Sunday, October 30, 2011

Simple Pleasures in Oakland

Three reasons why I am crazy for Temescal:
1. Breakfast at Pizzaiolo.
Doughnut hole and morning bun at Pizzaiolo. 
These deadly delights, along with Blue Bottle cappuccino mend all.  (OMG--the morning bun.)

So far, I have every reason to believe that the Pizzaiolo folks really mean it with their hearts.
2. Bakesale Betty's, on the corner.  
At 10:00 AM on a recent Saturday, this place was preparing for the lunchtime invasion of customers   who line up for their fried chicken sandwich.
Fried chicken sandwiches  on tap at Bakeale Betty's.
 I wasn't quite in the mood at 10-in-the-morning so I bought cookies instead: oatmeal raisin and molasses. 
Oatmeal raisin cookie with bits of walnuts.
These are extremely recommended for those who love a soft cookie.  They are pliable in your hands, like a firm dough.  This was especially true of the molasses' cookie.  I found the sweetness of both cookies, and the spiciness of the molasses cookie, to be very pleasant.
Molasses cookie. (Not all of it made it to the photo shoot.)
The service here on this day was as sweet as the cookies. Makes me really want to come back. Very, very soon.

3. La Calaca Loca (no website available at this writing).
La Calaca Loca--is that a kick to say or what. It's the stylish-looking Mexican place on the other side of Pizzaiolo. I haven't been there yet, but it is on my list, especially as I love a Mexican breakfast and this place is open from 9am on weekends. There is a nice outdoor patio in the back, says my knowledgeable foodie insider friend. 

There are plenty more social, political,  cultural and sun-drenched reasons to love this irresistible section of if one needed any more reasons.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Eleven Madison Park: Cloud Nine

Even the coffee is extraordinary here.
Even at the finest New York City restaurants, coffee service is a relative after-thought that is hardly given the kind of attention granted to its entrees, desserts or cocktails.  Not so at the highly decorated Eleven Madison Park. This elegant restaurant, on the edge of verdant Madison Square Park, was recently minted with three Michelin stars. Moreover, it has won every James Beard award that it is eligible for, along with maximum starred-ratings from the New York Times and Forbes. Its coffee program, featuring the highest-end beans and siphon brewing, was started by James Betz, a bartender at the restaurant who enjoys brewing coffee at home.  (His uncle is Ken Nye of the New York coffee institution that is Ninth Street Espresso, but that’s strictly an aside.)
Siphon in the day.  Even more gorgeous at night.
It hardly takes a meal at this restaurant to see how attentive the staff is to details.  As soon as you walk in, you are cordially greeted, and taken in by the towering ceiling, cream colored roses, and linen covered tables.  This is a restaurant where every one of your servers—and there are several—are able to answer any questions you may have about where, exactly, the food is coming from and how it is prepared. If you show a particular interest in say the cakes of butter served with your bread, you will be presented with information about the farm it came from on a hand-written note on cardstock stationary.  If you step away from the table, you will find it in even nicer condition than you left it, with your napkin neatly folded, crumbs swept away.  The staff manages to accomplish all this without being a trace overbearing. And the food?  Almost too beautiful to eat, it is exceptionally delicious.
Jim explained his motivations to pitch the idea of a coffee program to the restaurant’s management.  “The pinnacle of coffee could only be found at coffee shops,” he said.  “I wanted to bring that kind of quality here. I thought it was possible, at a place like this, to do even more than what is done at a specialty coffee shop.”  On the first night of Eleven Madison Park’s coffee program, there were so many orders for siphon and Chemex (their other brewing offering) that Jim was on the phone to his supplier asking for all the specialized equipment he could possibly send over—pronto!
While Jim continues to manage the program, Eleven Madison Park has a barista on staff who, like Jim, the restaurant captains and sommeliers, has completed 14-16 hours of training in siphon brewing at the Intelligentsia lab across town.
So now an exquisite gastronomical experience at one of the most coveted restaurants in Manhattan can be finished off with some of the best java on the planet.

By the way, if I ever have the privilege of eating here again, I will never, ever take stealth photos  again.  It was like sacrilege.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Momofuku Noodlebar

Momofuku Noodlebar
163 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10003

(212) 500-0831

If I lived in Manhattan, I would be a regular at this place.

I was so jealous when the twenty-something guy next to us told us that he comes several times a week to eat here. We were inquiring about his bowl of stocky rice noodles, which we couldn't find on the menu.  (Note: the food is ten times better looking and far less yellow than these photos suggest.)

What I love about Momofuku Ssam Bar, where I went last year and this place--Momofuku Noodlebar, is how understated they are. Both are situated in Lower East Side neighborhoods that don't often make tourists' lists.  Maybe it's because there is too much graffiti around or not enough glitter.  In any case, both restaurants are quite easy to walk past without noticing. Yet, the food is out of this world. 

Sitting at the bar at Momofuku Noodlebar, I felt very much at home, even though I had never been there before. It was so casual in a swanky New Yorker kind of way.  The pierced servers were in t-shirts and jeans--the most casually dressed people in the restaurant.  Yet they knew everything about the food they were serving as evidenced by their ability to make specific recommendations and have personal favorites for every section on the menu.   There was one server with glasses who looked more like a computer geek than a singer in garage band, but he knew his menu too, and was very pleasant.
During the trip, I also checked out the Momofuku Milk Bar, in Midtown.  Having flipped for Momofuku Ssam bar last year, I was embracing everything David Chang and was so taken by these milk bars.  But I am done with them now. The sweets are made from corn syrup and PHOs which I avoid, if I know they are in there.  The sweets are also cloyingly sweet for me. But, I do have to go back once more at least to try Crack Pie.
Famous pork bellydumplings
Very possibly I would run from the restaurants if I knew what the ingredients of those sauces and dressings were.  But Momofuku doesn't list ingredients, and I will happily suspend my puritan ways for experiences like the kind it offers.
Heirloom tomato salad
Well, as long as David Chang's empire in Manhattan continues to grow, there will be more trips I will have to make to the Big Apple. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Return of the Blog...maybe

A major reason why I have been absent:
From my favorite, Kara's Cupcakes
Not so much chocolate cupcakes but baseball. Following baseball closely is at least a part-time job!  Especially when there are so many injuries and (therefore) rookie-replacements to keep track of! But now that the Giants have been killed off for the season, there will be more blog-time...I think.  There's certainly tons to blog about, including WTF CoffeeMomofuku Noodle Bar, EatalyEleven Madison Park, and RBC Coffee...