Earl’s Beer & Cheese

After over a year and a half on top of our food list, the Boyfriend and I finally decided to make the hike up to Earl’s Bear & Cheese in East Harlem. We’ve heard a lot of good things about their grilled cheeses so our expectations were pretty high. We arrived around 12pm on a Thursday afternoon and it was pretty empty. There were only two other parties there so we managed to get a table seat instead of the high-tops.

We ordered at the bar and they brought our food over. We started with the Foie Grad Taco ($12.00 each), which features seared foie gras on top of a large tortilla with crinkle fries and a slice of cheddar cheese. We decided on the taco on impulse and it turned out to be the best order of the day. The foie gras was perfectly seared and all the juices from the liver oozed with each bite. I honestly could come here again and just eat 2 of these and be completely satisfied.

IMG_4664

We then shared the NY State Cheddar Grilled Cheese ($8.00), which is their signature grilled cheese. This sandwich features NY State cheddar cheese, pork belly, kimchi and a fried egg on top of sourdough bread. The bread was thick and crunchy and did not fall apart at all. The pork belly and kimchi paired really well with the cheddar and the fried egg was just the icing on the cake.

IMG_4665

We also shared the Mac & Cheese ($8.00), which is made with goat cheese and rosemary. The mac & cheese, although tasty, was my least favorite of the day. The taco and grilled cheese was just so good that the mac & cheese was a bit bland compared to them.

IMG_4666

Next time, I definitely want to try the Beer Cheese, which is one of their specialties. The service is friendly and we never felt rushed. I will definitely be back for more cheesy goodies!

North Square

Since the Boyfriend’s Aunt was in town on a business trip, we made our way over to North Square for dinner. North Square is just a few blocks away from NYU so it was the perfect place to grab a bite to eat. We had a reservation for 7:15pm so I headed over to their Lounge for a drink. Happy Hour runs from 5pm to 7pm and offers many $4 to $5 drinks and snacks. If you’ve got a bit of time to kill, make sure to stop by for a drink!

We were seated right away and given menus. The ordering process took a bit longer though because our waitress sort of disappeared for a good 15-20 minutes before we were able to flag her down to order. We started off with a few appetizers to share since we didn’t want to be too full. First to arrive was the dozen clams on the half-shell, which were very fresh.

IMG_4654

Next up was the Lobster and Crab Cakes ($12.00), which come two to an order. The cakes are accompanied with seaweed & vegetable salad and a Thai coconut curry sauce. The cakes were very moist and I could really taste the lobster chunks. The Thai coconut curry sauce was a nice paring and the seaweed salad was very good!

IMG_4653

About 15 minutes after we finished our appetizers, our entrees arrived. The Boyfriend’s mom opted for the Roasted Pekin Duck Breast ($23.00), which is served with soba noodles and a kumquat & tamarind sauce. I stole a piece and the duck breast was cooked perfectly and was very flavorful.

IMG_4659

The Boyfriend’s dad picked the Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb ($32.00), which is served with brussel sprouts, a potato & leek galette and a rosemary au jus. Despite the fact that the lamb was cooked to medium well, which is over my usual temperature, it was still very moist and juicy. From the bites that I had, the lamb was cooked beautifully – this was definitely one of the best entrees of the night.

IMG_4660

The Boyfriend picked the Coriander Crusted Yellowfin Tuna ($25.00), which features seared tuna served with coconut & jasmine rice and a citrus spiked soy sauce. The tuna was seared perfectly and the Asian-style sauce really appealed to my palate. My only gripe is that I wish the tuna was served a bit warmer – it was more room temperature.

IMG_4657

I opted for the Wild North Atlantic Char ($22.00), which is served with oven-dried tomatoes, basil risotto and a black truffle sauce. The char, like all the other dishes, was cooked perfectly to my request. But the highlight of the dish was the basil risotto, which was phenomenal. The risotto was cooked perfectly and had a hint of basil. I really wished there was more risotto!

