Frugal Friday — Ninth Avenue International Food Festival

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Not this year’s festival…

A bit over a year ago, I reviewed “New York Street Fairs,” using the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival as an example.  That particular festival showcases “New York’s most diverse and interesting ethnic neighborhood.”  Last year, I checked out Valducci’s square pizza, an apple tart from Mitchell London Foods, and a couple of items from Basera Indian Bistro.  I went back a few months ago to see what this year offered, and to see how vegetarian-friendly the offerings were. Continue reading

Louro — Vegetarian Nossa Mesa Supper

Mushroom "pot pie."

Mushroom “pot pie.”

If you’re looking for great vegetarian food in the West Village, you really ought to check out Louro, a now-one-year-old restaurant run by Chef/Owner Dave Santos.  Santos, you will remember, was doing a “supper club” at City Grit; they did a great vegetarian dinner a while back which I quite liked.  Chef Santos now has his own restaurant, but he still maintains a bit of the inventiveness of his old dinners with the “Nossa Mesa Supper Club” at Louro.  Every Monday, the restaurant serves up a prix fixe menu that changes with the seasons and the kitchen’s whims.  The restaurant opened last December and one of the first supper club menus was completely vegetarian!  My wife and I checked it out and had a great time. Continue reading

Bouley (second visit) — 5 Stars

Entrance, decorated for Christmas.

Entrance, decorated for Christmas.

Sometimes, I go to a restaurant, mean to write a review, and, months later, never get around to it.  Usually, I just move on.  This time, though, even though the visit is almost a year old, I want to share with you my visit to Bouley last December.  As frequent readers know, I visited Bouley for lunch while on jury duty last summer.  The experience was, I wrote, nearly pitch-perfect.  So about a week and a half before Christmas, I went back for dinner.  The second time was even better.  The food was great, the service was fantastic, and the overall experience was impeccable.   Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at the Plaza Hotel

The Palm Court.

The Palm Court.

If you’re looking for the best afternoon tea in New York, the Plaza Hotel’s offering is probably high on your list.  But is the Plaza Hotel’s afternoon tea vegetarian-friendly?  I was there a few weeks ago and found it to be a great experience, and they were quite willing to substitute vegetarian options.

Place setting.

Place setting.

If you haven’t been to tea at the Plaza, here’s what you need to know:  this is an old-school afternoon tea: scones, little sandwiches, very formal, the whole nine yards.  That said, they are at least a little whimsical; because of the story of Eloise, there’s an “Eloise tea” on the menu that includes more kid-friendly sandwiches (grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly) and offers lemonade instead of the usual teas.  Don’t worry: if you are feeling young at heart, like my wife was, you can get an adult-sized serving of the food that goes with the Eloise tea, along with a cup of grown-up tea.

Tea!

Tea!

I ordered the “Golden Monkey Picked” tea from the list of reserve black teas.  It was really interesting — a smooth black tea that was flavorful without the bitterness that is often an undertone in black teas.  I don’t know a lot of about being a “tea connoisseur,” but according to the wikipedia page, this is a highly regarded tea.  Among other things it is hand-picked, which sounds quite tedious.  If nothing else, the name “Golden Monkey” is pretty neat.

Food selection for children's tea.

Food selection for children’s tea.

The tower for the Eloise tea was nice: it looked just like the adult tea, so if you have older kids, they can really feel like they’re participating in a “real” afternoon tea.  The desserts on the top shelf were pretty similar to the adults’ tower (my daughter got jello, which I didn’t, and her strawberry had a pink frosting on it rather than dark chocolate).  The middle shelf featured scones like everyone else’s tower.  But the bottom shelf was different: strawberry sandwiches instead of cucumber, and grilled cheese and peanut butter sandwiches instead of some of the other finger foods the adults get.  The sandwiches all had the crusts cut off, so they looked “classy” just like other other sandwiches!

