Organizing My Life and a little NPR

15 Aug

In a quick departure from restaurant reviews (more coming soon!), an interesting story on NPR struck a cord with me this week.

I really love organizing and lists.  I love crossing things off my lists even more.  I am always the one nagging my office manager to order bigger white boards and more dry erase markers.

As I’ve taken more and more cooking classes, the idea of “Mise en Place,” or the practice of setting out all the things you need to make a recipe before you start, and thinking through each step along the way to make sure you can do it efficiently, is something I really hooked onto.  It goes along with the idea of working clean.  If you take an extra few moments to clean up what you were just working on before moving on to the next step, you will wind up with much less of an overwhelming pile of dishes/scraps/knives/counters to clean when you are done cooking.

I think about these ideas in other areas of my life… I set up my work presentations by thinking through what I’m trying to say and the putting blank slides into PowerPoint to outline my thoughts before filling it in.  As I unpack our new apartment, I put things I just took out of boxes back INTO boxes if I don’t know where they  should go yet, so as not to wind up with a trail of unknown items as I go.  I am pretty famous for booking itineraries for vacations using Google Docs to collect all the info, laying out the outline of the days and then filling it in with a combination of scheduled activities and ideas for unscheduled activities (I love planned spontaneity).  I just feel calmer when things are in place.

A friend of mine shared with me this clip on NPR by Dan Charnas that talks all about the importance of this theory and it is inspiring me to find more ways of organizing my world:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/08/11/338850091/for-a-more-ordered-life-organize-like-a-chef

Who doesn’t need more organization in their life?

Even Thomas Keller agrees:

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New Opening: Root & Bone Manhattan from Chefs Jeffrey McInnis & Janine Booth

21 Jul

Last fall, we went to a pop-up restaurant in Brooklyn in anticipation of Top Chef-testants Jeffrey McInnis and Janine Booth opening up a restaurant in NYC. We had a great meal and a very special evening.  So when we heard that the Manhattan Root & Bone was opening, we called right up to make a reservation.  We couldn’t get one for about a month after opening, but our time finally came due this past Friday.  We went with some of our favorite foodie friends (one of whom was with us at the pop-up).

The first thing we noticed about the space, which is in Alphabet City on 3rd Street between Avenues A and B, is that it is TIGHT.  We had to sneak through a very tight entryway into a tight dining room which led to another tight room.  We had requested to sit at the bar right outside the kitchen (usually reserved for walk-ins but we love to watch the kitchen) and it was, as you guessed it, tight.

But it had all the industrial decorations that I am a sucker for.

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Mike and I started with some lovely cocktails, the Twisted Mustache (Russels 6 year bourbon, Swedish punsch, citrus, and ginger) and the Filthy Manhattan (Wild Turkey 101, port, bitters, filthy amarena cherries, and  rosemary).  The Filthy Manhattan was pretty good, but the kicker was the cherry at the end which was absolutely incredible.  But I really loved the Twisted Mustache and wound up ending my night with that.  It was fresh and ginger-y.  Very nice cocktail.

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Sitting at the bar by the kitchen made it dinner and a show. And the two chefs that were cooking seemed genuinely excited to have 4 food groupies who were thrilled to watch them cook. They showed off their food as they went, including these incredible looking fried chicken and waffle sandwiches.

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And we enjoyed watching this chef make ricotta dumplings (which wound up being plated beautifully).

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We saw both celeb chefs, however, Janine was very hands-on in the kitchen and spent a lot of time next to our seating area.  She immediately recognized us and asked if she knew us, and we told her we had been at the pop up.  Sweet of her to recall and say something.  We talked a lot about my allergy and she was so accommodating about it. She continued to check on us throughout the meal and was overall just about as nice as could be.

We started with the southern style cornbread with clotted cream and house-made preserves.  The corn bread was just the right texture of moist while still being a little crumbly, and the clotted cream and preserves (something I usually have only with scones) was a nice compliment and a good way to start our meal.

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We watched the chefs throw an entire corn of cob into the open fire on the grill and decided it was something we had to try. This was “Grilled Sweet Corn Cob… Husk and All” with cornbread butter, giant hominy, and popped corn.

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This was one of my favorite dishes of the night, if not the #1.  The corn was great and the char on it was awesome, but the corn bread butter… holy shnikeys… awesome.  And the addition of the popped corn and the hominy made for great textures that all held up to the sauce.

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We also got the basket of waffle fries with cheese sauce, but we had to have the bacon and remoulade on the side since it had peppers (which I cannot have).  These fries were charred.  Why has no one thought of this before?  (Okay… someone, somewhere probably has… but this was my first encounter). I love a good crispy fry that tastes of potato, and this fit the bill and then some.  And the cheese didn’t make them soggy.  Great fries.

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We watched the chefs on the line pile handful after handful of cheese on top of their macaroni and cheese side throughout the evening, so we had to try it. It was described as “big elbow pasta” that came with crunchy cheese toast and fresh thyme crust.  I wanted it SO bad, however, it had some peppers in it.  I had a couple bites and it was delicious and totally worth the itch.

