Friday, December 30, 2016

New Brew Friday- Best Beers of 2016

2016 was another fantastic year for craft beer especially in New York City.  New breweries have been popping up at an amazing pace and the demand for local beer is at an all time high.  Of course with such quick, rapid growth comes growing pains which can be witnessed at a Saturday morning Other Half can release where lines start as early as 1:00 AM or the crazy race for Grimm cans that fly off the shelf in minutes.  Hopefully things in 2017 will bring a bit more calm to the beer chase but it's wonderful to have so many great brews in our own backyard along with these five fabulous beauties.  Cheers to the New Year!

Hill Farmstead- Clover


I probably could have written a"Best of List" for 2016 with just Hill Farmstead beers and there would be little to argue about.  Shaun Hill is a master at brewing and his recent bottle of Clover was one of my favorites to date.  A blend of three different saison's Ann, Art & Flora, aged for 12-22 months, this beer is a stunning example of the Hill Farmstead style.   Aspects of each individual beer are present beginning with the creamy, bubbly carbonation up front, bright fruit and floral notes and crisp white wine finish.  It's an absolute beauty. No wonder they've been named Best Brewery in the world by Ratebeer three out of the last four years. 


Superstition Meadery- Blackberry White



I first had this incredible mead Hunahpu weekend in the midst of a large bottle share. Fantastic, hard to find beers were being opened all around but this mead stood out among all the rest.  It was so smooth and creamy, rich yet delicate with big bold berry flavors that reminded me of a fluffy fruit topped cheesecake.  There's no syrupy finish as in other meads, just subtle honey and delicious berry perfect for pairing with food but delicious enough to enjoy on its very own. 

Cigar City- Decoherence



This luscious beer is a blend of two different Cigar City brews; an imperial stout aged in Brandy barrels and an imperial porter aged in Bourbon barrels. The blend is then aged on roasted coffee beans and toasted coconut giving it a rich creamy coffee, milk chocolate and coconut flavor with layers of oak, brandy, vanilla and bourbon on the finish.  It's big, bold and intensely gorgeous.  If your obsessed with coconut beers as I am this is a sure fire winner. 


 Other Half- Like Whoa


My favorite hoppy beer of the year was a collaboration between Other Half and Trillium- Like Whoa.  This Double IPA pours a hazy golden orange with a small fluffy white head that quickly dissipates.  The aroma is an explosion of tropical fruit- mango, pineapple, orange peel and sweet papaya with big juicy flavors reminiscent of biting into a crackly bruleed slice of orange.  I absolutely love this beer.

Bokkereyder- Framboos Vanille




This wonderful Lambic was poured at all three sessions of the Copenhagen Beer Celebration in Boston and I probably had about 10 glasses.  I just couldn't stop myself.  I was blown away by the soft flavors of Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans rounding out the jammy raspberry base with such balance.  Bokkereyder is currently just a one man operation in Belgium but Raf is already making a big splash in the beer world.  Look for a lot more excitement from this brewery in the coming year.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Best Dishes of 2016

Wow 2016 is almost over and what crazy year it was.  If I was to look simply at the year in American culture I would have to use the word devastating.  So many incredible artists passed away, the political state of the nation was a non-stop roller coaster ride of shock, disgust, anger, frustration and for the first time in a while the future feels incredibly uncertain.  Of course the NYC dining scene took a huge hit this year with the closing of classic restaurants like The Four Seasons, Les Halles and most recently Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen.  I was saddened most by the closing of my two favorite cocktail bars; underground vodka great Pravda and the gorgeous Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal.  We also lost the fabulous Juni, my go-to spot for a fancy lunch from Shaun Hergatt.  

But I'm always one to look on the positive side and 2016 was actually a good year on a personal level.  Mr. T and I had some great East Coast trips to BostonVermont and Philadelphia all of which included fun times with family and friends.  I actually got to see the play Hamilton with the entire original cast and followed up the matinee with a fantastic dinner at David Chang's newcomer Momofuku Nishi, which made this list as having one of my top dishes. Danny Meyer's classic Union Square Cafe came back to life in a new spot even closer to my apartment (review to come in 2017) and Mr. T learned to love brunch.  Well maybe not love it but love a brunch dish which is a step in the right direction :) Oh and the Cubs won the World Series.  Which gives a bit of hope for other sports teams who are trying to end that long championship drought.  (Bwahaha!!  I couldn't get through that last sentence with a straight face) Here are my picks for the best of food and drink in 2016.


Best New Burger- Bar Sardine


There were a lot of good burgers this year but this cozy little spot won my heart with the Fedora Burger; a blend of chuck and brisket topped with smoked cheddar cheese, thinly sliced cucumbers, onions, fried potato sticks and BBQ mayo.  Everything on this burger just worked- the cooling cucumber, the smoky/sweet BBQ sauce and crispy potato sticks ensuring a salty satisfying crunch with each bite.

