Tag Archives: American

Take my Breath Away

Sometimes, a restaurant comes along and really takes my breath away.  Okay, not really my breath per say, cause then I wouldn’t be able to breath let alone write.  But it takes me by surprise.  And I’m not going to bore you with more neighborhood nonsense, because you already know how I feel about restaurants in Midtown compared to restaurants, well, anywhere else.  But this is a tale of a terrific restaurant in midtown.

Vitae is like a needle in a haystack, like one shiny star in a dark night sky, like one fabulous pair of shoes in a sea of ugly shoes.  Why such high praise for the midtown eatery? Because it freakin rocks, that’s why.  The restaurant features contemporary American cuisine in a space that feels so American retro and yet so chic. So so chic.  I love it when you walk into a restaurant and feel important, and that’s exactly how I felt walking into Vitae.  And no, I don’t think anyone let them know in advance the Bite-Sized Blonde was coming in.   From the moment I sat down, to the agonizing moment I left, I was treated like the most important customer in the restaurant.  And let me reiterate, they don’t know about the power of my pen.  The service at Vitae was some of the best I have experienced in, well, let’s just call it a long time.  The waiters know their stuff, down to every last ingredient in a dish and even how the food is prepared.  This is the service that other restaurants should strive to have.

To be honest, I might have even liked the restaurant if the food was mediocre.  Especially since I did happen to eat there a few short weeks after it opened.  But alas, the food was f*^&ing awesome.  No, seriously, it was divine.

I can usually maneuver around a bread basket.  Now, don’t get it twisted, I love me some bread.  But I also know my priorities, and they are often deterred by that menacing bread basket.   Well, the bread basket got me at Vitae.  Probably because it wasn’t a basket; it was served in a cast iron dish.  The bread looked like four supple pillows of doughy heaven.  It had a natural, and quite dazzling sheen if I do say so myself,  and was then dusted in large flakes of sea salt.  I don’t care who you are, there is no denying the power of bread perfuming the air, especially when it looks like this.

Unfortunately for both me and you, I started with something that is no longer on the menu.  A poached egg, garnished with mushrooms, frissee, chips and chives and served alongside golden toast points.  In three words, I can describe this dish…come to mama.  The mushrooms brought an element of earthiness to this rich dish, and the chips were such an unexpected pop of crunch.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, you name it, I’d eat it.

I also ordered the Pulled Pork Tacos.  The miniature shells were made of polenta – so they were sweet and crunchy and the ultimate vehicle for buttery soft pork.  Each bite was better than the last.  Had it not been for the rest of the food on the way, I might have told the waiter to keep ‘em coming.

I have an outrageous love for beets which I can only attribute to too many hours of watching Doug Funny.  So, I couldn’t pass up the Roasted Beet Salad.  It was served with Asian Pears and pistachio covered goat cheese.  This was good, but so much of the menu is a stand out, I would forgo the beets for something a little more, dare I say, original.

Hanger steak is one of my favorite cuts of meat because it is so flavorful.  And the hanger steak at Vitae was just that.  It was charred and then sliced to display its soft pink center and served alongside a watercress salad and a mound of salty French fries.  Damn, that’s one fineee piece of meat.

And we all know you cannot eat a steak without a side dish, and no that does not include the French fries.  So, I ordered the Brussels Sprouts & Bacon and boy did it hit the spot.  This dish was a pleasant surprise from start to finish.  The leaves of the sprouts were removed and left whole, then blanched and tossed in bits of bacon and lots of bacon grease.  Sounds indulgent, but it was light as can be.  It was reminiscent of a salad – if salad tasted like bacon.

And last, but certainly not least, we finished with a soufflé that must have been made in heaven because it was godlike.  Served in a tall mug with a shot of freshly whipped cream, this dish was everything I needed and more.   Chocolate can be such a heavy dessert, especially in the middle of the day, but soufflé by nature, is the exact opposite.  I told myself I was only going to eat one bite, and then the next thing I remember is trying to lick the mug.  Sorry Mom. 

Vitae
4 East 46th Street
New York City 10017
212.682.3562

Diner, Dive In and Drive Away Happy

So it’s been a while, but I’m backkk!!! I sure hope you missed me, because I missed you!…and that you are wondering what food is bringing me back to the blog.…what restaurant could have been so noteworthy that the writer in me is ready to, well, write again? Ohh hold on tight cause this is a good one…

I was almost tempted to bury this information because, let’s be honest, I’m just not sure if I want this restaurant blowing up.  Sure, it might be selfish, but it also might be brilliant.  Keep this to myself and avoid having a hard time getting in when you all flock like seagulls to this place, sounds like the smart thing to do.   But, I wouldn’t be the Bite-Sized Blonde if I kept information this meaningful from you, now would I?

