Friday, May 29, 2009

See Billy's at Lab Tastes this Saturday

Dear readers,

Billy's Bakery will have a booth at "NYC Lab School presents Tastes: From the Meatpacking District through Chelsea" tomorrow from 11:30 to 3. I'll be manning the table, so come by and say hi! Visit for tickets and more information.

See you there!


Kicking it up a notch... and a bit of food beauty

Since our week of waking up and being happy to be alive wrapped up on Tuesday, yesterday MS and I decided to take things to the next level. For one week, not only would we wake up and be happy to be alive, but we'd try to change our behavior accordingly. If we wake up grateful for our health and strength, then we'll go running. If we wake up thankful for our family, we'll tell them we love them. Note to readers: this is harder than it seems.

So far today I've been thankful for my strength and energy, so I did go to the gym and even did a bit of running on the treadmill, which I hate. I'm also extremely thankful that I can eat-- my stomach has not always allowed such things at different points in my life-- so I bought myself some strawberries to celebrate. And when I sliced them up to bring to the bakery for my afternoon snack, they were just so beautiful, I had to share them with the world. So I leave you this fine Friday with a bit of food beauty. Be thankful it's strawberry season-- they're pretty, healthy, and delicious!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cavatappo doesn't let us down

It was a quiet Memorial day, the weather was beautiful, and AV and I had just made mojitos. All that muddling had made us hungry, so where could we go but Cavatappo Grill?

We wandered over to First Avenue and were surprised that CG had its sidewalk seating open. Hurrah! We grabbed a two-top and settled in for some prime people-watching. Our almost absurdly friendly waiter took our order and brought us silverware, water, and bread ("Because even prisoners get bread and water!" Uh, yes, true, I guess). The bread was standard Cavatappo-- I find its shape a little weird (strips?), but this was briefly warmed in the oven before it arrived on our table, so bonus points for that. Once again we played the game of "try to access the balsamic vinegar buried beneath the oil in the shallow dipping dish," and once again we both failed. Oh well. Dipping oil, even sans elsuive vinegar, is still good.

Bread bites

Our food arrived quickly. Once again, I had gone with the cremini mushrooms, pears, walnuts, fontina cheese, and white truffle oil salad. And once again this salad was truly spectacular. With the white truffle oil, it's intensely flavorful, and with the cheese and walnuts, it's surprisingly hearty. It filled me up and left me very satisfied.

Looks small but packs a punch

AV had been vacillating between the veal ravioli in prosciutto cream sauce and the rigatoni with eggplant, tomato sauce, and ricotta. Being the vegetarian advocate I am, I voted for the rigatoni, and after a long deliberation process, AV finally concurred. And a great choice it was: I took a couple of bites, and this pasta was superlative. The tomato sauce was very hearty, and the eggplant was soft and yielding. This dish made me miss eating pasta on a regular basis even more than I usually do. Sigh.

Just delicious

With Emack and Bolio's nearby, dessert was a no-brainer, so we paid the very reasonable check and skipped down First Avenue for some frozen treats. We're both huge fans of Cavatappo Grill (and its sister shoebox-sized wine bar on Second Avenue). The food is great and inexpensive, and when we're in the mood for wine, CG has the best on earth (lambrusco bianco, obvi). We'll definitely be back soon for some more four-Offset Spatula goodness.

Cavatappo Grill
1712 First Avenue, between 88th and 89th Streets

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wawa string cheese is still the best stuff on earth (sorry, Snapple)

A few weeks ago, when I went with AV to visit his family in Princeton, NJ, not only did we check out the Little Chef, but we also checked out the local Wawa. Now, if by any chance you've been a faithful reader of my blog since the very beginning, you'll know that there's a certain something that Wawa offers that's far superior to any I've found anywhere else. Yes, it's true: Wawa has the best string cheese on earth.

This past weekend, we stopped at a Wawa on our way out of Long Beach Island, and I cleaned the place out of string cheese, packing my small lunchbox with the little white strips in an effort to keep them cold until they reached my fridge. And now I'm savoring them one by one, rationing them like the Donner Party's last bits of oxen jerky. There's something about this particular part-skim mozzarella-- perhaps it's the creaminess, perhaps it's the stringiness, perhaps it's the fact that it's only available at Wawa, which of course is nowhere near Massachusetts or NYC, and is thus always special-- but, golly, it's just the greatest.

