January 22, 2014

Friend of a Farmer

I met my friend Jen for an early dinner at Friend of a Farmer.

We started with some of their trademark cornbread, topped with a spiced apple layer. This will keep you coming back for one more bite!

My entree was the peppered tuna with vegetables. This was perfectly cooked, but so absolutely overpowered by the cracked pepper that it's all I could taste. I scraped off most of the outside layer. 

A side of roasted Brussels sprouts for added veggies- these were pretty good.

Jen ordered another seafood dish: blackened trout over risotto. This was excellent, and so much better than my dish! 

Our dinners were light enough to leave us room for dessert: fresh fruit with a maple cream glaze. (Low light by the time this arrived). The fruit was good, but the maple cream glaze was incredible. I would have loved to have more than the two tablespoons they gave us, but it was easily the best thing I tasted all night. 
Overall, I wasn't crazy about my meal, thought it is a lovely location and I enjoyed the company. If I go back, I'll be sticking to breakfast!

Friend of a Farmer
77 Irving Pl
New York, NY 10003
(212) 477-2188

January 20, 2014

Peanut Butter & Co.

A college friend of mine was visiting NYC with her family, and ABF & I decided to meet them in the West Village for a kitschy and tasty lunch at Peanut Butter & Co., a family/tourist/tastebud friendly spot that's been around for quite some time.
Tourist & Family-friendly fare! 

It's a small space, but we managed to snag some seats in the back for our group of 6.

Peanut Butter & Company makes their own peanut butter, as well as peanut butter spreads, and they will make just about any sandwich concoction you want. I ended up going with my standby: creamy peanut butter with raspberry preserves on whole wheat bread. My only mistake? I forgot to ask them to cut off the crusts (yes, they will do this)!

I also ordered a coffee milkshake because, well, I wanted one! It was creamy, with a strong coffee flavor and lots of sugar in there. This would later come to haunt me...but we'll continue. You can also get a glass of milk if that's your thing (I will MAKE that my thing next time).

ABF got the Elvis: peanut butter, bananas, and bacon, all fried in a pan. I wasn't feeling too adventurous, so I declined his offer of a bite. However, this is one of their most popular sandwiches-- I'm just an odd duck.

As we finished our sandwiches, we decided to all get some sweet treats to end the meal. Here's where caused myself some trouble- quickly forgetting the liquid sugar bomb of a shake I just had, I thought it would be a GREAT idea to have the brownie sundae and share it with ABF. What was I thinking!? Clearly I was all hopped up on sugar. Well, that sundae was SO good that I kept taking 'just one more bite,' unaware that I was bringing myself ever closer to the stomachache of a lifetime.

Everything we ate was quite tasty-- like comfort food without having to do your own dishes. However, if I had a do-over (and how I wish I did), I would have skipped the shake and saved room for the sundae instead. Sometimes you really CAN have too much of a good thing.
Peanut Butter & Co.
240 Sullivan Street
New York, NY 10012

January 17, 2014

Doughnut Plant

If you love Doughnuts, if you even kind of LIKE them, you simply MUST swing by one of the Doughnut Plant's locations. Before this visit, I'd only been to the Chelsea area location, and taken them to-go. This time I went to their original spot on Grand street with my friend LaShauna, who was visiting for her birthday. We squeezed in time for a quick coffee for me, chai for LaShauna, and sweet treat before LaShauna had to leave. Oh, what a delicious visit we had this time, didn't we?
Their coffee is strong and smooth-- I loved my latte. LaShauna had their hot chai (not pictured).

They have yeast, cake and doughseed donuts, and we tried one of each: the peanut butter & jelly, the creme brulée, and tres leches. The fabulous, fabulous tres leches.

Creme Brulée
Creme Brulée's custardy insides
I always forget how tiny the creme brulée is-- two bites, TOPS. If you are trying to get as many doughnuts as you can, sure, share this, but you probably will want one all to yourself. The crackly bruléed top, the fluffy doughnut, and the sweet custard are a trifecta of fabulous flavors.

We also shared a doughseed that was a PB & J, with strawberry jam, and a peanut butter doughnut flecked in chopped peanut pieces. This was great, of course, as I've never had a bad doughnut there.

