Tag Archives: party

Harry’s Continental Kitchen: 525 Saint Judes Drive, Longboat Key, FL

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As a ‘Welcome to Florida’ gift, my generous father sent Gabriel and I for a celebratory dinner at Harry’s. What a wonderful treat it was! Great service, a romantic setting, excellent food and a truly special place that we probably wouldn’t have come across on our own. As a favorite of my father’s, he wanted to make sure we got a chance to try it. By sending us there as a gift, he ensured that we’d be able to see what was so lovely about the experience.

When we arrived, we were asked where we wanted to sit. We chose the corner table outside, surrounded by lit-up palm trees and flowers. It is such a cute restaurant, as you can see in the pic of Gabriel. It has a casual feel outside, and the inside room is a bit more formal. This is a combo I really love. A super casual and low-key atmosphere but with a high-end, fancy menu. This is the perfect juxtaposition for someone new to the Florida lifestyle…Someone who is really not missing the ‘suit and tie’ necessity of a NYC restaurant with a similar menu.

Our waitress was excellent right from the start. She went over the specials and brought out water and some warm bread served with butter and roasted garlic cloves (YUM). The menu made for a difficult decision. Just about everything on it appealed to me and I kept changing my mind about what to order. In the end, I decided to take my father’s recommendation which was to have the caesar salad and the duck. Duck is not normally something I order, but given his very strong feelings about it, I thought it was a great opportunity to branch out from the foods I generally gravitate towards.

The salad came out  quickly. It wasn’t the lettuce, parmesan and croutons simplicity of a typical caeser and instead was enhanced with wonderful with ripe tomatoes, anchovies and crumbled blue cheese. The caesar dressing was perfect and I was very happy with this as my appetizer. It also went beautifully with my glass of Pinot Grigio. Gabriel had the macadamia-crusted scallops in a citrus sauce, which I happily had a taste of. I thought the crust and sauce were both awesome- as did Gabriel who ended up using the leftover bread to sop up the sauce after the scallops were gone. The scallops, however, were a bit overcooked. They were tougher and drier than they should have been. That said, they were full of flavor and tasted quite good anyway.

Our entrees came out and looked incredible. My duck had a super crisp and crunchy skin and the tender meat was rich and succulent. It came in a maple/berry sauce that complimented it perfectly and I polished it off. I guess I love duck now, at least the way they prepare it here. It came with a side of squash and zucchini that lighted it up a bit. The vegetables were simply steamed and I thought they went very nicely with the duck meat without competing at all with the flavor. It also came with a side of wild rice that seemed to be undercooked. It had some very crunchy pieces that were so hard I thought I might chip a tooth on it. I liked the flavor of it very much, but the under-doneness of it was rather off-putting.

Gabriel ordered the pasta with grouper, shrimp and scallops, and the seafood on it was all amazing. The perfectly cooked scallops clarified that the scallops we’d had earlier were definitely overcooked because these were tender, moist and so full of delicate flavor. The shrimp were enormous and tasted wonderful in the light sauce. The grouper was also cooked just right, tender, flakey and light. The pasta itself was cooked more than I like it- I strongly prefer my pasta al dente and this was kind of on the mushy side. That said, the highlight of the dish was clearly the seafood and the plentiful amount of pasta was almost unnecessary.

For dessert, I ordered the key lime pie with meringue topping. It was plated beautifully and tasted SO delicious after my heavy meal. The thick meringue topping was fluffy and light with it’s wonderful crisp top. The filling was limey, springy and bright and just sweet enough. I gobbled it up and was left feeling incredible satisfied with the whole meal.

The service was really exquisite. Our waitress checked on us just enough without being overbearing. She made sure we had topped off water glasses and were happy with everything we were served. The maitre d’ also came by to check on us and we felt like we were treated with respect and courtesy, and that they really cared about how we were enjoying our evening.

I would strongly recommend Harry’s to anyone looking for a special evening out. I would love to return for brunch or lunch someday since there was so much on the menu that sounded awesome. Since it’s a bit out of my normal budget, it was really such a great gift from my father and I thank him, as well as the staff at Harry’s, for such a warm welcome to Florida.

