Tag Archives: New York

Per Se (or Crossing One Off the Bucket List)

Fair warning: this post is long. I don’t want to leave a single detail out, so please know going in that this is a short story, not a friendly paragraph of snark. Here we go.

For the last few years I’ve said that before I move away from New York I would like to eat at the best restaurant in the city. For awhile I had my sights set on Le Bernadin but the more I read and researched the more Per Se came to the top of that list. Owned by famed restaurateur Thomas Keller, it is repeatedly voted the best restaurant in New York City by most food critics, has four stars (the highest rating) from The New York Times, and 3 Michelin Stars (one of only seven restaurants in the US to hold such an esteemed honor). Simply put: it’s the best. I had to go to there.

About nine months ago, The BF and I decided if this was at the top of my list, why not make that dream come true? We would just save our money. We both thought it was worth the incredible investment of $300 for the prix-fixe menu (come on, that’s a lot to people who make poverty-level-salaries in the most expensive city in the country), so we would just put away a little bit of each paycheck every month and by the time our two year anniversary rolled around in October, we’d have enough saved up to celebrate.

And then I got laid off.

Suddenly $300+ for a meal was completely off the table. “Per Se will always be there,” The BF tried to comfort me. “We’ll go somewhere else you’ve always wanted to go for our anniversary.” But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.

Cue Boyfriend of the Year. The guy still wanted to go, and he wanted to foot the bill. Despite the fact that he’d been picking up tabs left and right for his no-income-live-in-lady since the lay off in August, he wanted to celebrate and he wanted to take care of it himself. I am a pretty lucky gal. And so began the great race for a reservation.

To secure a reservation at Per Se you must call one month prior to the date you want the reservation on, at 10AM, and they are notorious for booking up immediately. The BF started calling on September 10, one month before our anniversary, and surprise surprise, they were booked. He put his name on the waitlist for several dates but we started planning for other restaurants just in case. I did not have the highest of hopes.

Until Monday night, two days before our anniversary. They called. Someone canceled.

So on October 10, 2012, two years after we said, “Okay, let’s give this boyfriend/girlfriend thing a try” we set out for a meal at my dream restaurant. Per Se is located on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, overlooking the statue with an amazing view of Central Park and the east side of Manhattan. We approached the restaurant, tucked away in a corner of the floor, and the sliding doors slid open to welcome us.

The pleasant hostess welcomed us right in and showed us to our table, a private little space up a level in the main dining room with an even better view out the huge dining room windows. “Do you think we look like we have money?” I asked The BF as we sat down. “No,” he answered, “I think you were smiling too big when we walked in.” I have to learn to play it cool.

The waitress handed us a wine menu… on an iPad. Yes, the wine list comes on an iPad. You can scroll through and touch the names for more information and prices and then choose your wine. We settled on a red that I can’t even remember, and it was absolute perfection. “So this is what a fifty dollar glass of wine tastes like,” The BF said. I gasped. “Oh well,” he said, “If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do it right.”

Per Se offers two tasting menus: the vegetable tasting menu and the chef’s tasting menu. The menus are constantly changing. I accidentally told The BF there was lobster on the menu because I saw it on the October 8th menu posted online. It was not on the October 10th menu and he was disappointed (I mean, after the fact who even missed the lobster? But even so, I was sorry I brought it up). But that just goes to show you the precise attention to detail and seasonality and availability this restaurant demonstrates. It’s mind boggling.

We chose the chef’s tasting menu (no pansy vegetarians here!) and made our choices (a few courses have options that you can decide between, including special additionally-priced options that you have to pay a little bit extra for). The following is a run down of each dish we were presented with:

AMUSE-BOUCHES:
Cheese gougeres: tiny, cream-puff like bites that are light and airy on the outside with a bit of warm, melted cheese in the middle. Verdict: the perfect first bite, setting the tone for the entire meal; unexpected and delectable.
Sweet Onion Cornet with Salmon and Cream Cheese: a mini cone made of sesame seeds and filled with a light cream cheese, topped with raw salmon. Verdict: absolutely incredible; my eyes grew three sizes after I ate this and I wanted about 10 more.

