Milk Street Cafe

The famed Milk Street Cafe of Boston has found a new home on Wall Street. Keeping Bostonian vegetarians fed and happy was not enough – they have now opened in New York and added catering to their bag of tricks.

The Cutlery were recently invited to a press party to celebrate the opening of Milk Street.

As you walk into the new Wall Street location, you are hit with the size of the space. There are at least 10 different food stations to choose from ranging from sushi to rotisserie.

While not strictly vegetarian anymore, they do keep things very separate for vegetarians and carnivores. For example, there are 2 salad stations – the Bull Market and the Farmer’s Market.

While touring Milk Street we were treated to a peek into their kitchens, which are gigantic.  And again, everything kept very separate.

One of the draws of Milk Street is the ability for people to go out to lunch together and be able to eat nearly anything they want. The dining area is lovely, though slightly disjointed in decor. Their fabulous logo is across the long wall. Very bright and cheery. Then on one short wall is a bronze waterfall, the other short wall a frosted glass something.

While we were there, we met a lot of the staff and were treated to a few of the dishes that would be available once Milk Street opened full time. THe gals making the smoothies were adorable, helpful and knowledgable about what they were serving.

While in the kitchen, we watched the chefs preparing spring rolls with dipping sauce and pan fried noodles with vegetables. we also tasted risotto with spring peas and pea puree. Both of which were very good, if not awkward to eat standing in a crowded room!

All in all, I think there is a definite need on Wall Street for Milk Street and wish them all the success in the future.

If you’re down in the area, pop in, you’ll enjoy it!

Milk Street Cafe ~ 40 Wall Street ~ NYC, NY
Milk Street Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Hostaria Isidoro

Nestled betwen the Colosseum and San Giovanni in Laterano in the heart of historic Rome is the wonderful Hostaria Isidoro.  After a morning of scaling the Santa Scala on your knees and visiting San Giovanni in Laterano, San Clemente and Santo Stefano Rotondo, you need sustenance to steel yourself for the upcoming trip to the Colosseum. By the way, all three churches are completely amazing and need to be visited. 

The staff is wonderful and friendly. The decor cozy. The menu outstanding. The worst part of this restaurant is trying to narrow down what to eat – everything looks and sounds amazing. They do have a pasta tasting on the menu. You can choose to taste 3, 4 or 5 pasta dishes – the downside? You cannot choose the pasta dishes. You can let them know if you are allergic to something or do not care for a particular ingredient, but it’s chef’s choice. A group at a table nearby ordered this special and they had red sauce, red sauce and squid ink sauce. We decided to go a la carte.

As an appetizer, Fork and Spoon chose a simple Garden Salad. Beautiful greens top with shaved carrots, tomatoes, olives, corn and walnuts. Cruets of wonderful olive oil and balsamic vinegar were on the table. And bread, let’s not forget the bread. The bread was wonderful. Warm, fresh, rustic, perfect.

As Spoon did with almost every meal in Rome involving pasta, Amatriciana was a necessity and was ordered as one of our mains. An Amatriciana overload was called for on this trip.  Fresh tomato sauce, perfectly cooked pasta, nice hint of heat. Really, really good.

Our second asta dish was Pasta with Artichokes. Tagliatelle with artichoke hearts in a wonderful thick cream sauce. Again, everything super fresh, seasonal, and delicious.

There wasn’t much of a choice for dessert. Spoon adores Tiramisu, Fork not so much. We knew we could only manage one dessert. Tiramisu it was. It wa an amazing choice. Like no tiramisu Fork has had outside someone’s home. It was creamy, yet not gloppy. the strawberries added a nice texture and flavor. THe espresso soaked savoiardi were not mushy. It was a perfect ending to a perfect lunch!

Another great suggestion, Dad!

Hostaria Isidoro ~ via S. Giovanni in Laterano, 59/a ~ Rome, Italy

The Mussel Pot

As you walk along Bleecker Street, you are at no loss for restaurants. Any cuisine you can imagine, any price point, fancy, casual, fast food, good food, not such good food.

