The Picnic Basket

 65 W 37th St. New York, NY10018 • (212) 382-262 • thepicnicbasketnyc.com
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The name is about the only thing charming about this place, so don’t be fooled. It’s nothing more than a galley lined with a few tables on each side that funnel you towards a counter flanked by refrigerator cases and menu boards. So not the place you want to come to for a sit down lunch if you as me. Grab ‘n go is the way to go.

To drink I had the green pear tea and lemonade because as we all know by now I dig on the AP (Arnold Palmer).

As for the sandwiches, I think I preferred the houlumi over the French Goat Cheese, mostly due to the bread. The houlumi being served on a warm, toasty, crunchy ciabatta. Whereas the goat is on a fresh baguette, which has its charms, but in a knife fight against ciabatta, it loses that battle nine times out of ten.

The ingredients on both sammies, however, fails to impress, especially when you have over-achievers like Untamed and No. 7 just blocks away. So, not sure why this place boasts the crowd or reviews that does, but I’m also baffled that Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, so what the hell do I know?

2 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

Mama Shelter Restaurant

 Hüseyin Ağa Mah., İstiklal Cad. No:50 D:54, Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey • +90 212 252 0200 • www.mamashelter.com/en/istanbul/restaurants/rooftop

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Right off the main drag a.k.a. Istiklal, there is a hotel by the name of Mama Shelter, created by the master himself, Philippe Starck. And while this isn’t what I would call his crowning achievement compared to the likes of the Delano, the Royalton and the Mondrian, it most certainly checks the cool box, drawing heavy influences from the same bag of tricks he used to design the Modrian in LA. The lobby is very white on white and the rooftop bar and dining area is complete with the same kind of sprawling city view, as well as beds and giant, over-sized planters. Granted he goes a great deal more colorful at Mama Shelter.

But sadly the cool décor goes straight to the heads of the wait staff who seem busier perfecting their aloof struts back and forth across the rooftop as opposed to taking care of customers. That said, should you manage to flag one down, brace yourself, because there’s more bad news, the menu is a bit hit and miss.

My first gripe being the iced tea. Not only is it not fresh brewed, it’s Lipton. Served in a can. Which I suppose should earn them a few marks for transparency. On the cloudier side of things, however, would be the preparation of the salmon cakes which are more like deep-fried fritters served with a slaw that is actually peanut based as opposed to vinegar or mustard, giving the dish a decidedly Thai net, net. And the net of that net was gross. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement even for me, because it wasn’t vomitous, but it really wasn’t good either.

And just when all hope was lost, Mama showed us her moxie with a delightful quinoa salad, made refreshing with chunks of watermelon and made complex and flavorful with bits of smoked circassian cheese. It was simple yet inventive and single handedly saved the life of our server who I was about to throw off the roof.

Perhaps Mama just needs to spend more time with her kids and get the house back in order?

2 teeth

Taïm Falafel and Smoothie Bar

222 Waverly Pl. New York, NY 10014(212) 691-1287taimfalafel.com taimmobile.com

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I’ve only eaten from their food truck, so this review is technically not for the restaurant. Which means décor and service are relatively moot unless you really have a thing for black and green food trucks. But, as far as trucks go I will admit that it’s very nice looking, I suppose. My estimation of the food, however, should hold quite nicely for both, because if they can serve up holy shitters like this off a truck, just imagine what they can do in the kitchen of a full-on restaurant!

Well, fortunately you don’t have to imagine, because I’m about to tell you. For starters let’s give it up to the best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had, no contest. I’ve downed about a hundred of these over the last couple of years and I’m poised to down another hundred without batting an eye, it’s that good. Worth-standing-in-line-for good. So what makes it the messiah of fried chickpeas? First I’d say it’s because these aren’t merely your run of the mill falafels. Be sure to ask for the special falafel of the day and you’ll be taste budazzled by kalamata olive falafels, roasted red pepper falafels, harissa falafels and spinach too. But the awesome doesn’t stop there. These little overachievers go above and beyond, packing their pitas with a cornucopia of goodies that make this thing the size of your head, yet good as all get out.

And if by chance a head-sized falafel sandwich doesn’t sound filling enough for you, I also highly recommend their fries, served with an insanely addictive saffron aioli. So good you won’t know whether to eat it, snort it or shoot it into a vein.

Then, for a tasty beverage to wash it all down with, you can either go smoothie, or in my case, I favor the pomegranate, honey iced tea. Mainly because the other stuff is so damn filling that I couldn’t possibly cram a smoothie down my gullet as well, but also because the iced tea is really great.

