Guest Post: Hungry Games: Ken and Cook, New York City

On a recent trip to New York City, I decided to check out Ken & Cook, located at 19 Kenmare Street in Nolita, with my sister and brother-in-law, Dubs and Jumbo. The restaurant was a scene that could only happen in Manhattan—the dining room open to the outside, tables close together, loud (but in a good way), packed with beautiful people, mirrors on the exposed brick walls. It just felt cool as soon as we walked in. We loved the tunes that played while we dined (80s throwbacks when we first arrived and nineties hip hop—Gangsta’s Paradise and Back That A$$ Up—before we left.)

The managing partner, Artan, greeted us when we sat down and started us off with some drinks, my favorites being a vodka lychee martini (very sweet) and a really delicious vodka ginger cocktail. I only have good things to say about our server, who pointed out some highlights on the menu.

We started with the squid, which was grilled and served over yogurt with slivered potatoes (the potatoes added an awesome flavor to the dish). The squid was perfectly cooked, light and citrusy. The tart yogurt complemented it beautifully. We devoured it within minutes.

Next we ordered charcuterie and cheese. The culatello was some of the best prosciutto I’ve ever tasted. It was paper thin and didn’t have too much fat on it (which is something that can be annoying about prosciutto). The cheese was pungent and salty. The flavor was definitely strong enough to stand on it’s own, so the figs offered a nice palate cleanser. The server also brought out some bread (like mini baguettes) that looked fresh and delicious. They were unfortunately stale and chewy. But, the bread was the only disappointing part of the meal.

As a surprise before our main course, we were each given an order of the pappardelle, compliments of the chef. I understood why he didn’t want us to miss out on this dish. The thick ribbons of fresh homemade pasta were tossed with slowly cooked veal and radicchio. The dish was savory and very rich.

For our entrees, Dubs had the monkfish served over grilled fennel and accompanied by romesco (a sauce). The romesco was really a standout for me, with a very fresh and bold flavor of red pepper. I would have licked it off the plate if that was a socially acceptable thing to do.

I enjoyed the black bass, served over a bed of swiss chard with a spiced carrot sauce and roasted pearl onions and carrots. When the fish was brought out, the server poured a decadent butter sauce over it, which tasted delicious but also made the presentation of the food theatrical and special. To me, the fish was good but not outstanding (it seemed a little overcooked). However, I couldn’t get enough of the carrot sauce. The flavor was incredible. I would order this dish again just for that.

Jumbo had the Wagyu Flank—a perfectly pink, delicious steak, served with asparagus and pesto. Both Dubs and Jumbo loved the pesto.

Jumbo also ordered a side of mac and cheese, based on his theory that nice restaurants only put mac and cheese on the menu if it’s really good. Jumbo’s theory proved true.

We really enjoyed our experience at Ken & Cook (it was a dining experience…we were there for over 2 hours). It’s a great spot if you’re looking for nice cocktails, good food, and a happening New York scene (we left as the restaurant was turning into a hotspot for models…there were at least 3 tables of young, beautiful women there for a night on the town).

Disclaimer: We were given a 33% discount on our meal, but the opinions are my own.

Shells and Cheese

Nothing says comfort food than macaroni cheese to me. It’s always nice to have some on a rainy day.

In this version, sage and buttery onions flavor the cream sauce and coat the al dente pasta shells. The buttery bread crumb topping and layer of cheese creates a crust and provides an extra element of flavor and texture.

Adapted from Alton Brown and My Father’s Daughter

  • 1/2 pound pasta shells or rice shells (gluten-free)
  • 2 tablespoons gf flour
  • 2 cups soy milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • a few sage leaves
  • 16 ounces extra sharp cheddar, shredded
  • coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup panko or gf bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter or Earth Balance

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and turn it on to the convection setting if that’s a possibility.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than indicated on the package. Meanwhile, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion and sage leaf. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the sage leaves.

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the shells into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the shells with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Milk, butter and sage sauce (L) Butter, flour and onion roux (R)

Whisking in cheddar cheese

Panko or gluten-free bread crumbs with melted butter

Layer cheese and bread crumb mixture onto macaroni and sauce

Tavern in the Square, Cambridge

After a long meeting, my colleagues and I needed a pick me up and some comfort food. Fortunately, Tavern in the Square was in walking distance and ready to accommodate. I have been to Tavern for their rowdy trivia night and shared several appetizers including nachos, spinach and artichoke dip, butternut squash aranchini, waffle fries and have tried the two fried snickers, which is a must get.

