Friday, February 22, 2008

Red Flame Coffee Shop

This diner had no real charm, frazzled but polite and efficient waitresses, speed lightening service, and the best priced meals in the area. No wonder it was packed. Only trying one item, I'm no expert, but I liked this place. It appealed to my sense of thrift and efficiency.

We had passed by this place on many an occasion, because it was only 3-4 doors down the block from our hotel. It made no impression at all, except that it had no visual appeal, but was usually full. Nova lox and bagels are perpetually on my "must do" list for NYC, so off we went in search of an alternative to breakfast at the hotel restaurant. You may not think of lox and bagels as a "breakfast of champions", but I'm willing to eat it any time of the day or night.

We were staying at another hotel this trip and found no place we wanted to try. Since we were running out of time for an appointment at the New York Yacht Club, we headed for Red Flame since both are on 44th St within a block or so of one another. The breakfast rush must have just ended because we were immediately seated. Once I saw lox on the menu I had made my selection, called the waitress over and placed the order. Within 5 minutes, our plates were set on the table. Could someone have ordered Nova lox and an order of french toast 15 minutes earlier and walked out 10 minutes ago? I have never seen service that fast, before or since.

I had no great expectations for a Nova plate costing $9.95 after having them many times for $12-$14. The cream cheese single serving container was no surprise; bagel, plain, no seeds; iceberg lettuce, predictable; beefsteak tomato and red onion ring, adequate; no capers, expected. But what a delight it was to find "melt in your mouth" Nova lox in generous proportion on that plate. Okay, I did have to ask for a second helping of cream cheese, other than that, Red Flame really delivered.

(212) 869-3965
67 W 44th St #1 (between 5th and 6th Ave)
New York NY


Zephrus was a nice find on Martha's Vineyard, more sophisticated than most restaurants in a tourist area and open all year for the locals, who indeed like to eat well. The cookware shop in Vineyard Haven was enviable by any standard, and services the local population, who go into semi retirement when the tourists leave in early Fall. Seems they like to cook in their collective spare time. I can relate to that. The decor is kitchy modern, with small hand carved and painted fish hanging about from the ceiling.

I enjoyed the the way they served their bread in a paper cone even more than I enjoyed the bread. The clam chowder was creamy and tasty, but thin with few chunks, if any, so I felt obligated to add the oyster crackers just for the visual impact of the photo. I like oyster crackers, so it was not just for show, but texture too.

Pasta with mussels was a nice light dish, again with a thin but tasty sauce that I enjoyed. I did feel that more pasta would have been a good idea for this dish, since it was a main course.

The best selection of the evening had to be the crab cakes, which were more balls than cakes. They were crispy on the outside, delectable on the inside and most importantly, there were not a lot of "filler" ingredients. The crab was the star of this preparation and there were 4 "cakes" on the plate, with a generous serving of a mixed green salad. I admit that the dessert of Apple Crumble a La Mode had me swooning at the first bite and groaning at the last. That portion was just too generous and filled the soup size bowl to the brim.

9 Main St
Vineyard Haven
MA 02568

Maxie's Delicatessen

If you think quantity is more important than quality or are a member of the "clean plate club" with the girth to prove your affiliation, then Maxie's Delicatessen is the perfect place for you to scarf up in New York City. We discovered it on our way back to our hotel from the theater. It was raining, so we skipped the menu in the window and walked in, since we saw a few tables available. We were hoping to find a deli and this one was in the right place at the right time, but perhaps we were not.

It seemed at the time that the price for the cheese blintzes was a bit high, but since we were so close to Time's Square, we were willing to "pay the price" for being in such a tourist driven location. The three cheese blintzes were the size of a modest Midwestern town and the fruit garnish could have easily fed a family of four. I call it a garnish because I don't recall even seeing it mentioned on the menu. The food was fresh and not the best, but certainly not the worst that I've consumed in my lifetime. If you're a quantity eater that embraces your style, then Maxie's will certainly be a good choice. The rest of us may be better served elsewhere.

