Category Archives: Local

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.

Poole’s Diner

I have been wanting to try Poole’s Diner for a long time.  I’d been to Beasley’s, one of Ashley Christensen’s other Raleigh restaurants, and I thought the food there was very good.  I got fried chicken and waffles.  It was delicious–and I don’t even like fried chicken.  However, I was not crazy about the uncomfortable seats and the chalkboard menus.  Poole’s has the same chalkboard menus but normal seating.  We got here early, one of the first customers, and we waited until the restaurant officially opened.  We were seated quickly then and the dining room took no time to fill up.  I did notice that, despite the fact that we were one of the first people there, food kept coming out of the kitchen and going to other tables while we waited for our order.

We started with the pimento cheese appetizer.  Both of us thought it was a little hotter than we like pimento cheese.

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Of course, we got the famous mac and cheese.  I really liked it.  I love a creamy mac and cheese.  My friend was hoping for a more traditional mac and cheese.  But I think the blend of Jarlsberg, Grana Padano and white cheddar is fab.

Poole's Diner macaroni and cheese

We also got the root vegetable au gratin, and maybe it was because of the mac and cheese, but I wasn’t tasting the au gratin part very much.

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I got the special of the night, a pork chop with escarole and bread pudding.  The pork chop was a tad dry, which is better than undercooked pork which I sometimes get when I order pork chops.  I liked the escarole.  The bread pudding tasted a bit like Thanksgiving stuffing.

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For dessert, we shared a chocolate church cake with hazelnuts.  This cake was great.  If you like rich chocolate ganache, you’d love it.

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Stick With Me Chocolate Bon Bons

chocolate bon bons, chocolates, Stick With Me, bon bons

Someone loves me very much and bought me Stick With Me chocolate bon bons for Valentine’s Day!  Stick With Me is a Nolita chocolate shop owned by Susanna Yoon, whose resume includes head chocolatier at Per Se as well as pastry cook at Cafe Boulud.  Her specialty is hand-shelled chocolate.  After sampling this box of beauties, I can say that I have a new favorite chocolate in New York!

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It is so hard to find that perfect balance in chocolate–taste and beauty.  Some very delicious chocolates are often nothing more than boring brown.  On the other hand, some fancy chocolates with colorful designs and intricate shapes can be quite average in taste.

chocolate bon bons, Stick With Me, chocolates, bon bons

Stick With Me creates that perfect balance of aesthetics and flavor.  It was truly a delight to savor each shiny orb.  My favorite was the wild strawberry, a sublime blend of creme fraiche, wild strawberry and white chocolate ganache.  A close second was yuzu, with such a lovely burst of fresh citrus.  Lest you think I only like white chocolate, the dark chocolate raspberry rose came in third.  I liked the pronounced rose flavor with a hint of raspberry.  There is no doubt that these wonderful flavors are the work of an expert hand.  Sea salt caramels run the risk of being too salty or not salty enough.  Yoon’s have just the right amount of salt, and the liquid salted caramel is a refreshing and fun variation of salted caramel.  The speculoos s’more has a homemade marshmallow atop crushed speculoos cookies. The kalamansi meringue pie is an adorable chocolate.  As you can see from the cross section, it has graham cracker pie crust on the bottom topped with a layer of custard pie filling and a dollop of meringue.  If that is not the cutest chocolate ever….

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If you cannot tell from my enthusiasm, my box of 24 bon bons was gone gone quite quickly.

Standard Foods May Be Standard But It Is Far From Ordinary

Standard Foods is the perfect name for this Raleigh restaurant by former Herons executive chef Scott Crawford. All the foods here are locally sourced, whole foods. And there’s a market attached so you can purchase them to cook at home. Kudos to you if you can cook them with an expert hand like this chef. I’ll stick with dining at the restaurant.

