Upland

19 Feb

We are working on our pre-baby bucket list, and some of the list (who are we kidding??? MOST of the list) includes visiting restaurants that we have been meaning to go to for some time or new restaurants that are getting a lot of good press.

Upland was high on the list after hearing numerous great things. The only reservation I could find was for 5:30 on a Friday, but that worked out perfectly since we had tickets to see an Off Broadway Show later that eve.

Upland is a Stephen Starr restaurant (most famous for his hits in Philly) and is cheffed by Justin Smillie.

The entrance is a beautiful (and slightly eerie… kind of reminded me of organs in jars for some reason) set of shelves with preserved lemons in it.

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The inside echoes the nicely lit decor with the bar and more preserved lemons in the back.

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Here is the menu from the day we visited:

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We started with a lovely loaf of bread.

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We ordered the whole crispy mushroom, which was a hen of the wood mushroom with cloumage + herbs.  This was a beautiful hunk of fungi.  It was totally crisped and a really delicious mushroom on the inside.  But there was one thing that it unabashedly reminded Mike and me of… Pot.

This mushroom tasted like pot.

I don’t know if it was the earthiness or the smokiness, but I was a bit nervous we would leave hungrier than when we arrived.

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We also ordered the burrata with trout caviar, crispy leeks + arbequina olive oil.

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This was so fresh and so flavorful.  The caviar was salty, the burrata creamy, and the leeks crispy. Loved this dish.

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Our next dish was the slow roasted celeriac with black truffle butter and sea salt. See all those light colored shavings in the photo below? That’s truffle butter. And it was insanely good.  The celeriac was all the right richness and the truffle butter was an excellent compliment.

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We then tried the roasted short rib (for two) which, apparently, is one of Chef Smillie’s signature dishes.  It came with castelvetrano olives, walnuts, celery + horseradish.  I love short ribs so much that I actually chose this even though it came with the 2 things I don’t like (celery and horseradish).

This slab of meat was served trimmed from the bone (though still displayed with it) and was the size of a football.

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I enjoyed the meat very much, though I left the celery and horse radish for Mike. I was especially fond of the pairing with walnuts, which was unexpected. I haven’t had a slab of short rib this big, and I have to say I enjoy short ribs slow cooked and smaller, but I can see why this was a signature dish.  Very (black) peppery on top.

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For dessert, I was tempted by the pecan pie, which was delicious. It wasn’t too sweet and it held together perfectly.  A really great end to the meal.

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I was very impressed with Upland. Did I think it was the best restaurant opening of 2014… well… probably not. But it was very enjoyable and I would go back in a heartbeat.  I especially want to try the pastas.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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M. Wells Steakhouse for Valentine’s Day

17 Feb

We went to M. Wells Diner in Queens a number of years ago, and I was anxiously awaiting the opening of their newest place, M. Wells Steakhouse, but the Queens location made it a bit tough.   So when it was Mike’s turn for the annual Valentine’s Day surprise meal, he thought this was a great time to visit.  I was thrilled when I realized where we were heading (which was AFTER arriving in Queens… silly me).

It was actually less than an hour door to door from our place in Riverdale (Bronx) through Grand Central to the restaurant.  Hard to beat that!

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Since we were in the middle of one of the coldest weeks of the year, the few blocks from the subway were on the chilly side, so I was excited when we were approaching the address: 4315 Crescent Street in Long Island City.  But this was all we found:

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Hmmm…

Luckily someone poked their head out and motioned for us to come towards a side courtyard and door.

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Walking in, I was very surprised to see that the inside is a really nicely designed space. Definitely not expected from the outside.

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A peek at the menu from Valentine’s Day since it appears to change often:

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Mike ordered a very interesting cocktail that was a take on a Gibson, but had some pickled pork tongue on it. It was very oniony but enjoyable.  And fun to try. (Yes… this is our idea of fun!)

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We quickly received a little warm sack with a side of butter and mustard.

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Inside was a delightful sourdough and pretzel roll.  Apparently the mustard was VERY mustardy so I stuck with my pretzel roll with butter.  Very good bread to start.

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On the topic of adventurous fun, we saw lamb brains on the menu and had to try it.  I have had brain once before and it was thinly sliced and fried.  This was really a hunk of brain. (If you are easily queasy, you may want to skip the next picture and description)

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This was the inside… very mushy, somewhere between bone marrow and melty cheese.  I enjoyed the crispy end but I couldn’t get past the inner texture.  Even me. And I can eat anything.  It was VERY rich as well, so I’m glad we tried it, but can’t say we enjoyed it.

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On the more normal appetizer side, we got a caesar salad.  This was COVERED in cheese and was a really fantastic caesar. Lots of great flavor with a burst of freshness from the dressing.

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We decided to split the tomahawk steak under the recommendation by many.  It was cooked perfectly and the char on the outside was fantastic.  Didn’t need a thing. Just great steak.

However, I was expecting a lot more.  The reviews had mentioned truffles (which was not true on this night), and the end slices were almost entirely inedible due to fat, so there were really only about 5 or 6 slices we could eat.  Granted, it was plenty of food, and we wound up bringing some home to have steak and eggs the next morning, however, I can’t say it was $160 worth it.  At all. Even “for two.”

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It came with a side of a potato-y, chees-y, butter-y… something.  Looking it up now, it was on the sides menu: pommes aligot.  And thanks to Wikipedia, I now know it’s melted cheese blended into mashed potatoes. Yes!

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The stretch on this was amusing and the taste was incredibly delicious.

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We also ordered a side of “foie gras gnocchi.”  I was very confused when these two dumpling like things were set in front of us.

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But it didn’t matter that this didn’t resemble the gnocchi I know.  It was foie on the inside, wrapped in gnocchi, then fried crisp, with onions on top.  Pretty heavenly, to be honest.

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After our meal, we were served little tea cups of consommé from the tomahawk steak as a “palate cleanser.”  I have never had a savory palate cleanser after the meal, but the consommé was fantastic.  Not at all greasy and really savory.

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For dessert, they were doing a Valentine’s Day special of a “fried banana split” that had chocolate, vanilla, and lavendar ice cream with honey brittle, butterscotch sauce, and hot fudge.  How could we resist?

And it was certainly beautiful.

I enjoyed this but wasn’t blown away.  The brittle was the best part, but the banana was a bit mushy and I just don’t like floral flavored desserts (my fault, not theirs).  Mike thought the banana tasted a bit like wet laundry, but I thought he was kind of crazy.

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On our way out, we saw the dessert cart and it looked quite beautiful. Made me a little mournful that we didn’t get something from this, but hey, no regrets.

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Overall, I walked out of our meal pretty wowed.  I also realized that I didn’t remember how much that steak cost. Now, looking back, I have to say that it was a really great meal but absolutely not worth the price. Perhaps the Tomahawk was our mistake, because as much as it was a REALLY good steak, I’ve had comparable for half the price.  Add in the travel to Queens, and I’m torn.  We really, really liked it. And we were very happy with the meal. I just can’t say I truly recommend it.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10 (probably would have hit 8 out of 10 had that steak been priced more reasonably)

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Happy Anniversary NYC Nom Nom!

9 Feb

Cannot believe this blog has been chugging along for 6 years.  Thank you for following along on this crazy adventure. Your wonderful, loyal readership is incredibly appreciated.

Cheers to many more nommable years!

 

NOM NEW YEARS