Monday, September 28, 2009

Morton’s The Steakhouse

Saturday night, my mom, my brother Bill and Bill’s girlfriend Lori took advantage of Morton’s $49.99 steak and seafood dinner in White Plains. Suffice it to say, we had a smashing time, but that might’ve had more to do with the fact that we are a bunch of fun, crazy peeps than anything stellar going on with the service.

Because service was bad: our servers were extremely aggressive and pushed multiple items from the regular menu even though we specifically requested the $49.99 menu ahead of time. And even though we asked for the menu once again upon being seated, our server still felt the need to wheel over a cart and do a five-minute spiel, which involved slowly and deliberately showcasing each cut of meat, lovingly caressing a few potatoes and tomatoes, and completely unnecessarily picking up a wriggly Maine lobster. By the end, Bill and Lori (who had still not seen the $49 menu), were utterly confused and overwhelmed as to what they could and couldn’t order to stay in the $49 set price. There was a lot of, “You could do this, but for an extra $19, you could do this…,” and “Then there’s this, which is an additional $24…” and some roundabout answers. After her spiel, our server left us with regular menus that made no mention of the steak and seafood dinner. When we asked for the special menus again, she disappeared, and came back with two tiny cards for our table of four: all that she could find, she explained.

The timing was really bad, too. Not the actual arrival of courses (this was well-paced), rather, we were constantly being interrupted in such a way where there was no regard for what was going on at our table. “Can I refill that cranberry juice for you?” a server asked three times of my half-full glass, each time interrupting me mid-conversation. Finally, a different server just took the same half-full glass without asking. But took it to clear it, not refill it. The worst and most uncomfortable moment came after dinner. Even though our table had already ordered desserts at the beginning of the meal, the dessert cart was wheeled in and our server once again laboriously began describing each dish. My mom and my brother did not see her appear and were still mid-conversation. Our server, undeterred, just talked a mili-decibel louder. I kicked my mom under the table, and she looked up, genuinely surprised and confused to see our server describing a berry plate.

“Miss?” I said hesitantly. “We already ordered desserts.”

She paused.

“Oh, I know. I was just showing you these for next time.” A carrot cake description commenced.

When she was finished, she gave a little nod, and wheeled the cart away. Our table sat in silence.

“That was weird,” my brother said finally.

“Weird” is a good way to describe the night as a whole. Although service was bad (made all the worse when you are marketing yourself as a high-end steakhouse with premium prices), “bad” certainly was not the case for the food.

Although stellar wasn’t the word, either.

We’ll start with the complimentary bread, a poofy, warm onion loaf:
This was bloody fantastic. Sounds like a bit of a dig to say the bread was one of the more memorable things I ate that night, but all I’m trying to say is that I really, really, really liked this bread. It could win an award.

Next were four Morton’s salads:
Iceberg lettuce, creamy Caesar dressing, anchovies and chopped egg. What’s not to love? (Well, normally, I’m not a fan of Iceberg, but here it was refreshing and crisp.) And anchovies and eggs? And lots of Caesar dressing, so that each piece of lettuce is blanketed in dressing yet still crisp? Mmmmmm…

Next came our single cut filets, accompanied by a choice of seafood:

First, the crabcake:
I didn’t try this, but Lori said it actually had a lot of crab, so she was satisfied.

The bacon-wrapped scallop:
I stole a piece from Bill and this was the winner. The scallops were extremely tender and juicy, and nicely seared on the outside.

…and the Colossal Shrimp Alexander:
Pretty good. But the shrimp was actually… stringy? Could a vein have been left in? How is a shrimp stringy? I don’t know.

Here’s the best picture I could get of my single-cut filet:
I know, the pic isn’t a winner, but alas, neither was the filet. It was certainly very tender, but there was not a lot of flavor, and no one at the table found it particularly memorable.

The $49 menu had said that “sides” were either a potato or a vegetable, yet once we arrived, the server informed us that anything off of the regular “side” menu was fair game.

