Amy Ruth’s

My husband and I had dinner at Amy Ruth’s, a restaurant famous for it’s Southern cuisine, in Harlem tonight. This restaurant has been a favorite of celebrities, locals and tourists alike since opening in 1998. They are well known for their waffles, topped with everything from fried chicken to ribeye steak to fried catfish. The highlights, in my opinion, were the corn bread and the waffle topped with fried chicken wings. The corn bread is warm, soft and moist. The waffle is soft and fluffy while the chicken wings are crispy and deliciously seasoned. The lowlight was the “cheesy grits” which were under seasoned and simply topped with some shredded cheddar cheese. Their potato salad was very good as was the honey-dipped fried chicken. The macaroni and cheese was good but needed a bit of salt and pepper to bring out the flavor.

Here are some photos:

Corn Bread

Waffle with Fried Chicken Wings

Honey-Dipped Fried Chicken with Potato Salad and Mac-n-Cheese

Cheesy Grits

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Nam

As I mentioned yesterday, my husband and I went to Nam for Foreign Food Night. I must say, this month’s Foreign Food Night was a success. Nam is a lovely space in Tribeca with the most gracious service you could ever hope for. They are quick to refill your water glass, capable of answering any questions you may ask regarding the menu and their timing of courses could not be better.

We ordered 2 appetizers to share:

Grilled Lemongrass Beef Rolls

Rolls of grilled lemongrass beef with basil and bean sprouts wrapped in fresh rice paper served with a peanut dipping sauce. The grilled flavor of the tender, thinly sliced beef was delicious and the fresh basil added such a bright flavor while the peanut sauce lent an earthy aspect that we really enjoyed.

Steamed Mushroom Raviolis

The second appetizer was a steamed “ravioli” filled with mushrooms and topped with fried shallots, fresh basil and a lime broth. This dish had good flavor but was a bit difficult to serve and eat. The ravioli pasta was a limp rice paper and the filling fell out when we tried to distribute each ravioli to our plates. Once we got the raviolis in place, they were difficult to handle with our chopsticks. Problems aside, the dish was very tasty.

Crispy Red Snapper

My entree was a fillet of crispy red snapper in a chili lime sauce. Delicious! The skin of the fish was perfectly crispy and the flesh was moist and flaky. The chili lime sauce was out of this world and was soaked up nicely by a side of sticky rice.

Five-Spice Grilled Beef Wraps

My husband ordered one of the daily specials: 5-spice marinated grilled beef served with angel hair rice noodles, crunchy peanuts, mint, cilantro, lettuce leaves for wrapping and a chili lime sauce for dipping. He said it had excellent flavor and he really enjoyed the crunchiness provided by the peanuts as well as the fresh flavors of the herbs.

Coconut Panna Cotta

For dessert, I ordered the coconut panna cotta served with tapioca and a sesame tuille. I would have to say this dessert was only okay. The panna cotta had nearly no coconut flavor and an odd, lumpy texture. Additionally, the tapioca seemed a bit out of place in this dish. The sesame tuille was obviously affected by yesterday’s humidity as it was far from crisp.

Chocolate Mousse with Orange Sauce

My husband’s dessert, on the other hand, was great. He chose the chocolate mousse with orange sauce. It had intense chocolate flavor yet was light as a feather. The orange sauce complemented the mousse well as orange and chocolate do tend to make a delightful duo.

Overall, the night was wonderful and I would definitely recommend Nam to a friend.

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Foreign Food Night

Tonight is Foreign Food Night for the Chin family (my husband and I). “What is Foreign Food Night?” you may be wondering? It is an event that my husband and I enjoy on the first full weekend of each month, usually on Saturday. It is the evening that we, okay mostly I, look forward to all month long. Each month we take turns choosing a new ethnic restaurant to try. Not only must the restaurant be new to us, but the ethnicity can not be repeated for the use of any other Foreign Food Night. Additionally, the ethnicity must be more exotic than Chinese and Italian. So far, we have enjoyed Ethiopian, Indian, Japanese, Peruvian, Greek, actually the list goes on and on.  Foreign Food Night is an excellent way to explore all the ethnic culinary delights New York City has to offer.

