Filed under: Restaurant Round-Up
Getting this one in under the wire! I’m here to canvas the food blogs so you don’t have to. A few things of note this week:
First off, that’s a pork belly doughnut at North River, above, and yes, I’d recommend it. (Plus, their aperol spritz is pretty delicious too.)
If you like eating and drinking and being on a boat, options abound for you this summer. Immaculate Infatuation has the rundown on North River Lobster Company and Grand Banks – neither really win the boys over but are apparently still viable options if you just have to get out on the water. Aye, aye.
Gabe Stulman’s Chez Sardine is now Bar Sardine, with a revamped menu leaning more towards bar offerings to match. Gone is the uni toast, now replaced by deviled eggs and burrata. Twist my arm – ok fine, I’ll go check it out.
Gael Greene loves Bâtard, the latest from Drew Nieporent after chef Paul Liebrandt’s departure forced the closure of Corton. And since her one gripe has been dealt with, I think I might be darkening the door there sometime soon, too.
As you all know, I am a sucker for a good wine bar, so Racines and now Corkbuzz have shot to the top of my list. Both look great, and I may or may not need to take a personal day in order to take advantage of Corkbuzz’s “Champagne Campaign” (half off bottles of bubbly from 4 – 5pm!!!).
If you’re in the mood for some bivalves, I’d just like to bring your attention to Upstate, in the East Village. Six oysters and a beer for $12 from 5-7pm is not to be trifled with, and the rest of their menu, while small, is solid. Plus everyone gets free pound cake for dessert – what are you waiting for?
Gothamist recently had an article titled “This is the Best Restaurant in Spanish Harlem” and so the Ninja and I went last week to check it out. We concur. Make the hike to Cascalote Latin Bistro and stop in at The Duck for a drink while you’re at it. Oh, and let me know when you’re coming so I can come, too.
I went to Greece for a week with 14 friends – some of whom I knew and some of whom I first met only on the trip. (It’s a long story how this trip came to be, but suffice it to say I now have 14 new best friends, because that’s how I operate.) Before I left, I was directed by a few Sarcastic Appetite fans to write a travel post. “Write about the restaurants!” they said. “Take pictures of all the food!”
And, well….I can’t. Because I was too busy eating and drinking to take pictures of what I was eating and drinking, and I took absolutely zero notes about where and what we ate. But here’s the thing I learned after spending a week in the Cyclades: it doesn’t matter. Walk into any restaurant outside of the immediate port area (too touristy), and you will be treated to a pretty fantastic meal for €15-20 a head (including everything you want to drink). Everything is fresh and local – they’ll tell you the vegetables are “organic,” but it’s not so much a conscious effort as just the way it’s always been done. Some of these islands are practically barren; water is the most precious resource, and yet it had been awhile since I had eaten so vibrantly.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but I love brunch. I love it like I love champagne, or Million Dollar Listing: New York, or beating middle aged men in tennis. (Which is to say, if you don’t actually know me that well, a lot.)
Now, I should qualify this statement: I love brunch at restaurants that take reservations. Ain’t no way in hell you’ll ever find me in a line 50 deep of tourists waiting to stuff their gullets with pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company. And there’s a reason I have yet to try the Cronut. But I am a champion at making reservations, even a month out if need be. (Don’t give me that look. I’m busy!)
And having tried most well-regarded places that serve brunch on this fair island we call home, I’d like to say I am a bit of an expert on that most overpriced but enjoyable weekend meal. To wit: 10 places you should check out, if you haven’t already. And if you run through this list rolling your eyes, thinking “Ugh, Emily, I know all of these places,” well, then, count yourself an expert too. And maybe invite me to your next get-together, since you clearly seem to be awfully trendy.
In no particular order:
1. The Breslin – “Emily, are you serious? Did you just start your list with a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations?” Yes, but hear me out: if you get there at noon or a little before, it’s a cakewalk. Trust me! The lamb burger and the three cheese sandwich are not to be trifled with (see what I did there?). Plus, that dark pub-like interior can’t be beat on a hot summer’s day when you want to curl up on top of the air conditioner.
