Tuesday, November 29, 2016

An Incredibe Meal at Carbone

It's so wonderful when a restaurant meets each and every expectation.  Especially when the stakes are so high; a Michelin starred, Saturday night 50th wedding anniversary kind of high.  But from the moment we walked in the door of Carbone, this mobstyle red sauce Italian joint decked out with brass chandeliers and tuxedo clad waiters hit the mark in every possible way.

To begin a few gratis bites from the kitchen including a big bowl of rustic Italian bread, tomato focaccia and buttery garlic toasts...

...followed by ribbons of salami, bowls of pickled cauliflower and hunks of parmigiana cheese taken straight from a hollowed out wheel.  This was a delightful way to begin the special occasion and helped ease the hunger pains as we debated just about everything on the Flintstone sized menus.

We finally decided on Baked Clams prepared in three different styles; classic oregano with breadcrumbs, "casino" topped with a slice of lardo and an absolutely stunning clam topped with a dollop of sweet delicious uni.

They were out of the regular scampi that day so we ordered the grilled prawns served with cherry tomato instead alongside the incredible  ZZ Cesar Salad prepared table side with white pickled anchovies and thick semolina croutons that were deceptively soft and warm in the center. 

I usually don't have pasta for my main even at an Italian restaurant.  I grew up in a family of spaghetti lovers and at least two times a week my mom would pour a big green box of Creamette Pasta into a pot and top it with whatever new jar of sauce my Dad thought looked interesting that week.  My brothers absolutely loved it and would ask for seconds while I quietly tried to hide as many noodles as possible among the lettuce in my salad bowl.  Needless to say pasta has never been high on my wish list but after this Spicy Rigatoni Vodka all of my pedestrian thoughts of pasta have been obliterated.

Perfectly al dente shells layered with a rich spicy sauce of onion puree, cream, tomatoes, pecorino cheese and Calabrian chilies.  I'll admit the dish doesn't look like much to the naked eye but this is one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life.  Words can't describe the luxurious texture and subtle spicy flavors. Even with the hefty price tag just shy of $30 this is worth each and every penny.

I had a few bites of Mr. T's Veal Marsala, a delicious choice but hard to enjoy fully while devouring my magical bowl of rigatoni.

For dessert an array of cakes including a creamy lemon cheescake, a rich cherry chocolate torte and a gorgeous Nutella tiramisu topped with a buttery Madeline.  

In addition to the incredible desserts the waiter dropped off a plate of exquisite Rainbow Cookies and bottles of Sambuca and Anisette for after drinks; another wonderful perk to top off a fabulous dinner.

With all the wonderful food, decor and service it's worth to note that a meal at Carbone isn't cheap.  A few bottles of wine hover ed around $100 but most rose quickly into northern territory with glasses ranging from $14 to $40.  Reservations are also incredibly hard to attain.  Emails are accepted exactly 30 days in advance for dinner or take your chances on a spot opening up for an early weekday lunch. This is worth the money and worth the wait; an absolute stunner in the West Village and a place I vow to return to before 2016 ends.

181 Thompson Street between West Houston & Bleeker
New York, NY 10012

Thursday, November 17, 2016


One of the hottest sushi joints out of  California just opened up in the Flatiron district; Sugarfish a casual but trendy spot touting high quality sushi at an affordable price.   The main draw at Sugarfish are the "Trust Me"menus available at both dinner and lunch which give the diner a sampling of menu items designed around portion size; the regular Trust Me for the average diner, the Trust Me Lite for smaller appetites and the Nozawa Trust Me (named for Chef Nozawa) for those with bigger appetites or in this case for a couple who likes to share.  To begin a bowl of Tuna Sashimi.

Sugarfish uses Albacore for its tuna, a cut usually reserved in NYC for sandwiches and salads.  The texture was surprisingly rich and creamy, sprinkled with chopped scallions and brushed with a bit of soy, I would come here for this wonderful dish alone.

Salt dusted organic Edamame to snack on with the sashimi before moving onto the sushi course. First plate Albacore, Salmon and Snapper...

...followed by Yellowtail, Sea Bass and Scallops. 

All of the sushi was incredible due in part to the warm bed of vinegar laced sushi rice.  The warmth of the rice heated the fish just enough to make each bite melt into one luxurious bite.  My only quibble was that the larger cuts of fish and loosely packed rice made it difficult to eat with chopsticks.  This is a much better sushi for picking up with your fingers but unfortunately we were never offered a warm cloth at the start of the meal.

The final portion of the Nozawa menu included a Toro Hand Roll and Blue Crab Hand Roll, each one shaped like a tube rather than a cone with the warmth of the rice again melding the nori and fish together in a way that I enjoyed much more than a regular hand roll.

