I recently went on a cool roadtrip with some friends over to Teterboro, NJ to go on a private Factory Tour and Tasting event at Sun Noodle’s Ramen Lab, led by Kenshiro Uki and George Kao, owners and managers of the 6,000 square foot ramen noodle factory. I met Kenshiro and team at the NY International Foodservice and Restaurant Show a few weeks ago in the Japan Pavillion and was impressed by their authentic ramen noodles and how they pair them with specific broths and toppings to create Ramen dishes from varying areas of Japan. I found out about their tasting tours from a friend who urged me to go and sample some of these amazing noodles, which have been the leading Ramen maker in Hawaii since 1981 and more recently in LA. Owner Mr. Uki and Chef Nakamura decided to open the Ramen Lab not only to produce their unique and amazing noodles, but also to educate the public and Ramen-obsessed Chefs and foodies on the process of how it’s really done in Japan.
Upon arrival, we were given crazy hair caps and Mr. Kao took us behind the scenes for a private tour of the factory to see the machinery and ingredients that they use to make all the different varieties of their ramen noodles.
We then headed up front to a 6-person tasting bar where Executive Chef Nakamura dazzled us with his authentic Japanese cooking techniques as he prepared the five different Ramen dishes for us.
Our first bowl was a ramen soup that is popular in Tokyo, with thin, yellow noodles in a chicken broth base made with soy sauce topped with seaweed, green onions, bamboo shoots and colorful fish cakes.
The second bowl was Kyushu-style in a creamy white broth, made from slow-cooked pork served over thin, straight white noodles. The Chef added the noodles dramatically to our bowls and then garnished them with roasted garlic oil, sliced pork, mushrooms and scallions.
Our third bowl of Ramen was a Sapporo-style dish made with wavy yellow noodles topped with wok-cooked ingredients, including miso, vegetables and ground pork. The fresh hot corn was topped with a pat of creamy sweet butter and the ingredients were all nestled in a gorgeous spicy miso-based broth – this was definitely my favorite of all of them!
Our fourth bowl was Mazemen, which consisted of fat, round noodles served in chicken fat topped with a dark savory sauce, topped with a soft-boiled egg, sautéed mushrooms and fried crispy bits to give it a nice crunch.
Last but not least was a bowl of Tsukemen, which had chewy, wavy noodles that we dipped in a savory, brown broth with fish flavors, spices and green onion slivers.
The coolest part of all was just sampling all the different textures and flavor combinations which are meticulously planned and prepared and served with style. They encouraged us all to eat the Ramen quickly and not be afraid to slurp or be a bit messy, as that is the way the locals eat them on the streets of Japan.
Check out Ramen Lab online and book your own tasting tour for only $40-60. Sun Noodle doesn’t sell their Ramen to the public (primarily only to Chefs and top Japanese restaurants such as Momofuko and Chuko in NYC), but if you want to buy some of their packaged fresh or dried Ramen you can find them at a Japanese mega market in NJ called Mitsuwa Marketplace (among other fun and authentic Japanese items and produce!)
Sun Noodle Ramen Lab
375 N St
Teeterboro, NJ 07608 | (201) 530-1100
The Crosby Hotel Bar is a fun, trendy place in SoHo I have passed by several times but finally took some friends to on a Sunday afternoon recently. With it’s sun-drenched lounge, modern decor and lighting and a buzzy atmosphere this is a perfect spot for a weekend cocktail and brunch. The menu has a great variety of small plates such as Pulled Pork and Beef Sliders, a Smoked Mozzarella, Bacon and Ricotta Flatbread with Caramelized Onions (see photo above!), Leek Potstickers, and Lamb Kofta Kabobs plus a whole slew of other tasty treats to pair with a nice glass of wine. They also offer entrees of fish, short ribs, burgers, steaks, sandwiches, risotto and plenty of gorgeous veggies sides to accompany. The atmosphere is relaxed and fun – you can sit at the bar or at one of the cozy lounge couches in the atrium and also enjoy breakfast, brunch and one of their signature cocktails with friends. The hotel also serves an English Afternoon Tea in The Crosby Bar all day. It includes a variety of teas served in the traditional style with delicious cakes, scones, tarts and sandwiches. Champagne is a glamorous addition and residents can also take their tea in the drawing room. Don’t miss it.
I don’t know about you but I absolutely LOVE homemade fresh pasta over store-bought fresh or dried pasta any day of the week. But, if you have ever made it before you know that it’s a total labor of love mixing and kneading the dough, and flattening it through a hand crank machine or cutting into those gorgeous shapes by hand. There’s a great new machine called the Viante Pasta Maker that makes all of this so easy to do it’s almost crazy to not get it. With a powerful mixing motor and 10 interchangeable cutting discs you can make restaurant-quality vermicelli, ziti, tagliatelle, fettuccini, spaghetti, rigatoni, pappardelle, linguini, and biscotti in minutes. Just pull the slider to extrude dough into your desired shape. No more hand cranks or crazy kneading and cutting by hand – for only a buck and a half (about $150) – this makes anyone’s pasta obsession so much more fun, and gives you more time to be creative with all the toppings and sauces. Love it.
I stumbled upon this place one night while I was walking home and was immediately drawn in by its stunning artwork, interior design and sparkling chandeliers when you walk in the door. Originating in Brooklyn, Forcella is know for its Neapolitan-style pizza made in their wood burning ovens that reaches over 1000 degrees, cooking the pizza in 90 seconds flat. They claim to have a secret recipe for the dough, that makes it perfectly chewy and crispy with all those gorgeous browned puffy bits on top.
