Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From Indian to Italian

As Tabla closes its doors after 12 years, I found myself in need of a job. I wanted to stay within the restaurant group, Union Square Hospitality Group, not only because they all seem to be successful restaurants; but because its a great culture to be apart of.
In January, I will be joining Danny Meyer's latest venture, Maialino. Maialino is a new Roman-style Trattoria in the Gramercy Park Hotel featuring the food of executive chef Nick Anderer. The menu draws its inspiration from classic Italian dishes found throughout Rome. Maialino, like most other USHG restaurant, features fresh and seasonal ingredients found in the Greenmarket or local farms.

Only being to Maialino for a class trip and interview, I wanted to grab some dinner to see what I was getting myself into. I was immediately impressed as the restaurant was packed. The bar was bustling with guests waiting two deep. My roommate Greg and I were lucky to find two spots open at the communal table in the bar area. I like the idea of a communal table, because it allows you to interact with other people--sharing thoughts on the food and giving your own suggestions. I found myself giving the lady across from me a brief history on the restaurant as she asked, "what does Maialino stand for"? Maialino translate into English as "little pig"--a nickname given to Danny Meyer.
The restaurant was designed by David Rockwell, world-famous architect and designer. Rockwell has designed many restaurants and hotels such as the W (Union Square), Bar Americain, Nobu, and many more. Although reviews of the restaurant have called the space Pottery Barn, I think its a warm, comfortable atmosphere much like some of the trattorias I've visited in Rome. Our server was very knowledgeable on the menu and the wines. Her timeliness seemed a little off, but I'm sure she was busy helping other tables. Unfamiliar with the menu, our server helped us pick out an awesome dinner.

An assortment of bread and olive oil was a good introduction to the Roman-styled menu. Water was kept at the table in old wine bottles, which I love. We started off with a complimentary dish of shrimp sent out by the kitchen. The shrimp were magnificently prepared as it got me real excited for the rest of my meal.

We then split the Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe which was amazing. Not only was it a perfect portion size, but it had such awesome flavor. This dish is a classic Roman dish of pasta with pecorino and black pepper--simple but delicious. Tonnarelli is made in a similar way to spaghetti except that the machine that extrudes the pasta produces a square cross-section rather than a circular cross-section. The kitchen sent out another complimentary pasta dish, but I had missed the name of it. This dish was also very good, but hit me as more of a traditional pasta dish covered in tomato sauce. Both pastas were good, but the edge goes to the Tonnarelli as my roommate said, "I can eat that everyday".

Our main course was Maialino's centerpiece item--the suckling pig for two, served with with roasted potatoes. We ordered a side of spinach to get some vegetables in our diet, but we definitely didn't need it. The spinach was great, but I was already feeling full after my pasta course.The New York Times describes the dish as "pork at its best" after describing its simple preparation of rosemary, cracked fennel, salt, and pepper. The crispy skin and the tender, flavorful meat made this dish something to remember.

Too full for dessert, we headed out in a self-induced food coma. Overall, Maialino was a home run. I look forward to working there. I would definitely recommend this restaurant if looking for a nice glass of wine or a great Italian meal. Since they are in a hotel, they are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Monday, December 13, 2010


"Santacon is a non-denominational, non-commercial, non-political and non-sensical Santa Claus convention that occurs once a year for absolutely no reason."

Santa's Rules:
  • Don’t Fuck With Kids
  • Don’t Fuck With Cops
  • Don’t Fuck With Security
  • Don’t Fuck With SANTA!

This is my second Santacon and I have to say that it gets bigger and better every year. Basically, you dress up like Santa and get drunk. Many people bring canned food to prove that Santacon is more than just getting drunk, but about the Christmas spirit of giving. Many people dress up as Santa, while others opt for different Christmasy costumes such as elves, reindeer, snowmen, etc. Its a day where "Ho Ho Ho" chants are OK and everyone gets drunk whether they're naughty or nice.

There are designated stop set up by the people who created Santacon, but you're more likely to meet up with some friends and make your own bar-crawl. I went to Stitch, Village Pour House, and Galway Hooker (West village)
Honestly, its one of the best days of the year. Just don't blame me when your Facebook status says "What happened yesterday???"

For more info...http://nycsantacon.com/

Village grub

Giving myself a little too much time before meeting a friend for a movie, I decided to grab some food. I found myself wandering around the East Village on 3rd ave, looking for a quick bite. I was immediately attracted to 99 Miles to Philly, but was disappointed when I saw a sign that said "cash only". I never have cash on me, so these signs really piss me off. I know credit card fees are high, but you are missing out on business...my business!

