Archive for the 'Eat out' Category

Because I’m a pig…

Jusssstttt got back from dinner at Mercat. The reason was this. We ordered every savory dish on the special menu by the two guest chefs (12ish) + razor clams with bacon vinaigrette and brussel sprouts. A lot of food and wine as usual. Nothing to write home about really and especially since my favorite was the razor clam dish which came from the regular menu. By the end of it I was just really hungry for real tapas…pan con tomate, sizzling shrimp in garlicky olive oil, boquerones, bacalao fritters, you name it…argh!!!

For desserts we went with the churros with hot chocolate on the regular menu. It was disappointing to see the least. I needed real, satisfying desserts!!! Our group parted ways and on my way home I couldn’t stop thinking about my last Michel Cluizel bar and how good it would taste on a piece of toast with a sprinkle of sea salt! (infinitely better than the tragic churros)

My favorite!

For your reference, I was in Spain about a month ago (hence all this Spanish craze). We had a layover at Charles de Gaulle and that’s where I picked up all these Michel Cluizel bars for cheap! This one pictured above is my favorite so far (Noir – Sao Tome) – smoky and spicy with loads of character or as the back panel described it, “[the beans] make this highly aromatic chocolate, whose exceptionally long taste combines toasted, spicy and herbaceous notes with flavours of ripe tropical fruits and liquorice sticks.” And that long taste bullcrap, YOU’LL KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY MEAN AFTER YOU TASTE IT!

So I got home, took a pee (because my bladder was exploding!) then got right to business. Here’s the deal: Amy’s sourdough bread toasted and slathered with olive oil, cut it up and top each with a square of the aforementioned chocolate, then broil and finish with a sprinkle of sea salt.

YUM YUM YUM! I had four pieces of those. With a glass of sherry. After a 4-hour dinner. I’m a pig, and damn proud of it.

Mercat
45 Bond St.
New York, NY 10012
(212) 529-8600

Happiness for 3 bucks at Ronnybrook

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$3 Ice Cream Sammich!! (strawberry ice cream with chocolate chip cookies)

This got me so giddy I forgot to pay for it! I don’t know what inspired me to pick that girly flavor since I’ve always associated strawberry ice cream with this cloyingly sweet, artificial tasting pink glob of crap. Well whatever it was, I am now a convert, thanks to Ronnybrook. It was sweet AND tart and fragrant of fresh strawberries with a killer creamy consistency. Pair that with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and you’ve got yourself edible happiness for just 3 bucks!

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Free Range Chicken Sandwich with Avocado, Bacon and Grafton Cheddar

Those not looking for a sugar rush, Ronnybrook Milk bar offers a few simple savory options to suit your appetite. The brunchy items were passable and entirely skippable, so those not looking for a sugar rush, go get yourself a sweet tooth implant or you shouldn’t be coming here in the first place.

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Cast-iron Eggs with Asparagus and Roasted Potatoes

Though, to be fair, they definitely deserved credit for the exceptional roasted potatoes. But if you’re going to eat a whole bowl of potatoes — which I positively encourage — then might as well finish with an ice cream sammich, right?

Ronnybrook Milk Bar (at Chelsea Market)
75 9th Ave. (between 15th & 16th St.)
New York, NY 10011

Fish

Had an intense sushi craving yesterday, and being the destructively indulgent person that I am, I took the proper measure to quell the craving…

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Tomoe Sushi-Sashimi Combination

The portion was generous and the pieces ginormous, repeat, GINORMOUS — you really have to be in the mood for big big pieces of raw fish or it can be repelling. I got stupendously full as usual, though the fishies weren’t quite as amazing as I’d remembered…

And since we’re on the subject of fish, here’s an homage to my top weekday dinner choice for the last two months:

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Chirashi!!!

Via SeamlessWeb of course! Oh how the memory of you evokes flashes of nostalgia and nausea at the same time… This very beautiful version here was from lunch at Gari a few months back, courtesy of my former boss.

