missmaggiepops

Eating my way around the world

Category: Restaurant Reviews

Some Moments of Inspiration

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The perfect toddler’s Ploughman’s lunch: (Left-Right) Raw, Grass-Fed Cheddar, Grass-Fed Butter on Sourdough, Black Forest Ham, Felino Salami, Nectarine Slices, and Chocolate Milk.

So I’ve been MIA for a bit. Some of it due to work, and chasing a toddler around, but mostly because I’ve been doing a lot of introspective work on myself as of late. And I just realized that with all of this inner reflection going on, I’ve naturally reclused from social media rabbit holes. But far from removing myself from all realities, I have been quite busy, and I have been eating and drinking merrily without mentioning it to the world play-by-play.

I found Chef’s Table, on Netflix, have you heard of it/seen it? Each episode is a mini-documentary of influential chefs around the world, touching on his/her cooking (and life for that matter) philosophy. What’s great about this series is that it expands your culinary world away from the usual suspects that are constantly mentioned on social media, reducing the food world to “a level of sameness”. After reclusing from social media, I realized I had pigeon holed myself to the same references that everybody else uses on social media- restaurants, recipes, chefs, photography styles. How boring. This series will set anybody straight who’s in an uninspired streak. Motivating you to do something more with what you have; getting out of your comfort zone, seeking out the brink of failure and coming back stronger than ever before.

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I was in Kohler for the PGA tournament working, and I was able to eat at The Duke of Devon, an authentic English pub, complete with Aero bars for sale (photo above is of one of their specials: Wagyu beef). Sheboygan, WI, is in the middle of nowhere. I take that back: Sheboygan, WI is in the middle of farmland, a place you wouldn’t expect to find such innovative, and authentic food, but there it is, a diamond in the rough. The only thing that keeps these jewels from being written about quite often is that they are located so far far away from the epicenters of foodie-ism- NY, San Francisco, LA.
The restaurant is owned by the same group that operates Il Ritrovo (pizza straight out of Venice, I swear to God), and Field to Fork (chia seeds, raw kombucha, avocado toast, pressed kale juice, and the best brunch using local ingredients). Everything on the menu is amazing. We shared duck fat poutine, I had vegetarian curry, husband ordered the golden Wagyu, while kiddo had the best fish and chips this side of the pond (although he really only ate bread and Aero bars…) As a Canadian, I’m always suspect of a non-Canadian’s take on poutine, but this was the real deal. It’s all about the gravy; and they nailed it.

I worked for US Foods a few weeks ago. We shot in their test kitchen, it was Amazeballs. Here’s a shot of one of their stoves, you can apparently roast an entire pig on this thing, it was that big. And their sous-vide machine….. OMGah…

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We celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary a few weeks ago. We split a bottle of Chateau Marquis D’Alesme, Margaux, 2005, Bordeaux. If you can find this, buy it, it was amazing.

If you live/work in San Francisco, Palo Alto, or Chicago, you need to check out the app called Sprig. It’s a spin on take-out, delivered right to your desk/door. Instead of calling up your favourite restaurant, Sprig is the restaurant. You choose from a small selection of organic, sustainable meals delivered within 15min, starting at $9/meal. It’s the new kid on the block without the brick and mortar, and I’m surprised this isn’t up & running in NY yet.

If you’ve ever wondered how to plate your food (my husband is Much better than I), check out: How To Plate Like A Michelin Chef

And because we all love toast, here are 10 ideas to rotate in with your avocados

Brunch Done Right

  

I can’t get enough of Story Hill BKC for brunch. This time I had smoked crème fraîche tomato bread with two perfect poached eggs. It was like a grown-up version of the tomato bread you find all over Barcelona. 

Not shown, but just as amazeballs: my brandied chocolate chunk cookie; Holy Sh*t.

Shakshuka: The Israeli Breakfast of Champions

  

What’s not to love about eggs baked in cumin-scented tomato sauce? This version had smoked lentils & goat cheese. Brunch all day at Story Hill B.K.C 

Quick Bites in the West Village

  

I could see myself eating breakfast, lunch, & dinner at The Elk on Charles at Greenwich St, not to mention hanging out all day in their light-drenched space. Options such as yoghurt bowls with coconut crumble & lemon rind, market bowls filled with steamed brown rice & roasted veg drizzled with a sesame-tahini sauce, or peanutty granola bar cookies are the stuff Pinterest pictures are made of. New York is known for its fabulous dinner options: Momofuko, Per Se, The Spotted Pig, etc etc etc. But what if you wanted to grab something quick but still palatable? Not break the bank, but a bit more “special” than the $1.50 slice of pizza around the corner- where should you go? (And don’t get me wrong, I love $1.50 pizza just as much as the next person, but sometimes I want more….) 

  
 

If you find yourself hungry late at night but don’t feel like cooking (who does after a long day at work? Or a long day spent at La Guardia airport waiting for your delayed flight to finally cancel because of the weather….) I stumbled upon Ready to Eat on Hudson at Charles. It was like home cooked food your mom would make: large platters of salads, freshly made hummus, roasted branzino, chicken marsala, or roasted chicken. The list goes on.  

