Friday, December 28, 2012

‘Espionage’ in the East Village

Pin It
Just when I thought I had my fill of farm-to-table, seasonal cuisine, I was re-inSPYired at Northern Spy Food Co. This small, east village spot (35-40 seats)with a loyal brunch following was a treat from the same old pork chop with 'miscellaneous root vegetable' that I had grown tired of from seasonal joints in the city.

We had an 8 pm reservation on a Saturday and were actually sat ON TIME (foodie tip: you can make reservations through The atmosphere is warm, but modern and uncluttered – the space is used efficiently yet you aren't able to eat off the table next to you (which may equate to spacious in NYC). While the menu is small and market-driven, there are a welcome number of vegetarian options and entrée portion sizes are quite substantial. We opted to go heavy on the apps and snacks and light on the main courses. The modest list of cocktails, wines and beer fit perfectly with the menu – the Northern Shandy is a great seasonally adjusted drink that in Winter features ale spiked with apple cider.

A few highlights for the group included Chicken liver mousse with pickled onions and crostini. The mousse was light and creamy and the onions were the perfect compliment. Another favorite was the kale salad with cheddar, almonds, delicata squash and pecorino. Up until now, I had been anti-kale, pegging it as a fad like beets or brussels sprouts (OK, I admit, I am still obsessed with sprouts). However, thisperfectly balanced salad made the hype seem worthy!

My fiancée and I split the special – a grass fed aged strip steak that was perfectly cooked and truly made
for carnivorous bliss. The swiss chard with spicy sausage made for a delicious side dish.

As an interesting side note, according to the restaurant’s website “Northern Spy Food Co. is named after one of New York State’s classic heirloom apples. The Northern Spy apple was developed in the early 19th century and originally identified in an orchard in East Bloomfield, New York.

My recommendation is to go and 'stake out' Northern Spy Food Co. Have a cocktail, some kale and try a special.

Northern Spy Food Co.
511 East 12th Street (between Ave. A and Ave. B)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wondering what the opposite of Taco Bell is? Answer: Empellon Taqueria

Pin It

The roadside taco refined.  Empellon Taqueria  proudly finds its heritage in the roots of great Mexican taco makers – many of whom prepare almost as fast as their customers can scarf them down. The flour tortillas may ruffle the feathers of some maize (corn for you English speakers) tortilla fans, but it didn’t phase us. Offerings range from traditional basics to more adventurous taco creations. For those looking for ground beef in a crispy corn Ortega-esque shell, you will be wildly disappointed, but being in NYC, you can easily run to the nearest Taco Bell (and are likely not reading this blog anyway :) ).

We started with the NYC Mexican staple of guac, which was simple, fresh and delicious.  The avocados were still chunky and you could add your own level of spiciness with side sauces. Then it was on to the tacos – we tried several varieties including: skirt steak, pork, sweetbreads and fish (fried, obviously).  All of the tacos were well balanced with the appropriate touches, but for me, the fish was supreme. It was the perfect hunk of white, flakey fish with a spicy mayo and crunchy slaw. My dining companions all favored the skirt steak, so everyone left happy.
Empellon Taqueria is located just off 7th Avenue South in the heart of my favorite neighborhood, where Chow (an old stomping ground) used to be located. The atmosphere certainly says West Village more than Mexican, the service friendly – the manager verrry friendly (go figure) and the vibe lively but not too loud.  The meal was great, the company even better (guest blogger and future-husband Mitch Wexler was our special companion) but the price was a little high for my taste.

Empellon Taqueria
212 367 0999
230 West 4th Street 
(corner of W4th and W10th) 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Tornado Warnings Could Keep us from Les Halles….

Pin It

It was a dark and stormy night. We were getting phone calls and texts from loved ones asking us if we were ok and “safe at home.”

Ummm. It’s Foodies In NYC night!  Of COURSE we’re not at home.  We were at Les Halles and we were not going to let a little drizzle (read: downpour) or wind (read: tornado warnings) keep us from spending an evening at the famed French bistro.

I had recently finished reading Kitchen Confidential, by the rough-around-the-edges chef Anthony Bourdain and had to try his old stomping ground (I’m told he still consults for LH as the “Chef at Large”).  Of course, I brought my girls along for the ride, who were already big Bourdain fans – who do you think gave me the book?
Cassoulet, Mushrooms, Mac 'n Cheese and Steak Frites!

