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Friday, August 8, 2014

New York Food Friday: WD-50

A review of WD-50 in New York City
When I heard that avant garde molecular gastronomy mainstreamer Wylie Dufresne planned on closing his first establishment WD-50 at the end of November, I knew that I had to make it there before I missed the opportunity. I have been pining about going here since they opened almost 11 years ago, and never had the chance due to lack of money and my inability to secure a good reservation. When I found out I was popping up to NY for a quick trip to visit my folks, I figured this was as good a time as any to try. After a lot of phone calls, wait lists and obsessive Open Table stalking, I was able to get a good reservation.
A review of WD-50 in New York City
The decor was clean and modern, with high backed booths and wooden tables. The paint scheme seemed a tad bit Mardi Gras, but it wasn't overdone. The bar at the front of the restaurant was gorgeous with its marble top and tall seats. But honestly, I wasn't there for the decor.

What we came for was the tasting menu. Because I'm a big fan of going big or going home when I'm trying food, I opted for the 13 course tasting menu for $155. What I decided not to do was the corresponding wine paring for $95. After what happened with all the alcohol at The Catbird Seat, I decided that 15 glasses of anything, no matter how small a serving, would be way too much for me.
A review of WD-50 in New York City
Instead I opted for a house cocktail called the Citrus Hystrix made with gin, kaffir lime, raspberry brandy and egg white. The drink was really heavy on the citrus and the raspberry brandy got lost. I did enjoy the egg white whip which made the whole drink much lighter. It was a solid cocktail and went really well with the meal.

Like most tasting menu restaurants, I feel like I cannot fully review the menu. If you go, you probably won't get the same things I had, and if you did, they might be presented completely differently. What I can do is talk about what I ate, and the overall experience of being surprised dish after dish.
Our first course was an oyster in an edible shell. The shell was made out of an edible clay and squid ink. The shell itself didn't really have a taste and crumbled into a few pieces the second I tried to pick it up. The oyster was beautiful and sweet, a perfect bite of the sea. The oyster was garnished with snow pea, hazelnut and preserved lemon.
The scone course was a mashed potato ravioli that was covered in a egg yolk. I was baffled by the magic of how runny yolk could be encapsulated and wrapped around potatoes. It was served with caviar that went really well with the creamy potato. Underneath the ravioli were some tiny flash-fried potatoes. They were crisp but too tiny and really weren't my thing. But when you put a little bit of everything in your mouth at once, you get "breakfast."
The soup course was an avocado-pea soup with smoked crab and pistachio. The crab was really tender and flavorful; the best thing about the dish. The soup itself was cold and rather bland on its own, but really worked when taken in with the crab. I still wish the soup had a little more life in it to make it stand up against the beautiful smoked crab.
Following the soup was sous-vide cuttlefish sliced into thin strips like pasta. It was served with extremely tender carrots, a tad bit of chamomile and what tasted like middle eastern spices dusted with schmaltz (chicken fat). This whole dish worked really well together and the flavorful chicken fat gave the cuttlefish a nice burst of flavor. The sauce was so well balanced that I couldn't resist scraping up every last bit!
The next dish was a lovely strip of charred chicken liver pate with honeydew melon and injera (Ethiopian bread). This was my favorite dish of the evening! The chicken liver was so flavorful and creamy that it would make a Bubbie proud! The injera was served crisp like a cracker and was a nice vehicle for scooping up the liver. The melon was a tad bit confusing at first, but the sweetness balanced out the iron flavor associated with liver.
Following the liver was my other favorite dish of the night. On the menu it was listed as "shrimp and grits" but in reality there were no grits. The shrimp was cooked and chopped in such a way that the shrimp itself became the bite size grits. This dish had the most amazing mouth feel. I think they only added a little drop of corn flour for flavor. The mildly hot pickled jalapeƱo also added a nice kick. As a southern transplant, I was impressed with the shrimp and grits, making it one of the best renditions of this staple I have ever had!
The last of the seafood course was tilefish with a parsnip jerky, pickled ginger puree and nori mustard. The tilefish was fatty, tender and tasted like butter. The fork just broke it apart and it melted in the mouth. I love tilefish and I wish I saw it on more menus. What really surprised me was the parsnip jerky, which if they didn't tell me was a vegetable, I would have thought it was meat. The nori mustard was dehydrated and served like a cracker, but it tasted more like nori than mustard.
Up next was pork collar with tamarind, spicy parsnip and a poppy seed crisp. The collar itself was very stiff and meaty, and the mixture of the fat and the sauce was not as thick and juicy as I was hoping. The spicy parsnip didn't seem to go with everything else; it was too strong and overpowered the pork. The poppy seed was very strong and like nothing I ever had before. This wasn't my favorite pork dish, but at least it was interesting.
The duck dish really made up for the pork. The duck breast was cured and the skin was served crisp, making the inside bright pink and delicate. Duck is still one of my favorite things to eat so I'm really happy that this dish was so well put together. The dish was served with "curds and whey" but not in the Little Miss Muffet way. The bottom of the bowl was slathered in a whey consomme and there was a cheese curd under a nice bit of sliced sweet potato. The whey was really fatty and quite tasty. The black rice puff served on top reminded me of cocoa puffs!
The first dessert course was an oat meringue cookie with a banana, strawberry and yeast mixture inside. This tatsted more like a protein powder than a dessert and distinctly reminded me of what I would eat before a 10 mile run. The best part was the strawberry and elderflower topping, which was sweet and fresh.
The next dessert was pretty confusing, but once I figured it out I got into it. The piece on top looks like a cookie but it's actually rhubarb ice that was so strong and sour, that I just had to remove it and eat the rest without it. Underneath the sour ice was a verbena mousse on top of buckwheat with camellia oil. Overall this was very herbal and light. The buckwheat cake on the bottom of the mousse was lovely, and reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie in flavor. I'm not sure if I would order this if I saw it on a menu, but it was very interesting and nice to experience.
My favorite dessert was the Ovaltine cake with a wafer wrapped around cardamom ice cream with a sheep's milk cream. The tube was crunchy, chocolatey and really complemented the spiced ice cream. The cake was thick and tender and soaked up the sheep's milk, making it gooey. I really loved this dish and wish I could've just had this one three times in a row.
Our final bite was cookie dough ice cream. In actuality, it was cookie dough on the outside with vanilla ice cream in the center like a bon bon. This was so creative and tasted exactly like something I loved as a kid. I really enjoyed this play on a childhood favorite!