IMG_4656

The Boyfriend’s Aunt ordered the a la carte version of my entree, which is just the char without the sides. Ordering a la carte shaves a few dollars off your entree’s price tag, which is a good thing if you’re not too hungry.

IMG_4658

After our dishes were cleared away, we were offered the dessert and coffee menu. The rest of our party opted for tea and coffee while the Boyfriend and I split a dessert. We went with the Hazelnut Peach Tart with vanilla ice cream ($9.00). The tart was a bit hard on the bottom but it tasted amazing. It was just the right amount of sweet. There were also nuts in the tart, which gave it a crunchy texture. So good!

IMG_4661

Service was pretty lackluster the entire night. We often lost out waitress and the entire dinner was a bit slow. The busboys were all very quick to clear dishes though, which was nice. The food was very delicious but I’m not quite sure I’d return for dinner since it took over 2.5 hours. The brunch menu, however, looks very interesting and I definitely want to return to try it out.

La Esquina Cafe

I have passed by La Esquina numerous times during my trips to-and-from Soho and Chinatown but I had never actually tried their food. Their corner storefront is always busy with people taking out or eating in so I knew it must be good. One free afternoon, the Boyfriend and I stepped into La Esquina’s sit-down cafe just next door to their corner Taqueria.

We arrived just when they opened and were seated immediately. They soon filled up not too long after we were seated. We decided to share a starter and two entrees since neither of us could decide on one entree that we wanted. First to arrive was the Tostada De Cangrejo with lump crabmeat and mango on chipotle mayo ($12.00). The crabmeat was very generous and you can taste that it’s real crab instead of the mushy canned kind. The tostada was crunchy and the mixture of flavors went really well with each other.

IMG_4169

Our first entree to share was the Bistec Taco, which features char-grilled skirt steak, charred onions, cilantro and salsa de chile de arbol on top of soft corn torillas ($10.00 for 2). The skirt steak was very flavorful but there was just too much cilantro! I also kind of wish the torillas were thicker because some of the oil leaked through.

IMG_4168

Our second entree was the Aguacate con Queso Torta, which features avocado, queso fresco, black beans, lettuce, tomato, onion and chipotle mayo on bread. The sandwich comes with papas fritas and a mixed green salad ($8.00). The portion size was huge! The fries, which is sprinkled with lime juice was super tasty. The star was definitely the sandwich. The avocado, queso fresco and chipotle mayo was a great mixture and tasted extremely fresh. It was definitely the best dish of the day.

IMG_4167

La Esquina has Happy Hour everyday from 12pm – 4pm, which features $6 margaritas and $3 Tecates. It’s definitely a good deal if you’re in for a lunch-time drink.

The Magic Soufflé

After hearing about Dominique Ansel Bakery’s newest addition – the Magic Soufflé ($7.00 each), I knew I had to give it a try. I’m a huge soufflé fan so I was particularly excited for this one. On my first visit, I went around 12pm and they were all sold out. I finally forced myself to leave my house early one day and made it around 9:30am. The famous Cronuts were all sold out but there was still a very long line to get into the bakery. 

Once you order, the baking takes about 10 minutes. They call your name when they’re done and you’re presented with a cute little soufflé in a carnival popcorn container. The Magic Soufflé is basically a chocolate soufflé baked inside a toasted orange blossom brioche shell. The entire dessert has a hint of Grand Marnier. 

IMG_4645

They suggest you tear it open right away before all the chocolate completely cooks. I did so and I could still see oozy chocolate. I really enjoyed the contrast in textures – the brioche was a bit crunchy while the chocolate was soft on the inside. The combination was a great warm-up to the chilly weather! 

IMG_4648

St. Anselm

St. Anselm, one of Williamsburg’s most popular steakhouses, on a regular Friday night has been rumored to require wait times of up to two hours. In order to avoid any unnecessary waiting, we arrived around 5:15pm, which is just fifteen minutes after they open. Luckily we decided to go on a day in which it rained heavily all day so there was less of a turnout. We were seated immediately across from the open kitchen so we could watch the chefs at work. There were only about three actual chefs in the tiny kitchen.

