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Shelsky’s Smoked Fish

Appetizing (noun) is most easily explained as food that you would eat with a bagel: from smoked salmon and whitefish to homemade salads and cream cheese. This Jewish American food group gave rise to the appetizing shop, which reflects Jewish dietary laws that prohibit selling or consuming meat and dairy products together.  Appetizing shops sell dairy and fish, and delicatessens — traditionally — sell cured and pickled meat. Early in the 20th century, Eastern European Jewish immigrants brought appetizing cuisine to New York, and today that legacy is an emblematic food of the city: a bagel with lox and cream cheese. What says New York more than that?

Ironically, the bagel-lox-and-cream-cheese legacy has actually contributed to the slow disappearance of appetizing shops, which used to be a dime a dozen in New York. The ubiquity of this classic New York combo has cast a large shadow over the other important components of appetizing — whitefish salad, pickled herring, sturgeon, and sable, to name a few — and the shops have become nearly obsolete. Russ and Daughters, a stalwart of the Lower East Side, has been “appetizing since 1914″ and is thankfully still going strong. It is one of the only remaining stores in a neighborhood that used to be home to more than 30 appetizing shops, and happens to have some of the best whitefish salad on the planet. Brooklyn, for all its specialty food shops and Jewish roots, was sorely lacking an appetizing shop north of Prospect Park untilShelsky’s Smoked Fish opened in Carroll Gardens.

Peter Shelsky opened the store because he was tired of schlepping into Manhattan for whitefish, and he is restoring some heritage to the borough in the process. For a brilliant combination of all of the best that Shelsky’s has to offer, the “Brooklyn Native” is the perfect sandwich — Gaspe Nova, smoked Whitefish Salad, pickled herring, and sour pickles are served on a bagel or bialy. I am partial to the bialy, which is every so slightly toasted so as not to sacrifice the fluffy middle. The sandwich begins with a layer of creamy whitefish salad, which, made with chopped cucumber and celery, has just the right amount of crunch. Next comes two layers of Gaspe Nova so fresh it practically melts in your mouth. Not overly smoky, this Nova goes really well with the next layer, a slightly sweet piece of pickled herring that is much meatier than the salmon, offering a unique consistency in addition to the new flavor. Finally, a few sour pickles top off the salty stack, all enveloped, of course, by the bagel or bialy. The distinct texture of each component in the “Brooklyn Native” is an integral part of this sandwich’s character.

Other Shelsky’s sandwiches, like the “Member of the Tribe” (Gaspe Nova, scallion or plain cream cheese served on a bagel) or the namesake “Peter Shelsky” (Gaspe Nova, sable, pickled herring with cream sauce and onion, scallion cream cheese served on bagel or bialy) offer similarly complex, flavor-packed options. “The Great Gatsby” (pastrami cured salmon, horseradish cream cheese, honey mustard, and red onion) or the “Dr. Goldstein Special”(duck fat-laced chopped liver and apple horseradish sauce served between two schmaltz-fried potato latkes) take tradition to a whole new level. For those new to the cuisine, Shelsky’s sandwiches are a great introduction to the world of appetizing — a world that will hopefully see a revival in the city where it really came of age. Head down to Carroll Gardens (historically not a Jewish neighborhood, as it were), for a taste of authentic appetizing, and some of the best sandwiches this side of the bridge.

Va beh’

On Dean Street in Brooklyn, between Fourth and Fifth Avenue, you can find yourself in Italy for an evening. Va beh’, a new restaurant on the south side of Dean and somewhat eclipsed by the mounting Barclays Center, is discreetly tucked away from the chaos that surrounds it on all sides. It almost feels like you’re entering a secret passageway when you step through its doors.

What you find inside is a true, bustling Italian restaurant, where wine and sparkling water run from taps on the wall; the menu is scrawled in romantic, black script on a marble wall, the volume’s on high and a slightly chaotic frenzy fills the room with a communal sense of excitement and frivolity.

The wait and bar staff are Italian, adding to the sense of authenticity. The food leaves you wondering whether or not you have, in fact, somehow been transported to a little kitchen in Milan. A rarity in any restaurant no matter the locale or cuisine, the dishes are not too salty, which makes them actually taste homemade. A smoked trout crostini is meaty but light, melting in your mouth with the accompanying lightly grilled and olive-oil-brushed hunks of fresh country loaf. The pastas are divine, as to be expected. As are the meatballs. Nothing is too fancy, and it’s all made with the highest quality ingredients — exactly how Italian food is meant to be.

