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Casimir Restaurant
103 Avenue B
New York, NY 10009
(212) 358-9683‎

{Google Maps | Website}

The East Village of New York City is often an enigma to me.  It’s far enough off the subway lines to be secluded enough to house a number of what we like to call “hidden gems” – more so than other out of the way locales like the Upper East Side.  Ten years ago the East Village was just turning from the gritty birthplace of punk rock to a hip, trendy neighborhood, and at the same time Casimir was opening its doors for the first time. 

As the resident French restaurant early on in the emerging East Village scene, owner/host Guillaume Blestel has carefully created a dining experience reminiscent of the off-the-beaten-path, family-run bistros that dot Paris’ back alleys.  Blestel, who also owns Zebulon, a café and performance space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, turned to executive chef Blair Hanelt to create a menu of classics and new dishes with a decidedly French feel.  You’ll remember why you loved French Onion Soup after tasting Casimir’s version, with each spoonful featuring a harmonizing soup to bread to cheese ratio.  Salads are also a great way to start your meal with refreshing offerings that range from the simple (Mixed Greens) to Gallic-inspired delights such as the new DaBarry (fennel, radicchio, mesclun, asparagus, green beans and truffle oil dressing), or favorites like the Rambuteau (sautéed chicken liver and sweet shallots over greens), Escartefigue (marinated goat cheese, eggplant caviar, red pepper confit) and Carpaccio (raw beef tenderloin with parmesan, virgin olive oil and arugula).  You can make a meal out of the restaurant’s Paysan Bites, including Casimir Country Pate, Escargots Provencal and Smoked Herring or Grilled Garlic Sausage, both served with warm potato salad.

Tonight my wife & I opted for some traditional dishes.  She started with the Escartefigue salad with marinated goat cheese, eggplant caviar, and red pepper confit for $9, then moved on to the Pan Seared Grouper With A Tomato Saffron Broth, Zucchini, Carrots & Asparagus for $18.  The Grouper was actually a substitute for Striped Bass.  An inferior substitute?  Hardly.  The grouper was flaky and delicious, and perfectly cooked.  “I love the broth,” she declared.

Steak Tartare

I started with a glass of white Cote Du Rhone which if you’ve never tried it, tastes light & citrusy, not unlike a Sauvignon Blanc but with more bite.  Much richer.  Fantastic!  I started with a traditional Nicoise Salad with tuna – a special on tonight’s menu, and special indeed.  Entrees at Casimir all look delicious on paper, except to my wife.  The thought of Steak Tartare made her ill, but when the waitress recommended it to me, I couldn’t resist.  It was served with fries and greens for $18.  It was perfectly uncooked – slightly spicy, fresh, and creamy.  The wife even tried a bite – and liked it!

Other entrees include Filet Mignon (with black pepper cognac sauce), Steak Frites and Steamed Mussels in white wine.  A decadent Terrine de Foie Gras (with croutons and frisee) is a great take on a French delicacy.  There’s also Murray, a brand new chicken dish (organic free-range honey glazed Moroccan spiced chicken with apricot–olive relish and couscous), Duck Confit (with garlic roasted potatoes and frisee) and “La Frioule, Casimir’s rich fish bouillabaisse.  Penne de Jardin (with seasonal vegetables and truffle oil) and Vegetable Couscous (with baby vegetables and harissa) are great options for those seeking meat-free dining. 

For dessert we ordered the Assiette de Fromage (with apples, grapes and nuts) for $12, and Espresso with Pistacio Ice Cream $4.  Both are outstanding, and I highly recommend either.  Other desserts include Profiteroles and Vanilla Crème Brulee, and  Iles Flottantes, literally ‘Floating Islands,’ an offering of creamy custard topped with poached meringue—the perfect way to end a meal.