I sampled the four-cheese Arancini rice balls and the Truffle Parmesan Fries with Aioli for a starters while sipping a lovely Aperol Spritz at the bar. They have a great happy hour too – 2 for 1 drinks and reasonable small plates such as Prosciutto and Cheese, Fried Calamari and Grilled Octopus. For lighter fare, you can try one of their salads or a sampling of fresh handmade mozzarella and burrata.
Their Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzas, created by their certified pizza master, Guilio Adriani, come in about 20 different varieties (or you can create your own). They also have a nice selection of entrees such as Risotto, Ravioli and Pasta, Grilled Lamb Chops or Pan-Seared Jumbo Shrimp wrapped in Bacon in a Brandy Cream Sauce (which I have yet to try but it sounds divine!)
Visit their two additional locations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn or the Bowery – all are open 7 days a week – until 11 pm Sunday through Thursday, and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Definitely worth a visit (if just to watch them make their fabulous pizzas in one minute!)
377 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016
I found these awesome, colorful illustrated Bon Appetit foodie totes online at A-Thread and fell in love with them at first sight. I might just have to get one of each! Designed by the team from TheyDrawandCook.com, the Bon Appetit Tote comes in four designs – each a gorgeous, one of a kind TDAC illustrated recipe. Choose from Butter Beans, Chocolate Apricots, Hot Toddy, and Pretty Parsnip.
The tote is made from 12 oz natural cotton canvas and features a slip pocket in the side gusset – the perfect place for sunglasses, wallet, or a bottle of wine. The bag measures 10″w x 14″h x 5″d, and the handles are 24″ long and 1″ wide. The best part is that with each purchase of this tote, a donation will be made to the World Food Program USA and will feed 5 children!
There’s something about homemade Strawberry Jam that takes me back to my childhood when my Mom would pick fresh berries from her summer garden and make big batches of this sweet lovely jam for us. I haven’t experimented with canning yet but have been dying to make my own homemade concoctions – but in a tiny NY apartment i just haven’t found the space to store all the canning equipment and jars to do so. Ball now has a cool automatic jam and jelly maker that makes the process of making jellies and jams easy with a machine that does all the work for you.
The FreshTECH™ Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker with SmartStir™ Technology brings ease and convenience to homemade jams and jellies. The jam maker stirs the ingredients while it cooks so you don’t have to! Use your favorite fruits, fruit juices and even peppers to create delicious, natural jams and jellies in under 30 minutes. It is the perfect tool for both new and experienced canners, and a great way to incorporate fresh ingredients for healthier eating. The pot has a nonstick interior, making for easy clean up between batches. The pot, glass lid and stirring paddle are dishwasher safe. Can’t wait to get my hands on this fun tool so I can recreate Mom’s Strawberry Homemade jam in a flash!
Check out the video showing how cool and fun this machine is!
Get it online at Amazon.com. Photo credit: Ball USA.
7. Elephant Ceramics by Michele Michael
I can’t remember exactly where i first discovered Elephant Ceramics, but I fell in love with this gorgeous work the second I saw it – thinking these pieces of art would be perfect for my food styling and photography props. I have always loved ceramics and actually took a class once to make some of my own – I love their rustic and artistic nature, and imperfect organic shapes and textures. Michele Michael is the creator of this beautiful line of ceramics, from her studio on the coast of Maine. – The calm and cool white, blue and green palettes and rustic textures of her pieces emulate rugged, coastal scenery which seems to be an obvious source of inspiration for her gorgeous handmade creations. Can’t wait to get my hands on some of these beauties and I’m sure you will too once you see them.
This is a new fun Mexican joint that just opened in Murray Hill – created by The Spotted Pig and The Breslin team. Located inside the cool POD39 Hotel, it has a snazzy bar in front that opens into a huge recreational room in back, complete with lounge couches and tables, a second bar, fireplace, and two ping pong tables. The atmosphere is buzzing with after work crowds and is perfect for happy hour if you just want to grab a few margaritas and some authentic Mexican bar snacks. They offer amazing small tacos (2 per plate) ranging from $3 to $6 (steak, pork, chicken, cauliflower curry and Korean BBQ) and have great homemade guacamole and tortilla chips, crispy pig ears, quesadillas, beef chili, beer-braised short ribs, Morrocan Lamb on Naan and more. Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner – you can get your Mexican fix any time you like in this delicious fun and trendy casual spot.
EAT Boutique is the brain-child of Maggie Battista, a dynamic food blogger and business woman I have met a few times through IACP and the Cookbook Conference in NYC. Her site is full of gorgeous photos, fun stories, and best of all – create-your-own gift boxes full of awesome foodie items and small batch foods by boutique food makers. EAT Boutique’s team curates seasonal and regional homespun gift and tasting boxes as gifts for food fans, and also sell their cool discoveries individually for the home cook. They have also recently started hosting intimate tasting events and convivial local pop up markets for their favorite food makers, cookbook authors and small batch food fans in different cities. You’ll find goodies such as a delightful box of macarons, exotic sea salts, handmade ceramics and kitchenwares, gourmet syrups and ice creams, vinegars, sauces, coffee and teas or local made wine, and I guarantee you’ll find something you love on this site!
So who DOESN’T like an awesome rockin’ outta this world Mac and Cheese? I usually make my own but when I’ve got the craving for that ooey gooey cheesey bowl of sin and don’t feel like cooking I always order online or make a visit to S’Mac in Murray Hill or the East Village in NYC. First off, they have about 11 different flavors and varieties. Secondly, you can order four different sizes depending on how hungry you are (Nosh, Major Munch, Mongo or Partay!). Last but not least, they are all made to order with awesome ingredients and baked to a crunchy, gooey existence served in a cast iron pan giving it that brown crispy crust with a melted world of yum on the inside. Choose from Classic Four Cheese, Cheeseburger, Alpine (Gruyere and Bacon!), Napoleanata (Mozzarella with roasted tomatoes, garlic and basil – yum!), Parissiene (Brie, roasted figs and Shitake mushrooms and fresh rosemary), Indian Masala, Buffalo Chicken, or you can create your own fantastic flavor combination with whatever meats, cheeses and veggies you want. Choose from traditional elbows or whole-wheat pasta and add a topping of buttery, crunchy breadcrumbs to make it even more sinful. Once you taste this You can also get your lip smacking goodness, you’ll never open a box of that yellow-powdered cheese stuff again.
