Category Archives: Eat Here!

MSP Best: Wise Acre — Gas Up on Good Eats

Wise Acre

Wise Acre

I was in Minneapolis last week for my Goddaughter Audrey’s 1st birthday. I left 70 degrees and sunny in NYC for 40 degrees and snowy in Minneapolis — in May — it’s been a long winter in the land of lakes. So when the  clouds cleared on Sunday and the mercury leapt to a warming 65, we did what any wise person would do — we left the party cleanup behind and headed to brunch.

Converted gas station

Converted gas station

When you first pull up to Wise Acre you may think you’re stopping by to fill-up on gas. This charming farm to table destination resides in an old converted gas station where large garage doors provide a flood of natural light, and a wall of climbing plants softens the otherwise industrial space.

The menu features a few good reasons to get out of bed and promotes a wise philosophy of food sourcing: the shortest distance between the earth, the hand and the mouth.   Ingredients come from Tangletown Gardens’ 100 acre farm in rural Plato, MN where Scottish Highland Cattle, Berkshire and Large Black hogs, and free range chickens, ducks and turkeys live stress-free, hormone-free lives with plenty of room to roam. And the masters behind the stove spin these fine ingredients into memorable dishes like a Fried Egg, Ham & Cheddar Sandwich with stone ground mustard, homemade pickles, farm potatoes and homemade ketchup . Also a hit — the CSA Hash, with farm vegetables, egg & herb scramble, cottage bacon, herb aioli and toast.

Wise Acre Brunch

Wise Acre Brunch

The service was true to midwestern reputation — if our waiter wasn’t working so hard, I’m confident he would have pulled up a chair and become a new friend. I wish I could transport Wise Acre back to New York with me — it would easily go head to head with any of my local favorites. So the next time you’re passing through MSP, make a pit stop at Wise Acre, brunch ’til the cows come home and thank me later.

Charlie Brunching

Charlie Brunching

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SF Best: Flock to State Bird Provisions

State Bird Provisions

State Bird Provisions

The genius thing about state bird provions–San Francisco’s hottest new eatery–is their dim sum-style delivery of california cuisine. The open kitchen continually sends out trays and rolling carts of freshly prepared goodness to an intimate dining room of not more than 20 tables. With constant curiosity and the fear of missing something good, I practically gave myself whiplash everytime the cart rolled by. There is a short menu of house “commandables” — items that can always be ordered — but most of what you will see changes frequently and is not written down, adding an element of entertainment and excitement. When they pull up to your table, I dare you to look the waiter in the eye and turn them away after they reveal the newest dish.

Loading Up the Dim Sum Cart

Loading Up the Dim Sum Cart

We ordered one if everything on the menu….because that’s what you do after you get in line at 4:30pm and still wait two hours until you score a table…and it’s also what you do when you lack the ability to say no to someone’s face. Genius. And now for the highlights…

Garlic Bread with Burrata

Garlic Bread with Burrata

It’s a like a state fair treat for adults: garlic bread with burrata.  — warm doughy goodness, rubbed in salt, plenty of pepper and garlicy oil and topped with a heaping dollop of creamy, gooey burrata. A must.

Sweet Corn & Garlic Chive "Shortstack" Pancakes with Mt. Tam

Sweet Corn & Garlic Chive “Shortstack” Pancakes with Mt. Tam

Demand the Commandables: sweet corn & garlic chive “shortstack” pancakes with a Mt. Tam cheese ooze. Heaven. I know why they have earned a spot on the short list of permanent menu items.

Guinea Hen Dumplings with Aromatic Broth

Guinea Hen Dumplings with Aromatic Broth

I’ll take a whole bowl: Shitake Mushrooms and Guinea Hen Dumplings with Preserved Lemon and an Aromatic Broth.

The namesake: the CA State Bird

The namesake: the CA State Bird

The namesake: CA State Bird with Provisions — crispy quail with sliced pecorino was a finger lickin’ good upgrade.

Buttermilk cracker with roasted chanterelles and pecorino

Buttermilk cracker with roasted chanterelles and pecorino

Do try this at home:  buttermilk cracker with roasted chanterelles and pecorino — a rich, earthy spread that would make any happy hour happier.

King salmon 7-min deviled egg with pickled radish and horseradish creme fraiche

King salmon 7-min deviled egg with pickled radish and horseradish creme fraiche

Favorite of the night: king salmon 7-min deviled egg with pickled radish and horseradish creme fraiche — a slightly gooey egg served as the bed for sweet salmon, peppery creme fraiche and refreshingly crunchy radish strips. Everything was right in this bowl.

Sweetbread polpette with fig jam

Sweetbread polpette with fig jam

A fitting dish to enjoy with Chris Cosentino sitting two tables away: sweetbread polpette with fig jam — these sweet, rich bites were not your grandma’s meatballs. Another serious contender for favorite dish.

Duck liver and almond biscuits

Duck liver and almond biscuits

Just when you thought you couldn’t eat anymore: Duck liver and almond biscuits — our bellies were full, our curiosities were sated and then this rolled by. The almond biscuit was more like a sweet mini breakfast muffin and served as the perfect vehicle for the rich duck liver mousse. We called this dessert and gladly welcomed one more dish to round.

The Skim: I would stand in line everyday for this place. The novelty of the dim sum-style delivery provided continuous anticipation for a stream of surprises. And with a menu that constantly changes, the surprises will never die. If you plan ahead you *can* actually get a reservation, but if you decide to show up on a whim, plan to get there by 4:30 for a table around 6:30/7pm. The good news is there are plenty of local watering holes with the same amount of charm and a convenient text notification system that does not tether you to the restaurant walls. Only other advice, go hungry or with the confident conviction to turn away your waiter.

Map: 1529 Fillmore, SF, California
Reservations: Taken! 
Phone: 415.795.1272

Other Places to Leave Your Hungry Heart:
Gone Fish. ‘in Sausalito
SF Best: Bi-Rite Ice Cream Done Right
SF Best: Nopa
SF Best: RoliRoti Rolls Out Revolutionary Rotisserie
SF Best: Cookin’, a Shop of Discord and Recycled Gourmet Appurtences
SF Best: Rosamunde Serves Serious Sausage Selection

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NYC Best: Num Num, Num Pang

num pang spread

num pang spread

Num num num num — ‘nough said. Num Pang is a Cambodian sandwich shop in NYC and is the Cambodian term for bread or sandwich. A midweek lunch excursion took me from our flatiron office down to their union square outpost for one of the better lunch discoveries I’ve had in a long time. Their menu lists several mainstay made to order options, as well as a few special seasonals.

All the sandwiches are served with cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro and chili mayo on freshly baked bread. My choice? The grilled khmer sausage with asian slaw, a cup of greenmarket gazpacho soup and a blood orange lemonade to wash it all down. I probably don’t need to provide much of a detailed explanation for you to read that list and need more convincing of its deliciousness — the perfect combinations of fresh ingredients, married together with Cambodian seasonings for 15 minutes of simple eating enjoyment. My only advice: go early and midweek to avoid the lines.

Map: 140 East 41st or 21 East 12th Street
Reservations: Not Taken
Delivery: Yes!
Phone: 212-255-3271

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NYC Best: yes yes to Pok Pok

Pok Pok

Pok Pok

When you think of thai food, if all you know is pad thai, then it’s time to be schooled in the ways of Pok Pok, New York’s latest west coast transplant to open up in thriving Red Hook. With a small front dining area, there is almost always a wait an hour+ long, but now that Summer is upon us, the back garden has been converted into an expanded dining area and a place to grab a refreshing jelly beer or a cocktail from the long list of thai-infused mixers.

Dining is family style, and while the table is set with utensils, you’re encouraged to try things like grilled meat, skewers and sticky rice by using your hands — there are no rules here, only napkins and wet wipes. The menu is long and reads like a traveling recap throughout Thailand. Use your wait-time to salivate over and narrow your choices, zeroing in on 2-3 plates per person {advice: bring more friends, try more goodness}.

Yam Samun Phrai

Yam Samun Phrai

Yam Samum Phrai {it’s everything you want in a salad — crunchy texture and refreshing citrusy herbal bites. Hands down one of the best dishes} — northern thai herbal salad with carrot, parsnip, white tumeric, betel leaf, basil, lime leaf, lemongrass, sawtooth, fried shallots, cashews, peanuts, sesame seeds, dried shrimp, ground pork, and thai chilies in a mild coconut milk dressing.

Pok Pok Ribs and Half Bird

Pok Pok Ribs and Half Bird

Sii Khrong Muu Yaang {ribs that kick Texas BBQ’s butt. yes, really! probably my second favorite dish} — Carlton farms baby back ribs marinated in whisky, soy, honey, ginger and thai spices. Slow roasted and served with two spice dipping sauces.

