Due to a lengthy contracting job in Nashville, I don't get to spend nearly as much time at home as I would like -- but I did snag myself just about a week recently, with some help from Thanksgiving. I made a point to hit a lot of my local favorites (Snack, Hoomoos Asli, VG, Chocolate Garden, Lombardi's), but I also managed to add a few more notches to my culinary bedpost, so I figured I'd share with the class.
My flight on Tuesday the 24th was uneventful (which is all I ever want to be able to say about a plane trip), but I did manage to watch in horror as a NJ Transit train left the station as I was halfway down the RAILLink escalator. After catching the next one, I found myself waiting a ridiculous amount of time for the A train, and then again for the F. I got back home around 10:50, putting my long-standing tradition of first-night Lombardi's in jeopardy. However, after assuring them that I could "run right over", I got my pie and -- as always, and perhaps despite an extensive list of detractors -- I enjoyed it quite a lot. I've become quite fond of the pancetta and sweet sausage combo, although a black-olive-and-mushroom pie on the last day of the trip was quite tasty as well.
Wednesday was set aside to take a friend out for a birthday she had had the previous Sunday. Italian was her preference, and so I opted to try Apizz (my curiosity having been piqued by these boards on several occasions). We were hungry early, got to the restaurant around 6:30-ish, and had the place entirely to ourselves. Even given the fact that they had to work an hour earlier than they were used to, the wait staff couldn't have been friendlier or more attentive. We started off with a couple drinks: a mojito for me (my first) and wine for my friend. The mojito was clearly of quality, but the drink itself isn't really suited to my tastes. I imagine a fan would have enjoyed it. Cyn (as she will now be known) had a glass of wine that she seemingly could have gone swimming in. I wish I knew what kind it was, but my knowledge of wine could squeeze through a cheerio, alongside my knowledge of Turkish Naval history, without grazing the sides. She enjoyed it, anyway.
The food followed as such: antipasto, meatballs, half order of the ravioli, half order of the wild boar lasagna. I really enjoyed the antipasto, notably the mozzarella, which was as good as I've ever had. I really would have liked some tomatoes on the plate, but the marinated peppers handled their job admirably. Everything else (prosciutto, olives, etc.) registered within the good-to-very-good realm.
In hindsight, the meatballs should have been a half-order as well -- neither one of us could polish ours off (mostly out of fear that we wouldn't be able to eat anything else). If it were a competition, the score would have been three-quarters to slightly-over-a-half (in my favor). They were very tasty, as meatballs go. I wouldn't mind having them over pasta some time, but as a sole entree they would have felt a bit empty -- in the "burger without fries or a coke" sort of way.
Cyn loved the open ravioli. I enjoyed them, but they were close to being too salty in my estimation. That's saying quite a bit, as I'm a big fan of anything that can potentially induce a heart attack. We both agreed that the wild boar lasagna was wonderful.
We decided on the Belgian-chocolate-and-banana bread pudding, with a scoop of vanilla, for dessert. It was huge, and we were stuffed before we started, but I'll be damned if that plate wasn't empty before we finally rolled back in our chairs with satisfied "Who's going to carry whom home?" looks on our faces. It really was one of the best desserts I've ever had. We both laughed at the biscotti accompanying our coffees.
All in all, it was quite an enjoyable meal. Not mind-blowing, but I would gladly go back. For the two of us, I dished out just over $100, including the (rather generous) tip.
Thursday was Thanksgiving, of course, and Grandma's rolled cabbage was every bit as wonderful as I've come to expect these last 26 years. Incidentally, have you ever gone to a family gathering only to notice the addition of a baby who has made it to walking and talking, yet whom you can't recall ever having seen before? I really need to get home more often.
Anywho, my mother, brothers, and one of their girlfriends visited for the day on Friday. We did lunch at Snack, which, just to save a little space, simply remains among my favorite lunch spots in the city. After a lot of cold, rainy walking around that included my first of three trips to Lunettes et Chocolat for hot chocolate -- and also involved finding a shop in Chinatown hiding a secret back room filled with illicit wonders apparently only women can enjoy (the ladies had some holiday shopping to take care of) -- we visited my new neighbor Public for dinner.
It's a beautiful space, and I still can't believe they finished construction as quickly as they did. The service was as friendly as could be managed while they subsequently strived to maintain their air of "hipness". My water glass never managed to get past three-quarters empty, though, and as far as making me happy is concerned, not much else short of nudity does the job quite as well.
I had the ox tongue appetizer, and thought it was wonderful. The portion was smallish, but extremely flavorful. Everything from the aubergine-cumin relish to the quinoa flatbread (had to check menupages.com for the names) added its own level of flavor and texture, and it all came together beautifully. As for the other apps: one brother had the kangaroo, while mom and the other brother went with the scallops. Nobody had a bad word to say -- and based on the small bites I stole, there was no reason. They were each exceedingly unique, and each quickly devoured.
For the main courses, everyone younger than me went with duck, everyone older than me went with lamb chump (I'm not quite sure what designates a chump from a chop, but apparently there's something), and I had the venison. Everything I said about the appetizers applies to the entrees as well (I really dug the addition of pomegranate to my dish, which balanced the meat and fennel perfectly), and we were happy all around.
A recent visit to nymetro.com presented me with the headline "Top 5 Panna Cottas", and a picture that was very familiar. It was a shot of the peanut panna cotta with lime-and-wasabi jelly that I had enjoyed during my meal at Public. To call it one of the oddest desserts I've ever had would be fair: it was a mellowly-flavored item, not terribly sweet, and a nice way to cap off a similarly-odd dinner. The final tally was in the neighborhood of $200 for the five of us (no drinks, one person went sans appetizer).
I had Saturday to myself, and used it to hit Hoomoos Asli for their hoomoos falafel and NY Noodletown for some pan fried noodles with shrimp and vegetables and an order of salt baked squid. All three dishes are favorites of mine, and if you haven't had 'em, please do. I followed up the Hoomoos Asli lunch with a trip to Eileen's Special Cheesecake across the street -- I got one of the little guys with a strawberry on top, and enjoyed it quite a lot. Good crust, not terribly heavy cake, etc.
My homeboy Paul came out on Sunday. We hit the Italian Food Center for some calzones to eat out on the street for lunch. Dinner consisted of burgers at VG Bar and Grill (Broadway and Bleecker), and their bacon cheeseburger is still my favorite in the city.
I was supposed to fly back out to work on Monday, but due to maintenance issues, high-wind delays, and el Presidente, I wound up rescheduling my flight ("Are you not feeling well?" "Possibly not..." "Well, if you aren't feeling well, then I won't have to charge you $100." "You know, if I have to hang around the airport any longer, I'm gonna start throwing up all over the place.").
I used the extra night to take Cyn over to Lombardi's (where my usual pie became half black olive and mushroom). As loaded as the meat-side was, the fungus-and-vegetable half required a little fork-and-knife action to get things started. And, despite my general aversion to food items that have never had a heartbeat, it was very good.
And that, my friends, is all I've got to say.