I stumbled upon this handmade cheese-making mecca a few weeks ago while on a stroll to the Union Square Farmer’s Market in the Flatiron District in NYC and was blown away by the impressive facility and store/restaurant as soon as I walked in. Founded by Seattle cheese makerKurt Beecher Dammeier, Beecher’s offers customers a full range of handmade cheeses and gourmet artisan foods and wines with a cafe, coffee bar and store. There’s a huge window as soon as you walk in where you can watch the cheese makers, well, making fresh cheese in their in-house facility all day long. You can also visit their cellar and taste a glass of wine and check out their “cheese cave” where rows upon rows of cheeses are being aged to perfection. They also have three cookbooks with their signature recipes, and are famous for their “World’s Best” Macaroni and Cheese recipe which is in the book and you can also purchase pre-made in their shop or cafe. The retail store offers a bountiful, well-curated selection of the “best of” American artisan cheeses and charcuterie. While visiting, they’ll introduce you not only to their favorite cheeses and meats but also to the talented producers they know and love. You’ll also be provided with fantastic accompaniments- antipasti, crackers, honey, pickles, etc- for your carefully chosen cheeses and meats, all true to their mission of natural, additive-free foods.
I can’t believe I’ve lived in NYC for 7 years and haven’t been to this amazing place until last weekend when I stopped in for brunch. Veselka is a hopping little place in the East Village that specializes in Ukrainian foods and I had to stop in to sample their potato pancakes. Coming from a German-Polish family, my Mom used to make the best potato pancakes served with apple sauce and sour cream so of course I had to size these babies up to see if they compared, and I have to say they did. I had the brunch with a cheese omelette, a piece of their fresh made Kielbasa, rye toast and of course the pancakes. Bummer I forgot to order some of their famous Pierogies, Stuffed Cabbage and Beef Stroganoff – more family favorites I grew up eating..oh well, maybe next time! I’ll definitely be back for another foodie excursion to this yummy place. In fact, I just may grab a copy of the Veselka Cookbook to make some of these noms at home!
Veselka Restaurant was started in 1954 by Wolodymyr Darmochwal who had recently emigrated from the Ivano-Frankovsk region of Ukraine. In the early days Veselka was a humble neighborhood candy store and newsstand that had a small counter and a few tables where a small selection of Ukrainian dishes were served. The popularity of these homemade dishes helped Veselka to grow over the years and become a full fledged restaurant serving a large variety of homemade Ukrainian and American dishes. Some of their signature dishes include: Cabbage Soup, Pierogies, Kielbasa, Potato Pancakes, Ukrainian Borscht, Beef Stroganoff, Bigos (a hearty Ukrainian Hunter’s stew made with Kielbasa, Sauerkraut, Pork and Onions served with a side of mashed potatoes), Ukranian Meatballs, Veal Goulash, Stuffed Cabbage, Soups, Salads, Burgers, Brunch…the list goes on! The atmosphere is buzzing and busy, and the kitchen is open in the front near the fresh baked goods and desserts counter which you also should not miss.
I don’t get out to Brooklyn as much as I’d like to and especially Williamsburg – a funky creative foodie part of town that has some great restaurants. I stopped in to Roesling Tea Room after visiting a photographer friend of mine looking for a small bite to eat and a glass of vino after our meeting. I ordered at the bar and sampled a side of their luscious Macaroni and Cheese which was oooey gooey layers of cheese and shells with a dash of hot sauce topped with some fresh parsley. It was the perfect size for a small bite of goodness and was only $10 to boot. Their cocktail menu is pretty cool too with unique drinks such as “The White Witch” made with Flor de Cana and Creme de Cacao and Cream, or the “Way Too Early” made with Earl Grey tea, Gin, Lemon and Champagne.
They do have a full dinner menu (see link below) offering Apps such as Grilled Razor Clams, Raviolo with Garlic, Ricotta, Chili and Squid and a hearty Lamb Ragu over Vermicelloni with ground hazelnuts. If you’re hungrier and want a full meal, try the Steak Tartare, “Cock-a-leekie” Chicken, Grilled Hangar Steak or Softshell Crab. The atmosphere is dark and moody, with an open wrap around bar and is perfect for a quiet, intimate dinner with friends or a date. They also serve lunch and brunch with burgers, eggs, salads and fresh sides and offer room for parties and events in this impressive cool space and location.
If you’re ever in Chelsea in NYC, this is a must-see destination. The ultimate “Festival of Shops”, Limelight Marketplace is a theatrical and fun shopping experience, located inside the restored Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion of 1845, and the infamous swanky Limelight Nightclub that was hoppin’ in the 70′s and 80′s. Redesigned by Henry Bendel, it re-opened its doors in 2010 to reveal a 3-story grand emporium filled with shopping, food, fashion, restaurants, art and home furnishings, decked out with grand arched ceilings, and the recently uncovered huge stained glass windows and limestone arches from the original church architecture. Inside you’ll find some cool bars and restaurants like the famous Grimaldi’s Pizza, Cava Wine Bar (Italian Meats, Cheeses, Wines), Jezalin’s (artisan soups, sandwiches, salads and chartucerie) and soon Cross Bar. Upstairs on the top floor you can’t miss the Marie Belle Cacao Bar and Luxury Chocolates. They also have an outdoor garden atrium (which is currently decorated with Indian tents) where you can chill out and enjoy a coffee or just stare at the amazing grand old architecture in awe.
