French Roast Uptown

2-french-roast_650_20130327 (from newyork.com.)

French Roast Uptown is the place to go on the Upper West Side. I used to live on the same block, about 20 yards away from it.

It’s a mixture of a bistro, diner, and bar, having equal qualities from all of them. It’s set up like a charming if somewhat generic French bistro, open all night like a diner, and it has a good bar with a special every night. There’s an interesting cast of characters who hang out there at night: I met an opera singer, a photographer for Ralph Lauren, a writer for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and the retired owner of a music bar. You can go there and order a (superb) French onion soup at 2 AM, have a great conversation, and watch an attractive regular throw a tantrum any night of the year.

It’s always crowded. There are people there at literally any time of the day. I’d recommend going early in the morning or after 9 pm, because it’s hectic in there during the day. The best items on the menu are as follows:

Brunch: Tomato Avocado Salsa Omelette. It has gruyere in it. I know it sounds gross but it’s fantastic. The omelette is light, almost like a crepe, and the tomatoes are crisp and the avocado (mashed like guacamole) isn’t too goopy. The gruyere gives it even more flavor and blends well with the egg. It’s better than Chipotle, and it’s in omelette form.

Dinner: Pumpkin Ravioli (Fall and Winter): It’s filling and smooth with brown butter on top (it tasted warm and hearty and a bit sugary.) It’s cooked al dente, so you get the flavor without it being too soft.

Avocado and Goat Cheese Ravioli (Spring and Summer): It looks intimidating but it’s actually even better than the pumpkin ravioli. It’s cooked in brown butter. The asparagus and goat cheese are both inside the ravioli and out, sprinkled on top for both a garnish and flavor. The crisp asparagus slices add texture to the dish. It’s a mix of savory, crisp, and just enough sweet tang from the goat cheese. Ask for some of their rustic bread to soak up the brown butter.

French Onion Soup (Lunch and Overnight): The best French onion soup I’ve ever had. It’s in a vegetarian broth with slightly browned gruyere on top and a lot of onions. It’s meaty and filling and wonderful.

French Soda: An Italian soda. It’s seltzer, cream, and syrup. I ordered the almond soda. They give you a generous wallop of cream, so it’s almost like an egg cream.

They also make a mean Caesar salad for brunch, lunch, and dinner. The espresso ain’t bad either.

French Roast is generally consistent, but not always. I’ve been there a couple of times where it wasn’t what I was used to. The soup tends to be better earlier rather than later. The conversation, however, is always great.

There’s also a French Roast downtown. It has Wi-Fi, but is lacking in every other way.

My Rating: 8.5
Recommended Dish: French Onion Soup, Pumpkin/Avocado Goat Cheese ravioli, Tomato Avocado Salsa Omelette
Atmosphere: Dim light, bistro decorations, cozy, often crowded
Clientele: Upper West Side professionals, often who work in the arts. Grad students.
Price Range: $12-$30 per person

French Roast Uptown
Upper West Side
85th and Broadway
(2340 Broadway, New York, NY 10024)
212-799-1533

French Roast Downtown
West Village
11th and Sixth Ave.
(78 W 11th St #1, New York, NY 10011)
212-533-2233

Website: French Roast

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Shopbop Sale!

Save 25% on items that are already on sale through Wednesday, July 23!

shopbop sale

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Lost Innocence

Here’s a doll on the side of the road in Queens. It looked really surreal, like a metaphor for lost childhood or something. I can’t imagine a kid actually playing there and leaving it that way like it was fighting somebody off, so maybe someone put it there and positioned it like that deliberately.

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Creepy.

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Me In Soho

Wearing an H+M shirt, Express shorts, and New Balance sneakers.

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A Minor by Code Deco

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Code Deco is a unique Singapore-based perfume company that started last year under perfumer and founder Gauri Garodia. She presented her jazz-based fragrance collection at Spring Fling Sniffapalooza. The concept is great: it’s such a hard thing to relate scent to anything else, let alone another fleeting sensation like music. Even better, the fragrances are good.

A Minor is designed for men. It has that distinguished feel of aftershave, although aftershave usually has the notes arranged differently and with lower quality ingredients. Here’s the note list from Code Deco’s beautifully designed website: pink pomelo, bergamot, plum, prune, clove madagascar, cinnamon bark, bay leaf, geranium, vetiver haiti, amber, red sandalwood, musk

A Minor opens up as a dark, spicy citrus. I get the cinnamon and clove as an abstraction more than stark notes that stand out. The citrus is coming from the pink pomelo, a citrus fruit originating in Southeast Asia. The bergamot manages not to be too bright, but jaunty nonetheless. It’s strong. It could be a better version of Old Spice.