Owners Michele and Qiana Di Bar and Andrew Alari wanted to recreate the casual, everyday dining experience they had growing up in Milan, and that’s exactly what they’ve accomplished. With only a few tables (you can see it at here – www.kidfriendlyhome.com/best-cheap-vanity-table-reviews/), be prepared to wait a little while; But you’ll be offered a glass of the best wine they have open and a dish of olives while you wait. The lines will only get longer as word gets out, so run, don’t walk, to Va Beh’ where it really is all good.

Beverage of Choice: The Barton Hollow

It’s been a long while since I’ve sought out a perfect cocktail. For the last few months, it’s been a lot of red wine for me, in the comfort of my own home, on my wonderfully dependable couch. Last Friday, however, saw the confluence of a perfect storm, and I hit the East Village to find something daring but delicious, unique but classy to take the edge off. I found my match at The Wayland, a new bar on Ninth Street and Avenue C. It was called the Barton Hollow.

The Barton Hollow
Pimeton-infused honey, Vodka and Lemon.

Courtesy of The Wayland
Massive ice cubes and a hefty basil leaf consume most of the small glass, leaving little room for the drink itself. The strength of the lemony concoction, however, more than makes up for its volume, and the ice cubes compel one to sip, making this little drink last.

The Wayland is hip and old-timey, striking that perfect 19th century note that’s been all the rage in recent years (and that Portlandia captured so well in “Dream of the 1890s”). Skip the cheese and charcuterie plate and order the brussel sprouts instead, and if you’re into live music, check out the fitting mix of bluegrass and rock – banjos, bass and all – that hits the bar Sunday through Wednesday. Most importantly, slip slowly and enjoy!

The Dutch: part two

Supper at The Dutch is still a party. While it may no longer be the newest hotspot, (Ok, it’s definitely not- it’s been open since April of 2011, which, in NYC Restaurant Years, means it’s something like a teenager), The Dutch still delivers on great food and a fun vibe in some gorgeously sleek interiors. You will still feel that bustling energy when you step foot in the place, and you will still find yourself looking over your shoulder to check out who might be at the next vanity table.

A lot of people hated that Sam Sifton named The Dutch the number one restaurant in New York in 2011. And that Adam Platt named it in his Ten Best New Restaurants of 2011. And that it won Eater’s Restaurant of the Year in New York. I’m a lover, not a hater, and would argue that while a slew of other hot newcomers are just as worthy as The Dutch, I’m sure it earned its throne for a while when it first opened in early 2011. Like all once-hyped restaurants, The Dutch may have lost some of its sparkle by now. But the restaurant shouldn’t be banished from court just because the fervor died down.

I, for one, have had two great meals at The Dutch – brunch and supper – and would love to return for a special occasion with a big group to dine in their private room downstairs. After eating brunch at The Dutcha few weeks ago, I happily returned for dinner a few weeks later. The Fried Chicken Chicken Wings with the house Corn Bread are a great way to start Supper, and although I didn’t try it, I was enviously eyeing the Winter Salad with Country Ham, Vermont Cheddar and Pear at the next table. The Pecan Duck with Celery and Organic Dirty Rice, and the Steamed Branzino with Mussel-Lemongrass Curry and Peanuts tied as winners in my group. The Beef Ravioli with Porcini, Robiola and Black Truffle came in a close second. I’m not a huge fan of Banana Cream Pie, but this dessert was fantastic- I would definitely recommend it or whatever Fresh Pie of the Day they are serving.You can’t be king forever – especially in this city. But who says you can’t be king for day (or 2011, in The Dutch’s case), and then settle back, let someone else take the reigns for a while, and just continue being really, really good? In my mind, The Dutch is just that: still really, really good. If it hadn’t been so hyped, I bet The Dutch would still be feeling the love.

