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

I love awards shows. I do. Yes, they drone on and on and sometimes, maybe get to be a bit long. And sometimes the hosts disappoint. But you know what doesn’t disappoint? The dresses. Oh the dresses. Whereas the Oscars tend to lean towards the “fancy fancy”, the Globes tend to sprinkle in some crazier options for attire. Then there’s the general unexpected, like celebrities tripping and falling. As someone who often does so herself at inopportune times, I live for seeing stuff like that. It makes me feel better.

I had a few friends over for a night of red to line up with the red carpet. There was (mostly) red wine, red meat (chili), and red velvet cupcakes. I thought chili would be a perfect simple awards show meal – filling but not so labor intensive that I wouldn’t be able to sit down and hang out with everyone myself. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint.

You can easily replicate the mix of spices that I usually buy in a packet, but I’ll admit I usually just buy it because it makes whipping this up even easier and possible to do so on varying levels of spiciness. I’ve been using the McCormick brand mix, and opting for some alterations – the simple one that looks like this:

Ingredients

  • 1 spice pack chili mix
  • 1 pound ground beef (can substitute turkey)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 jalapeño (diced) – optional
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese – optional
  • Crackers – optional

First, brown the ground beef. Drain. Separately, sauté the diced onions. Incorporate the onions in with the beef, adding the spice mix, both cans of tomatoes, and jalapeños (optional). I suggest dipping in a spoon and testing the spice level. If it’s not enough, you can add in more chili powder or even more jalapeños. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve as preferred. I love sharp cheddar cheese and a smattering of crackers. Sour cream also makes for a fun addition.

Looking for a different kind of chili? Check out my prior post on pumpkin turkey chili.

On a related topic, which Golden Globe winner do you want to see first? American Hustle, August Osage County, and Dallas Buyers Club are on my list.

Back in December, I went to brunch with my sister to celebrate her birthday before we went to the Pink show. I sent over a bunch of options, but she came up with her own idea – The Dutch. I had been curious for a long time about The Dutch but kept forgetting to go. Problem solved. It was a day where light snow was coming in, a common occurrence for me, food, and SoHo.

I was having a hard time making a choice when it came to the menu, as there are so many great options. There is a crispy whole grain waffle, apple, maple-bourbon, and pecans. And then there’s the soft scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, trout roe, and a bagel. Or what about the shrimp and kimchi fried rice served with two eggs and grilled pork belly? So much awesome, only one plate.

When it came time to make a choice, I was thankful to not have to! As is often the case, my sister and I chose to go the “best of both worlds” route, mixing savory and sweet. First, we got the hot fried chicken served with honey butter biscuits and slaw. Fellow brunch splitters rest assured – the dish comes with two biscuits!

And for our sweet option, we had the cornmeal flapjacks, which were served with salted butter and blueberry syrup. The cornmeal made for an interesting addition – it made it a bit more savory than your typical pancake, as did the lovely salt they added to the butter. I really liked the blueberry syrup, which was nice and sweet but not that super sugary version you often find with syrup. Nicely done.

On New Year’s Day, I found myself back over in the area with a group of girlfriends. When the restaurant we had a reservation at was closed (I’ll be kind and leave them unnamed but restaurants accepting reservations when they’re closed is the worst), I found myself back at The Dutch. I was again torn by what to order (even more so having had the magical mix). Thankfully another friend wanted to order the same mix. What can I say – fried chicken, honey biscuits, and cornmeal flapjacks. It’s just magical.

The Dutch – 131 Sullivan Street (@ Prince Street) – 212.677.6200
Reservations Recommended

To me, New Year’s Eve is a night to get dressed up. Something sparkly – so doesn’t even have to be crazy fancy – and be surrounded by some of my favorite people (along with one special guy, naturally). Unlike last year, T and I decided to keep it local – an “off year”, if you will, where battling for cabs wouldn’t be necessary and we could enjoy ourselves the whole weekend in our chosen borough.

I came across a list of restaurants offering New Year’s dinners on the Twitter account for Park Slope Stoop. Their list had a bunch of great options from which to choose. T and I took a look and chose Kiwiana, a New Zealand restaurant which had an interesting looking 5 course option.

It’s a small restaurant tucked into the northwest side of 7th Avenue and Union Street in Park Slope. We were surprised to find that the menu differed somewhat from what we had read online, but were still looking forward to seeing how it was seeing as we had read so many great things about it.

The first course only had one option – seafood chowder. Chowder was a bit of a misnomer as it was more of a soup. After the chilly walk over in heels, it was hard to mind anything that was so warming as a starter.

For the second course, we both went with the Octopus which was served with chorizo and smoked potatoes. I was surprised when this dish came out to find it was prepared cold! The flavors were good though. The spice of the chorizo and the smokiness of the potatoes nicely balanced the octopus. The presentation was also interesting, with the octopus sliced thinly similar to pepperoni. First time I’ve seen that. The other option on the prixe fixe menu was white bait latke with tartar sauce.

