Per Se

Per Se

4th Floor Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, New York

The single biggest reason for our visit to New York was to dine at Per Se.  Unfortunately, it would be the biggest disappointment of the trip.

*Scroll to bottom if you want to see meal summary now.*

Having overtaken Alinea and newly appointed as the number one restaurant in America, the anticipation for this meal was comparable only to my excitement for my two previous meals at Alinea.  Opened by Thomas Keller (of French Laundry fame) in 2004, Per Se is now the flagship restaurant in his empire.  In addition to being ranked the #1 restaurant in  2012, there were two other storylines adding to the excitement for this meal.

First, Thomas Keller is Camille’s favourite chef, and his cookbooks have led to many delicious meals at our home.  I look forward to dinner for 2-3 days every time she begins one of his elaborate recipes.

KellerAchatzLeft: Grant Achatz  Right: Thomas Keller

Second, Keller trained Grant Achatz of Alinea (pronounced A-linea, not Al-in-ea) in Chicago.  Achatz (pronounced Ak-ets) was Keller’s sous-chef at The French Laundry and the two are great friends.  In my eyes, Achatz may be the greatest chef in the world. Having dined at Alinea twice in the past two years, and both times having the greatest meals of my life, I was looking forward to Per Se blowing my f***!ng mind.

LightsaberpicLeft: Grant Achatz  Right: Thomas Keller

Regardless of this review of Per Se, and the outcome of the Obi Wan Keller-Darth Achatz Jedi battle, it is an amazing feat that mentor and pupil helm the two foremost restaurants in the United States.  The list of chef’s trained under Keller and Achatz is also awesome, and run many other fantastic American restaurants.

*Unfortunately, this review will not have pictures of every course, as it was very dark at our table, and many pictures were of poor quality without flash.  I’d rather not show pictures at all when they don’t truly represent the presentation, it’s unfair to the chef. I was able to take some good pictures, and will use a few others from the internet and credit the websites.


Per Se is located on the 4th floor of the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle.  The false set of blue doors pay homage to The French Laundry, the real entrance is the set of automatic sliding glass doors next to them.

Upon entering we passed through the salon area, which is a no reservations area where you can order  The prices are reasonable, and the setting is less formal than the dining room.  It’s a great option for those who have an unexpected visit to NYC, and can’t make the requisite 30 day in advance reservation.

Speaking of which, getting a reservation at Per Se is no easy feat.  Their website says reservations are available both by phone and on OpenTable exactly one month in advance at 9 AM.  In order to get ours, I needed two phones, two laptops and tried for two days to secure a 5:30 PM reservation.  It sounds kind of like the rule of 2s for Meckel’s diverticulum.  (Google it if you have no idea what I’m talking about)  I was on hold for a total of 120 minutes before finally getting through to obtain the reservation, about $30 worth of U.S. minutes from Canada.  OpenTable doesn’t seem to actually have reservations except last minute ones, so it could be pretty rough trying to make a reservation from overseas.

Onto the food.

The menu at Per Se changes daily.  The only constants on the menu are the two amuse bouche courses and the “oysters and pearls” course.  However, many ingredients are used frequently because of the relationship Keller has with his purveyors.  As a sign of gratitude (I think) a manual containing information about each purveyor is given to guests at the end of the meal.

The meal came in three acts: two amazing amuse bouche courses, the disappointing courses before the truffle pasta, and the excellent courses thereafter.


The first amuse was the Gruyere gougere, a perfect fluffy pastry ball stuffed with Gruyere cheese.  Soft pastry, warm cheese, delicious.

persesalmoncornetImage courtesy

The second amuse is the famous salmon tartar cornet.  Sashimi grade salmon, finely minced chive and shallot, red onion creme fraiche, and wrapped with a wafer-thin, buttery tuille.  Absolutely explosive flavour, I could eat dozens of these.

The two amuse courses were everything we expected.  Awesome!


After looking through the extensive wine list (on iPad), we ordered a half bottle of the 2001 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel.  A stunning wine, this had great petroleum, peach and sultana raisin notes, with lively acidity and a long finish.  2001 is such a brilliant vintage in Germany, you cannot go wrong.  The wine paired wondefully with almost every course.