Is the suspense killing you? Okay okay, here it is…drumroll please…the restaurant so good I had to start writing immediately is…DinerDiner is well, an old diner from almost a century ago – resurrected and brought way above it’s former glory to become a superstar restaurant.   Of course, the food is the star here, but it seems rather silly not to mention the décor, because in this case, it’s what makes the atmosphere so freaking awesome.  Diner looks like a diner you would see on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives if the wrong person bought this place.  You totally could have found chicken fried gravy on this menu or something equally as “comforting” and by comforting I mean just kind of ineffectual.  But, this place is so much more that a triple D joint.  It’s seriously cool, and not just in a BK hipster too cool for school kind of a way.  It’s like cool, man.  The diner is illuminated by votives that take the usual space and make it into something so unusual people are clambering to come in.   The space might be small, but nothing else here is.

Okay, so there’s one more thing that’s small, and that’s the menu.  But remember what I’ve taught you, good things come in small packages.  Or Bite-Sized packages really. But you get the point.   If you take after your favorite Bite-Sized Blonde, then you probably want to see the menu right now.  But you can’t, because it changes daily.  Pain in the ass to reprint the menu everyday, right? Wrong! The waitress sits down at your table to write the menu on the paper tablecloth.  So casual, so cool.

We shared several dishes, because how could we not.  So, I sampled about half of the menu.  We started with the Fried Green Tomatoes.  OMG, these FGTs were SG – so good, so so good.  Green tomatoes are different than your run-of-the-mill red tomatoes.  They are denser and a little sour almost.  Which is why they are great to fry.  They maintain their integrity even under high heat.  These FGTs were something special though.  Lightly breaded and fried to a golden perfection, they were served with a side salad of watercress and mint and moisturized in aioli.  Yes, moisturized – because they had a thin layer of creamy goodness on them to keep them moist.

We also shared the Romaine Salad, which kind of sounds boring, but it was anything but.  The crispy leaves were left in rather big pieces and combined with roasted beets and finely shaved red onion and then showered in love, otherwise known as creamy basil vinaigrette.   A simple salad elevated to awesomeness is a salad you could find me eating everyday.

As a treat, the kitchen sent us a plate of crostini.  Thin slices of sourdough bread, toasted on the grill, and covered in a garlicky spread and marinated green tomatoes is anything but your ordinary crostini, and man, was this good.  Of course, it only had me begging for more…

You know how I feel about burgers – so I couldn’t resist the Special House Burger at Diner since it is the one thing that is always on their menu.  And after eating it, I know why.  This burger is so good, I’m sure the Diner regulars would be up in arms if it disappeared from the menu.  A thick juicy patty of blended meat rests comfortably on a doughy brioche bun and is then adorned with lettuce and pickled onions and served with homemade ketchup.  The pickled onions take on a cabbage-like flavor that elevates the burger so subtly.  And the ketchup is thick and sweet with a hint of cinnamon; it is truly unlike any ketchup you have ever had.  Which is why it’s the only choice in condiments for the fries.

Fries are important to a burger like a bikini top is to the bottom.  Sure, they are separate entities, but if you have one without the other, you are just half naked.   The fries are thick cut and double fried in flavorful and greasy oil and then dusted with salt to create a crunchy, salty snack that is impossible to resist.  Even after I had finished my meal, and all of my fries, I still wanted more.  Not because I didn’t have enough, but because every time a plate of fries was brought near my table, and that incredible scent perfumed the air, I found myself salivating.

Diner is more than burgers though.   We also shared a Sirloin.  It was grilled, so it had beautiful char marks, and then was sliced and plated with grilled spinach and an heirloom tomato salad.  I’m not sure who the genius is that decided to grill spinach but I need to meet this person ASAP.  Spinach takes on a whole new level of deliciousness when it is grilled.  It was so intensely flavorful but light, which made it the perfect addition to one buttery soft piece of meat.

We also shared the Pork Chop, which was grilled and served on top of a garlicy sauce.  It was juicy and hearty and so insanely delicious, I was surprised no one at the table picked up the bone to salvage the last, impossibly small pieces of meat left.

