Roadtrip! Food & Fun :: Boston and Martha’s Vineyard

Boston, MA


Boston Waterfront

Boston Waterfront

I took the most amazing trip to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard over Labor Day holiday and fell in love. Boston is one of those places that feels like a big city but is actually pretty small and low-key if you ask me. I loved the slower pace, the still quietness of the South End on a Saturday night. The views of the harbor, the blue and white hues of sailboats and water surrounding the city’s edge. The amazing Italian food in the North End, the historic architecture all over the city and along the Freedom Trail, and the beautiful campus of Harvard University.

Charles River Sunset

Charles River Sunset

Watching the sunset at dusk over the Charles River. Amazing lobster and seafood on the harbor with views to match…and for a big city girl like me, I think I could live here one day.

The Colonnade Hotel Rooftop Pool

The Colonnade Hotel Rooftop Pool

We stayed at the amazing Colonnade Hotel (with a rooftop pool and bar!) in Back Bay.

Shop in Back Bay, Boston

Shop in Back Bay, Boston

The next day, we headed to Newbury Street in Back Bay for shopping…

Public Gardens, Boston

Public Gardens, Boston

then we wandered through the Public Gardens, heading to historic Charles Street to see all the beautiful old homes in Beacon Hill

The Hill Tavern

The Hill Tavern

before we stopped at The Hill Tavern for drinks and lunch.

Old City Hall

Old City Hall

We spent most of the day hiking the Freedom Trail to see all the old historic buildings and sites around town.

Shrimp & Polenta, Sibling Rivalry

Shrimp & Polenta, Sibling Rivalry

That night we had amazing dinner in the South End at Sibling Rivalry and had some delicious seafood.

Harvard University

Harvard University

Our last day there, we made our way to Harvard University and trekked around Cambridge! Boston is definitely small enough to see in a few days, but the views and slower pace will make you want to stay a lot longer.

Here’s a few places I went to that you don’t want to miss on your next trip to Boston:

The North End, Boston

The North End, Boston

North End (Boston’s Little Italy): If you are in the mood for Italian food and pastries, this is the place to go. Just head straight to Hanover Street and you’ll find a multitude of shops, restaurants and cafes, delis, pizzerias, bakeries, pubs and taverns. Many have lines out the door on a Friday night so reservations are highly recommended!

Lucca, The North End Boston

Lucca, The North End Boston

We had an amazing dinner at a really nice Italian restaurant called Lucca on N. Hanover Street (Grilled Veal with Truffled Mash and Asparagus) and Lobster Tagliatelle!

Cannoli from Mike's Pastry

Cannoli from Mike's Pastry

Then we hit Mike’s Pastry for amazing cannolis and gelato. Um, YUM!

Giacomo's, The North End

Giacomo's, The North End

Here’s a list of my favorite places in The North End that you don’t wanna miss: Lucca, Strega, Neptune Oyster, Giacomo’s, Fiore, Cantina Italiana, Dino’s Pizza and Subs, Mike’s Pastry, Modern Pastry.

Newbury Street, Back Bay

Newbury Street, Back Bay

Back Bay/South End These are two of Boston’s nicest neighborhoods in my opinion. Back Bay is the best place for shopping, art galleries, gardens, cuisine and culture in Boston. There are gorgeous historical homes and churches, clothing boutiques, spas and salons and fabulous restaurants to explore. Head to Newbury Street and make your way to the Public Garden to check out the Swan boats or just hang out in the park. The Charles River Esplanade is a great place to get a gorgeous view of the harbour and stroll along the river on a sunny day.

Sibling Rivalry, South End

Sibling Rivalry, South End

The South End is a tree-lined neighborhood known for its fine dining, art galleries, open market, restaurants and high end martini clubs and jazz bars. Head to Tremont Street and check out Sibling Rivalry, Stella, Tremont 647 for a nice dinner.

Enjoying a Blueberry Martini @ 28 Degrees

Enjoying a Blueberry Martini @ 28 Degrees

Then hit 28 Degrees for some great martinis..

The Beehive

The Beehive

and The Beehive for amazing live jazz and blues.

Seaport, Boston Harbor

Seaport, Boston Harbor

Waterfront/Seaport District – If you want a great view of the Boston Harbor, then you need to go to Waterfront and Seaport District. You can start in the North End near the Bunker Hill Bridge and then continue around Atlantic Ave to Christopher Columbus Park and view the harbor islands. From here you can walk to the Aquarium where there are several cruise lines that take you around the harbor. Head down to Rowes Wharf to check out the show cruise ships and Boston Harbor Hotel and Towers and then cross the old Northern Bridge to the Seaport District.

Legal Seafood

Legal Seafood

The two places I recommend for Waterfront Dining are the famous seafood restaurants Legal Sea Foods and across the street the Legal Test Kitchen

Shrimp Cocktail at LTK

Shrimp Cocktail at LTK

(we ate at LTK and I had the most amazing Shrimp Cocktail

Truffled Lobster Mac & Cheese, LTK

Truffled Lobster Mac & Cheese, LTK

and Truffled Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese – to die for!)

Tia's on the Waterfront

Tia's on the Waterfront

For casual dining and terrific cocktails on the harbor, there’s no other place than Tia’s Restaurant and Bar on the Waterfront! Closer to the North End than the Seaport, but awesome place for happy hour and watching the sunset..

Martha’s Vineyard, MA


Vineyard Haven Harbor, MV

Vineyard Haven Harbor, MV

If there is ever a place I would like to go after retiring myself from the hustle and bustle of New York City, Martha’s Vineyard has to be top of my list. This charming island is the epitome of beautiful architecture, history, charm, quietness, tree-lined streets, locals, antiques and oh, seafood.

Vineyard Haven, MV

Vineyard Haven, MV

We took a train to Woods Hole from Boston and then took a ferry to Vineyard Haven, a lovely area of the island full of shops, restaurants, beautiful homes and even more stunning views of the ocean.

Black Dog Tavern

Black Dog Tavern

We strolled the streets for awhile and then made our way to the famous Black Dog Tavern, a restaurant and pub established in 1971,

Black Dog Clam Chowder

Black Dog Clam Chowder

famous for their Quahog (Clam) Chowder. Read my full review and get the recipe here!

The Edgartown Inn

The Edgartown Inn

Then we made our way to Edgartown, a quiet, beautiful little village on the island to check in to our Bed & Breakfast, The Edgartown Inn.

South Beach, Martha's Vineyard

South Beach, Martha's Vineyard

We decided to hit the beach immediately, so we headed to South Beach, the smaller, quieter beach on the South side of the island.

The Edgartown Lighthouse

The Edgartown Lighthouse

After relaxing and watching the sunset, we decided to head over to the Edgartown Lighthouse

House in Edgartown

House in Edgartown

and take in the views of the beautiful old homes,

Edgartown Harbor

Edgartown Harbor

harbors and the Harbor View Hotel.

Lobster Bisque

Lobster Bisque

That night we hit The Seafood Shanty for some delicious Lobster Bisque, Seafood Pasta, and Grilled Scallops and Shrimp. Situated right on the harbor, this is a great place for fresh seafood and great waterfront views. The prices are pretty reasonable too! After we stuffed our faces, it was time to have some fun.

The Atlantic Restaurant

The Atlantic Restaurant

We headed down to a fun area near the harbor and stopped at a local pub, and ran into a wedding party who pretty much took over the whole center of town. To top off the night, we went to the Atlantic Fish & Chop House for a drink and headed back to crash out!

Vineyard Breakfast at Edgartown Inn

Vineyard Breakfast at Edgartown Inn

The next day it was raining so our plans to hit Aquinna Beach on the other side of the island were ruined, but we had an amazing “Vineyard Breakfast” at our B&B with homemade apple cinnamon coffee cake,

Awesome Breakfast at Edgartown Inn

Awesome Breakfast at Edgartown Inn

scrambled eggs and bacon and some juice and coffee. Such a cute place!

