Anniversary weekend 2013

My anniversary came at a good time this year, landing on the day my deliverables were due for the quarter, which means that despite rushing in to work Sunday night to finish a couple of odds and ends, I finally had some time off this weekend. So we kicked off our celebration a couple days early by heading out of town on Friday in order to go to…. Brooklyn. I know, I know… I got a lot of eyebrow raises when I told my friends as well, but honestly it was a place I always wanted to spend more time in, but just seemed too far away to make an effort.

So Friday night started off with a check in at Nu Hotel, the most awesome place in that it came with a room service list with more mixed drinks than food, a free continental breakfast, chalk board wall in the bathroom, AND a hammock! The only downside… it was located across from the Brooklyn detention center. Say WHAT?! At least with all the cops swarming around, you felt protected.

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That hammock was dangerous! I sat in it while waiting for Ryan for 5 minutes. I woke up 2 hours later.

Saturday started out with a stroll through the brooklyn heights promenade with gorgeous views of Manhattan. This picture doesn’t show it but there was free kayaking going on below – although free meant huge line!

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Next up was a brunch (okay they really open for lunch but we made it our breakfast) at new eatery Brooklyn Crab in Red Hook. AND we got there by taking the bus. This is not a huge feat for most but I hate the bus. I grimace and complain at the big cities that don’t have subway (or above ground) transportation systems (I’m looking at you LA) but I hate taking the bus. Mostly because I never know when I’m supposed to get off or where I should go to catch one. It’s all very confusing to me. I got off at the wrong stop in San Francisco several times which resulted in many glorious calorie burning moments as I climbed up all their hills. But, clean signage, clean (and wonderfully air-conditioned) busses AND the google maps app on my phone (this might have been my first bus ride since owning a smart phone) and I was hooked. I was actually super disappointed to find out I would have to take a subway ride back to Manhattan the next day instead of hopping on a bus.

As for Brooklyn Crab, it’s a super cute new place that opened across from the Red Hook Fairway and don’t just serve up food but mini golf and corn holes as well.

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The big sell of the day seemed to be their King Crab legs but they also had Maryland blue crabs. We were a little to lazy to do all that work and ended up with crab and oyster sandwiches. But it was all delicious.

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Needing to walk off our gorgefest we headed up a little ways to the Valentino Jr Park. I had googled “romantic things to do in Brooklyn” and one thing that popped up was this park due to its small grassy area, pier for fishing off of, and views of the front of the Statue of Liberty. It was so cute and the end of the pier there was indeed several fishermen catching their dinner for the night.

For our own dinner we headed off to a cute little french caribbean place called Kaz An Nou in Prospect Heights that is revered for their jerk chicken and sweet, homey-style service. I myself went with their goat cheese souffle, which was out of this world. The one negative is that since it’s such a small place and they don’t take reservations, there is usually a long wait. As I’m not a huge fan of waiting we showed up at the god-awful early dinner time of 5:30, right when the restaurant opened. There was hardly anyone there and we were seated immediately. Fast forward 30 minutes and the lines had started. Oh it’s also cash only, so bring your moolah.

I’d say that’s enough about food for this post but really the only other two main things we did this weekend in Brooklyn was to stop in at the Ample Hill Creamery for ice cream and spend our Sunday morning at Smorgasburg, a Sunday pop-up food-tent thingy (I’m awesome with descriptors today) at DUMBO. Everything from lumpia, asian tacos, and bolivian sandwiches to donuts, bbq, lobster rolls AND maple syrup covered bacon was served

The bolivian tent even had a Chuck Norris seal of approval.

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Last up on anniversary weekend 2013 was heading out of Brooklyn and up to Times Square to see The Book of Mormon. We wanted to see it for our anniversary last year and tried to obtain tickets the month before. They had only premium seating left at that time going for around $400 per ticket. Thanks but no thanks.

So in July 2012 I bought tickets for our 2013 anniversary for a much more reasonable price! So after waiting years to see it, how was it? It was okay. My dad went to see it and hated it because he was offended by all the swearing. I didn’t have a problem with that (in fact, probably because I swear a lot but I barely noticed it) but it just didn’t compare in my book to some of the other musicals out there (like my all time favorite Wicked). But I did learn so much about the Mormon faith through the musical, though I did have to do a little fact checking afterwards to figure out what was true. Considering that most of my knowledge about Mormonism before this came from South Park, that means that Matt Stone and Trey Parker are my two biggest teachers on the subject!

