Girls on Food

NYC

Poppin’ Cakies Celebration in NYC

Festivities were held on Friday, March 17, 2017, honoring the “Cakie”, the creation of Queens-based Pastry Chef Janice de Castro (owner of Jae NYC Eats) at The VNYL Bar & Restaurant. A Cakie is the classic Twinkie revived and revamped! Having assumed a different identity, the new and improved Cakie was a hit among the crowd. The flavor profiles are vibrant and welcoming like Janice herself, and are hand injected into a familiar shaped moist cake. 

Owner Janice also used the party as an opportunity to premiere some new flavors! A crowd favorite was the limited edition Bad & Boujee pair; the Bad Cakie combined the flavors of Hennessy, Valrhona Chocolate, and Cherry Cordials, while the Boujee Cakie contained Dom Perignon and White Truffle.

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Gina Homolka at Macy’s Herald Square on April 1st

Official Gina Homolka Image

This is not a joke or an April fool; Macy’s Culinary Council is hosting world renowned blogger, James Beard nominated author, and recipe developer Gina Homolka of Skinnytaste on Saturday, 4/1 at 1:00 pm. Culinary Council is a collection of spectacularly talented chefs, pastry chefs, and food professionals that travel throughout the country and hold various tastings and demonstrations in Macy’s all over the U.S. Check with your local Macy’s to see if any are happening near you!

Demo attendees will listen to Homolka dish about some of her favorite “skinny” recipes as well as get to sample them.

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Todd English Demo at Macy’s in NYC

On November 9th, the Housewares department at Macy’s was buzzing with holiday excitement as Culinary Council Chef Todd English hosted a demonstration and sampling of some of his most famous dishes. Chef English is known for restaurants such as Olives, Todd English Food Hall, Figs, Todd English’s Tuscany, just to name a few. Culinary Council is a collection of spectacularly talented chefs and pastry chefs that travel throughout the country and hold various tastings and demonstrations in Macy’s all over the U.S. Check with your local Macy’s to see if any are happening near you!

The mood was a bit somber as America was taking in the results of the election. Angry protestors were demonstrating down Broadway, but English kept the mood in the demo light and cheerful with a few jokes as he talked about his passion for food and cooking. “I don’t know where I’d be without it…” he explained. One of my favorite comedic references of the evening was when he re-enacted the “Hamburger” scene from Steve Martin’s portrayal of Jacques Clouseau in The Pink Panther. I met Chef once before at the Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest a few years back, and he was just as playful and energetic then too.

Chef & I at Sunfest 2009
Chef & I at Sunfest 2009

He also shared that he’s often compared cooking to music. “The notes that make the music are the ingredients that make the food. Both disciplines take passion and talent, and with the right grouping, the maestro or chef can come up with plentiful variations of things. English composed 3 of some of his famous dishes. He began with a Chop Salad, polling the audience simultaneously about what they might place inside their salad, as well as answering any questions.

Chop Salad
Chop Salad

He then transitioned into Poké, a traditional Hawaiian preparation of raw fish that’s recently been trending on the West Coast. Expect more Poké spots opening in NYC soon.

Poké on a tortilla chip
Poké on a tortilla chip

Last, but certainly not least, Chef English talked about hamburgers, and how important each of the components were. We even spoke very briefly about how amazing Pretzel Buns were.

Cheeseburger
Cheeseburger

After the demo over, attendees were invited to sample each of the dishes created in the demo. Guests that made a $35 purchase in the home department even got to participate in a Meet & Greet with Chef, as well as take home an autographed memento.

Chef & I on November 9th, 2016. Photo appears courtesy of Kent Miller Studios for Macy's
Chef & I on November 9th, 2016. Photo appears courtesy of Kent Miller Studios for Macy’s

Thanks so much to Macy’s & Culinary Council for having me at the demo, I’m so excited to see what future events are in store for 2017!