723 7th Ave (At 48th St)
New York NY 10019
Phone: (212) 398-1118

Thursday, February 21, 2008

75 Chestnut Street

Asking a native where they would take an out-of-towner to eat for a classic regional meal has worked well over the years. Our source for finding 75 Chestnut was our hotel desk clerk, who explained that it was a neighborhood restaurant that she would like to go to more often herself. We crossed Boston Gardens to Charles St., walking north until we found Chestnut, a few blocks from Beacon St , then turned left. This was a neighborhood bistro packed with patrons from the surrounding Beacon Hill neighborhood. Luckily we had prebooked our reservation, because we still had a long wait.

The menu is filled with classic American fare; steaks, chops, chicken, salads, soups, desserts, and New England standards like chowder and fish. We had been to Martha's Vineyard, so passed on the clam chowder and selected the daily special of tomato bisque ($7), which was lighter than most bisques yet still rich in flavor. The salad ($9) was composed of Boston Bibb lettuce, goat cheese, dried cranberries and toasted pecans. I thought the dressing could be improved with a bit of honey. The menu indicated apples in the salad, but I don't recall any, nor do I see any in the photo. Roast chicken breast ($18) was served with a salad and fingerling, roasted potatoes, nicely moist, perfectly cooked.
The grilled Porterhouse pork chop ($20) was also moist and nicely cooked, drizzled with pan juices, and came with steamed green beans and potatoes. It walked away with "best selection of the evening" honors. The shallot mashed potatoes are worth a mention on their own, so creamy and light. I may try duplicating them at home. All in all, this was as comfortable as comfort food gets. But I do need to mention that the overcrowding caused service delays, as well as reservation delays. Still It was a good experience to feel like a local in a neighborhood establishment off the beaten path.

617) 227-2175
75 Chestnut St
Boston MA

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


If you didn't know Locke-Ober was steeped in Boston history when making your reservation, it would be apparent once you stepped through the doors. After walking up the pedestrian only alley on which it resides, we felt this was going to be a special dining experience the minute we ventured inside. The decor was old world with richly carved, dark wood and the room was very dimly lit. Yes, this was a romantic restaurant, even though it had a history of political intrigue. JFK, and many politicians before him, would hold private meetings in the small upstairs dining rooms.

As tradition dictated, my dining companion ordered the Lobster stew (if it was good enough for JFK, it was good enough for him). Flavorful and much like oyster stew, thin and without what most of of think of as a stew essentials, thick pieces of potatoes and other vegetables. The crab cakes and scallops were the perfect first course for me; texturally satisfying, light on the palate and refreshing.

We shared a very sweet and luscious butternut squash risotto. I especially liked the plating with thin slices of the squash added. The 14 oz New York Strip was accompanied by a marrow bone and piled high with shredded and fried root vegetables. It was perfectly cooked and exquisite in taste; so said my dining companion.

The Filet Mignon Rossini with foie gras was for me the highlight of the evening. I love sculptural presentations that astound the diner visually before wowing him with the flavor combinations. These flavor combinations were spectacular starting with the 10 oz steak, then the foie gras, fried parsnip strips and finally the cognac fig sauce. We did not even think of dessert after such a spectacular meal.
(617) 542-1340
3 Winter Pl
Boston, MA


Diminutive may perfectly describe the size of this restaurant as the lot size is narrow and long. With the space taken for the entry, the dining area may only be 10' wide as the tables didn't appear any longer than 3'. The seating is so limited, the bread pudding dessert is only offered as a "take out"! Unfortunately, it was raining the day we visited, so dessert on a park bench in Boston Gardens, only 1 1/2 blocks away, was not an option. Although Fig's may be the smallest of Todd English's restaurants, where size matters it was big. Big on flavor, big on originality.

A warm, rich tasting bread arrived at the table accompanied by a small bowl of a grassy flavored olive oil, decorated with a few perfect green and black olives. We split an order of deep fried calamari ($10) lightly drizzled with garlic aioli and sprinkled with parsley. I liked the visual appeal of the plate. Parsley perked up the bland looking calamari, a small detail that often is missed. They were perfectly tender and perfectly seasoned.

We were about to order one pizza each, until the waiter cautioned us that they were 16" and 8 slices. We selected the Balsamic fig, Gorgonzola, prosciutto pizza seen in the photos, because we loved it the last time we visited Boston, and had been looking forward to eating it again. Still, the Portobello, wild mushroom puree pizza with Fontina will be on my plate the next time we stop by.
Our pizza had a very thin crust, crisp on the bottom, fresh from the brick pizza oven. It was rich and sweet from the balsamic infused dried figs, and salty from the Gorgonzola and prosciutto; a perfectly balanced combination of flavors. As you can see, fresh slivers of scallion were added, and again, that small touch enhanced the look, maybe more so than the flavor.

