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Report: NYC with Kids: Craft, NoMad, Maialino and more

SF Chowounds took the Chowpups (6 and 8) to New York for Spring Break. We all had a blast. Thanks to the regular posters on this board who gave us some good ideas.

Just wanted to give a quick report on a few places that we went with our kids this week. Over our past couple of New York trips, we've confirmed that New York is a great place to take young children out to eat--with a few caveats. Our kids are serious chowpups. They chowed their way through Italy this summer and know their regional Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Indian, etc.

We always (almost!) bring along a couple of iPhones, and non-electronic entertainment to keep them occupied between courses. We also benefit from the fact that our kids pretty much stayed on West Coast time, allowing for much later dinners than usual. And of course, we don't press our luck! I am always reminded of the brilliant piece Michael Lewis wrote in Gourmet many years ago about taking his daughter to Masa's in SF: What better place to take a young child than a fine dining establishment which is used to catering to the every whim of temperamental, demanding customers!

We stayed at the Gramercy Park Hotel, which was a great location. you even get access to the private Gramercy Park. Our package included a 3 course breakfast every day at Maialino as well as a food credit. Breakfast at Maialino and brunch on Sunday was very good. Kids particularly enjoyed the cacio de pepe eggs, the pastries, and the pizza bianca. The carbonara was also a big hit--definitely reminded us of Rome. This was obviously a place that always had a bunch of families with kids while we were there.

Since we had a 3 course breakfast each day that never started much before 9:30 since the kids were still on Pacific time, we didn't do a lot of lunches. Our daughter did, however insist on a trip to Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Aside from that, some nibbles at the Union Square Greenmarket, and some non-descript UWS diners and bagels filled in most of our lunches.

On our trip last year, we hit some of the classics of "New Yorkian" cuisine (as our 6 yo would say): Katz's, Russ and Daughters, Keen's, as well as the Modern. This time, we largely stuck to Gramercy/Flatiron, Chelsea for dinners.

The highlights of the trip were dinners at NoMad and Craft.

* NoMad. I had read the breathless coverage on Chowhound ( and elsewhere of NoMad and when I saw a 6:00 table on Opentable, I grabbed it. I wasn't sure it would be appropriate for the kids, but it turned out to be a great experience. We were seated in the "atrium" I think there was one other family with 2 slightly older girls. The food was absolutely awesome. My wife was momentarily horrified to realize she had left her iPhone charging at the hotel, but the kids were so entertained we didn't need any electronics. Highlights included the chicken, which our son said was the best thing he had ever eaten; the scallops, and the fruit de mer. The flatbread was also adored by everyone at the table. And our daughter is still talking about the milk and honey dessert a few days later. We also had some great cocktails. The staff was so professional and friendly to the kids. Granted, our kids had their charm turned onto maximum that night. They both loved their "orange julius" cocktail, which really was a very nice Orange Julius. We had a table where we could peek into the tiny kitchen and watch them constantly pump out the chickens. Especially considering that the restaurant had been open for only six days, this was a nearly flawless meal. Everything was so well seasoned, and just yummy, without any fine dining pretension. This was definiltey a meal the kids won't forget. The only dish I didn't love was the chiffonade of snow peas. It was a perfect bite of spring, but for me, it didn't need to addition of prosciutto (blasphemy, I know!)

* We also took the kids to Craft. This time, both kids were a bit more tired, so there was a lot more game-playing on the iPhones. But it was still a ton of fun for them. In case anyone has any doubts, Craft is an extremely kid-friendly restaurant. The couple next to us had a toddler with them and the waiter happily brought a high chair. There were a number of other well-behaved kids in the room too. Craft is really the perfect place since everything is so simply prepared. Highlights included an artichoke and fennel salad, the short-ribs, scallops, roast lamb with olives, and roast hen of the woods mushrooms and in particular, roasted ramps. Our beloved daughter had a fit of vegetarian guilt (yes, the same one who insisted on a hamburger from Shake-Shack earlier that day), but was convinced to eat the scallops and halibut! Our son particularly loved the ramps and the short ribs. Everyone quickly devoured the donuts. But best of all for the kids was the drinks. Both kids ordered grape juice. The server came over ceremoniously put wine glasses in front of them, showed them the bottle, discussed the wine's provenance, poured them a taste, and then a full pour. They were both completely delighted! We are on the plane now and the kids are polishing off their Craft scones.

