Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Lunch: Popovers & Quiche

my dad wants to call these things "dimples" since they didn't "pop" as most popovers do.

Popovers with pear butter & a mushroom and fontina quiche. Rather easy to make and very fulfilling. Next time I'll be sure to add more mushrooms, onions and cheese to the quiche recipe.

Almost started Thanksgiving with an epic fail. After 20 minutes, I realized that the popovers were baking in the oven under the "pre-heat" setting. I quickly switched it to "bake" and let it go for another 10 minutes. Thankfully, the popovers still turned out great. This is, of course, after I accidentally burnt the butter in the cupcake tray and had to clean it (then add more butter) before filling it with the batter.

Popover Recipe

Mushroom, Fontina Quiche Recipe

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: Where Everybody Has a Mustache

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I imagine mustaches have few social implications to anyone over the age of 25. For us young people, they are signs of puberty, masculinity and le hipster. Select genres of music and Kangol caps are other hallmarks, and if you know anything about le hipsters, you know that the "le" is completely unnecessary and just my attempt to be highfalutin (attempt #2).

So how does this relate to a restaurant? Midtown's Top Flr is a shameless hipster hangout where people wear Kangol hats, muted-colored blazers and, occasionally, sport a stache. Indie music that will never reach the airways fills the dining room, and somewhere between the narrow corridors of this two-story squeeze, good plates of food make their way to the table.

The menu has variety and on this visit I only had the opportunity to try two appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts. In general, these dishes ranged from "okay" to "very good" with an affinity for the former category.

The tuna tartar on paper thin sardinian flat bread was wonderfully spiced with a thai miso pesto. The avocado and lime aioli were refreshing complements. This was better than the fig mille feuille which attempted to combine duck confit and figs, an odd combination better imagined than realized.

I was in a meaty-mood that night and ordered the New Zealand lamb chops with mint syrup. Excellent. Cooked a perfect medium-rare with a nice crust on the edge of the chops, the lamb paired well with the succulently sweet mint syrup. And to all you vegetarians out there, I would veer away from the orange-apple tofu, a boring choreography with an already boring ingredient.

Top Flr's mac and cheese is different from any other I've had in a restaurant. Maybe it's the cheese, maybe it's the use of spinach — either way, between the spiciness there's a ring of cajun inspiration in this cheesy delight. The potato gnocchi was less inspiring as it was overcooked and under-seasoned.

For dessert, a bread toffee pudding that distinguishes itself from others because of its moistness and balanced flavor profile. Then there was this chocolate, peanut butter bar of sorts that was, as a whole, a poor dessert and, by the layers, even more disappointing. Eaten together the three layers were cavity-busters and eaten separately, the individual layers lacked flavor.

As for service, our waiters + busboys were very attentive. As entrees were served, our waiter acknowledged that the mac and cheese had been left in the oven too long, that they were making another one, and that it would be removed from the bill — all in one breath, mind you. I found myself trying to outdrink the waterboys who filled up my glass constantly. I managed to trick them only once and that was because I guzzled down the entire glass 5 seconds after they left my table.

In general, Top Flr is a good restaurant with reasonable prices, a distinct atmosphere and attentive service. The food is not mind-blowing or award-worthy but it's the kind of place you could eat at after a night of work in the office.

Top Flr on Urbanspoon

DUC of the Day: King of the Cake

I think at this point, the DUC is just messing with me. There's no other plausible explanation for why gummy bears are sleeping on beds of icing. Maybe there was a nationwide fire-sale. ALL GUMMIES HAD TO GO!

But with the exception of this dessert, the DUC has been on fairly good behavior. It has become increasingly more difficult to spot the blatant mishaps that so often go on inside this cafeteria.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DUC of the Day: Language Fail

Not sure how many people picked up on this one, but I did. Yesterday was the Unity Month dinner at the cafeteria, and so the DUC trotted across the globe with foods from different countries. For example, for Australia's "chicken on a barbi," they took boneless chicken breasts and speared them with sticks. On the other side of the world, chicken fajitas just scream South America.

But this is what I thought was really funny. Look at the "ASIA" category. It's "hen hao chi banh mi Vietnamese pork loin sandwich." Originally I read this as "Ho Chi Minh's Banh Mi." That honestly would have made more sense because if anyone out there knows Mandarin, "hen hao chi" means delicious in Chinese. So...why the Chinese adjectives with the Vietnamese nouns?

Review: There's Always Five Guys

Rating: 3 out of 5
tuna crostini with pesto

Not long ago I gobbled down a double cheeseburger with fries from Five Guys at 10 p.m. on a Friday. This would not be news-worthy except that I did so after dinner at Miso Izakaya. No, Izakaya was not a failure, but it was a disappointing experience.