This brings up the point that white wines are nearly always the way to go when pairing with tasting menus.  There are usually no more than 1-2 red meat courses, and viscous wines like German Riesling (Kabinett-Auslese) pair with everything from fish to foie gras to light red meats.

Unfortunately, we did not order or get our wine until after the first or second course.  This is one of my major peeves when dining, being rushed to choose from the wine list.  If you are a restaurant with a 100 page wine list, how the hell do you expect a wine crazy person to read and choose within 2 minutes of sitting down.  We enjoy perusing the entire list and finding something that is a relative bargain.  This is especially important when the wine list is marked up 4-500% such as at Per Se or Charlie Trotter’s.  Several times on this trip we felt rushed to order our wine, and sometimes food would begin coming before we had even ordered the wine.  Just slow the f#$k down already.


The first course of the meal was Keller’s other signature dish, “Oysters and Pearls”.  A “Sabayon” of pearl tapioca, a heaping spoonful of white sturgeon caviar, and two Island Creek oysters.  The tapioca had great texture, and just enough firmness to offset the medley of other soft textures within the dish.  Nice salinity from the caviar, though overall the dish seemed a bit round and lacking in acidity.  The acidity in the wine complemented the dish very well.

*No pics for next few courses, sorry.

For the second course we both chose the Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm “Bavarois”. (A foie gras dish was available for an additional supplement). This was a lovely presentation of thin heart of palm ribbons surrounded by rhubarb, sorrel, Kishu mandarins and drops of preserved black walnut puree.  The heart of palm itself did not have much flavor, but was very creamy in texture, and balanced by the acidity of the rhubarb and peppery sorrel.  The puree was rich like aged balsamic.  Overall this was the most creative and beautifully presented course of the night.  However, the appearance was the best part of the dish, and there was no wow factor with respect to the flavour profile. If you click here you’ll find a similar appearing heart of palm dish.

For the third course, we had a pave of Meditteranean Turbot.  The fish was well cooked and had a shrimp mousse sandwiched between the fish and golden brown outer crust.  This was accompanied by a green garlic confit, two small pieces of romaine lettuce and caramelized salsify sticks which had a tasty buttered potato fry flavour.  The beurre rouge (red butter sauce) was forgettable and did not contribute to the overall dish.  The turbot and mousse were both quite dense, and like the Oysters and Pearls this dish lacked balance, mostly due to a lack of acidity.  The Auslese did pair excellently though.

The next course was the low point of the meal.  Butter poached lobster tail with parmesan mousse, broccolini florettes and chanterelle-toasted barley potage.  The description sounds amazing, but unfortunately the combination of thick chanterelle sauce, parmesan mousse and lobster was overly heavy and rich.  For the third time in four courses, too much butter and a lack of acidity led to an unbalanced dish.  The highlight of this dish was the toasted barley which gave a crunchy textural contrast to the rich sauces and buttery lobster.  If anyone remembers wheat crunch from mid 1990s grade school, that’s what this tasted like.  This dish would have been much better with less chanterelle sauce, and an acid or heat component.  I literally said to Camille “maybe I should ask for a lemon”.  Yikes!

Thankfully we would be pulled from depression to mania at this point, as we had opted to supplement a black truffle course.  Camille is a truffle eating fiend; we also did an 8 course black truffle tasting at Bouley and a truffle pasta at Babbo this trip.  I’m pretty sure she’d train our kids to sniff out truffles if she could.  Though white truffle season was over, we were in the heart of black truffle season.

TruffleBox PerSeTruffleBox


Trufflepasta Trufflepastaonfork

The truffle pasta was a perfect al dente hand cut tagliatelle covered in a massive load of black truffles.  They shaved truffle until the pasta was completely covered, and also generously added more truffle midway through the course.  If you look at the above box, one of those whole truffles was shaved for our two plates.  Nutty, earthy and beautifully aromatic, this was easily the dish of the night (DOTN), pretty much pure heaven.

