Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >

abrocadabro's Profile

Title Last Reply

Wells' EMP review

I don't believe I said I was upset. I mentioned it because it seems like there is so much praise for that type of "service" from EMP that it may appear to some to be commonplace there. The reality is that it is not commonplace. I essentially gave them an opening to offer something like that, but they did not take advantage. I was surprised, but the failure to do so wasn't a major factor in my overall feeling about the evening. Nevertheless, I thought it was worth noting here. Consider that someone on the NY Times website (I think) mentioned how he received a $100 bottle of Rioja as a parting gift on a night that he was not drinking because he was on-call for his job. There are also plenty of stories on Yelp and elsewhere about special treatment. Despite dining there many times over the years, I've never visited the kitchen or received a taste of some wine I discussed with the sommelier and yet have had wonderful memorable experiences. This visit just didn't measure up to my past experiences.

Mar 18, 2015
abrocadabro in Manhattan

Wells' EMP review

No, I was also disappointed recently. My wife and I have been going to EMP for more than 10 years, though I personally have not been there since the menu format changed following the ownership change. This time, during and after my dinner earlier this year, I missed greatly the old, old format of meals, under Danny Meyer, in particular the tasting menu with wine pairings. I thought it was a much better value. And though others can certainly disagree, under the current format, I didn't like not knowing what was coming ahead of time.

I had a similar experience as you did with the service. In addition, the server made some statements in his spiel about a few dishes that I knew to be incorrect. Also, despite dining early in the night, and expressing interest in what goes on in the kitchen, we were not invited to visit. Similarly, after mentioning our group's connection to the Finger Lakes region and discussing some of the wines (and ciders) made there, the sommelier never offered us a tasting of any. I realize those are extras that one should not expect, but so many people, when they speak of EMP, mention how they receive special extras like that, so it was surprising not to receive anything.

As for the food, many of the courses didn't impress. The "Cheddar" (savory black and white cookie with apple), was reminiscent of a Cheez-it. The Sturgeon, while showy with smoke and tasty, wasn't any better than what I can get when I go to Russ & Daughters (also, I found the toast to be too thin for spreading anything on it with ease). Wells mentioned the substitute for foie gras; on our night, it was kale, glazed with smoked pear and walnuts (others at our table had it). I thought the cold foie gras was fine, but not outstanding. The hot foie gras dish was much better. I had the duck, which was excellent, but would have preferred a larger portion as a main course and done without many of the other courses. The cheese fondue course was very good. I didn't get the appeal of the celery root, in particular, bringing it out in the bladder seemed awkward. The table-prepared lobster newberg was fun and tasty. The turnip course was OK (said our server, "this is turnips, pretty much every way you can prepare them"). Desserts were also fine. But for $225 per person for the food, I was looking for more than fine, and based on past experiences at the restaurant, I was disappointed.

EMP certainly serves some good food and in varied formats, but I came away feeling like it is too "cute" for its own good right now. Certainly, there is a place for restaurants like that; I guess it's just not what I prefer and not what I had hoped for based on my past experiences there. Until there is an adjustment to that approach, I probably won't be willing to spend that amount of money to eat there again.

Mar 18, 2015
abrocadabro in Manhattan

Best restaurant roast chicken: Barbuto, Mighty Quinn's, other?

In general, I'm inevitably disappointed with restaurant chicken (at home, I use Empire for my roast chicken), but I really loved the chicken at Barbuto. To my taste, it's better than the Nomad's, which is a very different style and presentation, but a year-and-a-half later, I still salivate thinking about Barbuto's version. Actually, at Barbuto, if you go with a largish group (I went in a group of 8), you can sit at the "chef's table" in the kitchen and watch them cook, plus get an excellent chef's menu dinner (including the chicken).

Another suggestion you might like (but not at the same level as Barbuto) is the Peruvian chicken at Pio Pio (Hell's Kitchen is the one I've been to).

Feb 25, 2015
abrocadabro in Manhattan

Off the beaten track Anniversary Dinner?

