Category Archives: Bread Basket Breakdown

A deep analysis of some of the thousands of bread baskets we come across in our lifetimes.

Locanda: insanely delicious and varied menu – with cocktails!

locanda

Picking a restaurant that appeals to my dad is difficult for mostly because of our difference in taste, but also because of his “full bar or this restaurant is dead to me” dining perspective. A lot of San Fran’s latest restaurants only offer beer and wine, which is fine by me, but not by a man who was drinking martinis before it was cool or commonplace to do so. Fortunately, because Locanda’s cocktail menu is boasting with great concoctions, and the restaurant was next on my “to-try” list, it presented itself as the perfect option for a father-daughter dinner with my mom out of town.

delicious crusty bread

delicious crusty bread

Jewish style artichoke - fried and crisp with lemon

Jewish style artichoke – fried and crisp with lemon

chicken under a brick

flavorful chicken under a brick

Despite the fact that I’d say my dad and I rarely eat similar foods, we both left totally wowed by all aspects of the meal, from the attentive but not so clingy service, to the complimentary olive-oily flat bread, to the crispy fried jewish style artichoke, to the luscious linguine with crab and lettuce, to my awesome chicken under the brick with quinoa. A sign of a good menu is one that makes the ordering decision process a tough one, and honestly, I almost had a panic attack considering the possibility of eating one of five dishes I felt I couldn’t live without. While I may not choose the ricotta bread pudding with orange blossom honey (a little too dry for me) again, I’ll absolutely return to experiment the other solid Italian style food Locanda has to offer. Check out my video for more footage of our meal and my dad’s profession of love for Locanda.

Grade: A
Location: 557 Valencia Street btwn 16th and 17th
Website

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Filed under American, Bread Basket Breakdown, Californian Cuisine, Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Italian, San Francisco

Catch: global seafood in trendy meatpacking

catch

I spent my first years as a restaurant-goer in NYC dining where I could most easily imagine myself as a cast member of Sex in the City. Straight out of college, I wasn’t looking for cute hole-in-the-walls — I got the biggest thrill wearing heels and strutting into exclusive spaces pumping dance music, offering $15 specialty cocktails, and turning tables like clockwork. Buddakan and Stanton Social were my locations of choice. Fortunately I’ve now moved on to less trendy pastures as a more seasoned New Yorker, but every now and then I’m dragged into the high concept restaurant chains of my past.

Catch last week was one such occurrence, but it helped me remember why I like menus intended for broad audiences. I admittedly went into it with low expectations, but I left impressed with the service, the food, the drinks and the experience overall. As a seafood lover with menu anxiety (it’s difficult to narrow down to one item after eating a Google buffet for the last five years), Catch’s food selection is perfect for me. They offer a small delectable sushi rolls, a raw bar, a ton of hot specials, family style platters, or a variety of fish simply prepared for those not as adventurous. Think of this place as the steakhouse for fish. It keeps that well-known, roomy corporate feel, but maintains a relaxed, light-hearted vibe with light colored furniture, good lighting, dance music, and fun cocktails. Waiters aren’t as formal, but the service is spot on.

The highlights of the many dishes we tried were the MrC roll with tuna, tempura shrimp and ponzu butter, the soft shell crab roll, the crispiest crispy rock shrimp I’ve ever had, and the tuna tartare crispy rice cakes. These dishes aren’t necessarily unique to Catch (find similar variations at Koi, Bond Street, Nobu, etc), but they’re done exceptionally well. The showstopper visually was the crispy whole snapper that comes out deep fried with an asian style saute, positioned as if it’s about to swim away. The sauce was definitely needed to add flavor. Chinese food lovers would die over the salty cantonese lobster tails; I’m just not a fan for thick brown sauces. The overly buttered mushroom pasta was the only disappointment, but that came as no surprise given it was one of the only pasta dishes on the menu.

warm pretzel rolls with mustard butter

warm pretzel rolls with mustard butter

crispy shrimp

hot, buttery crispy shrimp

hamachi tartare

hamachi tartare

salmon belly carpaccio - yes we did get all of this.

salmon belly carpaccio – yes we did get all of this.

scallop dumplings

scallop dumplings

fried whole snapper

fried whole snapper

cantonese lobster - photo from Zagat.com

cantonese lobster – photo from Zagat.com

banana brulee spli

banana brulee split

Dessert at Catch and its sister restaurants are remarkable, and that goes a long way for someone like me. The strawberry shortcake with a large buttery biscuit brought me straight back to my childhood. The banana brulee split was beautifully prepared, but given the tiny scoops of ice cream and difficulty of scooping up all the ingredients off the flat dish for an ideal bite, I would have preferred a less stylized version.

Despite the hiccups in food, I left hoping to plan my next work event or dad’s visit to town at Catch. It’s a crowd-pleasing special occasion restaurant that sets you up well for a night out – there’s not surprisingly a club upstairs, and it’s situated smack dab in the center of the Meatpacking.

Grade: A-
Location: 21 9th Ave above Sephora, entrance on 13th street. Also one in Miami.
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Filed under American, Bread Basket Breakdown, Meatpacking, Parents in Town, Seafood, Sex & The City Swank, West Village

Sugar Surge: Breads Bakery – the most buttery and delicious chocolatey treats

I am a bakery fiend, you should all know that by now. So when I heard about the Breads Bakery opening near Union Square, I put a reminder on my calendar to head there as soon as time allowed. What excited me most about visiting this Israeli-run bakery is the rugelach, crescent-shaped Jewish cookies traditionally made with cream cheese and filled with chocolate or fruit. They’re awesome, and I’ve been eating them since I was sitting in my mom’s grocery cart at Grand Central in SF.

