Taylor Swift Live!

Last night, I saw Taylor Swift perform at the Newark Prudential Center. She was incredible! Ed Sheeran opened for her, and he was spectacular, as well.

taylor swift and ed sheeran

taylor swift and ed sheeran

They played together on “Everything Has Changed” from the back of arena, near where our seats were located. It was a mind-blowing experience!

I took a video, too, of her performance of “Mean.” Check it out below and enjoy ūüôā

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Red Rooster

I remember a few years ago when Red Rooster opened to much acclaim. I thought to myself, “I’ll never go there because it must be such a mob scene.” Fast forward two years to today, and, lo and behold, I finally made it to Red Rooster. And what an experience I had!

red rooster cornbread

cornbread

I decided to take off from work today and, in step with my culinary aspirations, accordingly made a reservation at Red Rooster for 11:30 am, the only time they had available.

My Dining Partner (MDP) and I trekked all the way up to 125th Street this morning, after a shocking 20-minute wait at our 7 train platform, to get to the restaurant. When we walked in, we were met with smiles. In general, the service at Red Rooster is extremely accommodating, and I felt that the moment I stepped foot in the place.

We sat at a cozy table for two along a banquet that bifurcates the restaurant into a front and back area. In the front, there’s an interestingly shaped bar; in the back, a slew of tables. The restroom is plainly and straightforwardly marked with a sign near the open kitchen.

To start, MDP and I ordered the cornbread with honey butter and tomato jam. You must get this. I think just about every table had a plate of cornbread on it because it’s that good and that cheap ($4). The honey butter tastes incredible and the cornbread itself is moist, dense and delicately ladled with kernels of corn throughout. I enjoyed the tomato jam, as well, but, honestly, the cornbread tastes best on its own, without any adornments.

red rooster burger

burger

Because I recently read that Red Rooster is using a Pat LaFrieda blend for its hamburger, I decided I had to try it. And, boy, am I glad I did! The burger is topped with two slices of New York cheddar, mayonnaise, shredded lettuce and pickles, and is situated nicely on a fresh pretzel bun. I liked that Red Rooster used two, rather than one, slices of cheddar–it enhanced the flavor tremendously. Also, the combination of condiments completely blew me away. This is one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long time.¬†And, not to be outdone, the fries on the side were perfectly crisp and brushed with ample handfuls of parmesan cheese. I like that Red Rooster goes borderline overboard with the parmesan on the fries. Parmesan can be an elusive flavor, and I think Red Rooster’s approach is ideal.

MDP ordered the fried yard bird with white mace gravy and buttermilk mashed potatoes. Red Rooster serves dark meat for its fried chicken, which MDP had no problem with. It was thickly crusted and flavorful. The mashed potatoes were delicious, as well. MDP enjoyed his meal, yet found the cornbread to be the overall highlight of his experience. And who can blame him?

red rooster cupcake

coconut cupcake

For dessert, we had to get something, because I knew this might be the only time I’d visit Red Rooster. When I searched for brunch reservations, they only had availability in about a month, and I’m not organized enough to plan that far ahead. So, dessert it was. They have a number of confections on their menu, including items from the Nook, such as whoopie pies. But we opted for the daily cupcake, which was a coconut cupcake today. Served alongside some of the most delicious Tahitian vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had, the coconut cupcake was short and sweet, and had a bit of preserves in the center–a welcome surprise. We polished the plate off in no time.

You must try Red Rooster. Anything you try there has got to be some of the best food you’ll ever have. Even if it takes months for you to get there, go. I implore you.

Red Rooster

310 Lenox Avenue (between 125th and 126th streets)

Harlem, New York

Take the 2/3 to 125th Street. Walk north half a block.

Maysville

So called for the place where bourbon was born, Maysville serves up a wide variety of whiskeys and “smoked & charred food and raw & chilled seafood,” as their website notes.

maysville crispy grits

crispy grits

It was Friday night. The bar was overflowing with people loudly talking, even shouting, at one another. I told MDP I didn’t think we’d get a table, that we’d have to go to Rare or Hill Country instead. But we went in anyway and asked how long the wait was. “I can seat you now,” said the hostess, to my surprise. And she put us at a small table just steps away from Maysville’s trendy bar.

