Showing posts with label upper east side. Show all posts
Showing posts with label upper east side. Show all posts


Who Needs Cadbury Anyway?

I never turn down chocolate, but as I've gotten older, quality is something that has become more important to me. That way I can really appreciate the craftmanship that went into my sweet treat. La Maison du Chocolat has the quality thing down pat.

The recently released images of their 2015 Easter collection and my jaw kind of hit the floor when I saw how flawlessly the master chocolatiers where able to create the cutest little traveling ducks--suitcases and all!--all out of different chocolates. Recommended prices in this collection range from $45 for the Aviator Egg (not pictured) to $160 for Easter Flight (the duck on the right in the photo above). They are only available for purchase at the UES location of the store (1018 Madison Avenue).

Here's an awesome video featuring these works of art:

However, if you had something a little cheaper in mind for a hostess or just because gift, they've got you covered as well. I sampled the tube of 7 Maison praliné eggs and loved the variety of different egg fillings, including crunchy, smooth hazelnut, dentelle, and almond slivers ($10).

Receive complimentary shipping on all orders placed through tomorrow 3/31 at La Maison du Chocolat's online boutique.

La Maison Du Chocolat on Urbanspoon 

Note: I received the tube of praliné eggs complimentary from La Maison du Chocolat but all opinions are my own.


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
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


Free Fitness Party at the 92Y

When I used to live on the Upper East Side, I belonged to the May Center at the 92Y and I would recommend that gym to anyone. It was always clean, the locker rooms are relaxing, and I never had to wait for a machine. The best time to join is when they have their annual open house, which is--good news!--happening this Tuesday 2/11 from 5-10pm.

The event will feature drop-in classes like yoga, spinning and splash dance (dancing in a pool?! how cool!) as well as a wheel of fitness where you can win guest passes, fitness prizes and free services. If you are interested in joining, you can sign up for as little as $69, which any Manhattanite knows is a steal of a gym membership.


Your New Go-To for Oysters and Jazz on the UES

Beets are one of those controversial foods that people either love or love to hate. I am of the former opinion (throw some goat cheese in there with some diced beets and I'm a happy lady), and hence was very excited when I was invited to try the recently opened Beet Restaurant on the Upper East Side last night. The large corner space is beautiful and open, with large banquettes and plenty of windows to observe passersby. The restaurant is named as such because the owners hail from Australia, where beetroot is essentially ingrained in the cuisine (try ordering a burger down under without beetroot and you'll get funny looks).

Photo Courtesy of Beet

My guest and I decided to go on a Wednesday night because they have live jazz from 7-10 (also Sundays from 6-9), and you all know about my new-found affinity with jazz. Beet also serves oysters on Wednesdays and Sundays so we opted to start off our meal with an assorted platter of Blue Point, Wellfleet and Montauk Pearl bivalves ($21 for 12), which were served on ice with migionette, tartare, and cocktail sauces. The oysters were super fresh, and though I don't recall which varietal I liked better, some were ABSOLUTELY GINORMOUS (and frankly intimidated me), so I stuck to the more manageable sized ones. These suckers paired perfectly with our Champagne ($18 a glass).

Oyster Sampler

Although the menu encompasses a wide variety of flavors, influenced most specifically on French, Italian, and Morroccan flavors, according to Chef Hassan Belamine, who sat with us and introduced the menu before we ate, you will see a lot of more familiar items on the menu as well. As another starter, we opted for one of those more familiar items because, well, how can you resist lobster mac 'n' cheese? As for Beet's version ($14), first of all, it's pretty gigantic (do you sense a theme yet?), like entree-size portion-wise. One thing I really liked was that they use large, recognizable pieces of lobster--my guest pulled out a whole intact claw. However, we both noticed a few bits of shell in our dish, which I hope was just a one-off mistake, but do with that information as you will. The elbow pasta was tossed with ooey-gooey white cheddar and topped with breadcrumbs for a bit of a crunch.

Lobster Mac 'n' Chese ($14)

Before we transitioned to entrees, I perused the wine list, which Olivier the general manager told me will soon be expanded, and ordered a glass of the Malbec from Argentina ($12). It paired very nicely with my Duo of Lamb dish ($28). I need to preface the discussion of entrees by explaining once again that the portions are exceedingly large at Beet, so keep that in mind when you see the prices. So, my decision to order the lamb was based solely on the fact that I never cook lamb so it was about darn time I had some (I was also contemplating the Branzino special for the night). My plate came with 4 lamb chops and a good size lamb shank, as well as hazelnut cous cous, vegetables, eggplant grape mustarda, and some sort of foam. The meat was cooked perfectly medium rare, and I really enjoyed the cous cous. Not being a huge eggplant fan, I wasn't so into the mustarda, though I did like the rest of the vegetables. Though the plate was a little scattered presentation-wise, everything tasted very delicious and it would definitely be at least 2 meals for me.

