Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Minimalist brunch at Roc

On Sunday, AC and I met for brunch at Roc in Tribeca. Neither of us was really hungry at all (what were we doing at brunch, you might ask? Good question), so the following is what was consumed:

For me-- a green tea. This was presented just as a cup of already-steeped tea, no teabag, no press, no way to control how much the tea was steeped. I've never seen that before, and I can confidently say I don't like it. It also came off as somewhat cheap: $3 for this tiny cup of water? I dunno...

Too steeped for me

For AC-- first, the bread basket. Lots of bread here, including a very greasy focaccia that required a fork and knife due to the grease almost oozing out of the bread.

Maybe the napkin below is to sop up the grease?

Second, a cold tomato soup with a puck of breaded goat cheese in the center. AC liked it, and she ate about half of the soup with a good amount of bread.

Soup with oil and cheese

And that was it. There were some good looking pastas and salads emerging from the kitchen in addition to the paltry food the two of us consumed, so I think I'll hold off on rating the place on the off-chance I go back to give it a fair shake. Till then...

190 Duane Street at Greenwich Street

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

LWF&D finally goes to Grom...again

After my foray into Bouchon Bakery's savories, I needed something sweet. And preferably cold and creamy. What to do, what to do... Well, hello, Grom! You just happened to be nearby. And though I could no longer use my "first-time visitor" excuse, I stopped in anyway to shell out $5.25 for a small cup of gelato.

And would I do it again? Absolutely. This time I went with two flavors: coconut sorbet-- incredibly creamy, with a smooth texture and a heady coconut flavor-- and crema di grom, a light cream base with big hunks of biscotti. By big hunks I mean huge pieces-- there was pretty much an entire gingersnap-sized cookie in one of my bites. This was one of the best flavors I've tasted at Grom.

Oh so dear

Alas, like everything that's a little too expensive and a little too small, it was gone too soon. But the powerful memories linger on...

1796 Broadway, between 58th Street and Columbus Circle

Monday, June 28, 2010

Midday desserts and coffee at Brasserie Athenee

Last weekend, PR and I met up for coffee in Midtown. We tried to grab a table at Pigalle, the hit-or-miss French brasserie at 48th and 10th, and got so much attitude from the host that we decided to go elsewhere. Lo and behold, Brasserie Athenee, just a few blocks down from Pigalle, was happy to welcome us.

We gratefully escaped the rain in the mostly empty, very French-style dining room. PR ordered a cappuccino, and I ordered a sparkling water. We sipped.


And then the piece de resistance arrived: PR's cheesecake. This was a big hunk 'o' cake, halfheartedly decorated with strawberries for color more than flavor. One bit revealed an intensely rich, creamy texture, sweet but almost in a subtle way. I wished the graham cracker crust had been a bit less soggy, but other than that this was some pretty good cheesecake.

Gets the job done!

And so, with our cheesecake and our beverages, we were happy. Thank you, Brasserie Athenee, for taking us in when Pigalle was Too Cool for School. Rest assured your hospitality was much appreciated.

Brasserie Athenee
300 W. 46th Street, at 8th Avenue

Saturday, June 26, 2010

LWF&D attempts to join the Wine Century Club

Dearest readers,

Inspired by an article in this morning's WSJ, I have decided to try to join the Wine Century Club. For the uninitiated (don't worry, that includes me!), to join the Wine Century Club, one most taste wines of 100 different varietals, which are outlined in the club's membership application. There aren't many rules beyond that, but I've created my own rules for this quest:

1) Previously-tasted wines don't count. That is, as of today, I start off with a clean slate and no boxes checked on my chart-- to check off a varietal, even if I've had it before, I have to taste it again after today.
2) One wine on one wine-tasting occasion only counts for one grape varietal. So if the wine is a blend of several varietals, I can choose which one to check off, but I can't claim more than one for one wine-tasting occasion. However, if I subsequently drink that same or a similar wine again at a different occasion, I can check off a different varietal in the blend. Got it? Good!
3) I have no idea how long this is going to take, but I aim to complete my Centuryship by my 26th birthday, which will occur on July 6, 2011. That gives me a bit more than a year to get 'er done. Given the amount of wine I drink on a regular basis, this will be difficult. But I plan to chronicle my adventures on this blog, thereby beefing up the "and drink" part of this blog's title.

