Friday, January 31, 2014

Goodbye to San Diego with Stone Brewing

Friday morning I got one last Baileys tart for breakfast, put in a full hour in the sun and made a final walk around the beach.  I said goodbye to my parents at the airport and walked inside feeling a bit sad.  I hate when vacation ends, especially when it was so much fun. I checked my gate and decided to walk around for an hour until boarding when I stumbled across this...

Stone Brewing in the airport!  What a perfect excuse to do one last round of vacation beers. 

Stone Ruination, Smoked Porter and Pale Ale before getting on the I'm officially ready to say good-bye to the West Coast.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

San Diego- Day Two Report

Thursday morning was much of the same from yesterday...Bailey's Tart for breakfast then a few hours at the pool.  Once the sun got to be too strong again we drove out to O'Brien's pub for a delicious lunch and a few Russian River beers on the patio. 

Then it was onto Societe Brewing to have a look at their brewery and taste some beers. I had enjoyed a few Societe beers the day before and I have to say this place is making some incredible IPA's.

I really wish I brought back a growler of their beer. Both the Publication and Pupil blew me away in flavor but my suitcase was already at full capacity.  

We followed this up with an afternoon of card playing at the Blind Lady.  Pliny on tap was a nice surprise.

Then it was dinner at The Brigantine for some more fish tacos and another wonderful Creme Brulee.

We ended the night back at the hotel for some live music and maybe just a little more dessert:)  Another great day in San not ready to be leaving tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

San Diego- Day One Report

This winter has been absolutely brutal, so when my parents invited me along for a quick San Diego getaway I jumped at the opportunity.  I got in late Tuesday night...just enough time for dinner at Coronado Brewing and a few drinks at our gorgeous hotel the Del Coronado.  Wednesday I awoke early and joined my parents for a leisurely morning walk and a delicious Baileys Tart for breakfast before hitting the poolside for some sun.

 The weather was awesome.   It honestly got so warm I couldn't take anymore direct sunlight by the time 11:00 AM rolled around.  Luckily I had more than a few pit stops in mind to fill the rest of the day.  First a trip up to Alpine Beer Company.  I was worried this would be quite a hike from the hotel but the drive only took about 45 minutes and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous.  We walked into the roadside first and I was immediately struck by the 1980's decor.

Maybe it was the fact that Journey was playing on the speakers or the tiny pink shorts the waitresses were wearing but I really felt a bit transported back in time.  The kitschy decor was great but the beers made it truly amazing.  

I've tried a few Alpine beers before but I've never had the chance to do a sampling of all their IPA's in one sitting.  They were all fantastic- the Duet being my favorite of the lot.  We split a Pulled Pork Sandwich and a crisp, buttery Smoked Gouda Grilled Cheese before hitting up the brewery next door to pick up a few bottles.  Then it was off to the 2nd destination of the day Toronado Bar. This place wasn't much to look at from the outside.  It has an old exterior and a slightly dingy inside but the beer list was absolutely incredible.  They had so many great beers on draft from breweries like Russian River, Kerns and Societe but I went straight for the bottles and one beer in particular.

The Cable Car from Lost Abby had that funky, tart peach flavor I absolutely love and just seeing the bottle in my hand was enough to fill my happiness quota for the day.  The bartender there was fantastic.  He gave us some IPA's to sip along side the sour and we spent the afternoon drinking beer and playing cards.  I was honestly ready to stay there all day but there were still so many more fabulous spots to visit!

We drove over to the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station.  I imagine this is what Walt Disney would have envisioned for a brewery if he had the chance.  The inside feels like an enormous German beer hall while the outside is more akin to a beautiful botanical garden.  The beer list was phenomenal.  All the great Stone beers were on draft so of course I did a flight to try our the most.  We split a plump lobster and some crispy kettle chips as the sun set before heading on to our actual dinner destination Ballast Point Brewing Co.

I didn't get any pictures of our food and drink at Ballast Point but let me tell you their fish tacos may be the best I've ever tasted.  I did one crispy fried and one grilled...both were absolutely amazing.  Add on a few more citrusy IPA's and I was officially in heaven.  I couldn't think of anything that could make this day better...but then again there's always dessert!

Just a few blocks from Ballast Point we capped off the night with a luscious Creme Brulee Cake from Extraordinary Desserts.  It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dinosaur BBQ- Brooklyn

The newest addition to the Dinosaur BBQ empire just opened in Park Slope and I was pretty excited to have such great BBQ right near work.  The restaurant is absolutely enormous...possibly their largest location yet with the same combination of sports bar and honky tonk decor.

