Tag Archives: Royce

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


Dina’s Best of 2013

As 2013 ends, it’s a time to reflect on all the delicious meals and treats I had this year in NYC.  There were a lot!  Of course, there was the bad birthday dinner at Dovetail followed by two birthday saves at Quality Meats and Keens Steakhouse.  There were also some firsts.  I had white truffles for the first time.  I also had shaved ice for the first time.  I also had foie gras in its pure form, but I prefer not to remember that.  I returned to steak, as I hadn’t eaten beef in years and ate at a number of classic NY steakhouses–The Old Homestead, Keens and Delmonico’s.  I explored Asian cuisine more–especially ramen.  No, I didn’t get in on the biggest food trends of 2013–the Cronut or the ramen burger–only because I don’t do lines or eat burgers.  The favorites that I am listing here are my favorites of this year, meaning that I ate at the restaurant for the first time this year or tried something new this year.  (So this may not be my list of favorites of all time, just of this year.)  If something didn’t make my list, was it bad?  No, it just wasn’t exceptional.  You’ll notice a lot of trendy restaurants missing from this list.  Why?  Well, no particular reason other than they weren’t exceptionally delicious to me!  So without further ado–

Here are lists of my favorites for the year.

Dishes I go back for:

Balkanika dips

Balkanika dips

Ramen Takumi shio ramen


Fay Da coconut bun


Tous les Jours milk bread


Basta Pasta fusilli with free range chicken ragu, fresh tomatoes and prosciutto


Reunion totchos

tater tots

Royce white chocolate nama

NAMA white chocolate

My favorite dishes of the year:

Seafood strozzapreti at Saint Ambroeus


Kale with tomatoes at Saint Ambroeus


Pan roasted hake with braised artichokes, sugar snap peas, turnips and chervil bouillon at Tocqueville

Tocqueville hake

Truffled creamy parmesan grits and sunny side up country egg with squire hill farm’s araucana egg and house cured veal bacon at Tocqueville

Tocqueville grits

Smoked coconut cheesecake at Spot Dessert Bar

coconut cheesecake

Stuffed cabbage at Uncle Vanya

stuffed cabbage

Naga ice cream at Vosges


Steak sauce at Quality Meats

QM steak sauce

Shaved ice at Paris Baguette


Thick-cut smoked bacon at Keens Steakhouse


Butterscotch sundae at Keens Steakhouse


Fried calzones at Sal’s


Baked Alaska at Delmonico’s


My favorite restaurants this year:  (This includes food, service and ambience.)


Keens Steakhouse


My favorite ramen:

Ramen Takumi

Totto Ramen II (no wait, more space, same great food)


My favorite steak:

The Old Homestead

OH filet mignon




delmonico steak

My favorite ice cream:


Two for Tuesday: Chocolate

So I’m still on my white chocolate kick.  I made these cherry white chocolate pudding cookies from Chocolate Chocolate and More.  I brought a batch of these to work, and they quickly disappeared!

cherry white chocolate cookies

I also made these Nama chocolates because I’m a big fan of Royce’ Chocolate.  When I saw Nami’s recipe for Nama chocolate, I wanted to try making my own.  I didn’t use liqueur, so these are pure dark chocolate-y goodness!  If you take them out of the refrigerator, I would let them sit 5-10 minutes before enjoying.  At this stage, they are very smooth truffles, so just let the goodness melt on your tongue.  If you leave them out a half hour or more, they are super soft and totally different chocolate experience.  I like it both ways and will definitely be making these whenever I need a chocolate fix.


Royce’ Chocolate Pop-Up Shop in Bryant Park

For those of you getting last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts, Royce’ Chocolate has opened a pop-up shop in Bryant Park.  A new store will be opening next door to that location later in the year, but for now, if you are in the area, you can visit the pop-up shop.  If your sweetheart likes creamy truffles, NAMA chocolates are the way to go!

Royce’ Chocolates

NAMA white chocolate

Before I had Royce’ Chocolate, I didn’t like white chocolate.  In fact, I hated it.  But after tasting the melting white chocolate cream that is Royce’s NAMA white chocolate, I love it.  This is white chocolate at its very best, and here at Hunting for the Very Best, that is what we look for!

I first read about Royce’ Chocolate on Asian food blogs.  Without a trip to Asia planned any time soon, I thought I’d never get to try this elusive creamy goodness I’d heard about.  Lo and behold, on a cold, winter day, I passed the doorway of a narrow shop on Madison Avenue, Royce’.  Indeed, this was the chocolate I’d been longing to try.  The small shop showcases chocolates along its sleek white-lit walls.  The company’s famous NAMA chocolates are in a refrigerated case on one side.  The NAMA chocolates are a mix of chocolate and fresh cream and come with or without liqueur.  The cream comes from a dairy farm in Hokkaido, in Northeastern Japan.  In addition to the NAMA chocolates, there are chocolate bars, chocolate-covered cookies, chocolate-covered popcorn, chocolate wafers, chocolate truffles and much more.

Royce' Chocolate

Royce’ Chocolate

The friendly staff greeted me and gave me samples of almost every product.  Besides the NAMA chocolates, Royce’s claim to fame is chocolate-dipped potato chips.  Yes, I was skeptical, how could this taste good?  But after sampling the milk chocolate, caramel-flavored white chocolate and cheese-flavored white chocolate (yes, cheese-flavored white chocolate) varieties, I am a convert.  In fact, here I go again extoling the white chocolate at Royce’, but these are out of this world good.  The only problem I see is that the box is too small!

cheese-flavored white chocolate

cheese-flavored white chocolate

Royce’ Chocolate opened in 1983 and began producing NAMA chocolates in 1995.  While I was visiting Royce’, I met co-owner Ken Romaniszyn, who is also the owner of Lady M Confections, the popular cake bakery on the Upper East Side.  I also met Maiko Yamazaki, daughter of Royce’s founder, Yasuhiro Yamazaki.  In addition to the Madison Avenue store, Royce’ is opening a store on Bleecker Street in the West Village.

ROYCE’ Madison Shop, 509 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10022, 646-590-0650.

Two for Tuesday: White Chocolate and Strawberry

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I’m thinking of chocolates with red fruits.  How about a truffle from Godiva?  The strawberry créme tarte truffle is a favorite of mine.  Strawberry purée and vanilla mousse in a white chocolate shell–what more could you ask for?  I love letting this linger on my tongue to get to its sweet, creamy center.

Godiva strawberry truffle

Royce’ Chocolate also has a fruity white chocolate bar mixed with powdered strawberries, three fruits, crispy almond puffs and a touch of banana flavor.  These are yummy like a chocolate bar but, with the fruit and crunch, feel like they’re good for you like a breakfast bar.

Royce fruit bar chocolate