Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Would You Do

I received this text tonight: "How long should I wait OUTSIDE of trader joes before calling it a loss"

Trader Joe's is not a place to get hot concert tickets or the secret location of a sample sale - it's a grocery store.

Photo taken in line at Trader Joe's line: April 2010

Trader Joe's on 14th street is the outpost of California's genius idea to offer foods with their "Trader Joe" brand name to cut out the middle man, therefore cutting your costs. BARGAIN ALERT! In a sea of specialty grocery stores - seriously, I don't care if the sheep were hugged while giving the milk for this cheese - it's refreshing to find a grocery store that can be affordable, and dare I say cheap. Best of the other world is that the food is healthy, fresh, and tasty - I love their frozen veggies, snack size-packed almonds, and bags of mixed greens for salads. I am not an organic fanatic, but turns out most of what is available at Trader Joe's is organic - and at the lowest price available.

So to the lines - is it worth it? Is it worth walking over 15 minutes home carrying your bags of groceries? Is it worth standing in line for half an hour waiting for the cashier scooting your basket? With the "Grand Sampling Station", cheerful workers in Hawaiian shirts, and paying for a week's worth of groceries under $50, then yeah, I'd say it is worth it.

And don't forget to visit the Trader Joe Wine Shop next door - great wine on the chizzeap.

142 E. 14th St. New York, NY 10003

Trading Hours: 8 am - 10 pm

Phone: 212.529.4612

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pier Pressure

This Monday storm is not raining on my parade. Not after the glorious spring weather from this past weekend. After months of hibernation, New Yorkers quickly shed wool for tank tops the minute the temperature hits 64. I laughed at my roommate putting on her swimsuit while I left the apartment in my sandals. The lawns of Central Park tend to overwhelm me, so I prefer to park on one of the piers along the Hudson River. There is great debate over which pier is the best - some better for summer outdoor concerts, some better for sports, some better for people watching. My favorite is the one where Christopher Street meets the West Side Highway. Warning: those who are speedo-phobic should not go to this pier. Otherwise, put down the weekend to-do list and set aside your agenda - it's time to enjoy the cool river breeze, prime view of the Statue of Liberty and soak up the sun. Come on, everybody's doing it.

Surprise Birthday Picnic Brunch on the Pier -
Happy Birthday, Zack!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Farewell, Winter

After today's weather, it's official: spring has sprung.
6:30 p.m. + sun still out = me walking over 30 blocks home from work with a smile.

Hang up the puffy coat in the back of your closet, fold up your long johns (yes, there were days I wore long johns underneath my work clothes), but don't just yet put away your rain boots before April showers. I am giddy in anticipation of receiving evites to rooftop parties, eating at outdoor cafes, and picnics in the park...

Snowy afternoon, February 6, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Please Pack Your Knives and Geek Out

Keeping with the family and Top Chef motif, we decided to relocate for dessert and after dinner drinks to Tom Colicchio's recently opened Colicchio & Sons. Although the former Craftsteak space is technically one block north of 14th street, we had too great of an experience for me to not share.

I heard sightings of the head Top Chef judge at the restaurant, so I walked in with high hopes and wide open eyes to search for him and BAM! right as we walked in, I saw the back of his famous bald head sitting at a table and immediately knew it was him. The restaurant is divided into two sections: the tap room, home to a more informal menu and stretch of taps of dozens of domestic and international beers, and the main dining room, which only serves the tasting menu.

Massive two story wine wall dividing the tap room and the main dining room

Back to Tom: we sat in the tap room, just a few tables over from the spotted Tom, and I was GEEKING. OUT. I know it's weird to some that I would freak out about seeing a chef in person, but chefs are the celebrities of New York! Now, would I actually get to speak to him? Here comes the advantage of having a shameless woman from Texas as your mother. "We would like to speak to Tom, please" my mom said to the waiter. Halfway through eating our sweet desserts and tasty cocktails, sure enough the Exec Chef Colicchio shows up to our table to shake each of our hands. I can only imagine how wide the grin was on my face as I spoke, "Yeah, we just ate at Barbuto for dinner...oh it's right by where you live? Oh really? Me too - yeah, I live on 8th street" - you know, just casually chatting with fellow New York resident and neighbor, TOM COLICCHIO! We chatted about the Craft in Dallas, what his sons like to order when eating there, and his favorite beers, then the proud mom took it too far by talking about my blog. (She also did this to the waiter - but thanks Chris for reading!) But Tom could not have been nicer. Yeah, I just called him by his first name only.

