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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bienvenue Montreal, Canada!

Oh yeah!  Ticker just went up to TWO East Coast cities (yes I know this one is in Canada but I'm still counting it).  I spent three amazing days in Montreal, Canada, attending the annual Osheaga music festival.  I saw a bunch of my favorite acts including Of Monsters and Men, Passion Pit, The Shins, M83, Florence and the Machine, Fun, Bombay Bicycle Club, MGMT, and the Arkells.  Top moments include everyone chanting Carried Away in unison, singing to the Shins as it poured down rain on everyone, and yelling "beer than techno tent" with a bunch of boys from Brooklyn.  Pretty sure it changed my life.

The festival didn't start until about 1pm each day and most days the bands we liked didn't play until 2 or 3pm so we spent each morning seeing as much of Montreal as possible.  It's an adorable city that is fairly walkable and for the long distances they have a metro although it isn't as extensive as NYC or London.  However, they have this awesome bike program called the Bixi Bike Pass where you pay an annual fee and you can pick up a bike from a bunch of different locations and then drop it off at a different location in the city.  That's apparently how the locals do it.  Too bad I am terrible at riding bikes.  We walked.

The first morning (after we'd slept off the overnight Greyhound bus ride from NYC), my friend took us to Beauty's, a famous Jewish deli in the Mont-Royal district that's been around since 1942.  They are famous for their milkshakes and their "mish mash" dish which is sausage, peppers, cheese and more in an omelet.  The best part is that your average omelet in my opinion has too much egg.  This was mostly "toppings" - YUM!

I also tried a "famous" Montreal bagel which sadly didn't impress me at all.  They aren't as soft as a NYC bagel and they aren't as flavorful as my still favorite, the Portland Maine Scratch bagel.

Lastly, I got a few good gulps of the blueberry milkshake which was SO good.  Nice and thick without tasting too milky.

The best part is that the owner, who I feel like is as old as the restaurant, greets and seats you.  He was pretty cute.  And ancient.  I highly recommend trying this place out on your trip to Montreal although now that I've been there I probably don't need to go back.


Post concert we were STARVING so we hit up M4 Burrito which is like Canadian Chipotle.  I can't even remember the nine million things I put in my burrito but it was soooooooo good.  Great late night spot.  Much recommended.

The next day we were less than impressed with the festival line-up so this time we had lunch instead of brunch.  We went to O Burger because I was craving some hamburger and apparently it's the best!  I ordered the Dallas which has monterey jack cheese, crispy bacon, glazed onions and creole dijon sauce. It was juicy deliciousness paired with a little sweet from the onions, a little bite from the dijon and a little crunch from the bacon.  Mmmm.  I washed it down with their rose sangria which was refreshing, light and filled with fruit!  Lastly, for those vegetarians out there this was a GREAT menu for you - lots of options for a burger place.  My roommate (a veggie) was very impressed.

After spending a few afternoon hours at the festival to see some smaller bands we left early (again the evening line up Saturday wasn't great) to go to the concert on a boat that we had booked.  Turns out we were all too exhausted to dance on a boat until 6am so we scalped our tickets down at the Old Port.  Old Port was so beautiful we decided to wander around for a bit and by the time we'd taken down some ice cream we were feeling a lot better and decided to get a beer at Les Deux Pierrots. Turns out this place is AWESOME!  There was a live band playing what clearly appeared to be the type of French songs you'd sing at French karaoke because the Canadians were going nuts.  Then at some point they switched to American classic rock favorites and we hit the dance floor.  We accidentally stayed there until REALLY late because we were having so much fun.  So much for being tired!


Boy today it was difficult to get moving but the amazing line-up at Osheaga pressed us onward.  We started today with a walk to Cafe Santropol for lunch.  This might be the most adorable cafe I have ever seen.  It was like Snow White meets Willy Wonka meets The Secret Garden!  It took a little while to get seating but there were five of us.  I obviously had to go with the Santropol sandwich which was sliced roast beef on blue cheese and cream cheese spread between two GIANT slices of pumpernickel bread.  If I wasn't in such a state at this point it would've been delicious.  The few bites I had WERE delicious.  But then I succumbed to just eating the fluffy cloud-like bread which is what Heaven must taste like.  I would totally come back here!!


Overall my assessment of Osheaga is that it is the best music festival I have ever been to (yes better than Coachella or ACL).  My assessment of Montreal is that the bagels could be missed but not the city in general.  I will 100% be back to investigate more of this city and to eat at Chuck Hughes restaurant - was pissed I didn't make it there.  In other news, pretty sure TOMS shoes are cheaper there.  I now own a pair.

