Brunching alla Swiss

With cheese and chocolate as some of its most recognizable foods (albeit, each one a broad umbrella group), it should come as no surprise that Switzerland would hold a special place in my heart/stomach. Of the different coutnries I’ve been to, it’s always been one of my favorites.  Lots of natural beauty (nothing like a mountain to blow a Florida girl’s mind), awesome cows (yea, I know, random, but they really were the prettiest cows ever) and again, the food.

So when my friend Holly, who was recently visiting from out of town, suggested a Swiss brasserie in Chelsea that her boyfriend recommended from having been there before, I was all for it. (And sidenote, friends that make food recommendations you can count on being good? Golden!)

I liked Trestle on Tenth pretty much from the get-go. Outside, the weather was rainy, cold and crappy, but inside the restaurant was cozy and warm, and when Holly mentioned that the sticky buns were specifically recommended via the BF who wasn’t there with us, I knew it didn’t matter what was going on outside because I was about to be exactly where I needed to be: in front of great food, with great company.

It might be a scientific fact  that sticky buns improve rainy days

First to come out were the aforementioned sticky buns. They’re not usually one of my favorite baked goods because the sticky factor kind of bothers me, but these weren’t too messy or over-the-top sweet. Fat and doughy, these buns mostly kept the sticky part on the inside, with a dark, molasses-like interior  swirl and a drizzle of icing on top.

The Bure Rösti looks unassuming from the outside, but don’t let it fool you…

BAM! Deliciousness inside!

One of the things I went crazy for when in Switzerland was rösti, a traditional breakfast dish basically comprised of grated hash browns topped with other breakfasty things like eggs, sausage or bacon, so when I saw Bure Rösti on the menu, it was a no brainer.  In the past, rosti had always been sort of just a heap of goodness on my plate, a pile up of different breakfasts classics, but the rosti at Trestle was neat and composed. When it first came out, it was perfectly circular with the fried eggs hiding everything neatly underneath, but when I gently lifted the eggs (so as to not burst the yolk, duh), there was delicious mess of sausage and gooey, melted cheese, all on a bed of bacon-onion potato hash (aka rosti).

Pizokel… Swiss for cheesey mountain of awesomeness

Finally, Holly and I split a plate of the gratinéed pizokel, which also came highly recommended. If you’re wondering what pizokel is, you should know that I had no idea what it was either, but I was sold when I read that it had caramelized onions and gruyère. What more did I really need to know? It turned out to be just as good as I had hoped, with pizokel being doughy, wormy shaped dumpling-like twists, all under a thick blanket of thick, golden gruyere and sweet caramelized onions. After everything else we’d eaten, the pizokel were too much for us and I ended up eating just a couple of bites and taking the rest home. But even hours later, when I ate it cold and straight out of the take out box it was in, the pizokel were delicious.

The whole thing made me want to book a ticket to Switzerland, where I could sit in a cozy Swiss chalet eating my weight in cheese, chocolate and rosti… until I resembled one of those big, beautiful cows of theirs.

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Happy Friday everyone!

The Seven Gram Rock... yup, just what you're thinking

I don’t know about everyone else, but I for one, am ecstatic that this week is over. I mean really, it’s been relentless, and I’m filing it under “awful.”  But if there was one thing that stood out as a shining moment of awesomeness in this otherwise obnoxious week, it was Tuesday night’s 20/20 interview with Charlie Sheen. Yea, I said it.

I don’t care if he’s cracked out, completely bonkers or actually a genius. The man is hi-la-rious! A gold mine of outrageous ridiculousness and I can’t get enought of it!

Which is why I loved that Fatty Johnson’s in Greenwich Village, where I went on Thursday with some girlfriends, had a drink on their menu called the “Seven Gram Rock,” an allusion to the now famous quote, “I was banging seven-gram rocks and finishing them, because that’s just how I roll!” Yes! What a ridiculous individual. The other drinks, carefully crafted by guest New York City mixologists, sounded delicious, but in the spirit of Charlie, I ordered the Seven Gram Rock. Cause like Charlie, that’s just how I roll.

