pizza plans at marta

When I first read about Marta, I knew I had to check it out – but, of course, it was booked up for weeks. I booked the first available dinner they had and hoped my friend M was available. The restaurant is located inside the Martha Washington Hotel. The entrance into the restaurant opens into the hotel lobby.


We started off with the bruschette strappata, which is torn pizza bread, ricotta, pistachio and honey. The portion size was perfect – just enough ricotta to enjoy, stopping shy of feeling too indulgent. We also had the suppli alla terrazza, deciding we had to check them out since all the tables around us seemed to have chosen them. The dish is green risotto croquettes , mozzarella, and mixed herbs.


For pizza, I had to go with the Amatraciana, a red-sauced based pizza with pecorino, guanciale, onion, and chili. The pizza was super thin, with the crust crunchy and slightly flakey. The flavor was perfect – slightly spicy but not overwhelmingly so. Highly recommend this one. We also ordered the Salsiccia – mozzarella, pork sausage, and Crimini mushrooms – with one substitution, Brussels sprouts for the mushrooms. It was overwhelmingly flavored by the Brussels sprouts, which I loved but can’t say that was the chef’s goal on that one. Nice to see the kitchen so wiling to work with us to alter based on food allergies.

15918426045_3ea776508b_m (1)

For dessert, we were wanting to try the ice cream panino, which was a salted chocolate cookie, pistachio, and a smoked marscapone gelato. Our server made two trips back to try to put this in for us – and both times, he returned to say that there were some issues with components of the dish, so we couldn’t have it. We were so bummed, and decided to order the buckwheat tart, which is a sweet risotto ginger apple jam, and fresh apple. We were surprised when our server returned with a trio of desserts – able to get us the cookie after all and choosing to bring us the buckwheat tart and a scoop of coconut gelato as well. Such a wonderful end to the meal. Having tasted almost all of the dessert menu, I would say the tart is the way to go.

Overall, it was a wonderful meal. I hope to have the chance to return soon to try more of the menu – perhaps a white pizza is in order next time.

Marta – 29 East 29th Street – 212.651.3800
Reservations Required


dough brooklyn tries a new zip code

A little over a week ago, T had an idea for something new. “Let’s do a morning date!”

I was a bit puzzled, as neither of us are super morning people, but of the two of us, he’s the one who drags a bit more. I shouldn’t have been surprised though when I heard the reason – it was the opening day for Dough‘s new Manhattan location. It was interesting to hear that the doughnut shop known for it’s “we fry in Bed Stuy” slogan was making the expansion into that other side of the bridge (though trust me, I’m not complaining – there’s no such thing as too much Dough).

Dough Manhattan - Lara Ruth - Grits in the City

They had been doing a window of free doughnuts in the week leading up to the grand opening, but expanded that to all day for the grand opening itself, all the way until close. The shop is simple – it’s all about the doughnuts (at least for now). No coffee. Just doughnuts.

Cheesecake Doughnuts - Dough Manhattan - Lara Ruth - Grits in the City - Food Photographer

And were there ever doughnuts. Racks and racks, filled and ready to go to good “homes”. I was super tempted by their cheesecake doughnut, which I had never seen before. In the end, I went with my all-time favorite of theirs – dulce de leche. Never disappoints.

Dough Doughnuts - Dulce De Leche - Lara Ruth - Grits in the City - Food Photographer

We ended up going around the corner to pair our doughnuts with some coffee from Toby’s Estate. It was a perfect relaxed morning date, for sure. From the look of how this line ended up, we won at free doughnuts, too. So overall verdict? Same great doughnut, just a new zip code in the mix.

Dough Doughnuts Manhattan - Lara Ruth - Grits in the City - Food Photographer

Dough – 14 West 19th Street (at 5th Ave) – 212.243.6844


on venturing to governors island for the vendy’s

For years, I’ve said that I would treat myself to tickets to the Vendy’s. If you’re not familiar with the Vendy’s, it’s basically street food event and competition. To me, it’s always been a missed opportunity to try out street food in parts of the city I don’t get to frequent as often and therefore, have never had the opportunity to try. It usually falls on or around my birthday weekend, so it seems as if the universe is telling me to treat myself. However, this year I actually won my way in for eating, what else, dessert. Several months back, I found myself onstage at the Bell House during Pat Kiernan’s Trivia Food Fight trying to eat as much blueberry pie as possible as Van Halen’s “Right Now” blared overhead. Tying led me to spinning the wheel o’ prizes, which led me to snagging what had been missed on the wheel – two tickets to the Vendy’s! I’m so grateful to the wonderful TrivWorks team for hooking me up with such an awesome prize.