2. The Elm – Yes, I’m suggesting brunch in Williamsburg with a straight face. Don that straw fedora (of course I have one) and join in the fun. I loved the space, and while the service was laughably slow given the two-thirds empty dining room when we went, the burger was actually really good. And if you want to keep drinking, so many great places over there await: Berry Park, Teddy’s, Maison Premiere, and Hotel Delmano, to name a few.
3. The NoMad – The grandaddy of brunch, if only for the fabled chicken sandwich. The light in the atrium can be a little anemic, but it’s not like you’ll be staring at each other – because you won’t be able to take your eyes off that sandwich. And then follow my lead and slip into the Library bar for a little postprandial cocktail.
4. ABC Kitchen – If the NoMad is the granddaddy of brunch, then ABC Kitchen is its Auntie Mame (sshh, poetic license, just let me run with it). Great light, great space, and purposefully mismatched plates. It’s expensive, yes, and don’t you dare try to walk in without having a reservation three weeks in advance, but once you’re seated and the sparkling rosé is flowing, it’s hard not to have a good time. Plus the salted caramel sundae is baller.
5. Jean-Georges – For the high rollers among you, especially since they just jacked the price of two courses to $48, with each additional plate now costing $24. You’re not likely to get out for less than $200 for two, unless you get chintzy with the wine and forbid dessert. However, if you want to go spend a leisurely afternoon in a really beautiful room, you’ll be rewarded with a really excellent meal – and excellent service, to boot.
6. Narcissa – It’s a gorgeous room with a gorgeous back patio and a box of doughnuts on the menu to boot. (The doughnut holes aren’t great but the rest are pretty delicious.) It’s a really nice way to spend an summer afternoon. Order the avocado toast with poached eggs…and get a side of bacon. It’s nearly impossible to get in for dinner, but very manageable to get in for brunch. Go.
7. Lafayette – Are you noticing a theme here? I am a sucker for a beautiful room and a slightly French-leaning menu. So sue me. Call up Lafayette and sweet talk them into giving you a table in the window (or rope enough friends in so you’ll be guaranteed one of the large booths). It’s the kind of place where you just want them to keep the rosé coming and then maybe Monday won’t actually happen. The pastries are excellent, as they should be, as are the pâté maison and the burger (I am nothing if not gluttonous).
8. The East Pole – I love its downtown sister restaurant, The Fat Radish, but hate that they are cash only during brunch. Thankfully, The East Pole takes plastic all the time and so now I can gorge myself on those spiced pear bellinis and smoked salmon crostini.
9. Jeffrey’s Grocery – I’m slipping another no reservations joint in here and hoping you won’t notice after all my griping. I love the menu here, not to mention the space: huge windows make for an airy, light-filled room. The croissant sandwich will cure any hangover. The only downside? The open kitchen means you will smell like Jeffrey’s Grocery long after you leave. (Sometimes it’s worth it.)
10. Hundred Acres – get a pitcher of the Sparkling Acres and thank me later. Look, it’s a pretty standard brunch menu, but that’s what does the job for me; I tend not to order the weird stuff because I had too much champagne last night and need to reevaluate my life choices. So I go for the soft scrambled eggs and hope for the best – you should too.
Aperol Spritz at Smith & Mills
While this is technically a food blog, you clearly only care about my dating stories. (I’ve got the web stats to prove it.) So how about a little mash-up: 10 places in New York to take your date for a drink. Some of these places are popular and therefore packed during prime time, but that’s just all the more reason to go during off hours. Who says you can’t meet at 3pm on a Sunday?
1. The Library at the NoMad: yes, yes, I know the team just opened the NoMad Bar, but this two-story airy space can’t be beat for a little tête-à-tête. It’s often crowded, so go at an off time; my favorite thing is to go for a leisurely brunch at the NoMad and then slip in for an afternoon tipple. Plus, if you’re somehow still hungry, their snacks menu is killer.
