Tag Archives: grilled cheese

Grand Reopening of Tavern on the Green

28 Apr

In 2009, NYC lost a landmark.  Tavern on the Green went bankrupt. I had never been there myself, since it was way over budget in my first few years in NYC when I lived off of ramen and the kindness of business lunches, but I always knew it to be hard to get into and expensive.  Those two things should really never equate to bankruptcy in my mind, and I heard that they were one of the highest grossing restaurant of all time in 2007 (to the tune of $37 million) but apparently the economy, debts, lease problems, some bad business, and what I heard was a severe decline in quality shuttered the restaurant. DSCF3205 (view down Central Park West) Since it closed, reopening the iconic space has been a never ending cycle of delays delays delays The first official day of new service for the newly redone restaurant was this past Thursday, so I was excited to snag a reservation for Sunday, even if it was at 5:15pm.  I was excited to see what this iconic refurb had to offer. DSCF3204 Entering off Central Park West from 67th Street, I was a bit surprised to see that it was still under a lot of construction outside. It looks like they are working on the patios and gardens. DSCF3206 The entrance still has that elegant feeling, with a long covered entrance and a well dressed man holding the door open. DSCF3207 When you walk inside, the first thing you see is… a gift shop.  A gift shop? In a restaurant.  This made me roll my eyes.  I figured this was going to be an even worse tourist trap than I originally thought. DSCF3209 But we proceeded inside. Rumor has it the old interior was a lot of shiny metal and mirrors.  This had a lovely “tavern” feel while still being a bit upscale.  (Though I was surprised at how casual it really is) DSCF3212 There is a gold plated pegasus chandelier that rotates above the entry bar, however. So not all the gold is gone. DSCF3221   There is a windowed, glass cube porch-like area that looks out on… unfinished courttard.  I was actually a bit surprised to see that the restaurant does not have views of the park.  At all.  I’ve passed by it a thousand times but always just assumed you could see the park from somewhere in the restaurant.  But no dice. The cube reminded me a bit of the Apple Stores. DSCF3214 We walked through the main room that connects to the windowed terrace, which also contains a big window looking into the kitchen. DSCF3251 DSCF3252 We were sat in the back room, near the back bar at a quiet table for two. DSCF3222 DSCF3249     It is a large space, so I was surprised to hear that the old restaurant was more than double the size. The space used to be an old sheep barn, so the sheep play a prominent roll throughout the menu design. DSCF3215 The menu, by chef Katy Sparks, offers chilled seafood and ceviche, as well as salads.  From there, the menu is split into 3 sections: The Hearth (coming from a wood burning oven), the Grill, and The Plancha (a Brazilian griddle). I expected it to be over the top and ridiculously expensive.  It was certainly tourist pricing, but it wasn’t as ridiculous as I thought it was going to be (most small plates/apps were $12-$18 with entrees around $24-$34 with the exception of a $54 New York Strip Steak). The bread is served as crispy (possibly cheesy?) thin breadsticks and long thin rolls with an impressive dip.  I believe it had sheeps’ milk yogurt, feta cheese, oil, cumin seeds, rosemary, thyme, and a few other things. It was quite enjoyable. DSCF3223 We started with the Serrano Ham, Cave-Aged Gruyere and Sage Toast, and Anchovy-Caper Sauce.  It was a delicious nibble, though a tad bit greasy on the fingers.  I liked the combination of ingredients and it was different and a little bit special.  Though for $18, it was still a very small portion of grilled cheese. DSCF3225 We also tried the Fried Local Duck Egg on a Spring Onion and Smoked Ricotta Crostata with Anchovies and Oil-Cured Olives. DSCF3228 I really enjoyed the rustic crostata which had a great flavor (though when eaten on its own, was a tad bit dry) and the ricotta mixed with the egg and salty anchovies and olives was a very nice combination. DSCF3229 For entrees, we got the Heritage Breed Pork Chop, Wood Roasted Rhubarb and Fennel with a Local Honey and Verjus Sauce. DSCF3231 This had a unique flavor with the rhubarb and fennel.  I wish it were a bit more sauced (or thicker sauce?) because I found the dish a bit flat.  Good, but not great. DSCF3233 We also tried the Braised Lamb Shank with Creamed Chards, Pickled Golden Raisins, Roasted Cauliflower and a Fresh Mint Gremolata. DSCF3235 The meat was cooked perfectly.  Tender, and fell off the bone.  The meat itself had nice flavor, however, I wanted a bit more from the preparation.  Again, a thicker sauce may have really set this dish apart, or more mint.  I will say that I had one piece of cauliflower that was crispy and packed with flavor.  It was great. Unfortunately, the other pieces sat a bit too long in the jus and weren’t quite as crisp.  Shame. DSCF3238 As for dessert, we went with the Ice Box Cake with Ruis rye bread, maple-rye whisky pudding, sour cherries, maple walnut pralines. The jar that came out felt especially small for the $13 price tag, but there was something about it that was strangely interesting.  It was basically pudding and bread crumbs, but somehow it tasted new and fresh. DSCF3242 We also got the Spring Pavlova with Matcha Green Tea curd, macerated organic strawberries and rhubarb, chantilly cream.  I LOVE pavlova, so I cannot NOT order it when I see it on a menu.  This very was very interesting with the Matcha green tea.  There was also something salty that I really enjoyed in this. Added a depth to the flavors.  The pavlova itself wasn’t as crispy as I like my meringue, but it was still tasty. DSCF3246 Overall, I enjoyed my meal at the new Tavern on the Green.  If it were priced a few dollars cheaper on each dish, it would have been a much better meal.  It just didn’t have value. But it did have appeal.  Tourists will flock here, and there were a fair amount of children dining there, so families will enjoy it for a nice meal out where they can feel comfortable bringing the kids, however, I’m not sure it will regain its stature as a “go to” restaurant for the food. (Then again, it never was the “go to” for the food!) From what I heard, this is going to be quite the undertaking.  They will owe the city licensing fees of either 6% of the total restaurant sales or $1 million dollars, whichever is greater.  This will mean that they will need to make $17 million in their first year, which translates to about 1,200 meals on Saturdays and Sundays and 600 meals per day each week day. I don’t know if I’ll go out of my way to go back, but I’m glad we got to try it, and part of me hopes it sticks around because I’m a sucker for NYC nostalgia, especially in dining. Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10 nomscale- 07.0

