Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday Sweetness

Have you ever had a life changing cookie?  I think I might have last week at Locanda Verde.


I stopped in to pick up a few breakfast treats but this Nutella Cookie was calling my name.  I could barely wait to get outside before trying a bite.  The soft, crumbly cookie had nice big sugar crystals on top and sweet, creamy nutella in the center.


I was walking as I munched on my cookie and I felt light as air and hazy...it was as if I were in a Nutella Dream.  Maybe it wasn't "life-changing" but it was certainly another level of euphoria.


I brought home a Baked Apple Pie for Mr. T and he may have reached another level of euphoria as well. This place really knows how to make some serious pastries.

Locanda Verde

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Feast of Wines at Vinitaly International

It was a drab and rainy Tuesday but you wouldn't know it from the mood resonating atop Three Sixty Tribeca.  Dozens of Italian winemakers were showcasing their very best along with the release of the next Slow Wine Guide edition and Slow Wine app.  The book reviews 400 different cellars throughout Italy, focusing on wine quality and value, adherence to terroir and sustainable practices.  It really helps users navigate the incredible amount of information available regarding Italian wines.





The list of exhibitors at Vinitaly was astounding.  There was so much talent in the room it was difficult to know where to begin.  I made a long stop at Banfi, one of the first Italian wineries I ever had the pleasure of visiting.  Their Chianti Classico Riserva is always a solid favorite while the velvety, soft Brunello di Montalcino can make any meal an elegant affair.



I tried out some new Barolo's, my favorite being a 2008 Enrico VI Barolo from Cordero di Montezemolo.  It was light on the tongue with an incredibly long, cherry finish that I hoped would last forever.  I was happy to see many of the wonderful wines here are always in stock at Eataly...




...and I was even more happy to see the wonderful guys from Di Palo's doling out five different kinds of cheese.



There were some incredible seminars going on also but unfortunately they were all full by the time I arrived.  Hopefully next year I can take advantage of that as well.  The tour headed straight to Miami yesterday to finish up the most comprehensive two days of Italian wine tasting and education in the United States.  It was a wonderful event for wine lovers and makers alike.  For more information check out the Slow Wine Guide and Vinitaly websites- Ciao!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Restaurant Week at Rayuela

I stopped into this little LES Latin restaurant on Sunday, excited to discover they were participating in restaurant week.  The place was absolutely packed with the typical brunch crowd of attractive people nursing hangovers with champagne and sangria.  At first I thought everyone was still ordering regular brunch but then I discovered Huevos Rancheros on the RW menu.  This  might be the first time I've seen a breakfast option offered.



I began with the Con Coco Ceviche- Scallops and Shrimp tossed in a light coconut-curry sauce and topped with spicy blend of Thai chili, basil and red onions.  I loved having a bright, acidic start to the meal...it left my palate happily aroused and ready to take on my Braised Short Rib slider.


Almost every head turned as this plate was carried to my table...the thick, meaty aroma was intoxicating.  I was expecting an average slider but the meat on this was so rich and so juicy it may be one of the best slider I've ever had.  It was certainly the best chimichurri sauce I've ever encountered and even the yuca fries were perfectly crisped.


For dessert a buttery Chocolate Flan with hazelnut whipped cream and a sweet coffee reduction rounded out the meal.  This was an excellent RW meal and one restaurant I plan to return to much more often for regular brunch and dinner when I'm in the neighborhood.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jones Wood Foundry

Tucked away on the Upper east Side sits Jones Wood foundry, a bar and restaurant for all things British.  We stopped in the other day to enjoy a few beers.



After a few pints a little snack was in order so we split their burger with the traditional Stilton Cheese.  



I loved the presentation- it's quite easy to tell we're in a British pub.  The chips looked fantastic but instead they were a soggy, barely cooked mess.  Luckily the burger was much better.



The funky Stilton cheese gave a different spin on a normal burger.  The meat could have used a bit more seasoning but as you can see the bottom bun was soaked from the amount of juices.  If your craving a bit of Britain in the city this is a great place to put up your boots for a while and relax.

Jones Wood Foundry

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Brew Friday- Lagunitas Sucks

I've been a little obsessed with IPA's lately and this new one from Lagunitas is awesome.  It's called Lagunitas Sucks and obviously there's a story behind it.  



