Pomme Palais

New York Palace Hotel • 30 E 51st St. New York, NY 10022(212) 888-7000 • http://www.lottenypalace.com/dining/pomme-palais

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Midtown has no shortage of great patisseries, but please add one more to the list, located inside the New York Palace Hotel, and loaded with some of the best eclairs (pictured), tarts and danishes one could ever hope to pork out on. Everything is so diet-cheating good, you will be 10,000 calories in the hole before you even know what hit your waistline. But things are not just a feast for the stomach, Pomme will have your eyes drooling as well, with treats so stunningly designed you almost feel guilty biting into them, like gnawing on the side of the Mona Lisa.

They also have a handsome array of savory options as well, and an assortment of interesting teas and coffee to wash them down with, but I can’t vouch for any of them, nor how deep the bench is here, but of the four desserts I did try, all were merveilleux! That’s apparently good according to Google Translate.

Even the store itself is a jewel, making you feel as if Louis Vuitton has gone into the restaurant business or something. So skip Paris Baguette and Le Pain Quotidien down the street and fork over the extra coin for something well worth it. In fact, I love this place so much I’ll probably be upping it to five knives soon, after a little more “research.” Mmmm… research…

4 teeth

 

Ess-a-Bagel

831 3rd Ave. New York, NY 10022(212) 980-1010 ess-a-bagel.com

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There is raging debate as to who has the best bagel in the city and I think I have to give the edge to H&H or maybe even Russ & Daughters. But right on the heels for me would be Ess-a, especially if you are talking about the establishment as a whole, as I believe Ess-a-Bagel would then move up the second slot, because they simply crush H & H when it comes to things like whitefish salad, cream cheese, lox and sable.

Sure, you have to put up with the vaudeville-type lifers behind the counter who can turn your outing into a 20 minute soliloquy when all you want is a fucking bagel, but at least it’s worth it. In particular, the worthiest of the lot for me is their sesame bagel, scooped out, with whitefish salad, lettuce and tomato (or cucumber). The whitefish is salted to perfection and I’ve never had better. But just be sure get the bagel scooped as I mentioned, otherwise you’ll be lapping the whitefish off of your tray.

Equally worthy is their Nova on an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese and tomato.  The Nova is so damn buttery you will want to roll around in it like Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal. Be sure to get this, or the whitefish salad, with a half sour pickle and a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda and you will be lost in Bagel bliss.

In terms of baked goods, Ess-a also has a few winners like their lemon pound cake in particular, but where they fall short for me is on the rugelach, and babkas. You can find far superior versions at Breads and Second Avenue Deli. But on the whole, Ess-a gets an A for breakfast, lunch or catering.

4 teeth

Russ & Daughters Cafe

127 Orchard St. New York, NY 10002(212) 475-4881russanddaughterscafe.com

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The kosher deli is like the tiger of restaurants, loved, but rapidly nearing extinction. As cited by the documentary Deli Man (an obscure Netflix gem), kosher delis in New York alone, have gone from over 1500 in number back in 1931, to today’s very depressing stat of just 21 establishments left. So, call it my Jewish guilt or moral obligation, but I felt the need to help turn the tides by turning my kids onto the glory that I lovingly call “Jew Food.” A cuisine unlike any other, that I have adored since childhood. But sadly, like many other bad Jews (apparently), I haven’t been back in years. Which is a shame, because there’s really no good reason. It’s not like going to Synagogue or anything. It’s actually quite enjoyable. And downright sinful.

Well, also turning the tides is a modern-day twist on the kosher deli, paying faithful homage to its diner roots, while also feeling contemporary somehow at the same time. That’s Russ and Daughters, a beacon of hope for the “chosen” cuisine.

Speaking of chosen things, our first choice was the Pastrami Russ, a small but crazy good sandwich made with their unique salmon pastrami, cucumber, coleslaw and deli mustard all on a cigar-sized pretzel roll, served next to a mountain of homemade waffle potato chips and a half sour pickle that also rocks. Mad mazels on this one.

But as good as the Pastrami Russ was, the Latkas stole the show. Easily the best I’ve ever had, done up at least a half inch thick with a hard, crusty outer layer and moist, fuffy innards. It’s Ultimate Latka perfection. Also, we had ‘em both ways, the new fangled crème fraiche and salmon roe way, as well as the ole tried and true apple sauce way. Both are good, but the kid in me still leans toward the classic A-sauce.

