Posts Tagged ‘lunch’

Magnolia of Le Monde

Having been the pet mom of an adoring cat the last 20 years, I wasn’t exposed to the same needs and opportunities that canines present. I had a toy fox terrier at my parents’ home as a late teen, but Rocky didn’t go places. He wasn’t a tag-along dog because someone was always in the house.

Now I’ve come to have a little rescue girl enter my life, and in some ways she has rescued me. Although she came from an outdoor, neglectful environment, her dining habits are quite good. She found a stepmom, who is a foodie, but who generally does not give her table food. On my latest lunch outings in Manhattan, I found myself wanting the company of my sweet, little Magnolia. She doesn’t bark…I mean ever. If we lived in Europe, she would tag along with me to many outdoor cafes, but where could I take my canine companion where other diners would not be disturbed and where she would be accepted nearly the same as I am? The answer came quickly the first warm days of spring.IMG_4513

I frequent Le Monde on Broadway for lunch, as you may have read from my last blog post. As soon as the al fresco dining began on the sidewalk, I brought Magnolia along for a test run. She sat close to me on the ground like a well-mannered six-year-old girl should. And then our kind host, Scott, offered her the option of an appetizer of grilled chicken. Actually, he politely asked her step-mommy for approval before bringing it. While her tastes are not so discerning (yet?), she immensely enjoyed her meal at Le Monde and washed it down with a few slurps of New York City tap water. What more could a little rescue dog ask for?

So whether you like dogs or not, I promise I would not subject patrons to Miss Magnolia if she were not well behaved. In fact, she is so small, she could mostly remain undetected. If you do like dogs, come say hello to Magnolia of Le Monde because she can’t wait to go back and see Scott, the hand that fed her , not scraps of fat, but quality grilled chicken. And more importantly, while the weather’s nice, go enjoy one of LeMonde’s well-prepared, delectable dishes for yourself with your furry friend accompanying you…quietly. You might even get a photograph of your pup to appear on https://www.facebook.com/Cool-Canines-of-NYC-624304414695457/ .

Prolifer..profil..pro… one of those (profiteroles), please???!!!20190608_140756

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Being Someone in “The World”

Upon arriving for your date with an unknown, your first impression is mostly based on appearance. You walk in the door; your eyes trace the surroundings – left to right, up and down. You can quickly sense what your level of expectation should be: how you will be greeted, how you will be treated.

Are you addressed personally by name, or are you just another paying date? Are you made to feel like you are the only one who matters in the room, or do you immediately get the sense that this is an eat and run? Once you sit down together, you absorb the wonderful, or not-so-wonderful smells, the colorful appearance and artistic presentation in front of you. But does what you are about to dive into make you feel special, or are you just another face in the crowd?

Yes, I am talking about a restaurant, not a Match.com meetup. Oh the reviews can be outstanding. The cuisine can be delectable, but what sets it all apart from others is not you simply being present beneath a French chandelier or behind a plate of  yellowfin tuna tartar with fresh mango and avocado mousse, but rather that you are recognized and celebrated for being there.

The maître d’ is key! My first visit to Le Monde (translates to: The World) on the Upper West Side (UWS) of New York City was somewhat out of location necessity. It was a weekday, late afternoon, following my 83-year-old mom’s doctor’s appointment. Lunch was overdue, and she enjoys trips over the GW Bridge if they’re not too long. A solution would be to stick to the UWS. In my never-ending research for worthy dining establishments, I came across Le Monde, but French always comes with a warning sticker for me: extra dollar signs or escargot and other dishes that mom would no longer experiment with these days. While those little buggers are on the menu, the rest of it celebrates “the cuisine of the Loire Valley”, and it seems more familiar everyday food than not.

Entering at an off-meal hour (3:00), the restaurant was maybe 20 percent occupied. Scott, the maître D’, sat us by the glass doors with a sidewalk view of Broadway. We connected immediately with the topic of pets somehow. I explained that Mom needed a “soft” dish due to her dental issues. He offered the French Onion Soup with gruyere, the Tomato and Burrata Tart with fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic glaze and the French Omelette with caramelized onions, spinach, gruyere. Yes, I said, to all. And she must have “French” fries! It’s her new weird addiction.

