Monday, March 26, 2012

NYC Good Eats

"It's like butter melting in your mouth." I don't know about you, but I like butter on my toast or on my mashed potatoes, not just a slab of it in my mouth. Gross. What a weird description, right? And why would that be the one you go to when describing an enjoyable meal? 

Well, now I know. Red Farm. Go there. Wait in line. Wait an hour if you must. It's worth it. 

It's been a while since I really had a great meal in New York. I mean, they are mostly all really good, but moving here three years ago has made my threshold for great meals relatively difficult to achieve. Red Farm made it.
Spicy Crispy Beef and 'Pac Man' Shrimp Dumplings
Please forgive the pictures...pathetic cell phone images that don't do the food justice. To boot, the most amazing thing we ate is not pictured as we inhaled it without pause. What was it? It was a chicken and truffle soup dumpling. DI-VINE. A special as well so please go and eat it and rave about it to everyone so they make it part of the regular menu. Now.

Red Farm's chefs are the duo of Ed Schoenfeld and Joe Ng, the latter affectionately labeled the "Dim Sum Master" on the Red Farm website. They aren't kidding. The 'Pac Man' shrimp dumplings were served with a side of guacamole and a sweet potato fritter. Luxurious. I don't even LIKE sweet potatoes and ate the whole thing without pause.

Sauteed Black Cod with Black Bean & Thai Basil

Back to that butter comment. What melted in my mouth like a pat of butter? What made me stoop to using that awkward and somewhat creepy metaphor? It was the Sauteed Black Cod. When we saw it on the menu I thought of Nobu's Black Cod. This is better. Maybe it's the black beans and the punchy peppers or the Thai Basil. The fish was cooked to melt in my mouth. Fantastique! Get it. You won't be sad.

They don't take reservations (of course), but they are way fancy with an iPad waiting list app so you give them your phone number and go down to the corner for a drinks or meander down Hudson and they'll shoot you a text when your table is ready. And now with the weather turning in our favor, what could be better? Get on it.

I must also acknowledge a few other super stars of the last six months. A big shout out to Talde, the new restaurant by Top Chef, Dale Talde, out in Prospect Heights. We went there on Friday and loved the Fluke Hawaiian buns and the short ribs...and their house-made hot sauce on the table...oh, I was eating that with my fork.

My other top stand-out is Empellon Taqueria, the upscale Mexican restaurant conceptualized by veteran pastry chef, Alex Stupak. Delicious-ness. I haven't had a dish there that didn't delight. We even were so brave as to go there for a set menu dinner (usually these aim to disappoint in my opinion) for New Years and all six of us left happy campers. We are trying out their new restaurant, Empellon Cocina, tonight. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Bright Spot...

When I hear the word 'Oriole', I think of the professional baseball team, Cal Ripken, Jr., and investing years of my weekly allowance collecting Topps baseball cards with that terribly hard piece of bubble gum in each 20 pack of cards. I should probably dig up those cards...maybe there's some money to be made? I'm pretty sure I have a few Bo Jackson All-Star cards and a Jose Canseco Rookie of the Year card (juiced up of course.) But I digress.

I looked up 'Oriole' and these birds are characterized as "bright and showy" with colorful plumage. That connotation was much more appropriate when considering my sensational experience at "Oriole9", the bright spot on our rough trip to Roxbury back in February.

Driving home, we planned a lunch pit stop in Woodstock, having never done more than drive through the town in the past. During last summer's drive-by of the town, I'd spied some quirky 'Woodstockers' roaming the streets clad in period garb from the heydays and stores that appeared to contain some titillating treasures. Arriving in town, we were welcomed by those same quirky folk adorning the sidewalks in their hippy gear while drowning us with their melodies. I'm certain street-side concerts are the only way they can add "I've played at Woodstock" to their musical accolades.

Food was our priority so once we parked we perused a menu or two before deciding on "Oriole9" mainly selecting it to fulfill my need to um...well, use the facilities. Secretly I think my body was guiding us to the pot of gold at the end of our somewhat somber rainbow of a weekend. And thank god for that. We were seated almost immediately despite the line of parties of 4+ (another pro of being a party of 2!) I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and the boy went for an Ommegang Stout. Perfect. But no. The waitress returned quickly, "I'm so sorry, but we're out of that beer. How about the Six Point Triple Sweet Action." Perfect. But no. Again, she returned...uh-oh, I didn't like where this was headed. And from the boy's face, he didn't either. Was this weekend just perpetually doomed? But this time the waitress returned with a cold beer in hand; she'd taken it upon herself to get him something similar, and apparently the last bottle of it. A gulp of relief.

Oriole9, as photographed by "Experience Woodstock" Blogger.

