Tasting the West Village

I love food. You know that by now. I also love the West Village. Put the two together, and I'm pretty much in awesome heaven. Group buying site The Dealist recently organized a food tour called Taste of the Village: West and I was all over that. I especially liked how the title left open the possibility of a sequel in either of the Villages Greenwich or East. 

The deal, if purchased through the site, was $17 for six tastes at W. Village establishments plus drink specials at different bars along the way. My dad was in town for the weekend so he came along on my culinary tour. 

First stop was the hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese sandwich shop, Num Pang. A huge crowd gathered outside in line to participate in the tasting and we were able to select from either the Duroc Pulled Pork or Veal Hoisin Meatball slider. We tried one of each and they were delicious. The meat was moist and the bread was not too overbearing, as it can often be with these sandwiches. I thought the little eating nook up the spiral staircase was charming and felt like a little hideaway from nearby Union Square. The outside line reminded me of a drive-thru of sorts, without the cars obviously, but that just made it all the more New York.

Sign at Num Pang welcoming food tour participants

Duroc Pulled Pork and Veal Hoisin Meatball Sliders from Num Pang

Me enjoying the sliders
Next we walked south to Cabrito. I've heard about this colorful Mexican joint before so I was eager to try it. Although not on the menu, they were offering fish tacos for the tour and I love a good fish taco. The fish was nice and crispy on the outside but definitely not too oily, which I appreciated. With cabbage, avocado and radish slices on a fresh flour tortilla, I felt not to far away from the beaches of Cabo. My dad went for the spicier pork taco, and while it was tasty, the spice was far too overwhelming and even after the one bite I had of his, I felt the heat all the way through the next stop on the tour. They were offering $6 margaritas, and though we passed on them, I'll definitely be back because they use the real stuff - no syrup there.

Fish and Pork tacos from Cabrito
Just down the block was stop #3, Spunto thin-crust pizza. I've never been much of a pizza afficionado, but I like a good thin crust (almost as much as a juicy thick-crust). There's something so delicate about a crispy crust that still maintains a bready consistency with flavorful sauce and gooey cheese that strings from your mouth when you take a bite that I can appreciate. Spunto has perfected this. We were each able to sample (an understated word in this case) a piece of cheese and a piece of pepperoni. This could have been a whole meal in itself! Out of all the stops, this was my Dad's favorite and we'll definitely be back.

Thin-crust pizza from Spunto

Next, we made our way north to the long and skinny Satay Junction. The sample choices here were two satay sticks with a choice of chicken, beef, pork, lamb, shrimp and tofu. Since satay is on a stick and meant to be eaten easily and quickly, and with only 45 minutes left in the tour, we figured we'd be quick here and make our way on. However, this was not the case. After placing our order, we waited 15 minutes before we even got an update on our food. While it did feel good to sit down for a bit, we were weary of missing our last stops, and I decided to walk up to the Donut Pub to pick up our samples there before the tour was over. Of course the satay came minutes after I left, as it always does, but honestly, it wasn't that good. Oh well.

Half-eaten lamb and shrimp satay

Donut Pub - what a great name - excited me because they had advertised red velvet donut bites. When I got there however, all they had left were glazed and powdered sugar. After the long satay debacle, I wasn't going to turn down donuts.  WIth only five minutes left in the food tour, I picked up four mini donuts for my dad and I and headed back to Satay Junction.

Impressive donut display at The Donut Pub
We took our treats up to the Highline for a fantastic sunset. I love the architecture around the old elevated train tracks and I love showing it off to visitors even more.

Although we didn't make it to Pasticceria Rocco for mini-canolis, I was full and happy from a successful tour. Thanks to The Dealist, my dad and I had a wonderful afternoon and I can't wait for (hopefully) Part 2 and 3!

Num Pang on Urbanspoon

Cabrito on Urbanspoon

Spunto on Urbanspoon

Satay Junction on Urbanspoon

Donut Pub on Urbanspoon


Food, History, Food, Drinks & More Food

With Mom in town, the fun never stops. Not that I am much at a lack for things to do on my own, but I'm pretty sure every hour is booked up down to the minute when we hang out. After a gluttonous breakfast at The Breslin, we made our way downtown to my newest infatuation -- Eataly. Opened by Mario Batali and his business parter Joe Bastianich, Eataly is a whirlwind tour of all things that have anything to do with food and Italy and it's pretty much amazing. 

The market section has rows and rows of pasta shapes you've never heard of, olive oils enriched and flavored with herbs and spices and pasta sauces enough to supply your spaghetti habit for your entire life. Of course it's all available ready to jump into your shopping bag in exchange for lots and lots of money, but it's just so pretty to look at. 

