Monday, September 15, 2014

Grilled Cheese by petitesoeur

I have been making my way around to the various places in New York which specialize in grilled cheese sandwiches.

Early in the summer I went to Earl's Beer and Cheese with two friends. One friend got the NY Cheddar with pork belly, kimchi and a fried egg on sour dough. Pronounced: Good but not enough cheese.  The other went with blue cheese, ginger fig, potato chips on brioche. Pronounced: Maybe blue cheese isn't the best kind to melt. I had the Earl's Taco which is a scallion pancake used as a taco shell, filled with braised pork shoulder, queso fresco, shredded cabbage, radish and cilantro. Pronounced: The winner even though, obviously, it does not qualify as a grilled cheese sandwich.

Over Labor Day weekend, I went with another friend to Say Cheese. More spacious although just as bare bones in terms of decor as Earle, this place has salads as well as sandwiches. We each went with a sandwich. My friend had a monterey jack, munster, pesto & tomato on potato bread (left). I had white cheddar with their homemade bacon onion tomato marmalade on whole grain (above). Both with well-balanced amounts & combinations of ingredients, including the bread: Crispy (from the toasted bread) , gooey  (from the melted cheese), and flavorful (from the mix of salty, sweet, sour, bitter, savory tastes).

I can't speak to the tater tots because they're not my thing. My friend consumed them with relish. I liked my rosemary lemonade even though it was on the sweet side. Excellent Stumptown coffee.
I want to go back to try the black coffee snow cone as well as the grilled cheese sandwich which is suppose to taste exactly like French onion soup. 

All the photos are from Say Cheese which has fun old timey decor as well as being light-filled, spacious and welcoming even though the floor is bare and the tables/chairs are strictly utilitarian.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pizza from petitesoeur

More from petitesoeur:

I can't believe I ate this! 

Little Italy Pizza is a good place for a grab and go slice: lots of turnover so very fresh with a very crisp crust with a marinara sauce that's on the old school Brooklyn sweet side.

They make a lovely, on the lighter side slice that covers the marinara sauce with, in descending order:  fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella. That's what I usually get at this place but on  Monday (August 25) evening I went for a carb-bomb: A slice of pizza with the usual marinara, mozzarella, basil, parmesan plus baked ziti & goat cheese. It was utterly delicious.

For quite a while now, I have been baffled by the appearance of baked ziti as a pizza topping. On the evening in question, I decided it was the perfect moment to try it because I suddenly wanted lots of carbs. Usually I don't eat the bottom crust of a slice if I get one with lots of stuff on it because the crust always gets so soggy and also it's a little trick of mine to at least pretend that I am eating fewer calories by just eating the "bone." Thinking that, as usual, I would just eat the "bone," I reasoned that this slice would be sort of like eating a small bowl of baked ziti. But I had to taste the crust and it tasted so good and was not soggy at all so I ate it in its entirity. 

And, as Ralph used to say: I can't believe I ate the whole thing!

Little Italy Pizza

Monday, August 11, 2014

Delicious Sandwich & Sweets by petitesoeur

Guest blogger petitesoeur writes:

On a Saturday in August, I went hunting for a pair of sandals since every shoe store does deep discounts at the end of a season. Even though there were great bargains at Camper, there was nothing I wanted to buy and at REI the Anhu ones that I did want weren't in my size. But the trip downtown did result in two successful scores.

Later in the day, I was meeting up with a friend for an afternoon/ evening of music at Lincoln Center Out of Doors so I purchased three sandwiches from Russ and Daughters: Oy Vey Schmear (their famously delicious chopped liver mixed with hand sliced pickle from the barrel), Pastrami Russ (pastrami-cured salmon, dressed with sauerkraut & mustard) and Fancy Delancy (smoked tuna, horseradish dill cream cheese and wasabi-infused flying fish roe). I got them all on bialys in order to minimize the amount of bread we would eat.

Sitting on a bench outside the store, I consumed half of the Oy Vey. R&D's chopped liver is perfect in every way including its consistency, which is neither too smooth nor too chunky. I am sure they incorporate both onions & chopped egg into the chopped liver as most recipes call for the addition of both those items, but there's little visual evidence of either's inclusion. There's no way to know for sure as R&D does not disclose their recipe. Whatever way they utilize those other two ingredients definitely balances rather than overpowers the flavor of the liver. Word on the street: Their secret is cooking the onions until they're so soft that they melt into the liver when mixed in and only their sweetness lingers. I never would have thought to add chopped pickles to chopped liver even though I am a fan of adding (sweet) pickle relish into tunafish salad & mixing a bit of (fresh or dried) fruit into chicken salad.  It works: the (dill sour) pickles provide just the right contrast of flavor and texture.