For my third course, I chose the pork belly, earth cooked yam, boiled kale, and bacon. The pork belly was a leaner cut than I’ve typically had. It was nicely seasoned though and I like what they did with the kale. I often find it too bitter, but they managed if soften it a bit. The other option was foie gras torchon, blood orange marmalade, and toast. I’m not a huge fan of foie gras, but could appreciate in my small bite that it was nicely prepared.

For my fourth and main course, I had to try the NZ venison, which was served with a poblano sauce, rice and butterscotch beans. I can’t say I’ve ever had venison before (so had to give it a try). Their preparation was excellent. Super tender and the sauce was a nice slightly spicy addition to the mix. The other option was the lamb chop, which was accompanied by lamb empanadas and a radish salad. The flavors were great, but the lamb “chop” was much more of a lamb “lollipop”. The portion size was much more appetizer than fitting of the more entree round of the courses.

For dessert, we both chose to go with the sticky date pudding over the pavlova. After we ordered, I started to see plate after plate of the pavlova – which was big and fluffy and made me wish we had gotten one of each! The sticky date pudding though was sweet and filling. A perfect end to a wonderful meal.  I will definitely be back – next time for brunch and the chai French toast!

Kiwiana – 847 Union St. (at 7th Ave) – 718.230.3682
Reservations Recommended

I have to admit, I was tempted to skip my annual year in review blog post. Instagram, Facebook (via Statigram), even Google+ wrapped the year up in their video photo montages, so I thought about playing hooky. At the last minute though, I caved. There’s something fun about clicking back through the calendar and seeing just what it was that made this city seem so electric for the last 365 days. There were so many things I almost forgot about that it made all the time it took to pull this together more than worth it!

There were countless fabulous meals. There were restaurant week outings to LureSpice Market, and Benchmark. None were as out of the ordinary (and as least likely to be repeated) as trying live octopus at Sik Gaek in Queens. So. Chewy. And T and I celebrated 2 years with a fabulous dinner at Marea, a long-standing member of my “to try” restaurant list.

I attended a special McDonald’s Chef Event linked to their announcement of their new menu. The event featured an entire meal of upscale food created out of ingredients from the McDonald’s pantry. It was a fun opportunity to join an assortment of people from the New York City food scene for an evening unlikely to be repeated in the fabulous Three Sixty° event space. I had the chance to attend the closing day of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, which was a fun chance to take a peak into a whole different industry.

As always, 2013 was a year full of music. The absence of Tori Amos shows didn’t mean fewer concerts, that’s for sure. There was Passion Pit at Madison Square Garden during Winter Storm Nemo. We managed to enjoy both a show and another restaurant week meal as everyone was scurrying home in the midst of the snowfall. Chilly, but fun! I hiked out to Nassau Coliseum to see Pink with JB and took L as well to see her when she recently came back through to Brooklyn. I went with T to see John Mayer on Live on Letterman and was totally surprised when we had the chance to meet him and sit to the side of the stage for the final show on his tour. T and I went up to Yankee Stadium in crazy high temps (just shy of 100 degrees) to see Justin Timberlake and JayZ. What a show. L and I went to see Fiona Apple at the Beacon Theatre, and she proved that even small people can have a large stage presence. Mesmerizing. We also went to see “Fair Play” at 54 Below, which featured members of the original cast of Once.

When it comes to the arts, there were a number of shows of all sorts. T and I went to see the one man show of Macbeth with Alan Cumming. It was amazing to see one person be able to carry an entire Shakespeare play in such a unique way. I thought he was an amazing performer before, but wow. This was so much more than I ever expected. We went out to Citi Field to see Totem, which turned out to be likely my most favorite thus far of the various Cirque shows I’ve seen. We saw the sold-out Ballets de Faile, a unique series by the NYC Ballet based on the works of the street artist Faile. Since we really loved the times we went to Sleep No More, T and I tried two other immersive experiences – Then She Fell and Speakeasy Dollhouse. I enjoyed Then She Fell, though it was a much slower and not as detailed of an experience as SNM. Speakeasy Dollhouse was a fabulous concept, though the space where it was performed (the usual Back Room speakesasy in the Lower East Side) made for a complicated space to follow the action during the performance. And T and I were lucky enough to get to attend the special Citi ThankYou Sleep No More event hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. No personal photos were permitted, but NPH was a great host. We had the opportunity to speak with him and he was as personable and chatty as you would think.

It was a year of trips ranging from day trips to international (too little, as always, of the latter).  There was the Poconos for Memorial Day weekend, with a group of friends. There were 2 culinary retreat weekends in Vermont, where I fell in love with the incomparable Good Commons. For the 4th of July, T and I took a super long weekend trip to Ireland, where I don’t think we met anything less than a smiling face and we tried tons of amazing local food. I escaped from the city for a bit in September for my birthday for a trip to Destin with my family, confirming it is in fact still my favorite beach. There were several trips to Long Island for fun weekends including wine tasting and apple picking.

