Monday, June 30, 2014

New Brew Friday- Other Half Brewing

I love visiting breweries.  We've been known to travel a ridiculous amount of miles just to get a taste at one of our favorites. Now I'm happy to say there's a great one right in our own backyard- Other Half Brewing.



Just off the F train in Carroll Gardens, this 4,000 square foot operation is easy to miss.  The brick exterior is covered in graffiti and the small communal table inside the tasting room and lack of AC means you'll most likely be standing and sweating a bit; but these are just minor inconveniences (it is a brewery after all).  The reason you should be going  is for the beer which is simply spectacular.   



IPA's dominate most of the list...the Hop Showers and All Green Everything are both outstanding but my favorite would have to be the Green Diamonds; a double IPA with a bitter mango, orange bite.  Flights are available for $5 and the staff is more than happy to talk beer as you sample your way through the list. You can also fill up a growler to go...something you'll certainly want to do after tasting these brews.  

The Tasting Room is only open Friday-Sunday but you can almost always find a beer or two on tap at some of the beer bars around the city; St. Gambrinus, One Mile and Blind Tiger to name a few. This is just a fantastic addition to the ever growing NYC beer scene.

Other Half Brewing

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Solbeso and Chocolat Moderne

It's no secret that Chocolat Moderne is my favorite chocolate shop's in city...now they've teamed up with Solbeso to introduce a new spirit into NYC made entirely of fresh cacao! You probably already know that chocolate is derived directly from the seeds of the cacao...but have you ever thought about what happens to all that fruit around the seeds? Look at these huge pieces of cacao fruit...



It takes 20-25 of those just to get one kilo of cacao and the rest is usually tossed away.  New World Spirits decided it was time to use that fruit and began distilling the juice from the Cacao to create the first premium white spirit, made entirely from 100% cacao fruit- Solbeso.


Of course it only seems right to pair Solbeso which chocolate, so Chocolat Moderne had a little party for the release to see which chocolate paired best with the new liquor.  We went from dark to light and then back to dark again (at least I did)  including two of my favorites of all time the Dark Chocolate Madame X'Tasy made with Salted Caramel and Illy Espresso and the always incredible Banane Flambe with Dark Chocolate and Cognac...


But it was actually the Shiso Lime which paired best with the Solbeso made with Dark Chocolate Ganache, Shiso Leaf Extract, Essential Oils of Lime and Vodka.  


Chocolat Moderne also created a brand new chocolate called the Solbeso Mi Mucho made directly with the Solbeso Distilled Cacao Juice. They actually toast the milk powder for this one which creates a gorgeous blond color and rich butterscotch flavor.


Or you could just enjoy Solbeso in a cocktail.  The Sol y Rosas was incredible made with Solbeso, Creme de Peche, fresh Lemon Juice and topped off with a Rose Water spritz.


But when your walking among all the incredible award winning treats at Chocolat Moderne how can you say no to a delicious chocolate and cocktail pairing.  This is a boozy match made in heaven.

Chocolat Moderne

Solbeso

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Barchetta

I was invited to dinner last month by the wonderful Tabelog folks over at Chef Dave Pasternack's (Esca) newest restaurant Barchetta.




Barchetta translates to"little boat" in Italian; a proper name for a restaurant focused on flavors of the Mediterranean seaside.  



The meal began with a small bowl of Castelvetrano olives, one of my absolute favorites. They have thick, meaty flesh with a delicious buttery flavor and such a bright green color they almost seem like they're glowing.



Pumpkin Swordfish Crudo followed dressed with olive oil and crushed pistachio.  There was a wonderful sweet nutty taste but I was terribly disappointed with the slicing of the fish. Chef Pasternack is known for impeccable seafood so receiving three insanely small jagged pieces, two of which were barely a full bite, was a total letdown and quite frankly a rip off for the price point.



Calamari with Squid Ink was much healthier in size with a soft creamy texture that was quite exquisite.


The waiter warned us the Fusilli with Atlantic Surf Clam and Calabrian Chilies would be spicy, but the chilies actually added a smoky flavor that balanced the dish perfectly.  


Local Sea Scallops with crispy English pea pods and mint were decent but a tad boring.


Black Cod with roasted mushroom was a much better choice, prepared simply so the sweetness of the fish and roasted mushroom would truly shine.


For dessert an insanely delicious Butterscotch Affogato complete with crunchy pieces of toasted praline on top.  I've seriously been dreaming of this dessert ever since...

There were hits and misses at the new Barchetta; hopefully the misses are just some opening jitters.  I had such a lovely time getting to know Lord of the Forks and Cutie Patroller a bit more. Thanks to Tabelog for a wonderful dinner:)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Strawberry Coup at Gramercy Tavern

People recognize the start of summer in different ways...some by their first trip to the beach, others by that initial 90 degree day, for me it's when Gramercy Tavern brings back a fresh strawberry dessert to their menu...this time the Strawberry Coup.


