Ai Fiori is the latest in Michael White’s empire of haute Italian cuisine (Marea and Osteria Morini are the others). Osteria Morini is home of the Stracci Pasta, one of the best dishes I’ve ate this year. Ai Fiori has been on my list since it opened in April and has received accolades as one of the best new openings this year. I finally made it for a holiday dinner with colleagues which was the perfect occasion for this restaurant. Ai Fiori is located in the Setai Hotel on Fifth Avenue.
One of my downfalls lately is too much attention to the recommended dishes at each restaurant instead of just ordering what I want to eat. My meal choices closely followed the NY Mag what to order choice. We started with our own appetizer, ordered three pastas for the table and then each had our own entrees.
For appetizers we tried the Branzino and the Bone Marrow (not pictured). They were underwhelming. The crudo was fresh but combined with the caviar it was too fishy for me.
Michael White is the master of pastas and they did not disappoint. The Spaghetti was my favorite which surprised me because the first time I had Bottarga was in Italy and I despised it. The Agnolotti was very rich but delicious and the Risotto was way too fishy.
The main course was a lamb crusted in fois gras which was extremely rich. I finished it and was glad I ordered it but would not order it again. The other mains at the table were the Vitello and the Lobster neither of which packed as much flavor as the lamb but both seemed lighter.
I recommend skipping Ai Fiori and trying Osteria Morini or Marea instead.--DBlock
Sorry for the hiatus but I am finally back to the city and will be making an effort to post weekly!
This past Friday one of my friends tried to make a reservation at Social Eatz and was first told that they do not accept resys for less than 4 people. When she explained that I was on crutches they made an exception to their rule and said they would accept reservations for 2. However if you are trying to make reservations over the phone I would say to stick to their policy of four. Angelo Sosa of Top Chef All Stars and former owner of the Hell’s Kitchen sandwich shop Xie Xie owns Social Eatz.
When we arrived the table was ready right away and I was welcomed with warm greetings and we were taken directly to our seats which was the closest table to the door. Rex came over and introduced himself as a manager and instantly I felt comfortable and welcome. My major issue with Social Eatz is that the bar is a center point of the restaurant and they do not yet have their liquor license. They have a decent size TV behind the bar which was playing the Mets game but it is by no means a good place to watch sports. It is one of those places to go when you are the only one in your group that cares about the game because at least you can still get the score.
The tables have benches and some are family style. The menu is limited in choices and mostly filled with a couple of appetizers, a few salads and some sandwiches. Personally I like a smaller menu because it usually indicates that whatever you order it is going to be good and that the food will be fresh because they make each dish pretty often. It was an easy menu to navigate and choose from. Angelo’s asian flare and love for food definitely shine through. For friends who are not foodies reading through some of the menu descriptions may be cumbersome and confusing but I loved the detail.
For an appetizer we ordered the Hot Wings (crispy wings glazed in a sauce of tamarind, garlic, shallots, palm sugar and togarashi, a japanese spice blend of red chili, roasted orange peel and black sesame). The wings come in an order of 5 and were fried to a crispy perfection. The flavor was sort of sweet but had a very good level of heat. On each table is a bottle of sriracha so you can easily add spice if they do not meet your standards for hot wings. While the flavor was good and each wing was a decent size the quality of the chicken was not as good as I would have liked. The wings themselves were a bit fatty but I would order them again.
For a main course I ordered the BiBimBap burger from the “SpecialtieZ” (it is obnoxious that they spell everything with a Z, it feels like a seventh grade girl selected the verbiage) section of the menu. Bibimbap Burger korean for “mixed meat”, its ground beef with a slow cooked egg, covered in lettuce and served with pickled carrot and cucumber.
I noticed that when the waitress took my order she didn’t ask how I would like it cooked so immediately I was concerned. The burger arrived and thankfully it was cooked perfectly. Juicy, tender and slightly pink on the inside served with a side of deliciously crispy, hot, seasoned french fries. I love a perfectly cooked egg so the slow cooked one that arrived on top of the burger definitely enhanced the taste. The pickled vegetables were also a nice touch and the burger was a good size and I couldn’t finish it but did come close.