Cinnamon Raisin Pain Perdu with pinenuts grapefruit & rosemary ice cream

Beignets with bourbon panna cotta & sour apple granita

Pass the Courvoisier, Barbuto Luke

Cheers to Colicchio with Tap Room Cocktails:

The Gentleman: Plymouth Gin, Muddled Mint, Fresh Lemon Juice and

The Highline: Prosecco, 10 Cane Rum, Lavender, Fresh Lemon Juice

Colicchio & Sons

85 Tenth Avenue (at the corner of 15th Street)


Monday - Thursday 12pm to 10pm
Friday 12pm - 11pm
Saturday 11am to 11pm
Sunday 11am to 10pm

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Family Style

My parents, Luke & Paula, booked a last minute flight to come visit me in February as an early birthday celebration/found a great air fare trip. You can blame my parents for me living here. Not because they are so terrible I needed to move that far away from Texas, but because they planned a family vacation to New York City in 1994 to see the Macy's Day Parade. At 10 years old I decided I was going to live in New York "when I grew up". I was sold after seeing Les Mis live for the first time, eating at Tavern on the Green (RIP), riding a carriage through Central Park and buying my Planet Hollywood t-shirt - I did not even know there was a 14th street then. I love when my parents come to visit because it is now my turn to show them New York.

Booking a last minute ticket set a challenge to quickly and strategically create a restaurant itinerary. I had to choose wisely. After reading my blog post on brussels sprouts, my dad requested we go to Westville for brunch to revisit his youth of eating the delicious vegetable. Brunch at Westville was a huge success and satisfying meal of course. Next: dinner. I have walked by Barbuto, always wanting to eat in the converted garage space, but never had the right occasion. Since becoming empty nesters, my parents have become big fans of Top Chef, so since Barbuto's Executive Chef, Jonathan Waxman, competed on Top Chef Masters, it was a perfect opportunity to eat at Barbuto. Not to mention that Barbuto means "beard" in Italian, so for those that know Luke and his famed (and graying) beard, it was even more perfect!

Candle lighting the Italian-focused menu with the Barbuto dog icon

The restaurant space like I mentioned is a large converted garage where during summer months, garage doors open for ideal outdoor dining. But since it was below 30 degrees, the closed garage doors functioned as walls, with floor to ceiling windows providing an open air feel in an industrial setting. The scene is a fun, loud and bustling neighborhood mix of large parties celebrating in the casual atmosphere and couples sharing an intimate meal over candlelight.

Outlined in the Italian format of antipasti, primi, secondi, and contorni, the menu changes seasonally. Our lively, knowledgeable and entertaining waiter explained Barbuto prides itself on serving organic and local produce before guiding us through his top recommendations. Like any good Italian meal, food is served family style. From the antipasti section, we ordered the prosciutto and bruschetta. I pretty much order prosciutto any time I can, and this was some of the best I have had. I am not a big salt person, rarely asking to pass the salt or season before I eat, but I kept thinking how every dish was perfectly seasoned. Perhaps that is from watching too many seasons of Top Chef judges critique the lack of salt...

Composed family style plate:
Tagliatelle al’agnello with lamb & pecorino ragu, wilted kale sautéed with garlic & chilis, and duck.

I was giddy happy at Barbuto: maybe because I was celebrating my birthday with my parents, or because the food was so delicious, or feeding off the energetic crowd or it was the second bottle of wine - or all of the above - I had a delightful time eating at Barbuto and highly recommend it.


775 Washington Street

212 924 9700

Monday - Wednesday: Noon - 11:00 p.m.

Thursday - Saturday: Noon - Midnight

Sunday: Noon - 10:00 p.m.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Back with a Mac

I am back!
I promise this blog is not another one of my grand plans that lasts one month before quitting - I'll leave that to my work out schedule. I had big blog post ideas for February but life threw some curve balls.
I quit my job to become a full time blogger.....
I'm kidding. But I did get a new job that took me away from my blog and gchat and then I turned 25 sending me in a parade of celebrations of the quarter life crisis. Good news is I have recently purhcased an iPhone and MacBook so I am employed, aged and equipped to blog more than ever.

Exciting posts to come on a weekend with my parents, living at the Jane Hotel, and how to party 1980s style.

Until then...Happy Oscars Day!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

B is for...

Tally a third weekend in a row of 2010 to host visitors and celebrate birthdays (was it spring break for all parents in april?) - this time for Miss Betsy Cook! (I lovingly refer to her as simply, "B") I have been celebrating her birthday since this diva turned a mere 19, and every year tops the other with more suprises, favors, gifts and festive dinner parties. B sadly moved to Houston in August, but came back to NYC for a weekend to celebrate her birthday. The weekend line-up opened with a huge party at the tequila dungeon-like cave bar, Los Feliz in the Lower East Side, an indulgent brunch at Chef April Broomfield's The Breslin Bar and Dining Room at the new Ace Hotel in Flatiron, and ended with an outstanding dinner at Bobo in The West Village.

