Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Taste Talks & The New York Coffee Festival

Summer's coming to a close which means shorter days, cooler temps and lots more food festivals! There's of course the New York City Food and Wine Festival in the middle of October followed by the incredible Star Chef's ICC.  And in just a few weeks caffeine and BBQ lovers have two great weekend events taking over the city Taste Talks and the NYC Coffee Festival.

Taste Talks will be held out in Brooklyn again this year with Chef Sean Brock curating the event.  It all kicks off with Mission Chinese Food's Low Country Boil followed by a Chicken & Waffles Brunch, the Future Food Expo, multiple tastings, workshops, panels and of course the All Star BBQ at East River State Park.  I still think about that spicy Boar Collar from Andy Richter of Pok Pok the inaugural year. The fest runs September 9th-11th and tickets can be purchased here.

The New York Coffee Festival returns taking over the 69th Regiment Armory again September 16th-18th.  Fest goers can expect over 70 exhibitors, many with brand new coffee products not yet seen anywhere else; Latte of Arts Live where some of the city's best baristas will be teaching the art of making beautiful lattes and the amazing Espresso Martini Bar which will provide a delicious range of coffee cocktails.  The full schedule of events is on their website and tickets can be purchased here.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Momosan Ramen & Sake

Iron Chef Morimoto opened a ramen bar in midtown and because it's the incredible Morimoto this place is much more than just a noodle joint.  There's rich chunks of house made Peking Duck inside a crisp goyza shell with cucumber, hoisin and a sweet apricot chili sauce.

There's a satisfying Braised Pork Belly Bao served with a wedge of lettuce and a smear of mustard mayo...

...and one of the most incredible poke bowls I've had in NYC to date.  Thick cubes of soy marinated tuna tossed with nori and scallion atop a bed of fluffy white rice.  I seriously have dreams about this bowl.

And then of course there's Ramen available in small or large size with four different variations including spicy curry coconut and steamed Tokyo Chicken.  We got the standard Tonkotsu with thick strips of pork, mushroom and soft boiled egg all inside a silky, creamy broth.  

Everything about Momosan was fantastic.  I really enjoyed the fun decor, the service was great and I love that they offer ramen in two different sizes.  I usually struggle to finish a big bowl on my own (especially with all the delicious starters) so a smaller option is perfect. This place is amazing and people definitely know about it so go early or expect to put in a serious wait for a spot.

342 Lexington Avenue at 39th Street
New York, NY 10016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Return to Ed's Lobster Bar

Saturday night I had a shocking revelation. The summer was almost over and I had yet to enjoy a single lobster roll.  Mr. T and I were actually on our way to Parm for their incredible mozzarella sticks but as we walked past Ed's all thoughts of Italian food went out the door and seconds later we were sitting at the bar with cocktails in hand and lobster rolls on our plate.

Two top loading buns toasted on the grill with butter then stuffed with fresh claw meat, mayo and a sprinkle of herbs.  I was trying to be somewhat healthy with greens on the side but the long crispy french fries Mr. T got were a much better choice. 

Paired with a refreshing John Daly this meal couldn't get a better summer time vibe.

Ed's Lobster Bar
222 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Brunch at Bar Sardine

Sunday was another one of Mr. T's "couch days" which of course I just never enjoy.  The thought of sitting in one place all day just watching TV or playing videos games has absolutely zero appeal.  Apparently people find it relaxing; I think I would gouge my eyeballs out from boredom. So I set out on my own with Mr. T encouraging me to go do yoga somewhere and find my inner peace.  Obviously I did not go do yoga (I tried it once- not for me) but I did find my inner peace and an incredible burger at the cute little West Village spot Bar Sardine.

I came here about two years ago when this spot was known Chez Sardine and enjoyed a wonderful brunch of Baked Eggs with ricotta cheese. Since then the name has changed along with the menu to include fresh new items like Asparagus Primavera with fried egg and salsa verde, Grilled Cheese with eggplant-tomato tapenade and of course the Fedora Burger.

The patty's a blend of chuck and brisket topped with layer of smoked cheddar cheese, thinly sliced cucumbers, onions, fried potato sticks and BBQ mayo.  Now I'm not a huge cucumber or onion fan but I decided to go with the standard order and I'm happy I did.  Everything on this burger just worked together; the cooling cucumber, the smoky/sweet BBQ sauce and salty potato sticks that gave a satisfying crunch with each bite.