Some Light Reading and Good Thoughts…

…to transport you into the weekend

– It’s the Year of the Dragon, and maybe also the Year of Deviled Eggs:

Year of the Dragon Deviled Eggs (From Monique Truong’s fabulous Ravenous)
– Two places I love, now in one: India in Paris
– An amazing chef and writer, and also a dear friend, Daniel Meyer writes about The Rise and Fall of Twinkies

The Regal Shake at The Lantern’s Keep, a favorite midtown cocktail joint
(Beverage of Choice at the Lantern’s Keep: The Floradora)

The Compost Cookie

Lately, my ideal Sunday consists of sleeping in, reading the newspaper and magazines – preferably in print! – for a few hours, going on a long run, and devoting the afternoon or early evening to cooking something new and challenging. Inevitably there is work to do and there are errands to run, but I try to indulge in “me-time” for a few hours on Sunday, to decompress and get ready for the week. Of late, my “me-time” has been putting my amateur cooking skills to the test. Yesterday, I cracked open my brand new Momofuko Milk Bar cookbook, by the incredible Christina Tosi, and attempted the famous Compost Cookie.

With so many ingredients – chocolate chips, mini pretzels, potato chips and graham cracker crust (which you have to make from scratch before you make the cookie dough) to name a few – it took me almost as long to amass all of the components as it did to make the cookies. I am a long way off from mastering these artful, awesome mishmashes, but my first batch of Compost Cookies turned out pretty good. Spending a few solitary hours focusing on nothing but baking elaborate cookies, I think these Compost Cookies might have been just as fun to make as they are to eat.

Walter’s

Every day it seems like some Manhattan-based restaurant opens an outpost in Williamsburg. Just recently, a restaurant from Williamsburg opened an outpost in Fort Greene. Walter’s, of Williamsburg’s Walter Foods, opened a few months ago on prime real estate, on the corner of Cumberland and Dekalb, facing the park.
A welcome addition to the neighborhood, Walter’s is open late, unlike most of Fort Greene’s dining establishments. The food lives up to high neighborhood standards. The Deviled Eggs are perfectly spicy and the Crab Cakes with Sherry and Cayenne Aioli are lightly battered for a crispy outside and moist inside. A Roasted Half Chicken with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Market Vegetables and Tarragon Gremolata is tender, juicy, and excellent.

An extensive and wondrously nostalgic cocktail list offers standbys like the Singapore Sling (Gin, Cointreau, Cherry Liqueur and Pineapple), a Sazerac and a Mint Julep. Unique, masterful takes on other old favorites include the Bramble (Gin, Lemonade and Blackberry) and the Fig Sidecar (Aged Rum, Fig Syrup, and Fresh Lemonade).

A large, oval mirror on the wall behind the bar illuminates the long, gorgeous interior, as well as the beautiful, bohemian Brooklynites clustering in lively pockets from the bar to the back booths. I’m thrilled that Walter’s is only a block away. The bottom of the menu reads: “If you love us, tell Danny. If you don’t, please tell Dylan.” Well, Danny, I love you guys.

Billy’s Bakery: The Perfect Cupcake

I have a new favorite cupcake. I know, I know. Cupcakes are so passé. Doughnuts are the new cupcakes, and today’s doughnuts are tomorrow’s macaroons and yesterday’s whoopie pies. I know. But there is something ridiculous about the vanilla buttercream frosting at Billy’s Bakery. I have been partial to Buttercup Bake Shop on the East Side until now, but the West Side’s Billy’s has just officially won me over. Founded in 2003, Billy’s Bakery is not new news. In fact, it’s old news. But this oldie is a goodie, and the Chocolate Cupcake with Vanilla Frosting just wont first place in my New York Cupcake Rank.
(At 9pm on a Wednesday night, looks like the Almond Pistachio was completely sold out).

Tulum, Mexico

Tulum is about an hour south of Cancun, and feels a world away. Far from the mega-resorts and spring break madness, Tulum is a tiny town where beach-goers stay in electricity-free, boutique eco-hotels and can practice Yoga, visit Mayan ruins, and explore a nature preserve when they’re not basking in the sun on the pristine Tulum Playa. The budget-minded traveler can stay in Tulum Pueblo, which is filled with a ton of great restaurants and shops, and is only a short ride to the beach.

We stayed in town for the first six nights, and on the beach for the last. Our first hotel was Posada Yum Kin- a tree house-like hotel in the far corner of town. We were only there one night, but the bright room, vine-covered balcony, continental breakfast and friendly manager made it a great first stop. Next we stayed at The Secret Garden, a charming hotel whose rooms surround a jungle of a garden, also in town. Affordable, clean, and in the heart of Tulum Pueblo, The Secret Garden was a lucky find and a great place to stay.