Vegetarian tower,

Vegetarian tower,

My tower was quite good, with one sort of serious glitch: although they said they would substitute vegetarian options for me where necessary, they forgot.  This was a little disappointing — for a place that is as expensive and well-regarded as the Palm Court, I would have expected that they’d get this right.  It wasn’t a huge problem, though; they very quickly brought out a new plate (the desserts and scones on the top two plates are obviously vegetarian, so this only affected the bottom plate).

Sandwiches, etc.

Sandwiches, etc.

The sandwiches were both classic and unusual.  There were cucumber sandwiches, which are par for the course at an afternoon tea.  There were no egg salad sandwhiches, which I didn’t really miss.  What you see near the middle of the plate is a little tart-like thing with egg that was made with black truffle; it was quite good and probably my favorite.  There was also some toast with pesto.  The pesto was surprisingly flavorful for such a small dollop.

Sweets.

Sweets.

The sweets were nice, though nothing particularly mind-blowing: a little fruit tart, a little cannolo, cupcake, cookie, etc.  There were also some other things I ate before taking the picture: a macaron, a dark chocolate-dipped strawberry, cream puff, and maybe a few other odds and ends.  Add to the mix the usual scones (one plain, one currant) and you have quite a lot of food for your money.

Veuve Cliquot Rose!

Veuve Cliquot Rose!

All in all, the Palm Court had a great afternoon tea.  It is classic, formal, luxurious, and quite expensive.  And it is really expensive.  Lady Mendel’s serves a five-course afternoon tea for $40, more than a third less than what the Plaza charges.  The Pierre serves a tea comparable to the Plaza’s, with champagne, for approximately what the Plaza charges without.  So this is definitely a special occasion-splurge kind of place.  But for what it is, it’s a great experience, and the vegetarian options are really good — you’re not forcing yourself to choke down multiple cucumber sandwiches because that’s all they had.  In every way except price, this is an exceptional tea service.

The NoMad — Reserve Red Wines by the Glass

As I wrote yesterday, The NoMad (my reviews herehere (at the rooftop), and here), made news recently with its list of “reserve wines by the glass.”  The NoMad uses a high-tech system called a Coravin, which lets you pour a glass of wine out of a bottle without removing the cork.  As a result, the restaurant (or you, if you want to shell out a few hundred bucks) can serve wine by the glass without exposing the wine remaining in the bottle to oxygen.  Yesterday, I did a little analysis on white wines; today I am doing the same for their reds.

The basic theory here is that the Coravin makes wines by the glass affordable — but how affordable, exactly?  Just like last time, the first three columns are straight from The NoMad’s wine list.  The next column is the average price for that bottle of wine on www.wine-searcher.com.  The NoMad says one “serving” is about a quarter bottle, so I divided the wine-searcher price by four to get a price-per-serving at retail prices.   Finally, I calculated the NoMad-to-retail ratio:  the lower the ratio, the better the deal. (Once more, the wine list is at the bottom of the post.)

Have you ever had a wine by the glass (or bottle) that you thought was a good value?  What was it and where did you have it?

 

