Thursday, December 20, 2007
Ivy's cafe is an independently owned restaurant that is part diner, part bistro and offers healthy goodies like frittatas, soups, sandwiches, and desserts. I went to lunch with my soon-to-be-barrister bud and my nephew. The legal one chose a simply delicious egg white omelet with fresh veggies and cheese and a no nonsense cup of coffee. She had no objections for the chef and left very little on the plate. I opted for the soup and salad, mushroom barley creamy and not to salty (although the portion was too small for my taste) and a savory salad with caramelized onions, seasoned walnuts, cherry tomatoes and provolone cheese on mixed greens. Ivy's is the place to be for fresh independent dining, but is only available for breakfast and lunch.
If a new take on dinner is what you are after, check out Fresco an Italian eatery offering a variety of traditional pastas and pizzas. The portions are reasonable for the price and the atmosphere is warm and cozy, the perfect place to catch up with friends or canoodle with your sweetheart. The bread arrived thickly sliced in an attractive wire basket, chewy and crusty like good Italian bread should be and lightly rubbed with garlic and oil. All dinner entrees are served with your option of a Caesar or house salad. Both were fresh, but the Italian dressing on the house salad needed a bit more salt. After a short interval, dinner steamed out of the kitchen. My linguine with clam sauce included a generous helping of clams in the shell. However, oil overpowered the garlicky sauce and the quantity of clams kept me from diving into the pasta before it was cold. The creamy chicken and sun dried tomato pasta also suffered from an overdose of sauciness that overwhelmed the flavor of the pasta and the chicken. While not quite the restaurant it could be, Fresco is a welcome change from the fast-food chains offering generic dining experiences.
If you must have your fast food, I recommend Zaxby's for their truly crispy-savory-crunchy fried chicken platters with seasoned fries. Truly craveable!
Our next Nexxt visit, left quite a bit to be desired! This time, we went for dinner and took dad as well. Talk about a disaster! The restaurant was loud and crowded the camarero choreography was totally off and worst of all Dad's salad, some Italian concoction with a silly name, was atrocious! Dad works really hard so him getting a disappointing meal is especially upseting. I ordered fish tacos and Mami had chicken marsala and mashed potatos. Both were pretty good, but I felt like I was back at the Cheesecake Factory.
Not surprisingly, the blogosphere also offered mixed reviews, what surprised me was the vehemence of some! There are some unhappy Nexxt customers out there. At the top of the haters list, Tere from the Coral Gables blog. Tere's blog is great, comprehensive and fun and offers a great forum for people to talk about her posts. Her readers both loved and hated Nexxt, but most had mixed reviews. Other sites, Citysearch, etc. had more of the same. My advice is to give Nexxt a try, but go for lunch stick to the appetizers, pizza, and bar-food dishes. These are sure to please at affordable prices, but skip the fancy stuff and don't necessarily trust your waiter's judgement.
P.S. Definitely try the Kobe dogs!
Monday, December 17, 2007
Lan Pan Asian Cafe: It can be easy to miss this little gem, located on the first floor of the Dadeland Station, but Lan's fast and friendly service and hefty portions are sure to give you plenty of energy to continue an all day shopping spree. Each lunch entree comes with a ten piece California roll, miso soup, green salad, wakame salad, and a bean sprout salad.
This healthy and hearty portion still leaves room for the delicious entree. I recommend the red curry chicken or beef or the Thai basil chicken, but stay away from the chicken dumplings, flat in flavor and doughy.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
For starters, Vince and I shared the Domestic Berkshire Prosciutto Carparcio and Melon Salad with Imported Feta Cheese, Cucumbers, Arugula and Grilled Cibatta Bread. The ripeness of the melon perfectly complemented the salty cured ham and the feta, cucumbers, and arugula cleverly innovated this favorite Italian combination. The crunchy cibatta added just the right amount of crispness to segue way into the main course.
Vince chose the Potato-wrapped salmon served with brussel sprout and applewood smoked bacon hash and ricotta pancakes. The brussel sprouts and bacon paired perfectly together, but the salmon tasted like it had been wrapped in a french fry and double fried. I ordered the whole roasted snapper with clams, raviolini, brocolinni, and lemon fumet. The perfectly cooked fish sat in a bath of the best clam sauce I have ever tasted. The raviolini and clams complemented the dish and the lemon fumet provided just the right amount of tartness for the succulent fish. Even with plenty of help from Vince, I had to leave more than a few mouthfuls on the plate.
After so much deliciousness, we checked in with our stomachs and decided we could handle dessert. This time both choices were winners. Kate's cookies and ice cream put a new twist on a childhood favorite. Vince didn't leave a crumb of the assorted bite-sized cookies or homemade chocolate and vanilla ice cream. I kept with the lemony theme to my dinner and opted for a lemon cannoli with poppy seed angel food cake and raspberry sorbet. The combination of crisp cannoli shell, creamy lemon filling and frosty sorbet were the perfect end to an incredible meal.
