Sunday, July 31, 2011

Song of the Summer

I knew I had to eat at The Dutch after Sam Sifton coined it the "song of the summer" in his two-star review in the New York Times. Critics such as Sifton and New York Magazine's Adam Platt praise Andrew Carmellini's new Soho venture from concept to execution. Carmellini, owner of Locanda Verde, teamed up with Luke Ostrom (co-owner of Locanda Verde) and Josh Pickard (Lure Fishbar/Chinatown Brasserie) to bring his interpretation of elevated American comfort food to the corner of Sullivan and Prince.

My friend Amanda and I were lucky to get last minute reservations at the new Soho hot-spot. Upon arrival, the hostess took us from the bar room through a zig-zagged hallway to our table in the main dining room. Although the dining room had a sexy, elegant feel it was still comfortable and far from stuffy. We were seated at a corner table overlooking the whole dining room--maybe the best table in the house? Books on the windowsill and the fireplace gave a real, homey feel to the restaurant. The service was good. Our server was attentive and knowledgeable, but not overly chatty which is OK with me. I also really liked that he let us sit and finish our wine before presenting our check. He could have easily dropped the check after declining dessert, but he let us stay till our glasses were dry.

Our first impression of the food was one of excitement as we loved the jalapeno cornbread. I've had jalapeno cornbread before, but this might have been my favorite. The bread was served warm with only a little jalapeno kick showed allowing a great balance of sweet and spicy. We skipped the oysters, "snacks", and appetizers and straight for "seconds". We split the scallops entree as our appetizer and I'm so happy that we did. Not only did I get to introduce Amanda to scallops, but Carmellini's interpretation was brilliant. Sweet corn, bacon, and chipotle added great flavor without overtaking the delicate sea scallops. What an awesome start! Next, Amanda got the grilled Swordfish with a summer beans and pine nuts while I got the Pecan Duck, which was accompanied with celery and organic dirty rice. Amanda's swordfish was good, but I was happy with my duck. The duck was perfectly cooked at medium rare and was packed with great flavor. The pecans not only added a nice flavor, but textural component. The duck and Oregon Pinot Noir sang in beautiful harmony as I savored every bite.

As per usual I am was too full to order dessert. I read some food things about their homemade pies, but I couldn't do it and Amanda agreed. Overall, The Dutch was quite a scene and proved to be an awesome time. The food proved Carmellini's genius, the service smooth, and the atmosphere comfortable and exciting. There are so many factors that go into a flawless dinner service, but The Dutch pulled it off and that's why it could be called the "song of the summer".

Saturday, July 30, 2011

East Village

After work on Friday I met up with my friends Caitlin and Christa for a much-needed drink. I met them at BUA on St. Marks between 1st and A. The place was pretty packed with a diverse crowd. We sat in the back room on long oak benches and took in the scene. It was quite enjoyable to watch a Russel Brand look-alike try to bring my friend Christa home while I sipped my bourbon. Some in the crowd had a picture of sangria, so that might be a special. We only stayed for a drink before the girls got hungry.

We continued the night at 7A Cafe which is a on the corner of 7th and Avenue A --weird! The only thing this spot had going for them was the 90s hip-hop selection playing in the background. These throwbacks caused a minor dance party within the booth. The food was pretty bad though. Granted my chicken fingers and fries were OK, but how could you mess that up. Something that they did mess up was the grilled cheese Caitlin got even though the server warned us that they took it off the menu because too many people were complaining. But seriously, how can you fuck up grilled cheese? 7A used multigrain bread and one slice of American cheese that was hardly melted. It was painful to see this abomination of an American classic. The mozzarella sticks were decent while the chili dip was a huge failure--who orders chili dip at 4am anyway? Yep, the same chick talking to the Russel Brand weirdo. There are so many late night eats in NYC--skip 7A and head somewhere else.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Meat Sweats

Last Saturday I attended one of the greatest festivals I've ever been to--Meatopia! Creator Josh Ozersky created Meatopia which was dubbed the "Woodstock of Edible Animals". The meat-fest showcased the talent of over 45 chefs from around the nation while giving guests a great variety of tastings from whole roasted pigs to grilled goat. Tickets were kind of pricey, but it was totally worth it. Tickets allowed you 4 hours of eating not to mention picturesque views of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park and live entertainment. The lines were short and most stands still had plenty of food by 7:30 when Fields and I got there. Tasting portions were big, almost too big. its probably a good idea to share and go back to some of your favorites. I think I was full after 7 stands or so. We got our second wind and tasted some more awesome food before we decided to head out around 9:30. An awesome way to spend a Saturday in NYC. Good company, music, meat, and beer--enough said. Learn more about Meatopia at

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sundays on Stone Street

Just like last Sunday, I ended the weekend at Ulysses on Stone Street. This cobble stone street is an awesome place to sit outside and cap off the weekend. Not only is it nice to sit outside, but its even better when your drinking beer and eating crabs. Ulysses offers a crab bucket for $20 bucks on Sundays; which comes with a bunch of crabs, corn on the cob, and red potatoes. You could beast a bucket by yourself or share with a friend! Either way you're in for a treat. Stone Street Sundays is where its at!