Monday, August 27, 2012

NYC Weekly Blog Post - 8.27.2012

So I've actually been traveling the last couple weeks (come back for a full report on my two weeks in Croatia in a week or so) so I'm just now posting some new eats in New York City.  I just recently moved to the East Village so there's a bunch of great places I've discovered there and a couple Food Network chef restaurants I hit up in the past few weeks.  Enjoy!


Do or Dine 
I don't know how many of you are lovers of the Food Network but this season on Next Food Network Star I became completely obsessed with Justin, the young chef from Brooklyn.  Such a bad ass.  And then low and behold he wins!  This prompted me to visit his restaurant as soon as possible before all of America decided to book a reservation (which is funny because they don't take them).

The restaurant is a little bit of a trek from the city to the Bedford/Stuyvesant area but TOTALLY worth it.  The restaurant itself is a little small (bring more than four people and it might be a bit tricky to fit all of you at a table comfortably) but totally cool.  It's hipster in the real way not the annoying "hipster" way.  The tile floor features a skull and cross bones, the table tops are glass with flowers and other scenery underneath and if you are headed to the bathroom make sure to ask the bartender for a marker so that you can graffiti the wall (yup it's encouraged).

And when you are done loving the look of the restaurant you can begin focusing on the food which is probably the most random menu I've ever seen.  My friend and I shared... the foie gras doughnut (famous), the fried chicken, the frog legs, the nachos, and the shishito peppers.

The doughnut - I'm glad I tried it but it wasn't my favorite.  The doughnut was warm which was obviously a plus but I think foie gras and doughnut together is just a little too rich for me.

The fried chicken - Other people have given this bad reviews but I thought it was really tasty.  It was fried the "good" way where there isn't too much breading and the ratio was a lot of chicken to two small waffles which I actually prefer.  A lot of the places in LA overkill on the waffles.  Lastly it had like a mango honey glaze which topped it off!

The frog legs - It was my first time having them so I can't really make comparisons but for my first foray into frog body parts I thought they were really good.  Also they were cooked in a Dr. Pepper sauce which I thought was inventive and fun and still tasted great.  They were also huge which I wasn't expecting and realistically tasted like chicken haha.

The nachos - The nachos were suggested by Justin himself who even after winning Star is still waiting the tables at his own restaurant which I thought was really cool.  The "nachos" that came out were the strangest nachos I'd ever seen!  They were really more like fried dumplings with gouda cheese inside and then covered in "nacho"-esk toppings.  Regardless they were delicious!

The shishito peppers - I'm still having day dreams about the peppers I had at Blue Ribbon in Vegas so I felt bad for this dish.  I thought it was an interesting idea to serve the peppers plain and then provide different powders to dip them in but at the end of the day the sea salt grilled peppers at Blue Ribbon just blew these away.

My final comment about the restaurant is that when it came to dessert, Justin very nonchalantly told us "We don't really do dessert.  It's not our thing.  We have assorted ice creams and serve a ice cream Snickers bar from the bodega down the street."  My friend and I thought this was hilarious and ordered the Snickers.  We started cracking up when it came cut in four pieces, still in the wrapper, topped with powdered sugar and a sliced strawberry.  So hipster ironic haha.  And it was delicious.

Overall loved this place and would totally come back.  After reading some other reviews I also learned that they have an outdoor area too so I may have to try that next time.  I highly recommend you try it!

My first reaction is "They have a website? How Brooklyn can they really be?" but then I remembered this bar had a taco truck inside the venue and jameson/PBR combos for like $6 a pop.  My kind of party.  Apparently they have live music to which is just another positive point.  There's a small indoor area but it's the giant outdoor terrace that's the best part of this place.  Grab a picnic table and a taco and get to drinking.  Definitely need to hit this up in the daytime too.


Bathtub Gin
It's been on the list forever and one of my best friends recently came to visit from LA so I took advantage of needing a place for us to share some cocktails and have her meet some of my NYC friends.  Be on the lookout because the entrance looks like your standard coffee shop.  Walk inside and head through the back door in yet another of NYC's great "speakeasy" bars.  This one definitely tops my list though - and yes it does feature a bathtub... and some REALLY strong drinks.  We also took advantage of the smores platter which was very tasty.

Photo Credit: Bathtub Gin website

Another one that was on my list (for those of you who read this often you know that I missed out on this restaurant in Vegas).  My overall assessment was that it met expectations but didn't wow me.  The burrata starter was awesome (I often feel like the cheese is too hard and it was soft and creamy).

The olive oil braised octopus with charred scallions, rice beans and mantacato was really good although I just don't think I like octopus that much. 

