Tag Archives: Gramercy

Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

I’ve been eating a lot of brunch lately. It’s sort of a cliched meal in this town and not one I’m usually attracted to. The lines can be out of control and I’m not willing to wait an hour or more for some eggs and pancakes. Yet in the last few weeks, we’ve discovered going to brunch later (like after 2 or 3) is easier and some modest places out there make tasty, worthy versions of bacon and eggs.

I wouldn’t call Maialino one of those modest places, but I still love it. I had been here a few times for dinner and feel a connection to it since it’s run by Danny Meyer (who owns The Modern, where I used to work). And I’ve read good things about their brunch, but considering they’re a hot spot and attached to a fancy hotel, I figure the odds of getting in speedily for brunch were next to none.

So we made a reservation for a Sunday afternoon. The restaurant was a little slow (it was a holiday weekend) and we were quickly brought to a table in the well-lit back dining room.

The decision was tough, but we erred on the side of having too much food. We started with an incredibly moist Olive Oil muffin, while barely  resisting all the other pastry options.

For eggs, I got the Cacio e Pepe, which is a play on a cheese and pepper pasta dish and these eggs were awesome. They were soft scrambled so they resembled a porridge, with pecorino cheese and loads of fresh cracked black pepper. It was creamy and rich with a wonderful earthy spice. I’m not a big fan of eggs in general, but these are game changing.

The side of bacon is what I always hope bacon to be. It was crispy, salty, and smoky. There was a good layer of fat that added tons of porky flavor, but it wasn’t unctuous in any way. It was like candy. The ricotta pancakes were also a standout. Incredibly fluffy and not too sweet, the ricotta cheese and strawberry rhubarb jam were a perfect complement.

Sadly, our least favorite dish was the Time Out list item. That doesn’t mean it was bad, but it just didn’t live up to the previous masterpieces. The Pesce Spada Affumicato was Chef Nick Anderer’s take on a classic NY breakfast: lox and cream cheese. Instead of the usual salmon or smoked white fish, he used slices of smoked swordfish with some nice crusty bread points and a scoop of creamy robiolina cheese, which puts any cream cheese to shame. The fish (which was lighter than lox) had a mild smoky flavor. The components were all fresh and light, but I thought the fish was sliced a little too thin. It was hard to get much sense of the flavor, especially when loading everything else on the toast.

Regardless, brunch at Maialino was a huge success – just as good, if not better, than the hearty Italian dinners I’ve had there. This is a special afternoon out that is affordable enough to be a habit. No wonder I’ve been eating so much brunch lately. I’ve discovered the best spots.

Would Maialino’s Pesce Spada Affumicato make my Top 100 of the year? Other brunch items most definitely would, but this was an interesting version of smoked fish and cream cheese that just fell short of all the other masterpieces on the table, so it gets a 7 out of 10.

2 Lexington Avenue (between North Gramercy Park and 22nd Street)
Inside the Gramercy Park Hotel
(212) 777-2410

My search for the best bagels in New York continues….

I had first heard about David’s Bagels from Jason Fierman, who lives in the area and claims these are second best in the neighborhood after Ess-a-Bagel. The second time I came across it was after my visit to Ess-a-Bagel (just a few blocks up) and the smell of freshly baked bagels almost seduced me in. I had to resist that day since I already had had two bagels, but I promised to return as soon as possible.

Well, the day finally arrived. It was when I was trying to re-trace my steps that I discovered a shuttered storefront for David’s Bagels about two blocks up. Evidently the Asian-owned bagel shop moved locations, perhaps to be an extra few blocks away from the more famous Ess-a-Bagel.

The store was inviting, but slightly dark. The service was quite friendly as I asked them which bagels were hot. They gave me a few choices, so I settled on my two standbys: Plain and Everything. I put the cream cheese on the Everything bagel since it was hotter and I figured I should keep the plain as untouched as possible for comparison purposes. Nearby sat a lady with her two adorable children. I haven’t seen these many families at my food adventures since the ice cream search.

I was shocked at how hot the Everything bagel was. I came here at my usual bagel hour, which is between 3-4. It’s much later than most people eat bagels and oftentimes nothing is immediately out of the oven. Not the case here. The bagel was so hot that the cream cheese melted incredibly fast, turning into a sort of gloopy mess. And that is a good thing.

My only complaint was that the everything flavors were a little too aggressive. There was so much salt, garlic, and seeds that it was really difficult to taste much else. But the texture of the bagel was perfect with a natural hot crisp bite giving way to a soft, glutinous interior.

