restaurant review

Restaurant Review: Trattoria Dell'Arte

In May, my family and I went to see HAMILTON on Broadway. And while I had been a little nervous that the hype was going to be unwarranted - I'm here to tell you that it is as close to musical theater perfection as I will probably ever experience. Lin-Manuel Miranda's talent is mind blowing, truly. 

After the matinee performance, we went out for an early dinner at Trattoria Dell'Arte - whose website uses the phrase "VEGETARIAN EXTRAVAGANZA." While I'm not actually a vegetarian, I absolutely love vegetable-focused menus. (Abby, I said vegetable-focused instead of veggie-heavy JUST FOR YOU, you're welcome).

Trattoria Dell'Arte Restaurant Review

Trattoria Dell'Arte

Pick 6 - Antipasto Bar

Trattoria Dell'Arte Antipasto Bar

Tattoria Dell'Arte has a MASSIVE antipasto bar with 32 VEGETABLES. My sister and I quickly got down to business - fighting it out over which 6 would continue on in the hopes of becoming America's Next Top Vegetable (who writes this shit?)

After much debate, we landed on:

  • Roasted Heirloom Carrots (against the moans of everyone at the table, I bravely defended my all time favorite vegetable)
  • Sauteed Broccoli Rabe (our waiter gave us this as an extra bonus)
  • Roasted Seasonal Mushrooms
  • Eggplant Caponata 
  • Zucchini Parmigiana 
  • Roasted Cauliflower 
  • Spaghetti Squash

My two favorites were definitely the Zucchini Parmigiana and Eggplant Caponata! 

We also chose to add the burrata for an extra $6 and, unpopular opinion over here, I'm not all-in on the burrata craze! I gave my portion away. 

Braised Octopus & Calamari

Trattoria Dell'Arte NYC Review

OH WOW. I've been lucky enough to have some damn good octopus dishes in my lifetime, and this was right up there with some of the most tender, flavorful, octopus. 

Thin Crust Pizza 

Trattoria Dell'Arte Thin Crust Pizza

Again, this created some debate - with so many amazing sounding options, it was difficult to decide what we wanted. When our waiter informed us we could do half and half, we were overjoyed. OK, maybe that was just me. 

Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese & Fried Artichoke, Seasonal greens

This was everyone else's favorite - and I loved it too, don't get me wrong! It's just that the other half was...

Pesto & Broccoli Rabe

I rarely crave pizza, but I was so excited for this thin-crust 'za. And I ate every crumb that the rest of my family was "too full" to finish. The pesto was made with almonds, pine nuts and basil and it was delicious!

Though I'm not usually one to get excited over Italian restaurants, Trattoria Dell'Arte is worth getting excited over. There are tons of options, and not all of them will leave you feeling like you're stuffed silly. Not to mention the location is ideal for those times when you're stuck in Midtown and not sure where to go for decent food! 

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Restaurant Review: Jean-George's ABC Cocina

Long at the top of my Restaurant Bucket List, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's fancy, fresh Latin American restaurant was a "treat yo self" meal with friends from work. My "birthday week" and a friend visiting from Denver meant that money wasn't as big of a concern as it typically would be.

As soon as I walked into ABC Cocina, I was delighted by the decor. It's a place much like Tao in the sense that the furnishings add to the fancy feel - my friends even sat next to Betsy Johnson the last time they went for lunch!

Imagine our delight when we were seated at a table in a little window nook - our own private spot with plenty of natural light for picture taking ;)

ABC Cocina Restaurant Review

ABC Cocina

Spring Pea Guacamole

Pea Guacamole

Apparently, this guacamole was the guac heard round the world when it ignited rage on the internet in an event known as "Peagate." This is not a drill, folks.   

Personally, I was very PEASed with this guac - I thought one of us might start licking the bowl to make sure we got every last bite.

Also, please note the beautifully orange homemade habanero hot sauce in the cute little glass bottle. We joked about slipping it into a purse on the way out until it became quite obvious there wouldn't be any left by the end of our meal.  

Tuna Tartare

ABC Cocina Review

Typically, tuna tartare is a hit with me - give me fresh, raw tuna and I'll probably be happy. Somehow, ABC Cocina got this wrong - the texture and look aside (not exactly appetizing) it seemed like our tartare was loaded with some relish-tasting-addition. Likely, these were the chilies but they must have been pickled or something. Anyway - no bueno on the tartare. 

Ham & Cheese Fritters 

The menu describes them as gooey and spicy, but to me they were a little bland and boring. Half of the table loved them while the other half weren't thrilled. The flavor was fine (the ham was my favorite part) but overall, these weren't anything that WOWed me.

Ground Beef & Celery Root Empanadas

I'm sad to say that these didn't blow me away either - they were tasty, sure, but no different than any other empanada I've eaten in my lifetime (which is admittedly not a very high number). 

Grilled Asparagus, Jamon Iberico & Lemon 

ABC Cocina NYC Review

Our meal was back on track with this fresh, veggie-centric dish. Ok, veggie with a healthy side of meat. I felt so fancy reading the menu and knowing all about Jamon Iberico thanks to my cooking class in Barcelona! 

The asparagus + ham combo was light and wonderful with the perfect balance of salty, citrus-y and savory. 

Sauteed Mushroom Tacos 

ABC Cocina NYC

So much yes! Cashews, mole, kale, lime and sauteed mushrooms were a thrillingly wonderful combination. No cheese necessary. And corn tortillas thank GOD because serving tacos on flour tortillas is a SIN and I'm stickin' with that statement. 

Griddled Fish Tacos 

ABC Cocina Jean-Georges

Deece. (I think that's the first time I've used that...) But to be frank - fish tacos for me are ruined unless they are of the Tako variety

Beef Tenderloin "Burnt Ends" with Chimichurri 

ABC Cocina Restaurant Review

The best thing about eating out with friends in a group is ending up with things on the table that you wouldn't have necessarily ordered on your own. Such was the case with this beef tenderloin. Silly me for skipping over this - probably because the menu didn't read "THE MOST TENDER, BUTTERY MEAT IN THE WORLD" and "DROWNED IN CHIMICHURRI SAUCE WHICH, IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW, IS CRACK." Chimichurri - you're my new culinary obsession (welcome to club, which also includes dukkah and pesto). 

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Sundae 

Best NYC Desserts

I'm not the type of person to skip dessert. I have a sweet tooth, and I'm not afraid to use it. When I heard peanut butter & chocolate sundae, I was sold. But I couldn't have been prepared for what would follow. 

I declare, here, on the world wide web, that this was the most phenomenal dessert I have ever stuffed my face with. 

At first, I was a little confused about the strawberry sorbet and strawberry compote. But as I ate, there was no doubt in my mind that these flavors WORKED together like the damn Schuyler Sisters (had to...). 

A moist, fudgey, gooey brownie piled with chocolate ice cream and strawberry sorbet. Drizzled with sweet, tangy strawberry compote and ringed with massive chunks of homemade peanut butter cups that put Reese's and Justin's to shame on the PB to Chocolate ratio. 

(Sorry, I just really wanted to use moist, drizzled and chunks all in one sentence - how gross can you get?)

Our waiter, when he saw us loving on this sundae, made the remark, "It's great right? Just like a a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

I SHRIEKED as it all made sense - why the strawberry, peanut butter and chocolate were blended in perfect harmony. Why I was almost moved to tears by the empty bowl now sitting in front of us.

From what I can tell, ABC Cocina changes it's ice cream sundae regularly - and when this PB/Choco/Strawberry miracle is no longer on the menu, it will be a sad do for New York City and the world.

Please, just scroll back up for a second and look at the amount of peanut butter. 

OK, I'm done. I promise. 

After a conversation revolving around NYC celebrity spottings, I apparently somehow missed Jake Gyllenhaal sitting at an outside sidewalk table on our way out. COOL. 

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Upper Eats Side: Blake Lane

After years of construction and waiting with trepid anticipation – the 2nd Avenue Subway Line has finally opened its doors at 3 new stops along the Q line. Things are looking up for the many millennials living in Yorkville.

But the 2nd Avenue Subway isn’t the only new thing bringing a smile to the faces of twenty-somethings on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Trendy new restaurants and bars seem to be springing up left and right.

Blake Lane is one such restaurant – opening in November and quickly becoming a popular spot for both brunch and dinner. I first heard about Blake Lane when a friend tagged me in a picture of their perfectly Instagrammable brunch dishes.

Blake Lane NYC Review

Served in a cute, airy space on 3rd Avenue, Blake Lane is the type of place you’d expect to find in the East Village or Brooklyn – full of Lululemon clad weekend warriors gossiping over coffee as they Snapchat their avocado toast (I hope no one finds offense to this – as I am 100% one of these people...I just might be wearing Old Navy workout gear).

In fact, I came here after a particularly amazing 9 mile run one weekend, with a friend who was visiting from LA. I resembled the heart-eyed emoji as I sat down and looked over the menu – full of dishes I wanted to sample.

Luckily, my friend and I agreed to split a few different things.  I appreciated the mix of hearty options along with light, refreshing choices that made me feel like I was back in California ordering acai bowls and poke on the boardwalk.

(Speaking of California...here's a picture from my recent trip to La Jolla - more to come!

(Speaking of California...here's a picture from my recent trip to La Jolla - more to come!

Brunch At Blake Lane

Poke 

Wild Tuna, black rice, avocado puree, mango, cucumber, sesame seeds, nori

This was our favorite part of our meal and it might have had something to do with the artful smear of avocado puree that was so visually appealing. Or the fact that everything tasted so fresh!

Acai Bowl

Banana, cashew butter, marinated berries, granola

A so so acai bowl – I wouldn’t necessarily order this again when there are better bowls in the city and a ton of other options on this menu.

Blake Lane NYC

Squash Toast

 Kabocha, onion, Aleppo pepper

Branching out from avocado toast, Blake Lane also offers squash toast and a nut toast with cashew butter. We opted for the squash toast which had a really great flavor, but threw me off a little because it was served somewhat cold. I think I would have preferred this warm and on freshly toasted bread!

Blake Lane Brunch

Beverages

They have a pretty extensive morning beverage menu. I ordered an Americano but there were no sugar substitutes – organic sugar cubes only (a rolled my eyes a bit at this one, I will admit).

Emily ordered a acai limeade that was on the sweet side and I was really intrigued by their Hot Cocoa served with cayenne, cinnamon, date and sea salt or their Golden Mylk made with almond milk, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, date and sea salt!

Blake Lane Brunch Review

Dinner at Blake Lane

When I visited for dinner after my kickboxing class a few weeks ago, Blake Lane was bustling. Where I had felt totally normal in athleisure on a Saturday morning, I felt a little out of place waltzing in on a Thursday night in my sweaty clothes – oops!

Again, we tried a bunch of different dishes and I might have liked them even more than brunch! That being said, the cost was a lot more of a hit to my wallet ordering off the dinner menu!

Roasted Beets

Grapefruit, shaved onion citrus vinaigrette, mint

While I like all of these things on their own, I wasn’t completely thrilled with the combination. It felt like they just threw a bunch of on-trend ingredients together for the hell of it.

Blake Lane Upper East Side

Broccoli

Cashew butter, chili oil

Loved this dish – the broccoli could have been charred a bit more, but the cashew butter was absolutely delicious! I could have drank a cup of it.

Blake Lane NYC Review

Tuna Tartine

Yellowfin tuna, broccoli salsa verde, Aleppo pepper

The waiter recommended this, and it ended up being one of our favorite items! Definitely recommend! It was so fresh and filling!

Chicken Lettuce Cups

Warmed spiced yogurt, herbs

Lettuce cups can be a bit bland, but these were full of flavor!

Blake Lane Restaurant Review

Courgetti

Spirazlized squash, basil pistachio pesto, roasted tomato, avocado, poached gulf shrimp

Personally, this was my favorite! I’m a sucker for pesto using alternative nuts (did I really just say that?) because pine nuts are so expensive – and I will definitely be taking a stab at my own pistachio pesto one of these days! The dish came with 4 good sized shrimp and the roasted tomatoes were a great finishing touch. 

La Pulperia Excels at Cocktails and Seafood on the UES

People like to rag on the Upper East Side – but as someone who has lived in the ‘hood for three years, I’ve gotta, say it has improved BIG time recently.

There are tons of new restaurants and bars, along with the long-time neighborhood favorites. 

I was recently tasked with choosing a restaurant for myself and 8 family members on a Sunday night. It actually ended up being my father’s suggestion to check out the Upper East Side location of La Pulperia (there is another in Hell’s Kitchen).

La Pulperia Restaurant Review

La Pulperia has been around on the UES since September 2014 and is named after the general stores found throughout South America. La Pulperia’s menu features food from the many different countries of Latin America, and our waiter talked us through each section and its inspiration.

The seafood-heavy menu features pastas, crudos, a raw bar, tacos, salads and more.

