Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bits & Morsels visits Sistina and H&H

Boiling cinnamon-raisin bagels at H&H Midtown Bagels East.

Last Monday night I went to Sistina, which is located at 1555 Second Avenue between 80th and 81st Streets. Sistina is the low-key sister restaurant of San Pietro in Midtown Manhattan. I am in the area on a regular basis, but Monday was my first meal at Sistina. Turns out, it is a bit of a hidden gem. For my appetizer, I sampled an eggplant dish with goat cheese and somehow they made it look rather beautiful and tidy. All of their dishes possessed the same high quality and attractive presentation. I was extremely impressed with the food.

The owner of Sistina, Giuseppe Bruno, is always around and maintains control over every aspect of the restaurant. It makes all the difference in the world when the owner of the restaurant cares enough to actually be there.
Clockwise from top left: A plate of marinated olives; Eggplant with goat cheese in a delicious tomato sauce; A plate of cookies; Sea bass with artichokes.
The lovely Georgette Farkas was my dinner date and we ordered the scrumptious fried zucchini blossom stuffed with cheese. This was a real treat as they are just starting to be in season and we both had not had one in while. The zucchini blossom at Sistina was served over a pool of very light tomato sauce and provided hope that spring had arrived. Most of the pasta at Sistina is homemade, such as my fusilli with broccoli rabe and fava beans, which had a spicy kick to it; I'm still craving it.

Sistina -- 1555 Second Avenue between 80th and 81st Streets, (212) 861-7660.
Bruschetta. Pasta with calamari and vegetables.
Fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with cheese. Chocolate hazelnut cake.
Georgette Farkas and Giuseppe Bruno. Sistina -- 1555 Second Avenue.
H&H Midtown Bagels East is a few doors down from Sistina and this week I ended up there on consecutive days. Sometimes I have nights when I’m too tired or busy and sitting in a diner can even seem like too much, so I head to H&H (no relation to the west side store) where I can always get one fresh out of the oven.

They are open 24 hours seven days a week and no matter what time you go, the gentlemen behind the counter are always warmly offering up samples of brioche and muffins.
Bagels baking.
The finished products.
The bagels at H&H are also A LOT better than the competition's flavorless balls of dough. These are tight, compact and not too robust. My usual dinner order is a whole wheat everything bagel scooped out with tuna salad (they even have multiple variations of whole wheat flavors). Don't fret, during the day I will treat myself to an everything bagel with lox and cream cheese.

Besides their luscious bagels, H&H bakes cookies, pastries and very tasty muffins. The coffee is always fresh and for dessert nothing beats a chocolate chip cookie with a cup of coffee (BAD coffee is inexcusable and too many places get away with serving it). Every night at 8:30 they start making bagels and other goodies all throughout the night and into the early morning. Late last night I went with my digital and tried to capture the fascinating process.
 
H&H Midtown Bagels East
H&H Bagels East; Unlike other bagel shops, they will toast your bagel ...
Pumpernickel and plain bagels before they are boiled and baked.
Everything bagels up close. Whole wheat everything scooped out toasted bagel with mayo free tuna.
Clockwise from top left: Warm brioche; Chocolate chip cookie and a cup of coffee; Trays of goodies; Bagel chips.
Brother's Ashraf and Shahin. Fresh cookies, cakes, and pastries.
Knishes and salads. Mini linzer tarts.
Another week, another recall. Do not eat any pistachio nuts or products that contain them. A pistachio grower and processor issued a recall because of possible salmonella contamination. This is a big recall and even Planters has had to recall some pistachio products. [Reuters]

This is an interesting article about the economy. Many companies are cutting back on the usual 3 martini lunches with clients, and as a result many employees are loosing weight. A year ago certain company employees would take clients out to high calorie lunches but now that 'excess' is considered inappropriate, those same employees are meeting clients over coffee instead. [Boston]

Goat is the new trendy meat. [NY Times].
Goat is the new trendy meat. While goat is one of the most widely consumed meats in certain parts of the world, it is relatively new to me and hard to find in most New York butchers. Check out this article from the front page of the New York Times Dining section and maybe you will be turned onto goat as well. [NY Times]

This is a great blog that brings awareness to the fight against hunger. Now more than ever people are losing their jobs and going hungry. [April Food Day]

Here's a great reason to become a Mets' fan. The new Citi Field is going to have A-list concession stands ranging from a Shake Shack to a fish shack called Catch of the Day by Esca’s David Pasternack. [Serious Eats]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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