Monday, December 5, 2011

Amazing Ramen at Ippudo

As someone who considers herself a foodie in New York City, I know there are a handful of restaurants that simply can not be missed. At the very top of that list is Ippudo, the famed Ramen restaurant at the edge of the East Village. Notorious for not taking reservations (and not needing to), Ippudo often boasts over a 2-hour wait. I have gone in once or twice, learned of the long wait and left, and I now realize how big of a mistake that was.

Photo courtesy of

The night Patrick and I went for ramen, it was cold and rainy and truly perfect conditions for eating a huge bowl of comforting noodles. When the hostess told me the wait was only 45 minutes, I gave her my name and we happily headed to the bar to wait for our table. After a few beers (for Pat) and a yummy glass of cucumber sake (for me), our name was finally called and I squealed in excitement. While we had been waiting at the bar, a few people around us ordered some appetizers, and the pork buns looked and smelled incredible. We knew we had to get them.

As we were being shown to our seats, the cooks in the kitchen yelled a welcome to us and we were shown to a cozy table in the back. We immediately ordered a bottle of cold sake and an order of pork buns and then checked out the ramen options. We both knew that we wanted to try the most well-known dish on the menu, so we looked up the ramen that was featured on the "With Chopsticks" episode of one of our favorite shows, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. For that episode, Claire Robinson chose the Akamaru Modern Ramen from Ippudo, and so did we: The original "Tonkotsu" noodle soup topped with Ippudo's secret "Umami Dama" miso paste, pork chashu, cabage, kikurage, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. We both also added a Nitamago (seasoned salt boiled egg) and  Kakuni (braised pork belly). 

The pork buns were, without any doubt, the most delicious pork buns I have ever tasted. A little sweet, a little savory and wrapped in an amazing, light and fluffy bun.I tried to eat it slowly to savor it, but I couldn't help it and it was gone in about 10 seconds. I know it's important to leave as much room for the ramen as possible, but honestly, you can not miss this pork bun.

Now, for the important stuff, the ramen. We saw the two steaming bowls of ramen being brought towards us and we could barely wait to dive into it. I knew I was going to burn my mouth, but it was the most worth-it pain I have ever experienced.
There aren't enough words to possibly describe how this soup tasted. Bold, complex flavors swirled in a sea of perfectly-cooked noodles and other treasures that hid just below the surface of the incredible broth. Patrick and I looked up at each other about halfway through our meal and realized that we hadn't said a word to each other since the food arrived to our table. For those who know us, it takes a lot to shut us up. This soup surely did the trick.

If you have the chance to make it to Ippudo in NYC for ramen, I'd highly suggest you do so. It's a food experience you really shouldn't miss. What are your thoughts on ramen? Amazing bowl of comfort food? Trendy food that won't outlast the test of time? Let me know what you think!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rizzuto's in Stamford, CT

I recently had the pleasure of trying Rizzuto's, a brand new restaurant in Stamford, CT. The Rizzuto's name has been around awhile with location sprinkled all over Connecticut, but the Stamford location just opened about a week ago. I took my good friend Katelyn there for dinner for her birthday since she lives in Stamford and I have to say, we had a truly wonderful experience there that I want to tell you about.
I made a reservation on one of my favorite websites, OpenTable, for 6:45pm and called the restaurant ahead of time to ask them to bring a slice of cake with a candle out for Katelyn after dinner. The host on the phone was SO nice and helpful, I knew our dinner was going to be great. Kate picked me up at the Stamford train station and we arrived right on time for our reservation. The host, who I assumed was the one I had spoken to on the phone, said "Rachel, Party of 2?" and then gave me a "this must be the birthday girl" wink.

We were shown to a table for 2 and I took in the fun decor of the restaurant. Cozy and inviting, I was already loving it before we even had our first bite of food. Our waiter, Mike, came over to greet us and take our drink order and he was energetic, friendly and warm. He talked to us about it being the first week that the restaurant was open and made us feel so welcome. 

Kate and I decided to share the Meatballs, Cesar salad and Eggplant Rollatini to start, then I had the Cavatelli & Sausage and Kate had the Rigatoni. We also shared a bottle of Pinot Noir. I didn't take pictures of any of the food, but everything was truly delicious. I was super impressed especially with the meatballs. I have had too many bad meatballs in my day and know how easy they are to screw up, but these were awesome.

Our waiter Mike was one of the sweetest waiters I have ever had in my life. You could tell he loved his job and we thought he was wonderful. Then I noticed him lighting Katelyn's cake behind her back and looking to me for the nod of approval to bring the cake to the table. I found this SO sweet and Katelyn was totally surprised!

Here is our adorable waiter singing Happy Birthday to Katelyn:

By the end of the meal we were completely stuffed and happy. We sat talking for over an hour after we had finished our meal and not once did they rush us out of make us feel unwelcome. The owner of the restaurant, Mr. Rizzuto himself, came over to as us how our meal was and we told him the truth. It was absolutely wonderful!

How important is good service to you in the grand scheme of your meal? Would bad service ruin a wonderful meal? Would amazing service save terrible food? Let me know!

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Strip House Steak Rivals Luger

I know the title of this post is just ridiculous. A better steak than my out-of-body experience at Peter Luger last winter? Could it be? Maybe. All I know is that Jill, Lauren and I had been dying to try Strip House in the Village for months and we finally snagged a 9:30pm reservation last Saturday night.

Since I usually do write about the full experience, I will get out my complaint that our table wasn't ready on time and we had to sit and wait a full 25-30 minutes before we were seated at a table smack in the middle of the crowded bar. But whatever disappointment this caused quickly melted away as soon as we started eating.
 (photo courtesy of - this was our exact table!)

 For our appetizer, the 3 of us split the New England Sea Scallops with edamame succotash, black truffle butter and corn broth and the Caesar Salad with hearts of romaine, paprika croutons and shaved parmesan. Both were very yummy and we were all so starving that the food was gone before I could even think to take a picture. Oh well, sometimes you really just have to live in the moment.