Any questions? Feel free to email me at and I'll make up some answers. Know where to get some of the obscurer varietals on the list? Want to send me some wine? Email me, suckahs. Oh, and feel free to play along as well. The more, the merrier!

Current tally: 0 and counting...

Yours in vino,


Friday, June 25, 2010

Investigating Brickyard Gastropub

Brickyard Gastropub is a new addition to the Hell's Kitchen dining and drinking scene-- I reported on the progress of Brickyard Gastropub as it was being built, and it's been open to the public for a few weeks now. Last weekend, JR and I stopped in to check it out.

It's actually really nice inside (emphasis on the "gastro" part of gastropub, I suppose). There are tables and upscale furnishings and people eating a nice meal in the dining room in the back. But there's also a bar (with really comfortable bar stools with backs, extra extra points), a lot of flat-screens, and one of the best bar soundtracks I've had the pleasure of listening to in a while (minus one foray into Phil Collins, which a hostess hastily explained to us was by request from the heavily inebriated table in the corner). The robust beer list focuses on regional beers, so JR and I both ordered from that. A dark beer (Ommegang?) for him, a cider (Crispin) for me. And so we whiled the evening away.

Beer on beermat

Huge cider. With ice. Okay?

I liked Brickyard. It was a nice place to be; the people were friendly, it wasn't too crowded, the drinks were cold, and the AC was on. I'll be back.

Brickyard Gastropub
785 Ninth Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd Streets

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hitting the Odeon cart for some sweet, sweet ice cream

Last week, after a hearty dinner at City Hall, AS and I swung by the Odeon with a specific goal in mind: ice cream. See, the Odeon has a little summertime ice cream stand perched just outside the entrance to the restaurant. Though the flavor selection is limited, what they've got is pretty darn good.

That evening, in place of the promised butterscotch was butter pecan. HUGE bonus-- I like butter pecan quite a bit, butterscotch not as much. A quick taste to confirm I liked it-- yep-- and I was on my way with a cup of butter pecan.

The scale on this picture is all kinds of messed up...

For $4, the portion was kind of small, but the ice cream was so rich and powerful I honestly didn't want more once I'd finished the single scoop. The ice cream itself was intensely buttery, and it was packed with pecans, which provided another burst of buttery crunch. Overall, rich, sweet, and satisfying, just as any good dessert should be.

The Odeon
145 West Broadway

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Coffee and salad at Bouchon Bakery

I've been to Bouchon Bakery a couple of times, for tea, for dessert... but never for savory food. I've always wanted to try their savory food. And last week, I finally got the opportunity!

MB and I met up at Bouchon in the early evening for a long-overdue catch-up. She ordered a coffee, soymilk on the side, which earned raves.

Action photo!

And I finally got my long-awaited salad! The winner was an endive and apple salad with peppercress, goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and walnut vinaigrette. Come to think of it, the menu promised walnuts, but in fact there weren't any. Perhaps that was for the best, because this concoction came as a vertically arranged plate of towering vegetation heaped onto a narrow plate-- it was clear that one forkful would dislodge the whole mess, sending tendrils of pepper cross tumbling towards the table. And it did. Imagine the extra mess walnut bits would have made! No matter-- the salad was actually quite good, if a little bitter, what with both the pepper cress and the endive. But the goat cheese was delicious, and there was lots of it. It was a satisfying salad.

Tried to capture the vertical reach on this puppy...

Oh, and it came with some intensely crusty and chewy French bread. Ahh, those French know how to make their bread.

Bread + butter with salt crystals on top = perfection

Mission accomplished! Confirmed: Bouchon does make good salads. The next time I'm in the area and feel like shelling out a pretty penny for some pretty produce, I'm there.

