Wednesday, July 29, 2009

restaurant week diary: david burke townhouse

It's getting to the point where I've had so many Restaurant Week meals lately that I feel I'm waddling instead of walking these days. Good lord. I am eating nothing but salads next week.

So yesterday, I had lunch with my friends Ludette and Vanessa at David Burke Townhouse. It was my first time there but both of them had tried it before. I got excited when they started us off with such adorable bread. I try not to load up on bread when dining out but this was too cute to pass up so I ate more than I wanted to. By the time my appetizer came I was feeling full. I was disappointed that the most appealing dishes on the restaurant week menu required a $6 supplement, but I went for it anyway since I wanted to try the dishes that the restaurant is known for. I picked the parfait of big eye tuna and salmon tartare. I loved the presentation (sorry, again my iPhone pic does not do it justice. Must buy a proper camera already!). The dish came with 3 different sauces, but I felt the tartare shone most eaten without the sauce. The salmon and tuna were very fresh, and intermingled with apples, pine nuts, hijiki and crème fraîche, there was no need for further embellishment. I preferred to eat the tartare with the crunchy potato tuile on the side rather than the crostinis—so much more indulgent!

For entrees, Ludette and Vanessa picked the braised shortribs, which also entailed a $6 supplement. When I tried it, the shortribs seemed tender and flavorful, but both of them felt it wasn't all that. Ludette is a shortrib enthusiast and Vanessa is a Parisian foodie, so I'll take their word for it. Vanessa did say that the other components to the dish were very good: the handmade cavatelli, wild mushrooms and mushroom chips. I'm sure they were quite happy with the truffle cream topping, as well!

I was so overwhelmed with all the rich food I'd had over the last week that I chose a simple entree: sauteed calamari and garganelli pasta with arugula, tomatoes, olives, and crisp chorizo. It was fresh and light, but with a little bit of heat. Nothing to write home about, but exactly what I needed that afternoon.

For dessert, I had to try the famous David Burke lollipop tree, which you can get during restaurant week with an $8 supplement or in lieu of two desserts. Ludette and I shared this the cheesecake lollipop tower. I forgot though that I'm not the biggest fan of cheesecake. The only cheesecake I can eat tons of is our friend Caroline's blueberry cheesecake. I forced myself to have 2 cheesecake lollipops, which were good in all fairness, but just not my cup of tea. I did like the bubblegum flavored whipped cream though!

Some complaints: the runner spilled water on the floor when he poured water into our glasses and never wiped it up. We were debating whether one of us should purposely fall and sue David Burke for millions, but we didn't do it of course. Also, the restrooms don't smell very fresh, which shocked me for an establishment like this. Would I come back? Maybe. But I wouldn't rush back anytime soon with so many more amazing places to explore in the city.

David Burke Townhouse is located at 133 East 61st Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, New York, NY 10021. Tel. 212-813-2121

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

restaurant week diary: nobu next door

So last night, I'm at Nobu Next Door, digging into my black cod miso and pondering whether it was a tad overcooked when this high and chirpy voice piped up 3 feet from me. "Oh my god, it's so good to see you! I haven't seen you in so long. It's so good to see you!" said voice kept exclaiming. After awhile, the voice starts grating on my nerves. My friend Buddha across the table is nodding his head towards the voice and I nod, thinking he's equally annoyed. And then I finally took a good look at who was talking. Holy crap, it was SJP.

I couldn't get over the New York belief that celebs should be left alone, so I didn't take a picture or ask for her autograph. I thought it best to remember her as she was. A skinny, tiny chick in a gray hoodie, jeans and a hot pink Chanel tote with a really annoying voice. I was surprised. I've listened to that voice for hours and hours and hours as a Sex and the City devotee, but in real life it's quite annoying. That said, it was still very cool to see her.

So of course a celebrity sighting makes any dinner that much better. But the meal was actually pretty good. We all did the restaurant week menu. Nobu Next Door had a very strong start. All the appetizers were fabulous. Mika had the yellowtail tartare, which had extremely fresh fish and a wonderful wasabi kick. I had the lobster tempura, which was equally fabulous. Tender lobster meat was encased in fluffy tempura batter. Eaten with a slice of jalapeno, red onion, a sprig of cilantro and some ponzu sauce, it was a wonderful blend of Mexican and Asian flavors. my apologies for the low quality of pictures. Nobu's romantic lighting doesn't work well with my iPhone.

