Tag Archives: Date

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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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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Vinegar Hill House is a Sweet Spot for Supper

Vinegar Hill Specialty Cocktail: blanco tequila, curacao, lime, grenadine

Vinegar Hill Specialty Cocktail: blanco tequila, curacao, lime, grenadine

 Vinegar Hill is not a Brooklyn neighborhood you hear much about — perhaps because it only stretches for about six blocks and is neighbored by the more buzz-worthy DUMBO. But if you have thus far overlooked this charming area, I suggest you take a stroll through this historical corner {and more strongly suggest you don’t wear cobblestone-unfriendly heals when you do.} The neighborhood feels a bit like you have traveled back in time with Federal style homes, quiet sleepy brick-laid streets and a few storefront gems that sit happily on a mostly residential row and look like places you could buy an antique musket from the Battle of Vinegar Hill during Irish Rebellion of 1798 {and now you know where the hood got its name.}

But my first trip to Vinegar Hill was not prompted by an historical expedition. Rather, it was to grab dinner at the equally as charming and most definitely delicious Vinegar Hill House. The copper-topped bar and copper-haired-bearded bartender was a quick conduit to a warming-first impression. The cocktail menu is simple in length, but lists an inspired concoction of choices. After a brief chat with said bearded bartender, he pleasantly described  his affinity for Despues del Ensueno {pictured above} — delightful on that humid summer eve.

The dinner menu did not disappoint either. Special app of the night: house-cured ham. It was so good I ate it too quickly to take a picture — professional mishap #1. We also sampled the farmstead cheese & salumi platter with homemade crackers and a pickled quail egg. With duck pate rounding out the selection, this clearly was not just another cheese platter and we were better for it.

Vinegar Hill Cast Iron Chicken

Vinegar Hill Cast Iron Chicken

Feeling old-world New York, I could not resist the Cast Iron Chicken. It comes straight out of the brick oven piping hot with the danger of searing your arm if you mistakenly touch the pan as you gleefully dig into the juicy, buttered bird — professional mishap #2. But it was well-worth the lasting burn mark. If you want to go for a safer eating option, try the Mezze Maniche — a shorter version of the always popular rigatoni that is stopped with a lovely pork ragu.

Vinegar Hill Mezze Maniche with Pork Ragu

Vinegar Hill Mezze Maniche with Pork Ragu

The Skim: Getting out of the city slog doesn’t have to mean you need to travel to the Hamptons. Spend the summer visiting some of New York’s less-trafficked neighborhoods to digest a little historical charm and a fantastic meal for the evening. Vinegar Hill House is only a short walk from the river, so it also lends itself to being a great place to start the night before a NYC skyline stroll along the Brooklyn waterfront or before attending a bargemusic concert under the great Brooklyn Bridge.

Map: 72 Hudson Avenue, Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn
Reservations: Taken for 4+ Sun-Mon; 6+ Sat/Sun Brunch
Phone: 718-522-1018

Other Favorite Brooklyn Haunts:
Under the Bridge, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory Treat {Post-VHH Dessert!}
18 Favorite Meat Dishes for Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau
Rustic Space Features Really Good Wood-Burning Oven Pizza @Roberta’s
Blue Bottle Coffee Brews One Brilliant Cup at a Time
A Better Brooklyn Breakfast @ Dizzy’s Finer Diner 

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Gone Fish. ‘in Sausalito

 

Fish. Dungeness Crab Sandwich

Fish., a sustainable seafood restaurant and fish market in Sausalito, shows sometimes nature’s simplicity is all you need. The chalkboard menu hung over the open kitchen lists the selections of the day and features “f/v” beside each dish, prominently naming the fishing vessel responsible for your fresh catch. Well that’s a glowing idea.

The doors opened for lunch at 11:30am and it was not long before the line was easily 20 people strong and continued to grow with the lunch hour rush. People will wait for good food and Fish. {so says the name} is good food period.  It’s crab season in San Fran, so it didn’t take much reflection to decide to bite into the dungeness crab roll.  This delight was served on a slightly sweet and fluffy brioche roll that was no doubt swiped generously with butter and toasted face down on the grill, before being stuffed with perfectly seasoned crab that did nothing more than slightly accentuate the sweet, natural flavor of the main catch. With a Ball jar of pinot grigio and a side of salty fries, I had the makings of a fantastic mid-week lunch with my brother. As it turns out Fish. was also the location of my brother’s first date with his now wife – I guess they don’t say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach for nothing.

The Skim: Looking to clear out of the food fog? Head on out to Sausalito for a taste of what fresh food should be all about. Weather permitting you can enjoy your catch at one of the picnic tables overlooking the marina – just be aware of jealous seagulls who want a bite of Fish.

Other SF Catches:
SF Best: Nopa
SF Best: RoliRoti Rolls Out Revolutionary Rotisserie
Blue Bottle Coffee Brews One Brilliant Cup at a Time

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Behind Bohemian

Bohemian

I debated for a long time as to whether or not I was going to write about this NYC restaurant. Not because I don’t love it, but because I love it too much – I was hesitant to let anyone else in on the secret.  But after eating here three times in only a week {a first for me, EVER}, I decided it was only appropriate to share the love – my mother taught me never to be selfish after all.

This secret little gem is a place with no sign out front. A place with a long hallway that leads to a locked and unmarked front door. A place where you have to ring the doorbell to enter. And a place where you can only get a table if you call ahead, dialing an unpublished number that can only be acquired from someone who has been there before (ahem). This is my kind of place.

Sound pretentious? That’s the beauty of this little Japanese food find – it’s anything but. The lack of marketing and exposure is intentional to maintain a quiet environment filled with passionate regulars and excited pursuers of plated perfection. Once inside, you are greeted by its small and welcoming staff who guide you to one of six tables or one of six seats at the bar. The space feels more like a living room, with comfy couches and low cushioned armchairs surrounding knee-high tables that invite you to relax while enjoying each precisely prepared bite.  With white walls and an almost unnoticeable rock garden, it’s as if the intentional zen-like décor was designed to make the artistic dishes the only eye-catching visuals.

Japanese Cucumber Cocktail

The hand-crafted cocktails and meticulously grown and prepared food is the reason I’ve gone completely nuts for this place.  The first time I went I ate at the bar, which allowed me to watch in awe as Take, the resident bartender, hand carved a perfectly round ice cube from a block of ice, and sliced paper-thin Japanese cucumber circles into my precisely measured cocktail.

Seasonal Veggie "Fondue"

We were also wowed at first sight, when our meal started with a vibrant veggie boat of captivatingly crisp crudités served on ice with the most elegantly smooth, bowl-licking anchovy cheese “fondue”.  I could have stopped there an been ecstatic, but out came our sushi flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market, with a clarity that let the candlelight shine through and a firmness in each pinkish bite unlike any I have had since I was actually in Tokyo. heaven.

Sushi Perfection

I could take you through every dish I ate each of the three times I paid a visit to Bohemian, but then this post would go on for days. I will say, if you can swing the premium prices for the washu-beef steak, that is definitely something you don’t want to miss. Since Bohemian is tucked behind the Japan Premium Beef market, you could consider this the specialty of the house,which you will quickly realize with each beautifully buttery bite.

The Skim: If you are seeking small and spectacular, find a way to get a seat at Bohemian. I am not above taking bribes or offers to be treated to dinner in exchange for a phone number, but I won’t post it here.

Can’t Get A Seat, Try One of These Japanese Joints:
Love, Love Shabu Shabu: Fun to Say and Eat
Sensational Summer Sushi @ Geisha
Momofuku That Pork Butt is Good!

