With how advanced technology has gotten over the years, it can even affect people when they go out to eat with friends and family as they tend to be glued to their iPhone or iPad. One restaurant’s concept of creating solely shareable dishes to enjoy with the people you came with might be able to eliminate that even for an hour and focus on the tasty food and your surroundings instead. This location is The Stanton Social, located in the heart of the Lower East Side on Stanton Street between Ludlow & Orchard Street. [Read more…] about Chris Santos’ The Stanton Social Lights Up The Lower East Side
As far as I am concerned, if Italian food is good… you travel for it. With the endless options you can try with one of the best cuisines in the world, you might be surprised that there are good places that can provide such a treat for your palate that runs outside of New York City. Shocking, right? One of these places is called VB3, short for Villa Borghese, located right off The Path Train in Jersey City. When you can master a hard combination of exquisite Italian cuisine in a sports bar setting, you must be doing something right. And VB3 does that… and more.
It is very rare when you find someone that can combine the two greatest loves of my life all into one amazing package- food and a sexy guy. Well that answer has finally been solved in an incredibly talented and handsome guy by the name of Adrian De Berardinis, otherwise known as a Youtube sensation called The Bear-Naked Chef.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of years you should know who Alex Guarnaschelli is. One of the most popular chefs on television today, she rose to fame on the mega-popular Food Network show “Chopped” and has also participated in other big shows on the network such as “Alex’s Day Off” and “The Next Iron Chef” in which she won a little while back. Poised but stern, she has done a phenomenal job not only on screen but also in her successful restaurant business, most notably her restaurant Butter. Butter, which opened over a year ago and coincidentally is right across the street from my office, has received rave reviews from fans and critics alike since its inception and is a place that I have been dying to review since I heard word of it opening that close to me. So when I was granted access to try out one of my favorite chef’s, I was giddy with anticipation and scooped up a good friend of mine to see what all the fuss was about.
Although the entrance to Butter is on the main level, the actual restaurant is held downstairs in a spacious and warm setting that is felt throughout. Although the crowd was mainly business types (although that could have been because of the hour we went) it looks to be opened to much more than that including dinner & drinks with your friends and an overall friendly atmosphere. Before our meal began we met with chef Michael Jenkins, who has had a relationship with Alex for over ten years now. Both of them have spearheaded the fantastic and modern menu, which is seasonal throughout the year.
The menu itself is quite impressive with its inventive take on what many people consider to be classic dishes. A lot of them have flavor depth built inside, which really is the showing of a great chef as opposed to making something that I have tasted at a zillion other restaurants before. Case and point- their Peas & Carrots Ravioli. Something as simple as two everyday vegetables stuffed inside a warm ravioli with fresh apple mint, ruby chard and aged pecorino yet when all is put together in one bite is truly spectacular. The flavor is amazing, and the dish itself is served as an appetizer but can also be ordered as an entree. I am one to never turn down shrimp, especially if they are jumbo. So another great starter for me and my friend was the Jumbo Florida Shrimp with a lemon bergamote mayonnaise & toasted coriander. In my life I never tried shrimp with a specific type of mayonnaise on top, but the lemon bergamote really added a great amount of flavor to the oversized shrimp. Of all the appetizers that we tried the one that I would highly recommend more than anything is the Homemade Ricotta Crostini with crispy brussel sprouts and aged balsamic. As someone who has grown into loving the taste of brussel sprouts, I thought it was simply divine how they were able to get such a sharp crisp on them which paired beautifully with the ricotta and balsamic. A perfect bite to start your meal.
For their large plates, or entrees, the menu itself is a great reminder of how the warmer weather is coming as a lot of these dishes have a Spring-esque vibe to them. I was served their Grilled Double-Cut Pork Chop with a Collard-Green sauerkraut and spicy pickled mustard seed. The side that I chose to pair with the pork chop was the Gnocchi Mac N Cheese. Absolutely delicious on all ends. The pork chop and Sauerkraut are a great duo and the Gnocchi blended really well with the Mac N Cheese to the point where I forgot I was actually eating Gnocchi. Really amazing. My friend opted for the Roasted All Natural Chicken Breast with sautéed sunchokes, black truffle butter, aged sherry. Perfectly cooked chicken and great sides to go along with. We didn’t have this but something that Michael recommended trying is their Charred White Cloud Califlower, which is a vegetarian dish served as a large entree. He raved about this so I wanted to put this in for people who want to opt for something a bit lighter and not so meat-heavy. To finish your meal off, you can go southern and have their Raspberry Beignet’s or a great classic with a twist in their Frozen Toasted Marshmallow Mallomar. Both are a great end to a fantastic meal.
