Till & Sprocket

140 W 30th StNew York, NY 10001 • (212) 239-0570 • tillandsprocket.com

At first I thought I had found a diamond in the rough. No, not Aladdin. I quaint little charmer tucked away on the Flatiron-Chelsea fringe. And while the décor is cute as a button, the service is not so cute. Infuriatingly slow actually. As in the food is probably grown and harvested in less time than it takes to make its way from the kitchen to your table.

Once it does come, it’s a bit all over the map. For example the faro salad is so bland you would probably enjoy acting like a mime and chewing on air about the same. Marginally better are the meatballs. But then there are the deviled eggs with horseradish, which are very good and start to give you hope. I also found the caprese salad to be pretty decent as well.

And that’s just what this place does, it gets your hopes up one second and then drops you like a White House Press Secretary the next. For example, the burger. Granted it’s not a complete letdown, it’s not exactly a let up either. It merely passes as sustenance.

You probably already know what’s coming next, don’t you? You guessed it, more hope. In the form of a chocolate chip cookie this time. Yes, dessert managed keep the mixed messages going.

So I guess it comes down to this, if you feel like gambling with your mouth, be my guest. However, if you want a sure thing, the only thing this place is sure to do is piss you off.

Pondicheri

15 W 27th StNew York, NY 10001 • (646) 878-4375 • PondicheriCafe.com

Yes, it’s yet another fast casual, meat in a bowl format restaurant. Is it just me, or are we slowly devolving into eating like our pets? I mean take away the fork and knife (or chopsticks) and lower the bowl about 30 inches and voila! You’re a dog.

The degradation of humanity aside, Inday is actually pretty cool inside, clearly taking the bowl concept up a notch to posh pet. The food, however, is not so posh. Quite hit and miss actually with the emphasis on the misses.

For example, the raita was a bit yellow. Yes, I’m sure it was raita I ordered and not mayonnaise. No, I’m not 100% certain they didn’t pee in it. Although it did taste weird. Perhaps it was saffron?

Another big miss for me was the lamb dish. The meat was terribly overcooked and completely lacking flavor. Even the rice was bland as sand. And adding insult to injury was the price of the dish. So not worthy. In fact, it was so unworthy even they realized it and subsequently removed it from the menu. Good call.

The things that are worthy are the garlic naan, the chocolate chip and mint cookie and best of all, the chai cake. It’s the stuff of which dreams are made… and chai lattes. Essentially that’s exactly what it is, a chai latte in pie form. Think of a pumpkin pie and a chai latte having sex and there you have it. It’s a lot to wrap your head around, but oh-so perfect for wrapping your lips around. Between that and the cookie this place clearly knows its sweets. Now they just need to get the rest of the menu up to snuff and I’d up this place a knife or two in a heartbeat.

Pat LaFrieda

The Pennsy 2 Penn Plaza New York, NY 10121 • http://www.thepennsy.nyc

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Well known as one of the best meat purveyors in the tri-state, Pat has been putting more smiles on restaurant goer’s faces than the all-you-can-eat buffet at Scores. But being the man behind the man is one story. Being on the stage all alone is another. Nonetheless, Pat has decided to take a stab at playing the front man at the Pennsy with a meat-a-palooza sandwich stand.

Now obviously the meat is gonna be on point, there’s really no disputing that. But as we know, one ingredient does not a sandwich make. I believe that lesson is in the Bible under Hoagie 25:17. A sin I find LaFrieda somewhat guilty of with his ham and brie sandwich. Now obviously it has other ingredients in it, but the balance is completely off and there is not an ounce of inventiveness to make up for it. So it ends up tasting like a torpedo of bread and brie, with a little bit of pig… no Gerald.

Improving from there is the steak and cheese Sammy with caramelized onions is strong. A classic for certain, but it hits all the right notes. Particularly in wintertime when comfort food is more en vogue.

And speaking of putting on the winter weight, the Chookies are also pretty darn joy inducing. Essentially half-baked chocolate chip cookies in cube form, or more to the point of the name, chunks. Get it? Chunky cookies = Chookies. Lame as it may be, it obviously sucked me in.

2 teeth

The Strip Club

378 Maria Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55145(651) 793-6247domeats.com

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It’s not what you’re thinking. I mean c’mon, give me some modicum of credit. I’m not about to stoop so low as to review the food in a nudie joint. Although that does pose an interesting thought for a spin off stripper review site, “Ferocious Nudie.” But as misleading as the name might be, The Strip Club does in fact serve up some serious flesh… in the form of beef, pork, poultry and fish. So good it’s actually worth venturing into this sketchy part of town.

