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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Updated: Bibble & Sip

Midtown New York coffee is pretty much the worst. You have your choice of Starbucks, Pret, Dunkin', Cosi, and on and on.

I did, however, stumble across Bibble & Sip for a test run. Beautiful (in an otherwise ugly part of town) space that flows. What does this mean? Folks know exactly where to stand in line, grab coffee, pour milk, sit down without it ever seeming crowded.

Photo courtesy of Arthur C.
They have Counter Culture coffee, based out of Durham, NC, and $3 for a drip ain't so bad for specialty coffee.

Now, what BLEW ME AWAY were the pastries. They should wholesale 'cause the goods are bomb!

I have loved Earl Grey tea since I was a little girl. My mom made tea for me every morning English-style with milk and sugar. Sufficed to say, I will try almost anything with Earl Grey in the name. The spiced pear scone with Earl Grey glaze is nothing short of exceptional. You taste the spice amid the soft, biscuit-like interior as it perfectly crumbles in big chunks. BS also has a jalapeno-cheddar scone, which I enjoyed, but overall gets mixed reviews (due to the sweet glaze and sometimes lacks decent amounts of the jalapeno-cheddar combo). That said, the Earl Grey is almost undetectable in the pastries, but that obviously doesn't hurt. The savory kouign amann was bleeding butter. Too much, in fact. Soft in some spots, hard in others and needs work.

Photo courtesy of Yelp
Once ordered the chocolate chip cookie and gawked at the $4.23 price tag saying to myself, 'This better be the best damn cookie ever' was. Fat, soft, full of chocolate chunks and not overly sweet.

I haven't had the chance to try the Earl Grey panna cotta or banana bread with EG glaze, but plan to very soon. For all you egg eaters out there, there are some seriously unique breakfast sandwiches with the likes of basil infused English Muffins.

Update: After a long bike ride, I popped in BS and tried the jasmine pear tart and Earl Grey cream puff. Again, just a faint detection of bergamont, but the choux itself texturally was nice with it's crispy top. Just get the tart. It's tasty and fresh as hell.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I'M BACK! with A Fork in the Road: Paris

It's been awhile! I took up working in kitchens in both NYC and Houston, so time was limited to blog.
Most recently, I traveled to Paris and had an insanely fabulous trip with my family.  This post will just highlight some of my favorite parts.

We all know the fruit and vegetables taste fresher (and different!) and are brighter colored in the EU. These were no exception.
See those cherry tomatoes? The best! We were buying almost daily. Sweet and just cracked perfectly when you bit down.
The beautiful Romanesco and purple artichoke
Flaky, buttery croissant from Des Gateaux et Du Pain in St. Germain
A shoppe with perfect pastries and magnificently showcased. 
 This was probably my favorite part of the trip.  Not only did I wake up every morning and run with my brother and get to 'see' the city in a different way, but we also walked through many of the open-air markets. It was orgasmic every time!  Here is a link of the markets throughout Paris:

Early in the morning, I would see the fishmonger cracking open sea urchin and little old women eating it with tiny silver spoons.
Rod enjoying his well-earned banana Nutella crepe after a run.
Lights of my life, my parents.
Far and away the best meal we had in Paris. Waknine is an Asian influenced French restaurant. The halibut, steak tatare and roasted potatoes were superb!
Get to Paris in the Spring at least once in your lifetime!
And a HUGE thank you to my dad for taking my brother and myself on a trip we will never forget!

Friday, March 21, 2014


Calliope is one the few East Village restaurants I really love.  Sure, the neighborhood is fun and cheap, but higher-end restaurant quality (aside from the likes of Alder, Prune, Porsena and a couple others) is practically non-existent.  It could be the most perfect, casual romantic French bistro.

Ever since The Times published an article on the happy hour oyster craze in NYC, it is pretty difficult to get me to pay regular prices for oysters (and why would you?!?!); but Calliope is an exception...though they now have a 5-7p oyster happy hour!  Their East Coast oysters with mignonette are delicious and it wasn't even so much about the oysters, but the sauce.  Oddly, mignonette can taste different everywhere and they have a superb one with cracked pepper.

