Tag Archives: pastries

Jim’s Small Batch Bakery. 2336 Gulf Gate Dr, Sarasota, FL

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Stop #2 on my father and I’s little culinary adventure in Gulf Gate led us to Jim’s Small Batch Bakery and WOW this was the highlight of the day for me. This tiny little shop tucked away in the corner of Gulf Gate is just awesome, with a staff who clearly has a ton of integrity about what they do. Jim was on hand to chat and give us some samples of his sorbets and ice creams and I simply couldn’t resist. I ended up with a scoop of coconut sorbet and a scoop of strawberry sorbet and they were both so incredibly delicious. Smooth, creamy and very natural with nothing but the fruit, a little sugar and a binding ingredient. Some of the best sorbet I’ve ever had actually. I couldn’t help topping my cup with a lemon sand dollar cookie that was super thin, crisp and delicate. I also tasted my father’s vanilla ice cream which was equally outstanding.

The case full of treats was extremely tempting, and I’m lucky that I work pretty close by. I will absolutely be back for lunch soon- as they had a wonderful little menu of sandwiches, soups and quiches in addition to their baked goods. The almond croissant was LOUDLY calling my name and I promised it that I’d come back for it soon. The lemon bar, breads and cakes also looked amazing and I’m sure I’ll eventually try them all.

YUM. I will be back within a week, I’m sure of it. Thanks Jim!

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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.

Nino’s: 1354 First Ave. New York, NY

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Last night marked two days before I run the NYC half marathon for my second time, and what better reason is there than to go feast on 3 courses of rich Italian food at Nino’s? I’ve walked past Nino’s many time, being that I live less than 10 blocks away, and it always looks fairly empty from the front. What I did not realize is that the back is totally packed and hopping with a well-dressed Upper East Side crowd. Mixed ages, some on dates, some with family, and even a couple of birthday celebrations, this restaurant is clearly a favorite of locals. Judging by the many signed photographs and books, it’s also a celebrity hotspot.

Nino, the dapper gentleman who owns the restaurant,  warmly welcomed Gabriel and I and led us to our table. It was a good thing we had made a reservation because there were only a few free tables that evening, and I again wondered how I’d never been in before. A grand piano in the corner was played by a musician with a lovely voice, and his tasteful mix of standards and show tunes made for a pleasant mood. He showed beautiful restraint and control with his voice, and I really enjoyed the old school flavor of listening to live music while we dined.

Our waiter came out for our drink order and brought us crusty bread, bean/garlic/herb dip (YUM!) and water along with our menus. He went over the specials for us and gave us a few minutes to decide. I should definitely take this time to mention that the service was the standout at Nino’s. As much as my personal preference tends to be more contemporary, innovative, creative foods, the impeccable formality of the service at Nino’s is very special. The menu is traditional Northern Italian, and it is very comfortable with that fact. No crazy foams and strange flavor combinations here, just classic, time-tested favorites. The dishes are served with the flair of restaurants that have been around forever and cater to a crowd who will accept nothing but premier treatment. We were checked on frequently during and between courses but it was done in a way that didn’t feel over-bearing at all, just attentive and wanting to make sure we had a great experience.

Now, on to the food. The dishes we ordered were as follows: For our starters, I had the Pera e Prosciutto: Charred pear wrapped with san daniele prosciutto, reggiano chunks and truffled honey. The combination of flavors and textures on the plate were absolutely wonderful. The slight crunch of the pear wrapped in salty prosciutto went so perfectly with the crumbly reggiano and the drizzle of truffle honey tied it all together in such a luxurious way. This was my favorite dish of the evening. Gabriel had the Carpaccio Alla Romana: Thinly sliced filet mignon served with arugula, shaved artichokes, reggiano, basil and lemon drops. The meat was sliced beautifully and was incredibly tender. It was slightly lacking in flavor, but the reggiano and lemon helped to brighten it up a bit. A bit of black pepper really made it come alive for me.

For my entree I had the Capesante: Seared diver scallops with onion marmalade, english peas, diced pancetta and almond browned butter. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed with this one. I felt that the scallops were over-cooked, the sauce they sat in was too strong for such a delicate mollusk and that the peas it came with did not taste like they were fresh- or maybe they were also just a bit over-cooked. The flavor was excellent and I love scallops, so I was happy to eat them anyway, but I think this dish could use a bit of re-working in general. Gabriel’s entree was the Ravioli Fatti in Casa Homemade ravioli: stuffed with ricotta and prosciutto cotto, sautéed with butter and vegetable broth with a hint of pesto. I preferred his entree choice to mine. I felt that the vegetables on top (a mix of thinly sliced squash, peppers etc) were a lovely assortment for the beginning of spring. The thin dough of the ravioli was delicate, but strong enough to hold a delicious interior filled with prosciutto and ricotta. The buttery sauce was light and complemented the ravioli beautifully. Judging from these two entrees, I would imagine that sticking to the more traditional Italian pastas is the way to go when ordering from Nino’s menu. If I return, I plan to try the Spaghetti Carbonara or the Gnocchi.

