Just the excuse I was looking for…

I routinely look for any excuse to not eat at home. We’re out of olive oil? Let’s just eat out.  We have friends in from out of town? Let’s just eat out. It’s Friday? Saturday? SundayMondayTuesday? Let’s just eat out!

But one of my more justified reasons for eating out is NYC Restaurant Week, because really how can you not take advantage of three courses over lunch for $25 or three courses at dinner for $35? I certainly can’t, not in these trying economic times.

So last week, Flaneur and I set out in the name of Restaurant Week for lunch at David Burke Kitchen at the James Hotel in SoHo. And let me tell you, dear reader whoever you are, I will be using one of my many bullshit excuses to eat there again soon, cause it was good.

Asparagus and burrata salad… not sure how something topped with a giant ball of cheese is “salad” but hey, I am NOT complaining

To start things off, I ordered the asparagus and burrata salad, which wasn’t so much a salad as it was a beautiful stack of watermelon, yellow tomato, prosciutto, asparagus and creamy, milky burrata, with some drizzles of olive oil and sauces and a few juicy cherry tomatoes. Packed with colorful flavors, everything was clean and bright and delicious. A larger portion of this would make an amazing entree.

Tuna tartare tacos, so pretty and so delicious

The boy on the other hand, ordered the tuna tartare tacos, which would’ve given me major food envy, had my appetizer not been so damn good itself. Three crunchy taco shells were filled to the top with buttery, smooth avocado and tuna tartare and then topped with tobiko (flying fish roe, so I learned). Not only was this great tasting, but the color of the tobiko was one of the most beautiful jewel tones I’ve ever seen. I wanted to eat it and wear it all at the same time.

Softshell crab BLT: a pretty good way to get over mistrust of creepy crustaceans

For my entree, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and ordered the softshell crab BLT. Not that I don’t enjoy crab but I usually don’t like eating shellfish that still resemble the insects-of-the-sea that they are. (Whole lobster? Negative. Freaks me out.) But when it came out— the small crab hanging out belly up with all his little creepy legs in the air, sitting on top of a stack of toasted bread, tomato, chipotle mayo, and thick bacon— I knew I’d be ok. I chomped into it and forgot I ever had a problem with creepy crustaceans in the first place. To go with it was a tasty basket of fried vegetable chips.

Black sea bass with baby shrimp and spinach

Flaneur, who’s allergic to shellfish, ordered the black sea bass, which he somehow didn’t realize (even though it was plainly written on the menu) came loaded up with baby shrimp. (Guess whose mouth those ended up in?) But even sans shrimp, the sea bass was good, plump and clean under a bed of spinach and tomato with olive oil swirls and a thick, spicy mustard sauce.

Drunken brownie with mint-chocolate ice cream, bourbon caramel sauce and chocolate cherry lollipop

And then, my favorite and yours (or possibly just mine), dessert. Being the choco-whore that I am, I went with the drunken brownie, a fat, warm brownie topped with mint-chocolate ice cream and a cherry-chocolate lollipop. But really the kicker was when the waiter poured hot bourbon caramel sauce all around it on my plate. For a split second I wanted to ask him to pour it straight into my mouth but that probably wasn’t very lady-like.

Individual pie oozing with fat blueberries

The boy went with the fresh blueberry tartlet topped with a scoop of butter pecan ice cream. While I definitely loved mine more (chocolate fan through and through), the mountain of juicy, fat blueberries made this a pretty good second choice.

Thankfully, restaurant week is never just a week, so I might just have to go back there and check out dinner too. And if restaurant week is over, I’ll just have to pull out some other random excuse from my ever-full bag-o-BS excuses.

David Burke Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sweet and dandy and damn good

The Sweet & Dandy

I’m not all late-night cookie runs, pizza binge fests and mountains of pork belly. Sometimes, believer it or not, the things I obsess over are actually… healthy! Gasp! Yes, I know! Insanity.

My latest food crush, for example, is neither chocolatey nor from any part of a pig, it’s totally vegan and made fresh the day I buy it, and get this, it’s ridiculously delicious. I’m craving some just thinking about it. I’m talking about the beautifully colored, bursting-with-flavor, oh-so-freakin’-good “Sweet and Dandy” at Melvin’s Juice Box.

You can get lots of healthy, fresh, fruit and veggie juices at this colorful little Greenwich Village juice bar attached to Miss Lily’s, but ever since I tried the Sweet and Dandy, I just can’t bring myself to buying anything else. A rich, deep fuchsia color, it’s a perfect blend of beets, carrots, apples, pineapple and ginger. They all come together to make a vibrant, sweet drink with a subtle ginger spiciness that’s so good I swear I could down a gallon of it in one sitting.

At about $8 a juice, it is a bit on the expensive side but when I think about how good it tastes and how healthy and natural it is, and how I won’t have to spend 3 hours burning it off at the gym like I would if it were a chocolate shake, I don’t mind spending the money. (Milkshakes, I still got love for you, though.)

A great day for a Great Hotdog Cookoff

Saturday had everything I ask of summer in the city: tolerable warm weather, cold beer and lots and lots of hot dogs. Bam! Just like that, recipe for a good time.

Along with the beau and a couple of friends, I spent Saturday afternoon in Williamsburg at The Great Hot Dog Cookoff,  stuffing my face full of hot dogs at this annual summertime event benifting the Food Bank for New York City. The cookoff included 24 teams of amateur chefs and 4 professionals (from places like Mile End Deli and Gramercy Tavern) all competing for Best In Show (judge fave) and Top Dog (crowd fave). For the price of admission you got four beers and unlimited hot dog samples from the different teams. I repeat: recipe for a good time, folks. Below, the highlights of a hotdogtastic Saturday in Brooklyn:

The Nick Mangold Over the Line Dog

This was probably my favorite of the many I had. A chili cheese dog of sorts, the “Nick Mangold Over The Line Dog” was a deep-fried (yea, I know) hot dog with spicy, sweet chili and here it comes… mini fried cheese balls that kind of resembled tater tots. A heart attack waiting to happen, but SO good.

