Tag Archives: New York

NYC: Bubby’s & The Standard Grill

Spent the morning at 59th and Lex, also known as Bloomingdale’s. After a productive spree, I headed back to the Meat Packing District to meet up with Rob and grab lunch at Bubby’s, a short walk from our hotel, The Standard.Bubbie's 003

Bubby’s, a scratch kitchen, immediately comfy with wood tables and chairs, exposed brick,  a well stocked bar and lots of natural light, also houses an old school soda fountain. This is our chance to try an honest to goodness egg cream. They serve chocolate and vanilla. We opt for chocolate to share. An egg cream consists of chocolate syrup. soda water and milk. The drink, much lighter in texture than a milk shake and less sweet, is quite nice and refreshing. You can really taste the soda water.

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For lunch we both ordered the Portland fried chicken and biscuit sandwich, two Ommegang Witte wheat beers and sides of coleslaw, mac and cheese and baked beans. The chicken, crispy and not greasy, I find a tad salty. This sandwich is served with honey mustard and chopped mustard greens. The greens are a revelation, great texture, mildly bitter, they really complement the chicken. The biscuit is decent but a little tough on the bottom. We got a choice of two sides and opted for a third. The sides are not overly large but perfect for two to share. Coleslaw is creamy and unremarkable, baked beans are sweet, smoky and have a nice heat, mac and cheese is excellent, cheesy but not gloppy.

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Tonight, our final night in New York, we are having dinner at the highly recommended Standard Grill which is attached to our hotel. The Grill exudes old world ambiance with some art deco features. The flooring is a lovely, warm copper penny tile.

We get settled into a red leather, tufted booth and peruse the updated classic menu. Radishes and chunks of Parmesan cheese are delivered to the table.  Salty and sharp, they compliment pretty much any cocktail. Bread and butter arrive, the bread in a paper sack. They take bread seriously here and the three small baguettes are salted and perfectly chewy.

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We decide on a dozen oysters from the raw bar. I order a Jackie 60 — mezcal, Grand Marnier, agave, lime and smoked sea salt rim. Rob orders a Continental Drift — reposado tequilla, lime, agave, curried mango and smoked sea salt.  Our oysters arrive, perfectly shucked and  accompanied by a well made red wine vinegar mignonette. I swallow one sweet, briney oyster and wash it down with the mezcal cocktail. What an amazing combination!  The smokey lime cocktail is the best thing I have ever paired an oyster with. Wow. Must duplicate these flavors at home.

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For starters we are splitting the iceberg wedge salad. It arrives on two plates and I explain to the waiter that we ordered only one to share. He assures me this is one order that they shared on two plates. This would be a massive serving for one. The lettuce is chilled and perfectly crisp. It is generously but not over sauced in a buttermilk dressing and topped with crispy bacon, fried shallots, mild blue cheese and dried cherries. A truly delectable salad.

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As we sip a nice Napa cab our mains arrive, medium rare strip steaks with chimmichuri sauce. Sides are separate. We chose the creamy spinach, crisp potatoes and the One Good Pickle that Rob insisted on. Our steaks are grilled a perfect medium rare. The chimmichuri sauce is excellent but spare. I would have preferred some on the side. Rob disagrees and thinks the amount is perfect and allows the steak to shine. He is wrong as usual.

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The crisp potatoes are just that. The pickle is young. crisp, tasty and not too salty. The creamy spinach is delicious. The green taste is slightly garlicky and nicely creamy.

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Dessert is offered and the menu is interesting. I am interested in the Wake and Bake, warm chocolate cookies with milk or the rhubarb crostata. They also offer a slice of birthday cake. Very nice. Unfortunately we are too full to be tempted and finish our meal with very excellent cappuccinos served with a square of very good dark chocolate.

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The Standard Grill offers superb fare with attentive table service. The washrooms are notable. The men’s and ladies’ are separated by a see through chain curtain and may as well be together. It is easy to miss the male and female silhouettes on the floor directing you to your gender side. You come out and wash up in a trough together. There is a a single male attendant who seems to spend all his time on the ladies’ side. This is disconcerting as the stalls are open below and their is a one inch gap between the door and the side of the stall. Just weird. An experiment, I guess but it’s just wrong.

