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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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Behind the Scenes at Tasting Table’s Test Kitchen & Dining Room


Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Tasting Table Test Kitchen

About a week or so ago I had the fantastic opportunity to attend the Tasting Table’s Test Kitchen and Dining Room Grand Opening in Soho. It was a spectacular event sponsored by Jenn-Air and a grand loft space furnished to the hilt with a working test kitchen, dining room, lounge area and a wet bar.

Tasting Table Lounge

Tasting Table Lounge

Built by designers Eric Cheong & Loren Daye, Tribeca Builders, Lefroy Brooks and City Foundry, these talented designers and contractors helped bring Tasting Table’s amazing new cooking and entertaining space to life!

Tasting Table Wet Bar

Tasting Table Wet Bar

The space was furnished with top of the line appliances, cookware, kitchen tools and tabletop accessories, outfitted by only the top kitchen and cooking brands such as Jenn-Air, Le Creuset, Revol, Oneida Ltd., Wusthof, OXO, Polyscience, KitchenAid, Magimix by Robot-Coupe, iSi, Whole Foods and Vitamix – making it a dream kitchen and entertaining space for Tasting Table and all of us that attended.

Geoff Bartakovich, CEO of Tasting Table

Geoff Bartakovics, CEO of Tasting Table and Steve Brown, Jenn-Air GM

I had the opportunity to meet Geoff Bartakovics, CEO of Tasting Table, as well as Steve Brown, the GM for Jenn-Air along with staff and agency partners for both. We were served tantalizing St. Germain cocktails, wine and a full spread of delicious hors d’oeuvres as we mingled and enjoyed the party in this outrageously gorgeous space.

Fresh Heirloom Tomatoes

Fresh Heirloom Tomatoes

Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Jenn-Air Appliances

Jenn-Air Appliances

I especially enjoyed hanging out with my foodie friends Rachel Barbarotta (The Fabulous Foodie) and Megan Murphy (This Girl Can Eat)!

Rachel, Kristen and Megan

Rachel, Kristen and Megan

It was a fabulous evening in Soho (on Fashion’s Night Out to top it off!) and thanks to everyone at Tasting Table and Jenn-Air for sponsoring a gorgeous event and even more gorgeous space for all that attended to enjoy and aspire towards! (If only my tiny NYC kitchen were even half the size!)

Hors D'oeuvres

Hors D'oeuvres

Cheese Plate

Cheese Plate

Check out more photos from the event here

Check out Tasting Table’s video and more details from the event here

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.

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