Funny story how I ended up here in New Haven, CT for Cinco de Mayo…last Saturday I was supposed to go to the Foodstock Festival up at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT to see a great lineup of speakers and check out some amazing food vendors. So I rented a car online, took an early 2 hour train ride up to New Haven Union Station to pick up my rental car. Well, apparently even if you’ve pre-paid for your car you still need a credit card to give them to take the car for the day. All I had was my camera, a Mastercard debit card and some cash – no go. Needless to say, my day in New Haven wasn’t all that bad. I walked around the beautiful campus of Yale University, went to the Yale Art Gallery, cruised around Chapel Street to grab a coffee and checked out the cute shops and boutiques. On my journey around town, I started getting really hungry for some Mexican and discovered a cool little place called Geronimo’s Tequila Bar and Southwest Grill, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with some margaritas and food.
I had a couple of margaritas since they were only $5 for Cinco de Mayo, and tried their Chicken Tortilla Soup which had huge chunks of white meat shredded chicken, fresh veggies and crunchy tortilla strips on top. The chips were handmade, and the salsa super fresh and chunky with lots of cilantro, just how I like it. For an entree I ordered the Pork Quesadilla which had shredded roasted pork bathed in a Chimayo chile sauce with chihuahua cheese and scallions; topped with fresh grilled corn salsa salad. Delicious! warning: just be super careful if you sample their homemade habenero pepper sauce – its super tasty but super HOT, believe me you only need a smidge to taste the heat!
My waitress was super cool and was patient with me as I ran around the restaurant taking pictures of all their cool Southwestern artifacts and cool interior design inside the restaurant. Chef Timothy Scott (Connecticut native who studied with Anne Willan at La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy, France) and I chatted for a while as he showed me around the restaurant and told me about all the local, organic ingredients he uses and the South Dakota farms he visits to source all of his meats for some of their unique dishes as the Smoked Buffalo Brisket Tacos and Elk Chili. The menu has your typical Mexican dishes but they are infused with a “Santa Fe” New Mexican flavor, using traditional foods and flavors of the Native Americans, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo-Americans that settled there. Its primary ingredients consist of corn, beans, chile peppers, rice, tomatoes, avocados, pork and bison. Slow-stewed meats and chilis, and natural heat from various chile peppers give the cuisine here a bold, rustic flavor that is distinct from other Mexican cuisine. Don’t miss it if you’re ever up visiting Yale or just cruising around New Haven for a day.
There’s a new kid in town – an amazing organic grocery market and restaurant called Forager’s City Grocer in Chelsea, sister to the Dumbo Brooklyn location. Everything inside the market is sourced from their local farms and made fresh daily on premises. They have a meat counter and prepared foods kitchen with fresh soups, salads, roasted veggies, house-cured pastrami, roasted chicken and herb-roasted porchetta (to die for!). Cruise towards the back and you’ll find a lovely cheese section, olives, cured and fresh butchered meats, and a full line-up of local, and more organic dairy products like yogurt, cream, butter and milk. They have plenty of spices, honeys, jams, imported pastas and other cool gourmet items. And in the front, you can’t miss the coffee bar and dessert counter where they have freshly baked cupcakes, croissants, and unique-flavored glazed donuts like Hibiscus and Blood Orange…Oh my.
The restaurant inside the market has a clean design with an open kitchen and bar, high tables and stools and lots of natural lighting. The cuisine has an Asian flair, offering lunch, brunch and dinner. All the menu items are created with local, organic ingredients, house-cured meats and fresh veggies straight from their farm. They have great salads such as Raw Dayboat Salad with Yuzu Koshu and Crushed Lemon Oil, or Fermented Tea Leaf Salad with Dried Shrimp, Sesame, Peanuts, Crispy Garlic and Split Peas. Or try the Wok-Tossed Berkshire Pork Short Ribs or Crispy Whole Prawns with Chiles, Prickly Ash and Green Onions. Brunch is a new thing, serving up fresh omelettes, buttermilk biscuits and gravy, cinnamon french toast, house smoked pepper bacon and house made quinoa granola with fruit. And don’t miss the Forager’s wine store attached to the market next door where you can find organic wines from grape farmers all around the world.
The Chelsea location has also launched the debut of their expertly handcrafted cocktails along with a menu of beers and eco-minded selected wines on tap. The new, eclectic cocktail menu was designed by head bartender Aaron Polsky (also of Amor y Amargo). The menu is heavily influenced by the market’s hyper-local foraged produce and seasonally inspired house-made syrups and infusions. Some of the cool new cocktails to try are:
Gordon’s Healthy Lunch – made with Dorothy Parker Gin, Foragers Farm spicy baby lettuce juice, lime, meyer lemon oleo saccharum
Doug’s Spring MP – with Tequila Pueblo Viejo Blanco, rhubarb, tarragon, raspberry shrub, soda
I recently went on a search of some pretty cupcakes for a photoshoot I am working on, and found this cute little place called The Cupcake Cafe in Hell’s Kitchen on 9th Avenue and 40th Street near Times Square. It’s a quaint little place with a tiny kitchen in the back where they bake and design their pretty floral cakes and cupcakes with great detail. Anne Warren, co-owner, also designs custom wedding and personalized birthday cakes and offers cake decorating classes and film catering. The interior has a cute bench, a table and a few stools where you can sit and enjoy a coffee and a luscious buttercream-frosted flowery cupcake, just because. No frills, just a cozy spot to indulge.