The Heath, in Chelsea. May run you a little more than your budget if you select a la carte, but there is also a pre-fixe menu. In addition to food, you get live music, a speakeasy feel and possibly interaction with some of the characters from Sleep No More. The whole experience was worth the money and everyone I went with plans to return with other friends.

The food is sort of British gastropub in nature. I went with a group of eight and pretty much everything we tried was very good. I had the duck toast, mulligatawny soup, beef and ale pie and the chocolate foole. The last two were really delicious, the duck toast was tasty and the soup was fine, but not outstanding. Others really liked the kale salad, the burrata, the yorkshire fry up, the fish and chips and the flat iron steak. We liked the twice-fried fries so much, we had the server bring us two extra portions to share.

Jan 13, 2015
abrocadabro in Manhattan

Search results and back button problem


Jan 07, 2015
abrocadabro in Site Talk

Search results and back button problem

I've had this problem for a while while using a PC (the only way that I access this site). After using the search function and obtaining a list of results on the site, if I scroll down a bit and then click on a result and read the linked thread, when I hit the back button to return to the search results, the search results reload in full, so that I'm back at the top of the list, rather than back to the particular link on which I had clicked. Is there any setting that I can change or something else that can be done so that I can get back to the same point in the list of search results, or must I open each link in a new window so that I don't lose my place in the list of search results?

Jan 06, 2015
abrocadabro in Site Talk

Atlantic Antic today?

For next year, you should get some jerk chicken (or other Jamaican fare) from the stand on the south side of Atlantic between Henry and Hicks. They have a huge three-compartment smoker and it looks like it's a family event, with everyone pitching in. $12 for a large portion of delicious, smoked, spicy chicken, with two sides (we get the vegetables and rice and peas). To give you an idea of how good people think it is, the first three people in line with us bought 6, 4 and 4 portions. Also got a huge red sorrel drink for $5; as good as we've had in Jamaica itself.

Oct 03, 2014
abrocadabro in Outer Boroughs

Inviting Professional Voices to the Community


Aug 08, 2014
abrocadabro in Site Talk

Restaurants in Cooperstown, NY and Saranac Lake, NY

From three summers ago, but I think these places are still around:

Is there any really good bread out there?

Pain D'Avignon at the Essex Street Market. Not baked there but still fresh.

Essex Street Market
120 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

Pain D'Avignon
120 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

Oct 27, 2011
abrocadabro in Manhattan

Rank the Top Chef winners

I find it amusing to see so many people ranking Hung second. Although I liked Hung's cooking during his season, at the time many fans didn't like him or his cooking. Regarding the cooking, they considered his food to be lacking soul and originality (save the Smurf village), though showing strong technical skills. And fans didn't seem to like him because of the edit of his personality on the show (and the fact that he was such close friends with Marcel). Now, perhaps thanks more recent appearances as a judge or sous chef, opinions seem to have changed, even though we haven't seen any of his cooking judged on its own since his season ended.

At the time that Stephanie won, I thought most fans preferred her cooking over Hung's.

FYI, both Hung and Kevin Sbraga competed in the Bocuse d'Or USA competition in Orlando in late 2008 (won by Tim Hollingsworth, who went on to finish sixth in the actual Bocuse d'Or). Hung won Best Fish plate and Kevin won Best Meat plate (those are awards that go to chefs who don't finish in the top 3). A description appears early in the book "Knives At Dawn".

Sep 17, 2010
abrocadabro in Food Media & News

Top Chef Reunion Show - Any surprises?

I liked seeing some of the behind the scenes stuff, like "nerdy" Eli and Kevin and some of Michael and Brian's interactions. I was disappointed they didn't have a discussion about the relative styles and differing techniques of Kevin and Michael, considering how much they played it up in the latter part of the season.

Dec 17, 2009
abrocadabro in Food Media & News


My family, including kids 10 and 8, just returned from Cooperstown. We splurged and stayed at the Otesaga Hotel, which included breakfast in the main dining room. We are fans of the extravagant Marriott-style breakfast buffets and this compared favorably. Each day, the hotel had one or two omelette stations, where you could get eggs any style or Egg Beaters or egg whites. You got to select your own ingredients for the omelettes and filled a bowl with them. They also had side-by-side stations making waffles, cinnamon raisin French toast and pancakes. Chafing dishes included bacon, sausage, biscuits, scrambled eggs, and potatoes. Boxed cereals, hot oatmeal (too pasty, IMO), danishes, English muffins, sliced bread, croissants and fruit plates were also available.