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Outstanding Upper Ouest Side Dining

Ouest

My parents were recently in town and I took that opportunity to finally visit a great upper west side restaurant that has been on my “list” of places to try for waaaaay too long. I can’t explain why it took me 7 years to eat at Ouest — I’ve heard nothing but good things and it’s only 5 blocks away from my apartment. But there you have it, 7 years came and went and I finally walked through the doors leading to a small, intimate dark-wood bar, a short hall of cozy red leather booths and a hidden, unexpectedly spacious dining room in the back. Despite the soaring ceilings and a second level platform where more diners overlook the main room, Ouest provides a warm and sophisticated environment with oversized mirrors and almost circus tent-like chandeliers creating a red glow over the round red leather seating.

The atmosphere was not the only thing that did not disappoint. I was craving greens, so I started with an appetizer that doesn’t sound like anything spectacular, but just like the unexpected, hidden dining room, this dish was one more surprise worth noting. The Mixed Seasonal Greens with Herbed Red Wine-Parmesan Vinaigrette comes out as a beautifully stacked sculpture of curly, crunchy leaves, lightly dressed in the most wonderfully simple, but flavorful vinaigrette. Nothing fancy — no croutons or crumbled cheese to get in the way of the fresh greens and its companion dressing. Note to diners — the salad was large enough that it could easily be shared between two, even three people.

Ouest Mixed Seasonal Greens with Herbed Red Wine-Parmesan Vinaigrette

For my entree I got the Pan Seared Diver Scallops with Fennel-Mint Risotto and Autumn Mushrooms. And yes, this too tasted just as fantastic as it sounds. The perfectly cooked seared scallops sat atop a bed of creamy risotto that was slightly sweet from the roasted fennel, fresh and herby from the mint, and earthy from the bits of mushroom. I was reluctant to share a bite, but that also probably made room for dessert!

Pan Seared Scallops with Fennel-Mint Risotto and Autumn Mushrooms

This is when I can’t refrain from dessert. Every course has been so noteworthy, I don’t want the meal to end. And I convince myself that dessert cannot be missed or the entire dining experience will be hopelessly incomplete. And I was right. The Peanut Butter-Chocolate “Bombe” with Spanish Peanuts & Warm Chocolate Sauce was as tasty as it was beautiful. Nothing goes better with chocolate than peanut butter, as was confirmed in each bite. I would say the sauce could have been warmer, but I was already won over by the entire meal and was willing to let it slide.

Ouest Peanut Butter-Chocolate Bombe

The Skim: Pricing falls on the higher end, but if you’re looking for a special occasion outting or have a few dollars you’re willing to trade for a memorable meal, I would highly suggest a trip to the upper Ouest side. Everything from the warm ambiance, to precise service and a stellar menu makes for a meal worth going north of 14th street for.

Map: 2315 Broadway {@84th Street}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 212-580-8700

What Else Can I Find on the UWS?
Barney Greengrass: Long Live the Sturgeon King
Community Food & Juice: Fresh & Fantastic Fare
5 & Dime: 10 oz. at Five Napkin Burger, that is

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The Art of Brunching Well @ L’Artusi

L'Artusi Bloody Mary

It was not long ago that I was raving about my dinner at L’Artusi, the attractive, open-kitchen Italian spot tucked down one of those non-perpendicular West Village streets.  So when they asked me to come preview their newly created Brunch menu before the public unveiling this Sunday {October 17}, I couldn’t help but spread the love again. I am an encourager of exemplary eating establishments. When I have a great meal, I want you to know about it. I want you to go. Tomorrow! So pick up the phone, make a reservation {212.255.5757} and then keep reading.

Every good brunch deserves a bloody mary. And every good bloody mary deserves some “hmpf”. What I mean by that is I want spice and all sorts of goodies in my Sunday cocktail — I want veggies, I want olives, I want lots of little bits floating around giving me that liquid-salad-with-a-kick kind of feeling. Because frankly, if I’m drinking on a Sunday morning {thank you Tippling Bros.}, I need to feel like I’m getting some sort of nutritional benefit. L’Artusi’s Mary does just that — and with a cherry, err, pancetta cube on top.

Graciously our very helpful server also suggested we start with the bread basket. This isn’t just any roll and butter basket. This is a collection of seasonal, bready goodness — a cranberry muffin, cherry scone and some dark, nutty bread that I couldn’t get enough of. All served with a side of whipped, soft, creamy butter and a lovely plum jam.

L'Artusi Bread Basket

My favorite of the two mains we ordered was the Eggs Florentine. We already know my obsession with eggs,and that I assert high expectations for any egg dish that I order at a restaurant. And this exceeded them ten-fold. Served on crispy polenta {clever Italian substitute to the ‘ole english muffin} with lovely, bright green spinach and a perfectly poached egg that oozed creamy, golden goodness, the florentine was then lovingly topped with a tomato-hollandaise, again adding a unique flavor profile and twist to the classic preparation.

L'Artusi Eggs Florentine

We were also treated to an unexpected dish that has my vote for best contender on the menu. The Polenta Amatriciana is probably best shared between two people because of its richness. A bowl of polenta {that I’m sure has no shortage of butter in it} is topped with the same amatriciana sauce that graces their bucatini on the dinner menu. This stuff is amazing — a combination of tomato, pancetta and red chilis, it is smoky and slightly spicy. What else would you want on top of a bowl of creamy polenta? An egg? Yes, I thought so — a perfect poach floats on top of this bed of delight, just waiting to be broken open so all the eggy yumminess can swim around with all the other flavors. And to really round this out, the entire dish is finished with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

L'Artusi Polenta Amatriciana

How about the sides? You can’t go wrong with the pancetta bacon or the super crispy rosemary potatoes. I agree with the person verbally singing the praises of that pancetta bacon and if you need a little crispy, salty potato to soak up your Saturday night, well then you’ve found them!

“This the the best bacon I’ve ever eaten in my life” — overheard @ L’Artusi

The Skim: And that, my friends, was a brunch worth sharing. I expect L’Artusi’s sunday brunch will be just as popular as their dinner is, but even if you can’t manage to get a reservation, you are always welcome to walk in and eat on the really comfy stools at the bar or start with one of their creative morning cocktails or fresh juices while you wait.

Map228 west 10th {btw Hudson & Bleecker}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 212-255-5757


8.ate@eight Favor8
Seal of Approval

I ♥ Eggs Too:
The Art of Eating {and Drinking} Well @ L’Artusi
A Better Brooklyn Breakfast @ Dizzy’s Finer Diner
Community Food & Juice: Fresh & Fantastic Fare
Weekend Brunch: Eat Eggs @ Edward’s
Greenmarket: Put Smarter, Cheaper & More Scrumptious Food on Your Table

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Brooklyn Fare Fares Well, Earning 2 Michelin Stars

A year ago I went to Brooklyn Fare with 7 other close friends to dig into an evening of fine dining and free flowing wine, while seated at a superbly intimate and unique, but casual, chef’s table in the kitchen of Brooklyn Grocery. So I am extremely excited to hear and spread the word that the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare Grocery was just awarded 2 Michelin stars — one of only 10 restaurants in New York and the only restaurant in Brooklyn.

Michelin Guide director Jean-Luc Naret said the eatery was one of the best 300 restaurants in the world.

In honor of their honor, I thought I would recap the memorable meal. A picture is worth 1,000 words with this post! For a fixed price {wine is BYO}, we watched our meal being prepared table side, chatted with chef, Cesar Ramirez, and left happy, satiated foodies. Reliving this meal through photos makes me want to go back tomorrow! As you can see, what was supposed to be a 5-course tasting menu, actually turned into 13 — hence why we had to call the local wine store to restock our supply {come prepared}!
The evening started out with a shot of Lemon Verbena Foam

Starting out with a shot of Lemon Verbena Foam


And A Bite Sized Parmesan Macaroon

Followed by a fried ball of liquid foie gras. WHAT! Amazing liquid gold in a bite.

