A Happy Birthday at Torrisi Italian Specialties

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 | Posted under Manhattan, Reviews

You know you’re officially old when you start eating meals at 5:30 in the evening. In the case of my birthday dinner this past weekend, our reasoning for eating this early wasn’t because Husband J and I wanted the early bird special. Torissi Italian Specialties is just that popular. It’s also the size of my living room (okay, more like half of my not so big NYC apartment), so there are only so many people that can fit here. By 6pm, the entire restaurant was packed. After my meal there, I can see why.

Torrisi does not allow flash pictures, which is understandable in such a tight space. Please bear with these pics as I show you our extremely flavorful and rich meal there.

Oysters? Yes, please. Instead of a mignonette on the side, the oysters were already dressed. Husband J, the seafood expert, gave the thumbs up to these local oysters from Montauk, New York (about three hours away).

Torissi Italian Oysters

That was a expertly seasoned beginning to what was going to fun and flavorful meal.

Just so you know, if you get a reservation at Torrisi, don’t plan on perusing a menu. There is a set four course menu and actually a small group of people get a 20 course menu (you’ve got to reserve well in advance for that), so everyone’s getting the same thing. The menu changes weekly, so consult the website before you go. For some strange reason, I kinda like being told what to eat. 🙂

After our oysters, the march of the antipasti began. There were four, each very different from each other.

Warm Mozzarella DaVero

This lovely little ball of mozzerella was lounging the most flavorful olive oil with just a sprinkle of chunky salt to bring out the flavor.

Torissi Italian Warm Mozzarella

I almost asked for the name of this olive oil because it really took the mozzarella to a different level.

We didn’t have the cheese by itself. It came with this crispy elevated version of  garlic bread, whose ingredients were described to me, but I forgot when I ate a bite. I usually don’t care so much about garlic bread, but my goodness. Crispy with dried tomato. Wonderful.

Torissi Italian Garlic Bread

Tomato Panzella 

Torissi Italiam Tomato Panzella

I love the end of summer for the bounty of tomatoes, and this dish highlighted them well. The pickled red onion really added some zest and crunch when eaten with those sweet tomatoes.

Beef Carpaccio, Broccoli & Mushrooms

Torissi Italian Beef & Broccoli

I have to admit that I wasn’t in the mood for raw beef (and I may never be), so Husband J took the lead on this one. There are two things that you need to know about Torrisi and this dish:

#1 The chefs here are always playing with the idea of what Italian food is. This is actually their translation of Chinese beef and broccoli into an Italian dish. Weird, yeah? There’s still the beef and the broccoli element, except it’s raw beef instead of stir-fried, and that broccoli is actually in a tempura batter.

#2 There is flavor in every single element on that plate. Sometimes l think chefs throw ingredients in a dish thinking you won’t notice that it doesn’t taste as good as everything else. Those pickled mushrooms, with their depth of flavor, could have been their own antipasto. I appreciate chefs’ attention to detail.

Dungeness Crab Straciatella

Torissi Italian Dungeness Crab Stracciatella

When I think of straciatella, I think of gelato. This dish was essentially a crab soup (a mussel broth base) with poached egg, and I want to say some rice (the waiters did a good job of explaining things, but it was my birthday, so I did a poor job of taking notes). This was by far my favorite of the antipasto since I love a good seafood soup. The weather has already started to cool a little here in New York City, and this was warm and comforting.

Did I mention that was all antipasti? We actually shared the carpaccio and the mozzarella, but the other two were individual for each of us. It was finally time for the past course.

Calamari, Rings (Torissi’s designation not mine) with a Spicy Pepperoni  Sauce 

Torissi Italian Calamari Pasta

I don’t really know what else to say this dish other than I kept telling Husband J that I wanted to recreate this at home. Simple, a nice spicy kick, and firm but tender calamari really is the perfect late summer pasta dish to me.

Did you notice yet that we haven’t gotten to the main course? Yes, that’s next.

We just got each of the main dishes.

Halibut with Black Olives & Anchovy

Torissi Halibut Black Olives Anchovy

I ate this primarily, and I have to say that it wasn’t necessarily my favorite of the evening. It was nice to finally have something light after some of the rich food we had before. The halibut was poached and overall rather pleasant, but nothing too exciting.

Devil’s Chicken

Torrisi Italian Devil's Chicken

Can you tell I was getting lazy with the pic taking? Anyhoo, I still wonder how chefs get chicken to be so soft. My favorite part of the dish was the hidden spice of the tomato sauce and the cooling house-made yogurt paired with it.