Diner’s food is comforting, but it’s not comfort food.  I would eat here when I’m sad, when I’m celebrating, when I’m starving, or when I’m totally full.  This is the food you cannot pass up.  This place is so cool, that if someone took me here on a date and I didn’t know about this place beforehand, I might just be getting undressed at the table.  Clearly the way to my heart is through my stomach, but you already know that…

Diner
85 Broadway
Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY
718.486.3077

Beware of the Two Door Tavern

Beware of the Two Door Tavern

You know that place? You know the one I’m talking about.  Known for their awesome brunch so the line is out the door at all hours, and although you know the wait is going to be tremendous, you walk over there, just to see how long the line really is and maybe put your name down.  Yes, that’s the one.  Almost every neighborhood has one.  And in Williamsburg, this place is called Egg.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a story about Egg, and the awesomeness that unravels there.  No, this story is about another place.  You should know this one well too.  This is the place that catches all the starving passersby that leave that popular and oh so busy place undoubtedly disappointed when they can’t get a table.  In this case, the Two Door Tavern.   On a warm Sunday afternoon, I fell victim to the Two Door Tavern.  So close to Egg, yet so far away.  But, in the midst of my hunger pains, it would have to suffice…or would it.

Well, the long and the short of it, really, is that this place was an epic disappointment.  Of course, it was disappointing because we didn’t get to eat at Egg, but really the most egregious indignity was caused by the Two Door Tavern itself.   By bypassing Egg, we thought we were avoiding the wait.  Yes, we realized the food wouldn’t be what we had wanted, but we would get to eat soon.  In this game of compromise, that would have to do.  But, what we didn’t know was that the wait to eat at Two Door Tavern would be equally as long.  No, we didn’t wait to sit down.  We were seated right away.  But we did wait to order and then we waited even longer for our food to arrive.  Not because the restaurant was busy, because it wasn’t.  We waited because the restaurant was painfully slow.  In fact, we waited almost 2 hours for food and dare I say, mediocre food.  I ordered a BLT with a fried egg that was offensively overcooked and bacon that was medium rare.  The rest of the food was equally as thrilling.   So, the next time you find yourself caught in a pickle, deciding between delicious and a wait, and someplace else, just remember how un-delicious that someplace else might really be.

Another one bites the dust…

Two Door Tavern
116 N.5th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718.599.0222

Get Your Heart On

Valentine’s Day is all about the nostalgia for me.  It’s represented by handmade cards, usually made from doilies and construction paper, and conversation hearts.  You know what I’m talking about.  Those little heart shaped, pastel colored candies with adorable sayings written on them?  You know the ones that didn’t taste all that great but you ate them anyway? Yea, those things.  Ever wonder how such a mediocre candy became the sugary symbol of a whole holiday? Well, I do.  And since I couldn’t figure it out, I decided to give them a makeover.

Thinking outside the box, of candy that is, I decided these pasty pastel pieces need a serious upgrade.   Everyone loves cake and most certainly everyone loves chocolate, and it’s a known fact that everything on a stick tastes better.  So cake pops seemed like an obvious choice.

The best part? Other than the taste of course…By making your own conversation hearts you control the conversation.  Have something to say? Write it in edible ink.   Cause nothing says I love you like..well, a heart shaped dessert that says I love you.

And if you don’t want to say I love you…you can always go in another direction

Conversation Heart Cake Pops (makes about 26)

Ingredients
1 box of yellow cake mix
Eggs
Butter
16 ounces of container ready-made frosting, vanilla
16 ounces of yellow candy coating
16 ounces of pink candy coating
16 ounces of green candy coating
Metal heart-shaped cookie cutter, 1 1/2 inches wide
26 paper lollipop sticks
Styrofoam block
Red Edible Ink Pen

Directions
Bake the cake as directed on the box, using a 9×13 in cake pan.  Let cool completely.  Once the cake is cooled, get organized and set aside a few hours to crumble, roll and dip the cake pops.

Crumble the cooled cake into a large mixing bowl.  This is the fun part, because you get to use your hands to crumble!  Make sure the cake is really crumble, no large pieces of cake please! Add 3/4 of the container of frosting to the bowl of crumbled cake and mix until incorporated.  You can use your hands (the fun way) or the back of a metal spoon.  *Don’t add the entire container of frosting.  If you do, the cake balls will be too moist.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Press the cake mixture into the pan in an even layer.  Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and then place into the freezer for 15 minutes, or in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Once thoroughly cooled, remove and get ready to cut!  Prepare another baking sheet with a layer of parchment paper.  Grab your heart shaped cookie cutter and get cutting! Cut out hearts.  Make sure the heart are thick enough to hold a lollipop stick.  They should be about 1 1/2 inches thick.   If you need to add more cake mixture to the heart, now is the time! Once the heart is cut out, place it on the second baking tray.  Continue until your finish the cake mixture.  If the mixture becomes sticky, place back into the freezer for a few minutes and then continue.