Overall I really liked Social Eatz and I will definitely go back but it is slowly turning into a trendy, overhyped burger joint. Don’t get me wrong there are other things on the menu (SoupZ, SaladZ, Taco’Z) but I would probably only open up to the TacoZ. The prices are affordable and I’m sure it will only get more crowded once they are approved for their liquor license.
The food is affordable
All of the food has a good level of spice and is tasty
The burgers are cooked perfectly
The french fries are wonderfully seasoned and shoestring potatoes
Apparently their cheese sauce is amazing
Good bar space for solo or dining with 1 other person
TV behind the bar
Sriracha on every table!
No booze (yet)
Crowded/trendy right now (some people could consider that a bad thing)
Chicken wings could be of a higher quality
Overall: 4/5 Stars--DBlock
For the last month I have been on Long Island recovering from a broken ankle at my parents’ house. I broke it playing Zog co-ed touch football and had to have reconstructive surgery. I am extremely lucky to have family local to help me through and a place to recover but man do I miss my city and all the food. The following is a list of places that have been on my list for a while that I am going to make a point to try once I’m back in Manhattan… Who’s coming with me??
Minetta Tavern – Greenwich Village still wanting to try the Black Label Burger. Search for NYC’s best burger needs to continue.
Prune – East Village popular brunch spot but also serves lunch and dinner. Currently reading Blood, Bones and Butter and it’s great.
Kinshop – Harold Dierterle (Top Chef) new Thai spot in the West Village
Perilla – Dierterle’s first restaurant he opened upon winning Top Chef
Ciano - seasonal ingredient Italian spot in Murray Hill/Kips Bay area, recently opened by Chef Shea Gallante. Offering four and five course tasting and ala carte menus
Spotted Pig - embarrassed I have yet to be to April Bloomfield’s famed spot
John Dory Oyster Bar – fairly new oyster bar opened in the Ace Hotel by April Bloomfield serving bar snacks and small plates
The Breslin - Michelin Star restaurant focused on meat and in the Ace Hotel. Offering both Suckling Pig and Lamb Dinner’s at their chef’s table
David Burke Townhouse - I have wanted to go here since I saw this place on Top Chef this season. The menu just looks so fun and adventurous. Three course brunch is pricey at $39 but a three course lunch menu is more affordable at $24
Locanda Verde - disappointed I haven’t made it here yet. It has been on my list since trying their meatball slider at NYMag’s taste event two years ago. Tribeca Italian restaurant with executive chef Andrew Carmellini and partly owned by Robert DeNiro
Frank - small family owned Italian restaurant in the East Village that is recommended by many friends
Cookshop - meat/not for vegetarians spot on 10th Avenue
Northern Spy Food Co. - Farm to the table East Village restaurant. I mainly want to go here for brunch to try the Chicken & Egg sandwich. This used to be a college favorite for me only it was called the Emmy Bull Chicken and I have yet to find it duplicated in NYC. In general I hear this place is delicious for all meals.
Maialino - Danny Meyer Italian Restaurant in Gramercy. Chef’s table and great looking salumi; and main courses
Scarpetta - Scott Conant’s Italian restaurant in Chelsea. Never been and have heard from multiple people that the Spaghetti is out of this world but I really want to try the Duck & Foie Gras Ravioli
Marea - Chef Michael White’s coastal Italian seafood restaurant in Columbus Circle. Rave reviews and I love seafood, it’s a no-brainer. Expect for prices to be at the $$$$ level.
Eleven Madison Park - I love tasting menus. Every once in a while it’s worth putting on your best and going to a multi-Michelin star restaurant for a $400 meal. Elevan Madison Park is the next one on my list.
Osteria Morini - Casual Noho Italian restaurant that has been well received by critics and the dinner menu looks money.
Social Eatz - new affordable restaurant in Midtown East from Angelo of Top Chef All-Stars
Public - awarded a Michelin star and serving a Sunday Supper for $50 for five courses. Discovered from Brad Farmerie’s appearance on Iron Chef.
Double Crown - Farmerie’s second restaurant featuring a DIY Bloody Mary bar for lunch and Sunday Family dinner for $35/person
Butter - to put it simply Alex Guarnaschelli pisses me off on everything she judges (Chopped, Iron Chef) I really just want to go here to see if her opinions are justified. And maybe because I’ve heard it’s really good. Prices are high but its to be expected from the Noho location and celeb chef.
