Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Some Last Minute Holiday Ideas

There's only a few more hours to celebrate so here's a couple ideas to keep the holiday spirit alive:

Sip an Eggnog at The Nomad

The white frothy head is so thick it sits like a big marshmallow cloud on top a nutty concoction of bourbon, rum, cognac and scotch before getting finished off with a dusting of fresh cinnamon.  It's a little boozy, a little sweet...it's everything an eggnog should be.

Enjoy this at the long bar up front or head to the back room for a true holiday experience in the library. 

Take a Trip to Lanterns Keep

This tiny bar tucked into the back of The Iroquois Hotel is a bit of a Midtown secret.  It has an old school speakeasy feel and boasts a number of classic cocktails along with a few creative twists on some old favorites.  
We visited last week and while the fireplace was barely at a flicker, the cozy low light spot still exuded a special holiday charm.

The Daisy de Santiago was quite charming as well made from White Rum, Yellow Chartreuse and Lime.  Call ahead to make a reservation as spots fill up quick.

Stay Home and Drink Some Bubbly!

It is New Years Eve after all...there's no better time to pop open something great and this Asolo Prosecco Superiore produced by the Montelvini Winery is an excellent choice.

The wine has a straw-yellow color with lots of tight bubbles and flecks of gold.  The smell is big and fruity with strong minerality and crisp flavors of melon and lime. It's prefect for a celebration at home being it with friends, family or alone!  This gorgeous bottle just recently became available in NYC so look around for it at Italian wine stores like Eataly.  Cheers!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Best of 2013

As I look back on the past year I'm shocked by how much delicious food was involved.  I didn't come even close to hitting all the restaurants on my 2013 Wish List.  I made it to only two out of fourteen...yet I still consider this year an incredible success of food and drink moments for both old favorites and brand new places.  To the list!

Best Wings- Pork Slope/Talde

This is a complete tie between Dale Talde's two Brooklyn restaurants.  Both are fried in rice flour for an ultra crisp exterior; the first coated in garlic, butter, Sriracha, Franks Red Hot and honey while the second combines crunchy peanuts, sweet chili and hot sauce.  I can't choose between the two and with both restaurants being just blocks apart there really isn't a need to:)

Best Foie Gras- Marc Forgione

There aren't enough words to adequately describe how silky and luxurious the Foie Gras is at Marc Forgione.  This may have been the best thing I've eaten all year.

Best Pizza- Paulie Gee's

There were two incredible reasons to hop on the G train this year and Paulie Gee's was one of them.  This man makes incredible pizza...chewy yet pliable crust with an excellent char on the edges and covered in a fantastic array of toppings like the Hellboy- fresh Mozzarella, Italian Tomatoes, Sopresseta, Parmigiano Reggiano and some Mike's Hot Honey on top.  It's the perfect balance of spicy and sweet.  My only regret is waiting so long to try this place out.  It really could have been on my "Best of 2010" list.

Best Lobster Roll- Eventide

Our trip to Maine was filled with tons of great seafood but one place clearly stood out from the rest. Eventide swaps out the normal top loading roll for soft steamed buns and stuffs them full of regular mayo lobster salad or a special one made with brown butter sauce.  I knew I loved them both but it wasn't until Eventide showed up at Star Chef's International Congress this year that I realized how much.  I practically hugged the guy when he gave me the last roll (sorry).

Best Menu Addition- Dino Poutine

Hot crispy fries smothered in thick beef gravy, smoky pulled pork and pimento cheese- ummm YES this is every bit as delicious as it sounds.  Available at both the Stamford and Brooklyn locations of Dinosaur BBQ.

Best New Bar- Torst

The other great reason to hop on the G train this year was the fantastic new bar from Brewer Jeppe Jernit- Torst.  The opening menu had so many different Cantillon bottles I was literally dizzy trying to decide what amazing beer to drink. The bar boasts a high tech "Flux Capacitor" system that ensures each beer is served at its proper temperature and carbonation level.  Pair that with the amazing decor and knowledgeable bartenders and this really is the opening of the year. 

Best Bar Snack- Luksus

Just looking at this photo makes me smile.  The whimsical ham chip at Luksus not only tastes delicious but is a classic example of the ingenious dishes rolling out of Daniel Burns kitchen.  It's light as air with a fantastic smoky flavor that's honestly tastes a little bit magical.