While on my journey around town in New Haven, I stopped into this cool, colorful store on Chapel Street called Metaphore -Eurostyle. I met the owner and artist, Liza Clayson, who showed me around her store full of custom art andgorgeous hand-painted furniture, shower curtains, linens, dishes, glassware, French pantry gourmet items such as sea salts, oils, honeys, vinegars, mustards, jams, teas, and cookies. We had an even more colorful conversation about the town, restaurants, blogging and marketing and who knows what else. I couldn’t help but start dreaming up all the cool photography and food styling sets one could design with her pretty hand-painted and imported goodies. Liza also has plenty of unique and unusual European-imported goodies in the store, thus the name “Eurostyle”. Many of her items are things you won’t find here in the U.S. – she has customers that come in the store from all over to buy her unique things. You just have to check it out for yourself. If you can’t make it to New Haven, you can call her directly and place a personalized order. Now that’s pretty cool.
If you like fried chicken like I do, great – but this is no ordinary fried chicken – this is Seoul, Korea-style fried chicken and a tasty one at that. Located on Fifth Avenue near the Empire State Building, KyoChon came to NYC from Korea, opened its flagship store here and never looked back. KyoChon has become a cult-like obsession with New Yorkers (including myself) with its fresh, crispy, juicy fried chicken and tasty dipping sauces. The Soy Garlic and Hot & Sweet Chile sauces are apparently are secret recipes that founder Won-Kang Kwon and his wife whip up in a secret room in the basement of their production facilities in Seoul. They claim to use only fresh, not frozen, chickens, and hand-trim and hand-brush each piece, which is apparent when you taste a piece of their crunchy chicken. This ain’t no Chicken McNugget, folks. They also have sandwiches, salads and wraps filled with fresh veggies and fruits and the interior is pretty cool looking too, with its bright red spiral staircase and clear acrylic Jetson-style chairs and tables. Oh, and the Sweet Potato Fries ROCK.
After living in Atlanta for almost 12 years, it was refreshing to find a honky-tonk fun place in NYC that reminded me of the South.Rodeo Bar & Grill is probably one of the ONLY places in New York that you’ll find local and regional country and blues musicians playing live, where you can sit and enjoy a Margarita and some chips and salsa. This Tex-Mex bar and grill is located on 3rd Ave in Murray Hill and serves a kickass portion of chile con queso and chips, and other Tex-Mex specialties such as Enchiladas, Slow-Smoked Texas BBQ, Quesadillas, Tacos and a nice selection of burgers, sandwiches, appetizers and soups and salads. The live shows are on pretty much every night with different artists, until midnight during the week and late on weekends. They have a great happy hour from 4-7 pm offering half price margaritas and bar food like wings, nachos and sliders. Grab your cowboy boots, get yourself some tequila and some live country and blues – too fun.
Last week I was looking for a fun place to go for happy hour with some friends, particularly one with some food and drink specials that didn’t look like a college fraternity party just swooped in with beer and peanut shells on the floor. I found Barmarche, a lovely little fusion place on the corner of Spring Street and Elizabeth Street in the heart of Nolita.
When we arrived around 5 pm, it was still a bit early so the place wasn’t crowded at all. The waiter immediately greeted us and offered the best seat in the house at a corner nook near the window. The interior was impressive with its crown moldings around the bar and windows, its antique chandeliers and whitewashed tin ceilings – almost a bit fancy for my taste, but charming all the same. The tables were donned with small votive candles, and the music and dim lights gave it a cozy, romantic ambiance – like the bistros you would find on the streets in Paris.
The happy hour drink menu had a great selection of $6-7 wines, bubbly and cocktails, and offered a variety of Italian, French, Mediterranean and Mexican small plates to choose from.
We shared the bacon hummus which was absolutely delicious – smooth and creamy, topped with chunky bacon and whole chickpeas, lemon and parsley, served with a side of homemade crispy tortilla chips. (It tasted a whole heck of a lot better than the picture looks too – the lighting wasn’t ideal for shooting!)
Popcorn Shrimp w/ Chipotle Aioli
The popcorn shrimp was nice too – it came out steaming hot with a crispy, light batter (similar to tempura) and was served with a spicy chipotle aioli for dipping on the side. More nibbles on the menu included mixed olives, charcuterie and cheese, spicy guacamole, salads and calamari. If you want more of a meal for happy hour, they also offer shrimp or bass taquitos or a classic grass-fed beef cheeseburger and frites. The dinner menu offers the same small plates and salads but with a larger selection, and also includes entrees such as Truffle Shrimp Risotto, Roast Chicken, Rib Eye Steak and Frites, or Mediterranean Branzino served over sauteed greens.
Overall I was pleased, but think it might be a nicer place for a romantic dinner or cocktail brunch on the weekend than for happy hour with friends.
Barmarche is open for brunch from 10 am to 4 pm on weekends, mid-day from 4 pm to 6:30 pm on weekends, happy hour from 5 pm to 6:30 pm everyday (except Saturday), and dinner from 6:30 pm – 11:30 pm Sunday through Thursday and through 12:30 am on Friday and Saturday.
MacBar is a groovy and modern mac ‘n cheese take-out bar smack in the middle of Soho on Prince Street near Lafayette. They offer 12 different varieties of gourmet mac ‘n cheese combinations such as: Four Cheese with queso blanco, fontina, emmental and gouda, Mayan Chipotle with chicken Diablo, Chihuahua cheese and green onions, Mac Lobsta’, Mac ‘Shroom, Mac Quack with duck confit, fontina, caramelized onions and fines herbes and more. Who can resist a creamy, savory bowl of piping hot ooey-gooey macaroni and cheese? I know I can’t!