Up next was the lamb course (Option for Wagyu beef supplement) which was a sous vide piece of Elysian Fields Farm’s loin and smaller piece of tenderloin.  The tenderloin was amazing, rich and melt in your mouth soft.  Served with Meiwa kumquats, braised pine nuts, and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms the bright acidity of the kumquats helped to cut the richness of the meat and sauce.  The mushrooms were perfectly cooked and earthy, while the pine nuts added little to the dish. I noted here that the flavours in the sauce were less developed than the demi-glace Camille prepares at home using Thomas Keller’s French Laundry recipe.  A bit shocking.  However, this was still a great dish, though the pine nuts could have been left out.  The tenderloin piece was reminiscent of the perfect sous vide lamb cooked by Chef Bear at the Marcus Whitman Hotel 3 years ago.

A prepared cheese course of Andante Dairy’s Musette came next, a hard sheep’s milk cheese from California sitting on a potato millefeuille and coleslaw.  The spiciness of the slaw and acid of Burgundy mustard balanced the nutty cheese.  There were also two sweet and delicious dehydrated red onion rings, which tasted more like beet rings than red onion.


Next came a refreshing Champagne mango sorbet, with papaya, coconut cream and coconut merignue.  Light and airy, this exploded with floral and tropical flavours with great interplay between sweetness and acidity.  It was balanced without any hint of being cloying.  Simple but superb, an outstanding dish.


The final course on the menu was a Calvados “Parfait”.  Granny Smith apples, hibiscus puree, vanilla custard and maple syrup gelee.  The Calvados ice cream ball was covered with oats (I think) which gave crunchy contrast to the soft ice cream.  Great textures, all flavors were well integrated and everything belonged on the plate.  Another outstanding dish.

Orangeicecreamsandwiches persechocolatebox

At this point the Mignardises began with a tiny mandarin orange ice cream sandwich.  This was a great bite, bursting with orange.

The house made chocolates came next, an assortment of 24 varieties.  Camille had the smoked black tea chocolate, while I chose a smoked and cinnamon chocolate.  Both were of excellent quality, probably the best house made chocolates we’ve had in a restaurant.


The last mignardises came in a three tiered apparatus; the bottom tier contained lime, milk and dark chocolates, the middle tier was two types of macaroons, and the top tier contained toffees and nougat.  The lime chocolates were fantastic, while we were too full to finish the other chocolates.  One of the macaroons was very good, while the other tasted strangely like Uni.  The toffee and nougat were also great.


As a final gift from our server Kevin, we were brought the famous French Laundry “Coffee and Donuts” dessert.  Cappuccino semifreddo and cinnamon-sugar donuts, the warm donuts were like super awesome Timbits and the semifreddo had an amazing soft and velvety texture.  You can find the recipe online or in the French Laundry cookbook.  This was a great way to finish the meal.

After finishing our meal we visited the kitchen and witnessed the team in action.  Most remarkable was the near silence despite the flurry of activity at the various stations.  No yelling, no clanging of pots and pans, just silent efficiency.  Also of interest was that there are no walk-ins in the Per Se kitchen, so no ingredients can ever be stuffed on a shelf behind others and spoil.  They have a tight system of labeling and accountability for prep as well.

After much discussion and analysis, these are my final thoughts on Per Se:

1)On this night, Per Se was a letdown.  It was not in the same league as Alinea, and it unfortunately was only the 5th or 6th best meal we had on this New York visit.

That is disappointing, as we both love Thomas Keller and respect him greatly for all his contributions to the world of food.  He was not in the kitchen, and we didn’t expect him to be.  At this point in his career, I would be impressed if Keller still made it to the kitchen regularly or even conceptualized the dishes.  In Grant Achatz’s “Life, on the Line” he spoke about doing most of the work for the cookbook with the other sous chefs at the French Laundry, and that was over a decade ago.

2)The meal came in three acts: the two amazing amuse bouche courses, the disappointing courses before the truffle pasta, and the excellent courses thereafter.  Two technical criticisms were the lack of balance in several dishes, and unnecessary ingredients in completed dishes.  Every item on the plate should contribute to the overall dish.

