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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

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Archive for Restaurants

RESTAURANT: Texas De Brazil

Last week we went to two churrascarias, also known as Brazilian steakhouses. They were both good, but one was better: Texas de Brazil.

Churrascarias in the U.S. often have numerous locations across the country. If you want to score a table for Father’s Day, reserve now! For Mother’s Day, every seat of the large spaces at both restaurants we visited was sold out.

A churrascaria (Portuguese, pronunced choo-rah-SCAH-ree-ya with rolled “r’s”) is a type of restaurant where meat is cooked churrasco style, on a rotisserie called a churrasqueira.

In most parts of Brazil, the meat is roasted over charcoal; in the south of Brazil, wood is also used.

Modern churrascarias typically offer rodízio service. Passadores, meat waiters, come to the table with meat on a large skewer—beef, chicken (some wrapped in bacon), duck, filet mignon, lamb, flank steak, sirloin, pork, chicken, duck, sausage, fish, or any other sort of local cut of meat.

   

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Bacon-wrapped filet mignon. Photo courtesy Texas de Brasil.

 
Some have even more options: We enjoyed delicious grilled octopus at one location.

The passadores slice whatever you like. If you want your meat more rare or more well-done, just ask. If you don’t like the sprinkling of salt on the meat, ask for it without salt.

If the opportunity to eat and endless amount of great meat (yes, it’s all you can eat) is your idea of paradise, plan a visit. But there’s more:

 

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Succulent lamb chops. How many would you like? Photo courtesy Texas de Brasil.

 

Start at the salad bar with 50 or more items: shrimp, smoked salmon and sushi; grilled vegetables; salads of every description (tabbouleh, quinoa, whatever); cheeses; soups; and so much more that you have to watch how much you take or you won’t have room for the meat.

TIP: Start with a small plate, and don’t take any bread. If you have the slightest bit of hunger after you’ve finished the meat course, you can go back for as much salad bar as you like.

Sure, there are build-your-own green salad fixings; but you can have that at home.

If you don’t want meat, you can indulge in the salad bar only, at a lower price.

The price at Texas de Brazil: $59.95 for the whole shebang; $39.95 for those who just want the salad bar (prices may vary by location). It’s just a few dollars for children 12 and under.

 
Beverages and desserts are extra; but if you still have room for dessert, you haven’t done justice to the salad bar and meats.

We now admit that we really enjoyed the chocolate ganache cake—but it was in the name of research.

Check the website for the location nearest you.

  

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RESTAURANT: Death Ave

Now that spring is really here, New Yorkers and visitors to the city are heading to the High Line, the elevated train tracks that have been turned into a unique urban park.

Built in 1934 to transport goods through Manhattan, the High Line ran from 34th Street to Spring Street in SoHo. The elevated tracks were built through the center of blocks, rather than over the avenue.

By 1980, interstate trucking was the preferred mode of commercial transportation, and the trains ceased to run. Over time, the tracks covered with wild vegetation. Property owners wanted the tracks torn down.

In 1999, two neighborhood residents began to advocate for the High Line’s preservation and reuse as public open space. The first part of the renovation opened to the public in 2009 and it is now complete—and magnificent.

The High Line is part of the renaissance of the far west side of Chelsea, long a bleak industrial area. A decade ago, art galleries priced out of other neighborhoods led the gentrification, followed by boutique hotels.

   

vertical-horiatiki-deathave-230

One of Death Ave’s deconstructed dishes, a stacked Greek salad. Photo courtesy Death Ave | NYC.

 

Then the high rise residential buildings began to pop up, many along the High Line. If you’re going to live far west in Chelsea, having a neighborhood park—especially such a hip, trendy one—is an amenity unmatched by other ‘hoods.

Along with the burgeoning numbers of visitors and residents came the restaurants. We recently visited a particularly charming one, Death Ave.

A RESTAURANT NAMED “DEATH?”

First, you’ll say: What kind of name is Death Ave for a restaurant, much less a modern Greek one?

Its location, Eleventh Avenue, was nicknamed “Death Avenue” in the late 19th century.

