My Top 10 in New York City

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This summer, differing from my normal intentions of plenty of beach time and music, I spent my summer working hard during an internship, a taste of what my life is to become in the coming years post culinary school. I was lucky enough to land an internship at Gramercy Tavern, a New York institution as far as classic American fare is concerned. I was incredibly lucky to work there, and learned an incredible amount and was inspired every day, something for which I am very grateful.

I used my time in New York as wisely as I could, and tried to eat out as much and as often as I could, so I could get a feel for what the scene is like in New York.  I complied this list out of the places I’ve eaten in New York- my favorite 10- as a suggestion for those looking for places to eat during the colder and slower winter season, or even to save for the (thankfully) upcoming spring season. There are some standby spots and some newer places, so try and enjoy!

Any thoughts on those places? Suggestions for other places I MUST try?? I am SO willing to hear all about it in the comments.

 

Riverpark

Tom Colicchio’s East River hub has stellar views- and incredible food to boot. It was seasonal, fresh, and eclectic;  I loved the Burrata with tomatoes (classic, I know, but still delicious).  I had my first experience trying corn ice cream here, and throughly enjoyed it.  I can see what all the hype was about last summer (and probably this one as well).  Riverpark is also home to one of the smallest but most adorable farms, or outdoor large gardens– which supplements the restaurant.  Talk about local, and definitely a feat in any city, but especially New York City.

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450 E. 29th street

(212) 729-9790

 

 Upland

California–Inspired and incredibly chic, Upland has dishes with bold flavors inspired by the seasons. The decor is awesome, I spotted a few celebs while at the bar (if you’re into that sorta thing), but it still felt causal enough that I could roll through in jeans. The Beef tartare is a must, as well as the crispy duck wings. The pasta estrella was to die for, with chicken livers and sherry.

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345 Park Ave South

(212) 686-1006

 

Buvette

Probably the most adorable place I’ve eaten at in New York.  A tiny hole in the wall, food is prepared and served right at the counter, and menus are printed daily on small little booklets.  An outdoor patio also is available when the season is right, but watching the bustle behind the counter and their incredible practice of putting together dishes right in front of you was a treat.  A little slice of Paris in the big city; the sister restaurant is actually located in the city of lights (or romance? Not sure what the kids are calling Paris these days).  The menu is simple, homey French, done very well. Brunch is sublime. The wine, of course, is French and excellent.

Breakfast done right at Buvette

Breakfast done right at Buvette

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42 Grove Street

 

Virginia’s

Cozy and upscale, the food was so good here my group ordered the menu twice.  Although the menu has changed since I’ve been, their attention to detail and flavor profiles would get me in the door again.  Try the toast, which changes frequently but was a memorable moment when I went.

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647 East 11th street

(212) 658-0182

 

Burke & Wills

Australian themed restaurant in New York, which is awesome, as I’ve had a little obsession with Australia since visiting last summer.  Housed in an absolutely gorgeous space with windowed roof, intimate feeling and lovely decor that harkens of Australia, the food was awesome as well.  The kangaroo loin was delicious, as was the roo burger.  Opt for the cheese plate to finish, then head upstairs to their private cocktail bar with one of the most knowledgeable barkeeps in Manhattan.

Octopus and Kangaroo at Burke and Wills

Octopus and Kangaroo at Burke and Wills

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226  West 79th Street

(646) 823-9251

 

Momofuku Noodle Bar

The ultimate in tasty, David Chang’s ode to ramen is always busy for a reason.  They don’t take reservations, but if you can grab a seat, try the steamed buns with various fillings and don’t skip the Momofuku Ramen, in all of its porky glory. My only regret was not trying their fried chicken, which needs an advance order of at least 48 hours.  Now I know.

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171 1st Avenue

(212) 777-7773

 

Root +Bone

Tasty southern fare done right, by two Top Chef alums.  Adorable decor. The biscuits are wonderful, as are the dishes that come to mind when you think of southern food: the shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and strawberry shortcake are all incredible choices. Comfort food at its best.

Incredible biscuits and the grilled peach salad at Root and Bone

Incredible biscuits and the grilled peach salad at Root and Bone

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200 East 3rd Street

(646) 682-7076

The Finch

This newcomer is the brainchild of Gabe McMackin, an alum of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Gramercy Tavern.  Although being open for less than a year at the time, the spot won their first Michelin star last year, quite a feat for any well-known establishment, but a testament to the incredible food being pumped out of the open kitchen.  The atmosphere is open and beautiful, and the food is thoughtful yet innovative.  Smoked egg yolks, a component of one of their summer dishes last year, are an incredible thing, and introduced to be at this establishment.  It is always refreshing to see avant-garde cooking styles, flavors, and techniques, while still maintaining the natural beauty of the ingredients. A must see for any New Yorker, and especially those in Brooklyn looking for a new and invigorating spot.

