Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review: Gotham Bar and Grill

Gotham Bar and Grill, located at 12 E. 12th Street, in Greenwich Village, serves contemporary American cuisine.  Upon entering the restaurant, you’ll notice a long bar to the left, with tables to the right and back.  It really is more restaurant than bar.  At lunch, it is filled with business executives and their clients.  Still, it retains a rather quiet, low-key atmosphere.  The dress code is what I would call business casual at lunch, and perhaps a little dressier at dinner.

The prices don’t differ much between the lunch and dinner menus for appetizers, with a couple of notable exceptions.  A la carte appetizers are in the $20 range, while entrees are about $25. In addition to a la carte lunch items, there is a budget-friendly two-course prix fixe option available for $25.  The prix fixe menu offers a choice one of three appetizers, and one of three entrees.  Many of the items on the lunch menu are seafood, though meat and vegetarian options are available.  The prix fixe lunch menu is very vegetarian-friendly.

At dinner, caviar is available as a starter, for upwards of $100.  Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $35-$50 for a dinner entrĂ©e.  Although not a seafood restaurant, seafood also features prominently on its dinner menu.  Other options include duck, chicken, beef, and lamb.  Vegetarian options include a salad or risotto.

I have never had a bad meal at Gotham Bar and Grill.  The food is always impeccably cooked and presented.  As much as I love duck, I have always ordered seafood.  This is simply because when I eat out, I tend to order something I would make infrequently at home, and with not nearly as much panache as a professional chef.

Dessert items are approximately $15 each.  Gotham Bar and Grill has an excellent pastry chef, but my favorite is the cheese plate.  Several different artisanal cheeses are served with nut bread, jam, and crackers.
Service is excellent.  The wait staff is attentive without being intrusive.  There’s no undue wait for the food, nor is there any pressure to eat up and get out of there, so they can turn over the table.  I would suggest making reservations for dinner, but it is probably not necessary at lunch.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Zucchini Soup

This is one of those quickie 20-30 minute soups.  The potato makes it thick and hearty.  It's probably good chilled, too, but I can never bring myself to wait.  It makes approximately 1 quart of soup.

  • 3 smallish zucchini, or two larger ones, diced
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced (1/2" dice)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbs. or so of olive oil
  1. sautee/sweat the diced onion in olive oil until translucent
  2. add the diced zucchini and potato
  3. add the chopped herbs
  4. add the chicken broth
  5. simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the potato is cooked
  6. "blenderize" it with an immersion blender (aka boat motor), in a blender, or in a food processor until smooth
  7. adjust salt/pepper seasoning to taste
Notes:  dried herbs can be used, but fresh are better, and won't get "wonky" in only a 20 minute simmer.  Also, in a pinch, it's okay to use bullion cubes, if you're out of chicken stock or broth, but you will undoubtedly have to add less salt at the end if you do.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Review: Havana

Location:  105 S. Main St., New Hope, PA, 18938

This restaurant in New Hope, PA, is not really Cuban, despite the name.  The cuisine could be called SoCal meets granny's kitchen.  I had tilapia tacos, while my fearless partner went for something that resembled a giant chicken and shrimp pot pie Hot Pocket, grilled on a panini press.  He finished his meal.  I had to ask for a doggie bag -- oddly enough, for my fries, not for the tilapia.  Two entrees, plus three Yuenglings came to $41 and change.

My understanding is that this place is really all about the music and nightlife, not the food.  They do have some good music, although we went on a Sunday afternoon, not during one of the evening concerts with Nils Lofgren or Jefferson Starship.  We've walked past this place a bajillion times, but this was the first time we stopped there to eat.

The food's actually pretty good, but not spectacular.  For the price, it's a decent value.  The tacos came with a nice pineapple and cantaloupe salsa that I liked better than the fish.  I'll have to make something similar.

The service was a little slow, but that could be a function of it being the middle of the afternoon when we visited.  It would have been a nice touch if the Yuengling had been served with a glass, rather than in the bottle.  On the other hand, if the place gets as rowdy at night as I've seen it on other occasions, there's probably a reason they serve it in a longneck.

Overall, I'd give the place an A-, for the food, and for the swing they were playing while we were there.  I like swing.  The food was fine.  The price was reasonable.  The service could have been a little faster.  It probably is at night.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Alien Soda Bread

I made a loaf of Irish Soda Bread this morning, following James Beard's recipe for the all-white flour version.  I never buy buttermilk, so I typically either use milk that's starting to go sour, or sour regular milk with lemon juice.  Aside from that, it's Beard's recipe.

Evidently, I did not slit the cross on the top to a uniform depth before I baked it.  The result was hilarious.  It looks like an alien skull.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Barefoot Contessa vs. Keyboard Warriors

Drudge Report Picked up a story from the L.A. Times, which picked up a story on TMZ about how Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) is such a meanie-weenie for not granting the wish of a 6 year old kid with leukemia, to come cook with her.  The comments from the "keyboard warriors" were brutal, essentially vilifying Ms. Garten as some sort of hard-hearted-Hannah.

TMZ reports:

A family member involved with the Make-A-Wish foundation tells us ... a little boy named Enzo was approached by the organization after he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia three years ago.

Enzo told Make-A-Wish ... he really wanted to cook with the "Barefoot Contessa" host because he would often watch the show with his mother while resting in bed.

So, a three year old wanted, above all other things, to cook with The Barefoot Contessa?  To me, it sounds like it's the mother's wish, and she encouraged her son to ask M.A.W. for that.  Kids that age generally want to please their mothers.  Who lets a toddler cook?  Maybe help stir in some flour to the brownie batter, but actually cook a meal?  C'mon!

The boy's mother has a blog of her own, with an entry about the incident.

Unfortunately as we were arriving home from the hospital I got word from “Make A Wish” that it is has been officially confirmed that Ina Garten (the “Barefoot Contessa” ) has declined Enzo’s wish to meet her and cook a meal with her. I felt terrible for him, he has been unwavering in his desire to meet her for 3 years and despite many attempts to get him to pick a 2nd wish or change his mind he would not.

I find it really hard to believe that a child that young couldn't find something else he wanted to do, given three years.  Have a little whine with that cheese, mom?

Even yesterday when I told him the unfortunate news, his reply was simply “why doesn’t she want to meet me”? 

So, it was the mother who told her son, not that Ms. Garten had other commitments, but that she "didn't want to meet with him."  Good going mom!

I would be lying if I said that I don’t find this to be shocking. To know that out of EVERY THING (material Enzo could choose to have), or ANY PLACE (in the world Enzo could travel to) and out of EVERY PERSON on this earth he chose Ina, and she cannot see what an honor that is. And he wanted to actually be with her for NO reason other then to have her company and cook with her. I actually feel badly for her because Enzo has NOTHING but pure love and intensions and she will never get to have that experience with him and she is missing out on something so authentic and beautiful. 

Whine.  Cheese.  It takes real gall to think that The Barefoot Contessa owes the mother, or the child, for that matter -- neither of which she knows -- anything.  I find it extremely distasteful that the mother would use her child in such a manner, so that she could meet and cook with Ina.  Kids that age either watch mommy in the kitchen, or they do harmless stuff like hand mommy a spoon, or lick the bowl.

The mother's sense of disturbing.  Sure, it's flattering to know that someone you've never heard of wants to meet you, but that doesn't make it your obligation to cater to their demands.  The proper thing to do would have been to accept the "sorry, but no can do" answer, tell the child that "his" wish is impossible, and move on.  Instead, she made a long, whiny blog entry about what a jerk she thinks Ina is for not kowtowing to her son's wishes her demands.

No doubt, having a sick son is stressful, but there are some things you just don't do.  Whining on your blog and/or going to the press about it, fit that category.  The mother's way too old to be throwing a public temper tantrum like that.

To top it off, the kid did select a back up wish to go swim with dolphins, and is getting swimming lessons so he can do so.  I'd say it's a happy ending, for the kid, anyway.  The kid may be disappointed.  Maybe he isn't.  But the mother sounds really bitter, which is just wrong.

There's an interesting discussion here.  Evidently, I'm not the only person who feels the way I do about this subject.

Also, see this blog for a marvelously snarky take on the situation.  The comments are priceless.

Now, the boy's mother, who started the whole firestorm, wants to "stop the madness."  I don't think she "gets" it.  If she didn't want to cause Ina Garten any grief, then she shouldn't have posted that entry whining about how she couldn't understand how anyone could possibly deny her special snowflake son, and how he couldn't understand why Ina "didn't want to meet" him.  Basically, the mother blames the press.  What she doesn't understand is that half the kerfuffle is directed at her, not Ina, and it's because of her sense of entitlement evident in her own blog entry, not the press coverage.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Apple Custard Tart

I didn't use any recipe at all for this, and completely winged it.  If I had to do it again, I'd probably let the apples juice a bit more in the sugar and spices before arranging them in the dish.  Mostly, I threw this together because I had a cup of heavy cream that needed to be used, and a whole bunch of apples that were sitting around, unlike my still-frozen pumpkin mash.  I used a combination of granny smith and cameo apples, just because that's what I had on hand.  The spices I used were cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  I'm a huge fan of allspice, and sneak a pinch into just about any sort of fruit thing I do that doesn't involve berries.

Pita Bread

This is the first time I tried this James Beard recipe from Beard on Bread.  What I love about that book is that Beard gives a little background about the recipes, and the ones that can be a bit hit-or-miss, he identifies as such.  Most of them work beautifully, although I probably wouldn't want to try making monkey bread on a sticky hot summer day, any more than I would, say, meringue.

I only made half a batch, because I really didn't want to use 6 cups worth of flour on a full batch, in case it came out like something best fed to squirrels.  As it turned out, the recipe worked like a charm, and I'll be making it again.  It's probably a little more expensive to make than store bought, but it's fresher, and tastier.

Shoo Fly Pie

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Kitchen Gadget

I bought this food processor today to replace a Cuisinart that was over 30 years old.  The old one had a pretty powerful motor, which still works like a champ, but one by one, all the plastic pieces cracked and broke, leaving me with a motor, a bowl with no handle, the cover, and just the one metal chopping blade.

The thing was so old that it didn't even have on/off/pulse buttons; the lid had to be rotated by hand to engage the motor.  In all fairness, my mom probably used it three or four times, so she gave it to me when they moved, and were looking to give away or get rid of some things.  It was intact, with all its parts/accessories, but as soon as I started using it, plastic parts started cracking, rendering them useless.

Comparing that one to this one is sort of like comparing a mule to a thoroughbred.  This one has a 1000w motor.  Lesser models were available with 500w motors, but I really didn't want to bother spending the money on something potentially underpowered, when it encounters a chunk of raw root vegetable, or cabbage.

What I love most about this model is its nesting smaller bowl.  It allows me to whoosh together a batch of hummus in the smaller bowl without having to get the entire rest of it gooky.  It also helps a lot that the slicing blade is adjustable to various heights, like a mandoline, which sort of eliminates the need to use my mandoline for root veggies.  I can go from potato chip thin to cole slaw cabbage thick fairly quickly.

I know -- this reads like I'm a new convert to food processors.  That's not completely true.  I understood their value, but never had one before that worked for their purpose as well as the 1950s Kitchen Aid Professional model table top mixer I have, and use, for making cake batter, especially cheesecake and red velvet batters.

At the very least, I will no longer have to shave slices of cabbage and shred carrots by hand with a knife and grater, or a mandoline.  That saves a heck of a lot of time.

It's a rather large.  If you don't have the countertop space for it, or the space to hise it away, it probably isn't the appliance for you.  But, if you do, I think you'll like it.