Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bits and Morsels treks to Tracks

Peeking into A Voce's kitchen.

Saturday night I had dinner at A Voce Columbus,
an anticipated new addition to the Time Warner Center in the former Café Gray space (coincidentally, it is being reviewed in The New York Times today). The modern Italian restaurant is as stylish as any incarnation can be in the imposing space. The first thing everyone notices upon arriving is the spectacular view. There are only a few window tables so I would request one in the hopes you'll get lucky.

The Time Warner Center is especially festive and lovely this time of year and is an undeniably great place for last minute holiday shopping. Even my dining companions stopped to shop pre-dinner (and 20 minutes past our reservation) before the stores closed for the night.
The festive holiday lights inside and outside the Time Warner Center.
I didn’t mind -- it just meant that I wouldn't have to share the tiny portion of crispy Cassoncini filled with crescenza cheese and swiss chard, along with the gracious service I received. While A Voce offers plenty of significant non-pasta dishes, all of the pasta is homemade and worth ordering for your main course. The taleggio cheese-filled pasta with butternut squash and brown butter is a wise and rich seasonal choice.

The desserts at A Voce were stellar and some people's favorite part of the meal. The two desserts I sampled were the pumpkin bread pudding and the bomboloni. In my experience, very few things trump a warm fresh-out-of-the-oven donut and the cream-filled bomboloni with chocolate sauce was no exception.
The view from our table at A Voce.
It's impossible for me to go to the Time Warner Center and not get a treat at Bouchon Bakery. It’s actually becoming a problem. Before dinner I bought a lemon meringue cupcake with the plan of having it the next day. I don’t know what I was thinking but the lemony cupcake didn’t survive the night. We ended up pairing it with dessert at A Voce.

A Voce Columbus
10 Columbus Circle, 3rd Floor
(212) 823-2523

Clockwise from top left: Homemade focaccia bread with ricotta cheese; Cassoncini - swiss chard and crescenza cheese filled fried dough; A look inside a Cassoncini; Mezzaluna - taleggio filled pasta, butternut squash, brown butter.
Hand-rolled pasta, brussels sprouts, sicilian almonds. Branzino with chickpeas and artichokes.
Pumpkin bread pudding. Bomboloni.
Do you want to know a secret? I’m sure all of you know about the famous oyster bar in Grand Central Station, but did you know there was also an oyster bar in Penn Station? My friend, Mr. Oyster, recently moved to New York from the Drakes Bay area in California. Mr. Oyster is an oyster connoisseur -- he knows all about how to eat them, where to find them and all of the nuances that make each oyster special. I don’t eat oysters but I thought it would be of interest to you, dear readers.

Tracks Raw Bar & Grill is located on the LIRR level of Penn Station adjacent to the Ticket windows. One's expectations of any food-related venture in Penn Station are not held high. With that said, Tracks is much, much nicer than anything you would expect. Add to that a fun little excursion to reach Tracks (it requires a little bit of navigating to find), and you have yourself one entertaining dining experience.
Walking through Penn Station on our way to Tracks. Musicians performing outside Tracks.
Tracks encompasses a long and narrow space with a train theme throughout. Its mahogany bar is one of the longest in the city at 105 feet. All of the oysters are shucked to order and they are served on the half shell with their natural juices.

Mr. Oyster had an assortment of oysters and washed them down with a pint of Guinness. The oysters were served with the traditional condiments of cocktail sauce, horseradish, mignonette sauce and lemon. Mignonette sauce is made from shallots and vinegar, and like its fellow condiments, it is designed to mask any unpleasant or fowl ocean-y taste that the oysters may have. Mr. Oyster is a purist and the oysters at Tracks did not need any condiments as they are shipped in fresh daily.
We've arrived at our destination.
I am not suggesting you run to Tracks for a full dinner, but if you are craving oysters and a drink before a concert or dinner on the west side of town, Tracks is the place. It’s especially fun to bring friends who might be visiting during the holiday season and want that only in New York experience.

Tracks Raw Bar and Grill

Tracks is located on the LIRR level of Penn Station
adjacent to the LIRR ticket windows.
The train theme at Tracks. The raw bar menu.
One of the longest bars in town at 105 feet. Chowder served in a sourdough bowl.
Mr. Oyster. Caraquet, Blue Point and East End Oysters.
Oyster condiments -- cocktail sauce, mignonette sauce and horseradish. According to Mr Oyster, not needed on any of his oysters. Shrimp Cocktail.
Shucking the oysters. The end result.
Check out the menu from last night's State Dinner. The dinner was held in honor of the Prime Minister of India. The menu, put together with the help of Chef Marcus Samuelsson, featured many vegetarian dishes and items from The White House Garden. [NY Times]

I don’t know about you but I am turned off by popcorn at the movies. Regardless of whether you top it with butter (or the goop that barely resembles butter), it is popped in unhealthy oils resulting in a tub of popcorn that is simply loaded with calories and saturated fat. Eating at the movies is such mindless eating -- we all just really want something to munch on. A good solution? bring your own snacks. A bag of baby carrots or pretzels is a good start. [Reuters]

For those of you who still haven’t made your Turkey day plans ... check out O’Casey’s Tavern on East 41st Street for a vodka-soaked Thanksgiving meal. There will be 8 oz. of vodka in each of their 20-pound turkeys. You can also buy a pre-drunken turkey to serve at your own Thanksgiving table. [NY Post]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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