1/28/15

Snow or No Snow, Hot Chocolate is the Key

The end of January is near and that can only mean one thing: THE CITY BAKERY HOT CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL IS BACK!


Awesome favorites from the past have been the caramel and darkest dark hot chocolates. But the great thing about this festival is that you can technically go back every day and try them all! Don't forget to add a handmade marshmallow. If you're looking for something to nibble on as well, we highly recommend the peanut butter cookies and the pretzel croissants.

City Bakery is located at 3 W. 18th Street, near Union Square. The festival starts Sunday 2/1 and continues through the rest of February.

1/13/15

Narrowing Down on Darrow's

If there's one thing we love around here, it's restaurant openings--ESPECIALLY when the kitchen and menu were designed by David Kupperberg of Pure Food & Wine, Taylor Thorne of Eleven Madison Park and Jean Georges (who needs no superlatives). Darrow’s Farm Fresh Takeout (115 E. 18th Street) also brought in nutritionist Julie Starr to ensure their food is nutrient-rich and 100% local and organic.

We were invited last week for their public debut and got to sample several of their juice and cocktail offerings as well as some salads and sides.

Darrow's from the street
Main level and menu
Kitchen staff hard at work
Main level and juice bar
Juice Bar-istas
Upstairs
Upstairs - I was a little obsessed with these farm-inspired crate lanterns
Upstairs - And I LOVED this living wall

The simple food all tasted great and you could tell it was meant to highlight the local and organic ingredients. First I tried the Black, Red, and Wild Rice Salad with dried berries, hazelnuts, apples, pomegranate, and spinach with Sheep's yogurt (talk about antioxidants!) and loved it. Other favorites were the Raw Curried Cauliflower with dried fruit and nuts and the Crispy Kale with chipotle tahini sauce.




As for libations, I could drink and drink their beet juice and I loved that they had Fever Tree ginger beer on the menu (a new Awesome favorite!)

Beet juice! (not blood)

This seems like a great lunch spot for those who work in the area. You can dine in (order and pay on iPads on every table!) or order to go. They have several vegetarian-friendly plate options for $11-$15 and you can add a protein to any of them for another few bucks. Juice prices are pretty standard at $9-$11. But I'll definitely keep this in mind as a place to hide away from the bustle of Union Square and go read next to the living wall while sipping a Fever Tree.



Darrow's Farm Fresh Takeout on Urbanspoon

1/8/15

Your City By Drone

I came across this phenomenal drone-filmed video that captures all of NYC's 5 boroughs and just had to share. Not that I often forget, but it's great to be reminded of how awesome of a city we live in.


Note to self: I need to check out the graveyard of half-sunken ships in Staten Island featured around 2:40!

12/23/14

Bring On the Meat Sweats

I would venture to say that I eat more food in the last month of the year than I do in the entire first three months of it. Just the way of the world I suppose. Gotta roll with it...

Continuing the tradition of feasting, I recently was invited for dinner at the NYC location of Texas de Brazil Churrascaria (1011 Third Avenue). 


If you've never tried a Brazilian Steakhouse (and you aren't a vegetarian), you are missing out on a unequivocally amazing eating experience. The concept is this: You have a chip on your table which you flip to green if you're hungry or red if you've had enough or need a break. When you flip to green, servers called gauchos carrying large swords of meat come to your table and slice you off whatever you like. Rinse, wash, repeat. 

Texas de Brazil takes it to a whole new level. First, their huge space and upscale vibe make you feel like you're someone important as soon as you enter. The service is impeccable--your waiter will check on you constantly and proactively bring you whatever you happen to need. When you first arrive, you are treated to a basket of pão de queijo, or yucca and cheese rolls (gluten free!). They are served hot and steaming and we devoured the whole basket immediately. Usually I don't like to fill up on bread, but these were an exception.

 Pão de queijo

Next we took a trip over to the salad bar. It's really an injustice to call it a salad bar. I'd call it a Gourmet Bar. They had at least 50 different items displayed as they would be at a fancy wedding or buffet event; everything from lobster bisque (yum!) to smoked salmon, fresh mozzarella balls and fried provolone, prosciutto and sauteed mushrooms, bright red tomato slices and pineapple carpaccio.

