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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 pizza..you 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

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Looking Back on 2010: Top Food Finds in NYC


New Years Eve

Wow. It’s New Years Eve already. The last day of the year. The last hurrah. It seems like last years New Years Eve celebration was just yesterday! I guess the old saying “time flies when you’re having fun” really is true. As I look back on the past year, I am thankful for where I am now, through the good times and bad times, the heartbreaks and newfound loves, for personal and professional growth and for friends and family that laughed and cried with me along the way. I’ve also fully realized my passion and love for food and cooking, writing and photography and all the amazing culinary gems and talent at my fingertips in New York City, the greatest food city in the world (well at least ONE of the greatest!!)

I am so lucky to live in the heart of Manhattan and to wake up every day with excitement just walking down the street and discovering a new restaurant, food artisan, or market on every corner. To meet a culinary genius and entrepreneur who is as passionate about food as I am. An ordinary dish or menu item made new. An atmosphere with a buzz you can’t resist. Customer service that makes you feel like a local and welcomes you with a smile and a hello by name when you walk in the door.  A unique dish that is so delicious you dream about when you can go back and get more.  As I look back on the last day of 2010, I salute the following restaurants and food artisans for all of the above, and most of all their passion and dedication to making delicious food and making me realize once again why I live in this wonderful city with all the culinary delights it has to offer. Wishing all of you a Happy New Year and prosperous 2011. SALUT!

Stuffed Artisan Cannolis

I first discovered these guys at Madison Square Park food market this Fall and ran into them again at the Union Square Holiday market. A small shop in the Lower East Side that specializes in over 20 different flavors of homemade artisan flavored cannolis such as Almond Joy, Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter Cup, Cookies and Crème, Chocolate Mint and more. They even sell “make-your-own” cannoli kits with all the tools and ingredients so you can have a cannoli party and impress your mates with these delicious little sweets.

176 Stanton St. (between Clinton & Attorney St) |  212.995.2266

www.stuffedcannoli.com

Spices and Tease

Meet Bruno and Francois from Spices and Tease – the Italian-French 
native exotic tea and spice vendor duo in Madison Square Park, New
York City. Animated and full of life, cousins Bruno and Francois greet
 each customer with a smile and a warm invitation to enter their tent and 
experience the delightful sights and smells of their euphoric selection of 
hand-crafted and fragrant top-of-the-line tea, herbs and spice concoctions 
that they have imported from Europe and around the world. Try the Smoked
 Paprika, the Provence French Sea Salt, Kir Royale Tea and the Salad Spice Mix – fresh,
fantastic and flavorful! These guys are truly spicing things up in the New York 
City food scene. If you’re ever in New York City, you can find them at the local
 street markets all over the city. They are also launching their online store soon so you can buy these goodies all year around. A MUST try, MUST see!

www.spicesandtease.com

Bar Suzette: World Crepe Bar

Located in the Chelsea Market, Bar Suzette makes the most amazingly delicious crepes that are highly addictive. They offer both sweet and savory crepes – Nutella and Spicy Coconut crepes, Ricotta, Fig and Honey crepes, French Onion Soup made with sweet onions and melted Gruyere cheese, Chicken Curry crepes, and Ham and Cheese crepes are just a few of their classic and innovative flavor combinations that will knock your socks off! I also discovered these guys at the food markets in Madison Square Park and Union Square – friendly, laid back and fun – they’ll make you a fresh crepe on their hot crepe irons right before your eyes and you’ll never be the same!

