Tag Archives: squash

New York Taste Event 2014: Thanks NY Mag!

17 Nov

My job has a lot of perks.  Because we work with a lot of magazines and websites, we get to take advantage of some of their more exclusive events.  Usually the events are more like big parties, which are fun but not really my thing.  But when New York Magazine (which also happens to be the only magazine I read as a consumer, every issue) invited me to their annual TASTE event, I was thrilled.  They even let me take a Plus One, so I had to invite fellow food lover and blogger, That Lori, of Stuff I Ate, to join me.


I’ve always wanted to go to TASTE, seeing as though it features a taste from some of the best restaurants in NYC, including some of our favorites, all’onda, Barbutobetony, Butter, Gramercy Tavern, and NoMad.


The event was in a space called The Waterfront Building on 11th Avenue between 27th and 28th Streets.  It was built in 1891 as the Terminal Stores building and it looked (and looks) like a medieval fortress.  Rail lines ran right into the building from the Hudson river docks and when it was built, it was the only building with direct access to the river, the road, and the rail.


It was a great space for this event; long and narrow with enough room to get around (though when the masses came in, we were certainly tripping over each other (and the poorly placed floor lights).   Though it certainly felt crowded at times, we never waited more than a few minutes for any food (though by the final hour, most were out of food… not that we could eat any more at that time anyway though!)


As we walked through the event, I kept noticing that they had great music on. I was actually surprised when we got to the end and it was a live band.  They sounded like a recording.  Great band.


But now onto the food!  I was impressed to see many of the celebrity chefs working their booths, including Alex Guarnaschelli at Butter and Dale Talde at Talde.

One of my favorite celebrity chefs, Jonathan Waxman, was behind his Barbuto table.  As soon as I lifted my duck liver pâté crostini with apples and saba up to take a picture, Chef Waxman immediately laughed at me and said I was being cute by taking a detailed picture.  I blushfully told him how much I loved his chicken at Barbuto and he told me that he hopes I loved his duck liver even more.  I’m not star struck by many people, but for some reason, Chef Waxman turned me into a giggling little girl.

And yes, his duck liver was superb (though blurry in this picture, seeing as though I was giggling…)


Here were some of my favorite bites of the evening:

Truffled hummus from Claudette.  I would never have thought to bump up hummus by adding truffle, but this was spot on.  From now on, if I want to make my hummus a more elegant meal, I will be adding truffle salt.


And while we’re on the topic of truffles, Toloache was serving a beautiful slice of raw tuna with quinoa, avocado aioli, and fresh slices of truffles. It also had a spicy sauce on top which they (kindly) left off of mine.  This was so fresh and just popped with flavor.



The Writing Room was serving a chicken liver mousse with green apples.  The mousse was so fresh and the apples were a great foil for the richness.  A very enjoyable bite.


Sadly, there was so much food that by the end, I just couldn’t fit another bite.  But I just loved the look of these lettuce cups with egg from Tao.


But my favorite bite of the evening was squash with pistachio and truffle from Piora.  It was so good, that Piora jumped right to the top of my list for next restaurant I want to try.


My favorite dessert was the chocolate lollipops from Wallsé. They were so rich and had such amazing flavor.  I went back for one more at the end of the night, but no surprise, there were none left.


I loved this event and even if I don’t get the opportunity to go as a guest next year, I think it will be worth it to pay for it and bring Mike.  It was an absolutely delicious and fun evening.

Thanks again, New York Magazine!


Westport, CT: Red Hen in the Westport Inn

15 Oct

After a lovely team event near my Westport, CT offices, I went out with my friend to grab a nice dinner before driving back to NYC.  We checked out Yelp and made some calls to see who could take us right away.  The Red Hen in the Westport Inn said they were having a slow night and their ratings were quite good, so we decided to check it out.

Sure enough, they were quite empty. The chef was at the bar and we were one of just two seated tables in the small restaurant off the lobby.  We instantly fell in love with the decorations.  The doors as dividers with this fun farmhouse feel.  Really loved it.

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The chef came over to our table and instantly started chatting us up.  His love for food and excited for this restaurant was palpable.  He talked about how he sources all of his ingredients as locally and sustainably as possible.  He talked about wanting to step everything up a notch and we gave him some ideas of what we wanted to try and told him to have at it.

The first thing we tried was the zucchini fritters.  These were tasty, but I’m not sure if they were right.  The inside of the fritters was more like zucchini dip.  Not raw, per se, but I wasn’t sure if that was really how they were intended or if they were meant to be solid all the way through.   I did like the balsamic reduction on top, however.

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Then we tried the vegan spring rolls. These had a few peppers in it, but I managed to pick around it.  I liked the idea of it and the hoisin sauce was good, but I’m not sure I could recommend it.

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We also tried the sundried tomato and basil sausage. It came with a cilantro dijonaise sauce and the cilantro was a perfect compliment to the taste of the sausage.  But the sausage itself was a bit overcooked and dry. Bummer.

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I saw bacon crusted arctic char on the menu and had to try it.  Turns out, the chef makes a bacon paste-like substance to crust the char.  It came with mashed sweet potatoes and grilled squash.  Everything on this place was very good.  The char was perfectly cooked and the bacon was a great compliment. There was an awesome char on the squash and zucchini and the sweet potatoes were tasty.

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We also decided to try the grilled cheese with a side of brussels sprouts.  The grilled cheese was a special version that had a mixture of cheeses and came with an onion jam.