Other places we hit on this trip.
* Lupa. Cousins made a reservation here and I wasn't sure what to expect given the mixed reviews on CH. We were pleasantly surprised. Kids both had a special agnolotti stuffed with beef in a very light fresh pea sauce with crunchy bits of proscuitto. They loved it and the adults fought over the leftovers. We also all enjoyed the antipasti: in particular the sardines and a pork tonotto dish. And our 6 yo was so excited to eat at a Mario Batali Restaurant. Though he was amazed to hear that the last time I had been at Babbo, we saw Mario and Emeril holding court in the bar. He was less impressed about us seeing Yoko, though for the adults, that was pretty cool!

* Went to Almond Restaurant which was right around the corner from our hotel when we arrived at 11:00 pm. Was fun to take the kids to a very lively place blaring the Velvet Underground at an hour that was WAY past their bedtimes. I had a perfectly decent salad. Our daughter's roast chicken was quite good. Shared artichokes were mushy/over-cooks with forgettable sauces.

* Shake Shack. Shake Shack is Shake Shack. What more need I say? It was, as always a very good burger--especially in Madison Square Park as we watched the Lubovichers roam around looking to fill the mitzvah tank in honor of the Rebbe's 110th birthday.

* Loved the Union Square Greenmarket. We always try to hit a market wherever we travel. It brings endless comparisons to what's different between this market, the Ferry Building Market, etc. On a cold and rainy day, the hot apple cider was much appreciated!

* Grom. We were walking by Grom right as our son announced he was "starving." I thought it was quite good--especially the pistachio. Certainly as good or better than much of the gelato we had in Italy this summer (Don't think we went to a Grom there...)

* Eataly. Just a quick spin through to grab some pastries for some "starving" children. Looked like a fun place to explore more another time.

Next time, we hope to hit some of the other boroughs and hopefully explore some of the ethnic cuisine where NY has CA beat. If we include LA and SF, not even entirely sure what that would be! If you have suggestions on places we can't miss on our next NY trip, we would love to hear them.

Apr 04, 2012
alfatcat in Manhattan

SF Chowhound looking for a good spot for a business dinner (midtown)

Hi New York Chowhounds! I'm going to be in midtown next week for business. Would like to take a group of colleagues and clients out to dinner (probably 10-12 people). The group will be academics and finance types.

I'm looking for suggestions for an appropriate place to take this group. It should be fun and have good food. It probably shouldn't be too loud and raucous because I imagine people will want to talk. I don't think we want anything overly formal either. Definitely should be a place that will appeal to what I'm sure is a pretty sophisticated crowd.

We'll be staying at the Hilton New York (W54th and 6th). Anything a not too long cab-ride away would be fine.

As for price, there's a pretty wide range there. Price isn't really an object. Total cost less than $100, I guess. I'm not trying to score points by spending money for the sake of spending money.

Yeah, I know, that 's all kinda vague! Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

Mar 02, 2010
alfatcat in Manhattan

Has anyone eaten at Vivace Ristorante or Piacere's in San Carlos, CA?

One reason that no one had mentioned Spasso is that this thread is from 2005!

I've generally found Piacere to be good, not excellent. It is vaguely Italian, but more Cal-Ital. I think I actually prefer the more casual lunch menu to the dinner menu. Nice sandwiches, salads, and pastas. It is a great place to bring kids and adults though.

Spasso has been mediocre to poor every time I've been. The three times I've been there I've had poorly conceived, indifferently prepared dishes that were either way under seasoned or way over seasoned. The place seems to be packed most of the time though and they must have been doing well enough to open up the wine bar across the street.

For Italian (as opposed to Cal-Ital)...we had an excellent meal tonight that I would call fresh, seasonal, and quite authentic Italian at Donato Enoteca in Redwood City (in the old A Tavola spot). See this posting:

San Carlos has turned into a real food town since 2005. I can't believe how much better the offerings are now than when we came here 5-ish years ago! The Refuge, Rumi, Pilita, Harmony, Speederia, and many more have opened up since then.

Here's a good thread that hits many of the highlights:

Northern California Mail Order Holiday Gifts

'tis the season to start thinking about gift ideas again! I thought I would bring back this thread. Lots of good options mentioned. Anybody got any great new suggestions?

The Refuge in San Carlos: REAL Pastrami and more!

The Refuge opened up on Tuesday. I wandered in for lunch today.

The sign on the front says "wine bar, pastrami, charcuterie." I had a Pastrami sandwich with coleslaw and russian dressing. It was simply outstanding. The pastrami was warm and moist yet not fatty at with great texture. It had the perfect amount of spice. It was served on a hearty rye bread that did a great job of standing up to the pastrami. The sandwich was a perfectly reasonable size: ample, but not overstuffed. Let's see if I can put it into perspective. The refuge's pastrami is to the typical boar's head pastrami as a hershey bar is to an artisan handmade truffle. Not in the same universe.

