When you’re as dedicated of a Foodie as me, Celebrity Chefs are the new Rock Stars — and from Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain to Jonathan Waxman and Rocco Dispirito, I have met many of the best. But no previous personal collision with culinary genius has matched the heights squee-worthiness attained by my recent chance meeting with former Top Chef contestant and all around Fabulous uber Hottie, Fabio Viviani! I love him! Fabio happened to be shilling for Bertoli Olive Oil at last week’s Editor’s Showcase at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, and he was just as charming and charismatic in person as he is on TV. Fabio Viviani!
Bertoli Olive Oil Booth Display
Fabio was gracious enough to pose for a photo of us together and, as you can see by my face, this was a moment I will not soon be forgetting. But it wasn’t actually the first time I had seen Fabio out and about while I was on a Food blog related excursion. Two years ago, I was having drinks and snacks Upstairs at The Kimberly Hotel when I noticed a guy sitting at the table directly behind me who had what looked like a Sock Monkey clearly visible in his rear jeans pocket. Yes, I just typed that. A split second after my initial observation, Sock Monkey guy turned his head and I immediately recognized him as Fabio, who is one of my favorite contestants from Top Chef, ever.
I was just emboldened enough by alcohol consumption to have said something pleasantly confrontational to Fabio at that time, but his party was made up exclusively of very attractive women who were all clearly fawning over him, so the timing was a bit off. Minutes later, he was gone and I thought I had missed my chance, so thank you Bertoli Olive Oil and Editors Showcase for providing my a true fan moment with Fabio. And thanks Fabio, for your delicious food and just being you.
It is no secret that The Worley Gig is a huge fan of all delicious foods, and we try not to discriminate. But if we had to pick a favorite single food (rather than an entire ethnic cuisine, in which case Mexican FTW!) we would choose Macaroni & Cheese. Because, pasta and cheese baked together, yum. Over the course of the past year’s many restaurant reviewing adventures we have had the pleasure of sampling a current trend in Macaroni & Cheese preparation: the addition of truffles, or truffle oil, which elevates this humble comfort food dish into the culinary stratosphere. In this post we revisit five New York City restaurants featuring a Truffled Macaroni & Cheese dish on their menu. Feel free to pay any of them a visit and tell them we sent you!
Upstairs at The Kimberly Hotel
All Food Photos By Anne Raso
Midtown Manhattan’s finest east-side rooftop dining experience is found at Upstairs, a swanky open-air cocktail lounge (with awesome nighttime views of the Chrysler Building) located on the Penthouse level of the Kimberly Suites Hotel (145 East 50th Street). On our first visit last summer, our heartiest mid-week appetite was more than satisfied by an order of rich and fragrant Truffled Macaroni & Cheese ($12), baked en casserole to a golden hue. Simply perfect. Rating: A
The Meatball Factory
Chef Dave Martin takes credit for starting the Truffled Macaroni & Cheese craze while he was a contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef. His signature dish, a Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese ($11), is among the most popular items on the menu at The Meatball Factory (231 Second Ave at 14th Street). Chef Dave’s secret to achieving such delicious, cheesey-truffly baked goodness involves first cooking the cream base for the sauce until it develops its own “nutty” flavor, then slowly folding in both Fontina and Parmesan cheeses so that ingredients blend perfectly, preventing the sauce from “breaking.” This technique makes for a very creamy sauce and a unique integration of flavors that, when combined with the essence of black truffles, elevates this memorable creation high above “your Mama’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese” status. Rating: A-
Update: Sadly, the Meatball Factory Has Closed as of April 30, 2012.
