Monday, October 31, 2016

Star Chefs Congress Day II

The theme for day two Eat@ICC focused on food made with freshly milled grains.  My first bite was a traditional take on the grain theme from local duo Jake Novick Finder and Maria Espina of Gristmill in Brooklyn with these warm flaky Garlic Knots topped with Everything Butter or Cacio e Pepe.  

Steve Santana from Taquiza in Miami Beach took a different spin on the theme creating Tamal en Cazuela. This was wonderful. The texture was surprisingly soft with the spicy, rich flavor of blood sausage and white olotillo offset by the fresh herbs.

My favorite of  the Mill Master theme had to be these amazing Buckwheat Crullers with goat milk custard, blackberry compote and honey miso butterscotch from Melissa Denmark of Gracie's in Providence, Rhode Island.

The inside was eggy like a cannale perfect for soaking in the miso butterscotch with a caramelized outer shell. This was so incredible I went back for seconds then thirds...quite possibly the best dessert I've had all year. 

Trevin Hutchins was shaking up some creamy cocktails from Tempo Dulu in Portland Maine like this delicious Sumatran Milk Punch...

...while next door Nicolas Torres from Lazy Bear was crafting up the Bye Bye Burner, a wonderfully light herbaceous drink made with Dewars, Aperol, Curacao and rosemary syrup.

I mentioned earlier that Fossil Farms always brings something big to the Products Fair table and this year the Whole Roasted Alligator was definitely the "big" ticket item.  This was a brash, hearty sandwich stuffed with smoked meat, sweet BBQ sauce and slices of spicy jalapenos.  

On the more delicate side Chef Ryan Pollnow of Aatxe in San Franciso showcased a delightful dish entitled Mahon "Hot & Cold, Young & Old" with aged Mahon cheese custard layered inside an eggshell with Cabell D'angel and whipped young Mahon cheese on top.

The afternoon was filled with some great seminars including Eric Kayser of the Maison Kayser empire, confectionery wizard Antonio Bachour and a blind tasting with Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer.

At night the event space turned into a lively bar scene for the Congress Cocktail where bartenders from across the globe mix up their favorite drinks along with some incredible food.

Two of my favorites came from local spots; a frothy Espresso Martini from Giuseppe Gonzalez at Suffolk Arms and a tropical pisco drink the Mom's Poison from Alex Valencia of La Contenta.

Another fantastic Congress Cocktail and a great reminder of the incredible talent we have right here in NYC. 

Brooklyn Expo Center
72 Noble Street
Brooklyn, NY 11222

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Star Chefs Congress Day I

It was another great kickoff to Star Chef's International Congress with Day I at the Brooklyn Expo Center.  The conference now in its 11th year always focuses on the future of food and drink but with a specific theme this year "What Is Progress" which would be threaded throughout seminars over the three days.

The  main floor is always reserved for the Products Fair where sponsors team up with chef's to showcase their brands.  I began at the Rishi booth for a soothing cup of green tea paired with Lemon Verbena Tea Smoked Scallops from Brandt Bishop of Mbar in Seattle, Washington...

...followed by an amazing Charcoal Roasted Foie Gras with cold smoked Thomcord grapes, scorched honey gelato and cardamom charcoal bread from Jeff O'Neil of Barton G.  I don't think I've ever eaten foie gras for breakfast before but this was the perfect start to the morning with a sweet, creamy blend of fruit, bread and foie.  

Since I was already on the rich and raw food train I kept it going with an incredible Bison Tartare from the Fossil Farms booth.  These guys always crush this conference with their amazing exotic meat dishes and this was just the precursor of things to come from them.

In addition to the Chefs Product Fair Eat@ICC features lunch every day centered around a specific trend.  The Sunday edition was entitled "Super Scrap" focused on using the leftovers from cooking to create delicious new dishes like this Catfish Sausage Steamed Bun with radish kimchi, onion crunch and dam sauce from Shane Devereux of The Lawrence in Atlanta...

...and this succulent Honey Butter Fried Chicken from the founders of the Sunday Dinner Club in Chicago with candied Jalapeno mayo and crunchy slaw served alongside a Candied Jalapeno Margarita.  I loved how the slow subtle burn of this cocktail balanced the sweet honey.

 My favorite dish of the day came from Edward Martinez of Lazy Bear in San Francisco.  He combined leftover roasted sweet potatoes, chicory and coffee grounds to create this light, elegant dish that could easily be served on tasting menus everywhere.

For dessert an Apple Filled Cheese Gourgere with almond pistachio florentine and a scoop of Gruyere Ice Cream from Emmi Cheese and Danielle Cento of Escazu Artisan Chocolates.  The perfect fusion of savory cheese plate into sweet pastry and a great way to end Day One of Star Chefs 2016.

Brooklyn Expo Center
72 Noble Street
Brooklyn, NY 11222

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Romagna Ready 2 Go

I was recently invited to check out Romagna To Go located on the bustling corner of Bleeker and Macdougal Street.  I've probably walked back this spot a hundred times, always assuming it was just a grab and go slice joint.  Instead I found a full on Italian restaurant inside with just about everything except pizza.

