Food Event: Valentine’s Day NYC Dessert Tour

Guys, it’s time to get a little more creative on Valentine’s Day. Gone are the days of boxed chocolate and flowers. It’s time to step up your game with a full-on dessert tour.

Sugartooth Tours

For an amazing Valentine’s Day that she’ll talk about for years to come, check out Sugartooth Tours’ Valentine’s Day dessert tour. This year’’s Sweeter than Sugar Tour will take place in Chelsea and tour-goers will indulge in delicious treats, including half-pound cookies, artisan hot chocolate, and more. In addition, guests will feed their minds with the tasty and colorful culinary past of Chelsea and brush up on their Valentine’s Day history and trivia as they cuddle close with their sweethearts and mosey down the High Line.

Available tour dates include February 7th, 8th, 13th, 14th and 15th at 5:30 p.m. Additional time slots include February 14th and 15th at 2 p.m. Tickets are $50/person and include six tastings along the way. For more information, and to purchase tickets, check them out at www.sugartoothtours.com.

HENRI on Fifth

HENRI on Fifth – 279 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York

I recently was invited to check out HENRI on Fifth, a new restaurant and bar in Park Slope. Located in the space formally occupied by Aperitivo, HENRI On Fifth is serving Brooklyn with an eclectic fusion of small bites, shared fare, locally sourced staples and bespoke cocktails.

HENRI on Fifth in Park Slope Brooklyn

HENRI on Fifth in Park Slope Brooklyn

HENRI on Fifth has a fun selection of retro board games to play. We immediately jumped on Operation (remember how awesome this game used to be?) and Jenga.

HENRI on Fifth Jenga in Park Slope Brooklyn

The space is casual, yet very energetic, and I can see the board games as a perfect way to spend a night.

HENRI on Fifth Menu in Park Slope Brooklyn

The restaurant has innovative dishes that reflect the owner’s, Binh Douglas, heritage – Vietnamese, Native American, African American, German and French. Seasonally-changing and comprised entirely of small plates intended for sharing, the menu ranges from Banh ‘Mini’ Tacos to Sriracha Deviled Eggs, with a creative Grilled Cheese Soldier selection, plus salads, soups and sliders.

HENRI on Fifth Grilled Cheese in Park Slope BrooklynThe classic grilled cheese is made of cheddar and fontina cheeses on buttered Pullman bread. In one word, delicious. Sriracha deviled eggs join the party with a devilish kick.

HENRI on Fifth Grilled Cheese in Park Slope BrooklynOne of the hits of the night was the Die Klassische, an incredibly cheesy grilled cheese served on pretzel bread.

The Verdict

Live near Park Slope? HENRI on Fifth is a great new bar/restaurant. Bringing international fare, craft cocktails and retro board games to Fifth Avenue, HENRI on Fifth joins a casual atmosphere, great service and upscale food for a perfect combination. 

1682 French Louisiana: New Orleans’ French Quarter in Long Island City

1682 French Louisiana – 48-19 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, New York

Aside from the wonder that is Bourbon Street, New Orleans is known for its incredible food culture. Now, in a Long Island City cafe formerly known as Cranky’s, 1682 French Louisiana is bringing the French Quarter to the city.

The owners, Mina and Jimi, have transformed this former coffee shop into a French/Cajun restaurant. The interior pays homage to its coffee shop roots by still giving off a “coffee shop vibe.” And service with a smile is something you’ll definitely get here. Mina makes it a point to make her way to every table, greeting everyone with a friendly “Bonjour!” and sitting with those that want to chat into the night.

I was recently invited in to check out the menu and chowed down on some delicious dishes.

Creole Style Fries 1682 French Louisiana

We started off with some Creole Style Fries. These very thin and crispy fries were piled high and served with an avocado dipping sauce. They were coated with an addictive Cajun seasoning that had me grabbing them by the handful.

Creole Shrimp and Goat Cheese Crepe 1682 French Louisiana

One of the favorite dishes of the night was the Creole Shrimp and Goat Cheese Crepe. This appetizer consisted of a crepe filled with goat cheese and topped with shrimp and a creole butter sauce made with white wine. This dish gave my taste buds an immediate spicy kick that was quickly offset by a flood of delicious goat cheese.

