Tag Archives: oysters

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.



Vancouver Arrival!

Early morning today. Up well before the sun, but not before Scout. Fed the kitties, snuck past a groggy dog and headed to the the airport. We breeze through the long line at security because Rob was the lucky random selection for an explosives swipe. Flights on time, no immigration. Except for the hour, this is painless. Flying within Canada and not crossing into the United States is so much more pleasant. Felt less like cattle and more like a crated dog. We arrive in Van on time, get our rental and we are here! The drive into downtown along Granville Road is pleasant with cedar-lined properties, pretty homes and little shops. Can’t wait to explore the city.

This evening after a little nap we are meeting up with a high school chum, Donna, who has been living out here for twenty-one years now. She has suggested Joe Forte‘s a Vancouver establishment, for drinks.

We arrive at Joe’s a little before 6:00. The place is lively with an after work crowd. An old school oyster and chop house, Joe’s is exactly the perfect place to relax after a long day and catching up with a friend. We luck into three seats at the oyster bar, settle in to watch the shuckers in action, while two cold local Granville Island Cypress Honey Lagers are placed in front of us. The beer is crisp, smooth with a nice bit of body. Perfect compliment for fresh oysters. While we wait for Donna, we check out the menu and the plates being ferried from table to table by white coated waitstaff. If looks are anything, choosing will be difficult. Sticking to local west coast seafood will help. Our waitress informs us that Halibut and Dungeness crab are in season, as is wild Pacific salmon.

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Donna arrives and it’s like thirty some years never passed. Conversation is easy and we catch up. I have lots of questions about life on the coast. Winter is coming to Ontario in the next few months and I’m already looking at an exit strategy. Vancouver is really appealing with its fresh seafood and year round farmers markets, excellent Asian food and mild climate. And ocean. And Mountains. And Hockey. And it is in Canada. Van has it all it seems. Now I just have to convince Rob that he wants to live on a boat.

Tonight Rob and I decide to share fresh oysters (because why wouldn’t you?), the Dungeness Crab Cake, Iceberg Wedge Salad and Tempura Alaskan King Crab. We also decided on a half bottle of  Kettle Valley 2010 Pinot Noir Reserve. BC wines are harder to come by in Ontario because of unfathomable trade restrictions so we will enjoy them as much as possible while we are here.

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The oysters at Joe’s are sublime. Perfectly shucked, sweet, briny. Served with fresh horseradish, cocktail sauce, champagne mignonette and a soy sesame ponzu sauce. The dungeness crab cake came with a fresh slaw and a generous spicy basil-lemon aioli swipe. The cake was lightly fried and heavy with crab. It was for all intents and purposes an excellent cake but I prefer large lumps of crab not shredded pieces so it was not to my liking.

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The wedge salad came divided on two plates for us. Cool, crisp and delicious with diced tomato, crumbled bacon and excellent blue cheese, lightly dressed with a mild creamy blue cheese dressing and green onion. This is an old-school item that we are seeing more these days. Rob orders it whenever he sees it on a menu.

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The tempura Alaska king crab was probably my favorite offering.  Served with an avocado guacamole and a sweet soy syrup, tempura battered and fried, the crab had a nice crunchy exterior – hardly a tempura, but excellent nevertheless – and a sweet, delicate crab interior.

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Too bad there are so many excellent places to try in Vancouver and so little time. I would come back to Joe Forte’s in  heartbeat.

RT6: to Providence, RI

This morning is our last morning in Boston. We are moving on to Providence, RI.  Before we go we are going to have breakfast at Mike’s City Diner, a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives-featured joint. We once again luck into parking out front but have to hunt down American change for the meter. Boston still resides in the dark ages regarding meter technology.

Mike’s is clean and homey. A classic no frills or kitsch diner. Black and white and checks. Comfy, padded, armless chairs and tables. No banquettes. Banquette seating takes away some of the versatility a place has to seat parties of different sizes. The busy kitchen is visible from the seating area. The restaurant’s various and many accolades are posted everywhere. President Clinton has been by.

Rob goes out to feed the meter and I peruse the menu. A very good breakfast menu. Good variety. Our server delivers excellent coffee and a humongous glass of grapefruit juice. Rob gets back to the table and we place our orders. I’m getting the Mike’s Special – ham carved off the bone, two eggs over medium, grits, toast – coffee included. Rob wants Mike’s Famous Pilgrim Sandwhich – turkey, stuffing and cranberries only to be told they don’t serve it until eleven. “I know – we suck!” says our waitress…lol. He settles for a Southender omelette stuffed with corned beef hash and cheese with home fries and rye toast.

Breakfast arrives quickly and piping hot. My eggs are perfect but the grits while creamy, are unseasoned. I add butter and salt but they really need to be cooked with LOTS of salt. So I would pass on them. My ham is plentiful and very tasty, sliced thin and grilled on the flat top for a little carmelization. It’s not over-salty. Perfect. The toast is decent, white and buttered. I ask for jam and she delivers really good homemade strawberry. “It’s all we have, except for packets of grape jelly” she says. It is wonderful.

