Sunday, October 23, 2011


Since moving to North County, I've spent nearly all of my time by the coast.  I try not to let a day go by without seeing the Pacific even if it is just from the car.  And quite frankly, I feel lucky to admit it, but it's really not that hard to do.  So when I decided to head east of the 5 for dinner one summer evening (yes, I now say THE 5 when referring to the highway), my destination had been well-researched and highly recommended.  And, without a doubt, Market Restaurant and Bar was well worth the "trek" inland.

While Market is hardly 3 miles from the beach, crossing the 5 and entering farm country would make any one feel like they are in new territory.  That's the beauty of where I currently live - in a blink of the eye you can go from the ocean to the hills.  And Market is a great reminder of all the good reasons to venture beyond the surf.

When you go to Market, be ready to eat. This is certainly a restaurant to visit on a special occasion where you can justify a feast as its plentiful menu will make it nearly impossible to dine lightly.  The menu boasts gourmet, farm-inspired cuisine and changes constantly depending on local produce and preferences.  At the same time, for the sushi loving California culture, there are the freshest raw fish options.   As I said earlier, the hungrier you are, the better - that way you won't have to decide between sushi and farm!

To start off our evening, we were presented with an amuse bouche - spicy gazpacho paired with burrata bruschetta - an excellent summer taste to get the palette going.   For the entire meal, we shared all dishes - mainly from the appetizer section of the menu. These were extremely sizable portions, which was fine by me as all were delicious.  I was a little nervous that there was too much going on in each dish, but the minute we began eating, I was absolutely reassured.  Each and every ingredient truly added to the unique dishes.  I highly recommend the local heirloom tomato salad served with sweet corn cheddar biscuits, braised bacon, basil coulis, and balsamic reduction over wild arugula.  There wasn't an item in that dish that I didn't love.  And then there was the braised baby artichoke and burrata cheese salad with fresh chickpea garlic puree, olive pepper relish, and roasted onion focaccia - another excellently prepared dish that was packed with so many of my favorite ingredients.   For a different taste and one that should be fresh and available in all seasons, I recommend the local yellowtail tartare and spice seared salmon belly served with cucumber soba noodle salad, shiso vinaigrette, yuzu aioli, and coriander crackers.  While we opted not to order sushi that night, this dish guaranteed that the sushi would be top notch.


And finally, it would be a sin not to order any meat from such a farm friendly restaurant so we chose the cast iron roasted beef tenderloin served with truffled twice baked potato, crispy bacon, aged white cheddar, forest mushrooms, and zinfandel jus.  This was an extremely decadent, flavorful dish - one that really rounded out the evening.  It's been awhile since we enjoyed this meal, but my mouth has started watering as I write down each and every one of these fresh ingredients.  There wasn't a single item that I didn't love that night.  And, at the end of the meal when the bill came, I was actually convinced that the restaurant had been designed just for me as a plate of homemade, salted caramels arrived.  There is truly no other small sweet that I love more.  I am guessing by the way we gobbled those down and a fresh plate of two more arrived before we had finished paying the bill that my weakness for salted caramels had been discovered.  Time spent away from the coast can be a very sweet thing.

Market Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Market Restaurant and Bar
3702 Via de la Valle
Del Mar, CA  92014
(858) 523-0007
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Red Rooster Harlem

I always love it when restauranters are willing to take risks in the kitchen. But I especially love it when they are willing to be adventuresome when it comes to location. If it weren't for proprietors branching out, we may never leave home. In actuality, it is thanks to many clever restaurant owners that so many of us have ended up in our respective communities. All it takes is one popular restaurant and a new hot neighborhood is born. With nearly all of Manhattan bursting with eateries, finding undiscovered territories isn't as easy as it used to be. However, for Marcus Samuelsson, it simply meant walking out his front door and making others aware of it. After living in Harlem for several years, this celebrity chef was ready to bring his excellent cooking to a part of town very familiar to him, but less so to others. While this neighborhood is certainly well traveled, it is rarely visited for gourmet food.

Red Rooster Harlem may be one of the only of its kind in the area, but that has certainly not stopped the crowds. Dinner reservations are nearly impossible to secure and lunch is no easy feat either. This kind of success is begging for additional competition in the neighborhood. And I guarantee that within the next few years, the upward rent trend will have found its way to Harlem as well. While so much of its success can be attributed to delectable gourmet Southern cuisine, there is no doubt that Chef Samuelsson's passion for food and people has also been a driving force. When I visited on a cold Monday for lunch, he was visible bustling between the front of the restaurant and the kitchen. That spells out devotion.