The sturdy grilled potato roll maintained all of the toppings and sauce without turning me or my plate into a soggy mess.  This burger was just fantastic; easily one of the best I've had this year and one of the most affordable as well at just $14 (fries are extra).

Delicious solo brunch for me, couch day for Mr. T; pretty perfect Sunday for the two of us :)

Bar Sardine
183 West 10th Street
New York, NY 10014

Friday, August 19, 2016

New Brew Friday- Union Square Greenmarket Edition

It's an absolutely gorgeous day to be in NYC.  The sun is shining, there's actually a cool breeze instead of the crazy humidity we've had all week and the Union Square Greenmarket is hosting its 2nd Summer Friday of the year with the Beer and Spirits of New York Pop Up.

All evening local brewers, distillers and cideries will be on hand giving out free samples of their beverages like From The Ground Brewery in Red Hook and Plan Bee Brewing in Poughkeepsie; possibly the nicest brewing couple in the business churning out refreshing honey Saisons and Wild Ales.

Aaron Burr and Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cidery...

...and my favorite local distiller Port Morris with their stunning Pitorro Coquito.  Every time I have this spirit I'm floored.  It's got those great coconut, vanilla and cinnamon flavors of a regular coquito but there's no work.  It's all right there in the bottle ready to go.

In addition to the free samples there are various food vendors on hand from the neighborhood, an entire wine/beer/cider garden and live music.  The great people of Grow NYC put this event on and really do an incredible job of promoting local farmers in our area.

So get outside and check out some great new brews this weekend- Cheers!

Union Square Greenmarket

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Happy Hour at Sagaponack

It's crazy to think almost all of my neighborhood happy hour places have closed over the past year- City Crab, Duke's, Tasca Chino....all boarded up and gone.  I've had to expand my search west for new options which landed me at Sagaponack; an adorable restaurant/bar styled after the breezy, beach life of Southhampton.

During happy hour Sagaponack offers $4 draft beers, $5 wines and $9 cocktails; all of which are much better than the average happy hour choices.  The beers are from local breweries like Montauck and Braven Brewing, the wines are Wolffer Estate (the perfect summer rose) and the house cocktails are incredible!  I highly suggest the Smokey Farmer, a twist on an Old Fashioned made with Johnny Walker and wine barrel smoke, creating a big swirling cloud above the drink like some sort of neat magic trick.  Or for something incredibly refreshing the Rosemary Bramble made with Montauck Citrus Gin, Yuzu, Creme de 'Mure, blackberries and rosemary essence.  You really can't go wrong with anything here; plus happy hour extends into the weekend from 4:00-7:00 Monday- Saturday.  Oh the elusive Saturday Happy Hour- always such a treat to find :)

4 West 22nd Street between 5th & 6th
New York, NY 10010

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Lunch at TESSA

When I think of Amsterdam Avenue I tend to think of run down frat bars serving buckets of Bud Light to college aged kids.  At least that's the Amsterdam Avenue I knew growing up, but it's certainly not the case anymore. Shiny new stores and restaurants are taking over those grungy old bars and turning them into great new spots like the gorgeous restaurant TESSA.

This place has a little bit of everything; a chic urban bar and lounge area up front, rustic exposed brick walls in the main dining room, a breezy sidewalk cafe and an elegant wine room in back for private dining.  The menu is Modern Mediterranean with a variety of small plates like this twist on a Tuna Tartare with chopped avocado, stonefruit and quinoa...

...a crisp, refreshing Watermelon, Feta & Heirloom Tomato Salad topped with fresh basil and lemon verbena dressing...

...and a creamy Burrata complemented by aged balsamic, beets, hazelnuts and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Mains include a variety of sandwiches and pastas like the hearty Vegetable Zucca with spring onion, chayote, baby heirloom tomatoes and basil pesto...

...and a delicious Chicken Club with crunchy alfalfa sprouts and herb ailoli on a brioche bun.

I don't usually splurge on desserts at lunch but since we were guests how could we refuse and I suggest you doing so as well.  Pastry Chef Yarisis Jacobo is churning out some incredible confections like this Chocolate Cremeux with salted caramel mousse, chocolate coconut chattily and a scoop of hazelnut ice cream...

