Junior's NY Cheesecake

>> Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Junior's

When you’re going to NY everybody seems to have a few suggestions on what and where you should eat. I remember when my friends all found out that I was headed to the big apple and everybody started piping in with things I had to try and places I had to go. After scribbling down everybody’s suggestions (trying hard not to get a hand cramp), I managed to order everything in terms of deliciousness (trust me it sounds easier than it was).

After looking at the suggestions I got, plus reading a lot of online blogs, the consensus overall was….I MUST eat a NY cheesecake. Nobody and I mean nobody should go to NY and not eat a NY cheesecake, right? It’s called NY cheesecake for a reason, like a Chicago deep dish pizza. Even if you didn’t like it, it would almost be a crime not to eat one! So off I went in search of the best cheesecake location in Manhattan. You’d think it would be easy with all the choices I’m faced with, but quite the contrary, more choices meant more time required to narrow down where the “best” cheesecake location was. Luckily some other girls did their research too and came upon Junior’s, which was voted #1 best cheesecake in NY by New York Magazine (ok so maybe I didn’t do that much research, but I put in the effort…to try).

Utensils
Junior’s most fabulous cheesecake and desserts are located in several spots around NY and surrounding areas, but we were referred to the Grand Central Terminal location so off we went, plus we were staying nearby which made it that much more convenient. Once you head down to the lower level of Grand Central Station, you’re faced with a plethora of food choices and it’s very easy to get led astray. Luckily I was with some strong willed girls who would stop at nothing until they could get their teeth in to a slice of good ol’ cheesecake.

The display showed many different flavours from Brownie Marble Swirl to Sugar Free Low Carb Plain, but I didn’t come all this way to eat low carb cheesecake, give me the real thing (I’ll just run it off or being in NY, walk it off later). I could barely wait to break in to my plastic container and take my first bite, so I did just that.

NY Cheesecake
The cheesecake was light and fluffy, giving off an almost airy feeling but remaining just as decadent as a dessert should be. It wasn’t overly sweet like some others I’ve tried which made it extremely easy to down the whole thing in one short sitting, dangerous stuff, so luckily it was shared amongst friends! Since we ordered the plain cheesecake without any toppings or flavours, it really allowed me to enjoy the true natural taste of the cream cheese and the nice soft mouth feel it gave. In any case, I definitely recommend eating a Junior’s cheesecake when in NY but if you’re in a bind for time and can’t make it out to a Junior’s location (or NY) they ship their cheesecake, but probably only within the continental United States. =(

Maybe in order to satisfy your craving you might just have to bake your own using a nice low fat recipe instead!

Junior's location
Junior’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake and Desserts
45 Grand Central Terminal
New York, NY 10017-5619
(212) 692-9800
Website: http://www.juniorscheesecake.com/

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Mushroom Barley Risotto

>> Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Mushroom Barley Risotto

With all the crazy wedding planning that’s been happening ever since we got back from our respective stag / stagette trips, I’ve been finding it tough to have the time to sit down and write a blog about all the interesting things that have been baking and cooking in my kitchen (plus I was still hoping to do a few more NY food reviews, then there’s the Calgary restaurants backlog, let’s not go there shall we?). So how did I manage to finally get around to posting this one? Well it’s called procrastination! Let’s see, I could be reviewing wedding plans or blogging about food, easy question…food wins every time, plus I should probably start posting something "fit" on the blog after all the indulgence as of late.

Of course if you’re pressed for time like I am lately you’ll find ways around making dinner without it taking an eon just to prep your ingredients and then trying to pull everything together. I have always found that one of the easiest things to cook, but still manages to give off the ‘ooo’ factor is risotto, possibly because its constantly touted as being time consuming and is featured on all the fancy restaurant menus and plastered all over food network (we all know what a food network addict I am, if you were procrastinating you would be too). In reality though, risottos are probably one of the easiest things to make when you don’t really have much around the house because anything can go in to a risotto and better yet, it can be made healthy!

Mushrooms
Instead of using the traditional Arborio rice for risotto you can often substitute it with brown rice or even grains. I personally like barley. It still gives off the appearance of a true risotto without losing much of the texture. My version is made with mushrooms because we had a huge lot sitting around the fridge, but I’ve tried it with peas, carrots or even asparagus and it’s just as delicious!

Nutritional Tidbit: Barley is classified as a grain and like all other grains, they can be found hulled or not. Barley still with the hull, pot barley or less polished barley, provides more fibre and is considered more heart healthy than hulled barley or pearl barley which has the outer shell polished off. Barley is also high in beta glucan (in addition to all that fibre), which helps in lowering cholesterol!

