Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Difara's Forever

Years ago I used to work out in Sheepshead Bay about once a month and I absolutely hated it.  The morning commute was long, things of convenience like banks and Duane Reade's were strangely situated avenues apart instead of every street corner and even my excitement of the nearby beach quickly diminished when I found the peaceful spot filled with large Russian men fueled on weekday vodka shots.

But then I found Di Fara's just subway stops away and the perfection of their incredible pies and the love that went into each and every one made me look forward to these trips on the Q train. Everything about the surrounding neighborhood seemed to get brighter.  I started finding cute little bodegas that had much cooler stuff than the boring Duane Reade and even those large Russian men were really quite a friendly bunch (and very open to sharing their vodka).  I stopped working out there about 5 years ago so when the opportunity arose for a random weekday meeting I jumped at the chance to check out the old 'hood and get a slice at my favorite Di Fara's.


The line outside at 12:00 was already about 25 people deep and there was Dom still shuffling back and forth between prepping dough, shifting hot pies in the oven and snipping leaves of fresh basil onto each and every pie.  He may not be moving as fast as he once did but his moves are determined and deliberate; an artistry of creating some of the best pizza in the world from a small mound of dough on a Brooklyn counter top.  


Everything about this pizza was just as I had remembered; the amazing red sauce with beautiful whole tomato, a charred crispy crust with just enough grit to keep your fingers a bit dusty and the glorious smell of basil, olive oil and freshly shredded cheese on top.


This isn't a pizza you just wolf down and go- it's a slice to savor with each and every bite.  In fact everyone around me seemed to realize that from the wide eyed tourists who kept whispering about the incredible crust ("I can't believe we're here") to the fashionistas who popped a bottle of bubbly with their pie from the liquor store across the street.  This may be just a pizza joint or there may just be a little bit of magic going on.

1424 Avenue J at East 15th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11230  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Brunch at Leyenda

Leyenda is my go-to spot in Brooklyn for just about any occasion.  They have an incredible cocktail program from the great Julie Reiner of the Clover Club and just recently her protege Ivy Mix won Best American Bartender at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.


I usually start with the Tia Mia a blend of mezcal, Jamaican rum, orange curaco, lime and orgeat.  It's got a spicy tropical little kick that always makes me feel like I'm on a beach somewhere far away.



Of course the food at Leyenda is just as strong as their drink program.  I love their Chicken Mole Enchiladas at dinner but for brunch I usually stick with the Huevos Divorciados; two poached eggs topped with salsa verde & roja served with a bright champagne vinaigrette salad (subbed in for homefries).  It's pretty much the perfect way to start off the weekend.


Leyenda

221 Smith Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Monday, June 27, 2016

Petite Abeille

I was having a serious craving for mussels last week so we walked over to Petite Abeille, a Belgium bar and restaurant in Stuyvesant Town.  Petite offers three different kinds of mussels; Mussels Marinieres with white wine & garlic, Mussels Basque with roasted peppers & chorizo and Mussel Grand Mere with cream & bacon.   Both Mr. T and I ordered our usual Marinieres but when our food arrived it was quite obvious they had brought us the Grand Mere instead.


I figured this would be an easy thing to fix so I grabbed our waiter and proceeded to have this conversation:

Me- "I think we received the wrong dish we ordered the Mussels Marinieres."
Waiter- "Yes that's the Mussels Marinieres"
Me- "Ummm...But this has bacon inside"
Waiter- "All of the mussels have bacon or chorizo."
Me-  "But we ordered the white wine mussels"
Waiter- "All of the mussels have white wine"
Me- "But this one has cream inside as well" (pointing to the giant pile of cream covered shells)
Waiter- "That's not cream that's garlic."


Well I was completely stumped after that interaction.  I looked across at Mr. T and he was just shaking his head.  There was obviously no way I was going to win this argument so we both just ate our mussels in creamy bacon beer sauce.  They were damn tasty in all honestly just not exactly what we had planned on eating.


Along with the surprise of creamy bacon mussels all Belgian beers were half price as a Monday night special so that made everything a little better.  

