Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Puerto Rican Food Porn..From Trendy Hotspots To Local Faves!

If I could have any job in the world, I would just travel and eat my way through every country. I love nothing more than food and travel. I was lucky enough to make it out of the polar vortex us New Yorkers have been dealing with and spend the past weekend in sunny Puerto Rico! Hello girls trip!

Puerto Rico is known for a few yummy local specialties that every one should try if they make it to this lovely corner of the US common wealth. Here's a few I either tried or heard about and will def make it a priority on my next trip...

TRIED-Mofongo-the unofficial king of Puerto Rican cuisine. This is a tasty concoction of mashed plantain, seasonings and a virtually unlimited choice of fillings. Veggies, shrimp, steak, pork, seafood, literally every type of filling you can think of. You can also find mofongo everywhere from roadside shacks to some of the island's most refined local eateries. The best part? The garlicky Criollo sauce. Yummy!

Tostones-Mashed and fried potatoes. I know, ridiculous. Especially when served with a savory ketchup/mayo concoction that seems to be a staple in Puerto Rican cuisine.

Fritters & other Fried Treats-Noticing the fried trend? It seems PR locals love their fried food. 

DIDN'T TRY BUT NEED TO-Lechon, succulent roast pig. People come from far and wide to sample this delicacy. It's such a beloved dish that there is one road in Guavate, Puerto Rico that is known as the Ruta del Lechón (the Pork Highway). To get here, take Highway 52 south to exit 33 (Guavate). Turn left and head up Rd 184. You're now in lechón territory. Woo hoo!

Now on to the food porn...

I heard this was one of the best restaurants in the area so naturally we had to go. 
Over all the food was very good (see images below). The Popcorn Soup with truffle and rosemary was the main stand out. So delicious and creative, it's a must try. We did find the entrees to be a bit on the salty side but luckily the apps, decor...and wine made up for it;-)

The Popcorn Soup. A fluffy cream with popcorn served to you in a snifter. Then your server pours the creamy hot soup over the cold cream for an explosion of texture, flavor and temperature in your mouth. Orgasmic to say the least.

Pear and Blue Cheese Dumplings. Not super local but also very good. 

The stand out entree-Short Rib Gnocchi. The meat was super tender and the dish was the only entree that wasn't overly salted. 

No trip to the PR is complete with out a mojito...or two..or three...

I think this was by far our fave.
Located in the lively La Placinta "Block Party" neighborhood, this hidden and I mean literally hidden gem is worth finding. No sign, no reservations and located right by a parking lot, this spot is not easy to find on your own. But just ask any of the friendly locals and they'll show you the way. This was our party night and the epic evening started here. First of all, the food is outstanding. We also had an adorable, amazing bartender, Alberto who made a mean drink and kept us in good spirits. Jose Enrique is an acclaimed chef that has worked in restaurants from Florida to New York until finally, he headed back home and opened his self titled resto in 2007. Well done Chef.

The fried, cheese filled bundles of goodness were so amazing, we ordered a second round. 
I believe they were called, Empandillas. There's the ketchup/mayo sauce again!

Fried Yellow Tail. The fish was flaky and moist. 
The batter was out of this world as was the pureed potatoes the fish was served on. 

More random local bites...

Our plate of fried goodness

Chicken Mofongo!

Gracias Puerto Rico!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Think a Chain Steakhouse Doesn't Cut It? Head to Fleming's.

You may be surprised that I’m actually a fan of chain restaurants...really, really good ones that is. There’s a reason chain restaurants have thousands of locations across the country. One of the biggest reasons is consistency. You know exactly what you’re going to get every time and usually at a fairly reasonable price. There are quite a few good steakhouse chains, even some pretty fancy, high end ones that’ll give some of the better steak houses in NYC a run for their money. Introducing, Fleming’s. There’s no Fleming’s in NYC but you can find one right over the river in Jersey. It’s literally on the water so the neighborhood and views are lovely. 

