Wednesday, June 29, 2011

From A to Z: Miss Menu's Summer Dining Adventure

Hot town...summer in the city! Summer is officially in full swing, and I’m loving every minute of it. While I have a ton of long weekends planned, I don’t have one major vacation planned like I have the past few summers. So, I decided now is perfect for putting that time (and money) towards something fun right here in NYC.

 

So, without further ado, I’m so excited to announce: “From A to Z: Miss Menu’s Summer Dining Adventure.” From today and Labor Day, I am going to go to one restaurant that starts with each letter of the alphabet. After doing a little math, that’s 26 restaurants in about 68 days…a new place every 2 or 3 days. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?!

I know the first bunch will be easy, but I’m sure it’ll get tricky towards the end (especially the Q and X!). According to NYMag.com, there are 2890 restaurants in Manhattan alone. How am I ever going to decide which ones to go to for each letter?? This is where you come in. I would love to get a ton of recommendations from you, my trusty readers. To encourage some serious participation, “From A to Z” is going to feature a fun contest!

The grand prize will be a gift certificate to the restaurant of your choice from the final A-Z list. And there will be two runner up prizes as well.

Here’s how it’ll work. Everyone who participates will receive one entry. You can also receive an additional entry for doing any of the following:

MissMenuNYC.com
- Comment on any “From A to Z” posts with your thoughts
- Email me with your suggestions for any letter

Facebook
- “Like” Miss Menu on Facebook
- “Like” any of the “From A to Z” posts
- Share any of the “From A to Z” posts onto your profile

Twitter
- Follow @MissMenuNYC on Twitter and @reply with the hashtag #FromAtoZ
- Retweet any "From A to Z" tweets with the hashtag #FromAtoZ

Thanks for coming along with me on this summer dining adventure!  And now...let the dining begin!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dumpling Night!

I definitely enjoy dining out a lot more than cooking, but every once in a while it's definitely fun to cook up a storm. Especially when the food comes out 10x better than what could have been delivered to my apartment door!

My brother and I made dumplings from scratch tonight. It's definitely a lot of work, but they were so delicious and VERY worth the wait.  

Ginger, garlic, and scallions

Mushrooms, red peppers, and zucchini
 

Definitely a steep learning curve assembling them. 
Practice makes perfect!

Ready to be fried and steamed
Final products!

Homemade sweet garlic soy sauce and sriracha mayo

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Laid-Back Cuban Food, Not Laid-Back Cuban Vibe

I had dinner plans with SN on Monday night, and we were eager to try a new restaurant, and definitely one out of the Midtown area. After doing a little (too much) research, I came up with a list of 5 options, and we decided on Coppelia, a new 24-hour Cuban diner on W. 14th Street.

Coppelia is part of the same restaurant group as some well-known Latin staples like YerbaBuena and Toloache, so I was pretty confident the meal would be good. In my research, I came across the restaurant’s Yelp page, and read a few of the reviews. Everyone seemed to like the food a lot, but there were a handful of mentions about the service. I figured how bad could it be in a casual diner setting, so I closed the page and headed downtown.

I got there a few minutes early, and when I walked in, I was bombarded by 4 employees greeting me and asking how many my party would be. [Trying to stay open-minded and ignore the Yelp comments.] I said there would be two and asked if we could get a booth. I was seated towards the back, and within seconds water appeared and two servers asked if I wanted to order anything to start. I informed both of them that I’d like to wait for my friend to arrive. Three sips of water later, and the bus boy was back to refill it. The next 10 minutes was spent watching the employees in black t-shirts hovering and circling the small restaurant. I knew I was probably a little biased because of the reviews I read, but this was getting ridiculous. ANOTHER server came over and asked if I wanted to wait for my guest to order. I reiterated yet again that yes, I’d like to wait...and how I would appreciate them chilling out a little. My water was refilled 3 more times, and then I was finally saved my friend’s arrival. I vented for a second, and decided to just ignore it and enjoy the meal!

In a true diner sense, the menu served as the placemat, and was pretty extensive and definitely creative. It had some Cuban staples like empanadas, Cubano sandwiches, and arroz con pollo. And it also had some more offbeat items like tuna melts, mac & cheese with pork belly, and baby back ribs. We decided it’d be fun to share a few items (when isn’t it?!) and narrowed it down to three things.

We ordered the nachos, fish tacos, and arepas. The nachos were topped with Chihuahua cheese, black beans, jalapenos, and chopped beef short ribs (which we asked for on the side). They were incredibly tasty, but seemed like a small portion. I guess I’m used to getting monster plates of nachos when you order them at a bar.
The mini arepas were filled with roasted chicken, guacamole, and chipotle salsa.  The outside became a little too hard, so it was difficult to eat, but it was very tasty.  We made these deluxe, so they were served with excellent sweet potato fries with two great dipping sauces.

And lastly, the fish tacos were my favorite part of the meal, although I wish it had come more than 2 per order.  Crispy flounder pieces were topped with a delicious and messy chipotle coleslaw.   

All in all, the food was very good.  The atmosphere was definitely Cuban both in vibe and d├ęcor…in a good way.  I just wish that the service hadn’t detracted from the experience so much.  I am all for attentiveness, and appreciate not having to flag down a server to get more water.  But, there’s something to be said for dining in peace and enjoying the company.  Hopefully the staff’s over-eagerness will wear off just slightly as the restaurant falls into its groove.  

Coppelia Restaurant
207 West 14th Street
b/t 7th & 8th Avenues
website
Menupages listing

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Best of the Wurst

My brother Z (who is possibly a bigger foodie than me!) is in NYC for the summer. So let’s just say that a big chunk of the time we spend together is spent researching and going to new restaurants. My kind of summer!

One of the first spots we hit up was a currywurst and bratwurst place called Wechsler’s Currywurst in the East Village. When Z was first telling me about it, I wasn’t so sold on the idea. When I traveled to Europe last summer, I was reminded that there is pork in just about everything. And they haven’t adopted chicken and turkey versions of these foods the way the US has. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw not one, but two chicken sausage/wurst options on the menu at Wechsler’s.

We went at a very good time when the restaurant only had one of its six tables filled. By time we finished the meal, people were waiting for a spot to park themselves. This hole-in-the-wall makes the most of the small space and is decorated enough to make you feel like you’re in Germany, but not over the top where it feels like a theme restaurant.

After chatting with the guy at the counter for some recommendations, we figured out what to we wanted. I ordered the Chicken Supremo sausage, which was seasoned with oregano, basil, and fennel seeds. The two links were served on the roll that barely covered 1/3 of them! Z ordered the currywurst since it was Wechsler’s namesake and a side order of sauerkraut. And we decided to split an order of pommes frites – curious why they use the French name for fries instead of the German one!


I’ve tried a variety of chicken sausage before (both from the grocery and from restaurants), and I have to say that this was the best I’ve ever had. The herbs used to season it gave it a really great, unique flavor. The roll itself was so good that I asked the guy if the German bakery where they buy them from sold to retail stores. Unfortunately not!

Z wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor of the curry, but said that the wurst itself was really good. He liked the sauerkraut a lot, but could have done without the giant peppercorns that were mixed in and making some bites really intense. And we both loved the fries. They were hand-cut, lightly salted, and fried in peanut oil.

The restaurant has a pretty extensive list of draught and bottled beer, and I can see why it gets so packed as the night goes on. Open until 2am on the weekends, it’s definitely a great late night greasy food destination.

Wechsler's Currywurst
120 1st Avenue
@ 7th Street
website
Menu Pages listing