Category Archives: NYC Best

Announcing 8.ate@eight dinner #6 | Everything Whole is New Again | @7.13.13.8:00pm

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the things worth remembering. The beauty of a whole tomato, fresh off the vine. A newly baked loaf of bread, its sweet aroma expanding to the walls and seeping through cracked doors to the neighbors delight. A whole fish presented with pride by the very hands that caught it on a lazy day off. To celebrate nature’s bounty and that food doesn’t need to be fancy to be memorable, this 8.ate@eight gathering will highlight each bite in its uncut form. Use of hands encouraged.

Read About Past 8.ate@eight Dinners:
Boozy Robert Burns Night w/ The Tippling Bros. & Highland Park Scotch
A+ 8.ate@eight Back to School Nite
8.ate@eight Went Whole Hog and Hog Wild @ the Big Southern BBQ
Who Cut the Cheese Didn’t Stink!
Silencing of the Spring Lambs was Lambtastic!

Reservation policy is first come, first serve. When I reach 8 guests, the list is closed for the evening. Please feel free to invite guests or forward to friends. A mixed crowd is encouraged!

8.ate@eight #6: Everything Whole is New Again
Saturday, July 13th, 2013, 8:00pm
4-course dinner menu — use of hands encouraged

RSVP HERE!: 8ateATeight@gmail.com

Enjoy and hope to see you at the table!

Christina

Whole Foods

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Do This! Kosher for Passover and Brooklyn Bound

Kehilath Yakov Matzoh Bakery

Kehilath Yakov Matzo Bakery

Most of the people I know are preparing for Easter. Pulling out baskets, polishing their patent leather and froofing their Sunday frills. But there is another important holiday approaching — one less sugary and pastel-colored — Passover. Even after living in NYC for 12 years, I realized I don’t know a lot about Passover traditions, so asked my friend Avi to lead me into the traditional Jewish neighborhoods of Flatbush and South Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a peek at and bite of Passover preparations.

 First Stop: The Pickles Guys

With pretty much everything pickled from cucumbers to watermelon {yes, watermelon!}, and freshly grated horseradish that will clear the worst sinus congestion, The Pickle Guys is your stop for the ultimate condiment spread. For those who don’t want to jump a train for the full Jewish tour, you can also find an outpost on the Lower East Side.

Keep Hands Out of Barrels

Please Keep Hands Out of Barrels

New pickles, 1/2 sours, 3/4 sours, full sours, hot new pickles, hot sour pickles -- something for everyone

New pickles, 1/2 sours, 3/4 sours, full sours, hot new pickles, hot sour pickles — something for everyone

The spoils

The spoils

Next Up: Eichlers — the Barnes and Noble of Judaica stores

An essential stop for bestsellers like The Easy-Shmeezy Guide to Yiddish and the essential cooking reference, Kosher by Design — Teens and 20-Somethings. Cooking for the Next Generation. I pretty sure Julia Child had this on her bookshelf.

Easy-Shmeezy

Easy-Shmeezy

Please buy this for me

Please buy this for me

And then to the Whole Foods of Kosher Food — Pomegranate.

An entire aisle dedicated to Matzoh! I’m told Shatzer Hand Shmura Matzohs are the best and so that’s what made its way home with me. And here’s an exciting secret I learned while browsing the Kosher aisles: for those of you that like Coca-Cola made the European way with sugar, instead of our American corn syrup version, corn products cannot be consumed during Passover, so you can get your hands on the real Coke for a limited time if you visit a Kosher specialty store. Look for this yellow bottle cap. Ahhhh!

Matzoh!

Matzoh!

Matzoh spoils

Matzoh spoils

Lunch break: David’s Restaurant

Flatbush is home to more middle eastern Jews, so I felt right at home ordering a platter of some darn good falafel, hummus, babaganoush and fluffy warm pita. Great stop to recharge and I’m told the Yemenite Soup is not to be missed — sadly, it was not going to be ready for another hour so we did miss this. Just another reason to go back.

David's Falafel

David’s Falafel

Subway ride to South Williamsburg >> Kehilath Yakov Matzo Bakery

South Williamsburg is a much stricter Orthodox Jewish community — think Payot, long black coats and hats — so I had to try to dress the part with a long dress, tights and covered arms. Regardless of how respectfully I dressed, I was clearly an outsider.

To say I felt like I was intruding on Santa’s Elves on Christmas Eve would be an understatement. This Matzoh bakery was executing at full-steam with 47 men each handling a specific task. It was Henry Ford’s assembly line of Matzoh {see first photo of this post}. The water guy, the mixer, the divider, the rollers, the transporters, the hole-punchers, the bakers. A process that must be completed in 18 minutes according to the Torah and that follows strict guidelines of cleanliness — and apparently does not include a woman standing in the corner overseeing this. Word to the wise, don’t show up a week before Passover and expect a tour with a smile. It was not well-received that I wanted a peek into the inner workings of the Matzoh process. But what few glimpses I did capture {and the brief explanation Avi was able to coerce one of the workers into sharing} were fascinating — and helped me to understand why these provisions cost $25/lb. This is not your ordinary grocery store-matzoh.

The Matzoh Inspection

The Matzoh Inspection Rack

 

Matzoh Man

Matzoh Man

Final Stop: Gottlieb Restaurant

It was a long, but memorable day. One that could only be capped off by a refreshing Dr. Brown’s cream soda, a plate of cholent and some noodle kugel. If you’re looking for an authentic kosher Jewish deli, this is your place. Forget about Carnegie or Stage Door. Hop on a train {arms and legs covered} and come here. Do it all.

Gottliebs Deli

Gottliebs Deli

 

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Giving Thanks this Thanksgiving

SunriseThe last few days living in NYC have been surreal. After a Saturday evening of Halloween celebrations, we all retreated to our apartments to prepare for Sandy’s visit. We had been through this the year before, with a resulting impact far less severe than all the warnings — so, many questioned how seriously to take this round.

