Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Dish- Pastrami Reuban at Katz's Delicatessen

It's so easy to shrug off all the so called "tourist" spots in the city.  Whenever I mention going to Times Square, Rockefeller Center or god forbid SOHO during the holiday season, Mr. T looks at me like I'm insane.  But whenever I suggest Katz's, one of the biggest tourist spots of all time in NYC, he's always on board.  That's because Katz's is AMAZING.  I love the steaming Matzo Ball soup, the snappy casing on their hot dogs and the incredible Pastrami Reuben.





The meat on this sandwich is stacked high and so tender it practically melts with a layer of Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing on top.  I never liked Pastrami or Reuben's before I met this sandwich but now I'm in love.  

205 East Houston Street @Ludlow
New York, NY 10002

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Buffalo- Allen Burger Venture

Right after my visit to Florida I made a quick trip to Buffalo and checked out an array of newcomers to the downtown scene.  Bagels and booze brunch at Hydraulic Hearth, drinks at Ballyhoo and mega sports bar 716 before finally settling into dinner at Allen Burger Venture.  This place has just about any burger topping imaginable...peanut butter, green chili, pulled pork, egg...you name it they got it.  Being it was my first visit I decided to stick with a classic combination the #3  Burger with caramelized "Ommegang" onions, Applewood bacon and porter cheddar cheese.



The burger was cooked perfect; a thick tender patty with a solid pink middle and big slabs of crispy bacon on top.  I asked for my onions on the side because I was a little worried about an onion overload but it actually balanced the juicy meat well.



Every burger comes with a choice of tater tots or fries; the latter being the better choice as the tots were so big they were more like big round hash browns.  Step it up a notch with foie gravy and cheese curds on the fries for a version of delicious poutine.


ABV also had an incredible beer list going with beers from Jack's Abby, Westbrook and Ballast Point on tap.  This place is a serious addition to the Buffalo scene and totally worth a stop in if your in the city.

175 Allen Street
Buffalo, NY 14201

Monday, April 27, 2015

Quick Florida Recap

This is seriously late in posting but sometimes life just happens like that, so this is just a super quick recap of our Tampa trip.  We flew in and spent the first evening checking out Green Bench Brewing and Cycle if you remember.  Then it was onto the main event Saturday morning- Hunahpu Day! We had such a horrible time last year I was really apprehensive about going back.  Luckily Cigar City made some serious changes and the event ended up being one of the best beer fests I've attended.



So many of my favorite breweries were on hand like Funky Buddha, Toppling Goliath, hometown boy Kane and of course Cigar City.  In addition to those some new breweries I'd never had the opportunity to try before like Mazurt out of Atlanta, Georgia.  They brewed up a Vanilla Russian Imperial Stout aged inside coconuts...talk about an ingenious idea.  After multiple beers at Hunahpu Day we were in serious need of food so we headed to Datz for their amazing Fried Chicken and Waffles.  


I'm not gonna lie these were absolutely fantastic day one but even better day two when I woke up to leftovers in the hotel room.  They had the perfect balance of salty, crunchy chicken and sweet sugar dough.  This place is already on my must-go to list for brunch next year.  Plus they had a stellar beer menu which just made this beercation even better.


Sunday morning we fit in one more amazing beer event the Hunahpu Hangover Day party at 7venth Sun Brewing.  They always brew some excellent beer with quirky names like this years Let's Go Halvsies, The Science of Pink and Or Else it Gets the Gose Again.


Then it was over to Dunedin Brewing for a ridiculous plate of Tater Tot Poutine with pulled pork and fried cheese curds.  I seriously think those chives on top were the only green thing I ate all weekend.


We ended the weekend with a fabulous dinner at Eddie V's and a long wonderful night of sleep. It was a great weekend...new friends, old friends, great beer and some ridiculous food.  Time to start planning for next year :)

3924 West Spruce Street
Tampa, FL 33607

2616 South MacDill Avenue
Tampa, FL 33629

1012 Broadway
Dunedin, FL 34698

Friday, April 24, 2015

Goodfellas at The Ritz Carlton

The Tribeca Film Festival is closing out this weekend with a special screening of one of the greatest gangster movie's of all time.  Goodfellas will be celebrating its' 25th Anniversary. Didn't get your invite to the big cast and crew reunion party?  Well you can still celebrate just steps away from the festival at 2West inside the Ritz Carlton Battery Park.  