With grocery offerings like fresh produce and a "vegetable butcher" to slice and dice your greens while you shop, handmade pasta cranked out while you watch, any kind of meat or fish you could ever want to cook as well as daily-made mozzarella, bread and other baked goods, Eataly is really a sanctuary for worshipping food. It also boasts sit-down restaurants, a central marketplace where you can sample wine and cheese plates, a gelato bar, panini stand and espresso bar. Even if you don't anticipate buying anything, I'd recommend a simple walk around the former toy-factory building and dropping your jaw at the selection of awesomeness. 

Next up, we ambled north for an Open House New York (OHNY) tour of Grand Central Terminal. OHNY is an annual weekend program where all sorts of buildings, architectural spaces and some residences are opened up for behind-the-scenes tours led by architects, designers and other influential "building" people. It's free to the public, but to get on the more desired tours, you need a reservation. I was lucky enough to score two spaces on the GCT tour but unfortunately didn't get on the Woolworth Building or the new World Trade Center Building tours - those went within 10 seconds of the reservations being available!

Two representatives from the Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, who completed the refurbishment in the 1990s, enlightened us with fun facts and history about the magnificent building. We learned about the "whispering corners" downstairs by the food court. Because of the vaulted ceilings in that section, when two people stand at opposite corners and whisper, the sound carries like the volume of a normal conversation. It's a little Harry Potter, but you have to find it and try it out for yourself. We also learned that after they cleaned up the thick black layer of gunk and grime from the beautiful sky-inspired mural on the ceiling and restored the building to it's former glory, a small patch of the original dirt was left to remind people of how bad it was left to get. If you look in the Southwest corner of the ceiling, you may be able to spot it!

The OHNY experience was great and I would recommend it to anyone interested in just about any building in the five boroughs. I also know they were doing tours of Diane von Furstenburg's studios in the Meatpacking and the Marble Cemetery in the East Village. I would have loved to do both, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art called.

My mom has been obsessed with the Met's roof garden since I told her about it two years ago. We made it up to see the tail end of Big Bambu on the roof. The drinks are pricey, but remember the Met's "suggested donation" policy and you don't really have to pay anything to get into the museum. So grab yourself a couple of drinks and consider that your donation to the arts. Big Bambu was quite the spectacle. Part of me wanted to go up Swiss Family Robinson-style, but it seemed a little rickety to make me feel totally safe about it. We hung out down below and enjoyed the miraculous views across the park and downtown as the sun set. Big Bambu is only on view through 10/31, so if you haven't seen it yet, make sure to go this week! 

Our last adventure of the day was a foodie one, back to my beloved Braeburn. Through Village Vines, we got 30% off our entire meal, and we were lucky enough to get there mere days after they switched over to their fall menu. Although I was bummed not to be able to get the Black Pepper Fettucine again, I was a very happy girl to ate what I ate.

We started with the Roasted Beet Salad with braeburn apples (of course), spicy walnuts and goat cheese fondue. I can help but be in love with the combination of beets and goat cheese. It's pretty much heaven. Next, I had the Breast of Long Island Duck with kohlrabi, wheat berries, duck confit and bing cherry sauce. This was a great fall dish. The warmth of the cherries and wheat berries mixed with the crispy duck confit was great and I wanted more when it was done. Lastly, my mom and my favorite candy bar is Almond Joy so we were thrilled to see a "deconstructed" version almond cake, coconut, dark chocolate and coconut squash sauce on the dessert menu. Although I'm pretty in love with the candy bar, this was a wonderful, more sophisticated version. All in all, it was great to finally eat an entire meal at this West Village gem and I can't wait to go back!

Roasted Beet Salad
Breast of Long Island Duck
"Almond Joy"

Sorry for the mish-mash of stuff in this post, but I just had to prove that my mom and I really can fit a lot into a single day :)

Eataly on Urbanspoon

Eataly on Urbanspoon

Braeburn on Urbanspoon

AWESOME GIVEAWAY: 2 Tickets to A Little Night Music

With so many musicals trying to be new and different these days, it's always refreshing to see a classic that just does everything right and is memorable for that alone. A Little Night Music is one of those shows. I was invited to watch an exquisite performance last week and was really in awe of the fact that multiple-award winning actresses Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch were on the stage in front of me. Though the setting is a conservative country villa in turn-of-the-century Sweeden, the dialogue is full of wit and snark and you really grow to love each and every character for their personalities. By the end, you are singing the songs and want to go on a weekend in the country of your own.

A Little Night Music is playing at the Walter Kerr Theater only until January 9, but I'm giving away tickets! 