So what was in it? Dried peach-nectarine-apricot infused bourbon, cinammon, bitters, orange zest and essence of cocaine. I’m not sure about that last one, but all of the other ingredients came together in a great way to make for a zesty, smokey drink that was not too sweet, not too bitter, and just the right thing to drink on annnoyingly cold night on an annoyingly long week.  

** A note about Fatty Johnson’s: This pop-up from the Fatty Crew is only open until Sunday, at which point it will close while they create something more permanent in its place. Color me excited.

Bargain brunching in Boston

Everything in New York, from the tiny apartment I live in, to the subway rides I take, to the groceries I occasionally try to stock my mini-fridge with, is exorbitantly expensive. But believe it or not, there’s actually something good about that, and it’s that almost everywhere I go outside of the city, everything seems outrageously cheap to me.

But I realize that it’s not that everything is super cheap, but just that everything in New York is so  ridiculously overpriced. But still, it’s nice to think I’m getting a deal. And sometimes, like during a recent brunch in Boston, things really are that cheap and I really am getting a deal.

Sweet plantain empanadas with cinammon cream cheese

Masa, a southwest style restaurant in Boston’s South End, would have been great even with New York prices, but with a Saturday brunch special for $8.95?? Including an appetizer/small plate and an entree aaaand coffee or tea? God, that just makes my mouth water.

And it wasn’t some Denny’s Grand Slam kind of deal either. No cold, rubbery eggs or greasy little sausage links. This was good food. Food that in New York would’ve cost at least double.

From the small plates/starters I went with the sweet plantain empanada with Mexican cinammon cream cheese, a delicious combination of two things I love. The doughy shell was full of sweet, caramelized plantains, just like the kind I grew up eating with almost every meal, and the sweet, soft cream cheese was the perfect touch to make a good thing better.

Santa Fe Style Eggs Benedict

The entree, a turn to savory after the dessert-like starter, was also delicious. I had a hard time choosing between all the amazing sounding menu items, but finally went with the Santa Fe style eggs Benedict, which came on top of soft, fluffy biscuits, buttery chunks of avocado, home fries and green chile hollandaise.

I love getting out of the city and eating in new places, and even more than that, I like being reminded that doing it doesn’t always have to be ridiculously expensive.

In the words of Homer, “Mmmmm, donuts…”

Gibraltar at Dynamo Donut

Oh that all days could start like this, what happy days they would be. At least for me. Seriously, coffee and donuts. That’s all. Long distance boyfriends, lunatic parents, never-ending bills, the impending doom of apartment hunting in New York (again. Alone.)— it would all sort itself out with some strong coffee and a fat, sugary donut (or two).

Ok, so maybe not, but it couldn’t hurt, right? This weekend I was on a failing mission to buy a dress for a big wedding shin-dig I’m going to in a few weeks when I decided to abort that mission and head for a better one: the mission, as in my new favorite San Francisco neighborhood. I had read about a donut place there and thought some baked goods and caffeine would be just the thing I needed.

And I was right. I showed up in the late afternoon, just a couple of hours before Dynamo Donuts closed, but I was still able to snag a delicious spiced chocolate donut and a gibraltar to give me the second wind I needed to keep trying on dresses the rest of the afternoon.

Spiced chocolate donut

The donut was perfect: a soft, dark chocolate ring of moist, donut perfection covered in a sparkly layer of cinnamon, sugar and chipotle powder. I’ve been a fan of the chocolate-chili combo ever since I first tried it in Italy (although I think the idea originally came from the Aztecs, not the Italians) so I knew I would like this. Upon the first bite or so, the donut had a deep chocolatey flavor, with the granulated texture of the cinnamon and sugar playing against the softness of the cake. But then, almost not until after I swallowed the first couple of bites, I noticed a subtle, spicy warmth in my mouth, the slight kick of the chili. It was nice and not so spicy that it made my tongue tingle uncomfortably.

