Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Healthy "Junk" Food? Yes Please!

Organic, grass-fed, all natural burgers, fries and sodas...say whaaaaa?!? Bareburger-http://www.bareburger.com/ has begun it's take over in the tri-state area. Lucky for you, they're also expanding to areas such as DC and Columbus, OH. Woo hoo!

I just recently tried Bareburger for the first time and was impressed. They have a great menu (lots of burgers of course), homemade sodas (which I LOVE) and quick, friendly service. They source locally when they can and have an impressive variety of "exotic" meats such as bison and ostrich. Not that I am a vegetarian or vegan but they do have delicious options for all and if you are looking to eat on the lighter side, their salads are fantastic. A few of my recs would be their Fried Pickle Chips, Onion Rings, Pickled Beet & Goat Cheese Salad, ALL Burgers (they have a million ways to order them and every way I've tried is a winner), Sodas and Shakes (Get the peanut butter!).

Bareburger is a super causal spot so walking in for a table is never an issue though you may have to wait during busy meal periods. Some locations even serve booze (Cheers!). Remember-Although they do use fresh and healthy ingredients, we're still talking about cheeseburgers and fries. Eat Up in moderation...

Panko Breaded Butter Pickle Chips

My Pickled Beet and Goat Cheese Salad. Yes, that's a hunk of fried goat cheese...YUM!

Ryan's Roadhouse Burger with Bison on a Brioche Bun

The yummy sauces that come with their onion rings and fries...
Curry Ketchup, "Special" Sauce, Paprika Mayo and Smokehouse Sauce. All delish.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pickle Martinis...Genius!

St. Marks Place is a fab strip of shops & restaurants located in Manhattans east village neighborhood. I can not come within a 5 block radius of this area without a stop at Bua Bar-http://buabar.com/. This little gem has a delicious bar menu of snacks (including a tasty grilled cheese), but more importantly fantastic cocktails. My favorite is their Pickle Martini! Think a standard dirty martini but made with pickle juice and garnished with crispy pickle chips. So savory my mouth is literally watering. Clearly I'm a pickle lover so for those not into a pickle-y flavor profile, Bua does have an entire menu of non-pickle dranks ;-). 

They also have a nice outdoor space and can get quite crowded so be prepared. 

I included a recipe below that I like to use when making pickle Martinis at home...if I can't make it to Bua Bar that is.

Drink up!

Eat Up, Drink Up Pickle Martini

Yields 2 cocktails

2 cups of ice
4.5 ounces of preferred vodka
2 ounces of dill pickle juice (I like Claussen!)
6 slices of dill pickles for garnish

Put ice, vodka and pickle juice into a shaker. Shake, pour into martini glasses, garnish and serve!

The Bua Pickle Martini

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Attn: Seafood Lovers! Bring On The Oysters & Mussels!

I was introduced to Flex Mussels-http://www.flexmussels.com/ a few years back and it quickly became one of Ryan and I's favorite date spots. They have two great locations-upper east & west village, both with an amazing menu. If you're a seafood lover then Flex Mussels is the place for you! Before you hit up this mussel junkies paradise...know the following...

They've been around a while but still can be hard to get a table during busy meal periods. Make a res.

They have a great happy hour! Ryan and I like to go to their bar for happy hour priced drinks, oysters & insane fish tacos before sitting down for dinner.

They have 23 different types of mussel options. They fill up steaming pots of mussels with different broths-cream-based, tomato-based and more! Then add the extras-cheeses, bacon, veggies, even some with shrimp and lobster. I have yet to have a mussel pot I didn't LOVE! They also have thick, crusty bread for dipping...just divine.

They're known for mussels (obvi :-) but they also have delicious oysters. I didn't even care for raw oysters before trying them here and they're the best I've had. They even come with a homemade cocktail sauce & tangy vinegar. Yum!

If you go to the downtown location, you must get their truffle fries. Yep-truffle fries. And at either location dessert is a must! They have signature donuts filled with a variety of tasting fillings. Everything from sweet strawberry to salted caramel all served with a white bean vanilla dipping sauce. OMG...

The best oysters ever.

Crispy Fish Tacos. This is a new menu item for them and a definite keeper.

TRUFFLE FRIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My favorite pot-The Fungi with mushrooms, garlic, bacon and cream. I'm also a big fan of the Maine and the Parma.

The most incredible donuts. Please save room for these as they'll change your life.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Krazy for Korean!