Since it’s my birthday there was no way we were going to miss the special dessert available that night.

Coconut Chocolate Cake

Torissi Italian Specialties

Do you like Almond Joy? Then you’ll like this…plus, I love the ginger ice cream with the rhubarb.

House Pastries

Torrisi Italian House Pastries

Clockwise from left: Cannoli, Tri-color Cake, Celery Spongecake, Chocolate Truffles. Surprisingly, I wasn’t ready to burst after all of this food (close though). Who doesn’t love mini-desserts?

While it was definitely on the early side, I was very happy with my birthday dinner. Even if I am making my slow march to middle age, at least it will be a delicious one. 🙂

Torrisi Italian Specialties
250 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 

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Food Porn Friday – Super Linda

Friday, June 8th, 2012 | Posted under Food Porn Friday, Manhattan

When I go out to eat, I often indulge even if just a little. I know I should eat healthier most times, but I often save that for eating at home. I was out to lunch with a former work colleague after not seeing him for over a year, and I suggested Super Linda in TriBeCa for a quick lunch.
My choice for that day’s lunch was the tuna burger. 
Tuna Burger cooked medium, with pineapple, pickled onion and chipotle aioli with cole slaw on the side

While the burger could have been seasoned a little more, pineapple will make almost anything taste better. I loved that I got a much needed infusion of vegetables from the cole slaw. There was a little too much dressing, but I was happy to have cabbage, carrots, fennel and other crispy veggies to munch on. 
I felt pretty good that this time I’d made the right (read: healthy) choice.

Do you indulge when you eat out, or are you good about eating healthy all of the time? 

Super Linda
109 West Broadway 
New York, NY 
Happy Weekend!

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Parm

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 | Posted under Manhattan

I’ve been wanting to try Parm for a long time. This casual spot in the heart of Little Italy is an offshoot of a popular Italian restaurant called Torissi Italian Specialities, and it serves old school Italian-American sandwiches like Chicken Parmesan and Eggplant Parmesan. These sandwiches by the Torrissi folks were so popular and their old space so small that they spun off the sandiwich business into a new place called Parm. I had actually tried to get here before, but was so annoyed about the line and cramped quarters that I left.

The entire time I’ve been hearing about Torrissi & Parm I’m thinking, “Are these sandwiches really THAT good? I mean its Eggplant Parm. Not exactly rocket science.”
Ummm…they are good. Very good.
Meatball Parm Hero
You can choose to have the your parmesan sandwich on a roll, Italian hero bread or as a platter with no bread and a choice of what they call a Sunday salad (not clear to me what that is) or ziti.
The mozzarella was fresh. The meatballs were flavorful and not fried beyond recognition. The sauce thick and rich. Awesomeness between two slices of bread.
Because I felt bad about just having a meatball sandwich, I got some spicy brocoli rabe. Gotta have those greens! Husband J hates broccoli rabe, but I love its bitterness. I usually eat it sauteed with garlic and olive oil, but this was mixed with onion and pepper of some sort. I appreciate the spice and the reduction of my guilt.

There are other items besides the parm sandwiches including roasted turkey and club sandwiches, but going to a place called Parm and ordering turkey just seems so uncivilized. 🙂

If you ever plan to come here, be forewarned that it’s tiny, and there can be a wait for a table during peak hours. I feel like I repeat this all the time, but that just seems to be the case with so many places in New York City right now.
I’ve already bragged about this hero to Husband J and piqued his interest, so I suspect that I’ll be headed to Parm again some time soon.
Do you have any favorite places to eat that specialize in comfort food?
Parm
248 Mulberry Street
New York, NY
Also check them out at Yankee Stadium!

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The Austrian Food of Edi & The Wolf

Monday, March 19th, 2012 | Posted under Food Events, Manhattan

I’d like to think that I’m a pretty adventurous eater. I like trying lots of different types of cuisines, but even I have to draw the line somewhere. Confession: I usually don’t like German/Austrian food. Sausages? Sauerkraut? Wiener schnitzel? Meh….it was worse when I didn’t eat meat. I had to go to German beer gardens and survive on overly buttery spatzle.

