It's not every night you get to taste seven wines with six specially designed appetizers. Luckily, Hot Tin Roof hosted a wine pairing while I was home. How could I say no?
Compressed White Peach, Crisp Basil & Prosciutto
The first appetizer, a Compressed White Peach, Crisp Basil and Prosciutto was paired with a sweet moscato wine. I loved the salty and sweet mix of the peach and prosciutto, but the wine definitely didn't go with the food. Although I enjoyed the dish, I don't think it should have been the starting course. The flavors were much too sweet to start off the entire pairing.
Tomato Salad with Mozzarella and Duck Emulsion
I'm a huge fan of tomatoes and mozzarella together, so the Tomato Salad with Mozzarella and Duck Emulsion was right up my alley. The tomatoes, although small, were robust and juicy, while the mozzarella had a crisp outside coating. The emulsion brought the two together, and provided an interesting almost earthy aftertaste.
Corn Risotto and a Truffle Corn Broth
There is really only one word to describe the Corn Risotto and Truffle Corn Broth: rich. Everything about the dish was decadentand refined. We were advised to sip the truffle corn broth after every bite of the risotto. The smoothness of the broth was a playful change after the texture of the risotto. In the end, the dish was too rich for me to finish. My mom, however, lapped up every drop.
Braised Pork Belly with Smokey Creamed Chard & Whipped Beets
The lightest of the reds was paired with the Braised Pork Belly, Whipped Beets and Smokey Creamed Chard. I couldn't get over the smokey flavor of the creamed chard, especially after taking a sip of the wine. I've never really eaten beets, but I could hardly taste any. This dish was definitely one of my favorites and I enjoyed all of the varying textures.
Ricotta Stuffed Pepper & Tangy Beef
The last savory dish combined three of my absolute favorite things -- cheese, spice and meat. The Tangy Beef and Ricotta Stuffed Pepper was crunchy, mushy and oh-so-delicious. I know that sounds like a complete conundrum, but each bite took me through a plethora of flavors and textures. If I could change anything, I would have preferred the pepper slightly more cooked.
Chocolate Battered Black Fig with Hazelnut Balsamic & Parmesan Whipped Cream
Dessert came in the form of a Chocolate Battered Black Fig with Hazelnut Balsamic and Parmesan Whipped Cream. This dish was absolutely elegant and I especially enjoyed the parmesan whipped cream. Adding the parmesan gave it a slightly fuller flavor that complemented the chocolate battered black fig. I can't think of a better dish to end the night on.
I had a whirlwind trip home last week, but of course I made time to stop at my favorite family owned Mexican restaurant in Stock Island -- Chico's Cantina. Open since 1984, the restaurant's menu is as diverse as its staff. With an outside patio in the back, it's the perfect place for large parties when the weather is nice.
The most epic thing about Chico's? Every meal comes with endless chips and salsa. The chips are always crisp and light, while the salsa has a nice kick if your bite includes some of the fresh jalapeño. Definitely come hungry or be prepared to take leftovers to go.
Baja Fish Tacos
As much as I dine here I should probably change up my entree selection, but the Baja Fish Tacos are just too darn good. What can I say? This dish is one of Chico's signature entrees for a reason.
Made with the freshest catch, breaded and flash fried, the corn tortilla is then piled high with cabbage, queso fresco, onions and tomatoes. Add some of the restaurant's roasted chile arbol sauce for a refreshing zesty flavor or some refried beans for a different texture. Don't forget to add in the fresh guacamole or Mexican rice just because you can.
All of the enchilada platters are so robust they hardly fit on the plate. Pick your filling and get ready to bask in perfection. The corn tortilla is heaped with red chile enchilada sauce and cheddar cheese and baked until it's melted and oozing. If you can handle the heat, spice things up by ordering your enchiladas with a dollop of green verde or green chile sauce.
Baked by Melissa cupcake display, Union Square
The next time you have a cupcake craving look no further than Baked by Melissa. Located in Union Square, the little sweet shop is filled to the brim with mini-cupcakes in all kinds of fun flavors like tye dye and chocolate chip pancake. Don't let their little size fool you, these bite size morsels taste just like the flavors they're named after.
My friend Arlette and I stopped by the shop on a whim while we were walking around the city one Saturday. She took all of these photos while we browsed the menu. It was a tough decision, but we finally decided on Peanut Butter & Jelly, Red Velvet, Smores, Chocolate Chip Pancake and Tye Dye.
Top row: Peanut Butter & Jelly, Red Velvet. Bottom row: Smores, Chocolate Chip Pancake, Tye Dye
We democratically split each in half so we could both try all of the flavors, and each cupcake tasted exactly like its description.
The PB&J brought me back to my childhood, while the Chocolate Chip Pancake even had a hint of maple syrup. The Tye Dye mini was pretty much all vanilla flavored, but it was so fun to eat because of its decoration.
Beware: If you don't want walk away immediately after purchasing your cupcakes you will be in danger of eating them all and then going back for seconds, possibly even thirds.
Hidden behind a red door at 113 Ludlow St. is one of the Lower East Side's hidden gems. Located on the second floor, the Filipino inspired Kuma Inn is sleek and modern with intense, fresh flavors. The place is so popular you have to make a reservation. (Okay, so there isn't much room to begin with, but it doesn't feel as small as it really is.)
A fellow foodie recommended the place, and my friend Robyn and I decided it would be the perfect spot to start our girls night out. The tapas-style menu is reasonably priced, and we didn't even mind the cash only rule. The best part? For a small corking fee bring your favorite bottle of wine and drink to your hearts content.