 

Le Pain Quotidian on the corner of Hudson & Charles is a chain. Yet it’s dependable for its selection & consistency. For breakfast I had cumin flecked avocado toast, with a side of soft-boiled egg, and an almond milk latte. It was the perfect, filling breakfast, even if my egg was more hard-boiled than runny. 

It’s places like these that really make NY for me; the little shops & local chains that serve great, affordable food, and keep its citizens & tourists fed round-the-clock. 

NY, NY, I love you; a few restaurants for review

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Like I’ve said before, NYC has been good to my belly and thighs. I have been in NY for work and found myself at the BlueFly.com studios. Our producer ordered the most amazing sandwiches & sides from Untamed Sandwiches on West 39th (between 5th and 6th Aves).
I have forgotten how satisfying a really good sandwich can be. I fell out-of-love with sandwiches when I stopped eating processed-anything because of my soy intolerance. And although I can eat bread, most shops don’t use freshly baked, processed-ingredient-free bread. Enter Untamed Sandwiches: their crusty ciabatta rolls hold the most creative fillings I’ve seen in awhile such as the Sheemakers Bounty: charred broccoli with fried almond butter & pickled raisin jam (pictured above). Or how about the Nettle Neck: braised lamb neck, gruyere, walnut-nettle pesto, and pickled and charred onions. Holy S**t, right? The sides are pretty fabulous themselves, such as the chermoula roasted carrots, the rye berry salad that’s actually not that spicey, and the broccoli rabe that is pleasantly spicey.
Did I mention they cater? Exactly, click that link above for tomorrow’s lunch.

A few more mentionables that I’ve eaten at, but the photos were too shitty dark to post:
Mary’s Fish Camp in the West Village gets 10 stars. Kiddo had fried oysters, we split a crab gratin, and dined on shrimp burgers accompanied by charred shishito peppers, and pozole with red snapper, avocados, and hominy. Delish.
Shake Shack is everything the hype says it is. The hubby & I found it at Grand Central Terminal’s food court. He ordered the burger, I had the chocolate milkshake, next time I want both with fries.
Gnocco Cucina & Tradizione on E 10th between A & B was a recommendation from a friend of a friend. That friend of a friend is from Naples, and he said this place is exactly like home to him. So we went, and it was like discovering a little gem in the city. First of all, the village on this part of the island is like a little, unpretentious oasis in the concrete jungle. You walk in and immediately pass the kitchen with it’s brick oven- awesome- and make your way to the back to either the bar or the dining room. We all shared burrata, then moved on to our own dishes. I had the special: moist salmon crusted in pistachio served alongside black rice. The service was friendly, but not Applebee’s-annoyingly-friendly, and the room was dark enough so that the candlelight made everybody look good.
Union Market. I know, it’s not a restaurant, but you can get cupcakes from Baked there. Oh, you don’t know of Baked? It’s a bakery in Red Hook, and I love love love following them on Instagram and Facebook. They also have gorgeous cookbooks. Get thee to Union Market if you can’t make it to Brooklyn (or Tribeca) for those cupcakes, and for other things too….
-I think the best time to go to Magnolia Bakery (the famed bakery after being shot in a Sex In The City episode) in the West Village is on a frigid, Tuesday night- no long lines. I had the truffle cupcake filled with chocolate ganache: it fired off all of my chocolate-addicted neurons, and I was left with a deep sense of fulfillment. Pretty powerful s**t, totally worth the calories.
-If you find yourself out in Stamford, CT, Lorca on the main drag has drip brew coffee and buttery pain au chocolat.

Prune

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I found out about this East Village neighbourhood joint through reading chef Gabrielle’s memoir “Blood, Bones, & Butter“. When my husband came into town for the week to visit me I thought it would be fitting we should go there for our “date-night”. After a few intoxicating cocktails at The Ludlow Hotel‘s bar, we stumbled into the tiny restaurant to a prime window seat. We quickly ordered more wine and the app special: seared duck liver, braised hearts, and fois gras drenched crackers, which were amazeballs.

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For the main, my husband wasn’t that impressed: he ordered the pigeon, which is apparently a classic dish of the restaurant. I thought it was cooked well, but then again I was pretty tipsy by that point, anything was going to taste great. We split a Pinterest-perfect looking watercress salad, and I ordered the black rice cooked risotto-style with duck meat and turnips. Although not as photogenic as my husband’s dish, it was damn good. He thought so too. I think black rice should be the next “big” ingredient. Forget kale or pork belly- give me black rice.

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I have a saying: if it’s not chocolate, it’s not dessert. And there wasn’t any chocolate on the menu, so we ordered the mascarpone ice cream with salted caramel brioche (and a glass of port to wash it down with- long live alcohol!). The brioche cracked as soon as my spoon hit it, like breaking the crust of crème brûlée. Delish. Trying to recreate mascarpone ice cream at home will be on my to-do list, albeit with chocolate.
So, this is a mixed review: I loved my experience, my husband felt “meh”. Maybe go there as wasted as I was and you’ll have a great time.

