new year’s eve at rose water

I’m well-aware that I’m a tad tardy on sharing the food side of New Year’s. It’s more than justified, but that’s a story and explanation that will come later. Besides, I’m a believer it’s never too late to talk about a fabulous meal.


True to what’s become our tradition, T and I made reservations for a nice dinner in Brooklyn. This year, we opted to visit Rose Water in Park Slope, having previously only been there for brunch. We were both big fans, so I took a bit of a leap of faith, booking us a spot for two menu unseen. Hey we’re serving a six course paired tasting menu just for the evening. A quick email to the manager confirmed that they could accommodate a mushroom allergy, so other than that, we had no idea as to what to expect when we arrived.


The restaurant was nice and cozy when we arrived. We quickly received the first course – a Medjool date, stuffed with Fourme d’ Ambert and wrapped in bacon. It was paired with a Méthode Champenoise Brut from Domaine St. Vincent (New Mexico). For us, bacon wrapped dates are a fave, so this was a nice take on a staple


The next course was fresh and super light – a simple raw scallop with finger lime. It took me out of the cold climate for a little bit as this one felt almost like a summertime dish (not that I was complaining). This has me excited to come back for dinner once the warm temps return as this bodes well for what the menu might include!


We then were served a seared yellowfin tuna, accompanied by maitake, gold beet, and fresh wasabi. It was paired with a Muscat – “Exsultate” Domaine du Chapitre from S. Rhone. The sear on the tuna was nicely done and I liked the pairing of beets and wasabi with the flavors of the tuna. It was a slightly unexpected combination but worked perfectly.


I believe the next course was my favorite – cider glazed pork pelly, with quail egg, cabbage, and mustard. From a prior brunch, I knew going in that their pork belly is delicious, so I was pleased to find it made the New Year’s Eve menu. The wine was also one of my favorite wines, a Riesling (Kabinett Halbtrocken “Zeltinger Himmelrich” Selbach-Oster from Mosel). If you’re ever lucky enough to be at Rose Water and pork belly is on the menu, this confirms it’s almost guaranteed to be a winner.


The next course, the final of the savories, was seared venison, with chestnuts, black trumpets, and black truffles accompanied by a Barolo – Riserva Giacomo Borgogno from Piedmont.


Dessert was a chocolate custard cake, with eggnog anglaise, vanilla ice cream, and hazelnuts, accompanied by a Quinta do Infantado LBV Port from Portugal. I only wished the eggnog flavor was a bit more prominent in the dish, but the mix of flavors here overall was great. The ice cream was a nice balance to the denser chocolate cake.

Following dinner, it was another lovely New Year at Amber’s… with many a fun photo to capture the evening. Here’s to more wonderful in all of the days ahead in 2015!


Rose Water – 787 Union Street (at 6th Ave) – 718.783.3800
Reservations Recommended (No Reservations at Brunch)

winner, winner chicken (and bubbles) dinner

I was just reading about Sarah Simmons’ new restaurant, Birds and Bubbles, as I received an invite from N to go check it out during her recent trip to NYC in September. The wait to get a prime time seat was a bit on the longer side, so I felt super lucky that my friend from Detroit was so on top of the Manhattan food scene. I went to one of Simmons’ City Grit dinners back in 2012 and had been planning on coming back. This was a good alternative!


When T and I arrived, they had already been seated and were perusing the fabulous menu. The selection of bubbles to accompany your order is extensive. We had the H. Billiot Fils Brut Rose, which was a raspberry rose that was amazing. The list on their website gives you an idea.


They started with an order of deviled eggs. I didn’t have any (not a fan) but as I have always heard, the verdict was that they were amazing (especially the flavor added by the sriracha flakes).


For main course, we ordered several of the winner, winner, chicken dinners – which is a whole chicken, three sides, and a bread basket. They tried to dissuade us from ordering two for our party of six, especially since one was ordering their own dish, but we insisted. Note: their leftovers reheat fabulously, and make a perfect dish to bring to potluck brunch the next day. Just saying…


The chicken itself was outstanding. Not greasy at all. The breading was not very thick and was slightly crispy, just the way it should be. Being from the South, you could say I am a bit picky when it comes to Southern food, but knowing Simmons’ North Carolina roots and passion for fried chicken, I did not expect anything but the best.


For sides, the grits were good. The green chiles were a nice addition. I was not a big fan of the vidalia onion soufflé. It was somewhat runny and soggy. It was the only low point out of the dishes on the table. For me, the unexpected winner of the entire meal was the slaw. Slaw, you say? Yes, slaw! I’m not usually a big fan of slaw, usually avoiding it. This slaw though is amazing. Definitely a must have on the menu. The buttermilk biscuits were definitely the star of the bread basket, but I pretty much knew at buttermilk.


For dessert, I highly recommend the banana pudding. It’s a perfect balance of savory (touch of salt) and sweet. It’s enough for two if you’re looking for a smaller dessert option. So good. We went shortly after the restaurant opened, which is likely why the service was on the slower side. I look forward to going back again to check it out again in the future.


Much thanks to Ms. N on the reservation!

Birds and Bubbles – 100B Forsyth Street (b/w Grand and Broome Street) – 646.368.9240
Reservations Required

a hat tip to wd~50

Yesterday evening, the final meal was served at wd~50. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get seats for one of the final meals, which looked like a wonderful way to close out the restaurant’s over eleven and a half year run. I was lucky enough to get to go once back in February 2012, when T and I were celebrating our first anniversary. I never posted about it since even though the food and majority of the service was outstanding, our actual waiter for the evening was the worst I’ve ever experienced. It was one of the most innovative meals I’ve ever had – very varied in composition and featuring so many plays on the food that even in looking at the menu, I wasn’t expecting. Regardless though, looking back through the photos, it was quite a meal. I actually found the full paired tasting menu still sitting in my email drafts, so seems fitting to share it now. We didn’t do the pairings, but I’m leaving the details in the listing.


Hamachi, lychee-buttermilk, asparagus, cashew
Cremant d’Alsace Brut Reserve Francois Baur NV (Alsace, France)


Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese
Cremant d’Alsace Brut Reserve Francois Baur NV (Alsace, France)


Riesling Belle Pente 2006 (Willamette Valley, Oregon)


Poached egg in the shell, pumpernickel, caesar dressing, bean sprouts
Assyrtiko Koutsoyiannopoulos 2009 (Santorini, Greece)


Sweet shrimp, miso noodles, chicory, yuzu
Rosé ‘Ròdon’ Le Fraghe 2010 (Veneto, Italy)


Monkfish, smoked barley, beet-mustard, nori
Mencia ‘Dargo’ Raul Pérez 2009 (Bierzo, Spain)


Quail, chartreuse yogurt, turnip, nutmeg
Mencia ‘Dargo’ Raul Pérez 2009 (Bierzo, Spain)


Lamb loin, ‘red beans & rice,’ chayote squash
Shiraz ‘Gundagai’ Eden Road 2010 (Gundagai, Australia)


Mango, sake caramel, yoghurt, cashew


Menthol, ginger, pomelo, chamomile
Muscat ‘Samos Nectar’ U.W.C.S. 2002 (Samos, Greece)


Milk chocolate, black bean, plantain, soy, peanut
Porto Noval Black NV (Douro, Portugal)


Rice krispy treats


wd~50 – 50 Clinton Street (between Stanton & Rivington) – Closed

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.

burgers & gaga

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

anniversary at aldea’s chef’s table

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

farewell, chicken sandwich

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