Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Trifecta: Food, Booze, and Good Company

A hidden happy hour gem is easy to miss if you're not paying attention. Just below street level, an intimate wine bar known as the 8th Street Cellar provides for a cozy and comfortable atmosphere. From 4-7 the wine cellar offers $18 bottles of red and white wine. There is also a bottle of Prosecco for $18 if you're celebrating or just care for some bubbles. If you don't want to do a bottle, you could get the glass of the day for $5. Of course, I got a bottle--a bottle of Tempernillo.

The Mac' and Cheese was pretty ridiculous and even made colette say that she'd come back for it. The shrimp and chorizo dish that we split was good, but nothing in comparison to the mac and cheese. Overall, the 8th Street wine cellar was a great place whether you're looking to catch up with an old friend or take a date. 8th Street Cellar sets you up with a variation on my trifecta: cheap vino and reasonable priced plates--all you have to bring is the good company.

After a great experience at 8th Street Cellar, we walked over to Tertulia on 6th Ave. Tertulia could be defined as a regular, informal social gathering--perfect! Chef Seamus Mullen runs the kitchen showcasing the wonderful flavors of Spain. Unfortunately, we were too full to eat; but agreed that we had to come back to Tertulia. We did get some of their "tap" wine that is poured from a barrel into a rocks glass. The bartender later explained that Tertulia puts all wine below $50 in rocks glasses because its a more casual feel. I don't usually like drinking wine out of a rocks glass, but here it felt OK. The menu looked awesome and the plates being served around us looked even better. The staff was very friendly and the prices seemed reasonable. I guess we have a spot for our next outing!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Very Italian Sunday

Sunday is a day for relaxing and watching football; but last Sunday was a little different. I started my day on Mulberry Street at The Festival of San Gennaro in Little Italy. The festival is a week or so long, but the bulk of festival happens on the weekend. The streets are mobbed and its hard to walk; but its an experience. Vendors sell traditional Italian fare while some new restaurants offered more gourmet street food. Among those newcomers were The Breslin, Rubirosa, Stellina, Mulberry Project, Byggyz, L'Artusi, Frankie Spuntino's, and Parm. Although the more traditional food like sausage and peppers were good, the newcomers shined with their updated street fare including "frito pie", ribs, and short rib sliders. An italian festival wouldn't be complete without some zeppolis, but its OK because I walked home to burn off all the calories I ate. (ha, not even close)

Later in the evening, I manage to eat more Italian food as I brought my sister out to Maialino. Here, we had the chef's cook for us while our server (shout out to Corey G) paired some wines with every course. Our first course was a crostini smeared with ricotta topped with a black mission fig dressed in chestnut honey paired with the Donnas rose--a fruit forward rose from the Valle d' Aosta. Friutta Romana, a mixture of lamb sweetbreads, brains, and artichokes came next along with an octopus and potato salad. Corey brought out the Viamelia, a dry-hopped lager to pair with this course. Our next course was a pasta course consisting of the pici ala norcia, agnolotti, and garganeli--a dangerously delicious trio of house-made pastas. Lugum, a mixture of 70% Merlot and 30% Cab Sauvignon was paired with our pastas at my surprise. I thought the blend would be too heavy, but I thought they complemented the pastas quite well. The spigola, whole seabass, was next. This dish is awesome not only because of its flavor, but because they make a presentation out of it. Right before you are ready to enjoy your fish course, a staff member brings out the fish which is carried on a silver platter. Chef likes to present the fish so the guest can learn a little bit about the cooking process. The fish is salted baked after being stuffed with lemons and herbs allowing the fish to capture ridiculous flavor. The fish is served with sauteed mushrooms and a simple salad of bitter greens dressed in lemon and olive oil. This course was paired with the Cornalin, another wine from the Valle d' Aosta. This wine is a great choice for guest who want to drink red wine with their fish. The last savory course was lamb two ways. Chef prepared the Scottadito dish (lamb chops) and added lamb ribs. The lamb was paired with the Rosso di Montalcino, one of my favorite wines on the list.

