The sun is shining and the air is light. Though it’s still brisk in these parts, the weather certainly is shaping up.
It’s the perfect time to bake with fresh fruit. Even though strawberries season is about a month away, they’re definitely in season somewhere. How can I tell? Simply, the flavor. They’re sweet and succulent, and beautifully shaped.
This weekend, I baked strawberry-lemon poppy seed shortcakes. I had most of the ingredients, but purchased the poppy seeds, lemon, heavy whipping cream and strawberries from my local supermarket, Met.
The whipped cream is homemade, too. I used some confectioners sugar and a bit of vanilla to flavor the cream.
MDP thought this dessert was out of this world. Good thing I have leftovers!
I got the recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It was marked as a “favorite” by the editor. I can see why.
I’m in total Sunday brunch mode. Every week, I scour Yelp, looking for high-rated places (not that Yelp reviews really mean anything, as you know). One of my coworkers recommended two places to me that I’ll keep in mind for future Sundays: Robert and Cafe Gitane. But this week, I decided we should try Corner Shop Cafe.
I didn’t really look at what people said about Corner Shop Cafe on Yelp. I just saw that it received about four stars overall. That was enough to get me to look at their website. And, after reviewing their delicious-sounding menu, I thought it would be a nice place to spend Sunday morning. I was right.
Located down on Broadway and Bleecker, Corner Shop Cafe is, well, on the corner. Lots of natural light bathes the interior. And cute wooden tables and seats line the walls. Beautiful curtains drape over the centers of windows and the waitstaff are all dressed in black T-shirts with “Corner Shop Cafe” emblazoned on the backs.
To start, we ordered off the specials/extras menu: mini croissants with lemon chantilly, strawberry preserves and chocolate-almond paste. The croissants were delicate and covered with sugar crystals–a light, sweet take on the traditional croissant. I enjoyed each of the spreads, but I declared to MDP that I could have eaten the chocolate-almond paste on its own. It was like a Nutella, but much better.
I opted for the bagel sandwich as my brunch entree: an everything bagel toasted with fried eggs, andouille sausage, stone-ground cheddar grits and cheese. Recently, I told my coworker from Australia that the everything bagel is the quintessential New York food. It’s diverse, it’s egalitarian–it’s everything New York strives to be. And here it was, sitting on my plate, with such wondrous treats stacked on top. When I read the (poorly designed) menu, I assumed the grits would be on the side because who would put grits on a sandwich? Well, Corner Shop Cafe would. And I’m glad they did. The grits were perfectly cooked and the spicy andouille sausage added a certain kick to the sandwich. The sandwich was accompanied by some flavorless home fries (which were chopped potatoes, barely seasoned) and a mixed greens salad with a kind of citrusy vinaigrette on top. Though the home fries weren’t stellar, the sandwich was mighty fine (though hard to eat!).
MDP got the chive biscuit with eggs, bacon and home fries. There was some (expected) confusion about what the deal was with the biscuits. The menu is surprisingly poorly written and may have, in MDP’s words, “been created by someone who was illiterate.” Though the ordering process was arduous, the resulting entree that he received was very good. He enjoyed his chive biscuit, the eggs, the bacon and home fries very much.
I recommend Corner Shop Cafe for brunch. I saw someone get the pancakes, which looked fantastic. And the breakfast burrito looked delightful, as well. If you steer clear of the biscuits section of the menu, ordering will be nice and easy. All in all, Corner Shop Cafe offers some delicious cooking reminiscent of home. Try their brunch next weekend–and arrive early, before all the hungover NYU kids crowd the place.
643 Broadway (at Bleecker Street)
West Village (?), New York
Take the B/D/F/M/6 to Broadway-Lafayette. Walk up Broadway to Bleecker Street.
I have been to Rosa Mexicano a number of times (three, to be precise). When I suggested it as a place for my father, my stepmother and MDP to go for dinner, my father asked, “Why haven’t you written about it on Taylor’s Ham?” So, here I am, writing about Rosa Mexicano.
We chose the Union Square location because I thought it would be easier for them to get to from the Holland Tunnel. I had been to the Lincoln Center location for Restaurant Week one year, and found it to be lovely. The Union Square location is definitely trendier and much more hip. Loud music blares from speakers above. The brightly colored furniture sings under the dim lighting.
