Tag Archives: NYC Restaurant

Say Cheese! and then Yes Please!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say Cheese Menu

Say Cheese Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frej Bread and Butter

Frej Bread and Butter

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

Amuse: celery root, pork bowel, chicory

Amuse: celery root, pork jowl, chicory

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

Burnt hazelnuts crispy sunchokes skin beef liver puree

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

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

Burnt hazelnuts, sunchoke skin and beef liver puree

Burnt hazelnuts, sunchoke skin and beef liver puree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beef cooked in hay with rutabaga and apple cider gelee

Beef cooked in hay with rutabaga and apple cider gelee

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

Hibiscus pound cake with dried berries and ice cream

Hibiscus pound cake with dried berries and ice cream

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


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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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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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At The Meatball Shop, It All Starts With Naked Balls

The Meatball Shop Customizable Menu

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

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

My Hero

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

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

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The Dutch: American Fare for Wait-Worthy Exploring

Asparagus Okonomiyaki and a Poached Egg

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

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

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

Grilled Swordfish, Summer Beans, Mustard and Pine Nuts

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

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

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

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Goat Town’s Non-*Goat* ‘Scream

Goat Town Treat-Trailer

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

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

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

Goat Town Chunky Monkey + Peanut Butter Wolf

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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The Beagle: A Restaurant You Should Be Loyal To

Fresh Baby Corn with Mayo, Lime and Cilantro

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

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

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

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

Sweetbread & Calvados Pairing Board

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

Roast Chicken with Cheddar and Fennel

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

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


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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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M. Wells: Veal Brain on My Mind

M. Wells Diner

M. Wells Diner

Have you ridden the 7 train out to Hunters Point Ave yet? If your answer was no, my swift reply is WHY NOT?! In the midst of an otherwise industrial and sparse block, stands a small stainless steel building reminiscent of the typical pre-fab diners we associate with an American food trend in the 1950s. But this home of M. Wells diner is anything but typical in menu or atmosphere.

M. Wells is the love child of husband-and-wife team Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis. Dufour, who previously resided at Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon, has brought his appreciation for nose-to-tail dining to a most unexpected neighborhood, in a most unexpected format with the most unexpected menu items, that will have your head spinning and the likelihood of future Hunters Point excursions a certainty.

Tucked away in our own intimate vinyl booth, we started with a blow-your-mind-can’t-get-it-outta-my-mind order of veal brains. Armed with a sense of adventure, I was determined not to leave without first trying this dish. And I probably won’t ever leave M. Wells again without first having a little brain food. The center was smooth and delicate and practically melted away, while the outside was graced with a crispy breading, onions, capers and plenty of butter and lemon — if I didn’t know any better, I might call this Brain Piccata. A must.

Veal Brains

Like Oysters? How about the Beau Soleil Oysters with Coffee Sabayon? It’s like a lighter version of surf n’ turf — a salty delicate oyster topped with, not sea foam, but an earthy, rich coffee-based sabayon. A morning walk on the beach.

Oysters and Coffee Sabayon

Oysters and Coffee Sabayon

One of the other most intriguing starters was the Escargot & Bone Marrow. Both rich and delightful on their own, could obviously only be made better by putting them together. Cut lengthwise, the cavity of the bone was lined with the specialty snails and covered with a blanket of marrow and a red wine puree. Grab a small toast, spread, close eyes, savor, repeat.

Escargot & Bone Marrow

Escargot & Bone Marrow

This is when I suggest you bring enough friends along so you can just keep going. At this point in the meal you’ll be blathering on about how amazing each bite has been, you might be on your second or third equally as intriguing cocktail, you’ve zeroed in on the mighty fine tunes filling the air and you will be glad that there is more to order and friends to share this experience with.

Case in point: we did not shy away from the $85 Aged Cote de Boeuf for Two {we shared with four and had leftovers}. Served on a large platter with Bordelaise sauce, the tender pink cut was the true surf ‘n turf of the evening. Its partner: a large cellophane-lined metal bucket of cajun crawfish that were both steaming and southern-spiced hot to perfection.