As expected, the service was excellent. Our waitress was knowledgeable, helpful, funny and even let me look around the kitchen when I was done eating. The whole staff worked well together and the pacing of the courses was perfect.

And while the food and service was great, what I really enjoyed was the conversations with the couples sitting next to us. The tables are close together so cross-table interaction is encouraged. On one side was a lovely Canadian couple who appears to travel around looking for food and wine adventures. They have even visited Nashville in the past! On the other side was a lovely couple of New Yorkers, via Australia and Greece. Everyone was kind, friendly, talkative and exactly what I love! If you go, make friends with those sitting next to you.

I'm so happy I finally got to try WD-50! They are open until the end of November if you feel like trying to get in, or you can try Wylie's other space Alder, or wait for whatever comes next!

WD-50 on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 1, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: The Farm House

A review of The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
If you are like me, you are getting a little bit sick of the Nashville obsession with "farm-to-table." Nowadays it seems like every restaurant feels compelled to throw up a chalkboard and list their providers. While I do support this movement (I love knowing where my food comes from and that it's supporting local growers), every restaurant of this variety seems to have similar menus, decor designs, and outfits for the wait staff. And while I wish these places were a tad bit more creative and separated themselves from their brethren, I'm constantly taken in with southern-inspired home cooked fare. Despite my apprehension, I was thoroughly impressed with The Farm House. Their food options were just different enough from competitors to keep my interest, and they were darn good.
A review of The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
A review of The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
The inside of The Farm House, you guessed it, looks like a barn. Lots of exposed unfinished/refurbished barn wood and warm colors abound. Even the private dining rooms had an actual sliding barn door. There was a smattering of farm animal knickknacks and photos. I have to say the decor didn't really do it for me. While it was clean and nice, something about it seemed a tad bit cheap. When entrees are nearly $30, you want a little more city luxury and less rural barn.