 

 

New York in Spring

April in the city. Have been trying to get to New York in the Spring for some time now but outrageous airfares have kept me grounded. Even I refuse to pay $1200 for a 57 minute flight. I want to see the Highline in spring. Have seen it once before in late fall when it was glorious with grasses and daisies, I am figuring it will be quite spectacular in spring. Ottawa is having a particularly cold spring coming off of a brutally long winter, airfares are somewhat less and so we booked late and arrived this afternoon. We left gray, drizzling Ottawa and arrived to a sunny mild day in the Big Apple, where a good many of the trees are leafed out and or in bloom. The streets and parks are alive with pedestrians and markets. Saw my first tulips of the season today.

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Traffic was hellish from LaGuardia, but it gave us time to soak up the sights. I think it took longer to get from LaGuardia to our hotel, The Standard in the Village, than it did to fly here. Seriously. Serious traffic. But we are here, the digs are quaint (except for the Arctic air in the hallways and the annoying housekeeping staff yelling up and down the halls to each other), time to unpack and find a light nosh and a cocktail. We need venture no further than the hotel lobby, to the Standard Plaza. The patio is full but we manage to find seating in the crowded lounge open to the patio. Drinks and food menu is relatively simple and that is exactly what we want after traveling a good part of the day.

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We order cocktails to start. Baha Mama and a spicy pale ale cocktail. Both are well made and refreshing. Charcuterie and a veggie plate will satisfy until our 7 pm dinner. Noshes arrive and we dig in. The charcuterie plate is simple, good quality but ordinary, consisting of prosciutto, salami, mortadella, crostini and a very nice fruit compote with lots of sweet and clove notes. The vegetable basket was a wonderful surprise. Nothing ordinary about it. Pickled fennel and cauliflower, lightly salted carrot and celery batons, meaty cerignola olives, salted and dressed radishes, perfectly sweet red and yellow grape tomatoes, toasted nuts, garlicky red pepper hummus and served with an oiled and  grilled, very thin and flaky flat bread as well as fresh herbs, tarragon, parsley, basil and mint. Great for dipping or rolling into the bread for a little sandwich. Quite simply the tastiest and most creative veggie plate I have ever had in a restaurant.

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Dinner tonight is just down the street from The Standard. Fig and Olive is a bustling place at 7pm, early for dinner by New York standards, but this is a neighbourhood place. It is a bit noisy when we come in and the place exudes a rustic sophistication with a casual vibe. Tables are set with white linens and small oil lamps which add a warm glow but actually make menu reading a possibility. The walls are open shelving which houses their wine selection. Ceiling fans and wicker shrouded lights take the space casual. Friendly staff are in the familiar black pant/white shirt getup.

Rob, not one to pass up a martini, orders their signature drink, the Dirty Martini, made with house-made brines. Our waitress warns him it is a bit earthy. This only encourages him, and she brings him a damn fine drink. For dinner we decide to share their house Fig and Olive Salad, a dish of Mixed Olives, Chicken Tangine for Rob and Chicken Provincale for moi. Tonight’s wine will be a most excellent Pinot Noir, Mateo Loring.

The salad is quite sizable and we are sharing. It is lightly dressed with olive oil and vinegar which perfectly compliments the fine ingredients. Young greens, spring onions, soft, sweet Calmyrna figs, plump walnuts, tiny black, pitted olives, slivered green apples, cherry tomatoes, creamy Gorgonzola and mild Manchego cheeses combine to make a fresh, crisp, elegant salad.

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Rob wins dinner tonight. His tagine is a marvel of flavours, with hints of harrissa and saffron. It was served with a perfect and fluffy couscous with a trio of add-ins, almonds, a mint sauce and a saffron oil.

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I chose my chicken because I love the flavours of herb de Provence, especially the lavender. I make this dish at home and it is amazing. Fig and Olive’s Chicken Provincale is moist and golden. Perfectly roasted but without the signature flavours I was expecting. It was accompanied by what I will assume is a very excellent ratatouille. I am not a fan of this French specialty but I won’t hold that against the restaurant. I don’t care for the texture or the eggplant. Roasted potatoes and a lovely, flavourful sauce of parsley mint and olive oil round out the dish.

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The olive dish we ordered as a side is gorgeous to look at. Several varieties of olive are represented. They are tossed in olive oil and oregano. A bit of orange zest and honey would have softened the flavours a bit as the oregano was a little powerful.