The "Gourmet" Bar
Cheese and Fish
Parmesan!
My plate from the "Gourmet" Bar
Although I wanted to enjoy my salad plate first, my boyfriend was overeager for meat and flipped his chip as soon as we sat. No joke, within 60 seconds, a gaucho was at our table and we had bowls of garlic mashed potatoes and fried plantains brought to us. Honestly, I can't even recall ALL the meats we had. But I'll try...filet mignon, pork belly, Brazilian sausage, bacon-wrapped chicken, top sirloin, flank steak, pork tenderloin, parmesan chicken, beef ribs, garlic flank steak, and leg of lamb (at least!).

Our favorites were definitely the top sirloin and leg of lamb, but those were the more elusive cuts. Know that they will offer you the sausage about 15 times over the course of your meal, with chicken coming in second. YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YES IF YOU DON'T WANT IT. In fact, I would recommend passing on the chicken dishes (semi-dry) and sausage (nothing special) altogether. You'll get more for your money if you stick with the better cuts of meat anyway. Also know that the meats tend to be a little salty so drink water accordingly.




When the meat sweats started to kick in, I flipped my chip. Nao, obrigado gaucho! (But actually, could I have another slice of that leg of lamb?)


But then they bring the dessert tray...


When I was a kid, I used to be enamored with dessert trays. Oh the possibilities! But at this point, I was a bit overwhelmed. Still, a little creme brulee never hurt anyone.

Creme Brulee
Now we were full AND happy :)


Texas de Brazil charges a flat rate for lunch ($38.99) and dinner ($59.99) for all you can eat. If you just want the salad bar, lunch is $23.99 and dinner is $39.99. Children 2 and under are complimentary, while children 3-5 are $5 and those 6-12 are half off the regular dinner price. Price does not include alcohol, featured items, desserts, beverages or applicable taxes.

Disclaimer: I received a free meal at Texas de Brazil in exchange for my review, but all opinions are my own.

Texas de Brazil on Urbanspoon

12/15/14

Wrap Up Some Awesome: The 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

Listen up awesome peeps. Chanukah starts this week. Christmas is next week. And your friends and family don't want lame gifts. If you're stuck on what to buy the awesome people in your life, I now present to you the 2014 Awesome in New York Gift Guide!


Photo credit: Ninja
This first one is a bit of a splurge. Blenders have become the new luxe item to complete your kitchen and I'm here to tell you that not all blenders are created equal. The Nutri Ninja Blender 13-Piece System With Auto-iQ is my new favorite gadget/toy/workhorse, you name it. What I love so much about it is the versatility in that it comes with not only the 72 oz blender pitcher, but also a food processing bowl and 3 sizes of cups (18, 24 and 32 oz) that you can blend your smoothies in and take to go. I can't tell you how handy this is for those crazy mornings when you are running for the subway. Another feature I love about this system is that it's pre-programmed to know exactly how long and at what speed your smoothie/dough/dressing/sauce should be blended.  (Price: $249.99 - which is quite the deal when you compare it to that other coveted blender brand).


Next, we have something for the sweet-tooth in your life. Lindt Chocolates has been one of my favorite chocolatiers since I first had one of their white chocolate truffles left on my hotel pillow when I was a pre-teen. We go WAY back. This year, both of their Manhattan locations (692 5th Avenue and 665 5th Avenue) are selling 4 different Big Apple-themed gifts so that you can share your love of everything chocolate and NYC. The options include: your choice of 75 different Lindor truffles in an elegant paper gift bag, designed with the New York skyline and a snap top ($25), NYC gift box filled with assorted Milk, White and Dark Lindor truffles ($12), customizeable NYC gift box filled with 30 LINDOR truffles in assorted flavors ($22), and the New York Swiss Luxury Selection of elegant European-style pralines ($18).