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smoked egg yolk, puree of “green things”, and pasta

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212 Greene Avenue

(718) 218-4444

Mialino

What an incredible restaurant.  If you enjoy pasta and Italian cuisine (and who doesn’t?) then this is the place for you.  But I wouldn’t expect Chicken Parmesan.  Mialino does beautiful rustic Italian, what I imagine people in Italy actually eat.  They are inspired by classic Roman cuisine, and claim to be a “modern trattoria.” While I’m not sure if this is the case, I can be sure of the food.  A truly incredible meal, I had cheeses, cured meats, tomato salad and grape bruchetta, and of course pasta.  homemade and beautiful, this is how I want every pasta meal to be.  Malfatti with duck ragu was to die for, as well as garganelli with a tomato and olive sauce.  I would highly recommend this spot to anyone looking for an incredible environment and even better food.

Incredible pasta and, salads, and cured meats

Incredible pasta, salads, and cured meats

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2 Lexington Avenue

Inside Gramercy Park Hotel

(212) 777-2410

Gramercy Tavern

I will always love this place.  There is a reason why this restaurant has been a New York institution for over 20 years.  Having worked there (more on that later), I can say that every person in the kitchen– from the Chefs to the prep cooks– cares about the integrity of ingredients.  It is inspiring as a young chef to be exposed to such talent, and it is clear on the plate, whether of not you have culinary experience. I included so many photos because I couldn’t choose which was my favorite– this place was responsible for one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.  House–cured meats, homemade pastas, and beautifully composed salads are just a taste of what is going on there.  The menu is constantly changing due to seasonality, so these photos are out of date, but the attention to detail in not only the flavors but the presentation will remain the same.  While it is pricey, sometimes it is understandable to spend a great deal if you are receiving an incredible experience.  Sit in the tavern if you cannot make a reservation or would like a more relaxed experience, or sit in the dining room for more special occasions.  Either way, make your way here and prepare to be blown away.

One of the best meals in recent memory

One of the best meals in recent memory

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42 E 20th Street

(212) 477-0777

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Baking Christmas Pies

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  I don’t know about you, but 2015 flew by.  I know, i know, the old adage is that with every year time seems to move by quicker, but it is scary how that statement actually rings true.  I wish I could go back to my days when it seemed nap time would take forever to be over…but I digress, as this is not a post for reminiscence, but for looking forward to the holiday season.

I recently took a baking class at culinary school, and was not dissapointed.  My teacher, a man who could give Santa a run for his money not only in looks but in joyous personality- was also a certified master baker, and was kind enough to share some tidbits of wisdom with my class which come in handy for the holidays, including how to make pie from scratch.  It’s a lot easier than one would think- I remember before entering culinary school how I would think that it was easier just to buy store-made dough and add the filling myself- but the extra effort is well worth it.

I promise, baking your own pie from scratch will most likely impress friends and family much more than the actual effort needed to make these things. You might not even need to leave your house to obtain these ingredients. Don’t believe me? Check this out:

Pie Dough can be broken down into a simple 3-2-1:

3 lbs flour (cake flour is awesome, but AP will do as well)

2 lbs fat (butter for most standard pies, but lard or other animal fat will work for meat pies)

1 lb water by weight (don’t worry about breaking out the scale for this one: there is an old saying “a pint is a pound the world around” which chefs swear by. In other words, a pound of water is 2 cups, or a pint).

1 oz salt, as needed

This ratio will work if you scale it up or down.  Not sure how much to make? I’ve got another formula to make your life easier:

You will need about 1 oz of dough for every inch in diameter of your pie tin.

So a 9 in diameter pie tin uses about 9 oz, or a little over a half pound, of dough. (I promise, the fanciness that surrounds chefs is all formula memorization and application in the proper circumstances).

Method:

So once you have your dough ingredients, all you have to do is mix them.  For a flakier crust, cut the butter cold into manageable cubes and let mix with the flour in a stand mixer until the mixture has combined into small pebble-like portions.

Then add the water, ice cold, and mix for another 6 seconds.  Seriously, don’t over mix this, or you will have tougher dough than anticipated.

Let this dough chill in the fridge for at least an hour. 

Roll the pie dough out to a 1/4 in thickness, and drape over pie tin. Then add the filling.

My favorite pie to make for the holiday season? 