401 East 20th Street at 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Friday, June 24, 2016

New Brew Friday- Threes Day of the Dead

For today's New Brew Friday we're checking out Three's Day of the Dead- an American IPA brewed as their first can release.


Day of the Dead pours a muddy orange color with almost no head and an interesting nose of pine, tropical fruits and a touch of mint.  Mango, biscuit and pine flavors balance each other nicely making this just a really enjoyable beer and at only 6.9%.  What a welcome change from all of the big IPA's and DIPA's on the market right now.  This completely hits the mark. Cheers to the weekend!

Threes Brewing
333 Douglass Street at 4th Avenue
New York, NY 11217

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sweetness at Maialino

I love living so close to all of Danny Meyers restaurants.  It's so easy to pop into Gramercy Tavern for a bite at the bar, Blue Smoke for some ribs or over to Maialino for a glass of wine and a delicious dessert. The seasonal Strawberry Rhubarb Sundae was catching my eye on my last visit but the Hazelnut Chocolate Bread Pudding won out in the end (as chocolate usually does).



Rich eggy cake sitting atop a swirl of hazelnut cream and topped with a dollop of Vanilla Bean Marscapone and Praline crunchies.  Bread Pudding perfection.

Maialino
2 Lexington Avenue at 21st Street
New York, NY 10010

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fried Goodness at Masha and The Bear

It's now officially summer which means time for corn on the cob, burgers on the grill and sun kissed pitchers of Iced Tea.  It also means that instead of just the usual Fried Pickles at Masha and The Bear in Brooklyn they now have Fried Watermelon.


The watermelon is chopped into square cubes then deep fried with a spicy outer coating that starts to burn the edges of your lips after just a few bites.


Inside the nugget literally bursts with watermelon juice and provides a cooling component for the spicy crust.


Of course there's regular Fried Pickles on the menu as well for purists but the watermelon are a great new summer twist on an old favorite.


I suggest pairing the watermelon with one of their potent house-made vodkas or a delicious craft beer (with proper glassware) for a spicy summer snack.

771 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Monday, June 20, 2016

Brunch at Llama Inn

It's not every day that Mr. T gets excited about a brunch dish.  In fact our recent visit to the Llama Inn might be the very first time I've seen him actually happy at brunch and that's even with the loud bumping music playing overhead. 

 The Llama Inn is a new Peruvian restaurant located on the odd stretch of land below the Brooklyn Queens expressway in Williamsburg. We were just stopping by for a quick bite but ended up staying all afternoon after this dish completely blew us away- the Beef Tenderloin Stir Fry.


Two perfectly fried eggs sat atop a mound of beef, french fries, tomato and slices of banana with a rich, slightly spicy sauce covering the base drizzled with rocoto pepper crema.  Everything about this dish was incredible- the meat was tender as a filet, the french fries somehow stayed crispy and the banana imparted a sweet tropical flavor that brought it all together.


In addition to the incredible food the other big draw was obviously the Llama theme.  Everything from the art work, to the coasters to the pens were all about Llamas. Of course I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try out a themed cocktail the Pina Collama.


Then we moved upstairs to their rooftop bar for a few Dolly Llama's; cocktail slushies made with pisco, lemon juice, red wine and strawberry shrub.


Llamas, rooftops, great food and drink; I see myself spending quite a few summer days at this place.

50 Withers Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Big Apple BBQ 2016

The Big Apple BBQ is always such a great event each year.  I'm a little biased since it's only one block from my apartment which means I can run home at any point to put leftovers in the fridge, use the bathroom or grab a beer; but seriously it's an amazing event.  This year I got there early to hit up Salt Lick BBQ from Driftwood, Texas.  The line was already long at 10:45 but they kept people happy with trays full of brisket and short rib samples. Plus kudos to the crew- I was probably about 150 people back at the start time of 11:00 AM and had food in hand by 11:10. 


Salt Lick was doling out thick, juicy sausage with slices of brisket and some of the best BBQ sauce I've ever had.  I came back Sunday afternoon to buy a bottle for home but they were long gone. This will definitely be on my to-do for next year.