IMG_3816

They usually have a clam appetizer but today they were offering Prince Edward Mussels instead. They were a dozen for $6.00 so we decided on a dozen to share. Our waitress brought over our order of mussels with half a loaf of bread. The butter-lemon sauce that the mussels were cooked in was excellent for bread dipping! The mussels themselves were very big and plump. They were cooked to perfection – there was not a single one that was overcooked.

IMG_3817

3/5 of us opted for the Butcher’s Hanger Steak cooked with garlic and butter ($16.00), which is one of their specialties. The steak looks small at first but it is, in fact, very thick and hearty. Despite it’s small size, by the time I got to the last piece I was feeling pretty full. I ordered my steak med-rare and it arrived right on mark. The meat was a nice pink color and the steak was not tough or chewy at all. Each piece went down perfectly with just a few quick chews. I hate steaks that are so tough that I have to chew so much that my jaw hurts. No such thing here, I guarantee it!

IMG_3818

We also ordered a few sides to share. First up was the Bacon ($7.00). We got two orders since each order only comes with one full slice. The thick-cut bacon was very juicy and tender. There was a thin layer of fat on each piece, which almost melted in my mouth. I’ve heard people compare this to Peter Luger’s bacon and I don’t really think it matches up to PL’s thicker-cut bacon. The bacon here, while good, was a bit on the salty side and sometimes I would need a sip of water to chase down the salt.

IMG_3820

We ordered a side of Spinach Gratin ($7.00) as well. The spinach was very hot when it arrived since it had just spent some time in the oven. There was a nice layer of melted cheese or cream on top of the spinach, which gave it a nice and crunchy crust. The bottom layer was very soft and didn’t require any chewing at all.

IMG_3819

Our last side was the Pan-Fried Mashed Potatoes with truffle oil ($7.00). The moment our waitress put down the mashed potatoes, we could smell how good it was. The truffle oil was infused within the mashed potatoes and meshed really well with the soft potato. The crispy crust of the mashed potatoes gave the entire dish a very different texture – it was crispy and mushy at the same time! I highly recommend ordering the mashed potatoes to share no matter what entrée you order!

IMG_3821

After we finished all our steaks and sides, we were all pretty stuffed. It all looks very tiny but combined together it is one monster of a meal! But since we just had so much salty and savory foods, we decided to share a dessert. We opted for the Vanilla Ice Cream with Pork Brittle and a Dark Chocolate sauce ($6.00). After trying the Bacon Doughnuts at Traif, on the South Side of Williamsburg, we were expecting another amazing pork-and-sweet-dessert mixture. We were kind of disappointed because the pork brittle didn’t really mix well with the ice cream and it really did not add to the flavor of the ice cream at all. We wound up eating just the ice cream by itself and leaving all the pork brittle behind. The ice cream itself was very good and the dark chocolate sauce gave a bitter element to counteract the sweetness of the ice cream.

IMG_3822

The service was pretty consistent. We were in and out of the restaurant in an hour and a half, which is pretty quick for a steak meal. By the time we left, almost all the tables were filled up with some empty seats left at the bar. After our cheap and delicious meal, I can understand why they’re packed on most nights. I can definitely see myself returning to St. Anselm for another meal. However, next time I might go for the Bo Bo Chicken instead of the steak. So much red meat!

Tip: WC, or Water Closet, is the sign for the bathroom.

Hawaiian Edition – Cinnamon’s

On our way to Lanikai Beach on the East side of Oahu, our cousins took us to Cinnamon’s for breakfast. Cinnamon’s is another one of those restaurants that get super busy around prime eating time – our wait was around 35 minutes for a party of 5. They have both indoor and outdoor seating, which does help speed up the waiting time a little bit.

