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Esca & Spiegelworld: A Review

This past weekend, my friend Katie and I decided to catch up over an excellent meal at Esca and an off-Broadway show called Spiegelworld.  Both were amazing and fascinating and I had such a great time.

Here's what went down at Esca:

Esca is a fantastic southern Italian trattoria specializing in seafood.  There is a beautiful patio space out back, and since it was a nice evening, that's where Katie and I chose to dine.  Interestingly enough, this restaurant is also a collaboration between Dave Pasternack, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich.  So already I had high hopes for my dinner.

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Chefs & Champagne 2012: A Review

It's been a whirlwind weekend for me, friends!

First off, I drove to Central Jersey on Friday for a work training event.  Yeah, I got that 9-5 to think about too. Friday evening, the roommate and I drove up to Poughkeepsie to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday/going-away party.  Since what happened that night will stay within the 4 walls of the The Orient, I will just leave it at that.  The next morning we all had brunch, and then I was on my way to the Hamptons for this year's James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne Event.

My friend Ya-Roo took me and another friend to this event for the first time last year and we had an amazing time.  We had so much fun that we decided to go back again this year!   To sum things up, JBF Chef's & Champagne is an annual tasting event with small plates created by celebrity and well-known chefs.  For the most part, the chefs are all affiliated with restaurants in the NY/Philly area.  This works out well for me, as I spend a lot of time in both locations and thus have the opportunity to visit these restaurants.  Last year and this year, I fell in love with new restaurants that I never would have even known about if not for this event.

Here's a photo collage of my food journey.  I'm hungry again just putting this post together!

Beautiful sky on the way out to Cooper's Beach in Southampton

Beautiful sky on the way out to Cooper's Beach in Southampton

Cooper's Beach.  My friends and I stopped there for about an hour before the C&C event.

Cooper's Beach.  My friends and I stopped there for about an hour before the C&C event.

That was just a teaser.

Now on to the MAIN EVENT!

Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison & The NoMad) - Strawberry Gazpacho with Guanciale and Basil.

This gazpacho was cool and sweet, almost like a strawberry daiquiri but really smooth and with the added flavors of fresh basil and bacon!

Christopher Lee (Huntington Social) - Steamed Mussels in a Coconut-Curry Broth.

So yeah, this was one of my favorite tastes of the night.  I could drink that broth as-is.

PS - Chef Lee is opening a new restaurant in the Philadelphia area!  Since this is somewhat near to where I work, I will be visiting in the near future!

Cesare Casella (Salumeria Rosi Parmacotta) - Spiedini de Mortadella Parmacotta al Balsamico di Famiglia

The name is a mouthful.  But this was the best sandwich of the night.  OK, it was the only sandwich I had that night, but it had fresh ingredients alongside melted cheese.  I'll take another please.

Jeremy McMillan (The Bedford Post Inn) - Puglian Mozzarella with  Charcoal-Grilled Tomatoes, Nigella, and Fresh Pollen

This is essentially a very well-done tomato and burrata salad.  I should have taken all of those plates.

Aliya LeeKong (Junoon) - Spiced Crab Salad with Smoky Curry Leaf–Corn Pudding & Cucumber–Mint Lassi

I only got a picture of the Cucumber-Mint Lassis.  I liked it, but I didn't love it.  However, in all fairness, I'm not a huge fan of cucumber flavors in beverages, so I still think you should give it a shot.  I really liked the edible flower sitting on top of the lassi.  Pretty things.

Seamus Mullen (Tertulia) - Grilled Octopus with Summer Squash, Sun Gold Tomatoes, and Olive Vinaigrette

Truth: I didn't have this.  My friend did.  She liked it.  Octopus is not for me, but I posted this picture since I figure at least one of my readers might be interested in this.  And I think it's pretty.

Gerry Hayden and Claudia Fleming (The North Fork Table & Inn) - Zucchini Rolls with Summer Vegetables, Tomato Emulsion, and Goat Cheese "Egg"

I had a love-hate relationship with this amuse bouche.  It was a bit difficult to eat because it was too large for one bite.  And since we were walking around instead of sitting at a table, I couldn't really cut it in half.  I am also not a fan of emulsion, as it always feels like the foam on top of a beer to me.  In spite of this, I just love zucchini and goat cheese, so I still enjoyed this taste.

After all this excellent food, we finally indulged in a glass of champagne.  Brut Rose, baby!

I also got to hobnob with some famous celebrities such as Ted Allen, Marcus Samuelsson, Aaron Sanchez, and Alex Guarnaschelli.  By "hobnob", I mean this is the closest that I got to any of them.  Sorry for the blur. I tried to get closer to get a better pic but it was a fail.  I blame the Brut Rose.

Time for dessert...