Duo of Lamb ($28)
My guest told me he has a certain test for restaurants; typically I'll order the chicken if I feel like really testing a new restaurant because no one ever orders the chicken and it's really easy to mess up chicken. But my guest is Italian and loves his gnocchi so he ordered the Gnocchi with Baby Vegetables ($18) served in a sage butter broth and topped with shaved Parmesan. While I think he enjoyed his food, we both likened the gnocchi to little mashed potato balls, as they could have been a bit firmer, but the flavor was excellent and the veggies were fresh. This dish was also fairly large and didn't get finished. 

Gnocchi with Baby Vegetables ($18)

For dessert we decided on the chocolate mousse which was served with two ladyfingers and strawberry whipped cream in a large (you surprised?) martini glass. I really liked this dessert and found it even more enjoyable when I sipped the remainder of my Malbec in between bites.

Chocolate Mousse

Final comments, though we both had an overall pleasant experience, I left a little confused about what kind of restaurant Beet wants to be and I think they need to figure that out a little bit more for them to be super-successful (the restaurant was mainly empty throughout our meal, and none of our dishes actually had beets as an ingredient). I also think it doesn't quite fit in with the more casual and cheaper restaurant options that line 2nd Avenue in the 80s, but that doesn't mean that a nicer place can't find it's niche. If you have a hankering for oysters and jazz, I'd highly recommend a visit to been on a Wednesday or Sunday evening and you won't be disappointed. Tuesday nights are also half-price wine bottle nights.

Beet on Urbanspoon


A Culinary Journey

[Scroll to the bottom to find out how to get free samples of Fig & Proscuitto, as well as AMAZING ricotta cheesecake on Wednesday 10/19 from 5-8 pm]

With the myriad of epicurean options available in New York City, it's often hard to choose just one cuisine per meal. Thankfully Sojourn on Manhattan's Upper East Side steps in with its delicious dishes from places like Italy, Asia and Mexico all served tapas style like you would find in Spain.

Describing his restaurant's menu indicative of new American cuisine with global influences, owner Sammie Musovit invited me and a guest to come and check out Sojourn in all of its glory, and check it out we did. Sammie has worked at the legendary Mr. Chow, where he used to plan parties and events for people like Madonna, Andy Warhol, and Stevie Wonder, so he definitely understands the importance of ambiance in addition to amazing food. Chef Peter Petti has an inventive background in such kitchens such as Michelin star award-winning Eleven Madison Park, Al Forno and Felidia. His creativity in the Sojourn kitchen shines through in each and every dish.

It was an almost rainy Tuesday night and at 6 pm it seemed like the bar area of Sojourn was filling up with a crowd of "regulars" when I arrived. The bartenders made small talk with guests who had brought in friends from out of town and people seemed to relax in the comfortable, yet lively environment of the restaurant. While waiting for my friend to arrive, I sipped a Louisville Slugger ($12), the restaurant's signature drink, made up of Maker's Mark, muddled thyme, lemon, and Vermont maple syrup. This was a serious fall drink. Although I'm not usually a Bourbon drinker, this cocktail grew on me even though the pieces of thyme floating on the top kept getting stuck in my teeth.

Louisville Slugger

My friend ordered a cocktail straight out of a tiki bar in Cabo San Lucas, the Michoacan Man ($12), made of Sauza tequila, Canton ginger, muddled jalapeno, lime juice, agave syrup and soda water. I wasn't a big fan of the jalapeno kick, but my friend seemed to enjoy it. The rest of the cocktail menu, which we were informed by our uber-friendly waiter Jose, changes seasonally, yet looked extremely creative and seemed to take influence, again, from all parts of the globe.