Chappy House

Chappy House

We walked off breakfast by strolling around on N. Water Street for awhile..

Main Street, Edgartown

Main Street, Edgartown

and then we took a stroll down Main Street to check out more beautiful old homes, bookstores, shops and antique stores before we had to leave.

Murdicks Fudge, Edgartown

Murdicks Fudge, Edgartown

One of my favorite finds was Murdick’s Fudge – delicious creamy fudge in about 10 different flavors! Who can resist that?

The Vincent House

The Vincent House

The Vincent House was also really cool – the original home built in 1672 was actually transported into Edgartown and you can tour the house to see the classic Vineyard architecture and antique furnishings.

The Vincent House, MV

The Vincent House, MV

Imagine cooking in a big old fireplace like this–Love the cast iron pots!!)

VIncent House Garden

VIncent House Garden

This was definitely one of the most fun trips I’ve taken in a while..and I’ll most definitely be back (maybe for good!)

Edgartown Harbor

Edgartown Harbor


Top 10 (Things I Love) :: Oct ’11

Smorgas Chef, West Village NYC

1. Smorgas Chef, West Village

Nestled on a corner in the West Village, Smorgas Chef is a cozy, authentic Swedish restaurant that I discovered last month when a friend was in town. I have heard good reviews but haven’t had the chance to try it yet, and am I glad I did! Their food style is labeled “New Nordic Cuisine”, and everything on the menu is locally sourced and organic. The interior is small but has a large bar, and has a warm, ambient lighting that is cozy and romantic. They also have outside seating on their front patio as well as wrapped around the side of the building which is really nice on a crisp Fall night. We started our evening with Lingonberry Margaritas (quite potent I must add!) while we waited for our seats. We nibbled on some delicious Gravlaks Croquettes, which has generous pieces of luscious smoked salmon atop crispy potato cakes with chives and horseradish creme fraiche.

For our main dish we had to try their infamous Swedish Meatballs – WoW. Party in your mouth! The dish is almost enough for 2 people – you get about 10-12 decent sized meatballs slathered in a creamy light brown gravy, with whipped garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed julienne vegetables. The key to this dish is not only try them with the tangy and tart Lingonberry Preserves, but also ask for a side of Cloudberry Preserves (another delicious golden berry used in Swedish cooking that tastes like raspberry, strawberry and mango). For dessert, we ordered strong espressos and a pot of one of their many signature Swedish herbal teas. If we had more room, we might have tried the Scandanavian Soft Vanilla Waffles with Cloudberry preserves and Chantilly cream or the Honey Milk Chocolate Mousse but we were just so damn full from the Meatballs that we almost took a nap right there on the table. Love this place, will definitely be back for more Swedish yummy yums! They also have locations in the Financial District and in the Scandanavian House on Park Avenue.

Smorgas Chef, West Village
283 W. 12th St | New York NY 10014 | 212.243.7073

Check out Smorgas Chef online

Pane Panelle

2. Pane Panelle @ Stuzziceria, Tribeca

Pane Panelle is the new sandwich shop attached to Stuzziceria in TriBeCa that was just voted #2 Best Sandwich in NYC by New York Magazine in August ’11. I had to try this place out for myself after all the good reviews and my office being across the street from both places! I tried the Meatball and Mozzarella Panini which was perfect in its crispy grilled exterior with savory meatballs and sauce with tons of gooey cheese on the interior. They also sell meatballs and sauce by the pint if you want to just take them home and throw them over some fresh cooked pasta.

The sandwich shop and restaurant is run by Chef Paul di Bari, with a variety of other Sicilian-style sandwiches including a muffuletta with salami, provolone and an olive salad and their namesake sandwich with chickpea fritters, caciocavallo and ricotta cheese on Grandaisy bread. The price is a little steep at around $8-9 per sandwich, but they are so good you just can’t pass them up!

Pane Panelle TriBeCa
305½ Church St. between Lispenard St. and Walker St. | 212.219.2357

Check out Pane Panelle online

Mexicue Food Truck

3. Mexicue Food Truck

I remember not too long ago complaining about how there are very few affordable lunch options in the TriBeCa area, most restaurants being a bit more on the shi-shi side and a bit more than I’d like to spend on a daily basis when I’m just looking for some quick, good grub for lunch. Alas, the Mexicue Food Truck appeared on Church Street and I got really excited! The brand name says it all – their delicious sliders and tacos are a perfect mixture of BBQ and Mexican flavors all rolled into some really tasty morsels. I sampled the Smoked Short Rib Slider – full of super tender smoked short ribs slathered in a Memphis Mole sauce, topped with pickled onions, romaine lettuce and cojita cheese. The Burnt Ends Slider is almost like a super fancy Sloppy Joe, but mini-sized and fantabulous flavors – the chili is made of pulled brisket mixed with ground beef, then topped with a cilantro lime crema and house pickled jalapenos. These guys definitely know what they’re doing when it comes to flavorful fast food. I haven’t stopped dreaming of the next time I can get my hands on some these notable noshes! Besides their mobile food trucks, you can also find these guys in Midtown West on 7th Avenue and on Forsyth St on the Lower East Side.

Check out Mexicue’s menu and locations online

Wafles & Dinges

4. Wafles & Dinges Food Truck

Now here’s something worthy of talking about. I’m not one to have much of a sweet tooth, but last month I was swayed by a friend (as well as the friendly food truck guy) at Wafles & Dinges to sample some of these luscious golden crisp Belgian Waffles slathered in Spekuloos spread, bananas and powdered sugar. I have always loved Belgian Waffles – but Spekuloos spread? What the hell is that? I had to try it. All I can say is its a cross between a butterscotch and hazelnut flavor and has the consistency of a creamy syrup (almost like a melty Nutella) and is completely divine. Nothing like I’ve ever tasted. That’s it. I’m officially hooked.

They have a ton of toppings (dinges) which you can get UNLIMITED for $2 extra. They refer to this as WMD, or Wafel of Massive Deliciousness. Dulce de Leche, Belgian Chocolate Fudge, Maple Syrup, Whipped Cream, Ice Cream, the list goes on. You can even get some savory Wafels like BBQ Pulled Pork (next on my list) or de Bacon Syrup Wafel which sounds pretty darn cool too. Chow it all down with a hot Belgian Cocoa or Coffee with a shot of hazelnut – you’ve got the perfect sweet snack in the middle of Central Park (or wherever you might discover them on the streets of NYC!) Awesome. Just sayin’.

Check out Wafels & Dinges online

KitchenAid Appliance Demo

5. KitchenAid 3-Speed Hand Blender

So I found a new toy to play with. A serious cooking toy, that is. I had the opportunity to attend a product demo with KitchenAid at SeeFood media kitchens on the Lower East Side – one of New York’s premiere food photography and video studios. Not only did we get to preview first hand some of KitchenAid’s new products, but we were served delicious nibbles from local food purveyors such as Katz Deli, Doughnut Plant, Russ & Daughters, Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery, Boubouki and Bisous Ciao. We sampled Pastrami Sandwiches, homemade doughnuts, smoked salmon, knishes, spanakopita and yummy macarons…too much good food to even talk about!

KitchenAid has a great new line of stand mixers, food processors and a 3-speed hand blender that does all the chopping, crushing, whisking and pureeing you’ll ever need in one handy little tool! This probably has become my favorite all-purpose tool with its handsome design, lightweight body and smart precise mechanics that is totally portable and actually fits perfect in my small NYC kitchen! It’s perfect for chopping herbs and veggies, mixing soups and pureeing food right in the pan. It’s super quiet and has a soft grip handle making it comfortable and easy to use. Love it!

