September 30, 2009

Pera - Free wine and meatballs ends today

Free food and free wine - how could we resist?

This is why we decided to meet a friend and visit Pera Mediterranean Brasserie in midtown Manhattan for a quick drink and appetizers.

The restaurant is offering its Facebook fans a free glass of wine and a free meatball appetizer.  All you have to do is mention the Facebook promotion (which ends today, Sept. 30th.)

The meatball dish (reg $7) was small, but tasty and came with a light tzatziki sauce.  We enjoyed our free wine (we were pleasantly surprised that we could choose any wine by the glass on the menu).  We chose the Malbec (reg $12) and were given a generous pour.

We also decided to order the Chef's Meze Sampler ($22) which included a white bean salad, roasted whipped eggplant, anchovies, feta cheese (very light and tangy), humus with pastirma (Turkish prosciutto on top), lamb "Adana" cut roll, crispy calamari, beef and bulghur tartar (grainy texture), and, in the middle, homemade grape leaves.  Overall, it was a fun sharing dish in a beautiful presentation.

Pera Mediterranean Brasserie is located at 303 Madison Ave (btwn 41st and 42nd Sts) in NYC.

September 29, 2009

Tinto Fino - Best place to Find Spanish Wines in NYC

Searching for the perfect reasonably-priced Spanish sherry brought us to this warm and charming wine shop in the East Village.  Tinto Fino (named for a synonym of Spanish grape Tempranillo) is the destination for Spanish wine lovers. We love Spanish wines because they offer great value compared to most European wines.  It is NYC's first all-Spanish wine shop and features a good variety at various price-points.

The store is neatly organized by region, however, if you need some help, the staff at Tinto Fino are great at offering recommendations.  We also noticed that they never blinked an eye when asked for wines at low price points.

We ended up buying the Lustau Light Fino Sherry NV and the 2001 Lopez de Heredia Vina Boscania Reserva Rioja.  We often find that Sherry is hard to come across other than cheap bottles most people would only use for cooking, not drinking.

Tinto Fino is located at 85 First Avenue (btwn 5th and 6th Sts) in NYC.  It is owned by Mani Dawes, who also owns popular Spanish tapas restaurant Tia Pol in Chelsea.

Extra note:  If you want to immediately open your wine, there's a  nearby Sri Lankan BYOB restaurant, Sigiri, that's worth a visit.

September 28, 2009

More Bon Appetit Supper Club pics - Top Chef's Fabio, Iron Chef Cat Cora, and James Beard winner Babbo's Gina DePalma

Last Thursday we went back to the Bon Appetit Supper Club and Cafe to try a few more foods and to meet a couple of TV chef elites - Iron Chef Cat Cora and Top Chef's Fabio Viviani.

Chef Tom Douglas' Rub with Love King Salmon Sandwich ($9.50):  This was a hearty, meaty sandwich complemented by the fennel mayonnaise and nutty arugula lettuce.

Chef Alex Stupak's Yuzu Tart ($3):  If you like lemon, you would love yuzu, a Japanese sour citrus fruit that is used in this tart.  It was airy, silky, and cool.

Baked's Brewer's Bar ($3):  This was rich and dense, filled with pecans and brown sugar.  It was heavier than we expected it to be.

Babbo's pastry chef Gina DePalma shows us how to make Zabaglione, an Italian dessert made of egg and wine.

Here was our individual sample of Chef DePalma's Zabaglione on a hazelnut cake.  This was light, yet satisfying due to the custard-like Zabaglione

Chef Cat Cora, fresh from an appearance at the Today show, shows us how to make her Skirt Steak Tacos with Shiitake Mushroom Salsa

Despite no free samples of this dish, we managed to snag a taco that Cat Cora herself made in the demonstration and offered to us.  The salsa was earthy from the mushrooms yet fresh from the cilantro.  It made this dish.

Chef Fabio Viviani was hilarious - especially when he was confused over how to operate the Induction oven.

The many faces of Fabio:  He emphatically demonstrates how to make his "so easy the 5 guys in the room could make it" pancetta-covered prawns with spinach and polenta.  We loved his charming broken English, which he mentioned was how his cookbook was written.  (His publisher even mentions on the book jacket that no grammatical corrections were made to ensure the authenticity of the chef's voice.)