Chef Philip Medora has created a special menu inspired by this classic Scorsese film with dishes like "Tommy DeVito's" Cheese and Salumi platter with fig jam & quince marmalade and the "Henry Hills" Fried Calamari served extra crispy with banana peppers and spicy marinara.



There's also the delicious "Billy Batts" Grilled Flat Bread with caramelized onions, sweet Italian sausage and grilled sweet peppers...




...but to be truly gangster order the "Jimmy Two Times"; Veal, Pork and Beef Meatballs with shaved pecorino and marble rye garlic bread.  



These meatballs are seriously amazing; super light with just a slight binding of breadcrumbs to let the meat really shine.  Of course if anyone in your gangster party is meat free there are plenty of incredible items on the regular menu just for them like the Spicy Tempura Cauliflower with Chili Pepper Aioli. 



This dish tastes just like Nobu's famous Creamy Spicy Shrimp except completely vegetarian and without the hard to come by reservation.


I don't suggest sitting with your back to the room; a smart gangster never would.  But I do suggest catching a glimpse or two of the view.  The sun setting over the waters edge is the perfect way to cap off an incredible evening.

These items are all available at the bar during Happy Hour from 5:00-7:00.  So get your wiseguys together and celebrate the anniversary of Goodfella's at The Ritz.


Ritz Carlton 2West Restaurant

2 West Street
New York, NY 10004

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Maison Kayser

There's nothing better than the smell of fresh baked bread in the morning.  Something about that lovely aroma of yeast immediately makes me smile and has even been shown to make us kinder human beings.


Maison Kayser is the perfect place to tap into those aroma endorphins...from the gorgeous baguettes to their flaky, buttery croissants stuffed full of  Ham and Gruyere Cheese...


...it's like a little sensory overload of happiness.

Maison-Kayser
Multiple Locations in NYC

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Javelina

Tex- Mex cuisine is the latest craze sweeping the city and right at the forefront of this trend is Gramercy newcomer Javelina.  I've made a few visits since it opened...the first time to check out the queso.



I know from my Texas friends that a good queso is a thing of glory and I gotta say the queso here is pretty amazing.  I ordered the sampler with traditional yellow cheese, white cheese and the Bob Armstrong; a big bowl of queso with guacamole, ground beef, pico de gallo and sour cream.


All three were wonderful but I definitely preferred the yellow queso over the white.  It looked like a big bowl of Velveeta cheese but had a much creamier texture that was so damn addictive I found myself going back to this bowl of chips more times than I could count.  


My next visit to Javeleina was for brunch.  A big Mexican breakfast is my absolute favorite thing in the world so I couldn't wait to taste their spin on Huevos Rancheros.


This was pretty classic- two corn tortillas topped with black beans and fried eggs then kicked up a big Tex-Mex notch with hot sauce and a thick layer of yellow cheese toasted to a crisp golden brown.


This was just silly good.  There was so much sloppy cheese and sauce everywhere it was impossible to pick up but between my knife and fork and the crispy tortilla chips I was able to successfully devour most of the dish.  It came with a side of rice or beans, just in case this Texas sized platter of food wasn't enough for one meal.


Unfortunately among all of this glorious Tex-Mex goodness there are some serious service issues to be worked out.  Each visit there were long waits in between everything...getting a menu, ordering a drink, receiving a drink, ordering food.  Everything seemed to take two to three times as long as normal.  There were multiple people in uniform running around but no one seemed to know what to do.   My last visit I even watched a guest leave his table and go directly to the bar for drinks because he had been waiting so long for a server.  And unfortunately those drinks are pretty steep...$13 for a tiny margarita can make a bill add up really quick.


