Striphouse

The following is a guest blog from March 7, 2012:

Macaroni and PLEASE

I work in Sales.  it’s a competitive environment.  Competitive with others.  Competitive with yourself.  So naturally there’s wagers thrown around the office daily that can range from who has the nicest handwriting, to who can eat the most munchkins in 4 minutes, to who will win in a foot race, to who can drink more maple syrup without throwing up.  We’re a tight knit group that have known each other for over 5 years. We’ve seen each other shirtless.  We know each other’s families, habits, and even bathroom schedules.

Currently, we’re playing The Lent Game*.  The 4 of us collectively decided what each person would concede over the next 40 days.  Naturally, the one thing each of us picked for the others to sacrifice was the food they loved most.  This was going to be fun. Even the Jewish kid was playing. No money involved, just pride.  And we were all on the honor system.  This is what was decided:

Andrew – no chips
Matt – no baked goods
Jeff – no pasta
Me – cheese

As I am writing this on March 8th, three remain.  Andrew, Matt and Jeff.  I lasted 4 days.  I fucking love cheese.

REEEEWIND…

In December Jeff received an ESPN desk calendar as a Christmas gift.  Each January morning the 4 of us would huddle around his desk awaiting the sports trivia question that could range from NCAA Basketball, to Horse Racing, to Nascar, to Hockey, to Olympic events that only Canadians and Norwegians would understand.  Andrew started keeping score on an Excel file so that we would eventually see who was the smarter, more well rounded sports fan 11 months later.  And there was money on the line.  The winner would receive a free steak dinner.  Tits.

To nobody’s surprise really, 1 question per day wasn’t enough.  So we started doing 2 per day.

3.

5.

10.

20.

Until the final day when we locked ourselves in a conference room and banged out the final 60.  By February 10th we had blasted through all 339 trivia questions (there was only one trivia question for Saturday and Sunday).  It was a full on addiction.  Everything took a backseat to the trivia questions. Lunch. Work. Family. Sleep. Even porn.

Matt was declared the winner by a sizable margin (which didn’t come as much of a surprise since this is the same person who purchased a pair of Tom Brady game-worn cleats on eBay for $14,500.  So really, he had to win). We agreed on Striphouse as the venue, made the reservation, and on Wednesday, March 7th ate a light lunch in preparation for the feast that would ensue at 6:30pm.  I checked out the menu online beforehand to make sure they served the side dish that best compliments a 12 ounce filet; macaroni and cheese, son.  And since I was eliminated from The Lent Game – I could eat it guilt free.

We sat down, ordered drinks, and debated whether or not the woman in the 60 year old black and white photo on the wall behind us was attractive for the next 20 minutes.  The steaks came along with brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, cream corn and MACARONI AND CHEESE.  I scooped some on my plate and took a bite.

Then another bite.

A third bite.  Waiting ‘taste’ to show itself.

Took a fourth bite. Nothing.

Was this macaroni and cheese? It felt like it in my mouth. But I couldn’t taste anything.  Not even salt.  Eating plain, cold and sticky elbow macaroni out of a strainer would taste better than this.  What a sham.  Maybe I should have been tipped off when there was no adjectives to describe the dish on the menu?  This shit made Velveeta taste like Moose House cheese**.  This was the worst macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had.  At least with Easy Mac, as bad as it may be, you know what you’re getting.  And it tastes like something.

Here’s a picture of what the worst bowl of macaroni and cheese looks like. If you want to know what it tastes like, just lick your monitor.  It’s the same thing.

RATING:  NEGATIVE  5.2

The steak and other sides were good.  AND there was one other positive that came out of the meal:  Mac and cheese is considered pasta so Jeff is eliminated from The Lent Game.  Boom.

 *My 2012 New Year’s Resolution was to give up Lent.  But I agreed to play anyway.
 **I have never had Moose House cheese.  But I Googled ‘most expensive cheese’ and Moose House was the winner: http://most-expensive.net/cheese

John Amici is some random dude I met on the internet who wanted to guest blog. You can follow him and his strange obsession with dinosaurs on twitter @sheriffmooch

Striphouse

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Jacob’s Pickles

January 18, 2012

Have you guys been to this new place on the UWS called Jacob’s Pickles?? GO. If there’s anything I love second to mac and cheese, it’s pickles. It’s why I secretly have a soft spot for Snooki. So a restaurant dishing out all varieties of pickles, AND serving mac and cheese is a cannot-miss for me.

I admit I originally went for the pickles, but I will go back for the mac and cheese. It. was. INCREDIBLE. I only got a side (for $8, versus an entree for $14) and it was plenty for me to eat for dinner. If you get the larger version it comes with three different types of mushrooms- I stuck with the regular. Served straight from the broiler, the penne noodles are absolutely smothered in an incredible, thick combination of cheddar, american and parmesan cheeses, beneath a crispy, thick layer of additional rich cheeses on top. This mac and cheese is obligatory.