When I went to Breads the $1.50 tiny rugelach was the first thing I purchased. To my surprise, it was hands-down the best, flakiest, chocolatiest rugelach I’ve ever tasted. Most have a very dense, chalky texture, but this one is as light and fluffy as a croissant. The inside is soft, and the outside is golden brown and crispy. Absolutely addicting.

tray of rugelach

tray of rugelach

rugelach

buttery rugelach

The second time around, they were giving samples of their ridiculous triple chocolate chip cookie, which did its job in leaving me no choice but to buy one. I thought I knew the city’s best cookies, but I evidently failed to acknowledge that one of my favorite versions can be found here. The golden crust surrounds a chewy, soft dough layered with milk and dark chocolate rounds. It’s magic.

cookie

cookie

Then, just over the weekend I stopped by for a quick snack while shopping – how could I resist when the sign caught my eye while walking down fifth avenue? I almost went for a savory treat – the cheese sticks are delicious – but I again opted for the sweet chocolate bread. Amy’s Bread makes a wonderful sourdough twist with chunks of dark chocolate. This, however, takes the cake, and while it’s not as rich as a chocolate croissant, it packs the same dark chocolatey punch.

I’m three for three at Breads Bakery – every single chocolate treat I’ve tried has been a score. And with tons of samples for tasting, they’re my favorite type of place! Next time I’m committing to one of the cheese & egg tartlets.

Grade: A+
Location: 18 East 16th Street between 5th Ave and Union Square West
Website

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Filed under Bread Basket Breakdown, Cheap Eat, Sugar Surge, Union Square

Chelsea Market Adventures: Amy’s Bread ham & cheddar biscuit

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Yes, I just went grocery shopping, and yes, I work across the street from Chelsea Market, but I trekked there today anyway for a little get-out-of-bed Sunday adventure. I awoke this morning with my stomach grumbling for a savory breakfast, so I headed straight to the Market’s Amy’s Bread where the sandwich selection is right up my alley – pre-mades with a variety of breads, cheeses, and meats in all shapes (from rolls to skinny baguettes) and sizes (from mini to massive). I generally go for the hummus veggie on wheat or the mozzarella and tomato on olive bread, but today I pointed right to the ham and cheese biscuit enticingly glistening in the display case. The second the server relinquished control, I took it out of the bag and chomped right into it. The verdict? Thick-cut ham sandwiched between two slices of sharp cheddar and a cheddar-speckled biscuit feels like a brick in my stomach, but is pretty hard to beat on a day that launches in hunger. The biscuit is perfectly doughy, warm and crisp on the outside, and the little nugget of a sandwich is thankfully easy to eat. It may just be my new favorite.

grilled biscuit

grilled biscuit

Grade: A+
Location: Multiple
Website

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Filed under American, Bread Basket Breakdown, Chelsea

Zagat Feature: Bread Baskets!

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It felt like a little miracle when Zagat.com signed me on as contributing writer. I’ve been scanning these narrow red books since I was a young child – my parents, my grandparents and a large part of the world agree that Zagat reigns supreme as the trustiest review source out there. The brand was ahead of its time in compiling crowd-sourced reviews, but it has been slow to change since it launched 30+ years ago. With the Google acquisition, however, they have no choice but to become a serious force in the online community. They’re building out their blog that’s now localized in 10 cities, they’re integrating their content into Google searches and maps, and they’re no longer requiring fees for their content. Signing on passionate foodies like me to write will surely be instrumental in helping them win this food blog rat race (or so I like to believe).

Here’s a little cross-promotion for your enjoyment. This piece is elegantly entitled, “Carb Loading: 10 Must-Try Bread Baskets in NYC”. Those who know me even a little know I’m obsessed with a good bread basket – that’s have the joy of going out to eat – so this wasn’t tough to write. Click through to view the slideshow and get ready to start drooling.

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Landbrot: the God of gooey gouda pretzel pockets

landbrot

Have you ever heard of a pretzel pocket? I hadn’t, but the concept of melting cheese inside a pretzel is sheer genius, and I’m ashamed that I was remis to think of it before trying it last week. It was the hectic night of Super Bowl – the 49ers were losing, the Mercedes Superdome power was out, and there were ten trays of delicious food (including an assortment of Parm sandwiches) around calling out my name. Amidst the chaos and distractions, I needed something simple and comforting to munch, and that’s when I reached for the glistening, golden brown Landbrot pretzel pocket. And then I couldn’t stop – as the game progressed I pulled apart piece after piece of the pillowy, buttery pretzel dough until my stomach felt like I had consumed a brick.

undeniably cheesy

undeniably cheesy*

Over-consumption aside, this is an urgent must-try for any bread and cheese lover. I often say that my favorite foods involve these two staples (quesadillas, pizza, brie on baguette…), and I’ve just added another to the list – I’m lucky this place is close enough for unbeatable cravings, but just the right distance away to help me to resist when I don’t feel like walking.

Landbrot’s serves a wide variety German salads, sandwiches, cakes, and desserts, and the space itself is modern, bright with natural light, and decked out with displays of copious amounts of German bread and pretzels for sale.

Grade: A+
Location: 137 7th Ave btwn Charles and West 10th
Website
Photo from Girl Eats City

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Filed under Affordable Date, Bread Basket Breakdown, Fun Group Dinner, German, West Village