Thursday, July 28, 2016

Return to Momofuku Nishi

I was feeling pretty sentimental earlier this month when Lin Manuel gave his very last performance in Hamilton.  Ever since I had the amazing opportunity to see the show (thanks to my friends Justin and Cate) I listen to the entire album an average of 4-5 times per week. That might sound insane but there's something so addictive about it I just can't get enough. So on Lin's final night I decided to go back to the very restaurant I dined at right after seeing the show- Momofuku Nishi- to pay tribute to the show. 

Since my last visit there have been quite a few changes to the menu and even the service was a bit different than before- in a good way.  The servers seemed more comfortable in the space, more knowledgeable about the menu and beers were poured with care instead of one big glass of foam.

We started once again with the Fried Whole Shrimp dusted with salt and pepper. Mr. T loves these things. Eating the shells always makes me a bit squeamish so I just have one or two and save myself for the other appetizers like the Raw Beef.

Gorgeous ribbons of beef sliced thin then tossed with watermelon radish and delicious dashi ponzu.  I love this dish.  Onto the fish portion of the meal Diver Scallops with tigers milk and shio kombu...

...and of course the incredibly amazing Ceci e Pepe from last visit.

Actually it's no longer listed on the menu as Ceci Pepe, Chang changed the name to Butter Noodle with chickpea hozon and black pepper.  Why?  I don't know and I honestly don't care as long as that rich creamy bowl of pasta stays on the menu forever.

We were hoping to have cap off the meal with the Spicy Beef Sichuan flat noodle from the previous visit but it had been revamped into Spicy Beef Shells with mint and crispy shallot.  I just don't find shells as satisfying as a noodle so I was a bit disappointed but maybe that dish will make a return on my next visit. 

Momofuku Nishi just launched a new happy hour every day from 5:30-7:00 that includes Zombie cocktails, Pork Buns and the "Impossible Burger" which apparently taste like meat but made 100% from plants.  Of course the city's vegans and vegetarians are already flocking to Nishi in record numbers to try out this new creation so go for lunch or hit happy hour early as only a limited amount are available each day.

232 8th Avenue between 21st & 22nd St.
New York, NY10011

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Happy Hour at Tarallucci E Vino

In the never ending search for the city's best happy hour we stopped into Union Square's Tarallucci E Vino Friday night.  It was about 5:30 and this lively little wine bar was already jam packed with people at all of tables and bar stools in front. It was about 90 degrees outside so I'm pretty sure the usual patio goers had passed up those outdoor seats in favor of some cold AC.  In a move to beat the heat Mr. T and I went for our usual summer order of pink drinks; a dry Negroni and a crisp fruity rose.

We were heading to dinner in a few hours but looking at their bar menu I started having second thoughts.  Eggplant Caponata with tomato and capers, Cashews, Peanuts and Pecans dusted with chili and sea salt, Blue Point Oysters; finally we decided to cave in and split an order of the Bufala Milk Ricotta.

Creamy Ricotta cheese spread thick atop grilled baguette then dressed with roasted grapes and sweet honey.  This was the perfect little snack to complement our drinks and stave off hunger for a few more hours. 

Happy Hour at Tarallucci E Vino runs Monday thru Saturday from 4:00-7:00 with wine, beer and Negroni's for $7.00 and a small menu of snacks under $5.00 a piece.  Pink drinks, delicious cheese and great company- everything I could ask for in a great happy hour!

Tarallucci E Vino
15 East 18th Street between Broadway and 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10003

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Isn't it crazy to think that in a city filled with so many different cuisines like big bowls of Pho from Vietnam, spicy Mapo Tofu from China and even those huge Beef Ribs of Texas, that only two or three places exist focusing on Hawaiian food; and year old Noreetuh happens to be one of them.

Located in a tiny space just off St. Mark's Noreetah is a sparsely decorated, casual spot helmed by Chef Chung Chow (former sous chef at Per Se).  The menu is broken into three sections beginning with "snacks" like salty, earthy Taro Chips dusted with shaved black truffle, perfect for munching on with a crisp cold Hawaiian beer or possibly a bit more daring the Mochiko Chicken Wings.

The first bite of these wings can be a little harsh, almost like biting straight into the rind of a citrus fruit.  That would be the Calamansi; a Filipino hybrid of the mandarin orange and kumquat that has a strong sour, bitter flavor. It can be a bit shocking but I implore you to keep eating. Your taste-buds will recover on the second bite and sweet, juicy flavors of orange and spicy chili come to the forefront melding together into a gorgeous tropical sauce that is deliciously addictive.