With Easter right around the corner, Butter will be serving up some delicious and scrumptious meals for Brunch that morning and afternoon to satisfy your midday cravings. Whether you are looking forward to sipping on a tangy mimosa, or taking that first bite of mouthwatering blackberry French toast, Butter Midtown’s prix fixed Easter Brunch menu and beautiful garden patio offer the perfect ambiance to enjoy Easter Sunday with loved ones. The special menu is also offering brunch favorites with a twist like a Burrata Quiche with oven-roasted tomatoes, wild mushrooms and aged Balsamic and a House Cured Bacon Omelette with fava beans and Challerhocker cheese. Sounds absolutely delicious to me and should be checked out.
When it comes to bakeries in New York City, you may find that they come a dime a baker’s dozen. There are so many to choose from, including well known national brands and more localized ones that have grown in notoriety due to a variety of facets, and then there are ones you should go to simply because they are the best. I can firmly say that the best bake shop that I have been in New York City so far (and probably will) is H Bake Shop located in Hell’s Kitchen on 57th between 11th and 12th. Now some might say that as New Yorkers we may get lazy in going out of our normal route to experience something different, including geographically, however the taste and experience at this place is worth rowing, sailing, swimming or doing whatever physical activity you have to in order to experience the expert deliciousness that chef Huascar Aquino has to put out for his customers.
I hadn’t heard of H Bake Shop until last month, when a friend of mine recommended that I try this place after a recent review of another fab bakery which is close by. After seeing the variety of very positive reviews posted on Yelp, Seamless, Facebook and so much more, I knew this was something that I had to try. So I took my good friend Erick to experience H Bake Shop first hand and boy was I in for a treat. I sat down with the handsome Huascar and understand how he got to where he is today, which is quite impressive if I may say so myself.
Getting to know Huascar really makes you understand that if you have the passion for something it is worth taking every risk to get to where you need to be. Born in the Dominican Republic, he moved to the United States a number of years ago where he developed a love for pastries by learning at the Internationally renowned French Culinary Institute Of New York City. Just a heads up this is the same place that LEGENDS in the culinary industry such as Bobby Flay, David Chang & Dan Barber have gone to and where deans include just the run of the mill dynasties in their own rights like Jacques Pepin, Jose Andrews and Jacques Torres are deans there. You know, no big deal whatsoever. After his time at the FCI, he honed his abundance of talent at historic NYC locations like The Four Seasons and Landmarc which then led to him opening up his own location two years ago. Oh, and one more thing. Huascar won on the Food Network hit show “Cupcake Wars”, in which the theme was Jessica Alba’s “The Honest Company”. The win came with a sweet $10,000 dollars and national recognition, which is great for anyone regardless of what their field is. You can watch that episode here.
Now of course, as awesome as he is I have to describe just how amazing his treats are. To say heavenly is beyond at this point, they are just incredible. Take something as classic and simple as a chocolate chip cookie with a twist (Or as he calls it- Chocotella Cookie). I have had many of these in my life (which attest to my ever increasing waistline) and can say that these tasted better than any others that i have had in the past. And that goes for his variety of cookies as well, not just the chocolate chip. A good cookie essentially has a great bite on the outside, but is warm on the inside. You also want to be able to taste as many ingredients as possible outside of the norm. You get that in his cookies.
Same goes for his line of cupcakes. They are moist, flavorful and unique in taste, creativity and texture which is important when making your own creations like this. When going, I would highly recommend the PB&J, The Scarlet Velvet (his take on the classic Red Velvet), and the Vanilla Introvert Cupcake (Vanilla Bean Cake with dulce de leche filling, sprinkles and frosting.) They all are an incredible experience that you must try.
What is even better is the specialty services that H Bake Shop provides. They make wedding cakes as well as specialty themed cakes for birthdays, graduations or whatever event you are particularly throwing. They also have a great line of other products from cheesecakes, macaroons and brownies that are to die for. Something incredibly special that Huascar and his team did today was make this OUT OF THIS WORLD Monsters Inc. themed cake for my 3 year old nephew Eddie. The look on everyone’s faces when they saw it in person as well as the reaction on social media was insane as so many people have never seen anything made like this. We were even debating not cutting into it as it looked beyond incredible. Take a look at the above picture for jaw dropping status.
I beyond recommend going to H Bake Shop the next time you are in Hell’s Kitchen, or have an event, or want something sweet. Just go. You won’t regret it. For more information log on to their official site. Oh, and this is a photo of my nephew devouring the cake today. Totally worth it.
