Tag Archives: Maialino

I’ve devoured Time Out’s 100 Best dishes and now, once again, I’ve been inspired to create my own list. These are the 100 dishes I have continued to think about since tasting them at some point in 2011. Look for another five dishes every few days. These are in no particular order. 

NUMBER 85: EGG-IN-A-NEST at TRAIF

I’ve been cooking “eggs in a hole” for many many years. It’s rather simple: butter a piece of bread, cut a hole, and while frying the bread, break an egg in the hole. Flip, and after a few minutes, there you have it. Simple.

Traif takes that simple idea, but turns it up a notch… or three. Chef Jason Marcus takes two pieces of rich brioche toast, stuffs it with brie, béchamel, truffle cream, and meaty portobello mushrooms. All of that is topped with a perfect fried egg that once broken adds another layer of richness. And while all that decadence sounds like it could be too much, it’s incredibly balanced and you’re left craving more. Thankfully it’s served with the actual bread hole on the side (stuffed with more earthy, cheesy goodness). Price: $11

TRAIF
229 South 4th Street (between Havemeyer Street and Roebling Street)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(347) 844-9578
traifny.com

NUMBER 84: MARIA SIN SANGRE at CLOVER CLUB

While I love the flavor of Bloody Marys, I usually think it’s like drinking a thick spicy tomato sauce. I’d be happy to pour it on some pasta, but I can’t usually swallow an entire glass of it. Mixologist Julie Reiner of Clover Club serves four versions of Bloody Marys at brunch. And I’m so relieved I took the plunge and tried one.

The one I chose, the Maria Sin Sangre, translates to Mary without the Blood. And that’s partly why I liked it so much. It’s a subtle mixture of muddled cherry tomatoes, basil, silver tequila, sherry, and lemon juice. The drink exhibited the perfect balance of sweetness, herbaceousness, and spice. This is a brunch cocktail that Bloody Mary lovers and haters can agree on. And you’d have to be crazy to confuse this light, complex cocktail with something that goes on pizza. It’s meant to be sipped and savored. Price: $10

CLOVER CLUB
210 Smith Street (between Baltic Street and Butler Street)
Cobble Hill
(718) 865-7939
cloverclubny.com

NUMBER 83: CHICKPEA FRIES at PEACEFOOD CAFE

Ok, so technically this was not something I ate at breakfast – although I believe this vegan restaurant on the Upper West Side serves these in the morning. They’re a healthier, more interesting version of french fries. And they reminded me of a wonderfully savory take on french toast.

Imagine the logs of fried chickpeas are the toast (they’re gluten-free) and the tangy, earthy tahini dipping sauce is the maple syrup. They’re seasoned with aromatic Indian spices (cumin, cardamom, chili powder, and cinnamon) that give it a complimentary sweet and spicy flavor. They’re somehow crispy without any excess grease and they give way to a warm, soft center. Combine the concept of falafel, french fries, and french toast and you have a delicious creation any time of the day. Now if only they’d serve it with a side of bacon! Price: $7

PEACEFOOD CAFE
460 Amsterdam Avenue (between 82nd and 83rd Street)
Upper West Side
(212) 362-2266
peacefoodcafe.com

NUMBER 82: CACIO E PEPE at MAIALINO

The brunch at Danny Meyer’s Maialino was the most memorable breakfast I’ve had in a long time. Time Out brought us here to try their take on lox and cream cheese (they use swordfish and robiolina cheese), but every dish we tasted was stellar. I could have included any of them on this list.

But the stand-out was the Cacio e Pepe, which translates to cheese and pepper. This combination is traditionally served on pasta (and Maialino does a version of that at dinner), but it made for one of the most memorable egg dishes I’ve ever had. The porridge-like dish was quite simple, but Chef Nick Anderer’s refined hand and technique was evident in the revelation of textures and flavors. The soft scrambled eggs were creamy and tender, with the rich pecorino cheese and generous fresh cracked black pepper playing up the earthy, spice qualities. I haven’t stopped dreaming about this since.

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

NUMBER 81: EGG BAGEL at ABSOLUTE BAGELS

I devoured a lot of bagels this year, but only one was life changing. And it wasn’t at one of the old school Jewish bagelries across the city, but rather at a Thai-owned neighborhood spot near Columbia University.

Sam Thongkrieng, who has worked at classic spots like Ess-a-Bagel, has trained his staff at Absolute Bagels very well. He wasn’t there the day I tried one of their famous egg bagels with a sweet shmear of strawberry cream cheese. The hot out-of-the-oven bagel was life changing. The yellow-hued dough pulls apart so easily and melts in your mouth as you chew. The rich bread has a sweet and savory flavor that is the perfect foil to the cream cheese. And the fact that they bake their bagels throughout the day means you can have this transcendent experience whenever you want. You just got to get yourself up to 107th Street. Trust me, it’s worth the trip. Price: $1 (without cream cheese)

ABSOLUTE BAGELS
2788 Broadway (between 107th and 108th Street)
Upper West Side
(212) 932-2052

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.

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

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.

20. ROASTED ORGANIC CHICKEN at APIARY

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

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

19. CHICKEN PITA SANDWICH from TONY “THE DRAGON” DRAGONAS

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

TONY “THE DRAGON” DRAGONAS
SW Corner of 62nd Street and Madison Avenue
Upper East Side

18. RAVIOLO AL UOVO at MAIALINO

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

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

Photo Courtesy of: toastnjams.wordpress.com

17. DEVILED EGGS at FORT DEFIANCE

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

FORT DEFIANCE
365 Van Brunt Street (between Sullivan Street and Wolcott Street)
Red Hook, Brooklyn
(347) 453-6672
fortdefiancebrooklyn.com

16. SLOW POACHED FARM EGG IN A JAR at THE MODERN

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

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

Photo Courtesy of: crumbs-nyc.blogspot.com


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