Rob’s omelette is huge. The eggs are perfect and buttery good and hash inside is amazing, with large chunks of meat mixed with potato, while the cheddar flavour ties it all together. A very well made omelette. Mike’s home fries are very good as well. Some of the best we’ve had. They seem to be simply spiced with seasoned salt. Delicious.

Well fed, we hit the road for Rhode Island. Providence is a quick, forested, one-hour drive from Boston. We are there in a blink pretty much. We settle into the hotel and set out to explore the Brown’s University area which is kinda dead. We grab a beer, watch some Olympics, argue about whether the women’s beach volleyball uniforms are discriminatory as the men are not in skimpy suits and then head back to the Downcity Arts area where we are staying and explore a bit more. Providence seems a bit dead today. It’s 90 degree out. Is everybody at the beach? Inside? Not returned for school yet? The Hotel Providence where we are staying is old and beautiful, but the surrounding area is a bit sketchy. There is a mission two doors away and the only other people in the street appear to be homeless. Nobody is begging though. Weird vibe. Something just seems a little off.

For dinner tonight we choose the Providence Oyster House. Tomorrow we head inland so we want to have a last go at fresh seafood. The Oyster bar is half full with people celebrating the end of their work day. This area of town, Federal Hill is busier but not bustling on a Friday night. There’s live music somewhere and the night is pleasant.

After handing the car off to the valet, we are quickly seated. The restaurant is dim, with lots of wood accents, paper covers the white table cloths, and the kitchen is open. Nice atmosphere for a slow meal and good wine.

Good rustic bread is brought to the table accompanied by a very nice dipping oil with a hint of chili. We decide to try some local oysters along with some of our favorites, Umami from Rhode Island, Pepperell Cove, Maine, and Malagash from PEI. Since we are having oysters we go with beer instead of wine for the evening. The oysters arrive on ice with cocktail sauce and a very nice migniotte. We slurp them down. Fresh and briny. I did get shells in three of the twelve. This should NEVER happen. Especially when you have the words Oyster Bar in your name. One again we’re reminded how absolutely spoiled we are by the Whalesbone in Ottawa.

For mains we both order the lobster mac and cheese at $30 a pop. Fabulous! (say with jazz hands). Perfectly cooked penne sauteed in a decadent white cheddar cheese cream sauce, very lightly truffled, with thin, tender-crisp asparagus pieces, the meat of a whole lobster covered in buttery ritz cracker crumbs, and finished under a salamander. Scrumptious. Tomorrow we leave lobster land. It has been a treat.

This pic does NOT do their lobster mac justice. It was very dark and this has been heavily corrected.

RT13: Into the Windy City!

Up early for an early start. We want to be in Chicago for lunch. Time is short and we want to experience as much of Chicago’s offerings as possible. It is a cool 59 degrees. I do not acclimatize backwards well and am longing for the 106 degrees of last week. The two-hour drive is pleasant enough: cows, cornfields, pale bleached-out skies, tall, yellow wildflowers and on our approach to the city, oil refineries and industrial complexes and then …that famous Chicago skyline.

Lunch is at Lou Malnati’s, famous for it’s authentic deep-dish Chicago pizza. We neglected to eat breakfast on purpose knowing we were headed here. The restaurant is warm and it’s nice to get out of the chill air.

The wood, exposed brick walls and honeyed oak flooring are welcoming. Our section is decorated with White Sox paraphanalia. We order an Antipasto Salad and a 9″ “Malnati Chicago Classic” to share. Sausage, cheese and vine ripened tomato sauce on what Lou Molnati’s calls “buttercrust”. Simple. Chicago-style pizza is upside down by most measures. The cheese is laid down first, then raw sausage meat is pressed into the cheese, the pie is topped with tomato sauce and baked. I decide to try a local wheat Ale from Goose Island called “312”.

The antipasto salad is an excellent chopped vegetable salad of romaine and iceberg lettuces, Volpi salami, roast beef, provolone, black and green olives, pepperoncini peppers, red onion, ripple cut carrots, giadineria, red-wine vinaigrette and fresh-baked croutons. Personally I would leave out the deli roast beef. I find it had that “preserved” taste. I would have loved to have the salami cut in chunks instead of thinly sliced for better flavour and texture, and the homemade croutons were indistingishable from commercial. If you are going to go to the trouble of making your own croutons, make them a little bigger. They get toasty crisp outside and softer but still chewy inside. The tomatoes on the plus side were full of flavour and the slightly sweet vinaigrette dressing complimented everything nicely.

The wait for pizza is fairly long, twenty minutes or so. This is because it is being baked fresh and needs to cook the sausage. It finally arrives at our table, bubbly and red, served up in a deep dish pan that has darkened with age and baked on goodness.

Our server dishes out a piece each, trailing gooey cheese. It’s every bit as good as it looks. The Italian sausage is sweet and mild and the tomatoes are full of fresh, just-crushed flavour. The crust was firm and crispy, but also rich and buttery. It’s a crust we don’t normally associate with pizza, but it’s utterly delicious.