Broadway Bites: Pop-up Restaurants in Herald Square

15 Nov

Broadway Bites opened earlier this month, with pop-up restaurants in Greeley Square, right near Herald Square/Macy’s and the Manhattan Mall).  It’s just like Madison Square Eats (which just closed down a few weeks ago) and from the same team at UrbanSpace.

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There are a lot of vendors (full list here), and we went with some friends to try a few and I went back on a few days (since it’s so close to my office… dangerous).

I first went with Red Hook Lobster Pound and tried the Lobster Roll “Maine Style.”  Maine Style to them meant with a lemon mayo (though it also had some paprika or Old Bay on it, which was an issue for me since I’m allergic, but I scraped it off and made it work).  This was just okay. The lobster wasn’t as flavorful as I would have liked, but I AM super spoiled.

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I also tried the lobster macaroni and cheese from there, which was very good. The lobster was more flavorful in there and the pasta was nice and cheesy without being soupy. They took a torch to crisp up the top, but it felt more for show than for taste.  It was barely scorched when I opened it up, and I would have preferred much more, but it was still quite tasty.

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Mike went with a brisket sandwich from Mayhem & Stout.  He said it was tasty but it was served a bit cold.

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One of our friends stopped at Mrs Dorsey’s Kitchen for a smoked gouda grilled cheese sandwich. She enjoyed it, but I was surprised to see that the cheese was hardly melted at all.   A grilled cheese sandwich is not merely cheese on toasted bread. It must be melty!

