Friday, February 27, 2015

New Brew Friday- NYC in the House

Today marks the end of NYC Beer Week but really the fun has just begun.  That's because all those wonderful breweries have started to bottle/can their beers.  So it's entirely possible to crack open an amazing NYC beer in the comfort of your own living room.  Here's a few I'm especially excited about.

The Finback Barrel Aged BQE is a big espresso imperial stout brewed with chocolate from Mast Brothers in Brooklyn and coffee from Native Coffee Roasters in Queens.  It's a pure NYC original and the thick bourbon flavor is perfect for this cold winter weather.  The two cans on either side are from Other Half Brewing, a session pale ale Super Fun on the left and the Double IPA Green Diamonds on the right.  These will be a permanent addition to my picnic supplies once spring finally arrives.  Cheers!

Other Half Brewing
195 Centre Street
Brooklyn, New York

Finback Brewery
78-01 77th Avenue
Queens, New York

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Blue Smoke

BBQ and beer just naturally go together so it only makes sense that Danny Meyer's Blue Smoke has a great draft list.

The most recent visit Bells Hopslam was on tap; a tropical,piney Double IPA with a long bitter finish sweetened slightly with honey.  This is a big, bold beer that stands up well to saucy bar food like the Blue Smoke Chipotle Chicken Wings.

These are big, hefty wings; more smokey than spicy with thick, creamy blue cheese dressing on the side.  It's a match made in heaven.

Blue Smoke

116 East 27th Street between Park & Lex
New York, NY 10016

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Brunch at The Blind Tiger

Let's keep celebrating NYC Beer Week with a little bit of brunch and beer....two things always in fashion at The Blind Tiger.  Most people don't realize this but early Sunday afternoon is one of the best times to visit the Tiger. The epically large crowds have yet to arrive, sunlight streams in on the tables up front and it's the only time you can get an order of Chef Tommy's special Beer Battered Pancakes

He switches them up a bit each week with ingredients like citrus and cinnamon but you can always expect three extra fluffy pancakes with a side of sweet Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup.

The Spanish Breakfast is also a menu staple; eggs, chorizo and manchego with a spicy saffron aioli served omelet style or on Ciabatta.  It's delicious on it's own but we always like to add a little extra meat because it's just not brunch without bacon.

And of course order a beer!  With over 30 draft beers on constant rotation there's always something new and exciting to try out.

The Blind Tiger
281 Bleeker Street
New York, NY 10014

Monday, February 23, 2015

It's NYC Beer Week!

The annual celebration of all things sudsy in the city began on Friday, but don't worry if you missed the weekend kickoff.  There's still a ton of great events to check out.  Here's my picks for the week ahead:

  • Beer Sessions Radio Presents Rare Beer Week Dinner- Guest Chef Matthew Garelick will be creating a five course dinner paired with "wild" beers at Jimmy's No. 43.  Courses include Pastrami Tuna with pickled plum, pumpernickel, and pomegranate mustard paired with The Bruery Oude Tart and Smoked Short Ribs with cellar vegetables, prune and dosa paired with De Dochtar Embrasse. 
  • Other Half Brewing Takes the Jeffrey- One of the most exciting new breweries to come out of NYC this year takes over the taps at The Jeffrey.  If your a fan of IPA's you won't be disappointed in their beers, specifically the 1st Anniversary IPA and All Green Everything. 
  • The Bruery at Fool's Gold- Here's your chance to try out a multitude of Bruery beers before committing to the big bottle.  The list includes Tart of Darkness, Rueze and Smoking Wood in addition to some special bottles from Patrick's stash. 
  • Barrel-Aged Sours with Perennial at Bar Great Harry- The folks from Perennial will be coming all the way from St. Louis for this event with a list that includes Abraxas, Sump and 4 Happiness, a special collaboration beer with Side Project.  
  • Split Thy Skull XVI- It's hard to believe this weekend long event is already going into its 16th year.  Once again the list looks insane...slow and steady win the race at this one.