Due to my total obsession with sea urchin, I had to order the sea urchin toasts and these were a disappointment.  It could be that the urchin was from Maine and personally, I only care for the California kind, but the texture was a little too slimy and tasted too fishy.  Serves me right for ordering that anywhere but a sushi joint.

One of the best dishes of the night was the spring onion, leek and goat cheese tart.  You could taste the layers in the dough with pillowy goat cheese topped with greens.  Worth the $14 (gasp).

Looking to get your green on?  Look no further than this salad.

My mom always orders 'exotic' menu items thinking they will always be the most tasteful.  The quail with chantrelle mushrooms, cipollinis and vinegar fell a little short of better than average.  It was tasty, but spending time getting meat off small game birds doesn't exactly pay off in the end.  Plus, it just looked like a mish-mosh of stuff.

Chicken was never a dish I would want to order until I had chicken from Barbuto.   Now, it is in the rotation at even the finest of restaurants.  This roasted chicken had the crispiest of skin and perfectly seasoned, juicy meat served with stuffed cabbage and carrots.

Standout dish of the evening was the milk-poached halibut, green chickpeas, favas and white asparagus.  Do NOT leave Calliope without ordering this!  The presentation, the texture, the spring peas!  All in glorious harmony together.

The best part of my night was seeing this:

Two people that have been together for 50 years and still in love.  My parents.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Fork in the Road: Caracol (Houston, TX)

“Have you been to Caracol yet?” has become a pretty common question asked around Houston these days.  Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s and Backstreet Café fame, has opened his new seafood-inspired restaurant in the Stewart Title building on Post Oak.  As I walk in, the interior stuns me.  Sure, it’s a very large space, but breathtakingly gorgeous. 

Recognizably, Ortega has outfitted his staff in matching Mexican shirts and black pants and there is plenty staff around, so service is not lacking.  We arrive on the early side (by 7pm, the noise level is pretty loud) and I start with a Paloma.  Tequila and just the right amount of Tajin infused soda for spice. 

An intense menu offers traditional appetizers as well as entrees, but also includes an impressive count of ceviches, soups and other Spanish starters.  Most of our diners chose an appetizer and entrée, but ordering two tapas size dishes certainly satisfies the most hungry diner. 

My friend, Liz, had suggested we order the Gulf wood-roasted oysters.  She was right…these did not
disappoint!  These dozen bivalves are served sizzling hot with chipotle butter and I could have easily had another few.  

The Chilpachole de Jaiba soup preparation was constructed beautifully around a blue soft shelled crab with mini masa dumplings floating about.  The flavors could have been a bit more complex, but enjoyable nonetheless. 

Again, the butterflied snapper steamed in a basket with adobo sauce was average when it came to seasoning.  In my experience, adobo sauce is rich and spicy which was not the case here, but the fish was expertly cooked.  

A chickpea stuffed masa pancake with the tangy avocado salad was delicious and filling.

Crispy duck, duck molote and chard with red pumpkin seed sauce was not the most visually appealing dish, but of all the entrees, had the most complexity.  

The chocolate dome was cracked open with a mallet where you find a frothy coconut filling inside.  It was a nice little surprise.

To be forgotten was their version of bananas foster with flavorless bananas and a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

While I leave Ortez’s restaurants completely full, I’m never fully satisfied.  The sides always make up for any lull with the food.  I am partial to the refried black beans; they would be part of my last meal on Earth.  The charred brussel sprouts are on skewers with a sweet sauce underneath.  There is always room for improvement in the seasoning regard, but at least it’s always consistent when it comes to cooking proteins and that’s why I always return.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria

The informal offshoot of Il Buco on Bond Street is a perfect lunch spot and needs to be a strong contender to take the visiting family!  The Alimentari (up front) has stellar pork sandwiches and the back of the space is the dining room and wine bar.  In true Il Buco fashion, the restaurant boasts with rustic Italian furniture beautiful lighting fixtures.

The octopus carpaccio was topped with chilis, but maintained a citrusy, light flavor.