Her take: “Tasty ingredients in the grilled cheese (good cheese, good crispy bread), but it wasn’t melty at all. All in all, just an average grilled cheese, I’d say…”

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And our other friend went with the veggie meatballs from Mighty Balls.  His feedback: “I’d say the balls themselves could have used a bit more taste and crust.  The bread made up for the crunch, but it was a bit too mushy in texture.  A bit more spring in the bite would have been welcomed.  The jalapeño jelly though was delicious.  Would like to try it separately.  I believe they sell it in jars.  Could see it being great on other sandwiches, and even lamb.”

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I don’t know if any of us were overly impressed, and there seemed to be a heating problem across the board.  But it’s a nice way to try some restaurants without having to travel too far and it’s great to go as a group so there is something for everyone. We happened to go on a very warm November day, so most of the hot food was not overly appealing to me.  I went back a few days later when it was quite chilly and I was more in the mood for hot food.

I chose a butternut squash and pine nut arancini (fried rice ball) from Arancini Bros.

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It had a great crisp and wasn’t at all greasy (a problem I sometimes have with arnacini).  The rice was perfectly al dente and there was a mild cheesiness in combination with the squash and pine nut flavors. A really great dish, and could probably be a meal in itself.

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But I also went in search of vegetables.  You know… to be healthy.  I didn’t find much. But I did find a zucchini and mozz sandwich from Cannibal (where I previously had a great pig’s head). Zucchini counts as a vegetable right? Even when on toasted bread with cheese?  Say yes…



Back to the sandwich.  I unwrapped it and was immediately displeased. I like the idea of wrapping in brown paper, but it always shows just how greasy it is.  And I was trying to tell myself that this was healthy!


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I opened it up and noticed that while the pesto and mozzarella looked good, I was surprised at the skimpy amount of zucchini. Two thin slices on the entire thing? Lame!

But holy hell. This was DELICIOUS.  Super duper ooper delicious.

Yes… ooper.

The bread and cheese and pesto and zucchini mixed together into something that didn’t seem feasible by the sum of its parts.  I guess this was the power of damn good ingredients.


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I would definitely stop by before it closes up at the end of November.  It was also lovely that there were very short lines across the board every time I went!



New York City Wine & Food Festival: Grand Tasting 2013 Review

19 Oct

This was our fourth year attending the New York City Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting. (Here are the reviews from 2012 and 2011, sadly I didn’t post about 2010).

The last few years it has been on a pier near 14th Street, but this year it moved to Piers 92/94 at 55th Street. We were a bit worried because it has always been nicely organized in the past and you never know what might change.  Turns out, the organization was definitely more lacking this year than in years past.

You used to come through a park before going to the Grand Tasting, where you would get your swag bag (some years) but always got to grab a cup/bottle of Illy coffee (a reoccurring sponsor) to wait with on line.  This year, it was just the line.

We got the Fast Pass which meant we were the line that went in first.  We were inside the building by 12:10 (start time was noon) but then the cluster started.

They give you a bracelet to show you turned in your ticket and are legal to drink, and it comes with a drink and swag bag ticket.  The problem was, you enter right into that table and there is really no way to get there in an organized fashion. Everyone was just en mass to get everything and then once they got it, they couldn’t get out through the crowd.  Last year, you walked down the hallway and got your stuff on the way in, so it all flowed with the foot traffic. This year, not so much.


But once we were inside, it was smooth sailing.

When I looked at the map from Zagat that came out this past week, I was worried. It looked like many fewer tables than years prior.  But the space was actually a bit more spread out and I think the ceilings were higher and the skylights were new, giving it a bit of a nicer feel.


As we have found to be the best plan, we beelined for the very back of the pier and then worked our way forward. This allows us some time before the masses get too thick and we have the back of the area pretty much to ourselves.

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Throughout the pier, they have multiple sections with sampling and demonstrations.  The main demo area was right in the middle with a cute picket fence around it.




Throughout the day, the most empty area was the (big) Barilla takeover. Probably because they are homophobic pricks.  I used to eat Barilla. I will never again. I’m glad they wasted money on this.  OKAY… will stop ranting now…. back to the food.



Starting with the eats, I’ll first highlight our favorite bites.

Our number one bite of the day (and this was echoed throughout many people we talked to) was from High Road Creamery.

