Friday, January 29, 2016

Brunch at Cooper's Craft & Kitchen

The last weekend in January is always nice and slow.  The holidays are completely over, the weather's freezing; there's really no reason to accomplish much of anything.  It's the perfect time to just chill out and enjoy a long relaxing beer brunch at Cooper's Craft & Kitchen. 



There are two Cooper's in NYC one in the East Village and this one in Chelsea which just celebrated its one year anniversary.  The food is classic pub fare with breakfast specials like the BSE&C; one fried egg with bacon, sausage and American cheese on an English muffin and the Brewers Breakfast of two eggs any style, bacon or sausage, hash-browns and toast.  Both dishes are a delicious and a solid base for all the wonderful beers on tap.




On our last visit we enjoyed Vietnamese Speedway Stout, Project Pam, Plead The 5th and Hop Hands.  This weekend the list look like another winner with Hill Farmstead George, Other Half Suparillo and Rushing Duck Gimme Somoa That on tap.  There's also $5 Mimosas and Bloody Mary's for those not so beer inclined.  It's the perfect place to just unwind and close out the 1st month of the year.

169 8th Avenue between 18 & 19th Street
New York, NY 10011 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Arthur Avenue Eats

Mr. T and I took a trip up to the Bronx over MLK weekend for some Italian eats. We had a LOT to fit into one day...we may have overdone it a little bit.



We started at Cafe el Mercato for a couple slices.  All the pies here are done Sicilian style with a thin, buttery crust cooked to a crisp golden brown and fresh tomato pomodoro.



We could have gone crazier with the toppings like broccoli rabe and pesto, spinach and peppers or even a prosciutto with green fig but we stuck to the basics. There was something so simple and pure about this pizza.  I've honestly never enjoyed a Sicilian slice so much.



After the pizza we walked around the Arthur Avenue Retail Market a bit scoping out all the wonderful displays then stopped into the The Bronx Beer Hall, located in the center of the market for a flight of beers.


Everything's a little bigger in the Bronx right?  Well even the beer flights fall into this category where the usual 4 oz pours were replaced with half pints!  Most of the beers were from NY state breweries like Southern Tier, Sixpoint and Finback and even though we were still inside the market they had big TVs set up around the bar creating the perfect atmosphere for watching the Rangers game.

The next stop on our crawl was going to be Mike's Deli but then I realized we could order Mike's sandwiches right to the bar- BONUS!


First up the Michelangelo with layers of prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, lettuce and tomato all on an incredible sesame seed roll.  Next the Big Mike's Combo- two fluffy squares of focaccia stuffed with luxurious slices of mortadella, ham, salami, capicola and provolone.

 

Wow- both of these were delicious but the Big Mike's was incredible.  The meat was so tender and not overly salty; easily the best Italian combo I've ever eaten. 

When the Rangers game ended we headed to the actual Mike's Deli for some arancini to go then it was across the street for dinner at Dominick's...because obviously the goal was to see how much we could eat before exploding.   


We began with an insanely delicious order of Baked Clams stuffed with garlic, olive oil and breadcrumbs toasted golden brown.


Then onto the Chicken Scarpiello, an incredibly tender plate of bone in chicken cooked with lemon, rosemary and hot peppers.

(wine by the glass options)

Dominick's was awesome but it definitely has some quirks. Here's a few things to know before dining:

1.  There's no menu.  You either know what they serve already or the waiter will read off the nightly specials and you pick whatever he chooses to tell you about.

2.  The seating is communal and it's tight.  Don't come here expecting to have a romantic night out because chances are you'll be elbow to elbow with two other people trying to twirl up their big bowl of pasta with a spoon just like you.

3.  Don't come expecting a bottle of Brunello.  Dominick's offers only two kinds of wine-red or white.

4.  It's cash only and don't expect a check either.  The waiter usually just reads the final amount at the end of the meal.


We were getting so full we ended up taking most of the chicken home to enjoy later that night then moved back onto the streets of Arthur Avenue in search of dessert at Madonia Bakery.  We picked up a thick vanilla creme cannoli piped to order...


...and some delightfully cake-like Rainbow Cookies that shamed just about every sad, stale version I had growing up.   We were actually spending the next day with friends out east so we picked up some extra cookies for them and then walked over to Calandra Cheese for something I've always wanted to try Burrino.