Wawa, I love your string cheese. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dumpling delights at Tai Thai

Ahh, veggie dumplings, how you taunt me. Why is it that the more I get of you the more I want? So it was on Saturday evening, when AV and I continued our search for the best dumplings Manhattan has to offer. This time, we hit up Tai Thai in Hell's Kitchen (which we've been to before) to try their dumplings.

The dining room was its usual minimalist self, and the servers were frazzled but friendly. A few big groups filled the small room with raucous chatter, but as with most Thai restaurants, we were there more for the food than for the ambiance.

And food we got! We both ordered two dishes and asked our server to bring them both out at once. Our salads came slightly before the dumplings, but the lag was only a minute or so.

First, the salads. AV went for the Thai salad, which was the standard lettuce-carrot-tomato-onion mixture. Fortunately, Tai Thai's peanut sauce/dressing is superlative, which made this salad delicious. I will note AV did not enjoy the fried tofu garnishes, but I tried a piece and it was yummy. So there.


My papaya salad was excellent. It was a good size and the perfect balance of crunch, sweetness, and limey tang. One of the best I've had.

So good! So good!

And then-- the dumplings. We each ordered a plate of the vegetable gyoza. These were pretty much perfect, with whisper-thin skins and a white mashed-veggie filling that was completely indecipherable but fantastically delicious. The ginger sauce: Perfect. The fried garlic garnishes: Well, make sure you pack your breath mints (that stuff LINGERS... even after the movie we took in post-dinner, my breath was still exceedingly garlic-heavy).

Oh yessssssss.

We both left sated and happy. In my not-so-humble opinion, I think Tai Thai's dumplings are some of the best I've come across, and the same definitely holds for their papaya salad. And all our food came to just over $20. Score! I'm a huge fan of Tai Thai, and this time around it certainly upheld its well-deserved four Offset Spatula rating.

Tai Thai
693 Ninth Avenue, between 47th and 48th

Profound mediocrity at Terrazza Toscana

After a day at the Jersey Shore, AV and I barrelled back towards the city on Sunday evening and went in search for a neighborhood dinner destination. I was (momentarily, don't worry) dumpling-ed out, so we went for Italian. Our final selection: Terrazza Toscana, a new Italian place on 9th Avenue.

Unfortunately, the hostess informed me that their rooftop terrace was closed (darn), so we were seated at a table in the spacious and chandelier-heavy but otherwise relatively nondescript dining room. Our waiter was visibly distressed when we didn't order wine (we had mojitos in the cards later that night). A bread basket landed on our table within moments of us being seated-- a plus-- but the bread was really, really average. I mean, it was bread, it was carby, it would tide you over if you were ravenous, but it was absolutely nothing special. See for yourself:

Really not special in the least.

The menu at TT is pretty varied, and there were a number of nice-looking salads I wanted to try. In the end, I went with the Insalata Terrazza, which had mesclun, apples, toasted pine nuts, and buffalo ricotta. Despite asking for my dressing on the side, the first version of my salad arrived dressed, and when I sent it back (I was in a no-bullshit mood) the runner was obviously pissed. Well, too bad. In fairness, the final version was quite good-- the ingredients were fresh, the ricotta was very flavorful with a nice pungent buffalo tang, and the white balsamic dressing was a nice complement.

Surprisingly tasty

AV had gone with the spaghetti and meatballs. His verdict: "It's okay." Yeah, it sort of looked okay. Standard.

Big balls but little impact

We skipped dessert and skipped out of there. The food overall was very mixed-- my salad was good but the rest was very meh. And the service was incredibly apathetic. When we arrived at the table my knife was dirty (used), and though they switched it out when I asked, there was no apology. Interactions with the servers were short, perfunctory, and curt. Without being able to enjoy the roof deck, our in-restaurant experience fell short of pleasant. As a result, I wouldn't go back-- there are much better Italian restaurants in the area. TT is a two-Offset Spatula place; pass it by.

Terrazza Toscana
742 Ninth Avenue at 50th Street

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Still happy to be alive! Day IV

Hi all! It's a beautiful day on a three-day weekend-- what else can you feel but happy to be alive??