Starters include six different raw fish dishes and one vegetarian. The Poke craze that is rolling around the city is alive and well here with an incredible bowl of Big Eye Tuna dotted with sliced macadamia nuts, seaweed and pickled jalapenos.

Entrees like Spam Agnolotti with snow peas,  Kaluha Pork Cavatelli and Mochi Crusted Bass all seem intriguing.  However I suggest checking out the Pork Porterhouse; an enormous piece of tender, juicy meat dressed with caramelized pineapple, chanterelle mushroom and spring onion- a true taste of the islands.

128 1st Avenue at St. Mark's Place
New York, NY 10009

Friday, July 22, 2016

New Brew Friday- Bells Double Two Hearted

It's New Brew Friday and I'm drinking a beer that's so new I didn't even know it existed- Double Two Hearted from Bells Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  I've always been a big fan of their regular Centennial hopped IPA Two Hearted so seeing this double version on tap at the Double Windsor is sheer excitement.

Huge aromas of candied orange, grapefruit and pine burst from the glass.  All the flavors of a regular Two Hearted are present but ultra magnified; intense grapefruit, mango, pine and sweet malt with an aggressively bitter hoppy finish.  This is one big boozy DIPA- cheers to the weekend!

Bell's Brewery

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fette Sau

BBQ and America go together just like beer and pretzels.  So 4th of July we headed to Fette Sau to celebrate and have a much needed meat fest.

Fette Sau is set up very similar to Hometown BBQ with a counter in the back for ordering food, a separate bar focused on local craft beers and big communal tables both indoors and outside. The line was pretty long when we arrived but it ended up taking us only about 20 minutes to get to the ordering station. 

I was pretty bummed that the smoked pastrami and beef ribs both ran out before we got to the front.  I guess that's one of the downfalls of dining over a holiday weekend. However we did our usual over-ordering and had more than enough to eat with Spare Ribs, Pulled Pork and Brisket.  

I really liked the smoky, crackly brisket that was right in between fatty and lean and of course the amazing side of Baked Beans.

The sauce was a bit too rich but the massive amount of burnt ends inside that tiny bowl was astonishing.  There were so many huge chunks of meat! Plus they gave us those slightly sweet Hawaiian rolls instead of plain bread which is a big win in my book.

Another surprise win was the side of Broccoli Salad.  It was bright and sour, not quite pickled but with great acidity for cutting through the fatty meat.

After dinner it was over to Spuyten Duyvil for some relaxing beers in the backyard followed by rooftop drinks and fireworks.

Another great 4th of July in the books!

354 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ippudo Westside

Sunday of 4th of July weekend felt like a magical snow day of sorts to me.  We had zero obligations, the city was completely empty and there was no work the following day. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to take Mr. T to lunch at one of my favorite Korean spots Danji.  

I'll admit maybe somewhere in our area may have been a better choice. Both of us had a few too many beers the night before and traveling up to the westside didn't exactly seem like fun but I was determined.  I really, really wanted to eat at Danji.  So I dragged Mr. T off the couch and onto the excruciating hot train up to Hell's Kitchen; through all of the tourists and sailors in Times Square finally to Danji where we found the grate pulled shut and lights off.  CLOSED! I couldn't' believe it! I had even checked the website to make sure they were open however in my holiday weekend excitement I kept thinking it was Saturday not Sunday and yeah...we were completely out of luck. I could see this error quickly escalating Mr. T from Code Yellow hangover toward Code Red anger but lucky for me one of his favorite spots was just around the corner and actually open...Ippudo Westside.  

Nobody can stay angry while eating the delicious Hirata buns at Ippudo.  Steaming hot rice buns stuffed with a sweet and spicy pork belly, crisp lettuce and mayo.  These glorious little pockets of goodness were only surpassed by the amazing Frozen Yuzu Sake-Rita; basically a sour cocktail slushie that completely took away any of the beer blues from the night before.

An order of Tori Karaage served with shishito peppers and a spicy mentaiko mayo.  These always take a little longer to make than the other dishes but it's worth the wait for that salty, crisp exterior and juicy innards.  Just be careful not to burn the roof of your mouth on the first bite (I do almost every singe time).

