New York Meals: Le Gamin

The fourth in a series of posts about the exceptional food I ate in 2.5 days in New York.

Oeuf Gamin - Le Gamin Cafe

Brunch in the garden at Le Gamin on my second morning in New York: a perfectly poached egg atop a wedge of chevre-potato cake, surrounded by ratatouille. Café au lait served in a bowl. Sunshine and a cool breeze. Benignly negligent service balanced by excellent people watching. Good company. A lovely way to start the day.

If you go:
Le Gamin Cafe – several locations, but we went to the one in Prospect Heights
556 Vanderbilt Ave (between Atlantic Ave & Pacific St)
(718) 789-5171


0821 All Girl Bagelfest

Who would’ve thought you could go from this:
How else would you do it?

to this:
Final product!

with really not THAT much effort? OK, it did involve ten minutes of kneading. And also clearing out my fridge so that 2 1/2 dozen bagels could do their thing:
Ready for the pot

2 minutes boiling in the pot, a bit of an egg wash, and some expert decorating before the bagels went into the oven:

And then we tucked in to a gorgeous brunch – prosciutto and Olivia’s tea-cured salmon, thick slices of tomato and thin ones of cucumber and red onion, cream cheese and two kinds of melon. Mimosas with mango or apricot nectar. Good friends and good conversation. And amazing bagels:

Peter Reinhart’s Bagels from Smitten Kitchen

0605 Leland Palmers and A Very Market Brunch

Olivia has already done a great job of documenting what we baked, so I’ll focus on the rest of this morning’s bakefest: brunch.  Also the Leland Palmer, featured in this month’s Bon Appetit.

Leland Palmers

I can’t fairly say that I was a Twin Peaks fan ‘back in the day’, as I didn’t discover the show until 6-7 years after it aired, but at that point, I more than made up for lost time.  My dorm neighbor and I binged on Twin Peaks while studying for our art history final – and all the rest of our finals – and it’s fair to say that Twin Peaks has had a more lasting impression on me than most of what I was studying for that week in 1997.  I dressed up as Laura Palmer for Halloween one year (“she’s dead, wrapped in plastic”), and the only recurring nightmares I’ve had as an adult have involved Bob (to whom I would provide a link, but it’s too scary). One of the most exciting parts of our trip to Seattle last year was the daytrip out to the Double R Diner, where Mel and Ray and I had cherry pie in honor of Agent Cooper:

This cherry pie is a miracle

This is all to say that when I saw a drink named after Laura Palmer’s creepy dad, whose hair turned white from an intense shock, I had to make it, even if it is only spuriously connected to the show.  The drink recipe comes from a Brooklyn bartender who was inspired to doctor the classic Arnold Palmer while nursing a hangover with said drink and with old episodes of Twin Peaks.

With jasmine tea, two kinds of citrus, gin, limoncello, and a honey syrup, the Leland Palmer is sort of a halfway point between gin-and-juice and the more refined Arnold Palmer – floral and a little bit boozy, dangerously refreshing – just the sort of thing that could land you in trouble if you drank too many of them on a hot summer day.  Today, though, we exercised restraint – not that we needed to, what with a ridiculously delicious and also good for us and also super local brunch like this:

Over-medium egg over rapini and a slice of excellent toast, bacon, sauteed mushrooms and radishes, and a couple of perfect strawberries

Oh yeah, and the final product of our baking day – brioche a la Jefferson Market filled with vanilla cream and chocolate chips:

Final product

Thanks, ladies, for another month of good baking and good eating!

0523 Radio Maria Love

photo by inhisgrace

Before heading home (arriving just in time for LOST), we had brunch with Molly and Jenn (and then drinks with Carl and Kayla) at Radio Maria, another downtown establishment with no clear replacement.  Radio was one of a couple of special occasion places for us – birthday dinners, happy hours, brunch with out of town visitors – but too expensive for regular dining.

It struck me this morning that Radio was particularly illustrative of the difference between the restaurant scenes of Champaign and A2. Our brunch this morning ran us about $35 – two entrees in the $8-12 range, a (bottomless) Mexican coffee, a fancy beer for Shane, and a 20% tip. When we lived in Champaign, this would have been an indulgence – something we could afford to do once in a while. When we moved to DC, we came to expect to spend at least this much when we went out as a byproduct of living in a big city.

When we moved to A2, we were surprised that the expenses related to going out haven’t gone down significantly. When we’re in town, we rarely go out for anything more than fast food, grocery store take out, or a quick lunch because when we do, two drinks and a meal run us $30 or more. I’m of the opinion that good food is worth good money – but I also feel pinched by the prices in A2 when I know that comparably good, if not better, food costs a lot less in comparable cities.

But back to breakfast! I had a hard time picking out of all the fantastic options, but went with the very filling Vegetarian Masa Boat – a cornmeal “boat” with soft chevre, scrambled eggs and veg, black beans, chipotle salsa, and warmed tortillas. Shane had a pulled pork torta in a really interesting and sweet barbecue sauce. There were at least half a dozen other things I would’ve liked to eat – and that’s without touching the tapas menu or the fantastic beer list.

