Tag Archives: Jacques Torres

Dina’s 10 Favorite Things About Winter in NYC

I think each season in New York City has something special to celebrate.  I would say winter is my least favorite season for obvious reasons–it can be very cold, especially when you are walking around.  Many times I’ve worn two pairs of socks and gloves, a scarf, a hat with a scarf and a hat over it.  And no one likes when the puddles at the corner look more like swimming pools and there’s no way to cross the street except to wade through them.  But such is life in a New York winter.  Despite these nuisances, there are many reasons to visit New York in the winter.  Here’s my top ten.

  1. There aren’t as many tourists in January.  Snowstorms can mess up travel plans, so it’s not the best time to travel.  But if there is ever a time in New York where it is not as crowded, it’s this month.
  2. New York City Restaurant Week occurs in January, and it’s a great time to try out a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try.  I would just say to keep in mind that because prices are cheaper, the menus are not as exciting as they normally would be.  I would also say to book early at the popular ones.
  3. Hot drinks.  I love to get hot chocolate from Grom, who makes the thickest, most decadent hot chocolate.  My all-time favorite café to get warm drinks is La Lanterna in the Village.  They have the most extensive menu of spiked coffees you will ever see. 
  4. Valentine’s Day and chocolates.  NYC has a plethora of delectable chocolate.  From Jacques Torres to Royce to Kee’s and Stick With Me, there’s something for everyone’s taste.  And it is fun to taste them all! Check out my Dina’s Guide to NYC Chocolate Shops for more great chocolate in NYC!chocolate bon bons, chocolates, Stick With Me, bon bons
  5. Lenten foods–OK, Lent isn’t for everyone, but even if you are not Catholic, you can still partake in the delicious goodies that can be found this time of year like hot cross buns and the Italian chocolate pudding made with pig’s blood, sanguinaccio. It’s also a time to abstain from meat on Fridays, so I get to make all my favorite Lenten dishes like eggs with sauce.
  6. Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown.  A very fun event that is packed, but it is possible to get a good view.  Follow the parade with soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai.  Spend the day in Chinatown shopping and visit the Museum of Chinese in America

    Joe’s Shanghai soup dumplings

  7. Purim–Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates Queen Esther outsmarting King Haman who was planning to kill the Jews. Like Halloween, it’s a day for costumes and celebration. I like this holiday for its delicious cookie, hamentaschen, or Haman’s hat. You can find these all around the city, but my favorite are at Moishe’s.
  8. Japan Week–For a week in March, Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal becomes an expo of Japanese culture and food. I like to follow this festival with a visit to Minamoto Kitchoan for some Japanese sweets. (This location has moved since I wrote that blog post. It’s now on Madison Ave. between 52nd & 53rd.)

    Kitchoan goodies

  9. St. Patrick’s Day parade–The one day everyone is Irish, including an Italian girl like me!  I love the parade and the after-party at local Irish pubs.  Also corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread. And let’s not forget the elusive Shamrock shake from McDonald’s.

    a festive take on the New York black & white

  10. St. Joseph’s Day–This holiday on March 19 is celebrated by Italians in honor of St. Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Mother. Traditionally, we make zeppole, the fried dough balls you get at street fairs. But we also have zeppole with custard and sfinci/sfingi. You can find these during the season at any of the Italian bakeries in the city, such as Rocco’s, Veniero’s and Ferrara or out in the boroughs.

    Veniero’s zeppole (l) and sfinge


Recap of Best of the West 2015

The Smith, gnocchi, white truffle

Toasted ricotta gnocchi with white truffle cream from The Smith

Last weekend, I attended Best of the West, the third and final night of New Taste of the Upper West Side, the annual food event celebrating the chefs and restaurants of the Upper West Side.  It was a beautiful evening–though not clear enough for Manhattanhenge, but perfect for the festivities going on under the tent as the sun set and the stars twinkled above the upper Manhattan sky.


This year’s event featured 44 restaurants and many wineries and breweries, serving up tastes of their best dishes and drinks.


I wish I could’ve tried all of the options, but I did my best to eat my way around the entire tent.

The food is definitely the highlight of the evening, and I was happy to try the offerings.

Bromberg, The Ribbon

Chopped liver on rye crackers from The Ribbon



Chicken & watercress dumplings from RedFarm


Ed's Chowder House

Skuna Bay salmon sliders with pickled pepper relish & aioli on a Martins potato bun from Ed’s Chowder House


Cesca Enoteca & Trattoria, stracciatella

House-made stracciatella served over fettunta with a spring rhubarb compote and fresh mint from Cesca Enoteca & Trattoria


Sysco Metro NY

Chilled shrimp over farro salad from Sysco Metro NY


Cesare Casella

Cesare Casella salami station

My vegetarian friend was also happy, as there were a lot of options for vegetarians.  In fact, some of my favorite dishes of the evening were vegetarian ones.  The chipotle grilled seitan with corn salsa and avocado mousse from Candle Cafe West was a delicious favorite.

