Monday, December 23, 2013

ABC Cocina

ABC Cocina is a restaurant opened by the parent company ABC Carpet and Home and located next door to their Manhattan store in the Flatiron district (not to be confused with ABC Kitchen).

It's not too often that furniture stores open restaurants (I don't think Ikea and the Ikea food court counts...) but when you step inside ABC Cocina it sort-of all makes sense. The decor is -for lack of a better (and less corny) word - beautiful. The light fixtures include little glass globes that dangle from the ceiling and the back of the restaurant is separated from ABC Carpet and Home by large ornate French doors.

As for the food, it is a Jean-Georges collaboration, but unlike ABC Kitchen (his other collaboration with ABC Carpet and Home) and unlike most of his other restaurants, the theme of the food is Spanish/Latin.

The menu is tapas-style:

To start, Daniella and I ordered the guacamole with sungold tomato salsa and warm crunchy tortillas. The salsa also had some red grapefruit in it. Based on appearance I expected it to be sweeter in flavor than it actually was.

Next we had the  raw shaved fluke with green chili dressing and crunchy rice and herbs (one of my favorite things that we ordered):

We also ordered the sautéed mushroom tacos with mole, kale and lime:

 And baby calamari stuffed with chorizo, celery root, chickpeas, and basil:

Last but definitely not least was the crunchy Mexican spiced French toast and roasted apples. This was one of the best French toast dishes EVER. Crispy on the outside, and warm and soft on the inside. Yum yum!

Before we started eating, Daniella and I had plans to stop by the Union Square Farmer's Market (just a few blocks away) for apple cider donuts for dessert, but by the time brunch was over we were too stuffed. There's always next time...

We did however stop by the Union Square Holiday Market, where we found some new hats! Well... not entirely... since despite my aggressive peer-pressuring Daniella didn't decide to buy this one 

As for ABC Cocina - I will definitely be back for another serving of that French toast! Probably soon :D

Rating: 8/10

ABC Cocina
38 E. 19th St
New York, NY 10003

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Brooklyn (Holiday) Cookie Takedown

It's been a while since I last blogged, but this weekend Daniella and I went to the Cookie Takedown in Brooklyn, and it was too sweet an opportunity to pass up

Just like the Chili Takedown, Hot Sauce Takedown, and Bacon Takedown, it's a competition for local peeps to show off their cooking skills. The winners get Cuisinart kitchen appliances and tons of cheers from the audience.

Unfortunately, the Universe seems to be punishing me for my long negligence of my blog, and 90% of the photos I took of the yummy cookies at this competition were "damaged or unsupported." I'm currently shedding internal tears of sadness for the 25 photos that have melted into technology's black hole

Anyway.... we shall have to make do with what survived.

The competition was a two-day event (spanning both Saturday and Sunday) with a total of 50 competitors.

Daniella and I had plates piled high full of cookies, and even though we tried not to take more than one or two bites of each, we were stuffed full before we even reached the half-way mark:

Some of the people near us made more head-way:

Daniella and I had the same favorite cookie - which was a sweet potato flavored one with a cake-like consistency and cream cheese frosting. That baker took 3rd place overall. If you look at the left of the pic above, it's the cookie that is furthest to the left on the plate second from the back. *Sigh* Complicated I know... but none of my individual cookie pictures survived (*more tears*)

And after Daniella was such a good sport about modeling all of them too :D

Well... almost none:

The one pictured above was a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie with cranberries and chocolate ganache. It was a bit toooo sweet and didn't make it into the top 3.

My second favorite cookie was a Bourbon-pumpkin one, also with cream cheese frosting (in the previous picture (two above us) it's the orange-colored one with obvious cream cheese frosting and a bite taken out of it: on the same plate as my favorite cookie)

The venue was a pretty neat place - The Bell House in Park Slope, and it was a pretty large turn-out. I guess no one can resist free sweets!

It was starting to snow as we left, and we couldn't resist a holiday-themed photo-op. Thank you again to my favorite model

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Macaron Cafe

As much as I love the macarons at Ladurée, sometimes you just have to mix it up...

Also, Ladurée closes early (7pm) which means it's hard to make it there in time after work. Macaron Cafe on the other hand, stays open until 8pm.

