Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Robecelli's Cupcakes are Everywhere!

Over in Brooklyn Heights sits Tazza, a mainly coffee and bakery type place that also morphs into a wine and panini bar as the day goes on. I’ve walked by a million times, looking at their sweets but never really stopping. Until one day last week when the cupcakes inside looked so delicious I just had to have one.

I asked the woman behind the counter what the flavors were and I was surprised she didn’t know. After a few moments she consulted a menu and was able to list off the names but looked pretty unsure of her descriptions so I just picked one and hoped for the best.

Opening up the wrapper I was hit with such an intense smell of fresh apples and a hint of cider. Peeling away the wrapper an insanely moist cake was reveled with little flecks of real apple throughout. The edges of the cupcake top were perfectly chewy and the ultra silky vanilla cream was extra buttery with just a drizzle of maple syrup and oat crisp on top! I ate every last bite of this cupcake including a thorough scraping of the bottom wrapper to ensure I had gotten every last morsel.

I was so excited about this cupcake I went back to the office to try and Google the actual name. That’s when I realized this was no ordinary cupcake- it was a Robicelli’s. This was one of their fall specials the Apple Maple Crisp. The description said it contained Roasted Apple Butter which explains the amazing frosting on top. I couldn’t believe I didn’t recognize the Robicelli trademarks earlier! How awesome to know these delicious cupcakes are only blocks away from my office. But it gets even better! Below is their Hot Buttered Rum Cupcake.

I went from Fall flavors to Winter all in one week. The trademark buttercream frosting was there and the butter rum soaked cake still had the crispy edges as usual.

Except this was even closer to home. An outpost at the Union Square Holiday shops! I think I’ve died and gone to cupcake heaven.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quick Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! I enjoyed mine in Florida once again with Mr. T’s family. His sister-in-law made the most amazing risotto our first night there.

It was absolutely perfect- rich, creamy and topped off with a fresh shave of white truffle.

We also got spoiled by a ton of yummy wines and I even found a Cigar City beer I had never had before- the Cubano Style Espresso Brown Ale.

I loved the nutty toffee and roasted coffee bean flavor. I might have to ask the guys at Good Beer if they can get some in stock. All in all it was a fabulous Thanksgiving and I’m already in full holiday mode! Bring on the trees and lights!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tasting the Wines of Lombardia at La Scuola

Man November has been busy! We attended this tasting a few weeks ago but it was so wonderful I just have to tell you about it. Now I’ve been to La Scuola before for some promotional tastings but this was one we bought so I was excited to see how it compared.

The wine line up looked great and when I saw the first food course I was really excited!

Two wonderful pieces of Montauk Striped Bass Crudo with a little slice of blood orange on top. Talk about a great start to the tasting! We enjoyed this with our Cuvee Rose Brut and it was a match made in heaven. Next up some Salumi E Fromaggi Misti.

I love trying different meats and cheese with wine. It’s probably one of my favorite things in the world. Here the gorgonzola was surprisingly smooth and I loved tasting the two different types of pecorino- one called the poor mans and one regular. After this start I was getting pretty stuffed between all the bread and wine but more was to come. Actually it was straight up dinner!

Vitello Alla Milanese Con Finocchio E Rucola. I’m not usually a fan of Veal Milanese but this one was amazing. The breading was light and had a little bit of spice that complemented the meat nicly. They even gave us the recipes for this dish to recreate at home.

Did you forget this all at a wine tasting? I almost did. We finished with a wonderful full bodied red and I was incredibly full and happy. Mr. T and I agreed this was the best tasting we have ever been too. The speaker was great and the food and wine were absolutely amazing. I'm thinking this may be may holiday gift for people.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Buffalo Bites- Rue Franklin and Swirl

I was feeling a little home sick pre-Thanksgiving last week and just needed a break from the city. So I took a quick weekend trip up to Buffalo and relaxed with a wonderful dinner at Rue Franklin with two of my favorite friends! Being that it was girls night we had to begin with some cocktails!

We stopped at Cabaret first for a few martini’s before moving over to Rue for our meal. I loved the old French vibe inside of the restaurant. All the men were in tuxedo’s and the white linen table cloths and shiny silver serving trays just seemed to fit. To begin a bottle of Chardonnay and some Malpeque Oysters.

I always love Malpeque Oysters- they have the perfect balance of sweetness and brine and these were no different.

They gave us a tart vignette on the side but I find the oysters have enough flavor that nothing else is needed. My friend and I happily slurped away on these while the non-oyster lover of the bunch went for soup- a Parsnip and Pear with Bacon.

This had all of the makings of a great sophisticated soup but somehow nothing melded together quite right. One bite tasted like pear, next one bacon. All of the components were there but nothing seemed to gel. Onto our entrees I ordered the Venison Loin with Cassis sauce, Currants and Corn Pudding.