Friday, February 20, 2015

New Brew Friday- NYC Beer Week Kickoff

NYC Beer Week kicks off tonight with Opening Tap 2015!   Over 40 bars and restaurants citywide will be showcasing one rare/unique beer to be tapped at 7:00 PM.  So it's entirely possible you can stay warm and avoid the MTA's Winter Weather plan at your local bar!  Here's a few worth checking out:

  • Alewife- BFM Bon Chien 2014
  • Barcade Chelsea- Westbrook 4th Anniversary Chocolate Almond Imperial Stout
  • DBGB- Firestone Walker Stickee Monkee
  • The Jeffrey- Cantillon Fou Foune (9:00 PM tapping)
  • Kiabacca- Sixpoint Lock N Load
  • Double Windsor- Firestone Walker Parabola
  • Pony Bar UES- Bronx Tequila Barrel Aged Pale Ale
  • Spuyten Duyvel- Cantillon Gueuze Bio 2014
  • Beer Culture- Transmittor Cask Conditioned Saison dry hopped/ Ottos Supreme
  • The Gate- Hair of the Dog Adam 2011

Massachusetts- The Farm Table

Saturday morning we packed up and slowly made our way towards home, putting in a couple hours on the road before stopping off for lunch in Massachusetts at The Farm Table; just about the halfway point between Vermont and NYC .

The Farm Table wasn't just any old pit stop on the road, it was absolutely beautiful with fireplaces in each corner, an open hearth oven behind the bar and New England landscapes adorning the walls.  It felt so cozy and comfortable; somewhere to catch up with old friends or have a relaxing meal with family.

The lunch menu was divided into a series of salads, sandwiches and pizzas with a handful of entrees for larger appetites. The Cheddar Corn Bread was an excellent place to begin, served warm and crumbly with whipped honey butter.

The brick oven pizzas were a good option also; large enough for two people to share and plenty of variety.  The Clam and Bacon pizza came with fresh cherry stone clams, garlic cream, pickled red onion and fresh parsley.

My Cesar Salad was kind of a boring choice but I loved the creamy lemon Parmesan dressing and hearty mixture of both kale and romaine lettuce.  It actually ended up being one of the best entrees at the table as the burgers arrived horribly incredibly sad state of affairs when using a tender, fatty blend of short rib and brisket.

The overcooked burgers aside I would happily stop back on a Vermont trip again.  The restaurant is located just 5 minutes from the highway on the Kringle estate (just look for the Kringle Candle signs) and in addition to the candle store there's a Christmas Barn and a Chocolate Cottage on the premises.  It's a good way to jam everything about country living into one final stop before NYC.

219 South Street
Bernardston, MA 01337

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Vermont- Hen of The Wood

Located just on the edge of Waterbury, Hen of the Wood feels like some sort of magical oasis tucked away from the crazy world outside.  Patrons enter in the front door to a series of fresh flowers only to descend down the stairs into a gorgeous dining room with rustic stone walls, chandeliers composed of long branches and a beautiful waterfall out back.  It was so cozy and inviting I just wanted to hole up in a corner and stay all night.

The lighting was so dim the pictures didn't come out well but I'll try to give some highlights.  Parker House Rolls with radish butter and a plate of Vermont cheese was the perfect starter with the Jasper Hill 'Moses Sleeper' being the favorite of the night; followed by crispy Squash Fritters drizzled with maple syrup and an incredible Beef Tartare.

There was nothing super fancy going on here, just perfectly seasoned chopped beef, farm fresh egg and a yukon chip on top; simple, well balanced, and delicious.  For entrees the table split down the middle with half of us ordering the Goats Milk Dumplings with winter squash, hen of the wood mushrooms and pine nuts...

...and the other half ordering Hanger Steak with crispy potatoes, creamed kale and Hen of the Wood Pinot Noir reduction.

My only slight disappointment was dessert.  I had been drooling over pictures of their Opera Cake online but it wasn't being offered that night.  Instead I had some sort of Chocolate Peanut Butter Bomb that was good but didn't quite achieve an ethereal level of dessert happiness.

I enjoyed wine most of my meal but it's important to note that Hen of the Woods is currently the only place left in Waterbury to get Heady Topper on tap.  So if your looking for that amazing DIPA outside the can you need to make a reservation here.

I can't wait to return to Hen of the Woods this summer.  Only -22 degree temps could keep away from that waterfall table out back; next time nothing will stand in my way.

92 Stowe Street
Waterbury, VT 05676

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Vermont- The Skinny Pancake

Day two in Vermont we woke up early and took a ride over to Montpelier for breakfast at The Skinny Pancake; a restaurant specializing in all different kinds of crepe creations. Our last visit we stopped in on Saturday morning and couldn't even get in the door.  This time we had the entire place to ourselves...a perk of weekday travel.