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We decide to share a small dessert over cappuccinos and order the Creme Brule Cheesecake with Caramelized Peaches and Olive Oil Crisp. After we order, inexplicably, the music in the place gets cranked. Conversation becomes an effort. Dessert arrives. I am impressed because it is quite small — only a few bites between us. I like this. Many may not. The cheesecake was crustless, allowing you to savour the perfectly sweet, creamy, decadent mouthful of cake. Rob disagrees and thinks cheesecake, which he doesn’t really like but ordered anyways, should have a crust. The little cake sat atop a sugared olive oil crisp which served as a crust, for a nice crunch if you took a bit of both at the same time. The carmelized peaches were delicious. As a final note, MICRO GREENS IN NO WAY BELONG ON A DESSERT.

Our extremely good cappuccinos arrived after we finished dessert, which was only an issue because at this point the music and crowd made it too loud to converse. Off into the noisy New York night. We think of visiting the club on the hotel rooftop but the allure of bed is stronger. The Highline tomorrow.

 

 

 

Breakfast LES: Clinton Street Bakery

Monday morning is our last chance to grab a bite in New York. We fly out in the afternoon and have to head to the airport just after noon. A  cloudy but warm day which holds some promise of a very nice spring day once the clouds disperse. We head on over to the Clinton Street Bakery a few blocks from our hotel. We attempted to eat here on the weekend but were faced with a 90-minute wait.

Clinton St. Bakery, very busy on a NYC morning.

9:30 on a Monday finds the bakery very busy but with an empty table or two. We are seated near the window. The place is clean and welcoming, bright and homey. We order the Southern breakfast with biscuits and tomato jam on the side, and I can’t resist a glass of fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice.

Sign on wall: “Ice Cream is the New Health Food”.

The southern breakfast consists of two eggs however you like ’em, two slices of excellently fried green tomatoes, adequate cheesy grits (Rob makes them way better. His are cheesier) and four or five slices of thick-sliced sugar-cured bacon that is the BEST EVER bacon we’ve had. Juicy, flat, perfectly crisped, and almost candied, it would be a good enough reason alone to return to this breakfast spot. Their famous biscuits are in my opinion just good biscuits but I’ve had better cat-head biscuits (so named because they’re the size of a cat’s head — made with lard or bacon grease and whole buttermilk) in the south, in Nashville and North Carolina specifically. At Clinton Bakery they were served with good raspberry jam, not the tomato jam we ordered and were looking forward to, as good tomato jam was a treat, but we didn’t make a fuss. It was all good.

Eggs over medium, cheese grits, fried green tomatoes, sugar-cured bacon and those biscuits.
Up close…yum.

Eataly!

I love all things Batali. I love his approach and enthusiasm for simple, pure, high quality ingredients. I love his zest for life and all things Italian. I love his larger than life personality.  I love his cookbooks. I love his food. I love his restaurants.

Eataly is Mario Batali’s latest, greatest undertaking to bring the finest ingredients Italy has to offer to the above average New Yorker. Simple, pure, and high quality do not come cheap. Eataly will delight gourmands and cooks alike. Located at 23rd and 5th in a city which pretty much offers the world on a platter, Eataly takes its place among the finest markets in New York City.

Rob and I decide to shop at Eataly and have our main meal of the day in the marketplace this last day, a Sunday, that we are to spend in the city. The market is jam packed with New Yorkers shopping for their nightly meal and with curious tourists. Eataly features a cafe and several restaurants which are open to the shopping area. Enjoy your meal while gazing around at the seafood market or fresh mozzarella being made in front of you, or turn your back to the gaggle of shoppers and quietly watch the line cooks.

After touring the seafood beds, vegetable stands, shelves of chestnut and forest honeys, preserves, jellies and jams, bushels of fresh almonds, morels, chanterelles and countless other fresh mushroom selections, heirloom tomatoes, bakery and racks of fresh hot cross buns and loaves of soft olive oil bread, a deli counter of Parma hams, prosciutto, and pancetta, a restaurant quality butcher counter with items like pig cheeks and veal porterhouse steaks, a salumi counter, fresh mozzarella made that morning, prepared foods and salads to take away, wine and beer selection, kitchenware and cookbooks, a drool-worthy selection of dolce, including limoncello cakes, hazelnut tarts, truffles, elegant chocolate cupcakes and other Italian sweets, coffee, more varieties and styles of dried pasta than I even knew existed, fresh pastas, a large olive oil and vinegar selection, and local product and produce when available, we chose to have a seat, a meal and a well earned glass of wine at Manzo.

