Posts tagged ‘restaurant review’

5 days in Manhattan with a toddler

We finally made it back to spend a few days in New York last week – and oh have I missed it. We were last here 16 months ago when Sofie was only 4 months old. Now she is 20 months old, walking, talking and able to experience the city more. We had a wonderful time seeing friends, eating amazing food and going for numerous strolls to take everything in, especially buses, which is a current favorite of Sofie’s. We even spent some time at the very fun FAO Schwartz. Did you know you can make your own muppet there? It took all my will power to not get one for myself. We managed to leave with just one purchase, an Ugly Doll for Sofie, she picked Wedgehead.

I thought I’d share the great hotel we stayed at and, as expected in NY, all the really great food we enjoyed.

A great place to stay: The Alex Hotel

For this trip we sought out a hotel suite with a kitchenette. It was important to us to have food and milk on hand for Sofie given she eats 5 times a day and especially since we often need to bring food with us when we go out to eat given her allergies to eggs and peanuts. It was more difficult that we expected to fine a hotel that met our needs and wasn’t $1000 plus a night. We almost thought we’d have to scrap the trip till a friend finally suggested The Alex Hotel. The hotel was perfect for us. It is still on the pricey side but I think well worth the money for the location and to have a nice suite, a kitchen with a fridge, dishwasher, stove top and dishes.  They actually upgraded us, which I think gave us a larger office area. The staff is extremely pleasant and helpful. I have lost count of the times they held doors open for us over our stay – very handy when you have a child in a stroller or ergo. The location is also great because it is a little quieter here than other places like Times Square or anywhere closer to 6th and 7th Avenue. Yet, it is still very easy to get to anything you’d like, for instance, we had a very pleasant walk over to Central Park to meet Jeromy  It is also close to Grand Central making the subway to anywhere easy. I will try to post another entry just on the hotel with photos of our room and tips on what you’ll want to bring or buy when you get here for kitchen supplies (if you are interested before I’ve posted add a comment and I’ll get back to you).

Great places to eat (or take out from)

After seeking out various dining options nearby we discovered we were even luckier than we thought to be staying at The Alex. We had only been here a few days but had already stumbled across some spectacular eating – and more importantly, eating that was good as take out! Unless we manage to have an early dinner with Sofie, typically we still have dinner after she goes to bed. So delivery or close take out is crucial to use since we are hotel bound for the evening once she goes down at 7pm. No worries in this area though!

Udon West – Great Japanese noodle and rice place.  No sushi. Good for take out or table service.
150 East 46th St (between 3rd and Lexington)
I had passed by this place earlier while taking a stroll with Sofie. It caught my interest immediately but the entrance is a few steps down and I had Sofie in her stroller so I didn’t bother trying to go in to ask for a take out menu. Later that night when Jeromy and I were debating what to do for dinner I was excited to try the noodle shop. timing actually worked out since I fed Sofie her dinner at her usual time and we still had plenty of time to go out for a stroll and to pick up dinner. Once I got my hands on the menu it was hard to decide what to try. I ended up with the Katsu Don & Udon combination and it blew me away. It tasted really great, but it was extra special because it reminded me of food I used to eat as a child overseas and I don’t get that feeling very often.

Bayan Cafe – A very small, nondescript Filipino Restaurant
Not sure of their exact address, but they are on the south side of east 45th between 2nd and 3rd avenue.
This place has a small, easy to miss store front.  But something about it called out to me. After walking by it a couple times I stopped in to grab a takeout menu. At that point I didn’t even know what kind of cuisine they served! There was a man taking a break on the front steps and he immediately got up to open the door for me (I had Sofie in the ergo). As soon as the door opened I was treated to a wonderful array of smells and I knew then that the food had to be good. I took a menu and the gentleman outside popped up to open the door for me again. We finally decided to try them Sunday night. I had never ordered from a Filipino restaurant and wasn’t sure what to get. So I ordered two things just in case one was a dud – BBQ pork belly and escabeche. They were both amazing, very different from what we usually eat which made them all the better. It was a real treat. It was also nice that everyone in the place seemed really nice and to really care about the food they were putting out. Gotta love it.