Mushrooms are chalk full of B vitamins, minerals and they're low in calories, perfect when incorporated in to a healthy balanced diet. Mushrooms like all other veggies and fruits are healthier for you when prepared fresh as opposed to using the canned version, but if you're in a bind, using canned mushrooms is better than nothing. Just make sure that the sodium levels aren't too high, which usually is the case for processed canned items.

Mushrooms
We can even do a trade, if somebody is willing to plan my wedding, I’ll make them risotto!

Mushroom Barley Risotto Recipe

Ingredients:
1 onion diced
1 cup barley, pot or pearl doesn’t really matter
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup shitake mushrooms chopped
1 cup cremini mushrooms chopped
1 cup portabello mushrooms chopped
1 cup oyster mushrooms chopped
Salt and pepper
Lemon
Parsley

Risotto
Preparation:
Place pot over medium heat; add in a bit of canola oil to coat. Stir in onions and sauté until golden yellow.

Add in the barley, stir for about 30 seconds and pour in the white wine. Let simmer for 2 mins while stirring.

Pour in half of the chicken stock (1 cup) and place the lid on the pot until it comes to a boil, turn heat down to med-low and allow the barley to simmer (approx. 30-35 mins), stir occassionally.

Check on the barley every 5-10 mins, when the liquid seems to be absorbed add a bit more stock in and stir. If stock is out and the barley still seems a bit hard, you can use water and stir (starting to see a trend?). Avoid adding too much chicken stock or else the risotto will be salty.

Once the barley is roughly al-dente, pour in the mushrooms and cover with lid, let simmer for 5 mins, keep adding water if risotto is sticking to bottom of pot, yup and stir.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm as a side or even as an entrée, sprinkled with parsley and lemon over top!

*I’ve found that this goes great with salmon, simply sear the it with salt and pepper or you can get fancy and use different spices to create a salmon all your own.

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Restaurant Review: Nobu 57 in NYC

>> Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nobu 57
No matter where you go nowadays we seem to be bombarded with celebrity news, on TV, in the newspaper and especially in the tabloid magazines. So when we were down to New York I was all expecting to see celebrities with paparazzi following them in those crazy car chases, ok maybe the paparazzi only chases Britney Spears, but at least some crazy camera action. Alas, nothing, nada, zip…no paparazzi and not even one celebrity, although we did see a movie being made though which I thought was neat since how often does that happen in Calgary? That’s why I thought it was odd that we weren’t allowed to take photos inside Nobu, being that the celebrities seem to be in hibernation that week, but I guess it’s a courtesy they extend to all their guests. I don’t think anybody would like to see non stop flashes while they’re trying to enjoy their meal at a dimly lit restaurant no matter where they are. That’s why I made sure to only photograph the food and quickly, without flash, making for great fuzzy photos. Enjoy!

Black Cod
Atmosphere: Japanese décor at its grandest, large open dining room which transports you away from the city.

Price Range: Mid $30+

Food and Wine (and Sake?): Aside from being in awe of the amazing décor inside Nobu, you have to be amazed with the food as well. The menu had many inspiring choices, cold and hot dishes, entrees, sushi, sashimi and for a foodie like myself, it was definitely hard to decide, I wanted to try everything! Luckily all the girls were in the same dilemma and we got to try a whole array of dishes, but sadly for my blog a lot of the photos didn’t turn out (restaurants really have to stop dimming their lights)! I guess it just gives everybody an excuse to go to Nobu or better yet New York!? But I digress…

For starters we ordered the house specialty Black Cod with Miso, which was amazing, the cod was tender and moist, and it also came with miso soup and a starter salad which had a very nice and light ginger soy dressing. The Yellowtail Jalapeno roll, Bigeye and Bluefin Toro Scallion roll and the Soft Shell Crab roll were all fresh and amazing. They all had a new twist about them without stretching it too far from the traditional Japanese sushi style. Our Sashimi dinner was artfully arranged and came with many different selections of fish, definitely one to try if you’re a sushi fanatic.

Sushi rolls
Of course one would not be complete at Nobu without trying some of their signature desserts, how is any meal complete without dessert? Our server recommended the Bento Box, which was a Nobu favourite, it came with a decadent dark chocolate cake and house made green tea matcha gelato. Who would have thought that green tea and dark chocolate paired so well, will have to make notes on that one! We also tried the Kamameshi Thai, which was a vanilla rice pudding with tiny mochi pearls and puffed soba served with a bit of spicy jalapeno infused pineapples and a Thai sorbet. The best part about that dessert was the amazing presentation of the dessert served in a fondue pot heated lightly beneath by candles.