Crab Meat and Avocado Terrine 1682 French Louisiana

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a favorite of mine. A thick bed of avocado was topped with a layer of crab meat and sour cream. The appetizer was very light and refreshing, but it struggled to find any real defining flavor.

Shrimp and Andouille Jambalaya 1682 French Louisiana

Shrimp and Andouille Jambalaya 1682 French Louisiana 2

Just look at that presentation! Another favorite of the night was the Shrimp and Andouille Jambalya. A generous amount of shrimp and Andouille sausage was served over dirty rice. This was all surrounded by a precisely placed wall of mussels. Delicious, delicious, delicious. The dish had just the right amount of kick to it and was extremely flavorful. It was served with a doughy homemade Cajun biscuit. I’d order this again in a heartbeat.

Cajun Brook Trout Fillet 1682 French Louisiana

The Cajun Brook Trout Fillet came sitting on wild rice and spinach, bordered by a rich-colored beet sauce. The fillet was perfectly cooked and there was a lot of it. The spinach gave off a healthy appearance, but it had a very buttery flavor so I’m assuming it wasn’t giving me those Popeye health benefits (I wasn’t complaining). This, combined with the sticky wild rice, made for a perfect combination.

Bourbon Coconut Bread Pudding 1682 French Louisiana

Time for dessert. Bourbon Coconut Bread Pudding sat in a pool of bourbon cream sauce. You could taste the alcohol in this rich and moist dessert, and it was damn good.

The Verdict

1682 French Louisiana has a lot of competition to deal with, with lots of ethnic restaurants dotting the surrounding blocks. However, after my experience, I think they’ll do just fine. The food was delicious all around and the service made it feel like home. True care was clearly placed on the presentation as every dish came out looking incredible. I’ve heard the weekend brunch here is packed, but I plan on giving it a try very soon! I highly recommend 1682 French Louisiana. And for those of you in Manhattan, it’s not that far away! 

1682 French Louisiana on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Information


* Restaurant Name
Cranky’s Café
* Overall
★★★☆☆
* Neighborhood / Cuisine
Hunters Point / Cajun / Creole
* Street Address
48-19 Vernon Blvd. (Between 48th Ave. & 49th Ave.), Long Island City, NY 11101
* Phone
(347) 738-4921

Get Cooking! Cook&Go Culinary Studio

I recently was invited to check out Cook&Go Culinary Studio. This awesome cooking school hosts a variety of cooking workshops with fun and lively instructors that make cooking fun!

Each class gives you a three course meal that you get to take home – after you cook it of course. The best part is that there’s something for everyone. With a different menu each month, you can learn how to cook nearly everything. For example, this month’s menu includes the “TV Tray Menu” and March Madness-inspired recipes.

I had a great time making healthy, fitness-inspired recipes during the cooking session I attended. The group atmosphere and instructors made for a lively and engaging few hours. The menu we whipped up consisted of:

  • Chickpea Burgers and Tahini Sauce
  • Spinach, apple, carrot, ginger smoothie
  • Raspberry filled shortbread sandwich

I highly recommend checking out Cook&Go. It’s the perfect spot for a fun date night or group excursion. I know I’ll be keeping a close eye on their class schedule to see what they’ll be cooking up next month.

Some pictures of my culinary creations are below. And, as a special bonus, you can enter the coupon code BLOG14 on the Cook&Go website to receive 15% off your first class. Get cooking!

Cook&Go Culinary Studio in NYC

Cook&Go Culinary Studio in NYC

Prep for Chickpea Burger

Prep for Chickpea Burger

Chickpea Burgers Ready for Baking

Chickpea Burgers Ready for Baking

Chickpea Burger

Finished Product – Chickpea Burger

Raspberry Filled Shortbread Sandwich

Raspberry Filled Shortbread Sandwich

Happy Cook&Go Blogger

Happy Cook&Go Blogger

Pink Nori – An Early Look at Astoria’s Newest Sushi Spot

I recently passed along the word that Pink Nori, Astoria’s newest sushi spot featuring New York City’s only “build your own sushi” was open. Their grand opening is scheduled for sometime in February (date TBD), but I checked them out the other night. They don’t have a website yet and just launched their Twitter account, so there isn’t a lot of information out there. However, here’s an early look at some items on Pink Nori’s menu (check out the second page here) and what we chowed down on.

