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Friday, December 7, 2012

Weekly NYC Blog Post - 12.7.2012

Sorry it's been awhile!  Thanks to Thanksgiving and pneumonia I'm just now getting around to writing this.  Lucky for you I have found a ton of new AMAZING places that have made my top ten list for sure.  Read em and weep.


Amor Y Amargo
So after being sassed repeatedly about this entry I have updated it.  A friend of mine has been forever mentioning this place as one of his favorite bars in Manhattan because he knows the bartender and is super cool.  So out of spite I showed up there for the first time without him (although on hearing my friend and I were there, he apparently changed out of his pajamas to come join us).  That alone is a glowing recommendation for this place. 

It's small, intimate, and the perfect place for people who enjoy bitter drinks (particularly those made with BITTERS).  You can taste about twenty different kinds at the bar or try them as part of an actual drink.  The bartender is really friendly and knowledgeable which is a plus (especially when your super-well-connected friend knows her).  It wasn't terribly hard to get bar stools for four, although it was a weeknight.  I liked the couple drinks I tried but as more of a tequila person it doesn't rank at the top of my cocktail bar list.  If you like bitters you will love this place though!

Photo Credit:  Tristan W. on

This baby has been on my list for some time now but for some reason I had it in my head that they just have appetizers and drinks.  Turns out they have TAPAS and drinks.  And I almost walked by the tiny restaurant because I thought it was a sushi restaurant when really it just shares a larger space with a sushi restaurant (don't worry there is a wall in between!).  The only seating for the most part is at the bar so be prepared for that.  You sit facing the guy making your food though so that's fun!  Oh and did I mention the food is incredible? One of my best friends and I were out for our "friendiversary" so we went with the smaller of the tasting menus.

Round one was cured artic char with salmon roe, blini bread, cucumber and scallions.  The fish was very fresh and soft which paired well with the crispiness of the blini bread and cucumber.

Next was the crispy kale salad with homemade ricotta, cipollini onions and grilled figs.  Again a solid balance of flavors and textures.  The crispness of the kale paired well with the softness of the ricotta and the onions proved a savory partner to the sweetness of the figs.  Delicious!

Normally this next dish would feature scallops but alas I am allergic so instead we had braised octopus with celery salad, miso potato mousse and seaweed butter.  I thought the octopus was slightly chewy which I think is expected, it's just not my favorite.  The dish overall was still very good although probably not strongly flavored enough for me.

The seared quail with savory bread pudding, maitake mushrooms and poached cranberries, on the otherhand, was plenty flavorful!  The quail was perfectly cooked (for searing that is) and the cranberries added a burst of fall flavor.

And it wouldn't be complete without dessert.  The dark chocolate custard with 5 spice, creme anglaise, pineapple and macadamia was pretty good.  The custard was a little dense for me and I'm not a huge fan of pineapple or macadamia so maybe I'm a bad judge.  It wasn't bad by any means though and was a nice end to a wonderful meal.

Overall I liked the restaurant but could've probably used a little more elbow room.  Also not the place for a large group (no tables) or a first date since you don't face each other and don't have any privacy for conversation.  But for a friendiversary it was just right!

Exchange Alley
Turns out exercise really can do you good!  And by that I mean in helping me find new restaurants...On a leisurely run though the East Village I accidentally passed this hidden gem between 1st and Ave A.  I almost hate to even write a review of it because it will become known and then impossibly to get into but such is the life of a food blogger...This restaurant is adorable - it's just big enough to do a big group but still small enough to feel homey.  I liked it so much I went for dinner on a Friday and then returned for brunch that Sunday.  You can make reservations too - an extra plus!

For dinner, we started with the blackened beets with walnuts, goat cheese and chives and the charred kale with calabrese peppers.  The beets were sooo good.  All the ingredients together made for a sweet, savory, crunchy, melty pot of tasty.  The kale was good but I'm sort of over that trend.  Move on.

Next was the beef cheeks with root vegetable risotto.  The beef cheeks are slowly braised in red wine and herbs and is then classically prepared with butter, parmesan and sage and topped with fresh horseradish and thyme.  It was a lot of ingredients that came together into a hearty dish that may have been slightly too rich for me to finish but was finger-lickin good.

The spaghetti squash carbonara with a crispy poached egg was a fun twist on a classic dish.  The egg was so soft that I thought it was goat cheese at first (can you tell I didn't do the ordering?)!  It melted under my fork and was a good complement to the slight crunch of the squash "noodles."  Squash "noodles" aren't quite my thing (I prefer the regular pasta) but I thought it was inventive and still very good.

The grilled radicchio with smoked mozzarella and garlic chips was probably my least favorite dish.  The radicchio was difficult to cut and to chew and the mozzarella wasn't strong enough to compete with the saba and garlic so it got kind of lost.

From there I'll move into the brunch items.  We started with the brussel sprouts which were very good but again a trend that I'm over.


The bacon bread with bourbon maple,  however was fun and sloppy delicious.  I say this because I think more maple syrup ended up on my hands, lap and hair then on the slice of bread or in my mouth.  But it really did taste like bacon bread!  The chef, Paul, mentioned that it's a dish that is grandmother used to make - "There was always a coffee can of bacon fat in the fridge!"  

I also ordered the grapefruit slices.  For some reason in my head I thought there would be more to them but they were just slices of grapefruit.  Missed opportunity here.  Paul get on it! :-)

Last up on the food front was the ricotta toast with meyer lemon and saba.  It was very simple which I think is a good test but unfortunately it needed more.  The cheese consistency was good but there just wasn't a strong enough flavor to carry the dish.  I ended up dousing it in saba which helped a little...

