Jean-Georges

If you go to New York one of the best deals you can get in terms of fine dining is the $38 dollar two-course lunch at Jean-Georges. Although it might seem a little steep for two courses Jean-Georges is a three Michelin star restaurant and I’d take two courses there over four courses in a lot of places.

View of  Central Park from Jean-Georges

View of Central Park from Jean-Georges

JG

JG

Plus you get an amuse bouche and a mignardise course at the end. Not to mention a very diverse bread basket. As for the amuse bouche it  varies but with the mignardise there are always many types of chocolate, cookies, marshmallows and pate de fruit. So reallyyy you kindof are getting four courses for $38.

AMUSE BOUCHE: For the amuse we had a toast with wild mushrooms, root vegetable soup with chili oil and salmon with pistachio pesto. All quite nice but I think the salmon was my favorite.

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche

BREAD BASKET: They have various types of bread; I tried the ciabatta and a Swedish rye bread. Both were excellent and the butter is of amazing quality.

Bread

Bread

APPETIZER: For the appetizers we tried the Yellowfin Tuna Ribbons which came with avocado, spicy radish, and ginger marinade. In terms of flavor these are a familiar taste profile nothing out of the ordinary but the way they cut the tuna ribbons was impressive and created interesting texture. So much tuna too.

Yellowfin Tuna Ribbons

Yellowfin Tuna Ribbons

We also ordered the Butternut Squash Soup which comes with black trumpet mushrooms. Usually I’m not a fan of butternut squash soup as I find that most have too much cream and sugar so it feels like you are eating some weird soup-dessert hybrid. This one was incredibly smooth and just the right amount of savoury with the mushrooms.

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

Lastly we also tried the Peekytoe Crab Dumplings that come in a Celeriac-Meyer Lemon Tea. These were pillowy and all lump crab inside, no fillers here. Together with the fragant lemon-y “tea” sauce they were quite nice. Next time though I want to try the Hamachi Sashimi with avocado, yuzu and radish as that is a constant in their menu and JG is known for it.

Peekytoe Crab Dumplings

Peekytoe Crab Dumplings

ENTREE: For entrees we ordered the Hake which came with a spicy jade emulsion and tender celeriac. The braised celeriac had great texture and taste I’ve never had it before but it reminded me of braised artichoke hearts. The spicy jade emulsion was lovely and the only thing I didn’t love was the very flaky texture of the hake but I think that’s just a personal preference of mine.

Hake

Hake

One of their largest entrees and the most picky-eater friendly entree as well is the Parmesan Crusted Organic Chicken. Its a huge piece of super juicy chicken and with the cripsy crust and the rich sauce its hard not to like it.

Parmesan Crusted Organic Chicken

Parmesan Crusted Organic Chicken

The last entree we ordered was a supplement to the regular menu, the Caramelized Beef Tenderloin it comes with miso butter, parsley root puree, brussel sprouts and is a $20 supplement. They always have a variation of a beef and sucking pig supplements which are usually $20 and $10 dollars respectively. Last year I ordered the beef one and got probably one of the best steaks I have eaten in my life, super charred on the outside and perfect medium-rare inside, it came with caramelized squash and a spicy butter sauce and was worth every penny. This year the steak was nice but not amazing, I don’t think it was worth the $20 price tag and the combination of flavors in the plate wasn’t that novel or fantastic.

Caramelized Beef Tenderloin

Caramelized Beef Tenderloin

DESSERT: Because we could not help ourselves we ordered a dessert course to share (this is not included in the two-course meal). Their desserts come as ‘tastings’ usually with four elements that are supposed to complement each other and all share a common theme (like ‘cherry’ or ‘chocolate’). We naturally went with chocolate and it came with white chocolate ice cream with  yuzu crumbs, milk chocolate panna cotta (the tube thing) + mango gel + smoked salt meringue +candied orange, and their famous warm chocolate cake with a vanilla bean ice cream on some other type of crumbs I forget.

Chocolate Tasting

Chocolate Tasting

Chocolate Tasting

Chocolate Tasting

Chocolate Tasting

Chocolate Tasting

BIRTHDAY CAKE: We had a birthday in our midst and so we were presented with their Happy Birthday cake which is a rich multi-layer chocolate and chocolate ganache cake. Amazing. Definitely lie about it being someone’s birthday for this baby.

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake

MIGNARDISE: Whoops. I feel like I do this in 50% of my restaurant posts but yes did not take any pictures of the mignardise because they were promptly devoured. They included two kinds of pate de fruit, a crispy almost rice crispy-like cookie that was lavender flavoured I believe, chocolate truffles in a flavor I can’t remember, macarons and the most heavenly cloud-like vanilla bean marshmallows.