Kai Yang {signature house specialty: half bird with a kick} — Charcoal rotisserie roasted natural game hen stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, pepper and cilantro served with spicy sweet and sour and tamarind dipping sauces.

Pok Pok Thai Sausage

Pok Pok Thai Sausage

Sai Ua Samun Phrai {holy moly this sausage is so good — no, no this was my favorite!} — Chiang Mai sausage with herbs. Burmese curry powder and aromatics. Charcoal grilled and served with Naam Phrik Num {spicy green chile dip!} Khaep Muu {Thai pork rinds} and steamed crudites {how civilized}.

Da Chom’s Laap Meuang {mouth is on fire, thank God for sticky rice and the cooling plate of herbs that were completely foreign to me, but had me munching like a panda bear}. This dish was learned from Da Chom, Andy Ricker’s friend’s father from a small Thai village. At age 84 he still makes this for his family. Northern Thai spicy hand-minced pork salad with aromatics {the panda herbs that ranged in flavors from fish to lemon — yes, fascinatingly fishy herbs}, herbs, cracklings and crispy fried shallots and garlic. {bottom two plates in image below}.

Pok Pok spread

Pok Pok Spread {Da Chom’s Dish Lower Right Two Plates}

The Skim: If you’re not afraid to travel for good food, then all you need is a subway card to Red Hook — as far as Pok Pok is concerned, it’s as good as a plane ticket to Thailand. We were in love with every single dish we ordered, so get adventurous and order what moves you. And be ready to wash everything down with a few quenching cocktails or suds — these dishes are not for the mild tastebuds. Loved it so much, it’s going on my Favor8 list.


8.ate@eight Favor8
Seal of Approval

Map127 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, NY
Phone: (718) 923-9322
Reservations: Not Taken {but a delightful garden awaits} 

Outside the Pad Thai:
NYC Best: Tasty Times Square Thai @ Pongsri
NYC Best: Summer Sausage & Other Seriously Good Eats @ Summerstage

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NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Isa is a Trip Not to be Missed

Isa

View from a Cocktail Perch

When you first walk into Isa you are immediately greeted by a strange feeling of comfort — a brightly colored curtain made of pieced together knitted afghans serves as the weather barrier between the door and the inner sanctum of the dining room. But as you enter into the main room and take a glance around, the feeling of comfort changes from grandma’s couch to one of a chill-warming modern camping lodge with stacked logs, candlelight, communal tables and smooth cement walls.

Across the entire back wall of the main dining room is an open kitchen providing free entertainment for the evening. The fun starts with a drink menu as playful as the afghan curtain. To drink: cocktails such as the Enlighten Up, Brain Hammock, Inspector Spacetime or Looking Glass give the feeling that you might be going on a strange strange trip from here on out. If you’re more of a wine drinker, even that list gives the option of ordering up a wine from the “Orange” selection — somewhere between a red and a white and the result of a grape skin soaking to blend the two genres.

The dinner menu is short and straightforward and changes frequently. Simply listed:  artichokes, tartar, mackerel, pork loin. But it was in the fine print descriptions that the intrigue presents itself. When I asked our server if there were any standout dishes not to be missed, she went on to describe everything on the menu individually and ended with saying they were all her favorite. No help there.

I started with the Tartar, presented in three very simple circular disks of ingredients with crunchy flax and a dollop of creme fraiche as its accompaniments. It was simple in presentation and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Tried alone or with a little stab at each, this starter was outstanding.

Isa Tartar

Isa Tartar

I ordered the Mackerel as my main. Another simple dish that was not short on flavor. The fish was slow cooked resulting in a delightfully juicy bite, and was served atop a creamy parsnip puree with sweet peas and covered in a thin blanket of crunchy, peppery radishes. Everything about this was not complicated, but when tasted in one bite, the variety of textures and seasonal flavors confirmed this was not just an ordinary dining experience.

Radish-Blanketed Mackerel

Radish-Blanketed Mackerel

The Skim: I’m in love with this new trend of dining — found at Frej a few weeks back and now at Isa. The art is in the simplicity. Isa is having fun with the decor, the cocktail menu, the quirky touches here and there, but when it comes to the food, it’s about pairing the freshest seasonal ingredients and textures and letting them be the star of the show. What’s more? This menu is accessible to just about anyone — for $50 you can enjoy a three-course prix fix or get away with spending $30-40 if you want to stick with a starter and main. No wonder Isa was nominated for a James Beard award for Best New Restaurant.

Map: 348 WYTHE AVE
Reservations: Yes! Here 
Phone: 347-689-3594

Good Things in BKLYN:
NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Frej Should Be Your New Dining Kinfolk
Do This!: Learn to Forage in Prospect Park for Edible and Medicinal Plants with Expert Leda Meredith

Blue Bottle Coffee Brews One Brilliant Cup at a Time
Rustic Space Features Really Good Wood-Burning Oven Pizza @Roberta’s
NYC Best: Source Your Spices and Specialty Foods @ Sahadi’s 

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Do This!: Italian Cooking Classes in Tuscany. Jet-Set to Villa Life: Eat, Drink and Be Italian!

6-Day All-Inclusive Tuscan Getaway at Villa Campestri

6-Day All-Inclusive Tuscan Getaway at Villa Campestri

Have you ever dreamed of jetting off to Italy, lounging in a Tuscan villa, inhaling the perfume of olive groves, all while sipping on a nice glass of chianti? Oh, and spending your days learning the art of Tuscan cooking and then eating your accomplishments under the Tuscan sun. Well, dream no longer — you have two months to find a flight and book this trip. The rest awaits you…

Immerse Yourself in a 6-Day All-Inclusive Tuscan Cooking and Tasting Experience
with Writer, Historian and Food Authority
Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Learn to make pasta, focaccie and other Tuscan Specialties

Learn to make pasta, focaccie and other Tuscan Specialties

The All-Inclusive Scoop:

  • 6 nights accommodation at Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort
  • 5 Tuscan cooking classes
  • 1 Tuscan wine tasting
  • 1 Special extra-virgin olive oil tasting
  • Visit and lunch in a Chianti Rufina (DOCG) winery
  • Guided visit to local cheese producer
  • Guided visit to Scarperia, a town reknown for its handmade knives (its twin town is Laguiole, France!)
  • Price includes all meals (including wine), travel services within the tour itinerary, service charges as well as 10% VAT

All you need to do is get there! Pack your bags and buon viaggio!

This Could Be All Yours!

This Could Be All Yours!...and a Nice Glass of Chianti

Or Bring Italy Home:
Homemade Fresh Mozzarella
Homemade Ricotta
Secret DiLaura Family Frittata with Sweet Italian Sausage
Homemade Gnocchi and Sauce: Channeling My Italian Grandmother
Grandma’s Italian Wedding Chicken Soup

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Say Cheese! and then Yes Please!

French Onion "Soup" Grilled and Fig-Smoke Gouda Grilled Cheese Halves

French Onion "Soup" Grilled and Fig-Smoke Gouda Grilled Cheese Halves

Well who doesn’t love grilled cheese? And snow cones? And mac ‘n cheese? And homemade rosemary-lemonade? I can’t think of a more drool-inducing menu from Say Cheese!, a gourmet grilled cheese-focused sandwich shop that just opened up around the corner from me.

The brick-walled shop is adorned with antiquities that relay a certain charm on a street otherwise comprised of rental car companies and cheap nail salons. The space is open, with standing-room only tables and wall-counters and a no-step doorway, that makes this very stroller-friendly for the Upper West Side bugaboo-pushers.

Say Cheese!Snow Cones. With flavors like Swedish Fish, Root Beer and Ginger Lemongrass, this menu will attract both kids and kids-at-heart. Their clever “Farm to Glass” sno cones use only freshly squeezed fruits and vegetables and are created from herb infused simple syrups from their own mini herb garden, incorporating natural sweeteners such as honey and agave.

Say Cheese. You can stick with the standard American on Potato Bread, but if you’re ready to stray in the the world of creative crafted cheese, try the “French Onion Soup” with a reduced sweet onion spread slathered between slices of gruyere and swiss and melted to perfection. Or if you want to go with my personal favorite, try the Smoked Gouda & Fig smooooshed between peasant bread — it is the sweet, smokey combo that dreams are made of. Add maple bacon or tomato to any sandwich for a wee fee, or accessorize with eye-popping treats such as the Candied Bacon Lollipops or Super Cream Mac ‘n Cheese {with bacon! or truffle!} Stop the insanity.

Say Cheese Menu

Say Cheese Menu

The Skim: I couldn’t possibly list all the items I want to inhale, so check it out yourself {full menu here}. If you’re braving the Upper West Side for an afternoon in the park, this might just be the perfect box lunch to carry into New York City’s big backyard.

