Thursday, February 28, 2013

Quick Bites at Republic

I tend to overlook Republic in Union Square but when I need a cheap, easy meal in no time flat, it's a solid option.  They have a happy hour Monday-Friday with $5 wine and $7 cocktails like this Raspberry Caipirinha.



My Vietnamese Chicken Salad was loaded with a ton of shredded chicken, cabbage, peanuts and basil with a delicious sweet and sour ginger dressing.  It's listed under the Small Plates section but easily large enough to be an entree on its' own.



And talk about no time flat...my drink and dish arrived 4 minutes after I placed my order. It's not cuisine that's going to blow you away.  This is my "I have 20 minutes before my movie starts" place...and its a great option.

Republic

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Neighborhood News

It's been a crazy few weeks of openings, closing and renovations here in my neighborhood   Let's start with renovations...Parea has gone from complete Greek to meat with a whole new steakhouse menu.  Now called Parea Prime you can enjoy steaks and chops along with your saganaki plus a full raw bar.  Go between 4-7 for their 6 for 6 happy hour where $6 buys 6 oysters or 6 clams.

Parea Prime

Right next door to Parea Prime is a brand new restaurant County. The menu boasts small plates such as Waygu Beef sliders and Smoked Chicken Breast.  The decor looks really homey from the outside and every night it's been pretty packed with lots of cocktail drinkers...I'll have to stop by soon and check out the food.

County

Speaking of cocktails the new Milk and Honey is now open on 23rd Street.  While reservations are no longer mandatory you can still make one through their website if you want to ensure a seat in the tiny new digs.

Milk and Honey

Up on Park Avenue the Prime Steakhouse space has been turned into an enormous Sarabeth's.  I was incredibly sad when Prime closed because I loved their brunch...looks like I shouldn't have complained too much since Sarabeth's is pretty much the king of brunch in this city.  I can't wait to check it out this weekend (Mr. T is not pleased with this brunch development:)

Sarabeth

Last but certainly not least Manzanilla opened it's doors just off Park Avenue South on 26th street.  This Spanish Brasserie is absolutely gorgeous and has a pretty great looking menu and drink list.  I've been eyeing this Kale Salad they have on their menu made with blue cheese, quail eggs and black olive salad dressing...I probably won't make it through the week without stopping in to try it out.

Manzanilla

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spice Market

I really enjoy Jean-George restaurants.  That man knows how to create a wonderful dining space, and Spice Market certainly fits that bill.  The inside is absolutely stunning with gorgeous wall carvings, porcelain bar stools and a Southeast Asia vibe that is so sexy and transporting you might forget you're still in the city if you stay long enough.  I was seated on the top level by the windows and began with an order of Pork Belly Steamed Buns with Tamarind Herb Sauce.


I loved the presentation of the buns, tucked away inside a little bamboo steamer.  They both had a big piece of meat along with a big hunk of fat, lots of cilantro and some spicy jalapeno.  I liked the spicy, sweet flavor of the buns but was surprised how much "sweet" there actually was inside.


Luckily I had some big crispy chips with a spicy chili sauce to cleanse my palate before my entree arrived.


My Chicken Pad Thai arrived looking absolutely fabulous, but once again I was shocked by the amount of "sweet" inside the dish.  A sugary glaze covered most of the poultry and noodles making it incredibly difficult to taste any distinct flavors in the dish. 

I passed on dessert and left...sad the experience upon walking out was quite different than my excitement upon walking in.  The aesthetic of the place is beautiful, as is the food, but I was expecting a little less sugar and a bit more "spice" in my Market experience.

Spice Market


Monday, February 25, 2013

Gramercy Tavern

Mr. T and I enjoyed a quiet meal at the bar last Monday and began with some lovely baked Long Island Clams.  




The clams are chopped, mixed with white wine and breadcrumbs then baked in the shell resulting in a buttery, rich clam experience.




The Fluke Tartare wasn't as successful...everything was diced the same exact size and while the orange gave it some nice citrus, I lost the taste of the fish.  Luckily I could focus all of my taste buds on the Butternut Squash Lasagna.



Layers of pasta were stuffed with hearty bites of squash, kale and mushroom with a creamy ricotta cheese sauce and a flurry of toasted pine nuts.  I'm still thinking about this dish and it's been over a week...so wonderful.



