New York Restaurant Week

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NYC Restaurant Week is on now through Friday, August 16th. Participating restaurants, including some of New York’s best eateries, are offering set 3-course menus for lunch ($25) and dinner ($38). See the list of restaurants at http://www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek Register your American Express card at http://amexnetwork.com/nycrestaurantweek to receive a $5 statement credit for every $25 or greater purchase at each participating restaurant through August 16th.

What’s All The Ruckus? JFK T4 Delta Sky Club

Over the past several months leading up to the opening of Delta’s new Terminal 4 Sky Club, travel blogs have been going nuts about it.  Reading some of these blogs, one might expect that this club would be the greatest thing to happen to air travel in New York City since the jet engine.

Today was my first flight leaving from terminal 4 since the Sky Club’s opening.  While it’s nice, I really don’t see what all the hubub is about. The club is much bigger than any Sky Club I’ve been in, except maybe in Atlanta.  While it has the fresh styling of recently-renovated Sky Clubs, such as the one at LAX, it offers nearly the same exact amenities that are already offered at every other Sky Club.

One item I’ve not seen in Sky Clubs elsewhere is the menu of for-purchase meals and snacks.  I’ve often complained about Delta’s “no outside food” policy seeing as how the don’t sell any food.  This offering is somewhat self-service.  There are iPad-powered stations where you make your selections, swipe your credit card, take a theme-restaurant-style pager, and then wait for a runner to bring your order.

The other differentiator, the Sky Deck, is an interesting novelty, but you can’t catch a breeze thanks to what I suspect are FAA-mandated solid barriers around the outdoor space.  If you could (which can be accomplished by standing near the small gaps between the barriers), that breeze would be (and is) pregnant with jet exhaust.

In short, the Delta Sky Club at JFK’s Terminal 4 is very nice when compared to other US domestic airline lounges, but pales in comparison to just about any non-US lounge, domestic or international.  The Air New Zealand lounge at SYD (which Delta is a client airline of), for example, blows this new Sky Club out of the water with plentiful power outlets more than adequate seating, complimentary bar and complimentary buffet-style full meal service.

JoeDough, New York, NY

JoeDough has closed, but Joe & Jill have started a new catering business in it’s place. See details here. If you’re craving Joe’s sandwiches, Tuesday nights are sandwich nights at Joe & Misses Doe.

Duck Egg SandwichJoeDough is an East Village sandwich shop offshoot of the JoeDoe restaurant a few blocks away.  Joe and Jill, the owner-operators of JoeDough, describe their cuisine as “Aggressive American,” combining Jewish, Italian, Asian and Irish influences.  I describe it as delicious and interesting.  While I have yet to have the pleasure of dining at the restaurant, if the sandwich shop is any indication of what to expect, I’m eager to book into JoeDoe.  If you’re a local looking for lunch or a tourist looking for some amazing NYC food, stop in at JoeDough.

At JoeDough, you can expect to find sandwiches that pay homage to classics you may remember from your youth, but update and tweak the ingredients to make them more interesting for a more sophisticated adult palate.  Here are a few of my personal favorites…

JoseDoe Cubano

Joe’s Cuban is toasted to a lovely flat, firm crispness.  American-made prosciutto adds a welcome smokiness.  Whole grain mustard adds extra depth of flavor.  I’m a huge fan of Cuban sandwiches, and this one is an instant favorite.

The Almighty Brisket

As cliché as it may sound, the brisket literally melts in your mouth.  Spicy mayo adds just enough kick to let you know it’s there but doesn’t overpower the other flavors.  This is easily the best beef sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

Brunch Special (pictured)

Early one Saturday, I stopped in and had the finest egg sandwich I’ve ever tasted.  This special was two duck eggs, shoulder bacon and queso blanco with sambal (a chile sauce popular in southeast Asia) on a brioche bun.  This was a fresh and flavorful twist on the classic bacon, egg and cheese roll.  The unique and unusual flavors of these variant ingredients make for an experience that is new and interesting, yet familiar at the same time.

Celery Soda

Celery soda was an old favorite in Jewish delis from around the turn of the 2oth century.  At some point between then and now, it lost it’s mass appeal.  I don’t know why that happened, but I don’t think it would have if Jill was in charge of making it.  JoeDough’s celery soda is light and refreshing.  It’s a perfect drink to refresh and cleanse the palate when enjoying one of the delicious sandwiches on offer.

Don’t Believe The Hype

JoeDough has received a few bad reviews on Yelp.  Those that complain about the food either don’t get it, or giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps just had some bad luck and timing when someone made a mistake in the kitchen.  I remain skeptical though; the shop has been immaculate and the staff very attentive whenever I’ve been in.  I have been to JoeDough often and never failed to have an amazing sandwich.  The flavors are often unusual.  The Cuban, for example, is an interpretation on the general theme of a Cuban sandwich.  A traditionalist might take offense, but if you have an open mind, you’re in for some interesting flavors.

I’ve also seen complaints about the prices.  Yes, ten dollars is more than I’d typically expect to pay for a sandwich.  Of course, I also wouldn’t get the exotic ingredients in perfectly complimentary combinations executed with an expert hand.  If you want to pay five bucks for a sandwich, go to subway and choke down that bland roll prepared according to a pictograph from mass-produced ingredients by someone with limited employability.

Some reviews accuse the owners and staff of being rude, crude or unhelpful.  I simply cannot believe this.  I have never had the staff treat me with anything but courtesy and good cheer.  I don’t know if I’ve ever met Joe, but I have met Jill, and she’s as cheerful and service-oriented as can be, and from what I’ve seen, the staff follows her lead.  Keep up the good work!