Casimir’s eclectic collection of French red, white and rose wines, as well as champagne, beer, and spirits including Pastis, Cognacs, Single-Malt Scotch and Grappa, serve as great accompaniments to any meal.  The restaurant also features a creative cocktail list including Le Zebulon (rum, ginger, lime, nutmeg), Le Casablanca (Malibu, OJ, 7UP) and Le Pollux (Stoli Vanilla, Cointreau, Pineapple) and the new Hippolyte (gin, Cointreau, ginger, lime)

Casimir also serves lunch daily, and a weekend brunch.  The $9.95 Brunch Special features entrees such as Brioche French Toast (served with fresh fruit, syrup and sweetened cream), Croque Monsieur or Madame (served with mixed greens) and Tunisian Eggs (3 eggs baked in terra cotta with spicy tomato and feta).  Their a la carte brunch menu features favorites from their dinner menu suitable for afternoon eating, such as Black Boudin Sausage (with apples and mashed potatoes), Hamburger New Orleans (with tartar sauce and bacon) and the popular La Velodrome salad with arugula, parmesan and roasted garlic croutons.

Casimir is open for dinner from 5:30 pm to 12:00 am Sunday through Thursday and from 5:30 pm to 1:00 am Friday and Saturday.  Weekend brunch runs from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.  American Express and cash are accepted.  For more information, visit www.casimirrestaurant.com and become a fan on Facebook.

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Co.
230 9 Avenue (at 24th Street)
New York, NY 10001
(212) 243-1105‎
info@co-pane.com

I’m hard pressed to offer praise to New York City pizza places that try to be more than what they are, which is a New York Pizza place.  It further irritates me find out that such pizza places sell personal sized pizzas that start at $9 for a cheeseless pizza, $13 for your basic Margherita, and as high as $18 for Meatball or Fennel & Sausage.  Just down the street I can get this stuff for 1/3 the price at Famous Ray’s…or is it Original Ray’s?  Anyway sometimes I just have to bite the bullet and go where my friends want to go, kicking & screaming if necessary.

Upon arrival at this Chelsea establishment we were greated outside by a hostess holding a clipboard.  The front area of the restaurant was crowded with after-work types.  An empty row of communal tables lined the middle of the restaurant with plenty more off to the left.  She hesitated to seat us until our entire party was present.  And even when we wanted to add two more (about 20 minutes later after we were already sitting) to the two open spots at our communal table, they had to check yet another list.  Who were they trying to fool?

Dish of Olives

Their wine list is ample and reasonable.  They carry about five micro-brew beers that they sell for $7 per pint, or $25 for a pitcher.  Again, sometimes I just want a Budweiser but was happy to see they carried Abita, a beer that reminds me of a weekend I spent in New Orleans.  Other beers included Sly Fox (PA), Ommegang (NY), Captain Lawrence (NY), & Six Point (NY). 

We ordered a loaf of bread with olive oil for $4 (shouldn’t this be free?) and a plate of olives for $4 to start.  The bread was fine, and the olives mighty tasty.

 

Co's Suckling Pig Appetizer was Dry & Tasteless

A friend ordered their suckling pig special appetizer for a few of us to share.  Who am I to turn down suckling pig?  Don’t worry, Mr. Bourdain.  I didn’t turn it down, but I almost wish I did.  The skin was crunchy (not crispy; crunchy!), and the meat was dry and tasteless.  While this should have been slow roasted in its own juices, I feel it was heated to death in a conventional oven.  So far I was not impressed at all by Co.

Flambe

I was nearly ready to throw in the towel before the pizzas came.  The pies were bigger than expected, and looked quite good.  We had three different kinds down on my side of the table: Flambe with bechamel, parmesan, mozzarella, caramelized onions, & lardons, Fennel & Sausage with fennel, sausage, mozzarella, crushed tomato, parmesan, red onions, & chili, and Popeye with pecorino, gruyere, mozzarella, spinach, black pepper, & garlic.

Popeye

The pizza is less fancy, and more rustic than I expected.  The ingredients are fresh, the temperature hot, and the taste – extraordinary!