Plump, fresh strawberries atop of tangy yuzu custard, tart strawberry sorbet, graham cracker crumbles, fresh basil and a dollop of creme cheese.  


Paired with the fruity Lolita lambic from Goose Island and I would say summer has officially arrived!

Gramercy Tavern

Friday, June 20, 2014

Happy Friday!

The weekend is always a cause for celebration and I like mine to be something sweet...like a big cup of gelato from Eataly.


Half Coconut, half Salted Caramel...one big cup of delicious!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Inn at Pound Ridge

Just a short train ride from the city sits Jean George's newest venture, a casual but elegant farm to table restaurant nestled in the pretty little town of Pound Ridge.  The atmosphere was reminiscent of ABC Kitchen and Blue Hill Stone Barns with it's wide open dining area and exposed wooden beams overhead.



We dined at brunch and the menu had a variety of dishes that sounded wonderful; Sweet Pea Soup with Parmesan Foam, Asparagus Salad with Wild Mushroom and House made Ricotta with Strawberry Compote.  We finally decided to share the Gulf Shrimp Salad with Mesclun to begin.



These shrimp were just beautiful; plump and buttery with fresh slices of ripe avocado and a warm truffle and champagne vinaigrette that was leagues above any dressing I've ever tasted.  I was absolutely in love with this salad.  



For entrees a Grilled Yellowfin Tuna Burger on a big fluffy roll with Miso Mayonnaise, Shiso and Yuzu Pickles.  The french fries on the side were excellent- skinny and crisp with some crunchy fried sage scattered on top.



The Croque Monsieur was our second entree  boasting Niman Ranch Ham, Comte and Gryuere Cheese set atop a square flaky pastry.



I've eaten a lot of Croque's in my day and this was right up there with the best. Everything just tasted so bright and fresh...definitely a tribute to local Hudson Valley ingredients.


We were much to full for dessert but vowed to have some on our next visit (ABC's incredible Salted Caramel Sundae is on the menu).  I would certainly say Jean George has another winner to add to his ever growing resume.  This man can do no wrong!

The Inn at Pound Ridge  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Nomad Bar

New things open in my neighborhood almost every day but I haven't felt this air of excitement since The Nomad proper opened a few years back.  Located around the corner from the hotel, the Nomad Bar has a bit more of a tavern feel with sunlight streaming in through the front windows and comfy booths along the side of the bar for dining.



Even with the cozier feel the bar exudes the same sophisticated Nomad charm as the original with a huge window over the bar reflecting the upstairs dining area and a long mahogany bar that's just sexy as hell.


The menu is split into two parts; one side appetizers including a trio of Tartare's in carrot, beef and tuna and the other side entrees ranging from a Hot Dog with bacon and black truffle to the classic Nomad Chicken, reinvented as a Chicken Pot Pie.


I ordered the Burger listed as Dry Aged Beef with Cheddar, Red Onion and Pickles.



I thought the bar was sexy as hell but let me tell you that this burger is sexy as hell too.



Squished between a fluffy seeded roll, the meat in this burger was so soft it was almost creamy with a rich buttery flavor balanced nicely by the sweet red onion on top. 



I inquired into the texture of the meat and was told it's a custom blend of beef from Pat LaFrieda that's 25% fat with a 50:50 mixture of bone marrow and suet. My god Pat LaFrieda is a genius when it comes to meat.


I didn't have time to sample any of the cocktails but the list looked amazing.  In addition to the regular Nomad classics they added large format cocktails for groups of 4-6 and a selection of reserve cocktails made with rare spirits.  I already have my drink picked out for the next visit, the Fresa Y Cerveza, an aperitif crafted with Berliner Weisse, Yellow Chartreuse, Strawberry Shrub, Jalapeno and Agave.

The Nomad Bar does not take reservations so come early and settle in for a while.  The staff are absolutely amazing and the atmosphere couldn't be more beautiful and warm. This is the type of place that makes you want to stay around all night. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Brunch at Estela

Saturday was such a gorgeous day I wanted to find a place where I could soak it all in and enjoy a fabulous meal...enter Estela. Located in the former Nolita House space, Estela has a cozy bar with a big picture window up front perfect for letting in the summer breeze and doing a little people watching.


Everything on the brunch menu sounded amazing...Burrata with salsa verde, fried Arroz Negro with squid and romenesco and Lamb Ribs with charmoula and honey were all contenders but in the end the old Avocado, Pancetta and Egg on Danish pastry was the winner.


The pastry was soft and flaky like a croissant with layers of dough perfect for hugging the avocado so it didn't slide around.  Slices of crisp pancetta sat at the bottom providing a nice salty base to the sandwich.  It was downright delicious. 

The restaurant stayed relatively quiet my entire meal; quite a pleasant departure from the normal brunch craziness and the service was fantastic.  Apparently they make an incredible Steak Tartare at dinner...something I will definitely be stopping back to check out soon.

Estela

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sprinkles Cupcakes

It's Friday, it's been one of those looong weeks and I really deserve something sweet and delicious. BOOM! Sprinkles Cupcake Time!