I hit up all the usual suspects Dinosaur BBQ, Martins, etc. but in need of a little something sweet with my meat I booked it to Sugaree's.  The Strawberry Cake from this Mississippi based bakery was made with real strawberries in both the batter and the frosting creating a delicious slice of southern life.  

Big Apple BBQ

Sugaree's Bakery
110 West Bankhead Street
New Albany, MS 38652

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Edwin & Neal's

Mr.T and I love Upstate Oyster Bar.  The food is fantastic, the small space cozy and inviting plus there's free cake for dessert!  So when the duo opened up sister restaurant Edwin & Neal's right around the corner I knew we had to stop in for a full dinner.


Oysters to begin... a great variety of plump/creamy and small/sweet.  The clams were exactly as clams usually are...kind of gross.  Mr. T's orders them about once every two years firmly declaring his love for the bivalvia then recoiling in disgust after one bite.  I remind him each time but he never listens.  Check back sometime in 2018 for the next clam debate. 


Entrees include more seafood options like crispy fried Fish Tacos with guacamole, grilled Salmon and this incredible Sea Bass lightly seasoned with lemon, herbs and butter. It was light and summery served alongside a creamy corn polenta dusted with brussels sprout.


And a bowl of chubby rigatoni tossed with a Cajun crusted shrimp, shrimp sausage and a light Parmesan sauce.  Upstate always executed fantastic shrimp dishes and this one was just as spot on.  Actually the only small problem we encountered at Edwin & Neals was the slow service.  Our food took a long time to arrive which lead to a few too many Negroni's and Rose's...


...which then lead me into hysterics over this sign.


Honestly I still find it ridiculously funny.  For Upstate food with the added bonus of online reservations Edwin & Neals is a welcome addition to the East Village 'hood.

Edwin and Neal's
345 East 6th Street @East 6th Street
New York, NY 10003

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Happy Hour at The Warren

Situated in far West Village right outside the Path train is the brand new Warren; a cozy American bistro with a relaxing vibe and a fantastic happy hour 7 different drinks, 7 different apps for just $7 until 7:00 PM every day.


It's great to visit when the sun is shining and a nice breeze flows in from the open windows. It's the perfect time for a crisp glass of Rose and a platter of briny oysters.



Of course I can never pass up a good Steak Tartare especially when it comes with creamy horseradish sauce on the side.



The happy hour menu has something for everyone- Grilled Octopus, Twice Fried Chicken, SHORT RIB POUTINE!  God I love poutine so much I don't know how I passed on that last visit.  This is just a perfect spot to kick back after a long day of work and chill out.

The Warren
131 Christopher Street @Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Gotan

I was invited to a great evening once again with the EatersDrinkers group at the brand new location of Gotan in midtown.  This sleek new cafe is churning out some absolutely incredible food and coffee drinks.


For those looking to start the day with something bright and healthy Gotan has these gorgeous Chia Seed bowls topped with slices of fresh strawberry and blueberries.


Or for something a little bit more hearty some fried eggs with chorizo, kale, butternut squash and cauliflower marscapone.


I'm personally a HUGE fan of Shakshuka and order it 9 out of 10 times for brunch.  Gotan's green version is fantastic; studded with big chunks of creamy feta cheese and pine nuts.


But Gotan doesn't just stop at breakfast food they do great lunch items as well like this incredible Fattoush Salad...


...and specialty sandwiches like Squash Ricotta, Brisket and Beet with Hard Boiled Egg.


If this place was a little closer to my office I could see myself eating here every single day.  Until then it's a great excuse to make the trek across town.  

20 West 46th Street between 5th & 6th
New York, NY 10036

Monday, June 6, 2016

It's the Start of Negroni Week!

Mr. T's favorite cocktail in the world is so popular it has its very own week with special Negroni variations all over the city.  I'm especially excited about the Rosato Negroni at Pecora Bianca made with Fords Gin, Lillit Rose, Campari, grapefruit and orange juice and I'm sure Mr. T will be all over the barrel aged Negroni at neighborhood Maialino. All of the participating bars and restaurants can be found here.  But if your looking to make one at home here's a variation I just tried out using one of my favorite spirits of all time Macchu Pisco.

