Bliss 46, Sunnyside

When was the last time you had French food in New York? A long time ago. if ever, perhaps. Well, don’t waste another minute–go to Bliss 46, a new French bistro, to satisfy your craving for escargots.

Located on 46th Street, just around the corner from Queens Boulevard, Bliss 46 offers an elegant ambiance and traditional French cuisine.

My dining partner and I thought we’d try Bliss 46 since it just opened on Thanksgiving Day. The chef, Esteban Rojas, once worked at Bliss Bistro, a now defunct French restaurant on Skillman Avenue. Though Bliss Bistro was an unsuccessful venture, Mr. Rojas believes there’s a place for French food in Sunnyside. I hope he’s right.

To start, we ordered the gratinee French onion soup and a small plate of mushroom ravioli. The gratinee was stellar, its gruyere ceiling oozing over the sides of the bowl. The mushroom ravioli were equally impressive, accompanied by a rich sauce and chopped mushrooms in the center of the dish.

For my entree, I ordered the traditional Coq Au Vin, which was fantastic. A stew made with red wine, the chicken was so tender it literally fell off the bones. This dish came with mashed potatoes, which were largely bland, but the texture was right.

My dining partner ordered a duck dish that came with a side of a mixture of potatoes, corn, and bacon. He offered me a sliver of the duck, and I was blown away.

For dessert, we opted for the apple tart, which arrived with delicious vanilla ice cream. Using thinly sliced scalloped apples, the tart featured a thick crust that nicely complemented the real-apple-tasting innards.

I highly recommend Bliss 46. The servers are prompt and accommodating. The only disadvantage Bliss 46 may have is its location off Queens Boulevard. While we dined, I noticed a number of people stopping to look at Bliss 46’s menu. I hope they return.

Bliss 46

43-46 46th Street

Sunnyside, NY

Take the 7 to 46th Street.

 

Advertisements

Di Fiore Marquet, Union Square

It sounds like I’m the only one in the universe who didn’t care for Di Fiore Marquet. Yelp has rave reviews, as does New York. What am I missing?

Perhaps the dishes we ordered weren’t their specialty. Then again, shouldn’t the chef be able to competently cook any menu item? I think so.

di fiore marquet omelette

avocado and cheddar omelette

In the mood for eggs, I decided I wanted an omelette with avocado and cheddar cheese. Seems like a reasonable request for brunch, right? Well, the omelette was fine until I discovered, on its underside, that it was runny and barely cooked. In the past month or so, I’ve tried to open my mind to runny-egg dishes, such as Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine. I’m still in the early stages of accepting these foods, so seeing runny eggs in my omelette positively disgusted me. The omelette was accompanied by some toast and roasted potatoes, which were hard and not exactly flavorful.

My dining partner ordered corn pancakes. He’s always trying the new (or weird) things on menus, something that I admire (especially since he always lets me taste his exotic food). Chopped fruit adorned the corn pancakes, a nice touch. When asked what the corn pancakes tasted like, MDP replied, “They tasted like corn.” There you have it.

I ordered a cappuccino, which was delicious and perfectly made. But it took about 10 minutes to get my coffee drink. In other words, the service is slow. I wouldn’t recommend this place if you are in a hurry to catch the big sales at Filene’s Basement.

di fiore corn pancakes

corn pancakes

If you’re in Union Square, you might want to try a different place for brunch. I hear Max Brenner has an outstanding menu. Or, if you’re daring, you could even walk up to the Shake Shack and have a late brunch/lunch instead. In other words, there is a multitude of brunch places for you to try in Manhattan. You might skip Di Fiore Marquet, in that case.

Di Fiore Marquet

15 East 12th Street

New York, NY

Take the 4/5/6 or N/R/Q to Union Square. 

Elevation Burger, Chelsea

According to their website, “Ingredient matter” to Elevation Burger. It’s more than a burger joint. Rather, it has a vision for a sustainable future (although the website doesn’t clarify how their food is “sustainably” prepared). We should buckle our seat belts as we experience an elevated product that promises to be both flavorful and good for the environment.

So does it live up to the organic, sustainable hype?

Yes… at the expense of our tastebuds.

elevation burger

elevation burger

The standard burger is the Elevation Burger, which consists of two patties each featuring a slice of “real cheddar” cheese on top, couched between two sides of a squishy, white roll. Made from organic, grass-fed cattle, Elevation burgers lack some of the flavor that corn-fed cattle yield. However, they compensate with ample toppings of your choice. I selected raw onions, mayo, and elevation sauce (which resembles something in between In-n-Out’s and the Shake Shack’s).