Tuna and Salmon Sushi

Tuna and Salmon Sushi

We started off the meal with complimentary “new style” sushi off of Pink Nori’s menu. Tuna with vinegar tofu sauce and taro chips, and salmon with onion aioli and cherry tomato were placed in front of us. Right off the bat, Pink Nori accomplished it’s goal – taking ingredients that are not native to Japanese cuisine and integrating them into its dishes. The highlight here was the salmon with onion aioli. It basically tasted like a salmon onion dip. Delicious and unique.

Sushi Pizza

Sushi Pizza

Sushi Pizza

Sushi Pizza

Sushi Pizza was next. Another unique dish, this consisted of a homemade scallion pancake topped with guacamole and assorted fish, drizzled with three special sauces. Thick layers of fish – tuna, salmon and white fish – were layered on top of the crispy, buttery scallion pancake and covered with lots of crunchies and caviar. The pictures don’t do it justice. This dish was bursting with color. Pink Nori certainly didn’t skimp on the fish either. Each piece was thick with fish and the crispy pancake gave everything a delicious crunch. 

Pink Nori Roll

Pink Nori Roll

Definitely the most eye-opening roll of the night, the Pink Nori Roll featured seared salmon, cooked shrimp, avocado, tempura flakes and caviar, wrapped in a pink soy bean paper and served with a honey miso glaze. My mouth was in heaven. The honey miso glaze gave this roll a sweetness I’ve never experienced before with sushi. If you’re looking for a sushi taste combination you’ve never had before, order this roll.

Bird Nest Roll

Bird Nest Roll

The Bird Nest Roll was made up of fried salmon, scallions and cream cheese, topped with kani, tobiko, mayonnaise and panko crumbs, toasted and drizzled with sweet chili, eel sauce and wasabi mayo. Now that’s a mouthful of ingredients. This roll was appropriately named because it literally did look like a bird’s nest, complete with brown accents around the outer rim of the plate to mimic dirt.

Cajun Tuna Roll

Cajun Tuna Roll

The Cajun Tuna Roll was made up of crunchy spicy tuna on the inside, with Cajun pepper tuna and avocado on the outside. The cooked Cajun pepper tuna was the differentiator here. It had a mild kick to it that added to the raw spicy tuna. Basically, a spicy tuna roll on steroids.

The last roll we sampled was the Pink Alecia Roll. This consisted of crab meat, asparagus, and sun dried tomatoes, topped with smoked salmon, avocado, eel sauce and truffle oil, and lightly fried. Once again, Pink Nori didn’t disappoint. While this wasn’t my favorite out of the bunch, the sun dried tomatoes were a unique addition adding a slightly chewy consistency to the roll and a burst of concentrated flavor.

The Verdict

Move over, Junko, you and your “C” health grade rating can hit the road. Pink Nori is my new go-to sushi spot in Astoria. The food was outstanding and the service even better. The fusion of non native ingredients into Japanese cuisine (sun dried tomatoes, onion aioli, etc.) gave my palate a pleasant surprise and kept me guessing as I tasted each new dish. Hurry on over soon because once word gets out, Pink Nori is going to be a hot spot on 30th Avenue!

Pink Nori on Urbanspoon

Brunch at Feast

Feast – 102 Third Avenue, Manhattan, New York

With my aunt visiting from out of town, I was on the prowl for a solid brunch spot around Union Square. Many Yelp reviews later, I stumbled upon Feast.

Feast Restaurant

Feast Restaurant

Feast is a bright, open air spot with communal seating. The themes here are clearly simplicity, wood and nature, with single light bulbs dangling from a wooden plank ceiling and simple wildflowers adorning the center of each table. Very clean and sharp looking design.

Brunch is a set price at $24 a pop, which includes a drink, a trio of shareable appetizers, and entree.

Beery Mary at Feast Restaurant

Beery Mary

My advice, go crazy with the Beery Mary – a Bloody Mary with beer instead of vodka.

Brunch Shares at Feast Restaurant

Brunch Shares

Brunch Shares at Feast Restaurant

Brunch Shares

Croissants, chocolate croissants, muffins, fresh squeezed juice, and a yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and granola kicked off our meal. Everything was delicious, especially the parfait, but the croissants were my favorite here. Their buttery, flaky crust had a perfect crunch to them.