Thanks to everyone at KitchenAid and SeeFood Media for a great event and even greater gift to make my cooking faster, easier and more delicious!

Check out KitchenAid products online

Check out SeeFood Media online

Antique Garage, Soho

6. Antique Garage, Soho

Now if there’s a cool place in Soho, this is it. This eclectic, funky and elegant little place is a gem located in lower Soho on Mercer Street. They specialize in Mediterranean cuisine and have antique furnishings, live music and gorgeous chandeliers to match. Their menu is an infusion of French, Moroccan, Turkish and Ottoman cuisine and they have great small plates (Mezes) such as Hummus and Tzatziki, marinated octopus, fried calamari and eggplant salad if you just want to snack with a glass of wine. I stopped in solely for drinks and had an interesting mint, rum and cucumber concoction that knocked my socks off! Their Grilled Turkish Meatballs are a specialty, and they have other Mediterranean yummies such as Shrimp Casserole and Grilled Veggie Skewers and Pan Seared Tuna. The atmosphere is warm and dimly lit, the music is authentic Turkish (and live!), and the whole gorgeous setting is inside an old garage – they keep the front garage door open so you get a nice breeze and a nice view. Very lovely. Very romantic. A nice place for a dinner date and some great food. I’ll definitely be back for some of those Grilled Turkish Meatballs and fresh made Tzatziki!

Check out Antique Garage online

da Mikele, TriBeCa

7. da Mikele, Tribeca

I stopped in here the other day for a quick lunch at the bar and for the life of me couldn’t decide what to order. Not that that’s a bad thing – just too many damn good choices on the menu! da Mikele is owned by Michele Iuliano, owner of Luzzo’s in the East Village, and Ovest Pizzoteca in Chelsea. Their menu is Neopolitan-inspired and the best thing to try is one of their oven fired pizzas. Old Fashioned Square pizza, Cone Shaped Pizza, Oven baked Neapolitan pizza, homemade Focaccia bread name it, they got it. And they got it good. I had one of their “pizzettes” which is a thin crust oblong shaped pizza that was topped with Spicy Sausage, Broccoli Rabe and Mozzarella – just enough for lunch and it came with a mixed greens salad. The crust is perfectly cooked, crunchy on the outside and chewy with lots of gooey melted cheese – delicious! They have a nice selection of Antipasti – the Polpette (meatballs in tomato sauce) are really good with a side of crusty bread and their Italian soups are delicious too. I haven’t tried the Pasta dishes yet, but they look amazing (yes, I was eyeing the Pesto Shrimp Risotto on the plate next to me) and are on the list for my next visit (which will be very soon!). Check it out.

275 Church Street, New York NY 10013 | 212.925.8800

Check out da Mikele online

Kelley + Ping, Soho

8. Kelley + Ping, Soho

I stumbled across this cool Asian noodle shop one night when I was strolling through Soho after work and felt like having an appetizer and a drink, and that I did. I sat down at their cozy bar in the front and ordered a Ginger infused Vodka drink that was cool and fresh and spicy, topped with some fresh mint. While I was looking at the menu, the bartender put out these amazingly addictive asian spiced nuts in front of me – in a cute bamboo basket with a cover! I think there were cashews, wasabi peas and some crunchy coated spicy peanuts in there – not sure but I think I ate at least two baskets of these before I actually ordered something off the menu. So I ordered some of the Thai Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce which came with another clear sweet and spicy dressing with peppers in it. Pretty darn good! I’ve only actually eaten here one other time and had the traditional Pad Thai but they have tons of other interesting noodle dishes and Asian dishes including Vietnamese style on the menu that I’d try next time around. Nice atmosphere, good service, and oh, did I mention the asian spiced nuts? It’s worth a visit just for those lovely things and a house infused vodka.

127 Greene St. Soho NY 10012 | 212.228.1212

Check out Kelley + Ping online

The Lot, High Line

9. The Lot, High Line Park NYC

Situated at the base of the entrance of High Line Park at W. 30th St and 10th Ave, The Lot is really just that – a (parking) lot with free events, an outdoor bar, picnic tables and umbrellas all inside a circle of cool food trucks. But these aren’t just any food trucks, we’re talking awesome coffee and ice cream bar Van Leeuwen, Korilla BBQ, The Taco Truck, and an outdoor bar by Colicchio & Sons with craft beers on tap. After some good grub and a beverage, you can hike up the stairs to the gorgeous High Line park situated on an old railroad line that spans from W. 30th Street all the way down to Greenwich Street in the Meatpacking District. If you haven’t checked out this beauty, you must, must do so. Being up so high is a breath of fresh air from being in this crowded city and the views are absolutely amazing to boot. Gardens, sculptures, art, and really cool buildings along the way. When you’re done, stop at The Porch on W. 15th Street for a great sammie and fresh fruit from The Green Table located in Chelsea Market. Oh, and make sure to get an artisan fruit ice pop or shaved ice from People’s Pops on the way out for dessert!

Check out the Lot and the High Line online

Papatzul, Soho

10. Papatzul, Soho

OK. Last but not least. Papatzul. Set in lower Soho on Grand Street, this is one of my new favorite spots. Good Mexican food is sometimes hard to find in New York (at least compared to L.A. or Texas) or you have to go to an overpriced chain for some decent guacamole and enchiladas AND pay an arm and a leg for it. Papatzul is first of all charming with its creative and colorful signage outside. The interior is just as colorful and buzzing with energy when you walk in.

The chips are deliciously homemade and the salsa is super fresh (and no they aren’t free with your meal, but worth the $5 for some of the best authentic salsa you’ll have in NYC). Since I went for lunch, I ordered the Braised Chipotle and Oregano Beef soft Taquitos, topped with Queso Fresco, Chipotle Salsa and Crema – d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. – and a perfect size for lunch (didn’t even need the chips but they were worth it!)

Papatzul is actually a term used for special food that the Aztecs made for their Spanish conquerors (who they thought were the Gods). Special food you’ll find here indeed, with a menu created by Chef Thierry Amezcua, a native of Coyoacan, a small borough of Mexico City. The atmosphere is fun and lively and the food is fresh, authentic and very special.

55 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013 | 212.274.8225

Check out Papatzul online

A Taste of Martha’s Vineyard: The Black Dog Tavern’s Quahog Chowder

The Black Dog Tavern's Quahog Chowder

On Labor Day weekend I fell in love. With Martha’s Vineyard, that is. And an amazing clam chowder from a famous little place called The Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven on the harbor. The Black Dog’s story began in 1971 on the beach in Vineyard Haven when Captain Bob Douglas opened an 88 seat restaurant named for his beloved black dog. The tavern has grown from a small island haunt to a nationally renowned restaurant with stores and merchandise branded in the Black Dog Tavern name. No trip to the Vineyard is complete without a meal at The Black Dog, especially to try their infamous Quahog Chowder that’s been on the menu since 1971!

Quahogs are hard shell clams, different from soft shell clams, otherwise known as “steamers”. This recipe is from The Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook that I acquired on my recent trip. It is fairly easy to make, and a little more time consuming if you are using fresh clams but totally worth the effort for that fresh flavor. It’s rich and creamy, has a touch of thyme and paprika and lots of delicious clams, potatoes, celery and onion making it the perfect chowda’ for a Fall afternoon.