While you are trying to narrow down the mouthwatering list of options, I urge you to order the corn bread with honey butter and tomato jam for the table. It's a shame they don't hand this out to every one as it pairs perfectly with nearly anything on the menu (not to mention, it completely melts in your mouth whether you eat it alone, with the butter, or with the jam). While the menu is scattered with Southern classics, nearly all of them are prepared with a twist - setting them apart. I highly recommend the shrimp and dirty rice served with raisin, curry leaves, almonds, and aged basmati. This is a much more delicate, yet flavorful take on the traditional shrimp and grits dish. For a heartier and heavier dish, I recommend the lamb and sweet potato hash served with egg custard, rosemary, and beets in a cast iron skillet. The sweetness of the potato pairs wonderfully with the lamb. But the dish that has every one talking (and rightfully so) is the fried yard bird - dark meat topped with white mace gravy, hot sauce, and shake. The spice is an excellent accent to the perfectly crisp skin. This is a must for any one making the trek uptown.

The only draw back of our guaranteed seating on a Monday at lunch was that they were out of the apple pie. I'm not sure if they make less on Mondays or if it is just that good that it runs out even on Mondays. Either way, I'm still very intrigued. I settled for the sweet potato donuts with cinnamon sugar as well as the coffee and donuts with vanilla whip and coffee creme. Both were extremely tasty, unique representatives of gourmet Southern cuisine. And if you are worried it might be awhile before you head that far north again, be sure to stop by the front window on your way out for to-go drinks and baked goods. Even if you don't have the room for it after your meal, by the time you make your way home, you most likely will. No question, it's an adventure heading to Red Hooster Harlem. It's now just a matter of making sure you can actually get in!

Red Rooster Harlem
310 Lenox Avenue
New York, NY 10027
(212) 792-9001
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Even though ABC Kitchen was where I spent my last Friday night as a New Yorker, I still had about 5 more nights before officially moving out. And after my incredible experience based off of the newest James Beard recognition, I decided there was still enough time to make it to the previous year's winner of that very award. Marea had too been on my list for quite some time, but more for reasons of cost than availability had I not been able to stop by. Well, with just a few nights left as New Yorker, issues of cost and the need to save such restaurants for a special occasion easily go by the wayside. And so, my last Tuesday night in New York with my family was more than enough of a reason to finally dine out at Marea.

Marea is located on Central Park South and the interior certainly lives up to its address. As you walk in, you are greeted by a swanky bar on the left - one that if I had ever worked in midtown, I would have hoped I could have visited for special occasion drinks. To the right you will find the elegant dining room which is certainly more formal than most restaurants I frequent, however, it was still extremely welcoming and warm. Every now and then, I really love that feeling of walking into a place where I know I would never stop by every day - the kind of place where I need to dress up, where an amuse bouche or two are guaranteed, and where chargers are waiting for me on the table. The minute we sat down at our table, I knew I was in great hands for the night ahead.

Marea's Italian menu brings together two of my favorite culinary treats - fresh seafood and homemade pasta. However, be prepared to be slightly overwhelmed by this excellent combination as the options available are nearly endless. We didn't even touch the crudo (sliced raw fish and shellfish) section of the menu which takes up almost a full page - and all of those dishes were extremely enticing. The problem was that the antipasti were just too appealing to pass up as we all opted for those for our starters. The special of the evening was a delicately prepared soft shell crab served over radicchio, immediately capturing the attention of several members of our table who eventually finished every morsel on their plates. My weakness has always been lobster and more recently it has been burrata. I can hardly ever ignore this glorious cheese on a menu (and even now in the supermarkets). So you can imagine how quickly I jumped at the Nova Scotia lobster starter prepared with burrata, eggplant, mushrooms, and basil. What could have been an overwhelmingly rich dish was perfectly prepared so that each and every ingredient had a place on the plate. And while it screamed richness on paper, even upon clearing my plate, I was ready to take on my next course.

We all again opted from the same next section of the menu completely ignoring the meat and fish options. But, with the pasta, we all seemed to get the best of both worlds - some sort of homemade pasta topped with some sort of fresh fish. Every one was so pleased with their own dish that we barely felt the need to share or even try one another's. While I was impartial to my spaghetti with seppia, squid ink, and pecorino, I also highly recommend the orecchiette with ruby red shrimp chilies and rosemary. Had I not already started with incredible lobster, I would have immediately fallen for the tagliatelle with Nova Scotia lobster, tarragon, and coral. A heavier and extremely flavorful dish is the fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow which was actually perfect on the oddly cold May evening that we were there.