One lucky reader will receive two tickets to see A Little Night Music on a night of his or her choosing. The tickets must be picked up at the box office the day of the show.  There are 4 easy ways to win and each comment counts as an entry. Please include your email in any comments so I know how to contact you if you are the winner.

1) REQUIRED - Follow this blog by clicking on the button on the right panel and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.
2) REQUIRED - Leave a comment below letting me know why you want to go to this show and how you heard about this contest.
3) Follow me on Twitter @yaelleah and leave a comment below letting me know you did so.
4) Tweet or blog about this event and let me know with a comment below with a link to your tweet or blog.

A winner will be chosen using Random.org on Friday 10/29. You have until Friday 10/29 at 12 p.m. EST to enter this contest. Good luck!

A winner has been chosen! Congrats Kathleen, you were the 10th commenter! I hope you and your mother enjoy the show. Let us know how you liked it! 

If you didn't win this time around - stay tuned! You can win tickets to another hot Broadway play on Monday. 


AWESOME GIVEAWAY: La Societe - You Know You Wanna

Social media is an expanding beast and brands are doing all that they can to use it to their advantage. When brands have to come to the consumer's level, the consumer benefits - hence, La Societe by Stella Artois

We've seen communities like Crowdtap reward users for opinions on brands and limited-time engagements like Lexus Dark Ride use celebrity and fashionable offerings to promote their new automotive concepts, but Stella Artois recently launched this invite-only community designed to link the brand with luxury and exclusivity. Users can earn points by filling out their information, inviting users (each person only has 15 invitations to give - takes you back to the first days of Gmail huh?) and promoting La Societe via Facebook and Twitter. Points can be redeemed for entrance into high-profile events like Heidi Klum's Halloween Party, Suite-tickets to an MLB game, or my beloved Star Chef's Rising Stars Gala.

Lucky for you, I'm giving away three invitations to Awesome in New York Readers. Just follow the blog and post a comment by 5 p.m. today saying why you want the invite and I'll select three winners using Random.org. Be sure to include your email in the comment so that I can send the invite to the proper address if you've won. Good luck!

The winners have been chosen and contacted. Thanks and enjoy!


Breakfast With a Twist

If you've learned anything by reading this blog, you'll know I hardly ever turn away free food. Even at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday I'm game. That's why when Urbanspoon gave me the chance to attend a blogger breakfast at The Breslin, I was all over that (and so was my Mom who tagged along for the yummies).

Having never been to the Breslin before, I was super excited because of all of the hype I've been hearing. The decor is fun and comfortable with an old-world meets modern NYC eatery kind of feel. All of the bloggers congregated in the front of the restaurant so there would be ample space for sampling and picture taking. One of the things I loved about this breakfast was the fact that everyone was taking pictures and waiting for everyone else to take their pictures before digging in. My friends usually make fun of me for doing this, so I definitely felt like I was part of the "cool crowd" here.

Urbanspoon was nice enough to order a whole smattering of items from the menu so that we'd all have a chance to really say we ate there. We started with French-press coffee and some pastries and sausages. Next we moved on to one of my favorite items, the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich with bourbon vanilla sauce - it was ooey gooey - YUM!

Fried peanut butter and banana sandwich with bourbon vanilla sauce
Next we moved on to some heartier items...

Oven-baked 3 cheese sandwich with house smoked ham
Home fries
Poached eggs with curried lentils, yogurt and cilantro

Seafood sausage
Peanut butter pancakes with concord grape syrup
The Breslin definitely has a thing for peanut butter, which I definitely don't mind, and I love the combination of classic breakfast items with innovative brunch dishes with a twist. Who would have ever thought of seafood sausage!? And it was surprisingly light and delicious. I loved the pancakes, but my mom thought the crunchy peanuts on top were a bit too salty and overwhelmed the syrup.The curried lentils with the poached eggs were genius and really took the dish to a whole other dimension.

While we were eating, the Urbanspoon team passed around iPads demonstrating their awesome app. I've used it before and I can honestly say it's worth a download. With the app, you can search by neighborhood, cuisine and/or price or you can just give it a spin and have it choose something random for you. 

So if you've been dying to try the Breslin, but don't care to deal with the crazy reservations for dinner, go for breakfast, you won't be sorry!

Breslin Bar & Dining Room on Urbanspoon

AWESOME DEAL: 51% off "East Village Eats" Food Festival this Weekend

Well, well, well. New Yorkers sure do love their food festivals. Fresh off of last weekend's Taste of the Village: West comes East Village Eats, sponsored by community development organization Fourth Arts Block. Tickets are usually $45, but Living Social NYC Downtown is offering an awesome discount for this afternoon of eating, drinking and raffle prizes. For only $22, you can get your slice of the cake, literally.