We started the evening with Croûtons de Coulommiers rôtis au Miel et Poivre – for those who don’t parlez-vous Francais, it’s roasted brie with honey and cracked black pepper over frisée salad.  The creaminess of the brie, the sweetness of the honey and the bite of the black pepper was fantastic.  Though, as much as I love a salad, I can’t stand frisée. It feels like the lettuce is fighting in my mouth.  Christa disagreed – she thought it added a great crunch to offset the smoothness of the cheese. The girls also ordered escargot.  While I’m not a fan, I’m told they were delicious. I can tell you from the freshly baked bread I dipped into the hot butter and garlic that the little fellas were swimming in that they were well seasoned!

Now on to dinner.  HOW can one go to Les Halles and NOT get steak frites?! We selected the skirt steak with blue cheese and the Cassoulet “Toulousain.” Both were great. I was surprised how tender the steak was and how well the blue cheese complemented it without overpowering. However, the cassoulet could have been ALL we ordered and we would have left the restaurant fat n’ happy.  The only sub-par item we ordered was the truffle mac and cheese. It was a little dry and did nothing for us.

Since it was my pick and I have the biggest sweet tooth of the group – of COURSE we were getting dessert!  Homemade  macaroons and bananas flambé presented table side. Great way to end our dark and stormy night! 

The Take Away: This is the perfect place for French-inspired comfort food. The staff was attentive – the manager took it upon herself to refill our bread and water glasses when she saw we were running low.  The waiter – while busy – took the time to give us a show with the bananas flambé. Merci beaucoup Halles! Nous reviendrons!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

An American Foodie in Europe

Pin It

Thanks to my PR career and three years of savings, I was lucky enough to visit and truly experience five countries and eight cities within a three-month period.

My travels took me from London to Barcelona, to Naples, Rome and Florence, to Cannes and Marseilles and finally Munich.  I saw so many sites, met some amazing people, and as equally important, ate some out-of-this-world food.

Kicking off my culinary adventure, I made it a personal quest to tell my friends and family that I ate fish & chips in England!  But, little did I know, I would uncover a whole new world of culinary magnificence in London that I never knew existed.  Melt in your mouth broccoli puree, delicate white onion soup and perfectly cooked hake that I can still taste when I close my eyes, at the popular Rhodes 24, were just the tip of the iceberg.   

Trying to trump that, I had Dim Sum at Ping Pong like a true Brit, I was told.  And when my dining partners ordered around 20 items off of the extensive menu and then asked the waiter, “will that be enough for us?,”  I knew I was home!  Next was the non-pub pub fare at The White Swan, that included such classics as mushy peas and braised veal, but with a refined elegance that I’ve never seen from traditional bar food.

After taking some advice from the locals, I spent a Saturday morning weaving in and out of the vendors at Borough Market, sampling everything (once or twice) from rabbit & quail confit to sea salt caramel to chicken and vegetable curry.  Feeling like a local myself, I grabbed a Pimm's and bacon butty and strolled through the market to my heart’s content.

Most Londoners (or -ites?) might tease my indulgence in a “lovely” meat pie and the greasiest fish & chips imaginable - but these English staples were a must in order to satisfy my inquiring family and friends back home.

From Spain to Italy to France, I delved into a worldly culinary feast that included tapas and sangrias, pastas and paninis, and of course, croissants and crepes.  Needless to say, that portion of my European adventure added a few pounds to my midsection but also allowed me to prepare for the gastronomical marathon that was awaiting me in Germany....

When in Munich, after almost 12 hours of travelling, my colleagues and I stumbled into a nearby cafe called Klinglwirt.  With glazed eyes we squinted at our menus that looked like thousands of consonants strewn about on the page.  Welcome to Germany!  In true American fashion, we pointed at “what they’re having” and ordered “, doesn’t matter, surprise us!”  To our surprise, our pointing and stuttering produced the smoothest beer we’ve ever had and German comfort foods such as cheesy spinach spätzle, tangy sauerkraut and creamy veal medallions.  

But the crowning achievement of the trip came after a long night of “networking,” when we rolled up to an eight-story pagoda in the middle of the English Garden known as “Chinesischer Turm” in German. As the second largest beer garden in the city of Munich, the Chinese Tower seats up to 7,000 people.  With a liter of Hofbrau and (what felt like) half of a pig, I settled into a lunch of champions, Munich-style.  To wash it all down, we shared a soft pretzel the size of a beach ball with a baseball-sized lump of Obatzter (cheese dip) on the side.