3)The most lacking element of the meal was “wow factor”.  When dining at restaurants of this reputation and quality, perfect execution and technical skill does not cut it.  There needs to be something more, flavours should explode, there should be depth and evolution across the palate, and dishes should be memorable.  Several dishes had wow factor, including the salmon cornets and truffle pasta.  However, at $125 for the truffle supplement, I’m pretty sure anyone can make a wow factor dish.

4)We will give Per Se another chance next time were in New York, especially because the menu changes daily.  Maintaining a standard of excellence while changing the menu daily is a huge challenge, I wonder if it would be more intelligent to keep each dish for a few days or a week in order to perfect them.



Posted in Michelin 3 Star, New York City | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Public NYC


210 Elizabeth Street, New York City, February 24 2013,


Photo courtesy

Public restaurant opened in the NoLita/Soho area in 2003 and since that time has won multiple awards, including a Michelin star in 2009.  The chef, Brad Farmerie, has also appeared on Iron Chef: America, and beat Cat Cora in Battle “Maple Syrup”. Public serves dinner as well as a first come, first serve brunch on Saturday and Sunday.  As it’s a popular spot, showing up before 11 AM or after 2 PM will greatly reduce your wait time.

PublicTheSpace Public-HorseHead

Left photo courtesy

Public is a beautiful space, designed by the AvroKo design group.  In addition to its culinary awards, it has also received a James Beard foundation design award.  The space can be best described as a chic industrious-modern design, with brick, warm woods and clean lines.  One of the cool aspects is an old fashioned library card catalog that contains their old menus from each date. There is also a cool horse head on the wall, which even Camille loved (She rides/loves horses).  Ok, ok, enough with the design comments, this is a food blog.

As it was already almost 1 PM by the time we were seated, we decided to stick with a light menu.  Dinner at Per Se would be in 4 hours, so we couldn’t fill up too much.  Having a myriad of brunch options in NYC, I chose Public based on its diverse menu with more esoteric brunch items.

CamilleatPublic OrangeJuice Scones

To start I had a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, while Camille had a Jasmine tea.  The OJ was a spectacular burst of summer, but I guess it should be at six dollars per 8 ounce glass.  The tea was aromatic and light, a standard Jasmine.  We were also given two small scones to start, one cranberry, the other fennel seed.  Both were good, but a bit dry.

Camille decided on the tropical fruit bowl with rosewater and sweet tahini yogurt, while I chose the coconut pancakes with fresh ricotta, mango salad and ginger-lime syrup.


The tropical fruit salad was a bit of false advertising, containing only grapefruit, orange, grapes and pineapple.  I wouldn’t really consider the first three to be tropical fruits.  Regardless, the salad was a pretty dish, with great aromatics from the rosewater and chiffonade of mint.  The flavours were bright and clean, with the mint and rosewater adding an element not found in a typical fruit salad.  The tahini yogurt was thick and delicious.  The two gripes about this dish were the lack of tropical fruits (eg. guava/papaya/mango) and that the rosewater somewhat overpowered the other flavours.


The coconut pancakes were light and fluffy, with a definite coconut flavour.  The mango salad and ginger-lime syrup were excellent, and made for a more tropical topping than Camille’s salad.  The ricotta was great as well. As a big fan of coconut, I was hoping for more coconut flavour, but I think that the texture would become too fibrous if more was added.  In order to make super coconut-y pancakes, you’d likely have to add the flavour elsewhere, either in a cream, drizzle or extract.  Overall I still enjoyed this dish very much.

Our server was knowledgeable about all menu items, and service was efficient and attentive.

Public is a visually stunning restaurant and serves a unique brunch.  The food was great, with only minor critiques.  We unfortunately couldn’t order more due to our dinner at Per Se a few hours later, but the egg dishes seen at other tables looked wonderful.  They also had a table with 3-4 types of scone and various preserves, which guests were welcome to grab at their convenience.  Again, we didn’t try these due to belly space restrictions.



