Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best of 2014

This was a crazy and amazing year filled with lots of great food, friends and travel.  It began in January with a fantastic trip to San Diego with my parents.  They learned more about beer on that trip than they probably ever cared to know hitting up spots like Alpine, Ballast Point and Societe Brewing.  Then Mr. T and I spent a few days in Florida before embarking on an absolutely incredible trip to Copenhagen and Brussels with our close friends and certainly the best beer festival of my life the Copenhagen Beer Celebration.  Add in a few trips to Buffalo, Vermont and Nashville and I would say we've been pretty busy.  But in the end it's always NYC that holds the biggest spot in my heart.  This year the food was better than ever and with new breweries like Third Rail and Other Half joining the leagues of Peekskill, Kane and Barrier there's never been a better time to drink local.  Cheers to 2014!

Best New Sushi- Sushi Dojo

There was a lot of new sushi joints this year but Sushi Dojo stood out as our favorite. This omakase was simply amazing...from the lush fatty Horse Mackerel to the salty Golden Eye Snapper each and every piece was fresh and exciting. I loved watching Chef David delicately braid the two pieces of Needle Fish into one gorgeous bite.

Best Burger- Peter Lugers

I finally got to Peter Lugers for lunch and this burger was everything I was hoping it would be and more...a little bit of funk, lots of juicy innards and tons of flavor.  For $16 this 1/2 pound burger is probably one of the best lunch deals in town.

Best Salad- Gulf Shrimp with Mesclun Inn at Pound Ridge

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 and so excited when I found it again at Nougatine a month later.

Best Breakfast- Buvette

This cozy little French Bistro has everything I want in the morning...thick, buttery waffles, steaming hot cappuccinos and some of the fluffiest eggs in the city with the perfect pairing of pecornio and prosciutto.

Best Lunch Deal- Bouley

I always feel like I've escaped to a countryside restaurant in the south of France when I dine at Bouley. The tasting menu at dinner will set you back about $185 but lunch is an absolute bargain at $55 for five courses.  I highly suggest the Porchini Flan and be sure to save room for the Chariot of Bread.

Best "I Need this in NYC" Item- Kebob Pizza

It's not a well known fact but the Swedes put some crazy toppings on their pizza and the most popular happens to be the Kebab made with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, thin slices of beef and creamy garlic sauce.  It's not exactly pretty to look at and eating such a sloppy pie can be a bit challenging but it was so worth each and every bite. 

Best Bar Bites- Gato

Bobby Flay's newest venture has the best bar menu going...three tapas style sized bites for $17.  There's a spicy Beef Crudo, a sweet Eggplant with manchego and balsamic and a gorgeous Lamb Tenderloin with some of the best salsa verde in the city.

Best New Sweet- Domique Ansel Cookie Shot

Two years ago it was his spongy Cannele, last year it was the incredible Frozen S'more and this year Dominique makes an appearance once again for his ingenious invention The Cookie Shot. It's a brown sugar cookie loaded up with delicious Valrhona chocolate, shaped like a shot glass to be filled with milk and eaten as some glorious on the go treat.  It's AMAZING!

Best Ice Cream- Ample Hills Creamery

This Brooklyn hot spot completely won me over with their Toffee Bar Crunch made of thick vanilla bean ice cream, ribbons of caramel, crunchy chunks of toffee and milk chocolate. Bonus points for their gorgeous new spot inside Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Best Bar Opening- The Nomad Bar

It's sexy and sophisticated with killer cocktails, a fantastic beer list and one incredible burger...it's the whole package.

Best NYC Brewery- Other Half

I love the local beer scene that's exploded this year and Other Half is at the very top for thier awesome IPA's.  The Hop Showers and All Green Everything are both outstanding but my favorites would have to be the Green Diamonds a double IPA with a bitter mango, orange bite and the Small Green Everything a session IPA with tons of tropical fruit flavors.

