Churros, Chocolate and Champagne

The warm weather this past week (along with the Book Expo America at the Javits Center) brought The Sofrito Girls together for some catching up. As usual, the Girls leave it to me to come up with restaurant reservations, and after some very strong suggestions from the ever tireless Carola (my assistant), and their win for Most Creative Paella at the 3rd Annual Paella Parade at Pier 17 last Monday, I made our dinner arrangements at Nuela in the Flat Iron district.

(From left to right) Daisy, Loni, Violette, Esmeralda

The Sofritos are a pretty energetic, vocal group (ahem!), but when it comes to ordering in a restaurant, they pretty much defer to me, so without much fanfare, I started the evening’s culinary adventure with a variety of appetizers.

Empanada Mendocino

We started out with a delicious short rib empanada garnished with hardboiled eggs that was chunky, savory, and delicious with a slightly tangy-sweet finish. The crust was tender and flaky and the Sofritos agreed that this was a definite candidate for the Empanada Hall of Fame. Okay, we were off to a seriously good start, but could the rest of the evening still inspire the oohs and ahhs that our first appetizer elicited? We were about to ofind out!

Causa with Charred Octopus

Pork Belly with Arepas and Charred String Bean-Ramp “Chimichurri”

White Asparagus “Ajiaco”

Hamachi Tiradito with Miso-Yuzo leche de tigere and fermented garlic

Ceviche Misco Mixto


Ahi Tuna Ceviche with 3 Radishes and Yuzu 

When trying a new restaurant, I always like to go heavy on the appetizers because it’s a great way (in my humble opinion) to get a feel for the kitchen. This is where I may start to wax poetic. The empanada was delicious…the causa was so good I was looking for someone to beat! The potato aspect was perfectly seasoned with enough aji amarillo to make it interesting without being overpowering and the charred octopus on top was not typical but absolutely brilliant. The pork belly was delicate (sous vide) perfectly crisped on one side, but the accompanying stringbean and ramp chimichurri had us calling for the waiter to find out what exactly was in it becuase it was amazing! The white asparagus ajiaco was ephemereal but exploded with flavor when sippewith a dollop of avocado puree that was hidden in the soup. The trio of ceviches we ordered were pristinely fresh, artfully presented, and expertly seasoned. YUM!

One would think, “How much can these girls eat?”, but the truth of the matter is that the portions were perfect for sharing, so we were able to experience the dishes without getting uncomfortably full…plus, we still had our entrees and dessert to go! The menu sports a number of “for two” dishes, and I ordered 2 of them (go know!), the Arroz con Pato, and the Cochinillo, and added the Lobster Moquca because…well because!

Cochinillo Platter with Guava BBQ Sauce, Flatbread and white rice

Arroz con Pato

Lobster Moqueca

*Roll up my sleeves*…the cochinillo was served with crispy flatbread, and tangy-chunky guava sauce and some fluffy white rice. It was tender, moist and delicious (although I still think Puerto Rican lechoncito still kicks butt!), and served with a large piece of crackled, laquered pork skin (cuerito). The Arroz con Pato is served in a paellera with a slice of foie gras , along with a duck leg/thigh confit that our maitre’d, Ciji divided between us. He then proceeded to scrape up the “pegao” or xocorrat from the bottom of the pan, and break up the fried duck egg up into the whole thing…that might have been right around the time I started to have hot flashes! It was too incredible to describe, but I can tell you this: I have not been able to think of anything else since! By the time we got to the Lobster Moqueca, I was seriously thinking that this might well become a favorite, regular spot for me, and the lobster cemented it! Tender, juicy, , and sweet, the dish was garnished with toasted coconut curls and a beautiful coconut scented sauce. Can you say O-M-G?!

Coconut Panna Cotta with Passionfruit Sorbet

Tres Leches with Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Chocolate Terrine with Caramelized Bananas

The Girls almost begged off  dessert, but I convinced them to try to work through the pain, lol. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I have to say that the “popcorn sauce” on the Tres Leches dessert was out of this world and kept me going back to the plate for more. The chocolate terrine was luxurious and rich, and the caramelized bananas were a perfect complement. We pushed the empty plates away and sighed with satisfaction just as Executive Chef Adam Schop came to the table to say hello. Adam rocks a CIA pedigree as well as some mad sexy ink and there is no questioning his chops in the kitchen! We thanked him profusely for an amazing evening.

Alfajores

Churros and Chocolate

Ciji informed us that we were not quite through, to our surprise, and he made a beautiful plate of mini alfajores, dulce de leche cookies, appear at our table as if by magic! They pratically melted in your mouth, but Ciji’s bag of tricks was not empty yet; he told us that in Colombia, where he is from, a lady’s evening is not complete until they have churros, chocolate and champagne…bring it, Ciji!!

I mentioned to Chef Adam that I was trying to think of an excuse to return to Nuela next week, to try everything I had missed on the menu…he looked at me, winked and said, “Why wait until next week?!” Why, indeed, Chef!

Nuela

43 West 24th Street btwn 5th and 6th Avenue

212 929 1200

Open for lunch…closed on Monday

 

2 Responses to “Churros, Chocolate and Champagne”


  1. 1 Janel June 3, 2011 at 10:28 am

    I am not a raw seafood or pork eater, but I have to say that this food looks delicious. I would be all over that tres leches cake dessert. I love reading your write-ups of these restaurants. Your enthusiasm just comes right through. I’ve written before in the past, but I just want to say thanks again for the great recipes (the yellow rice gets requests and raves EVERYTIME) and for the inspiration. I always want to get in the kitchen and try a new recipe after browsing through your books, reading your newsletter, or watching your show (yes, I catch it on Create when I can!). Which Havana Central location are you going to be at? Not sure I can make it, but if I did, would it be bad if I brought your first book for you to sign? LOL.

  2. 2 Myrna June 3, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Yahoo! Sign me up! Nuela’s is next in line for my date night with the hubby without the kiddies! Strict rules for date nights: I will only go to a restaurant that doesn’t have chicken nuggets on the menu=D And this place fills the bill!

    Thanks so much for the write up and the pics, they made my mouth water. Churros, chocolate and champagne to complete a ladies evening meal…great minds think alike!


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