Turning Japanese at The Food Film Festival in NYC

img_0868I think I’m turning Japanese; I really think so, or at least I did when I attended the Sunday, October 24th evening of the Food & Film Festival titled “Eat Japan.” I had the pleasure of discovering The Food Film Festival last year while rampantly googling-food festivals, NYC. I know you’re sitting in awe of my very elaborate process. I searched in hopes of finding some interesting places to explore and share with Girls on Food. However, finding Food & Film was like finding myself halfway through a Judy Blume novel….it just fit.

After eating my way through BBQ and the food porn party at last year’s festival-“Eat Japan” was the next logical step in this foodie’s adventure toward cinematic grandeur. Ok don’t get excited because I mentioned the word porn, I don’t mean the type of porn you can see on TubeV Big Black Cock which includes sexy brussels escorts or someone similar, I am talking about food porn it’s a new thing, it literally means taking pics of food. Anyway I digress, I was lucky enough to have fellow GOF’er Marcie Andersen come with, and thus the shenanigans ensued.

We’ve expertly crafted the side head tilt while sampling products by Lumpia Shack; Filipino-inspired cuisine. Above we are proudly holding Truffled Mushroom Lumpia. It has a crispy exterior similar to that of a spring roll nicely complimented by the flourish of truffle mayo on the top.

Lumpia Shack
50 Greenwich Avenue, New York, NY 10011
http://lumpia-shack.com

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Pictured here is their Bistek and Onions Sushi, a playful elevation of a favorite Filipino dish. What I found astonishing about this dish was the mesh quality of the onion creating a different taste profile. I had the chance to chat with the chef, Neil Syham, who explained he pureed the caramelized onions at a high temperature to achieve the incredible consistency.

img_0879Also present was The New York Distilling Company who already had my heart with their aptly named Dorothy Parker American Gin. Men will surely make passes at girls who wear glasses after a few sips of Suntory. Allen Katz, one of their team and one of the nation’s leading experts on distilled spirits and cocktails was on hand to make his signature drink showcasing this Japanese Whiskey.

The New York Distilling Company
79 Richardson Street (between Leonard & Larimer), Brooklyn, NY, 11222
http://www.nydistilling.com/

While sipping this smooth concoction, Allen explained that Japanese Whiskey with its lighter taste would sure to be a mainstay in the states over the next twenty years.

img_0884Did I mention that all of this happened in the pre-party? On to films on food! George Motz, the Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, author of Hamburger America, and founder of The Food & Film Festival kicked off the evening as its official master of ceremonies. The festival, now in its tenth year uniquely showcases food, chefs, and all the in between.

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The mysterious chef who chooses to go by “Chef Nigo” rose to popularity this past summer when doing a pop-up Ramen Lab in NYC. He chooses not to disclose his identity, wearing this signature mask while he works, so that the diner can focus on the food and not on the chef behind it.

img_0913For the after party, Chef Nigo made a specialty tsukemen not served in any of his eateries. With the gravy broth mentioned in the film This is Tsukemen directed by George Motz, the dish was rich, delicate, and delicious and topped with a succulent cut of pork belly.

The winner of the evening, audience and festival selection alike was “SAKURADA” Zen Chef. It tells the story of the Japanese chef, Mr. Isuzu Sakurada who awoke to cook the best soup and became a 2-starred Michelin Chef in Kyoto. The filmmakers were on hand to accept their awards and no-you’re not hallucinating, one of them dressed in a Pikachu onesie.

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Mr. Sakurada has since closed his restaurant and keeps his recipes a secret as is customary in Japan. However, he was kind enough to call an NYC colleague and have them make us a dish. This Nama-Fu Tempura & Sake by Kajitsu was light and flavorful.

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And after the films, we feast! Check out some of the food and frivolity from our adventure.

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Marcie and I take a moment to pose with food porn star extraordinaire: Larry Caldwell. He’s always on board to offer up an inspired food pairing for a Bud Light Strawberita.

