Monday, February 22, 2010

Soul Food in Harlem

It’s two days later and I still get a queasy feeling in my stomach when thinking back on the soul food that did me in. I had such high hopes when I had approached a line that went out the door at Amy Ruth’s in Central Harlem. Friends of mine that are accustom to southern cooking rave about chicken and waffles, and I had considered this the perfect opportunity to embrace a traditional southern dish.

The dinner started with a brick of cornbread and butter that was placed on every table. Baked macaroni and cheese, bar-b-q spare ribs, collard greens, and anything else you can find at a Sunday picnic in rural Alabama is listed on the menu with nicknames of prominent African American figures from Ludicris to Barak Obama. I felt almost criminal spreading butter and syrup all over Reverend Al Sharpton and drinking cherry Kool-Aid that shared the same consistency of the warm syrup. Upon completion of my dinner I immediately felt ill. At first I thought it was just an unconscious shame of what I just did to my body, but a few hours later it all came back up and on my bedroom floor and continued with a series of dry heaves the next morning.

I’ve had food poisoning once before and the same familiar feelings returned to haunt me. I’m convinced that it was the chicken, but it probably didn’t help having fried food, syrup, and sugary drinks. I don’t think I can ever step foot in the place again without feeling nauseous, but for anyone who has a craving for soul food, try the spare ribs and let me know how it turns out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pasquale's Rigoletto, in the Real Little Italy

“This chicken is greasy and tasteless.” These were the first audible words that came from the table behind me as I sat down in the main dining room of Pasquale's Rigolletto located on Arthur Avenue, better known as “The little Italy of the Bronx.” It wasn’t a very encouraging start, but I wouldn’t let it influence my opinion of what the evening would have for my dinner associate and I. The menu offered classic Italian dishes that went fitting with the classic Italian atmosphere of white tablecloth tables with a bottle of house red wine on each. Anyone who sat down for dinner received Italian bread with slices of provolone cheese that had come from the hollowed wheel that had been displayed as a unique centerpiece to the room.

I had decided to challenge the “greasy chicken” head on and ordered the Chicken Florentine. A family size plate contained about a pound of chicken with a layer of prosciutto held together by a francais coating. A generous portion of spinach cooked with garlic and olive oil went perfectly with the white wine and butter sauce that created that ”old world” Italian taste that everyone speaks so highly of. Greasy? Not visibly. Tasteless? Certainly not. Each bite was packed with a buttery white wine flavor and cooked to perfection. It’s possible the table behind me was served a bad batch, but they certainly got the right the second time.

The majority of the main courses average between $18 and $22, and you will most likely have enough to take home. Move over Mulberry Street, authentic Italian experiences exist in the Bronx.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Modern During Restaurant Week

I can’t think of a better way to start my blog than right in the middle of New York City’s “Restaurant Week.” This bi-yearly event gives restaurant goers a great excuse to try restaurants that normally might be out of budget. My selection for this week is The Modern, located at 9 West 53rd Street inside the Museum of Modern Art. This restaurant offers a fine selection of French-American dishes crafted by award winning chef Gabriel Kreuther.

Entering through the street side entrance a frosted glass hallway had bared resemblance to the museum but soon opened up to unique dimly lit black and stainless steel themed décor where I joined three dinner associates at a table in the Bar Room. A three-course prix fixe menu gave us a variety of Alsatian dishes ranging from quail egg to pear and duck consommé. I started with Tarte Flambé. At first taste, the flat bread topped with Parmesan cheese, apple wood smoked bacon, and onions, resemble that of an Italian appetizer. At second taste, the heavy crème fraiche that drizzled on top brought the taste buds back to France. For my main course I chose the red snapper. A heavy cream with lemon, butter, and white wine reduction sauce adorned a cooked to perfection section of red snapper about the size of a playing card. Creamed onions and mushrooms melted in my mouth as it became necessary to finish every bite. For dessert, I chose the Apple Strudel designed by Marc Aumont to complete the meal. A thin slice of warm caramel and cinnamon apple pie was complemented well with a tablespoon scoop of Amaretto liquor ice cream.

Overall, the service was knowledgeable but smug. When requesting a corkage fee, sympathetically she said, “$45,” as if we weren’t going to put a gifted $178 bottle of Sassicaia Bolgheri, 2006, on the table. The meal was rich in flavor and quality but lacked substance. I didn’t leave hungry but wasn’t satisfied with the portion size. For $35 the price was right for this week, but next time I’ll stick to meat and potatoes.