The Plain bagel was monstrous, much bigger than the Everything. It was perfectly shaped, although a little too big for my tastes. A piece of garlic must have gotten caught in the inverted hole of the bagel. It looked like it had a little “lint” in its belly button. It made me laugh. The bagels must be stored or baked very close together and it was that carelessness that actually gave the bagel some flavor. The texture was a bit squishy and airy, although the bites were chewy and dense. It was a good bagel, but not as mind blowing as the first.

David’s makes some mighty good bagels. I had a feeling this might be the case from smell alone, but I was not prepared for the wonderful fresh heat offered from a little bit of everything.

Does David’s Bagels have the best bagels in NY? They’re slightly inconsistent, but I got one bagel that was heavenly with warm flavors and textures, earning it an 8 out of 10.

243 First Avenue (between 14th and 15th Street)
(212) 780-2308

Category: Bagels

Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

Elephant ears, zeppole, sfinge, Italian doughnuts. Whatever you call them, I imagine that at some point they struck a special chord with you when you were a kid. I know they did with me. They’re lighter and fluffier than typical doughnuts and have a sweeter batter. I remember some pizzerias would make them doused with powdered sugar and the smell of them in the air made any cheesy carnival worth attending.

Zeppole were not on the Time Out list item (although I sort of wish they had been) despite a new bakery from the owners of Artichoke Pizza that specialize in the fritters (it’s cleverly named Led Zeppole). But when I took the first bite into another Italian pastry called Panzerotti (these were on the list), I couldn’t help but think of that sweet fried dough from childhood.

The big difference is panzerotti are savory pastries and won’t cause quite the sugar rush of the aforementioned goodies. The classy, but casual bar (aka, ‘enoteca) next door to the fancier, white tableclothed I Trulli was completely empty when we arrived. I had to hunt down a bartender to take our order. When she arrived, we scored a great deal on a lambrusco flight ($12 for 3 generous tastings), in addition to sampling the panzerotti and a bright and refreshing grilled octopus appetizer.

Panzerotti are basically miniature fried calzones. When the plate of four arrived I expected them to be heavy and dripping with grease. I was pleasantly surprised as I discovered an airy yet dense bread. There was a hint of salt and sweetness (which must have been what reminded me of zeppole) to the dough and it opened up to a moderate, but fair filling of melted mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. Even though they were fried and doughy, each bite tasted light and there was no messy oozing of cheese, tomato, or oil. It was a very refined guilty pleasure.

In truth, aside from the Italian, fried, and delicious adjectives, I don’t think there is much similarity between the dough used for panzerotti and zeppole. But my 10 year-old self (and by default, my thirtysomething self) doesn’t care about logistics and would happily eat these as an appetizer, dinner, and dessert.

Would I Trulli’s Panzerotti make my Top 100 of the year? Even without powdered sugar on top, these fried doughy masses are oozing with flavor, yet maintain a pleasing lightness earning them a 9 out of 10.

122 East 27th Street (between South Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue)
(212) 481-7372

Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

Oftentimes when there are limitations, creativity expands and you end up with a really fantastic project. I found this true in acting school. And anybody who watches Top Chef knows that the really creative dishes come out of the most difficult and limiting challenges.

And I think if more chefs approached vegan and vegetarian food this way, we’d have a lot more exciting destinations for non-meat eaters (and those with an interest in innovative cooking). In the case of Pure Food and Wine, there’s no real cooking per se and that could be why the food ends up being so unique and delicious.

This place is all raw. Which means that none of the food is cooked and no meat or animal products are used in any of the cooking. Many people might ask how does anything taste good. And there, my friends, is where both the limitations and the ingenuity comes into play.

I had been to this dark and romantic restaurant a handful of times a few years back and fondly remember my spectacular (albeit expensive) meals. Beet Ravioli and Rosemary Ice Cream both come to mind. So when I discovered the Hazelnut and Mushroom Crostini on Time Out’s list, I was eager to return. And when I found a Groupon for half off a set amount of food, I was even more excited.

Although I had the Groupon, we were still selective with what to order since the menu was quite expensive. We shared two delicious entrees and skipped dessert, which were the most shockingly priced menu items at around $17! I can only imagine that the food is very labor-intensive and uses the finest ingredients. But for that money, you’d hope for at least filling portions.