But we started with drinks, naturally.

The Drinks

The Smoky Room

I ordered The Smoky Room which was hands down the best cocktail I have ever had in my life. That’s no exaggeration – I have put a great deal of thought into whether or not to make this claim and The Smoky Room deserves the title. House mescal & Milagro with passion fruit puree, fresh pomegranate juice and agave nectar are the ingredients that make up this cocktail. Though the description sounds fruity – I promise you that “smoky” is not a misnomer. Somehow, this drink is simultaneously fruity, tropical, and smoky! Our waiter explained that they torch the drink to create the smoky flavor.

El Chilango

By the end of the night I had also tried the El Chilango, courtesy of the bartender, and it was also an incredibly impressive drink full of flavor. These drinks seriously blew me away. The El Chilango is made with Rancho Alegre Tequila, Cointreau orange liquor, tamarind nectar and a piquant Habanero & salt rim. Talk about sweet and spicy.

The Food

We ordered guacamole for the table which was good, but nothing special.

My parents and I split three different entrees.

Spring Salad

Farro, parsnips, beets, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, butternut squash and an orange maple vinaigrette

La Pulperia NYC

We ordered ours with salmon that was cooked and seasoned perfectly. This salad was a grain salad, which I didn’t necessarily expect, but also didn’t mind. It was hearty and filling and full of fall flavors.

Lobster & Baked Egg

Fresh Maine lobster, frame baked egg, herbrs, crema de blue cheese, fresh cream, truffled scented toasted bread

La Pulperia Happy Hour

This was soo rich, creamy and decadent – especially once the egg broke open and the yolk mixed in with the cheese and cream. There were big chunks of lobster and somehow, it wasn’t overpowered by everything else going on in the dish.

Las Tablas 

Perfectly grilled proteins accompanied by 5 seasonal “cazuelitas”

La Pulperia Review

We ordered the “pulpo” or octopus along with the 5 seasonal sides which I can’t remember now (I believe there was a potato salad and grilled broccoli rabe). All I know is they were tasty and fresh and the octopus was tender and not at all chewy – just the way I like it!

We even managed to make a few family members try to octopus and they were shocked at how meaty and un-fish-like it was!

Dessert

La Pulperia Restaurant Review

Never one to pass on dessert, we ordered two and were surprised when a total of 4 shower up at the table. Obviously, all of them needed to be sampled.

My least favorite was the flan and my favorite was the tres leches cake!

Vibes

La Pulperia is a gorgeous restaurant inside – with a MASSIVE bar. There’s tons of space, and it’s beautifully decorated.

Our meal at La Pulperia ended up being one that won’t soon be forgotten by my family – thanks not only to incredible food but incredible service, incredible cocktails – dancing, shots, meeting the chef, and more. It was truly a night to remember and I can’t wait to head back to this fun spot for happy hour!

La Pulperia UES has happy hour Sunday – Friday from 4 pm – 7 pm and all day on Mondays. They also have a Ladies night on Tuesdays (5 pm – 7 pm first drink free) and Live Music on Mondays (7 pm Brazilian Jazz) and Wednesdays (7 pm Flamenco Night).

Us hanging with our new friend the Chef!

Us hanging with our new friend the Chef!

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Boozy Brunch With An Asian Flare at China Grill

China Grill is a really good restaurant in Midtown Manhattan - a section of New York City that is devoid of anything truly great as far as dining experiences go. 

I've reviewed China Grill's dinner for the blog - creative Asian fusion dishes meant to be shared family-style - and recently checked out their brunch with my grandparents. I was pleasantly surprised, and thought the world deserved to know about this hidden brunching gem between Central Park and Times Square. 

Review of China Grill's Brunch

Oh You Fancy, Huh?

Here's the thing  about China Grill. It's gorgeous inside. The ceilings are tall, the wait staff are dressed up, there's a beautiful bar and open kitchen. The moment you step in, you feel like you're somebody. You feel like you're a little bit fancy, or at least a little bit fancier than your typical boozy brunch spot where you and your friends eat greasy breakfast burritos and guzzle down mimosas made with  $5 champagne. 

The point is, China Grill feels classy. And what twenty-something doesn't like feeling classy on a Sunday morning?

A La Cart vs. Prixe Fixe

If you're doing brunch at China Grill - you're probably going to want to order from the price fixe brunch menu because ordering a la cart just doesn't really make a lot of sense financially. 

You could order an entree for $19 plus a Bloody Mary for $14 (~$40 total once you factor in tip)

OR

You could choose an appetizer and an entree ($26) and go the unlimited booze route ($16 for endless mimosas or Bloody Mary's) for a grand total of around $50 once you add tip.  

$10 gets you an additional appetizer AND as many drinks as you want. Do the math, people.

The Appetizers

If you're with a group, you're going to want to make sure you aren't doubling up on the appetizers. Instead, order one of each and you'll get to sample them all! On my visit, we got to sample the following:

Green Tea Donuts 

Brunch at China Grill

Because once in awhile, it's OK to eat dessert first! These bad boys have a distinct fried-dough flavor that is delectable, while not exactly screaming "Green Tea." It's OK though, because once you dip your fried dough ball into the plum jam - you'll be hooked. This stuff is sweet, tart and refreshing! (Comes with 5 doughnuts)

Crispy Eggplant & Burrata With Miso Glaze 

China Grill Brunch

I liked this more than anyone else - probably because the miso paired with the crispy eggplant wasn't a typical flavor combo. But I for one loved the nutty, umami flavor of the miso glaze paired with the light, refreshing burrata. (Comes with 4 pieces) 

Crackling Calamari Salad 

China Grill Review

This is one of the best dishes on both their dinner and brunch menus and it is MONSTROUS. It can easily feed 4 or 5 people with a decent amount of salad AND squid. The calamari is perfectly battered - not too much but still perfectly crispy. Spritz some fresh lime on top and this is a killer salad. 

Chicken Thigh Skewers With Toasted Peanut Sauce

China Grill Review

Whoah baby. What sounds like a pretty boring appetizer is actually pretty phenomenal thanks to chicken that is SO GOSH DARN TENDER. The peanut sauce is the cherry on top. (Comes with 4 skewers)

The Entrees

Yes, after feasting on all of those appetizers, I still had room for an entree. 

Sesame Jumbo Lump Crab Benedict With Grilled Asparagus

China Grill Brunch Menu

Eggs Benny goes from drab to...CRAB with this take on the brunch classic. Absolutely overflowing with crab meat, this was a winner! 

Yuzu Cream Stuffed French Toast With Lemongrass Caramel Sauce & Mixed Berry Compote

China Grill Midtown

Talk about a sugar overload. This was super sweet, but oh so beautiful! Just look at it! This French Toast is TURNT. 

Yuzu is a citrus fruit and you can really tell when you get into the center of the french toast and reach the yuzu cream. It's a little overpowering, but balanced by the sesame! 

I don't know if I could eat this as my entire meal, but a few bites after my Benedict certainly satisfied my sweet tooth! 

Other entree options include a pork belly scramble with potato hash, bacon and egg fried rice and a wild mushroom omelet with goat cheese and spinach. 

The Booze

China Grill Cocktails

This is a boozy brunch spot after all, so let's talk about what really matters - the dranks. If you're a Bloody Mary lover, you are in for a treat with China Grill's 4 specialty Bloody Mary's. Ranging from tequila to vodka to bourbon - there's a Bloody for everyone! 

And most importantly, these Bloody Mary's come with built-in appetizers. They're the best for both your taste buds AND your Instagram account. 

I went with the Deviled Bloody Mary which came with a skewer loaded with not only celery, greens, cucumber and celery but a Wasabi Deviled Egg! Oh, and instead of tomato juice it was CARROT JUICE based. Yum. 

You Should Go.

More positives about China Grill as your next brunch spot? The service is phenomenal, it isn't super crowded, there's space to bring a group, it's centrally located and the presentation of each dish is superb as evidenced by the above pictures. 

 

 

Pizza PSA: Not So Wild About Wild

 

I'm not about to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon - but I did take a trip to the latest gluten-free pizza hotspot in the West Village recently to check it out.

Unfortunately, all Wild did was reaffirm my belief that unless it's medically necessary for you to be gluten-free - you should eat real pizza and doughnuts and bread. Gluten and all.

Wild was a cute spot but very dark, crowded and noisy. The service was pretty terrible throughout the night too.

Wild Gluten Free Pizza Review

Avocado Toast

Wild West Village

We started out with the avocado toast which was interesting because it was topped with honey, gorgonzola and walnuts. It was a unique combination that I was excited to try - but ultimately disappointed with. My other issue with this was that the toast was more of a cracker than a piece of bread - but that's the GF life for ya.

Tuscan Kale Salad

Wild NYC Review

We went back and forth on a salad option before setting for this one, sadly. The group unanimously decided it was probably the most boring, bland, useless salad we had ever had.

Wild Mushroom Truffle Pizza

It's no surprise that I didn't love this pizza seeing as I can't stand the taste of truffles. But what surprised me when I took a few small bites was the fact that more than anything, I was overwhelmed by the mushroomy-ness of this pie. It was soo intense that I had trouble finishing even one small sliver. 

Wild Gluten Free Pizza

Other Forgettable Pizzas

The rest of the pies were unimpressive and forgettable - I can't even remember which ones we ordered after looking back at the menu!

In a city filled with stellar pizza options, I certainly don't suggest a trip to Wild.

But hey, the company was good and it got me out of my normal stomping grounds!

Perry Street NYC

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South African Eats on the Upper East Side

I'll try anything once when it comes to food. Ostrich, rabbit, goat, frog's legs - bring it on. If you're looking for an adventurous meal, I highly recommend a trip to Kaia Wine Bar, the Michelin rated African restaurant on the Upper East Side!

I've passed it many times and always thought, "This place looks cute." When I finally stopped to read the menu posted in the window, I was slightly surprised to find that it was African cuisine - but intrigued!

My parents were in town one night and since not a ton of people I know are willing to shell out money at a restaurant where they can't pronounce anything on the menu - I decdied to tell my parents that's where I wanted to go. Thanks, Mom & Dad! ;)

Kaia Wine Bar Review

Everything here is farm-to-table, which in my opinion, is the best way to eat! The menu at Kaia is pretty authentic South African fare right down to the wine and beer lists. I ordered a South African IPA and though I didn't love it, it was cool to try something so different.

Kaia was fairly noisy, but the space was trendy and the service was phenomenal. Our waiter was extremely nice and gave us lots of information and recommendations as we perused the unfamiliar menu-items.

The menu is constantly changing, so what we enjoyed during our meal may not be on the menu for your trip - but here's what we ended up ordering!

Bread and Dukkah

The meal started off with a BANG - fresh baked bread with olive oil and dukkah. Dunk your bread in the oil, then cover it in dukkah spice blend - my new favorite thing in the world! Dukkah is a blend of spices, seeds and nuts that originated in Egypt. Each dukkah blend is unique, but most contain curmin, coriander, sesame seeds, salt, dried herbs, nuts and seeds. Lately, I've been seeing it on a lot of menus, but my first encounter with it was at Kaia.

Slider Trio

We decided to try one of each of the out-there slider options as an appetizer. I say "out there" because instead of lamb, turkey, chicken or beef - these sliders were ostrich, elk and wild board. Each had a distinct taste and the toppings paired perfectly with their respective meat. I think that the wild boar was my favorite!

South African Food NYC

Grebakte Suurlemoene

Baked lemons stuffed with tomato & olive pesto and topped with goat cheese

This was weirdly good - I wasn't expecting to love it, but the hint of lemon with each bite was justtttt right! I still prefer stuffed peppers or mushrooms or spaghetti squash but lemon was a nice change of pace.

Spiced Meat Crepe

Kaia NYC

I totally made that name up because I can't remember exactly what I ordered - but it was delicious! It was really seasoned/fragrant meat with a hint of sweetness to it wrapped up in a pillow-y doughy crepe.

Bier Prawns

Head on tiger prawns in a peri peri beer broth served with coconut rice

Kaia NYC Review

These guys were a little terrifying when they came to the table. My dad and I were supposed to split this and my entree but I wasn't really feeling these monsters - they were way too fishy tasting for me. My dad seemed to enjoy them though!

Lamb Burger

Kaia Upper East Side

My mom's lamb burger was huge and filled with blue cheese! It also had a delicious fruit chutney. She really enjoyed it and it's a staple on their menu!

Malva Pudding

Never one to pass on dessert, we asked which was the most authentic on the menu and went with that. The Malva Pudding was a sticky cake with apricot creme that was just the right amount of sweet to cap off the night.

I highly recommend a trip to Kaia Wine Bar if you're looking to mix-up your boring Italian, Mexican, Chinese food rotation.

 kaia wine bar
1614 third avenue (between 90th and 91st)
212-722-0490
www.kaiawinebar.com

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Canadian Culinary Adventures: Where To Eat in Toronto

Oh Canada, my home and native...