For my entree I picked the aforementioned broiled black cod with miso. The fish itself is so flavorful, evidence that the cod was marinated for the requisite 2 to 3 days. The skin was crisp. The meat, I thought, was a tad overdone. It wasn't as flaky or tender as I would've liked. Truth be told, I've had better black cod miso at Nobu imitators ... but then again, those other restaurants didn't have a Sarah Jessica Parker soundtrack going while I ate my black cod.

I should also mention that we shared some specials: kobe beef gyoza and softshell crab with watermelon. The kobe beef gyoza was nothing to write home about. Fine meat, I suppose, is best left barely cooked; certainly not mashed, macerated and stuffed into a dumpling. It could have been any old type of meat stuffed in the gyoza, really. The soft shell crabs, however, where spectacular. Lightly breaded with panko and served with grilled yellow watermelon, the melange of crisp and juicy textures, and rich and fresh flavors were just a pleasure to eat. I would order that again.

For dessert, we were all given the bento box, which contained a molten chocolate cake and a scoop of green tea ice cream. The cake was good but nothing special, and by then I was so stuffed that I had to give half of it to Mika (who didn't need arm twisting to oblige). While not all parts of my meal were stellar, this was definitely a dinner to remember. I'd love to go back to Nobu Next Door, for sure, and try the other intriguing dishes on the menu.

Nobu Next Door is located at 105 Hudson Street between Franklin and N. Moore, New York, NY 10013. Tel. 212-334-4445

Monday, July 27, 2009

i'm afraid

We moved to a new office today, and as I turned into Madison and 44th, I was struck with fear. There is a beautiful and massive J. Crew just a few blocks from my office. It's on my way home. God help me. The thing that has saved me so far from falling into debt via indiscriminate shopping at J. Crew is that there's never been one near my apartment or place of work. Now it's RIGHT. THERE. Shivers.

I'm also afraid of my new work area. No windows nearby and facing a blank pasty wall. Thank god I'm moving (yet again) next week when I start at a new position. Hopefully my new space will be less desolate. I miss the outdoors. Wish I was off lounging in a flower-filled meadow like this chick.

I'd be fine with a gray day too if I had her wardrobe. I totally want this coat for fall. Actually I want this whole outfit. I've never worn Converse sneakers but maybe with an outfit like this I could. Or does it only work if you are tall and model-esque?

Dear guardian angel,

Please give me the strength to stay away from J. Crew during my lunch break. Thanks.

free mocha mondays

I kicked my coffee habit last year, but in the last few months, I have on occasion indulged in a cup of coffee every so often. There are some days where it's just nice to have a cup of coffee. As long as I don't go back to having my sanity depend on my caffeine intake, I think it's alright.

Today might be one of my coffee indulging days because I just found out that McCafé has been having Free Mocha Mondays. You can get a free mocha between 7AM and 7PM at participating stores. It's only until August 3, so I'm in no danger of becoming a coffee junkie. I hope.

Enjoy your free mochas!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

restaurant week diary: 10 downing

It's probably becoming very evident that all I've been doing the past few days is eating up a storm. Mika was away for six weeks and he came back right in the middle of Restaurant Week, so we've just been having wonderful meals with our New York friends. Last Friday, we decided to try 10 Downing. It was the perfect evening to sit outside with some wine and good food. The weather was gorgeous and the temperature perfectly cool with no humidity.

Our party mostly stuck to the restaurant week menu. The boys went with the chicken liver mousse paired with some bruschetta and pickles. I wasn't able to take a picture but it was very good, I thought. I'm not generally a fan of plain old chicken liver, but I love patés. Theirs was smoother and just yummy. I went with the white gazpacho for the sake of diversity, and was actually quite pleased with it. The gazpacho had some almonds and grapes that gave a nice freshness to the soup, pequillo peppers for bite, and boquerones for a little salt and fun flavor.

For my entree, I picked the crispy pork belly with creamed corn, anise hyssop and tapenade jus. I should have taken it as a sign that I was a tad annoyed with our server's response when we asked him to describe the pork belly. "Well, pork belly by nature is fatty ... " Umm, duh. I thought that the pork belly was not crispy enough, and was generally just dry. I did not like how it tasted with the tapenade jus. The saving grace of the dish was the creamed corn, which was delicious. But I would not be ordering this dish ever again.

I would, however, come back for the uova da raviolo. Beautiful poached egg wrapped in an open raviolo with some buttery truffle-infused sauce and pancetta. What more could you want?! It was soooo good. Damn you Mika for picking the better entree ...