Posted in Brunch, Michelin 1 Star, New York City | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Russ and Daughters

Russ and Daughters

179 East Houston Street, New York City, March 2 2013


Russ and Daughters, R&D for short, is another of the historic New York restaurants around the East Village/Lower East Side area of NYC.  Located on Houston street, just a few blocks from Katz’s, R&D is famous for their bagels, lox and caviar.  I’d recommend going either on a weekday or non-peak hours, as the wait for a bagel and lox can be 30 minutes to an hour otherwise.  When you enter the premises, remember to take a number, as you won’t get served without one.


R&D has a beautiful assortment of smoked fish including sablefish, brook trout, and salmon prepared in multiple styles.  There are also over a dozen cream cheese options and eight choices of bagel. A plethora of permutations for ultimate sandwich construction.  You also have the options of adding red onion, capers, tomato, and roe to your sandwich.

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We decided on a plain bagel with scallion cream cheese, sablefish, capers and onion.  The bagel itself is very dense and chewy, and a bit on the hard side.  Good, but not amazing.  The star of the show was the sablefish, which had a great creamy texture, almost buttery.  Rich and satisfying, I would go back for a slab of sablefish alone.  The cream cheese was thick and delicious, while the capers and onions provided the acidity and spice to balance the other rich flavours.

Overall, R&D makes a fantastic bagel and lox, but the sablefish really carried the sandwich, with the bagel being a little too crusty.  For instance, the sablefish smushed out the side of the bagel when biting down, a clear sign of a problem. We tried a couple of more plain bagels after, and though tasty, they were also on the firm side.



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15 East

15 East

15 E 15th Street, New York City, Feb 23 2013,

After Katz’s earlier in the day, we headed to Pouring Ribbons for a few drinks before dinner.  Our first dinner would be at 15 East, the beautiful restaurant of Masato Shimizu, who wins my award for most personable and hilarious sushi master ever.  The highlight of the meal was interacting with Masa, as well as the party of 3 next to us at the sushi bar.

Background: 15 East is one of the consensus top tier sushi restaurants in Manhattan. It was opened by Masato Shimizu 6 years ago, and Masato (Masa for short) came from Japan.  Regarding reservations, you can book online through Open Table, but in order to sit at the sushi bar (which I’d highly recommend), you must call and request by phone.


The awesome Masato Shimizu.

As an aside on sushi in NYC, Masa (Run by Masa Takayama) in Times Square is the only Michelin 3 star (BTW, I’m not a big fan of the Michelin Guide) sushi restaurant in NYC, but this has more to do with extravagant luxury ingredients used in every course than anything else.  A meal at Masa will run you $400-1000/pp, while Omakase at 15 East is $65-95 and a full Kaiseki meal is $120.

Chef Masato Shimizu of 15 East - New York, NY15EastSushiBar

15 East is a lovely space; after entering you may go left to sit in the main dining room, or right to sit at the sushi bar.  This separation of the two areas is great as it offers an intimate option for couples in the main room, and a more interactive environment at the sushi counter.

Sitting down at the sushi bar, we decided on the sashimi and sushi Omakase.  Having had a drink already at Pouring Ribbons, we chose a roasted tea to go with dinner.  Much like at Raku in Las Vegas, this was a roasted and fermented tea, and paired great with the fish because of its heavy body, bite and moderately tannic finish.  It was also replaced with fresh glasses 3 times during the meal, even when we had yet to finish it.  This was a nice touch, as the tea was always hot.

To start we had an amuse bouche of pickled daikon radish (not pictured).  Simple, clean and palate cleansing.


The first course was slow poached octopus with sea salt.  Buttery, good texture and mild in flavor.  A solid octopus dish.


Left: Clockwise starting with bluefin tuna at 6 o’clock: Bluefin tuna, arctic char, red snapper, amberjack, gruntfish (japanese bass), shrimp, otoro (tuna belly).  Right: Close-up of bluefin otoro.  Looks like Kobe beef!

The sashimi course was composed of two pieces of six fish, plus one ebi (shrimp).  The highlights were the arctic char, gruntfish and bluefin otoro. Surprisingly, our consensus #1 was the arctic char, which had great texture and flavour.  The gruntfish was seared with a blowtorch, giving it great textural contrast between outer seared portion and the soft, inner flesh.  The otoro was extremely marbled, with the appearance and texture of Kobe beef. The others were all above average, but again did not blow us away.   We will have to start seeking out more arctic char.  At this point in the meal, I was a bit underwhelmed, but things would improve from here.