And then Crispy Crab Balls {not pictured}, leading to Fresh Oysters w/ Sea Water Gelatin Film

Fresh Oysters w/ Sea Water Film


On to more foamy goodness — Parmesan Foam, Shaved Lemon Zest and a generous heap of Truffles

Parmesan Foam, Shaved Lemon Zest and Truffles



And a lighter Hamachi Crudo w/ Soy and Lime

Hamachi w/ Soy and Lime


Finished Product


The beginnings of Crab and avocado wrapped in bibb lettuce, topped with button mushrooms and shaved porcini — An amazingly rich, but light; fresh, but earthy contrast of flavors.

Laying the Avocado Foundation


And then the Crab Roll


Crab and avocado wrapped in bibb lettuce, topped with button mushrooms and shaved porcini


Our taste buds were doing jumping jacks, but this was nothing compared to the next dish: Egg, truffle foam and fried italian black rice. You can only imagine how well this combination of both consistencies and flavors played together. I quickly started to lose track of which course we were on or if these dishes were even on the listed menu — it was one tantalizing bite after another. With a lot of wine to wash it down!

Egg, truffle foam and fried italian black rice. A-mazing.


And just when the rich flavors start to make your head spin in glee, Chef Ramirez lightens things back up with a Fish stew with lobster, frog legs, octopus, cod cheeks, topped with lobster foam.

Fish stew with lobster, frog legs, octopus, cod cheeks, topped with lobster foam


And a most interesting John Dory with Veal Jus — redefining surf & turf?

John Dory with Veal Jus


And to finish off the savory menu, a highly seasonal and highly delightful, Milk fed pork, baby leeks, shaved apple stack topped with melted powdered caramel.

Milk fed pork, baby leeks, shaved apple stack topped with melted powdered caramel.


Of course, the evening also ended with something sweet, colorful and fantastically fun to eat. Poached plum, topped with ricotta, 26-year aged balsamic, muscato gelee and plum marshmallows.

Poached plum, topped with ricotta, 26-year aged balsamic, muscato gelee and plum marshmallows.


I could not begin to describe the complexity and brilliance of this meal with words, so hopefully the photos are enough to make your mouth sing. I’m guessing the wait list is longer than a line at Whole Foods on a Saturday afternoon, so get your friends, set a date many months from now and get involved. When you make your reservation be sure to ask for the recommended local wine store that will help pair wines with the meal the day prior {just plan for more courses than revealed and don’t be shy about sharing with Chef Ramirez and his team}.

Map200 Schermerhorn
Reservations: Required!
Contact: Heidi at 718-243-0050 or email kitchen@brooklynfare.com

More Brooklyn Fare:
Mission Dolores {Accomplished}: Great New Brooklyn Beer Garden
NYC Best: Source Your Spices and Specialty Foods @ Sahadi’s
Crop to Cup Creating Quality Community Coffee

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Aria Sings a Harmonious West Village Wine Bar

Chef-owner Roberto Passon {of Bocca di Bacco} opened his own venture Aria in the past few months, featuring small plates {cicchetti} and small glasses {ombre} of Italian food and fruits of the vine. Like most wine bars, it’s small, dimly lit, with exposed brick and a chalkboard menu — and lacks a full kitchen. But just because they’ve constructed a quaint atmosphere, doesn’t mean they haven’t figured out how to send out lip smacking food that you’re reluctant to share.

Aria Grilled Lamb Chops

We started with the burrata {just say the word and I’ll order it}, but followed that with the best plate of the evening — two grilled lamp chops in a balsamic vinegar sauce. They were just the right amount of salty with each sweet, juicy, herby bite. I found myself wanting more than the one I was alloted {my half of the plate} but our over-excited bartender-waiter insisted we order the gorgonzola stuffed dates. This is the type of thing that you know is probably not good for the waistline, but you enjoy every bite — dates, stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped in prosciutto before being cooked to a crisp outer layer. It’s a rich morsel of chewy goodness. Four was too many though, so these we did happily share with our new bar stool friends perched to our left.

Aria Gorgonzola Stuffed Dates

The Skim: You don’t have to go for the food to enjoy Aria though. With a generous amount of bar space given the size of the bar {seats wrap around to the bar tending side}, it’s easy to order a few ombres of wine or house cocktails, quickly make friends with the bartender {who is all too eager to pour you a shot of Italian liquor} and have a harmonic evening. It makes for a great date destination, place to grab some vino with friends or perhaps make some new ones.

Map: 117 Perry {Btw Greenwich & Hudson}
Reservations: Not Taken
Phone: 212.242.4233

Fill Me Up:
Bocca di Bacco: I say PotaTO, You say PoTATo
Wintry Wine & Whiskey Warm-Up @ Vintry

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Reliably Good American Bar and Bites @ Rye House

RYEHOUSE: 11 West 17th Street

Sometimes you just want a good reliable NYC bar and restaurant — a place you can grab lunch mid-week, a cold beer after work with friends or a handcrafted cocktail on a saturday night with intriguing ingredients such as orange blossom water, egg white and small production rye. It’s hard to find all those things in one destination, but Rye House has succeeded in creating a reliable bar and restaurant menu with reverence for traditional American spirits and cuisine.

I met my friend for lunch on a cold rainy day and shook off the chill with a soup and sandwich combo. It pleasantly reminded me of something I may have been able to order if I sauntered in off the cobblestone street of New York City circa 1850. The Spring Onion Potato Soup with a sourdough crouton and provolone was served in a sturdy handled bowl and was just the hearty starter I needed.

RyeHouse Spring Onion Soup

The “Pittsburgh” sandwich was the perfect pairing to go with the simple flavors of the onion soup and had its own warming qualities with a unique combo of grilled andouille sausage, provolone, house slaw, fries all stacked together and served on a wooden plank. The spice of the sausage was nicely mellowed out by the crisp slaw, and while the fries weren’t exactly necessary on the sandwich, they added a different sort of salty, crispy bite that made this a lunch to remember {lunch menu HERE}.

RyeHouse Pittsburgh

The Skim: With a long welcoming bar placed near the front and high tables along the wall, the casual atmosphere of Rye House invites you to stop in for whatever you’re in the mood for — a good craft draft, a creative cocktail or memorable, but simple American cuisine. Rye House also holds weekly beer tastings featuring a changing selection of craft brews, so this may just be the perfect place to discover some of the names appearing at NY Craft Beer week.

Map: 11 West 17th Street {Btw 5th & 6th Ave.}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 212.255.7260

Pour Some More Por Favor:
Highlands Highlights: Scottish Plaids, Pub Fare and Hand Crafted Cocktails
Not so Standard Biergarten
Mission Dolores {Accomplished}: Great New Brooklyn Beer Garden
Wilfie & Nell: Not Your Grandpa’s Watering Hole

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The Art of Eating {and Drinking} Well @ L’Artusi

La Scienza in Cucina e L’Arte di Mangiar Bene (The Science of cookery and the Art of Eating Well) is an iconic cookbook found in nearly every Italian household and is also known by the shorter name of its author, L’Artusi. I don’t know if it’s more fitting to say the NYC restaurant L’Artusi lives up to that iconic name or to say they are creating their own modern version of the Art of Eating Well through the complex, yet traditional Italian flavors that grace each plate. Either way, it was my selected destination of choice to celebrate Puglia Wine Week, and yes, we ate and drank very very well.

L’Artusi, the sister restaurant of dell’anima, partnered with Apulian wine producer Agricole Vallone to feature several of the best wines from this region and complement each pour with dishes inspired by Apulian cuisine. Agricole Vallone produces wines from three different estates located in Brindisi and Salentino, both found in the most southern region of Puglia known as Salento {the stiletto tip of the boot for those of you less familiar with Italian geography}. The region is known for its breathtaking views of the Adriatic and producing the Negroamaro grape using a traditional Pugliese tree technique. Sounds like a place I need to visit, but for now I’ll settle for an enjoyable evening of local pairings while sporting my own heels.

