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Monday, June 15, 2015

Louie's Oyster Bar & Grille

Louie's Oyster Bar & Grille, Port Washington, Long Island
Right on the water in Port Washington, on Long Island's gold coast, there is a seafood restaurant called Louie's which has been there for over 100 years. As a kid growing up in Sands Point, we used to eat there, so last weekend we decided to go back there to see if it was a good as we remembered. Good news—it was!

In the over 40 years since I last dined there, they have expanded considerably and done it with a nice casual style. The seating out back along the waterfront remains simple and comfortable. Inside the restaurant, they have added nice touches like faded nautical maps as wallpaper, and industrial lighting fixtures, all with a well-done, bleached, faux patina. The place was slamming busy and there were no shortage of people willing to wait the 1 hour or more for a seat. Thankfully, we had a reservation.

There is a nice, slightly dark bar which opens up onto the water, so a before dinner drink is the way to go. We were seated on time and they use a sort of tag-team waiter system so service was fast. They had Sam Adams on tap which made my husband very happy. I passed on a beverage because I wanted to get right to the seafood. We started with an order of steamers which I thought were okay, not the best, mostly because they were random sizes (I prefer the medium-sized ones) and not consistently fresh. We also ordered some breaded calamari which was unbelievably delicious. Perfect light batter, melt-in-your-mouth tender, no rubber bands. They served it with lots of lemon wedges, a bit of marinara and some Mignonette sauce which was a perfect choice. My mother was thrilled with the abundance of room temp butter served with their very nice rustic bread.
For my main course I had the mixed seafood grill which came with scallops, shrimp, a large clam oreganata, grilled cod, a side of Beurre Blanc, and some saffron rice. It was all cooked perfectly, not cheap on the butter, and I ate most of it except for the rice—which was just rice. My mother had a pair of lobster tails and a bucket of french fries. There was also an excellent ramekin of creamed spinach which she basically ignored (my mother does not do vegetables—go figure). The fries arrived too salty and the waiter was most courteous in returning them to the kitchen and replacing them with unsalted, hot, fresh fries. My husband had the surf and turf with a lobster tail and a piece of filet mignon. The quality and cook of the tenderloin was excellent and he ate every speck of food. By the end of the main courses, we were all super full so there was not even any discussion of dessert, though a nice slice of key lime pie caught my eye. If you have a boat, topsiders, and some Ralph Lauren sweaters, you can dock right at the restaurant. If you find that pretentious, have another drink. I prefer the front door.


Sunday, May 31, 2015


Riverpark, Kips Bay, NYC

Riverpark and Riverpark Farm photos above courtesy Riverpark

Last night, I went out to dinner to celebrate a friend's birthday at Tom Colicchio's Riverpark which is in Kips Bay — a new part of town for me. This elegant, upscale establishment is situated on an amazing plaza overlooking the East River right near Bellevue hospital (which is closed and more than a little creepy). The evening could not have been more perfect. We arrived early and had time to wander through the vegetable and herb gardens where the restaurant grows a good portion of what they use. Stacked and grouped recycled plastic milk cartons provide the containers they need. With a simple irrigation system, the results are impressive.

We then went inside and sat in the lounge area and had drinks. Drinks were three out of four good, mine tasted a little like Yuzu-scented compost tea, but everyone else loved theirs. I had two problems with the bar design: the swivel chairs were a little Jetson-ian, looked cool, but the only way to sit in them was to slump and getting out of them was awkward; and there was a translucent wall covering made up of little symbols which looked like cheap wrapping paper.

The dinning room, however, was flawless, The decor reminded me a little of The Four Seasons restaurant designed by Philip Johnson. Clean lines, tall windows, great color and textures, small, elegant white cube lighting, and fab leather chairs paired with earthy fabrics. There were even couches mixed in, which was where the birthday girl wanted to sit. The waitstaff was extremely well trained, very friendly yet professional, and made us feel very special — including a special menu for the birthday girl with her name and "happy birthday" printed on it. They were also all aware of her gluten-free status when we walked in, nicely done. The menu was enticing from start to finish so making a decision was difficult, but there were no bad choices.

I started with the hamachi crudo & tartare, which came with pickled strawberries, nasturtium leaves (from the garden), rhubarb, hazelnuts, jalapeños,and lime. Unbelievably fresh and delicious, a beautiful medley of texture and flavors. My friends shared the buffalo milk burrata with green apples, lavender, honey-spiced almonds, buttermilk — and no croutons. The kitchen split the plate and presentation was spot on.

Next, we ordered the spring onion soup with ramps, spring garlic, and Taleggio crouton. It had a deep, rich taste and velvety texture. For my main course, I choose the Pekin Duck breast garnished with white asparagus, French breakfast radishes, bee pollen, acacia honey, and rhubarb. The duck arrived a perfect, tender medium rare and the radish was an excellent compliment to the duck (who knew?). My only issue was with the white asparagus which visually faded onto the plate, a bit of green would have made a better presentation. My pal had the Berkshire pork chop with charred spring onions, fava beans, hazelnut romesco — it was simply amazing on every level. My other friend had the grilled rack of lamb with green chickpeas, almonds, lamb's quarters, and gnocchi. It was a fascinating combination of seasonal flavors. Needless to say, we all cleaned our plates and the portions were the perfect size.