Regardless, we brought our plants in from the terrace. We made a heaping bowl of pasta that would last for days should we lose power. We filled bottles and our largest pots with water. We did our laundry and our dishes. We turned on a movie and we hunkered down, waiting.

As the wind blew stronger outside with each hour and sirens screamed in the distance, the breaking to-the-second reports came pouring in on twitter — 12 foot ocean swells in lower manhattan, 3+ feet of water in friend’s lobbies, cars gliding down streets that had become rivers, a wave of power outages from the Battery to midtown and then friends signing off from social media to conserve battery life…

We wouldn’t know how lucky we were to be on higher ground on the Upper West Side until the next day. I woke up to the sun peeking through the clouds, brightly colored fall leaves gently blowing on their branches and even a broom still standing upright on the roof next door. As I checked my fully powered computer, it was apparent just how horrendous Sandy had been to so many others.

Many family and friends have called to check in on me — and I feel guilty that I can answer my phone and say we’re fine and in the middle of baking cookies. While we are safe and just patiently waiting for regular routines to resume, we know this will take a longer time than just when the lights come back on for many.

This year, more than ever, is a year to give thanks. To spend a little extra time around the holiday table with the people you love. To slowly enjoy the meal that took hours, even days to prepare. To start new traditions and celebrate old. To simmer, roast and bake with your own two hands — to share more than just a plate of food with your guests. And if you’re able to help those in need through donations, time or meals, I encourage you do that too.

Sunset

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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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Do This!: Saturday Snacking @Smorgusburg

Smorgusburg

Smorgusburg

People were surprised to learn that I had never been to Smorgusburg, a brooklyn flea food market on the Williamsburg waterfront. Frankly, after going last weekend, I’m a little surprised myself that it took me so long to spend a Saturday strolling the riverfront space that houses 100+ artisanal food stands. If you’ve got hankering for something you’ll probably find it at Smorgusburg — everything from fried anchovies to slow-roasted brisket can be had for a a few dollars and a brief wait in line. The later in the day you go the longer the lines, so my advice: showup at 11am when the stands open, do a full strolling scope before jumping in, mentally map your action plan and bring a friend who is willing to go halvesies with you so you can try as many things as you can stomach.

Cemitas Mexican Sandwiches

Cemitas Mexican Sandwiches

Cemitas caught our attention right away. Hola! Burrito Sunrise — eggs, beans, tator tots {yes tator tots!}, chipotle crema, and your choice of bacon or chorizo {or sans either for a veggie-friendly option}. This is no small snack, so either feed your hangover with a Cemita sammie or you’re definitely gonna want to split this guy — unless you want to be down for the count and knock yourself out of of the game for the rest of the day.

Cemita Burrito and Sammie

Cemita Burrito and Sammie

Moving on. Caffeine. Blue Bottle Coffee with NO line? Must stop here pronto. If you’re not already familiar with Blue Bottle Coffee, this beanery is a San Francisco transplant where on any given day you could easily wait 30 minutes for a made to order, single drip cup of joe. And why do we wait? Cause we’re suckers — but the coffee lives up to expectations.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee

Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy

Sit. Relax on one of the riverside benches. Share. Smile. This is some good Saturday living.  No time to digest — round two. Our choice, a roasted veggie with chevre bruschetta from Sunday Gravy. If we didn’t just have the breakfast burrito that frittata with roasted veggies was also looking awfully tasty. And the eggplant parmesan with paper thin layers of eggplant married with sauce and parm and laid to relax on a nice hunk of sesame Italian bread was a thing of beauty {mental note: next time}.

Sunday Gravy Goodness

Sunday Gravy Goodness

The grand finale: Mighty Quinn’s braised brisket. As we wandered around early on in the day we were advised that Quinn’s is the crowd favorite, usually drawing lines down the block. With that information, a line 30-people deep didn’t seem so bad. With one man carving, another assembling and a third taking money the line moved swiftly and the prized sandwich worth waiting for was quickly in my hands —  a soft bun, stacked high with tender brisket, dressed in barbecue sauce, pickled onions and a few crispy pickles.

Mighty Quinns Braised Brisket Sandwich

Mighty Quinns Braised Brisket Sandwich

On our way out we grabbed a Blue Marble Ice Cream cone — because why not, this excursion was meant for eating.

Blue Marble Ice Cream

Blue Marble Ice Cream

And snapped this shot of a grass-squatting offender. Smorgusburg success. If you fall into the camp of “haven’t been there yet” I suggest you get thee to the ‘burg.

Illiteracy in America

Illiteracy in America

More Brooklyn Excursions:
NYC Best: yes yes to Pok Pok
Do This!: Foraging for Food is F’ing Fun {in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with Leda}
Do This!: Brooklyn’s Depressingly Awesome Industry City Distillery Creates Handcrafted Vodka
NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Frej Should Be Your New Dining Kinfolk
Blue Bottle Coffee Brews One Brilliant Cup at a Time

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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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Do This!: Dine with a Banker Turned Monk

Dine with a Banker Turned Monk

Dine with a Banker Turned Monk

Yes, you heard me correctly. When most people aim for Wall Street, they don’t typically land in a Monastery. But for Rasanath Dasa, this journey started early in life as a search for deeper understanding of what we’re all here for. While he pursued one path of societal-defined success, earning an engineering degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, an MBA from Cornell University, working as a strategy consultant at Deloitte and as an investment banker at Bank of America, he was simultaneously learning from the renowned spiritual leader Radhanath Swami and starting his lifelong practice of Bhakti Yoga.

Intrigued? So was I. I had the pleasure of dining with this banker turned monk and count it as one of the most unexpected evenings I’ve stumbled upon in NYC. With an enlightening story to share, Rasanath is hosting several small dinners a month as an opportunity to invite you into his world while enjoying a vegetarian meal cooked by monks and eaten in the traditional style at the monastery {think coconut curried vegetables with ginger, sweet potatoes and cauliflower, served over jasmine rice with cumin seeds}. You might have to get on the waitlist as these evenings are selling out weeks in advance, but you can book or add your name to the SideTour list HERE.