My mom and I had mapped out our battle plan ahead of time, which involved my mom ordering the potato and splitting it with me, while I would cut my steamed vegetable in half, and share it with her. In a fit of excitement, I went rogue and ordered the creamed spinach:
But the joke was on me, because the creamed spinach was not my favorite. Is was too creamy, not salty enough, and tasted of too much nutmeg.

My mom still split her Jumbo-baked Idaho potato with me because she is the best. But to get me back, she cut it in half and began eating it before I had taken a suitable picture:
The potato is very good at Morton’s. What I didn’t appreciate was the tiny, spoonful of sour cream the server plopped on the massive potato, meant to last us the whole potato. Why not leave the sour cream on the table?

Here is an artful picture of the grilled asparagus, taken by Lori:
Our server warned us that the asparagus was prepared with a balsamic vinegar glaze, but the glaze hadn’t been reduced enough. It was still very vinegary, not very sweet, and as a result, no one really liked this dish.

Dessert was way more delicious, and accompanied by outstanding Douwe Egbert’s coffee.

Morton’s Legendary Hot Chocolate Cake is absolutely deserving of its name. Normally, I’m not a big fan of chocolate cake, much preferring a pie or a pastry, yet this cake is wonderful. The chocolate oozes out of the center when you cut into it, it’s moist, it’s gooey—I would order it again in a heartbeat.
But when would I order it again? Morton’s is expensive. The food was fine for the price we paid —our final bill was a little over $70 per person (with tax and tip) because we ordered the promotion. But on a normal night, I’d be surprised if you could have a meal for less than $100. And then I’d start scrutinizing my dishes even more. “Fine” won’t cut it when I’m paying such a premium. And then there’s the service. We might’ve had a totally different experience with a considerate, more personable server. But nothing about Morton’s service set it apart, rather, it cast an amateur-hour tint on the evening.

Morton’s The Steakhouse
9 Maple Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Let’s call this entry what it really is: good old fashioned stalling for time. I’m behind on my blog, and wanted to give you fellas a little somethin somethin for being so kind as to pay me a visit. So, while I baked my favorite chocolate chip cookies this weekend, I snapped a few pictures and voila! Bloggin gold, baby.

No, in all seriousness, these are good cookies. They come from Kathleen’s Bake Shop, the same cookbook that gave you Blueberry Buckle, my most popular blog entry ever. And who doesn’t need a bangin recipe for Chocolate-Chip Cookies? These are ultra thin, slightly crisp, and chewy in the center. They are soothing, they are decadent, they will make the guy you are trying to impress go wild when he samples one on the picnic you are packing for him.


Onto the cookies.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease your cookie sheets (this recipe yields about 50 cookies).

In a large bowl, mix 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.

In another large bowl, cream 1 cup of butter and ¾ cup granulated sugar and ¾ cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar. Add 1 teaspoon water and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and mix until just combined. Add 2 eggs. Stir in the previous flour mixture. Fold in 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, but “don’t overmix!” Kathleen cautions.

Place batter onto greased cookie sheets leaving at least 2 inches of room between the cookies.
Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges and center of the cookie are brown. Cool on a wire rack.

...and then stack them up like so, just because it’s fun:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blogs TK!

Sorry for the lack of posts this month. I very much want to take this blog seriously and update regularly, yet sometimes my 8-5:00 gets in the way, as does the ol’ social life. Hope to write up some delicious dinners very soon: Dinosaur Bar-B-Q in Harlem, Morton’s Steakhouse in White Plains. I also did a cursory visit to NEO World Bistro and Sushi Bar in Mount Kisco and posted a quick ditty on a Chowhound thread, but hope to re-visit the restaurant and do a longer entry on the blog. Also, Eileen’s been twisting my arm (ha!) for another fine dining experience in Manhattan. So that’s coming up, too.

In the meantime: just got back from an impromptu girls-night-out at The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry, and it is still on over there. As Victoria Beckham would say, it’s “mayjah.” The crostino is still superb (better than Locanda Verde’s), the pasta is still homemade and decadent, the specials are creative and seasonal. Tonight, there was a smoky rigatoni with butternut squash and ricotta cheese that made me want to apprentice for Chef Dave DiBari just so I could have easy access to this dish. In addition, there was a pizzette with figs, prosciutto and fontina, quite possibly the most wonderful combination in the world. A sinfully decadent Banana Nutella Martini accompanied (and surpassed) already delicious desserts. “I love this place,” I declared to my girlfriends, over and over and over.