Being that I'm half Korean it makes sense I would love Korean food. I grew up with sticky rice and fresh kimchi as household staples. My sister and I would constantly fill up on rice cakes, seafood pancakes and the always popular bulgogi (marinated & grilled rib-eye, usually served with rice, hot bean paste and lettuce for wrapping-the english translation is literally "fire meat"). Korean cuisine has recently gained notoriety in the foodie world, especially in urban areas like NYC. Here in Manhattan we have an entire block dedicated to all things Korean (aka. K-town). There are many great Korean restaurants here and you can find this delicious cuisine in every form from food trucks to fine-dining establishments. My most recent fave is a no frills mid-town spot called Madangsui-http://www.madangsui.com/Madangsui/Home.asp. It's nothing fancy but the food is spectacular! The New York Times even awarded Madangsui a star which is a huge deal. Any star from the Times is considered an honor especially for a small, casual dining Korean spot. They serve booze which is a plus and are often very busy but you can still walk in and be sat fairly quickly if not immediately. Menu stand outs include-ANY of their Bibimbap dishes (rice bowls with a variety of veggies & meats), all of their BBQ meats and Jap-Chae (sweet potato noodles with veggies, beef and soy sauce). I also love their Ddeok-Gook (a super flavorful rice cake soup). If you're feeling a lost, visit this link for a little Korean food 101-http://koreanfood.about.com/od/koreanfoodbasics/a/Korean101.htm...

즐겨 (Enjoy!)

Korean "Banchan"-small side dishes served as compliments to your meal (ie. free food-Yay)! 
"Banchan" is usually a mix of veggies, kimchi, beans and spicy seafood.

My Ddeok-Gook soup! 

My friend's spicy seafood Bibimbap served in a hot stone bowl. This dish was full of flavor with just the right amount of spice (FYI-I love spicy food). The rice was perfection, it literally came out sizzling. Mmmmmm. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sneaking Veggies Into Every Meal...

In case you didn't already know…I LOVE to eat. But I also like to be healthy and do what's right for my body. Like I always say, life is about balance. One way I achieve this balance is by trying to add fruit and veggies to every meal (hence my fruit and spinach morning smoothies). I also do this throughout the day with my lunch, dinner, snacks and even my most unhealthy food choices. Below are my 8 tips and tricks I use to get the fruits and veggies I need in my diet every day.

1.) A "salad" for breakfast. This could be either a green juice or fruit and spinach and/or kale smoothie. This is my number one tip for a reason. It really starts your day off right.

2.) Always have your snacks be fruit or raw veggies. Carrots and celery are perfect for this. If you're feelin' frisky or it will help you actually eat them, use your fave dressing. Ranch anyone?

3.) For lunch I try and eat a salad of some sort. I'm human so this naturally doesn't always happen. Load up your sandwiches or burgers with lettuce, tomato and onions. Go nuts with pickles, peppers and olives if you really want to get your veggies in. Vegetable soups (without a cream base) are also a great way to go.

4.) Add veggies in your burger-like in the actual meat. Ryan and I do this all the time. We add peppers and/or onions to the raw burger meat and then cook. It cooks the veggies through and adds extra flavor.  So good. You can also do this with cheese and bacon but since this is one of my "healthier" posts, let's get back to the produce...

5.) PIZZA! I freakin' love pizza. I'm like a 5 year old as it's one of my favorite foods. I adore fatty toppings ie. pepperoni and bacon but I also try and add all of my favorite vegetables. My faves are mushrooms and onion but Ryan likes the peppers so we usually just add them all. Also be sure to blot. You'd be shocked how many calories you can save by blotting off all of that extra grease.

6.) A side salad at dinner...regardless of what your having. I really try and do this. Start your meal off with a small side salad so you get your veggies in and you fill up a little on the good stuff. Hence less room for the other (even better ;-) stuff.

7.) Pastas are great with just about any vegetable. Whenever I make pasta I always add a ton of veggies. Whether it's sautéed zucchini, portobello mushrooms or fresh tomatoes, pasta is a perfect culinary canvas to work with so you can get creative.

8.) Fruit for dessert. I love fruit and it's perfect alone but if you're going to splurge with chocolate or ice cream, consider throwing in a handful of berries or sliced apples for some extra nutrients.

Eat up…but be healthy!

My favorite homemade veggie lasagna with a mixed green salad! 
I make this lasagna with fresh, whole wheat noodles, spinach mushrooms, onions and mozzarella.  

Roasted red pepper turkey burgers! Yep, those are diced red peppers right there in the burger. 

One of my favorite lunches. Panko-crusted goat cheese salad with arugula and beets. 
I heart goat cheese. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mario Batali's Babbo Ristorante & Enoteca. Nuff' Said.