Marc Aumont (The Modern) - Champagne Pate de Fruits

Oh, my word.  I wish I could take all of these Champagne candies and stuff them in my face.  It would be poor form.  It's the only thing that stopped me.  I grabbed a second one just to make sure the first candy was really as delicious as it seemed.

Marc Aumont (The Modern) - Carmelia Milk Chocolate Trifle with Coconut Tapioca and Mango Gelee

Wow.  I didn't think Marc could do it again.  He made a second dessert that was just as good as the first one! (See above)  I need this trifle in my life on a regular basis.  This deserves a second "wow".  Wow.

Meredith Tomason (Craft) - Tarte Tropezienne with Strawberries and Sicilian Pistachios

I think it's a little unfair for me to judge this since I had just had the most amazing desserts of my life from Marc Aumont.  I'm not typically a huge fan of fruit and shortcake, so while I wasn't bowled over by this, it was still a pleasant dessert.

Ohhhh, so THAT'S where I left my Mercedes.  Silly me.

There were pallets of basil stashed around the tent.  I want this in my apartment...in the 1,000 sq ft Hoboken apartment that I share with my roommate and a cat...

As a compromise, I took home a few of the individual basil plants.  They weren't actually planted in soil.  They were planted in tissues, so I don't know how long they will last.  They're still going strong on Day 3!

My friends and I stayed for the after-party as well, where the chefs get to relax after a long afternoon and evening.  I only got one dark, blurry pic.  Not because I was drunk (I actually had only two and a half glasses of champagne during the entire event) but because I was too busy eating the excellent mini fish tacos at the buffet.  They are perched on limes and figs in the picture above.  Some unknown man's hand is stealing my tacos. Grrrr...

Us being fabulous at the after-party :)  This means that we were drinking out of fancy little 1/4 champagne bottles and trying to hunt down the Godiva chocolate guys.  I ate too many chocolates that night but they kept handing them out so really it wasn't my fault.

Overall, this night was a great treat.  My friends and I caught up on each others' lives, we stuffed ourselves with food, and then trekked back to NYC late that night.  Aaaand, this totally justified me sleeping in until 11am the next morning.  Chocolate hangovers can throw any good intentions out the window.

The Great GoogaMooga Festival: A Review

Do you know what the Great GoogaMooga Festival is?  It's a real thing.  It's a real, awesome thing.

GoogaMooga is a food festival.  It is also a music festival.  The festival lasted 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) and was hosted in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY.  Several well-known.restaurants, breweries, and wineries were present at the event.  Additionally, well-known musical acts (such as The Roots and Daryl Hall & John Oates) closed out the events each night.  General Admission to the festival was free, as long as you could score a ticket.  There was also an "Extra Mooga" experience that you could purchase for an obscene amount of money and you would have access to a bunch of really cool events with celebrity chefs.  I didn't take advantage of that because really, it was too expensive and I just wanted to hang out with some good friends and get a few bites to eat.

I showed up on a sunny Saturday afternoon to partake in the day's events.  The day's events included demos, presentations, and bands at various locations within the GoogaMooga grounds.  Upon arriving, one of the first things I saw was a huge and beautifully colorful cake.  Yep. That's right.

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City Winery: A Review

Wow, I've just realized that I haven't done a review in a long time.  In fact, I haven't done one since last summer!  This isn't to say that I haven't been gallivanting around town and checking out new spots.  I just haven't been focusing on it like I should have been.  I'm about to fix that.  I have a few reviews coming your way.  I'm on a travel stint which will last approximately two weeks, so my home-cooked meals shall be non-existent for a hot minute.

Instead, I will tell you allll about this cool venue in New York City called City Winery.  In case you haven't put "two" and "two" together yet, this is a winery which happens to be located in NYC.  Can you really get much better than that?  I'm pretty sure it would be difficult to top this.  But they try.  Because City Winery is also a popular music venue. There's a musician or a band playing on the built-in stage just about everyday.  What don't you love about that?

During the week, the Barrel Room at City Winery is open for lunch.  The Barrel Room happens to be an attached 30-seat cafe/tasting room with 11 wines on tap.  Did you just hear what I said?  11 wines on tap.  Sweet be-jeebus.

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Midtown Lunch Birthday Party: A Review

I've been doing a lot of food reviews on this blog lately.  A lot of reviews and a lot of eating.  I can't help it.  Summertime is here and the NY food trucks have come out in full force.  Even better, there are a ton of food events during which those food trucks get together and I can sample just about all of them at once.  Yes, please. I'm on it.

This week's food event?  The Midtown Lunch Birthday Party.  Midtown Lunch is a website dedicated to finding New Yorker's a decent lunch.  Originally, as you have probably guessed, the idea was to help find New Yorker's a decent (and cheap) lunch in the midtown area.  However, they've now expanded to include other areas of NY and a few other cities.  Obviously, you can also check out the site anytime of the day and not just for lunch.  So anyhow...did I mention the website turned 5?!  That's right.  The big 5.  So the Midtown Lunch crew decided to throw themselves a birthday party complete with all-you-can-eat food and all-you-can-drink beverages.  Because why not?  The ticket cost was $55 if purchased in advance and this included food and drinks for a full 3 hours.  Can't beat that.