Serve with crusty bread, oyster crackers or croutons and a glass of white wine or a locally brewed ale. Now all you need is the gorgeous view of Martha’s Vineyard harbor to make it a true New England experience! (p.s. I’m moving there – someday!) Oh, and stay tuned for the full report and photos of my Boston and Martha’s Vineyard Labor Day weekend trip. More foodie fun to come! Enjoy. ~AG


2 oz salt pork, rind removed (or 8-10 slices of bacon, diced)
2 c diced onion
1 c diced celery
3 c diced potatoes
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground black pepper
4 c shelled quahogs with juice – 6 lbs in shell (or use jarred whole baby clams)
1/2 c salted butter (1 stick)
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 qts. light cream (or 1 qt heavy cream + 1 pint half and half)


Dice the salt pork or bacon and saute in a large pot until translucent. If using bacon, saute over high heat until cooked through, then drain fat except for 2 tbsp. and return to the pot. Add the onions and celery and saute for 5 minutes.

Pour in about 1 1/2 cups of the clam juice and add the potatoes and seasonings. Simmer the mixture until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.


Melt the butter in a small saucepan. When it is bubbling, add the flour and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. This is called a “roux”.

Roughly chop the quahogs, reserving any liquid (if you use whole baby clams you can skip this step).

When the potatoes are tender, add the quahogs to the large pot and simmer for 2 minutes.

Stir in the roux and continue simmering for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. This is your chowder base.

Scalded Cream

In a separate saucepan, scald the cream by heating it on high until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Do not boil.

The Black Dog Tavern Quahog Chowder

Stir in the hot scalded cream into the chowder base, mix together, and remove from the heat.

B.D. Quahog Chowder

At The Black Dog, they serve it topped with croutons and a dollop of butter, accompanied by oyster crackers or crusty bread. Garnish with paprika and enjoy!

Serves 8 to 10.

The Black Dog Summer Vineyard Cookbook

The Black Dog Tavern Martha's Vineyard

The Black Dog Tavern Martha's Vineyard

The Black Dog Tavern

View of Martha's Vineyard harbor from The Black Dog

The Black Dog Tavern

More Clam Chowder Recipes you may enjoy:

Thick and Creamy New England Clam Chowder –

Epicurious Clam Chowder Recipe

Dave Lieberman’s Clam Chowder

Top Ten (Things I Love) :: August ‘11


1. MacBar, Soho – Four Cheese Mac ‘n Cheese

MacBar is a groovy and modern mac ‘n cheese take-out bar smack in the middle of Soho on Prince Street near Lafayette. They offer 12 different varieties of gourmet mac ‘n cheese combinations such as: Four Cheese with queso blanco, fontina, emmental and gouda, Mayan Chipotle with chicken Diablo, Chihuahua cheese and green onions, Mac Lobsta’, Mac ‘Shroom, Mac Quack with duck confit, fontina, caramelized onions and fines herbes and more. Who can resist a creamy, savory bowl of piping hot ooey-gooey macaroni and cheese? I know I can’t!

54 Prince Street | NYC 10012 | (212) 226-8877 |

La Follia

2. La Follia, Gramercy – Beet Salad with Mint, Ricotta and Pistachios & Sauteed Garlic Spinach

La Follia is an upscale Italian restaurant and wine bar in Gramercy on 3rd and 19th Street. They offer delicious small plates, pasta dishes and entrees, salads, veggie sides and have an impressive wine list. My favorite small plate dish is the Roasted Beet Salad with Mint, Ricotta and has a light vinaigrette dressing and is perfectly mixed with fresh mint and creamy ricotta and roasted pistachios to give it some crunch. They also have an excellent line up of Crostinis including Burrata, Olive Oil and Sea Salt, Imported Ricotta with Pesto, White Bean and Olive and more – perfectly crispy with the finest toppings – YUM. If you’re in the mood for some Salumi, try the Prosciutto Di Parma or Soppressata with a selection of cheeses, a side dish of Broccoli Rabe with garlic and chili flakes or Brussel Sprouts sautéed with crispy Prosciutto or the sauteed garlicky Spinach. Rumour has it their House-Made Pappardelle with Braised Pork Ragu, Thyme and Pecorino is amazing! An intimate bar setting and outside seating make this a perfect date spot on a Friday night.

226 3rd Avenue at 19th St | NYC 10003 | (212) 477-4100 |

Waterfront Ale House

3. Waterfront Ale House, Murray Hill – Spicy Texas Chili with Serious Hot Homemade Hot Sauce

This is one of my favorite neighborhood saloons in Murray Hill. The food is fantastic, the locals are loyal and the service and staff are great. They make their own homemade Hot Sauce (which sells for $4 a bottle at the bar) – amazing with their Spicy Texas Chili! Perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection with a bubbly layer of cheddar cheese and topped with green onions, the chunks of steak and beans make this chili a comforting dish with a cold brew on a Happy Hour kinda night. They have an impressive line up of more than 80 domestic, locally crafted and imported beers, as well as effervescent gins and “real” absinthes when you’re in the mood for a good shot of something stout on a Friday night. Don’t miss out on their BBQ either – their hot-off-the-grill Pulled Chicken and Pulled Pig sandwiches, Texas Dip Smoked Beef Brisket and hand cut Sweet Potato Fries rock!

540 2nd Avenue (Corner of 30th St.), NYC
| (212) 696-4104 |

Prime and Beyond

4. Prime and Beyond, E. Vlg – Wet Aged Ribeye with Scallion Salad, Fresh Cut Fries

Prime and Beyond is a newly opened Steak place in the East Village NYC. They hand select all of their meats and dry or wet age them in a humidity controlled refrigeration on premises for up to 8 weeks, giving their meat extraordinary flavor and juiciness! They also have amazing burgers, salads, and hand-cut French fries, along with a selection of side dishes including grilled veggies, potato salad, and Wagyu Salami. In the mood for a Korean twist to your meal? Try to the Bulgogi Rice Bowl or the Short Rib Stew with a side of Kimchi and Spicy Scallion salad. Amazing flavor and a nice intimate yet casual atmosphere.

90 E. 10th St, NYC | (212) 505-0033 |

Ocean Grill

5. Ocean Grill, UWS – Shrimp Cocktail, Fresh Crab, Avocado, Mango and Jalapeno Roll and Lobster Cocktail

I have found no other spot in NYC that has fresher seafood, as well as a comfortable and relaxing environment for an outdoor cocktail and delicious sushi and seafood. Their shrimp and lobster cocktail dishes come served on a bed of ice, fresh lemon, drawn butter and cocktail sauce – not to mention humoungous pieces of shrimp and lobster that is chilly and delicious on a hot summer day! Their sushi is also amazing – I fell in love with their version of the “California Roll” which is actually huge pieces of fresh lump crabmeat, avocado, mango and jalapeno. Great location situated across from the Museum of Natural History, so ideal for a Sunday brunch and walk in Central Park!

384 Columbus Ave (at 78th St), NYC | (212) 579-2300 |

Oficina Latina NYC

6. Oficina Latina NYC, Nolita – Orange Ginger Margaritas & Ham and Cheese Arepas

The concept of this hip restaurant and bar in Soho reflects the Pan American Highway along Central Mexico and South America with its Latin Tapas menu and exotic cocktails. The interior looks like a mechanic’s garage with a small lounge area, outdoor dining area and interior dining room. Their exotic tropical drinks are all handmade, with flavors such as Orange-Ginger Margaritas, Cilantro Avocado Margaritas, Blackberry Caiphirinas and Mojitos, made with muddled fruits and spicy and sweet rims. My favorite Tapas dish is their Albondigas (Spicy Meatballs in Tomato Sauce) and their Arepas which are corn pockets filled with ham and melted cheese. They have a huge menu filled with other Latin dishes such as Ceviche, Tostones, Cuban Tortas,  Croquetas filled with pan-seared crab cakes and chipotle sauce as well as slow-cooked black beans, roasted pork leg and rice and deep fried green plantains. Definitely a spot you don’t want to miss!