Pie Time - Bell House


I’d read up on the best time to head over, knowing there had to be a strategy. We caught the 11am ferry, ensuring we would be there with plenty of time to spare before the 12pm start time. This worked out to be wise. This allowed plenty of time for us to maneuver the multiple lines at check-in and obtain our admission bracelet before joining the main line.



The Judges

What no one mentioned is that although the event does begin with a VIP hour (during which general admission attendees have to wait in line outside of the event), that doesn’t mean there’s no food or beverage to be had. As we waited, several vendors made their way around through the crowd. Nuchas had our caffeination covered, bringing around coffee and tea, in addition to croissants. Bolivian Llama Party and Calexico took it to the next level – actually bringing out items they were serving inside the event. Spoiler alert: interesting to see that the vendor who won audience choice (Nuchas) was one of these vendors sending out samples. What can you say – New Yorkers love their caffeine. All kidding aside, I have to say I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t factor into the voting!


One of the first things we tried were vegan doughnuts from Cinnamon Snail. We were both craving doughnuts with it being our form of brunch this particular Saturday. They were tasty, though I must admit not my absolute favorite. The odds were ever in their favor though, as they took home the 2014 Vendy Cup.

El Rey Del Taco - 2014 Vendy's - Grits in the City

My absolute favorite new find of the day has to be El Rey Del Taco, a food truck usually set up in Astoria, Queens. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate name, because king they are indeed! I was impressed that they were not only serving up some super fresh hot tacos, but they were serving their entire menu (with the exception of some of their beverage line-up). We went with some spicy options, and were pleased to see that

Ramen Burger - Vendy's -  Grits in the City

I was finally able to try a ramen burger from the Ramen Burger crew. I have to say, the tasting portion was just about perfect. I’m not sure I could handle the full-sized burger! The ramen actually was pretty fascinating serving as a faux bun. I’m sure it would be warmer if served up in restaurant, but I felt like it was somehow a less dense option than a typical bun would be. And of course the meat here was top notch.


I started with vendors we don’t have easy access to on a regular basis, but had a hard time passing up one of my all-time favorites – DOUGH. I felt so badly for them, as the yellow jackets seemed to love them the most. This didn’t seem to cause their team too much issue though, as they found a way to work around the swarm. I finally got to try the passion fruit doughnut, which was top notch as I had expected. The team actually just opened a Manhattan location, for those of you who think Brooklyn is way too far.


I made a trip by the Nuchas team, making sure to try their limited edition squid ink empanada. Pretty tasty, and I’ll admit the color added a bit of novelty. Their gazpacho was amazing as well.


I was so glad to have the opportunity to try Lechonera La Pirana. Usually you have to head up to the Bronx to try this fabulous chopped meat. I unfortunately just missed the picture of the chopping in process, but here you can see the knife he uses by hand to chop this up. Amazing.


I knew once I read the summary for newcomer Snow Day that I was going to love them. Their food is maple syrup and French Canadian inspired. They were serving two items – a maple grilled cheese and gazpacho finished with maple and Japanese ginger. It was every bit as delightful as it sounds – and led to them winning 2014 Rookie of the Year.


For more on the finalists and winners, please visit the Vendy’s Awards site here. Perhaps I will be lucky to make it out again for the Vendy’s again sometime in the future!


a culinary exploration of vancouver

The first day we arrived into Vancouver, confused and jet-lagged, A and I agreed that we should just keep on going, determined not to waste part of one of our few days there sleeping. We were staying at Hotel Burrard in Downtown Victoria, just a short walk from most of the downtown area hotspots. We shopped along their famous shopping strip of Robson Street before making our way over to the harbor to watch early sunset over cocktails at Mahony & Sons Landing.

We learned that the food in that area was on the pricier side so we opted to explore a bit before settling on a place for dinner. We made a stop in at Steamworks Brew Pub Brewery for a quick bite. The baked spinach and crab dip was a perfect nod to our surroundings yet light enough to leave our options open for the rest of our explorations.


