New Taste of the Upper West Side June 3-4

The 9th annual New Taste of the Upper West Side, a two-night celebration of the restaurants and chefs of the Upper West Side, is scheduled for June 3-4, 2016.  This is an event you don’t want to miss and one of my favorite food events in the city. (I’ve written about New Taste of the Upper West Side before.) This year, event hosts include Anne Burrell, host of Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America and author of “Own Your Kitchen,” Alex Guarnaschelli, chef/owner of Butter, judge on Food Network’s Chopped, mentor on Food Network’s All-Star Academy & author of “Old-School Comfort Food,”  and Sara Gore of NBC’s New York Live and Open House.

Each night, over 45 area restaurants will be participating, some new and some returning, including Momofuku Milk Bar, Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud, Sarabeth’s, The Meatball Shop, Parm, RedFarm, Luke’s Lobster, Shake Shack, Rosa Mexicano, Tavern on the Green, and The Ribbon. Participating chefs include Sarabeth Levine, Christina Tosi, Jacques Torres, Cesare Casella, Rich Torrisi and Bruce & Eric Bromberg.

Events include:

Friday, June 3rd at 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM                                             Summer in the City: Surf & Turf
Presented by Glenwood

Enjoy surf, turf and other summer favorites from 45 area restaurants in a chic beach setting.  Try the offerings of the yet-to-be named restaurant debut from two-time Michelin-star chef April Bloomfield with partner Ken Friedman (Spotted Pig, The Breslin); and Maison Pickle, the newest restaurant from the Jacob’s Pickles team. Other newcomers include Jin RamenHan Dynasty and Playa Betty’s, along with past participants, such as Momofuku Milk Bar, The Meatball ShopJacob’s PicklesShake Shack and AG Kitchen.

Where:  Under a grand tent on Columbus Ave between West 76th and 77th Streets in the O’Shea Complex Schoolyard                                                              Cost: $105 per person or 2 for $185

Saturday, June 4th at 7:30 PM to 10:00 PM                                              BEST OF THE WEST

Best of the West is an event celebrating the Upper West Side’s most famous and celebrated restaurants and chefs. There will be wonderful cuisine, world-class wines and cocktails, and music by Joe Battaglia & The New York Big Band. Neighborhood newcomers include Crave FishbarOlma Caviar Boutique & LoungeOrwasher’s Bakery and Amorino Gelato along with returning favorites including RedFarmBoulud SudDovetailJacques Torres and Rosa Mexicano.

Where:  Under a grand tent on Columbus Ave between West 76th and 77th Streets in the O’Shea Complex Schoolyard                                                             Cost: $135 per person or 2 for $250

Saturday, June 4th at 6:30 PM to 10:00 PM
Best of the West VIP Presented by 21 West End

Best of the West also offers a VIP experience, Best of the West VIP, with exclusive access to a private lounge and bar and Caviar Lounge by Olma Caviar. VIP guests receive a gift bag of goodies from Upper West Side sponsors. VIP admission starts an hour earlier than the event, so you have early access to the 45 chefs and their sample offerings.

Cost: $225 per person

This year’s sponsors include 21 West End, Argo, Glenwood, DNA Info, New York Post, West Side Spirit, Barritt’s Ginger Beer, Brusco Group, Rosa Mexicano, Cargill, Rishi Tea and Boston Beer Company.

The Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District (“BID”), a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, created the annual event and donates all net proceeds to the area for improvement and beautification projects, such as the Columbus Avenue BID’s Sustainable Streetscape project, the Wellness in the Schools program, Greenhouse Classroom, Citymeals-on-Wheels and Theodore Roosevelt Park.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

If you want to get a taste of old New York, you have to go to Doyers Street.  It is the cutest little street in Chinatown.  Its curved, narrow shape gives you a good idea of what New York was like back in the day.  It’s also where you can find Nom Wah Tea Parlor.

IMG_2089

The restaurant opened in 1920 with its original location being next door to its current one.  It’s a no-frills place to get dim sum.  On my visit, I got a fried tofu skin roll with mixed vegetables.  This was fried to perfection, crispy and delicious.

IMG_2085

Also got yummy vegetarian dumplings.

IMG_2086

And Shanghai soup dumplings.  They were good but not as good as the gold standard, Joe’s Shanghai.

IMG_2088

Finally, got the rice roll with the fried dough.  This sounded good in theory, but it was a bit too carb-heavy for me.

IMG_2087

Rose & Joe’s Italian Bakery

This week, I’m going to write about two New York City institutions.  Today, it’s Rose & Joe’s Italian Bakery in Astoria, Queens.

IMG_2128

I have been wanting to come here for a long time since I’d heard so many good things.  Rose & Joe’s doesn’t disappoint.  It’s an old-school Italian bakery with the standard Italian pastries as well as bread and American cookies, cupcakes and Greek cookies.  And . . . of course, pizza.  I love a good Sicilian slice–and can so rarely find one–and that is a specialty here.  It is indeed delicious.  The only downside is there are no seats here, so I got my slice and pastries/cookies to go.