As compared to Ladurée, their macarons are a little bit larger, a little less sweet and with more subtle  flavors, and a little more dense in consistency/texture

(The flavors I chose were -from left to right- Mandarin Orange, Dark Chocolate, Rose Lychee, Pistachio, Creme Brulee, and Coconut)

These differences aren't necessarily bad... just different

It's a good option for an after-work treat (especially for those of us who don't work 9-5), and doesn't kill your paycheck as much as too many visits to Ladurée

Overall rating: 8/10

Macaron Cafe
750 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tanoshi Bento

There's a place in the Upper East Side - once little-known, that does amazing sushi: Tanoshi Sushi. They serve only Omakase, and per report, it's -yes- amazing. Unfortunately, ever since Time Out New York did an article on them a little while back, they've been swamped. SWAMPED. The place seats 10, and in order to get a reservation, you have to be there - in the restaurant, at 2pm 2 months in advance. INSANE

Not likely to happen for me any time soon... I doubt my Chief is going to let me duck out of the hospital to trek up to the east 70's mid-day, just to secure one of these much-desired reservations.

Instead, Daniella, Anna, and I settled on dinner at their sister restaurant (located right next door): Tanoshi Bento. As you might guess from their name, rather than serving up delicious sushi, they serve delicious bento boxes

Every bento comes with the usual salad as a starter (nothing special here):

And then comes the actual bento itself:

In addition to the entree, there is miso soup, a small serving of potato salad, a bite each of two different kinds of seaweed salad, a sampling of cold noodle with vegetables, a shumai, and of course rice

Anna and Daniella both ordered the Salmon Teriyaki:

Whereas I ordered the chicken katsu:

Exactly my idea of good comfort food... and so close to home!

Overall rating: 7/10

Tanoshi Bento
1372 York Ave
New York, NY 10021

Friday, September 27, 2013

Maison Kayser

What do you do when your dinner with friends is cut short by a crazy (and possibly homeless and/or intoxicated) lady who sits down next to you and starts eavesdropping on your conversation (with periodic interruptions and laughs)?

Move on to dessert! We chose Maison Kayser in the Upper East Side - just a few blocks away from my apartment (and I never knew about it until now??!!)

As you can guess by the name, it's French - or at least French themed - and the waiters were all dressed in adorable striped shirts and black suspenders.

I ordered the frozen hot chocolate (Anna and Daniella had coffee):

It was less sweet than what you would get at Serendipity 3, but rich and creamy

Anna opted for the raspberry tart:

Daniella had the Paris Brest (the outer pastry is similar to what you would get with a cream puff, and the inner filling was a hazelnut cream)

I chose the pistachio eclair (my first choice had actually been the crème brûlée, but they had run out by the time we arrived)

This dessert spot also serves dinner, but all the positive reviews that I've seen online were for their delicious breads and pastries.

The eclair was pretty good, but not earth shattering. Anna loved her tart, and Daniella's dessert was decent too.

Who knows - I might have swooned over the crème brûlée, but we'll have to wait until next time to find out.  I'll even give their brioche a try (they have 5 different kinds!!)

Maison Kayser
1294 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10021

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tea at the Pembroke Room in the Lowell Hotel

This weekend a few of my friends were visiting the city, and per the request of one of those friends, we decided to do Saturday afternoon high tea at the Lowell.

How -you might ask- did she happen to decide on the Lowell for tea? It's not one of the larger hotels in the city, nor is there immediate name-recognition for those who don't live here...?

It ends up that when we had initially decided on tea, I sent her a list of options (I think there are about 25 places in the city that offer weekend high-tea), and she chose the one with the "prettiest place-settings" and "most sandwich options"

The menu is below:

Classic Tea
$39 per person
Our exclusive and handpicked selection
Assorted Including:
Maine Lobster Salad, Cucumber and Watercress,
Deviled Quail Egg Salad, Scottish Smoked Salmon with Dilled Crème
Fraiche, and Smoked Turkey with Arugula and Homemade Mayonnaise
Homemade with Lemon Curd and Devonshire cream
Royal Tea
$49 per person
One glass
Our exclusive and handpicked selection
Assorted Including:
Maine Lobster Salad, Cucumber and Watercress,
Deviled Quail Egg Salad, Scottish Smoked Salmon with Dilled Crème
Fraiche, and Smoked Turkey with Arugula and Homemade Mayonnaise
Homemade with Lemon Curd and Devonshire cream
The Lowell Imperial Tea
$75 per person
Take pleasure in our mouthwatering Golden Osetra Caviar and
Veueve Clicquot Champagne tea menu for two.
One ounce accompanied with blinis sourdough toast points
and condiments
Assorted Including:
Maine Lobster Salad, Cucumber and Watercress,
Deviled Quail Egg Salad, Scottish Smoked Salmon with Dilled Crème
Fraiche, and Smoked Turkey with Arugula and Homemade Mayonnaise
Homemade with Lemon Curd and Devonshire cream