Extras: Willow's menu changes seasonally so be sure to expect new items every time.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Monday, September 3, 2007
The service was excellent, if a bit rushed. The nearly empty restaurant seemed to be over staffed. As soon as we were seated and had served ourselves salad from the copious salad bar, the gauchos swarmed us with offers of beef ribs, pork ribs, roast duck, bacon-wrapped filet mignon and shishkebabs. The fresh salad greens wilted under the pile of meat that quickly accumulated on my plate, and then I remembered to turn my button over. Green means keep coming; red signals-- "My arteries need a break!" Other reviews of Fogovivo criticized the management as cold and uncaring, but the manager on during our meal came over personally to see that we were satisfied. The gauchos on the whole were personable with one comedian who quacked tableside, and one grouch, who refused to let diners handle the meat.
The plentiful salad bar offered more than just fresh greens; poached salmon, manchego and parmesan cheeses, and even sushi (not reccomended, this is a steakhouse after all!) tempted diners from their place beneath a decorative waterfall coming from the ceiling.
The plain decor and the restaurants unfortunate location beside the highway-- the vibrations provide a gentle massage during dining-- do dampen the experience, but the meat and salad bar more than make up for it. Skip dessert and coffee and indulge in the savory goodness of juicy tender meat served up on skewers, and you will be sure to enjoy the live fire of Fogovivo.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Extras: Excellent service
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
It was a sleepy Sunday night in the Design District. We met up with Lauren and Agu, our fellow foodies and sat down to enjoy a dynamic meal with many different flavors. To start we had the panzanella salad with heirloom tomatos and the hominy with chile and lime. The hominy makes a better bar snack than an appetizer, but was perfect for sharing. Pieces of corn are soaked in water, then spiced with chile and fried up in a pan and served with a wedge of lime. Deliciously crispy, I had everyone eating off of my plate.
The main course did not disappoint and everyone tried something different. The roasted pork shoulder won the prize for best tasting protein. Vince didn't even need a knife to slice through it. The half poulet rouge, lightly breaded and pan fried came a close second and tied with the locally caught black grouper. The wilted escarole that came with the poulet rouge was my favorite side dish, so buttery and salty I felt like I wasn't even eating a vegetable. The eggplant and chick pea curry accompanying the grouper provided a good balance to the mild flavor of the grouper. The cheesy grits filled out the pork plate.
Now on to dessert! Again I was the odd ball, ordering the lemon polenta cake instead of the decadent chocolate espresso combination. This road less traveled turned out to be a delight. The crumbly corn meal made for a dense flavorful cake that soaked up the fruity flavors of the macerated tomatoes and plums around it. A bit of creme fraiche gave the dish just enough creaminess to offset the drier polenta. The chocolate did not disappoint either. With just a bit of sea salt on a dollop of truffle filling, tasted like the very best chocolate dipped pretzel with out the pretzel dough getting in the way and the espresso ice cream provided lightness to the decadent chocolate.
Excellent service accentuated the casual and cozy ambiance. The sleek decor is homey and modern and the bar looks like the kind of place you can sidle up for a drink or three with a close friend.
Special Note: Miami Spice tastes best with friends, who let you taste from their plates.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Excellent wine accompanied our dinner in the ballroom and the waiters made sure the glasses were never less than half full. Served in a martini glass, a lobster cocktail/ceviche with heirloom tomatoes and avocado provided a seasonal touch to the dinner. An heirloom tomato salad with asparagus and fancy sprouts and balsamic vinaigrette followed, and finally the main course: a perfectly seasoned breast and leg of chicken, garlic scented potatoes, steamed carrots and crispy fries to garnish. The sauce flavoring the chicken hearkens back to the Mandarin's oriental roots and was so tasty, a guest at our table asked for more on the side.
The only low note in the dinner came from the cake. A trio of mango, raspberry, and kiwi sauces couldn't save the bland and floury texture, but the Romanico chocolate favors more than made up for it with their decadence.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Green papaya salad and crispy tofu at Kin Khao
Pan-seared artichoke hearts and Parmesan cheese at Westville
Fancy whiskey drinks at the Algonquin
Lemony-peppery arugula salad at Bread
Bacon-wrapped scallops and sweet potato puree at Les Enfants Terribles
Health Sandwich at Cafe Continental
Frozen Hot Chocolate and Texas Chili at Serendipity 3
Giant pastrami reuben at Katz's Delicatessen
Warm Passion Fruit Souffle at the French Culinary Institute
Mango on a stick from a vendor off of Union Square
Vegan Lemon poppy seed cupcake at Babycakes Bakery (amazing!)