Quietly marked sign of Bobo on corner of West 10th and 7th Ave -
easy to miss, but do not pass!

Eating at Bobo is like eating at the West Village town home of an eclectic librarian world traveler that subscribes to Elle Decor. So much thought, curating, and design went into every nook and cranny of this space. To enter, you walk down candlelit stairs to the basement level, greeted by a host and crowded bar area. The low ceiling, chalk renderings on old LPs of specials and bar menu, unique light fixtures and cozy seating make you feel right at home with all of your neighborhood best friends.

We were fortunately seated upstairs, and if you can, I highly recommend sitting upstairs - or when the weather permits, the back garden. Another candlelit set of stairs lead us to what I think was originally the living room/reading room of the town home. All of us, especially the girls, kept oohing and aahing over the little things: I love when I get to sit on a couch/banquette at a dinner table, dramatic chandeliers, little knick-knacks of figurines and clocks, books on display that you want to grab to flip open, wall collages of framed photographs, actual fireplaces, antique mirrors and weirdly enough, when the restauranteer takes time to personalize the restrooms. The room was too dimly lit for my camera, but perfect for an intimate date (just ask the couple making out next to us) or special group birthday dinner.

I know you get the message - I have my bags packed and am ready to move in and live upstairs - but was the food actually good? Yes! Unlike one of my roommates, I like for a restaurant to serve food that backs up the atmosphere, and despite rumors of new chefs and mixed reviews of the food, I thought the food to be outstanding; from bread basket to dessert. Seriously though, the bread was one of my favorite parts - artisinal bread dipped in olive oil is the perfect start to any meal. Between appetizers and entrees, there is a section titled "For the Table", which we joked should really just be titled "For the Person" because each item is served in single portions, canapé-esque. We ordered the ahi tuna with avacado and cilantro on some kind of cheese cracker that was delicious and gone in two bites, chicken liver toast, crispy fried pickles with rich crab dip, and sweet roasted shishito peppers (I think I counted 10 stems on my plate, whoops).

With seven different tastes, entree selections ranged from the seafood: seared scallops with roasted cauliflower, apple salad and cider reduction, the duo of cod with arugula, baby squash, and olive puree, and trout with apple puree, Brussels sprouts, and crispy sweet potoato; to the meat: bobo burger with gruyère cheese and leeks, the vegetarian coco burger (coco - branch of bobo promoting local and sustainable foods) of quinoa, beet relish and mustard. I had bites of all (surprise!) and everything was truly delicious, seasoned well and I was surprised by how much I liked the burger - love the twist of gruyère cheese and leeks.

Birthday Girl B dressed in the appropriately letter color Blue

Bobo is everything you hope for in a charming West Village restaurant - thoughtful and personal decor, bustling but not pretentious scene, a menu that offers dishes you cannot get everywhere else or make in your shoebox kitchen, and exceptional food. Come to think of it, Bobo is everything you hope for a in a West Village home too....dream big!

I could not resist one last photo - painted silhouettes on exposed brick wall to the back garden

181 W. 10th St., New York, NY 10014
at Seventh Ave. South
Sun - Wed: 6:00 - 11:00 p.m.
Thurs - Sat: Noon - 4:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. - Midnight
Brunch: Sat & Sun: Noon - 4:00 p.m.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Cotton Anniversary

I moved to NYC January 26, 2008 - two years ago today.
Happy 2nd Anniversary, New York!

Photo taken on my first night living here:
Bleeker Street, January 26, 2008

My two year relationship with New York has had it's rollercoaster of ups and downs. I savor the postcard worthy moments of reading on the grass in Washington Square Park to the background music of a jazz trio, attending a rooftop summer soiree at The Met, and dancing with my three roommates in our Greenwich Village living room. I am ready to book the next plane ticket back to Texas when I see the bruises on my legs after carrying a TV up to the 4th floor, read the city and state income tax lines on my paycheck, and show up to work drenched after walking in the horizontal, windy rain with a flipped-out umbrella. This city beats you up physically, financially, spiritually, and emotionally - but listen to Empire State of Mind and you are NY proud.

My friend Caroline sent this someecard when I first moved here - I have it hanging in my cubicle.

Before I get too Dear Diary on here, I want to thank my fabulous friends here in the city for opening your arms and making living here such a dream come true and incredibly fun - I could not survive without you. And to my family and friends in Texas - thank you for your love, support, prayers, and encouragement. You are my life raft. I need to stop watching so many awards shows - I am starting to write in the format of acceptance speeches.

I raise my cupcake and toast you New York - to 2 years!