Best Brewery EVER- Drie Fonteinen

Words really can't describe how ecstatic I was to visit Drie Fonteinen this year.  I'm a total Geuze Girl and this place is the Geuze mecca. We were able to tour the brewery and see all the funky barrels, meet the owner Armnad and then sit outside in the sun sipping on a bottle of 1997 Oude Geuze.  We followed up the afternoon with more Drie Fonteinen back in Brussels with a Millennium Geuze for dinner at Moeder Lambic.  It was so relaxing and perfect; this may rank as one of the best days of my life.

Best New Beer Bar- St. Gambrinus

I haven't mentioned this place nearly enough for the amount of time I spend there.  It's part bottle shop, part bar with a rotating tap list that always has something incredible on tap.  They offer beer flights in all sizes, delicious sandwiches and the staff are some of the friendliest people around. It's the perfect place to sit back and relax for a good pint or two.

Best Thing I Ate All Year #1- Butter at Noma

This is the best butter in the world.  I'm not kidding.  I took one bite and it was almost like Noma disappeared...it's possible someone was talking to me, perhaps I even missed out on a wine pairing description, all I know is that for one full minute I couldn't focus on anything except that insanely rich, buttery flavor.  That's my little bowl of heaven right there.

Best Thing I Ate All Year #2- The Slut Eggslut

What is the Slut?  A coddled egg on top of smooth potato puree poached in a glass jar with toasted crostini. This. Was. AMAZING.   It was silky and rich with a salty umami flavor that had my eyes rolling back into my head.  This was the best egg I have ever had in my entire life and I will be flying to Los Angeles just to get another one.  

Best Meal of 2014- Manfred's & Vin

The big meal of our trip to Copenhagen was supposed to be Noma and of course it was absolutely incredible.  But the place I always think back to is cozy little Manfred's and Vin. The Chef's tasting menu was incredible.  I was downright enchanted with the buttery, toasted flavor of the onions, amazed by the bright acidity in the beet tartare and absolutely in love with that leek soup. If only I could sit on that little cobblestone street for lunch every day :)

Best of the Rest

Best Local Beer- Kane Sunday Brunch
Best Beer- Funky Buddha Last Snow
Best Side Dish- Corn Creme Brulee at Quality Italian
Best Neighborhood Opening- Cafe El Presidente
Best Wine Bar- Aldo Sohm
Best Veggies- Arnold's (Nashville)

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Last Days of December- Gingerbread and Champagne

One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is an annual trip to midtown for tree gazing in Rockefeller Center, shopping in Columbus Circle and of course gingerbread house delight at Le Parker Meridien.  Every December City Harvest hosts the Gingerbread Extravaganza to raise money for the coming year and showcase some of the best bakeries in the city.  All the creations are amazing but a few really stood out like the Domino Sugar Factory created by Sullivan St. Bakery...

Going Ape Over New York by Cake Alchemy...

...and my absolute favorite Breakfast at Tiffany's created by FIKA.

I actually completed all of my shopping after the gingerbread tour and had an extra hour to spare!  Just enough time for a quick holiday drink at The Plaza.

The Palm Court has been completely redesigned with an open bar in the middle just perfect for a relaxing glass of champagne.  Cheers to the holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lunch at Red Rooster

I've been a big fan of Marcus Samuelsson since his early days at Aquavit.  I can still remember the first time I had brunch there with Mr. T's family about 12 years ago.  It was a smorgasbord of pickled veggies, cold seafood salads and just about every single kind of herring imaginable.  All of us kids were expecting a brunch more heavy on bacon and eggs than herring but we dove right in and made the best of it.  I remember having one shrimp salad that was almost florescent pink in color.  It was an enlightening experience to say the least...

