Tag Archive for 'Food and Wine'

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BLT Burger

Fan-fucking-tastic. Expensive, but one of the most tender, juicy burgers I have ever had. WAY better than Shake Shack, which I can no longer go to because of all the health violations which make me cringe. We had the “BLT” Burger. Two patties of sweet, red meat, with smokehouse bacon and lettuce and tomato on a simple bun. We also got the onion rings (don’t bother) and the chili cheese fries, which were pretty good. Finally they had a great Belgian wheat beer – Ommegang Witte. Our total bill for two beers, two burgers, onion rings, cheese fries, and one dessert was $64, or $32 a person. Not cheap at all. But a DAMN good burger. I like their rule that says they don’t cook the burgers any more than Medium. Why even buy a burger if you’re gonna go above medium! you might as well chew on a charcoal briquet.

Weekend update

A GLORIOUS weekend.

In sports: Mets clinched, Yankees lost, and my Wolverines are 6-0 and have moved up to the number 4 spot in the country. Sweet.

In food, I checked out the new Max Brenner that’s opened up on 14th and Broadway. The food was EXCELLENT! However, the service was awful. Our waittress was testy and obnoxious, and when she screwed up an order and it was obviously her fault, she tried (but ultimately failed) to place the blame on one of us. When my friend cancelled his original order to order something else, she instead accidentally cancelled another friend’s order. Instead of owning up to it and letting it go, however, she tried to say it was our fault. Also, only one of us had been there before, and he mentioned that every time the wait staff takes newbie orders, they tell the “Max Brenner” story. Well, we never found out what that was, because she had no idea what we were talking about. Apparently she was the only waittress that didn’t know the history of the franchise, and she was rude about her ignorance. My friend said that every single time he has been there in the past the waiter has told the story. Ah well. Missing forks from the table, inadequate water replenishment, and ‘back sass’ all contributed to her sub-10% tip. She was lucky to get anything at all. We will definitely go back again, and will make a point to avoid that waittress, if she is still employed when we return.

In clubbin’: Went to Aer, Park, and Earth. They’re all right by each other so why not? Also went to Serena, and 230 Fifth. Good times at all of those joints.

In movies: I saw two Lisa Ray films in one weekend, having never seen her before in my life. The first was Quarterlife Crisis. This movie was, in a word, awful. The characters were pallid and one-dimensional, the plot vehicles were hackneyed and obvious, and none of the jokes came off well, if it was in fact a comedy, which I am not convinced about. Maybe a tragi-comedy. They even had the gall to steal an entire scene (the speed dating scene) from 40 Year Old Virgin. Finally, every shot of New York was a cutaway to Times Square. When they are driving in a taxi, Times Square. A second drive through the city to pick up a random girl, Times Square. Random cutaway shots of the city interspersed through the film? You guessed it, Times Square again. Enough already! We get that the movie was filmed in New York. To say that the director was no Michael Mann would be an understatement.

The second was Water [SPOILERS]. In an earlier post, I mentioned wanting to see this movie. Well, I finally saw it. The movie was just short of great. One of the things I liked most about the movie was what it didn’t show. I agreed with the director that the prostitution and child molestation that occurs in the movie did not need to be seen to be felt. I thought not showing these horrific scenes made these events in the movie even more haunting than if they had shown them, and I thought a lesser director would have pandered to the shock value. Kudos to Deepa Mehta on that point. That said, there were some flaws. The relationship between the Kalyani and Narayan was wooden and not credible, and I think that the actors were a bit weak. Perhaps Ray, a model (and a beautiful one at that), has spent too much time appearing emotionless on the runway, and she fails to switch gears for this film. I have heard that her diction was poor too, though I am not a good judge. That John Abraham‘s character Narayan doesn’t shed a tear for his fiance upon her death was another example of either character or actor weakness. In the end, I thought the film did not live up to its potential, but I did think it was a near-great film, and would still recommend it.

I also saw Infernal Affairs, upon which the recent film The Departed is based. This film is EXCELLENT. A definite must-see. At first I wasn’t buying it, but it definitely got more believable as the movie went on. Andy Lau is excellent, as is Tony Leung. I heard from friends that The Departed didn’t deliver, but I plan to see it anyway just to compare.