Driving into town the first night, we stopped on Route 28 near Dreams Park for dinner at the Yum Yum Shack. It is decorated like a fish shack in Florida but was billed to me as having better food than the name might lead you to believe, and it did, though not as good as I had hoped. The inside is fairly small and was very hot and humid so we ate outside on the patio, If you do this, bring bug spray - we had a lot of flies etc, despite the citronella candles ringing the perimeter. Plastic chairs, plastic cups and washcloths for napkins. They have a halibut in curry which was very good, pleasantly spicy and slightly sweet at the same time. I had the salmon with wasabi mustard sauce -- I usually like my salmon more done than most people, but this was a little too well done -- the top was crusty and I thought the sauce was a little too thick. It was an OK dish, but not fantastic. Both adult dishes were on the large side. My kids had penne with a meatball and a fresh tomato sauce, and mozzarella sticks. The sauce was very good as was the meatball. The mozzarella sticks were nothing special and were deep fried. All came with perfectly cooked string beans (not over-buttered, like at some many places).

Lunch the next day was at Stagecoach Coffee, just off Main Street near the Hall of Fame. It's a small space, but they had a good selection of sandwiches. It was a good value in a town that has some places with overpriced food. We had the tuna panini (using canned tuna, but still well designed), "house panini" (basically, mozzarella, basil and tomato) and their version of a BLT. All came with chips and were on two large slices of peasant bread. This is a recommended value place for lunch. I hear the coffee is very good and they had a nice menu of shakes and other cold drinks.

Dinner that night was the highlight. We ate at Alex & Ika, on Main Street. The menu is interesting because it has some dishes that are fairly cheap and others than are very expensive, but the food overall was a hit. My wife and son had the hanger steak with fingerling fried potatoes (roasted steak, not grilled), but it was very tasty (around $22?). My daughter had the half-chicken, for $10 which was fantastic. Very crispy skin, cooked with lemon and thyme and flavorful and moist chicken (note: we tend not to like restaurant chicken, because we use Empire brand at home and find most restaurant versions to be too bland or dry or both). The downside is that no sides were included, but she ordered the fingerling fried potatoes (which came with a chipotle aioli, which went well, though she preferred ketchup). I got the most expensive dish, rack of lamb with risotto and artichoke hearts ($32). I didn't think this was outstanding, but it was very good. I've had more flavorful lamb, but it was still good. (I wouldn't get it again, though only because I think there are better values on the menu). Portions were very large for all dishes. Note that the fries are made by boiling fingerling potatoes, smashing them flat and then frying. They have a warm chocolate cake in creme anglaise which was out-of-this-world fantastic. My son orders this dessert everywhere he can get it at home in NYC and declared this version to be his favorite. We all ended up tasting it and loving it so much we went back the next night just for dessert (though it was Saturday and they were full so we missed out). We also had the maple creme brulee which is also excellent. I wanted to have the tarte tatin, which had been recommended, but they bake them fresh and it would have been a 15-minute wait, so I passed on it. Service is a little slow -- they are very busy and seemed a little understaffed, but our waitress was very helpful in making recommendations and in particular politely suggesting the doneness for each dish we wanted. Definitely make reservations a day or more in advance. It is casual style..

Our final day we lunched at the Doubleday Cafe on Main Street. It's a fairly standard diner but the food was a good value. I had a hummus and cucumber wrap, which was huge and tasty. Hummus compared well with the fresh hummus I can get near my home in Brooklyn (on Atlantic Avenue). The grilled chicken sandwich and bacon cheeseburger were also good.