So if you want down and dirty, no holds bar Tex-Mex cuisine that will make you happy, check out Javelina; but be prepared to wait and don't forget the credit card.

119 East 18th Street between Park and Lexington
New York, NY 10003

Friday, April 17, 2015

New Brew Friday- Convivial Suarez

Today's New Brew Friday comes from Grassroots Brewing in Vermont; the precursor to Shaun Hill's current brewery Hill Farmstead.  Convivial Suarez is a saison/farmhouse ale brewed with hibiscus and lemon that clocks in at 6% abv.  The first thing you notice about this beer is the color.  It has a shockingly gorgeous deep pink body with a frothy ring of bubbles that create nice lacing around the glass.



The aroma has big notes of lemon zest, hibiscus and lime with some of the classic barnyard funk from most Grassroots/Hill Farmstead saisons. The taste follows suit with lots of lemon and berry flavors; it's tart but creamy with a nice refreshing finish.  I was lucky enough to have this on tap at one of my favorite bars Hops Hill.  This beer just screams spring and it was wonderful to usher in the season with such a delight.  Cheers to the weekend!


Hill Farmstead/Grassroots Brewing


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Marta

My first experience at Marta was good.  I loved the ultra thin cracker crust and fresh toppings, but really wanted to explore more of the menu.  This time I brought multiple dining companions and had the opportunity to try out much more like these Green Risotto Croquettes.


Each log was filled with rice, mozzarella cheese and herbs then fried until brown and crispy. I was surprised how much just a squeeze of lemon juice brought out the bright flavors of the herbs inside.  There was no need for any other sort of sauce...these were delicious on their own.


The classic Margherita was wonderful; simply seasoned with just a little olive oil and basil.  I actually liked this much better than the Margherita di Bufala from my previous visit.  


But the best pie of the night was easily the Salsiccia topped with Pork Sausage, Cremini Mushroom, Mozzarella and Pecorino.  Everything on this pie just worked creating a gorgeous medley of rich, savory flavors.


For dessert Olive Oil Affogato with Oilo Verde, Honeycomb Candy, Vanilla Gelato, Kumquat and Blood Orange.  It wasn't quite as life changing as the Olive Oil Coppetta from Otto but it was certainly worth the order.


Reservations at Marta are still impossible to find on Opentable but don't give up.  I called the day before and scored a Friday night reservation with no fuss at all.

29 East 29th Street between Park & Madison
New York, NY 10016

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Narcissa

There are lots of reasons to dine at East Village hotspot Narcissa.  The delightful vegetable preparations, always so fresh and creative  The trendy scene, a gorgeous room filled with even more gorgeous people and of course the incredible southwestern Narcissa burger.



It’s a big, juicy blend of short rib and brisket from Pat LaFrieda that’s pan fried giving the outer shell an excellent char.  Then it’s topped with a mound of fresh guacamole, manchego cheese and watercress all on top a brioche bun. 



There’s nothing delicate about this burger you just have to dive in and relish in all its' rich messy glory.  Don’t worry about those gorgeous people staring at you from across the room.  They decided to order salads instead of lavishing in these thin, crispy fries that have the perfect salty crunch with each bite. 


And most certainly don’t forget to order a cocktail or two. The Pear Tree with rum, ginger and rosemary is a great savory way to round out the meal.




Narcissa Restaurant
25 Cooper Square (5th & Bowery)
New York, NY 10003

Monday, April 13, 2015

Lunch at Hibino

When I'm having a serious sushi craving in Brooklyn Heights there's only one place I go to- Hibino. The food is always fresh and their lunch specials are some of the best in the city.  In addition to a daily rotating Obento Box with entree choices like Grilled Salmon Collar and Pork Sausage, is their classic Sushi Lunch.



It includes a piping hot bowl of Miso Soup filled with silky strands of tofu...



...and a small green salad dressed with a light ginger vinaigrette and your choice of two rolls. My last visit I tried the Scallion Yellowtail and Spicy Tuna.


