A Visit to Riverpark

For mid-September, the weather was still nice enough despite the evening chill but it still made a pleasant night for dinner here.  Riverpark serves no frills, modern American cuisine even though the atmosphere might seem that way with ingredients sourced from local farms and its own urban farm located next door. 

For the first course we chose the grilled quail to share. It was prepared with summer melons, baby fennel, and acacia honey glaze.  What excellent flavors! The acacia honey glaze was something I've never encountered before, and it gave the quail a nice touch of sweetness. The kitchen actually served it to us on two separate plates for easy dining.  How thoughtful of them!

Grilled Quail to share!

Next was the pasta course! We decided on two of the small servings of these dishes since the ingredients seemed more interesting and were not something that we ordered as of late elsewhere.  You can choose a small dish or a larger dish (two different prices) if you want it as a started plate or main course.

Cavatelli with smoked lamb.

Here we had the cavatelli with smoked lamb, shishito peppers, corn, and tarragon.  The flavor of the lamb did not overpower the sweetness of the corn and peppers.  Although the pasta was a bit too firm for my taste, I still enjoyed it very much.

The brisket ravioli we selected as our second pasta was a winning dish! How could you resist the tenderness and heartiness of the this slow cooked pork wonder? It was absolutely amazing. Wish we had more of this, but of course we had to leave space for the main courses, dessert, and more wine.
 

Brisket Ravioli was a tease, but what a good palate tease!

Now for the main course, my boyfriend chose the Grilled New York Strip Steak (major steak lover he is!), and I went for the Heritage Berkshire Pork Chop.  While his medium-rare steak was juicy and pretty much perfect of a steak of that caliber, I have to say that my pork chop was the better dish of the two. It was quite a large hunk of meat to tackle!  The meat was so tender and succulent. With the collards, grilled peaches, cipollini onions, and thyme, it was a complete A+! 

Grilled NY Strip Steak with heirloom tomatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, basil, balsalmic vinegar, and bordelaise (sauce)

Heritage Berkshire Pork Chop - it was massive, and yep, I totally ate it all.

Dinner would not be complete without a proper dessert. We ordered the frozen s'mores, because we were curious about the presentation as well as the taste.

Not what you imagined what s'mores would look like. A work of art, really!

The verdict: Fantastic! Wonderful! Amazing! This dessert consists of a toasted marshmallow semifreddo, milk chocolate ganache, and a raspberry-rose sorbet on the side.  Thought you'd see some graham crackers, did you?  I found out that the pastry chef here, Geoff Koo, is the SAME Geoff Koo who held that position at PRINT restaurant.  Glad to enjoy his delicious creations at Riverpark as I savored them at PRINT.  

Would I return? Of course.  My first encounter was Craftbar in Flatiron which I highly recommend for brunch and dinner.  Tom Collichio is a excellent chef/restauranteur, and I would love to try the food at his other acclaimed restaurants. 

Rouge Tomate, the Final Feast

It was shocking when I found out that Rouge Tomate would be closing its doors on August 9th after its last dinner service.  Luckily I made it in time for a final dinner on August 8th.  I will really miss this place. Ahh, but the good news! They'll be relocating to a new location downtown soon, so you can expect to see more dining adventures about RT 2.0 from me here.

Dinner was fantastic as expected.  I have been tempted to order the prix-fixe dinner menu, but then again I think that there'll be 1) too much food to consume in one sitting or 2) something else will catch my eye, and I'll want to eat that instead.  My boyfriend and I decided on ordering from the menu a la carte, and that's where the party began. 

First. the wine. 

For a good time, drink wine.