As much as I enjoyed the Oy Vey (as did my friend when he ate his half later on) and we both liked the Pastrami Russ, finding the sauerkraut & mustard to provide a better flavor & texture contrast than the usual schmear of cream cheese, we both agreed that the Fancy Delancy was the star of the trio. It's also perfectly balanced in terms of flavor & texture but more delicate & unusual than the other two.

It was just a hop, skip and jump (nine short city blocks) to the door of Zucker Bakery where I sampled their lemon bar & a pecan bar before sitting down to enjoy an excellent. (Stumptown) espresso and a pomegranate thumbprint cookie. I purchased some mocha flavored alfajores and a couple of date/halvah "roses," aka shoshanim, an Israeli version of sticky buns. Both types of cookies are flavorful with just the right amount of sweetness and a tender melt in your mouth crumb. The "roses" were also yummy as well as being an interesting change-up to the usual cinnamon or chocolate variety of this type of pastry. It's a sweet sweet shop.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Franklin Fountain, Philadelphia PA

This summer whenever we've been passing through Philly, we've made a point to stop in Old City to get ice cream at Franklin Fountain.

Franklin Fountain, and its sister store the Shane Confectionery, are the brainchild of the Berley Brothers. Both establishments are loving and meticulous re-creations of an old-timey ice cream parlour/soda fountain, and an old-fashioned candy store.

From the vintage cash registers (with iPads actually doing the transactions), to period uniforms and tin ceilings, the stores are an homage to simpler times. And the ice cream is really darn good!

Redneckhunter is a purist and sticks to his black and white milkshake.  I have never dared to order one of the massively huge sundaes or banana splits, though they look amazing. Instead I stick to the "college" scoop - one scoop and one topping - my go-to is peanut butter ice cream with their own super rich homemade hot fudge.
I've also tried their fountain creations. Above is a phospate with chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup, and strawberry syrup -- fizzy and refreshing and lighter than an ice cream soda.

There's always a line, but it generally moves quickly, and definitely worth the wait!

The Franklin Fountain
No. 116 Market St. Philadelphia, PA 19106
Telephone (215) 627-1899 

Follow-up to Despaña, Princeton

As promised, and long overdue, here's a follow-up to the Despaña post.

We sat out on the upstairs terrace and ordered from their tapas menu.  I was tempted to order one of everything, but the waitress brought me back to my senses.

We didn't order the pan con tomate, but they brought a basket of it out - wonderful.  They couldn't, however, bring plain bread when we asked for it to go with our jamon serrano. Oh well.

The absolute best thing we ate were the croquetas with jamon iberico - 1) seems so wrong to use the world's most expensive ham in croquettes, but 2) tastes so right! We had these at the preview event, but when they are fresh and hot from the fryer, they are heavenly!

We also ordered eggplant fritters - not what I was expecting - instead of pancakes, these were like eggplant fries; and a paella mixto. We had also ordered a gazpacho that never came, so was cancelled; and last were shrimp which were super garlicky, but a little too salty, and just too much after the paella.
Definitely a place we'll be going back to. They serve a different menu at lunch, with salads and sandwiches that you purchase at the counter and bring upstairs.

I also loved the Cow Statue of Liberty glasses -- too bad they weren't for sale!

Despaña Princeton
235 A Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08540

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Despaña, Princeton, NJ

We've been eagerly awaiting the opening of the Princeton outpost of Spanish food market and cafe Despaña.  It's finally opening this Friday June 21.

We were lucky enough to get to the sneak preview event last Friday, along with other locals, New Yorkers come down on the train, and we even met a Spanish couple who had come from as far as Ottawa. The wine was flowing, a trio of Spanish musicians were playing, the weather was beautiful, and they were serving up a huge paella and fideos on their rooftop deck.

Inside, they were carving up a leg of jamon iberico -- we spent some time parked by this station, where we each ate probably at least $50 worth of meat.

There was also croquetas, papas bravas, tuna on crostini, cheese, jamon and more... 

Here's a picture of the jamon iberico about halfway through the evening...

We are hoping to get a table for a real meal this Friday - will report more later!

Despaña Princeton
235 A Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08540

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Taverna, Newark, DE

My dad and my have birthdays that are only 2 days apart, so we always celebrate together. This year, we went to Taverna, a new restaurant on Main Street in Newark, DE.

