When the words “free” and “pretzel” are uttered in the same sentence, many a people like me tend to get excited and hungry at the same time! Well fear no more, because on April 26th that fantasy will turn into a reality! The beloved Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, which have been uber popular for several years across the country, will be offering one free Honey Whole Grain Pretzel at several of its Manhattan locations. I have actually tried this particular pretzel in the past, and it has a great taste to it with less calories and less of a guilt factor when having it! [Read more…] about Free Pretzel Day at Auntie Anne’s on April 26th!!!
Hello ManhattanDigest.com readers! My name is Ronnie Parisella, I am a native NY’er (born in Brooklyn), and am a Professional and Entrepreneur in the IT industry. I am a fan of most things consumable, most notably; cigars, whiskey and food. I write for FineTobaccoNYC.com, a Cigar/Lifestyle blog and Power Consulting Group, the IT Consulting Firm where I work. I look forward to bringing you posts about topics that taste really good.
For my first topic, I’ve chosen to discuss food, specifically, BBQ, more specifically, Smoking.
When I was 19, I had a small basement apartment in Brooklyn. I loved the freedom my first apartment gave me, and I took advantage of it liberally. Every Thursday, I would host friends and co-workers over for poker, BBQ & beer. Friends would always bring over something interesting. Sausage, steaks, chops, marinades, rubs, etc. And I would supply the Bourbon/Scotch/Rye/Etc. I learned not only a ton about what to cook, but more importantly; what too cook with.
Then, I was using an inexpensive charcoal grill and Royal-Oak charcoal. The natural wood was the best flavor I’d tasted yet, much better than lighter fluid soaked charcoal briquettes.
This past January, when Erica and I moved from a small Ft. Greene studio to a big apartment in Bay Ridge with a deck and backyard, I knew I needed to purchase a grill that I could have my way with, frequently. After some research, I decided on the Char-Griller Duo, a very large, heavy grill that does not fit on my deck (Booooooooo).
The Char-Griller Duo is a dual zone grill with separate zones for gas (propane) and charcoal heat sources. The smaller, lower container on the right side of the grill is Char-Griller’s Texas Fire Box. I have smoked big cuts of meat, just about every weekend since we moved in (with a few weekends off for business trips), and have been blown away by the results. Now, I use the charcoal and wood chips/chunks from Cowboy Charcoal. They offer many different varieties of wood types and sizes, and are sold nationally at Lowe’s. I have tried their Mesquite and Hickory chunks, and their Apple, Pecan and Cherry wood chips. I also prefer their 100% natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal.
Proper smoking is all about time and temperature. Anything other than that is purely for flavor. I have been experimenting with several different cuts of meat and wood types to practice.
Essentially, all you need to know is the weight of the cut, the temperature your heat source should be, and the internal temperature you need for the meat to reach before it’s done. Large cuts of meat are done when their pre-determined internal temperature is reached.Smaller cuts (like ribs) aren’t held to a temperature standard to tell when they are done. You’ll need to know how long these smaller cuts will need to cook in advance.
As for the actual smoking process, it’s pretty simple; try not to open the grill too much, and make sure the temperature is in the correct range for what you are cooking.
I buy my meat from a local butcher/meat market called Frank & Eddie’s in Bay Ridge. Nice, friendly staff and they are very helpful with BBQ/smoking recommendations.
I leave you with pictures of my first 5 smoking sessions (Brisket, Bone-In Loin of Pork, Spare Ribs, Lobster Tail, Baby Back Ribs, Chicken, St. Loius Style Ribs, Prime Rib and T-Bones).
Sometimes repetitive words for a restaurant can be unappealing.
Sometimes that thought is stupid and the result is amazing.
That can be said about Pok Pok, located on the Columbia Street Waterfront District. After my friend from Syracuse was raving about it all weekend, we took our hungry little mouths to Brooklyn and had quite the delightful experience indeed that left said mouth with a smiley face upon leaving.
As a wing connoisseur myself, I feasted my eyes on our first treat called “Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings”. My first ever experience in
trying wings with fish sauce, I was instantly enthralled with its spicy and delicious sauce and shockingly enough came to be my favorite meal of the night.
Granted all the others came in a close second, as they were all Beyonce worthy and none of them reeked of LeToya Luckett realness. The Kung Op Wun Sen combines two of my favorite foods- Pork Belly and White Prawns and mixes it with several other yummy ingredients that blend well incredibly together.
I now know what Taylor Swift’s song “I Knew You Were Trouble” is about. It’s about Pok Pok . It’s the best kind of trouble, and it’s one that is worth getting into over and over again.