24 Prince Street (near Mott St), NYC | (646) 381-2555


7. Sanctuary T, Soho – Smoky Black T-Dust Seasoning & Sangria

Not only is this a cool hip restaurant in Soho, but they sell fantastic tea-infused seasonings made out of organic teas and spices. My favorite is the Smoky Black T-dust seasoning, made of smoked tea, black peppercorns and sea salt. Their other seasonings are Tahitian Green, Chili Rooibos and Citrus White, also made of organic green, red and white teas. They also sell loose leaf drinking teas and have an awesome menu with organic Asian inspired dishes, salads and burgers as well as duck, seafood and pasta dishes. Their cocktails are artisan-made too, of course infused with their organic teas and fresh fruits and other goodies. Can’t miss out on their fresh made Sangrias either!

337B W. Broadway, NYC | (212) 941-7832 |

KitchenAid Tyler Florence Event

8. KitchenAid/House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year event with Tyler Florence, Rockefeller Center 

Last month, KitchenAid and House Beautiful magazine created the 2011 Dream Kitchen of the Year smack in the middle of Rockefeller Center. Chock full of gorgeous KitchenAid appliances, indoor and outdoor bar and grilling spaces, and of course hosted by Tyler Florence – we were treated to delicious mini-hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and goodie bags filled with KitchenAid cooking utensils and Tyler’s new cookbook “Family Meal”.  My favorite recipes out of the cookbook are his down-home Southern specialties like Chicken-Fried Steak with Biscuits and Gravy, Southern-style Fish Fry Up with Big Papa’s Tartar Sauce and Fennel Sausage Hush Puppies. Makes me miss living in the Atlanta – always ready for some good old fashioned Southern comfort food! Now that Autumn is on the horizon, I see a Southern tailgating feast coming right up!

Check out my photos from the Kitchen of the Year event here

Check out KitchenAid’s site here

Buy Tyler Florence’s “Family Meal” Cookbook here


9. Gemma, Bowery – Fresh Ricotta and Pesto Crostini and Arancini Risotto Balls

Gemma is one of those places where you need to go to see and be seen. Connected to the beautiful Bowery Hotel, Gemma is an upscale Italian dining establishment open for lunch, brunch, dinner, cocktails and dessert. My favorite dishes are the Arancini and Polpettine (Risotto Balls and Meatballs), their Buffalo Ricotta and Pesto Crostini, and Oriechette with Broccoli Rabe and Crispy Garlic Chips sautéed in Olive Oil with Red Pepper flakes. They also have amazing wood-fired pizzas, pasta dishes, salumi and formaggi plates, and if you’re in the mood for a massive grilled Bistecca Steak or Roasted Baby Lamb Chops – well, you can get that too. Don’t forget to top off your meal with a Calzone di Nutella or and Affagato (vanilla gelato drowned in espresso) and a shot of Frangelico or Limoncello. Amazing menu and service to match – what more can I say. A NYC must-visit for Italian dining!

335 Bowery, NYC 10003 | (212) 505-9100

10. Teqa, Murray Hill – Braised Short Rib Tacos and Margaritas


Newly opened this summer in Murray Hill, Teqa is a gorgeous tequila bar and Mexican restaurant with a gorgeous menu to accompany the space. The Frozen Hibiscus and Rose Margaritas are a beautiful thing – made with hibiscus-infused el jimador, combier, fresh lime, agave, rosewater mist and hibiscus salt. Order a pitcher (or two!) – you won’t regret this one!

For a dinner entrée, I unashamedly inhaled the Guinness Braised Short Rib Tacos that literally melted in my mouth. The tender, succulent beef is soaked in Teqa’s signature sauce, then topped with grilled corn, lime and queso fresco. The tacos are a bit small (you only get 3 of these babies for a steep $16) but the flavor explosion in your mouth is worth every bite and every penny!

447 Third Avenue, NYC 10016 | (212) 213-3223 |

Meet the Chef: Jimmy Canora of Valentino’s on the Green

Watch the video as Kristen Hess interviews Chef de Cuisine Jimmy Canora at Valentino’s on the Green – the legendary fine dining Italian restaurant in Bayside Queens. The Chef demonstrates his infamous dish Chicken Breast Valentino with Creamy Polenta, Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Spring Vegetables and Madeira Wine Sauce and discusses his background and history as a Chef and Cookbook Author.

Valentino's on the Green

Valentino's on the Green

Valentino’s on the Green is a romantic fine dining Italian restaurant in a beautiful old mansion in a neighborhood rich in history, culture and style. This elegant establishment pays homage to Italian-born silent film legend and former resident, Rudolph Valentino. Valentino was America’s first sex symbol derived from his provocative roles in films such as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and The Sheik (1921). He helped launch the new era of film and film stars and was one of the most iconic figures of Hollywood. Valentino’s on the Green combines this romantic history and Italian culinary expertise into a one-of-a-kind dining experience.

Giorgio Kolaj & Don Pintabona

Giorgio Kolaj & Don Pintabona

Headed by restaurateur Giorgio Kolaj, and renowned chef and cookbook author, Don Pintabona, who helped Robert DeNiro launch Tribeca Grill in NYC, Pintabona has served as Executive Chef for over a decade. Jimmy Canora, an award-winning chef, also formerly of Tribeca Grill and Delmonico’s; has brought his culinary mastery to Valentino’s on the Green and created an exceptional menu for this gorgeous historical landmark.

Valentino's interior

Valentino's interior

Valentino’s on the Green has several dining rooms inside elegantly furnished with chandeliers, grand mouldings, burgundy leather and mahogany furnishings and large windows. They have a gorgeous outside patio for dining in the warmer months, overlooking a golf course and beautiful park. They serve lunch, dinner and brunch on Sundays and have a spectacular dessert menu as well as a special Mother’s Day brunch annually. Reservations are accepted for private parties in the banquet hall with space for up to 220 guests, and catering is also available.

Start your meal with an Appetizer of fresh seafood including Shrimp or Crabmeat Cocktail, Grilled Octopus and Oysters or an Antipasti platter, soup or salad. Their Pasta is fresh made daily – Braised Short Rib Ragu with Mixed Mushrooms, Ricotta and Rosemary and Sweet Pea Mascarpone Ravioli or Lemon Tagliatelle Frutti Di Mare are just a few of their popular selections.

For Main Course, Valentino’s offers classic entrees such as Veal Marsala, Chicken Parmesan, Shrimp Scampi, Grilled Swordfish, Herb Crusted Lamb Chops, Steaks, Pork Braciole “Valdostana”, and their infamous Chicken Breast Valentino, stuffed with Fontina Cheese, Prosciutto and Spinach cooked in a buttery Madeira wine sauce with mushrooms and served with luscious creamy polenta and grilled Spring vegetables (recipe below). Last but not least they have an amazing dish of Spicy Chili Glazed Lobsters, with Spring Onion and Bay Scallop Risotto, Asparagus and Brandied Lobster Sauce that is out of this world.

Appetizers range from $8-29, Soups and Salads range from $7-$13 and Dinner Entrees range from $16-49. They offer a $24 Three Course Lunch Prix Fixe and Mother’s Day Brunches run at $49.50 per person. Reservations are accepted and recommended via phone or

Chicken Breast Valentino

Chicken Breast Valentino

Chicken Breast Valentino


6 boneless chicken breasts, pounded ¼” thin
1 c Seasoned all purpose flour
¼ c unsalted butter
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
½ c Madeira wine
1 c chicken stock, as needed
1 c veal stock, or low sodium beef broth, as needed
6 slices Prosciutto Di Parma, thinly sliced
6 slices Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
3 tbsp Parmiagiano Reggiano, grated
6 fresh Sage leaves
1 c cooked mixed mushrooms, (Oyster, Portabella, Crimini & Shitake)
1 small leek, white part only, diced and blanched
2 c cooked polenta, (Mascarpone, Parmesan, Chicken stock, Cream)
2 c roasted Spring veggies (baby zucchini, patty pan squash & baby carrots)
¼ c fresh chopped parsley, garnish
6 springs fresh thyme, garnish


Season and lightly flour chicken breasts, shaking off excess flour.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil/butter, 2 tbsp at a time and when butter starts to foam, add the chicken breasts in batches, sauté until lightly browned about 2 minutes per side. Remove and set aside, and repeat until all chicken is cooked.