Each year Laguinitas releases a Brown Shugga ale that's delicious.  Unfortunately they were over their capacity last year and didn't have enough time or resources to produce it. People were upset and Lagunitas issued an apology along with this beer because they messed up and frankly "suck".  You gotta love a brewery with a good sense of humor and you have to love them even more because the beer they came up with is awesome!   It's really crisp with lots of piney hops and citrus fruit.  It's a totally different style than the Brown Shugga so I can't really compare but I honestly like this beer even better.  Thanks for sucking Lagunitas!

Lagunitas

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sen NYC

I've been really sick of the sushi options in my neighborhood recently so I was thrilled when I heard about Sen coming to the area.  I stopped in for a solo dinner last week and took a seat at the large, square bar.  The interior is quite stunning...it feels a bit like a trendy club at first but is serene at the same time.




I started out with a tasty Lychee Martini and perused the menu.  They had some sushi starters that sounded fantastic...


...as did the specialty rolls.  I decided to order one of each and began with the Yellowtail Tar Tar.


The presentation of this dish was lovely.  The sushi chef came right over to explain the dish and pointed out the Mountain Peach.  I was happy to have this as a palate cleanser because each and every flavor in this dish was wonderful.  There was pickle and shallot, creamy egg and spicy yuzu...it was one of the most interesting and delicious sushi dishes I've had in a long time.  



The Hot Tuna roll was also wonderful.  They used a special three spiced chili sauce that was very minimal with just a touch of heat.  The tuna was incredibly fresh and delicate which really stood out in the dish.  The service has a few kinks to iron out...I'm not sure why a bathroom attendant is needed for a two person bathroom either...but the food is downright fabulous.  I have high hopes for this new sushi spot.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Restaurant Week at Locanda Verde

I love how restaurant week always falls at the end of January so I can plan my three day weekend to end with a fabulous lunch.  This year the choice was Locanda Verde, one of my favorite restaurants in the city.  Locanda Verde has everything in my book, gorgeous, bustling atmosphere, fantastic food and now I'll add in a surprisingly great restaurant week menu.  Far too many times restaurants offer only two or three options, Locanda Verde offered almost everything on their regular menu for the 3 course prix fix.  I was so happy Mr. T came along with us so I could try twice as much :)



He began with their creamy, rich Sheep's Milk Ricotta appetizer.  It was just as wonderful as always and they certainly didn't skimp on the portion sizes.  My Locanda Salad was absolutely enormous.



Dried Cherries, speck and a vibrant hazelnut vinaigrette gave this salad a nice, hearty boost.  I truly could have been full with just this as my entree but being restaurant week I had to prep for the next course Fire Roasted Garlic Chicken.




I've been obsessed with ordering chicken since my revelation at The NoMad last year and this one did not disappoint   The chicken was incredibly juicy with a nice char on the outside and crisp garlicky skin.  The veggies underneath had sopped up most of the wonderful juices from the poultry making them extra delicious.




Other entrees were the Scampi Ravioli with rock shrimp, zucchini and toasted garlic...




...and Shaved Porchetta Sandwich with green onions and provolone.




Plus we added on two sides to share, the first an amazing dish of  Roasted Brussels Sprout with big chunks of pancetta and pecorino...




...and some Sicilian Cauliflower with cipollini  and ricotta salata.  I thought everything was quite tasty.  I wasn't a huge fan of the spice on Mr. T's porchetta sandwich but he didn't seem to mind.  Onto the final course- dessert!  The Maple Budino was calling my name but so was the Vanilla Bourbon Gelato.





Luckily the let me swap out the normal sorbetto accompaniment for the gelato instead and it was just perfect.  The candied pecans on top gave it a nice crunch while the cranberries rounded out the sweetness. It was a fantastic end to the meal.  Locanda Verde is really doing Restaurant Week right....I may have to squeeze one more lunch in here before it ends!


Locanda Verde

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ippudo...Besides the Ramen

We all know how great the ramen at Ippudo is, but their seasonal specialties are just as wonderful.  Last visit it was the Chilean Sea Bass Umani that caught my eye. 


This dish was absolutely gorgeous with a nice moist piece of Sea Bass along side a square of silken tofu.  I loved the play on textures between the two.  The entire dish was covered in a sweet dashi sauce laced with slivers of jalapeno and daikon.  I know the ramen always takes center stage at Ippudo, but dishes like this should really get a mention.  The sweet and spicy flavors alone were stunning.


The cocktails at Ippudo are never quite up to the food standards but at least they keep it interesting.  Where else can you order a grapefruit shochu and it arrive as a "Do It Yourself" drink?  

