Where to Eat: Butter Restaurant

Among the many wonderful things about New York City, Restaurant Week has to be one of them. For one week in the winter, many of the top restaurants in the city offer prix-fixe lunch menus for $25 and dinner for $35. It's a great chance to hit all those places on your "list" without going broke.

I have been wanting to try out Butter restaurant for a while now. I love the "New American" style of cuisine and chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli's focus on seasonal ingredients. It takes some planning to get a table though; the Restaurant Week dates were booked solid a little over a week before event actually started.

Occasionally, restaurants will offer less-than-stellar menus for Restaurant Week. (Read: house salad appetizer, roast chicken main, creme brulee dessert. A bit blah, non?) Butter is not one of those restaurants. I was excited to eat there before even stepping into the restaurant because their menu was so enticing, I honestly wanted to try every item on it.

Butter serves its guests in possibly the most beautiful dining room I have ever been in. The ceiling is composed of high wooden arches and panels of glowing golden light. The back wall of the restaurant is lit with a forest motif. It's all very chic and elegant. The space is rather long and narrow. The walls are lined with semi-circular banquettes, and there are about 5 rows of 3 tables for 2 in the center of the dining room. My one gripe is that the tables were so crammed together (maybe one foot between tables!) that it was a little too easy to listen to the conversations of the adjacent diners.

After a lengthy and taxing debate, I settled on Batter-Dipped Florida Shrimp with Celery Root and Fresh Chilies as a starter, Braised Beef Short Ribs with Crispy Purple Majesty Potatoes, Chopped Leeks and Fresh Pomegranate. Dessert was Dark Chocolate Cake with Toasted Almond Jam.

The meal started with cornbread and brown bread served with quenelles of unctuous herb butter and vanilla butter (I assume, as I saw the little flecks in the butter but couldn't really taste the vanilla). The shrimp was wonderful; there were three large, juicy, battered prawns. The chili dressing was very hot, but the heat stays in your mouth, not in your throat, which worked for me. The beef was also well done. It was very tender, although the flavor went a little flat after I had finished half the dish. It started to taste just plain "braised beef in gravy"-ish. The pomegranate was the best part because the crunchy bursts of sweet juice was just what the dish needed to refresh the flavors; I just wish there was more of it. I was most looking forward to dessert, but maybe my anticipation was what led to me being underwhelmed. The round chocolate cake was on the dry side, and it was served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. I was really, really looking forward to the toasted almond jam (a nut jam? How does that even work??) but it was nowhere to be found on the plate!

Overall, the food was really excellent, especially for Restaurant Week. The one area that left much to be desired was the service. On occasion, servers will treat diners who choose to eat from the prix-fixe menu differently from those ordering a la carte (Megu Midtown, I'm looking at you.) The server was inattentive and condescending to us, but was perfectly capable of pleasant banter with the diners of the adjacent table. The bill was automatically sent to the table before we had even finished dessert. If a restaurant is not prepared to serve customers dining on a budget, then perhaps they should not participate in Restaurant Week.

Fortunately, the service was only a slight wrinkle in an otherwise wonderful meal. (I am also pretty sure that the behavior of one server is not representative of the entire waitstaff.) The ambiance and quality of food more than convinced me that I will be a repeat customer in the future.

Eat Here:
Butter Restaurant
415 Lafayette Street

Image courtesy of nycgo.com


Tea, A Drink With Jam and Bread

Like fish n' chips or Marmite, afternoon tea is primarily of British origin. Technically speaking, there are actually several varieties of "tea":

Afternoon tea: Usually taken between 3 and 5 pm, afternoon tea is considered one of the fancier, more "proper" versions. Offerings usually include sandwiches (small, crusts off, and with fillings such as cucumber or smoked salmon), scones, and pastries. These are presented on tiered serving dishes and accompanied (of course) by brewed loose leaf tea, milk and sugar.

Cream tea: A little simpler; tea is served with scones, Devonshire cream, and jam.

High tea: Served between 5 and 6 pm, tea (the meal) is considered an informal combination of afternoon tea and dinner. Tea (the drink) is accompanied by meat, cakes, and sandwiches.

I would also like to add to the list, "Strawberry Tea." In elementary school, we used to have Strawberry Teas on Mother's Day. The menu included chocolate dipped strawberries and fizzy pink raspberry ginger ale. It was all very girly and, well, pink.

These recipes were not prepared for a Strawberry Tea, rather a typical afternoon tea. I whipped up some biscotti and scones to go with the tea and sandwiches. Yes, biscotti is supposed to be dunked in coffee, or dessert wine, but these are so delicious I didn't see why we couldn't have them with tea. This recipe makes deep, dark, cocoa-laden cookies that aren't so hard that if you nibbled on one without coffee you'd chip a tooth.

The dough stays together well and is very nice to work with. Just remember to let it cool for 10 minutes before slicing it; I used a large chef's knife and cut straight down. I did not use any whole nuts because I didn't want the cookies to crumble when I cut them.