L'Artusi

To start, we ordered the housemade ricotta with sea salt and lemon, served with a side of raisin-mustard seed marmalade jam and homemade buttermilk crackers, as well as the scallop crudo, sliced thinly and served simply with lemon and olive oil. Our server paired this with the Vigna Flaminio Brindisi Rosato doc 2009. The creaminess of the ricotta and surprisingly light buttermilk crackers were outstanding on their own, but also worked perfectly with the deep pink rosé that exhibited sweet floral and cherry aromas.

L'Artusi Housemade Fresh Ricotta with Sea Salt, Lemon and Homemade Buttermilk Crackers

One of the reasons I love L’Artusi {and dell’anima} so much is because of their small plate, sharing approach to the menu. It’s a great way to sample new flavors and also solves the menu indecision problem that I’m often faced with {just bring a few friends and start ordering!}. The next two plates that followed were unanimously agreed around the table to be two of the best dishes of the evening. The beef carpacio with horseradish crema and rye crisps was so simple, but the crunchiness of the crispy bits and the mustardy kick of the horseradish added a unique depth. The roasted mushrooms with pancetta, fried egg and ricotta salata was my personal favorite — it was sharp, creamy and earthy and had a subtle kick from the pickled chili that was an unexpected, but welcomed surprise. Both dishes went extremely well with the Vereto Salice Salentino Riserva Rosso doc 2006, a 90% Negroamaro red with hints of pepper and chocolate.

L'Artusi Beef Carpacio with Horseradish Crema and Rye Crisps

L'Artusi Roasted Mushrooms with Pancetta, Fried Egg and Ricotta Salata

To finish off the evening we ordered two pasta dishes, but the highlight was an off-the-menu item that arrived from the kitchen and was an incredible celebration of the fall season. Butternut squash ravioli — not an uncommon menu item, but add marscapone cheese, a brown butter sauce and fresh grated parmesan and you have a perfect little package of flavors that would make any taste bud happy.

L'Artusi Special Butternut Squash with Marscapone and Ricotta

“I want to sleep in a pillow of whatever is in that ravioli”
— overheard @ L’Artusi

To pair, we closed out the meal with two reds tasted side-by-side, the Vigna Flaminio Brindisi Riserva doc 2006 and the Graticciaia Salento Rosso igt 2005. Both ruby red in color, the Graticciaia was made in an amarone-style, with 30% dry grapes and 70% fresh, which resulted in a dryer finish but opened up nicely over time and held up to the heavier pasta plates.

Agricole Vallone Wines

Table with a View - L'Artusi's Open Kitchen

The Skim: Uno) Eat at L’Artusi. With a menu featuring an artful list of crudo, veggie, pasta, fish, meat, cheeses and desserts, you won’t have a hard time eating well or creating a satisfying shared table evening. Due) Drink Apulian vino. Next time you’re looking through a wine list and perplexed by the plentiful picks, opt for a Negroamaro, Bombino Biano or Primitivo, three varietals common of the region. And for those of you who care, Puglia is the second largest producer {after Sicily} or organic wines, an indication of the important role agriculture plays in this unique Italian region. Buon Appetito and Salute!

Map: 228 west 10th {btw Hudson & Bleecker}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 212-255-5757


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Mangia, Mangia!

The Art of Brunching Well @ L’Artusi
Travel Bite: Puglia on a Plate
Do This!: First Ever Puglia Wine Week
Bistro Don Giovanni: Napa-Sourced & Italian-Inspired
Bocca di Bacco: I say PotaTO, You say PoTATo

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Do This!: First Ever Puglia Wine Week

Don’t let the rain keep you inside, there is so much to DO! this week. In addition to being EAT, DRINK LOCAL Week, it’s The First Ever Puglia Wine Week! You don’t have to live in NY to get excited either — the Puglia Wine restaurant roadshow is taking place in NY, L.A., San Francisco, Houston and Chicago! Find your favorite participating Italian restaurant, make a reservation and start swirling and twirling! My brother and his wife just returned from their honeymoon in Puglia and after seeing video of homemade burrata and pasta from the trip, I got very excited when I learned about a week of opportunity to explore more about this lesser known, but amazingly delicious region in Italy.

All food and wine lovers that will dine in these restaurants will have the chance to start their meals with delicious regional specialties, try wines from one of the best wineries of the region, and personally meet the producer in a casual, relaxed environment. Each sommelier of the participating restaurant will guide and educate the customers about the winery and each chef will create special recipes inspired by Apulian cuisine to exalt the wines and celebrate the occasion. During the course of the three days, restaurants will continue to propose diners pair their recipes with glass of wine from the host winery.

Find a participating restaurant HERE and get involved! Reservations can be made directly with the restaurant of choice.

Can’t make dinner? Try some tastings at participating wine stores HERE.

Discover More of Italy!:
Bistro Don Giovanni: Napa-Sourced & Italian-Inspired
Bocca di Bacco: I say PotaTO, You say PoTATo

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A+ 8.ate@eight Back to School Nite

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Apologies for my absence for a few days, but I have been busy shopping and chopping for what was the last 8.ate@eight supper club of the outdoor season. You wouldn’t think preparing “cafeteria” food would be such a distraction, but when you’re hand selecting figs and prosciutto from Italy for your pizza, catching red snapper off the east coast for your tacos, hunting bison out west for your mini sliders and hand frying potatoes for your truffle-rosemary chips, then there isn’t much time for blogging. Well maybe I wasn’t actually doing all of those things {except the hand frying – look out Frito Lay!} but the menu is accurate. As several friends had kids heading back to school, I thought it would be fun to relive the nostalgia of new sneakers, trapper keepers and the best of school cafeterias — only better! Here’s the full report card…

The Syllabus:

Starter
3 Grilled Pizzettes:
{1} Arugula, Fig & Proscuitto w/ Grated Parmesan Cheese
{2} Greek Olive Tapenade, Pickled Red Onion & Feta w/ Lemon Olive Oil
{3} Spicy Italian Sausage, Roasted Fennel & Fresh Mozzarella
w/ Grandma’s Sauce & Fresh Rooftop Basil

Mini Lime-Chili Red Snapper Tacos
w/ “Fruit Punch” Sangria

Salad
Roasted Corn & Vegetable Medley w/ Chipotle Bacon & Queso Fresco
w/ Bodegas Valdesil Godello Valdeorras Val de Sil Montenovo (Spain)

Entrée
Mini Bison Sliders w/ Buffalo Mozzarella and Olive Tapenade
Homemade Truffle Rosemary Parmesan Chips
w/ “P.S.” Local 2 Brooklyn Dark Ale

Dessert
Coconut “Twinkies” w/ Lemon Curd Filling
w/ Kahlua-Rum Chocolate “Milk”

It was just like showing up to a new classroom — some old friends and some new faces to get to know. This is why I started 8.ate@eight and what I love about my table. People can come together to enjoy good food and drink and easily fall into conversation with an unfamiliar group.

Pablo is the Principal at his own school he started -- how awesome is that!

As the 8.ate@eight-ers filed in, I was busy at work grilling pizzas on the BBQ. Not an entirely new concept, but a new twist on school lunch favorite — wasn’t pizza day a must?! With dough and toppings on hand, I grilled up three different versions: an Arugula, Fig & Proscuitto w/ Grated Parmesan Cheese Pizza, a Greek Olive Tapenade, Pickled Red Onion & Feta w/ Lemon Olive Oil Pie and a crowd-pleasing favorite, Spicy Italian Sausage, Roasted Fennel & Fresh Mozzarella w/ Grandma’s Sauce & Fresh Rooftop Basil.

