Peter Luger Steakhouse

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No words are needed to describe the dining experience at Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, except to say that this place is a REAL DEAL. Grab a fist full of  cash and just go there.  In the meantime, enjoy the photos!

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Grand Central Oyster Bar, the Sequel

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I know what you’re probably thinking.  Grand Central Oyster Bar, AGAIN? Yes, I do wonder about it myself as to why I even bother blogging about Maya and my food adventures in New York City when we go to the same few places over and over and over again … but please forgive me. We are two creatures of gastro habit.  We like what we like.  And I like to document our trip here so we can look back and reminiscent, even if I’ve written about this place twice on this blog already (here and here).  wink

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But look! We ordered grilled scallops, something other than oysters this time for a change! Isn’t that an improvement? Oh, wait, what? We ordered the same thing before? Okay, fine, I give up. I’m sorry. There, are you happy?

We certainly were, after two dozen fresh oysters and a plate of scallops drained in butter, all washed down with a (few) bottles of lovely Chardonnay.

I Wasn’t Shaken to the Core

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(Photo credits: www.onthesetofnewyork.com and  www.adashofcinema.com)

The movie, “Something Borrowed,” got me interested in Shake Shack. Then I started reading all the raving reviews about the burger shop on the Web and got even more intrigued.  I’m not much of a hamburger person, but I am a culinary ambulance chaser, so naturally, I felt the need to try it and see what the hype was all about myself.

Yet the last two times I was in NYC, I was a pseudo-vegetarian, so I had to forgo the opportunity to decipher the mystery behind a hamburger and frozen custards that seem to bedazzle the entire island of Manhattan. (I go through the “I ain’t gonna eat no meat no mo” phase probably twice a year, which lasts about a month each time, and they somehow always landed on days I traveled to NYC.)

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I walked by Shake Shack on Madison Square Park on several occasions but never got in a (long) line for the famous hamburger. These photos were taken during my trip two years ago, while I slide glanced the patrons enjoying the juicy burger with envy.

This time around, I was committed to trying the burger, once and for all.  Maya and I went over to the original Madison Square Park location hungry and ready to grub on a Sunday afternoon (we even walked 30-some blocks from our hotel in Midtown East to work up our appetite) only to find that the tiny shack that stood in the middle of the petit park was temporary closed for renovation!  What the #$@!##%*&#! cry

Well, when life throws you a lemon, you go for lemon gelato, right?

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We were a little too hungry and annoyed to go over to its other locations so we decided to eat at Eataly across the street instead.  We were bummed about Shake Shack but weren’t complaining too much about the unexpected change of plan because Eataly is pretty awesome, evident from my previous posts here and here.  Yes, we like this place a lot.

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One look at this lovely charcuterie plate (SALUMI MISTI: An Assortment of Artisanal Salumi) and we were saying, “Shake who?” lol

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These are melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

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AGNOLOTTI del Plin con Sugo d’Arrosto: Housemade Meat Filled Pasta with a Veal Reduction, for Maya.

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TAGLIATELLE al Ragù di Manzo: Housemade Tagliatelle with Short Rib Ragù and Parmigiano Reggiano® for me. This was amazing.  We finished our amazing lunch with a few delicious scoops of gelato.

You might think our day ended with this, but not so fast. We actually did make it out Shake Shack later that night.

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We got to go to the one in Time Square, after watching Gigi on Broadway, which, I’m sorry to say, was pretty awful. I thought the actual performance was good but the dialogues were way too long and often pointless, and the story itself was a blah. The theatre was empty so at least we got to move down quite a bit from our original, nose-bleed seats to get our money’s worth.

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Shake Shack was a mad house, even at 11:00 p.m., packed with tourists and locals alike. The line went out the door but it only took a few minutes to get to the front.  Maya spotted an actor in line (I forgot who she said it was), which was very New York!

I ordered the single Hamburger. I guess when you order the hamburger here, you can’t assume that it automatically comes with the usual lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion. Instead, you have to ask for them specifically, otherwise you’ll get a burger just with a beef patty and two buns.  Not knowing this, I ordered mine with extra raw onion (which I always do when ordering burgers) and the guy thought I only wanted a burger with, well, onion slices. Good thing I clarified it with the cashier beforehand or I would have been super disappointed.

Well, speaking of being disappointed, I must admit that I was a bit confused. The hamburger was decent, but mediocre at best.  Even after eating two (don’t judge — I was hungry), I couldn’t understand what all the buzz was about.  I thought In-N-Out was 3,425,462 times better and burgers from other shops, like Counters and Umami, were much juicier and flavorful than then the ones I bit into here.

Perhaps we are too spoiled with so many gourmet burger options in LA and PDX? I don’t know for sure, but you can be the judge if you’re an Angeleno, because Shake Shack is coming to West Los Angeles in 2016.

Maybe the burger just needed a little more Salt N Pepa.

Cronuts

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Maya and I finally got to experience the real Cronut during our recent trip to New York City. The famous croissant and donut hybrids were sold out on our last visit, so we decided to make it our priority to get our hands on them this time around. We dropped off our luggage in Midtown and made a beeline to Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho.