Best Breakfast Sandwich- Court Street Grocers

This is THE sandwich.  Fluffy eggs, crisp salty bacon, Cabot cloth-bound cheddar cheese and fresh arugula all on a buttery Bathazar bun.  It's what breakfast dreams are made of.

Best Coffee House- Taszo

I pretty much lived at this Washington Heights spot for a week in November.  The pastry case was always filled with fresh croissants from Balthazar, the coffee was perfect and the cheerful, friendly atmosphere couldn't be more conducive to a relaxing morning start.

Best Neighborhood Bar- One Mile House

This place has everything I look for in a great bar- incredible beer list, good food, outdoor space and friendly staff.  Mr. T and I spent more time here this year then one probably should at a a bar but I don't regret a single moment:)

Best Fancy Lunch- Juni

The dining room may be a bit sterile but there's nothing boring about Chef Shawn Hergatt's food at his newest restaurant Juni.  From the creamy olive tapenade with bread service to the delicately prepared seafood - this is five star cooking at its finest.

Best Meal of 2013- Matyson (Philadelphia)

I hate giving the best meal of the year to another city but Matyson continues to be absolutely amazing.  Mr. T and I went back in March for a pork tasting menu filled with BBQ Pig Tails, Chili Braised Pork Cheek and a Peanut Butter Mousse Cake that was downright amazing.  It's BYOB and the menu is just $35 on Sunday nights...really.

Best Dessert- The S'more at Dominique Ansel

He made the best pastry last year (DKA) and this year he's done it again with the incredible, edible S'more.  It's a sticky marshmallow treat filled with creamy custard, Graham crackers and crunchy chocolate wafers.  Monsieur Ansel is the real Willy Wonka making dessert dreams come true.

Best of the Rest

Best Sundae- Bourbon Butter Pecan at Char No. 4

Best Brisket- Delaney BBQ
Best Taco- Moroccan Tamb at Salvation Taco
Best Pasta- Cacio e Pere at Felidia
Best Go To Restaurant- Upstate Oyster Bar

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Solo Sunday Lunch at Gramercy Tavern

It's the holidays so that means extravagant lunches on the town, too much wine with friends and eating cookies for breakfast...at least that's the way I treat the holidays. So when I was craving both a fabulous meal and a little alone time I hopped on down to Gramercy Tavern without a second thought.

As always a thick, fluffy piece of bread to start with fresh butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. Then onto the Butternut Squash Lasagna with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and Kale.

Look at these gorgeous layers of nutty squash, creamy cheese and mushroom.

It's really quite a work of art and an incredibly delicious one at that.

Gramercy Tavern

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lunch at Tocqueville

It was a cold, snowy Saturday filled with drunk Santas stumbling around the city.  The annual Santacon seems to bring the worst out of people and Mr. T and I wanted no part of it this year.  So instead we planned a fancy lunch with friends where it was quiet and serene...one of my favorite little rooms in the city Tocqueville.  I'm just going to begin by saying that this was easily the best dish of the afternoon- California Sea Urchin and Angel Hair Caronara.

This dish was the definition of Umami.  It had these incredible buttery tones that are deeper and richer than I've ever tasted before with a salty, almost roasted flavor that stays right on the tongue for long satisfying seconds after taking a bite.  This is one of those dishes that you just want to savor with each and every bite. I had actually ordered this as a last minute addition for the table to share but I wished it could be all mine when it finally arrived:)  Oh well I wouldn't have room for the prix fix lunch if I did that...onto the rest of the meal.

We began with the bread service.  A choice of focaccia, baguette or brioche followed by an amuse bouche from the chef of Mushroom and Balsamic.

There are two choices for each course of the prix fixe lunch...that day I chose the Creamless Cauliflower Soup with Marcona almonds, sourdough and preserved black truffles.

The soup was light and airy with a little crunch from the almonds and a slightly smoky flavor from the black truffles....very nice.  Onto entrees a Pan Roasted Hake with roasted beets, pears, baby brussels sprouts and a caraway boullion...

...and a toothsome Housemade Gnocchi with butternut squash, sage brown butter sauce,  ricotta salata and toasted pumpkin seeds.  

The gnocchi had a nice balance of seasonal flavors...nothing exactly outstanding about the dish but nothing bad either.  Just a tasty bowl of pasta.  For dessert a trio of sorbets including a bright scoop of Blood Orange...