Something I may have mentioned about my dear friend Jill in the past (sorry Jill) is that we like our meat cooked a bit... differently. I mean this in the most loving way possible, but my friend really likes to make sure that cow is dead. Not me. It could be mooing and I'd likely still eat it. Medium rare is how I like mine cooked, the bloodier the better. Gross to some, yes, but not to Lauren. This is why the two of us decided to split the 40 oz. Classic Porterhouse for two. Lauren had to be talked into this cut, but I'm pretty sure she was very happy with our decision.

For our sides, we chose the Black Truffle Creamed Spinach, Sautéed Wild Mushrooms and Sautéed Green Beans With Garlic.
Yum! While I only took a small taste of the spinach to save my stomach, all 3 of these were absolutely perfect. The green beans were crisp, the spinach creamy and the mushrooms earthy. Wonderful compliments to our unbelievable steak, my plate was truly a work of art.
I know a lot of people would be turned off by how rare my steak was, but this was an utterly perfect piece of meat. Since Lauren loves Filet Mignon and I love NY Strip, the waiter gave her more of the Filet and me more of the Strip. Amazing. Fantastic. Incredible. I can't use enough words to describe how phenomenal this steak was. Was this better than Luger? I don't know if I can actually make that call, but this was pretty darn close.

We didn't leave any room for dessert (big surprise for me) and overcame our food coma with espressos and capuccinos for the table. Then we strapped on our dancing shoes, headed out in Meatpacking and had a great night. I'm curious though, how do you like your steak cooked? Do you think medium rare is too bloody? Do you agree with me that medium well is a waste of a perfectly good piece of meat? Well, I say, to each their own, just don't overcook MY steak.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Options Abound at Flex Mussels

I know, I know. I STILL haven't posted my recap from mine & Pat's trip to Chicago last month. I'm terrible! Note to self: don't load photos onto work computer, because you're never going to have time to write a blog post while actually AT work. I should have realized this. I do promise the post is coming though, within the next few days. Seriously this time.

I do want to tell you about the dinner I had last night with Lauren & Jill at Flex Mussels in the West Village. We'd all been meaning to try this place for a while, so we made a reservation for 8pm. We walked in through the cute bar area and were led back into a room illuminated by a glowing beach scene on the back wall. The nautical theme continued throughout the entire space, and we sat down to take a look at the menu.

Talk about variety! They had so many different types of mussel dishes, I think I changed my mind about 5 times before settling on the Little Neck with fresh chopped clams, bacon, red pepper, breadcrumbs and herbs, but I substituted garlic for the red pepper. The entire restaurant smelled like garlic, one of my favorite aromas, so by the time my mussels came out, my mouth was already watering.
Before the mussels, Jill and I shared a yummy goat cheese and beet salad that had amazing candied walnuts in it. I was a little nervous that salad and mussels wouldn't be enough to satisfy my intense hunger, but boy was I wrong! The portion of mussels was enormous. Not to mention mine also included clams and BACON! I didn't count how many mussels were in the bowl, but it was more than enough.

Garlicky, tender and full of flavor, the mussel dish was so good that I almost wanted to drink the leftover liquid once I was finished. Come on, I said almost! I do have manners, you know. I'm excited to go back to Flex to try some of the other mussel dishes on the menu. If mussels aren't really your thing but you want to try the restaurant, Jill had the salmon, which I tasted, and it was very good too. I highly recommend you check out Flex Mussels if you're in the neighborhood. What's your favorite way to eat mussels?

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Fund for Jennie

Sometimes things happen that really make you wonder, really make you feel like life just isn't fair. A few weeks ago, I noticed my Twitter stream come alive with the hashtag #apieformikey. Upon further investigation, I learned that the husband of a well-known and well-respected Food Blogger, Jennie Perillo of In Jennie's Kitchen, had died suddenly of a heart attack leaving Jennie to care for their two young daughters and mourn the loss of the love of her life. I don't know Jennie, and I had never read her blog, but my heart broke.

Jennie's request to the food blogging community: make a peanut butter pie and share it with someone you love. What happened next brings tears to my eyes, as this incredible community of wonderful people started to bake. The White on Rice couple, a lovely couple I have had the pleasure of working with at my new job, made this incredible video tribute to Jennie (warning: this made me sob at my desk).

That same incredible community of people then started A Fund for Jennie to raise money to help Jennie with the financial troubles that resulted from Mikey's passing. Almost every single food blogger I have ever heard of, met or worked with either made a Pie for Mikey, donated an auction item to A Fund for Jennie, or did both.

I have been lucky enough to get to work with Bloggers Without Borders on A Fund For Jennie, and there are still some live auctions, so head over to their website and check it out. You can also donate directly through PayPal to Bloggers Without Borders, and the money will go to A Fund for Jennie.

This story has moved me very deeply, I still sometimes sit and cry when I think of what Jennie must be going through, and I hope the love and support of her friends in the food blogging community has helped ease some of the pain.

This story has made me take extra time to stop and tell the people I love how I feel, especially my incredible family, my wonderful friends and my amazing boyfriend who I feel lucky to know every single day of my life. I love you Patrick.Jennie, I know I don't know you, but I think your strength is simply amazing and I want you to know that I keep you in my thoughts. I'm deeply sorry for your loss.

-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Classic Ukrainian Fare at Veselka

The East Village is home to a whole lot of amazing food. When I lived in the neighborhood from 2008-2009, I was lucky enough to live on one of the most amazing food streets in NYC, East 7th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A. Without a doubt, Veselka Ukrainian restaurant is a New York City institution. Not only is it open 24 hours, 7 days a week, but it serves up some of the best grub this city has to offer.
(photo courtesy of
Once I heard the restaurant had celebrated its 55-year anniversary, I knew it truly had to be something special. In a city where nothing is permanent and restaurants come and go on a daily basis, 55 years is like 10 lifetimes in the restaurant world. I have a feeling there's good reason for this.