My 2 year old son, had a very tasty grilled cheese and fries. He liked it a lot...and I concur.

In addition to the pastrami, they have fresh ground american kobe burgers, cheesesteaks made from fresh sliced ribeye, a nice charcuterie and cheese selection, as well as soups and salads.

They've also got what looks to be a very well thought out wine and beer selection with an emphasis on biodynamic wines and Belgian beer.

I spoke with the owner, Matt. He told me that he had been chef de cuisine at Viogner and wanted to open up his own, much less formal place. I hope he'll be successful.

Prices. Not cheap, but reasonable for the quality. The basic pastrami is $13, reuben $14, cheese stakes and burgers $12.

Bottom line: I think this place is yet another winner for San Carlos (yes, SAN CARLOS!) . If you like pastrami, this is a place that is worth a trip out of your way (possibly a long trip out of your way!) I'm looking forward to returning soon to try the other items on the menu.

The Refuge
963 Laurel Street
San Carlos, CA 94070

Northern California Mail Order Holiday Gifts

As we're getting to the heart of the season, I thought I would bump this to see if anyone else has any other great ideas.

Happy Holidays!

Upper peninsula dinner (near SFO?)

We've had this circumstance several times. I don't think I've ever done anything other than a Chinese restaurant in Millbrae. Zillions of authoritative reports on this board:

Good Food Delivered in San Carlos?

OK, when using the words "good" and "delivery" be sure to calibrate your expectations by remembering that you're looking for delivery in San Carlos, not Manhattan...
The ones that orezscu mentioned are probably at the top of our list. I would also add:

Saffron Indian Bistro
1143 San Carlos Ave
San Carlos, CA 94070
(650) 593-4269

Siamese Kitchen
637 Laurel St
San Carlos, CA 94070
(650) 592-3277

I don't think either of these places get a ton of love from Chowhounders looking for authentic culinary revelations, but given the universe you've got to work with, they are both more than acceptable.

Northern California Mail Order Holiday Gifts

I'm looking for great holiday gifts that we can send to out of town friends and family and would love to get some suggestions of Northern California products that can be orderred on the internet and shipped throughout the country.

In the past we've done things like McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil, Cowgirl Creamery Cheese, Frog Hollow conserves, and wine from Porthos.

What are your favorites?

Harmony Organic Frozen Yogurt (San Carlos)--Awesome!

Just got back from speaking with Nick, the owner.

He says that the base is Organic Nonfat Yogurt. They add some 1 percent milk, organic non-processed sugar, and a mystery organic ingredient. So it is probably more than 99% fat free.

They say they'll have it tested soon.

Harmony Organic Frozen Yogurt (San Carlos)--Awesome!

Our entire family has quickly become completely addicted to Harmony Frozen Yogurt in San Carlos (Arroyo at Laurel). Inspired, I'm sure by Pinkberry, Harmony serves just one flavor, "natural" that is tangy and slightly sweet. It tastes like what it is: Organic Straus Family Creamery Yogurt sweetened with a little sugar. Topped with fresh berries or mango, it completely blows away any frozen yogurt I have ever had.

Toppings include fresh fruit, as well as chocolate chips and the usual suspects.

Our kids love the place, but it was the adults who instisted that we go back. (I think 4 times in the past week!)

They tell us that it is 98-99% fat free and under 150 calories for a small serving.

Harmony Frozen Yogurt
1226 Arroyo Avenue
San Carlos

Anyone try the new Italian in San Carlos that replaced Ciao Amore? Any thoughts on La Tosca?

I would love a nice homey neighborhood Italian restaurant in the neighborhood! But do I understand correctly that they have the same chef as before? The menu appears identical. Not a good sign! Please tell me that this really is a different place!

My wife and I went there once on the suggestion of a non chowhound cousin (lesson learned!). I had fish which the kitchen obviously had trouble releasing from the pan, so they scraped it off and dumped it on a plate...Odd presentation, but the presentation was better than the taste. She had bolognese--bizzarely orange color, oily, insipid, tasted like a can, yuck!

We agreed that Ciao Amore was the single worst meal we have had PERIOD in the past 15 years--that included airports, snack bars, dining halls, and gas stations.

Pimientos de Padron - where to buy aside from Happy Quail farms?

I've got a couple of plants growing in my backyard. Bought at Whole Foods about a month ago for less than the cost of 1/4 lb from HQ farms. They seem to be coming along nicely. I'll report after harvest.