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Salmon

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More Chirashi

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Left: Mille Crêpes; Right: Gari’s Choice (lightly fried dough filled with red bean paste, green tea ice cream)

Despite the gorgeous presentation, Gari’s fish was kinda meh. One of those strictly corporate restaurants (i.e., expensed meals only)

Tomoe Sushi
172 Thompson St. (between Bleecker & Houston)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 777-9346

Sushi of Gari 46
347 W 46th St. (between 8th & 9th Ave.)
New York, NY 10036
(212) 957-0046

Giada’s Birfday Partay at Blue Hill

and I wasn’t invited, WTF. What’s the deal Gia?? Thought we were friends!

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Not as good as Blue Hill’s Chocolate Bread Pudding eh?

Alright, so I might have been left out from Gia’s VIP list but luckily my Dining Club did not forget about me :). Very untrue to form, D, M, L, Shar, Sofs and I all managed to arrive at Blue Hill in Greenwich Village within 10 minutes reservation time. Once the nudging and whispering and a round of boobie/bobblehead jokes subsided (we love you Giada!), our waiter came by with a helping of ficelle-like breadsticks. Each cylinder was perfectly warm, porous with just enough air bubbles, chewy and enormously addictive. We simply lost count of how many baskets we went through…Dr. Atkins would’ve winced in disgust.

Then came six shot glasses of dubious, colorless liquid complimentary of the kitchen. “What is it?” Free alcohol?? “Ohhh, Tomato Water! Ahhhh!” With the drink’s identity revealed, we each took a sip and were all sort of caught off guard by the taste, the intensely savory tomato-ey taste. Amazing how such innocuous looking liquid could pack in so much flavor they might as well call it tomato essence or tomato potion. It was refreshingly tomato-ey, the way you wish all supermarket tomatoes would taste like instead of the insipid whatever we’re stuck with.

Among the three appetizers six of us shared — Stone Barns Greens Ravioli, Stone Barns Tomatoes and Maine Crabmeat — the tomatoes were my favorite: jewel-hued tomatoes cut into bite-sized pieces, doused in olive oil and their own juices, then joined force with crunchy cucumber, basil, tomato sorbet and the lone meaty grilled peach. Party in my mouth! The ravioli was also popular with the girls, stuffed with shredded unidentifiable summer greens — let’s call it USG for short — and topped with yet another mound of wilted USG. But no matter, they were light and delicious, USG and all, the way you wish all ravioli could taste like in the summer months (if you even had the craving for ravioli during summer that is.)

Come to think if it, the shot of tomato water was a perfect way to induct diners into the Blue Hill experience — the pure taste of nature’s bounty and the vibrancy of the season distilled into two intensely provocative sips. Quite a rite of initiation into the not-so-secret society where seasonality and farm-fresh ingredients reign supreme.

And if that philosophy wasn’t clear in the shot of tomato sweat or the veggie-centric starters, the entrees would surely set you on the right course. My Poached Duck with Peas and Pistachios was just that: a heap of duck on a pool of peas. No vertical presentation. No unnecessary garnish. No usual squiggles of this sauce here and that sauce there. And I didn’t have to strain my tongue and hurt my brain trying to differentiate 10+ ingredients slyly disguised in a vertical stack, a squiggle or what have you (not that I hate doing that). At Blue Hill, duck looked like duck and tasted like duck, and it was extremely succulent and tender (sous vide?). Peas were sweet and plump and studded with pistachios and a hint of mint. The striped bass was accompanied by a piquant pistou of local summer vegetables that made me think rainbow and sunshine. Grilled cobia (a kind of fish) was startlingly meaty and tasted like chicken. Seasoning was spare, the virtue of fat and textural contrast downplayed, and the duckiness/vealiness/peaness took center stage. It was honest and straightforward and thoroughly enjoyable.

And then our clean-plate club got momentarily distracted by the candlelit chocolate cake coming from the kitchen. Wait…no way! It’s Giada’s Birthday!!! OMG happy birthday to youuuuuu! Then we clapped. Of course.

