Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DIY Holiday Cocktail

Sometimes the best thing to do during the holidays is put on some holiday music, bake some cookies and craft a delicious cocktail in your very own kitchen.  For just those times here's a recipe for a classic cocktail recreated with the honey and spice of Drambuie Scotch Liqueur:

DRAMBUIE Alexander

In a mixing tin half-filled with ice, add:

        4 parts DRAMBUIE 
       2 part Tia Maria  
       2 part Half-and-Half   
      1 part Egg Beaters   
      2 tsp. SugarShake to froth, strain into a snifter;
      Garnish with fresh-grated nutmeg.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

NYC Holiday Drinks

Best New Christmas Bar- Miracle on 9th Street

Christmas presents hang from the ceiling in shiny boxes, the bartenders have on their best Santa hats and the cocktail menu reads like something straight out of the North Pole.  There's a Christmopolitan with vodka and spiced cranberry, a Christmas Tree Gimlet with pine needle cordial and my personal choice the Bad Santa.

It's got two kinds of rum, pineapple juice, coconut water and coconut butter served piping basically like a warm and buttery pina colada.  What's better for the holidays than some nice rosey cheeks after a hot cocktail!

Best Eggnog- Maialino

If you missed Tom & Jerry's annual celebration of all things frothy and delicious there's still time to get one in at Danny Meyers Italian Trattoria Maialino.  Their version is much lighter than that thick stuff from the carton with a creamy white head and a sprinkle of nutmeg on top.


Best Fireplace- Schoolbreds

This long, narrow space has been an East Village institution for years.  Get there early to grab the table in the back near the roaring fire and hustle up a Hot Toddy or sip on some Mulled Cider. Happy Hour drinks are two for one every day until 8:00 PM making this a toasty and affordable stop.


Best Escape from Rolf's

If you just can't handle the insane crowds and overwhelming array of Christmas lights inside of Rolf's head directly across the street and seek refuge at the new Gramercy Ale House.  The old Copper Door has been completely redone into a polished new space with some of the friendliest bartenders in town and fantastic Irish music sessions every Wednesday night that could get just about any holiday Scrooge into a festive mood.

Gramercy Ale House

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Holidays in NYC

It's about that time of year so I'm rolling out my holiday guide once again.  This is just a break down of places to go in Rockefeller Center/Times Square area. Later in the week we'll get into the good stuff with a listing of the best places for holiday drinks!

NYC is a wonderful and magical place to visit around the holiday season. The Rockefeller Center tree is gorgeous, all the hotels are decked out in red and gold, holiday pop-up shops fill the parks- what could be better?

Unfortunately you have to be prepared for what I can only describe as controlled chaos. You will be wrangled like cattle to see the tree, stand in line at a Starbucks for 30 minutes, not for a caffeine fix but to use the single smelly bathroom and you’ll probably be so tired out from all of your shopping and touring that you’ll see a TGI Friday’s or Olive Garden and think it’s an oasis in the storm. Two hours later (because you’ll have to wait for a table like all of the other tourists who thought the line at McDonald’s and Subway were too long) you’ll wonder why the food and service were so crappy and suddenly your wallet is empty as well.

It’s the holidays in NYC folks and one must be prepared to weather the season. If you’re from the city you should know this and already be prepared but for you out of towners here’s a few holiday food recommendations to make your stay a little more jolly.

Rockefeller Center/ Times Square

Family Meal - Bills Bar and Burger
The location only a block from the tree can’t be beat and the laid back friendly service, reasonable prices and awesome burgers pretty much seal the deal. They have a separate kids menu with tater tots and chicken fingers as well as vegetarian friendly options like fish taco’s and one of the city’s best veggie burgers. They also have cocktails, wine and an extensive beer list. Believe me you’ll need a drink after braving the tree crowds with the family. Oh and they take reservations- Bam!

Bills Burger Bar Review

Cheap Adventurous Meal- Sake Bar Hagi
Hidden down some stairs right outside the madness of Rockefeller Center and Times Square is this cute little Izakaya. Don’t expect a quiet relaxed meal however- it’s loud, noisy and fun.  Order some skewers of meat, yellowtail collar and a couple Sapporo’s and enjoy the experience. It’s good for groups as well but the space is tiny so if you have more than 2 people go right when they open or expect a long wait. However they will take your phone number and call when a table is available. Walk over to Jimmy’s Corner and have a couple drinks while you wait.

Sake Bar Hagi Review

Italian Steakhouse with a Twist- Quality Italian

The sprawling space overlooking 7th Avenue right by Central Park is the perfect place to spend an evening sipping on wine an enjoying some old fashioned Italian favorites done NYC style.   The menu has items like Lobster Fra Diavlo rolls, Grilled Octopus and an enormous Chicken Parmigiana pizza that could almost feed a whole family.

Quality Italian

Upscale Fancy Meal- The Modern
Located inside the Modern Museum of Art this restaurant exudes both the arts and fine dining. Expect flawless French cuisine, an extensive wine and cocktail list and the impeccable service expected of all of Danny Meyers restaurants. Don’t skip the desserts which are just as delicious as they are beautiful.

