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Travels in the Boroughs

18 Jan

During the last few days, I’ve ventured to certain areas in the boroughs that I’ve previously never been to: Williamsburg and Flushing.

Thursday night, I accompanied my friend to her work dinner party at the restaurant Cubana Socíal in Williamsburg. As soon as I crossed the threshold, I fell in love with the ambiance of the place. I felt like I was in 1930’s Havana due to the dark wood contrasting with cream walls, dim lighting and the talented guitarists playing in the middle of the space.  I really enjoy the feeling of being transported to another place in time, especially when it coincides with delicious food.

We sampled almost everything on the menu, but the standout for me was the kale and avocado salad. When I’ve made kale at home, I’ve never really loved the taste of it but this salad is converting me. I have plans to go back and enjoy it this summer at Cubana Socíal, when the doors are opened and summer air fills the place.

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Sunday morning I did something that several of my friends used to do every Sunday morning while we were in high school. I even texted one of them this Sunday to state, “guess what I did!”

I went….for dim sum.

My boyfriend and I drove in, found parking, and then waited in a throng of people in the stairwell of the restaurant. The hostess called out numbers, and once we heard ours we were able to scale the stairs and enter the filled restaurant. This is where my culinary tale becomes scant on fact, for I cannot actually tell you the names of anything I ate.

We didn’t order off a menu, just pointed to steamer baskets on the constantly passing carts. I didn’t question it; I just drank an entire pot of tea, had a fantastic time, and consumed everything.

Everything that is, except for the chicken feet.

 

1 of my top meals of the Summer

2 Sep

I hate to say it, but I keep seeing red or orange leaves. Last week when I got off the subway, I wished for a sweater. I refuse to let summer go without a fight.

So last weekend became a three day weekend for me, so I could take the opportunity to go to the beach in 90 something degree weather. So I could take the chance to have one more seafood centric meal sitting on an outdoor deck.

My family and I went to Oaklands, located in Hampton Bays. Oaklands, along with the other restaurants on Dune Road, sit between a bay and the Atlantic on a narrow strip of road. Most of the time this road gets washed out, not due just to hurricanes ( I’m looking at you Earl) but also just by high tides.

We got there pretty early, which is why it looks deserted. But if you don’t pull stunts like that, you end up with an hour and a half wait for a seat. So we got our seats at our white plastic tables on the deck, and this is where I had one of my favorite meals of the entire summer.

This wasn’t it. This was a beet and blue cheese salad, with apple and an 11 fruit vinaigrette. Honestly, I would have preferred more beets and less vinaigrette.

No, this. THIS is what I’m talking about.

Grilled sea scallops over black bean puree, with a lime cilantro sauce, and crushed sweet potatoes infused with cinnamon and jalapeno. (Plus a side of asparagus)  This was perfection, and felt so innovative. Maybe it’s a sign that I’ve been eating out too much, but I feel like I see the same thing at so many restaurants. This was something new, and something amazing.

Equally amazing? The deconstructed chipwich I had for dessert.

Way to go out with a bang summer.

Greenport

23 Aug

This post is tinged with nostalgia; I can’t objectively go out to eat in Greenport because it’s where I spent every summer when I was little. Well, technically we stayed every summer on Shelter Island and took the ferry into Greenport whenever we wanted to go out to eat or shop. (For those reading who don’t know, Shelter Island is a small island within the fork of Long Island. It’s only accessible by ferry). My family drove out to Greenport to visit Claudio’s for dinner. We try to make a yearly pilgrimage to it.

This year we actually stopped first at the Greenport Harbor brewery.

Located right next to the old jail!

It was very much a hole in the wall type of place, but their branding was awesome. I absolutely love their Whale/Long Island logo. With the purchase of the pint glass, we got to sample the five beers they had on tap. I think the best were their Summer Ale and Disorient Ale.

Then we had to venture out in the rain, in our ponchos to make our way to the dock where Claudio’s is.

But first, a pit stop  at the candy store where we used to go every summer. I bought some peanut butter chocolate fudge, and one truffle. 1 pound of godiva truffles can cost $48!  But I was satisfied with one.

Greenport’s actually very charming. It’s filled with galleries, restaurants, and shops. On the green there is a giant carousel. It used to be housed in a barn, and we’d ride it and try to grab the brass ring to win a free ride. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of that today. It wasn’t really wandering weather. And I would like the opportunity to try new restaurants one day.

But we made it to Claudio’s, which is located on the water near where the ferry pulls in. We actually ate on the dock, which is furnished with plastic chairs and tables. During inclement weather, they cover the area.