We tried all five desserts on the menu and I must say the Summer Berry Coupe was my personal favorite — if I had to choose one. The majority of our table seemed to like the Chocolate Bread Pudding which tasted more like a really dense, dark chocolate souffle and to me didn’t live up to the hype. (Even Giada said she didn’t want to eat her cake so she could save room for the chocolate bread pudding! No this is not called eavesdropping, it’s overhearing.) The other combinations like the blueberry cheesecake with corn ice cream just failed to strike a chord with us. Still, all the berries were plump and juicy. Maybe it was the lacking sense of decadence but I honestly couldn’t say I was satisfied with their desserts.

But again, it’s very possible that my palate was already unreliable by that point. Thanks to Clear Creek’s pear eau de vie. Thanks to Sofs and Eric Asimov.

Blue Hill Restaurant
75 Washington Pl. (between 6th Ave. & MacDougal)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 539-1776

Lobster rollin’ encore!

I know this seems a bit ridiculous. Lobster rollin’ two weeks in a row? Excessive much???

Now let me give you the context: my good friend D recently landed a full-time offer at NBC–yes, a full-time job at NBC. YAY!!! CONGRATULATIONS D!!! I’m so happy for you =). That said, don’t you all agree that this special occasion warranted a grand celebration? The day was set for Saturday, and guess where D wanted to go? Pearl Oyster Bar! It’s true, I just had a lobster roll a mere week ago, but if the person landing the job–the one being celebrated–wanted lobster rolls, again, then what could I say?

HELL YES! LET’S GO! LOBSTER ROLLS ENCORE BABY!!!

So off I rode down the 1 train, again, to that disorienting intersection of Christopher & 4th. (fyi, Pearl and Mary’s are just blocks away from each other. Quite convenient for those promiscuous lobster roll fans who don’t just set their hearts on one camp, since they can simply put their names down at both places and see which place calls first.) Of course, there was a long wait. No problem! I was too happy to stroll around and spend some time at Murray’s Cheese Shop. You see, when you put me in a store like that, especially when I’m hungry, you know a mini-spree is in order. I ended up with a 1/2 lb of prosciutto, 1/2 lb of pate de canard, a sizable wedge of this cheese called piave that smelled so much like parmigiano-reggiano (a good sign!), and then…drumroll…a thingy of burratina!! (Read about my newfound obsession with this ridiculously ethereal cheese here.) Anticipate a report on this.

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D holding up the precious Lobster Roll!
Shoestring Fries on T‘s plate in the backdrop

All happy and radiant from our Murray’s purchase, we walked back to Pearl and tucked ourselves in at the cramped bar. Some celebratory wine was ordered, and what ensued was one deliriously happy meal that would put Micky D’s to shame. Long story short: D and T each got a lobster roll. I ordered the pan roasted scallops. T proclaimed this to be the best meal of his life. T started talking to the lobster in the poster on the wall. “Dear lobster, thank you for sacrificing yourself for us…” T declared Pearl Oyster Bar the happiest place on the planet (on par with Best Buy). D and I couldn’t agree more.

I had some of D‘s lobster roll and it totally confirmed my sentiment last week. The lobster salad had significantly less mayonaise than Mary’s and you could actually hold it up! There was no celery in it, or maybe there was but it was undetectable. I take back the part about lobster chunks being too big–there’s no such things =p. With just the right amount of mayo, the absence of celery, and super-skinny shoestring fries that maximize the ratio of crispy exterior to the mushy inside, Pearl’s lobster roll is most definitely my favorite in town, and now I say with full confidence.

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Pan Roasted Sea Scallops with Roasted Potatoes, Asparagus, and Shitake

Alright, I know some explanation is needed for why I copped out with the scallops. What the hell right? I know, I know. I deserve all the yelling. This sudden wave of health-consciousness descended upon me–stupid voice of reason telling me I just had the doubly mayonaise-drenched version last week and penance was to be enacted–so I went ahead with the scallops. The wholesome foursome were cooked beautifully, velvety and all, and the shitake was crispy and smoky, a nice accompaniment. But still, it was no lobster roll. I kept glancing longingly as D and T immersed themselves in theirs. The voice of reason must be quelled next time.

