out and about

Before Lady Gaga’s final show at Roseland Ballroom – the final show ever at the venue – my sister and I met at Don Antonio for dinner. To be honest, I don’t even know what the back part of the restaurant looks like. It was cold and rainy and we were in a bit of a hurry, so we sat instead at the bar (coincidentally, much closer to the door). I opted to start with their Trasteverino – cynar, limoncello, and carpano in a pistachio-rimmed glass. Delicious.

We started with some fried bites – their arancini (Neapolitan rice ball with baked Italian ham) and fritattine (traditional spaghetti cake with baked Italian ham and mozzarella). The arancini was great, but oh the fritattine is where it is at. It’s like a fried mac ‘n cheese ball at it’s finest with only a $3 pricetag.

For the main dish, we had to try their signature dish – a fried pizza, or “Montanara Starita”. This is Antonio Starita’s specialty and is a lightly fried pizza dough topped by their signature Starita tomato sauce and imported smoked buffalo mozzarella. Now I’ve had fried pizza once before and thought it was tasty but, more or less, that it was just pizza.

This though? Was something entirely different. The crust was light and fluffy, but with that interesting slightly oily crispness you get when something is fried. So good. So worth the hype. If you’re in the area looking for a bite (or meeting friends somewhere where the food is … less than desirable), this should be the spot you try.

This is an area which I often have difficulty finding something good for dinner. I think I’ve found a new go to!

And although the weather might have left a bit to be desired, the concert definitely did not. Another fun and fabulous night. Only sad that there are no more to be had at Roseland… Xo.

Don Antonio – 309 W 50th St (@ 8th Avenue) – 646.719.1043
Reservations Suggested

There are so many places I mean to try but never do. Call it home base syndrome. You know it’s here, it’s popular, there’s likely to be a wait, but you’ll go – sometime. The Burger Joint has been on said list for a long time. I’ve listened to Anthony Bourdain wax poetic about their beef patties, confirming they should indeed live up to the hype – but yet I’ve never been.

But thank you, Lady Gaga! I finally was going to be over in the area to work a VIP experience we had connected to her next to last show at Roseland Ballroom. Not sure what the food situation was going to be and knowing I’d be at the venue from 4:30 until likely 11, I thought it was a perfect time for a burger.

When I arrived, it was every bit the out of place venue I’d always heard it was. Plopped right into the glorious lobby of the Parker Meridien over in the back left was a snaking line, corralled by a series of ropes. There was no sign directly in the lobby and it was a kind bellhop who let me that was indeed where I needed to go.

Knowing their policy of making you order immediately, I started scrambling to find the menu on the wall along the long dark hallway that leads to the entrance – the main thing confirming you are indeed in the right place being a large glowing neon burger on the wall.

The family in front of me was from Australia. They were staying in the hotel, so you could say they had the “home court” advantage when it came to the line. And they’d definitely put this advantage to use, having visited the spot three times during their visit. I was looking through the various menu boxes with languages from French to Japanese when they stopped me. “The English menu is inside behind the register. You’ll have time.” Ominous.

When I entered the restaurant, I was surprise by the overwhelming amount of graffiti on the wall. The sign prohibiting graffiti seemed to be a pointless decoration as clearly, no one was reading it.

I went simple on my order. No shake this time, but I went with the cheeseburger, fries, and a Diet Coke. My bill came to around $10.

The room was filled with patrons, but respectfully they all are their burgers quickly, cleaned up, and allowed the next customers to cycle in. No stragglers playing on their phones holding up the process. This is a large part of what helped make my wait a mere 15-20 minutes. Not bad.

And the burger? So good. I was concerned that it would be massive and that I’d end up ruining my outfit for the evening. The patty wasn’t Shake Shack thin, but it wasn’t one of those super thick ones either. Just right. Nice and juicy with great flavor. The fries were on the thinner side and just the right amount of salt (which is key). If you haven’t tried their burger, I highly recommend. And now that it’s almost warm, it’s in the perfect spot too to grab and head into the park!

