Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Restaurant Review: Florian Cafe

Burrata, Burrata, Burrata! Burrata is one of those foods I'll never get sick of talking about. Creamy fresh cheese surrounded by even creamier delicious cheese...whoever thought this up is a genius! Back in March, friends and I googled the best Burrata in Manhattan and found Florian Cafe . Nestled in among the busy offices of Park Ave, this Itaian staple had been around for years and known for amazing Italian dishes, including Burrata.

For our appetizer, we ordered Burrata two ways: one with prosciutto on side; the other covered in truffle and stuffed with a soft boiled egg. Cheese and egg together!?? 

couldn't wait to cut into this amazing concoction!! No surprises here, it was amazing. The yolk of the egg oozed out causing a beautiful downpour of delicious egg yolk for all it soak up with our cheese. Naturally, this experience was not very gluten friendly so while everyone sopped up their egg and cheese with bread, I used a spoon. :) 

The Burrata with prosciutto was delicious as well but you can't compare an egg filled cheese to something generic and expect the genetic cheese to win. 

For my main entree, I orders polenta topped with bolognese sauce and a fried egg. (Apparently, once I have an egg, I can't stop.)

I dove into the polenta as fast as the waiter left our table and damn! It was good! Tender meat sauce and creamy polenta are a match made in heaven! I totally did not need the egg to make the dish any better but the yolk added a nice extra flavor punch.

While I scarfed down my polenta, my friends shared the ossobuco lasagna. It was one of those curious "must try" dishes that Florian Cafe is raved about. It looked beautiful when served but my friends didn't seem overly impressed. They said it had all the right flavor a but could use more sauce, as the noddles were a bit dry. I'd have to imagine they prepare so many of this dish a night that not all are the absolute best quality. The uniqueness of the dish seems worth a try to me...if you can eat gluten. ;)

Overall opinion of the Restarant: the staff try to make this restaurant feel like a historic Italian restaurant when in actuality, it's owned by a restaurant group that runs severs kitschy places in the city. They've become notorious for Burrata and they definitely have it right! If you're looking for great cheese and interesting menu options (say, a lobster flatbread with an actual lobster shell on it) then Florian Cafe is worth a visit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

International Eats - Paris: Steak Frites and Such

Our first meal in Paris was at La Fontain De Mars, just beyond the Eiffel Tower. Naturally, the Eiffel Tower was the first thing we had to see and it was spectacular. I'm sure if I was a Parisian the tower would be to me like Empire State Building is... Just Another building. But this is Paris and it was awesome!

We walked around the park below for a bit then headed to the restaurant. Without reservation we were able to get a seat in the corner but we didn't mind at all. We happened to be sat next to New Yorkers so that was kind of fun too. While purusing the English menu their meal arrived. They order potatoes au gratin that looked absolutely heavenly... Covered in creamy, golden cheese. Who wouldn't want that!? We immediately asked for them as our appetizer. People have potatoes as an appetizer, right? 

I ordered fried duck as my main course. It seemed like the thing to do, well that and gluten free entrees were a bit limited since most of their steak sauces contained gluten. 

I couldn't complain though. The duck was crispy and perfectly juicy on the inside. 

After a few glasses of wine, dessert seemed like a great idea!! I had a bowl of strawberries with vanilla ice cream and pistachios. The combination of sweet and crunchy was phenomenal! 

On night two, we stopped for an afternoon glass of wine at cheese in Saint Germain. Cafe De Flore was highly recommended by my former boss as well as our travel book. Since being back in NYC, I saw that Scott Conant from Food Network was there as well so this is obviously a great place. 

We sat outside people watching, sipping wine and sharing a cheese plate. Christiana had bread along with her cheese that looked so good! Gluten free bread is not really common at restaurants so it was just cheese and wine for me (no complaints here!)

Across the street from Cafe De Flore is Brasserie Lipp which was frequented by Julia Child's when she lived in Paris. It was pretty awesome to be around restaurants that fed one of the culinary worlds biggest legends. 