Even though I was visiting Marea for what I had deemed as a special occasion, I cannot imagine dining there and not feeling like it was a special occasion. It's cuisine, setting, and service truly make it a special place. And so it's rare that I see three large desserts end up on my table after a meal. That alone signals something special. We were all so intrigued by so many of the dishes that we decided to go all out - and we had absolutely no regrets. Desserts at Marea are a must - and by desserts I mean multiple ones. We ordered the white chocolate honey mousse served with pine nut, grapefruit gelato topped with basil as well as the hazelnut torte topped with dark chocolate and lemon gelato topped with mint, and finally the fried doughnut holes with lemon cream and prickly pear sorbet. Again, it was nearly impossible to decide which was best. And if that's your biggest problem, trying to decide which dish was best throughout the night, you know you have found a special spot.

240 Central Park South
New York, New York 10019
(212) 582-5100
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ABC Kitchen

As much as I love restaurant ratings and awards, I should admit that they make me more nervous than anything else. They actually legitimize the fear that some of my favorite spots will soon become too discovered or that those places I have been itching to try will quickly become untouchable. ABC Kitchen had been on my list for quite some time. And for no other reason than too much travel and other plans, I had yet to stop by. In fact, I had actually scored a reservation several times earlier in the year, but because of other conflicts, had to cancel. So in the spring when this year's James Beard Awards came out naming ABC Kitchen as New York City's best new restaurant of the year, I knew I was in trouble. Sure enough upon my immediate call for a reservation, I was relegated to the 5 pm or 10 pm slots which I couldn't quite bring myself to accept.

However, unlike most award winning restaurants, ABC Kitchen has an option for the everyday diner - setting aside four or five tables every night in the front of the restaurant for first come first serve. And on my last Friday as a New Yorker, it was truly an honor to be one of the first to arrive and be served. In all honesty, we were still seated with the early birds by 6 pm, but somehow it felt much better than succumbing to the offensive 5 pm table. I was immediately nervous that our great fortune would run out if they attempted to rush us through the meal only to free up the seats for other lucky diners. Much to my delight, this could not have been any further from our experience. On my last Friday in New York, I enjoyed one of the most delicious meals I can remember AND it lasted nearly three hours. We were never rushed and we were never waiting as we kept the waitstaff plenty busy in ordering from all parts of the menu.

Not only does ABC Kitchen excel in its cuisine, but it is right on in catering to one of the most popular culinary trends of the moment. Nearly everything on the menu is both local and organic and the decor falls right in line with the food. The dinnerware and unique decorations are mostly handmade and more often than not, in support of local artisans. While the food shines above all, the setting is an experience of its own. As with any restaurant at this high caliber and with so many options, I urge you to go with as many people as possible so that you can sample as much of the menu as possible.

The toasts are a great way to start off the evening and to sample some of the freshest seasonal ingredients. We loved every bit of the crab toast with lemon aioli. An excellent dish to share is the pretzel dusted calamari served with both a marinara and a mustard aioli. The squid are nice and light, not overly fried and we couldn't decide which sauce we liked better as both were excellent. Another must order is the roast carrot and avocado salad with crunchy seeds, sour cream, and citrus. All I can say is fresh, fresh, fresh! And no matter the season, I hope this is always on the menu.

We were so wowed by our starters that I was sure the entrees wouldn't quite be able to keep up which I really would have been ok with. However, each and every main course that arrived at our table took the meal to the next level. Each dish was so excellent that none of us could decide which was the best. And if I were to return soon, I would order them all over again. The fried chicken was some of the best I have ever had and that is coming from a southerner. It was served with baby bok choy, ginger and spicy gravy. The Asian flavors along with perfectly crisp skin and amazingly moist meat turned an everyday dish into a unique delicacy. The next dish that is a must is the wild king salmon with creamed fava beans and crispy sourdough. I am often hesitant to order a salmon dish as I have rarely been blown away by them. But this dish gave the fish a new name in my books as it was perfectly cooked and paired with two very complimentary items. And just when I thought fish couldn't get any better, the steamed halibut with grilled fennel. blood oranges, and chiles arrived on the table. This was an extremely light dish but prepared with outstanding ingredients to create a unique flavor combination.

With a meal this spot on, dessert was an absolute must although we could sadly only stomach one after such a feast. We fell straight for the sundae - salted caramel ice cream topped with candied peanuts and popcorn, whipped cream, and homemade chocolate sauce. Don't let the popcorn scare you off as with every other ingredient offered on the menu, it is there for a reason - and an excellent one at that. With a meal starting off, continuing, and ending with such high standards, I can guarantee that ABC Kitchen's wait list isn't going to free up any time soon. But if you happen to be a lucky New Yorker with this new spot in your backyard, I encourage you to settle for the early bird special whether it's through an actual reservation or as a walk-in. So there you have it - New York at it's finest. I told you I'm still thinking about New Yorkers!

