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Friday, January 13, 2012

Weekly NYC Blog Post - 1.16.2012

So I've had a ton of people visiting this week and have thus been gorging myself on AMAZING food. Take a look at some of the top foodie places in NYC to indulge your sweet and savory tooth.


Mario Batali's famous Eataly is a market and restaurant in one. Literally every Italian item you could possibly want can be found here from meats, sauces and pastas to chocolate, gelato and cheeses. I haven't eaten at any of the restaurants because I heard they weren't the best but that the retail items are definitely worth it. Next time I go grocery shopping (which is never) this is going to be my new #1 choice. Anyone coming to NYC needs to take an impromptu tour through it.

Gramercy Tavern
Gramercy Tavern feels like walking into old New York even though it's only been around since 1994. The restaurant is wrapped in murals by Robert Kushner and the service is impeccable. It's on the bucket list for NYC dinner but we went for lunch. We shared the burger and pear salad both of which were excellent although not necessarily "inventive." I really liked it but probably don't need to go back. Everyone should experience it once though.

Officially in the top rankings of my NYC restaurants, Pipa is a very romantic restaurants with low lighting created by tons of chandeliers juxtaposed by exposed brick and seashells. The food is Spanish tapas and delicious. We had the Bistec flatbread (grilled skirt steak, goat cheese, tomato, red onion, cabbage, chimichurri, and jalapeño), the beef meatballs (sofrito, green pepper demi-glaze, crème fraiche, and tomato), the catalan spinach (sautéed organic spinach, figs or golden raisins, and olive oil) and finally the tres leches (coffee genoise, banana ice cream, dulce de leche foam, dark chocolate espresso beans, and cocoa powder).

The flatbread was amazing with the steak perfectly cooked and the bread not too soggy. The other ingredients combined to make this a mouthwatering dish. The meatballs literally melt in your mouth (yeah I said it). Don't let them take the dish away after you're done - the sauce makes a great dip for bread. The catalan spinach was also tasty but not as memorable as was the tres leches (I hate banana so they exchanged this for another scoop of coffee genoise). Regardless I would definitely come back here (although since then I've eaten at their sister restaurant ABC Kitchen which is even better so hard to say).

Union Square Cafe
This place felt like the brunch spot of a trendy grandma or the perfect place for a bridal party but I loved it. When you walk in there is a bar of whiskeys the color of worn musical instruments. Absolutely beautiful. We went for lunch and my dish was delicious. I had the butternut squash tortelli with cranberries, balsamic, and sage brown butter. The tang of the cranberries and the sweetness of the brown butter paired perfectly and the butternut squash wasn't too sweet which is often the case. I also tried the butternut squash soup and the lasagna bolognese with ricotta, pioppini mushrooms, and pesto, both of which were excellent. The lasagna was one of the prettiest dishes I've ever seen. I will definitely be back here for brunch.


Beauty and Essex

So this place got me excited at first! You walk into what looks like a pawn shop and then walk through the back door into a multi-level lounge/bar/restaurant. The decor is very very cool but the clientele kind of sucked. We didn't stay long...probably thanks to the whiskey shots. I might wander back at some point but hard to say.

I would've walked by this place assuming it was abandoned if it weren't for the massive line outside. Luckily, the bouncer and I had a great convo about the trials and tribulations of living in Compton and he let us in without a wait. Thank you USC. This place may teeter on having a "C" rating but I kinda liked it!


Yakitori Totto
So I'm a bit of a Japanese food snob having been to Japan and lived in Los Angeles, which I contend has some of the best Japanese food in the U.S. That being said, Totto was tasty!!!

Yakitori for those of you who don't know are essentially skewers of different foods. We also had a couple other dishes as well. Everything we tried was really good but I ranked them from favorite to least anyways.

1) Harami Skirt Steak
2) Maguro Zuke (tuna sashimi in garlic-flavored soy sauce)
3) Kawa (chicken skin)
4) Tori Dango (steamed rice dumplings with chicken meatballs inside)
5) Amakara Age (sweet spicy deep-fried chicken)
6) Bacon-wrapped asparagus

The restaurant itself is inconvenient because it's in Midtown and rather standard in terms of decoration but I will definitely come back for the food anytime I'm in this area again.

Photo Credit: Totto Website


The Dutch
I've passed this place a ton of times and FINALLY had a good reason to go. The setup is pretty trendy, the music loud, the bar crowded, but it's a fun scene. I will be the first to admit that I was pretty hungover when we came here which is a huge bummer but even with that "hanging" over my head I can say that my dish, the pecan duck with celery and organic dirty rice and the brussel sprouts with bacon and horseradish were SO good.