We went to Maysville because New York magazine (which is officially on my shit list after that retro housewife article) recommended their grits. In general, I trust New York‘s restaurant/food recommendations because they’re usually spot on. Also, adding to Maysville’s appeal, it’s located just a block away from where I work, which made it unusually convenient for me.

maysville chicken

chicken

The hostess placed a thick binder filled with drinks on our table, in addition to our two double-sided menus. I shouted to MDP, ¬†“Which whiskey are you going to get?” He didn’t know. But I don’t blame him. The sprawling list featured traditional mashbill bourbons, wheated bourbons, rye whiskeys and more. I selected the Four Roses bourbon, since I hadn’t tried it. When I first sipped the exactly 2 oz glass of alcohol, I noted its plain flavor–nothing like Maker’s 46, my favorite, which Maysville indicates as a wheated bourbon.

For an appetizer, we had to order the crispy grits, which are presented as cubes topped with country ham and bourbon aioli. To be honest, the grits hardly tasted like anything. The ham was pretty good, and reminded me of prosciutto–not sure what “country” the ham comes from. But I wasn’t totally impressed.

Because hardly anything on Maysville’s dinner menu sounded edible to me, I opted for the very plain, very hard to mess up chicken, which came with mushrooms, garlic and baby lettuces. The chicken was outstanding. It was tender and flavorful, and the skin was crisp and delicious. I couldn’t tell which kind of mushrooms they used; they were like oyster mushrooms, but brown and ridged. I highly enjoyed my dinner.

maysville bread pudding

bread pudding

MDP ordered the braised lamb and potato dumplings. His serving wasn’t exactly hearty, and he finished his meal quite quickly given the little they offered him. I tried the gravy that was at the bottom of his dish and it was quite delectable: meaty yet light. Our waitress informed us that we had tried the newest dishes to the menu (which makes sense since neither dish is on their online menu–I had wondered about that).

For dessert, we opted for the bread pudding with candied pecan ice cream and this fantastic, thick caramel sauce at the bottom of the bowl. The bread pudding is the dessert to get at Maysville. Don’t be tempted by the chocolate ice cream or plate of cheeses. No. Even if you think you don’t like bread pudding, I assure you, you’ll like this bread pudding. It’s phenomenal and was clearly the best thing we ate at Maysville.

So Maysville is pretty good, but definitely pricey. They’re a tad cheap with the bourbon, but the food is decent and the atmosphere is lively, if you like that kind of thing.

Maysville

17 W. 26th Street, between 6th Avenue and Broadway

Flatiron, New York

Take the N/R to 28th Street. Walk south two blocks and right onto 26th Street.

Sarabeth’s

Oh, Sarabeth’s. I’ve wanted to go to you for so long. And I finally did. And I have to say, I have mixed feelings.

sarabeth's lobster roll

lobster roll

When my lady dining partner and I entered Sarabeth’s, we were both struck by the sophisticated atmosphere that the Park Avenue South location exudes: wide open windows, lots of natural day light, an open floor plan with seating in the rear. Because we didn’t have a reservation (for lunch!), we had to sit at the marble countertop bar, which was fine. We parked in a corner spot and chatted for a while, and an accommodating bartender asked us for our drink orders immediately.

I had planned what I was going to order a day in advance: Sarabeth’s lobster roll with coleslaw and housemade potato chips. I like that they say “housemade” instead of “homemade” because, as you may know, I take issue with restaurants claiming their offerings are “homemade” (if they aren’t made in my or your kitchen, they’re simply not homemade). The brioche roll was buttery and the succulent pieces of lobster were perfectly doused in a mayonnaise dressing that delighted the palate. I was pleased with the sandwich. As for the coleslaw, well, it was subpar, in my opinion. But the potato chips definitely made up for the coleslaw–they were well-done and crispy, and had a solid potato flavoring.

sarabeth's turkey burger

turkey burger

My lady dining partner opted for the turkey burger, which was served on a giant bun with guacamole and Sir Kensington ketchup on the side. It also came with limp french fries which were tepid and fair, at best. She found the burger to be juicy and enjoyed its flavor. Much better than Grey Bar’s version, she noted.