Mr. T and I went on an off hour to avoid the crowds and got a seat in the bar area.  The beer menu is always focused on local flavor no matter where the location so Brooklyn favorites like Sixpoint and Kelso were predominant while old upstate favorites like Dino Ape Ale and Genesee found a spot on the list as well. 

I was psyched to see Dino Poutine on the menu but sadly it wasn't as good as the one I had at the Stamford location.  The pulled pork and gravy were perfect but the fries could have used a bit more time in the fryer and the pimento cheese, the best part of the entire dish in my opinion, was virtually nonexistent.  

Luckily the BBQ Brisket Sandwich was amazing.  Slow smoked beef with pickled onion, jalapeno and horseradish mayo slathered on top...yes please:)

The ribs were tasty as usual.  They've always been a favorite of mine but the mac and cheese was downright terrible.  It seemed to be doused in white pepper and some sort of Cajun seasoning that was so strong it overpowered even the smoky ribs.  I'm not sure if this was a huge mistake by the kitchen that day or a new mac and cheese style they brought in for Brooklyn....either way it doesn't work. 

So they definitely have a few kinks to fix but I'm still incredibly excited for this new location. Next visit it's time for some more of my favorites...Wango Tango Wings and Fried Green Tomatoes!

Monday, January 27, 2014

ROYCE' Chocolates

Have you ever opened up a box of chocolates that smelled so incredible you felt downright intoxicated off the aroma?  I had this experience at Royce' just last week and let me tell you the taste is even better than the smell.

Royce' was founded in Sappora, Japan in 1983 and has been making chocolate ever since using only the highest quality ingredients and artisan techniques.  This isn't just ordinary chocolate, it's chocolate that is so silky, smooth it literally melts like butter in your mouth.  

Ken Romaniszyn, the owner of Lady M Cake Boutique on the UES is the company's American partner and they now have three locations in New York: Midtown East, Bryant Park and their newest store which I visited on Bleeker Street.  The shop is tiny but filled with incredible products along the stretch of two walls.  I highly recommend tasting one of their Potatochip Chocolates in either Fromage Blanc, Chocolat Caramel or Mild Bitter.

The chocolate caramel I tried were excellent.  Usually a chip like this gets soggy, but here at Royce' they use a thicker slice of potato that stays incredibly crisp even after a dipping in the decadent caramel infused white chocolate.  It's both salty and sweet...a must have for snack addicts craving a little treat.  Or maybe some delicious Hazelnut Cream sandwiched in between crisp layers of wafer...

...or whole almonds covered in chocolate and maccha whose bright green color and clean, herbal flavor make a perfect gift for just about any occasion.

But let's talk about their signature item the Nama chocolate.  These gorgeous little squares are made with fresh creme and cacao from Hokkaio where the cool climate and rich surrounding make it ideal for chocolate making.  Every aspect of these are configured to have the best melt-in-your-mouth experience... from the grooves in their line of pure chocolates to the incredibly smooth cocoa dusted Nama which almost taste like a frothy milkshake once they start to melt.

Liquors accentuate the flavor of the chocolate from my two favorites, the Nama Bitter made with Henessey V.S.O.P and the Champagne made from Pierre Mignon. While Mr. T enjoys the Maccha Nama the best made of white chocolate with the bittersweet finish of real green tea leaves.

Photo Courtesy of Royce Confect NYC

Royce isn't just meticulous about their chocolate making, their packaging and quality control are absolutely outstanding.  Look at the care taken for the Champagne Nama.

This gorgeous green box comes wrapped in their signature paper with a tiny spatula for lifting out each little square.

The box is then slid into a cooling bag with an ice pack to ensure the chocolate stays fresh and at the best temperature for enjoyment.

Then everything is wrapped up in this silky red bag and ready to go!  I can't think of anyone who wouldn't want to take this home.  I felt like a little kid at Christmas unwrapping everything.

They say chocolate has the ability to bring a smile to anyone's face and spread happiness.  This is certainly true here at ROYCE  so stop in and see what it's all about it.  I guarantee you will enjoy every second:)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Go Custard Crazy this Week at Shake Shack

This insanely cold winter weather is good for more than just huddling around a fire place.  Shake Shack Madison Park has decided to go all out for the last week of January with some of their very best flavors.  Check out this week's lineup:

Sunday: Cinnamon Honey Cream Cheese

Monday: Pretzel Caramel
Tuesday: Coconut Marshmallow
Wednesday:  Mud Pie
Thursday: Peanut Butter Candy Bar
Friday: Chocolate Chip Cookie

I don't know about you but I'm certainly fine with braving the cold for these flavors.

