Locanda Verde had been on my “must try” list for over a year before I finally made it there. Now that I’ve been (twice) I’m fairly certain it was my subconscious keeping me away, knowing that once I went, I’d want to keep coming back over and over (and over).

We’ll start with brunch. It was a cold wintry Sunday, one so windy I remember being thankful I made it there since I couldn’t see most of the walk there. I’d managed to secure our reservation thanks to calling directly. The restaurant limits the advance window and overall number of reservations available via OpenTable. For better availability, I suggest calling Locanda.

Since it was so cold, I ended up ordering not one, but eventually two cappuccinos. They weren’t cheap, but fellow cappuccino aficionados would approve of the strength of their espresso and proper foam. Perfection.

To start, we had to order the ricotta toast with honey. I’d had this for dinner on my first visit, the only difference being that the brunch version pairs it with a burnt orange toast instead of plain. Both times I was so blown away by the creamy fresh flavor of their ricotta. I don’t think I will ever be able to come for a meal at Locanda and not order this dish. I’m obsessed.

For my main dish, I couldn’t resist making it a full ricotta brunch, so I went with the lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries and meyer lemon curd. While the pancakes were not cheap ($17), I have to say they are some of the best I have had in a long time. The ricotta made the interior almost creamy and the meyer lemon curd was the best I’ve ever had. I think I have found my new go-to brunch spot. I could happily spend hours upon hours here. We actually did this specific Sunday! Highly recommend.

Locanda Verde – 377 Greenwich Street (@ N Moore Street) – 212.925.3797
Reservations Recommended

During my recent trip to Alabama, we decided to take a trip on the last day up to Lynchburg, Tennessee, home to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. The tour was amazing. The distillery is much larger than I’d anticipated – so many buildings making up their production (everything is produced in Lynchburg, a town officially with only 361 residents!). Here we are posing with Jack, in front of the caves where they get the cave water that comprises 40% of the whiskey.

On the way back to Huntsville, we made a stop for some high quality BBQ. I’d yet to visit New Hope BBQ but had heard nothing but the best from my parents. There’s not a ton of seating, essentially only a strip of tabletop space running the width of the building. Many people grab it to go or, come warmer temps, will eat outdoors at their picnic tables.

I had to go with my staple Southern fave, pulled pork. Unlike BBQ restaurants in NYC, I love that their BBQ was not about the fancy overall experience. No. It’s all about the food itself. It wasn’t quite a “meat & three”, but I went for two sides – their coleslaw (vinegar based) and mac ‘n cheese. The mac ‘n cheese was nice and creamy – not too heavy. I was excited to see they not only had Milo’s iced tea, a favorite of mine, but they even had a variety with Splenda. The sauces were on the more vinegar side, which I layered with their smokey rib sauce. I have to say, I’m spoiled from being able to have BBQ in NYC any time soon. So good.

We even ended up springing for some dessert, even though we had just had some wonderful complimentary mini Moon Pies from the store in Lynchburg in celebration of Pi Day. That day’s special dessert was lemonade cake, so we decided to give it a try. It was an interesting combination of tart and sweet, managing somehow to truly be both. A nice finish to a wonderful meal.

New Market BBQ – 5601 Winchester Rd, New Market, AL – 256.379.5525
No Reservations / Carryout Available

Friday’s weather seemed like it might be at least working towards spring, making it a perfect day for some seafood. I’d been curious about Brooklyn Fish Camp for a bit and T had heard some great things from friends. Happy hour runs from 12-7pm, at the bar only.

The happy hour food menu is filled with $5 options. Note, when they say bites, they mean it. The salt covered shrimp, while tasty, was only 2 shrimp.

We also started with an order of their hushpuppies ($8 for a side order). I was a bit surprised that they were more like fritters than hushpuppies. They were not savory or crumbly enough to truly be hushpuppies. I’ll admit, I also had a hard time with the $8 charge for three of them, having just been somewhere where a huge plate with them came free with the food.

For main dishes, we knew we wanted to do their Baja Style Fish Tacos. They were served with a habañero lime yogurt and frijoles charros ($17). The flavor was great – I really loved the yogurt sauce. The only thing that would have been an improvement would have been something crunchy – more radish, lettuce, or something – to mix up the texture a bit.

We also ordered the pan fried ‘Hook and Line’ Atlantic cod sandwich with french fries ($17). It was interesting to have the sandwich pan-fried instead of truly thick batter fried. I actually really liked it, as it made it a bit lighter overall yet still having a touch of the fried texture. I really liked their fries – fresh and thin. Just to note, both of the dishes we had were the heavy selections off of the menu. The other dishes were much smaller.