Cajun Crawfish

Cajun Crawfish

The Skim: If you’re bored with your regular NYC restaurant haunts, be bored no longer. Of course you have to be one of those people who is willing to travel for food — contrary to popular belief, not all good restaurants live below 14th street. Be sure to make a reservation, as the small digs don’t leave much room for walk-ins and from what I could tell there aren’t too many other options close by. M. Wells is a must for any adventurous, comfort-food seeker who can appreciate eating from brain to chicken feet and anything in between.

Map: 21-17 49th Avenue at 21st street
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 718.425.6917 

Adventures in NYC Dining:
18 Favorite Meat Dishes for Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau
Momofuku That Pork Butt is Good!
Brooklyn Fare Fares Well, Earning 2 Michelin Stars

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Luke’s Low-Key Lobster Roll Licks Competition {And My Lips}

Luke's Lobster Roll

Luke's Lobster Roll

I’ve had many a lobster roll in NYC. It’s like the great burger debate — everyone always wants to know who tops the competition. So naturally I have made my way about town sampling each take on the warm-weather favorite — Mermaid Oyster Bar, Pearl Oyster Bar, Lure, Ed’s. But I was especially excited to see the UWS dining renaissance lure two new lobster shacks in the past month: Luke’s Lobster and Ditch Plains. This is a no-lose situation for a lobster lover to have two walking-distance destinations to visit, but I have to say I was especially excited to see Luke’s join the ‘hood.

Instead of a walk-in chinese take-out, we now have a walk-in Lobster counter. Nothing fancy — a few bar stools and a parchment-lined red plastic diner basket is all you really need to focus your attention more properly on the simple, but standout sammie. You order at the counter from a simple seafood, soda, soup and chip menu that is Maine-sourced, and in a matter of a few seconds dinner is served.

Luke’s was only started two years ago, but owner, Luke Holden, has long been connected to the Maine coastal waters. He sources all his lobster meat from his father’s sustainable Maine seafood company, making his the only roll that’s traceable from the sea floor to your plate {love this!} What’s truly special is the lobster is only graced with a small amount of mayo, lemon butter and a few “secret spices.”  Everything should have some secret spice on it in my opinion, but the true secret to why this particular lobster roll stands out amongst the crowd is the fresh sweet claw meat that is used for each roll. This is also why you pay far less than any other lobster shack since there is much more market demand for the tail meat. The best deal on the menu: for only $21 you can get half a lobster roll, half a shrimp roll, half a crab roll, a pair of Empress claws, Miss Vickie’s chips and a Maine Root soda!

The Skim: Now that the sun is starting to shine and Spring seems to finally be here, I say break out the plastic bib and get thee to Luke’s Lobster. They also deliver, so if you prefer to enjoy from the comfort of your stoop, divine lobster goodness is only a phone call away.

Map426 Amsterdam Avenue
Reservations: Not Taken
Phone: 212.877.8800

Other Warm Weather Winners:
Not so Standard Biergarten
Mission Dolores {Accomplished}: Great New Brooklyn Beer Garden
Community Food & Juice: Fresh & Fantastic Fare 

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

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NYC Best: A Cafe Stands For…

A Cafe Gulf shrimp sauté, in a coconut milk crème fraîche with cayenne curry

Adventurous…Alluring…Anonymous…Appetizing…the A train??

A Café has been a small eating haven on the upper west side for over 10 years, but somehow I never discovered it until recently. It’s not the type of place you walk by and take notice of. The front is anonymously non-descript, it’s nestled next to a defunct custom hardwood floor shop and the name itself doesn’t exactly provide any tantalizing color. But should you venture inside this small space, you will find organic French Caribbean cuisine worth writing about and a BYOB policy to jump for joy over {hard to find in NYC}. What’s even more exciting? They take reservations and offer a prix fixe menu for $25 from 6-8pm. Ok, so it’s inexpensive, easy to get into, personal wine collection-friendly and quaint, but the food?

Amazing.

The whole operation is more or less a one-man show. With a tiny — and I mean TEENY TINY — kitchen in the back, plates keep flying out with the speed of a assembly line operation. Your host/server/expediter/bus boy/”bartender” works the room with such precision you would never even notice staff size {or lack thereof} unless you took a trip to the restroom in the back and saw where all the magic happens.