Gotham Bar and Grill – Esteemed NYC American restaurant. Too many awards and on too many lists not to try it once.
DBGB - Daniel Boulud & Jim Leiken team together on this “Pan European” homemade sausage haven.
Ma Peche - Who doesn’t want to eat Beef 7 Ways?
Gramercy Tavern - open for over 15 years; classic American New York City restaurant. Tom Collichio co-founded the GT before he spent so much time on Bravo. It doesn’t feel right that I haven’t been yet.
Co. - quest for NYC’s best pizza continues at this Chelsea spot from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery
Marc Forgione - as seen on Next Iron Chef as the winner. I was continuously impressed with his cuisine throughout his season. I’m sure it is trendy now but the last time I know people that went there it was before his season and they said it was delicious. So hopefully this Tribeca spot hasn’t changed too much.
Hearth - Another Iron Chef contestant. Hearth is Marco Canora’s East Village Italian restaurant.
Torrisi Italian Specialties - A sandwich shop that offers one seating nightly for a tasting menu. Expect to wait – doors open at 6pm everyday and they start taking names at 5:45 but the menus look so worth it for $50.
Prime Meats - German inspired farm to table restaurant in Brooklyn featuring Small Plates, Fish, Foul and Beef
Commodore - Williamsburg joint that is famous for Fried Chicken affordable food and drinks and a casual atmosphere.
The Meat Hook - butcher in Williamsburg, Brooklyn serving homemade sausages and fresh meat cuts
Frankies Sputinos – another family owned Italian spot with locations in both Brooklyn and NYC
Tanoreen - Middle Eastern Bayridge restaurant featured on Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate
Piattini Ristorante - Small Italian Bayridge restaurant
Bark Hot Dogs – Park Slope… What can I say? I love French Fries, shakes and hot dogs.
Fette Sau – Smoked Meats and Whiskey. Enough Said.
Fatty Cue - Asian/American Williamsburg BBQ joint from the owners of the UWS Fatty Crab. I have yet to find an impressive BBQ joint in Manhattan, time to start searching Brooklyn.
Peter Luger - no explanation necessary
Have you been to these places? Are they worth visiting/prioritizing? Any listed that are over-rated and worth skipping? Any places that I must try that are missing from this list? Let me know in the comments!--DBlock
- Katie, our famous guest blogger from the Hop Devil Grill post was featured as a Midtown Lunch’er for Downtown Lunch
- The GourmandNYC author was featured in Midtown Lunch as a featured Lunch’er
- Kwik Meal adds spiced eggs as an optional addition to my favorite Chicken over Rice dish. Definitely making another trip there soon!
- Bierhaus is finally open! And I’ve heard it lives up to the hype
- Donate to Japan by eating at these restaurants
- Craving Friendly’s? Check out this list of NYC alternatives to chain restaurants.
- $600+ cookbook released on molecular gastronomy or modernist cuisine
- Bobby Flay continues the search for the next restaurant that will open and close within the same month in NYC in his broadcast show.
- Chopped All-Stars was Sunday’s most watched cable show and it was awfully fun to watch Anne kick Robert’s ass.
One of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon is to cook up a small storm in the kitchen. Because I live alone, I will also cook recipes that freeze well so I can enjoy them later.
It was a cold snowy Sunday in Chicago, so I felt some turkey chili was in order. I don’t really follow a recipe for chili any more, but the one that inspired mine is the Williams-Sonoma chicken chili recipe using ground turkey breast. I’ll use a mix of pinto beans and kidney beans in the turkey.
For seasoning, I’ll use the chili con carne blend. I get this blend from The Spice House which is a family owned spice merchant in Chicago. They literally have hundreds of spices that you can buy in as small as ½ an ounce. They have several of their own blends and many great baking spices (including 6 kinds of cinnamon!).
After cooking the turkey, I’ll add the beans, roasted peppers and onions, tomatoes, and spices and let it cook over low heat for 2+ hours. The flavor intensifies the longer it cooks and is even better the next day! I love chili because it reheats quickly and freezes well, so I froze half the batch to have a few weeks later. It’s great to bring for lunch at work and reheats in just a few minutes in the microwave.