I opted us in for dessert, curious to see what the banana fritters tasted like, opting for vanilla instead of chocolate ice cream. It didn’t cross my mind at the time, but it ended up being the sweet version of the hushpuppies. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Overall, some great flavorful bites, albeit light on portion sizes. I’d come back for happy hour, but not sure for full meal.

Brooklyn Fish Camp – 162 5th Avenue (@ Degraw Street), Brooklyn – 718.783.3254
No Reservations

Typically I get to go home to Alabama once a year for Christmas. That means I naturally think of home now in the context of Christmas foods, holiday themed decor, and colder temps, all capped off with a soundtrack of carols and the like. When I took T to Alabama for his first visit, cinnamon rolls had to be part of the experience, Christmas or not (served along with homemade chili, naturally).

The biggest “ingredient” this recipe requires? Time. All of your time. Special thanks to mom for spending so much time year after year putting these together. It did not go unappreciated.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°)
  • 2 cups lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or shortening
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5-6 cups unbleached flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, oil, baking powder, salt, egg, and 2-3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth – ideally using a Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix in enough flour for it to start to stick to the hook (or stick to the spoon, if you are mixing by hand), likely somewhere between 3-4 of the 5-6 cups of flour.

If you have mixed by hand, turn dough onto a a well-floured surface (can cover your counter with wax paper). Knead until smooth and elastic. If you mixed with a Kitchenaid, you can spoon the dough into a large, greased bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Dough is ready if you see an indentation after you touch it.

Grease two oblong pans, 13×9 inches. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Roll one half into a rectangle, measuring dimensions of 12×10 inches. Spread with half of the butter. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the rectangle.

Roll up, starting with the wider side. Pinch the edge of the dough into the roll to seal. Stretch the roll to make it even.

Slice into 12 slices. Place them a bit apart in one pan. Repeat with the second rectangle of dough.

You can cover with aluminum foil for and place in the refrigerator for 12 hours (to no longer than 48 hours) and then bake. If you want to bake the same day, place the pans in a warm place until the dough rises to double, around 30 minutes. Pro-tip courtesy of Mama Ruth: cover with towels and put a kettle of hot water on. It’ll make the yeast plump up perfectly.

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove foil from pans (if you’ve refrigerated overnight). Bake until golden for 20-22 minutes (longer if refrigerated).

Frost prior to serving. A simple recipe for frosting is mixing 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. I personally am a bit more generous with icing, so the above does not make enough for the two pans of 24 rolls. I recommend adding a small bit of milk to each spoonful of powdered sugar to make as much as you need to ice. Vanilla extract is a nice addition – another great option is almond extract.

Hope you enjoy them as much as my family has over the years.

It had been a long day this particular Tuesday during Social Media Week, but I quickly found my second wind. This night T had made plans for our big three year anniversary celebration. I did not know where we were headed other than somewhere nice. I was caught off guard when it appeared we were making our way over from Chelsea instead on foot. Eventually he slowed down a bit and I looked across to see the entry way for Aldea – a restaurant I knew of somewhat, but admittedly not in great detail. I hadn’t done my usual pre-visit scan of the menu. It was fun to go in with no expectations – ready to be wowed by a fun new spot.

We checked in at the front and made our way to the back, where the Chef’s Table is located. Unlike some other restaurants I’ve been to, this one was nice and open, still managing to give you an amazing view of the detail with which the kitchen prepares every single dish. There were small utensils, tweezers and the like, used to ensure that every intricate detail was just perfect.

We went with the tasting menu, which was a selection of 9 courses prepared at the discretion of the chef. They were great about accommodating our few requests – no mushrooms, no red wine, and no strong cheeses. We were first greeted by the chef’s take on a frozen caipirinha – a refreshing and flavorful palate cleanser to start the meal.

The first dish which came out was a mussel soup with chorizo, fennel, and a coconut-curry. I can’t say I’ve ever had a soup with mussels, and this was a simple, slightly salty way to start off the tasting (providing a nice contrast to the amuse-bouche.

Next was a small dish of two small croquettes de bacalao, which were served with garlic aioli. Bacalao is not something that I have had often, so it really made me begin to feel the Portuguese connection in our food. Another thing which added a strong tie was the paired tasting portion, which was unlike any I’ve ever experienced. Usually it’s an assortment of wonderful wines, which I have never found anything but excellent. The unique thing about the Aldea sommelier’s take was that it was not limited to wine. We had madeira, sherry, and even a porter. Each really lined up quite well with the course, but I will admit I did notice in particular just how much it added to our meal at Aldea.

Next, we were each served one of their market oysters, accompanied by a pickled shallot mignonette. I decided going in that I was going to try absolutely everything, even if it was something I do not typically order, meaning when it came to these oysters? I would be trying. While still not my favorite out of all of the courses, I did not mind these. The flavor was good, and I really liked the sauce they used.