FIRST COURSE:
“Oysters and Pearls”: “Sabayon” of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters ad sterling white sturgeon caviar. Verdict: rich and buttery, with tiny pearls of caviar that exploded in your mouth and little sweet oysters swimming on top; I couldn’t have eaten any more of this incredibly rich dish but it was the perfect portion size and the ideal luxurious first course.

SECOND COURSE:
Salad of Matsutake Mushrooms: broccolini florettes, Meyer lemon confit, pine nuts, mizuna, and nicoise olive oil. Verdict: I felt like royalty eating this crunchy, sweet, and tangy salad because our waitress told us that matsutake mushrooms are only in season for an extremely short time of the year and this just happens to be the time. The mushrooms were not spongy in the least, and in their raw form were almost crunchy. The kicker on this dish was a shaving of dehydrated mushroom on top that tasted almost like a freshly cut potato chip.

THIRD COURSE:
“Rouelle” of Dover Sole: “Farcie aux feuilles de blettes,” scarlet grapes, brioche croutons, English walnuts, crispy sage and brown butter gnocchetti. Verdict: hands down the best dish of the entire meal. The fish was buttery and firm, the croutons added the perfect crisp, and who would ever have thought to add grapes to a rich dish like sole with gnocchi? This is why Thomas Keller is such a genius. I could’ve eaten 100 more plates of this.

FOURTH COURSE:
Scottish Langoustines “A La Plancha”: spiced cashews, coconut “nuage,” Yuzu-Honey, garden mint and hass avocado “potage.” Verdict: What struck me about this dish was that even with such strong flavors as spicy cashews, mint, and lobster (langoustines are a small variety of lobster) you could still taste the creamy avocado that served as the base of the dish. The flavors blended perfectly and once the four little langoustines at the center of the dish were gone, The BF took his spoon and lapped up, in as refined a manner as possible, the remaining liquid at the bottom of the bowl. It was just that good.

FIFTH COURSE:
Buttermilk-fried Thomas Farm’s Squab: Anson Mills’ polenta, romaine lettuce ribs and “sauce diable.” Verdict: my least favorite dish of the entire meal. That’s not to say it wasn’t better than most other things I’ve ever eaten, but in the grand scheme of the meal it wasn’t a standout. The squab, a little bird like a chicken, was crispy on the outside and lightly breaded with a flavorful bed of polenta underneath.

SIXTH COURSE:
Herb-roasted Marcho Farms’ “Selle de Veau”: Applewood smoked bacon, pumpernickel “pain perdu,” Blis maple syrup glaze, butternut squash, caramelized pearl onions, Brussels sprouts and Bourbon jus. Verdict: Sorry, mom! I ate veal. It was freaking delicious. Supremely tender and complemented perfectly by a crispy little Brussels sprout, a deliciously sweet pearl onion, and a little bread cake made of pumpernickel. I was so full at this point I couldn’t even finish it… but don’t worry. The BF cleaned up.

SEVENTH COURSE:
Andante Dairy’s “Vivace”: Per Se “BLT”, honeycrisp apple, young fennel and black truffle puree. Verdict: Imagine the most perfectly prepared cheese plate you’ve ever consumed. The Per Se “BLT” is a teeny tiny sandwich wrapped in a linen napkin on your plate made of 2 little hunks of oiled bread spread with black truffle puree and surrounding a fat chunk of bacon. The cheese that served as the center piece was a creamy goat cheese and the slivers of sweet apple and crunchy fennel were freaking perfect. Just… perfect.

EIGHTH COURSE:
“Prickly Pear”: “Biscuit Cuillere,” Limoncello “Panna Cotta”, pear soda and white wine granite. Verdict: the sparkliest, most refreshing palate cleanser ever. I wish I had a photo of every first bite I took during this meal because I have a feeling they’d all be the same: wide-eyed and completely dumbfounded. This little “sundae” was served in a short, narrow glass with a long spoon so every bite included crunchy ice and sparkling soda and a little bit of sweet cake from the bottom.