His completed dish - Chef Fabio Viviani’s Gamberoni In Camicia.  It looked beautiful and seemed really easy to make.  Though we did not get a sample, we managed to get a photo with our favorite Top Chef contestant!

The Bon Appetit Supper Club and Cafe had ended for this year and we look forward to checking out next year's installment.

September 27, 2009

Le Fooding d'Amour - Celebrity chefs, photos, and Friday night recap

Though this photo looks like we traveled to Bedrock on Friday night for the Le Fooding event, we actually only took the 7 train out a few stops to P.S. 1 in Long Island City, Queens.

For $30, we had the chance to sample dishes by top French and American chefs.  What were our favorite dishes?  Who did we see?  Did we eat enough?  Photos and answers to these questions after the jump!

It was daylight when we first arrived at P.S.1.  At 6:40 pm, we joined the line.  Though the start time was 7pm, we didn't get ID'd until 7:15pm and didn't enter the premises until the sun had fully set at around 7:30pm. 

Hungry from the wait, we quickly grabbed and ate the first food we saw - French cheeses that were served with Balthazar bakery bread.  Then we devised a divide and conquer strategy - one of us would wait in a long line, while the other would quickly get food from stations with shorter lines.

The longest line was for Parisian chef William Ledeuil's Marinated Pork Ribs with "Pineapple Teriyaki" lemon grass (one of 3 favorites of the night).  The meat easily fell off the bone.  The flavorful mash on the side was fresh (from the lemon grass) and nicely balanced the richness of the meat.
Our next favorite dish of the night was from Chef Sean Rembold (of Diner in Brooklyn, NY).  It was a Fried corn with scallop butter.  The corn was sweet and topped with fresh mint, chunks of scallops, and tomatoes. We loved this preparation because it simply enhanced, not masked, the taste of these seasonal ingredients.

Our final favorite dish came from French chef Christophe Pele, a Barbecued Sirloin Steak.

The steak was nicely seared and topped with greens.  The meat was very tender, juicy, and nicely seasoned.

We managed to snap a shot of Momofuku chef David Chang while he plates his Bo Ssam.

At the beginning of the night, the shredded pork was nicely plated on a lettuce leaf with some mild hot sauce on top.  After an hour, the lettuce had run out making the plating (and eating) messier than before.  We liked the Bo Ssam at Chang's restaurants better than the version here.  Regardless, the pork was soft in texture, had good flavor, and was not greasy.

This was supposed to be French Chef Yves Camdeborde's Mini Henry IV casserole with creamed cow’s cheese but it seemed like a pork-based soup with vegetables (which added great texture).  The garlic-buttered bread that was served with it acted like a large crunchy crouton and added some much needed salt to the soup. 

The other big celebrity chef foodies were photographing was wd-50's Wylie Dufresne (we caught him chatting with Serious Eats' Blogmaster Ed Levine).  We tried his Grilled Chicken Necks with yuzu marmalade.  These were tasty (earthy) but we thought that necks were too difficult to eat because they have so many small bones and very little meat.

Finally, after a long wait, we get to dessert.  Courtesy of Greene Ice Cream, we chose the Salted Hazelnut Gianduja and Bourbon Vanilla.  Alcohol + Ice cream?  What is there not to like about the Bourbon Vanilla that tasted true to its name.  The Salted Hazelnut Gianduja tasted like a cool, creamy version of Ferrero Rocher, complete with chunks of hazelnuts.

By the end of the night, the chefs were chatting amongst themselves and the attendees were waiting for the ice cream.  Because of the long wait and cool evening weather, it felt like it would've been quicker to go to the Greene General in Brooklyn!

Overall, despite the long lines, cool weather, and muddy spots, we enjoyed trying all of these dishes (plus the ticket proceeds went to charity) and left with satisfied stomachs.  Now we have even more incentive (as if we needed another excuse) to re-visit Paris (and Brooklyn) to dine at the restaurants of our favorite chefs of the night.