They have nice cocktails and an extremely intense wine menu. The wine menu is literally an iPad full of about a million wines that can all be sorted by price, grape, origin etc. It’s actually a bit much for me and def screams corporate but does make it easy to find the bottles under $50 which is usually what I look for at restaurants (too cheap?:-)). The food is amaze balls. They start you off with the most amazing, freshly baked bread. They serve said bread with not one but TWO delectable butters. One is a sun-dried tomato and the other a blue cheese. Soooooo good but you can’t fill up quite yet. The have a great Sunday night prime rib special for only $39.95 that includes salad and dessert (bargain!). Fleming’s also has a plethora of other wonderful menu items to choose from. Menu stand outs include their Sweet Chili Calamari, Pan Crisped Pork Belly (OMG-melt-in-yo-mouth and served with goat cheese grits!!!), Creamed Spinach & Chipotle Cheddar Mac N’ Cheese. 

All the steaks I’ve had there have been great. Cooked perfectly and seasoned well. I think the Prime Rib was my favorite as it’s served with a creamy horseradish and horseradish is one of my favorite things on earth. If you have room one should also try their signature Fleming's Potatoes and/or Onion Rings. You will not regret it. 

Save room for their Creme Brûlée. You know I’m not much on the sweets but this dessert is killer.

They take reservations so reserve away and enjoy! 

The best bread and butter you will ever have. 

Our Sweet Chili Calamari.

My father-in-laws Wedge Salad. Good thing he loves blue cheese!

Our table of yumminess...we were hungry:-)

My spectacular Creme Brûlée. I ate it up!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

TriBeCa HotSpot: The Butterfly

The Butterfly is a new cocktail bar & supper club located in NYC’s super hip TriBeCa neighborhood. I first read about this place in one of my celeb mags so I started to do a little digging. Come to find out, The Butterfly is part of Michelin-starred Chef Michael White’s Altamarea Group. I was ecstatic. I’m a HUGE Michael White fan and have been dying to try Marea on Central Park South since forever. Marea blog post to come...

I decided to meet one of my girlfriends here for dinner and arrived early for a drink. Their cocktail list is fantastic. Approachable yet very creative and fun. The bartender recommended The Paloma-a tequila & grapefruit soda mix of refreshing goodness. The drinks fluffy foam has salt and Aperol so every sip has just the right amount of saltiness. My friend got the Tom Collins (she’s a gin drinker) and said it was also delish.

The food menu, like the cocktail list, is super fun. Sort of hip diner fusion feel with specialties being their fried chicken and patty melt. We proceeded to order the following...

The Ruben Croquettes: OMG! Doesn’t the name just scream yumminess? Fried balls of corned beef and sauerkraut with a 1000 island dipping sauce. Um, yes please!

The Maple Bacon Skewers: Thick cut bacon + crispy brussel sprouts + maple syrup = Genius.

The Greek Salad: I know it sounds crazy but this was one of my favorite dishes. The salad was perfect. Chopped nicely with tons of tomato and cucumber, more so than lettuce, very “traditional" Greek. The feta cheese was perfectly creamy and flavorful. I’d go back just for the salad.

The Patty Melt: It was pretty damn good. I mean, I’m not sure I’d go back just for this but it was one of the better patty melts I’ve had. The caramelized onions were amazing and gave the sandwich a rich, sweet flavor. The fries were also on point. Thick and crispy.

All in all our dinner was a success and I’m happy I made the trip downtown. I was surprised I was able to call the night before and get a 7pm reservation on a Friday night. I have a feeling that may not be the case for long so go make your ressies and eat up!

The Paloma. Cheers!

Ahhhh the Ruben Croquettes. I mean, like, best idea ever.

My heavenly Greek Salad

The Patty Melt served with crispy fries...nom nom.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Mexican Flavors Spicing Up the West Village!