 

Coconut Curried Vegetables and Jasmine Rice with Cumin Seeds

Coconut Curried Vegetables and Jasmine Rice with Cumin Seeds

Can’t wait to add a monastic dining experience to your calendar? 

The Bhakti center is launching a summer lineup of other classes and events that sound just as cool as free opera in the park or a private supper club on the UWS.

Cooking Classes with a Monk

You’ve heard the expression, “you are what you eat.” We are indeed that, and so much more. Moods, attitudes, and energy levels are all intricately linked to our daily diet. Gita Wellness is a cooking class and dining experience, which explores the dynamic world of food and health, as unfurled by the culture of the Bhagavad-Gita.

Date and Time: Friday, June 1st, 7-9pm
Location: Bhakti Center (25 1st Ave.), 1st fl.
Course Fee: $25 (includes class and full-course meal)
Register: Click here and select ‘Gita Wellness’ under offerings of interest

A Monastic Twist on Dinner and a Movie

GS Summer Film Series is a special monthly event during the summer of 2012 that will take you on a unique cinematic tour of the human condition as seen through the eyes of the Bhagavad-Gita and three of its teachers. The Bhakti will be hosting  an evening movie, which will be followed by dinner and a discussion.

When: June 16th at 5:00 p.m. at the Bhakti Center {and July 21, Aug 18}
What: Memento, directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Guy Pearce. An entirely new foray into the realm of cinema and consciousness.
Register: Click here and select Summer Film Series under offerings of interest

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Do This: Salts You Should Own {and Why You Should Care}

Salt

Photo credit: James Ransom for Food52

Anyone who has been in my kitchen knows I’m crazy about salt {I love it so much that it was actually the topic of my Best woMan’s speech at my brother’s wedding — strange I know}. I have salts from all over the world, in pretty much every shape and color, and get great joy in treating salt as its own special ingredient. Whether seasoning a big roast with coarse sel gris or sprinkling light, flaky Maldon salt over my morning eggs, various salts impact every dish differently and I want to open your world to a pantry beyond the yellow umbrella-carrying lady. Salt is an ingredient in almost every dish we eat — so listen up!

We Put Salt on Almost Everything We Eat — So Shouldn’t You Care Just as Much About the Salt You Use, as You Do About Where Your Vegetables Come From?
We often take salt for granted as it’s seemingly so simple and abundant. Heck, it’s even on every restaurant table for “free.” But from the beginning of civilization until only about 100 years ago, it was one of the most sought-after and valuable commodities in human history. Salt has played a critical role in enabling us to preserve food, enter into trade {it’s the root of the word salary} and has even played a role in love & war. Salt is an indispensable ingredient to every dish we eat. It’s in our blood, tears, sweat and almost every part of the human body. Without it, we literally can’t live. So why do we limit the seasoning of our food to regular manufactured iodized table or kosher salt?

The Math Behind Artisan Salts
There’s a starter collection you can get from The Meadow Here. Assume these artisan salt collections each last you at least a year {will probably last a lot longer — a little pinch will do ya}.

Collection of 6 Artisan Salts:
$66 / 12 months = $5 / month = $0.18 / day = $0.06 per meal.  

Not bad when you consider how much you spend on every other ingredient you eat and cook with. And salt will never go bad. Isn’t it worth the $0.06 investment for beautiful grains that will add flare and flavor to each each dish? This is a question only you can answer as you start to experiment with different salts and different uses {The Meadow will also send a cheat sheet to guide you through each variety}.

Seasonal Salts

Photo Credit: James Ransom for Food52

10 Salts Defined {Courtesy of Food52}

Table Salt: Refined salt mined from underground salt deposits, table salt contains more sodium chloride (97% to 99%) than sea salt. This is what you usually find in salt shakers at dining tables and at restaurants. Most table salts contain additives such as anticaking agents and iodine, an essential nutrient.

Kosher Salt: Kosher salt, which originates from either the sea or the earth, is so named for its use in the preparation of meat according to Jewish dietary guidelines. However, not all Kosher salt is certified Kosher. Kosher salt dissolves easily and quickly, making it a good all-purpose salt. Popular brands include Morton and Diamond Crystal.

Sel Gris: Harvested from salt evaporation ponds, sel gris — “grey salt” in French — is also known as Celtic sea salt and is a coarse sea salt that is raked once salt crystals have sunk to the bottom of the ponds. Moist, granular, and chunky, sel gris is used as both a cooking salt and finishing salt. While it’s ideal for fatty meats and roasted root vegetables, Mark Bitterman also suggests using this mineral-rich salt in baking. Try it in a rustic tart crust, for instance.

Gros Sel: Another sea salt, gros sel is made up of large-grained crystals — hence its name in French, “large salt.” Keep it in a salt grinder for freshly ground sea salt, use it to create a salt crust on meat or fish, or use it to season pasta water.

Flake Salt: Produced by boiling or evaporating brine, flake salts have varying crystal structures and lower trace mineral content than other salts, including fleur de sel and sel gris. Used as a finishing salt for fresh foods such as salads, flake salt pops, giving a pleasant crunch to every bite.

Fleur de Sel: Hand-harvested from the same salt evaporation ponds as sel gris, this sea salt is collected by scraping salt crystals from the water’s surface before the crystals sink to the bottom of the evaporation ponds. Fleur de sel — “flower of salt” in French — is traditionally, though not exclusively, harvested in Guérande, Brittany. The delicate, irregular crystals gently dissolve, making it a great finishing salt. Try it on fish, pork and vegetables. If you can afford it, Bitterman suggests using fleur de sel as your go-to all-purpose cooking salt.

Hawaiian Sea Salt: This fine or coarse grained sea salt can be either red or black. Red Hawaiian sea salt gets its color from a natural mineral called Alaea, a volcanic baked red clay, while black Hawaiian sea salt gets its color from the addition of charcoal. Full of trace minerals, Hawaiian sea salt complements pork, seafood, ceviche and more.