Sorry, I keep forgetting that I'm not actually Canadian as I recently went on my longest work trip to date - spending a solid three weeks in Toronto, Ontario. 

I must say - it's a beautiful city. I didn't have a ton of time to explore, as I was working out of a trailer in a parking lot, but the times that I did get out for runs along the water, November Project workouts, and delicious dinners - I was all about it! 

Here's the run down on the spots I enjoyed while in Toronto, eh? 

Healthy Places to Eat in Toronto
Veg Food Fest

My first night as an 18-day resident of Toronto, I was thrilled to discover that there was a vegan food festival happening a few blocks from my hotel.

I spent the night stuffing myself with vegan food samples – vegan cheese, milk, sausage – you name it, they had a vegan version!

Some of my favorite finds from the night were:

Earth Island Vegan Cheese

They were giving out free blocks of their Provolone cheese and even though it was completely vegan, I was OBSESSED! They served it cold and it was so hard not to eat the entire block of cheese. On my way home to New York, I even bought one of these in the airport as a snack!

Earth Island Vegan Cheese

Prana Coconut Chips

These things were FREAKING AMAZING. I could have stood eating the samples all night long. I liked every flavor equally. It's interesting to eat a savory flavored coconut chip because no matter what, it still has the sweetness of the coconut to it. The texture was what made them great. 

They also sell 100% hazelnut and almond butter and I cannot explain to you how incredible the taste was. It ain’t cheap - $43 for 35 ounces but it was the purest tasting stuff in the world.

I bought a bag of these for us to snack on in our trailer throughout the week. 

Upbeet Foods

This new food delivery service was challenging people to a blind taste test – guess three ingredients and you got a 50% off coupon! I chose the savory and correctly identified onion, pepper, couscous and black beans! It was really tasty.

The Green Zebra

Though I was stuffed after all of the free sampling, I decided to buy something for a somewhat real “dinner.”

I ordered the Thai Salad think d from Green Zebra Kitchen (a healthy meal delivery system) which came with zoodles, grains, cilantro, veggies and a delicious almond butter dressing. It was light and full of flavor and the perfect way to end the night on my walk “home” along the water. 

Green Zebra Toronto

St. Lawrence Market

My second morning in Toronto was a Saturday and I didn’t need to get such an early start. I woke up, worked out at the gym, and ran the quick .8 miles over to the St. Lawrence Market. I of course had a great time looking around at all the stalls and though I was tempted to get a Montreal bagel, I held off until my sit down brunch. The St. Lawrence Market was rated #1 in the world by National Geographic! I was a little skeptical of that claim after my visit, but there was certainly tons of fresh food to look at.

The St. Lawrence Market is closed on Sundays, so keep that in mind on your visit! 

St. Lawrence Market

Impact Kitchen

A quick shower after the St. Lawrence Market and I was off to brunch at Impact Kitchen, whose healthy eating guidelines are:

Ingredients Matter.
Don’t Count Calories Count Quality.
Eat Minimally Processed Food.
Plant Power.
All Proteins are Not Created Equal.
Embrace Healthy Fats.
Hydrate With Purpose.

The place is open and spacious with a weekend breakfast menu that includes paleo waffles, a frittata, breakfast bowls, smoothie bowls and avocado toast. It covers alllll the bases – plus offers juices, smoothies and coffee.

My friend and I each ordered a Power Breakfast Bowl – spinach, chorizo sausage, scrambled eggs, salsa fresca, sweet potato, squash mash, avocado and green onion. It was very fresh and filling.

We also split the Superfood Bread (gluten free chia flax bread) with “avocado smash” but the avocado to put on the toast was the same as the avocado that came with our bowl and the bread wasn’t that flavorful.

Impact Kitchen Toronto

Our Americano Mistos with Almond Milk were good, but not great.

Though this is my favorite type of place – it wasn’t my all-time favorite. They have many lunch bowls and salads as well, and I’d love to give their smoothies a try.

Plus – free WiFi and we were able to snag an outlet to get some work done.

We also went to Impact Kitchen for dinner one night and I appreciated the fact that they had kombucha. I ordered the Maverick Bowl with vegetable mash, avocado smash, broccoli, salsa fresca, sprouts, hemp seeds, almonds and pesto. I was very underwhelmed, as everything was pretty bland, but the best part was definitely the blackened trout I had added on top!

We also split a Vanilla Berry Chia Seed pudding for dessert that wasn’t thrilling.

Impact Kitchen Toronto

Impact Kitchen is one of those places that serves very fresh food with very little preparation – it’s definitely healthy, but it isn’t the most delicious thing in the world. it’s the reason some people think healthy food is a little boring.

The Beet Cafe

Dinner on Saturday night before our 10K was a bit further out of the way than we thought, but ended up being worth it in the end.

The Beet Café wasn’t fancy by any means, but I got one of the best sandwiches in my entire life. I ordered “The Verde” sandwich which was loaded with avocado, tamari ginger tofu, cheddar, spicy mango chutney, fresh herb aioli, pickled red onions, cucumber and sprouts. Paired with a bomb side salad and a side of sweet potato fries for the table, I was in heaven and ate every scrap of food.

Beet Cafe Toronto

Like I said – the ambience was a little lacking, but the food more than made up for it. They also have an impressively large smoothie menu!

Kupfert & Kim

For a post-race brunch we headed to a vegetarian restaurant called Kupfert & Kim and I had an incredible quinoa bowl that was very reminiscent of our favorite dish at Galeria in NYC – the Cauliflower Tahini bowl from Kupfert & Kim was packed with quinoa, hummus (some of the best hummus ever at that), roasted cauliflower, za’atar salsa, carrots, cabbage, beets, mint, pomegranate (key), greens, watermelon radish (the prettiest), sesame seeds and a lemon tahini dressing that tasted like heaven. It also came served with a delicious seeded flatbread.

Kupfert & Kim Toronto

Kupfert and Kim was casual and cute inside with KOMBUCHA ON TAP, WiFi, coffee and club-like music. We were perfectly content to do some work as we listened to “We Found Love” and “Turn Up The Music.” Also – they serve alcohol here – something to keep in mind if you want a healthy brunch with a side of booze (which is the best kind, IMO). 

Tabule

For awhile, I didn’t have a go-to meal before a race, but in the last few months I’ve gotten it down to a pretty standard dinner and that dinner is one of my favorite cuisines – Mediterranean and Greek!

This wasn’t the night before a race, but I was still happy to eat a delicious, somewhat healthy, completely satisfying meal at Tabule.

They have two locations in Toronto, and though we weren’t able to get a table outside, the ambiance at the Queen Street location was great.

We had a FEAST of appetizers and their sample platter (pick any 3 cold appetizers) was an extremely generous portion of hummus, babaganuj (eggplant dip) and labni (a homemade Lebanese yogurt cheese mixed with spices). I think the labni might have been my favorite – it was like a really thick, creamy, rich, savory yogurt.

The pita was thick, soft and warm – aka perfect pillows of pita-y goodness.

Tabule Toronto

We also ordered some vegetarian grape leaves which were a tad on the disappointing side as were the kubbe (whole wheat shell stuffed with ground meat, onions and pine nuts).

The cauliflower appetizer - flash fried cauliflower finished with a touch of tahini – was addictive.

Since we went all in on the appetizers, my friend and I split an entrée – the lamb skewers entrée – two lamb skewers served with rice and vegetables. We should have paid the upcharge for a double serving of veggies as we could have done without the rice after all of our pita!

The lamb we OK, but nothing to write home about. It was a little on the dry side, though slathering it in tzatziki certainly helped.

I’m sure that Toronto has better Greek food, but the atmosphere and apps made Tabule worthwhile and I would recommend it to folks looking to enjoy cocktails and shareable appetizers. Especially if you can get a seat outside! Their cocktails sounded and looked great – though I can’t speak for them from experience. 

Fresh Restaurants

One restaurant that kept coming up in my “healthy dinner” Google searches was Fresh – serving vegan and vegetarian food with four locations in Toronto.

I had read that their quinoa-crusted onion rings were to die for – and though we didn’t end up ordering them, I saw them at a few tables and they were impressive looking.

We were exhausted when we arrived at Fresh after work one night and immediately ordered some “Green Poutine.”

Leave it to us to find a healthy version of the gravy and cheese-laden French fry dish that Canada is famous for. Our sweet potato fries came smothered in roasted mushroom gravy, steamed baby bok choy, kale & swiss chard, green onions and sunflower seeds. With a side of vegan cheese sauce for good luck. We inhaled it. The roasted mushroom gravy was like CRACK.

Fresh Restaurants Toronto

The Fresh menu has a large variety of choices – salads, tacos, burgers, and bowls with either rice or soba noodles. There are so many options, as each dish can be customized in a variety of ways. I was a little overwhelmed – but one thing spoke to me – the soup, salad and cornbread combo. Because I LOVE CORNBREAD.

This cornbread was pretty dry, but you could tell that it was a “clean” cornbread made with actual corn. I loved dipping it in my split pea and sweet potato soup (it had a hint of curry to it which was delicious!) The salad that came with it was the superfood salad – edamame, napa cabbage, cucumber, assorted sprouts and microgreens, parsley, cilantro and “fresh salad topper.” Mine was dressed with the “house” dressing – a vinaigrette with flax oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic, tamari and mustard that was quite delicious and not too overpowering.

I loved Fresh because while it was, well, fresh, and healthy – it was far from bland and boring.

The service and ambiance weren’t great, but the place was packed and the food was great. 

El Catrin

Three things I really love are family-style small plates, margaritas and guacamole.

El Catrin is one of the few Mexican tapas restaurants I’ve been too and each time I look at the menu I am impressed by its depth and creativity.

Not to mention their larger than life bar and restaurant interior which reminds me of the Mexican Tao – you feel like going there for a meal is an event. You feel like a somebody the second you walk through the door.

EL Catrin Distillery District

We sat at the bar because it was bumpin’ – there was even a long line of people waiting to get onto the patio seating. I ordered the Reposado margarita because if I know one thing, it’s that a phenomenal margarita’s secret ingredient is Grand Marnier.

Guess who sat down next to us? Robby from the Bachelorette. No big deal!

We thought I went a little overboard on the ordering, but the serving sizes are pretty small, so it ended up being a pretty good amount of food.  Here’s what we ordered (for 2):

Guacamole – Regular size
This is the real deal, made in front of you with a heavy duty mortar and pestle that must be an arm workout for the servers to carry. Served with clearly handmade tortilla chips, it was quality guac.

Loteria Salad – Red beets, carrots, daikon and golden beet fideos, requeson cheese, cilantro and cucumber spicy vinaigrette, roast pumpkin seeds.

This dish was a beaut – it was also tasty, but not mind blowingly so. Who knew that fideos is a noodle in Mexican? And who knew that beets and daikon made good veggie noodles?

El Catrin toronto

Ensalada De Kiko – Quinoa, tomato, cucumber, avocado, quest fresco, cilantro, smoked corn aioli

The smoked corn aioli was magical.

Callo de Hacha Monte Alban – Spicy pan roasted scallops, grilled corn, peanut and arbol chili

Scallops always do it for me. These didn't disappoint. 

EL Catrin Scallops

Pipian Poblano - slow cooked chicken supreme in mole verde risotto, seared sweet potato

This was our favorite and you should definitely order it!

Mini Vegetariano Burrito - Plantain, asparagus, bell peppers, lime juice, chili oil, tomatillo, spinach flour tortilla

Pretty yum - even though I'm morally opposed to flour tortillas. Definitely a bit of kick to it!

Glory Hole Doughnuts

Of course, no food guide to a city would be complete without a doughnut recommendation - and this is my first international doughnut review! Toronto's most recommended doughnut shop was Glory Hole Doughnuts. 

Glory Hole Doughnuts Review

I sampled quite a few of their yeast doughnuts, including 2 filled, though none of their cake variety. The dough itself was pretty standard yeast-doughnut dough, but I was IN LOVE with their London Fog doughnut - a doughnut with an amazing Vanilla Early Grey filling. It was so tasty - not overly sweet, but the perfect creamy, pudding-y consistency. 

Glory Hole is best known for their "Toast and Butter" doughnut - a yeast raised doughnut topped with brown butter frosting, sweet breadcrumbs and cinnamon. Though the topping was certainly sweet and delicious, there wasn't enough of it to make me feel that the doughnut was exciting or unique. 

The on in the bunch I didn't sample was the Sprinkfield - a yeast doughnut with pink glaze and rainbow sprinkles. 

The Coconut Lime was refreshing and light while the chocolate coffee filled was decadent with a rich chocolate flavor. They weren't exceptional, but they were solid. The Pumpkin Spice stood out from the pack, especially because it was topped with actual pumpkin seeds. 