Go check it out! Worth the trip to Brooklyn and then some.
127 Columbia St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
As someone that has lived in East Northport out on Long Island for the majority of my life (and New York on top of that), I have always been accustomed to some of the best Italian food there is. Nina’s Pizzeria in the heart of downtown Northport is no exception. I have always driven past this place yet for some reason have never gone inside. Boy will that change now with the experience that I had the other night.
I went there with a good friend of mine and was warmly greeted by the owner Artie and our very pleasant waitress. The atmosphere was very chill yet at the same time family friendly and in a great location. We were treated to the specials that they had going that- one was a Fire Roasted Chicken with a cherry tomato sauce and Papas Brava. The cherry tomato sauce complimented the moist and flavorful chicken very well and paired off amazingly with the papas brava which also had a really great sauce on it. The second dish that we had was called Rigatoni Valentino which consisted of Portabello mushrooms, artichoke and dried tomatoes in a rich pesto sauce. Delicious. This goes without saying that you can have a very strong pasta dish and not have to include a protein to elevate it. It already was at that point.
You can’t really go out to a restaurant like this without a yummy dessert. Enter their Apple Cobbler topped with Vanilla Ice Cream. A dish that has been done before but you can taste every element very well from the sweet apples to the creamy ice cream. Overall, me and my friend were stuffed yet satisfied, the way you want to leave a restaurant.
Of course they have more than the specials. They have some really amazing pies, salads and wing deals that will satisfy you, your friends and family. You can even order online using their well designed website. Take a look at this link for more information. So if you happen to be in the Northport area, stop by Nina’s for a good time.
487 Main Street
Northport, NY 11768
I felt like I was in the middle of a chopped episode when I opened up my fridge while hiding out from winter storm Nemo. I had been traveling so the cupboards are a little bare, and I just did not want to go back outside.
I gathered up this episodes mystery ingredients; crab and lobster ravioli, a Vidalia onion, baby spinach, baby portabella mushroom, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, curly parley and hot pepper.
I then wondered why I did not have any olive oil in the apartment, but then looked and the dish as a way to change ravioli into dumplings. I heated the oil with the hot pepper and let the flavor soak in. I then fried the onions, but to be honest, they needed a little more time on the high heat, and would have be much better suited with a sharper onion, instead of one with such a high sugar content. I grated the ginger on the onions as they cooked. From here I broke down the mushrooms with salt and tossed them in with the onions and the spinach and parsley followed shortly after. All this was tossed with the Nuovo’s Crab & Lobster Ravioli after a quick four-minute boil.
All and all considering the fact that I was cooking from what felt like a mystery basket of ingredients I’d say that I would have gotten a solid B on the test. But, I should have cooked down the onions further and chopped them smaller, infused more chili spice into the oil and included more spinach for better balance. The dish should have used a sharper onion.
But I will say I successfully transformed a very traditional Italian meal base to a Chinese fusion type of dish. The sesame oil, chili, garlic and ginger melded well with the seafood moose that stuffed the red and yellow pasta. The dish was nutritious containing those dark vegetables high in nutrition. The dish was not fat free by any stretch of the imagination, but the sesame oil does have additional health benefits when compared to other oils. One surprise about the oil is the high levels of calcium and magnesium. It also is know to lower blood pressure. This combined with the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger makes for a meal that is filling, delicious with health benefits.
This in my mind is a fun way to spend the afternoon while avoiding going out in the snow.
After Super Bowl weekend, Monday is always a rough day to get started. But, with lunch at L’ecole International Culinary Center it was a lot easier to roll out of bed and to get ready to start the work week all over again.
After 5 days in New Orleans enjoying the food and festivities the first thing that I asked about were the teas to sooth my scratchy throat. There was a very nice assortment of teas available. Lavender was featured a few times, and that happens to be one my favorite tea flavors that you do not see too often. The Yellow and Blue Tea hit the spot.
With the final days of restaurant week approaching I could not hold back from ordering a fatty pork belly appetizer. and the scallops with squid ink risotto.
The meal opened with a nice amuse bouche of yellow squash soup, finished with a smoked oil and chives. Exactly, what you want when walking in off of the frigid NYC streets and into the nicely lit and comfortable scenery of L’ecole has to offer. The soup was light and creamy. I would have greatly enjoyed a whole bowl of that.
The pork belly was fatty and succulent. My favorite little kick in the dis was certainly the small and flavorful bits of chorizo was was in the bright tomato vinaigrette. It was a nice surprise and helped to balance the dish. The pork belly was very tasty but could have been much tastier with some more of the fat rendered, and a crisp finish to contrast the other textures. This was easily with the crunch of the baguette that was already on the table. The acid from the vinaigrette and freshness from the herbs were not overpowered by the pork.