Lucky for us, we got a nice table for four in the rear of the restaurant. We took our time ordering, but started with the signature guacamole. A visit to Rosa Mexicano would not be complete without a visit from the guacamole man. With large chunks of avocado throughout, the guacamole was perfectly seasoned (“medium,” as I had requested) and creamy.
For appetizers–because we wanted to fully experience Rosa Mexicano–we got the special rock shrimp ceviche and queso fundido. As for the ceviche, you could taste the citrus fruit the shrimp had been marinated in, and it was quite delicious. Bits of mango dotted the dish, and it had a spicy kick at the end. The queso fundido, which came with chorizo (which, for some reason, the waitress defined for us–as though we were tourists), was extremely scrumptious. Nice, little tortillas accompanied it, and I dressed mine with some of the stupendous guacamole. Yum! It was perfect.
I ordered the pollo skillet style for my entree, which came with grilled Mexican street corn and chorizo chili on the side. Tortillas also made an appearance for this dish, and if you know anything about me, you know I love to make my own little sandwiches/tacos/fajitas. I happily constructed delicious fajita-esque roll-ups, and scraped off some of the chihuahua cheese that was baked to the bottom of the skillet to top the chicken and vegetables.
MDP ordered the fish tacos, and I could tell he enjoyed them. My father and stepmother both ordered the tablones, which were slow-braised short ribs marinated in beer. They were outstanding! I highly recommend this dish. The meat was extremely tender and flavorful, and melted with the touch of the fork. Very good.
And we ordered dessert and coffees, as well. MDP and I tried the tres leches de zarzamoras, which was sour cream pound cake soaked in three milks with a blackberry-hibiscus glaze and toasted meringue on top. It was divine! Highly recommend. My father also ordered the ice cream sundae, which was made with several of the ice creams they serve such as Mexican chocolate with all kinds of goodies on top. Very good, but the tres leches was better.
So, Rosa Mexicano is definitely the place to go for high-end Mexican food. And when I say high end, I mean that your bill will cost at least $120 for two (with drinks–which are outstanding, by the way. You must try the pomegranate margarita).
New York, NY
For the uninitiated to this blog, I must tell you: I hate Italian restaurants. Yes, it’s true, I am Italian-American, but that may be exactly the root of my disdain. You see, I cook a lot of Italian food at home. And, 9 times out of 10, I find my rendition of a dish is far better than anything I order out.
Case in point: The Original Benito One.
Situated down on Mulberry Street in the heart of Little Italy, Benito One has been around since 1968–and it’s interior shows its age. With plastic grapes hanging from the wine glass rack, Italian flags posted about and a crooning bartender, Benito One is the kind of Italian restaurant you’d see in New Jersey. Or maybe the kind of Italian restaurant I’m used to seeing in New Jersey actually mirrors the likes of Benito One–a classic chicken-and-the-egg dilemma. At any rate, the restaurant’s somewhat tacky decor and fake-Italian waitstaff may enchant the 99% of clientele who are tourists, but it was lost on me.
Don’t get me wrong. Benito One isn’t all bad. But it’s not all good, either.
After about 10 minutes of waiting around, they served us loaf of Italian bread with tiny packets of butter in the basket; true Italian restaurants provide a dish of olive oil. A small detail, sure, but one that reflects the general approach of the restaurant–that is, inauthenticity.
The eggplant rollatini we ordered for the appetizer was decent. Thin slabs of eggplant were fried and rolled into mounds covered with mozzarella and marinara sauce. I enjoyed it, mostly because I don’t have the patience to make eggplant rollatini at home, so I have nothing to compare it to. As for the entrees, that was a different story.
I opted for the chicken principessa, which was two chicken breasts covered with asparagus and mozzarella. I liked the way they prepared the chicken, which reminded me of how I make chicken francese: taking a chicken breast, dousing it with flour, dipping it in egg and then putting it immediately in the frying pan. The result is a delicious coating. The gooey mozzarella and crisp, thin asparagus nicely complemented the chicken itself. But I can’t say anything nice about the pasta they served alongside the chicken. The spaghetti was a bit rubbery and the marinara sauce lacked originality. Though I ate it anyway, I wasn’t impressed. I also never understand why Italian restaurants insist on serving a marinara pasta with a dish that clearly requires a cream sauce to accompany it. I digress.