Darbar – Indian Restaurant
154 E. 46th St (between 3rd and Lexington)
I was in the mood for japanese noodles when we went to Udon West. Jeromy wanted something else, so he went looking for options as I waited with Sofie for my order. He came back a few minutes later saying he had just ordered from the Indian place next door. We went there after I got my food to wait for his. The staff was pleasant and the ambiance was nice. It might have been a little too quiet to take Sofie there to sit down for a meal, but take out worked well. It took a good 10-15 minutes but I never have a problem with that since it means they are actually cooking you food versus dished it out of pre-made tubs. Jeromy was very pleased with his order, though it was a little on the heavy side for him. I took a bite and thought it had a great depth of flavor. I think I’ll do take out from them tonight and Jeromy will probably get noodles from Udon West which is right next door. I’ll update this entry after trying more of their food. The garlic naan is calling me! UPDATE: I did get take out from them, chicken korma. It was pretty good, not the best I’ve had but it hit the spot.

Amish Market – high end grocery store with lots of organic options and prepared foods
240 E. 45th (between 2nd and 3rd Aves)
The market is across the street and a few doors down from The Alex Hotel. We went there for the first time almost immediately after we arrived at the hotel to stock up on drinks, snacks and food for Sofie’s meals. We were wide-eyed as we tried to take in the massive array of high end food options they managed to squeeze in. We found everything we needed and much more. We had fun and could have spent a lot more time and money there if we hadn’t just come off a 4 hour drive. We’ve been back a few times already for odds and ends, always leaving with a little more than we needed.

Brooklyn Diner in Times Square – has a nice diner menu, plus a few healthier options too!
I had been to the other Brooklyn diner location and loved it. The Times Square location was only about a mile away from our hotel so we decided to go there for Sunday brunch with our friend Vinette who had come up from DC to visit with us for the weekend. While the food at both locations is good, the Times Square location has a back section that was perfect for kids since, well, it was in the back and with the way it was laid out there was more room. It can get extra stressful eating out with a toddler in cramped spaces. They also had paper on the table so it was perfect for Sofie to color on.

Sarabeth’s at Central Park – gourmet menu, super delicious food, nice atmosphere
40 Central Park South (across from Central Park, between 5th and 6th Aves)
Eating at Sarabeth’s for lunch was a real treat. We decided to go there on a whim while looking around for somewhere for lunch. Jeromy spotted it as we walked along side Central Park and we decided to try it since my friend, Ernie, had suggested it for brunch over the weekend. I’m so glad we did. In addition to the wonderfully decadent menu, the atmosphere was very calm and serene. You just felt like you were going to be pampered there. They kindly sat us in a back corner so we had a little more space for Sofie. I ordered the crab cake sandwich, which was probably one of the best crab cakes I have every had. It was seriously almost 100% crab, and really fresh delicious crab. Jeromy raved about his tuna nicoise salad. I had a bite of the tuna and it was indeed very good. They did not have a children’s menu so we ordered a bunless hamburger for Sofie, unfortunately after only a couple bits of burger she decided she would rather just eat french fries. Sigh. At least she ate some grapes while we waited for our food. A meal of fries here and there won’t kill her…and these were pretty good fries. Sarabeth’s is well-known for baked goods and jams so I couldn’t resist getting a couple jars of jam as we left, Plum Cherry and Strawberry Rhubarb. I can’t wait to try them and hope to find time to post a blog entry on them as well. Sarabeth’s is a bit farther from The Alex Hotel, but we still walked there and back. All the walking helps me feel a little less guilty about all the treats I’ve been consuming this visit.

Chelsea Market – foodie nirvana
75 9th Avenue (Between 15th and 16th Streets)
Now, it is pretty far from the hotel. We walked there, and it was a really long walk. I was glad to take a cab back to our hotel afterwards. But whether you walk, take a cab or the subway if you consider yourself any kind of foodie you need to pay Chelsea Market a visit. It was particularly crowded when we went due to a number of New York Food Festival events going on at the venue. But that just added to the experience. It is basically an indoor mall of food establishments ranging from cupcake shops and bakeries, to Thai food, to small sit down restaurants serving organic fair to gourmet groceries stores. Along the corridor of shops there are also a number of tables and benches perfect to take a break at to eat a delicious bite. Upstairs happens to be home of the Food Network, so there is the added allure of potentially seeing a celebrity chef. We didn’t see any when we were there, but that just would have been a fun add on. The market itself was enough for us.

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October 18, 2009 at 7:47 am Leave a comment

Great food in Provincetown, Cape Cod (MA)

Once again, we rented a lovely house in Provincetown for a week this summer. We had a really wonderful time. We enjoyed some old favorites and stumbled upon a number of new ones! I thought I’d share all of the food related ones here should find yourself in that area sometime soon. And if you only have time to read one thing in this post, skim till you find Hatch’s Fish Market – our best find yet. If I find a few more spare minutes I’ll try to write up good activities to do with the kids.

Frappo66
The food is really good, and pretty quick. Go there for brunch! You seat yourself and then order at a counter. They have great indoor and outdoor seating. They do have high chairs, but you have to ask for them. We were there for brunch and I highly recommend the French Toast Texas-Style – YUM! Their side of bacon is nice too…dry, crispy and not too greasy.
214 Commercial St, Provincetown
http://www.frappo66.com/

Lobster Pot
Large menu, good food and not too fancy. They are open all day so it is a great spot to hit for an early lunch or dinner with kids. My favorite entree is the Portuguese Fish – order it! While I haven’t had it for years, I also really liked the Seafood Linguini. And of course, the lobster is great. I would not recommend the Crabmeat Salad Panini, there was a lot of mayo and other items taking away from the crab and making the sandwich really goopy.
321 Commercial St, Provincetown
http://www.ptownlobsterpot.com/

Big Daddy Burritos
Nice little take out place. It is down a little plaza of shops on Commercial St, which can make it hard to miss, so definitely look a map. A good marker is a kids toy store right next to it, with its store front on Commercial. It may look like a dive but the menu is great, fresh ingredients and something for everyone from beef (what I had) to catfish (Jeromy had them and I tried a bite – yummy) to tofu and veggie fillings for burritos,  quesadillas and soft tacos. They even make their own salsa daily.
205 Commercial St, Provincetown
http://www.bigdaddysburritos.com/

Central House at the Crown and Anchor hotel
Very delicious gourmet menu and slightly fancier environment. We have been there twice now and both times they have been totally cool and accommodating for the kids. They even have a kids menu. We do of course always arrive pretty early.  They have a nice open air seating area, which is where we always sit.
247 Commercial St, Provincetown
http://www.onlyatthecrown.com/centralhouse/index.php

Provincetown Portuguese Bakery
I usually have to stop there a few times each visit. They have so many things that remind me of my childhood growing up in Macau. A couple favorites are the salted cod cakes and the sweet Bolas De Berlim, which are fried donuts with a creamy custard filling rolled in sugar. Yum. They have lots of great breads and other sweet treats. They even serve some hot savory items at another counter in the shop. I have yet to try anything from that menu but come close every time I’m there. Timing just never really worked out.
299 Commercial St, Provincetown
No website, so here’s the yelp link.

Far and Land
A nice little grocery. But the best part are their prepared foods, treats and sandwich counter. They make a mean egg, bacon and cheese, english muffin sandwich in the am.
http://www.farlandprovisions.com/

The Fudge Shop
Diagonally across the street from Big Daddy Burritos, on Commercial. Try the white chocolate Almond Bark – super good. I’m not normally a fudge fan but Julia let me try her Peanut Butter Fudge and it was awesome.

Hatch’s Fish Market
We did a lot of cooking while we were there and are so thrilled to have found this place. They had the most amazing fresh fish and produce. It is so great it feels like you should hear symphony music as you walk in. You will want to by everything. Try not to drool too much.
310 Main St, Wellfleet
http://www.hatchsfishmarket.com/

Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar
If you want a super satisfying fried food fix, this is the place to stop. and other healthier options. There is also an ice-cream stand on the property.
3580 State Highway, Rt 6, Eastham
http://www.arnoldsrestaurant.com/

Do you have any favorites that you don’t see here? I’d love to hear about them.

August 12, 2009 at 4:01 pm 1 comment

Restaurant Review: Persephone

In the mood for some shopping, great drinks or a delightful dinner? You must check out Persephone and the Achilles Project in Boston’s Fort Point Channel. It provides a one stop shop to satisfy your id. From fantastic garments, top-notch bartenders, tasty and honest menu, local art to a nice chill vibe, it seems to have it all. They manage to offer all of this while keeping the environment and sustainability in mind, in addition to focusing on using fresh and local ingredients for kitchen creations and promoting local artists and businesses. All music to my ears.

Of course you don’t need to do everything to make the trip worth it. A visit to just shop, just sit at the bar and sip cocktails or just enjoy a meal it completely worth it.

On Saturday Jeromy and I met up with another couple for dinner at Persephone and have a wonderful time. We arrived a little early so we could enjoy a drink together before our friends arrive – making the most of our time with a babysitter at home watching our little girl.

We left our car with the valet and walked into the building, not exactly sure what to expect. We were greeted by a lounge area on one side and racks and shelves full of gorgeous clothes (many eco-friendly) and footware filling the rest of the space. We didn’t have enough time to shop but will certainly be back to dedicate some time to those clothing racks. We walked through the retail section and into the bar area. We snagged a couple bar seats and pursued the various beverage options. Jeromy got his usual vodka martini with a twist and I ordered a mixed drink called “blame it on the rain”. I typically don’t like and thus, don’t order frilly mixed drink concoctions but somehow that evening I felt like trying one, and I’m glad I did. It was sweet, but not too sweet and very easy to drink. I could have easily had 3 of them, but restrained myself to one given I knew we’d be having wine with dinner and I would likely be driving home. We were chatting about various things when we noticed the bartender had a blowtorch out and was burning orange peels. Jeromy commented, “We didn’t know there would be a show!” and the bartender explained that he was experimenting with new drinks and that flaming the oils from the peel changes the flavor and makes drinks smoother. Without skipping a beat he offered to make us a sample. A few more pyrotechnics and we had a delicious drink of vodka, fino sherry and burnt orange peel. He told us it was Franks Sinatra’s favorite – a Valencia. It was delicious. We asked about the sherry he used and he explained that is was a FINO, which very dry. He gave us a little sample of that too. It was so cool to see the bartender’s enthusiasm for his craft and his desire to share his knowledge and experience with us. Our evening was off to a fantastic start.

Our friends arrived and we were seated, in a nice corner table. While the menu contained many familiar ingredients and flavors, there was a lovely sense of exploration and appreciation for ingredients with the dishes. The menu offers small, medium, large and extra large plates. We all ended up mixing and matching a number of small plates and sides. It was fun to assemble our meals that way. And the food did not disappoint. If you want specific comments on what we ate, I’d be happy to share.

The only sort of negative thing was that table service was mediocre. There was just something about the way our waitress interacted with us…I guess she just didn’t have very nice “table-side” manner. But that didn’t take away from the overall superb experience.

I loved the entire place. While I’m not sure if the concept of arriving for a meal early enough to shop, have a couple drinks and then have dinner, really works for me (especially now with a young child), I will certainly be back to explore the clothing, enjoy the bar and savor the food a number of times.

Persephone, which is the restaurant portion of the Achilles Project, came in at #18 on this year’s Boston Magazine’s Best Of List. We first heard of chef and owner, Michael Leviton, when we discovered Lumiere in our very own hometown of Newton (another great place to check out). We’re glad to see his success continue and expand, especially as he stays true to honoring and promoting sustainability and local ingredients.

Persephone

283 Summer Street

Boston, MA 02210

http://achilles-project.com/

July 20, 2009 at 2:31 pm Leave a comment

Superb Tapas and Wine at Taberna de Haro in Boston

Taberno de Haro

999 Beacon St

Brookline, MA 02446

http://www.tabernaboston.com/

 

I am almost reluctant to blog about Taberna de Haro since I still consider it to be a hidden gem. But it is too good to not blog about. If you consider yourself at all a foodie or actually, simply enjoy good food you must experience the food, wine and ambiance there. It is located in Boston (Brookline) on Beacon St in Kenmore Square. It is a small place. Seats 38 people with extra spots on the patio in the warmer months. Its size is part of its charm. It isn’t pretentious or overdone. The atmosphere is intimate and jovial.

 

We (my husband and I) tend to order our “usuals” with one or two new dishes, not because we don’t like new things but rather the “usuals” are so good we can’t imagine not getting them! However, when we were there a couple weekends ago we were in a mood for new flavors and I am so glad we were. It was one of the best meals we have had there which is saying a lot! I think the experience was enhanced by the sheer fact that our selections were new delicious discoveries that even complemented each other well – the stars aligned. We ordered Mejillones en salsa romescu (Mussels in almond, tomato and garlic sauce), Duck confit with salad on toast, Habas con jamon (Lima beans sautéed with Spanish Ham), Coca de cebolla y aceitunas (Carmalized onion and olive flatbread) and Surtido de quesos (Five cheeses imported from Spain). Everything was new to us save the lima bean dish, which is one of my all time favorites. Some of our other favorites include the sautéed spinach with garlic, pine nuts and golden raisins (which we get without the raisins), the tapas standard of shrimp with garlic and olive oil,  codfish balls (they remind me of growing up in Macau), fried calamari and grilled rib-eye.

 

The wine list is extensive and very reasonably priced. They decant some wines at the table. If you can splurge on wine a bit ($80), I strongly recommend the Prado Enea Gran Reserva 1998 R(Bodegas Muga, D.O.Ca. Rioja, Haro). We had it with the meal I described earlier and it was really amazing. It complemented our food perfectly. As a testament to their commitment to a quality experience, let me share that one evening after selecting a wine recommended by Chef-owner, Deborah Hansen they informed us that the wine we wanted was a little cool and that they were going to decant it to help it warm up before they served it to us. In the meantime, Deborah offered us some lovely sherry to sip on while we waited. A wonderful treat.

 

Continuing to feed our appetite for new things that evening, we opted to skip the nice desserts and cheese plates at Taberna de Haro in favor of trying the French bakery 2 doors down. The name of the place escapes me (making a mental note to take better notice of such details in the future) but it is literally a couple doors to the left of Taberno de Haro as you leave the restaurant. The bakery front is small, bright and welcoming. It actually has a feel much like it could have been in St. Helena in Napa Valley. A little modern yet accented with old world pieces. They have 3 tables with a few chairs to sit and enjoy something tasty by their large windows overlooking Beacon St, which is what we did. They serve the expected full range of coffee beverages and an interesting array of sweets ranging from butter cookies with fillings like nutella to lush cakes. We spent a few minutes just looking around before making our selection – a buttery shortbread tart filled with toasted almonds which was remarkable to go with our coffees. I am actually thinking about replacing a homemade dessert for our Christmas Eve dinner this year with that almond yumminess!

 

We had a lovely evening out but at that point had to get home to relive our babysitter. I hope you get a chance to visit Taberna de Haro, and even the french bakery sometime soon.

 

If you plan to make the trip there, here are a few helpful tips:

          They do not take reservations but you can call-ahead (even days ahead) to have your name put on a list for a shorter wait once you arrive.

          If you are driving, you’ll have to park on the street. Sometimes you get lucky if your timing is right and you’ll get a spot right away as we did last time. But often you’ll have to circle around to find a spot. So give yourself some extra time in particular on a weekend night or when there is a game at Fenway. If you are taking the T, they are at the St Mary’s stop on the Green line, C train.  

 

If you go, let me know what you think!

Enjoy.

 

Helpful link:

          Not sure what tapas are? Check out Wikipedia

October 27, 2008 at 10:38 am Leave a comment


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