By far the standout was the London Fog – which I didn’t anticipate liking at all! I would put it on a top 5 doughnut list, in fact! 

Woods Restaurants

For a girls night out, we made reservations at the farm to table spot called Woods Restaurant. 

Want to know my biggest tip for finding restaurants in different cities? Search farm to table - find a place with a constantly changing, seasonal menu, and you're sure to get fresh dishes! 

Woods Restaurant uses local, seasonable and sustainable ingredients - even growing their lettuce and sprouts right in the restaurant's main dining room!

Woods was really chic inside and the menu had tons of things I was intrigued by. We ended up ordering: 

WILD DIGBY SCALLOPS

Roasted Corn, Tomato, Cilantro, Salsa Verde 

Scallops are always a good choice, in my opinion, and these didn't disappoint. We got 2 orders because we were a group of scallop lovers. 

ARTISANAL CHARCUTERIE 

House Made Mustards and Pickles, Crostini, Duck Ham 

Though we were expecting a cheese plate - must of this got eaten, aside from the pate. The crostini were delicious, though I wouldn't order this again in the future. 

WATERMELON SALAD 

Compressed Watermelon, Mixed Lettuces, Cherry Tomato, Sheep Milk Feta, Pistachio, Vincotto 

Give me watermellon and feta and I am a happy camper. This was served with big squares of watermelon each with it's own piece of feta. 

ONTARIO LAMB 

Lamb Rack, Quinoa Tabbouleh, Cucumber Yogurt, Charred Dandelion Green, Jus 

Ok, this might have been the sole reason I suggested this restaurant. This is one of those dishes that I read and think, "Yahtzee!" It's like it was made for me - so many of my favorite things! I didn't even care that this was the second night in a row I ate lamb for dinner. After all, I always say I could easily give up beef and chicken - but lamb, not so much! 

Woods Restaurant Toronto

The lamb was cooked pretty well, but not fall off the bone like some other places I've had it. the yogurt was thick and creamy and the rest of the accouterments were the perfect combination. 

But perhaps the best part of the meal was when we were presented with the check - and a complimentary dessert! 

Homemade marshmallows charred to perfection and sprinkled with graham cracker crumbles. We were all in heaven and wanted to ask for  a to go container filled with them! 

Byblos 

I was most excited for dinner out with my parents at one of Toronto's top restaurants - Byblos. This Eastern Mediterranean restaurant has received high praise for its shareable small plates. 

It was a small restaurant and our server was fabulous. We showed up an hour early for our reservation because I was an absolute crank and we were miraculously seated in a corner booth without having to wait!

I started with a cocktail to celebrate my parents being in town. I ordered a gin drink with pistachio and egg white - it was very interesting and overall I enjoyed it! 

Byblos Restaurant Review

LAMB RIBS 

I'm about to drop a serious accolade here. The lamb ribs at Byblos was the best lamb dish I've ever had - even though it was only three bites. The lamb was incredibly tender and falling off the bone. The dukka spices paired with the sweet carob molasses and buttermilk sauce was an absolute dream and I actually said, "THIS IS LIKE A LAMB LOLLIPOP!" 

ROASTED RED BEETS 

Byblos Toronto Review

Again, labneh coming in HOT. This was flavored with honey and olive oil and paired wonderfully with the earthy beets. The Barbari bread that came served on the side, topped with more Dukka spice, was a vehicle for pretty much everything during my meal. I couldn't stop eating it! Barbari bread is a Persian flatbread that's actually quite thick.

CREAMED SPINACH WOOD FIRED PIDE 

Byblos Pita

Pide is another name for pita, and describes an Arabic, Lebanese or Syrian bread. Byblos serves a variety of pides - filled with things like goat cheese and mushrooms, black truffle and halloumi, and feta and za'atar. The creamed spinach pide had feta, toum (garlic sauce) and dukkah (I CANNOT GET ENOUGH DUKKAH! It's a blend of various nuts, herbs and spices and its my new favorite thing). 

I was a little disappointed with this dish - it didn't have any real "wow" component. But it looked pretty! 

SPANISH OCTOPUS 

Byblos Toronto

Each piece of perfectly cooked octopus was served atop a piece of fingerling potato. I loved this dish, since it's so hard to mess up octopus. But when you have a good piece of octopus, it's incredible! This had a great, simple flavor. 

TURKISH MANTI DUMPLINGS 

These were interesting - I couldn't really tell that they were filled with eggplant but the yogurt sauce with molasses was very different. My mom wasn't a huge fan, but I thought it was flavorful, though I couldn't put my finger on what exactly it was. 

Byblos Toronto

HAND ROLLED CAULIFLOWER 

This cauliflower was cooked in DUCK FAT and it was INCREDIBLE! I think I ate the majority of it, sorry Mom & Dad!

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Galeria Brazilian Brunch Is Bangin' and Beautiful

Leaving Ice & Vice the other day, my friends and I noticed a cute little restaurant on Clinton Street in the East Village and stopped to stare in awe at the menu – we would gladly have ordered anything on it.

We were especially intrigued by the acai bowls since it was a Brazilian restaurant and seemed to be authentic. So like the good little Bucket List builders that we are, we snapped a picture in the hopes of one day returning.

I fully expected it to disappear into the depths of my phone, but when we went to the Lowline Lab (a cool concept, but you might want to just wait until the real park opens) a few weekends later, we were throwing out lunch options in the area and realized we were really close! Instead of waiting an hour for a seat in El Rey, we headed over to Galeria and were instantly seated at one of the coolest tables ever.

Yes, the table was cool. And it was for sale, since Galeria is part restaurant/part art gallery! 

Here’s the run down on our brunch!

Galeria NYC Review

1.       Pao De Queijo

Galeria NYC Brunch

If you have never had these little Brazilian cheese balls you are MISSING OUT. Get to the nearest Brazilian restaurant ASAP and have your mind blown by these traditional cheesy popovers.

The first time I tried one was at my birthday brunch at Calle Ocho two years ago and that day I ended up smuggling out a half dozen in my purse.

If you’re picturing liquidy cheese inside of bread – it’s not like that at all. The cheese is much more incorporated into the dough. You can’t tell where the bread stops and the cheese starts and it’s like a big interconnected ball of love. The circle is round, it has no end, that’s how long I want to eat pao de queijo.

2.       Acai Bowl

Galeria Acai Bowl

We knew we had to try an authentic acai bowl, and we had ours additionally topped with almonds and honey. All of their acai bowls come with banana, granola and coconut! There were a ton of other options, but at $1 each, it could get really pricey!

This was great – but the smoothie was a little less solid than I would have liked. That’s completely a personal preference though, and flavor wise this was one of the best acai bowls I’ve had. We all agreed it was definitely top notch.

3.       Rainbow Cauliflower Bowl

Galeria NYC Review

This was hands down our favorite part about lunch at Galeria and a dish I would go out of my way to eat again.

This “unusual bowl” came with a poached egg, pine nuts, coconut, bulgar, herbs, cauliflower, tahini and a pomegranate dressing.

The combination of pomegranate, pine nuts and coconut was what really kicked this bowl up a notch. We all couldn’t stop raving about it.

And did I mention that it was SO BEAUTIFUL and Instagrammable?

Galeria NYC Brunch

4.       Pesto Tofu and Spinach Tapioca Sandwich

Galeria NYC

I still don’t really know how to explain this tapioca sandwich – the bread was brittle and crackery but also spongey? It was a very interesting consistency and though it took some getting used to, by the end I was enjoying it.

I think I liked this the most out of the three of us, but that’s because I’m absolutely in love with pesto and you could put pesto on anything and I would be a fan!

I would be really interested in trying their sweet version of the tapioca sandwich which comes with chocolate and berries.

Galeria NYC Review

I would HIGHLY recommend this spot if you’re looking for a delicious, healthy, trendy brunch with your girlfriends but don’t feel like waiting an hour on the sidewalk for a seat. It doesn’t have a ton of seating, but it wasn’t crowded when we went at around 1 on a Sunday which is prime brunching hours. 

Galeria NYC

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ICE & VICE Sure Is Nice

If you had to eat only one dessert only for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Donuts? Cupcakes? Cookies? Brownies?

The correct answer is ICE CREAM. Ok, you’re entitled to your own opinion…but in my far superior opinion, ice cream is the king of the dessert jungle.

Here in New York City – there are a multitude of ice cream options. There are places that specialize in small-batches of unique flavors, Thai-Style ice cream rolls, soft-serve ice cream a la Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, vegan ice cream like Van Leeuwen's, goat milk ice cream from Victory Garden– you name it, New York City has got it. It’s a wonderful thing.

This summer wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to one of the much-talked about ice cream shops of the summer – Ice & Vice.

Not only do they have unique ice cream flavors, but their cones get in on the action too!

Ice & Vice Review

Paul Kim and Ken Lo opened Ice and Vice’s brick and mortar location on the Lower East Side after winning a Vendy Award for the Best Dessert in 2015. The space isn’t just an ice cream parlor though – they can also pasteurize the product on-site, making up to 15 gallons at a time.

And the counter has the ability to set a different temperature for each flavor!

When we went, there was a line but it was moving fairly quickly. It’s a small space with just a few tables – which I wouldn’t recommend for the claustrophobic.

Ice & Vice Review

Lately Ice & Vice has been partnering with other dessert destinations in the city for some crazy creations like an Underwest Donut ice cream sandwich and ice cream between two Bruffin rainbow cake cookies. Or how about the ice cream sandwich made between two of Kossar’s black & white cookies?

Part of me was tempted to go for the ‘gram with my order, but I decided that if this ice cream was really as good as they said it was, a single scoop in a cone should do the trick.

I actually like that despite not being the most photogenic thing in the world - it's just white ice cream - this ice cream shop has received so much love. Isn't it crazy to think that restaurants now have to think about how their product will look on Instagram - the crazier and most absurd the better, despite the taste or necessity? (I'm lookin' at you Black Tap and Loopy Doopy).

The flavors were all extremely unique, which made picking just one pretty overwhelming. Luckily, they allow you to sample a few flavors before you choose.

I thought for sure I would end up ordering the Food Baby – concord grape. Donut soil, raspberry coulis and rainbow sprinkles – but I didn’t love it. I tried one other that was delicious before settling on the seasonal “Nuts of Wrath.”

When I tell you what the description was, you might think it’s a little strange. But I’m here to tell you it was phenomenal! And that it tasted like each thing listed in the description.

Ready?

Marcona almond and Grape Kool-Aid jam. Mmmmm.

I asked the person behind the counter which cone they suggested and went with the Salted Blue Corn Honey. It was the right move.

Ice & Vice cone are made by The Konery and they are awesome artisanal waffle cones. My friend Abby who works for Tasting Table told us that during the non-summer months, when The Konery has left over batter, they make fortune cookies! How cool.

I don’t typically order my ice cream in a cone, but I am happy to report that Ice & Vice may have changed that going forward.

Ice & Vice NYC Review

Ice & Vice really was one of the most unique ice cream shops I’ve visited and the taste was WONDERFUL. It was such a multifaceted experience for my taste buds (yeah, I really just wrote that). And the texture/consistency is just how I like my ice cream – a little on the harder side!

The price may come as a bit of a shock (the specialty cones are $1.75 in addition to the cost of a single scoop being $4+) but it’s worth it if you’re going to go out for ice cream.

 I look forward to stalking their Instagram feed until the next flavor that “I NEED” comes around!

Ice & Vice

221 East Broadway

Monday - Thursday 2 PM - 10 PM
Friday 2 PM - 12 AM
Saturday 12 PM - 12 AM
Sunday 12 PM - 10 PM

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Doughnut Diaries: The Doughnut Project

It was ages ago that I visited The Doughnut Project in the West Village to try their Insta-famous “Everything Doughnut” but I never wrote about it!

A)     I think they deserve an official post on Peanut Butter Is My Boyfriend because The Doughnut Project remains one of my favorites and

B)      I took some pictures of their doughnuts on my real camera that I wanted to post.

The Doughnut Project Review

The Doughnut Project is another small-batch doughnut shop meaning that when their doughnuts are sold out for the day – that’s it. They only make a limited quantity per day.  Their doughnuts are yeast-based, not cake based and they have both filled and non-filled doughnuts.

The Doughnut Project NYC

The “it” thing about The Doughnut Project is how many unique and savory doughnuts flavors they have come up with.

The world of artisanal doughnuts is shockingly jam-packed lately – so new shops need to be creative. The Doughnut Project burst onto the scene with their “Everything Doughnut” – flavored like an Everything Bagel!

The Doughnut Project NYC

At first, I was slightly repulsed at the idea of savory seasonings on top of my sweet, sweet doughnuts. But like food trends – I was willing to give it a try.

I stopped by the West Village shop on my lunch break and was told that they had just gotten a new mural painted by a local artist. It was perfect for Instagram pictures, which we naturally had to take advantage of!