For dinner, we ate at Nicoletta's, a southern Italian restaurant. Although cheaper than Alex & Ika, it appears more upscale (I was glad I wore pants and a collared shirt, as opposed to shorts, though there were a few Phillies fans there in uniform shirts and shorts). The food was good, but not great, the main issue being the saltiness (note: we tend to cook with very little added salt, so YMMV). The mozzarella sticks appetizer was very good quality mozzarella (thick and creamy in texture), though salty. Chicken parmagiana (my personal measuring stick for this type of place) with spaghetti was fine, but the chicken parmagiana was a little dry for my taste (it was essentially breaded chicken with good salty mozzarella on top and sauce on the side; I had to dredge it in the sauce from the spaghetti to make it OK). Linguini with clams was excellent and the veal saltimbocca was very good as well (even my daughter, who doesn't like spinach, ate half of it from my wife's plate). My son's spaghetti and meatballs got a good review (better than Yum Yum Shack). Service was excellent, despite being packed and they constantly refilled our water glasses.

As noted, we tried to go to Alex & Ika for dessert but couldn't get a table. Fortunately, we had some leftovers from Schneider's Bakery (also on Main, right by Alex & Ika). Everything we had there was fabulous -- macaroon, chocolate cupcake, large chocolate cookie and black and white cookie ("cake"-style). The chocolate cookie in particular was very chocolaty and rich.

All in all, dining was much better than I expected, though finding the better places in town is not cheap.

Top Chef Masters Finale 08/19/09 (spoilers)

It seemed to me that TCM differs from regular TC (should that be TC-TOS?) in that chefs are not penalized for failing to cook away from their strengths. On TC, chefs are often reminded (reprimanded?) that they need to show an ability to work in a variety of styles and with different foods (Mularkay cooked too much fish; Jamie and her "Top Scallop" dishes; Howie and his pork). Here, the challenges didn't really require working in a style a different than normal (even the offal challenge allowed them to just incorporate the ingredients into their favored cooking style). The challenge of taking another chef's dish and reinterpreting it is another example -- it might have made for an interesting test to see if one chef could actually duplicate another's dish). I think Bayless is helped in this regard, because to many "Mexican cuisine" seemed so exotic, while French and Italian cooking is more familiar. That said, Bayless acquitted himself well in the final with his essentially non-Mexican BBQ dish and his complex mole, which demonstrated his technique.

Has anybody tracked who won the most quickfires and elimination challenges? I thought Chiarello did well in that regard. The fact that he might be gruff or overbearing or anything else not criminally bad shouldn't impact the results of this show -- there was only one challenge where staff management was involved (from what I recall) and even the results of that challenge seemed based on the dishes, rather than what went on in the kitchen. In most jobs outside of a restaurant, you will find all sorts of bosses and all sorts of employees with different styles. Some employees actually respond better to tough treatment; others do not. For football fans, some players can handle playing for Bill Parcells and respond well. Others prefer Tony Dungy. But both coaches created winning products, which is really the point, just as it is to the diner at restaurants.

Aug 26, 2009
abrocadabro in Food Media & News

Top Chef and we're off! (possible spoilers)

I initially took his comment to mean that he shouldn't lose in opening the clams because of the strength involved in doing so, and based on physical appearance, he seemed to be stronger than her. But since I've never done that, I really have no idea whether arm/wrist strength is an important factor in opening them.

Aug 26, 2009
abrocadabro in Food Media & News


Is there any place in NYC I can go to buy Gertels' kosher for passover cookies and cakes, now that the retail shop on Hester is gone?

I've bought some Schick's brand things, and will be at the bakery in the next day or so, but they seem to give you less for the money (and don't have some of my old favorites).

Apr 17, 2008
abrocadabro in Kosher

Need to find chocolates for my Dad...

I suggest checking out Evelyn's Chocolates, on John Street. Not the fanciest, but delicious hand-dipped chocolates and a wide variety of interesting types.

Dec 05, 2007
abrocadabro in Manhattan

BK Heights/Cobble vicinity: I need lox and whitefish for 15 (brunch)

Larry is thinking of Garden of Eden.

Lassen and Hennigs has excellent nova, but the quality of the slicing varies with who is doing it. Don't know about whitefish, although in the past they've whipped up herring in cream sauce for me on the spot.