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This was absolutely awesome.  The buns were slightly sweet and warmed on the spot. The ricotta ice cream was very flavorful and the pistachio black pepper toffee on the outside was a great compliment both in taste and texture.  We went back to get more around 3:30pm (the Grand Tasting goes until 6pm) and they were all out.  Though I can’t blame them. They were so good.



Chefs Vanessa Palazio & Adam Schneider- Little Muenster: “Super Fancy Grilled Cheese” with braised beef cheek with cracked pepper marscapone, pickled fennel, old bay onion paste & muenster cheese on local peasant bread.

We LOVED this grilled cheese. One of the best I have ever had. Perfect balance of everything with a satisfying crunch of the bread (without being too sharp or too thick). Looks like we may need to head down to the LES or Brooklyn to get our hands on more Little Muenster!




Surprisingly, one of my favorite noms was from Celebrity Cruise Lines.  Squash soup with a really great grilled cheese.




Chef Kirk McKinny- Suite 36: Lilikoi (Passionfruit) Cured Hamachi with a salad of baby watercress, scallion, pineapple & Big Island macadamia nut. Finished with Sweet Yuzu & Hawaiian Chili Oil drizzle.

I had mine without chili oil, but I really enjoyed this combination of flavors and great hamachi. The macadamia nuts added a nice texture and taste to everything.  And I’m quite excited we found this place… it’s just a few blocks away from our apartment. We may try to go there for dinner tomorrow!



Chef Manuel Berganza- Andanada: Pulpo a la Gallego- Octopus seasoned with olive oil, pimiento de vera and served with mashed potato puree.  (I had mine without the paprika on top… see second photo).


This was scrumptious.  Perfectly cooked octopus and the potato foam on top was light and creamy. Great dish.


Chef Jeremy Leech- ReBar: Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese.

This was stupid good. It was just mac and cheese. Just AWESOME mac and cheese.


Chef Roxanne Spruance- Alison Eighteen: Lamb Bacon with maitake, crispy lentils, foie gras, walnut and concord grape.  This bacon was perfectly cooked and flavored and the little additions all went well with the bacon itself.




And here are most of the other things we nibbled:

Chef Arturo McLeod- Benjamin Steakhouse: Porterhouse Bites and Creamed Spinach with USDA Prime, dry aged porterhouse bites served with their signature “creamless” creamed spinach.

A very tender, simply prepared piece of meat.



Chef Sophia Lee- miss Korea BBQ: Korean marinated Kalbi


Chef Sara Moulton- Maple Leaf Farms: Peking Duck Wraps


Chef Lucas Billheimer- The Writing Room: Smoked Duck Rillette with apple butter and pickled squash on dark rye bread


Chef Miguel Trinidad- Maharlika Filipino Moderno: Pork Rib Adobo- National dish of the Philipines. Pork marinated in Filipino soy sauce, bawang, suka, and sili.


The Munchies is a “People’s Choice Food Award” and they had a selection from Hill Country Barbecue.  It was a piece of brisket with a really nice cucumber salad.  Very tender.


Executive Chef Jim Botsacos- Molyvos: Yiayia’s Meatballs (Keftedes) with rich tomato sauce, green crakced olives and whipped Mizithra.


Chef Kyle McClelland- Prospect: Butternut Squash Velouté with root beer cream and espresso marshmallows.


Chef Kenneth Johnson- Pescatore Restaurant: “Goat, Goat, Goat” with goat cheese gnudi with goat bolognese and shaved goat cheese.


Chef Carmine Di Giovanni- Greenwich Project: Kobocha Squash Panna Cotta with spice candied walnut crunch and pomegranante cider meringue. (Popped a bite in my mouth and realized that spiced meant peppers and peppers mean allergy for me. So my mouth peeled a bit and I had to toss the rest… damn)


Chef Patricio Sandoval- Mercadito: Tacos de Camaron with shrimp, roasted garlic, avocado, and chipotle mayo.  (Mike had, not me)


Chef Thomas Biglan- Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa: Borgata Fried Chicken Slider with black pepper candied bacon, sundried tomato mayonnaise and micro greens.  This was actually awful. The only really bad bite of the day.  The chicken was cold and mushy, with no crisp on the fry.  I had one bite and tossed it.