Most days started with a quick breakfast at The Secret Garden- coffee and bananas courtesy of the hotel, and instant oatmeal that we bought at Chedraui, the Wallmartesque everything store that was new in town and our one-stop-shop for essentials: water, sunblock and lunch supplies. We wasted no time in getting to the beach bright and early. Tulum Playa stretches for miles, an idyllic expanse of soft, white sand and warm, turquoise water. On the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum sits on the Caribbean Sea, which means the water is absolutely heavenly.

A few mornings we had breakfast in town, and my favorite place was Natural Cafe. There are a few sidewalk tables, but the open entrance and bright colored walls make even the inside tables feel alfresco. Eggs are served alongside potatoes with fresh herbs, turkey bacon and toast. Fruit and vegetable juices come in any combination, like orange, carrot, celery, papaya and melon. My favorite was Yogurt with Fresh Fruit and Granola, served in a large, glass goblet.

Tulum is also home to the only Mayan ruins found on the seaside. We spent an afternoon exploring the walled-in stone fortresses, temples, and homes.

A thirty minute drive West brings you to Coba, where the tallest Mayan pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula can be found. Coba was a Mayan city where more than 50,000 people lived during the peak of the Mayan civilization, and the ruins contain several large pyramids, temples, and steles- large, stone slabs with carvings of gods. Coba made another great afternoon trip.

In addition to the beach and the Mayan ruins, Tulum – and the surrounding area – is also home to a series of Cenotes: underwater caves where snorkelers or scuba divers can explore the mysterious deep. We rented snorkel gear for a day and checked out Dos Ojos, two magical cenotes where we snorkeled in fresh water around tiny fish and huge stalactites. Before we snorkeled at Dos Ojos, we visited Akumal, a tiny town between Tulum and Playa del Carmen where you can see Sea Turtles. We saw five, amazing sea turtles- three at one time. Happening upon them each time was like discovering buried treasure. We would watch them nibble at sea grass and come up for two sips of air every so often. It was a definite highlight of the trip.

Whether it was a full beach day or a half day at the beach and a half day of snorkeling or visiting the ruins, every night began with a sunset cerveza or tropical cocktail. (My favorite was a Watermelon Daiquiri from La Vita Bella, and the most deadly was Mateo’s Coco Loco – Vodka, Tequila and Rum with fresh coconut milk).

The Dutch: part one

Sam Sifton voted The Dutch his number one restaurant in 2011 in The New York Times this past week. I had the pleasure of eating there for brunch on the last day of 2011 with one of my closest friends and best companions for dining out in the city. (She’s leaving us soon for another great food town – L.A – so we’ve been getting the important stops in before she departs, and before I’ll have to visit her for more culinary excursions on the west coast). Beating the brunch crowd by about half an hour, we got a table right away and were able to enjoy the great people-watching out of the big windows of this corner restaurant on Sullivan and Prince.

The Soft Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Sable, Trout Roe and half of Toasted Sesame Bagel was perfect, served salty and buttery in a bowl. The Honey Butter Biscuits were to die for. Three are served warm on a wood board, covered in an incredible, sweet Honey Butter, alongside whipped butter and a light, tangy jam. What a fantastic finale to 2011!
Lucky for me I get to try dinner at the Dutch in just a few weeks. Stay tuned for part two…

Chickpeas Recipes

Happy New Year!

‘Tis now the season to eat healthily. It’s January 1, and tomorrow is Monday, January 2, so naturally I should start my annual resolution to eat healthier (mine and everyone else’s) tomorrow. This makes sense, I swear.


In preparation for Week 1 of healthy eating, I made a few healthy snacks to keep me satiated for the next few days at work and at home.

I used one of my favorite foods – Chickpeas – as my central ingredient. I love chickpeas. I eat them raw in salads, stir-fried with zucchini and feta, and I could eat hummus for three meals a day.

For a crunchy, spicy snack, I found a great recipe for Roasted Spiced Chickpeas from one of my new favorite magazines, Whole Living. For my favorite staple, I made a traditional Hummus to eat with Celery and Carrot Sticks.

Twenty minutes of prep for a week’s safety net, which will keep me from reaching for that bag of chips or bar of chocolate, on the first week of a “year of healthy eating…”

Happy 2012!

Family Recipe


I love the story behind Family Recipe. Chef and owner Akiko Thurnauer built an ode to her father in this homey, Japanese-fusian restaurant that opened earlier this fall in the Lower East Side.