And magic it is — the grilled Hass avocado, mushroom terrine in a shiitake-sesame dressing {must try to recreate this at home}, was an alluring combination of flavors that was creamy and earthy, while also surprisingly {and pleasantly} served warm. The broiled Bourgogne escargots, with pastis in a cilantro-chili butter was lick your plate-worthy — and lick we did. We had the pleasure of sitting at a table next to the owner and chatted it up for quite awhile. He was quick to tell us these are not just any escargot, but sourced from the best of the best — and I think I agree. For my entree I had the gulf shrimp sauté, in a coconut milk crème fraîche with cayenne curry. This was the dish that really caught my attention and showcased the marriage of the French and Caribbean cuisines. The flavors were rich and comforting and left me wanting more.

The Skim: If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, a trip up to 108th/Columbus is well worth the adventure. And if you know anything about Duke Ellington’s song, Take the A Train, {check it out HERE} well then you’ll understand where A Café really got its name {west 106th street was named Duke Ellington Blvd after his death}.

Map: 973 Columbus Avenue {between 107 & 108th}
Reservations: Taken! email: reservations@acafeny.com
Phone: 212.222.2033

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Mary Queen of Scots is a Better Restaurant than Lady

Mary Queen of Scots

 

Mary Queen of Scots is one Jenny Jones-worthy episode of a lady. Crowned at nine months old; married to her first cousin then promptly strangled him to death; forced to abdicate to her one-year old son; fled to England to seek protection from Queen Elizabeth, then attempted to claim the throne as her own; and finally was tried and executed for treason after 19 years in custody. That’s what happens when you are raised without good parents.

All of that sounds like a perfect recipe for an exciting restaurant muse. It’s no secret that Highlands is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC {it made my Favor8 list}, so when they took over the old Allen & Delancey space to open a new restaurant and bar, Mary Queen of Scots, it became a must try.

The menu alludes to both Scottish and French cuisine with items such as the rataouille vegetable tart or house smoked scottish salmon. I had a fantastic salad of pickled beets, caramelized yogurt and toasted hazelnuts that I would highly recommend to anyone. The wild striped bass with potato bacon terrine, mustard greens and white wine cream came highly recommended and certainly sounded like a winner, but was sadly not warm by the time it reached my table and was underseasoned. I did have food envy with the MQS burger though. Served with house cut chips and spicy pickles, this is a sure thing {is that french or scottish?}

MQS Burger

 

The Skim: Overall, Mary Queen of Scots was a good meal out, but it did not dethrone Highlands, which in my opinion serves up far superior fare. Both have great bars and an inventive cocktail menu though, so if you’re looking for a cool place to lose your head, MQS is a fantastic hideout.

Map: 115 Allen Street {N of Delancey}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 212.460.0915

Good Tartan Times:
Highlands Highlights: Scottish Plaids, Pub Fare and Hand
8.ate@eight’s Boozy Robert Burns Bash w/ The Tippling Bros. & Highland Park
Water of Life Whisky Wednesday With The Macallan

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8.ate@eight Cupid Just in Time with Valentine’s Day Gift and Dinner Ideas

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

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

♥ Labor of  Love With Your Own Hands ♥

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

More 8.ate@eight Recipes HERE

♥ Wine & Dine ♥

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

More 8.ate@eight Favor8 Restaurants HERE

♥ Gifts A Dozen Times Better Than Roses ♥

Ice Cream Gram: Send Your Valentine an Ice Cream Gram from Milkmade
A Gift to Warm the Soul: Blue Bottle Coffee Brews One Brilliant Cup at a Time
Artisanal Meats, Cheeses & Chocolates! Artisanal Specialty Foods Digested
Cheese & Wine Classes: Do This!: Artisanal Premium Cheese & Wine Classes

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

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NYC Ramen Wars: Ippudo vs. momofuku noodle bar

momofuku noodle bar vs. Ippudo Ramen

All this talk of it being the coldest and snowiest January in NYC history and a mercury-dropping forecast on the horizon, beckons the need for a piping hot bowl of really good ramen. Not the kind you buy for $0.25 and live on as a college kid, but true to Japanese blood ramen. Having already gone to momofuku noodle bar and written about it recently {here}, I went back to another favorite, Ippudo for comparison. Instead of giving you a recap of each drop of broth and the flavors you missed by not being there, I thought I would pit one against the other and see which would come out victorious in 8.ate@eight’s Ramen War.