Obviously my tastes towards Nordic cuisine have since changed but that wouldn't even matter at Samuelsson's newest place. The Red Rooster celebrates American cuisine and the culinary traditions of the neighborhood of Harlem.  Actually the only Swedish thing I saw all afternoon was a special holiday Glogg everyone was drinking

Red Rooster offers two lunch menus; a special 3 course prix fix for $25 with choices like Roasted Salmon and Mac & Greens or the regular a la carte menu.  Usually a prix fix lunch is my bread and butter but I was pressed for time so I went a la carte with the Rooster Chopped Chicken Salad.

This had all the components of a classic Cobb Salad with bacon, egg and avocado but the difference was the chicken.  Instead of grilled chicken strips these were big chunks of juicy roasted chicken. Some white meat, some dark; some with skin, some without and all served with two types of dressing a light mustard vinaigrette and a creamy Ranch that made this one of the best salads I've ever tasted.

And if your looking for a lively place to do some afternoon dining I highly recommend coming here.  This place was absolutely bumping at lunchtime with great music and a steady crowd of people streaming in and out. I can't wait to come back when I can actually hang out and have a bit more fun!

310 Lenox Avenue between 125th & 126th
Harlem, NY 10027

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DIY Holiday Cocktail

Sometimes the best thing to do during the holidays is put on some holiday music, bake some cookies and craft a delicious cocktail in your very own kitchen.  For just those times here's a recipe for a classic cocktail recreated with the honey and spice of Drambuie Scotch Liqueur:

DRAMBUIE Alexander

In a mixing tin half-filled with ice, add:

        4 parts DRAMBUIE 
       2 part Tia Maria  
       2 part Half-and-Half   
      1 part Egg Beaters   
      2 tsp. Sugar 
Shake to froth, strain into a snifter;
      Garnish with fresh-grated nutmeg.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

NYC Holiday Drinks

Best Christmas Bar- Miracle on 9th Street

Christmas presents hang from the ceiling in shiny boxes, the bartenders have on their best Santa hats and the cocktail menu reads like something straight out of the North Pole.  There's a Christmopolitan with vodka and spiced cranberry, a Christmas Tree Gimlet with pine needle cordial and my personal choice the Bad Santa.

It's got two kinds of rum, pineapple juice, coconut water and coconut butter served piping hot...so basically like a warm and buttery pina colada.  What's better for the holidays than some nice rosey cheeks after a hot cocktail!

Quintessential NYC- The Plaza Hotel

Whether you grew up watching the Eloise Christmas or Kevin in Home Alone just about everyone has a vision of The Plaza during holiday season.  Although the classic Oak Room is still sadly closed the redone Palm Court is a great second choice for a little holiday bubbly.

Best Eggnog- Maialino

If you missed Tom & Jerry's annual celebration of all things frothy and delicious there's still time to get one in at Danny Meyers Italian Trattoria Maialino.  Their version is much lighter than that thick stuff from the carton with a creamy white head and a sprinkle of nutmeg on top.


Best Fireplace- Schoolbreds

This long, narrow space has been an East Village institution for years.  Get there early to grab the table in the back near the roaring fire and hustle up a Hot Toddy or sip on some Mulled Cider. Happy Hour drinks are two for one every day until 8:00 PM making this a toasty and affordable stop.


Best Place for Lights- Rolf's

It's super crowded, insanely hot and the drinks are overpriced.  But for some reason I always need to stop into Rolf's at least once during the holiday season just to look at all those incredible decorations.

Best Escape from Rolf's

If you just can't handle the insane crowds and overwhelming array of Christmas lights inside of Rolf's head directly across the street and seek refuge at the new Gramercy Ale House.  The old Copper Door has been completely redone into a polished new space with some of the friendliest bartenders in town and fantastic Irish music sessions every Wednesday night that could get just about any holiday Scrooge into a festive mood.

Gramercy Ale House

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Holidays in NYC

It's about that time of year so I'm rolling out my holiday guide once again.  This is just a break down of places to go in Rockefeller Center/Times Square area. Later in the week we'll get into the good stuff with a listing of the best places for holiday drinks!