Is Restaurant Week Worth It?

Restaurant Week is a win-win for both guest and restaurant if done right but, If done wrong--it could be the exact opposite. Three-course lunches for $24.07 and dinner for $35 allow New Yorkers to try new restaurants for a great price. Although not all restaurants around the city participate, you're more than likely to find a restaurant you've wanted to try. Over 250 restaurants around the city participate in the biannual event, which lasts 2 weeks; but is sometimes extended on an individual basis. Restaurant week is a great deal for guests who want to try a restaurant that might normally be out of their price range or maybe a restaurant that they weren't aware of. For restaurants, this is a great marketing opportunity to get people in and create regulars. So in a perfect world, a guest will have an amazing meal during restaurant week and will visit that restaurant on a consistent basis. But we don't live in a perfect world, so this doesn't always happen. Restaurants create restaurant week dishes to cut down on food costs, portions are minuscule, and the service is compromised due to the "turn and burn" mentality. Do some research, because its an awesome promotion if you find the right restaurant.

Unfortunately, I only made it out once during restaurant week; but fortunately I had a great experience. A rather spontaneous lunch with Ms. Fields--not the cookie lady but a coworker. We decided on Tocqueville, a restaurant right outside Union Square that focuses on seasonal ingredients from the Greenmarket. The food was American, but there was a strong European emphasis. Arriving a little early, the hostess invited me to sit in the vestibule while I waited for Fields. Upon her arrival we walked through a lounge-bar area and into the dining room. The space tried to be grand with silk drapes, but it fell short. It was classy and elegant, but a bit stuffy for my taste. The service was good, although it felt a little fake. Our waiter provided prompt, attentive, and knowledgeable service; but there was something off. It was almost like he was putting on a show--given a script of what his boss wanted him to say. Either way, the service was fine! The food was better and for some thats all that matters.

For appetizers we got the heirloom tomato salad with a lemon verbena consomme and olive oil ice cream. This dish was paired with a 2010 Sauvignon de Touraine from the Loire. Our other appetizer was white and green asparagus with a black truffle vinaigrette paired with a 2009 Cote De Rhone. Both appetizers were equally impressive and got us ready for our next course. For our entree, we got the soft shell crab and the quail. The soft shell crab sat atop a watercress and hearts of palm salad. This crispy treat was paired with a rose from the Languedoc-Rousillon part of France. The quail was a bit small, but had some great flavor and was cooked beautifully. A side of quinoa mixed with cherries and almonds accompanied the grilled quail. A light red (2009 Vin de Pays) paired well with quail as it was strong enough to stand up to, yet not overbearing. So far, so good! Dessert were tastey, but didn't stand out. Maybe its because we were rushing or maybe its because our appetizers and entrees set a high expectations. I did really enjoy the non-vintage Mavrodaphne of Patras from Greece that paired with my bitter chocolate millfeuille. The Ricotta mousse came with a rhubarb compote and strawberry granita, which was a nice contrast to our chocolate dessert. A German ice wine paired well with this rich treat.

Overall, Tocqueville provided a great experience. The food, wine, and service were all good, but nothing blew me away. The best part of the meal was the company. Although I had a great time here, I'm not sure if I'll be rushing back. Its definitely a good place to check out if you never been, but there's so many restaurants to try! Tocqueville does a Greenmarket tasting menu, so it doesn't have to be restaurant week to stop by and taste seasonal, fresh cuisine thoughtfully prepared.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sunday in Soho

Blue Ribbon was listed on Eater's 38 Essential NYC dining spots for awhile, but recently got booted by Veselka (another late night destination). Blue Ribbon Brasserie, located on Sullivan St, is known for catering to a late-night crowd but the food is pretty good even if your sober. The Blue Ribbon family has expanded with a bakery and a sushi spot, but the brasserie is its flagship location. Christa and I visited both Blue Ribbon Brasserie and Blue Ribbon Sushi to see what all the hype was. The Brasserie was quaint and quiet, but we were there on a Sunday evening around four o'clock. I hear this brasserie gets pretty packed and pretty rowdy. That doesn't stop late-nighters from flocking to this Soho hot spot. Craving sushi, we just stayed for their Pu Pu Platter (2 chicken skewers, shrimp skewer, chicken wing, perogi, eggroll, and a bbq rib. The platter came with a small fire-like structure which gave a nice "wow" factor and allowed guest to cook their food to their liking. I thought it was a neat little platter that was quite tastey. Blue Ribbon didn't have a cocktail/beer list which I thought was a bit odd--maybe they were re-doing it! Our waiter was really nice, but the rest of the staff seemed a bit clumsy. Overall, it was a nice experience. Next time I want to take advantage of the raw bar options.