All in all a fantastic lunch experience and the service here is really top notch. There is a more formal air but everyone is very polite and friendly. Last year when we had to somewhat rush lunch because I had a flight to catch they were more than obliging. Their food is basically fine French food with Asian elements and they really nail it. No weird molecular gastronomy stunts or foams and jellies but just amazing quality extremely well-prepared food. And for $38 dollars its definitely a steal. Just make your reservations a couple weeks ahead of time.

Jean-Georges

1 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023
(212) 299-3900
www.jean-georgesrestaurant.com/jean-georges/

Caramelized White Chocolate and Pumpkin Cheesecake

No idea what to do with that extra can (or half can) of pumpkin puree lurking around your kitchen? This cheesecake is a great way to use that and incorporate some fall flavours with a twist if you are pumpkin pie-d out from the last couple weeks. And by ‘with a twist’ I mean we add copious amounts of white chocolate and cream cheese to these so-called fall flavours.

Cheesecake

Cheesecake

Caramelized White Chocolate + Pumpkin Cheesecake

Caramelized White Chocolate + Pumpkin Cheesecake

This recipe is based off a Nigella’s recipe for London Cheesecake. I personally like how the London Cheesecake is denser and richer than the New York Cheesecake which has whipped egg whites and less egg yolks. I do Americanize this London cheesecake by adding more sugar than Nigella does. After making this basic cheesecake batter you split it into two bowls and add pumpkin to one half and the caramelized white chocolate to the other.

Caramelized White Chocolate + Pumpkin Cheesecake

Caramelized White Chocolate + Pumpkin Cheesecake

Caramelized White Chocolate + Pumpkin Cheesecake

Caramelized White Chocolate + Pumpkin Cheesecake

For the caramelized white chocolate that is a ingenious recipe from David Lebovitz. As someone who finds plain white chocolate too cloying this adds some dimension and toastiness that makes it have an almost dulce de leche taste to it. You can make the caramelized white chocolate ahead of time and you can find the recipe here.

The warm toasty notes from the caramelized white chocolate work splendidly with the cinnamon and spice in the cheesecake and sweet vanilla white chocolate offsets the more squash-y vegetable taste from the pumpkins. Or at least I think they taste kind of vegetable-y anyways.

RECIPE:

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup of caramelized white chocolate
7 oz of pumpkin puree
3 bricks of cream cheese at room temperature (18 oz)
5 oz of honey graham crackers
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup of sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Process graham crackers until they are fine crumbs. Add to a bowl with the melted butter and mix to combine. Line the bottom of a 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper then press the graham cracker and butter mixture to form an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Place in the fridge to set.
2. Preheat oven to 350. Beat cream cheese in a bowl until its smooth. Then add sugar. Beat in the eggs and egg yolks one at a time and then add the vanilla and lemon juice.
3. Put a kettle or pan on the stove and heat up water.
4. Split the cream cheese mixture evenly into two bowls. To one bowl add the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger then beat well. To the other bowl add 3/4 cup of the caramelized white chocolate and mix well.
5. Line the outside of the chilled springform pan with foil so that it completely covers sides. This will protect it from the water in the water bath it will be cooked in.
6. Pour the pumpkin cream cheese mixture into the pan first and then pour the caramelized white chocolate cream cheese mixture over that. Use a knife to make swirls.
7. Place the springform pan into a larger roasting pan. Pour hot water from the kettle or pan into the roasting pan around the cheesecake. Only fill it about halfway up.
8. Put it into the oven and cook for 70 minutes. It should seem mostly set on the outside but still have some jiggle in the middle.
9. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and then let it cool completely before moving it into the fridge. It should chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours prior to eating.

Graham Crackers + Pumpkin

Graham Crackers + Pumpkin

Graham Cracker Crust

Graham Cracker Crust

Cheesecake Batter

Cheesecake Batter

Cheesecake Batter

Cheesecake Batter

Cheesecake Pre-Baking Post-Swirling

Cheesecake Pre-Baking Post-Swirling

Cheesecake Pre-Baking Post-Swirling

Cheesecake Pre-Baking Post-Swirling

Cheesecake Post-Baking

Cheesecake Post-Baking – Yes it cracked because I was too lazy to do the water bath. But you should do the water bath…

I think cheesecake always looks best topped with something whether it be berries or in this case caramelized white chocolate whipped cream and semi-sweet chocolate ganache.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup caramelized white chocolate (remainder post making the cheesecake)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/8 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of semisweet chocolate

1. Whip 1 cup of heavy cream with the caramelized white chocolate and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. Melt the semisweet chocolate with 1/8 cup of heavy cream. This can be over a double boiler but also with 30 second increments in the microwave. Mix until smooth.
3. Once cheesecake is cooled top evenly with the caramelized white chocolate whippped cream.
4. Once ganache has cooled a bit, but it still warm enough to be pourable, drizzle over the whipped cream.
5. Refrigerate.