The showstopper, however, is the tres leches donut. How do they make this masterpiece of physics and flavor? It's cloaked in a gorgeous glaze that almost crackles like a piece of pottery- the doughnut inside is light and chewy, and the filling is perfect.
Tres Leches, man. Tres Leches.
How do they take everything about a tres leches cake and squeeze it into doughnut form? I don't know.. THEY JUST DO. This is a must-taste every time I go there.
It's obviously pretty pricey if you compare it to a Dunkin Donuts or other shop, but worth every penny. They're not just lumps of dough thrown into a bunch of oil-- they're edible art, and you'll remember them long after you dusted away the last delicious crumb.

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 505-3700

January 14, 2014

Butter Midtown

While LaShauna was in town for her birthday, we wanted to find a fabulous spot for a celebration dinner. Alex Guarnaschelli's Butter Midtown had opened recently, and it was on the top of my proverbial List.

We got a reservation for 7 and showed up pretty early. They weren't able to seat us right away (nor did we expect them to), so we got a seat at the spacious, welcoming bar. These bar seats are fabulously comfy, and we could take in the whole restaurant, which features communal seating as well as luxurious booths.

Our bartender, Devon, set us up right away with drinks: the Anjou & Forelle for me (pear liqueur, pear vodka, and a pear garnish) and the Calamansi (Grey Goose Vodka, fresh watermelon 'ice cubes,' mint, and Calamansi lime juice) for LaShauna. Cocktails are $15 each.

That pear cocktail was so delicious-- not too sweet, full pear flavor, and a perfectly crunchy slice of pear on the outside. I could easily have had another, but then we saw Devon make a mojito with elderflower liqueur-- and that was our second round.
Devon was great-- attentive, while working with a lot of customers, and he makes a perfect cocktail.

It was about 20 minutes past our seating time and we hadn't been called to our table, so we checked in ourselves. They sat us a few minutes later at a booth. This is when service went from stellar to sadly spotty.
We eventually got some bread and butter (herbed and salted--both stellar), and just about pounced on that.
We ordered one more cocktail (oh be quiet), another Elderflower mojito. The young woman taking our order asked if we wanted the Mount Gay mojito. I clarified that it was the one Devon made with elderflower. She looked a bit confused, but nodded...and came
back with 2 Mount Gay mojitos. We took a sip and decided that these would not work. We actually sent them back to the bar-- something I've never done!

They replaced our drinks quickly, and we tore into our appetizers.
I went with the Welsh Rarebit, which at Butter Midtown, is a toasted pullman bread with melted Wisconsin cheddar & ale sauce. The wholegrain mustard was strong and in the forefront, but it didn't overpower the delicious cheese and ale flavors, either.

LaShauna's app was the ricotta crostini-- 3 crunchy bits of bread with housemade ricotta, hen of the woods mushrooms and toasted, crackly brussels sprouts leaves. It was a small portion, but LaShauna still shared it with me. I could have eaten a bowl of those leaves, and I'm still wholly undecided on brussels sprouts in general!

LaShauna had a pork chop special for her entrée, and she loved every last bite of it.
My entrée was the wild boar, over toasted fregola (a Sardinian pasta similar to couscous, but even better, I think) and sautéed kohlrabi, which I'd never had before, but enjoyed. I tried cutting into the meat and it felt incredibly tough, but I kept sawing away. It took me a few seconds to realize the twine was still tied around the meat. Oops! Once I removed that (it was a bit tricky/messy), I cleaned my plate. Squeaky clean. I hate to say the boar tasted 'gamey,' because that's a word that normally has a negative connotation in my book, but it was definitely different from my usual fare and quite tasty. It was supremely tender (minus the twine) and expertly done.
We also had an order of fingerling potatoes ($10), and there was more than enough to share for 2. These were so delicious and craveable that I kept eating even when I knew I was getting full. The perfect texture, seasoning, and size. Bravo.
We pushed through and MADE room for dessert. I ordered the Dobosch torte: multiple layers of sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with a caramel drizzle that gave it a buttery flavor and a fabulous crunch (with a little sea salt to boot). The textures alone kept me coming back for bite after bite. I'd probably share this next time, but I would definitely order it again.
LaShauna's dessert was the house made S'more. This one definitely was NOT very shareable, but she still gave me a bite. It was FLAWLESS. My only wish is that there were more of them!
I had mentioned in both OpenTable (online reservation program) and to our server that we were celebrating LaShauna's birthday, but they still forgot a candle or sparkler or whatever they normally do for a special occasion. I was definitely more disappointed than LaShauna was, but I still wish the servers paid a bit more attention overall. This was not a cheap meal, and I definitely felt like we were getting service that was subpar compared to the on-point food and drinks.
TL;DR: Service is spotty- we actually wish we'd stayed at the bar. Despite my mentioning it twice (in Open Table and to the server), they still forgot about LaShauna's birthday, and we waited a long time for placing orders, getting food, and getting the bill. Everyone was nice, it just seemed a bit.. off. I'd go back at least once more, but I'd definitely eat at the bar.