The pickles were a bit too sweet for my liking (I still ate a whole plate…) but they have plenty additional options that I didn’t get to try. This gastropub with a rustic-feel is a solid win for the Upper West side. A fancier take on southern style comfort food plus a great vibe and atmosphere.   If I have yet to convince you to check this place out, they have an extensive beer menu and BEER FLOATS.

RATING: 8.2

Jacob’s Pickles

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Essex

November 19, 2011

Rushing to Saturday brunch, my only thought is ‘whose idea was it to make a brunch reservation for 11AM?!’ Those of my friends who didn’t go out last night, that’s who. And of course, I am the only one running late to a place that won’t let your party sit down until the whole party is there. What an asshole.

Essex is one of those brunch places that is so “scene” that they have the nerve to charge you $10 for each person who doesn’t show up for the reservation. The brunch is a great idea for large groups of people who want to drink; the entire menu is the same price of $22.95 (this includes 3 drinks) which makes splitting the bill evenly a no-brainer.

The obvious choice for my tired, hungover self was the manchego macaroni and cheese. It was a fantastic cure. Although the presentation was sub-par (came out as a clump on a white dish), the manchego flavor was incredible and the cheese-to-elbow ratio was perfect. The noodles were slightly overcooked, but the quality of the cheese made up for it. The manchego was slightly broiled on top adding a crispy, crunchy texture that worked impressively.

The other dish I tried that I can’t not mention, is the ‘Mexican Matzo Brei’ (scrambled eggs, tortilla crisps, monterey jack & avocado with black beans & pico de gallo) which was out-of-this-world divine. Overall Essex is a great spot for brunch, just be sure you make a reservation in advance, and don’t drink too much the night before so you can enjoy your 3 free drinks with your meal (instead of pass them off to a friend, which I might have had to do…).

Note to self: must get back for dinner to try the fried truffled mac ‘n’ cheese kebobs!

RATING: 7.4

Essex  **Brunch is cash only

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MacBar (Delicatessen)

November 1, 2011

After a recent halloween related disagreement with two of my best friends, they felt bad and offered to take me out for some mac and cheese. What can I say, my friends know the way to my heart. I’ve been trying for months to get to the infamous MacBar, since whenever I mention having a mac and cheese blog, MacBar is usually the first place people bring up. Why? They only serve mac and cheese.  Their main competition in this mac-only category is S’Mac in the East Village. Well, I’ve had S’Mac and was completely disappointed after trying three of their signature dishes. So I was a bit hesitant to try MacBar, but they surpassed S’Mac in every way.

To clarify, we wanted MacBar but also wanted some wine, so we actually ate next door at Delicatessen (international comfort food) where they serve the same mac and cheese on a broader menu. The only difference is the mac here is served in iron skillets, rather than noodle-shaped dishes. If you have time to sit and eat, I recommend Delicatessen; here you have additional food items and the truffle fries appetizer is an absolute must-not-miss.

The three macs we ate:

  • The Classic   elbow macaroni, american and cheddar
  • Mac ‘Shroom   roasted “magic” mushrooms, fontina, mascarpone, truffled essence
  • Margarita Mac   fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, parmigiano, fresh basil

All three were wonderfully cheesy with a near perfect ratio between noodle and cheese. The top layer of each was smothered in a stringy cheese topping to hold in the heat and flavor. My personal favorite was the margarita, but I don’t think you can go wrong (there are an additional 9 varieties). At MacBar, they seem to have mac and cheese creating down to a science.

RATING: 8.2

MacBar
Delicatessen 

More Pics…

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Sofia Wine Bar

October 3, 2011

Tonight there are many reasons to celebrate. Engagements and birthdays and new jobs. My girlfriend Daphna invited me along to carouse with some of her best friends, and we found ourselves picking Sofia Wine Bar as the place. I had no idea a wine bar this adorable could possible exist in midtown. Christmas lights outside attract you to this little nook, with brick walls and a dark wooden bar, chandeliers and tin lanterns- this place is the definition of a ‘hidden gem’.

All of the shared plates were delicious, but the spinach artichoke dip had us all raving. It was undoubtedly the best I’ve ever had. Two of us ordered some macaroni and cheese for the table, and the downfall for the mac was when it came out lukewarm, if not cool. Unfortunately, we had to complain to several waiters in order to get it properly reheated and brought back out. Once it was the correct temperature, it was divine. The combination of not one, not two, but seven cheeses (aged gouda, cheddar, parm, asiago, to name a few) created a lovely cheese sauce that filled the shell noodles. A lit layer of breadcrumbs and herbs topped off the dish.

If you find yourself in dreaded midtown, don’t fret. You can get a great meal at Sofia and enjoy some fabulous wine (they have 90 different glasses to choose from). I will certainly be returning.