Yesterday, I was treated to a real treashah! in Irvington: Broadway Grill, a local dive bar serving up the best sweet potato fries I’ve had, and some really flavorful burgers. I don’t recall the name of the burger I liked most, but there was Cajun seasoning in the patty, and they piled coleslaw on top. The bun was nice and toasted, but all I could think was, “Why don’t more places put coleslaw on burgers?” Thanks, hot scientist: it was a good find.

Finally, I know I promised a while back that I would be blogging my thoughts on Top Chef this season. This hasn’t happened yet. I’ve just been short on time. Also, I’m completely intimidated to say anything when Max Silvestri is covering it so eloquently and hilariously on Eater. I read his stuff, laugh until everything hurts, then scratch my head and wonder if there’s anything left to say...

...other than Top 3 are of course: Bryan, Jen and Kevin. (Brother Mike V. could sneak in if anyone effs up.)

So that’s it. Hope to get cracking this weekend on some outstanding entries.

The Cookery
39 Chestnut Street
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
(914) 305-2336

Broadway Grill
8 S Broadway # A
Irvington, NY 10533-2291
(914) 478-1583

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Great Deal at Morton’s The Steakhouse in White Plains

I don’t normally post/keep up with all the press releases, but this is a pretty choice deal. I would’ve preferred to post this along with a report of my experience, but my reservation is for later in the month, and the offer ends at the end of September, so I wanted to give everyone a chance to capitalize on this themselves instead of read about what I ate, say “that sounds good,” but then realize the promotion was over, and think me greedy for hoarding the info, and consequently never come to this blog again reasoning Sharon keeps all the hot deals to herself.

(What I can tell you as far as advance reporting goes, is that I ate at Morton’s once and found the filet fantastic, but I also remember my bill being high, like, close to a gazillion dollars, so I’ve never been back. …until soon.)

Morton’s Steak & Seafood Menu Promotion

Morton’s special steak and seafood dinner, featuring two filet mignons, along with a choice of Morton’s signature seafood, salads and desserts, for $99.99 for two (or ordered per person for $49.99) has been extended through the end of September 30, 2009. The menu promotion includes:

  • Choice of Any Two Signature Salads
  • Two Single Cut Filets
Or $58 per person if you select one of the following three steak enhancements:
  • Double Cut Filet Mignon
  • Prime Ribeye Steak
  • Single Cut Prime New York Strip
  • Choice of Two: Broiled Sea Scallops, Colossal Shrimp Alexander or Jumbo Lump Crab Cake
  • One Signature Potato & One Fresh Vegetable to Share
  • Choice of Two: Morton’s Legendary Hot Chocolate Cake or Key Lime Pie

Pair your dinner with a Bottle of 2007 Estancia Pinot Noir, Monterey or 2008 Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc, Napa for an additional $39.

Visit for more information.

Also (this is Sharon talking again), be sure that when you make your reservation, you specify that you want to take advantage of the Special Steak and Seafood Dinner. The offer is legit, but I believe you need to request it in advance.

Enjoy! Let me know how it is.

Morton’s The Steakhouse
9 Maple Avenue
White Plains, NY
(914) 683-6101

Friday, September 4, 2009

Emma's Ale House

A very happy pre-Labor Day Weekend to you all! I’m off today. (My job offers two four-day holiday weekends that most other companies do not. In exchange, we work two days during the year while most other places are kicking back. Sometimes I like this arrangement (ie, now); sometimes I do not (the holidays I work)).

To celebrate the start of our four-day holiday, some co-workers and I went to Emma’s Ale House in White Plains yesterday. It was my first visit, but I had been hearing good things. Heather, Ana and I arrived around the same time, shortly followed by Nichole. We were promptly seated in the dining room to the left of Emma’s bar area, and ordered drinks while we waited for the last member of our party, Suzanne.