Each pie is cut into 8 small, yet hearty slices.  I had one Popeye, and two each of the other two.  They were that good!  And I was that hungry!

My favorite of the three was definitely the Fennel & Sausage – the pork-o-file that I am, but the other two were also quite good.

Fennel & Sausage

Co.  redeems itself through its pizza.  Will I return for another round?  Perhaps…kicking & screaming, but this time in praise of pizza!

Paris!  City of lights!  A destination for romantics, history buffs, and those who crave art, French culture, and of course food & wine. 

The French are a proud people – they love their bread & cheese.  And for good reason.  The bread is some of the freshest in the world.  For 85 Euro cents or less you can buy a fresh baguette at any time of day.  Most restaurants in France are French.  There are sprinkles of Italian, Spanish, Middle Eastern, Greek, and American fast food, but for the most part you will see the stylish Parisians lounging at a cafe – reading the paper, sipping a cafe au lait, munching on a croque monsieur, baguette, salad, or steak.  In the afternoons they crowd the cafes, bistros, and bar tabacs sipping cold beers, casually smoking (cigarettes), and just enjoying some people watching. 

During a recent 10 day visit to this grand, old city my wife & I did our best to mix up eating at fancier restaurants, enjoying Parisian street food, getting in on the people watching, and even cooking for ourselves.  We dined at Chez Denise – a spot recommended by Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations, and Le Gavroche – a local spot that does not normally cater to tourists; in other words if you choose to go, you should know what you’re ordering.  We shopped at the local G20 Supermarket as well as smaller local shops like Boucherie Provins

My favorite part of the French cuisine, more than anything else was the freshness of the ingredients.  In France they don’t use preservatives or hormones, and rather than shopping at Costo or Wal-Mart for canned goods in bulk, the Parisians opt for picking up what they need for dinner on a daily basis ensuring their families will eat healthy, fresh food every day.  Certainly something I could get used to…

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reBar
147 Front Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718.797.2322
{Google Maps | Flickr Set | Website}

DUMBO gastropub reBar (147 Front Street between Pearl and Jay Streets) is proud to announce recent changes that make it worth a first, second, or even a third look!  The addition of Jeremy Leech as executive chef, a rotating seasonal menu and a redesigned dining area kicks off a whole new era in downtown Brooklyn dining. 

Coming by way of Portland and Orlando after a successful stint as executive sous-chef at Park Slope’s Flatbush Farm, Chef Jeremy Leech brings with him an original take on American Continental cuisine.  Leech collaborated with reBar owner Jason Stevens, bar manager Luke Wheeler and maitre ‘d/wine director Bernard Bunye, to put a decidedly seasonal, organic, and locally sourced spin on dishes designed to complement beer, wine and cocktail offerings.  Whether you visit for lunch, brunch, dinner or just a little something at the bar while enjoying over one of reBar’s 15 taps and 120 bottles of world renowned beers, Chef Leech has created a fresh prospective on pub cuisine.  Lovers of libations need not fear, reBar still features the creative cocktails and outstanding wine selections (many Sustainable Agriculture, Organic, and Biodynamic Farming-produced) that made it the winner of Best New Bar of the Year (2007) by Time Out New York magazine.

Stop in for lunch and enjoy the new $8 lunch break, tempting sandwiches teamed with unlimited fountain soda and a choice of hand cut fries, mango fennel apple slaw or side salad.  Offerings include the intimidating ½-pound reBurger (served with house made pickles, Spanish onions, Roma tomato, lettuce, harissa mayo and American cheese on an artisan potato bun – add Chubi bacon for $2 extra), the Philly Cheese Steak (plus Chef Jeremy’s smoked gouda cheese sauce wit’ or wit’out, on a baked Amoroso’s roll), a decadent Grilled Cheese (Danish blue, provolone, imported parmesan with truffle oil, on pressed ciabatta) and reBar’s signature Pulled Pork (24 hour cured, 7 hour slow roasted Smithfield pork, house made BBQ sauce on an artisan potato bun with a side of crème fraiche).  There is even a Vegan (grilled seasonal veggies and soy spread within a baked Amoroso’s roll) for those seeking a meat and dairy-free option.

