Sunday, February 21, 2010
I guessed wrong. As soon as D.O.A.F. began playing, the crowd slowly inched there way into the back space to get a better view. I even saw a few of them bopping their head along to the fast rhythm sections. As always, Dead On A Friday put on a solid show, and notably with one of the longest sets they've played in their seven years together! It's really REALLY difficult to play that pace for more than a half hour, and one of the greatest benefits to punk music is that it packs a punch and delivers the message usually in under a minute and thirty seconds. As such, they played an extensive SEVENTEEN SONG set list, including some awesome covers by Jordan Cooper and the Misfits. My favorite cover of the night, however, would have to be their punk anthem version of the theme song to "Perfect Strangers"- guitarist Jessen nailed the end guitar solo and had the crowd positively REELING with nostalgic joy. It was QUITE the crowd pleaser, and was an effective way to make an impact on the 20-something college crowd. The covers were only the beginning of several "surprise" moments, they had the amiably titled "fifth DOAF member" Daniel Matz come up and sing "Do Want You Want" by Bad Religion as well as drummer Nick Ferony singing the last song of the set "Don't Forget the Struggle" by Warzone. I was really surprised by the strength of their voices, especially after having to follow the powerful vocals of lead singer and bassist Dave Fox.
Dead On A Friday are one of the most reliable local live acts you can go and see. They are consistently impressive and you're guaranteed some good old punk rock. Upon leaving Traditions, I felt I walked away with a good local show experience as well as bearing witness to what a college bar was all about. The college bar scene upheld some stereotypes, but they also disproved a few as well. It was an education for sure. I'd definitely say I'd return to the Traditions Pub to see D.O.A.F. again, that and the free drink tickets with admission didn't hurt much either.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Using a 30% off deal from Blackboard Eats, we showed up to the restaurant & after a brief deliberation we were seated at the corner booth. As two Italian girls, we couldn't have been happier. This means we see all & won't be worried about getting WHACKED all the while our bottoms rest on cushy booth fabric!
The restaurant wasn't crowded yet, but shortly after being seated the room began to fill up. Our waiter came over with an amuse bouche, compliments of the house. I am a SUCKER for an amuse bouche! I believe it sets the tone of the evening and the meal you are about to have. It was a whipped mushroom creme- warm and comforting. The flavor of the mushroom was delicate but present, and the fluffiness of the creme was just right. It wasn't over salted, either, something that I feel is hard to accomplish with soups, mousses, and cremes in general.
Now, this is where I feel the "critic" treatment comes in yet again. First, it was the prime seats, second, though we ordered a bottle, our wine glasses seemed to miraculously FILL well beyond one bottle, and third, it was this salad. Why would a salad merit "critic" treatment? Well, we didn't order it. The waiter brought it out, as a compliment to our meal. It was a simple salad of mixed greens with a lovely sesame vinaigrette with what I am guessing was pickled red onions. It was light, refreshing, and whet my appetite for the impending meal. Incidentally, the dinner rolls here were FANTASTIC. They were crusty on the out side, and moist. The taste eggy with scallions, and the melted butter just contributed to the taste.
For my main course (seen at the beginning of this blog), I ordered the Pennsylvania Chicken with Bacon, Brussel Sprouts, and Hazelnut Puree. The first bite threw me off- as it was VERY heavy on the lemon. Once I combined the items on the dish, however, a very well balanced meal met my high expectations. The chicken was tender and juicy, the skin on top was an excellent blend of seasoning but it wasn't the exclusive source of taste. The bed of sprouts and bacon the chicken rested upon was wilted but not overcooked. The bacon wasn't overpowering, it was rather delicate and had a subtle sweetness blended with the salt. The puree was similar to a hollandaise sauce with a lemony finish, but again, it wasn't overdone. It was a classic dish with all the right elements working together to create what I would consider a reliable staple dish.
Having been so pleased with the service, the seating, and the meal, we opted to split a dessert. We ordered a Braeburn Apple Cobbler with brown sugar streusel and cinnamon ice cream (my friend's hand not included). It came out in its own little adorable hot iron pot. I am glad we ordered this. The crispy buttery goodness of the streusel had me reeling. The spicy flare if the cinnamon ice cream melted into the fluffy cobbler with evenly cooked baked apples was scrumptious. A nice finishing touch to the meal.