Candle Cafe West, seitan

Chipotle grilled seitan with corn salsa and avocado mousse from Candle Cafe West

The barbecued turnips, avocado, pumpkin seeds from Dovetail was delicious as well.  Our vegetarian favorite was the toasted ricotta gnocchi with white truffle cream from The Smith (and yes, we did have seconds!).

For the sweet tooth, there were a number of options–from classics like brookies at Alice’s Tea Cup and  banana pudding

banana pudding, Magnolia Bakery

Banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery

and whoopie pies at Magnolia Bakery to beautiful pastry creations like Driscoll strawberry parfait verrine from Jacques Torres

Jacques Torres

Strawberry parfait verrine from Jacques Torres

and strawberry tiramisu from Jean-Georges.


Strawberry tiramisu from Jean-Georges

The dessert standout was the salted caramel macaron spiked with Remy Martin Cognac 1738 from Mille-Feuille Bakery.  Oh, boy, did this have a kick!

Mille-Feuille Bakery, Remy Martin, macaron

Salted caramel & Remy Martin Cognac 1738 macaron from Mille-Feuille Bakery

Best of the West offers a VIP option where doors open an hour earlier, as well as offering other perks like a gift bag of goodies and a private lounge area.  I like the VIP option because it is less crowded and there are no lines to wait to try the food.  Also, the VIP hour gives you a better opportunity to meet your favorite chefs for a photo and chat.

Lauren Scala, WNBC “Today in New York” host was MC and hosts included Anne Burrell, chef and host of Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America”

Anne Burrell

Anne Burrell in the VIP lounge

and Marc Murphy, chef and host of Food Network’s “Chopped.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the entertainment.  As you walked through the tent, you were greeted by glamorous beauties on stilts


and a corde lisse artist a la Cirque du Soleil.


A DJ spinning great house, dance and techno music divided the night with Joe Battaglia and the New York Big Band for a night of Dina music heaven.  Some folks danced, especially as the night wore on.  And of course, the night ended–too soon–with the band’s rendition of New York, New York.

5 Easter Goodies

I went on an Easter chocolate hunt at NYC chocolate shops and online and found some fun and different gifts for your Easter basket.
1.  Milk or dark chocolate hens from Jacques Torres–not your standard Easter bunny, these chocolate hens in a basket are both milk and dark chocolate and come in three sizes

Chocolate hens from Jacques Torres
Chocolate hens from Jacques Torres–photo used with permission

 2.  Honey bunny from Dominique Ansel–a chocolate-covered honey marshmallow shaped like a bunny

Honey Bunny from Dominique Ansel

Honey Bunny from Dominique Ansel–photo used with permission

3.  New white raspberry chocolate sitting bunny from Li-Lac Chocolates–a pink chocolate bunny in a unique flavor

Sitting bunnies from Li-Lac Chocolates--photo used with permission

Sitting bunnies from Li-Lac Chocolates–photo used with permission

4.  Chicks in a coop from Three Tarts–yellow marshmallow chicks

Chicks in coop from Three Tarts

Chicks in coop from Three Tarts–photo used with permission

5.  Easter polka dot eggs from L.A. Burdick–a milk or dark chocolate egg with hand-painted polka dots and chocolate truffles hidden inside

Top 10 Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

If you’re snowed in today, how about online shopping for your Valentine?  Whether you want to go with tradition or try something different, this list of the top 10 Valentine’s Day gifts will get your sweetheart swooning.

1.  Chocolate Lipstick from Jacques Torres–What’s a better accessory for your purse than chocolate lipstick?

photo used with permission

photo used with permission

2.  Rocq heart-shaped macaroons from Williams Sonoma–Perfect for your Francophile sweetie.

3.  Heart-shaped strawberry milk chocolate biscuits from Godiva–Take your Valentine to tea and bring along these biscuits!

4.  Valentine Signature Collection cupcakes from Crumbs–For your sweetheart with a sweet tooth.

5.  Conversation-Heart Cookie Cutters from Sur La Table–Let your sweetie know how you feel!

6.  He Loves Me Flower from Dominique Ansel–Play the old game of “he loves me, he loves me not” with a white chocolate flower.

photo used with permission

photo used with permission

7.  Hot & Spicy Truffles from Francois Payard–Have a hot and spicy Valentine’s Day!

8.  Love Letter Napkins from Uncommon Goods–Set the table with loving thoughts from famous writers like Emily Dickinson or Mark Twain.

9.   Heart-shaped chocolate box filled with solid chocolate hearts from Martine’s Chocolates–Nothing says “I love you” like a traditional chocolate heart.

10.  Heart-shaped box of chocolate soap from AJSweetSoap–Perfect for the calorie-counting sweetheart!