Monday, January 25, 2010

grab your crack fork

Welcome my first guest blogger, Miss Kathleen Patterson. Kathleen is an easy, breezy, beautiful cover girl visitor - her one request during her stay was to visit Momofuku Milk Bar. I am embarrassed to say that I have not been to any of the Momofuku empire restaurants in my 2 years here. So thanks to Kathleen for getting me to hop on the Momofuku train. I thought it only appropriate that she give her own personal review of Momofuku Milk Bar - take it away Kathleen!....

Does anyone else watch Regis and Kelly? No? Last month while Regis was having his hip replaced, (here's to a happy and healthy 2010, Regis!), the great Anderson Cooper filled in for him. I love Anderson Cooper and will heed any advice he gives. So when he raved about Momofuku Milk Bar, I knew I had to experience it for myself.

Meredith and I made our way down there on a very chilly Sunday afternoon. Even though it was freezing outside, lots of people were eating their oddly flavored ice creams (example flavors: salt and pepper, pb & j, cereal milk?). We didn't try any but heard good things about the cereal milk. The display case had some great looking cakes and pies, of which Meredith did not take a picture. I think she was trying to sabotage my guest post, but WHATEV.

compost cookie with momofuku (translated to "lucky peach") logo

Anderson specifically recommended the Crack Pie and the compost cookie. We got both. The compost cookie is exactly what it sounds like, lots of random ingredients: pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, chocolate chips. It was definitely good, but nothing to write home about. The Crack Pie however.. was definitely all it was CRACKED up to be. get it?! get it?! I can only describe it as the best oatmeal cookie you've ever had, but in pie form.

slice of crack pie: toasted oat crust, gooey butter filling

Momofuku Milk Bar
207 2nd ave. nyc 10003
corner of 13th and 2nd
monday -friday: 8:00 am - 12:00 am
saturday - sunday: 9:00 am - 12:00 am

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two Magic Words

Remember when your grandmother would ask you what the magic word was and you had to answer, "please"? What are the two magic words for New York shoppers? SAMPLE. SALE.

I first discovered the chaotic glory of sample sales when I interned here for the summer in college - lining around the block to wait, sharpening your elbows to get your first pick, and paying cash only on final sales of designer clothes, shoes and accessories. The warehouse room of a sample sale looks like a jungle of predators - think cafeteria jungle scene in Mean Girls. I commonly ignore sample sale alerts now because even the 80% discount isn't always worth the stress and effort. However, I was thrilled to receive an email about the winter sample sale at Sophia Eugene Boutique!

Sophia Eugene is the fashion line from New York-based designer, Christopher Crawford, who is also behind the Christopher Deane label. I love the boutique almost as much as the actual fashion line. The tiny space, once a meat freezer, is located on the quaint, picturesque Cornelia Street. The exposed brick, floral wall paper, dressing partition and glam center chandelier make your shopping experience feel like you are combing through your fashionable best friend's closet.

Sophia Eugene offers a wardrobe from day to night including feminine work clothes (pants, pencil skirts, blazers, jackets), fabulous party dresses with clever and sexy cuts and details, chic and flirty tops, and gorgeous winter coats. I also love this boutique because it is the only outpost for Sophia Eugene, so you can trust you are getting something truly unique and not offered everywhere. However, the website does offer a full listing of national and international boutiques selling Sophia Eugene.

Sweet Lisa & Ferris helping you find the perfect purchase

Pieces range from $150 - $400 - at times the pretty penny is worth it (I bought a Mexican fiesta dress this past summer that is one of my all time favorites!!) but the sample sale is a great opportunity to steal a piece for under half the price - without the long lines or crowds! Sophia Eugene silk and knit dresses that were $348 are now $100, wool winter coats that were $399 are now $150 and wool blazers were $215 are now $80. And like all sample sales, all sales are final, but they do take cash or credit.

Happy Shopping and Happy Savings!!

Sale Details:
Thursday, January 21st - Thursday, February 4th
12:00pm – 8:00pm

Sophia Eugene
37 Cornelia Street, New York, NY
(between Bleecker St. and W. 4th St)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Now to the hysterical birthday boy and dinner.

Panna II can best be described as Slumdog Millionaire on an acid trip. Imagine walking into a closet where a Christmas lights factory exploded onto the ceilings and walls. The absurd comedy of eating in this East Village BYOB (no corking fee) Indian restaurant makes this a perfect spot for birthday dinners, Happy Birthday Clark!, visitors looking for a different "cultural" experience and a fun night out. But let's be honest, you don't come here for the food - you come here for the experience.

The experience begins before you even walk in the door. Approaching the address, you will come to a quadrant of four, similar to identical, Indian restauarants, with men outside aggressively persuading you to come to their specific restaurant. I cannot tell you why Panna II is the most popular, but Panna II is the one you want to go to - the one upstairs, on the right.