My dining partner felt the cheese overwhelmed the taste of the burger. “[The meat is] not very flavorful. They could use some salt and pepper,” he said.

I didn’t dislike the Elevation Burger, but it’s definitely not in my top 10. As someone who frequently orders a double burger at the Shake Shack, I had no problem with finishing the entire burger on my own. I guess I must have liked it then, right?

We also ordered some fries, which are cooked in olive oil. Thinly cut and soft, the fries don’t compare to those of the Shake Shack. (I’m drawing similarities and differences between Elevation Burger and the Shake Shack to illustrate Elevation Burger’s superiority or inferiority.) I think the crinkle cut fries of the Shake Shack — cooked in trans fat free oil — taste more flavorful and crunchy than those at Elevation Burger.

elevation burger fries

fries

Because we had a Groupon, we tried to order as many menu items as possible to get our money’s worth. Consequently, we ordered a key lime milk shake made with vanilla ice cream, the overpowering flavor of the shake. “Do you taste key lime at all in this shake? I asked MDP. “Not really, but there might be a kick of it at the end.” I can’t be sure that the Elevation Burger staff member, who was charged with making my shake, even included any key lime. All this to say, I wouldn’t recommend the milkshake, unless, of course, you really like vanilla ice cream. At the Shake Shack, the milkshake features distinct flavors and never leaves the customer questioning what it tastes like.

Situated on bustling 14th Street, near 6th avenue, Elevation Burger may be the go-to burger in this neighborhood. I wouldn’t be surprised if they stuck around, but I’m not holding my breath. MDP asked me if I’d go to Elevation Burger again. The answer is: probably not.

Elevation Burger

103 W. 14th Street

New York, NY

Take the F/M to 14th Street.

Bonfire Grill, Forest Hills

As soon as you walk up the steps at Forest Hills subway stop, you realize you’ve arrived to a new world. Could this really be part of Queens? you might wonder. Forest Hills boasts an adorable, quaint village with high-end retail shops on Austin Street and a bevy of decent restaurants reaching every corner of the neighborhood.

Last night, we tried to get into 5 Burro, a Mexican joint. The place was packed and seemingly uncomfortable so we ditched 5 Burro and went a few doors down to the Bonfire Grill, an American food restaurant that touts its friendliness in its motto written on the website: “Enter a stranger, leave as a friend.” I didn’t make any friends at Bonfire Grill, and, despite my lack of social acumen, I thought the food was pretty good.

Outside, I skimmed the menu, which is packed with salads, appetizers, entrees, and sandwiches. I peered inside to see if there were available tables; there were tables and a bustling bar so we entered.

According to its website, Bonfire Grill  “strives for the perfect balance between intimate and fun, casual and upscale.” The ambiance encouraged warm feelings and the staff members were helpful and accommodating. I’m not sure I’d term the restaurant “fun” or “upscale,” but it’s definitely relaxing.

We began our meal with Bonfire Tapas. Served with three small pieces of French bread, the tapas featured fried goat cheese (yum!) and caramelized onions (even better!).

I ordered the grilled chicken sandwich, chock full of avocado, swiss cheese, and chipotle mayonnaise on a huge hoagie roll. For a grilled chicken sandwich, it was definitely delectable, but was too big so I only ate half of it. French fries accompanied the sandwich. My pictures didn’t turn out well, so, sorry to just have boring text.

My dining partner ordered the short rib sandwich, which was “slow cooked” and delivered on a multigrain roll. It tasted great.

If you’re in Forest Hills on a Saturday night and seeking decent food, try Bonfire Grill. Don’t trust Yelp to guide you to a “better” restaurant in the area. As an aside, I can’t tell you how wrong Yelp was in helping us find a GOOD Mexican restaurant in San Diego. Of all places, you’d think we’d be inundated with delicious fajitas and tacos. We weren’t, thanks to Yelp.

Recipe Attempted: In-N-Out Burger, Double Double, Animal Style

I’m a big fan of hamburgers, if you haven’t noticed.

When we went to San Diego, I tried for the first time In-N-Out Burger. The special sauce was addicting. The cute wax paper wrapper reminded me of the Shake Shack, but I trust that In-N-Out did the wax paper wrap first.

So, how does In-N-Out Burger compare with the Shake Shack? Ah, the age old question. It’s nearly impossible to know for certain that one is better than the other because the burger joints are on opposite coasts. A five hour plane ride could ruin the important, delicious facets of either burger.