At most vegan restaurants you find the menu littered with protein substitutes like tofu and seitan, but here everything is made using the basic components of life: vegetables, fruits, and nuts. When the crostinis arrived, they resembled a beautiful (and tiny) plate of hors d’oeuvres. If I didn’t know better, I might have mistaken these for a complimentary amuse bouche. But these little bites come in at a whopping $14 for three. They’re constructed on top of a hazelnut cracker (no gluten here either) that had the crunch of a rye cracker. Topped with a rich and creamy bernaise sauce (macadamia nuts), caraway studded sauerkraut, and a garnish of  meaty crimini mushrooms, this was a decadent little bite. The kicker was the drizzle of a sweet and tangy apple cider reduction.

My mind was blown when the entrees came out and I tasted a raw, vegan lasagna that actually tasted like lasagna. If it wasn’t cold (the only problem with the raw thing), I’d swear I was eating real lasagna. The bite of the zucchini truly resembled al dente pasta, the basil pistachio pesto had the grainy texture of ground meat, and the ricotta cheese was made out of rich, creamy pumpkin seeds. The Celeriac Ravioli didn’t fare quite as well. While it had interesting textures and fresh flavors, I found the tarragon mint “cream” to be a little overwhelming.

There’s no denying this food is playful and full of unexpected flavor and textures. In addition to healthy and tasty food, they’re creating works of art and science. This place can wow both vegans and meat-eaters alike. But while you leave feeling cleaner and lighter than if you’d downed a real lasagna, you also may leave rather hungry (and broke). Now if only they could add one more limitation into their menu requirements: prevent me from going for a slice of pizza afterward.

Would Pure Food and Wine’s Hazelnut and Mushroom Crotstini make my Top 100 of the year? The flavors were remarkable earning it an 8 out of 10 but I wish there was more to chew on for those prices.

54 Irving Place (between 17th and 18th Street)
(212) 477-1010

If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.


Unless it has some really interesting preparation, comes on top of a salad, or it’s on Time Out’s list, I won’t usually order chicken at a nice restaurant. It just seems like the boring choice and it’s like an overplayed record. How many times do I need to taste chicken?

I get the same incredulous reaction at my new restaurant, Apiary, when customers ask me for a recommendation and I tell them the chicken. But I assure them (and you) that this is no ordinary chicken.

Chef Scott Bryan’s techniques seem quite simple, but you realize his mastery when tasting the food. The chicken has a well-seasoned skin that tastes like its been battered and fried (without the actual oil), the meat inside is incredibly moist, juicy, and plump. It may be the most tender chicken I’ve ever tasted. And where do all those flavors come from?

The gigantic portion, rich and silky mascarpone polenta, peas and carrots, and a touch of thyme jus seal the deal. And make this homey, rustic chicken well worth ordering. Price: $22

60 Third Avenue (between 10th and 11th Street)
East Village
(212) 254-0888


I’ve eaten lots of chicken from street carts. Late night post-drinking binges, quick cheap lunches on the go, and as research for the Food Cart Tours I’ve been giving with Urban Oyster. That’s how I discovered the legendary Tony “the Dragon” Dragonas cart.

It’s parked on 62nd Street near Madison Avenue, which is a little off the path of our food cart tours. But you know me, I’m pretty thorough when it comes to food research. I had read about how juicy his chicken was, but I never expected anything quite like this.

The first clue that this is something special is that it actually looks like pieces of chicken breast. He doesn’t chop it up into indistinguishable meat chunks. It also must be marinated in some special crack sauce with garlic and peppers. It takes a few minutes for him to slice it up, plop it on a toasted pita or on top of some yellow rice, and before you know it, you’re experiencing the freshest, most tender, and delicious chicken you could possibly find on the street.

With its wonderful smoky, chargrilled flavor and succulent plump texture, it’s no wonder that local chefs have tried to get his recipe.  A squirt of tzatziki sauce and some crunchy onions and lettuce round out this perfect iconic New York food: the street meat. Price: $5

SW Corner of 62nd Street and Madison Avenue
Upper East Side


Although I think he needs to slow down with the whole Shake Shack expansion, Danny Meyer continues to open wonderful restaurants with warm ambience, gracious service, and expertly prepared food. Maialino was a big opening this year and it was Danny’s first foreray into Italian food. And along with Chef Nick Anderer, he’s created a very comfortable and inviting Roman-style trattoria.

The word rustic is an understatement here and most of the food is really good. The most interesting and memorable dish I tasted is called the Raviolo al Uovo. And it basically means egg ravioli. And while we’ve all heard about egg pasta, this egg is stuffed inside one big ravioli.