La Follia, Gramercy – Beet Salad with Mint, Ricotta and Pistachios & Sauteed Garlic Spinach
La Follia is an upscale Italian restaurant and wine bar in Gramercy on 3rd and 19th Street. They offer delicious small plates, pasta dishes and entrees, salads, veggie sides and have an impressive wine list. My favorite small plate dish is the Roasted Beet Salad with Mint, Ricotta and Pistachios..it has a light vinaigrette dressing and is perfectly mixed with fresh mint and creamy ricotta and roasted pistachios to give it some crunch. They also have an excellent line up of Crostinis including Burrata, Olive Oil and Sea Salt, Imported Ricotta with Pesto, White Bean and Olive and more – perfectly crispy with the finest toppings – YUM. If you’re in the mood for some Salumi, try the Prosciutto Di Parma or Soppressata with a selection of cheeses, a side dish of Broccoli Rabe with garlic and chili flakes or Brussel Sprouts sautéed with crispy Prosciutto or the sauteed garlicky Spinach. Rumour has it their House-Made Pappardelle with Braised Pork Ragu, Thyme and Pecorino is amazing! An intimate bar setting and outside seating make this a perfect date spot on a Friday night.
Waterfront Ale House, Murray Hill – Spicy Texas Chili with Serious Hot Homemade Hot Sauce
This is one of my favorite neighborhood saloons in Murray Hill. The food is fantastic, the locals are loyal and the service and staff are great. They make their own homemade Hot Sauce (which sells for $4 a bottle at the bar) – amazing with their Spicy Texas Chili! Perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection with a bubbly layer of cheddar cheese and topped with green onions, the chunks of steak and beans make this chili a comforting dish with a cold brew on a Happy Hour kinda night. They have an impressive line up of more than 80 domestic, locally crafted and imported beers, as well as effervescent gins and “real” absinthes when you’re in the mood for a good shot of something stout on a Friday night. Don’t miss out on their BBQ either – their hot-off-the-grill Pulled Chicken and Pulled Pig sandwiches, Texas Dip Smoked Beef Brisket and hand cut Sweet Potato Fries rock!
Prime and Beyond, E. Vlg – Wet Aged Ribeye with Scallion Salad, Fresh Cut Fries
Prime and Beyond is a newly opened Steak place in the East Village NYC. They hand select all of their meats and dry or wet age them in a humidity controlled refrigeration on premises for up to 8 weeks, giving their meat extraordinary flavor and juiciness! They also have amazing burgers, salads, and hand-cut French fries, along with a selection of side dishes including grilled veggies, potato salad, and Wagyu Salami. In the mood for a Korean twist to your meal? Try to the Bulgogi Rice Bowl or the Short Rib Stew with a side of Kimchi and Spicy Scallion salad. Amazing flavor and a nice intimate yet casual atmosphere.
Ocean Grill, UWS – Shrimp Cocktail, Fresh Crab, Avocado, Mango and Jalapeno Roll and Lobster Cocktail
I have found no other spot in NYC that has fresher seafood, as well as a comfortable and relaxing environment for an outdoor cocktail and delicious sushi and seafood. Their shrimp and lobster cocktail dishes come served on a bed of ice, fresh lemon, drawn butter and cocktail sauce – not to mention humoungous pieces of shrimp and lobster that is chilly and delicious on a hot summer day! Their sushi is also amazing – I fell in love with their version of the “California Roll” which is actually huge pieces of fresh lump crabmeat, avocado, mango and jalapeno. Great location situated across from the Museum of Natural History, so ideal for a Sunday brunch and walk in Central Park!
Oficina Latina NYC, Nolita – Orange Ginger Margaritas & Ham and Cheese Arepas
The concept of this hip restaurant and bar in Soho reflects the Pan American Highway along Central Mexico and South America with its Latin Tapas menu and exotic cocktails. The interior looks like a mechanic’s garage with a small lounge area, outdoor dining area and interior dining room. Their exotic tropical drinks are all handmade, with flavors such as Orange-Ginger Margaritas, Cilantro Avocado Margaritas, Blackberry Caiphirinas and Mojitos, made with muddled fruits and spicy and sweet rims. My favorite Tapas dish is their Albondigas (Spicy Meatballs in Tomato Sauce) and their Arepas which are corn pockets filled with ham and melted cheese. They have a huge menu filled with other Latin dishes such as Ceviche, Tostones, Cuban Tortas, Croquetas filled with pan-seared crab cakes and chipotle sauce as well as slow-cooked black beans, roasted pork leg and rice and deep fried green plantains. Definitely a spot you don’t want to miss!
Sanctuary T, Soho – Smoky Black T-Dust Seasoning & Sangria
Not only is this a cool hip restaurant in Soho, but they sell fantastic tea-infused seasonings made out of organic teas and spices. My favorite is the Smoky Black T-dust seasoning, made of smoked tea, black peppercorns and sea salt. Their other seasonings are Tahitian Green, Chili Rooibos and Citrus White, also made of organic green, red and white teas. They also sell loose leaf drinking teas and have an awesome menu with organic Asian inspired dishes, salads and burgers as well as duck, seafood and pasta dishes. Their cocktails are artisan-made too, of course infused with their organic teas and fresh fruits and other goodies. Can’t miss out on their fresh made Sangrias either!
KitchenAid/House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year event with Tyler Florence, Rockefeller Center
Last month, KitchenAid and House Beautiful magazine created the 2011 Dream Kitchen of the Year smack in the middle of Rockefeller Center. Chock full of gorgeous KitchenAid appliances, indoor and outdoor bar and grilling spaces, and of course hosted by Tyler Florence – we were treated to delicious mini-hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and goodie bags filled with KitchenAid cooking utensils and Tyler’s new cookbook “Family Meal”. My favorite recipes out of the cookbook are his down-home Southern specialties like Chicken-Fried Steak with Biscuits and Gravy, Southern-style Fish Fry Up with Big Papa’s Tartar Sauce and Fennel Sausage Hush Puppies. Makes me miss living in the Atlanta – always ready for some good old fashioned Southern comfort food! Now that Autumn is on the horizon, I see a Southern tailgating feast coming right up!