Photo credit: Sparkly Soul
For the fitness fiend in your life, Sparkly Soul will make the perfect addition to her workout wardrobe. I have been using these no-slip grip headbands for years and recommend them to everyone as they are great for everything from yoga to spin and bootcamp to running. They come in endless fun sparkly colors and two sizes, thick or thin. Today only (12/15), use the code HOLIDAY for free shipping off orders over $25 and to get 15% off your entire order. At that deal, you might as well get one for yourself! (Price: $15-$17)


Photo credit: TheaterMania.com
They say experiences are better than gifts anyhow right? For someone who has everything, but loves the Broadway lights, I'd recommend you pick up a pair of tickets to see Cabaret. Emma Stone recently joined the beautiful cast including the amazing Alan Cumming, Danny Burstein, Linda Emond, and Bill Heck. Boy can that girl sing. In fact, the chemistry of the entire cast is one I witness rarely. Orchestra tickets will have you seated not in traditional theater seats but cabaret tables (with waiter service!), but balcony seats will still provide you with a great view. (Price: $25 with HipTix to $182)


Warning: by now you are probably sick and tired of hearing me rave about ClassPass--the online service that let's you book unlimited premium fitness classes all around the city--but it's just that awesome. Gift a membership to your best friend who's short on time but loves versatility in her workout. Added bonus, you can join together and be on the same team at Swerve and have a post-workout juice date. (Price: $99/month)


Photo credit: World Vision
For the do-gooders on your list, treat them to something while also giving back. Proceeds from all products featured on the World Vision gift catalog will help children and families in need all over the world. Our favorites include the Royal Silk Scarf ($95) woven by villagers in Vietnam and the Silver Vines Cuff ($85) designed by artisans in India. Bonus, some of the money you spend on these gifts is tax deductible. (Price: varies)



Disclaimer: Ninja and Lindt provided me with product samples in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.

12/12/14

Getting My Shop On at the Carlton Hotel

Remember that Made in the USA trunk show I told you about a while back. Well, it was the other night, and I went! It was honestly one of the better shopping events I've been to in a long time. To start, there's nothing better than a holiday event when it's [pretty] snowing outside and you get to gawk at a beautifully decorated tree in the lobby of a classy NYC hotel.

The entrance of The Carlton from the front door
Their tree

The event featured shops and designers hawking beautifully made goods, all crafted in the good ole' US of A. I fell in love with all of the bags at catrinka (ALL OF THE BAGS), which works with women all over the world to design totes, clutches, and satchels with textiles native to their region. What a great mission. I also checked out papabubble who were sampling their holiday assortments of custom candy. Check out the watermelon, salt, chili if you get the chance!

catrinka's table (sorry for the blurry photo!)

But by far my favorite table was the Pennsylvania-based shop basin and main, who had a long table of knit and crochet wear (socks, hats, sweaters, hand warmers, etc), handmade ornaments, vintage candle holders, and jewelry. To say that I was obsessed with everything at this table is an understatement. If I hadn't already done most of my holiday shopping, I could have bought items for almost everyone on my list there. But that didn't stop me from buying a super cute crocheted hat by mimi's hooks ($25) for myself :)

basin and main had the table with the lights
My new hat!
While we were shopping, singer Lisa Puccio Kobin and keyboardist Clare Cooper serenaded us with holiday music.


This even was a brand marketers dream. There were endless sponsors, which I of course loved because...freebies! The holiday flavored tic tacs were a big hit, as was the Elderflower Lemonade by Belvoir. I was also a big fan of the peppermint SO Delicious bar.





Before I left, I had to go upstairs and check out the Caravan Stylist Studio as I have an appointment to go back next week for "glam services" including hair, make-up and nail art. Will keep you posted!

While there I also got an amazing gift bag filled with samples from Simple Skincare, Tic Tacs, Cottonelle, Bullet, Zoya, bigsexyhair, and nextissue.



All of the shops I mentioned have online stores so be sure to check them out if you are still on the look out for gifts. Happy shopping!

