Archive for the ‘French’ Category

Stop whatever you’re doing [STOP] Get thee to Telegraphe Cafe [STOP] Order the Chai Latte [STOP] Drink [STOP]

Ok, all old-timey communiques aside, this chai latte is the best I’ve had in a while. It’s all frothy, cinnamon, nutmeggy goodness with a hint of clove and it will send your afternoon into a tailspin of subtle spice-induced euphoria.

Did any of that make sense? Probably not, because I am still reeling from the experience of chugging this latte like a camel refilling at an oasis. I couldn’t help it. And I even ordered mine with skim milk. Which, as you may know is not a heavy-hitter in the taste department. I loved it.

I will work up a home-made recipe for one of these babies soon…in the meantime, take a trip over to Telegraphe and order one of theirs.

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This past Saturday I traveled to Montauk to compete in a sprint triathlon. In addition to the race, I used the opportunity to do some local restaurant and food reviewing. What I present you with now is a (limited) review of (parts of) Montauk, East Hampton and Bridgehampton.

My first concern was the race. And there was going to be no exciting food (or drink) in my immediate future until I crossed the finish line. You may, however, be entertained by how UNappealing my pre-race food was….check it out:

My room came equipped with a kitchenette and one very small pan. What you see above is a very bland arrangement of black beans, turkey breast, avocado, spinach and a whole wheat wrap. Can you feel the excitement, people? However, I find that balsamic glaze (instead of vinegar) makes a really nice sandwich/wrap dressing. You don’t need that much, as it’s kind of intense. You can also use it on strawberries. Notice the shameless plug for Clif Bars. I love these things. I had the spiced pumpkin pie flavor for a pre-race breakfast. I honestly couldn’t handle anything more than this, as I was about to pass out in fear on account of recurring visions of this:

This is where we would be swimming. I’m not the best swimmer, but I’ve gotten much better (thank you, Kacey!). When I went to go check out the pond, it was pouring rain, but everything appeared calm. That night, the rain stopped, the wind picked up and this cute little pond was a torrent of white capped mini waves and rough water. So between swim-related terror and race jitters, the above meal was perfect.

I made it through, went back to the hotel and promptly fell asleep in all my racing gear (number included). When I woke up, marmo and I (mom was playing sherpa, cheerleader, driver and general support section for the event) decided we needed two things: alcoholic beverages and shopping. Girly. But whatever, people. Montauk and its surrounding towns (East Hampton and Bridgehampton included) are only too happy to comply with these requests. We had a plethora of options.

Our first stop was the Wolffer Estate Vineyard. As I said, it had stopped raining the night before, and all around were blue skies and warm sun. There is a small “wine stand” off Sag Road. You can order a few glasses (or bottles) at the stand, and then relax in their backyard among well-kept picnic tables equipped with ample umbrellas and surrounded by rolling hills of grape trees. You can even bring your own food. Citarella stores have populated like bunnies in the Hamptons, and it’s very easy to walk into one of the 12,984 locations, grab some cured meat and cheese, and then camp out at Wolffer and drink all their wine. It is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

I even checked out their bathrooms for you!

The loo was nothing crazy, but clean and in working order. I did like that giant mirror frame. I’m into those, though.

This is the wine we drank, and I do recommend it. It’s nice and oaky. Not everyone likes an oaky white. But I do. I also like swimming in a pond with 379 other people all jumbled up, so take my words with the proverbial grain of salt.

We also stopped into a Jack’s Coffee for a caffeinated pick me up (I certainly needed one). Because I live in a hole, I had no idea Jack’s had a coffee shop in NYC. Not far from my office. Huh. Anyway, it took me a trip to Amagansett to find it. I really liked this place. I loved the signage and layout of the store. You could get your coffee and sit on their porch on large benches sipping your Joe. In addition to something called the “Happy Jack” (a concoction of espresso, honey, cinnamon and milk) we ordered a blueberry oat and “Sunday” muffins. The oat variety had excellent blueberry action (I hate it when there is only one representative of its kind), while the Sunday Muffin was a more advanced, gooey (but not too much) apricot-y mini cake. Thumbs up.