It wouldn't be vacation without a morning mimosa made here with cider from Citizen Cider in Burlington.  I was worried it would be too sweet but the cider was surprising dry and crisp just perfect for the chilly day. 

My family never ate savory crepes growing up.  It was plain sweet crepes with powdered sugar and syrup or nothing at all.   I still don't understand the appeal of hot eggs inside a sweet crepe, it just seems gross to me.  Luckily the Skinny Pancake had The Noah's Ark- two eggs with Cabot cheddar cheese, two slices of thick, salty bacon and a side of frumple cakes (sweet twisted crepes with cinnamon and sugar).

It was perfect, I got to enjoy my savory items first then finish off with the sweet crepe instead of dismantling the whole plate as I do at other Creperie's.  Plus the twisted shape created homey little pockets just perfect for soaking in all that warm Vermont maple syrup.  

89 Main Street
Montpelier, VT 05602

Citizen Cider
316 Pine Street
Suite 114
Burlington, VT 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Vermont- Parker Pie

Our first day in Vermont started with a trip to Hill Farmstead and lunch at Parker Pie. We hadn't eaten anything since leaving NYC so after six hours in the car and two in line at the brewery, I was more than ready to power down some serious food like the famous Green Mountain Special.

Bubbly, crisp dough topped with cheddar cheese, baby spinach, red onion, bacon, apple and fresh garlic all drizzled with sweet maple syrup.  It's a big mishmash of everything wonderful about Vermont in one amazing pie.

Being so close to the Canadian border it only made sense that Poutine was on the menu...

...and being so close to Hill Farmstead of course the beer list was incredible.  We split a Cantillon Gueuze and then slowly worked our way through the draft list.  I'm pretty sure we could have stayed all evening but the snow started to fall again so we hit the road.

Onto Waterbury for the next few days and finally a dinner reservation at Hen of the Wood!

161 County Road
West Glover, VT 05875

Monday, February 16, 2015

Momofuku Milk Bar Pop-Up

Things just haven't been the same in my neighborhood since Shake Shack closed for renovations earlier this year.  The park has seemed so empty and desolate.  Well all of that changes now with a Momofuku Milk Bar pop up!

The cute little pink kiosk has everything I could possibly want...compost cookies, Crack pie, cake truffles (currently in one of my favorite flavors Chocolate Malt Cake)...

...along with two brand new additions a Hot Apple Cider and Cereal Milk Hot Chocolate.

I'm a total sucker for advertising so the Hot Chocolate drew me in immediately of course:)  

The aroma is straight white chocolate, no denying that, but the taste is just like finishing a big bowl of Fruit Loops and microwaving the leftover milk.  It's strange- I know for a fact they use only toasted cornflakes and brown sugar to create this drink but somehow that fruity flavor stood out to me.  Perhaps all of those years of eating bowl after bowl of Fruit Loops has tricked my brain into tasting those fruity leftovers.  

Momofuku hot drinks are $4 a piece and the pop up is open from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM daily until the end of winter.

Momofuku Milk Bar
Madison Square Park
South Side between 23rd & 24th Street
New York, NY 10010

Friday, February 13, 2015

New Brew Friday- Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #5

Ahhh Vermont...There's something so wonderful about that state.  The rolling green hills in the summer, the crisp snowy mountains in the winter and the three things I consume the most bacon, blue cheese and beer.  I'll get to all the bacon and blue cheese next week (I love you Bayley Hazen Blue) but it's Friday so let's talk beer; Hill Farmstead's Society & Solitude #5.

This Imperial IPA pours a hazy gold color with a fluffy white cap that slowly laces the glass. The big hoppy aroma of grapefruit dominates the nose with lighter citrus notes and maybe a bit of pine.  The flavor...good lord the flavor is AMAZING!  Massive grapefruit, kiwi and melon; tons of tropical fruit flavors without any bitterness.  This is a great example of New Zealand hops at their finest.  Society & Solitude clocks in at heavy 8.1% but the gorgeous body of the beer and dry crisp finish make this so drinkable.  It just may be my favorite DIPA of all time- Cheers to Friday!