Dessert was good on all fronts. Mika picked the peanut butter gelato with tristar strawberry marmalade, which was very nice. But I loved my buttermilk panna cotta with vanilla roasted peaches. So light and delicious. A great finish to the meal.

10 Downing is located at 10 Downing Street at Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10014. Tel. 212-255-0300

Friday, July 24, 2009

another gap purchase!

Two in a year! Wow ... who would've thought? I bought one more thing in Gap yesterday, bringing my Gap shopping total to two pieces after what could've been a 10-year dry spell. This Vena Cava-designed dress was just $28.99 (original price was $88). On the website it's still priced at $69.99, but at the Gap store on the corner of 42nd and Third Avenue, the prices were slashed even more. I would get a lot of use out of this for work, and at that price tag it's a very sweet deal! Yay Gap sales!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

restaurant week diary: convivio

I had my best restaurant week meal to date today, and I was really just stealing food off Mika's plate. After last night's debauchery, I wasn't really raring to do another three-course meal but with my office moving to another location tomorrow, I thought it would be a good idea to bid Convivio adieu.

I went to Convivio last Winter for restaurant week, and while the food was good, it wasn't extraordinary. I realized today that it was because I failed to order any pasta. Convivio, it turns out, is a "pasta lover's dreamland", according to The New York Times' Frank Bruni.

I was quite firm today that I would just order a la carte. It was a no-brainer what to pick: the fusilli with neopolitan pork shoulder ragu and caciocavallo fonduta. Mika decided to order off the restaurant week menu, and boy was I glad he did! To start, he had the maiale with grilled pancetta fresca, roasted fig, rucola, pecorino and vin cotto. This, hands down, is the best salad I've ever had in my entire life. The pork both crisp and juicy, and god bless them, there was just enough of fat on it. The greens and figs kept one's guilt at bay by providing a respite from the fatty meat. Genius.

Next Mika had the orrechiette with crushed pomini tomatoes, ricotta al olio and basil. The dish was light, with the fresh flavors of tomatoes, ricotta and basil bursting with each bite.

The fusilli I had, however, was just extraordinary. I don't know which I liked best: the tasty pork ragu, the almost wickedly indulgent caciocavallo fonduta, or the handtwisted fusilli, with it's incredible texture and perfectly chewy consistency. I've never had a pasta dish before where the pasta itself was such a strong component rather than just a base. As I ate, I said to Mika, "The only bad thing I can say about this dish is that I wish it wasn't so hot so I could eat faster."

By the time dessert came around, I was so full I felt I had gorged on all three little pigs. I begged off from trying Mika's dessert, a valhrona chocolate ganache with salted caramel served with vanilla gelato. I told Mika I'd have to take his word for how good the dessert was because I couldn't eat anymore. He took one bite and offered me another saying, "I can't because there are no words to describe how good this is." And that was true. Melted chocolate and caramel makes me giddy with joy. Enough said.

Convivio is definitely a restaurant to hit up for restaurant week, and it's also one to keep coming back to at any time of the year. I can't wait to try every pasta dish on that menu!

Convivio is located at 45 Tudor City Place, New York, NY 10017. Tel. 212-599-5045

restaurant week diary: primehouse

After watching hours of Top Chef reruns last night, we couldn't settle for takeout pizza for dinner. "We're gonna eat somewhere good right?" Mika said as we stared at the beautiful plates on the flat screen. "Definitely," I agreed. It's Restaurant Week in New York right now, so I racked my brain for a spot nearby and decided on Primehouse. I'd always been intrigued by this place. At 8:30PM I was able to secure a 9PM reservation. Awesome.

To be honest, I didn't have spectacular expectations of the place. It's beautiful but massive, and I'm always weary of massive spots in New York. You know, the types that make you feel like you could be anywhere in the country, say, North Carolina. But I actually ended up having one of the best restaurant week meals to date there! Goes to show how much I know ...

Unfortunately, the dark and romantic atmosphere resulted in terrible iPhone pictures so you'll have to take my word for it that the food was superb. We started with the passionfruit gazpacho with lump crab and avocado, and heirloom tomato, goat cheese and micro basil salad seasoned with sea salt and aged balsamic vinegar. The appetizers really showcased the ingredients, which are in season now. The heirloom tomatoes were soft, sweet and just plain magnificent. The gazpacho was full of flavor, and the crab and avocado accompanied it well.

