Posts Tagged ‘Artichokes’


Thursday, September 8th, 2011 by virginia

Our friends Silva and Felipe have been raving about Mémé, a Mediterranean restaurant in the West Village that is related to one of their favorite restaurants, Virage. Pronounced “may-may”, which means “grandma” in French Moroccan, the menu features assorted tapas/small plates and heartier entrees that reflect the owners’ heritage. We’ve been eager to try it out because we’ve heard such great things about the restaurant, and we also really enjoy Virage as well. We were thrilled when we were able to go to Mémé with Silva and Felipe for a last minute dinner on a random Tuesday evening.

We got to the restaurant around 8:45 and the place was packed. It’s not a huge restaurant but it was a beautiful night and they had tables set up on the sidewalk, which were also full. There was a little bit of a wait but since it was so nice outside we didn’t mind enjoying the fresh air and catching up as we waited for a table to open up. A short while later, we were seated inside. Even though the restaurant was full, the noise level wasn’t too bad and we could still chat pretty easily.

After looking over the menu, we decided to share a few small plates/tapas to start. Since Silva and Felipe are so familiar with the restaurant, Josh and I told them to order whatever they thought was good. They selected four different dishes to share for our appetizer, and then we each picked our own entrees. After we placed our orders, we dug into the dish of olives and pickled vegetables they gave us, along with some bread and seasoned olive oil. The bread was really quite good; it had a sturdy crust, a chewy texture, and was studded with briny olives.

Olives, seasoned olive oil, and pickled vegetables

Crusty olive bread

Our tapas arrived shortly, and we all eagerly dug in. First up was the ricotta gnocchi with truffle cream. There’s a similar dish at Virage that Josh and I have tried before, and we absolutely love it. This version was just as tasty, with soft, delicate pillows of ricotta gnocchi swimming in a rich, creamy sauce flavored with truffle oil. The truffle flavor is fantastically intense. After all the gnocchis were eaten, Josh and I used lots of bread to mop up all of the sauce.

Ricotta gnocchi with truffle cream

Next there were spicy carrots, which are seasoned with Moroccan spices. It was really an interesting dish, and I’m curious as to how the carrots are prepared. They’re soft but not mushy, and have a wonderfully exotic flavor to them. These were certainly far from a boring old bowl of carrots. If I knew how to make these, I’d eat carrots more often!

Spicy carrots with Moroccan spices

Both Silva and Felipe love the merguez at Mémé, which is served with hummus, pita, and chopped salad. The sausage had a nice snap to it and lots of spices mixed throughout the meat. It was very flavorful and paired well with the hummus and salad.

Merguez sausage with hummus and chopped salad

Lastly, we had an order of fried artichoke topped with shaved manchego cheese. The artichokes were delicately crisp on the outside, and the salty manchego really complemented them well. There were two dipping sauces on the side, an herb aioli and a tomato/red pepper sauce, but I actually enjoyed just eating the artichoke and manchego plain. It was a pretty big portion and easily shareable.

Fried artichoke with shaved manchego, baby greens, two sauces

For our entrees, Josh and I went halfsies on Mémé’s couscous and the lamb two ways. The couscous featured merguez, chicken, vegetables, and chickpeas cooked in a broth and served over couscous. I’ve never had couscous in broth before, just dry and fluffy, so I thought it was a bit unusual but interesting. The chicken was falling off the bone tender, and the vegetables featured yellow squash, potatoes, and carrots. It was a hearty, comforting dish. My only complaint was that it was a little under-seasoned so it was slightly bland, but they do give you an herb mixture and some harissa on the side to liven things up a bit.

Mémé's couscous - merguez and chicken, vegetables, and chickpeas cooked in bouillon over couscous

The lamb two ways featured lamb chops served on top of ratatouille and mashed potato and a lamb kebab with hummus and chopped salad. I asked for the lamb to be cooked medium rare, and it was perfectly executed. Both the chops and the kebabs were tender and well seasoned, and the meats had a nice gamey flavor to them. The ratatouille tasted fresh and sweet, and the mashed potatoes were a good accompaniment. I really enjoyed this dish.

Two way lamb - chops with ratatouille and mashed potato; kebab with hummus and chopped salad

Felipe had the lamb burger, which is what he always gets apparently, and Silva had the short rib bourguignon. It was a massive serving of short rib that had been slow cooked in red wine, mushrooms, and shallots. Josh and I had a taste and the meat was tender and well seasoned, and the sauce was intensely rich with red wine flavor.

Overall Josh and I both really enjoyed the meal we had at Mémé. We were glad that we experienced it for the first time with Silva and Felipe since they’re so familiar with the menu. There are so many tapas on the list that we wouldn’t have known where to begin. Nevertheless, I definitely would like to go back and try more of them, as the menu is incredibly diverse and extensive. Prices are pretty reasonable with the smaller plates ranging from $7-$12 and entrees averaging about $20 each. The portions are big enough to share, and it’s a great place to go with a small group.