Linguine with clams and pesto at Caffe Falai
MMMMmmmmmMMMMMmmmmm... I love New York!
Sunday, August 12, 2007
After a twenty minute walk from the Union Square area, we were seated at the cozy table with a good view of the open kitchen, where the cooks expertly managed saute pans and seasonings. We ordered wine and sipped, as we perused the menu and planned our attack: crayfish and mushroom wonton soup and edamame to start, braised beef short ribs with white rice for Vince and a spicy Vietnamese steak salad for me with a side of sesame cucumbers to share. Every dish was perfectly cooked and bursting with flavor. The steak salad is a perfect blend of savory meat and crispy lettuce with pieces of raw jalapeno for spice. The short ribs were just sweet enough for Asian barbecue and came with plenty of sauce to spoon over the perfectly cooked white rice. The desserts looked delicious, but we were too stuffed with goodness to even think about it. The reviews did not exaggerate, each dish satisfied and burst with flavor.
Extra's: The wait staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable about the food, and the casual relaxed atmosphere gets a boost from the unexpected music selection of Springsteen, U2, the Rolling Stones, R.E.M., and other classic rock favorites.
While offering a substantial menu of sandwiches, fresh juices, teas and desserts, Hampton Chutney specializes in South Indian fusion cuisine, particularly dosas and uttapams, which are pancakes made of rice and lentil flour and stuffed with a variety of vegan and omnivorous fillings. The helpful waitress explained the difference between a dosa and an uttapam: a dosa is a thin pancake rolled around a meat or veggie filling and an uttapam is a thicker pancake with the filling on top.
I ordered a chicken curry dosa with arugula and caramelized onions with a side of cilantro chutney, then sat down at one of the bar height copper tables to wait. My dosa arrived on a paper lined cafeteria tray, crispy and delicious, and about 12-14 inches long. The crunchy pancake paired perfectly with poached chicken curry and the cilantro chutney added just the right amount of heat. This may have been my first dosa, but it certainly won't be my last.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
For lunch, stay away from the ceviche acapulco (too much avocado and not enough fish, though well seasoned) and satisfy your hunger and palate with a torta, described on the menu as a Mexican street sandwich. To make the torta, cooks at La Esquina butterfly a generous piece of a crunchy french baguette and spread cilantro-lime mayo on both sides before packing the bread full of savory chicken rostizado, avocado and queso fresco, or roasted pork. Lettuce and tomato round out the flavors by adding a crisp coolness to the warm meats or creamy avocado. These hearty sandwiches are accompanied by a mesclun salad with balsamic vinaigrette and a pile of salty homemade potato chips. At under $10.00 each , La Esquina will leave you wanting more trendy Mexican food and the plata to do it.
The restaurant has two faces: the diner-lunch cart look of the ground level and the Gothic-underground lounge of the dining room/ bar in the basement. Make sure you have a reservation as you step through the bouncer-guarded-employees-only door to step through the pristine kitchen into the hopping bar below.
Important Info: Phone Number: 646-613-7100
Hours: Taqueria: 24 hours Cafe: 12pm-12am Brasserie: 6pm-2am
Monday, July 23, 2007
But this is no over-sanitized book selling establishment, the store offers a daily line-up of readings by authors like novelist Carol Hoenig, poet Courtney Queeney, poet Odette Alonso, and memoir writer Judith Lingle Ryan. The store also recently hosted an adults only Harry Potter party (The events and activities of which I'll leave to your imagination, as I did not attend). The book store has an excellent array of magazines and literary journals to satisfy any periodical aficionado.
And now, on to the food. The teahouse offers an assortment of loose-leaf teas served in mini-cast iron kettles with a timer to let you know when the water has absorbed the fragrance of the leaves, as well as the traditional coffee, cappuccino and latte servings. Along with beverages, readers can enjoy an assortment of different scones, cupcakes, and danishes for breakfast or a light snack. If Harry Potter or Anthony Bourdain leave you with an appetite for something more substantial, the cafe offers "bigger bites" in the way of sandwiches and salads that can satisfy the most discriminating palate.
Two of my favorites so far are the melted Swiss and ham sandwich and the open faced warm organic peanut butter and banana sandwich. Coming in at 5.50 and 4.50 respectively, these sandwiches provide a perfect sweet and savory counterpoint to split with a friend. The simple ham and Swiss sandwich gets a touch of glam from five-grain rye bread and herb mustard. The organic peanut butter, although a bit sticky, pairs nicely with a light drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a sprinkling of fresh blueberries. If you are ever in Soho, McNally Robinson makes for a nice break in between sightseeing or the scenic walk between Little Italy and the Village.
* Added Bonus: Any purchase at the cafe gets you access to the bookstore's wireless Internet.