Bestie is back!!! She arrived just in time for us to celebrate her birthday. We decided on Matsuri because the menu looked amazing and the Blackboard Eats deal was too good to pass up! Matsuri is a beautiful restaurant and I highly recommend you get a seat downstairs in the main dining room rather than upstairs in the lounge area. We arrived promptly for our 7:30 reservation. To maximize our dining experience, we decided to order only a couple of dishes at a time.
We started with the Yellowtail which was very thinly sliced sashimi and served with a yuzu-green pepper sauce.
Wowee! What a great way to start our meal. The Yellowtail was so fresh it tasted like it was alive a few minutes before it arrived on the table. The sauce gave a nice kick to the dish. Next up the Crabmeat shumai.
Yummers! The shumai was filled with chunks of crab, ginger and edamame. Each ingredient was obvious but the crab was dominant. Since we were feeling that crab dish, we figured we should try our chances with the Soft Shell Crab.
Holy smokes! It was hot! I don't mean spicy, I'm talking about the temperature. It was served with ponzu sauce, but truthfully we didn't need it because the crab was so flavorful. We then had Grilled Scallops.
They were served on a bed of asparagus and accompanied by cherry tomatoes. The scallops were good but I think grilling was not the ideal way to prepare it. The scallops lost their delicacy and I lost my interest. Luckily, the Young Sea Bass, which I ordered on a whim came out soon after.
This was my absolute favorite dish! The waiter described the sauce as a Japanese cilantro - the menu called it a red yuzu pepper vinaigrette. Whatever it was, it was for sure amazing. We tore it up! We then moved to the sushi portion of our meal.
The Toro-cucumber roll was the least exciting item on our long list of dishes. It tasted like mushy pre-made store bought sushi. Perhaps my pallet is not refined enough but I think we would have been better ordering toro in sushi or sashimi form. The Zuke Tuna was really good.
Tuna sauteed in sake and soy sauce. Yea I could dig it. The Sashimi Appetizer of tuna, yellowtail and salmon was even better.
The Shrimp tempura roll was also quite tasty.
Unlike so many other restaurants, it was very lightly battered so I could actually taste the shrimp! Bestie also ordered Salmon sushi which she loved. Since it was her birthday, our server provided us with complimentary plum wine granite.
It was very sweet and reminded me of frozen icees in the summer! For dessert, Bestie ordered the Sakura Panna Cotta.
It was surrounded by cherries and kiwi. She really enjoyed it and although I wanted to sample, I cohort tear myself away from my Warm Chocolate Cake.
What a perfect way to end the meal! The atmosphere was perfect and the meal as spectacular. Although the toro wad disappointing, everything else was amazing or pretty close. It was the perfect way to celebrate Bestie's return! I highly recommend Matsuri. If you're gonna do it, go for the three hour experience with slow ordering multiple dishes like we did. It's worth your time and your money.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
I did it!! I finally had a chance to start cooking again so I invited my favorite pescetarian over for dinner. I had been planning this meal for quite some time, especially because I needed special equipment. There were a few recipes I was considering but then I remembered a comment from an earlier post that directed me to a recipe that looked pretty easy.
2 large or 3 medium size russet potatoes
2 egg yolks
½ cup flour and more for dusting
special equipment: Potato Ricer!
Boil the potatoes for 30 minutes or so. While the potatoes are boiling, you should be making whatever sauce you plan to use because the potatoes will need all your attention when they’re done boiling. Once they’re done boiling, quickly run cold water over them then drain. While they are still hot, peel the potatoes. At this point you should start boiling the water that you will use to cook the gnocchi. Run the potatoes through the potato ricer.
This was my favorite part! Fluffy pieces of potato will fall into the bowl, not quite snowflake like maybe shredded coconut, but either way something fabulous happened in that bowl. Next up make some space in the center and add the egg yolks and flour.
Mix the ingredients together until the flour is well blended. Dust the counter top with flour, take a small handful of the dough and roll out into a ½ inch thick log.
