Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Happy Hour at Tasca Chino

The newest restaurant to hit our neighborhood is Tasca Chino loctaed inside the old Sushi Samba on Park Avenue South.  The restaurant helmed by Chef Alex Urena is billed as Spanish and Chinese fusion which is playfully evident from the decor of bullfighters and Chairman Mao covering the bright red walls.  We stopped in a few times for happy hour at the bar where the small food menu covers everything from dim sum to tapas.

Each order begins with some warm complimentary breadsticks covered in toasted sesame seeds and some wonderful dipping sauces.

There are crisp salty Spanish Croquetas in both Salt Cod and Ham served with a spicy szechuan pepper aioli; a perfect marriage of the two cuisines.

Less successful plates were the Black Bass Ceviche and Spanish Mackerel Crudo.

The bass was overcome by an aggressive tomatillo sauce and the mackerel had so much soy on top my tongue felt like sand paper after just a few bites.  Hopefully these are just part of opening jitters as an even hand could easily turn these two dishes around.  

We've tried many of their cocktail options like this dry Cinquenta- Cinquenta of Gin, Navarro and Orange Oil or a gorgeous Uva Roja made with vodka, muddled grapes and ruby port.

At only $8.00 a piece during happy hour these are incredibly affordable and  for those not so cocktail inclined there's beer, wine and sangria at just around $7.00 a glass.  Cheers to that!

245 Park Avenue South @20th Street
New York, NY 10010

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The House of Angostura U.S. Cocktail Challenge

This past week I was invited to the U.S. Cocktail Challenge hosted by The House of Angostura.  It was a face off between East Coast bartenders all vying for a spot in the finals at the fabulous Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and ultimately a trip to Trinidad for the Global Cocktail Challenge finale.  

The rules were simple...create two cocktails under six ingredients the first using 5 dashes of Angostura Bitters and the 2nd using Angostura Rum.  Maggie Arts the bartender/manager from Salt of the EarthButcher & The Rye and the brand new Tako out in Pittsburgh was the first to compete with her cocktail the Hummingbird's Garden.

Spencer Warren (Beverage Director from Butcher & the Rye) was up next with his cocktail Rum for the Money followed by Megan Arts from Marvel Bar in Minnesota with the CocoTea and finally Aaron Butler from West Village favorite L'Artusi with his drink the Julia's Conundrum.  And the winner is...

...Aaron!!  I have to say I was thrilled with the outcome.  Not only was it fantastic to see a local guy win the competition but I truly loved his drink the most for it's perfect balance of Pisco and Angostura Bitters (and that he said Pisco was the most underrated spirit- AGREED!).

Honestly we were all winners since we got to enjoy the wonderful cocktails created along with some great food and drink from Seamstress like this Deviled Egg with Mezcla pickled pepper.  Here's the recipe for Aaron's winning drink so you can try it at home- Cheers!

Julia's Conundrum
1.5 oz Benedictine
1 oz Kappa Pisco
.75 oz fresh Lemon Juice
.25 oz Angostura Bitter

Shake well and garnish with a lime peel

House of Angostura

339 East 75th Street between 1st & 2nd
New York, NY 10021

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Brunch at Mezcla

I'm so freaking excited to have found a solid brunch spot right in the neighborhood- Mezcla! Okay for some reason walking all the way over to 2nd Avenue sometimes feels a bit far but the extra avenue or two is worth it for three big reasons...

#1- Free Drink with every entree.  And not just a boring OJ mimosa but choice of peach puree, mango and one of the most incredible looking Bloody Mary's I've ever seen.  WHY IS THIS DEAL SO HARD TO FIND ANYMORE!

#2- Ridiculously delicious food that will actually keep one full all day from Huevos Rancheros to Apple Cinnamon Pancakes and Seared Tuna Salad.

Seriously Mr. T's dish came with sausage, bacon, eggs, guacamole and a warm buttery jalapeno biscuit with homemade raspberry preserves.  That's a solid meal.

#3- Farm to Table.  It really makes such a difference not just for fresh delicious food but also for helping to promote and grow our local farms in the area.  It's a win win for everyone.

327 2nd Avenue @19th Street
New York, NY 10003

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Seaport Eats at Barbalu

When Mr. T and I first moved here I loved the Seaport area.  It always blew my mind that we lived so close to such a beachy little spot.  Of course I quickly grew tired of dealing with the hordes of tourists so I slowly stopped going.  Then Sandy hit and so many places were destroyed it seemed like the area would never recover and I realized how much I still loved this NYC spot.  

Lucky for me places did recover and one of those is Barbalu; a restaurant known as Barbarini before being completely destroyed in the storm.  This husband and wife team love the historic area so much they decided to rebuild on the very same location and hence Barbalu was born.

The menu is focused on Italian fare with an array of salads, pastas and secondi like Potato Crusted Salmon and Veal Scaloppine.  We skipped secondi in favor of a big Spinach Salad loaded with funky Gorgonzola cheese and crisp pancetta followed by a bowl of Fettuccine with Shrimp, cherry tomato and zucchini.