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I don’t think I even began to skim the surface of the amount of mochi floating around both before and after. This rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape. Upon the first bite, my initial reaction was “oh, this is a Japanese gummi.” One of the films Pounding Mochi with the Fastest Mochi Maker in Japan
Dir. Great Big Story, demonstrates the manpower and ceremony with which Mochi is made.

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One of the events sponsors, The Billion Oyster Project geared toward restoring one billion live oysters to New York Harbor and educating about the restoration of our ecosystem brought along these gorgeous oysters to sample. A bit briny but perfect and shucked on site.

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The Food & Film Festival made me laugh, almost cry, and probably gain two pounds and for all of those reasons around the end of October, New Yorkers should keep their eyes peeled for this amazingly edible event. With so many different themes and foods, it will leave you wanting for nothing. Be sure to save your gym membership.

The Essence of Espana: Tertulia in NYC

FullSizeRender 3While Spain may be several thousand miles away from the U.S., you only need to go as far as New York City to feel like you’re worlds away, thanks to a small tapas-style restaurant in the heart of the West Village – Tertulia.

Tertulia
359 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10014
http://tertulianyc.com

After discovering the cider houses, or sidrerias, in the northern region of Spain, Chef Seamus Mullen was inspired to bring a little slice of that heaven back to New York City. Hailing from another NYC Spanish staple, Boqueria, by way of Vermont, Chef Seamus has been pairing the finest ingredients in a variety of dishes similar to those found in Asturias since 2011. From tostas and sartenes (smaller sharing dishes) to platos familiars, or larger main courses, there are endless options on this menu to satisfy your Spanish cravings.

Situated along 6th avenue just off West 4th Street is a beautifully decorated and warmly lit eatery,FullSizeRender 5 making you feel like you’ve stepped off of cobblestone streets into the warm and welcoming home of a Spanish native. With elegant exposed brick, dim lighting and a homey décor, you may want to settle in for the rest of the night. That is, after you’ve found your favorite glass of delicious wine from a lovely selection of the grape juice. Whether you’re sitting at one of the small tables for two or one of the larger communal tables, there’s no bad seat in the house.

During a recent visit to this downtown gem, we became familiar with a wide variety of Spanish favorites including Huevo Diablo (deviled eggs), Croquetas de Jamon (Iberico ham croquettes), Albondigas (lamb meatballs), Pulpo a La Brasa (grilled octopus), and of course Paella… no, there’s no need for a translation for that!

IMG_4690While some dishes were better prepared than others, each had its own authenticity and was packed with flavor. The deviled eggs were creamy and smooth. The croquetas were perfectly fried and placed over a drizzle of sweet membrillo glaze. And the octopus, well, that was just perfect.IMG_4700But nothing was more tasty and satisfying than a small serving (by comparison, because they’re typically huge) of paella. While not the traditional seafood type this Spanish senorita is used to, the rice was cooked to perfection over an open flame and the essence of España was all there in that one paella pan. It even had the authentically crispy bottom texture. Washed down with a cold, sweet glass of their signature sangria, I was quickly saying “Mas por favor (more please)!”IMG_4702Open since 2011, one would think this Vermont native cooking Spanish cuisine wouldn’t last in a city of serious sharks (a.k.a. food critics). But here we are, five plus years later, and there’s no shortage of table guests in the house.

Somewhere That’s Green: Upstate New York Bites

With the heat at record temperatures, what does a city gal have to do aside from fleeing the scorching NYC streets to the relaxed mountains of Upstate New York?  Surprisingly, so many artisanal options are springing up in even the town of Catskill that it didn’t feel like I was too far from the foodie options of my native NYC.