VARIETAL DESCRIPTION NOMAD PRICE PER GLASS WINE-SEARCHER AVERAGE “RETAIL” PRICE PER GLASS NOMAD-TO-RETAIL RATIO
PINOT NOIR ALAIN HUDELOT-NOELLAT, LES BEAUMONTS, 1ER CRU, VOSNEROMANÉE, FRANCE 2005 $80 $200 $50 1.6
DOMAINE DUJAC, GRAND CRU, CHARMES-CHAMBERTIN, FRANCE 2007 $100 $199 $50 2.0
DOMAINE COMTE GEORGES DE VOGÜÉ, CHAMBOLLE-MUSIGNY, FRANCE 1993 $120 $290 $73 1.7
GRENACHE CLOS DU MONT OLIVET, CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, FRANCE 1985 $75 n/a* n/a n/a
CHÂTEAU RAYAS, CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, FRANCE 1997 $140 $329 $82 1.7
MONTEPULCIANO MONTEPULCIANO, EMIDIO PEPE, ABRUZZO, ITALY 1983 $60 $190 $48 1.3
CABERNET FRANC CATHERINE & PIERRE BRETON, BEAUMONT, CHINON, FRANCE 1976 $40 $85 $21 1.9
NEBBIOLO BARTOLO MASCARELLO, BAROLO, ITALY 2004 $50 $136 $34 1.5
AR.PE.PE., ROCCE ROSSE, SASSELLA SUPERIORE RISERVA, VALTELLINA, ITALY 1999 $40 $63 $16 2.5
PRODUTTORI DEL BARBARESCO, BARBARESCO, ITALY 1985 $60 $78 $20 3.1
TEMPRANILLO LOPEZ DE HEREDIA, VIÑA BOSCONIA, GRAN RESERVA, RIOJA, SPAIN 1976 $110 $365 $91 1.2
MOURVÈDRE CHÂTEAU DE PIBARNON, BANDOL, FRANCE 1990 $65 $140** $35 1.9
SYRAH JAMET, CÔTE RÔTIE, FRANCE 2006 $50 $238 $60 0.8
JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE, HERMITAGE, FRANCE 2010 $120 $478 $120 1.0
CABERNET SAUVIGNON MAYACAMAS, NAPA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 1986 $75 $172 $43 1.7
TENUTO SAN GUIDO, SASSICAIA, TUSCANY, ITALY 1999 $75 $230 $58 1.3

*Not on wine-searcher.com.
**Estimated from wine-searcher graph.

As you can see there are a couple of neat values here.  The Jean-Louis Chave is priced at just about “par” — a 1:1 ratio of NoMad to retail.  But you still have to drop $120 on a glass.  The other interesting option is the Jamet.  It is listed on wine-searcher at $238, though this is a recent price spike from a historical average of about $150.  So perhaps The NoMad stocked up on a few bottles of the Jamet before the jump and can afford to sell it basically at retail.  (The bottle goes for $250.  And although wine-searcher lists and average price of $238, the only place I found actually selling it had it for $375, though oddly they list it as a “future” even though it’s almost a decade old.)  I like Syrah generally, so I would probably spring for the Jamet if I were back.  I would avoid the Barbaresco, not just because of the 3-to-1 ratio but because $80 is a price I might reasonably pay for a bottle to drink at home (whereas I probably wouldn’t pay $300 or $500).  The Tempranillo looks like a good value, too, though I’m not sure I could make myself pay $110 for a glass.

So there you have it, my analysis of the reserve wines at The NoMad.  I’m going to see if I can put up a calculator on the website as well, so you can do some calculations for yourself if/when the wine lists change.

The NoMad’s list of reserve wines by the glass is below. (Return to the body of the post.)

NoMad’s Reserve Wines by the Glass

The NoMad — Reserve White Wines by the Glass

The NoMad (my reviews here, here (at the rooftop), and here) made news recently with its list of “reserve wines by the glass.”  The NoMad uses a high-tech system called a Coravin, which lets you pour a glass of wine out of a bottle without removing the cork.  As a result, the restaurant (or you, if you want to shell out a few hundred bucks) can serve wine by the glass without exposing the wine remaining in the bottle to oxygen.  That means The NoMad’s list of “reserve” wines by the glass includes lots of bottles you wouldn’t otherwise find — generally, bottles that have aged 10-15 years or more, and that would costs hundreds of dollars if you bought them by the bottle.   Continue reading

Jean-Georges (second visit) — 4 Stars

Asparagus, being assembled...

Asparagus, being assembled…

If you want fantastic vegetarian food at a great good decent price, then Jean-Georges is the place to go.  The flagship restaurant is the crown jewel in the sprawling empire of celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongeritchen is the cheapest three-Michelin-star meal in New York City (at least for lunch).  Jean-Georges is quite vegetarian-friendly, too.  Jean-George can legitimately stake a claim to some of the best vegetarian food in New York. Continue reading

This guy is 103 and eats out at great restaurants every night.

Mr. Rosen is 103 but he doesn’t look a day over 90. His mother died at 53 and his father at 70, but he says he feels fine and has had no major operations or health problems.

