Restaurant Review: Annabel

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During my lunch break I often walk around the Columbus Circle and Hell’s Kitchen areas of New York City, and more than once I’ve found myself staring into the windows of Annabel, an artisanal pizza spot on Ninth Avenue. Its interior is rustic-chic, with exposed wooden beams on the ceiling and hanging industrial-style lightbulbs. The tables are sleek and square, and the soft glow of the candles on each renders the room cozy and inviting as evening falls—perfect for a romantic dinner or a girls’ night of gossip. The latter is what I was there for, with my friend and former coworker Anna.

We spent some time looking over the menu, which includes a range of appetizers, salads, pizzas, and full-size entrees like bacon mac and cheese with pork ribs and crispy rice or whole wheat tagliatelle with calamari, clams, scallops, and lobster in lemon-cilantro butter. With so many options, we weren’t sure how to choose, so we started by crossing off what we didn’t want. The buttermilk fried chicken, braised short ribs, and truffled risotto all sounded tasty, but we decided they’d be too much food alongside a pizza. We settled on the spanish octopus with broccoli rabe and a yellow chili emulsion; it seemed relatively healthy and we thought it would make a nice light start to our meal.

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Spanish octopus with broccoli rabe and yellow chili emulsion.

Anna and I both enjoyed this dish, though we thought it could have been a little larger for $12. Instead of three pieces of octopus (we had to cut the last one in half to share), four tentacles would have been more ideal. Otherwise, it was cooked perfectly, not rubbery or mushy in the slightest, with a nice char on the outside. The broccoli rabe had just enough bitterness to leave a pleasant aftertaste but not so much that it made our tastebuds pucker. And the sweet spice of the yellow chili sauce complemented but didn’t overpower the delicate taste of the octopus.

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Pizza with arugula, ricotta, duck prosciutto, and blueberry jam.

For our pizza course, we wanted something unique, and quickly decided against the simple tomato-basil or four-cheese pies. Torn between two options, we went with the more outlandish-sounding one: ricotta, duck prosciutto, blueberry chutney, and arugula. What did we think of this strange mishmash of flavors and textures? Anna said it best: “The combination of duck, blueberry jam, ricotta, and arugula was not supposed to taste good; those ingredients just sound so random and odd. But I was very surprised at how delicious it was!” And it was delicious. The arugula lent the crisp yet still soft crust a tanginess that was perfectly offset by the sweetness of the jam and the creaminess of the ricotta.

The duck prosciutto was the finishing touch: a hint of savory saltiness. Only, I wish there had been at least one slice of duck for each wedge of pizza; we ended up having to break them in half in order to get the taste of the prosciutto on every piece. But overall it was worth it. For $18, we got a six-slice pie that our server described as smaller than your average takeout pizza but larger than a personal pie. It left us pretty full and satisfied…but of course we still found room for dessert.

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Pistachio creme brûlée.

Right away we decided on the pistachio creme brûlée. In all honesty, I can’t say it was a five-star dessert: the brittle caramel on top seemed a little more burnt than strictly necessary (though personally I like burnt things so I didn’t really mind). But aside from that minor flaw, the green-tinged custard delivered a bright flavor and rich creaminess that felt simultaneously fresh yet decadent in our mouths.

All in all, Annabel excelled in all aspects: delicious food, appealing aesthetic, and prompt and friendly service. Both Anna and I plan to return—there are still so many menu items we want to try!—and would definitely recommend adding this to your restaurant circuit.

Recipe: Peach Pie Crumble Bars

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I keep meaning to post a garden update, but then I continually forget to take photos of the plants when I get home from work in the evenings. I’m going to try hard to remember tonight! In the meantime, I wanted to share this really good recipe (based on one I saw in Martha Stewart Living) for peach pie crumble bars. They’re great as a mid-afternoon snack when you need a pick-me-up or as a refreshing after-dinner treat. Mine came out a bit more like a crumble than a bar because I ran out of flour, but if you follow the recipe below, it should firm up perfectly. Continue reading

Recipe: Roasted Duck with Cherry Sauce

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A few times a week, Todd cooks dinner for us since he gets home from work earlier than I do. Lately we’ve been drooling over duck dishes when we go out to restaurants, so he suggested that he try to make it at home. But since we’d never made duck before, we decided to find a recipe to guide us through it. After browsing through several cookbooks (we now have so many that they don’t fit on the shelves of our bookcase and are stacked on the floor), we settled on a roasted duck recipe from Drew Ramsey’s Eat Complete. Here’s the recipe (modified slightly from the original), and some special guest commentary from Todd on his cooking experience. Continue reading

Restaurant Review: Project Brunch

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wp-1462216105205.jpgCandy-loaded milkshakes from Black Tap. Teardrop cakes too pretty to eat. Rainbow everything. Food crazes, meet Project Brunch. The new breakfast/lunch spot in Staten Island is making headlines for its over-the-top offerings, like blueberry-batter pancakes, tiramisu French toast, and a BLT with panko-coated tomatoes and herb aioli.

Of course, I needed to visit. And now that I have, all I can say is this: I must return. Multiple times. Until my fiancé and I have sampled everything on the menu, plus the daily specials, which were Oreo pancakes and reuben waffles during our visit last Saturday with Todd’s parents. We arrived at the restaurant around 9 a.m., worried we might be met with a long wait and lines extending out the door. From the outside, the spot looked sleek and modern, with big windows that let in tons of light.
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Favorite Foods at the Village Voice Choice Eats Tasting Event

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A few weeks ago, Todd and I attended the Village Voice Choice Eats tasting event, where hundreds of foodies gathered to sample delicacies from more than 50 restaurants located in Manhattan and the boroughs. We expected the event to be jam-packed, but the crowds spread out pretty evenly and we didn’t have to wait in super long lines to sample any of the food—though certain crowd favorites, such as Luke’s Lobster, ran out of bites before we made our way to their tasting table. Here are some of our favorites, all from restaurants that we had never tried before but have now added to our list of places to eat in and around the city.

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