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Scott checked in several times, engaging in personal conversation with us. He felt like a long lost friend. And now, when I think of where to take Mom after her uncomfortable appointments, other restaurants come to mind and pass through quickly. The warmth that flows over me when made to feel like a celebrity or someone who might write a critical blog or just someone that MATTERS, embraces my decision-making process and satisfies my soul for an hour or so. The coffee doesn’t hurt either!

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Brunch Bunch Brawlers – Part I

Brunch – how snooty I thought! That’s for women driving Jaguars, who plan their day around socials with other women driving BMWs. Who has time for a meal in-between meals? Alas, New York City has forced brunch upon me! It seems a majority of the city’s restaurant owner believe it is okay to restrict my ability to eat lunch on a Saturday! This angered me. Every noon-time reservation I tried to make came with a brunch menu online. The lunch menu is only available Monday through Friday when I am absolutely unable to venture in because……I don’t work in the city. Why was I being punished for living in New Jersey? Why am I not allowed to have a smaller version of dinner items mid-day – you know, around lunch time?? Shouldn’t I be able to order lunch during lunch hours no matter the day of week?!….Exhale…..

What stemmed from a schedule change in life has now resulted in a new habit. Dinner was the preferred meal for dining out – it’s grand, it ends your day on a satisfyingly full belly and you don’t need to think about food until the next morning (except for we night owls who -see what I did?- nibble late night). A change in circumstances caused me to start gathering friends together for Saturday lunches and where else but in nearby New York City for a mini quarter-day trip.

First up in December 2017 was Eataly Downtown because I wanted to impress with the panoramic view and an actual lunch with no dish resembling breakfast. There were five of us for the first jaunt, so we fit nicely packed into a sedan with a little food expansion room. Since the delicious dishes will be too many to list, I must highlight some favorites to provide a Brawlers’ compilation. Any chance I get, I cap the meal off with a stroll or drive to Pasticceria Rocco’s, and if you don’t know why, read all the mentions in my blog posts.

A week later, still in my brunch protest mode, another group of five headed to the Upper West Side to Celeste. Because it was on the other end of the island, I tried Cafe Lalo (made famous in “You’ve Got Mail”) for the first time. While it was visually fun and appealing, the quality of the desserts just didn’t measure up. I tried.

Yet another week later, I tried to get my toes wet and found a brunch menu at The Ribbon that included lunch items like burgers as well. I went for it with a Breakfast Sandwich: House Made Pork Apple Sausage, Avocado, Grilled Onions, Fried Egg, Cheddar, Butter Lettuce. It made me tingle with the idea that I could get used to this. I would never have meat for breakfast but combine it with an egg for brunch? Now we’re talking possibilities. Even a Fox 5 anchorwoman seemed to enjoy herself here. At this time I was on a best-pie quest and read that Petee’s claimed that title. I’d label it “OK”.

2018 began with Locanda Verde, which really dove into brunch. I was slowly converting. The Hudson River was like a floating iceberg that day, and sitting against the glass windows, I couldn’t remove my coat. But the meal began with Locanda’s own fresh baked goods: Apple and pistachio danish and cranberry goat cheese scone. A zucchini frittata followed by a hearty Rigatoni lamb bolognese, sheep’s milk ricotta and mint plate and closing with the fluffiest lemon ricotta pancakes, never imagining a fluffier one was yet to come.

We snuck in a return visit to Eataly Downtown with a new crew of five, but the area we ate in is a seasonally changing restaurant. Then it was La Stagione, so pasta it was, closing with a most important run over to Rocco’s:

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Celebrating a friend’s birthday – and with a record eight attendees in one vehicle – closed out January 2018 and the closest thing to brunch was the fried egg on top of the thin crust pizza at Otto Enoteca, a place of nostalgia for me. Pasta and more pasta was had and still we had room for Rocco’s after walking there through Washington Square Park.

Il Buco delivered one of the cutest decors and was another true lunch. I made a guess that their bread was from Sullivan Bakery but was surprised to learn they made their own! It was a small group of four on a rainy February day. The cod croquettes were a nice diversion, and I won’t even say where dessert was had!

Five of us were warmed up by the healthy-minded brunch at Hearth on another cold February day.  Bruschetta with goat cheese and carmelized onions, Mushroom brodo for dipping a wild mushroom and cheese sandwich, Bacon/egg/cheese on warm english muffin with contadina potatoes were some of the tempting items.

