Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Note to Readers...

When I first started blogging in 2002, the food blog was still a novelty. I was inspired by an even older blog, Bread, Coffee, Chocolate, Yoga, which apparently ceased publication in 2009. Restaurant blogging is a difficult activity to maintain, because a blogger needs to have a lot of time, extra money, and motivation. Also, a new food blog seems to pop up every day, so it is difficult to be original and relevant; how many reviews of Veritas does a person really want to read?

Some bloggers with cooking expertise have gone on to write well received novels and cookbooks, but I have never been much of a cook. (You can see evidence of my abysmal cooking at I briefly lived in an area where there were almost no good restaurants,  hence my ill-fated foray into the kitchen.)

My intention with this blog has been to spread the word about great NYC restaurants, markets, and events. However, for a few reasons, I am no longer able to keep up with the New York food scene as much as I would like. For one, I now have an amazingly active toddler. Also, I am now spending much of my time in burgeoning foodieopolis Portland, Oregon. So, for those of you who want to keep up with the always exciting world of the NYC food scene, I invite you to follow the plethora of energetic young NYC food bloggers. I will soon be focusing my blogging energy on a new project, The Rose And The Apple, which concentrates on the culinary cross-pollination between Portland and NYC. Happy Dining!
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Thursday, November 03, 2011

It's the Culinary Event of the Season!

New York Taste: A World of Flavors is taking place next Monday (November 7), 2011 at Skylight SoHo, 275 Hudson Street. General admission starts at 7 p.m., and participating restaurants include Fatty Crab, Morimoto, and Hill Country. Don't miss this!
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Chocolate Show!

It's never too early to start thinking about the annual Chocolate Show! It takes place from November 10-13 this year at the Metropolitan Pavilion. (It spent one year at the Javits Center, which did not suit it quite as well.) This year, the show is especially focused on United States chocolate, and will showcase 65 chocolatiers.
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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Salli Vates' Best of 2011

I realize that this list might seem premature, as 2011 is only three-quarters finished, but here is my completely subjective "Best of 2011" list. Be forewarned that the categories are entirely arbitrary.

Best Milkshake: Shake Shack's "Fair Shake." This thick vanilla milkshake, spiked with 100% arabica, has an exotic coffee flavor. (Various locations)

Best Scones: Harney and Sons SoHo. These dainty vanilla scones are better than the scones at Alice's Tea Cup and Balthazar Bakery. So buttery that they crumble apart and melt in your mouth, they are served with jam and cream. (One word of advice: order the sweet scones instead of the savory ham scones, which are also inexplicably sweet.) (433 Broome St., 212-933-4853.)

Most Inventive Omakase: Sushi of Gari. Yes, it can get dangerous; you order until you are full, having no idea how much money you've spent. But believe me, it's worth it. Amazing creations like salmon roe topped with silken quail egg and grilled squid legs with sea urchin cause you to temporarily forget your credit card balance. (402 East 78th St., 212-517-5340.)

Most Surprisingly Kid-Friendly Restaurant: Mandoo Bar. Any child will enjoy watching the Korean dumpling masters at work, and will probably even eat the results. The fried tofu is also quite unintimidating. (2 West 32nd Street, New York - (212-279-3075)

Best Restaurant for Diners in Disagreement: Greenwich Grill. One of you wants Italian, the other craves sushi. Don't argue, just head over to this TriBeCa duplex; one of you can order housemade rotelli while the other orders sashimi from the basement sushi bar, Sushi Azabu. Just be forewarned that on busy nights, it can take a while to get that coveted tekka maki. (428 Greenwich St., 212-274-0428.)

Best Retro Pastries: Lulu Cake Boutique. This Chelsea newcomer features a variety of pastries that are as nostalgic as they are decadent. Chocolate-covered Twinkies and snowballs with real coconut will satisfy both the preservative-free purist and the indiscriminate glutton. (112 Eighth Ave., 212-242-5858.)

Most Authentic Japanese: Nakanaka. No, it's not cheap ($8 for one piece of sushi "gunkan"), but you are guaranteed to feel like you are in Japan. The tempura with green tea salt is to die for, as is the broiled duck over udon. (458 West 17th St., # 1, 212-661-2791.)

Best New Transplant: Why, Ladurée, of course, provided that you have at least an hour to wait in line for the famous macarons. I made time for boxes of six strawberry-mint, chocolate, raspberry, and salted butter caramel cookies. (864 Madison Ave., 646-558-3157.)

Best Grilled Cheese: Beecher's New York. The NYC outpost of this Seattle cheese company puts together some shockingly good grilled cheese. My favorite version contains whole-grain mustard, tomato, and lots of gooey melted Flagship cheese. I just wish Beecher's didn't run out of breakfast sandwiches so fast. (900 Broadway, 212-466-3340.)

Best Croissants: Le Moulin à Cafe. Fresh out of the oven, these croissants are incomparable, and I certainly appreciated them last Saturday, when everything was closing due to the tropical storm/hurricane. The coffee is La Colombe. (1439 York Ave., 212-288-5088.)

More to come...
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Best Chicken in NYC?

In 2009, Bon Appetit published a recipe for chicken al mattone, or, chicken under a brick. The author of the recipe was Sfoglia's former chef Ron Suhanosky, who counted it as one of his signature dishes (the other is pappardelle alla Bolognese). I would not be exaggerating if I said that this is possibly the most delicious chicken dish in NYC. (I rarely write about forgettable or unappetizing meals, and I realize that this blog is full of praise and superlatives, but last night at Sfoglia actually left me speechless.)

Sfoglia is a lovely little trattoria across from the 92Y. Murano crystal chandeliers shed an amber light over a stucco-walled room with rustic, communal wooden tables. The ambiance is casually elegant. Sfoglia has been open for six years, and the restaurant fills quickly with appreciative locals and 92Y subscribers. Last night, My mother and I waited at the entrance for a while as the hostess gracefully dealt with an apparently frustrating phone call; a potential diner was miffed at the lack of available reservations.

We sat at the end of a wooden table adorned with apricot-colored roses, and were soon presented with fresh bread so hot that steam emanated from it. This crusty bread had a soft, moist interior, making it a good vehicle for the dish of of olive oil served with it.

A chilled cucumber soup with salmon roe sounded season-appropriate, but we decided to split an appetizer portion of the pappardelle alla bolognese. (If this was an appetizer, I'm almost afraid to see what the dinner portion was.) A rich sauce of beef, veal, pork and lamb with a sprinkling of fresh parmigiano coated wide al dente noodles, and there was plenty of meat and sauce left over for sopping the bread in.

Lamb, chicken, fish, skate, what do we appreciate? I'm sure we would have loved all of it, but we thought the chicken sounded so tasty that we both ordered it. The half-chicken, marinated in olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and garlic, served with a lemon wedge, was bursting with flavor. The seared, crisp, crackly skin enveloped moist, fragrant white and dark meat. The manager informed us that the secret is in the searing; some restaurants do not wait until the pan is hot enough and lay the brick too early. (In her spare time, she told us, she actually visited various restaurants in NYC that serve chicken under a brick, and all of the other preparations paled in comparison.) I ordered mine with the advertised dried, crushed red pepper, while my mother opted to omit it.

Desserts were another revelation. Mint chocolate-chip gelato was obviously made with fresh mint, while wine cracker gelato had a savory hint in its sweetness. The server had also told us about a special dessert that had to be ordered at the beginning of the meal. If the chicken had got my tongue, this dessert indeed left me completely speechless. An open-faced warm tart, filled with the freshest ripe peach slices and tart blackberries, gave off a heavenly buttery aroma. The juice from the summer fruit seeped into the sweet biscuit crust base, while the crust on the sides could be broken off and eaten like a cookie. Atop this masterpiece lay two scoops of the homemade wine cracker gelato. I finished much more of this than I should have.

I was really unprepared for such delight at a neighborhood Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side. It really says something when my mother, who eats no dark meat, finished her chicken in its entirety.

Trattoria Sfoglia: 135 East 92nd St., (212) 831-1402.
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

East End Kitchen

Almost nothing pleases me more than a cozy neighborhood restaurant in the middle of a residential block. Two-week-old East End Kitchen, the successor to the defunct Le Boeuf A La Mode, is right around the corner from me, and I had the good fortune to celebrate my aunt's seventieth birthday there tonight. (I don't know if it was the restaurant's good fortune to serve us, as my aunt has a laundry list of don't-eat-this-and-don't-eat-thats, and my 19-month-old prefers running to sitting, but we certainly had a swell time.)

East End Kitchen is a seasonal, sustainable enterprise that would be right at home on the North Shore. The appetizers include watermelon and goat cheese salad, crab cakes with fennel, and chilled tomato soup, and the main courses focus on simple but satisfying meat dishes (chicken with potatoes and shallots, duck and cherries, pork with peaches) with a sprinkling of seafood entrees.

I have to hand it to the servers, as our party presented some unique challenges. (I almost feel as though I should post a public apology.) First of all, we arrived 10 minutes before the restaurant was due to open, and the staff was having a meeting. No matter, we were graciously seated, as it was raining heavily. A delightful basket of mini-baguettes with unsalted butter was brought to the table. My son threw his bread on the floor. (I picked it up.) More baguettes soon arrived.

My aunt wanted lettuce with mayonnaise for an appetizer. She was presented with a nice plate of mixed greens. "This isn't lettuce," she complained. "It is a variety of lettuce leaves," patiently explained the waitress. "What were you looking for?" It was obvious that my aunt was expecting a plate of pale iceberg leaves. The waitress apologized, explaining that the restaurant did not have any romaine or iceberg and mostly focused on seasonal, local produce.

My aunt also has an aversion to all meats served with sweet accompaniments, which nixed the pork and the duck. As I have written before, she is also severely allergic to pepper. Fortunately, a perfectly rare New York strip steak in a wine sauce with velvety mashed potatoes, green beans and mushrooms gave her nothing to complain about. A burger topped with Gruyere and heirloom tomatoes pleased my mother, and a side of French fries placated my son. The hand-cut fries were outrageously good and crispy, and they passed my son's seal of approval. For myself, I had sort of an interesting non-Italian take on pasta: Swiss chard tortellini with chervil topped with melted cheddar in an unadorned cream sauce.