Map: 142 West 83rd Street (Between Amsterdam & Columbus Avenues)
Reservations: Available for Private Parties 
Email: Bridget@scoozievents.com 

Feel Like a Kid Again:
Banana Puddin’ Chocolate Cups {bottom of post}
Blueberry, Lemon & Coconut Pancakes
Goat Town’s Non-*Goat* ‘Scream
Luke’s Low-Key Lobster Roll Licks Competition {And My Lips}
Under the Bridge, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory Treat
A+ 8.ate@eight Back to School Nite
Soft & Salty Snack @Sigmund Pretzelshop

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NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Frej Should Be Your New Dining Kinfolk

The Garage Door Style Entrance to Kinfolk, Temporary House of Frej

The Garage Door Style Entrance to Kinfolk, Temporary Home of Frej

Back in 2009 I read about a 10-seat place in Brooklyn called Brooklyn Fare that was preparing extraordinary dishes, yet was fairly unknown to the masses. Intrigued, I made a reservation for 8 people hoping I could convince 7 lucky friends to dine beside me that weekend. At the time, the ticket price of $95 a head seemed like a worthwhile, though steep, 20-course dining experience with Chef Cesar preparing everything table side. When I called, someone answered my phone call on the second ring and I had my choice of weekend reservations. Fast forward three years and three Michelin stars later, and the reservation book is full months in advance with a pricetag skyrocketing to $225 per person. Sigh. Last night I had an early-Brooklyn Fare-days deja vous moment at Frej. Something special is blooming.

Tucked down an untrafficked street in Williamsburg, you’ll come across a converted industrial building with a garage door front. The multi-purpose space is design studio by day, bar by night {with B.Y.O.V – bring your own vinyl – Tuesdays on the menu}. The bar is called Kinfolk and also plays the role of generous relative, providing space to Frej, its temporary dining houseguest {although I am hopeful this kinship becomes permanent}. It’s a symbiotic relationship — Kinfolk needed to serve food to obtain a liquor license and the guys behind Frej were looking for a small space to test out their concept. Named after the nordic God of Harvest, the menu is based on local-seasonal fare prepared with a scandinavian hand.

We settled into the intimate 10-table seating area and things started off simply, but on a high note. They had me at warm, fresh baked bread with a side of salty butter. That butter was gone by the end of dinner.

Frej Bread and Butter

Frej Bread and Butter

An amuse of pureed celery root, pork jowl and chicory was a perfect introduction to the balanced local, ingredient-focused flavors of the rest of the meal.

Amuse: celery root, pork bowel, chicory

Amuse: celery root, pork jowl, chicory

Smoked brook trout, egg yolk, dill, chickweed, rye bread was both light and rich at the same time. I loved the crispy rye bits strewn about the dish and I’m a sucker for dill on any finned friend. Oh, and egg, how I love thee.

Burnt hazelnuts crispy sunchokes skin beef liver puree

Smoked brook trout, egg yolk, dill, chickweed, rye bread

Burnt hazelnuts with crispy sunchoke skins, sunchokes and a beef liver puree, was a surprising marriage of textures and flavors. I loved the richness of the puree, was delighted by the use of the delicate sunchoke skins and enjoy hazelnuts on pretty much anything, but the one-step-beyond-toasted flavor really counterbalanced the liver puree and had me wiping the plate with said lovely warm bread.

Burnt hazelnuts, sunchoke skin and beef liver puree

Burnt hazelnuts, sunchoke skin and beef liver puree

Soft poached egg, with pickled hen of woods mushrooms and crispy seaweed. Hello egg again. This was one of my favorite dishes — it was earthy, it was vinegary, it was sweet, it was creamy, it was crispy, it was perfection.

Soft poached egg, scallop, hen of the woods mushroom, cauliflower puree

Soft poached egg, scallop, hen of the woods mushroom, cauliflower puree

Skate wing, pickled onion, carrot ribbon, fennel frawns, almond powder. I’m starting to catch on — fresh local fish, bright fresh herbs, a little earthiness, a kiss of sweetness and a touch of vinegar. That umami that we all crave and leaves us wanting more…more…more!

Frej Skate wing, carrot ribbon, pickled onion, fennel frawns

Frej Skate wing, carrot ribbon, pickled onion, fennel frawns

Beef cooked in hay with rutabaga and apple cider gelée. Ok, no, this was my favorite dish. I made what could have been three bites turn into nine, just so I could enjoy the perfectly tender beef with the accompanying, cleverly sweet and tart cider gelée bites. If it wasn’t already Wednesday, I would have made a reservation for the next night on the spot.

Beef cooked in hay with rutabaga and apple cider gelee

Beef cooked in hay with rutabaga and apple cider gelee

Hibiscus pound cake, dried berries, cardamom ice cream. And dessert didn’t disappoint either — somebody please make me a hibiscus pound cake for my next birthday. Delightful.

Hibiscus pound cake with dried berries and ice cream

Hibiscus pound cake with dried berries and ice cream

The Skim: If you’re looking for a place with no pretense, but is rooted in innovation, then get thee to the Frej. These guys have mastered plate after plate of umami-satisfying local flavor combinations. Nothing is fancy pants. Everything is unique. Eye brows were raised with excitement throughout our entire meal and each dish was wiped clean and washed down with delightful Kinfolk cocktails {might I recommend the Kinfolk pink grapefruit collins}. The best part about it all? It only costs $45. The. Best. Undiscovered. Deal. In. Town. And you heard it here first, brunch will begin within the month. I may just move my permanent residence to 90 Wythe street — until then, Frej is making its way to my Favor8 list.


8.ate@eight Favor8
Seal of Approval

Map: 90 Wythe and 11st Street {Brooklyn}
Reservations: A must — info@frejnyc.com {open Mon-Wed 6-10pm}
Phone: (347) 286-6241

More Brooklyn Gems You Should Know:
Do This!: Brooklyn’s Depressingly Awesome Industry City Distillery Creates Handcrafted Vodka
NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Isa is a Trip Not to be Missed
Do This!: Foraging for Food is F’ing Fun {in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with Leda}

Vinegar Hill House is a Sweet Spot for Supper
18 Favorite Meat Dishes for Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau
Rustic Space Features Really Good Wood-Burning Oven Pizza @Roberta’s
Brooklyn Fare Fares Well, Earning 2 Michelin Stars

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Extra Extra! Oaxaca Revolucion de Taco

Oaxaca Taqueria Delciousness

Oaxaca Taqueria Delciousness

Everyone loves a good taco. But not everyone makes a GOOD taco. And by good I mean one that uses ingredients sourced from local, organic and sustainable sources. Oaxaca Taqueria is a recent discovery and a delightful one at that. Tucked down a small alley called Extra Place, somewhere in the vicinity of Bowery and 1st street, is a taco counter that depends on taco revolution geeks to seek out their special selections {read: no foot traffic at this hideout}. It’s authentic Mexican street food at its best.

At $6.95 for two tacos, rice and beans, the lunch special is a steal. I went with the Korean special of the day which included a topping of crunchy kimchi over the korean-spiced steak {highly recommended by my new friend behind the counter} and the braised pork carnitas with pickled onions that can be found on the regular menu. Each were topped with their own special sauce and a squeeze of refreshing lime that contributed to a drip-down-your-arms excitable experience. After alternating bites to decide which should be saved for the last, the Korean special slightly inched out its pork competitor, but it was a close battle.

The Skim: With another 60-degree February day upon us, go out scavenging for a quick authentic mexican bite. The beauty of this tucked-away taco treasure is not only the food, but the abnormal silence that you can relish in sitting at the outdoor cafe tables.

Map: 16 Extra Place {off 1st street between Bowery and 2nd Ave}
Other Locations:

Park Slope, Brooklyn: 250 Fourth Ave {Between Carrol & President}
Cobble Hill, Brooklyn: 251 Smith Street {Between Douglass & Degraw} 

Other Mexican Hideouts:
La Esquina Still Has the Taco Market Cornered
Weekend Brunch: Eat Eggs @ Edward’s

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8.ate@eight Deliciously Different Valentine’s Day Gift and Dinner Ideas

♥ Text Me ♥ Recipe 4 Love ♥ Table 4 Two ♥ Be Mine ♥ Cool Cat

You’ve found that special someone who likes long walks on the beach too, but you’re late to the game planning Valentine’s Day? Never fear, if you’re in need of some good inspiration to show your love, here a list of a few of my favorite ideas — whether you’re looking for a romantic night in, a unique meal out or a gift of food that is the way to your love’s heart.