The New York Restaurant
353 Main Street, Catskill, NY
http://nyrestaurantcatskill.com/

Billed as a “revival restaurant” from an era where the steak was just $1.50, I’m not even sure I could get a pack of Orbit gum for that price in some Bodegas.  A Polish-American has taken over the helm reinvigorating the space with charm, music, and perogies.  Oh man, have I mentioned how much I love perogies?  Their menu offers several exciting lunch dishes including a Happy Hour from 4 pm-6 pm that features all kinds of $4 treats.  You can go wild at the price of $4 appetizers, craft micro-brew drafts, fine wines, and cocktails all for just $4.  That’s less than a Subway sandwich. IMG_9995

I started out with their signature selection of pierogi.  The sautéed the bacon, onion chutney, and sour cream is an absolute delight.  They were flavorful and satisfying.  You can also purchase these delectable bites to go in a frozen variety, to keep at home

IMG_9993Another standout choice on the menu was the Black & Bleu Flat Bread covered with grilled flank steak, bleu cheese crumbles, and caramelized onions with grilled portabella mushrooms and roasted bell peppers.  A delightful and savory option, it melted right in your mouth.  I can’t wait to go back to this quaint restaurant next time and try other options from this fascinating menu.

 

Next stop was Saratoga Springs as I took my sojourn to see Counting Crows at SPAC.  When in Saratoga, one must try the local eats and my eye was immediately drawn to the cafe that resembled the big top.

Circus Cafe
392 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
http://circuscafe.com

IMG_0118The menu boasts that their burger has won awards, so I simply had to try it.  After testing both the burger and mac & cheese while successfully not keeling over from a massive coronary I came to the conclusion that this eatery is really about the fun of the circus. However, if you’re seeking a lump of cotton candy and some fantastic happy hour options, then this is the place for you.  I’m sure the local college kids at Skidmore make good use of this place.

I was amazed that I could order a drink at 11 am on a weekday but when in Saratoga, embrace the fight club rules of being in Saratoga.  I tried the black cherry martini which tasted like an alcohol infused kool-aid.  I’m not the biggest fan of sweet cocktails, but Circus Cafe had an ample list of libations for the adventurous ordered and wine drinker alike.

I loved loved loved the atmosphere.  I’m a sucker for classic circus chachki’s and between the elegant chandelier, buttery movie theatre popcorn served free of cost, and the vintage Ringling Brothers signage I had a good time if not the best tasting experience of my life.

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Finally, a MUST stop when in the Catskill region is Angela’s.  I’ve blogged about this place before, and I can’t express how good this pizza and beer is.  While unassuming looking, simple chairs and tables, a fun aspect of the dining experience are being able to see the kegs through the glass while you eat.

Angela’s Pizzeria and Brewery
4545 NY Route 32, Catskill, NY 12414
http://angelasbistrobrewery.com

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Here I am grasping at one of their home-grown ales the Kiskatom Brown Ale.  I always gravitate toward darker beers, and this one does not disappoint.  If you’re not in the mood for a drink, you can always take a growler home with you.
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I went to Angela’s earlier in the day, and I stumbled upon brunch service and tried one of their “personal” brunch pizzas.  This pizza is far from personal-almost the size of a regular pie, and it was out of this world.  Drenched in perfectly cooked eggs and ham they have several different breakfast pizza options. You will entirely be bringing home leftovers-assume nothing less.

As the summer winds down and we transition into weekend trips upstate to see the leaves change these are three places you should stop by if you’re climbing in the car for a city escape.  You can join the circus, have a taste of Poland, and gorge yourself on pizza but hopefully not all in one day.

Queen of the Kitchen: A Visit to Chef Roxanne Spruance’s, Kingsley in NYC

As I walk down Avenue B in Alphabet City on the Eastside of Manhattan, I’ve noticed tons of cute little restaurants. Some fancy, some not so much. And of course, I want to add them all to my famous “list” of Big Apple dining destinations (I’m known for this roster). But recently, on one New York City summer night, as I strolled in front of one of them, a warm light and amazing aroma wafted through the big glass windows that pushed right up against the sidewalk I was standing on. I couldn’t help but stop and peer in, noticing a lovely epicurean environment, quickly moving this one to the top of my list. Enter Kingsley.