 Berry pies. Easy, simple, and delicious, using fresh or frozen berries is appropriate. Another simple ratio to remember, this time for the filling:

1.5 lbs berries, fresh or frozen

1 lb sugar 

1 oz cornstarch

Feel free to add fun flavor combos.. For instance, I love to put thinly sliced lemon with my blueberry pies, or elderflower syrup with strawberries. 

You can throw a top piece of dough on your pie to keep the berries in.There will be a lot. 

  
I like to egg wash my dough and sprinkle a little turbanado sugar on top. Bake your pie in the oven at 375 for an hour, or until golden brown. The pie will drop fruit juice, so I would cook on a tray with some parchment paper underneath. 

Take out your pie and let chill before slicing and serving. Then gobble that thing up before your family members get at it. 

  
Happy Holidays!

-L

Fall Beginnings

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I know it’s been forever, and that’s my fault. Working as chef can zap any energy I once had to write, and a summer mending a broken heart can take away enthusiasm to share my culinary experiences. My summer was spent working hard as an intern, exploring New York City’s food scene, and being inspired by food on a whole other level. I have so much to write about in the coming weeks, but for now,mi wanted to re-introduce myself and my mission on this blog. I’m Lana, I’m 26, single, and a cook, married to the job. I am inspired by the seasonality of food, preserving, and recently, pickling. I am looking to enhance my world with food, and I can find inspiration anywhere. I have had the pleasure to work at some of the best restaurants around, and I have a thirst for knowledge about anything food. I am looking forward to sharing my experience this summer on this blog and new dishes I have created. Stay tuned for much more!
-L

Recipe: Easy Salmon Tartare

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Recently, I came into some possession of salmon belly trim (trim is usually pretty awesome and cheap ya know), and I hate wasted food. I decided to make something real quick, easy, and perfect for the (finally) warming weather. The diced trim was just mixed with whatever I had on hand at home- just simply dressed with some mustard, oil,capers, and fresh herbs. Since the fish is kept raw, it’s important to use very fresh fish. Also, tartare just sounds inherently fancy, so if you’re cooking for more than one- or even just one, as I made this for myself and still felt pretty fancy- it’s sure to impress.

Yields about a cup, which is a perfect size for a few as an app or a decent sized snack if you’re me (the aforementioned “just one”).

Ingredients
Salmon belly trim, very fresh, about 1/2 lb, trimmed of skin, pin bones picked, and diced into small pieces [$5]
Note: try and keep the salmon cold as you’re cutting, it makes it easier to cut!
Parsley, about 3 tbsp, rough chop
Lemon zest, 1 tbsp
Stone ground mustard 1 tbsp
Handful or so of capers, chopped,
Dill, handful, picked.
Olive oil, salt, pepper to taste.

Directions
Mix all ingredients except dill in a bowl to taste. The condiments should be added a little at a time, so the fish isn’t overpowered. Finish with more olive oil and dill. Serve with crackers and enjoy!

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Also, Game of Thrones starts tomorrow guys. National sibling day was yesterday. Coincidence?

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I think not.
-L

Riesling Poached Pears

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Now, I’m no baker, but I love dessert. It seems like a meal isn’t complete without a little something sweet at the end. Eventually I want to learn how to make a chocolate tart, soufflé, or something else that’s sweet and fancy, but that’s a question for my friends in the baking program at school.
In the meantime, this is a great dessert for those who want something quick, tasty, and maybe even a little boozy? Booze is a natural pairing with dessert (or any course), and these pears, poached lightly in Riesling, are an utterly scrumptious way to end a meal. I made these for my mother’s birthday, and she loved them, and we decided to save the leftover poaching liquid to use this spring experimenting with cocktails. See, everybody wins.

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Ingredients
1 bottle sweet Riesling [i used some wine I got for $5 at Trader Joe’s]
2 cups sugar [$2]
1 lemon [$1]
5 pears [$5]

Directions
Peel and core the pears using a peeler and melon baller, respectively. Add wine to a pot with lemon peel, the sugar, and enough water to cover the pears. Bring to a simmer and add the pears to the liquid.
The pears should be covered with parchment paper or a lid that will ensure they do not float in the liquid. They must be submerged. I used a lid that was a little smaller than the opening of the pot so it could sit snugly on top of the pears and push them slightly down.
Poach the pears until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Test done ness with a knife inserted into the flesh.
When the pears are tender, let cool slightly in the liquid. Pears can be stored in the poaching liquid until ready to serve, or for up to a few weeks. They only increase in flavor.
When ready to serve, cut pears in half and take a 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid in a saucepan and reduce to a syrup. Top pears with the syrup and whipped cream, if desired.