But with drinks and food, we didn’t care that it was raining.

We all had appetizers and main courses, but to save you from this already lengthy post I’ll just leave you with mine. I had new england clam chowder ( when I was little I’d only order this, leaving the clam chunks in the soup, with a side of fries. I basically lived on potatoes and hated seafood. Oh how times have changed) and a mahi mahi rueben.

Lola’s

18 Aug

Aside from its ability to get a Kinks song stuck in my head, my friend Dana and I decided to try out Lola’s because its a wine bar and restaurant. I may definitely enjoy a pint at a bar, but I’m a definitely a wine girl at heart. Lola’s ambiance and decor promised good things.

Sorry for the color drop photos. I didn’t realize someone had switched the settings on my family camera until later on. We were seated right away at 6:30, at a table near the windows. They must have known I wanted the natural light. This was fine until another couple was seated right on top of us. Dana and I like chatting with people and normally would have had no problem with this, but it felt a little awkward. The tension eased later on when the noise level of the restaurant was raised.

Dana and I both decided to do their prix fixe menu, which had a first, second, and third course for $20.10. (For 2010 as the menu states). Drinks were in order from their wine list, and we made vows to come back on their thursday girls nights when bottles of wine are fifteen dollars.

Let me just start by saying that these crisps were delicious. So flavorful. I could have had just these and my malbec, and would have been completely satisifed.

I can’t really say the same about my first course.

Their stuffed rigatoni in a light tomato sauce was alright. I was enjoying it, as I do all cheese stuffed pasta, until Dana said ( and I quote) “It tastes kind of microwaveable. Like one of those frozen dinners”. And I realized she was sort of right.

My second course was a chicken lentil soup which was good, it just needed one punch of bold flavor. It was all kind of one note.I appreciated the big chunks of veggies and chicken though.

This was the mojito salmon, with a muddled mint and rum glaze, served with wild rice and vegetables. Again, I felt the flavor was lacking. I couldn’t even taste the glaze. I had enough rice to feed a family.  The salmon was perfectly cooked though.

And for a bit of contrast, Dana’s 3rd course.

So Lola’s was fantastic with regards to wine and atmosphere, but overall I felt the food was just average. Since I enjoyed the space I’m sure I’ll be back, but most likely just at the bar.

Wine and cute shoes (and great company) made it a fun night out.

Dana's cute peep toes. Sorry for the blur D.

Island Inspired

18 Jun

Long Island’s beaches are awesome. It’s impossible for me to dislike the Atlantic I grew up swimming in. However, even though the word island is in the name, you can’t ignore that its definitely not of the tropical variety that people fantasize about vacationing at.

Luckily, there’s a new restaurant that brings  that tropical state of mind to Long Island: Rumba Rum Bar and Restaurant, located in Hampton Bays. The decor is not of the blatant tropical kitsch variety; but instead is comprised of dark woods, slow rotating ceiling fans, vibrant colors and water views. Sure the servers wear Hawaiian shirts, but it’s a subdued print. Live reggae music is played on certain nights, and there are specialty drink nights as well.

Primarily a rum bar, Rumba’s list of rums available is extensive. I ordered a Dark & Stormy: Gosling’s dark rum, ginger beer and a bit of lime. My only disappointment was that it wasn’t served in one of the mason jars they use to serve their house sangria. We couldn’t sample everything on the menu but my dinner date and I started off with two appetizers, the Oysters Hampton and the Duck Empanadas. The Oysters Hampton are golden fried oysters served with a creamy reggiano dip, hot sauce and and a garlic aoli.

I can’t speak for how they tasted since I will not eat oysters, but I loved the clean presentation of the dish. I ordered the Duck Empanadas under the advice of our server, who shares my opinion that normally duck is disgusting but you don’t even think that with these empanadas. He was right. The empanadas (though I think they really resemble samosas more) are a pastry filled with duck meat, peppers and spicy queso. Even though I loathe duck, it was nice to see it used in a new way since it is a locally raised meat. Even though the cuisine is island inspired at Rumba, it pays homage to the local resources of Long Island.

For an entree, I had the Jumbo Crab Cakes with a stone ground mustard, garlic mashed potatoes and vegetable of the day. The crab cakes and the vegetables were the stars of the dish, the potatoes merely were alright. I think I should have ordered one of the more inspired dishes on the menu, but I can’t ignore a crab cake craving. The other entree ordered at my table was the Jerk Chicken Platter served over coconut risotto and with a mango papaya honey salsa. Apparently, this was absolutely delicious. I should have taken a picture of the empty plate.