Ippudo

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mission Chinese

If you live in NYC there is a 99% probability that you've at least heard of Mission Chinese.   There hasn't been this much press about a new chef since David Chang started his Momofuku empire years ago.  Chef Danny Bowien opened the first Mission Chinese out in San Francisco and then came to NYC last year for his second outpost, bringing his love of "Americanized Oriental Food" to the LES.  His restaurant quickly started a clut following of sorts and has been picked by just about every food critic as the top new restaurant of 2012.  Danny isn't just about creating unique eats its about giving back and he donates .75 of each entree he sells to the Food Bank of NYC. 

The long lines and the promise of face numbing heat (my tongue was completely numb for a full hour after a bite of  noodles from Xi'an) scared me off a bit but finally Mr. T and I stopped in for dinner last week.  I loved the dive bar atmosphere and it was totally rocking for a Monday night.  To begin the Chongquin Chicken Wings with explosive Chili and crispy Beef Tripe. 



When something has explosive chili in the description you better be prepared.   These wings were extra crispy and had a ton of heat...I really enjoyed the flavor at first but then about halfway through my second one I was quite certain I had burned at least 3/5th of my tongue off and had to stop.  Luckily they brought out a little bowl of pickled cabbage and peanuts which helped me regain some semblance of a tongue again.



The Salt Cod Fried Rice with Mackerel and Chinese Sausage was also a welcome cooling respite.


The salty rice cut right through that heat and I enjoyed the flavor of the mackerel and egg in the dish.  Mr. T was not enjoying much of anything at this point and unfortunately I had to agree with him on our next dish the Beijing Beef Pancake.


The flatbread was incredibly soggy and the beef and chili inside just didn't complement each other.  It was a sloppy stringy mess.  Onto bigger and better things, my favorite dish of the night would be our last, the Kung Pao Pastrami.



This had the same explosive chili as the chicken wings but here the fatty pastrami soaked in some of the heat and combined with peanuts and potato for a nice slow, smokey, spice.  

In the end we were a bit divided.  Mr T flat out hated it...I liked some dishes but overall it was just a bit too much heat for my sensitive taste buds.  I still like what Bowien is all about and I hope to he continues to do well.  Judging by the line of people waiting outside as we left on a chilly Monday night I think he'll be just fine.

Mission Chinese Food

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Brew Friday- Terrapin Wake and Bake

The first time I had a beer from Terrapin Brewery was back in November of 2009.  I was out in Florida for Thanksgiving and ordered their Espresso Stout at a bar.  I remember being floored by the delicious roasted malt flavor and smooth creamy finish...so much so that I put it down on my list as best beer of 2009.  

Unfortunately I found out soon enough that Terrapin wasn't available in New York State.  Since then we've had to find creative ways to get their beers and our most recent acquisition just may be the best one I've had yet- the Wake and Bake.



This Imperial Oatmeal Stout is simply fabulous.   When you take a whiff it smells like your in a coffee shop with a fresh pot brewing right under your nose.  It's similar to a Founders Breakfast Stout but with a lighter mouth feel and stronger coffee and chocolate flavors up front.  It clocks in at 8.6% but is incredibly drinkable for an Imperial Stout.  I paired it with a Maple Chocolate Chip Pancake cupcake from Baked by Melissa the other night and I was in heaven.  Cheers to the weekend!

Terrapin Beer

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday Sweetness

Nom nom, nom nom nom...nom nom nom...NOM.  That's pretty much all Mr. T heard from me last night as I was busy devouring these awesome cookies I picked up at Beechers.


They have two base offerings- oatmeal and sugar cookie.  This is actually a picture of the sugar because well...I destroyed that oatmeal :)  Both have delicious chunks of bitter dark chocolate and a flurry of sea salt on top.  Look at those crystals...


The edges were crisp and buttery, the middle soft and chewy.  The sugar cookie was good but the oatmeal was out of this world.   Who knew a cheese shop was making some of the best cookies in the neighborhood!

Beecher's Cheese

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Salvation Taco

Remember back in September when I visited the Pod Hotel, hoping to find tacos from April  Bloomfield and Ken Friedman?   Well I was a few months early but finally Salvation Taco opened and I got a chance to check it out last Sunday for a late lunch.


The lunch menu is definitely limited with only three taco offerings but I made the most of it.  The first I tried was the Moroccan Lamb.