So I continue my journey for a quick bite as the movie time is getting near. A few stores down, I find a pizza place called New Amici. Two slices later, I walk out a happy man. The pizza isn't anything special, but its a solid slice. The people are friendly and they have a good beverage selection of coke products, Boylans, and Snapple. My only complaint is that I just wish they served beer, because I was about to see Love and Other Drugs and my orange soda did not prepare me for that.

Union Square Area

In an expensive city, us New Yorkers are always looking for a good deal. Brother Jimmy's has Monday nights covered with their $19.99 all you could eat/drink special. I believe the Monday night special is honored at all their locations and offers guests 2 hours (from seated) of wings, rib tips, and bud/bud light drafts.

Its a perfect way to spend a Monday evening, especially during football season. Just remember to make reservations if its a Giants or Jets game as it gets packed. The wings are delicious and the beer makes the deal even more sweet. The rib tips weren't as good as I hoped, but they are worth a try. Just make sure to keep on your server because sometimes they get lost. Regardless of whether they bring out 4 wings at a time, you will get your moneys worth. Just remember to keep the pitcher empty, so they keep refilling it.

Beware of shots/jager bombs/etc when your deal is done, because that's when the bill will sky rocket. Definitely check it out if you love wings and beer.


L'express (249 Park Ave South)
A nice spot for a glass of wine and a good conversation. The bartender was friendly and seemed quite knowledgeable. Open 24 hours--always a plus!

Monday, December 6, 2010

California (Day #3)

Sunday started with a trip to Caffe Delucchi for some mimosas. We were going to grab some food here, but we thought we'd walk around and work up an appetite. After venturing around the city for awhile we ended up in the Mission District of San Fran at a spot called Baretta.

Baretta serves contemporary Italian comfort food in a very cool and casual environment. Everything on the menu is fresh, seasonal, and sourced from local farmers while organic ingredients are used whenever possible. I originally heard of Baretta from an Eater article I read before my trip. I did alittle research on San Fran's restaurant scene and wanted to hit good spots--from popular destinations to hidden gems. Baretta was on Eater's list of MUST VISIT San Francisco eateries, so we gave it a shot.

Baretta is known for their pizza and cocktails, so thats exactly what we got. The cocktail program impressed me as the drinks seemed simple, yet very complex. Simple by the means of using few ingredients and complex in combining the ingredients. Each cocktail has such as delicate balance, so pouring these drinks could be more complex that one would think. Some of Baretta's great cocktails include:

dolores park swizzle
rum, lime, maraschino, absinthe, bitters

the new rider
rye, lemon, ginger, maraschino, bitters, sage

mumbai mule
saffron vodka, lime, ginger, mint

improved whiskey cocktail
rye, bitters, dubonnet, absinthe, maraschino

gin, apple, lemon, basil, honey

Nadine got a pizza with mushrooms, tomatos, fontina, and thyme while I got the Pizza Carbonara (Pancetta, eggs, mozzarella). Nadine also got a brushette with fava beans and pecorino that blew her mind, but I was pretty content with my breakfast pizza.

Now I know why Baretta was on Eaters must visit list. Its cool, casual, and delicious...and cheap if you don't overdose on the cocktails.

For dinner, we met up with our friends who live in San Francisco. We all decided on Mexican, so we headed back to the Mission District of town. We had dinner at Puerto Alegre on Valencia Street. Puerto Alegre is a family owned Mexican restaurant that has been in San Fran for 40 years!

We decided to take the outside table, which proved to be a little small for 4 people; but we didn't seem to mind. The restaurant inside was jamming and had a half hour wait. The server started off with some complimentary chips and salsa--I think we got a few refills! Everyone ordered their own meal, while plates seemed to be passed around for trying. The pitchers of margaritas were surprisingly good. I'm always skeptical on margaritas as I've had some pretty bad margaritas in my time. Some margaritas taste like sour mix while others taste of stale tequila. I'm not sure if Puerto Alegre uses fresh juices or what type of tequila, but it was definitely a good margarita.

Good conversations and good food/drinks made Puerto Alegre a great experience. Just watch out if you dine outside, homeless people might come up to you and sing--looking for a tip. We packed up all our leftovers for the lady in lieu of a tip.

