A Couple of Tarts

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf. ~ Epicurus

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bar Jamon

My friends are awesome. I really adore each and every one of them. And one thing they all have in common is great taste in food and restaurants. I can count on them to accompany me to a little pizza place in Brooklyn or a higher end seasonal menu type restaurant in the West Village. Sometimes I am lucky enough to be the recipient of an evening out as a gift for a birthday or some other event. S. recently took me out to the tapas bar Bar Jamon in honor of completing my masters. We share an affinity for Spanish food which was well established on a three week trip through Spain four years ago. We often reminisce and sigh thinking about the delicious meals which included bacalao, stuffed peppers, tortillas and various forms of fried fish (of which we indulged a little too much).

We have been to Casa Mono, Bar Jamon's sister restaurant around the corner. Bar Jamon really is a bar, with bar chairs situated around long, high tables. We got there early to ensure a seat and began our experience with Cava Mono. I don' t know much about sparkling wine, but this was delicate and refreshing and didn't give me a headache, all signs of something good. We wanted to try a number of plates, but ham and cheese were must-haves. We ordered a plate of jamon serrano and manchego cheese paired with mebrillo (quince paste). I am partial to this combination from having to make trays and trays of the paste as a pastry chef in San Francisco. We also had to get pain con tomate. This is basically toasted bread with tomatoes rubbed over the top and drizzled with olive oil. So simple and so satisfying. I think tomatoes on toast is one of the best things to eat. Ever. We also had lomo (pork) served with shitake mushrooms and a plate of pickled sardines. The only disappointment was the churros with chocolate. I think everything served at Bar Jamon is prepared earlier in the day and just plated to order by the bartenders. The churros were hard and drenched in cinnamon sugar, nothing like the light, crispy/chewy fried dough sticks we were expecting. The chocolate was tasty, with a bit of a spicy kick, but it didn't make up for the churros. I guess it is a reason to go back to Seville.

Thanks S. for a wonderful evening out!

Bar Jamon
125 East 17th Street
New York, NY
(212) 253-2773

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My Favorite Thing

Mmmm...bagels. One of my all time favorite things to eat. Before I moved to NYC, when I was visiting here with S., we stayed in the West Village and we would often walk by Murray's Bagels on the way to the subway. I would look in the window and see people reading the paper, enjoying their bagels. And I would think how neat it would be to live in New York and be one of those people. Little did I know that one day it would be me. Well, I usually enjoy my bagel and newspaper around the corner from my apartment in Astoria but every so often I do get myself to Murray's to have one of their crusty and chewy works of art. Today I treated myself to an everything bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese. It was a little heavy on the spread, but the bagel itself was so straight-out-of-the-oven warm that it seemed toasted and the cream cheese melted into a gooey mess. Yum! Hands down, the best bagels in New York City.

Murray's Bagels
500 6th Avenue
New York, NY
(212) 462-2830

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Official Start of Summer

I know summer doesn't officially start for another week, but as far as I'm concerned, it got going recently with a trip out to the beach topped off by dinner at All American in Massapequa. Last year I was introduced to this Long Island institution by RFC. It's legendary among him and his friends as well as with a few other LIers I know. The food is fantastic, cheap and fast. It's reminiscent of McDonalds (I'm sorry, it's not a dig, but a reality). I always get the quarter pounder and onion rings. One of these days, I'm going to get a shake, but I can't justify the calories just yet. (Maybe if I actually get myself to the gym.) But anyways, one of the traditions of going to All American is to eat in the car. Put the rings on the dashboard, lay down some napkins on your lap and dig in. It is always satisfying, especially topped off with ice cream from the adjacent Marshall's where I recently had my first Brown Bonnet...which I think sounds vaguely dirty.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bouchon Bakery...finally

Way back when the Time Warner Center first opened, I heard that Bouchon Bakery was going to be one of the foodie destinations within this ginormous structure. Every time I was in the neighborhood or grocery shopping at Whole Foods, I would take a look and see if it had opened yet. And each time I checked, it was still "coming soon." Then, one day, I walked by its space and there before me were cases filled with beautiful pastries and cookies. I stepped up to the counter and began to make my selection when...I was told that they hadn't "officially" opened. Apparently, everything in the case was for display and was going to be used later for an event. To be honest, I was a little annoyed and so did not make an effort to go back. I mean, who fills their cases with food just to say, sorry, we're not actually selling it?