Shake Shack

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lunch at Gotham Bar and Grill

It's been five long years since my last meal at Gotham Bar & Grill.  I remember Alfred Portale's food was exquisite, the restaurant stunning and the price...well quite expensive. Which is why lunch at Gotham is such a deal.  The dining room takes on a refined elegance in the sunlight and if you order the Greenmarket menu it's just $34 for three courses.   The last visit began with House Cured Sea Trout with honeycrisp apple, shaved fennel, radish, dill and cucumber. 

The delicate ribbons of trout were dusted with herbs and complemented by dollops of lemon creme fraiche and a bright, citrus salad. This dish was absolutely heavenly.  The fish practically melted on the plate and the baby pumpernickel croutons dotting the salad were just delightful. For entree Chatham Cod with snow peas, kaffir lime and jasmine rice over a coconut lobster curry.

You could smell the floral, nutty aroma of jasmine rice and fresh garlic from the moment this dish hit the table.  The fish was cooked perfect and the sheer amount of lobster hidden among the veggies and rice was a nice surprise.  I was honestly hoping for a touch more coconut flavor in the broth but I'm also on an insane coconut craze right now:)  To finish the infamous Gotham Chocolate Cake.

This cake is so incredible...filled with decadent dark chocolate that's been whipped so it's light and airy like a cloud, served alongside a scoop of salted almond ice cream.  This is one of my favorite dessert staples in the city.  I will never wait so long again to return to Gotham again...never.

Gotham Bar and Grill

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Return from California!

I just came back from a fabulous trip in San Diego just my parents and I where we had an absolute blast.  I really can't complain about all of this snow after having great weather, incredible food and the same exact breakfast every day with my Dad at the Del Coronado Hotel.

Most people might frown on dessert for breakfast but to us it just makes sense.  This Bailey's Tart has everything you need...fresh fruit, dairy from the creamy mousse inside and a coffee cookie crunch that will fuel the day.  Full trip report to come next week!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow Day Eats at Ootoya

Look at all the snow!  It's the perfect day to curl up with some traditional Japanese home cooking.  

Ootoya specializes in Teishoku, which is a variety of dishes consisting of a meat/fish, rice, soup and pickled veggies.  My last visit I ordered the Mini Kaisen Don which comes with Hot Udon and Assorted Sashimi.

There's something so satisfying about a big, steaming bowl of Udon. The noodles are so round and hearty it makes me feel all warm inside just thinking about them.

Then it was onto a bowl of rice topped with the sashimi that day Blue Fin Tuna, Amberjack, Simmered Shrimp and Scallop with a square of egg on top. Everything was excellent...the tuna being my favorite. I finished off the little dish of pickled veggies before moving onto the last component of the meal a steamed egg custard.

It's incredibly smooth and slightly sweet...a nice dish to enjoy at any point of the meal but something I always save until last.   


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lunch at Perelandra

One of my favorite stops in Brooklyn Heights just happens to be Perelandra.  This organic health food store isn't just for grocery shopping.  They carry lots of all natural beauty products, a pretty great selection of beer and a carry out cafe in back with some stellar vegetarian selections like this TLT Sandwich.

Two slices of thick multi-grain bread slathered with avocado and wrapped around crisp romaine lettuce, fresh tomatoes and Tempeh Bacon Slices.

The Tempeh slices really do a nice job subbing in for regular bacon with its nutty flavor and slightly crisp texture.  The start of the show is always the veggies though- super fresh from the market.  It's a hearty, healthy way to spend lunch.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sweet Coconut Dreams

It's time for a little something wonderful to celebrate the end of the week.

Something like this delectable Vanilla Coconut macaron from La Maison Du Macaron on 23rd Street.    Their macarons are just about perfect.  Thin and slightly crackly vanilla shells with toasted coconut on top sandwiching a thick layer of coconut cream inside.

These are on par with Laduree in texture and size with extravagant flavors like Jack Daniels Chocolate and Graham Cracker Key Lime Pie.  They're just the thing for today's sweet treat!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

More Quality Time at Otto

Can you tell I'm in love with this place again?  Not like I ever stopped loving it.  I just wasn't going as obscenely often as I am these days:)  Last visit we began with a bright, spinach salad complete with ricotta salata, crushed almonds with a drizzle of truffle honey on top.