Hill Farmstead
403 Hill Road
Greensboro Bend, VT 05842

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

It's Restaurant Week...Again

Restaurant week can be a crazy time of year. Some people love going around and finding great three course deals; other people hate it and think it’s a waste of time.   I have had both great and not so great RW experiences so I thought I would bring out the old tip sheet for getting the most out of this event. Unfortunately this year my favorite place Cafe Boulud isn't participating so I instead I'm hoping to grab lunch at these three newcomers:

Little Park- this is the perfect excuse to check out Andrew Carmellini's hot new restaurant at a much lower price point.

Park Avenue Winter- this place always churned out amazing RW meals with a ton of choices.  Now it's back in a brand new location on Park Avenue South and doing better than ever.

All'onda- the entree choices include Smoked Uni Bucatini and Porchetta Ramen.  Is there really anything else you need to know- BOOK NOW!

Restaurant Week Tip Sheet

1. Research the menus BEFORE booking. Just because you’ve always wanted to go to a certain restaurant doesn't mean RW is the time to do it. One of my first RW experiences I showed up at a place I had been dying to try out and there were only two entrĂ©e choices- Salmon and Mushroom Risotto. I’m allergic to salmon and at the time I was in a serious risotto funk. Obviously I did not enjoy my meal very much. The menus are there for a reason- check them out before booking.

2. Lunch is the best way to go. Most RW places have the same menu for both lunch and dinner or simply add a different appetizer choice at night with a higher price point. Paying $24 for three courses anywhere is a pretty good deal in my book. However when the cost rises to $35 I start to scrutinize if it’s truly worth it or not. I better not get a measly salad, pasta and sorbet when I could have a delicious Fontina Meatball and spectacular Chocolate Hazelnut Layer Cake from Gramercy Tavern at a lesser cost.

3. Bring a friend. I tend to do a lot of solo lunches but during RW it’s much better with a companion. Each person can order a different option so more of the menu can be explored and many restaurants offer $24 bottles of wine as part of the deal too. This makes it a huge bargain! I’ve been solo and thought about getting a bottle myself since it's such a deal.  But that would make me a restaurant week lush not a restaurant week lady.

4. Treat it like a regular fancy meal- tip well and dress well. If your going to a four star restaurant don’t show up in tattered jeans and a baseball hat. The guests in a restaurant become part of the atmosphere- don’t ruin that for others. The same goes for service. If you have four star service don’t skimp on the tip. These waiters and waitresses are giving the same service they usually do for a lot less. Make sure they know you appreciate that.

So those are my tips. As I said every year is different so try some new places out. As for this years list I can tell you I’ve had fantastic experiences in the past at many of the places. You can see my entire list of past hits or misses by clicking on the link below. Hope your Restaurant Week experience is a great one!

Restaurant Week Meals

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lunch at Tuscan Hills

Queens Boulevard is the last place I would expect to find such a homey little restaurant like Tuscan Hills.  Located just one block from the Union Turnpike train station this is a cozy oasis from the taco and bagel joints that crowd the street corners.  Go at lunch for the $10.95 special which includes soup or salad and any pasta, panini or pizza as an entree.

Skip the measly Cesar Salad of yellow greens in favor of the Stracciatella loaded with spinach and Parmesan cheese in a light egg drop broth. 

The pizza is a decent entree for big appetites.  It's large enough to feed two but the flavor can be a bit bland.  A much better choice is one of their delicious pastas like the Rigatoni Alla Norma tossed with eggplant, basil and mozzarella or the hearty Penne Alla Vodka made with tomato sauce, a touch of cream and salty pancetta.

It's cheap and easy with quick service assuring a swift return to the office in the afternoon. 

115-20 Queens Blvd. at 75th Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11366

Monday, February 9, 2015


When it's this cold and nasty outside I find my inner adventurer start to wane.  I no longer look forward to trekking around the city in search of cheap dumpling spots, dessert shops or fancy new wine bars.  I find myself craving only the things I know and love; the places I can always depend on no matter what the occasion like Parm.  There's usually an order of Baked Clams to begin doused in melted butter and breadcrumbs, followed by the standard Chicken Parm sandwich or classic Saratoga Club.

But each and every visit must include the Mozzarella Sticks.  These fat logs of fresh cheese actually taste like fresh mozzarella instead of that stringy crumbly mess you find at most places.  The breading stays firmly intact with a dusting of chopped parsley on top and a bowl of tangy sauce for dipping.

Unfortunately these are so incredible they will you ruin you for any other mozzarella stick in the future.  So unless your completely willing to alter your lifestyle in the favor of fried cheese I suggest you stay away. 