I find many spicy tuna rolls are filled with leftover cuts of fish, the mayo covering up the lines of fat giving the roll a gross stringy texture.  At Hibino the roll is filled with a big, fresh square of tuna then topped off with a dollop of extra spicy sauce.  It's so clean and easy...never a gross roll here.


All of this incredible food for only $10.00.  It's really one of the best deals in Brooklyn.

333 Henry Street @Pacific
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Brew Friday- Dirck the Norseman

There are so many reasons to check out the massive German beer hall in Greenpoint Dirck the Norseman.  From the cozy fireplaces in the winter to the live music on the weekends this place has a little something for everyone.  Here are my Top 5 reasons to make the trek:

#1- Chicken Schnitzel
This stunning piece of poultry is so large it barely fits on the serving plate.  It's pounded flat but somehow retains a tender, juicy interior that's coated with crispy breadcrumbs and served with a beer-peppercorn sauce.  It's big, gregarious German food at it's finest.



#2- The Wedge Salad
I always love a good wedge salad but Dirck really kicks it up a notch using thick cut chunks of bacon and a house-made Bacon Maple Blue Cheese dressing studded with red onions and rosemary.  


#3- French Fries
German beer halls always seem to have the best fries (I was addicted to Zum's for a long time) and here is no different.  They're thinly sliced, crispy skin on fries, served with two delicious dipping sauces.  The serving is huge so one order is more than enough for a few people to share.



#4- The Beer
It's easy to love a big, crisp German beer but check out some of the other Greenpoint offerings.  I highly suggest the Zealander, a big Double IPA that's full of bright citrus flavors and incredibly refreshing.  It's one of the best local beers I've had this year.

#5- Brewery Tours
Every Sunday at 1:00 Greenpoint Beer & Ale Company offers personalized, guided tours of the brewery that include an in depth look at the brewery process, the brewers behind the scenes and four half pints of that delicious Greenpoint Beer.   Reservations can be in advance for just $15 a person.

7 North 15th Street at Franklin
Brooklyn, NY 11222

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Back to Bonnies

My first experience at Bonnie's was a bit disappointing.  The Beef on Weck was right on par with Buffalo standards but the wings seemed dry and overcooked.  I'd heard so much hype about this place I chalked it up to an off night and vowed to return.  Last weekend I finally got a chance to stop in again and let me say they totally redeemed themselves!


These wings were excellent- crisp, snappy casing on the outside, plump juicy meat on the inside.  The sauce was the perfect balance of butter and spice with just enough heat to make your lips tingle.  These were better than some of the wings I've had in Buffalo even.  Add on bonus points for their delicious fries.


These don't look like much but they were skinny and crisp with a spicy chipotle mayo on the side.  So I'm happy to report that Bonnie's Grill does indeed ROCK!  I can't wait to come back here again for another round of wings and weck.

Bonnie's Grill
278 Fifth Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tanoreen

Mr. T and I had some errands to do in Bayridge this weekend so I used it as an excuse to finally try out  Tanoreen.  My Brooklyn coworkers have been telling me for years about this Middle Eastern gem. I specifically remember mention of the Eggplant Napoleon during several discussions...



Two thick slices of crispy breaded eggplant layered with creamy baba ghanouge and tomato basil salata.  Somehow the eggplant stayed completely intact, not a slimy veggie in sight.  It was really a work of art that we completely devoured in about 5 minutes flat.



Crispy Hallumi Cheese is a must order for me when it's on the menu.  This could have been served a bit warmer but the flavor and consistency was still spot on.


The hummus we used mainly as a garnish for stuffing into our pitas when the Mixed Grill arrived. This was just a massive platter filled with ground lamb kabob, marinated lamb and a smoky chicken kabob that had an excellent char to the outside.


We seriously ordered way to much food but everything was so delicious we somehow managed to finish it.  I had been planning to order dessert, all of which come drizzled with some sort of incredible honey and pistachio, but we were just to full.  Seems like a pretty good excuse to get back out to Tanoreen soon anyway.