Smoked Salt: This salt is slow-smoked over a wood fire to infuse the crystals with a deep, smokey flavor, making it ideal for grilled meats and heartier vegetables such as potatoes.

Seasoned Salt: Salt can be seasoned with a variety of different flavorings, including truffles, lemon, herbs and more. Truffles impart an earthiness to sea salt, making it an ideal flavoring for risottos, red meats, and egg dishes. A seasoned salt such as lemon flake salt, on the other hand, is great for cocktails or grilled vegetables.

Himalayan Salt: Hand-mined from ancient sea salt deposits from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan, Himalayan salt is rich in minerals and believed to be one of the purest salts available — hence its frequent use in spa treatments. It ranges in color from pure white to shades of pink and deep red. Hand cut into slabs, Himalayan salt is frequently used as a surface for serving food. Due to their ability to hold a specific temperature for an extended period of time, these slabs can be used for anything from serving cold ice cream to cooking fish, meats, and vegetables. Himalayan salt can also be used as a cooking or finishing salt. Or use it to rim the edge of a glass for a warm-weather cocktail.

Ready to Expand Your Pantry?

27% Off: Start with The Foundation and Seasonal Salt Collections from Salt Experts at The Meadow. A little goes a long way, so these salts will last you A LONG TIME.

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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!: Foraging for Food is F’ing Fun {in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with Leda}

Leda Meredith's Foraging Tour in Prospect ParkNo, no, I’m not going to start living off the grid and shorning sheep to make my own clothes. But I did learn a very valuable lesson that foraging for wild edibles is not only fun and fairly easy once you know how to ID certain plants, but it also saves you the $12 /lb price that you would otherwise pay at the farmers’ market for these prolific wilds.  After a lovely two hour foraging SideTour with enthnobotonist and locavore expert, Leda Meredith, I came away with some great knowledge and edible treasures that I plan to do something spectacular with this week. Pokeweed and Field Garlic Tart anyone?

Interested in digging for edible gold?

Sign-up for Leda’s next Foraging Tour Here

So, first things first, some rules to abide by when foraging in public spaces like Central Park or Prospect Park:

  • There is no law against foraging, but there are laws against damaging park property, so don’t start cutting down trees and foraging for park benches.
  • There are laws against walking with gardening tools — keep your shovel at home!
  • You’re not supposed to take things out of the park. That said, there are numerous invasive, prolific plants that the park hires people to weed out, many of which are edible. This is where you come in. A new meaning to “will work for food.”
  • Forage a good 50 feet away from walking paths to avoid the “dog” path and undesired fertilizer.
  • The NYC public parks can’t afford to spray pesticides or any other chemicals, so it’s one of the safest green areas to forage. Steer clear of where they do scatter rat poison, however — these areas will be clearly marked.

So, what did we find?

Wild Violets

Leda Shows Off How to ID Wild Violets

Wild Violets

  • ID: heart-shaped leaves with teeth on edges. Purple flower.
  • Edible: Leaf and flower. Roots are toxic.
  • Medicinal: Good for respiratory issues.
  • How to Eat: Mix in a fresh salad or candy the flowers. Dry for tea.

Burdock aka Gobo Root (forgot to Snap a shot)

  • ID: Big fuzzy leaves with ruffled skirt edges. Harvest root of a first year plant before it flowers
  • Edible: Roots and immature flower stalks (use like Italian cardoons)
  • Medicinal: Good for skin issues and liver cleansing
  • How to Eat: Saute like kale
Bishop's Elder

Bishop's Elder

Bishops Elder 

  • ID: 3 parted leaves. Extremely invasive ground cover. In the celery family, so has a hairless stem that has a curve like a celery stalk and smells like celery when you smell the stem.
  • Edible: Fresh or dry stem and leaf.
  • How to Eat: Great for soup stocks.
Sassafras Leaf Trio

Sassafras Leaf Trio

Sassafras Tree

  • ID: 3 different leaf shapes on each stem: oval, mitten, three-prong “fork.” Leaf smells like root beer when you rip the leaves.
  • Edible: Root and leaves
  • How to Eat: Boil the root and use sweetener and seltzer water to make root beer.  Leaves can be used to make file powder for gumbo. Or just scratch and sniff the root beer scented goodness for kicks.
Red Bud Tree

Red Bud Tree

Red Bud Tree

  • ID: Buds grow out of the bark. Darker red/pink than a cherry blossom.
  • Edible: Flowers
  • How to Eat: In the bean family so tastes slightly like a bean. Serve in salads, add to ice cream or cookies.
Juneberry Tree

Juneberry Tree {will be a May-Berry this year!}

Juneberry Tree {no berries yet!}

  • ID: Smooth gray bark, 5 pointed berry that looks like a blueberry when the fruit blooms. Smooth oval leaf with teath.
  • Edible:  Berry
  • How to Eat: Just as you would a blueberry.
Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard 

  • ID: Serrated heart-shaped leaf. Grows tall. Small stems grow outward that become seed pods.
  • Edible: Leaf, root and stem/seeds
  • How to Eat: Leaves taste like broccoli rabe and can be prepared as such. Root tastes like horseradish. Stick like flower stems will become seed capsules and can be used as mustard seed.