Finally, it’s time to order dessert–the long-awaited out-of-this-world good blueberry pie! Our waitress cruised by and I beamed, “Can we please have the blueberry pie?” I beamed more. Waitress said, “Oh I’m so sorry. We don’t have blueberry pie this season. Instead, there’s the apple crumble…it’s seasonal…and there’s also BLAH BLAH BLAH and BLAH and BLAH BLAH, or you can have the hot fudge sundae. It’s really good…”

I was almost teary-eyed. I think I actually felt vindictive against seasonality and nature for a few seconds.

But no time to lament–SJ was also having a birthday dinner that night. I parted with D and T then headed to Magnolia Bakery to pick up some cupcakes for birthday boy. Despite my personal gripe against Magnolia and cupcakes in general–they’re so throat-clogging dry and sickeningly sweet!–I found myself going back time and again to this place (or other similar-minded shops), each time fetching a double-digit number of the saccharine cupcakes for the birthday girl/boy or anybody deserving to feel special that particular day. It’s confounding…I still don’t get the deadly sweet vanilla-vanilla cupcakes but I keep buying them for people (the double chocolate ones are ok, especially when eaten drunk). Well, I guess there’s a certain allure to the fluffy pastel-colored frosting and the petite-sized single portion. Their cultish status contributes too, I guess. They’re just cute and whimsical and they make the receivers feel extra-special…or that’s what I think. Oh I don’t know why I’m trying to rationalize all this. Sorry for the babbling!

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Clockwise from top left: a quartet of cupcakes for birthday boy; Banana Pudding aka better-than-sex pudding; a clearly emotionally purchased cupcake for moi; Coconut Layered Cake for BFF

Since the wait was a soul-sucking 20 minutes, I further rationalized that it would make more sense if I bought more items; hence another mini-spree as pictured above. Their banana pudding is actually quite good and mildly addictive. Thanks to J for introducing me to it.

Murray’s Cheese Shop (Greenwich Village location)
254 Bleecker St.
(between 6th and 7th Ave.)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 243-3289

Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 691-8911

Magnolia Bakery
401 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 462-2572

Lobster rollin’

Last Saturday, to celebrate the end of my bedridden condition, Baybala and I made a trek down to the West Village for some good ol’ lobster rollin’. (My poor suite was hit by a mysterious plague. Three of us were somewhat deathly sick for a collective period of one week–I know, yuck. It was the weakest time of my life, and the sickness sort of accounted for my inactivity here too, well partially…but yea, be sympathetic!) But sick or not, I definitely had been fantasizing about this lobster roll business for a while. It got so bad that, for two days straight, all I could think of was lobster rolls, daydreaming about chunks and chunks of fresh lobster meat…all squished in some uber-buttery crispy hot dog bun…dripping in mayonaise…I mean…drowning…ahhh…and also shoestring fries as a bonus…so artery-clogging but so utterly wonderful! Doesn’t that just sound like the ultimate cure for some stupid virus???

I was supposed to wait a little longer to go with D and AJ, my two lobster roll buddies, but alas, the situation was far too urgent and grave. Forgive me lobster roll buddies! With Baybala as my partner in crime, I was set on going to the new Ed’s Lobster Bar in Soho. Ok, I’ll admit it…it’s the ice-cream sammich they talked about on Grub Street. But doesn’t that just look realllllly good? And the guy was a longtime cook at Pearl too, so I thought it’d be worthwhile to check it out. Unfortunately, most of the reviews on Chowhound weren’t too auspicious. Orgasmic-looking ice-cream hot dog will have to wait…so sayonora to Ed (for now). We were headed instead to Mary’s Fish Camp in the West Village, hurrah!

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Louisiana Crab au Gratin

We got there around 6ish and the place was already packed. Baybala and I had to wait 30 minutes, meh–whatever, could’ve been a lot worse. We shared an appetizer of Louisiana Crab au Gratin. The puny cup held a mixture of heavy cream, cheddar cheese, and huge lumps of crabmeat, so quite predictably, it was really good. (Seriously, how do you make something bad-tasting with that combination??) Its rich fattiness warmed my heart.

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Lobster Roll!!!

