nyc

Run– Don’t Walk– to kiki’s in Chinatown

If you were to walk down Division street not looking for it, you may never notice Kiki’s, the new Mediterranean restaurant and brainchild of the Forgetmenot family. Its cream awning fits right in with the Chinatown vibe, as big, red Chinese characters line it. There’s no sign, no neon lights, no indication that behind the doors awaits a magical Mediterranean experience that is otherwise inexistent in the neighborhood.

After a quick browse at the menu, you’ll know you’re in for the real deal: Greek staples like Tzatziki yogurt dip and kalamata olives with feta cheese to start, vegetable-heavy dishes and delicate seafood to continue, and hearty lamb and beef entrees, moussaka and pastitchio will keep you full until dessert.

The first thing to catch my eye on the menu was the melitzanosalata: a “simple smoky eggplant mash.” You can win me over with just about anything with eggplant, especially if it resembles baba ganouch, so I was sold. It arrived to the table accompanied by thick slices of warm grilled bread, the perfect vessel for dipping. The mash was sweet, like roasted garlic, with a little spice, a hint of lemon and topped with toasted walnuts. A very well rounded dip to prep my palate for what was to come.

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Next we ordered the grilled octopus and a traditional Greek salad, meaning no lettuce, simply a beautiful melange of tomatoes, cucumber, green peppers, paper-thin red onions, Kalamata olives and a gorgeous slice of feta cheese. The salad was the tiniest bit overdressed for my liking in olive oil, lemon juice and herbs, but delicious nonetheless (cue: crusty bread). The octopus, on the other hand, was some of the best I’ve had in the city. It was so tender that the instant you put it in your mouth it begins to melt. Flavored with a lemon-garlic sauce that complimented, rather than overpowered its delicate flavor, the taste of this dish still lingers on my tastebuds and has set a new octopus standard for the rest of NYC.

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Finally, we received Briam, a dish of mixed roasted hearty veggies, like eggplant, zucchini, peppers and potatoes. This dish was as delicious as it was unassuming. A vegetarian’s dream that will also please the meat eaters. I could eat this dish regularly. Along with the Briam was Lamb Frikasse, the most tender, fall-off-the-bone lamb shank I’ve had. It was blanketed beneath and sweet and rich sauce made of braised fennel, romaine lettuce and lemon cream. Though it was definitely the heaviest thing we ate, it rounded off our otherwise light dinner very well.

Had I not been too full for dessert, the cheesecake would have been a priority. The sweet cheese layer looked cloud-status fluffy, atop an exceptionally thick and crumbly crust. Another point of intrigue was the “real deal” Greek yogurt, topped with your choice of either walnuts and honey, sour cherries or homemade fruit preserves. I guess I’ll save those for a later date.

It would be in your best interest to get to kiki’s before the rest of the food world finds out about it. There’s still time to walk in at the dinnertime rush, have the table of your choosing and an uninterrupted meal to remember. I have no doubt that Kiki’s will join the other all-stars of the Lower East Side soon enough and when that day comes, all bets are off.

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Press Perks: Umami Burger Williamsburg Opening

One of the benefits of working for a food magazine (besides the awesome food and experience, of course) is getting invited to press events at restaurants, bars, hotels, food fairs and more. I’ve done everything from learn about stout beers, to taste some of the finest oysters to watch an entire cow be butchered. My most recent adventure lead me to Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the opening of Umami Burger, and boy, was it worth the commute on the L train.

The atmosphere of Umami Burger is pretty much what you’d expect from a Brooklyn burger joint: hanging bicycles, long bar with an impressive draught, cool music and ironically placed next to a sweetgreen. My boyfriend and I were greeted by friendly, informative staff and a myriad of drinks, sides and burgers to try at our disposal, so try and try we did.

We started off with their beet salad, accompanied by spicy arugula, smoked almonds, mounds of a fluffy ricotta-goat cheese combo and a truffle vinaigrette that is to die for. The flavors and textures were so well balanced– now we understood why they call themselves “umami.”

