Tag Archives: candy bar

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

 

Restaurant Week Winter 2014: Villard Michel Richard

10 Mar

I was invited to a cake tasting at Pomme Palais a few months ago and really enjoyed it and was very impressed by the food (though not entirely by the slightly creepy famous chef, Michel Richard).  Regardless, I had heard that Chef Richard had a great restaurant in Washington, DC, so I was looking forward to coming back to try the other restaurant(s) in the New York Palace Hotel.

But then, the reviews came out… The New York Times gave the restaurant a scathing single star and my favorite food reviewer, Adam Platt of New York Magazine, gave the restaurant a hesitant, non-committal 2 stars.

Though when I saw Villard Michel Richard come up as an option for Restaurant Week Winter 2014, I figured… why not?  The desserts I had sampled were fantastic, so how bad could the food really be? Though I was happy to be able to try it for Restaurant Week prices so there was less risk involved. And hell… maybe it could surprise us!  (Ohhh… how optimistic and naive I was just a few short days ago). The hotel lobby is quite grand.

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And as I looked around the dining room, I had to wonder how much of the fine detail was real, and how much money went into building a hotel like this when The New York Palace was built, not mention the recent (reportedly) $140 million face lift.

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Though mixed with the old, somehow the giant glass cube of wine to the ceiling, with an old chandelier hanging into the center, taking up a good part of the middle of the dining room, didn’t feel entirely out-of-place.

 

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Over the bar is a fascinating hologram mural that flips Chef Richard’s face with Henry Villard (the financier that gave the place its name).  Very, very odd.

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Upon arrival, they insisted on taking our coats because “it’s tight in there” (it wasn’t).  Mike is a curmudgeon about checking his coat, and while I made fun of him for this for a long time, the day came when the place did in fact lose his coat, so I have bitten my tongue ever since and have come to hate the automatic coat check.  To add insult (literally) to injury, the woman asked to take Mike’s “school bag.”  Nice lady… real nice…

The Restaurant Week menu looked appealing, with some different dishes and some options to “buy up” by a bit to try some items that are right off the menu. (I opted for a few of those).

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The bread was served warm, but the butter incredibly cold. So cold that it to tore the bread into pieces as we tried to spread it.  I wished it were better.

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And then after the bread came and the wine (a very affordable Vouvray, our favorite kind of wine, that started a bit tart but grew on us) we waited. And waited. And waited.  The table next to us that was seated a full 20 minutes after we were received, ate, and finished their appetizers before ours made a presence. And then finally they arrived… or did they? Mike ordered the New York Salad with rare tuna and red wine vinaigrette.  And this is what was put in front of him:

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A lovely looking salmon tartar indeed.  I was curious to try the avocado bottom and yucca chips, but alas, it wasn’t what was ordered. So they whisked it quickly away (if it’s already been served and has sat on the table for a few minutes, just leave it… you can’t reuse it… come on).

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And within moments the correct appetizer was placed.

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Mike said it was incredibly boring (and that’s kind of sad, seeing as though there was potential for a very tasty salad from the nicoise take-off).

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I paid the $5 supplement to try the shitake mushroom feuillette. And I’m glad I did.  It was actually quite tasty, with a super flaky, delicate pastry (note… pastry) with mushrooms and a lovely, rich sauce.   I was hoping things were turning around…

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They weren’t. We waited a solid 30 more minutes for our entrees. We had now been sitting for over an hour and half and had only had our apps.  The same table next to us was finished with their meal and the table beside them, which sat an HOUR after us, were munching on their entrees when we looked beside us to see a plate of sad brussels sprouts just sitting out. And they sat out for a while longer until (I think) the servers caught us leering at them so they were removed. And then served a few minutes later with our entrees.

Now the lighting in here was bad for pictures, but this is exactly how grey and mushy they looked. It was like someone opened a bag of frozen brussels sprouts and tossed them in olive oil until they got brown (but no where near crispy) and served them roughly 30 minutes after they were done cooking. They were hardly warm. They were awful. When the waiter came back to ask how our meal was, we actually told him that they were horrible and he took them away.  We never send food back unless it’s really, really wrong.  So this was a pretty sad state of affairs.

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Entrees were served and Mike got the roasted chicken breast with mushroom crust and butternut squash puree.  Usually, we don’t make a habit of ordering a chicken breast out at a restaurant, but the mushroom crust and butternut squash sounded good so we went for it. It was cooked reasonably well since it was still moist but it was somehow incredibly boring. It didn’t have any real chicken flavor and the mushroom “crust” was more like mushroom mush that was pasted onto the outside of the boring boob.  The butternut squash was tasty but runny and a bit over sweet.  The entire dish had zero texture and was very one-note. If it had been made with the skin on and slightly crisped, or served with a sunchoke chip or SOMETHING. ANYTHING.  Instead, it was just like boring brown food.

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My short ribs were only slightly better.  They were cooked perfectly, and really, if you cook short ribs fork tender how bad could they be? But the rest was just… meh.  The sauce added nothing to it and the potatoes were, again, quite watery.