Ahhhh Babbo Ristorante & Enoteca-http://www.babbonyc.com. This culinary gem from Top Chef Mario Batali is one of my top 5 favorite restaurants in NYC (& possibly anywhere). The location is amazing, the space lovely and they play awesome rock music in the bar and dining room which is a cool surprise. Their bar is usually insanely packed so I recommend a reservation. I also suggest you make this reservation WAY in advance. Def not an easy table to snag. One of my favorite things about Babbo is you can get amazingly fresh, creative pasta dishes (think Beef Cheek Ravioli & Calf's Brain "Francobolli") AND one of the best steaks you've ever had melt in your mouth. I wouldn't usually order steak at an Italian joint but Chef Batali obviously knows his steaks. The Ribeye for Two is always cooked to perfection and topped with aged balsamic vinegar (like O.M.G).

To top the experience off, they have great service (don't get scared off by the head host. He's quite nice if you don't piss him off. They're a very busy establishment so patience is a virtue), a fab wine selection and yummy little breadsticks (Ask for these! They usually only bring them out at the bar but will give them to you at your table if you ask;-). For those with a sweet tooth, their desserts are pretty phenomenal as well. I recommend the Roasted White Chocolate Cheesecake with Coconut. So freakin' delish. Don't forget the dessert wines! Salute!

Lots o' VINO!

My Goat Cheese Tortelloni with dried orange and wild fennel pollen. 
So fresh and cooked to a perfect al dente.

Ryan and I shared a savory, medium-rare Ribeye for Two.
Those are little roasted potatoes with rosemary underneath...Yummy!

My creamy and delicious Roasted White Chocolate Cheesecake. 
It even had a touch of salt for that tasty salty/sweet combo...just insane.

Order a coffee or espresso and you get this lovely assortment of sugars! 
The rock sugar pops are my fave. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Top 5 Chain Restos You Know You Hate To Love...But You Do.

Living in NYC I deal with a lot of food snobbery. Yes, the city does have the best of the best but there are reasons why America's chain restaurants have 8 million locations and do billions of dollars a year. Other than low prices and impressive consistency on both food and service, there are some serious menu item stand outs. The "high brow" foodies of the world may hate to admit it but I don't know anyone that doesn't dig Red Lobsters Cheddar Bay Biscuits (hello foodgasam!) or a juicy burger from Ruby Tuesdays (and a salad bar!). Below is my list of the top 5 chain restos you hate to love and the never fail items on their menus...Enjoy!

5.) Johnny Carinos - http://www.carinos.com
Italian Nachos

Photo Credit-Carinos.com

Johnny Carino's is a fairly large Italian restaurant chain with locations all over the US. They provide a comparable menu to Olive Garden with decent dry pasta dishes, tasty fried apps and pretty good desserts. Their Italian Nachos, however, are one of my all time favorite appetizers... anywhere! They are the JAM. They use crispy fried pasta chips (like wontons), top them with olives, tomatoes, parmesan, peppers, mozzarella and a creamy Alfredo sauce. If that wasn't enough you then get to add chicken or sausage - I add both! At around $5 for a half order and $9 for a whole, I'd say we have a serious winner on all fronts. This dish is a must try. YUMMY!

4.)  Chili's - http://www.chilis.com 
Southwestern Eggrolls

Photo Credit-Chilis.com

I've always liked the food at Chili's. I think they actually have several menu items that are pretty good including their burgers, chicken crispers and their molten chocolate cake dessert. Their Southwestern Eggrolls are their most impressive and honestly a very creative idea. I know many other chains make an attempt to copy the recipe but no one ever comes close. These little pockets of goodness are filled with smoked chicken, black beans, corn, jalapeño jack cheese and spinach. They're also served with a side of avocado ranch...yes a mix of avocado and ranch dressing. Seriously? 
Freakin' genius...

3.) Olive Garden - http://www.olivegarden.com
House Salad (bonus: bread sticks)

Photo Credit-Olivegarden.com

I'm sure most of you have been to an Olive Garden. I like the salad for the following reasons- 
It's FREE! Well...not free, but it comes with your meal and that's awesome. It's always fresh. I've never had soggy lettuce or a bad tomato in an Olive Garden salad. The dressing! It's so good they bottle it up and sell it. The breadsticks are pretty tasty too, especially when they come our fresh so be sure and ask for fresh ones. Now go and eat your veggies!

2.) The Aforementioned Red Lobster - http://www.redlobster.com
Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Photo Credit-Redlobster.com

These are so good. I mean, just so good. Garlicky, cheesy, buttery goodness. These little guys also come with your meal and keep on coming. You can have as many as you like. 
WARNING-they're super addictive. There are a lot of recipes out there that claim to be the same but honestly I have yet to find it. I have, however, gotten pretty close. I'll be sharing that recipe very soon so keep up the reading;-) Now I really want a biscuit... 