Serendipitea City Harvest black tea scented with vanilla and orchids was a fragrant accompaniment to a bowl of chocolate mousse, pecans and raspberry coulis. I would like to try the cherry clafouti or the frozen blueberry souffle, but that will have to wait for another visit.

I commend East End Kitchen for gentle, good-natured service, a concise menu of inviting choices, and an uplifting atmosphere.

East End Kitchen: 539 East 81st St., (212) 879-0450.
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sweets News

Today's Sweets News focuses on treats both French and Japanese.
  • Le Moulin A Cafe. The former La Mediterrannee has transformed itself into a French bakery, complete with macarons, pains au chocolat, and shelves full of imported French butter cookies. I stopped by there today for a croissant and a La Colombe cafe au lait. Only downside: the place refuses credit cards for purchases under $10. (1439 York Ave., 212-288-5088.)
  • KAI Sweets. I am so excited about a present of artisanal Japanese puddings I received from a friend who visited KAI Sweets at Mitsuwa Marketplace. The little glass jars contain flavors like sweet black sesame. When I run out, I'll make a trip out to New Jersey to replace them. (Mitsuwa Marketplace, 595 River Road, Edgewater, NJ, 201-840-4050.)
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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Hill Country Fried Chicken

One of my guiltiest summer pleasures is a box of three "Texas tenders" (huge battered chicken fingers with a choice of dipping sauces - I get the buttermilk ranch) at Hill Country Chicken. (I don't know what it is about summer that makes me want to subsist on fried foods and barbecue, but Hill Country fulfills all these inexplicable cravings.) And now, with the free lemonade refills, it's even harder to stay away than ever. (I don't know how many refills you get, as I stopped at one, but it was perfect for the hot weather we had today.) The fresh lemonade is bracingly tart, and provides a refreshing complement to all of the rich food.

I've also enjoyed the chicken sandwich with smoked Applewood bacon and avocado, and the relatively new macaroni and cheese (the latest side is an ancho chili applesauce). But it's those Texas tenders that has me coming back for more...

Hill Country Chicken: 1123 Broadway, (212) 257-6446.
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Fairway To Go!

Great news for gourmets on the go... on Monday, August 8, the new Upper East Side Fairway gets a new companion: Fairway Café to Go (240 East 86th St.). Baked goodies, sandwiches, and fresh-roasted coffee are on the menu from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. One special new baked item is the Scarborough herbal bread with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
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Friday, July 15, 2011

Free Lunch for Kids!

You may have heard that there is no such thing as a free lunch, but if you are a child, this rule doesn't apply at NYC pools in all five boroughs. The SchoolFood Summer Meals Program provides a free, well-balanced lunch to anyone who is 18 years and under, or who has a disability. Today at the John Jay Pool in Manhattan, the lunch consisted of a sandwich on whole-wheat bread, a plum, a side of cole slaw, and chocolate milk. This generous program ends September 2.
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Eataly's Cheese Slicers

I always find that cheese (and tea, for that matter) never taste as good at home. When I visit places like the Bedford Cheese Shop and the Murray's stand at Grand Central, I feel like some magic is being performed. The cheese specialist takes a glistening silver implement, rakes it across some plump white or yellow slab of deliciousness, and gives me a tempting taste. I proceed to buy a half pound or so, but never experience that same magic. At home, I clumsily gouge out a hunk with the wrong type of knife, or even (gasp) take a bite out of the uncut cheese. I know I am doing something wrong.

Yesterday, at Eataly, I happened upon a display of Paderno World Cuisine stainless-steel wire cheese cutters, parmigiano knives, and cheese slicers. I wondered if they might be the solution to my pressing cheese problem. There were two types of cheese planes, soft and regular, which were each around $19. For a second I contemplated buying both of them, but I couldn't justify it. Maybe I should talk to the cheese specialist, I thought. I went over to him, told him about my at-home cheese issue, and here is his expert advice:
"First of all, as a guy who's been working with cheese for years, I never use cheese planes. I prefer a knife. But if you must have a cheese plane, use the regular one. I would never use a cheese plane for soft cheese. Also, you're storing your cheese all wrong. Never store it in the plastic wrap it comes in. Use wax paper, or Gladware, or even tinfoil."
Thanks, Mr. Cheese Guy! Next time, I'll have to get a lesson in which mostardas go with the different cheeses.
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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Butter Lane

Ah, Butter Lane, why didn't I find this cupcakery before? The moist, not-too-sweet chocolate, vanilla, or banana cakelets with their lovely dollops of buttercream have sent me over the moon. What other bakery gives you a choice between French or American chocolate toppings, as well as French or American vanilla? Out of all of the different cupcakes I sampled, from chocolate cake topped with strawberry icing and half a strawberry, sea salt caramel icing over a chocolate base, buttery cinnamon honey on a vanilla cake and many more, my favorite has to be the French vanilla over chocolate. This particular buttercream is shot through with vanilla bean, and it is creamier, lighter and not as sweet as some of the other toppings. Its subtlety lets the slight hint of coffee in the chocolate cake radiate through. I wasn't able to try the French Callebaut chocolate meringue icing, as it was sold out, but I plan to try the special seasonal frostings: key lime, lemon, and grapefruit ginger.

Butter Lane: 240 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn, (212) 677-2880. There is also a location in the East Village.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Picnicking in the Park

Although it's easy to pack up a picnic basket and head to the park, this is New York, so there's an even easier option... you can actually order food and have it delivered to the park! Here are a couple options.

Carl Schurz Park: For those lucky enough to live by this beautiful waterside park and playground, there is an added bonus, that of Pintaile's Pizza (212-396-3479) delivery. In addition to many varieties of vegetarian and non-vegetarian pizza, Pintaile's offers sandwiches, salads, and wings. If you don't want to humor the Good Humor truck at the park, you can order a pint of Ciao Bella gelato from Pintaile's.

Central Park: If you plan to hang out in NYC's backyard, call up Agata & Valentina's (212-452-0690, x 1) and order a picnic box. There are three varieties: salad, sandwich, and supreme.

Enjoy your summer in the city!
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Monday, June 27, 2011

Eataly On A Budget

"Can you believe these prices?" an incredulous tourist asked her friend while perusing the compotes and jams at Eataly. "I'll see you outside..."

I really wanted to take the woman aside and tell her where the deals at Eataly were, but I'm sometimes wary of talking to strangers. So, since I wasn't able to impart this information to her, I will lay it out here. It's true that many of the prices at Eataly are not for the faint of heart, but there are some reasonably-priced gems amid all of the luxury. First of all, the thick slices of mozzarella and tomato focaccia at the bakery can be enjoyed for only $2.80. One piece is easily enough for lunch, and if you feel like splurging, you can add some meat for a dollar. For other bread-based items, the mais bread is around $3, and you can also check out the half-priced day-old bakery bin.

For chocoholics who blanch at the thought of spending almost $18 for a bag of gianduja, the Venchi stand sells a line of delicious little Unico bars for $1.80. (There used to be a lot more varieties; I think the only two left are coconut cream and a bar for those who are reducing the amount of sugar in their diets. I hope they get the cuor di cacao bar back.)

The sandwich bar is always a deal, with all hot and cold panini going for around $7-$8. Vegetarians who miss the hot pressed taleggio and mushroom sandwich will be glad to know that it is making a reappearance next week. By the way, the sandwich bar also offers arancini (stuffed rice balls) with ragu for $3.20 each.

If you get to the cappuccino bar around lunchtime and have a hankering for something savory, you can buy a couple salty prosciutto croissants, which should fill you up. Finally, if you want to sit down to enjoy the Eataly experience but don't have the wallet for Manzo, go to the cheese and charcuterie bar and order yourself a generous caprese salad with bread for $11. (As a side note, I was checking out the new La Birreria menu and there were several items under $20.)

See, you can enjoy Eataly without spending a million dollars!

Eataly: 200 Fifth Avenue: (212) 229-2560.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Breakfast Pizza at Farinella

When I think of breakfast pizza, I usually picture being at the airport before 8 a.m. and dejectedly looking at the unappetizing slices under the heat lamp. But there is one place in the city that makes a truly delicious breakfast pizza: Farinella Italian Bakery Pizza & Panini. This pizzeria, which specializes in paper-thin crust pizza, makes a delectable morning slice which is dotted with salty little bites of pancetta. On top there are half-done sunny-side-up eggs and a drizzle of caramelly balsamic vinegar. In case you are not a fan of the unorthodox pizza, Farinella is happy to provide you with traditional marinara, margherita and pepperoni slices. It's all good.

(ETA: For another breakfast pizza option, try the organic scrambled egg and Fontina baked between two slices of thin, crispy focaccia at Gina La Fornarina, just a few blocks away on 2nd Ave. between 81st and 82nd.)

Farinella Italian Bakery Pizza & Panini: 1132 Lexington Ave. (212) 327-2702.
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Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Tony Awards Dinner

This Sunday, Fairway’s Café and Steakhouse (2127 Broadway, 212-595-1888) will be celebrating the 2011 Tony Awards with a three-course prix fixe menu and lots of champagne. If you are especially knowledgeable about the theater, you might win a $100 Fairway gift card, as there's going to be a contest to see who chooses the most Tony winners. As for the menu, it will dishes like jumbo lump crab cakes, filet mignon, and peach-blueberry pie. Act now and make a reservation.
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Saturday, June 04, 2011

David Burke Kitchen

The latest gem in David Burke's empire is four-month-old David Burke Kitchen. Located at the edge of Chinatown, it features its proprietor's emphasis on farm-to-table food. The restaurant's atmosphere is rather incongruous; a loud techno soundtrack provides a jarring backdrop to a rustic room decorated with photos of farmhands. As the volume escalates, it becomes difficult to concentrate on how delicious the food is, but this seems to be an increasingly common complaint.

The menu features comfort food with a twist. It's impossible not to order at least five appetizers, which also include the lighter "snacks" and "jars." For jars, our table ordered a basil-accented tomato, ricotta and eggplant jar which reminded me of a deconstructed eggplant parmigiana and the ocean cocktail, which was a spicy ceviche of shrimp, scallops and lobster served with refreshing endive leaves. We then progressed to snacks of salmon pastrami rolled around pretzel sticks and skewers of decadent date and peanut butter croquettes wrapped with slices of maple bacon.