In other news: I went to the Guitar Center this Sunday, and it was as my friend put it, the most fun I’ve ever had on a Sunday EVER! I was just going along with a friend who wanted to buy a keyboard, ended up buying some replacement guitar strings (which I broke already when restringing, UGH!) and playing around with the instruments. But what really had us going for 2 hours of non-stop fun were the keyboards with the built in synths. We started playing them, and were AMAZED at how easy it is to make music with them! All you have to do is play one note, and the keyboard incorporates tons of other instruments to make an entire song! We felt like Oakenfold afterwards. I KNEW Kanye and Pharrell weren’t as talented as they are trumpeted to be! The thing was so damn easy! Within thirty seconds we had already figured out how to play the Yung Joc song, “Meet me in the trap.” Needless to say, the sales staff was in love with us. They just love it when you mess around with their instruments. I think me and my boys are going to start a music production company. Tentative name: The Trap. That way when we go to the studio we can all say, “Meet me in the TRAP! ITS GOIN’ DOWN!” Sweet. It’ll go great with my fake band, the World’s Fattest Twins.

Rene Pujol

Ah Restaurant Week! Yesterday I went to Rene Pujol, a traditional French restaurant. I had what may be the best bargain available in the city right now. For about 50 bucks, two of us got to sample some of the best cooking this side of Paris. Here is what we got:

Warm Garlic Sausage With Lentil Bean Salad. Very, very good.
Mini-cheese Ravioli In a Light Chicken Broth With Mushroom and Cilantro. This was flat out excellent. The broth was savory and I wanted more when it was gone.
I should mention that the table bread was impressive. It came out hot, with a thin hard crust on the outside, and delicate and flaky on the inside. It seemed to melt in your mouth.

Fresh Flounder Sauteed Meuniere With Lemon Emulsion. Standard, though delicious. Served simply and elegantly with assorted vegetables which were prepared expertly. The fish was delicate and moist.
Pan-Seared Atlantic Salmon With Steamed Spinach & Whole Grain Mustard Sauce. Highly recommended.

Pear Sorbet. I had to be good. It was definitely tasty, though not decadent like the other dessert offered.
Brownie with Ice Cream. This was one of the richest brownies I’ve ever tasted. You could taste the sin. Totally worth it though.

The damage? about 50 bucks, making it one of the best deals in the city right now. The service was par excellence. I never saw my glass empty, we weren’t rushed, and they were quick to respond to any of our requests. Their service was just plain flawless. I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone, Restaurant Week or otherwise.

Brasserie Ruhlmann

I had lunch today at Brasserie Ruhlmann, since it is one of the few places left in Midtown I haven’t been to (thank you, summer associates!). Anyway, BR got great reviews on Menupages, and a good review on Zagat, though its still too new for number ratings yet.

What we had:
Table Bread – average to subpar. Someone should tell these people that Land O’Lakes is not French. Ho hum.
Shrimp Cocktail – scant portions (what is it with restaurants and the three shrimp maximum?). For 14 bucks, 3 shrimp is a rip-off for lunch. Tastewise, it was nothing worth writing home about. The cocktail sauce was on the side. The presentation was cool (sitting on a globe of ice) but not worth it.
Tuna tartare – generous portions. Also good presentation.
The French Onion Soup looked good but I didn’t try it. It’s a bit tough to share soup, you know.
Lamb Sandwich. Pretty good. Generous portions, the lamb was tender and cooked just right (not well done), and it was very flavorful. However, the bread was far too thick and crusty. They should be using a thinner, more delicate bread. Haven’t they learned by now that no one wants huge bread on their sandwiches? Especially for a meat as delicate as lamb, their hard, thick, crusty loaves were not doing the trick.
Kobe Burger – A disappointment. Though medium on the inside (as instructed), it was charcoal on the outside. It looked like it caused cancer.
Another colleague got the Steak Sandwich and said it was good. I think that one came with thinner bread. God knows the justification for thick bread on lamb, thin on steak.

I must point out that the service was ATROCIOUS. We waited for our appetizers for a decent amount, but then we waited more than twenty (20) minutes for our entrees after they had cleared our appetizer plates! Our glasses were never refilled, and after we had finished our meal, we waited another (!) twenty minutes before we gave up and started hailing waiters to come give us the check. The original waiter who served us for the first half of our meal disappeared without warning. I left a scant tip (9%), because I beleive you should reward great service and punish bad service. I get that BR is new and maybe they are still working out the kinks, but I went to Morimoto opening week and their service was flawless. It wasn’t particularly busy either. We spent TWO hours on a lunch that could have taken half the time, and that is without dessert, which we gave up on after realizing we’d probably be getting melted ice cream since they took so long to get us everything.

Total bill? $170 for four people, or about 42.50 for appetizers, entrees, and a couple of iced teas, and no dessert.

Bottom line? Not worth the trouble. There are far too many good French restaurants in Midtown to be wasting your time here. I’ll be letting Zagat know too.