We were too full for dessert but Silva had thoughtfully brought us some macarons from the newly opened Lauderée on the Upper East Side. We ate them after we got home and though they got a tiny bit smashed in transit they were still light, crispy, and very tasty. The rose flavored macaron had a nice floral taste but wasn’t overwhelming. I preferred the pistachio flavored macaron though, which captured the essence of pistachio perfectly. It was the perfect finish to a lovely evening.

581 Hudson St. between 11th and Bank St.
New York, NY

Summer Restaurant Week 2010 – Tribeca Grill

Thursday, July 29th, 2010 by virginia

For Jess’ birthday, we made a reservation at the Tribeca Grill because it was the only restaurant we called that would seat 10 people without forcing us to explore “private dining” options. We’ve eaten there before and the food was pretty good – it was straightforward, hearty, American fare. We found out when we got there that in addition to the regular menu, they were offering their Restaurant Week menu for dinner on Sundays. The Restaurant Week offerings sounded pretty good, and I liked that the options came directly from the regular menu, something we don’t see too often on Restaurant Week menus. Our waiter assured us that the Restaurant Week dishes were the same portion sizes as the regular menu, and considering that most of the a la carte entrees cost close to $30, the $35 three course menu seemed like quite a bargain.

The Restaurant Week menu online was different than the one we received so I’m not sure if the offerings change from day to day, but here is the menu we got:

First Course
Heirloom tomato & goat cheese salad ~ Sweet corn sauce and opal basil vinegar
Braised artichoke & fennel salad ~ Marcona almonds, green olives & manchego cheese
Warm asparagus salad ~ Morels, cipollini onions & lardons, fig essence

Second Course
Goat cheese ravioli ~ Artichokes, favas, cherry tomatoes & spinach
Pan roasted Atlantic salmon ~ Sunchokes, caramelized beet & apple chutney
Grilled Berkshire pork chop ~ Cassoulet of summer beans, chive dumplings & ramp salsa verde
Roasted red snapper ~ Summer squash, Tunisian couscous, pea shoots & warm tomato vinaigrette

Third Course
Chocolate truffle cheesecake ~ Espresso anglaise
Vanilla & grenadine flan ~ Market berries
Morello cherry financier ~ Yogurt sorbet

While we were deciding on what to order, we munched on the bread offering, which was a round, hard roll with a chewy interior. It didn’t have much flavor to it but I was hungry so I just slathered on lots of butter, which made it a bit more palatable.

Hard bread roll

Our appetizers arrived right away, and 8 out of 10 people at the table ordered the same thing – the heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad. It looked beautiful on the plate, with many different kinds of tomatoes in assorted shapes and colors. The sweet corn vinaigrette was really interesting, and the dish was both sweet and tangy at the same time. The tomatoes were intensely flavorful and paired well with the micro basil scattered on top. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough goat cheese for my liking, just a small dollop. But the dish was wonderfully light and refreshing, and huge hit at the table.

Heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad with sweet corn and opal basil vinegar

In addition to splitting the tomato and goat cheese salad, Josh and I selected the braised artichoke and fennel salad as our other appetizer. The salad was a tall tower piled high with the ingredients. There was I think frisee mixed in, which added a slight bitterness, and a tangy dressing that added a nice acidity to round out the flavors. The artichoke and fennel were very tender and worked well together with the olives and manchego. I just wasn’t a fan of the almonds, as I thought they overpowered everything else, but Josh enjoyed them.

Braised artichoke and fennel salad with marcona almonds, green olives, and manchego cheese

View from the side so you can see how tall it was and all the layers of ingredients

For our main course, Josh and I chose the grilled Berkshire pork chop and the roasted red snapper. The pork chop was huge and cooked perfectly, so that it was still tender and juicy. It was nicely seasoned and there was a sweet smokey flavor to it that we later found out was maple syrup. It was served on a mix of summer beans that were fresh and seasonal. There were two small chive dumplings that were like chewy gnocchi and didn’t really serve much purpose. There was also a ramp salsa verde that I think was on top of the pork chop, but I didn’t detect much ramp flavor. Still, it was a well constructed dish and another favorite at the table.

Grilled Berkshire pork chop with summer beans, chive dumplings, and ramp salsa verde

The roasted red snapper had a crispy skin that was nicely seasoned but unfortunately, the fish itself was overcooked and bland. It had a rubbery texture to it that made it a bit hard to eat. I ended up breaking it up as best as I could with my fork, then mixing it in with the accompanying couscous and squash. The couscous was light and fluffy, and the squash was tender but still had a nice bite to it. The tomato vinaigrette tied the whole dish together and provided the acidity that the fish badly needed.