ABC Kitchen
35 East 18th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 475-5829
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Restaurants for the Hungry

Hello strangers. It's been way too long. After a nearly non-existent spring, summer has indeed taken us all by storm and now the longest day of the year is already behind us. While much of my disappearance from the web can be blamed on my annual fun in the sun and wedding season hitting full force, there is actually much more to it this year. I've really been struggling with how to break it to you and have finally realized, it's just time to come clean. Yours truly has up and moved out of what many of you may think of as the center of the universe. In fact, I am writing this very post from my new home in Southern California.

So what does this mean for the blog that claims to provide restaurants for the hungry New Yorker? The observant (those noting the recent addition of parentheses to de-emphasize a part of my blog's subtitle) may have already realized that I still plan to do that, just in a more indirect kind of way. In my opinion, the hungry New Yorker enjoys eating both in and outside of New York as well as reading about restaurants both near and far. In fact, while living in New York, I spent much of my time reading about restaurants outside of the state or even outside of the country as well as dining at many of them. And I tried my very best to keep you informed of my travels in hopes of inspiring your own adventures. It is now my hope that as I begin writing more extensively about restaurants in the San Diego area that I will continue to inspire those back east as well as draw in a new set of readers out west. After living in both Paris and New York, my new city certainly has some large shoes to fill. However, I can already tell you how pleased I have been in my newest food scene.

And while I don't plan to look back too often, but rather spring forward into my own new adventure in California, I can promise that there will continue to be tales of the Hungry Roach in New York and other parts of the world. In fact, in true Hungry Roach form, before I moved away, I made it a priority to dine at as many new restaurants in the city as possible. And I can't wait to share those with you in several posts in the weeks ahead. I am actually so backlogged with New York restaurants you probably won't believe I have really moved!

But, I promise, the news is true. And while I have physically left New York, there will always be a part of me that will claim to be a New Yorker. You don't live in that town for eight years for nothing! That is the part of me that will keep me writing and exploring, searching for the best restaurants where I can share great food with friends and family. Whether you are a New Yorker, Californian, or from somewhere in the middle, I hope these restaurants will continue to ignite your appetite and curiosity. After all, these are restaurants for the Hungry (new yorker)!

Phew! Now that my news is out. It's time to start writing about food again. You'll be hearing from me again soon!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Casa Mono

It should not have taken me eight years to make it to Casa Mono. Period. Sure, it is small and whenever I’ve passed it and peered in, always full. But, unlike many excellent, cozy restaurants in New York City, it is certainly not impossible to get into - and it is so nicely centrally located near Gramercy Park. I guess my discovery is better late than never. And for those of you looking for another go-to restaurant guaranteeing gourmet and innovative cuisine (and actually getting in the door), add Casa Mono to your list. While it’s not new to the city’s culinary scene, it could have fooled me with its inventive and fully energized kitchen, on display for the entire restaurant. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to be seated at the bar with front row access to the full preparation and execution of the menu, you’re sure to have enough of a view to be impressed and make your mouth water until your food arrives.

While much of its success can and should be attributed to the management of food icon Mario Batali, Casa Mono has chef Andy Nusser’s Spanish upbringing to thank as well. The menu is entirely influenced by his background, setting it apart from the rest of the traditional Batali Italian dynasty. It’s companion wine bar next door, Bar Jamon, offers a small taste of what Casa Mono has to offer - adding to the allure of this Irving Street destination. It allows diners the chance to wait out any crowds next door in an even more romantic and cozy setting. And I can promise that it’s worth the wait (even 8 years for me)!

The menu at Casa Mono is all small plates. Don’t let this intimidate the big eaters as nearly every plate we ordered had impressively sizable portions given their reasonable cost. I recommend about two plates per person, although they will most likely tell you to order at least three per mouth. The options are heavily weighted with seafood and pork - recalling its Spanish roots as well as pleasing me immediately. While the options do change keeping the menu fresh and exciting, there are definitely some staples that should stick around for years to come. I highly recommend the razor clams a la plancha as they are full of garlic and perfectly baked. For other seafood, I would recommend the pulpo (octopus) with fennel and grapefruit as well as the sepia (cuttlefish) with salsa verde. Two extremely refreshing dishes. For the sausage lover, you can’t go wrong with chorizo with cabbage and aged manchego. But, my favorite dish of the night was the fideos (baked pasta) with chorizo and clams - a dish that brings the entire menu together. The flavor combination is just perfect on top of the crispiness of the baked noodles.

And for those of you counting, Casa Mono is still on the Sifty Fifty. As you know I by no means swear by the list, but my eyes, ears, and taste buds do perk up every time I venture to one - checking if they are at least in line with Mr. Sifton. Well, I’ll vouch for him yet again. There is a reason this old-timer has stayed on the list and I’m just sorry it took me so long to confirm it.

Casa Mono
52 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003
(212) 253-2773
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):