Fresh Figs

Served alongside the pizza were some Red Snapper Tacos with a Lime-Chili Marinade and Avocado Sauce. I’m pretty sure the lunch ladies didn’t fill our shells with anything better than greasy ground beef, but I wanted to keep it light. Both of the appetizers were served with an adult version of fruit punch: sangria! With a winning combination of spanish vino, brandy, triple sec and lemonade, I soaked a combination of lemon, lime, orange slices and cherries overnight and topped each cup off with a little club soda — every party is better with bubbles!

Red Snapper Tacos

Sangria "Fruit Punch"

Probably the least eaten items on those styrofoam trays were the vegetable medleys and fruit cup cocktails, so I decided to do a combination of both with a modified version of my friend Nora’s delicious corn salad. There are several things that are great about this salad and its a recipe for success that I have written about before: sweet, spicy, citrusy, savory and salty. I roasted several ears of sweet jersey corn, removing the kernels and adding to a combination of grapes {strange, but sweet and amazing}, red bell peppers {peppery and colorful}, red chilis {that subtle spicy kick that I love}, cilantro {a polarizing ingredient for many, but even I converted a hater at the table}, scallions and lime. So that’s the regular combination, but I also decided this salad would do well with a few bits of chipotle bacon crumbled on top with some queso fresco — if only school veggies were always this good.

Roasted Corn & Vegetable Medley

Roasted Corn Salad

It’s not only important to eat your veggies, but a good healthy protein also tops the food pyramid. I keep speaking the praises of bison to anyone who will listen {recipe here}, so I thought if I put them in slider form I could win the hearts of my table too. So let’s reiterate some important facts — please take notes.

Bison tastes very similar to beef, but is slightly richer, so I complemented that flavor with a spread of salty olive tapenade on the mini buns and melted some creamy buffalo mozzarella on top for a better take on a kiddie craving.

Mini Bison Sliders

And just like PB&J is a match made in heaven, so are burgers and chips. So I carried out the dutch oven, a few pounds of potatoes and got to work slicing, rinsing, drying and frying the makings of my Homemade Truffle, Rosemary Parmesan Chips. A lot of work, but there is something very satisfying about putting Frito Lay to shame from your own kitchen {recipe to follow}.

Toss in corn starch to remove moisture and create crispier results

Toss in 375 degree oil 4-5 minutes until golden blond

Strain and Season with Fresh Rosemary and Truffle Salt

Season with Rosemary, Truffle Salt, Parmesan Cheese and Try Not to Eat Too Many

While everyone settled in for the Ferris Bueller classic, Naerim also made a guest appearance and served her Coconut “Twinkie” with Lemon Curd filling and I blended up some Kahlua-Rum Chocolate “Milk” just in case  everyone didn’t have enough to drink.

Coconut "Twinkies" with Lemon Curd

As usual, we cleared the plates, handed out some blankets as the night started to cool and fired up the projector for our guest visitor: Ed Rooney. No better end to another memorable 8.ate@eight supper club.

Ed Rooney Was Our Guest Visitor

Thanks!

Thanks to Naerim again for all the help serving drinks and food and ending the evening with a great new take on an old lunchbox treat! Thanks to Kristin for snapping some pics while I was manning the grill. And I of course want to thank everyone who grabbed a seat at the table — it was lovely to have you all!

I’m ruminating on some future indoor events for the fall and winter, so stay tuned. If you aren’t on the dinner distribution list, email me at 8ateateight@gmail.com to be added. See you at the table!

Recipe Goodness:

Homemade Rosemary, Truffle and Parmesan Chips or Fries

Prep Time: 1 Hour | Cook Time: 20-30 Minutes
Serves 4

2 1/2 # russet potatoes  (about 4 large)
3 QT. peanut or canola oil

Peel and cut potatoes into either long sticks or 1/2-inch thick circles for fries or use a mandolin to thinly slice flat or waffle cut circles {using the waffle blade} for chips. Rinse cut potatoes in large bowl under cold running water until water turns clear. Cover with cold water and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.

Pour off water,spread potatoes onto towels, and thoroughly dry {important for crispiness}. Transfer to large bowl and toss with cornstarch until evenly coated. Transfer to wire rack set on rimmed baking sheet and let rest until fine white coating forms, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large, heavy bottomed dutch oven, fitted w/clip-on candy thermometer, heat oil to 325.  Add half of potatoes a handful at a time and increase heat to high.  Fry, shirring with mesh spider until potatoes start to turn from white to blond, 4-5 min.(oil temp will drop). Transfer fries to paper towels to absorb oil and cool. Return oil to 325 and repeat with rest of potatoes. Let potatoes cool.

Heat oil to 375. Add half of fries or chips, a handful at a time, and fry until golden brown, 2-3 min. Transfer to paper towels & repeat with remaining fries. Season immediately with chopped rosemary, truffle salt and shaved parmesan.

Read About Past 8.ate@eight Events:
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!

What are you still doing here? It’s over. Go home.

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Bistro Don Giovanni: Napa-Sourced & Italian-Inspired

With my brother’s wedding on the weekend horizon, I didn’t have much time for Napa food and wine excursions, but we were able to schedule a small family dinner at an excellent Napa restaurant to start the week out right. Napa-sourced and Italian-inspired, Bistro Don Giovanni brings the best of food and wine to a warm Valley eatery. Whether dining al fresco or fireside, the mediterranean menu features rustic fare blending the best local ingredients with traditional homemade Italian dishes. Complementing the fresh food, an extensive wine list offers selections from the best of Napa, Italy and even two estate grown wines from the owners’ family home that are great value for money options.

The antipasti menu was so appealing we ordered one of almost everything for the table and opted to share a few entrees. The Fritto Misto was one of the highlights, adding rock shrimp, fennel, onions and green beans to the typical crispy calamari dish. When you order this make sure to get a piece of the fennel {my favorite bite} which was a surprisingly nice combination of sweet and salty. Then again, isn’t everything good fried?

Bistro Don Giovanni Fritto Misto

Another unexpected delight was the Bruschetta with Monterey Sardines, chick peas with a tomato chili vinaigrette — it is salty, crunchy and slightly sweet with a strong mediterranean flavor from the smashed chick peas and a fresh, peppery bite from the arugula. It far exceeds expectations of a typical tomato based bruschetta.

Bistro Don Giovanni Monterey Sardine Bruschetta

And it’s not very often a pizza is that spectacular that it’s worth writing about, but the simple Margherita supported the freshly crushed tomato sauce and sparse melted mozzarella cheese with a thin crust that was crispy on the bottom and chewy on the inside — just how a stellar slice should be.

Bistro Don Giovanni Pizza Margherita

Bistro Don Giovanni Orecchiette

Three of the entrees that we shared were traditional Italian dishes, but each had a unique twist that made them memorable. The Orecchiette was served with sausage, rapini {aka broccoli rabe}, chilies, tomato and reggiano. It was the spice of the chilies that gave this dish the extra heat that complemented the other simple and fresh ingredients. The Chicken Parmigiana was served over zucchini “spaghetti,” thin strands of zucchini that offered a lighter alternative to a bed of pasta, all topped off with a local heirloom tomato sauce. The table favorite {which got eaten before I could snap a picture} was the Polpette d’Agnello, lamb and ricotta meatballs served with a side of shell beans and artichokes. Now thatsa meatball!

Bistro Don Giovanni Chichen Parmigiana

The Skim: If you’re looking for an exceptional meal to soak up a day of wine tasting, be sure to make a stop at Bistro Don Giovanni. Right in the heart of Napa on St. Helena Hwy, it’s an easy stop on the way out of town, and if you’ve tapped out the wallet on previous wine purchases you can take advantage of one of their 29 wines for $29.

