Monday, July 25, 2011

Restaurant Week: L'Ecole Review

After six years in New York, I feel like a veteran Restaurant Week eater. Each time it comes around, there are new restaurants added to the usual roster, but the list of places I get excited to make reservations for is now often composed mostly of old favorites that I can rely on returning to for a good meal. But this time, a coworker mentioned that L'Ecole, the restaurant at the French Culinary Institute, was on her to-try list. So, I thought I'd check it out.

The space is lovely, elegant and comfortable. And the RW menu was extensive with many options for each of the three courses.

Lunch even began with an amuse bouche — a delicious potato and chive ball topped with crème fraiche and salmon roe.

The seasonal salad was better than your average boring mix of lettuces. It had watermelon radishes, shimeji mushrooms, pickled cherry tomatoes and sherry shallot vinaigrette that made it all a bit tart, in a good way.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Small Bites

— These days, frozen treats go way beyond ice cream — ice cream sandwiches, shaved ice and popsicles are in.

— Grant Achatz talks about the next act (following Paris 1906) for his restaurant Next: present-day Thai food.

— The brilliant technology of the evolving pizza box.

— The SodaStream is making fizzy drinks popular at home.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mexicue Review

Mexicue is one of those food trucks that I had heard of and wanted to try, but I just hadn't yet caught up with it. The idea of melding Mexican food and barbecue seemed like a good one. I signed myself up for the mailing list as a reminder to myself to try it. As a result, I was able to get an early (free) sampling of the food when they opened up a storefront on Seventh Avenue between 29th and 30th Streets.

I tried an Alabama chicken taco and a Berkshire pulled pork slider. Each would normally be $3.50, which seemed a bit pricey for the small portions. But I also wasn't crazy about the food. The meat in both could have been more tender. The taco was dry (maybe they forgot the barbecue sauce) and tasted mostly of the two layers of tortilla. The pork slider came with avocado and pickled onions, which was a nice combination in theory. But the barbecue sauce on the meat was too sweet. I did like the Arnold Palmer to wash it all down though. Not having tried the food from the truck, I can't say if this is how Mexicue serves all their food. But I hope that the new restaurant, which has a nice, casual seating area upstairs, works through the early phase and improves.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Steve's Ice Cream Review

A small, new ice cream shop, Steve's Ice Cream, opened recently in Midtown. In addition to an interesting selection of ice cream, the shop also sells an assortment of local pastries (including Scratchbread brownies, which I've had at the Brooklyn Flea and loved). The staff was friendly and let me taste several flavors — blackberry honey, too sweet; and olive oil pine nut, delicious — before I settled on Tea Time.

The ice creams had strong flavors; the tea had a great citrus burst to it. The texture visually resembled slightly melted candle wax, but was smooth on the tongue. It's a bit pricey — this mini size was $2.50 — but the portion is just right when you want just a little bit of ice cream to cool off. I welcome new spots to get good ice cream and only wish that they would stay open later. The shop is open until 8 p.m. on weekdays and 7 p.m. on weekends.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

July Custard Flavors at Shake Shack

The weather feels like summer now and so do most of Shake Shack's custard flavors for the month.

Monday: Peaches 'N Cream
Tuesday: Mud Pie
Wednesday: Sour Cherry Cinnamon
Thursday: Blueberry
Friday: Salted Caramel
Saturday: Chocolate Chip Cookie
Sunday: Sweet Corn

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

On the Road Eats: Bottega

Yountville restaurants are all about the star power. It's almost impossible to avoid it. And so my dining companion and I ended up at Bottega, which belongs to Food Network star Michael Chiarello, for lunch.

The food was pretty good, though I imagine that in a few months I won't remember what I ate there. The service was memorable — because it was terrible, slow and inept. It started with our having to ask for our drinks twice before they finally arrived.

We began the meal with the shaved artichoke salad with Parmigiano Reggiano. The artichokes were served two ways, braised in lemon olive oil and fried. It was tasty and showcased, once again, the terrific produce of the area.

But after eating this appetizer, the waitress informed us that the kitchen didn't have the main course we had ordered. We're not sure why she waited that long to tell us this and why she didn't immediately bring a menu so we could choose a replacement dish. When she finally gave us a menu, she didn't return to take our new order for quite some time. 

For a second appetizer, we had the green egg and ham olive oil-poached Delta asparagus. It came with a crispy soft-boiled egg, prosciutto bits and Cambazola crema. The coating on the egg was a bit too thick and the fried taste overwhelmed it. The asparagus was fresh, though I wish it had been crunchier.