Then it was onto the pasta portion of the evening with the Spaghetti alla Carbonara. 

Otto noodles are always perfectly tender with a hearty, satisfying chew.  They're topped with squares of pancetta, sauteed scallions, black pepper and a creamy egg that make this is rich, creamy dish perfect for just about any occasion.

Otto Pizzeria

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Bacon Cheeseburger at Gramercy Tavern

It's been over a year since I last settled into the burger at Gramercy Tavern.  It changes with the season and right now it's gotten extra hefty with rich Wagyu Beef from upstate NY, creamy clothbound cheddar cheese and house cured bacon.

The burger was good on its own but the bacon is what made it excellent.  Thick cut with a smoky char, it  gave the meat that "hot off the grill" flavor usually reserved for summertime BBQ's.

The burger always comes with three house made dipping sauces...a country mustard, ketchup and creamy Thousand Island alongside a plate of crispy Long Island potato chips. Pair it with one of their fantastic draft beers from Peekskill Brewery and you have an entire NY State lunch!

Gramercy Tavern

Monday, January 13, 2014

Brunch at Chez Sardine

Last Saturday was so cold and snowy Mr. T declared it a "couch day", which basically means he wasn't doing a thing except sitting on the couch and playing video games all day.  I have no problem with this...I think its great that he can totally stop the outside world for a while and just recharge. Unfortunately I am not born with the gene that allows me the same escape.  I wake up in the morning and can't shake the urge of going and doing.  I can always come home's just this weird need to get out of the house and accomplish something.  So when couch day called it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to go out and get the first restaurant of my 2014 Wish List accomplished!

Chez Sardine was quite busy when I arrived at 2:30.  There were two small tables open by the window but I opted for a seat at the bar.  The menu is small but incredibly varied with options like Avocado Toast with Deviled Egg, Smoked Char Chirashi and a Pork Belly & Cornbread with Poached Egg.

Everything sounded awesome but when trying a brand new place I always go for a standard...and my brunch standard is always Baked Eggs.  Here they were layered on top of spinach with pockets of creamy ricotta cheese on top and fresh cilantro.  I could have done without my hated herb the cilantro but after picking it off the top this dish proved to be one of the best baked egg dishes I've enjoyed. The sweet tomato sauce balanced the bitter spinach nicely and they certainly didn't skimp on the ricotta cheese.  There was so much I was practically swimming in it...happily swimming that is!

Baked Eggs always come with some crusty bread for mopping up the sauce.  At Chez Sardine they take this one step further by slathering the crusty bread with a layer of creamy tortilla butter.  I've never had anything quite like this at brunch and it was a refreshing, festive twist.

Actually everything at Chez Sardine seemed to have some sort of twist...from the crazy menu, to the quirky decor.  I had Mr. Miyagi staring at me the entire brunch from behind the bar.  It  kept making me giggle each time I looked up from my meal.  Good food, solo laughter and the first check of my 2014 wish list.  YAY for the escape from couch days!

Chez Sardine

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Brew Friday- Daddy Warbucks

This beer isn't exactly new to NYC Tastes.  I talked about it briefly during it's launch at One Mile House during that crazy week of beer.  But it's one of the newest beers at the Barrier Brewery and they just started to release it in bottles.

Just stop by the brewery out in Long Island to pick up this big, crisp Double IPA that comes with serious notes of citrus and pine inside one cool looking bottle.  Cheers! 

Barrier Brewing

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Happy Hour at Haru

Haru not only has the longest happy hour special in our neighborhood but also one of the best.  From 3:00-7:00 every day they have great deals on wine, beer and specialty cocktails along with a brand new menu of happy hour bites. Like these crispy fish tacos which come two to an order and filled with Tuna, Sea Bass or Salmon.

They're bright, clean and surprisingly filling with a ton of sashimi inside.  If your not feeling the sushi option they also have a few cooked dishes like their garlic chicken wings.

They're surprisingly large and crispy...much bigger than I see at some wing spots around the city, with a distinctive garlic kick that has just a bit of heat from the spicy jalapeno on top.  I took the slice off but you could make your even more spicy by eating it whole.   For only $8.00 this is a fantastic deal.  Add on a few rolls and you have a whole dinner for two with drinks for under $50.00.  

Haru Sushi