Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Not Your Standard Brunch: The Standard Grill

Soft scrambled eggs at The Standard Grill

The Standard Hotel is known for its late night shenanigans, but even party goers need a place to have coffee. The Standard Grill, an expansive restaurant on the ground floor, is actually a good bet for out of towners and locals alike.

High Line view from cousin's hotel room at The Standard
My cousins stayed here and had us join them for brunch. It was one of those brunches where you could dog breakfast-y or lunch-y. We went for the savory side of breakfast, sharing the avocado toast (of course) and soft scrambled eggs.

First I had the potent Big Green juice, a refreshing tonic with romaine, spinach, parsley, tarragon, mint and agave. If you spent the wee hours in the Meatpacking District, this will set you straight.

Avocado Tast
The avocado toast came with perfectly poached eggs and an herb salad. Quite tasty.

I had originally ordered the Turkish poached eggs, with aleppo and greek yogurt. It sounded great until the waiter warned me that it was the most returned dish. The eggs are cold. Don't know how he pegged me for a cold egg hater, but it was a well-heeded warning. Instead, I had the soft scrambled eggs, with gruyere cheese and a mixed green salad.

The Meatpacking district, from The Standard Hotel
We almost ordered some grits, but the sommelier, a friend of y daughter's recognized me and sent over a plate of pastries. Not the healthiest sub for grits, but spiced pumpkin muffin and scones were delicious.

On the lunch side, there was a veggie burger, grilled tuna, and a few meat choices.

If the rest of your Sunday plans are to crawl back into your bed upstairs, the "Contrary Mary" is a loaded Bloody Mary, with jumbo shrimp, olives, celery, onions and tomato garnishes.

We were heading out to walk on the High Line, so stuck to coffee.

Dream the Impossible Dream: Amazing Vegan Burger

Vegan Impossible Burger at Burger Village

Giving up meat wasn't hard. Giving up hamburgers was another story.

I used to think that hamburgers were a vehicle for toppings: cheese, tomatoes, pickles, mustard, avocado, grilled mushrooms, pickled onions, lettuce...The patty didn't really matter.

So any old vegetarian patty sufficed. But as vegetarians become more savvy, patties improved. They were more flavorful and held together better. Some were vegan, some vegetarian.

Messy signature Impossible Burger
The new Impossible Burger seeks to convert meat eaters to its plant based patty. It is better for the planet, too According to the website, the burger uses "1/20th the land, 1/4th the water, and produces 1/8th the greenhouse gas emissions."

Pretty tall order for a casual meal. 

The vegan Impossible Burger can be found at restaurants around the country. In New York, Bareburger has it at all locations.

Plain old veggie burger at Burger Village, with multigrain bun
Impossible Burgers are cholesterol and antibiotic free, but contain gluten and soy. They are a good source of protein, Vitamin B12, folate, niacin and thiamin.

I tasted my first Impossible Burger at Burger Village, a cafe in Park Slope that also has great salads, local beer on tap and its own vegetarian burgers. Burger Village has a ton of toppings. I got one with baby arugula,  roasted red pepper and vegan cheese. My husband had it with jalape├▒os, the spicy 'special sauce,' mushrooms and pepper jack.

At Burger Village, you can get a brioche or multigrain bun. We were so excited to try the burger, we forgot to get our preferred multigrain. But the brioche is fine.

Next time.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Celiac Disease Beware: Runner & Stone for Everyone Else

Runner & Stone Greenmarket stand

Man (woman) does not live by bread alone. But she can try. Runner & Stone, a restaurant in Gowanus, has some of the best bread around. During the day, the restaurant is more a bakery, with sandwiches and soups, too. Runner & Stone also has stands at Greenmarkets selling its amazing sourdough creations and pastries. At night, you can get wonderful cocktails and delicious food to counter balance the gluten.

Braided ravioli

In from the cold

On one of the iciest, nastiest nights of the year ( year that was only 5 days old, granted) we braved the elements and a snowbank defying all but the most intrepid. Then a metal staircase up to Runner & Stone. We knew what waited within: homemade pasta, fresh produce and that warm, yeasty smell that made up temporarily forget the cold.

Are you Gluten Free?

Squid ink bucatini special
Sorry, Runner & Stone isn't for you. When we sat down, we got bites of savory spinach pastries, and the bread basket that came with our cocktails had three kinds of chewy, dense bread. It's all so tempting we devoured every crumb.

We resisted the crostini with ricotta and truffle honey - more bread? - but not the spicy hummus with grilled pita. And fried Brussels sprouts, so we could have some veggies with our perfect martinis. Runner & Stone uses local spirits like Dorothy Parker, a gin made in Greenhook.

