Monthly Archives: October 2011

Heidi’s House: 308 E. 78th st. New York, NY

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I’d been meaning to try Heidi’s for a long time, especially since it’s only a couple of blocks from my apartment. To call it tiny would be an understatement, and every time I walked by it was totally packed solid. Even though Heidi had graciously offered to take my cell phone number and call when a table was ready, I was always too hungry to wait for one and kept putting it off for a time when luck would have me walk by to find an empty table.

When Gabriel and I found a 50% off deal on Scoutmob, we just couldn’t resist anymore…crowded or not, how could we pass up such a great offer? On Yelp.com, people were raving about Heidi’s since it opened, with every review even better than the last. We called from my place, asked if she’d put us on the list and she obliged, telling us to come by in about half an hour. When we arrived, we’d apparently missed our name being called. We were told that they did in fact try to call us on my cell phone but when they got no answer they skipped us. When I asked to see the number they called and found they’d written it down wrong, they apologized and immediately found us the perfect little table for two. This was a great start indeed.

Although it’s small, it’s rather cozy, especially on a chilly night. The local crowd , clearly built of quite a few loyal regulars, was totally down-to-earth, mostly in jeans and T’s. I loved the comfortable atmosphere and immediately felt at home. Before I even tried the food, I proclaimed “this is my new favorite local!” excitedly. Gabriel laughed and reminded me we hadn’t even ordered yet. Well, I guess I just had that much faith that it would be awesome.

I’m very happy to say that my jumping-the-gun announcement was well deserved. The food was totally outstanding. We shared 3 small plates; the shrimp tacos which were made simply and perfectly cooked, the fresh guacamole with warm, homemade tortilla chips and the special gnocchi of the day; which was served with parmesan, white truffle oil and shiitake mushrooms. WOW. That last one was seriously noteworthy. The gnocchi were basically little heaps of mashed potatoes and the meaty mushrooms made this dish more than filling enough for the two of us to share. We would probably have licked the plate clean if no one had been watching. Seriously scrumptious. We had struggled in choosing it over the lobster mac and cheese which is one of their classics, but decided since that one is always on the menu we’d be able to try the much-talked-about mac next time. We also had 2 delicious glasses of wine- which were generously filled to the top in large glasses, more than reasonable at $7 each.

We left Heidi’s full and very pleased with our experience. The wait staff is awesome. The clientele is awesome. The overall vibe is exactly what you’d hope to find in your neighborhood local spot. We will most certainly go back soon, this time perhaps to try that famous lobster mac, the incredible looking chocolate souffle and to play one of the many board games piled high near the front door. I worry that it’s often so crowded and yet another rave review will only keep adding to the number of people who have discovered this treasure, but alas, it is my culinary duty to keep you all well-informed of the gems like this one. Enjoy!

Raul’s Empanadas Town: 63 Morris Street, Morristown, NJ

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Gabriel and I were in Morristown, NJ to go horseback riding today and we arrived back at the train station a little bit early. We were pretty thankful about that since we were starving and the little town had lots of cute options. The owner of the stable had mentioned Raul’s as a great choice since it was near the train station, super reasonably priced, fast and tasty.

We glanced over the menu on the wall and quickly decided on the $8.00 (!!!!!) combo for 2 which included 2 beef empanadas, 2 chicken empanadas and 2 sodas. The prices alone were enough to impress us. Clearly we weren’t in Manhattan anymore, Toto.

We got our food to go and took it to eat outside on a bench at the train station. It stayed nice and hot despite the chill in the air, and we welcomed the warmth. Overall, the empanadas were tasty, but not what I think of as authentic at all. The crust tasted a lot like crunchy corn bread- pretty good, but not very empanada-y. The fillings were flavorful and tender. We had also picked up 2 of their sauces: a mango cilantro one and a mildly spicy chipotle salsa, which were a little lacking in flavor, but added the perfect amount of moisture to the semi-dry meat fillings. The pockets o’ meat were pretty small and 2 of them was the perfect size for a small dinner.

If you’re in the area, I would recommend this as a convenient and interesting choice for a meal…especially if you want to spend less than what it costs to feed one person in NYC.

Veselka: 114 2nd ave. New York, NY

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A made-at-home dinner a few nights ago including overcooked frozen pierogies inspired a visit to one of Gabriel’s old standbys, Veselka. A NYC East Village staple with almost 800 reviews on Yelp.com, it was a clear choice to go get our craving satisfied with ‘real’ pierogies.

When we arrived, we were seated right away in the obviously popular Ukrainian restaurant. A casual, diner-like setting with a bustling wait staff ensured an efficient dinner service. Menus and ice water were brought out right away as we were given a few minutes to look over the choices. I decided on the vegetarian plate, and Gabriel got the deluxe vegetarian plate. Both came with bread, soup and salad, and ended up being PLENTY of food even though we opted to round out our carb-laden meals with a side of steamed vegetables and a side of kielbasa.

I had never had hot borscht made with meat before and it totally changed my perception of the soup. As far as I can remember, the only type I’d ever tried was the cold, smooth, in-a-jar-from-the-grocery-store type, with a dollop of sour cream on top. This was really hearty and full of flavor. Instead of being smooth and creamy, it was a thin broth with pieces of beef, carrots, onions and beets in it. It was totally belly warming and delicious, and for that alone I made a note to myself to return. The salad was simple, but had a lovely lemon-dill dressing that I really enjoyed. I am a huge fan of dill, but someone who isn’t would definitely not be pleased with this one and might want to ask for another choice.

The vegetarian plate consisted of 4 pierogies (2 cheese and 2 potato) and cabbage stuffed with rice, mushrooms and herbs and covered in a mushroom gravy. It was served with a side of sour cream and a side of delicious chopped, caramelized onions (my favorite part). The pierogies were certainly much better than the ones I’d left in the oven for too long a few days prior, but didn’t blow me away. A little bit on the oily side and very simple, I thought they kind of lacked in flavor and the fluffy filling I was hoping for. The cheese one was better than the potato, but neither were really noteworthy. The stuffed cabbage was on the tough side and filled with so much rice that I felt like I was going to pop after eating it. The gravy was rich, creamy and flavorful. Gabriel’s plate also included kasha, which I tasted. It was okay, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much by not ordering it. Our side of vegetables included broccoli, carrots and cauliflower and was very buttery. It helped the feeling over eating a full plate of carbs for dinner, as did the half a kielbasa that we shared. For dessert we shared a blueberry/almond tart with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that was really quite good. The almond-y cake was moist and had a great consistency, although we both would have like to see more than the speckle of blueberries on top. We were probably too full to have ordered it, but somehow we managed to find room.

Although this meal was only an ‘eh’ in my book, I DID feel warm and comforted by the heavy food, and felt that I got a sense of what Ukrainian food really is. As we got ready to leave and admired a case full of desserts, pastries and more, a sighting of a small roach crawling over the cookies left me feeling rather gross. We alerted the cashier to it and left wondering if a return visit was actually in the cards anymore. I know this is NYC and it’s hard to prevent things like rodents and bugs…but really? Crawling IN the bakery case? That’s just eww.

*Photos by Gabriel Sanders http://www.magicsandbox.com