Morgenstern’s (Finest Ice Cream) feels in some ways like an anachronism. Like a soda bar or something, a page out of old Archie. Or something from a Michel Gondry movie, an All-American ice cream shop off a lonely stretch of Bowery (Google Maps) murmuring with junkies and others just barely hanging onto the margins of society.
On the other hand, Morgenstern’s makes damn good ice cream, so who cares about the throwback paper caps and the retro menu. But then again, the menu isn’t all that retro, with nods to Kanye and chef collaborations, is both cloyingly hipster and creative.
Raw egg and coffee cluster. Vietnamese coffee. Mango passion fruit. Luxardo cherries, toasted coconut toppings. Smooth strawberry.
The best way I can describe Little Park (Google maps) in Tribeca’s Smyth Hotel – is a stylish picnic. One that you would plan for a date, somebody whose sensibilities include Soulcycle or design magazines and to whom you want to say, “hey, I do eat other things besides Shake Shack and fried chicken.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
You bring her here to impress her with some beetroot risotto and the airy tempura of avocado squash & blossoms. Sure, there are also duck and scallops on this picnic, because you want to ball out a little. But those come later. After you eat your vegetables like the cultural connoisseur you are (“za’atar is an ancient spice blend,” you will say, because you checked Wikipedia while she was in the bathroom).
Different from the way that Upland(Google Maps), in Gramercy, is also a picnic. Your date might also enjoy Upland, and if she’s game to split the short rib for two or she goes fingers-first for the crispy duck wings, confit’d and crisped, slathered with yuzu kosho, then it’s time to consider getting more serious.
Brooklyn Crab is a seafood shack with a distinctly neighborhood feel, and fewer noticeably commercial tchotchkes on the walls than you’d otherwise expect, given the sometimes-on-weekend profusion of bros & the women who love them. Depending on your seat, you’ll have a view of Brooklyn, the Red Hook Fairway building, or the waterfront, the Statue of Liberty vaguely in the distance. But it’s this neighborhood vibe that lingers, just 20 easy minutes (via water taxi) from downtown Manhattan. Almost Floridian or Orange County-esque. And what a relief to escape to a place like this.
Where the Cajun shrimp are plump and juicy, bathed in cayenne & lemon & celery salt.
Where you order crab legs steamed in butter, with a side of clarified butter for dipping. Where you alternate between using the tools and your teeth, methodically extracting the salty-sweet fruit from its crunchy husk.
Where you put butter even on the corn, because it’s just right thing to do, goddamn it.
Estela feels like such a neighborhood spot, the entrance as if you’re stepping into your college buddy’s second-story walk-up on a Saturday night, bottle of something in hand, pile of boots and ballet flats strewn around the door, your mind on that one girl you met last time and wondering if she might show up tonight. The interior is dim, vaguely shimmery from candlelight, shrouded by hushed conversations, dates and hip parties, a good energy spilling over from the crowded bar. You want it to be a hip friend’s apartment, somewhere that if smoking were still a thing, there would be the faraway scent of that and perfume and jazz.
And fancy ginger ales. With beautifully cubed ice. Surryano country ham. Because, why not? Fat and salt in a relatively primal form. A simple, elevated presentation of crunchy leaves of green (kale?). But underneath this lardo-brushed canopy, some seared scallops, simple and sweet, sweetness that surprisingly held up its own to the herbacious, textured sweetness of sugar snap peas. Fried arroz negro with sepia and romesco. So many layers of savory in this dish, as well as texture – the rice, the slippery bits of cuttlefish, and the tangy spread of romesco.Continue reading →
God bless the humble pig, and all the amazing things that come from it. (These are just fresh house rolls with soft, whipped butter – I don’t think there’s pork in these, but I wouldn’t be surprised, I guess). I think the shrimp did have some pork in it (a deeply smoked bacon in the broth), and some scallions to liven it up. These sticky, saucy ribs, with minty watermelon relish, had a nice balance of fleshiness, fat, and tenderness. Head cheese, chunky and unctuous, gelatinous, umami-rific. The pickles and the mustard helped provide some counterbalance, if you want it.Continue reading →
There’s nothing quite like a really good ice cream parlor. I grew up with a Graeter’s near my house, and that was a place we could gather after a movie or a study night (mostly study nights, in my high school days), or pick up some scoops during a slow week when I could sneak off-campus. At Graeter’s I had my first scoop of black cherry flavor, which to this day remains one of my favorite flavors.