Best Baked Clams- Dominicks


There's almost always a wait at this Arthur Avenue classic and the tight communal seating isn't exactly comfortable, but it's all worth it for fall off the bone Chicken Scarpiello and delectable Baked Clams stuffed with hunks of garlic, olive oil and breadcrumbs.

Best Pork Sandwich- Prohibition Pig Brewery (Vermont)


As the name suggests any sort of "pig" at Prohibition Pig should be fabulous and this sandwich was absolute perfection.  Pulled Pork piled high with crunchy onion rings, chipotle sauce and a sloppy top of coleslaw on a soft Portuguese bun. I wish this sandwich could be in my life every day.

Best Pancake Spot- Hi-Collar


Hi-Collar has been around for years but it took me until 2016 to discover its magic. Cafe by day, sake bar by night with the most amazing Japanese pancakes in town served with maple syrup, yuzu butter and a dusting of powdered sugar.


Best Brunch Dish- The Llama Inn



Being a huge fan of Llama's in general (probably my favorite animal of all time) this Williamsburg spot already scored some points with decor but the Beef Tenderloin Stir Fry launched it into the lovesphere. Two fried eggs with tender slices of beef, french fries, tomato and banana with a rich, slightly spicy sauce drizzled with rocoto pepper crema.  This dish is absolutely amazing, so amazing Mr. T actually suggests we go there for brunch on a regular basis which is just CRAZY.

Best Pasta- Carbone


Spicy. Rigatoni.Vodka.  Three words that shattered my feelings towards pedestrian pasta forever.  Perfectly al dente shells layered with a rich spicy sauce of onion puree, cream, tomatoes, pecorino cheese and Calabrian chilies is beyond words.  It may not look like much to the naked eye but this is one of the best things I have eaten in my life.  Even with the hefty price tag just shy of $30 this is worth each and every penny.

Best Pasta Runner Up- Ceci e Pepe at Momofuku Nishi


Two pasta dishes making the list... maybe my taste buds are changing or maybe David Chang just knows what I love in life.  His incredible Ceci e Pepe (now known as Butter Noodles) with chickpea hozen and black pepper creates a subtly sweet, buttery flavor that is simply outstanding especially since there is no actual Parmesan used in this cheesy dish. 


Best Rainbow Cookies- Madonia Bakery



These cookies may look like those rock hard tri-colored squares scattered around the city but the similarities stop there.  This cake is actually light and spongy with the strong flavor of almond paste and fresh raspberry jam balanced by a topping of creamy chocolate frosting and colorful sprinkles.  Just one bite of these makes a rainbow cookie believer forever.


Best New Restaurant- Row 34 (Boston)



It's so wonderful to find a restaurant while traveling that just feels like home. In Copenhagen it was Manfred's and Vin, London J. Sheekey, Philadelphia the sadly departed Matyson and now Row 34 in Boston.  As soon as I saw their mantra I was in love "If we could eat oysters and drink beer for every meal period, we probably would."  Well of course! Fresh plump oysters, a fantastic scallop crudo, smoked uni and buttery lobster rolls paired with a stunning menu of craft beer.  `



Best New Neighborhood Spot- Covina


It's extremely rare that Mr. T and I dine at the same place in a month but we were so in love with Convina we actually had dinner there back to back nights! Located inside the Park South Hotel the space serves as two different spots; a cozy cafe up front by day and a sleek, sexy restaurant by night with an open kitchen and gorgeous bar perfect for dining.  I highly suggest the bright market vegetable hummus plate, the salt crusted wagyu burger and the special house cocktails.

Best of the Rest

Best New Sushi SpotSugarfish
Best New Craft Beer Restaurant- Lupulo
Best Breakfast Sandwich- Milk Bar
Best Vegetarian Sandwich- Cinnamon Snail at The Pennsy
Best Mac & Cheese- Hometown BBQ
Best Sweetbreads- Pumpkin BYOB (Philly)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Holiday Drink Guide

The holiday season is in full swing! Now with the city wrapped in a gorgeous white blanket of snow this morning, it seems like the perfect time to get out and start celebrating.

Quintessential NYC- The Plaza Hotel
Whether you grew up watching the Eloise Christmas or Kevin in Home Alone just about everyone has a vision of The Plaza during holiday season.  Although the classic Oak Room is still sadly closed the redone Palm Court is a great second choice for a little holiday bubbly.



768 5th Avenue at 58th Street
New York, NY 10019

Best Christmas Bar- Miracle on 9th Street
Christmas presents hang from the ceiling in shiny boxes, the bartenders have on their best Santa hats and the cocktail menu reads like something straight out of the North Pole.  There's a Christmopolitan with vodka and spiced cranberry, a Christmas Tree Gimlet with pine needle cordial and my personal choice the Bad Santa.