Map: {4110 Howard Lane, Napa, CA}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 707.224.3300

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Gone Fishin’ :: Back in a Week…

Farewell Bachelorhood!

As I referenced in a previous post, I’m off in San Francisco to be the best groom’s girl I can be in my brother’s wedding this weekend. Jackie, my soon-to-be sister-in-law, works for Ghirardelli. She’s pretty darn sweet as a person, but it also doesn’t hurt that she brings a dowry consisting of a lifetime supply of chocolate. Welcome to the family!

I’m sure I will have no shortage of things to blog about upon my return — I promise it will be more interesting than a post about rice and will include musings from Napa. In the meantime, visit some old favorites…

Make A Delicious Dinner For Friends:
Kickin’ Ancho Chili Fresh Citrus Margarita
Avocado & Tropical Fruit Salsa
Orzo, Spinach & Feta Summer Salad
Whole-Grain Mustard & Rosemary Pork Chops
Grilled Thyme-Cumin Vegetable Kabobs
Violet’s Lemon Cheesecake with BBQ’d Summer Berries {bottom of post}
More Recipes >>> EAT@HOME

Keep Busy in the City:
Do This!: Artisanal Premium Cheese & Wine Classes w/ Jessica Wurwarg
Greenmarket: Put Smarter, Cheaper & More Scrumptious Food on Your Table
NYC Best: Summer Sausage & Other Seriously Good Eats @ Summerstage
NYC Best: Take the Dull Out Of Cooking {Knives} with Samurai Sharpening @ Chelsea Market

Enjoy a Cold One in the Garden:
Not so Standard Biergarten
Mission Dolores {Accomplished}: Great New Brooklyn Beer Garden
Nothing says Warm Weather Like a “Gut Biergarten”

And in the Spirit of Weddings, Go on a Date!:
Summer Lovin’ Me Some Oysters @Mermaid Oyster Bar
Highlands Highlights: Scottish Plaids, Pub Fare and Hand Crafted Cocktails
The Red Cat: Comfortable Quarters & Cuisine
Love, Love Shabu Shabu: Fun to Say and Eat
August in April
Bocca di Bacco: I say PotaTO, You say PoTATo
barmarche: Some Clever Crudites

Eat Up!
Christina

Sibling Fun in Tokyo

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NYC Best: Summer Sausage & Other Seriously Good Eats @ Summerstage

My two most favorite past-times: good food and good music. Both are readily accessible in this fine big apple city that I live in, but put them together and you’ve got yourself the makings of a double good time. Summerstage, the outdoor venue in the middle of Central Park, has long been my favorite venue to catch a show. Most shows are free as it’s privately funded through sponsors and a few benefit concerts, it’s small enough that you can touch the stage without taking a sharp elbow to the gut, and with a blanket and starry night to set the scene, it’s easy to settle down and take in some good tunes.

This season Summerstage added just another reason to love this venue and make it a “must do” summer activity: good food. Normally you would expect the standard overdone hamburger and dirty water dog as the only options at a place like this, but with much excitement I discovered a few food purveyors from Brooklyn Flea and the fine wine makers from City Winery have been brought in to satiate our every desire.

Central Park Syrah from City Winery Anyone?

City Winery

Wash Down a Darn Good Dog from Asia Dog

How about the Ginny with homemade kimchi and nori flakes or the Sidney with thai mango relish, cucumber, red onion, cilantro & crushed peanuts. Those two lady dogs sound a lot more interesting than your usual Frank.

Marlow & Sons/Daughters and AsiaDog

I Adopted Marlow Sons & Daughters

This Brooklyn based butcher serves up a cut above the rest with their grass-fed beef burgers, house made pork sausage and barbecued pork sandwich with jalapeno lime aioli, picked onion, mint and cilantro. I wanted the pork sammy, but popular demand cleared out that supply in a matter of minutes. My pork sausage with pickled relish did not disappoint though, it was flavorful, freshly cooked and the relish added a nice zing quickly making me forget this was concert food.

My Marlow & Daughters House Made Pork Sausage w/ Pickled Relish

Truckin’ Good Pizza from Pizza Moto

Fresh from the mobile wood burning oven {hopefully those aren’t Central Park trees} you can order a slice with all sort of goodies on top and a thin, crispy crust, just as pizza should be.

Pizza Moto

Ice Cream, You Scream for Blue Marble…

If sweets are more your craving, try a a few scoops or classic root beer float {I wonder if they would make this with Blue Moon} from Blue Marble Ice Cream. All products are made only from premium grass-fed organic dairy.

Blue Marble Ice Cream

Prices range from about $4-8 depending on the item, so you won’t break the bank while enjoying these seriously good eats with your tunes at Summerstage…unless of course you get the munchies. The Flaming Lips liked this so much, they threw a party. It’s not too late to catch a show as events are scheduled through September. See Schedule HERE.

The Flaming Lips Threw A Huge Celebration

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Summer Lovin’ Me Some Oysters @Mermaid Oyster Bar

Mermaid Oyster Bar Selection

The ancient Romans prized oysters for being aphrodisiacs. The 18th-century lover Casanova, in particular, is said to have eaten fifty oysters for breakfast every morning to make him virile. Is there any truth to these mollusks making mermaids sing? Oysters do contain a high amount of zinc, a lack of which has been linked to male impotency, but there is no scientific evidence that these pearl-producing friends can produce much more than a tasty meal and perhaps a little sex-appeal as these slippery little suckers get slurped out of their shell.

Mermaid Oyster Bar

August 5th is National Oyster Day, so what better day to suck down some summer seafood and see where the evening takes you. One of my favorite tiny seafood shops is Mermaid Oyster Bar {sister restaurant to The Mermaid Inn}. This quaint little joint has a clean white-walled New England feel to it, with an open air front, high bar stools and booth seating that lines the fish-framed wainscoted walls. It’s great for a casual evening out to enjoy some really fresh and spectacular shuckin’.

With a menu featuring 13 different types of Oysters native to both the East and West coast, you can choose from a variety of sizes with a range of sweet and briny characteristics. My favorite {no joke} was called the Naked Cowboy. This Long Island Oyster was sweet and smooth and actually one of the most inexpensive options on the menu {hooray for local fishermen}.

There are plenty of other delicious options on the menu if oysters don’t appeal to you. The Shimp Po’ Boy is spicy and generously sized and the Lobster Roll is a classic served on a sweet brioche bun that won’t disappoint. And if you’re looking for a side, don’t forget the Old Bay Seasoned Fries, which are the  perfect crispy, salty and spicy accompaniment to a cold beer and tray of oysters.

The Skim: As if the tray of lovin’ oysters isn’t enough of an enticement for a good night out, at the end of the meal you’ll also get a special little treat — an espresso cup portion of chocolate mousse and a fortune telling fish. Perhaps he can reveal the future of a shuckin’ good time???

Map: {79 MacDougal Street & Bleecker}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 212-260-0100

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Highlands Highlights: Scottish Plaids, Pub Fare and Hand Crafted Cocktails

Highlands Bar NYC

A brief glance at the Highlands menu might have you scratching your head wondering what it all means and WHY anyone would sample Scottish food. Pork Faggot, Haggis, Neeps, Tatties, Cullen Skink…either I’ve had one too many Scotch cocktails and the words have gotten all mixed up or I need one of those fine plaid-clad bartenders to provide a wee bit of foreign translation assistance. But be not afraid, if you are envisioning a plate of unappetizing, unrecognizable food, you are in for a real treat when you order from the menu that was created to showcase modern Scotland. The atmosphere itself will clue you in that this contemporary gastropub is both authentic, but cutting edge at the same time.

Scottish Art?