Mugwort (forgot to Snap a shot)

  • ID: Serious invasive. White fuzzy stem, deeply divided pointed leaf, silvery-white underside of the leaf, spicy taste.
  • Edible: Leaves and stem
  • Medicinal: Muscle relaxer, will make you break a sweat if you need to cleanse, use as a bath or as a tea, good for stress and unblocks just about everything. Will also make you have vivid dreams if you put under you pillow!
  • How to Eat: Best for seasoning to add a little spice.
Pokeweed

Pokeweed

Pokeweed 

  • ID: Extremely prolific, but only in-season for 3 weeks. Will come back in the same spot each year, so once you find your hunting ground, you can easily go back.
  • Edible: Whole thing — leaves and stem. But once it gets bigger and branches out and the stem becomes dark magenta it becomes toxic and you don’t want to eat it any longer. Best when it is only one stalk.
  • How to Eat: It’s like asparagus! Have to double boil it first — blanch in one pot, drain and then blanch in a second pot of boiling water. Saute it, grilled it, roast it, you name it!
Dandelion Greens

Dandelion Greens {which will be bitter now that they have flowered!}

Dandelion Greens 

  • ID: Serrated leaf, yellow flower, low to the ground.
  • Edible: Early Spring the leaves are best before they flower — then they get bitter. The roots and flowers are also edible and apparently very tasty.
  • Medicinal: The root will release a milky sap that are good for warts.
  • How to Eat: Good in a salad or lightly sauteed. Flower can be used to make wine! Recipe here
Lamb's Quarters

Lamb's Quarters

Lambs Quarters 

  • ID: White dusty powder on the leaves.
  • Edible: Leaves and stems.
  • How to Eat: Rinse well and saute. Off the charts nutritious compared to spinach!
Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic

Field Garlic 

  • ID: Looks like chives, hollow stem, smells like garlic
  • Edible: Whole thing — bulb to stem.
  • How to Eat: Just like a chive — anything you want a mild garlic flavor added to.
Samora Elm

Samora Elm

Siberian Elm Samaras 

  • ID: Small seed in a green translucent leaf.
  • Edible: Whole seed/leaf when tender enough to pierce the seed with a fingernail.
  • How to Eat: On a salad, in a muffin or just as a field snack.
Spice Bush

Spice Bush

Spice Bush 

  • ID: Smells spicy when break the leaf. Oval leaf with a lopsided point at the end. Tastes like all spice.
  • Edible: Leaf
  • How to Eat: Great for iced tea. infuse or make sun tea. Don’t boil or will get bitter flavor.
Other Wild Things

Other Wild Things

Other Wild Things 

  • ID: Shirtless Man Hanging Upside Down in a Tree

The Booty — Violets, Red Bud, Pokeweed, Field Garlic…stayed tuned for a MUST MAKE TART recipe coming later this week. Olive Oil Crust, Greek Yogurt Dollops and Wild Goodies…

Wild Edible Booty

Wild Edible Booty

Note: Although these pictures and notes can serve as introductions to wild edibles, I have not provided extensive ID characteristics in the descriptions for someone unfamiliar with the plants to safely identify them. If you’re interested in venturing out to forage, I recommend doing online research or signing up for an introductory tour with Leda before chomping on random weeds.

More Leda and Brooklyn Coolness:
Do This!: Learn Lacto-Fermentation {Kimchi! Chutney!} with Leda Meredith
Do This!: Brooklyn’s Depressingly Awesome Industry City Distillery Creates Handcrafted Vodka
NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Frej Should Be Your New Dining Kinfolk

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Do This!: Brooklyn’s Depressingly Awesome Industry City Distillery Creates Handcrafted Vodka

Industry City Distillery

Down a quiet brick-laid industrial street, on the edge of Sunset Park and Greenwood Brooklyn, lies an undiscovered gem that has the makings of being our very own NYC Willy Wonka factory. But instead of chocolate, the team behind Industry City Distillery is mastering the art of handcrafted sugar beet vodka. And handcrafting their own letter-pressed labels with a reclaimed 1930s machine to boot — Depressingly Awesome indeed!

1930s Letterpress Machine for Handcrafted Vodka Labels

Rich Showing Off the Depressingly Awesome 1930s Letterpress Machine for Handcrafted Labels

You’ve heard the catch-phrases bean-to-bar, grain-to-glass, farm-to-table — these guys are bringing us still-to-spirit. After taking over the 6,000 sq ft. space only six short months ago, the team of six bearded Brooklyn brains have built an in-house kitchen, machine workshop, laboratory, distillery and bottling station to dissect and build the entire process of distilling vodka by hand. And they have their first product run coming to market next week on April 20th — did you hear me when I said this started only six short months ago? Again, Depressingly Awesome. With an intense focus on efficiency and controlling every stage to keep costs low, they have built their own stills to tweak the entire process, using different grades of heat for incoming an outgoing product to share supply and waste lines.

Industry City Distillery Stills

Dave Shows Off the Industry City Distillery Stills and Machine Workshop

Why is this cool? Because lighter alcohol will vaporize at different heat points, they have created a fractional still that enables them to extract different types of alcohols at different heats  and then selectively add these back together for the final product {or handmade cleaning supplies}, wasting nothing. They call these “the cuts” or “the flavor character,” which they are constantly experimenting with to mix at different ratios, producing a range of flavors akin to sweeter, buttery and even rubbery vodkas {I tasted it — it was booty!}. True to the Wonka nature of the tour, we sat down in the handcrafted kitchen for a tasting — beakers lined up in front of us and droppers at the ready to mix and match and see just how quickly a vodka can go from smooth to robust.

And Now for a Vodka Tasting

And Now for a Vodka Tasting

Tom, Our Fermented Friend

Tom, Our Fermented Well-Loved Friend

To put this production efficiency-flavor controlled process in perspective, a typical big-industry vodka is distilled 5 times. It’s boiled and produced from 5 cuts. Industry City Distillery passes the product through their fractional still once and from it, they take 30 cuts! The product is also made from beet sugar, instead of cane sugar as it has a higher energy density and they’re making their own algae-encapsulated yeast beads {meet Tom, the inaugural batch that has been put through the test-lab ringer} in a small climate-controlled, and apparently groundbreaking, fermentation environment that they plan to open-source in the future.

Impressed? Intrigued? Totally geeked out and ready to sample? Good news, Industry City Distillery’s inaugural product launch is happening April 20th and you can get your hands a bottle of Industry City Distillery “No.2″ Vodka by pre-ordering at DrinkUpNY here and for a limited time it’s on sale for 25% off. I’ll drink to that! Want to know more? Check-out their website for cool diagrams, photos and more about the secret sauce — oh, and sign-up for their newsletter so stay in the know.