How was Gaga, you ask? So good. I followed my stop at Burger Joint with a lovely treat yourself session at Drybar (loved it!) before heading to the show.

The soundcheck was awesome. There’s something magical about getting to see a major performer without the stage costumes, just taking the stage for those few songs to get their bearings.

The show itself was a nonstop energetic hour ride, complete with a serenade to the legendary Tony Bennett.

I heard this show was not as choreographed as her typical tours. I’d love to see what the full tour would be!


Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien – 119 W 56 Street (b/w 6th & 7th Ave) – 212.708.7414
No Reservations

I’ve been to 7A twice the last couple of weeks with my sister. We wanted to squeeze in at least a couple of visits before it closes its doors for the last time on January 31st. I’ve already posted over on Medium just how sad their closing makes me. They’re on the short list of restaurants I automatically link to neighborhoods, almost as if one couldn’t exist without the other.

Friday night though, I think it all set in. Deciding we were going to go all-out with our final visit, my sister kicked off our order, “We’d like to start with the mozzarella cheese sticks.”

Our server paused, seemingly running through a mental list. She shook her head, “We are actually out of those.”

Caught off guard, my sister continued, “Okay, well I’ll have the Austrian … the fried chicken cutlet with sweet potato fries.”

The server looked back up. “I think we still have those. I’ll check. If not, are regular fries okay?” My sister nodded yes.

As our meal continued, I heard similar conversations between patrons and the servers. No, we don’t have that beer. We are out. No, sorry we are out of that menu item. With 7 days to go, it seems as if they’re done. No new supplies. Just there to sell out of their existing kitchen inventory.

The last weekend has come and gone, so no more chance at brunch, but there still are several nights to squeeze in a dinner or lunch. A last hurrah. Might I suggest the Austrian sandwich – of course, assuming it’s in stock.

The intersection of East 7th and Avenue A will never be the same.

Side note, this is this blog’s 1,000th post! I can’t think of anything better to be the focus of this post.

7A Cafe – 109 Avenue A (at East 7th Street) – 212.475.9001
Reservations Not Required

When I received an invite to McDonald’s Chef Event, I was so intrigued I instantly blocked off my calendar for last Thursday. The invite was simple yet detailed. Four chefs would be preparing a gourmet experience for attendees, comprised of McDonald’s ingredients.

I arrived to Three Sixty° where attendees were greeted in the lobby by platters of two cocktails – one a mojito, the other, a bacon old fashioned. (I later learned both did also incorporate McD’s ingredients – like their mango pineapple smoothie and their applewood bacon.) On the main floor of the event space, there were a couple of bars and servers carrying around small boxes of, what else, McDonald’s french fries.

We were seated at tables once the meal portion began, where we were greeted by senior execs from McDonald’s. Before the chefs were introduced, McD’s made its big announcement – more fruits and veggies are coming. Soon, you’ll be able to get a salad with combo meals, and there will soon be more fruits and veggies on the menu overall.

The tables themselves were decorated by the perfect take home souvenir – a Big Mac-aroon – almost too pretty to eat. Though the invite had mentioned small plates, the courses which arrived were much larger than what you would see as a part of a tasting menu. It was hard to believe that what we enjoyed through the rest of the evening was made from items from the McD’s pantry!

First up was the appetizer, prepared by Chef Dale Talde. This was a fun course for me, being such a fan of and regular at his Park Slope roadside bar, Pork Slope. He prepared Kung Pao Chicken, which featured McDonald’s chicken nuggets, sweet and sour sauce, red wine vinegar, peanuts, and iceberg lettuce. I’ll be honest – I have never been a huge fan of McD’s chicken nuggets, not now, and not even when I was six years old. This dish though? Was amazing. It was flavorful. It was something you’d expect to see in a fancy restaurant. I think it was once this came out that I really realized the meal that was going to follow was going to be unique.