NINTH COURSE:
Pomegranate “Soda”: honey-pine nut “nougatine”, Persian lime “bar”, and peppermint ice cream. Verdict: If this dish was served at Applebee’s, I’d be gagging. Pomegranate and lime and… mint? But oh wait, we’re talking about Per Se and we’re talking about Thomas Keller and we’re talking about unlikely flavors that somehow taste like they were made to be combined. A little bit of the lime ice cream bar, a touch of peppermint ice cream, a little sparkling pomegranate foam and you have a fresh, tart, almost spicy mouthful of blended complimentary tastes.
Butterscotch “Pudding”: Caramelized popcorn, chocolate custard, whipped Earl Grey tea and salted caramel ice cream. Verdict: I was only privy to one bite of this dish (The BF chose this one, I chose the pomegranate soda above) but it was superb. Creamy and rich but never overpowering.

TENTH COURSE:
Per Se “Coffee and donuts”: cappuccino ice cream with whipped foam and cinnamon sugar donuts. Verdict: DOOOONUTS! I could not contain myself. These little round donuts were incredible: airy and light on the inside with a crisp layer of fried dough and cinnamon sugar on the outside. The ice cream came served in a little cappuccino cup and I thought it was real coffee until I touched the icy cup. The tiny little cup of ice cream was the perfect compliment to the warm, fresh donuts.

The only picture we snapped at Per Se (I didn’t want to be that annoying girl with a flash going off at every course): Mignardises

Four hundred and eighty seventh course (sike: ELEVENTH COURSE):
Mignardises (little pastries traditionally served at the end of the meal): sour apple macarons (the mini-sized macarons were green and pink and I cannot, for the life of me, remember what the pink flavor was); wrapped caramels and nougatines; white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate truffles; and cocoa powder covered hazelnuts. Verdict: Holy deliciousness overload. I thought I might pass out, I was so full, but I managed to taste everything and pocket anything that was wrapped for convenient carry-out. Crunchy, sweet, chewy, rich… it was all so perfect and presented in a three-tiered silver box just to really push it over the top.

We walked away from that table, the last two in the restaurant, with the city skyline glittering outside the window, in a state of dreamy haze. As we left the dining room we were wished goodnight by every staff member who passed us by, and were presented with packaged cookies to go and a Per Se folder with our personalized menu inserts tucked inside to take home. All in all, it was a food lover’s dream come true. And I couldn’t have asked for more.

*One last special cheesy thanks to The BF for making it possible. ❤

Leave a comment

Filed under Chefs, New York Restaurants

Red Rooster Harlem

I feel this post doesn’t need a giant intro. Simply put, this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Let’s dive in.

Red Rooster Harlem 310 Lenox Ave, Harlem, NY. Red Rooster Harlem is the brain child of Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef Marcus Samuelsson on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue in the heart of Harlem. The restaurant features an upscale, but still low-key, experience with a menu filled with Ethiopian-influenced soul food.

Bunny Chow: lamb stew with ricotta and fried egg

On the menu:
Disclaimer: I did NOT eat all of this myself. But I did taste every single plate…
Earl of Harlem cocktail (Buffalo Trace bourbon, Early Gray tea, spiced coriander syrup)
Crab cakes
Jerk bacon and egg
Corn bread with honey butter and tomato jam
Collard greens
Bunny chow (lamb stew on a roll topped with fried egg and ricotta)
Berbere roast chicken (Ethiopian spiced chicken with rainbow chard, asparagus, and peanut slaw)
Catfish and grits
Fried Yard Bird (fried chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy, and bread & butter pickles)
Sweet potato donuts
Lemon bread pudding
Kahlua truffles

Jerk Bacon and Egg

Verdict: Did I not already mention this was one of the best meals of my entire life? This is going to be one of my less informative restaurant reviews because how many times can I use the words “AMAZING” and “DELICIOUS” and “PERFECTION”? The spices blended, the sweet wasn’t too sweet and the spicy wasn’t too spicy, the crunch was crunchy enough, the portion sizes were enough but not too much, and the staff was attentive and friendly but never annoying. The restaurant itself is comfortable and our table was loud and jovial and no one seemed to mind. By the time we left the restaurant I had that warm, sleepy, happy feeling you only get after a truly incredible meal. I can’t say enough good things about Red Rooster Harlem and insist you try it for yourself. It’s on the pricier side, but it won’t break the bank, either. And for a special night out, I can’t think of anything better.