A few Fridays ago, Patrick and I were hungry and wandering around the East Village looking for some grub. We had put down a few beers at Schillers and we were both craving some good comfort food. We were lucky to get a table for two outside on the sidewalk and opened the giant menu to make our selections.

While neither of us had ever had borscht before, we were intrigued by the bright pink liquid being served around us. Since it was warm out that night, we ordered the Cold Borscht and I have to say, it was such a hot shade of pink when it came to the table that I was almost afraid to try it.But I'm so glad I did! It was actually very tasty. The broth was rich and bright with the the flavor of beets, but was not overpowering at all. The egg was a delicious addition to the soup. I could have done without all the onions floating in the broth, but I really enjoyed the borscht and was happy to try it.

Next we ordered a plate of pierogi, which are Ukrainian dumplings. We got 7 of them, boiled, with a variety of fillings: 2 cheese (for me), 2 arugula & goat cheese (to split), 2 meat (for Pat) and 1 sweet potato (for me).They were all really good, but the sweet potato was definitely my favorite. The plate came with apple sauce and sour cream, and I immediately wished we had ordered 7 more.

Finally, I ordered myself a potato pancake. Patrick ordered Goulash which is veal braised in a creamy herb sauce with mashed potatoes. I was way too full for something that heavy, but the potato pancake was perfect for me. I've eaten a lot of potato pancakes in my day, and I have to say, this was the best one I've ever had.It was crispy and flaky and there wasn't one drop of grease to be found. The flavor was incredible and the texture was perfect. This also came with apple sauce and sour cream and once I finished the delightful dish, I was incredibly full.

A friend told me Veselka allegedly has some of the city's most delicious pancakes, so I definitely plan to return for either brunch or 4am pancakes sometime soon.

What's your favorite classic restaurant, whether in NYC or somewhere else?

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Great Tasting Menu at Mas (Farmhouse)

Oh how I've missed you all! Please accept my deepest apologies for how long it's been since my last post. Life has been a little hectic lately as I recently got a new job. I am now the Manager of Community Management for two major food industry brands at a large advertising agency in New York. This is truly my dream job, and I feel so lucky to have gotten it. I'm working with wonderful people, and I'm working with what I love: food and social media. Thanks to my friends, my family and my amazing boyfriend for all the love and support.

Now, on to the important stuff. I recently decided I wanted to take Patrick out for a special meal to thank him for the aforementioned love and support, especially during these last few months as my professional life got a bit overwhelming. I told him he could pick anywhere in NYC, and while we entertained thoughts of the tasting menu at WD-50, incredible fish at Le Bernardin, he finally decided on the West Village's Mas (Farmhouse).This was a restaurant we used to pass daily as we walked into our old job in Soho, and somewhere we have both always wanted to try. We waited until a holiday weekend in New York, knowing the city would be very quiet (just the way we like it) and ventured down to the Village for our meal.

From the moment we stepped into the restaurant, I knew this was going to be an experience like nothing we'd ever had before. We were shown to a cozy table for two in the busy but not overly crowded restaurant, and settled in for our food adventure. We noticed the menu mentioned a 6-Course Tasting Menu, but we couldn't find the actual menu for that anywhere. We asked our waiter, and he explained how it works.

You tell him your food likes and your dislikes, things you want to try and things you want to avoid, and the chef creates a custom tasting menu based on your preferences and based on whatever is fresh that day. True "farm to table," this was a concept that was just too good for us to pass up. I told the waiter that I liked almost everything, just nothing too spicy and nothing with too much butter. Pat noted that he did like spicy and would pretty much eat anything. And with that instruction, our meal was underway. It's no secret that I like to take pictures of my food, but this place, and this night and this vibe, it just didn't seem right. I decided to put the camera away for the night and just take everything in. Hopefully, I will be able to describe the food to help you envision it, but apologies for the lack of photos.

We had some very yummy cocktails while we waited in anticipation for what was to come. I had a vodka grapefruit concoction while Pat opted for his usual Manhattan. The first dish that came out was fresh shrimp with several fresh vegetables, and it was quite delicious. I know I just said fresh twice, but that doesn't even begin to describe it. It was as if the shrimp had just been plucked from the sea and the vegetables picked from a garden outside. This was a great start to our meal. Also, each dish was brought out by two people who placed the plates on the table, in front of each of us, in perfect unison, and then plucked the empty plates from us as soon as they were empty. A nice touch.

The next course needs not only its own paragraph, but its own blog! It doesn't sound spectacular, but oh boy, was it ever. The two waiters placed small bowls of green liquid in front of us and we truly had no idea what we were in for. Asparagus soup with shaved white truffles, poached scallops, sweet corn and trumpet mushrooms. One bite of this soup and Patrick and I looked up at each other in a moment of pure food bliss. The broth was a little sweet, incredibly fresh, full of intensely amazing flavor and the epitome of absolute perfection in a bowl. There is no way for me to emphasize this enough, it was simply the most divine thing I have ever tasted. The scallops were buttery and tender, the corn was sweet and the truffles and trumpet mushrooms added an earthiness to the soup that knocked it out of the park. I literally picked up my bowl for the last sip and almost licked it clean. Then I remembered my manners and didn't, but I REALLY wanted to!

When the waiters surrounded our table to lift the plates away, it was like saying good-bye to an old friend. I knew that I had to have that soup again and that any dish that came after would pale in comparison. At this point our waiter seemed to have realized that he forgot something pretty big and asked us if we'd be interested in a wine pairing with the rest of our courses. We were interested, but a little annoyed that he was only asking us now after we were two dishes in. At this time, new plates were placed in front of us and we prepared ourselves for the next dish. A simple piece of Halibut sat in the center of the plate and we were served two glasses of red wine. I was surprised that the wine was red to pair with fish, but it was actually perfect. Light, slightly chilled and crisp, it paired very well with the dish. Halibut is one of my favorite fishes for its sheer simplicity, so I was pretty excited. And for good reason. The fish was light, flaky, buttery and fresh. It was unspoiled by any heavy sauces or seasonings and was just very simple and delicious. The piece of fish wasn't very large, but was just enough to be a satisfying seafood course. Again our plates were whisked away, and we were ready for the next course.