...or a Bittersweet Chocolate Bon Bon with espresso ice cream.

I wish I could end every meal with espresso ice cream...

The service was wonderful as always and the wine was absolutely delicious.  It was a nice way to escape from the craziness of the city for a while.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Nutella Milk Bread at Dominique Ansel

Let's be honest...I've been living at Dominique the last couple of days.  I'm always going in for a canelle or two (which are still the best in the city) but now it's turned into a daily stop for DKA's, S'mores and whatever else happens to look good like this Nutella Milk Bread.

It's shaped like a big pretzel with braids of dough encasing sweet hazelnut spread and sesame seeds...it's too big for just one person but would make any breakfast spread complete so bring some home to share.

Dominique Ansel

Friday, December 20, 2013

New Brew Friday- White Chocolate Moo Hoo

I've told you about Terrapin Brewery a few times already...remember that  Wake and Bake Oatmeal Stout last year...or maybe their fantastic Espresso Stout which was my favorite beer of  2009?  Well if you don't remember that's okay, it just means more for me!  And I would love to drink as much as I possibly can of the their newest release the White Chocolate Moo Hoo.

Terrapin takes their regular Moo Hoo, a creamy chocolate milk stout made of cocoa nibs from the Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Company, and add in a slew of white chocolate slabs to create a sweet but incredibly balanced stout with lots of smooth chocolate and hints of vanilla.  It's gorgeous to smell, even better to taste and just the beginning of Terrapin's special series.  The next release, a Cinnamon Roll'd Wake and Bake!

Terrapin Brewery

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Straw and Hay at Macelleria

Italian steakhouses are quickly becoming my thing.  I absolutely love Manzo inside of Eataly and Quality Italian is right up there on the list to explore more.  Now enter Macelleria, an Italian steakhouse that's been open for years down in the Meatpacking District.  The gorgeous space practically begs you to come inside and while away an afternoon sipping wine and possibly indulging in a big bowl of pasta.

I honestly ordered the Straw and Hay Tagliolini because I wasn't exactly sure what it was.  Thin strands of green and yellow pasta bathed in a light cream sauce with prosciutto and peas.  It wouldn't be in my top pastas of all time but it had a homey, rich flavor that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Just what a bowl of pasta is supposed to do. 


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Brunch at Corkbuzz

Union Square biggest wine bar Corkbuzz just recently starting serving brunch. I saw the menu online and it looked delicious but the promise of participating in their Champagne Campaign is what sealed the deal for me...all bottles of that bubbly good stuff is 1/2 off during brunch hours.   I made a reservation immediately:)

We met up with some family and sat at one of the communal tables in the back.  I'll begin by saying the service needs some serious work.  Every time it was "Let me know if you have any questions on the wine- I'd love to give recommendations"...then walk away without asking what we wanted.  This happened three different times before we actually were able to order something to drink before he walked away.  Then it took forever to put in our food order in as well...our simple brunch ended up taking over two hours when we only ordered a dish each...not very efficient.  Onto food Mr. T ordered the Shortrib Hash with sunny side up eggs, scallions and a jalapeno aioli.

This dish had promise...the eggs were good and the aioli gave it a spicy kick but the shortrib was incredibly overcooked.  The meat flaked off into dry little segments that had a slightly burnt flavor.  My Hangover Sandwich with eggs, guanciale, tomato, avocado and Srircha sounded amazing... 

...unfortunately the combination of ingredients just didn't work very well together.  The egg splattered upon the first bite and got everywhere, the lettuce on the outside kept sliding the rest of the sandwich around in a sloppy mess and the tomato was so thick it ended up taking over the entire texture of the dish.  It was a great concept on paper...not so much on the plate.

So we were a little disappointed in Corkbuzz.  I love the Champagne Campaign and it's a great place to learn about wine but brunch could certainly use some work.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The S'more at Dominique Ansel

I was feeling adventurous this past Sunday and walked down to SOHO in search of a Cronut.  I arrived around 10:00 am and the line of people waiting outside was absolutely enormous!  Let's be honest here...I didn't really think this trip through.  I love my baked goods but I'm not standing outside in the cold for hours in order to eat one.  So I strolled past the Cronut line and put on a new game face...the S'mores game face. 

The first thing you need to know about the S'more is that it's made to order...each one gets a nice long blast from the blow torch right before delivery to ensure the marshmallow outside is just the perfect toasted brown color and stays perfectly warm and gooey.