From there, we continued on to Chill Winston, which our server at Steamworks told us was a great spot for people watching and cocktails. It was already eight o’ clock, but the deceptive light outside made it feel closer to 6 o’clock. We sat just inside, situated against a large open window, perfect for taking in all of the fellow patrons as well as the foot traffic passing by along the front of the restaurant. I tried one of their cocktails called the Eternal return, which their menu described as “Bulleit Bourbon, Cointreau, West Indian Orange Bitters, lemon, fig jam served in a universe that ends again and begins again and again and again”. Such a dramatic description that definitely delivered.

Chill Winston - Vancouver, British Columbia

Based on recommendations from our server at Chill Winston, we made our way on to Incendio, a pizza place in Gastown just on the fringe of where the neighborhood started to turn a bit. I was instantly sold when I saw their self-selected category – Italian Soul Food. We were so hungry that it was a bit difficult to focus on the menu. What to choose! Thankfully, we were almost instantly greeted with a focaccia of sorts, giving us a bit more time to ponder.

Focaccia at Incendio, Gaslight, Vancouver

We finally decided on trying the Gastown pizza, which per the menu was spinach, roasted chicken, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, and gorgonzola. They were so kind as to substitute the gorgonzola for mozzarella per our request. We just made it under the window, with their kitchen preparing to close just as we were ordering. I’ll admit I think it was part quality and part hunger, but the pizza was just what we needed. And with a long day ahead (for a reminder, read here), we were excited to be able to stash leftovers in our fridge. Thanks to Incendio, dinner the next night was fabulous as well!

Gastown Pizza at Incendio - Gastown, Vancouver

Mahony & Sons – Burrard Landing, Vancouver – 604.647.7513
Steamworks – 375 Water Street, Vancouver – 604.689.2739
Chill Winston – 3 Alexander Street, Vancouver – 604.288.9575
Incendio – 103 Columbia Street, Vancouver – 604.688.8694

victoria’s red fish blue fish

I’m recently back from one amazing trip out to the Pacific Northwest. It was a whirlwind – only one week covering Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. I was lucky enough though to cram in (of course) some amazing food along the way.

I was traveling with my good friend A, who shared my interest in exploring and attending some Tori Amos shows. Perfect combo to me! We spent a good day and a half exploring Vancouver so we decided we could afford to spend one way out of town. Tight on time, we opted to coordinate with a tour company by the name of West Coast Sightseeing that our hotel, Hotel Burrard, was so kind as to help arrange.


We woke up super early to meet the tour van to venture out to Victoria. The trip to Victoria required a bus ride to a ferry to another ride out to the town. En route to Victoria, we stopped off in Brentwood Bay to visit the Butchart Gardens. The gardens were so gorgeous I couldn’t stop taking photos. Photos don’t begin to do it justice.

By the time we reached Victoria, we were famished. We’d skipped a snack in the gardens to allow more time to explore. Our tour guide rambled off suggestions. There was a bit of this and that in their Chinatown. And then there was this pub … and that pub.


We were instantly drawn to the one option that was completely different. “It’s this fish and chips place. I’ve never been, but some people say it’s great. One Fish, Two Fish … Blue Fish, Red Fish … Something like that!” He was close. It sounded good and points for the Dr. Seuss reference!


We walked down and around the harbor area. It was a particularly amazing day. No clouds, super sunny, low 80s with light breeze. We didn’t see a restaurant though as we continued our way around. And confined to a wi-fi only world, we had no way to check our whereabouts. Luckily we ran into a security guard patrolling in his crisp uniform. I caught his attention and he volunteered to take us there personally.


When we reached Red Fish Blue Fish, it was clear why we thought we were lost. We had a bit to go and it turns out it was a free standing shack along the harbor. There were several people ahead of us. A couple of the ladies from our tour group looked annoyed at the wait. I looked to our new friend, Mr. Security guard and as if responding on cue he interjected, “This? This is nothing. Sometimes it curves back along the harbor. Sometimes they run out of things too.”

There was no question as to what I was getting. They’re known for their fish and chips. I was absolutely starving so my friend and I opted to each get an order, which turned out to be way too much food. I’d suggest splitting and then assessing from there. The halibut is the way to go. I’ve never had halibut that’s come close to this. Amazing.

A ordered some gazpacho to start and after a long day out and about, it was amazing. It was super flavorful. Light and refreshing. I really loved their choice of topping – a heaping scoop of little shrimp. Such a simple but transforming addition.