Starved, we perused the menu and the specials. Where to begin. I could eat my toe. We ordered up some homemade hot wings (extra spicy) while we mulled it over. On the specials list was a lamb wrap sandwich with all sorts of yummyness inside....specifically a grilled lamb kofte with roasted tomato, shredded red onion, and basil cream. Typically, the boy and I will order separate dishes so we can share; once we asked inquired about the special, the waitress's face and the whimper of delight that escaped her solidified our order: one lamb wrap each. Add pickles. To our dismay, they forgot the pickles. But what was an incredibly tasty and scrumptiously delicious wrap fared just as well alone. Not a morsel was left on our plates. I didn't even take the time for a photo.

While enjoying our meal and our bevies, I read an article in "edible Hudson Valley" about the restaurant and it's history. A charming story to go along with our very charming meal...the lucky charm at the end of our not so charmed Catskill escape.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Not so Rockin' Roxbury

As the mildest winter in my East Coast history apparently comes to an end (please don't jinx me with a Nor'easter next week!), we took the February long weekend to escape for 48 hours up to the Catskill Mountains. The boy was very excited about a place he booked through Tablet Hotels, which covers a wide variety of unique, boutique & luxury hotels.

Being the creepy googler that I am, I did my pre-trip research to ensure we packed in the most adventure on our escapade. I'll admit, most of the area activities (especially in winter) are relegated to the area ski slopes, but I was enthralled by the idea of tubing since it was such a blast in 2011! I thought I'd have more trouble identifying our hotel (without cheating and asking), but there was only one hotel in Roxbury on Tablet so I had no doubts. No doubts that we were staying in a motel. A themed motel. Albeit with lime green painted doors and black shutters and an apparently "B&B" style hospitality. Yet still a motel. With a themed room. I quickly adjusted my expectations. Apparently the boy did not.

*From our 2011 Tubing Trip...the Plattekill hill is MUCH longer. But we didn't bring a camera so you'll have to use your imagination!

The drive was lovely. We cruised up to the Roxbury Motel in the late afternoon, just in time for an evening cocktail and then the whole night ahead of us. At check-in, we were given the lay of the land by the hostess. Guests could borrow DVD's, games, and grab snacks from the "lobby" area, and each room had it's own refrigerator with chilled wine for our enjoyment ($20/bottle - no real up-charge - ok, things are looking up..) Also, the restaurant next door, Public Lounge, was open for dinner (and purportedly quite good.) We inquired about other restaurants. "Oh, there is this fabulous one, the Peekamoose Restaurant, but it's about a 25 minute drive." Next. The only other place in town was a pizza joint. This creepy googler had already pre-approved Public Lounge's menu anyway. Phew!

"So would you like to see Fred's Lair?" our gracious host asked? Hmm? It turns out (big shocker here) that we all have preconceived notions about pop culture references. The boy heard "Fred's Lair" and obviously thought Fred Schneider of the B-52's (Kate Pierson, also of the B-52's has a B&B in the Catskills, which he mistakenly thought was the Roxbury Motel.) I, on the other hand, thought Flintstone. I wish he'd been right. A pebbled foyer beckoned us into Room #12. As we ventured in, we were transported to cavemen times in our room replete with brown, mottled "boulders" adorning the walls, zebra/lion/tiger textiles, fuzzy animal print lampshades, and well, you get the picture. Ok, it's kitschy. We were impressed with the extent to which the owners had taken this theme. It really was Fred's Lair. Go big or go home, right?

So we did! We threw on our snow pants, headed to Public Lounge for a hot toddy, and headed up to Plattekill Mountain for some night tubing! It was terribly cold and the snow blowers were right on top of us while we waited 25 minutes for our run, but it was one wonderful, jump on your chest giggle-filled ride!!!! I envied the kids who waited in line over an over for another shot at a run down the mountain. Our patience isn't up to snuff for those conditions and a warm meal was waiting us back at Public Lounge. And dinner was really excellent with an entertaining and engaging waitstaff, great food, and wonderful company so the abbreviated tubing was just enough. 

The close out the evening and walk off our dinner, we ventured for a jaunt around town. Jaunt might imply a lengthier venture than we were afforded. Besides the pizza parlor and the gas station/convenience store, there was just a smattering of homes and some previously occupied retail spaces. Similar to the landscape of the rest of the area, it appears that the Catskills were pretty hard hit by the effects of Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. In that respect, I'm glad we were supporting the community.

Departing the next morning, we were happy to turn over the keys to the Lair. Sleep was fitful at best for both of us with uncomfortable linens, pillows, and a loud, and inconsistent, window air conditioning unit. Several coffees later we attempted to shake off the grumpy's and simply enjoy the ride back through the country to our great city and our own comfy lairs. Another travel stop checked off the list.