We walked off our wine and cheese as we made our way to Bastille for dinner. Chez Paul was recommended by several colleagues so we were excited to check it out. Again, we were fortunate enough to be sat without a reservation. This meal launched our "dinner plan" for the rest of the trip. We learned the hard way our first night that two entrees was just too much food. Instead, we both ordered an app and shared an entree. 

At Chez Paul, Christiana had French onion soup and I ordered my first plate of escargot for the week (there was plenty more to come!) Her soup arrived first and was loaded with cheese - which in my book is the best part!

My escargot was so delicious!! Who wouldn't love butter, garlic and basil with anything? The escargot was the perfect texture, not too chewy or rubbery. I could have eaten six more. 

For our main meal we split steak and au gratin potatoes. While the portion of potatoes was smaller than the night before, there was a different balance of cheese and cream that we loved! 

For dessert I had a poached pear with vanilla gelato. I was certainly not hungry enough for it but just curious enough to try it and it turned out to be quite refreshing.

I would highly recommend Chez Paul to anyone traveling to Paris. The scene was not touristy at all and our meal was very authentic. 

On night three a miracle happened. Christiana had searched for top rated French cuisine and came across Socre Fleur. After two attempts to call and make a reservation we could not get a table for dinner at any time. We were both bummed. We had just visited Sacre Coure nearby so we popped into a local wine bar recommended by the owner of another wine bar we stopped at earlier that afternoon for wine and cheese. 

While drinking our wine, we started searching restaurant options... Until Christiana realized we were right across the street from Socre Fleur. I figured we had nothing to lose so I ran over to see if a table had opened up. Sure enough one had and we had 5 minutes to fill it! I ran back across the street, we chugged or wine and we were back at the restaurant in no time. Success!! 

The ambiance was beautiful. It felt like we were tucked away in a little French farm house enjoying a farm to table meal... Which we were but in Paris rather than the farm. ;)

We started with nice bottle of red wine then placed our order: French onion soup, escargot and steak frites. This time, the French onion soup came out much less cheesy than the night before but equally as good (according to Christiana.)

I was pleasantly surprised to find my escargot floating in a creamy onion sauce. They were so delicious. I wanted to lick the bowl clean when I was done! (Don't worry - I didn't.) 

Our filet was served on a butcher block with three different (gluten free) sauces. The presentation was beautiful and the sauces paired perfectly with the meat. You'd think by now we were sick of potatoes but trust me, we weren't. We scraped up whatever bits of steak sauce were left with the frites. :)

On our last full day in Paris we walked so much that we needed a midday break. We stopped for a soda at a cafe near Luxemborg Gardens. We sat outside to take in the views around us. Within a few minutes the guest next to us began to receive the food he ordered. When I looked over to my surprise was a plate of escargot - in the snail shell!!!!!!

My jaw hit the table. Obviously I called the waiter over and ordered my own plate immediately. They came out filled with garlic and pesto butter with tongs to hold the shell for easier removal. It was just as fun to pull the snails out as it was to eat!

By night four we were at a loss of where to go for dinner. We hadn't visited the Latin Quarter yet so we narrowed our search and found Brasserie Balzar. There were so many reviews since the restaurant opened its doors in 1886!!! Crazy! 

We were immediately sat in a packed dinning room between an English family celebrating a birthday and an older French couple on a date. It definitely seemed like this was a very popular place to dine. 

Christiana ordered French onion soup to start, once again, loaded with cheese and looked so yummy!

I was a little snailed out after my mid-day treat so I ordered burrata. After cutting into the cheese, the center didn't ooze with creamy cheese like I am used too, however, the center was richer and full of creamy flavor!

We split steak frites for the last time (so sad!) and had potatoes au gratin on the side. The potatoes were super creamy and the frites perfectly crisp!

After finishing our meal and wine, we had just enough room for dessert. More so, because we saw everyone else's dessert come to their tables and knew we wanted it too! ;) Christiana had profiteroles that looks absolutely amazing!!

As the waiter was pouring chocolate over her dish, I asked to use what was left from her carafe (or as I saw it, vat of chocolate) and pour it over my strawberries and ice cream. That was the best decision ever. The chocolate sauce was awesome! Super creamy, rich and milky. Yum!