This dish next dish of beet pickled quail eggs was so pretty! With the Easter season approaching, it seemed like a nice seasonal nod in the line-up. Also not usually a fan of eggs, I liked this dish. The pickling process almost made the egg taste fade a bit, with the beet flavor being more noticeable. I liked that this was just a bite too, smaller than some of the dishes surrounding it.

The next dish, a sea urchin toast with a cauliflower crèma, was one of the highlights for me out of the line-up. I think sea urchin is one of the most decadent, indulgent options out of seafood – dare I say out of savory options in general. I also absolutely loved the unique cauliflower crèma.

We were then served tuna crudo, featuring cucumber and radish. This dish was a nice fresh and light balance to the richness of the sea urchin. I really love tuna tartare and this was a nice play on this – no heat, but just good all-around flavor.

Next, we were served a calamari dish featuring calamari roe and squid ink and languisa sausage. This was a fun dish. The sausage had a bit of a spice to it, which was a perfect contrast to the calamari.

We then were served tortilla with bacalao and black truffle. I think bacalao was the only thing we had which made a repeat appearance. This was a Portuguese take on the Spanish staple Tortilla Española. The layers were nicely done and the stronger flavor of the bacalao stood up nicely to the prominent potato flavor. I was not sure what I would think on this one but I was surprised how much I liked it.

The main entree dish of pork cruda vera was another one of my favorites. The pork was served with rutabaga, radishes, and orange. The orange added a slightly unexpected layer to this dish. The added upside I find to tasting menus is that even the entree is not an overwhelmingly large portion. This was just perfect in every way.

Our first of the dessert dishes was a cheese plate, served with quince marmalade. Not usually one to embrace cheese as a dessert option, I was caught off guard as to how much I liked this! The cheese was creamy and flavorful and the only thing I disliked about the cube of marmalade was that there was not more of it.

Next for dessert was a combination plate featuring a panna cotta, coconut foam, and granita. I think this was my favorite out of the dessert dishes. I liked the playful nature of this one and the way each element was a contrast to its neighbor – with the panna cotta being creamy, the granita being super icey, and the coconut foam falling somewheer int he middle.

Our final dessert was a chocolate plow pudding with almond sorbet and poached pear. The chocolate pudding was almost more of a super soft cake. The almond sorbet and poached pear managed to nicely balanced out the more heavy, rich flavor to the chocolate. I don’t think I have ever had this combination of flavors – chocolate, almond, pear – but it was so nice, with the pear being the surprise addition.

When our server brought out the bill, it came accompanied by yet more sweets! This time, it was a gummie for each of us and custard tarts. If only the bill always came with such an indulgent option.

What a wonderfully indulgent way to celebrate such a milestone. Three years! Kudos to T for an excellent pick and to the fabulous staff at Aldea for providing us both with an experience to remember. Highly recommend.

Aldea – 31 West 17th Street (b/w 5th and 6th Aves) – 212.675.7223
Reservations Required

T and I had been wanting to pay a visit to the newly opened store for Robicelli’s. But it’s a bit of a hike – ok far – so going for a visit, unless that happens to be where you live, does require some time (not that I’ve ever let that deter me).

Yesterday was gorgeous. Okay, comparatively nice. The sun might have been hiding, but temps were almost a balmy 50 degrees, no rain or snow, and little wind. Perfect day for a stroll to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. To be fair, the plan had been to take the subway, but we decided why not just walk?

Turns out that walk was over five miles. We strolled through South Park Slope and into Sunset Park, where the streets were filled with families, some children sitting to the side of their parents as they fried up food for their street carts. There was a man protesting in Spanish outside a church, his microphone breaking up but seemingly accusing someone of being a murderer.

Finally we made it into Bay Ridge, which started much further north than either of us realized. There were too many options from which to choose, the likes of which changed while we were sitting there.

T had walked the whole way intent on trying their buffalo chicken cupcake, an appropriate nod to Super Bowl day. When we got there, there were none to be seen. Instead, he went with the chicken and waffles.

Seeing as I’m a big fan of the salty/sweet combo, I finally chose the pecan potato chip cupcake. It was perfection – pecan potato chip cake, vanilla buttercream, salted butterscotch, roasted pecans, crushed potato chips. Potato chips are my favorite unexpected dessert accent.

As we were halfway through both, Matt Robicelli came out with a surprise tub of found buffalo chicken cupcakes, and we went from two to consume to three. So hard.

As we finished up, I looked over to eye the cookie sandwiches which had just emerged, filled with a layer of marshmallow fluff. Marshmallow fluff! I sighed, wishing that had been available 30 minutes ago before realizing I was being greedy and could go back. And go back I will.

Robicelli’s – 9009 5th Avenue (between 91/92 Street) – 917.509.6048

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers