Sunday, March 31, 2013

Favorite New York Restaurants

My wife J and I are often asked, typically but not always by non-New Yorkers, what are our favorite restaurants in New York. Unlike most New Yorkers, we eat home 3-4 nights a week, but of course we do eat out pretty frequently.

I don’t do reviews of New York restaurants on this blog, but here is a brief list of our favorites. I am not saying that these are the best restaurants in New York, just that they are our favorite places to go, in no particular order (reflecting where and how we live, the fact that we spend a lot of time in Paris, etc.).

American
  • Telepan – solid, imaginative, well-presented; our go-to restaurant
  • Dovetail – similar profile to Telepan’s; love vegetarian menu on Monday night
  • Bar Américain – Bobby Flay’s regional American; noisy but a great place to bring out-of-town, especially foreign, guests
Japanese
  • Sushi Yasuda for sushi – super quality and freshness
  • Soba totto for yakitori and soba – like being in Japan
Greek Estiatorio (Fish)
  • Milos – best fish in NY, incredibly noisy
  • Molyvos – good, less expensive fun place to go
Italian
  • Del Posto – great food, service and décor, an “adult” restaurant where you can be at your ease; our favorite restaurant in NY
  • Caravaggio – excellent, authentic food, also not too noisy
  • Elio's -- reliable and consistent for 35 years, cacaphonous
Chinese
  • Shun Lee Palace – good food and excellent Peking Duck
  • Evergreen Café – really good dim sum on weekends
French
  • Bar Boulud -- great at any time, especially before or after Lincoln Center
  • Cafe Boulud -- consistently excellent, a great buy for lunch
  • Jo-Jo -- Jean George's other place; elegant food without too much fanfare and a stunning value for lunch
Elegant
  • The Modern – great food at the restaurant and imaginative small plates at the Bar
  • Gramercy Tavern – excellent food and service in this other Danny Meyer mainstay
Sandwich
  • Baoguette -- the classic bánh mì sandwich
Portuguese
  • Aldea -- excellent, imaginative food, unfortunately difficult to get a reservation
Mexican
  • Rosa Mexicano -- Reliable upscale Mexican; not Tex- or Cal-Mex
  • Toloache -- Very interesting modern Mexican in theater district
Indian
  • Dawat -- Consistently excellent renditions of Indian cuisine from many regions
Oysters and Fish
  • Oyster Bar at Grand Central -- that's what they do; always perfectly fresh (and the only Manhattan clam chowder worth eating)
  • Ocean Grill, Atlantic Grill -- siblings that serve consistent fresh seafood in simple or interesting preparations at reasonable prices
Category of its Own
  • Rouge Tomate – imaginative, tasty and amazingly healthful fare, with a fascinating wine list
This list speaks as of today. It is subject to change at any time, by virtue of new discoveries or bad experiences, and I'm afraid I can't undertake to keep it updated.

Bobby Jay

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Elegant Arugula Salad

Here's a post that I drafted four years ago, but for some reason never posted. Whatever the reason, it's still one of my go-to salads.

Arugula salad with hazelnut oil vinaigrette

I have developed what I believe is a very nice arugula salad, based on a recipe I learned from a (French-trained) Japanese chef in Tokyo, who had a restaurant in Ginza named Tout Seul. The secret is to find really good, fragrant hazelnut oil; the rest is easy.

1/3 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp best quality red wine vinegar
pinch of salt
coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/3 Tbs (approx) good quality hazelnut oil
parmesan cheese
big handful of arugula or baby arugula
10 cherry tomatoes
1 tsp chopped chives (optional)

serves 2

Whisk together first 4 ingredients. Whisk in oil until an emulsion forms. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Gently toss arugula and tomatoes with dressing. Using a vegetable peeler, shave parmesan over salad and toss again, really lightly so as not to break up the cheese peelings. Sprinkle chives over top if desired.

You could probably make this with other greens, but the interplay between the bitterness of the arugula and the nuttiness of the hazelnut oil is at the heart of this recipe. You can get decent hazelnut oil at gourmet stores, but the really great stuff is hard to find: I buy it in Paris but you can get J. Leblanc's wonderful fragrant hazelnut oil at Kalustyan's ($39.95 for a 500 ml bottle (!) but worth it).