I make this every holiday season and it seems to please both people who love pumpkin-everything and those who are less enthusiastic about pumpkin. Although I love pumpkin pie I am not one to eat tons of it because after a couple months of having both real and artificial pumpkin flavor injected into everything I get a little sick of it. This cheesecake on the other hand, for better or for the worse, I find I never grow tired of it 🙂



TIPS:
1. Obviously you can sub in pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger powder in the cheesecake if thats easier.
2. Make it a day ahead to ensure its properly chilled, cheesecake tastes so much better when its properly cold.

Diner en Blanc SD

Having heard of the Diner en Blanc events a couple years ago I considered going to last years for the first time it was happening in SD but ehh was too lazy and ended up not committing. This year we bought tickets fairly early on and I have to say it surpassed my expectations and I will definitely be back next year!

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc started in Paris 25 years ago and now its hosted in cities around the world, everywhere from Quebec to Cote d’Ivoire to Singapore. Basically the premise is that all these people dressed all in white (nicely I might add) bring their own tables, chairs, table decorations and food to a spot. Although mind you, you can also rent tables/chairs from them and purchase a multi-course meal as well if you are not inclined to make your own. After meeting up everyone gets on buses that will take you to an undisclosed location where the thousands of people that participate in these events will set up their tables, chairs and food and have a giant open-air dinner party. They have taken place in the Place Vendôme at Paris and they shut down Rodeo Drive last year for the one in Los Angeles. In SD last year it was at Harbor Island and this year it was in a lovely courtyard in Point Loma.

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

The meet up spot was at Balboa Park and when we arrived I was happy I wore a nice white dress because people go all out for this. Floor length dresses, all white suits, parasols, carnival masks, boas…you name it. Apparently there is an award for best-dressed person as well as best-decorated table. Originally I thought this was a more casual affair and so I was glad that I was informed that yes, you have to dress nicely and no, you can’t just eat on a picnic blanket.

So the only downside is having to carry all your stuff everywhere. Its not too bad but we did have some pot de creme desserts that tipped over and made a bit of a mess. As well as I had trouble carrying our table from the car to the bus but I would blame this more on a personal shortcoming of having the upper body strength of an 8 year old.

The bus took us around a bit, going on the freeway and then back off, around downtown, stopping in a random parking lot (psyche) and then finally to Point Loma. Although initially I was unimpressed by the location once we were in the courtyard and everyone was set up it looked beautiful. The courtyard around us also handily sheltered us from the wind so that both girls in skimpier dressing as well as tall flickering candles were well protected.

Napkin waving

Napkin waving

Once tables are set, dinner starts with a napkin waving thing. It was nice chatting to the tables around us and although we were definitely on the younger side of attendees it was cool to have a good mix of all ages and both couples that came alone and huge groups of people attending together.

Our table!

Our table!

Our table!

Our table!

We went with simple but elegant for our table and a bottle of rosé for libations. Also although organizers say you must purchase alcohol from them and not bring your own, EVERYONE brought their own and lots of it. Next year we will definitely be smuggling some more wine in with our food.

Crostini with Truffled Ricotta and Mushrooms

Crostini with Truffled Ricotta and Mushrooms

For our first course I made crostini with truffled ricottas and mushrooms. When you are cooking you kind of have to keep in mind that all this stuff has to be transported and also that it will most likely be served sort of closer to room temperature, unless you have a nice insulated mode of food transportation like I did not (does a Trader Joe’s bag count? I thought not).

Caeser Salad

Caeser Salad

For the second course I made a caeser salad with caeser-basil dressing. Also known as, I made a caeser dressing and added basil to it because why not.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes

Roast Chicken with Potatoes

The entree was roast chicken with Meyer lemon + roasted potatoes. I followed Kenji’s recipe from Serious Eats for a perfect butterflied roast chicken with quick jus. This was awesome. And I roasted the chicken on top of a wire rack with the potatoes underneath so that the chicken spices/juices/fat/everything dripped on the potatoes and they were sooo flavorful. I used Yukon Gold potatoes, dropped them in a pan with cold water + rosemary, Meyer lemons and salt over medium heat until they boiled and then threw them in with the chicken in the oven. They were the best roast potatoes I have ever made. No lie. Sadly not as good served room temperature but will definitely repeat this recipe.