Mr. T's Crispy Duck Leg with Grilled Endive, Lentils and Chicory was fantastic as well.  The skin had a nice garlic crunch and the meat inside was tender without being too fatty.  Onto dessert Mr. T had the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds and Rum Ice Cream...



...while I stuck to my Sticky Toffee Pudding craze.



They were both delicious but I still haven't reached the Sticky Toffee nirvana I'm so desperately craving...looks like I might need to make a little trip down to North End Grill sooner than later. 

Gramercy Tavern

Friday, February 22, 2013

New Brew Friday- It's NYC Craft Beer Week!

And Mr. T and I got off to an early start last night with a trip down to One Mile House for a special keg of Hill Farmstead Everett.


Hill Farmstead is a small brewery up in Vermont that consistently churns out wonderful, elegant beers that are almost impossible to find here in NYC due to their small production and high demand.  The Everett was a real treat....malty flavors of chocolate, coffee and vanilla dominated this incredibly smooth Porter, just perfect for sipping on a cold blustery day.


One Mile House is hosting a special Local Beer event tonight where some great NY breweries will be taking over the taps. You can stop in and try a flight of some great locals like Captain Lawrence, Barrier and Kelso to name a few.



But don't stop there...the city is filled with a ton of beer events this week at some of my favorite bar and restaurants in the city like Gramercy Tavern, Mugs Ale House and Birreria.  You can check out all the events over at the Village Voice Website.

Craft Beer week runs until March 3rd (so a little more than a week technically) so get out there and try some suds.  There's a beer for everyone...you just have to find it!

One Mile House

Hill Farmstead

Captain Lawrence Brewing

Barrier Brewing

Kelso of Brooklyn

Mugs Ale House

Birreria

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sake and the City

Last week I was invited to Astor Center for an evening of sake.  There were multiple exhibitors and I was surprised to find so many different variations in flavor.  I tried Ginkoubai Hannya Tou which started out sweet on my tongue but quickly melded into a hot pepper spice on the finish and a Kahori Mikan which blended local mandarin oranges and junmai sake together to create more of an aperitif.  I truly enjoyed everything I tried but these two really stood out as my favorites, from Kitaya Co. the KANSANSUI and AI NO HIME BENI.



The KANSANSUI on the left was fruity up front but incredibly soft and refined...the grainy texture from the rice almost nonexistent.  The AI NO HIME BENI on the right was similar in smooth mouthfeel but was actually a sparkling sake, so light and sweet I could see anyone enjoying it- sake lover or not.


Mixologists from Angels Share were creating savory sake cocktails while David Bouley's Brushstroke provided some tasty snacks like this Half-dried Washu Beef Jerky. 



If you want to learn more about sake this is a great event to try different styles and really explore the world of Japanese sake.

Astor Center NYC

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dessert at the John Dory

I go on a Sticky Toffee Pudding craze each Winter it seems.  Something about this cold, blustery weather puts me in the mood for the classic British treat.



At the John Dory, it arrived as an enormous sponge cake covered in a light caramel sauce and topped with a dollop of Earl Grey whipped cream.



I loved the herb flavor from the cream but the rest of the dessert was a disappointment.  The cake was so dense it barely soaked up any sauce and never achieved that fabulous moist, sticky texture that makes it so popular....sigh...the search continues...

The John Dory

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hillstone

I usually try to avoid chain restaurants but Hillstone is so damn good I just can't deny it.  They have that rich, creamy Spinach and Artichoke dip and a low lit sexy vibe.  Let's start by being completely truthful.  I had just been telling friends how my craving  for fruits and grains has been so strong lately that I considered taking on a vegetarian lifestyle.  Well one little bite of this burger and that idea went flying out the window.



The Hillstone burger comes with the works, so be prepared for absolutely everything- ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce and mayo; pickles, onions, lettuce, cheese and tomato.  It's like a fancy Big Mac.



But don't let that Big Mac comment fool you...this is a serious burger.  The seeded bun is lathered in butter and toasted so you have two golden buttery flats to soak up all the juices exploding from the meat, while the patty maintains that salty crunchy char I love so much on top.  


I also love how Hillstone lets you sub in any side for the fries.  I had my eye on the Kale with Peanut Sauce but ordered the classic Cesar in a moment of ordering panic. 


