Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hey, Mac! This town MIGHT be big enough for the two of us...

Fans of S'Mac (on 12th Street between First and Second Avenues), get ready to have your minds BLOWN. There's a new kid in town, and it's giving our old favorite a run for its money.

Well, it's relatively new anyway. MacBar, which opened in Nolita in September at 54 Prince Street (between Lafayette and Mulberry, just a short skip from the N/W/R Prince Street stop), follows the same theory of bright yellow, cheese-hued decor in a much smaller space than our favorite mac-only Village outpost. Lacking space, perhaps, but definitely not flavor.

(Note: Do I sound like a "cheesy" (ohhh PUN) food critic yet? I'm stretching my over-the-top writing muscles at the moment, just for funsies).

I was definitely impressed by the MacBar menu before I even showed up. It may not have as many options as good old S'Mac, but it has serious inventiveness on its side. Mac Rueben? You had me at hello (and "pickled sauerkraut").

It was tiny, yes, but certainly not as crowded as I anticipated. The prices were a bit on the higher end of reasonable, but my entree was still under $10. Despite being garishly yellow-orange, the place is quite cozy. More so than, say, that OTHER mac 'n' cheese place. What's that called again?

There are several small tables with a long, curved single bench against one wall, plus an extra pouf on the other side of the table, so it's easy to fit three or so people around a table without a problem. I also enjoyed the ease of eating without people in line glaring at me and angling for my table the second I left (AHEM, S'Mac).

Once you figure out how to unwrap the damn thing (I wish I could include a diagram, but I'm sure you smart cookies will eventually figure it out, as I did), the Mac Rueben is certainly as horrifyingly delicious and wonderful as it sounds. Actually, the flavor of it led me to reach my central conclusion about MacBar versus S'Mac: they're basically offering wildly different things.

With S'Mac, it's all about the macaroni. It tastes like zesty, flavorful macaroni and cheese with delicious additives. At MacBar, it's basically JUST the fixins for whatever mac you choose, plus a few pieces of pasta buried underneath for good measure.

At S'Mac, ordering the Parisienne means you'll have tasty figs and creamy brie in almost every bite. At MacBar, there's a layer of macaroni at the bottom, and approximately three layers of ingredients on top. In my case, I enjoyed at least a block of Swiss cheese, that braised corn beef and, of course, the pickled sauerkraut before getting to the poor, underappreciated pieces of macaroni at the bottom.

Please don't misunderstand and think I'm complaining here; I'm absolutely not. That Mac Rueben was MAD AMAZING. BUT, it was more like I was shoveling the sandwich into my mouth with a little bit of pasta mixed in. It was more about the FLAVORS and TYPES of mac 'n' cheese offered than it was about creating inventive new ways to make mac 'n' cheese. It's just a different kind of thing, and I definitely enjoy S'Mac and MacBar in different ways. I think these two places will manage to coexist just fine.

So, I definitely recommend giving MacBar a try, especially if you haven't eaten all week and your body needs an exorbitant amount of calories (worth every bite, I swear). Next time I head to MacBar (and there WILL be a next time) it'll be all about the Margarita Mac, outfitted with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, parmigiano and basil. More MacBar? YES PLEASE.

(Another note: My apologies for failing to take a picture. I pretty much wolfed it down immediately after I figured out the impossible packaging.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Would you like some hot chocolate with your bourbon?

Happy February! It's Hot Chocolate Month at City Bakery, and if you've ever had hot chocolate there you know it's pretty much the best in the land. Think melted chocolate in a cup with a marshmallow.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

r.i.p. monkey town

Monkey Town has been a Williamsburg institution for some years now, founded by Mr. Montgomery Knott as a bar/dining room/gallery/performance space/other cool stuff place. Sadly, it is closing at the end of the month; but not before I got a chance to check out one of its feasts of hipsterdom.

Now way back in December of '09, we had a pretty tremendous snowstorm here in the city. By chance, I happened to have reservations for Monkey Town's ski-lodge-themed six course dinner extravaganza the next day. So it was pretty thrilling to trudge through a foot of snow into the cozy quarters of MT's dining area: A square room (secluded from the rest of the bar) with projector screens outfitting each wall, and low couches and tables lining the wall beneath. The ambiance was comparable to that of a nice independent movie theater and a really classy orgy at the same time.

As the guests (young, white people obsessed with novelty...like me!) filtered in, the screens sported "classic ski films" and a DJ spun "alpine sounds." The main event, however, was a screening of Werner Herzog's The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner, a beautiful film documenting the accomplishments and emotions of a world-champion ski jumper.

And the food...

Course I: Bavarian Cheese Fondue
You can't really go wrong with fondue amiright.