Of course, we had to try a few desserts. "Cereal & Milk" was a Chocolate Ganache Cake with Caramelized Rice Puffs, and Vanilla Malt. It was a fun, interactive choice — it looked like a giant Mallomar but when you tapped the gold-leafed chocolate dome with a fork, out poured the vanilla malt which then covered the crispy rice — very cool! I had the olive oil cake with strawberries, vanilla crémeux, and pistachio ice cream. Sheer perfection, four excellent elements with a lovely variety of crispy texture, moist cake and tart strawberries, and to-die-for pistachio ice cream! My gluten-free friend had a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream which she loved. All in all, it was what an expensive, fine dining experience should be. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Smorgasburg - Saturday Williamsburg Food Market

Located in the same place as the Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg is a gigantic food market made up of grocers, food carts, food sellers, and other delightful, edible treats. The market is open every Saturday, with the Brooklyn Flea following on Sunday.

Oh, how the 'hood has changed! This weekend I walked over the Williamsburg bridge to attend the food fest I have been hearing about since returning to the rotten apple. It was everything I expected, and more! I need to go back at least five more times so I can taste everything. Enjoy my photos of some of the cool and creative choices. Here's a tip, it opens at 11:00 so get there early, as it gets insanely crowded, and show up hungry!



Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ask Rula!

Hello, my people! It seems I have been AWOL for a while, so sorry! The city keeps me so busy with random hipster club nights, mysterious rendezvous-es, exclusive out-of-the-way pop-up dinners, and spa treatments galore. I enjoy mingling with all sorts of folks and it seems wherever I go, people have questions. So lets get to a few of them right now, shall we?

Our first question is from Dough Girl, and she says:
I love dumplings in soup. But I have never been able to get them to reliably puff up and cook through inside. Some will have a nice bready inside, some (most) will be like solid dough. I've tried different recipes, but this always happens. So it must be me, right? Do you have any tricks or techniques to help, oh wise Rula? FYI, here's the recipe I currently use (I like the buttermilk/chive flavor):
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
0.5 tsp baking powder
2 tb minced chives
0.5 tsp salt
3 Tb butter, melted
0.5 cup buttermilk
1 egg

Dry stuff in one bowl, wet in another.
Pour wet over dry and stir until you get a shaggy dough.
Drop tablespoon-sized blobs into simmering soup
Cover and cook until puffed, about 15 minutes.
Dough Girl

Dear Dough Girl,
Nice recipe, you must be one sassy chef! I think the proportions of the recipe sound fine but I would try removing a little of flour which might lighten them up a bit. I think the inconsistent cooking is from overcrowding. Try this method: Form them all first and drop them on a lined sheet pan then drop them in the broth at the same time and make sure they have room to move around. You might have to cook them in 2 batches, but the results should be better. If not make some buttermilk biscuits and just dip!

This next question is from Stumped Stewy, and he asks:
What is the difference between a thick soup and a stew? My wife, who thinks she knows everything — just because she makes dinner every night — says it's obvious! But I say it's up for debate. What do you think?
Stumped Stewy

Dear Stumped Stewy,
Let me get this straight, your lovely wife cooks you dinner every night and this is the lack of respect you show her? I think you are lucky you are not wearing that thick soup or stew, depending on what you call it. In terms of a definition, there are a few important factors to consider:
  • any liquid food with a broth base would be considered a soup;
  • soups, unlike stews, can be served hot or cold; and
  • stews are slow-cooked due to the type of meat or vegetable used.
By slow simmering, you can achieve a tender meat or chicken — as well as a blending and mellowing of flavors. As things cook slowly they tend to concentrate flavors and become rich and delicious. Soups on the other hand, can be prepared and finished in a much shorter time. You, on the third hand, will need a lot more time.

The final question is from Nutty Nelly and she writes: Can you please tell me what a Marcona almond is? They seem to be everywhere and are very spendy. Are they worth it? And what is the best way to serve them?

Nutty Nelly

Dear Nutty Nelly,
Marcona almonds are really delicious, you should treat yourself to some, they are great as a nibble with cocktails. They are from Spain and they have a lovely slightly sweet flavor. They are moister and softer then regular almonds and the fragrance will remind you of the perfume of almond extract. They are very high in oil, like most nuts, which makes them very nutritious, and should be stored in a cool, dry place to keep them from going rancid. Try using them in salads, in baked goods, or salted to garnish a cheese platter. Remember, trying new things will keep you young! Why do you think I date college boys?

If you have any questions for me, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment!

Well, that's all for now — I have to get ready for my closeup. Ciao!