A cute, artisanal French Cafe located in the heart of the West Village, Dominique Bistro is a showcase to the rich history of French food.
Dominique Bistro opened late last year and I was invited in to check out what head chef and namesake, Dominick Pepe, was dishing out.
The restaurant is a Parisian-style cafe on the corner of Christopher and Gay Streets. The front of the restaurant has an enormous floor to ceiling window looking out onto Christopher Street and I was lucky enough to be seated in an ideal spot to take advantage of the view. The interior features an open kitchen with pops of French cultural flare scattered throughout. The vibe is classy and modern, and welcoming and inviting. It’s the kind of place I’d like to spend an afternoon sipping on wine.
The food exiting the open kitchen is comforting French fare. You have your classics such as Croque-monsieur, as well as authentic countryside dishes such as beef bouillabaisse.
Ahi Tuna Tartare
Ahi Tuna Tartare
Interior of Dominique Bistro
Exterior of Dominique Bistro
Interior of Dominique Bistro
I sampled a range of dishes. To start I tasted the ahi tuna tartare, pear salad and tomato soup. The highlights however were the main courses – beef bourguignon with braised beef, carrots, onions, mushrooms, potatoes and a red wine demi, and fettuccine with chanterelles, burgundy truffles in brown butter.
The bourguignon was my favorite dish. It hit the spot and helped warm me up on a cold January night. This hearty beef stew had a gracious serving of beef and seemingly dissolved after a few bites. Delicious.
Let’s not forget about dessert! I opted for the chocolate mousse and a heaping serving of sweetness came out. We’re not talking about any prim and proper chocolate mousse in a dish. This is a large hunk of chocolate mousse plopped down on a plate and decorated with strawberries.
Dominique Bistro has gained a spot on my list of recommended restaurants in NYC. It’s the perfect quaint West Village cafe where you can sit and enjoy a casual glass (or bottle) of wine or treat yourself to some heartier French fare.
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.
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.
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 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.
The space is casual, yet very energetic, and I can see the board games as a perfect way to spend a night.
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.
The 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.
One of the hits of the night was the Die Klassische, an incredibly cheesy grilled cheese served on pretzel bread.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
My advice, go crazy with the Beery Mary – a Bloody Mary with beer instead of vodka.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Marinato: Salmon carpaccio, spinach and orange
Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe: Pecorino cheese and fresh cracked black pepper
Salsiccia alla Brace: Italian pork sausage, cremini mushrooms and grilled tomatoes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Within New York City some of the best restaurants and food are often disguised down dark alleys, in basement restaurants or in backrooms behind storefronts. Fitting the bill, is The Stand Restaurant and Comedy Club.
I was recently invited to check out The Stand and they had to roll me out of the place. Chef Seth Levine has taken your usual pre-comedy show menu to the next level with unique dishes such as Cheeseburger Dumplings, Peking Duck Pizzette and more.
Upstairs from The Stand comedy club (street level) sits an unassuming, dimly lit restaurant. Upon entering, ceiling to floor glass provides you with two options – head downstairs to check out some comedy or grab a bite to eat at the restaurant. If you pick the latter, you’ve made a good choice. The interior of the restaurant is simple, but within this simplicity there is a lot of character. As you walk in, a bar lines the right side of the restaurant and long horizontal mirrors hang from the walls to give off the appearance of a larger space. That being said, the restaurant isn’t small by any means. It comfortably holds more than 15 tables lining the walls. A dark copper colored tin ceiling adds a nice touch to wrap it all together. Looking around, you’d never know you were above a comedy club, except for the comedians scattered among some tables working thorough jokes.
I brought my friend Kim with me to check out the menu.
Before we dive into food, first things first, drinks! The Stand gets mixology right. We tried a few of The Stand’s signature cocktails and they were all delicious. The highlight was the Slow Poke Rodriguez. (Extra points if you can name who this drink is named after. Hint: it’s a Looney Tunes character.) After taking a sip I saw why the name was appropriate. Initially, I was greeted with a sweetness that soon gave way to the bite of tequila, it just took a little while for it to get there.
For food, we were treated to a number of dishes:
Cheeseburger Dumplings: pan-fried dumplings stuffed with ground sirloin and grated cheddar cheese, served with a house dipping sauce
Steak Sandwich: grilled hanger steak topped with gorgonzola and sautéed onions on our toasted famous Stand pretzel bread, waffle fries
Salted Caramel Pretzel Bread Pudding: The Stand’s famous pretzel bread soaked & baked in a caramel cream, topped with a caramel drizzle and pretzel salt.
The Cheeseburger Dumplings come out four to a plate. The crust reminded me of an egg roll and was much crispier and tastier than that of your usual dumpling which can be flimsy. Ground meat and cheese exploded into my mouth with each bite. There was extra cheese on the side which was perfect for dipping and had a little bit of spiciness to it. All in all, a very crispy and great appetizer to start the meal.
The Truffle Mac n’ Cheese was probably my least favorite dish of the night. I thought it was a little bland and was missing something – what that something was I’m not sure. It was also a little bit too watery for my liking.
The Peking Duck Pizzette was a personal size pizza loaded with toppings. LOTS of duck was piled high with plenty of cucumbers and goat cheese scattered throughout. With all these toppings, I expected this pizza to be heavy but I was surprised at how light it actually was. The cucumber was refreshing and this was the perfect summer pizza.
The Steak Sandwich came out cooked perfectly medium rare. This sandwich was big with lots of sauteed onions and blue cheese. I’ve never had a steak sandwich with blue cheese before so this was something different that made this sandwich stand out from others. The blue cheese flavor was evident in every bite. All this was sandwiched on The Stand’s pretzel bread. This pretzel bread is all over the menu so they’re clearly proud of it. It was very thick and added a lot more than a regular roll would. Sitting next to the sandwich were the best waffle fries I’ve ever had. I can’t describe how incredible these waffle fries were. They were a perfect golden color and very crunchy. Hat tip to The Stand for these fries.
The Salted Caramel Pretzel Bread Pudding came out warm and was melt in your mouth good. Bread pudding is delicious to start. Make it out of pretzel bread and you’ve got yourself one hell of a dessert.
The food was only rivaled by the service. Our server, Graham, was one of the best waiters I’ve ever had. As soon as he came to our table he was immediately joking around and clearly wanted to make sure we had a good time. Whether it was pushing more drinks on us (in a good way) or proactively selling us on The Stand’s brunch, Graham clearly enjoyed his job.
The Cheeseburger Dumplings were $13, the Truffle Mac n’ Cheese was $9, our entrees were between $17-$19 and dessert was $8. For the service, quality of food and quantity, The Stand gives diners a great overall value.
Kim and I rolled out of The Stand with a huge smile on our faces, not thanks to the comedy, but because of the delicious feast we consumed. If The Stand’s restaurant is this good, I can’t wait to check out its comedy club. I’ll be back soon for that and you better believe I’ll be grabbing a bite to eat beforehand.
*This meal was provided free, courtesy of The Stand.