I also tried the spaghetti with black kale carbonara and a farm egg and the heirloom cauliflower with pear and sage which were both good as well but not the best I've ever had. I do like how you smash/stir the egg into the pasta though - that was fun. Unfortunately I wasn't feeling that great and didn't get to try the dessert here which I'd been really excited for so I will definitely be back - probably for drinks and dessert rather than dinner since the wait is ridiculous.


So I found this place by walking down the street, seeing stairs leading into a basement and walking down them. Sorry Mom; that happened. This bar is tiny, dimly lit, feels like a speakeasy (yes another one of those) and has STRONG drinks. My favorite part about it are the Bar Rules:
  1. You must enjoy yourself here.
  2. Do not take yourself too seriously.
  3. Do not sit quietly at the bar. You must engage in conversation.
  4. We drink to be merry not to be boring.
  5. If a beautiful woman/man is by themselves, you must attempt conversation and attempt courtship
  6. When an awesome power ballad is playing you must sing along
  7. Never pass up a free shot from a staff member
  8. Finally, bad decisions are celebrated here not condemned. . .No judging.
Photo Credit: Ashley S. on


Locanda Verde

Ranking right up there with ABC Kitchen (that review is coming next week) and Pipa, this restaurant combines homey with classy. It also featured some of the best individual dishes I've had in New York like the sheep’s milk ricotta with sea salt and herbs, the lamb meatball sliders with caprino and cucumber (some people order these as dessert) and the tagliatelle with bolognese.

I also tried the Locanda salad of bitter greens, dried cherries, hazelnuts and smoked speck and the fire-roasted garlic chicken (you can actually order this for one person FYI) which were also good but not my favorites. The chicken was almost too garlicky for me. We topped the night off with La Fantasia di Caramello for One which features caramel gelato, sour apple sorbetto, pieces of apple, gingerbread croutons and peanut brittle with coffee caramel drizzled on top. The gingerbread croutons were AMAZING - I kept rooting around the bowl to find them all.

Yet another great date option (if any boys are reading this figure it out!) or a fun birthday restaurant.

Sun, Savory Seafood and Late Nights on Croatia’s Adriatic Coast

By James Ullrich

Croatia isn’t the first place most Americans associate with a fun time on a picturesque European beach. They’d be forgiven for thinking that wild nights, sunny beaches and great seafood are restricted to the coasts of Italy or southern France. But Croatia’s Adriatic coast is fast becoming the new beach party hotspot, drawing throngs of young European sun worshipers in search of affordable fun. And where there’s youth there’s no shortage of roaring nightlife when the sun goes down. I’ve found there’s a lot about “Eastern Europe’s Riviera” that’s worth enjoying.

Situated on the warm, blue waters of the Adriatic, the coast of Croatia has been the recipient of great press in recent years. Since the end of the Balkan civil war people from around the continent have descended on the area. Taking advantage of the low prices and warm weather, travelers like me favor the earthy charm of the region over the snootier, pricier locales of the French Riviera and Italy. With the savings, I can afford to stay longer—and play harder—on its picturesque beaches, seafood cafes, and open-all-night clubs.

Dubrovnik, jutting out over the bathtub-warm Dalmatian coast, is a treasure trove of tasty opportunities. Lovely and historic, the city’s cobbles once rivaled nearby Venice for supremacy. Rightfully called “the Pearl of Adriatic Sea”, its ring of thick, imposing defensive walls testify to its former importance. Now Dubrovnik plays the role of a world class city hosting festivals, cultural events, and tourists enjoying its inviting atmosphere, great restaurants, and sunny climate.

Photo of Dubrovnik - Credit:

Photo of Dubrovnik - Credit:

Large chunks of the Old Town are now traffic-free zones, making ambling along the winding streets a stress-free experience. I love taking an evening stroll as the aroma of freshly caught seafood snakes through the cobbled lanes. Do yourself a favor and duck into a family-owned restaurant and enjoy some of the local cuisine. Like any coastal area, a rich tradition has evolved as generations of fishermen and local chefs translated their greatest food resource into a tasty art.

Some Croatian favorites include grilled red mullet, savory stews, fresh oyster with lemons, and the amazing shrimp buzara, a sauce of tomatoes, white wine, onions and breadcrumbs. Because of its proximity to other coastal countries, some Croatian fish dishes also carry Italian and Spanish influences.

