Author Archives: Laura Weiss

New Jersey Turnpike Eats

For those times when you have to make that awful trudge down the NJ Turnpike, The Times has a useful roundup of off-road eats. The problem with wandering off the Turnpike for grub is that it takes extra time. Yes, I want some good food. But, no, I don’t want the the time I spend on that traffic-clogged road–it’s the first circle of hell where road trips are concerned– to take one minute longer than it absolutely has to.

But if anyone has favorite stops to add to the Times list, I’d love to hear about them.

We sometimes get on to Route 130 which avoids bottlenecks on the Turnpike that can crop up around exit 7. There are a couple of decent diners along the way.

130 US Highway 130th
Hightstown, NJ

609 448 4477

144 US Highway 130
Bordentown, NJ

609 298 4650

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Penn Station Area and Upper West Side: Pinkberry, An Expensive Addiction

Every day, I walk by the Pinkberry frozen yogurt store on my way home from work. It’s been too cold for frozen anything, so typically, I walk right by.

But the weather has been warming up and so has my Pinkberry habit. It’s an expensive addiction. A small 5 ounce cup of plain, green tea, or coffee yogurt with some strawberries scooped on top is more than $5.00. But I have to say, despite the hefty price, I’m hooked.

I particularly love the coffee yogurt with berries. It’s tangy and not to sweet and incredibly refreshing. Plus, I can fool myself into thinking that I’m eating something sorta healthy.

There are about a dozen locations around the city, including one near Columbia U. on upper Broadway and one at 70th and Broadway–both dangerously close to my house.

Pinkberry
7 W. 32nd St.
New York, NY
212 695 9631

2041 Broadway
New York, NY
212 580 3410

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Chipotle, other food concerns go local

The Washington Post describes how Chipotle and other food companies are making efforts to source local ingredients. This is where real food change will occur–with the big institutional feeders and chains, not at the local farmer’s market.

In Trial Run, Chipotle Heads to the Farm
For Chains, Buying Locally Still Means a Long Journey

By Jane Black
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 26, 2008; F01

CHARLOTTESVILLE — When Chipotle Mexican Grill executives decided to begin serving local pork from one of the most famous farmers in America, they did the opposite of what most big companies would do when jumping on the latest trend. They said nothing.

There was no fanfare or official announcement. Even when the pork turned up in the first carnitas burrito last summer, no change was made to the menu or the $5.75 price. It wasn’t until last fall, two months after Polyface Farm’s pork made its debut, that a sign was posted on the days it was available. “We wanted to start slow, for us and for them,” says Phil Petrilli, Chipotle’s operations director for the northeast region. “This is a farm that’s used to dropping off 12 chickens at the local restaurant.” One of the fastest-growing chains in the nation, Chipotle serves about 350 pounds of pork per week in Charlottesville alone and more than 5 million pounds annually at its 700 restaurants. More

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Upper West Side: Restaurant 81 Brightens up the Neighborhood

The Upper West Side is becoming a veritable center of gastronomy. What with the Fatty Crab, the Shake Shack, and other downtown stalwarts making their way uptown to our fair neighborhood, it’s hardly necessary to go below 14th Street to eat any more.

One notable addition to the local dining scene is Restaurant 81, which is located on its eponymous street between Central Park West and Columbus. The food, which is delicious, matches the sleek interior, uncluttered and clean. And unlike so many other high-end restaurants, where you have to make an effort to screen out your neighbor’s conversation, table spacing is ample.

The amuse bouche started things off with a bang. It was a silky polenta soup that was rich and creamy and still tasted distinctly of corn. Since we wanted to sample as much of the menu as possible, we decided to shared three small plates and one main course. I adore leeks and these were silky and delicious with a perfectly cooked egg perched on top. A special treat was a small slice of brioche, topped with a truffle. The only item that failed to please was a foie gras and chicken terrine; the chicken was overcooked and even the rich liver couldn’t make up for the resulting dryness.

For a main course, we ordered Lamb Three Ways, which consisted of a roasted loin, a rack, and a confit of shoulder, accompanied by sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi. Juicy and flavorful, the lamb was among the best I’ve ever eaten. I’m a huge gnocchi fan and these cylinder-shaped dumplings were as light and airy as I’ve ever tasted them.

Dessert was equally splendid. My Meyer lemon frozen soufflé was divine, and the banana bread pudding was equally toothsome.

Service is gracious and the waiter never steered us wrong when we asked for advice. For all this, expect to pay top dollar. Entrees range from $29-$39.

Restaurant 81
45 W. 81st St.
New York, NY
212 873 8181

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Upper West Side: Celeste for Good Neighborhood Italian

A friend sent me to this modest eatery on Amsterdam between 84th and 85th streets. She said dining at Celeste was like a cheap escape to Italy. Well, not quite, though most of the wait staff is the real thing–Italians actually conversing in their mother tongue.

If you stop here for dinner, you can do well for $50 or so. But you’re probably best off sticking to the pasta. We ordered tagliatelle con gamberie verza– home made noodles with shrimp, cabbage and pecorino. A little more seasoning would have gone a long way toward improving this preparation, but all in all it was the kind of mellow, yet hearty dish that was just right for a rainy March evening. On the other hand, the veal with lemon and capers that we ordered along with the pasta, was as chewy as a stick of gum. There’s no excuse for tough veal in an Italian eatery.

Wines are well-priced. The place is mobbed so get there early or plan to wait. And, it’s cash only.

Celeste
502 Amsterdam Ave.,
New York, NY
212 874 4559

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