My evaluation criteria:

  • Wait {inevitable}
  • Music {necessary for the wait}
  • Bar {also necessary for the wait}
  • Atmosphere
  • Service {the Japanese are known for it, afterall}
  • Steamed Buns {who doesn’t love a good set of buns}
  • Ramen {what really matters}
  • Overall Winner

WAIT: 90 minutes @Ippudo vs 30 minutes @momofuku
In all fairness, and an important disclaimer to the entire evaluation, I went to momofuku noodle bar at lunchtime and Ippudo for dinner, so there should be an expected difference in the amount of time.  That said, when both of these places are open they enjoy a constant stream of patrons, so I would expect them to be equally as popular for lunch or for dinner.
Wait Winner: momofuku

BAR: Yes @Ippudo vs No @momofuku
If you’re going to make me wait, you’ve got to give me a place to rest my elbow and quench my thirst. And while bigger isn’t always better, Ippudo’s sake, beer and cocktail menu is more extensive than the more focused selections at momofuku. Plus you can’t really beat the 2:1 happy hour special during the week.
Bar Winner: Ippudo

Ippudo Bar

 

MUSIC: House @Ippudo vs Rock & Hip-Hop @momofuku
I liked the music at both places, so it all depends on your mood. I have to give a slight edge to momofuku for the range of toe-tapping tunes that make you move in your seat {once you finally get there}.
Music Winner: momofuku

ATMOSPHERE: Dark @Ippudo vs Bright @momofuku
Momofuku has a clean, bright space with light, blond wood tables and stools lining the narrow restaurant. It’s simple and all about the food. Whereas Ippudo welcomes you with a cozy, dark bar that does not let on as to how much room actually exists beyond the hostess stand {perhaps adding to the mystery of the wait}. When your number is finally called at Ippudo you are guided to the back and welcomed with the traditional shouting of “irasshaimase” from all of the staff, making you feel a little important and excited about what’s to come. Both places have open kitchens to entice the hungry diner with the bowls of genius Japanese goodness you are about to be served. There are other great pieces of eye-catching art at Ippudo that lend to the tipping of the scales in this face-off.
Atmosphere Winner: Ippudo

SERVICE: Traditional Japanese @Ippudo vs American @momofuku
Having recently been to Japan, I will say one of the most noteworthy elements of my dining memories was the service — attentive, instantaneous and discreet. At Ippudo the service lived up to traditional Japanese expectations – a welcoming shout of “irasshaimase” to start the dining experience off with a feeling that the entire staff has just personally invited you to their table. Water glasses were filled before they were even a quarter empty and often without even noticing it had been done. Plates were cleared the instant the last scrap was devoured. And after a complimentary cup of tea to end the meal, the bill was promptly delivered after our server made sure there was no additional food or drink we wished to order. While the service was not bad at momofuku, it was only as good as you would expect at any American restaurant.
Service Winner: Ippudo

STEAMED BUNS:  Pork @Ippudo vs Shiitake @momofuku
Yeah, yeah, so they shouted something indecipherable at you — who cares? All that really matters here is the steamed buns you stuffed in your mouth and the ramen you slurped with satisfaction. True, and who doesn’t love a good steamed bun? Light, pillowy and slightly sticky, these are the wonder bread of the Japanese sandwich. In Ippudo’s case, a tender and a somewhat sweet and spicy pork treasure, and in momofuku’s case, an earthy and generously portioned stack of sautéed shiitakes with thin slices of Japanese cucumber.  If I could say this was a tie, I would, but that’s a cop-out I’m not willing to take. It might have something to do with how hungry I was after a 90-minute wait, or that all things pork are Godly, but I had a strong urge to double down on my Ippudo pork buns, and would have if my bowl of ramen didn’t come out so quickly — giving Ippudo the edge over my momofuku order.
Steamed Buns Winner: Ippudo

Ippudo Pork Steamed Buns

 

RAMEN: Brothy @Ippudo vs Substantial @momofuku
This, of course, is seemingly the most important of all categories. We are talking about Ramen Wars afterall.
  • At momofuku I ordered the momofuku ramen — pork belly, pork shoulder, poached egg.
  • At Ippudo I ordered the Karaka Kogashi Miso Ramen — ‘Ippudo chintan’ based noodle soup, a dark, rich broth made from charred miso with Ippudo special blended hot spice, topped with pork belly chashu, 1/2 boiled egg, cabbage, spinach, naruto. I have also had the more directly comparable Shiromaru Hakata Classic — pork loin chashu, kikurage, menma, 1/2 boiled egg, red pickled ginger, sesame & scallions.