More Brooklyn Gems You Should Know About:
Do This!: Learn to Forage in Prospect Park for Edible and Medicinal Plants with Expert Leda Meredith
NYC Best: Brooklyn’s Frej Should Be Your New Dining Kinfolk
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!: Learn to Forage in Prospect Park for Edible and Medicinal Plants with Expert Leda Meredith

Foragin

If you missed Leda’s Fermentation SideTour, you can still get in on learning more about eating locally — very locally. Wild edible plants are all around, growing right at your feet — in our city parks, as the “weeds” in community gardens and backyards, even in abandoned parking lots. You just need to know where to look. At Prospect Park, Leda will show you how to safely spot ramps (a wild onion), mulberries, sassafras, gobo root, and many more natural delights. Discover the tastes and aromas of these wild, seasonal ingredients. Learn how to sustainably harvest and then deliciously prepare them! You will certainly leave with a new appreciation of urban foraging, the ultimate local food.

Leda writes the “Foraging Brooklyn” column for James Beard nominated nonabrooklyn.com and is the Food Preservation Guide for About.com. She is an award-winning instructor, teaching edible and medicinal plant classes at the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Leda leads wild edible plant and mushroom tours throughout the Northeast. 

Passionate about the sustainable food movement, Leda is your guide to translating a mostly local, organic diet into something doable and fun.

Friday, April 20, 2012 | 10:00am – 12:00pm
Saturday, May 26, 2012 | 10:00am – 12:00pm

Book Now

Leda Meredith has definitely been livin’ la vida locavore. As a certified ethnobotanist and author, she is a recognized expert in the local-food movement. It’s a lifestyle that continues to gain traction, as the nutritional and environmental benefits become clearer all the time. More and more people are skipping the supermarket and heading to a farmers’ market, or picking and growing their own food. So spend some time under the sun and join Leda for a foraging tour in the park.

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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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St. Paddy’s Day Delicious Pots of Gold

Just a few things to help you prepare for St. Paddy’s Day. Who doesn’t want to brew your own beer and then make a steak puff pastry pie with it {with cheese}? Yes please!

MAKE: Irish Steak & Guinness Puff Pastry Pie
{click for recipe}

Steak and Guinness Pie

Steak and Guinness Pie

BUY: Everyday IPA or Chocolate Maple Porter Kit 

1-gallon brew kit includes everything you need: 1 gallon glass fermenter, 3-piece chambered airlock, screw top stopper, thermometer, plastic tubing, tubing clamp, racking cane, and sanitizer

Craft Home Brew Kit and Beer Making Book

Craft Home Brew Kit and Beer Making Book

DRINK: Wilfie & Nell: Not Grandpa’s Watering Hole

Wilfie & Nell

Wilfie & Nell

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Mouth Foods: Lovers of Artisanal & Small-Batch Producers and All Things Delicious

Mouth Foods Artisan Selections

I recently sat down with Craig Kanarick, CEO and founder of a delicious new start-up called Mouth Foods. The first time I looked at his website I wanted to grab a spoon and dive right in. Instead, I took him to coffee to digest the story of how someone left an executive seat at Razorfish, in favor of a small office piled high with jam jars and stoopwaffles.

Mouth Foods Headquarters

Mouth Foods Headquarters

We’ve all been there. Riding the corporate roller coaster, looking out the static windows with an unfocused stare, dreaming of our professional freedom. One day, Craig’s daydreaming eyes narrowed in on the French Culinary Institute’s smoke-breaking students across from his downtown office. Light bulb: “I want to leave this grind behind and go to culinary school.” Lucky for Craig, he just happens to be friends with Mario Batali, who quickly advised him that he would learn more jumping straight into a restaurant kitchen than spending months and thousands of dollars at FCI. Craig hung up his briefcase, grabbed his knives and jumped at the opportunity to help with prep and learn the inner workings of Babbo.

It was a weekend excursion to a Brooklyn shop, Marlow and Daughters, that was the second light bulb illuminating his path to launching Mouth Foods. As his children excitedly talked with the butcher and wanted to try all the hand-prepared products lining the cases and shop shelves, Craig realized it was difficult to get these treats unless they paid a visit to the depths of Brooklyn when they had the time. Small production artisans just want to produce – they don’t often think about distribution and when they do can often encounter difficulty winning the competition for shelf space. So how do we get our hands on these goods? And how do we share our favorite new bacon-chocolate discovery without having to stand in line at FedEx to send someone we love the pork-cacao confections that we have wrapped ourselves?

There have been a few online channels that have popped up – foodzie is one of the largest and have recently changed their focus to a subscription model. Gilt Taste is a lusty site that makes me drool for Spanish Mangalica Ham and White Truffle Cream…and also makes we wish I had eight figures in the bank account to afford those items.

Mouth Foods ViewEnter Mouth Foods. A beautifully designed site that showcases what’s in the jar with a bird’s-eye view that tells the mind to dive right in. Just launched in December, they are quickly adding products that live up to the philosophy of supporting small independent packaged food makers to grow their businesses. They are focused on the art and craft of local, sustainable business preparing foods and making food products and making it easier for the consumer to get a taste.

With the desire to support a start-up supporting the up-all-night small food producers of New York, I sent a package of intriguing bites ranging from a bacon toffee bar to ginger ale, to my cousin and did a face-time session with her when her surprise belated-Christmas package arrived. The local angle may not have resonated with her as much as it did with me – she has no idea who NY-based Nunu chocolates or Sour Puss Pickles is, but that didn’t stop her from gushing over every sip and bite of just plain old delicious handmade treats. And if she is interested {as I was} she can read about each of the makers on the site.

So what’s next for Mouth Foods? More products and more cities. And, in my opinion, I’d love to see a subscription model that brings Christmas morning to your doorstep on a regular basis. I don’t always want to go online when my craving hits, but I would like to receive a jar when Brooklyn Brine launches a new flavor. I want to be the first to try Nunu chocolates latest chocolate-covered X. And then I want to send a gift of all my favorites that I have personally tried to my network of friends and family. I want to be a tastemaker and I want Mouth Foods to be my discovery channel of all the best and newly launched artisanal goodness being brewed in the small, scattered storefronts throughout the country.