Along this stretch of restaurants Fork, and new found friend, Whisk, came across  The Mussel Pot. And the Mussel Pot may be a combination of most of the above descriptions!

We arrived at 6:30 and the restaurant was empty. The garden tables were all full, but the interior tables were completely empty. The restaurant itself is lovely and warm, beautiful mirrors run down one wall and the room is lit by dainty glass chandeliers. The garden has 6 tables around a small waterfall and coy pond. Sadly, they were all taken, but we were able to sit at the table right next to the door.

Our waitress, Jacky, came over and introduced herself to us. Pleasant, warm, and attentive. We asked for the wine list and found a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio. Truthfully, the wine is a bit on the pricey side and this bottle was not chilled enough. THe bus boys were quick with ice, filling water glasses, and whisking plates away. Never once did they approach the table to remove a plate until it appeared both of us were done. HUGE points for that one!

We ordered two appetizers. They took a ridiculously long time to come out of the kitchen. The surprise in this? One of the appetizers was raw.

With or without the long wait, this appetizer was outstanding. Tuna Tartare. Seriously fresh tuna, sitting on a 1/2″ thick disk of guacamole. The guacamole was fresh and chunky and a perfect partner to the tuna. On top of the tuna were some microgreens and a splodge of a citrus miso mayo type condiment. To give the plate a little texture there were some house-made potato chips served alongside. The chips were a really nice addition to the tartare. You could scoop some up on the chip and have all the wonderful flavors at once.

Our second appetizer was Fried Calamari. Fork is a total sucker for fried calamari. Sadly, this was not so great. The presentation was lovely. We loved the idea of three sauces. And there ends the love fest. Fried calamari consists of 2 parts – the legs and the rings. There were perhaps 3 rings and all the rest legs. Whisk doesn’t mind the legs. Fork really doesn’t like them at all. Really, not at all. And the rings that were there were very chewy – like rubberband chewy – which usually means they were frozen. The coating, while really crispy, was not seasoned anywhere near enough.

Then there were the three sauces. There was a spicy remoulade – spicy here is the key word. I was too spicy to enjoy. The Fork and Whisk like spice in their food but not to the point of inedible. There was also a tomato sauce water. It was flavorless and so thin in consistency that nothing stuck to the calamari when you dipped it in the sauce. The third was a chimichurri. All we can say about that is  – meh! Really disappointing appetizer.

So, the schtick with the with the Mussel Pot is – well, really, it doesn’t need explaining – MUSSELS. There are 5 different cuisine styles and 15 different ways to have mussels. They range from intriguing to what were they thinking. What is glaringly absent from their line-up is Moules Mariniere.

The mussels are all served in individual stainless steel mussel pots. Okay, we get it. mussels, mussel pots. Cute. Problem? They are pretty tall and you are eating peering over the top of your pot, holding your fork or spoon at an odd angle. Really not a comfortable way to eat.

Whisk ordered the Paella style which included clams, chorizo, fennel, tomatoes, peas, white wine, saffron, bay leaf and lemon juice. The clams were unnecessary. The broth was  delicious. There was a background warmth to it that turned out to be cloves.  Really nice combination of flavors. 

Fork ordered the Posillipo style.  A light tomato sauce, garlic, white wine and basil. Very good mingling of Italian flavors.

There are plenty of mussels in each pot. They serve bread with the mussels so you can sop up all the sauce – which is also difficult with the gigantic pots! They bring a small slice of bread each, which seems kind of silly. But they gladly bring more if you ask.

Nothing really struck us for dessert. But we were instantly drawn to the Cheese Plate by the words “a variety of the finest imported cheese accompanied with honey comb, fig chutney and candy hazelnuts.” (They desperately need someone to proofread their menu). Okay. There was Brie. There was, to quote our waitress, some kind of parmigianio. There was Havarti with dill – the least dessert type cheese you could ever find.  There was fig chutney. There were candied pecans which were very soft, which means they have been sitting around a while. There were grapes. Now, if you are missing TWO essential ingredients on a composed plate and are subbing – don’t you think you should tell the patrons and ask if they would still like to have that dessert? We couldn’t recover from the honeycomb, candied hazelnuts and havarti.

