Sunday, November 11, 2012

Un Petit Peu de Paris en SoHo: Cocotte

A few weeks ago my co-worker texted me a photo of a business card, asking me "Free drinks tomorrow?" Of course this is an offer I try to never refuse. So we stopped by the pre-opening of the new French bar/small plates restaurant called Cocotte around the corner from work on Thompson Street below Prince in SoHo. The petite place was jam packed with friends and neighbors the first night we went but we could still feel a good energy and were already making plans to return sometime soon.

Finally tonight, after Sandy and busy schedules, we decided to stop in for some drinks after work. What we found was a relaxed Sunday night atmosphere and stellarly flavored food. Starting with deux verres de crémant (that is to say, French sparkling wine not from Champagne) we worked our way through a couple small plates, a silky dessert and my shoddy French conversation with the gracious staff. 

To begin we chose the champignons farcis - tiny mushroom caps filled with a delicate, earthy-colored chorizo stuffing and garnished with orange tomatoes. The portions are meant to be small, but they go a long way in terms of flavor. This is a good way to start a succession of assiettes at Cocotte because the savoriness of the mushrooms will have you primed to try more. 

Next we allowed our server/bartender Guillaume to select a dish. As he had mentioned his fondness for the hanger steak with bordelaise and shallots, I was not surprised when it was placed in front of us. I personally love hanger steak thanks to Chef Ludo's Meatopia creation. I've cooked the cut myself at home and have had great results. A quick cooking but very flavorful piece of meat. This is done delicately so as to not overcook the beef then sauced with the bordelaise that demands to be soaked up with the fresh bread it arrives with. 

Lastly, we couldn't end the night without dessert - especially after Raphael (co-creator/maitre d'-extraordinaire) brought me back to the kitchen to meet Sophie, the pastry chef (after a discussion of my macaron making) and Chef Sébastien Pourrat. We went for the made-that-day gâteau Basque. The pastry cream was smooth and the crust was salty-sweet with a gentle, sandy crumb. A great way to end a work day.

Cocotte, named for Chef Sébastien's nickname for his wife Sophie, is a warm, welcoming place for anyone looking for good wine, good food and equally good company. Francophiles and expats will feel right at home with the French-English menu and the sound of franglais in the air. I look forward to returning to Cocotte to explore the rest of the small plates, hopefully score a seat at the back-of-the-house Chef's table seats (in the most charming New York restaurant kitchen I've ever seen), and even just to stop in for a coffee or a glass of wine after work. If you generally like what I like, odds are you will love Cocotte! 


110 Thompson Street (below Prince)
SoHo, New York

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Holiday Shopping in NYC: Ingredients

From Halloween through the New Year there are tons of recipes floating around for ways to get cooking in this cozy holiday season. All the November and December issues of our favorite food magazines beg you to cook the perfect bird, amazing sides, stunning desserts and decorative cookies and treats to gift. But sometimes it can be difficult to find what you need when making a recipe for the first time, especially when its for seasonal items. The cold weather lately had me in a restocking mode – with a full kitchen I can avoid being out in the cold after work shopping. I have a short list of places to shop in my left hand column (over there <) but I thought this would be a good time to tell you about some of my favorite places to find special ingredients in the city and most often at good prices, too.

Boy do I love this place! I just stopped in yesterday to refresh my grain supplies and a few spices, too. This is a little specialty food store with huge bags and full bins of grains, spices, beans, flours, nuts and more to purchase in bulk. Buying in bulk is my favorite way to stock things like arborio rice (for risottos), cornmeal (for endless dishes of polenta), dried black beans, unique flours, and nuts. Since I’m usually cooking only for myself I don’t like to buy huge supplies of things and I try to avoid packaging whenever possible. At International Grocery you’ll find things like high-gluten flour and 6 different kinds of couscous with the option to get only as much as your recipe requires. Go with a list, go with cash ($10 credit card minimum), and don’t be shy in loading up on supplies and taking notes for the future. The gentlemen working at the store will assist you in scooping and weighing everything, so a list helps expedite your visit. Also, since the shop is not too large, ask if you don’t see something you think they would have – they probably do but it might not be obvious (like octopus or yogurt stored in the cooler).
543 Ninth Ave 10018 | 212-279-1000

International Grocery has a number of options for bulk spices, but at Kalustyan’s you’ll find a seemingly endless supply of ground, whole, mixed and unexpected spices, herbs and seasonings. The prices are excellent on most things – you can buy 3oz. packets of tons of spices at a price that is still less than buying them in a jar at the grocery store (most spice jars hold 2oz. give or take, $3-5 depending on the spice [in Manhattan at least!]). If you like to use your own spice jars or tins this is a great place for you, too, since the spices come in little plastic bags. They also have a TON of other specialty items. Come here first with your list, go to International Grocery to fill in the gaps. Also, for my Moroccan/New Years/Birthday party last year I bought nearly all of my supplies from Kalustyan's and International Grocery.
123 Lexington Ave 10016 | 212-685-3451