Once all the hearts are cut out, place into the freezer for 15 minutes to firm them up again before dipping.  Once they are firm, transfer them to the refrigerator.  Remove a few at a time for dipping, keeping the rest chilled.

Melt one color of candy at a time in a microwave safe plastic bowl, following the instructions on the packages.  The coating should be about 3 inches deep for easy dipping.  One at a time, dip about 1 1/2 inches of the lollipop stick into the melted candy coating, and insert the stick straight into the bottom of a heart shaped cake, pushing it no more than halfway through.  Dip the cake into the melted coating and tap off an excess coating.

Let the pops dry on the styrofoam block.  When they are completely dry, use a red edible ink pen to write notes on one side of each cake pop.

Serve and Enjoy!

P.S.  If you have extra chocolate, grabs some Oreos and pretzels and get dipping!

It’s Crunch Time…

So, its crunch time, and I’m not referring to the Captain, although I wish I was.   I mean it’s almost V-Day.  4 Days and counting.  Whether you have a new love, old love, or last minute love, you need to plan something.   Unless of course you are unattached this holiday, and in that case, you can stop reading now.

If you are looking to impress your Valentine, or at least not piss them off, I have a few suggestions for you.  Nothing says “I want to spend time with you like dinner.”  Hey, there’s a reason most people go for drinks on a first date.  But dinner isn’t just dinner on Valentine’s Day. So make sure to pick a restaurant that shows you put a little thought into this.

Here are a couple Bite- Sized Valentine’s Day picks…

Bobo.  This French restaurant in the West Village is the perfect quaint and quiet backdrop for a romantic night.  The food will impress.  Just make sure you will too.

In Vino.  This Italian restaurant in the East Village is warm and cozy.  A nice bottle of vino at In Vino is sure to set the mood.

Marc Forgione.  This rustic American bistro in Tribecca is known for their exceptional food and killer cocktails.  What more could you ask for?

Going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day can be uber-annoying, especially if there is a pre-fixe involved.  Pre-fixe has me predisposed to think overrated.  Pre-fixe? More like please fix this ASAP, and get me a real menu.   So, if the kitchen is more your scene than Kittichai, then you know what you have to do.  Love is in the air, literally, if you cook at home.  You’re entire apartment can smell like love, or short ribs, which is the same thing really.

Valentine’s day is a Tuesday this year, and it’s hard to prepare a whole meal after work.  So, my suggestion, start early.  Make things this weekend you can refrigerate, or freeze, until you are ready to serve them.  Like soup, click here, here and here to see a few soup recipes.  Another recipe you can make in advance? Gnocchi!  Make the dough this weekend, precut the gnocchi and freeze them.  On Tuesday, take them out of the freezer right before you want to cook them. They will just need a few minutes in the boiling water, and voila! You will have a meal sure to impress!!

Craving a little more spontaneity? How about breakfast? This oh so important meal can be a totally unexpected Valentine’s surprise.  Start your morning with pancake hearts or a heart shaped egg in a hole.

Looking to heat things up, but not in the kitchen?  Check out Shag Brooklyn.  This unique adult store, art gallery, event space hybrid is hosting a Valentine’s event for the books.  Aphrodisiacs and Amor is a blindfolded tasting meant to tease, tantalize and tickle your taste buds.  Their words, not mine.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen sex store, and head to Nitehawk Cinemas.  This movie theater takes the idea of dinner and a movie to a whole new level.  The theater has a full restaurant that delivers your food to your seats during the show!

Great, dinner down, but one gift to go…Check out Tasting Table’s Valentine’s Shop.   Of course, this will only work if your Valentine is a foodie.  Otherwise, best of luck to you!

What are you planning this Valentine’s Day?

Chai Five For Kutsher’s Tribeca

There’s a new kid on the block, and by kid I mean restaurant and by block I mean neighborhood. Tribeca welcomed Kutsher’s with open arms, almost at the same time Demi pushed him out.  But, there’s no actual relation here.  Kutsher’s Tribeca is the new restaurant brought to you by the Kutsher Family, as in the Kutsher family who owns Kutsher’s Country Club in the Catskills.

The century old resort is infamous, well infamous to Jewish families in the tri-state area.  It’s been a second home to hardworking families, focusing on community, tradition, and of course, good food.  Just like its upstate predecessor, Kutsher’s Tribeca has the same goals of creating good food, which is exactly what it does.

Kutsher’s is reinventing what it means to be a JAB – Jewish American Bistro.   The menu is filled with nostalgic dishes that have a modern twist.   Chef Mark Spangenthal is turning old classics into new favorites.