Butter Midtown
70 W 45th St
New York, NY 10036
(212) 253-2828

January 10, 2014

Jazz Brunch: Langan's

Back when I worked in the TV news world, my coworkers & I passed many a happy hour at Langan's, steps away from our office, subway stops, Times Square, etc.

My friend LaShauna was visiting that weekend and had just scored tickets for After Midnight (starring Dulé Hill of Psych fame- GO SEE IT!) It was pouring rain, cold outside, and she went to the nearest spot, Langan's.

It just so happens they also have a lovely jazz brunch on Sundays: 15.95 for an entrée and a drink (mimosa, Bloody Mary, champagne)! And all the while, you enjoy the lovely, soothing sounds of jazz. Not the erratic up-and-down jazz that isn't really my style, but the soothing, rhythmic type.

A bread basket came out right away, and the chocolate-chip studded slices were just as tasty as you might suspect. I toyed with the idea of getting more, but decided to remain mature and civilized.

LaShauna ordered their French toast, which came with fruit compote and nothing else. She asked for maple syrup (which they quickly brought), only to take one bite and say "Wow, this doesn't even NEED syrup." High praise, indeed!

I ordered the Eggs Benedict. It came with the usual Canadian bacon & Hollandaise sauce, and a side of home fries that had onions aplenty (I love onions), and a side of mixed greens with just the right touch of dressing. The Hollandaise sauce was very lemony, which was different from what I'm used to, but still good. The greens were amazing, and the eggs were perfectly poached!!

Times Square is famous for having lots of overpriced, overrated food, but you can't really beat brunch (and a drink!) for less than 20 bucks (don't forget to tip)!


150 W 47th St

New York, NY 10036

(212) 869-5482

January 08, 2014

Mad Dog & Beans

ABF & I met up for a mid-week dinner at Mad Dog & Beans Mexican Cantina, an upscale Mexican spot along historic Stone Street (in NYC's Financial District).

We'd eaten there quite a few years ago when MD&B first opened, and I remember thinking it was just okay with the food, but they made excellent margaritas.

This visit, however, renewed our interest. We started with a Negro Modelo for ABF, and I ordered the blood orange margarita. This was beautifully presented, a generous serving, and had a sweet vs sour battle where sour was almost winning- in the most delectable way. Even ABF, who doesn't fall under the magic of margaritas, was impressed.

Next, a bowl of guacamole, which I loooove but ABF can take or leave (what? I know, right? More for me!) We ordered it medium spicy, but it was very mild, heat-wise. Flavor-wise, it was one of the best guacamoles either one of us has tasted. Perfectly ripe avocado, strong but smooth fresh lime flavor, just enough texture to make it interesting. We scraped every last morsel out of that dish!!

ABF ordered his favorite- Enchiladas Suizas: shredded chicken with a zingy tomatillo sauce. Fabulous.

I got a little fancy and went for the Tampiquena: skirt steak with roasted onions & peppers, and a cheese enchilada on the side. It also came with rice & beans.

Everything was so good! I don't know what's changed there, but the food went from just good to dy-no-mite. I took half my plate home for dinner the next night and yep, you guessed it: even more of a flavor party!

This visit definitely made us re-evaluate Mad Dog & Beans- and might I add- the guacamole, at 12 dollars, was several dollars cheaper (and SO much BETTER) than you'll find at many other spots around town (I'm looking at you, Rosa Mexicano!)

Mad Dog & Beans

83 Pearl St

New York, NY 10004

(212) 269-1177

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