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There was already a line, about 20 people deep, when we arrived around 9:00 a.m. We had to wait for about an hour just to get inside the shop, which was another 20 minutes or so. We were a bit surprised because we thought the Cronut fever has died down by now, especially with all the other donut shops and patisseries offering copycat treats, but that surely wasn’t the case. The lady in front of us, a regular, told us that the line is usually much worse earlier in the morning.

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The Cronuts were already packaged in a yellow box and stacked near the register to speed up the line. Maya ordered a cup of coffee and I grabbed a cup of Earl Grey tea and seated ourselves on a small table near the door.

Now, the moment of truth …

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What I liked:

The Cronut definitely tasted more like a croissant than a donut, unlike some imitation faux-nuts (or “do-ssant”) at neighborhood 24-hour donut shops. It tasted like a very sophisticated dessert. I enjoyed the slight chewiness of the dough as well.

What I didn’t like:

A little too much pastry cream in the middle. The flavor of the day was strawberry and although I enjoyed the sweet and tangy combination of the berries, the cream tasted slightly off to me. I would have loved to try the simple vanilla pastry cream instead.

The verdict: ★★★★☆

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Extra: We ordered bake-to-order mini Madeleines. They were good but weren’t eye-popping or anything.

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My Favorite NYC Moments #1: Villard Michel Richard

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Hands down the best dining experience of our trip.

We had dinner at Villard Michel Richard at the New York Place, where we stayed. I selected the Frix Fixe menu, reasonably priced at $48. It started with this refreshing Yellow Tomato Gazpacho with Burrata which was to die for.  I seriously wanted to order another one because I couldn’t get enough.

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And it was followed by perfectly seared Scallops with English peas, radish, carrot-ginger sauce. I seldom order scallops but these were a winner.

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Maya had a plate of juicy Filet Mignon.

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And ended with Celebration Cake.

I heart you, NYC, and thanks for another amazing visit.  I’ll be back again real soon.

Here’s the full list of my top 10 moments:

  1. Dinner at Villard Michel Richard
  2. Lunch at Babbo
  3. Picnic at Central Park
  4. Serendipity 3
  5. Lunch at Balthazar
  6. Grand Central Oyster Bar
  7. Gahm Mi Oak
  8. Dominique Ansel Bakery
  9. La Vie at JFK
  10. Bryant Park at night

My Favorite NYC Moments #2: Lunch at Babbo

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Time to check off an item from my culinary bucket list – I finally made it to Mario Batali’s Babbo Ristorante in Greenwich Village. Yipeee!

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When we arrived at the restaurant at 11:00 a.m., right at my reserved time, the restaurant was still closed. Strange, I thought. How could a restaurant be closed when I, in fact, made a reservation for that time slot more than a month ago? When the door finally opened 30 minutes later, I went to check in, only to find that my name was nowhere to be found. After a few tries, the hostess figured out that my reservation was not for 11:00 a.m. but was for 11:00 P.Meek Only in NYC that people actually make dinner reservation so late.

Luckily, she was able to seat us right away!  Phew!

The restaurant was everything I’d expected this place would be — a professional service, attentive servers, and absolutely delicious food and wine.

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Complimentary chick pea appetizer.

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My appetizer: Crostini Napoletani with Ricotta, Sardines and Dandelion Greens

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Maya’s appetizer: Mozzarella di Bufala with Babbo Coppa

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I ordered Pappardelle Bolognese.

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Maya ordered Soft Shell Crab on a bed of couscous.

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We shared a plate Babbo Greens with Roasted Shallots — a much needed vegetables!

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Pistachio and Chocolate Semifreddo for dessert.

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Maya enjoyed a glass of port (Pedro Ximenez) that she absolutely loved, and I couldn’t get over all the sugar options that came with my cup of coffee.

Here’s the full list of my top 10 moments:

  1. Dinner at Villard Michel Richard
  2. Lunch at Babbo
  3. Picnic at Central Park
  4. Serendipity 3
  5. Lunch at Balthazar
  6. Grand Central Oyster Bar
  7. Gahm Mi Oak
  8. Dominique Ansel Bakery
  9. La Vie at JFK
  10. Bryant Park at night

My Favorite NYC Moments #3: Picnic at Central Park

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Maya and I picked up smoked salmon sandwich (for me), ham and cheese croissant (for her), and other goodies from Bouchon Bakery and headed to Central Park for an afternoon picnic.

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First to Sheep Meadow, then off to Bethesda Fountain.

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I’ve visited NYC many times, but this was actually my first time in Central Park. I’ve been to the entrance of the park but never inside, because I never knew how to get in! (Lame, I know.) Turns out that I needed to enter from Columbus Circle, on the West side of the park. Duh. Big thanks to Maya and her trusty smart phone for figuring it out!

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Here’s the full list of my top 10 moments:

  1. Dinner at Villard Michel Richard
  2. Lunch at Babbo
  3. Picnic at Central Park
  4. Serendipity 3
  5. Lunch at Balthazar
  6. Grand Central Oyster Bar
  7. Gahm Mi Oak
  8. Dominique Ansel Bakery
  9. La Vie at JFK
  10. Bryant Park at night