There were sporting events spread out through the year. There were Mets games – Mets/Dodgers, Mets/Nats, and finally Mets/Yankees! I was surprised to learn one of our agencies was taking us to the All Star Game, which more than lived up to the hype. I also went with a group to root for the home team and see the Nets. And after countless unsuccessful attempts, I caught my layout towards the end of the year.

Of course, the year had its challenges, many I would have never seen coming. But overall, it was a great year. Here’s to hoping for more wonderful adventures, smiles, and amazing people in the year ahead!

Happy 2014!

It’s been a busy several weeks going into Christmas. Aside from the Christmas parties, there were concerts (Pink & meeting John Mayer) and even Sleep No More hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. This blog has been a bit neglected, with November focused on NaNoWriMo and December being a holiday whirlwind. That doesn’t mean, however, there haven’t been some fabulous meals, so it’s time for some overdue catching up.

A week ago, our team at Facebook took some of my work team out for a holiday lunch at Craft. It was a beautiful lunch, taking place in their private dining room. It was a really nice space, with an area in the back corner that opened into the kitchen where you can watch them preparing the food.

We started with a fabulous pasta dish – ricotta cavatelli with butternut squash and parmesean finished off with a dusting of roasted pumpkin seeds. The pasta was so light that it melted in your mouth, almost as if it was instead butter. So good. The flavors were simple and light, so it was not a heavier pasta. The pumpkin seeds were a fun addition – a nice contrast in texture. It looked so simple, but I was quite impressed.

For my main dish, I went with the Black Bass, which was served with a potato puree and niçoise olives. The outside was lightly charred, rich with flavor. I’m usually not a fan of olives, but the flavor here worked perfectly – a bit tart and salty. The flatiron steak also looked excellent, served with cipollini onions, hen of the woods mushrooms, and bordelaise.

For dessert, we were all treated to some gingerbread served with quince, muscato, and crème fraîche‎. The entire dining space was filled with the rich spicy smell of gingerbread. I did not even have to have a bite to know this was going to be quite good. It was moist and molasses-y, which was balanced out nicely with the ice cream and the fresh slices of quince. It was truly the holidays on a plate!

Craft – 43 E 19th St, New York, NY 10003 – 212.780.0880
Reservations Required

When we went apple picking at Harbes Farms, I thought 1/4 peck didn’t sound like it was really that many apples. Granted, I’m working with double that but still, I’ve been surprised just how few apples most recipes require and how many, at this point, I still have left! Of course, going apple picking again this past weekend in Vermont didn’t help with the apple situation, but that’s another story.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to make an apple tart with more of these apples for date night. It seemed perfect timing that I received a great looking recipe from Tasting Table for a Brown Butter Apple Tart. Since I actually don’t have a tart pan and didn’t want to be the grand hold up on dinner, I ended up simplifying, skipping making my own crust and using a crust from the store. It’s hard to feel guilty about this shortcut when your store carries crusts made entirely from Nilla Wafers.

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean (halved lengthwise, scrapping out the seeds from the pod with the tip of a knife)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 semi-tart apples

First, you’ll need to make the filling. To do so, you’ll whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar. Separately, heat the sticks of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Once the butter is melted, add in the scraped vanilla seeds as well as the vanilla bean pod. Keep stirring the mixture over the heat until the butter foam begins to subside and turns a deep golden color (rougly 5 minutes).

Remove the saucepan fromt he heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the pod halves and then whisk the butter into the original egg-sugar mixture. (Full disclosure: I accidentally didn’t keep the egg/sugar separate from the butter/vanilla bean. While I didn’t get quite the same brown butter effect, I kept going and the tart was quite good. If you mess up something, keep on going!)

Then whisk in the flour and salt, whisking until the mixture is smooth.

Next, you’ll need to cut the 3 apples into rings. The best apples to use are something like Granny Smith, Braeburn, or Pink Lady. The apples need to be peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (ideally into ¼-inch thick rings). I can only assume this would be infinitely easier if you happened to own an apple corer. I, naturally, do not. No big deal, right? Wrong. This made coring and slicing the apples a bit more difficult. Arrange the sliced apples into a an overlapping concentric circle. Add a few apple at the center as well. I’ll admit that when I did this I looked at the apples, neatly situated in the pie crust, and assumed this was going to be one ugly pie-tart.

But fret not. The filling magically filled in the gaps and covered over the non-uniformly sliced apples. Finally, you’ll slowly pour the prepared filling over the sliced apple. Since the filling is a bit thick, allow time for it to make its way through the spaces between the apple slices to make sure you don’t overflow. Stop once the filling reaches ¼-inch from the top of the crust.

Place the pie-tart on a baking sheet in the oven, baking until the colof of the apples is deep golden-brown. Make sure the center of the pie is also set and that the filling does not move when the pie is jostled. This should take around 1 hour. Once it is done, remove the baking sheet and the pie-tart from the oven, transferring it to a surface to cool for 2 hours. It’s lovely served with simple vanilla bean ice cream.

Enjoy!

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