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Left: Cherry salmon Right: Cooked shrimp head

The sushi course began with a Japanese sea perch (not pictured), cherry salmon and the cooked shrimp head from our earlier sashimi course.  The sea perch was excellent, and the cherry salmon was the first “wow” bite of the meal.  It has a supple texture and is much lighter/less oily than any regular salmon.  According to Masa, cherry salmon only grows to about 18 inches in length, so is completely different than other salmon.  Truly a delicacy.  We ordered a second piece after our set nigiri course was finished.  The ebi head was very good.  Mmmm, tasty brains.

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Left: Golden snapper Right: Chu-toro (tuna back)

This was my first time with golden snapper, and it is much softer and creamier in texture than it’s red cousin.  Chu-toro, which comes from the back of the tuna, is a less expensive and less fatty version of otoro.  This chu-toro was still more marbled than most, and tasted great.

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Left: Santa Barbara Uni Middle: Hokkaido Uni Right: Anago (eel)

There were three types of uni available on this night, Santa Barbara, Maine, and Hokkaido.  The Californian sea urchin was fresh, with typical ocean and salt flavors.  Camille is not super fond of uni, which is understandable given its polarizing texture and flavour profile.  However, the Hokkaido uni was a revelation for us both, as it is much milder, with a creamier texture and more delicate flavors than the North American varieties.  It is also much more expensive, unfortunately.  For those out there who dislike uni, you should definitely give Japanese uni a chance.  It is exquisite.  For the last bite of the tasting, I had anago (saltwater eel), which was good, but not quite to the standard of Kabuto Camille had salmon roe, which had great pop and salinity.

At this time we were quite full, and Chef Masa was in a great mood.  It was the end of the night on Saturday, meaning another week of hard work complete.  One girl in the party of three next to us knew Masa well and was a frequent guest, so Masa pulled out all the stops by making ridiculous hand rolls with scallop + uni, monkfish liver + uni, and an ultimate roll of scallop + monkfish liver + uni.  These were massive hand rolls and probably were worth about $30-50 each, but he was giving them away.  We had complimentary otoro hand rolls with a full handful of otoro in each.  They were awesome.  He also made this disgusting looking but awesome tasting concoction of scallop, uni and quail egg mixed together on a plate and served over rice.  He said it was what his grandpa made for him as a child.  That’s quite the childhood.

At one point in the hand roll making, Masa, broke a piece of seaweed and said “Ah, fuck” in a hilarious way that cracked the five of us up.  He has a great personality and was very interactive with everyone.  He also makes a point to educate his guests, which is much appreciated.

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Left: Mineoka tofu Right: Buckwheat honey, matcha green tea and maple sorbet

Though we were too full for dessert, we were comped two desserts by the chef.  Both were delicious, light and refreshing.  The Mineoka tofu is a house made cow’s milk tofu set in kuromitsu syrup, it was creamy and the kuromitsu had deep, buckwheat honey like flavour.  The trio of sorbets were all potently infused with their respective flavours.

Service:  The service at 15 East is professional, courteous and efficient.  Water and tea were refilled constantly, drips and drops wiped up promptly, and overall was unobtrusive once the meal began.  After initially taking our order, there was really very little interaction with the service staff, as Masa himself chatted with us regularly.

15 East was a great experience, primarily because of Chef Masa.  The sashimi course could have been a bit better, but the sushi course was fantastic.  My biggest recommendation would be a late reservation on a Saturday night, as Chef Masa gets hilarious and generous when he knows the weekend is coming.



Posted in Dinner, Japanese, Michelin 1 Star, New York City, Omakase, Sushi/Sashimi | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Katz’s Delicatessen


Katz’ s Deli

205 E Houston Street, New York City, Feb 23 2013

The first stop on our culinary adventure was Katz’s (pronounced Cats) Deli, a New York institution since its opening in 1888.  We are conveniently staying on the Lower East Side only two blocks from Katz’s, so it was no problem to walk over for a sammich. To understand why I call sandwiches, “sammiches”, you may have to look over here at and algorithm from my medicine blog.

