After flying into PHL (it was cheaper), getting picked up by mama and then taking the train up to NYC from Jersey, I somehow mustered up enough energy to put together a small spread for when JP came home (super late and so not hungry). Not enough energy to go all the way to Whole Foods in Union, but enough to go to the Grand Central Market where produce is ridiculously overpriced but I justified the $8 for 12 strawberries by not taking the train ($5) down and back up from Union. Can't really justify all the prosciutto from Murray's Cheese though...
The awesome weather the next day post-cold and dreary Paris was sunny and high 60s which called for ice cream. I sat on the little bench outside one of my favorites - L'arte del Gelato in the West Village - with a cup of zucca (pumpkin) and dolce di latte (Italian dulce de leche I guess...?) and watched the cars go down 7th Avenue. The pumpkin was surprisingly delicious and I think I'm liking pumpkin more and more now. There may have been spices in it, there may have not...but if there were, they were very subtle as there was no real hint of nutmeg or cloves or cinnamon. I'd like to think I was eating unadulterated pure pumpkin gelato. And it was fantastic. I was almost sad that I got the second flavor with it as I could've easily polished off a whole serving of just the pumpkin but the dolce di latte wasn't too bad either in that I'm-creamy-and-delicious kind of way.
And earlier in the day, a sloppy bao with mildly spiced curried ground meat, paired with grated mango, cilantro and a dash of sriracha from Baoguette, although not as good as I remembered, and definitely not a Num Pang contender, totally hit the spot in a pinch (that pinch being the aftermath of picking out and buying stockings and other related legwear at Century 21...)
Eating continued at dinner where eight of us (sans JP, who had to work a lot while I was in town, tear) descended upon Donatella in Chelsea, the new pizza place with the ridiculous gold-tiled oven. No pictures but the verdict is that, even though there seem to be new non-New York slice pizzerias popping up all the time in NYC and I have yet to visit the majority of them (I've only been to Keste where the middle of the pie was super wet), Donatella was ridiculously delicious. But apparently their oven is a bottleneck (I'm using concepts I learned in school!) and handles only 3 pies at a time so instead of us each having our own (yea, we're fatties, don't hate), we shared and they were kind enough to cut each one into 8 slices rather than the regular 4.
The deliciousness factor was as follows: Diavola with spicy salami and chili oil (this seemed to be the most popular as we probably had a total of 3-4 pies), Margherita (you can't go wrong with a classic), Donatella with stracciatella and arugula, Capellacio with roasted and marinated mushrooms and then finally, the one I was not a huge fan of, the Enzo, with sausage and broccoli rabe (I love sausage and broccoli rabe pasta but this was just not very good...maybe they should've crumbled the sausage or maybe broccoli rabe doesn't belong on a pizza I don't know but I'd pass on this one next time). We also split some desserts (2 desserts for 4 people) and since we are all such great friends, both sides of the table inadvertently picked the same 2 desserts to share - the zeppoli which were surprisingly light and the sfogliatella where I found the ricotta cream too heavy for my liking.
And speaking of liking pumpkin more and more, at next day's lunch at Maialino with JL, we split an order of the pumpkin agnolotti which were amazingly melt-in-your-mouth tender delicious little packages of pumpkin goodness. The serving size is ridiculously small (12 pieces to an order? And they're not that big) but I could've easily kept eating and eating and eating them. Suckling pig terrine, which was breaded and deep fried, didn't do it for me because of its lack of seasoning but I didn't care since the agnolotti made up for any errors in judgement.
And in other pumpkin news, what's Halloween without some jack-o-lanterns? So off I went to the pumpkin patch with mama + the little brother (no clue who ppl in background are)...
Finally, for JP's and my combined birthday dinners down in Jersey with my family including my mama, grandparents and my brother (who tends to act like a little brat at times, although I love him still) we went to Rat's Restaurant (unfortunately named, I know) at the Grounds for Sculpture. Why? Because the chef there won the last season of Top Chef and because its a 15 minute drive from mama's house in Jersey. I will add that taking my grandparents to a nice restaurant is always such a disaster because my grandfather's diet consists primarily of pelmeni, or Russian raviolis, and he thinks everything else is garbage, while my grandmother is just awkward at restaurants and will only eat filet mignon and is dealthy afraid of choking on fish bones. Le sigh, but what can you do?
Overall, the meal was a little underwhelming - I was expecting better. My tomato salad appetizer was meh with no hint of the promised serrano chile, my brother's smoked salmon was just that and nothing special (although I'm super proud of him for eating half of it, and for finishing most of his mussels since he's a super picky and measly eater who munches on broccoli and celery, as well as sour cream and onion potato chips for fun) and JP's scallops crudo looked pretty but disappointed.
The mains were much better. I actually liked my duck breast, which was clazed with black mustard and soy and came with a pear puree, haricots verts and beets. Thankfully, the licorice-fennel marmelade on JP's super moist grilled pork chop wasn't overbearing and the dried fruit cous cous that came with it was israeli cous cous (he doesn't eat regular cous cous). And my brother liked his mussels, like I said, and liked the fries even more so.
Desserts again nothing special. I remember the creme brulee being much better and the parsnip cheesecake, while cool-sounding, barely registered a hint of parsnip. The caramel ice cream we had was pretty decent but it was presented on little pastry shells that was been pre-frozen onto the plate and were hard to eat. On top of that, they messed up and put the "Happy Birthday" on the wrong dessert, not to mention the awful service all night.
Bottled water instead of tap as requested, the waiter trying to leave before we had finished our drink orders (during which he thought "hard apple cider" sounded like "sidecar") and failure to actually explain what was on the tasting menu. But I guess that's what (unfortunately) happens when gratuity is automatically included, although I thought they'd be more professional.
The rest of the time was spent sorting my brother's Halloween candy. And eating it.
JP - sorry you're not accounted for in the title of the post, but "BF" does not go with the whole "F" theme. Also, I carved the cuter pumpkin, again.