Roasted chicken with crispy skin was again paired with a delicious red wine. The chicken was moist and full of flavor, the skin was perfectly crispy and salted just to my liking. The wine was smooth and paired beautifully. We thoroughly enjoyed this course but we were both hoping for a heartier meat to finish off the pre-dessert courses. And speaking of dessert, I actually asked the waiter if my final course could be something savory, like a cheese course, and he told me it wouldn't be an issue. The next plates were brought out, and we were both very excited to see that the final dinner course was a crispy pork belly. Patrick and I both love pork belly and this dish certainly didn't disappoint. Properly fatty, tender, savory and yummy, our plates were empty almost immediately. A third glass of red wine, this time a bolder, richer wine, was paired with the pork and was really able to stand up to the flavor of the meat.

As we waited for our dessert course and finished our final glasses of red, we began to look back on the meal and discuss how much we both enjoyed it. We really couldn't get over how incredible the asparagus soup with scallops had been and we discussed how we'd go about describing it to friends before deciding we'd never be able to do it justice. Even now, as you're reading this, you won't be able to fully appreciate this soup unless you go to Mas yourself and try it. It's just that good!

Unfortunately a piece of cake was placed in front of me, and I was disappointed that the waiter had messed up my final course at such a nice restaurant. I didn't want to complain, so I ate some of it (confirming how little I really like cake) and the waiter stopped by the table to check on us. He looked at my plate and realized his oversight. Now don't get me wrong, I'm okay with mistakes as long as they're handled properly. This was not. To make up for accidentally bringing me out a sweet dish when I told him I favored savory to sweet, he poured us a complimentary glass of sweet dessert wine. It was really surprising to me that he thought this was an acceptable make-good, but our meal had been so incredibly good that I let it slide.

I paid the bill and we were back out into the New York City night with our stomachs full of incredible food. For a wonderful tasting menu experience, I highly recommend Mas (Farmhouse) and hopefully they will work out the small service glitches to make it a truly perfect experience.

Do you enjoy tasting menus or do you prefer larger portions of less dishes during a meal? There are a lot of tasting menus I still want to try, but I'm so happy we tried Mas.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Delicious Food, Quirky Service at Craftbar

Let’s be completely honest here for a second: Sundays stink. Not only are they the end of the weekend and the gateway to the most awful day of the week, but usually I’m tired from going out Saturday night (my own fault, I realize) and bummed out that I have another 5 days of work until my next weekend. Due to these facts, Patrick and I decided that we would no longer dread Sundays, but instead we would start a tradition of Sunday Night Dinners where we’d have an awesome dinner to look forward to on Sunday nights.

Last weekend we decided to kick off this new tradition with a dinner at Tom Colicchio’s CraftBar. (PHOTO CREDIT: Blonde in the Kitchen)

It’s no secret that I’m a big time Colicchio fan, and I’ve been wanting to try this more casual version of Craft, the restaurant that Patrick took me to for my 26th birthday dinner. We made a reservation and walked downtown in the warm Sunday summer air.

When we walked into the restaurant, it was almost completely empty. This sometimes turns me off, but on a random Sunday night at 6pm in the summer I expect many restaurants to be empty. We were shown to our table and our waiter came over almost immediately. This is where things got really interesting. Our waiter was nothing short of hilarious. With an incredibly dry sense of humor and a strong opinion on what we should eat and drink, he provided constant entertainment throughout the entire meal. For diners as open-minded as us, he hit the jackpot. I could imagine anyone with less of a sense of humor or pickier eating habits being completely turned off by his personality, but not us. We were delighted.

When I told him I wanted a white similar to Sauvignon Blanc but something new, he recommended the Pinot Blanc instead. It was dry, crisp, cold and mild—exactly how I prefer my white wine. It was also several dollars cheaper per glass than the Sauv Blanc, so I gave him silent points for not recommending something pricier. When we told him we were ready to order, he let us know that he’d be right back to tell us about what else they were offering, exclaiming that he was certain we’d need to hear these menu additions. And again, he was right.

The entrée special for the evening was Berkshire pork for two. Our favorite! He described that the pork was prepared three ways, and while I again can’t recall everything he said, all I really remember are the use of phrases like “succulent,” “fall off the bone” and “you won’t be sorry.” We ordered this dish immediately for dinner. Our hilarious waiter assured me that I would be so happy with the pork dish that I’d have to resist the urge to hug him, but that he’d settle for an enthusiastic high-five.

Patrick and I decided to start the meal off by sharing the Fried Pacific Oysters with Pickled Cucumber and Old Bay Aïoli. Ever since the fried oysters we had at Beauty & Essex, I’ve been craving them. This version definitely didn’t disappoint.Enormous, flavorful oysters were lightly dusted with a crispy coating that had a really great spice to it. There were four oysters in the order, and even half the order was plenty for me given the size of the mollusks.

The next thing we shared was the Duck Rillette Bruschetta with Fried Duck Egg, Mizuna and Orange Aïoli.This dish consisted of some very tender duck meat (Rillettes is a preparation of meat similar to pate. The meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded, and then cooled with enough of the fat to form a paste. Thanks Wikipedia!) While the meat on this dish was a bit salty, I didn’t find it to be too overwhelming and I actually quite enjoyed it. The fried duck egg introduced a nice texture to the dish but I found the aioli to be rather unremarkable. Overall, though, I definitely enjoyed the it.

As the courses came out of the kitchen and our waiter made frequent visits to our table, he continued to strike up witty banter with us. While the restaurant was empty when we got there and he admitted he was excited we were there so he’d have someone to talk to, people did begin to pour into the restaurant and soon it was quite busy. Regardless of the other patrons, our waiter supplied superb service all night. I noticed that he saw our water glasses were near empty from afar, and I saw him subtly nod to a support person who immediately ran to our table with a pitcher of water. We truly enjoyed his style.