A Restaurant a Week: Nougatine

Hey, 3 weeks of sticking to my new blogitty-blog goal, not bad. This week we are back in NYC at one of Jean-Georges. Nougatine was crazy nice but is still the Café Boulud to the Daniel, the Bouchon to the Per Se, the McDonald’s cheeseburger to the $26 Minetta Tavern Black Label Burger. So that being said, it was a little strange that Nougatine shared the same entrance way as Jean-Georges. I’m really just bringing this up so you won’t get confused. Both restaurants are located in the Trump International Hotel & Tower and there are signs for Jean-Georges everywhere, but Nougatine’s signage is mysteriously absent. That’s just to make you feel extra special!

We were probably the most annoying table there that night, first we held up the ordering process waiting for Ryan to appear (Ryan was having the weekend from hell, first with his iPhone being stolen, then after missing his train and catching a ride with a friend the car died in the middle of the highway… it was not a good weekend for him), then once everyone was there we said we wanted to share everything family style and we also needed to be out of there reasonably quick to make it to a Broadway play. But they handled every request very gracefully, did everything we asked, and we made it with a lot of time to spare to our play.

But onward to the food.

First up was an amuse bouche of homemade mozzarella and asparagus soup. I posted this picture to my foursquare check-in and immediately got comments asking what was that delicious-looking dish. It wasn’t just delicious-looking, there was a delicious-tasting factor going on as well.

As for our shared appetizers, there was:

Scallop Sashimi, Chipotle Mayo, Crispy Rice

Foie Gras Brule with a Strawberry Jam (We actually got two orders of this because it was readily agreed that my dad and I would fight to the death for as much as possible. This was true, even with two orders on the table we weren’t keen to be sharing.)

Soft Shell Crab with Sugar Snap Pea Remoulade This was the dish that put soft shell crab on the map for me, something that countless other restaurants (including French Laundry ~ though theirs was very good) were not able to do.

Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad

And now you get a photo break because at this point I became so enamored of the food that I stopped taking pictures, but if you want suggestions, the table ordered 1) Caramelized Beef Tenderloin with Organic Carrots and Miso Mustard, 2) Pan Roasted Cod with Mashed Herbs and Lime Compote, and 3) Salmon Baked with Lemon Crumbs with Sweet Chili Glaze and Swiss Chard. I actually selected the Beef Tenderloin and Salmon but my favorite by far was the Cod ~ goes to show I don’t know my own taste buds.

HawaiiGurlinCT rating:  (4.5)

I conferred with my main adviser (read: Ryan) who offered up 4 stars. When I asked why not 5 he said that he wasn’t blown away with it like French Laundry. But, I added my little ume musubi (1/2 star) because it did get me to like soft shell crabs.

David Burke Townhouse: truffle mousse wishes and bubble gum whipped cream dreams

Our Corton dinner was followed up the next night with a dinner at David Burke’s Townhouse, a restaurant that made the list after seeing it on Top Chef.  At first I thought the maitre d’ seemed snooty, which was a change after the nice service with had at Corton, but he seemed to warm up as the night went on.

I did like their “specials” menu, after I finally understood that they listed their specials on the right and then conceptualized the plate on the left.  However, one of my favorite foods from that night was the bread, a huge puffy bowl of it for each person.  Delish!

Everything on the menu looked so interesting and different that I kind of wished they were smaller plates so that I could order a bunch of items, but this is what we ended up with:

Pastrami Salmon and Buckwheat Blinis with horseradish crème fraiche, endive, and orange mustarda.

Parfait of Big Eye Tuna and Salmon Tartares with soy glaze, spicy mayonnaise, and crème fraiche.

Pretzel crusted crabcake with tomato orange chutney and poppy seed honey.

Sea scallops, roasted salsify, morel mushroom a la grecque, and foie gras sabayon.

Handmade cavatelli and braised short ribs with wild mushrooms, mushroom chips and truffle mousse.

Dessert cheesecake tree with bubblegum whipped cream.