For starters I highly recommend the pork belly with the spicy carrot slaw on top and the crispy cauliflower drizzled with yogurt. The seared foie gras is also good, but it is sadly overpowered by the English muffin base, the duck egg and the glazed apricots, so much so that you barely even taste the foie gras. Making it a good starter kit for those just toeing the waters, easing them into their first time, but for true lovers of the livers, you will feel a bit cheated. And last of the starters for me would be the beef tartar over hummus. A bit on the whatevs side of the four.

On the entrée side of things, be sure to skip the duck or pay dearly with order envy should those around you go with the filet mignon or the braised lamb. Both were superbalicious yet simple in their preparations, allowing the meat to shine in all of its mouth-watering glory.

And for dessert we went with the fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, served with a crème anglaise dipping sauce, which actually proved to be my least favorite dish of the night. The cookies were the under baked, doughy kind, which always feels like a cheat to me to get to gooey. And the créme anglaise tasted more like a grasshopper milkshake melted down. But even with ending on a sweet and sour note, I have to give props where they are due. The service was great, the décor relaxed and for some bizarre reason, the patrons old, which is a bit of a downer, but it also somewhat tempers your fears of the neighborhood, because let’s be honest, if anyone is getting mugged, it’ll probably be the sweet old lady, not you.

4 teeth

Wolfert’s Roost

100 Main St. Irvington, NY 10533 • (914) 231-7576WolfertsRoostIRV.com

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If I gave out knives for effort, the Roost would earn a resounding five, because I really do appreciate the inventiveness in almost every dish. I also dig the understated vibe, which feels a little reminiscent of The Cookery in neighboring Dobbs Ferry, especially with its kitchen utensil chandeliers and abysmal acoustics. But sadly Wolfert is no Cookery when it comes to culinary greatness. I’m getting ahead of myself though, so let’s go “back to the start” as Chris Martin would say.

Upon entering we came prepared, BYOBing a nice bottle of Caymus Conundrum and a French Bordeaux. What we weren’t prepared for was having to send up a flare to get our waitress’ attention. But once we caught her eye, we ordered about a third of the menu, partly out of fear that we may never see her again. Well, fortunately she returned with three very impressive starters. The best of the trio, and of the entire meal, would be the wild mushroom bruschetta. As seen on Yelp (and above), this dish deserves every last ounce of adulation. But it gets high with a little help from its friends, taleggio and the fried egg on top.

The other world-rocking small plate was the bloomin’ broccoli. I assume paying homage to the Outback Steakhouse, the battered and fried floret is not only bloomin’, it’s boomin’ with flavors both savory and sweet thanks to the brilliant accompaniments of Humboldt Fog and apricot jam. The former already being one of my favorite cheeses on Earth, perhaps I’m a little biased.

The third app was also pretty good, the spaghetti with pork ragu and piave (yet another favorite cheese), but because it was done as a torta, the pasta was a bit on the crispy side, which I like in a textural way, but don’t actually love.

Now, before I move on to the entrees, or “big bowls” as they are referred to on the menu, I want to dispel a crazy misperception you might find in other reviews, this notion of meager-sized portions. Now, I’m not exactly sure what passes for a small plate for some of these people, but I’m guessing these were the same people fighting Bloomberg to keep Super Big Gulps in the city. It’s either that or they went with the tasting menu, which are supposed to be small portions, you neanderthals!

Getting back to the Big Bowls, this is where things fell apart. The fried chicken everyone raves about is almost as puzzling as the portion size comments. We only ordered a half portion and it was easily enough for three people, granted that might’ve been due to the fact that it sucked wind. Soggy on the outside, dry on the inside and flavorless all over. If you want truly great fried chicken try ABC Kitchen in New York, Highball & Harvest in Orlando or Son of a Gun in LA. This, on the other hand, is a cock-a-doodle-don’t.

The other big bowl of blah was the Korean-ish baby back ribs. Once again a dish ruined by Sahara-like dryness, which was such a shame, because the flavors on the outside were actually pretty decent (kimchi and gouchujong). Fortunately the third bowl, the Short Rib Pho somewhat redeemed Wolfert, because thankfully it was served in a broth that kept it moist. But as good as it was, it was no consolation to the damage done.

Pressing on and trying to put the past behind us, or more accurately trying to put dessert in front of us, we went with what was essentially a chocolate chip cookie and ice cream and a caramelized banana and ice cream dessert. I don’t recall the actual names of either, but both were good, not great- which is indicative of the experience as a whole. Good, but not great.

