City Kitchen

5 Favorite Food Finds in NYC

Landing in a city I’m unfamiliar with always feels like a food-oriented scavenger hunt to me. The challenge is how many clues can I glean from Facebook, Twitter, trusted friends and restaurant reviews, to unearth the gems that will give us special memories. Our recent trip to NYC yielded a few finds I want to share with you:

  1. The Fat Radish - living on the West coast, where so many of the buildings are new, relatively speaking, it’s easy to forget that buildings which are 150+ years old, bring their own charm and personality to the table. The Fat Radish is one of those fabulous New York dining experiences – painted white brick walls, rather long and narrow, with great art on the walls and a dimly lit interior, you immediately know you’re in for a unique experience. The meal starts with a fat radish, natch, and the menu is punctuated by locally-sourced produce prepared in an often unexpected way. Take for instance the monkfish green curry ($27) or the beet root crumble ($16). The banoffee pie for dessert was a blast from the past, although not made quite as I recall ($9). Back in the day, I spent many a long Sunday boiling an unopened can of condensed milk for hours, hoping it didn’t explode and longing for the rich dulce de leche to be revealed at the end of the day. I digress. Check out Fat Radish next time you’re in town.
  2. Empellón Taqueria – an upmarket take on Mexican cuisine, Taqueria satisfied everyone at our table with its fresh spin on  old favorites. Salsas were reinvented and updated to include a smoky cashew salsa which was so good we asked our waiter how we could make it at home. Cauliflower came with almonds and an almendrado dressing ($9). The sopes ($9) – open bite-sized dumplings made from corn with various fillings were satisfying – we liked the meat ones best. And the tacos, which range from $12-39 for 2-3, depending on the filling, couldn’t be a further cry from the sad little splats by the same name at Taco Bell. From Brussel sprouts with burnt jalapeño hummus, to chicken with black kale, crema and salsa, every single one was delish and gone in the blink of an eye. Highly recommended. Get thee down to the West Village stat. taqueria nyc > Read more

bellbookandcandle

Bell Book and Candle – Roof-to-table Dining in NYC

What is the point of travel, if it doesn’t offer the occasion to gather old friends and new around a heavily laden table?” said nobody ever, but they should have.  Our most recent trip to New York, presented us with the chance to renew friendships and forge new ones, while breaking mighty fine bread – mostly in the West Village. And one of our favorite dining experiences was at Bell, Book and Candle on West 10th.

A basement joint, BBC links together a series of rooms that almost feel like individual restaurants – from the brick cellar-like tavern up front to a modern, booth-filled back-room complete with skylights and big art.

Known for its “roof-to-table” cuisine – BBC boasts a roof-top organic garden (I can’t vouch for the produce being pollution-free). This is definitely a great place to eat with a group so you can try out as many items on the menu as possible. From burrata to beef, grilled lamp chops to grilled cheese, and oysters to onion soup, there is a dazzling array of dishes to choose from. Luckily, with six in our party, including two tweens with adventurous palates, we got to sample much of what was on offer.

The younger members of our party immediately ordered the crispy fried oysters with green chile buttermilk dressing ($12). The bright green purée was super fresh tasting and a nice balance to the saltiness of the oysters. The crispy roasted jalapeño deviled eggs ($8), crunchy yet creamy, drew oohs and aahs and quickly vanished. The soft warms rolls were served with a satisfying slab of ice-cold unsalted butter. (By the way, I truly believe that great quality butter tells you a lot about the chef’s attitude to selecting ingredients. After all, it’s typically the only unadulterated item on the table.)

creamy_burrata

The house-made burrata ($12), served with perfectly cooked acorn squash, made us remember what it was like to fall in love. It was so lusciously creamy, you just kept on wanting more and more… and more.  The drunken bean dip ($8) appeared to fall victim to a magician’s trick – it went so fast. The Brussel sprouts salad, a special for the evening, came with a clean, herby ricotta.  The only mild disappointment was the crisp pork belly and rooftop arugula ($12). I kept hoping to discover the crispy part and not finding it. Done right, pork belly is insanely rich, while being meaty, a tiny bit salty and having a satisfying crunch. This version didn’t quite hit the mark. > Read more

Americana at Naked Pig

The Naked Pig Café, Santa Rosa, CA

I’ve never been one to stand patiently in line, no matter what delights await, which means that I’ve never been much of a bruncher. It’s not that  I don’t like brunch – it’s hard to deny bacony, eggy, potatoey goodness – it’s just that weekends seem to get so jam-packed with basketball or baseball, or trying to exercise, that taking 3 hours out of the day to spend on brunch hasn’t happened much. But today was an exception. Monkey and I got to check out the petite, farm-to-table joint, The Naked Pig Café, in Santa Rosa. Post-basketball, natch.