Check out my photos from the Kitchen of the Year event here
Gemma, Bowery – Fresh Ricotta and Pesto Crostini and Arancini Risotto Balls
Gemma is one of those places where you need to go to see and be seen. Connected to the beautiful Bowery Hotel, Gemma is an upscale Italian dining establishment open for lunch, brunch, dinner, cocktails and dessert. My favorite dishes are the Arancini and Polpettine (Risotto Balls and Meatballs), their Buffalo Ricotta and Pesto Crostini, and Oriechette with Broccoli Rabe and Crispy Garlic Chips sautéed in Olive Oil with Red Pepper flakes. They also have amazing wood-fired pizzas, pasta dishes, salumi and formaggi plates, and if you’re in the mood for a massive grilled Bistecca Steak or Roasted Baby Lamb Chops – well, you can get that too. Don’t forget to top off your meal with a Calzone di Nutella or and Affagato (vanilla gelato drowned in espresso) and a shot of Frangelico or Limoncello. Amazing menu and service to match – what more can I say. A NYC must-visit for Italian dining!
Teqa, Murray Hill – Braised Short Rib Tacos and Margaritas
Newly opened this summer in Murray Hill, Teqa is a gorgeous tequila bar and Mexican restaurant with a gorgeous menu to accompany the space. The Frozen Hibiscus and Rose Margaritas are a beautiful thing – made with hibiscus-infused el jimador, combier, fresh lime, agave, rosewater mist and hibiscus salt. Order a pitcher (or two!) – you won’t regret this one!
For a dinner entrée, I unashamedly inhaled the Guinness Braised Short Rib Tacos that literally melted in my mouth. The tender, succulent beef is soaked in Teqa’s signature sauce, then topped with grilled corn, lime and queso fresco. The tacos are a bit small (you only get 3 of these babies for a steep $16) but the flavor explosion in your mouth is worth every bite and every penny!
CLICK HERE TO VIEW A SLIDESHOW OF PHOTOS FROM THE AUSTIN TRIP!
So I finally had a chance to come back down from cloud nine and get back to reality after an awesome week-long conference in Austin, Texas with the International Association of Culinary Professionals. What an incredible time spent with amazing and talented professionals in the food industry! If you haven’t been to Austin before, its a must see foodie destination, full of Texas Barbecue and Food Trailers (not trucks like we have in NYC), and the perfect spot to host this year’s conference with a focus on Culinary Excellence and Innovation. I spent five incredible days meeting other food writers, chefs, cookbook authors, food bloggers, food stylists and photographers, agents and publishers – and was creatively inspired by all the incredible speakers and new foodie friends I met!
Kristen, Rachel and Marie on 6th St
I flew in on Tuesday night with Rachel (The Fabulous Foodie) and Marie (Food Nouveau) and after arriving at the Hilton Austin, we decided to hit the infamous Sixth Street to try out a few of the hot spots in town. We made a new friend with a bartender who bought pickles to make us Pickleback shots with Jameson and Pickle Juice (per Rachel’s artful persuasion – don’t ask) which clued me in to what was ahead for the next five days in this town!
Day 1 Conference
Migas – Juan in a Million
We had a few hours before the conference started on Wednesday so Rachel, Marie, Nikki and I went to grab breakfast at the infamous Juan in a Million restaurant. We ordered some delicious Migas – platters made with scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions and tomatoes with tortillas and fresh salsa and guacamole,
a delicious Chicken Fajita Salad with Jalapenos and Guacamole..
Kristen and Juan
and had the opportunity to meet Juan himself who was more than willing to get a snapshot with us!
My first session, DIY Video Production for Food Bloggers, was hosted by Daniel Klein of The Perennial Palate, John Mitzewich of Food Wishes, and Sara O’Donnell of Average Betty. We learned video production techniques, equipment and editing tips and saw samples of all the incredible video work that these video bloggers have produced as they told us how they got started and secrets of the trade.
Next we went to the IACP New Member Orientation, led by IACP Board Members including Author Kathleen Flinn and Lia Huber of NourishNetwork.com who gave us tips on how to get the most out of the conference and networking.
We headed over to the Host City Opening Reception at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum where we were greeted by cowboys and armadillos and cows, and sampled delicious Tex Mex food and cocktails from some of Austin’s finest restaurants in town.
Of course I couldn’t pass up the Late Night Club Crawl, where a small group of us went to East Sixth Street (led by Wendy Brannen of Vidalia Onion Committee and some other local Austonians who knew the hotspots!) – East Sixth Street is Austin’s funky part of town with groovy lounges, food trailer parks and low key outside bars.
and ended up at Liberty for some late night grub in a trailer park, munching on crispy Korean Chicken bites and Tempura Fried Beets. Weird? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely!
Tempura Fried Beets
Day 2 Conference
The next day was full on with amazing sessions by Shauna Ahern, Gluten Free Girl, who led the Blog to Book breakout session focused on in-depth discussions with other talented food bloggers and food writers such as Marge Perry and Dixie Caviar, from around the country as we shared our goals and tips for success in the blogosphere.
where we loaded up on plates of fat, juicy Ribs, Beef Brisket, Sausage, Beans and Pickles washed down with huge Iced Teas to quench our thirst in the midst of the heatwave!
After lunch we saw a live demo with Ellie Krieger and Joan Auritt who showed us How to Cook on Camera with poise and confidence, and if anyone has those two qualities, Ellie does!
My last session of the day was on Networking – run by Mark Bitterman, Author of Salted and professional Selmier. In the session I had the pleasure of meeting Dianne Jacob, author and food writer, Tara Wilson, Event Planner and owner of Savvy Southerner, Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Jessica Merchant of How Sweet It Is. Great conversation, great networking tips and great people to get to know!