Next was the first of two entrees, and this course was prepared by Chef James Tahhan. He served a Tortilla Espanola with Garlic & Saffron Aioli, which featured McDonald’s hash browns, eggs, onions. It was served with an apple & cucumber Salad, which featured McDonald’s apple slices, cucumbers, red onions, chili lime tortilla chips, fresh limes, spring mix, chipotle BBQ, and honey mustard sauces.

Third was the second of the entrees, this one prepared by Chef Aaron McCargo, Jr. He prepared a BOLD BBQ Chicken, which featured McDonald’s crispy chicken, hash browns, chipotle BBQ sauce, espresso, cheddar jack cheese, onions, eggs, and applewood smoked bacon. I really enjoyed the mix of hash browns, espresso and bacon in this dish. Not only was it a fabulous mix of flavors, but it incorporated ingredients from every meal of the day on McD’s menu. Genius.

Next was the third of the entrees prepared by Chef Jessica Foust, a registered dietician on staff at McDonald’s. This entree was Slow-cooked Beef with Blueberry Pomegranate Sauce and Mac Fry Gnocchi. I had to read the menu to see that yes, the meat in this dish was in fact the 100% beef used in ground form for their hamburger patties! The fish also featured McDonald’s French fries, eggs, and blueberry pomegranate smoothie base.

For the grand finale dessert, also prepared by Chef Jessica Foust, was a Pumpkin Spice Biznut (Biscuit-Donut). This course featured McDonald’s biscuit mix, pumpkin spice latte syrup, praline topping, cream cheese, and whipped cream. I think out of everything, it was this dish I was most sad I wouldn’t be able go out and purchase at another point in the future. It was so flavorful, and a fun take on the current pastry hybrid craze that’s sweeping NYC as of late.

Thanks again to McDonald’s to having me for such a wonderful event. I’m curious to see what’s in store for those menu changes in the future. I’ll have to make it over soon to give that McCafe Pumpkin Spice Latte I was reading more about today a try!

After trapeze, we’ve started exploring the nearby neighborhoods – West Village, Greenwich Village, all of the villages. Last night, caked in chalk, we decided to see if we could get into Minetta Tavern. I’ve wanted to go there ever since I almost slammed into Julia Roberts when I walked in front of the restaurant some two years ago. After a frustrating night at trapeze, it seemed like a perfect way to turn the night around.

We arrived, sans reservation, to find it understandably hopping on this Thursday evening. The wait for a table in the dining room was two hours (!!) but we could get a spot at the bar in only 20 minutes. Sold.

Rosemary's Baby - Minetta Tavern

Rosemary’s Baby – Minetta Tavern

From our seats, you could easily take in just about every aspect of the restaurant, from the business men in their gray suits sprinkled through the dining room to the stencils, original to the restaurant, defining the top border of the room. The bartenders run a tight ship. Don’t try to hop into a seat – there’s a sign up process for that. And when your spot is ready, you’ll not just be notified. Oh no – you’ll be told exactly where you’ll be seated. They’re fun though, not excessively gruff, and just complete the experience somehow. They have a nice and varied drink menu, from cocktails to wines to beers. I especially enjoyed the Rosemary’s Baby – gin, St. Germain, and rosemary. Perfect for a warm(ish) evening.

For my meal, I had to go with the standard Minetta Burger. They have a pricier version (The “Black Label Burger”), but I was advised the less expensive option here is actually the best. I’ll be the first to say, I’m not a big burger person. I don’t love ‘em crazy thick like some places in NYC like to serve them. And when I order mine medium and it comes out oozing in every direction, I continue to eat even though I sort of panic and my inner child wants to scream “Just kidding! Well done, please!”

Minetta Burger - Minetta Tavern

Minetta Burger – Minetta Tavern

But in my eyes, this burger was just perfect! Their medium was a glorious pinky center though they’d allowed the meat to rest so it wasn’t oozing out on all sides. And it’s definitely a thicker burger for me, but it totally works. The cheese and caramelized onions were nice noticeable additions that managed to not detract from the fabulous flavor of the burger itself.