Next came the burgers and sides: the original Umami burger, the K-BBQ burger, a specialty to the Brooklyn location, a side of Korean BBQ sweet potato fries to accompany the K-BBQ burger and a plate of their house made pickles.

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Please excuse the poor lighting.

I get why the Umami burger is so popular and classic. It embodies everything good about any type of burger– or sandwich for that matter. The perfectly cooked freshly ground beef tastes how a burger should: fresh and meaty, without that lingering “packaged ground beef flavor,” as I like to call it. Shiitake mushrooms and caramelized onions add a nice hint of earthy richness, while the roasted tomato keeps it lively. Topped with a Parmesan frico (Parmesan cheese that’s been baked for a few minutes until it melts and then hardens into a chewy, crunchy cracker type thing) and this burger certainly has it all.

The K-BBQ burger was a horse of a different color. It really did taste like something you would get at a Korean BBQ restaurant, which is what I loved about it, but I found the actual burger patty to be somewhat lost among the caramelized kimchee and Asian slaw. Nonetheless, I enjoyed both.

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The sweet potato fries were topped with kimchee and goat cheese. Though they were accompanied by four different specialty sauces, they were delicious as they were. And the pickle plate, which included not just cucumber but also beets, carrots, turnips and fennel, was delightful and unexpected.

I have to say though, one of my favorite parts of the evening was the cocktail menu. We tried about five different drinks, each completely different and delicious. You can tell a lot of thought went into crafting these cocktails, a detail I greatly appreciate about any bar or restaurant.

So thank you, Umami Burger, for giving me a reason to cross you off my NYC restaurant bucket list, even if you were all the way in Brooklyn.

A Feast Fit for a Queen

So now that it’s officially been forever since I last blogged, I’m finally making a conscious effort to get back into blogging, thanks to this phenomenal and inspring article by Josh Ozersky. He gives a unique perspective on how to be a successful food writer, and although I’m still trying to figure out how I can fulfill all of his seven commandments, I figured I’d start with (what I believe to be) the most important:

Write everything out. Whole sentences. The right words. A beginning, a middle, an end. It doesn’t matter where. Write out blog posts. Write out tweets. Write out Facebook posts. Write texts, if there is time. And do it often, as often as you possibly can. Get your reps.

I recently moved to Union Square, aka the mecca of all things delicious, especially brunch. Not that finding a delicious brunch in New York City is a hefty task, but finding a brunch with a great cocktail, great service and at a reasonable price is a little harder than you’d think. Lucky for me (but maybe unlucky for my wallet), Feast is right across the street from my home, and this past Saturday, I fell in love.

My boyfriend and I trailed in on a rainy afternoon, post-workout and ready to drink. We were hungry, excited and, given the weather conditions, had nothing else to do that day and figured may as well indulge a little.

The first thing I noticed upon walking into Feast was the atmosphere. It was cozy and comfy, and juuuusst trendy enough to make me feel like I was getting a good meal, without feeling like it was hipster overload. Mason jar glasses, wooden tables and exposed lightbulbs was all it took to win me over.

The way their brunch works is you pay $26 for a choice of cocktail or unlimited coffee, a variety of adorable small plates to begin with and an entree. UM, HELLO, that’s like, a TON of food for a very reasonable price in NYC. Plus, you are definitely going to leave full and satisfied until dinner.