The coffee, which I admittedly was drawn to because of the foreign name, Gibraltar, was in the end just two shots of espresso topped with steamed milk and foam. Think of it as the shorter, stronger cousin of the cappuccino. I’ll be honest and say it wasn’t the best coffee I’d ever had but it definitely wasn’t bad. Maybe I was so smitten with my donut, that I couldn’t really focus on anything else.

When I finished both, I had enough sugar and caffeine in me to give me the second wind I needed to continue dress shopping, and although I was ultimately unsuccessful that day, I wasn’t even in a bad mood about it. A little donut and coffee goes a long way.

January: out with a bang!

January can be a rough month to get through in New York. Christmas lights are gone, parties are over, the next extended vacation is God knows when, and winter seems to only be getting meaner. All-around unpleasantness permeates the air.

Ok, so I’m exaggerating a bit. It’s not that bad.  But it is cold. And the lights and parties really are no more. And my next day off really isn’t till May (not kidding).  But thankfully, there’s something to help end the month on a good note: NYC Restaurant Week.

Eating this almost makes you forget you're not on vacation somewhere warm and exotic.

This twice-yearly event, held in summer and winter, invites recreational gluttons like me to food hotspots around the city with prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus.

Flaneur and I went through the list of participating restaurants, read the reviews, looked up the menus, and finally decided to brave the cold and venture out in search of our chosen RW pick, Rayuela in the Lower East Side.

Almost anywhere would’ve been fine, as long as it meant getting out of the cold, but Rayuela (Latin, though not specific to any particular country) was especially nice to step into. Deliciously warm and softly lit, it had a trendy, relaxed vibe throughout its two levels, without trying too hard to be cool. A Spanish olive tree planted on the ground floor and reaching up through the second added a nice, organic touch. But it was something I wasn’t expecting, though, that really won me over: the seats. Instead of the standard type, each was a super comfortable, couch-like chair.

And luckily the food matched the seating in terms of enjoyability.

Before we got our appetizers, a waiter came by with some of the most delicious bread I’ve ever had, and that says a lot because I’ve eaten some amazing bread in my day (I’ll save my praise for the breads of Italy for some other day, but know that I could go on for-ev-er). Each roll was almost perfectly round and about the size of a doughnut hole. Ripping them open let out a gush of steam from the warm, soft middle. As if that weren’t enough, they came with a special butter mix, made with chunks of both manzanilla and kalamata olives.

De-friggin'-licious.

If the roll had been the size of a watermelon instead, I would’ve been the happiest girl in the world… but then also maybe the most disgusting.

Wonder buns were quickly followed by appetizers, mine a ceviche-like tiradito de merluzo. Made from sliced hake (the so-called ugly fish) served in a martini glass of avocado, onion and tangy citrus juices, I don’t care what this fish looked like when he swam the seas, he was taaaasty.

Next up was carne a la parrilla, which is Spanish for awesome hunk of meat. I don’t usually order big slabs of red meat but the menu mentioned yucca and I was sold. (Note: yucca, a potato-like root big in Central and South America, is one of the few things my mom made all the time growing up that I actually love.) The meat itself was great, soft and juicy, cooked to a perfect medium rare, and served with yucca chunks in a crushed-pistachio sprinkled, creamy sage-poblano sauce.

My favorite part of the meal: the sweet stuff.

My favorite part of a meal is usually the dessert, so I had high hopes for this one, and I’m happy to report: Rayuela came through. The pera de caramelo I went with, was a warm, caramelized sliced pear on top of a cinnamon wafer served with a scoop of pecan ice cream.  A great finish to a great dinner.

Once back outside in the blustery night, we hailed a cab, having come to the mutual decision of “screw this, it’s freezing, let’s take a cab home.” No more than a minute after I crawled in and the cab sped off, I was already asleep. Warm, happy and well-fed, like a fat, little puppy.