The Doughnut Project NYC

Here’s what we ate:

1.)    Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Obviously, not something I could pass up. It wasn’t a unique or savory flavor – but there’s not much I like more than the combination of peanut butter and jelly. What was interesting was that this wasn’t a filled doughnut stuffed with peanut butter and it wasn’t overly sweet with a fruity glaze. It was like a grown up, refined PB&J doughnut.

2.)    The “Wayney Wonder”

This doughnut is named after one of The Doughnut Project’s (TDP) favorite customers and is also known as the “Constanza.” Salted Chocolate Glaze with buttered pretzel, Ritz & potato chip crumble.

I can’t believe there was a time in my life when I didn’t realize how wonderfully salt pairs with chocolate. I guess the whole “sweet & salty” thing has been around forever, but it’s only very recently that I’m head over heels for the sea salt chocolate combo. This chocolate glazed doughnut paired with the salty Ritz, pretzels and potato chips is TDP’s most classic “dessert” doughnut flavor combination.

3.)    Those Beetz Are Dope

I was most excited to try this doughnut because even though it wasn’t chocolatey or peanut buttery – it was filled and the flavor combination offered a little bit of savory (beet glaze) and sweet (filled with ricotta cheese).

This didn’t disappoint. The glaze really tasted like beets! The first bite was a little odd – biting into a doughnut and not getting that first taste of super-sweet glaze was an adjustment. But once your taste buds and your brain got on the same page – it was really great. The beet glaze really tasted like beets! The ricotta cheese added the perfect amount of sweetness while still keeping the doughnut firmly in the savory camp.

4. The Everything Doughnut

Much like the ricotta filling on Those Beetz Are Dope, the cream-cheese glaze on The Everything Doughnut lends the perfect amount of sweetness without making things seem too dessert-y. The entire time we were sampling The Everything Doughnut we were saying,

“Oh wow, it’s really like – an everything doughnut”

“It’s not really sweet but still, like, sweet?”

“It’s savory but still a doughnut, you know?”

The Everything Doughnut is topped with sesame seeds, sea salt, pepitas, poppy seeds and garlic. I loved the fact that they weren’t too heavy handed with the garlic – which I feel could have made things a little weird. But there was definitely still the full flavor blend of an Everything Bagel.

The Doughnut Project NYC

If you plan on making a trip to The Doughnut Project (which I highly suggest), the savory doughnuts are definitely the way to go.

They’ve recently added a new one to the menu that sounds – interesting –

Bone Marrow Chocolate – bone-marrow infused chocolate and topped with a clementine glaze and chocolate shavings. Though I’m a little hesitant to give this one a try, The Everything Doughnut was a pleasant surprise so go give it a go and report back ;)

The Doughnut Project has got me thinkin’ about savory flavor combos that could work as a doughnut. Maybe a chickpea-flour based doughnut with a tahini glaze?

The Doughnut Project NYC

YOUR TURN:
HAVE YOU TRIED A SAVORY DOUGHNUT?
HAVE ANY SAVORY DOUGHNUT FLAVOR IDEAS?

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Upper East Side Pasta & Wine Spot With Light Italian Dishes

While some people go nuts over Italian food, it has never been one of my favorite cuisines. Give me Mediterranean or Mexican or Indian or Japanese and I'm ready to order everything on the menu. But you'll very rarely hear me suggesting an Italian restaurant. That's not to say that I don't LOVE pizza, eggplant parm and penne a la vodka. I just think growing up we all have so much exposure to Italian food that living in New York City, I'm much more inclined to venture out into the world of more interesting options. 

But for awhile now, I've been hearing about Uva on the Upper East Side - an Italian restaurant and wine bar. My aunt offered to take me out for dinner at Uva one night after some doctors appointments and I obviously accepted. Italian or not, here I come! 

Uva NYC Review

DRINK & SMALL PLATES AT THE BAR

We started out at the bar with a drink and their extensive wine list was impressive. They also offer flights for a reasonable price ($14). 

The best part was that with each drink order before 7 p.m., you can pick a free appetizer! We had the polenta nest with meat ragu and Parmesan and the deep-fried olives. Both were tasty, considering they were free. 

We were seated outside and immediately given fresh bread with olive oil, salt and pepper. We ordered the following: 

BRUSCHETTE: WILD MUSHROOMS, ARUGULA & PARMIGIANO CHEESE

Uva Upper East Side Review

I'm a sucker for a bruschette menu. Though all four options sounded great, this one won because ARUGULA. It's an obsession. 

For some reason, I was expecting this to be served warm, with melty Parmigiano cheese on top. When it was served room temperature, it took me a minute to accept it. This was just alright, in my opinion. 

SPIEDINO DI GAMBERETTI 

Grilled shrimp skewer over a plum tomato, avocado and palmito salad

Uva Italian Upper East Side Review

I was very torn over what to order. I was trying to keep things light, but at the same time, really wanted to try their homemade pasta. I went with the salad because it had shrimp and avocado, two of my favorites, and I knew I could try some of my aunts pasta :) 

I am SO glad I ordered this. They were not at all skimpy on the amount of shrimp and I was perfectly content at the end of this meal. (I even had room to stop at 16 Handles afterwards - THEN I was stuffed).  

You could tell the shrimp was actually grilled - it had a delicious charcoal taste to it. My one complaint was that the salad was super oily, but I loved the simplicity of tomato, avocado and palmito (heart of palm). 

FETTUCCINE CON GAMBERI E ZUCCHINE

Fettuccine with shrimp, yellow pattipan squash, zucchini, shallots and grape tomatoes, sauteed in extra virgin olive oil and white wine

Uva NYC Review

I tried a bite of my aunts and the pasta was clearly homemade. It had that perfect al dente consistency and I loved that this dish was light and fresh despite being pasta based. The olive oil and white wine didn't take away from the delicious taste of the pasta. No need for heavy sauces! 

I definitely plan on making a trip back to Uva and highly suggest checking it out when you feel like a nice night out - good food, good atmosphere, and you won't spend tooo much money. If you're like me and shy away from Italian restaurants because the menus are full of cheesy, heavy, pasta dishes - Uva offers many alternative options that will make you very happy.  

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Local's Cafe - Perfect for 'Coffee And A Bite' in Port Jefferson

When you think of summer weekends on Long Island the image that comes to your head is probably of mansions on the water’s edge in Montauk or the Hamptons. Ocean views, giant pools, trendy restaurants and tons of Manhattanites making the trip from Penn Station on Friday evenings throughout the summer season. Ready to spend the weekend lounging on their giant swan float (you know the one I'm talking about). 

Why "Out East" Is Over-Rated

In the past few years, “out east” has changed in a lot of ways. Montauk used to be beloved as a laid-back fisherman’s town. Now, it’s now full of fancy restaurants, boutique fitness studios, and bars frequented by the upper echelons of society. Of course it’s as gorgeous as ever, but it’s a big to-do to spend a weekend in the Hamptons or Montauk.

First, there’s the question of where you’re going to stay. If you’re lucky, you know someone with a house. If not, you’re shelling out big bucks to rent a house for the weekend or to stay at a hotel. 

Next is the torturous 3 hour journey aboard the Long Island Railroad. It’s crowded, it’s long. It’s really not an enjoyable experience (unless you're prepared with plenty of train dranks and beer-in-a-bags).

And then when you’re there? It’s no longer a place to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt with an ice cream cone in hand. It’s a place people go to be seen. It’s no longer a place to shop in stores like White’s or A Little Bit of Everything – buying tchotchkes and tie-dye tees. It’s a place to stop into boutique stores full of designer clothes. It’s no longer a place to grab pancakes at John’s in the morning. It’s a place to drop hundreds of dollars on dinner. It’s no longer a place to sit down at a dive bar with locals. It’s a place to buy drinks at Manhattan-prices at bars too crowded to move in.

Bah-humbug, right?

I’m not saying Montauk and the Hamptons aren’t great every once in a while. I still love heading out east. But if it’s R&R that you’re looking for, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to look quite so far east.

An Alternate to The Hamptons and Montauk 

Instead, look to Port Jefferson. A small town on the Long Island Sound smack dab in the middle of Long Island. A two hour train ride from Penn Station, Port Jefferson is small enough that there’s no need to worry about renting a car. Filled with small shops, affordable yet trendy restaurants, local activities and beaches – Port Jefferson is the perfect town to head to for a weekend beach getaway on Long Island. 

All summer long I'll be bringing you reviews and ideas on how to spend a great weekend getaway in Port Jefferson. 

Local's Cafe

For my first PJ post I'm so excited to feature Local's Cafe. A brand new addition that's sure to appeal to city-dwellers used to good coffee and Avocado Toast to start their day. Their tag line perfectly sums it up, "coffee and a bite downtown." 

Local's Cafe is owned and operated by a husband-wife duo who moved to Long Island from Puerto Rico 3 years ago. I had the chance to sit down with co-owner Amarilis and learned so much about how this unique spot came to be.

Local's Cafe Port Jefferson

FINDING THE SPACE FOR LOCAl's cafe

When the Puerto-Rican Amarilis and her Indian husband Jiten came to Long Island in 2013, it was because of his job opportunity in Manhattan. They settled in the suburbs with their two children and while sitting down by the water on a bench one evening, noticed a corner property for rent. They peeked in the window and one of them made the comment, "This would be a great coffee shop!" 

Local's Cafe Port Jefferson

They agreed that if in six months the space was still available, they would make a call. Six months later Amarilis started nudging her husband to pick up the phone. When they finally got inside to see the space, it was much larger than they had originally thought. They realized they could offer food in addition to coffee.

CREATING A casual space

Amarilis and her husband didn't have much background in the restaurant industry. Amarilis had only ever worked as a waitress. Their goal for Local's Cafe was to create a relaxed space for people like themselves - self-defined "casual eaters." 

From the start, they made choices that actively went against the "fine dining" feel. Jiten in particular went against the grain by fighting for concrete sheets as walls and cement slabs for the floor - he didn't see a need for them to be polished or finished. Jiten made the tables himself - upcycled doors. The stools along the windows were created from pipes. The interior design lends itself to the relaxed, rough, fun and urban space that Amarilis and Jiten were seeking. 

RECOGNIZING AN OPPORTUNITY 

A friend of theirs, a chef from New York City, began developing a menu. As they sampled it and shared it with friends - they felt that it wasn't their style. It was more sophisticated than they had been aiming for.   

While Amarilis and Jiten were still stuck on the menu, the Starbucks location in Port Jefferson closed down for renovations. Jiten, first and foremost caring about Local's Cafe's coffee, recognized this as the perfect opportunity to say, "Hey Port Jeff, try our coffee!"

A long time frequenter of coffee shops in NYC, coffee was to be the star of the show for Local's Cafe. Once they bought the space, they sampled many different varieties before deciding to serve coffee roasted from Caffe Vita - based out of Seattle and Brooklyn. 

With Starbucks' temporary closing the perfect opportunity to open Local Cafe's doors, the duo typed up 4 food options on a sheet of paper and called it a day. Their cafe was officially open for business. 

Local's Cafe Port Jefferson

'THE food is pretty much who we are'

Since then the menu has evolved to reflect the foods that Amarilis and Jiten personally like and grew up with. The "Scramble Our Way" (Scrambled tofu, onions, tomato, cilantro on pita or wrap) is simply how the vegan Amarilis makes her breakfast. 

All of the avocado on the menu is a way of representing her Puerto Rican heritage - where avocado is a huge part of the culture. (Though Amarilis said her and Jiten are constantly finding themselves stalking grocery store shelves for ripe avocados when they run out!) 

The Chana Masala Sandwich (chickpeas cooked in Indian spices with a side salad) is representative of Jiten's Indian background. 

Amarailis said that, "Part of having a business is you're always wondering how you could improve it. Which is a good thing, I think. We're trying to think of how we can make it better aesthetically and the food too. We're constantly thinking of what we can add to the menu. The food is pretty much who we are." 

Amarilis says she's trying to get more Puerto Rican-inspired items on the menu like plantain strips as an alternative to french fries. But adding even one thing to the kitchen that requires different preparation can be a huge adjustment. 

Local's Cafe Port Jeff

local through and through

LOCAL'S Cafe also features products from LOCAL purveyors. The rotating flavors of small batch kombucha, brewed on Long Island by a woman the couple met while getting the restaurant ready, is absolutely TO DIE FOR. By far the best kombucha I've ever tasted. And I'm somewhat of a connoisseur. 

They also sell Long Island brewed iced tea from The Subtle Tea Company and Five North Chocolate (organic, fair trade and vegan). 

something for everyone - without the labels

What I love most about Local's Cafe is that they don't need to market themselves as "Vegetarian" or "Vegan" or "Gluten-Free" - yet people with any of those dietary restrictions will find a plethora of options. There are even gluten-free donuts which I sampled and am happy to report are delicious! (So are the thick slices of banana bread!) 

