Sunday, October 28, 2012

New York CIty!

I love New York.  Hot dog carts, celebrities slinking in red-lit Chelsea bars,  falafel stands, leafy parks with bubbling fountains. Washington Square Park, filled with people at 10pm where two young women handed out pizza to those that appeared to be homeless. 

Brooklyn Bridge and skyline from Brooklyn

Art-deco skyscrapers, the rumble of the train to Brooklyn, the Lower East Side tenements propping each other up under the collective weight of history, their walls rich with the dust of accumulated human memory.  Ridiculously opulent hotels and crumbling brownstones with terracotta trim.  Sleek new urban parks like the Highline, snaking through part of the city, and diner-breakfast cheese blintzes with a side of blueberry preserves served by a brusque Romanian waitress.  Hasidic Williamsburg with the men in black suits and hats, and the smell of smoked fish and matzoh ball soup, and every woman pushing a baby carriage. The vacuous glitter of Times Square, and freshly scrubbed, Beaux-Arts beauties like the New York Public Library.  I love it all.     

Williamsburg Bridge

We were there to see Mr. Pant's mom, and attend a wedding held across the water from the NYC skyline in Brooklyn.

View from the Highline

The Met

Mural along the Highline

More Highline

View from the Highline

Dining: We eschewed anything Momofuku-related in favor of the The Dutch, where we drank excellent Manhattans (of course!) had cold, perfectly succulent oysters, smoked roasted chicken with wild mushrooms and carrots, an intriguing sweet corn pudding and pie, among other things.  

Smoked chicken at The Dutch.

Eataly, Mario Batali's ode to Italian gastronomy was a food museum. We only had time for gelato but it was the best damned gelato I've had outside of Rome and Florence.  Tart cherry, hazelnut and pistachio were intensely flavorful. I'm spoiled forever. 

Guggenheim Interior

We met our fascinating, well-traveled friend Tom at Radegast Hall & Biergarten, a very cool beer hall, in and old long building reminiscent of a barn, where I commited the cardinal sin of ordering something other than beer.  Then we walked over to Isa, in Williamsburg, for superb paté and roasted chicken, and an excellent plate of merguez and polenta. 

Cocktails at Isa in Brooklyn

At The Spotted Pig we sat next to the most vivacious, talkative and hilarious 5-year-old girl from Italy (how much for the little girl?).  One cuban sandwich, that Mr. Pant's found too salty, (too much pickle) and burrata on toast- with roasted peppers, arugula,house made panchetta and little cherry tomatoes… fantastic. 

Final NYC lunch at the Spotted Pig. Burrata on toast with all the trappings. 

I just liked this door in Brooklyn.

Delicious dosas in Amagansett, (Hampton Chutney Co.) after almost running over Alec Baldwin. 

We drove into the town of Amagansett for lunch, and narrowly avoided hitting Alec Baldwin, walking to his car with his kids. EVERYONE summers in the Hamptons.

Phenomenal sea bug at The Lobster Roll restaurant in Amagansett.

This was our first visit to the Hamptons. (I had NOTHING to wear!) we frolicked in the strong Amagansett surf, saw our lovely, gracious hosts Kate and Joe, who were so kind as to put up with us and our lobster cravings two nights in a row! 

Highlights: The Dutch, The Spotted Pig, seeing Mr. Pants' Mom, the ever-gracious Joe and Kate, dinner with Tom at Isa, Dosas and Lobster in the Hamptons, Tribeca Grand Hotel, Guggenheim. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lloyd Martin

LloydMartin is cozy, with clubby dark wood everywhere, and I envisioned it in winter, the wall of windows steaming up, and lots of pastas and braised meats on the menu. But it was finally "summer" in Seattle, that brief respite from from the dark months, full of entropy, and devastating sadness, perked up by the occasional stew.  I digress.  

The chef knows what he's doing.  There wasn't a thing we didn't like– rare for us, especially with Mr. Pants (aka Fussy Pants) along for entertainingly critical commentary. Tucking into a plate of snap peas with chevre, grated horseradish, lemon and radish, we knew we were onto something good. And when we polished off the house mozzarella with English peas, mint, chili, and toasty bread we knew we were onto something great. 

Fettuccini Bolognese with Bison, and Mr. Pants' order of oxtail gnocchi (perfectly light and perfectly cooked) with foie gras emulsion, hit all our cravings for haute comfort food.  Other menu items that looked intriguing included poached shrimp with chorizo and white beans, duck confit, and braised veal with king oyster mushrooms.  Everything is served up on truly exquisite, unique antique plates. 