According to chowhound and yelp, the tree seemed to be a hit or miss.  I for one thought bubblegum whipped cream was one of the most wonderful things I have ever tasted while Ryan thought it was one of the worst.  Fine, more for me then!

Corton: Let the eating begin…

A couple weekends ago it was my dad’s annual visit to Manhattan which meant food and Broadway overload, starting with a dinner at Corton. I’ve been dying to eat at this place ever since I read about it on Casey Culture (this is a girl after my own heart when it comes to restaurants). I showed Ryan her review of the restaurant the night before and he started laughing, saying, “I see why you want to eat there.” There was a lot of Foie Gras dishes listed Now normally I’m all about crazy, long tasting menus but the shorter version sounded a lot better. Plus it was pretty late when we started eating and we all were pretty tired. Ryan got stuck on the train due to a torrential downpour and I had to call to bump back our reservations by 30 minutes. And then we showed up 15 minutes late on top of that. But through it all the staff was nothing but courteous and sweet. We started with a trio of amuse bouche: crackers filled with mornay sauce, potato croquettes with parmesan, and a corn gelee. Bread was served with Unsalted Cow’s Milk Butter and a Wakame Seaweed Butter. Our first dish from the menu was a duo of peekytoe crab, combava, and corn veloute and an oyster in seawater gelee on top of a preserved mandarin orange. Foie Gras with Beet Borscht Gelee, Cherry, served with toasted brioche and black olive and apricot butter. Striped Bass with avocado, sorrel puree, purple artichoke, vanilla, and summer truffle. Guinea Hen with Ruby Red Shrimp, Spring Garlic, Tarragon, and Hyssop. Wagyu Flatiron Beef and Asparagus in a Peanut Tamarind Sauce and a potato side dish. Coconut Kaffir Lime with Basil Seed and Golden Pineapple. Smoked Caramel with Popcorn, Brown Butter Crumble, and Blackberry. That was it for everything on the menu however our waitress came over with trays of tiny bites of heaven for us to sample to our hearts content. My favorite were the mohito and pims cup macaroons.

The other week I was scrolling through Tumblr restaurant posts for NYC, trying to figure out the perfect restaurant to visit next when I stumbled upon countless posts for the amazing grilled cheese sandwich at Resto.  Well that was that, I had to try it.  Except I couldn’t find it on their regular dinner menu.  Was it a fluke?  Nope, turns out this amazing grilled cheese is listed on the Sunday Brunch menu.  Okay, breakfast it is and with that we headed off the other Sunday to the restaurant whose motto is “bringing back fat” – totally my kind of place.

I started with deviled eggs on pork toast before moving on to the main course.

Resto’s grilled cheese is made with vermont chedder, gruyere, bacon, and… (drum roll please) pork belly.  Eek!  I was so excited.  Except once I got the sandwich I was more like… Eh.  What was with these places?  I keep trying to visit these restaurants with their amazing grilled cheeses and I’m always disappointed.  So the more I thought about it the more I realized, it’s not them it’s me.  I like my grilled cheese as follows: bread, 2 slices of kraft american cheese, bread, grill – maybe fancy it up with some truffle oil, but that’s it.  This high class cheese with trendy meat and fresh bread is just not for me.  So I’ll definitely go back to Resto, but I’ll probably go for my typical breakfast companion, the eggs benedict, instead.

Afternoon Tea at Cha-an

The other weekend, impelled by a TimeOut New York article on ways to keep warm in the city, and by the fact that I wasn’t warm, I persuaded ryan to accompany me to Cha-an for some afternoon tea, Japanese style.

Their menu read like the book that is the Cheesecake Factory Menu but for the most part, the pages were about the different teas you could order, with just a couple pages for food.  I went with the afternoon tea special (served until 7 PM) which included 2 mini sandwiches,

And an assortment of desserts.

I loved the tea and the mini sandwiches but the dessert was a bit much.  Though this had a lot more to do with me not being the hugest sweets fan than anything else.  Don’t get me wrong, I eat A LOT of chocolate, I just like to mix it up with salt and vinegar chips.  So an entire basket of goodies just for me was a little overwelming.

Though we also ordered some dumplings for the table tea bar, so that helped space it out.

All in all, I give it  musubis and plan on going back!