Bobby Jay

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rosemary

I admit it: I'm addicted to rosemary. It was under control until my friend Susan, who lives on Galveston (one lives on, not in, Galveston), began to supply me with the good stuff. Every five or six weeks, I get an express mail envelope containing a whole lot of sprigs from her incredibly fragrant rosemary bush. As soon as I open the package, I am overwhelmed by the woody fragrance, take a few deep breaths and start thinking about ways to enjoy it.

Here are some of the things I have done with Susan's rosemary (of course any rosemary will work, especially what you find at the farmers' market in season):

  • Rosemary apricot jam
  • Olive oil and rosemary cake

Olive oil and rosemary cake with rosemary apricot jam
  •  Rosemary jelly

Rosemary jelly
  • Apricot rosemary conserve

Apricot rosemary conserve
  • Rosemary bread

Rosemary bread
  • Honey rosemary ice cream
  • Rosemary sorbet
  • Zucchini sauteed with rosemary
  • Crispy potatoes sauteed with rosemary
  • Add a sprig to pressure cooked veal and onions
  • Throw a sprig (together with a thyme sprig and a lemon) into cavity of chicken before roasting
  • Tie a sprig onto roast lamb or pork
  • Add a sprig to soup
  • Add a sprig to bouquet garni
  • Add finely ground to rubs
  • Add to spice/herb package for soups
  • Throw some sprigs over coals when grilling fish or meat
Bobby Jay

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cocktail Dinatoire

People often ask me what I like to cook, and I always respond that I am very eclectic. Last night we had a cocktail party that turned into what the French call a cocktail dinatoire, which essentially means a cocktail party where the fare is substantial enough to serve as dinner.

Here's the menu, which consists of favorites from various sources (listed) and some that I invented myself:


I am happy to say that our guests stayed late, ate everything, and a good time was had by all. A lot of preparation, but worth it.

Bobby Jay

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy Nowruz! Persian Cooking Lesson

My friend Piglet and I recently took a lesson on Persian cooking at the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE). Our teacher was Jennifer Abadi, who teaches various types of Middle Eastern cooking and has written A Fistful of Lentils, on Syrian Jewish cuisine. (I have ordered a copy but haven't read it.)

I went specifically hoping to learn how to make Persian rice (chelo), which has a wonderful crispy crust and is one of the best dishes in the world. And so that's the dish I chose to make.

First, we washed and rinsed long grained rice (we used Basmati) about 5 times, until the water was absolutely clear. Then we boiled it in lots of salted water for about 7 minutes, and drained it thoroughly. Then we dried the pot and melted a lot of butter in it. Then we placed the rice on the butter, not stirring but poking steam holes in the rice.

We wrapped a towel around the cover and placed it over the pot, and simmered for about 20-25 minutes, until it pulled away from the side of the pot.
Rice pot with towel wrapped cover
Persian rice after simmering, pulling away from pot
Next, we cooked it over high heat for a minute to set the crust. Finally, we turned the pot upside down and there it was: the perfect chelo!

Perfect chelo
We added a sauce made of grated carrots, blanched orange zest, saffron and slice almonds, for a truly fantastic dish. (See picture below.)

Other dishes that the class made were a stupendous chicken soup with chickpea flour meatballs (Nimtaz Rafaelzadeh's Gondi), which Piglet made; red kidney bean dip with tomato paste, lime and angelica powder (Loobia Pokhteh); chopped cucumber salad with coriander, tarragon and mint leaves (Saladeh Serkeh Khlar); chicken stewed in walnuts and pomegranate juice (Fessenjan); cauliflower pie (Kuku-ye God-e Kalam) and pistachio cake with cardamom syrup.

Norwaz (Persian New Year's) feast (note sauced chelo at rear right)
A really fun lesson.

Bobby Jay

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fabulous Handmade Kitchen Knives

My friend Gary Levine has been dealing in fine hand crafted knives for many years. Gary has added a new line to his business of interest for foodies: handmade knives for chefs. Gary has a great web site, bladesforchefs.com, where you can learn more about these knives, which are works of fine craftsmanship but meant to be used and, I can say from experience, a pleasure to use. I should note that Gary's cooking knives are all made by American craftsmen.

Carbon steel knife
Damascus steel knife
These knives are not inexpensive, but the pleasure they give you each time you use them justifies the price. Great gift items for serious cooks.

Bobby Jay