Creole Creamery has that distinctive neighborhood feel, of something both comfortable and lively, like it’s been there the whole time, even if it’s new. There are families and kids and hipsters and old-timers. There are wide booths with smooth leather seats and bright lights, and there’s the faint sweetness – the lightly toasted, vanilla perfume of cones and waffles. Plus, the uptown location of Creole Creamery has that old-school soda fountain feel to it, retro chic. But those are more stylistic embellishments. I was there because I’d heard nothing but rave reviews about the ice cream. Even the owner of Brennan’s loves Creole Creamery. So many choices, and many uniquely New Orleans flavors (including king cake, when we last visited). Creole cream cheese, Satsuma orange. Banana cane malt. Lavender. Cafe au lait. The sampler. Six mini-scoops of amazing. We had two of these. With mostly different flavors.We are serving this at our wedding, in case you were wondering.
4924 Prytania Street, New Orleans, LA 70115
Nothing like a little bit of boiled seafood to start your Sunday.
I don’t know my way around the boiled seafood places in New Orleans yet, and there’s a whole encyclopedia of restaurants I’ve yet to try. Bevi Seafood Co. is one of the newer kids on the block, and though we didn’t explore the rest of the menu, they offer a whole host of po’ boys and entrees if you want to try something else besides the by-the-pound seafood.This bowl of dark, thick, savory gumbo. Loved the shrimp, not crazy about the oysters, but they were admittedly plump and tender. And a platter of boiled seafood: crawfish, head-on shrimp, and a couple of crabs. It’s a lot of work, all these crustaceans, but the quality of the meat was mostly great. The shrimp weren’t all that memorable, but the crawfish were juicy and sweet, and the crab as well. In particular, the crawfish brains were worth the effort. Continue reading →
Peche was the first of Donald Link’s restaurants that we tried, a seafood-centric restaurant in a town leaning heavily towards all things fished from the Gulf. The space is open and comfortable, the big windows along the street broadcasting light into the high-ceiling’d dining room. Wooden tables, sturdy chairs, the back-of-house glow of the grill in the passe. We came early for lunch, before we had to skip town, so the restaurant was just stirring to life, but a few older couples were already at the bar. Nice way to spend a boozy mid-day in New Orleans, that’s for sure. Better at Peche than some beer-soaked French Quarter establishment, I guess?
But we came for lunch, goddammit, and lunch we were going to have. And lots of it. Starting with this corn soup. Myra ate all of this soup. She did not save much for me, but the one spoonful of soup I had was pretty good. Sweet and rich. Crab claws, in a mint and shallot mignonette of sorts. A white fish ceviche (I want to say hamachi?) topped with french fry sticks. Very citrus-y, not sure how I felt about it. The fish wasn’t all that noteworthy, was the main letdown. By god, these hush puppies. So good, crispy, hot out of the frying pan (or deep-fryer, I guess). Sprinkled with just the right amount of salt, and full of delicious herbs (I think scallions).Continue reading →
Commander’s Palace, one of the gems of the Brennan family’s wide umbrella of New Orleans hospitality empire, is a beautiful restaurant. On a lazy, lush-green street (ominously across from a cemetery), the bright sign for Commander’s Palace Restaurant buzzes alongside the row of lanterns. If I had a horse-drawn carriage, it would seem an appropriate entrance to the scene. There are multiple floors, all white tablecloth’d and dimly lit. I felt transported to a different era, one of antebellum over-civility – and for that reason, I felt slightly out of place. But would I allow that to get in the way of enjoying butter-laden food?
We kicked off with heirloom tomato salad with gorgonzola. Shrimp with pickled okra and hot pepper jelly. Gumbo. With smoked ham or ham hock or something fucking delicious. Rich and smoky and RICH.Continue reading →