Cut the log into 1-inch pieces. Throw a handful into the boiling water. They will sink to the bottom.
When they rise to the top, it’s time to scoop them out! They only need about 3 minutes to cook.
Once they are cooked, it is best to serve them immediately. I topped it with a tomato sauce I made.
I think I overdid it a little so I’m not going to share the recipe. I’ll do better next time when I make my next gnocchi – yuppers I’ll be doing this again! The recipe allegedly serves 4 but in reality it feeds 3, so keep that in mind. The gnocchi was light and fluffy, it was like eating well-formed mashed potatoes. All sorts of awesome! I definitely enjoyed this dish and look forward to trying a different recipe soon.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
While I was living at the aloft, I spent a lot of time dining on Fred Doug Blvd. So many eateries! I'm telling you Harlem is a wonderful place to live. A few weeks ago, I was convinced to go to dinner at Zoma, a delightful Ethiopian restaurant at 113th street. The restaurant has a modern feel and the decorations provide a nice contrast to the starkly white walls.
We were pretty quick to order and thankfully they were quick to deliver.
Our two sides of Shiro Wett (chickpeas, lentils and peas roasted and cooked in berbere sauce) and Gomen (collard greens simmered in vegetable broth with onions, garlic and ginger). They were served on a bed of injera, a sourdough crepe that is used to eat the rest of the meal. I must say part of why my first few experiences with Ethiopian food didn't quite work out is because the injera wasn't that great. But at Zoma, it's spectacular! Our main dish, Doro Wett soon arrived.
The bubbling bowl of chicken and boiled egg cooked with onions, ginger, berbere and spices was emptied onto our injera. We tore! it! up!
The meal was fantastic! Every item tasted incredible! The Shiro Wett was especially impressive because I definitely was not expecting anything that tasty. I'm usually not a fan of anything pureed, but this was very flavorful. The Doro Wett was also wonderful. The chicken was tender and the boiled egg was a welcome protein boost. The Gomen was a new dish for me and I really look forward to trying it again!
Despite my reluctance to go to dinner, Zoma was totally worth it! If you haven't been, you should definitely make the trip!
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
To celebrate my last night at aloft and her impending nuptials, I had dinner with Z-wonderful. She recommended Tangled Vine and I happily obliged though I was a little upset that I didn’t purchase The Blackboard Eats from a few weeks earlier. We walked up there from midtown because it was a somewhat nice spring day. Not nice enough to sit outside though which is what they wanted us to do. We opted to sit indoors. The restaurant is really not that big. The outside seating area is almost as large as the bar seating area. There are only a few tables that look like they're reserved exclusively for dinner. We didn't have a reservation so we sat at one of the counter height tables by the bar. From there we received our entrees. Z ordered the Asparagus Salad.
It looked delicious. It had a few more lettuce leaves than she was ready for but it also had some amazingly delicious mushrooms. I wad a huge fan of the salad. I ordered Crab Croquettes.
OMG. I'm afraid amazing is not suitable enough to describe the miracle that entered my mouth. It was like eating baby crab cakes but in incredibly delicious form -no filler - just crab! Truly delightful. Since we were sans reservation we were not able to stay at that table the entire time. We were moved to the bar which was a little for dinner but we accepted it since we were hungry. Z's Beef Carpaccio was first to arrive. She was thrilled because it was so thinly sliced she could actually enjoy it.
I was similarly pleased with my Gnocchi.
It was served with shrimp and snap peas in a wine sauce. The shrimp was very fresh and tasted like it arrived in the kitchen that day. The more often I go out to eat and cook, the easier it is to notice fresh versus frozen. We decided against dessert at Tangled Vine and went elsewhere.
Overall the experience at Tangled Vine was a good one. The food was delicious but I was a little concerned about the depth of the menu. It is definitely a wine bar that happens to serve food rather than a restaurant that has wine, which is fine if that's what you're looking for. They don't have a lot of seating so make reservations to guarantee that you're not switching seats like we did.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Wow, I’m really falling behind here. I’ll try to update you on all my meals during my hotel stay. That’s right I’m back in my home! Now that I’ve returned, I can reveal my hotel location. The brand new-ish aloft Harlem. I heart Starwood Hotels so finding one somewhat close to home was great. There is nothing great about living in a hotel, but the aloft staff certainly did try to make it home for me.