So there it is. A falafel food truck worth chasing down like a kid to an ice cream truck.

5 teeth

Mexicue

345 7th Ave. New York, NY 10001(212) 244-0002mexicue.com

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Before you delve into this review, a bit of recalibration might be necessary, because from the name you are probably expecting to hear about a burrito or a taco. Maybe a quesadilla. But that’s not entirely how Mexicue rolls. So neither did I. Instead, I got the brisket chili over a salad comprised of blackened Brussels sprouts and kale. And while it sounds amazing, it only truly reached its potential with a healthy dose of Choula on top. Otherwise it was a desperado in need of some kick.

To drink I had the Arnold Palmero which was also a touch off. Too sweet for my tastes. And I just don’t understand why places do that. Lemonade is inherently tart. Tea is inherently bitter. So sure, maybe you sweeten one or the other to balance things out a touch, but not both! You’re defeating the whole purpose of Arnie Palmer’s invention!

2 teeth

Bistro Versailles

339 Greenwich Ave. Greenwich, CT 06830 • (203) 661-6634 •  versaillesgreenwich.com

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It is sacrilege that they have disgraced the name of one of the world’s most striking locations by putting its name on a crap hole like this. There is absolutely nothing about this place worthy of being even being on Greenwich Avenue, much less worthy of the name Versailles.

The iced tea is basically brown water. The croque monsieur was godawful with bread so soggy the thing tasted like gruyere mush. The burger is underwhelming and the service is slow. Even the posters on the walls are a total miss- re-prints done in English as opposed to French. Oh, and the creme de la creme, flies! In the winter!

Head back up hill and go to Terra. It’s SO much better.

1 tooth

Q

112 N Main St. Port Chester, NY 10573(914) 933-7427qrestaurantandbar.com

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There’s nothing better than good barbeque and there’s nothing worse than fake, poser barbeque. Except maybe calling a pass play on the half yard-line in the final seconds of the Superbowl and having it intercepted. But apart from that…

So, it with much relief that I hereby decree Q is the real McCoy. And having just been to Sandfly BBQ in Georgia I can attest with some modicum of cred that Q holds its own quite convincingly. Holding on like Luke Perry in “8 Seconds.” What? Was I the only person who saw the movie?

Well, bad similes aside, the pulled pork is on point. All kinds of moist, with great depths of smoke in every bite. Served with a passable slaw on top and placed in a soft potato roll. Add a little of their homemade sauce and you’ll be doing a hoedown that you don’t have to head into the city anymore to get your fix.

And speaking of getting a fix, their baked beans are so friggin’ good you’ll wanna open a vein. A touch too far on the sweet spectrum, but they make up for it with generous chunks of pork belly mixed in.

Also too sweet was the iced tea, but applause for the mason jar serving vessel. And while you have your hands together, give it up for the collard greens. You’d be hard pressed to find better in the South.

Regretfully though, Q did serve up a few F’s. The mac and cheese is so low rent it’s worse than the crap they serve in school cafeterias, made with pasta shells and what appears to be Velveeta, poorly hidden by the meager dusting of dry herbs on top.

The other fail was the cornbread. No sweetness. No cheesiness. Not even jalapeñoness. Just one crumbly brick of blah. Such a shame too, because great cornbread is almost like an art form.

So no landside victory to be had here, but if you heed my misses and heavy up on the hits, you’ll walk away thinking Q is a B+.

3 teeth

 

Greensquare Tavern

5 W 21st St. New York, NY 10010 • (212) 929-2468 • greensquaretavern.com
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To say that this place is “amazing,” as many people state, is a bit of a reach. It is, however, very solid. Probably worth 3.5 kinves in truth. Mostly for the blondie, which is the best I’ve ever had, but that’s leap-frogging straight to dessert, so let’s back up and talk a few other dishes first.

The veggie burger is strong. Hearty. Not the kind that makes you feel like you are compromising. Not quite at the level of Cinnamon Snail’s, but definitely in the upper stratosphere of veggie burger glory.

Unfortunately, the grilled cheese (pictured) doesn’t reach the same heights. In fact, there’s a very good chance that you make a better one at home. And as for the Iced tea, it’s a tad too floral for my tastes, but if you like drinking bouquets, your ship just came in.

As for my ship, the blondie, as previous stated is a moral imperative. Basically a giant, moist chocolate chip cookie in brick form. And an Ultimate as you may have guessed.

As for other factors, Greensquare has a nice, quaint, simple decor and service is okay.

So all in, I’m always happy to go back, but I’m also not rushing.

3 teeth