524 W. 15th St, Manhattan NY 10014  |  917.207.7552

http://www.yelp.com/biz/bar-suzette-manhattan

Schnitzel & Things

Food trucks have become a hot new item in NYC and LA. There are at least 10 of them that hang out on different days of the week near my office on Park Ave South and Schnitzel & Things is definitely one of my favs! These guys make three different types of schnitzel: Chicken, Pork and Cod along with a variety of different sides to accompany such as Braised Red Cabbage, Austrian Potato Salad and Chickpea Salad. The schnitzels are pounded thin, lightly breaded and fried golden to perfection served with a lemon wedge. They also serve unique condiments such as Pesto Mayo, Chipolte Sour Cream and Ginger, Scallion and Garlic to add another layer of delicious flavor to the dish. Keep an eye out for the truck around town – you’ll be a devoted fan with just one bite!

http://www.schnitzelandthings.com/

Bar Stuzzicini

Bar Stuzzichini is a fine Italian dining excursion in the Flatiron District with a gorgeous interior and authentic Italian dishes and small plates. My friend and I discovered this place earlier this year because of their Happy Hour special from 4:30-6:30 Monday through Friday: order a drink and you get a complimentary small plate of your choice off the menu. My favorites are the Arancini Rice Balls filled with loads of melted parmesan cheese, the small plate of Spicy Meatballs and Sauce and a glass of bubbly Prosecco. They also serve Brunch on Sunday with an Italian Jazz trio from 12:30-3:30 for only $18 a person which includes your choice of 1 “Stuzzi”, 1 Entrée and a Glass of Prosecco. Totally worth the visit!

928 Broadway, New York City |  212.780.5100

www.barstuzzichini.com

Casaville

I recently moved to Murray Hill last Summer on 34th and 2nd Ave and discovered this Turkish Moroccan gem the day I moved. My friend and I sat outside on the patio with their adorable tiled tables and enormous palm trees and order a glass of vino and fresh made hummous and pita to take a break from the moving madness and fell in love with the atmosphere, the food and the service. The owner came by and greeted us personally and welcomed me to the neighborhood with a complimentary round of drinks on the house. They offer a unique menu of hot and cold Tapas and Small Plates including Steak and Frites, Chicken and Mushroom Croquettes, Moules Frites and Citronelle,  Cheese Plates, Moroccan Soup, Couscous, Garlic Shrimp and more. Their Tagines are their signature dish, chicken, salmon, lamb shank or mixed seafood baked with vegetables and sauce in a Moroccan Clay Pot. Their Paella and fresh Sangria is to die for! On weekends, the bar is buzzing, the music fills the streets, and you can even enjoy live bellydancing for some extra entertainment. One of my favorite finds so far this year! (And yes, I am a regular patron and do receive a warm welcome one every visit!)

633 2nd Avenue, NYC 10016 | 212.685.8558

www.casavillenyc.com

La Esquina

A unique little joint located in Noho, La Esquina is the best Mexican food in town, at least in my opinion. They have a Taqueria (takeout), Brasserie and a Café and food to die for. Their fresh and authentic tacos and burritos are bursting with flavor all made with fresh corn tortillas, homemade salsa verde and macha, and topped with queso fresco, onions, avocado and cilantro. Their grilled Mexican corn and quesadillas are delicious too and they have a variety of frozen and fruit margaritas to cool off your mouth on fire! Word of warning: the Taqueria is tiny but cozy with bar stools and a line out the door, so be prepared for a wait that is definitely worth the experience and tasty treat!

106 Kenmare St, NYC 10012 | 646.613.7100

http://www.esquinanyc.com/

Cask Bar + Kitchen

This Classic Vintage Bar is a unique place in Murray Hill that has a 100-year-old restored wood floor and antique bar. They offer hand drawn cask conditioned beers and craft beers and an extensive wine list. They also have a Cellar Bar downstairs for private parties and events. The dinner menu includes a variety of Small Plates, Burgers, Flatbreads, Salads and Big Plates and they also offer Cheese Plates and Charcuterie if you just want some delicious munchies at the bar. I fell in love with their Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese – made with black truffles, aged white cheddar and Reggiano cheese. This dish literally melts in your mouth with a creamy mixture of flavors and perfectly crunchy breadcrumb topping. The Meatball Sampler is a must-try served with Beef, Lamb and Pork meatballs and Marinara, Wholegrain Mustard and Tomato Chipolte dipping sauces to accompany. Stop by for a drink and some delicious small plates or for Brunch or Traditional Roast Dinner every Sunday.

167 E. 33rd St (Btw 3rd & Lex) |  212.300.4924

www.casknyc.com

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