Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Porchetta Sandwich at Il Buco

Friday was a glorious day of leisure, so I walked to Il Buco to partake in some good old-fashioned porkiness for lunch.

After ordering the porchetta panino, I nibbled on a warm basket of super crusty, yet soft and airy bread.

The bread was served alongside thick flakes of sea salt and housemade olive oil.  Il Buco makes a few varieties of olive oil that they sell by the bottle or can be ordered as a flight.  Fruity and lovely.

In fact, the whole space was just lovely.  Full of rustic Italian charm.  I couldn't help but beam happily at my table, sunshine streaming from outside and warming the whole place with its light.

The service was excellent.  The waiter handed me my panino with a giant smile, maybe to match my even more giant smile as my eyes gazed upon the giant piece of pork fat hanging out from the sandwich edge. You know your eyes are staring hard at that too.

Let's just ogle it together.

So beautiful. The panino was nothing more than layers of thinly sliced porchetta sandwiched in between crustaceous goodness.  The aromatic herbs were balanced and flavorful, with notes of rosemary and sage.

Layers of fat are plentiful, generous and most appreciated.  The bread also served as a wonderful sponge, soaking up every bit of pork grease possible.  Nothing could escape. I was in heaven.

I was feeling so great that afternoon that I even ate some of the greens on the plate.  The leaves were simply dressed in bright lemon juice, and it was delightful.  They serve the salad with a plump half lemon for self-added citrus.  So thoughtful!

After just half the sandwich, I was perfectly content, much to my heart's relief.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, and while I feel the quality of the sandwich is higher at Il Buco, they did not include any bits of crunchy skin that makes Porchetta's sandwiches so irresistible.  That type of touch would really bring Il Buco over the top.

Word on the street is that Il Buco serves one serious set of short ribs.  I think those short ribs are definitely calling my name!

Il Buco
47 Bond St
New York, NY
Il Buco on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chao at Cong Ly and a Noodle Stroll to Super Taste and Sheng Wang

It was a weekend of heavy eating with the gang.  On Saturday, we dabbled in a few Chinatown soup shops.

We started off at Cong Ly, a respectable Vietnamese place on Yelp with four stars.  

We tried their chao long, a Vietnamese rice porridge, similar to congee, but more flavored, with an assortment of meat bits like pig intestines, chunks of pig blood and chicken.  The soup was okay, a bit too MSG / salty for my tastes and leaned more on the side of congee (mushy rice) than chao, which typically has discernible granules of rice.

Jean has been having cravings for nem nuong, Vietnamese pork meatballs, as well, so we ordered a plate that came with a side of vibrant lettuce leaves, sliced cucumbers and carrots.  Again, the plate was a disappointment.  As is the problem with much of the Vietnamese places I have frequented in Manhattan, the food tasted musty.  

We finished up those plates to venture onward to Super Taste, to try their handpulled and knife-cut noodles.  We shared bowls of Mount Qi beef, roast duck knife-cut noodles and sliced chicken and mustard green noodles.  Everyone's favorites varied, though I enjoyed the spiced Mount Qi in particular and the chewy. but somewhat gummy, knife-cut noodles.

We continued our ragtag adventure across the street to Sheng Wang, which serves their noodles in metal bowls.  "These look like dog bowls," someone noted.

Sheng Wang's beef tendon soup

While, I found the Sheng Wang's broth lacking in as rich of flavor as Lam Zhou or Super Taste, I did enjoy the seafood provided on their noodle plate.  The shrimp was nice and fresh, though Emily and I did not care to peel them by hand. Thanan exhibited his strong, manly ways and stressed that we should just pop the whole thing in our mouths and chew.

All in all, a fun little food crawl with lots of comforting options, but nothing particularly exciting or standout to note aside from the great company!

Cong Ly
124 Hester
New York, NY

Super Taste
26 Eldridge
New York, NY
Super Taste Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Sheng Wang
27 Eldridge
New York, NY
Cong Ly on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dine in Brooklyn: Brunch at Al Di La & The Chocolate Room

Everyone, say hi to Heather and Harry! 