Earl of Harlem

Photos: c/o of Meagan Drillinger

1 Comment

Filed under Chefs, New York Restaurants

A Taste of Jamaica

Unless you live under a rock you’ve probably been watching the Olympics, or have at least heard about them on the news. There are only a handful of events I can sit through and enjoy (equestrian? yawwwwwwn) but I get seriously rowdy during track and field. How thrilling is it to watch the fastest men alive tear across a track and then not even breathe hard afterward? It inspires me to get my butt up off the couch…. and over to the kitchen for another slice of cake.

Guys, I’m not really an athlete, ok?

In watching Usain Bolt dominate every other competitor in the arena, I had a craving for Jamaican food. And only in New York can you think to yourself suddenly, “Man, I’d like some Jamaican food” and then walk 15 minutes to get some.

Well… you can probably do that in Jamaica, too. But… you get my drift.

Brown Stew Chicken with beans and rice and coleslaw

Jerk Pan 48th St. and Park Avenue, New York, NY. Jerk Pan is a food truck located in midtown Manhattan, just outside the JP Morgan-Chase building. It’s kind of amazing to see a run down old truck with five Jamaican men inside, slinging hot street food while 20 corporate yuppies stand in a line waiting for lunch to be served. But isn’t that New York? I think it is.

On the menu:
Brown Stew Chicken with rice and beans and coleslaw

Verdict: Hellooooo lunchtime! Did it take me 20 minutes in 90 degree heat to walk here? Yes. Was it entirely worth it? Yes. I only ate 1/4 of the food on a bench near where the truck is parked because it was pretty messy and I only had one measly napkin. But when I got back to my office? I really wanted to have it again for lunch the next day so I restrained myself as best I could but wow, wow, wow this was delicious. The coleslaw (which is basically just cabbage with corn, green beans, and carrots mixed in) is served hot. Have you ever had hot coleslaw? Well, try it. It is absolutely perfect. Tangy and crunchy, and not too shabby paired with the fall-off-the-bone chicken (covered in sweet and tangy brown sauce) and the chewy and mild rice and beans. The best part? The whole thing only cost me $8. That’s the price of a sad salad from Cosi for all you mathematicians out there. I also sampled the jerk chicken (I was afraid to order it myself in case it was super spicy) which was also tender and flavorful with a kick of spice and worth getting the next time. What I REALLY wanted to order was the jerk goat but the friend I lunched with quickly replied, “Goat… from a truck… in New York?” Good point.

This is my favorite clip of Usain Bolt and it has nothing to do with running:

1 Comment

Filed under New York Restaurants

Rosemary’s: A Restaurant Review

Small plates to start

My birthday dinner was the cause of much discussion. My parents were in town, so the place had to be vegetarian-friendly (it’s no fun eating out with a vegetarian who is forced to order the side salad at every meal), have a celebratory atmosphere, and not be so over-the-top expensive that I’d be apologizing for suggesting it for years to come. I took to NYMag.com for suggestions and found a really cool spot that had just opened: Rosemary’s. It’s rustic Italian food (always veg-friendly), they source a lot of their produce from their rooftop garden (enviro-friendly), and it JUST opened in a trendy neighborhood (savvy-food-writing-birthday-girl-friendly). Win. Win.