Finally, the pork dish came out. It was a gigantic skillet that was filled to the brim with green vegetables and pork galore.There were pork cheeks braised in red wine and a hearty helping of pork trotters (pig’s feet) that were lightly fried. I can’t recall the third preparation but I remember the meat being tender and very yummy. To top the whole thing off, there were several pork rinds in there because, well, why not?! We really enjoyed the pork for two, even with the $70+ price tag, but since the dish was plenty of food for the two of us the price wasn’t too crazy. In the end, I did high-five the waiter.

We ordered coffees but skipped dessert, as per usual, and left Craftbar with a very positive feeling about the experience. Our waiter, although very unusual, was knowledgeable, friendly and quite funny. I hope he uses good judgment when laying his charm on patrons and holds back his over-the-top sense of humor if he can tell it won’t be well-received. Patrick and I were very entertained.

What are your thoughts on quirky service? Would you prefer a waitperson remain strictly professional at all times? Or are you okay with a little comedy show to accompany your meal? Let me know, I’d love to hear what you think

Let’s Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Big Apple BBQ 2011

Okay, be honest... you're totally sick of reading about BBQ after my trip to Austin, aren't you?! Well too bad! Even though I swore about 20 times that I would never eat BBQ again after my trip to Texas, the Big Apple BBQ rolled into NYC on June 11-12 and there's no way I could ever miss this event, it's just too good! All the best Pit Masters from around the country drive their pits to NYC's Madison Square Park for a day of all-you-can-eat ribs, brisket, pulled pork and other amazing BBQ delights. It's a fabulous event, and one of my favorite food festivals of the whole year.The funny thing is that they sell "Fast Passes" for over $100 a pop that let you cut the line. Just like Disney World! And trust me, Big Apple BBQ is Disney World for grown-ups. I didn't buy a Fast Pass this year because they sold out several months before the event, but my amazing food blogger friend, Megan (better known as the writer behind This Girl Can Eat) texted me the day of the BBQ to say she and her boyfriend had extra passes and did I want them. Did I want them?! I think I cried tears of joy over this news.With passes in hand, Patrick and I headed down to the event in the rain happy about the weather because we hoped it meant it would even be less crowded than usual. Turns out we didn't need to worry about the crowd because those passes gave us "backstage access" to all the food vendors. Several of our friends met us at the event since we told them we could get multiple orders of each dish when we cut the line. It was party time!

As soon as we got down there, we knew we wanted pulled pork and ribs. My favorite pulled pork last year was from Big Bob Gibson's out of Decatur, AL. We hopped in line and as soon as we did, something awful happened. THEY RAN OUT! Noooo!! I was really upset, but quickly got over it when I saw ribs one station over. We got ourselves some Baker's St. Louis-style ribs from Dallas, TX.After many ribs in Austin that came without BBQ sauce, this was a pleasant change for me since I LOVE BBQ sauce. The ribs were moist, succulent and delicious. They came with a side of cole slaw, one of my favorite BBQ side dishes, and we were off to a great start.

As we disappeared back behind the ropes to go for some more food, we were met with quite a surprise. Martin's BBQ Joint out of Nashville, TN had a WHOLE HOG out back and they were filling it with seasoning as we walked by. We had to stop and watch. (WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTO)

As an animal-lover AND a food-lover, I am always torn by these kinds of situations. Part of me felt like "aw, poor piggy" and the other part of me (namely, my stomach) was saying, "yum, delicious piggy!" Quite a conflict of interest. Of course we had to try this piggy, served on a bun, and boy was it good! I again covered it in BBQ sauce, pickles and cole slaw and went to town.Next up, Baby-Back Ribs from 17th Street Bar & Grill out of Murphysboro, IL & Las Vegas, NV.These ribs were fatter and meatier than the ones we had earlier, but also very tasty. At this point I was covered in BBQ sauce, licking my fingers and starting to get a little full. It was as if I learned nothing from my multiple Austin food comas and decided to just keep going. Probably not the best decision, but oh well. All for the love of BBQ!

We moved on to New York's own Dinosaur BBQ for Pulled Pork Shoulder. I had been trying to avoid getting any NY BBQ since I live here and can get it anytime, but since I haven't made it up to Dinosaur in Harlem yet, I figured I should give it a try.This time, the main course came with a side of baked beans instead of cole slaw and these beans were TO DIE FOR. They were loaded with bacon, and honestly, what isn't made better by the addition of bacon?! These beans were out of control good. The pork shoulder was definitely awesome, but these beans! I wanted to drink them with a straw they were so good. My mouth is watering just remembering them.

I was almost ready to stop there, but then I thought to myself, "Just. One. More. Rib." and went for one last dish. I can't say this was a wise decision, but the Big Apple BBQ only comes around once a year so I got the Baby Back Ribs from Pappy's Smokehouse out of St. Louis, MO.These ribs were really good, fall-of-the-bone tender and the sauce was tasty. As the beans were not as good as Dinosaur's, I decided not to fill up on them so I could finish the ribs. By the time I took my last bite, I was in very serious need of a nap and once again, I cursed the BBQ gods for making me eat so much dang BBQ.

I think I've gotten my fill of BBQ for the rest of the year, but I know that all I have to do is walk by Blue Smoke or Hill Country and I'll be ready for another gluttonous feast of pork and beef.

What's your favorite BBQ in the country? Have you ever been to Big Apple BBQ? What do you think?

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Farewell to Metrazur

As a frequent visitor of Grand Central Station, I'm personally sad to see Metrazur go. Andrea Strong recently asked me to write up the announcement for the closing of this restaurant on The Strong Buzz. Here it is:

“Goodbye Metrazur”
It’s always sad to say good-bye to a restaurant that was a staple in the culture of New York City. After dinner service on July 1st, we must bid a fond farewell to Charlie Palmer’s Metrazur, located in the spectacular East Balcony at Grand Central Station. Named for a commuter train that once ran along the Cote d'Azur en route to Monaco, Metrazur has served seasonal American cuisine overlooking the beautiful and historic Grand Central Station for the past 11 years.

