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

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.