And while we’re on the topic of classics, the Classic Board with Nova, tomatoes, capers, red onions, cream cheese and an everything bagel was also very good. Not quite as inventive as some of the other twists, but as solid as you’ll find anywhere else in the city, Essa included. Granted the Nova is very lightly cured though, so nowhere near as salty as you might be used to.

Lox, eggs and onions were good, but not great. Partly due to the less salty lox, which is what makes this dish normally shine, ya know, cuz salt and eggs and all. That said, the rye bread that comes with it is another Ultimate. So flavorful and packed with texture. In fact, we loved it so much we walked up the street after breakfast to the Russ & Daughters store on Houston to buy a loaf. And my god is that thing dense. One loaf probably ways as much as a Mini Cooper.

We ended the meal on a duo of dishes from the “Sweet” column, the first being the Chocolate Babka French toast. Yes Challah, you just got trumped. Topped with fresh strawberries and sidled up next to a ramekin of sweet cream- no need for syrup on this thing. It’s richer than Daddy Warbucks.

Yet as wonderific as the Babka French Toast was, the kosher purist in me still found the Noodle Kugel to be the shiznet. It’s like muscle memory for your taste buds, bringing you back to that sweet noodle lovin’ fro your childhood that you just can’t deny. And wow did that sound way more child molesty than intended.

All in, Russ is tops in my book. Even if Gweneth Paltrow likes it too. From the incredibly fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juices to both Ultimates I mentioned above to their caviar cream cheese that needs to make its way from store to café (hint-hint Russ).

4 teeth

Bel Cafe

801 W Georgia St. Vancouver, BC V6C 1P7 Canada(604) 673-7000belcafe.com

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Just off the corner of the Rosewood Hotel there is a café of cool, because apparently that’s just how the Rosewood rolls. Average don’t play in these walls. Granted the Bel isn’t quite as refined as the hotel it calls home, but what it lacks in posh, it makes up for in vibe, with young, hip, attractive shoppers huddled around the lattes and noshes.

Of the lattes, I tried the chocolate chai latte and sadly it was a far cry from the one at Bread and Cocoa in San Francisco, but to be fair, that’s the best latte I’ve ever had in my life. On the upside, the blueberry scone was mighty good. Fresh and not too dry, which is the bane of scone existence.

Can’t say much beyond that though, but from my limited sample of eyesdropping (eavesdropping with the eyes), I noticed quite a few lookers on the plates of my fellow patrons, not to mention in the glass case (pictured). Enough to feel comfortable with giving this place an assumptive three knives.

3 teeth

 

Foodlab

7253 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90046(323) 851-7120foodlab-la.com

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Having only ordered from here, I think it’s safe to say that things are still in the clinical trial phase, because not much was nailed. The iced tea was bitter and basic. And the grilled cheese (pictured), while made with gruyere, tallegio and gorgonzola on 5 grain with glazed onions and grain mustard, proved to be a bit too much of one note. Granted it’s a good note, but not as interesting as one would hope after reading that epic list of lovable ingredients.

The best thing for me was the prosciutto and fig sandwich on a baguette with ricotta and honey, then drizzled with a balsamic reduction. However, do not be fooled by the menu description, because it is NOT served on raisin walnut bread. Also, do not be fooled into thinking this sandwich is SO good that I am recommending the Lab on the whole. All I’m saying is, if you’re going to have to eat here, this is my suggestion.

2 teeth

Blue Dog Kitchen

101 W 25th St. New York, NY 10001(212) 229-9222 bluedogkitchen-hub.com

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This place is teeny tiny so I don’t recommend eating there unless you like lines of people standing over you while you chew. It’s much better suited for the grab and go or Seamless.com. It’s also well suited for those who like good, fresh, wholesome food. From salads to sandwiches to their desserts it’s pretty hard to go wrong. Sure, some things are definitely better than others, but nothing I’ve ever had here has been bad.

My go to sandwich is the G19, which sounds a lot like an assault rifle or a supersonic fighter jet, but sadly it is nothing even remotely as cool. It does, however, taste better than both of those things, made with warm grilled veggies and goat cheese, served on a hearty multi-grain bread.

And for salads I definitely recommend the fig, arugula and faro salad. It can be a bit overdressed at times, but it always tastes great. Granted it’s extremely light on the faro to have that ingredient listed as a headliner in the salad’s name.

Then, for dessert, mentally prepare yourself for one of the best oatmeal raisin cookies since the dawn of molasses. It’s got just the perfect hint of cinnamon and a nice depth of flavor from the bourbon. On the other hand, the red velvet extravaganza is just a red velvet cupcake with an over-the-top selly name. Don’t get sucked in by the marketing people. Take it from an ad guy… who got sucked in by the marketing.