For a college town, Newark lately has been getting more and more upscale and trendy. A wine bar opened in the spot of the demolished dive bar The Stone Balloon, fellow dive bar The Deer Park was renovated and reopened, there's a banh mi shop, cupcakes, and tart yogurt.

So Taverna is yet another recent addition to the Newark dining scene. It's part of a restaurant group with a handful or restaurants in Wilmington and Hockessin, Delaware, and focuses on rustic Italian, wood-fired oven, etc.

 It being shortly after graduation, and Memorial Day, the town was quiet, and we pretty much had the restaurant all to ourselves. We started out with an antipasto board - created with 3 selections of your choice. We went with prosciutto, housemade mozzarella and eggplant caponata.

We also wanted to try their homemade ricotta. This was a bit salty for my taste, but still creamy and yummy. Ricotta's one of those things though - even bad ricotta in a plastic tub from the supermarket is pretty good...

For entrees, my dad got the canelloni (stuffed inside with chicken and proscuitto) - quite good!  My mom got the chicken taverna with a caper, lemon, white wine sauce on capellini.

Redneckhunter got the neopolitan pizza, and I made him order it with an egg on top (I got that slice, of course!) 

And I ordered the roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich, and substituted asparagus for my side of fries. It was a ton of food, and I ended up taking half of mine home as leftovers. All in all, another good addition to Newark!

121 E Main St
Newark, DE 19711
(302) 444-4334

Monday, June 03, 2013

Mistral, Princeton, NJ

We were around over Memorial Day weekend, the opening weekend of Scott Anderson's (Elements) newest restaurant in downtown Princeton.  Small plates, lower price point than Elements, BYOB and great central location -- what's not to like, right?

The answer (for now, at least) is service. When we walked in we were told that it would be roughly 20 minutes to seat our party of 5 (they only take reservations for parties of 6 or more), but we were shafted when some "friends of Scott" came in behind us.

Over an hour later, we finally sat down. Not sure, but seemed like a couple other parties were in the same boat - there was definitely confusion as to who was getting seated and who wasn't.

The waitress was nice and helpful and recommended getting 2-3 small plates per person, extras of things that everyone wanted to taste.  So we made a checklist on our place mat menus and were excited to finally eat!
No complaints about the food, but there was no sense of "coursing" or paying attention to the pacing. Plate after plate were just shuttled to the table. We'd have to quickly finish off a previous plate in order to make room for the next, and flag someone down to take it away. (I also didn't get why stuff had to plated on such large plates given the concept.)

Here's the rundown of what we had (not all pictured):

Fennel salad -- orange, mizuna, cilantro, olive oil
Kimchi pancake -- housemade kimchi, tamari, scallions
Pork Belly Salad -- chinese chili, scallion, sesame oil
Semolina Gnocchi -- spinach, morels, spring onions, green garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs
Housemade Bucatini -- Lump crabmeat, scallion, chipotle pepper
Hamachi tartare -- lime, honey, curry, papadum
Grilled Calamari -- artichoke barigoule, crispy artichokes
Grilled octopus -- “papas bravas”, caper aioli, smoked paprika
Sweetbread Cannelloni -- short rib bordolaise, chard, honshimeji mushroom
Weisswurst sausage -- caraway, mustard, pickled cabbage, marble potato
Lamb Merguez Sausage -- chickpeas fresh and dried, harissa, sheepsmilk cheese, mint
Korean short rib -- soy, ginger, ramp kimchi, shishito pepers
The standouts for me were the short rib (apparently slow-cooked for 48 hours), bucatini (wish there were more), hamachi tartare, and pork belly salad.  The weisswurst and merguez were also delicious.  My least favorite were the calamari and sweetbread canneloni - both just a bit bland.

All in all, it was just the feeling of being rushed through our meal.  Frustrating especially since we waited so long.  Our wait time was longer than our meal time.  Maybe we shouldn't have been so decisive as to order 15 plates all at once, and should have added more to our order halfway through...

Desserts came highly recommended, so we ordered one of each.  The Lemon posset with candied citrus and shiso was the favorite - such an interesting flavor and so refreshing yet luscious at the same time.

The other one that surprised us was the innocuously named Chocolates.  The cucumber (melon too perhaps?) sorbet that accompanied it was great! 

 The other two -- Rhubarb cobbler with sorrel and buttermilk and  Hay & vanilla panna cotta with biscuit and asian pear -- were delicious as well, just less surprising.

Let's hope they get it together with the seating and serving.  I have the feeling that going back, we'll try to make sure we get 6 people together and make a reservation. 

66 Witherspoon Street Princeton, NJ 08542