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As for “bigger plates,” I had to go for the meatloaf after loving the one we had at the pop up, plus… how could you beat the description? “Braised short rib meatloaf with parsnip root mash, tomato ketchup jam, charred spring onions and other roots.”  This was AWESOME. It was like someone made excellent short ribs, then pulled them, then reassembled them into a loaf, then charred them, then put great sauce on it and added the parsnip puree and delicious root vegetables for added flare.  It was like everything I love in one great dish.

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Our friends also got the “Crispy Free-Range Bucket of Bird: Sweet tea brined, pickled lemon dusted, spiked Tobasco honey.”  While the Chef Booth informed me that they could have made it without the Tobasco honey, turns out they brined it in something with peppers, too. Chef actually sounded upset on my behalf that I couldn’t eat it.

And it turns out, with due reason.  Everyone else at the table said it was one of the best fried chickens they’ve ever had.  I was about to risk it, however, Mike said he could taste the spice so I didn’t do it, since I wanted to be able to enjoy the rest of the meal.

Damn.

I made them all tell me it was truly awful. (LIARS)

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We got to watch the chef put the finishing touches on Mike’s Australian Rack of Lamb, which came with roasted roots, horseradish crusted leek and sweet potato gratin, carrot barbecue sauce, and watercress.

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This was a beautifully cooked and seasoned piece of meat. I really enjoyed the puree and the lamb tasted great.  Of all the things we ate, I think the other items were a bit more original, but when you have a great piece of lamb like this, there really is no need to get very fancy with it.

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They served the roots separately, telling us that the dish photographed better without them on the plate, which made me greatly appreciated the thoughtfulness (and they were delicious).

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We barely had room for dessert after this meal, however, we decided splitting one between the four of us was feasible.  So we went with the Banana Cream with layers of honey graham, vanilla custard, bananas, and pecan praline.

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It was a really nice end to the meal, with big chunks of banana.  I wished there were more pecan praline, but that’s just because I think there is never enough pecan praline in this world.

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And then we received our check… in a bone.

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Overall, I was pretty blown away but all the food we had throughout the evening. Each dish was a little bit special and a little bit unique, and a lot a bit tasty.  The flavors were really thought out and each plate felt very special.  It was obvious that the people who came up with the menu and all those preparing it really cared about the food they put out and went out of their way to make sure it was truly great.  They could not have been nicer or more accommodating, and we really enjoyed watching the chefs cook throughout the evening. A truly great experience.

I heard that they are not accepting reservations any longer, but it sure can’t hurt to check! I am super curious about their brunch, and the menu sounds amazing. I mean come on… they serve that meatloaf with EGGS!  Sold.

The only thing I can fault them for is that they are in Alphabet City, which is already inconvenient from just about everywhere, but will be even more so from our new place in Riverdale.  Maybe that’s a good thing, however, because if they were close, I’d be very, very fat.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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New Opening: THE NoMad BAR

21 Jun

We caught the news that The NoMad had opened up a new space called The Nomad Bar, attached through a semi-hidden passageway to their current space, The Library. It seems this came as a surprise to many, as I saw nothing leading up to it prior and it just kind of appeared one day with an entrance in the middle of the block on 28th Street (look for the Nomad logo on the door).  The space has been described as “sexy,” which it undeniably is, even down to a sexy promotional video. (And lots more sexy photos from Eater)

We went in at about 5:45pm on Friday evening and were told it would be about an hour wait for a table (as expected).  We put our names in and saddled right up to the sexy bar.

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We loved the food at The NoMad restaurant, and I actually find myself there nearly once a week now for breakfast meetings since it’s right near my office (and they have the super awesome granola from Eleven Madison Park).  We are huge fans of basically anything from Daniel Humm and Will Guidara after falling in love with EMP, which is our #1 restaurant in Manhattan. And when we heard that Brian Canlis, our gracious host from our fantastic honeymoon dinner at Canlis in Seattle, was lending a helping hand, it was all the more reason to visit at the first opportunity we had.

Mike and I had arrived early and were waiting on another couple friend to join us.  As we waited, we perused the menu and noticed that there were so many delicious sounding cocktails that it was going to be hard to choose.

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They have a section for “Reserve Cocktails” (read: very expensive with very good liquors), but they did mix a less premium version on request.  They also have an entire section of “Cocktail Explosions” for $90 to serve 6-8 people. It’s even labeled as “be careful” on the menu. We saw a few come out and they were like a super sexy scorpion bowl.  Could be great for a party.

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Our friends arrived shortly thereafter and as they ordered their drinks, the hostess came up to us and informed us that there was actually a change in another party so our table would be ready shortly.  Great!

We got our drinks and were led up the stairs to the second level, which is like a U shaped balcony with tables all around, looking down on the bar.

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They even light their stemware in a sexy cabinet with sexy lighting.

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What was a little less than sexy? The fact that they serve their “Forbidden Dance” in this slightly ridiculous, slightly awesome tiki glass.  I quite proudly carried this around a few hours later (more on that soon), but it was certainly a talking point (more on that later soon, too)

I have to say though, every single drink was amazing.  Perfectly balanced, perfectly constructed.  Really stand-out. This is truly a craft cocktail bar first and foremost.