The self-guided tour starts at 11 a.m. this Saturday 10/23 and goes until 4 p.m. You will find a total of 15 (that's huge!) restaurants participating in this event, which means you get 15 food samples and numerous drink samples. Fourth Arts Block has created a map so that you can set your course for the day.

Here are the restaurants and food samples they have lined up:

Bond Street Chocolate: Decadent spicy dark chocolate bark.
Xi’an Famous Foods: Liang Pi “Cold Skin Noodles:” bouncy and chewy wheat noodles, mixed with seitan and vegetables, and tossed with secret spicy sauces to make a cool, delicious mess.
Cucina Di Pesce:  Cold antipasto feast: tomato mozzarella & white bean spread bruschettas, tomato & mozzarella, and eggplant stuffed with goat cheese caprese and roasted peppers.
Hecho En Dumbo: Tostadas de Dzik: chilled salad of braised venison ossobucco with tomato, red onion, sour orange, chile habanero, radish and avocado served on a bed of crisp hand pressed corn tostadas.
Luke’s Lobster: Half of a sweet Maine shrimp roll, one of the best sandwiches in NYC (New York Magazine) and best market lunches in the country (Bon Appétit).
Mud Truck: 10 oz Mud coffee, 10 oz latte, cappuccino or shot of espresso –  all roasted, blended and made by MUD.
Nomad: Moorish chicken skewer flavored with African spices and served with a crispy pita and humus.
S’MAC: Four cheese mac & cheese delight: cheddar, muenster, gruyère and a touch of pecorino.
Souen East Village: Steamed Seitan dumplings: juicy wheat dumplings filled with seitan (wheat gluten), napa cabbage, shiitake mushroom, garlic, ginger, soy sauce.
Supper: Mushrooms Trifolati: freshly sautéed mushrooms on Tuscan toast
Tuck Shop: Cocktail portion of their famous pork and sage sausage rolls, a true classic. Get a $5 beer to wash down the bite.
Tu-Lu’s Gluten Free Bakery: Mini red velvet cupcake with vanilla cream cheese frosting.
Faustina: Garlic Nodini: “Knots” of baked dough with garlic, crispy herbs and whipped ricotta.
Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches: Variety of five sandwiches: the Classic, Sardine, Chicken, Porkchop or Tofu on a toasted baguette with marinated carrot, fresh cucumber, jalepeno, and cilantro with a wipe of mayo.
MONO+MONO: Famous Korean fried chicken that is double fried, non-greasy served with either spicy sauce or soy-garlic sauce.
Jimmy’s No. 43: $2 off any beer.
DBA: $2 off any beer.
Xoom: $3 smoothies (normally $7) or $2 lattes
With so many choices, I'm not sure what I'm most looking forward too, but the shrimp roll and the Mushrooms Trifolati are sure up there. Click here to get your $22 ticket! Maybe we'll bump into each other mid-bite. That would be awesome.


Wining and Dining in the Meatpacking

For the past two years, I have seen the signs come up for the New York City Wine and Food Festival and then I've seen them come back down, without ever partaking in a glorious event. My friends at Citysearch changed all that this year after I won two tickets to the Meatpacking Uncorked event from a Twitter contest. Even though my mom and I already had our fair share of wine and food for an entire weekend, we were bound and determined to make the most out of this night.

We arrived at the Welcome Center under the Highline and picked up our event passport, along with some tasty Toblerone samples. Making our way to W. 14th Street, we stopped in stores like La Perla and Kimberly Taylor for wine and shopping (sort of like an encore of Fashion's Night Out). The weather was absolutely gorgeous and people were out in the thousands.

Our first food bite was at The Diner - a goat cheese quesadilla. It definitely tasted good, but that may have been because I was super hungry after an afternoon full of wine. The wait for this sample was a little ridiculous, though.

Next, we made it over to The Cooking Channel truck, which was sampling innovative ice cream flavors like Strawberry Balsamic and Chocolate Challah. Again, the lines were crazy (I would have been mad had I actually paid money for the event tickets), but the ice cream was delicious.

We stopped at the Delta/Coke display, where we got to take Polaroid-like shots with our free mini-bottles of coke. Last, we only got down to Ganesvoort Street before the event ended at 9, but we tried sliders from The Collective.

Overall, the event was a lot of fun, but the weather had a lot to do with how much I enjoyed the night. The food wasn't anything amazing, but it was fun to walk around and eat in the streets. The lines for everything were pretty long and the vendors did not always look at people's wristbands, so pretty much anyone could wait in line for some free grub. 

Next year, my goal will definitely be to try another NYC Wine and Food Festival event. I think I might pass on Meatpacking Uncorked, but maybe the Grand Tasting...One can dream.