Everything tasted fresh from the greenmarket and it never got too crowded which was nice.  Plus there's two options for catching some summer rays; a cute little skylight in the back or a handful of tables up front.  Jeremy's Ale House is right across the street so those outside tables can be great for people watching but also a prime target for a drunken encounter...choose wisely.

225-227 Front Street
New York, NY 10038

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Happy Hour at Flatiron Lounge

 I've been on a mission to rediscover some of my old favorites in the city and the Flatiron Lounge was the perfect place to start.  This bar was pretty much flawless when it opened way back in 2003 and it hasn't lost a step.  From the sexy curved banquettes to the low playing jazz...it's just a fantastic place to hang out and have a delicious cocktail or two from the always fabulous Julie Reiner.

The Beijing Peach is a gorgeous blend of Jasmine vodka, peach puree and lime.  It's a touch fruity and tropical...something to whisk away all the worries in life and make everything seem just wonderful.

Plus it's only $9 during their happy hour from 5- 7...it doesn't much better than that.

37 West 19th Street between 5th & 6th
New York, NY 10011

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Brunch at Dover

I've been dying to try out this cute Carroll Gardens spot but could never quite get a reservation until we walked by on a Saturday afternoon.  The usually packed space was downright empty.  In fact we weren't even sure they were open until the lovely hostess ushered us in.

The brunch menu is small with only six main dishes and a few specials.  To begin they brought out a Fried Dough amuse bouche dusted with powdered sugar.

These piping hot little balls were the perfect simple and delicious start to brunch.  Mr. T ordered the Ruby Red Shrimp Etouffee; a dish neither of us had ever had before.

When it arrived the rich smell of sausage and herbs wafted over the table. I didn't even wait to be offered a bite before diving into a tender morsel of braised chicken and creamy grits.  

Luckily Mr. T shooed me away so I could enjoy my own outstanding dish the Tuna Salad sandwich. 

Two slices of super fluffy focaccia bread layered with thick cut bacon, lettuce, tomato and some of the best tuna salad I've ever tasted.  It had just the right amount of tarragon and lemon mixed in with a side of crispy herb potato chips.

We tacked on a side of bacon to share.  Who can say no to a maple sherry glaze...I certainly can't.  It was just a delicious and delightful brunch.  I'm honestly a little worried since the space stayed empty the entire time we dined.  I really want them to keep serving brunch but I really don't want the brunch crowds to find it.  So go and enjoy...but just don't tell 
anyone :)

412 Court Street
Brooklyn, New York 11231

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lady M Cake Boutique- Strawberry Mille Feuille

There are lots of incredible bakeries in NYC, but when I'm truly looking to impress I head to Lady M Cake Boutique for her dazzling array of cakes and pastries. I've been obsessed with their wondrous Mille Crepe for years but the other offerings as just as fabulous like the Gateau aux Marrons and Strawberry Mille Feuille.

This towering mass has layers of strawberries, whipped cream, sponge cake and strawberry jam all sandwiched between flaky, buttery pastry.  The only challenge is getting a bite of everything at once.

Lady M Cake Confections
36 West 40th Street @5th Avenue
New York, NY 10018

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pearl Oyster Bar

Going to Pearl Oyster Bar without getting a lobster roll is kind of like going to Las Vegas and not gambling...your missing the main attraction.  But we've had so many lobster rolls it was time to check out the other goods on the menu like the shrimp cocktail.

I can't even remember the last time I ordered this in a restaurant and I have no idea why.  These were plump, juicy and so perfect we agreed this will be a regular with our Lobster Roll rotation at Pearl.

The Pan Roasted Scallops were also perfection; simply pan roasted with some butter and rosemary to allow the natural flavor of the scallop shine.

Mr. T's Lobster followed suit with just a small bowl of butter and a ramekin of piping hot corn pudding.  This was fresh seafood at it's finest and we didn't really miss the lobster rolls!  Well maybe just a little bit...

18 Cornelia Street
New York, NY 10014

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Getting the Munchies at Ample Hills

Ample Hills is hands down the best ice cream in town.  And scorching hot days like today make my summer mission seem easy to accomplish...try each and every Ample Hills flavor.  This feat is going to be quite difficult given that they introduce new flavors almost every week and the fact I'm a bit lactose intolerant BUT until my stomach completely shuts down I'm giving it a whirl and kicking things off with The Munchies.

Pretzel infused ice cream swirled with clusters of Ritz Crackers, potato chips, pretzels and mini M&M's.  It's a creamy delicious blend of butter, salt and chocolate....three of my favorite food groups.  I'm not sure how far I'll get but I'm certainly loving the start to this challenge!

Ample Hills Creamery
Multiple locations in NYC

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


We were celebrating the birthday of a fabulous friend and it just so happened to coincide with the unveiling of a new Basque menu at Huertas.  We ordered so much food it's honestly a little ridiculous but here's a quick run down:

Chicken Liver Toast

Egg with ramps

Duck Croquette

An array of Spanish meats...

...to complement an array of Spanish cheese.