Strawberries on biscuit shortbread were balsamic-marinated, local, and red all the way through, and offset by creamy marscapone.  I love desserts that aren't too sweet, and this was a terrific meal-ender, even if there could have been more strawberries and less biscuit. 

Highlights: Ambiance, anything with meat, anything seasonal. 

Disappointments: Dessert could have used more strawberries, less biscuit.

Mr. Pants: Sated. Tiny bit miffed that he couldn't come up with anything critical to say. 

LloydMartin on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 28, 2012

Crumble and Flake Bakery. YES.

Yes, it's a pain to get to Crumble and Flake at a time that is far too early, and find a long line, and yes your blood pressure rises as you realize you may not get the canelé or the croissant you're coveting, as you see the greedy backs of the people in front of you ordering them up like entitled jerks. You feel it can't be worth it, and you won't return, until it's (finally) your turn, and there's one last grapefruit macaron for you, and even a canelé and yes, one last buttery croissant and you get them all like the entitled jerk you are, and you feel the collective despair and disappointment in the line behind you as you get the last brownie, and you clutch your little bag of treats and take a first melting, ostentatious bite before you even start walking, in front of all those still in line and you say yes, yes, I will come back, yes I will. Yes.

Crumble & Flake Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Taylor Shellfish Farms

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” 

Taylor Shellfish has been slaking seafood cravings since they opened their Capitol Hill outpost about a year ago, adding to the foodie dream that is the Melrose Market. (The Market boasts a wine store, a cheese shop, a fancy goods store, a flower shop, a sandwich spot, a cool bar, and two outstanding restaurants. The Market also holds a butcher, a baker, and only needs a candlestick-maker to complete the picture.)  

They've sustained our weeknight Dungeness crab hankerings, supplied pre-movie snacks of oysters and wine, and provided many a bouillabaise with clams and mussels.  They know their stuff. Taylor Shellfish Farms have been local growers of shellfish for over 100 years, and the expert staff is friendly and knowledgeable.

Taylor's has casual white tile, four or five tiny tables, with high stools for perching while slurping—it's more of a seafood deli than a full-fledged restaurant.  The hot oyster chowder bar is serve yourself, and you can grab your own rolls for dunking in chowder or buttering to go with your oysters or crab.

They have occasional seasonal specials; one day it was spot prawns, and the chatty man behind the counter dug them out with a net, and poured them into a plastic bag with some ice. Though I felt uneasy as the bag jerked around a bit on the walk home with the occasional twitching and thrashing.

As well as whole dungeness crab which you can have live, or cooked and cleaned, you can have  oysters, clams, geoduck, scallops, bread, butter, oyster chowder—decadent and heavy with cream, butter and herbs.

The oysters are sublime.  You can choose from several varieties of oysters, Kumamoto, Virginica's, Pacific, Olympias, and Shigoku, or get a mix so you can sample them all.

High quality beers, ales, and crisp white wines are on hand to sip with those oysters, and all chosen to pair beautifully with whatever seafood item you choose. 

Added bonus- arguably the best bakery in Seattle (Bakery Nouveau) sells their heavenly baguettes right by the register. Mr. Pants with his French-raised baguette fussiness has proclaimed these to be the most reminiscent of Parisian baguettes. 

There are times when patience is required, for shucking oysters takes time, even for pros like these. One of the crew, David Leck, recently won a major national oyster shucking contest (who knew there were such things?) The wait is worth it, for once you get your platter, and you begin to eat, you will indeed lose that empty feeling, begin to be happy, and make lots of plans.

Highlights: Oysters. Wine. Baguettes from Bakery Nouveau. Crab. Clams. Scallops. Spot Prawns.

Disappointments: Sometimes, they are just too popular and you can't get a seat when your oyster craving is at its peak.  Life is very, very hard.

Mr. Pants: Happy! Loves his oysters with wine, loves his oysters with ale.

Taylor Shellfish Farms on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Crowing over Il Corvo

Oddly located inside the tiny Procopio Gelateria in the hill climb behind Pike Place, Il Corvo (the raven, in Italian), feels like it could be someone's little secret. I wish it was only mine. But there's a steady flow of lunchtime pasta enthusiasts filling up this tiny space Monday through Friday.  