I took matters into my own hands. Instead of pining for In-N-Out Burger, I decided to try making my own Double Double, Animal Style 

.

double double animal style

in-n-out's double double animal style by me

As you can see in the link I shared above, the recipe is quite long. But that’s only because they urge you to create your own ground beef, a part of the recipe I did not follow. I simply bought some ground chuck from the supermarket and proceeded to step five. The recipe calls for squishy hamburger buns, but I opted for the potato buns that I bought from Whole Foods. I made the onions according to plan and assembled the burger as recommended.

Made of mayonnaise, ketchup, white vinegar, sweet pickle relish, and sugar, the sauce was right on the money. I wondered how Serious Eats came to know In-N-Out’s recipe…

My dining partner and I ended up eating only one patty of the sandwich. As you can see in the above picture, the sandwich was huge and unwieldy with two patties. He ate his second patty with a fork and knife, and I elected to toss mine. I served crisp, matchstick fries with the burgers.

If Shake Shack doesn’t do it for you any more, I urge you to try making your own In-N-Out burgers. It’s fun and yields delicious output. How could you resist?

John Brown Smokehouse, Astoria

“Let’s go, it’s going to be really crowded. This place is popular.”

“Alright, already.”

john brown smokehouse burnt ends

burnt ends with macaroni and cheese

So we left for the John Brown Smokehouse, a barbecue place, at 5:30 pm. It took us about a half hour to walk there, and the farther we went, the more we realized that John Brown Smokehouse is in the middle of nowhere and that the chances of a crowd were slim. It turns out, we arrived at the right time–when we were the only customers in the joint. Five minutes after receiving our food, other hungry people trickled in and crowded the Smokehouse, a small establishment with about six tables that each seat around six people.

How’s the food? Excellent. This place is well worth the walk and would likely be a great destination on a warm summer day. There was a draft in the restaurant while we were there, which forced me to consider wearing my coat as I dined.

John Brown Smokehouse boasts a simple menu with reasonable prices. I ordered the burnt ends with macaroni and cheese for about $11. Often referred to as “nuggets of barbecue gold,” burnt ends are flavorful pieces of meat cut from the point half of a smoked brisket (yeah, I got that from Wikipedia). They’re fatty and salty and chewy and just plain delicious. According to reviews on yelp, John Brown sometimes sells out of their burnt ends by 4 pm, but I was lucky enough to catch them on a slow day. Mimicking my dining partner, I wrapped the burnt ends in the thick slices of country white bread that accompanied my meal. What a sandwich, I tell ya. I’d say the portion was adequate. The mac and cheese tasted greasy and cheesy, and was quite good.

john brown smokehouse apple cobbler

apple cobbler

My dining partner opted for the two meat platter for around $13: pulled pork and brisket with baked beans. The pulled pork was flavorful, but the brisket was on the dry side. I wouldn’t recommend it. I enjoyed the baked beans, which were flecked with pieces of pork/bacon.

For dessert, John Brown Smokehouse offers apple cobbler, apple pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and bread pudding. “What’s bread pudding?” my dining partner asked. “Not something I want to try,” I replied. So we went with the apple cobbler that closely resembled apple pie. Did they serve the apple pie on a plate but the “cobbler” in a bowl? we wondered. Nothing special to report on here. A pretty standard apple pie/cobbler.

Even though its far from the train, John Brown Smokehouse is well worth the walk. If you live nearby, good for you for having such a delectable take-out spot in your ‘hood.

John Brown Smokehouse

25-08 37th Avenue

Astoria, Queens

Take the N/Q to 36th Avenue. Walk to 37th Avenue and turn right. Walk a few blocks. 

Recipe Attempted: Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peanut Butter Cinnamon Cream

The name of these cookies is a mouthful, but then again, the cookies themselves are, too. In the original recipe, it appears that the baker made small sandwiches. I’m not sure how the baker did this. I followed her instructions to make tablespoon-size balls and to squash them with the bottom of a glass. I situated each ball two inches from its neighbor. Still, they baked into one another.

My batch yielded 15 cookies, not 16, which made seven sandwiches with one bruised and broken cookie leftover. Flourless, the cookies were hard to roll into balls, but tasted delicious. The filling, made with a recipe lifted from the heralded Bouchon Bakery, is sweet and light, tasting of cinnamon cream instead of the heavy flavor of peanut butter.

As you can see, my cookies are on the large side.

flourless peanut butter sandwich cookie

flourless peanut butter sandwich cookies

What would I do differently? First, I’d use a teaspoon instead of tablespoon to measure the size of the balls. Second, I might refrigerate the cookie batter so that it’s less gooey and easier to roll. Third, I’d let the cookies take their own shape instead of molding them into a circle with the bottom of the glass. (Many of the cookies ended up exploding into non-circles anyway.)

The recipe isn’t great, but the results are pretty good. I’m fairly sure this recipe is gluten-free, also.