After the quickie warm-up, our lobster rolls arrived. They were delightfully drenched in mayonaise and overflowing with beautiful lobster meat–’twas a heartwarming sight indeed. I took my first bite and…mMmmmMMMmmMMm…it was so worth the wait. Hail the New Englanders!! All power to them for their mighty contribution to the greatness that is the American cuisine! What a colossal crustacean feat!! Oh yeahhhh!!

Awkward phrases and annoying alliteration abound, but of course, the inevitable question remains: so how did it compare to Pearl’s? (and yes, how many calories was in that one lobster roll???). Well, as much as I enjoyed the evening, I would have to say that Pearl’s is still my favorite. This is going to sound tres silly, but I thought the lobster pieces in Mary’s lobster rolls were a bit too large and the presence of the chopped celery, well, a bit too present–one less teaspoon would’ve been perfect for me. Plus, the mayo-drippiness did get a bit too drippy too. Don’t get me wrong though…Mary’s lobster roll was still the most satisfying item I put in my mouth since I got back from spring break (oh how I miss LA!). But after all, if I’m dropping 28 friggin dollars on that one damn roll, then I deserve to have all my idiosyncratic preferences fulfilled right? I’d hope so!

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Hot Fudge Sundae

Finally, as a conclusion to our oh-so-healthy-heart dinner, Baybala and I shared an order of the Hot Fudge Sundae, a nice end to this decadent meal of fatty comfort food. But still, I’ll have to admit I was very bummed out that they didn’t have blueberry pie on the menu–totally looking forward to having a super-Maineiac meal (another reason why I’d prefer Pearl Oyster Bar over Mary’s Fish Camp since Pearl’s blueberry pie was so out-of-this-world good).

So yes, I’m sorry for the long period of inactivity (there’s this thing called school, unfortunately). But now that I’m done with the sickness and most of my club obligations, I’m really hoping to spend more time here. It’s my happy place =). Stay tuned!

Mary’s Fish Camp
64 Charles Street (at 4th Street)
New York, NY 10014
(646) 486-2185

Yay LA has good pizza :: Pizzeria Mozza

Ok, I know other people are already done gushing and talking about the place ( like here, here and here), but I just took my dad there for the first time this Tuesday–yes Tuesday, 3PM no less. Gotta call in early for this one friends–and it was sooo goood. SOOOO GWOOOOOD. Even my dad loved it, and he doesn’t even like pizza. (or maybe that’s precisely why he liked it–because it didn’t taste like pizza, hah.)

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Pizza bar (where you eat your pizza with wine….
because there’s also a wine bar where you drink your wine with pizza)

After much anticipation, waiting, and delay (and more delay), Pizzeria Mozza finally opened last November by a partnership between Nancy Silverton (of the legendary La Brea Bakery!) and the Batali-Bastianich duo. Interestingly, this is Molto Mario’s first foray outside New York City (along with Osteria Mozza, which is due to open anytime soon right next door from its Pizzeria counterpart). I have to admit I’m not too familiar with Ms. Silverton’s food (only got bread from La Brea three or four times and they were very good) so yea, naturally I was expecting Mozza to be more or less like a West Coast version of Mario’s Otto–the room a little more spacious and sunlit, tables not so obnoxiously crowded together, ceiling a tad bit higher, but essentially, the same thin-crusted pizza (which I like).

But boy, was I wrong! (well, to a certain degree…)

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Winter Caprese

Well, the pizza…it was thin-crusted alright (just how I like it! fyi, I’m not really a fan of pizza, especially when the dough is thick and tasteless, which is most of the time. Yea…I like my crust microthin and supercrisp. Ok, I should just shut up and not eat pizza), but Mozza’s pies are nothing like the stuff they make at Otto to be sure. It’s like a gazillion times better! Ok, I shall table this pizza discussion for later since it’d probably make more sense to talk about the appetizers first….argh, I’m sorry this post is so disorganized!

