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

Southern comforts

Going “home” to Miami isn’t exactly comforting for me. It can be fun, yes, catching up with old friends, seeing family (in small, controlled doses), hanging out in my old stomping grounds. If I squeeze in some beach time, Miami can even be relaxing, but rarely, if ever, is it comforting.

Comfort in a cocktail: Yardbird's tasty Watermelon Sling

But during the last visit to my ol’ hometown, between long stretches spent trapped in the car thanks to Miami’s ever-present traffic (reason number a billion to live in a city with actual, functioning public transportation), I was able to find some comfort. As it often does, comfort came in the form of food. (Sorry, family.)

Eating at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar was one of only a small number of things on my “must-absolutely-get-done-while-I’m-in-town” list. I read about it a few months ago when it first opened and immediately wanted to go. when I read about southern comfort food staples like fried chicken, mac and cheese and cornbread. Miami may be south, but southern it definitely is not.

I loved Yardbird right away, with its country-cool, rustic vibe and a distinctly not Miami Beach feel. But when my Watermelon Sling came out, all sweet and refreshing with its crisp, clean mix of fresh watermelon juice, smokey borboun, lemon, orange bitters and a light, frothy cucumber foam, I was head over heels.

Then came the perfect follow up to my drink, melons and cheese, chosen from the small plates portion of the menu. Two fat wedges of bright, juicy watermelon were topped with a grilled cheese that the menu called farm cheese, but I thought was a lot like queso fresco, the white, salty cheese used in Mexican and other hispanic cuisines. Either way, it was delicious and further proof that mixing sweet (in this case, fruity) with savory, is always a recipe for tastiness.

Melons and cheese: win, WIN.

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A “Fatty” good time

When your boyfriend is allergic to shellfish it’s probably not the best idea to go somewhere with “crab” in the name. And I knew that, but after the first time I ate at Fatty Crab (without him) I knew I had to go back and bring him with me. He’s my eating partner in crime and not sharing it with him would’ve made me a terrible person.

Figuring that never in a million years would we be able to snag a table for Valentine’s Day on Sunday, we tried our luck on Saturday and succeeded. The wait at the West Village Fatty Crab was only 30 minutes and knowing what we were about to get into, I was more than happy to wait less than an hour.

Flaneur wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I told him we were having Malaysian but as we were led to our table, sandwiched between two others about an inch apart on each side, I was so giddy I was practically bouncing in my seat.

The waiter came by and gave us the standard schpeel: they serve stuff as it’s done in the kitchen, so no requesting this first and that second. You get it when it’s ready. But most importantly, most things on the menu contain peanut or shellfish products, so heads up to anyone with allergies.

Flaneur shot me a look of terror. We explained our dilemma to the waiter who in turn gave me a look that said “Really, lady? Did you guys not read CRAB in the name?” But I wasn’t going to let a silly allergy stop us, so I scanned the menu, picked a few things that didn’t have shellfish explicitly listed as ingredients and then ran them by the waiter who confirmed that we should be ok with those.

Flaneur still looked worried but we went on anyway.

Neither words nor pictures can do this dish any justice.

First out was our appetizer: the mind-blowing, I-don’t-care-how-many-calories-are-in-this-cause-it’s-so-good-it’s-worth-two-hours-on-the-treadmill pickled watermelon and crispy pork salad. Don’t let the salad part fool you. This was NOT the average lettuce creation. Far from it. Salad here meant thick chunks of juicy, red watermelon topped with crispy-on-the-outside, melt-in-your-mouth soft-on-the-inside pork belly. The salad part of it was probably referring to the bit of greens on top, which to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t even say what they were (lemon grass maybe?) because I was so completely possessed by the watermelon-pork combo. I imagine this is what they must serve in heaven (although I’m sure there’s also a vegetarian option).

Spicy never felt so good.

I could’ve called it a night at that point and happily skipped home, but luckily before we had even finished the “salad,” our next plate was out: a house specialty, the Fatty Duck. A note here: if you like spicy food, this is the thing to get. Chunky strips of soft, juicy duck topped with a small mountain of chopped tangy, fiery peppers, all atop a bed of white tamaki rice. Eating this just makes you feel more exotic, and once all those flavors start dancing around in your mouth and the heat from the peppers starts tingling in your throat and synuses, you could almost swear that you’ve been transported to some lush Malaysian jungle somewhere. It’s one of those dishes that makes you stop after every bite and look in awe at the person you’re eating with and say, “This is SO…damn…good. I can’t believe how good this is.” You go on chomping away, wondering what bit of karma brought you to this wonderful place and this amazing duck.

Flaneur, who’s tolerance for spicyness is on the weak side, danced on the thin line between pleasure and pain. Between  long  gulps of beer and water to soothe what must’ve felt like an actual fire scorching his insides, he managed to get out a few words, “Ohmygodthisisdelicious!” I was afraid he was about to spew fire like some mythical dragon, but thankfully our next dish came soon after, like the fire engine pulling up to the burning house just in time.

Chicken soup for the fatty's soul.

Pushing glasses and plates around like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, we made room for our third and final Fatty specialty: the chicken claypot. As its name suggests, a claypot of ginger, chicken and tofu soup was wedged on to our table along with a bowl heaped with coconut rice. After the intense heat of the duck, which we were still working on when the claypot arrived, the soup was calming and smooth, like good chicken soup should always be. Tender fat pieces of chicken bobbed around with tofu in the zesty broth, and the coconut rice went perfectly either mixed in or by itself. (I tried it both ways, duh.) Just the rice, which you’d think being standard white rice wouldn’t be anything to write home about, was amazing. This  fluffy, sweet coconut rice was good enough to eat whole bowls of.

So even though we had to shy away from Fatty Crab’s famed shellfish plates because of Flaneur’s allergies, everything was so ridiculously good that I’m declaring this one of my favorite places to eat, not just in New York, but overall. And really, with Fatty in the name, we’re pretty much a perfect match.

Fatty Crab in New York