We then walked down a block to Blue Ribbon Sushi, an underground lair for fish lovers. Christa got a Maki Combo with three rolls while I got a combination of sushi and maki. Turned out to be a solid sushi joint, but it didn't compare to Sushi Yasuda--my sushi mecca. The atmosphere was warm and inviting and the service was good; so definitely a solid sushi spot.

After Blue Ribbon, we walked to Broome Street to Lani Kai--one of my favorite drink spots in NYC. Here, Jared the bartender whipped up some tropical cocktails that made me forget I was in NYC and not at the beach. The first was a delicious swizzle followed by a classic Mai Tai. I would definitely recommend Lani Kai for delicious, balanced cocktails. Tell the mixologist what you like and he'll take you to paradise.

New and Old

New to Financial District is Chicago based sandwich shop, Potbelly. I was really surprised about all the hype surrounding this sandwich destination, but then I tried one of their signature sandwiches. I thought their menu was a bit lame and that New Yorkers had plenty of delis to get their sandwich fix. Turns out that Potbelly got it going on. Not only did I enjoy my sandwich, but the place is jamming everyday. A line forms around the corner nearly every weekday, so that people could enjoy a delicious sandwich at a great price. A great way to avoid waiting in line is calling and placing your order over the phone and then picking it up. I got my sandwich in ten minutes and waited on no line. Next time I go back, I want to try a milkshake and cookie as I heard people raving about them.

Recommended: "A Wreck" sandwich

An old favorite of the neighborhood is Ulysses on Stone Street. I tend to stay away from this place on the weekdays as many Wall-Streeters flock here after work. On the weekends, Ulysses offers up so good specials and its always nice to sit outside on a beautiful day. Last Sunday I met up with some old friends and enjoyed a few pitchers! Next time we might do the crab special!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

2 Italians, 2 Great Sandwiches

Harry's Italian is a regular spot of mine being right below my apartment. Not only do I go here because of its proximity, but because of their food. Harry's does great food whether you're in the mood for an old-fashioned pizza or a sandwich. Its hard not to get a chicken cutlet sandwich for lunch whether you want it with peppers and fresh mozzarella or parm. Either way, you'll get a sandwich that even the most Italian mother would approve. I would definitely recommend Harry's Italian, especially for lunch! (pictures of Harry's coming soon)

Another great spot for good Italian food is Defontes on the corner of 21st and Third Ave. I got the Defontes Cuban, which came with roast pork, Virginia ham, and swiss on garlic bread. The sandwich was packed with flavor and the bread was just right. The bread is a huge part of any sandwich, so this component should not be overlooked. You might be able to get a cheaper sandwich from a local deli, but will it be as good as Defontes? I don't know! Check it out and let me know!

A Chain in Consistency

The Capital Grille could be considered a high-end chain restaurant with several locations throughout the country, but I think it does a pretty good job on being individually excellent. On my second visit to The Capital Grille, I dined at the Wall Street location which is on the corner of Pine and Nassau in the Financial District. The space isn't as grand as the 42nd Street location, but I think that adds to the charm. Fighting to get around a group of businessmen; Colette and I were greeted by a friendly host team and promptly seated.

We looked over the menu, but were too chatty to actually decide on our meal. Our server came and introduced herself, expecting an order but left unsatisfied as we were still deciding between an appetizer or salad. Looking over the intensive wine list also look time. Our server was a bit arrogant as she subtly insulted us a few times throughout the meal. The first insult came when she described the Filet Oscar as very traditional while shaking her head. Another insult came when we opted to get one of the cheaper Pinot Noirs from California. She insisted that getting an Italian wine at the same price point would be better value. Not wanting to get into a whole wine debate, I just took the insult and waited for my meal.