The next dish was one of my favorites of the night. A bowl of mellow tomato gazpacho featured a dainty round napoleon based on a thin disk of watermelon, which was layered with sweet lobster meat and a layer of chive and salt-sprinkled lemon creme fraiche. For main courses, the tuna was a study in crimson: crispy sushi-grade slices were accompanied by a tart plum sauce and roasted beets. If I had it to do over again, I would not have ordered the short ribs and cavatelli with truffle cream and dried wild mushroom chips. Although this dish was delicious, it was probably the heaviest on the menu, and was reminiscent of beef stroganoff. Next time, I will take advantage of all the line-caught fish and local produce on the menu.

Desserts were predictably cute and comforting. Sugar-dusted fried donuts were served with fun tubes of caramel, chocolate and raspberry, as well as a selection of ice cream sandwiches. The peach cobbler could have been served warmer and was rather plain Jane, but this was forgotten when complimentary little packages of crunchy chocolates were brought by.

If you've ever seen the show "Portlandia," you may have been amused by an episode where two diners obsess over the origin of the chicken at a restaurant. They keep asking, "But is it local?" The waiter presents them with a certificate showing the chicken's given name, biography, and the farm where he lived. I will be moving to Portland at the end of the summer, so I guess it's time for me to start taking advantage of the farm-to-table movement!

David Burke Kitchen: James Hotel, 23 Grand St., (212) 201-9119.
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Friday, May 27, 2011

Sweets News: Early Summer Edition

Here are your Sweets News items for May 27, 2011:
  • The temperatures are climbing, and just in time for the summer weather, Payard Bakery (116 West Houston St.) is serving up delectable macaron ice cream bars. The bars come in flavors like chocolate brownie with Mexican vanilla bean ice cream, toasted coconut with coconut mango sorbet, and berry with strawberry cheesecake ice cream. I still miss Payard's original location on Lexington Avenue, but I'm happy to travel to the Plaza Hotel or West Houston Street to sample the sweets.
  • On May 29, a plethora of summer sweets like Coolhaus' ice cream sandwiches and Brewla Bars will be gracing the Fulton Stall Market at the South Street Seaport. The market, which will sell all sorts of edibles, is celebrating its third year on Fulton Street and will be open every Sunday from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Other vendors include Grandaisy Bakery and The Groovy Baker.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011


You could be forgiven for assuming that Alloro was just another of the many red-sauce Italian restaurants that the Upper East Side seems to be so fond of. The room, with its black candelabras and emerald-green nailhead chairs, evokes Old World charm. The food, however, is surprisingly - and excitingly - contemporary. Sweet flavors such as licorice, cocoa and coffee show up in unexpected places; a caramelized sherry enlivens coffee-dusted cauliflower foam to accompany seared salmon. This is the dish I ordered for my main course; the foam reminded me of a savory version of tiramisu's mascarpone filling. But let me start from the beginning.

The server mentioned a cacio e pepe gnocchi with mint dish and a zucchini flower appetizer. We decided on the latter, which was a dish of four delectable, greaseless battered blossoms stuffed full of anchovy-flecked mozzarella, served with a scoop of tomato sorbet and a slice of prosciutto-topped focaccia. I also couldn't resist the burrata three ways. The decadent cheese was layered with olive-oil soaked crostini, and served as a creamy-centered fritter, and as a round mold of cheese with salty salmon roe hiding inside.

In addition to the aforementioned salmon, we ordered what was perhaps the most conservative item on the menu: penne in tomato sauce with melted mozzarella and basil oil. Even this dish was special; it was punctuated with a crisp fried basil leaf. I should mention that for those who are following a gluten-free diet (this is not me), Alloro will happily oblige you with gluten-free pasta. (I wonder if they do a gluten-free version of their homemade sheep ricotta, pecorino and pear ravioli tossed in butter and poppy seeds.)

The dessert menu seemed to include a lot of fruit soups; we bypassed these, instead ordering strawberry and chocolate four ways and a white chocolate parfait. Although I didn't try the latter, as I'm not a big white chocolate fan, I will describe my strawberry chocolate dessert. The chocolate-drizzled plate included a dark chocolate truffle, a scoop of ice cream that tasted intensely of fresh strawberries, a strawberry parfait with cream, and a mint-garnished chocolate mousse. I still can't decide which was my favorite.

Alloro: 307 East 77th St., (212) 535-2866.
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Friday, May 13, 2011

Yakitori Tori Shin

As I wrote in a previous post, I really miss Midtown East's Yakitori Torys. Fortunately, there's a great yakitori place that's not too far away: Yakitori Tori Shin. This very authentic restaurant specializes in exotic chicken parts, but there is much more on the menu. The other night, my companion and I went there to check it out. At the risk of sounding corny, I could liken our meal to a succession of fireworks, with each bite more impressive than the last (and only one dud).

The dim, smoky room was already packed early in the evening; reservations are strongly recommended at this place. We sat at one end of the bar and watched as people who were much more familiar with the menu ordered dish after dish. If I had to do things over again, I think I would have followed their lead, ordering the special chicken meatball served with a dish of egg (which came first?) and a buttered shiitake stuffed with chicken breast meat.

We began with the tsukune, which is one of my favorite dishes at Yakitori Totto. Unfortunately, although this meatball was fragrant with scallions, it was filled with little nibs of unpalatable gristle. I was very disappointed. Everything else was delicious, though, even if it seemed as though we waited 20 minutes for the next bite to arrive.

A skewer of three chunks of sauce-lacquered chicken liver was very tasty. Grilled zucchini strips came with a wonderful spicy mayo. Creamy Japanese eggplant was embellished with feathery bonito flakes. Then came the skewers of sweet soy chicken and the chicken with piquant yuzu-kosho. Atsu-age, or fried tofu, was as delicious as the chicken, with its sharp soy-and-scallion seasoning. Gingko nuts were better than popcorn. We had fun watching the white-jacketed chefs inspect every skewer and sprinkle it with seasoning. The most indelible taste of the night was definitely our last bite: the pork belly. A cherry tomato was encased in slightly charred, tender pork belly meat daubed with spicy citrus paste and topped with shredded shiso leaves. The tomato burst with hot, sweet juice - culinary fireworks.

Yakitori Tori Shin: 1193 First Ave., (212) 988-8408.
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Monday, May 09, 2011

Mother's Day at Radiance Tea House & Books

I needed a place to celebrate Mother's Day, and I had a pretty tall order to fill. We were meeting our friends the Olives, who have two little girls, one of whom is an avid reader. Both girls love rice and miso soup. We also had someone in our party who avoids all wheat, spices and added oils, several people who were trying to save money, and my very active 16-month-old toddler (Baby Vates), who only seems to eat pancakes. What to do?

I found the perfect answer in Radiance Tea House & Books. A surprisingly serene oasis near Times Square, the restaurant features an inexpensive menu of dumplings, rice bowls, salads, and noodles, as well as an impressive tea list and a beautiful selection of ceramics for sale. There were books for the Olives, gluten-free dishes, bowls of miso soup, and plenty of room for my little one to toddle around (although I had to make sure that he didn't try to go down the staircase). Best of all, everything ranged around $10.

We ordered a plate of steamed bok choy, which was seasoned with a light soy sauce. Chewy, translucent vegetable dumplings arrived with ponzu; unfortunately, Baby Vates was not interested in the slightest. I instead occupied him with cranberry sesame crackers, the same ones that came with our tea. Our gluten-free parties were satisfied with shrimp/mango and teriyaki salmon rice bowls, and I devoured a salmon salad with a peanut dressing, which was loaded with avocado slices, mango, and sweet five-spiced roasted pecans.

Baby Vates started to roam the place. He was taking the gift boxes of tea apart, so I ordered him some almond tofu with strawberry sauce and fresh strawberries to try to distract him. Again, he was not interested, so I ended up eating the dessert; it was light and refreshing. There was also a tea-colored dragon fruit dessert for Mother's Day - this was an acquired taste.

I can't say that I didn't envy the solo diners relaxing over a pot of premium rose tea and books about Chinese brush painting, but I did have a swell time.

Radiance Tea House & Books: 158 West 55th St., (212) 217-0442.
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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Sweets News

I stopped by the Redeye Grill (890 7th Ave., 212-541-9000) tonight to preview this special dessert, which was conceived in honor of the Kentucky Derby. This very R-rated mint julep pie, which comes with a snifter of Jim Beam, will be offered from 3 p.m. onward at The Redeye, Trattoria Dell’Arte, Café Fiorello and Bond 45. The dessert will only be available on Saturday - stop by and try it, and if you absolutely must have it again, E-mail me for the recipe. Here is my own personal account of the dessert: it's a thick, creamy mint ice cream pie on a chocolate cookie crust, topped with a mountain of freshly whipped, slightly sweetened cream and served with a decadent caramel-bourbon sauce. The best way to eat this pie is to alternate bites with sips of bourbon; the bourbon adds an extra-buttery aftertaste.

In case you'd like a less caloric treat, the classic Mint Julep, which is the official beverage of the Kentucky Derby, will be served at all four restaurants. It's supposed to be sunny and in the 70's this Saturday - perfect for a dose of minty refreshment.
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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Little Brown: Have Some Chocolate With That!

There are two things that invariably improve my mood: coffee and chocolate. So it was with glee that I walked through the doors of Little Brown Chocolate Bakery & Coffee. I'd been waiting for it to open all winter. The cafe bills itself as a "chocolate & coffee love affair," and thankfully, you can have a menage a trois with both of them. Another slogan that might apply to this place is: "Have some chocolate with that." Little Brown offers a menu of breakfast and lunch items with chocolate mixed into just about everything. Steel cut oats? Have some Belgian chocolate drizzled on it. What about a low-fat yogurt parfait with fruit? There's Belgian chocolate cream on top. Even pancake bites (oh Lord, these pancake bites are addictive... I ordered a box for my picky 16-month-old and ended up eating half of them) can be served with bananas, maple syrup... and chocolate. About the only things that don't have chocolate are the buffalo mozzarella and tomato sandwich (yum) and the turkey bacon and frittata on a croissant. There's also a large selection of chocolate bakery items that includes a gluten-free chocolate cake. As for the coffee, the mochaccino is rich and thick without tasting like someone emptied out an entire container of Hershey's chocolate syrup into it (I'm looking at you, Starbucks; your location across the street from Little Brown is going to get a run for its money).

