Perhaps it was not the world’s most brilliant idea to start a cooking blog days before leaving on a week-long vacation where I would have no kitchen access. However, I certainly did have access to food in New Jersey and New York City!
The trip’s culinary highlights:
#1, of course, was our blowout, wallet-emptying dinner at Aquavit restaurant in NYC. We sprang for the chef’s tasting menu. Eight courses are listed, but they omit the amuse-bouche and the final dish of petit-fours, so by my count there were 10.
There was certainly nothing on that menu I wouldn’t eat again with great delight, but the very best thing was the Foie Gras Ganache. It consisted of two parts: a tiny pork terrine with a crisp, almost bruleed top crust and a dome of foie gras mousse that reminded me, due to its melting center, of a lava cake. It was served with a dessert wine, which played up the dish’s unbelievable richness beautifully. This may be the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.
The other real standout was the hot-smoked arctic char, with an incredible smokiness and moist, delicate but firm texture I didn’t know fish was capable of.
The Arctic Circle dessert (pictured above; photo credit Aquavit restaurant) – goat cheese sorbet wrapped around passionfruit mousse, topped with a deliriously light, crisp cookie and a pod of blueberry sorbet – was pretty amazing too.
#2: On the other end of the spectrum price-wise, the simple fare at the Kati Roll Company blew me away. They serve one thing – highly spiced Indian food rolled into flaky flatbread. We tried three: the Unda Chicken Roll (chicken and egg), the Shami Kabab Roll (mutton meatball), and the Aloo Masala Roll (spiced potato – pictured).
Once we got our rolls, I immediately forgave the tiny restaurant its crummy heating. It’s impossible to say which was best. The spicing of the filling mixtures was so much more complex and satisfying than I had expected. I think it’s time for me to learn to make Indian flatbread!
#3: Magnolia Bakery. The tiny shop was crammed full of people, most in search of cupcakes. Across the street was a small park that should have been named “Cupcake-Eating Park.”
A steady rotation of brave souls removed their gloves to eat those cupcakes right now, including a nice German couple who assured me, despite a language barrier, that the little cakes were worth the wait.
They were, and we devoured our dense-crumbed, buttery frostinged Red Velvet and Mocha cupcakes on one of those park benches. But even better was the banana pudding we took back to our hotel and had for dessert that night.
#4: We had a great meal at Thai Chef II in Denville, NJ. The Maryland crab soup and ginger-honey duck were delicious. But the dish that blew my mind was Mussamun Short Ribs. I adore short ribs, the way they turn meltingly lush when braised. But it never occurred to me to braise them in curry. The sweet, rich spiciness of this particular curry was a devastatingly perfect match for the tender ribs. The addition of sundried tomatoes was a surprise, but their tang offset the dish perfectly. This is one I must try at home!