Inside lies a core of thick vanilla custard ice cream which is then encased by crisp chocolate wafers. It's like eating a Choco Taco stuffed inside a gooey campfire marshmallow...in other words it's AMAZING!

I have never enjoyed a S'more as much as this before.  It was crunchy, sweet and so incredibly satisfying...probably the best breakfast I've had in months (it was 10:00 am after all). So if you're not down for waiting in line for those Cronuts this is a pretty incredible second choice.

Dominique Ansel

Monday, December 16, 2013


Tom Colicchio's more casual offshoot of Craft has been in our neighborhood for years.  Aside from a glass of wine here and there it wasn't until last week that we actually stopped in for a full meal.  The place was absolutely packed on Saturday night but we were able to get two seats at the bar. We skimmed the drink menu and were both happily surprised to see some incredible beers...Cigar City Jai Alai, Westbrook Citrus Ninja and Imperial Biscotti Break Natale were just a few of the great beers on the list.  After settling into our drinks we began with an Autumn Squash and Kale Salad.

I found this salad to be very strange.  Each piece of Kale was shredded into long lengthwise segments which made it really difficult to get a big satisfying bite.  This combined with a smattering of under cooked cubes of squash on top made for a most disappointing dish.

The Skate fared better than the salad with a delicate brown butter sauce on top and crispy roasted brussels sprouts on the side.  The fish was a tad overcooked but the wonderful horseradish creme fraiche saved it from being dry.

The Veal Breast Roulade was the big winner.  The meat was soft and tender, filled with rich flavors of porcini and chestnut with a creamy dollop of sunchoke puree. It was the perfect dish for warming up on a blustery winter night. 

Overall it was a decent meal...the food doesn't live up to the excellence of the original Craft down the block, but it's also half the price which makes it a little more accessible for a casual night out.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brunch at Brazen Fox

Mr. T and I stopped in for brunch last week at the brand new Brazen Fox. This two story bar/restaurant sits right off of Union Square and is the perfect spot to begin an East Village crawl.  The bar has over 20 beers on draft with a few standouts like Founders Red Rye and Captain Lawrence Winter.

Mr. T began with a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale while I enjoyed the complimentary mimosa which comes with every entree.

The menu has some interesting options like a Sesame Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich made with fig preserves and OMG I stopped by tavern on Jane to request a table in the middle for tomorrow and they double booked! Whole restaurant has been reserved for a private party tomorrow! I'm scouring the west village for another spot.a Fritatta with red peppers and feta.

I wasn't super hungry so we ended up splitting an order of the Pork Belly Grits.

The grits were smothered in cheddar cheese with hunks of fried potato and egg layered on top.  It was a quite a hearty dish complete with a side of toast.

We both thought it was pretty good but I think we're done with pork belly for a while...how many hunks of fat can one eat in the morning really?

Overall the Brazen Fox is a nice addition to the East Village.  The atmosphere is comfortable, the staff were friendly and the front area has a big room with surrounding windows that's excellent people watching.  This is a place you could settle into for a while for sure.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Excellence at Otto

In a city where most places are trying to be the next best thing, it's easy to get lost in the hype.  I love trying brand new restaurants and revisiting when menus have been revamped and chefs have moved...but sometimes I just want to sit and relax with a familiar face.  Spend a cozy night at the bar with a nice glass of red and feel content knowing that I'm going to have fabulous meal that I've had countless time before.  When I feel like having one of these nights I almost always head straight to Otto.

There's not much better in life than a plate full of their gorgeous prosciutto...it's so tender and soft it almost melts away with each bite.

Pair that with a trio of wonderful cheese like their creamy ricotta, fresh mozzarella and pecorino accompanied by truffle honey and amaretto soaked cherries for the complete meat and cheese experience.

I usually throw in a salad of some sort because I genuinely love salad and it's also a refreshing break before the pizza arrives.

This time we actually broke away from our "familiar"order and tried a brand new pie the Vongole.

Wow...this pizza was outstanding.  The thin crust had charred crispy edges and a chewy fold-able middle topped with chunks of garlic and clams.  That slick oily top most clam pizzas have was nonexistent; just stretchy fresh mozzarella and sweet delicious clam...heaven on a plate!

Ahh...there's my delicious glass of Chianti to finish the meal on a perfect note.  Yes sometimes a little something familiar is just what I need.