Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day trip to Philly

Not being a local and with embarrassingly little knowledge of the location of American cities outside the obvious -  I had absolutely no idea that it was such a short trip from NY to Philadelphia ... It was therefore fortunate that I checked before responding to a request to attend a meeting there...  

From Manhattan's Penn Station to Philly's 30th Street station it only takes about 11/2 hours - so totally doable in one day - which I did. However the place was so lovely I wouldn't have minded some time to look around. It was a just a flying visit really but we managed to sneak in a quick lunch and wee shoppette with a friend before heading back to NYC. Worth a trip if you have a spare day in the city and need a break from the hustle bustle - I loved seeing these dollhouse-like abodes on the way through. Really felt like I was in the US of A...
of course there was a fair bit of this too...
But when we arrived - we found the most delightful little city centre full of green and sunshine and people enjoying a quiet day in the park - such a different energy to bustling NYC.
Very easy to get around as you can see from below.
Apparently there is some great Italian food worth hunting down but as we were lacking time we made do with a charming cafe - lunching on some simple but flavoursome salads and kick-arse ginger ale. I wish I could recall the name of the place... I will find it somewhere and update this at a later time but it was very close to Rittenhouse Square. Where there are is also a strip of french bistros/cafes all looking onto the park. Charming.

The station is stunning too...  
All aboard!!!  time to choof back to NYC! Fleeting  but nice. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cubana Cafe - NYC

Another fab spot for a casual lunch or an evening drink and meal is the Cubana Cafe in Soho. 
Excellent margaritas
great empanadas
 tasty salads
 hearty sandwiches, roasted meats, rice, beans, all the trimmings  - lots of pungent relishes.
Personable, slightly quirky staff on the floor, mixed crowd, laid back and not taking itself too seriously - all good stuff. 
The tres leches (3 milk cake) wasn't bad either. Not the best I've had but light and simple. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gourmet Garage

If you are lucky enough to be staying in an apartment in Soho or Greenwich Village (as opposed to a hotel with no more kitchen than an electric kettle)  - the Gourmet Garage (which has been there for yonks) is a great spot to pick up any fresh food or grocery item you need from breakfast through to dinner. Its not far from Dean and Delucca but a little bit cheaper with a slightly less glamourous vibe  - more neighbourhood and earthy. 
But still packed to the rafters with loads of excellent foodstuffs.
Apparently there are 6 outlets on Manhattan - so check out one near you. 

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

God, this has been a long time coming. Apologies - I have my mother in town for a couple of weeks and am dutifully playing tour guide and celebrating both our birthdays so there has been very little time for playing on my blog.

Because I don't want to drag it out any further and I don't have time to write down the thousands of superlatives I would like use to describe BHSB- I really just want to say a few key things and show you some pics.

Now, this is a big call but, the experience of dining at Blue Hill at Stone Barns would, without a doubt, have to be one of the most enjoyable food and friend days of my life. And here's why...

From the train trip, with good friends, departing glamourous Grand Central station...

...which cruised alongside the Hudson river (Hudson Line),

 to arrive at Tarrytown station on a perfect afternoon

 before being driven by taxi up the hill to the stupendous venue

  and then the stroll around the farm where we were able to see exactly where and with how much consideration and expertise our meal had been raised or grown

- to arrival at the restaurant via the grand entranceway

(happy Jane! finally here!)
 where we dove straight into the superb cocktails laced with homemade herbal syrups and the like in the cosy, elegant bar

before entering the most engagingly warm dining space

filled with a professional and divinely friendly team who provided exemplary service throughout the night and passionately introduced us to the most incredible food and pretty damn fine wine too - there was nothing at all to fault. Nothing.
Add being invited to see the kitchen to meet Chef Extraordinaire Dan Barber ( which was a very sweet gesture  -poor guy was under the pump but still managed to smile and say hi!) and   it just couldn't get any finer.

Here's a peek at the menu and what we were most fortunate to imbibe in...

A few little tastes to begin with - oh so sweet miniature veg and vegetable juice from the garden

Face bacon (from pork cheek) and crispy Kale

Tiny tomato burgers (so sweet)

Radish with creamy, sweet browned butter

Tiny zucchini/squash possibly wrapped with lardo (don't quote me) and sesame

wafer thin jamon on coca - thin crisp pastry ( at least this is what the ol memory is dredging up - whatever - it was sen-frickin-sational!)

housemade "V-9" juice
bone marrow

Pretty vegetable plate

A little home made wheat beer to go with your bread perhaps?

Fresh Ricotta made at the table  - served warm with brioche 
as the restaurant is a nose to tail kinda place they attempt to charcoal everything they can - some are more successful than others - above is a selection including wood, deer antler and bone, pig, corn cob, shellfish...

Roast onion with beet puree, chicken liver and pickled greens

Wahoo with grilled sweetcorn and concord grape sauce

onion bread with pretty damn fine hudson vally butter with two salts - tomato and mushroom - I thought that was pretty special - until they brought out the single udder butter....
Who's udder would you prefer??
  below is butter made from Ellie's or Sunshine's milk - one of them grass fed the other grain 

Carbonara style zucchini ribbons with roasted and shaved chestnuts

Veal, beans, smoked tomato, brussel sprouts, tongue and tarragon sauce

Wholewheat pudding with plums and plum and armagnac sorbet

concord grape pudding

grapes, dried peaches and chocolate truffle accompanied our teas and coffee

I have never seen such a magnificent selection of fresh herb tea ...

now THAT'S a tea trolley (below) . How delightful - freshly picked herbs surrounded by candles arrive at your table where your tea is prepared - oh my
oh, even the bathrooms were delightful... 
including the etchings  - if a little unsettling at the time ( for Aussies only - does ye olde "red back on the toilet seat" spring to mind?) Apologies.. I digress. 
Pure bliss from beginning to end (excuse the unintended nevertheless obvious pun).  What a night.

(very Sleepy Hollow...)

What a lovely, lovely thing to do. If you are in NYC make sure to book into Blue Hill well in advance then make an afternoon and evening of it - in fact - If I went again I would go for the weekend and take in the surroundings - the prospect  of taking a closer look at Pleasantville and Sleep Hollow - yes these places really do exist -  not just in books and movies - is too irresistible.

Even the ride home was fun. The restaurant will organise a car to drive you back to your hotel if you are too tipsy to bother with the train. Total luxury when one is a little hazy and sleepy after a most magnificent day...  If you are not as lazy as us you should know that the train runs until reasonably late and it is only a 35 minute trip back to Manhattan after a 10 minute taxi ride from the restaurant to the station. Whatever way you get there or home - just do it! You won't regret it. A wonderful special occasion restaurant. 
Goodnight Manhattan. And thank you Dan Barber, Robert Delaney and the entire crew at Blue Hill at Stone Barns - absolutely magnificent in every way. 

Here are the rest of the wines we enjoyed if you are interested.