Hope everyone is finding happiness on this delightful weekend.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Guess what... I'm happy to be alive! Day III

Good morning everyone! I woke up this morning and was STILL happy to be alive. I'm grateful for yet another spectacularly beautiful day today (hasn't it been an incredible week weather-wise??), for the fact that it's the start of a relaxing three-day weekend, and for the fact that my Wall Street Journal was delivered on time this morning! I'm grateful for the health, energy, and ability to go to the gym, which I plan to do in a few minutes. And I'm grateful for all my readers, who put up with my ridiculous rantings (such as this post).

Hope you all are happy to be alive and have much to be grateful for!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I'm happy to be alive! Day II...

This morning I woke up bright and early, and lo and behold, I'm STILL happy to be alive! I'm grateful for this absolutely incredible warm, sunny day we're about to have. I'm grateful I got the chance to see my old friend JR last night; grateful for the delicious cole slaw I made yesterday morning with my leftover veggie dumpling ingredients-- I ate it for dinner last night and it was actually good!; grateful for the delicious cereal I just ate for breakfast; and grateful that after I go to the gym I'll do my laundry and have clean clothes. ANNNND I'm grateful that it's almost a relaxing long weekend!

Hope you all are happy to be alive as well... Now go out and have a great day!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


In front of Rudy's Bar
9th Ave and 44th Street

I'm happy to be alive!

Today is the birthday of MS, the indefatigable Operations Manager of Billy's and an all-around great person and friend. Yesterday, the two of us made a deal that we would start every day for the next week with the affirmation "I'm happy to be alive!" In addition, I wanted to add a few things about which I'm happy or grateful to remind myself why I'm happy to wake up another day being, yes, alive.

So day one: I'm happy to be alive! I'm particularly grateful for this incredibly nice day we're brewing today. I'm grateful for the delicious veggie dumplings I made last night and the scrumptious cupcake I had for dessert. I'm grateful for good friends (I had drinks with my friend SW last night). And in a few minutes, I'm going to be grateful for access to a well-equipped gym and the physical strength to exercise.

So there you have it! And P.S., I know this doesn't really count as "Food and Drink," aside from the food and drinks for which I'm grateful...but I suppose this falls under the "Life" part of this blog's title. If you're feeling in need of a boost, join me this week in starting each day being happy that you're alive, and let me know how it goes:

Rebecca Taylor cupcake...mmm

Last night for my daily treat I had a yummy Rebecca Taylor cupcake from Billy's. These cupcakes were designed by Rebecca Taylor herself during a visit to the bakery. She created two masterpieces: a mocha concoction and this one, fondly known as "Vanilla Twinkle."

Swirly and celestial

Underneath that showy exterior, it's one of Billy's classic vanilla-vanilla cupcakes. The swirled blue icing, our vanilla buttercream, is really pretty and is deliciously sweet and creamy. But the reason I chose this one over a regular vanilla-vanilla (aside from the fact that I love blue, and this blue is puuuuuurty) is because I actually think the decorations add a little somethin'-somethin'. There's a sprinkling of course sugar over the top, which gives the exterior of the frosting a delightful crunch. Plus there are the silver dragees, which most people don't eat but I do (whoops?)-- I find them sweet and yummy. All in all, this is one of those cupcakes that just bring a smile to your face. A pure, pretty hit of sugar: What could be wrong with that?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I just made veggie dumplings!

Today I got fed up and tried making the much sought-after veggie dumplings myself. And they were good! More importantly, I now have about five more dinners' worth of them in my freezer. Delicious AND economical. I'm so proud of myself!

Mmmmmm Thai at Rin

Last night I met up with GA, a friend from school and fellow food lover, for some delicious Thai food in Chelsea. We convened at Rin on 23rd Street, a restaurant that had gotten rave reviews online.

When I arrived, there was nobody else in the restaurant except for the two men working there. Deja vu? Perhaps. Still, I grabbed a table in the very cool, almost chic dining room, investigating the bathrooms (awesome-- lots of slate, pebbled walls... almost serene) in the meantime. GA arrived and we placed our order.

There was so much that looked good on the menu, but I went with the papaya salad (cravings!!!). This was a very good rendition: a reasonable portion but not extravagant, perhaps a touch too much lime in the dressing but otherwise quite tasty.