The menu has everything from sushi to French Dip sandwiches so there should be something for just about anyone.

Friday, February 15, 2013

New Brew Friday

It's time to unwind with a little drink at Gramercy Tavern.



A hoppy Racer 5 from Bear Republic and a bowl of their spicy, sweet nuts is just what I need to kick of the weekend.

Gramercy Tavern

Bear Republic

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines Day!

This year I've decided to go with a traditional Swedish dessert to celebrate- the Semla from Fika.


Made from a wheat bun with its top cut off and insides slightly scooped, it's  stuffed with a mixture made from milk, almond paste and rich whipped cream.  The result is a big, delicious Swedish Cream Puff!  It's only available at Fika for 28 days each year around Lent.  So go quick before this delicious treat vanishes again for another year.

Fika

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Breads Bakery

I followed the delicious smell of yeasty bread last week and found myself at the brand new Breads Bakery just off Union Square.  I peered through the windows where these enormous heart shaped loaves beckoned me inside for a closer look.




Where I found some sugar dusted Almond Croissants that looked wonderful.



And behind the croissants a tray of Chocolate Rugelach.  



I've never enjoyed rugelach much, but these looked different.



More like mini croissants in shape and texture, the flaky shell easily fell apart into perfect layers of buttery dough...



...alternating with intense layers of chocolate which create a melt-in-your-mouth "oh my god this is glorious" moment that has never been sparked by a rugelach before.


I'm honestly a little obsessed with these tiny bakery creations.   I've been almost every day since they opened and was horrified when they ran out the other night.  Come early afternoon when a nice fresh batch rolls out of the back kitchen and devour with a piping hot espresso.  

Breads Bakery

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pennsylvania 6

Finding a decent place to grab some food and drinks around Madison Square Garden should be easy...but when faced with the actual task it's always a challenge.  Most of the bars are loud, overcrowded and just plain terrible.  So when Friday night concert tickets coincided with the opening of Pennsylvania 6 we jumped at the chance to check out something new. The long wooden bar up front was full so we got a table in the main dining room for dinner and started with the Burrata.



I think I've been spoiled by burrata from Eataly because nothing even comes close anymore to its' creamy perfection.  This one had a thin linear texture all the way through and while it was serviceable, I wouldn't order it again.



The Organic Roasted Chicken fared much better with crisp blackened skin that had a hint of molasses and lots of juicy meat inside.  This definitely seemed more like restaurant fare rather than bar dining. 


The hand cut fries came with a side of Truffle Aioli and topped with shavings of Parmesan and Rosemary.  I didn't get a picture of the Margherita Pizza we sampled but it was surprisingly fantastic with a crisp, buttery crust from baking in the brick oven.  The beer selection was also surprisingly good with favorites like Founders, Lagunitas and Southern Tier on the list. 

In an area where so much is just satisfactory, Pennsylvania 6 may be raising the bar...but you'll pay for this new standard.  When the bill came I was a little shocked.  I know we're in a touristy part of town but it was still pretty steep.  Let's hope they have Happy Hour.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bonnie's Grill

Being a big fan of all food Buffalo, Bonnie's has been on my list to try for more years than I can remember.  More diner than restaurant, Mr. T walked in on Saturday afternoon and got the very last table in the back.    The menu had all sorts of sandwiches and fried bar food but we were there for strictly the Buffalo stuff- like the Beef on Weck.



This beast of a sandwich arrived and looked promising.  The big kummeleck bun was fresh and the meat had some nice soppy au jus.  I like my meat more on the rare side but this was delicious version nonetheless with great crispy fries on the side.



The wings were a bit of a disappointment.  They were nice and large but the sauce was thin and they lacked that snappy outer shell.


Luckily we were busy enjoying some Genny Cream Ale's (not the best but a Buffalo classic) and the feelings of nostalgia were enough to warrant a return trip soon.  

Bonnies Grill

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Weekend Nemo Rations

I love a good snow storm.  The city looks so beautiful after a nice thick layer of snow blankets all the buildings.  Just in case we get stuck inside today I made sure to pick up some delicious rations...




...like a big, fluffy Coconut Cream doughnut from Doughnut Plant... 