You can say hi to Jean and Thanan too, though Thanan has seen nicer days, and Jean always has her cheeks full.


They were nice enough to come all the way down to Park Slope on an early Sunday morning (~12p) to help polish off some of this warm (!) crusty bread (and check out Al Di La for this year's Dine in Brooklyn restaurant week).  After chowing down the initial loaf, the server was quick to arrive back at our table with a second one.  I love that pre-emptive thinking.

Harry stuck to the original plan of eating from the Dine in Brooklyn menu, but the rest of us fell for everything else on their menu, including classic lunch pasta favorites and brunch offerings.

Harry's white salad from the DiB menu is shown below, living up to its stark name.  Plenty of radish slivers to add bite to the dish.

Harry's entree options included winter squash ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce and braised chicken with black olives and polenta.  He opted for the latter, and it looked so comforting and wonderful, especially on top of that creamy bed of golden polenta.

Heather and Thanan ordered the duck confit, with lots of roasted brussel sprouts, deliciously tender potato chunks and crispy duck skin.  

Jean ordered the spaghetti chitarra, with cauliflower, anchovy and breadcrumbs.  She permitted me a generous bite that I enjoyed.  This was my original breakfast choice until my eyes spotted a tremendous looking dish at a nearby table.

The crispy polenta cake !

An amazingly thick slab of seared polenta layered with a fresh, crushed tomato sauce, wilted spinach, poached eggs and lovely strips of crispy bacon.

This dish was quite good, a fantastic multi-layered combination of differing textures and tastes, but the polenta cake was a particularly devilish beast that swiftly kicked my stomach into submission.  I couldn't finish this monster for the life of me.

Harry's dessert choices included panna cotta or rice pudding.  His decision for the rice pudding was a sound one.  It was light, creamy, and not too sweet.  A perfect palate cleanser for our next stop, The Chocolate Room!

Adorable little almond cookies that were served with the rice pudding.
A visit to Brooklyn does not seem complete of late without a visit to The Chocolate Room.  I know.  I have come here far too many times, my friends, but I simply cannot resist!  And I was especially glad we did, as H&H ordered the gorgeous banana split served with bruleed bananas (one of my top favorite loves of life).

I ordered the brownie sundae yet again.  The brownie was a touch drier this time, but it wasn't anything another helpful spoonful (or a small bowl) of thick, hot fudge couldn't easily fix.

Weekends in Brooklyn.  Always a delight!

248 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY
Al di Là Trattoria on Urbanspoon

86 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY
The Chocolate Room on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fried Chicken, Pies and Oyster Sandwiches at The Dutch

Lately, I've been feeling blessed.  The year started off to a rough start, especially for fried chicken, after three sub-par experiences in a row with this feathered fiend (Redhead, Buttermilk Channel, Blue Ribbon).  Blue Ribbon's was so disappointing, I didn't even want to blog about it.  I just don't even want to think about it.

But enter The Cardinal, Bobwhite, and now The Dutch, and you have yourself a New York trifecta of solid chicken goodness.

They say the fried chicken at The Dutch is available only at lunchtime (brunch on weekends) or very late nights.  I am not sure about the latter though, since Diana and I visited the hotspot at 11p one night, and only found fried chicken wings on the menu.  Brunch is a great time to visit though, and they take reservations.

The fried chicken comes in a heavy stainless steel All-Clad skillet, with four pieces of thick-battered fried chicken pieces and two very luminous honey butter biscuits.

I could sit and breathe in this fried chicken all day.  (I would eat it too, but I could spend a long time just smelling it.)  Cajun seasoning was sprinkled generously across these craggly, golden beauts.

Each bite of this chicken was supremely satisfying, and in what seems so rare in our fine city of overzealous food writers, this chicken actually lived up to its hype.

The crust was ridiculously crunchy, even through the last bite, and the meat was perfectly succulent - the breast was almost just as moist as the thigh. Flavored with the southern spice, this chicken was sensational.

The biscuits were soft, but extremely dense.  If our waitress could ever be found, I would have liked to ask her for a jar of honey, because that would have made these more tolerable, but without, I could barely eat half a biscuit (although the four consumed pieces of chicken may have played a factor).