Sharing this experience of a lifetime with some amazing friends (old and new) made every bite count!  Where in the world will my taste buds take me next, you’ll just have to wait to find out...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

FC Nibble: Fine Dining in Chi-Town

Pin It Living in such a food-centric city and admittedly being a little food obsessed can sometimes make traveling disappointing. How many times have you tried the new hot spot in DC, Boston or the Bay Area and thought to yourself that the restaurants in NYC could have done it better? While I have experienced some great meals around the country (and around the world) this has crossed my mind more than once.

However, on a recent trip to Chi-Town I went all out and wasn't disappointed!

Girl and the Goat

With a Top Chef alumni (Stephanie Izard) in the open kitchen, the Presidential seal of approval and a 6-8 week reservation waiting list, the Girl and the Goat is the definition of a hot spot. The well-balanced dishes left nothing to be desired and neither did the ambiance or service. Some highlights for me included the goat empanadas, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs and a scallop dish with a modern ‘briskety’ bolognese sauce (it may sound like too much but I swear it was just perfect).

Note - don't spoil your appetite on the homemade bread. While it’s delicious, save room for the actual food, trust me it’s worth it.

Graham Elliot

This avant-garde restaurant is definitely a special occasion spot, but far from stuffy when it comes to atmosphere. My friends and I indulged in the 9 course tasting menu, which had a little something for everyone. Each dish was elegantly prepared with the intricacy of a complex science experiment and when mixed together created a truly unique experience in your mouth - particularly the foie gras covered in watermelon flavored pop rocks!!

Of the 9 courses the ones stuck out for me most were: a crab two ways (leg and sausage) with butter, coconut and BBQ seasonings: a melt-in-your-mouth risotto with artichokes, basil and truffles; and a redfish which was REDIC with ramps, tomatoes and capers.

For dessert, we were served a liquid donut. No that is not a typo… it is actually a cold soup-like concoction that tastes like a freaking donut! It was one of those desserts that you just have to try and reminds me that food isn’t just about taste, nourishment, or an excuse to be with good friends and drink wine. It’s about imagination and pushing limits.

Girl and the Goat
809 W Randolph St. Chicago IL, 60607
(312) 492-6262 

Graham Elliot
217 W Huron St Chicago Il 60654

Friday, May 18, 2012

Color Our World

Pin It
Ok, I have to admit, while Anne and Danielle typically find the top-rated, James Beard awarded, “hottest and trendiest” places in NYC to dine, I lean more towards the word-of-mouth/read-it-on-Yelp camp.  As most of us have experienced, this doesn’t always yield the best results but it does prove for an interesting evening!

So after a tip from my best friend and fellow foodie AJ to visit an eclectic place called Colors in NoHo, we were all intrigued.  Coincidentally, Colors happens to be right next door to Butter (as reviewed by Foodies’ own Anne Donohoe) so it got good points for having cool neighbors. We stopped at Butter for a quick, stiff drink (just what the work week ordered) rushing to make our 7:00pm reservation.  Aside from getting the Open Table points, a rezzie was completely unnecessary.  The typical rambunctious, Thursday night dinner crowd was absent - but we all had a good buzz going and quietly took our seats before jumping to any conclusions.

Food club at Colors (as seen through Sangria goggles)
To drink we stuck to cheap ($12!!) pitchers of pretty decent sangria.  Our waiter was attentive and very patient with our typical food club silliness which we were thankful of (note: we are not subtle when we dine!).  While we perused the menu, we chatted about the fact that Colors is owned by its workers and focuses on local ingredients.  The “owners” all come from various backgrounds in the restaurant industry and are part of the Restaurant Opportunities Center, the largest restaurant worker organization, whose mission is to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s low-wage restaurant workforce. We are all for that!

After a few pitchers of sangria, we were ready to order:

- Veggie chips (banana and potato) with various dips including smoked trout with fried capers, fresh guacamole, black chickpea hummus with olives, and tomato tapenade - a perfectly light and fresh starter
- A fried veggie tart topped with goat cheese, mixed greens and cherry tomatoes – you can’t go wrong with goat cheese
- Chicken and chorizo paella with snow peas and lemon aioli - we’re somewhat of paella snobs so this wasn’t our fav
- Pan-roasted pork loin with creamed corn (yum!) and peach jus – deliciously tender and flavorful
- Argentine Chimichurri ribeye (Anne’s fav) with roasted red potatoes – tender and tasty

Each dish hit the spot and admittedly helped to soak up the alcohol in our bellies.  The bill was VERY easy to digest as well and didn’t put nearly the dent on our wallets that The Dutch had - but in NYC you often get what you pay for!