Rosemary’s 18 Greenwich Avenue (near West 10th St), New York, NY. Rosemary’s is located in the West Village, on a corner, and in the summer months all the windows and doors are open to give a truly open-air feel. The menu is divided into 10 sections and all wine is served by the bottle for $40 or by the glass for $10* (the menu is wine and beer only). It should be noted that Rosemary’s does NOT currently take reservations, so if you show up around dinner time you should be prepared to wait at least an hour for a table. My party put our names down and then went next door for a cocktail while we waited two hours for our table. It definitely did not mar our evening in the slightest, but we knew what we were in for ahead of time.

On the menu:
Small vegetable plates: cabbages, pecorino, chilies, and almonds; beets, dandelion, and hazelnuts; zucchini crudo
Small seafood plate: octopus with basil
Focacce: caprese (mozzarella, tomato, and basil)
Entree: pork tenderloin with mustard and fennel
Dessert: olive oil cake with fresh cream and blueberries

Verdict: Delicious! Was this the best meal I’ve ever had in New York? No. My mom ordered a mint pasta that was overwhelmingly flavored, the lamb my dad ordered was a bit flavorless, and then there’s that epic wait for a table. But this meal was just what I wanted for my birthday. The small plates were incredibly delicious: spicy, crunchy, brightly flavored, and gone in seconds. The pork tenderloin was juicy and tender and the cake was perfectly “dry” as only olive oil cake can be. Rosemary’s is still working out the kinks as far as service goes (we had a plethora of waitstaff taking care of us and the host was visibly frazzled at the crowds of people waiting to get in), and I was curious as to why they have a rooftop garden but no tables up there. But for all the little bits to work out (and I’m sure they will) Rosemary’s is definitely a spot to hit in the summer while the weather is fine.

*I love, love, love that all the wines are the same price. I don’t know wine very well and always want to ask for recommendations at restaurants, but I’m very aware that waitstaff will most often recommend a more expensive glass. The across-the-board pricing allowed me to give the sommelier my preferences and then have him give me an honest suggestion back. Well done, Rosemary’s. Also, sorry for the terrible photo. I didn’t want to be that annoying girl at the table taking brightly-lit-flash photos of every dish.

Leave a comment

Filed under New York Restaurants

My New York Food Diary

I spend a lot of time trying to convince people that I don’t really have the appalling eating habits I appear to from my blog posts. People read this blog and say, “HOW do you eat like that?! Wheeeere do you put it?!” And I laugh and say, “Oooh, I just don’t eat that MUCH! I eat small portions. I’m not a total slob.” But you know what? I’m a total slob. I love junk food. And not McDonald’s, but junk food in general. Butter and sugar and chocolate and oil and carbs and starches and marbled meat and donuts and everything that makes people go, “Mmmmm” with pleasure when they ingest it. So as I read the New York Food Diary column on NYMag.com this week, I thought, I’m gonna do it and I’m gonna prove everybody wrong!

All I did was prove y’all right. So I’m just gonna ride this wave until my pants stop fitting. Read at your own discretion…

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under New York Restaurants

Little Town NYC


It’s not often that you’ll find a negative restaurant review on Food E. Most of the time if I go to a restaurant and it’s mediocre or downright terrible, I take it to Yelp. I like to keep this a positive place and one where you can come to scroll and find all amazing things.

Well… consider this a break in tradition.

Last night The BF headlined a show at Caroline’s on Broadway and a friend and I thought we’d get some drinks and snacks pre-show. Finding a bar in midtown is not always easy, so I took to the interwebz for recommendations. I found that Little Town NYC which opened their first shop in Union Square, had opened a sister store in midtown. Being from Rochester, people are always trying to tell me where I can find garbage plates in the city, and Little Town is a name that’s come up more than once. The restaurant features all New-York-State-based foods: Buffalo wings, Rochester garbage plates, Long Island oysters, Binghamton spiedies, etc. I was incredibly excited.

Upon first entering the restaurant, I realized there was no air conditioning. Let me tell you a little something about New York City in the summer: it’s freaking hot. In addition to the steamy temperatures, we walk everywhere. And I was wearing heels. 10 minute walk + 86 degrees + 4 inch heels = 1 sweaty mess. Little Town’s three pathetic fans were barely spinning and the air conditioning must’ve been set to 80 degrees. But I had told my friend this is where we were meeting, and meet there we would.