In the mid-1800s, the Hudson River Railroad built freight train tracks, to transport meat and other goods to the city’s bustling Meat Packing District (today, there’s no more meat packing but a loft and condo neighborhood).

Although inconceivable today, the train tracks ran at street level, right through the same avenue that was used by pedestrians and carriage traffic. Inevitably, hundreds of people were hit and killed by the trains. By the 1890s, the street was nicknamed “Death Avenue.”

The stretch of avenue where the restaurant is located is drab, but gentrification will come. And until then, restaurateur Michael Tzezailidis has built a beautiful new restaurant. A 120-year-old tenement building has been transformed into an urban oasis.

 

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The dining room at Death Ave, looking out onto the patio. Photo courtesy Death Ave | NYC.

 

The restaurant has been built with old world craftsmanship. We envied the bronze floor tiles and the handsome stone walls. The room tables are reclaimed wood.

There’s a bar for drinking and nibbling; private, curtain-enclosed booths; a main dining room with and a splendid patio with a retractable roof for rainy days. It has a large bar and lounge area along with table seating.

The menu is a creative modernization of Greek fare: a deconstructed Greek salad and souvlaki “tacos” for dinner and deconstructed ham and eggs for breakfast and brunch.

There is also more conventional fare, from a mezze plate to braised octopus and lamb shank, all stylishly served.

The cocktails are impressive (be sure to have the current specialties); and although we have to return to try the beer, there’s an in-house brewery. Death Ave is an “estiatorio and zythopoiia”; in Greek, estiatorio is a restaurant, zythopoiia is a brewery.

It’s a lovely place to relax after your stroll on the High Line.

 

Death Ave is located at 315 10th Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets (not on 11th Avenue, “Death Avenue”); 212.695.8080. You can also reserve via Open Table on the Death Ave website.

  

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TRENDS: Restaurant Focus For 2015

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No more waste: In restaurant kitchens, everything can have a second life. Citrus peel
is turned into marmalade. Photo courtesy Lola Loves Green.

 

What are the top culinary concerns for restaurateurs this year?

According to a survey by Nation’s Restaurant News, the top five focus on gluten-free and sustainability.

1. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Safeguarding natural resources is a growing concern across the globe, and the number one culinary issue cited in a survey of American chefs. It’s not just with fine dining: Fast casual concepts like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Sweetgreen have been on the bandwagon since their inception. Chipotle recently stopped serving pork when it couldn’t find enough sustainable meat!

 
2. NATURAL INGREDIENTS/MINIMALLY PROCESSED FOODS

“Clean” labels and minimally processed food appeal to more and more customers. Chefs polled by the National Restaurant Association named natural ingredients and minimally processed food as a major theme. Last year, fast food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s took the concept mainstream, adding an all-natural burger to the menu. Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts have responded to consumer complaints by doing away with additives.
 
3. HYPERLOCAL SOURCING

Locally sourced and house-grown food are becoming more and more important to customers. “Hyperlocal” fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown in restaurant gardens. Some restaurants have beehives as well. We’ve even seen chickens strutting around rooftops (fresh eggs!).

 
4. FOOD/WASTE REDUCTION MANAGEMENT

Food costs are rising and consumers are growing more concerned about how what they eat affects the planet. Both have become major concerns among the dining public.

Chefs are practicing more “root-to-stem” cooking, the logical next step to “nose-to-tail” cooking, in which restaurants utilize the entire animal (or vegetable). It’s an effective way to avoid waste and manage costs.

Chefs have long used bits and scraps—in soups, chicken salad and so forth. But now, they’re making marmalade from citrus skins and bitters from plum and peach pits. This parallels the new law in Seattle, which as of January 1st ordered no more food waste in the garbage. Instead, residents are expected to recycle and compost.

5. GLUTEN-FREE CUISINE

Fewer than 7% of Americans are sensitive to gluten; about 1% of people worldwide suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which gluten consumption can cause life-threatening intestinal damage.