The vetiver is the main note. It comes in after a few minutes and holds through the heart and the base of the fragrance, accented by the sandalwood. It remains sharp for a while. I don’t know much about jazz, but I went to a jazz concert once and I’m getting a similar mood from A Minor. The guy it personifies would definitely like exuberant, loosely-structured music in a cozy room. I usually find vetiver a bit dry, but this fragrance is brimming with good humor.

The drydown is musky and the sandalwood stands out more, but vetiver is still the main player. It has great lasting power and is better sprayed on clothes. I think a lot of guys would like to wear A Minor on a regular basis. It has the familiar qualities of men’s fragrance: vetiver, spices, not many florals, but it’s friendly and high-quality enough to stand out anyway. A Minor isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it’s a top-shelf everyday perfume for affable guys with good taste.

Perfumer: Gauri Garodia
Price Range: Very Expensive
Recommended Occasion: Any
Release Year: 2013
My Rating: 7.5

Check out another review at Style Flavors.

Posted in Amber, Bay Leaf, Bergamot, Cinnamon, Clove, Geranium, Musk, Plum, Pomelo, Prune, Sandalwood, Uncategorized, Vetiver | 2 Comments

Shopbop Sale!

Hey everyone. Shopbop is having a sale starting tomorrow (June 24, 7 AM). It’s 25% off all items already on sale.

See you there!

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NY Steel Flowers by Arts and Scents

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One of the great things about Sniffapalooza is that you get to learn about brand new perfume houses before anyone else does. Manuela Pfannes-Völkel is a German perfumer who started making privately commissioned scents years ago, and just started her own house, Arts and Scents.

Pfannes-Völkel likes to mix scents you don’t usually see together, like mint and tonka. Her perfume line is accessible and a little kitschy, with names like Wild Cat Musk, Fantastic Green Bird, and Dream Of India.

NY Steel Flowers was inspired by the mix of nature and industry you see in New York City. It’s a great concept. New York City thinks commerce rules everything, which is true in the human world but nature still fights back when prompted. That premise has not only brought forth cool fragrances, but also time-tested blockbuster films like Godzilla. (He feeds off nuclear waste. Watch the movie.)

New York City’s nature/industry pull can be shown in harmony, like in the High Line:

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and it can also manifest with giant cranes dangling precariously from the most expensive residential building in Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy.

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Anyway. It’s really hard to pin down the scent. It starts off sweet and woody, very, very sweet actually. It calms down fast. I think the overall effect is of a sweet tobacco. I can also detect some kind of machinized neocivet note in there, like a half-robot civet cat in 2134 who’s royally pissed at having been used to make perfume for so long. It’s a one-accord wonder, but recommended.

Perfumer: Manuela Pfannes-Völkel
Price Range: Moderate
Recommended Occasion: Casual
My Rating: 7

Check out Arts and Scents’ website and blog!

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Angel by Thierry Mugler

thierry-mugler-angel-perfumes (from www.celebrityendorsementads.com

Angel is probably one of the biggest perfumes out there besides Chanel No. 5 and anything released by a daughter of OJ Simpson’s defense attorney. Its distinctive otherworldly periwinkle star bottle (followed in spirit by Alien) is pretty much everywhere, as is the deceptively simple patchouli-chocolate miasma that comes out of it.

I didn’t like it the first time. The second time was when I walked past Times Square’s Sephora at about 11:00 at night and sprayed the travel-size bottle just because it was so ubiquitous I had to try it again. That same effect keeps people going to McDonald’s to get fries. McDonald’s fries aren’t anywhere near as good as Wendy’s, but you see the ads so much that they become a permanent part of your subconscious and it’s like you haven’t fully achieved self-actualization until you get it with a side of Mickey D’s extra salted fries and a Quarter Pounder.

Angel opens with the heady, throaty-voiced patchouli-chocolate blast and some ambiguous fruits (I’m getting orange rinds). It does have a distinctly androgynous character, like Tania Sanchez says in The Book. It’s such a powerful effect that I’m reminded of a falsetto choir singing at full blast in an echoing room.

(New York Polyphony, closest thing I could find)

The funny thing is, Angel isn’t loud. (Keep in mind, almost every other reviewer disagrees with me about this.) Its sillage isn’t much bigger than the average perfume, but its unmistakable effect makes you feel like it’s radiating to Mars. It was made in 1992, which was right before perfume houses transitioned from big distinctive beasts to osteoporotic clean fragrances. Also, Thierry Mugler designed things like this:

tumblr_mansisMdMJ1r06q46o1_1280 (from thierrymugler.tumblr.com)

so he obviously wasn’t afraid to make a statement.