Roasted red snapper with couscous, squash, and tomato vinaigrette

For dessert, we had the chocolate truffle cheesecake and vanilla and grenadine flan. The chocolate cheesecake really didn’t taste much like cheesecake but that was ok. I like chocolate better than cheesecake anyway. It had a chocolate cookie crust that tasted like an Oreo cookie, and I liked the espresso anglaise that was drizzled underneath.

Chocolate truffle cheesecake with espresso anglaise

The vanilla and grenadine flan wasn’t as silky as I would have liked but it had a nice vanilla flavor to it. The grenadine was slightly sour, which cut through the sweetness of the dessert, and the market berries were plump and fresh. Texture aside, it was a very tasty summer treat.

Vanilla and grenadine flan with market berries

Overall we were all pretty impressed by the meal we had at the Tribeca Grill. The Restaurant Week menu proved to be a good value, and we left the restaurant full and satisfied. Service was good but they did pace our meal pretty quickly, giving us the impression that they were rushing us out. We did end up lingering a bit over coffee and dessert but all of our courses were served at quick intervals.  The restaurant was packed though, especially for a Sunday night, which might have contributed to the frenetic pacing. We were still pretty pleased with our experience regardless, because the food exceeded our expectations. As for the decor, it’s a pretty restaurant with tall ceilings and a loft-like feel, and the ambiance is upbeat but intimate. While I think the a la carte menu is a bit pricey, I would still recommend the restaurant for a special occasion.

Tribeca Grill
375 Greenwich St. at Franklin St.
New York, NY

Pre-Theater Dining at Carmine’s

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 by virginia

One of my favorite pre-theater destinations is Carmine’s in midtown. I’ve written about the uptown location before, and the midtown location seems even busier but still serves up the same great food. One night before going to see Hair the Musical, we managed to get an early dinner reservation for a large group of people. As usual, I stuffed myself silly with delicious wedges of tomato focaccia, which I’ve dubbed “pizza bread.” I even requested a basket of just focaccia (both the tomato and the onion), since there are never enough pieces of them in the regular mixed bread basket.

Basket of focaccia bread

We started off our dinner with two salads that were simply ginormous. The first was the Carmine’s salad, which is kind of like an antipasto salad. There are cubes of ham, salami, and provolone mixed throughout a huge pile of lettuce. There are also sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, red onion, and olives on top, and the entire thing is tossed with a tangy Italian dressing.

Carmine's salad

We also ordered the special salad of the day, which was mesclun greens tossed with a tasty balsamic vinagrette and topped with cranberries, walnuts, and goat cheese. Both of the salads were very different but equally delicious.

Special salad with mesclun greens in a balsamic vinaigrette

We also ordered some hot appetizers to start. First was fried calamari that was lightly breaded and fried to a beautiful golden brown. The calamari was crispy on the outside, tender and not too chewy in the middle, and great for dunking into the tangy and sweet marinara sauce.

Fried calamari with marinara sauce

Last but definitely not least was my favorite appetizer, the stuffed artichoke. This is the artichoke that I keep trying to replicate at home, and although I’ve come close, it’s not quite there yet. This artichoke is garlicky, lemony, and very addictive. Part of the appeal is that I love the process of eating artichokes – dipping the leaves in the yummy sauce, scooping up some bread crumbs, and eating it all together. After peeling off layers and layers of leaves, getting rid of the spiny choke, you finally get down to the creamy heart. It’s a lot of work but also a lot of good eating along the way.

Amazing stuffed artichoke

For our entrees, we got an order of spaghetti with white clam sauce. As you can see in the picture, there are tons of clams on the spaghetti, as well as many cloves of garlic. This is definitely a dish for garlic lovers, as the flavor permeates throughout. The spaghetti was perfectly al dente, and this is always one of my favorite dishes.

Garlicky spaghetti with white clam sauce

The lasagna, like everything else, is a huge portion, and is basically a brick of pasta layered with lots of meat, cheese, and sauce. While it still tastes good, I miss the browned bubbly cheese layer on top, and it does get a bit messy to eat. It tends to fall apart when you try to cut pieces from it, and the proportion of pasta to sauce and cheese kind of gets thrown off. Personally, I prefer the other pasta dishes offered at Carmine’s.

Brick of lasagna

We also got veal parmesan, which was pounded thin and breaded. There’s a good layer of cheese on top but I wish that they had browned it more. It’s still quite tasty though, and the meat is always tender and perfectly cooked.

Veal parmesan

Our last entree was chicken scarpariello, which is one of our favorites so we always get two orders, as everyone wants multiple pieces of chicken. I think they deep fry the pieces, as it’s always crispy on the outside and moist and juicy in the middle. The chicken is covered in a lemony, garlicky sauce that is flavored with rosemary. It’s different from other versions of scarpariello, which usually feature sausage and peppers, but I vastly prefer this version.