There were delicious crostini's topped with a creamy layer of mushroom...

...thick pillowy truffle fries served with garlic aioli...

...and a hearty combination of more earthy ingredients in the rich Mushroom Truffle Risotto.

Everything was delicious but my absolute favorite of the night were these incredible little sausages that had just the right amount of spice and a snappy outer casing.  I would pair some of these with a nice bubbly Prosecco any day.

Romagna offers a great happy hour with $7 red wine, white wine, prosecco and $5 Italian beers all perfect for sipping in their cozy hidden patio in the backyard.

182 Bleeker Street at MacDougal
New York, NY 10012

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Spain's Great Match

Spain's Great Match celebrated its 23rd year of wine and food design at the IAC building last week. Over 300 incredible wines were poured during the press tasting and even more at that evening's public event.   I began my day with an incredible seminar The Sommelier's Guide to Spain with moderator Steve Olson, whose stunning resume includes Gramercy Tavern's first sommelier when they opened the doors 22 years ago.  He choose selections according to "a wine of place" wines so unlike any other they could only be created in a specific region, this region of course being Spain.

I really loved each selection from this seminar but highlights included the light and lively Pares Balta Blanca Cava that seemed to just dance across my taste buds, the always elegant 2009 Muga Prada Enea Gran Riserva and the 2014 Volover Triga that had such a well structured body and long lingering finish it was truly close to perfection.

The walk around tasting paired regional food with the wine, something to be expanded during the evening event with local Spanish restaurants like Amada, Casa Mono, Salinas and Tia Pol on hand serving up tapas.

As I moved from station to station I was amazed how much I was enjoying the array of wines. Even the full bodied reds reaching 15% were incredibly smooth and well balanced.  I tend to lean heavily towards the big Italian reds when dining out but I found myself loving the complexity and richness of these wines in a totally different way.

In the afternoon we headed upstairs for one more seminar with Steve Olson this time Unveiling the Mystery of Bierzo, a small remote region in the north west of Castilla y Leon.  I could seriously listen to Steve talk about wine all day; his energy and enthusiasm for the grape is impossible not to love.

Cheers to Spain's Great Match- I can't wait to see these fantastic wines start popping up on more wine lists.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lunch at Cafe Mogador

There are very few places in NYC that can survive the cut throat restaurant business. Especially any place that is both delicious AND affordable but somehow Cafe Mogador has done just that.  This cozy little Moroccan bistro opened back in 1983 when the East Village was a hard gritty neighborhood ravaged by the heroin epidemic.

Obviously the village has changed dramatically since then but Cafe Mogador surprisingly remains the same.  A snug respite with fantastic food, hand made cocktails and an eclectic crowd that make it one of the city's best people watching spots.

Cafe Mogador is well known for its house tagines but the menu also includes other wonderful options like Hanger Steak, Grilled Chicken Curry and this incredible Chicken Kebob sandwich served inside a freshly baked pita with house tahini sauce and arabic salad.  It's simple, delicious and for just $10 an incredible value.  This place just makes me happy in every way.

Cafe Mogodar
101 St. Marks Place
New York, NY 10009

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Quick Weekend in Boston

One of the best trips in my life was three years ago when Mr. T, myself and six other friends headed to Denmark for the Copenhagen Beer Celebration.  We crushed Vanilla Bean Dark Lords at Mikkeller and Friends, dined at the world's best restaurant Noma and spent twelve incredible hours drinking some of the best beer in the world at the CBC festival.  We talk about going back to Copenhagen every year but a trip that big is a huge undertaking.  So when the Copenhagen Beer Celebration announced they were bringing the festival to Boston this fall tickets were purchased immediately and we all traveled there for the weekend.

We rolled in on Thursday night and headed to dinner at the trendy supper club Yvonne's.  I feel in love with this place immediately.  Gorgeous chandeliers dripped diamonds from the ceiling,  guests clinked glasses at the long mahogany bar (hand carved by French woodworkers in 1886) and oh the glorious cocktails.

Let's just say we enjoyed a LOT of them from the fruity vacation style King Louie to the rich, frothy Espresso Martini's each cocktail was a prime example of top tier mixology.

Friday morning we woke up and headed to Trillium Brewing to pick up beer for home then stopped into Row 34 next door for a lunch of buttery Lobster Rolls and creamy Clam Chowder.

Friday night kicked of session one of the Copenhagen Beer Celebration in City Hall Park.  I was a little worried about all of the steps when heading into this event but the location couldn't be more perfect.  The wide open space never felt crowded and at night the buildings of downtown Boston provided an absolutely breathtaking scene against the midnight blue sky.

