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Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

I had a truly lovely Valentine’s Day. As you all know, I love chain restaurants and have long thought that my favorite was the Olive Garden, in spite of having only been once before and of being served a wilted salad. But those pastas! All those pastas! And their cream sauces! And unlimited breadsticks! Isn’t there even a bottomless pasta bowl deal?

There was certainly no bottomless pasta bowl deal at the Olive Garden on 6th Avenue that Chris and I went to for the Early Bird Special on Saturday. We thought arriving at 4:15 would beat the crowds (not that there would be crowds at the Olive Garden in New York City, with so many other restaurants to choose from!), but that place was packed. There was a 40-minute wait, so we walked around and stopped in the Container Store, which is an incredible and way-too-expensive store. It’s one of my favorites, and I love to imagine the organizational system I’d choose for my walk-in closet, were I to have a walk-in closet or be able to afford such a system.

It turns out that not only is the Manhattan Olive Garden a popular spot, but it, like the Container Store, is Way Too Expensive! Entrees started at about $18. What? And, as I mentioned, no bottomless pasta bowl. I guess the unlimited salad is only for the basic salad, not the Caesar, which is what I wanted. There were unlimited breadsticks, but while they were delicious with all the butter and salt and garlic slathered on top, they weren’t really breadsticks, more like big puffy loaves.

We got the calamari and beef ravioli appetizers. Both were pretty bad. I love fried calamari, and this was some of the worst calamari I’ve ever had. I’ve had better for a few bucks at a bar. The Caesar salad was overly dressed with watery, bland dressing that only hinted at Caesar. Chris got some Italian sampler with lasagna (actually not bad), chicken parm (I couldn’t even finish one bite) and fettuccine alfredo (admittedly delicious).

I got the chicken and broccoli with garlic-cream sauce, which I’d been daydreaming about since I saw it on the online menu last week. Alas, the chicken was unnecessarily breaded, the broccoli was merely steamed (I’ve recently developed a killer recipe for broccoli, and this fell way short, though, let’s be honest, broccoli is delicious no matter what you do with it), and the cream sauce, like the salad dressing, was watery and bland. The dish’s saving grace was that it used orecchiette pasta, the little ear-shaped guys, which is probably the trendiest pasta out there right now. The Olive Garden’s hip to pasta trends, at least, and it really was a good choice. The sauce, too watery to really stick to the noodles, was able to nestle itself into the cup of each little ear and thus deliver as much of its muted flavor as possible.

Everything was better as leftovers, of course, and no matter that this was my worst meal in New York. It was also utterly hilarious, and I shared it with one of the best things (people) New York’s got going for it. Thank you, Chris, for a wonderful second Valentine’s Day celebration.

Best part: We made it home by 6:30, just in time to watch several hours of TV!

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Last night, my brother and I went to see my high school friend Michael’s band, Stepanian, play at the Bitter End in Manhattan. Actually, the band’s bassist and I have been friends since we were babies; we used to carpool to preschool, and I have very distinct memories of climbing the stairs to his second-floor playroom. His mother was one of my gifted-and-talented teachers in middle school.

The band was awesome, and it was great to see Michael again. But get this. Another high school friend and her husband are in town from Seattle this weekend for a last-minute vacation. After having a late pizza lunch, Amy and Peter were wandering aimlessly around the Village. Peter stopped outside of a bar to look at the band posters taped to the front window and recognized a band called Stepanian. He looked inside, and there was Michael doing a sound check on stage!

So we ended up sitting with Amy and Peter for the show and then going to Rub for BBQ after. My brother got something called “burnt ends,” which were pretty much the most delicious thing any of us had ever tasted.

Only in New York, guys. Only in New York!

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There was a stabbing over the weekend at a party in my sophomore-year dorm.

I never understood why UMass students would come all the way to Amherst for a party (unless they were invited, that is). I would imagine UMass threw many more — and better — parties than we did. And it’s kind of a hike, unless you drive, and we all know how I feel about that. (I suppose there could be a designated driver, but in my experience, those don’t really exist.)

Of course, I only went to one UMass party, with Julie, because her friends from high school were visiting someone there. It was a frat party. As I remember it, we stayed for about five minutes and then walked home, probably stopping at Bertucci’s on the way because that place makes the most amazing bread I’ve ever eaten, served straight out of the oven.

photo by Plaid Ninja

photo by Plaid Ninja

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On Tuesday last week, for our third and final Restaurant Week experience (Chris had one more on Friday for lunch),  we headed up to Mr.K’s. As anticipated, this was no No. 1 Chinese, but as RW experiences go, it was not a standout, either.

photo by Gayot.com

photo by Gayot.com

The restaurant was about as comfy and grand as they get, with high-backed sofa booths upholstered in pink with delicate gold brocade patterns, carefully arranged so as to provide each group as much privacy as possible.

The standout, though, was the service. With the exception of having to ask for water, we were positively doted on all evening: warm towels to wipe our hands, a beautiful flower on a pin for me to wear, silverware and plates promptly removed and replaced as necessary, napkins unfolded and spread out for us by our server (as if to say our energy was better spent on appreciating our food and each other’s company than on something as silly as unfolding our own napkins). There was even a palate cleanser of tart lemon sorbet between our first two courses:
sorbet

We had the Shanghai Spring Rolls, which were fascinating, filled with scrambled egg, and the Crispy Beef, which was, indeed crispy. We added an extra appetizer, the Lover’s Dumplings (how could we not?). These were our favorite part of the meal:
Lover's Dumplings

Chris had the Firecracker Fish, and I had a pork dish that was special for the RW menu. Both were fine dishes, Chris’ in particular, and several steps up from the hole-in-the-wall Chinese we’re used to in Brooklyn. The flavors were similar, though, as were the concepts of the dishes, and overall, it was a far cry from Shanghai Pavilion, where by brother Nathan and sister-in-law, Elizabeth, had their “rehearsal dinner.”

On second thought, my favorite part of the meal was dessert. Mr. K’s served a choice: fresh fruit or ice cream. We had the fruit, I believe (it was less than memorable) and pistachio ice cream, because I’ve recently discovered that I love pistachios after having refused to eat them my entire life. I just loved that the restaurant didn’t even try to create an actual dessert. They simply don’t do dessert!

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So there was no ice-skating, but we did have a marvelous meal today at Bobby D’s Tribecca Grill for Restaurant Week.

Tribecca Grill

I had pumpkin soup, spinach ravioli and chocolate cheesecake. Chris had veal terrine, short ribs and pecan tart. It was all so delicious, and the bread basket was the best bread basket I’d ever had. Muffins, cornbread, regular bread and scones. We were full before our first course even arrived.

Earlier this week, we had dinner at Devi. Here is my fried quail: Quail

And here are Chris’s chops: chops

Here is the delicious meal described in a previous post that we made last night: our meal

With my dessert, which is sugar-free cheesecake pudding and “fresh” raspberries (out-of-season fruit is always so seductive and usually so disappointing):

puddin

I am sated.  We couldn’t even finish our dessert because of that blasted bread basket today!

Good night, dear blogosphere.

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