♥ Labor of  Love With Your Own Hands ♥

Cocktail Kick-Off: Fireside Sparks {Champagne Cocktail a la Tippling Bros.}
When In Doubt, Roast a Chicken: Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken
When in Doubt, Roast a Hot and Spicy Chicken: Some Like it HOT Pollo alla Diavola
Spice it Up: Crispy Cayenne Roasted Potatoes
Bourbon and Flames to Heat Things Up: Alton Brown’s Bourbon Banana’s Foster
Bedtime Snack: Cinnamon Sugar & Dark Cocoa Almonds
Breakfast in Bed:
How To Cook The Perfect Sunny Side-Up Egg w/ Herbed Buttermilk Biscuits

More 8.ate@eight Recipes HERE

♥ Wine & Dine ♥

10s Across the Board: The Art of Eating {and Drinking} Well @ L’Artusi
An Aphrodisiac’s Evening: Lovin’ Me Some Oysters @Mermaid Oyster Bar
Interactive Eating: Love, Love Shabu Shabu: Fun to Say and Eat
Butt. ‘Nough Said: Momofuku That Pork Butt is Good!
Slurping is Sexy: NYC Ramen Wars: Ippudo vs. momofuku noodle bar
Smoked Meat is Sexier: 18 Meat Dishes for Men & BBQ Heaven @Fette Sau
Cozy and Romantic: August in April
Single and Looking for Love: Wilfie & Nell: Not Your Grandpa’s Watering Hole

More 8.ate@eight Favor8 Restaurants HERE

♥ Gifts A Dozen Times Better Than Roses ♥

Take a Kick-Ass Specialty Class: Sign-Up for an Underground Sidetour 
Ice Cream Gram:
Send Your Valentine an Ice Cream Gram from Milkmade
A Gift to Warm the Soul: Blue Bottle Coffee Brews One Brilliant Cup at a Time
Artisanal Meats, Cheeses & Chocolates! Artisanal Specialty Foods Digested

♥ Text Me ♥ Recipe 4 Love ♥ Table 4 Two ♥ Be Mine ♥ Cool Cat

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Filed under @home {recipes to love}, Do This!, Eat Here!, {Drink Me}

Do This!: How to Get Pickled with Happy Girl Kitchen

Let's Get Pickled!

Let's Get Pickled!

Pickles have come a long way from the days of our friend the classic Vlasic stork. It is never more apparent that just about anything can not only be pickled, but improved upon with the process. Pickling is one of the top 5 food trends this year, and in NYC, Rick’s Picks, Brooklyn Brine, and McClures have all shown us that while the classic cucumber is great, things like a whiskey sour blend or maple bourbon bread & butter is even better. And if you stray down the vegetable path you may find that creative combos like chipotle carrots, Moroccan green beans or fennel beets also make for a welcomed variety of pickled punch. It’s not just about sandwich stackers anymore.

Nothing fascinates me more than when true artisans take a kitchen-staple and reinvent the approach with new flavor combos that bring excitement to a rather standard world. Well maybe one thing fascinates me more — demystifying the process and learning that something that delighted you out of the jar can easily be made in your own kitchen.

2012 is the year of getting back to the basics and doing things from scratch.

Happy Girl Kitchen Preserves

Happy Girl Kitchen Preserves

A recent trip to Happy Girl Kitchen in Pacific Grove, CA was the perfect venue for said fascinations. Happy Girl Kitchen is run by a husband and wife team, Todd and Jordan Champagne, who had worked on local farms for years, but found the art of food preservation was fading into a thing of the past. Dedicated to supporting the local, organic food community and teaching people how to enjoy their favorite local seasonal bounty in the off-season, the couple launched Happy Girl Kitchen as a brand that offers the very best in artisan preserves, workshops and events in the Bay Area. Start with the right ingredients, add passion and creativity and you’ve got a line of products that will improve any table. Happy Girl is not only dedicated to happy fork licking, but is also giving people the tools to carry out food preservation in their own kitchens by teaching these techniques at their weekly workshops. “Teach a man to fish…” These are good people.

Beautiful Pickling Ingredients

Beautiful Pickling Ingredients

The five hours we spent happily pickling at their workshop was some of the most fruitful {pun intended} time I’ve spent in culinary education. For the first hour or so we learned about different types of preserving, the nature of fermentation, basic rules to live by to avoid flimsy {overcooked}, blue {iodized salt} or botulism-infected {low-acidity} pickles {all disappointing failures, the last of which is deadly and should be reserved as ammo for your enemies}. Do not be afraid, in the end we came away feeling confident that with great ingredients, a few basic kitchen tools and some spicy creativity, we were all destined to be pickling pros ready for market.  I would, however, suggest taking a class as you venture into the new world of pickling to absorb some of these basic guidelines — and hey, have a fun experience along the way.

Sweet! {and sour} what did you make?! Alas, we pickled baby carrots {purple, white and orange varieties}, beets {red, yellow and candied}, and a mixed garden which included carrots, beets, romanesco cauliflower and anything else we felt like jamming in the jar {lemon slices, fennel, red onion, jalepenos, etc.} producing a beautiful variety of colors and shapes.

Pickling ProcessSo in an effort to spread the good food love, I’ve included one of the recipes we learned below. Get as creative as you’d like with adding different spices, cutting carrot shapes {sticks or rounds} and veggie varieties, but please people, don’t mess with the vinegar:water ratio {follow the recipe, live to tell the story}. Let’s get pickled!

I live in SF: Take a Class at Happy Girl {here}
I live in NYC: Take a Class with Leda Meredith {here} 

Spicy Carrots {aka Spicy Rabbit}

Recipe for pint jars:
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 sprig of thyme
1-2 clices of jalapenos on bottom and top of jar
Several pounds of carrots to fill number of jars desired.

Vinegar solution:
8 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
12 cups water
1/4 cup sea salt
2 tablespoons honey

  1. Bring a large stock pot with a jar rack {if you have one} to a rolling boil {want to reach 200 degrees}. If you don’t have a jarring rack to submerge your jars, you can put rocks on the bottom of the pot so your jars are not directly on the bottom where they could crack and use tongs to submerge and remove jars.
  2. Scrub clean, but don’t peel carrots. Remove green top and any roots or bad spots. Slice the carrots so that they are the same height as the jars you are using {or if cutting rounds, cut each the same thickness}.
  3. Slice the jalapenos in 1/4-inch thick rounds and start by adding 1-2 in the bottom of each jar {depending on how spicy they are}. Add all your spices to the bottom of the jar.
  4. While packing the jars heat up the vinegar solution to a rolling boil.
  5. Pack the carrots in the jars with the thyme displayed on the side of the jar. Finish off the top with more jalapenos.
  6. Pour the hot liquid brining solution into the jars up to the fill line {where the jar curves at the top}.
  7. Using one hand, place the lid on top and turn just until the jar starts to turn with the lid. This will ensure it’s not too tight and will allow air to release in the hot water bath. You don’t want the lid to be on tight at this point.
  8. Process each jar in the hot water bath for 15 minutes. The water temperature should be 200 degrees.
  9. Remove immediately with jar tongs or water/heat resistant gloves and tighten lid slightly.
  10. Store in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks to finish pickling.

Pickles Pickles Everywhere
NYC Best: I’m In Love with Jacob’s Pickle
Do This: Take an Underground Sidetour to Get You Through the January Blues
18 Favorite Meat Dishes for Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau

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SF Best: Rosamunde Serves Serious Sausage Selection

Rosamunde Serves Serious Sausage Selection

duck with figs, spicy Italian, chicken cherry, wild boar w/ apple & a spicy, smoked beer sausage

I like the simplicity of a place that does one thing and does it really well. That doesn’t mean you’re left without the chance of menu indecision, but it probably does mean that anything you choose will not disappoint. Rosamunde, in San Fran, is just that kind of place – serving 20 different types of sausages and an equally impressive line-up of bottled and local craft brews {menu here}. A match made in heaven.

Each day these artisans blend and stuff the fresh sausages using every type of meat you can imagine {beef, pork, veal, chicken, lamb, boar, duck} and pair them with flavors that just make sense. We decided to order up five different handmade selections and do a tasting – duck with figs, spicy Italian, chicken cherry, wild boar with apple and a spicy, smoked beer sausage. We wanted to add the chicken habanero {smoked with tequila and habanero} to the mix, but they were already wiped out of that fan-fav. The surprising winner on my plate was the chicken cherry. It was bursting with juices and flavors unlike I have ever experienced with a sausage — it was like a good roast chicken in a convenient sausage package. The beer sausage was a very close second, because really, how could anything be bad when it’s made with beer?

The Skim: If you’re looking for “neighborhood butcher meets fast casual dining”, Rosamunde is your place. You can enjoy a brew and brat at their small neighborhood shop or take away fresh sausages to cook from the comforts of your own Weber. Either way, be sure to sample a few and be ready to think of the plain ‘ole Italian sausage as a thing of the past.