Highlands is split into two quaint rooms. A dining area equipped with brick walls, close-set tables and a strange painting featuring a young boy with wolves hung over a faux fireplace. And the bar {where you can also order food}, with plaid-clad bartenders and backlit blond wood shelves showcasing some of the finer imports from Scotland:  Scotch, Malts, Gins and Ales. If you plan to eat at the bar, I suggest you get there early, because the bar draws a large crowd eager to imbibe unique hand crafted Scottish cocktails such as the Lucky White Heather {Famous Grouse Scotch, Rosemary Star Anise, Lemon and Egg White} or the Blood and Sand {Glenrothes Special Reserve, Cherry Herring, Orange Juice, Lemon and Bitters}. It’s a great place to expand beyond your usual vodka soda or Amstel light order, while exploring the young and vibrant patrons.

A Menu Must: Lamb Sausage Roll with Mint, Upland Cress and Harissa Aioli. It’s hard not to like when a mini sausage is wrapped in a flaky warm crust and served with a spicy sauce for dipping. I’d like to call it an upscale pigs-in-a-blanket, and well, who doesn’t love those!

Highlands Roast Chicken

I also had the roast chicken breast, that was both crispy and juicy and can be enjoyed whether it’s 90-degrees out or 20. And in case you’re wondering what all those other items are that I referred to, here’s a little cheat sheet. Go ahead and give it a go!

  • Pork Faggot: Kind of like a Scottish meatball, pork mixed with fresh herbs and sometimes breadcrumbs
  • Haggis: Traditional Scottish dish containing sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a casing rather than an actual stomach. {You may need a strong stomach and sense of adventure for this one}
  • Neeps: Yellow turnip
  • Tatties: Potatoes
  • Cullen Skink: Thick soup made with haddock, potatoes and onions

The Skim: It’s friendly, it’s cozy with great drinks, great food, great bar and great atmosphere. Clearly I think it’s great. I’ll go so far as to say it’s one of my favorite NYC restaurants and bars. You can be as adventurous as you dare, but the menu serves all interests and will give you a taste of traditional Scottish fare with some modern twists. Go to eat or just drink, but either way, go.
Map: {150 west 10th St. btw Waverly & Greenwhich Ave.}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 212-229-2670


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The Red Cat: Comfortable Quarters & Cuisine

When you think of the color red or a cat {some people anyway} what comes to mind are feelings of warmth and comfort. Dining at The Red Cat evokes touches of both these, not only through one of the best, consistently excellent New York restaurant menus around, but also through the impeccably decorated space, where red walls, antique lanterns and dark wood always sets the mood for a memorable meal and experience.

A menu must: The Tempura Green Beans with hot mustard sauce. I order it every time as an app and always wonder how a green bean can taste SO good. As the saying goes, everything tastes better fried. Indeed! And with the salty tempura and spicy mustard, the green bean becomes the perfect vehicle for a french fry-like snack, but with a little nutrition thrown in.

Tempura Green Beans

But equally as delicious and probably also worthy of a menu must list, is the Shrimp Corn Cakes with Celery Root Salad and Red Chili Oil. It may not sound like anything overly exotic, but the flavor combination of the shrimp corn cake {a twist on the more commonly known crab cake} and the crunchy, fresh celery root with the slightly spicy red chili oil really makes you savor every bite and wish you weren’t sharing with your table guests.

Shrimp Corn Cakes with Celery Root Salad and Red Chili Oil

For my entree I had the Grilled Buttermilk Pork Chop with Cranberry Bean And Corn Succotash, with White Wine Bacon Butter. Pure mmm mmm mmm. I don’t know if it’s the buttermilk {makes me think of pancakes}, or the succotash {so fun to say} or maybe the bacon, yes the BACON! that makes this dish sit squarely in the comfort zone of your taste buds, but you CAN NOT go wrong ordering this entree. It’s simple, yet flavorFUL, and with every bite you enjoy the core ingredients.

Grilled Buttermilk Pork Chop

The Skim: If you haven’t already paid a visit to The Red Cat, well then what are you waiting for? And if this is already one of your favorite restaurants in NYC, then maybe it’s time to pay it another visit, because there are so many comfortably good, reliable items on the menu it’s only prudent to try them all. {227 Tenth Ave btw 23rd/24th Streets}


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Put a Pork Chop and Corn Salsa on Your Plate @ Home:
Whole-Grain Mustard & Rosemary Pork Chops
Creole Roasted Fresh Corn-Tomato Salsa

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Two Thumbs {Bouley} Up{stairs}

A Peek Inside the Bouley Kitchen

Walk around the corner from Bouley Upstairs {the casual Bouley offshoot} and you can get a peek inside the meticulous, energetic kitchen of Bouley through the street-side-open-for-viewing windows. Redefining “open kitchen” these windows provide a glimpse to any passerby at the well-trained kitchen staff at work. Enticing and smart marketing! But you don’t have to go high class or high cost to enjoy the highly reputable food coming out of David Bouley’s kitchen. At Bouley Upstairs, the menu changes frequently to focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from family farms and finished with the Bouley flare for harmony and intensity to fully express the ingredients gracing your plate. The space is intimate and casual, with open air dining in the front and moderate pricing, so it’s easy to sit back, relax and focus on enjoying your meal.

Fresh Calamari Salad Cooked a la Plancha

The menu offers a wide selection of options that will suite any mood from sushi, to fresh fish or even a hearty burger. We started with the fresh calamari salad cooked a la plancha, meaning it’s cooked on a metal plate, creating a wonderful brown sear on all sides with a firm, yet tender bite. Our waitress was full of strong recommendations, so I took her word on the entree and ordered the seared black bass with a cider-bacon vinaigrette, served over sauteed bok choy with cubes of bacon. I suppose you could call this a modern surf and turf — a crisped skin, white mild fish lovingly paired with the earthy, salty bacon and slightly sweet cider glaze. All in all a match made in heaven.

Black Bass with Cider-Bacon Drizzle

The Skim: Bouley’s name speaks for itself and at Bouley Upstairs he is speaking to a crowd who wants to enjoy his masterful creations without breaking the bank. {130 West Broadway and Duane}

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Do This!: FRESH the movie

What: Screening of Award Winning Independent film, FRESH
When: July 13th, 2010, 7:00pm
Where: Jersey City Food Coop 1 McWilliams Plc, Hamilton Park, Jersey City

The Jersey City Food Coop Initiative is screening FRESH the Movie. FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet. Be a part of our movement to create a better environment for and watch FRESH the Movie at Art House Productions in downtown Jersey City. Light refreshments and popcorn will be served.

Not in NYC? Find a Screening of FRESH near you HERE


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Do This!: A Taste of What to Expect @ Artisanal Premium Cheese Classes

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I love cheese, I love wine, and I know that generally I love them together. But what I don’t know well is how to choose the right wine to complement and enhance the flavors of a cheese, so that when tasted together the result is widened eyes and a taste-bud induced “mmmmm.” But tips of what to look for to successfully pair cheese and wines, as well as an introduction to the history of cheese making and varietals, can easily be learned during one of the many unique culinary courses held at The Artisanal Cheese Center.

Last night I attended Jessica Wurwarg’s Perfect Pairings class, expecting at the very least to come away having enjoyed some fromage and vino, but the evening was so much more than that. Upon arrival “students” {aka cheese lovers} are welcomed in a reception area with a glass of cava, a selection of cheeses and Artisanal’s famous fondue {we were off to a good start already}. We all mingled a bit, introduced ourselves and tried not to eat too much cheese {is there even such a thing?!} before the actual class began.

Once in the classroom, we all took our places around the “U-shaped” table setting, each presented with our plates of cheese, glasses of wine/beer and papers providing name, origin and bio detail about each cheese, wine and beer we would be sampling together. We also received a a score sheet {sort of like a bingo card with cheeses listed down the side and wines/beers across the top} to score how we liked each cheese when paired with the spectrum of sparkling, white, red and dessert wines and the beer.  I felt armed with all the information I needed in case a wine-induced memory lapse left me unable to recall all the important details Jessica was about to share.