For dessert–because at Sarabeth’s, you have to order dessert–we got the cherry crumb pie which was topped with a delicious vanilla ice cream and neatly placed in the center of a large white plate defined by a circle of chocolate-balsamic sauce. While the ice cream was outstanding, the cherry cake left something to be desired. It was sweet and had a nice crust, but it didn’t wow me.

The Park Avenue location is Sarabeth’s latest outpost. I’m happy to see such a restaurant in my work neighborhood, as it offers me a nice place to take a colleague or friend for a special lunch occasion.

sarabeth's cherry crumb pie

cherry crumb pie

All in all, Sarabeth’s is worth visiting, but be sure to bring your credit card or lots of cash–the menu is on the pricey side.

Sarabeth’s

381 Park Avenue South (at 27th Street)

Flatiron/Murray Hill, New York

Take the 6 to 28th Street and walk south one block. 

 

In Defense of Taylor Swift

taylor swiftSomeone asked me today what Taylor Swift means to me. An odd question, sure, but I thought about it. Basically, I told her that I perceive Taylor to be a great role model for girls. One that should be admired, and one whom I personally admire. I was surprised that I didn’t have something less generic, more unique to say to her.

It’s articles like this one in the New York Times (in Sunday Styles, no less) that get under my skin. They say she dates too many men, that she’s a cradle robber, that she’s on the decline. Though, my greatest fear is that the article is correct in alleging that there is a robust backlash against Taylor happening as we speak. There is, and I wish it wasn’t so.

I know many of you read this blog to find out what restaurants I’m visiting and what I think about them. But, to me, this blog serves another purpose. It’s a defense of Taylor Swift.

That may alienate some, for certain, but it’s the way I feel. Taylor is an extremely gifted young person, who writes music from the heart. And, in stringing together simple words into memorable phrases, she touches so many lives.

So, the ¬†magazines that she graces the covers of don’t sell as well as those with Lady Gaga plastered upon them? So, CoverGirl didn’t renew her contract? So what, New York Times!

She’s a genuine, grounded individual who has her whole life ahead of her to do great things. An ardent supporter of arts education, she already donates significant chunks of cash to charitable organizations that help young people. And, by virtue of her music alone, she influences the minds and hearts of many.

No matter what happens in the media–whether she dates another 10 famous men and sees each relationship crash and burn–I still believe in her. And I will continue to believe in her, no matter what.

I hope you will continue to support me by reading this blog.

 

Midori Matsu

I was in the mood for hibachi. Recently, I was looking at Google Maps and found Benihana in midtown and thought, “Wow, I haven’t been there in a long time, let’s go.” Then, I learned there would be crowds. Then, I learned there would be no reservations available. So, I began a quest to find decent hibachi somewhere else. And I certainly found it.

las vegas roll

las vegas roll

Located in Forest Hills near the 75th Avenue subway stop, Midori Matsu is hard to miss. A huge sign that reads “HIBACHI” hangs overhead as you walk into the establishment. Upon entering, you find a room with hardly anyone in it except for someone who’s making sushi. Then, you’re asked if you want hibachi. At that point, you’re escorted into a larger room with approximately six hibachi set-ups. And you’re delighted to be there.

MDP and I were quite hungry, as I hadn’t eaten much for breakfast that day, so we went whole hog and got dumplings, sushi and hibachi for each of us.

The gyoza, or vegetable dumplings, were very green and filled with vegetables such as edamame. I scarfed down three of them within a few minutes and felt pretty sated. MDP liked them also.

We ordered the Las Vegas roll sushi, which was salmon with avocado, cream cheese, jalapeno and some kind of sauce on top. I enjoyed it, but MDP especially liked it. The jalapeno really added a certain kick to the end of the eating experience.

hibachi entertainment

hibachi entertainment

Now, for the hibachi. I ordered the steak and chicken hibachi, while MDP got teriyaki chicken. We were served an onion soup and a salad with that delicious orange dressing on it, alongside our hibachi.

The hibachi chef came out and immediately put on a show. He threw his utensils around and made clanging noises, so loud that the child sitting at our table began to cry. He began by making shrimp for all of us, and put a bunch of rice on the hot surface to later make fried rice. He also put a medley of vegetables on the cooking surface that would later accompany our foods.