Need Quick Gift Ideas?
Choco-Lot Taster
Jackers and Crams Taster
Hot Stuff Taster
Pickle Town Taster
Nuts for You Taster
Snack Mouth Taster 

Mouth Foods Gift Tasters

Mouth Foods Gift Tasters

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Do This!: Mike’s Knife Sharpening Truck Rolls City-Style

Mike's Upper West Side Knife Sharpening Truck

A year and a half ago I wrote about the importance of getting your knives sharpened once to twice a year depending on how much of a work out they get. And now I’m here to admit I didn’t listen to my own advice. In NYC, it’s not the most convenient thing to have to lug your knives around in search of a professional sharpener. I love Samurai Sharpening in Chelsea Market, but even that is a subway ride away and requires some planning. So imagine my delight when I turned the corner onto my street this past Sunday and saw a truck I’ve been chasing unsuccessfully for the past 10 years.

Mike’s Sharpening is the exciting answer to your dull knives. Mike’s mobile business has been rolling through the streets of the Upper West Side long before the food truck craze entered our vocabulary. With man’s best friend in the passenger seat and a bright red bell hanging out the driver’s side window, he alerts the neighborhood of his arrival old-school style. Like kids run to the Good Humor man, city cooks swiftly stride down the block carrying their chopping companions in search of a honing treatment. While you sit on the curb, Mike brings your knives back to life in a matter of minutes and for far less money than speciality kitchen shops around town. When I offered my advise that he should create a twitter account to notify sharpening seekers of his whereabouts, the man of few words just smiled and shook his head. I love the charm of a man who has been sharing his skill from inside the four walls of his truck for years, with nothing but his tools and canine companion to keep him company. I just hope I don’t have to wait another 10 years until I find him again.

Care Tips for Kitchen Knives:

  1. Use A Proper Cutting Board – Most importantly, boards and surfaces made of glass, ceramic, marble etc will damage the cutting edge in the first cut {that includes cutting on dishes!}. Wooden and plastic boards are better and have a much lower dulling effect. For the best result use very soft disposable paper or card cutting boards.
  2. Store Knives Well — Keep in a knife block or drawer covered in a sheath to prevent from damaging the edges.
  3. Hand Wash Knives — After each use clean your knives with a sponge and warm soapy water. DO NOT put in the dishwasher where they can knock against other utensils or plates and damage the thin blade.
  4. Keep Knives Dry – Knives such as carbon steal knives can rust very easily if left to dry in a drying rack. Be sure to towel dry immediately after washing and use.
  5. Steel Knives Regularly — A knife’s edge has a tendency to roll to either side and even though you can’t see it, the tip loses it’s point. Taking your knife across the a steel before or after each use, will keep the edge at a point and prevent it from getting flat and dull quicker.
  6. Sharpen Every 6-9 Months — Depending on frequency of use, chopping technique and care, your knives will need a little TLC every 6-9 months. Buy a sharpening stone or visit a professional knife sharpener, such as Mike’s Truck or Samurai Sharpening, to hone the edges and your knife skills.

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Dang It’s Cold Out. Cool Things To Do, To Keep You Warm.

Finally, snow last weekend — confirmation that Winter is not extinct {although I’m starting to second guess that assessment this week}. If you’re anything like me right now then you’re looking for a cold weather distraction. If you can’t leave the city like I just did, then here’s some wintry stay-put inspiration:

Warm with Scotch | Host a Robert Burns Night Party:
Boozy Robert Burns Night w/ The Tippling Bros. & Highland Park Scotch
Inside-Out Scotch Eggs w/ Ground Lamb, Harissa Yolk & Panko Gremolata 

Let Cute Bartenders Warm You | Spend the Evening at Highlands:
Highlands Highlights: Scottish Plaids, Pub Fare and Hand Crafted Cocktails

Slurrrp & Snuggle | Ramen + Crowded Hot Spots Warm the Bod:
NYC Ramen Wars: Ippudo vs. momofuku noodle bar 

Stay Warm With Man’s Best Friend | Dine & Drink @TheBeagle:
The Beagle: A Restaurant You Should Be Loyal To 

Go Off the Beaten Track | Sign Up for a Sidetour
Take an Underground Sidetour to Get You Through the January Blues 

Stick it To Your Ribs | Eat Soul-Warming BBQ:
18 Favorite Meat Dishes for Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau 

Escape the City From Home | Host an Easy-Prep Dinner Party:
French-Inspired
Fireside Sparks {Champagne Cocktail a la Tippling Bros.}
Flaky Cheese Straws, As Easy As Being Barefoot 
Wild Child Broccoflower and Celery Root Soup
Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken

Italian-Inspired
Autumn Manhattan {Herby Garnished Classic a la Tippling Bros.}
Homemade Ricotta and Melted Leeks
Bursting Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta-Orange Reduction
Homemade Gnocchi and Sauce: Channeling My Italian Grandmother 

Hunker Down and Stir it Up | Cook From Scratch {eat Leftovers!}:
Best Butternut Squash and Green Apple Soup
Grandma’s Italian Wedding Chicken Soup
Wild Child Broccoflower and Celery Root Soup

Braised Grass-Fed Beef Brisket and Polenta
Irish Steak & Guinness Puff Pastry Pie

Spicy Balsamic and Fennel Fish Stew

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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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Do This: Take an Underground Sidetour to Get You Through the January Blues

There may not be snow on the ground yet, but I for one am looking for a little inspiration to get me through January — and the 3°F with windchill is not helping matters. Enter Sidetour, an online marketplace that recently launched this Fall, promoting “authentic experiences. real people.” Or a tagline I am going to apply: really cool experiences, with really cool people we should all know more of {you, of course, do not need to be really cool, but you do need to be real and ready step off the beaten path}.