Yunan Kitchen

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My friend and I were on the hunt for Chinese one night. A Saturday night actually. I had the brilliant idea that we should check out Mission Chinese- they take no reservations, but it was a snowy night, I mean, how crowded could it be? 1hr 45min wait-time crowded to be exact. F*** that. So we walked up Clinton St in snowpocolypse and came upon Yunan Kitchen. “Looks nice, has an “A” rating by the health department, let’s check it out” I said to my friend. I am so glad we did, it was like discovering a little gem in the city without ever having read about it through other reviews. It felt like my little find.
We started off with the smashed cucumber salad: amazing. Super fresh with toasted peanuts. Peanuts are so underdog next to cheerleader-popular almonds.

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For our mains, we shared the special: tea smoked chicken served with pickled veg and more peanuts. The chicken was cooked Perfectly: brined in tea, braised, then quickly tossed into the deep fryer to crisp up the skin and let the fat ooze into your mouth. Ah-Maz-Ing. My only complaint is that the chicken is sliced, served with the bone on. As a diner, I assume that if my chicken has been cut into smaller portions, the bone will have been taken off, be warned.
We also ordered the braised pork fried rice. My friend thought it paled next to superstar tea-smoked chicken, I felt it was everything it said it was going to be: braised pork fried rice and nothing more. Slightly spicey, totally satisfying. Some issues I had with this dish: we were given plastic chopsticks. I just feel that plastic chopsticks are a little harder to manage than wooden, but that’s just me. I also feel rice is easier to eat out of a bowl than a plate with chopsticks. Since we were sharing the big bowl of fried rice, the plates we were given alongside for our own portions were a little useless.

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Another great thing about this place was that it wasn’t filled with obnoxious diners. There were families, and couples, you could hear your accompanying diner talk without having to raise voices, and it wasn’t ridiculously packed at 8pm when we got there. It did start to get busy around 9:30 by the bar where we sat, but we were leaving anyways.
Yunan Kitchen is on Clinton at Rivington.

Zurich

  

Breakfast, Swiss style: rosti potatoes with raclette cheese & the happiest egg I ever did see. Not bad for brunch at Zurich Bahnhof (train station) just before departing to Paris today. 

Russ & Daughters

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I love a good deli just like the next person, and this definitely fits the bill. I know, I know, go to Katz’s, it’s a NY institution, but I’ve been there years ago and found it to be more tourist trap than an authentic dining experience (is there even such a thing?).
Russ & Daughters was great. I took the baby there (ok, well, he’s technically a toddler now, but he will Always be my baby….), and kiddo ate latkes with salmon roe on them. He Loved them:) I, meanwhile, ordered the most perfectly cooked sunny-side eggs with smoked salmon & latkes, while the hubby ordered sturgeon, eggs & onions. Delish. Baby & I washed our breakfasts down with a chocolate egg cream, and a cream soda that was flecked with vanilla bean seeds.

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Next time, I would love to order their caviar. Hopefully baby will be just as into that idea as he was with the salmon eggs.

Northern Spy Food Co: Finger Lickin’ Good

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I’ve spent February in NY, and the dining has been good to me so far. I recently went out to brunch with my good friend in the East Village at Northern Spy Food Co, and it was finger lickin’ good. I ordered the grapefruit and ginger seltzer, and we split the buttermilk biscuits with apple preserves. The seltzer was great: refreshing and not sickly-sweet, and those biscuits were so good my friend ordered another round for herself.

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The decor is exactly what you would expect out of a farm-to-table restaurant: disheveled wood, prop-styled perfect sugar bowls, and chalkboards describing their wares. All ingredients are locally sourced and seasonal (hence the name: Northern Spy is a variety of apple).

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For the main course, I ordered the pulled chicken sandwich with the most perfectly cooked poached egg. It was amazing. Definitely not first-date food; no, this sandwich is meant to be eaten with a significant other, or a really good friend, that is in it for the long-haul. It’s just too messy to be eaten around someone you’re trying to make a good impression on. But what’s messy, just like a bad boyfriend, is oh-so-damn-good going down.
My only complaint with this restaurant, and with dining in general lately, is seeing kale, and pork belly on the menu. I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda’ over kale. Kale has become the Justin Beiber of menus: obsessed over, everywhere to be found, and then all of a sudden, just like the Bieb’s, it won’t go away. Same goes with pork belly. Pork belly has become so common it’s like calamari: you’ll find it everywhere, no matter how fancy or not the joint is. I think the problem is the overuse of these ingredients; and for that matter, the availability. When ramps come into season, we all obsess over them, they’re on every single special, and then magically they’re gone when the clock strikes summer. Either restauranters find a new ingredient to obsess over, or chefs should think about using some other humble, yet nutritional-superstar veg, in place of kale- broccoli or cabbage anyone?
Even with my neurotic rant over kale, you should still definitely check out Northern Spy Food Co. You will not be disappointed.