Tonight, we will be dining at Nam, a Vietnamese restaurant in Tribeca. This restaurant was recommended to me by Sandra Gluck, Food Editor at Everyday Food magazine. Please stay tuned for the review…

Levain Bakery

One of my favorite places to get a sweet treat is Levain Bakery on the UWS. My husband and I adore their humongous, soft, still slightly warm cookies. They have four varieties and we have enjoyed them all at least twice. My preference is the dark chocolate chocolate chip. The interior is so soft and the chocolate chips absolutely ooze with deliciousness. My husband prefers the chocolate chip walnut with its perfect ratio of chocolate chips and walnut pieces. One improvement I would like to see is an increase in oatmeal in the oatmeal raisin cookie. For me, while the plump raisins are delightful, there isn’t enough oatmeal texture.

The staff at Levain Bakery are perfectly friendly and always make us feel welcome. The space is small and while they have some counter seating, we usually take our cookies to go and eat them on our stroll home. This bakery makes some lovely breads as well, but one can see that the cookies are the real star.

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Magnolia Bakery

My husband and I have been to the UWS outpost of Magnolia Bakery twice since it opened this last winter. We have never been to the Village location as waiting in line for an hour for a cupcake is simply not an option for us. That being said, these 2 experiences at the UWS location are the only experiences we have had with this bakery.

We have some issues with this place… the first time we went to get a cupcake, there was no signage to let us know what flavors we were looking at. We asked one of the employees what flavors they were and she pointed to the obviously chocolate one and said “chocolate” then she pointed to the obviously vanilla one and said “vanilla” then I spoke up and said “What is this one here?” and she didn’t know. Well, I took it anyway but when we got to the cashier, the cashier asked me which one I got. How funny. If they don’t know and there’s no signage, how can I possibly know?

Well, today we went back to get some cupcakes for a friend’s birthday party and again, there was no signage for the cupcakes. We knew better than to ask, so we just took 2 of each flavor/color and proceeded to the cashier to pay. The cashier again asked which flavors we got. We explained what appeared to be obvious- there are no signs, how should we know which ones we got?

Frustration aside, the cupcakes are very good. As an adventurous eater, I don’t really mind not knowing what flavor I’m picking. It does pose a problem in that some flavors cost more than others and since there are no signs to indicate flavor, there are no signs to indicate price.

If you’ve had any experiences with Magnolia Bakery, either UWS or in the Village, for better or for worse, I’d like to hear about them. Please feel free to comment!

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Peking Duck House – Chinatown

As I mentioned in my “Dovetail NYC” post, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this week. To be specific, it was our 2-year wedding anniversary. The second year’s anniversary gifts are cotton (traditional) and china (modern) and as a person who loves a good theme, I ran with the idea of china. No, I didn’t buy my husband new plates and bowls. And no, I didn’t take him to China. But, I did do the next best thing… a day exploring NYC’S Chinatown!

We kicked off the day with lunch at Peking Duck House. We have always enjoyed this restaurant for its Peking duck – more specifically, its Peking duck skin! Ah yes, we do enjoy some crispy duck skin. We started our meal with the Spicy White Cabbage- crisp, sweet and sour cabbage with a delicious kick of chilies and ginger. We also had the Steamed Pork Buns- tender, flavorful bites of seasoned ground pork wrapped inside a dumpling-type dough and steamed until a heavenly pool of pork broth forms in the bottom of each bun. One must be careful when eating these buns to make sure not to lose that awesome broth. I like to put the bun inside a spoon and eat it from the spoon so that if any broth comes out, I’ve got it captured. We dress up our buns with the provided “bun sauce” which is a combination of soy sauce, vinegar and ginger. The acidity of the sauce is a nice contrast to the richly flavored pork.