Savory and crunchy and delish

GA had chosen the Vegetable Garlic with veggie duck. I took a few bites, and this dish was intensely savory-- I'd never had veggie duck before, and it was quite an interesting taste. GA pointed out that this dish also had a noticeable amout too much lime, but we both still found it enjoyable.

Melange of veggies and fake duck

So that was it for our visit to Rin-- short and sweet. The dining experience here was a plus, given the very awesome dining room and the efficient but kind service. The food was on the positive side of par. And the prices were a bit high for comparable Thai joints but not outrageous. So I'd return to Rin, but probably not before I tried the other options in the area. As a result, Rin earns a yeoman's three Offset Spatulas.

265 W. 23rd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues

Monday, May 18, 2009

Damn you, Sfoglia

Occasionally, I come across a restaurant that is too big for its britches. You know the kind-- a place that's gotten great buzz, has a constant stream of eager patrons waiting at the door, and has the extensive attitude, arcane reservation policies, and "holier than thou" touches to match. Well, I'm sad to report that AV and I just stumbled upon another one of these delightful gems: enter Sfoglia.

We've both been wanting to try Sfoglia for a very, very long time. But call their phone number and you're politely informed that they're currently "booking six weeks out" but might be able to accommodate you in the intervening weeks at the much sought-after dining times of 5:30, 9:30, or 10:30. Yippee. So to surprise AV, I dutifully booked a Sunday evening dinner many, many weeks in advance, and this past Sunday was the lucky night.

We entered the rustically charming storefront at the corner of 92nd and Lex to find nobody. The hostess stand was empty; we were standing in a long hallway with nobody else in it. Fortunately, the hostess emerged a few moments later to take my name... and then disappeared again. In the meantime, as we waited, some lady carrying a bag of takeout food (let's call her Rude Woman) bustled through the doors and pushed past me to be front-and-center at the hostess stand. When the hostess emerged once again, Rude Woman proceeded to request a reservation for a few weeks later-- and the hostess, ignoring AV and me, had a lengthy conversation with her, booking the reservation and discussing important details such as RW's desire to have candles in her dessert since it would be her birthday. Fantastic. Once RW had left, the hostess turned to me and delivered the news that she would seat us in a few minutes.

AV and I sat on a tiny couch at the end of the hallway. We discussing how we assumed an earlier reservation was likely taking longer than anticipated at the table we'd booked and how we're sympathetic that it's difficult for restaurants to control such things. We discussed how it might have behooved the hostess to tell us "I'll seat you shortly" before dealing with RW. We talked about other things too (we were there for a solid chunk of time). But then-- lo!-- we were summoned.

We passed through the small dining room that I had assumed was the entire extent of the restaurant and emerged into a lovely, dark, intimate back room. Well, intimate except for the 10 or so EMPTY tables there, including several two-tops, which the hostess gaily offered us. Well, we thought, it certainly IS lucky that this entire room cleared out as we waited for those 10 minutes or so... it would be a shame if we were sitting out in the vestibule while our table sat empty. (Sarcasm sarcasm sarcasm.) Slightly incredulous, we chose a nice table in the back near the wine storage and settled in for what promised to be a delightful meal.

Annnnd off we went. After the hostess delivered our menus, our waiter, let's call him Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters, sidled up to the table to take our drink orders. In the mood for a glass of wine and relatively unfamiliar with Italian varietals, I asked him what the Trebbiano was like. His response: "It's white." That sounds good, I'll have that-- and while you're at it, what's the soup du jour? Once it was established that, yes, I could read English and had deciphered that since the Trebbiano was under the "white" section of the wine list I understood that it was, indeed, "white," he offered a lame description and I ordered it anyway. When AV asked about their funky looking house sodas, he told us "We're out of them." But FORTUNATELY they had regular soda, so AV settled for a ginger ale. Phew.

Now for the menu. It's short, and even shorter on vegetarian options (note to all veggies out there: our kind is not really welcome at Sfoglia. Read on for what I ended up with). Most of the pastas are available in a small or large portion, which is nice. When Dave Grohl returned, we placed our order-- for me, an insalata mista; for AV, the papardelle bolognese-- and he told us that there was one pre-order dessert that night, some sort of rhubarb/cherry crostada. AV told him that we'd probably make our decision come dessert time, and DG retorted with, "Unfortunately, you have to order it now. ESPECIALLY with just one course." [How DARE we!] Oh we have to, eh? Thanks Dave-- I think we're going to be okay without your crostada. Although it sounds quite precious.