Mexican food + the West Village = a good night. I love Mexican food so when my girlfriend/client who works for Manhattan Magazine suggested Ofrenda, and mentioned she had a company credit, I was totally in. The West Village is one of my favorite neighborhoods in NYC, quaint in comparison to the rest of the city and chock full of fabulous shops and restaurants. Ofrenda is in the heart of it right around the corner from the 1 train Christopher Street stop. Super convenient. 

I was early as usual so I scanned the bar. Very nice tequila selection AND they had my fave brand, Riazul. I ordered a Riazul Reposado on the rocks and made myself at home. The space is small but cozy. Very dark and quite loud. This may have been because of a table of insanely loud 21 year olds that of course, we were sat right next to (LOL). 

The cocktail menu is great with some pretty creative margarita options. The food menu is simple and straight to the point. Nice selection of starters, tacos and mains. This particular evening they had a special guacamole that we both agreed was hands down the best we'd ever had. Everything but the kitchen sink was in this bowl of goodness. It had all the usual goods-tomatoes, red onion etc. But in addition-mushrooms, pomegranate seeds AND truffle!!! OMG! We scraped the bowl clean. We decided there was a lot on the menu we wanted to try so we ordered several things to share. I have to say the Fish Tacos were my favorite. Crispy tilapia served baja style with a jicama slaw and chipotle aioli. Yummy! We also really enjoyed the Quesadillas which were full of flavor due to a poblano truffle oil and jalapeno cream (Say whaaaaaa?!?). They had a nice looking dessert menu as well but we just couldn't. We opted for another margarita instead;-)

Long story short: Ofrenda was awesome. I'll def be back. I think the Carne Asada & Pork Belly Tacos are calling my name... 

Bonuses: They do take reservations and have happy hour. 

Note: You'll see from the images below they offer a lot of nightly specials. Their chef, Mario Hernandez is very creative. When you go, I highly recommend giving the specials a try. 

The best ever Guacamole.

The Brisket Taco special. Perfection. 

The chef sent us a Red Snapper special they had on this particular evening. Delish. 
Crispy skin and served over this amazingly flavorful & fluffy rice concoction. 

Our truffle-y, cheesy Quesadillas! Eat up!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Top Three Favorite (& Healthy) Super Bowl Recipes!

First of all, Go Broncos!

Second, I love party food. Chips, dips, meats and cheeses, I love it all. I can really reek some havoc on myself if the spread is worthy. Lucky for me I have healthy friends and attempt to be healthy myself so I've tasted some pretty low-cal versions of my favorite snack foods. Below are my top three favorite and not completely bad for you recipes, perfect for tomorrow's game.

This recipe is so good...seriously like the real thing. I haven’t personally made the dish but pretty much all of my girlfriends are Bethenny Frankel fans so I’ve had the dish MANY times. Always amazing. I like it with soft pita bread but it’s also great with chips and if you want to be really healthy, cut up some fresh veggies!

Nothing says game day more than a platter of juicy wings. I adore chicken wings. Def a food usually not found on a “healthy” list. If you’re making wings at home, try baking them. This recipe's a sure winner. Serve with homemade blue cheese dip...Mmmmm.

My very own-Eat Up, Drink Up Guacamole
If you read my blog regularly, you know my obsession with avocados. This guacamole is healthy and delicious. I love serving guac with salty chips (not so healthy) but again, fresh veggies or even whole wheat or gluten-free pita is a good option. Yummy!

serves 3-4

2 ripe avocados
1/2 small red onion, diced fine
1/2 c tomatoes, diced
1 fresh jalapeño, diced fine (keep seeds for extra spicy flavor)
1 T fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 c frozen corn, thawed
1 t garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
the juice of 1 lime

Cut the avocados into halves. Remove the pit, and scoop out the pulp into a large bowl. Use a fork to mash the avocado. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well. 
Cover the bowl, and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Eat up!

Tasty Tip-after mashing the avocados, add the lime juice first so your guacamole 
doesn’t start to brown.