We looked over the menu before we were seated so once we had a table, we were able to order right away. We ordered one cinnamon bun ($3.50) to share. If a restaurant is named for a certain dish – you order it! The cinnamon bun was very good – the bun was soft and gooey. The bun is pretty big so you should definitely order one to share or else you won’t have any more room for anything else!

IMG_4390

We also ordered Red Velvet Pancakes ($7.50 for two) to share. Their red velvet pancakes are served with a white chocolate drizzle, which gave the entire dish a very cake-like taste and consistency. The pancakes tasted more like an actual cake than pancakes but they were still pretty yummy.

IMG_4393

I opted for the Crab cake Eggs Benedict ($13.50 for full order), which comes with your choice of home fries or hash browns. I opted for the home fries, which were amazing! This was my first time having crab cake with eggs benedict so it was a great introduction to the dish. The crab cakes, made with their own special recipe, were packed lightly and easy to separate. The best part was the poached eggs, which were perfectly cooked. The yokes burst the moment I cut into them and soaked the crab cakes – so yummy!

IMG_4391

Service was prompt and pretty quick. We got most of our dishes in a timely manner. I really like that you can get the eggs benedict and pancake dishes by half orders or full orders – this way you’re never stuck with too much food if you’re not a big eater. All in all, I would definitely return to Cinnamon’s the next time I’m in Hawaii. Next time though, I’ll be there earlier to avoid the wait!

Juliette

The Boyfriend and I were itching to try something new so we headed out to Williamsburg to take a shot at Rye. When we arrived, however, we realized that Rye was on vacation for the week. Since we didn’t really have anything else in mind, we walked around until we stumbled upon Juliette. The Boyfriend had read about Juliette as one of NYC’s best rooftop restaurants so we decided to give it a try. We were seated on the rooftop right away.

As we looked over the menu, we ordered two glasses of their White Sangria ($8.00 each), which is special for the summer. The sangria was very good – it was bubbly and refreshing. The subtle fruit flavors were very good and gave the drink a very light feel.

IMG_4466

We opted to share a few appetizers and one entrée. Our first appetizer to arrive was the Charred Tomato Soup with Mini Grilled Cheese Croutons ($9.00). This was off their specials menu, but I think it appears pretty often. The soup was very creamy and was very filling! The fact that they soaked the mini grilled cheese made the “croutons” super delicious. Next time, I want one just for myself!

IMG_4468

Our second appetizer to arrive was the Escargot Maison ($10.00), which features escargots baked in garlic, parsley and anise butter. The snails were a bit on the smaller side but the sauce was very good. I love garlic-rich foods so this was perfect for me. I wish I had some bread to dip the sauce in!

IMG_4467

Our third appetizer arrived at the same time as our entrée so I had half and then swapped with the Boyfriend. We decided on the appetizer portion of the Homemade Parmesan Gnocchi ($9.00), which was the perfect portion size. The gnocchi is pan-fried with imported speck and peas. I’m not normally a fan of peas, but the sauce was so good that I gobbled everything up! The gnocchi itself was also super fluffy – some of the fluffiest gnocchi I have ever had.

IMG_4470

Our entrée was the Pan Roasted Organic Salmon ($24.00) with scallion whipped potatoes and braised Tuscan kale. The kale was a bit tough but the whipped potatoes were absolutely lovely! They were so light and fluffy. The salmon was cooked perfectly to our requested medium rare. The portion size was perfect to share and really filled us up.

IMG_4469

We ended the night with the special dessert of the day – Meyer Lemon Cheesecake ($8.00), which is served with toasted almond topping and blueberry compote. The cheesecake was fluffy and had a faint hint of lemon. It felt like I was eating a lemon pie – but with cheese. The crust for the cheesecake, however, was the best part. The crust was hard and soft at the same time. It had a great texture when paired with the cheesecake.

IMG_4471

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal at Juliette. The food was delicious and the atmosphere and ambiance was amazing. Being on a rooftop as the sunset builds a great mood. I can definitely see myself returning later in the fall for some more rooftop dining!