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Category Archives: Food

New York Restaurant Week this winter runs from January 23rd to February 10th, 2017.  Restaurants that participate can offer a lunch prix fixe for $29.00 and a dinner prix fixe for $42.00.  Some restaurants offer only lunch or dinner, some offer both.  Some of the restaurant prix fixe are better deals than others (some are no better than the menu the rest of the year).  Tavern62 by David Burke is offering its whole menu as part of Restaurant Week, not just a limited prix fixe menu.  Tavern62 is located on East 62nd Street in the same townhouse where David Burke previously had restaurants davidburke & donatella and Fishtail

The menu includes some of David Burke’s signature dishes, like Pastrami Salmon, Candied Bacon and his cheesecake lollipop tree.  The menu on the restaurant’s website hasn’t been updated, yet.

Everyone starts with a mini muffin.  Butter is served on a small block of Himalayan salt.

I started with the Tuna Poke–light and fresh.

My companion had the clothesline candied bacon.  It comes with scissors.

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My companion’s main course was the bacon ravioli (yes, a bacon-themed meal). It looks like ravioli in a creamy cheesy sauce, but what you can’t tell from looking at it is how smoky and complex the flavors were.  It was an absolutely unique and delicious dish.

Going with a lighter, fishier theme, I had the roasted branzino.  Again, it looks like a simple dish, but the veracruz sauce had tons of flavor and unexpected heat.  The fish was moist and perfectly cooked.

We shared the pecan tart and the smores cake for dessert.

All in all, it was definitely one of the best restaurant lunches I’ve had in a while.  And Tavern62 by David Burke offers a great selection and value for restaurant week. I’ve already made another reservation–if the menu stays the same, I already know what I will order:  the chowder and the bacon ravioli.

The maitre d’s check-in desk also displays Burke’s fondness for Himalayan salt.  The restaurant also has some walls made of Himalayan salt.

 

 


It is Restaurant Week in New York (from July 25-August 19,2016) so it was time to figure out which restaurants were offering nice prix fixe menus ($29 lunch or $42 dinner)–ones that are not normally available outside of restaurant week.  I had lunch at The Clocktower shortly after they opened some months back.  It is a beautiful restaurant and I was happy to see that they were doing a restaurant week lunch. Their normal lunch prix fixe is $39.  

The restaurant week menu offers a choice of three appetizers, three mains and two desserts. I went pescatarian, ordering the fluke crudo to start followed by fish and chips. 

I enjoyed my lunch, but I was very surprised by the fluke crudo. Rather than being cold and raw, it was hot. At first I thought the waiter had delivered the wrong dish. I asked and was told it was “lightly poached.”  The dish was tasty but not what I expected and even a little well done.   It ended up being too similar to my main course–both were cooked fish over something deep green. 
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The fish over mushy peas and chips (not in the photo) were a delicious reflection of Chef Jason Atherton’s British roots. 

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My lunch companion ordered the burger:

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Dessert was cherry cheesecake and compote with cocoa whip cream and bits of chocolate sponge cake. 

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Pan fried chicken, okra, mac and cheese, collard greens, smothered chicken. These are some of the things you can get at Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken in Harlem. We headed up there for lunch because we heard Charles’ chicken is legendary.

 

The place is mostly a take-out spot, but they have three or four tables where you can enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet. At lunchtime it is $13.00 a person. You can pick anything you want from the hot food tables, including the famous fried chicken. Not a typical help yourself buffet. Here, you point, they serve.

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I started with some fried chicken, smothered chicken and BBQ chicken. I specified how many pieces of each I wanted (one) and which type (drumstick). Plus macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes and an okra and corn stew. Everything was delicious. The fried chicken was crunchy and not greasy. The BBQ is much better than it looks. It is in a thin sauce that is thick with flavor. The sweet potatoes weren’t overly sweet–just how I like them.  I had seconds of everything on the plate–I liked them so much, I didn’t try the other items.