Oh, Radio.  We’ll be back, I promise.  Shane might even eat another tiny burger.

0424 A Perfect Spring Brunch

Shane left in the wee hours to drive to Indiana for Dark Lord Day, which, along with the drizzly spring weather, made it a perfect morning for brunch and baking – or, as I like to think of it, Fancy Lady Baking Brunch.

After last month’s relatively successful batch of Twinkies, we settled on pop-tarts for our next baking adventure, nudged on by the good fortune of a recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit.  As it worked out, I had very little to do with the preparation of the actual pop-tarts, as I was busy with the main brunch event: bacon-wrapped asparagus and soft-boiled eggs.

Susie and I washed and snapped the asparagus, fresh from the farmers’ market, and wrapped each little spear in lovely bacon from Sparrow Market.

Jamie’s recipe recommends baking for 10 minutes, but I’ve found that it takes a LOT longer to get crispy bacon. In this case, 25 minutes, with a break in the middle to switch the pans around. While the asparagus soldiers were in the oven, I boiled a dozen 5 minute eggs – long enough for the whites to be set but the yolks still lovely and molten.

In the meantime, Olivia, Shana, Shannon, and Maria were busy rolling out pastry and filling it with a panoply of jams.

For me, asparagus, bacon, soft-boiled eggs, and toast are all simple pleasures. Put them all together, and you’ve got something magic. Add some local greens, a homemade dressing, and a spoonful of thinly sliced potatoes baked with a fair amount of herbs and cheese, and you’ve got a fantastic spring brunch, made all the more amazing by what came out of the oven an hour later:

I’ll take one of everything, please.

Crispy Asparagus Soldiers with Soft-Boiled Eggs from Jamie at Home (oops, temperatures in Celsius)
Strawberry “Pop-Tarts” from Bon Appetit

Thanks to Maria for her photos!

Oh, and how great is it that we totally made these before Smitten Kitchen posted her version?

0321 Delicious Scone, Disappointing Brunch

Our meals this morning/afternoon hit both ends of several spectrums.  We had delicious baked goods, and underwhelming sandwiches.  We had good coffee in questionable cups, and questionable coffee in regular cups.  We had an uninterested server, a nice server who was wearing her pajamas, and a server whose demeanor concealed a hidden evil (according to a fantastic Yelp review).  There was a pancake-eating contest.  It was that kind of morning.

While Shane’s family went to meeting, we grabbed a quick breakfast at The Root Cafe, which offered a dizzying array of vegan and non-vegan baked goods – we went for the latter, and were very happy with our warm and buttery savory scones.  Shane had heard good things about their coffee, but the barista taking orders seemed pretty blasé about both his job and their offerings, and we felt similarly blasé about both the coffee and the Styrofoam cup in which it was served.  The Root apparently has a recycling program, but honestly, what’s the likelihood of the average coffee-to-go person bringing their dirty Styrofoam cup back at some later date?

After taking a scenic drive down to Berea to check out our reception site, we met up with the family and had a late brunch at 56 West.  The brunch buffet deal – $7.56 all you could eat! – was perfect for the guys, at least two of which immediately engaged in a pancake eating contest.  The brunch options just weren’t appealing to me, so I ordered the B.E.L.T – a BLT with roasted tomatoes, a fried egg, and arugula = hooray!  Unfortunately what I actually received was an over-hard egg, a smushy oily tomato, arugula mixed with regular lettuce, and some tasty bacon sandwiched between two VERY LARGE pieces of baguette.  If I could open my mouth very wide and also had metal teeth like Jaws, I might’ve been able to eat this sandwich as a sandwich.  Instead, I ate it in pieces, and saved my sweet potato fries for the drive home.  I’ve mentioned that eating out often serves as cooking inspiration – this is definitely a meal I think we can improve upon at home.

Our weekend

Another lovely visit from friends:

Another trip out to Mount Vernon on a perfect day:
A Perfect Day
though this time things were still in bloom:

Sarah and Greg came up for the weekend – we hadn’t seen them since the beginning of May – and we spent two days trekking about the city and our neighborhood. We revisited the Jim Henson exhibit – only in town until the beginning of October! – and the Botanic Gardens, which were even nicer since it wasn’t 1,000,000 degrees out. Andy and Claire joined us for amazing burgers at Good Stuff on Capitol Hill, and for dinner and games out in our ‘hood.

On Sunday we got up and had a fabulous bluegrass brunch at Fireflies, recommended to us by David and Mary Claire a while ago. I liked it enough to write a glowing yelp review – my Italian benedict was great, and everything else that I sampled made me definitely want to go back for more. We walked our brunch off at Mount Vernon on a perfect afternoon – the lines were short, the weather was lovely, and by the end of it I was quite ready for a nap. A very nice weekend indeed.