I honestly didn't think Boston could live up to the Copenhagen fest but the amount of rare beer, either not distributed in the United States or extremely hard to find, was pretty impressive.  Cigar City brought the elusive Marshal Zhukov's Final Push and Good Nightmare Mekong; a rich coconut coffee stout that I absolutely adore.  Arizona Wilderness stunned with a cacao nib, pepper Presidential Stout aged in Woodford Reserve Barrels and  Cellermaker's No Nelson IPA kept me coming back for more.  But most memorable in this incredible line up were the lambics from Belgium brewery Bokkereyder.  These guys brought almost every beer in their catalog and each one was artfully well balanced from the subtly sweet Framboos Vanille to the tart jammy Pinot Kriek.

Sunday morning we planned just enough time for a fantastic brunch at Ward 8 complete with porcelain punch bowls and a crazy delicious Cobb Salad before hopping back on the train to NYC. 

It was another great weekend and a fantastic beer festival.  I may not make it to Copenhagen again next year but I'll certainly be returning to Boston.

2 Winter Place
Boston, MA 02108

Copenhagen Beer Celebration
City Hall Park

Ward 8
90 North Washington Street
Boston, MA 02113

Monday, October 10, 2016

Salt & Pepper Honey Chick'n at Shack Shake

The newest creation on the Shack Shake menu was unveiled last week and I pretty much fell in love with the Salt & Pepper Honey Chick'n Sandwich.  

It's their classic buttermilk fried chicken breast, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, dusted with black pepper and coated in salted honey.  The entire sandwich somehow retains that wonderful crunchy exterior while the griddled potato bun soaks up all that honey goodness in one sweet and salty hug.

Currently this sandwich is only available at Brooklyn Shake Shack locations which makes me incredibly happy to have my office in Brooklyn Heights.

Multiple Locations in NYC

Friday, October 7, 2016

Birthday Part II- Dinner at Cosme

My birthday night was comprised of my three favorite things in life- crisp refreshing gueuze, delicious Mexican food and wonderful friends.  It began at the gorgeous Gramercy Tavern bar for bottles of Cantillon Gueuze, a rare treat to find on the beer list, followed by dinner at Enrique Olvera's hopping spot Cosme.

Even on a Monday night this place was completely packed with folks throwing back Margaritas and Palomas at the bar and dining on fresh guacamole with thick blue corn tortilla chips.

The simple pairing of Burrata with salsa verde and fresh microgreens was perfection; the zesty salsa being some of the finest in the city.  

We then moved onto larger dishes like Tlayuda, a spicy Mexican style pizza topped with chorizo, black beans and stracciatella cheese, Enmoladas with ricotta, hoja santa, queso fresco and a crispy tostado topped with strips of tuna, daisy capers, yuzu and avocado.

Everything we ate was saucy and spicy; definitions never used to describe me but I like when they apply to my food:)  The night ended at Maialino for a bottle of Rosso and that incredible Blackberry Corn Sundae.  It was a fantastic food filled day.  If birthdays continue to go this route I can handle getting just slightly older each year.

35 East 21st Street between Park and Broadway
New York, NY 10010

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Birhday Part I- Sushi of Gari

Monday birthdays are usually the worst.  Actually all of my birthdays are usually the worst but surprisingly this one turned out quite great.  It started out having to go to work (worst) but then I ditched out early for a late solo lunch at Sushi of Gari 46.

Chef Matsatoshi "Gari" Sugio is probably one of NYC's most well known sushi chefs.  He opened his flagship restaurant Sushi of Gari Upper East Side back in 1997 and has continued to open spots all over the city and beyond including Tokyo and Los Angeles.  His signature style of sushi topped with various sauces has created a cult like following.

Tuna with creamy tofu sauce, Japanese Snapper with salad, Black Snapper topped with seaweed and the crazy combination of Fluke with mushroom risotto were just a few of the interesting pieces.

Of course there was the standard Spicy Tuna Roll but all of the other nigiri had a fun little twist.  Nothing completely blew me away but it was a tasty, albeit pricey sushi lunch.  And I was all alone which actually made it incredibly relaxing.  But birthdays are about celebrating too so after lunch I headed downtown to the friend portion of the evening and lots more delicious food :)

347 West 46th Street between 8th & 9th
New York, NY 10036

Monday, October 3, 2016

Brunch at Midwinter Kitchen

The summer has just come to a close but surprisingly Midwinter Kitchen is still packing people in.  This rustic spot that saddles the strange area between Gramercy Park and the East Village closed around Fall last year and got revamped into Mid-Winter Kitchen.  I think the neighborhood assumed a short run with a name like that but it's been going strong with a delicious farm to table menu and a fantastic brunch.

Classic dishes like Brioche French Toast with maple butter and a fluffy Biscuit Egg & Cheddar sandwich comprise most of the menu while new favorites like Avocado Toast with chili and a Spicy Chickpea Hash with Feta comprise the rest.

Of course nothing goes better with brunch than a tall spicy Bloody Mary or a fruity Mimosa both of which are fantastic.

Midwinter Kitchen
327 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003