A delight to watch, the hibachi chef created an onion “volcano” by lighting on fire a few rings of an onion. This terrified the young girl at our table. She put her hands over her ears and started to cry. He said, “That’s okay. The volcano won’t hurt you.” But she persisted.

more hibachi

more hibachi

My steak turned out perfect and the chicken was quite good also. The chef gave us some dipping sauces, which were, I think, mustard and ginger, respectively. They were a nice accent to the food.

MDP’s teriyaki chicken was quite good, as well. It was thickly flavorful.

All and all, Midori Matsu is well worth the hike. And it’s great for groups if you get there early on a Saturday night, like we did. The hibachi chefs all seemed quite entertaining, so you’re certain to have a good show whenever you decide to go.

Midori Matsu

111-16 Queens Boulevard

Forest Hills, New York

Take the E/F to 75th Avenue. It’s a few steps away from the subway entrance on the south side of Queens Boulevard.

Sanfords

On Saturday morning, I had an appointment in Astoria, so we decided to try some place in the neighborhood for brunch. We scoured Yelp, looking for a suitable restaurant to serve our needs. Sanfords received rave reviews about their brunch, so we decided to give it a go. The moral of this story will be: Do not trust Yelp. (How many times do I have to say this?)

Located on Broadway by the subway station, Sanfords is essentially a glorified diner. They may have nicer menus and better furniture than diners typically have, but don’t be fooled by the aesthetics. The sprawling menu lists dishes such as croque madame, frittatas, omelettes, peanut butter pancakes and a handful of lunch items, including wraps and a burger. (Their menu is not on their website, which ticked me off before we even got to the place.)

They offer a prix fixe brunch deal for $14, which includes an alcoholic beverage (i.e. a bellini) and a coffee or tea, as well as a brunch entree. MDP and I both ordered mimosas and coffees, and MDP had a strong, negative reaction to the coffee. I thought it was okay, but it could have been the Splenda masking the poor quality of the coffee itself.

Our entrees arrived soon after we placed the order, and MDP was dismayed to find his croque madame sitting singularly on the plate. No fries, no salad. Nothing to accompany it. The sandwich also lacked the signature bechemel sauce, which is something even I know belongs on the croque madame, and my personal specialty is Italian food. He finished it, but he didn’t look happy.

My zucchini, tomato, ricotta and pesto frittata was served to me in a mini cast iron pan with cold home fries and toast on the side. The frittata was dry and had way too many competing flavors in it to be enjoyable. The pesto vied for my taste buds’ attention, while the smooth ricotta dollops dominated my sensory experience. The best thing about the meal was the toast, I swear.

I wouldn’t recommend Sanfords. MDP said, “If this place was in our neighborhood, maybe we’d go here.” And I stopped him. No, we wouldn’t. We have far better “diners” in Sunnyside.

Don’t listen to Yelp. Sanfords is not good. I wouldn’t even suggest going there and getting something that we didn’t order, just to see if it’s up to snuff. Try the Neptune Diner instead. At least Neptune owns up to its diner status.

And I don’t have any pictures of the crappy food because they sat us in the middle of the restaurant where there wasn’t much natural or ambient light.

Sanfords

30-13 Broadway

Astoria, New York

Take the N/Q to Broadway.

Hummus Kitchen

Friday nights can be so hard.¬†Any meagerly worthwhile restaurant is certain to be packed. And what’s left simply isn’t that great.

hummus kitchen mazze trio

mazze trio

This past Friday night, we intended to go to Toloache, a renowned Mexican restaurant, on 50th Street. It was five to seven, and the place was already hopping. Every table was filled. I had made a reservation for later that evening, with the hopes that they would seat us early (a bit of gaming of the reservation system, yes). No dice. We stood around the bar area for about 10 minutes before I decided we should jump ship.

To Ninth Avenue, we trekked, and popped in one subpar Mexican place after another to see if they had any tables open. “It’ll be about 15 minutes,” we were told, and I wasn’t having any of it. We stumbled upon Hummus Kitchen, and I asked MDP if anything on their menu looked good. He gave a tentative nod, and we went in.

