Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Attn: New Yorkers! Goin' Out Tomorrow? Check Out My List of Who's Open & What to Get!

Merry Xmas Eve everyone! Being from the south, we NEVER ate xmas dinner out. One big reason being is that nothing and I mean nothing is open. You're lucky to find a gas station ready to serve. In NYC, it's a completely different story. With the abundant tourism and the fact half the population doesn't even celebrate my fave holiday, many restaurants keep their doors open. Below are my top 5 NYC restos servin' up yumminess all day tomorrow. Do call before going as some may have modified hours. And here goes in no particular order...

*Bryant Park Grill-located in the beautifully decorated Bryant Park, it's a perfect, festive place to enjoy delicious food and soak up the holiday spirit. The views of the park are lovely and a few of my favorite menu items are their Burrata with Heirloom Tomato, Braised Berkshire Pork Belly and Bryant Park Sea Grill. Tomorrow they'll have a fantastic holiday prix-fixe for $75 per person ($35 for the kiddos) that includes savory Duck Spring Rolls and Free Range Turkey. Save room for dessert and reserve asap!

* Red Rooster Halem-Head up to Harlem for Marcus Samuelsson's $55 Swedish Christmas prix fixe. The menu includes specialities such as Gravlax (cured salmon) and succulent Swedish ham. The basement lounge, Ginny's Supper Club, will also be open with the same prix fixe menu. You also have the option to order a la carte...fried chicken anyone?

*Red Farm-If you're a regular reader, you know my love for Red Farm-See previous post. Thank goodness they're open all day tomorrow! Get your fill of some of the best dim sum NYC has to offer. Don't forget Crispy Beef,  juicy Strip Steak and homemade Long Life Noodles. 

*The Smith-Again, another fave-See previous post. The Smith will be serving their regular menus all day. Lucky for us that includes savory Flatbreads, Chicken Pot Pie and Jalapeno Cheddar Grits. YUM!

*Southern Hospitality BBQ-Great place if you're visiting as this Hell's Kitchen BBQ joint was co-created by Justin Timberlake himself. They serve up hearty Memphis-style BBQ in a convenient mid-town location. The Mac n' Cheese and Fried Pickles are must try's. Y'all enjoy!

Want more options? NYC has over 200 restaurants open tomorrow! Visit OpenTable to see who's open and what they're offering. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! EAT UP!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Last Minute Gift Idea for Any Foodie!

This time of year we're all going crazy. Making holiday plans, xmas shopping and hunting down all of our favorite festive recipes. Do you still have someone to buy for? Is this person a "foodie"? If so, I have the gift for you! A subscription to Cook's Illustrated. This magazine is amazing. There's NO advertisements, which is one reason it is a little more expensive than some other subscriptions but worth every penny. The no ads thing means that this mag is full of only recipes, cooking tips and food porn. It's cover to cover FOOD. Yay! Cook's Illustrated was actually given as a gift to Ryan and I from my in-laws a few years ago and we've loved and saved every issue. The peeps at Cook's recently came out with Cook's Country and it's equally as good. These pages hold all the secrets-everything from making the best prime rib to fancy holiday desserts like Paris-Brest (we're making this tomorrow so stay tuned!) to what every cook needs in the kitchen. It's literally the gift that keeps on giving. 

They're running specials for the holidays so hurry and buy! Happy gift giving!

Best gift EVER. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Easy Recipe Alert! Barb's Buttery Mushroom Appetizer

Tis' the season for entertaining! When I have guests over I like to have food out as soon as they arrive. Little easy apps are a great way to go and they free up a little of pressure to get dinner out at a specific time. Things like a nice cheese plate or fresh veggie tray are perfect for this as you just slice and serve! I was recently visiting some family friends and like all good hosts, they had a few little snacks out for us to munch on while we caught up before dinner. Out came a bowl of savory little mushrooms as an hors devour. I LOVE mushrooms so I was excited. These little guys were perfect. Buttery with a hint of wine and just enough salt. The broth was heavenly. We began an hour long conversation about how we should just throw in a pound of fresh pasta and toss with cheese for a full on entree. Clearly foodies hang with foodies. Barbara (one of our family friends) was nice enough to share the recipe. It's super simple and perfect for easy entertaining. Do make sure you have enough time to make the dish as it slow cooks all day. Thanks Barbara!