1.) Outback Steakhouse - http://www.outback.com 
Bloomin' Onion

Photo Credit-Outback.com

Everyone loves this signature appetizer. Outback cranks out about a million of these a night and they are always perfect. The consistency astounds me. The breading is perfectly seasoned and the onion nice and hearty. And that sauce! I could put that sauce on and/or in everything. So good. P.S. This is also one of the worst appetizers for you as far as fat and calories so be sure to share the wealth 
(aka. fat). It's totally worth it. 

***Honorable mention-Pizza Hut- http://www.pizzahut.com
Deep Dish Crust

Photo Credit-Pizzahut.com

Who doesn't love this crispy, buttery crust? I know, I know-I live in NYC and can get the "best" pizza in the world, blah, blah, blah. I don't care what anyone says, Pizza Hut's pan crust is still amazeballs.  

Don't be a hater-if the food is good, it's good. Regardless of where it comes from. Eat Up!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Chocolate Smorgasbord at "The Sweetest Place on Earth"...Part 2

So now on to the savory goodness at good ole' Hotel Hershey. The Hotel has 3 main restaurants...http://www.thehotelhershey.com/dining/

The Circular Dining Room-This is Ryan and I's favorite room. It's all mirrors and has a great little bar in the center surrounded by dining tables. They serve dinner and an AMAZING brunch. Like one that includes prime rib & a raw bar (score!). This is the more "fine dining" option at Hotel Hershey. Like all of the staff at the hotel, the service is top-notch. They do an amazing job with staffing-every one from the front desk to the busboys to the bartenders make you feel like a million bucks. Who doesn't love that?;-)

Harvest-We came here for lunch. Very nice spot focusing on local ingredients. Looked like it would be good for both lunch and dinner with a slightly more causal vibe than the Circular. 

Trevi 5-We didn't make it to this spot but looks like the most causal option and serves modern Italian cuisine. We'll def be trying this place out on our next visit.

Make reservations if you can. Spots fill up super fast and the hotel itself, restaurants and the spa can book out several months in advance. Be sure to come hungry and check out the Iberian Lounge for some pre-dinner drinkies! Cheers!

Lobster Cobb Salad from Harvest

The Old Thyme Ginger Ale cocktail from the Circular Dining Room

Five Onion Soup from the Circular Dining Room

All of our delicious side dishes! Maple Creamed Spinach, Pretzel-Crusted Mac and Cheese (amaze balls!), Sauteed Mushrooms (also outstanding) and Grilled Asparagus. We also had the Filet-not pictured. 

My brunch Bloody Mary at the Circular Dining Room

All the brunch-y goodness-Prime Rib with creamy horseradish and sauteed onions. Shrimp Cocktail, Crab Claws and Pasta Salads! They also have an array of tasty breakfast items. Eat up!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Chocolate Smorgasbord at "The Sweetest Place on Earth"...Part 1

Have you ever been to Hershey, PA? For those that don't know, this small town is home to the Hershey chocolate museum, hotel and theme park-http://www.hersheypa.com/. It's a great spot for families & children obviously love it for the parks and mass amounts of sweets. However, it's also an amazing getaway for adults. Ryan and I love it there. The 4-star Hotel Hershey-http://www.thehotelhershey.com/ has an insane spa for a little pampering, great restaurants and even live music. The food is so great that I need to split up this past week's foodie adventures into 2 posts. This post is ALL about the sweets. If you have a serious sweet tooth (and Ryan really does), this is the place/post for you.

And the chocolatey food porn begins...

Our after lunch dessert at The Harvest restaurant-http://www.thehotelhershey.com/dining/harvest.php at Hotel Hershey-
Maple Cheesecake with Chocolate Covered Bacon & Local Apple Compote

Their signature "Kiss" Chocolate Martini...AKA. My kind of dessert.

Chocolate covered strawberries compliments of our lovely server. 
Bonus: the service at the Hotel Hershey is impeccable.

Chocolate Souffle with Creme Anglaise from The Circular Dining Room-http://www.thehotelhershey.com/dining/cdr.php.

Our little brunch treats-
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, White Chocolate Raspberry Tarts & Chocolate Harvest Cake. I'm pretty sure we gained 10 pounds...totally...worth it. ;-)

P.S. Upon check in to the hotel you get a complimentary Hershey chocolate bar and EVERYWHERE you go there are bowls of Hershey's Kisses. It's literally all the chocolate you can stand to eat...EAT UP!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Santa Monica Sandwich Show Down: Andrew's Cheese Shop vs. Bay Cities Deli

While I was in Santa Monica, I did a lot of research on the best places to eat as I've never been to the area. Two lunch spots kept popping up, Andrew's Cheese Shop-http://andrewscheese.com/ & Bay Cities Italian Deli-http://www.baycitiesitaliandeli.com/. They're known for amazing sandwiches so I figured I try both during my 2 day trip.