And of course a big steaming bowl of Akamaru Modern style ramen with pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms and Ippudo's Umami Dama paste.  It was all smiles and happy bellies after this bowl of filling noodles :)

Ippudo Westside
321 West 51st Street btw 8th & 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10019

Friday, July 15, 2016

Let's Talk Bordeaux

Bordeaux wines are one of the most famous wine blends in the world and along with that distinction boast some of the heftiest price tags.  Even the newest vintage of First Growth Bordeaux wines such as Chateau Margaux and Chateau Mouton Rothschild sell for an average of $1,000 and up.  What many people don't realize is that many smaller producers are creating beautiful, well balanced Bordeaux wines that are absolutely wonderful at just a fraction of the cost.  I had the pleasure of exploring some of these a few weeks ago with the incredible wine maker and consultant Olivier Dauga; whose love of loud shirts and rugby was only surpassed by his passion for creating approachable and affordable Bordeaux wines. Here are four of my favorite from the evening:

Chateau Macay 2011 Classic-  This wine has a gorgeous clear garnet color with bright, aromatic dark fruit flavors and subtle hints of spice. It's a soft elegant wine perfect for just about any occasion.
Price- $20 

Chateau La Pirouette 2011- This wine is a classic Bordeaux blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot aged 12 months in new oak barrels.  It has a dark cherry complexion with a big red fruit aromas and well structured balance of spice, oak and cherry.
Price- $25

La Pommeraie De Brown 2012- This wine pours a beautiful scarlet red with purple tints and strong aromas of wood, tobacco and chocolate.  It's big and round; best paired with something earthy and rich like a mushroom lasagna or slow braised short rib.
Price- $34

Chateau Brown 2012- Much deeper purple in color than it's counterpart the Pommeraie with a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 5% Petite Verdot.  The aroma is licorice, earth and smoke with flavors of both black and red cherries with a round silky body.

Price- $45


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lunch at Momoya

Almost every sushi spot in the city offers some sort of lunch special.  Many are pretty terrible (slimy green salad and stringy spicy tuna rolls anyone) but some are absolutely fantastic.  Like any of the 15 different lunch specials at Momoya all for under $20.  

Miso soup or salad always to start; the standard carrot-ginger dressing on top of crisp greens and sliced radish.  Followed by entree choices like Bento Box with Teriyaki Chicken or Salmon, Donburi with Eel or classic Sushi Bar dishes like the 6 piece sushi with California roll.

As you can see each piece of fish is beautifully dressed; sliced jalapeno on Yellowtail, yuzu mayo dollop atop Ebi and fish roe on Snapper.  The sushi is always incredibly fresh and even the avocado in the roll was the perfect ripened texture.  Plus sitting at the sushi bar means conversing with the chef's who are so friendly and eager to share their delicious creations. Momoya offers lunch 7 days a week from 12:00- 2:30 each day.

185 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

La Sirena

La Sirena is the brand new restaurant from Italian superstars Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich.  The last venture these two opened in NYC was Eataly, arguably my favorite spot in the city, so I was beyond hyped up for this meal.  Usually this kind of excitement leads me down a dark path of sadness and disappointment but at La Sirena my every expectation was met and more.

Let's start with the cocktail program which is fantastic.  The menu has over two dozen drinks broken down into six different categories like Fresh & Crisp, Rich & Robust and Stirred & Boozy.  Of course there are the classic Negroni's and Sicilian Sour's but also fun old favorites like the Singapore Sling served here with Cherry Herring and pineapple. 

The space itself is stunning both inside and outside. The weather was fabulous when we dined so we opted for the terrace where the white tiled floors and fresh flowers made it feel like we were at a resort somewhere far away.

And of course the food was amazing. Each meal at La Sirena begins a basket of warm fluffy bread studded with sesame seeds.  I usually try to forgo the early carbs but I was no match for this sweet, nutty loaf of bread.  

For appetizers a summery Fluke Crudo with bright sugar snap peas, chili and lemon zest that had the perfect balance of citrus and spice...

...and a rich Roasted Quail stuffed with rosemary, garlic and greens on top a sweet rhubarb puree.

La Sirena has a full menu of Secondi including Crispy Branzino, Swordfish and Fried Rabbit but pasta was the main draw at our table; Tonarelli Neri with lobster, sweet corn and jalapeno...

...a hearty Cavatelli with Spare Ribs served Leonetta Style in chunky tomato sauce...

...and my absolute favorite of the night the Panzotti; delicate little purses of pasta stuffed with leek and mascarpone in a Castelmango & brown butter sauce.  This was the kind of delicious where your eyes roll back into your head- my little bowl of heaven right there.