What really made this brunch were the cocktails.  I think we tried one of each collectively as a table.  My order was the Mamma Lady with is sake, djinn (house infused sake w/ gin botanicals), orange marmalade (yes like the jam) and jalapeno agave topped with Prosecco and an orange twist.  It was magically.  I had two.  The marmalade added textural complexity to the juices and there was just enough sake and jalapeno for that spicy kick.  Oh yes I'll be back for more of you!

I would like to mention that my above reviews are very critical only because I really liked this place and on purpose tried a lot of the ancillary dishes because I think that's where focus tends to get lost.  But to be fair I tried the priest strangeler dish that my friend ordered which consists of rolled pasta (kind of looks like a joint if you ask me - not that I know what those look like...), sweet sausage, spiced tomato, and vodka cream.  It was to die for.  The sausage was spicy and crumbly and the cream was rich without being overpowering.  And the tomatoes were soo juicy.  God it was good.

Tree Bistro
I've passed this place a ton of times and always wondered up the outside garden they are always pushing.  My roommate randomly wanted to go there the other night so I decided to test it out.  They convert the garden into an indoor tented area during winter which they keep REALLY WARM.  That was one complaint.  The other is the service was TERRIBLE.  I actually wanted to ordered dessert and an espresso after my meal and finally gave up and just paid the check instead because no one came back to take my order.  

Literally lost out on business which is super unfortunate because I had the Tree salad with mesclun greens, plum tomatoes, blue cheese, croutons and bacon-honey mustard dressing and it was one of the best salads I've had.  It was a perfect ratio of ingredients, the croutons weren't mushy, and the bacon plus honey was a perfect blend for a dressing.  Bummer.

Photo Credit: Tree Bistro Website


Experimental Cocktail Club
Another new hotspot I've been hearing a ton about.  I thought it probably fell into the "standard NYC speakeasy" in terms of looks although the atmosphere, clientele and employees were refreshingly unpretentious.. for now.  I loved our waitress who I bounded with over drinks.  The Monsieur Provocateur is one of the best drinks I've ever had.  It's Kombucha Tea infused Shochu with pomegranate and beet yuzu rice vinegar shrub, verjus and billecart-salmon champagne.  I don't even know what half that stuff is but together they make magic.  Not too sweet; not too bitter; not too spicy; not too alcoholic; just right.

Photo Credit:

Hair of the Dog
If you've been to Off the Wagon or 13th Step this is the newest frat boy extension in the LES.  Automatically love because of that alone.  Great drink specials.  Numerous TVs.  Nuf said.  If you are a hipster avoid at all costs.  Wearing a jersey?  This is your place.

Photo Credit: Hair of the Dog Website

I heard good things about this place and hadn't had Mediterranean in awhile so I hit it up on a Sunday night.  We started with the hummus which includes hummus, chickpea puree, Za’atar and garbanzo bean salsa.  Solid portions which was nice - the hummus one was a great flavor.

Photo Credit: Mezetto Website

Mmmm I was not a huge fan of the falafel buns with israeli pickle salsa and harissa aioli in a steam bun.  All the flavor was lost in the giant bun and mostly just tasted overly spicy.  Not a fan.

The pistacchio lamb meatballs with tzatziki, roasted red peppers, kalamata and pine nut salsa were kind of dry but otherwise okay.  Again not a home run.

The mini za'atar flatbread with artichoke hearts, feta cheese, wild arugula and parmesan shavings was delicious if you just avoid the flatbread which wasn't "flat" at all.  It was way too bready and tasted like flour.  Ick.  If you just searched out the artichokes and ate them with the parmesan you might salvage the dish.

Overall cute restaurant with very attentive staff but I was not particularly impressed with the food.  I'm going back because a friend from out of town wants to try it so we will see what a second chance brings...


Peking Duck House
First a special shoutout to one of my account executives who took me out to lunch here (I never get to go out for free lunch)!  That being said we ordered the Peking Duck (duh) and it was oh so good.  If you are ever in the midtown try this place out.  Although the service was pretty questionable....


Back Forty West
For those of you who love Back Forty, you can now find one on the westside!  We hit this place up for brunch and I discovered their warm pumpkin hummus with spiced nut flatbread, pumpkin seeds and pickles.  This hummus might be one of the best things I've ever tasted.  I asked for more bread and then practically slurped up the remnants of the bowl with my finger.  I don't really know how to describe it to do it justice but it was thick and warm and sweet (but not too sweet) and I don't know just tasted like Christmas.  I would cross the city to eat this again.  The place itself is also adorable (we ate upstairs).  I highly recommend.

Photo Credit:

I also had the fried chicken and waffle with smoked butter.  I've had better.  See hummus review above. haha.


I was told this place is one of those places "to be seen."  Guess that's unfortunately since I was in workout clothes and covered in frozen sweat thanks to the freezing cold day outside.  But Bubby's southern charm and fantastic food thawed my tongue and my stomach into "bubby-ly" happiness.  First off I almost did cartwheels when I saw "cinnamon toast" on the menu.  NO ONE puts that on a menu.  Probably because I could make it at home in three easy steps but WHO CARES I LOVE THIS SHIT.  I ordered a starter plate of it for myself.  And it was cinnanmony and sugary and I slobbered it right up.


I was somewhat more adult and human when I moved on to my entree which was some type of combination of scrambled eggs, sweet potatoes, chorizo and onions (I think).  Regardless it was super tasty. 

The restaurant itself is light, airy and refreshing.  It takes awhile to get seated for brunch on a Sunday but that's always what they are known for.  Our waiter was a little ditzy but not terrible and this is the place where I discovered my love for sparkling water - who knows why I'd never bothered to try it before but I swear they make it extra sparkly here.  Mmmm.  I would totally come back.