I felt like a well treated restaurant critic who was fed a good homey meal. Or maybe the waiter just thought we were cute. Who knows. All I do know is, I will be back, and I will recommend the Braeburn to others.
Friday, February 19, 2010
If heaven had a flavor, it wouldn't always be chocolate. No, my heaven would know that to convince me of its holiness, it'd better work harder than that! Perhaps it would BEGIN with chocolate, but then the complexities of spice, sweet, & salt would have to be displayed to my palate.
The taste of heaven is something I look for here on earth. I also go looking for taste's sibling, texture. Both are important elements to celestial dining. That being said, this sacred duo of food can be witnessed firsthand at the humble Madeleine Patisserie just by taking one bite of their macaroons.
Clearly their macaroons are the keys to the pearly gates! I can't even begin to fathom how they captured the taste of a blossoming Rose. In the dead of winter, it was spring upon my tongue- a floral bouquet that was both comforting and refreshing. Next, I moved onto the Port Wine and White Chocolate. The deep rich nose of a fine port wine was blended effortlessly with the usually too sweet white chocolate. The blending of these two characters became as classic a pair as Ms. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. D'Arcy!
Then came, as God intended, the marriage of Caramel and Fleur de Sel. Never was a more revered pairing brought to me in such a humble presentation. Land and Sea, Heaven and Earth were brought together in this holy macaroon. The salt of the sea brought added depth to the slight sweetness of the caramel. Then there was the perfection of the texture; it had a pliable crunchy exterior that delicately submitted to your bite to reveal a moist pleasurably chewy interior within. This journey to Nirvana ends with a decadent creamy center of bountiful flavor seduction- the concentration of the flavors of caramel and fleur de sel.
Go to Madeleine Patisserie and leave this earth for a little while. With a huge sundry of artisanal crafted flavors you're guaranteed unlimited entry to the Elysian Fields!
P.S. Macaroon Flavors Sampled (so far):
Rose, Port Wine & White Chocolate, and Caramel with Fleur de Sel.
Rigatoni Focaccia: Rigatoni with Double Smoked Bacon, Sage, Rosemary, Garlic, White Wine, Cream, & Tomato
I am slightly indifferent to pasta.
I'll give you a minute to recover from that statement. I know, what kind of Italian am I?! For me, pasta is pasta (unless it's FRESHLY made). Pasta is a blank canvas- it's only as good as the sauce you dress it in.
Case in point, Da Silvano in the West Village. I went thanks to a free bottle of wine coupon from my new best friends at BlackBoardEats.com and well, I'm glad I got a free bottle... the food wasn't BAD but it wasn't worth writing to your Nonna about either.
The pasta was not fresh albeit Al Dente. The sauce was rich with cream but had been balanced well with the tang of the tomato & the salt of the bacon. However, the other flavors were lost completely.
Another issue I have mixed feelings on were portions. It was over $20 for an entree & it was WAY below average size for a restaurant. So don't go here hungry!
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
As far as late night Valentines Boat Cruises go, a week ago if you had asked me to one, I would've shuddered at the phrase and asked "Are you crazy?". Today, however, I am singing a different tune. Today, if you asked me to a Valentines Boat Cruise, I would probably smirk, raise an eyebrow, and ask in a throaty voice "Is it hosted by Dances of Vice?".
I am anti-Valentines Day as a rule. I think it's a Hallmark Holiday created to ensure the misery of all. If you're single you're miserable because you're alone. If you're in a relationship then you're miserable because you don't know what to do for your lover and it'll probably end with disappointment. If you're in a relationship on Valentine's Day, then you spend way too much money on SUPERFLUOUS things like, chocolates, flowers, and meals. If you're single on Valentine's Day, you end spending way too much money on NECESSARY things like alcohol and comfort food. As far as I'm concerned, everybody loses on Valentine's Day (except restaurants and florists).
I thought that this Valentine's Day would be like any other, that is, until I learned that DOV was hosting something in honor of this day of "love". I try to attend any Dances of Vice event I can get to. They're always fun, full of beautiful people, and extravagant finery. This evening was nothing short of perfect- and it was a miracle to boot. WHY?! Well, they got me to SMILE genuinely on what I consider the BLACKEST of holidays.
