Friday, November 23, 2007

Hopping, Shopping and Turkey

Last Saturday was a fun-filled day of restaurant hopping around town and also a little bit of shopping thrown in. It was the start to a busy week.

First, we started off having brunch at The Little Owl, Joey Campanaro’s place in the west Village. It’s funny because we saw him on a chef’s thanksgiving competition show that aired on the Food Network Sunday afternoon. Obviously, that was an older show because he was performing construction on the restaurant. He won the competition and $10,000.

There has been a lot of hype about the Little Owl and now I know why. It’s a nice, intimate size with only 27 seats for a small, neighborhood restaurant. It was a crisp, fall day, and my seat was next to the heat vent, so that added to the cozy feeling of the restaurant.

Since the menu was very limited, and brunch usually consists of dishes that include meat, bacon or ham, my choices were limited to two choices. So a white omelet with spinach and Portobello mushrooms is was what I enjoyed. My friend had poached eggs on a sausage brioche. The service was attentive and the food was very good. I would like to try and have dinner there one night because brunch is brunch.

Since we opted not to have a cocktail at The Little Owl, we walked to 7th Avenue South to CentroVineteco for one of my favorite weekend brunch drinks, a Bloody Mary. My rule is that the only appropriate time for a bloody Mary is between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., and it was 1:45 p.m., so we were within the time constraints. We sat at the bar, and relaxed as we planned (sort of) the rest of the afternoon. I’ve been spoiled by the drinks made at home, so observing a “pre-mixed” tomato solution poured into a glass of vodka was somewhat disappointing. However, the taste was “sort of” there.

Bottlerockets was offering a Thanksgiving workshop that afternoon, so we opted to drive toward Union Square and check out what was going on at the store. The setup was traditional dishes and wines offered as pairings and suggestions for Thanksgiving dinner. There was roasted heritage turkey, vegetables prepared from the Union Square Green Market, and desserts prepared by The City Bakery. Chefs from Dani, Gramercy Tavern and Mas Farmhouse were available to answer questions. We sampled a few wines and had a tasting of heritage turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and dessert nuts. I bought a dessert wine, and some spicy nuts.

Given that we had gotten parking space in front of the store, we kept the car there and decided that venturing on foot is what we would due. Next was a stop at Coliccio’s Craft Bar for a Manhattan. Since it was cold outside, that was a nice pick me up. After leaving Craft, it was off to do some shopping at the Union Square Green Market. I enjoyed shopping where the chefs from the NYC restaurants go. After buying about 15 pounds of various produce, it was off to the car to drop the stash. At this point, we decided to head over to Craft for some oysters.

As we started to venture toward Craft, we noticed a Japanese restaurant called Haru on Park Avenue South. The menu looked good, so in we went. We did not want to eat a lot of food, so soup and a quick appetizer did it for us. I had the lobster miso soup, and my friend had the lemongrass hot and sour soup, which smelled and tasted like the soup I make at home. Anyway, a quick appetizer for each of us, then we were off to Craft for oysters.

After finishing kumomoto oysters at Craft, we decided to head to the meatpacking district to visit Morimoto’s, “if” we could get parking. We did, so a quick stop there completed the City hopping for the day. But we were not done yet.

It was time to head back to Jersey, but I wanted to make another stop and check out a Cuban Cigar Bar in Jersey City (right outside the Holland Tunnel). We parked the car, and then ventured into a place called Azucar. That place was hopping. The first floor had a Spanish band playing music with a crowd of folks dancing. We went upstairs to the “cigar” lounge. Actually, it looked like two or three living rooms with a “bar” in the middle. Service was extremely slow. After waiting about 10 minutes, we left to find a server. I also wanted to buy a Remy Martin cigar.

After smoking our cigars and enjoying a Mohito, it was time to head home. It was a long day of hopping and shopping and now we were heading into a busy week ahead—The Big Smoke and Thanksgiving.

The Big Smoke – Tuesday night we attended The Big Smoke at the Marriott Marquee in New York. There were about 1,500 guys in attendance, four other women and me. What a night! I’ve been to the Big Smoke before, and was surprised to hear that they still are allowed to run the show in light of the new non-smoking laws in the City. Obviously, they could. So a $200 ticket for admission gets you 35 cigars from major manufacturers, and the opportunity to sample every cognac, rum, bourbon, scotch and beer on the planet. Needless to say, they allowed smoking during the show…and the guys smoked…and smoked…and smoked. It was a good start to a long holiday weekend.

Thanksgiving was a fun day of cooking good food, having good wine, and being with a good friend. We started our gathering first with a cold, spicy Bloody Mary as I continued with my preparation of the meal. Then it was lobster cocktails as an appetizer. My final menu decision turned out rather simple. I decided to make a citrus roasted turkey with shiitake mushroom gravy. I bought a fresh kosher organic turkey, so I didn’t have to brine it the day before. The stuffing was a combination of mushrooms—shiitake, cremini, and porcini, with Asian spiced nuts that I bought last Saturday. Sides were roasted white organic yams, sweet and sour cipollini onions, and a medley of vegetables, including turnips, Belgian white carrots, red carrots, and salsify. No green bean casserole here.
After dinner was over, it was time to relax and smoke one of the 35 cigars gathered from the Big Smoke the other night. Also, watch one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, The Birds. No football here, either.

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