H Bake Shop
601 West 57th Street (Between 11th and 12th Avenue)
Kitchen Casino: Mondays at 9 Eastern on Food Network
It’s pretty amazing to see the lengths that the kitchen competition sub-genre has gone to since the dawning of Iron Chef on Japanese television 20 years ago. Numerous innovations have occurred in the format as it has matured, including Chopped mixing in a multi-chef elimination concept, and Cutthroat Kitchen added a crazy sabotage angle to the proceedings. Tonight, Food Network adds a random element to the competition with it’s bizarrely titled Kitchen Casino.
Kitchen Casino, hosted by reality TV fixture Bill Rancic, mixes the high stakes world of gambling with high pressure world of cooking. Three different cooking challenges are in play, based loosely around slots, poker, and roulette. As is typical for the genre, the dishes for each challenge are placed in front of a panel of judges that combine a mixture of culinary and celebrity worlds. The chef who survives all three challenges is declared the winner and will walk away with a cool $30,000 jackpot.
The most notable aspect of Kitchen Casino is how incredibly forced everything feels. The show seems to be very fond on spending it’s time forcing the contestants to spit out as many canned quotes as possible. This overcanned nature extends out to host Rancic, who comes off alarmingly wooden in a subgenre where the hosts tend to lean more towards theatricality. The end result are cheesy overblown stakes that feel even more egregious when you realize exactly how weak the payoff actually is (let’s just say the average mid-90’s Jeopardy winner walked away with a comparable sum).
This woodenness wouldn’t glare as much if Kitchen Casino’s format wasn’t painfully over-contrived. The first round revolves around a secret ingredient and cooking style built around a slot machine motif, but the even with a redundant 5 minute second spin twist doesn’t make this round feel inspired. The second round, kitchen roulette makes for a lively format, but the spinning kitchen stations don’t feel like the best execution of the format. The final round, which is poker inspired, has the final two chefs trying to put together dishes from a list of five ingredients – three of which are common and two of which are held to each chef.
The most damning thing about Kitchen Casino however, is how empty it feels once you get past all of the canned dialogue and gimmicks. One of the reasons that I have devoted countless hours of my life to watching Top Chef and most of Food Network’s lineup at various points in the past is as a form of culinary inspiration, and Kitchen Casino sidelines the kitchen to a ridiculous degree. Outside of some very quick descriptions of what they’re doing, the show instead wastes it’s time on forced chef banter and awkward play-by-play during the end of the competition.
The Final Verdict: There might be a viable 30-minute version of Kitchen Casino, but this is the weakest variant of chefs facing off for a mediocre payoff (after advertising a $30,000 payoff, the actual payoffs will likely be in the ballpark of $8,000 to $12,000) I’ve yet to see. It’s not very often that a show feels too busy while simultaneously feeling like there is not enough substance to actually fill an hour of TV. Skip this one and watch some Chopped or Iron Chef reruns.
When it comes to dining in New York City, you have your endless amounts of cultural food experiences that you can enjoy in any of the five boroughs. However, for the ones who work around the midtown area, you are left with a ton of chain restaurants and your run of the mill local deli which doesn’t exactly leave you wanting more. Gaby Brasserie in The Sofitel New York on West 45th Street has proven itself to change your mind on how you can find a unique and delicious spot right in the heart of Midtown. This spot bodes a ton of convenience for me as I work directly across from it and walk past it on a daily basis yet never went inside to experience just how amazing this place is. Luckily for me, I got the chance to do some tastings last week with a good friend of mine and suffice to say we were both blown away by the technique, flavor and overall presentation of each dish.
The food was prepared by Sylvain Harribey, the hotel’s award-winning executive chef and a recent winner of the Food Network’s Chopped (one of my personal favorite shows. I gotta find the episode that he was on!) His friendly demeanor in presenting each course definitely gave me a better sense of the restaurant as a whole, which had a warm and inviting feeling to it upon entrance. The first course, or the “Amuse Bouche” that was presented to us was a Butternut Squash Cappuccino. I am normally not a fan of Butternut Squash Soup due to how sweet it is, yet this was presented in a great duality of sweet and savory for sure. Great balance and an overall great start to the meal. For our appetizer, I got to experience for the first time in my 27 years of existence Foie Gras, which is the liver of a duck or goose. As odd as it sounds, I was apprehensive due to this being a new type of food that I have never experienced before, but just like the soup I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of each way the Foie Gras was presented to us. The first one was a Foie Gras spring roll with Prosciutto, fig and mixed greens. The second was a Sesame crusted foie gras au torchon served on Brioche. The third option was Pan Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras over sweet potato mash with an Asian Vinaigrette. All were delicious but I would have to say that the latter was my favorite due to the contrast of the mash with the Vinaigrette.