MDP got the spaghetti alla carbonara, which was served to him as a heap of tangled pasta in the center of a dish. He seemed to enjoy it, but I tried it and found the sauce to be too thick and there wasn’t even a hint of prosciutto/pancetta (I’ve seen recipes with either). I was kind of disappointed in his dish, but he ate everything.
For dessert, we tried a cannoli, after about 10 minutes of waiting for the waiter to show us the dessert tray. I just called out “cannoli, please” and he finally brought one over. It tasted as though it had just been taken out of the fridge. I prefer when cannolis are near room temperature, as the shell tastes better when it’s not as cold. The filling was dotted with tiny chocolate chips, as expected, and possibly a bit of candied citrus peel. It was pretty good.
So, if you’re in Little Italy, I recommend not going to any of the Italian restaurants. Benito One is probably the best you can get down there, and that doesn’t say much.
174 Mulberry Street
Little Italy, New York
Take a train to Canal Street, or take the 6 to Spring Street.
My Dining Partner (MDP) and I are doing a new thing where we eat dinner at home on Saturday nights and go out for brunch on Sunday mornings. It’s working well, as I love to cook, and now have the opportunity to get brunch at all the restaurants I’ve been dying to try.
This morning, we went to The Dutch down on Sullivan and Prince streets. I had been aiming to visit The Dutch for their dinner menu sometime, but a coworker recommended the brunch, thus our trek down to SoHo at 9 am.
We had a reservation for 10, and the hostess kindly sat us at one of the nicest tables in the restaurant. With loads of sunlight pouring in through the windows that form two of The Dutch’s walls, the setting was both vibrant and serene. The low bustling of patrons formed a quiet din, and the perfect, color-accurate light made even the wood banquet I sat upon come to life. I encourage you to try The Dutch in the morning to experience this glorious atmosphere.
To start, we ordered a maple potato doughnut (though they spell it as “donut,” a la Dunkin Donuts, on their menu) that was served warm and gooey. This doughnut is nothing like the offerings of Dunkin Donuts, however. It was lemony and had a dense, cake-like bite. MDP and I polished off the plate in no time.
For my entree, I ordered the omelette filled with crisp asparagus, ramps, creamy goat cheese and oyster mushrooms. I have never seen such a perfect omelette in my life. The texture was borderline silky and the inside was eggy and delicious. Rife with fillings, the thin, streamlined exterior of the omelette belied the hearty, delectable innards. I was in love. And the omelette came with a nice little salad with leafy greens and sliced radishes strewn throughout. Yum!
So enchanted by the appearance of fried chicken on any menu, MDP opted for the hot fried chicken with honey butter biscuits. I was told that the biscuits were a central pillar of The Dutch brunch experience, so I was certain to ask the waiter how many came with MDP’s chicken dish. Two, he said, which is the best and most delicious response he could have possibly uttered. Drenched in sweet honey, the biscuits were out of this world. So buttery, so fluffy, I could have easily eaten two on my own. The chicken’s fry batter was heavily peppered and spicy for a nice flavor. The chicken itself was tender and perfectly cooked. On the side, they added a small dish of coleslaw, which incorporated red onion and parsley to create a coleslaw unlike any I’ve ever tried–that is, a very good one (though MDP wasn’t a fan).
I highly recommend The Dutch for brunch. And their dinner menu looks stellar, but do make a reservation. The Dutch is definitely hip, and you may have trouble obtaining a table as a walk-in.
131 Sullivan Street (at Prince Street)
SoHo, New York
Take the N/R to Prince Street. Walk west a few blocks to Sullivan. Enter on Sullivan Street.
I remember when Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridien (LPM) hotel was the best kept secret in town. I used to go there when I was in college. One of my friends was hip to all the next-best burger places in the city, and welcomed me to the wonderful (and then-hidden) world of Burger Joint. Nowadays, when you go to LPM for a burger, you’re destined to meet a long line of hungry patrons and a no-seating situation.
That’s why it’s so very important that Burger Joint has expanded to the West Village. Situated on 8th Street by Macdougal, Burger Joint is easy to miss. Don’t expect a street address or sign reading “Burger Joint” when you go. Just look for the signature burger that’s emblazoned in the front left window.
