Ditch Plains

By grace.g.yang · April 22, 2008
Under: Dinner,West Village

After a day at the Guggenheim, Chris, Ariel, Joe, Nita, and I headed to Ditch Plains for a relaxing dinner. Joe flew to New York for the weekend to meet up with his new co-workers (he’s moving from Chicago in July!). I also met his co-worker, Nita, who is super cute and hilarious. Since we were a group of five, we decided to eat family style (ordering a bunch of different items off the menu so we could try everything). I got a general idea of what everyone wanted and then decided to order the following dishes:

Chicken pot pie:

Chicken pot pie with a biscuit on top – lots of juicy chicken meat, vegetables, and a biscuit on top. The biscuit was homemade and added a nice texture to the soupy chicken pot pie, but the chicken/veggie combination didn’t have enough flavor. Ariel said this was his favorite dish of the night (originally, Ariel wanted to order a skirt steak, but he said he’d order the chicken pot pie so we could also get a taste of the homemade biscuit).

Fish tacos:

Nita and Joe were checking out the fish tacos when we were going through the menu, so we ordered it. I don’t think anyone really LOVED the dish; there were too many different flavors and none of them were really distinct, so it was just like eating a pile of mush. The sauce on top didn’t taste very good, either, making this dish a total disaster.

Mussels and fries:

Chris and I wanted to order the mussels and fries (even though no one else wanted them) and the mussels were okay (the white wine sauce needed lemon), but the fries were AMAZING. They were thickly cut and had a great crunch to them – Ditch Plains might have the best fries in NYC!! They kind of reminded me of Les Halles’ fries, but the crunch was more similar to a curly fry than anything else. The mussels, on the other hand, weren’t memorable and I wouldn’t order them again.

Macaroni and cheese:

Nita and I really wanted to try the macaroni and cheese (it ended up being my favorite dish of the night). The layer of crusted cheese was amazingly delicious because it added just the right amount of texture to the noodles. The mac and cheese was Chris’ favorite dish of the night as well.

Lobster roll:

The lobster roll was my second least favorite dish of the night. I basically compare all lobster rolls I’ve ever eaten to Pearl Oyster Bar’s lobster roll; does it have huge chunks of lobster meat? Is there enough mayo? Enough butter on the bun? The lobster roll at Ditch Plains had too many onions, celery, and other weird chunks of vegetables that didn’t match the soft, sweet wonderfulness of the lobster. Thumbs down. The sweet potato fries were okay (they were homemade), but a little too crunchy (maybe I have soft teeth like Michael from The Office).

Ditch Plains was very accommodating for the 6 of us and getting a large table wasn’t difficult for a busy Saturday night (we got there around 7:30 right before the dinner rush). Their menu has a variety of dishes to please every type of palette, but they don’t prepare their plates well enough for a repeat visit from me.

Ditch Plains on Urbanspoon

Artisanal Fromagerie and Bistro

By grace.g.yang · April 21, 2008
Under: Lunch,Midtown East

Ryan, the manager that took me to Morimoto last year, invited me to Artisanal last week to celebrate the end of a project we were both on (the project ended a long time ago but our schedules didn’t match until recently). We chose Artisanal because I’d never visited but heard good things from a coworker and Ryan agreed to go because he’s had their cheesecake and thought it would be a good choice for lunch. We started off with a little bread:

It was just the two of us but we wanted to try a lot of things on the menu, so we decided to order the macaroni and cheese as an appetizer (in addition to the cheese sampler we ordered). The macaroni and cheese came with a side salad:

The macaroni and cheese had a nice baked crust and large chunks of prosciutto. The combination of cheeses was really sinful and delicious – we finished about half of it and were already stuffed! Too bad we ordered two sandwiches AND a cheese sampler:

We ordered three different types of cheese, my favorite being the Coupole. I almost bought some to take home, but I stopped myself because I’m trying to be more healthy (AFTER this lunch).

For our main courses, we ordered two different sandwiches. Ryan ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with English Cheddar, Smoked Bacon & Apple:

The only thing the sandwich was missing was a nice bowl of tomato soup! It was a great grilled cheese sandwich (it should be at $15.50!).

I ordered a Berkshire pork sandwich with pickled cabbage and muenster cheese because I’m a sucker for Berkshire pork and I happen to love muenster cheese:

Berkshire pork/pulled pork sandwiches can be really great if they’re done correctly (see The Spotted Pig). Artisanal’s sandwich, however, was really terrible. Like, absolutely disgusting; the pork was really dry and the pickled cabbage just tasted sour. It kind of ruined my Artisanal experience, actually.