 

La Mela: 167 Mulberry st. New York, NY

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Last Thursday, Gabriel and I threw a going-away party for ourselves. We had an absolute blast doing karaoke and enjoying cocktails with about 35 friends at 2nd on 2nd in the East Village. When the party ended, we found ourselves starving and rather buzzed (well, okay I was plumb drunk) and everything around was already closed. We decided to wander over to Little Italy to see if we could luck out with finding somewhere open to get big, satisfying plates of pasta. Lo and behold, we found La Mela. Open, mostly empty, pretty inexpensive and with great reviews online.

We were seated right away and quickly scanned the menu. Water and bread were brought out and our orders were taken. I chose the traditional spaghetti and meatballs which came out just a few moments later. Perfect. It totally hit the spot (from what I can remember) and left me with 2 extra meals worth for the following day. The meatballs were huge and delicious and the pasta sauce was bright, flavorful and hot. The pasta was definitely not homemade, but it was fine anyway, and the price was very fair.

If you’re in the area, especially late at night, I’d suggest giving it a try.

El Cantinero: 86 University Place. New York, NY

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Gabriel had been telling me about El Cantinero for a while because he thinks it’s great Mexican food, reasonably priced, and (most importantly for him) they don’t charge extra for chips and salsa. When we got there, we were initially told they wouldn’t seat us until all 4 of us arrived, but just a few minutes later the host changed his mind and led us to a great table towards the back. We’d specifically asked for a quiet-ish spot and he gave us a large, round table that was kind of tucked away. Perfect.

Chips and salsa were brought out right away and drink orders were taken. Our friends arrived just a few minutes later and the waiter came back to take their drink orders and to bring us water and menus. So far so good. At that point I asked for an order of guacamole for the table. (request #1)

He came back about 5 minutes later to take our orders and check to see how our drinks were. So far, so good. I asked if the guac was coming out and he said it was on it’s way. (request #2)

Our meals were brought over and everything looked great (except for Gabriel’s order which didn’t include the stuffed pepper he’d ordered, but ok- he was hungry and happy with what came instead).

I found it odd that our entrees arrived and our app still hadn’t so I made that known by asking the waiter about our guac. (request #3) He apologized and asked if we still wanted it.

We ate about 3/4 of our entrees. The guac came out! Hooray! It was quite good even though we were already filling up and slowing down. Better late than never. Kind of. I was not impressed with the service at all. The waiter hardly checked on us at all and the timing of the guac’s arrival was really pretty pathetic. Maybe they had to go harvest the avocados. My chicken mole was good- though not the best I’ve had. Overall, the meal was so-so. My frozen strawberry margarita was delish though!

When our bill came, I honestly thought there was a mistake. 4 of us, one app, a few drinks and 4 entrees came out to well over $120. For pretty typical Mexican food I thought that was really too high but oh well, at least we had plenty of time to catch up with great friends!

Would I go back again? Um, no. Doubtful. Right near me is my fav Mexican, Maz Mexcal.

https://bigforkinmouth.wordpress.com/?s=mezcal

Next time I have a Mexican craving, that’s most likely where I will go.

 

Centolire: 1167 Madison ave. NY NY

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My aunt chose Centolire as the restaurant to celebrate my beloved Grandmother’s 96th birthday in, and what a perfect choice it was. There was an elevator to get to the upstairs dining area, and we were seated at a comfortable table near the windows. The decor is tasteful and cheery with fresh flowers, lots of sunlight streaming in, and orange and gold banquets. The service which was slightly on the formal side, was incredible knowledgable and attentive, save for some empty water glasses towards the end of our meal.

A $25 3 course prix fix was a very reasonable cost for a fine quality meal and the menu was full of so many appealing dishes that we all had a tough time choosing. Luckily for me, my boyfriend and I have very similar taste in food and were happy to share everything, so we were each able to try 6 dishes instead of just 3.

The fresh Italian bread that arrived in a basket alongside delicious olive oil was a good indication of the food to follow. Wonderfully fresh and high quality, the excellent olive oil was clearly carefully selected.

We began with our appetizers: a risotto topped with a bacon wrapped scallop and a baby artichoke, arugula salad with parmesan. Both were fantastic, and even though the one lonely scallop looked like not quite enough to share, it really was. Cooked to perfection and wrapped with a thick slice of bacon, this was amazing on top of the creamy, cheesy risotto and had we opted for the entree sized portion of it, it would have been too much. The salad was simple but fresh and delicious, and the thick slices of parmesan on top were again clearly of high quality.