Yet, 63% of Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports said they believed following a gluten-free diet would improve their physical or mental health*. About a third of those said they buy gluten-free products or try to avoid gluten.

Gluten-free cuisine was the culinary theme chefs pointed to fifth most often in the NRA survey. Restaurants are responding with a growing array of gluten-free options, including gluten-free burger buns.

 
*Note that no scientific studies to date confirm or deny a positive impact of gluten-free diets among condition-free consumers.

  

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RESTAURANT: Vermillion

Last night, while others were enjoying corned beef and cabbage with green beer, we broke with tradition in a big way.

We dined at Vermillion in midtown Manhattan. The soaring, bi-level space is the New York branch of the Chicago Vermillion established by Rohini Dey, a former international banker and McKinsey consultant.

Serving a unique Indian-Latin fusion menu, the flavors and presentation are as stylish as Ms. Dey herself. First, the cuisine:

In a complete relaunch of the menu, Ms. Dey’s concept to fuse the two colorful cuisines has been interpreted by co-executive chefs Anup Patwal and Aseema Mamaji from India, and sous chef Javier Alvarez from Latin America. The gifted young team brings verve, energy and an elegant touch to the food.

Beyond the flavorful, there’s a “wow” experience in the presentation. Thought has been given to turning each dish into culinary art; whether it’s a specially crafted chrome rack from which four different types of kabobs hang in alluring fashion, or a slice of tree trunk used as a charger.

 

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Caldeirada de peixe, a traditional Brazalian seafood stew accented with Indian spices and a side of coconut rice. Photo courtesy Vermillion Restaurant.

 

Absolutely everything demands to be consumed. Even garnishes of pickled red onion or green chile are exciting. We didn’t leave a scrap on the plate!

The seasonings are spectacular. There’s just enough of the custom-blended spices and heat to blend perfectly, appropriately understated without providing a punch not wanted in fine dining. It’s not often that we encounter such finesse with spices. Kudos to the chefs!

In addition to fusion dishes, there’s a menu of classic Indian entrées. There is nothing we don’t want to try, and we can’t wait to go back.

While dinner can cost what you’d expect for such fine cuisine, lunch is quite affordable: two courses for $20 or three courses for $24.

Wine tip: The Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling, made with grapes from Washington’s Columbia Valley, is perfect with the cuisine. Off-dry, with notes of sweet lime, peach and subtle minerality, it is a charming complement to the spice and heat.

There’s a comfortable cocktail lounge downstairs and a private dining room upstairs, on the main dining floor. The restaurant is at 480 Lexington Avenue at 46th Street. Visit the company website or call for reservations: 212-871-6600.

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Temaki Party

What’s a temakeria?

It’s a fast-casual style eatery featuring temaki, the made-to-order, cone-shaped “hand roll” sushi. Rice, raw fish and vegetables are wrapped in a sheet of nori, seaweed that pressed into thin sheets.

In the case of Uma Temakeria, newly opened in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan (64 Seventh Avenue at 14th Street), the soy sauce and wasabi traditionally served at sushi bars is replaced with a choice of the chef’s special sauces.

Beer, wine and saké, plus tea and soft drinks, are served.

Uma implies “delicious” in Japanese, and this idea is totally uma—a healthful, lower calorie alternative to fast food. We love it, and hope there’s an Uma Temakeria in our neighborhood soon!

Uma Temakeria (pronounced OOH-mah teh-ma-ka-REE-ah) is the first “fast-fine” sushi eatery to open in the U.S., inspired by the temakeria trend in Brazil, which began in the early 2000s in beachfront neighborhoods such as Leblon and Ipanema.

Bringing the concept to the U.S. is Cynthia Kueppers, who left Wall Street to create her vision. All ingredients, including the seafood, are responsibly-sourced, fusing a trend that is growing among American consumers.

You enter the bright space, roomy by Manhattan standards, and go to the counter, where the temaki of your choice are quickly made to order. You can take a seat to dine, or take your temaki to go.

   

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Tofu temaki, one of the vegetarian choices. Just roll and eat! Photo courtesy Uma Temakeria | NYC.