Overall, we admire the dining experience that Colors has created but wish it had left us with a brighter outlook.  With great food, local ingredients, reasonable pricing and a fabulous entrepreneurial spirit, it should be packed every night!

417 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10003

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Catskills on the Cobblestones

Pin It
High expectations are a tricky thing. Finding out that Kutsher's, a place I spent childhood vacations and two summers at camp, had opened a restaurant in NYC that featured foods I crave and often critique, is a good example of this situation.

That being said, this is a love story, because I loved everything about our experience at KT.

We started the meal with a round of bug juice - how can you pass up the upscale, alcoholized version of the summer camp classic? Great drink, even greater that they mix up the fruit juice ingredients day to day, keeping with tradition.

On to the food. First, the amazing matzoh ball soup. The best I've ever had in a restaurant. The soup was flavorful, the veggies and noodles al dente (but not crunchy carrots, that's a no-no) and the matzoh balls were literally perfect in consistency and nearly perfect in flavor. If I could carry around a jug of that soup and eat it daily for lunch, life would be complete. Next we tried the pastrami and chopped liver on the 'charcuterie plate'. Both were fantastic, the pastrami felt like it was Montreal inspired, hand cut thick slabs that were accompanied by great rye bread and some very on the money sour pickles. We also tried the crispy artichokes, which were very good, and the gefilte fish with beet/horseradish tartare, which was unremarkable.

For the main event we shared (there were 4 of us, calm down) the prime skirt steak and the roast chicken for 2. Both were excellent. The rest of the crew loved the chicken above all, and that was great, because it left more steak for me. Both were tender, tasty (neither one undersalted) and complimented on the plate by a knish and a mushroom stuffing, respectively.

We finished with the unique rainbow cookie ice cream sundae and 4 spoons. A fitting end to a great meal.

Overall this is a must try - the space is cool, and roomy for NYC, the service was spot on and the food hits the mark. They took a chance trying to find the right balance between old and new, tradition and ambition, Catskills and Tribeca. For me, it paid off big time. Well done.

Kutsher's Tribeca
186 Franklin Street
New York, NY
(212) 431-0606

Mitch Wexler is an advertising exec, part-time sous chef and full-time foodie based in Hoboken, NJ.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Landmarc: Not your Uncle Tony’s steakhouse

Pin It
When we decided to do a steakhouse this month, we really weren’t in the mood for the white-tableclothed heaviness that comes with $19 creamed spinach and waiters who look like they ACTUALLY could have known Sinatra.

Instead, we took to The Google and looked for a “non-steakhouse steakhouse” and landed on Landmarc in TriBeCa. Landmarc is not “new” but its promise of “contemporary bistro fare that blends French and Italian favorites in a decidedly cool space” had us intrigued. I walked in to find the girls at the bar enjoying martinis. In the time we waited for our table, the bartender didn’t so much as look in our direction let alone offer me a drink (even though we occupied 3 of the 7 seats) – but I’m not holding it against him…anymore…

Once seated, we tucked into a nice bottle of 2009 Hardin Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley and started examining the menu. What’s really cool about the menu (other than it folded out!)
is that Landmarc offers both appetizer and entrée portions of pretty much everything. So, if you wanted to try the chicken liver cavatelli with caramel onions and bacon, but not order the entrée sized portion (like we did), you could do that. In addition to the chicken liver cavatelli (which was delish, rich but not too “irony” or heavy), we opted for the smoked mozzarella and ricotta fritters with fried zucchini and spicy tomato sauce and warm goat cheese profiteroles for appies. All great options – especially if you’re with a group.

 Since we were in it for the steak (see the grill that’s on the main dining room floor), we ordered the filet mignon with béarnaise sauce and the “Saturday Special” of Spaghetti alla Bolognese – which Christa described as “one of the best Bolognese sauces she’s ever tasted” (no disrespect Mama Conte!). We complemented our meals with sides of white beans, bacon and kale and Brussels sprouts. I’m told the Brussels sprouts were divine – but honestly – you could cover those suckers in Belgian chocolate and they would still taste like bitter gym socks to me! We were FAR too stuffed for dessert (I know…pains me to even write that) but they did offer homemade caramels with the check – which were the perfect ending to a really great meal.