With stellar all night long performances from Brooklyn's Baby Soda Jazz Band, alluring burlesque from Gal Friday, and an intriguing lingerie fashion show by Renee Masoomian there was plenty to titillate the senses. The company was extraordinary, and at every turn was a smiling face and a photo opp. A big shining moment of glory for me, personally, was when I mustered up the courage to approach Mr. Brian Viglione of the Dresden Dolls, who was just there as a guest, and treat him like the celebrity he is for a fan pic.
It was everything a night out on the town used to mean in this city. It was sultry, whimsical, had good tunes blasting out of the live band, was chock full of beautiful exotic beauty, and ended much too soon. I've said it once, and I'll no doubt be saying it again, Dances of Vice, here's looking at you, kid, and I'll see you soon.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Every day I get older. A click of the dial, a flip of a page, a space bar on my keyboard, and I am older. I always liked the concept of aging, I know that I am a minority when it comes to liking the aging process, but I like to look at life as a bottle of wine- it gets better with age. Lately, I've been struggling with a lot of things. My youth, my friendships, my home, my life as I know it is changing at a rapid pace. Some of the beautiful faces have gone, new ones have come in, the best of the beauties have been with me, by my side, for 7 years, 15 years, 20 years, and my whole life. I just want to say, regardless of where we ended up, I am thankful for every person I have ever met in my life.
Change is coming. The deceptive death card. I'm terrified and exhilarated. I can actually FEEL the dawning of the age of Aquarius. A sense of pride and an emotional upheaval courses through me. I want to be happy. I want to live. I want I want I want. Desire fills me to the brim but I don't know what it is that I desire. The 20 something dilemma. What is my purpose? What gift can I POSSIBLY give this world that she doesn't already have? What present could I offer that she already isn't getting from more qualified and beautiful people? I'm not asking for you to tell me. I know this is something I have to find out on my own.
One of my dearest friends pointed out last night over sangria that social networks, blogs, hell everything that has a "profile" is a modernized shrine to the self. This fascinated me and has been haunting me all morning. My facebook page is like an Easter Island Head. Look at me. Identify me. SEE my individual self, and how it is one out of thousands. You know me. You see me even if we aren't seen in real life. Is that me? Is this blog who I am? What about my design? The nature of my soul? Are these things that can be processed and turned into digital information and then can I make some sense of it? Can I make some sense of self?
I really don't know why I am writing this. I am struggling to understand EVERYTHING lately. I guess I just realized that I needed to put this out there even if no one ever reads it. I am an honest person (or at least I strive to be) and I think that by writing my hopes, doubts, and fears on this virtual wall I'll be able to see "it" more clearly. Whatever that "it" means.
Can you sense my longing? My search? This is a dramatic entry I know, and I have a VERY hard time taking myself seriously but something in me has driven me to want to write it down and make a public outcry of my confusion and frustration... I think that by sharing this, it makes the problem smaller, less scary, more manageable. Does that make sense? Once something is SAID, WRITTEN, expressed in some form, it's out there and not just nestled inside of you where it's good for no one, especially for yourself. It's like saying I love you, or thank you, or I'm sorry. It doesn't do any good to keep that in.
So, out it goes.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The building itself is only one part of the problem with Webster Hall, one must also mention the caliber of person Webster Hall attracts. The people are always RUDE, immature, and ignorant little children who would rather DRINK than listen to any band, plus they act so disinterested it makes you wonder why they would pay $20+ to stand in a smelly chamber and sulk. There is the constant chatter of idiot girls, the low gurgle of drunken gorilla like men, and the idiots on their cell phones. I just don't get it. Trying to ignore the swell of bimbos and apes would be manageable if you were able to see and hear the band, but alas, Webster Hall is one of the most poorly designed venues in the state of New York. You can't see the stage unless you're grotesquely large or an acrobat willing to break your neck for a spot on top of a SPEAKER, and the sound is at best, muffled compared to the mindless chatter constantly bubbling from the mouths of moronic babes. OH the lighting is dreadful as well. You get a disco-ball and red lights for all the money you paid to get in. Keep in mind this is all POST renovation this venue has done in the last few years.