After dinner we summed up all of meals and realized it was nearly impossible to pick which was the best. Each was great in its own right and all worth recommending to friends. One thing we did agree on was that our waistlines could not afford us eating another potato for months!!

Monday, June 8, 2015

International Eats - Paris: Crepes on Crepes on Crepes

Paris is known for many things: Eiffel Tower, Arch de Triumph, Notre Dame, The Louvre and FOOD!! In my 4 days in Paris I saw it all - especially the food! :)

I was so excited to have real French crepes, macrons and escargot. I made sure to indulge in as much as I possibly could in that short time. 

The most fun was the hunt for good crepes. I quickly learned that having gluten free crepes would be easier than I thought. The French eat their savory "crepes" with buckwheat batter, making it a galette. After their galette, they eat dessert crepes with white flour. Thankfully, making dessert crepes on buckwheat was no problem... Having room to eat one, however, was. 

On our first full day, we went to the Picasso Museum in Marias. After searching on Yelp before we left our hotel we found one of the top rated creperies just around the corner. We popped in Breizh and learned there was a 2 hour wait. 2 hours!? No problem! That gave us time to see the museum and explore the neighborhood. When we were sat, we were given French menus but soon after, we figured out they also had an English menu. Perfect! We honestly had no idea what we were ordering otherwise. I went with ham, egg, mushroom and cheese and Christiana ordered ham and cheese. 

The batter was dark golden brown and super crispy. We ate until we couldn't breath then looked around and saw everyone else had finished their crepe too... And began ordering dessert crepes. How!?  We don't know. There was no chance any more food was fitting in my stomach. 

On day two we explored Champs Elysees. Naturally, we searched for the best nearby Creperies before we left. We walked in Creperies Framboise and were cheerfully greeted and immediately sat.  Perfect! As we looked around the restaurant everyone was eating galettes and sipping cider. With this being our first meal of the day we did the most American thing you can do at a creperie and ordered coffee before our meal. The French typically drink theirs afterward. Oh well! We had to get energy to climb up the Arch De Triumph! 

I ordered a mozzarella, tomato, arugula and egg over easy galette. Christiana had smoked salmon with salad, goat cheese and creme fresh over her galette. When I bit into mine, it reminded me of a pizza on a perfectly crispy crust. I loved it! 

Christiana was a bit disappointed her galette was served under the salmon and cheese. Neither of us expected to see the mound of food on top but it was tasty, none the less. And of course super filling! Once again, neither of us had room for dessert crepes. :(

By day three we wanted to dine like the Parisians. We visited Little Breizh - the sister creperie to where we went on day one. Before our gallets we ordered a bottle of cider. When looking at the menu, we both salivated over the bacon, egg and cheese gallet so we decided to split that and another. 

The second crepe was filled with three cheeses, walnuts and pancetta then covered in honey and shaved hazelnut. It was the perfect combo of sweet and tangy and tasted a bit like a dessert crepe. So again, we didn't order an official dessert crepe. 

On our last day we had just enough time to eat before our train back to London. We wanted to stay relatively close to our hotel so we headed to the border of Bastille and The Latin Quarter. We looked up two different options: the first of which was empty but they wouldn't seat us because we didn't have a reservation. Our second pick was a creperie called West Country Girl. It was a bit of a walk and located in the middle of a residential street but we didn't have much trouble finding it. 

When we walked in we felt like we were at a quirky dive spot on the lower east side. Relaxed servers and unique group of people dining. Once sat, the server asked how we had heard about them - through Yelp, of course. This creperie was definitely a neighborhood gem loved by locals so they didn't have an English menu for us. Instead, I asked what the servers fave crepe was. He said the Brie and leek galette with bacon added to it. SOLD! That's what I ordered. 

Christiana ordered a spinach and goat cheese filled galette topped with raisins. 

These galette were by far my absolute fave of the trip!! They were so thin, crispy and light. The texture and flavor were unlike any we had all week. Because they were so thin we had room for dessert too!! (Can I get an AMEN!??)  we ordered one Nutella galette to split. 

After a few bites, Christiana was done so lucky me got the rest. Whoever put Nutella on a crepe is a hero in my book. It was so damn delicious! So much so that after the first, I ordered a second. (Yep... No shame here!) 