September 26, 2009

Picnick Smoked - Rookie Vendy 2009 Finalist

Since we were not able to make it to tonight's sold-out 2009 Vendy Awards, we decided to check out one of the 2009 Vendy Awards Rookie Finalists:  Picnick Smoked.  Having just opened in mid-August to long waits and huge crowds, we braced ourselves for an afternoon baking in the sun.  Happily, we found no line upon arrival (11:45 AM) and quickly discovered why, in just one month of operation, Picnick Smoked has already become a destination of choice amongst the Wall St. lunch crowd.

If you're a meat-lover, as we are, you're going to love this menu!
We chose the Picnick Express combo (meat + drink = $9) which means our Freshly Squeezed Lemonade was only 50 cents additional to our Kobe Brisket (reg $8.50).  The Kobe Brisket is by far the best item on the menu!  The meat easily pulls apart - it's so soft and tender!  This brisket just melts in our mouth!  The bread is buttered, toasted, and crunchy.  The lemonade makes for a refreshing drink.

We also got a Picnick Deuce special (meat + drink + side = $11) of the Pulled Heritage Pork sandwich (reg  $6.50), Picnick Slaw (reg $3), and lemonade (reg $2.50).  We loved the slaw - mustard based, not too creamy nor too astringent - but full of crunch and flavor.  We were happy to get wet naps because the sandwich was messy (as good BBQ should be!) and the meat was tasty, though the Brisket was better.
Picnick Smoked is located in Mannahatta park, in front of 120 Wall Street fountain (on Wall St btwn Front and South Sts).  The park features a few tables and chairs which makes this parkette a nice area to get our of the office and enjoy a lip-smacking outdoor lunch.

September 25, 2009

Foodie Things to Do This Weekend

Sampling from different vendors all in one spot seems to be the theme for this weekend's great foodie events in NYC.  Basically the best of New York comes to you all in one place!  One event offers cutting-edge French food alongside dishes from famous NYC chefs (including David Chang and Willie Dufresne), another celebrates the best in street eats, and the third highlights the best in local food and drink. 

On Friday and Saturday night, Le Fooding, an French organization that embraces casual, not stuffy, delicious food comes for the first time to NYC.  Noted chefs from both Paris and New York will be on hand to create dishes that mix "food with feeling".  Tickets are $30, and the few that are left will be available at the door.  Le Fooding D'Amour will happen at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, 22-25 Jackson Ave (at 46th Ave) in Long Island City, Queens.  The event starts at 7pm. 

Celebrate the very best in street vendor fare with the annual Vendy Awards this Saturday.  Each tax-deductible ticket is $80 (advance) or $100 (at the door).  This allows you to eat all you can from finalists including Kwik Meal, Rickshaw Dumpling Truck, and Cupcake Stop as well as enjoy the open bar (beer, wine, and soda).  Judges include Jacques Torres, Pichet Ong, and Midtown Lunch's Zach Brooks.  The soon-to-be sold-out Vendy Awards will occur at the Queens Museum of Art near the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park from 2-7pm.

We love the "Edible" publications - beautiful photos and great insight into local products and resources.  It only seems appropriate that Edible Manhattan would be hosting a Harvest Party to celebrate the best of New York this Saturday.  For $40 (tickets available online), revellers can enjoy treats from local favorites like Doughnut Plant, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, Stumptown Coffee, Bedell Winery, Murray's Cheese, and more.  This event happens at South Street Seaport in Manhattan from 4-8pm.

September 24, 2009

Pizza Cone

On our way to last Sunday's NY Craft Beer Week finale in Astoria, Queens, we saw a store advertising...for the 1st time in the USA...Pizza in the Cone.

How could we resist?  We had to come back and check out this novel, handy snack!

We chose the Marguerite ($2.99 or $3.25 after taxes) and watched how it was made.  The cook rolls up the dough into a cone shape and stuffs the cheese and other ingredients into it.  Then the pizza cone is placed, standing up, in a custom-made, rotating oven.

The Marguerite had tomato sauce, tomatoes, oregano, olives, and lots of mozzarella cheese.

Lots and lots of gooey cheese!