Burrino is the sister to more well known Burrata; however in place of fresh mozzarella cheese the outside casing is Provola (aged mozzarella) and instead of cream inside there's a big round of butter.  I'll admit when we sliced it open the next day everyone found it a bit odd at first but something about that firm fleshy cheese and deliciously creamy butter really hit the spot.  I can't wait for the next great excuse to slice open another one.

So there you have- an incredible Arthur Avenue Saturday in the Bronx.

2331 Hughes Avenue

2344 Arthur Avenue

2344 Arthur Avenue

2314 Arthur Avenue

2348 Arthur Avenue

2335 Arthur Avenue
The Bronx, NY 10458

Monday, January 25, 2016

Restaurant Week at Aureole

Winter Restaurant Week kicked off on Monday and I went straight to lunch at one of my old favorites,Charlie Palmer's flagship Aureole. It's hard to believe this place has been open for 27 years.  I love everything about it; the gorgeous zinc topped bar, the enormous glass windows overlooking the hustle and bustle of 42nd Street and the warm comfortable service that always makes me feel right at home. 



I began with the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare topped with jicama, cucumber and bonito cream in a citrus broth.  The acid from the fruit gave the dish a gentle delicious "pop" without overtaking the fresh flavor of the fish.


Braised Short Rib with pearl barley, horseradish and watercress was an absolute monster of an entree. There was easily enough food here for three people and while the meat was falling off the bone tender I was hoping for a little more flavor from the pearl barley.  It tasted more like an afterthought than a true component to the dish.


Ahhhhh...dessert!  The Peanut Butter Crunch with dark chocolate mousse, crispy peanut butter and rich cream gelato.  This was outstanding.  I was so happy I contained my meat eating on the entree so I could demolish every last bite.


I closed out the meal with a signature Aureole Cocktail of vodka, creme de cassis and passion fruit.  It was a fabulous meal; one that reminded me of what restaurant week should be.  Cheers to Aureole!

One Bryant Park
135 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Matcha Bar

Is this storm actually going to hit us this weekend?!  Being a big fan of all things winter I certainly hope so.  I love seeing the city cloaked in a blanket of shimmering white snow while sipping a hot drink like this Matcha Latte from the newest location of Matcha Bar in Chelsea.



What could be better than soaking up all the rich health benefits from this powdered green tea along with one of their insanely perfect cannele's.  These are some of the best in the city; crisp,caramelized exterior with a soft, eggy middle studded with flecks of vanilla bean.  It's the perfect winter treat.

Matcha Bar
256 15th Street @8th Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Finally a Midtown West Savior- The Pennsy

There's nothing fun about working over on the far west side of 34th Street.  The wind whips off the water creating a frozen wind tunnel in the winter, the sidewalks are constantly jammed with tourists trying to find Macy's and the food scene is virtually nonexistent. Enter The Pennsy; a brand new food hall hoping to change the landscape of this awful zone.



I didn't have high hopes when two of the six lights were already burned out when I walked up opening day.  However once inside the big airy space that used to hold Borders was actually quite clean and welcoming with tons of exciting new lunch options.



Pat LaFrieda was churning out all kinds of sandwiches; Meatball, Turkey and Steak to name a few along with more veggie friendly items like warm Polenta Fries with Parmesan cheese and Romaine Cesar Salad.



Marc Forgione had the corner on seafood with his stall featuring everything lobster including mac and cheese, salad and bisque while Little Beet Table focused on gluten free bowls and lunch boxes.  I almost grabbed a piping hot cup of Italian Wedding Soup from Mario Batali's stall but in the end vegan food sensation The Cinnamon Snail won out.


One look at the menu and I knew I had to order the Thai BBQ Tempeh Samich with pickled red onion, basil, arugula, smoked chili peanuts and sriracha mayo.


This beast of a sandwich was filled with so many crazy flavors and textures from sweet and sour to crunchy and spicy.  I don't have a huge tolerance for heat so my mouth really felt like it was on fire but it was worth every single second for the delicious nasal clearing flavors going on here.  I mean really...smoked chili roasted peanuts inside a sandwich?  Life is just really great sometimes.



So the wind is still terrible on my walk and the crowds of tourists make me grit my teeth daily but at least the food scene has started to be looking up thanks to The Pennsy.