There is probably nothing I dislike more than when you go to a tapas or small plates restaurant with, lets say, 4 people, and they bring you tapas in quantities of 3, or some other number that just isn’t conducive to sharing. Well, lucky for me again, Feast doesn’t do that. See what I mean:

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How cute is this?! The top plate included two slices of warm, cinnamon-y, moist zucchini-carrot bread, two perfectly sized fluffy scones, and two slices of a moist challah bread topped with cinnamon apples. Like grandma’s house during the holidays. The bottom plate had two glasses of greek yogurt with fresh blueberries and homemade crunchy granola, two glasses of a refreshing watermelon apple juice and two bruschetta toasts. Remember, it’s late summertime, so these tomatoes were so sweet, juicy and bursting with flavor. The garlic was a nice touch, too. The BF and I were smart in saving half of each pastry until the end of the meal so we had a little bit of dessert. 🙂

We always share plates when we go out because we both want to experience as much as we possibly can while still remaining financially responsible. So, we shared:

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The baby back Benedict  a perfectly poached egg atop fresh, creamy grits, sauteed spinach and an insanely delicious corn cake, all topped with barbecue hollandaise and, oh yeah, accompanied by a juicy-tender baby back rib off the bone (!!!). I know it’s pretty hard to mess up eggs Benedict, but this was by far one of my favorite versions. You could tell every element was homemade and carefully executed right before it was brought to the table. And what could be bad about starting your day with ribs?! We also shared:

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Smoked salmon with a red flannel hash and poached quail eggs. Can you see those tiny white balls at the left side of the plate? Yep, those are quail eggs. They’re so tiny and adorable, and I’m truly impressed that someone had the hand skills and time management to perfectly poach them. The salmon was buttery and smooth, and provided a nice contrast to the crunchy crostini and tender beet-laden potatoes. While the Benedict was on the heavier side, it was nice to have a lighter dish that was just as delicious and fulfilling.

I think I was so focused on the food that I forgot to take pictures of the cocktails, but they stood up to the food in quality. I had a peach bellini and the BF had a beer-y mary. We ordered seconds.

If you can’t tell, I have fallen in love with this place. I’m already looking forward to coming back to try their dinner, and maybe even their whole-hog Monday!

So thank you, Feast, for making my rainy Saturday just a little bit brighter.

The Grand Finale to My NYC Summer

I am very upset to be announcing that this past weekend was my final weekend living in the Big Apple. I have fallen in love with this city, and more importantly, with the food. You can get any type of food at any hour of the day, and odds are, it will be better than what you can get in any other city in this country. I have a whole Word document of restaurants I wanted to eat at this summer. Sadly I only made a dent in the list. But during my final weekend, I did some pretty decent damage. Let’s start with Saturday, shall we?

I said to myself that I wouldn’t leave NYC without a trip to Katz’s Deli. So Saturday was dedicated to that, and by “dedicated” I mean you only eat one meal at Katz’s because you will eat enough to suffice for the rest of the day. There was no question when it came to ordering: I would have the corned beef sandwich. Tender, falling apart, well seasoned, and surrounded by fresh rye bread. You really can’t ask for more. Their steak fries and pickles are superb, too. But I’m really just obsessed with this sandwich.

Can’t you see why?

On Sunday I attended my second iAdventure event- The International Food Truck and Beer Festival at NYC’s South Street Seaport. But I’m not here to tell you about that. While I enjoyed my afternoon full of food truck tastings, beer and music, two things- er, trucks, I should say- stuck out in particular. The first, Kimchi Taco Truck

Let me preface this by explaining the event. Each purchaser (from livingsocial.com) was entitled to two beers and three food truck tastings. I went with my foodie partner in crime, Lizzy. Since there were 8 food trucks to choose from, we decided to divide and conqure and get six different trucks’ samples and share them. The samples were rather… skimpy. Don’t get me wrong; they were all delicious. But a few french fries, about a quarter slice of pizza, half a dumpling, one gnocchi and half of a pretzel ball was not filling. So we decided to actually buy some lunch and share that, too. We went for the Grilled Korean BBQ Short Rib Kimchi Bowl, complete with multigrain rice, kimchi, pico de gallo, pickled daikon and cucumber kimchi, and boy, was I a happy camper afterwards. The short ribs were juicy and melted in my mouth. They were perfectly seasoned, with that unique Asian flavor. The classic kimchi was full of vinegar and spices, still with just enough crunch to remind you that its cabbage. I am a huge fan of Korean BBQ, and this meal definitely lived up to my standards.

