Tuesday, February 21, 2012

If You Don't Know JACK (as in, JACK Bistro & Bar), You Should Learn!

Perfectly steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels at Jack
If you're strolling around the Union Square area, overwhelmed by the chain restaurants and trendy cafes, and you just want a simple, hearty meal at a reasonable price, grab a table at JACK Bistro & Bar on the corner of University Place and 11th Street. Self-described as a "warm, vibrant bistro," Jack serves up a variety of savory dishes, from traditional mac and cheese or ravioli, to fresh seafood such as scallops, trout, and mussels, to fuller, more "meaty" meals -- chicken scarpiello, roast turkey, schnitzel, steak frites --- Mmmm is for Meat!! Of course, as with any decent bistro, you will also find an array of various salads and sandwiches.

Truffled Mushroom Flatbread Pizza (offered as a special one evening)
Notwithstanding the plethora of options available for lunchdinner and weekend brunch (as well as on the extensive, affordable wine list), the best perks of Jack are the many specials available daily. Every night of the week holds a different deal -- Monday is "All You Can Eat Mussels" night; wine specials are offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; Thursday features all desserts half-off (with entree purchase); etc. As if these bargains weren't enough of a draw, Jack is currently offering a "Beat the Winter Blues" dinner special-- a $20 three course prix-fixe option for not only dine-in, but also take-out and delivery patrons. (Bonus: if you order delivery, your meal comes with a complimentary box of Jack's homemade Cajun-style potato chips!).  If you happen to pass by the area at lunchtime, you can also purchase a complete lunch meal for only $10, which comes with soup, salad, entree, a side of frites, and a soft drink! This is really a steal.

Jack is open late for dinner every night, until 11pm, Mondays through Thursdays, 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10pm on Sundays.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Beat the Winter Blues and Get Some Exercise Too!!

When you've come down off the high of the Giants' Superbowl XLVI win, you may look around and find your Sundays impossibly boring and cold. Why not explore one of the city's most beloved winter pastimes -- ice skating! Did you know that there is at least one outdoor skating rink in every borough, except The Bronx, for some reason... and that's just counting the "NYC Parks and Recreation" rinks?

Find the rink closest to you here, and make sure to follow the links for "more information" to see individual rinks' hours, pricing and exact locations. Many rinks also offer both beginner and figure skating lessons for children and adults.

A figure skater performs at Rockefeller Center
Some tips:
If you own your own ice skates, you can skate for FREE at Citi Pond at Bryant Park.

Wollman Rink at the Southern end of Central Park may remind you of a fair number of movies, with its picture perfect setting among the city's skyscrapers, but for a less crowded (and cheaper!) skating experience, head up to 110st Street & Lenox, to the Park's lesser-known rink, Lasker Ice Skating Rink.

The Meatpacking District's famed Standard Hotel is now operating an ice skating rink, for the second winter in a row. Like Bryant Park, you can skate free if you bring your own. I really like the atmosphere around this rink. It's not very touristy, and there is a cute little (outdoor) lounge area where you can enjoy "Aprés Skate" drinks such as real hot chocolate made with melted chocolate before your very eyes (expensive, but worth a try), as well as hot cider and select adult beverages.

If you happen to live in the Stuyvesant Town or Peter Cooper Village rental communities, new for the 2011-2012 season, you and your guests now have access to your own private outdoor rink located at Stuyvesant Oval.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Guess Who Eats Together at the Carnegie Deli?

According to Adam Sandler's, "The Chanukah Song," that would be "Bowser from Sha Na Na and Arthur Fonzerelli." But take a few steps into this tourist haunt, and you'll see that the walls are littered with photos of famous actors and actresses, athletes, politicians, musicians and other celebrities who have dined there. At Carnegie Deli, New York City's largest kosher-style deli, the portions are hearty and huge, with wildly inflated prices to match.

Inside of the "Ah, There's the Reuben" Sandwich
Despite the high prices, the food does certainly please the palate, and, you're guaranteed to have leftovers. My dining companion ordered a quintessential Reuben sandwich. For $23.95, this gargantuan sandwich came "piled high" with corned beef (one could also order pastrami or turkey), sauerkraut, and melted Swiss cheese. Curious just how high the meat on this sandwich was layered, we counted after the first bite -- and it appeared to have TEN layers of sliced corned beef. Looking at my friend's plate, there was clearly enough for two or even three people to share. Carnegie Deli is wise to this, and charges a $3.00 fee for sharing, which I believe can go toward the minimum $12.50 per person table charge when dining in.

I went with a bowl of $10.50 matzah ball soup (which I could have gotten for $9.50 if I wanted it sans noodles...), which was surprisingly and satisfying. Two large, fluffy matzah balls appeared to be perfectly packed together as I poured homemade chicken broth over them (Carnegie serves the broth and the balls separately). While filling, what would have really made this soup top the charts is some fresh vegetables or real chicken in the broth, neither of which are included.

I also ordered a potato pancake, or what many Jews know more recognizably as a "latke," a fried pancake made of potato and onion that is a staple when it comes to traditional kosher cuisine. At $5.50, my hand-sized potato pancake, served with applesauce or sour cream, was actually worth the price, and may be the best latke I have had in the tri-state area (although, it has been quite some time since I have dined at what is arguably NYC's oldest delicatessen, Katz's...).

Conclusion? Carnegie Deli is fun to try once or twice, especially if you have never been to NYC before.  Carnegie Deli is located in midtown, at 7th Avenue and 55th. Carnegie Deli does not accept credit cards; although it does accept travelers' checks. The Deli also delivers.