Chili would not be complete without corn bread! I make my cornbread in a cast iron skillet, which gives it a great texture – moist on the inner edges and crunchy on the top. My recipe comes from King Arthur Flour. KAF is a family owned bakery in Norwich Vermont (I went to Dartmouth, which is across the river from Norwich). KAF has become my favorite baking website and many of the recipes I use are from there.
As a side, I made a vegetable risotto. As a runner, I can never get enough carbs, and I do not particularly enjoy pasta. I’ve been perfecting my risotto over the past 6 months. During the summer months, I would go to the farmers market and buy lots of fresh vegetables and cook them into a light summer risotto. In the fall, I’d make one with butternut squash with apple cider for an autumn flavor. The one pictured is tomato, spinach, and pepper. Due to it being winter, I used canned tomatoes and frozen spinach. A couple of keys to the risotto – you want to add the liquid slowly and at a medium simmer – not too hot (you can scortch the rise) and not too cold (its mushy). The risotto should be slightly runny when its finished.
Finally, for dessert I made oatmeal raisin cookies. I love oatmeal raison cookies. My favorite recipe is adapted from the Silver Palette by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. This would be, hands down, my favorite cookbook. The one that’s dog eared and covered in sauces. (and Berta’s carrot cake is to die for!)
The only changes I make are to double the cinnamon use molasses + white sugar to make brown sugar. I think those two subtle, but significant changes add a little kick to the cookies!
12 Tbs. of salted butter, plus extra for greasing the cookie sheets
1.5 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbs molasses
2 Tbs. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbs ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
3 c. quick-cooking oats 1 c. raisins
Make cookie dough: Cream the butter, sugar, molasses until fluffy. Add the egg and beat thoroughly. Mix in the water and vanilla. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda; add to the egg mixture and mix well. Add the oats and raisins, and mix. (I find the cookies spread less if i refrigerate the dough for a bit, scoop the hard dough and press them down a little bit) Use a large cookie scoop and bake on greased cookie sheets 350 for 15-17 mins until edges are lightly brown.
Have any end of the winter recipes you would like to share? Try any of the recipes here? Let us know in the comments.
So this week introduces the first in hopefully a bi-monthly series, Feature Fridays. If all goes according to plan (and I can find enough guest bloggers) on the first and third Friday in every month I will be turning over the spotlight to a fellow NYC foodie. This week as our first guest blogger I am introducing Katie and welcoming her review of Hop Devil Grill, one of her favorite spots in the East Village. I’ve only been once but didn’t eat one thing I didn’t like! Turning it over to Katie:
One of my favorite spots in New York City is Hop Devil Grill. I found this Southwestern/Mexican gem almost immediately after I moved to the East Village 2 years ago. It’s on St. Marks between avenue A and B. I can’t remember exactly why I first went, but maybe it had something to do with their nightly specials. My personal favorite is Sangria Night – 64oz pitchers of Sangria every Wednesday for $10! I realize many bars have nightly specials, but Hop Devil Grill’s are definitely worth mentioning.
Mondays: For Monday’s, we have $5 Picklebacks. Jameson speaks for itself, but out pickle juice is from Essex Street Pickle Guys! You know it’s good. Also, $15 pitchers of our STRONG Sweet Tea. It is a blast.
Tuesdays: Taco Tuesdays we call it. Have a great, authentic Southwestern style taco for $1 each. Unlimited at the bar or a dining room table. The deal of the century.
Wednesdays: Sangria night! Our famous brandy infused Burgundian nectar for $10 per 64 oz pitcher. Just watch it, these tasty sangrias can get you hammered!
Thursday: Tostadas Night! NYC’s finest tostadas for just $1 all night. Recession? What recession?
Sundays: In keeping with our recession busting specials, get $10 Liters Olde Saratoga Lagers or Saratoga IPA at the bar, and 50% off of all our tasty burgers. Now those are deals
Now, on to the real reason I’m writing about Hop Devil Grill. The Nachos.
I love a good plate of nachos..
..And HDG’s are AMAZING. They’re possibly the best I’ve ever had for a few reasons. First, the tortilla chips. They’re thick and extra crunchy which helps them stand up to the massive amount of toppings.