To thank the loyal patrons of the restaurant, Palmer will be offering a special Farewell A La Carte menu to guests in place of their Lunch 27 and Dinner 49 menus beginning Monday, June 27th and running through the restaurant’s close on Friday, July 1st. This special menu will include the most popular dishes from years past, including Ahi Tuna Tartare ($16), Pork Tenderloin ($26) and the Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad ($14).

In a note sent to the patrons of Metrazur by Palmer himself, he thanks them for their many years of support, welcomes them to dine at his flagship restaurant, Aureole, and urges them to be on the lookout for his upcoming ventures in New York City. Says Palmer, “When I stand at the top of the staircase and look out into the terminal, it's like cooking in the center of the world."

Au revoir Metrazur, you will certainly be missed!

Metrazur is located in the East Balcony at 404 Grand Central Terminal. For reservations, call 212-687-4600.

Aureole is located at One Bryant Park (at 42nd Street).

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Strong Buzz Guide to Summer!

Now that the weather is warming up, Andrea Strong asked me to write a piece on some of NYC's seasonal offerings. From Greenmarket menus to street fairs, here is my latest Strong Buzz round-up!

The Strong Buzz Guide to Summer: The Best Eats From Blue Crabs to Greenmarket Tastings (and where to get them all)

We New Yorkers endured a long, brutal winter and a chilly, rainy spring—we’re in serious need of a little relief. Sure, sunshine and warm temperatures are a solid start, but what we’re all really craving is an al fresco meal (or ten). Most restaurants roll out the sidewalk tables the moment the thermometer reads above 60 degrees, and to celebrate the beginning of the outdoor dining season, The Strong Buzz’s Rachel Barbarotta has compiled a list of the best places to go for summer’s amazing seasonal fare, everything from blue crabs to Greenmarket menus.

Where: 190 Avenue B (at 12th Street), 212-388-1990,
When: Tuesday nights through the end of August (except 7/5) plus Wednesday 8/31 and Friday 9/2 - $40 per person.
On the menu: Back Forty will provide the mallets for a true Chesapeake Crab Boil including Spiced Blue Crabs, Buttery Potatoes and String Beans along with seasonal desserts and pitchers of Sixpoint Crisp Lager for an additional $15. Don’t worry if you’ve never cracked open a Blue Crab with your bare hands, the staff at Back Forty will show you how it’s done and provide plenty of towels to clean it all up. If you don’t mind getting a little messy in the name of sweet, succulent crab, this is definitely the place for you!

Where: 1 East 15th Street (at 5th Avenue), 212-647-1515,
When: Now through Columbus Day - $39 for lunch, $55 for dinner and $30 for wine pairing
On the menu: In an age where we can find any restaurant menu online, it’s quite unusual when even the chef doesn’t know what he’ll be serving tomorrow! Tocqueville’s Chef Marco Moreira takes the Greenmarket trend to heart by creating fresh and inventive new dishes every single night. Chef Marco is leaving the fate of his menu to the offerings of his local Greenmarket, only featuring ingredients that he can find on that given day. This will guarantee the freshest dishes and a true taste of the summer season. Last year’s offerings included such creations as Fried Green Tomatoes with fluffy sheep’s milk ricotta and green tomato jam and Grilled White Peach Cobbler with sweet corn gelato and fresh blueberries. If sweet corn gelato doesn’t scream “seasonal ingredients,” we don’t know what does!

Where: Hester Street (at Essex Street), 917-267-9496,
When: Every Saturday from 10am-6pm
On the menu: Some of the best things about New York City in the summer are the street fairs. Those who drive may disagree, as traffic is often re-routed around them, but the Hester Street Fair is not only one of the hippest street fairs in all of Manhattan, but it also boasts some of the best food. With everything from New Orleans-style sandwiches and treats from Cheeky Sandwiches to fresh offerings from Lower East Side hotspot The Fat Radish, there is truly something for everyone. And who doesn’t love checking out unique jewelry and clothing while munching on an Empanada from La Sonrisa?

BEST FOR DATE NIGHT: Park Avenue Summer
Where: 100 East 63rd Street (at Park Avenue), 212-644-1900,
When: Sunday evenings throughout the summer - $35, 3-course Paella Menu
On the menu: At a restaurant that thrives on the concept of changing their menu with the seasons, Park Avenue Summer is the perfect spot to celebrate the warmer weather. Park Avenue Summer will offer a three-course Hamptons Paella Menu paired with Lieb Cellars Rosé on Sunday evenings for the duration of the summer. For an authentic paella experience, the classic Spanish dish will be made in the dining room in a 4-foot paellera and will be loaded with summery ingredients like Maine lobster, native corn and mussels. The regular menu will also include other summer favorites such as Swordfish Nicoise with Haricots Verts and Mediterranean Branzino. While this certainly isn’t a meal you’ll have to crack open with a mallet, the elegance of Park Avenue Summer is a true delight.

Where: 242 10th Avenue (at 24th Street), 212-645-5659,
When: Select cocktails (four at a time) from The Drinkable Garden menu will be on circulation for brunch, lunch and dinner throughout the summer
On the menu: When you were little, you used to feed your vegetables to the family dog under the table. And while you can’t quite remember the exact day when you decided you actually liked Brussels sprouts, you never thought you’d be drinking them through a straw! To celebrate the season, Trestle on Tenth opened their newly renovated outdoor patio and simultaneously announced their brand new cocktail menu including drinks made with fresh vegetables! Whether you prefer the Belle of the Ball with vodka, red bell pepper, mint, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and yellow chartreuse or the 20/20 with house-made carrot-infused Tito’s vodka, fresh carrot and lime juice, we promise not to rat you out to your mom!

Bring on the sunshine!

Let's Eat!
The Fabulous Foodie

Friday, June 10, 2011

Eating My Way Through Austin: Days 5 & 6

Why do I keep doing this to myself?! It's now June 11th and I've been home from Austin for 5 days. I went to NYC's Big Apple BBQ today and, again, ate my weight in BBQ food and, again, am in a serious food coma. But, that's a story for another post, as I still have to tell you all about my last 2 days in Austin!