Katz’s is famous for both their pastrami sandwich, and their history of being a backdrop for movies.  Two of the more famous scenes filmed in Katz’s are the “I’ll have what she’s having” scene in When Harry Met Sally, and the meeting scene in Donnie Brasco.  The Meg Ryan scene is embedded below and linked to here.  If you haven’t seen it, you may not want to turn it on at work, lol.

When you walk into Katz’s, you get a meal ticket, which you are instructed not to lose.  All your purchases go on the ticket, and you have to present it upon leaving, regardless of whether you eat anything.  I’m not sure what the penalty is if you don’t present the ticket.

I decided to try the famous Pastrami sandwich on rye, while Camille went for an order of potato latkes.

First, the bad.  The latkes are heavily deep fried at Katz’s, and this unfortunately gives them the consistency of medium density fibreboard (MDF).  Think of a potato+glue+sawdust mixture thrown in a deep fryer.  Not good!  Latkes should be fried with a crunchy exterior, but still maintain a soft, fluffy texture on the inside.  They should not be a homogeneous mass. Plus, these sit like a brick in your stomach.

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Next up was the sammich.  Fortunately, this did not disappoint.  Two thin slices of light rye, dijon mustard (not sure if commercial or proprietary blend) and a heap of pastrami.  The meat was ultra tender and moist, and shockingly was not salty.  The flavors were reminiscent of childhood, and somehow reminded me of hot dogs and bologna, which was pretty unexpected. There was also a mild smokiness to the meat, and a good ratio of meat to fat (about 25-30% fat).  You can order extra lean if you want for a dollar extra.  Overall, this was an excellent sandwich, and we ranked it near the top of our pastrami/smoked meat sandwich pyramid.


Pickles: When you order a sandwich, you get 3 half sour and 3 regular pickles.  They were solid, but nothing spectacular.

Beer: I chose a Katz’s Ale to go with the meal and it was better than expected.  Nice molasses and honey flavors, smooth and easy drinking.

Overall, Katz’s is as much about experience as the food, as there is a great deal of interesting history on the walls of this NYC establishment.  Stick with the classic pastrami and don’t “have what she’s having” if it’s potato latkes.  It’ll sound a lot more like a beached whale than an orgasm.



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Classic Cocktails – The Blinker

Four years ago was my first foray into mixology. While in Toronto for a CaRMS interview, I had a few nights to check out the city, and decided one night to visit Ame, the recently opened restaurant of Michael and Guy Rubino. For Canadian fans of Food Network, you’ll remember them from their TV show “Made to Order”, which chronicled their experience at their previous restaurant, Rain. You may also recall that Michael was the suave front of house manager and every episode he made a cocktail to pair with Guy’s eclectic, Asian inspired dishes.

I expected the food to be excellent at Ame, but what I didn’t see coming we’re the fantastic cocktails made at the restaurant’s bar. Having been immersed in the world of wine for about 5 years already, I knew scents and flavors, but was unfamiliar with spirits. I barely knew the basics. The only thing I knew was that I generally liked “girly drinks”, but I also liked cognac.  Weird combo, I know.

After having a good, but not great, meal at Ame, I strolled over to the bar to have a few drinks. It was a happening place, with the trendy Torontonians out in force. The bartender, err “mixologist”, was named Moses Malone.  He handed me a cocktail list and I really had no idea where to begin. One side said “classic cocktails”, so I decided to start there. The Sidecar caught my eye as the sole cognac based drink on the menu; given my affinity for the spirit, I decided to have one of those. Moses went into his ritual, carving ice from a large block, deftly measuring out the ingredients, and flaming a lemon for garnish. It all looked pretty cool, but would the final product be worthy of the show?

