A Sarcastic Appetite


10 Brunch Spots in New York
June 29, 2014, 9:11 am
Filed under: Restaurant Round-Up, Winetivities

Narcissa

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.

 

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10 Great Date Spots in New York
June 19, 2014, 8:00 am
Filed under: Dating, Winetivities | Tags:

 

Aperol spritz at Smith & Mills

 

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.



A Sarcastic Appetite Dates: Pop Quiz, Hotshot!
June 14, 2014, 2:31 pm
Filed under: Dating | Tags: ,

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.

“More expensive?”

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.