At Bahr Che Wine Bar (tucked away at 26 Astor Place) their limited menu is enhanced greatly by the Lobster and Black Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese ($16.00) — one of the heartier choices on a menu punctuated by tiny salads. We especially enjoyed the big chunks of lobster tucked around tendrils of macaroni in a mild cheese sauce, but ultimately the dish called out for either more sharp cheddar cheese or extra seasoning (a few sprinkles of salt, even) to bring out the much desired black truffle essence. Rating: B-
One of our favorite new dining spots on the Lower East Side is DL (95 Delancey Street) where they do their Ludlow Mac (Elbow macaroni, with creamy béchamel sauce and cheese) three ways, including a glorious Truffle and Mushroom ($15), version. This is a classically oven-baked dish with a crispy panko crumb topping and plentiful slices of fresh mushroom added, which goes a long way towards enhancing the rich and flavorful truffle oil-infused sauce. Rating: A
Sons Of Essex
Sons of Essex is one of no fewer than three restaurants with the word Essex in its name that is also located on Essex Street (in this case, 133 Essex Street, between Stanton and Rivington). Sons of Essex is so enthusiastic about the Macaroni & Cheese trend that its menu even has a separate section dedicated to detailing the various types of Mac & Cheese that SOE serves. In addition to a daily Mac & Cheese special variety, each day of the week you can also get the Truffle Mac N Cheese ($16) made with elbow macaroni, Gruyere and a truffle cheese sauce, baked to achieve the crunchiest golden brown top you could ever ask for. Easily shared between two people, this dish answers the burning question, “What shall we have for an appetizer?” Rating: A+
Ah, weekend Brunch in NYC. It’s a continuously evolving hot topic that keeps all of the Yelp reviewers on their toes! We love the funky East Village brunch scene, but sometimes we like to put on our fancy shoes and check out what’s going on a little further uptown. This past summer, we enjoyed a magical rooftop evening of unique and hearty appetizers, tall cool cocktails and stunning city views at the Penthouse level restaurant, Upstairs at the top of the Kimberly Hotel. As luck would have it, we heard that they also host a killer Brunch.
On a recent, unseasonably warm Saturday we checked into Upstairs with a mind to investigate their Custom Bloody Mary Cocktail Cart. More about that later. First: Look at all this food! If you’ve brought along your serious appetite, you can begin your meal with the Upstairs Parfait made with Yogurt, Granola and Blood Orange Marmalade ($11), the Fresh Fruit Plate with Honey Crème Fraiche ($12) or something a bit more decadent in the form of an individual Pastry Basket stuffed with a Pain au Chocolate, a Muffin and a Fruit Danish ($14). Maybe you would want to share that pastry basket with a friend…maybe not.
California Spinach Quiche
Egg dishes include the light and flavorful California Spinach Quiche ($13) and a fresh-from-the-farm Goat Cheese & Ratatouille Omelet ($14). Traditional Eggs Benedict is served three ways, with your choice of Canadian Bacon ($16), Smoked Salmon ($18) or Lobster ($24). There’s also a wildly indulgent Truffled Duck Egg Toast with Duck Prosciutto & Gruyere Cheese ($24). All Egg dishes are served with a mixed greens salad and Upstairs’ signature French fries, which are dipped in a light buttermilk/flour mixture before being fried to a golden crisp. Dishes priced at or over $14 include your choice of a Bloody Mary or Mimosa. Brunch!
A Breakfast Sweet Tooth can be sated with an order of Whole-wheat Blueberry Pancakes ($14), Brioche French Toast with Blackberry Salad ($14) or an amazing Buttermilk Waffle with Vanilla Whipped Cream and Mixed Berries ($14).
Kobe Beef Burger
If you’re feeling more like Lunch than Breakfast, nobody does the Kobe Beef Burger (with White Cheddar, Avocado and Grilled Red Onions, $18) quite like Upstairs, and the Lobster Roll ($18) might hit the spot as well.
Mixologist Albert Mixes Up One Helluva Bloody Mary!
And now let’s talk about those Bloody Marys, shall we? While Upstairs has a full bar during Brunch, where a perfectly acceptable Bloody Mary will set you back $10, you might want to consider going for the mixed-to-order version for an extra fiver. These premium Bloody Marys, which are gigantic and meant to be sipped slowly, are prepared and served tableside by a handsome and knowledgeable mixologist named Albert, who mans the cart with great skill. Start off right with your choice of three premium vodkas – Grey Goose, Ketel One or Absolut – then choose your desired level of heat – from one to ten – and tiny scoops of prepared horseradish are added accordingly. Additional add-in seasonings and spices available to suit your taste include crushed red pepper, ground black pepper, mustard seed, cayenne pepper, chili pepper and Old Bay seasoning – which you can add into the Vodka and tomato juice mixture or have applied to the rim of the glass. Fresh extras include slivers of crisp red bell peppers, jalapenos, lemon wedge and the traditional tall stalk of celery garnish. Holy cow, that is one potent Bloody Mary: well worth the 15 Bucks!
Brunch at Upstairs at the Kimberly: You’re Doing it Right.
Upstairs is located at the Kimberly Hotel, Penthouse Level, 145 East 50th Street (East of Lexington) in New York City (Take the 6 Train to Lexington and 51st Street). For reservations please phone 212-888-1220. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 AM-3:30 PM. Proper Attire is Required.