On that other late-night occasion, Diana and I ate an uncharacteristically light dinner of oyster sliders (adorable little sandwiches with two lightly battered, plump oysters on a springy sesame-topped bun).  The sliders were okay.

We also ate pies, because we love pies.  (And The Dutch is known for them.)

The pie selection is seasonal, though usually includes at least the Dutch apple and banana cream.  This recent brunch visit featured lemon meringue, which is typically not a pie I would order, but I was feeling spunky.

This pie was gorgeous, with a tall layer of airy meringue speckled with poppy seeds and a bright layer of lemon curd.  Poppy seeds also appeared in the graham cracker crust.  It was a full on poppy seed party.

The pie was quite refreshing, bursting with clean citrus flavor, and appealed to my key lime loving ways.

The banana cream was airy and light, paired with a dark, thick crust.  It comes with a scoop of orange sherbet, which I love, though questions of why orange sherbet is paired with banana cream is unavoidable, and remains unanswered.

The Dutch apple, the restaurant's namesake pie, is served warm with slivers of tart, firm apples and a sweet, crunchy, crumbly top. I could eat a bowlful of the crumbles for breakfast, but the walnut ice cream lacked any nutty flavor, and the apple pie itself was fine, but not particularly interesting. 

We also sampled a scoop of The Dutch's cinnamon ice cream (quite good) that came with one of the best snickerdoodles I've had in some time.  Delectably cinnamony, soft and chewy.  I wish those came in the bagfuls.

The fried chicken plate was surprise hit, and I find myself thinking about it still.  Service can be a hit or a miss, a miss on our brunch visit, but definitely a hit during the late night hours.

I mean, they even did long division for us.  That's what I call good customer service!

The Dutch
131 Sullivan St
New York, NY
The Dutch on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lomzynianka - Polish Cuisine in Good Ol' Greenpoint

Lomzynianka was one of the first restaurants I blogged about two years ago when our blog was originally launched.  Before diving into this post, I decided to re-read the one I wrote in 2010, and I cringed the entire time.  My youth and earnestness was in full effect back then, and now I am but just another jaded old woman.  Oh how time changes things.

Like this salad.

In my original post, the complimentary salad was made with iceberg lettuce and coleslaw.  Two years later, it is an assortment of shredded things - cabbagery in three pickled forms and super-grated carrot mush.  Some tables also were lucky enough to get a loaf of free bread.  (We were not so lucky.)

We ordered the Hungarian pancake to share, which was a beautiful, thick potato pancake wrapped around a mound of meaty goulash.

Never before have my eyes espied such a beautiful concoction.

I shamelessly nibbled at the crispy edges of this golden beaut - crunchy and addictive.  The potato pancake itself, accented with the shredded, stewed beef, was a great combination.

We also ordered two Polish platters to share, the same dish I had eaten years ago and found just as satisfying in the present.

The plate was filled with stuffed cabbage, brilliantly grilled kielbasa, bigos, pierogis and simple mashed potatoes.  Everything tasted homey and satisfying.  I was surprised to find the farmers cheese pierogi not at all sweet in this current dish, and I found myself missing the original, but maybe fond memories will always taste sweeter.  (Is this how forlorn love songs are written?)

For dessert, we shared a plate of chef special blintzes that came as long, golden rods dusted in fine powdered sugar.

For a brief moment, we fought over the whipped cream on the plate and were immediately disgusted to find it was sour cream / creme fraiche.  It was fine, but one must have the right expectations for that.  (Whipped cream would've been more delightful though.)

The blintzes were good, resembling crispy crepes layered with strawberry and blueberry jam and cream cheese. The blueberry jam was the clear winner.

It has taken me two years to come back here, because while the food is most comforting and enjoyable, the meal always swells my stomach up like a water balloon -- such an incredibly filling cuisine.  I can find myself coming back though just for just a slab of that crackly good kielbasa.  Amazing!

646 Manhattan Ave
Brooklyn, NY
Lomzynianka on Urbanspoon