Increase the heat and add the mushrooms and leeks and sauté until the release of their liquid and start to crisp, about 1 minute, then add the Madeira wine and simmer to reduce to ¼, adding in the stock along with some more butter, salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to very low and top each chicken breast with a slice of prosciutto, sage, Fontina and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Return to the skillet until the cheese melts and chicken is warmed through.

Serve with hot polenta and roasted Spring vegetables and sauce each plate with the Madeira Mushroom sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a spring of fresh thyme for garnish.

Serves 6.

View the Menu

Valentino’s on the Green
201-10 Cross Island Parkway
Bayside, New York 11360
718 352 2300

Meet the Chef: An interview with Chef Andrew Whitney, dell’anima

Watch the video of a behind the scenes interview with myself and Andrew Whitney, Chef de Cuisine at dell’anima, a charming and popular Italian trattoria located in Greenwich Village, NYC, as he talks about his culinary background and shows how to prep his signature dish, “Chicken Diablo”.

dell’anima, meaning “of the soul” in Italian, is an upscale, intimate Italian restaurant opened by Gabe Thompson of Del Posto, and Joe Campanale of Babbo in 2007. The open kitchen is a cool feature of the space, set right behind the bar and dining room with full view of their Chefs cooking in action. The artwork and photography on the walls is created by Partner and Photographer Jamie Tiampo.

The menu is elegant and hearty, featuring a variety of unique Italian pasta dishes and grilled vegetables, a bruschetta bar, antipasti and salads, seafood, chicken and steak dishes and a offers a robust Italian wine selection. Having gained status as 3 Star Certified Green Restaurant ®, dell’anima uses mainly local and sustainable ingredients and buys from local food producers.

Rustic dishes with a Tuscan influence are the focus of their cuisine. Most entrees, pastas and salads are infused or served with fresh grilled vegetables, herbs and spices in unique combinations to stir up the palate. Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu, Sweetbreads with sunchoke puree, rhubarb and scallion, and Charred Octopus with rice beans, chorizo and chicories are just a few of their unique dishes that set them apart from the traditional Italian places in New York. Always delicious and standard fine cuisine prices for New York standards at $16-30 for pasta and entrees, $10-18 for antipasti and bruschette for $5-15.

View the Menu

dell’anima restaurant
38 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10014

Chicken Enchiladas de Mole Negro

Chicken Mole Enchiladas

Chicken Mole Enchiladas

I recently took some visiting friends to a great new Mexican restaurant called Pelea Mexicana, located on the edge of Tribeca and Soho on Lispenard St. and 6th Ave. The space is impressive with tall ceilings, brass and wood furnishings, lively music, homemade tortillas, hot sauces, and authentic Mexican dishes made with fresh ingredients. In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I sampled their classic Oaxacan-style Enchiladas de Mole Negro, served bubbling hot with a melty layer of Chihuahua cheese, velvety mole sauce and shredded chicken with onions inside corn tortillas, baked to perfection.

Mole is a common dish in Mexican cuisine, (pronounced Moh-lay) which is prepared with a rich, reddish brown chili-chocolate sauce using dark chocolate and guajillo peppers (you can find these at your local fresh market or online at Marx foods or Penzeys Spices). Slightly spicy with a touch of smokiness, Mole Enchiladas are usually prepared with chicken but can also be made with pork or shredded beef, (or go vegetarian with corn, beans and rice filling). To save time, you can prepare the sauce ahead of time, and use pre-made shredded chicken, beef or whatever filling you decide on. Bake them in a clay or ceramic pot and serve directly from the oven in the dish, garnished with cilantro or green onions, along with a side of chips and a variety of salsas and a tangy lime margarita. Ole!

Chicken Enchiladas de Mole Negro

For the enchiladas:

6-10 flour or corn tortillas, small size
1.5 c shredded chicken
1/4 c light sour cream
1/4 c green onions, chopped
2 c grated white cheese, halved in 2 equal parts (queso fresco or chihuahua)
Salt and Pepper

For the Mole Sauce:

2 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
4 dried guajillo peppers, seeds & stems removed
4 cloves garlic
1/4 c warm water
1 14 oz can whole tomatoes, with juices
2 c chicken broth
1/4 c premium dark chocolate, chopped finely
Salt and pepper
Garnish: Cilantro and/or green onions, chopped

Directions for Mole Sauce:

Saute bacon in a saucepan over medium high heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. Remove bacon, discard or save for another purpose. Add onion, carrot and celery and saute until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, puree chilies, garlic and water in a food processor. Strain through fine mesh strainer.

Add tomatoes, broth and strained chili puree to vegetable mixture. Simmer on high heat for 20-30 minutes until well incorporated and sauce has reduced and thickened. Strain, pressing on solids. Stir in chocolate until melted. Salt and pepper to taste, keep sauce warm.

Directions for Enchiladas:

Mix chicken, sour cream, green onions and half of the cheese in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lay out tortillas, fill with chicken mixture.

Roll tightly and lay in a ceramic or clay baking dish that has a thin layer of mole sauce already spread on the bottom (to prevent sticking and burning).

Cover with remaining sauce and top with remaining Chihuahua cheese.

Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Artful Gourmet Meets the Chef: Tavern on Jane

Behind the Scenes with Chef Michael Stewart

Meet Chef and Owner Michael Stewart from Tavern on Jane in the West Village in NYC with an in-depth, close up interview as Kristen interviews Michael for eDiningNews about his background and how Tavern on Jane all got started. They also discuss their menu and some of the cool things going on at this trendy neighborhood tavern, adored by locals and a first choice visit for tourists alike.

Tavern on Jane, located on the corner of 8th Ave and Jane Street in the West Village, is not just your average neighborhood tavern or pub. In fact it’s a one of a kind, fun and cozy place with amazing food and local brews in a warm and inviting atmosphere.  Once you visit this special place, you’re sure to become a regular fan too.  Michael Stewart and his partner Horton Foote Jr. know most of their customers by name, many of whom have been regular patrons for the past decade or longer!

As soon as you enter, you’ll feel a buzz and excitement in the air and are welcomed with a fireplace which enhances the cozy atmosphere of the bar area in front. There are tables for dining in front near the bar extending to the back (which are normally packed full on a weekend night) and a private room in the back for a more intimate dining experience or small dinner party. The beer and wine selection is impressive, including domestic and local brews and imported wines from Italy, New Zealand, Spain and more. Stop in for a great Brunch on Sunday -all Brunch specials are served with muffins, fresh fruit, coffee and a drink (mimosa, bloody mary, screwdriver or draft beer) for only $15!

They offer a wide variety of New American style dishes and gourmet pub fare – all of their Soups are made from scratch, and the selection of Appetizers and Starters is endless – my favorites are the Jerk Chicken Wings, Fried Calamari, Ahi Tuna Hand Rolls, and Chicken Fingers with BBQ and Asian Dipping Sauces. Try their homemade Chili and Hand Cut French Fries with a gourmet burger made with the freshest and premium ground chuck or buffalo meat, seasoned perfectly and cooked to your liking. (They claim to have one of the best burgers in town!) If you’re in the mood for some other gourmet pub fare, try their Carolina Pulled Pork, Chicken Pot Pie or Beer Battered Fish and Chips with a side of homemade Cole Slaw.