Kingsley
190 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009
http://www.kingsleynyc.com

Just off 12th Street and Avenue B, this beautifully decorated foodie haven is something straight out of a magazine. When I had the chance to check it out recently, I was stoked. 

IMG_4497Not really knowing what to expect, I was ready for anything (sometimes, that’s how you gotta roll). After sitting us at our table by the window (the one I was once on the other side of), we were immediately greeted by our server offering us three types of water (I always ask for New York’s finest – tap… it’s the best in the country!). We, of course, followed up with a proper adult beverage order – the Roselle (champagne based) for me and a Gin Gimlet for my guest. Between those and our first tasting order, the Bone Marrow topped with Tuna Tartar, we were well on our way into discovering the wildly delicious world of Chef Roxanne (Kingsley) Spruance. IMG_4500

Before we could start our dinner conversation, we had drinks in hand and the first of many courses (and probably my favorite of the night). The Roselle was light and refreshing, as was the Gin Gimlet, and the bone marrow… well that, I don’t even have words for. But, for your sake, I’ll tell you it was packed with flavor, texture and really, was the ultimate party in your mouth. Not too oily or fatty, like some bone marrow can be, and paired with a shot of some bold, bourbon infused broth, the Chef’s creation was simply magical…leaving me wanting 17 more pieces, of course. But because I just had to try everything else on the menu, we stuck with just one.

IMG_4504As I browsed the menu, I couldn’t help but want it all. Too bad, my stomach doesn’t have room for so much scrumptiousness. Instead, I went with some of the server’s recommendations including the Chilled Zucchini Soup, Celeriac Agnolotti topped with Foie Gras and a special chef’s offering, the Charred Octopus over a yogurt base. And that was just to start!

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IMG_4506I can’t say that each of these was better than the last, because they were each so damn delicious, but I can say, the creamy pasta filled pockets topped with melt-in-your-mouth foie gras was out of this world!

Let me move on, I know your mouth is salivating. But not before making note of the impeccable service. The wait staff constantly checked on us, refilled our water, changed our plates and cutlery and all with a smile… the way it should be!

IMG_4524Soon, we were onto the “main” course. Ok, not gonna lie, I probably could’ve stopped here, but why? Under advisement of our knowledgeable and friendly waiter, I opted for the Wagyu Basses-Cotte Steak on a bed of Fairytale Eggplant, Grilled Potato and Chimichuri (yes, I know, you’re drooling). My guest opted for the Long Island Duck with Summer Peach, Almond and Anise Hyssop. And while I LOVED my tender, perfectly cooked dish more, the duck was pretty on point!

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By this stage in the game, I was pretty much done, but I wouldn’t be the feasting princess I am if I didn’t top it off with dessert. There’s always room for dessert! For this final portion of the meal, we ordered the Chocolate and Mint option, as well as the Popcorn Crème Brulee. 
 Holy dessert gods! I think I could’ve gone straight for the dessert and been completely content. 

Finally, after a two hour, tastebud-bursting, belly-filling, grin-bearing meal, I can honestly say Chef Spruance and her team are rockstars. While I try not to visit the same Gotham gastropub twice (I mean, c’mon, there are too many to limit yourself that way), this is one I’ll definitely make an exception for!

Bravo, Chef, bravo!

Samantha Checks Out Glaze Teriyaki in NYC

Cucumber Salad
Cucumber Salad

I have always had a soft spot (or an entirely soft stomach) for all kinds of Asian cuisines, so when I was introduced to the concept of Glaze, I was excited to try it for myself. Glaze isn’t your average teriyaki hole in the wall you’d find in the mall food court; its signature style came about in the 1970’s during which a large Korean population immigrated and settled in Seattle. Glaze is more like a “share-iyaki” that brings Japanese and Korean style cooking together, creating an end result that is fresh, filling, affordable, and nutritious. The food is cooked to order, and you’re right in the middle in the open kitchen set-up. There’s no Hibachi chef doing fancy tricks, but each shop (Glaze operates in 4 states) uses local ingredients to ensure freshness and quality.