After a day of spicy ethnic eats, Lizzy and I were looking for something to cool us down. I have been following Big Gay Ice Cream on Twitter for over a year now, after hearing about it on the Food Network. I had always wanted to try it but the truck is never near my office. Taking advantage it being Sunday, I convinced Lizzy to make the trek with me to Alphabet City to visit their storefront. The trip was well worth it. I can’t stop thinking about this soft serve. I got the American Globs- vanilla soft serve lined with pretzels and sea salt, all covered in a chocolate shell. The soft serve was so deliciously creamy without being too sweet. The pretzels and sea salt provided the perfect salt factor, especially combined with the chocolate. Biting into this massive cone was so satisfying. I am seriously dreaming to go back and get it. Lizzy got the Monday Sundae- a vanilla-chocolate twist lined with dulce de leche, Nutella and sea salt all in a waffle cone. The creamy dulce de leche worked so perfectly with the sea salt, and how can you go wrong with Nutella? This shop is literal heaven on earth (or wheels, if you go to the truck). I can’t decide if its a blessing or a curse that I’m leaving New York on Wednesday, because I would be genuinely scared for my health if I had year-round access to this ice cream.

Monday Sundae (left) & American Globs

So there you have it, folks. My final weekend in NYC wrapped up into one post about three incredible eats. Until next summer….

My Lucky Stomach, According to My iPhone

With great apps like Instagram and Foodspotting, and the iPhone 4S being named one of the best cameras for food photography, us food bloggers have no use for a digital camera anymore. Since I’m only in NYC for three short months, I’ve been trying to get to as many note-worthy restaurants as possible, and documenting everything that enters my stomach. Here are some of the many delicious meals and novelties I have gotten to experience and photograph so far, broken up into categories.

Ethnic Fare

(from top left, clockwise) Poached Artichoke Quesadilla with Idiazabal Cheese, Roasted Sweet Corn and Poblano Crema at Hell’s Kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen (great marketing strategy on their part), Japanese Barbeque at Gyu-Kaku in East Midtown (conveniently located in the same building as the EDWRR Office), the ever-famous Steamed Pork Buns at Momofuku Ssam Bar (followed by Cereal Milk ice cream, of course) and black bean and plantain croquetas at the modern Mexican tiny little basement of a restaurant, Mayahuel.

You Can’t Come to NYC Without Trying….

(from top left, clockwise) The entire variety of Baked by Melissa Cupcakes (my favorite being the PB & J), a grilled cheese from Little Muenster (I highly recommend the Taleggio, Fontina, Cremini & Shiitake Mushrooms if you like mushrooms as much as I do), a popsicle from La Newyrokina and pickles (among many other things) from Katz’s Deli (variety of sweet, sour and green tomatoes. The perfect snack on a hot summer day… besides popsicles of course!)

Sweet Indulgences

(from top left, clockwise) Pineapple punch- the perfect pregame. Nuff said. Soft serve at the Jersey shore, frozen yogurt from 16 Handles (or forty carrots, or pinkberry, or yogo, or red mango, you get the point), and the Gran Torrino at Eataly’s Cafe Lavazza- a cocktail of hot chocolate, a double shot of espresso, Borghetti liqueur, whipped cream and coffee beans.

And Finally, The Beautiful Views of NYC

(from top left, clockwise) the view from The W Residences at Ground Zero, a line for a matinee show on Broadway, pit masters doin’ their thang at the Big Apple BBQ, and Times Square at night. Oh New York, how I love you so.

Restaurants and Resources

Hell’s Kitchen

Gyu-Kaku

Momofuku Ssam Bar

Mayahuel

Baked by Melissa

Little Muenster

La Newyorkina

Katz’s Delicatessen

16 Handles

Eataly

Big Apple BBQ