Dec 05, 2007
abrocadabro in Outer Boroughs

Bourdain at Les Halles?

My family of four ate at the Park Avenue location about six weeks ago and we felt it was perfectly fine. Three orders of the steak-frites-salade and one onglet (with the shallot sauce) were very good. The onglet (cooked perfectly medium rare) was just as tasty as it was before the restaurant became famous, although the shallot sauce (on the side) was not -- a little too thick and too sweet. Frites were excellent, as always.

I also had the french onion soup, which was good, although not as good as at Artisanal. Based on that visit, the restaurant still fits the bill for a tasty brasserie-style meal, especially for steak frites.

Also, we had excellent service, although we arrived before the large dinner crowd settled in.

I haven't eaten at the downtown Les Halles in more than a year, mostly because the last two times I was there, I was disappointed in the food.

Oct 03, 2007
abrocadabro in Manhattan

Best brunch in Cobble Hill metro area?

I think the service issue at Tabac is due solely to the large crowds and tight space. Other than the fact that they're busy, I haven't had any issues with service; my experience is that it's no different there than any other smallish place with lots of customers.

I haven't eaten a Luluc in a long time, but I enjoy much of Tabac's menu, as do my 8- and 6-year olds.

Sep 25, 2007
abrocadabro in Outer Boroughs

Little Pie Company Hell's Kitchen

I've loved their old-fashioned apple pie for years, as have numerous guests and family members of mine. I don't get why some people say it's disappointing. As noted by another, don't get the mini-pies (not a good dough-to-filling ratio).

Jul 27, 2007
abrocadabro in Manhattan

Manhattan Chocolate Tour

Evelyn's Chocolate at 4 John Street. Delicious hand-dipped chocolates. Favorites include the milk chocolate turtles, almond butter crunch, and a wide variety of chocolate covered foods, including pretzels, potato chips, oreos and others.

Jul 06, 2007
abrocadabro in Manhattan

Lantern Brooklyn Heights

Yet, it seems to do better business than either of the prior two versions in that spot. Pretty much every time I look at night, I'm surprised to see people inside (or outside now that the weather has been better). Can't speak from personal experience with the new place, but I thought the older ones were not worth the money.

Apr 30, 2007
abrocadabro in Outer Boroughs

Challah in Cobble Hil or Carroll Gardens

Cobblestone carries it some days, just like Tuller used to. Very good.

Dec 14, 2006
abrocadabro in Outer Boroughs

Godiva Bashers- I need advice

In Manhattan, Evelyn's Hand-dipped Chocolates at 4 John Street. Not fancy presentation, but delicious, especially their milk chocolate "turtles" and almond butter crunch. I also like their chocolate covered pretzels.

Nov 17, 2006
abrocadabro in General Topics


Oh, that is awful news! What am I going to do for Passover cookies and cakes?!

Has it already shut its doors?

Oct 09, 2006
abrocadabro in Manhattan

Les Halles - wish I'd listened to the reviews...

The John Street location has been very hit or miss since it first opened (after a short run as Le Marais II); I've pretty much eliminated it from my lunch spots, since the table service is typically poor (I've had better experiences sitting at the bar).

I wouldn't judge the Park Avenue location by your experience downtown, however. I can't recall having a bad dining experience there, either in terms or service or food, either before KC made the place "famous" or afterwards. It is important, however, to bear in mind that it's bistro-style food.

Oct 04, 2006
abrocadabro in Manhattan

R.W. Apple has died

Based on what I know of him, he may insist on cooking for her!

A great loss. I'll miss his travel and food writing in the Times. And I was a longtime reader of his political articles as well. I especially enjoyed the sidebars he wrote to accompany the harder news articles.

Oct 04, 2006
abrocadabro in Food Media & News

Ithaca Tour

If you do a search on this board for "Ithaca", you'll find some recent entries with suggestions.

free "Nasty Bits" by Anthony Bourdain

Thanks for the link. FYI: By clicking through "The Tap" link, you get information about Bourdain's partnership with MSN, including a list of recommended websites (not sure who created the list), which includes Chowhound.

Sep 28, 2006
abrocadabro in Food Media & News