I would definitely recommend both Puerto Alegre and Baretta if in San Francisco. Both our reasonably priced and serve delicious food in a comfortable environment. Check em' out!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


My roommate Greg just got back from Brazil, so we thought it'd be nice to grab a bite of dinner and catch up. We decided on sushi, so we headed to Suteishi on the corner of Peck Slip and Front Street. We were going to try to find one of those "all you could eat" places, but decided against it. Suteishi was recommended to me by my friend Amanda, who also lives in the Financial District.

Amanda had told me numerous times how good Suteishi was, although a little expensive. Suteishi is a rather small spot, but it had a good feel to it. Unlike other sushi spots, Suteishi had an elegant look--probably a little too fancy for two heterosexual dudes.

Our server was very informative and helpful. She helped us pick out a combo platter which came with a spicy tuna roll and the chef's selection of sushi and sashimi. All the fish served was extremely fresh and delicious. Although the sushi and sashimi was awesome, the star of the show was the spicy tuna roll. It was also my first time tasting Kirin Light, an Asian beer. The beer actually paired pretty well with the sushi as it was light and refreshing.

Suteishi is definitely a good spot to grab sushi if your down in the financial district. The sushi here might run you an extra couple bucks, but you don't have to worry about the quality and freshness of the fish. Great spot for a date especially now that they have the tree up in the seaport. Some sushi, a nice scroll down by the water followed by Haagen Daz--you got it in the bag. Just call me Hitch.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday Funday

My Sunday Funday started with a few brews and a Tallgrass Fire Rock burger. Tallgrass, located on 1st ave, is one of my buddy's favorite spots for delivery. The Fire Rock burger was pretty good, although it was cooked well-done opposed to my requested medium-rare. But I figured that was going to happen as meat cooks even after its been taking over the grill or griddle. So my burger probably started off medium-rare, but by the time it was delivered it was well-done. Fortunately, the burger was still juicy was turned out to be pretty good. They were kind of skimpy on the bacon and chipotle sauce, but overall the burger was pretty good.

We then moved to down the block from their apartment to The 13th Step. This was my second trip to the 13th step as I went there for Halloween. This was an awesome bar for a Sunday Funday as they play all NFL games, have cheap beer ($6.50 pitchers), great wings, and beer pong. Get there early as the place packs out! Definitely a good spot for a group of people who love football and having fun. Turns out I still have my shot, so bring your A-game if you plan on playing some beer pong.

We then left the 13th Step and looked around for places to eat. I would have been totally content staying at 13th Step and eating wings, but our buddy Shakes wanted to change scenery--I guess he was bored of us kicking ass on beer pong table. So, we walked around and ended up on St. Mark's Place. We ended up going into MARK Burger, which was a slight disappointment. MARK burger has a very small menu as they only offer two types of sliders:regular and bacon. The sliders are pretty good, but the service killed it.

After waiting a good 15 minutes, I got up to find our waitress who was sitting at the bar chatting with the bartender/grillman. They forgot my order and didn't do anything to make it up. The waitress barely apologized and I was starting my burger while my friends were done. I would have definitely enjoyed this place if the service was better. I'm always down for a good beer and burger spot, but MARK burger is not going to get anymore of my money. The only way I'd go back is to try the Guinness milkshake, which is suppose to be real good. If you don't mind bad service, then go try the burger as the burger itself was pretty good.

We ended the night at Coyote Ugly, which reminded me nothing of the movie--except the bras hanging from the ceiling. The bouncer and the bartender, Anastasia, were the only ones in there--not a surprise. So, my friends thought it'd be funny to tell the bartender it was my birthday. OK with being embarrassed to a certain extent, I agreed that it was my birthday as the bartender ripped off my shirt. Grabbing a bottle of tequila, I thought she was going to pour me a shot. Boy was I wrong! She grabbed my head and tilted it back pouring some tequila in my mouth and some more down my body. Just when I thought I was done, she poured some tequila into her mouth and then spit it into mine. Pretty grossed out, I tried closing my mouth which only got more tequila over me. Anastasia then made bend over the bar as she took off her belt. Knowing exactly what was going to happen next, I chugged the rest of my PBR and did what she demanded. After 24 solid whips, I sat down not knowing WHAT THE FUCK just happened. We got another round of beers and watched Adam's girlfriend and Anastasia dance on the bar. When we told Anastasia we were leaving--she started to throw ice at us. I will probably never go back to Coyote Ugly unless of course its to embarrass someone else!