Nothing was terrible, but nothing was outstanding beyond the tuna tartare. The staff needs to be better informed of what is in each dish, what is not going to be available and most of all – how to pronounce things on the menu.

Oh, one last thing. If Fork or Whisk had gone downstairs to the restrooms before we ate, we would have left. There is. The worst. Fish. Smell. And (as if you need another thing) they have unisex restrooms. Gross. And the floors are all wet from God only knows what.

Try it. Perhaps your experience will be different. I, for one, am very glad I had a 30% coupon from Blackboard Eats or I would have been far more disappointed.

Mussel Pot ~ 174 Bleecker Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.260.2700
The Mussel Pot on Urbanspoon

Nougatine @ JeanGeorges

For Fork and Spoon, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant is love at first bite. The restaurants are beautiful, warm, inviting, staffed with people who are pleased to be there. Everything is perfect. There isn’t really one thing you can put a tine on.

Nougatine is just another piece of our heart that belongs to Jean-Georges.

It is amazing that those dining in Jean-Georges walk so close Nougatine and most never think to stop and dine there. Nougatine is the slightly more casual, slightly less expensive, but absolutely just as enticing as big brother Jean-Goerges. Uncluttered, ultra-modern, bright, light woods,stark even, and yet it is warm and comfortable, beckoning and welcoming. The acoustics are wonderful. 

Nothing is quick. Nothing is rushed. The staff smiles, is friendly, knowledgable and answer any questions you may have.

Fork and Spoon met here for dinner before seeing a screening of Toast. If you have not read Nigel Slater’s book Toast, please do. If you can see the film, please do. But, back to Nougatine.

While we were looking through the menu, we ordered iced tea. The tea is fresh, cold, nice sized glasses, and they give you one refill. We didn’t ask for a third to just see what would happen. But while refilling the tea, they remove your glass from the table, place it on a tray, pour and out the glass back. Same with the water, which is constantly refilled.

We ordered. Three appetizers and one main dish. We wanted to experience as many dishes as possible.

While we were waiting for our fist appetizer, our waiter appeared with an Amuse Bouche. A shot glass with a warm carrot and ginger soup, accompanied by a perfect rectangle of rye toast with a tiny dollop of mustard butter, a wedge of radish, and chive. Perfectly assembled. Beautiful to look at. Fork is not a soup fan, but this was warm and creamy, slightly sweet from the carrot and a wonderful smack of ginger was stunning. The perfect amount to win you over. The rye toast was crisp, a wonderful tang coming from the mustard butter with a spicy crunch from the radish. Oh, this was so a sign of what was yet to come.

One of our starters was Asparagus Vinaigrette with Sautéed Mushrooms. Crisp, slim, ultra-fresh asparagus all lined up. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, sitting in a pool of a light vinaigrette. On top of these beauties were sautéed mushrooms. Not sautéed so much that they lost their shape or taste. A variety of different mushrooms. So many tastes in one bite.

Now this second starter could not be passed by. Foie Gras Brulee with Strawberry. The top was really and truly brulee’d (is that even a word?). It was almost as much fun to look at as it was to eat. I love that tapping and cracking sound from a brulee. Soft and rich foie gras wrapped around a strawberry – yes, a fresh strawberry. Fork and Spoon had there doubts about the strawberry with the foie gras, but the combination was delectable.

Our third, and last starter was a Field Mache Salad. You wouldn’t think we could or would get so excited over a salad, but look at it. It’s lovely!  Tender field greens, crispy lardons of bacon, a light dressing, sunnyside up egg and snippets of chives. The crisp bacon gives a little extra texture and a smokiness against the peppery greens. And the egg, oh, the egg, once you cut into the yolk and it swims through the salad and mixes with the dressing, you suddenly have a wonderful richness that would not have been there otherwise. Perfect.