 

What’s on the menu? First, there are Chef’s Temaki from Michelin-starred Executive Chef Chris Jaeckle (formerly of Ai Fiori, Morimoto and other great eateries such as Eleven Madison Park, Tabla and An American Place), with your choice of white or brown rice:

  • Tsumi Tuna Temaki: tuna and green apple in wasabi ginger sauce
  • Isara Salmon Temaki: salmon and seaweed salad with creamy miso sauce
  • Citera Tofu Temaki: red pepper and seasonal pickle in zesty citrus sauce
  • Terramaki: seaweed salad, daikon, carrot, avocado and sesame seeds with spicy mayonnaise
  • Fish ‘N Chips: the seasonal special, currently fried fluke, celery and potato chip crunch with tartar sauce
  •  

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    Tuna and salmon rolls. Photo courtesy Uma
    Temakeria | NYC.

     

    Prefer a custom temaki? The attractive, enthusiastic counter staff are eager to roll whatever you’d like. Combine your rice with:

  • Protein: Atlantic salmon, blue swimmer crab, marinated tofu, yellowfin tuna or seasonal fish
  • Vegetables: carrot, celery, cucumber, daikon, red bell pepper, seaweed salad, seasonal pickle
  • Fruit: green apple
  • Sauce: avocado lime, creamy miso, tobanjan mayo, wasabi ginger or zesty citrus
  •  
    Most rolls are $5.50 (vegetarian), $6.00 (with fish) or $6.50 (seasonal special); any two rolls with a delicious side salad is $14.00.

    The sides are low in calories, each equally deserving to be included with your meal:

  • Asian Vinegar Slaw
  • Kale Salad with Balsamic Miso
  • Spicy Cucumber Salad
  •  
    Chef Jaeckle, please send us the recipes for all three!

     

    HAVE A TEMAKI PARTY AT HOME

    Why are temaki (hand rolls) different from other sushi? Because they don’t require a well-honed skill to prepare. Simply grab a sheet of seaweed, add your rice and fixings and roll into a cone.

    As the host, you don’t have to do much more than set out the ingredients, buffet-style. The guests roll their own (here’s how to roll temaki).

    It’s a great idea for a party. So take inspiration from Uma Temakeria and add some pizzazz to your entertaining. And invite us!

      

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    RESTAURANT: Fast Casual Indian Food At Baluchi’s Fresh

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    All of this awaits at Baluchi’s Fresh, and it’s
    all absolutely delicious. Photo courtesy
    Baluchi’s Fresh.

     

    Baluchi’s Fresh promises to change the way New Yorkers think about Indian food. Established by the son of a New York-based Indian restaurant family (including Devi, the first Michelin star Indian restaurant in the U.S.), it brings fresh, high quality Indian food (including hormone-free meats) to a fast food venue.

    There are rice bowls, wraps, salads and sides, using only farm-fresh vegetables; vegetarian and vegan options.

    Everything is so delicious, we can easily skip the china, silverware and ambiance and dash in whenever we need a fix of flavorful Indian fare.

    The vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices are in top form, representing both traditional dishes and street food (chaat). They include favorites such as:

  • Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Rogan Josh, Goan Shrimp, Goat Currry.
  • Vegetarian choices such as Aloo Papri, Bhel Puri, Cauliflower Manchurian, Chana Masala, Daal, Kale & Onion Pakoras, Masala Fries, Paneer Tikka Masala, Saag Paneer and Tandoori Stuffed Aloo.
  •  
    There are meat and vegetarian samosas, daily specials, and absolutely celestial onion naan, hot from the tandoor oven.

     

    Baluchi’s Fresh is located in Manhattan at 37 West 43rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The hours are:

  • Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 12 midnight.
  • Sunday 12 noon to 10 p.m.
  •  
    For more information and daily specials call 1.212.921.7979. The website is coming soon.

    You can take out or eat in; delivery is in the works. Baluchi’s Fresh is a great addition to the neighborhood. We hope the concept spreads far and wide.

     

    WHAT’S IN THE RECIPE?