For our entree and sandwich courses (Because you really can’t have one without the other, right?) we were treated to two very different delicacies that were packed with flavor and punch in its own right. For the entree, we were presented with Oven Roasted Dijon Lamb Loin on a crushed white bean puree flavored with pumpkin seed oil, vegetable tian gratine (eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, roma tomato, Provencal herbs and Parmesan cheese). As odd as it sounds, my favorite part of this dish happened to be the gratine due to the enormity in flavor that Chef Harribey prepared for each of the vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, the Loin was off the chain, but sometimes the supporting roles play just as much importance as the main star. For the Sandwich, it was what they like to call the “Franburger”– Served on a crispy baguette with melted brie cheese, lettuce, tomato and Provencale fries. I am not one for brie really on anything with the exception of a Ritz cracker, however it tasted really well and balanced with the burger and baguette. I am a big fan of french fries, and the sprinkling of Provencale on top of them really made it tasty and balanced with the burger.
We were then treated to an assortment of mini desserts including Caramel Cake and Creme Brulee to name a couple. Overall this was an astonishing meal, and I can totally see how Chef Harriby not only won “Chopped” but also runs such a successful establishment with some of the most professional staff me and my friend have ever experienced. Overall, a 4.5 out of 5 stars in my book!
What’s even better is what they have planned for Valentine’s Day on Friday. It is a Valentine’s Day menu so studded with aphrodisiacs it warrants a tongue-in-cheek “consume at your own risk.” The seduction begins with an amuse bouche of East Coast oyster with shallot raspberry vinegar, followed by a choice of pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras with sweet potato purée and fig sauce or an assortment of smoked fishes served with mậche lettuce, avocado, citrus and vinaigrette. For their main dish, patrons can choose Filet de Boeuf – a pan-seared Angus beef tenderloin with almond, cauliflower and potato purée served with grilled asparagus and topped with green peppercorn sauce – or Sole Roulade with basil salmon mousse, fennel and vegetable gratin, and a sauce of saffron and fine herbs. Dessert is a delectable Saint Honoré of raspberry mousse with crème chiboust topped with Grand Marnier sauce.
Sounds insanely yummy! For more information on The Gaby Brasserie, be sure to visit their website! Definitely a place to check out for Valentine’s Day and beyond!
Buy This Restaurant: Wednesdays at 9 Eastern on Food Network
It’s amazing to witness at times how networks can evolve over the course of their lifespans. While it’s no secret that MTV ran kicking and screaming from it’s music oriented format over the course of the last 20 years, other networks have also experienced similar decay (and homogenization) in an attempt to score more viewers and ad revenue. An interesting variant on the network decay concept is the Food Network, whose steady diet of cooking shows has seemed to move to more style-over-substance food adjacent programming over time (the most egregious offender being Next Food Network Star that spawned Guy Fieri on to our TV screens). Tonight, however, Food Network bleeds into the sort of territory that HGTV and TLC tend to operate in with it’s newest series: Buy This Restaurant.
Buy This Restaurant follows a very simple that we’ve seen numerous times before on home-buying and remodeling shows– prospective first-time restaurant owners are taken to three lots by a restaurant broker while being given a boot camp on how to open a restaurant. Guiding our restauranteur neophytes is Keith Simpson, a former caterer to the British monarchy, restaurant owner, and current real estate broker.
Unfortunately, despite coming from well tread ground, Buy This Restaurant is incredibly non-compelling. Shows like Love It or List It are able to find their conflict in work hiccups and couples getting into Newlywed Game style disagreements. The furthest that Buy This Restaurant gets in this vein are a handful of quizzical looks from our investors when they were led into a foreclosed bakery. The remainder of the time, our buyers tended to feel like window dressing, often spouting off the same point about the need for a cozy “mom-and-pop” style atmosphere.
Simpson is very affable as a host, but unfortunately he comes off a touch wooden and the producers do not help matters by very heavily utilizing him in dry voice over spots. This is an issue since Simpson’s relentless positivity is the sort of thing that can carry a show with ease (our pilot ends with the buyers ultimately purchasing the high-risk facility that Simpson seemed to push the most aggressively).
The Final Verdict: Buy This Restaurant is a painfully paint-by-numbers affair in a genre that already tends to feel very cookie cutter to begin with. The lack of any real tension on this show is particularly glaring, since Food Network’s prime time lineup tends to built around cooking under pressure. Skip this one, there are a million other real estate shows on the dial and most of them are likely better than this one.