Little Brown Chocolate Bakery & Coffee: 1269 Lexington Ave.
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hummus Kitchen

When I think of the words "vegan, kosher and healthy," the word "delicious" doesn't immediately follow. However, the hummus at Hummus Kitchen could be described as unreasonably delicious. Adorned with plump whole chickpeas, it's sprinkled with lots of paprika. Its texture is made unctuous with olive oil, and its flavor is rich with tahini. This warm hummus puts those plastic supermarket containers of beige to shame! And it's not the only reason to eat at Hummus Kitchen.

In the non-vegan category, the green shakshuka, or baked eggs with spinach, peppers and tomatoes, warms you to the core. Grilled chicken is tender and is accompanied by a huge Mediterranean chopped salad. There is a condiment (I don't know the name of it) that is addictive in the hurts-so-good way that Indian mango pickles are; it tastes intensely of mint, parsley, vinegar and hot pepper. As it's Passover right now, you won't be served the traditional pita bread, but will instead enjoy a delectable thin herbed cornbread... and some matzo, of course.

Hummus Kitchen: Various locations. The one we eat at is located at 1613 Second Ave., (212) 988-0090.
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Sweets News

Here's some very sweet Easter news. On April 24 (Easter Sunday), Benoit (60 West 55th St.) will be holding a special dessert buffet, which includes lemon tarts, strawberry cake, raspberry shortbread stacks, chocolate mousse, and meringue "floating islands."
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Time Out for Hunger

Do you want to dine out and do good at the same time? Sunday is annual Time Out for Hunger day. 160 restaurants are participating in this exciting event that benefits the Food Bank for New York City. Even Cafe Grumpy is getting in on the action this year, so your great cup of joe goes towards a great cause.
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Monday, January 31, 2011

Valentine's Day 2011

Are you looking to make your Valentine's Day extra-delicious? Here are some ideas:
  • Indulge in heart-shaped lobster ravioli at bahr|ché (26 Astor Place, 212-260-2220). The $45 Valentine's Day meal also includes champagne and chocolate bonbons.
  • Put a Japanese twist on things with Kyotofu's (705 Ninth Ave., 212-974-6012) three-course dessert menu and a glass of champagne or sake. Warm raspberry mochi chocolate cake with fresh raspberry sauce will be sure to make you feel romantic. Or, if you want to celebrate a bit early, attend a couples-only kaiseki meal at Nadaman Hakubai (Feb. 11-12) (66 Park Ave., The Kitano, 212- 885-7072. Contact: Manami).
  • Have your strawberries and champagne in chocolate form: 2 Chicks With Chocolate is offering a wonderful assortment of handcrafted truffles in romantic flavors. You can buy them online or at The Chocolate Library (111 St Marks Place, 212-995-5001).
  • Before you dine out, get a head start on getting into the mood at The Michelangelo (152 West 51st St., 212-765-1900). The hotel will be holding a happy hour from 6-8 p.m., February 11-14, which will feature Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. Afterwards, have dinner at Insieme - what could be more appropriate than a restaurant with a name that means "together?"
  • Then, when you get home, surprise your sweetie with some red velvet mini-cakes from Baked (359 Van Brunt St., Brooklyn, 718-222-0345). Other offerings include sugar heart cookies and spicy ancho cinnamon brownies. (I'm a huge fan of Baked - the bakery is so creative with its flavors, and the goodies are never cloying.)
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Friday, January 07, 2011

Sweets News

Here is a bit of Sweets News that will be dear to every chocolate lover. Francois Payard's FC Chocolate Bar will soon be opening up at the Plaza Hotel (1 West 58th Street at Fifth Avenue). The location on the fourth floor of the Mauboussin jewelry store will be closing after tomorrow.

And for everyone who misses the Lexington Avenue bakery-restaurant, a new patisserie at 1330 Third Avenue (76th Street) will open up this spring. This is a sweet vindication, as an insane raise in rent was supposedly the reason for the closing of the 12-year-old original.

And in even more exciting news, on January 27 from 6-11 pm, you can taste Payard's brand-new line of chocolates which have been inspired by the flavors of Bordeaux wines. Each delicious chocolate will be paired with a different wine. To save on the price of admission to the event, go to and enter FRANCOISPAYARD for early access tickets (admission starts at 6 p.m.) or FRANCOISPAYARD MERCI for general admission tickets (7:30 p.m.)
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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Best Red Velvet Cupcake I've Ever Eaten

Yes, I know I just wrote about cupcakes. But that was before I walked by Sweet Revenge, which could be described as the Gwen Stefani of bakeries. This sassy little shop serves the most adventurous cupcakes around, and I've already become addicted to two flavors. The cinnamony "Crimson and Cream" is a red velvet concoction that sports a dollop of tart cream cheese icing shot through with raspberry, and the "Dirty" is the deepest, darkest Valrhona chocolate cupcake you're likely to find. I wish I had the metabolism for all 20 flavors.

Sweet Revenge: 62 Carmine St., (212) 242-2240.
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Thursday, December 30, 2010


I remember visiting Maialino this past spring and being enamored of the fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomato salad. The simple but beautiful dish was served at room temperature for full flavor; chilling destroys the taste of tomatoes. I had also enjoyed the authentic carbonara - so many restaurants adulterate it with cream instead of letting the egg yolk create the sauce, but not Maialino.

So I thought I'd repeat my visit. Tonight, a friend and I scored a last-minute early reservation. The bread basket of spicy breadsticks, crusty sesame loaf and focaccia was devoured in about five minutes. Stracciatella, a sort of Italian egg drop soup, was rich and delicious. The salad misticanza was less appealing - a pile of plainly dressed arugula seemed to go on for miles and needed a bit of blue cheese or something.

Homemade tonnarelli cacio e pepe was wonderful - lots of black pepper and pungent pecorino coated the wavy noodles. My friend enjoyed the bombolotti, big, al dente pasta tubes with guanciale and tomato. But what really impressed me was my dessert - and the superlative service. I couldn't decide between the olive oil cake with vanilla bean mascarpone and the gianduja bread pudding. Our server debated the merits of both with me, and then hooked me up with the best of both worlds: a dish of vanilla mascarpone and the round bread pudding. The warm, buttery dessert was sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts and contained a surprise of melted, oozing chocolate inside. I should also mention the great fresh-ground Four Barrel Coffee.

Next time we'll have to order the signature suckling pig!

Maialino: 2 Lexington Ave., (212) 777-2410.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Little Cupcake Bakeshop

Just in case you're not quite finished with your holiday overindulging, here's a tip for you: one of the most decadent experiences in NYC awaits you at 30 Prince Street. Open just ten weeks, Little Cupcake Bakeshop is already mobbed, and it's easy to see why. Not only does the place stock every flavor of cupcake imaginable (French toast!), but there are homemade whoopie pies and smores, black and white brownie trifles swirled with raspberry, all kinds of three-layer cakes (red velvet, blue velvet made with blueberries and buttermilk, almond with meringue icing and raspberry-vanilla buttercream filling, maple-iced pumpkin spice), several flavors of cheesecake like Nutella and Oreo, and a long list of enticing winter beverages - the gingerbread latte is apparently quite a draw. It took me three tries to finish the trifle. (And that's saying something.)

Little Cupcake Bakeshop: 30 Prince St., (212) 941-9100.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Where To (Deliciously) Celebrate a One-Year-Old's Birthday

This was my dilemma; Baby Vates was turning one. Since we share a birthday, I wanted to throw a very special kind of party. The adults would need something delicious to eat while the children ran around like maniacs. Baby gyms like Kidville and Gymboree rent space out for parties, but food is obviously not included. Alice's Tea Cup has a baby/kid menu but is much too civilized. One restaurant informed me that they could not fit our party at one table, but that we had better make sure that the children did not run around between multiple tables. Things weren't looking good.

After several days spent Googling, I finally found the perfect solution: the private party room at the 2nd Avenue location of Totonno's. A large upstairs space decorated with holiday lights was the venue for our joyous occasion, and the best part is that we didn't have to lift a finger. The experienced staff thought of everything. A guest who couldn't eat pepper was offered a Caesar salad while the rest of us devoured a zesty green one filled with olives and onions. An onslaught of brick-oven pizzas of every variety bombarded our 28-person table. Two plain pies for the kids were served first - they were topped with a generous layer of fresh handmade mozzarella. Someone got antsy - where is the rest of the pizza? Is any more coming? "We make everything to order," said the owner reassuringly. "Don't worry, we'll make sure they eat till they puke." My aunt pronounced the ensuing white pizza "the best I've ever had." Fresh basil and tomatoes that somehow maintained their sweetness in the middle of December adorned a cheese-heavy pie. Then there were mushroom pies, and sausage pies, and a fantastic pepperoni pizza that went in two seconds. The pepperoni had a spicy afterkick that rendered the pie completely irresistible. Then there was another pepperoni pizza. Appetites were starting to flag...

...when the lights went off, and two cakes - chocolate for me and lemon for my son - were served. I didn't even have to give any directions for the cake decorations. My cake sported pink icing, while my son's had an attractive blue design.

The adults left stuffed, the kids left tired out from fencing with balloons, and I left completely satisfied by a perfect party. (I also hauled out a week's worth of leftover pizza.)

