Thursday, February 12, 2009

NYC Birthday Blowout: Part One

by Xani

And the celebrating keeps right on happening! The morning of my birthday, EP and I jumped on a train and headed to NYC for a weekend of fun, friends, family, and of course, FOOD. The train ride was uneventful (except when EP told the conductor it was my birthday, and he announced it over the intercom to the ENTIRE TRAIN! "Alexandra, Alexandra... happy birthday Alexandra"), and when we arrived in the city, we headed straight to our hotel where I found this wonderful surprise!


Pink champagne and cupcakes, care of my fabulous sister.

The cupcakes were from Billy's, and while we didn't eat them right away (didn't want to spoil our lunch... see below), we ate them later and they were fantastic. The champagne went down easy as we got ready for dinner that night (see further below!)

So yeah, lunch. We met up with cousin Ann and headed down to Prune, of bone marrow and bloody mary fame. After a short wait, we were seated in the totally cute, tiny, old-time-y space. Mosaic-tiled floors, antique mirrors, and an open kitchen make this place feel so homey and special at the same time. They brought out a little dish with celery sticks (ew) and ripe olives for us to nibble as we looked over the menu. And I ordered what is now my new favorite cocktail, a "Ghost of Mary." (They don't do their famous bloody marys except during weekend brunch.) This "essence" of a bloody mary is everything you love about the breakfast drink, without all the pesky tomato pulp weighing you down. I am totally making these come tomato season!




Onto the food. Unfortunately the bone marrow is not available at lunch (foiled again!) but the menu had lots of other intriguing options. We ended up ordering:

  • Cold spicy eggplant, fried salt cod, hard boiled egg
  • James Beard's onion sandwich with fried chicken livers

  • Pasta kerchief, poached egg, french ham, pine nuts

  • Potatoes, one way or another

Readers, its going to be tough to describe these dishes. They were all so unusual, it's like there's nothing to compare them to! All the flavors were familiar, but combined in ways I'd never tasted before. The presentations were beautiful, but not too pretty to eat. And everything was damn yummy.



The eggplant was like a crazy interpretation of baba ghanoush, but with totally wild flavors (hot sesame oil, we think?), and a perfectly cooked, almost hard-boiled egg.


The onion sandwich was, as predicted, raw onion (very sweet ones) and lots of butter (of course, it's James Beard's sandwich, after all) on lovely white bread. The fried chicken livers were excellent, and put the ones we sometimes get at Lexington market to shame!


The potatoes, which we ordered "another" way, as a cold szechaun potato salad, instead of "one way" (fries), were... interesting. The weakest dish of all, the cold shreds of potato seemed a little undercooked to us.


But the pasta... oh, the pasta. This dish was incredible. Two extra thin sheets (kerchiefs) of pasta, with a perfectly poached egg in between, in a pool of rich buttery broth, with ham and pine nuts and big shards of Parmesan cheese, as a bonus. HEAVEN.

While Prune was cozy and delicious enough to keep us happy all afternoon (and possibly all weekend) we had more eating to do! We were just blocks from Butter Lane cupcakes, and even though we had cupcakes waiting for us back at the hotel, we just couldn't resist stopping in...

Butter Lane is highly praised on Cupcakes Take the Cake blog, and one of their features is a icing tasting bar where you can sample all their freshly made icings, then order the cupcakes you want and they are iced to order! We got a small sampling:

Excellent cupcakes. We particularly liked the french vanilla icing (made with egg whites and sugar) and the raspberry (very fresh tasting). The banana cupcake with cream cheese frosting was waaay to sweet for me!

After a couple hours of rest back at the hotel, it was time to drink the champagne, get glam, and head out to dinner at Five Points. I have to give a big shout out to fellow (former) Baltimore blogger Roopa, of Raspberry Eggplant , who came to my rescue when I was scrambling to find a birthday dinner restaurant, and gave me several recommendations, all of which sounded fabulous. I settled on Five Points and it turned out to be PERFECT. Gorgeous setting (with pretty trees and a babbling brook through the center of the restaurant), really fabulous food, and... competent service (our waitress was fine but boring-- also someone had sent two bottles of Prosecco to the table and it took the waitress half an hour to hunt down who they were from! Finally the mystery was solved-- thanks to my wonderful friend Hayley for sending them!!). Everything we ate and drank at Five Points was delicious, but the real joy of the evening was the company. Ann, Steven, Lauren, Brian, and EP were such wonderful dining companions! We all ate, drank, talked, laughed and generally had a fantastic time. Here's the food porn:

Amazing gnocchi appetizer


Risotto cakes

Wood-oven pizzetta with potatoes and truffle oil!


my favorite bivalve...


Gotta have burgers


Brined double cut Berkshire pork chop

Ricotta Cavatelli

No ordinary chicken

Birthday smiles...

and wishes!

After our lovely meal, it was time to hit the town! Before the night got too blurry, we headed to 230 5th, solely because of their winterized rooftop deck which includes warm drinks, space heaters, and.... wait for it... ROBES! Hundreds and hundreds of robes for guests to snuggle up in! We loved the robes!


Really, really loved them....

We really didn't love the plastic-ware they served the drinks in, the weird seating policy in the lounge, the snooty waitresses, or the horrible music. So we bailed and went to make merry in nameless Irish bars near our hotel. We capped off the night with a couple of Billy's cupcakes back at the hotel (How were they? Don't remember. But I'm gonna go with AMAZING, as I'm sure they were at the time).

And that was my birthday! And it was so fun and memorable. Thank you so much to everyone who made it special-- love you!

Coming up, more fun and food in NYC!

X

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Vegas Eats: A Few Nibbles...

by Erin

While our meal at Michael Mina was a definite culinary highlight of our trip to Las Vegas, we had a few tasty bites throughout the weekend that we couldn't go without sharing with you, Dear Reader.

'Wichcraft

The first to share was our first meal of the whole trip, at 'Wichcraft, Chef Tom Colicchio's sandwich place. Xani and I arrived in Vegas starving and ready to go to Chef Keller's Bouchon, but alas, they were not open for lunch! So, we started wandering through our hotel (the MGM Grand) and came across 'Wichcraft - a miracle! We've each been to a different restaurant of Chef Colicchio (I went to CraftBar in NYC; Xani went to Craft in LA), and we had wanted to try out his more casual place.

We got two sandwiches to share (obvi): The Slow-Roasted Pork sandwich, with red cabbage, jalapenos, and mustard, on ciabatta, and the Grilled Gruyere sandwich, with caramelized onions on rye bread.


Would you like some pork wth your jalapenos?


Aw yeah...now that's a grilled cheese

Both sandwiches were good, though we were starving so I think that made them taste a bit better! The pork had good flavor, but the mustard was a pretty powerful flavor as well. Also unique about that sandwich: the GIGANTIC slices of raw jalapeno! Um, what?! Are you trying to kill us, Tom??

The grilled cheese was very nice as well - delicate flavors from the cheese and the onions, and the nice and unusual addition of the rye bread.


Xani ponders which one is her favorite

Along with our sandwiches, we got some awesome chips! They had a lot of interesting flavors, and we chose Salt & Pepper, and Spicy Thai. Both were great - I love a good chip. The Thai ones were SUPER spicy but we gobbled them right up.



Clearly I loved the chips

Raffles - Home of the Dessert Burger

Later on our first day, we met up with many cousins and the Birthday Boy, Uncle Sheldon, at a restaurant called Raffles in Mandalay Bay. They were having lunch but we of course had already eaten. We had not had, however, any sweets, and we spotted a very interesting dessert on the way in: a dessert burger!

We were so curious we couldn't resist ordering it. We discovered that the bun was poundcake with sesame seeds, the "burger patty" was a chocolate ganache with a hazelnut crunch on the inside, the "cheese" was an apricot gel of some sort. The "ketchup" was a seedless raspberry jam, and the "fries" were little bits of puff pastry covered in sugar! So cute. It was a fun treat and the kids and adults were equally amused by our choice.


Chicken and Waffles

One morning we met BCD Mom and Dad for breakfast at the MGM, and the menu had Chicken and Waffles as an option. (Sidebar: don't you think it would be fun to have two dogs and name them Chicken and Waffles??) I have always wanted to try this unusual Southern combo, and once I saw the guy on Man v. Food (my new favorite food show) get some, I had been craving it. So, we got it! It was a malted waffle, covered with a fried chicken breast, covered with white gravy, and oh yeah, a fried egg - oy! Luckily we chose to split this gigantic breakfast, and we still couldn't finish it! It was pretty good, and now that I have a taste for it, I want the real thing from some sort of southern establishment. Maybe when I am in Atlanta in June...

In addition to these eating adventures, we had a lovely meal in Henderson, NV with the family for Sheldon's birthday bash! It was great to see everyone since we are located literally all around the world, and therefore do not get together very often at all. We're so glad we were able to celebrate Sheldon's birthday all together. Happy birthday, Shelley! We love you!




One candle for every 10 years!

Happy birthday, Uncle Shelley!

Love,

Erin & Xani

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