I think by just reading the description, you can image that there is so much ‘yum’ swimming around in each bowl, you will never again enjoy that orange package of instant ramen. The clear deciding factor for me, however, was that momofuku showcased these ingredients, only pouring a small amount of the broth into the bottom of the bowl, whereas Ippudo generously filled the bowl to the brim with soup. My preference was for momofuku’s balance in favor of the delicious pork belly, mushrooms, runny poached egg that are the main attraction to this dish and only complemented by the broth and ramen. But let’s be clear – both bowls were empty by the time I was done.

Ramen Winner: momofuku
 

momofuku ramen w/ eggy goodness

Ippudo Karaka Kogashi Miso Ramen

 

OVERALL WINNER: Ippudo
It’s like never winning a tennis major, but still being ranked number one. I never exactly understood how that happened, but when you evaluate the overall performance in all match-ups large and small, you don’t have to win the ramen crown to come out as my favorite NYC Japanese ramen player. You will very likely come away from both Ippudo or momofuku noodle bar feeling warm and full of Japanese goodness, but you might as well enjoy a 2 for 1 happy happy hour while you wait! I’ve also nominated Ippudo as one of 8.ate@eight’s Favor8 — congratulations!


8.ate@eight Favor8
Seal of Approval

Arigatou. More Things Japanese Kudasai:
NYC Best: Momofuku That Noodle Bar is Good Too!
Behind Bohemian
Love, Love Shabu Shabu: Fun to Say and Eat
Sensational Summer Sushi @ Geisha

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NYC Best: Momofuku That Noodle Bar is Good Too!

momofuku noodle bar

After coming back to 20 inches of snow after Christmas, there was nothing I craved more than a big bowl of soup…or even better, David Chang’s present to New Yorkers, a bowl of piping hot, warm-your-soul, Japanese ramen.

As is typical of David Chang’s Momofuku empire, regardless of what time you go, a line of diners hungry for something special streamed out the door into the snow bank.  We managed to squeeze into the open-kitchen bar seating that overlooked where all the magic happens {clearly my preferred perch anyway}. As we sat on the blond wood stools, we could see the fast-moving kitchen hands lining up ten bowls at a time, scooping  in the piping hot, flavorful pork broth. The broth, which only filled the bottom third of each bowl, served as the base for the precisely segregated additions of diced scallions, shitake mushrooms, chard, and pork belly, all topped with a runny poached egg sprinkled in sesame. It’s up to you to delicately savor each of David Chang’s contributions separately or give the whole bowl a swirl of your chopsticks to marry the flavors and see what this genius ramen is all about.

momofuku ramen w/ eggy goodness

And while you might be there for the ramen, don’t forget to order a round of steamed buns. These made-to-order treats are prepared at the other end of the narrow open kitchen, where a white, pillowy bun is generously stuffed with shrimp, shiitake or pork.

momofuku shiitake steamed bun

The Skim: Love him or hate him, David Chang knows a thing or two about subtly inventive food. Priding himself on using only the freshest ingredients, mostly locally sourced, David Chang has brought good things to New York in his Momofuku empire. It’s snowing outside — time to conjure up a visit downtown.

More Momofuku:
Momofuku That Pork Butt is Good!
Le Grand Fooding ‘Twas A Grand Yummy Evening

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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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Historic India House Shares Spectacular Cheese and Space

Cheese Spectacular at The Indian House

So if you didn’t make it out last night for the FREE cheese event presented by Jessica Wurwarg at the India House Club, this is what you missed. Inside the historic NYC landmark building, a crowd of cheese lovers and freebooters gathered in the warm red room beside a roaring fireplace, cozy seating and a table full of some of the most delicious cheese Jessica brought to share. Typically this club is private {although the Blue Bar is open to the public} but sometimes we luck out and events such as this come along, providing an opportunity to not only learn something about cheese, but gain access to a significant city space. The India House Club was built in 1837 and used for banking and trade purposes, but became a private meeting house in 1914 {don’t you just wonder what sort of wheeling and dealing took place here???}. It currently houses the largest and most valuable collection of maritime art in NY — you can feel the historic significance just standing there.