Marinated strips of lamb with pickled cucumbers, mint, yogurt and cilantro on a nice fluffy piece of naan...maybe this isn't exactly a "taco" but after one bite I didn't really care about proper taco definitions.  The seasoned meat was so tender with the creamy cooling yogurt and fluffy naan made me start to question a plain old tortilla ever again.  This is a must get- seriously awesome.


The Roasted Cauliflower taco with Curried Cream didn't fare quite as well.  It looked empty and once I took a bite it tasted just as empty.  The curry flavor was weak and the amount of cauliflower inside was minuscule.   I'm really hoping they just forgot to add something because this was quite disappointing after the awesome lamb...but I will definitely be returning to Salvation Taco. They have a Happy Hour Monday- Friday where you get three al pastor tacos and a Modelo for just $10, the atmosphere is bright and lively and seriously...



...when is the last time you had Spiked Horchata in a Parrot glass! 

Salvation Taco

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hanjan

Danji was one of my favorite places last year so when I found out Chef Hooni Kim was opening up a new restaurant right in my neighborhood I was thrilled.  Hanjan is very similar to the cozy Danji space except its a bit larger and sexier.  I was hoping to get a seat at the wooden bar but it was already packed by 6:30 on Saturday so we took a seat at a two-seater in back.  The menu is all Korean small plates so we set about ordering a bunch to share.  To begin Pork Fat Ddukbokki.



The sauce on this rice and fish cake dish was awesome.  It had a strong spice that seemed slightly sweet at first but then started to build up and left a nice tingle on my tongue.  I've never liked rice cakes, and I still don't (it's a texture thing), but I was happy to leave those for Mr. T and eat the fish cakes alone.  We ordered two kinds of skewers the first a BBQ Galbi...



Followed by the Spicy Pork Belly.




They were both great but the Galbi stood out as the winner.  It was juicy with a nice little char perfect for topping with the scallion salad on the side....and don't get me started on lettuce cups...
I love anything I can wrap in a nice green.



Our last plate was the Gwangju Market Fried Chicken.  This came out fresh from the fryer and so incredibly hot we had to wait about 5 minutes to let the steam out.  Once we did the salty exterior of the chicken had a fabulous crunch and the dark meat was chock ton of flavor.  We needed to cool down a little from all the heat so we ordered Makegeolli, a milky, sweet rice beer.





This is a great place both for sharing drinks with friends or a casual date night.   I don't think it's quite up to par with Danji just yet but I have high hopes it will be full stride in a few months.  It's a solid addition to the neighborhood.


Hanjan

Westville

I've been really focusing on power foods since I was sick with the flu.  If this epidemic is overtaking NY I might as well be proactive and try to stop it from attacking me again.  I can't think of a better place to get some awesome veggies than Westville.


Their market vegetables are amazing and if you see the Sauteed Kale with Shallots on the list it's definitely worth an order.  I felt a little like Popeye after ordering this green powerhouse. 


I needed something to warm my belly but the Turkey Chili was a disappointment.  There were only about five minuscule bites of turkey and the rest was a bland mess of beans.  Stick to the market veggies and maybe add on one of their snappy hot dogs as your delicious flu defense.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chili Cook Off NYC

Two of my favorite things in the world are coming together for one big event- Beer & Chili.  It's a Chili Cook Off and it's happening on Sunday January 20th at the Greenwich Village Country Club.  You can taste a variety of different chili and wash it down with some cold beers and all for 50% off the ticket price when you use the code TastyTrekker.


I can't think of a better way to spend my Sunday... especially when I have the next day off!  You can find more information here:

Chili Cook Off
Sunday, January 20th
12- 3 pm and 5-8 pm

Location: Greenwich Village Country Club
110 University Place (between 12th and 13th Street)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

St. Dymphna's

St. Dymphna's was one of the first bars I hung out at when I moved to NYC.  I was in a HUGE White Russian phase then (damn you Lebowski) and Dymphna's made the best with the perfect balance of Kahlua/Vodka and a flurry of espresso beans on top.  It's been years since my last visit but walking in I was happy to see the place looked untouched by time.



I don't remember eating a lot of food when I came to Dymphna's, but we were starving and a nice crock of French Onion soup sounded wonderful.  The broth was a bit thin but certainly tasty.  



The Cobb Salad looked terrific but unfortunately the elements were all a bit off.  The tomatoes weren't quite ripe and the pungent Honey Mustard dressing they used overpowered everything.



Maybe that's why I don't remember eating here in the past.  The cute little pub with it's drinks is all one really needs.  Skip the food and just enjoy its' coziness on a cold winter's day.

St Dymphnas