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After ordering, our table was set with this cool box of silverware.

And then Brian Canlis stopped by and we said hello and told him that we were at his restaurant almost exactly 1 year ago to the day on our honeymoon.  He was so friendly and so warm.  He seemed genuinely happy to have us there and talk to us.  Brian Canlis knows hospitality and knows how to make guests feel special.

He also asked our opinion about the giant tiki glass sitting on our table.  Our dining companion informed him that she was a bit embarrassed by it and he told us that management is discussing whether it’s awesome or awful.  I think we all agreed that it’s a little of both.

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We started with the flat bread, which came with spring onions and fingerling potatoes.  We all enjoyed this but agreed that a little dipping sauce would have been good with it, perhaps a rosemary olive oil or olive tapenade.

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We also tried the Scotch Olives with lamb’s sausage and sheep’s milk cheese.

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It was like a scotch egg but with an olive.  I really enjoyed this.  Fun flavors and combination of textures and meat with salt and fry.

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Our final appetizer was the Swiss Cheese with beer mustard, pretzel chips, and pickles.  The cheese was absolutely phenomenal. I don’t know where they are sourcing this cheese, but it was some of the best swiss I’ve ever had.  I’m not a mustard fan, however, the two boys at the table sang its praises.

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Onto the entrees!

Two burgers on the table, and thank goodness.  This was a fantastic burger.

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The meat was cooked perfectly and the brioche bun was hearty without distracting from the main meat event. It was listed as dry aged with cheddar, red onions, and pickles.  So simple, yet so good.  One of my favorite burgers I’ve ever had.

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We got fries for the table and these were fan-freakin-tastic fries.  They were crispy and had lovely herbs on them (rosemary and parsley).  I gobbled up every little piece.

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We also tried the pork schnitzel on foccacia with tomato and pickles.  Of all the entrees, this was probably our least favorite. It was good but it didn’t sing with flavor like the other dishes.  It got a bit too muddled.

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I got the duck sausage with pickled ramps and cherries.  I was a bit concerned that this was the same mustard as the cheese, but it was more of an aioli, I think?

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The sausage itself was great.  Really nice combination of flavors and a nice snap to the outside.  Very enjoyable.

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With The NoMad restaurant serving one of my favorite desserts of all time (Milk and Honey), we were glad to have room for dessert.

We started with the Cookies & Cream, which was yummy vanilla ice cream rolled in cookie crumbs.  I loved that you could eat these with your hands and the texture was just right.  Delicious nibble.

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The banana pudding with rum & brioche was not how we expected it to look, but I really enjoyed this dessert.  I also enjoy how this picture wound up looking like that famous photo of Queen from Bohemian Rap City.

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And we had to try the candy bar, which was labeled on the menu as “literally, with dark chocolate and caramel.”

Literally indeed.

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Unwrapping it felt like Willy Wonka.

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And it was an awesome balance of the bitter dark chocolate with the sweet, dense caramel center.  A fantastic end to the meal.

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We had a few drinks throughout the evening, and all were great.  We decided we would end our night in The Library Bar for a night cap.

On our way down the stairs, we ran into Brian Canlis again.  We told him that we really enjoyed our meal and he asked us if we had ever been to the roof.  Why no… we had not.  He told us to hold tight and we told him we were going to head to The Library Bar.  That is when he informed us that the deal was that The Library Bar was now for hotel guests only. Apparently, the bar had become so popular that guests could never get in, so The NoMad Bar was opened up for the public now, in trade for The Library Bar being exclusive (in the late evenings anyway).  Interesting! So we grabbed our drinks at the sexy bar and waited for Brian.

We ordered a few things, including a repeat of a drink I had and enjoyed earlier in the evening, which was “The Shaman” (Pisco Acholado, Salers, Pineapple, Lemon, Cinnamon, and Angostura Bitters). Unfortunately (or maybe fortuitously) the bar tender heard incorrectly and thought I ordered “The Forbidden Dance.” And that is how I accidentally wound up carrying a huge Tiki Cup through The NoMad dining room, up the elevator, and to the roof with Brian Canlis.

But that’s okay… we named him Ted. (and he was delicious… and the bar tender took it off the bill… which was very, very nice of him).

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The roof of The NoMad was beautiful.  There is a special room up there in a circular turret-like construction where you can have a private meal, and I think all of our ears perked up at the thought of having a special meal up there.  They used to do a tasting menu up there, but with the weather and the financial opportunity of private parties, it is now a permanently tented space that is truly stunning with indoor and outdoor areas and a view of the Empire State Building and a world of beautiful buildings you would never know existed from the ground.  (If you have a lot of money, and a small guest list, this would be a dream wedding venue).

Overall, I really enjoyed our time at The NoMad Bar.  It is a well executed “more casual” version of The NoMad restaurant.  All the food was very good, if not great, and the cocktails were some of the best I’ve ever had.  We drank quite a few over the course of the night, so our tab was a bit hard to see, but for the caliber, it didn’t feel too nuts for NYC.  It is definitely as sexy as it has been billed, and if you are looking to impress a date, this is the place to go.  Looking forward to going back.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10