...and this wonderful Vanilla Panna Cotta with caramelized apricots, berries and dulce de leche cream.

In addition to the wonderful food TESSA has a pretty serious cocktail program going on like this Latitude Zero made with Cachaca, grapefruit, lavender-honey, chambord and rosemary...

...and these fun, pink Watermelon Martini's perfect for cooling down in this scorching hot weather.

TESSA is open for dinner every night with lunch Monday- Friday from 11:30- 3:00 PM and brunch on Saturday and Sundays.  

349 Amsterdam Avenue between 76 & 77th Street
New York, NY 10024

Monday, August 15, 2016

Restaurant Week Lunch at Gotham Bar and Grill

Today marks the final countdown of NYC Restaurant Week and while there are so many places I have yet to try, I find myself coming back to my old favorite Gotham Bar and Grill. There's just something wonderful about dining at the bar here.  It's sleek and elegant with fantastic bartenders who always make me feel completely at ease as a solo diner.

My usual order is the incredible Miso Marinated Black Cod, but during restaurant week it's all about the 3 course menu- Argentine Shrimp Ceviche with tropical fruits, citrus, avocado and grenada chili emulsion to begin.

Followed by a a bright summery Nova Scotia Halibut with sweet corn, peppers, swiss chard and verjus emulsion.

And of course the Gotham Chocolate Cake with salted almond ice cream to finish...the classic end to a fabulous meal.

12 East 12th Street
New York, NY 10003

Friday, August 12, 2016

New Brew Friday- Trillium Galaxy Dry Hopped Fort Point

It's New Brew Friday and since it feels like a furnace outside today I'm going with one of the most refreshing tropical Pale Ales I know- Galaxy Dry Hopped Fort Point from Trillium Brewery in Boston, Massachusetts.

This beer pours a murky yellow gold with a big frothy head that creates a thick bubbly lacing on the glass.  Big aromas of grapefruit, melon, lemon and pine explode from the can followed by flavors of pineapple, mango and kiwi with a resinous bitter finish.  This clocks in at just 6.6 % making it the perfect beer to cool off with during this heat wave.  Cheers to the weekend!

Trillium Brewing
369 Congress Street
Boston, Massachusetts

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Brunch at Blue Smoke

When Mr. T and I are at a complete loss at to where to eat in our neighborhood we almost always turn to Blue Smoke. It has a bright airy atmosphere with both indoor and outdoor seating, a well curated list of beer and cocktails and although BBQ is the specialty they also do a great job with other items beside the standard pulled pork and ribs.

Like the hearty Breakfast Burger; a thick ground beef patty topped with choice of cheese including blue, cheddar and pimento; thick slices of bacon and a fried egg on top.  I'm not a fan of the thick cut fries (more like a potato chopped into three parts) but I usually pass those off to Mr. T in exchange for some of his delicious green beans.

Yes I said delicious green beans. They've been simmered long and slow in butter and bacon taking away that awful bitter flavor I remember from growing up.  In fact there are still chunks of bacon in every bowl.  A perfect addition to the spicy Fried Chicken and thick cut Texas Toast. The only thing we skipped was their delicious mac and cheese.  We are watching our carbs after all :)

116 East 27th Street between Park and Lexington
New York, NY 10016

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Original Pizza

Ask any New Yorker where to find the best slice of pizza in the city and chances are you'll get a passionate, almost aggressive response that may even turn into a debate with others around. I find this happens most often when I'm out in Brooklyn.  Brooklynites have some serious pizza pride. Of course they have the big spots like DiFara's, Roberta's and Totonno's but there are so many other neighborhood joints that locals swear by; one being Originals Pizza out near Bergen Beach.

This old school spot has been serving pizza since 1967 and it doesn't seem like much has changed.  It's the standard counter service pizzeria with a few seats inside and a large outdoor area with picnic tables perfect for enjoying the summer sun.  

There were about 15 people in line when I arrived at lunch time and instead of listening to their orders I was stupidly playing PokemonGo and completely missed the fact that every person ordered the same exact thing.  Of course when you're at a local spot go with the locals. I instead ended up with my usual slice of pepperoni. 