When I arrived on a Tuesday morning, they allowed me to check into my room. I was impressed with the wireless key entry.
When I entered the room, I was a little taken aback by the compactness of it all. The sink is only a couple of feet from the door and it shares a side wall/door with the bathroom.
The oversized shower was stocked with Bliss products so I was thrilled because that meant I got to leave most of my toiletries at home.
The closet faces the sink and it barely fits anything. Certainly not my stuff, I mean I was there for 2 weeks!
The closet is actually just the backside of the headboard to the monster size bed that dominates the room.
The mattress wasn’t as comfortable as other Starwood beds I’ve slept on, but I get it aloft is like a baby W Hotel so it’s not quite as fancy. The views were also very disappointing.
The room had a giant television but the room was so small that the TV definitely dominated and not in a good way.
My first night there I went downstairs to get something to eat.
The hotel lobby includes the xyz lounge. It is lively at night, but since the hotel was my home – I was not digging the liveliness. The food there was nothing short of awful. The menu was severely limited to make it worse they didn’t have several of the items on there. I got the sense that the items came straight from the Costco frozen food section. I finally settled on Chicken Fingers. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw behind the door and noticed that my chicken fingers were being popped into a toaster oven. Sigh.
They tasted just as I expected, bland and uninteresting. I was truly disappointed but I should have known better. That was the last night I ate anything from there. Once I realized that my apartment wouldn’t be ready anytime soon, I decided to switch rooms. I moved to a higher floor with a slightly different lay out and a street view.
Always nice to have a bit of a hallway. TV on the wall was also a benefit, but unfortunately I could hear noise from the TV next door and a few channels stopped working during my stay. Tsk tsk. The gym was wonderful, but I forgot to take pictures. I had plenty of pent up aggression because of my housing situation so I worked up quite the sweat. The machines allow you to hook in your iPod and it even sends the statistics back so you can keep track of your progress. The outdoor area was also pretty nice.
On the nicer evenings, I sat out there pondering why I was still living in a hotel.
Overall my stay at the aloft Harlem was as good as it can be considering the reason I was there. I would have preferred being there under different circumstances and definitely would have liked a shorter stay. The staff was friendly and I obviously loved the Bliss products. Now if only I could get my reimbursement from the people who put me in this situation in the first place and agreed to reimburse me…
Monday, May 16, 2011
After our wonderful spa treatments, Mama Bear and I went to dinner in Lenox. I thought I wanted French food but ultimately decided on Italian. I picked Frankie's Ristorante Italiano because the menu looked delicious.
We drove a few minutes to Frankie's. It looked like we were walking into someone's house. The front part had a few tables and the bar. On the bridge between the back and front there are a few booths which looked great so we chose to sit there. Unfortunately that was a bad decision. Some members of the staff stomped while walking over that part and one even fell. It was way too noisy!
We started with the Calamari, which was served with their house made aioli. The calamari was perfect. Light and crisp batter that was not greasy. Unfortunately the aioli – which was basically mayonnaise – was disgusting. It did nothing but distract from the wonderful taste of the calamari.
We put in our entree order and I couldn't wait for it to arrive. Unfortunately, wait is exactly what we did. It took 25 minutes!!! I was horrified at the extremely slow service. Our server only stopped by once during that time. What a shame. After all that time I imagined I was about to eat the most amazing meal ever. Womp womp. The Shrimp and Lobster ravioli came out and I was very excited.
The ravioli did taste great. As I've noted before I don't love creamy sauces, but this creamy shallot sauce was quite good. The only problem is the food wasn't very hot.
See? The sauce was already congealing. It must have been sitting under the lamp for several of those 25 minutes. I got tired of eating the ravioli after a few minutes because it wasn't delicious at room temperature. Luckily, Mama Bear's food was amazing!