Aren't they gorgeous?
One dish not to missed here is the crispy artichokes with preserved lemon.  We kept saying while furiously popping these in our mouths, 'they are like the artichokes served in the Jewish ghetto in Rome'.  Every leaf so perfectly crisped.

Porchetta served with spring peas and pea puree.  Moist and spot-on with the herbs definitely challenging Sara Jenkin's namesake restaurant (which can sometimes be dry).

Although all were tasty, the dish that really made the meal was the Pasta Setaro. Creamy spaghetti with ample salty bottarga and parsley.  Pasta is always Il Buco's strong suit.

Strawberry Rhurbarb crostata with vanilla gelato.  Not too sweet, not too sour, not too great.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Under the Williamsburg bridge sits Bia, a Vietnamese grill and beer garden (with a loud, but fun, rooftop).  We wanted some small plates after having happy hour oysters at Maison Premiere and Bia was a perfect choice for some small dishes.

Summer spring roll with shrimp - A light and balanced spring roll with the right amount of cilantro, greens, pickled carrot and shrimp.  The best of the appetizers!

Vegetable dumplings - These were a little on the gummy side, but not detrimental to the greens that packed tons of flavor.

Steamed roast pork buns - Pork buns can be a hit or miss and these were a miss.  Although the pork was good, buns so rarely have a good pork:bun ratio.

Vermicelli noodles with quartered spring rolls and grilled pork - I adore vermicelli dishes, but could have done without both the pork and fried spring rolls.  They didn't provide any flavoring and the noodles with greens, cilantro, onions, peanuts, and rice vinegar/fish sauce was perfect on its own.

All this with 2 beers - $40

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Fork in the Road: The Kitchen (Boulder, CO)

The Kitchen on Pearl Street has been regarded as one of the better restaurants in the Boulder area, so naturally, I was excited to try it.  It certainly may be one of the better restaurants in Boulder, but I wasn't sure if it was because it was trying too hard to be a 'world-class neighborhood restaurant' or farm-to-table.  My thought is they should stick to farm-to-table, then you don't go in with super high expectations.

The ambiance was enjoyable enough, but I found the food to be bland at best.

The ubiquitous grilled octopus with salsa verde - too chewy, though the tentacles were good mix with the greens and salsa verde and well-seasoned roasted root vegetables.

An insanely dry pork chop with a winning, creamy polenta.

Non-seasoned steak atop white (and pinto?!?!) beans.  At the very least, the chef should have used more salt.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Fork in the Road: Bellissimo (Houston, TX)

Family-owned Bellissimo is in Houston's lovely Heights and also happens to be one of the more neighborhood-y joints in the area.  This growing neighborhood seems to be attracting more restaurateur types, so this is a distraction from the loud, indulgent menu restaurants.  It is a dark, quiet atmosphere that is BYOB (see my smile) with heavy Italian fare.  One thing I love about this menu is make-your-own pizza and pasta which can translate into putting together an entree pretty much any way you want.

Garlic shrimp appetizer - large shrimp in a puddle of butter, garlic and lemon. 

Red Snapper with a white wine, caper sauce served with angel hair pasta and sauteed spinach.  The diced tomatoes just don't do anything for this dish.  Unless tomatoes are vine-ripe, just forget them all together! 

It looks like alot 'cause it is alot!
I might have gone a tad overboard ordering the Red Snapper served with sautéed shrimp, crab meat, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil served in a white wine lemon butter sauce.  Not only did I get a hefty seafood portion, I just had to try the namesake pasta jalapeno fettuccine served with grilled chicken, black beans, fresh cilantro, diced jalapenos and tomatoes served in a Parmesan white wine butter sauce.  The pasta was a bit of a disappointment.  I think perhaps I was looking for a cream jalapeno sauce?  I don't know what I was thinking, but the 'jalapeno' pasta had no kick and dry to boot.  My suggestion is go with angel hair and a green.

Dessert special - Bavarian berry cream cake...lighter than you would think and delicious! 