For entrees, Mika had the hangar steak accompanied by an arugula and grilled portobello mushroom salad, and roasted pepper salsa. The hangar steak was beautifully medium rare—seared at the crust and a beautiful rose color inside. Mika also really enjoyed the arugula and portobello salad. As for me, I had the dry aged sirloin, which was accompanied by a salsa of sweet corn, onions, string beans and other assorted veggies. I was very happy with my steak because it was also perfectly medium rare despite the fact that it was a rather thin slice of meat (the RW portion is 7 ounces, which is perfect for me). With our food, we had a bottle of Italian nebbiolo recommended by our server. It had just been shipped in that day and was not on the menu yet, but ran about $50 a bottle. It was a beautiful wine. Very succulent and complex, and just wonderful with the steaks.

Food bliss continued on with dessert. I was so excited to try the summer berry pavlova. I've always had a thing for pavlovas because it's named after the great ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who loved this dessert. What's not to love about a soft and chewy meringue topped with creamsicle sherbet and berries? Mika had the bittersweet chocolate tart with a salted pretzel crust and nutella ice cream. No more beautiful words out there than nutella ice cream, I think.

Definitely a great restaurant week experience. Great value for money, and wonderful food for every course. Go, go, go!

Primehouse is located at 381 Park Avenue South at 27th Street, New York, NY 10016. Tel. 212-824-2600

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

my *frivolous* wish for the day

*with eyes shut and hands clasped tightly*

Dear Guardian Angel,
Would you whisper in the ear of Famille Summerbelle's Julie what a splendid idea it would be to make a paper cut map of New York? It would be the most perfect thing to hang on my living room wall. Her London and Paris maps are beautiful, but New York is my beloved city. Would you? Thanks.

hervé léger at hautelook today

Good thing I found a dress for the wedding last Monday, otherwise I would lose all sense of reason and be SO tempted to get an Hervé Léger at the Hautelook sale. I love the one shouldered dress on the left. I think it's so sexy without crossing into slutty Serena Van der Woodsen territory. But it still costs $522 and I can't go near that price. I also love the subtle sexiness of the dress on the right, which is a wee bit cheaper at $438. Oh well. Today's not the day but someday I will have my Hérve Léger!

If you haven't signed up for Hautelook yet, click here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

restaurant week diary: café boulud

I had a slow start to Summer Restaurant Week, having my first meal for the season today at Café Boulud. Café Boulud is, of course, one of the babies of much lauded chef Daniel Boulud. James Beard "Rising Star Chef" awardee Gavin Kaysen is at the helm of this bistro, which serves up fare revolving around 4 themes: French tradition, seasonality, market and world flavors. I liked the selection of dishes on the Restaurant Week menu, but was disappointed that none of the items were from the regular menu. That's something that a lot of participants do, but I've found that I'm more likely to return to a restaurant that served up regular items. Just sayin'.

But anyway ... we all selected the crispy tiger prawns to start:

Definitely a world flavor inflected dish. The crispy tiger prawns are reminiscent of rock shrimp tempura one would get at a Japanese establishment, but the earthy pureed Thai eggplant added a whole other dimension. The diced pineapple, pickled jalapeno and cilantro gave the dish a bit of Latin and tropical flair. A very, very yummy starter. For our entrees, we all selected the grilled hangar steak with wild mushroom polenta, asparagus and béarnaise sauce:

I had mixed feelings about this dish, particularly because the way the steak was cooked was quite inconsistent too. I asked for my steak medium rare, and the first slice you see in the picture above definitely fit the bill. But succeeding slices came in all kinds: well done, medium and medium rare. Strange. And I guess I just have to quit letting my hunger get the best of me when ordering because the truth is, I really don't like hanger steak. So no more of that! The asparagus was a nice and crisp reprieve from all the meat, and nicely flavored with the béarnaise. The polenta was good, but I was not a fan of the dense consistency. I prefer my polenta creamy.
Dessert brought the smile back to my face. The vanilla creme brulee was light as a feather and absolutely scrumptious. The tart berries were a welcome respite from the sweetness. I also really loved the lady fingers. YUM. What we found quite nice too was how accomodating they were to my berry-hating friend Ludette. She feels quite strongly that berries do not belong on her dessert so she asked that they leave berries off hers. They did one better by giving her the creme brulee plus lady fingers with vanilla filling and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. A beige version of our concoction, pretty much. That was lovely of them.

Qualms? That my capuccino tasted of burnt coffee beans and cost $5. Not good. Aside from that, I'd say Café Boulud was a great way to kick off the season. Can't wait to try more!