I asked Pascaline, who recently was inducted into the Court of Master Sommeliers (hooray!) for her recommendation on a bottle. Preferably biodynamic and natural. I'm convinced that it's the insane amount of sulfites in other wines (even spectacular ones) that bring out my Asian glow to a cherry red, so when I'm Rouge Tomate, I try to stick to the biodynamic offerings. They keep me safe. I always place complete trust in Pascaline, because she knows best! She selected this red wine from the Loire Valley. A 2012 P'tit Luchini made by Japanese-Canadian winemakers.  To have Asians making great wine in France especially in the Loire region is impressive, and this one was a winner! The Vin de Soif style of wine translated from French means "wine to quench thirst." The wine did its job well, because we were extremely satisfied.

Amuse Bouche 

This is just a little something that is served before your meal to prepare you for what's to follow. (For future posts, I must take notes on the ingredients!).

Time to prep the palate!

Eggplant “Tartare”
Sunny-Side Up Farm Egg,  Garlic Confit, Sungold Tomato, and Pickled Fennel 

Could make you opt for a meatless day.

The first appetizer has been a favorite of mine since it was introduced on the menu early last fall, so of course I had to have it this one last time. It's been slightly modified from the first version - there used to be thin wafer-like strips encasing the eggplant tartare in a box-pinwheel shape. Surprise, surprise! Because it's made so perfectly to mimic the texture of a raw meat tartare like steak, tuna, or venison, you might forget you're actually eating all vegetables (and egg) after the first bite.

Arctic Char Crudo 
Horseradish Yogurt,  Trout Roe, Dill, and Pumpernickel

Why, hellooooo there.

Oh, another dish that I love to start off with. Ever since I encountered this during my first visit back in Summer 2009, I fell in love.  I couldn't resist the delicate texture and clean, mild flavor of arctic char. It's closely related to salmon and trout, but it's more sustainable, and it might even be better in overall taste. The slightly spicy and sourness of the horseradish yogurt together with the sweet and crisp trout roe, dill, and pumpernickel combined made intense delicious bites. 

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Panzanella
Beldi Olive, Cucumber, Feta,  Basil, and Sherry Vinegar

No need for greens here.

This light and refreshing summer salad was a compliment of the chef. Thank you, Chef Andy Bennett! I enjoyed how the feta cheese really enhanced the flavors of the watermelon.  Never had a salad like this before.  I'll have to try my hand at this one day.

Barnegat Light Sea Scallops a la Plancha
Chickpea-Buttermilk Puree, Greenmarket Pole Beans, Spicy Romesco, and Marcona Almonds 

It never occurred to me to look up what "a la Plancha" meant all these years. Since the food at Rouge Tomate is either broiled, baked, grilled, or steamed, it made sense to me that "a la Plancha" (grilled on a metal plate) would be one of those cooking methods. (Thanks Google!). Here we have with these fantastic, fresh sea scallops.  These are one of the best tasting varieties I've eaten. They're sourced locally from the town of Barnegat Light, NJ. My boyfriend chose this as his entree, and he happily enjoyed every bite.  I tried a little of it, and I could taste the freshness of the scallop in each chewy morsel. The chickpea-buttermilk puree added a nice touch of acidity to it. 

Cow’s Milk Ricotta Gnudi
Asparagus,  Wild Mushroom, Spring Onion,  Wild Spinach in Parmesan Broth

During my last couple of visits in 2013, I've always ordered the gnudi. I had to have it once again. Just can't resist the lightness, fluffiness, and creaminess of this gnocchi variation. Each piece released a burst of extraordinary flavors and pretty much melted in my mouth. It's so good. SO very, very good. 

Seven Layer Chocolate Icebox
Salted Caramel, Banana, Coffee, and Almond 

Have you ever eaten cake that doesn't baking? That's what an icebox cake is - layers of crumbled chocolate, coffee, and almond bits packed together to create this masterpiece. The salted caramel ice cream was divine, and the torched banana on top pulled it all together. This dessert is also gluten-free and vegan as well - amazing!  Pastry Chef James DiStefano always seems to amaze me especially with the Chocolate Sphere Dessert (one of the RT menu originals in the early and most recent days - click here to see it)

Everything on the menu is created and cooked under the SPE Certified (health through food) guidelines and watchful eye of RT's in-house nutritionist, Kristy Lambrou. Nothing is deep-fried or uses saturated oils. Since all the food is either boiled, baked, grilled or steamed, you can rest assured that while eating a four or five course meal you're indulging in a healthy and nutritious way.  