Totonno's: 462 2nd Ave., (212) 213-8800. (NOTE: Sadly, both Manhattan locations are now closed. 4-2011)
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Dow Jones Pasta Index

You're probably wondering what the heck this is, as did I when I saw it on the menu at Sandro's, a Roman restaurant on the Upper East Side. It's the brainchild of chef Sandro Fioriti, and the only reason to hope that the economy gets worse. The lower the Dow, the lower the price of all pasta entrees (except for the ravioli) until 6:30 p.m. Last night, that meant a huge bowl of fat, chewy bucatini (spaghetti on steroids) in a tomato sauce filled with tender chunks of pancetta, onions and the odd basil leaf, and a healthy portion of whisper-soft fettucini in a rich bolognese sauce. Normally, the prices of these dishes hover around the $23 range. But with such a deal, we didn't feel guilty indulging in Caesar salad and a wonderful tiramisu - the latter was served as a parfait. The top half of the glass was filled with light mascarpone foam into which had been mixed some tiny chocolate chips, while the base consisted of dense, espresso liqueur-drenched ladyfingers. There was also an interesting beverage on the menu which I'd never seen before: an infusion of clove-studded lemon peels. Perfect to take the chill off of the night.

Sandro's: 306 East 81st St., (212) 288-7374.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chocolate Overload

I must have consumed a pound of chocolate bars at last week's Chocolate Show. But there are so many ways to enjoy chocolate other than in candy form, and here are a few of my new (and newish) favorites in the city.
  • 72% Bittersweet Chocolate Macarons. One-year-old Bisous Ciao offers a wonderful, multi-colored array of macarons in flavors like salted caramel (the most popular), jasmine/green tea, and espresso, but it's the dark chocolate macaron that I can't stop thinking about. (Bisous Ciao: 101 Stanton St., 212-260-3463.)
  • Chocolate-Raspberry Cupcakes. Burrata, which has been serving pizza margherita to Upper West Siders for just one week, also has a selection of dainty cupcakes in traditional flavors like chocolate-iced vanilla and chocolate-raspberry. There are no elaborate Cupcake Cafe-style floral decorations here -just the cupcake and nothing but the cupcake. (That's how I like it.) (Burrata: 341 Amsterdam Ave., 212-362-0264.)
  • Single-Origin Hot Chocolate. You can take a world tour from Madagascar to Ecuador with the six varieties of hot chocolate at L.A. Burdick. Of course, the mini-chain is mostly known for its pretty little truffles, some of which feature a savory touch of cumin or pepper. (L.A. Burdick: 5 East 20th St., 212-796-0143.)
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Friday, November 12, 2010

The 13th Annual Chocolate Show

The buzzword at the 13th Annual Chocolate Show seems to be "raw," and I'm not sure how I feel about that - to me, raw chocolates tend to taste rather like paint. (And if I want to eat something healthy, I'll visit a juice bar.) Still, there's a lot to enjoy at this year's somewhat scaled-back show. (Remember when the event was so huge that it took over the adjacent building?)

But first, if you happen to be a fan of the raw chocolate movement, you'll want to visit: Gnosis ("The World's Most Nutritious Chocolate"), which is offering samples of pomegranate-acai and fleur de sel raw, vegan, dairyless chocolate; Nibmor, which serves a maple and palm sugar dairyless cocoa mix in four flavors, the Ecuadorian raw organic 84% chocolate of Antidote, and the fair-trade selection of Divine Organics.

For me, I'll stick to the apricot ganache samples offered by Valrhona, the chocolate-covered peanut butter and jelly macarons ($3) of Francois Payard, three varieties of chocolate fondue at Les Fondues Au Chocolat (they provide complimentary grapes for dipping, whereas Lily O'Brien's pay-per-dip chocolate fountain gives you marshmallows, graham crackers and pretzels but no fruit), and the 80% cacao bonbon samples offered by Jacques Torres.

Those with a salt tooth will want to try Neuchatel's chocolate-covered potato chips, chocolate-covered bacon strips from Co Co. Sala, and chocolate popcorn by 2 Chicks with Chocolate at The Wine Collection. Peanut butter lovers have both the longtime vendor Peanut Butter & Company and Jer's Gourmet Chocolates.

And what's chocolate without its complementary flavor, vanilla? There's a Bourbon Vanilla from Madagascar stand which is selling vanilla beans and powders.

If you need someone to explain all the attributes of single-origin chocolates, it's best to go see author Alexandra Leaf over at Pralus Chocolatier. She will point out the notes of coffee and fudge in a Brazilian sample and you'll taste chocolate in an enlightened new way. Bonnat Chocolatier also features a good selection of South American single-origin bars.

Many of this year's exhibitors are based in France (Comptoir de Cacao has some wonderful praline samples) , but there's a small Italian corner featuring Guido Gobino and T'a Sentimento Cioccolato, which was headed up by a relative of Italy's most famous panettone manufacturer. At Gobino you can sample the giandujotti, which are $28 at Eataly for a lamentably small package.

Kids can get in on the action with Tina Cocolina books and a Kids Zone where they can use stencils to make sweet-tasting drawings,design chef's hats and dip spoons in chocolate. The three most ornate chocolatiers are Tampa-based William Dean, with tropical-colored confections, customizable chocolate decorations from Poesies Chocolatees (check out the snowflakes and Christmas ornaments. and vintage-influenced Rogue, which uses a special heat infusion process to imprint multi-colored designs onto their chocolates.

Cafe Bustelo
is serving free cappuccino, espresso and mocha on the south side of the room. No need to pay for your coffee at the cafe on the opposite side - you're already out $28 just for the tickets to the show! Still, it's hard to leave without purchasing something - I left with a jar of chocolate milk jam from Normandy, a tube of creme de noisette from Pralus (it makes Nutella irrelevant), and two saucer-sized macarons from Payard. It was nice to be presented with a free cup of Callebaut's callets upon exiting - they went pretty quickly.

The Chocolate Show: The Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th St.
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Sunday, November 07, 2010


I still feel the loss of both Toraya, the Japanese tea and sweets room, and Ito-En's flagship store on Madison Avenue that included the kaiseki-focused Kai. Fortunately, New Yorkers still have Ito-En's Donguri, a cozy little slip of a place on an out-of-the-way Upper East Side block. I was craving some miso soup and hot sake last night, so I met a couple friends over there.

As the night went on, the ambience went from reverent to lively; at the end of the meal we almost had to shout. (This could have been due to the consumption of sake.) However, we were able to focus on the food, and some of it was truly memorable.

Our onslaught of appetizers included zaru soba, spicy octopus, corn tempura, miso soup, and sesame tofu (they were out of soy tofu, and later, grilled mackerel). The perfectly al dente soba was of the Inaniwa variety and was served with the typical toasted seaweed squares, scallions, wasabi and soy dipping sauce. The scallion-heavy miso soup was fine, but I'd been craving Tokyo-style red miso soup instead of soup made with white miso. The standout for me was the sweet corn tempura appetizer... sweet-salty disks of lightly battered crunchy corn were as addictive as popcorn.

For mains, two of us went with the chef's special sashimi, a well-balanced plate of thick chunks of tuna, a marbled rectangle of rich tuna belly, thinly-sliced snapper and fluke, salmon, orange clam, and yellowtail. I was glad I hadn't ordered the grilled Scottish salmon with salmon roe, as I wouldn't have had room. My other friend ordered the squid-ink risotto, also topped with salmon roe; I felt that this was rather one-note, not something I could eat an entire meal of.

For dessert, there was hojicha and then green tea pudding with vanilla bean ice cream. I wish we could have stayed longer (I drained three cups of sake, which is more alcohol than I've consumed since delivering my son), but the next party was itching to sit down. I don't blame them, as I am already planning my next visit.

Donguri: 309 East 83rd St., (212) 737-5656.
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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Two Fabulous Fall 2010 Foodie Events

Here are two not-to-be-missed NYC food affairs:

1. My own personal favorite - the Chocolate Show! Buy tickets here.

2. NY Magazine's 12th Annual New York Taste on November 1st. This year, it will feature restaurants from Annisa to Zengo!
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Robataya's 1st Anniversary

Time flies. In December, my baby will turn one. And now Robataya, one of my favorite restaurants in the city, is celebrating its first anniversary from today through October 1. (I mean to post a review soon - the grilled sweet potatoes sprinkled with lemon juice are exquisite.) There will be a gift certificate lottery and a sake sale, and seasonal specialties like mackerel and matsutake mushrooms will be featured.

Robataya: 231 East 9th St., (212) 979-9674.
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Monday, September 06, 2010

Valley Shepherd Creamery

I can never remember the farmer's market schedules; I just know that there were certain days that I hit the cheese jackpot at the Rockefeller Center farmer's market this summer. Slowly, I put two and two together and started to realize that it was the presence of the Valley Shepherd Creamery that was so mightily satisfying. The comte with a slight crunch, the ever-changing variety of Brie (would it be the amazing sheep/cow's milk Brie that tasted so authentic, or the goat's milk?), the tins of fresh ricotta...

I did happen to notice that the last day of the Rockefeller Center Farmer's Market was September 3. But I have some exciting news for you cheese-lovers: the New Jersey-based Valley Shepherd Creamery is opening up a store on 79 Sullivan Street. Apparently the owners will be mining their cheese cave at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, making all-day preparations, and then opening this Wednesday. Now you have another reason to "say cheese."
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Thursday, September 02, 2010


This post is mostly for the out-of-towners, because judging from the crowds at Eataly, every New Yorker has already visited at least once since the opening day on August 31. (I've paid four visits and may pay another this evening.) Just in case you're not familiar, Eataly is a huge gourmet Italian market with eight separate restaurants inside focusing on different dishes like meat, pasta, pizza, vegetables, and fish. Its Italian mission make it more focused than the Plaza Food Hall, which aims at something similar.

I wanted to see if the New York store was exactly like the one in Torino. One main difference is that there's no Guido per Eataly, -the cutting-edge "fancy" restaurant on the bottom floor of the Torino store. Instead, there's Manzo, which focuses on Italian meats. Also, the produce and much of the dairy (except a wealth of cheeses like organic scamorza, saffron sheep's cheese, and buffalo blue) is necessarily local - I haven't tried the gelato yet, but I plan to, of course!

Today, there was a 30-minute wait for the pizza, so I sat on a barstool at Manzo. The six-course tasting menu wasn't available, but there was an appetizing display case of six different meats. I started with a seasonal salad that burst with freshness and taste. A champagne vinaigrette with a touch of mustard dressed a beautiful plate of red, yellow and green tomatoes, grilled baby zucchini, pattypan squash, and wax and green beans over a heap of arugula and toasted hazelnuts. Shavings of parmigiano Reggiano completed the dish. Then I dove into the robiola tortelloni. A pile of salty pancetta and sauteed chanterelles lay atop six hefty egg pasta pockets in a butter sauce. When I cut into a raviolo with my fork, the creamy, pungent robiola oozed out like egg yolk.