A la carte lunch offerings are divided into soups and salads, and small plates including Sweet Pea Soup (delicious Chubi bacon another $2 away), a vibrant Cobb Salad (mixed greens, egg whites & yolks, blue cheese, cucumbers, seasonal vegetables; extra for all natural chicken, house marinated hanger steak and seared fish du jour), Marble Potatoes (cast iron roasted with forest mushrooms, confit garlic cream sauce, provolone), a creamy bowl of Mac ‘N Cheese (elbow macaroni, chef’s smoked gouda sauce – bacon $2 extra) and Lemon-scented Artichoke and Spinach Dip (with crispy naan bread). Also unique to the lunch menu is a 12 ounce 24 day dry-aged Angus New York Strip Steak, served with whisky peppercorn sauce and stacks of hand cut fries.

Dinner dazzles as Chef Leech brings his seasonal sensibilities to small plates, soups and salads and mains.  Start with highlights including Ahi Tuna Two Ways (seared/raw center cut, peppermint oil, smoked salt), Yellow Wax Beans (sautéed with spicy chorizo, pearl onions), Leafless Salad (hearts of palm, mixed plum tomatoes, feta cheese, Meyer lemon vinaigrette) and the outstandingly simple and EatingEverywhere.com recommended Polenta (sunny side up egg, truffle oil, pine nuts, parsley salad).

Main’s include Silk Road Bouillabaisse (South Asian saffron broth, blue prawns, day boat scallops, Wellfleet little neck clams, Bouchot mussels, Spanish sardines, seasonal vegetables, baguette), Artichoke (roasted organic with smoked faro, maitake mushrooms, white asparagus-garlic emulsion), Boar Sausage (house made polenta, O’Hara’s demi glace, sautéed organic green and white asparagus), Chicken Breast (brick pressed free-range organic with organic spring succotash) and Fish of the Day (Chef’s preparation).

Weekend brunch features all of your mid-day favorites including eggs, pancakes, and waffles.  Other specialties include Stuffed French Toast (with marshmallow fluff) Fried Chicken & Waffles (with pure Vermont maple syrup) and House-Smoked Salmon (with egg yokes/whites, capers, red onions, toast and cream cheese).  The bar menu, features a selection of small plate dishes as well as original bites such as Paprika Almonds and Crispy Crab Stuffed Cucumbers

Don’t tell anyone, but reBar even has a secret menu!  Tucked in the back of every check server (which are old novels) is a menu of specials and unique dishes for those in the know.

reBar also boasts a new look.  Once the site of the Grand Union Tea Company, reBar has managed to preserve the integrity of its home while remaining appealing to modern diners.  The focal point of the revamped dining room is the Lee Davis designed 2,000 lb (one ton) 20 foot communal table, crafted from reclaimed wood.  With seating for up to 22 guests on this centerpiece, large groups and couples alike can dine together beneath the antique chandeliers and soaring terra-cotta barrel-vaulted ceilings.  Cork paneling interplays with brick walls and custom made tables and chairs to give the area a warm and inviting feel.  The bar area is separated by dramatic ironwork that leads to another communal “harvest table” (this one bar height) as well as seating at the bar and perimeter. Works by some of the area’s most talented artists inject modern flavor into the airy public and private dining areas.

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reBar is located in the heart of Brooklyn’s DUMBO at 147 Front Street, and is open daily Sunday, Monday and Tuesday from 11:00 am to 2:00 am, and Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 4:00 am.  reBar takes reservations on www.Opentable.com and through their website.  For more information, please call owner Jason Stevens at 917-406-9192, or 718.797.2322 for reservations and to reach reBar directly, or visit www.rebarnyc.com . 

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