Fish of the day

Pasta fest

The ricotta ravioli sat on a bed of tomato jam, with a drizzle of bright green basil oil. The red, white and green evoked Italy and the pastas we enjoyed last year.

I had a special, squid ink bucatini with chunks of lobster. It was rich, but not overwhelmingly so.

Fish of the day

My husband had the hake, served with cannellini beans, spinach, olive romesco and radish.

In case you were wondering...
The name, Runner & Stone is from a mill. The runner and the stone are used to grind grain.

Dessert? Why, yes

The rye brownie sundae is wonderful, but with single digit temps soon in our future, we couldn't pull the trigger. The s'mores in a parfait glass, with a rich chocolate ganache and bruleed marshmallow topping was festive and delicious.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New York City for Less: New CityPASS Hack

NYC for less: CityPass hack
Tourist in NY - ways to save money

If you have ever used a CityPASS, you know how convenient and valuable they can be. These booklets of top attractions at cities around the country offer discounted and skip the line privileges at popular tourist attractions. But the booklets themselves can be pricey and unless you use all the passes, you might not save money. The new New York C3 offers a choice of three of the top attractions, with a savings of up to 25%.

The NYC CityPass can save you serious money
The regular New York City CityPASS costs $122 per adults, and $98 per youth (The most expensive CityPASS, by the way, is Southern California. It includes a 3-day Disney park hopper pass, SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California and costs $353). For the NYC pass to make economic sense, you have to use all six passes, which means you need to have a long trip planned.
Save on a trip to the Top of the Rock
View from Top of the Rock

Great for short getaways

But what if you only have a weekend trip? Or you've been to New York City and have seen some of the pass attractions? The cheaper New York C3 offers a choice of any three of the following:
  • The Empire State Building Experience
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Hornblower Sightseeing Cruises
Winner of the NYC CityPass hack
Save big at the Intrepid

 New York C3 Hack

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the world's best art museums, but since you can 'pay what you wish', reserve your C3 for a more expensive place - but don't skip the museum! Even if you've been here before, a return visit is in order. And you can spend a full day, because you get same day admission to the Met Breuer, a short walk away, and The Cloisters, a subway ride way uptown).
NYC hack: don't use your CityPass at the Met
Temple of Dendur, Metropolitan Museum of Art

How it works

You typically have 9 days from the time you redeem your first pass to use all the passes in your booklet. You can buy booklets online and bring them with you, buy at some hotels, or buy at each of the attractions.
The C3 pass is only sold online. You can show the ticket on your phone, or print it out. And it is also good for nine days from the first redemption.

What can you get for free?

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum is free on Tuesday evenings after 5pm, so if you will be in New York City then, you might not want to 'waste' a ticket on a place you can get into for free.

What C3 pass is the most valuable?

 The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum costs $33 for adults and $24 for kids ages 5-12, so if this museum is on your NYC bucket list, use a pass here.
The Top of the Rock costs $34 for adults, $28 for kids ages 6-12.
But the grand winner is the Empire State Building Experience; it costs $54 for adults, and $47 for kids ages 6-12. Plus there are taxes and convenience fees. If you are planning to visit the Empire State Building, this offers the greatest savings.

On the water

  • Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • One-hour Liberty Cruise
  • 30-minute ride on the BEAST, a 70-foot racing powerboat (available May-September. My kids love this thrill ride. Expect to scream. And get wet.)
  • Horn blower Cruises
  • One-hour International Sightseeing Cruise
  • Two-hour "Alive After Five” Happy Hour Cruise (seasonal)
  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • Round-trip Statue Cruises ferry ride with stops at Liberty Island and Ellis Island, plus an audio tour on each island and Ellis Island Immigration Museum admission.
NYC for less: CityPass Hack

Time is money

Have you waited on an endless line at a theme park, aquarium or zoo and regretted not being a member so you could waltz past everyone else? With the CityPASS, you get to skip the line. But, this assumes you have bought the pass online, or redeemed it elsewhere. In other words, if you decide to first visit the Empire State Building, and validate your pass here, you will potentially wait in that hours-long line to start the pass. So use another pass first and then skip past all the other hapless tourists.

Where else can you go?