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And boy was it special.  Everything else we tried at The Red Hen was good but not special, and for the most part not flawless.  But this grilled cheese was awesome.  Exactly what grilled cheese should be (and better).  Nicely browned and toasty bread (but not too much of it) with a hearty, flavorful cheese and the sweetness of the onion jam.  Mm mm mmm this was good!

The brussels sprouts were just okay. I like them roasted and crispy much better.

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Overall, I think the chef’s excitement actually set expectations too high. I know exactly what he’s going for, but the food wasn’t quite there.  There was a lack in depth of flavor in most of the dishes we tried and some executional problems.  But everything was still quite good and that grilled cheese was something special!  I will certainly return and probably order a bit differently next time.  But I still recommend.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

nomscale- 06.5


il Buco

5 Sep

One problem with having a destination wedding at the end of a school year is that sometimes some of your favorite people just can’t make it. Such was the case of my cousins (technically, my dad’s cousins, but we’re all just one big… really big… happy family).  So upon arriving back in NYC, they offered to take us out to a meal.  And that is how we found ourselves at il Buco.


I know I had heard many people speak highly of il Buco, but it just somehow never made it on the list of places to go.  I was very glad that my cousins changed that.

The decoration inside is like an eclectic French country farm house that got taken over by a whimsical decorator who enjoyed making lamps  look like octopus with tea pots on the end.




(Apologies in advance for the dark photos.  Turns out, octopus tea kettle lamps do not bring in as much light as my camera would prefer.)


We split a whole bunch of apps.

We started with the special bread and olive oil and the dish of olives.  Both were really way above average.  The olive oil had an amazing grassy/woody flavor and the bread was a great combination of crispy crust with fluffy interior. And the olives were probably the best I’ve ever had. Really flavorful.

For plated apps, we tried the Ricotta, which was house made ricotta with Battenkill Farm milk, stonefruit, fennel, hazelnuts, and Catskill honey. I loved the way the honey balanced the stonefruit which balanced the cheese.  And the fennel really worked with this dish to further balance out the flavors.


We also split the Insalata di Zucchini with shaved Bodhitree Farm’s summer squash, purslane, toasted almonds, pecorino Sarde, and mint.  Fresh and delicious.  Loved the mint and toasted almonds complimenting the squash. (This made me want to add mint to all my salads)


FourSquare tips mentioned enjoying the Cavolonero which was Tuscan black kale, garlic-anchovy-lemon vinaigrette, filone croutons, and parmigiano reggiano.  Awesome.  I am usually only a fan of kale when it’s roasted, but this was in its raw form and it was just brought to life with the vinaigrette and the cheese.


We each got our own entrees, but we certainly passed them around for sampling.

One person got the fish.  This was perfectly cooked.


Someone else got the macaroni. I couldn’t try it due to peppers, but she really enjoyed her dish (as did everyone else that tried it).


Mike got the Porchetta with Flying Pigs Farms heritage pork, Umbrian lentils, swiss chard, and grain mustard. I think it also had some chicharones.  The pork itself was packed with flavor and had great pieces of fatty meat with a good sear.  The potatoes were also crispy and well seasoned.


I got the Papparadelle which was house made egg pasta ribbons and green and yellow summer squash. I loved loved loved this dish.  It tasted like summer. Fresh and light but totally satisfying. It seemed too simple: Pasta, squash, cheese.  But it all came together in a really nice, full flavor.


One highlight of the night was letting my cousin order the wines.  Boy was this a treat!  We tried a few superstars including this gem from 1986.


Pretty sure this is the oldest bottle of wine I’ve ever had. And it was sooooo good.


For dessert we tried a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of caramel gelato. These had such intense, wonderful flavors.  That chocolate was packed with flavor.  Wow.



We also got the Torta di Cioccolato which was flourless chocolate cake, espresso caramel mousse, and candied walnuts. This was so rich and so chocolatey. Reminded me of the desserts my great grandmother made from Europe.


I orered the Panna Cotta all’ Aceto Balsamico which was described as “cooked cream” drizzled with 10-year balsamic vinegar.  The panna cotta itself was really flavorful, but the balsamic really put it over the top. It was rich and sweet and had just enough tang to balance the cream.


This was a fantastic meal, start to finish.  All the food tasted incredibly special, unique, and really above the norm.  I was not expecting to enjoy this meal as much as I did, but now I see why people absolutely love this place.

There was, however, one issue…

The service.

Our waitress made it feel like we were inconveniencing her by simply being there.  As if her job was slave labor and we were there to enforce her brutality. She actually rolled her eyes, on multiple occasions when we asked questions or asked for refills like water or bread.  At one point we asked for the sommelier to come over so we could have wine… with our dinner… novel concept I know. She rolled her eyes, again, and then proceeded to not send him over and finally sent a busser (I think) to take the order instead. This was after we were almost all the way through our dinner. She came over to tell us that the sommelier had been busy, as if we had asked if she could please bring over the President of the United States.  I thought maybe she was coming to say “Sorry he is busy and we didn’t get you wine for your dinners.” Not even close.

It was one of the most ridiculous services I’ve ever seen.

It certainly shouldn’t have happened. It really sours an excellent meal when the person whose job it is to be your waitress makes you feel like you are torturing her.

It’s a shame, because despite the service, this restaurant was damn near flawless.

Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10 (One full point deduction for the awful service)

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10