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I just don't get it!? 9/12/07

My last boyfriend was European, and while we only dated for a year, he taught me so much (subconsciously) about new cuisines that I'd never really given much consideration to. Case in point, French cuisine. I'd always been mesmerized by the talent and sophistication that had come from France (i.e. Daniel Boulud), although I hadn't really experienced a true French meal (with the exception of French onion soup and French fries). My idea of an exotic meal in New York City would be trying a new "red sauce" Italian restaurant. Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite comfort foods consist of: cheese enchiladas, cheese burgers, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, and any other greasy pairing you can think of. I'm not really one to order exotic fish (with the exception of fried shrimp or a lobster roll) at restaurants, as I grew up in a land-locked town in Texas. Being the great girlfriend that I was, I decided to be "open" to new foods and cuisines. When we'd discuss where to go for dinner, 9 times out of 10, I'd let him choose (because I believe in compromise AND because I wanted to expand my culinary horizons).

Instead of being the girl that only ate at Mexican restaurants and ordering cheese enchiladas, I became the girl that was eating at French restaurants and ordering the loup de mer; the girl at sushi restaurants ordering the hamachi; and the girl at Greek restaurants ordering the whole branzino. Who had I turned in to? Who was I?After a bittersweet year of dating, the European man and I broke it off. While reflecting, I was happy to take away the fact that I'd exposed my palate to a variety of new taste adventures. I learned so much!So finally, the point of my post, "I just don't get it!?"

Last night, I went to dinner at Markt, my fave Belgian nabe joint, with two girlfriends. We decided to split some mussels for an appetizer. I was looking forward to this, as I felt like I'd really grown accustomed to seafood and shellfish over the past year. I guess I'd never really looked at a mussel. Upon stabbing one with my fork, I must have punctured the "stomach" portion of the creature. Unlike deveined shrimp, I don't think it's possible to devein a mussel, because a glop of what looked like black toothpaste oozed on to my plate. I put two and two together and discovered that what had the texture of ocean sand, was in fact the mussel's waste. Gross. I just don't get it!? Why the hell do people eat other animal's crap (literally)? What's so un-chic about a great bowl of French onion soup & some greasy fries, anyways? This situation made me realize that I will forever be the land-locked Texan surrounded by a sea of sophisticated urban gastronomes.


Dinner at Pylos, 8/24/07

Amidst the gritty, yet adorably charming block of 7th Street between 1st Avenue & Avenue A, stands a Greek oasis named Pylos. This restaurant is so easy to walk by and not notice, as I almost did, myself. My boyfriend and I had plans to meet there for dinner at 7:45 p.m. on Friday night. As I looked around the block for some sort of signage, I was becoming angry, thinking he had mistaken the address. Before I could utter another cuss word, there it was!

Upon entering Pylos, you immediately feel transported to the Greek Isles (that sounds super cheesy, but it's true). The entire ceiling is covered with clay pitchers; the walls are stark white with royal blue accents and the atmosphere is clean, modern and warm.We were seated immediately, but told that the next reservation for our table was at 9:30 p.m., so we had until then to eat our meal; not a problem, considering it was only 7:45 p.m.

The complimentary homemade pita and chickpea dip was out-of-this-world! The pita bread was crisp and buttery on the outside and almost doughy on the inside. We started with the homemade sausage with tomato sauce, which was so tender and fresh and the tomato sauce added the perfect amount of tang. My boyfriend ordered the duck and I ordered the shrimp and scallops over pasta with a lightly creamy tomato sauce. We couldn't have been happier!

This was one of the best meals I've had lately, from start to finish. The service, ambiance and food were excellent.


Dinner at Eleven Madison Park, 7/26/07

After months of reading phenomenal things about Eleven Madison Park on chowhound.com, I decided it was time for me to try it for myself. I can't begin to tell you how many people have raved about EMP. I was very excited and intrigued about my 7:00 p.m. reservation.

My friend and I arrived fifteen minutes early and waited for our table in the bar's offshoot area. We admired the restaurant's tall ceilings and lovely Art Deco decor. After about ten minutes, we were seated.The service began outstanding, but towards the end of our meal, it dwindled. During the time of outstanding service, I was blown away by the immaculate attention to each and every guest. Each of us ordered a drink; I had a champagne cocktail and my friend had a glass of Merlot (recommended by the sommolier, of course). My drink was light, refreshing, fruity and sweet.

First, we were brought a long and narrow tray with four of the chef's starters (grilled cheese on paper-thin crackers with truffle essence, tuna tartare with baby squash and caviar, meringue sandwich cookies with foie gras as the center and sweetbreads wrapped in a light fried dough). Periodically, we were served lovely assorted breads and rolls.Since this restaurant only does tasting menus, we opted for the three-course menu with the choice of two savory dishes and one sweet dish. I ordered the Diver scallop ceviche, the lobster "lasagna" and a peach souffle.The ceviche was very interesting; I've never had raw scallops before. They were paired with watermelon, lobster and lemon oil. It made for a very interesting flavor combination. My entree (the lobster "lasagna") was pleasant, but I was not floored or blown away. I did enjoy the peach souffle with lemon-thyme ice cream.

Overall, my experience at EMP was positive. I didn't like the way our service turned out towards the last half of our meal. My food was good and very unique, but I've realized that fancy food is not my favorite food. Would I return to EMP? I think so, but most likely at brunch for heartier fare.


Dinner at Bukhara Grill, 7/17/07

Eric, my cousin, who's interning in New York City, and I like to get together once a week for dinner (since his time here is limited). When he told me that he'd never had Indian food before, I knew that I needed to be the person who introduced him to one of my favorite cuisines. I decided that Bukhara Grill (217 E. 49th Street) would be the perfect introduction. Having only ordered from the restaurant to my office, I'd never been to the physical restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the unassuming-looking restaurant (from street view) had two floors and a beautiful outdoor patio.We started our meal with complimentary pappadum and 3 different homemade "salsas." Next, we ordered the samosa appetizer (pastry-like dough stuffed with potatoes and peas, then deep fried). The potato filling was very tasty and had more of a spicy kick than others I've had. For our mains, he ordered the Chicken Makhani (similar to Chicken Tikka Masala) and I ordered the Shrimp Kanhari (shrimp grilled in the tandoori oven).The chicken was all white meat breast chunks in a lovely tomato-cream sauce that was full of flavor. My shrimp were almost the size of langoustines (I was a bit nervous when the server told me that there were only going to be 4 shrimp for my entree) and were grilled to perfection; possibly overly grilled. Had they been cooked for just a little less time, they would have been perfect. We ordered basmati rice and plain naan, and it made for a beautiful meal.I conclude that I was very impressed with our food and overall service at Bukhara Grill and even more impressed that I have a new Indian food convert...my cousin!