My plate  of food

My plate of food

While we were eating, I could watch a soap opera on TV or chef and owner Charles Gabriel cooking up some more chicken in a big skillet at the stove behind the food counter.

Fried chicken

Fried chicken

BBQ chicken and mac n cheese and

BBQ chicken and mac n cheese and

You also had your choice of smothered turkey leg or stewed pig’s foot.  I passed up the rice, corn, collard greens, and beans, but I tasted the greens and beans on Lee’s plate–yummy.

Some of the side dishes

Some of the side dishes

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Main course choices

The New York Times agreed that the chicken and the experience are superb.

The New Yorker magazine profiled Charles this week here

The Lee Brothers call Charles Gabriel a legend

Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken is on Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 151st and 152 Streets–just a couple of blocks from the 155th Street stop on the B and D subway lines. It is one subway stop (or about a 15 minute walk) from Yankee Stadium.


Yesterday I had a fabulous meal at M. Wells. A couple days earlier the M. Wells folks sent out an email saying that they were having a Labor Day party. There would be a DJ, food for a fixed price of $30 and a cash bar. As is usually the case with M. Wells’ special events, there were no details about the food. The email only stated they would “celebrate the best of our summer specials and take a peak at our upcoming fall menu”.  You have to be prepared to jump in without any details.  You have to ignore the press who usually get it wrong (Time Out said the menu would include fish quenelle and lobster, veal kidney with sea beans and salt-crusted squab–none of which were served). With M. Wells, you have to put yourself in their hands, go in blind and trust in Hugue. Whatever it is, it is bound to be surprising, generous and wonderful. Yesterday was a case in point.

We got our wristbands and a couple of drinks from the bar, sat down at a table and over the next couple of hours, the following dishes were brought out to the two of us:

Seafood platter

Seafood platter

The seafood platter had 6 oysters and 4 little jars which contained geoduck, mussels, clams, and roe. What a way to start! (Later we saw that king crab legs were being added to the platter)

Baked potato

Baked potato

A baked potato was served with the seafood platter. The roe with creamy horseradish sauce from one of the jars was a perfect topping.

Hamburger

Hamburger

We shared a juicy hamburger and fries.

Fries

Fries

Pan con tomate

Pan con tomate

The pan con tomate was loaded with flavor.

Stuffed guinea hen

Stuffed guinea hen

The guinea hen roulade was stuffed with something sausagey (foie gras was mentioned) and topped with a mushroom sauce.  The best part with the exterior–it was wrapped in a thin french toast.

Pork chops w/anchovy butter

Pork chops w/anchovy butter

One of the regular items on the M. Wells Steakhouse menu is a “stack of pork chops.” We got a beautiful stack of two delicious chops.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

The cauliflower was roasted, topped with puffed rice and served with a sauce with a little heat and Indian flavors.

Fried chicken

Fried chicken

Fried chicken with a yummy gravy for dipping.

Foie gras gnocchi

Foie gras gnocchi

Much more a croquette, than gnocchi, this was oozing foie gras. OMG!

Wild hare in civet

Wild hare in civet

A special meal at M. Wells has to include wild hare.

Dessert

Dessert

We were stuffed by this point, but managed to eat all of our dessert-maple pie, something like a chess pie and a chocolate icebox type cake.

Oh, and the music was terrific–it started out with New Orleans music and built up to dance music.  A lovely way to spend Labor Day.  Thanks M Wells!

 

 


About a week ago, I had my fourth and final dinner in Amsterdam at Wilde Zwijnen restaurant at Javaplein 23.  When I arrived, there was a lively scene outside, the temperature was pleasant, and that is where I asked to sit. I was directly inside —  I was told that the outside would be emptying up and that the inside would fill up.