Dessert is being saved for another night, probably when I go back to try their trio of tacos available for lunch, and hopefully one when balmy breezes float off the water and really transport me.

Irish Repertory Theater Gala

16 Jun

The Irish Repertory Theater in New York was created 22 years ago. Their mission is to produce the works of Irish / Irish American playwrights (both masters and contemporaries) for American audience, and to encourage the development of new works. Monday night was their annual gala dinner, which my family has gone to ever since my dad has become involved with the theater company. We were invited to their production of Brigadoon, followed by a dinner at Sardi’s across the street.

Of course, my family decided to have a party before the party. Appetizers and drinks at Langans Bar & Restaurant in the theater district, specifically 150 W 47th st. I ate way too much. Let’s just say appetizers ranged from guacamole or loaded potato skins to dim sum and beef samosas. If you’re looking for a nice restaurant in this district, and want to avoid the chain restaurants, Langan’s is really great. Service is super friendly and the food is very good. I should know, my family has been eating here for years.

After about two hours, we walked ( I rolled) up a few blocks to the Shubert theatre to watch the one night performance of Brigadoon.

Matthew Broderick was hosting, and I tried to get a picture, but the stage lighting basically turned him into a ghost in every shot. No facial features were to be found at all. Then the cast performed Brigadoon, the story of the scottish town that only appears every hundred years.

If you’re wondering why an Irish theater company put on a scottish play, I’m just going to quote Matthew Broderick’s explanation: “The Scots and the Irish are the same people…the Irish just knew how to swim.”

I actually love when a performance is essentially a reading, when you can see the scripts and there are no sets or costumes.  You can really focus on the words, music, and the actor’s craft.

Sardi’s was the final stop for the evening.

Honestly I was not impressed by Sardi’s. I liked the proximity to the Shubert, and trying to figure out which person the sketches on the wall were of, but it felt rather dated inside. It was also jam packed with all the tables we had to use to fit everyone. After the play, I much would rather have gone back for another drink at Langan’s.

Unbirthday Tea in NYC

1 Jun

My birthday was a few weeks ago, and my bffer Dana wanted to take me out for tea. Except she was away and then channeled Madeline with an emergency appendectomy, so this past Friday was the first day we were able to go.

Alice’s Tea Cup, Chapter III on E. 81st.

Their tea menu is so extensive! I felt it was only right that I get the Birthday / Unbirthday tea, which is a black tea with fruity overtones. Dana had Alice’s Tea. And then we ordered the Mad Hatter, which is meant for two to share. Out of the three small tables seated by the window, we definitely ordered the most. The table to our left was quite jealous, and told us so.

We had 3 scones: mixed berry, pumpkin, and double chocolate. The best was the mixed berry. In fact, Dana wanted me to say the following about my consumption of it:

“You might not realize this, but Katie’s family is very proper. They essentially have a parlor. And Katie often times belongs in the nineteenth century, where her various skills at menu planning, drawing, piano playing, etc. would make her a properly educated young lady. However, sometimes Katie cannot be taken out in public. Her consumption of the mixed berry scone, and feelings towards it, were practically indecent. Especially when paired with clotted cream.”

The pumpkin was good, but seasonally inappropriate. Dana and I both agreed that we would have liked it way more if we were wearing cozy sweaters instead of sundresses.  Sandwich wise we got the cumin carrot sandwich, with an olive tapenade and goat cheese, and a sandwich with smoked chicken breast, granny smith apple, and goat cheese. Winner of the sandwich smackdown? The chicken.

And we couldn’t even make it to the dessert tier. Because did I mention the mixed berry scone?

I had been warned about a potential wait, but because we arrived early on Friday for lunch, we were seated right away. I could see how this place could get packed on the weekends, because it would be an adorable place to take little girls for brunch and tea. Their wednesday night tea infused cocktails are definitely more for the older girls who visit. Ready for our next visit Dana?

A Tale of Two Sandwiches

24 May

Generally, I eat pretty healthy. I love my vegetables, fruits and whole grains. I go weak in the knees for goat cheese.  Even though in January I went a month without meat, I do eat it. I just couldn’t say goodbye to bacon. I just usually try to limit it to once a week or so, but this past week that number has been a little higher. You’ll see why in a few seconds.

Sunday I went down to Long Beach yet again. By the time August rolls around, I”m pretty sure I will have sampled nearly every restaurant in the West End. As much as I love the Beach House, I told my boyfriend I couldn’t eat there again. After all, I had just been there Friday and there are too many places I’ve yet to visit.  I’m pretty sure I made his day when I enthusiastically agreed with his request to go to Swingbelly’s BBQ.