Which brings me to the second reason – there aren’t many nachos where you run out of chips before you run out of toppings – this happens here every time. And, my favorite thing about these nachos is the homemade cheese sauce. Hop Devil Grill makes their own queso sauce on-site, spiked with jalapeños so it’s slightly spicy, but nothing you can’t handle.
This melty goodness tops the crunchy chips, followed by lettuce, guacamole, sour cream and a super- fresh pico de gallo. You can also add a protein- ground beef, chicken, or steak. We always opt for the classic ground beef which is A++.
It’s important to note that I believe the place is under new management and sometimes they put shredded cheese on them instead of the queso now. If you go I highly suggest you request the queso!
Hop Devil Grill is a bar, but they have exceptionally good food. Everything I’ve eaten here is very high quality.
- Southwest Chicken Sliders – Spicy chicken, cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, caramelized onion and chipotle remoulade. Delicious but salty.
- Any fajita – comes out sizzling
- Tostadas – and for $1 a piece on Thursdays you can’t go wrong
- Sangria – red is my favorite
- BBQ chicken wings (on the new experimental menu, a solid BBQ wing)
AND to top all of this off here are some other perks:
- They keep at least 25 tasty beer choices on tap along with several tequilas
- It’s a good spot to watch games with several TVs
- Affordable prices and casual, fun atmosphere
- Not for those on a diet
- Gets really crowded during big sporting events
- For a Mexican place, they have bad margaritas
With the premier on December 1st, I thought this was a perfect time to revisit one of my favorite Foodie shows of all time, Top Chef. Season Eight: Top Chef All-Stars has returned to New York City. New York, the “culinary capital of the United States,” has always been an integral part of the show. Many contestants and guest judges have tried their best to succeed in New York City or have come from NYC to make a guest appearance. Season Five was the last season to be filmed here. Over the next several weeks I will be posting a season by season overview of New York’s involvement in the show with a recap of the week’s episode. Today I start with the hosts & judges of Top Chef All Stars.
Padma Lakshmi: I met Padma at a Rangers game which gives me reason to believe that she is a New York resident but I could not find any documentation proving it.
- Born in New York City and current resident
- He studied at Vassar College and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America
- Linked to heading kitchens at New York City’s Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue, and Sullivan’s
- Currently the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles
- Currently resides in NYC
- Trained in the kitchens of legendary Le Cirque and Vong restaurant
- Contributed to Chef Daniel Boulud: Cooking in New York City cookbook
- Colicchio cooked at prominent New York restaurants such as The Quilted Giraffe, Gotham Bar & Grill, Rakel, and Mondrian prior to opening his own flagship NYC multiple star restaurants
- In July of 1994, Colicchio, along with partner Danny Meyer, opened Gramercy Tavern
- Craft, one block south of Gramercy Tavern was opened one year later in 1995 (one of my top five NYC Restaurants)
- Later on he opened the sandwich chain, ‘wichcraft (14 New York City locations)
- Tom opened Colicchio & Sons in New York in January 2010
- Most recently he opened Riverpark in October 2010
Episode One Recap:
New York Spot: Russian Tea Room Kitchen
Quickfire Challenge: chefs from each season work as one team to make one dish representing their host city. All members of the winning team, Chicago Season 4, received immunity.
- Season 3: Pork Tenderloin with Avocado Lime Puree
- Season 4: Chicago style hot dog Pork & Black Pepper Sausage with Mustard Ice cream (winner)
- Season 6: Las Vegas Bucatini with Lobster Carbonara
- Season 1: San Francisco made a Cioppino Gazpacho with Sourdough
- Season 2: LA Shrimp tacos with Guac & Apple Wrapper
- Season 5: NY Trio of Apple
- Season 7: DC Crab cake Essence with Rock Fish
Main Challenge: “Turn the dish that sent you home a Success”. GENIUS.
- Spike: frozen scallops
- Jamie: Eric Ripert’s fish dish
- Angelo: Ramen dish (winner)
- Fabio: Crawfish & Crab Pasta
- Stephen: Lobster, oyster, crab appetizers
- Elia: steamed fish dish
Dishes I most wanted to eat (and not just because they were the winners):
- Chicago team’s Homemade Sausage with Mustard Ice cream
- Angelo’s Ramen with Sweet Glazed Pork Belly & Watermelon
Packed Knives: Elia--DBlock