Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Souper Bowl

I was in the midst of a very large predicament. As I entered the restaurant I had two reasons to be afraid. The first one was that I was judging in a soup contest that was hosted by the New Shul, and I was not even close to competent compared with the other guest judges. Marco A. Moreira owns the much-respected Franco-Japanese restaurants Tocqueville and 15 East. Akhtar Nawab is the owner of Elettaria and has worked at Craft and Gramercy Tavern. And last, but certainly not least, Stephen Lyle is the chef and owner of Village restaurant, which hosted the event. There is a second thing I was afraid of: who I would choose as my winner. Many of my friends’ parents were entering, as was my mother. I had a conflict of interest.
However, I overcame my difficulties and began to judge. Here are the soups that were good, just not among the elite.
- The Minestrone soup was an interesting take on a contemporary favorite.
- The Steelers Broccoli and Cheese paid full homage to the Super Bowl qualifying team.
- Everything but the Kitchen Sink was a quaint soup with a strange name.
- Sanchocho de Gallina tasted like it had just arrived from a South American country.
- The Chicken soup was one of the better chicken soups, even though it was a tad bit salty.
- The Matzoh Ball Soup (thanks to Joan) had a perfect Matzoh ball.
- A Jew Married an Italian was a play on a most traditional Italian soup.
- The Chicken soup with Farfaline and Pesto was under-spiced, but still flavorful.
- Just the Broth was an interesting concept that was extremely under-spiced.
- The Herkimer New York Chicken soup was one of the more Jewish soups that I tasted, which is a compliment.
- Safta's Chicken soup had a good blend of broth, noodles, Matzoh ball and carrots.
- The Bean soup nicely arranged, but it was not really a soup, because it did not have a broth.
- The Mushroom Barley soup was well executed except for the fact that the barley was overcooked.
--The Pistachio Soup was so creamy that one couldn’t possibly eat a whole bowl of it.
- The Chicken Soup with Cabbage was one of the more spicy soups, and there was a little bit too much cabbage in it.
My three favorites over all were the Butternut Squash soup, The Carrot Ginger Coconut soup, and the Jewish Penicillin.
The Jewish Penicillin was the over all winner for the chicken soup category, because of its supreme taste, and its contrast between hearty and light flavors.
My mom made the squash soup, but since it was my mom, I could not give her the title, because it would seem biased. However her soup was refreshing, and it was an excellent feat on her part to pull off a squash soup as she did.
The overall winner of the contest was the Carrot Ginger soup, as it was the most creative and it had the most taste over all. It was made by my good friend Steve Fried who had no doubt been assisted by my friend Max, or the soup would not have been half as good. No, Steve is a wonderful chef, and his soup was scrumptious.
I was very content with most of the soups, and I thank the contestants for letting a child decide who gets the $65 gift card to Cowgirl Hall of Fame restaurant.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Locanda Vini e Olii

Brooklyn is far. So far that I almost finished an entire People magazine in one trip. Also I had the time to ponder how far away Brooklyn was. In fact, it was so far that we had to drive. But that was OK. I knew we were in for a great meal, and I also knew that we had some great company, some of my parents friends, Tod and David. After I exited the car, I was not able to find the restaurant, since the name of it looked like it was placed upon a drugstore's awning. We entered the dim room and immediately saw our hosts. We were quickly informed that they had ordered the six-course tasting menu that everyone was going to share. After waiting for about ten more minutes, the dishes arrived. In fact, I will tell you about my favorites only, or else most of you would spend an hour reading about them. One of my favorites was the shrimp with black chick peas because it was unique and new, and I had never had something so scrumptious before at an Italian restaurant. I loved the calamari in the tomato sauce, as well as the Branzino, as both tasted like they had been plucked from the sea only minutes before we devoured it. I also loved beef carrpaccio with roasted porcini mushrooms because it was fresh and flavorful. However, I thought that the Kitchen over-powered the dishes, over-spicing them. I found the service to be slow, and I also noticed that you felt important in the restaurant, but that was not due to the help. The decor was beautiful and rustic, and it made the restaurant much more welcoming. I really liked the meal we had that was made up of pasta, meat and seafood, but I also found the dessert delicious. I ordered a cake that was like a cookie. It was hard, fresh, energizing and crunchy, but it also had a very concentrated flavor. Overall, I would give Vini e Olii 7.4/10.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Souper Bowl

I have recently been invited to be a guest judge in the Souper Bowl, a soup cook-off that is being hosted by my synagogue, the New Shul. There are going to be many entries of which I will have to rate and judge along with three celebrity judges who I am going to be in awe of most of the time. The judges include; the chef who owns the restaurant Village, the chef/owner of Ellataria and former chef of Gramercy Tavern and Craft. And last, but certainly no least, the third judge will be the woman who took over the Second Avenue deli after her father unfortunately passed away. I will soon get back to you about the winner etc.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gramercy Tavern

I was wet and I was pissed. After driving for around 20 minutes with my grandmother in the pouring rain, I was very happy to set foot in a place in which water didn't outnumber people by one million. We were welcomed rather discreetly, but I hardly noticed since I was so excited to finally be there. We sat down and were immediately greeted by our waitress who informed us about the specials. I ordered the oysters which I shared with my grandmother, Francine, along with the octopus and the Kielbasa. Kielbasa is a very strong German sausage. The oysters were succulent and rich, both with and without the delicious chili sauce that it was served with. The octopus, which was my appetizer was served with a very peculiar looking pink mayonnaise sauce that greatly enriched it. I enjoyed it very much, and I believed at the time, and I still believe today that along with the oysters, the octopus was the strongest point of the meal. My Kielbasa came, and even though it looked very appetizing, I found it rather coarse and heavy. I also found that it's potatoes served as an unnecessary starch. I soon ordered my dessert, which was a German chocolate cake. It was, as I found, more or less only focused on decor, and not so much on taste. And in a way, that was how I mostly felt about the restaurant as well. I thought that it was not in any way comparable to Union Square Cafe, the other Danny Meyer restaurant that I have visited. All together, I was very, very disappointed with the way that the meal turned out. Other than the oysters and the octopus, the only thing that I found was positive was the beautiful decor. Overall, I give Gramercy Tavern a 7.7/10.