For dessert we had the chocolate tort, fig tart, panna cotta, and an assortment of sorbets. We had three different dessert wines to pass around with the dessert selection. Aleatico is a medium body, red dessert wine that is full of flavor. This is a good substitute for those looking for a port. The dried cherry and tobacco flavors are divine with the chocolate tort. Vin Santo from Tuscany plays its part in dessert giving us a white dessert wine bursting with flavors of almond, vanilla, and honey. The third dessert wine was probably the most interesting although it wasn't the table favorite. The Barolo Chinato seemed like a hybrid of an amaro meets dessert wines. When drinking the Barolo Chinato you get a lot of herbaciousness found in digestifs such as amaro. I thought it was a solid wine although very different.

Overall, it was a fantastic day of eating and drinking with family and friends. I might have gained 10 lbs, but it was all worth it. Keep L.I.V.I.N.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Late Night

Last night after work I headed over to the Flatiron Lounge on W 19th Street to see my buddy Jared, the bartender. He recently took a couple shifts at Flatiron after being on the opening bar team at Lani Kai. Good news for me because getting to the Flatiron Lounge after work is way easier than treking to Soho.

The Flatiron Lounge is a cool, cocktail bar where you know your drinks will be made properly. Granted, the drinks could be pricey; but you are getting a well-crafted cocktail and not some ridiculous mixture of ingredients that doesn't come close to achieving balance. At Flatiron Lounge, the bartenders come up with a daily flight of three cocktails; which is awesome if your a bit of a cocktail nerd or feel adventurous Last night, Jared's flight contained the Singapore Sling, Mai Tai, and Jamaican Peach. I think the Jamaican Peach was the only one he actually invented; but nonetheless they were all delicious. The crazy part about the Mai Tai is that its almost always made wrong. I feel like bartenders usually throw a bunch of rums and fruit juices together and call it a Mai Tai when in reality its 2 oz aged rum, 1/2 oz orange curacao, 1/2 orgeat, and 3/4 fresh lime juice. The garnish for this drink is a sprig of fresh mint, not a cherry and umbrella! For a proper Mai Tai go to Lani Kai or Flatiron because these guys are on top of their game.

Anyway, got a bit off track in my Mai Tai rant. Flatiron Lounge is an awesome spot if you're looking for good cocktails in a chill atmosphere. After the bar closed; we headed to a bar on 7th Ave that I forget the name of. It was a dive bar, but the Guinness tasted good so I was all for it. We then headed to Coppelia restaurant on West 14th Street and 7th. Coppelia is a 24-hour Cuban luncheonette/diner serving Neuvo-Latino comfort food in Chelsea. I've been here once before and I think its awesome. Everything I've had here is awesome from the guac and calamari starters to the shrimp or short rib entrees. They also got some bangin' mac and cheese which is mixed with pork belly and pork skins. I'd definitely check it out if your looking for some good food whether its 3 in the afternoon or night.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Goin' with the Flow

Anything could happen in New York City is a great way to sum up last night. We started the night sipping bourbon on the roof of the Dream Hotel on West 55th Street. I don't normally travel to midtown, but the rooftop here is incredible. The views down Broadway to Times Square make it worth the trip. Fashion week brought an eclectic crowd of designers and models while the normal crowd of ballers shuffled in. Our waitress was lovely and took good care of us all night. We left the roof to grab some sushi a few blocks away at Blue Ribbon. They couldn't accommodate our large party, so we just hung out in the lobby of the Columbus Hotel and had them bring us food. They brought out a bunch of appetizers including tempura rock shrimp, yellowtail sashimi, miso baked clams, miso crusted sea bass and some other treats. Saki isn't my drink of choice, but I had that "when in Rome mentality" going. They then brought us out a couple Blue Ribbon Platters of assorted sushi, sashima, and maki rolls. Somewhere in between, there might have been a food fight or two where we almost got kicked out. After our delicious, drunken meal we headed out for more fun not appropriate for this blog.

Fashion Night Out

This year I experienced Fashion Night Out for the first time. I'm not interested in Gucci's new fall accessories, but I am interested in free booze and food. During Fashion Night Out, fashion houses throughout the city host parties with three of my favorite things--food, booze, and babes. A few of us guys attended Helmut Lang's party, which was pretty awesome. They had the guys from Death and Co pouring cocktails while Luke's Lobster served up their signature lobster rolls. Macallan sponsored the event, so I found myself sipping on their 10 year; which is way better than being at work. They also had a band rocking out which added to the scene. So next year, head down to Soho and join the party. Just try to make plans beforehand because you probably won't have cell phone service for a few hours. Thanks for the invite Sue!