Café Boulud is located at 20 East 76th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue in New York. Tel. 212-772-2600

free pastry day at starbucks

New Yorkers have just 15 minutes left and a lot of rain to go through to enjoy this freebie from Starbucks. West Coasters still have a few hours to grab their free muffin and coffee. Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

found my dress!

Update on my shopping adventures. I sobered up about my momentary fixation with the Jimmy Choo/Hunter boots and realized that perhaps it's not fiscally responsible on my part to blow all that cash on rubber boots, no matter how gorgeous they are. So I called up Saks and cancelled my order. I will have to love you from afar, pretty boots.

So that made me feel a bit better about splurging on this dress today. As you know, I have a wedding to attend next month (Thank you so much for those who gave such great advice!). I considered hunting down the traditional Indian garb that Shar suggested, but in the end I decided that I would get more use out of a cocktail dress. I've stayed away from long evening dresses so far because I'd rather not pay extra for alterations and with miniscule self, I would surely need at least hemming. During my lunch break, I took a peek in the massive BCBG flagship on Fifth Avenue and found this dress in an XXS. It fit, so I got it. I would've liked to pay less than $258 but it's next to impossible for me to find cocktail dresses that fit off the rack so I was willing to pay full price. Just having peace of mind that I finally have something to wear already is worth the few extra bucks ...

let's do brunch: roebling tea room

Interiors photographed by Ryan Bevans for New York Magazine
Yesterday, I took the subway to Williamsburg at 10:30AM to meet Zoe and Amanda for Pilates and brunch. Zoe brought us to The Well where she had taken Pilates classes before to get in shape for her trip to Greece. I'd only ever taken Pilates classes at the gym before, and this class was WAY better. I feel the effects on my abs, glutes and arms today, which are deliciously sore from the workout. As I gritted my teeth through the seeming neverending repetitions, I was kept going by the thought of brunch at Roebling Tea Room.

A little over an hour later, we were seated at the breezy patio of the sprawling tea room. I'd been here a few times before but always for a nightcap so I was really excited to try the food. Roebling Tea Room looks to me like a clubhouse in one of the former colonies, where people might gather for tea and scones on a balmy afternoon. I love how relaxed the atmosphere here is on a Sunday afternoon. We didn't have to wait long for a table, and never felt rushed through our meal. It was all very easygoing, which is what Sunday brunch should be, in my opinion.

Amanda ordered the intriguingly named Red Flannel Hash, which consisted of potatoes, beets, goat cheese and a fried egg. I didn't try it because I'm not a fan of beets, but Amanda loved it. Zoe and I both ordered the baked cheddar eggs with raisin fennel toast, apple butter & grits. Amanda savored her Earl Grey de la creme tea, which was flavored with bergamot oil, real bourbon vanilla & blue mallow blossoms. Zoe and I both went with refreshing glasses of iced fresh ginger lemon mint tea. That iced tea is a true picker upper; the ginger is strong and delivers a real zing. I loved it.
The cheddar baked eggs were everything I could ever want for breakfast in one small souffle cup. Every bite of chedder crusted egg was just heaven to me. The raisin fennel toast smeared with apple butter was a significant component to the meal. The bread was so tasty and the apple butter just divine. I'd love to have a jar of that at home. I'm still getting used to grits since I am the farthest thing possible from a Southern belle, but I did like this version. Nothing resembling the Velveeta mess Britney Spears' father makes for her, thank god. Best of all, the meal set us back $16 each, which is not bad at all ...

A very pleasant Sunday afternoon, for sure. One I'd definitely drag myself all the way out to Brooklyn to enjoy again.

The Well is located at 25 Broadway, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Roebling Tea Room is located at 143 Roebling Street (at Metropolitan Avenue), Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

lanvin resort

My vacation photos ought to look like this, though I don't think the boyfriend would be up for posing with me like that. I especially like the model roadkill pose.

Just some fun Lanvin resort photos that brought a tiny smile to my Monday. Good morning!

Friday, July 17, 2009

why, thread social, why?

I'm almost offended that Thread Social keeps making this super cute one-shoulder dresses in fabric after fabric because I can't afford it!!! Why must it be priced at $561? Come ON.

I love the double straps at the back and love colors on this fabric. Always so cruel, Thread Social.

i kinda like it

I'm kinda getting sick of my hair so I was browsing the showbiz rag sites for inspiration when I stumbled upon this picture in People of LC sporting a brunette bob for Harper's Bazaar. It's just a wig, but I think she should do it for real. Her decision to leave The Hills must be like breaking up with your high school sweetheart. And nothing says "moving on with my life" like a new do, right?

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