3 teeth

The City Bakery

3 W 18th St. New York, NY 10011(212) 366-1414 • thecitybakery.com
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My love for this place runs very deep, so if I seem irrationally effusive compared to its present day offerings, please forgive the reminiscent halo effect. And while this opening might sound puzzling to those who think City Bakery is still awesome to this day, I assure you that it is only half as awesome as it once was. Which is a testament to just how off the charts it was, because I’m still giving it five knives even with the menu flying at half-mast.

So, first let’s start in present day since this is the stuff you can actually still get. Three Ultimates back to back to back are the pretzel croissant (pictured), the chocolate chip cookie and the molten chocolate cookie. All three of them are so fantastically joy-inducing amazing they could give the likes of Prozac a run for its money.

Down any one of them along side a mug of their homemade hot chocolate (with an equally homemade marshmallow) and you will be so deep in a euphoric, diabetic bliss that the song “Revolution No. 9” by the Beatles actually makes sense.

And now for what you can only dream about, because they no longer make them. You see, once upon a time City Bakery also used to offer table service and upon that menu was a caramelized French toast the stuff of which fairytales are made. But sadly she is no more. And along with her has gone the fried green tomato grilled cheese on cornbread. The sandwich lasted a little longer than the French Toast as there was also a prepared foods/buffet period as well. A period that put the likes of Dishes. Essen and Mangia to shame.

Sadly the latter offerings are nothing but a memory. Happily, the former are still around in all of their diet-thwarting glory.

5 teeth

The Ultimate Muffin

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The muffin has to be one of the best case studies of successful marketing in history. Simply with a name change they managed to get the world to find it permissible to eat what is essentially cake for breakfast. Well, hats off to marketing and hats off to the best muffin I’ve ever had.

Clinton Street Bakery – New York, NY

Assuming the muffin isn’t dry, you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a shitty muffin considering dryness seems to be the most common upending for muffin-kind. But moistness isn’t exactly the only thing that guarantees success either. Contrasting textures and flavors are a must for me. Soft through and through, while nice, also gets boring fast, that’s why Clinton’s Chocolate Chunk muffin excels, with its crunchy, crisp sugared top and soft, fluffy innards. But then it goes one better, moving further down the softness spectrum towards gooey, which the chocolate chunks bring in spades. Like the muffin version of City Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Cookie. So, if you should ever happen to be waiting for a table at this place, do yourself a solid and step up to the bakery case and get the Chocolate Chunk. In one bite you will forget all about the wait and find yourself lost in a chocolaty Calgon-like bliss.

The Ultimate Cookie

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City Bakery – New York, NY

Both the chocolate chip and the chocolate lava cookies are at the top of my list, and both from the same place. So that should tell you something. Something like, you should be putting on your shoes and heading out for these cookies.

Let’s start with the lava cookie, because it’s very simple to explain. You know those molten lava cakes you get for dessert in restaurants, where you break them open and then all of the gooey liquid chocolate oozes out? Well, this is that in cookie form. Nuff said. Oh, and it’s pulled off like a champ.

Then there’s the chocolate chip cookie. Now, considering there are SO many contenders in this bucket, and basically all of them are at minimum good (after all, they are cookies), I feel the need to clarify what puts these above the rest. First and foremost, they possess the single most vital cookie characteristic, they are moist. But not under-baked moist, where you still get a bit of that floury grain in every bite. No, that’s the cheap way at it. City Bakery takes the road less travelled making their cookies right-out-of-the-oven gooey. But here’s the thing, they are like this for hours after being out of the oven. I don’t know how they do it (other than a plethora of butter), but it tastes like the stuff dreams are made of. Hell, I don’t even dream of cookies this good. Well, now I do because I’ve had them. But until you do, you don’t. Trust me.

 

Sherry B – Chappaqua, NY

Now I know what you’re thinking. Really? Chappaqua? The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie is from Chappaqua? Well, yes it is. Sharing the title with City Bakery and Dominique Ansel Bakery. It’s three inches of diameter deliciousness.  A clinic on balance and texture and decadence. Get one fresh baked and fuggetaboutit!

 

Dominique Ansel Bakery – New York, NY

It should come as no surprise that the inventor of the cronut also bakes a decent cookie. In fact, make that four decent cookies, the chocolate molten cookie, the salted white chocolate macadamia (my personal fav), the chocolate chip and the gingerbread cookie. All, baked warm and gooey to order if you ring those babies up on trycaviar.com. Yes, screw Seamless. TryCaviar has more game in its dot than Seamless has in its entire URL. And yes, that very well may be the first, and lamest, URL slam.