 Andrew's Cheese Shop-This spot was closest to where I was staying so I tried it first. When you walk in it is in fact a little cheese shop with the slogan "This place stinks!" Thought that was pretty cute:-). Although they specialize in a variety of cheeses they also make yummy sandwiches daily. These sandwiches are pre-made and I found this disappointing at first...until I ate it. The sandwich was delicious. I ordered the Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella ($9) with roasted red peppers and pesto. It's served on an awesome, chewy hero roll that had a little flour dusted on the bottom. I was super impressed. The sandwich was very flavorful, the perfect size and easy to eat-not too messy which was important as I scarfed it by the beach. I give this sammy an A.

Bay Cities Italian Deli-This place had tons of reviews and about 99% of them good so naturally I had to give them a try. The item I read about the most is their Godmother Sandwich-Genoa Salami, Capicola, Mortadella, Ham, Prosciutto & Provolone. O.M.G. I was also told by my waitress the night before that this place had a slammin' mac n' cheese but that I had to ask for the mac with breadcrumbs, NOT the regular mac. Done and done. Of course I ordered both. A small Godmother with the works and a small side of the "special" mac n' cheese.

The Sandwich-It was good but I have to say I felt the fillings were less flavorful than expected. Next time I'll add spicy peppers as opposed to mild. The sandwich was huge, especially for the price at a modest $7. The big stand out was the bread. It was perfect-soft on the inside but had a crisp, "bubbly" exterior. I could have just eaten the bread. Hats off to the baker. I give the bread an A++ but the sandwich as a whole a B.

The Mac-This was pretty amazing but not your typical mac n' cheese. It was almost like a casserole. Super cheesy, which I loved, topped with garlicky croutons. The noodles were a bit over cooked for my liking but a top notch mac n' cheese none the less...an A it is!

I would conclude with saying the "perfect" sandwich, in my opinion, would be the fillings from Andrew's in the bread from Bay Cities. I would also like to add that Bay Cities had TONS of wonderful looking food items such as salads, sides, pasta dishes and meats. A complete smorgasbord of goodness. When I return, I will certainly head back to try more (and get another side of  mac n' cheese)...

Andrew's Cheese Shop's Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich. 

Bay Cities Italian Deli's "The Godmother".

What has to be the best bread on the West coast...

My super cheesy mac n' cheese from Bay Cities. EAT UP!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Handcrafted Mexican Cuisine (& lots of Tequila) in the Heart of Santa Monica. Salud!

I love Mexican food-the flavors, the spices, the carbs...Mmmmm. When I was in LA I knew I had to get some as Cali is known for having some of the best. While I was in Santa Monica, a friend of mine suggested Mercado-http://www.mercadorestaurant.com/santa-monica/. The spot has two locations, one in Santa Monica and one that just opened in LA. The space was super cute and seemed to focus on group dining as there were 3 large communal tables in the center and a decent sized bar. I arrived early so to the bar I went. They had a great happy hour with cheap drinks and bar bites. I was pretty hungry so I ordered a snack (naturally). Their Rajas Poblanas. This dish was almost like a dip and was served with amaze balls, homemade corn tortillas (chewy, blissful disks of heaven). The "dip" consisted of poblano strips, sweet corn and spicy queso...now I was super excited for din din...

Once my friends arrived we got a table. We ordered guacamole (of course), the fish tacos, the al pastor tacos, ceviche tostadas and one of the evening specials, beer battered squash blossoms stuffed with manchego cheese (say whaaaa!?!). Everything was very good. The guacamole was among the best I've ever had and all of their yummy tacos are served on the aforementioned chewy, blissful disks of heaven. Our adorable server said we needed to save room for dessert as they're known for their flan. Done! It was truly the best flan I've ever had. I used to work for one of the top Mexican chefs in NYC so I feel my opinion is pretty on point with this one. It was creamy, topped with caramel, served with fresh berries and an insane vanilla sauce. Needless to say we were all happy campers by the time we left Mercado. Perhaps this was partially due to the fact we were a few cocktails deep:-). Bonus: they have a great tequila list. Salud! 

Rajas Poblanas-a steal at $6 on the happy hour menu.

The Guacamole Goodness.

What I consider the World's Best Flan.