Breakfast: The “Best of Both Worlds” Fage Post

When I wrote a story on Greek yogurt a few months ago, the photodietitian I interviewed recommended mixing in fresh fruit to give a little sweetness to the yogurt, rather than buying the ones with the strawberry, cherry or peach fruit preserves attached in a cute little side compartment. In principle, I agree with her: Less sugar, more natural fruit goodness, more ounces of yogurt per container. In actuality, the yogurt is too sour for me with just fresh fruit. It needs honey, or a Sugar in the Raw packet, or something.

Today I added a handful of blueberries in to the yogurt on top of the peach preserves — the yogurt was a great vehicle for the berries (not all shown; kept replenishing as I ate), and I got the sweetness quotient. Mmm.

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Dinner: Irish Surprise Inside

From the exterior, the prospects of Tír na nÓg being a better-than-average Irish/American bar is not promising. Even the worst “Irish bar” in the city — I use quotes as a majority of the “Irish bars” that are so ubiquitous here are really Irish-themed American bars and are generally pretty mediocre — but even the worst offender doesn’t proclaim on its facade that it is an “Irish pub” in gold, block letters bracketed with a pair of gold shamrocks. Oy.

That faux pas, on top of the fact that Tír na nÓg’s exterior is sleek, clean and corporate, even strip-mall-y, scared away any latent curiosity I’d had about the bar a long time ago. (And that’s a rare day indeed.) So when a friend suggested we meet at Tír na nÓg for a catch-up beer and maybe a snack, I couldn’t even place what bar she was talking about, despite the fact that I walk that block of Eighth Avenue several times a week. Sure, I said. At the end of the day, a bar’s a bar.

photo(2)In a reverse case of lunch, which was probably destined for disappointment with my over-inflated falafel expectations, my utter lack of expectations for Tír na nÓg set me up to be wowed.

Not by the beer: A pint’s a pint. Nor by the food: I ordered the pork pie and fries ($10), which, while tasty, doesn’t hold a candle to the pork pies from Myers of Keswick, the British butcher shop and sundries store in the West Village. But by the the interior, the ambiance. Walking in past that terrible lettering and bland facade, I was shocked to see sumptuous, dark wood; ornate detailing; stained glass-inspired lighting; castle-style chandeliers over the bar. Really extraordinary stuff.

photoSure enough, the place is full of salvaged bits from across the pond. From the website:

A design team and artisans from Ireland created this small piece of Ireland by salvaging interesting architectural pieces, furniture and bric-a-brac from churches and castles in Ireland and shipping them to New York. These pieces, combined with rich textiles, Celtic script adorning the walls, and rich, dark wood have shaped an elegant yet inviting atmosphere.

Latent curiosity restored.

Lunch: What Is “Best,” Really? (aka the Alfanoose Falafel post)

I was reminded again of the inherent hazards of declaring something to be the “best” in the city today: Often times it’s a setup for disappointment.

Which isn’t to say that Alfanoose‘s falafel are bad. They just didn’t quite live up to the expectation I held in my mind knowing the falafel have been awarded, every year since 2000, to be the best falafel in New York — a fact posted proudly at the very top-center of the restaurant’s homepage.

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What was I expecting? I’m not sure. Something discernibly different, though. Striking, even. I wanted to take a bite of a falafel and experience something that would cause me to revise my opinion level of the deep-fried dough balls, which currently hovers somewhere between “I-don’t-get-it” ambivalence and indifference.

The falafel were satisfactory, as much as something that reminds me of dried-out meatballs can be, but there was no ground-shaking revelation. Which, given the promise, translated into vague disappointment and the lurking question: Did I miss something?

photo(6)TIP: Falafel are just one small part of Alfanoose’s extensive menu, which includes a dozen meat or vegetarian pita sandwiches and platters, which are substantial (note shish kabob sandwich, left) and cheap. Vegetarian sandwiches and plates are generally $5.75 and $10, respectively; meat sandwiches and plates range from $7.95 – $14.25. Or, in other words, definitely merits exploration.