I looked up at the huge chalkboard over the bar touting all the $5 happy hour beers on tap. I asked the waitress how sweet the sour cherry cider was. “Oh, we’re out of that.” “Okay,” I said, “How about the Checkered Cab?” “Oh… we’re actually out of that, too. The board hasn’t been updated, I guess.” I wiped sweat from my forehead and asked for something, anything, cold and light. My dining partner asked for a vodka cocktail that was also on happy hour special at 2 for 1. The beer arrived semi-cold and the cocktail arrived semi-cocked. “This is all cranberry juice,” my friend said with a grimace. She downed the tiny thing in three gulps. “I guess we know why they’re 2 for 1.”

I took a look at the food menu, searching first for the garbage plate. I didn’t really think I’d order it (let’s face it, fellow Rochesterians, we know those plates are their best when you’re 3 drinks in and hunched over that red tray in the brightly lit “dining room” of a dingy Hots at 2:30 in the morning) but I wanted to know what it was all about. First things first, it costs $18. EIGHTEEN DOLLARS. If you’re not familiar with a garbage plate and you’re too lazy to click that link above, a garbage plate is mac salad, home fries, 2 burgers, onions, hot sauce, and ketchup and mustard. Not a single ingredient in there costs upwards of $.50, and even with markups the plates in Rochester only cost around $8. The Little Town menu says “Feeds 2.”

DUH.

We ordered pretzel crusted chicken fingers and fried oysters. My friend said she was concerned the chicken would be breaded in pretzel dough and I laughed at her. “No, I’m sure it’s coated in hard pretzel crumbs.” Oh… you’re sure, Lauren? You’re SURE. HOW CAN YOU BE SO SUUUURE?

I was wrong. Soft pretzel breading with some kind of bizarro hard pretzel chunks mixed in. The fried oysters, served over “coleslaw”, were on the half shell. The oysters alone were pretty tasty, if not faintly tasting of heavy grease. I just wish those oysters hadn’t been nestled into giant dollops of mayonnaise mixed with wilted cabbage.

During our meal I saw a garbage plate go by on its way to another table. I guess Little Town’s way of giving you your $18’s worth is to use “fancy” pasta instead of plain old elbow macaroni because the mac salad portion of the dish looked like an entree at an Italian restaurant.

Here’s a tangent: street food is street food for a reason. It is cheap and popular because it is simple and accessible. Hometown favorites like garbage plates are not meant to be gussied up and served over fancy pasta on a china plate in a dimly lit bistro. I guess for a lot of people the novelty of a dish is worth eating out and forking over $18 for, but I am not one of those people.

Overall, I would not recommend Little Town NYC based on lackluster service (we had to flag down our waitress for drinks, waited awhile to get said drinks, and flag her down again for the check), uncomfortable dining room, unavailable menu items, overpriced and underwhelming food, and stripping one of my favorite dishes of its charm.

…too harsh? Now you know why I don’t write more negative reviews.

Little Town NYC, 366 W. 46th St (between 8th Ave and 9th Ave), New York, NY.

Leave a comment

Filed under New York Restaurants

Vegan Summer Shop-Up!

Hi kids! I know, I’m posting on a Saturday. It’s bedlam.

If you’re a vegan you know how tough it can be to enjoy food like a regular ol’ meat eating human. While I don’t quite understand why anyone would give up juicy cheeseburgers, chicken soup, crispy sausage, succulent pork shoulder…

Ahem.

Sorry.

… I CAN understand the affinity for delicious vegan baked goods! I am telling you, these are some of the most delicious baked goods you will ever have. I can’t explain why they taste so perfect, but they do. This Sunday, June 10, The Vegan Summer Shop-Up opens in Bushwick, Brooklyn, featuring all vegan eats. My friend Tommy will be there with his incredible baked goods for sale. Don’t miss out!

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellaneous