That is all.
That is all.
According to yelp/google reviews: Tiny, French, romantic, reasonable wine list, 4/5 stars for food and overall experience.
My review? Tiny, French, frighteningly romantic, reasonable wine list, and….we’ll get to the food. Reason for discrepancy between my review and that provided by users of yelp and google: I’m going with puppy love and rose colored glasses. As I like to refer, the ‘sweet spot’…when your significant other craps rainbows and everything tastes like strawberries. ANYhow, back to the task at hand. Quick synopsis on food (that is why we’re here, after all):
1. Foie gras and scallop appetizer. There is nothing sexy about chewy undercooked duck liver, nothing at all.
2. Bison Tartare- Dee-lish. Sexy time.
3. Duck breast- Fail. Now if only I could’ve gotten my foie gras overcooked and my breast undercooked….(that’s what she said).
4. Ostrich steak- Give it to me baby.
So there you have it. For those of you blessed with the ability to do basic math, that’s a 50/50 success rate. Unfortunately for Gentleman Farmer I don’t go to restaurants to gamble, that’s what Vegas is for. I have love affairs with restaurants, and therefore hold them to the same standards I would a lover. Enter my rule of thumb: If you’re not walking away satisfied 90% of the time, scratch the repeat performance. There are just too many fish in the sea and the stakes are too high - life is too short. And unlike love affairs, restaurants don’t burn calories, they create them.
In case you are the gambling kind, The Gentleman Farmer is located in the Lower East Side @ 40 Rivington Street
Our society is officially, completely, and absurdly saturated by social media- yes, yes I know, Thank you Captain Obvious (you know things are getting weird when I start heckling myself). I have been so inundated by social media and the internet my internal thought processes are presented by my brain as a set of advertisements/widely abused catch phrases and quotes. Does this scare me? Yes. Should it scare us all? Yes. Case in point, the above over wrought, over played slogan flashing in my head as I observe a harried waitress frothing at the mouth while attempting to explain to a customer that they had, in fact, drank 3 mimosas instead of 2, regardless of whether they “remembered”, and that she was NOT in fact, “a liar.” (Nor was she called one but that’s besides the point.) And then: “Normally I’d say the customer is always right but, you’re wrong.”
BOOM! Whoa. Down girl. Apparently as a result of the new-found foodie culture we’ve adopted here and around the world, restaurants have taken it upon themselves to adopt a new motto along with it. And charmingly enough, it appears to be one in which the customer is not always right. With that said, I have to admit I have been witness to circumstances when the customer is not “right” per-say (i.e. blatantly wrong and acting like raging dbag), and appropriately deserves a swift kick to the ribs as opposed to a warm meal but I can attest this was not such an occasion.
I find it necessary to reiterate now that I am uniquely sensitive to the plight of a waitress and kitchen “in the weeds,” and am proud to say have never fallen into the aforementioned category. Nor did this individual who, while simply pointing out an error on the check during a hungover Sunday brunch, had unwittingly stumbled upon a disgruntled waitress in dire need of Prozac, a shot of whiskey, and a muzzle.
Enter now: my plea for a return to normalcy. I plea for a return to a time when restaurants were grateful to have your business and treated you as such. The Three Hens- you heard me. Your food is pretty good and the vibe is reminiscent of Penelope. Considering how well that place has done in the Murray Hill/Gramercy area, I’d say the betting odds are good on you having a long successful run. But first, an attitude adjustment please. Invest in a couple good muzzles, sprinkle that family meal with a little Prozac, and let’s have a go at a little civility shall we?
If you are one of those individuals who likes your Sunday brunch with a side of ‘deranged’, The Three Hens is located in Murray Thrill @ 115 Lexington Ave
As the hair pulling at the most recent Republican debate and media coverage of Occupy Wall Street continue to remind us: times. are. tough. For some of us, this means cutting back on the wine-ing and dining, and for others; hooking to pay the rent.
Sticking to the belief that it is possible to be young and broke and remain well fed, I have added a DIY section dedicated to bringing the fine dining home to you. What makes me more qualified to dole out recipes/cooking advice over any other schmo who’s ever cooked a meal or two you may ask? Let’s just say I know a guy.
Coming soon (for those of you who fall into the latter category of individuals described in that first paragraph, no pun intended).
No reservation required, just add wine.
Allow me to present to you the Mona Lisa of lobster rolls. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ll begin and end with a few simple Pearl Pointers:
1. Pearl does not take reservations, opens at 5 o clock, is very tiny, and is always (always) busy.
2. Sit at the bar.
3. Order the salt crusted shrimp, caesar salad, lobster roll, and the butterscotch praline parfait.
4. Order the Lobster Roll. Did I say that already? Lobster roll.
5. Say thank you. Pearl Oyster Bar, we thank you.
Pearl can be found in the W Village @ 18 Cornelia Street #2
Two words: Ditch Dog. A hot dog served in a bun and topped with macaroni and cheese. One word: sofuckinggood. Judge me.
A ditch dog is one of those items that once one has experienced, one will be going about their daily routine enjoying their merry little life and BAM the insatiable need for a ditch dog strikes. It’s a phenomenon that no scientist has yet been able to explain (believe me- there are people looking into this. I swear). Actually, I don’t swear, or maybe I do, but either way it doesn’t matter because I have a tendency to lie. But rest assured people! I am not lying about the ditch dog phenomenon! Trust. me. (well I suppose that would just be stupid because you can never trust a self admitted liar but, DITCH DOGS ARE GOOD). And now I feel like this whole website is pointless and I just ruined all of my credibility in one fell swoop. Sigh, fail. Anyway, disregarding any parenthetical ranting, the ditch dog phenomenon falls under the same umbrella as the “beer me” phenomenon which can be defined as the insatiable urge one feels to have a beer (err three),without fail, come 5 p.m. every Thursday night. Combine both cravings and indulge in a ditch dog AND a beer? Well, I do believe you just may have found heaven on earth ladies and thugs, heaven on earth.
PS- Ditch Plains also serves fried pickles. Just sayin’.
PPS- For the record, 1. Credit where credit it due- I would not know about this little gem if it weren’t for my good friend (and resident badass) Lisa who currently tends bar there a couple nights a week. If you find yourself cozying up to the bar sometime soon, say hi to the girl. She’s lovely. and 2. Ditch Plains also serves a litany of great comfort food dishes including, but not limited too, lobster rolls, fish and chips, tacos, and a very affordable lobster bake on Sunday and Monday nights. The restaurant has a laid back surfer vibe and the long wooden booths are quite ideal for curling up in with friends and making a night of it.
Ditch plans is on the corner of Bedford and Downing in the W Village @ 29 Bedford (directly across the street from Blue Ribbon Bakery)
It’s only fair I at least attempt to put into coherent written word on why I so disliked Empellon recently opened in the west village. To the casual observer, Empellon has all of the parts of the winning formula that makes for a successful restaurant in NY. It is aesthetically appeasing, the crowd is pretty, and the food not bad. Not too trendy, not too loud; as Goldilocks would say about baby bear’s porridge - “just right.” But for some reason, just no.
It all started when we were 10 minutes early for our reservation and sat at the bar to wait for our table where we were effectively disregarded by the bartender for all 10 of those minutes. After several futile attempts to hail the not-so-busy-that-a-customer-should-be-ignored bartender, the hostess beckoned and we were escorted to the table (sans drinks). Perhaps I couldn’t like Empellon because we got off to a bad start with the bartender. Or perhaps it was because it took an additional 15 minutes after being seated to finally have a beer in hand and then another 5 to obtain a glass to pour it in. Or perhaps, and more likely so, it was the food. So onto the food we go. Upon review of the menu, there are several promising dishes that would appeal to the typical diner- tacos made 10 different ways with everything from the typical skirt steak and chicken to the more non traditional set ups of scallop and beef tongue.
First item of importance to note- taco orders come in 3’s and and there is no mixing and matchin allowed. As a result, we ordered 1 order of each of the following taco’s: scallop, duck confit, and fish. What can I say. The scallops were fishy and overcooked, the duck tough and flavorless (how does one manage to make duck confit flavorless anyway? By definition confit literally means ‘cooked in it’s own fat.’ I mean…really?), and the fish tacos, well….best of all three dishes hands down, but that’s really not saying much. The clear winner of the night? The chips and trio of salsa’s brought out at the beginning of the meal. Hot, spicy, and delicious (that’s what she said- yeah, I’m still saying it. Old habits die hard).
I’ll stop there, and end with the following. I am not a food snob. I love Mexican food, both street and haute. And I wanted to give Empellon a fair shot. In fact, I even wanted to LIKE Empellon, but just as Poppa Bear’s chair was too big, and mama bear’s bed was too soft, and Goldilocks refused to be satisfied with either, this girl will go somewhere else for Mexican that’s ‘just right’.
Empellon @ 240 West 4th street in the West Village
As a New Yorker it is a necessary facet of survival to master the art of doublespeak. The necessity of this skill becomes blatantly obvious during the first (of many) apartment hunts. Apartment hunting in New York is akin to entering into a parallel universe. One where “cozy” translates to “you can fit a twin bed, and possibly yourself, but forget about the rest of your worldly possessions”, “prewar” to “this apartment hasn’t been renovated since the early 1930’s” and “charming” can be interpreted as “every time a neighbor flushes the toilet the faucets stop working.” Yes, in order to find a suitable humble abode in this great city you must successfully navigate your way through the endless options, noise, and doublespeak.
Not surprisingly, identifying a good restaurant in New York is akin to finding a great apartment- difficult, time consuming, and requiring of an iron will that can withstand trial by fire. This brings us to my discovery of The Redhead.
The Redhead is indeed cozy and charming, but pleasantly so. At this point I ask you to please note the absence of quotation marks around “cozy” or “charming” and how this changes the respective definitions. I’ve been once for drinks and twice for food and drink now, and have yet to be disappointed. It is always crowded, but in a manageable sense, and with a noise level that remains low enough to allow you to hold a conversation comfortably. The drink menu is composed of cocktails that are riffs on classics, all for $10, and contains a concise and reasonably priced selection of wines. Some may find the wine list too brief for their taste but I am perfectly happy not having to pore over page after page of wines from chateaus I can’t pronounce. The bartender is knowledgeable in regards to the wine list and no slouch when it comes to serving up a cocktail. I use ‘bartender’ in a singular form as all 3 times I’ve been there (each on 3 different nights of the week) Casey has been the individual manning the liquors, the house-made fruit infusions and simple syrup, every time. He has expertly made every cocktail I’ve ordered, is well versed on the food offerings, and is happy to provide his favorite picks if you so choose to dine at the bar (Dad and I prefer the more informal setting of the bar versus the table- for those of you who know me and/or him personally- as expected).
Although so far it may sound great in theory for date night, for two reasons I implore you to exercise caution in settling on The Redhead, at least for the first date. One being, the last time I was there was a Tuesday night there was a 10 minute wait at 8PM. 10 minutes isn’t much, but that’s on a Tuesday night mind you and 10 minutes can seem a lifetime on a first date. I say best to avoid that “no reservation on a first date” rookie mistake which inevitably leads multiplication of the inevitable first date awkwardness by 10,000. My second reason being the fact that shoveling hand rolled soft pretzels served with homemade beer cheese (SO GOOD) into your snout and unabashedly consuming an entire serving of fried chicken in one sitting without taking a moment to breath may not exactly bring your best attributes to light. If you are one of those rare individuals who can pull this off and look sexy while doing it, safe to assume you have also found a solution for first date awkwardness and I say go right on with your bad self. Show up, drink a cocktail or two and get into that fried chicken. With that said, although the fried chicken appears to be the most popular thing ordered on the menu, I have to admit I have had better (shout out to Blue Ribbon). In fact, I think the other items on the menu far surpass the fried chicken making it not a necessary item to order.The pretzels however, are a must.
Fried chicken aside, everything I’ve tried on the menu has exceeded my expectation in execution, taste, and overall presentation. Several items on the menu change seasonally, which allows for use of local seasonal produce and chef’s creativity. My last visit began with a leak chowder topped with lump crab meat which was substitute on that particular night for the spring pea soup currently on the menu. I hate to even call it a chowder because that denotes a cream heavy, weighed down soup, but this had complex flavors, was surprisingly refreshing and didn’t leave me feeling guilty about licking the bowl (I kid). Washed down with a side of soft, warm pretzels and this girl is happy. My main course consisted of pan roasted cod over local long beans (i.e. extra long green beans) in a sherry butter sauce. The Redhead’s strengths clearly lie in the kitchens ability to creating and execute dishes with simple clean flavors. Oh, and I think there was some form of bacon involved somewhere in my dish. Maybe Panchetta. Maybe not. I can’t say it really matters though because either way, winning. Bacon is bacon, and everything tastes better with bacon.
Another glass of Chenin Blanc? Don’t mind if I do. Sole complaint in regards to the wine offerings- I’m a sucker for a good rose in the summer as it is rose season, and you won’t find a one on the wine list. We’ll let The Redhead slide on this one though as the pours generous and the bartender friendly.
Dessert. The dessert menu is composed of offerings of lemon pound cake with blueberry, lavender, vanilla ice cream; mississippi mud pie (talk dirty to me), banana pudding, and after a brief description from Casey, my choice for the night: strawberry rhubarb clafutis. The strawberries and rhubarb are cooked down with ginger, making them tart, spiced, and sweet all at the same time. The mixture is poured into a small porcelain ramekin, and topped with what I describe as a vanilla cake souffle batter, stuck in the oven until just barely browned, served straight out of the oven and topped with vanilla ice cream. Perfectly sized, gooey and delicious. A befitting end to a meal well enjoyed.
The Redhead is a charming, quirky and cozy with an ambitious kitchen that will not disappoint. I say this without hesitation, wordsmith, or doublespeak.
E Village @ 349 E 13th Street
Oh Blue Ribbon, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Where to begin.
I cheated. Not exactly where you’d expect a love story to begin but, I cheated just the same. I’m not ashamed and I’m even glad I did.
Now for an explanation. Blue Ribbon Bakery which is nestled into a quiet, West Village street where Downing meets Bedford, has long been the only restaurant within the Bromberg Brothers empire that I’ve dined at. It also happens to be one of my top 3 favorite restaurants in New York.
In the winter, it is my favorite restaurant for the comfy wooden booths, the intoxicating fragrance of freshly baked bread, the floor to ceiling windows perfect for watching a snow storm unfettered. And then there’s the food….the deep french red’s and the escargot and the bone marrow and the fried chicken. Oh Blue Ribbon, let me count the ways.
It once again becomes one of my favorite restaurants in the summer albeit for entirely different reasons: the rose wine, steak tartare and the half chilled lobster. May sound silly to some, but there is nothing more satisfying on a hot summer day than settling down to a dry rose from Provence, and a riff on a the classic steak tartare that in my opinion, comes second to no other served by any restaurant in this city. The base of the dish is executed as expected-the steak is fresh ground on site and served with cornichons (mini pickles, that is) and dijon mustard. In addition to the classic pairings, it also comes sprinkled with red onion, capers, and is accompanied with a side of freshly made crispy waffle chips on which to eat. I don’t know if it’s the oil from the chips, the bite from the red onion, or the salt from the capers, or most likely all of the above, but my god is it GOOD. As in “please stop talking you’re interrupting my eating” good. Never tried steak tartare? Not really your thing? Hush. I believe truly great food transcends a food education (or lack their of). If it tastes good, it just. tastes. good. And believe me when I say, it is that good. Cigarette anyone?