3 teeth

 

Mayhem & Stout

711 2nd Ave. New York, NY 10016(212) 986-1600mayhemandstout.yolasite.com

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I grabbed a bite from the Madison Eats stand during lunch on a workday, so I forewent the Stout side of the offering, but fully embraced the mayhem side, jumping in both feet on The Dragon, a pulled pork hero heavily sauced with fiery goodness (aka Asian BBQ sauce) and topped with slaw. And while I scored points for the smarts it took not to get all boozy before going back to the office, those points were quickly takeneth away by how ridiculously messy it was to eat, making me look like a two year old trying to eat a bowl of spaghetti for the first time, sauce all over my hands and face. Scarfing it down as fast as I could to minimize how many co-workers saw this and judged me.

But beyond the mess, I haven’t enjoyed a Dragon this much since Game of Thrones. It’s not life changing by any means, nor is it an Ultimate, but it is a nice departure from the usual pulled pork par. And like Untamed Sandwiches and No.7 Sub, Mayhem has a plethora of inventive twists on the sandwich scene, so if the Dragon doesn’t do it for you, rest assured you’ll find something to please your puss.

3 teeth

Grit & Grace

535 Liberty Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15222 • (412) 281-4748gritandgracepgh.com

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This was the best meal I had in Pittsburgh, not that my time there has been of any impressive duration that you should ever misconstrue my minute sampling as extensive. But in those four short days I managed to pack in a few highs and lows, with Grit and Grace taking pole position.

The winning performance of which I speak takes place in a narrow, subway car-shaped dining room decorated with a minimal contemporary touches so as not to distract you from the small plate army about to descend on your table. From dim sum to sandwiches and then sum, Grit & Grace fills your plate with anything goes. But that’s what makes this place a blast, especially for larger parties so you get to try a little of everything. And per the list below, you will soon see, I truly mean everything.

So, listing them in hierarchical fashion, here we go…

The Brisket Sandwich: It’s all you could ever hope for in a sandwich. Moist. Beefy. Contrasting textures and brightness from the kohlrabi slaw and pickled red onions. A little kick from the horseradish cream and thousand island sabayon. All on a wonderfully fresh baguette that would make any Frenchy proud.

The Mortadella Bun: No. Not a sandwich. A bun. As in dim sum. As in get some. Because this is definitely the best Mortadella sand- er, “bun” I’ve ever had. Loaded with the additions of chicken thigh meat, kimchi and bread & butter pickles, then sauced with coriander mustard and chili aioli. It’s definitely not your usual suspect, but hot damn does the road less travelled taste good!

Pot du crème: I’m normally not a huge fan of the Pot, but then again, I had never eaten at Grit & Grace before. And now I’m a changed man. Probably an Ultimate in the category since the competition is all but non-existent in my eyes. And note to Crème brulée, eat your crème out, ‘cause you’ve got nothing on this.

Lettuce Wraps: Okay, not exactly the sexiest of names, nor is it much of a looker to be honest, but look deeper… and open wide, because the duck confit piled on top of these leaves is loaded with flavor, along with even more kohlrabi (of the fermented persuasion), peanuts and cilantro.

Pork belly bites: Anything that starts with the words “pork belly” is already halfway to the promised land by default. Which can be both a blessing and a curse, because it’s that much harder to stand out in land where the bar is pre-set to high. Nonetheless, these “bites” had a favorable showing, glazed with orange, chili, garlic and a nice kiss of ginger.

Roasted octopus and mussels: This was the most conflicted dish of the night, being both good and bad at the same time. The octopus itself being the good, done nice and tender, as are the potatoes, which soak up the lemongrass broth like a champ. On the flip side, the mussels are the Bad. Tiny and overcooked, tasting like shriveled up wads of mollusk.

Carrot salad: In the midst of such culinary wizardry, it’s a bit hard for salads to make a lasting impression, but I do have to say that this one has a nice Asian kick to it.

Tomato salad: Conversely to the Carrot Salad, this one takes a decidedly Mexican approach to its flavors, which, while good, didn’t fare quite as well with the overall theme of cuisine.

Kimchi: It’s fine, but to present it as its own dish is a bit remiss. It’s a gloried condiment to be fair and that’s all you should use it for, to add some nice kick to the other dishes you find lacking.

Meatballs: I’m not sure if these were the ones normally served with ramen, but perhaps they should’ve been, because by themselves they were a tad underwhelming.