For one of our entrees we chose the grilled salmon with broccoli rabe, which turned out to be good- but pretty boring. The fish was very fresh and cooked perfectly with a crisp crust. The broccoli rabe had large sliced of roasted garlic and was not at all bitter as it sometimes is. That said, the dish lacked anything exciting or original about it and we were a little disappointed with it’s simplicity.

The ‘strangled priest’ pasta with chicken ragout was a total hit. I’d never had this oddly named pasta before- they were almost like little twisted dumplings and had a great sort of springy consistency to them. The creamy, tomato-y chicken ragout had a similar texture to pulled pork and was something quite different than I’ve had before. I throughly enjoyed this dish and pretty much licked the bowl clean.

Alongside of a delicious cappuccino we shared our 2 desserts. The 2 scoops of gelato were incredible, on one side was pistacho and the other was amaretto flavor. I LOVED the amaretto one and really would have like a giant container of that one to take home. It had little ribbons of the almond cookies going through it and I was pretty much in heaven except that it was gone too quickly. The blueberry and vanilla creme tart turned out to be much more cake-y than tart-y but very good no matter what it was called. It was not too sweet but had a lovely crumbly texture and large fresh blueberries inside.

Overall, I was very pleased with Centolire, especially since the reviews online are kind of mixed and I didn’t go in with terribly high expectations. I would absolutely recommend a visit and think it’s a great choice for a date, a group or even dining alone. When we went, it was a fairly mixed clientele, centering around what seemed to be families and I got the feeling that it’s generally a local Upper East Side crowd. Bravo Centolire!

 

 

Seahorse Tavern: 303 E 85th st. New York, NY

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A couple of months ago, my wonderful boyfriend gave me the most awesome shock of my life with a surprise 35th birthday party at Seahorse Tavern. I was so overwhelmed that day that I totally forgot to write about this awesome restaurant and figured that we’d just have to return another time to do so. When we found a 50% off deal on Scoutmob, we jumped at the chance to go for brunch this weekend.

I’d called for a reservation the previous day, but no one returned the call. When I called again in the morning, I was told that the messages were never listened to but that we could come in whenever. Ok. I guess reservations aren’t necessary. When we arrived, there were only a couple of tables full and we had our pick of spots. We chose a 2 top next to the window in the corner and the waitress brought over our menus and water right away.

Brunch includes a choice of entree and a drink  (bloody mary, wine, beer, or mimosa) for $14.95- it’s a fantastic deal. We remember loving the fried oysters appetizer from the party and even though they weren’t on the brunch menu, they were happy to serve them to us as our starter. YUM. SO good. Little toasted sesame seeds in the batter make for an interesting flavor and crunch on these perfectly cooked oysters. They each sit in their own shells atop a lovely tartar sauce and it’s all presented on tiny mounds of crushed sea salt. Great presentation, even better taste.

Next I had the goat cheese, arugula, mushroom omelette with home fries. This is a gorgeous, fluffy, omelette, cooked to perfection with a creamy, cheesy, mushroomy interior. My only complaint about it is that I only saw one tiny piece of arugula in there- it was mostly cheese and mushrooms. Still delicious, just not as green as I’d hoped. The home fries were wonderful- not greasy, cooked just right, and a bit spicy with various peppers mixed in. The bloody Mary is one of the best ones I’ve ever had- and was even better once I asked for a few extra olives. Gabriel ordered the Eggs Benedict over fresh crab meat and it was amazing. The crab was so fresh, flaked and chilled and piled underneath the most beautifully poached eggs. We both pretty much licked our plates clean.

The service at Seahorse is casual, low-key and friendly and the food is fabulous. I love the mix of a casual, laid back atmosphere with somewhat fancy food. This is definitely one of my favorite neighborhood spots and we’ll be going back again soon. Try it out!

Saigon Market: 91 University Place. NY NY

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I’ve walked past Saigon Market a bunch of times and never realized how enormous it is inside. My friend and I were seated right away and given menus and water. Even though the space is cavernous, it has a strangely cozy, warm feel to it anyway. It must be the lighting- which I really liked. The fixtures look sort of like little, golden, hot air balloons. Very cute.