Manon: Some sort of dessert with pear and a filling that tasted like pecan pie. (This was very good but they had no sign and soon ran out.)


Sea salt ice cream sundae from Graeter’s


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Blue Marble Organic Ice Cream in Spiced Pumpkin flavor. We wound up actually combining this with the fresh Crown maple syrup next door for a delightful treat.






Haagen-Dazs Gelato.  Very good sea salt caramel.



On the way to the Celebrity Chef demonstrations/talks, Cooking Channel was serving some awesome gourmet popcorn.  We tried the pizza and the miso caramel.

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Lovely Australian Lamb with cheese and tomato jam

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A piece of burger from Mater Purveyors, Inc. in the Bronx.


Certified Piedmont Beef with Italian Seasoned Roast Beef.



Olive oils from Spain



Bertoli Olive Oil Cranberry Pesto with Olive Oil


SooFoo original grain and lentil blend lemon kale salad (kind of bland… meh)DSCF2627


Pasta Chips tasted like crispy, dried pasta with dried seasonings resembling pasta dishes.  I really enjoyed these, especially the simple sea salt that let the pasta flavor shine through.


Brownie brittle was good as well.


I liked that the chocolate crisp. (Why aren’t there more crispy chocolate products out there?)




And what we drank:

We started our day in the back at one of our favorite wineries: Decoy. Great Napa and Sonoma wines.  Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of their lovely duck themed bottles.

VeeV Acai Spirits smartly served their sangria in a jar with a lid so we could carry it around and enjoy it throughout the day (especially when we were sitting in the chef talks)


The Chartreuse was a really interesting flavor. Very herbacious and floral.  Would be a great mixer. Will need to keep my eye out for this.


Mike saw Amarula and suggested I try it. Sure enough, a delicious creamy liqueur.


This was… weird.  Cheesecake wine? Probably not going to go anywhere beyond the “I’ll try anything once” mantra.


Nice bourbon

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And the Demos:  

One of the highlights of the Grand Tasting is the impressive roster of Celebrity Chefs who do demos and talks throughout the day.  This new location seemed smaller, and for the first time we were turned away from one (Rachael Ray) so we checked out some others.  Our first stop was watching Iron Chef Morimoto break down a HUGE Toro fish.




It was incredibly hard to hear because the other stage was way too close in this venue, but what we did hear was fun.  He even sang us a song at the end before flexing for the camera.


We caught the end of Chef Chuck Hughes (from Cooking Channel) and he was fun to watch.


Then Nadia G (from Bitchin Kitchen) came out to make the introduction…


…For Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli.


She made a crepe cake (and burned a number of crepes in good humor). The crepe cake looked like it was going to fall down, but she managed to get a slice out and it looked lovely.


I really loved watching this demo because there is something just so endearing about Chef Alex.   Really it was the audience questions that made the demo so good.  One person asked her how it felt when she won Iron Chef.  And her ego (whatever ego she actually has) just fell to the floor and she talked about how shocking it was and how proud she was about it.  She made some great jokes and then mentioned that the moment she saw the curtain drop and her picture up there she was so overwhelmed that she had to tell herself “Iron Chefs don’t cry!”




At the end of the demo, Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri crashed.  They asked some silly audience questions and they somehow wound up having a conversation about chafing due to being naked under chef coats.  They were obviously trashed but having a great time.  Alex took it all in good humor.  It was a lovely moment between 3 people you can tell really like each other.


This year’s Grand Tasting was certainly better than last year’s in terms of the event itself.  Sure, the new location had some issues, especially the chaos at the beginning of grabbing glasses and bags and then the closeness of the stages, causing some issues hearing the demos.  But there were a LOT more food options so I left totally full and not overly drunk.  Last year was somewhat pathetic in the amount of food that was there, so I’m glad they redeemed themselves.

I was questioning coming back after last year, but I’m glad we did. We had a blast!