Chicken scarpariello

We also got a side dish of escarole, which is sauteed with garlic in oil. Squeeze some lemon over the top and it’s refreshing, a good complement to all the rich, saucy food that we eat.

Sauteed escarole

Even after all the food and several magnums of Carmine’s house wine, we still saved some room for dessert. We got the massive Titanic, which is basically a chocolate brownie covered in scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, paired with bananas, and covered in whipped cream, strawberries, nuts, and chocolate sauce. Like all the food at Carmine’s, it’s over the top but delicious.

The Titanic

Despite all the signs that point to a cheesy tourist destination, Carmine’s is, in my opinion, one of the best Italian restaurants in the city. It never ceases to amaze me how much food the restaurant churns out every day, and all the dishes we get are consistently well prepared. It’s hearty, homey, comforting red sauce Italian food, and lots of it. The value is good, and it’s a great place for accommodating large groups. The midtown location really gets hopping during pre-theater hours but service was great. Our water glasses always stayed filled and a server was always nearby to comply with any of our requests. When the waiter brought one of our magnums of wine, he accidentally spilled a bit from the full bottle and immediately went to fetch us a new one, even though the amount spilled was negligible compared to the size of the bottle. It’s little things like that which make you realize that they do care about service, despite the fact that they would probably still be packed every night even with lousy service. That’s what makes the experience so great every time, and I’m always happy to go back again and again.

Carmine’s (multiple locations)
200 West 44th St. between 7th and 8th Ave.
New York, NY

Stuffed Artichokes

Monday, June 1st, 2009 by virginia

While we were at Whole Foods in Paramus picking up a few last minute supplies for the Memorial Day BBQ, I saw a beautiful display of large, bright green artichokes and couldn’t resist picking up two. I’ve never cooked artichokes before, but I’ve been craving the deliciously garlicky version of stuffed artichokes from Carmine’s. I didn’t have a recipe handy though, so I just looked up a few on the internet and improvised, playing up the flavors I like best (garlic, parmesan, lemon).

I had no idea how to clean the artichoke, so I ended up cutting off about an inch from the top to remove most of the spiky tips, cut off the stem so that the artichoke would sit up by itself, and used a spoon to get out as much of the stringy choke from the middle. That was the hardest part, and I know I left a lot of it, but in the end it didn’t make much of a difference.

Cleaning out the artichokes

Cleaning out the artichokes

For the stuffing, I combined about a cup of breadcrumbs with half a cup of grated parmesan cheese, two large cloves of minced garlic (I used a garlic press to get a finer mince), approximately two tablespoons of minced fresh parsley, the zest of two lemons, and salt and pepper to taste.

Salt, grated parmesan, lemon zest, bread crumbs, parsley, and garlic

Salt, grated parmesan, lemon zest, pepper, bread crumbs, parsley, and garlic

Then I drizzled in a bit of olive oil to form a thick paste out of the mixture.

Stuffing for the artichokes

Stuffing for the artichokes

Then came the fun part – stuffing the artichokes. I pried the leaves apart and just used my fingers to smush in as much of the mixture as I could, making sure to get it between every leaf. After all the leaves were full, I spread the leftover stuffing over the top of the artichoke.

Stuffed artichokes ready to be cooked

Stuffed artichokes ready to be cooked

In my dutch oven, I heated up a few tablespoons of olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pot) and tossed in four cloves of minced garlic. I stirred that around for about a minute (make sure the heat isn’t too high so the garlic doesn’t burn), then added 1.5 cups of white wine, 1 cup of chicken broth, and the juice of the two zested lemons. I also threw in a sprig of thyme for some extra flavor.

Cooking liquid for the artichokes

Cooking liquid for the artichokes

Place the artichokes in the dutch oven, cover, and simmer over medium heat. I kind of lost track of time as to how long I heated it, but it was a little over an hour. I checked on it periodically, making sure all the liquid hadn’t evaporated, and tugged a little on the outer leaves to check how tender they were.

Artichokes cooking in the dutch oven

Artichokes cooking in the dutch oven

I pulled them out when the leaves started pulling out very easily, and then I reduced down the remaining liquid and seasoned with salt and pepper. I poured the reduced liquid into two wide rimmed bowls, then topped with the stuffed artichokes.

Artichoke presented with the reduced cooking liquid

Artichoke presented with the reduced cooking liquid

To eat, simply pull off a leaf, making sure to get a bit of stuffing, dip the root end in the liquid, and scrape the edible portion off with your teeth.

Artichoke leaf with stuffing on top

Artichoke leaf with stuffing on top

When you finish all the leaves and get down to the heart, scrape off the remaining choke, and enjoy!

Artichoke remains

Artichoke remains

For my first attempt, I think it was a pretty successful version, though still not as tasty as the one from Carmine’s. Next time I think I’ll add more garlic for a bigger flavor punch.