Our drinks finally arrived. AV's ginger ale was one of those tiny little 10-ounce soda bottles that you find in the Four Seasons mini bar, where it's about $1 per bubble. Sweet. My wine bottle came in a tiny little cylindrical water cup. Really. No wine glass here. Come ON, people, you're a respectable Italian restaurant and you're serving wine in water glass? (N.B., I know some places do this as an informal touch, but glassware is very important to me and this affectation infuriates me.) I took this opportunity to go to the bathroom, and as I passed the bar on the way I noticed they actually did have wine glasses. So on my way back to my table, I asked the bartender for a wine glass. He provided it with a smile. Back at the table, I performed my own wine service and was satisfied.

Their wine glass on right; my wine glass on left

Eventually, Sfoglia's coveted bread arrived on our table (after, it should be noted, the other table in our room, seated well after we were but clearly friends of the hostess, has received THEIR bread). It was everything the restaurant is famous for: warm sourdough, an enviable crackly crust, and good olive oil. However, Sfoglia also committed the cardinal sin of the bread course: three slices for two people. REALLY, people??? (We split the third slice.)

Highlight of the meal

Our entrees arrived shortly after the bread. The hostess asked if AV wanted parmesan with is pappardelle, and he assented. She disappeared, went to talk to her friends at the other table for a good couple of minutes as AV's pasta cooled on the table, and then finally returned with the parm. While she was gone, AV and I discussed how we had seen dishes of olives on other tables but hadn't received any; was it a separate side order? I hadn't remembered seeing it on the menu. But after viewing my salad, I realized I was going to need at least a little something more, so we decided to throw caution to the wind and ask for them anyway. When we asked the hostess upon her return, she said, "Oh, I hadn't noticed you didn't have any!" and then returned with a dish (yes, they were complimentary). Ravenously hungry, I started pounding olives at a furious pace... and about halfway through the dish realized they were coated in bits of prosciutto. Oops.


Now down to the food. AV reports that his papardelle bolognese was incredibly delicious. The kitchen is clearly talented; I'll give them that. But based on the size of the dish, I was surprised that it seemed Dave Grohl had defaulted to placing an order for an appetizer portion of the pasta, since AV hadn't specified and DG hadn't asked during the ordering process. That is, until I got the check, and- wait- nope, it was the full portion, for $30. I can't IMAGINE what the appetizer portion looks like.

Note: Objects in picture appear larger than they are

My own selection, pretty much the only thing I could eat on the menu, was just a dish of leaves. They were delicious leaves, I guess, but there were about a dozen pieces of lettuce in vinagrette on the plate, for $7. If I hadn't had the dish of prosciutto'd olives, I would have left the restaurant, walked across the street, and ordered takeout dumplings to create a real meal. As it was, I pounded half a pint of Ben & Jerry's once AV and I returned to his apartment.

One dish of leaves does not a meal make

When we were finished with our food, Dave Grohl made a final surprise guest appearance at our table, informing us, "Sorry, I forgot about you guys back here" before asking us how the food was. Well, it's gone, so regardless there's not too much you can do about it, Dave, old pal. We declined the offer of non-crostada desserts, paid the inflated check, and left.

God damn it, Sfoglia. We wanted to like you so much. Other people like you. Your food is good. But I left there so covered in attitude that I felt dirty. Fine, maybe it was Sunday night and we caught you on a bad day. But really, you weren't even trying. If the bread and pasta hadn't been so good, you'd be slapped with the coveted zero spatula designation. As it is, you "earn" a meager one Offset Spatula. Readers: there are so many lovely, delicious restaurants in New York City where people care about the food, it's reasonably priced, and when you arrive you are welcomed as an old friend (e.g., Aroma, Brown Cafe). Sfoglia is not one of them. Visit those that truly appreciate your patronage, not Sfoglia. This place just doesn't seem to care.