It's got two kinds of rum, pineapple juice, coconut water and coconut butter served piping hot...so basically like a warm and buttery pina colada.  What's better for the holidays than some nice rosey cheeks after a hot cocktail!

649 East 9th Street at Avenue C
New York, NY 10009

Best Eggnog- Maialino
If you missed Tom & Jerry's annual celebration of all things frothy and delicious there's still time to get one in at Danny Meyers Italian Trattoria Maialino.  Their version is much lighter than that thick stuff from the carton with a creamy white head and a sprinkle of nutmeg on top.



Maialino

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

Best Fireplace- Shoolbreds

This long, narrow space has been an East Village institution for years.  Get there early to grab the table in the back near the roaring fire and hustle up a Hot Toddy or sip on some Mulled Cider. Happy Hour drinks are two for one every day until 8:00 PM making this a toasty and affordable stop.

Shoolbred's

197 2nd Avenue at 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003

Best Place for Lounging by a Christmas Tree

Adirondack chairs, rich creamy wheels of raclette cheese and warm festive cocktails like the Smokey's Smore made with Hot Chocolate, 1921 Tequila Cream, Mezcal and topped with a cookie crumble make this the perfect place for a holiday outing.



Baita
The Rooftop of Eataly
200 5th Avenue at 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010

Best Place for Lights- Rolf's

It's super crowded, insanely hot and the drinks are overpriced.  But for some reason I always need to stop into Rolf's at least once during the holiday season just to look at all those incredible decorations.



Rolf's

281 3rd Avenue at 22nd Street
New York, NY 10010

Best Escape from Rolf's
If you just can't handle the insane crowds and overwhelming array of Christmas lights inside of Rolf's head directly across the street and seek refuge at the Gramercy Ale House.  This polished space has some of the friendliest bartenders in town and fantastic Irish music sessions every Wednesday night that could get just about anyone into a festive holiday spirit.



Gramercy Ale House

272 3rd Avenue at 
New York, NY 10010

Friday, December 16, 2016

Rockefeller Center Holiday Guide

It's about that time of year so I'm rolling out my holiday guide once again for the Rockefeller Center/ Times Square Area.

NYC is a wonderful and magical place to visit around the holiday season. The Rockefeller Center tree is gorgeous, all the hotels are decked out in red and gold, holiday pop-up shops fill the parks- what could be better?

Unfortunately you have to be prepared for what I can only describe as controlled chaos. You will be wrangled like cattle to see the tree, stand in line at a Starbucks for 30 minutes, not for a caffeine fix but to use the single smelly bathroom and you’ll probably be so tired out from all of your shopping and touring that you’ll see a TGI Friday’s or Olive Garden and think it’s an oasis in the storm. Two hours later (because you’ll have to wait for a table like all of the other tourists who thought the line at McDonald’s and Subway were too long) you’ll wonder why the food and service were so crappy and suddenly your wallet is empty as well.

It’s the holidays in NYC folks and one must be prepared to weather the season. If you’re from the city you should know this and already be prepared but for you out of towners here’s a few holiday food recommendations to make your stay a little more jolly.

Family Meal - Bills Bar and Burger
The location only a block from the tree can’t be beat and the laid back friendly service, reasonable prices and awesome burgers pretty much seal the deal. They have a separate kids menu with tater tots and chicken fingers as well as vegetarian friendly options like fish taco’s and one of the city’s best veggie burgers. They also have cocktails, wine and an extensive beer list. Believe me you’ll need a drink after braving the tree crowds with the family. Oh and they take reservations!


Bills Burger Bar Review

Italian Steakhouse with a Twist- Quality Italian
The sprawling space overlooking 7th Avenue right by Central Park is the perfect place to spend an evening sipping on wine an enjoying some old fashioned Italian favorites done NYC style.   The menu has items like Lobster Fra Diavlo rolls, Grilled Octopus and an enormous Chicken Parmigiana pizza that could almost feed a whole family.


Quality Italian Review

Upscale Meal- The Modern
Located inside the Modern Museum of Art this restaurant exudes both the arts and fine dining. Expect flawless French cuisine, an extensive wine and cocktail list and the impeccable service expected of all of Danny Meyers restaurants. Don’t skip the desserts which are just as delicious as they are beautiful.



The Modern Bar Room Review

Classic Steakhouse with a Twist- Quality Meats
Right around the corner from the Plaza Hotel this steakhouse creates the most delicious Steak Tartare I’ve had to date. Not that you need to have tartare, all the classic cuts of meat are there with delicious sides and whimsical desserts. The Twist? Although it’s certainly a steakhouse the ambiance is much softer and more refined than the old school joints. Imagine powering through a Porterhouse and still feeling elegant as you’re doing so- that’s Quality Meats for sure.



