This low-key downtown spot is a little country and a little hip-hop, with a whole lot of good down-home comfort food. Sons of Essex is warm and inviting with distressed wood and cozy booths reminiscent of old-time smoking clubs. Pictures and knickknacks adorn every possible surface, and the checkered napkins are the perfect country touch.

Instead of boring bread and butter, Jalapeno Cornbread and Pickles are delivered to every table. I'm extremely particular about the texture and taste of cornbread. (My grandfather's cornbread is the only one I can tolerate. Made in a cast-iron skillet the crisp, perfect edges always make me smile.) This cornbread from Sons of Essex is now a close second. Moist with just a hint of spice, I was still dreaming about this loaf the next morning.
Vincent Chirico's most recent culinary conquest, Vai Restaurant on the Upper West, is an intimate, delicious experience like none other. Vai translates to "go" from Italian, and go you must.

The menu changes weekly, as do a few of the drinks. I was fortunate enough to try dishes from the chef's inspiration menu, a five course tasting with paired wines that captured the essence of the contemporary Mediterranean yet globally influenced menu.
To start, I was given a Cucumber Martini. The only liquor of the pairings, I was a bit skeptical until I actually tasted the drink. Vai infuses all of its vodkas in-house and this small touch makes quite the difference. Made with Hendrick's gin, lime and cucumber vodka, this crisp, fresh martini went down easy and paired perfectly with the first course.
After seeing a tutorial on Pinterest for Avocado Fries, I quickly became obsessed with finding a restaurant that served them. Toloache has been on my radar for quite a while, but I never managed to make it in for dinner. Thanks to my recent Mexican kick, I decided to finally visit the restaurant's 50th Street location.

All of the drinks on the margarita list looked absolutely scrumptious, but the Toloache—one of the eatery's signatures—was a no-brainer. Made with blanco tequila, hibiscus and blueberries it had just the right amount of tart to sweet ratio.

I'm a super nerd who always checks in on Foursquare. If you aren't a user, I suggest you download the app immediately. Two margaritas for the price of one is a pretty awesome deal. Just sayin'.
Photos by Jacob Romoser
My apologies for the long hiatus. I don't even have a good excuse, so I'm just going to jump right in to this review.

If you're a follower of the site, then you know I've visited Empellon before. While I did enjoy myself, I was excited to hear changes were made to both the menu and the ambiance of the restaurant.

Who knew rearranging tables could make such a difference? Seriously. Making more space amongst the tables kept me from eating on top of the ladies next to me, and it allowed for a more romantic date night.

We started with the Nantucket Bay Scallop Ceviche with Pistachios and Yuzu,and boy was it a treat. I can still taste the creaminess of the yuzu and the crunch of the pistachios. I never would have paired these ingredients together, but I'm glad Alex Stupak did. The dish was interesting and extremely fresh.


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