Barb's Buttery Mushroom Appetizer
serves 4-6

5 lbs Large Mushrooms
1 qt Red Wine
1 lb Butter
2 c Hot Water
4 Beef and 3 Chicken Bouillon Cubes
1 tsp Dill Seed
1 tsp Garlic Powder

Cook 4-5 hours in a pot with the lid on over medium heat and then 4-5 hours with the lid off. Enjoy!

Buttery, salty goodness-A perfect holiday snack! Serve with hunks of soft, chewy bread for dipping or reserve the broth for a later dish.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Balance the Holiday Binging & Boozing with Two Easy Tips!

Ah the holidays! It's the time of year for family, friends, food and booze. Like everyone else in the world, I love a good party and it seems like this time of year is chock full of them. This means I try to be even more diligent with working out, my green juicy juice and drinking my fruit & spinach breakfast smoothies. I wanted to share a few of my other stay slim/cleansing tips. It's not just about keeping your weight down but really about how you feel. You're not going to be any fun at that party with your stomach in knots. I have 2 cleansing tips that aid in digestion, cleanse your system and will help you feel your best (even if you're like me and plop yourself by the bar and cheese tray). I try to do these little rituals everyday, all year round but I make extra sure I follow through during the holidays.

1.) First thing in the morning-drink a cup of hot water with lemon. FIRST THING! This helps cleanse your system and gives you a boost of Vitamin C which we all need this time of year. I read about this tip from the amazing Kimberly Snyder. Check out her website for additional healthy tips and tricks. 

2.) Before dinner and/or before a big meal/party where you know you'll big eating and drinking a lot. Drink apple cider vinager. Not the refined stuff you find at Walmart. It needs to be raw and containing "the mother". This trick has saved me many times. I also do this after a big meal although I find it more effective to do it before. See image and instructions below! 

Fresh, organic lemons!

Cleansing hot water with lemon

Mix a tsp of this stuff with a cup of water and drink 20 mins before dinner or a big meal. 
Let the digestion begin!

Thursday, December 12, 2013


So my girl The Gym Ninja and I decided to hit up Mario Batali's mega store / Italian paradise, Eataly-http://www.eataly.com/. This is a must stop for all tourists but also a super popular place for locals. The store has everything from cookbooks to groceries to beauty products. Not to mention 8+ areas to grab a delectable bite. My favorite restaurant in Eataly is the La Pizza/ La Pasta (naturally). All the pastas are super fresh and the pizzas insanely authentic and delicious. Lucky for me, The Gym Ninja (my friend Sarah for short) felt like splurging so pizza and pasta it was! My favorite thing about Eataly is you can grab a glass of wine or perhaps a cappuccino while shopping around, enjoy a perfectly al dente bowl of pasta and then pick up freshly baked bread and imported olive oils to take home. Once you're in a complete state of Italian bliss you can hit up Eataly's sweet gelato counter on the way out for the most creamy, homemade goodness NYC and perhaps even Italy has to offer. I could spend and entire day at Eataly...and have!:-) FYI-the restaurants do not take reservations so go early and be prepared to wait. There's plenty of foodie fun around to keep you busy!

***Good news for my friends in Chi-town...Eataly Chicago just opened! Congrats!

Pasta as far as the eye can see...

Ya know, just a typical selection of olive oil.

Hard at work!

Our fresh Arugula salad with lemon dressing


Linguine al Pesto Trapanese= A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

To Die for Hot Chocolate in Bryant Park...

There is no better place to be in the world during the holidays than New York City. The festive energy is completely and utterly infectious. One of the best areas to get your holiday groove on is Bryant Park. Tons of little seasonal shops and food stands open up around the park's famous ice skating rink, sky high Christmas tree and colorful decor. It's amazing. One of Ryan and I's favorite little stands is Max Brenner-http://www.maxbrenner.com/ where you can find all things sweet and chocolatey. The best find here is their Italian hot chocolate. It's incredibly rich-Ryan and I usually share a small, but there's no other flavor like it. $5 may sound like a lot for a little cup of hot chocolate but I promise it's worth a try. If you're in NYC do yourself a favor, pick up a cup and indulge in a little xmas shopping in Bryant Park...Happy Holidays!

Drink up & enjoy!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hearty Hell's Kitchen Italian at a Bargain...

Mercato-http://www.mercatonyc.com/mercato is a small, hole-in-the-wall in Hell's Kitchen, NYC. If you're not looking for it, you'll miss it. The only reason I found Mercato is because I was meeting my mother-in-law for dinner as we both work in the neighborhood and I googled "best restaurants in Hell's Kitchen". This is one of the first places to pop up. Done and done.