    Here’s a quick demystification of the dishes served at Baluchi’s Fresh:

  • Aloo Papri: potato crisps.
  • Bhel Puri: puffed rice and vegetables in a tangy tamarind sauce.
  • Chana Masala: spicy chickpeas.
  • Dal: spicy lentils.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala: roasted chunks of chicken in a spicy, creamy sauce colored orange with tomato paste.
  • Goan Shrimp: tangy, spicy sauteed shrimp with coriander, cumin and coconut.
  • Lamb Rogan Josh: braised lamb chunks in a brown gravy of garlic, ginger, onions, yogurt and aromatic spices.
  • Naan: a leavened and puffy oven-baked flatbread.
  • Pakora: fritter.
  •  

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    Cauliflower so good, people who never eat it will beg for more. Photo courtesy Baluchi’s Fresh.font>

  • Paneer Tikka Masala: cubed paneer (a fresh Indian cheese) in spiced sauce.
  • Saag Paneer: paneer cheese in a spinach sauce (or other dark green, such as broccoli or mustard greens.
  • Samosa: a savory stuffed, fried pastry.
  • Tandoori Stuffed Aloo: potatoes stuffed with paneer and spices.
  •  

    Now, head to Baluchi’s Fresh and try them all for yourself!

      

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    RECIPE: Red Lentil Soup, Other Greek Yogurt Delights & Aleppo Pepper

    Choabani

    Red lentil soup is golden and glorious. Photo
    by Marcus Nilsson | Chobani.

     

    What do you do after your start-up Greek-style yogurt brand becomes the number one brand in the country?

    You continue to share your love of your homeland’s foods by opening a café.

    Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya moved to New York from his native Turkey and couldn’t find thick yogurt as widely available as it was back home. The rest is yogurt history; now, hopefully, the other wonderful yogurt-based foods at his Chobani Soho café* will find as many fans.

    The current café is a revision of the initial concept, which focused on yogurt with savory or sweet toppings†. They’re still on the menu, not joined by soups and simits—the bagel-like, sesame-topped street food of Turkey, available with a variety of fillings.

    We’re a sucker for a simit—we had our first one just a year ago when a simit sandwich shop opened on our block.

    Chobani Soho’s simits include “Bagel + Cream Cheese” (the cream cheese is actually labne, also spelled labneh, and called “Lebanese cream cheese”; Seasonal Preserves + Labne, Smoked Salmom + Herbed Labne; Spiced Chicken + Pomegranate Onion; and Tomato + Olive Tapenade.

     

    We were invited to a media reception where we got to taste everything, all of it terrific. But for us, the star on the menu is the red lentil soup—easy to make, and so luscious and comforting that you’ll be making it again and again. Thanks to Chobani for sharing the recipe.

     
    *The cafe is located at 150 Prince Street at West Broadway in New York City; 1.646.998.3800.

    † SWEET CREATIONS: Blueberry + Power, Fig + Walnut, Fresh Fruit + Granola, Peanut Butter + Jelly, Pistachio + Chocolate, Toasted Coconut + Pineapple. SAVORY CREATIONS: Hummus + Za’atar, Mango + Avocado, Pomegranate + Caramelized Onion (our favorite!) Red Pepper Harissa + Feta, Zucchini Pesto + Tomato.

    RECIPE: CHOBANI RED LENTIL SOUP

    Red lentils (which range in color from yellow to orange to red) are sweeter than the green lentils typically used in American lentil soup, and the brown lentils used elsewhere.

    Ingredients

  • 3 cups lentils
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon salt
  • Pinch Aleppo pepper‡
  • 4 quarts water
  • 4 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup plain 2% Chobani Greek yogurt
  •  
    ‡A substitute for Aleppo pepper is 4 parts sweet paprika and 1 part cayenne. See the section below on Aleppo pepper.

     

    Preparation

    1. PLACE lentils in a strainer and rinse under cold water.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 25 minutes.

    3. ADD yogurt. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.

    4. COOL in an ice bath and then refrigerate. Reheat before serving. Blend with immersion blender after reheating to eliminate lumps and smooth out soup.