I’m not going to lie to you I was in love with this dish from the second I laid eyes on it. The venison was cooked to perfection and the rich flavors were only enhanced by the sweet currants and eggy corn pudding. This was one of the best venison dishes I have had in a very long time. Other entrees included a surprisingly exciting and delicious Red Snapper with ginger vinaigrette and pickled eggplant.

And a Filet Mignon with red wine sauce and macaroni gratin.

Unfortunately the Filet could have had a bit more flavor but overall we were happy with our entrees and ready to indulge in some delicious desserts! A trio of Pot De Crème.

A decadent Salted Chocolate Cake with Honey Ice Cream.

And the crowd favorite Sticky Toffee Pudding that was oh so sweet and oh so sticky!

We ordered a round of espresso with our dessert and I was completely baffled when they gave us all empty cups. We sat there for about 10 minutes until three waiters came out each with our own pot of espresso. I’ve never had this experience in a restaurant before…probably because I can’t handle it. I think I ended up having about 6 espressos out of my own little pot. Talk about an excessive caffeine buzz.

Overall I simply loved Rue Franklin. For all that food, a bottle of wine, three glasses of wine and three pots of espresso it came out to roughly $75 a person. Not to shabby for a fancy and delicious night out on the town! My only advice to Rue is a bathroom update. There’s nothing worse than enjoying a fabulous fancy meal only to see a shabby single stall in the ladies room. Well after Rue I was done eating for the night but the next morning I woke up cravings more sweets!

So I drove over to the newly opened Swirl Cupcake Shop.

My father stole half of my Vanilla one before I even got a picture.

But luckily the Red Velvet was all mine. I loved the frosting on this and the cake was surprisingly dense and moist. This is a seriously good Red Velvet cake and I plan to overdose myself on sugar with these when I return. Overall a fantastic food trip up North!

Rue Franklin

Swirls Cupcake

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Little Lunch at Manzo

My last restaurant in Eataly to try out is also supposed to be the most expensive and the best. Somehow I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype and kept putting off a meal there. Finally one rainy day it seemed just perfect and I went over for a solo lunch.

I had made a reservation but the hostess said it would be a minute for my table when I arrived. I always see the bar when I’m there and was astonished to see so many tables behind it. How could I have missed that! I took a seat at the bar instead and a glass of Prosecco arrived to help the decision making process.

After ordering the bread basket arrived. At every other place in Eataly the bread basket is thick cut pieces of a soft brown bread that is a little sour. Only at Manzo did I receive the squares of Focaccia and a few eggy slices inside. As always a healthy dollop of olive oil was present for dipping until my appetizer arrived. Mozzarella with Almonds, Brown Butter and Guaniciale.

I’ve had the mozzarella in the Piazza countless times but this had so much more flavor. The brown butter gave it this rich, smokiness and I loved the crunch of the almonds and the crispy pieces of guaniciale. Unfortunately the bread had been slathered with too much olive oil so I relied on the bread basket for my carb fix but that was fine. After polishing off this and moving on to a glass of Pinto Nero it was entree time. The Carne Cruda al Cotello with Enoki Mushrooms and Black Truffle Bruschetta.

The presentation of this dish excited me because it was so simple. I cut into the perfectly poached quail egg and swirled the runny yolk into the tender meat and it was delightful. The black truffle gave it a deep earthy flavor and if it wasn’t for the extra olive oil beneath I probably would have polished off the entire dish. I understand the merits of a good olive oil but sometimes I wish Eataly wouldn’t have such a heavy hand with it on everything. However I did really enjoy the dish and I would happily return for a lovely glass of red and this any day. Finally all of the restaurants are completed!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Flex Doughnuts is Back at Grand Central

I was walking through Grand Central yesterday and was shocked to see the holiday markets up already. Then I walked downstairs and was shocked again to see Flex Doughnuts had returned at the Zocalo outpost. I would finally get a chance to try one- so many flavors. I'm pretty much obsessed with anything Salted Caramel these days.

Pumpkin and Cranberry- very seasonal.

Pecan Pie- on a Doughnut!

Apple-Cinnamon and Maple, Bacon, Bourbon stick.

And finally Zak's Birthday doughnut which was a Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter frosting, Dark Chocolate shavings and lots of glitter! Just like Zak used to use on Top Chef Just Desserts.

The lines are usually incredibly long and they sell out fast so get there while you can!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Yes I am at the Tavern Yet Again!

I swear I don’t work for the Gramercy Tavern or anything I just love to go there. I’ll keep this one short. I returned for yet another lunch and couldn’t stray from their delicious burger.