Fresh Salmon with a pesto sauce, Green Beans and Spaghetti. It was delicious! The salmon tasted like it just got out of the water and it was cooked to perfection! The spaghetti was also really good. Even though it was dry pasta, it still tasted great!
We had been at Frankie's so long that all I wanted to do was leave so dessert wasn't in the cards. Because of the disparity in the quality of our dishes, I have a hard time giving Frankie's a fair assessment. I really think my meal mainly suffered due to the service or maybe some poor timing in the kitchen. The flavors were right and it actually had me thinking it might be time for me to make my own ravioli...stay tuned.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
I love my Mama Bear more than words can express and while I find ways to say it, sometimes I express it through experiences. A few weekends ago BH (Before Hotel living) I decided that we needed a Mother-Daughter trip and Cranwell Spa, Resort and Golf Club was the place to make that happen.
Tucked on a luscious green estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, it was the perfect location for our weekend chillin'. Less than a three-hour drive from NYC, the Berkshires are an excellent location for weekend getaways. I’ve been to the Berkshires a few times before, most recently last summer. We drove up on a Saturday morning and of course our first meal was at Haven Cafe. We then drove to the Cranwell. Although it was still a little damp from the rainy day, it was beautiful. We stopped at the main house to check in and were given our keys to Beecher Cottage.
The room was enormous.
We spent some time lounging on the arm-chairs which felt chaise like because of the foot stool.
We then took a complimentary shuttle to the spa building. Woweee! Luxury like I've never experienced it before. The building is beautiful. It includes an indoor pool, a gym, sauna, Jacuzzi and so much more. The locker room is fantastic and includes wonderful seating areas.
We went into the waiting room which included a fireplace and comfy chairs for some mother-daughter chatting. The massage treatment was phenomenal and it was clear that my therapist was well trained.
After the session Mama Bear and I walked back to Beecher. We relaxed for sometime before heading to dinner (more on that tomorrow). The next day was beautiful and we spent some time in the gym and walking around the estate.
It was a wonderful weekend escape and a perfect place to get lost. I love my Mama Bear and was thrilled to be able to share that time with her...even if it was a few weeks before the holiday. Happy Mother's Day!
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
One of my absolute favorite parts of warm NY days is outdoor dining! I also love the way warmth garners spontaneity. So last weekend while the sun was shining bright, I sat around in Union Square reading. Since I was already that far downtown, I figured why not go see my favs who live WTFDT (hehe). Mr. M was on his way out but Ms. O was on her way in so I hustled to their apartment and saw them both! Then Ms. O and I headed out to the Seaport in search of some good eats. We decided on RED because the menu had enough items on there that sounded tempting. Our eyes both zoomed in on the Fiery Chicken Wings so I was thrilled that they soon appeared on our table.
They were awesome! They were definitely marinated in a delicious sauce which for some reason I thought had hints of buttermilk but turns out it was bleu cheese - close enough. We were very happy with the flavor and the fieriness of the wings. Ms. O ordered a salad.
She was pleased with the dressing but the server definitely lied about the size of the salad. I ordered Chicken Tacos.
I was very excited about the tacos, but sadly they did not meet my expectations. The chicken was pretty well seasoned but a little bit of salt would have gone a long way. Generally, corn tortillas don’t do it for me – these were mad worse by the dry cold cheese that fell across them. The suuuper runny guacamole didn't help the plate either. The rice and beans were tasty though.
Refried beans are awesome and every time I eat them, it takes me back to my days at UMD and the delicious burritos at Jalapeno Grill. YUM!
RED was not the best Mexican food I’ve had. The service was subpar and at one point our regular water was replaced with flat seltzer. I don’t know who goes around carrying a pitcher of seltzer but something definitely went wrong there. The wings were delicious and had we stuck to our original plan of appetizers we would have definitely won. Alas, my eyes are too big and when I see food I can’t help but want to eat it. I recommend the wings but not much else.