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Friday, March 30, 2012

NYC East Village: Edi and the Wolf

Edi and the Wolf

102 Avenue C

You walk in and it’s breathtaking. A wonderland of sorts, dripping with foliage among rustic wooden tables and ceilings dimly lit between the cracks. An Austrian haven, reminiscent of a cozy cabin I’d like to retreat to after a treacherous day on the slopes. Well, I don’t ski but after a long day of dipping in and out of East Village dive bars I was certainly happy to find this gem. 
Pretty flowers and lights between the cracks of the ceiling
Courtyard in the back of Edi
Quirky table lighting

A tall glass of Weihenstephan Hefeweizen is in order. The Alsatian Flatbread was sweet and savory. It was sprinkled with farmer’s cheese, gruyere, parmesan, crème fraiche, cippolinis, spinach, apples, herbs, speck, and horseradish. A lot of components in each bite, tasting like a gift from the Alpine Gods. The Spätzle was rich with wild mushrooms and brussels sprouts. 

After a tall beer and two shared plates, I was plenty full. The staff was attentive and personable, with a 5-star atmosphere and food that certainly tastes of Michelin Star Chef quality thanks to Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban. I know there's much more to explore on the menu so I'll be back for a full dinner soon, or perhaps, a weekend brunch. 

East Village

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Boston: The Pourhouse

The Pourhouse

907 Boylston Street

It’s a beautiful day in Boston. We stop into The Pourhouse on Boylston (or McPourhouse for St. Patrick’s week) for a mid-afternoon beer. This place reeks of dive-bar. I love it. The walls are lined in brick, there are neon-lit lampshades over each booth, a Harley Davidson mounted atop the bar, tattooed wait staff, and matchbooks plastered in the countertops at the bar. We order a beer from the extensive draught selection and it’s served in quite a large glass.  We make note of the music, they play everything from Bush to Paramore to Dropkick Murphys. I notice a sign for a tiki bar and I get giddy. Our bartender explains that they host “Caribbean Club Nights” sponsored by Malibu on Thursday nights. She says that they give away a Caribbean vacation each week to the winner of certain challenges such as wrapping someone completely in industrial sized toilet paper until there is none left. She, in particular, completed the challenge of chugging a pint of maple syrup once upon a time, but someone else was faster so she lost. She puked it up after, of course, and assured us that the challenges since then are toned down.

When we ask about other bars to stop in around the area, she suggests the bar next door, McGreevy’s, owned by the Dropkick Murphys themselves. They are in town for St. Patricks Day and make random appearances at their bar. After we leave The Pourhouse, we stop in McGreevy’s for a drink. Although they had $1 sliders for happy hour, I couldn’t help but think what a better bar The Pourhouse is. The staff was super friendly and attentive, the atmosphere was fun, and how could I ever forget the TIKI BAR! I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I do know one thing. I will be back to The Pourhouse on a Thursday night for some Caribbean Club Nights.

NYC: Boqueria Tapas


171 Spring Street

A mid-shopping-spree lunch break. That’s what the location of the Soho Boqueria tells me (located on Spring St @ W Broadway). Of course, I was not shopping…at least not for clothing. I was on a hunt for food. Situated between cobblestone streets lined with boutiques, this is a Spanish tapas bar. There are chalkboards displaying today’s specialties and favorites. The kitchen is exposed for patrons to watch the seafood sizzle on the grill, and see the chef cutting super-thin slices of jamon for the charcuterie boards.

We start with a glass of cava, and a glass of red sangria. For tapas, the Tortilla Espanol has thick chunks of potatoes held together in a light egg omlette. The Ensalada del Momento was a spring salad with frisee and a citrus dressing. The Datiles con Beicon were bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed with almonds and Spanish bleu cheese. Warm and sweet. Finally, the Cojonudo: Fried quail eggs and chorizo on toast. It was delicious! 
Sangria and Cava sparkling wine
Tortilla Espanol
Ensalada del Momento
Datiles con Beicon
Overall, this was a quaint place for a springtime lunch. I will be back soon for a cheese and charcuterie board!
Quince paste, raisins, almonds, olives. Perfect for a Spanish cheese board!