We didn't have any room for dessert but we did get a chance to check out the bar really quick and I highly suggest stopping by for a drink.  These may be the most comfortable bar stools I have ever experienced and there's even a charging station at each seat so you can power up your cell phone in complete luxury.  A meal here isn't cheap but it's not overly expensive either.  I found the price point to be right on par with the quality of food, decor and service.  I think Batali and Bastianich have another winner on their hands.  Saluti!

88 9th Avenue at 17th Street
New York, NY 10011

Thursday, July 7, 2016

JG Melon- West Village

I absolutely love what's happening in the West Village lately.  All of my favorite restaurants from the far reaches of the city are migrating into one small area over there.  Bob White has expanded west onto 7th Avenue South, Tacombi has moved down from Madison onto a busy corner of Bleeker and just a few blocks east of that is the new JG Melon's; one of my favorite burger places from the UES.

There's nothing particularly fancy about this burger which is one of the reasons it's so good; fluffy lightly toasted bun, American cheese and a juicy patty that's always cooked a perfect medium rare the entire way through with just a bit of crisp salty char on the outside.

There's no crazy toppings like foie gras or peanut could add on some crispy strips of bacon if you prefer but I think the original is best.  

Round, crinkly Cottage Fries to round out the experience; comfort food at it's finest and always a solid meal.  Welcome to the West Side!

89 MacDougal Street
New York, NY 10012

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summer Fancy Food Show 2016

Each June the Specialty Food Association kicks off their annual Summer Fancy Food Show at the Jacob Javits Center; three days filled with a staggering amount of the latest and greatest in the food and beverage industry.  This year was the biggest event yet with over 47,000 industry professionals in attendance and 2,670 exhibitors.  Obviously I wasn't able to taste everything.  There were so many different coconut chips, specialty chili chocolates and coffee infused items I could have spent a day just on those three food sectors alone.  But here are a few products that really stood out to me over the course of three crazy food coma days.

"Healthy" beverages were a HUGE theme running across the show.  I sampled so many coconut waters, kombucha's, micro-brewed teas and chia seed energy drinks that I was practically floating. One of my favorites was Detox Water created by Kenneth Park right here in Brooklyn, NY.

After Kenneth's Mom experienced severe digestive issues with no relief from medication she began incorporating aloe water into her diet every day based on a doctors recommendation. Her stomach problems completely cleared and she began putting aloe water into all of her family's drinks.  In addition to aiding digestive health aloe water also helps with anti-inflammatory, immune system and skin health.  And it actually taste fantastic!  I'm a huge fan of the original Lychee flavor and Mr. T loves the Mango.

Another great new beverage were these gourmet Sangria's from Casa Lolea.  They're made with high quality wines and fresh juice which are unpasteurized to keep the all the natural qualities and give the wine a little sparkling kick.  These would be absolutely perfect for a lazy summer picnic in Central Park.  

Brand new ready-to-go sauces were also abundant; my favorite being the Cajun style creations from Chef' Z in flavors of Gumbo, Etouffee, Bayou and Jambalaya.  His dishes have been featured on Food Network's "The Best Thing You Ever Ate" and after sampling his Jambalaya I was in heaven.

Of course I always have to give a shout-out to my favorite chocolatier in the city Chocolate Moderne was there sampling some of my favorites like the creamy Solbeso Mi Mucho and the spicy Hazelnut Gianduja.

I also really enjoyed the chocolates from Moonstruck Chocolate Co. out in Portland Oregon. Each one was infused with a different beer ranging from the creamy Black Butte Porter of Deschutes to the crisp, hoppy IPA of Full Sail Brewing.

Of course there was lots and lots of cheese...something I have zero self-control around. I loved the creamy flagship blue cheese from Point Reyes Cheese Company (Winner of Best Cheese/Dairy Product at the 2011 Fancy Food Show).

My favorite cheese this year was the Bellavitano Merlot from Wisconsin; a rich, creamy blend of Cheddar and Parmesan cheese soaked in Merlot.  The rich notes of plum would have made this the perfect pairing with a glass of red wine but so versatile it even worked with a crisp bottle of Shiner Bock.

Cheers to another great Fancy Food Show.  Meeting so many great new people excited about their products and changing the face of of food and beverage as we know it today is always energizing.  Plus any event where I can eat my weight in cheese is pretty fantastic!

Fancy Food Show
Jacob Javits Center