Their Chef inspired Dinner Entrees are impressive as well including Mussels in Wine and Fresh Herbs, Pan-Roasted Pork Chops, Roasted Chicken, Chicken Quesadillas with Black Beans and Rice, grilled Sirloin Steaks, Sesame Crusted Yellow Fin Tuna or Blackened Filet Tacos (to die for!). There is a Daily Special every day of the week – you must try the Tavern Pizza on Wednesdays and Italian Meatloaf on Wednesdays! Whatever your appetite calls for there is always something on the menu – they have unique Pasta dishes, Oyster Po Boys, delicious Seafood Risotto, sauteed and roasted vegetable sides and a variety of great salads. And if your sweet tooth is calling, stop in for a flaming Bananas Foster or a Molten Lava Cake that will knock your socks off!

View the Menu

Tavern on Jane
31 8th Avenue (Corner Jane & 8th)
New York, NY 10014

Tavern on Jane Website


Twitter: @tavernonjane

Artful Gourmet Meets The Chef: Adam Shepard, Lunetta

Behind The Scenes Interview with Lunetta

Meet Chef Adam Shepard from Lunetta with an in-depth, close up interview as Kristen interviews Adam for eDiningNews about his background, Lunetta’s Mediterranean gourmet fare, insights on his cooking style, and his commitment to the Slow Food philosophy.

Lunetta, a trendy Mediterranean restaurant on Smith Street in Brooklyn, has a fantastic menu and atmosphere that you must try for yourself! They offer a variety of small plates and gourmet market fare such as bruschetta, antipasti plates, fresh roasted market vegetables and a variety of pasta dishes and entrees including Pappardelle with Porcini-braised Berkshire Pork, luscious Lunetta meatballs, and savory Sullivan County chicken, roasted under a brick with mushrooms and marsala wine.

Lunetta has been featured in “The New Brooklyn Cookbook” and is a practicing member of the Slow Food International group who’s philosophy it is to commit to food biodiversity and use all local and organic farmers, growers and food suppliers.

In warmer temperatures, you can dine alfresco in the back garden, and you can always enjoy dinner in their cozy yet spacious dining room with a full bar, or reserve Lunetta for a private party or event of your own.

View the Lunetta_Menu

116 smith street, btw pacific and dean, brooklyn, NY 11217 |  718.488.6269

Behind the Scenes with Energy Kitchen

Energy Kitchen logo

Energy Kitchen is one of the fastest growing fast casual and healthy restaurant chains in New York City, and is quickly expanding down the East Coast. For those of you who haven’t tried a delicious meal here yet, you’re in for a tasty treat!

This isn’t your typical fast food restaurant where you can pick up a greasy burger, shake and fries for lunch – instead you’ll find healthy alternatives such as Bison Wraps and Turkey Burgers, Thai Chicken Wraps, Veggie Quesadillas or Turkey Meatloaf. Even their sides are healthy, including Steamed Broccoli, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Black Bean and Mango Salad, Creamed Spinach with Tofu and more. They also offer healthy Soups and Salads, Breakfast Wraps and Smoothies for when you’re on the run but need a fast, delicious and healthy pick-me-up.

They truly live up to their motto: “Healthy on the Go”. Everything is Grilled, Steamed or Baked – Never Fried. All their drinks are low-calorie and salad dressings fat-free. And, everything on the menu is under 500 calories and reasonably priced (an average meal is around $12-13). How good can it get?

I had the opportunity to interview Anthony Leone, President/CEO of Energy Kitchen, as well as their Recipe Developer, Olivia Dupin, to get an insider view on their background, philosophy, company culture, and keys to success in the restaurant industry. I hope their stories will inspire you not only to become an Energy Kitchen fan as much as I am, but also to inspire anyone who has a love of healthy, delicious food and a desire to succeed as much as they do (which they clearly are and have done!) Enjoy.

Anthony Leone, President/CEO

Anthony Leone

AG: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself: background, education, career path, etc.?

AL: I have always had a passion for the food industry and eating healthy. I went to school for Hospitality Mgmt at FIU and have worked for Disney, and Boston Market. I decided to branch out on my own and develop a concept. Energy Kitchen was born. A place where everything on the menu is under 500 calories and we steam, bake, and grill everything – Nothing is fried! We plan on making Energy Kitchen the Pioneer and Leader of the healthy fast casual segment by opening 1,000 stores in 10 years!

AG: Can you tell me how Energy Kitchen got started and what prompted you to start your own business?

AL: I have always been entrepreneurial. Even when I worked for other concepts I would run them as my own.  I would be working in NYC and tried to eat healthy at local restaurants. What I noticed was that I was ordering healthy items, but the way they prepared their food was not good for you. I realized all calories are not created equal. One example was egg whites – the restaurants would put oil and butter on the grill to cook them. I said there has to be a better way of cooking and I know that there are so many other people that want to eat this way. That is how it started. I decided then to take a chance and have not looked back since.

AG: How did you fall into your partnership with Randy Schechter and later on with Mike Repole, founder of Vitamin Water?

AL: Randy was a friend for many years when I built my first restaurant. Randy would travel a half hour to come eat at that location. When I was looking to build another store Randy invested. He has since left corporate America and has been working with me for 6 years building the brand.

Mike was a customer before he was an investor. He would come in to eat. We would also deliver to his office in Whitestone from time to time. When he sold Vitamin Water to Coke he was out there looking for the next Billion Dollar Brand. He called me up. we met for dinner and hit it off. The partnership has been incredible.

AG: How has Energy Kitchen changed and grown since the beginning and what are your long term goals?

AL: We have grown by leaps and bound. When Mike came in we changed the look and feel of the concept from the stores to our branding. We added custom salad bars, made everything under 500 calories. We made all of our beverages low or no calories. Our goals are much bigger today than since the beginning.  I thought we could get this chain to 100 stores. With Mike aboard, our goal is 1,000 stores in 10 years.

AG: What are your main values and beliefs as a healthy fast food restaurant?

AL: We believe that Fast Food does not have to be Fat Food, and that you can eat great tasting meals without all the guilt. We believe that all calories are not created equal – that is why we Steam, Bake and Grill everything and our food is never fried. We want to change the eating habits of America with our Concept. It is really ‘Healthy Made Easy’.

AG: What are some current and/or new efforts that Energy Kitchen is working on in terms of new product development, promotions, sponsorships, charities, etc?

AL: We are always looking to improve our product. We are never content. We have just partnered with Olivia Dupin as our recipe developer and Robert Brace as our trainer extraordinaire. We are always looking to add value to our guests’ experiences by providing them with different tools so they can reach their goals.

AG: How large is your staff and what qualities do you look for in an EK employee?

AL: Our staff in the stores average about 15 people per store. Our corporate office has 10 people working in it. I look for 4 things when it comes to employees. Attitude, this is something that is innate and that cannot be taught. Skill, toward their particular focus. Will, the attitude of whatever it takes to get the job done. And a great smile, it is infectious.

AG: Can you describe a typical day and responsibilities as CEO of Energy Kitchen?

AL: It varies from day to day. Some days I am out in the field getting feedback from our guests and employees. Other days I am in the office meeting future franchisees (I want to meet everyone that comes into the company) telling them about our vision. It really depends on the day.

AG: What are some of the challenges of running and growing a restaurant chain/franchise?

AL: As we get bigger, having the guest experience the same quality and service every time has been a challenge. We have instituted systems to ensure that we are following specific procedures to try to eliminate those errors. If there are mistakes making sure the customer is satisfied at the end of their visit. I would rather make a mistake than miss an opportunity.

AG: What do you like most about what you do? Least?

AL: I love our concept and really enjoy all aspects of the business.

AG: What do you see as some of the current and upcoming trends in the food and restaurant industry?