Edamame
Edamame

Glaze offers either a rice or salad plate with choice of protein, rice, and dressing, or you can do a combo for an extra couple of dollars. Additionally, you can also opt for one (or two) of the sides as an appetizer. I opted for a combo of steak and sautéed veggies over brown rice with Carrot Ginger dressing. I also ordered a side of edamame, which comes to you with such a lovely smoky Paprika flavor! The Spicy-Yaki Chicken Wings are awesome for sharing as well. I would suggest the Cucumber Salad for someone in need of something light and refreshing.

Steak and Vegetable Combo
Steak and Vegetable Combo

I found Glaze to be a wonderful value both in quality of the food you get, as well as the generosity of the portion size. I quickly learned that many others shared my opinion, as the restaurant was filled within 30 minutes after I arrived, and the line was out the door as loyal customers waited to order. Try it by yourself or with your favorite foodie friends, either way, just get there and #getglazed.

Spicy-Yaki Chicken Wings
Spicy-Yaki Chicken Wings

 

Glaze Teriyaki has locations in San Francisco, NYC, Chicago and Madison. Check out their site for locations.

Capizzi in Staten Island, NY: Fantastic Italian Fare

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Capizzi
4126 Hyland Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10308
http://capizzipizza.com

This week we were lucky enough to be invited to a tasting at Capizzi, a stylish and charming Italian Restaurant located in Staten Island, New York. Upon our arrival, our gracious host, Stephanie, met us and took excellent care of us during our visit. The entryway to the restaurant boasts an extensive wine bar, brick oven, as well as an authentic deli counter with fresh cheese and meats on display.

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imageTo wet our palettes, we each started off with a refreshing glass of Peach sangria. For our first antipasto, Stephanie arranged a beautiful plate of meats, cheeses, olives, walnuts, grapes, and honey. This combination of savory and sweet was the perfect introduction to what Capizzi has to offer.

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Our next dish was pleasing to both the eye and the palette, topped with a gorgeous decorative flower. The Insalata di Granchio consists of fresh crabmeat, cucumbers, with long, crispy croutons in a spicy aioli. The crab meat was tender and smothered in a generous helping of aioli sauce. The crunch of the croutons also added a nice variation in texture.

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The first of four pasta dishes was the Ravioli all’Astice; homemade half-moon ravioli filled with fresh lobster meat, mascarpone, ricotta, and parmesan in a pink champagne sauce. The pink champagne sauce was the perfect complement to the lobster, and easily became Christie’s favorite.

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What would a true Italian dinner be without a plate of gnocchi? The Gnocchi Sorrentino, handmade gnocchi baked with tomato sauce and cheese, topped with parmesan, was creamy, velvety, and cooked to perfection.

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This beauty right here is the Pasta Burrata baked casarecce with truffle oil, cherry tomatoes, burrata cheese, and bread crumbs. The burrata melts in your mouth and almost had Jess in tears of joy, which is a pretty solid indication that this dish is a must-have.

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For all the seafood lovers, we highly recommend the Risotto di Mare; pan roasted shrimp, clams, mussels, and calamari tossed over seafood risotto. The freshness of the seafood and the bold flavors of the sauce are tough to beat.

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At the last minute, we sprang for the Sweet and Spicy Calamari; fried calamari sautéed with pignoli nuts, raisins, and hot cherry peppers in a sweet and spicy sauce. The calamari has a great texture, and the sweet and spicy sauce is both tangy and delicious.