1402 Lexington Avenue

A true gem at Brown Cafe

I always love receiving emails on my blog email address (; talking to readers and people in the restaurant industry is always unfailingly interesting. A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the GM of a small restaurant on the LES inviting me to try the place out. She mentioned a high quality of food and especially killer mac & cheese... and I was sold. So on a surprisingly lovely Saturday evening, AV and I made our way down, down to the wilds of the far LES to visit Brown Cafe.

It's a charming, tiny spot in a rather gritty and obscure neighborhood, a friendly haven off the street. Unique, rough wood tables flanked by benches populated the small room, and we sat in a sunny, large table at the window. We first pondered the wine list, which was presented alongside a list of cool-looking cocktails; I chose a glass of chenin blanc and AV went with a bottle of Wolaver's organic oatmeal stout (from Vermont). Both were delicious.

We placed our orders from the menu, which offered several vegetarian options, and sipped our beverages while we waited. Curiously, there was no bread course at Brown Cafe, which normally would have been disappointing, but for some reason neither AV nor I was craving bread, so the absence actually worked well that night. After a perfectly timed wait, our entrees arrived.

AV had chosen, of course, the mac & cheese. It came with such a ringing endorsement, it seemed destined to let us both down. But damn, I think this was the best mac & cheese I've ever tasted, even better than the previous holder of that coveted title, the mac & cheese at Irving Mill. The incredible mixture of penne, gruyere, fontina, ricotta, and mozzarella was presented in a cast iron skillet. There was a golden-brown crust on top that yielded to the fork to reveal a creamy, sharp, cheesy, melt-in-your mouth delight below. I tried a bite, and then another, and then another and another until I had to restrain myself so AV actually had something to eat. For his part, AV noted that if he ever moved away from the city, this was one of the dishes he'd have on his visits back to NYC-- it was that special.

So absolutely incredible

My selection was roasted vegetables with mixed greens salad. The dish came crowned with several generous, thick slices of manchego, which I love. The greens were well dressed in a tangy vinaigrette and came accompanied by thick slices of fennel, leeks, and tender red beets. All the vegetables had incredible flavor-- in fact, this was one of the most flavorful salads I've ever eaten. Each ingredient was high quality and treated well, tasty and almost decadent. Definitely a top-ten salad.

Generous blanked of manchego

Although it seemed Brown Cafe did have one dessert on offer, it didn't seem as though they had a dessert list, so after we finished our entrees we were presented with the check (in a very cool leather folio). But before we could pay, the friendly GM approached with the petit fours of the evening, bread pudding bites made from her grandmother's recipe and paired with a raspberry sauce. Neither AV nor I typically love bread pudding, but this was a fantastic version-- custardy, rich, and silky. Delicious, and complimentary-- the best of both worlds!

Especially lovely mini spoons

After paying the exceedingly reasonable check, we ventured back out to the street to embark on a post-dinner digestive stroll. We both left Brown Cafe feeling happy, satisfied, even invigorated. As was promised in the email inviting us to check the place out, the food at Brown Cafe was incredibly thoughtful; it seemed as though the people in the kitchen and at the front of the house really cared about what they were doing. That's exceedingly rare in NYC, and it made us appreciate the excellent food all the more. And that supersedes any gripes I'd have about the restaurant-- backless benches, tiny water glasses, cramped (but charmingly old-school) bathroom. When the people and the food are so delightful, that doesn't matter. I only wish Brown Cafe were not so ridiculously far away from my Hell's Kitchen home base-- it's a four Offset Spatula restaurant I'd visit regularly. As it is, I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Brown Cafe
61 Hester Street (at Ludlow)

Another burger joint I can obsess about?

On my way back from the subway the other day, I cut through New World Plaza, that stretch of concrete between 49th and 50th streets and 8th and 9th avenues where people gather on nice days. Lo and behold, in the space opposite Blockheads that has been vacant for many moons, something is coming... And it is this:

Mother ****er

I have no other information aside from this photo. Mother Burger, what are you?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thai standards at Q2

Lately I've been craving both dumplings and papaya salad with alarming regularity. So when choosing a place to meet up with SB for dinner, I was in search of a new Thai restaurant to satisfy my cravings. We ended up at Q2 Thai in Hell's Kitchen.