Inspired by the foreign ingredients her father used to bring home from his world travels, and from the fine dining he would treat her to, Akiko melds home-style Japanese cooking with exotic flavors and techniques. You can feel and taste the sweet, simple and sincere roots when you step foot in this unpretentious gem of a restaurant.

Two girlfriends and I went to Family Recipe on a recent Friday night, and enjoyed a Sake tasting while we waited for a table. With our meal we tried – and loved – a bottle of Poochi Pooochi, a Sparkling Junmai Sake.

My favorite dishes were a Konbu Cured Fluke with Field Caviar and Ginger Oil; a Kale salad with Pomegranate and Candied Pistachio (Vegan); and a Mushroom salad with Yuzu Vinaigrette.
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Effortlessly blending styles, the restaurant itself is both quaint and sophisticated, and the food is homey but refined. Many of the dishes are vegan or vegetarian, but nothing lacks flavor – a feat I love in the rare restaurant that can pull it off.

Family Recipe is a lovely, little restaurant with a refreshingly sweet back-story, and the food to match.

Gingersnaps and a Christmas Tree

I was feeling under the weather last Saturday night, so I stayed in, turned on the Christmas tunes, and made Gingersnap cookies. With the sweet aroma of our newly bought Christmas tree mixing with the smell of ginger and cinnamon coming from the oven, our apartment literally reeked of Christmas. All week I’ve been eating these perfect cookies and catching wonderful whiffs of the tree, really revving my christmas engine.

Find the recipe for these classic Gingersnap Cookies below. They make great party favors or potluck offerings, layering neatly in a cookie tin and traveling well. They also stay fresh and delicious for a whole week if they last that long! They’re easy to bake, hard to screw up, chewy in the middle, a little crispy on the edges, and best when consumed alongside a fragrant Christmas tree. Happy holidays!

Gingersnap Cookies

(Makes approximately 24 cookies)

3/4 cup of butter

1 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of molasses

1 egg

2 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

– Cream butter and sugar

– Add molasses and unbeaten egg, and beat all together well

– Add all other ingredients and blend

– Roll balls of dough in sugar and bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees: 10 minutes for chewy cookies, 12 minutes for crunchy cookies

Roberta’s

I tend to dismiss most things Williamsburg and Bushwick because of the Disneyifying Hipsterdom that has completely taken over. I’m partial to any part of Brooklyn that isn’t ‘right off the L train.’

But when I finally got out to Roberta’s, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of pretension and hipster-tude, and was completely wowed by the food and ambiance. Roberta’s really does deserve the hype.

I’m obsessed with Margherita Pizzas – they’re always the best, wherever you go – and Roberta’s Marghertia definitely won a spot on my top ten list. Their special calzone, made with Pesto, Roasted Red Peppers, Ricotta, Prosciutto, and magic, was fantastic that night and equally good the next day. Finally, their Prime Flat Iron Steak with Grilled Potatoes and Charred Lettuce was devine, cooked to juicy perfection.

I think I might finally be getting over my deep-rooted distrust of hipster Bushwick. And I will have to owe it, of course, to Roberta’s. I can’t wait to visit again.

The Slow Cooker Chronicles: Meatball Subs


With Thanksgiving just behind us, holiday parties filling up the calendar, cold weather encroaching and nightfall at 4 p.m., Comfort Food Season has officially arrived. In the spirit of the season, I decided to make Meatball Subs last Sunday night. Meatballs are definitely a trend of the moment, and what better way to eat them than on a toasty bun, covered in homemade tomato sauce and topped with melted mozzarella cheese?

I cooked the tomato sauce in my handy slow cooker – on high for three hours – and then added meatballs to the sauce for one more hour of cooking. When the fourth hour was almost up, I cut a baguette up for subs, and sliced mozzarella into thin pieces for melting. I also made a quick salad of mixed greens, red pepper, red onion, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and some of the left-over mozzarella, dressed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

When the meatballs were ready, I hollowed out one side of the sliced baguette and poured sauce and a few meatballs in the hollow. I layered mozzarella on thick, and placed the open faced subs into the oven for about ten minutes. Soon, my lovely boyfriend and I were on the couch, watching football, and happily eating home-made, slow-cooked meatballs on a sub: a pretty perfect Sunday night.

