Tag Archives: Baked

I Ate New York

When you live in a city as big as New York,  love food as much as I do, share a shoebox kitchen with three others and work 50-60 hours a week, it’s hard to cook. It’s also hard not to feel overwhelmed and excited by the infinite number of restaurants and cuisines available (many within a close walking distance).  So for the past almost four months, I have been eating my way through The Big Apple (and oh how that Hungry Caterpillar would be proud of me—thank goodness I walk everywhere!) I have some culinary highlights I’d like to share from things I have eaten thus far.

This is my dear friend John Carriani. We’re friends because we love theatre and we both get ridiculously excited about food (particularly baked goods) and will stop at nothing to track down a good pastry, no matter the distance. One evening we made a trip out to Red Hook to visit Baked. He had a $30 gift card there and wanted to use it all at once (for the both of us)! He is an incredibly generous soul. So we went to Baked…

and this is what we ate…

We were like kids in a candy store (err bakery) and we both pretty much agreed that this was the most exciting thing ever and that this is what dreams were made of (ours at least). We were very giddy (and this was before the sugar party that ensued)! My favorite were the bourbon chocolate chip pecan bar and the sweet & salty cake and John favored the whoopie pie and the cupcake. Don’t worry, we didn’t eat all of these devious morsels…at once anyway.

This Pulled Duroc Pork Sandwich from Num Pang. It was pretty stellar. It’s made with tender spiced honey braised pork, on the most luscious roll with chili mayo, cilantro (which I shamefully pick off), carrots and cucumber and it’s perfect. I enjoyed mine with a homemade blood orange lemonade which was also perfect. In the land of most amazing pork sandwiches, this baby rings in second place for me (the first being the pork sandwich I had a few years ago at El Paseo, in Seattle. Don’t even get me started on that sandwich.

-A chocolate croissant fresh out of the oven, from Charlotte Patisserie, consumed (too quickly for a photo), on a walk through McCarren Park on a fall morning. They also make different quickbreads that I love—particularly their apple & banana.

-Jay and I recently had the pleasure of having a late dinner at The Brooklyn Star and had our minds blown over the fried chicken dinner for two there. We  came on a Tuesday and they normally only do the fried chicken on Sundays and Mondays (and it has to be at least three people) so much to our surprise, when we were seated and our waiter informed us they were doing it (and for two), it felt like fate. Fried chicken fate. And oh that glorious fried chicken, those good ole southern fixins and classic Rolling Stones music that soon unfolded thereafter… It was undoubtedly one of the most memorable meals I’ve had here. The chicken was so juicy, crispy and flavorful and we had these awesome pickled vegetables, crack macaroni and cheese (studded with bacon, with a tangy kick from the sharp cheddar), mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuits. (No room for dessert). I think Jay got a pic or two of our feast but I was honestly too euphoric to bother.

-We also had a wonderful date at an adorable, romantic yet laid back Italian place in Williamsburg, called Fiore. It’s candlelit with black and white tiled floors and petite tables with little vase of fresh herbs.  There’s a long shelf with antiques that borders one of the walls, there’s some exposed brick and vintage photos in antique frames adorn the walls.

We shared a raw, shredded artichoke salad with lemon and parmesan, a bottle of red and two generous plates of homemade pasta (for under $10!!). Jay had ravioli with butter, chili flakes, sage and parmesan. It was simple but elegant. I had the tagliatelli bolognese—hearty and fragrant with rosemary, it was one of the best bolognese dishes I’ve ever had.  I loved it so much, I went there a week later with my friend and roommate, Caitlin (who also loved it) and we shared one of the best salads I’ve ever had. It a big bed of frise with toasted pecans, warm roasted butternut squash and sautéed wild mushrooms, pecorino and a lemon truffle vinaigrette. It was heavenly and the embodiment of autumn (in food form). We also shared a tiramisu that left us speechless.