The Financial District is a ghost town on the weekend, so finding a good brunch spot in the neighborhood is pretty hard. Not really thinking of that beforehand, my friends Adam and Souch came down to my apartment looking for some food. After deciding against the overpriced seaport, we walked to Stone Street. A street usually bustling with off-of-work wall-streeters, Stone Street was dead. We checked out a few menus, but were instantly drawn to Becketts as the hostess came outside and let us know you got a free drink with brunch.

Becketts is a better alternative than The Dubliner which is owned by the same Irishmen. A past review of The Dubliner turned out pretty poor, so I was pretty nervous when the bartender made the connection of the two bars.

After chatting up the bartender on the menu, I ordered the skirt steak sandwich; which was pretty good. The onion loaf overpowered the steak according to Adam and I have to agree. I also thought the addition of avocado also took away from the steak itself. Skirt steak is such a flavorful cut that it doesn't need a lot of other ingredients to make it a great sandwich. Maybe some people like the onion loaf and avocado, but I think the sandwich would have been better if it was on a regular sub roll and just came with the caramelized onions.

The beers come at a hefty $7, but if you make friends with the bartender than you might get a free one! Rachel, our bartender, was very friendly and poured a good Guinness. She definitely added to our experience as the food wasn't anything great and the beers were pretty pricey. She became part of our conversation as we made fun of our friend Souch's charitable mustache.

So if you're in the FiDi and your looking for a beer, I'd check out Becketts. I'm sure you'll find more of a crowd during the week if your into hanging out with loud finance dudes or if your a lady looking for a sugar daddy. If not, you could probably find a cheaper and more enjoyable time somewhere else.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Meatball Shop

New York City is known as one of the best food city's in the world. With endless options, New Yorkers are never bored with new food concepts being born everyday. Recently, we've seen a resurgence of old school classics such as burgers, pizza, and fried chicken. Although these foods might be old-school favorites, restaurateurs have put a modern twist which have been incredibly successful. Meatballs could be added to that list of comfort foods enjoying a nice comeback.

The Meatball Shop shows the potential of the meatball. Located on Stanton Street on the Lower East Side, The Meatball Shop appeals to a variety of people--even vegetarians. The Meatball Shop offers guest a build-your-own menu that you actually mark yourself. Erasable menus allow guests to pick exactly what they want, so no blaming the server for screwing up your order! The menu itself offers meatballs in a few different forms--from sliders and smashes to heroes and "naked balls". The Meatball Shop offers 5 different types of meatballs including classic beef, spicy pork, chicken, vegetable, and a special which changes daily. Guest also have 6 sauces to choose from such as classic tomato, spicy meat sauce, mushroom gravy, Parmesan cream, pesto, and a special sauce.

Getting there a little before my friend Jackie, I sat at the bar and enjoyed a nice glass of wine while taking in the scene. The place was bustling for a Tuesday night! So while I waited on my company, I sipped on a glass of Pinot Noir that was not too memorable. Once Jackie arrived, we got a table and another beverage. The spacing between the tables seem a bit tight, but I guess we're use to that in New York. Jackie chose to get a glass of White wine while I switched to beer--Brooklyn Brown Ale to be exact. For food, I opted to get a few sliders; which allowed me to get the most variety of meatballs and sauces. The meatballs on the sliders were about a 2oz portion and came between a soft delicious mini-bun. I tried the classic beef with the classic tomato sauce, the spicy pork with spicy meat sauce, the chicken with the Parmesan cream, and the special with classic tomato. The special was a Bolognese and Mortadella meatball. We also got some steamed spinach to add a vegetable to are meat-filled dinner.

Each meatball was better than the next. I love the concept and I think they will be extremely successful as the price point is pretty good. Next time and there will be a next time, I would love to try some more of the sides and different meatball combinations. I would definitely recommend the meatball shop; whether your looking for a quick bite or going on a date. Good, friendly service with awesome food--can't go wrong!

Oh, and don't forget dessert! Homemade ice cream sandwiches. Freshly baked cookies with homemade ice cream makes the perfect ending to a great dinner. I got one chocolate chip cookie and one peanut butter cookie with vanilla ice cream in between! DAMN, that was good!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

California (Day #2)

After an awesome first day in beautiful San Francisco, Nadine and I got up pretty early and hit up Haight-Ashbury. This part of San Fran is home to many independent restaurants,bars, clothing boutiques, bookstores, thrift shops, head shops, and music stores including the famous Amoeba music store. This part of town is known to be very artsy and hipster--but don't call the people hipster because they hate that.