Il Corvo is only open for lunch, and is cash only. There's a total of three pasta choices each day, and every one I've had has hit its mark. Mr. Pants has yet to join me, as a lunchtime walk to the market is a little too long for my little workaholic.

The pasta is handmade on the large table by the door each day at Il Corvo's closing, which is 3pm.  I snapped a picture on my way out of the neatly-shaped Malloreddi pasta the chef was making. 

I have to love a chef who mentions (in his blog) one of my favorite restaurants in Florence, Osteria Del Cinghiale Bianco when he talks about pasta.  Mike Easton studied in Italy several years back, cooked at Lecosho on that other hill-climb, and was co-owner of Bizarro Italian Cafe in the past.  He knows his stuff. His pastas are perfect. 

I was tempted by this toothsome ravioli, stuffed with cauliflower and sunchokes, with marjoram brown butter.  

Another day, I opted for this lovely Papardelle with black trumpet mushrooms.  I had a brief moment (I must have been in some sort of food daze) when I forgot I was in public and swiped my finger in the remaining sauce after I was finished to lick it off. 

Highlights: Pasta. All of it. Very drinkable wines by the glass, and gelato for dessert. 

Disappointments:  Small portions, so you might feel a bit peckish afterwards. Not a lot of side dishes or accompaniments.  Luckily, there's gelato and espresso! 

Mr. Pants: Not there.  Eating office fridge-sludge in front of his computer, working (looking at Facebook). 

Il Corvo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pants in France IV: Normandy and Brittany

Sadly, Mr. Pants had to return to work, so we parted at Gare St. Lazare, and I caught the train to Mom and Aunt Patti in Normandy.

Normandy was slate-grey, full of war memorial beaches, rainbows, and squalls sweeping in from the sea.  Lots of old churches on hilltops, and castle ruins.

Normandy was also full of oysters, mussels, apples, Calvados and Cambembert. Our best meal there was at Aunt Patti and Bob's house. Mom and Bob created a massive seafood feast of fresh oysters, fried shrimp, braised fennel, cod, and tiny thumbnail-sized mussels that are likely the best I've ever had. Thank you Bob!

Bob, top chef, on the battlements at Chateau Pirou, above. 

We visited the well-preserved Chateau Pirou, clambered over mossy battlements into old stone rooms with massive hearths, and passed by the moat under the gate with the weathered seal of Richard the Lionhearted.

We went to bed far too late for our early morning road trip to Brittany, known for megalithic tombs, rugged coastline, and a balmy microclimate.

Megalithic chamber, La Table de Marchand exterior, Brittany.

Interior, with carvings, Table de Marchand, Brittany, dating from approximately 3,800 BC. 

(I was nervous about Brittany.  I'd been there several years back with Mr. Pants and his family. A small, cheap rental house made out of particle board seemed like the perfect base for a masochistic visit to the sinisterly named Gulf of Morbihan on the stormy Breton seaside, barely visible through horizontal rain. Microclimate my ass)

This time, it hardly rained at all.
We piled into the car and headed for the witchiest corner of France. We forgot all our maps. Luckily we had Simon, a GPS system we so christened because of its upper crust English accent.

In Quimper, we saw this, probably the most charming public toilet in the world. At least on the outside.

Britanny is rather witchy; we saw Megalithic tombs, appropriately butter-colored cows lounging in fields next to prehistoric standing stones, and an unnerving number of black cats.

One of about a thousand black cats that we saw. This one at Carnac.

Superb Langoustines in Trinité Sur Mer.

 We discussed superstitions on dark country roads, where our headlights found a roving herd of wild boar.  A huge bat fluttered over our heads as we walked to dinner on the waterfront.  We downed two bottles of lemony Muscadet served to us by a dreamy-eyed waiter, at Le Quai restaurant in Trinité sur Mer where I managed, in muddled french, to order cold langoustines with aioli, a buttery sole meuniere, and a custardy prune-heavy Far Breton (local cake with a flan-like texture)  for dessert.

Another wonderful castle, Chateau Fougères.

Bretons seemed like my people, with Celtic noses, salt-spray squint, and penchant for butter.

Highlights:  Langoustines, seafood, dark country roads, megaliths, and Muscadet.

Disappointments: Our time was short, so there was no time to hit every castle or megalithic passage grave, or even every Breton village with stone houses and blue shutters...

Mr. Pants: Back home and working! But he did pick me up at the airport, muttering about traffic. Home at last.