AL: In a New Yorker’s fast-paced lifestyle, they want something that is ‘Healthy on the Go’.  It needs to be good for them, quick, but they do not want to compromise taste. At Energy Kitchen they know they can get a great meal and the piece of mind knowing that all the calorie counts are posted.

  1. We Only Serve Low Calorie Beverages
  2. We Do Not Cook with Oil Or Butter
  3. We really are ‘Fast Food Without The Guilt’
  4. They have recently asked for fiber on our nutritional chart and we have added it

AG: Do you have any words of advice for people considering a similar career?

AL: 1. Be Passionate on what you do. 2. Take your time hiring the best people with different skill sets. 3. Do not ever give up your dream. 4. Keep the end in mind. 5. Try to be like a turtle, soft on the inside, hard on the outside, and willing to stick your neck out!

AG: What is your proudest accomplishment?

AL: On our website we have a section called Love Letters. I really enjoy when I hear guests say how Energy Kitchen has helped them lose weight, reach their health goals, etc. It is very gratifying knowing that we were able to have a positive influence on people’s lives.

AG: Lastly, what is your favorite dish at Energy Kitchen and why?

AL: I really love all the food at our restaurants. But, if I had to pick one it would be our Energy Burger. It is a bison burger, topped with three egg whites and low-fat mozzarella cheese. It is making my mouth water as I speak!

Olivia Dupin, EK Recipe Developer

Olivia Dupin

AG: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got started at Energy Kitchen as a Recipe Developer?

OD: I’ve wanted to be a chef since I was a little girl.  I used to play restaurant -cooking actual meals at home and with my friends at their houses.  I have always loved to eat, so learning to cook just felt natural.  Right after high school I enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America, and have been working in the industry ever since.

I got involved with Energy Kitchen when I interviewed with Mike Repole to be his private chef.  It wouldn’t have worked logistically since I live far from his home, so he asked if I would be interested in doing recipe development for Energy Kitchen instead. Then I met with Anthony, and brought him some samples of dishes that I thought would be good additions to the menu.  The corn and edamame salad I brought him is on the menu today!

AG: What are your specific responsibilities and what are some current efforts you are working on at EK?

OD: I’m responsible for developing new, healthy menu items on-trend with what’s happening in the world of food.  Everything is grilled, baked or steamed, but that doesn’t mean it has to taste “healthy”.

Right now I’m really excited to be developing recipes for Energy Kitchen’s website, too:  They are simple, nutritious dishes under 500 calories that people can cook in their own kitchens.

AG: What is the process for recipe testing and development? Do you develop recipes from scratch or adapt them from previous ones you’ve developed? How do you test them to make sure they are aligned to Energy Kitchen’s standards of being low fat, healthy and under 500 calories? Can you explain that a bit more?

OD: When I’m working on something new, sometimes I will start with a basic recipe, and then find ways to tweak it and make it healthier or more exciting.  Or, I develop recipes from scratch and, by trial and error, get them to a place where I am happy with them.  From there I use basic nutritional software to get a rough estimate of calories/fat etc. to make sure that they align with the nutritional standards of EK.  Then, once Anthony and everyone at EK are happy with the final product, we send the actual food to a lab to be tested for exact nutritional analysis.  Finally, I write up the recipe with detailed instructions and exact ingredient measurements and take step-by-step photos for the training manuals.

AG: What do you see as some of the current and upcoming trends in the food and restaurant industry? Are there any culinary trends that you are incorporating into the food and recipes you are developing for EK?

OD: I love that people are becoming more aware of the foods they eat, how they are prepared and what is actually in them.  I think that’s why people come back to Energy Kitchen – we make it easy to be good to yourself. Also, I think the food industry is becoming more conscious of people’s dietary restrictions, and catering to them rather than treating them as a nuisance.  I have Celiac Disease so I can’t eat gluten.  I love that Energy Kitchen has so many great options for those who eat gluten-free, low-carb, vegetarian, etc.

AG: How many people do you work with and where do you test and develop and cook?

OD: As far as the actual development goes, I work by myself – I think in a lot of ways I am the demographic we strive to please at EK.  I’m a busy professional trying to make healthy choices when I’m on the go.  Primarily I work on location in one of Energy Kitchen’s beautiful restaurant kitchens, or I’ll test at home in my kitchen.  I like working in the stores because it gives me a chance to see if a potential menu item is really practical for the scale of production, space and equipment of the restaurants.

AG: What are the challenges you run into being a private chef and recipe developer and what do you love most about what you do?

OD: Being a private chef comes with its own list of challenges.  Food is very emotional for people, and when you are working in someone’s home and preparing food for someone’s family or their honored guests, it’s very personal.  You have to listen to your clients and anticipate their needs – the biggest challenge is developing that intuition.

As a recipe developer, it is kind of the same thing.  It’s translating the ideas and concepts of the company into the food.

What I love most about what I do is that I get to see people eating and enjoying the food I’ve created, and know that I had a hand in making a healthy choice a little easier for them.

AG: Do you need to have prior hands-on cooking experience as a chef to get into recipe testing and development or is this something a person can grow into/learn?

OD: I think cooking experience is a must – you have to be comfortable in the kitchen and familiar with all types of ingredients and techniques.  I was lucky enough to sort of fall into recipe development a few years back.  I was working as a private chef and one of my clients was writing a cookbook with healthy meals for children/families.  She loved the foods I was preparing and asked if she could use some of the recipes in her book.  I learned a lot watching that cookbook come together and made some great connections to people who were willing to teach me even more.

AG: Do you have any words of advice for people considering a similar career?

OD: Love it. Being a chef has definitely been glamorized, but it’s really hard, and often really un-glamorous. You can’t do it if you don’t love it.  Also, eat everything!  I learn so much by eating!

AG: What is your proudest accomplishment?

OD: Once, I was on my way into the city for a meeting.  It was rush hour and the train was full of people reading that free daily paper they give out on the street.  I sat down and noticed that on the back of every paper was an Energy Kitchen ad featuring the newest burger we’d developed.  I think that’s when it really hit me – people all over New York City are eating my creations!  It was the best subway ride I’ve ever had.

AG: Lastly, what is your favorite dish at Energy Kitchen and why?

OD: I love all the sides, but my favorite dish is definitely the creamed spinach.  It’s garlicky and rich and feels like comfort food.

The following is one of many tasty and healthy recipes that Olivia has developed for Energy Kitchen (you can find more of them on
their Facebook page in the Recipes tab and also on Olivia’s Blog, “Liv Gluten-Free“):

Thai Pineapple “Fried” Rice with Shrimp (Serves 2)

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup cubed red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 6 medium peeled deveined shrimp, tails removed and sliced lengthwise in half
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cubed pineapple
  • 1/2 cup cubed light, firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon roasted peanuts, chopped

Preheat a large sauté pan over high heat. Meanwhile, combine the soy sauce, red curry paste, and fish sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Add the oil to the sauté pan and when the oil starts to glisten, add the broccoli, pepper, and onion. Cook 1-2 minutes, until the broccoli turns bright green, then add the shrimp. Sauté, stirring occasionally until the shrimp curl and turn pink, about 3-4 more minutes.

Add the rice, pineapple, tofu, basil, and soy sauce mixture to the pan. Stir occasionally until the mixture is heated through, approximately 3 minutes. Divide onto 2 plates and garnish with the chopped peanuts. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information (all nutrition information is approximate)
Per Serving

  • Calories: 375
  • Total Fat: 7.7 grams
  • Dietary Fiber: 8 grams
  • Protein: 16.8 grams

Energy Kitchen has multiple locations all over New York City. Read more about them (or order online!) at their website or become a fan on Facebook for weekly and monthly specials at and on Twitter (@Energy_Kitchen)

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