NYC is a wonderful and magical place to visit around the holiday season. The Rockefeller Center tree is gorgeous, all the hotels are decked out in red and gold, holiday pop-up shops fill the parks- what could be better?

Unfortunately you have to be prepared for what I can only describe as controlled chaos. You will be wrangled like cattle to see the tree, stand in line at a Starbucks for 30 minutes, not for a caffeine fix but to use the single smelly bathroom and you’ll probably be so tired out from all of your shopping and touring that you’ll see a TGI Friday’s or Olive Garden and think it’s an oasis in the storm. Two hours later (because you’ll have to wait for a table like all of the other tourists who thought the line at McDonald’s and Subway were too long) you’ll wonder why the food and service were so crappy and suddenly your wallet is empty as well.

It’s the holidays in NYC folks and one must be prepared to weather the season. If you’re from the city you should know this and already be prepared but for you out of towners here’s a few holiday food recommendations to make your stay a little more jolly.

Rockefeller Center/ Times Square

Family Meal - Bills Bar and Burger
The location only a block from the tree can’t be beat and the laid back friendly service, reasonable prices and awesome burgers pretty much seal the deal. They have a separate kids menu with tater tots and chicken fingers as well as vegetarian friendly options like fish taco’s and one of the city’s best veggie burgers. They also have cocktails, wine and an extensive beer list. Believe me you’ll need a drink after braving the tree crowds with the family. Oh and they take reservations- Bam!

Bills Burger Bar Review

Cheap Adventurous Meal- Sake Bar Hagi
Hidden down some stairs right outside the madness of Rockefeller Center and Times Square is this cute little Izakaya. Don’t expect a quiet relaxed meal however- it’s loud, noisy and fun.  Order some skewers of meat, yellowtail collar and a couple Sapporo’s and enjoy the experience. It’s good for groups as well but the space is tiny so if you have more than 2 people go right when they open or expect a long wait. However they will take your phone number and call when a table is available. Walk over to Jimmy’s Corner and have a couple drinks while you wait.

Sake Bar Hagi Review

Italian Steakhouse with a Twist- Quality Italian

The sprawling space overlooking 7th Avenue right by Central Park is the perfect place to spend an evening sipping on wine an enjoying some old fashioned Italian favorites done NYC style.   The menu has items like Lobster Fra Diavlo rolls, Grilled Octopus and an enormous Chicken Parmigiana pizza that could almost feed a whole family.

Quality Italian

Upscale Fancy Meal- The Modern
Located inside the Modern Museum of Art this restaurant exudes both the arts and fine dining. Expect flawless French cuisine, an extensive wine and cocktail list and the impeccable service expected of all of Danny Meyers restaurants. Don’t skip the desserts which are just as delicious as they are beautiful.

The Modern Bar Room Review

Classic Steakhouse with a Twist- Quality Meats
Right around the corner from the Plaza Hotel this steakhouse creates the most delicious Steak Tartare I’ve had to date. Not that you need to have tartare, all the classic cuts of meat are there as well with delicious sides and whimsical desserts. The Twist? Although it’s certainly a steakhouse the ambiance is much softer and more refined than the old school guys. Imagine powering through a Porterhouse and still feeling elegant as you’re doing so- that’s Quality Meats for sure.

Quality Meats review

Crazy Confections- Momofuku Milk Bar

For incredible baked goods head to Momofuku Milk Bar on 56th Street.  This place has everything you could want in a bakery- cookies and cake, ice cream and pie, all done slightly over the top.  Things like Crack Pie, Birthday Crack truffles and Cereal Milk Soft Serve are great for both children and adults alike.  Take some home with you for a holiday gift that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Momofuku Milk Bar Review

Chocolate Treats- Cause you're Gonna Need Something Sweet

Good- Lindt Chocolate
Lindt Chocolate is sold everywhere now and it’s for good reason. The smooth, creamy truffles are wonderful and at the shop on 5th Avenue you can always find a new flavor and usually score a free sample at the door.