...and a nice milky, chocolate stout from Samuel Smiths.  It's almost like drinking a chocolate milkshake but with a little alcohol kick.  Enjoy the weekend! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thursday Sweetness at Eataly

The pastries at Eataly are a standard treat of mine...so imagine my surprise when I noticed the brand new Ninsola the other day!  


From the outside you might mistake this for one big candy Roche.  The outer milk chocolate shell is drizzled with dark chocolate and tossed with chopped hazelnuts.  


Inside is a fluffy mousse with a hazelnut center all sitting atop a surprisingly wonderful chocolate cookie bottom.  I loved the layers of cookie crunch, creamy center and crunchy, nutty top.  I'm seriously considering  buying one and throwing it in the freezer to see what happens...a Roche frozen treat!

Eataly

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dinosaur BBQ- Stamford

One of my favorite BBQ places of all time just opened up another location in Connecticut.  What a perfect excuse to have lunch with my friend Carrie who just moved there and has a love for all things BBQ as I do...like this glorious mound of Dino Poutine.


Fresh cut fries, smothered in a rich beef gravy, topped with pimento cheese and a hefty topping of smoky pulled pork.  I've never seen this offered at other Dino locations and I'm not sure why.  It was insanely delicious, oozing cheese and gravy everywhere.  This would be the prefect thing to order after a long night of drinking...


...and speaking of drinking this location has a great beer list that focused on Connecticut Breweries.  We did a flight of their local beers and tried out some new ones I've never even heard of before.


A must order for me at Dinosaur is their Wango Tango wings.  They have a great spicy, sweet sauce and are so plump and juicy it's incredible.


To complete the meal we split a combo platter of Ribs and Pulled Pork.  The pork sandwich was perfect as always with a thin sweet sauce and squishy roll.  The Mac and Cheese would have been great but it suffered from over salting as did the ribs.  I'm hoping this was just a fluke because everything else was great.

The restaurant space looks just like the rest of the Dino's with a sizable crowd of families in the main room and die hard Orange fans at the bar.  It's close enough to the train station to walk but not exactly the nicest part of town so if you have a car I highly suggest driving.

Dinosaur BBQ

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Power Lunch at Beecher's Cheese

I tend to keep pretty standard work lunch options but I've recently thrown in a delicious new item to the list- Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad from Beecher's Cheese.


They shred the kale and sprouts, fold in crunchy almonds, tart cranberries and their creamy Flagship cheese, then toss in a zesty lemon vinaigrette   The result is simply wonderful.  It's got a fantastic nutty flavor and the lemon dressing balances out the bitter greens and leaves me feeling satisfied and refreshed. 

Beechers Handmade Cheese

Monday, February 4, 2013

Restaurant Week at Nobu

I was about to spend the entire afternoon sipping Italian wines at Vinitaly last Monday, so I figured a nice big restaurant week lunch Nobu would give me a good solid base for the day.  I checked Opentable for a reservation and they were fully committed.  I decided to try for an open bar stool and found the sushi bar almost completely empty when I arrived around 1:00. I began with one of my old favorites the Creamy, Spicy Rock Shrimp Tempura.



The creamy, spicy sauce and lightly fried shrimp were almost as good as I remember from my last visit years ago...onto my entree the sushi assortment.



I've always thought Nobu's sushi was good, just nothing incredible.  Once again it elicited the same emotion from me.  Everything was fresh, the rice had some nice elements of soy and wasabi, but it's pretty standard sushi.  However the generous portion size made it quite the Restaurant Week Deal.


For dessert a Dulche de Leche Flan.  This seems to be the dessert of choice for many places for RW and this one had tasty elements of coffee and caramel.   Overall I pleased with my experience at Nobu.  Some of the usual niceties were missing...a hot towel upon arrival and a cup of tea at the end... but I left completely full with some actual change in my pocket.  That hasn't happened to me after a meal at Nobu ever. 

Nobu

Saturday, February 2, 2013

New Brew Friday- Pliny the Elder

It's the weekend and I don't have the flu!  This is cause for celebration that calls for a serious beer like Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company.



Lots of citrus up front, incredible aromas of fresh pine with an extremely smooth finish...this is far and away my favorite Double IPA.  Unfortunately it's not distributed to NYC but in nearby Pennsylvania you might be lucky to pick up a few.  Russian River is releasing their Triple IPA Pliny the Younger this week and we have a trip to Philadelphia planned just to try it out.  Enjoy the Weekend!