Authentic Lebanese Dining in Flatiron – Review of Byblos

BY BETH KAISERMAN

80 Madison Ave. between 28th and 29th St.
Flatiron
(212) 687-0808/byblosny.com

Byblos

Tabbouleh

Byblos is an airy Lebanese restaurant, serving up the real deal in Lebanese cuisine with flavors that might make you dance. There’s plenty of room for that actually, and live music and dancing happens on Saturday nights.

 

Hot Yogurt Soup

Hot Yogurt Sauce

Grilled Meats

Grilled Meats

At a press dinner, we tasted mezze selections, Lebanese wine, kibbeh, grilled meats and tabbouleh. The silky hummus will make you question every other hummus you’ve ever tried. It’s not often you rave about something as simple as hummus, but this one is truly incredible, as is the baba ghannouj.

After delicious mezze, we were served kibbeh (spelled kibbee on Byblos’ menu) in a hot yogurt sauce. Upon reading the “hot yogurt sauce” part of the dish, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. The kibbeh were moist and flavorful without being overpowering like others I’ve had. The yogurt sauce was delightful and unique, but certainly one of the heavier entree items. We tasted all of the kebabs, which were cooked perfectly and served with some nicely spiced peas. I already want to go back for grape leaves, fattoush and a whole grilled fish.

Lebanese food differs from other Middle Eastern foods in that it doesn’t use cumin and features more olive oil, owner Sonia Kachouh said. This mostly healthy cuisine is my favorite for a nice lunch outing. Luckily, Byblos is open for lunch and dinner every day. Happy hour from 5-7 offers $6 imported beers, Lebanese wines and mezze.

Byblos was in Murray Hill for twenty years and moved to Flatiron in 2012. The family-owned spot is great for nice but casual meals with bright, clean flavors. If you’re the kind of foodie who likes to impress people with authentic eats, check out Byblos.

UES’s New Thai-Inspired Gastropub – Review of Flight

BY BETH KAISERMAN

1479 York Avenue at E. 78th Street
Upper East Side
212-988-5123/flightnewyorkcity.com

Flight

Seafood flight of jumbo crab cake, blue corn crusted calamari and roasted jumbo shrimp

Flight is a new gastropub featuring 16 rotating craft beers, happy hour food, and soon, live jazz.

Flight1

The chef is inspired by the flavors of Thailand, which he features in dishes like PEI mussels with a wonderfully spicy coconut curry sauce. I could eat that dish with one of a few IPA draft options and be perfectly happy. It paired nicely with Newburgh Double IPA.  

Cheese and charcuterie flights are available, as well as slider flights, seafood flights, or a “barnyard flight” of filet mignon, fried chicken and rack of lamb. Prices are reasonable; 3 cheese and charcuterie options are $15 or 5 for $22. A slider flight with fries is $14. All of these work well with flights of beer, wine or whiskey.  

Beverage director Dermot Kelly brings his Irish heritage to some of the menu (traditional Irish breakfast and homemade brown bread ice cream, anyone?), but it really shines on his beer list. Four 6-ounce pours cost only $12.   Flight replaced longtime neighborhood spot Dresner’s, but Kelly said they see both former Dresner’s regulars and new folks. The light cream chairs and hanging lights give the atmosphere a brightness that most other craft beer-centric restaurants lack. There’s a glass outdoor cafe for warm months. Check it out for good beer and affordable bites.

Flight on Urbanspoon

Spiegel Serves Cuisine with International Flair

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Spiegel
26 1st Ave. at 2nd St.
East Village
(212) 228-2894/spiegelnyc.com

The Gotham Palate was invited to a menu tasting at Spiegel, a bright and airy spot serving “international cuisine” in the East Village.

Spiegel

Baked Feta – Moroccan tomato pepper sauce, eggplant, Kalamata olives, grilled pita

If you got your passport stamped for eating your way around Manhattan’s East Village, you would have a lot. There are tons of international dining options, and of course many places reflect a fusion of two cuisines. Spiegel’s menu reflects mostly Israeli, Moroccan, and other Mediterranean influences, aiming to bring a full-circle global variety to one place. A hint of other nationalities adds to the mix.

“We didn’t want to limit the food to a country or a state,” owner Shmulik Avital said.

Spiegel2

Vegetarian Couscous

Avital grew up in Beer-Sheva in Israel with Moroccan parents, and had Indian, German and other international neighbors growing up, he said. Schnitzel is on the menu, served with jasmine rice and tahini.

My favorite dish was the heartwarming baked feta with Moroccan tomato pepper sauce, eggplant and olives served in a cast iron pan with house-made pita. It was the best dish for a crisp Fall evening, and the spices were just right.

Executive Chef Dario Tapia formerly worked at Westville and was pastry chef at Maison Kayser. He takes the reign on Spiegel’s main menu and pastries as well. The flan was outstanding and so was the beautiful apple tart, just in time for the season.

Spiegel3

Schnitzel Plate

Spiegel5

Flan

Spiegel is named for Sam Spiegel, the legendary Hollywood producer who was the first to win the ‘Best Picture’ Oscar three times for On the Waterfront, The Bridge On the River Kwai, and Lawrence of Arabia.

Spiegel opened in May in a space that was a deli. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 

Spiegel on Urbanspoon

The comfort and soul of homestyle Italian – Review of Da Marcella Taverna

BY ELENA MANCINI

142 West Houston St.
Greenwich Village
646-559-9192 / damarcellavillage.com/

The intimate subterranean space that houses Da Marcella serves to underscore the warmth and conviviality of this traditional Southern European taverna. In fact descending the few small steps that will lead you into this charming, dimly lit restaurant has the effect of entering a magic door–you will suddenly be swooped away from the scene and bustle of  West Houston Street and feel serenaded by the prized traditions of Italian and Spanish hospitality, reflecting the cultural background of tavernero (taverna owner in Spanish), Manuel Moreno.

Moreno was born in Viareggio, Italy (northwestern Tuscany) to an Italian mother and a Spanish father. He moved to Spain with his family as a young boy, and grew up there in admiration of his mother, Marcella’s Italian cooking, but mostly for her generosity of spirit. Marcella contributed to the household income by preparing generous portions of food, which she sold inexpensively, or often donated to neighbors in financial distress. Da Marcella Taverna is Moreno’s tribute to her.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

 With a menu that features numerous “best hits” of Italian cuisine. Thus dishes such as Melanzane alla  Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmigiana), Tagliatelle alla Bolognese (an undisputed must here!) and their heavenly polpette al sugo (meatballs in tomato sauce) optimally served in heat-preserving clay terrines, are prevalent on the menu–and justifiably so, given the superior execution of these simple, supremely satisfying dishes, prepared with fresh, quality ingredients. Having grown up with many of these dishes in both by transplanted Southern Italian household and during my extended stays in Italy, I also feel compelled to add that while many of these dishes are seen as humble and perhaps ubiquitous in New York City, successful execution of these is decidedly less so as there is great temptation to cut corners and opt for less expensive ingredient substitutes to boost profit margins. Thus, in such instances, a Bolognese sauce will not have benefited from the many hours of stewing that requires, nor the mixture of meats. Not so at Da Marcella. Its Bolognese  stays as true as possible to mother Marcella’s original recipe and its deeply harmonized flavors can attest to that this is a recipe honed with love and devotion. It must also be noted that Da Marcella’s penchant for the classics does not crowd out more complex entrees on the menu, such as Braised Lamb Shank, roasted Scottish wild salmon and Barolo Braised Short Rib, which prove that Da Marcella is a contender in both genres.  

True to the original concept of the taverna, which was meant to deliver homestyle cooking to neighborhood people , Da Marcella’s menu is not vast, but it offers a refreshingly loyal rendering of the concept of the taverna. What this means is that Da Marcella’s approach is that a deliciously satisfying meal can be had here at prices so affordable that they seem anachronistic for Manhattan–and that’s a great thing! Entree prices range $15-$19. There is a global wine list with by the glass offerings ranging from $7-$12. Fittingly, the mood is welcoming and convivial and thoroughly devoid of  pretense and the staff is both friendly, yet on the ball. My only wish here is that they won’t change a thing!

Besides the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese (pictured above), below are some my favorite dishes at Da Marcella:

Grilled Marinate Spanish Octopus with Fresh Caper Berries, Sundried Tomatoes and Arugula

Grilled Marinate Spanish Octopus with Fresh Caper Berries, Sundried Tomatoes and Arugula

I never pass up the opportunity to enjoy an appetizer of grilled pulpo. Da Marcella’s enchantingly tender octopus, expertly grilled with optimal char and smokiness, reminded me why.

 Wild Salmon Avocado Tartare at Da Marcella

With scatterings of chunky, mildly salty Lampedusa capers,  the delicate brininess and the pleasing textures of this salmon tartare make it a refreshing and satisfying appetizer.

Wild Salmon and Avocado Tartare

Burrata Crostone with Prosciutto San Daniele

When first-rate  ingredients conspire with a flair for composition, it is a genuine thing of beauty! That is decidedly the case with this antipasto! The  tender as Carpaccio prosciutto with subtle saltiness highlights the creamy delicate flavors of the burrata–a  light drizzle of truffle oil ties it together elegantly.

Chef Francesco's Meatballs

Chef Francesco’s Meatballs

This picture does not deceive. Prepared in long-stewed tomato sauce, these veal and pork meatballs are exceptional and I dare say that they compare to many a family recipe.

 

Braised Colorado Lamb Shank with Creamy Polenta

Braised Colorado Lamb Shank with Creamy Polenta

I am generally not attracted to lamb for its pungency and pronounced gaminess, I encountered neither in Da Marcella’s Braised Colorado Lamb Shank. It was off-the-bone tender and exquisitely prepared in a red wine reduction sauce. The creamy polenta was an excellent accompaniment to it.

Ricotta Cheese Cake

Ricotta Cheese Cake

Da Marcella offers a selection of classic Italian desserts including Tiramisu’ and pannacotta, sorbets and gelato affogato. These are all rewarding. However, the crown goes to its Ricotta Cheese Cake! It’s smooth, creamy, not overly sweet and suitable for sharing.

Da Marcella on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

Where the good times roll like Mardi Gras in Midtown – Review of Masq

BY ELENA MANCINI

306 E 49th St
(212) 644-8294 masqbar.com/
Midtown East

As 2013 draws to a close and we read our umpteen year in review round-ups in food, I would like to draw attention to a soulful and  truly original restaurant that opened its door on a sedate Turtle Bay block in March.

A cheerful venue recreating spirit of Mardi Gras from the colorful Venetian masks to the Persian rugs  and the decadent hues of crimson that cover the cozy divans and armchairs in its mood-lit lounge. The atmosphere is expertly accompanied by a New Orleans-inspired menu and a cocktail list with enough bourbon and sazerac mixes and a regular appearance of mint julep to do the Big Easy proud in the Big Apple.

There are many reasons why Masq deserves a capture on any foodie’s radar. Not at all the sort of place you’d expect to find in the high forties nestled between the UN and corporate banking establishments, Masq is a soulful gem in the eastern-most reaches of Midtown Manhattan. For starters, the doors to the venue open up to a lively New Orleans-inspired lounge area which gives way to  a gorgeous dark-wood horse-shoe bar fixture, seating twenty or more guests. The lounge extends to an area with more intimate seating options such as high tables or cozy sofas and arm chairs with coffee tables. It sets a warm and comfortable ambiance.

Offering an impressively executed lunch and dinner menu laced with many of New Orleans-inspired dishes and ingredients by Chef Marc Getzelman, and a daily lunch special and happy hour deal that goes from 4pm – 8pm,  Masq caters to the gambit of guests from foreign dignitaries to poetry slammers and indie singer-songwriters and open-mic adventurers–Masq has three dining areas and has a stage area for live performances– and everything in between.

Masq_lunch2

Turkey, Brie Arugula, Sliced Apple & Honey Mustard on a French Baguette

Masq

Beet Salad with Organic Greens, Candied Walnuts, Green Apple w/ Raspberry Vinaigrette

Having the fortune of working literally around the corner from Masq, I frequently avail myself of its  $10.95 lunch special, which consists of a two course meal–a baguette sandwich with choice of chips or salad–and the choice of a glass of wine or beer. Prepared with quality ingredients and generously portioned,  it’s thoroughly satisfying and unbeatable deal!

Beyond the special, the affordable lunch menu (most items are in the $10-$15 range) encompasses delicious, affordable options including salads, flatbreads and grilled panini. Featured above is a delightful beet salad. Served with a fresh organic greens and a generous sprinkling of candied walnuts and slices of brie cheese (a requested substitution for warm goat cheese), it’s a healthy and fulfilling lunch.

Having dined at Masq on several occassions and recently the guest of a press dinner it hosted, I’ve had the opportunity to sample a wide array of the menu. Featured below are some of my  favorites.

Masq - Mac 'n Cheese Croquettes

The mac ‘n cheese croquettes are a hands-down must try at Masq. These baseball-sized croquettes come fried to perfection. The crisp panko-covered crusts give way to a heavenly-rich bacon, cheddar, jalapeno flavored mac n’ cheese with a side of Remoulade sauce. 

 

Masq - Shrimp Po' Boy

Shrimp Po’ Boy on Sweet Hawaiian Roll

The Shrimp Po’ Boy is an excellent nod to New Orleans. Prepared with fresh fried jumbo shrimp and elegantly served on a delicate pad of Hawaiian bread and a slaw of iceberg, remoulade and Cajun spices, it’s a fun and flavorful twist on the beloved slider and one worthy of a spot on any best sandwiches list.

Masq - salmon

Asian Marinated Salmon

Somewhat of a departure from the Cajun flair is the Asian Marinated Salmon. A generous portion of fresh and lean farmed salmon deliciously marinated in a medley of sweet and tart Asian sauces, this entree was beyond enjoyable–it was outstanding.

Masq - Crab Cakes

Maryland Crabcakes

Served with a Remoulade  Sauce and spicy Tartar sauce, these succulent thick patties of  sweet and tender lump crab meat are great both as an entree or shareable appetizer!

Masq - Jambalaya

A staple of New Orleans Creole cuisine, Masq’s Jambalaya will please both New Orleans  aficionados and initiates. This hearty rice stew features tender slices of white meat chicken and chunks of Andouille sausage. I particularly enjoyed the smoky, peppery flavor notes that the sausage lent to the dish. Chef Getzelman signs this dish with a scoop of goat cheese.

All dishes can be finely paired with selections from a global wine list or an extensive cocktail list. 

Friendly service, a vibrant atmosphere,  favorable pricing and an accommodating space consisting of three dining rooms make Masq a great place for an evening among friends, a private party or a place to end the day with a chill, easy-going vibe and fine food and drink. 

Last but not least, if you’re finding yourself inspired by this review and in need of last minute New Year’s Eve plans, Masq will also be hosting a New Year’s Eve masquerade party.  Early Bird Tickets $80, Tickets at Door $90 Purchase of Ticket Includes: 5hr Open Bar, 2hr Buffet Style Apps, LIVE Music, NYE Party Favors & Midnight Champagne Toast to Bring in the New Year!  Click here for more info.

MASQ on Urbanspoon

 

 

A night at Circo with Chef Alfio Longo and Ceretto Wines

Circo
120 W 55th Street
Midtown West
212-265-6119 / circonyc.com/
 

Circo hosted an engaging Alba truffle dinner prepared by Circo’s executive chef, Alfio Longo.  A representative from Ceretto wines was also present with a well-paired wine for each of Chef Alfio’s courses.

The night started with passed canapes in Circo’s front bar area and a glass of Cerretto’s, very drinkable, Arneis Blange – a balanced, fruit forward, but not too sweet, white.  Circo’s public relations manager Jean Lee was a gracious host as was Circo’s maitre’d, Bruno – a long time member of the Maccioni family restaurant empire.
The small group of food bloggers and other food industry-types made our way over to the main dining room for dinner.  As we waited anxiously for our first course, a basket of white Alba truffles were passed around the table and dazzled us with their intoxicating scent and the sheer size of the truffles themselves.

A basketful of white Alba truffles!

A basketful of white Alba truffles!

Dinner began with a decadent frisee salad featuring a quail and foie gras stuffed puff pastry and a rich Perigourdine sauce.  The Asij, 2009 wine from Ceretto’s Barbaresco winery in North Western Italy was a fluid, spicy wine which both tamed and complemented the more emerging flavors of the salad.

 

Frisee salad

Frisee salad

A second, pasta course was served paying homage to the terrior of North Western Italy – highlighting both the porcini mushroom filling of the ravioli and the white truffles from Alba which were shaved on top.  Butternut squash dotted the plate in an elegant, yet attainable dish.  Strong tannins in Ceretto’s Bernardot, Barbaresco added to the earthy nature of the dish and was an appreciated nod to the featured ingredients – the Barbaresco winery and Alba just about 5 miles from each other in Italy!

 

Circo3

Porcini mushroom tortellini

As the small group of us chatted about everything from the world of food marketing to weddings and the New York City public school system; Chef Alfio’s menu continued to delight us.  His simple preparations, highlighting the fine ingredients used to assemble each dish were a joy to consume and while a meal rich with white truffle and foie gras could cross the line of pretention rather easily, Chef Alfio’s cooking exudes the humbleness of his own person.

The third course was a melt in your mouth, sous-vide beef cheek with kale and pureed pumpkin topped with a cured ham crisp (which you can also order from Circo’s fall dinner menu, $34).  The ruby colored Brunate Barolo, was hard pressed to stand up to the full-flavored beef cheek, but brought with it fine notes of white truffle which complemented the theme of the dinner and was a full, flavorful wine on its own.

 

Beef cheek with pureed pumpkin and kale

Beef cheek with pureed pumpkin and kale

 

‘Molten’ chocolate was poured over a chocolate sphere in an entertaining take on dessert and was a great way to end the meal, especially paired with the Moscato d’Asti, Vinaioli di Santo Stefano.  Notes of caramel and apple were perfect for the autumn night and made the coldest night of the year thus far, that much more bearable!

Circo on Urbanspoon

 

A Celebration of Schmaltz at 92Y

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Michael Ruhlman loves fat.

Dumplings cooked in schmaltz

Dumplings cooked in schmaltz

Particularly, he is passionate about schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat. Though he’s “100% goy,” Ruhlman’s affection led him to write, The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat. He talked about this venture Monday at 92Y.

Ruhlman discussed how the fat was used for survival amongst Eastern European Jews, since oil was unavailable and lard was not Kosher. Schmaltz is essentially chicken fat and onion browned together. Ducks or geese were also used to create schmaltz.

It’s a rare gem, since it’s not something you can go grab from a store. Though you may be able to find it at a deli counter, it really should be made from scratch. It was an important staple in traditional Jewish cuisine, an essential ingredient used to hold together meals.

 

Chopped liver and dumplings

Chopped liver and dumplings

 

“We’ve lost sight of how fundamental [food] is,” he said.

The tradition of creating and utilizing schmaltz was almost lost once people started thinking it was unhealthy, Ruhlman said. He wants to keep the tradition alive, and believes it’s healthier than butter. He suggests using schmaltz to make latkes, kugel and fried potatoes.

The first time I had schmaltz was life-changing. I may have tried it as a kid, but I don’t remember. The moment I recall was at Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse in the Lower East Side. A classic old-school New York City establishment, this place gave me a glimpse of how my grandparents used to cook. (My dad’s mother was Roumanian.) Though my dad stared in fake horror as I drenched my bread in schmaltz, I’m sure he did the same thing when he was younger, and probably was probably jealous as I let the chicken fat and fresh bread melt together in my mouth.