I should first say that I take some responsibility in not ordering enough food from the start. I was with three others, and we certainly should have ordered more than six dishes. However, I think our waiter should have warned us that six dishes wouldn't be enough. Ultimately, the blame falls on the kitchen which took an extraordinarily long time sending out dishes.

pork bun with bbq porkbelly

Tapas are meant to be served fast, like Spanish-salsa-dancer-thrusting-his/her-hips fast. Izakaya's dining room wasn't that busy, and yet food took an extraordinarily long time. One of my friends remarked that she didn't know if the food was that good since whenever a dish did finally mosey its way to our table, we could immediately devour it.

tuna, avocado roll. Good.

Service aside, Miso Izakaya has some good dishes. The pork bun with bbq porkbelly is quite good, but the bread itself comes across as a tad doughy, if not slightly undercooked. The tuna-pesto crostini is also good although the pesto overwhelms the tuna. The salt and pepper quail reminds me of asian-style chicken wings, and the creamed corn served with the scallops is excellent.

filet tips. mmm...

By the time all six dishes had come and gone, it was 10pm (2 hours), and I was still very hungry, feeling like I had only eaten appetizers and that an entree must be on its way. Had the kitchen not been so slow, I would have ordered more, but I feared waiting until midnight for anything else. The only comment our waiter had was, "I don't know why the kitchen is slow tonight" before walking off.

Will I go back? At some point I will. The food at Miso Izakaya is good and hopefully the slow service was just a mishap. There are some interesting dishes on the menu, and considering the place isn't too pricey (avg. $8 per item), it wouldn't break the bank to try them again.

Ok, I have to mention this. As we were paying, the waiter dropped of this vase at our table. An inedible flower with four frozen grapes. This is completely unnecessary and honestly just plain silly. I mean, I can put grapes in the freezer too.

Miso Izakaya on Urbanspoon

Review: Bone Marrow, Fried Eggs, and Coke Floats — Oh My!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I've now been to Farm Burger several times, and to be honest I'm a bit conflicted. Every time I stepped into the place I wanted to fall in love with its burgers, with its menu.

I don't think my feelings were unwarranted either. The menu is a playground of ingredients. It's a mix-and-match dream come true. House-cured bacon, oxtail marmalade, laura chenel goat cheese — the options are limitless, and we haven't even gotten to the appetizers (fried chicken livers, chicken croquettes) or the fries (sweet potato fries, beer-battered onion rings, fried with smoked paprike etc). So much creativity on one menu that it's hard not to keep coming back to try other items.

Having visited three time, I think that Farm Burger makes good burgers. In the grand scheme of restaurants, this is a sad designation since Farm Burger's menu has remarkable potential and is, in itself, not that ordinary.

No. 4 chicken burger with fried eggplant, arugula, red pepper goat cheese $9

I say "good" because the burgers are tasty and filling, but fail to make any impressions. "The Farm Burger" is a messy, $8 affair of cheese and onions, and while gluttonous, the burger is not beyond the reach of an everyday cook. Homecooks can probably get a better sear on their patty at home. The No.5 (braised pork belly, fried onion ring, pickled jalapenos, bbq sauce) is a disconnected overkill. Farm Burger loves its "grass-fed" beef so the need to blanket it with ingredients, which don't mesh well together, seems counterintuitive.

Moving beyond the beef, the No.4 chicken burger, sweet potato fries, onion rings and ginger-farmade float are delectable. The red pepper goat cheese pairs very well with the arugula and chicken, and the sweet potato fries are addicting. These dishes are good enough to warrant return trips.

Yet at the end of the day, it's all about the beef, the searing in particular, and in this respect, Farm Burger falls short. The menu is diverse enough, though, that you can find happiness somewhere between brisket chili and the wells banana bread beer float.

Farm Burger on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 4, 2010

DUC of the Day: Le Cordon Blue

Everyone has a right to his own opinion, but not his own set of facts. Fact: this is not what the father (or mother) of cordon blue had in mind. Cordon blue is chicken, wrapped in ham and cheese, breaded and fried. What we have here is a Tyson chicken patty, folded piece of ham, and cheese melted on top.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

DUC of the Day: You Say Gyro, I say...

I haven't had a DUC of the Day in a while. You might say I've been busy. This is true, but it's more than that. I've noticed that the DUC has tamed down on the lyrical menu writing. Also, the dishes haven't been nearly so "interesting." But they could only keep up the record for so long.

What you're looking at is, what the DUC deems, a "gyro." Pita bread that you can't even bend without it breaking in half, a watery tzatziki sauce, lettuce and...wait for it...shredded beef brisket (or something along those lines). Not even gyro meat... Why? Say it ain't so...