Category Archives: Seafood

Dinner: Keens Steakhouse

Things are great at Keens Steakhouse.  It won a James Beard “America’s Classics” award this year, and since then, business has really been booming.  Not that the 128-year-old steakhouse needed an award–it’s obviously doing something right.  And that’s steak…atmosphere…service…and dessert.

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Speaking of atmosphere, the first thing(s) you notice when you step down the steps, besides the dark wood, is/are the thousands of pipes, yes, pipes, hanging all over the ceiling.

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The history is that travelers would check their pipe in at their favorite inn because the pipes were too fragile to be carried.  They are hard clay churchwarden pipes, and famous names like Babe Ruth, Teddy Roosevelt and Albert Einstein had pipes at Keens.  Right by the door, there’s a case, including an autographed pipe from Michael Jackson and other present-day celebrities.

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I didn’t know about this history before eating at Keens, so it was an interesting, fun history to learn.

My dinner at Keens was a belated birthday dinner with a friend.  I was instantly pleased that along with a bread basket and butter, we got veggies and spinach dip for a somewhat clean-eating snack.  (Hey, we needed some celery before this meal.)

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For appetizers, we got littleneck clams on the half shell.

clams

Tomatoes and onion salad with blue stilton cheese.  I like that there was just a sprinkling of cheese on the tomatoes and onion.  Just the right amount of flavor.

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Thick-cut smoked bacon.  My friend ordered this.  I’m not a bacon fan, but I decided to take a taste.  Oh wow, this was so smoky and flavorful.  This is definitely not your average bacon of bacon and eggs….

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Keens is known for its mutton chop, but I wanted steak.  I know I’m not a big steak eater, but lately, I’ve been enjoying it.  So I got the steamed Maine lobster and filet mignon.  The lobster was perfect and delicious.  The filet mignon was cooked to my liking.  It was very good–not as tender as the one I recently had at the Old Homestead, but still excellent.

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My friend got the prime rib of beef, king’s cut.

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For sides, we got mashed Yukon gold potatoes and creamed spinach.  I like mashed potatoes without garlic, so I was very happy with these.  I also liked the creamed spinach best of all I’ve had recently.

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We were pretty full after this meal, but our waiter talked us into a dessert.  Yes, the butterscotch sundae, with housemade butterscotch sauce made with real scotch.  They brought it with a birthday candle for me.

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OK, I usually find steakhouse desserts boring, like the standard cheesecake, chocolate cake, key lime pie…but this sundae takes the cake…er, ice cream.

This butterscotch sauce was sooooo good, we both want to come back and get our own.  I wanted to get a close-up so you could see it better.

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Yes, there is a reason Keens has been in business for more than a century, and that is because it serves classic food that is delicious.

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Day Trip: Cold Spring, New York

Cold Spring sign

Cold Spring, New York is a short ride (a little over an hour) on Metro North from Grand Central Station, but a world away from New York City.  Step down from the train platform and be transported.  This is a perfect place to go for the carless New Yorker.  The town is right off the train stop, and everything is within walking distance.  On weekends, this is a popular destination.

Welcome to idyllic small town America, complete with flag-draped gazebo.

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Known for its antique shops, Cold Spring’s main drag is the appropriately named Main Street, lined with cute storefronts selling antiques, flea market goods, gifts and more and many restaurants to choose from.  I liked The Country Goose, a charming shop with gourmet food products, soaps, children’s items, tea, products from the British Isles and more.  The owner is a charming woman who also makes gift baskets.

Cold Spring street

Not far from the train station is a the trolley stop where you can board and head to Boscobel House. There’s a little park here where a band plays big band music while people eat ice cream cones outside on park benches. The Village Scoop serves up ice cream in fun flavors like cannoli (made with mascarpone) and cherry pie.

cannoli ice cream
If you walk west toward the Hudson River, you’ll see the gazebo and the historic Hudson House, built in 1832 and one of only two accommodations in town.

Hudson

The accompanying restaurant has scenic patio dining.  The bread is of note–a popover with strawberry butter.

popover strawberry

I got the lobster and avocado roll.  I enjoyed the unique addition of avocado.

lobster avocado roll
Next door is the popular Moo Moo Creamery with creamy vanilla ice cream. The long lines are worth the wait.

Moo Moo vanilla
The nearby park has lovely views of the Hudson River and mountains.

Cold Spring mountain

Cold Spring mountain 2

What to Eat:  ice cream from Moo Moo and the Village Scoop, popovers and classic American fare from Hudson House, artisan ice pops from Go-Go Pops.

Where to Shop:  The Country Goose for gourmet food and gift baskets, The Gift Hut for unique toys for kids, Back in Ireland for goods made in Ireland.

What to See & Do:  The 1928 gazebo, the Hudson River view, Hudson House historic inn, Boscobel House and Gardens, Putnam History Museum, kayaking.