Quality Meats review

Cheap Adventurous Meal- Sake Bar Hagi
Hidden down some stairs right outside the madness of Rockefeller Center and Times Square is this cute little Izakaya. Don’t expect a quiet relaxed meal however- it’s loud, noisy and fun.  Order some skewers of meat, yellowtail collar and a couple Sapporo’s and enjoy the experience. It’s great for groups but the space is tiny so head right when they open or expect a long wait for more than two people. They take your phone number and call when a table is available so head over to Jimmy’s Corner and have a couple drinks while you wait.



Sake Bar Hagi Review

Crazy Confections- Momofuku Milk Bar
For incredible baked goods head to Momofuku Milk Bar on 56th Street.  This place has everything you could want in a bakery- cookies and cake, ice cream and pie, all done slightly over the top.  Things like Crack Pie, Birthday Crack truffles and Cereal Milk Soft Serve are great for both children and adults.  Take some home as a holiday gift that's sure to be a crowd pleaser.



Momofuku Milk Bar Review

Assorted Chocolate Treats Along the Way

Teuscher Chocolate
Right in Rockefeller Center this little shop explodes with bright colors and little figurines all about Switzerland, but don’t forget about the chocolates. The truffles and pralines have a rich, creamy flavor.

La Maison du Chocolat
Just walking into La Maison you can tell at once that it’s a different level of chocolate shop. The well suited staff and trays of perfectly shaped ganaches and pralines almost make me feel like I’ve been transported to a fancy Parisian boutique. The Figaro is one of my favorite but don’t leave without trying out a pastry as well like the Romeo; a coffee chocolate macaron that is the perfect pick me up after a long day of shopping.

La Maison du Chocolat

Teuscher Fifth Avenue

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Katsu Sandwich at Hi-Collar

There are so many reasons to love Hi-Collar, the wonderful pour over coffee, those insanely delicious Japanese Pancakes and of course the extremely limited Katsu Sandwich. 


A thick slab of Berkshire Pork breaded then fried, served on crustless white bread with a smear of tonkatsu sauce and a side of pickled veggies. I've never been a big fan of Katsu sandwiches but this one is exceptional.  The breading seals in all those wonderful juices with a crispy, grease free outer shell that manages to feel light and fresh. Only 10 of these sandwiches are served per day after 12:00 so order early.

HI-Collar
214 East 10th Street
New York, NY 10003

Monday, December 12, 2016

Brunch at Danji

Finally- my favorite little Korean spot in Hell's Kitchen has starting serving brunch!  Which means I don't have to wait until 5:00 to get their incredible Ginger Scallion Tofu or the wonderful Beef Bulgogi Sliders.



Two potato buns stuffed with beef then topped with a spicy thick sliced pickled cucumber and scallion salsa- delicious! Along with those classic Danji staples they've added three different styles of Korean, Filipino and Mexican breakfast and a small list of brunch cocktails.


This was only Danji's third week of brunch service and the place was already packed so make a reservation to ensure a seat or be prepared for a wait.

346 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Sundays at 21 Greenpoint

Located just about as far west as one can go before ending up in the East River sits 21 Greenpoint; a new bar and restaurant by Homar Murray, Bill Murray's son.  This place was jam packed opening weekend with Bill himself behind the bar slinging drinks.  Now the restaurant has settled into a cozy, comfortable vibe serving excellent food and one of the best culinary deals in town.

Every Sunday 21 Greenpoint serves a special tasting menu of four to five dishes using leftover items from the weekends dinner/brunch prep.  This allows the chef to have complete creativity with the meal and cuts down on the constant problem of food waste. Plus the entire meal is only $21 which is an absolute steal in this city. 



My first meal began with a wonderful Sauerkraut soup studded with chive, onion and a dusting of pepper.


Next up Pickled Cucumbers layered with ribbons of fennel and onion.


A fluffy golden brown biscuit served with creamy mozzarella butter, eggplant and a tart raspberry compote for the best of both sweet and savory.


For the main entree a Spanish Omelet stuffed with potato and garlic alongside spicy grilled chorizo and sauteed veggies.


For dessert a warm Roasted Apple topped with creamy ricotta cheese and drizzled with honey.  It was a fabulous meal and one that changes not just every Sunday but with the time of day.  I visited around 3:00 PM and caught the tail end of brunch so next visit I'm planning to go a bit later to check out some of the creative dinner plates.


In addition to the incredible food don't forget to add on one of their signature cocktails- they're absolutely fabulous. 

21 Greenpoint
21 Greenpoint Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11222