I woke up last Saturday morning feeling better than I felt on Friday night and ready for the final day of the IACP conference. The day started with a Social Media seminar followed by food blogging panel. I was really excited for the panel because it was with some big names in the industry--Lisa Stone of BlogHer, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen. The panel was great, and I was so happy to meet them all after.

Next up was a lunch provided by the IACP, a good variety including Shrimp Skewers, Roasted Veggies, Blueberries, Broccolini and Scallops with Israeli Cous Cous.Immediately following the lunch, I attended my final session, a cooking demonstration with New Orleans' own John Besh! When Patrick and I were in New Orleans visiting Aunt Kath last January, we ate at Besh's wonderful Domenica restaurant and I was so excited to see him in person. We got to taste his Shrimp Creole, and it was so good!Besh's demonstration ended a little early so I was able to catch the end of a panel called "Marketing your Food Brand in the New Age of Engagement," where I met Janet Helm of Nutrition Unplugged. I ended up having a few drinks with her later that night and was happy to have made such a great foodie connection.

When all the sessions were over, Kristen, Marie and I decided to explore downtown Austin a little and do some shopping. I picked up some great new earrings, and then we stopped by Ethan's restaurant, Second Bar + Kitchen. We had initially planned to only get a glass of wine, but Ethan brought us out his Buffalo Fried Pickles with Gorgonzola Dipping Sauce and they were phenomenal. Spicy, salty, savory... we were raving about them for hours after eating them. Amazing!The delicious white wine was the perfect chilly beverage to wash down the spicy "frickles" (fried pickles.) They were really great.

That night was the big Pig Roast event on Boggy Creek Farm. All we'd really had to eat were the fried pickles and we were all starving! A coach bus took us on the 10-minute ride out to the farm where yet another BBQ feast awaited us.It was very hot and sweaty on the farm, but we were so excited to eat some good food.I didn't want to overload on food again, so I ate a lot less this time around, but everything there was really great. I had some of the feral pig (that was caught in the wild), a few ribs, some incredible brisket and cornbread. We sat around a small table on the farm, sipping refreshing cocktails and eating fresh, amazing BBQ food.It was glorious! But due to the 100-degree heat and the flies that were starting to buzz around us, we decided to head back to the hotel and get ready to go out to the local bars for the night. We had a lot of fun!

Perhaps too much fun. We woke up the next morning not feeling so great, and for our last morning in Austin we wanted some great breakfast food. Marie had to leave to catch her plane, but Kristen and I weren't flying out of Austin until later that night. My friend Rev suggested we check out a place called Guero's, and since I trust his food opinion over most, Kristen and I went. It was exactly what we were looking for! Fresh tortillas were being made right in front of us and all the food looked so good.I ordered the Migas with Chorizo and a side of Guac. It was just what the doctor ordered! This was a great final meal in Austin, both delicious and full of amazing local flavors.Using Rev's infamous "Left-Hand Grab" (LHG) to show off my breakfast!

Overall, I had a wonderful trip to Austin. The food was amazing, the culture was awesome and the IACP conference was incredibly rewarding and wonderful. I made some great new friends and strengthened some friendships I had made before the trip. Next year, the IACP will be in New York City and I can't wait to show all my fellow foodies around the city I know and love. Thanks to everyone who made my 6 days in Austin so fabulous! Looking forward to making many more great memories with you all.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Eating My Way Through Austin: Days 3 & 4

[Note: The first part of this post was written Friday evening, 6/3. I had to stop writing because I was SO full that writing about food was making me feel ill. Piece was finished on 6/6.]

The ironic thing about this post right now is that I'm literally writing it while in the middle of the most ridiculous food comas I have ever been though in my entire life. I'm literally propped up in bed feeling so full that I can't even imagine ever eating again. But I have to tell you about the eating adventures I've had over the past 2 days in Austin!

First of all, sleeping in late on Thursday didn't allow me to have a breakfast even close to as awesome as at Juan in a Million the day before. It was a lot worse, in fact. It was a bagel from Starbucks (blech!) I scooped out the middle and toasted it well, then spread cream cheese all over it, but even that amount of description is too much. It was nothing special at all.

My morning session was with Shauna James Ahern better known as Gluten Free Girl and I have to tell you, it really was fabulous. She has been blogging for years about Gluten-Free living and I found her to be funny, approachable and incredibly sweet. This was one of the sessions I enjoyed most, and I met many other food bloggers during this session that was called "Blog to Book." I was also delighted to see Marge Perry in this session, who was my Food Writing teacher at the Institute of Culinary Education and the one who told me to join IACP in the first place.

When that session was over, I had just about 15 minutes to grab the free lunch before meeting with Lynn Woll, Sr. Director of International Marketing of As part of IACP we could choose to meet with a "mentor" for 1/2 hour, and I chose Lynn because she had marketing in her title and is HUGE. Lynn was incredibly nice and we chatted about my career path, her career path and a few other things for the 1/2 hour. I chowed down on my lunch, some hummus and some chicken breast, but again, nothing special. These were really just rushed meals eaten quickly so I could speed off to the IACP events, including a demo with Jacques Pepin and Amanda Hesser of, both of whom I admire and was excited to see.Jacques was adorable, Amanda was a great moderator/interviewer and we got to taste some of Jacques' food! Delish.The real treat came for dinner that night. The IACP had planned one fancy night with a reception planned at the famed Driskill Hotel followed by an awards ceremony at the Paramont Theatre. I had been planning to go to both, but Rev (Burger Conquest) asked around and some people told him that the reception was great but recommended to skip the awards ceremony. Since Rev's friends Julie and Ethan live in Austin, we made plans to meet them for dinner after the reception.

