Out of all of the Key West Food and Wine Festival events this year, Bubbles & Madness at Azur was my absolute favorite. The unlimited champagne brunch was exactly what I needed after a night of dancing and drinking for my mother's 50th birthday.
You know when you just need some girlfriend time, a glass of good wine and yummy food? That was me last week. Thankfully, Destino (and New York Restaurant Week) came to the rescue.
An intimate Southern Italian restaurant, Destino is upscale without being pretentious. An enormous Renaissance style painting reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel adorns the ceiling, while black cushioned walls exude elegance with a goth flair.
Not only did our waiter bring a basket of assorted, fresh bread to the table with olive oil, but he also served up three perfect servings of bruschetta. The tomatoes were fresh and bright, and the crisp bread was sprinkled with just enough olive oil to keep it all moist.
Navigating Restaurant Week in New York City can be tough. Will I still receive good service even though I'm paying half the price? Will the food live up to the hype of the restaurant? I've made the mistake of going to a restaurant just for its name before, and I deeply regretted it. Boulud Sud has a stellar reputation, and thankfully it lived up to everything I heard — and then some.
I started salivating over the menu two weeks before I even entered the posh Mediterranean eatery. To start, I chose the North African Spiced Chickpea Soup. Normally I wouldn't go for something like this at all, but I'm glad I decided to choose a dish out of my comfort zone. Topped with cumin yogurt and cilantro, I loved the refreshing tang the yogurt brought to the rich soup. The texture of the roasted chickpeas added just the right amount of crunch to counter the soup's deep creaminess.
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.
One Saturday morning I woke up and decided I was tired of going to the same brunch places in Astoria. Don't get me wrong, I love my go-to spots, but it's always nice to liven things up a little bit.
I literally Googled "endless brunch in Astoria" and MexiQ Kitchen & Draught was the first thing to pop up. The menu looked absolutely scrumptious, and the endless mimosa option was a definite plus.
Despite it being nearly noon, Jake and I were ushered in and seated immediately. I loved the sleek vibe of the interior, plus the juxtaposition of wood, metal and brick. The light fixtures were pretty cool, too.
The highlight of my first New York City Wine and Food Festival was definitely Thrillist's BBQ & The Blues event presented by Merillat. I obsessively check my inbox for new emails from the trendy site (and awesome rewards program), so I was stoked when an editor of mine passed along an invite.
The sold-out event at Hudson Terrace included custom-crafted BBQ creations from some of Thrillist’s favorite NYC chefs, who, along with celebrity chef Curtis Stone, conducted live cooking demonstrations, as well as performances by local blues band Baby Soda.
Guests washed down the jaw-trembling ‘cue with ice-cold Coors Light, wine from Big House, and delicious Michael Collins Irish Whiskey cocktail pairings.
Photos by Jacob Romoser
Date night last week came courtesy of a Thrillist deal I found a few weeks ago. I don't know what it is about restaurants with simple names (hello, Fig + Olive), but I always gravitate toward them.
The entrance to Bread and Tulips is just a hostess stand plus a downstairs stairway. I wasn't sure what to expect when we descended, but the seating area was warm and inviting with lots of wood and exposed red bricks. Soul jams pumped throughout the restaurant, and I loved the planter full of baby chili pepper plants.