Even after eating two and a half crepes, I felt great. West Country Girl is hands down my fave crepe in Paris. 

And this concludes the binge-eating portion of my culinary travels. ;)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

International Eats - London: Truscott Arms

Since I was a kid I have loved fried fish and chips. Maybe it was the crispy fried goodness of the batter or perhaps the accompanying tartar sauce, who knows?! But I always ordered it when my family and I went to Big Boy (a Michigan diner-type chain.)

With London being famous for fish and chips, I made it my mission to find a restaurant that serves it gluten free. While Yelping one night, my friend and I both came across Truscott Arms on our own... Almost at the exact same time. We read reviews and it seemed like this was the place to go if you wanted the best gluten free fish and chips or bangers and mash in London. I was super excited! 

Truscott Arms is located just north of Notting Hill in a quaint little neighborhood off of the Warwick Avenue stop. (Yes, I couldn't get the Duffy song out of my head!) When I say this area is quaint, I mean it. We took a long-cut down a cobblestone street of little houses with adorable colorful doors. It seemed like a great area to live in. 

We opted to sit at the bar to eat. After a few (too many) cocktails we ordered our meals. Most menu items were gluten free but of course I had fish and chips. Christiana had bangers and mash - which in America is sausage and mashed potatoes. :) 

We both shared bites of each other's meal. The bangers and mash were very good. The sausage was juicy and tender and potatoes melted in your mouth. 

However - it didn't compare to the amazing fish and chips!! The piece of fish was quite large and covered in delicious fried cornmeal batter. Every single bite made a loud crunch. It was served over a green pea mash with tartar sauce on the side. There was not a drop of anything left when I finished eating. It was definitely a meal I would travel for! 

When we first sat down I noticed a flourless chocolate cake sitting on a cake tray on the bar. Naturally I planned to have a slice after my meal. :) Despite the mass amount of fried fish I already consumed, I found room for the cake! It was very moist and chocolatey. Totally worth the extra calories! 

If you're looking for delicious authentic English food - gluten free or not - take a trip to Truscott Arms. You won't be disappointed! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

International Eats! London edition - Indian Food

I was fortunate enough to be able to plan a 10 day vacation to London and Paris this month. I haven't traveled much outside of the U.S. Except for Mexico, Canada and one trip to Haiti. I was so excited to see Europe!

I couldn't wait to explore two completely different cities - the culture, history and of course FOOD!! 

London isn't really known for being an astounding food city but I received plenty of recommendations about their great Indian food from friends. I am not a big fan but my friend, Christiana, who I traveled with was so we checked it out. Several friends suggested a place called Dishoom so we went to their location in Covent Garden. 

We were warned that there would be a long wait to get a table so we weren't surprised to hear of a 45 minute wait. We were treated to spicy chai tea while in line then about 15 minutes later a few tables outside were free and we were able to sit there immediately. Apparently, the British don't enjoy eating outside like New Yorkers do. ;)

Dishoom had a completely separate gluten free menu that highlighted which dishes on their regular menu were gluten free. It was great - so easy to choose. 

We started with Bhel - a crunchy puffed rice dish with "Bombay mix," pomegranate, tomatoe, onion, lime, tamarind and mint. It was very refreshing and delicious. 

We both ordered our own main dish with plans of sharing. My friend got Chicken Ruby which was essentially Chicken Tiki Masala and I got their special which was coconut curry shrimp with rice. Dayyuummm! It was good. I love coconut flavored dishes. It also wasn't too spicy - which I hate so it was perfect. 

We loved the meal so much that when we returned to London on the last night of our trip we visited their Shoreditch location. This time we ordered fried okra to start along with Bhel. For our main course, Christiana got the Chicken Ruby again. 

Unfortunately for me, the specials are different between locations so I couldn't get coconut shrimp curry. :(  After about 800 questions to the server on what wasn't too spicy, I went with Chicken that was marinated in creamy red sauce for 24 hours, rice and Indian black beans. The chicken was delicious. I literally touched it with my fork and it fell apart. So tender and not spicy at all! 

If traveling to London, I highly recommend trying one of Dishooms many locations. Definitely prepare for a wait, but trust me it's worth it!