We spend the remainder of the afternoon unpacking, making a few plans for our stay in the windy city and I caught a nap. We plan to head out to Rick BaylessFrontera Grill for dinner. Bayless is a favorite of ours. His approach to Mexican reflects his superstar chef instincts while remaining true to the origins of the cuisine. Frontera does not take reservations and the wait can be upwards of two hours so we decide to go early. There is a wait already at 5:15 just after opening. We sit at the bar.

I order a margarita which is a treat because it is a “real” marg made with lime juice and tequila, not a sody-pop marg. Maybe you American readers wonder why I go on about real margs, but in my home city of Ottawa it is damn near impossible to get one. My fellow Ottawans would be appalled to be served this small, light coloured drink where you can taste the tequila bite and the bitter-sweet lime when they order a margarita. They want Margaritaville. But I digress. Rob ordered a Michelada Moderna, which was extremely refreshing yet spicy. It’s a bottle of crisp beer (in this case, Pacifico, a Mexican favourite) poured in a large glass. Lime juice, tomato juice, a little hot sauce and spices are added and then the glass is rimmed with a chipotle salt and a lime slice. Crisp, refreshing and spicy. Each sip makes you want another, and it wakes up the taste buds for an excellent meal to come.

As we await our table we note that the Grill has a hip Mexican vibe. Decorated in warm reds and golds, with bold vibrant art and wall sculpture and tile floor, it is upscale but unpretentious. Staff is friendly and helpful. Our beeper goes off before we finish our drinks and we move to a table.

For apps we decide to share the 1/2 Grand Seafood platter, which consists of 6 oysters and their accompaniments, ceviche and tropical tuna salad, along with with cornchips to scoop the ceviche. The dish is an artfully arranged bed of ice featuring 6 oysters of various sizes, with a tomatillo-habanero mionetta and a smoky chipotle galic salsa, ceviche fronterizo of lime marinated albacore tuna with tomatoes, olives, cilantro and green chile, and a tropical cocktail of sashimi grade yellowfin, avocado-tomatillo guacamole and melon salsa.

I love oysters with traditional cocktail sauce and occasionally a french mignonette and sometimes a dash of scotch. But I generally stick to classic cocktail. The accompaniments at Frontera were a revelation. The fresh tomatillo-habanero sauce livened up the briney oysters and the smokey chipotle salsa really stood up to and complimented one of the oysters specifically that was quite full-bodied in taste. The ceviche was bright with lime and cilantro but had no heat. The tuna cocktail was visually pleasing with jewel like cubes of tuna and fresh with sweet cantaloupe.

For mains, I asked my server to decide between the shrimp and the chicken. Frontera’s menu is a rough one for me. Usually, even at a high-end eatery, one or two choices jump off the page at me. Frontera’s menu was climbing into my lap – too much good stuff going on there. He is also indecisive, but mulls it over for a bit and decides I will have the chicken, Pollo en Mole Amarillo. Rob orders the Carne Asade a la Oaxaquena.

The chicken was an awesome choice. The small, char-grilled boneless breast, sliced, and served with a green mole that is complex, fruity, lightly sweet and with a little mild heat, comes with delicious poblano mashed potatoes. The creamy spuds have a few chunks and a mild poblano chili flavour and heat. They are also excellent with the mole. The dish is presented with some nicely sauteed spinach I assume for additional colour, but I found the strong taste incongruous with the dish. It did however provide a bitterness that can cut the sweet of the mole, I just didn’t find it necessary. Also unnecessary and difficult to eat were the fine shreds of fried onion. They were perfectly cooked, tasty and provided visual appeal and crunch. Not complaining, but they could have been left off in favour of more of the fabulous mash.

Rob’s carne was marinated in spicy red chile which served to add depth and only a little heat. The wood grilling provided a ton of flavour although neither the grilling nor the marinade masked the excellent quality of the beef. The standout side dish was the sweet plantains with sour cream and a slightly salty Mexican cheese crumbled on top. The black refried beans were nicely spiced with great texture.

At this point I have serious happy mouth, that nice satisfying burn. But I plunge onward and order dessert. I joke about whether or not I will get the chocolate lava cake, churros, or deep-fried ice cream which typify Mexican dessert menus. Of course, none of that is on the menu. Fontera’s dessert menu is once again, too much for me. I’m bad that way. Give me one option and I’m good. Anyways, since we are sharing dessert, I give Rob FOUR options off the menu and make him choose. Luckily for him, he chooses right. Donitas. Perfectly deep fried donut balls with zuchini bits in the batter and a delicate cinnamon-sugar crust accompanied by sugared ribbons of zucchini, walnuts, which were hot and softened and without bitterness due to a little roasting, and toasted cinnamon ice cream. Need I say more.

I ordered a Cafe Tacuba, blanco tequila, Kahlua and espresso coffee, shaken over ice table side and served in a martini glass. Iced coffee with a tequila bite.

Rob had a chocolate cappuccino, which was strong and lightly sweet and over which you could smell the roasted toastiness of both the coffee and the Mexican chocolate.

An excellent meal by any standards.

Frontera Grill on Urbanspoon

He was watching us very intently as we were drinking our cocktails.