Many restaurants hug the cliffs jutting out over the sea, affording diners with a breathtaking view of the aqua-blue waters spreading out into the horizon. Local restaurants serving great traditional fare include the laid-back Sesame, the old-fashioned Dubrovacki Kantun, and the popular Rozarij.

Photo of coast from Dubrovnik - Credit:

Once the shops of Old Town close for the night, revelers come out and the cobbled quarters become the scene of music, drinking and flirting till early morning. Clubs and bars abound along the winding lanes. Some clubs spin middle-of-the road electronica and some cater to a more artsy/underground crowd. Latino Club Fuego and Beach Club Banjo are popular, as is the unique Revelin, located inside the historic Revelin Fortress.

In terms of bars, there are plenty, particularly a clutch located behind the cathedral. Faux Irish pubs are the latest craze, packed with Aussies, Americans and UK partiers—but few locals. Katie O’Connor’s holds the title of Oldest Irish Pub in Town, and is situated in an old stone cellar. Pub Karaka, an Irish wannabe, is popular too.

Be warned: Revelers in Dubrovnik like to up the classiness when they hit the town, so don’t dress in your worn jeans, Nike trainers and unwashed shirt. If you brought some nice clothes, now’s the time to break them out. I feel embarrassed when I show up wearing the same undignified garb I wore that morning. My rumpled Adidas t-shirt and Converse shoes won’t cut it. Neither will yours.

In terms of Dubrovnik accommodations, cheap beds can be found at Vila Micika Hostel and Dubrovnik Backpacker’s Club and Youth Hostel, Dubrovnik. At the other end of the spectrum, plusher experiences can be had at the Hotel Kazbek, Hotel Bellevue, and Hotel Excelsior.

Don’t let an opportunity to visit one of Croatia’s great island experiences pass you by. A 30-minute drive across the causeway from Zadar, Pag Island hosts an interesting mix of traditional culture and modernity infused with the vibrancy brought out by its young visitors. The throbbing night scene in the town of Novalja has led the island to be nicknamed “the Balkan Ibiza” by young Europeans in search of a less touristy experience than its overrated Spanish counterpart. The party begins on the beach and continues through the night at the sweaty, crowded clubs.

Needless to say, afternoon siestas are popular here. Accommodations on the island range from hostels (the well-located Big Yellow House) to nice hotels (Hotel Tony and Hotel Boskinac) to camping grounds for the rustic set.

Once you’re sunburned and partied out, take a couple days to recover because there’s much left to explore. The Istrian Coast is charming, and its main attraction, Rovinj, is an idyllic town worth getting lost in (and you will; the ancient winding streets of its old town core are confusing but picturesque). Split is another great option. Considered Croatia’s “second city’, Split boasts a rich Roman history sharing space with some of the best upscale shopping opportunities on the Dalmatian coast. Try the seafood here. You’ll be glad you did.

Photo of Split - Credit:

Though still enjoyable solo (you’ll meet plenty of new friends), the region is best experienced with people who share your energy level and interests. Depending on your preference for nighttime activities, you might want to try the romantic/family route (think lovely snusets over the sea) or party it up with close pals who’ll keep your secrets (think Animal House on the beach). Summer is the best time to visit if you’re interested in the beach, particularly July and August. Winter brings shorter days, cooler temperatures, but lesser crowds.

Thanks to the proximity of mountains to the coast, mountain biking and trekking opportunities can be done without much extra travel.
Treks can range from the simple coastal walks to complete mountain adventures. In the winter, skiing is hugely popular; the Croatian Olympic center at Bjelolasica is a top-notch facility and draws would-be slalom champs. In the summer, thousands of hard-core kayakers and scuba divers tag team the sea.

For those of you who only have a week or two to spend, I recommend spending a few days in Dubrovnik, scenic Rovinj with a quick jaunt to the island of Havar and then on to Split for a couple more days before returning home.

Photo of Havar - Credit:

Balmy climate, blue water, and historic cities—at a more affordable price than the better-known alternatives to the west. I’ve found that the popular-again Croatian coast is more crowded every year, but that’s the thing about great places; there’s a reason why they don’t remain a well-kept secret for long.