And now, for the star of today’s luncheon feast… The Duck! One of the servers brings the duck to our table and presents it to us. “Your duck,” he says. Then the carving chef comes out and carves it tableside for us making sure to get every square inch of the crispy, shiny brown skin. He shingles each slice on a platter methodically and the platter is placed in the center of the table and the accompaniments- perfect batonnets of cucumber, julienne of scallion, pancakes and “special sauce”- are place around this platter. We simply dig in. There is no other way to put it. It was delicious, as always. The cool, crunchy vegetables are just perfect with the moist, tender duck meat and the fatty yet crispy skin. And the sauce? Lick-the-bowl good, if I were that kind of girl.

Once we waddled away from our table, we made our way to the Museum of the Chinese in America for a guided tour of Chinatown. This was a very informative and interesting 90-minute tour and we highly recommend it.

After the tour, we treated ourselves to a scoop of ice cream from Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. I had the Lychee ice cream and my husband had the Chocolate Oreo ice cream. Mine was perfectly creamy and fruity with lots of nice chunks of lychee. My husband said he would have preferred more chunks of Oreo, but he said it was okay.

And that concludes our tour of Chinatown. Now I have to start planning for next year’s gift…

The Peking duck feast!

The Steamed Pork Buns


My rating (out of a possible 5):

Dovetail NYC

My husband took me to Dovetail this week to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This was a highly anticipated meal as this restaurant has received very good reviews in numerous publications as well as in foodie chat rooms. Here is my review:

First Impressions: The space has lovely design features and atmosphere. However, the first thing you smell upon stepping in the door is fish. Also distracting, the air temperature was much too warm. This leads us to the WINE…

Due to the very warm temperature of the restaurant, my husband and I decided to go with a cool white wine for this evening’s meal. We chose a 2005 white Burgundy as it would be the most versatile white to complement both of our yet-to-be-determined meals. The wine was perfectly refreshing: fruity/floral aroma, crisp acidity, nice fruit, not oaky at all, subdued alcohol, medium body. The wait staff kept the bottle on ice for us and refilled appropriately.

The Amuse Bouche(s) for the evening were a vodka gelee garnished with fried capers and salmon roe served in a sterling silver spoon and a patty pan squash quarter garnished with grated turnip (I think that’s what the guy said), pesto and paprika served on a bamboo stick. My husband and I agreed, we liked the squash better than the gelee.

The evening’s bread selection was a delightfully salty corn bread.

First Courses: I had the Maine sea scallops with banana-curry sauce garnished with cashews and crispy fried okra. The scallops were humongous and perfectly cooked and the sauce was deliciously flavorful yet delicate and complimented the scallops nicely. My husband had the lamb’s tongue served with muffalatta presse, olives and capers. He said it was the highlight of his meal and my bite of the tongue was melt-in-your-mouth-tender and very rich.

Main Courses: I had the poached lobster served with dilled potatoes and garlicky greens. It was really good with fresh herb flavors and buttery, perfectly cooked lobster. The only issue I had was that some of the perfectly cut dices of potato were not fully cooked. My husband had the roasted sirloin and beef cheek lasagna garnished with wild mushrooms and red and white pearl onions. He loved the beef cheek lasagna but said that the roasted sirloin was nothing special.

Desserts: I had the cheese plate. Honestly, I do not remember what cheeses they were (there were 3) but they were very good. They were served with 2 types of bread and a handful of accompaniments. My husband had the peanut butter tart served with beer ice cream and pretzels.

Service: The service was very good and everybody was friendly. There was never a lag in clearing our plates and little wait between courses. The captain was very good with the up-sell; asking if we’d like to start the evening with a glass of Champagne or if I’d like a glass of dessert wine to go with my cheese plate.

With our check, we each received a macadamia nut truffle and a to-go sample of peanut butter granola which tastes awesome in yogurt.

We left Dovetail quite pleased with our evening. We may or may not return. It’s difficult to return to the same restaurant when there are so many others to try. But, I would highly recommend Dovetail to a friend.

My Rating (out of a possible 5):