The Driskill Hotel
The evening ended with an Awards Gala and Ceremony at the beautiful historic Driskill Hotel and Paramount Theatre, where some of the most accomplished food writers, editors, photographers, stylists, cookbook authors, chefs and food personalities were accoladed and awarded for their culinary excellence.
Kristen, Jessica, Marie and Rachel
Marie, Nikki and Nader at the Awards Ceremony
The ceremony was a classy affair, with classic cocktails and scrumptious hors d’oeuvres, prepared by Executive Chef Jonathan Gelman and award-winning Executive Pastry Chef Tony Sansalone.
Shrimp Creole – Annie
My friends and I headed out for drinks and dinner afterwards to Annie’s Cafe & Bar for a delicious meal of Shrimp Creole, Watermelon Blush Martinis and Sauteed Spinach and Garlic. After all the festivities I still mustered up enough energy to attend the Food Styling session by master Denise Vivaldo – who is super talented and hilarious — perfect ending to a perfect evening!
Day 3 Conference
Penny De Los Santos and Kim Severson
The next day was jam packed with superstar talent speaking about Crafting a Great Story led by Penny De Los Santos, Daniel Klein and Kim Severson from the NY Times. Penny is an amazing photographer and told us heartwarming stories about her trip to Mexico on her last photoshoot for Saveur Magazine with food writer Molly O’Neill – true passion and talent that shined straight through in her storytelling! Daniel showed us more of his fun food adventure videos and Kim Severson led the panel with wit and charm – she is the funniest person known to man!
The Culinary Expo and Culinary Book Fair was incredible – food artisans, vendors and gourmet products were on display including some amazing French Chocolate
..and tons of food samples to accompany our delicious Tex Mex lunch!
I met Dorie Greenspan outside at the Culinapp Trailer and got some amazing cookies and checked out the cool new iPad app she is featured in. I also bought two cookbooks at the Cookbook Fair – Fried Chicken and Champagne by Lisa Dupar (winner of the Cookbook Award!) and Good Food to Share by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan of thekitchn.com (whom I both met at dinner that very same night..how cool is that?!)
Jacques Pepin and Amanda Hesser
Kristen with Chef Jacques Pepin
One of my favorite sessions was a French Cooking Demonstration with Jacques Pepin and Amanda Hesser – Jacques made some of his delicious recipes – Mini Savory Cheesecakes, Chicken Supremes with Tapenade and Mushroom Sauce, and Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons, as Amanda interviewed him about his life as a celebrity chef. Talk about a treat!
Chicken Supremes and Chorizo Asparagus
After the demo, I was able to meet him and sample more of his goodies up front afterwards which was an eventful part of the conference and a true honor to meet such a culinary legend as Jacques.
Next up on the line up was the dynamic trio of Food Bloggers: Kalyn Denny of Kalyn’s Kitchen, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and Lisa Stone of BlogHer.com discussing the ins and outs of food blogging, offering sage advice to the audience.
Last but not least, and one of my favorite sessions was on Light and Photography with White on Rice couple Todd and Diane Cru – I was truly inspired by their beautiful and simple photography, their sheer talent, passion for their work and amazing presentation and offering of advice.
Boggy Creek Farm BBQ
Pepper Rubbed Beef Brisket
The party we were all waiting for was the Up in Smoke BBQ at Boggy Creek Farm – talk about crazy fun! A full on BBQ bash was awaiting us with Ribs, Brisket, Smoked Pig, and all the dressings: corn, beans, cole slaw, german potato salad and some fine Handmade Texas Vodka cocktails..
..as we sat outside listening to jamboree musicians on the big white southern back porch of the farmhouse.. Nothing better than this!
On our last night out, Rachel, Marie, Dave and I went out on East Sixth Street (again!) and hung out at Liberty -
Food Trailer at Liberty
a groovy dive bar with an awesome dirt patio in back with a food trailer, picnic benches and amazing food (same place we got the Korean Chicken Bites and Tempura Fried Beets).
Flaming Dr Pepper Shots
We eventually moved on back to main Sixth Street to find some Flaming Dr. Pepper shots (aren’t those illegal now? The last time I had one of these was in college in Upstate NY!) and hit the pizza truck on the way home. Definitely a colorful street and colorful crowd – now I know where they got the saying “Keep Austin Weird!”
Heading back home to NYC
Gueros Taco Bar – SoCo
After four full days of talking and eating and networking and eating and talking and drinking – I had to get one last Mexican meal in. Rachel and I headed to SoCo (South Congress) to visit the legendary Guero’s Taco Bar.
Gueros Making Tortillas
The tortillas were handmade and grilled in front of our eyes as we watched with anticipation..
Gueros Tacos and Beans and Rice
We noshed on Chips and Guacamole and Salsa, a few Pulled spicy pork and chicken tacos with beans and rice, and some Iced Tea to diminish the slight hangover from the Flaming Dr. Pepper shots the night before! (Not my idea, thanks)
Indian Food Tent
My head is still spinning from all the sights and sounds, amazing food and amazing people I met, and I have to say that my trip to Austin will stay close to my heart forever. The new friends and talented culinary professionals I met have inspired me to do my best work, to follow my heart, to pursue my dream of a food writing and photography career – and I thank all those I shared it with for making this an incredible event I will never forget. Can’t wait for next year’s event in New York City – see you all then.
Kristen Hess is a NYC-based food stylist and photographer, writer.
Her professional background is in advertising, design and creative direction, marketing and social media for many well-known food and beverage brands.
She is passionate about food and travel, art and design, photography, theatre and film and all things creative.
Food Styling & Photography Portfolio: http://www.kristenhess.com