Local's Cafe Long Island

bottom line

Amarailis and Jiten have succeeded in creating what the walk-able town of Port Jefferson was missing - a spot that locals can go and hang out with their friends. It's not a formal sit-down restaurant and it's not a grab and go coffee stop. It's a space that encourages you to slow down, enjoy good food and good coffee while in good company.  

The food is fresh and delicious - served on paper plates with plastic utensils. You can get an Instagram worthy #brunch shot without feeling like you're somewhere too fancy. You can support local products and companies, satisfy your sweet tooth AND get your caffeine kick all in one place. Did I mention their menu is perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

It doesn't get much better than that. 

Local's Cafe 

106 East Main street
Port jefferson New York, 11777
www.cafelocals.com
1-631-509-0627
M-TH 8 AM - 7 PM
F 8 AM - 8 PM
S/S 9 AM - 8 PM

Local's Cafe Port Jeff

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Cinnamon Snail Doughnuts Dry & Disappointing

Doughnuts. I love 'em. But you all knew that.

My latest doughnut tasting was from The Cinnamon Snail - a popular, zany and completely vegan food-truck turned brick-and-mortar space that specializes in crazy sandwiches and, you guessed it, doughnuts. 

I stopped by their location inside The Pennsy food hall near Penn Station and picked the 4 most delicious sounding doughnuts. They had a large selection, but it was surprisingly easy to figure out which ones were worth the $ to try.  

The Cinnamon Snail Doughnuts

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough 

Always a sucker for the stuffed doughnuts, it was a tough choice between this and the Norberweiberberweiberhydrafab AKA "That One On The End. I'm Not Even Going To Try Saying That" (yes, that's really the name). The previously mentioned doughnut is one of their most popular - it's white chocolate glazed with a chocolate hazelnut bourbon ganache. But let's be real, Peanut Butter trumps hazelnut bourbon - sorry.  

The PB Choco Chip Cookie Dough doughnut was really well filled - but I was a little disappointed in the chocolate to PB ratio. The ganache was super chocolatey and decadent, but I had been hoping for a little more peanut butter. 

Roasted Blackberry Fig 

I had high hopes for this simple, glazed looking doughnut - with it's purple-y pink hue and promise of fig flavor. Unfortunately, the glaze was bland.

Coconut Thai Basil 

I was very intrigued by this flavor combination. Ever since trying The Doughnut Project, I've been all aboard the savory doughnut flavor train. But this doughnut didn't have very much Thai/basil flavor - it was pretty much just coconut to me - and dry to boot. 

Toasted Pistachio Cardamom 

Saving the best for last, this doughnut alone saved The Cinnamon Snail's doughnut cred for me. The pistachio cake doughnut was moist and flavorful and the cardamom glaze was perfectly sweet without being overpowering. 

The Cinnamon Snail Vegan

Bottom Line: 

If you're vegan - by all means, go get yourself some doughnuts from The Cinnamon Snail. If you're not vegan - you can find better elsewhere, in my opinion!

That being said - I'm still very eager to try their sandwiches!  

YOUR TURN: 
HAVE YOU EVER TRIED A VEGAN DOUGHNUT? 
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE DOUGHNUT SHOP? 

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Buffalo Food Guide: So Much More Than Wings

It's no secret that one of my favorite things to do is explore the culinary scene in new-to-me cities. 

My latest trip took me to Buffalo, New York - home of beef on weck, buffalo wings and sponge candy. I ate none of the above - and barely scratched the surface of the delicacies this up and coming foodie town has to offer. I would have loved to do some more exploring along the city's newly renovated (and gorgeous) "Canalside," checked out some of the local breweries like Big Ditch Brewing Company, or taken a fitness class on the shores of Lake Eerie. 

I'll have to return one of these days for some more exploring but in the meantime I wanted to share with you the best meals I had in Buffalo. These may not be your typical "Must Eats" in Buffalo - (Wings at Anchor Bar, pods from Pizza Plant, etc.) but they were delicious, trendy spots that didn't require reservations. As usual, I leaned toward the healthier side of things when possible with some extravagances like DOUGHNUTS thrown in to keep things #balanced. 

BuffaloCover.jpg

Handlebar Pub

149 Swan Street
716-259-9632

Handlebar Pub was by far my favorite find of the trip. It wasn't on my "list" going into things, but while looking for a spot to pick up a quick lunch for coworkers one day, I found it on Google maps and instantly fell in love with their simple menu featuring different rice bowls, salads and flat breads. 

I fell further in love when we went to pick up the food and realized this place also had a ton of different beers and was BIKING THEMED with a cycling store attached. A bar, tables with board games, and a outdoor seating - I fell head over heels for this place. 

We waited awhile for our food - but there was only one guy working the whole place and he was running around like a chicken with his head cut off. He managed to keep our complicated alternations and requests straight and we all enjoyed our meals. 

I got the Marrakech Bowl - loaded with Moroccan spiced chickpeas, carrots, red pepper, lemon tahini and cilantro. 

Buffalo Proper 

333 Franklin Street
716-783-8699

Many people extol the cocktails at Buffalo Proper, but unfortunately, we didn't imbibe during our night at this delicious restaurant. I saved all my stomach space for the amazing meal. 

Buffalo Proper made it's way to my #1 "MUST EAT HERE" spot because of one dish in particular...but I'm getting ahead of myself. 

The interior is two stories with the craft cocktail bar on the first floor. Dark wood sets the mood and makes you feel like your meal is going to be a memorable one. 

Buffalo Proper

Our waiters was incredibly nice and explained all the menu options to us along with answer our questions about how certain plates were prepared, serving sizes, and suggestions. We finally settled on the following: 

Roasted Oles Farm Carrots 

Spruce, Fresh Cheese, Orange

Buffalo Proper Review

These carrots were served whole and the roasting brought out their natural sweetness in such a perfect way. I say it time and time again but any restaurant that pays attention to their vegetables is a restaurant that I automatically respect. Carrots in particular are my all time favorite vegetable so this small plate made me incredibley happy. And for "small plate" it was certainly filling!

ARUGULA SALAD 

Pumpkin Seed, Parmiggiano, Rice Puff

Buffalo Proper Review

We probably could have passed on this dish purely due to the fact that it wasn't all that exciting. It tasted good, don't get me wrong - it's hard to mess up arugula (the best salad green in the world) - but it was lacking anything unique. 

CURED SALMON TARTINE 

Breadhive pumpernickel, arugula, sliced caperberry, pickled red onion, smoked creme fraiche

Buffalo Proper Review

WHOAH. This was FULL of flavor. And honestly - the flavor of the cured salmon was a little strong for my liking, even as a usual lox-lover. But I loved the fact that it was served on pumpernickel and that they weren't at all stingy with the fish!

ROASTED OLES FARM 1/2 CHICKEN 

Stewed and Crispy Chickpeas, Braised Greens, Black Olive Oil, Sliced Citrus, Harissa

Buffalo2.jpg

This was my friends dinner and of course I sampled a bite. Chicken is almost never what I order at a restaurant as I'm usually disappointed. By far my favorite chicken dish was the "Chicken Under A Brick" from Marc Forgione (you can read my review here) but Buffalo Proper's chicken was certainly tender, moist and bursting with flavor. 

PAN SEARED SEA SCALLOPS 

Roasted Oles Farm Beets, Organic Quinoa, Grapefruit, Pistachio

Buffalo Proper Review

And this, people, is why I neeeeeeded to come to Buffalo Proper. It's as if the chef (Edward Forster) reached into my brain and pulled out a dream dish. 

The sweet scallops tasted incredible in the citrusy, grapefruity sauce. What worked so well was that the sauce was exceptionally light, which was perfect for the rich scallops. And don't get me started on quinoa, beets and pistachios. They were made for each other. 

If you're a fan of scallops, do yourself a favor and get to Buffalo Proper! 

merge

439 Delaware Avenue
716-842-0600

I picked this spot because how perfect is it's mission statement? 

To make Buffalo connected musically, artistically, and sustainably through nutrition, wellness and congregation.

Their menu is farm to table and organic plus full of vegetarian and vegan friendly options. The inside is soo adorable and they always have live music and art on display. I appreciated that the wait staff didn't rush us at all as we enjoyed a long 2 and a half hour dinner (I was eating with a friend I haven't seen in WAYY too long). 

Their price fixed menu was such a great deal that we both went all-in. If you're ordering a la cart, all the prices are totally fair (if anything - they're shockingly low if you're used to Manhattan prices!)

Pro-tip: You can swap the dessert from your price-fix for an alcoholic beverage! Or, you can follow our lead and go for two glasses of wine AND dessert. 

SMOTHERED FRIES 

Home cut sweet potato fries, topped with lentils and spinach and cheese curd (or daiya) Vegan & Gluten Free

merge buffalo review

Oh baby were these good - and filling as hell with the lentils! 

MEDITERRANEAN PLATE 

Falafel, carrots, marinated olives, burnt orange sage cashew cheese, roasted garlic & baguette points

merge buffalo review

This was a HUGE portion size and we didn't come close to finishing it - but it was a nice, lighter addition to the loaded sweet potato fries. 

SHRIMP CURRY BOWL 

merge buffalo review

This was loaded with veggies and had such great flavor! It had a definite kick to it, but I was able to comfortable eat it without burning my mouth off. 

VEGAN PEANUT BUTTER CHEESECAKE 

vegan cheesecake buffalo ny

I never would have guessed this creamy, flavorful, thick cheesecake was completely vegan! I ordered it to "try" but ended up eating every last bite! 

Please note that their brunch menu also looks GREAT!

Ashker's on Elmwood 

1002 Elmwood Avenue
716-886-2233

I am 100% behind the age-old insistence that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." It not only jump starts your metabolism and fuels you through the day - but a bad breakfast can definitely set the tone for what's to come. 

If there's one thing that makes me jump for joy - it's an amazing breakfast. And aside from GOTAN (you can read my RAVE here), Ashker's is the best brunch I've had in a looong time!

Not to mention the prices made our jaws drop. Toto, I don't think we're in Manhattan anymore! 

At Ashker's you order at a counter and then the staff will deliver your food (and coffee, and smoothies) to your table. All of the juices and smoothies come in adorable mason jars and there are soo many options - plus they're cool with changes and alterations to menu items. 

Ashker's On Elmwood Buffalo Brunch

BREAKFAST SCRAMBLE ($4.99 WHAAAAT?!)

Home-fries, red peppers, onion, spinach, tomato, mushroom, cheddar cheese

My plate was overflowing with vegetables and reminded me of the amazing breakfast dishes served at Brookline Lunch in Boston. Despite the fact that I was eating a serious amount of cheddar cheese, all the fresh veggies made this feel super healthy! Plus, my friend was easily able to swap for egg-whites and to skip the cheese. 

As if the home fries, eggs and veggies weren't enough, this massive meal also came with multi grain bread toasted for perfection. Naturally, I asked for a side of jam and peanut butter. 

SIDE FRUIT SALAD 

This wasn't the best fruit salad I've ever had - and I thought it was a little odd that there were slices of banana in it. I would likely pass on this the next time around - the meals come with so much food that it's really no necessary! 

BLUSHING EMERALD FUSION SMOOTHIE 

Ashker's offers fruit smoothies, fusion smoothies (fruits & veggies) and juices. It's a little overwhelming trying to choose when so many of them sound so delicious! I opted for a fusion smoothie made with kale, beets, raspberry, pineapple and peach. It was more earthy tasting from the beets and kale than I had expected but I still really liked it! 

This smoothie easily would have cost $10 in NYC and at Ashker's it only set me back $4.59. 

Ashker's also had a number of specials on the board that morning - including some crazy sounding pancake creations! We each got a coffee as well, which was a self-serve area with almond, soy and regular milk options and a bunch of different blends. 

We all gave this place a thumbs UP UP UP. And they have multiple locations in Buffalo - highly recommend you check them out. 

Paula's Donuts

2319 Sheridan Drive Tonawanda, NY
8560 Main Street Williamsville, NY
936 Union Road West Seneca, NY

Don't ask me what I did to deserve the good fortune of a box of these bad boys showing up in our office one morning during the trip. 

I typically do a ton of research before every new city to find the best donuts in town (you can read all about those adventures here) but I didn't have a donut-destination planned for Buffalo. 

Scary to think Paula's may have passed me by! 

These doughnuts were gargantuan and all of them came STUFFED which is one of my favorite kinds of doughnut. My office was shocked as throughout the day I made my way through a taste of each of the half dozen donuts as others looked on with secondhand-sugar comas. 

That I can remember, we sampled the Key Lime Filled, Apple Filled, Peanut Butter Angel Cream Filled, Chocolate Frosted Angel Cream, and a jelly doughnut of some kind. 