A Weekend in New Orleans

Po-Boys, Beignets, Muffulettas, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffee, Bread Puddin: New Orleans cuisine should be a food group unto itself. When eight of us took a trip there a few weekends ago, we ate everything and drank even more, following a balanced diet of local recommendations, classic New Orleans staples, and good old fashioned wandering.

Our party of eight stayed in the Lower Garden District, a short walk from the mansions of the Garden District and the antique shops of Magazine Street. Mojo Coffee House was the first stop every day, and some of us hit Lucky Ladle for our second cup of caffeine. I have to admit, I was a big fan of that chicory coffee.

Our first day in New Orleans was a Friday: a fortuitous day for an introduction to the Big Easy, if you like a martini lunch. Commander’s Palace, an infamous restaurant in the Garden District, open since 1880, serves 25 cent martinis on Friday. Thank god they limit you to three!

The food lives up to the hype, but the Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé with Warm Whiskey Cream really took the cake.
Before martinis and soufflé, we took our own walking tour through the Garden District, admiring all of the historic homes and Victorian mansions. We also strolled through the Lafayette Cemetery, which is right across the street from Commander’s Palace.
After lunch, our pace slowed to a saunter as we explored the Warehouse District and perused some of the galleries. Much to everyone’s dismay but against no one’s will, we landed at Harrah’s Casino. It wasn’t really our thing, but when in Rome, right?
The French Quater was a short walk away, and the sun was setting, so it was time to get the first (and last!) Hurricane of the trip, on none other than Bourbon Street.
Sipping our alcoholic slushies out of the ubiquitous styrofoam cups, we ended up at the amazing Piano Bar:Pat O’Briens.

At Pat O’Briens, you write song requests on cocktail napkins and hand them to the piano player on stage. If you’re lucky, or sit and drink long enough, she’ll play your song. Everyone drinks and sings along.It’s campy and amazing. After belting out Billy Joel and letting it rip for Tina Turner, we ended the evening with jazz and a nightcap at Three Muses on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny.

The next day’s journey started with an ambitious run to Audubon Park, followed by a happy trolly ride back to the French Quarter. The day’s consumption started at Johnny’s Po-Boys, the oldest family owned po-boy restaurant in the city. The cheese fries were outrageous alongside the incredible catfish po-boy.

After lazing around the beautiful French Quarter and finding the Ursuline Convent, the oldest surviving example of the French colonial period in the United States, we had a drink and heard some afternoon jazz back on Frenchmen Street, this time at The Spotted Cat.

Next, we took an epic walk from the Marigny to the Bywater. On the way, we met a local, walking his dogs, who talked to us about the city’s history, the jazz scene, and Hurricane Katrina.

We landed at Bacchanal, a wine shop with a large garden out back, where we sat and enjoyed a few bottles of wine after having a tasting inside. Night fell and it was time to eat, again.

We dined at Slyvains, a lovely restaurant in the French Quarter. The Chicken Liver Crostini was one of the best I’ve ever had, the Fried Eggplant with Parmigiano Reggiano and Lemon Aioli was perfect, and the Shaved Brussle Sprouts with Apples, Pecorino and Hazlenuts were stellar. The Crispy Duck Confit with Vidalia Creamed Blackeyed Peas, Maras Farms Sprouts and Bourbon Mustard was to die for. I really loved this place.

For coffee and dessert, there was only one choice: the legendary Cafe Du Monde. The chicory coffee is mixed with half and half and hot milk for the most delicious cup-full ever. And the beignets. Oh the beignets. Fried, doughy excellence, coated in powdered sugar. We saved the best New Orleans treat for last.

We danced the night away at Mimi’s, a fun, double-decker bar filled with no one over 23 (except for all of us), and we returned home to the Lower Garden overly-satiated and exhausted, but wishing we had one more day to eat and one more night to party.
A food lover’s picnic in paradise, a booze hound’s open bar, The Big Easy is a town where gluttony is not a sin; it is a way of life. (Also check the best folding table for picnic, coffee and dinner ^^)

(Thank you to Justine for the great pics!!)

Meal on-the-go: GranDaisy Flatbread

If you find yourself needing to eat on the go (as I do far more often that I would like), and you find yourself in Tribeca (or Soho or the Upper West side- see below for exact locations), the flatbreads at GranDaisy Bakery are great.