The main dish was the most disappointing point of the meal. The scallops were delicious and delicate. The lemon jam or lemon creme on tope of the scallops was just lacking some real punch or just some more of it. The lemon was delicious, just lacking. The trumpet mushrooms did not add anything to the dish. If anything they took away from it. They were hard to cut through. The grapes were bright and strong, and needed to be broken down further, but they really combined incredibly with the lemon on the scallop. They just needed to be broken down further to keep from taking away from the rest of the dish. I would have enjoyed the dish much more if that is were the description ended, but the squid ink risotto was just not good. The rice grains itself were undercooked and were not pleasant in my mouth. This risotto stiffened up very quickly and became a bit of a chewy paste.
The dessert was a cranberry linzer tart with a hazelnut ice cream. The ice cream was so creamy and decadent that I would have loved more, but thankfully the chef students provided portion control for me. The crusting on the tart was what I really enjoyed most, it was hearty while complementary to the tart berry compote filling. But my favoriate part of the dessert was not even a piece of what I ordered. It was the lemon bar that was served complementary.
L’Ecole is the restaurant extension to the International Culinary Center. The International Culinary Center is the educational home to many celebrity chefs tonight. And remembering that all of the food that left the kitchen was prepared from start to finish by students, it was quite enjoyable. The culinary pastry and bread departments all combined for a great lunch. Although if this was a competition between the three departments. I would declare the bread department the winner. With the classic baguette being crisp and chewy all at the same time, it also added to one of the savory dishes.
What can I say, I just was not impressed. Its really seamed like dad wasn’t home so all the kids were at play. With Chef Julian Medina’s name and reputation I expected the food to be much better than it was, at least when I ate at Yerba Buena.
The service was warm and always with a smile, despite the number of requests my table, unfortunately had to make. Only two menus for three people, only 2 knives, having the request dinner sized plates for dinner. Things like that. But, no matter the request or question every person there was warm eyed and kind. Even when I walked out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to my shoe, my server noticed and discretely asked me if he could remove it. (how embarrassing…but thank you!)
I did a full tasting of the NYC Restaurant week menu, with the help of two friends and across the board none of us were impressed by what came out of the kitchen. There was a close competition for the worst dish between the Lechon (suckling pig carnitas) and the Causa de Tuna, but the tuna won.
The menu explains the dish as tuna tartar, potato salad, , crispy wanton. The tuna, oh I feel bad for the tuna. It just treated so poorly, it was grey, tough and not properly chopped. The knife skills show here were only adequate for a child. The pieces were uneven, not always cut the whole way through the membranes and the pieces were just way too large to begin with. The “potato salad” was more of a mashed potato. Which is just not what I would ever want with my tuna tartar. I don’t know why it was even on the plate. All it did was take away from the really nice aji Amarillo sauce that was drizzled across the plate. This bright and vibrant South American yellow chili sauce with the watercress was the best part of the dish.
The best dish also a fish dish, Parihuela. Which was explained as “Seafood stew, shrimp, fluke, clams, mussels, ginger, Peruvian corn, roccotto.” Here the shrimp was cooked to perfection, but the muscles and clams were overcooked and chewy and the fluke provided a nice contrast in texture against the other fish and the corn. I found myself searching through the soup for more bits of the unique oversized Peruvian corn pieces. I had a lot of fun eating the dish. The broth was aromatic and strongly flavored with corn, ginger and rocket (popular Peruvian salsa base).
All and all I would try another restaurant of Chef Medina but I will most likely be calling a head to see if he is in the kitchen. I am really hoping that he was not in the kitchen the night I ate at Yerba Buena, but any way you slice it the food was below my expectations and I was disappointed.
One area that I was very happy the Yerba Buena with was the fact that the portions were not huge, and the food was not heavy. I was completely satisfied when it came to all of those aspects of the meal. It was not overly fatty or seamed to be heavy in any sort of butter. There was very little as far as creams and caloric rich foods, yes some of the sauces were not light on calories, but the portions used were great so that I felt as if I could enjoy the whole portion with out the guilt. Who does not love a really great sauce? We can and should all have some wiggle room in our diets for enjoying the scrumptious drizzling, but we should not be be dousing our whole plates in the sauces, thats an easy way to kill a diet.
All and all the restaurant was so close to being great, there were hints of it. For instance, the bar was great. The bartender there really knows how to mix a great concoction. And I call some the drinks that with some love, because you didn’t have to know what you wanted to order, you could just tell him what you like, the flavors and liquor, and presto, a delicious unnamed drink will appear courtesy of the bartender. There were so many hints of great, but they were all muted out by the disappointing aspects of the same bit of the evening.