Bouchon Bakery

10 Columbus Circle

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bouchon's toffee tart blows LWF&D away

On Saturday evening, I had one of the best desserts I've had in a long, long time. It came from Bouchon Bakery, a place I've been to a number of times for various reasons. But this time, it was their take-out window that suckered me. Don't get me wrong-- I'd been by that particular enclave of temptation many times before, but I'd always balked at the prices. Nearly $8 for a take-out pastry? I'll pass. Or, I should say, I passed, until I didn't.

It was the toffee tart that did it. Attractive peaks of whipped cream with just a few crumbles of toffee hiding the wonders below... Yes, it was $7.25 pre-tax, but I'd just returned from a traumatic hair cutting experience and needed something to calm my nerves. And toffee would do it.


After dinner, I dug in. A cross-section revealed the particular genius of this tart: a flaky, crumbly pastry crust cradling a layer of sticky sweet toffee (with chunks of toffee candy mixed in for texture), all topped with a thin layer of pastry cream and then the aforementioned tufts of vanilla-bean flecked whipped cream. Sigh. Readers, it was so, SO good. Each element complemented the others; the toffee was very sweet, but since the layer was thin, it didn't overwhelm. The abundant whipped cream provided a cooling dairy foil for the sticky goo. Even the pastry crust was fantastic. And turns out that the tart was pretty large-- it could easily have been shared by two people (did I eat it all myself anyway? Yes. Or, well, almost... except for two last bites I couldn't manage). So I guess that makes the aggressive price tag a bit harder to swallow. Kind of?

Sticky toffee threads

Bouchon, you had me at hello. Why must your food be so darn delicious? And so darn expensive? It's a paradox of the ages. Or, I guess, just a reason to save up for my next visit.

Bouchon Bakery
10 Columbus Circle

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sweeter than sweet at Kyotofu

Okay, I admit it: I went back to Kyotofu. Despite my love-hate relationship with their service, their soymilk soft serve is just so darn tempting. And this past week, they had Vanilla-Strawberry as one of their flavors... well, game over.

First, I tried the swirl of Vanilla-Strawberry and Matcha (green tea). It was pretty much as gross as it sounds. The Matcha is super, super bitter, almost surprisingly so, and it didn't do anything for the Vanilla-Strawberry. I really wished they had chosen chocolate as the partner for V-S that week!

So I ended up with a small cup of the Vanilla-Strawberry with mixed berry compote. In retrospect, the compote was probably not the wisest choice with the V-S, since it made the concoction incredibly sweet. The whole effect was one powerful punch of sweet, with sugary compote layering onto the sweet berry flavor of the soft serve. For its part, the soft serve was quite good, with a blushing pink color reminiscent of rose wine and an incredibly airy, whipped texture that made it bizarrely fun to eat. I'd return for this flavor again, but next time I'll go with a different topping... caramel, anyone?

Looks like Mister Softee!

705 Ninth Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pleasant surprises at Perilla

Saturday, KS and I met at Perilla in Greenwich Village for brunch. Perilla, Top Cheffer Harold Dieterle's baby, was surprisingly empty-- but that meant it was reasonably quiet and relaxing for a catch-up brunch.

Perilla is an attractive restaurant, comfortable and classy in an understated way. The space itself is long and narrow, and the striking striped-wood tables make for agreeable visual accents. Beware the bathrooms, which are well-appointed and visually clean but (at least on my visit) not the sweetest-smelling of locations.

But what about the food, you ask? Easy, now. Brunch started with two complimentary lemon pound cake bites. Cake? Yes please. I took a small bite of one of these and it was, in a word, "great." Yep: buttery, appealing crisp edge, lemony zing, all there. Addictive, to say the least.

They look small, but they pack a buttery punch

And then came the real food. KS ordered "two eggs any style"--poached, please-- along with a side of grilled toast and homemade jam. The eggs actually emerged as the "Poached organic eggs" entree (with smoked salmon, english muffins, the works), but they only charged her for the plain poached eggs. The toast was hearty, and the "grilled" part was a creative touch. Overall, a success-- and a lot of food for $8 total!