And the fish. Oh the fish. I’ve had fish and chips many a time in London. I’ve had them in the Scottish countryside out from Edinburgh. I’ve even had it in Dublin. Hands down, the fish at Red Fish, Blue Fish is the best I’ve ever eaten – period. So even though that portion size was way too hefty, you’d better believe I didn’t let any of it go to waste.

Red Fish Blue Fish – 1006 Wharf Street, Victoria, British Columbia – 250.298.6877

grand opening at ethos

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity along with my friends to check out Ethos, a new restaurant in the East Village. We arrived to find the front sidewalk carpeted in pastel rose petals, balloons, and a smiling hostess greeting us at the door. I quickly realized as we walked into the space that I had been there before to dine at the prior establishment. The space had been brightened, from the open and exposed kitchen to the fabulous enclosed patio space and garden at the rear of the restaurant.

Ethos, East Village

Currently the space in the back features a garden which supplies the produce for the restaurant. The very warm owner was on hand to take us on a tour through the space, including a downstairs spot perfect for accommodating large groups. There’s even a separate bar on hand to complete the event. Having been in a few other East Village locations with basements, I was impressed how warm the space felt. This will be a great addition to restaurant.

Ethos, East Village

While the menu has some heavier options mixed in, it’s very much a place focused on small plates, perfect for sharing with a group of your closest friends (though works equally well for a first date!). You can choose your preference amongst the open bar area you walk through when you first enter the restaurant, the main dining room, or the enclosed patio.

Ethos, East Village

We started the meal with an assortment of appetizers, including the mandatory spreads ranging from tsatziki to hummus, to baba ghanoush. Not typically all that fond of tsatziki, I was surprised to find just how fabulous their rendition is. You could taste all of the layers of it, making it a cool contrast of an addition to their fresh warm pita. Their hummus was nice and smokey and the baba ghanoush was the best I have ever tried. Definitely recommend this assortment for sharing among friends.

Ethos, East Village

Another starter we tried was the baby octopus with mixed organic greens, vine ripened tomatoes and grilled peppers, which was served with a lemon and olive dressing. This clean fresh meal tasted like summer on a plate, complete with tomatoes from their on-premises garden. Their grilled octopus had that nice touch of char stopping just shy of overly crunchy. Perfect. For something with great flavor and a bit of flourish (hello, table-side ouzo-soaked flambé), don’t miss their Saganaki Kefalotiri. Imported greek kefalotyri cheese pan seared in olive oil. Nothing wrong about that.

Ethos, East Village

Of course, we had to try one of their lamb dishes. This here is off the mezes, but there are also other larger portions which come accompanied by side dishes (if that’s more your style).

Ethos, East Village

To finish, we tried a pastry creme tart with berries and their crème brûlée. I was a bit disappointed to not get to give their baklava a taste seeing as it’s such a signature Greek dish, but I figure that’s just yet another reason for a return visit. Great addition to a great neighborhood!

Ethos – 167 Avenue A (b/w E10 & E11) – 646.596.9051
Reservations Suggested

Photos courtesy of Joey Pasion.

cupcakes at buttermilk bakeshop

I left one day with an ambitious plan – going to bed early. It had been a busy several weeks at work with events and I needed an early night to help offset. My big post-work “plan” was simple – a quick post-work sweet treat at Buttermilk Bakeshop before I turned in. So yes, a pre-dinner dessert. Yolo.

This spot was much more narrow than I was expecting. There’s a thin lane going the width of the store for customers to stand in. There were a few chairs though it was tricky to really hang out. Much more of a grab and go scenario.

Since I came for the cupcakes, I had to give that priority – though I really wanted to try the whoopie pie. Next time…

I went simple. Plain vanilla / vanilla. A friend of mine once mentioned you can really tell a good bakery by something as simple as vanilla / vanilla standing out – and I have to agree. Putting them to the test, I have to say their’s were quite good. Their name is not just to be catchy, as buttermilk was noticeably present in the cake of their cupcakes.

They also have a weekly macron schedule. Amazing. Since I was lucky enough to be there for PB&J (couldn’t have asked for a better flavor) I had to take one of those too.

Buttermilk Bakeshop – 339 7th Avenue (b/w 9th/10th St), Brooklyn – 347.689.4376