Paula's Donuts Review

I will admit that I didn't love the "Angel Cream" filling. It was super light and airy but to me, it tasted like a cream frosting and a not a filling. Apparently I'm pickier than I thought - I love filled donuts, but only if the filling is a certain thickness and consistency. 

My favorite part was the chocolate glaze - it was a home run! 

Paula's was even featured on Buzzfeed's "Doughnuts To Try Before You Die!" Close call on missing out on these. 

Other Notes About Buffalo 

TRANSPORTATION

There is no Uber in Buffalo and there are a limited number of cabs. We had to wait up to 20 minutes to get a cab on various occasions. That being said - all of the taxi drivers were super friendly and each cab ride was almost like a mini tour of the city - complete with history and fun facts. 

PEARL STREET GRILL & BREWERY

We ate dinner here one night and though the cuisine (bar food) wasn't my favorite, and my meal (the mahi mahi) was dry - the beers were solid and the space was absolutely gorgeous. We were able to sit outside on their expansive deck and watch the sunset. 

Pearl Street Brewery

716 FOOD & SPORT

My dad knows a good bar when he sees one, and he was extremely disappointed that I never made it for a beer at 716. 

SOHO BURGER BAR

The name may not invoke images of a happening rooftop bar/club - but I promise you that it is! 

See ya again someday, Buffalo!

Buffalo NY Sunset

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Gotan Gives Life to Midtown Lunch Scene

Sunlight flows through the skylight, illuminating exposed brick and greenery. I need to pinch myself when I remember I’m still on 46th Street in Midtown Manhattan. A mere .1 miles from my office building. 528 feet from my glum desk and cubicle, I’ve found a unicorn – a healthy, relaxing, delicious coffee shop with reasonable prices. A respite from Chick-Fil-A, Pret a Manger and Europa Café.

I stopped one afternoon and as I peered into this West-village-esque coffee shop, I was waved in by a friendly employee and welcomed to look at the menu. I took a copy, took a business card, and told them I would love to write about them on my blog. A few days later, I found myself shaking hands with Avi Camchi and Arnon Magal, the two Israeli’s behind Gotan.

Gotan NYC

The first stop was the barista’s bar. While the food at Gotan is something special – the coffee is the focus. Gotan is a coffee shop first and foremost, with an emphasis on coffee culture. Baristas wear bow ties and most of them are notably handsome. I’m not a coffee snob by any means – but after spending 10 minutes with Chris as he prepared me my first pour-over, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the process and the passion behind it. Chris was a full-time chef who made the decision to become a barista. He tells me tons of interesting information and I smile and nod, trying not to betray the fact that I typically order a $1 McCafe in the morning. Chris’s favorite is drip coffee or a cortado.

Gotan serves Counter Culture coffee from a bar that is visually pleasing, allowing customers to watch the entire process. My mind is blown by the exactness necessary to brew the perfect pour-over. Both water and coffee grounds are measured in grams – 24 grams of ground to 360 grams of water according to Chris. The temperature is also closely monitored for optimal brewing, though a pour-over can be tasted best after it has cooled down a bit. The problem with your coffee pot at home is that when you turn it on, it isn’t hot enough to fully extract the coffee.

When I finally taste it, it’s without cream or sugar but full of bold flavor. Notes of chocolate and cherry come through and the caffeine hit is certainly more noticeable than what I’m used to. $4-$5 for a cup of joe suddenly seems much more reasonable afterwards. And as co-owner Arnon explains – paying for a pour-over is paying for more than a cup of coffee.  You’re getting 6-7 minutes of valuable time with the barista during which dialogue, an important aspect of the coffee culture Gotan is trying to promote, takes place.

If you’re a fan of coffee shops that also serve fabulous food – you’ve probably heard of Little Collins Cafe, the Australian coffee-shop that kick-started the Aussie-coffee movement in NYC three years ago. I was delighted to learn that Little Collins was Arnon’s first venture out of real-estate and into hospitality and restaurants. He worked managing the kitchen, but was blown away by the “coffee culture” that he discovered there.

Soon, he was looking for a new space that would serve as an inspiration for his next project. He found that space in Tribeca, and opened the first Gotan. Arnon explained that as soon as he opens one place, he’s already looking for the next. The new location on 46th Street, across from SWERVE’s recently-opened midtown location, is in a building erected in 1938.

Just 40 days ago, Gotan was undergoing intense renovations when they discovered the skylight that now serves as a visual highlight of the space. A layer of bricks in the dining area were brought over from Calabria by a man who works with bricks “like a baker works with dough.”

Gotan NYC

While the space is visually stunning – it has some competition from the dishes flying out of the kitchen. Each day, the bar serves around 1,500 cups of coffee while the kitchen serves around 1,000 plates. With complex dishes requiring upwards of 15 ingredients – it’s no small feat.

These stats make the Instagram-worthy nature of each and every dish even more impressive. The natural lighting seals the deal – this is every #foodie’s dream come true (and every #instagramhusband’s  worst nightmare).

I had the pleasure of sampling 4 dishes at Gotan, and two the next day when I returned with friends for lunch. You could honestly order me any item on the menu and I’d be 100% happy.

Fattoush

gotan midtown coffee

Feta, cucumbers, tomatoes, radish, carrots, red peppers, mint, parsley, pine nuts, pepperoncini, lemon herb vinaigrette, pita

Sharing each dish with general manager Avi and co-owner Arnon was such a unique experience because I got to see first-hand how much tweaking and conversation goes into the taste and presentation of each dish. While eating this traditional Israeli salad, they discussed how the ingredients should be diced and sliced and how large the pieces of parsley should be.  

The ingredients were fresh and colorful and the overall taste was refreshing and full.

Daily Breakfast

gotan nyc coffee

Two sunny-side eggs served over sautéed kale, sweet potatoes, chorizo and cauliflower puree with multigrain toast

This was the standout for me. While Arnon explained that not all of their ingredients are organic or locally sourced – they pay special attention to their eggs – which are all organic. These were cooked perfectly, and the yolk oozed satisfyingly over the vegetables beneath them.

It’s a shame that their Daily Breakfast is a special which changes every week – because this was incredible! The details – like black sesame seeds atop the cauliflower puree, add an incredible depth to the dish visually and texturally.

Tuna Avocado

gotan nyc tuna salad

Tuna salad, avocado, frisee, tomato, crostini, parsley pest

It’s hard to pick out my favorite part of this dish – aside from how gorgeous it is. I love the use of frisee (although I don’t recommend it on a date – I felt like a slob eating it), of course I love avocado, and the addition of craisins to the tuna salad was superb. And parsley pesto? Wow.

Avi cautiously took his first bite of their most popular dish – explaining that there are two things he typically won’t eat – mashed potatoes and tuna. It’s a texture thing. (His favorites at GOTAN are the acai and chia bowls).

Brooklyn Cured Ham

gotan nyc cafe

Ham, swiss, cornichons, mayonnaise, mustard

Though I wouldn’t typically go for a ham sandwich, it’s Arnon’s favorite – and understandably so. The French bakery bread is the perfect consistency – crispy without being impossible to bite into. The ham is from a Polish mom and pop butcher shop in Brooklyn and the cheese is from the Chef’s Collective.

My favorite part was the cornichons!

PBJ

gotan PBJ

Peanut butter, house made jam, banana dust, multi grain toast

Wow. When this dish came out, I’m pretty sure I momentarily morphed into the heart-eyed-emoji.  

Thick, perfectly toasted multi grain bread topped with mounds of peanut butter and bright dollops of sweet, sweet, homemade fruit jam. Sprinkled lovingly with coconut flakes.

What a time to be alive.

I asked Arnon his favorite way to eat peanut butter and found out that in Israel, they never mix savory and sweet flavors.

“American cuisine is the first cuisine I encountered that mixes sweet and savory in a very brutal way, really. Now, there are aspects of the American cuisine that I don’t appreciate and there are aspects that I respect very much. One thing that I really respect is American breakfast. It’s very comforting. It’s not good for you in a way but you still feel good after eating it which is nice. So I do love peanut butter and jelly, but it took me years to appreciate it. It’s like growing up on parsley and then one day switching to cilantro,” Arnon explained.

Avocado Feta Toast

gotan nyc avocado toast

Cherry tomato, mint, sunflower seeds, chili flakes, multi grain bread

You first eat with your eyes – and this dish is a stunner. Served with a big old steak-knife, you know it’s time to get down and dirty with this overflowing ‘cado toast.

Get it with an egg, bacon bits, or both to bring it to the next level!

I always say that a restaurant that does vegetables right is a great restaurant. Gotan respects veggies. Though their menu features vegetarian and carnivorous options, fresh vegetables are definitely the stars.

I asked Arnon how they developed the menu (did they break into my dreams and know exactly what I wanted?) and got much more than an answer about food. I learned about his past, his relationship with food and dining out, and a glimpse into the genius behind his model of coffee-shop.

Arnon grew up with a German mother and Russian-Romanian father in the middle of Israel.

“The table itself was an important event. The family sat around the table. Your mother cooked for you. If there was one thing I would take to fix this horrible world of ours it’s that mother’s would cook for their children. And have this family dialogue.”

Going out to a restaurant, regardless of one’s financial situation, was a form of celebration and saved for one or two times in the course of a year.

“Me and my brother – it was our favorite thing, going out, and we went to French restaurants. And they were very very good, there were French Jews who immigrated and it was the real deal.  I don’t remember a greater pleasure from my childhood and I think that affected me and touched me in a way,” said Arnon.

In those days, breakfast was chopped salad, light bread and eggs. Dinner was the same as breakfast and lunch was the heavier meal.

After moving to the United States in 1999 and working in real estate, Arnon started to notice a trend – this style of eating was taking hold in America. Gotan serves breakfast all day for this reason.

“It makes a lot of sense to have your meal towards the middle of the day and something very light towards the evening,” said Arnon.

He also noticed something else that has been a huge cause for the success of places like Little Collins and Gotan, “an immigration of budget if you will,” he says.

“New Yorkers are very funny. They would spend $4 on a nasty breakfast like watery coffee and a dry bagel and then they would drop $100 on dinner and they wouldn’t say a word for a bartender charging you $18 for a cocktail. And now, treating yourself to breakfast for around $20, deducted from your dinner budget, is something that we see that is happening more and more.”

Lucky for Arnon, he was able to convince some serious chefs and restaurateurs to buy-into this concept.

Previously, Avi worked in hospitality for 25 years – owning and managing Thalia for 17 years along with artisanal pizza spot Annabel.

“You have a really serious restaurateur doing a coffee shop. It attracts very serious people from the industry and I think there are going to be some really exciting establishments coming.”

Coffee, food, and atmosphere are all spot on at Gotan but the most impressive part of the operation is the hospitality behind every cup of coffee.

“We try to be a very accessible and approachable business – we are truly nice to everybody.”

During my time at Gotan, multiple patrons came up to personally thank Arnon and Avi – something that you don’t see every day in Manhattan.

As I left, I found myself thinking less about the amazing flavors that had just had a field day on my taste buds and more about the powerful concepts of family, childhood memories and space and how they play such an important role in our culinary experiences.

I know you’ll have an incredible meal at Gotan. I know you’ll be buzzing after your caffeine fix. But I challenge you to stop by and have a meaningful moment here – embrace their hospitality, engage in dialogue. Then take your kick-ass #insta

gotan nyc

While at Gotan, I noticed they had a killer playlist going on. So naturally, I recreated it for you to enjoy.

Want to learn more about the 'coffee culture' and Australian coffee-shop trend in NYC? Check-out these really interesting articles:

YOUR TURN:
HAVE YOU TRIED TO GET INTO THE 'COFFEE CULTURE'?
DO YOU KNOW OF A RESTAURANT WITH A MENU THAT JUST 'GETS YOU'?
WHATS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY ABOUT FOOD?

 

Iron Chef Forgione Welds Familiarity and Originality

To step into Iron Chef Marc Forgione’s namesake restaurant is to be immediately transported out of Tribeca and into a space reminiscent of a twenty-something’s Pinterest page, where rustic barn weddings are all the rage. A dining room as open as Marc Forgione’s is rare in a town where diners are forced to convince themselves that crammed is “quaint.” The spaciousness suggests that your bill will be helping pay the rent, but it’s worth it for the rustic-chic accents and possibility of brushing shoulders with a Tribeca denizen like Beyoncé or Taylor Swift. What also makes a trip to Marc Forgione’s worth the extra dough? Refined dishes with complex flavors and service that make you feel like a somebody, even if you’re not quite sure what to do when they present you with a finger bowl.

First to be brought to the table were a pair of perfectly puffed potato rolls, butter-glazed and gleaming with a sprinkle of black sea salt on top. They’re best when cut open and smeared generously with the whipped chive butter.

Complimentary bite-sized samples were small in size but big on flavor. Smoked halibut’s bold taste was toned-down nicely when sandwiched between two crisp slices of cucumber and warm everything bagel balls filled with vegetable cream cheese were topped with the perfect pop of salt and onion.