Memorabilia on the wall

I ordered the white truffle tater tots which were covered in parmesean cheese for $7.99. The tots were crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. I really liked the infusion of flavor from the truffle oil and cheese.

My friend had the buffalo chicken, iceberg and romaine with sweet corns, carrots and bleu cheese and bleu cheese dressing for $9.99. She said the chicken was tender.

The White truffle mac and cheese with cavatappi pasta with white truffle oil was al dente, rich and gooey.

Tavern in the Square on Urbanspoon

Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen, Boston

A few years ago, I hosted a cocktail party at the Stork Club, which is now Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen. Darryl’s Corner Bar has had many other identities including Circles and Bob the Chef’s. Each location had iterations of live jazz, southern food or cocktails. Darryl is the founder of the Beantown Jazzfest and co-founder of The Beehive and I believe has made the best version of the past reincarnations.

There are few dinner places which has live jazz, so to enjoy Southern food and cocktails is a treat. There is a $3 cover charge per person added to the check when a diner is present during the live jazz entertainment.

The space is clean, open and next to the bar is a small area for jazz performers.

On Sunday’s, between 10am until 3pm and at the price of $21.95 each person, Darryl’s brunch includes grits, waffles, turkey bacon, links, ham, fried chicken, ribs, rice and beans, mac and cheese and collard greens. Alot of these sides are on the dinner menu.

Mac and cheese and bbq ribsThe buffet line is located in the back room.Candied yams, collard greens and grits

I had a waffle and syrup, mac and cheese, turkey bacon and fried chicken. The best part of the plate was the fried chicken. The chicken was tender and the coating was tasty. The mac and cheese was not warm and the turkey bacon was a bit floppy.

I tried the ribs, which was one of the best items on the buffet line.

Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Eastern Standard, Kenmore Square, Boston

I had been to Eastern Standard for drinks and tried the cheese board a few years ago when it opened. Recently we went for dinner. The atmosphere was buzzing with people, the bar area was pretty casual and dinner was a wonderful experience. The service was gracious, warm and first class. Everyone in our group loved the well crafted cocktails, appetizers and experience.

The one item not photographed that had rave review was applewood smoked pork porterhouse, garlic mashed, grain mustard and grilled asparagus. Several folks in our group had the entree and I tried a bit as well. It was to die for.

The roasted bone marrow with gremolata and sea salt was served with toasted bread and it was creamy and had great flavor for $8.

The fried calamari was light and matched the smoked paprika aioli very well for $11.Tender pork meatballs with a light romesco sauce, leeks, green garlic cream for $11

I love fig jam and cheese and this dish was no exception. The cast iron kept the cheese melty and the sliced figs combination was unreal.

Daily charcuterie for $14My own mini charcuterie plate

A few friends had several of these Lemon fizz and exclaimed they tasted like a better lemonade. After their exclamations, I had to try it as well. The vodka, egg white, limoncello and soda had perfect balance of tart and sweetness.

I split roast beef sandwich and really enjoyed the tender slices of roast beef. The crispy onions and spicy and creamy horseradish mayo was awesome with the crispy fries ($12).

We ordered the gouda mac and cheese side and passed it around to the entire dinner party. Everyone loved the rich flavor and bubbly cheese. I particularly enjoyed the  texture of the melty gouda and toasty breadcrumb, which tasted very buttery ($10).

I also split the turkey, cheese and tomato panini sandwich and fresh fried potato chips. The sandwich was such a hearty serving I had to bring it home and have some the next day. The panini was really good toasted the next day ($12).

The market soup was tomato that evening and I really enjoy a warming tomato soup, so I ordered it. It was a bit too acidic and didn’t taste as fresh as other soups I have had elsewhere ($7). 

My friend ordered the daily special, the lobster gnocchi and meyer lemon brown butter. The gnocchi was soft and fluffy and had the infused lobster flavor, however she said she loved the applewood pork her husband had even better. I thought the gnocchi were pillowy. The sauce itself didn’t enhance the lobster nor gnocchi, which made the overall dish lackluster ($29).

We tried the hand rolled ricotta gnocchi, ragout and peccorino and the gnoochi absorbed the vegetable flavor and tasted very hearty ($18).

The chocolate hazelnut terrine with popcorn ice cream and pomegranate syrup was a must get. It tasted like kettle corn and nutella ($8).

Eastern Standard on Urbanspoon