I digress. Back to the point of this story: why I cheated on Blue Ribbon Bakery. After a typical trip to the Bakery on a recent summer night, I discovered the menu had been edited to omit the half chilled lobster, as well as the escargot (slightly irrelevant for the summer months, but a very important piece of information filed away for the winter) which left me journeying to Soho to the source of the Bromberg empire, the original Blue Ribbon Brasserie, complete with bigger menu containing all the staples of the Bakery and then some. Blue Ribbon Brasserie may not evoke the same down home warmth the Bakery exudes, but does in fact serve the same lobster dish, steak tartare, and all important rose wine. As we’ve already addressed the steak tartare, onto the lobster we go. Half a lobster tail with one large claw cracked and served with cajun mayo for $17. A simple, classic dish and oh so delicious. Not really many opportunities to go wrong here knowwhati’msaying?
I’ll stop obsessing over my personal favorites to address other items of relevance for those of you looking for a legitimate restaurant recommendation as opposed to a love affair involving cold seafood and raw steak. In regards to the food, I’m happy to report Blue Ribbon doesn’t do much wrong, ever. The menu is filled with comfort food and hearty portions, but remains refined enough for a foodie. The atmosphere at Blue Ribbon Bakery is cozy casual, with wooden benches and low lighting. The patrons are of no specific age range, and I’m willing to bet most are repeat customers, dare I say “regulars,” minus the cringe that traditionally comes along with that statement. Blue Ribbon Brasserie in Soho is slightly more animated, bustling and louder than its counterpart and in my opinion could use a little an upgrade or two in the aesthetics department, but not enough to keep me from coming back.
In the end, my true love remains Blue Ribbon Bakery, but Blue Ribbon Brasserie is well worth the tryst.
P.S.- The bread pudding on the menu at Blue Ribbon Bakery comes in half sizes. I recommend 1/2 chocolate, 1/2 banana, followed by a 1/2 hour nap.
Bakery- W Village @ 35 Downing Street
Brasserie- Soho @ 97 Sullivan Street
The “Scene”: Classic New York with a rocker chic vibe. In short- Perfection. Raoul’s clientele consists of well dressed patrons of all ages possessing just the right amount of pretension without trying so hard (yes I’m talking to you every-meat-packing-restaurant-that-ever-was) and somehow remains surprisingly laid back and feels in a strange way homey, all the while managing to maintain a classic yet unique sense about it.
The Decor: A larger than life (yet remarkably tasteful) portrait of a nude woman, an oddly placed fish tank, and a wrought iron spiral staircase? Check, check, and check. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that staircase is present for the kitsch factor alone though, if you don’t intend on making a trip up the winding apparatus, I advise you relieve yourself prior to your arrival and keep the imbibing to a minimum as there is only one bathroom at Raoul’s and that particular staircase happens to be the only way in, and the only way out. Most entertaining part of any evening spent at Raoul’s - watching the well coiffed patrons navigate their way up and down and the later in the night, the better.
Food and Service: Raoul’s is an institution in it’s own right, and successfully executes satisfying laid back french bistro fare in the same manner it has continued to do so year after year while remaining off the radar of out-of-towners and trendsetters. The wine list is befittingly french and if you find yourself a spot at the bar Franco, the resident bartender, is happy to provide a recommendation. Personally I prefer to start with a French 75 (cognac and champagne aperitif) followed by wine of my choosing, or as advised by Franco (recommendations serve well for both those unfamiliar with navigating a wine list and those looking to impress a date all the same). If you do nab a table (which you won’t do without a reservation- 2-4 days in advance is sufficient), with a little luck you’ll have the pleasure of being waited on by a wildly inked french woman who’s tattoos have been on this earth longer than I have. Don’t let the appearance fool you though, she knows the menu- and probably knows what you need- better than you do. When it comes to food and fashion, somehow the French always seem to know best.
The menu is classic French with continental influences: steak au poivre sits next to braised short rib; steak tartar next to grilled octopus. Although I can’t imagine anything you eat here will disappoint, for those of you needing a little help. I recommend the following: Appetizers- seared foie gras (duck liver, best spread on bread from the table bread basket) and the grilled octopus with fennel puree and hearts of palm. For mains, I’ve never gone wrong with any of the nightly specials, the sea scallops or the braised short rib. And finally, for a befitting finish to an night well spent – the sticky fig pudding wins my vote every time.
Vivé la France.
Raoul’s - 180 Prince Street in Soho