Rose & Joe's pizza

Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina in NYC

I tend to avoid Chelsea Market/Meatpacking restaurants because, for the most part, they are a bit touristy.  Although now and again, I do visit them, and Chelsea Market itself for some of the stores there.  When an acquaintance from Milan told me that Giovanni Rana ravioli was good ravioli, I had to try it.  Ravioli in the United States has been pretty disappointing.  What is available commercially in the grocery stores isn’t very flavorful, and the ravioli are small.  I tried a few of Giovanni Rana’s store-bought ravioli, and I really liked the cheese “delicato” ravioli.  So I was excited to try his NYC restaurant, Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina.  The restaurant has a large, rustic dining area with wooden tables and pots hanging from the ceiling.  The space was not so intimate, but on the plus side, with a lot of seating, there was no wait on a busy weekday for lunch.  Our waiters were friendly.  The focaccia and olive oil were good.

IMG_2106

We came purely for the ravioli, so we didn’t order antipasto or anything else.  I ordered the Quattro Formaggi Ravioli, Walnut Pesto.  This dish was delicious.  I really like the walnut pesto.

IMG_2107

My friend got the Truffle Mushroom Ravioli, Black Truffle Butter.  This dish was also very good.

IMG_2108

I would recommend dining at the restaurant because the preparation of the sauces for the ravioli is very good.  So even if you make the ravioli at home, unless you are a chef, it is nice to have an expert hand making the sauce.

Obica, Mozzarella Bar in NYC

Obica was founded in 2004 to showcase the mozzarella di bufala of the Campagna region of Italy, a mozzarella with DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) designation.  It was patterned after Tokyo’s sushi bars.  The owner, Neapolitan Silvio Ursini, wanted an Italian restaurant that presented Italian food in a similar way.  Obica now boasts locations in the UK, Japan, Dubai and the United States.  I visited the Flatiron location here in NYC for lunch, specifically to try the mozzarella.  I got two appetizers,

carciofini, or roasted marinated artichokes

 

IMG_2170

and caponata alla Siciliana, or Sicilian eggplant casserole.

IMG_2171

I also tried the Bufala Classica (right) and the burrata al tartufo, mozzarella with black truffle.

IMG_2172

Ursini’s goal is to present fresh Italian food in a simple way.  I think the dishes I tried reflect that idea.  The bufala mozzarella is fresh, and the burrata, creamy with a nice earthy bite from the truffle.

Two for Tuesday: NYC Bagels

OK, it’s not really fair to compare any NYC bagels to Russ & Daughters, but I just so happened to eat a Russ & Daughters bagel and a Black Seed bagel.  So I thought it would make a good Two for Tuesday.

Russ & Daughters is a classic NYC institution.  Its original location is on Houston Street and it also has a cafe nearby on Orchard Street.  I went to the original because I just wanted a bagel.  And I got a toasted onion one with scallion cream cheese.  Excellent bagel.  If you are visiting NYC and want to try the most authentic bagel, this is it.

IMG_2105

Black Seed Bagels is a more recent newcomer to the NYC bagel scene.  It’s located in Nolita, Battery Park City and the East Village.  I went to the Nolita location.  The bagels here are a combination of New York and Montreal style.  They offer standard bagels– plain, sesame, poppy, rye, everything, salt and multigrain.  I’ve had bagels in Montreal, and I don’t think they quite measure up to Montreal’s time-honored bagels.  I had about the same style bagel as I did at Russ & Daughters–plain with scallion cream cheese.  It was a good bagel, but not special and a bit pricey.  The schtick here is the artisanal bagel sandwich like ricotta, apple, honey or smoked trout, hard-boiled egg, arugula and dijon mustard.  I admit, they do sound good, so maybe I’ll have to try one next time.

IMG_2076

 

 

Sessanta, Southern Italian in Soho

I was walking through Soho and decided to stop in for some pasta at Sessanta.  Sessanta is another restaurant in the trend of regional Italian cuisine.  Its focus is on Southern Italy, particularly the Neapolitan area.  The menu has items that are similar to other regional Italian restaurants like burrata, fritto misto, meatball, malloreddus, branzino.  Other dishes are standard Italian and Neapolitan like eggplant parmesan, spaghetti with tomato sauce and linguine with garlic and olive oil.   My friend and I were walk-ins on a Saturday night, and it was crowded but not overwhelmingly so.  Not too hungry, we didn’t order a full meal.  Even though we ordered only entrees, we thought we would get bread with the meal, but we didn’t.

I got the malloreddus with sweet sausage ragu, whipped ricotta and pecorino sardo.  It was good.

IMG_2173

My friend got the busiate with Spanish octopus, cherry tomatoes, capers and oregano and thought it was good but not great.

IMG_2174