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Smorgasburg: A Review

For the past two weeks, I've been meaning to head across the rivers (yes, "rivers", as in more than one river) to check out Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. For opening weekend, May 21st, I was in California. The following weekend, I was swamped with errands and didn't find the time to make it there. This past weekend though, I just knew I had to have a Smorgasburg outing.

Wait, what? You haven't heard of Smorgasburg?

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Balthazar Restaurant: A Review

I haven't done a review in a while, so there's no better time than the present. Actually, looking back through my blog posts, Ive never reviewed an actual restaurant, so this will be a first.

Several few weeks ago, my friend Anjelika introduced me to Balthazar Restaurant, which is a French restaurant in NYC's Soho district. After a leisurely brunch there, I was hooked. So when my mom visited me over the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided we should go back again. Wow, I'm glad we did.

As soon as my mom and I arrived, we were informed that since we were early (we showed up at 9:30am), we couldn't place an order until 10am, when Brunch is served. We chose to sit anyway and our server Carol came over to introduce herself. Best. Server. Ever. If you go there, you should request to sit in her section. For real.

My mom and I each ordered a cappuccino and Carol provided menus so that we could peruse the brunch possibilities. However the cappuccino kept stealing my attention. It was amazingly thick and creamy with just the right amount of foam on top of the espresso and milk. I heart caffeine.

Carol stopped by again and discussed each menu option with us so that we could make informed decisions. In the end, we chose two appetizers and two entrees. Carol received our order just prior to 10am and I think we were the first order into the kitchen for Brunch that day!

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The Institute of Culinary Education - Cupcake Workshop 1

I just took the most amazing cupcake workshop ever! Well, I've never taken any cupcake workshops before so by default, this is the best I've ever taken. But even if I had, I still think this would have been the best.

I took the class at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) which is just across the river from Hoboken, in New York's Chelsea neighborhood. Chef Melanie Underwood was our instructor for the Cupcake Workshop 1 class. She was so knowledgeable and it was such a pleasant experience to get all my cupcake-related questions addressed in one location on one day.

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Brooklyn Brewery: Tour & Tastings

This week, THK decided to take a little field trip. Let's face it, all this cooking has left my freezer a little overstuffed, so I took a break and headed on over to Brooklyn. The main attraction? The Brooklyn Brewery

I've been meaning to go to this brewery for a while. I almost made it earlier this year, but the key word there is "almost". In actuality, the Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood in which the Brooklyn Brewery resides is not that far from Hoboken. I hopped on the PATH to 14th St in NYC, then transferred to the L and got off at the first stop in Brooklyn. It took me about an hour and a half to make it to my destination. And that includes the pit stop I made to the Cupcake Stop, which happened to be conveniently located in Union Square that afternoon. (Yummm...I need to blog about that place someday!) But seriously, an hour and a half is little to ask for when you consider the prize waiting at the end of your journey.

I jumped off the L train at the Bedford Avenue stop, which is the first stop after crossing the East River. I was met by the obligatory hipsters and a random girl in a silver sequined skirt. Yep, Williamsburg is a little quirky, but still cute. About 5 blocks later, I ended up in front of a large yellow brick building. I wasn't too sure at first that this was the actual location. Although their website, brooklynbrewery.com, provides an actual address, the street they directed me to is filled with warehouses. There were numerous false alarms before I found the actual brewery. The huge "B" label above the warehouse doors clinched the deal. Unfortunately, I didn't actually get a picture of this, but trust me, it's there. Another Brooklyn Brewery label greeted me as I stepped inside a pair of huge warehouse doors. See picture above.

Fun Fact: their label was designed by Milton Glaser, who designed those "I Love New York" t-shirts.

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NYC's Dessert Truck: A Review

Making it to the Dessert Truck has been a goal of mine for the past 12 months. I don't hold on to too many dreams this long. I either do something about it or I let it slide on past. The Dessert Truck was special enough to stick it out.

For those of you who do not know, here's a little background on the Dessert Truck. The Dessert Truck is literally a truck that is parked around New York City where any passerby can buy high-end desserts for non-high-end prices. The chefs make everything from scratch, from the homemade vanilla ice cream to meringues to decadent sauces for their chocolate bread pudding. Also, they have been featured on the Food Network for a little show called "Throwndown" with my personal friend Bobby Flay. Well...technically he's not really my friend but he did open a Mesa Grill restaurant in the Bahamas and I've eaten there, so it's just a matter of time before we become bosom buddies.

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