7523 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11209

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Best Prix-Fixe Lunch Deals in NYC

Looking to have a five star meal in NYC without the hefty price tag? The answer is lunch.  Many of the city's best restaurants offer prix-fix deals during the week so you get the same amazing food and atmosphere at a fraction of the cost.  Here's my picks for the best:




Juni

The quiet sophistication of the room and innovative menu creations by Chef Shawn Hergatt always make for a delightful afternoon.  The food is absolutely stunning and with two different pricing options and a vegetarian tasting menu just about anyone can find something to love. 

The Deal- Two Courses $34, Three Courses $39 or Five Course Vegetarian Tasting for $55

Pro Tip- Don't overlook the tiny silver bowl on the table filled with olive tapanade



The Nomad

Good luck scoring a dinner reservation at the perennially packed Nomad.  Reservations fill up 30 days in advance and the trendy scene can feel a bit overwhelming.  Opt instead for lunch when the crowds are quieter and the same fabulous food will cost half as much.  It's true the Chicken for Two isn't available but the Chicken Burger has that same foie gras stuffed goodness and the incredible Carrot Tartar makes a special appearance.

The Deal- $29 Two Course Prix-fixe

Pro Tip- The Cookies and Cream Ice Cream is only available for dessert during lunch in the main dining room or the bar next door.   Order and devour


Bouley

Whenever I'm looking to completely escape the city I head to Bouley where the gorgeous interior and fabulous food make me instantly feel like I'm in the countryside somewhere near the south of France.  Expect complete opulence from start to finish and a Chariot of Bread in between.

The Deal- $55 Five Course Tasting Menu

Pro Tip- Bouley requires men wear a suit coat at both lunch and dinner.



Nougatine

It seems strange to think that so many dishes in American restaurants today were created by Jean George.  The glorious Tuna Tartare, the decadent Chocolate Molten Lava cake...this man made these dishes popular and the originals can still be enjoyed at his casual sister restaurant Nougatine today.

The Deal- $38 Three Course Prix-fixe

Pro Tip- There is an outdoor terrace hidden at the base of Columbus Circle open for dining during nice weather.


Del Posto

A meal at Mario Batali's sprawling Meatpacking restaurant can add up very quickly at dinner time with a menu starting at $126 per guest.  Instead try out his exceptional Italian cooking in all its glory at lunch when the luxurious space streams in the sunlight and the amuse bouche are plentiful.

The Deal- $49 Three Course Prix-fixe  $10 Additional Taste of Pasta

Pro Tip- Make reservations well in advance.  Del Posto's lunches have become very popular with the Meatpacking work crowd.



Gotham Bar and Grill

It's been over 30 years since Gotham Bar and Grill first opened it's doors on 12th Street.  This restaurant helped to define fine dining back in the 80's and continues to be at the forefront of the culinary scene today.  Alfred Portale's lunch prix-fix changes often but you can always order their famed Gotham Chocolate Cake with salted almond ice cream at the end.

The Deal- $35 Three Course Prix-fixe

Pro Tip- While lunch reservations book up quickly there's almost always open spots at the bar perfect for dining.


Tocqueville

Tucked away on a busy corner in Union Square, Tocqueville feels like some sort of urban oasis.  The gorgeous artwork on the walls and high ceilings create a serene atmosphere that's impossible not to enjoy.  The menu changes daily based on the offerings from the Union Square Green Market next door ensuring everything is always fresh and seasonal.

The Deal- $29 Three Course Prix-fixe $49 with Wine Pairings

Pro Tip- The wine list is exceptional but expensive.  If your dining solo the wine pairings are a much better option than by the glass both for value and enjoyment.



ABC Kitchen

The "other" Jean George restaurant on the list; this one more casual and focusing on fresh seasonal food that are all GMO-free and locally sourced.   Expect stunning vegetable dishes like the Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad and staples like the creamy Crab Toast with lemon aioli.  But always leave room for dessert...the Salted Caramel Sundae with popcorn, candied peanuts and chocolate sauce is one of the best sundaes in the city.

The Deal- $32 Three Course Prix-fixe

Pro Tip- Oprah listed their Spinach, Goat Cheese and Herb Pizza as one of her favorite instant mood boosters in 2013.