I have been here several times now and it's one of my favorite Italian spots in the city. A little bonus-it's a bargain. It was actually voted one of NYC's best value restaurants by Michelin Travel. 99% of the menu rings in at well under $10 for salads and apps and under $20 for entrees. I know my southern and mid-western peeps would slap me saying these prices are a bargain, but for NYC I promise it's a steal. 

The ambiance is very old world Italian-small, dark and romantic. The tables are insanely close together but with all the other pluses you won't really mind. Every dish is homemade, fresh and made with lots of love. You can literally taste it. Below are some images of my favorite Mercato dishes. They're open all day so it's also a great spot to hit before a Broadway show or play as it's very close to the Theatre District. Gustare!

Creamy Burrata with fresh chopped tomatoes. One of my favorite Italian combos.

The very important vino.

Homemade Lasagna Tradizional...It def makes my top 5 best Lasagnas EVER. Yum!

My Fettuccine al Funghi made with fresh pasta noodles and sauteed mushrooms. I could just die.

Get to Hells Kitchen stat.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My New Fave Tapas Joint-Sabor Latin Bistro

Welcome back to NJ!!! There is a huge Hispanic population in the North Bergen area of Jersey where Ryan grew up in. This means a ton of fantastic (& authentic) Latin foodie hot spots. We've passed by Sabor Latin Bistro-http://www.saborlatinbistro.com/ about a hundred times and always said we need to pop in. Last week we decided on an impromptu date night and headed over to River Road to give this place a try.

The decor is super fun and festive both inside and out. The vibe is very cool. Dark, fun music and large bar & lounge area. Looks like they also have an upstairs as well but we stayed on the street level. They have a yummy cocktail menu that included a Lychee Martini-my fave! Their tapas menu is insane. We wanted to order everything! They have an appetizer sampler which included Albondigas (Spanish meatballs) with a truffle mushroom cream sauce (SOLD!), Chicken Empanadas and Guacamole served with crispy Plantain Chips. The portion was huge and everything was delicious-especially the meatballs.  We were actually pretty full after the sampler but of course had to try a few more dishes. The Crab Croquettes, The Masitas de Puerco (crispy pork with garlic) and the Cheese Plate.

The Croquettes were divine. Like plump little crab cakes with lots of sweet meat.

The Pork was just insane-totally worth coming over the river for. It literally melts in your mouth.

The Cheese Plate was one of the best cheese plates I've had. It came with cheese AND meats, sweet fruits, a savory pepper relish with thick buttered bread. One of the highlights of the cheese plate was the fried goat cheese...so good. All of this for $16. It's almost a meal in it's self. Needless to say we had lots of leftovers and left full and very happy.

We came early and had no problem getting a table but I've seen them look pretty busy. They do take reservations and, as always, I recommend them. The portions are much larger than expected so it's a perfect place to go with friends and/or family to share a bunch of "small" plates. They do have entrees as well so we'll have to give those a try on our next visit...if we have the room:-)


My Lychee Martini

Our delicious Crab Croquettes. 

My enormous Cheese Plate-this dish is a must try.

Eat up!!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Recipe Alert: Tis' the Season for Pecan Pie!

As you all know I'm not a huge sweets person. Even more so, I'm not a big pie person. If I'm going to eat sweets, I usually prefer cake, chocolate or chewy, homemade cookies-YUM! All of this being said I think my mother-in-law has recently turned me into a Pecan Pie lover. You would think being from the south I would have picked up on the Pecan Pie love, especially since it's one of my dad's absolute favorite desserts. Bottom line-my mother-in-law Linda makes the best. After devouring like an entire pie over the past couple days, I asked her for her recipe. To my surprise it's super easy and a guaranteed holiday crowd pleaser...Bake away!


Homemade Pie Crust 
If you're too busy or just lazy (like myself;-)) you can sub a store bought crust.

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 c shortening & 1/4 c butter
4-5 T cold water

Mix flour & salt with butter and shortening. Mix will not be smooth but "pebbled". Mix with water and knead. Roll out and press into pie pan. 

Pre-bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees and cool.

The Yummy Filling

3 large eggs, beaten
1 t vanilla 
3/4 c sugar
1/3 c melted butter
2 T real/pure maple syrup of choice-good quality
1 c light corn syrup
1 1/2 c chopped pecans (can toast if preferred)
Dash of cinnamon

Mix all of the above together well and fill pre-baked or store bought pie crust. 
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and enjoy! Serve hot or cold-amazing either way.