The dish comes out and the first thing you want to do is break it open like a soup dumpling, let the yolk seep out the sides, and then soak up the perfectly tender ravioli with your newly made sauce. If that wasn’t enough, the plate (pre-egg explosion) features a rich brown butter ricotta sauce that brings out a bit of sweetness. The garnish of sage is perfect and shows some restraint. I however did not show any restraint when served this handsome and delicious appetizer. My apologies, Mr. Meyer. Price: $15

2 Lexington Avenue (between North Gramercy Park and 22nd Street)
Inside the Gramercy Park Hotel
(212) 777-2410

Photo Courtesy of: toastnjams.wordpress.com


There’s a very funny moment on my Bar Mitzvah video where the camera catches me discovering an hors d’oeuvre that looks creamy and sweet. It was my first experience with deviled eggs and for whatever reason, at 13, I decided that they were gross.

I’ve tried them many times since and they’re still not my favorite. But after tasting the ones at Fort Defiance, I can safely say that they’re the best deviled eggs I’ve ever had. These were spicy and sweet with a delicious tangy bite and a fun poppy texture from mustard seeds. Each bite revealed something else. I loved discovering all the other ingredients: celery salt, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and greek yogurt (which I think makes these the smoothest, creamiest deviled eggs ever).

Fort Defiance in Red Hook is a colorful and warm neighborhood spot and they have converted a once discerning 13 year-old Bar Mitzvah boy into a deviled egg lover. Price: $3

365 Van Brunt Street (between Sullivan Street and Wolcott Street)
Red Hook, Brooklyn
(347) 453-6672


I used to work in the Bar Room at The Modern (the high end restaurant attached to the MoMA). And I truly loved the food there. I’ve never worked in a place where I could honestly say to customers, “Everything is good.” I think people are still skeptical of that response when asked for a waiter’s favorites, but here it’s really hard to choose favorites. Everything is great.

But one dish that I really could never get enough of was the slow poached farm egg in a jar. Now I’m not a huge fan of eggs (yolks especially) to begin with, but when you add butter poached lobster, sea urchin froth, and any number of rotating crunchy root vegetables (currently, it’s crosnes), you’ve made me a convert. And bonus points for presentation: the whole thing is served in a mason jar that made all the tables look over when somebody had it delivered.

I used to guarantee people that if they like eggs and lobster. there’s no way they wouldn’t like this. Only one person ever challenged me and it was because she was scared that the egg wasn’t scrambled. Here it’s slow poached and runny so it has a soup-like consistency (that’s why we always served it with a spoon), but better than any egg drop soup you could ever dream up. Price: $20

9 West 53rd Street (between Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue)
Inside the Museum of Modern Art
Midtown West
(212) 333-1220

Photo Courtesy of: crumbs-nyc.blogspot.com

I work at a restaurant so I completely understand how annoying it is when a group of people come in to have dinner a few minutes before we close. But when we arrived at Bamiyan at 10 and they close at 11, I expect to have full service and not be rushed out the door.

The waitress made it very clear that they were closing, but she was incredibly sweet and genuine about it. Seriously. I had trouble being annoyed because she was just so nice and hospitable. As long as we left no later than 11.

So we took our shoes off and sat on one of the cushions at the tables by the window. It was a very nice ambiance, dimly lit, and made me feel like I was in the Middle East – until I looked out on to Third Avenue.

We ordered a slew of traditional Afghani food – most notably the delicious Shireen Palow with Chicken Kabobs (a fragrant baked rice dish with orange peels and saffron), the Kadu (pumpkin fritters), and the Boulanee (scallion dumplings). The food was all pretty good: the chicken was incredibly moist and flavorful, the kadu was sweet and rich, and the dumplings were spiked with a tomato-y meat sauce that was quite surprising.

But the dish on the list that brought us here this late in the first place is the Kadu Chalow. If you were paying attention in the previous paragraph, you might have learned that Kadu means pumpkin… I think. Or maybe squash. Because the Kadu Chalow was a dish of sauteed butternut squash with basmati rice and a white yogurt sauce.

I was a bit upset that our dish didn’t look like the picture in Time Out. I’m not sure if the magazine photographers spruced the dish up a bit (by adding the yogurt sauce on top), but this looked like a sweet potato dish at a novice cook’s first Thanksgiving.

Fortunately, it tasted better than it looked. I was worried it would be too sweet. But it wasn’t. The cinnamon and brown sugar didn’t overpower the earthy sweetness of the squash. It was delicious and when mixed with the rice, had a perfect texture.

Now put your shoes back on and get out. Please. We’re closed! But it’s been really nice having you. Seriously.

Would Bamiyan’s Kadu Chalow make my Top 100 of the year? Besides the rushed yet courteous service, we had a great experience at this traditional Afghani restaurant and the kadu chalow was definitely one of the highlights, so it’s awarded an 8 out of 10.

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