The Pennsy
2 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10121

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Nancy Lees Pig Heaven

Most people start off the New Year with resolution to get into shape, eat healthier and become a better person.  Mr. T and I did not go that route.  Instead we decided to kick off the new year by drinking some fantastic beers and gorging on Spare Ribs at Nancy Lee's Pig Heaven.

I've never been a big fan of spare ribs...the ones that usually arrive from our neighborhood delivery joints are always tough, overcooked slabs of meat.  Here at Nancy Lee's they were a completely different story.



This meat was soooooo tender with a caramelized BBQ shell on the outside that was both sweet and spicy.  These were completely unlike any spare ribs I've had before and I will never enjoy anything different going forward.


Another big surprise hit were the Shumai with a paper thin outer casing and big white pieces of chicken inside and some delicious dumpling sauce for dipping.  


One would assume this place could be found down in Chinatown but it's actually located on the Upper East Side.  Apparently everyone in the neighborhood knows how good it is so if you want to try out this incredible Chinese BBQ for yourself arrive early or be prepared to wait.

Pig Heaven
1420 3rd Avenue at 81st Street
New York, NY 10028

Friday, January 15, 2016

New Brew Friday- Cantillon Kriek

Time to kick off the three day weekend with one of my favorite beers of all time Cantillon Kriek from Cantillon Brewery in Brussels.


Cantillon produces their Kriek by filling barrels of one and half year old lambic with a ton of tart Morello cherries, about 2 lbs per gallon; then allowing them to ferment first in the barrel and then in the bottle.  The result is a gorgeous deep ruby red beer with a big fluffy head, soft funky aromas of cherry pie, cherry juice, hay and oak with flavors of tart sour cherry, funk, lots of bubbly carbonation and a crisp dry finish. 


Cantillon bottles pop up once in a great while around the city but it's best to stock up if you ever find yourself in Belgium as Mr. T and I did last year. Cheers to the long weekend!

Cantillon Brewery
Rue Gheude 56
1070 Anderlecht Belgiu

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Milk Bar Brooklyn

I absolutely love having breakfast for lunch and it's even better when it comes on a big, fluffy, cheddar chive biscuit.  Milk Bar, not to be confused with David Chang/Chistina Tosi's dessert spot, is a cute little coffee and tea place in Prospect Heights serving up some amazing breakfast specials all day long.



Their classic Breakfast Sandwich is a massive biscuit toasted with Swiss cheese, two scrambled eggs and a thick layer of spicy aioli.  The eggs were absolutely perfect; softly scrambled with just the right amount of fluff.  I added on some thick Double Smoked Bacon for a few extra bucks but this sandwich didn't even need that.  It was simply spectacular being meat free.




To be honest I found this place searching some lunch time Momofuku Cake Truffles and Google steered me to this Milk Bar instead.  Sometimes happy little accidents are the best.

Milk Bar Brooklyn
620 Vanderbilt Avenue at Prospect Place
Brooklyn, NY 1123

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Lunch Deal at Yuba

I've been looking for a great neighborhood sushi joint and while this is definitely more East Village than Gramercy it's worth the extra walk for it's warm causal atmosphere and delicious sushi. 



The lunch Bento Box comes with four pieces of sushi, sticky rice, California Roll, two chicken shumai and a big bowl of miso soup.



The sushi selection changes depending on the chef but usually includes Tuna, Salmon, Yellowtail and either Mackerel or Seabass.  I request no salmon due to my allergy and it's always greeted with "no problem" and a smile.  Everything from the fish to the greens is incredibly fresh and service is always quick and efficient.  For just $11.50 at lunch this is an absolute steal in the East Village.

Yuba Restaurant
105 East 9th Street between 3rd & 4th Avenue
New York, NY 10003

Monday, January 11, 2016

Leyenda

Cocktails from Julie Reiner of Clover Club and the promise of churros were the two reasons I found myself at Leyenda.  This cozy little spot in Cobble Hill just oozes with such a warm festive atmosphere I immediately know it's going to be a great night when I start here.




There's a cocktail for everyone on this list; the Buena Onda with Yerba Mate infused pisco for a little pick me up, the Brooklyn Burro for a taste of the tropics or the Pan-Am Sour with Cachaca, bourbon, lemon, orange with a Malbec float for when you just feel like getting a little bit crazy :)



There's small plates perfect for sharing like Spinach & Manchego Empanadas, Pupusas and rich Ham & Cheese Croquetas with bechemel and chilies.