We added on a cut Tuna Roll in addition to the Trust Me set which was delicious but not as stand out as the previous dishes.

Since Sugarfish rolls the tip right into the cost of the food our total bill for this meal was just $62.50 which is an incredible deal for this quality of omakase.   Of course a place this good is sure to draw a crowd and the waits are long.  My first visit on a Friday night at 5:15 I was quoted a 4 hour 15 minute wait for one person!  My second visit on a rainy Tuesday night at 5:00 was only an hour and a half so head there during inclement weather or plan accordingly.  

33 East 20th Street
New York, NY 10003

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lunch at Lupulo

Gourmet burgers, skinny fries dusted with salt and great craft beer- it's time for lunch at Lupulo.  This Portuguese restaurant by George Mendes is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots in the city.  In addition to the piping hot Salt Cod Croquettes and spicy Piri-Piri Chicken is a special burger available only during late night hours and lunch- the "O Hamburguer".

Two Pat La Frieda patties, a fatty blend of brisket, short rib and chuck layered with rich Sao Jorge cheese, beefsteak tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and smoked mayo on a seeded bun.

I asked for it medium rare but it arrived closer to medium, always my biggest gripe with thin patties. However the beef managed to retain its juice and those delicious house made pickles, spicy mayo sauce and long, golden fries bumped this dish into the upper echelon of burgers.  It's like having the best Whopper meal of your life.

A teku filled with Grimm Awoogah on the side and my happiness quota has reached full capacity.

835 6th Avenue at 29th Street
New York, NY 10001

Friday, November 11, 2016

New Brew Friday- Other Half Like Whoa

It's been a looooong week to say the least but luckily I've been getting through it with my favorite Other Half beer to date- Like Whoa their collaboration brew with Trillium Brewing.

This Double IPA pours a hazy golden orange with a small fluffy white head that quickly dissipates.  The smell is an explosion of tropical fruit-  mango, pineapple, orange peel and sweet papaya with big juicy flavors that remind me of biting into a crackly bruleed orange slice with more mango, a creamy mouthfeel and dry hoppy finish.  I absolutely love this beer-  Cheers to the weekend!

195 Centre Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Comfort Food at the Blind Tiger

The last 48 hours has been pretty darn terrible.  An emotional roller coaster of excitement, hope, fear, anger and shock that ultimately made me want to crawl into bed and never come out from underneath my warm fluffy blanket.  But I know that won't solve anything and deep down I know I need to face the world and whatever crazy, challenging things that may come along with it.  But in order to prep for everything that lies ahead I need indulge in some serious comfort food first.

Nothing says comfort to me quite like a warm Grilled Cheese sandwich loaded with four different types of melted goodness and a thick creamy bowl of tomato soup on the side. 

A piping hot plate of Buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing for a spicy kick to get the energy flowing again...

...and of course beer "the cause of and solution to all of life's problems."  Maybe not exactly the best time to quote Homer Simpson but he actually makes me feel somewhat comforted too.  We got a long road ahead of us and it feels terrifying and confusing but to quote another favorite person of mine Lin Manuel "the sun comes up, and the world still spins".  This isn't going away and we all can make a difference; it's time to get to work.

Blind Tiger
281 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Birthday Croissant from Union Fare

This city's seen no shortage of rainbow colored items in the past few years.  Just about everything from bagels to doughnuts, ice cream and cakes has had its colorful moment.  And now it's time to welcome in the newest bright and happy food the Birthday Croissant.

Created by the pastry chef at Union Fare this flaky delicacy is loaded with lush pink mascarpone cream studded with rainbow sprinkles and Funfetti chunks baked right into the dough. The outside is then dusted with pink fairy dust made from the ground up sprinkles.

It might not be as mind blowing as the first Rainbow Bagel (that was like WHOA!) but it's a fun delicious treat perfect for surprising a co-worker or friend who needs a little morning celebration in their life.

Union Fare
6 East 18th Street between 5th & Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Monday, November 7, 2016

More Goodness at Otto

I absolutely love the change of seasons we're going through right now.  I honestly don't understand why anyone would want to live where it stays one temperature all year round.  Each season brings me back to old favorites; outdoor patios in the summertime, cozy fireplaces in the middle of winter and on a blustery late fall afternoon the bar at Otto calls for a long leisurely lunch.

I always begin with their Baby Spinach Salad drizzled with truffle honey butter and chunky ricotta salata.  I'm absolutely obsessed with the combination of bitter, salty and sweet flavors going on here. 

Mr. T is obsessed with their Spaghetti Carbonara tossed with squares of pancetta, egg, scallions and butter.  We order these two things almost every visit but then we always pick a third to try out something new- this time the Cacio e Pepe Pizza.