    5. MAKE garnish: Melt ¼ pound butter in a small sauce pan until foaming. Add ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper and remove from heat. Drizzle ½ teaspoon (for an 8-ounce portion) or ¾ teaspoon (for a 12-ounce portion). Keep butter warm and garnish with a spoon of Aleppo pepper butter before serving.

     

    Choabani

    Simit, the “Turkish bagel,” ready to meet thick labne. Photo by Marcus Nilsson | Chobani.

    WHAT IS ALEPPO PEPPER?

    Also called halab pepper, halaby pepper, Near Eastern pepper and Syrian red pepper flakes, Aleppo pepper hales from Turkey and northern Syria. The town of Aleppo, a famous food mecca, is located in Syria near the Turkish border.

    Aleppo pepper is used to add heat and pungency to Middle Eastern dishes. It is not a berry, like peppercorns, but a moderately hot red chile that is sun-dried, seeded and crushed. (Ever since someone in the crew of Christopher Columbus came across a chile in the New World and called it “pepper,” the confusion has endured. Here’s the scoop on pepper, here’s the story on chiles.)

    The Aleppo chile’s high oil content provides a deep, rich aroma, somewhere between coffee and smoke; it has been compared to the ancho chile. It has fruity notes with mild, cumin-like undertones. It can be compared to—but is much more flavorful, complex, and less harsh than—that generic pizza staple, crushed red pepper.

    USES FOR ALEPPO PEPPER

    The moderate heat of Aleppo pepper is used:

  • With proteins: fish stews, roast chicken, grilled meats (including kabobs)
  • In veggie dishes: rice pilaf, simmered beans and lentils, to add kick to green salads (it’s delicious with yogurt and cucumbers or melon and mint salad)
  • As an attractive red garnish: on deviled eggs (or with any eggs), on potato, chicken, tuna and pasta salads
  • In any Mediterranean dish: tagines and couscous, for example
  • In classic American dishes: chili, pizza, soup, stews
  • As an everyday seasoning: add the flakes to olive oil to infuse for a vinaigrette, marinade, rub or for sautéing
  •  
    If you can’t find Aleppo pepper locally, you can buy it online. When you empty your jar of crushed red pepper flakes, replace it with Aleppo.

      

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    BAKERY CAFE: Pomme Palais At The Palace Hotel

    This meringue snowman is hollow: Fill it with
    ice cream, sorbet or mousse. Photo courtesy
    Pomme Palais.

     

    For New Yorkers and visitors to town, there’s a new attraction a block and a half from Rockefeller Center: Pomme Palais, Michel Richard’s bakery cafe in the Palace Hotel. It’s at 30 East 51st Street between Madison and Park Avenues, and is open daily from 6:30am-8:00pm. Since today is National Pastry Day, head there immediately!

    Those who know the French-born chef from his acclaimed former restaurants Citrus, Citronelle and currently, Central in Las Vegas and D.C., might be surprised to hear that he’s a pastry chef.

    The boy who learned to cook at age 7 was advised a few years later by a friend of his mother’s that if he wanted to be a chef, it would help to learn how to bake first. You can question that advice, but by age 14 young Michel was an apprentice baker at a hotel in Reims. His major experience came as a young adult at the famed Maison Lenotre in Paris, helmed by the great French pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre. After just a few years, Lenôtre chose the young pastry chef to open a New York branch.

     

    In his cookbook Sweet Magic: Easy Recipes for Delectable Desserts, Chef Richard explains why the New York City shop was short-lived:

    “In France, when you are invited to someone’s home for dinner, you often bring a great bottle of champagne and the prettiest pastry you can afford. This is not so much the custom in America. People are as likely to make desserts as they are to buy them. This was bad for Mr. Lenôtre’s venture….”

    Chef Richard invites you to reconsider the French style, and to look at his lovely selection of specialty cakes—exceptional confections to bring to holiday parties, dinners and other special occasions.