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Fried Squash Blossoms with Ricotta

So to start things off, we got the winter caprese and the fried squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta. The squash blossoms were hot and crunchy and oozy–perfectly executed. But alas, poor squash blossoms could only go so far when they came alongside this revelatory, otherworldly omigod-food-can-taste-this-good thingy that was Mozza’s Winter Caprese. So I’m sure we’ve all had this simple combination of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and pesto sometime before in our blessed lives, but OMIGOD, THIS MOZZA THINGY FUCKING KICKS ASS! The cheese was burrata, made in house from mozzarella and cream, and I don’t know if burrata always tastes this good because this was actually the first time I’ve had it, but it was light and airy and creamy and tasted of vast green pasture and beautiful happy cows…or well, I guess to be more accurate, a mouthful of that burrata conjured up an image of beautiful cows happily grazing in some vast green pasture–yea, very idyllic. If something could taste idyllic, this would be it. And then atop that heavenly cloud of burrata were the most gorgeous cherry tomatoes, roasted on the vine–they tasted orgasmic. Hah, I don’t want to be all food-sappy but I could almost taste the amount of love and care the grower put into his little tomatoes. He probably treated them like gems–yea that’s what they were, little red gems. Quite transporting indeed. (and now you’re laughing at me…)

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Pizza with Burrata, Asparagus, Prosciutto, and Onion

It was hard deciding which pizza to get, but we settled with the burrata, asparagus, prosciutto, and onion combination. And then, something terrible happened: I succumbed to my incorrigible vice of ordering the plat du jour (or I guess piatto del giorno in this case), like everytime….why??? why Anisa why?? The Tuesday special was Crisp Duck Leg with Lentils, and I fell for it. It was good, but another pizza would’ve been soooooo much better. After all, we were there to eat what could be (ready?) the greatest pizza in the world, not the greatest duck leg, oops.

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Crisp Duck Leg with Lentils

So what’s so great about their pizza?? I want to hear about their pizza!! Ok ok, I hear you. Mr. Levine summed it up pretty well up there (and he better, considering how he called it the greatest pizza in the world, well, almost). But personally, I loved how the crust was perfectly crisp and thin without losing its subtance–you know, it’s like…when it’s just crisp and thin…I hope that makes sense. Remember how I said I’d thought Mozza’s pizza was just going to be a replica of Otto’s? Well, not quite. This Californian baby had a high lip and it’s puffy and blistered at all the right places….so perfect. Ahhh! I can’t stop thinking about it. And the toppings, there were four beautiful dollops of burrata on there, need I say more? People have been debating whether Mozza’s pies should really be called pizzas because of their not-so-pizza-like crust and unconventional toppings (but so novel and delicious-sounding! I really want to try them all). But seriously, who the hell cares when their pizza/flatbread/whatevermajiggle you call it tastes this goodddd??

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Butterscotch Budino

The menu told us to save room for dessert, so we did. We got the Butterscotch Budino and a trio of gelato/sorbetti. A lot of people have hyped about the butterscotch pudding…now I know why. It was intense–superrich and creamy and…sexy possibly? I’ve had the sea salt-caramel pairing before in the form of candy coated in dark chocolate, but that same powerful flavor is now magnified ten, twenty times, whew! And did you see the little cookies in the picture? Someone raved about them saying how they were the best cookies to be had in Los Angeles–hah, I’m not going to go that far, but I could see where he’s coming from. I usually don’t like rosemary, but…ok, you know what, I’m just gonna come clean: I hate rosemary. But their little cookies with rosemary and pine nuts were the perfect complement to the budino: they were just buttery and crunchy and sweet enough (not so sweet) for the rich pudding. I think you would love this, J. (J loves creamy pudding!)

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Gelato Trio – Blood Orange, Riso, Espresso

The gelato was good as always! I was so pleasantly surprised to see riso listed as one of their flavors. D and I had loved the rice-studded gelato at Otto in New York, but then I don’t know what happened…it disappeared from the menu =(. I was so happy to rediscover it here. Oh this would make D very happy too =).

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so rich and so dreamy!

Mozza really needs to come to New York, or we’re definitely coming down with a major major case of homesickness…oyyy

Pizzeria Mozza
641 North Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 297-0101