When I arrived, I almost asked someone if I had, in fact, walked into Burger Joint. But as soon as I saw the cardboard sign in the window displaying the Joint’s hours, I knew I had found the place. You see, at LPM Burger Joint, the menu is listed, in Sharpie, on a slab of cardboard. The no-frills atmosphere of the hotel version–which is a dive, and that’s being generous–is nearly replicated at the 8th Street location. Yet there’s something classy about the dim lighting and secret room and long, skinny booths at the new Burger Joint that elevates it, in a way. (The menu and instructions for how to order your burger are listed on cardboard, by the way.)
So, how was the burger? Divine, as usual. The LPM Burger Joint serves up one of my favorite burgers, and the 8th Street location is definitely among the top contenders for best burger in the city. I ordered mine with “the works”: ketchup, mayo, mustard, tomato, lettuce, sliced pickles, and onion. All this was on a perfectly rendered patty topped with cheese and laid artfully on a squishy bun. Okay, so maybe it’s not artfully done (as you can see in the picture), but the taste is tops–and that’s what’s important, right?
And the fries are stellar. Served in a little brown bag, the shoestring french fries were perfectly salted–as in, not overly salted–and crisp. They were full of potato flavor and fantastic.
I love Burger Joint’s no bullshit approach. I like that they wrap the burgers in white butcher paper and hand them to you directly from the kitchen. I like that there are paper plates on the counter in case you need one for your ketchup and fries. I like the cardboard on the walls and windows and the long, empty bar near the entrance. And, most of all, I like that you can get a seat at this Burger Joint. Apparently, NYU students haven’t found it yet.
So, you must try the new Burger Joint. It’s conveniently located just a block or two from the West 4th Street subway station. Washington Square Park is but a few steps away, so even if the students catch on, you can always take your burger to the park.
33 West 8th Street (by Macdougal)
West Village, NY
Take the A/B/C/D/E/F/M to West 4th Street. Exit by 8th Street and walk a block or two.
As a native of New Jersey, I am quite familiar with diners. After all, New Jersey would be better named “The Diner State” rather than “The Garden State.” And part of this blog’s namesake is reminiscent of a renowned diner food: taylor ham.
So, when it came to visiting the Bowery Diner, I had high expectations. And, even though they don’t serve breakfast all day (and I didn’t try their coffee, which, by Jersey diner standards, has to be bottomless and perfect), the Bowery Diner lived up to my hopes.
The one-page menu includes diner favorites, such as grilled cheese, burgers and chili, but also has an upscale element to it, with iceberg wedges, lobster pot pie and little neck clams present.
To start, we ordered the artichoke dip, which came with triangles of pita bread. A layer of white cheddar cheese was baked on the top, and the creamy dip was rife with artichokes (as it should be). It also had traces of spinach, though, not enough to call it a spinach and artichoke dip. It was delicious.
For my entree, I tried the mussels and fries, otherwise known as moules frites everywhere else you go in this city. The mussels were cooked in a beer sauce with smoked paprika. Slivers of chorizo dotted the mix. The mussels tasted fantastic, and were especially tasty once I go to the bottom of the bowl, where they had absorbed the delectable beer sauce.
MDP got the fried chicken, which was flavorful and had a nice crust. It was accompanied by a slice of roasted squash and some nicely prepared collard greens. MDP also received an order of fries, but this wasn’t listed as part of the fried chicken dish on the menu, so I’m not sure that it’s standard to get fries with this dish. I enjoyed his meal greatly.
Before going to the diner, I scoped out their menu and noted their scrumptious-sounding shakes: key lime pie, pumpkin cheesecake, seasonal pie. All of these shakes can be enhanced with a shot of liquor. We chose the seasonal pie shake–which was made with apple pie, lucky us–and got a swirl of Maker’s Mark, which is among my favorite bourbons, mixed in. It was boozy and wonderful. I highly recommend.
The service was very attentive and accommodating, and the place had a nice, 50′s-esque ambiance. I quite liked the Bowery Diner, and will be certain to try it again sometime when I’m in the neighborhood. The other good thing about the Bowery Diner is that it’s not overrun with hungry Manhattanites at 7 o’clock on a Saturday night. We had made a reservation, but it wasn’t necessary by any means.
While it’s not technically a diner by New Jersey standards, I think the Bowery Diner certainly holds its own. In a way, it’s inventing a new genre of diners, and I like its innovation.
Enjoy your diner crawling!
241 Bowery (between Stanton and Prince streets)
Lower East Side, New York
Take the F to 2nd Avenue or the N/R to Prince Street.