Map: 2832 Mission Street {near 24th}
Phone: 415.970.9015

More Than Just Rice-A-Roni
Gone Fish. ‘in Sausalito
SF Best: Bi-Rite Ice Cream Done Right
SF Best: Nopa
SF Best: RoliRoti Rolls Out Revolutionary Rotisserie
SF Best: Cookin’, a Shop of Discord and Recycled Gourmet Appurtences 

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NYC Best: I’m In Love with Jacob’s Pickle

Jacob's Pickles Warms West Side

Jacob's Pickles Warms West Side

At first glance you might think this picture is of a really cool bar in Brooklyn. Lucky for upper west siders, it’s the newly opened Jacob’s Pickles — an outpost that took over a former lighting store and is bringing a new brightness to the neighborhood’s dining scene. Serving a menu centered around artisanal Beer, Biscuits, Pickles, Jams and Sustainably-Raised Meats, owner Jacob Hadjigeorgis saw an opportunity to bring simple American craft-comfort cuisine to an area that doesn’t welcome news-worthy restaurant openings with the same frequency as stops below 14th-street. I think Jacob is going to be a new friend.

American Craft-Comfort CuisineThe atmosphere has a casual elegant buzz about it. Soft lighting illuminates a wood-planked wall of bottles and jars behind the bar. The opposite wall is lined with tables intimately spaced along an elevated black leather banquette — the looks of which any man’s man would like in his own living room. Sit across from the banquette or at the bar and you’ve scored a seat in the most comfortable and cool looking bar stools I’ve seen in a long time. I should have taken a picture of these perfect perches, but with a deep seat, a back and arm rests, I promise they are the vehicles fit for a lengthy pickling session {you, not the gherkins}. The music is subtle so you can still have a conversation, but adds to the warm vibe — if I didn’t know any better, it could have been my ipod playing. It was the energy of the crowd that was really humming — I was enthralled.

The menu: 25 American craft beers on tap list some of my favorites {Founder IPA from Michigan}, as well as others begging to be sampled {Speakeasy-Prohibition Ale from California}. Intriguing cocktails include the Dirty Aphrodite, a martini made dirty with dill pickle brine, and the B.L.T Bloody Mary, which sounds like breakfast in a glass with peppercorn vodka, Niman Ranch bacon and a jalapeno pickled egg. There’s also a selection of artisanal root beers on tap, lemonade and other craft sodas if you’re looking to keep things simple. But even those can be converted to a float if you want to take it to another level. For the truly over the top treat, try the Sixpoints-Otis Oatmeal Stout float or the Allagash Black float. Beer and ice cream? Awesome.

Honey, Chicken and Pickles Southern Biscuit Sandwich

Honey, Chicken and Pickles Southern Biscuit Sandwich

But don’t get too carried away with the drink selection before you order up some grub. Like pickles? You’ve come to the right place — special or hot sours, candied beets, salt & pepper asparagus, sweet & spicy carrots, sour green tomatoes are just a few ways to get started. There also seemed to be a lot of fried pickle plates coming out of the kitchen {everything tastes better fried}. Our neighbors were ooohing and aaahing over the mac ‘n cheese — not surprising, since Jacob owns a mac n’ cheese shop in Boston, which was his primary focus before gracing us with his presence. The southern biscuit sandwiches all sounded outstanding — we tried the creamy mushroom gravy smothered chicken and the honey, chicken & pickles versions. The latter of which was my order and was the perfect sweet-salty-vinegary marriage of flavors. I swapped out the cheese grits for fries and the house ketchup {which I would bottle up and take home, if I could}. Speaking of which, if you just can’t get enough of these specialties, you can take home jars of their house-made pickles, preserves and 32- or 64-oz refillable growlers of beer. I’ll have to speak to Jacob about adding his ketchup to the pantry. Full menu here.

As if you don’t already have enough reasons to hop on the northbound subway, Jacob’s Pickles will be hosting a daily beer tasting from 3-6pm, which will also feature specials. Sounds like a perfect reason to leave work early.

The Skim: Good vibe. Good beer. Good grub. ‘nough said.  Will be back for more — tomorrow. This newcomer has quickly won me over and despite only opening a month ago, I’m adding it to my Favor8 list.

Map: 509 Amsterdam Avenue {Between 84th / 85th}
Reservations: Not taken
Phone: 212.470.5566 


8.ate@eight Favor8
Seal of Approval

Other Favor8s:
The Art of Eating {and Drinking} Well @ L’Artusi
Rustic Space Features Really Good Wood-Burning Oven Pizza
Highlands Highlights: Scottish Plaids, Pub Fare and Hand 
18 Favorite Meat Dishes for Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau
The Beagle: A Restaurant You Should Be Loyal To


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NYC Best: Kalustyan’s Ingredient Haven for Foodie Curiosities

4,000 Varieties of Spices, Herbs, Coffees, Teas and More

You’ve settled down on your couch with your largest unsoiled cookbook, determined to test your culinary skills and whip up a spectacularly artful culinary masterpiece. But as you scan your lofty ingredient list, you start to question where one can find avocado leaves or za’atar. Surely the local bodega doesn’t carry these items and it’s likely to be a stretch that even the two-level Whole Foods will stock such curiosities. But before your inner Julia Child is deflated, let me introduce you to Kalustyan’s, NYC’s landmark for specialty foods and spices {and the place to grab a killer falafel}.

Carrying over 4,000 varieties of spices, herbs, sweets, coffee, tea and snacks from all over the world, Kalustyan’s shelves stock pretty much any culinary ingredient your adventurous heart desires . Even the seemingly most basic ingredients, such as cinnamon, presents the option of choosing from 10 different types of stick to ground and Sri Lankan to Vietnamese. Need mustard? I count over 40 varieties on two shelves. Looking for good olive oil? Then you’ll have to start with which country you want the olives to originate from — Lebanon, Greece, Spain, Italy, Syria….

Kalustyan's is a condiment heaven

Kalustyan's is a condiment heaven

But be sure not to get lost amongst the array of choices and shelves of alluringly yellow-labeled packages, because one of the other best kept secrets at Kalustyan’s is the mediterranean deli on the second floor. If you manage to find the stairs between the stacks of airy pita and crisp halva, you’ll be guided by the scent of garlic, spiced meat and salty cheeses. Grapeleaves, falafel, hummus and baba ganoush are just some of the treats you can sample from this homemade hideout. If you’re at a loss for what specialty to select, simply ask the charming Syrian man behind the counter who will share tales of the home country and offer an opinion of his favorite dishes. As someone with a Lebanese heritage, I can assure you this is the real deal.

So whether you’re looking for a unique gift for the food-lover that has everything, or an obscure ingredient from some faraway land, Kalustyan’s is the place that every wanderlusty foodie should travel to.

123 Lexington Ave {btw 28/29th}
New York, NY 10016
212-685-3451

Store Hours:
Mon – Sat 10am-8pm
Sun/Holiday 11am-7pm

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Socarrat: A Seductive Spanish Cellar Worthy of Date- or Girl’s- Night

Socarrat Paella Bar

I’m craving the warmth of the holiday season. And I’m not talking about the 61 degree day we’re having on December 6th. I’ve tried turning on the TV Yule Log and listening to a little Annie Lennox Christmas Cornucopia, but what I really want is a night out at the kind of place that warms your face and your mood the moment you push aside the winter-proofing velvet curtains hung inside the door.

I first discovered Socarrat Paella Bar in the Fall. Brick walls adorned with antique mirrors, wood-planked ceilings dropping tulip-shaped lighting, high tables forcing the intimate lean toward your dining company — I loved it before I even placed the napkin in my lap.

Socarrat Paella

But of course it’s the measure of the menu that truly wins my heart — and Socarrat seduces successfully. Choose from any number of traditional tapas, from the steeply priced{and worthy} $22 24-month dry-aged Jamon Iberico, to the more reasonable and finger-aioli-lickin’-good, patatas bravas. The left side of the menu offers a generous list of bite-sized options that can be shared amongst friends or in a friendly game of toothpick wars with your date.

But what you really want to hold out for is one of Socarrat’s eight paella options {menu here}. Placed atop cleverly elevated and off-set paella pedestals, you can easily sample several pans despite the intimacy of the small table setting. The pricing averages $23 per person, but the paella pays back 10-fold with its heaping dish of fresh seafood, spanish-seasoned meats, colorful veg and the prized caramelization of the rice bed {know as the socarrat}.

The Skim: Even if it is summer, Socarrat Paella Bar is an option you want to keep high on your dining list when you’re looking for warmth. Excellent Spanish wines, flavor-bursting paellas, easily sharable tapas are all encased in a perfectly intimately-lit setting that is suitable for a fingers-crossed date night or an evening with your closest friends.

Map: 259 W. 19th {8th Ave} or 284 Mulberry {Houston}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone:  212.462.1000

Seconds on the Spanish Senorita!:
Barcelona Digested: Food for Foodies
recipe goodness :: peppers padron at home
recipe goodness :: celebrate with stand-out spanish sangria
recipe goodness :: barcelona favorite recreated | balsamic chick pea salad

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Curly’s Comfortable Quirky {and Vegetarian} Cafe

Curly's Coloring Wall

Sometimes you just want a good lunch spot that doesn’t involve greasy burgers or burritos. Thanks to a lovely lunch with a vegetarian friend I was introduced to Curly’s, a new meat-free twist on the classic diner menu. Before you run in the other direction, let me assure you it’s not just all lettuce and celery sticks.