So because I love and live for this sort of thing, here is my personal guide to some of the best eats in the city (Brooklyn mostly), based on some of my favorites:

NYC Gastronomy Awards:

  • Fiore, Moto, Cafe Colette and Dear Bushwick, for most intimate, romantic atmospheres
  • Five Leaves for best breakfast/brunch/bacon, people watching and favorite design
  • The Blue Stove for most adorable, cozy bakery and best pies
  • Best cocktails go to Dear Bushwick, for “The Iron Lady”: rose-infused Junipero Gin, Lillet Rose, Aperol and lemon juice and Gwynnett St for the “Go Fig-ure”: Blackwell Rum, Averna, port, fig jam, all spice and lime juice
  • Best bread goes to Commerce (everything) and Gwynnett St for their Whiskey Bread with Vermont cultured butter. It was one of the most exquisite things I’ve ever tasted.
  • Bubby’s (Tribeca location) and Clinton St. Baking Company for best pancakes (sour cream pancakes at Bubby’s and the banana walnut pancakes at Clinton St)
  • Best Polish food goes to Lomzynianka and Krolewski Jadlo particularly for their red Borscht and pierogies.
  • Best Sandwich goes to Num Pang for the Pulled Duroc Pork
  • Best cupcake goes to Butter Lane Bakery (the banana with cream cheese)
  • Best appetizers goes to Locanda Verde for the blue crab crostini with jalapeno and tomato and the focaccia and Nights and Weekends for their
  • Best cafe and favorite neighborhood hangout spot goes to Charlotte Patisserie
  • Best Bakery goes to The Blue Stove (I may be biased but truly everything there is awesome) and also
  • Best coffee goes to Cafe Grumpy (Greenpoint location just because it’s right by my apt)
  • Best doughnuts goes to Peter Pan (for cake doughnuts) and Dough for yeast
  • Best Pasta goes to Fiore (in Greenpoint)
  • Best Bar goes to The Richardson (for their wallpaper, Bourbon selection—because they carry several PAPPY’S bottles! and also for the bartender that looks like Paul Dano). Also, to Manhattan Inn for the overall classic atmosphere.
  • Best neighborhood bar that’s not in my neighborhood goes to The Double Windsor (in Windsor Terrace)
  • Best cutest, smallest restaurant /most handsome chef goes to Bistro Petit 
  • Best brisket goes to Lonestar Empire
  • Best Pizza goes to Paulie Gees, Speedy Romeo and Forcella
  • Best Bagels goes to The Bagel Store (in Williamsburg)—while I’ve yet to actually step foot into the store, a wonderful girl I work with named Jackie brings these delicious bagels into the bakery where I work, every Friday morning for “Bagel Friday.” How can that not make your day amazing?
  • Best fried chicken/southern food goes to The Brooklyn Star
  • Best Mexican/worst service  goes to La Superior
  • Best all around restaurant goes to: Commerce. From the bread basket down to the dessert menu, it’s amazing  (pics and review to come)!

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Charleston is for Food Lovers

A couple weeks, lot’s of strawberry shortcake eating, Top Chef Masters watching, Eat Pray Love reading, working, walking and lot’s of bakery hours later, I am finally getting around to telling you about the culinary haven and foodie’s paradise that is Charleston.

Over Mother’s Day Weekend, I ventured down south just a ways, with my mom and sister, to see Charleston for the first time.  It didn’t take me long to fall in love with this charming southern belle of a city.  The gorgeous homes and buildings, rich history, palm trees and southern coastal cuisine got under my skin (and is still there I think) ever so quickly.  Unfortunately our time there was brief, as we only had a weekend, but Charleston will call again and I will answer.

Here are some of our exciting culinary ventures:

Our first stop was the popular hot spot, Hominy Grill (for lunch).  Housed in an old Barbershop building at 207 Rutledge Avenue, this restaurant is small but inviting and is the kind of place where you’ll have an intense inner debate with yourself, trying to figure out what to order because everything sounds incredible and you want to order one of each.  It’s the kind of place with chalkboards adorning the walls, enticing you with southern delights such as shrimp and grits and fried green tomato BLT’s with ancho chile lime mayonnaise – what I ordered, and it was tasty except for the mayo, which is my fault because apparently I don’t care for the ancho chile flavor.  My mom and sister ordered vegetable plates and were in the mood to share (thank God), because  their macaroni & cheese, cauliflower gratin and mashed sweet potatoes were divine and the cornbread was thick and and the perfect balance of dense with a fine crumb.  It was probably the best cornbread I’ve ever had.

We were too full for dessert, which was heartbreaking to me, because I wanted to take on the entire dessert menu – especially the Devil’s Food Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting – something I had promised to come back and get the next day, but missed because it had sold out.  Extra heartbreaking.  I was also curious about the famous buttermilk pie and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ogling the chocolate pudding at the table nearby.  It will just have to wait…but man how I wanted that cake.

I’m glad I didn’t go all the way to Charleston and skip this wonderful little gem.  After all, I had to see what The New York Times, Food & Wine and Gourmet were all raving about.  Plus, a deliriously happy and buzzed looking photo of Anthony Hopkins is in the bathroom there, and you can tell he had a blast and enjoyed his meal.  That’s good enough for me.