The Modern Bar Room Review

Classic Steakhouse with a Twist- Quality Meats
Right around the corner from the Plaza Hotel this steakhouse creates the most delicious Steak Tartare I’ve had to date. Not that you need to have tartare, all the classic cuts of meat are there as well with delicious sides and whimsical desserts. The Twist? Although it’s certainly a steakhouse the ambiance is much softer and more refined than the old school guys. Imagine powering through a Porterhouse and still feeling elegant as you’re doing so- that’s Quality Meats for sure.

Quality Meats review

Crazy Confections- Momofuku Milk Bar

For incredible baked goods head to Momofuku Milk Bar on 56th Street.  This place has everything you could want in a bakery- cookies and cake, ice cream and pie, all done slightly over the top.  Things like Crack Pie, Birthday Crack truffles and Cereal Milk Soft Serve are great for both children and adults alike.  Take some home with you for a holiday gift that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Momofuku Milk Bar Review

Chocolate Treats- Cause you're Gonna Need Something Sweet

Good- Lindt Chocolate
Lindt Chocolate is sold everywhere now and it’s for good reason. The smooth, creamy truffles are wonderful and at the shop on 5th Avenue you can always find a new flavor and usually score a free sample at the door.

Better- Teuscher Chocolate
Right in Rockefeller Center this little shop explodes with bright colors and little figurines all about Switzerland, but don’t forget about the chocolates. The truffles and pralines have the same creaminess as the Lindt but with a richer, more authentic flavor.

Best- La Maison du Chocolat
Just walking into La Maison you will know at once that it’s a different level of chocolate shop. The well suited staff and trays of perfectly shaped ganaches and pralines almost make me feel like I’ve been transported to a fancy Parisian boutique. The Figaro is one of my favorite but don’t leave without trying out a pastry as well. The Romeo, a Coffee Chocolate Macaron, is the perfect pick me up after a long day of shopping.

La Maison du Chocolat

Teuscher Fifth Avenue

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lunch at Benchmark

Benchmark is a cozy little place in Park Slope  just off the main drag of 4th Avenue.  The restaurant has a gorgeous canopy out front and a tiny but cute bar inside, not to mention one of the best prix-fix deals in town. Benchmark offers a three course lunch with options like Lobster Bisque, Braised Beef Short Rib and Pan Seared Crab Cakes for the incredible price of $18. I was eyeing the Lobster Bisque but then I read the full description of the salad and was completely won over.  Organic Seasonal Lettuces with crisp yuca, radish confit, goat cheese and truffle vinaigrette.

I can't pass up anything with truffle these days and this dressing was just what I love... strong earthy truffles mixed with big dollops of creamy goat cheese...the perfect pairing.  Onto entree the Benchmark Burger with hand cut fries and homemade fixins.

The burger comes with your choice of cheese and they place it directly on the bottom bun of the burger rather than on top of the meat, a practice I don't usually enjoy but here it actually worked. The Gruyere stood up to the bread instead of melting inside like a blue or cheddar and the top bun was used to keep the burger in a salty, buttery hug.

The fries were all different sizes and shapes so I dug out the crisp skinny ones.  The only thing I didn't really love was the Spicy Ketchup which had a much more "sweet" flavor than "spicy".

Dessert was probably the most difficult decision of all...there was the White Chocolate Strawberry Bread Pudding (easily would have been Mr. T's choice is he had joined me), their famous Cookie Dough Eggroll with Miso Caramel and Espresso Gelato and finally my choice the Triple Chocolate Martini with Dark, Milk and White Chocolate Custards, Chocolate Cake and Dulce de Leche Ice Cream.

I really don't think you could go wrong with any of the choices here and for only $18 your wallet should still be happily full as well.

Benchmark Restaurant

339 2nd Street between 4th & 5th Avenue
Park Slope, NY 11215

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

United Wines of Veneto at Eataly

Eataly celebrates a different area of Italy each month and December is all about Veneto; a region in northeastern Italy with a wine history dating back to 1800 B.C. and the foremost wine producing region in the country.  I was invited to kick off this month's festivities with a Master Class from the Chef at La Scuola showcasing the fabulous wine and food from this region.

1st Course Capesante Grantinate- Scallops with compound butter, garlic, parsley, prosciutto and homemade bread crumbs paired with three different sparkling wines; the dry and fruity Prosecco Spumante, a soft, peachy Prosecco Superiore and my favorite the rich Lessini Durello, a sparking alternative from the Lessini Mountains.

2nd Course Carpaccio Con Radicchio- Beef Carpaccio with beets, baby carrots, radicchio, fennel, brussels sprout and lemon paired with the white wines of the region; the soft and savory Soave, a clean, fruity Custoza and a mineral driven Laguna.  

3rd Course Risi & Bisi- Shelled Pea & Scallion Risotto paired with two reds the light, salty Bardolino and a dry, rich Valpolicella.

Each dish displayed such clean, bright flavors that complemented the wine without taking center stage.  The presidents from all eight Consortiums were on hand to present each wine and even Lidia Bastinach popped in to celebrate with everyone.  

The restaurants of Eataly will be featuring these food and wine pairings all month and Eataly Vino will host a series of wine tastings December 12, 19 & 26th.  You can check out the full event schedule here.


200 5th Avenue at 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010