He made a bundle with his office supply company and is spending it — $100 a night, on average — on dinners out.

Much of his work involved wooing clients over lunch and dinner, so after retiring a few years back because of hearing loss, he continued to put on a fine work suit every afternoon, grab his satchel, and head out to hail a yellow cab to one of his favorite restaurants. Café Boulud perhaps, on East 76th Street, or Boulud Sud near Lincoln Center, or Avra Estiatorio on East 48th Street.

“I haven’t eaten dinner home in many years,” said Mr. Rosen . . . .

NY Times, “A Nightly Dinner Out That’s Like Therapy”

Frugal Friday — La Perla Food Truck

La Perla Food Truck

La Perla Food Truck

Looking for some great, vegetarian food truck fare?  Over the next several installments of “Frugal Friday,” I’ll review some of the more popular food trucks in New York City.  Over the past few years, the food trucks have made the leap to mainstream, and in some cases even gourmet.  But is all the hype worth it?  As in most contexts, the answer is, “It depends.”

I recently checked out La Perla Mexicana (no, not that La Perla), which was parked one day on “Food Truck Row” on Park Avenue.  (Check out tweat.it for locations of food trucks around New York City; on any given day, a dozen or more will be camped out on Park Avenue between 47th and 52nd Street or so, as well as on 47th between Park and Madison.)

Pictures

Pictures

The selection at La Perla Mexicana is pretty good.  Like Patty’s, another Mexican food truck (review coming soon), the menu has a lot of things you wouldn’t find at your typical crappy Tex-Mex place: cemitas and tortas (sandwiches), huaraches, gorditas (the real kind, not the Taco Bell kind), and more.  And, in a sense, making them vegetarian is easy; just get them without the meat.

Menu

Menu

But there are some other, more interesting options too.  The quesadilla fillings include cheese, mushroom, pumpkin, and corn smut.  Yes, corn smut.  I assumed that was some sort of mis-translation or typo, but that’s actually the technical term.  (I had always known it as “huitlacoche.”)  Anyway, I assume you can mix and match these fillings with some of the other options on the menu.  This time, though, I stuck to the basics:  tostadas (which typically come in an order of three) with beans, lettuce, cheese, guacamole, tomatoes, and sour cream.

Tostada

Tostada

Overall, the tostadas were pretty good.  The problem with getting something like this is the risk that lettuce is used as a filler, and unfortunately, there was some of that going on here.  But what really disappointed was the guacamole.  I don’t know if it was literally squirted from a bottle, but it certainly had the over-pureed, way-too-smooth consistency of guacamole that isn’t freshly made.  I understand that it could be pricey to make fresh guacamole for every single customer, but I’m surprised they don’t just make it in batches every hour or two.

Tostadas

Tostadas

Still, the tostadas were pretty substantial.  They were 3 for $10, which is a pretty reasonable price considering their size and how filling they are.  The corn tortilla base had a good crunch but the tortillas themselves weren’t super-oily, which is is a big plus (and a big problem with most freshly-made tortillas: they are just out of the fryer so they are greasy and gross).  The beans were tasty, though I thought they skimped a little bit; again, the ratio skewed too heavily toward the lettuce.

All in all, though, and particularly at 3 for $10, these were quite good.  If you’re near La Perla Mexicana, I highly recommend stopping off to give them a try.

The NoMad (second visit) — 4 Stars

The NoMadA year ago, I wrote that The NoMad was New York’s “restaurant of the moment.”  Since then, the restaurant has garnered a Michelin star, and spent a lot of time on Eater’s list of the top 38 restaurants in Manhattan.  (By the way, does anyone know why they list the top “38”?  Why not 35? or 40?)  The restaurant started off with a bang and has really maintained its momentum since.  Around the corner, Eleven Madison Park (my reviews here and here), with the same chef-owner, Daniel Humm, is doing some pretty neat things.  My not-so-secret hope for The NoMad was that it would be a place to get food at EMP’s quality, without having to pay EMP prices, and it looks like The NoMad might hit that sweet spot. Continue reading