Thanks to Rouge Tomate, I've learned a lot about the NYC restaurant scene and especially about phenomenal food and wine. This place will always be #1 in my heart despite the many contenders. I'm looking forward to visiting the new location. I hope the wait won't be too long, because withdrawal is already kicking in. 

Rouge Tomate
10 E 60th Street
New York, NY 10022
(646) 237-8977

http://www.rougetomatenyc.com

 

Pleasant French-Basque Dining for All

Cocotte / 110 Thompson St., New York, NY 10012 / (212) 965-9100
http://www.cocotte-ny.com  

A couple of weekends back, I came across this pleasant little restaurant on Thompson Street and was curious about it. It serves French and Basque food, French wine (mostly), and lovely desserts in a relaxing atmosphere, so one afternoon, I had to try it out.  I fell in love with everything and asked my friend Amy to dinner the following week.  I was hoping she’d fall in love with the place as I had, and I’m glad she did enjoy it as much as I did!  How could you not? 

Cocotte serves meat and fish dishes in tiny casserole pots also called cocottes as well as soups, salads, appetizers, main dishes and desserts. Raphael runs the service there and is one amazing guy!  He’s helpful, friendly, knowledgable about wine and recommends the perfect dishes for you to try.  The portions are just right for one person and will leave you extremely satisfied, not overstuffed.  The wine list sources great selections from France (Bordeaux, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire Valley) and also from Spain and Italy.  

Featured above is my part of dinner enjoyed with my friend on a very, cold evening last week.  To start, my apéritif was a sparkling wine from the Loire Valley (should have noted the name), followed by a delicious butternut squash soup, and then a special tender pork cocotte with thinly sliced potatoes beneath.  I forgot to include the Bordeaux wine I enjoyed with the cocotte that was recommended to me by Raphael.  It was a refreshing choice that went well with my meal.  To end our meal, Amy and I had espressos for an evening booster.  Cocotte serves brunch on the weekends, and I’m looking forward to visiting then too. 

The atmosphere of the restaurant is intimate with calming yet energetic music and can be boisterous later in the evenings. The overall experience is EXCELLENT.  You’ll enjoy everything about Cocotte - from the food, wine, environment, and wonderful staff!  

 

Unwind in LES at this Chill French Wine Bar

I always tease my sister about hanging out in the Lower East Side whenever she’s in the city. It seems like she happens to be there the times she tells me stories of her outings with friends. Coincidentally when I called her that Saturday evening, she happened to be there. She asked me to meet up with her and friend, so I went. On that one rainy day in October, I came to encounter the comforting wine bar that is Jadis.

Once I arrived at Jadis, I was immediately taken by its charming and cozy ambiance. The bacon-wrapped scallops were enticing, and without hesitation we ordered it.  From my own experience, meat, fish, cheese, and fruit wrapped in bacon will dazzle your taste buds, and make you believe that bacon is king. I feel that bacon possess the ability to  transform ordinary tastes into the extraordinary.  I exaggerate a bit.

Slightly hungrier than the rest, I tried the Quiche au Poulet.  It could have had more of a kick to it in terms of the taste, and the texture could have been firmer. Overall, I thought it was pleasant dish. 

To satisfy the last bit of hunger and close the meal, we ordered a Banana Chocolate Pudding, Creme Brulee, and a Chocolat Fondant; those were all the desserts on the menu that evening. We might have slightly overdone it with the desserts, but who wants to leave a void like that in one’s dining experience? Of the three, I thought the banana chocolate pudding was the best. The vanilla ice cream and strawberries were complemented the chunky consistency of the banana pudding ideally. The other two you can find them as standard selections on typical restaurant and cafe dessert menus.  The creme brulee and chocolat fondant were delightful though there was nothing phenomenal about them.