RATING: 6.8

Sofia Wine Bar

 

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Cornerstone Tavern

October 2, 2011

Both the football team and the baseball team from my home city have big games tonight, so that means it is Sunday Funday on the UES. (I am failing to mention which teams I am referring to in a meager attempt to not lose any followers). After viewing a gruesome come-from-behind loss at a local watering hole, several disheartened fans and I meandered down second avenue in an attempt to comfort ourselves with either booze or mac and cheese. Luckily for my stomach (and my employed self on Monday morning…) we found mac and cheese first at a neighboring sports bar.

The mac and cheese is a side on the menu for just $6.95 and is a pretty nice sized portion for the price. The cheese sauce, and there is a lot of it, is made of three cheddars (mild, sharp and jack) and has a parmesan breadcrumb layer on top. The food at this sports bar was surprisingly good; the waitress mentioned they just got a new chef. But even she agreed with me that the mac was “just ok”. Try the corn chowder with grilled cheese instead!

RATING: 5.3

Cornerstone Tavern 

 

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Heidi’s House by the Side of the Road

September 22, 2011

I thought I had conquered every mac and cheese venue in my neighborhood (the UES), but I’ve found that searching “mac and cheese” in FourSquare tips is a promising new way for recommendations. Without it, I would never have discovered this ridiculously adorable, tiny box of a wine bar. Heidi herself was running around waiting on people, making everyone feel like they were at home, and I get the feeling that that’s always the case here. Very limited seating options, and if you are at the bar you are going to have to make friends with the person sitting next to you.

The principal mac and cheese is $12 and the menu warns that it can take up to 20 minutes, so order it right when you get there. You can also order it with gluten-free rice, bacon, chorizo sausage, or lobster, but I stuck to the basics. I’m not sure if I just came on an off night, or if I have become a mac and cheese snob, but Heidi’s mac just didn’t do it for me.  It comes out smoking hot from the oven in an adorable iron skillet, and visually looked like it would be outstanding. The first issue is the amount of cheddar cheese they broiled on top. I am NOT one to complain about too much cheese (is there a such thing??) or a crunchy top layer, but this was just too thick and difficult to get through. Once you were past the brick layer, the spiral noodles below were actually lacking in cheese. They need to work on that ratio! I also felt the spirals were a little over cooked; they could cut down on that 20 minute wait time if they let the noodles finish cooking in the oven.

Heidi’s menu says that it’s better than Grandma Lola’s. Well sorry Granny, but yours must not be very good at all! Check out Heidi’s for the wine and atmosphere, but skip on the mac.

RATING: 6

Heidi’s House

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Beecher’s

September 13, 2011

One of the places in New York City with the most ‘street cred’ when it comes to mac and cheese is Beecher’s in the Flatiron District. Beecher’s became world famous last November when the Queen of all Media herself (Oprah, of course) claimed it the World’s Best Mac and Cheese and gave it away on her famous ‘Favorite Things’ episode. Watch it here. But at that point, Beecher’s mac could only be found in Seattle, or ordered online for a frozen tray. Jump to June 2011 and Beecher’s opens another store right here in my city (pretty sure they got word of my blog and just wanted my opinion…). Not sure why it took me 3 whole months to get there to try this decadence, but man was it worth the wait.

What sets Beecher’s apart from the rest? It’s the cheese. As Beecher’s is actually a handmade cheese shoppe and not just a mac and cheese factory, it makes sense that their cheese is one of, if not the best, I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. And having the finest quality cheese can make one heck of a difference. At Beecher’s they use a perfect blend of their flagship cheese (a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese with a nutty flavor- similar to Cheddar), and jack. Beecher’s cheese is so damn good that every cheese I’ve tasted since has made me stick my nose up in the air and declare it crap.

Instead of the standard elbow, Beecher’s uses a penne noodle which I personally find too big for the dish, but that is my only complaint. Well that, and the fact that Beecher’s doesn’t use breadcrumbs, but instead a “crisped” layer of cheese. But those 2 mute points don’t even matter at Beecher’s because they make up for it by having FIVE varieties of mac and cheese. “World’s Best” for $13, balsamic mushroom and fennel for $14, curried cauliflower and sweet onion for $15, and lastly, crab for $19,  lardons and pickled fennel stems for $17. I had the pleasure of trying all but the last two. The curry variety was unbelievable if you enjoy a little Indian in your life, but if you have to decide on one, definitely go for the World’s Best.

RATING: 8.9 

Read more about their process here.

Order Beecher’s here. (beware- don’t click on the “nutrition facts” link!)

More images from Beecher’s:

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Posted in Flatiron | 1 Comment

Artisanal Bistro

August 15, 2011

Apologies! WordPress lost my blogpost. Update coming soon!!

RATING: 7.8

Artisanal

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Posted in Midtown East | Leave a comment

Pies n Thighs

July 25, 2011

Apologies! WordPress lost my blogpost. Update coming soon!!

RATING:5.8 

Pies n Thighs

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Posted in Brooklyn | Leave a comment