Little Bundles of Joy

Re-imagining the traditional hot dog presentation, “Little Bundles of Joy” were like small hot dog empanadas, fried pockets of hot dog, mac and cheese, kimchi and chinese sausage. Double points for tastiness and new form.

Genereal Tso’s Hot Dog

Another tasty dog with interesting presentation was “General Tso’s Hot Dog,” a play on the Chinese restaurant staple, General Tso’s chicken. Battered and deep fried, this little dog was smothered in sweet and spicy sauce and topped with broccoli, sprouts and crunchy chow mein.

Pa-Pa-Ya Summer Roll Hot Dog

Also putting an asian spin on things was the “Pa-Pa-Ya Summer Roll Hot Dog,” which instead of a traditional bun came wrapped in Vietnamese style rice paper and took flavor cues from spring rolls and shrimp and papaya salads. It was light and clean, with zesty, spicy flavors.

The Reuben Dog

“The Reuben Dog” instead, took its inspiration from the Reuben sandwich, with almost all of the same ingredients that make the sandwich a classic: sauerkraut, corned beef, Russian dressing, gooey swiss cheese, and a rye bun. As a Reuben fan, I gave this dog two greasy thumbs up.

The Hot Dogiflette

Finally, when I was at the point of undoing the top button of my shorts while also breaking out into the hot dog sweats, I made room for one more, “The Hot Dogiflette.” Based on the french dish, tartiflette, this dog was served on a toasted baguette and topped with mashed potatos, sauteed onions,  herbs, melted cheese and sour cream. Kind of hard to eat and required a bit of a wait (probably because of all the ingredients that were painstakingly layered on there) but sacrebleu it was good!

While there were some I ate and just didn’t post here, there were still a whole bunch I didn’t try! That means, Hot Dog Cookoff, I’ll see you again in 2013!

Smitten with a breakfast burger

My wah-wah-wah-I-miss-Italy pity party is OVER. You hear me? O-VER. Because who has time for all that misty eyed reminiscing, all that longing for meals past, all that pining away for something an ocean away when there are things like the breakfast burger at Mile End Sandwich to be had right here and now in New York City where I am oh-so-lucky to find myself? (Those of you not in the city, sorry, you should probably book a ticket.)

Mile End’s breakfast burger: it might be love

Seriously, Italy who? I have a new love, and with its unabashed, carefree sloppiness and finger-licking deliciousness (totally not just a phrase but an actual truth in this situation), the Mile End breakfast burger just snaked its way into my heart, leaving behind a trail of egg yolk and English muffin crumbs. And happiness.

It’s sloppy, but really. WHO. CARES?

Served every day but only until 4pm (which is a shame cause I would eat this bad boy for dinner ANY day), the breakfast burger is a handsome, juicy veal sausage patty, topped with an over easy egg and further perfected with melted Quebec cheddar, warm apple butter and the sweet touch of maple syrup, all of that— yes, ALL of that— between two soft, perfectly crumbly English muffin halves. There’s no way to eat this without ending up a complete gooey, sticky, crumby mess, but it’s worth it. So worth it.

I mean really,  you and me, breakfast burger, we could have a good thing here.

The things I miss

Sometimes (though I should point out definitely not always) I really miss Florence. I miss lots of things about it, but it should go without saying that hands down, I miss the food the most. But I live in New York, after all, where there are precisely 30 million italian restaurants, markets, wine bars and gourmet shops, so most things, whether it be bomboloni, pici al limone or a good piece of  schiacciata aren’t all that hard to find.

HOWEVER, and this is about to be a big however (hence the all caps), I have yet to find crostoni that come close to the perfection of those at  Fuori Porta, just outside the old city walls, and that gives me the worst pangs of longing for Florence. They’re just that good.

During my recent visit to Italy, I put lunch at Fuori Porta on my list of things that had to get done while I was there. The beau and I went one afternoon, and just like I had remembered, the crostoni were amazing. So good I could cry… if I wasn’t busy stuffing my face.

Walnut, honey and brie crostone, I missed you SO much!

Crostoni are basically just large slices of bread, topped with cheese (which at Fuori Porta, can be either mozzarella, Brie, pecorino, or gorgonzola) and other topping combinations including meats, veggies, or nuts. They’re popped in the oven so that the cheese melts and everything gets warm, and you as the eater, basically have your mind blown. My favorite combo, and the one I got most recently when I was there, was Brie with walnuts and honey.  Each bite is simultaenously gooey and cheesey, crunchy, sweet and savory. I think I could eat one every day for the rest of my life and never not love it.

Prosciutto and mushrooms under a blanket of melted pecorino. SO. FREAKIN.’ GOOD.

Flaneur on the other hand went with a more savory combination of pecorino, prosciutto cotto  and mushrooms. While I preferred mine, his was pretty damn good too. Really, most things covered in thick, melted cheese are bound to be good, but this crostone, with its earthy, sweet mushrooms and salty-sweet prosciutto (the sweeter cooked kind, not the cured variety) was really phenomenal.

Yea I miss crossing the Ponte Vecchio at night, the view of the Duomo from Piazzale Michelangiolo, and being able to visit The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi, but let’s get real, I really, really miss those crostoni.