Sky High

October 20, 2017

When you want to feel that you own the world, it’s hard to think of a better place to be than perched in a window seat at The Aviary. If this vantage point – high above Columbus Circle –  doesn’t make you feel lucky then nothing ever will.

The food certainly helps.

It’s hard not to laugh when this great white sheet of crackling deliciousness is plunked onto your table, teetering perilously on its perch.  It must be the skin of a half a pig, zinged with vinager and so crisply crunchy that it shatters as you break bits off to dunk into that dizzy smudge of corn and chiles. Your mouth is on fire, your fingers shiny – and you are incredibly happy.

Then there’s this shrimp, one giant creature, gently fried, showered with a citrus splash and paired with the most astonishingly delicious Asian pears. Little half moons of fruit have been pickled until the experience is like biting into a crunchy lime.

The truth is that you’ve come to drink. The cocktalians at the bar are mixing and smoking and icing all manner of alcohol, making them seem like strange wizards indulging in an arcane alchemy.  I have to admit that my cocktail tastes are conservative: no one, in my opinion, has ever invented a better drink than an ice cold gin martini. Still, I was extremely intrigued by Aviary’s version of gin and tonic, which changes both temperature and taste as the minutes tick by.

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And while I wouldn’t recommend this coffee martini as a preprandial quaff, at the end of the night it is one sweet drink.

But I digress….

You won’t want to miss these little caramelized foie gras tidbits – all the satin smooth sweetness you’d ever want – sandwiched between two kinds of crackle

These adorable octopus croquettes are more creme fraiche than seafood, but they’re utterly irresistible with their little tousled seaweed tops.

And the kanpachi ceviche (hiding beneath hearts of palm), may look like jewelry, but I found the slurry of green curry so delicious that I upended the bowl and drank it, loath to miss a single drop.

And for those who prefer to buy their steak by the bite instead of the pound, this is one powerful hit of wagyu:

Are the prices high? Of course they are; you’re renting some of the world’s most expensive real estate. But it’s heady up here in the sky, and as you head back down to earth, I bet you’ll be wearing a smile.

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Hello Pumpkin!

October 18, 2017

Seems like the perfect image for this bright Fall day.  And a beloved old recipe.

And since pretzel rolls seem to be all the rage in restaurants these days, I was amused to find this recipe in a forty year old issue of Gourmet.

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Rich, Wonderful, Old Fashioned: A Potato Cake for the Ages

October 17, 2017

It was November 1977, long before every food magazine felt the need to put a turkey on its cover.  But this particular image strikes me as remarkable, even for the time. Can you imagine any American magazine going with this image right now?

This recipe is equally of another time.  But doesn’t it sound wonderful?

And here’s another small reminder of how much things have changed.

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One Last Bite of Portland

October 13, 2017

Eating in Portland made me think that cabbage must be the new kale.  The lowliest vegetable is now on everybody’s menu, usually charred.  Here it is at Tusk: charred, quartered and blitzed with in an avalanche of Middle Eastern spices.  Truly fantastic.  As is so much of the vegetable-centric (yes, there are plenty of meat and fish dishes too) at one of Portland’s hottest new restaurants. Their motto is “locally sourced, aggressively seasoned), and they live up to those words.

 

I didn’t have a chance to eat an entire meal at Ryan Fox’s Nomad, but I did sneak in for a few bites at the bar.  If there are more adorable bar snacks anywhere, I haven’t encountered them.

This is Fox’s version of a slider: the meat is laced with umeboshi, the bun is fluffily appropriate, the slaw adds crunch and the fries are terrific. An awesome little tidbit for nine bucks.

Scrambled eggs, bacon and Wonder Bread.  Did I mention that Fox spent a fair amount of time in Joel Robuchon’s kitchen?  These are the most sophisticated scrambled eggs you’ve ever eaten – so soft they’re almost custard – and sneakily filled with padron peppers.  As for the bread – when Wonder Bread goes to sleep at night, this is what it dreams of being.

Inside this little brown bag is Fox’s version of school lunch: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a juice drink and some cookies.  But oh, that sandwich!  Silky smooth peanutbutter mousse, slightly tart jam and bread that is griddled until it has a caramelized crunch. I’ve always thought peanut butter and jelly was one of the great American inventions – and here Fox proves it!

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Portland: Visions of Sugarplums

October 11, 2017

I might move to Portland just to start every day at Maurice.  Yes, it’s that good.

You know, as soon as you walk in and find yourself surrounded by that cozy aroma –  all butter and sugar and sugarplum fairies – that you’ve come to a very special place.  Look up and you find delicate garlands of dried fruit, flowers and herbs dancing above your head.  Sit down- in the window seat if possible- and prepare to be deliriously happy.

This is – I have to say it – one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.  A citrus cloud, it whispers lemon, lemon, lemon as it slowly evaporates, leaving a trail of delicious memories in its wake.

(Want the recipe for lemon souffle pudding?  Here it is. )

Have you ever seen a more adorable dessert than this chocolate capuchin? Don’t miss those tiny berries in that puddle of cream: they contribute a little zing of wildness.

This bird seed coconut tea cake looks so mild and innocent.  That is entirely  deceiving.  The slim slice is a wonder of crunch and crackle, and as the butter slowly melts each bite astonishes you with unexpected flavors.  I can’t think of a more perfect way to wake up.

Proprietress Kristen Murray is famous for her black pepper cheesecake.  And rightfully so.  Topped with a single ground cherry and tiny slices of plum, this is the cheesecake of your dreams: the cloying richness of ordinary cheesecake has magically vanished. The most mature cheesecake on earth.

We finished breakfast with this wonderful quiche. Kirsten pulls it from the oven while it’s still slightly floppy; a brave move.  Airy and light, it seems held together with a wish.  After this other quiches start to seem clumsy. 

Kirsten’s cookies.  Of course.

I sat there in a sweet daze, considering staying to lunch. But by now I was so happy all I wanted to do was walk around Portland, thinking how lucky I am to be here.

Maurice is, for me, the quintessential Portland restaurant.  Quirky, passionate and personal, the restaurant is named for Kirsten’s rabbit.  Does he, I wonder, wear a little waistcoat and peer at a pocket watch?

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