As for the alcohol, Nobu doesn’t disappoint, looking at the wine list and all the available reds and whites, there is a good selection of wine to accompany the variety of dishes offered. We decided on a nice light Pinot Grigio which complimented the sushi very well, plus there is always delicious sake, served both hot and cold to warm your belly.

Bento Box
My Picks: Black Cod with Miso, Sashimi Dinner, Bento Box Dessert

Overall: If somebody was stopping by NY, Nobu shouldn’t be missed! Maybe you’ll be luckier and spot a celebrity or two while you’re there!

Nobu 57
Midtown West
40 W 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 757-3000
Website: www.myriadrestaurantgroup.com/nobu57

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Restaurant Review: Mesa Grill New York

>> Monday, August 16, 2010


Grilled Lamb Porterhouse Chops

Being an avid food network follower, I watch majority if not all of the shows currently airing on that channel (I know I’m not the only one out there!). How did I get so attached? I think it all began with the original Iron Chef challenges, the very first kitchen stadium, but the infatuation only grew when they introduced the American version. Next came the spinoffs, so to speak, especially from Chef Bobby Flay, Boy Meets Grill, Throwdown, etc. Needless to say my TV pretty much only requires one channel subscription and I’d be happy. So when I realized that I was going to NY, the foodie capital of the States, how could I not go to a celebrity chef restaurant, one that I’ve watched many a times over on the television? Chef Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill! (Ps - I apologize for the pictures, the lighting at Mesa Grill definitely wasn't set for photos)

Atmosphere: A casual dining area highlighted by bright orange accents and a Mexican flare.

Price Range: Mid $20s - $30s

Appetizers
Food and Wine: There was quite a big group of us dining at Mesa Grill that night, which worked out well because it allowed us to sample many different types of appetizers, in addition to the many types of bread served (including cornbread). Starting with the Blue Corn Pancake, served with barbecued duck and a spicy star anise sauce; it reminded me of the Chinese BBQs that I so very much enjoy. The Yellow Cornmeal Crusted Oysters were topped with a nice spicy curry and mango salsa; the flavours didn’t over power the oyster which was a nice compliment. The Rough Cut Tuna Nachos was fresh tasting and had just the right amount of citrus to keep the dish light, especially with the entrees being served up next.

Mesa Grill serves up a daily plate special for each day of the week, which was Artic Char that night, but I already had my eye on a big piece of protein the Grilled Lamb Porterhouse Chops. Two four ouce chops cooked to a perfect medium rare placed over a red chile rosemary lime sauce. The lamb was succulent without being gamey and the green corn pudding was to die for. I also ordered the double baked potato, which didn’t come close to my lamb, the horseradish was a little overpowering and was sadly forgotten on the side.


Cornmeal Crusted Chile Relleno
One thing we didn’t forget however, was the dessert, even though we were all stuffed from the meal so far, after reading “Dessert Sampling” how could we resist? How could I resist? The dessert sampler came with a hefty portion of all the featured desserts minus the dessert cookie and the churros, which was fine by me because it included: Chocolate Berry Trifle, Deep Dish Banana Cream Pie, Pineapple Buttermilk Upside Down Cake, Crushed Blueberry Lime Tart, Peach and Blackberry Cobbler and a Toasted Coconut Layer Cake. I enjoyed them all, but if I had to pick a favorite it was definitely the Deep Dish Banana Cream Pie!

The wine list at Mesa Grill focused mainly on Californian wines, so if you’re looking for old world wines, might not be the place to do so. They feature the grape varietals of California to go with their Mexican inspired menu, there are still many delicious wines to choose from so don’t let the old world, new world hiccup hold you up!

Dessert Sampling
My Picks: Yellow Cornmeal Crusted Oysters, Grilled Lamb Porterhouse Chops and the Deep Dish Banana Cream Pie

Overall: Afterwards chatting with the other dinner guests, it seemed like everybody had their opinions about the meal. As for me, there were definitely certain dishes that I would order again and some I might pass on because they weren’t quite as memorable as others. However the memory of eating at a celebrity chef restaurant was, especially a chef on the food network channel.

Mesa Grill
102 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
(212) 807-7400
Website: http://mesagrill.com/newyorkcity/


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Crumbs Bakeshop NYC

>> Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Crumbs cupcakes
Everybody walks in New York and we were just having a morning stroll through Central Park and through the Lincoln centre located at the lower west corner of Central Park. Since we were on a walking bender all morning and New Yorkers all walk everywhere, we figured why not fit in and keep trekking back to our hotel on 50th and Lexington while checking out the sites along the way, but as we were headed back a friend of mine made a sudden detour while we were on 42nd street because she became side tracked by a window display at the Crumbs bakeshop. One look at the sign posted outside the shop and I was right behind her (you don't get voted best cupcake in NY for no reason).