After Nadine dragged me into many thrift shops and clothing stores, we stopped for lunch at Alembic. The outside of Alembic seemed a bit shady, but we felt more comfortable as we parked ourselves at the bar. The female bartender rocking the cut-off motorhead t-shirt greeted us with some cucumber water and menus. The place started out pretty dead, but picked up around noon. We originally stopped in for a cocktail, but the lunch menu looked awesome. A very small, but awesome menu of fresh food all coming from local producers.

But before we get into the food, lets talk about the cocktails. The cocktail menu is divided into two sections: The Canon and New School. The Canon was a list of classic favorites such as the old fashioned and sazerac while the New School section brought guests drinks such as The Gilded Lily and Southern Exposure. Like any good cocktail lounge, Alembic uses a lot of small batch liquors such as Buffalo Trace bourbon.

Some of the cocktails we tried...
The Gilded Lily
there are things in life that require little
adornment, but we are never ones to shy
away from a bit of grandeur. so we’ve
decided to bring a touch of sparkle to a
dark and cozy barroom. this baroque
number mixes plymouth gin, yellow
chartreuse, orange flower water, and
sparkling demi-sec and drop in a little
flake of gold leaf. shine on.
Southern Exposure
another refreshing elixir plucked straight
from the garden, our spin on the classic
southside uses junipero gin, fresh mint,
lime juice, a touch of sugar and a little
shot of fresh celery juice. loaded with
antioxidants to help deal with the haight’s
population of free "radicals".
The Vow of Silence
a rubenesque version of the derby
cocktail, we use wild turkey rye whiskey,
benedictine, creme de griotte, and a dash
of bitters. responsible for breaking more
than one vow.
Jack Rose
this classic joint reminds us of all that’s
taboo in this second oldest of
professions. two of the original forbidden
fruits, apple and pomegranate together in
one tart, pink, home wrecker of a cocktail.
laird’s bonded applejack, grenadine and a
little lemon juice. pucker up.
Bourbon Old-Fashioned
the oldest cocktail, and still one of the
best. nothing more than a slug of good
whiskey on the rocks, with a couple of
dashes of bitters, a little sugar, and a
twist of lemon peel to take the edge off.
sometimes the simplest things work best.
we make ours without the “garbage” - the
fruit salad with which the noble old
warhorse is so often weighed down.

After enjoying our cocktails and some conversation with some locals, we decided to place our food order. Nadine got the Beer Battered Rockfish Sandwich and I got the Pork Belly Sliders. Although the Pork Belly Sliders were awesome, Nadine's Rockfish sandwich was phenominal. The crispy beer battered rockfish was topped with a malt vinegar remoulade, savoy cabbage, and placed between a fresh, doughy sub. The sandwich came with old bay potato chips, a great side for a great sandwich. The Pork Belly Sliders were topped with fried green tomatoes, pickled onions, and a charred jalapeno aioli. Nadine also splurged for dessert, but I thought a nice cask conditioned beer was enough dessert.

Making friends with the bartender was a good idea and she hooked us up with a couple of rounds. Alembic is an awesome place to go for great cocktails and awesome food. Its a good time chatting it up with locals and picking the bartenders brain and she carefully creates cocktails using jiggers for exact measurements to ensure proper mixtures. Alembic might seem rough around the edges, but proves to be a great spot. I would definitely recommend Alembic if in San Fran.

After boozing the day away, we had dinner at Roy's with Nadine's relatives. Roy's Hawaiian Fusion is a cuisine developed by Roy Yamaguchi that combines European technique with Asian ingredients. Although the bar was empty, the restaurant was pretty packed. Roy's gave off a cool atmosphere with beautiful decor and an open kitchen.

I was a little bummed out that we were going to a chain restaurant, but that feeling vanished quick as our appetizers came to the table. A mixture of California rolls, lobster wantons, tempura rock shrimp, and duck breast lined the table as the four of us shared. Every appetizer was seemed better then the next! I also tried a Hawaiian lager that proved to be pretty tastey.

After a great start, I was anticipating the main course. I had ordered the braised short rib with mashed potatoes and carrots. The dish was not only incredibly decadent, but it was artfully prepared. Good food is good food, but when it looks good-that makes it a more pleasurable experience.