And even if it's not your official birthday, you will feel like a birthday honoree - waiters turn off the lights, trigger the disco ball, pump up the music and bring out ice cream with a lit candle when you receive your bill.

Panna II
93 1st Avenue, between 5th & 6th St.
New York, NY 10003
7 days a week, Noon - Midnight

Monday, January 18, 2010

A New Standard

Kathleen and Clark both turned the big 2-5 over the past two weekends. A tale of two birthday dinners: the fabulous and the hysterical. First, the fabulous.

The Standard Grill
is the hot new restaurant connected to the hot new hotel, The Standard, underneath the hot new park, The High Line. I will write a full post and love letter to my home away from home and the park of the future, The High Line, soon. The Standard Grill is a perfect combination of faux-bistro comfort and wall to wall scene. Do not be fooled though, like many restaurants that give the visual appeal of laid back bistro, reservations are hard to come by and hosts act on the pretentious side with their available times. I called the week-of and for a party of 5, I had a reservation at 10:15. I actually prefer this time block because I do not feel rushed to get ready, there is plenty of time for a drink at the bar before dinner, and you sit in the middle of the bustle, but are not rushed to finish and leave. Also, when calling for reservations, ask the reservationist to make a note to the maitre'd to sit in the back, main dining room.

We arrived with an expectant wait for our table to be ready, so off to the bar we went to order "The Penny Dropper". New York Magazine recently featured this cocktail as one of the Best Cocktails for 2010. I vote this as one of the best cocktails of my life. Russian Standard Vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice served on ice in a copper mug. The copper mug provides reason for the name, matches the real copper penny lined floors of the main dining room, and is a unique drinking vessel for a festive occasion. We found out after leaving that you can special order this cocktail in a punch bowl for the entire table.

Cheers to Birthday Girl Kathleen and the quarter life crisis!

The front bar is fun, but I prefer to sit in the back, more intimate and secluded, dining room. The one-page American bistro menu ranges across the board to appeal to all tastes and appetites - appetizers of raw oysters, sliced meats from "the counter", homemade pâtés, salads and entrees for both the vegetarians and meat lovers. I highly recommend the oysters, and the side of crispy potatoes (glorified tator tots) with smoked paprika aioli are a must for the table.

A birthday dinner is not complete without a special dessert lit by a candle paraded to the table with a chorus of your friends singing "Happy Birthday". For Kathleen's birthday wish, we ordered The Deal Closer, also featured in New York Magazine as one of the Best Desserts for 2010. Not that I needed any more convincing, but this sealed the deal and I am sold to The Standard Grill.

A huge bowl filled with a bottom layer of chocolate cake, topped with chocolate mousse and finished with whipped scream, chocolate shavings, a rasberry, and birthday candle. And to help finish it clean, your very own spatula.

The Standard Grill
848 Washington St., near 13th St.
New York, NY 10014
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Brunch
Sun-Thu, 7am-11am and 11:30am-12:00
Fri-Sat, 7am-11am and 11:30am-1am

Friday, January 15, 2010

Serious Eats

I promise this is not just a "food focused" blog. It just so happens that my life tends to be "food focused". Posts on shops, galleries, photographers, etc. to come soon....but for a great NY food blog to follow, I suggest Serious Eats.

I am posting their site here today because a blogger reviewed 8 St. Kitchen, and I love his opening line supporting my description of 8th Street.

"With the notable exception of Otto, I've never found anything good to eat on West 8th Street. (Nor have I ever purchased any shoes, boots, or water pipes there, for that matter.)" Joe DiStefano

Sorry Joe, but I have to disagree with you about the food, but see people! I'm not lying about this block being the "shoe street"!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Now I'm a Believer

In NYC, "What are you doing this weekend?" is code for "Where are you going to brunch?" Brunch is a verb, a sport, a ritual, a light at the end of the work week tunnel.

After going into new East Village territory Friday night, I brought Kathleen and Clark to a West Village brunch staple, Westville, on West 10th street, one of my favorite streets in all of Manhattan.

You could easily walk past Westville without noticing the small space holding 10 tables - but most nights and weekend afternoons you would not be able to ignore the crowds waiting outside for fresh market vegetables, hearty American entrees and sweet homemade desserts. The atmosphere is casual and laid back, walls decorated with chalkboards featuring specials and retro 1950's ads and soda bottles, packed with a combined hipster and neighborhood clientele.

Now let's get to the food: for brunch, I recommend the breakfast burrito or any egg dish with a side of brussels sprouts. Yes, brussels sprouts. I am not sure if I had ever eaten brussels sprouts before moving to New York, but thanks to my roommate, Emily, ordering the brussels sprouts at Westville 2 years ago, I am now a believer of brussels sprouts! I order them anywhere they are featured as a side dish, buy them at Trader Joe's, and will not allow anyone to go to Westville without eating the brussels sprouts cooked in butter, garlic and honey dijon dressing.