The first thing that struck me about Hummus Kitchen was the smell of the place. It reminded me of Petco. MDP said it’s the nature of the food they serve; that is, a bit musty. I wasn’t so sure about his assessment, and found myself distracted by the kibble odor that permeated the air.

hummus kitchen chicken kebab

chicken kebab

But I pushed aside my misgivings and dove into the menu. Hummus figures prominently across the board, with options for appetizer and entrees. We decided to try the “mazze trio” with falafel, babaganoush and, of course, hummus. MDP wasn’t fond of the green-tinged innards of the falafel. “I’ve noticed that I don’t like the green falafel,” he told me. I thought it was okay, and its dipping sauce was fairly tasty, but I especially favored the smoky babaganoush. It was superb. If you’re going to try any one mazze at Hummus Kitchen, cast aside the hummus for the babaganoush. That’s not to say the hummus was bad. No, it was fine, but the babaganoush is exceptional.

For my entree, I ordered the chicken kebab, which came with couscous and an array of chick peas, potatoes and other vegetables strewn around the plate. The chicken itself was fantastic, so tender and flavorful. And I loved the saffron-colored couscous that lay like a bed for the vegetables to rest upon. I was quite pleased with my dish.

MDP opted for the Chraime Moroccan fish. He said it tasted just like broiled fish, and not much else. His dish came with couscous also, and he finished it all, so it must have been decent enough.

Whenever we go to any Middle Eastern restaurant, we must try the baklava for dessert, so we did at Hummus Kitchen. Drenched in honey, the baklava was split into two triangular halves, with much of the pistachio and walnut filling dominating the dish. It was acceptable, but nothing like Wafa’s, which is the end-all and be-all of baklava in my book.

So, if you’re in a bind for a Friday night meal and you happen to be in Hell’s Kitchen, you might want to try Hummus Kitchen. I wouldn’t recommend it as a destination dinner place, however.

Hummus Kitchen

768 Ninth Avenue (between 51st and 52nd streets)

Hell’s Kitchen, New York

Take the C/E to 50th Street and walk west to Ninth Avenue. Walk north for a block and a half.

BabyCakes NYC

babycakes gluten-free banan cupcake

gluten-free banana cupcake with maple frosting

A throwback “BAKERY” sign hangs from the exterior of a hole-in-the wall bakery better known as BabyCakes. Once you approach it, you’re certain to be charmed.

If you know anyone with food allergies, BabyCakes is the place to send them. A vegan bakery, they serve up gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, vegan sugar/agave-sweetened confections that are quite delectable–even for the non-allergic.

I have been to BabyCakes many times. In fact, it’s one of my favorite bakeries, and I don’t even have a food allergy or autoimmune disease.

Today, My Dining Partner (MDP) and I opted for a few delectables from BabyCakes’ well-rounded menu.

I selected a favorite of mine: a gluten-free banana cupcake. It was frosted with a subtle maple-inflected icing that nicely complemented the dense banana cake underneath it. BabyCakes refrigerates their cupcakes at, what seems to be, a moderate temperature, so the cake actually tastes cool and more firm than it would were it left standing on the counter. We noticed you could order a frosting shot for $1.50  and I considered it for a moment, so good was the maple topping.

babycakes cookie crunch doughnut

cookie crunch doughnut

MDP decided to try one of BabyCakes’ doughnuts. He ordered the cookie crunch option, which is gluten-free and made with vegan sugar. It tasted lemony and had a surprisingly nice consistency–much better than anything you might find at cringeworthy Dunkin’ Donuts.

BabyCakes also sells brownies, biscuits, an array of cupcakes (some made with spelt), tea cakes, crumb cakes, pies and cookies.

And the staff are incredibly accommodating and knowledgable about the ins and outs of their product. One patron came in with her daughter, who sounded like she had celiac disease, and asked a ton of questions about the ingredients of the various items. Erin, the founder, was on site (which is kind of incredible since she’s pretty famous as far as bakery proprietors go) and was happy to provide useful, intelligent responses.

Try BabyCakes, no matter what your dietary needs are.

BabyCakes NYC

248 Broome Street (between Orchard and Ludlow streets)

Lower East Side, New York

Take the F/J/M/Z to Essex-Delancey or the B/D to Grand Street.