Pastrami sandwich: I wanted to love this one so much more than I did, but compared to the Mortadella bun or the Brisket Sandwich it’s an ugly stepsister. But not for a lack of trying, with accouterments like broccoli rabe, roasted garlic aioli and provolone cheese whiz you’d think it was Philly’s second coming. Sadly though, it’s just a false alarm.

Short ribs: Like the pork belly, this is another one of those dishes that usually has me at “hello.” And when you place it on a biscuit smothered with friggin’ béchamel, you’re definitely going for broke. But that’s what happened. It broke. They pushed this little dish so far, it overshot decadent and landed right splat on the face of “I wish I hadn’t done this.”

Soba noodles with crab: Remember that kimchi I mentioned? Save it for this dish. It’s crazy bland and in dire need of some kimchi lovin’, which is the worst name ever for a Korean porno.

Peach cake: Speaking of worsts, this was the most unfortunate of recommendations from our server and easily the lowest point of the meal. Dry, bland and unworthy of the term “dessert,” bringing no joy and only caloric guilt in its wake.

Other than that final transgression, the service really was excellent and the wine choices by the glass, while minimal, were fantastic. I had one white and one red and both were much better than your average bear.

So now that you’re done reading my novel about Grit & Grace (I told you we tried everything) you can certainly see that there are some land mines to be avoided. But with so many highs and two Ultimates, I find it hard to dole out anything lower than a quad.

4 teeth

Good Food

1205 Pleasantville Rd. Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510 • (914) 432-7981

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With a name like this they are just begging for some asshole like me to come swooping in and shit all over their life’s endeavors, but as tempting as that might’ve been, I was actually pleasantly surprised. Not by the décor, however, it’s virtually nonexistent. But then again, the place isn’t called Good Décor. The staff, on the other hand, is very small-town warm and friendly, charming my pants off as they coerced me into ordering dessert when I was already full. Loveable bastards!

But before we leap all the way to the end, let’s go back to the beginning. Torn between a delicious sounding lineup of sandwiches and savory crepes I ultimately erred on the side of novelty and went with the caramelized onions, olives, basil, capers and goat cheese crepe, served with a side of couscous salad and damn was it good… food. No false advertising here. It was WAY better than the Little Crepe Street in Kisco and good enough that I will most certainly be returning in order to cover the rest of those chalkboards (check back for potential knife uppage).

So what did I do for dessert? A scoop of their Coconut Almond Joy ice cream. It was also good, obviously. But next time I will be sure to go with one of their Nutella crepes, which have my Ferocious name written all over them.

3 teeth

Rocky’s

235 Saw Mill River Rd. Millwood, NY 10546 • (914) 941-2165rockysdeli.net

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Word on the street is that Rocky’s just hauled in a nod from the folks at Best of Westchester (that street being Rt.133), so it goes without saying that I needed to scoot my opinionated bones on over there to order up some sammies.

The place looks like any one of a thousand just like it in the city, long counter on one side, stuffed to the gills with rolls, wedges & ciabattas, backed by a task force of sandwich soldiers armed with cooktop skillets the size of sofas and bins upon bins of prepped ingredients. And on the other side you’ll find a wall of fridges loaded with every imaginable beverage one could ever hope to wash down a hoagie with.

Unfortunately, this faithful homage to city sandwich shops is so faithful that the sandwiches are nothing special. I guess people are just wistfully lining up out of sentimentality for the days when they used to live in the city. So therein lies the good news, you no longer have to drive an hour into the city to get your fix. But a reality check is definitely in order, because the sandwiches are far from the “best” in Westchester.

To get all specific on your ass, almost every sandwich requires that you add something to it, because they are too bland as is. For example The Untouchable desperately needed to touch some tomatoes or coleslaw or roasted red peppers- anything to give it moisture! Plus, the chicken cutlet is so thin it tastes like nothing more than its breading. Then there’s the actual bread. And together they overpower the grilled prosciutto, mozz and balsamic.

The Whaler, while better than The Untouchable, was also just okay, mainly due, once again, to a meek portion of fish so thin you could floss with it (not exactly what I would call “whale-like”), breaded and fried, along with hash browns and tripling down on the theme, a fried egg. There’s also American cheese, but what it needed most was ketchup or hot sauce to make it interesting enough to finish both halves.

The Chip Chip was easily the best of the three, with chipotle chicken, chipotle mayo, smoked gouda, bacon and avocado all on ciabatta. It had some nice kick, but if spicy sandwiches are your thang, then you owe it to yourself to head on over to Armonk and get The Heat at Melts. It beats the Chip Chip out of Rocky’s.

2 teeth