My rabbit agnolotti with peas and riesling-mustard reduction was good but then made my stomach hurt (not sure why since I've eaten this dish many times).  Not sure if it was too rich or too many carbs? 

I then rescind my rabbit comment because I tried the duck and foie gras ravioli with marsala reduction which was phenomenal and should've been the richest thing on the menu.  It was probably my favorite dish after the burrata.


For dessert we went with warm rhubarb tart with basil yogurt, macadamia nuts and Chianti sorbet.  It was SO good.  All the different flavors came together to create this sweet, sour, sugary, crunchy, melty taste. Loved it.

The amedei chocolate cake with salted caramel gelato and chocolate butterscotch fell short.  I feel like I can get this at every restaurant.


Lastly the restaurant itself was kind of standard.  Nothing all that special to it.  The one thing I did like was they had belts around the mirrors which was an interesting look.  Dinner was good but for the price and the experience I would recommend but not necessarily need to go back. 

Photo Credit: Scarpetta Website


So I accidentally ended up at this joint because we tried to get into Apotheke next door which was next to impossible and we don't wait in lines.  Turns out we walked into a tropical dance party instead!  This place was awesome.  The margaritas are strong yet tasty and they have nine million to choose from.  It's small enough to be intimate but large enough to get your dance on to the great beats that are playing.  I danced up a storm.  Great place for a bday or bachelorette. I will definitely be back.


A tiny little bar that has a couple food options all of which look incredible although I wasn't there to eat.  They make a MEAN pickleback though.  Great place to go with your own group because you ARE the party.

Photo Credit: Bua Website

A little bit bigger of an option, also in the East Village. A little more of your standard divey bar.  Good times here too.

Photo Credit: Filament F on


Sala One Nine 
This is one of the last remaining restaurants I've been dying to try and luckily my best friend arriving from LA on a weeknight gave me the perfect excuse.  I feel like decor-wise it's good to meet a friend or go on a first date because it's bustling but not too loud.

Photo Credit: Sala One Nine Website

It's Spanish tapas so we shared an assortment of dishes...

We ordered the Serrano ham croquetas but they must have misheard us because we got the vegetarian ones instead.  Turns out they were delicious so who cares.  They were nice and hot and perfectly crispy on the outside.


The queso de cabra con miel (fried goat cheese with honey and candied onions) was far and away the highlight of the dinner.  The onions add an interesting layer of flavor to the goat cheese balls.  I was impressed that it wasn't too sweet too which sometimes this dish can be.  We fought over who got to eat all of them.

The other two dishes were a steak with red pepper and figs with blue cheese and balsamic - both specials.  The steak was well cooked but a little bland.  The figs were almost overwhelmed by the blue cheese but that was held back by the sweetness of the balsamic. 

Overall it was a delicious meal.  My friend is fluent in Spanish and the waiter took a liking to her which resulted in free port and wine for the remainder of the meal.  This place is awesome.  I highly recommend.


Fatty Crab 
Yes I keep on ending up here every once in awhile because it is so f-ing good.  This time I did picklebacks which burned a hole down my esophagus and ordered the chicken wings which were spicy and savory.  I love this place.  And this time we sat at the bar and the bartender is awesome.  You must go here.



Bar Americain
My other Food Network chef restaurant review is for this midtown establishment started by the famous Bobby Flay.  The food was good but pretty standard in my book.  The famous potato chips with blue cheese dressing really are the best thing on the menu.  We ordered pasta, meatballs and an apple dessert.  Again no special twist so not really my thing but not bad food by any means.  The restaurant itself is very "business lunch/dinner" to me or maybe for a family graduation.  They are known for their shellfish though so maybe I was just missing out on what makes this place special.

Photo Credit: Bar Americain Website



Turks and Frogs 
Coming from the Pacific Northwest, I'm used to having a plethora of "coffee" shops which are really just hipster hangouts that serve coffee so that you have an excuse to sit around on a cushy couch and listen to music all day.  So it was a slightly chilly New York summer evening and I was CRAVING a place that fit this description.  Strangely Manhattan really has nothing like this.  I checked Yelp and saw a couple similar type places in Brooklyn but I was wandering the Westside Highway at the time and couldn't be bothered to go that far.

That's when we wandered past Turks and Frogs.  Granted it doesn't fit all the requirements (no music), but it did sport Turkish coffees, chocolates and cushy cushions in a dimly lit setting.  Exactly what I was looking for.  We sat around for a couple hours (we were trying to think of something that didn't involve drinking which is difficult to do in NYC on a Sunday evening) and this was the perfect answer.  I plan on making this place a habit.