These orange-scented scones are dressed for the occasion in a sparkly coarse sugar crust. I cut the butter into the dry ingredients and then tossed it, bowl and all, into the freezer for 10 minutes. Cold butter melts slower in the oven, and this assures a very flaky scone.

Afternoon tea is a simple, brilliant idea. The beauty of it all is that everything just goes together so incredibly well. The warm, fragrant silkiness of the tea marries with the various buttery, soft and sweet treats. I also think that sandwiches or other savory items are a must so that guests aren't overwhelmed by a sugar rush.

Take some time one day for a treat and a cup of tea (extended pinkie placement, optional). You'll be glad you did.

Chocolate Biscotti

Yield: 30


  • 1/3 cup (75 g) butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup (130 g) white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups (230 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (30 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa and baking powder; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended. Dough will be stiff, so mix in the last bit by hand. Mix in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
  3. Divide dough into two equal parts. Shape into 9x2x1 inch loaves. Place onto baking sheet 4 inches apart. Brush with mixture of water and yolk.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm. Cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes.
  5. Using a serrated knife, slice the loaves diagonally into 1 inch slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet, placing them on their sides. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes on each side, or until dry. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
Cranberry Orange Scones
Yield: 14-16


  • 4 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy! Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour, add to the dough, and mix on low speed until blended.
Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Keep moving the dough on the floured board so it doesn't stick. Flour a 3-inch round plain or fluted cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles.
Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Allow the scones to cool for 15 minutes and then whisk together the confectioners' sugar and orange juice, and drizzle over the scones.

Biscotti recipe courtesy of PA Granny
Scone recipe courtesy of Ina Garten and foodtv.com
Image property of beetsandbites


Where to Eat: Clinton Street Baking Co.

I love brunch food, pancakes especially. What other meal virtually demands that you eat cake and syrup as a main course?

Luckily, New York is a city that takes its brunches seriously. And among the numerous cozy restaurants sprinkled around Manhattan, the Clinton Street Baking Co. shines from its spot on the Lower East Side.

It has long been praised for its famous blueberry pancakes. A quick look on yelp.com pulls up around 500 rave reviews about these allegedly magical pancakes. The bakery has also gathered extra hype recently due to a feature on Bobby Flay's Throwdown on the Food Network. Well, what's good enough for Bobby, and thousands of other happy diners, is good enough for me.
So off I trekked on a blustery Saturday morning. (And blustery is not an exaggeration. It was probably -10C that day). I was hoping to beat the rush by arriving a bit before prime brunch time, so I put my name on the list at 10am. After waiting a little over an hour (outside, in the cold... I was determined to get my table), my brunch companion and I were seated a tiny bar by the window. It's not surprising that the waits are so long; the space is not large at all (maybe accommodates 40 at a time?) But it is every bit cozy and quaint as a brunch place ought to be.

I had the famous blueberry pancakes, biscuits with jam, and sugar cured bacon. I was initially skeptical about these pancakes, but oh my were they worth getting frostbitten during the wait. They are thick and fluffy, with the perfect sweet and salty balance. They're also loaded with fat, sweet, fresh blueberries. They keep their shape during cooking so when you cut into them they release their steamy, jammy goodness. And if that weren't enough, they're served with maple butter. Let me just say that again: maple. butter.
Beautiful, eh?

Our sides were also lovely. The biscuits were a bit bready (I prefer flakier ones) but the crust is quite unusual, in a good way. It's thick and very crunchy, strangely reminiscent of a nice rustic yeast bread. The bacon was also delish, and the sweet, salty, smoky balance was perfect.

As our meal went on, the tiny restaurant filled up with diners trying to avoid the cold while waiting for tables. There was a considerable lineup outside as well. Call me evil, but I suppose we indulged in a little schadenfreude as we sat by the window savoring that steaming stack of pancakes, in full view of those waiting in the cold. Ah, they'll get their turn.

Since I couldn't get enough of their delicious goodies, I got a mixed berry scone and a cranberry walnut muffin to-go. Honestly, the muffin was good, but not mind-blowing. And as my brunch companion had noted, they are sadly lacking that crucial, crunchy domed top created when the batter spills over the sides of the tin as the muffin bakes. The scone was a different story. It was chock full of fresh berries, and had the perfect not-too-sweet but buttery flavor. The crust is thick and crunchy (almost like a shortbread cookie) and sprinkled with coarse sugar.

I don't think I need to write much more to encourage you to eat here should you every visit NYC. Just go. It would be preferable if the temperature were above freezing, but if it isn't, then just suck it up. You will be rewarded.

P.S. They don't take reservations.

Eat here!
Clinton Street Baking Co. and Restaurant
4 Clinton Street (btw. East Houston & Stanton)
New York, NY 10002

Images property of beetsandbites