If you haven’t been yet, I highly recommend it. It’s the morning after and I’m still thinking about it. I’d venture to even say skip the tables and reservations and stick with the bar.

Where’s your favorite NYC spot for burgers?


Minetta Tavern – 113 MacDougal St. (b/w  Bleecker & W. 3rd Street) – 212.475.3850

Yesterday I went for the second time to Cafecito Bogota, this time with the wonderful Power User crew from Google Places. I remember the first time I visited, it was a swelteringly warm day in June. The kind that’s so warm, people choose to stay in rather than even head out to bask in the sun. Yesterday though it was a gorgeous taste of spring kinda Sunday that the streets of Greenpoint were hopping, as was the restaurant.

On my first visit, I remember my goal was to get the most filling option off of the menu – after having been through quite the workout to get there (that day the train wasn’t running the whole way so I’d gone train to bus to a brisk run to get to the restaurant). The Llanera (one of their “Arepas Montadas”) definitely hit the spot – an arepa piled high with caramelized beef in a chimichurri sauce, topped with avocado slices. Their dishes also come served with sliced bananas and a mixed green salad. The beef was tender and perfectly seasoned and their arepa was soft yet flavorful.

The brunch dishes (priced at $16,50) come served with three brunch drinks – mimosas, sangria, or refajo (half beer and half cream soda). The first time I went, the daily mimosa fruit flavor was blackberry, which was quite good and not as overpowering as I’d originally feared. Yesterday, the flavors were passion fruit or a Columbian fruit which tastes like a mix of lime and kiwi. The latter was interesting as the citrus balanced out the sweetness of the champagne – but I preferred the passion fruit version – and the sangria surprisingly trumped all.

Yesterday I wanted something less filling and went with the Columbian Pericos eggs, a dish our server explained is the Columbian breakfast standard. The scrambled eggs came in a circular mound, with the scallions and diced tomatoes perfectly sprinkled evenly throughout the eggs, all topped with bacon. The arepa was light and fresh – the perfect accompaniment.

To finish, one of the servers brought us a round of aguardiente, a warm shot of an anise-liquor they’d prepared with sugar cane, cloves, and something I seem to be forgetting. A distinct flavor, for sure and a nice gesture from a restaurant who was super generous and accomodating to our group. Thanks to the staff and to Google Places for the fun brunch outing!

Highly recommend this brunch spot. Depending on where you live, this might take some time to get to, but it’s worth the travel. And while you’re in the area, I recommend walking another stop back up along the G and making a pit stop to pick up breakfast for the next day at Peter Pan Bakery – might as well while you made the trip, right?

Cafecito Bogota – 1015 Manhattan Ave. – Greenpoint, Brooklyn – 718.569.0077
No Reservations

When a friend of mine asked if I’d be her guest to last week’s New York City opening of Pie Face Cafe, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about Pie Face specifically – but I am familiar with meat pies. I learned that Pie Face is all over Australia. It’s like their Starbucks, except instead of caffeine they’re peddling a puff pastry full of meats and such.

I was so excited that, as you can see, my friends and I kept scrolling through the day's tweets at the event. Ha!

I was so excited that, as you can see, my friends and I kept scrolling through the day's tweets at the event. Ha!

Celebratory Rooftop Decor

Celebratory Rooftop Decor

The event took place on the rooftop of the Mondrian in SoHo. A January evening on a rooftop outdoors shouldn’t have worked, but yet it did. Heat lamps were sparse but it didn’t matter. From one side, you could see the Empire State Building. From the other, the Brooklyn Bridge.

Why hello Brooklyn!

Why hello Brooklyn!

An then came the pies. Oh so many pies. There was mincemeat. Chicken curry Thai. Mexican. Vegetable. Chicken and mushroom. It was their “mini” variety, which made it easier to feel completely fine with trying a little of each!

One lil' pie (this one's mincemeat)

One lil' pie (this one's mincemeat)

I was all set on avoiding the mincemeat, but it was the first one to come out and at that point, we weren’t sure how much they’d be serving so I gave it a go. I was pleasantly surprised. The spices made it super flavorful – and it ended up actually being my favorite out of the bunch.