On to the next event – the bike! No, sorry… I meant dinner! On a recommendation, we went to Inlet Seafood Restaurant. We were told that they had the freshest fish EVER. This was someone else’s emphasis. They meant it. We were additionally given a heads-up about the excellent sushi (repeat: freshest seafood EVER!!!). So, off we went, around the lake and to the restaurant.

At first glance, it doesn’t look like much. There is a bar area to the left of the entrance and seating on the right. However, the views are exceptional – and they have nice balconies from which you can enjoy the setting sun in all its pinky-golden glory.

We decided to take full advantage of the seafood menu. In fact, Inlet Seafood has 6 fishing boats of its very own – constantly bringing in the freshest fish. I had my eye on some sushi – a yellowtail and salmon combination with eel sauce, avocado and those little crunchy thingies, while marmo was hankering for some of the alarmingly large scallops that traveled with an asparagus risotto. But first, our very knowledgeable server directed us toward the tuna tartar as an appetizer. She said it was the “best ever”…

She did not lie. The tuna tartar was amazing. Circled by an expertly-arranged feathering of perfectly ripe avocados, it not only looked like a thing of beauty, but tasted like one as well. The tuna was exceptionally fresh (not fishy at all), firm and flavorful. My sushi that followed it was outstanding. In fact, if I were rating this restaurant on sushi alone, I would give it a 4 (The Godfather). My eight pieces of sushi were arranged in groups of two for a nicer presentation. Not only were the sauces complementary to the fish, but the composition of the rolls was impressive. Not once did they fall apart, nor did any one element escape from their ricey and seaweed entrappings. Which is great for me because I somehow always manage to look like an idiot when I eat sushi. Not tonight! I could concentrate on looking like an idiot for completely different reasons. Phew!

The scallops and risotto were also nicely done. The scallops were perfectly cooked – crispy on the outside and nicely soft on the inside (many people overcook scallops so that they are almost fibrous on the inside. Not these guys).

And now for the run! No, sorry, I keep doing that. I meant breakfast.

We ambled into Pierre’s, a snappy little French Bistro that we ran into in Bridgehampton while drunk shopping the previous day. Oops! Did I just say drunk shopping? I meant, slightly buzzed consumer perusing. Much better. Anyway, the place looked great, and we vowed to come back for breakfast.

We made good on our vow. I breakfasted on over easy eggs with rosemary potatoes. The rosemary potatoes were really the stand-out. They were perfectly – seasoned, and not overwhelmingly rosemarried. Also exceptional was the café latte that I ordered. I wanted to order 12 more. My coffee was served with a cute little square of dark chocolate, that I dunked right into the latte. I don’t know if that’s appropriate, but it sure tasted good. The service was attentive and their breakfast/brunch menu was well populated with offering of omlettes and toasts of the French persuasion. I would definitely return, especially in fine weather when you can sit outdoors and gawk at passers-by (heat lamps available for cooler weather!).

Their ladies room was sadly out of order (demerit!), so I had to use the “messieurs”. They did have some interesting art on the walls in there, including the exotic and lacy dame you see pictured above (middle photo, right column). Otherwise, the restroom was in good order. John would have appreciated the large mirrors for checking out his dome.

Pierre’s has a conveniently located pastry shop right next door where we decided to get some treats for the road.

We bought some madeleines (which ended up being a touch dry for my taste) and some little chocolate muffin thing that was OUT OF SIGHT. Seriously. It was dense, dark chocolately madness, with some kind of gooey center – like a pudding or custard, but better. The gooey-ness was concentrated in just one area – about 1/3 of the way down from the top. That was a nice little surprise. I would go back just for that little chocolate cake.

On the long ride home we stopped at one of the many roadside vegetable/fruit/pumpkin & apple picking/fresh pie/homemade jam joints. This one was called Hayground Farms. Let me say that I am not unfamiliar with impulse buying. However, I have never experienced gourd-related impulse buying. I really don’t know what came over me. But they had so many! In so many different colors! And shapes! I wanted them all! I don’t know for what. But I bought a bunch, including a weirdly dragon-shaped and bumpy all-black one that I nicknamed the “evil one”. And they’re all hanging out on my kitchen table looking quite happy with themselves (and recovering from the elaborate woodland photo shoot I inflicted upon them, which I will share with you later).