Fresh mozzarella, cacio, pecorino and parmigiana cheese dusted with black pepper and extra virgin olive oil on thin, crisp griddled dough.  This pizza was excellent; pliable enough in the center to fold but retaining those extra crisp edges with all that salty, buttery cheese goodness on top. Bring on this cold blustery weather- if you need me I'll be at Otto.

Otto Pizzeria
One 5th Avenue at 8th Street
New York, NY 10003

Friday, November 4, 2016

New Brew Friday- Plan Bee Precious

Wow- it's truly been forever since a New Brew Friday.  I've been doing so much beer traveling I haven't had time to sit down and type. Time to unwind with a great local brew this time from Plan Bee Brewery in Pougkeepsie, New York.

Plan Bee Brewery is situated on a working farm and all their beer is made from 100% NY state ingredients with many grown on site including grain from the fields and yeast cultivated from honey combs.  This summer yellow sour ale is packed with a ton of apricots giving off aromas of sweet candy, juicy peach, apricot and oak with a long sticky apricot finish that's tart and refreshing.  Check out their website for bottle sales and self guided tours of the farm every Saturday.  Cheers!

Plan Bee Brewery
115 Underhill Road
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Happy Hour at Zadies Oyster Bar

There's no shortage of oyster happy hours in the city but for a truly great experience I highly recommend heading to Zadie's, Chef Marco Canora's cozy little spot in the East Village.

From 5:00-7:00 Monday thru Friday a selection of drinks are offered for half price including a choice of red, white, sparkling, fortified, cider or beer and a rotating daily oyster.  On my last visit I enjoyed a wonderful Melon de Bourgogne paired with some creamy Big Rock Petite oysters from Massachusetts.

In addition to the incredible happy hour Zadie's boasts seven different oyster preparations including baked, steamed, pickled, fried and poached.   Each style comes with a variety of toppings and there are also larger plates like Crab Cake Sliders and Clam Chowder for those looking for more than just slurping bivalves.

Save room for a little something sweet at the end; each meal closes out with an oyster shell filled with salt water taffy.

413 East 12th Street between 1st and Avenue A
New York, NY 10009

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Star Chefs Congress Day III

The third and final day of Star Chef's Congress is always the calmest.  Most everyone is tired from the Cocktail Classic the night before and it's a good time to soak in all of the things learned over the past three days with some incredible food.

I was thrilled to see Chef Erik Ramirez on hand doling out a delicious Quinoa-Banana Salad.  I think his Peruvian spot  The Llama Inn is one of the best new restaurants to open in NYC this year.

Another local legend Sam Mason was on hand at Oddfellows with a trio of tea flavored ice creams he created using the Rishi Tea Leaves.

The theme for Eat@ICC Tuesday was Alternative Proteins like this playful Vegan Merguez Sausage with butternut squash rillettes, crumbled "Feta" red sorrel and crispy Papadam from David Kuzma from Yale Hospitality in New Haven...

...and this fluffy Wood Fired Sourdough Pita with lentils, coconut sumac, pumpkin and sunflower seeds from Jason Bond of Bondir Restaurant in Cambridge.

The biggest surprise of the day for me was the dish from Alex Talbot of Ideas in Food- Cricket Flour Noodles & Corn Black Lime Noodles tossed in Offal Ragout. I am NOT a fan of this mini bug craze we got going on, it usually grosses me out but this dish was absolutely delicious!

Even though I really liked the cricket dish I decided to move back to the regular proteins with one last stop at Fossil Farms for a Baharat Spiced Alina Duck breast coupled with butternut Swiss chard tabbouleh and a sweet honey crisp apple labneh... 

...a spiced Chorizo Pork Rillette with orange mostarda and sherry vinegar from Chef Nicole Votano of DIRT in Miami Beach...

...and one of the best Steak and Cheese sandwiches I have ever eaten from the charismatic Shola Olunloyo of Studio Kitchen in Philadelphia who always had a crowd around his outdoor KOPA Charcoal Oven.

Of course I had to have one last cocktail which also ended up being one of my favorites of the conference the fruity Raj in Tokyo from Masa Urushido of Saxon and Parole right here in NOHO.

Overall it was another incredible year for Star Chef's Congress. It was evident over the course of three days that the theme "What is Progress" in the food/beverage industry meant very different things to different people.   Some saw progress as more woman in lead roles, others saw it as the move from tipping towards more livable wages, still others as moving towards more sustainable food and cutting down on waste in the business.  

No matter what "progress" meant personally it was very clear that change is happening and in a good way.  There has never been a more exciting time to be in this industry and great events like Star Chef's bringing culinary minds together will just help to grow these ideas even further.  Cheers to Antoinette Bruno, Will Blunt and all the Star Chef's Staff for another fabulous year!

Brooklyn Expo Center
72 Noble Street
Brooklyn, NY 11222