This pie warranted a step and repeat

This pie warranted a step and repeat

I incorrectly assumed no dessert, but was surprised to see that was not the case. Out came more trays. Cherry pie. Chocolate pie. You name it. So many. All were in the same mini pie form as the meat pies. I’d recommend saving room for at least a little one to share.

I haven’t had the chance yet to make it into the store, but I hear it’s a bit snug. I’m still planning to make a visit soon – after all, I have to round out my experience by sampling a few more of their desserts ;)

Pie Face Cafe – 1691 Broadway (b/w 53rd St & 54th St) – 212.247.9065

Last night I went to Mobster Movie Night with Google Places. It was in an old theater in the East Village – Theater 80 –  that still has an original speakeasy bar in the entry from the time of prohibition. The owner was a fascinating quirky man who explained to us about the history of the theater (connection to Elliott Ness), and even a little about basement smuggling tunnels underneath the theater you can still access today. Sadly, didn’t win the raffle to get to explore those.

Little this, little that

Little this, little that

We watched The Untouchables on the big screen and enjoyed platters on food from Russ and Daughters, a spot I’ve been meaning to try since moving here that I sadly only pass by when it’s closed or I’ve just eaten.

Their salmon was delicious – they had it served on both slices of bagel and on toast. They also had pastrami salmon, something I’d never tried. It was heavier tasting (almost more meaty in flavor than seafood-y) and was a bit smoky. So good. I’ll definitely have to finally make a visit in person to really try all they have to offer.

Russ and Daughters – 179 East Houston Street – 212.475.4880

Always love to see a place deliver the same level of service and quality each time I return as I experienced on my first visit. Last night I went with a friend of mine and her boyfriend back to Rayuela. We started with their ceviche special – seven types of seafood, including grilled octopus, shrimp, and lobster. It was prepared with coconut milk and was deliciously fresh.

Rayuela, LES - before the crowd arrived

Rayuela, LES - before the crowd arrived

This time for my main course I went with the Cochinillo en Tamarindo, a tamarind-seasoned baby pork chop, ginger pumpkin purée, spicy sausage, apple pear escabeche, with Oaxaca mole. So many strong flavors that mixed together into one wonderful dish.

Cochinillo en Tamarindo - Rayuela

Cochinillo en Tamarindo - Rayuela

Paella de Concha - Rayuela

Paella de Concha - Rayuela

Rayuela – 165 Allen Street (b/t Rivington & Stanton) – 212.253.8840
Reservations Recommended

I really do think I end up thinking each year is better than the last when I look back, but I do think that 2011 took the cake, even more so than 2010. Many big changes and in the best possible ways. If 2012 even comes close to 2011, I’ll be super happy to be so blessed.

2011 was also a year of big changes in, well, just about every major possible category. After 10 years of corporate HR work, I switched over to working in Social Media in March – a wonderful change I thought I’d never see be a reality. I’ve spent the rest of the year learning a whole slew of marketing acronyms I’d all but forgotten along with a list of a bunch of new ones. And in February I went to celebratory drinks after I got the big job offer, a night which lead to a wonderful relationship – one of the biggest surprises in 2011, something which really shaped the remainder of the year for the better and made the time frame around Valentine’s Day seem less arbitrary of a reason to celebrate. I made one of the biggest switches a Manhattanite can make – equated by many as crossing to the dark side – and decided to move in October to Brooklyn. In June, I chopped off all my hair because I figured why not?

It was quite the musical year. I started the year with seeing the Dance Party and Charlotte Martin in January with my MeeGee friends (read: fellow Tori Amos lovers). I went with Ms JB to see her man, Bon Jovi, at Madison Square Garden. I was lucky enough to see Tori Amos three times in December during her recent Night of Hunters tour, getting to snag another photo and get in my first ever request, Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You. Still glowing. I was also lucky enough to get to accompany my friend to the 300th Guinness Book of World Record breaking show of the 30 Seconds to Mars tour (“Mars 300″), where I learned that I am not a crowded rock concert kinda girl and where I ran out of the theater to come face to face with Jared Leto – literally. Why hello Jordan Catalano. I lucked into winning some tickets to see the taping of Florence + the Machine Unplugged. Amazing night.