Now one of my most favorite things to do is research restaurants weeks, sometimes months before I travel, so I can scope out the best spots and add them to my itinerary – I even have an ever growing collection of saved Word documents stored on my computer, with restaurant names and addresses, as I learn about them, organized by city.  Yes I am aware this validates that I am in fact, a dork.  I’m okay with that.  Anyway, moving right along, I naturally this trip was no different, so a few weeks prior, I began looking up restaurants in the area.  In my findings, much to my elation, I found that there was a Baked in Charleston!  I thought there was only one Baked.  The one in Brooklyn, very far away from Charleston.  I had never been to Baked but had seen the cookbook “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking,” by owners Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito in quite a few stores and heard about the “sweet and salty brownie,” in an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

We walked in and found probably the cleanest, hippest bakery I’ve ever seen, decked out in browns, whites and oranges and organized neatly with confections and merchandise.  We saw homemade marshmallows – not just ordinary marshmallows, there were violet and chocolate flavored marshmallows!  I actually considered trying one of the cupcakes but realized I’d commit a regretful error if I didn’t go for a brownie instead – the “Sweet and Salty” brownie, with homemade caramel inside and fleur de sel on top.  One of the best decisions I’ve ever made, it turns out.  I kid you not folks.  This Baked brownie is not a brownie to contend with.  This is a bold statement I’m about to make here, but I’ll say it with the utmost conviction: this was the best brownie I’ve ever had.  It’s pretty much life-changing.  Fudgey and cakey, moist and rich, and full of the most intense chocolate flavor, with buttery caramel that isn’t too overwhelming or chewy.  And the salt!  Oh the salt just balances everything out and makes it all the more heavenly.  This brownie is so good I would barter valuable things in exchange for one, and pay an embarrassingly large amount of money for its recipe.  I’m still thinking about it.

Now I want one and there is no sweet & salty brownie to be found and that is just a shame.

Our first night in Charleston, we went to High Cotton, at 199 East Bay St. for dinner.  If that isn’t a true southern, classy restaurant name, I don’t know what is.  It was beautiful, with a lively atmosphere.  Classy but not pretentious, and our waiter resembled the actor Jeremy Renner, so that was kind of fun.  I started out with some gin with elderflower liqueur, lemon and tonic and it was delightful.  We all shared an arugula salad with goat cheese, strawberries and lightly candied walnuts, which was wonderful, especially since strawberries in salads is one of my new favorite things.

My mom and I shared the roast duck breast and leg confit with butternut squash green bean and hazelnut risotto, in a port wine reduction.  The duck breast was a little too rare for my taste, but still delicious and the leg confit was perfect.  I’ve never had hazelnut in a savory dish before this and I really enjoyed all of the plate’s components.  We also split a side of whole grain mustard, sour cream and green onion mashed potatoes which were so flavorful and tangy.  Instead of dessert, we opted for an espresso martini and a chocolate martini – both were fabulous and fun since I don’t typically order those kinds of drinks.  (I’m more of a wine or gin and tonic kinda gal).  I’d definitely go back to High Cotton though and you should too.

Saturday we had lunch where Tennessee Williams used to dine.  And Giada de Laurentiis.  Poogan’s Porch was a place not to be missed and they had the softest, most lovely biscuits with honey butter and a damn good shrimp po boy.  I’d love to go back and try them for dinner sometime.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I failed to tell you about the Sugar Bakeshop, on 59 Cannon St, voted among “Best of the Bakeshops,” by Bon Appetit Magazine.

Now, you should know (in case you don’t already), I don’t just have a sweet tooth.  I have many.  Dessert will forever be my biggest weakness, and when traveling, I feel it is my mission to seek out all the best bakeries around…or else I could miss out on the best chocolate croissant I’ve ever tasted or the best cupcake, etc.  That would be a tragedy.  Sugar Bakeshop looked too adorable to pass up.  It was tiny and a little retro looking and was the kind of place I would open myself if I ever opened a bakery.

We bought some sun tea with fresh mint – something I had never tried before and discovered that I like!  We bought a little strawberry rhubarb tart that melted in our mouths…and 4 cupcakes – lemon, caramel, almond and yellow with chocolate icing.  A couple of the cupcakes were just a tad dry and crumbly but they were still delicious – especially the lemon.  It tasted like sunshine.

Being a foodie in Charleston was a little like being a kid in a candy store.  My stomach definitely wants me to go back.

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