We ended the meal with a chocolate souffle, which is always a great ending. The only thing that I didn't like about Roy's was the location of the bathroom. I know this seems silly, but when the Hawaiian lagers are flowing-- its a pain in the ass to climb to the second floor to use the restroom. Other than that, the restaurant was on point. Now I know why Roy Yamaguchi is known as one as the best chefs in the world.

Downtown Cravings

Bon Chon
This Sunday, I elected to pass on the traditional buffalo chicken wings and go for Bon Chon's Korean style chicken wings. Try the soy garlic or spicy soy garlic and get blown away by great flavor. Just make sure to order these well before you want them as the service is kind of slow. But its ok, take your time--the wings are worth it.

Texas BBQ
A great stop on Fulton Street if you're in the mood for some food comfort BBQ food. Texas BBQ is a QSR that brings delicious southern BBQ to New York's financial district. Great value allows Texas BBQ to have a mix of guests whether a wall-streeter or student. Friendly staff, quick service, and delicious food keeps me coming back. I'd suggest the Beef or Pork sandwich with a side of mashed potatoes. Just don't blame me if your so stuffed that you can't make it back to work.

Europa Cafe
Europa Cafe is directly across the street from my apartment so I find myself going there pretty often whether its for a breakfast special (bacon, eggs, hash browns, and toast) or for my lunchtime salad. Salads are pretty popular at the Europa Cafe because they allow you to have full control of your salad. You pick and choose your ingredients as they are displayed in front of you and posted in print on the wall. There's nothing overly great about this place, but its convenient so I find myself there alot.

If I want to walk a little further for lunch, I go to the Plaza Deli or Lenny's. Lenny's is a chain that you could see all over New York. Lenny's prides itself on good quality food and fresh ingredients. I think its a good spot for a quick, consistent meal whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Champps (NJ)

Champps is an American restaurant/sports bar located in the Menlo Park Mall. At one point Champps was the place to go if looking for some food and drinks whether it was before or after shopping, but Menlo mall has added other favorites like Cheesecake Factory and Fox and Hound, which puts Champps low on the favorites list.

Tucked away on the top floor of the mall, next to the food court--Champps is dark and univiting. The restaurant was pretty empty and really quiet. TV's lined the walls making me think the night crowd is what keeps a place like this in business. The service was pretty slow, but the company was great so I cannot complain about that--this time. The food was pretty good. Me and my old dining companion, Stef, split the firehouse burger and the Americana Chopped Salad. The burger was definitely the better of the two as this burger was piled high with red and yellow bell peppers, green chiles, poblano peppers, onions, Chipotle Tabasco, Cajun seasoning and pepperjack cheese then topped with fresh sliced jalapeƱo peppers. We opted to get a turkey burger as the base of this spicy sensation. I often lean away from turkey burgers, not only because ground beef is better, but because turkey burgers could be very dry if cooked wrong. The grillman at Chammps knew what he was doing as the burger was juicey and had great flavoring. The salad was alright--seemed to get soggy pretty quick but maybe thats because I was doing more talking than eating. The salad was
grilled chicken,, balsamic vinaigrette, applewood-smoked bacon, dried cranberries, sliced apples and candied pecans. Served with a garlic buttered roll. The salad normally comes with bleu cheese, but we decided to leave that out.

The beers seemed alittle off, but I'm not much of a complainer so I drank them without saying anything. I don't know if the beer was a bit old or the keg lines hadn't been clean. Whatever the case, the beer seemed a bit off. Probably should have went with a bottle!

Overall, it was a pretty good dining experience. I went in there with pretty low expectations, but was pleasantly surprised with the food. The beer on the other hand is something I banked on being good and was extremely disappointed with. I think next time we will go to Cheesecake Factory or Fox and Hound!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Old Fashions and Pizza

Sasha Petraske is credited for helping push the recent cocktail renaissance the city is experiencing. Mr. Petraske brought New York City such cocktail lounges as Milk & Honey, East Side Company Bar, Little Branch, and White Star. Although each bar is different, they all offer outstanding, hand- crafted cocktails. While hanging out in the West Village, a friend and I decided to stop by Little Branch to check it out.