I have yet to visit the other restaurants, but I have made use of the coffee bar (it has the most extensive menu of coffee drinks in the city, including the famous Piedmontese bicerin) with its sumptuous apricot croissants. I've sampled Luca Montersini's tirati su and salted peanut/caramel tiramisu. I've also bought a fair amount of Venchi chocolates, rustic spelt bread, farro olive oil cookies, heirloom tomatoes, olive oil, and stracciatella from the mozzarella bar.

Two requests: can they please offer pizza to go, and can lunch be served past 2 pm? It seemed as though the whole place kind of closed down then - the mozzarella bar, with all of its delicious burrata and bocconcini, temporarily disappeared.

Eataly: 200 5th Ave.
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Sweets News

Here is a bit of EXTREMELY sweet news:

September 15 is "Free Dessert Day!" Just book a reservation on and receive a free dessert at over 190 restaurants. A casa fox is serving a mini chocolate empanada with dulce de leche, while Sarabeth's Central Park South is featuring their Sarabeth's Signature New York Style Cheesecake.
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010


You have a couple more hours to enjoy the celebratory $5.50 curry at Katsuhama. The restaurant has now been open for a whole year (not an easy feat in this economy). But if you're truly hungry, I recommend the daily lunch box special. What's so great about this is that you don't have to make a choice between cutlet or noodles - you get both. Yesterday I chose a small bowl of curry udon (other selections included kitsune udon and zaru soba), which was a pile of thick, chewy-soft wheat noodles in a medium-hot brown sauce with little bits of mushroom and a pile of scallions. That was only the appetizer. The box contained a delightful variety of all different tastes, temperatures and textures. There were: a deep-fried, marbled Berkshire pork cutlet inside a batter as crisp as cornflakes, a large scallion-studded chicken meatball seasoned with sweet soy, well-chilled sashimi slivers of brilliant orange wild salmon and red snapper as well as big chunks of tuna, cold, crunchy yellow radish and lettuce pickles, a small shredded sesame-burdock-carrot salad, and some sections of sweet kabocha squash. Run there, don't walk!

Katsuhama: 43-45 West 55th St., (212) 541-7145.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Taste of Brooklyn Food Fest

Here's exciting news for the littlest foodies of Brooklyn: on August 28 and 29, the Brooklyn Children's Museum is holding a Taste of Brooklyn Food Fest. Kids will be able to make artworks out of pasta elbows, learn to make the best salsa, and eat sandwiches from Don Paco Lopez Jr. (Brooklyn Children's Museum: 145 Brooklyn Ave., (718) 735-4402.)
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Il Gattopardo

I've walked by this little Neopolitan restaurant so many times; today I finally stopped in for lunch. The white-walled, narrow room was brightened by an open backyard garden; the menu proved to be as appealing as the surroundings.

Although I initially planned to start with the mozzarella in carozza with anchovy sauce, I instead ordered a frisee salad. But wait, it's much more exciting than it sounds - this bed of frizzy chartreuse greens, dressed with the lightest balsamic vinaigrette, lay between two toasts smeared with an abundance of sweet, mellow Gorgonzola. On top, there was a good portion of crispy, salty pancetta spiced with peppercorns. Just lovely.

I craved pasta, although the seafood risotto special called to me, so I went with the burrata and artichoke stuffed ravioli in fresh tomato marjoram sauce. Seven plump pasta pockets were sprinkled with plenty of parmigiano, and torn fresh leaves of marjoram adorned the bright red sauce. I'd just been admiring the heirloom tomatoes at the Rockefeller Center farmer's market - the freshness of the tomatoes and herbs made me feel like the dish was straight from the farm.

Since I'd overdosed on bread and olive oil, I decided to forgo the warm chocolate cake and the cassata, but my cappuccino came with plenty of crispy little nut-studded biscotti. I'll go back to Il Gattopardo. (Or I'll order in - they're now delivering to Midtown.)

Il Gattopardo: 33 West 54th St.,(212) 246-0412.
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Friday, August 13, 2010

The Most Caffeinated Beverage in NYC

I was so tired today; my baby had barely slept the night before. Walking down West 52nd Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, I happened to see the 3-week-old Joyride Coffee and Yogurt Truck. In addition to a Mariebelle mocha and your garden-variety macchiatos and americanos, the menu listed an intriguing beverage called the Kubota (named for the truck generator).

"Three double shots of vanilla-bean infused espresso?" I asked in disbelief. "So, this has six shots in it?"

"Yes indeed," said Lev, the friendly barista.

"Oh, I've got to try this." There were two versions of the drink, one with more milk, so I decided on that one. (All milk was Organic Valley, and the coffee was Stumptown's Hairbender blend.)

The large, extra-strong latte with its swirl of velvety milk on top was surprisingly smooth and palatable. (I immediately felt a lift, but I have to admit that I was afraid to finish the whole drink.)

The Joyride Truck frequents Midtown and the Upper West Side. Apparently, the father of one of the truck owners is a chocolate expert with a list of the 10 best chocolates in the world; I'm dying to talk to him.
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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Hide-Chan Ramen

I have to preface this by saying that I am deeply saddened by the closing of Yakitori Torys; I preferred it to Yakitori Totto (both restaurants, as well as the new Hide-Chan Ramen, are part of the same restaurant group). However, I suppose Midtown needed another good ramen joint, and at Hide-Chan Ramen, the noodles are much more delicate and toothsome, and the broths more subtle, than those at Sapporo. The menu will soon expand to include Japanese fried chicken and a dish made with spicy cod roe; for now, it is limited to a few appetizers like gyoza (beautifully thin-skinned dumplings), curry edamame (what a great idea!), a couple of the salads you'll still find at Yakitori Totto (roasted sardine with poached egg and greens, and greens with tofu), and of course, noodle soup.

There are two special noodle soups right now, one is "no-fat" (I wasn't interested), and cold ramen hazuki with a katsuo broth (attention pescatarians, this is the only broth that does not contain pork, and you will have to request the omission of pork slices). My companion and I ordered the hakata kuro, or black roasted garlic oil, ramen. Two deliciously fatty slices of pork added richness to the inky, fragrant broth, which also contained a good portion of thin, al dente noodles, a mass of scallions and a brown, chewy vegetable that resembled tree ears. Our friends found the katsuo ramen rather bland - fortunately, there was a pepper shaker at the table.

I will always miss the much larger variety of menu options at Yakitori Torys, but it's good to know that a ramen hankering can be satisfied on East 52nd Street, which seems to be turning into another Little Japan. As a side note, a new Japanese jazz club, Miles Cafe, opened up just down the street at 248 East 52nd. The cafe is featuring some of the finest names in jazz, and serves sushi from the restaurant below.

Hide-Chan Ramen: 248 East 52nd St., (212) 813-1800.
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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Lina Frey

Here's a French restaurant that won't leave you feeling like you overindulged (I love Le Gigot, but after a dinner of their duck confit, I was full for a week). Lina Frey is a hip little spot on Houston Street that specializes in small plates under $10. My pal craved the frisee salad with lardons and blue cheese, but they were out of it, so she ordered the bruschetta, which was sprinkled with diced red and green peppers, olives and fennel seeds, as well as a mixed green salad, crunchy haricots verts, and a round of salmon tartare. I went with a hazelnut-crusted salmon fillet (a bargain at $8), a side of your standard spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic, and an order of "Provencal" fries. "What makes them Provencal?" I asked. The server responded that there was truffle oil in them. The truffle oil was not in evidence, and a side of spicy aioli was $1 extra, but there was a nice sprinkling of herbs on the hand-cut fries. I finished, not with the pot de creme, but with a blueberry coulis crepe ("Yes, we use fresh blueberries," assured the server). Our meal, plus two glasses of Montepulciano, cost us around $60 (happy hour alcohol prices are in force until 8 p.m.). Next time, strawberry coulis!

Lina Frey: 201 East Houston St., (212) 995-5546.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sweets News

Here's something sweet that will appeal to both kids and adults: undyed, all-natural cotton candy spun from maple sugar. Buy it at the Wood Homestead Maple Syrup stand at the Rockefeller Center Greenmarket for five more weeks, or just call 1-866-337-9787.
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Landing at Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach's newest restaurant offers a delightful waterside dining experience at reasonable prices (well, reasonable for Ocean Beach). A friend and I chose it for a light lunch on a perfectly sunny beach afternoon. (We'd already overindulged on seafood bisque and fried flounder wraps at Nicky's Clam Bar before taking the ferry, so the giant pancakes at Rachel's weren't an option. Plus, we wanted to enjoy a view of the bay.)

A classic Caesar with grilled salmon sounded good, but I ended up with a sweet-savory green salad with lots of crumbled Maytag blue cheese, chunks of Granny Smith apple, and crispy candied walnuts in a sweet poppy seed dressing. My friend opted for the mussels provencal; two thick slices of well-buttered, grilled garlic bread lay aside a healthy portion of mussels in a light garlic-wine sauce with diced tomatoes.

If my appetite had allowed, I would've tried the fried scallop sandwich or the fish and chips (only $12). Next time I visit Ocean Beach, I will try to resist the allure of Nicky's so that I can wait to eat at The Landing!

The Landing at Ocean Beach: 620 Bay Walk, Ocean Beach, Fire Island (631) 583-5800.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sweets News

I hear we're supposed to have another heat wave. At least through August 1, Rosa Mexicano has us covered; the restaurant is serving a selection of exotic Mexican ice cream and sorbet. Sea salt caramel, blueberry creme fraiche, sweet corn with caramel popcorn, and burnt milk with cinnamon-chocolate cookies are some of the ice cream flavors, while the sorbets include hibiscus-pomegranate and tomatillo-lime. There's also a variety of ice cream desserts. (Note: if you attend a free cooking demo on Saturday, July 17, you'll have a chance to win an ice cream maker. To register, call (212) 397-0666 x27 or E-mail

Rosa Mexicano: Various locations.
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Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Best Chocolate Cake in the World

Of course I had to try this place as soon as I heard about it. It opened up next to Ceci-Cela, another favorite bakery, a couple weeks ago. Apparently it's a Portugal-based chain that expanded to various Brazilian cities. (When I think of Brazil, I usually picture bathing beauties or soccer players, not people who indulge in semi-sweet and bittersweet flourless cakes coated with rich, dark ganache.)