We started with the crab and lobster cakes that came with a sweet corn relish. These seafood cakes were delicious and got us ready for our entrees. Colette got the "very traditional" Filet Oscar, which was quite delicious while I opted to get the Kona Sirlon. I don't eat dry-aged steaks too often, so both steaks were a treat. We also split the Lobster Mac n' Cheese despite the high calorie-count listed on the menu. That's the one bad thing about having multiple locations--you have to provide the calorie counts for all menu items. I know the Mac n' Cheese isn't healthy, but I nearly got sick when that it was over 1500 calories. There are some dishes that aren't so bad calorie-wise. Colette's dish was the perfect dish for someone who didn't want a huge steak. The 8oz filet was enough steak to satisfy a craving while also offering jumbo lump crab meat and asparagus spears. I feel like Capital Grille caters to both males and females, so that they don't discourage female diners like most steakhouses.

Having three-locations in the NYC, I'd say Capital Grille is doing pretty well for themselves in a food-fickle city. But someone once told me that consistency is the name of the game and that is one thing The Capital Grille is good at. Whether you don't get out much or you're a foodie--The Capital Grille will serve you a consistently good meal every time. The bill could get pricey, but its definitely worth checking out.

Recommended dishes: Kona Sirloin, Filet Oscar, Lobster Mac and Cheese

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I don't normally go out to eat when I'm down the shore, because I love homemade meals, especially when it revolves around the bbq. We usually stop by White's Barnegat Light Market for some steaks or Surf City Seafood market for some fresh seafood. The only exception to this is The Chicken or The Egg which is hands down my favorite restaurant. Not only can you BYO, but they serve up the best chicken wings I've ever had. I usually go to the "Chegg" atleast once every time I'm down LBI. Sometimes we even stop here on the way back from AC if our wing cravings are strong enough. Although, I have never ordered anything other than wings, people have told me that other menu items are equally as delicious. If in the LBI area, you HAVE to stop by!

My only other dining experience during my week off in LBI was at Yellowfin. My dining experience started at Yellowfin while trying to make a reservation over the phone. After calling a few times with no answer, a man picked up the phone and helped me book my reservation. The guy was a bit arrogant when pretty much laughing at me when I asked for a 7:00 reservation the day of. "We're the best restaurant on the island", he assured me. He went on to tell me that I'd have to call 2-3 weeks out to get a reservation like that. I ended up taking a 8:30 reservation.

Yellowfin was unlike any other restaurant I've been to in LBI. Again, I haven't been to a ton of places, but Yellowfin definitely stood out. Personally, I like going down to the shore for a dining experience less formal than my normal routine; but the inside of Yellowfin reminded me of NYC. Mirrors gave the appearance that the 15 table restaurant was bigger than it was. I think one server was holding down the whole place as many of the tables were 2 or 4. Yellowfin is BYO, which definitely saves money. The service was good, but the food is why you go. I couldn't believe the amount of specials the server rattled off at each table. I like the idea of having specials, but too many specials could be overwhelming for both the staff and the guests. The menu is dominated with fresh seafood, but also has something for a meat lover whether its chicken, lamb, or beef.

My mother started off with crab cakes while I opted to get the foie gras and lobster special. The crab cakes were delicious and had a nice spicy kick to them. The foie gras and lobster sat atop garlic mashed potatoes with a port reduction. The dish was a bit on the heavy side for an appetizer, but quite tastey. I was just surprised to be eating foie gras in LBI while my mom was surprised I was eating foie gras at all. For our next course, my mother got the seafood paella while I got the Halibut. Her paella came with shrimp, lobster, scallops, clams, mussels, calamari, and chorizo. The paella was very flavorful and had a distinct flavor unlike the more traditional Spanish paella. My mom likes this dish because it gives a variety of delicious seafood. Although I liked her paella, I was happy with my halibut. The delicate fish was so fresh and flavorful that I couldn't stop eating it well after I became full. We got so full that we passed on dessert.

I think Yellowfin is a great spot. Granted the atmosphere isn't something I usually look for when at the beach, but the food is. This would be a great spot to take a date. The space is dark and cozy, which could translate into romantic if with the right crowd. Or you could take your mother out for the night and she'll remember when you're her favorite!

I don't usually make it to the bars that often as many of the bars are located on the other side of the island and we usually host a better party around the pool. I did go out to Joe Pops and Nardis during my week off. Nardi's was a waste of time. It was so packed that it was hard to move, let alone have fun and talk to your friends. The bartender was also very light on her pours. She would pour a tooth-full of tequila in a plastic cup and charged $7. I even called her out and she just laughed and said thats the standard. The band was also kind of whack. Nardis is a waste of money and time. Joe Pops on the other hand is the place to be. We go here every year and just take over the bar. We usually don't leave the dance floor till they kick us out. Definitely go to Joe Pops if you're looking for a good bar down in LBI. The only other bars that could come close are the Shell and Marlin.


(coming soon)