For our main course, Spoon and I decided we would share the Filet.  The filet was served over grilled scallions and mashed potatoes. On top of the filet were crispy, fried onions. I am sure some of you are thinking, a filet, so what. I can tell you so what – the filet was glazed with mirin, soy and sesame oil. When I tell you the flavor combination on this tender steak was over the moon good, I ain’t kidding. The flavors of the glaze with the grilled scallions was great. The little pool of the glaze under and around the garlic-y mashed potatoes made them even better. These were silky, smooth mashed potatoes. Almost more of a puree than a mash. This filet was inhaled at a record pace. We had to resist the urge to pick up the plate and lick it! 

We ordered 2 desserts. You know we had to.

First up was a Hazelnut Dacquoise. On top of the dacquoise was a deep, decadent chocolate mousse. So far so good. the mousse was actually in a cone shape. The inside if the cone was filled with a licorice ice, which was startling, overpowering and terrible. It was so in contrast to the delicate, sensual flavors on the plate that it was almost like skipping down the street and running face first into a wall. We scooped that stuff out quickly and put it on a side plate. There was a lovely berry compote to go along with this. Surprisingly light and delicate, this dessert really aims to please – without the licorice ice, of course!

Our second dessert was a lovely little Rhubarb Tart. Sweet and tart rhubarb sitting inside a crisp, flaky pastry. Perfect. Sitting atop the tart was a small creme brulee. The creaminess was perfect with the rhubarb. Strewn around the tart were tapioca pearls, slivers of strawberry and palm seeds. Beautiful for both the eyes and the palate.

One of the wonderful thing about Jean-Georges restaurants is their pleasant fulfillment of all your senses. Nougatine did not disappoint!

Nougatine ~ 1 Central Park West ~ NYC, NY
Nougatine at Jean-Georges on Urbanspoon

Laboratorio Lambiase

We were exhausted. We were excited.

It was the end of our first day in Rome! We had seen the Trevi Fountain, had a little lunch, taken a ridiculously long nap, had a wonderful dinner and now were wide awake and in need of an adventure!

The flat we were staying in was a block from the Church of Maria della Vittoria. We had done a lot of reading trying to gather up as much foodie intel as possible.

In reading, we came across Laboratorio Lambiase. There were raves about this place.  Cars double parked up and down the street, the crowds until the early morning hours, the fantastic smells and tastes. How were a Fork and Spoon to resist?

 

The pastry was supposed to be amazing – particularly a calorie laden pastry called Sorchetta Doppio Schizzo. The name of this pastry alone made this place a necessity.

So we wandered. Took pictures at the Piazza Repubblica, wandered down Via Cernaia, and were beginning to think we had gotten lost, when our noses picked up the most heavenly scents.

This is one of those places if you weren’t looking for it you would never know it was there. Deserted street, no real signage, down the stairs – but once you find it – well, WOW comes to mind.

Down the stairs, a very plain room with 2 tables and along counter. There are a couple of display cases with some sad looking cupcakes, and you think this cannot be right or they must be closing. Raise your eyes, peek into the next room – the bakery – and there is tray after tray after tray of amazing looking pastry.

We had to order the Sorchetta Doppio Schizzo. A sweet pastry filled with whipped cream and smothered in chocolate. It was good. The name is better!

Spoon had a hot chocolate. Fork a Diet Coke (some habits just cannot be broken and besides their small cans had a cute drawing on the side).

Spectacular were the Sfogliatelle! Crispy, crunchy, still warm, creamy inside. Perfect. May be the best either the Fork or Spoon has ever had.

Their pizza must be pretty good as well, at least 2 dozen people walked in and out while we were there buying pizza to go.

There were at least 10 other pastry that needed to be tried, but try as might, we didn’t get back again. This will be the first place we go when we head back to Rome!

Laboratorio Lambiase ~ Vis Cernaia, 47A ~ Roma

Sostanza

This is, by far, my favorite restaurant in Florence. Fabulous food, friendly staff, fabulous food, unpretentious … did I mention the fabulous food?

Sostanza is located Santa Maria Novella. Fork and Spoon took the train from Rome to Florence, visited Santa Maria Novella and Farmaceutica de Santa Maria and realized we were starving. We could have walked to our wonderful B&B Casa dei Tintori (wonderful B&B, by the way, if you’re looking for a great place to stay), but – and this should be NO shocker to our readers – we were hungry!