We sipped beer and chatted, while our stomachs growled. Fifteen minutes went by. “Did Suzanne ditch us?” Heather wondered, glancing at her watch. We had hit some traffic on the way to Emma’s, but this was excessive. We sipped more beer. After about a half hour, Ana fished her cell phone out of her bag to check in with Suze. “Uh oh,” she said, frowning as she looked at her cell. She began to read aloud.

Text number one from Suzanne: “Hey! Where are you guys?”

Text number two from Suzanne: “Did you get stuck in traffic?”

Ana’s eyes widened and she giggled as she read the last text:

“I have a table for us all.”

We looked around the casual dining room. Owner Casey Egan’s Yellow Labrador Emma stared back at us via colorful, illustrated pictures on the walls, but no Suzanne. I craned my neck to peer into the separate bar room. Sitting at a big table was four empty seats, was a very lonely Suzanne, nursing a drink and texting furiously. She looked up at me with surprise.


Here are complimentary soft pretzel sticks:
When I reached in for a pretzel, pretty much all of them fell out, littering the table. But they were warm and yeasty, and a nice change from bread.

For appetizers:

Crispy Calamari with Kalamata Olives, Basil, Parmesan, Angry Tomato Sauce ($10):
I don’t know why the tomato sauce was “angry,” but it was a fine sauce. The calamari were also prepared nicely. Light batter, tender calamari. The Kalamata olives were an excellent addition, adding a salty kick. Basil, parmesan added complexity and freshness.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip with Crispy Pita Chips ($8):
The dip was more or less like other spinach dips I’ve had, maybe a little less salty, which I appreciated. The chips were soft and thick, with a slight crunch on the outside.

For entrees, we were all enamored with the 3 Slider option (pick three sliders for $10) under the Burger Bar menu:

I chose the pulled pork with BBQ, meatball parmesan, and filet mignon with gorgonzola and onions (medium rare):
Sadly, the sliders fell short of expectations. Maybe I still had Locanda Verde’s lamb sliders on my mind, but these were disappointing. The filet was properly cooked and very tender, but the hunk of gorgonzola was so overpowering, I didn’t taste the filet. The meatball parm slider had some sort of spice in it—bay leaf?—that completely overwhelmed the meat, and the pulled pork had a sloppy joe thing going on that wasn’t working for me. The buns were a bit too toasted as well; I would’ve preferred them softer.

We ordered two more appetizers to accompany our sliders:

Gedney Chips with Maytag Bleu Cheese, and Truffle Oil ($8):
While the gorgonzola was overpowering in the filet mignon slider, here the blue cheese married nicely with house-made barbecue potato chips. I thought this was a nice dish, yet $8 for potato chips seemed high.

Mac & Cheese with Smoked Bacon, Peas ($9):
Awwww yeah, Emma. Now you’re hittin your stride. This was a crowd pleaser. The cheese was creamy and rich, and not too sharp. Saltiness came from the hunks of smoked bacon, and baked breadcrumbs on top. A surefire winner, with a home-cooked taste.

Finally, for dessert:

A Chocolate Chip Cookie Soufflé:
I only had a bite of this dish. The cookie was a little too dry for me. But maybe I just wasn’t wasting my time or my calories with this when I was completely, over-the-moon in love with…

Krispy Kreme Donut Bread Pudding:
Sinfully sweet and moist, this is potentially one of the best desserts I’ve eaten this year. Wow. You’re basically improving upon an already perfect Krispy Kreme donut, and then adding eggs, heavy cream, brown sugar…all the stuff that makes Sharon happy. The first couple bites are out-of-this-world. Then, the sweetness kind of gets to you, so it’s a nice dish to share.

Overall, this was a nice pub. The food seemed above-par from pubs on Mamaroneck Avenue, and there were some real winners on the menu. I’d be eager to come back and sample some entrees. (I’ve heard the Porcini and Truffle Ravioli is amazing.)

I’d also like to add that I love going out with my co-workers. They are wonderful women who also happen to be teeny tiny. They take a couple bites, and then they say they are full.

... guess who reaps the benefits? muhuhahahahaha.

Emma’s Ale House
68 Gedney Way
White Plains, NY 10605
(914) 683-3662