One of my old favorites dates back to my camping days.  Kutsher’s put its spin on Bug Juice, to make an adult friendly drink for the kid inside of us. Although it’s normally made with Vodka, I ordered mine the Bite-Sized way, with tequila instead.  Tequila, home-made fruit punch and grapefruit bitters. But the most noteworthy part of this cocktail are the punch ice cubes.  As the cubes melt, the juice dissolves so the drink doesn’t get watered down.  Now that mixologist is a real mench!

We started with the Wild Halibut Gefilte Fish, which was plated with beet and horseradish tartare and garnished with a micro arugula and parsley vinaigrette.  Beet and horseradish tartare might just be a fancy way of saying horseradish, but there was nothing snooty about this dish.  The wild halibut is mild which gives the gefilte fish a subtle flavor, unlike the jarred stuff you might be used to.

I couldn’t pass up Milton’s Short Rib & Brisket Meatballs with caramelized onions and creamy horseradish sauce and can you blame me? Such a whimsical spin on an old classic cannot be ignored! My hopes were high for this dish, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed.  The meatballs were tender and intensely flavorful.  They were totally reminiscent of mom’s brisket.

You know how much I love latkes, so of course I also ordered the Crispy Potato Latkes at Kutsher’s.  Well, really I asked for two orders of them, one with apple sauce and sour cream and one with caviar, in true Bite-Sized fashion.  They were crispy and dense, which made them the perfect vehicle for sweet apple sauce and salty caviar.

I have a hard time turning down Challah, so when I saw that the Country Club Chopped Salad had challah croutons, I decided it also had to be ordered.  Chickpeas, apples, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, walnuts and challah croutons were mixed together on top of a bed of butter lettuce.  Tossed in a lemon honey vinaigrette, this salad was a delight, emphasis on the light.

We also ordered the Crispy Artichokes alla Judea.  The artichokes were lightly seasoned with lemon, garlic, parsley and paired with a salad of greens and shaved parmesan cheese.   The crisp greens balanced the salty artichokes and creamy cheese.  This small dish with big flavor was one of my favorite appetizers.

The Grilled Romanian Steak was intensely flavorful.  Caramelized onions and a well developed glaze made this steak unusually robust.  Each bite was better than the last.  It was served with a roasted garlic and mushroom knish that was less than stellar, but the steak was so delicious the knish was quickly forgotten.

Some girls might run at the first sign of schmaltz, but not this Bite-Sized Blonde.  A little rendered fat never hurt anyone.  Okay, it might hurt someone.  Schmaltz and Svelte are not exactly words that go together.  But in the case of Schmaltz verse Svelte, Schmaltz always wins.   So, I ordered the Duck Schmaltz Fries.  They were perfectly crunchy on the outside but light and airy on the inside, the way all good fries should taste.

I ordered the Brussels Sprouts, because let’s face it, after the schmaltz, I needed a little green. The Brussels Sprouts were roasted with rosemary and olive oil for an earthy taste.  Simple sprouts, simply good.

Dinner isn’t over until the fat lady sings, or I get dessert, but after this meal, I was quickly on my way to becoming the fat lady.  Good thing I don’t sing.

We started with the cookie plate, and yes I just said started.  You didn’t think that’s where dessert was going to begin and end did you? This was no ordinary cookie plate though.  Hamentashen, rugelach and macaroons filled this plate.  Another whimsical item on the menu that was so cleverly delicious!

The Rainbow Cookie Hot Fudge Sundae was calling my name, and I don’t even like rainbow cookies.  Well, I don’t love rainbow cookies.   You know how I feel about cookies.  Covered in vanilla ice cream and marshmallow fluff, these rainbow cookies transformed into heavenly sweetness.

But, the star of the dessert menu was the Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding.  It was creamy and seriously decadent.   I would say this was one of the best things I ordered all night, but the truth is, everything I ate was one of the best dishes I ordered all night.    Forget two thumbs up, Kutsher’s gets a Bite-Sized Chai Five.

Kutsher’s Tribeca
186 Franklin Street
New York, NY
212.431.0606

Souper Bowl

This Bite-Sized Blonde knows a thing or two about basketball, but football? Forget about it.  So, on the most important football day of the whole year, I’m more concerned with the snacks than the sports.   But if you ask me, the real question today isn’t Manning versus Brady, it’s Manhattan Clam Chowder versus New England Clam Chowder.  Super Bowl? More like Souper Bowl!

No matter your preference, I have a recipe for you…

Manhattan Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder

So, what’s your tummy rooting for today?  Mine wants a GIANT bowl of Manhattan Clam Chowder!!!