Eye on the Black and White cookie
Once I stepped in to the bakery I could barely take my eyes off of the row upon row of sweets displayed, ranging from red velvet cupcakes to gigantic Oreo cupcakes, but what truly caught my eye was the one and only black and white cookie! If you're a follower of Seinfeld like me you'll understand the significance of said cookie (look to the cookie Elaine...look to the cookie!) and if you're not, well you can enjoy the pure deliciousness of it! I had to buy one but making my situation more stressful than one could imagine (trying unsuccessfully to rein in my salavating tastebuds) was that there was only one black and white cookie left! Just one! You could tell it was a good choice already since there was only one lonely cookie sitting there. It had to be a crowd favourite. Sure there were brown and white cookies (the ones on top of the black and whites looking suspiciously similar) but nothing beats the taste of chocolate and vanilla, the original cookie design! Luckily as the line shrunk in front of me and I slowly inched closer to the counter the cookie remained untouched (I was going to wrestle somebody at this point if they ordered it) and my ownership of the black and white cookie was fulfilled.

Cupcakes
As I bit in to the soft chewy body of the cookie mingled with the perfect amount of chocolate and vanilla icing on top I could tell you for a fact that it was heaven (I have photos of me enjoying the cookie but you probably don't need to witness that)! Needless to say I enjoyed each and every bite of that plate sized cookie, the way it was meant to be devoured, but as much as I enjoyed it myself, I was still willing to share the joy with my fellow travellers because I believe that no New York trip is complete without experiencing the one and only black and white cookie!

Crumbs Bakeshop
There are several different locations so keep an eye out when you’re in NY.

Crumbs Bakeshop
Midtown West
43 W. 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
212) 221-1500
Website: http://www.crumbs.com/

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Restaurant Review: Olives New York

>> Sunday, August 8, 2010

Olives New York
On our last day in New York, we decided it would be nice to slow things down and try to get more of a local feel of the city so off to the Union Square Greenmarket we went. As suggested by David Lebovitz, the Greenmarket is a fresh food market brought together by local farmers. Everything looked amazing and of course looking at food always makes me hungry. Since we were unfamiliar with the city it was a little difficult finding a place to eat because we’d always be walking in the opposite direction of where good food was located. Luckily for us just a couple blocks away from the market, we just happened to run straight in to Todd English’s Olives restaurant.

Focaccia
Atmosphere: A warm modern setting with beautiful greenery and floral accents, which really livens up the dining area.

Price Range: Mid $20s-$30s

Salad and Gauzpacho
Food and Wine: Immediately after settling in to our table our server greeted us with the great news that Olives was still serving specialty set menus similar to what they had during the NY restaurant week. We had a choice of appetizer, entrée and dessert, how could we resist? Both my dining companion and I decided to go with the set menus and pick different items so we could try as many dishes as possible, which was a brilliant idea, being the foodie that I am I’m not going to complain about trying numerous different flavors and dishes. Since that decision didn’t take long we started digging in to our lovely bread basket to find roasted onions on our focaccia, what a treat along with dual olive tapenades, which sure was fitting.

Grilled Skirt Steak
Our starters were a Green Tomato Gazpacho topped with a spicy green bean vinaigrette, which I didn’t really find spicy but well flavoured, and the Strawberry Salad served with corn bread and arugula parmesan with ice wine vinegar. The corn bread had a nice crisp exterior and gave the salad some nice texture. My entrée was the Grilled Skirt Steak with creamy corn, basil pesto and polenta fries, even though I rarely eat steak cooked beyond rare, this steak was still moist and very well flavored. She got the Butter Roasted Merluzza which is a nice white fish served with chorizo fried rice and a sweet carrot puree, the rice was nice and crunchy which the puree gave the fish an added sweetness.

Merluzza
After our mains we could barely wait for dessert and it was definitely the highlight of my day. The Wild Maine Blueberry Panna Cotta was amazing, not overly sweet by itself and if you wanted to add more layers of flavor and texture there was always the cornbread and kix on the side. The bittersweet Chocolate Panna Cotta had an amazing mouth feel with the shaved brownie bits mixed with white chocolate fudge and a wonderful cherry ice to top it all off. My friend said it reminded her of the good ol days of eating a cherry lollipop.

My Picks: Both Panna Cotta Desserts

Panna Cotta Desserts
Overall: It truly was our luck running in to Olives at Union Square, not only did the setting help cool us down after a hot afternoon wondering the city but the food truly did warm our stomachs and prepared us for another long journey on the streets of NY.

Olives New York
The W Hotel (Union Square)
201 Park Ave. South
New York, NY 10003
(212) 353-8345
Website: http://www.toddenglish.com/

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