For our desserts we shared two; the delicious, creamy, rich, tiramisu and the strawberries with custard (I’m not sure of the exact name of this dish but it is one of their specialties) I’m always amazing by tiramisu in general, that something so incredibly rich can also taste so light. This was a wonderful dessert, and beautifully presented. The strawberry dessert was prepared table-side in a dramatic presentation. Our waiter whisked together egg yolk, cream, amaretto and champagne into a warm custard and poured it over a glass full of ripe strawberries. Next, he dusted a coating of biscotti crumbs over the top before he served it to us. This was not something I’d normally order (no chocolate!) but It was a refreshing way to end a lavish meal. The custard was creamy and almond-y and not the liquor was not over-powering like it sometimes can be. We decided to each order a cappuccino and were delighted when they were brought out with an impressive tower of fresh fruit and fresh homemade biscotti. Just when I think I’m totally full, it’s amazing to me that I can always find just a little more room for the extras.

Overall, Nino’s restaurant is a real class act. It’s clear to see why it’s a celebrity in it’s own right, and why it attracts people with a taste for the traditional to dine here time and time again. Bravo Nino’s and thank you for a wonderful evening.

 

Mille-Feuille: 552 Laguardia Place NY NY

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My friend told me about this bakery when I told her that I’d finally made it to Maison Laduree. https://bigforkinmouth.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/maison-laduree-864-madison-ave-new-york-ny/

She told me that the macrons here were the best in the city, and I, being a huge macaron lover, had to check it out asap. After lunch together, we ended up with a little extra time to kill so we wandered over together so I could see what all of her raving was about. Well, WOW. I have never doubted this particular friend’s food-raving about anything because she is basically never wrong. This went even further to prove that point. It was so so so so so right.

Yes, they are expensive. Yes, the place is tiny. Do I care? Nope, not at all. These macaron are indeed sent from heaven. They are fluffier, WAY more flavorful and more texturally complex than any other I’ve tasted. The fillings were a bit thicker than most other bakeries make them- and especially in the salted caramel one, that was something I really appreciated. I had the vanilla, the salted caramel, the coconut and the pistachio and  it would be difficult to pick my favorite. They were all seriously out of this world. GO. Go immediately…and please bring me back a few.

p.s. I have also heard that the croissant are amazing here but I filled up on the macaron this time…I’ll plan to try them next time I go. They were making almond ones when I was there and If I’d had 30 minutes to wait for them to be ready, I totally would have…they looked incredible.

Omonia Cafe: 3220 Broadway, Astoria, NY

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When dinner time rolled around last night, G and I decided to wander into Astoria to find somewhere to eat. Although I AM a fan of little hole-in-the-walls that no one has discovered yet, I also find super-crowded places to be very appealing, holding trust in the masses. Omonia Cafe (although I must say  that I hate that the name sounds like ammonia, not at all appealing associated with food) was completely hopping late on a Sunday night, with tons of outdoor seating and a vibrant, lively scene.

We were seated right away at a sidewalk table and took a few minutes to peruse the large and varied menu. Everything from breakfast foods, to salads, to paninis and 3 pages full of pastries, ice creams and other desserts sounded great.

We shared the calamari to start, and it was hot out of the deep-fryer, certainly not one of the healthiest choices I’ve made, but ohhhh so worth it. Not too much breading, generous cuts of calamari and a very good marinara dipping sauce made a great starter and we cleaned the plate pretty quickly.

For my entree, I had a Greek salad that totally hit the spot. Perfect ratios of romaine, tomatoes, kalamata olives, cucumbers, onions and feta with triangles of toasted pita on the side. The only bizarre thing was that they didn’t have any Greek dressing to go with it. Huh? Oh well, I ordered some ranch dressing but didn’t really like it and wound up using the red wine/vinegar that was on the table instead.

With 3 pages of dessert offerings, we really couldn’t leave without trying something…and being that we’d already had a fairly indulgent weekend, we decided one more overdo was at that point, not really a big deal. hahaha. So we ordered a peanut butter, hot fudge sundae and I got a really excellent cappuccino. Little did we know, the sundae was the size of a bowling ball. Somehow, we managed to do some pretty serious damage to it. Today, I am on no-sugar, eating only vegetables/fruits and fish…and feeling quite a bit less gross already 🙂

 

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