You can find JoeDough at 135 First Avenue between St. Mark’s and 9th Street.  A catering menu is available if you want truly amazing sandwiches for the guests at your gathering.

 

Char No. 4, Brooklyn, NY

The baconiest bacon ever.

While doing some business in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, I quite accidentally stumbled across this restaurant that specializes in some of my favorite things.  Char No. 4 sits behind an unassuming storefront on Smith Street.  Once inside, the wood and leather interior foreshadows the experience to come.  The restaurant’s website describes Char No. 4 as “a whiskey bar and restaurant inspired by a passion for bourbon.”  While I enjoyed my meal, I counted no fewer than 157 different varieties of whiskey, with a clear emphasis on bourbon and other American forms, on display behind the bar.  In addition to theses whiskies, the staff also infuse bourbons with various flavors, including habanero peppers.  When I spoke with the bartender, who was very enthusiastic about his craft, he mentioned the barrel-aged cocktails they have on offer including Manhattans and mint juleps.

As my visit was an early one on a weekend, the brunch menu was being served.  I selected a chipotle bloody Mary and biscuits benedict.  Oddly enough, I had managed to make it this far in life without ever having a bloody mary, so while I don’t have anything to compare it to, I can say that the flavors were clean and distinct.  The smoky spiciness of the chipotle effectively disguised any alcohol flavors, and the drink was pleasant and refreshing.  The fresh, crunchy, house-made pickle was a nice touch.  I think the folks at Char may have ruined me for all other bloody Marys.  The benedict was a moist, buttery biscuit topped with ham smoked in-house, perfectly poached eggs, and a flavorful bacon gravy.  Everything tasted wonderful, although I left half of the biscuit behind.  While it was very tasty, it was also very dense.  I was offered some of their house-made hot sauce, which I immediately accepted.  The sauce is full of fruity pepper flavors with a heat that lingers in the back of the throat but doesn’t overload the taste buds.

Since I gave up part of my biscuit, I figured that it couldn’t hurt to try the house-cured thick-cut bacon.  Two roughly quarter-inch thick strips are served with a side of maple syrup.  Those who know me know I love bacon.  This was the most bacon-y tasting bacon I have ever had.  I cannot recommend it enough.  It is smoky, salty, sweet and sinfully fatty.

Finally, I sampled the cheese curds.  Having spent a lot of time in Wisconsin, I have come to appreciate the beauty of a good cheese curd, and these would stand up to the curds I’ve had in the badger state.  They’re not quite, but almost squeaky on the teeth.  At this point, I wished I could keep going and sample more of the gorgeous products the kitchen at Char No. 4 produces, but I could hear a little cardiologist in the back of my head clicking her tongue at me.  I’ll definitely have to come back another day.

Char No. 4 can be found at:

196 Smith Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201

…which is just a block away from the Bergen Street subway station (F and G trains).

http://charno4.com/

Zum Schneider – Bavaria on the Lower East Side

Photo courtesy of richardgreene.com

Zum Schneider has been a favorite of mine for quite a while.  It was only after I’d been to Bavaria that I realized just what a treasure this little corner of the Lower East Side really is.  If you’re looking for a little piece of Bavaria in New York City, you’ll find it here.

There are very few places in New York where you can get a Maß, which is a liter of good Bavarian beer and  pronounced “mass.”  It’s one of only a handful of places in the five boroughs of New York City where you’ll find proper weißwurst, served in the correct Bavarian style – heated in water and served with spicy & sweet mustard and a soft pretzel.  On busy nights, the dining room has the atmosphere of an Oktoberfest beer tent.  I’ve been to a few other German restaurants in NYC and none of them can hold a candle to Zum Schneider.  I’ve tried most of the menu, and I have yet to have a meal that is anything short of amazing.

One of my favorite dishes, and a frequent special, is the Schweinshaxe or “pork knuckle.”  The outside is crispy, and the meat inside is tender, juicy, and falls apart for your fork.  For a lover of pork, the Schweinshaxe is a must.  The sausage platter is another excellent choice.  Grilled sausages are served over sauerkraut with a side of mashed potatoes garnished with radish slices and grape tomatoes and two kinds of mustard – one is coarse & mild, the other fine & sharp.

The service is quick & friendly and the staff puts up with my terrible German pronunciation and generally makes an extra effort to make you feel welcome. With the communal table style, you can make new friends with every meal.

The apple strudel is excellent, but at least as of my last visit, they don’t serve coffee.  Maybe it’s just that I’m not German, but I’m not a fan of having my sweets with beer.  This is truly the only negative comment I can come up with about this wonderful restaurant.  If you like beer, German food, or are a fan of swine flesh, go to Zum Schneider.  You’ll be glad you did.

Zum Schneider is located at:

107 Ave C (corner of East 7th Street)
New York, NY 10009
http://www.zumschneider.com/

 

New York Restaurant Week

We’re two days into New York Restaurant week, a great chance to try out many fine restaurants that you might have otherwise passed up.

The restaurant week deal is a $24.07 lunch or $35 dinner from a prix fixe menu.  The list of restaurants along with their Restaurant Week menus are all on the NYCgo website (link below).  As an added bonus, if you have an American Express card, you can sign up to receive a promotional bonus at the website.

Last night, I visited an old favorite – Brasserie Ruhlmann.  It’s a wonderful art deco space right in Rockefeller Plaza. I’ve never had a bad meal there, and last night was no exception.

This year, Restaurant week is really two weeks (July 11-24th), so I plan to revisit a few old favorites and try out a few new spots.

I hope this is helpful!

http://www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek (opens in new window)