Sunday, December 29, 2013

Travel Notes: New York Restaurants, Part 1

I hope that you have all had a very happy Christmas.  Mine was perfect - great company, great food and a very relaxed pace.  I couldn't have asked for anything more.  I am now in New York and spending the majority of my time doing what I like to do best in New York - visiting restaurants. I needed to share a few, which I plan to do over a series of posts.

First up:

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria - Great Jones Street, East Village

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria is an offshoot of Il Buco on Bond Street, used as a production outpost and market but also with semi-casual dining in the back and upstairs.  The wooden chairs, stocked pantry cabinets, tea lights and classic linen napkins make the restaurant feel very cozy.  The market section at the front of the restaurant is far enough removed from the dining section that you aren't jostled by shoppers and, in fact, you hardly notice.

I have now been here twice, once in 2013 for lunch and once in 2012 for dinner, and the food was amazing both times.  For lunch, I shared the salumi della casa selezione per quattro and crispy artichoke with preserved lemon, both of which were very good.  I then had the roasted gnocchi with Pennsylvania mushrooms.  Gnocchi is one of my favourite Italian dishes, but I had never had roasted gnocchi, and I was very surprised at how different the texture was.  The gnocchi had a firm outside, similar to what you would expect if you pan-fried them. The mushrooms were in large pieces and were well cooked and, combined with the shards of cheese, were a perfect match for the gnocchi.  For dessert, we split an apple crostata with vanilla gelato and salted caramel gelato - both great.  

For drinks, I started with the honeycrisp fizz cocktail - tequila, smashed apple, celery, mint and tonic, which was really refreshing.  I then switched to the Antina' Tsoli Santorini, which was an alright, easy drinking white.  We had prosecco with dessert though, and that was perfect.

Ratings: (numbers out of 10, £ out of 4)

Food: 8
Atmosphere: 8
Service: 9
Price: £££
Overall experience: 9

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve, and everything finally feels all Christmassy and full of wonder and promise.  I am feeling very grateful for this opportunity to slow down, reflect and count my blessings - because, despite all the of those things that feel so difficult on a day-to-day basis, I know that I am blessed.  I wish all of you a warm Christmas full of love.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

London Guide: Duck & Waffle

Located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, just above Sushisamba, is Duck & Waffle - the best London restaurant that I have been to in a while.

Being the highest restaurant in the UK, Duck & Waffle has a very American feel to it, simply due to its height.  Another unusual (for Britain) feature is that the restaurant is actually open 24/7, serving breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch and dinner, but also late night food from midnight to 5am every day.

The view from the restaurant is stunning and, if you're seated in the right spot, you overlook the Gherkin. However, I was quickly distracted by the menu.  I was with a group of ten of my female colleagues on a ladies night out, so we had the set Christmas tasting menu and all of it was amazing.

First course
Parsnip crips
Rosemary & garlic bread
BBQ-spiced crispy pig ears
Potted pheasant with cranberry jam
Pumpkin arrancini with sage and ricotta
Bacon wrapped dates with chestnuts, linguiça and manchego

Second course
Spicy ox cheek doughnut with apricot jam
Peal barley & wild mushroom ragout with goat's curd and 63 degree organic hen egg
Roasted Essex beetroot with goat curd, honeycomb and watercress
Jerusalem artichoke tortelli with crispy turnip tops, aged pecorino and roasted hazelnuts

Third course
Smoked cow ricotta salad with granola, sage, honey and Amalfi lemon
Whole baked sea bass with jerusalem artichoke, salsify and trumpette ragout 
with smoked butter
Whole roasted organic chicken with Tuscan sausage, potato and wild mushroom ragout with black truffle

Panettone bread pudding with spiced vanilla ice cream
Mince pies

All of the dishes were brought out as sharing platters, similar to tapas but with more than enough food to go around, and the first and second courses were brought out so quickly that I was somewhat overwhelmed - but overwhelmed in the best way possible.  My favourite dishes were the spicy ox cheek doughnut (pictured above), which had a sugar coating on the outside that wasn't to everyone's liking, and the Jerusalem artichoke tortelli, which I would have been happy eating on its own.  By the time the main (third) course was brought to the table, everyone was getting quite full, and the amount of food was a bit overkill.  After all of the food involved in the first two courses, for ten people, we had three whole sea bass, two whole chickens with sausage and potatoes and three ricotta salads.  

I wasn't so full that I couldn't eat the panettone bread pudding, ice cream and mince pies though...

The only disappointment was that they didn't serve Jager bombs and the cheapest shot was £11 (I work with seriously great women) the duck and waffle wasn't on the menu.

Ratings: (numbers out of 10, £ out of 4)

Food: 9
Atmosphere: 10
Service: 9
Price: £££
Overall experience: 9

All images above from Duck & Waffle
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