In addition to the two NYC passes, CityPASS offers booklets in:
  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Houston
  • Philadelphia
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Southern California
  • Tampa Bay
  • Toronto

Friday, December 22, 2017

Tourist at Home: Dumbo, Brooklyn Gets Even More Chic

dumbo brooklyn, brooklyn bridge park
Dumbo view, Brooklyn Bridge Park

One of my most elegant friends just sold her penthouse apartment in Dumbo. She feel the area has lost its neighborhood feel, and is constantly overrun by tourists. As someone who lives just a few miles away, I can see her point. On the other hand, Dumbo feels more and more fun.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is a lovely place to run. I trained here both both NYC marathons, and the bathrooms and water fountains were much appreciated. Although there is a bike path, it as bricked parts to slow you down, plus masses of people walking in front of you, so I tend to avoid riding here.
dumbo brooklyn, brooklyn bridge park
Empire Stores; Cecconi's on the left

The Brooklyn Historical Society opened a branch in a renovated warehouse. Last summer, it was free on Friday evenings. The upscale Cecconi's, an Italian restaurant with branches in Istanbul, London, Berlin, and West Hollywood, has outdoor tables overlooking the park and a huge space with plenty of room around the tables. My in-laws complain about cramped NYC restaurants; they would love this.

Expensive, but priceless view

cauliflower at Cecconi's in Dumbo, Brooklun
Whole cauliflower
They won't love the prices; we couldn't find a decent bottle of wine for under $70. The food is also pretty pricey, but it is quite delicious.

In fact, the vegetarian entree of a whole cauliflower, cooked in the wood fired oven, was a bargain $15 (shh). It was covered in almond aioli, and served in dramatic fashion, with a steak knife plunged in the heart.

We also had a lovely burrata pizza, with wild mushrooms but no bresaola; yummy, but expensive at $25. I couldn't bring myself to get the $26 pizza with black truffle, zucchini blossoms and goat cheese.
dumbo brooklyn, brooklyn bridge park
Pizza with burrata

Truffle was also being shaved onto a pasta special, and the entire restaurant was heady with the aroma.

The kale salad and butter lettuce salads were fine, though not that interesting.

I would definitely go back for the bargain happy hour, with lower priced cocktails and snacks from 4-7.

More to come

Another branch of the private club Soho House is opening soon in the complex. Dumbo has truly arrived.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Geography Lesson Through Food: Where is Uzbekistan?

The cool lights at Nargis

Quick, can you locate Uzbekistan on a map? And did you know that the Central Asian country has food that closely resembles Mediterranean?
Have you traveled to Uzbekistan? Take a trip via Brooklyn

Nargis Bar & Grill, a new restaurant in Park Slope (there's another Brooklyn location in Sheepshead Bay) was my introduction to Uzbek cuisine. Though it specializes in meat kebabs, there were enough vegetarian choices.

Sadly, we couldn't sample the pumpkin samosas; the dough is made with lard. But we had a huge appetizer plate, the assorted mixed spread, with four different dips and three kinds of pickled vegetables. The spread included hummus and baba ganoush and pickled cabbage.
Two kinds of bread and fresh salad

There was no bread, but we had two kinds; non-toki, a flat cracker that looked like matzo and non, a warm puffy bread.
Pumpkin dumplings

Steamed dumplings came in a vegetarian version, with pumpkin and sour cream. They are served in a steamer basket like one you see in a Chinese restaurant. When I opened the basket, we were enveloped in a cloud of spiced mist. The dumplings were delicious.
My camera lens steamed by the dumplings

We had a big fresh salad with feta cheese and a skewers of salmon. There was also a yummy side dish of potatoes with mushrooms.

Nargis has interesting cocktails. My fig and bourbon came with a fig ice cube.

The restaurant has very fast service, but we weren't rushed. After we paid, we sat for awhile, listening to music and enjoying the atmosphere.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies: Using Up Homemade Applesauce

Vegan chocolate chip cookies

Raw dough
Although a bit of high fat butter can be exquisite on just baked bread, I don't really like butter. So the admonitions to avoid raw dough when I was a kid (raw eggs) and now (raw flour) didn't really affect me. I was unlikely to snag a glob of buttery raw dough. Once baked into chocolate chips, all bets were off.

Ready for the oven

Why not make vegan cookies?

But with a glut of homemade applesauce in my refrigerator (so many upstate New York hiking trips) I needed to bake. I figured the applesauce could substitute for eggs. So I decided to go whole hog, as it were, and eliminate the butter, too. I used coconut oil and made vegan chocolate chip cookies that were every bit as decadent as a butter and egg version.

As a bonus, I cleared up some room in the freezer.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 C coconut oil
1 C sugar
1 C unsweetened applesauce, preferably homemade
2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt
1 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375┬║ F and line baking sheets with silpat.

Cream coconut oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the applesauce and mix to incorporate.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add to the mixture and mix until just incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop by spoonfuls about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Yield: 2 dozen