Despite possessing what I consider a sufficiently sophisticated palette, I have yet to reconcile my taste buds with truffles. It was refreshing to see an upscale restaurant with a menu almost entirely void of these trendy fungi. Forgione doesn’t lean on this over-used ingredient to create enticing dishes full of flavor. Instead, he relies on his training in American, French, and Asian cuisines to craft an inspired 

menu made up of basic but expertly employed ingredients.

The Chili Lobster starter is fashioned after an Asian crab dish which Forgione takes to the next 

level. Sweet lobster knuckles and a rich creamy claw sit atop a spicy chili broth with hints of both 

Sriracha and soy.

You’re left wishing there was more lobster to bathe in the broth, but luckily the thick slabs of Texas 

Toast are a perfect vehicle for sopping up the remaining soup.

A cornerstone entrée at Marc Forgione is the made-for-two Chicken Under a Brick. The whole Bell and Evan’s chicken is served deboned in a skillet sizzling with pan drippings and demanding to be Instagrammed.

The chicken is moist with sufficiently crunchy skin and accompanied by Yukon potatoes cooked to crispy perfection. The spuds soak in savory pan drippings that are flavored with capers, butter, thyme and rosemary. The greasy goodness is healthified with some greens –broccoli rabe with a bitterness that’s nicely undercut by the surrounding flavors. Last but not least are the fried onions which add the extra oomph.

There’s something on the menu to appeal to every person in your party but limited enough to ensure it’s perfected. Starters range from Kampachi Tartare to Parmigiano Reggiano Agnolotti while entrees run the gamut from scallops with bone marrow croutons to a well-touted T-bone.

Surrounded by exposed brick and well-worn décor, a meal at Marc Forgione feels special yet comfortable and encourages one to stay for a few extra minutes, finishing a cocktail and being treated to next-level services like a coat check for your leftovers. That’s right, when you’re here, you’re too special to have your table cluttered by a take away bag.

Marc Forgione

is located at 134 Duane Street and serves dinner from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday– Saturday with brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. followed by supper from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 212-941-9401.

Restaurant Review: Libertador

For months, Peter and I have passed Libertador in Yorkville and thought that it looked super cute. It's always full of people, and has a really nice outdoor seating area with a spacious dining room and bar. 

On Sunday, when my parents came in for a quick day visit, we stopped by for brunch. Despite an iffy forecast, it had turned out to be a wonderful morning to spectate at the Fifth Avenue Mile and remained nice for brunch al fresco. 

Libertador is an Argentinian restaurant - but don't let the ~ethnic~ name scare you off! There's something for everyone on this menu. 

We started by sampling four different empanadas, one of my mom's favorite things! None of us were very impressed with the beef saltena empanada, but the ham and cheese, chicken and potatoes and black bean and mozzarella ones were delicious! I liked that they weren't just giant fried blobs. The casing was doughy with a crunch - and they didn't skimp on the fillings. 




I went the brunch route, ordering poached eggs over asparagus with hollandaise sauce and a side salad (instead of the fingerling potatoes that it usually comes served with). Not anything life changing, but solidly tasty. 


(Simple yet satisfying) 

My mom ordered a salad - which they offer many varieties of. You can add steak, chicken or tuna to any of the salads, which is definitely what I would do if we go back for lunch or dinner one day. 

Mom's salad was the Mozzarella and Avocado Salad with tomatoes, black olives, and grain mustard in white vinegar olive oil as the dressing.  




My Dad ordered meatballs (see, I told you they have everything) and Peter got a prosciutto and mozzarella omelet that was BURSTING with meat and cheese. 

I'd also like to give a shout out to Libertador's cocktail menu - I ordered a drink that was St. Germaine, White Wine, fresh mint, and a bunch of fruit. It was super refreshing! 

If you're a Brooklynite, Libertador has another location in your borough

Though not particularly inspiring, Libertador was a solid choice for brunch, and may be worth a return visit to check out their lunch and dinner entrees - if only for the nice atmosphere!

After our meal we walked off the full-ness through a street fair on 3rd Avenue! I'm going to miss these summer weekends with good weather and fresh air :( 


(Thanks for checking out the hood with me Mom and Dad! And I promise you'll get to go to Heidelberg some day dad - in the winter!)

Restaurant Review: Two Hands

Last weekend, I convinced Peter to journey to Little Italy to get breakfast (ok, it ended up being lunch) at one of the places on my bucket list. 

Sure, I could have gotten an acai bowl at Juice Generation on the Upper East Side - but traveling to different neighborhoods in search of new food is fun to me. Plus, we ended up finding ourselves in the middle of the San Gennaro festival, which was fun to wander through for a little while. 

(Obviously needed a picture with this awesome street art that we passed!)

Our destination was an Australian Cafe called Two Hands, located on Mott Street. Two Hands is my favorite type of place. Small, healthy, with a great atmosphere and attention to presentation. These people know how to plate a meal to make it Instagram worthy! And like many places on my bucket list, I discovered it through Instagram. Mouthwatering pictures of fresh fruit, perfectly captured yolk porn and carefully crafted cappuccinos are what convinced me that I needed to make a visit. 

(So damn trendy. Look at all the basic b's brunchin')

Unfortunately, though expected, there was a solid 40 minute wait for a table. We opted to place our order at the To Go window. 

The salads on the menu made a really strong case for straying from my original craving for an acai bowl, but in the end, I stuck with my gut. Their acai mix includes blueberries and bananas with cocoa and acai powder and almond milk. It was topped with all the yummy goodness you could ask for - granola, hemp seeds, chia seeds, coconut, cacao nibs, blueberries and raspberries. I also tasted some dates in there! 

The wait wasn't long at all, and soon enough my to-go cup was placed on the counter. Everything was super flavorful, and I was able to taste each other the ingredients. 



Peter ordered a slice of the banana bread topped with fresh ricotta (so creamy) and honey. 

(I didn't get a picture of Peter's banana bread - so here's another picture of my acai bowl!) 

The menu is jam packed with options - and I'm pretty sure I would like every single one of them! From Avocado Toast to smoothies and corn fritters. Depending on the season, the salads and soups change to include the freshest ingredients. 

"Good Food by Good Dudes" is the restaurant's motto. I love looking at the menu and seeing so many nutritious, fresh meal options! 

Where did the name come from? They explained in an interview with Eat Boutique that: 
The name was originally inspired by Heath Ledger’s first film by the same name. The initial appeal came from both the film and Heath being Australian, without it being too obvious. Heath was inspirational to both of us, in his acting career and in his vision to open Five Leaves in Brooklyn, which we both love so much. But even beyond that, we felt that it had so many meanings; you use your two hands to create things, and that’s what we did with the cafe. It also represents the handshake that started this business and the many high fives we’ve given each other during this crazy process.
More and more Australian Cafes are popping up around NYC, and if you don't believe me you can read this New York Times article about it! Bluestone Lane, Little Collins (highly recommend!), Brunswick and Toby's Estate just to name a few! 


(My sister and I ate at Little Collins last year and absolutely loved it. In this pictures is the Avocado Smash (avocado and FETA smash on toast with chili flakes and pepitas!) and the Big Dill (cured salmon, scrambled eggs, dill, mascrpone and chives)

Two Hands features a tribute to it's owners' homeland with the Outback Cap - a cappuccino with cocoa powder dusted espresso served with chocolate-covered Tim Tam Cookies!

So basically, I would recommend Two Hands for breakfast, brunch, lunch OR dinner if you're looking for a ton of healthy options and you're okay with getting it to go (though later in the day the wait may not be as long!) It's not necessarily worth the 40 minute trip from the Upper East Side, but if I ever find myself in the area again, I would certainly stop by to try something else from the extensive menu. 

Review: Blue Apron!

For WEEKS I have been trying to successfully receive my free trial box of Blue Apron Delivery (thanks, Tina!) 

The first two times my delivery was supposed to come, it never showed up! I was convinced it was stolen from the lobby of my building. 

Luckily, both times, Blue Apron Customer Service was phenomenal - putting a new credit on my account so I could try again. 

Well it turns out I had the wrong address inputted into my account settings, and someone at that address received two complimentary Blue Apron deliveries. Oops! 

But before I figured that out, I had changed my address to have the third box delivered to me at my office. It arrived, and it was embarrassing. A giant box with giant ice packs filled with food that I had to take out and refrigerate in the tiny little pantry refrigerator. I then transported all the ingredients back home over the course of two days. 

So - the moral of the story is this:
1) Make sure you have the right address in your account. Duh, Lauren.
2) Blue Apron Customer Service is wonderful
3) Probably best to have the delivery sent straight to your apartment 


I was amazed at how well organized and labeled the shipment was. There's really no way to mess this up. 

(Everything in its own little package with labels!)

The first night I got home and realized I had failed to bring ANY of the tomatoes home with me (the featured ingredient in all three recipes). 

Luckily, they weren't really necessary for two of the recipes, so I powered through without them. 

First up were the Thai Chicken Burgers with Hoisin Mayo & Roasted Potato Wedges. 

Each meal comes with a recipe card with a lovely description of the meal, a list of the ingredients (and calories per serving), and step by step directions (with pictures!) 




Of the three meals, Peter and I liked this one the best. The hoisin mayo was tasty and there was a lot of flavor to the burger. Looking back, I probably would have made three patties with the meat instead of 2 - the burgers were huge! 


(Thickest burgers ever!)

That night, I also whipped up the Crispy Catfish & Freekah with Corn-Cherry Tomato Saute and Marjoram so that Peter and I would have meals ready to go on Wednesday night - he was heading home to Long Island to feed his kitty and I had work at the running store. 


(Just an excuse for Leo to make an appearance on the blog)

While making crispy catfish sounded intimidating, it was surprisingly easy! They forgot to send me the recipe card for this - but all of Blue Apron's recipes are online as well so I just looked it up there. 

My Corn-Cherry Tomato Saute was just corn saute, and I discovered that I DETEST the taste of marjoram. You know how some people CAN'T eat cilantro? I was immediately repulsed by the taste of marjoram and had to pick every piece out of my Tupperware. 



Other than that, it wasn't the best meal ever, but it was definitely better than a pita, hummus and an egg which is probably what I would have thrown together otherwise. 

The last meal included in this delivery was Seared Steaks with Romesco Sauce and Roasted Potatoes. Peter helped me with this one - we discovered that finely chopping roasted veggies into a sauce consistency is very time consuming and that leaving it chunky tastes just the same ;) 




Another cool feature is that people comment on all the recipes with tips - and after perusing them, I noticed a lot of people saying to go light on the sherry vinegar, which I did. 




This was my first time cooking steak - it was definitely a little tough but I'm not sure if that was just the pieces of meat they gave us, or my lack of skill. 

Again - my mind wasn't blown away by the taste, but I definitely enjoyed it! 


(My favorite part were the crushed pistachios on top! My not favorite part was attempting to chop the pistachios without them shooting off the cutting board and all over the kitchen. Proper nut crushing technique - help?)

Final thoughts: 

-I'm not going to tell you to milk the system, but...when I signed up, I was given three codes to give friends free meals - you can definitely use another email address to make a new account and I plan on sending one to Peter so we can use them. 

HOWEVER - you need to stay on top of this. Once you make an account, Blue Apron automatically schedules deliveries. You  need to actively go on and skip deliveries in order to avoid charges. 

Each delivery of 3 meals (with 2 servings per meal) is $60. When you think about it, that's $10 per meal, which really isn't awful! 

-I originally thought I would use Blue Apron during busy weeks when I didn't feel like thinking of dinners. But after trying it - I would definitely not suggest Blue Apron on a busy week. It's time consuming to cook all of the meals! Not overwhelming, but definitely more enjoyable if you don't have to rush around. That's how I did it, and I made a complete mess of my kitchen (not to mention a LOT of dirty dishes to clean). 

-I love knowing exactly what I'm putting into my dinner. And not going to lie, knowing the calories is a good thing too. It helped me decide if I really needed to eat alllll the potato wedges. All the fresh, real ingredients are the way I like to eat. 

Plus, there's no doubt it makes you feel like you have your shit together when you sit down to eat a meal that you cooked that has fancy names like "Steak Romesco." 

"NBD, whipped up some Crispy Catfish and Freekah for dinner." "My laundry is overflowing and I desperately need to clean my room, but my Thai Chicken Burgers were really bangin'."

-Make sure you have olive oil! It's the one thing included in the recipes that Blue Apron doesn't provide you with. 

-I've heard that if you select the vegetarian option, you end up getting a lot of pasta based dishes. 

-I love that you can look at the weeks ahead and see what the three meals are before deciding if you want them delivered or not!

I know there are a ton of other services like this out there - I'm curious, has anyone tried some of them other than Blue Apron? What did you think? 

Happy cooking!