And if you are not in the mood for eggs - get any sandwich served on a portugese muffin. The grilled cheese is pictured below. For dinner, Westville serves Sloppy Joe's on a portugese muffin and it. is. incredible. Westville's use of the portugese muffin inspired my apartment to host a Sloppy Joe night using Thomas English muffins and I don't think I can have a Sloppy Joe any other way now. The muffins soak the juices while giving an extra crunch on the outside.

Side of brussels sprouts, special chorizo breakfast burrito topped with slices of avocado with potato and bell pepper hash, and the grilled cheddar and gouda blend melted on a portuguese muffin.

Truly, anything and everything at Westville is delicious - you cannot order wrong here. I do not normally finish brunch with a dessert, but after seeing the ice cream at the table two inches next to us (no privacy for any meal or conversation here), we decided to get a bowl of scoops of homemade chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Just like you remember it - creamy, cold, soothing and perfect in its simplicity. And when you are too lazy to walk or wait, do as my roommates do and call for delivery to turn your couch into a Westville table.

210 W 10th Street,
Between Bleecker and West 4th Street
212.741.7971, 212.741.4780
Monday-Friday: 11:30am - 11pm
Saturdays and Sundays: Brunch: 10 am - 4 pm, Dinner: 4pm -11pm
Delivery Info

The Saturday ritual of brunch leads to my other favorite Saturday tradition: aimlessly strolling. To see and experience the charms of the West Village, and try to walk off some of the brunch, the three of us leisurely walked the tree, brownstone, cafe, boutique and historical landmark lined streets of Bleeker, Charles, Perry, Grove, West 4th, Commerce, Barrow, Jane, and Cornelia for hours - converting Clark and Kathleen to believers of brussels sprouts and the West Village.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter Restaurant Week

Bookmark Opentable.com and set reservation hotlines to your speed dial -
Restaurant Week Reservations Open Today!
Restaurant Week is a dream come true for those of us with rib eye taste on a hot dog's budget.

Lunch: $24.07 Dinner: $35.00
(does not include beverages, tax or tip)

3 tips to enjoying RW:
1. Pick the most expensive participating restaurants, look for $$$$$ - no sense in paying $35.00 for a tasting menu at a BBQ or Mexican restaurant - many of the top tier restaurants are only available for lunch, but well worth it if you can use your lunch hour
2. Call reservations if Open Table shows nothing available - the human hostess is often more accomodating than the computer
3. If possible, preview the menu - one critique of RW is that some restaurants put bland and boring choices on the RW menu, so make sure you are still getting a quality meal - many restaurants post the RW menu on-line or are happy to fax you a copy

The list of restaurants can be overwhelming - from my RW experiences, below are some of my top recommendations:

Below 14th Street:
Gotham Bar & Grill (Lunch Only): Chef Alfred Portale’s NYC legendary landmark restaurant in Greenwich Village, I still day dream about the crimini mushroom soup
Lure Fishbar (Lunch & Dinner): Delicious seafood served in a glamorous subterranean yacht set in the heart of SOHO
Il Cantinori (Lunch & Dinner): Rustic Italian eatery offering Tuscan classics, and for SATC fans, this is where Carrie sits all alone during her birthday dinner
Kittichai (Lunch & Dinner): "Sexy" is the best word to describe this orchid-filled trendy Thai restaurant at the 60 Thompson hotel

I am recommending to venture to the UPTOWN establishments for this deal:
21 Club (Lunch & Dinner): the ultimate in the Power Lunch and an NYC Classic
Cafe Boulud (Lunch Only): Calling Upper East Side Ladies Who Lunch - Chef Daniel Boulud's dishes with the absolute best people watching - I literally heard an elderly woman yell at the waiter "yooohoo! give that table a bottle of wine! and put it on my account!"

Please share your Restaurant Week recommendations!

Monday, January 11, 2010

East Bound and Down

My apartment frequently converts to a hotel (or I should more appropriately say hostel) thanks to my wonderful friends visiting and my generous roomates sharing their space. Wasting no time in 2010, I had my first weekend of guests: Kathleen and Clark, two of my oldest, best and most fun friends. When planning restaurants for their visit, I try to balance between favorite staples and taking advantage of the opportunity to try somewhere new. And even though I am a west village snob, it is important to tour a variety of neighborhoods, which will then feature a spectrum of scenes, prices, and cuisines. It is in that very spirit of neighborhood diversity and trying somewhere new, I chose Bianca in the East Village for dinner.

