Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bits & Morsels goes to Benoit and 42

A stack of Profiteroles at Benoit.

On Sunday night I went to the recently opened Benoit. Located at 60 West 55th Street, Benoit belongs to Alain Ducasse. The Benoit space has a long history of French bistros as it used to be the location of La Cote Basque. Some aspects of the décor, such as the chandeliers, still remain a la La Cote Basque. The food is rustic French bistro fare that is perfectly executed, as one would expect from any Alain Ducasse restaurant.

Benoit offers all the classics like roast chicken and escargot. And it’s a good place to go with a group because it’s a big menu with options to suit every palate. Every table is met with friendly service and some complimentary cheesy gougeres to kick off their meal. The gougeres are served warm and are extremely addictive; and they keep on coming. You could easily polish off five of them without a thoughts notice, so be careful.

Benoit, 60 West 55th Street, New York, (646) 943-7373.
For starters, try the egg mayo. It’s a deviled egg with a freshly made mayonnaise served with toast, and it only costs $1. Now it’s not something you would eat every day, but if you are going to indulge this is the place and the price.

The salmon with brown butter and croutons was a unique combination, but still a very tasty one. The brown butter added a nuttiness to balance (yet somehow enhance) the richness of the salmon.

For dessert: go for the profiteroles. The portion is meant for two people (or one, ahem) and comes with a chocolate sauce for dipping and vanilla ice cream on the side; so don't go expecting a traditional profiterole. But do expect to be sold on this version. The Benoit profiteroles are cutesy balls of choux pastry filled with cream. Next time you are craving solid French fare, you know where to go. [Benoit]
A basket of Gougeres. A look inside the gougere.
The menu. Salmon in a brown butter sauce.
Egg mayo. Pasta with gruyere.
Chocolate sauce for the profiteroles. Profiteroles dipped in chocolate with vanilla ice cream.
On Saturday night I went to the new restaurant 42, located on the 42nd floor of the Ritz Carlton in White Plains, New York. The new Ritz Carlton is a stunning and massive tower of activity. It almost feels like it should be in Las Vegas rather than Westchester. White Plains is an area in Westchester that is being developed ... rapidly. It’s a quick 30-minute train ride from Grand Central and it resembles a smaller (much), cleaner (much), newer version of Manhattan. It’s a perfect little day trip when you want to get away New York, but not too far away. 42 is sleek. There is a speedy elevator that goes directly to the 42nd floor where one of the elevator walls is glass. Once inside, there are views everywhere you look. The location of the restaurant is part of the gimmick and I don’t doubt that people will go there for the view alone.

When we sat down, we ordered our drinks, appetizers, and mains. Soon after, the waiter brought over a dish with four types of salt. We sat with the salt on the table for a good 30 minutes. When the corn risotto appetizer finally came, we were hungry. The dish comprised corn foam and popcorn garnish and it sang with intense fresh corn flavor. I also sampled the sangrita with ginger caviar. Sangrita, dumbed down, is basically a gazpacho. The sangrita conjured up a fresh medley of vegetables whereas the ginger caviar provided an interesting texture to the dish. After a considerable amount of time had passed, we inquired about our main course. Our waiter’s response was that there was a private party going on, hence the reason everything was running so slowly. Long story short, we paid for our appetizers and drinks and left. Too bad, because the food at 42 looked promising. Guess I'll never really know. [Restaurant 42]
Clockwise from top left: The menu; Four different kinds of salt; The main dining room; The view from our table.
sangrita with ginger caviar. Corn risotto with popcorn.
If you love donuts so much that you possess the insatiable desire to incorporate the flavor of donuts into other recipes, check out this detailed post about how to make donut soup. The post goes into detail about converting solid donuts into a smooth liquid that can be utilized in many recipes. [Hungry in Hogtown]

If you don’t like Gatorade, sip on some eel soda to cool off. Eel soda is common as a refreshment in Japan. Eel (when eaten) is supposed to raise your energy levels, so it is especially popular in the heat of the summer. [Serious Eats]

It’s hard to believe that at one point fine dining actually existed on airplanes. Airplane food used to be served on china. These days you are lucky to get a bag of cashews. Here is an interesting window into what airplane dining used to be. [The New York Times]

If you are considering becoming a chef
you should check out these words of wisdom from established chefs. All of them offer similar ideas about not becoming a chef for the glamour of it all, but for the sheer passion for food. And of course, you have to pay your dues and work extremely hard to get anywhere. [The Daily News]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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