Little Branch is a timeless favorite for any cocktail lover as this speakeasy transports you back in time. Although a lot easier to get in than Milk & Honey, Little Branch is a hidden gem as there are no signs. You are immediately brought back into time as the cave-like downstairs space is dimly lit and old photographs hang on the walls. It was a very relaxed environment as the hostess escorted us to a booth in the back. This isn't a bar to order jager bombs or pick up woman, but its a speakeasy lounge that focuses on well-crafted cocktails.

I ordered an Old Fashion from the cocktail menu, which displayed some classic cocktails as well as some other innovative cocktails. Its a good place to go for a relaxing night. Drinks are around $15 a pop, but you're casually enjoying it so its well worth it. One might find themself sipping on a sazerac for 45 minutes.

The waitstaff and mixologist at Little Branch know there stuff as I'm sure Mr. Petraske has taught them well. If you enjoy the art of cocktails and have some good company, I'd definitely recommend stopping by Little Branch. I heard they have live jazz Sundays-Thursdays.

After Little Branch, we stopped at another bar on 7th ave. This was a divey bar, but its all good because the beer was cold. After enjoying a Guiness or two, we gravitated toward Bleecker Street Pizza. The pizza here was pretty good, but nothing special. I wouldn't make a special trip for the pizza, but if in the area you could bank on a good slice.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Boys Night Out

It was boys night out on the city as I had off from work and my roommate is going to Brazil on business at the end of the week. We decided to "ball out", so we made reservations for the Capital Grille on 42nd street. Having a drink before dinner seem inevitable, so we tried out the Campbell Apartment inside Grand Central Terminal. Not that I travel through Grand Central too much, but I had never heard about the Campbell Apartment till recently. Its somewhat hidden, so not that many people know about it.

This classy lounge is actually a restored office of an early 20th century tycoon, John W. Campbell. You definitely get a office or library feel once you walk in. The space seemed to attract an older, more sophisticated crowd than my roommate and I, but it was fun to pretend like we belonged. During the week, the space is usually packed with commuters, so going on the weekends is probably the best idea.

The space is beautiful, definitely one of the nicer bar/lounges I've been to in awhile. But of course that is going to be reflected in the drink prices. My roommate and I elected to have the Prohibition Punch, which set us back $16 each. The bartender grabbed these two goblet like glasses and filled it with crush ice to begin our drinks. He then jiggered out the alcohol, which was aged rum and cognac if I'm not mistaken. He then eye'd the other components of the drink which was a passion fruit juice and and lime juice. He then topped the goblet with Moet-Chandon champagne. The drink and atmosphere set us back in time, which was pretty awesome. We only had time for one drink as our reservations were five minutes ago.

We headed out of the Campbell Apartment and went next door to the Chrystler Building. The reservationist took our coats and sent us to our table right away. It was a maze getting to our table as the restaurant was packed. I did not expect the restaurant to be as packed as it was on a Tuesday. With the staff bustling around in their routine, it was quite nice to see them all greet you and allow you to pass. Everything was on point from the moment we sat down. I think my glass of water was empty once, but I will not hold that against them.

It was kind of funny how big the menu was, both in size and selection. Steven, our server, seemed quite knowledgeable on the food menu and pretty well versed on the extensive wine selection. The Capital Grille had an award winning wine program as they had thousands of wines to choose from. The regular wine list was inside the food menu, but the "captains list" was a separate wine menu which held some of the worlds sought after wines. We decided to get something different so we went with a Chilean blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. I thought it was a pretty good wine--very easy drinking that also went well with my steak.

We decided to split the pan-roasted calamari with hot cherry peppers. I feel its really hard to have calamari that stands out, but this definitely did. The addition of the hot cherry peppers made the dish so much more enjoyable. Greg also got the "Wedge", which was a wedge of lettuce with peppercorn ranch and applewood smoked bacon. After seeing this, I was upset I didn't order one. He said it was awesome and I believe it. He got an dry aged porterhouse that was delicious, but had nothing on my bone-in Kona. My dry-aged sirloin, Kona crusted steak was topped with shallot butter which sent this steak over the top. This was definitely one of the most delicious, tender pieces of steak I've ever put in my mouth. I also ordered some Lobster Mac n' Cheese for the table. Although labeled "Accompaniments" on the menu, this dish could stand alone by itself. Beautiful red lobster sat atop creamy mac n' cheese served in a cast iron pan.

My sister and her boyfriend visit the Capital Grille and now I know why. The quality of food and service is awesome, no wonder they have three different locations in the city. I would definitely recommend the Capital Grille (42nd st) and can't wait to go back.