Angel also manages to be powdery on top of everything else. It’s a musty effect that keeps it from being too raw. I think that an undiluted chocolate/patchouli/fruit mashup would smell like the apartment of a hippie with the munchies. It also keeps it from being too edible. Angel is referred to as a gourmand. It almost smells edible, but not quite.

In the heart notes it smells more vanillic and a little more appetizing. The grand slam is over. The caramel comes in and the sharp citrus notes go out. The drydown is a warm, delicious caramel vanillic treat. It’s cool, but I think the untouchable top notes are way more interesting.

Here’s the note list, from Victoria at Bois de Jasmin’s detailed review: bergamot, mandarin, dewberry, honey, red berries, patchouli, Australian sandalwood, coumarin, vanilla, caramel, chocolate.

There’s two reasons Angel isn’t going to be one of my top ten favorite perfumes. Most importantly, it’s aloof. I definitely get the effect that a distinct personality is sitting on my skin when I spray it, but that personality isn’t going to be my friend. There’s nothing natural-smelling about it, it doesn’t meld into a skin scent, and it doesn’t tell any kind of emotional story except that this pretty and possibly hermaphroditic character is high-concept, high-art, and totally uninterested in me.

Basically, it’s a famous fashion designer.

Second, it has so many flankers that I feel like I’ve grown up with it, even though I’ve probably only smelled it a total of ten times. I like it. I might buy that travel-size bottle at Sephora for 25 bucks. But I can’t imagine myself connecting with it.

Perfumers: Olivier Cresp and Yves de Chirin
Price Range: Moderate
Recommended Occasion: Any
Release Year: 1992
My Rating: 8

More Reviews:
Jen at ThisBlogReallyStinks is so-so about it.

The Candy Perfume Boy, like me, finds it brilliant but not relatable enough to wear all the time.

The Perfumed Dandy thinks it just smells too much like a chocolate shop.

Posted in Bergamot, Berry, Caramel, Coumarin, Dewberry, Honey, Mandarin, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Ferraro’s (Westfield, NJ)

ferraro's (Photo from Yelp)

Ferraro’s is the mainstay Italian restaurant in Westfield, NJ. It’s family-owned, and has been in business since 1969. It has a second floor that seats 60-70 people and a bar/lounge that you can rent out for private parties. They have a huge wine rack and an extensive gluten-free menu. They were playing Frank Sinatra on the radio.

It’s pretty good. The bread has a hard crust and a soft inside, and they give you high-quality pepper and olive oil for dipping. While you wait for your food, you can make your own dipping sauce (my own idea here) by pouring a dollop of olive oil onto your plate and some vinegar into it. Then put some cracked pepper on top. It’s a good mix of tastes.

I got a Caesar salad for an appetizer, as usual. The croutons were crisp and the dressing had an excellent kick to it. They used more of the lettuce stem than I’d like though. But they aren’t at all stingy with their Parmesan cheese.

My gnocchi was decent as well, in well-spiced tomato sauce. My dad ordered a dish called Anna’s Homemade Sausage Lasagna. They used Andouille sausage- smoked pork sausage, and spiced it perfectly. The house coffee was good, and they give you heavy cream, not half-and-half.

The only thing I really didn’t like was the vanilla bean crème brulee. I like vanilla bean anything, so it was a huge disappointment when I cracked through the caramel crust to encounter what looked and tasted exactly like scrambled eggs. The cannoli, though, my dad informed me, was out of this world.

My Rating: 7.5
Recommended Dish: Cannoli
Atmosphere: Big and classic, meant to bring in traffic
Price Range: $25-45 per person, not counting wine
Clientele: Everyone

Ferraro’s of Westfield
14 Elm Street, Westfield, NJ 07090
908-232-1105

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Sparky’s Ice Cream (Columbia, Missouri)

sparkysurbanspoon (from urbanspoon)

When an ice cream says it tastes like green tea, it rarely actually tastes like green tea. It tastes like an artists’ rendition of green tea, or like green tea’s rendition of arty food. Either way, you know that there can’t be THAT much green tea in the ice cream or else you’d have a closer approximation.

Enter Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream. You know they pack a high content of the title ingredient because you have to be 21 to order the White Russian. Other unusual flavors include pineapple upside-down cake, salted chocolate, mango, and lavender honey. Lavender honey is my favorite because it’s soothing. It smells like lavender, and tastes like honey. The raspberry and blueberry ice cream are better than the blueberries themselves. You also might want to try the traditional flavors like chocolate: Sparky’s chocolate is like traditional chocolate ice cream in the same way the Enola Gay is like a paper airplane.

My Rating: 9
Recommended Dish: Lavender Honey
Atmosphere: Usually a line, but you can look at the art on the walls
Price Range: $4-7
Clientele: Students and parents with kids

21 S 9th St Columbia, MO 65201
(573) 443-7400

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