I love Sprinkles...their frosting is a bit thicker than most but there's no sugary grit- just smooth creamy vanilla topped off with a signature candy dot.


Inside a spongy cake with real flecks of real banana...the perfect Friday treat.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Vetro by Russo's

Last month I was invited to a wonderful night of food and wine at Vetro by Russo's.  This enormous Italian spot is located right on the edge of Howard Beach with stunning views of the water from every angle including an outdoor patio and a gorgeous rooftop bar.



It was a gray, cloudy day when we dined so although the outdoors looked wonderful the inside was a much better option.  We began with a few drinks at the cozy bar from their WineEmotion system.  Vetro won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence last year and their passion for wine is defined by General Manager and Sommelier PJ Connolly.


He took us down to their wine cellar, something Vetro is very proud to have again. The original was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy and the entire restaurant actually had to close for months due to severe damage. 


After the tour we entered the main dining room for dinner.  PJ began the meal with a trio of wines including one of his very own the Connolly Hill, Daou Vineyard 2011 Reserva; a gorgeous blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot.



Then it was onto pasta prepared by Chef Michael DeGeorgio.  An incredibly toothsome Cavatelli Bolognese and a sumptuous Ravioli DeGeorgio stuffed with mounds of fresh Maine Lobster and covered in a thick sauce of cognac, creme and tomato.  


The Cavatelli was so amazing I would honestly come back for that dish alone but I must also mention the Pollo alla Romana, a Boneless Chicken with Broccoli Rabe, Roasted Pepper and Mozzarella.


It was a warm and hearty dish (yummm...garlic and butter) that reminded of the classic Italian dishes my college roommate used to bring from home.  


Dessert followed in a decadent and whimsical fashion.  There were truffles studded with pistachio, a big boozy tiramisu and crisp chocolate chip praline shells stuffed with cannoli cream.  

I don't often think of fine dining out in Howard Beach but Vetro certainly changed my mind.  The service and atmosphere were excellent, the food was divine and I loved how it could fit both a big family gathering and a date night out.   

Vetro

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Big Apple BBQ 2014

It was a gorgeous day for the 12th annual Big Apple BBQ held in Madison Square Park this weekend. We've been lucky enough to attend 10 of these festivals and made sure to get there early for some of our favorites.  Pappy's Smokehouse was number one on Mr. T's list this year.




These guys are out of St. Louis and specialize in Memphis Style ribs, dry rubbed and smoked over apple and cherry wood.  They're sticky and sweet...perfect with their maple glazed baked beans.


I had two favorites this year...one being the Whole Hog from Ed Mitchell.  This mammoth sandwich is tender and rich with crunchy pieces of crackling sprinkled throughout.  No sauce is needed on this it's perfection just as it is.



My other favorite is Big Bob Gibson.  His pulled pork is smoky and sweet with a tangy mustard coleslaw on the side that's a great complement to the meat.


It was nice to see a few new guys this year from NYC like Delaney Barbeque who dolled out a Brisket Sausage sandwich and Hometown BBQ who produced an amazing Beef Short Rib. 

There were a few improvements to the festival this year.  They added an extra beer tent at the North End of the park and lowered the cost of beer from the insane $9.00 a glass the year before to $6.00.   The only downside to this year's festivities were the lines.  Mr. T and I bought Fast Passes and it was abundantly clear that they were incredibly oversold.  I watched at each tent and saw the regular lines out front go much quicker than the the Fast Pass lane.   Luckily this is something that can easily be fixed for next year..another great Big Apple BBQ in the books!


Monday, June 9, 2014

Copenhagen- Brasserie Degas

Monday was our last day in Copenhagen. We packed up our suitcases, checked out of the hotel and walked over to one last place for lunch- Brasserie Degas.  This cute little French cafe had been on my list since day one, more for it's dessert than anything but I was excited to check out their savory dishes as well.  The small  menu had all the classics...Steak Frites, Chevre Chuad and Croque Monsiuer.


The Croque was amazing...thin slices of ham and Gruyere sandwiched between two big fluffy slices of bread encrusted with melted cheddar cheese.  The outside had a nice golden char from the broiler and the inside was the perfect balance of cheese and meat.  


The Cesar Salad came with big slices of chicken that were so tender I had to take a moment just to marvel at the texture.


The only thing I could have done without were the big slices of bacon on top.  I've never understood why the Europeans love slabs of oily bacon on their salads. Finally time for the main attraction- dessert!  First a trio of incredible Creme Brulees in flavors of Vanilla, Orange and Black Tea...


...followed by two gorgeous macaron's in Chocolate Caramel and Strawberry Vanilla.


The Chocolate Caramel was okay but the Strawberry Vanilla was downright amazing.  Light, fluffy vanilla creme touched with just a smidge of thin strawberry jam amid two chewy cookies.  This is one of the best macaron's I've ever had the pleasure of eating.  So with that we completed our trip to Copenhagen.  Three hours later we were flying home, back to reality but with lots of wonderful memories.