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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Fork in the Road: Il Capriccio (Whippany, NJ)

Old-school Il Capriccio seemingly only attracts regulars, which I have to believe is a good thing.  The dining area is anything but subtle with loud carpet, chairs and the dining room centerpiece overloaded with various size wine bottles.  However, it doesn't take away from the excellence of food here, Italian waiters that have been there for years and a lovely patio perfect for a summer evening. 

Burrata appetizer.  I always try burrata when available, but none like here, although this burrata was a light and refreshing alternative.

Tuna tartare served with onion and Gaeta olives over farro.  The farro livened up the tatare giving it an entirely different texture. 

Farmer's salad of fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, Bermuda onion and summer corn.  I just can't get enough corn!  Especially when it is showcased with other vegetables, not covered with lettuce.

The off-the-menu fish of the day (branzino) cooked whole in a salted crust.  So rarely do you see that on menus these days.  It's truly a beautiful sight.  The fish is cracked tableside and there is aromatic hit of fresh herbs and lemons.  Your waiter takes time fileting the fish, placing it on the dish,  drizzling olive oil, then a quick heat on the burner and voila.  More than enough fish for two....though I ate all of mine :-)  I'm only sorry I didn't get an action shot of cracking the crust!

If you are in the area, the fish is NOT TO MISS! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


This was the BEST Strawberry Shortcake I have ever eaten!  By a landslide.  Donatella's post will be reversed starting with the magnificent desserts.  The seasonal strawberry shortcake was a soft, non-biscuit (no taste of butter) biscuit with a hard, sugary top.  In the middle?  Homemade whipped cream and sweet strawberries with an ever so tiny scoop of strawberry rhubarb sorbet.  P.e.r.f.e.c.t.i.o.n! 

I was equally impressed with the off-the-menu ice cream sandwiches.  Smaller than your palm, these round beauties' top and bottom layers were Italian tricolore cookies with slivers of ganache.  Some of diners thought it was too sweet, but I didn't share that sentiment.

Affogato is always a simple dessert with a small scoop of vanilla gelato.  These "biscotti" were actually small cookies (ones I did deem sweet, but fabulous nonetheless).

Moving right along to the pizzas....also some of the best personal pizzas I've had in New York.  Doughy, thin-crust with fresh ingredients. 

Classic Margarita

Diavola with spicy, slivered salami and chili oil.  This pizza had the perfect amount of heat.

Enzo - Smoked Mozzarella, pork-fennel sausage, broccoli rabe and pecorino.  Instead of plain jane spicy or sweet sausage,  I absolutely love the fennel sausage in addition to the sauteed rabe.  This was unreal!

Polpette - Veal Meatballs and Caciocavallo (a teardrop cheese that is left to mature 'a cavallo' i.e. straddling a horizontal stick) 

A ricotta gnocchi that gives April Bloomfield a run for her money.  Served with summer corn, basalmic, parmagiano, and chives.

A luscious mixed green salad with lemon citronette, candied walnuts and pecorino.

Our starter of spicy, braised veal meatballs.  Soft, perfectly spiced and sized.  If you are deciding between Polpette (meatball pizza) or a side of meatballs, get the meatballs.  The pizza doesn't do these meatballs justice.

AND you have to love the bottle and wine glass chandeliers! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

More than decent non-Curry Row Indian

It's nice to have finally stumbled upon an Indian restaurant that is in the middle of the high-end to cheap take out range (excluding Curry Hill of course).  Equally nice, Masala Wala is on the Lower East Side central to the East Village and Nolita and remains somewhat undiscovered, unfortunately.  Both times I've visited, I have only been one of the two tables dining.  Perhaps the too hot or too cold temperature in uninviting, but the waiters and owner are down to earth and will accommodate  your temperature change request.

On my first visit, a girlfriend and I shared Dilli Aloo Tikki: potato croquettes stuffed with peas and herbs.  They had spicing, but were pan-fried and fairly oily. 

We go on to split Chicken Tikka Masala and Saag Paneer.  While Chicken Tikka was a safe choice, and creamy sans spice, the Saagwala was the obvious winner.  Little cubes of cheese immersed in creamed, herbed spinach. 

I loved the mixing of the mint coriander and tamarind sauces!  Lovely to look at and to dip naan.

The second visit proved Masala Wala to be consistent and the Chicken Vindaloo was average (tasty), but hardly worthy of an actual Vindaloo.  There was absolutely no heat factor!

The chicken samosas were dry and uneventful.  I've had better at the Whole Foods hot bar. 

For reasonably priced Indian food, especially for delivery, it's worth it!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


A nice breezy afternoon Soho stroll should include a bocadillo while you sit on a bench outside Despana.  The no-fuss sandwich from the Spanish gourmet market on Broome Street had slices of butifarra sausage, goat cheese and a tomato-garlic spread all warm pressed between soft ciabatta (Catalan).  A couple weeks prior, I indulged in The Spaniard at Murray's Cheese which was buttered Pullman toast with melted manchego, Serrano, marinated peppers and membrillo spread.  That, my friends, was gluttonous.  As in, not even hungry for dinner six hours later.  I thought I'd be going down the same path with the Catalan, but this was the perfect lunch sandwich. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Fork in the Road: Jestine's Kitchen (Charleston, SC)

I wanted Jestine's to be good, like ridiculously good.  Plus, it has a great story of the recipes handed down through generations in addition to Mrs. Jestine Mathews living to 112.  One hundred twelve!  I wanted the long, scorching hot line to be worth the wait; but I was disappointed and as many people have stated before me, it is a tourist trap. 

A cool cucumber salad was served as soon as we sat down and it actually was refreshing.  The cornbread served on a plate of honey and hot butter was bland (the real kernels didn't make a difference). 

The pecan-crusted fried chicken had zero inkling of pecan, or salt for that matter, however, they do serve up half a chicken.  The green beans, fried okra and collards were average, but nothing I couldn't get at a local cafeteria in Houston. 

The shrimp gumbo was decent, but was texturally more like a stew with the tomato/shrimp/okra combo being the only resemblance of 'gumbo'. 

I'll mention the Coca-Cola chocolate cake, but only order it if you are fancying the feeling of your teeth falling out from sugar.