@victoriamargaux
 
Photos by Jacob Romoser
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My weekly date night with Jake took a serious upscale turn recently thanks to an amazing deal on LivingSocial.com. Steak and wine are two things we both love—but don't often get enough of on our shoestring budget. I read up on Club A Steakhouse before I purchased the deal, and I'm happy to say yelp.com got it right!

The upstairs dining area was intimate and cozy with warm red walls and candlelight. We were whisked to our table and a bottle of Malbec soon followed. I loved the assortment of breads—olive and rosemary, sesame sticks, flat bread and yeast rolls—and had to stop myself from filling up on the fresh-out-of-the-oven doughy goodness.

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STEAK TARTARE
Our menu choices were a lot like those present at NYC Restaurant Week, so I already had my eye on the Steak Tartare. I'm a big fan of tuna tartare, so I figured the dish would be much the same. Boy, was I wrong. It was good, don't get me wrong, I just wish the dish had more acidity and less of a mayonnaise aftertaste. It couldn't have been that bad, however, because Jake lapped up my leftovers.
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FRIED CALAMARI
His Fried Calamari was fresh and crisp. Unlike a recent dining experience at Smith & Wollensky, you could tell the calamari wasn't frozen because it was tender and not overly chewy.
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Yes, even fine dining steakhouses serve French fries.
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FILET MIGNON WITH WHIPPED POTATOES
Filet Mignon was the obvious entree choice, and I must say, Club A Steakhouse has one of the best I've ever tasted. The meat was cooked perfectly with a wonderfully crisp outer layer that gave way to tender, juicy pink filet. The Whipped Yukon Potato Puree brought me back to my childhood. Flavorful and creamy, these mashed potatoes were cooked exactly like my Granny does them. They tested even better with a bite of steak.
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HOME MADE CREAM PUFFS
I read online that the Home Made Cream Puffs were a must have. Eh. They were good I guess, but I'm not partial to fried dough that isn't piping hot.
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TIRAMISU
I enjoyed the Tiramisu much more. Each layer was light yet rich and not too boozy. This cocoa and coffee dessert was a perfect way to end a delectable meal.
 
 
Photos by Jacob Romoser
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TUNA TARTARE
When scrolling through the list of restaurants participating in this year's summer restaurant week, the menu at Fig + Olive looked light, refreshing and refined. After wining and dining, I'm happy to say the restaurant's Riviera and Coastal cuisine didn't disappoint.

Each dish was beautiful and all of the flavors were well defined and simple. The eatery touts its use of olive oil and did a wonderful job of highlighting its natural qualities.

My Tuna Tartare was fresh with wonderful notes of citrus, while the Mediterranean Chicken Samosa was like an empanada—only better. Filled with chicken, cilantro, bell peppers and scallions, the Harissa Olive Oil and Greek yogurt brought a delightful richness to the flaky samosa.
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MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN SAMOSA
I only took a few bites of Jake's Grilled Steak Skewers and Couscous, but the meat was tender and deserved its place in the limelight.
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GRILLED STEAK SKEWERS & COUSCOUS
The skewer itself was actually a sprig of rosemary—a stroke of genius if you ask me. Jake couldn't get enough of the Greek yogurt and honey mixture, which kept the couscous with fig, red onion, scallion and tomato from being too dry. Of course, you can't forget the Koroneiki Olive Oil. 
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POULET AUX LEGUMES DE PROVENCE
When it came time for me to order I completely butchered the name of my dish--Poulet Aux Legumes de Provence, a yummy mix of free range organic chicken breast, grilled zucchini, eggplant, heirloom tomato, cippollini onion, roasted fig, polenta, marinated red bell pepper and Frantoio Olive Oil.

The chicken was cooked perfectly with a nice crispness to the skin. The polenta added a warm smokiness to the dish, while all of the varying textures and flavors of the vegetables gave the plate a rustic feel. I imagine this is what it's like to eat on the farm—well, if the farm happened to have a classically trained chef.
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CHOCOLATE POT DE CRÈME
When the Chocolate Pot de Creme came out I thought we'd gotten jipped. As Jake dipped his spoon in, however, the real chocolate emerged beneath the vanilla creme. I wish there was more of the crunchy praline financiers, but they were so delicious I'm lucky Jake even shared any at all.
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DESSERT “CROSTINI”
The Dessert "Crostini" absolutely blew my mind. The strawberry, mascarpone and pistachio on shortbread with micro-basil concoction was out-of-this-world good. Seriously. It wasn't too sweet and the mascarpone made the shortbread luscious and moist. The strawberries brought a brightness to each bite and I literally melted into my seat with pleasure.

Fig + Olive is definitely my new favorite place to eat in NYC. I loved it so much I even went back for a wine and cheese tasting on Bastille Day. If given the chance to go, don't just say yes—say hell yes.
 
 
Photos by Jacob Romoser
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GREAT WALL ART AT EMPELLON
When I heard my friend Robynhad gotten a job at Empellon, a new Mexican restaurant that received rave review from the NY Times and NY Magazine, I knew I had to stop by and see what the buzz was all about.