The TakeAway: Highly recommend Landmarc! Since I’m not a seafood lover, a true treat for me is a good filet mignon that melts the second it hits your tongue – and Landmarc did not disappoint!

179 West Broadway (between Leonard and Worth Streets)
New York, NY 10013
P 212.343.3883
F 212.343.3890

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FC Nibble: Sometimes the Best Meals are the Ones You Make Yourself

Pin It I ate well in February…real well. Had great meals at:
· Red Cat
· Landmarc (with my Foodies)
· Centro Vinoteca (which by the way no longer has the best pork chop in NYC)
· Route 6 in Philadelphia

However the best foodie day I had this month wasn’t at a fancy Manhattan joint, it was at home with my fiancé. For an early Valentine’s Day celebration we went to Chelsea Market (which somehow I had never been to) to snack and shop.

While not as big as I expected, for the most part, the shops are top notch, the food is super fresh and the people watching is priceless. Note – while Ninth Street Espresso looks like it would have the best coffee, it doesn’t! Plus, it took us 15 minutes to get a very mediocre cappuccino.

The star of my visit was the Lobster Place, where we ate lunch and then brought home food to make a delicious dinner. It’s a mecca of fresh and prepared seafood (including sushi) and I didn’t know what to try first. The chowder is divine! The lobster is steamed to perfection. The sushi is ridiculously fresh. And, the seafood selection is unparalleled.

We choose to bring home crab meat, shrimp and a 2lb lobster (already steamed) for our seafood feast. We then headed to Buon Italia for some homemade, fresh pasta and finished our shopping trip with a sweet stop at Jacques Torres for one of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve EVER had!

The result, a delish, romantic day and evening capped off by an amazing dinner. Check out the picture of our Frutti de Mare in a white wine and garlic sauce over fresh linguini. I am now dying to go back to try Dickson’s Farmstand Meats and Chelsea Thai! And of course, get more of that sensational chowder…..Oh, and another cookie wouldn’t hurt too :)

Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue
(Between 15th and 16th Streets)

The Lobster Place
(212) 255-5672

Buon Italia
(212) 633-9090

Jacques Torres

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Great Expectations

Pin It
While we don’t blog about our day jobs, this foodie crew pays our restaurant bills by working in PR. And, while we often trust, discover and sometimes agree with reviews from the likes of Sam Sifton (New York Times), Adam Platt (NY Magazine) and fellow foodies on Yelp and Twitter, sometimes the hype can lead to disappointment.

The Dutch, a new Soho restaurant, “inspired by local cafés, country inns, corner taverns, neighborhood bistros, seaside shacks, roadside joints, old school dining halls and the same mix of cultural influences that make New York City great,” was getting glowing reviews from all the usual suspects but mediocre reviews from ‘civilians.’ We ventured to the venue wondering who was right.

The interior, predictably, looks like every other new spot in NYC with a ‘bistro-like” flair (see my bitching about this in my Goat Town post) but the food was very eclectic and DELISH.

First, try the Asian White Boy Ribs under the snack section. This hearty slab of ribs in a mouth-watering sweet Asian sauce was finger licking good (disclaimer Anne thought they were chewy but I adamantly disagree). If I only ate this, I would have walked away a happy camper.

For our main courses, we had a lamb tagine, my personal favorite. The lamb was served in a clay pot and was falling off the bone, and the pork chop (both Anne and Christa’s fav) was perfectly cooked. We weren’t keen on the quinoa salad, as it lacked its namesake quinoa and the flavors didn’t come together, but do order the brussel sprouts with pancetta, served in a cast iron dish that it was obviously prepared in.

Now, I am not a dessert person but the special banana crème pie thrilled my taste buds. The fresh bananas and cream whipped so light it was floating slighting above the dish were paired perfectly with a salty, sweet crust was the just the right way to end the meal.

So Sam Sifton and Adam Platt, you got it right on this one!

PS - The Dutch was named in the Platt 101 and was one of Sifton's Top Ten New Restaurants of 2011

The Dutch
131 Sullivan St (At Prince St)
(212) 677-6200