Who is this guy? I have no idea. He was very talented and I wish he and the rest of the band got a smidgeon of credit, for Nouvelle Vague itself is a bit of a hodgepodge- with its roster changing constantly. The band I saw that night was phenomenal but were NEVER introduced by the Belgian singer Helena Noguerra and Brazilian singer Karina Zeviani. We knew who THEY were, they said their own names enough, but the band backing them and making their voices sound so good with beautiful arrangements stayed anonymous players. I consider this just plain rude, but fitting considering the general attitude of the audience. I will give them this much- they DID perform a good chunk of songs I wanted to hear and (from what I could hear) they sounded fantastic. They even got me dancing around with the 2mm of space I had to move in. The chemistry between these two women was playful and slightly lesbonic- which was fun at some points and a bit showy and obnoxious at others.
I think it's safe to say I WON'T be spending my money on this band live again, unless the venue changes and Camille is performing with the band.
Here's the Set from what I recall:
Master & Servant.
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Have Fallen In Love With).
Guns of Brixton.
Too Drunk to Fuck.
God Save the Queen.
Just Can't Get Enough.
Road to Nowhere.
Dance with Me.
Blister in the Sun.
Love Will Tear Us Apart.
I'd Stop the World (and Melt with You).
Bela Lugosi's Dead.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Focacia Croutons from Charlie Palmer's Metrazur
Comforting, sweet, & savory, the scent & flavor of butternut squash & rosemary will always remind me to take a step back & appreciate the chilly weather outside. Mainly because my insides are tingling with warm soupy pleasure.
I'm sorry that this truck is gone.
Sunchoke & Leek Soup from Le Cirque.
I know it's been a few days since I consumed this but I can't stop thinking about it! The flavor of the duckfat tangoed with the 'chokes, & the leeks added a delectable zip. It was heaven in a cup- the reason WHY God invented taste buds. It made me want to go to Le Cirque...
So... who's taking me?
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Amuse Bouche: Parmesan Ball w. Preserved Lemon
1st: Porcini Ravioli, Swiss Chard, Gorgonzola Cream
2nd: Stout Braised Lamb Shank, Aged Cheddar Polenta, & Green Apples- Paired w. Chalone Pinot Noir
3rd: Winter Spice Cake, Apple puree, Cranberry, & Goat Cheese
As the hub of fashion, Park Avenue is known for its constant evolution in style. As such, it only seems reasonable that the FOOD would do the same! That's where Park Avenue- Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter comes into play. The restaurant is redesigned every 3 months, the doors close for a 48 hour renovation and when they reopen- they match the season both in decor and menu. The ordeal of redesigning an entire restaurants menu is daunting enough- but to redesign the interior? That seems ludicrous. That is, until you see how the visual environment contributes to the experience. This place is on my "exorbitantly expensive, yet probably worth it" list, but luckily, Park Avenue Winter is part of restaurant week.
I would like to mention that the wait staff was INCREDIBLY helpful- our waiter was well informed, enthusiastic, and considerate. In fact, I felt welcome as soon as I entered. I was the first of my party to arrive- and I was JUST on time- yet they seated me without my complete party! This is a VERY rare courtesy to find in NYC, so they were automatically in my good graces.
THEN to make matters even better, they served an Amuse Bouche that was delicious and the perfect little beginning chord to the meal. The waiter presented to us what they called a Parmesan Ball with Preserved Lemon. The Mild sweetness of the Parmesan was contrasted beautifully by the sour notes of the lemon. Nice, simple, and to the point. Our culinary journey was about to begin!
For my first course, I had Porcini Ravioli with swiss chard, and gorgonzola cream. The Ravioli was perfectly al dente, the porcini filling was earthy and comforting, and the gorgonzola cream tossed it over the edge of reason. The dish was VERY rich, and it probably would've been OK to only have 2 ravioli instead of 3. Also, there were pecans and pine nuts in it. I loved both, and felt that they added a little more style and depth to the dish, but I think it was a strange move to have them in there and not be mentioned on the menu. The same can be said for the Meatball Slider that some people at my table ordered. We had NO clue what was in there, and albeit delicious and again VERY rich, it was a little off-putting to not know what we were consuming.