Curly’s was originally a cafe that opened in 1927 in Manchester, NH and served the locals a traditional menu of bacon & eggs, meatloaf & beans, among other hearty items. Inspired by the comfort quotient, but with the desire to lighten the fare, a new kind of Curly’s was opened in Manhattan to rave reviews.

As you scroll down the menu you’ll see sections for burgers and burritos, which may make you take pause with the understanding that this was supposed to be vegetarian. But upon closer examination you’ll notice the items listed include a fauxphilly cheesesteak, crabfake po’ boy or a TLT sandwich {made of tofu bacon, lettuce, tomato and soy nayo, naturally}. No, these are not typos, but clever riffs on classics. Sure, you may need to swallow your protein pride in favor of tofu and soy, but I promise that these items do not fall short on flavor or satisfaction…or a sense of humor for that matter.

The Skim: Beyond just the comfort of the menu, Curly’s is cozied by the placemat art wallpapering its sunshine yellow walls. Each one-of-a-kind has been designed by patrons while they patiently wait for lunch, making use of the crayons that grace each table alongside the salt and pepper. Curly’s is a place with personality and it won’t leave you in a post-noon food coma — a refreshingly recast dining option.

Map: 328 East 14th {Btw 1st and 2nd ave}
Reservations: Not Taken
Phone: 212.598.9998

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At The Meatball Shop, It All Starts With Naked Balls

The Meatball Shop Customizable Menu

We’ve been through the burger, food truck and FroYo craze — is it time for meatball madness? I would fully support more meatball-centric meals. Especially when it involves making your own masterpiece from meat choice to sauce selection. At The Meatball Shop, this is exactly what you can hope for when you sit down to supper. A casual arrangement of communal seating is set with laminated menus and dry erase markers for each diner to peruse and build their meal to taste.

I opted for a white bread hero, sandwiching spicy pork meatballs, pesto sauce and creamy mozzarella. Any of these flavors and textures on their own would be well-received, but when you combine the  fresh crusty bread with a perfectly seasoned tender meatball slathered in the bright herby pesto and creamy mozzarella, you’ve got yourself a handheld creation that you will crave again for days after. For smaller appetites build your flavors on a 1-ball “slider” or a 2-ball “smash”, but don’t forget to add the family jewels — a fried egg for an extra dollar and unparalleled meatball goodness.

My Hero

Maps: 
84 Stanton
170 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn
Reservations: Not Taken
Phone: {212} 982-8895 

More Meaty Meals:
18 Favorite Meat Dishes for Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau
Al & Ry’s Revolutionary {Meat} Pies
Detroit’s Slows Bar-B-Q is Quickly Becoming a Motor City Beacon
Del Posto Presents Murray’s Cheese & Salumi Wine Party @NYCWFF

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Do This!: Freshocracy Greenmarket Cooking Demo This Friday

Freshocracy

NYC’s local farm-to-table
grocery and recipe delivery service. 

The tools to put better meals on your table. 

“Freshocracy takes real ingredients, from real local farms, and wraps them in a bow with a recipe card that promises success at the table.”
— Keith Gibson, Grazin’ Angus Acres Farm

Come Meet and Try Freshocracy!

When:  Friday 8/19 from 11-1pm
Where:  97th Street Greenmarket (@Columbus Ave)
What:  Christina and Ferdinand will be running a cooking demo of a favorite Freshocracy recipe: Summer Corn-Peach Salad
Why:  Why not?!
  • Meet Christina (or just say hi)
  • Watch, taste, ask questions, ooh and ahh
  • Introduce neighbors and friends to the new farm-to-table delivery service that so many New Yorkers have come to know and love!
  • Meet the farmers who are working hard each week to bring you such amazing seasonal farm-fresh food!
  • Did we mention free food?
See What People Are Saying About Freshocracy:

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The Dutch: American Fare for Wait-Worthy Exploring

Asparagus Okonomiyaki and a Poached Egg

You know the sign of a excellent restaurant is one that you walk by at the opening hour of 5pm with a glance at empty tables assuring you of a seat, only to be proven wrong with an hour-long wait when you return a mere 30 minutes later {at a time which still rivals the early-bird special.} But this should come as no surprise for diners at The DutchAndrew Carmellini’s latest and greatest outpost in the heart of SoHo.

The good news: if your dining preferences are flexible, you can score a lively seat at the bar or window-counter, where you can digest the scene of high-powered, loafer-wearing dudes and well-heeled ladies who are happily sucking down oysters, while washing it down with a whiskey or wine.

But this scene will only distract you momentarily until the waitress presents the deliciously spicy cornbread and a menu that will leave you torn and asking for recommendations. My eye was immediately caught by the Asparagus Okonomiyaki with a Poached Egg — for those who aren’t familiar with okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory egg pancake that can be topped with a variety of ingredients, The Dutch’s nod to this traditional dish’s flavors was genius. With a topping of rich yolky goodness, uniquely papery bonito flakes and a traditional sweet worcestershire-like sauce, the asparagus spears were merely a raft carrying the unlikely {and absolutely perfect} Japanese flavors…at a restaurant that describes itself as being “American-focused fare.” If I hadn’t already polished off the cornbread, the plate would have been wiped — and I mean wiped — 100% clean.

Grilled Swordfish, Summer Beans, Mustard and Pine Nuts

It’s summer and right about now the Swordfish are hanging out in local waters, so with the temperature rising, this sea born Grilled Swordfish and Summer Bean entree with Mustard and Pine Nuts was an appealing choice. I also stand firmly behind the claim that mustard is the best secret ingredient that can be added to a dish — it’s sharp, peppery, colorful and ready to go at a moments notice. And given that swordfish is a meatier fin-friend, it easily stands up to the strength of the mustard. The dish was straightforward and simple, and for that I loved it.

The Skim: Whether you’re looking for a scene or a sensational supper, The Dutch is the SoHo selection for you. If you’re able to get a reservation, great, otherwise go early or willing to wait — but whatever the way, just go!

Map: 131 Sullivan @Prince
Reservations: Taken! {start calling}
Phone:  212-677-6200

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Goat Town’s Non-*Goat* ‘Scream

Goat Town Treat-Trailer

After reading my previous Victory Garden post, if I told you I was now going to write about Goat Town’s ice cream, you’re probably going to assume I’m on a serious frozen goat’s milk bender. But alas, do not let the name fool you — Goat Town’s ‘scream is your traditional cow’s milk churn, though their flavors are anything but traditional. And THAT is why it is worthy of a few good licks and a write-up.

Imagine a scorching hot day in the East Village — sun is beating down, trash is rotting on the sidewalk and you are strategically crossing to the far shaded-side of the street because you’re afraid your arm hair may spontaneously combust otherwise. You’re dripping in sweat, dreaming of a thirst-quenching treat that will provide a moment of sweet cooling relief. And then — you turn the corner and come upon a cute little trailer that is the frozen mobile home to five stellar handmade ice cream selections, courtesy of Goat Town.

Well now, it would not have taken much for me to sample a scoop on this particular day. But upon reviewing the chalkboard listing each unique flavor – Salted Caramel Pretzel, Drunken Chunky Monkey, Peanut Butter Wolf, Espresso Hershey’s Swirl, Cookie Monster and Mango Sorbet — I knew this fortuitous frozen find could not be passed up.

Goat Town Chunky Monkey + Peanut Butter Wolf

Having just had Salted Caramel Pretzel at Victory Garden, and knowing I would lose one scoop to super-sonic meltage, I opted for sampling two other interesting flavors. The Drunken Chunky Monkey, a happy marriage of bourbon, bananas and walnuts, was well-suited for its Peanut Butter Wolf companion. I don’t think I have to do much convincing via the written word for any of you to agree all those flavors just belong together. Enough said. Lick. Drip. Crunch. Gone.

The Skim: If you happen to be wandering the streets of the East Village in search of cone-worthy treat, look no further than Goat Town’s ice cream treat-trailer — of course, they have also sold me on a swift return to check out their farm-to-table focused dining menu as well.