Ruhlman is a huge advocate of cooking at home, and the idea of schmaltz represents something special to him.

I agree with his food ideology. Cooking at home implies that you know what’s in your food, as you’ve sourced the ingredients and created the results yourself. If you’re going to cook a chicken, you should use all the parts. Using the fat to make schmaltz is a fantastic way of utilizing the entire chicken, as is using the bones for stock. The point is not to waste things that can be used to create more food. After all, who doesn’t like more food? Don’t forget the gribenes, which are crispy chicken or goose cracklings. These are incredible and can be eaten as a snack or used to make chopped liver.

In moderation, fat really isn’t all that bad for us, even though many food companies and diet books have led us to believe it’s the enemy. We just have to remain aware of what we are putting into our bodies, and cooking for yourself is the best way to do that.

Approachable Vegetarian with a Couture Twist – A Review of Table Verte and Upclose with Chef Ken Larsen

BY ELENA MANCINI

127 East 7th. Street
East Village
212.539.0231 / www.tablevertenyc.com/

Despite the sustained ascendancy of organic restaurants, forage-cooking and locavoric awareness in recent years, the notion of  a vegetarian meal still conjures up  images flavorless mock meats and boiled broccoli spears in the American mainstream imaginary. Table Verte’s Chef Ken Larsen vigorously puts these outdated stereotypes and biases to bed,  and brings a fresh and flavor-forward approach with a French-focus to vegetarian and vegan dining. A New York native of Norwegian extraction, Larsen was trained in the French culinary tradition. He recognizes Marcus Samuelsson, with whom he had the opportunity to work at Aquavit and Terence Brennan among his culinary influences.

Chef Ken Larsen of Table Verte, NYC

Chef Ken Larsen of Table Verte, NYC

A graduate of New York’s French Culinary Institute and with fifteen years of professional experience in kitchens of France and New York, including a stint in a steak house, Larsen’s journey to vegan and vegetarian cooking evolved along with developments in his own life and relationships. A former triathaloner, Larsen decided to embrace a vegan diet five years ago. During his training, he researched endurance diets and found that a plant-based diet to be the most effective in giving him the energy and vitality of an eighteen year old–Larsen is forty-one. Larsen has a vibrant and youthful complexion and his animated speech and spirited gestures quell suspicions of hyperbole.

Larsen’s approach to cooking is very grounded: “Food has to do more than deliver a health property; it has to nurture and have an emotional quality.” Presenting a healthy, nutritious way of eating without sacrificing taste is at the center of Larsen’s mission. He enjoys prepping and combining grains, greens and root vegetables to deliver delicious flavors, textures and vitamin and protein contents. Larsen’s philosophy was in perfect alignment with the concept behind Table Verte. Opened in October 2012, a few short weeks before the wrath of Superstorm Sandy descended upon the region, Table Verte is restaurateur-chef, Didier Pawlicki’s latest venture. A French transplant and seasoned New York entrepreneur, Pawlicki is also the owner of Taureau and La Sirène in Soho, Manhattan. Table Verte is Pawlicki’s first vegetarian venture. His foray into vegetarian food was in large part a response to his clientele’s request and way of honoring the local community of diners in the East Village, where Table Verte is located.

Pawlicki’s commitment to “creating a restaurant designed not only to satisfy people’s dietary requirements but to create happy people” found its synergistic match with Larsen’s culinary background and philosophy of bringing vegetarian flavor profiles forward and taking his primary resources from a state of rustic to refined without compromising their integrity. With Table Verte Larsen and Pawlicki intend to offer vegetarians and vegans alike with a refined vegetarian and vegan menu and to make vegetarian eating approachable for all.