For my second course, I ordered the Stout Braised Lamb Shank with Aged Cheddar Polenta, & Green Apples, Paired with Chalone Pinot Noir. Start to finish, this was one of the most decadent main entrees I've ever consumed. The meat was so tender it practically fell off the bone just by looking at it! This dish has met some controversy- with a lot of people either loving it, or completely despising it. I was really shocked to see this restaurant as one of the "worst" places to eat for restaurant week... but I think I figured out why. When you braise a meat in anything it's going to be rich, it can turn a person off if their palate prefers lighter fare. Braising a rich meat like LAMB in STOUT is on the edge of insanity. It's a decadence that goes beyond comparison. I like my food to make me swoon. I like a piece of meat to compete with dessert but be savory all the same. Rich, complex, almost tasting like a wine reduction with sugar, this lamb shank braised in stout was the centerpiece of the evening for me but I can see why some would feel it was too much. It was a VERY large serving, and for lack of a better word, the richness of it made it hard to finish. In my opinion, the apples brought it up from the inferno of opulent sin, but then was instantly thrown back into the pits with the cheddar polenta. I ate every last bite... but I can't say that I didn't feel a little ashamed and heavy afterwards.
The third course, dessert was very surprising. I could barely move or breathe from the last course, but alas, I always look forward to dessert. THEN what looked like an egg roll perched on top of sausage links with questionable pools of sauce came out and was placed in front of me. So, this was Winter Spice Cake, Apple puree, Cranberry, & Goat Cheese? After the beauty of presentation for the last two courses, this was disappointing. Regardless, I grabbed my fork, tapped firmly on the exterior crispy shell (which I discovered held very finely whipped goat cheese) and added a portion of each element on the dish to the fork. The crunch of the shell, the creaminess of the goat cheese, the tartness of the cranberry, the sweetness of the apple, and the moist spiciness of the cake made me forgive how silly it looked on the plate. This was a mature, sensible dessert that was perfectly indicative of the season, Winter.
I like the concept of Park Avenue and its seasonal incarnations. Despite feeling like a gluttonous animal, I will undoubtedly return and recommend it to others.
It's one more reason to look forward to the changing seasons.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Amuse Bouche: Parmesan Ball w. Preserved Lemon
1st: Porcini Ravioli, Swiss Chard, Gorgonzola Cream
2nd: Stout Braised Lamb Shank, Aged Cheddar Polenta, & Green Apples- Paired w. Chalone Pinot Noir
3rd: Winter Spice Cake Apple puree, Cranberry, & Goat Cheese
This is one of the most extraordinary dining experiences I've had to date. The ambiance was lovely, the staff was helpful, & the food was exceptional. Above all else it was the best deal yet- the portions were generous & for only $7 more we got to enjoy a glass of wine!
It's too much to write without featuring the food- so stay tuned for a lengthier review soon.
In the meantime TRY TO GET A TABLE HERE FOR RESTAURANT WEEK!!
3rd Course: Panna Cotta with Balsamic Reduction and Fresh Strawberries
I'm always about dessert. It's the best part of any meal. I seldom get to experience it because I am either too full or can't afford to indulge. The beauty of Restaurant Week is that dessert is included in the pre fixe and the portions are reasonable enough that there's room for the grand finale. SD26 was by far the most perfect meal I've gotten the pleasure to experience in my restaurant week ventures.
Smooth with the finest consistency and kissed with the simple flavor of vanilla bean this panna cotta was a direct link to the pearly gates. It was well paired with a sticky discreet balsamic reduction and fresh strawberries. The dessert was a harmonious blend of light vanilla and exotic balsamic flavor. The freshness of the fruit reinforced the scent and taste of the balsamic and vanilla. My only complaint was that I couldn't make it last forever.
I spent most of my afternoon and evening reminiscing about this meal.
2nd Course: Wild Bass Acquapazza, Zucchini, Fregola Sarda, Diced Tomatoes
Do you know what it feels like to follow an impressive performance? It usually feels like you won't be nearly as good. You find yourself asking "How do I top THAT?". The answer is simple. Don't try to top it, try to match it. Be its equal & more importantly be yourself. That's exactly what the 2nd course here did.