I got there first and was the first person in the restaurant. Well, the first person aside from the three people working there. By the time we were finished with dinner, the place had filled up, but it was eerily empty at the beginning. Everything about Q2 is relatively utilitarian: the prompt, snappy service that borders on curt; the semi-stylish but nothing special dining room; the standard Thai menu. We placed our order and our food appeared within a couple minutes.

SB had ordered chicken pad thai. A self-professed pad thai enthusiast, SB likes most renditions of the dish. When pressed, she put this dish in the middle of the pad thai spectrum. From my angle, it looked piping hot, at the very least.


My choice was the papaya salad. It was a reasonable portion of shredded papaya with string beans, a few cherry tomatoes, and crushed peanuts. This version of the classic was also pretty average-- it was tasty, and the sauce especially was savory and quite delicious, but I've had better and wouldn't go out of my way to get this one.

Quite soupy

We paid the very reasonable check promptly and took off. As Thai restaurants go, Q2 is okay-- not spectacular, not bad. But in a town with so many Thai places (and especially a part of town so packed with Thai joints), average isn't good enough to bring me back. As a result, I give Q2 two Offset Spatulas; there are better options in the area.

Q2 Thai
788 Ninth Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd Streets


I passed the Caribbean restaurant Negril on my way to the subway, and lo and behold, they're closing. Although that's always a sad sight, it's often an opportunity for some great "teary shutter signage," and Negril didn't disappoint:

The endless goodbye

My favorite part is "Negril is proud to have fed some of the most important people of our time."

"Some of"? Who?

It is worth noting, though, that their West Village restaurant will still be open, and they're offering a 20% discount Sunday-Thursday through September 31st to "Chelsea customers making the switch." So if you're in the mood for Caribbean food, "switch" to their Village location and get 20% off.

Blossom gets the best of me

Ever since I started at the bakery, the "gourmet organic vegan" restaurant Blossom has haunted me. It's right across from the bakery, and it's supposed to be the best vegetarian food in the city. But I never really wanted to go, even though, as a vegetarian, I'm SUPPOSED to want to go. Well, the guilt finally got the better of me, and earlier this week, I met BL there for a catch-up dinner.

The dining room is very interesting. You enter through an unmarked black door, turn right, and all of a sudden you're in what looks like someone's living room. It's quiet and soothing and quite nice, but a little weird, since it does feel like you're in someone's house. Regardless, there's a lot of space between the tables, and it's a pleasant place to be.

We perused the menu (which states the Blossom is "first and foremost animal caring") and placed our orders. BL started with the soup du jour, a coconut and sweet corn soup, which came with two slices of bread. It was a copious bowl of sunny yellow soup, and a taste revealed the powerful taste of coconut. BL noted it was a bit sweet but still relatively good.

Sweet & coconutty

For an entree, BL had chosen the baby spinach risotto, upon my recommendation (I'd heard that it was really good). I took a few bites, and it was... well, interesting. Incredibly rich and hearty, with huge chunks of mushrooms and bits of tofu, and perhaps too much lemon (BL wasn't all that into the citrus kick the dish provided). It was a huge portion and so rich that the few bites I had left me feeling slightly sick.

So incredibly rich

My own entree was a small grilled tofu salad. This was a simple mixed green salad topped with a bit of shredded seaweed, a few halved cherry tomatoes, and two triangles of grilled tofu. The tofu was soft and warm, but the greens were, well, greens, and the seaweed was seaweedy. The carrot-miso dressing, which I got on the side, was unappealingly oily with little flavor. While nothing was necessarily bad about the salad, it wasn't that great, either, and it left me still quite hungry.

Pretty but bland

Since I had (distinctly non-vegan, non-organic) treats from the bakery, we skipped dessert, paid the bill, and left. Blossom is a relatively expensive destination, and though I went with a salad rather than one of the more creative vegetarian entrees, I can't really recommend the restaurant. I've found that vegetarian restaurants often compensate for the lack of meat in their dishes by making their food incredibly rich and heavy in other ways, and I always leave feeling a little weighed down. While I definitely respect what Blossom is doing, for what I'm looking for, there are many cheaper, better places in the city to go. As a result, Blossom gets two Offset Spatulas and a tip of my hat.

187 Ninth Avenue, between 21st and 22nd Streets