42 Charles St
Boston MA 02108
(617 742-3447)

Peter Luger Steak House

Usually when I term a restaurant "meat and potatoes", it refers to an unpretentious, simple menu of classic American fare that most people would recognize as "comfort food". Not Peter Luger's. This restaurant serves nothing but "meat and Potatoes", unless you count the bacon infused creamed spinach, or bacon sides, or the salad served 2 ways, beefsteak (no surprise here) tomato with onions, or tomato without onions.

Bread on the table is so commonplace that it doesn't register on my radar unless it is exceptionally good or awfully bad. The house rolls at Peter Luger are the former. The darker bread didn't even make it into the photo; it's all I can do to refrain from asking for more, but I must, to make room for what is to come.

Besides corn fed, dry aged, prime grade beef, this restaurant is known for it's steak sauce. So well known it can be purchased from them and shipped anywhere in the country. We have the vestiges of a half dozen bottle shipment to prove it. The sauce is sweet from red ripe tomatoes, molasses and tamarind. It has grated mild horseradish as one of it's main ingredients and the flavor rounds out with onions, garlic and spices. It's so good they should bottle...oh, that's right, they do! It makes a great dressing for their "salad" as seen in the above photo, in fact it's the only thing available to use for that purpose. In all fairness, they have added Cesar and mixed green salads to the menu in recent years, and they do offer other dressings for those.

What they do, they do well, and that is grilled meat, whether it be Porter House steak, lamb or a burger. They know it too; Peter Luger will only accept payment with cash or their own credit card. You have to love them for their confidence! After several trips to this restaurant, I say with experience that they can make a perfect medium-rare steak consistently. On our last visit one person at our table asked for a well done steak and was dissatisfied, because it was... well, done, as it were. Let the buyer beware. The photo above shows a single steak, but they most often sell Steak for Two ($75).
Bacon is thicker than average and cost $2.95 per strip, which can add considerably to your ($8) burger cost if you stop by at lunch time. Cheese is another $2.95, but that is not a complaint, as it was thrilling to get a meal for two people in this restaurant for under $35.
For lunch on our last trip to Peter Luger, I ordered the chopped steak ($10) and was delighted that it was indeed chopped and not ground meat. The luncheon menu includes potatoes and a vegetable with each selection of meat, so this meal included thick cut, perfectly rendered, french fries, light as a feather, and grilled onions.

For dinner on another evening during the same trip, I decided to try the lamb ($45), that was again grilled to medium-rare succulence. The portions were so large I shared one of the two chops on my plate. Prior to that time, I had felt magnanimous offering my dining companion more than his "fair share" of Steak for Two, but it was quite apparent, after the lamb (for one) that I can't eat a whole portion of anything this restaurant dishes up!

178 Broadway
Brooklyn NY 11211
Reservations:(718) 387-7400

Jackson Hole Restaurant

Staying on the Upper West Side of NYC has it's charms and many of them are food related. It is home to stores like Zabar's, Cinterella and Fairway Market, and as we discovered while wandering one morning, Jackson Hole. Little did I know at the time that this is primarily known as a local "burger" restaurant chain with 8 locations citywide. Our breakfasts were so substantial it could easily close up by noon and still make profits.

It was so early, we didn't even bother to look at anything other than the breakfast menu and too bad it was, because I completely missed the fact that they offer egg creams. That goes with breakfast, doesn't it? Just as well, since there was no room on the table for one; it was a scramble just to find room for coffee.

My partner in crime ordered the french toast with bacon ($9). The 3 very thick slices were rich, filling, and a good value, since I believe it came with juice and/or a hot beverage. I would have been totally satisfied with a plain waffle ($6.50), but the bananas ($1 extra) were calling to me that morning. What a great partner maple syrup makes for a banana. We thoroughly enjoyed that breakfast and would be happy to try their burger next trip.

517 Columbus Avenue at 85th Street
New York NY 10024

Mon-Thu 7AM to 11PM
Fri 7AM to 1AM
Sat 8AM to 1AM
Sun 8AM to 11PM