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With the buttons of our pants ready to pop off, it’s only right that we ordered two desserts. First up was the Tiramisu, the classic Italian dessert made up of soft, spongy lady fingers soaked in coffee. This rendition is light and airy; what we imagine what it would feel like to be eating a cloud. The coffee taste shines through impeccably.

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The final dish in our epic tasting was the Peanut Butter Crème Brûlée. We loved this unexpected twist on the traditional dessert. The top layer of the crème brûlée is crisp, similar to toffee, dusted with a layer of powdered sugar. The peanut butter flavor is subtle, yet smooth, and the strawberries add a delightful sweetness to it.

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Before parting ways with Capizzi, our latest gem of a find, we had to sample the white and red sangrias for good measure. With a hint of sweetness in each, the sangrias worked to refresh without overwhelming.

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It is evident in the service, preparation, ingredients, and presentation that Capizzi operates with the utmost passion and pride. What began within owner Joe Calcagno’s family has been extended to bring high-quality Italian cuisine to Manhattan and Staten Island. To rightfully express our feelings towards this establishment, we honor Capizzi with our newest, rarest rating: The Fatboi’s Seal of Approval. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, we highly recommend you pop in for a visit and cross it off of your Food Bucket List! Special thank you to Joe and Stephanie for having us, until next time!

C & J

http://capizzipizza.com/

Hummus Where The Heart Is: Semsom Eatery in NYC

What’s the best way to detox your body from a week of sun & fun in Las Vegas? Clean, yet flavorful eats! If only it were that easy…

Semsom Eatery
2 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003
http://semsomeatery.com 

However, on a serious note, Semsom Eatery is a chill Lebanese eatery serving up classic Lebanese and Mediterranean favorites with a modern spin. Semsom (it means Sesame Seed in Lebanese) was created in the Middle East by two sisters, Christine and Carine and it eventually made its way stateside.

Semsom focuses on fresh quality ingredients; this is probably most apparent in their hummus, which is made fresh daily. The flavors are simple, yet powerful and the texture is smooth and creamy. Unlike many other Mediterranean restaurants that may use canned chickpeas, Semsom cooks begin each batch with fresh chickpeas that are soaked overnight. Tumeric, Zaatar, and Sumac are prevalent flavors throughout the establishment, as well as, one particular ingredient that isn’t easily found; family. Many of the recipes hail from the sisters’ mother, grandmother, or the dynamic duo. When I was briefly chatting with Carine, she explained that she was an “emotional eater,” and that it made her really happy to see others enjoying recipes that reminded her of her happy childhood.

Spices
Spices

Meals are served with a choice of base (bowl or wrap, brown rice, romaine, or half/half), choice of a main protein, as well as two flavors. I chose a bowl, half rice, half lettuce, Taouk chicken, Tahini carrots, and of course, the hummus. I also opted for a little side of the sweet & sour eggplant. The colors and flavors were vibrant, rich, and they tasted as beautifully as they Instagrammed.

Taouk Chicken
Taouk Chicken

Semsom also offers freshly made lemonades. The Rose Lemonade was, by far, my favorite! In addition, I was pleasantly surprised to discover they brew La Colombe coffee!

If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat afterward, Semsom also offers mini muffins in three flavors; cranberry cardamom, chocolate halva, and turmeric. Should frozen treats be more up your alley, the Astor Place location offers Vegan soft serve ice cream, while the Columbus Circle offers popsicles.

When the meal is over, guests can check out the retail area and purchase some artisan soap, rose water, orange blossom water, or many of the other Mediterranean themed items the restaurant has to offer. For diners who are short on time, Semsom also offers freshly pre-packs Watermelon and Feta salads, hummus packs, and other tasty treats. Whether you’re looking to try some authentic Lebanese flavors or just needing a quick snack after that intense workout at David Barton, make sure to stop in at Semsom and “seed” what it’s all about.

Muffins!
Muffins!

Guilt Free Snacks: Perfect for our Gluten-Free Friends!