Enjoy!
-L

Making Cheese

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Who doesn’t like cheese? Nobody, that’s who. Luckily, I’ve found out how to make some cheese at home, for those who want to try something new. It’s easy, fast, and definitely a great way to spend some time on a snowy day like most of us Northeasters had today.
So I decided on goat cheese, but this recipe can be made with any milk. Just make sure it isn’t ultra-pasteurized.
Here’s all you need to make some tasty cheese. Certainly not that much.

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Ingredients
1/2 gallon goats milk [$8]
2 cups heavy cream [$2]
1/4 cup white vinegar [$1 for a bottle]
1 bunch thyme [$2]
Kosher salt

Note: you’ll also need some cheesecloth, which runs about $5. This can be washed and used again in endless ways while cooking (though I’d only use the cheesecloth one or two more times). A worthwhile investment. Also, a thermometer is very helpful here.

Directions
Place the milk and cream in a large pot with the thyme.

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Bring the milk up to 185 degrees (F), making sure that a skin doesn’t form and that the milk doesn’t come close to boiling.

When the milk comes up to temperature, remove the thyme and add the vinegar, stirring only a few times to incorporate. Let curdle. It will look weird at first, but I promise this cheese is awesome.

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After the milk curdles, take it off the heat and let stand for at least 10 minutes so the curd can form.

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Strain the cheese into a colander lined with cheesecloth. The leftover liquid can be discarded or saved and used to make ricotta cheese, to add protein to smoothies, or to braise meats.

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It should take another 10 minutes or so for the cheese to drain. Add a tablespoon or so if salt to taste and help with the draining process.

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After the cheese is drained, it’s time to eat! It’s seriously that easy. Whole process took me maybe two hours. Still plenty of time for more activities on a blizzard day (I’m just assuming there will be more before winter is over, but this can be made anytime you’re feeling like some fresh cheese).
I tried to form mine into kisses, they came out more like small pyramids. Not sure if that made it better or worse.

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The cheese itself, however, was delicious. After cooling the cheese for about 30 minutes, they formed and solidified into just the right consistency. Feel free to just keep it in a container to spread on crackers if pyramid shapes aren’t your thing.
-L

End of Semester Round Up

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Somehow, the end of my first semester at Culinary School is upon me, and I don’t even know how it happened so quickly. I’ve gone from just understanding consomme to pulling together more composed dishes:

chicken

My life, similarly, has become more composed as well.  I’ve somehow learned to balance school, three jobs, and a (somewhat sad or somewhat very exclusive, depending on how you look at it) social and familial life. You know what? It’s not bad. Sure, busy doesn’t come close to describing my life on some weeks, but I’ve learned to at least give myself a day off a week, allowing myself to recharge from what can be a very demanding schedule.

So what’s next? More school, of course.  I start my second semester next month, and with it, I get to learn fish and meat butchery, courses I have been very excited to learn. Then I start to work in production kitchens, which I’m sure will feel like home to me.  I cannot wait to be back in a kitchen setting this summer, where I will go on externship and have a chance to gain some more experience and save a little cash.

Hopefully I’ll have some time this summer to still do some exploring between school and work, as I plan on hitting a festival or two and traveling to some new states (looking at you, Colorado…).  Then it’s back to school to finish up before graduation.

After all that? Who knows. The sky is the limit after I graduate, though I expect I will want to move out of New York as soon as I can. Or at least that’s the plan for now.  My life is so fluid, I might end up staying in New York for a little.  All I know is, I would like to live out west for at least a little part of my life.  Colorado or California, maybe Arizona or even Oregon if the conditions are right.  I don’t plan on spending my whole life in one place. There are so many exciting things happening in food nowadays I don’t have to limit myself to a specific region.  People gotta eat.

All those are just dreams though.  I have no idea where my life is going to take me, and if I’ve learned anything in the past year, it is the life has it’s own plan, and sometimes, there is no use fighting it.  So I just plan the day to day, at least til I have the time to figure out the rest.  Luckily, I’ll always have my friends and family to guide me through the somewhat treacherous seas of life, those who support me and who put up with me when I’m not on my best behavior; it’s those people who I owe a great deal of thanks.

So what have I learned in my first semester at school? That, when put to the test, I still want to live my life with food.  School has tested my resolve, and I think it’s only made me want to push harder.  Having people to watch your back definitely instils a greater sense of confidence; I know I can take the dive cause I have a good net to catch me just in case I miss.  There’s no point in not going for my goals.

-L