You know, as we planned this trip, restaurants and places to eat were as important as sites to see, museums to visit, fountains to throw coins into, etc.

Sostanza has been one of Fork’s absolute MUST GO places for years and years, so when Fork convinced the Spoon to run away from home for 2 weeks, this place was definitely going to be on the short list.

Trattoria Sostanza was in 1869 as a tavern, wine and food store. Sostanza is also known as “i’ Troia”, which is the nickname of Guido Campolmi – one of the early owners and a very famous chef who would greet his customers with a hearty slap on the back. His hands were always greasy and sticky from working in the kitchen and his clients would say “ma tu sei un troiao” – “what a slob you are”.  And the nickname was born!

In 1977 the original owners leased the restaurant to their employees. The second generation now manages the restaurant and it has stayed pretty much unchanged.

Sostanza is not a large restaurant by any means, it’s down a windy street, with a very plain front, small interior, and a simple menu. The inside is very much a simple trattoria – wooden table and chairs, tables covered in paper, large marble counter in the front. The kitchen is open and you can watch the chefs going to town.

It’s not a large menu. It’s handwritten and slipped inside a plastic sleeve. Fork and Spoon are pretty sure the menu has not changed much in the 100+ years Sostanza has been in business.  And, as simple as the menu may be, the food is over the moon good.

We asked our wonderful waiter what the most popular dishes were in Sostanza and he said that while Sostanza is widely known for their bistecca, the Pollo al Burro is as popular. We already knew this was a dish we needed to try. When I tell you, that this dish could make you weep, I am not exaggerating. Butter is browned in a skillet, the chicken is floured and then egged and then put into the butter. The chicken is bathed in the butter as it cooks. A hit of salt, more butter at the end and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice as it is being served. The nuttiness from the browned butter, the freshness from the lemon and that salty hit – mama mia this was like nothing We had ever had before.

We were invited to come back and watch the chef make this dish, but sadly only had 48 hours in Florence and wanted to fit as many different places to eat in as possible. I would go to Florence just for Sostanza and just to eat this dish! Dad, really, 20 something years and you have never tried this? I have tried to recreate this dish at home and have come pretty darn close! Dad, next time you go order it, you’ll thank us!

Most people know for their Bistecca alla Fiorentina. When you peek into the kitchen, there is a GIGANTIC piece of beef standing there. You could see that this beautiful slab of Chianina beef was recently slaughtered. Pretty daunting, actually. We couldn’t come to Sostanza and pass up the Bistecca. The steak is perfectly charred on the outside. The meat fresh and flavorful, seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper. It didn’t need it – it was spectacular. By the way, you can see the beef and the wood burning stove and the cooking going on while on your way to the rest room – you have to walk through the kitchen to get there!

As we were relaxing and smelling and oogling everyone else’s plates go by, we eyed what you see above walk by. We showed a huge amount of restraint by not running over to the table next to ours, forks in hand and begging for a taste. We did, however, ask our waiter and he told us it was a Tortino di Carciofi. Couldn’t resist ordering this dish. What arrived was a delicate egg dish – not quite an omlette and not quite a souffle, certainly not as simple as scrambled eggs. Nestled inside this egg nest were quarters of tender artichoke hearts. Totally amazing.

We were stuffed. Totally and completely stuffed. But, we had to have dessert. After all of that rich food we needed something sweet (at least that’s how we convince ourselves!) These lovely little strawberries were the perfect choice. Sweet, light, spring-like, tiny. Spoon ordered them in cream, Fork in red wine. The perfect ending to the perfect welcome to Florence meal!

If you visit Florence Sostanza is an absolute must!

CASH ONLY!  Dinner has 2 seatings – 7:30 and 9:30 – and you MUST make reservations. Lunch easier than dinner, no reservations are required. Sostanza is open Monday through Friday.

Sostanza ~ Via delle Porcellana, 25 ~ Firenze (Florence), Italy