Better- Teuscher Chocolate
Right in Rockefeller Center this little shop explodes with bright colors and little figurines all about Switzerland, but don’t forget about the chocolates. The truffles and pralines have the same creaminess as the Lindt but with a richer, more authentic flavor.

Best- La Maison du Chocolat
Just walking into La Maison you will know at once that it’s a different level of chocolate shop. The well suited staff and trays of perfectly shaped ganaches and pralines almost make me feel like I’ve been transported to a fancy Parisian boutique. The Figaro is one of my favorite but don’t leave without trying out a pastry as well. The Romeo, a Coffee Chocolate Macaron, is the perfect pick me up after a long day of shopping.

La Maison du Chocolat

Teuscher Fifth Avenue

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lunch at Benchmark

Benchmark is a cozy little place in Park Slope  just off the main drag of 4th Avenue.  The restaurant has a gorgeous canopy out front and a tiny but cute bar inside, not to mention one of the best prix-fix deals in town. Benchmark offers a three course lunch with options like Lobster Bisque, Braised Beef Short Rib and Pan Seared Crab Cakes for the incredible price of $18. I was eyeing the Lobster Bisque but then I read the full description of the salad and was completely won over.  Organic Seasonal Lettuces with crisp yuca, radish confit, goat cheese and truffle vinaigrette.

I can't pass up anything with truffle these days and this dressing was just what I love... strong earthy truffles mixed with big dollops of creamy goat cheese...the perfect pairing.  Onto entree the Benchmark Burger with hand cut fries and homemade fixins.

The burger comes with your choice of cheese and they place it directly on the bottom bun of the burger rather than on top of the meat, a practice I don't usually enjoy but here it actually worked. The Gruyere stood up to the bread instead of melting inside like a blue or cheddar and the top bun was used to keep the burger in a salty, buttery hug.

The fries were all different sizes and shapes so I dug out the crisp skinny ones.  The only thing I didn't really love was the Spicy Ketchup which had a much more "sweet" flavor than "spicy".

Dessert was probably the most difficult decision of all...there was the White Chocolate Strawberry Bread Pudding (easily would have been Mr. T's choice is he had joined me), their famous Cookie Dough Eggroll with Miso Caramel and Espresso Gelato and finally my choice the Triple Chocolate Martini with Dark, Milk and White Chocolate Custards, Chocolate Cake and Dulce de Leche Ice Cream.

I really don't think you could go wrong with any of the choices here and for only $18 your wallet should still be happily full as well.

Benchmark Restaurant

339 2nd Street between 4th & 5th Avenue
Park Slope, NY 11215

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

United Wines of Veneto at Eataly

Eataly celebrates a different area of Italy each month and December is all about Veneto; a region in northeastern Italy with a wine history dating back to 1800 B.C. and the foremost wine producing region in the country.  I was invited to kick off this month's festivities with a Master Class from the Chef at La Scuola showcasing the fabulous wine and food from this region.

1st Course Capesante Grantinate- Scallops with compound butter, garlic, parsley, prosciutto and homemade bread crumbs paired with three different sparkling wines; the dry and fruity Prosecco Spumante, a soft, peachy Prosecco Superiore and my favorite the rich Lessini Durello, a sparking alternative from the Lessini Mountains.

2nd Course Carpaccio Con Radicchio- Beef Carpaccio with beets, baby carrots, radicchio, fennel, brussels sprout and lemon paired with the white wines of the region; the soft and savory Soave, a clean, fruity Custoza and a mineral driven Laguna.  

3rd Course Risi & Bisi- Shelled Pea & Scallion Risotto paired with two reds the light, salty Bardolino and a dry, rich Valpolicella.