2.The Bar at the Modern: I didn’t love being quizzed, but I did love that my date picked this spot. Bold move. Try to get there on the early side; while it’s busy, the crowd is often twosomes who are moving to a table for dinner, so turnover definitely happens.
3. Mayahuel: Its dark wood interior can be romantic, if the date is going well, or can keep your date’s face half hidden in moody darkness if it’s not. The cocktail menu is well done, with some surprising twists. This is the place to get into mezcal; don’t be shy.
4. Ten Bells: I keep going on and on about this place because if you’re an oenophile, it can’t be beat. The wine list leans French and goes well off the beaten path, so now’s the time to order that weird wine from the Jura. The food menu leaves a little to be desired; stick to oysters. So romantic!
5. The Ship: No, not the Frying Pan; it’s an actual bar called The Ship that is so brand-spanking new I haven’t even been yet. Its owners have quite a cocktail pedigree, having been involved in Milk & Honey and Little Branch to name a few, plus it’s downstairs behind an unmarked door on Lafayette Street, so you’ll look like an in-the-know New Yorker as you whisk your date into the subterranean space.
6. Guthrie Inn: For all you Upper East Siders! (…Crickets.) Ok, ok, it’s tiny – about 5 stools tiny – and when there’s only one bartender, it can feel a little like the Andy Samberg bartender skit on Portlandia (go, watch). They don’t serve food, so go next door to Earl’s and get a Calabro Mozzarella to go.
7. Burke and Wills: The Upper West Side is not exactly teeming with great date spots, but I like this one for its usually not too crowded bar area and killer lamb merguez sliders. The narrow “booths” are made for two, and the Australian bartenders are knowledgeable and congenial.
8. Smith & Mills: Technically also “unmarked,” though it will be hard to miss the carriage house with one outdoor table and people spilling out with attractive looking drinks. I had to tell them what was in an Aperol spritz (this should be your drink of the summer), but hey – now they know. Great vibe, great menu, and great space.
9. Jimmy’s No. 43: Remember the great 7th Street Crawl? (Anyone game for the redux?) We spent the better part of the afternoon here that day and for good reason: their tap selection is excellent, and the barman kept sending over small plates “because Jimmy doesn’t like anyone drinking on an empty stomach.” (Little did Jimmy know we had already been to Luke’s Lobster.) While it’s often crowded, it’s usually possible to snag a table, and the vibe is typically a little raucous and a lot of fun.
10. Rum House: You’ve agreed to meet near Times Square (why!) and now you need a spot that isn’t TGI Fridays. Go to the Rum House, in the Edison Hotel, and you will never want to leave. They have actual live music – when I was last there it was a quartet involving a trombone and a cello, and it was awesome – and the cocktails are great since it’s the same people behind Ward III in Tribeca.
Have you ever been quizzed on a first date? I don’t mean the standard 20 questions about where you live and what you do, and do you hate your ex with the fire of a thousand dragons, or with the gentler flame of a summer’s campfire? I mean actually being quizzed, typically on math-related topics that relate to the gentleman’s job (in finance, natch). It’s happened to me several times, the most recent being last Wednesday, and so I decided it was a topic worth delving into here on A Sarcastic Appetite Dates.
We met at the Bar at the Modern (his choice, which was an excellent one). He was slight enough to fit in my handbag but fairly cute, and before long we were actually arguing about whether or not I experienced “culture shock” when I lived in London during college. I didn’t think I had, and he vociferously disagreed. The date was clearly off to an excellent start.
Once we (thankfully) moved onto discussing our jobs, he explained that he was essentially a math nerd who worked in finance, and then launched into a discussion about practical mathematics which proved a) he knew what he was talking about; b) he was incredibly pompous; c) he knew what he was talking about; and d) did I mention that he knew what he was talking about?
“Do you cook?” he asked. “I do!” I replied, eager to move the conversation along. “What shape is the pot you use to cook pasta?” he asked.