The service was prompt and friendly. Our waiter was talkative, but really nice and was totally willing to go back to the kitchen to answer a ton of my silly questions- so a big thank you goes out to him!
Cocktails at The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
For cocktails I had the Matt's Staycation, which had Pear moonshine, pineapple and sparkling wine. The drink was sweet and strong and totally trouble. This is the type of cocktail that sneaks up on you and if you drink too many, you won't notice the alcohol until it's too late. Thank goodness I only had one! Steve had their version of a Manhattan, which was made with bourbon, root liquor and bitters. The taste was atypical of a Manhattan but really good! The lack of sweet vermouth made this drink really smooth. 
Pork Belly at The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
For the appetizer we went with the pork belly. The pork belly was brined, smoked  and then charred on the grill for the nice crispy top. I really tasted the smoke in the meat, plus it was tender and fatty just the way I like it. The Farm House really impressed me with the egg. When this dish was brought out, the waiter had the egg still in its shell and dumped it onto the plate. Talk about showmanship! The egg was gooey just the way I like it. We smeared the yolk all over the scallion pancake which was just fantastic! And I can't forget about the cracklings on top, which always make any pork dish better.
Hot Chicken at The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
Steve went with the Hot chicken, after making sure that it wasn't Prince's-level hot- because eating something like that takes mental and psychical preparation. The chicken was cooked with a wet sauce that was mild compared to true Nashville hot chicken, but still had the flavor you expect. The cut looked to be white meat (snooze) but the chicken was moist and really soaked up the flavor. The hot chicken was served on top of a biscuit puree that was was just traditional biscuits and cream in a blender. This was a really great way to mimic the traditional white bread served with hot chicken. The warm potato salad was a nice touch and even their chow-chow was great! But the best part was the candied chicken skin served on top. The skin was sweet, savory and crispy and if they sold these to-go I would leave with a giant bag and eat them all in one sitting.
Lamb at The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
For my entree I chose the lamb loin with peas, morel and oyster mushrooms, lamb bacon and ricotta gnocchi. The first thing I did was eat the beautiful flower served on top- it had a very light herbal taste. The lamb itself was perfect, very red on the inside and super tender. The peas were cooked well and still had a nice bite to them, and the mushrooms + lamb are a match made in heaven. I really enjoyed the ricotta gnocchi as they appeared to be flash fried or pan seared in order to make them stiffer to hold up to the pan sauce. The lamb bacon was the star of this dish. It was really salty, fatty and pretty amazing. Apparently it's made by curing the cuttings off the lamb loin, and was good enough to have Steve declare that he would like to eat lamb bacon for the rest of his life. 
Dessert at The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
For dessert we had the butterscotch pots du creme with a vanilla creme, chocolate crumbs and a chocolate macaron. The pudding was creamy and smooth and could have used a hair bit more of that signature butterscotch flavor in order to stand up against the chocolate crumbs and creme. The chocolate crumbs were really crunchy, very flavorful and created a nice texture juxtaposition with the smooth creme and pudding. The fresh macaron was tasty, and the chocolate filling was the best part. This was a good dessert!

Overall, I really liked the The Farm House. And while it's just another farm-to-table in Nashville, they make really good food. Fact.

The Farm House on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 25, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Sinema