There is nothing like a nice long lunch to break up the workday. With this years’ restaurant week off to a strong start on such a cold part of this winter, I always look towards some delicious rib sticking warm foods to kick off my first attempt at leisure during the day. The Exchange at the Setail Wall Street stole my heart with a perfectly balanced succulent sunchoke soup. I would go back and eat this soup every day, if they would let me. The soup was finished with a beautiful, herbaceous oil and thyme crème fraíche There were surprising pepper notes throughout bringing the whole bowl into balance. The earth flavors of the sunchoke melded perfectly with the freshness of the other components.
Second course was another root vegetable inspired dish, with beets, celery and horseradish. Oh, but did I forget, there was also a perfectly cut and seared piece of salmon. Only down fall was that I did not have a knife with an edge to pierce the decadent crusting, so that I could leave more of the fish intact when trying to devour it. The table presentation of this dish fit perfectly with the ambiance of the financial district sleek and sophisticated venue. With a simple pour, a vibrant deep red beet broth was poured over the celery and parsnips under the salmon fillet. The open kitchen and wine lined walls make me want to return for a dinner date. But, the lighting was perfect for a business lunch too. There was comfort and room for a closing lunch. (I will be back for one of those.) The lighting was perfect for so that reading could still be done without a strain of the eyes, but for me I would find it too hard to concentrate on the work on not the artfully prepared food.
The final course was a light and fresh citrus layer cake with candied lime zest and blood orange segments. Although there was not a ton of flavor in the cake its self, the texture and finish is what made it artful.
Chef Josh Capone and Pastry Chef Alise Ciucci earned a place in my stomach when I headed back up to my office with my head filled with flavors and stomach as happy and full as could be. The fresh ingredients really had the opportunity to sing on the plates that left the kitchen. Despite the use of ingredients like crème fraíche and butter throughout the meal I was light on my toes, and ready to head down to yoga after work. Which after a big lunch, I am just looking for an excuse to leave my gym bag at the office and head out of the office off to the next meal, no stop at the gym, but here I was energized and ready to go. Although, I did have to ask for a to-go box for the pastries that followed the meal (yes, there was more!), because I could not just abandon a key lime macaron and chocolate meringue star. I made sure these two final sweets found there way home to my stomach, and they were the perfect bite size pick me ups later that afternoon. Who needs coffee any ways?
This was balance at its finest. Clearly the kitchen cooks with the freshest ingredients they can get. Despite my original disappointment when I was handed the menu and the items that I chose for my meal were not there as show on the NYC restaurant week website. I could not have been happier with the food or experience. Between the healthy and not so much ingredients, the creamy and acidic flavor, the whole nine yards. It was just dam good and I cannot wait to eat there again. As the ingredients and cooking techniques evolve with the seasons I am excited to see where the chefs here take it.
A couple of months back I was introduced to an amazing restaurant based in the heart of Union Square called Max Brenner’s. It boasts itself as a great place for yummy food and a variety of great desserts, most notably chocolate. I went there last week with a good friend of mine, and once again, was not disappointed at all. Even though we went at peak time on a Friday night, we were seated relatively quickly and had some great conversations with our overtly friendly waitress. That was just the beginning and it kept getting better.
I have had my experience with mac n cheese in my entire life. Most of the time it comes from a box and takes a simple ten minutes to make, yet it is still delicious. I decided to go with the Really Cheesy-Really Crunchy Mac N Cheese they have their. It comes with five different cheeses, tomatoes and smoked applewood bacon. When I first laid eyes on it, it was like heaven on a whole other level. The variety of cheeses really explode in your mouth on top of the crunchy bacon and fresh tomatoes. It even comes with a side of marinara sauce, something that I never in my life thought would work for this kind of a dish, but it makes it that much more homier and yummy at the same time. Hands down the best mac n cheese I have ever had in my life.
That is just one part of how decadent this place really is. You can’t finish a good meal like that and not try out the dessert. Just walking in there it feels like you are in Willy Wonka’s world, and it’s one you don’t want to leave. There are chocolate fountains and a variety of every type of candy and chocolate you can possibly imagine. That’s just walking in too! The dessert menu is like the guest list at the Oscar’s, top notch and you know it’s going to be one hell of a treat. From their fondue (YES FONDUE!!!) to unique items like Chocolate Pizza, there is something for everyone in that department (especially this pic which easily satisfied me and my friend).
841 Broadway New York, NY 10003