Map: 511 East 5th Street {Between Avenue A&B)

I Scream, You Scream:
SF Best: Bi-Rite Ice Cream Done Right
recipe goodness :: Alton Brown Does Bourbon in the Morning
Under the Bridge, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory Treat
I Scream, You Scream For MilkMade Handcrafted Ice Cream
Victory Garden: A Victorious Frozen Yogurt Twist {Actual Goat’s Milk ‘Scream}

 

 

 

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Victory Garden: A Victorious Frozen Yogurt Twist

Salted Caramel and Pretzel Twist

It seems only appropriate after writing about my hot pollo alla diavola that I should now cool down your palate with a mouth-watering suggestion to try Victory Garden, a recently opened frozen yogurt shop that is churning out a new twist on an old favorite.  Everywhere you turn there is a frozen yogurt shop these days — ones where you can personally load up your bowl with as much yogurt and toppings as you want {and have no one to blame but yourself when it costs you $10}, chains that have developed a cult craving culture for a weird tartness that doesn’t at all remind me of dessert, and others that lure you in with the promise of being fat-free, while lining their walls with plexi-containers of sugary gummy candy. But that is neither here, nor there — the fact is, America loves FroYo.

While most ice cream or frozen yogurt shops start with cow’s milk to create their creamy confections, Victory Garden saw an opportunity to showcase a new kind of ‘scream, using fresh goat’s milk. The appeal? Goats eat a lot of greenery, which translates into a vitamin-rich milk. In addition to its health benefits, people with lactose intolerance have an easier time digesting goat milk than cow’s milk — victory for lactose intolerant lick-lovers!

But what really matters, is how it tastes. Victory Garden’s goat milk base is slightly tarter than what you would find from a traditional cone, but for someone who seeks savory sweets, that gets a big vote in my book. It’s still creamy and sweet, without being too much so. But the innovation does not stop there — inspired by traditional Middle Eastern dessert called dondurma, which often incorporates floral essences that are meant to please the palate and elevate one’s state of mind, Victory Garden’s flavors and toppings change with the seasons, and feature local favors that reflect the bounty of the earth. Hmmm, intriguing.

On tap: Victory Garden Herbal Blend, Orange Blossom Vanilla, Damascene Rose & Mastic, Lavender, Neroli Vanilla, Salted Caramel and Chocolate Rosemary to name a few. Unclear on which of these off-the-charts flavors would be the way to go for my first Victory Garden twist, I sampled the victory garden herbal blend — at first bite, you will know immediately that this no ordinary treat. It smelled and tasted like a beautiful little pot of bright, summery herbs. In the end I went with the salted caramel with a pretzel topping — yes I really do fall in the savory camp. It was light, crunchy, sweet & salty, delightfully refreshing and as promised, pleasing to the palate. Victory achieved.

The Skim: Can’t eat cow’s milk based ice cream?  Looking for inspired flavors to excite your regular frozen yogurt habit?  Victory Garden is your winning ticket back to the world of frozen treats and will not disappoint your search for a world beyond vanilla.

Map: 31 Carmine Street

Need to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth:
SF Best: Bi-Rite Ice Cream Done Right
recipe goodness :: Alton Brown Does Bourbon in the Morning
Under the Bridge, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory Treat
I Scream, You Scream For MilkMade Handcrafted Ice Cream

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The Beagle: A Restaurant You Should Be Loyal To

Fresh Baby Corn with Mayo, Lime and Cilantro

Sorry for the hiatus — sometimes life just gets in the way. But there have been no shortage of delicious eats since the last post and if you’re on the hunt for some doggone good chow, then sniff away at The Beagle — the latest addition to my Favor8 list.

The Beagle opened only two short months ago, but has already established itself as a dining and drinking establishment to be loyal to. The space is small, but spacious, and its decor is inspired by the servants’ working quarters of a grand country house. I half expected to see a roaring hearth with some spit-roasted chicken and a sleepy dog {obviously a Beagle} curled up in front of the fire. But while the atmosphere has the throwback comfort of a country home, both drink and dinner menus are inspired lists of exciting and innovative fare.

There is something for every appetite — from small “tidbits” to full-on “pairing boards,” which feature smartly paired dishes of creative kitchen wizardry, with superb cocktails that will have your head spinning {especially if you order up the barrel-aged White Dog Manhattan!!}

It didn’t take much to be impressed by the clever baby corn on a stick with a lick-able dipping mayo that had me panting for more. But that was just a taste of what was to come with the Sweetbread & Calvados and Lamb Neck & Rye pairing boards. The lusciously tender sweetbreads with a perfectly crispy outer edge were served with raisins, caramelized fennel, capers and delightfully etched glass of Drouin Calvados.  It was rich, sweet, salty and perfect. Sadly I was sharing with a table of other hungry hounds, but I could have easily devoured the entire dish on my own. The Lamb Neck & Rye competed for a second fav — served with anchovy relish, cucumber and a mini preakness cocktail — it too showcased the brilliant appeal of hitting on all your tastebuds.

Sweetbread & Calvados Pairing Board

While they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I may beg to differ when it comes to The Beagle’s roast chicken. We’ve all had our fair share of roast chicken over the years, but when I heard theirs had cheddar and roasted fennel stuffed under the crispy skin, my ears perked up and I quickly sat at attention. There was something about that simple twist that just made sense. If you can improve on apple pie with a few slices of cheddar cheese, why not a roast chicken? The sharpness of the cheese, with the sweetness of the fennel had us all jumping through hoops and begging for seconds — and seconds we did order. It was that good.

Roast Chicken with Cheddar and Fennel

The Skim: If you’re trying to track down an evening of fantasticly innovative dining and imbibing, while feeling like you’re enjoying everything from the comfort of someone’s dining room, then The Beagle is your new home. Go hungry or with a sharing-friendly pack and taste your way through all the goodness.

Map: 162 Avenue A {@ east 10th}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 212-228-6900


8.ate@eight Favor8
Seal of Approval

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Detroit’s Best: Gemmayze is Gemmayzing

Royal Oak's New Gemmayze: Lebanese Kitchen and Lounge

There is no shortage of Lebanese restaurants in metro Detroit, a region that is the most concentrated area of Arab-Americans in the U.S.  This is quite convenient for someone whose heritage is half Lebanese and loves to come back to Detroit for a traditional meal of grape leaves, kibbe, hummus, tabbouleh and other dishes that evoke childhood memories and are difficult to find as perfectly-prepared as I can enjoy at home. When I do go back to Detroit, there is a shortlist of Lebanese restaurants that my family tends to visit, so it’s rare to get us to break habit, try something new and be delighted by it. But on a recent trip back home, we went to visit a new restaurant in Royal Oak called Gemmayze {pronounced je-maisy and named after the hip SoHo-like district in Beirut,} a kitchen and lounge that is focused on introducing the best of modern Beirut to a community that is already familiar with traditional Middle-Eastern cuisine. The result is outstanding.

The modern atmosphere is a welcomed upgrade to the typically over-decorated, mural-walled Lebanese restaurants we usually visit. With two levels of seating, outdoor dining, a full bar, and an open kitchen with a brick oven for continually produced fresh puffed pita, Gemmayze has created an exciting atmosphere that gives its diners an accessible peek into the secrets of Lebanese cuisine.

But while atmosphere can only get you so far, especially in an area that knows a thing or two about what hummus should really taste like, it’s the menu that really sings an artistic tune.

Gemmayze Hummus

My first point of critique is always with hummus. I’ve eaten my fair share of blended chick peas in my life and there is certainly a wide range of outputs depending on who made it and their chosen ratio of beans:tahini:lemon:garlic. While many fail the hummus taste test, Gemmazye did not disappoint, sending out a smooth and creamy version that is made so by slow cooking the chick peas to tenderize the bean and enable the perfect consistency for flawless blending. There was just the right amount of lemon and garlic to make their hummus a dish that didn’t last long when scooped up with the hot-from-the-oven homemade pita. A successful introduction to the rest of our meal.

Gemmayze Fattoush

We decided to forego ordering any entrees and instead ordered up a varied selection of appetizers. The Fattoush was fantastic — a salad that is typically served with lettuce as the main component, Gemmayze’s version eliminated the leafy green in favor of the other typical toppings: sweet crispy cucumbers, bright red peppers, juicy tomatoes, onions and the all-important crisped pita, all tossed in a lemon-sumac dressing that adds a lovely citrusy-spiced flavor to the otherwise straightforward veg. Amazing.

Gemmayze's Sumac-Encrusted Seared Tuna

The Sumac-Encrusted Seared Tuna was an innovative take on a typical American pepper-encrusted version. It was fresh, light and a welcomed addition what we would ordinarily order when we sit down for a Lebanese meal. A menu must.

Gemmayze's Grilled Baby Lamb Chops

And while we’re on the topic of exciting additions to what we typically think of when ordering Lebanese food, let’s add the insanely succulent Baby Lamb Chops to the list. While lamb is central to the Lebanese diet, it usually takes the form of ground lamb kibbe or kafta. I have never eaten a lamb chop as juicy and flavorful as what Gemmazye served up on their menu. They are available in a small appetizer version — good for a few quick bites, or as a main entree if you’re craving more. These chops are perfect for less adventurous eaters who doesn’t want to try the typical raw lamb dish, kibbe nayee, which also exceeded expectations {a very important thing when you’re venturing into the raw meat world.}

Kibbe Nayee

One of the best surprises on the menu and a menu must: Ara-yes Halabi. Sadly devoured before a photo could be taken, this app consists of kafta stuffed in bread and toasted. Sounds simple, but the spiced kafta in the crispy bread was a new Lebanese dish for our family and we all agreed, it was the best thing on the table.