Lemon Souffle Pancake at Feast Restaurant

Lemon Souffle Pancake

Interior of Lemon Souffle Pancake

Interior of Lemon Souffle Pancake

The Lemon Soufflé Pancake caught my eye on the menu. It requires a 20-25 minute wait, but it’s well worth it. I’d never seen anything like it. Out came an enormous pancake that had risen into a fluffy, sweet brunch treat. It tasted just like a pancake but was extremely light and airy. The mixed berry sauce and powdered sugar it was doused in certainly helped its cause.

Wild Mushrooms, Scrambled Eggs, Puff Pastry, Chives at Feast Restaurant

Wild Mushrooms, Scrambled Eggs, Puff Pastry, Chives

Scrambled eggs in a pastry shell with mushrooms delivered the savory part of the meal. Served on a crispy bed of spinach, the pastry dough flaked away with each movement of the fork to reveal a scrambled egg-filled interior. Great presentation.

The Verdict

What a meal! I thought the $24/person price tag was a little steep for brunch, but Feast delivered. Every part of the meal was outstanding – from the ambiance to the service to the food. Your $24 includes a lot of food and by the end we were ready to roll out of there. Feast is definitely going on my list of brunch spots to hit up when my family is in town.

Feast on Urbanspoon

Abbottega Ristorante – Italian in the West Village

Restaurant: Abbottega – 14 Bedford Street, Manhattan, New York

Hailey and I recently checked out Abbottega Ristorante, an Italian restaurant that opened not too long ago in the West Village. Despite being opened only a short time, Abbottega is rich in history. The owner, David Ranucci, has a number of restaurants to his name (mostly in Milan) as well as an emerging intercontinental group of the Abbottega brand in New York City, Milan and Miami.

Interior of Abbottega Ristorante

Interior

The history of Abbottega dates back to 1913 and is a living tribute to Ranucci’s grandmother, who still spends her days in the kitchen. As he describes it, “It all began in 1913 when my grandfather Giulio opened his “Osteria” in Montefiascone, a small town with an enchanting view of the lake Bolsena, just 60 miles from Rome…a territory, with a high concentration of mountains and hills. At “Abbottega” in all these years, we have proudly served our traditional meals to our guests (including Cardinals) who used to come to us by carriages, bicycles, motorcycles, antiques automobiles (with drivers always blowing their horns twice) and today, with modern cars equipped with A/C and navigation systems!”

With a life-size photo of Ranucci’s grandmother hanging from the back wall, they’re very much keeping this tradition and old fashioned experience alive here at Abbottega in Manhattan.

Atmosphere

Exposed Brick Walls Painted White at Abbottega Risorante

Exposed Brick Walls Painted White

Walking into Abbottega is like being transported from the busy streets of New York City into a quaint Italian restaurant. Exposed brick walls are painted white with solid wood tables scattered throughout the interior. A counter at the entrance features Italian wines, cured meats and cheeses, as well as an area for the chef to make fresh pasta. In fact, there are mounds of it sitting there all ready to be used that same night.

If I were to describe the atmosphere in one word, it would be community. I immediately felt at home, a feeling I’m sure Grandma Ranucci would be happy with.

Fresh Pasta at Abbottega Ristorante

Fresh Pasta is Prepared Daily

Food

Food, food and more food. We were treated to a variety of items off Abbottega’s menu. Yes, it was a lot of food.

  • Crema di Pomodoro e Gamberi: Chilled tomato soup with shrimp
  • Bresaola: Home made cured beef, arugula, shaved parmigiano and truffle oil
  • Carpaccio di Salmone MarinatoSalmon carpaccio, spinach and orange
  • Tonnarelli Cacio e PepePecorino cheese and fresh cracked black pepper
  • Salsiccia alla Brace:  Italian pork sausage, cremini mushrooms and grilled tomatoes
  • Dessert: Yogurt cake, Espresso flan, Chocolate lava cake
Arugula Spread

Arugula Spread

Before all that food was bread, accompanied by a unique spread made up of arugula, potatoes and Parmesan cheese. This was a huge hit between myself and Hailey. You could really taste the arugula and it immediately set Abbottega apart from other restaurants.