When New Friend M invited me to a tasting dinner with Chefs Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban from the hip Austrian restaurant and bar, Edi & the Wolf (pronounced “Eddie”), and its higher end cousin, Seasonal, I was curious. I really wanted to like Austrian food. I wondered if I could finally learn to like it.
If you ever want to get me to like your food or cuisine, start off with smoked salmon.
Smoked Wild Salmon
Mustard Creme Fraiche, Leek Water & Crispy Brown Bread


That ranks as some of the softest, “melt in your mouth” salmon that I’ve ever tasted. The salmon is brined and becomes like a tartare, which is an inventive and smart touch. Cool. This appetizer was more like a deconstructed smoked salmon on dark bread with better sauces and attention to detail. This meal was already starting of well.
Like the other chef event I attended with New Friend M, the chefs demonstrated how to cook their dishes in between courses. Edi and Wolfgang definitely have a good schtick going on. They play off of each other well.

Edi & Wolfgang

Edi

The next course was butternut squash soup, but it came out a little bare at first.

Beer-Cheese Crouton & Speck (a type of ham)


Each of our soups was poured tableside.

Looks lovely, right?
It was lovely. Unlike many butternutsquash soups, this soup was had no cream and was sweet with the salty contrasting flavors of crouton and speck. I doubt there can be anything bad that contains both cheese and beer. Just sayin’.

The next course was going to be a big test for me. A big one.

Wiener Schnitzel
with Potato Salad, Cucumber & Ligonberry

I usually hate wiener schnitzel. It’s usually fried beyond recognition and greasy, and I can barely tell that it’s some form of meat. Well, I am now a schnitzel convert. This thinly sliced piece of veal tasted like veal and and wasn’t overly fried and had very subtle spice. So this is what GOOD schnitzel tastes like? Got it. The potato salad was tangy and not overly dressesd. No cloying mayonaisse. Also there’s cucumber salad with a perfect amount of dill underneath all of that beautiful schnitzel.


It was finally time to end the meal with Austrian sweetness. Woo hoo!

Kaiserschmarren
with Apple Compote

Honestly, this is really just flour, eggs, sugar, salt and milk baked in a pancake form topped with some cinnamon and powdered sugar, a typical and total homey Austrian dessert. I’m going to try to get an invite to an Austrian home just for this.

Edi & Wolfgang did it. They changed how I view Austrian food. It can be more than just horrible fried patties of meat or sausage slopped together at a biergarten. It can actually be just as good as any other gourmet cuisine when it’s done right. I guess that it’s just about taking the time to just make food in a way that highlights all of its goodness. Lesson learned.
Is there any type of food that you disliked in the past and now you really enjoy? Mine is Austrian. 🙂

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Pok Pok Wing

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 | Posted under Manhattan

We’ve got a lot of transplant restaurants moving to New York City lately, but one that I have been very interested in trying is Pok Pok Wing from Portland, Oregon.

If you can’t guess from the name, Pok Pok’s Wings small menu is focused on Vietnamese style fried chicken wings. Available sides are spicy, green papaya salad (papaya pok pok), plain sticky rice or coconut rice. Another main dish option is Khao Man Som Tam, which is the same green papaya salad with shredded pork, topped with fried shallots and cilantro.
Since it was my first time there, I tried the Wing Special, which includes three wings, the green papaya salad, and plain sticky rice.



The green papaya salad was a lovely combination of sweet, tart, and spicy. While the veggies were sufficiently crunch, the papaya was a little limp and felt overdressed with sauce. It was still tasty though. For those of you that can’t handle spice, I recommend eating the salad with the plain sticky rice.



As for the wings, I thought they were fine. They’re rather large; so if you’re by yourself, three is more than enough. The wings are marinated in fish sauce, garlic, and sugar. After the wings are fried, they’re tossed with more caramelized fish sauce and garlic.
I wanted to like these wings more than I did. It doesn’t matter to me what they’re marinated or tossed in, wings cannot be dry. These were. Also I would have wanted crispier skin on the chicken. The sauce was tasty, if not a little too salty. I thought I asked for spicy, but I didn’t get much spice at all from what I tasted.
One of the more unique items on Pok Pok Wing’s menu is a type of drink I’d never heard of before. They’re called drinking vinegars.

Essentially, it’s a vinegar-syrup that’s added to soda water. You have to stir it pretty vigorously to make sure it’s mixed in. At first taste, it’s sweet. In my case, it was a nice tamarind flavor. At the end, the sour portion comes through on your tongue. I think I liked it. 🙂 It’s rather different, so I highly recommend you try it.
I enjoyed Pok Pok Wing. If I’m in the area, I would stop by for a snack, but I don’t think it’s serving some of the better Asian-inspired wings in the city.
Pok Pok Wing
137 Rivington Street
New York, NY

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