A review of Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
For a long time a certain stretch of 8th Avenue consisted of nothing more than a downstairs pool hall, a couple of dollar stores, pawn shops, and one abandoned movie theater. In the past few years the neighborhood around this little spot has grown up. A bunch of new condos and renovations brought new residents, followed by new restaurants and shops to the area, turning it into a really lovely neighborhood. Sinema takes it one step further by converting the old Melrose movie theater into a two level food spectacular. Run by Top Chef veteran Dale Levitski (now with less faux-hawk), Sinema is the swankiest place on 8th ave.
A review of Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
A review of Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
A review of Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
First things first, we have to talk about the decor which is absolutely the star of the show. The restaurant is a breathtaking mix of textures, where wood tables and velvet couches mingle and give off a luxurious vibe. The grand staircase is beautifully restored and screams old Hollywood glamour. The walls had bookshelves, carved wood pieces and photos of musicians and actors. But it was all done in a way that wasn't incredibly tacky. The low lighting really pumped up the loungey atmosphere and just made you want to snuggle up with a velvet pillow. Additionally, they have a bunch of projectors playing old movies, and they got bonus points for showing North by Northwest while I was dining. I love me some Cary Grant!
The upstairs bar at Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
Our first stop was the upstairs lounge for drinks with the Nashville Food Bloggers. They are a great group of people and they always arrange fun get-togethers like this!
Cocktails at Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
To start out we tried two of their signature cocktails. "Nobody Puts Bourbon in a Corner" had bourbon, lemon, sugar and a bit of mint. It tasted like a cold weather hot toddy. While the drink was good, it had a tad bit too much mint flavor in it for me. Steve tried the "Mr. Untouchable" which featured bourbon and amaro. This drink was smooth and deep, and my favorite of the two.
Octopus at Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
After the cocktail hour Steve and I headed downstairs to have our own private date night. The downstairs dining room was bustling and fairly loud. They were playing music, but you couldn't hear it over all the chatter. I must also direct the ladies to check out the downstairs bathroom. It's gorgeous with dressing room mirror bulbs and a sexy bathtub picture of Colin Firth- what more could you want?!

Our first appetizer was the Octopus with a cold potato salad and paprika. The octopus was hot, fried, and crispy. The way they fried it was perfect, because it was not greasy at all. The potato salad tasted like a cold version of German potato salad and I really liked the juxtaposition of the hot octopus with the cold potatoes. I only wish I had gotten a bit more of the paprika taste from the plate.
Foie Gras at Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
Next up was the Foie Gras served with zucchini bread and curry cashew butter. The Foie Gras mousse looked like a tiny scoop of delicate ice cream and the flavor was luscious. The zucchini bread was soft and added a nice flavor to the dish. For some reason when I ate everything together it tasted like a peanut butter sandwich. I would recommend slightly less of that cashew butter per bite so you can really taste the mousse. I must say that the figs provided a welcome sweetness and everything had a really good salt balance. This is a must-order from the menu.
lamb at Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
For his entree Steve chose the lamb. It contained duck fat poached lamb, spiced lamb sausage, barley risotto and anchovy sauce. I have to say I was disappointed by the fact there was only one bone on this dish. If you've been reading me for a while you know I fully endorse full contact cave girl style eating, so only having one bone to gnaw on is quite a bummer- especially for the price tag! I was able to taste a full anchovy on the plate by itself, and I really liked that. But for some reason I wasn't the biggest fan of the combination of anchovies and lamb. I just wasn't into this dish at all.
short ribs at Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
My beef short rib entree was the clear winner. The short rib was super tender and served pulled apart and shredded. It came with grilled radicchio, truffle dumplings, mushrooms and the most beautiful melty cheese. Overall the dish had a rich stew-like quality and the meat was packed full of intense, rich flavor. The truffle dumplings stood up nicely in the broth and had a fabulous taste and a really smooth potato texture. I can only hope that one day they make a dish where these dumplings are the star. The radicchio added a nice bitterness to the sweet dumplings and cheese. Once Steve tried this dish he looked at me with a blank stare on his face for a few minutes before saying, "I'm speechless. This is one of the best things to ever enter my mouth." So there you go!
Cookies and cream dessert at Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
When it comes to dessert we usually share, but when there are two things on the menu that speak to each of us individually, we splurge! Steve went for the new addition to the menu, the cookies and cream. This dish had lemon curd, smooth vanilla farmers cheese, sugar cookies and fresh berries. I really liked the presentation and the nice addition of micro greens that complimented the cheese. The cookies were really soft and tender and the berries were ripe!
Chocolate dessert at Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
I went for the Chocolate. A thick and decadent brownie-like cake was layered with chocolate mousse and violet elderflower mousse, with a malt anglaise sauce. The malt flavor of the sauce was fabulous and reminded me of my favorite vanilla shakes! The cake was hard on the outside and really gooey in the center, but it took a fair amount of fork strength to break through the outer shell. Perhaps a bit overcooked? The mousse scoops were tasty, but I wish I got more of a punch from the elderflower. This dessert was nicely balanced and a good sweet ending, but it was massive and should have been shared.
A review of Dale Levitski's Sinema in Nashville, Tennessee
Overall Sinema was really a good dining experience, but there are a few kinks to work out. Fist of all they charge $3 for valet parking, which in a city of free valet is insane. I hope this nonsense doesn't become a trend. While we enjoyed our meal, other diners weren't 100% pleased. While our octopus came out hot, a friend of ours got a cold order. And the prices are VERY expensive for what you get, especially when that something is fishy tasting lamb.