Crema di Pomodoro e Gamberi: Chilled tomato soup with shrimp

Crema di Pomodoro e Gamberi: Chilled tomato soup with shrimp

The tomato soup and shrimp was delicious. The soup is made without any cream so it’s very light and comes out ice cold – perfectly refreshing for a hot summer day. I’m not a big fan of tomato soup but I couldn’t get enough of this dish.

Bresaola: Home made cured beef, arugola, shaved parmigiano & truffle oil

Bresaola: Home made cured beef, arugula, shaved parmigiano and truffle oil

The Bresaola was served over arugula with decorative plating accented by more of the delicious arugula spread. This beef was delicious! It literally melted in our mouths and had a tremendous flavor with just the right amount of salt from the curing process.

Carpaccio di Salmone Marinato: Salmon carpaccio, spinach & orange

Carpaccio di Salmone Marinato: Salmon carpaccio, spinach and orange

The Carpaccio di Salmone Marinato consisted of thinly sliced salmon topped with spinach and candied oranges. The spinach was very heavily seasoned with salt, pepper and oil – something I wasn’t complaining about. The candied fruit on the top of this dish played an intergral part, adding a hint of sweetness to each bite – something you don’t typically get in a carpaccio dish.

Ravioli di Carciofi: Artichokes, parmigiano & crispy prosciutto

Ravioli di Carciofi: Artichokes, parmigiano and crispy prosciutto

One of my favorite dishes of the night was the Ravioli di Carciofi. A very thin ravioli was stuffed with artichoke and topped with crispy and salty prosciutto. A light cream sauce was used that was so light you almost didn’t notice it was there. This was delicious. The flavor of artichokes really shone through with the light sauce serving its purpose to accent the flavor instead of drowning the pasta.

Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe: Pecorino cheese & fresh cracked black pepper

Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe: Pecorino cheese and fresh cracked black pepper

The Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe, while simple, had a complexity to it. The pasta was cooked al dente, as it should be, and tasted like it was literally made a few minutes ago. You can’t get any fresher than that. The sauce had a slight kick to it, reminding you it was there and giving this dish a warmth.

Salsiccia alla Brace:  Italian pork sausage, cremini mushrooms & grilled tomatoes

Salsiccia alla Brace: Italian pork sausage, cremini mushrooms and grilled tomatoes

Before dessert, our final dish of the night was the Salsiccia alla Brace. Sweet Italian pork sausage was topped with cremini mushrooms and laid on top of onions and grilled cherry tomatoes. I really liked how the sausage was cooked. It had some burnt areas to it and that extra char had me reminiscing about grilling sausage in my backyard. I liked this dish, but struggled to love it. Unfortunately, the flavors just didn’t go far enough for me.

Dessert: Yogurt cake, Espresso panna cotta, Chocolate lava cake

Dessert: Yogurt cake, Espresso flan, Chocolate lava cake

Dessert consisted of three different items – yogurt cake, Espresso flan and chocolate lava cake. The yogurt cake had a hint of lemon to it and was served with a delicious dark chocolate ganache. The ganache was slightly bitter and perfectly accented the yogurt cake. The chocolate lava cake had a layer of whipped cream around it that served as a bed for the molten chocolate that flowed out of this as soon as its skin was pierced. I don’t think I’ve ever had a chocolate lava cake I didn’t like. This was no exception and the layer of whipped cream on the outside was only a plus. The most unique dessert was the espresso flan. The flan had a strong coffee flavor and was topped with a thin layer of coffee grounds. I loved the grittiness of the grounds and the overpowering coffee flavor. Definitely no need to order a cup of coffee after this dessert.

Service

The service at Abbottega was incredible. Going back to what I said about a communal feel, it really did feel like I was eating in my grandmother’s kitchen and she was serving up a feast. The team at Abbottega did everything under the sun to make sure diners were happy.

Value

Prices range from $14 for salads, $14-$15 for appetizers, $13-$16 for pasta and $20-$24 for entrees. For what you get, these prices are a huge value.

The Verdict

I’m adding Abbottega to my list of some of the best Italian food I’ve had in New York City. A communal feel, simple, yet delicious food, incredible service – this restaurant seems to have it all. There are very few places that can make you feel like you’re eating in your grandmother’s kitchen, Abbottega is one of them. I can’t wait to head back.

*This meal was provided free, courtesy of Abbottega. 

Abbottega on Urbanspoon