Monday, March 19, 2012

NYC: The Darby

The Darby

244 W 14th Street

The Darby is an absolute gem located about a block away from where it should be located, the Meatpacking District. Instead, it is located on the borderline-sleazy West 14th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. The allure is for the trendy, social, MePa crowd so it’s close enough to be on the radar of those seeking just that. The Darby has a speakeasy vibe, with a nightly jazz band playing for the patrons to enjoy. My first cocktail incorporated watermelon ice cubes, so it looked and tasted delicious. I also tried the Floozy; grapefruit vodka, lemon, rose champagne. Summery and refreshing! 
Watermelon ice cubes
Various cocktails

Let's eat! We began with the ricotta crostini with braised artichokes and garlic, followed by baked clams and the burrata mozzarella. If burrata is on the menu, I always order it. Next up was the phenomenal charcuterie board.  The signature veal ‘bacon’ with homemade red mustard was thick-cut and smokey, the foie gras terrine with mandarin orange marmalade and pickled grapes was rich and sweet, and the duck breast with green peppercorns was sliced super thin. Yum. It was a creative selection for a charcuterie board. Also shared amongst the table, the sweet potato ravioli with toasted pumpkin seeds, chili flakes, and Parmesan.
Crostini & Clams
Charcuterie Board
The only thing I questioned after the meal ended was, what is The Darby Downstairs? Known by insiders as The Beehive, I learned that the honeycomb-themed lounge has a constant line out the door and keeps a trendy crowd at hand. I left The Darby full and tipsy (the way you should leave any restaurant), and I will be back soon to try The Darby Downstairs.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

NYC: Crif Dogs/PDT

Crif Dogs & PDT

113 St. Marks Place

113 St. Marks Place

Nestled in on the east end of St. Marks is a dicey-looking hot dog joint that's worthy of a closer look. Crif Dogs has some innovative hot dogs that keep a constant crowd at hand. Don’t be afraid of their wild toppings such as pineapple, pickles, sour cream, and fried eggs. It actually works! With bacon-wrapped hot dogs, veggie dogs, and everything bagel dogs with a smear of cream cheese, you really will fulfill any craving here. 

When you think you’ve tried them all, think again. There's an exclusive menu for the secret speakeasy that is located through the phone booth in Crif Dogs. Reservations are highly recommended, so call at 3PM the day you want to come in. That’s the only way to do it. It’s called PDT (Please Don’t Tell), accessible only through the phone booth, but first you must pick up the phone to alert the hostess to open the door. They only allow enough people that there are seats for, no more than that. So there will be no crowds of people standing at the bar waiting to catch the bartenders attention.
The infamous phone booth

Once inside, the bartender goes to work
Once inside, you will be presented an exclusive menu of unique cocktails and hot dogs. Inspired by Momofuku mastermind, David Chang, the Chang Dog is bacon-wrapped, deep-fried, and topped with Momofuku kimchi. I also tasted the Wylie Dog, which is a deep-fried dog with basically a tube of deep-fried mayo, tomato molasses, shredded lettuce and dried onions. If you are on a diet, DO NOT ENTER!!! To balance all that fried, fatty goodness, I sampled the Hummer. It’s a veggie dog topped with hummus, pickles, and peppers. Not bad at all
Classic dog on the left, Chang Dog on the right
Inside the Wylie Dog
When in doubt, champagne & franks is my favorite combo. (Hummer Dog)

To drink, I tried the bacon-infused bourbon with maple syrup. It was a delicious southern BBQ in my mouth. Other cocktails I can’t remember the details on but they involved candied ginger, pretty colors, and umbrella garnishes. Therefore, they were heavenly! Apparently PDT has a cocktail book for sale which has the recipes for their concoctions that you cannot find on their website. Personally, I will not be making these drinks at home. I like the adventure of making my way inside PDT to enjoy the unrivaled selection of cocktails I can’t find anywhere else. 
Bacon-infused bourbon with maple syrup
A few exotic cocktails

Monday, March 12, 2012

London Heathrow Eats

Dining Street Restaurant
London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 4
+44 (0)20 8897 3198

We flew into Gatwick and had a flight to JFK from Heathrow, so we took a taxi to the next airport. I wouldn’t recommend this. Find another way, something has to be cheaper than an hour-long taxi ride. We thought we would have time on our layover to grab a traditional English meal in London but we wound up going straight to the airport instead. Thankfully, we found a pub near our gate in Terminal 4. The Dining Street Restaurant served exactly what we needed. First, we had a sampler of potato chips and fried dough with curry filling accompanied by three dipping sauces. I drank a pint of Spitfire, a hoppy Kentish ale.  I felt it was an appropriate choice considering my meat pie had a Spitfire gravy on top. The meat pie was the standout dish. Also, the bangers and mash were delicious, with a hint of cloves. Overall, I couldn’t ask for a better layover spot to get some authentic pub fare. 
Meat pie with Spitfire Ale gravy
Bangers & Mash
Burger and Fries