The second I walked through the door of this white-washed eatery I was struck with a loud and electric energy.
I marveled at the exquisite Festival of the Dead/Geisha-esque wall art, huge chandeliers and an enormous bar with rows and rows of tequila.
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¿POR QUE NO?
With so many different delicious choices, it was hard to narrow down to just one when I ordered my drink. Something about the mix of silver tequila, cilantro, serrano and pineapple in the ¿Por Que No? intrigued me immediately. It was deliciously smooth with a kick of spice at the end. I especially liked the extra side tumbler, as well as the fact that the bartender took the time to explain the various nuances of each drink on the menu.

By the time our table was ready my lips were tingling from the serrano. Hey, as my rooommate Libby would say—I'm not mad!
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OCTOPUS WITH PARSNIP AND SALSA PAPANTECA
Although all the marisco's looked scrumptious, (other choices included peeky toe crab, big eye tuna and black bass ceviche), I had to go with the Octopus. With a light smoky flavor from the arbol chile, chipotle and pumpkin seeds, the dish was cooked perfectly and seasoned in a way I've never tasted before. The pumpkin seeds were my favorite touch, adding a crunchy texture with each bite.
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"AL PASTOR"
I've never eaten a pork shoulder taco (crazy, I know) so the "Al Pastor" was a natural choice. The pineapple, cilantro and onion brought a sweetness to the tender pork shoulder and kept the dish from being too dry. I would have loved just a touch more sauce, but I'm known for dousing my food into oblivion.
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FISH TEMPURA TACOS
The fish tempura tacos with cabbage and lime mayonnaise were crisp yet light and the perfect end to a delicious meal. Succulent and savory, the fish was delectable all by itself.

Although Empellon is a trek from my Queens abode, I'll definitely come back for more of Alex Stupak's Mexican masterpieces.
 
 
Photos by Jake Romoser
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MOJITO & GINGER MARTINI
Laut is a quirky little Malaysian gem situated near Union Square with a mile-long menu and Thai influence.

Be forewarned, however, if you don't like close spaces or sitting practically on top of people dining at the table next to you then Laut is not the place for you.

We got pretty cozy with the table to our left and even swapped desserts. Maybe it was the Ginger Martini, or the mojito, or maybe they put the tables that close on purpose to get people talking and sharing food—either way, I laughed until my sides ached and my belly was full.

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CHICKEN SATAY
For an appetizer, Jake ordered the Chicken Satay, a marinated and grilled chicken skewer doused in spicy peanut sauce. The peanut flavor really packed a punch, but I definitely preferred my starter instead.
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PORK ROLL
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I ordered the Pork Roll. Would it be a sushi roll with pork stuffed inside? Would they present me with a small slab of pork and call it a day?

What came out of the kitchen was flavorful, beautifully presented and downright delicious. The croissant-like crust was flaky yet crisp, while the meat inside was warm and tender. Next time I'll order two. Yes, it was that good.
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I'm not a big fan of curry sauces, but Jake's entree wasn't too overpowering and actually tasted yummy with the white rice. I'm not exactly sure what the black rice was—some kind of Thai delicacy I think—but I would rather eat my own toenails than try that again. It was bitter, hard and and looked too much like a small mound of black ants.
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CHILI CRAB
Laut redeemed itself with my Chili Crab, a mix of spicy chili crab, egg, garlic, ginger, tomato sauce, sesame and peanut oil. I made a small steamed bun sandwich with my lightly fried crab and a dollop of sauce.

The whole dish was so flavorful—especially the sauce. I ended up using the extra steamed buns like a sponge to lap up the excess.

I'm not sure if I'd visit Laut again, but it was definitely an adventure trying different flavors and seasonings from across the globe.
 
 
Photo by Jacob Romoser
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This post is sponsored by Sailor Jerry Rum.
In preparation for tomorrow's Independence Day festivities, Sailor Jerry, the iconic Americana spiced rum, has graciously shared with me two summer cocktail recipes perfect for your backyard BBQ. 

For a light, refreshing drink, make the Backyard Tea. Easy to make and great for a group, it can be batched and served as punch so guests can serve themselves -- and you can focus on manning delicious burgers and steaks searing on the grill. 


Back Yard Tea

2 parts Sailor Jerry Rum
1 part iced tea
2 parts lemonade

Glass: highball
Method: Add ingredients to in ice-filled glass and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Made with a spicy combination of ginger beer, pilsner, Tabasco and our beloved Sailor Jerry, the ingredients aptly explain its name The Hellfire. Not for the faint of heart, this cocktail - a place where sweet, spicy, and salty come together harmoniously can also provide a much needed hair of the dog the morning following a successful summer celebration.

Hellfire

1 part Sailor Jerry Rum
2 dashes Tabasco sauce of a fresh lime
1 part ginger beer
Pilsner beer of favourite lager beer

Glass: beer glass
Method:
  • Squeeze quarter of a lime into beer glass.
  • Fill with Ice
  • Add Tabasco, Sailor Jerry and ginger beer
  • Top with beer

 

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