Eggs with the works

Bread on the grill

Butter 'n' jam

I ordered the "fresh fruit." Again, at $5, this is one of the better bargains in the city, since what emerged was a substantial bowl of plum sections, blackberries, strawberries, grapes, and pineapple. All were fresh and high quality, and the lack of "filler" fruit (grapefruit, rock-hard honeydew, etc.) was very much appreciated.

Fresh fruit extravaganza!

And that was that. For a very low-key, upscale, incredibly enjoyable brunch, Perilla was perfect. And the reasonable pricing and generous portions make it a candidate for one of the best value brunches in the city. On that basis, it earns four Offset Spatulas and a hearty LWF&D recommendation.

9 Jones Street, between Bleecker and W. 4th

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A little this, a little that at Ceci Cela

Last weekend, AC and I got together at Ceci Cela in Soho to catch up. I'd actually had one of their fruit tarts (courtesy of the very same AC.... :-) ) a while back, but I'd never been to the cafe to sit and eat. Turns out there's a very cute, very French, and very small little cafe in the back of the space, behind the pastry cases in front. Music plays, ceiling fans whir, and it actually feels as though you're on the streets of Paris.

While I sipped a small Perrier (only $1.50-- not bad for dine-in prices!), AC got an iced latte (delicious) and a croque-monsieur. This came with a big handful of mesclun and some vinaigrette. There was some ham sandwiched between two slices of thick, soft, golden bread, and the whole thing was smothered in a blanked of melted cheese. AC truly enjoyed it. And I'll admit, I was a little jealous.


...and Cheesy!

It was hard to pass up the tempting treats at the front counter on the way out, but with a thunderstorm bearing down on us, we dashed out to get to our next destinations before the deluge. If you're ever in Soho and are searching for a peaceful place to rest your legs, give Ceci Cela a thought-- there's some reasonably-priced savory food, a whole lot of tempting sweets, and a cute little area that lets you feel-- momentarily, at least-- very far away.

Ceci Cela
55 Spring Street

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Marvelous mussels at City Hall

Last Thursday, AS and I embarked on another dinner-finding mission in Tribeca. It was 8PM, and we had no reservations. Would this end well? We'll see.

After a bit of walking, we chanced upon a decent-looking option. It seemed nice inside, and there were some patio tables hosting a few enthusiastic diners. A glance at the menu revealed that this was City Hall-- and the options looked pretty good. We were sold.

A short chat with the convivial host later, we were seated at a table outside. Our unceasingly upselling waitress made her first appearance ("Can I start you off with some San Pellegrino or Fiji water?" Uh, no.). A few moments of deliberations passed, and we placed our order. Out came City Hall's version of the bread basket: a small boat of crudites with the occasional olive and pickle thrown in.

Lots of crunch!

The rest of our food arrived a relatively short time later. In a slight deviation from the Green Soup theme, AS pounced on their daily special-- white bean soup. Since there were a few sprinkles of green on top, I hereby appoint this soup Honorary Green Soup Chapter 3.

Green soup

AS's other dish that evening was the Prince Edward Island mussels, served in a white wine and garlic broth. Surprisingly, AS pronounced these mussels the best he's ever had, even including the very PEI mussels consumed in their home province. Well done, City Hall! From my perspective, the enormous bread baton served alongside the mussels seemed pretty appealing, for what it's worth (very little).


My choice was the Warm Goat Cheese and Beet salad, served with shaved fennel and asparagus. In retrospect, I don't think this salad actually had asparagus in it. But there was some lettuce, and the large puck of goat cheese was quite tasty. There were thickly sliced beets at the bottom, which were sweet and tender, and the shaved fennel added some crunch and not much else. Overall, it was a decent salad, one that probably would have been enhanced quite a bit with the addition of asparagus. Oh well, c'est la vie.


We were both pleasantly surprised by City Hall. The atmosphere was quite nice, and in general the food was high quality. Sitting outside on a quiet Tribeca side street on a beautiful evening with some good food and a gradual sunset... not too shabby in my book.