Yellowfin Tuna Tartare
To start, we ordered the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with a Rice Noodle Crisp. The tuna was tender and had just the right acidity, while the cucumber added a nice freshness and unexpected crunchy texture. Each bite size morsel melted right in my mouth, and I enjoyed the playful presentation. The dish definitely deserves it's ranking as of the menu's featured items.
After the waitress recited the day's specials we knew there was no way we were leaving without tasting the Pork Buns. The new "it" menu item at trendy establishments, these pork buns raised the bar. The bread was doughy and light like a cloud, and the slow cooked pork was tender and delicious. A hoison sauce added a nice peanuty flavor to the dish.
Pan Roasted Scallops
Robyn chose the Pan Roasted Ocean Scallops with Bacon, Kalamansi and Sake. Each scallop had an unexpected cracked black pepper kick that added a pop to the nicely blended flavors. All of the varying textures kept my palette guessing, and I loved the vibrant color the greens brought to the dish
Coconut Lemon Grass Panna Cotta
I almost passed on dessert until the Coconut Lemon Grass Panna Cotta actually came to the table. With such a large blackberry on top how could I resist? The lemon flavor was light and mimicked the whipped panna cotta. I'm not a big fan of coconut, but it wasn't too overwhelming.
Honestly, I could eat here every night and never get bored. Lucky for me, they're open seven days a week.
Last night eight of us in the American Society of Magazine Editors internship program took the Q train to Queens for a last supper at Uncle Georges Greek Tavern. Open 24 hours a day, the place has an Old World diner feel the second you walk inside.
We parked ourselves at tables by the restaurant's atrium style windows and studied the both Greek and English menu. It took us a second to decide on what to eat, but once we did I think everyone ended up pretty satisfied with their choices.
Octopus with Vinegar
I was feeling adventurous so I chose the Octopus Vinaigrette. It may look scary, but it was pretty darn delicious. The octopus was seasoned with vinegar and basil and put on the grill to add a nice charred flavor. The texture was slightly chewy if I cut the pieces too big, but overall the meat was nicely cooked. The acidity wasn't too overwhelming, and the tentacles really weren't that bad.
Lamb and Beef Gyro
Lauren ordered the Gyro Platter, a plate piled high with lamb, beef, salad, a dill sauce and french fries. She's pretty picky about her Greek food, but was pleasantly surprised by Uncle George's. The gyro wasn't greasy or dry and the ingredients were flavorful and fresh, she says.
Greek Macaroni & Cheese
None of us have any idea what was in the Greek Macaroni & Cheese. For what it's worth, the majority of the table ordered it and there wasn't too much left afterward. I took a small bite and I swear it tasted like pumpkin. The texture and presentation reminded me of lasagna, but the flavor was definitely reminiscent of a pumpkin spice cake. I'm still kind of baffled by it.
Chicken Souvlaki Platter
Libby chowed down on the Chicken Souvlaki Platter. A fluffy pita, chicken, tzatziki sauce, lettuce and tomato monstrosity. Although it was delicious, it was a little hard to eat because of it's size, she says.
Of all the smoothie places I’ve tried lately, Red Mango definitely trumps the competition. Known mainly for their probiotic yogurt and calorie conscious menu, founder Dan Kim decided it was the right time to start expanding into the smoothie market.
Strawberry Banana, Photo Courtesy of Red Mango
I was fortunate enough to sip a flavor from each of the four smoothie categories on the menu. All of the fruit and yogurt blends are so fresh they taste like they’ve just been plucked from the tree. I enjoyed the fun flavors of the Pomegranate by POM smoothie, made with pomegranate juice and blueberry. I must say, however, Strawberry Banana takes the prize. If I closed my eyes it tasted just like I was eating an actual banana.
Kim really got creative and created a portion of the menu devoted entirely to fruit blended with ice tea and yogurt. Exotic flavors like Strawberry Hibiscus Tea, made with strawberry and wildberry hibiscus, take the smoothie to a whole different level.
Acai Berry, Photo Courtesy of Red Mango
Each smoothie was equally refreshing and unlike any other I have ever tasted. They are made with all fresh ingredients, Red Mango’s all-natural nonfat frozen yogurt and just a dash of ice --you won’t find any juice here. Unlike other places, Red Mango’s smoothies aren’t too sugary and full of empty calories. The fruit looses some of its natural sugar in the process, so PureVia, an all natural sweetener made from the stevia plant, is added to the mix.
Red Mango just opened a location in Gainesville, Fla., and I can’t wait to be a frequent customer.
The deck and stunning view of the Queensboro Bridge
As my epic summer in New York comes to a close, I have to start saying goodbye to some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Sorry if I’m gushing, but the American Society of Magazine Editors internship program has become my heart and soul. We are all going our separate ways this weekend—Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, California—so of course we had to have one last hoorah and threw a BBQ.
Everyone brought a little somethin’ somethin’ and we dug right in. It wasn’t until I was elbow deep in ground beef and seasoning that someone realized the tank was out on the grill. After a few frustrating minutes, we decided to pan sear the burgers, toast the buns, boil up some 100 calorie turkey dogs and caramelize onions. Who cares if the grill isn't working as long as as the food still gets cooked, right?
Two of the best, Berna & Nikki
None of the food was all that fancy, but I was pleasantly surprised when it all turned out delicious. We seasoned the meat with random things from the cabinet and just hoped for the best. We sipped mimosas while we cooked and just enjoyed spending time relaxing with one another.
I think the highlight of my day, however, were those gosh darn turkey dogs. For once in my adult life I didn't feel bad about slobbering on the ketchup or going back for seconds. (Okay, maybe I had thirds.)
Our burgers are super fancy, not.
On a random side note, I feel like I see more people from my hometown here in New York City than anywhere else. An old friend, Robyn, stopped by to get in on the grub and relax out on the deck.