Dulce de Leche + Coconut Pudding & Strawberries

Dulce de Leche + Coconut Pudding & Strawberries

For dessert we had dulce de leche + coconut pudding with strawberries. This was also great and I want to make it again but with more coconut and a chocolate sauce.

So after dinner there is dancing and we were thinking of just leaving early because we are the lamest 23 and 25 year olds on the planet and have work really early. But the DJ who was playing mostly oldies throughout the dinner sneakily got people on the dance floor with the Cupid Shuffle and from that went to more upbeat music. By the end of the night people were dancing in the fountains, there was a guy running around with a bubble gun and when we snap chatted a picture of the event to a friend she thought we were at Sensation White (the rave).

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Being used to going to loud bars/clubs that mostly have just people your age and that play mostly EDM all night it was super fun to dance around to songs with WORDS that everyone knows the lyrics too. It was also great seeing people of all ages dance and even better to see both 20 year olds and 60 year olds dancing inside the fountain!

Fountain Dancing

Fountain Dancing

Bubble Gun

Bubble Gun

We stayed until the very end and of course the very last song they played was Journey. I don’t even have to tell you which one. Great experience and can’t wait to be back next year! Hopefully with leak-proof containers for the dessert and someone else to take up table-carrying duties 🙂

For more info on Diner en Blanc:
http://sandiego.dinerenblanc.info/

URBN

[Edit: This post was updated with new pictures because we went again and pretty much ordered the same gosh darn thing. But took better pictures because the old ones were taken with my Jurassic-era iPhone 4 with a smashed screen. Damn you Barcelona pick pocketers for taking my sister’s phone so that she had to steal my upgrade. And damn you AT&T for your ridiculous early upgrade fees. Anyways]

urbn Pitcher

urbn Pitcher

urbn Pizza

urbn Pizza

If you like your pizzas thin and crispy with a good char and most importantly free with a pitcher of beer, URBN in North Park needs to be on your radar. URBN is owned by the same people as Basic in downtown that also put out crispy, thin Neapolitan style pizzas with yummy toppings and blistery crusts. And while Basic gives out free slices of pizza during happy hour you do have to fight other patrons over the slices while here you get an entire free pizza with a purchase of a pitcher of beer from 5-6pm!

urbn Pitcher + view

urbn Pitcher + View

URBN has an amazing craft beer selection, lots of taps on draft and an extensive bottle collection. Once one of my dining companions inadvertently ordered a $48 dollar bottle of Imperial Russian stout…she swears it was worth every penny though. We were not trying to order a $48 dollar bottle of anything so we went with the brewery that was on special that month so that you can get a discounted price and picked a nice crispy Hefeweizen pitcher for $18 dollars.

urbn Interior

urbn Interior

The interior is nice too, huge with super high ceilings and huge fans. Definitely more of an industrial look but it suits the place and you’ll be hard pressed to not find seating.

Along with pizzas they have some salads and appetizers if you’re not in the mood for pizza. I decided to complement my pizza with a Caprezanella, which is a mix of a panzanella and caprese salad with bread croutons, olives, red onions, fresh mozarella and tomatoes.

Caprezanella

Caprezanella, why yes I did eat all the mozzarella before I took a picture

The small portion is more than suitable for a side and could even pass as a meal if you’re not that hungry. This was simple but tasty and went well with the pizza.

Now for the pizza. You get a free small pizza but the small pizza is actually quite large and we could not even finish it between 2 hungry people. You get 2 toppings free but we added 2 more because we’re greedy people. Topped off with salami (SO GOOD. BETTER THAN PEPPERONI. DO IT.), cherry peppers, garlic and mushrooms this thing was a beauty.

urbn Pizza

urbn Pizza

Slice

Slice

The crust was delicious and my only teensy complaint is that despite loving some good char on pizza crust there was a smidgen too much char but nothing that stopped me from thoroughly enjoying our pizza.

You also get little containers of sea salt, shredded parmesan, oregano and red pepper flakes to liberally apply to your pizza.

Pizza Condiments

Pizza Condiments

Overall a great deal and for a good price. Sadly they include 18% tip on the original price of the meal (i.e. with the price of the pizza included) so it wasn’t quite the deal we were expecting but definitely still a nice happy hour.

CHECK:
Pitcher of Hefeweizen $18
Pizza (free with purchase of pitcher) $0
Caprezanella small $7
Mandatory 18% gratuity for happy hour $7.74
TOTAL: $32.74

URBN Coal Fired Pizza

3085 University Ave, San Diego, California 92104
(619) 255-7300

www.urbnnorthpark.com/

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