Wine.  How could I forget about thee? I spotted a familiar name on the wine list - Tempranillo. I’ve drank this kind before and was curious about the one Jadis featured. Taking the recommendation of our server, we chose the 2009 “Valderiz” Valderhermoso Tempranillo. This wine is similar to that from Rioja since it comes from the neighboring region of Ribero del Duero. That’s what the waiter/somm(?) told us. (It’s true!)  It’s versatile; it did not overpower the flavors or interfere with taste the foods we ate. Tempranillo is a full-bodied wine that I find easy to drink. I’d enjoy drinking it on its own.

The atmosphere in the evening was boisterous and not the least bit rowdy. Area-wise, there was warm and dim lighting - a small, single candle illuminated each table and nook at the bar. I liked it. The only downside was the lack of available wait staff. Considering it was a Saturday evening, the place was packed, one bartender and three waiters, (one of the waiters also played host to entering guests) aren’t sufficient to keep things running smoothly and in a timely manner.  Perhaps it was only that night that the service was sluggish, but that didn’t affect my mood negatively.

I’m already anticipating another visit to Jadis.  Their wine list looked promising!

After that evening, I told my sister that her “favorite” NYC neighborhood left me with a good, lasting impression. She may have been somewhat amused.
 

Jadis
42 Rivington St. (bet. Eldridge & Forsyth)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 254-1675

http://www.jadisnyc.com

 

How the French Do Sandwiches

TARTINERY NoLita / 209 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012 / (212) 300-5838
http://www.tartinery.com/

I’ve always wanted to try Tartinery after passing by it with a friend early this year in the late spring. The clean, and elegant appearance lured me as did the appealing menu, and it being French. However, I forgot the name of this place! I only found out about it again from another friend’s foursquare check-in, and it clicked - this was the place!

Tartinery NoLita is a modern take on the traditional bistro. It’s focus is on the tartine, a gourmet, open-faced sandwich on thin, delicately toasted bread. One of their breads, the Poilane country bread, hails from the famous St. Germain-des-Prés boulangerie in Paris. Oh, and this bread is flown daily from the bakery in Paris to New York.  Oh, très special, non?

I came by for brunch on a Saturday in late September.

After flipping through photos from fellow Yelp reviewers, I decided on the Jamon Purée tartine. The Jamon Purée is cooked ham, Brie cheese and dijon mustard. I chose to have it on the Poilane country bread.

How was it?

My taste buds were dancing with delight!  It was absolutely divine.  The tartine was perfectly done, and the flavors were very well-balanced.

I didn’t know whether to use my hands to eat the tartine or dining utensils, so……I went for the dining utensils. The neater(?) way.  I was confused.  I probably should have asked them what to do.

Followed my meal with a cappuccino and dessert (why, it has to be complete!) I skimmed the menu for a unique dessert then asked the friendly bartender (I sat at the bar) for his recommendation.  He suggested the clafoutis, so I chose it. The clafoutis is a baked dessert, that is a little buttery and flan-like with berries inside - this one had the aroma and taste of almond, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and donned with a mint leaf on the side. First time tasting clafoutis, and I adored it! I definitely could have had another one.

Tartinery NoLita offers lunch and dinner (aside from the tasty tartines) and carries a vast collection of organic wines, mostly French from what I remember.  They also serve cocktails, beers, fresh juices, water, and soda.

My overall dining experience was lovely.  I enjoyed the attentive, friendly service, the beautiful interiors, and especially the food. I will definitely be returning and recommending this French NoLita gem to my family, friends, supper club and fellow lovers of food.

This might just be the beginning of future, regular visits to Tartinery NoLita.