Housed in a former ticket-booth for Grey Hound Bus, in a building resembling a shipping container from the outside, the Naked Pig Café is cozy,  shabby chic on the inside with additional seating available outside when the weather is good. Thankfully, there’s a lot of good weather up in Santa Rosa. The focus of the menu, which changes weekly, is breakfast and lunch, with all ingredients sourced uber-locally. The list of purveyors is posted proudly on the door.

cracklins and drinks > Read more

Farmers market

7 Stops for Foodies On Kauai’s North Shore

It’s impossible not to fall in love with Kauai’s North Shore. It’s tropical: one minute a rain storm, the next a rainbow. It’s colorful: from the flaming red flora to the turquoise waters and golden sand. It’s mountainous and has gorgeous verdant valleys. It’s unspoiled: no high rises allowed here. And yet, even though it’s home to many of the island’s organic farms, it can be hard to find great places to eat that serve quality “real” food. To be sure, there are lots of average taco joints, burger shacks and tourist spots serving bar food or over-sauced fish.  But no fear, the scouting has been done, and you, dear reader, get to go directly to the good stuff.

  1. Hanalei Farmers’ Markets - There are two famers’ markets in Hanalei – one is on Tuesday just after lunch (head north out of town and you will soon see it in a field on the left) and the other is in town on Saturdays, opening at 9.30am, just behind the soccer fields near the church. I defy you to find a farmers’ market in a more majestic setting. The backdrop is towering green, ridged mountain. Breathtaking. You’ll find the usual market food fare: lettuces, veggies, and so forth, along with local beef, goat cheese, an array of coconut vendors, tropical fruits and locally grown fresh turmeric and ginger. There’s also jewelry and other knick-knacks in case you’re looking for mementos to take back home.
  2. Kauai Juice Co., Kilauea. - There are two Kauai Juice Co. stores on Kauia. One in Kapa’a and a more recent addition in Kilauea in the stone building on the way to the lighthouse.  They both open Monday-Saturday, closing at 5pm. From delicious, freshly brewed kombucha in tropical flavors like mango and acai, to an array of cold-pressed juices, whether you’re planning to cleanse or just want to drink your nutrients, this is the place to go. Juices are typically around $11 and kombucha is $5. You can expect to find these juices at health stores around the island too. I collected way more bottles in a week than I thought possible, but sadly the 50 cent deposit is only refunded if you return the bottles to Kapp’a. Hopefully that will change soon. Kauai Juice Company > Read more

appetizers at Bazaar Meat

Bazaar Meat by José Andrés, Las Vegas

When my good friend Claire Herminjard, founder of Mindful Meats, suggested I check out a new restaurant in Las Vegas, I could have sworn she said Bizarre Meat. No matter, I thought to myself, I’ll try anything once. Thankfully, it turns out she was proposing I dine at Bazaar Meat, the hot new spot for carnivores in the swanky SLS Hotel right at the end of The Strip.

The reason for her recommendation was not only that the James Beard award-winning chef has been gathering accolades as effortlessly as cutting butter, but because her non-GMO verified beef features heavily on the menu. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to gather a group of friends to join me in sampling the finest meat in this “it” place, ignoring the fact that Sin City is my least favorite place on the planet.

central kitchen at Bazaar Meats

First of all, this restaurant has its very own casino, something that escaped my attention on the way in, but was pointed out by one of my more observant dining companions. Second of all, the first thing I noticed is the giant, showcase kitchen – as it turns out there are five kitchens serving this restaurant. The meat kitchen has numerous cases for aging meat, multiple grills, ranges, and a gorgeous wood-burning oven clad in hand painted rustic tiles. The rooms of the dining room itself are adorned floor to ceiling with canvases depicting old hunting and pastoral scenes.

> Read more

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