March rolled in with a double shot of Bar Primi. The brunch was so good the first time, I returned with six others the following week, and we all were treated with eating near Actor Patrick Stewart.

To be continued in Part II, where the Brunch Brawlers Bunch are fully addicted to this in-between meal….

Smooth Running Kitchen Macchina

What a nice find in search for a quick lunch on the upper west side of New York City on a holiday. Although they were short staffed, the food made up for it. We were mistakenly given the later day menu and were disappointed when we had no pasta options. Start with the avocado bruschetta and thick juicy burger appetizer though. Pickled onion pieces sat atop the guacamole-like spread, which included the same cilantro addition. The burger is a custom blend beef topped with sweet caramelized onions. Fries don’t tend to be something impressive, but these seemed like they were baked – no greasy fingers and some with a crispy blackened end. In choosing one wood-grilled oven pie, I selected the veal polpetto (meatball). It was a white pizza (no red sauce) with
smoked mozzarella and fresh oregano. Yum. The smokey flavor combined with the shavings of hard Parmesan cheese gave the mild veal meatballs a balanced punch of flavor.

And a little over a week later, I could not get the idea of a fig and fennel pizza out of my mind. Unfortunately, it’s only offered for dinner. So are the pastas! After a good workout, I deserved to have a 9:45 sampling. A quick drive to the Upper West Side was in order. After 20 minutes, I arrived and was immediately seated. Before the water arrived, I interrupted the waiter’s spiel and asked for the SPAGUETTI and clams, mussels, saffron, and parsely crumb. I squirmed at what I thought was a typo, but a quick Google search shows it might be a foreign spelling…Forgiven! There’s a $16 plate option and a $23 option. The $16 version was sufficient as it was much larger than an appetizer portion. It sat in a small pool of saffron-scented broth that demanded to be spooned over every forkful I took. The pasta was cooked to a nice al dente. 20170911_221314

Nothing has fallen short here, but menu items are somewhat limited, and I imagine for a full dinner, one might get a little bored with the selections; however, they do offer Specials.

Food that Floats Your Boat in NJ

I recently had the pleasure of having a business lunch with a client I’ve known for years but never met face-to-face. He’s out of Toronto and has come to New York City but has never spent any time in New Jersey. He asked me to make the arrangements, but it needed to be near the Lincoln Tunnel for him to get back to Midtown.

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This would be an easy task. It had to be waterfront dining in my mind. New Jersey is fortunate to have lots of waterfront, especially from Middlesex County south. But let’s focus on New Jersey’s Gold Coast for this purpose – or the sprawling Hudson Waterfront as most of you know it. I picked Edgewater.

These days, you can count on an increase in prices at any establishment that’s located waterfront, be it residential, commercial or retail. Dining waterfront on a beautiful spring day is unbeatable for the view, including the NYC skyline – and the calming nature of water. I made a reservation at the young restaurant Haven, which is at the edge of yet another mixed-use development that is still in progress. It already is surrounded by functioning residential and retail spaces. Its modern look offers indoor or outdoor seating and a bar.

oThe waiter was among the top friendliest and respectful servers I’ve encountered. This was lunch, so we skipped appetizers, and since nobody was sure which party was footing the bill yet, we all ordered conservatively. There’s no item, be it main entrée or sandwich, under $18 (remember, prime waterfront space equals prime rent for the landlord). When asked, the waiter suggested the Marinated Hanger Steak Salad with arugula, blue cheese, pickled red onions, avocado, croutons and red wine vinaigrette (the most expensive lunch item at $22) and the Fried Fish Po’ Boy made with Atlantic skate, sweet cucumber, tomato, romaine and garlic-lime tartar sauce. I don’t prefer a deep fried dish usually, but I love New Orleans-style food and went with his recommendation. I chose the side of mixed baby greens, rather than fries, to balance it. The fish was fried perfectly crispy, not greasy, flakey and moist on the inside. The roll was perfectly sized to its contents and was bakery fresh tasting.

If you want to impress, always land a window seat or sit outdoors at a waterfront restaurant in New Jersey. There are a number of great newcomers in Edgewater alone, including Pier 115 and Orama, and some older staples like Le Jardin and Crab House. Just drive up and down River Road from Fort Lee to Weehawken – even the non-water side of the road has the new Lobster Shack and the established La Vecchi Napoli. You’ll find something that floats your boat along the river.