The raviolo was decadence incarnate. To be frank it made me feel heavy & a bit naughty...& as much as I LIKE that feeling if it goes on too long it can bring me down. That's around the time I took my first bite of the Wild Bass Acquapazza.
Floating atop beautifully cut & cooked zucchini & tomatoes in a flavorful & aromatic broth was a light, flaky, & PERFECTLY cooked piece of poached wild bass. This was the ideal following act to the 1st course.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
1st Course: "Uovo" soft egg yolk filled raviolo with truffled butter
There have been moments when I'm eating where something holy & even slightly orgasmic happens to me. It's an ultimate satisfaction that starts on my tongue instantly sends an electric charge straight to the top of my head. I discovered recently that this area is known as the "crown chakra" & it's apparently your personal connection with God.
Well, I suppose food is God & restaurants like SD26 are my church.
This was one of the most beautifully crafted appetizers I've ever had the pleasure of consuming. The presentation appears simple, but the execution is complex. Inside of that glorious & slightly oversized raviolo is a perfectly cooked sunny side up egg- you could vaguely see it through the translucent skin of the pasta. When you broke into it the harmony of flavors sing. The tang of the cheese, the texture of the egg, the creaminess of the butter, & the earthy richness of the truffle say AMEN!
1st Course: Artichoke Bisque w. Truffle Creme Fraiche, Soft Baked Farm Egg, & Smoked Venison
2nd Course: Whole Roasted Cornish Hen w. Parsnip, Spinach, Brussels Sprouts, & Sage Bechamel
Dessert: Spice Cake w. Toasted Butter Pecans & Orange Sorbet
Aquavit is an establisment here in NYC. Since their opening in '87 they've been the prime source for gourmet Scandenavian cooking.
The decor screams old money but not in a way that makes you feel worthless (if you know what I mean). The waitress we had was fantastic.
I wish I could say the same for the food.
That's the reason why I am only showing the artichoke bisque. It's the only thing worth writing about. It was a sumptuous combination of flavors- the truffle creme fraiche paired well with the soft baked egg & venison & although it was rich it wasn't too heavy. I detected a subtle citron note that livened it up considerably. Everything after that was forgettable. The hen & cake were too dry & overall it was bland.
Craftbar: 3rd Course, Cranberry Apple Crisp with Maple Creme
After the let down that was the Veal Meatballs, I'm happy to say that this was a lovely little winter dessert.
Not too sweet- the buttery flavor of the crumbles fused perfectly with the warm tart cranberries and sweet, slightly firm apples. The maple creme was a refreshing addition that helped make this dessert a little less predictable.
2nd Course: Veal Ricotta Meatballs
Supposedly a "signature dish" at craftbar, I found this entree to be a big let down. The meatballs weren't tender, barely passing my "fork" test* and were bland & salty. The marinara sauce was similar- if not the same as the sauce used with the Risotto Balls, only here it's subtlety reflected the dishes lack of flavor. The only redeeming component of the dish was the crusty bread served alongside it.
*The meatball fork test is simple. A good meatball requires no knife. You should be able to deftly cut into a meatball with one hand and one fork- to use a food analogy it should cut like a hot knife on butter!
1st Course: Fried Pecorino Stuffed Risotto Balls.
I was VERY excited to go to Craftbar, as I've got a bit of a crush on Tom Colicchio & I'm a big fan of 'wichcraft. Well, 1st course did NOT dissappoint!
The "balls" were the perfect combination of texture with a crispy fried exterior with just a casual flirtation of saltiness and spice, followed with firm, well cooked risotto, & a decadent warm creamy pecorino center. The marinara sauce surrounding them had just a hint of heat to it but it didn't overpower the dish.
Incidentally, Craftbar had one of the largest Restaurant Week menues I've ever seen. There were so many choices!
Now, I KNOW everybody eats, but no one experiences food the same way & I know very few people who experience food the way I do.
It's NYC Winter Restaurant Week & for me, you may as well call it Christmas. It's one of the most exciting times of the year to be a foodie with limited finances, & boy am I taking advantage!
Stay tuned & I'll share these Culinary (mis)Adventures with you alongside my musical journies!