When you get right down to it, there are woefully too few days in a New York City summer where the planets align to create weather that’s both seductively warm and miraculously free from precipitation, making for the perfect scenario for a rooftop dining experience. We enjoyed just such a cosmic occurrence one evening last week, when we were fortunate enough to snag a prime table at Upstairs, the luxurious rooftop restaurant and bar located on the Penthouse level of the Kimberly Suites Hotel. Unlike similar venues that may flaunt coveted Rooftop views of our fair Metropolis while phoning it in when it comes to service and consumables, Upstairs backs up its bragging rights with an impressive menu of gourmet eats and signature summer cocktails that will add significant value to your evening of memorable views.
With its retractable glass ceilings and walls (just in case the clouds roll in) and mix of old Hollywood meets Modern Penthouse Garden design, Upstairs is a place to see and be seen. We spotted the very handsome Fabio Viviani of Top Chef Fame seated with a lively group at a table close by, and it’s likely that other local celebrities might have been mingling in the considerable crowd. But make no mistake, the atmosphere is chill and attitudes are checked at the door. People come here to relax, unwind and enjoy some seriously delicious food.
Truffled Mac & Cheese (All Food Photos By Anne Raso)
We brought our heartiest mid-week appetites which were satisfied by orders of rich and fragrant Truffled Macaroni & Cheese baked en casserole to a golden hue ($12), and Crispy Baby Artichokes tossed with fresh grated Parmesan Cheese and Fresh Lemon ($14).
Crispy Baby Artichokes
Curious to sample as many dishes as possible, we added Spiced Duck Cigars (heavy on the curry and hot pepper) with Pomegranate Dipping Sauce ($13) and a trio of juicy Kobe Beef Sliders topped with Cheddar, Tomato & Pickle ($15) complimented by a side of extraordinary Crispy French Fries accompanied by a dish of luscious Chipotle Mayonnaise ($7).
Spiced Duck Cigars are Studded with Toasted Pistachio Nuts
Kobe Beef Sliders: Tiny But Tasty!
For seafood lovers, Upstairs offers a wide offering of delectable dishes including a generous portion of Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with Spicy Avocado and Ginger Olive Oil ($18), Lump Crab Cakes with Ginger-Mango Salsa and Spicy Chili Sauce ($17), crowd-pleasing Crispy Calamari ($15) and the popular Lobster Sliders ($21), among other selections. We can enthusiastically recommend everything mentioned here. Order several small plates and you’ll find that all appetizers are large enough to share between two people, leaving you comfortably stuffed.
And stuffed we were – yet we couldn’t resist being tempted by dessert. We sampled the petite Strawberry Soufflé with Whipped Cream and Tarragon Strawberry Salad ($11) – which is the perfect size to top off your meal, even if you think you can’t swallow one more bite.
Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich
We also indulged in the Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich (Vanilla/Caramel parfait Ice Cream between Two Chocolate Wafers) served with a side of Salted Vanilla Carmel sauce for drizzling on top and Fresh Blackberries ($11). Both were delicious and unique. Service at Upstairs is attentive and gracious. Our waitress stopped back at our table often to make sure we had everything we needed, and even Executive Chef David Andrews (formerly of Gotham Bar & Grill) stopped by for a brief chat about his delicious creations. Having worked with Chefs such as Marcus Samuelson and Angelo Sosa, he is very down-to-earth when he talks about his food, and he has the most adorable, subtle Tennessee accent. The impeccable combination of food, service and location make Upstairs an ideal destination to impress your out of town friends with a taste New York hospitality, but it’s a self-indulgent retreat for locals as well; because, really, where else can you take in the best views of the Chrysler building in town while sipping a cocktail named after Yoko Ono?
Upstairs is located at the Kimberly Hotel, Penthouse Level 145 East 50th Street (East of Lexington) in New York City (Take the 6 Train to Lexington and 51st Street). For reservations please phone 212-888-1220. Hours are Monday – Wednesday 5 PM-1 AM, Thursday – Friday 5 PM-2 AM, Saturday Brunch served from 11:30 AM-3:30 PM, (Upstairs will be open 6 PM-2 AM, Sunday Brunch served from 11:30 AM-3:30 PM, (Upstairs will be open 3:30 PM-11 PM). Proper Attire is Required, so dress to impress and leave the sneakers and cut-offs at home!