Since the menu  is split into sections and all dishes are meant to be shared, we decided to try one option from each of the salad, savory, pasta, seafood and meat categories. The first two selections out were the Roasted Butternut Squash Salad ($10) and the Duck Spring Rolls ($12). Along with the succulent squash, the salad included Brussel sprout leaves, pear, toasted pecans, goat cheese and champagne vinaigrette. This was truthfully one of the best salads I've had in a long time and I'm not even a Brussel sprout fan. I just couldn't stop eating this salad and probably could have made a whole meal out of it if I didn't remember how much food we still had coming. The spring rolls served with spicy plum sauce were also delicious. They reminded me of something that would be served at a high class Chinese restaurant, except for the fact that maybe an exquisite French chef swapped out the ingredients for the inside of the rolls. The duck was perfectly crispy, like confit should be, but the flavors were mostly Asian. The plum sauce also nicely complemented the meat.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
Duck Spring Rolls
Next up was the pasta. We had the hardest time deciding on a selection from this category as EVERYTHING sounded amazing. We simplified our decision down to the black linguine with lobster arrabiatta, gnocchi with spinach and pink sauce, and ricotta and swiss chard ravioli with truffle butter. On recommendation from Jose, we went with the ravioli ($15). Given my love for all things truffle, this was an excellent decision. Four pillowy ravioli were served to our table lightly dusted in parmesan cheese. What surprised me about this dish was the al dente quality of the pasta. My friend commented that ravioli is usually "mushy," and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's nice to actually taste the texture of the pasta once and a while. The filling was simple, yet scrumptious and we felt like (maybe) we were getting some nutrients out of the swiss chard buried in this cheesy dish.

Ricotta and Swiss Chard Ravioli
For our seafood choice, we went with the Roasted Salmon ($16) with morel and crimini mushrooms, Brussel sprout leaves and, you guessed it, truffle oil (I just can't get enough!). This salmon was cooked perfectly. The crispy outside was met with a medium rare center - I just don't know how they do that! The portion was also perfect given that we were sharing other dishes as well. However, if I were in the mood for salmon, I would come back just to order this dish for myself and it would be a perfectly portioned meal.

Roasted Salmon
Our last entree was recommended to us by Sammie as Sojourn's most popular dish. The Skirt Steak ($18) with Asian pear and soy marinade, served with scallion fried rice, was the biggest portion we were served all evening. In fact, we couldn't even finish it (so keep that in mind when ordering one dish from every category). However, the flavors were delicious. The rice wasn't much more than anything I've ever had before, but the meat was juicy, tender and full of flavor. I could see why people would order it again and again.

Skirt Steak
By this point, the dining room was filling up a bit, but the crowd was definitely on the older side, which surprised us given the restaurant's proximity to all of the Second Avenue hotspots. At the same time, the amount of regulars who seemed to be present in the dining room could be a testament to the stability of the stellar cuisine and ample hospitality. Although I had read several negative reviews regarding the service of Sojourn on Yelp, I was happy to find that we had zero problems. Jose was one of the most personable waiters I've had in a while, offering menu suggestions and actually seeming interested in what his customers wanted out of their meal.

After taking a bit of time to digest, we decided that to get the full impression of Sojourn, we had to try their most popular dessert, the Blueberry and Ricotta Cheesecake ($10). When what I referred to as a "hunka hunka" piece of cheesecake arrived at our table, I was in heaven. If you've never had ricotta cheesecake, it's way better than whatever you're used to. More light and fluffy and less sticky sweet, this graham-cracker crusted delicacy was topped with blueberries and port wine sauce. Super creamy, this dessert is one of the best ways you could round out your meal. Perhaps I would have been in favor of a slightly smaller piece of cake for a few dollars less, but this dessert was too spectacular to care about portion size all that much.

Blueberry and Ricotta Cheesecake
On top of their spectacular food (be sure to check out the reasonably priced brunch menu), Sojourn offers various wine tastings and special dinners. Wine dinners generally run around $60 and include five courses, each with a different wine pairing - a steal especially for Manhattan, where these dinners can run upwards of $200. The dining room is also a rotating gallery for local artists.

Having lived on the Upper East Side for 3 years, I was surprised that I had never heard of this gem of a restaurant. However, Sojourn seems to be interested in widening its market, recently appearing on the Bloomspot deals site. Sammie also informed me that Sojourn will be offering free samples of two of the restaurant's most popular menu items Wednesday 10/19: the Fig and Proscuitto as well as the Blueberry Cheesecake I tried during my meal. If I were you, I'd hightail it up to 79th Street between 5-8pm Wednesday for some of that cheesecake :) Tell them Awesome in New York sent you.

Sojourn on Urbanspoon