In addition to a few larger plates like the Churasco Skirt Steak that's charred to a gorgeous crisp on the outside with a red belly.  We always get the chimichurri sauce on the side for Mr. T 's cilantro allergy (heehee just more for me).


There's only on dessert at Leyenda but it's a good one...salted almond and chocolate dusted churros.
  

Serious cocktails, incredible chimichurri and churros...what more do you need for a night on the town!

221 Smith between Butler & Baltic
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Friday, January 8, 2016

Happy Hour at Summit Bar

OMG this was  the longest coldest week EVER.  I really try not to complain too much but it was loooooooong.  A week like this is the perfect excuse to get things started early.  Summit Bar over on Avenue C has a great happy hour with six different kinds of wine and six different cocktails all for around $7 each.



My two favorites are the Charmanes Star made with Polish Vodka, Cinnamon Infused Agave, Cucumber, Shisho, Lime and Rhubarb Bitters & The Guv'nor with Whiskey, Toasted Cardamom Infused Agave, Yuzu and Orange Juice.  Happy Hour runs from 5:30-7:30 Monday thru Friday and 4:00- 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday.  Might as well ride this cocktail train right into the weekend!

The Summit Bar
133 Avenue C between 8th & 9th
New York, NY 10009


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lupulo

The space at 6th Avenue and 29th Street has been like a revolving door of restaurants over the past 10 years but I think it may finally have a permanent tenet.  Chef George Mendes from Michelin-starred Aldea opened this spot last year focusing on rustic Portuguese food and craft beer.  Lupulo actually means "hops" in Portuguese and the ever changing tap list pays homage to that name.



Everything from the rich malty stouts of Alesmith Brewing to bright hoppy IPA's from Hill Farmstead and salty Goses of Westbrook have been known to make an appearance.  The bartenders are more ready to answer any questions and will happily pair beers along with your meal as well.




The menu changes along with the tap list but you can expect delicious Portuguese fare like spicy Red Snapper Cru with fermented serrano chili in a coconut milk kaffir-lime broth.


 Hot, crispy Salt Cod Croquettes with piri piri mayo...


...and a gorgeous dish of Manila Clams.  This is a welcome new spot for after work drinks near Penn Station and the circular bar makes it the perfect place for both a date and solo dinner.  

Lupulo
835 6th Avenue @29th Street
New York, NY 10001

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Buffalo- Holiday Lunch at Salvatore's

My last day of holiday vacation I had planned to spend touring the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake with my parents.  We were about 15 minutes from the border when I discovered my passport had expired!  Lucky for me my parents regrouped quickly and suggested lunch instead at Salvatore's Italian Garden.  


The first word that comes to mind when I think of Salvatore's is gaudy.  It's a big brash Italian restaurant decked out in all kinds of marble statues and fountains.  Everything from the enormous glass chandeliers in the lobby to the vintage toy displays in the bathroom. Barbie dolls for the women...


...and model cars for the Men's Room.


It's just completely over the top and for the holidays it's decked out even more with twinkling lights and Santa Clauses.  It's like a big winter wonderland Italian American style. I absolutely love the craziness of it all!  Not to mention the food and wine are quite delicious.  We began with a bottle of red wine and some appetizers like the Tenderloin Meatball stuffed with mozzarella cheese and topped with tomato sauce and ricotta.


A big order of fried Calamari with a side of chili ginger sauce and a bowl of crisp Italian Fries tossed with Parmesan cheese and white truffle oil.


I wasn't sure what to order for my entree so I tried the Salvatore's Classics; a combination of three signature dishes the Steak Salvatore, Chicken Piccata and White Truffle Prosciutto Tortellini.


Thank goodness I ended up sharing with my father because this was a ton of food. I almost didn't have room for dessert but my family never passes that up.


We split the Kit Kat a thick milk chocolate bar stuffed with crispy caramel and peanuts alongside the classic Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee.


It was a wonderful long and leisurely lunch filled with lots of wine and laughter.  We were actually there so long I had to head straight to the airport for my flight home once we finished.  I can't think of a better way to close out the holidays. I think this may become an annual tradition.

6461 Transit Road
Depew, NY 14043