But last week I was out and about with S. and she suggested after a leisurely afternoon in Central Park, ending out day with coffee and a pastry from there. I grudgingly agreed. (Okay, not really grudgingly.) Chocoholic that she is, S. tried their TKO cookie. An indulgent take on the Oreo, it was a crumbly chocolate wafer cookie with a creamy sweet filling. Very rich. I had to get one of their macaroon. I chose a seasonal flavor, jasmine tea. I enjoyed its crispy surface and chewy inside, but did not get any jasmine flavor. Maybe my palette is not refined enough. (If you love macaroons, then you have to read The Girl Who Ate Everything's search for the perfect specimen in NYC.) I would go back and try their other offerings, but the prices are a little steep. At least I was finally able to check it out.

Bouchon Bakery
Time Warner Center
Third Floor
10 Columbus Circle
New York
(212) 823-9366

Sunday, June 03, 2007

New York, New York!

I have had the week to recover from the flurry of activity stemming from my parents first ever visit to New York and my graduation from my Masters program. Ah, where to begin? I faced the same question when they arrived here. There is so much to see and do and eat that I didn't know where to take them first. And it took them four years to visit me, who knows when they will be back. It being their first time here, we stuck to the basics which included lots of sightseeing. But first, since RFC and I do live in Astoria, Greek food was the choice for their initial evening out. We went to a homey little place on the corner of Astoria Park called Agnanti Restaurant. This place is the real deal. Three of the four of us ordered the salmon, which you must get with with the tomato, onion and feta topping. I ordered a dish which was basically french fries mixed with strips of chicken. Tasty, but not wow. The service was a little spotty, but the food was worth it and we got to have some little nut and honey cakes for dessert served with Greek yogurt. An alternative to eating at the restaurant is getting it to go and having a picnic in Astoria Part, something RFC and I enjoyed a few weeks previously.

My dad had made the request to eat "New Yorky" food, so lunch the next day was at Lombardi's Pizza in SoHo. Because we are an indecisive bunch and want to try everything, our pizza was loaded down with peppers, pepperoni and mushrooms. I am becoming very fond of getting a slice and the crispiness of the crust, so having so many toppings kind of took away from that. But it was still delicious and very "New Yorky." Dessert consisted of rice pudding from Rice to Riches across the street. Only in New York can you find a store that sells nothing but rice pudding in a rainbow of flavors. My dad LOVES it, as he will tell you, and had to try four different renditions before choosing two that were distinctly flavorful and not just creamy and sweet. He settled on mango, which was interesting and a bright yellow, and rum raisin, which we couldn't get enough of. Word of warning, they give you a lot for one serving so it is definitely a place where sharing is in order.

Another day lunch/dinner was at Carnegie Deli. A little touristy, but hey, my parents are tourists and it is filled with a lot of history. Plus it has neon signage! We ordered way too much food which is par for the course. Pastrami on rye, corned beef on rye, potato pancakes, matzo ball soup (and cheesecake to go). The favorites with my folks were the soup and pancakes, but I was partial to the fall apart in your hands pastrami. I don't get to eat like this often and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Another New York institution we visited was the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station. My dad and I practically licked our bowls of Manhattan and New England Clam Chowder, while my mom polished off a bowl of gazpacho with lobster. We ate at one of the U-shaped counters. It was a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle out in the station.

The highlight of their visit, for me, was going out to the North Fork and visiting two of my favorite wineries, Sherwood House and Old Field. At both, we sat outside at picnic tables and enjoyed the beautiful weather and the refreshing wines. We stopped at a cheese shop on the way to Old Field and put together a little lunch that included a truffled Parmesan and a jar of truffle honey. We added a bottle of rose when we arrived. The owners of both places were around and made us feel incredibly welcome, as did the chickens roaming the yard.

While my parents were here there were many sights seen and one place we all visited for the first time was the New York Botanical Garden. It was amazing with roses just coming into bloom and pansies and violas everywhere. We drove, but it is right across the street from a Metro North station.

I think I tired my parents out with all the running around and there was still so much left for them to see. I possibly have to get a PhD for them to come out again. But maybe after it all sinks in they will be craving more of the Big Apple.

Agnanti Restaurant
19-06 Ditmars Boulevard
Astoria, NY
(718) 545-4554

Lombardi's Pizza
23 Spring Street
New York, NY
(212) 941-7994

Rice to Riches
37 Spring Street
New York, NY
(212) 274-0008

Carnegie Deli
854 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY
(212) 757-2245

Oyster Bar
Grand Central Station
New York, NY
(212) 490-6650

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