The cheese was actually most of the filling. 

So what did we think?  This was a fun, cheap pizza snack that made us feel like we were kids again.  Was it the best pizza we've ever had?  Well, no.  We wished more of the ingredients made it to the middle and bottom of the cone.  Did it bring a smile to our face? - Definitely!  The cone-crust was soft and tasty.

Pizza in the cone is found at 32-15 36 Ave. in Astoria, Queens.  While there, check out the rest of the grocery store which features many treats from Brazil.

September 23, 2009

Bon Appetit Supper Club and Cafe - Our chance to meet Jose Andres and Daniel Boulud!

Doesn't this look fantastic?  Though it looks like it could be from one of NYC's many great restaurants, this dish was actually Tuesday's special at a temporary cafe.  Bon Appetit's annual (now in its third year) pop-up Supper Club and Cafe opened on Monday to hoards of hungry foodies.  Featuring sandwiches, salads, soups, and desserts (mostly under $10) by famous chefs like Rick Bayless, Mario Batalli, Daniel Boulud and more, it's this week's lunchtime destination in NYC.

We went on Tuesday specifically to watch Chef Jose Andres cook and meet Daniel Boulud.  Not only did we get to meet both of these legendary chefs, we also got to watch plenty of cooking demonstrations and try lots of tasty foods!

   Fresh produce available from local farms.

  Sandwich options include Nate Appleman's Vegetarian Sandwich with Marinated Peppers, Zucchini and Smoked Ricotta ($8)...

...and crowd favorite José Andrés' JLT with Jamón Serrano and Manchego ($9).

Lots of tasty-looking sweet treats.

We go upstairs before the large lunch-time crowd fills up the dining room to check out the space and enjoy our lunch.  Which dishes did we choose?

We had to get José Andrés' Albondigas Con Melocotones (Meatballs with Peaches).  It was a wonderful mix of savory and sweet.  If you could taste a season, this dish would be Autumn.

How could we pass up Daniel Boulud's Signature Terrine Trio ($8.50)?  Earthy, rich, and decadent - it was a very luxurious lunch-time choice for under $10.

We watched WD-50's pastry chef Alex Stupak combine all of the seemingly plain ingredients above into the beautiful creation below.  We loved his thoughts on recipe inspiration - if a taste combination or technique seems impossible, he will try to figure out a solution.

Chef Stupak's creation was actually a lot prettier, but this free sample of his Frozen Frambroise Toffee with Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse and Raspberries was a nice treat.

The raspberry shell was cold and when you dig into it, out oozes toffee!  Though this item is no longer on the WD-50 menu (seasonal item), we definitely want to check out this restaurant!

Chef Joses Andres was enthusiastic and enigmatic - emphasizing using all components of your produce and, of course, lots of Spanish olive oil.

Chef Jose Andres made his gazpacho with tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, Spanish olive oil, and vinegar.


Chef Andres' easy to make watermelon-tomato appetizer...

...and his watermelon-tomato gazpacho.

Though we could not try Jose Andres' Gazpacho (but we did get a photo with him!), we were able to try another version prepared by Bon Appetit Chef de Cuisine Jonathan Lindenauer Consomme "Andaluz": Andalusian-Style Essence of Vine Tomato.

DB Bistro's Chef de Cuisine Olivier Muller prepared this amazing looking guinea hen with foie gras, wrapped in pastry.  On the side were beautiful chanterelles.

While Chef Muller demonstrated his cooking, Chef Boulud was signing his cookbooks (if you want to pick up a signed copy of one of his books, he signed extras that are being sold at the Supper Club).  We wished we could have tried this dish (so much foie gras!), but again, we were happy to get a photo with Chef Boulud.

With cooking demonstrations by Baked's owners and Emeril Lagasse on Wed, Top Chef's Fabio Viviani (our favorite!) on Thursday, and Gramercy Tavern's pastry chef Nancy Olson on Friday, we will definitely try to check out the rest of this week's events!

Bon Appetit Supper Club and Cafe is located at 101 W 57th St (at 6th Ave). 

Can't make it out here or want to try making these dishes on your own?  Recipes are available online here.