Each dish displayed such clean, bright flavors that complemented the wine without taking center stage.  The presidents from all eight Consortiums were on hand to present each wine and even Lidia Bastinach popped in to celebrate with everyone.  

The restaurants of Eataly will be featuring these food and wine pairings all month and Eataly Vino will host a series of wine tastings December 12, 19 & 26th.  You can check out the full event schedule here.


200 5th Avenue at 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010

Monday, December 8, 2014

Brunch at The Nomad Bar

One of my favorite new spots in the city has just launched brunch.  The Nomad Bar now opens at noon on Sunday which is the perfect time to settle in at the bar without the crowds and focus entirely on the food.  All the dishes they're known for are available at brunch like the amazing Burger,  the incredible Carrot Tartare and the decadent Chicken Pot Pie along with some breakfast items like this Croque Madame.

These eggs are covered in Emmental and Bechamel sauce, lots of thick slices of ham all on a flaky roll.  It's comfort food at its very finest.  There's also a whole list of Bloody Mary's and coffee cocktails to choose from...

...and of course some standard champagne if you like to start your Sunday with a little bit of bubbly.

The Nomad Bar

10 West 28th and Broadway
New York, NY

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Brew Friday- Allagash Farm to Face

It's New Brew Friday!  Time for a brand new one from an old time favorite the Farm to Face a limited edition brew from Allagash.

This is an American Wild Ale that was fermented in stainless steel with 3 lbs of peaches added per gallon.  The aroma is tart peach and sour apple goodness while the flavor is just banging peach. The mouthfeel is light and creamy making this incredibly drinkable.  There's a little bit of that Allagash funk in there but it's so subtle I think even people who dislike sour beers would enjoy this one. Cheers to Friday!

Allagash Brewing Company

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Takumi Taco

I was having a serious Spicy Tuna Roll craving at work last week.  Unfortunately the area around 34th and 10th is an absolute food wasteland.  But I did a quick search on Google Maps and to my complete shock Takumi Taco popped up just blocks away. Being this was one of my Smorgasburg favorites I quickly hurried over...although finding this place wasn't exactly easy.

It's hidden away in the Starett-Lehigh office building.  In order to get in I had to speak with two different security guards, decipher the bizarre elevator system (which I never really did someone just helped me out) and traverse around the 17 Floor hallways until I finally spotted their tiny taco truck. Apparently they don't get outside visitors much.  Since I had made such a trek it only seemed appropriate to order the 17th Floor roll which had spicy tuna inside, eel sauce, spicy mayo, spicy soy and a topping of crispy onions.

The spicy tuna roll was awesome as always.  I should have stuck with regular because I found the sauces on top a bit too fiery.  But it actually worked out perfect; I took some off and put them on my taco instead.

The short rib was a bit on the dry side so the addition of crispy onions and spicy sauce made it a ton better.

The Bento Box lunch also came with tortilla chips and two warm Chocolate Chip cookies.  For $12 total I would say this was definitely worth the journey.

Takumi Taco
601 Wast 26th Street
17th Floor Truck Bay
NY, NY 10001

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Brunch at Schiller's Liquor Bar

I was so cold on Friday I actually thought my toes might fall off.  The wait for Bourbon County Stout was a full four hours outside in the frigid wind.  When we finally hobbled over to Schiller's for brunch I honestly contemplated shoving my ice cold hands directly into my Huevos Rancheros.

I decided this might actually gross out my companions so I dove in with my fork instead.  The eggs were exactly as I like them in the morning; cooked almost completely through but not quite with lots of tomato sauce, cheese and beans.

The doughnuts were awesome too.  The simple cinnamon sugar topping and slightly crunchy exterior were an oddly satisfying combination.

And of course the drinks were fantastic.  There's nothing quite like a steaming hot cider and Blood Orange Mimosa to thaw out the bones...Black Friday success!

131 Rivington Street @Norfolk
New York, NY 10002