Bianca is wonderful - the quintessential neighborhood gem serving standout Italian dishes for affordable prices in a warm, charming and bustling atmosphere. No reservations are taken at Bianca, so for a party of 5 at 8:30 Friday night, the wait was over an hour - but Bianca has a great partnership with the next door bar, Von, to help with the wait. The host will come find you at the bar to let you know when your table is ready, and if you have not finished your drink, no problem - bring it over to Bianca to finish at your table.

Photo of antique china set on shelves and walls - not pictured: exposed brick wall: ADORABLE!

To start, we ordered the GNOCCO FRITTO for the table. Take a trip to the State Fair Italian-style, spreading stracchio cheese on puffy pillows of dough made from flour, water, and lard that’s deep-fried in oil.

Fried dough + cheese = yes please.

My favorite group dinners are those when everyone at the table orders something different so you can share bites of each dish. Per our waitress's recommendation, I ordered the Lasagna, the traditional one from emilia-romagna with bechamel and meat sauce. I know this is a bold statement, but the lasagna is the best I have had in New York. Incredible flavor and is alone worth a trip to the restaurant. Clark and Kathleen ordered the Stracetti di Manzo, pan-seared thin slice of filet mignon with rosemary and potatoes. Both gave two thumbs up and were still talking about it today. Caroline ordered the Salmonce Croccante, crispy roasted salmon fillet and Sarah ordered the special fish - each light, flakey, and perfectly seasoned. Perhaps the best finish to the meal? The bill - appetizer, five entrees and bottles of wine for only $30 each!

So delighted with our dining experience, Clark and Kathleen dancing outside Bianca while singing praises.

5 Bleecker St., New York, NY 10012
Monday - Thursday: 5:00 - 11:00, Friday - Saturday: 5:00 - 12:00
Sunday: 5:00 - 10:30


After dinner, we stayed on the East Side - drinking cocktails out of tea cups at my favorite Lower East Side speakeasy bar, The Back Room (full post on that soon), going more low key at Spring Lounge, dancing with NYU students at Gatsby's, and missing last call at Pravda.

And what would a night out on the East side be without finishing late night on the West side at a packed (we actually had to wait for a table at 3:30 a.m.) Waverly Restaurant.

An order of chicken tenders with fries, side of bacon and silver dollar pancakes with strawberries for the table please!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

O Christmas Tree

It's a Christmas miracle my apartment did not burn down over the holidays. All four roommates home for the holidays left a dying and drying Christmas tree. Fire hazard much? I could not take the paranoia of getting a call at work that our apartment was in flames anymore so tonight we threw the tree out, literally.

The Usual

In honor of those New Year's resolutions to be a better penny pincher and the nights when you need to pay for dinner with change because you ate at Morimoto the night before, I want to share little BARGAIN ALERTS: the SUPER SPECIAL at EVA'S

A good 6 months passed before I ever stepped foot into Eva's. I dismissed it for so long because I assumed any place that hung pictures of their menu items and sold protein shakes and vitamins was disgusting and not a fit for me. That is until one night, my roommate, Liza, came home raving about this amazing deal she discovered at Eva's. Any vegetarian sandwich and cup of soup for $4.95. I peeked into her brown to-go bag and not only was it cheap, but it was healthy, and dare I say it, delicious too!

Pictured: Nature burger in toasted whole-wheat pita with homemade tahini sauce and a cup of homemade lentil soup: $4.95

I was sold - a cheap and healthy meal option - an urban myth. So sold, that I have ordered the "Super Special" at Eva's so many times that when I walk in, the sweet man looks at me and asks "the usual?" Better I have a "usual" and recognizable staff at a health food store than Dunkin' Donuts... Here he is smiling away as he rings up the total bill to $5.39.

I am not sure how this deal works considering a vegetarian sandwich alone costs $4.50 - $7.20, but get it with soup and it can all be yours for $4.95. The falafel with humus sanwich is also available for a mere $1.99 - once when counting change from my pocket to pay for this bargain, the man next to me said "oh I've been there..." so you are not alone!

No sugar free coating here - Eva's is a bizarre half health food resaurant/half vitamin shop where body builders, cops, NYU students and neighbors have been coming since 1978. And try to not to make eye contact with the occasional supplement salesman or you'll leave half an hour later convinced you need the protein pill before you work out.

Eva's Health Food
11 West 8th Street New York, NY 10011
Mon - Sat: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
FREE DELIVERY (Minimum $7.00)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Freshman 15

When I was a student at The University of Texas, we had a cookie delivery service called Tiff's Treats (All Austin and Dallas readers, order some NOW) Late night studying, birthdays, or simply because it was Tuesday afternoon were all reasons to send or receive warm cookies delivered to your dorm room. When I walked across the graduation stage, I thought I was walking away from the glorious concept of cookie delivery. Gracias a Dios, I was wrong. Turns out some fine folks in Pennsylvania had the same great idea, and expanded it to NYU.