This slice looks incredible now but it took about 20 napkins to get all of the grease from the pepperoni off.  I mean it was the greasiest pepperoni I've ever encountered.  Once the grease was gone however this slice really shined.  The dough was super thin, so thin there would be absolutely no way to eat this pizza without the standard fold over.  It had the perfect ratio of sauce and cheese and the bottom had an even char all the way across.  It could have been a tad more crispy; I would probably ask for well done next time but otherwise this was one serious slice.  It was so delicious there was absolutely no need for the pepperoni topping which is probably why everyone else ordered a regular.  

The other slice on every table was the Penne Vodka.  Now to me a pasta laden slice just seems like way to many carbs but the fact that everyone, I mean 20 out of 20 people, had on their table one regular and one penne slice, it must be damn good.  Definitely on my order for next visit.

Original Pizza is cash only so make sure to bring along some bills and get ready to settle into a great slice. 

2351 Ralph Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11234

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Grange Community Kitchen

It's no secret the Western New York area has been in a major period of revitalization over the past 5 years. Downtown Buffalo is absolutely booming with gorgeous new parks, shiny cocktail/craft beer bars and farm to table restaurants.  That same rebirth is now expanding to the Southtown's with the most recent opening of Grange Community Kitchen out in Hamburg.  This airy new bakery/bar/restaurant comes from the former chef and general manager team from Elm Street Bakery in East Aurora.

The similarities between the two restaurants are evident immediately. Delicious baked goods in the pastry case up front for breakfast, a short list of local beer & wine at the bar and a big pizza oven in the back churning out incredible sourdough pies topped with ingredients like Oyster mushroom, fennel sausage and spicy green pepper.

The Porchetta Sandwich is a house specialty served on an excellent seeded bun topped with broccoli rabe pesto and pickled vegetable giardiniera.

And there's also a small selection of salads including  Roasted Beet & Kholrabi and a crisp Cesar served with candied almonds.

Everything on the menu was fantastic but the big winner was the Grilled Cheese sandwich stuffed with aged cheddar & gruyere served alongside a thick, creamy roasted garlic tomato soup.  This is exactly what I picture myself eating on a snowy Buffalo winter's day. 

The Grange has only been open a few weeks so they still have some kinks to work out but this is already a fantastic new place to add to the ever growing Western New York food scene.

22 Main Street
Hamburg, NY 14075

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Rooftop Reds

Sometimes I am absolutely amazed at the strange situations I get myself into. Like when I decided to check out Rooftop Reds one day after work and ended up wandering around the Brooklyn Navy Yards for an hour; inside old abandoned buildings, up and down strange stairways sometimes leading to nowhere.  Let's just say I got pretty lost trying to find this place but when I finally did it was absolutely lovely.  Welcome to Rooftop Reds- the first commercially viable rooftop winery in NYC.

As you can see there are lots of vines growing up here.  The two guys behind this place have developed an urban planter system which will make the production of a completely Brooklyn vintage of wine possible.  

Ever think you'd being drinking wine and staring at a view of the Brooklyn Navy Yards sign at the same time?  Neither did I.

While the first harvest won't be ready until October 2016 the current wines sold at Rooftop Reds are from their Finger Lakes vineyard and a few surrounding wineries.  On busy nights wine is only available by the glass or bottle but when it's a bit slower tastings of all are available inside the tasting room.

Of course while I really enjoying doing flights of wine I'd much prefer spending my afternoon outside on one of their relaxing hammocks.

Or chilling out with friends eating some picnic fare at one of the many tables.  

This place really is some sort of urban oasis but it's not exactly easy to get to so here are some helpful hints I wish I had known before making the trek out.  First look for this building- 275.

Don't go walking into other numbered places as I did- this is your spot.  However the entrance is actually on the other side of the building so head to the left and look for the unmarked door on the other side.  Then continue walking up four fights of stairs until you get to the very very top. Don't veer off when you see the bathroom sign as I did.  There is another entrance around that end but it's an extremely scary staircase for those of us afraid of heights.  You want this one...


And then you should be at the top- time to grab some wine and kick back in a hammock.  You made it!  They have actually added some more specific directions to their website since I visited so check out that handy link as well.

Brooklyn Navel Yard- Building 275