My go-to is the Pizza Zucchini, which is served on a thin-crust flatbread with gruyere cheese. Their Pizza Cauliflower, also made with gruyere cheese, and Pizza Pomodoro, which, with nothing but tomato sauce, is as perfectly simple as it gets, are also favorites. For something different, I go for the Pizza Sciacchiata, whose sweet Champagne Grapes and Anise compliment the salty crust really nicely.
One makes a great snack, and two a fine lunch. For eating on the go, GranDaisy Bakery is one of the best bets I’ve found for something relatively light, not too unhealthy, and always supremely delicious.

Tribeca: 250 West Broadway, between Beach and North Moore
Soho: 73 Sullivan Street, between Spring and Broom
Upper West Side: 176 West 72nd Street, at Amsterdam

Battersby

The curse of a small kitchen is a burden most New Yorkers must bear. We take it in stride: ordering in, eating out and keeping it simple. The more ambitious of us quickly learn to get creative, enabling surfaces not otherwise meant for cooking, using as few containers as possible, and discovering the art of substitution.

The tiny kitchen becomes a whole different ballgame when you’re cooking for customers. Restaurants likeSmith and Mills, which cooks on hot plates, and Prune, which has only two ovens and one countertop, have mastered the closet-sized kitchen. Now, a new, Brooklyn based restaurant can join the ranks: Battersby, on Smith Street in Cobble Hill, whose kitchen is akin to a walk-in closet. Chefs Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern both left their recent posts at Anella in Greenpoint, and opened the doors of the lovely Battersby just a few weeks ago.

How do they cope with their small kitchen? Only a few tables, and only the experts doing the work. That’s right. Ogrodnek and Stern, the creators of what will be a seasonally relevant, contemporary American menu, will be the only two cooking.

Their Marinated Fluke with Apple, Avocado, and Lime was perfect. A simple but unique combination, it tasted so right it could be the new beet and goat cheese salad. A creamy but not too heavy Chestnut Soup with Roasted Mushrooms and Quail Egg, delicious to the last drop, and Handmade Parpardelle with Duck Ragu, Taggiascia Olives and Madeira Wine were excellent, and perfect on a night when winter came a little too early. There’s no question that the two very gifted chefs know exactly what they’re doing in their very little kitchen, which, by the way, they built themselves.

Pumpkin Muffins

If I had to sum up Fall in a food, it would be a Pumpkin Muffin. For as long as I can remember, my family has been baking this easy and delicious treat every time the air starts to cool and the leaves start to turn.

It usually takes us a few months to get our fill, so we’re still making them around the holidays. By New Years, we’ve had just about enough of these muffins, so we tuck away the recipe until next fall (and replace it, of course, with a pile of other baked goods like the Famous Spiegel Orange Cake or the one and only Spiegel Zucchini Bread. Stay tuned for next season).

Slightly sweet, my family’s Pumpkin Muffins make a great breakfast, and go well at the beginning or end of hearty dinner.


Pumpkin Muffins
(Makes 12 muffins. Or serves a familiar family for a few hours)

1 cup of pumpkin (mashed)
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of oil
1/2 cup of buttermilk
2 eggs
1 2/3 cup of flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

– Preheat oven to 400 degrees
– Mix pumpkin, sugar and oil together and beat for one minute.
– Add the eggs, flour, baking soda and spices and mix well
– Pour into muffin tray
– Bake for about 20 minutes

For healthier variations:
– I often substitute some of the oil with non-fat, plain yogurt.
– I also often use whole wheat pastry flour, and find the best happy medium is using half whole wheat and half white flour.
– Finally, instead of using buttermilk, you can you use whole, two percent or skim milk.

Echo

One afternoon this spring, I happened upon Jaume Plensa‘s “Echo,” a forty-four foot high sculpture of a girl’s head, coming straight out of the ground in Madison Square Park.

Glowing white in the middle of the green park, surrounded by towering buildings, the head shone like the moon. The incredible “Echo” graced Madison Square Park all summer, but has since been taken down, so I wanted to share it here for those who may have missed it.

I’m not sure whether it was the shock of seeing it there for the first time, or the indistinguishable race of the girl depicted, or the serenity of her expression, but the sculpture seemed futuristic and almost other-worldly to me. Every time I walked by, it continued to stun me with its beauty.

Reading more about the piece didn’t detract from its magic. I’m a complete novice when it comes to art, but I do love it, and this sculpture moved me. I don’t know where “Echo” will go, but she will certainly ring loud in my memory.