BYOB, moist fish and price make Bellissimo a favorite; though I wish they would change the plate presentation.  It looks like something I'd get in a casino restaurant. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Fork in the Road: Capital Club 16 (Raleigh, NC)

Raleigh's Capital Club 16 isn't just a great restaurant with traditional American food, but the building itself has historical significance as well.  It was home to a men's literary and social club in the 1930's (more history here) and has been decorated to reflect the time period.  It is open and airy during the spring and summer and cozy in the winter.

We start the table with sliced bratwurst and a tomato curry sauce with fries.  For some reason, I always love starting a meal with fries and the zing of the tomato sauce was subtle and pleasant.

On to one of my favorite Southern dishes: pimento cheese.  These crostinis featured the spread with figs and Dutch apple jam.  Yum yum!  The sweetness of the jam and figs cut into the rich cheese. 

Arugula salad with local asiago and a lemon-pepper vinaigrette, which surprisingly didn't take away, to the already peppery arugula.  The oven roasted tomato was nice addition.

Chicken Valdostana - rolled chicken with Black Forest ham, provolone over a spaetzle, mushrooms and tomato sauce.  Easily the best dish we ordered and the spaetzle was cooked perfectly.

Local Catch of the Day

The Farmer's Wife - seasonal vegetable dish of cabbage, collards, roasted potatoes and spaetzle.

My 97 year old Grandma who still makes it out to 8pm dinner, Dad and me

Prices are extremely reasonable and atmosphere lovely.  I'd get there before popularity starts driving those prices up!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hudson Common

It had been many, many years since I went to The Hudson Hotel for drinks, much less a meal.  The past few months, the hotel has been testing new concepts such as the Hudson Lodge in the winter and Hudson Tequila Bar (coming this summer).  While the outdoor area was getting utilized, the indoor Cafeteria was undergoing an entire renovation, to be called the Hudson Common.  The concept is a common area with communal tables as well as reserved private tables/booths, but you order your food at the counter.  TVs are hidden in the walls since they did not want this to become a 'sportsbar', although it could be a 'refined sportsbar'.

Hanging lights and Sputnik everywhere

The menu was created with the help of Chef German Villatoro, and he has definitely created one of the best newcoming burgers in the city.  This fairly extensive menu is a variety of upscale bar food.  My absolute favorite item on the menu (and trust me, it isn't because I am a woman who picks at salads) is the kale Caesar salad. 

It has large leafy greens of kale and Romaine hearts with a tangy vinaigrette Caesar, not creamy.  It gives me just the right amount of healthy in a sea of butter, cheese and bread.

Another surprise was the Veggie burger.  When I think of veggie burger, a think, dense disk comes to mind; but not Chef Villatoro's burger that's packed with...ready for this?  Faro, shoshitos, mushrooms, red pepper, cauliflower, tomatoes, edamame, falafel and spices!

Spicy kimchi pickles - though these are quite large pieces, it helped keep the crunchy texture of the zucchini, squash and cabbage.  The uncommon crudite is also something unique with its radishes, beans, kale, and carrots in a ginger-soy vinaigrette.

Getting to the decadent stuff, the French Toast Grilled Cheese is something sent from heaven.  Texas Toast with seven cheeses and maple drizzle is the paragon of savory-sweet foods!

This gem was only available for a week, but I feel obligated to write about it.  The Salted Caramel Angry Lobster Fatty Melt.  The name of that sandwich gets its own sentence.  This red chili-chipotle lobster salad was stuffed between TWO seven cheese (with curds) grilled cheeses topped with a salted caramel drizzle.  Gluttonous, no?  Perhaps if you ate the entire sandwich, but this was split by 3 people, so not too bad.  In fact, it was not as 'Fatty' as I imagined, but instead a damn tasty combo. 

Duck fat thrice-cooked fries
Not-so-favorite items: Peanut Butter BBQ ribs - boneless, but messy and taste of the meat is lost.
Pork Katsu BLT with apple bacon, guanciale, and pancetta - don't know if it was over-porked, the flavors didn't mesh well or the pork was a bit dry.

Great atmosphere and great food that keeps getting better.  Just love the seasonal concepts outside!