Last night we went to Cookshop, a restaurant we’ve been meaning to go to for a while. Normally, it’s quite difficult to get a reservation there, but because we went early (a little before 6pm), we were able to snag one of the tables by the bar that is reserved for walk-ins. At the recommendation of New York Magazine, we had the fried spiced hominy (I am almost positive they use Indian curry powder for the spice), and the spit roasted rabbit over grits. We also had the beet salad with shaved parmesan and (I believe) diced onions, florida shrimp over white and green string beans, and a special, the red snapper. The hominy was great, the rabbit was a bit less delicate than I was hoping, and the shrimp tasted good but the portions were scant (three shrimp). The snapper was just ok. We had a great chardonnay though – a Bricco al Sole Piedmont 2004 ($30). No idea where to find it! The table bread was also exceptional. Finally, we had the brioche doughnuts with blueberry compote and a scoop of buttermilk ice cream. Outstanding. The doughnuts were warm, the buttermilk ice cream rich, and the blueberry compote almost made us want to lick the plate. I should point out that the service was exemplary. Everything came in good time and the wait staff (including our waiter, Kevin) was very attentive and eager to help.

Get: the fried spiced hominy, brioche doughnuts with blueberry compote
Skip: the snapper, rabbit, beet salad, and florida shrimp.

Wine, Wine and More Wine

So this weekend we went wine tasting in the North Fork of Long Island, and it stirred up my wine bug. Recently, I have realized that going into a wine store is generally a tedious and uninformed process, and when I come home with a forgettable $15 wine, I feel cheated when I finally drink it, because of opportunity cost – i.e. could I have gotten a better $15 wine? Its the classic problem of wine pricing – the fact that no one knows if they are getting a good value.

Thus, I started going online. The Interweb is the best thing to happen to good wine stores, because they can cross reference their prices with commentary, or even better, Wine Spectator or Robert Parker ratings. This makes wine selecting feel less like a complete shot in the dark.

I started to use Morrell’s Wine because (i) a friend recommended it, (ii) it’s the most famous one, and (iii) it has a section on there telling you what the most popular wines being sold on the site are. That is invaluable to me – it is sort of like an IMDB rating for wine (which they need to start sometime). This way, I can let other, smarter, more informed people tell me which wines are worth buying.

The wines I ordered from Morrell were

Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2005, $7
Fontenelle Premieres Cotes de Blaye 2000, $7
Reserve Saint Martin Chardonnay 2004, $7
Reserve St Martin Cabernet Sauvignon Val dOrbieu 2003, $7
Babich Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2005, $12
Clos Robert Cabernet North Coast 2004, $12
Chateau Vieux Champs de Mars Cuvee Johanna Cotes de Castillon 2000, $15
Prosecco Rustico Nino Franco Italy, $15

The only one worth getting, in my opinion was the Babich Sauv Blanc. That wine is terrific. The rest were all meh. Look, I know my palette is not so developed that I can tell the difference between a $100 wine and a $200 wine. I can probably tell the difference between a $10 wine and a $40 wine at this point though. And generally, I stay in the sub $30 range.

In any case, I found that many wines that I want that I’ve had in restaurants or elsewhere weren’t showing up on Morrell (I am still looking for a wine store that carries that Big Fire Pinot Gris I was talking about the other day). So what are the other good NY Wine stores? Dr. Vino, a wine guy, has a great resource – a New York Wine Stores Guide using Google Maps.

So I tried Astor Wines, Vintage Wines, and Union Square Wine, but no those websites are just ok. Dr. Vino also mentioned PJ’s Wine Warehouse, and I actually just made an order. PJ Wine might replace Morrell for me. Like Morrell, they have free shipping over $100. Often, I found that the same wine was cheaper at PJ than at Morrell. Finally, they have a top value page for different price ranges. I got some of Dr. Vino’s reccommendations, and I bought some of PJ’s recommendations as well.

In addition to getting more Babich Sauv Blanc, these are the wines I ordered:

2004 Sorbus Malbec, Blend with Cabernet, $6
2004 Pillar Box Red Blend, Cab, Syrah Blend, $9
2004 Andalhue Malbec, Organic, $10
2003 Artazu Spanish Red, Artazuri/ Garnacha, $8
2005 Columbia Crest Riesling, $7
2004 Finca Luzon Spanish Red, Jumilla, $8
2005 Finca Luzon Spanish Red, Jumilla/ Monastrell, $6
2004 Wiest, Rudi Riesling, Rhein River, $9
2005 Hogue Riesling, Johannisberg, $7
2004 Ste Michelle, Chateau Riesling, Johannisberg, $8

I’ll let you know if any of them are worth trying.