On the way out, we stopped by the fromagerie:

We also ordered a cheesecake to go (so we could share with people in the office AND because we couldn’t eat another bite) and the cheesecake was absolutely amazing. It comes with caramel sauce, a pecan-shortbread crust, and pecan praline crunch that was so f-ing delicious. You can order them online here. On our walk back, Ryan and I were trying to decide whether Artisanal was 3.5 Grace Face’s or 4 Grace Face’s. We decided it was 3.5 because my sandwich was pretty gross. If I go back, I’m going for another slice of their amazing cheesecake!

Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tu Do Pho

By grace.g.yang · April 16, 2008
Under: Cheap Eats,Chinatown

Pho, a Vietnamese rice-noodle soup made with a special broth, is part of the reason why I survived New York’s awfully cold winter. (The other parts, in my opinion, include ordering take-out, wearing cashmere layers, and refusing to step outside for anything besides paying the delivery guy). One of my favorite little pho shops in Chinatown is Pho Tu Do, where I end up eating on nights I don’t feel like cooking but want something warm. Located on Bowery in the LES, Pho Tu Do is decorated for Christmas year-round, owned by a family that has lots of miniature dogs (the cash register is littered with their photographs), and has pho that keeps me coming back (especially in the winter time). Traditional pho broth is made with simmering all types of beef bones, mixed with oxtails, and several spices (including star anise, cloves, and ginger). The broth is what makes the pho special; the dish consists of broth, rice noodles, and sometimes beef, making it a seemingly plain dish. The broth at Pho Tu Do has a lot of flavor and tastes like the bones have been simmered overnight (probably the minimum for making pho broth). Whenever I go, I usually order the spring rolls:

The spring roll also has mint, noodles, green onions, and shrimp with a peanut dipping sauce.

The service is always super speedy and they bring out the pho as soon as you finish your appetizer:

The broth has a great flavor, especially after you add fresh basil and a squeeze of lime juice. The beef is also medium rare, making it tender and not too tough (especially since the broth is hot enough to continue cooking the meat).

Possibly the best part of the meal is the check – pho is under $6 and spring rolls are around $3.

Tu Do Pho on Urbanspoon

San Francisco and Napa Valley!

By grace.g.yang · April 11, 2008
Under: My Life

Hi readers,

I need your help!!! Chris and I are going to San Francisco and Napa Valley for our birthdays this year and I need recommendations for wineries to visit, places to eat, and places to stay! We’re eating at French Laundry for our special birthday dinner, but everything else is undecided. I’m planning to stay a night in San Francisco, a couple of nights with my friend Audrey, and the rest of the time I should be in Napa. Any cute bed and breakfasts or cottages you visited in Napa? Great wineries we shouldn’t miss? E-mail me and let me know – gracenotesnyc at gmail dot com. THANKS!

Pictures from our birthday trip to Martha’s Vineyard last year:

IMG_0871 (Small)

La Focaccia

By grace.g.yang · April 10, 2008
Under: Brunch,West Village

La Focaccia, a small Italian restaurant on the corner of Bank and west 4th, is the perfect place to people watch in the west village. Sex and the City thought it was popular enough to put in their movie (I watched the trailer and noticed the blue La Focaccia awning in the scene where Jennifer Hudson meets Carrie/Sarah Jessica Parker). Their dinner is nothing to write about (I thought the noodles were overcooked and the sauce was bland), but their brunch menu has some wonderful options. Chris and I went for a quick bite to eat and ordered the French toast sandwich and the omelet.

I ordered the French toast sandwich:

The French toast sandwich combines all of the great breakfast foods in one compact sandwich. 2 French toast pieces (scrambled eggs * ham slices * cheese = pure deliciousness). I suppose it would be similar to a McDonald’s McGriddle cake (a combination of sweet and savory), but I’ve never had one so I can only assume.

Chris ordered the large omelet:

Lots of ham, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes plus two potato wedges. The omelet tasted a little rubbery, but it wasn’t terrible.

We gave La Focaccia a couple of tries and decided that we won’t go back because the food isn’t that good, but sometimes I get cravings for the French-toast sandwich that I ordered. I’ll probably try to re-create it soon (and then I’ll post my findings on here!).

La Focaccia on Urbanspoon

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