The menu had a lot of great options with just about all of the lunch deals under $10. I scanned the menu and chose the basil chicken with brown rice.  My friend ordered dumplings and vegetarian spring rolls for herself. I had one of her spring rolls and thought it was pretty good, though kind of boring. I did really like the light, peanut-y sauce she ordered instead of the plum sauce that usually comes with it. My entree was great. Nice, large slices of white meat chicken, an assortment of veggies, and tons of basil. The portion size was perfect for me, as I didn’t really want to be taking leftovers with me since I wasn’t going straight home.

Overall, I think this is a convenient and thrifty place to meet someone for lunch and if I’m in the area I might go back. I’d like to try the Pho next time I’m there. Someone next to me was slurping down on some and It looked and smelled delicious. I’m slightly hesitant about ordering Pho from anywhere since my standards are crazy high and nothing really compares to: http://www.yelp.com/biz/pho-501-east-hartford#hrid:cT65iBDIPa7vY2LEC7gAEA/src:self

Hmmm. Great. Now I want to rent a car to drive up to East Hartford for a bowl.

Bernard’s: 20 West Lane, Ridgefield, CT

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My mother threw a luncheon here for my brother and his wonderful fiance to celebrate their engagement and it was a beautiful place to escape the city to for an afternoon. The easy drive from NY was about an hour and after parking we took a quick walk through their garden and passed the chef collecting fresh herbs for the day’s menu. We walked in and immediately noticed the grand piano, fresh flowers, plentiful racks of wine, and beautiful impressionist paintings. We were seated right  in a very lovely private room with a round table ready for the 10 of us. Our waiter seemed to ‘get’ our somewhat quirky family right away and shared his sense of humor and charisma with us comfortably. He was rather entertaining, and happily showed us a few games and tricks to keep us busy while we waited for the rest of the guests.

As we looked over the menu, we were all impressed with just how many wonderful sounding dishes were available. As our waiter recited the specials, I realized this was not going to be an easy decision. Luckily, my boyfriend was more than happy to share 2 appetizers and 2 entrees so we could choose 4 total dishes between us.

I began my meal with a wonderfully spicy bloody mary and a piece of the fresh, chewy, crusty bread that had been brought out.

Our appetizers were a roasted corn soup with mushrooms and flatbread and a mesclun/bibb/endive salad with figs, almonds, hearts of palm and amazing little filo-crusted goat cheese sticks. The soup was my favorite course of the day (aside from the dessert), creamy but not too heavy, with a the wonderful taste and smell of fresh summer corn. The meaty mushrooms added a beautiful and tasty garnish. The flatbread which floated atop the soup, though it got soggy pretty quickly, added another interesting element of textures to the smooth soup. The salad was as described, but for some reason it didn’t really blow me away as much as I’d expected, except for the goat cheese sticks which were truly a treat with their crisp coating and soft, melty centers.

For our entrees we shared the basil linguine with shrimp, vegetables and tomato sauce, and the potato crusted salmon with haricot verts and morels (my FAVORITE kind of mushroom). The pasta really did taste like basil and was a pleasant, light green color. It was clearly homemade and cooked perfectly al dente. The shrimp were large, fresh, cooked perfectly and of excellent quality. The vegetable and tomato sauce were light and summer-y, but in my opinion, weren’t really the best compliments for the shrimp and pasta. I would have preferred a broth or herb sauce instead of the tomato. The salmon, though it was slightly over-cooked instead of rare in the center as salmon really should be, was beautifully presented with a spiral of slivered, golden potatoes on top. The haricot verts and morels were wonderful, and I enjoyed them more than the star of the plate.

For dessert, a gorgeous chocolate cake was presented to the happy couple and then plated individually with raspberry sorbet and fresh fruit. This happened to be a noteworthy chocolate mousse cake, and my plate was so clean afterwards that it left no question about whether I liked it or not. The sorbet came in little, crunchy, caramelized, honey-flavored pastry cups that when broken up went great on each forkful of chocolate. I’m still thinking about this cake, and it’s probably a good thing (for my waistline) that I didn’t bring home any of the leftovers because I’d be chowing down on a 2nd, 3rd and 4th piece right about now.

If you get a chance to take a trip out of the city for a truly special meal, check Bernard’s out. A great place to celebrate a special day, or something to make it’s very own occasion out of. I hope I have a reason to return at some point!

 
 *photos courtesy of Gabriel Sanders. http://www.magicsandbox.com/enter/Magic_Sandbox.html