Cool Food Blog

Lobster Gal is a very cool food blog chronicling one women’s quest to try every lobster roll in New England.  With summer on its way, lobster rolls are the perfect summer sandwich.  The blog has a great search function to search by location–Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island; by mayo or butter; or by roll quality such as claw or claw and tail meat.  For the lobster roll aficionado, this is the site.  She even reviews some NYC lobster rolls at Luke’s Lobster, John Dory Oyster Bar and Ed’s Lobster Bar.  A great resource for your summer eating!

Atlantic Grill

Sometimes a girl needs a piece of cake, and she doesn’t want to feel guilty about it.  So she orders fish and veggies for dinner and then her cake.  Well, Atlantic Grill is the perfect place to do that.

Nicely grilled rainbow trout with broccolini and a few saffron potatoes.  A healthy, clean plate.

rainbow trout, broccolini, saffron potatoes

rainbow trout, broccolini, saffron potatoes

Below, the pièce de résistance:  salted caramel cake–vanilla bean-soaked white cake, caramel crunch and fresh berries.

salted caramel cake

salted caramel cake

Dinner Club: Barraca

Last night was the first meeting of my dinner club.  Greenwich Avenue was quiet and almost desolate on the cold midweek night.  In contrast, the crowd through the windows of Barraca appeared lively and warm in the soft glow of dim lights and glasses of sangria.

A fan of Chef Jesus Nunez and his cooking at Gastroarte, I had to head downtown to try his new venture, Barraca.  The specialty here is paella, and there are many to choose from.  There are also tapas and entrees.

Our group decided to get tapas.  Here they are, in no particular order:

roasted brussels sprouts with fava beans and ham

grilled cuttlefish with parsley ali-oli, preserved lemon and kale

fondue with hazelnuts, apricots

Spanish potato omelette, ali-oli and bread with tomato

mollete bread sandwich with pulled lamb, Manchego cheese, Guernica peppers and piquillo ali-oli

grilled octopus and baby potatoes, roasted peppers and pimenton de la vera

“broken eggs” served with crispy potatoes, pork belly, fried green peppers and Tetilla cheese

crispy potatoes with brava sauce and ali-oli

pork belly and collard greens

In addition to these, we also got bread with tomato, olive oil and salt and flatbread with oven-roasted vegetables and black olives. Some of these dishes were personal orders, so we all didn’t try everything that’s pictured. My favorite dishes were the brussels sprouts–roasted to perfection, the crispy potatoes and the fondue. The fondue added a sweetness to the savory dishes on the table.  Cuttlefish was new to most of us and we thought it a bit chewy.  Pork belly seemed to be a hit for the evening along with the omelette and breads.

The first dinner club meeting was a success.  If you’d like to attend a future event (one is planned for this Saturday), please let me know.

Two for Tuesday: Appetizers

The Palm Restaurant‘s flagship and Xai Xai South African Winebar in New York City are two spots for killer apps.  Eggplant rolled and stuffed with creamy good goat cheese at Xai Xai:

I don’t know what kind of goat cheese this is, but it’s out of this world. I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but the cheese made this dish. It’s smooth and creamy and blends so well with the accompanying sauce.

Jumbo lump crab cake with chipotle tartar sauce from the Palm:

This is a perfect crab cake, full of crab meat, not breading. The delish chipotle tartar sauce adds a hint of smoke.

Restaurant Week: Gastroarte

I always like to catch a few restaurants during Restaurant Week in winter and again in summer.  A lot of New Yorkers do not like Restaurant Week because they feel that the quality is not as good and that portions are smaller.  Most Restaurant Week regulars, however, know that there are a few great bargains for fine cuisine hidden in that extensive list of restaurants.  Gastroarte is one of them.  I’ve written about Gastroarte before, as I’m a fan of Chef Jesus Nunez’s beautifully artistic creations modernizing Spanish cuisine.

Chef Nunez greeted us before we ordered and recommended we try the pear salad and hake fishballs, as being signature dishes.

pear salad with Valdeon cheese, quince and walnuts

Where are the cheese, quince and walnuts, you ask?  Hidden beneath the pleasantly dressed mixed greens.

Another appetizer option: a creamy golden corn soup studded with English peas, fava beans and Serrano ham.


My friends ordered hake fishballs, mussels, shrimp and roasted cauliflower in a Mediterranean sauce. Hake, similar to cod, is abundant here in New York and very popular in Spain.


I ordered the marinated pork ribs with vegetables, a spicy sauce and cumin yogurt. I enjoyed this dish very much.  The perfectly cooked pork was topped with a lovely, spicy barbecue sauce.  With a sizable portion, it was quite filling.

For dessert, we all opted for the torrija with vanilla cream and strawberries. None of us had had torrija before, but it is similar to French toast. This dish was like a comforting, warm bread pudding with berries.

torrija

The Restaurant Week menu at Gastroarte provides an opportunity to try the restaurant’s classic dishes and whets your appetite for more of Chef Nunez’s creations. Chef Nunez will be put to the test against Chef Michael Symon on the July 29th episode of the Iron Chef. Judges include Jose Andres and Andrew Zimmern. It’s no secret I’m rooting for Chef Nunez!