Sunday, March 11, 2012

EasyJet: Flying Rome to London

Flying Rome to London

Similar to taking the bus or train to work, EasyJet is a no-frills commuter airline. Tickets are cheap so tourists can country-hop through the language barriers of Europe with about the same effort (or less) as it would for me to fly JFK to Miami. In this case, we were flying Rome to London. There are no seat assignments so we found ourselves pulling a fast one by pre-boarding (even though we didn’t purchase the additional priority boarding option, they didn’t stop us). Luckily, we got some prime overhead space and a whole row of seats at the front of the aircraft. I slowly watched the rise and fall of EasyJet boarding…
The boarding pass should’ve been a red flag. It read, “If you’re late, we won’t wait!” I knew this was a no-nonsense airline. As the final few passengers had to gate check their roll-aboard bags due to full overhead compartments, one woman in particular was frantic because she didn’t know why her bag was being taken off the plane. She spoke no English whatsoever (I would think this is acceptable, being that we are still in Rome, no?). However, the English flight attendant felt it would help to talk loud and slowly in the womans face to say, “I don’t speak your language, I don’t know what you’re saying. We have to check in your bag unless you don’t want to fly with us today.”
I needed popcorn. 
That’s it, the flight went well, I slept mostly. The two flight attendants glared at passengers and kept to themselves mostly. They could use a course or two in customer service, but I arrived safely and comfortably, so overall I was happy with the flight. I will absolutely fly EasyJet again, especially after seeing the incredibly cheap fares for flights from Rome to Palermo (Approx. $30!). 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Rome: Camponeschi


Piazza Farnese
+39 06 687 4927

In Piazza Farnese, there is a cozy place to enjoy an aperitivo with good company. Camponeschi caters to artists and art lovers alike. The walls are lined with unique paintings that are for sale from local artists. Franco, the server we visit every time, greets us warmly. He makes a mean strawberry bellini with prosecco and fresh blended strawberries. Served hot pink, and in a martini glass, just what a girl likes! To compliment our perfect pre-dinner drink, we are given an arrangement of crostini. Some mortadella, some tomato, some salami. Also to munch on, fresh mozzarella balls, potato chips, and olives. This was a pre-dinner snack. So, as you can imagine, it was a well-deserved 4-pound weight gain after this trip! Nevertheless, I kept going.
Art on the walls
Chips, olives, and crostini
Tomato bruschette
Fresh mozzarella for the table
Next door is Ristorante Camponeschi, which has brilliant reviews. I have yet to try it, but it's on my list for next time. 

Sidenote: As I was googling ‘mortadella’ to make sure I spelled it correctly, I couldn’t help but notice the Wikipedia description… it’s “a large Italian sausage made of finely hashed or ground, heat-cured pork sausage, which incorporates at least 15% small cubes of pork fat (principally the hard fat from the neck of the pig). “

I felt my stomach heave when I read that description, but I was quickly won over again by the further talk of mortadella with pepper, nutmeg, pistachios, and olives. It is so delicious, so please do yourself a favor and never read the details on ANY meat product. Ever.
The delicious hard pig neck fat (MORTADELLA)!!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rome: Gelateria Della Palma

Gelateria Della Palma
Via della Maddalena, 19/23
+39 06 6880 6752

Chocolate heaven
I stumbled upon Della Palma and quickly realized it’s my new favorite gelateria. Being that it’s down the street from the Pantheon, and they serve over 150 different flavors, it draws in quite a crowd. You must buy your cup/cone size first with the cashier then bring the receipt to the servers. I saw a chocolate peanut butter gelato (or so I thought) called Gran Torino, so I ordered that and the sesame honey flavor. The Gran Torino tasted like it took a dip in a glass of grappa so it wasn’t at all what I expected. Still, I devoured it all. With an extensive selection of chocolate varieties, I could try something different every time. The sesame and honey flavor was incredible, and I can only imagine the other flavors I missed out on. So until next time…

Sesame honey on the top