I wondered if this was a trick question. Where was he going with this? “A cylinder?”
“Ah, yes!” he responded. “Now, what if this pot were square? Could it be square? Why couldn’t it be square?”
Why were we talking about square-shaped pots?
“Wouldn’t that use more material?” I asked.
“So it would be…” he prodded. I felt cornered, and in desperate need of another drink. But this guy had been nursing his one glass of Sauvignon Blanc for the last hour, and it was clear another drink was completely off the table. I wanted a lifeline, and all I had were the watery dregs of a Negroni.
He half smiled and cocked an eyebrow at me – apparently I had gotten it right. I felt like a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which was firing up my competitive streak until I realized: if I played my cards right, I wasn’t going to win a million dollars; I was going to win another date with a guy who’s been quizzing me.
The bartender must have picked up on my distress, because the bill arrived soon after. And nicely enough he did offer to pick up the tab – without further question.
Filed under: Dating
When I first started online dating many moons ago, I set the bar pretty low: I just wanted to date someone nice. This led to a date with a guy named Robert, who was indeed nice but had the personality of semi-firm tofu. I quickly realized I was going to have to change my parameters.
The next logical move seemed to be shared interests: find a guy who likes what you like, so you can enjoy doing those things together. What are my interests? I thought to myself as I perused potential suitors. What does my typical weekend involve? White wine, brunch, sparkling wine, tapas, tennis…tennis! Perfect! Now all I had to do was find a guy who also liked tennis, and we could play together. It would be the perfect first date.
Soon enough I came across a potential match – let’s call him Boris. Boris was 30ish, cute, and was only ever photographed wearing hats or bandanas. I’m no idiot, but I was still curious. We chatted back and forth for a bit before agreeing to meet to play tennis at 10am on a Sunday in McCarren Park (yes, I go to Brooklyn), to be followed by brunch nearby. Getting a little workout and a lot of mimosas in sounded like a pretty ideal situation. That morning, I hoofed it out to the tennis courts and waited.
Filed under: Restaurant Round-Up | Tags: restaurant round-up, thirsty thursday
So it’s been six months or so since I posted here last and I figured you were all due for a blog update. At least consider some of these options as potential weekend plans; I am nothing if not helpful. And if what all you really want to read are terrible internet dating stories, well, then, shoot me an email and maybe I’ll oblige.
Looking for Saturday night dinner plans? I scanned OpenTable and as of 10pm on Thursday, here are your best bets for a table for two on Saturday: Picholine at 8:15; Tocqueville at 8:30; Lavagna at 7:45; Lincoln, 8:00; The Modern – Bar Room, 8:00; The Apiary, 8:15; Costata, 7:30; Empellon Cocina, 7:30.
Gothamist does a little round-up of food events this weekend, including a Harlem Food Truck Rally (and now I know what I’ll be doing on Saturday afternoon).
Immaculate Infatuation also does a nice little “Spring 2014 Hit List,” featuring Bobby Flay’s Gato and Narcissa at the Standard East Village. I’m also partial to French Louie, since it’s by the same people who brought you Buttermilk Channel so you know it’s going to be good.
Also, for those of you who are curious, Drew Nieporent does a really interesting interview with Eater NY on his new restaurant, Bâtard, and his dislike of all things “New American.” Meanwhile, Ryan Skeen gives a hilarious interview with Restaurant Girl, notable for his claim that he “[hasn't] been the chef at any restaurant since Allen & Delancey in 2009″ which is interesting given that he was listed as the chef and cooking in the kitchen on both my visits to the late 83 1/2 (remember that?).
The photos above, if you’re curious, clockwise from the upper left: champagne and a latte at Alexandra; “family dinner” with the Ninja at Blue Hill (we did the extended Farmer’s Feast tasting and it was divine); cocktails at Lantern’s Keep, which is better than ever after a menu revamp; and charcuterie & things at Benoit, a great Midtown standby, though their Negronis leave something to be desired.