Posts Tagged ‘NYC’

Eating out | With an Italian at Parm

25 October 2012

I tricked my very good very Italian (but longtime New Yorker) friend into going to Parm. I misused his optimistic trust in my restaurant tastes and lured him, this Italian food purist, to a ‘by-definition’ suspicious Italian-American place.

It is a few months ago already, but the evening is such a good memory that I’ve been wanting to write about it. So much about the enjoyment of a restaurant is about the circumstances. No bad restaurant will ever be good, but in the large realm of good restaurants, food wise, the evening will be great if the particular place suits the particular mood.

That evening we’d met at the New Museum Triennial late on a Thursday, and despite, I admit, some initial skepticism, as we strolled around the galleries and took a closer look I discovered some intriguing and a few striking pieces. An exhibition is the perfect start to an evening — it needn’t take as long as a movie or a play and in the evening galleries are often lulled by a more leisurely pace. Upon leaving the museum we were busy discussing the art and I took advantage of the diversion to head in the direction of Mulberry Street.

The atmosphere at Parm was bustling and joyful when we arrived. We waited at the end of the bar for a stool at the counter, just enough time to enjoy a beer before sitting down. Looking at the menu I could sense some skepticism on the part of my dining companion, but he was playing along.

It was late so we were there for a bite rather than a full dinner, which was perfect for the occasion. I wrote down what we ordered: garlic bread deluxe with ricotta, cauliflower, chickpeas, spicy rabe, eggplant parm, and zeppole to finish. If I recall correctly, the beers and wines on offer were all, fittingly, American.

I don’t remember the details of each dish but I know that everything was genuinely delicious with clear bright flavors, which is not necessarily what one might expect of an Italian-American joint, but what I had hoped from the highly praised restaurant. (Parm is more casual and just next door to Torrisi Italian Specialties. Both are owned by Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone.)

I’d venture to say that Simone liked it too. He had to agree that the dishes were very good, of course, and even conceded that the flavors were familiar, distantly but clearly reminiscent of home.

It was, that night, the perfect place.



248 Mulberry Street
New York, New York 10012

212 993 7189

Open Mon–Sun 11am–11pm (Thurs-Sat until 12am)
Bar Menu from 4-6pm

Eating out | Trip to the Balkans at Kafana

21 March 2011

I went to Kafana only once but I think it’s worth telling. It was my introduction to Balkan food.

Kafana is a small, brick-walled restaurant in the East Village on Avenue C, barely a block away from where we lived when we first moved to New York (it didn’t exist then). I went with a group of friends with whom I go out regularly, about once every 2 months. We are a fairly international bunch and each time one of us chooses a restaurant from her home country.

Sabina is Bosnian but the good Bosnian restaurant in the city apparently closes too early, so she took us to Kafana. Kafana serves Serbian food, which, as I understand it, is similar to Bosnian food, with pork.

The dishes were served family style. The first plates arrived laden with spinach-and-feta–filled phyllo pies, but the star on the table was the Lepinja sa Kajmakom, an incredibly fluffy yeasted flatbread served, as advertised, “warm with creamy spread.” Then came platters of cured meats and cheese: smoked pork, beef sausage, but also cured lamb, and cow-milk feta that was pleasantly silky and mild.

More meats for the main course – peasant sausage; smoked pork loin; chicken kebabs; prunes stuffed with chicken livers or walnuts and cheese, all wrapped in bacon – were nicely complemented by simple salads. The classic Sopsa (tomato, cucumber, onion, and feta cheese) and Kupus – thinly sliced red cabbage dressed with oil and vinegar.

And, at some point, we ate Prebranac, Serbian baked beans. I can’t remember exactly when they arrived but I know I could think of little else for the rest of the evening, and they’ve been on my mind ever since. Coincidentally, I remember reading about Prebranac on Cooking Books a short while ago, and Sabina sent me her recipe – the lima beans are first cooked with onions and sweet paprika before being baked in the oven. So I now happily have two recipes on hand and no excuse not to make them.

The desserts were sour cherry pie, crepes with jam or chocolate, chocolate and walnut cake, and Zito, a barely sweetened mix of cooked wheat, sugar, and nuts. Slightly unusual at first and quickly quite addictive.

I will go back. To try more dishes, and, yes, eat Prebranac.

Kafana (KAΦAHA)

116 Avenue C (betw. 7th and 8th St.)
New York, NY 10009


Open Mon-Thu 5pm-11pm, Fri 5pm-1pm, Sat 12.30pm-1am, Sun 12.30pm-11pm

Cash only

Eating out | Brunch at Blaue Gans

22 February 2011

I have a soft spot for Kurt Gutenbrunner’s restaurants. Gutenbrunner is the Austrian chef/owner of Blaue Gans, Wallsé, and Café Sabarsky in New York (as well as Upholstery Winebar and Café Kristall, which I have yet to visit). An essential part of the draw is the excellent food, which is largely Austrian with a number of nods across the German border, but the spirit is clearly more that of a Viennese Café than a Bavarian beer garden. The other thing I like so much about these restaurants is the ambience. Each has a unique atmosphere but with similar qualities: at once elegant and ever so slightly old-fashioned – a touch European in the best sense; but also laid-back and congenial.

Blaue Gans, the most casual of the lot, is great for an easy dinner with friends, a simple lunch, and particularly for brunch. It’s spacious and relaxed – exactly the kind of place you hope to stumble into on a lazy weekend morning – and the menu options span a large spectrum, so everyone is likely to find something that suits their mood, from simple pastries to a Wiener Schnitzel – why not?

There is excellent weisswurst with pretzel, and bratwurst with sauerkraut. But it’s not just the sausages. I am infatuated with the Bibb salad with radishes, pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin-seed oil (in the evening the soups are tough competition). There are perfectly soft-boiled eggs in a glass and delicious Matjes herring “Hausfrauenart” – with apples. And then there is the creamed spinach, which can now be ordered as a side, so I get it every time, regardless of what else I’ve decided to order.

Incidentally, Blaue Gans is a good place to go with young children. Ours are always excited to go and invariably very welcome. They love the weisswurst (including Louise, who is already 11 months) and won’t leave without some Kaiserschmarren, the irresistible thick Austrian pancake cut into slivers and served with seasonal fruit compotes.


Blaue Gans

139 Duane Street (between West Broadway and Church)
New York, NY 10013


Open daily, 11am-midnight (bar until 2am)

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