Walking down the pop aisle at the supermarket today, I passed Grenadine for the thousandth time in my life.  I continued on to grab some club soda, but for some reason, decided that I should go back for the Grenadine.  The only cocktail I know that uses Grenadine is a Shirley Temple, but I’d been coming across the ingredient fairly regularly of late.  After making dinner, I decided to put the Grenadine to use, but where to begin?  I thought I’d seen it used in a recipe from The Violet Hour in Chicago, so I checked through my bank of their recipes.  Nope, not a single cocktail made with Grenadine.  Crap, where had I seen it?  Maybe I’d end up making a Shirley Temple after all.

Hell no!

I don’t have the ingredients for a Shirley Temple, let alone want to drink one.  In reality, I ended up just making the drink for Camille, as I wasn’t feeling all that great.  The alcohol of the year for us is Bourbon by a landslide, so I decided to make a Blinker.  The Blinker’s origins are in the 1930s, and as with any cocktail, there are a myriad variations on the theme.  Generally, it is made using Rye or Bourbon whiskey, grapefruit juice and grenadine or thick raspberry syrup.  A twist of lemon is used to finish the drink.   The bonus here is that Camille has grapefruit-o-philia, so this was an easy decision once I spotted it.

The Blinker

2 parts Bourbon (Maker’s Mark today)

1 part grapefruit juice

1/4-1/2 part GrenadineGarnish: Lemon twist

Shake Bourbon, juice and Grenadine over ice.  Strain.  Rim coupe or martini glass with lemon and serve with lemon twist.

BlinkerIngredients Blinker

I started with 1/4 part Grenadine, which made a pretty stiff Blinker.  Upping the Grenadine to a 1/2 part sweetens it up and makes it a very suitable Bourbon-based drink for beginners.

The Sidecar made by Moses was spectacular.  But I liked cognac, and as a true test, I asked Moses to make a cocktail using my least favorite alcohol, Gin.  The Aviation caught my eye because it also contained Maraschino (pronounced Mar-a-ski-no, not Mar-a-she-no) liqueur, which tastes nothing like the insanely sweet bottled cherries made in North America. But we’ll discuss this liqueur’s origin another time.  Suffice to say, the Aviation was as amazing as the Sidecar, and I was hooked.  It has only been the last year in which I’ve really been into cocktails, many of which I’ll try to chronicle throughout the blog.



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2004 Domaine de Cristia Chateauneuf Du Pape Vieilles Vignes


Tonight while watching Michael Chiarello and Geoffrey Zakarian in Battle Scotch on Iron Chef America, we opened a 2004 Domaine de Cristia CdP Vieilles Vignes.  Based on CellarTracker tasting notes, it seemed that this wine would be in a good place, and it did not disappoint.  This bottle was purchased for $64.99 at DeVine Wines in 2007.  This will be my first experience actually tasting the wine after six years.

Background: Chateauneuf du Pape (CdP) is a region in the Southern Rhone valley, and a producer of some of my favorite wines.  The majority are red, but the whites are also fantastic (though much lesser known).  Red CdP wines are allowed to use 13 grape varietals (10 points if you can name them all without checking), with Grenach, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault being the main four.  The other red grapes are Counoise, Muscardin, Terret Noir and Vaccarese.  The five allowed white grapes are Rousanne, Picpoul, Bourbolenc, Picardin and Clairette Blanc. Overall, Grenache is generally the predominant grape, with Syrah (Shiraz) and Mourvedre being next most common.  In Australia, there are many GSMs out there (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) which is mimicry of the traditional Southern Rhone blend.

Tasting note: Deep garnet-ruby to the rim.  Youthful color.  Nose of sweet black licorice, blackberry, earth, cherry kirsch, and spice.  On the palate it has sweet kirsch/blackberry fruit, black pepper, meat, and spice box.  Complex and supple, great acid, excellent balance.  Definitely a Parker style wine, but you don’t get any heat despite the 15% alcohol.  More of a fruit forward style CdP than I’m used to, but great balance and hedonistic without being jammy or extracted. Having only tried the Cristia Renaissance in the past (which was also great), I would definitely buy their wines again in the future. In an excellent drinking window now.  A wine that drinks great on its own, but also paired awesomely with cheese (Hercule de Charlevoix) and sausage.  Very impressive wine.  94 points, non-blind.



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