The Driskill Hotel was beautiful, everything I had been hoping it would be. The event was elegant and all the cocktails were made with vodka so I was a happy girl. We didn't want to eat too much at this event, so we only had tiny tastes of the offerings: duck (my favorite!), squab and venison. Yum! All three pieces of meat were very good, but the venison was definitely the best of the three.After a few cocktails and some lively chatter with fellow IACP members, Rev and I took a walk to a restaurant called Haddington's in downtown Austin.
(photo courtesy of Haddington's)
Julie and Ethan were there when we arrived, so we sat at a table for 4 in one of the small side rooms in the restaurant. Since Ethan is a chef (Second Bar + Kitchen), we let him order us some appetizers. He got us the Duck & Foie Gras Meatballs, the Sweetbreads and the Tomato & Burrata Salad. Unfortunately, he found a tiny piece of metal in the salad so we had to send it back, but the Meatballs and Sweetbreads were both addictively good.

As if Foie Gras in my meatballs wasn't enough, the waitress then brought out four small shot glasses filled with a mysterious yellowish substance.She explained it was Foie Gras Egg Nog, and I was instantly turned off by the thought. But, being me, I took a sip anyway just so I could tell you all about it, and my initial reservations were confirmed. It was truly disgusting. I've never liked any drinks that are creamy or rich before, so adding something as heavy as Foie Gras to the flavor was a major turn-off for me. Rev and Ethan both liked it, Julie and I did not.

We had a great time at the restaurant. This was my first time meeting the two of them, Rev & Julie have been friends for years, and I found them both to be incredibly fun, delightful people who were great dining companions. Throughout the meal I sipped on a crisp, light Sav Blanc and decided that an entree of Sea Scallops would pair with the wine quite well. I was right. The Scallops were huge, light and very flavorful.I tried Rev's steak (he ordered the Steak Frites) and thought the steak was also very good. Cooked just how I like it (which as you know by now, is bloody) I thought the seasoning was perfect and the meat was tender.

Ethan ordered a few desserts, Sticky Toffee Pudding and Cocoa Panne Cotta, neither of which I had any interest in, but those who did eat them said they were good. I got myself my usual Espresso and was truly satisfied by the meal. Julie was incredibly generous and paid for the meal (thanks Julie!) and off we went. I decided not to go out that night since I had a full IACP day on Friday, so I went to bed that night with a full tummy and a happy feeling that often comes after a good meal spent with great people.

Now on to Friday, the day of the food coma I mentioned earlier. Again without time to grab a decent breakfast, I went to my morning IACP sessions and dreamed of lunchtime when Rev and Julie were planning to take me to Smitty's, a BBQ joint about 30 minutes outside of Austin. As soon as my sessions were over I met the two of them a few blocks away from my hotel and we piled into the car to head out on our BBQ adventure. Rev is somewhat of an authority on both Austin and food, so I was going to trust whatever he told me. And while I had only just met Julie, something told me she also really knew her stuff.

After a 40-minute drive out of Austin, we arrived to a cute, old-fashioned town called Lockhart. It looked like the towns in old western movies and I was instantly charmed. We pulled up to Smitty's and I could hardly contain my excitement. What kind of BBQ heaven awaited me inside? I truly couldn't wait to find out.
I'm a big fan of Texas, don't get me wrong, but dang, it's HOT! It was up around 100 degrees almost every day I was down there, and for me, that's really just too hot. When we walked in the front door of Smitty's, I was expecting a blast of AC, which is what happens anywhere else you walk into in Texas. But not Smitty's. It went from hot outside to an absolute inferno inside. It was so hot in there I almost couldn't breathe! I then realized the cause of the intense heat: the smoker. All the workers stand around the smoker to sell the meat and I'm telling you, I just about passed out. We ordered pork shoulder, brisket, pork ribs and a hot ring (sausage) with about 6 slices of white bread. I was in hog heaven! Pun intended.We took our food into the dining area which was thankfully a chilly 68 degrees and ordered iced tea and pickles (for Julie & me) and beer and cheese (for Rev.) We took our meat over to a big picnic table, took the usual photos of our food and went to town on the huge pile of pig. It was nothing short of incredible. The ribs were absolutely phenomenal. The smoky flavor permeated every inch of the meat and I couldn't get enough. Trust me, the brisket and pork shoulder were great, but these ribs! Out of control good.Once we finished all the meat, I made the ill-advised decision to go back out into the smoker and order two more ribs. The kind people of Smitty's gave me two very generously-sized ribs and as I carried them back into the air conditioning, I knew I was making a poor decision eating more but how often am I in Lockhart, TX at a BBQ joint like this? I carried on.Speaking of ill-advised... now I'm not usually an ice cream person, but at a mere $1 per cone, I couldn't resist. Julie and I, who are both lactose intolerant, each had an ice cream cone, knowing full well what it would do to us. Oops.We finished our ice cream, got back in the car and drove back to Austin for the rest of the IACP panels. I can't deny it, I was FULL. I sat in the back of the room wanting to be upstairs in my bed. I had eaten way too much. And to add to it, I had dinner plans with Patrick's cousin Brian and his fiancé Tanya later that night. As I said before, oops!

A full 4 hours later, as Brian and Tanya were picking me up for dinner, I was still incredibly full from lunch. I had been hoping I'd get hungry again, but no such luck. We drove 20 minutes from the hotel to a place called County Line BBQ.
(photo courtesy of County Line)
While it is a chain restaurant, I'd heard good things and they apparently had the "best bread ever" according to several reputable sources.

I ordered the Lite Plate with BBQ Chicken and a Beef BBQ Rib, Cole Slaw and a Salad.We also ordered a loaf of the famous bread, which was as good as everyone told me it would be. The loaf had to weigh at least a few pounds, and it was warm and delicious.I stuffed myself to the point of no return, which put me into the food coma I was in when I began writing this post. When they dropped my back off after dinner, I tried to meet some people out at a bar and I literally couldn't do anything but moan and clutch my stomach. I had clearly eaten too much, and it was time to go to bed. I went back to the hotel and called it a night. It was a true food coma, but it was absolutely positively worth it.

Have you ever eaten too much of one kind of food? What kind was it? Did you regret it, or was it worth it? Leave me your comments, I'd love to know I'm not the only one.

Let's Eat!
-The Fabulous Foodie