  • Michel’s Snowman (photo above) is a memorable holiday gift: a hollow meringue vacherin to be filled with ice cream, sorbet or mousse. It can be enjoyed as a centerpiece before dessert; and unlike cakes, which must be fresh, it can be kept and enjoyed for several days before filling and consuming. The meringue is soft and toothsome, and covered with sanding sugar that glistens like snowflakes. The bakery says it’s “sized for two,” but it can serve four or more, especially after a big meal. We’re buying several for home and gifting: It’s just $20!
  •  
    The other cakes, mostly $42, include:

     

  • Charlotte Cake. This lovely confection, ringed with lady fingers, is topped with fresh fruit and filled with passionfruit yogurt mousse—an inspired choice that adds a tart contrast to the sweetness. Ruby red raspberries and tiny accents of green pistachios made this cake especially Christmassy; the lady fingers are garnished with tiny rice cracker balls that add a merry, confetti-like touch.
  • Lemon Eggceptional Cake. Chef Richard turns the American favorite, lemon meringue pie, into a sponge cake (genoise) with layers of lemon curd filling. It is topped by the airiest meringue imaginable. All will delight in the decoration of white chocolate eggs with yellow-colored yolks.
  • Opera Cake. Chef Richard‘s version of this classic French layered cake of coffee, chocolate and almond flavors is the best we’ve ever had. It’s a coffee lover’s delight, and melts in your mouth.
  •  

    The Macaron Cake, garnished with gold leaf, is one of the festive options. Photo courtesy Pomme Palais.

  • Orange Crème Brûlée Cheesecake. This charming cheesecake is mis-named: The airy orange-flavored cheesecake is topped with the soft caramel topping of flan, not a hard, crackling brûlée. But whatever the name, it’s delicious and elegant—the lightest option.
  • Chocolate Fleur d’Automne and Macaron Cake (photo above). Those wishing a rich chocolate mousse experience should turn to these two beauties. The Chocolate Fleur has layers of chocolate mousse and almond meringue, covered in chocolate and topped with a huge chocolate “flower” that spans the entire top of the cake. The Macaron Cake, perhaps the prettiest of the group, layers chocolate mousse with almond vanilla sponge cake and decorates it with colorful macarons and gold leaf.
  • Tarte au Pomme. To us, the simplest dessert was the most luscious. Paper-thin sheets of puff pastry are slowly baked for a long time, transforming them into super-crisp crust topped by the most delicious pastry cream and caramelized apples. All of the other cakes are more glamorous in appearance and more complex; but this was our favorite, and Chef Richard confided that it is his favorite, too.
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    Far beyond fancy cakes, Pomme Palais has luscious options for every part of the day.

  • On-the-go breakfast options: Have a brioche, croissant or pain au chocolate with cafe au lait or other coffee choice.
  • Light lunch favorites, such as French onion soup and goat cheese Caesar salad.
  • Individual pastries: a large pastry case full of tempting éclairs, fruit tartlets, napoleons and many others, including the wonderful tarte aux pommes and the best Gâteau St. Honoré we’ve ever had, both available by the slice.
  • Sophisticated treats: cookies, dragées, chocolates and a wondrous Christmas pairing of pink and green pistachio tuiles with raspberry meringues.
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    For more information, visit the Pomme Palais website.

      

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    RESTAURANT: Empire Room At The Empire State Building

    It could be a 1930s movie set. Photo courtesy Empire Room | NYC.

     

    Soaring more than a quarter of a mile above the heart of Manhattan, the Empire State Building is an Art Deco masterpiece and perhaps the world’s most famous office building.

    On May 1, 1931, President Herbert Hoover pressed a button in Washington, D.C., which turned on the Empire State Building’s lights and officially opened the now-iconic building.

    Observatories on the 86th and 102nd floors offer unmatched views of New York City to some four million visitors each year. On a clear day, they can see to New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

    But what about lunch, before or after the observation decks? The Empire State Building is surrounded by fast food outlets and Irish bars—not exactly the type of ambiance one craves after the high of spectacular views.

     

    Thank goodness for the Empire Room. On the ground floor of the West 33rd Street side of the building, the space, which opened two years ago designed as a 1930s-era swanky cocktail lounge, is now serving lunch.