It was also a year of so many fun events. I went to see the PeeWee Herman Show be filmed for an HBO special in January as a part of a Foursquare promotion. I finally saw Swan Lake in February at Lincoln Center. In March, I made my first trip to SxSW, and learned all about the beauty of the breakfast burrito, how much of a luxury sleep can be sometimes, and how to properly fit yourself in cowboy boots. In April, we went to the Bootlegger Vodka Launch party, held in Andy Warhol’s former townhouse, which was transformed into a prohibition era style jazz club for the evening. There were several fun events on Governors Island – the Polo Match put on by Veuve Clicquot and the Jazz Age Party – both in June. In June, we also got all dolled up for the Webutante Ball. I was so happy I got to see Zarkana just before it closed its run at Radio City, an evening paired with the amazing tasting menu at Respite.

And, as always, I spent one night a week flying through the air. It was the year of bigger tricks and seemingly smaller progress. This though was my attempt to get back to the fun stuff and de-stress for a bit – and it work. (Note, I’ve since caught this – just haven’t had the chance to upload video yet).

And, of course, there were many food events. I enjoyed more homemade elk sausage from Montana thanks to my friend Andrea. I attended another one of Artisinal’s excellent wine and cheese classes. I went to Village Voice Choice Eats in March, learning the best way to enjoy the ‘feast” was to map out your game plan in advance. I went to this year’s Hudson Valley Food and Wine Festival in September, finally making it to sample many of the prominent Hudson Valley wineries. Eventually I’ll make it out to try them in person.

There were lots of fabulous food events affiliated with GooglePlaces – such as the Nacho bus in August, Miracle Fruit tasting party in October (where I learned my taste buds are super stubborn) and the pizza bus in December (post to follow shortly). I won tickets to Zagat Presents: Chef Akira Back’s Meal of Memories – an amazing eight course paired meal. A bit later and just before Thanksgiving, I was lucky enough to also win tickets to Zagat Presents: A Taste of Long Island on the East River, at the Water Club. It was a really gross night, but the food more than made up for the sideways wind and rain.

I entered a food competition for the first time ever for this year’s Seventh Annual Brooklyn Casserole Party in October. I baked cupcakes again for this year’s 140Sweets, benefiting the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation Program. This time, I did peanut butter cookie cupcakes.

As always, 2011 was a year of visits and a but of travel, mostly with friends. My friend JP came up to visit in July. My Bama girls came to visit in November, cheering on a heartbreaking Alabama/LSU game. My friend A came up to go to the Tori Amos shows with me in December and embraced exploring my new hood in Brooklyn over going back into Manhattan the whole weekend. Nice. For the first time, I went on a trip over my birthday week with my family and my boyfriend. We rented a lovely house (belonged to the captain back in the day) in Woods Hole, MA and relaxed in Cape Cod. I’d never been to Cape Cod and it was a welcomed change of pace from the bustle of the city. Perfect.

I also am proud to have conquered some fears this year. During the month of November, I accomplished one of my biggest goals for the year – participating and finish NaNoWriMo while doing fiction. To keep myself honest, I opted in to be interviewed by the Huffington Post throughout the process, one of the things which I credit with helping me cross that finish line. I also took a day long fiction writing class to prepare me for round next in 2012 – tackling my next idea for a writing project. In October, I had the tremendous honor of photographing a friend’s wedding – simultaneously terrifying and exciting. In June, I also survived live band karaoke. So much fun, though a whole new level in comparison to traditional, that’s for sure! (Especially when it’s rock/punk karaoke…)

Only 365 little days, but what a year. Can’t wait to see what adventures 2012 holds.

Happy New Year!

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