Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bits and Morsels warms up

Warming up at the 2nd Ave Deli with flanken in the pot.
Saturday night I took the digital to dinner around the corner at the Isle of Capri.

Maybe it's different in suburbia, but in New York City the delivery men get around on bicycles. And so on this stormy night, I did not have the heart to order in. Turns out I had spent the day walking the dog just waiting for the snow to come, and so I needed to remove myself from the house anyway. Isle of Capri is a no-brainer, especially with its ample supply of window tables (normally ideal for people watching), perfect for observing the looming storm.

The restaurant was filled with patrons enjoying each other's company with an extra dose of excitement in the air on this snowy night. It’s a lovable and festive neighborhood restaurant, even more so now with its beautiful Christmas tree and attentive decorations. Jane Lamanna is the owner and "heart and soul" of the Isle, making sure everyone feels warm and cozy as the storm rages outside.

Isle of Capri
1028 Third Avenue
Isle of Capri owner, Jane Lamanna.
Want some parm?
Veal piccatta and chicken parmesan.
Eggplant parmesan.
String beans. Cannolis.
Chocolate mousse cake and a hot cup of coffee.
The view from inside. Restaurant matchbooks are not as prevalent as they used to be.
The snowy view from the Isle of Capri.
In New York there is a very small window for enjoying the snow before it is removed or it turns to that charcoal-colored slush (sludge is a more accurate description). I went for a deliberate and cautious walk to Eli’s Vinegar Factory on 91st Street between First and York. They have a spectacular brunch in their café on the Upper level, but it’s a bit of a production and I was not in the mood. On the ground floor is a casual self service café  with delectable baked goods and soups. There are usually six varieties of homemade soups (updated daily) with the ingredients listed above each vat. A big portion of soup is $5 and it’s self service (so no tipping necessary).

Eli's Vinegar Factory
431 East 91st Street
(between First and York Avenues)

Making my way to the selection of soups at Vinegar Factory.
A selection of hot soups.
All homemade ... you can view each soup's contents.
A cup of broccoli and potato soup. The dangers of the Vinegar Factory.
For Sunday dinner I went to the 2nd Avenue Deli in Murray Hill for a heaping bowl of flanken in the pot. It’s a one pot meal with consomme, flanken, carrots, noodles and matzah balls. It comes with a side of horseradish to provide a spicy kick to the tender flanken. Chicken in the pot is the more obvious choice for many, but on a cold and solemn night, the flanken is heartier. 

2nd Avenue Deli
62 East 33rd Street
(bet. Lexington Ave. & 3rd Ave.)
The smell of rotisserie chicken and dried salami wallops the Olfactory sense upon entering.
Flanken in the pot.
An individual serving of flanken in the pot.
A hot open turkey sandwich with gravy, baked beans, and homemade cranberry sauce.
Following dinner at the deli, I headed uptown to Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle. I don’t know about you, but I dread Sunday nights. I get a migraine just thinking about how quickly the weekend disappears. "Oy" pretty much sums it up. The most effective prescription for Sunday night-itis is a hot toddy while listening to the sensual and robust Tony Desare at Bemelmans. There is just something about being in that classic New York space that recharges my batteries for the week. In addition to the standards, Tony played some favorite Christmas tunes to get everyone in the spirit. I took some video to share with you in case you can’t make it to hear Tony in person.

Tony Desare plays Sunday nights from 8:30 PM – 11:30 PM. It is $20 for a table and $10 at the bar. He will be there for the remaining Sunday nights in December and in January and March 2010.

Bemelmans Bar
(in the Carlyle Hotel)
35 East 76th Street
Click on the video above to hear Tony Desare playing Christmas favorites at Bemelmans Bar.
I know 'tis the season but 'tis a bit overwhelming to make it to three holiday parties a night (my average for last week). While I do enjoy the festivities, nothing trumps dinner at a new restaurant with an old friend.

Last week I went to the East Side Social Club in the Pod Hotel with my trusted dining companion, Sam Hamadeh. The East Side Social Club was recently opened by Billy Gilroy of Employees Only and Macao Trading (photographer Patrick McMullan is an investor).
Devon, Billy, and Grace Gilroy of East Side Company. Sam digging in to the cod.
I didn’t know much about the restaurant before going, but it was completely different from what I expected. It turns out it's just a casual family-run Italian spot with linguine and clam sauce on the menu. The decor of the restaurant is a blend of homey and chic with red checkered tablecloths, red walls plastered with photos from the 50s and a lot of wood.  

The name of the restaurant actually refers to the old school Italian Social Clubs of the Lower East Side. The Chef is Billy’s son, Devon Gilroy and the manager his daughter, Grace Gilroy. Call me sentimental but I’m a fan of family-run restaurants.
The scene inside the East Side Social Club.
The family did not disappoint. The roasted squash appetizer with brown butter and ricotta cheese was a really good winter appetizer. For dessert, their homemade version of the Italian ice cream classic, tartufo, is also a worthy order. If you are a caramel lover, go for the dark chocolate and salted caramel tart. Starting on January 23rd, the East Side Social Club will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 6:45 AM - 4:00 AM. 

East Side Social Club
230 East 51st street
Sauteed mushrooms with arugula fontina and hazelnuts. Broccoli rabe with garlic.
White polenta with walnuts. Fresh mushroom ravioli.
Roasted Cod, fregola, mussels, sopressata, tomato saffron broth. Roasted acorn squash with ricotta, brown butter and sage.
Tartufo. Salted caramel tart.
Here is a list of places that will be serving brunch on New Year’s Day. I would make your reservations now as most places on this roster will book up fast. Choose your destination wisely as it will probably be your first meal in 2010 — who doesn't want to set the bar high? [Zagat]

Here is a glimpse at the Sunday Routine of restaurateur Drew Nieporent. It’s pretty low key and not surprisingly, involves food. Any day that starts off with a cinnamon raisin bagel and a sauna is my kind of day. [The New York Times]

Here is a guide to surviving the holidays without gaining too much weight, from Weight Watchers' David Kirchhoff. It’s hard to stick to a diet with tempting food all around and even harder to get yourself to the gym when the weather tempts you to stay at home. This guide is both entertaining and realistic. [Man meets Scale]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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