Sidetour created a platform for anyone with an expertise to host and promote unique events, allowing the host to set everything from the date, price and size of the group to suit each artisanal experience. The result? A collection of underground, undiscovered ways to fill your calendar that break the monotony of your typical social flings {we know you love Pastis, but isn’t it time to try something new?}. It’s the year of private supper clubs, pop-up anything and being the first to know about gems you won’t find in a guidebook or on any Top 10 lists. Whether you’re a native to NYC or a visitor who just tossed their Lonely Planet in the garbage in favor of an authentic experience, Sidetour plays right into the idea of bringing passion and the uncharted together to provide you with something memorable and inspired.

Brooklyn RootedEnjoy Brooklyn Rooted: an Artisanal Dinner Party for 8, with the Chef Who Won Last Night’s Chopped on The Food Network

 

 

 

 

Indian Food and Beer PairingOr Taste Flavorful Indian Food with the Perfect Beer Pairing Prepared by a Contestant from NBC’s America’s Next Great Restaurant

 

 

 

Dine with a Banker Turned MonkHow About Dining with a Banker-Turned-Monk at an East Village Monastery?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear not, if you’re outside the NYC area, Sidetour plans to expand to other cities this year. And if you’re on a January cleanse after one too many Christmas cookies, check out events that span other areas of interest beyond just food. Hey guys, these would make for great date ideas…several that caught my attention:

Explore the Epicenter of Graffiti Culture at 5Pointz

Get an Insider’s Glimpse into Manhattan’s Historic Jazz Scene

Explore Cutting-Edge Art in Chelsea with a Gallery Insider

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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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Bobby Flay Serves Up Tasty Taco Talent at New York City Wine & Food Festival

There was no shortage of taco talent at this year’s Food Network Wine & Food Festival Tacos & Tequila event hosted by renowned master of southwestern cuisine, Bobby Flay. With a $200 price tag per ticket, the evening included the opportunity to taste a selection of taco creations from over 35 of New York’s most celebrated chefs and restaurants, with all the proceeds going to Food Bank NYC and Share our Strength. If you missed this year’s NYCWFF, you can still help raise money for these charities by bidding on a month of Farm to Table Freshocracy deliveries and other seriously delicious auction items HERE.

Tacos and Tequila

With a chilled tequila cocktail in one hand, party goers were free to sidle up to the likes of Jonathan Waxman from Barbuto, Scott Conant of Scarpetta or Kin Shop’s Harold Dieterle to name a few {full list of celebrity chefs HERE}. “What do you have for me tonight Harold?” With the swiftness of a Top Chef champion, he rattled off the list of deliciousness almost too quickly to note: “Tonight we have braised beef brisket and bone marrow tacos with radish sprouts, fried taro root, roti, and yellow bean aioli…Enjoy.” Thank you — I will and I did. The thing about an event like this, is you would be challenged to eat your ticket price in food, so being strategic about your sampling choices is key. If you jump too quickly at the tables near the entrance, you may miss a real gem in the far back corner.

Jonathan Waxman

So what was my favorite of the evening? The hands down winner for me was Scarpetta’s spiced crusted lamb neck tacos, filled with goat cheese crema, on blue corn tortillas. Everything from the richness of the lamb to the sharp, yet creamy goat cheese and the the blue corn that served as a well thought out flavor component {as opposed to strictly an ingredient vehicle}, really made this hand-held sample sing. If it wouldn’t have been a wasted “punch in the tasting card” to go back for seconds, I would have, but alas, we were on to the next…
Best innovation of the evening? Delta’s flight attendants rolling through the crowd with a cart of breath mints, hand wipes and toothpicks. Why can’t I get this kind of service on the plane?

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Freshocracy and the Food Network Partner to Raise Money for Charity

As part of this year’s New York Wine and Food Festival, Freshocracy is partnering with the Food Network to raise money for Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength through the event’s online auction.

Eat. Drink. End Hunger.
Auction open September 15 – October 14!

Bidding is closed.

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Do This!: This Year’s Food Network New York Wine & Food Festival

Does the thought of stirring things up with the likes of Giada de Laurentiis, Marcus Samuelsson or David Bouley get you excited? How about the potential for a attending an Asian/Dumpling seminar with Anito Lo or a Master Sushi Rolling class with Morimoto? I personally am looking forward to the Tacos & Tequila event with Bobby Flay. What I’m referring to is just a taste of the big foodie names and events that make up Food Network’s annual Wine & Food Festival. The weekend is jam packed with 120 day and nighttime events, seminars, demos, book signings and dinners with up close access and to some of the biggest culinary names and their tasty creations. The best part about it all {besides this being foodie heaven} is that 100% of net proceeds go directly to Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength, two community-based organizations focused on helping to fight hunger — allowing us to literally put our money where our mouth is. Last year’s event raised more than $1.2 million for these organizations.

This year’s long line-up of scrumptious samplings and celebrity sightings is scheduled for September 29-October 2, 2011. And with tickets still available, you have not missed out on the opportunity to take a bite out of the Big Apple’s biggest food event of the year — so get cookin’! Here’s a sneak peak at just a few tastings, but see the link below for the full line-up.

Oyster Bash: Want to know if Oysters really are an aphrodisiac? Join Ted Allen and the likes of April BloomfieldMichael Psilakis and other seafood masters at The Standard for an oyster, beer and bubbly bash!

Sake Soiree: Wash those Oysters down with several sips of Sake as you learn about Japan’s signature drink, how to create Sake cocktails and perfect Sake food pairings at the sleek Buddakan.

Take A Bite Out of NYWFF:
Full Event Line-up and Grab Your Tickets
HERE

Dickson’s Farmstand Meats’ Pulled Pork Sliders @ Last Year’s Chelsea Market After Dark

Read up on last year’s events and get hungry for more fun:
New York City Wine & Food Festival Kicked Off With Good Eats
Hands On with Giada De Laurentiis at Food Network’s NYCWFF Demo
recipe goodness :: Alton Brown Does Bourbon in the Morning
Getting Tipsy with the Tippling Bros. @NYCWFF Mixology 101
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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