I can now eat and feel like a college student all over again with these freshly baked, warm, gooey, delicious cookies delivered any hour of the day or night. Not only that, but after opening their retail shop (pictured below) at 50 W. 8th St., near Macdougal St., you can burn calories walking there.

Cookie flavors range from the basic for $1.00 each (sugar, peanut butter, chocolate chunk, M&M, snickerdoodle, oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamia) to deluxe for $2.25 each (TRIPLE chocolate chunk, peanut butter chocolate, and smore's). Or, if you want to get really aggressive, you can order the "Menage a Trois" - your choice of any three flavors baked
Photo: Melissa Hom

So whether you're staying warm on your couch, welcoming someone to the neighborhood, walking home at 3 a.m. from Village Tavern, or because it's simply Tuesday afternoon, send and treat yourself to Insomnia Cookies - and order a chocolate chunk for me!

Insomnia Cookies
50 West 8th StreetNew York, NY 10011
Between 6th Avenue and MacDougall Street.
Retail Time: 9:00 AM - 3:00 AM
Delivery Time: 6:00 PM - 2:30 AM

Minimum for delivery: $6.00 Estimated delivery time: 30-40 minutes
Delivery Zone: from Broome St. to 14th St, and Ave. A to Washington Ave.

Block Party

"Cruising down 8th street, off-white Lexus..."
Jay-Z, "Empire State of Mind", 2009

The key to living in a great neighborhood is to find that one dodgy street in the middle of browstone lined streets - Exhibit A: West 8th street, between 5th and 6th avenue: my block. Formerly known as "the shoe street".

I'm not kidding. When I tell people where I live, many respond "ohhhh the street with all the shoe shops". It's really random how one block drew so many shoe vendors but truly, every other window shop used to be filled with Italian leather loafers, cowboy boots, hiking boots, stilettos, and every shape, size and color inbetween. My roommate, Liza, and I often fantasized about filming a spoof of the You Tube "shoes" video walking down our block. That was 2 years ago. Over the past 2 years, the face of this block has changed dramatically. Blame it on the recession, the decline of demand for tacky shoes, or the laws of capitalism, but many shoe shops and restaurants have shut their doors.

RIP Chicken & Pizza Bar with your one-stop shop for my two favorite food items, RIP Pio Maya serving sub-par tex-mex, RIP next-door jazz cafe that serenaded me on my walks home, RIP Salvation Army Donation Center providing the absolute best costumes - you are missed.

But as we all know, when one shop door closes, another opens. And there are some great new neighbors which have brought new life to this block. While my roomates and I are thrilled of the new additions, we secretly hope this block doesn't get too nice, or our rent may go up.

I could devote an entire blog to the quirkyness that is my block (the motorcycle tailgates, the tranny shops, the underground rave club, wondering why the double decker tour busses drive down our street, etc....in fact, maybe that is worth another blog) but instead I'll frequently feature the greatness that is west 8th street, between 5th and 6th avenue.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I pledge allegiance, to the Diner

The first step to claiming your neighborhood is to pick
"your diner". Mine?

Waverly Restaurant at the corner of 6th Avenue and Waverly Place.

Where else do you have the choice between eggs, french toast, meatloaf or a prime rib? Waverly Restaurant serves patrons with the charming qualities of most New York diners: framed photographs of unkown actors from the 1980's, delicious comfort food, rushed service, cash only payments, cramped seating and shot glass size servings of orange juice. But what makes Waverly Restaurant my choice? On top of serving the best breakfast, please note the geniusness that is the seasonal window decorations. That's right, stenciled silver bells made with fake snow from a can. You know there is a box in the basement of Waverly Restaurant labeled "Christmas decorations". Keep an eye throughout the year with paper cut outs of leprechauns, Thanksgiving turkeys and Easter bunnies. Inside, there are also great paintings and pictures of 6th avenue through the years.

Waverly Restaurant stands in a prime location - tourists get off at the West 4th subway stop to fill up before exploring the village, neighbors stumble in Saturday morning for grease, and any hour of the night or day you can satisfy your craving for pancakes...or a pastrami sandwich.

My personal suggestions: southwest scramble with hashbrowns, silver dollar pancakes with fresh strawberries and the classic grilled cheese sandwich.
Joe's Jr. challenged Waverly Diner, but sorry fans of Joe's, it's survival of the fittest and Joe's Jr. a few blocks up on 6th Avenue is no longer standing. (not to mention, they didn't serve strawberries on their pancakes, strike one)
I proudly stand, place my hand on my heart, and pledge my allegiance, to my diner, Waverly Restaurant.