Gasp! A healthy obsession

Man oh man has it been an unhealthy week or so for me! With Thanksgiving kicking off the holiday season, I’ve been eating like a pig and drinking like a fish. Come January, I might have to seriously consider having my jaw wired shut. But until then, the gluttonous, booozy merrymaking continues!

Yet even during the worst of my holiday binging, I try and add in healthy things here and there (you know, so that I might live to actually see the new year). Once in a while it even happens that I find something that I enjoy so much that I eat it with the same enthusiasm I put towards guzzling straight from the eggnog carton.

Is there anything more awesome than finding something good that’s not terrible for you?

Recently, I’ve been on a serious acai bowl kick from Juice Generation, which unlike the pumpkin pie, mulled wine, sugar cookies, candy canes, Thanksgiving croissants and the million and one other things I’ve been gorging on, is totally guilt free.  Juice Generation’s acai bowls are a creamy, cold, pudding-like blend of bananas, acai and other good and good-for-you stuff. I get the Amazing Green acai bowl which in addition to organic acai pulp, bananas, and almond milk, also throws spinach and kale into the mix. Then the whole thing is topped with banana slices, hemp seeds and hemp granola for a crunchy, nutty texture and flavor.

Ok, so it’s not most appetizing color. But I promise, it’s delicious. C’mon, I wouldn’t lie to you.

I know what you’re thinking. What kinda health freak, weirdo, hippy dippy shiz is that? But trust me, it’s DELICIOUS.  Sure, the green acai bowl kind of resembles the contents of a baby’s diaper after a big meal, but it’s soooooo good! And again, good for you! And because bananas are so awesome at bringing sweet goodness to everything they’re added to, you can’t even taste the green stuff! It’s basically like tricking your body into being healthy, and let me tell you, I’m all about that.

Introducing this green acai bowl into my life really might just have been my saving grace. Come January, when I’ve banished the cookies, pies, honey baked hams, and casseroles from my life, I’ll still have one thing to look forward to binging on.

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

Pumped

While having dinner at the too-cool-for-my-own-good Pump Room at the swanky Public Chicago hotel, I came to a realization: I’d love to be one of those travelers that just seems to hang out all day, lounging around the lobby of their plush hotel, requesting 11am wake-up calls and then worrying only about when their in-room massage is scheduled or what time dinner is.

If I was one of those travelers, which time and money constraints keep me from being, I’d check in to a place like the Public, and just bask in the awesomeness of it all. More precisely, I would eat three square meals a day at The Pump Room, and sip cocktails in between (and during) meals in the uber chic bar or the stylish lobby. (This would also all take place during winter so I wouldn’t have to leave the hotel. )

Alas, I’m not that kind of traveler. But during an awesome dinner at the Pump Room during my recent jaunt with the beau, I pretended to be, at least for the duration of dinner. The Jean-Georges restaurant seems to have borrowed lots of menu items from another JG restaurant, the always-without-fail delicious ABC Kitchen in New York, which was more than fine by me since that pretty much guaranteed the food would be amazing. And it was.

Lessons in deliciousness: coating calamari in pretzel crumbs.

The boy and I started out with an order of pretzel dusted calamari, something I’d already had (and loved) at ABC. With both a tangy, sweet marinara sauce and a creamy, spicy mustard aioli, this was just more of a good thing. Every city in the world should have a place to get this dish.

It’s always a good time for flatbread, especially if it involves truffles.

And because I don’t believe in holding back while on vacation, we also got one of Pump Room’s whole wheat flatbreads, the one with black truffle, fontina and frisee salad. It was just the right amount of doughy, cheesy and truffley (yea, I know, not a real word).

Fried chicken on a bed of spinach, wait for it, in spicy butter. Mind blown, huh?

For the entree, I went with fried organic chicken cause really, is there anything harder to resist than good fried chicken? This one came with spinach and a velvety, fiery homemade hot sauce butter. Crunchy skin, tender, juicy meat, and spinach to make you understand Popeye a million times over. Heaven on a dish, no lie, people.

Short rib and pureed potatoes. YES please.

Flaneur ordered the glazed beef short rib with potato puree and a crunchy, cheddar garnish.The spicy peppers gave a tasty heat to the hearty, delicious meat. I’m never a huge fan of short ribs, but this could make a believer out of anyone.