Course II: Ginger Braised Rabbit
I had never had rabbit before, so this was exciting.

Course III: Roasted Garlic Soup
Mushrooms were involved here, so my opinion should probably be discounted.

Course IV: Seared Wild Salmon
I love salmon, and the lentils were a nice touch.

Course V: Gin Marinated Venison Loin
This was probably my favorite; I'm so glad I eat meat sometimes.

Course VI: Apple Streudel
With raspberry sauce and vanilla bean gelato. Just kidding this was obviously my favorite.

I'm really glad I got to experience this whole thing. As bourgy as it was, Monkey Town is a cool place and I'm sad to see it go.
i know it's early to be thinking about valentine's day, but i just came across this amazing/horrifying bit of information.

you couples are SO. LUCKY.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

You Can Buy Me Love...for $10.

So, everyone who considers himself or herself a foodie is familiar with Momofuku, which was apparently recently named one of the 50 best restaurants in the WORLD...no small feat! It's a well-deserved honor, of course, and I personally have fond memories of it. I've only eaten there twice in my life, but on each occasion I was in good company (with some of my closest friends in the world) and was thoroughly amazed by the delectable fare. For those of you who can't make it to New York, you can now create your own delicious versions at home with the Momofuku Cookbook. Lucky you!

For those of us who are based here, however, Momofuku is a rare treat. Because I work in Midtown, I don't often have the opportunity or motivation to head down to the Momofuku locations near Union Square (especially for lunch), and it has been one of the great tragedies of my life. Until now.

I was trolling the absolutely fantastic Midtown Lunch blog a few weeks ago (if you work in Midtown and understand the depressing lack of affordable lunch options, you probably read it religiously too) and stumbled across a post about a temporary Momofuku outpost , Ma Peche, in the Chambers Hotel on 56th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, mere blocks from my office. I immediately freaked out, then went even more to pieces when I realized that they were offering was a $10 ($10!!!) lunch special. I made a date to head there with my co-workers, and today we checked it out.

It was, as you might imagine, FANTASTIC. The area is very spare and attractive, and they have additional food options if you don't want to go for the $10 menu. The $10 lunch menu has four choices, which you can read about by following the Midtown Lunch link above. I ordered the Banh Mi du Maison, and it was INTENSELY good. They also give you a bottle of hot sauce, which I found added a delicious (though not necessary) kick. Peanut butter cookies are available for a mere $1.85 extra, and we all know how I feel about the cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar. Plus, a beverage is included in the $10, so the whole thing cost me about $11.85, which is what I would pay at a deli for a significantly less amazing meal.

So, a huge huge HUGE thanks to Midtown Lunch for bringing this to my attention, and hopefully today I've paid it forward by ensuring that none of you pay $10 for a subpar meal elsewhere when a wonderful one awaits at Ma Peche. Happy lunching!

Oh, did I mention they also serve dinner? And cocktails after 4:30 p.m.? You're welcome!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2010 a fungal year

While in Florida this Christmas I made the family a mushroom risotto. I really just made it up, but it turned out to be to everyone's liking (including my own) so I got to thinking about mushrooms. Then Z suggested we cook together and I made this guy right here
It was good enough that I wanted to drink the liquid that it was cooking in. It was nice too because you could taste the differences between the different mushrooms.

So, maybe I'll make a lot more mushrooms in these uncertain times.

These Truffles Are NOT Trifles

So, I made chocolate truffles last week. I hate to admit it, but it wasn't nearly as difficult as it sounds.

After my cousin made them last year for Christmas, I begged and badgered her to pass along the recipe (which she finally did). Apparently, they originated with her fiancé's mother or grandmother, and they are absolutely TO DIE FOR.

No, really. I don't think you're getting it. These truffles are seriously some of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. Ever. Even after eating about three per day for the past week, I don't think it's possible to get sick of them. They're really rich, but totally worth it. In fact, I've been told (quite explicitly) that giving someone one of these truffles will make them want to have sex with you. I caution you to use this power wisely.

Anyway, I don't have any photographs because they're really unfortunate looking. The recipe involves dipping the truffles in chocolate, and my dipping skills certainly haven't been perfected yet.

So the process is pretty easy. Basically, you throw chocolate cookies of a certain variety and cream cheese into a food processor, food process the shit out of it, and ball it up. Later, you dip it in chocolate and VOILA. Excellence.

Hopefully I've kept this specific enough to entice you while remaining vague enought to not give too much away. Gotta keep a little mystery somehow! Anyway, trust me...they're divine.

Restaurant Week 2010!

Reservations begin January 12!

Prix Fixe set at 2006 prices, $24.07 lunches and $35 dinners. Who's with me!?