John and I each decided on the Royal Tea, which (includes champagne) while the others opted for the Classic Tea

The tea is loose-leaf, which means don't forget to strain it as you pour! (I've been known to forget on occasion, and ended up drinking leaves. NOT yummy). I chose the Darjeeling tea:

The sandwiches include the typical turkey and smoked salmon:

As well as the cucumber (this cucumber sandwich was particularly boring, as there was very little cucumber or mayo):

Last but not least were the lobster (delicious - my favorite of them all) and quail egg:

The desserts included a pear tart:


As well as chocolate eclair and blueberry (also raspberry - but not pictured) tarts:

The scones were of the plain or cranberry variety (these were served very fresh and warm!):

The scone condiments included lemon curd, strawberry jelly, Devonshire cream, and raspberry jelly:

 (Always eat responsibly and use condiments!!! Hahaha... I didn't come up with that joke...)

Last but not least, the top tier of our tea-tower included the petit-fours and macarons:

As always, the tea snacks were more filling than you would expect based on their size. Although the cucumber sandwiches were a disappointment and the macarons were not the best (check out my post on Laduree for an example of outstanding macarons), overall our experience at the Lowell was very good. Plus, I love the blue striped chairs! Classy...

Rating: 7.5/10

The Lowell
28 E 63rd St
New York, NY

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Balthazar Bakery

There is no better way to start the morning, than with some sweets from the Balthazar bakery:

Start off with some Canelés: (some people spell it Cannele)

Chewy caramelized exteriors, with soft - almost custard-like interiors: (made with egg, flour, milk, sugar, rum, and vanilla)

And finish with some lemon Madeleines: (little French butter cookies that have an almost cake-like consistency)

Their bakery also offers an assortment of croissants (the almond croissant is my favorite), tarts, cookies, and of course breads. It's only a matter of time before I try them all

Balthazar Bakery
80 Spring St 
New York, NY 10012

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ladurée (again)

It's nice to discover that some things don't change... even after a year

Maybe the color of their boxes have been upgraded (vs. down-graded (?) depending on your preferences: last time I was at their Madison Avenue store for a purchase, the boxes were a Tiffany's-blue color)...

...but Ladurée is still churning out delicious macarons daily:

(and oh-so-photogenic!)

864 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10021

*The macarons pictured here were a delicious gift. This month's special flavor was mint (the turquoise one at the bottom of the photo). Although it may seem boring, the vanilla and coconut flavors have always been my favorite though...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


This weekend the weather was great and some friends and I spent Sunday afternoon playing in Central Park.  In addition to getting a few mosquito bites: I managed to earn 2 - one on each forearm (which I placed Bandaids on at work today to prevent myself from scratching, and instead ended up looking like a "cutter"), we also got a chance to have dinner in the Upper West Side, where none of us often venture out to.

Our wandering took us to Cafe Fiorello, which is located across Broadway from Lincoln Center, in the middle of a strip that is packed with restaurant options.

I don't entirely remember how we made this choice, but once there, we ordered:

Bowl of meatballs:
(The Meatball Shop downtown on the East side does a better job with these)

Prosciutto plate:

(Paired with some yummy bread)

Jumbo lump crabmeat and avocado salad: with orange segments
(I had envisioned a large bowl full of greens and maybe some crab and avocado sprinkled on top... imagine my surprise when there were no greens and instead just a "cake" of crab and avocado: best surprise EVER, and very yummy)

Arugula and caramelized pear salad: with crispy Italian cream cheese and black currant vinaigrette
(The best part was the crispy Italian cream cheese, which was a good balance to the sweetness of the pears)

[You can just barely see the cheese tucked behind the pears in this pic]

Pappardelle with eggplant parmesan:

Specialty jumbo lump crab steak:
We had no idea what this was until it was served - ended up being about 5 crab's worth of crab meat all lumped together into the shape of a steak

Lobster seafood risotto: with scallops, shrimp, mussels, and calamari
(This looked delicious, but was reported to be over-cooked, resulting in overly-soft/mushy rice)

View of the bar, where the bartenders all wore straw hats:

Overall it was a decent dinner, although not earth-shattering. The bonus at the end of dinner was the opportunity to visit the fountain outside the Lincoln Center and snag some great shots:

 Overall rating: 7.5/10

Cafe Fiorello
1900 Broadway
New York, NY 10023