Larsen describes the opportunity to work with Pawlicki as serendipitous as it allows him to grow and thrive as a chef by experimenting, push boundaries in creating delectable, gourmet vegetarian and vegan alternatives to beloved French dishes. He describes his work environment as his own “inner think tank box” to explore the endless variety of vegetables and things that can be done to them. Larsen is presently working on a vegetarian cookbook composed of recipes and anecdotes. His intent is to show how healthy eating can be rewarding to the palate and easily prepared at home  and accessible to adults and children alike. Larsen has two teenaged daughters who have chosen to embrace a vegan diet with him.

Offering a French bistro menu that is 50 percent vegetarian and 50 percent vegan, Table Verte is an intimate and casual space, cheerfully decorated with bright murals evoking sixties bohemian flair with table tops appropriately colored kelly green.  It seats approximately 40 people. Currently BYOB, it will be offering a list of select global wines and imported beers in the fall.

Whether you’re vegetarian or not, Table Verte will prove both interesting and worthwhile.
Dinner entrees range from $16 – low 20$ range. Appetizers and desserts are under $10.
There is also $40 three-course prix-fixe dinner menu — anything off the menu.

Sampled Dishes:

Table Verte 2

Poached Asparagus with Fennel Mayonnaise and Pickled Shallots

Poached Asparagus with Fennel Mayonnaise was the consummate spring dish. The asparagus was fresh and toothsome. Fennel mayonnaise was a light and refreshing complement to this dish. Pickled shallots added interesting texture and kick.

Table Verte - Plate Froid

The Assiette de Crudite is a root salad medley is a lovely dish that epitomizes the idea of nutrition and flavor delivery. Composed of shredded celery root with lemon juice, lentils vinaigrette and beets with horseradish prepared with fresh seasonal herbs, it is the ultimate consummate “feel good” dish with its low caloric content and delicious flavors.

 

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries with Brussels Sprouts

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries with Brussels Sprouts

While there can be no question about the nutritional value of a dish Balsamic Roasted Strawberries with Brussels Sprouts, Larsen’s preparation with roasted strawberries in a balsamic reduction makes this a fun, spring dish for the color and sweetness delivered by the strawberries and the contrast with the earthy, bitter Brussels sprouts. For those for whom “eating your Brussels sprouts” represents a chore, this preparation will cause it to feel less so.

Cassoulet Vegetalien

Cassoulet Vegetalien

 A dish commonly prepared with meat, Table Verte’s Cassoulet Vegetalien is a  deeply flavorful entree that evokes the earthy grounding flavors of meat while being 100% vegan. It’s ideal for a cold winter day or a rainy night.  Elegantly plated in a Creuset terrine, it is composed of a mixture of white and colored beans, thyme and sprigs of fresh herbs and a side of wild rice, it is deliciously aromatic and a satisfying entree.

Gnocchi Parisian au Gratin

Gnocchi Parisian au Gratin

Gnocchi Parisian is a rich and hearty option for the more bistro-oriented experience.  Feather like gnocchi come baked au gratin under a thick coat of white sauce, white truffles and Swiss cheese. 

Roast Yams

Roast Yams

On the lighter side of entrees are Roast Yams. Infused with star anise, they come served with sauteed watercress and raisin cous cous.

As a side dish (or a guilt-free dessert), try the yam cake. It consists of thin layers of yams–stacked in Napoleon fashion– and is generously seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg and will conjure up Thanksgiving memories any time of the year.

Gateau De Semoule

Gateau De Semoule

Also showing no signs of compromise are Table Verte’s desserts, which are also prepared by Chef Larsen.

My favorite among these is the semolina cake, which is Chef Pawlicki’s grandmother’s recipe. Made from semolina wheat flour, the cake has a light and creamy texture and is subtly sweet. The cake’s flavors are enhanced by  rum-soaked raisins and a delightful coat of Creme Anglaise.

Banana Creme Brulee

Banana Creme Brulee

Banana Creme Brulee is a fun twist on Creme Brulee. Banana fibers alter the texture of the dessert favorably and bestows a dimension of natural sweetness upon this classic dessert.