We did buy some normal stuff like eggplants and Honeycrisp apples and green beens. All the produce looked amazing. And it was so CHEAP! Seriously good deals that will only cost you two tanks of gas to get there and back. What are you waiting for??

That about wraps it up for my Triathlon-Hamptons weekend. I would definitely recommend going up there for the weekend at this time of year (sporting event or no). It’s fall, the leaves are gonna start turning any second now (wait for it….), there are roadside fruit stands, roadside WINE stands, roadside lobster roll stands (no joke), shopping and I hear there is golf too (John). There are standout restaurants, and the scenery is just so damn nice.

A few parting photos:

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This week’s review: The Elysian Café located on 10th and Washington in Hoboken.  A pretty cool and classy venue, as far as the ‘Boken is concerned.  And with charming decor both inside and out, it’s the perfect local spot to wash away my Labor Day blues, which have set in exceptionally hard.  I pick up Elana at her apartment, and we make the walk uptown.

Upon being greeted by the hostess, we are lucky enough to get a table outside which didn’t look possible at first.  The outdoor seating is packed, as it should be.  The weather is still nice, and the Elysian’s outdoor scene is one of the best in Hoboken.  Its curbside location is great for people watching, yet it feels deceptively secluded with its trees (or is it just a tree?) that create an intimate feel.  Inside, there are two rooms: both of which have considerable, yet quite dissimilar, character.  After all, the brownstone building dates back to 1895, and, throughout its history, housed both an ice cream parlor and hair salon. (This interesting factoid prompts me to daydream of getting the dome trimmed as I sit in an old time barber chair while eating spoonfuls of Haagen Dazs).

Our outdoor table is small but equipped with cool dishtowels with a faded stripe down the middle in lieu of a napkin.  I like these things, just way cooler than some ol’ napkin flapping around in the breeze.  I’m pretty sure only good restaurants do this, but I’m probably overreacting.  Like I said, it is Labor Day – and I am emotional and reading too much into things.

Drinks are first.  And while the selection looked pretty awesome, our ultimate cocktails were just ok.  My drink, the English Dandy (Hendrick’s, Lemonade, mint and club soda) was great. It was mild and tangy, like a gin drink should be.  Elana got the Hendrick’s Pink 75: (Hendrix, Maple Syrup, lemon juice, rose champagne). It was a bit too tangy and tart for both of our tastes.

For appetizers, we ordered 12 Kumamoto oysters (we had asked for Blue Point, but they had run out, and gave us the Kumamoto oysters at the Blue Point Price – a nice gesture) which were nicely presented in a bucket of ice. These suckers were extremely fresh and came with some garlic vinegar sauce which paired well with the oysters.

For entrees, I ordered the Burgundy Braised Beef Short Ribs with Yukon gold taters and tempura onion rings, and Elana selected the Cod, which was new on the menu.  The ribs were very good – juicy and flavorful, and when I was too lazy to pick up my knife –tender enough to accommodate fork-only cutting.  The taters and onions were a great compliment.  Elana’s cod was equally impressive, it came in a tomatoey-white wine broth with little neck clams, and chorizo (!!). The cod was perfectly flaky, and the broth light and smoky (flavored by the chorizo).

Since Elysian is a French Bistro, we had to order their Crème Brulee, which was fantastic.  A snappy, slightly burned outer crust, which, when cracked, gave way to a cream of perfect consistency and taste.  Lots of visible vanilla beans too.  I could have eaten 15 of those things.

Elana took one for the team and made the to trip to the bathrooms which she described as “very clean and orderly….With….wait for it….and Xlerator!!!”  ‘Nuff said.

The service at Elysian was ok. The dinner took slightly longer than expected, and our waitress (a nice young girl) forgot our fries…which, by the way, are awesome here. But we were so full that we did not care, nor were we charged for them.

Also, for those wondering, Elysian has a good cheese selection.

We really enjoyed our experience at Elysian.  While it falls short of the ultimate food experience, their dishes are well presented and made.  It’s a solid, upper echelon choice for those dining in Hoboken. We’ll be back for sure.

Overall Experience – Top Gun

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