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I was hopeful that desserts would be as good as what I had at Pomme Palais, and they certainly were not, but they were absolutely the highlight of the meal (not that hard to do though, I suppose).  The creme brulee was light and airy on the bottom with a thin brulee top and a nice vanilla bean taste.  The fruit syrups around the end were a nice touch that were beautiful and tasty, and allowed you to add as much or as little was you wanted to each bite.

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I paid the upcharge to get the “candy bar” which was actually quite divine.  It was chocolate and hazelnut with an almond and pistacchio crisp in a lovely sauce with chocolate chips (or nibs?) The flavors and textures were excellent and reminded me of what I loved at the patisserie.

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And I really loved the beauty of the crisp.

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When we got the check, I was very surprised to see that gratuity was automatically added (at 15%). When we got the final bill, it said that they do that automatically and add 20% automatically for parties of 5 or more.  I kind of understand the reasoning, even if I don’t agree with it, of adding it for big parties, but to add it to all parties and have different amounts I found quite odd.  Also, I am a chronic over-tipper, even when service is lackluster, I usually wind up tipping 15% after taxes for mediocre service. So if anything, they lost money on me (though I know I’m the odd ball).

Our very odd meal with pretty lousy service trickled out as we left, when we passed by a few managers who didn’t say goodnight and then stood by the coat closet as many people who worked there passed right by us.  Finally a manager took the ticket of the people who were lined up BEHIND us to get their coats.  When he came out and looked at us, he apologized and said he thought we were already helped. (Way to ask… dude).  Then there were a FLURRY of people suddenly around us trying to be helpful by trying to grab coats to put them onto our shoulders (there were now about 8 people all getting coats that the same time) but it turned into an awkward dance of me having to tell three different people that I was capable of putting my own jacket onto my own shoulders… thank you very much. Odd. That’s really my best summary for the night. Odd.

We clocked in at over 2.5 hours when all was said and done. Anything that we had that was more like pastry (the desserts and the mushroom appetizer) were quite good. Everything else was really quite bland or downright awful (brussels sprouts) and the bad service just added to it.  I really didn’t want to prove those reviewers right, especially after I had such a great experience with the baked goods, but it was just as bad, if not worse, than they said.  It was like no one told the servers how to do their jobs so they all just fumbled around, doing their best, with no oder.  And no one told the cooks that the dishes had to be made to taste good, not just sound good.

Overall, it wasn’t even worth the Restaurant Week prices.

Avoid.

Total Nom Points: 4 out of 10

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Honeymoon: Seattle – Theo Chocolates Factory Tour

12 Jul

On our way out of Seattle, we decided to stop by Theo Chocolates to take their Factory Tour (and TASTING! of course).

We were required to adhere to health codes, including a beard cover for my sexy new husband.


Getting ready to tour the chocolates #theotour #theaxelbaums by @skywolfx

 

The first part of the tour was in a room where they explained how they were the first Organic and Fair Trade bean to bar maker in the US (very cool). They also explained where the chocolate comes from (a combination of South America and Africa, and chocolate tastes different from each of those regions… who knew) and how it’s made.  Then they gave us a few samples of different percentages of dark and milk.


Theo Chocolate tour and tasting #theaxelbaums #theotour #nycnomnom by @nycnomnom

 

We then toured the floor to see how it’s all done.

 


1930s German “Deathstar” roaster. You wish there was smell-o-vision at this moment. #theaxelbaums #nycnomnom #theotour by @nycnomnom

 

I found it very interesting that the room was kept VERY warm (to make sure the chocolate stays melty).  I don’t know how those guys work in there all day (well… the smell of chocolate was so intoxicating that perhaps I do get it!)

 


Yum. Surrounded by chocolate. They even clean the chocolate pipes with chocolate. #theaxelbaums #nycnomnom #theotour by @nycnomnom


Chocolate making in progress #theotour by @skywolfx

 

And we were impressed to see that they do it all by hand, including mixing in all the mix-ins:


Mixing in the mix-ins by hand. #theotour #nycnomnom by @nycnomnom

And constructing and cutting the bars:

Hand decorating and assembling the chocolates. #nycnomnom #theaxelbaums #theotour by @nycnomnom

And then we ended in the shop, where there is MORE tasting (which is smart, because it meant we bought a whole lot more than we intended to after trying just how awesome they were). There was no sample of the Big Daddy, but after reading the description (homemade caramel, mashmallow, and graham crackers enrobed in chocolate), we just had to try them. And it was definitely one of the best candy bars I have ever had.


“Big Daddy” from Theo Chocolate. Super awesome. Homemade chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, and graham cracker. #theotour #nycnomnom by @nycnomnom

We also loved some of the special “Fantasy” bars, especially the bread and chocolate (the buttered toast pieces tasted so great in chocolate), the fig fennel and almond bar (fennel in chocolate is a great combination, as it turns out), and the hazelnut crunch which was made with hazelnut brittle.

This was some of the best chocolate I’ve had (and I fancy myself a bit of a chocolate fanatic).  Next time I need a gift for a chocolate lover, I will most certainly be ordering from Theo. And the factory tour was fun!