The two versions of the cake (the recipe is the same, except for the Valrhona cocoa content) are served with glasses of milk, or whipped cream, or your choice of Il Laboratorio del Gelato (fresh mint or raspberry are nice). There's a thick layer of chocolate mousse, while a soft meringue base adds a spongy mouthfeel.

So, is this cake the best chocolate cake in the world? I'm not sure; I'm rather partial to the so-chocolatey-it's-almost-black Brooklyn Blackout at Two Little Red Hens, or the Nocturne at Michel Cluizel (I guess that's cheating, as it has raspberry jam in it, and what's even better than chocolate? Chocolate with raspberry jam). But it's definitely a contender if you are open to a nontraditional cake with meringue instead of actual "cake"; both versions are creamy, intensely chocolatey, and not overly sweet.

The Best Chocolate Cake in the World: 55A Spring St. (212) 343-2253.
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Friday, July 02, 2010

Francois Chocolate Bar

I miss the old, wood-panelled Payard on Lexington Avenue; the new one, way up on the fourth floor of a Parisian jewelry store, is much smaller and quieter, with a fraction of the old menu. However, another location will open on Houston Street in a couple months, and I'm sure it will be packed with both goodies and people (like me).

One treat I never glimpsed at the old Payard is the verrine, which I highly recommend. This refreshing summer parfait comes in several variations - the strawberry tiramisu contains vanilla pound cake, strawberries that have been roasted for four hours, mascarpone and candied fennel, while a Japanese-influenced verrine features a layer of tart yuzu cream. This being Payard, of course there's also an all-chocolate verrine.

Other menu items feature signature pastries, hot and cold chocolate drinks, macarons, pound cake and cookies, and a selection of chocolate bouchons. You can still order those wonderful chewy flourless chocolate walnut cookies; now there's a flourless milk chocolate cake with candied orange and hazelnuts.

Even though it was so warm out, I ordered a hot dark chocolate with orange blossom and raspberry. The fruit rescued it from being too rich, and I easily drained the whole cup.

Francois Chocolate Bar @ Mauboussin: 714 Madison Ave., (212) 759-1600.
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Monday, June 28, 2010

I Sodi

Smack in the middle of always-bustling Christopher Street is a calm, elegant Tuscan restaurant with its own brand of olive oil. I had always wanted to pay a visit, and my acquisition of a $20 OpenTable gift certificate was the occasion to finally dine there. Recently, Alto disappointed me with bland flavors at high prices, but I Sodi was the total opposite, and I'm now completely enamored with it.

I went with a friend who loves to share (isn't that the best kind of friend?). We began with a peppery mache salad. The leaves were interspersed with cubes of toothsome pecorino and dressed with a mild balsamic vinaigrette that almost tasted of caramel. (The arugula with castelmagno salad also looked enticing.) Then we devoured a wonderful whole-wheat tagliatelle special. The nubby, deliciously uneven texture of the noodles made every bite an interesting one; each mouthful had a different ratio of anchovy, garlic and melted butter.

We had intended on ordering osso buco or grilled Cornish hen for our second course, but the seafood mixed grill special sounded too appealing. "Someone likes pepper," my friend exclaimed as we dug into a bountiful plate of generously-portioned wild salmon with crispy skin, long thin ovals of grilled zucchini, slightly charred tomatoes, a langoustine and a little jumble of octopus legs. Lemon, olive oil, parsley and pepper were simple, appropriate seasonings that let the sweet seafood shine through.

But what I'll really remember is the warm flaky tart with intense fig jam. It was served with creamy fior di latte gelato, homemade whipped cream, a splash of vanilla coulis and a mint leaf. Our enjoyment must have been evident, because the server also brought by a complimentary plate of watermelon slices and cherries to celebrate the season. I Sodi is a class act from start to finish.

I Sodi: 105 Christopher St., (212) 414-5774.
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

B Koffie and Organicoa

It's a furnace out there lately, so I'm always looking for refreshment. B Koffie (370 West 51st St., 646-330-5515), the "first African coffee shop," offers cold-brewed coffee, pomegranate redbush tea, and acai berry green tea. (They also serve a nice cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.) Down by the Christopher Street Pier (Pier 45), I like to watch the live tango dancers while sipping fair-trade "frocoa" (frozen cocoa), ginger lemonade, and mint tea from Organicoa. This little stand was a big hit during its test run at the Highline, so its owners now have a five-year-contract at the pier. (Don't forget to take away one of the big organic chocolate-chip cookies.)
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cafe Royal and Brooklyn Standard Deli

Greenpoint's Cafe Grumpy has a competitor in this four-month-old (two months, if you count the addition of edibles), maroon-walled Nassau Street cafe, which features Stumptown Coffee. I stopped in today to share a cheese plate with a friend. I was immediately transfixed by the cherry pepper jam that Tanto, one of the chefs, was making, and he let me try a sample, saying, "It's great with cheese." Tanto expounded on the cafe's philosophy of Southern hospitality while I checked out the menu.

The dainty portions served at Cafe Royal would never pass muster in the South, but there's quite a lot to enjoy here; you may just have to order more than you intended. The (slivers of!) Manchego, Fourme D'Ambert and Humboldt Fog in the cheese plate are complimented by lavender honey and fresh berries; herbed quiche from Ceci Cela doesn't stint on the goat cheese, and there's a terrific fingerling potato salad underneath the olive-oil-drizzled frisee and pickled red onions on smoked rainbow trout plate. (Small bites of chilled trout surrounded the salad; I'd been expecting a Roebling Tea Room-style whole grilled trout.) You can order your grilled cheddar sandwich with bacon, avocado or tomato. And I've been told that the biscuits with sausage gravy are something to write home about.

Down the street is the delightful organic/locavore market Brooklyn Standard Deli. Today, there were a few soups, two of which were garlic and broccolini, raw vegan chocolate ice cream, fresh chocolate-chip bread with either banana or pumpkin, and a selection of both vegan and meat sandwiches. I noticed a bag of fingerling potatoes - ah, that potato salad!

Cafe Royal and Brooklyn Standard Deli: 195 and 188 Nassau St., respectively, Brooklyn. (718) 472-2150.
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Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Plaza Food Hall

Walking into Todd English's brand-new Plaza Food Hall, I heard someone ask, "What are you in the mood for?" It wasn't a question with an easy answer. There was a sushi bar, a tapas bar, a brick oven for pizza, a cheese/charcuterie/bread/coffee/chocolate counter, a fresh seafood display a la Estiatorio Milos, an Asian dumpling bar, and a grill. Almost every seat was taken except a couple at the tapas bar, so that's where I plunked myself down. However, I was to find that every menu is available wherever one sits. (I wonder if this may change in the future, as there are plates of pesto maki flying all the way from the sushi bar to the folks ordering prime rib sliders at the other end of the room.)

I knew I wanted one of the blueberry-filled lemon meringue cupcakes I'd seen at the front, but I decided to pace myself, ordering... artichoke cacio e pepe, brandade fritters, charred octopus salad, grilled asparagus with preserved lemon zest, and lamb skewers from the tapas bar, a sweet Italian sausage pizza from the brick oven, and some crab salad rolls from the grill. (This was my only meal of the day, I swear.) For me, the standouts were: crab rolls... tons of sweet crabmeat tossed in mustardy aioli, spilling out of three toasted onion brioches; the sausage and aged provolone pizza with a marvelous, chewy crust that was not overcharred in the slightest; and the brandade fritters, which were lightly battered codfish cakes in a pool of romesco sauce and olive oil. (The one false note was the artichoke cacio e pepe, which was acrid and lacked pecorino - I think this simple dish of pasta, tossed only with black pepper and cheese, is perfect as is.) The cupcakes (chocolate grasshopper, strawberry cheesecake, and lemon meringue) were made by English's daughter; the homemade strawberry jam inside the strawberry cheesecake was a lovely surprise.

Now I'd like to go back to try the Kobe pastrami, the whole branzino, and the prime rib sliders!

(ETA: I just went back for lunch today, and I want to mention how accommodating the hosts were to my baby-in-stroller. When I'd requested outdoor seating at Sarabeth's, I was refused and told that I'd be creating a fire hazard. But when I got off the escalator and strolled into the Food Hall, a smiling lady led me to the seafood counter and let me park my City Mini right in the corner.)

The Plaza Food Hall: 1 West 59th St., Plaza Hotel, Concourse.
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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar

Looking around us, my friend and I wondered why the clientele at Ayza was almost exclusively female. And why was everyone ordering chocolate-raspberry martinis? Finally the waitress provided an explanation; apparently, Tuesdays are "Girls' Nights Out," and if you make a reservation on OpenTable, you can celebrate your two X chromosomes with a chocolate-covered strawberry and a chocolate-raspberry martini. Who needs to see the second Sex & the City movie when one can live it in realtime? (Who, indeed. But that's a post for a movie blog!)

The menu at Ayza, which features much more than wine and Jacques Torres truffles, is tapas-focused - perfect for taking a bite in between people-watching. Small appetizers - like crispy baby shrimp wontons in a sweet chili sauce over a seaweed salad, a nicely presented Caprese salad with melt-in-your-mouth buffalo mozzarella, and a velvety asparagus soup spiced up with black peppercorns - share space with a selection of tartines, panini and a few main courses like radiatore pasta and chicken paillard. Not to mention a fine little cheese list, and of course, desserts like warm molten chocolate cake. All prices are quite reasonable except for the martinis, which are $15-$16 (other cocktails are $10-$16); another reason to go on a Tuesday to enjoy them for free.

I should mention that upon being seated, we were given complimentary cups of tropical sangria. Now, if only I'd mentioned "Girls' Night Out" on my OpenTable reservation...

Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar: 11 West 31st St., (212) 714-2992.
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chocolate Michel Cluizel

In my opinion, Chocolat Michel Cluizel makes the best milk chocolate bar on earth, so you can imagine how devastated I was when the company's little outpost in the ABC Carpet & Home store closed. But ABC didn't seem like the right venue; the newish shop on Fifth Avenue is a more intimate, charming showcase for the truffles, bars, and other goodies. The other day, I stocked up on salted butter caramels, pralines, dark chocolate hazelnut bark, a fabulous slice of chocolate-raspberry layer cake, and of course, those amazing Mangaro milk chocolate bars. You won't find a milk chocolate bar with a higher cocoa content; at 50%, the bar straddles the divide between the milk and the dark. It has a much deeper, more intense flavor than any other milk chocolate bar I've ever eaten, and it doesn't suffer from the excess of sugar which unfortunately mars many bars. (Mars Bars?)

Chocolat Michel Cluizel: 584 5th Ave, (646) 415-9126.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Takashi NYC

It seems that almost every kind of Japanese restaurant is represented in NYC (a restaurant which features the cuisine of Japanese Buddhist vegetarian monks recently opened, and of course there's the notorious pig-foot place Hakata Tonton), so it was only a matter of time until Osaka-style BBQ came to town. One-month-old Takashi is fast becoming the place to grill your own meat (and offal), I predict that in a couple weeks, it will be almost impossible to score a table there.

Yakiniku horomon lets no part of the cow go wasted - you can order first stomach, fourth stomach, tongue, liver, cheek and heart. (The chalkboard explains the health properties of everything!) There's also a raw meat menu which features chuck flap ground with fermented soybeans or sea urchin. I have to admit that our party left the more adventurous stones unturned here, sticking to grilled, lusciously marbled short ribs, liver and ribeye in two preparations: salt-garlic-sesame oil with lemon slices, and a soy marinade with scallions. Plates of rectangles of meat arrived at our table and we set to inexpertly grilling them - the server gave us detailed instructions for rare, medium-rare, etc., but they fell by the wayside. No matter - all was delicious anyway. Rice and veggies were extra - a bowl of lightly pickled vegetables, which included fennel and okra, was much more exciting than the plate of mostly cabbage presented for grilling. I suppose a vegetarian could make a meal of kimchi, peppery edamame and grilled vegetables, but he wouldn't be able to avoid seeing, ahem, red.

Housemade Madagascar vanilla ice cream comes with an assortment of toppings like roasted green tea syrup -I found the ground sesame and soybean to be a pleasantly nutty accompaniment.

Takashi NYC: 456 Hudson St., (212) 414-2929.
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Monday, May 10, 2010

People's Pops

A most refreshing treat came to Chelsea Market three weeks ago: People's Pops. These exotic shaved ices and popsicles are made with locally sourced produce and come in flavors like plum-tarragon, spiced rhubarb and organic lemon. They have already proved so popular that the stand goes through a 75-lb. block of ice every day!

People's Pops: Chelsea Market: 75 Ninth Ave.,
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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Sweets News

This just in: on Friday, Grom Gelato will open its third NYC store at Columbus Circle. Baby Vates and I just might head over there for some free samples!
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Baby Vates at La Maison du Chocolat

La Maison du Chocolat doesn't hold any events for infants, but the boutique does throw sophisticated chocolate parties for children aged 6-12. Kids get to make, decorate and eat a fine chocolate dessert.

Baby Vates and I will have to wait about six years to take advantage of this, but we did stop into the 30 Rockefeller Center location today for a semi-sweet hot chocolate and a light "Pleyel" chocolate cake made with almond flour, which came with a little dish of whipped cream adorned with dark chocolate pearls. (The only other available cake was the Delice, a square of layered chocolate mousse.) (We found it easier to enter through the East 49th Street entrance rather than from inside Rockefeller Center, where there is a small flight of stairs leading down into the cafe.)

(La Maison Du Chocolat: Various locations.)
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Friday, February 12, 2010

Free Hot Chocolate!

Because of my new arrival, I don't have much time to post these days - but I just had to pass along this information: on Valentine's Day, the Chocolate Bar (19 Eighth Ave.) is holding a Hot Chocolate Happy Hour. Buy one hot chocolate, get one free!
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Friday, December 04, 2009

Sweets News

I'm coming out of prenatal hibernation to give word of this very exciting event: National Brownie Day! On December 8, the venerable treat will be celebrated (apparently the first brownie recipe was found in a Sears, Roebuck Catalogue from the 1800's - factoid courtesy of Greyston Bakery. If you'd like a discount on Greyston's chocolate fudge brownies, espresso bean brownies, or walnut/brown sugar blondies, E-mail me for a discount code. Meanwhile, I'm about to conduct a home bake-off of the Barefoot Contessa's Outrageous Brownies and Jacques Torres' Pure Bliss Brownies.)
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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Tea Box Café at Takashimaya - and a Note to Readers

I've always wished that a giant, multi-level Japanese department store would open in NYC - the kind that has a rooftop garden, an art gallery, a floor devoted to kimonos, and, of course, a floor devoted to restaurants. As it does not seem that this will ever be in the cards, I still enjoy a trip to the exquisite (and expensive) Takashimaya - especially the Tea Box Café.

The East-West Afternoon Tea is a splendid affair, with a bento box filled with goodies like green tea creme brulee, chocolates, butter cookies, fruit salad, and a small selection of savories - vegetable crisps, a curried rice paper roll, a tiny chicken sandwich, and smoked salmon pressed into rice (for vegetarians, cucumber/pickled plum is an option). The box comes with your choice of various green, black, flavored black or herbal teas (I always get the genmaicha).

Note to readers: My most recent visit to the Tea Box Café was a party to celebrate the impending arrival of a new generation of foodie for my companion and me. Because of this, I will be taking a break from this beloved blog. However, since it's been a labor of love since 2002 (yes - I was one of the first NYC food bloggers!), I hope to eventually contribute to it again. In the meantime, I will keep the blog online, but probably won't be updating it. Have a great winter.

Takashimaya: 693 Fifth Ave., (212) 350-0180.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Sweets News

  • If you are indisposed to leaving the apartment but must have a Jacques Torres chocolate bar within the hour, this service promises to deliver one to you!
  • In other chocolate-related news, the 92Y is holding a "For the Love of Chocolate" book signing, interview and chocolate tasting with Max Brenner on November 15. For more information, please visit the 92Y Website.
  • Don't forget about the most exciting chocolate event of the year - the annual Chocolate Show! It's back at the Metropolitan Pavilion this year, from October 30-November 1.
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Monday, October 12, 2009


With its clubby, congenial atmosphere, Destino seems like the local restaurant that's been around for years. It's only been open for three, but the meatballs have already become legendary, and live jazz at the bar helps to nurture a loyal clientele. (What a rarity live music has become in this city!)

We were lucky to get in without a reservation; a large birthday party was dispersing. The menu contained all the traditional Italian favorites: veal marsala, chicken cacciatore, scampi, pasta with clams in red or white sauce. One of us pleaded for fried zucchini, although it wasn't on the menu, and a large, lightly-fried portion soon appeared. Our appetizers also included a garlicky Caesar salad, a salad of beefsteak mozzarellas and fresh mozzarella, and those delicious "Mario's Meatballs"... plump specimens smothered in a tasty tomato sauce. (I looked around, and almost everyone had some on their table.)

I had been leaning towards pasta (you can order spaghetti, angel hair, linguine, orecchiette, rigatoni, fusilli, penne, fedelini or shells!), but instead went with Dover sole meuniere, which arrived with lots of crisp slivers of toasted almonds. Also on the agenda were a gargantuan veal chop and branzino with asparagus.

We finished with 20-layer cream crepe cake and mixed berries with fresh vanilla whipped cream. Destino really knows how to please a customer! Make a reservation; you might not get lucky like we did.

Destino: 891 1st Ave., (212) 751-0700.
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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Dapper young gents in ties and newsboy hats fix sharp espressos and velvety cappuccinos at this heralded new coffee place. The adjoining hotel lobby, where most of the customers sit, is a very picturesque room in which to take coffee - as we sunk into comfy chairs, my friend and I admired the detailed mosaic floors and antique library desks. We also admired our Mast Brothers chocolate bars and the assorted pastries - big salty pretzels with a pocket of butter, apricot danishes, brownies, and the wonderful spicy stout cakes (I wish I'd bought two of them).

Stumptown NYC: Ace Hotel, 18 West 29th St.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sweets News

Today's edition of Sweets News focuses on online delights.
  • If you're like me, the closing of Payard had you crying for a week. Fortunately, the bakery/chocolatier's E-boutique has been launched, and the site will eventually have news of... a new brick-and-mortar location!
  • Earthy-crunchy chocolatier Pure Dark has just relaunched an online store as well. Here's a nifty tip - if you want to receive 15% off your order, just use this promotional code: PD012009. This offer apparently expires on October 7; but it's never too early to order some treats for a healthy Halloween!
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vegetarian Cafés on the Upper West Side

On a mini-health kick, I decided to check out a couple of the newish UWS veggie cafés. My first stop was Peacefood Cafe (460 Amsterdam Ave., 212-362-2266), a vegan restaurant with an enticing bakery display (have you ever seen vegan tiramisu?). There were various salads and sandwiches; I ordered a tempeh avocado sandwich, chick pea fries, and a ginger lemonade. Unfortunately, I ended up being a bit disappointed in the meal; the scant portion of marinated tempeh was overpowered by thick slices of rye and salty pickles, and the chickpea fries were not the Mediterranean-style panelle I'd anticipated. Instead of being light and uncomplicated like at the nearby (non-veg) Nice Matin, they were overspiced and studded with various seeds. (The ginger lemonade was very refreshing.) Also, I felt that the meal was overpriced at $20. Still, judging from how crowded Peacefood was, it is obviously filling a vegan void in the neighborhood.

I had better luck over at Soomsoom Vegetarian Bar (166 West 72nd St., 212-712-2525), which offers both vegan and vegetarian options. A friendly woman offered me a sample of greaseless, flavorful falafel, and I was hooked. The lunch special is only $9.75, and includes a falafel sandwich, beer-battered fries or a baked sweet potato, free rein at the chopped salad bar, and a beverage.

(In other vegetarian news, vegan blogger Lauren Ulm has just released Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday.)
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