The decor is beautiful and I will be coming back here to snack at their upstairs bar. The waitstaff was incredibly polite and knowledgeable about their offerings. I'm really happy to have such a nice new place in what was once known as pawn shop and ca$hville territory.

Sinema on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 18, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: The Post East

A review of The Post East in Nashville, Tennessee
In a residential neighborhood not far from the bustle of 5 Points, The Post East is the newest coffee shop/smoothie/juice bar on the scene. The few steps off the beaten path make this place more of a neighborhood hang out rather than a hot-spot destination. There are only a handful of places like that on the East side any more, and The Post is a welcome addition.
A review of The Post East in Nashville, Tennessee
The inside of the shop is clean, with polished concrete floors and wood accents. The large windows let in a nice amount of natural light, adding a warm glow to the wood. There is a couch area and a good number of tables. I even peeped around and noticed a fair amount of plugs for those who plan on bringing a laptop. The atmosphere was relaxed and fairly quiet; the perfect place to have a conversation or knock out some work.
Blueberry lavender latte at The Post East in Nashville, Tennessee
For my coffee I went for one of the specialty drinks, a blueberry lavender latte. At first sip, I was impressed and obsessed. This was the most unique and delicious coffee concoction I've had in a long time. (I have a tendency to order the craziest coffee drink on the menu and I'm usually disappointed.) The blueberry flavor was prominent, but the lavender was meek. Personally I would add a tad bit more lavender, but nevertheless, this was awesome.
quiche and bullseye biscuit at The Post East in Nashville, Tennessee
For breakfast we ordered two of their already prepared foods. I don't know if they have the capability to cook fresh food like scrambled egg biscuits or the like, but if they do that would greatly enhance the breakfast offerings. I ordered the bullseye biscuit with peppers, spinach, fresh basil, feta and a whole egg on top. While this muffin looked beautiful, it was slightly underwhelming. The biscuit was was very dense and I couldn't find the feta. I must say that the biscuit dough was very well seasoned and had a nice flavor to it. And you know me, you can't really go wrong with a whole egg on top of anything. That golden yolk was the best part! Steve ordered the quiche of the day, which contained spinach, tomato, and a few others. The egg was light and very fluffy, but the overall flavor was bland and could use a bit more salt.
Sweets at The Post East in Nashville, Tennessee
lemon ricotta muffin at The Post East in Nashville, Tennessee
While the savory items might have not been the best in the world, the sweets at The Post were delicious. After looking at the case of beautifully prepared treats, we had to order something. We chose the lemon ricotta muffin and it was light and fluffy and gently broke into pieces because of all the little air bubbles inside. It had a strong fresh lemon flavor and the icing was nice and sweet. In addition, I came back another day and was able to try their chocolate babka, and was very impressed with that as well!
Fresh Juice at The Post East in Nashville, Tennessee
The Post is also a juice bar, so I had to sample some. Since I'm not really a fan of beet juice I asked for a recommendation of something with beet that would help me like it. I went with the Feel the Love which has beet, grape, strawberry, bell pepper and rainbow chard. While this drink still tasted like beets to me, it was more drinkable than any other beet juice I had tried up until this point. The grape and strawberry adds a much-needed sweetness to the earthy beet. But at over $5 a bottle, this juice is a bank breaker. Perhaps I would order it more often it was a tad bit easier on the wallet.
A review of The Post East in Nashville, Tennessee
I have to say that the staff of The Post is the best part of the experience. On both of my visits everyone was very friendly! I was able to talk, ask questions and get recommendations. It is the staff that really made my experience special.

Overall, I really like The Post East and I'm happy they are in the neighborhood. Their coffee is delicious, their sweets are great and the space is beautiful. But the best part is the staff! If you are on the East side go a few minutes out of your way to grab a juice or coffee at The Post.
Post East on Urbanspoon
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