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My name was on the table so I was somewhat invested, but inside was hot and sitting there in an empty restaurant wishing I was outside colored my enjoyment of the meal.
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The view of the restaurant from where I was sitting: 20140729-232654-84414659.jpg The restaurant had a beautiful a la carte menu. I immediately saw dishes I would have liked to have. However the menu also offered a secret chef’s menu with two options– a three-course or a four-course option. They don’t tell you what is on the chef’s menu–you have to order it blind. I went with the 4-course chef’s menu, assuming that the dishes would be a creative representation of the chef’s cooking.

The first course was plaice with squid and octopus over potatoes, cucumbers, frise lettuce and red onions with a black ink sauce
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The second course was a garlic soup. It was delicious. But I thought the hazelnuts overpowered the soup so I pushed them aside.
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In the meantime, people had shown up for their reservations and most of them had asked to sit outside. Inside was still hot and, except for a couple of tables, empty.

From where I was sitting I could see the kitchen at the opposite end of the restaurant. I noticed the chef was running dishes to a number of tables. I was surprised he never brought a dish to my table. People dining in groups are there for the company and the conversation (in addition to the food), but a solo diner is just there just for the food. So, I thought if he was spending time greeting the tables, it would have been nice if he had said hello.

The third course was sliced beef with a fennel sausage with steamed vegetables, a couple of cubes of beef and a schmear of red onion purée. This was the most disappointing dish. Disappointing not just because the meat was a little bland and slightly tough, but also because it was boring. It seemed more like a dish on a prix fixe menu–simple, common dishes–nothing too challenging. I thought the chef’s menu was supposed to be something else, something more unique and interesting. I wished I had chosen one of the interesting sounding dishes on the a la carte menu instead.
20140729-232655-84415545.jpgDessert was a yoghurt mousse, which marinated strawberries, almond crumble, a red sorbet, and an earl grey granita.
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I spent the morning of the fourth day in Amsterdam doing my own walking tour of the Jordaan neighborhood, an old working class neighborhood that is now the equivalent to Amsterdam as what the Greenwich Village is to New York City.

I started out with breakfast of apple pie and coffee at Winkel’s:

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There is a Saturday farmers market in the neighborhood. Much nicer things for sale as compared to the Albert Cuyps market I had been to the day before.

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The neighborhood was mostly quiet residential streets with pretty old houses and some canals with nice houseboats.

 

One of the larger canals in the neighborhood:

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A couple of houseboats:20140729-222131-80491376.jpg

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Many houses have interesting carvings:

 

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I learned that that you could push open certain doors and find common gardens behind them.

 

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Lots of bikes and lace curtains:20140729-222435-80675754.jpg0

 


Night 3 in Amsterdam

I had one of those memorable meals that are so rare on my third night in Amsterdam. Gebr. Hartering restaurant offers a choice of a 6 or 9 course set menu. The extra 3 courses are a ribeye steak, a cheese course, and an extra dessert. I went with the six course option. I got there at 7:30 and didn’t leave until after 11. Three and a half hours of bliss.
Before the first course they brought me three mini pre-courses.

The first pre-course looks like someone had already eaten. It was a plate of fish bones–anchovy bones that have been fried and dusted with smoked pimenton. It tasted like whole anchovies.

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The second pre-course was an Italian green pepper roasted with chive oil and flakes salt

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The third pre-course was a red pepper roasted on a charcoal grill.

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First course: salted cod with oil, leek ash and watercress.

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Second course: lardo with arugula (from a nearby village), caramelized shallots, crispy capers, and peach infused oil.

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Third course: shrimp croquette with lemon mayonnaise

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The shrimp were the tiny Dutch ones I had the first night in the amuse bouche.
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Fourth course: monkfish liver with wild mushrooms

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The main course was a porchetta with leek coulis, endives, potatoes (also from a nearby village) and crispy pigs skin. It was a dish with some tang.

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Dessert was a creme brûlée that was not too sweet and creamier than most.
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This was truly a meal worth travelling for.