Manzo is the most formal of the eateries in the market. The restaurant features the meat of the United States and former Babbo chef Michael Toscano uses all parts of the animal. Manzo is a complete dining experience with antipasti, pasta, mains and dessert courses.

Settling into high-backed stools at the bar overseeing the mise-en-place, we peruse the menu and select the mozzarella di Bufala Campana with prosciutto and fettuna as our appetizer. Manzo uses products sold in the market and we had seen the mozzarella being made in our earlier tour. A lovely half bottle of Barbera Briccotondo Fontanafredda is poured into large balloon glasses and we settle back to enjoy each others’ conversation and the buzz of shoppers all around. Curiously, this is not noisy or crowded, and is quite a pleasant atmosphere to dine in.

I’m hungry for pasta and spot a dish on the menu that I hope is reminiscent of a dish I had at Batali’s restaurant, B and B, in Las Vegas on my last visit. Spaghetti alla Chitarra with lobster, tomato and basil. Rob orders Cacciucco, a fish stew, with lobster, scallop, ramps, red chillies, and fregula.

The bufala arrives with thin slices of prosciutto drizzled in good olive oil and Tuscan bread toasted and brushed with olive oil and garlic. The bread is chewy and softened with the oil. The salty ham and mild, fresh cheese is simple and amazing bite after bite. Service is nicely paced to the slow side, allowing us to savour the antipasti and our wine.

Our mains arrive. My pasta is perfectly al dente. The lobster meat is succulent and plentiful. The tomato sauce is orange, rich, and accented by onion, garlic and basil, the perfect marriage. Rob’s stew arrives as a pile of lobster meat on a bed of couscous-like pasta, ramps, chilies, and a perfectly seared sea scallop. Our server arrives and from a pitcher, dispenses a fragrant, deep red broth over the fish. The broth is decadent. It tastes of roasted lobster shells distilled of all of their lobstery essence, with rich, deep flavour. The dish has thin rings of fresno chillies added for eye candy but they add a sweet back heat. Unexpected and delicious.

The portions at Manzo are perfect, allowing us room to share a dessert and cappuccinos. We choose the limoncello torte, with lemon liquor, yogurt and cranberry. The dolce comes with a few pieces of a super-sweet, nougaty meringue.  This is perfect because the pudding-like cake and the cranberry relish have just enough sugar to make them palatable. Perfectly tart. Cappuccinos do not disappoint. We have had the most excellent coffee in Rome and have come to expect it in any Batali restaurant. Fabulous meal on all counts.

 

 

 

MOMA: Design & the Modern Kitchen

“The cost of bringing the Absolute into the kitchen is to soil it. The pretensions of Good Design require us to bring the noblest concepts of the humanistic tradition into direct confrontation with scrambled egg and soiled nappies… The big white abstractions must be devalued, ultimately, by these associations with dirt and muck and domestic grottitude.” – Reyner Banham, “Household Godjets,” 1970

This quote adorned the wall at Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It speaks to a universal truth about the most thoughtfully designed room in the modern household — that the most successful and pristine design fosters the making of messes. I just love this.

Maureen and I ventured to MoMA specifically to see this exhibit, which is a celebration of the influences and factors of kitchen design in the modern age – not just technology advances and new gadgets and labour-saving devices, but the changing purpose of the room, from work room, to spartanly functional “housewives'” haven, to modern social nerve centre.

 

I liked these for some reason…
…can’t put my finger on it.

Because it was MoMA, there were paintings, photography and sculpture that were kitchen-themed, in addition to the samples of kitchenware, gadgets and even fully functional kitchens from post world-war 1 Germany and early-60’s Italy.

The 1920’s German Kitchen of the future.
Utilitarian but highly functional and complete

 

Semi-automatic. Hah!
Italian-designed portable kitchen.

It was a little troubling, but also kind of fun to see relics from a different age and reminisce. “Hey, remember those, we had those when we were a kid!” Noticeably absent: Chip-and-dips, and avocado green fondue sets. It does remind of us of the incredible social, cultural and familial connection we make to our kitchen, our parent’s kitchen (maybe even our grandparents’ kitchen) and its power as a memory maker and daily tribute to form and function.

Kitchen clock with timer built in
Tupperware! We had all this as kids.

Most of these pictures are self explanatory. But when you look at them, experience the design elements and then look at your own kitchen and marvel.