Pisco Negroni

6 Tablespoons Macchu Pisco
1/4 cup sweet vermouth
8 drops of orange bitters
1/4 Campari

Combine all ingredients and shake then divide between two glasses filled with ice.  Garnish with a slice of orange zest.

Multiple Locations

Friday, June 3, 2016

New Brew Friday- Events!

So many great things going on this weekend in the NYC beer world I need to take a break from drinking great beer just to talk about them. 

  •  Threes Brewing-  Today at 3:00 PM Threes Brewing will be doing their 1st ever can release of two different brews; an IPA Day of the Dead and the Vliet Pilsner.  They made a bunch of these so the limit is 2 cases per style.  Time to load up for those summer BBQ's and beach days.
  • Other Half- Saturday Other Half will be doing another triple can release this time Grits 'n' Greens Pilsner brewed with Creature Comforts,  No Lays Up imperial IPA brewed with The Answer Brewpub in Virginia and finally their imperial amarillo IPA Suparillo.  The release starts at 10:00 AM but it would be best to be in line early because these beers will certainly sell out quickly.
  • Talk Beer Charity Bottle Share Raffle- Tickets to the charity bottle share on Saturday are all sold out but raffle tickets are still available until 5:00 on Saturday.  There's some fantastic bottles being raffled off including Russian River Beatification Batch 007, Lambik Ohrwal (Uli blend) and a crazy rare bottle of Apple Brandy Barrel Marshall Zhukov with Vanilla Bean.  I was lucky enough to try that beer at Hunahpu Day this year and it lived up to every expectation. All proceeds go directly to help animals in need through Rawhide Animal Rescue so there's really no excuse not to purchase at least one for such a great cause.  Tickets are available by clicking here.  Cheers to the weekend!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Amy Ruth's

There are some things in life totally worth waiting for- like Amy Ruth's fried chicken.  This place almost always has a line outside but it moves quickly and once inside your immediately given a basket of buttery cornbread to snack on until the real food arrives...



...some of the best fried chicken in the entire city.  Crisp and golden brown on the outside with crunchy nubs around the sweet spots, a seriously juicy middle that releases a puff of steam with the first knife slice jam packed with white meat then drizzled in a sweet layer of honey.


Most people swear by the Chicken and Waffles but the regular honey dipped is where it's at for me. I almost want to bring my Mike's Hot Honey along next time to give the dish a little heat but for now the hot sauce on the table works just as well.  With a side of collard greens, mac and cheese and a frosty Sugar Hill Ale brewed right in Harlem- it just doesn't get any better than this.

Amy Ruth's
113 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10026

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Brunch at Martin Cooks

Brunch is somewhat of a recent event in Buffalo.  Years ago there were only one or two spots that understood the importance of runny eggs and fruity cocktails on weekend mornings.  However there's been a big shift recently and now lots of new places offer brunch; Martin Cooks being one of the best.


The bright lively space was absolutely packed my last visit.  Luckily my friend Ben has the same feeling as me in these situations- more time for cocktails!!  I started with the Apothecary Reviver made with Rum, Thai Basil, Cucumber and Kale (gotta get those veggies in) before moving onto to  a juicy Blueberry Mojito.



Once seated we had a chance to peruse the menu which changes seasonally. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate Spring than a gorgeous bowl Shrimp & Asparagus Risotto.



This dish has everything I could ask for at brunch; ultra creamy risotto, bright slivers of asparagus and a cheesy fried egg on top.  Brunch perfection!  


Unfortunately the MC Classic Burger didn't do as well.  The double patty was topped with way too much stuff- chunky tomato compote, American cheese, lettuce, hot peppers, mac sauce, onions; all of this in between a small, dry bun.  It was impossible to pick up, everything slid around and fell apart.  Hopefully they will remedy this situation with a bigger bun in the future.

One incredible dish, one just so so lots and lots of delicious cocktails.  Still a great way to start the day!

346 Connecticut Street
Buffalo, NY 14213