Dessert

And finally, because I wouldn’t dare leave a restaurant like this without dessert, we split the creme fraiche cheesecake with blood orange sorbet, fennel crisps and kumquat marmalade. With its creamy consistency and fresh, clean fruity flavors, it was a nice, subtle note to end the dinner on. I could have eaten four more though, just for the record.

So much lobster, so little time

If you love lobster— and really, you absolutely should love lobster, unless you’re my boyfriend or a similar unfortunate soul who can’t delight in the wonders of shellfish due to allergies— get thee to New England. Everywhere you go, it’s lobster, lobster, LOBSTER!

During a recent weekend spent in Rhode Island and Cape Cod, I saw it incorporated into everything short of dessert, and even that, I’m sure was out there somewhere. Lobster ravioli, lobster rolls, lobster bisque, plain ol’ lobster— you name it, it was on the menu. I ate more lobster in two days than I have in the last two months, and even though I kind of felt like a selfish bastard for not being able to share it with Flaneur, let me tell you, I got over that fast.

Brenton Reef Benedict, a damn fine way to start a day off in New England

Of all the lobster indulging I took part in though, the most stand-out lobster inclusive thing I ate was the Brenton Reef Benedict at Franklin Spa, a homey, classic style American diner. Two soft, doughy Bolo rolls, grilled just slightly enough to make them warm and a tiny bit crispy, were topped with steamed spinach, tender, sweet hunks of native lobster meat, poached eggs and then coated in a creamy, buttery hollandaise sauce to make for one of the most indulgent, ridiculously good breakfast/anytime eats.

For me, a winning dish is one that combines different flavors and textures without becoming a hodgepodge, and Franklin Spa’s lobster take on eggs benedict was just right. The slight bitter taste of spinach, the sweet meatiness of the lobster, the velvety rich smoothness of the hollandaise, and then of course, the rich, salty kick of the runny yolk— the bf’s french toast was good too, but sweet lobster-loving Jesus, it could never compete with this.

Oh New England, I hope you know how good you have it.

Comfort me with corn bread

Part of the deal I worked out with the devil in exchange for my boyfriend living in New York with me is that every year, for at least a couple of months, I have to release him back into the wild, back to that intoxicatingly ass-backwards boot-shaped country he calls home. (Kidding about the devil part, by the way.) He goes back to see friends and family and usually to go on some incredible vacation with the rest of Italy when they all go on their usually-month-long holiday in August. (Bastards.) In short, it sucks and I hate it, and part of it, truth be told, is because I’m always just a little scared that he won’t come back. (Yikes, this suddenly feels so much more “Dear Diary-ish” than I meant it to. Food’s coming though, promise.)

As we wind up our last couple of days together before another obnoxiously long (two and a half months to be exact) time apart, I’m squeezing in as many reminders that America, New York, and I (duh) are all awesome and very much worth coming back to.  As part of my plan, I wanted to eat something really great, something I knew he couldn’t get back in the Old World, something to remind him that home was here too: comfort food.

Who needs Tuscany when you have this delicious corn bread? Not this girl (or at least that's what I'm telling myself.)

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A new slice

I wasn’t always a pizza snob. I actually grew up on a pretty unhealthy diet of Domino’s and Pizza Hut, frozen pizzas of all kinds, and periodic food pilgrimages to a place my parents loved called Pizza Loft. In college, I subsisted on Five Star Pizza, which made big greasy pies, big enough to feed a pack of drunk college students for just five bucks. (God I wish I was still in college.) Two years in Italy changed that though. I came back a pizza snob. I’ve found my two reliable spots in New York (Motorino in the east village and Keste in the west village) and not a lot else speaks to me. People joke about this and bring it up all the time but it’s true. I take my pizza consumption seriously.

Huge slice of artichoke and spinach pizza

Last night though, I decided to try something else. Something I heard was really good but not because of any attempts to be like the stuff from the old world. Artichoke Basilles was definitely not like anything I ever ate in Italy but I have to say it was pretty good. The humongous slice of artichoke and spinach pizza I ate had a thick, crunchy crust and an even, gooey layer of cheese and toppings with the artichoke lending some of its creamy, buttery flavor to it. With all the NYU students crammed into the small space, it was almost like being in college again. (Except for the price of a whole pizza in Gainesville, I got just one slice.)