My friend and I started with smoked pecans from the snacks section of the menu. I guessed they would have some kind of seasoning on them. But they tasted like they had been cooked in a smoker. They are so wonderfully addictive.

smoked pecans

We ordered a turnip and apple salad from the small plates section. Is this the first time someone is writing that a turnip salad was absolutely delicious? But this one is. All the elements, including the creamy dressing and cheese, work well together.

turnip and apple salad

We followed with a nice, slightly sweet butternut squash ravioli.

butternut squash ravioli

The roasted chicken breast and leg cooked in duck fat with mushrooms and carrots is a very generous large plate. The chicken breast was cooked perfectly. The leg was very rich. We shared this dish, so it worked out well for two. The carrots had a delightful sweet glaze.

chicken

The potato puree arrived in adorable Le Creuset cookware. I really liked this very smooth version of mashed potatoes.

potato puree

The sopping bread was a very nice multigrain bread from Boulted Bread.

Boulted bread

For dessert, I got the sweet potato cheesecake, a deconstructed version of cheesecake with these caramel popcorn pieces and a creme fraiche. Divine! Just wish the serving was bigger!

sweet potato cheesecake

Day 5: 12 Days of Southern Food Gifts

To represent the 12 Days of Christmas (which start the day after Christmas but I’m doing it earlier so you can give these as Christmas gifts), I’m showcasing 12 days of delicious artisanal food treats from the American South.  These are hand-picked by me, Dina, because I’ve tried them and they are delicious.

Vesta

Day 5, Raleigh, North Carolina: Benny T’s Vesta dry hot sauce

What is dry hot sauce, you ask? Creator Ben Tuorto has the answer. It’s a topping made to enhance the flavor of food, not overpower it with heat. With Vesta, you can taste the flavor of the chiles. After moving to North Carolina, Ben discovered chiles at the state farmers’ market downtown and began experimenting with them. Now, Ben makes four varieties of Vesta. Hot and very hot are available all year long while ghost and moruga are seasonal because they are made with superhot chiles that are grown in season. Ben’s favorite variety is very hot. “I put heat on everything,” he says. And when I caught up with him at Gather‘s grand reopening party and Made by Men market last night in Raleigh, he was eating a slice of pizza with a sprinkle of Vesta on top. (Gather is a super-cool gift shop that also has crafting classes.) I like my Vesta hot and my favorite way to eat it is on a crostini with ricotta.

Day 3: 12 Days of Southern Food Gifts

To represent the 12 Days of Christmas (which start the day after Christmas but I’m doing it earlier so you can give these as Christmas gifts), I’m showcasing 12 days of delicious artisanal food treats from the American South.  These are hand-picked by me, Dina, because I’ve tried them and they are delicious.

elderberry jam

Day 3, Pittsboro, North Carolina: Norm’s Farms Elderberry Ginger Pecan Jam

From elderberries grown sustainably on farms in Missouri and North Carolina, Norm’s Farms jams are products you can feel good about. I like the elderberry ginger pecan jam. It has a hint of ginger and pieces of pecan. This time of year, it’s great to serve along with cheese at holiday parties or to use in cookies like jam thumbprints.

Pumpkin or Butternut Squash Risotto

I have some carnaroli rice from Italy and decided to make this risotto di zucca by Antonio Carluccio, or pumpkin risotto by Antonio Carluccio, one of my favorite chefs.  I got a locally grown butternut squash so I used that instead of pumpkin.  I think most people are familiar with arborio rice but not carnaroli.  Carnaroli is also from Northern Italy and is used to make risotto.  It is considered the “caviar of rice.”  It has a higher starch content and can stay firm longer as you cook risotto.  This particular dish is a wonderfully creamy and delicious one for autumn.  It comes from Antonio Carluccio’s Italian Feast but he says it originally comes from Hotel Cipriani in Venice.  I adapted it to suit our tastes.  The original recipe calls for Parmesan and I used pecorino romano.  I also used water instead of chicken stock to make it vegetarian friendly.  And I didn’t use rosemary.

risotto, carnaroli, zucca, pumpkin, butternut squash, Antonio Carluccio