    The menu comprises classic American luncheon favorites: popular sandwiches, flat breads and panini; salads; and a chicken breast with sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, bacon and honey Dijon. For a bargain $3.00, you can add a glass of wine or a beer; or a more pricey but delicious house-designed cocktail.

    We lunched there recently and wanted to try everything on the menu. We ended up with an excellent starter (chili, a special house recipe with flavors deepened by 100% cacao chocolate and a pinch of cinnamon), the chopped salad main course (top-quality feta cheese, garbanzo beans, roasted peppers, tomato, onion and grilled shrimp) and a delightful miniature cheesecake.

    The highest compliment we can pay is that we would gladly have returned to eat the same meal for dinner. At our earliest opportunity, we’ll be back for more.

     

    The 3,500 square feet of brushed stainless steel, curved marble bar, tufted banquettes, glass-topped tables and Art Deco chandeliers looks like a movie set. It accommodates up to 150 guests and is often rented for private parties.

    HOW TO GET THERE

  • The official address of the Empire Room 350 Fifth Avenue, which is between 33rd and 34th Streets. If you enter through the main entrance, you’ll have to perambulate through the Art Deco lobby.
  • If you’re coming from downtown, you can save a bit of walking by turning left on Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street (or a right from Sixth Avenue) and walking down the block to the entrance of the restaurant.
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    A popular cocktail lounge, the Empire Room now serves lunch. Photo courtesy Empire Room.

  • The hours are 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but for a reservation call 212.643.5400.
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    For more information about the Empire Room, visit HospitalityHoldings.com.

      

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    NEWS: Americans Making Better-For-You Food Choices At Restaurants

    We met our brother for lunch this weekend at California Pizza Kitchen.

    As we both ordered from what we considered to be the “better-for-you” salad menu, Brother, an attorney, looked at the small print.

    “Yikes,” he said, “My Cobb Salad has 941 calories. I thought salads were supposed to be low-calorie!”

    Well, er, not when topped with blue cheese, bacon, avocado and 1/4 cup of dressing (which is 400 calories in and of itself).

    But we are still perplexed as to how our Thai Crunch Salad added up to 1089 calories. It had lots of Napa and red cabbage, carrots, cilantro, cucumbers and scallions, with perhaps two ounces of grilled chicken and modest accents of edamame, wontons, rice sticks and peanuts. The lime-cilantro dressing was minimal.

    It seems that if we wanted to count calories, we should have gotten half portions. But we left full of fiber and protein, and grateful that we hadn’t ordered the BBQ Chicken Pizza.

    This morning, we read a Food Channel Trendwire email which announced:

     

    At 550 calories, a better-for-you entrée.
    Photo courtesy Applebee’s.

     

    Restaurant Diners Actually Starting to Make Healthier Choices

    The article led with the bad news: A report issued earlier this month by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed that the national obesity epidemic continues to worsen. Only one state showed an obesity rate below 20% (and just barely): Colorado at 19.8%. Twelve states have obesity rates over 30%. Mississippi was number one at 34.4%. Seven states have seen their rates double in the past 20 years.

    But there is some good news: This year, a number of leading restaurant chains are finding significant growth in the better-for-you menu options.

  • Applebee’s. For the first time in the restaurant’s history, the top selling entrée on the menu came from the under-550 calorie menu: Signature Sirloin with Garlic Herb Sauce. Applebee’s president, Mike Archer, remarked, “I’ve been in the restaurant business for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. We’re seeing a sea change in consumer behavior.”
  • IHOP. The pancake powerhouse reports that its Simple & Fit menu, offering a range of under-600 calorie choices, now accounts for 8% of entrées sold. At 330 calories, the Spinach, Mushroom and Tomato Omelet is now a best seller.
  • Friendly’s. Four of its under-550 calorie limited time offers have sold so well that they’ve been moved to the permanent menu this summer.
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    Of course, the reports don’t count any beverages, bread, appetizers and desserts, but America is finally off to a good start.

      

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