248 Mulberry Street between Prince & Spring
New York, NY 10012

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Magical Momofuku Milk Bar

I'm always amazed by Christina Tosi's desserts at Momofuku Milk Bar.  Take for instance the classic birthday cake.  For many of us this cake evokes the vision of a small round cake with birthday candles, sprinkles and funfetti frosting.  Tosi takes this classic memory and amps it up Momofuku style.

Big balls of rainbow cake crumbles stud the creamy vanilla frosting on top...

...then layer upon layer of fluffy rainbow cake and rich vanilla icing sit below.  I love how she leaves the sides untouched so each layer can be drooled over from every angle.  If cakes not your thing Tosi also does pie like the decadent Candy Bar Pie with pretzel and fudge, the sticky Caramel Apple or the ridiculous Crack Pie dusted with powdered sugar (just like a classic Chess pie from the South).

If you can't decide just order the Franken Pie which includes all three.  No matter what your dessert dreams may be chances are Tosi has it.

Momofuku Milk Bar
Multiple Locations in NYC

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Monday with Mike

Monday was such an awesome day.  I got a text from my brother Mike saying he was stuck at LaGuardia Airport. Since I already had the day off from work I suggested we meet up for lunch so he cabbed it into the city and headed to The Nomad for their new $29 two course lunch menu. 

Meals at The Nomad always begin with a beautiful fresh baked loaf of bread that fills the room with the sweet aroma of rosemary, dill and yeast.

This bread has the perfect texture, crispy on top but chewy in the middle with sliced potatoes and rye seeds scattering the outside.  It would be have been easy to demolish this entire thing and ask for more but somehow we showed some restraint until the appetizers arrived.

The same Carrot Tartare from the Nomad Bar makes an appearance on the menu here; plated simply with winter greens and rye chips.  This is easily one of my favorite dishes in the city right now and my brother agreed.  There's just something about that nutty, spicy flavor that's so incredibly satisfying.

Tortelloni stuffed with celery root bathe in a bubbly Parmesan foam...

...each little purse chock full of that rich, earthy flavor of Black Truffle.

The Nomad's famous roast chicken comes in the form of a Burger at lunch topped with Foie Gras and Black Truffle mayonnaise on a brioche bun. I was expecting a big, hefty burger but it's surprisingly light.  This was a delicious spin on the bird however I enjoy the Chicken Sandwich at brunch a bit more.

We discussed dessert choices over macchiato's before deciding upon the Cookies & Cream as per the waiters recommendation. 

Dessert arrived just as it looks spoons or napkins just a small bowl filled with chocolate orbs.  We both hesitated a moment then dove right in with our hands.  This ice cream didn't need spoons it was incredible!  The balls of vanilla ice cream somehow stayed solid inside the thick coating of chocolate  crunchies.  Each bite was like eating a personalized ice cream cake and I haven't stopped dreaming of it ever since.

After our fantastic meal we continued onto Eataly for some meats and cheese in the Piazza and Rosso on the roof.  I think we could have continued to eat and drink all day but reality reared it's ugly head and it was time for his flight so we parted ways.  Although I wish we had a little more time I gotta say it was a pretty incredible way to spend a Monday.

The NoMad
1170 Broadway and 28th Street
New York, NY 10001

Monday, February 2, 2015

La Churreria

I absolutely loooove a good churro. I still remember my very first one at a San Diego Padres game when I was about 10 years old.  I wanted something sweet but it was way too warm for a sticky bag of cotton candy and those mini helmets filled with ice cream were an absolute disaster for a klutzy kid like me.  The churro was so different...crunchy on the outside but soft inside, dusted with cinnamon sugar and so big it took me almost 3 innings to get through the whole thing (seriously it was almost as tall as I was). 

I love churros so much we even served them at our wedding in lieu of a wedding cake. So when Mr. T and I stumbled upon La Churreria in SOHO we had no choice but to pop in for bite.

The churros here are much smaller than the one I had years ago with curled ends and lightly dusted with sugar.  They arrived piping hot with a fantastic crunchy exterior perfect for spooning up the ultra rich hot chocolate.

I'm not sure if any churro will ever be as good as the one I had at Jack Murphy Stadium but I love them all regardless.  I also love fish tacos...another 1st I had at the stadium that day. I should probably thank my parents for taking me to such a boring baseball games growing up that all I ever did is eat :)

284 Mulberry Street
New York, NY 10012