Mills goat cheese polenta and celery root and fennel ragout only because I really had no idea what they would taste like. The polenta was smooth, serving as a nice backup for the meat, and the ragout was a gentle texture contrast.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Small Bites

- With the release of his memoir, "Life, On the Line," Alinea chef Grant Achatz has been busy answering questions.

- One couple disagrees on how to determine when food has gone bad.

- Food & Wine magazine names the people's best new chef; here are the ones in the New York area.

- Some chefs have strict rules for the way they serve food in their restaurants.

- Some interesting ideas for grilled cheese sandwiches.

- This guy makes a hobby out of playing with his food.

- Banning shark fin's soup raises questions of racism.

- Maybe molecular gastronomy needs a new name. How does "modernist cuisine" sound?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Convivo and Alto Close Suddenly

Convivio and Alto restaurants have been closed suddenly. They were under the management of Chris Cannon, after a recent split with Michael White. There's not much in the way of explanation for the closings.

Monday, March 07, 2011

On the Road Eats: Vail, Colorado

Some recent eats during a trip to Vail, Colorado.
Dinner at Terra Bistro

When you spend a few days eating out around nice restaurants in Vail, many of the menus start to resemble one another — many of the same meats and fish with slightly varied preparations. Thankfully, Terra Bistro provides some respite from repetition. Flavor inspirations taken from different ethnic foods abound on this menu.

Tequila and sage organic chicken tamale, caldo verde, salsa cruda, yogurt crema. The presentation was lovely. The masa in the tamale was slightly dry and crumbly without very strong flavors, but mixing it in with the green sauce saved it.

A salmon dish exists on the current menu, but on this night, the chef was experimenting with a new preparation. The salmon was pan seared over a bed of mango horseradish. It came with hominy, fried asparagus, grilled avocado and watercress. Mango isn't on my list of favorites, but I decided to take a chance with it here. It just added a slight sweetness, which blended nicely with the very recognizable taste of horseradish. But it could have used a bit more kick. The salmon was cooked so perfectly it would have tasted good on a plate alone. I liked the mixture of sides, but it wasn't necessary to fry the asparagus. Grilling it would have carried a healthier, more refreshing feeling through the dish. I was able to taste the standard preparation of the salmon alongside this as well and I hope the chef goes for the change because this new version was outstanding.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Shake Shack's March Custard Flavors

The list of flavors at Shake Shack for March:

Monday: Chocolate Chuckles
Tuesday: Banana Bread
Wednesday: Pineapple Nut Brittle
Thursday: Mint Chocolate Chip
Friday: Coffee & Donuts
Saturday: Chocolate Peanut Butter Brittle
Sunday: Afternoon Tea

Small Bites

- Coffee prices in New York City are increasing. Serious Eats explains why we should be paying more.

- The French dispute the notion that French cuisine is on the decline.

- Maine lobstermen had a record haul last year.

- New Mexico aims to protect its chile by passing a bill that ensures anything claiming to be New Mexico chile is grown from peppers in the state.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Casa Review

Casa is a Brazilian restaurant on a quiet, residential corner of the West Village. It is so unassuming that were it not for one of my frequent dining companions wanting to repay me with a recommendation of his own, I may never have discovered it. It was uncrowded (though I'm told that was unusual) and quaint, a perfect setting for downing strong caipirinhas and catching up with friends.

A plate of assorted fried things filled with chicken, shrimp and cheese. The green sauce and the chopped tomato salsa were great on everything.

Beef, shrimp and cheese empanadas. The shrimp was the best one.