Mackerel in Olive Oil

Rojo with potato strands, poached egg and chorizo

Salt Baked Trout with Swiss Chard, romenesco, aioli verde and salpicon

Lamb Saddle with piquillo peppers

Saffron Fried Rice with ramps, English snap peas, egg and aioli

And finally an order of Papas in spicy bravas sauce.  The meal was just like a parade of unending dishes.  Everything was great but the standouts were definitely the crisp salty Duck Croquettes, the rich Mackerel in olive oil and the Salt Baked Trout with that incredible romenesco sauce.

And of course the desserts...this is where I fell in love with those sugar crusted Churro's with dark chocolate dipping sauce.  Huertas is a great place to try out a bunch of delicious Spanish dishes and share with friends over a few drinks.  Although if you come with me don't expect to sharing any dessert.

107 1st Avenue @ 7th Street
New York, NY 10003

Monday, June 8, 2015

Pies 'n Thighs- Canal Street

One of my favorite Williamsburg spots has expanded across the bridge to the Lower East Side and I couldn't be happier.  Pie's & Thighs set up a new shop right on Canal Street offering all the things I love in the world...that decadent Bourbon Pecan Pie, those thick cheesy grits and my absolute favorite sandwich the Chicken Biscuit.

One big crispy chicken cutlet slathered with hot sauce and honey butter then sandwiched between a warm buttery biscuit.  It's not so pretty to look at and eating it can be quite messy but it's so worth it for each incredible bite.

Bonus points to the Canal Street spot for having extra hot sauce and honey on each table for those of us who like it extra saucy.  Plus this new location is just blocks away from craft beer bar Top Hops. Chicken Biscuit and beer...it just doesn't get much better than that.

Pies N Thighs
43 Canal Street between Orchard & Ludlow
New York, NY 10002

Friday, June 5, 2015

DYI Cocktail- Moonshine Mule

It's National Moonshine Day!  I never even knew this holiday existed but it certainly sounds like something worth celebrating.  Let's cheers to this Friday with another Do-It-Yourself cocktail recipe the Moonshine Mule.

Moonshine Mule

1 Part Ole Smoky White Lightnin Moonshine
2 parts Ginger Beer
Top with Angostura Bitters
Mix well in a Copper Moscow Mule glass over ice;
Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Rocky Slims

The newest pizza place to hit Murray Hill is Rocky Slims, taking over the space that once held slice joint Mike Due.  While the cuisine is still the same, the atmosphere is totally different.  Gone are the white tiled walls and rickety tables; they've been replaced with a sleek new bar, exposed brick walls and a wood fire oven churning out whole pies with exotic topping like Smoked beets with ramps and Gorgonzola, and Mussels with burrata and borttarga.

We dined in for our first visit and tried out the Classic Pie with tomato, mozzarella, pecorino and basil.  The ingredients were super fresh and I loved the puffy charred bubbles on the crust and light charring on the bottom.

My only gripe would be the price...$17 for what they consider a personal pie is a bit more than I'm willing to part with for a pizza.  Our next visit we skipped the sit down restaurant and went directly to the slice counter on the side.  This is where I found one of my favorite white slice's in the city right now.

I absolutely loved the black and white sesame seeds on the crust.  They gave the pie such a hearty, nutty flavor and the fresh basil and ricotta were in perfect balance, not a soupy gloppy mess like some places.

Not to mention the regular and pepperoni slice...thin crispy crusts, excellent sauce...these were fantastic.  I'm not saying this place is by any means destination worthy but if you happen to be in the Baruch area looking for a solid slice this is the place to go.

Rocky Slims
338 3rd Avenue @ 25th Street
New York, NY 10010

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Colicchio & Sons

It's been years since I dined at Colicchio and Sons.  I swing by the bar up front for a quick drink once in a while but an actual fine dining experience in the back is usually reserved for a special occasion; like a good friends blow out birthday meal.  There were many so many courses here's just a quick run down of the food:

Hamachi Crudo with Citrus, Celery & Pistachios

Charred Octopus with Citrus, Caramelized Endive & Chorizo Vinaigrette

Beef Tartare with Jicima & Smoked Mayonnaise

Campanelle with Ramps, Morel Mushrooms & English Peas 

Halibut with Hearts of Palm, Fava Beans & Preserved Lemons

Toasted Marshmallow, Olive Oil and Coffee Ice Cream

The standouts of the meal were definitely the fresh, spring flavors in the Campanelle and the soft, fragrant lemon essence in the Halibut.  However nothing else truly stood out for a restaurant of such high caliber.  Our service was also lacking with multiple courses arriving to the wrong diner and one complete dessert and a round of coffee which was never to be seen by our table. 

They did add some extra special touches to the meal like a Birthday Card at the celebratory boy's seat and some writing on the dessert plate but otherwise it was kind of a let down.  Perhaps Colicchio & Sons is past its prime?  It was definitely not a good night for the servers that's for sure. With so many incredible restaurants in town, including the wonderful Craft, it's hard to spend so much money on some place that doesn't live up to expectations. I've had love for Colicchio in the past but I'm not so sure I'll be returning anytime soon.

85 Tenth Avenue
New York, NY 10011