A great, gooey gimmick

No one does over the top, gimmicky food quite like New York. There’s the giant soup dumpling you slurp with a straw, the technicolor rainbow bagel, the cookie dough scooped into cones and eaten like ice cream. The more outlandish and calorie laden the better.

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Grilled cheese fantasies come to life

And while I occasionally roll my eyes at the line of people snaking down the block at any of the places turning out these food fetish creations, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had my share, and I too, have waited in some pretty stupid lines to get a taste of the moment’s food craze. (Cronut, I’m looking at you.)

When I heard about this next thing I immediately thought, “Oh Jesus Christ, that’s absurd” followed immediately by “I must have it.” And so my roommate and I compared schedules, nailed a date, and off we went in search of Clinton Hall‘s Flamin’ Hot Doughnut Grilled Cheese.

Made of gooey, melted mozzarella pressed between two Doughnut Project habanero bacon glazed doughnuts in place of bread, the glorious and oh-so-gluttonous flamin’ hot grilled cheese sandwich is served looped through a hook and dangled over a bowl of thick, hot tomato soup for dipping.

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Worth every last calorie.

Even though doughnuts are involved, the sweet element is minimal here, with just the tiniest, subtle sweetness coming through the layers of cheese and butter and doughy, bacony goodness. The tomato soup, which I  often find to be too runny or acidic, was neither. It was thick and creamy, just the right amount of tomatoey sweet with a peppery kick, perfect to complement the grilled cheese.

Even though Clinton Hall only offers 20 of these per day Friday through Sunday, we showed up  just after noon on a Sunday and didn’t have to fight any crowds or freeze our grilled cheese loving asses off standing outside in any lines. A couple of tables had them and obviously there was lots of gawking and picture snapping, but that’s how it goes with these food fads. But if they’re as good as this sandwich was, I don’t really care who’s watching or taking pictures or rolling their eyes. I’ll be the one licking my fingers and doing the little happy dance.

Llama Lovin’

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Just a girl who loves llamas

Ever since I met a baby llama at the Central Park Zoo’s Children’s Zoo a few years ago, I’ve been completely obsessed with the goofy, long-necked fluffy animals. And after a recent brunch at Williamsburg’s Llama Inn with my sister, I’m kind of obsessed with that too.

We started off with pan de yuca, a simple but tasty Peruvian inspired take on bread and butter. Each little bun, soft and sweet, is made from the hispanic staple and root veggie, yuca. With it, a velvety, creamy sweet honey butter of sorts, so good I could’ve spread it on rocks and happily eaten those too.

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Admittedly doesn’t look like much, but let me tell you, they make up in taste what they lack in fancy presentation.

My sister’s entree was the food envy inducing beef tenderloin stir-fry, a glorious heap of scallion topped fried eggs, french fries, plump caramelized sweet plantains, grilled onions, and juicy tenderloin medallions, all served in a bowl and drizzled with a spicy cream made from rocoto chilli peppers. Every ingredient was bursting with flavor, the plantains so sweet and soft they were almost custardy, the beef just the perfect amount of pink and juicy, and the fries pure golden, starchy goodness.

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 A gorgeous mess of breakfast deliciousness

To match my sister’s bowl-of-awesome was my amazing crispy pork shoulder sandwich and crunchy plantain chips. A thick smear of spicy mayo, a colorful, tangy red onion salsa, and my favorite surprise element, a soft, almost buttery, sweet potato wedged right in with the crispy pork shoulder, which was tender and testy, with perfectly burnt edges for that bit of charred flavor.

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A downright magical way to start a Saturday.

And because even brunch calls for dessert, we split the only one on the brunch menu, a bowl of chocolate sorbet and lucuma cream, made from a Peruvian fruit with a mapley, butterscotch flavor. To top if off were wafer-like crisps made from cappuccino foam. A mix of flavors and textures and now I have a whole new fruit that I love! Success all around!

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Don’t let looks fool you, this dessert is a solid TEN.

Since originally writing this a couple of days ago I’ve also been back for dinner and drinks and I can tell you, my llama love is stronger than ever. Once one of my favorite animals, now one of my favorite restaurants.

Extreme decadence

Go big or go home, right? Well, let me tell you, never was that more the case than at brunch this weekend at Norma’s at Le Parker Merdien.

All joking aside, I probably had my caloric intake for a good solid week all in one sitting.  All on one plate. And I’m not exaggerating or kidding in the least bit. It was intense. What I had might very well be the single most gluttonous thing I’ve ever eaten, but it was worth every hour I’ll spend at the gym this week paying for it.

The menu at Norma’s was a wonderland of edible awesomeness. There were chestnut pancakes, foie gras brioche french toast, and mango-papaya brown butter cinnamon crepes among other things.  But for me there was nothing else to get, nothing else to think about, nothing else but those four sweet words: Chocolate Decadence French Toast. (Yes, decadence was actually in the title.)

Norma's Chocolate Decadence French Toast: about 6 inches tall and 6 inches wide. Forget your diet.

Equal parts awe and intimidation filled my head when the waiter placed the chocolate mountain before me. Was this actually French toast made with chocolate cake and not bread? And were there really three spongy, thick slices of it, stacked one on top of the other, between layers of fat, bright red strawberries, topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream, all of it dusted with powdered sugar , sprinkled with whole pistachios and drizzled with valrhona chocolate syrup? Was I ever going to be able to finish this without falling into some sort of sugar induced coma?  Yes, yes and of course yes.

More than just a standard brunch option, the Chocolate Decadence French Toast was just one massive dessert, and because I’m ok with starting the day with a huge quantity of chocolate, I was in heaven. Even though I worked slowly through the huge stack, each mouthful of moist chocolate cake maintained its fresh-from-the-kitchen heat, so that every bite was warm and rich, with the tart sweetness of the strawberries and the nutty crunch of the pistachios only magnifying the deep chocolatey perfection of the french toast.

With the exception of maybe only the “Zillion Dollar Lobster Fritatta” (which is packed with lobster and caviar and costs $1,000), the Chocolate Decadence French Toast was probably the most ridiculous thing to have ordered. Large, over the top, and decadent to the point of obscenity, I can’t think of a better way to have started my Saturday.

Brunch in other boroughs

Spicy Bloody Mary

The big news in my life these days is that I’m leaving New York… temporarily anyway (more on that in upcoming posts). My lease ended on Saturday so I had to be out by then but because I’m not leaving the city until Wednesday, my friends in Astoria were kind enough to put me up for a few days.

After a day of moving out of my apartment and into a storage unit in Brooklyn, then trekking out to Queens, all while trying to mentally prepare for living in a new city and having my boyfriend be in a different continent, I was more than ready for the Bloody Mary coming my way. (Make that plural.) And of course the food. Continue reading