One of my favorite things is going to NYC at Christmas time. I love to see the tree and all the people dressed in coats and hats drifting down the streets looking for the perfect gift for loved ones. I especially love the NYC restaurants. If you haven’t had a chance to get there in a while it is worth the trip – the food is fabulous!
We started our vacation at Saxon + Parole for traditional Manhattans, shaken not stirred or maybe a little of both. A perfectly concocted drink with an iced side car to match accompanied with Amarena cherries and an orange peel. Fabulous!
Our first restaurant, Osteria Morini located in Soho and featured the food of Chef Michael White of Marea. The atmosphere was dark and homey with mostly wooden communal tables with the kitchen in the back. Our waiter was entertaining and very knowledgeable of the menu and wine list. Thin flatbread was served immediately to munch on while deciding on dinner. For our starter we chose the Sformato, delicately baked truffle custard served with thick sliced country bread. The flavor was tremendous and the eggy treat melted in your mouth.
Next, we devoured one of the best pastas I have ever eaten….Bolognese stuffed tortellini tossed in a foie gras sauce. Absolutely the most decadent thing I have put in my mouth in a long time and well worth it.
Fresh roasted Porchetta was our entrée of choice and a side or Brussels Sprouts. Thick sliced pork rolled in more pork and roasted to perfection. What can I say…nice!
For dessert, the Walnut Budino with fresh grapes and rum raisin gelato was unique and refreshing.
The following day we dined for lunch at Ma Peche, restaurant of Chef David Chang (Momofuku). Ma Peche located in midtown was in the downstairs portion of the building with music just a blaring. The menu was Vietnamese fusion and there were two options for dining – ala carte or pre fixe. We decided on ala carte because we wanted to try several different plates. The freshly prepared pork buns were amazing and probably my favorite dish. Steamed buns served open face with thick slices of pork in a sweet sauce. Next, the Broccoli Salad in a sweet and sour sauce was crunchy and light and paired nicely with the buns. For entrees, we ordered the Pork Shank which were pork patties fried in panko and served with a light yogurt sauce and the Rice Noodles, ground chicken, bok choy and fresh noodles tossed in a spicy sauce. The noodles were thick cut and homemade to perfection. The portion was a little large for lunch though. Momofuku Milk Bar was in the front lobby of the restaurant but being way too full we decided to pass, maybe next time.
For dinner we dined at Locanda Verde located in the TriBeca area. I had heard that Chef Andrew Carmellini was creating fabulous casual heart felt Italian and I definitely needed to try it. After the long cab ride there…long story…we arrived at the restaurant. Locanda Verde was packed for the holidays and we were seated right away. To start we ordered the Blue Crab Toasts. Fresh crab on top of tomato rubbed bruschetta and a jalapeno, perfect balance of flavors.
Next, the Mushroom Salad — similar to my favorite French salad — frisee with poached egg in a light vinaigrette, only this one had roasted mushrooms and a slice of crunchy speck on top. I think the speck was the touch. For pasta we ordered the Boar Ragu with rolled noodles and Brussels sprouts. This dish was nice but I kept reflecting on the pasta I had the night before at Osteria Morini. For our entrée we shared the Duck Breast with Five Spice Glaze. This duck was amazing – thickly sliced and still slightly rare – cooked perfectly. Too stuffed for dessert but chatted with the gal next to me who happened to live in Los Angeles and was enjoying every bite of hers.
For lunch the following day we dined at Jean Georges. It is in the Trump building at 1 Central Park West and we have been going for years. My favorite place…food, ambiance and value. For $38.00 you get perfection. That’s all I am saying, try it!
After theatre we finally dined at Babbo, Mario Batali’s flagship restaurant. The place was packed as expected. The rock n roll playing was expected. The food was completely delicious as expected. The lamb’s tongue and arugula salad was unique and a little gamey but I appreciated the effort.
The squid ink pasta with rock shrimp and chili’s was the best I have ever had. No thick sauce, just perfectly prepared pasta with flavor and tossed in a light broth with a little heat. Simply the best. Our entrée, Guinea Hen — pounded thinly and rolled in flour and sauteed — was nice as well.
For dessert I had to try one of my favorite pastry chefs, Gina DeSilva, desserts. I have baked out of her book for years and her cornmeal cake with cranberry compote and ricotta gelato was fabulous.
The next day we decided to walk a lot and burn a few calories and check out Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. I had heard about the Marshmallow Shake and I definitely needed to taste one. The line was not too long and we found ourselves dining at picnic tables in the rain with heat lamps. As for the shake — the guy at the counter didn’t have any idea what I was talking about and so he opted to put marshmallow cream in vanilla ice cream and blend it up. The shake was not great and definitely not what I had read about. As for the burger — the smallest thing for $5.00 I had seen in a long time. I know Danny Meyer is the chef behind this burger joint but I was a little surprised to see the people and the portions. Good thing we were still full from the night before.
For dinner, I had booked Eleven Madison Park with Chef Daniel Humm at the helm. Now this was going to be fine dining at its best with great service, food and atmosphere. The bites before our dinner began were very impressive including Goat Cheese Lollipops with a crunchy exterior paired with Chickpea Toasts, Scallop Ceviche with tangerine vinaigrette and Gougeres (crunchy French cheese puffs).
For dinner we chose our meal based upon which category of food we wanted. I chose Crab-Lobster-Veal-Triple Crème and my husband chose Foie Gras-Turbot-Vension-Chocolate for his meal. Each dish was perfectly created with our chosen ingredients. I thought my selections were all artful and delicious but my husband’s plates fell a little short on some odd flavor combinations.
The most wonderful thing I remember – the roll, croissant dough formed into balls and served with sweet cream butter and goat butter. Overall a great night.
The next day ABC Kitchen was our lunch spot. Jean Georges is at it again creating this casual light space in the ABC furniture store. Large communal tables line the place with a bar in the front. ABC Kitchen offers a pre fixe lunch option or ala carte choices as well. We decided to do one pre fixe and a few ala carte dishes. The Cauliflower Soup was perfectly creamy and the Chicken Liver Toasts with a thin layer of spread over them were rich and flavorful.
The Carrot Salad with roasted carrots and greens was good but the Rivolo (large ravioli) with housemade ricotta and farm egg served in a Pork Sugo was outstanding. For dessert, the Salted Caramel Gelato with candied popcorn and chocolate sauce was a nice ending.
Our final meal was at Becco, next to the theatre district. We have been going there for years for traditional Italian food after a show. Lidia Bastianich and her son Joe opened this restaurant in the early 90’s and it is still making great comfort food. We had Caesar Salad, Hot Antipasti and a Veal Chop to share. Becco has a full list of $25.00 wines that are terrific. What a great ending to a fabulous holiday visit.