City Hall
131 Duane Street

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Second time's the charm at Dafni

Last Saturday, I met JR for dinner at Dafni Greek Taverna, a restaurant I'd been to once before with mixed success. It was ah-kay, but given how glowing the reviews were, I was kind of disappointed. This time around, however, I was fully on the Dafni train.

Make no mistake-- this restaurant is still on the most miserable stretch of block in NYC, a desolate area of 42nd Street across from the Port Authority. But inside, it's warm and welcoming, if still a little loud. You know what was also warm and welcoming? The basket of warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven pita that landed on our table after we placed our orders. I only wished the accompanying olive oil had a bit more of a peppery bite, but as it was, this was some gooood pita.


Both JR and I went for salads. He had chosen the Greek Salad with Salmon, which epitomizes one of the things I like most about Dafni: the prices are right and the portions don't skimp. All the ingredients in this large salad were fresh (including the included stuffed grape leaves, which is a nice bonus!), and the salmon was well-cooked and tasty. Thumbs up.

A salad that will fill you up

My choice once again was the Nisiotiki salad, which came with mixed greens, grilled fennel, dried figs, and and the key-- grilled haloumi. This time around the haloumi was fresh off the grill, warm and pliable and savory and not rubbery at all. The fennel was tasty, if a bit oily, and the dried figs were as loveable as ever. Truly a hearty and enjoyable salad.


We skipped out on Dafni's limited desserts for some ice cream a few blocks away. This time around, I'd say Dafni actually earns an extra spatula-- for the price, this is actually one of the better four Offset Spatula meals you'll get around town. Check it out, especially if you're looking for an off-the-beaten-path pre-theater option.

Dafni Greek Taverna
352 W. 42nd Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues

Monday, June 14, 2010

Salt & zest at the Odeon

Last Thursday, around 7:30, AS and I wandered around Tribeca looking for something to eat. We stopped into Terroir, which was pretty packed. We wandered. We stopped into "Marc Forgione" (f.k.a. Forge), and despite about half a house's worth of empty tables, we were told it would be about a 30-40 minute wait for a table. More wandering. Finally, we ended up at the Odeon, one of those downtown landmarks I've never been to. The host-- let's call him "Mr. Bean" because he looked exactly like Mr. Bean-- led us to a table.

The vibe at Odeon is cool, very "bustling brasserie." There's white butcher paper on the table, the ceilings are high, and the bread is good crusty french bread with a dish of butter. Yum.


To start, AS embarked on Chapter 2 of the Green Soup Chronicles with the asparagus soup. A dollop of creme fraiche melted across the top, adding extra richness to an already rich and tasty soup.

There were no bursting goat cheese dollops, but we can't win 'em all

My entree was the warm goat cheese salad with pine nuts. It came as a good tangle of mixed greens, dusted with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and accompanied by a round of goat cheese on a thin, crunchy toast. The goat cheese was topped with something-- creamy? melted?-- that could have been more goat cheese, but the jury's out on that one. Oh, and one more thing: there was salt. Lots of salt. The whole salad packed one powerful punch of salt. I think it was the dressing, actually, that was somewhat oversalted-- and this comes from someone who has a very potent salt-tooth. (Huh?) It was still edible, though, and the saltiness actually enhanced the glass of sauvignon blanc I had on the side, but with a touch less salt it would have been a great salad. About an hour after dinner I was desperately, desperately thirsty.

You can't see the salt. But it's THERE.

AS went with the Satur Farms heirloom tomato salad, one of the daily specials. This was very prettily plated, and one taste revealed a hearty kick of orange zest-- actually something of a surprising taste when biting into a tomato. I think this salad could have used one extra ingredient (some sort of cheese, maybe), to truly balance it out, but I'm also not a chef, so take that with a grain of salt (ha! Get it?).


Neither of us had been that full to begin with, so we skipped dessert for a nice early-evening stroll through the streets of Tribeca. The overall take on Odeon? Despite a few (salty) hiccups here and there, I actually liked it, and I'd easily return. That means a solid three Offset Spatulas in my book.

The Odeon
145 West Broadway