Perfect Pairing Set-Up

As she kicked off the class, Jessica introduced us to the CheeseClock, an essential guide to presenting and tasting cheese starting at 6 o’clock on the plate at the mildest selection and moving clockwise in order to end with a more pungent, strong cheese. She also suggested that when we take a sip of each wine, we hold it in on the tongue and “chew” it for a few seconds so all the taste buds get a chance to take in the flavors of the wine. Cheese and wine tasting technique: check. Now on to learning how to create the perfect marriage. There are four important concepts to note for a successful pairing, and like wine tasting, there are four approaches to understanding the differences in each cheese.

4 Basic Concepts for Successful Pairings:

  1. Region — cheese comes from milk, which comes from what the cow/sheep/goat eats, which reflects the earth where the food {and grapes} come from, so try pairing wines and cheeses from the same region.
  2. Complementary — find similar notes of acidity, nuttiness, earthiness in a wine and cheese
  3. Contrast — try pairing salty with sweet {think peanut butter & jelly — a match made in heaven}
  4. Sparkling w/ High Fat — the light bubbles can cut a high fat/creamy cheese and really open up the flavors

4 Things to Take-in When Tasting A Cheese:

  1. Look — rind, color
  2. Touch — soft (younger), hard (more aged)
  3. Smell — as in wine tasting, see what flavors you sense before taking a bite
  4. Taste — try tasting the inside of the cheese separately from the rind to get everything the cheese has to offer. Cheese ages from the outside in, so sometimes you can get an array of strong to simple flavors out of a single cut of cheese.

One of the most important take-aways from the class is that we all have different taste buds and taste can be highly subjective, so what one person enjoys most might not be the case for the person sitting next to you. This quickly proved out as we dug in and started trying each cheese with each of the wines and sharing feedback as a group as to which were our favorite combinations — completely mixed results! In general, the feedback tended to follow the 4 basic concept guidelines, but we quickly learned that perfect pairing is not a science and like any dining experience, it is up to you to choose flavors that inspire your palate.

I left inspired to explore these new learnings and also interested in seeing how different people react to different combinations. The class was a great way to spend 2 hours on an otherwise uneventful weekday evening and I came away with great information and an introduction to new cheeses I have never tasted before {let me tell you, we had some amazing selections!} I feel ready to try this out with a group of friends and see what kind of discussion ensues.

It’s not too late to sign up for other classes at The Artisanal Cheese Center. For a limited time enter promotional code SEAT upon checkout and you can grab two seats for $99 total {original retail value of $75 per person}. You can’t buy this much cheese and wine for under $50 per person, so this is not only an incredible deal, but also a great evening for a date or night out with a good friend!

If you liked this, you might also like to read these posts:
Do This!: Summer Cheese Extravaganza!
8.ate@eight #2: Who Cut the Cheese Didn’t Stink!
Why Buy the Cow, When You Can Get the Milkshake for Free?
recipe goodness :: spinach, strawberry & halloumi salad to knock your socks off
Lamb Takedown @ The Bell House – Ewe Will Love This!

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Sensational Summer Sushi @ Geisha

Geisha

You may think sushi is sushi — on just about every menu you’ll comfortably find the traditional california, spicy tuna or shrimp tempura roll. So what makes the sushi at Geisha so sensational? Firstly, the fish. Geisha uses premium quality fiddies, so the flavor of the fish alone speaks for itself. But combine that with highly innovative sushi Chef Pham who uses a combination of traditional and new sushi techniques, and you get rolls such as the White Tuna Crunch Roll — a mix of diced white tuna with a spicy sauce , asparagus, scallion and potato crunch {sort of like a matchstick fry}. He then wraps these ingredients in Hawaiian white tuna and avocado. Yum! Or try something from the non-sushi menu which was constructed as a collaboration between Executive Chef Michael Vernon and four-star chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. The ‘Eggs Benedict’ with soft-poached quail egg, smoked tuna, urchin-truffle hollandaise, fresh black truffle sounds pretty darn good.

The Skim: I’d be happy with a good plate of sushi alone, but when you can settle into plush banquets, with cool backlight Japanese art dimly lighting the room and a garage-door sized open window on the second floor of the restaurant, Geisha makes sipping on saketini’s and savoring sushi on a lovely summer’s night, that much more enjoyable. {33 East 61 Street, btw Madison & Park}

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The Great Burger Debate: It’s All About the Bun @ Zaitzeff

Zaitzeff Sirloin Burger on a Portuguese Muffin

When you start talking burgers with someone, you are inevitably going to enter into the debate about the best burger you’ve ever had. You might even pull out the top 3 list. But it’s not everyday you enter this great debate and then are told that one of those on the list is right across the street from where that very conversation takes place. So at 11pm last night I felt I could not pass up the opportunity to check out Zaitzeff, a previously unknown to me burger joint on the Lower East Side. The ambiance is simple —  with lamps providing a soft light, paintings on the wall and candlesticks on the table, Zaitzeff sort of feels like you’re eating in someone’s home. The menu mirrors the simplicity of the surroundings and is the key to why this burger is in fact so delicious. You can choose between American style Kobe or Grass-Fed Sirloin freshly ground onsite, which is served with lettuce, tomato, sauteed onions and the real key to this delight, a Portuguese muffin. If you are feeling like you really want to jazz it up, there are a selection of cheeses, bacon, avocado and even a fried egg that you can add for an additional charge. I have to agree, this was one delicious burger, and thankfully because it’s made from such lean beef it didn’t have me leaving wishing I had made that choice earlier in the evening.

The Skim: It’s all about the bun. Generally an afterthought to what goes in between, the slightly sweet Portuguese Muffin compliments the sweet sauteed onions and premium grass-fed sirloin or Kobe to create a simple, yet delicious burger. You won’t have grease running down your elbows, but you will likely be licking your lips after a visit to Zaitzeff. {18 Ave. B, bet. 2nd & 3rd Street}

More on The Great Burger Debate:
recipe goodness :: bison, a better burger worth biting into
5 & Dime: 10 oz. at Five Napkin Burger, that is

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Love, Love Shabu Shabu: Fun to Say and Eat

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I relived my trip to Japan last night with a visit to Shabu Tatsu, one of the most authentic Japanese meals I have had in NYC. For those who think only of sushi or ramen when you hear the words Japanese cuisine, it’s time to expand your horizons to the wonderful world of Shabu Shabu — aka Japanese fondue {x10}. At the center of your table you get a pot of boiling clear broth in which you cook paper thin slices of beautifully marbled premium rib eye, a mound of fresh veg and hand pulled noodles. Everything cooks rather quickly, so it’s best to add a few things at a time and when they’re done dip them in one or both of the soy and sesame sauces served on the side. I like to to dip each piece and lay it on top of my bowl of rice before eating it. The result: beefy, brothy, veggie, saucy goodness soaked up by each white fluffy grain — the well deserved reward after all that hard work slaving over a hot pot with your chops. The upside to all this is that for $24/peep you get all the fixins’, plus that Japanese salad that we all love {you know, the one with the carrot-ginger dressing}, ice cream and hot tea. And if you’re really lucky, like we were, and show up on Japanese Boys Day, you get some lucky red beans and rice cakes. mmmm.

The Skim: Forget the california roll and venture out for some of the finer features of Japanese cuisine at Shabu Tatsu. Whether you go with the Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki {Shabu Shabu ingredients pan-seared in a sweet soy sauce} or Yakiniku {Japanese BBQ}, you will not be disappointed. It’s great for a group or a hands-on date {I’m talkin’ about the food}, but like many Japanese things it’s small, so go early or willing to wait. {216 E. 10th Street, btw 1st/2nd Aves.}

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