The Skim: It’s nice to see an innovative food scene on the rise in Detroit. It’s especially nice to see that even though I’m used to mama’s traditional Lebanese food, a place like Gemmayze can take the best of tradition, add a few exciting modern twists and package it all up in an atmosphere that appeals to both the past and next generation of Detroiters. In my opinion, they’ve set the bar very high for Middle-Eastern cuisine.

Map: 310 S. Main St., Royal Oak
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 248.399.4900

In Detroit? Motown Musts:
Best Breakfast: The Chocolate Gallery Cafe
Best Dessert: The Chocolate Gallery Cafe
Detroit’s Slows Bar-B-Q is Quickly Becoming a Motor City Beacon
Home for the Holidays, Having Italian to Write Home About @Bucci
Going Back to the Old Country @ New Yasmeen Bakery

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Do This!: Vote for The Chocolate Gallery Cafe for Best Breakfast

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

It’s that time of the year again — I’m calling in all my favors to get you to vote for my Aunt and Uncle’s family-run restaurant, The Chocolate Gallery Cafe, which has been nominated again for Detroit’s Best Breakfast Award.  If you live outside of the Motor City and your first response is “I’ve never eaten there,”  all you have to do is take a look at the picture above to know and trust it is well-deserved.  I’m asking for this favor not only because I think it is THE BEST, but because as a small family-run business, an honor such as this is essential to keeping the coffee flowing and the omelets flipping — so do your part and spread the love!

They have been nominated for and won countless local and national awards, which speaks volumes for the love and passion they pour into their family run business. While The Chocolate Gallery Cafe has been crowned the 1st place winner for the past two years and placed in the top 3 for the past four, it IS the undying energy they pour into their food and service that is the most compelling reason to support, visit and love this family cafe. So read on, drool over the pictures of their food, VOTE and then tell any friends or family you know in Michigan to stop by for a meal they are sure to enjoy!

The Chocolate Gallery Cafe opened its doors over 17 years ago, but got its start even earlier when a love for chocolate and hours of experiments in a home kitchen resulted in the recipe for their famous award-winning Chocolate Buckingham Torte. So rich it has royalty in its name. The award-winning Chocolate Buckingham Torte is layered to perfection, with a chewy brownie bottom, creamy chocolate mousse center all topped off with crunchy English toffee and whipped cream florets that provide the ideal contrast to its other rich layers. The answer to every chocolate lover’s quest for the perfect dessert, this torte is the jewel of my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Chuck’s boutique cafe.

Chocolate Buckingham Torte

With many food fans clamoring for their desserts and a catering business taking off, The Chocolate Gallery decided to settle on a home and open a quaint cafe in Warren, Michigan, where their talents could be showcased and enjoyed on a regular basis — breakfast, lunch or dessert!

And thank goodness, because have you ever had something as delicious as Strawberry Stuffed French Toast (pic at top)? Made from thick cut french bread, stuffed with cream cheese and fresh strawberries, heated to crispy perfection and topped off with a warm homemade strawberry puree — 100% deliciousness!

Not extravagant enough for you? Like the line between breakfast and dessert to be crossed? Not surprising that The Chocolate Gallery Cafe does too! And so was born The Very Berry Stuffed French Toast, topped with a drizzle of premium chocolate and homemade whipped cream.

Very Berry Stuffed French Toast

More of a traditionalist? How about the Fresh Blueberry Pancakes to satisfy your morning sweet tooth? Light and fluffy, they are the perfect breakfast bed for those sweet Michigan blueberries to burst with warmth on.

Fresh Blueberry Pancakes

A Menu Must: And for those of us that are just plain ‘ole egg lovers, The Eggs Benedict is out of this world. Topped with homemade hollandaise sauce and served with a side of cafe potatoes, this savory selection wins my vote.

Eggs Benedict

Hungry yet? Dreaming of breakfast or a sweet treat? Hopefully you live close enough that a visit to The Chocolate Gallery Cafe can be a reality, but if not, for now you can support this sweet cafe with a click of a button and a vote to win Best Breakfast in DetroitThe Chocolate Gallery Cafe is also available for Full Service Catering, Chocolate Fountain Rentals and custom sweet treats, including Truffles and Molded Chocolates.

Map3672 Chicago Road, Warren, Michigan
Reservations: Not Taken (Open Thurs-Sun 8am-2pm)
Phone: 586.979.1140
Photos: John Martin Photography

 

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Getting Local, Personal {and Naked} with Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43

Local Naked Cowboy Oysters from the Long Island Sound

Local Naked Cowboy Oysters from the Long Island Sound

When I co-founded Freshocracy with my partners, we set out with the primary mission of making it easier for busy New Yorkers to get back in the kitchen and cook from scratch. But our secondary mission was to delight our customers with the simple and intense flavor of locally harvested and seasonal ingredients that taste like real food is supposed to taste. You can’t argue with a sweet, juicy field red tomato when it’s picked at its peak and comes straight from the farm to our customers’ tables.

Eating local or calling yourself a locavore may seem like a new trend or matter of awareness to most of you, but there are a few trailblazers in the New York food scene who have been upholding this food philosophy since before it was a coined phrase. Jimmy Carbone, owner of Jimmy’s No. 43 {an East Village locavore-centric artisanal beer and food den} and founder of The Good Beer Seal, is a man everyone should know. He is an avid supporter of local farmers {check out his menu or join a small-farm CSA with pick-ups at Jimmy’s}, an innovator in planning fantastically fun food fests {Cook Out NYC, Meatopia, Taste of Tribeca, The Great New York City Shuck ‘N Suck} and an educator in what it means to enjoy good food and good beer {local oysters and beer tastings every Wed/Thurs + other local-centric events}

In honor of Edible Manhattan’s Eat Drink Local Week, I chatted with Jimmy to understand what inspired his love and respect for all things local…and then slurped down a few Long Island Naked Cowboy Oysters and cold brews at the Jimmy’s No. 43 Eat Drink Local Oyster Event to fully appreciate how he spreads the local love.

While Jimmy grew up with a sensibility that food from local farms is the freshest, getting access to it wasn’t always as easy as going to Union Square on the weekend with your resuable bags. It wasn’t until Jimmy opened his first restaurant, Mugsy’s Chow Chow, in 1994 that he started going to the greenmarket to shop, but even then the market was smaller and his menu wasn’t entirely dedicated to local ingredients. In 2002, with his lease running out he renamed the restaurant to Patio Bar and reinvented the menu to be more focused on the market. The result was amazing food, but there was still a disconnect between his diners’ undeniably positive reactions and their understanding of the local influence on their meals. In Jimmy’s words, “people thought it was weird.” The seminal moment in Jimmy’s locavore timeline came after he opened Jimmy’s No. 43 in 2005. Jimmy hired a new chef to go to the market five days a week to source their dairy, produce and meat from local purveyors. After setting a number of standards for their menu, Jimmy’s No. 43 was awarded Slow Food NYC’s Snail of Approval seal {an award recognizing quality, authenticity and sustainability of the food supply of the City of New York.} Six years later, Jimmy’s continues to serve up an inspired menu that could only be made better by enjoying one of the many fine microbrews on his bar list. His local philosophy and New Yorker’s reception of it finally converged.

But just because Jimmy uses high quality, local ingredients, doesn’t mean his menu will put a large hole in your wallet. Jimmy very smartly works with farmers to select cuts they have excess supply of, keeping his costs low while helping these small producers sell their inventory. If his regular good food menu and good prices aren’t enticement enough to spend some time sipping beers and noshing at No. 43, then swing by on Wednesday or Thursday for $2 local oyster night. If you’re lucky, Eddie Oysters, the fastest shucker in the land, will be on hand to entertain and feed you. Oyster Trivia: don’t be afraid to slurp one too many of those slippery little suckers — they are only 10 calories a piece!

The thing I love about Jimmy is the casualness of the world he has created. It’s not about didactic local teachings, but enticing a community of diners and sippers with a consistently good local food and beer atmosphere. Lure them in with a stellar menu and fantastic food events and perhaps they will leave with a better understanding of what it means to Eat Drink Local. We at Freshocracy certainly hope so too!

Eddie Oysters Gettin' Naked

More Local Goodness:
Freshocracy {and yours truly} Featured on Good Food Jobs
Summer Lovin’ Me Some Oysters @Mermaid Oyster Bar
NYC Best: Purely Good Food & Wine

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