Monday, May 28, 2012

Toby's Public House

86 Kenmare Street (crn. Mulberry Street), New York, NY
(212) 274-8629

There is pizza and then there is pizza in little Italy New York. On the corner of Mulberry and Kenmare, there is Toby's Public House. Very quaint looking, with open windows and easy atmosphere, this looks like a place where you could go in for just coffee and read your newspaper or come in with all of your family for a full menu sit down meal.

In the mood for some pizza and salad, I went in and was soon seated right where I could see the fiery wood burning oven, their speciality. I ordered one pie with primavera tomato, mozzarella, artichoke, olives, red onion, and arugula. To be on the safe side and to have all my greens, I had also opted for the chopped romaine salad, with fresh seasonal vegetables, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, ricotta salata, and lemon dressing.

I should not have worried, as when the first pizza came, I was happy to note that the arugula was generously on top. The pie was well baked with burnt wood flavor steeped in. Sometimes, pizza is all about the crust or the sauce, though this time, the fresh green toppings made it tastier for me. Toby' Public House has a well stocked bar. They have bottled sodas, waters, speciality mocktails and for the coffee inclined, the espresso and cappuccino.
Guess what, the tap soda is on them and that helps with kids wanting less and more without advance notice. We went on a Sunday afternoon and the place was buzzing with activity. There were mostly families, a few loners at the bar who appeared to be local, and a kid's birthday party celebration.

And then I turned my attention to the next pie, which was the classic Margherita tomato, mozzarella and basil. This is the most well known variety of pizza besides the plain cheese one, and is one that I suspect pays secret homage eponymously to the famous Italian mother persona. Giving it the prefix of 'Margherita' a name so similar to Margaret (which means a pearl in greek), this too has become tied to childhood memories of mother's recipes.

This pie too was well seasoned and with goey mozzarella was spot on for lunch time in the city. All pies come in one size which makes it easy to order. One thing to note, when you do visit, this is a cash only place and so come ready, as you might end up trying more than one item on the menu.

I feel that you cannot leave an Italian restaraunt without tasting the Tiramisu. Made with fresh mascarpone cream, this was soft and delightful. Too bad the kids polished it off before I could even get the camera. Some other time, when I come in only for late night coffee, since the place is open till midnight, I will remember to add a picture or too.

Monday, May 21, 2012


39 East 19th, New York, NY 10003-1334
(212) 387-1200

Italian cuisine in New York city is almost on every street and avenue. I have tried several places all over and have found many favorites that I re-visit. Sometimes, I try new places that I get to read about or from reviews. Bocca caught my eye by chance when visiting the Union Square farmer's market, and decided to try it out one Sunday evening for dinner. The place is proud to note their authenticity by using only imported Italian DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) products in their menu.

Bocca has an elaborate dinner menu which has clean descriptions of all ingredients making it easy for my vegetarian taste. For the pasta dish, I selected the Tonnarelli Cacio E Pepe house made pasta served table side with pecorino romano and coarse black pepper. The server came to our table and diligently mixed the pasta with the romano and expertly served it to all. Mildly flavored and just right, it tasted smooth almost velvet like.

If you do note, the plating here also was a bit higher in style than the usual. It does up the experience and so did the fresh black pepper and romano cheese. At times, I have felt that to grade an Italian kitchen you have to try their pasta, as that is their fundamental base just like their pizza dough and sets the quality of the restaraunt. And this home made version surely made high marks on my list.

Also, finding good tasting ravioli is difficult. Every chef has her or his style of making it. Here, on Bocca's menu I was intrigued by the description of goat cheese mousse filled beet ravioli with fig jam and walnut oil. It did sound like a mouthful, but when it arrived looked like a piece of art put together delicately. Light and flavored with nuances of walnut and fig made this one of the finest ravioli's that I have tasted. Surely this is a must try if you are a ravioli fan.

The other pasta dish that I tried was the whole wheat fettuccine. Of late, I have been favoring the whole wheat versions of pasta, and this one was made with tomato sauce and fresh basil. Though being a standard simple recipe, I was happy to note that it was made with the same detail and cooked to perfection, just as the other dishes. Well plated, this too was superior in texture and taste.

In brief, surely there are many Italian speciality places that you can come across especially in New York, but this one was elegant and of high quality. Being well situated near Union Square, I do recommend a visit if you are in the mood for nice genuine Italian fare for dinner, or for lunch as they do have a separate equally compelling Lunch menu.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kadai Channa Masala

This is a little dry version of the regular Channa Masala. It can be served as an appetizer with samosas or aloo tikki or as a main entree with Indian breads like puri.

Here is a much simpler version of the several elaborate ways of making this dish. In old Delhi, there are some push cart vendors who specialize only in making Channa Masala. Served with puffed bread like naan or kulchas, people are known to take their place in long queues during the lunch hour just to make sure they can get some as it runs out pretty fast.

Strange as it may seem, but almost all of these chefs, cook the chickpeas in black tea to obtain the darkish color. You can take a look at the recipe, via this link for the Fox news website.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Blue Pig

121 Maple Street, Croton On Hudson, New York 10520
(914) 271-3850

What do pigs have to do with ice cream? Good question, but this is the name of a quaint little ice cream shop located in Croton on Hudson up north in Westchester county. I found about this place through word of mouth and decided to give it a try on a weekend when I was up for the drive.

As it turned out, the place took a little while to get to since this was the first time I had been to this part. The shop is a stand alone store without any trappings of a strip mall location, which I think adds to its uniqueness. It is located close to residences giving it a real neighbourhood feel. And yes, there is a "Blue Pig" standing outside to greet customers. Parking was a bit tricky.

The Blue Pig ice cream makers take pride in making all their ice cream from locally sourced ingredients and that too on a daily basis in small batches. On the flavor front they have some twists to the regular variety like Honey Vanilla with Lavender, Buttered Pecan and Maple Walnut to name a few that you will not find in most places. They really use fresh fruit and not the canned variety, which adds to the taste.

Quite obviously my kids had the M&M ice cream which was actually to my surprise quite refreshing from the other variations I have had in the past. I also tried an ice cream float that was on the menu. Serving sizes come in the usual range, though at times for me even a kiddie cone is sufficient as that way I can try more flavors.

The Buttered Pecan flavor that I tried, had a real home made taste to it and a feeling of purity. Especially after having gone through the some usual store bought variety in the recent winter months, this felt like a good healthy change.

And just in case you are interested, the Blue Pig also does cake and soups too. We did not try them, but from the looks of the quality, I believe that they will turn out to be a good option also in the winter time. They have Potato Leek and Black Bean that you can place orders for.

It turned out to be a fun trip and we will be back for more as the summer heats up to try more flavors. Also, close by is the Croton Point Park which is a big attraction for para sailing and a nice clean place for a picnic along the Hudson river.