Author Bio:

James Ullrich is a thirty-three year-old freelance writer. He recently completed his first novel, a contemporary thriller set in Rome and Prague. When not writing, he enjoys traveling through Europe with a backpack and a journal. He’s currently working on his next novel. He lives in Seattle.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Weekly New York Post - 1.9.2012

This week's blog traverses the West Village, Meatpacking, SOHO and the LES.


Motor City Bar
Welcome to a crazy LES good time! Although before you order twelve tequila shots make sure you have the cash to pay for them - that's right CASH. Don't forget! Worst case if you do there is an ATM next door. This bar comes chalk full of entertainment too. The below dancer is Labretta Suede and she not only has the moves but is also very nice! The bar gets nice and cozy on Saturday nights and stays open late. It's got that biker bar vibe, PBR, and tons of fun people! Hit. It. Up.


I'm pretty sure we went up to the Catch Rooftop bar which is more of a club late at night. That's what I posted the picture of but I can't really remember...The dance mix was pretty good but we got there so late that the crowd was petering out so I feel like I need to give it another chance. Kind of a pain to get in too but that's Meatpacking for you!


Anchor Bar
I've been pestering my friend for the name of this place for months because that's how much I liked it. The interior has got an awesome look to it (just look at the chandelier!) and the dance floor is HOPPING. Whereas Catch felt like your average dance club, Anchor I was all about. Definitely headed back there now that I know the name!

Photo Credit: Anchor Bar Website


Automatic Slims
Okay so there wasn't anything hugely special to this place other than that it is walking distance from excellent restaurants like Extra Virgin, but then again isn't everything in the West Village walkable? The one thing that I do love about this place is that I gave the waitress a $3 tip for two Bud Lights and thanks to my accidental generosity she gave me free beers for the rest of the night. BOOM!

Photo Credit: Andy H. on

Stopped here for an evening meal on a Sunday. The place is pretty standard but the food was good. I got the Steakhouse burger which is a custom blend of 30-day dry-aged prime beef (Brisket, Shortribs, Sirloin) topped with caramelized onions and an order of sweet fries. Overall great burger, great fries, average service. I'd go back if there weren't a ton of other places worth trying first. But if you are in the area and looking for a good burger without the wait stop here.

Photo Credit: BLT Website

Fatty Crab
Just had this last night with an old coworker. I went to the Meatpacking location and the place was cool-looking, the waitress was super friendly and helpful and voila! they had a shellfish allergy menu for me. It was the coolest thing ever! We ordered the steamed buns that are soft and fluffy and you fill them with a juicy piece of pork, some spicy vegetables and what I think is plum sauce? SO good but definitely not for a first date - they stick like crazy to your teeth!

We also ordered the watermelon, pickle and crispy pork which comes out looking kind of like a salad. The juicy sweetness of the watermelon and the crispy savory pork might a mouthwatering bite!

Great restaurant! Oh and they have Hitachino Red Rice Ale which is one of my favorite beers. My only knock on the place is that when we arrived the place was mostly empty and the only two tables they would seat us at were RIGHT next to other people. I practically had to sit in the lap of the guy next to me which was totally unnecessary. Prepare to be friendly with your neighbors and try the shellfish since I can't!

Photo Credit: Fatty Crab Website

A group of my friends have a running inside joke about the Honey Badger. For those of you who live in the Dark Ages watch this video. So we walk into Fedora's and low and behold the second menu item is... The Honey Badger. Made with Rittenhouse Rye, Combier, fresh lime, honey syrup and house beef jerky bitters because honey badger don't care. There was no way I was ordering it because it sounds disgusting but I did have a large beer which was tasty. The crowd is a little older so we eventually left but it made the blog due to menu ingenuity! Probably won't be back for drinks though - I hear dinner is good though!

Photo Credit:

Last one on the list is Tartine which is a TINY restaurant that has multiple things I don't like..

1) It's cash only - WHAT A PAIN
2) It's BYOB - also a plus but not when you don't bring enough
3) It's tiny so you are sitting on top of people
4) It's an unorganized line to get a table and the waitress skipped us after we'd been waiting for at least 30 minutes.

Outside of the above which isn't that serious the food was good but not spectacular. I spent $45 not counting my wine which wasn't hugely expensive but still a lot for a small app and entree. I had the tuna tartare to start which was okay - I don't usually like my tuna to be that chopped up. The sauce on it was good though. Then for dinner I got the beef mignonette with fries and what I call a "fake" salad because it's really just lettuce with tomatoes on top. It was REALLY spicy so overall not a favorite. To sum it up for New York there are places I'd rather go.