It was delicious as usual, although the cheese didn’t seem quite as pungent as before even though it was still the Cabot Cloth Bound Cheddar. Maybe I had the stanky end last time? The Heirloom Tomato was seasonally replaced this time by a side of creamy potato salad with some little chunks of bacon. Mmmmm bacon…

And for dessert another seasonal favorite Apple Pie. I loved how Gramercy didn’t try to fancy this up in any way. It was straight forward with a ton of crispy, warm cinnamon apples and buttery crust and a cooling scoop of ice cream on the side. Just like Mom used to make.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao

Doesn’t the name just say it all? What it should say it extra tasty dim sum! Mr. T and I traveled out to Flushing the other day (man we’ve been in Queens a lot lately) and enjoyed the day walking around the various malls and shops and finally landed at Nan Xiang for some lunch. This tiny little place was packed! We got a table up front and then the fod started to descend. First some Pan Fried Pork Dumplings.

These enormous dumplings were pillow like in texture and just the right amount of crispiness on the bottom. I was in heaven. But wait…here comes more. Soup Dumplings!

We went for the crab and pork and I have to say these the skin on these was the thinnest I’ve ever had. Nibble, slurp, nibble, slurp…Yummmmmm…soupy dumplings…. But Wait! The Best is yet to come!

Scallion Pancake with Beef! Where have you been all of my life! I’ve always loved the Scallion Pancake but sandwich some sticky beef inside and slather it with hoisin sauce and this took it to a whole new level! Easily the best pancake I have ever had. Thank goodness it’s out in Flushing or I’d become one plump little girl pretty quick. After lunch we stopped by the Flushing Mall for some treats at Deli Manjoo. It was really neat to watch them filling the little molds with batter, then injecting the custard until finally it comes out nicely wrapped in plastic and ready to go.

Each one comes out shaped like a little corn on the cob.

And it even comes in its own cute carrying case. Stylish and affordable! A wonderful afternoon in Flushing complete.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cupcakes in Heels

I was working in Bayside the other day and walking around the neighborhood in search of lunch. Somehow I spotted this little bakery across the street.

Cupcakes in Heels? It wasn’t a proper lunch but I was certainly checking it out.

As I walked into the miniscule bakery I was delighted to see each of the cupcakes named after a fashion designer. There was Valentino- a lemon cupcake with lemon curd and vanilla buttercream, a Burberry- strawberry cupcake filled with fresh strawberries and vanilla whipped cream...

and even a Passion Fruit Alexander McQueen! I was torn between all the flavors but finally settled on the Dolce- a caramel cupcake topped with caramel butter cream and a sprinkle of salt.

Which they put in this cute little take out container.

I’ll admit this looked a lot prettier when I bought it. Unfortunately I dropped it on my way back to work and it got a little banged up inside the box. Luckily this didn’t affect the flavor at all. The frosting was amazing. I’ve never had Buttercream that tasted so incredibly buttery! The cake was moist with crunchy edges up top like a muffin (which I love) and then came the surprise center.

A big ball of straight caramel! This cupcake was amazing! It deserved the Dolce label and I even contemplated going back to try out the Burberry immediately. Luckily I forced some will power on myself and vowed to return my next time in Queens. These are the kind of heels I like to buy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Happy Sunday= Pig and Beer

What goes best with some rocking music, cozy atmosphere and delicious Belgian beers? Why some fatty, rich pork belly of course. This is the Pork Belly with Butternut Squash entrée from Jimmy’s No. 43.

This plate was absolutely massive. There were about four huge hunks of belly with some creamy risotto underneath and squares of sweet roasted butternut squash. This was some seriously delicious comfort food only made better by the smoky, Belgian I was enjoying. What more do you need?

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Snowy Day at Tournesol

Mr. T and I trekked out to Long Island City two Saturday’s ago to have brunch with some friends when the steady rain turned into a full fledged snow storm. We both were absolutely covered in snow and ice walking from the train station. Luckily the inside of Tournesol was warm and cozy. We hung our wet coats at the front and joined our friends who were already at a table in the back.

After braving the crazy weather a nice bottle of Bordeaux was calling. We put in our order, sipped some wine and chatted. I loved the feel of Tournesol. I really felt like I was back in a French bistro with the French speaking waitresses and tiny little tables. So I ordered something from Paris I was craving- Steak Frites.

This dish was classic. A perfectly medium rare cut of beef, a zesty side salad and a mound of golden frites. The frites weren’t as crispy as I usually like them but for some reason they really hit the spot. I think I got through about half of the huge pile and Mr. T polished off the rest.

If it we didn’t have plans later that night (and my friend’s wife wasn’t 8 ½ months pregnant) I could have sat there all day. Just sipping on wine and watching the snow fall outside. It was such a relaxing, cute little place. Since then they’ve had a little baby boy so we just might have to go back again to celebrate!