12/11/14

Homemade Pasta for Your Pre-Theater Prix-Fixe

Anyone who has ever tried to find a delicious, non-chain, affordable restaurant in the Theater District for a pre-show meal knows that this isn't always an easy feat. Ninth avenue has some great options but storefronts change seemingly every week so you don't always know what to trust. Olive Garden is a definite NO. And Restaurant Row has become so overrun with tourists that you'd rather just avoid it altogether.

I was recently invited to try the newly-opened Torino Italian (1700 Broadway, entrance on 53rd Street) for my own pre-show meal (we saw Side Show...highly recommended!!), and it did not disappoint. A contemporary Italian trattoria open for a few months now, Torino is the vision of David Sasson, known for opening both Marseille in Hell’s Kitchen, Barbounia in Flatiron, and the new Pavilion restaurant in Union Square. At the helm is Consulting Chef Carlo Bigi, a Torino native who most recently worked at Il Principe at the Hugo Hotel and Sant Ambroeus.


Walking in, I was instantly intrigued by the decor. Unique chandeliers and light fixtures bounced ambiance off of curving wooden shelves lined with wine bottles. That said, the tables are arranged in a way that makes it very easy to plop a fellow diner on the head if you are carrying a large bag/coat (with my pack mule tendencies, that seems to ALWAYS be me). So just be weary of that.

For dinner, we started with two appetizers: Meatball Crostini served in a cast iron pan ($9) and the Insalata Torino with kale, ricotta salata, fennel, olives, and cherry tomatoes ($15). The meatballs were pretty perfect, and I loved how they were served, with plenty of melted parmesan and crispy bread to scoop everything up with. The salad was super refreshing. I recently learned from my boyfriend's Italian family that fennel has a special palate cleansing place on in a meal so it fit right into this delicious salad.  

Meatball Crostini ($9)
Insalata Torino ($15)

For the main course, I opted for a classic. Cacio e Pepe ($16) is one of my favorite ways to have homemade pasta prepared as you can really taste the quality of the noodles without having to fight through a heavy sauce. This version was perhaps a little heavier than I would have liked (more like an alfredo sauce), but I enjoyed every last bite of the al dente pasta. My friend had one of our waiter's favorites, the Lasagna di Melanzane ($19) with eggplant, tomato and provola. Talk about decadent! This dish came out steaming hot--and remained that way throughout most of the meal due to the insulation of the serving dish--and had a great balance of richness (cheese) and flavor (tomato).

Cacio e Pepe ($16)

Lasanga di Melanzane ($19)

We had to run to our show so didn't get to sample dessert (although honestly I was so full, that was likely a good thing). However, if you leave a little bit more time and room, try their newly launched prix-fixe menu:

Lunch: 11am-4pm (includes 2 courses for $24 or 3 for $29)

Appetizers:
  • Insalata Torino (Kale, ricotta salata, fennel, olives & cherry tomatoes)
  • Meatball Crostini (veal & beef, tomato sauce, parmesan & toasted ciabatta)
  • Soup of the day
Entrees:
  • Oven Roasted Rosemary Chicken (lemon caramelized stuffed with rosemary, spring vegetables)
  • Fusilli Pesto (string beans, potatoes, toasted pine nuts)
  • Salmone Scozzese (asparagus, mache farro salad, pickled red onions)
Dessert:
  • Choice of dessert from the regular menu

Dinner: 3 courses for $39

Appetizers:
  • Insalata Torino (Kale, ricotta salata, fennel, olives & cherry tomatoes)
  • Meatball Crostini (veal & beef, tomato sauce, parmesan & toasted ciabatta)
  • Crispy artichoke
Entrees:
  • Hanger Steak (sautéed broccoli rabe, polenta & pepperoncino)
  • Oven Roasted Rosemary Chicken (lemon caramelized stuffed with rosemary, spring vegetables)
  • Fusilli Pesto (string beans, potatoes, toasted pine nuts)
  • Salmone Scozzese (asparagus, mache farro salad, pickled red onions)
Dessert:
  • Choice of dessert from the regular menu

For reservations call 212-757-2233 or visit torinoitalian.com.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary dinner for 2 in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Torino on Urbanspoon