So what kind of cheese was shared? A delectable selection of sheep’s, cow’s and goat’s milk cheeses. Any of these would be great additions to your holiday cheese platter. The Camembert was like butter, it was so rich and creamy and the Hoch Ybrig is not only fun to say, but is a great nutty swiss that anyone is sure to like. All can be purchased at Artisanal Cheese, except the Seal Cove Pyramid that can be snagged at Saxelby Cheesemongers in Essex Market. The evening was a fun post-work getaway and it was FREE {yeah, yeah, I know I already mentioned that, but stay tuned for more great free events you don’t want to miss.}

Generous Cuts of Spectacular Cheese

Hudson Valley Camembert. Sheep and Cow’s Milk. Old Chatham Sheepherding Company; Old Chatham, NY.
This is a luxuriously creamy and buttery young cow and sheep’s milk camembert-style cheese with a bloomy rind.  The creaminess comes from the sheep’s milk. The Hudson Valley Camembert pairs well with a sparkling wine or a light crisp white.

Seal Cove Pyramid. Goat’s milk. Seal Cove Farm; Lamoine, ME.
This is a young, slightly tart but rich pasteurized goat’s milk cheese from talented Maine cheese makers.  The vegetable ash on the outside makes the cheese less acidic and allows it to age slightly but remain soft, delicate and creamy.  The Seal Cove Pyramid will pair well with light floral and crisp white wines like Sauvignon Blancs.

Hoch Ybrig. Cow’s Milk. Canton Schwyg, Switzerland.
Hoch Ybrig is an alpine cheese, a typical finely crafted hard cheese made in the mountains of Switzerland.  The cheese’s washed rind adds a heartiness to the creamy, nutty and sweet flavors of this robust yet delicate cheese.  This cheese pairs well with a variety of beers and red and white wines alike.

Blu del Mencenisio. Cow’s Milk. Turin, Piedmont, Italy.
This is a soft slightly creamy blue cheese with spicy notes.  It is from the Moncenisio Pass, mountains in Piedmont, near the French border.  With this cheese, as with many other blues, the saltiness tends to be more pronounced.  This cheese will pair well with sweeter or dessert wines or heavier stout-type beers.

Another Cut of Cheese Please:
Do This!: A Taste of What to Expect @ Artisanal Premium Cheese Classes
8.ate@eight #2: Who Cut the Cheese Didn’t Stink!
Del Posto Presents Murray’s Cheese & Salumi Wine Party @NYCWFF

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FAVOR8: New on 8.ate@eight

Hungry for more inspiration from 8.ate@eight?

FAVOR8:
Now you can easily access 8.ate@eight’s Top 8 Favorite Restaurants from the new tab at the top called FAVOR8. When you’re looking for a great meal out, this list will provide a sure thing. I’ll continue to update the list as new meals inspire me to spread the love, so check back and Eat Up!

As always, you can access all restaurant reviews by clicking the Eat Here! category in the right column.

SUBSCRIBE:
Get email updates with new blog postsrecipes and supper club announcements by visiting the home page, entering your email and clicking the “FEED ME” button.

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18 Favorite Meat Dishes for Men & Barbeque Heaven @Fette Sau

How To Cook Meat for Your Man

A few weeks ago I went to this amazingly wacky collectors exhibit in Brooklyn — a range of collections from hotel ashtrays to museum dust {???}. As I made my way around the room of oddities, I stumbled upon one table that did catch my interest. A collection of meat recipe booklets from the June Cleaver days: “Meats for Men”, “There’s Always Time to Cook Meat”, “Meat Recipes You’ll Talk About” were just some of my favorites. All published by various national livestock and meat boards of one nature or another, these booklets are full of hints on how to cook stews fit for a king or manage your meat over the course of the week — good nutrition calls for meat at least once a day, after all. With all this insightful inspiration, I was craving some good honest meat {wouldn’t you?}. Luckily NYC’s #1 rated BBQ joint, Fette Sau, was conveniently located right across the street from all this nonsense. Some pulled pork and a cold draft was in order!

First up, one of their many craft beers poured from the clever cleaver taps — one too many brews and an ornery attitude could get you in serious trouble!