Table Verte on Urbanspoon

A Catfish Grows in Brooklyn – Review of Catfish

BY CAROLYN ONOFREY

Catfish

Inside Catfish – Photo courtesy of Catfish.

Catfish
1433 Bedford Ave
Crown Heights, Brooklyn
347-305-3233 /catfishnyc.com/

On an underdeveloped stretch of Bedford Ave. in Crown Heights, one that I’m sure won’t stay that way for long due to the rapidly evolving Brooklyn landscape, Catfish opens its doors daily for weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner of the New Orleans persuasion.  Fair prices ensure a neighborhood vibe drawing neighborhood people.  Catfish is a place to linger at the bar on a lazy Sunday or a place for brunch with a friend; a place where it’s easy to become a “regular”.  In the summer, a breezy front entrance and a comfortable garden out back will be the perfect places to soak up the sun, enjoy a beer, and nosh on some oysters or clams on the half shell.

Owners, Maxx Colson, Aaron Giroux, and Luke Wheeler could very well be mistaken for members of your local rock band – the kind that girls swoon over- but instead met while working at a DUMBO gastropub together.  They’re young, hungry, and ready to do whatever it takes to make Catfish all that it can be.

While working a limited menu for the first few months, Catfish now offers a full menu with all your bayou favorites.  Po’ boys, Jambalaya, and gumbo stand front and center with a New Orleans style cornbread (served with cinnamon butter) that can’t be missed.  A conservatively priced whiskey and scotch list as well as a thoughtful draft and bottled beer selection round out the menu and ensure that you’ll stick around for more than one drink.

I hope Catfish will appeal to both the new residents of Crown Heights as well as the old.  A place where differences will melt away with shots of rye whiskey in the name of a good ‘ole fashion, good time.

Catfish on Urbanspoon

Home of Manhattan’s Best Banh Mi Sandwich – Review of Sao Mai

BY ELENA MANCINI

203 First Ave.
East Village
(212) 358-8880 / Sao Mai 

East of the East Village bustle and trendiness, this family-run East Village Vietnamese restaurant serves traditional Vietnamese fare and the best Banh Mi Sandwiches on the Manhattan side of the East River.

Vegetarian Bahn Mi

Available in six varieties including pho, sliced pork, grilled chicken and vegetarian, these sandwiches make a quick, nutritious, flavor-packed meal that’s easy on the wallet (priced between $6-$7). The Bahn Mi are prepared on baguettes are consistently fresh and crusty with a soft and chewy middle. Independent of the filling you choose, the kitchen always strikes the right balance between bread and ingredients. Their vegetarian Bahn Mi is among my favorite comfort-food lunches. Prepared on two warm halves of choice baguette, they’re stuffed with toothsome strands of sauteed bok choy, straw mushrooms, seedless cucumbers, shredded carrot and abundant swaths of cilantro, the sandwiches and seasoned with lemongrass,  sriracha mayonnaise, that provides a subtle and reverberating pitch of complex heat. In sum, it’s a light, filling lunch that delivers high-flavor rewards.

Pho’ Sao Mai

Front: Summer Rolls; Far: Spring Rolls

Lest one think Sao Mi is just about Bahn Mi, flavor mavens and fans of traditional Vietnamese fare will find other  sections of its menu will prove well worth exploring. The Pho Sao Mai will not disappoint. A flavorful broth, rich in tender strips of brisket, sprouts, rice noodles and a medley of herbs will consistently hit the spot. Adding appeal to  Sao Mi’s attractions is its steal of a lunch menu, which includes the choice of an appetizer, entree and a soft drink, all for $10. Sweetening things further,  both the Bahn Mi and the Pho are included in this deal!

Ga Gary – Chicken Curry

With a wide variety of vegetarian options on its menu, Sao Mai is also a smart choice for a low-key dinner that guarantees value, quality and flavor. Pity that wait staff has not yet mastered the walk-in dinner crowd on weekends. During these times, the  friendly service  can turn into a source of frustration for those who do not suffer extended waits and uneven food delivery times lightly.

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