I’ve seen their sign every time I walked in the area, but Sunday the smell of BBQ wafting across the street was too much to ignore. Inside the decor is fun, with the walls full of different statement making signs. It’s an odd mix of surf town vibe and down south.  Since the last time I had pulled pork was over a year ago, I knew exactly what I was going to order. Sandwich number one: Pulled Pork on a bun.

This meal arrived after our appetizer of fried pickles and I had consumed my first Shipyard IPA. I had ordered grilled vegetables to balance out the meal (and ignored all but two of the fries), but I devoted my appetite to that pulled pork. It was delicious. I had ordered it with the smokey bbq sauce (you can pick from several options), and I ate every last bite.

I can’t eat fried food and bbq every week, and there is no way I will ever even want to attempt the Swingbelly’s Challenge, but next time I have the craving for bbq I know exactly where I’ll be going.

909 W. Beech St. Long Beach

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I came home later that afternoon and was in charge of cooking for my family once again. I try to wean them off of meat centric meals for every day of the week, and there is no way I could have had meat myself after that first sandwich. Instead, I whipped up Mark Bittman’s Almost Meatless Sloppy Joes from the last issue of Cooking Light.

Boy were these good. Instead of like sandwich one, which was basically meat on a bun, sandwich two was made with just six oz of ground turkey. Most of the bulk was made of grated carrots, crushed tomatoes, mashed / whole red kidney beans, and the different spices. The whole wheat buns were stacked with red onion slices, and served along with a simple side of steamed broccoli.

The two sandwiches were definitely on two different sides of the nutritious eating spectrum,but both were so incredibly good. I’m going into a food coma just remembering these meals.

The Beach House

22 May

When it’s 80 degrees out and sunny for the first time in days, there is no way I’m eating lunch inside when I have the option of outside. A good friend and I decided to catch up over lunch, and drove down to Long Beach to take advantage of the beach town’s location.

This is the third time I’ve eaten here in recent months and each time both the service and food have been really fantastic. Our waitress brought us samples of Pacifico beer, because she realized she hadn’t described it perfectly to us and didn’t want us to order it…and then dislike it. I appreciate when people go out of their way like that, it makes the whole dining experience so much more enjoyable.

Along with my Pacifico that I did order, I had blackened shrimp and goat cheese quesadillas which were fantastic. I hadn’t though to combine these two elements, and I always assume quesadillas will have a cheese like monterey jack in them. I ordered a side of mixed vegetables as well because I knew with my work schedule, I might not have another chance for a complete meal that day. The portion was so huge! I was able to eat my fill at lunch, and then have more for dinner. Good food, good service, great location.

If you need a meal ( or a drink) after walking the boardwalk or surfing or swimming…definitely check out The Beach House.

906 W Beech St Long Beach NY

Cinco De Mayo

6 May

Last night, my friends wanted to go out for Cinco De Mayo. But when my friend Stef typed in “mexican restaurants” near our zip code, the first thing to pop up was Taco Bell. No thank you. I’ve gone 22 ( almost 23) years without eating Taco Bell, and I don’t plan on starting anytime soon. And it’s not exactly the most festive party atmosphere.

This meant we went to Cabo in Rockville Centre. Because I insist on eating at time appropriate for senior citizens, we managed to get a table before the wait formed. I don’t know whether it was because this place was packed (Cabo has a great bar with a waterfall and extensive drink menu…so pretty much everyone showed up here for Cinco de Mayo) or if it’s standard but service was kind of slow. Our waiter was attentive when he came to our table, but it was a good thing we were in no rush to give up our seats. My friends and I sampled a bunch of the drinks on the menu, which were delicious but ridiculously expensive. This is why I usually stick to beer, but an Island Breeze Margarita felt more appropriate for the occasion and the weather.

Our waiter was nice enough to ask if we wanted guacamole with our free chips instead of just salsa, to which we answered with a resounding yes. And man, that was some good guac. My friend Stef and I nearly licked the bowls clean but we saved enough for Jess to have her first try of guacamole. I can’t tell you what type of quesadillas they ordered, but I ordered Salmon Alambre for my dinner. It’s essentially a shish kebob of grilled salmon, tomato, pepper and onion served with rice and two types of salsa. Parts of it were a little charcoal-y tasting when a pepper lingered too long over the fire, but I really enjoyed it.

We considered the idea of ordering dessert in order to keep our table (which meant sitting and drinking instead of standing and drinking), but luckily the rest of our group showed up by then. We then moved to the outside bar. This meant no seats…but you can’t deny the allure of 75 degree weather and the chance to finally enjoy meals ( or drinks) outside now that summer is practically here.