Guilt Free Snacks is a New York City based company which has thoughtfully created a line of snacks that are not only gluten-free, but are all natural. In addition, they pride themselves on having less fat, sodium and sugar than other gluten free snacks image1 (23)available. I recently had the opportunity to try many of the snacks Guilt Free has to offer and I was impressed by both the taste and quality of the products.

Guilt Free Snacks offers cookies, brownies, trail mix and granola to go. The cookies currently come in two flavors – chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin. When snacking on the cookies, I found the flavor to be impeccable and the texture to be much more “cookie-like” than so many gluten free cookies I’ve tried. The base of the oatmeal raisin cookie is oats and rice flour. The cookie was moist and crumbled just a bit which was fantastic! The chocolate chip cookie was a bit lighter to eat, and the chocolate chips were spread out perfectly throughout the cookie adding a little extra sweetness which made it the perfect companion to a glass of coconut milk.

When I was on the go, I turned to Guilt Free Snacks Granola to Go and Trail Mix bar. The trail mix bar proved to be the perfect snack to pack for a small Los Angeles hike. The bar contains oats, raisins, crispy rice, chia and pumpkin seeds. The bar is seasoned with very natural undertones of cinnamon and vanilla. The bar is satisfying and kept my energy up on the second part of my hike.

The granola from Guilt Free comes in a small resealable pouch which mimage1 (24)ade it handy for a snack I didn’t have to eat all at once. I found that I preferred to eat the granola little bits at a time. The blend of oats, coconut flakes, raisins, crispy rice, cranberries and pumpkin seeds is perfect to snack on throughout the day.

My favorite of all the Guilt Free Snacks I tried was the chocolate brownie. The brownie square was soft and chewy. The chocolate flavor was perfect and I discovered the aftertaste was a chocolate/vanilla mixture I’d never had from a brownie before. It was surprising that this brownie was not only gluten free but also guilt free – it will definitely become a regular sweet treat for me!

Guilt Free Snacks is an incredible option for those seeking gluten free or more healthy approaches to snacking. The products can be found around NYC but also ordered online.

We Found Love in a PB Shake: Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer in NYC

Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer
248 W. 14th Street New York, NY 10011
http://blacktapnyc.com/

This post is short and sweet (see what I did there?) but I couldn’t resist sharing this!

This spot easily became my first priority on the bucket list because cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and beer are my favorite things in life. Black Tap has two locations in NYC: SoHo and Meatpacking District. I ventured to the Meatpacking area one fine Friday and upon arriving around 4, the line was no joke. We waited for about 45 minutes but it was totally worth it, and you’ll see why. If you plan to visit this spot go at an off-peak time (between lunch and dinner). You may also want to pack a Tall Boy (there is a liquor store located next door for your convenience). Black Tap are famous for their specialty milkshakes which include the Sweet N’ Salty, Cotton Candy, Cookie Shake, and Sour Power. The Sweet N’ Salty is a peanut butter shake adorned with pretzel rods, a chocolate covered pretzel, M&M’s, peanut butter cups, whipped cream, chocolate drizzle, topped off with a Sugar Daddy candy. The Cotton Candy is a strawberry shake decorated with pastel pearl chocolates, rock candy, a lollipop, whipped cream, and cotton candy of course. The Cookie Shake is vanilla cookie flavored topped with an ENTIRE chipwich, cookie crumbles, chocolate chips, whipped cream, and chocolate drizzle. The new menu item, the Sour Power, is a black cherry shake that comes with sour gummies, a pixy stick, rainbow pop, sour skewer, whipped cream, and nerds. I took the Sweet N’ Salty for a spin; it cost more than my actual meal. However, it was entirely worth it.

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The shake itself was creamy and not overwhelmingly sweet, with the candy to compensate. The combination of the saltiness of the pretzels with the sweetness of the chocolate and peanut butter was perfection. These shakes are shareable, but for a max of 2 people. -Jess @fatboitendencies