Craft Beer Taps @FetteSau

And this is why you get a beer first. A long line of pork patrons eagerly away their moment to order. Hey ladies, notice how many men are here??? Don’t worry, the line goes reasonably fast, but why not share a cold one and a conversation while you wait.

Fette Sau Patrons

And while you queue up and converse, you can get inspired by the meat wall — a brilliant dissection of piggy cuts that any meat-loving man or woman should know!

Fette Sau Meat Wall

But what we really care about is das menu. The glorious list of smoked meats, waiting for you to step up and order by the pound. Black Angus Pastrami, Berkshire St. Louis Pork Ribs, Pulled Pork Shoulder, Berkshire Spicy Pork Sausage and more, served with a side of Coleslaw, Guss’ Kosher Pickles, Burnt End Baked Beans, among other goodies. The best part about this place — order a sample of everything and anything you want as it all gets dished on a big ‘ole tray with wet naps and some buns. Fette Sau’s BBQ is dry rubbed and smoked with a blend of Red and White Oak, Maple, Beach and Cherry. And while no sauces are applied during cooking, a selection of sauces awaits you at the communal picnic table seating, so you can play around with flavors and get creative stacking and gnawing at your order if you choose. The premium selection of organic, small-farm heritage meat is juicy with a prevalent smokey flavor that permeates the entire cut and decisively reminds you that this is not just another BBQ joint serving sticky sauced ribs. No, this is the #1 rated BBQ destination in all of NYC, and I can see why.

A Little of This, A Little of That

The Skim: If you’re looking to put a little meat on the bone, or a place to take your man so he can eat like a king, then Fette Sau is a must. The beauty of this high quality BBQ joint is it’s small cozy feel. With a tray of smoked goodness and a ball jar of suds you can settle in to stare longingly into the electronic fireplace with your king of the castle.

Map: 354 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn
Reservations: Not Taken
Phone: 718-963-3404


8.ate@eight Favor8
Seal of Approval

Stick it To My Ribs:
Le Grand Fooding ‘Twas A Grand Yummy Evening
SF Best: RoliRoti Rolls Out Revolutionary Rotisserie
recipe goodness :: red chili-lime cornbread muffins
NYC Best: Summer Sausage & Other Seriously Good Eats @ Summerstage
8.ate@eight #3: Went Whole Hog and Hog Wild @ the Big Southern BBQ

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Rustic Space Features Really Good Wood-Burning Oven Pizza @Roberta’s

Roberta's Brooklyn

Located in a former garage in Brooklyn, down a warehouse-dense road, Roberta’s is nestled in a space that at first glance makes you question your propensity to enter. But when you do, you are warmly greeted by a brightly lit, rustic atmosphere set with reclaimed wood communal tables overlooking a piping hot wood-burning oven. Weather permitting, you can also grab a seat in the back garden and settle in for some equally delightful rustic fare.

Roberta's Communal Seating

Creatively named pizzas are the feature of the menu. We had the Da Kine, a word in Hawaiian pidgin that generally refers to anything abstract. It’s also a new take on the typical Hawaiian pizza with tomato, mozzarella, ricotta, jalapenos, pineapple, prosciutto cotto. Let me tell you, it was DE-LISH-OUS! Thin slices of sweet pineapple, cut with a subtle spice from the jalapenos and topped with a delicate, almost lacy proscuitto, which I found to be so much better than the typical thick squares of ham. All washed down with a draft brew served in a Ball jam jar — doesn’t that just scream rustic dining experience?

Roberta's Da Kine Pie

The Skim: I can only speak to the stellar pizza I had, but the menu also features other creatively rustic dishes such as the Orecchiette with lamb pancetta, egg yolk, piave or the Pork Chop with fregola, guanciale, romanesco. This may look like a run-down industrial joint from the outside, but Roberta’s is serving upscale, unique dishes that will make your taste buds sing, but in a comfortable atmosphere that invites you to enjoy a low-key meal out with friends whatever the occasion.

Map: 261 Moore St Brooklyn,NY
Reservations: For Parties of 10+
Phone: 718-417-1118


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Another Pie Please:
Do This!: Eataly is Big Box Batali
Creative Crowd-Pleasing BBQ’d Pizzas
Le Grand Fooding ‘Twas A Grand Yummy Evening
Travel Bite: Puglia on a Plate


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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


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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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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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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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