NYC Restaurant Week

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It’s that time of year again, the twice annual Restaurant Week has arrived in New York City. While Restaurant Week in New York always offers an avenue to enjoy some of New York’s best restaurants affordably, I’m particularly partial to Summer Restaurant Week. During Summer, everyone wants to leave the house and is looking for places to grab drinks or dine out. So now is your chance, starting July 21st through August 15, to venture to one of the 300 restaurants in New York City participating in Summer Restaurant Week. What started as an actual week has expanded its time frame, giving you more opportunity to enjoy some of New York City’s finest dining establishments for a fraction of their normal cost. However not all summer restaurant week options are created equal, some are more limited, some offer only lunch, some have day or night of the week restrictions, so it’s important to be an informed diner. Here is a sampling of a few great New York City restaurants that offer some of the most extensive Summer Restaurant Week menus for both lunch and dinner and where you will truly get your bang for your buck.

A 3-course lunch menu is $25, and dinner is $38 (pre tax and tip).

David Burke Kitchen

23 Grand Street (Btwn 6th Ave. & Thompson St.)

In general, David Burke’s restaurants have been known for truly outstanding restaurant week menus. So while you can’t go wrong trying any of his restaurants during this time, David Burke Kitchen, stands out especially during Summer. The restaurant offers both lunch and dinner restaurant week menus. The following are popular on the regular menu, and included on the restaurant week menu! Lobster Dumplings with zucchini, white beans, tomatoes and roasted garlic to start, their incredible Short Rib with handmade wild cavatelli pasta with truffle mousse and David Burke’s famous cheesecake lollipops for two can all be had in this one meal at this special price. This is just one permutation of Summer Restaurant Week at David Burke Kitchen, while it may be prix fix, there are many options and something for everyone. Their Summer Restaurant Week Dinner menu is even more extensive. The Pretzel Crusted Crab Cake is a must try appetizer if you’re willing to splurge. Lastly, while David Burke Kitchen is a restaurant week fixture, it’s an especially great summer destination, since it offers outdoor seating in it’s Treehouse area, fun summer cocktails and a rooftop lounge, Jimmy, adjacent to it in the James Hotel for some after dinner drinks.

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Gotham Bar & Grill

12 East 12th Street (Btwn. 5th Ave. & University Pl.)

If you want fine dining that’s both light on the waistline and wallet, check out New York institution Gotham Bar & Grill during Summer Restaurant Week. They offer menus that consist of fresh, local and sustainable greenmarket vegetarian options. Expect great salads, like their Organic Kale and Quinoa Salad with local stone fruit, black currants, macrona almonds and pecorino parato and wonderful fish options. Have no fear though, they offer a fantastic Artisan Campanelle Pasta with chicken sausage, broccoli rabe, sungold chili flakes and oregano parmesan if you’re looking for a heartier course. However, be warned their Summer Restaurant Week dinner menu is a special greenmarket vegetarian tasting menu, all fresh, all seasonal, all incredible, just note its limited and not for those with a hankering for chicken or red meat.

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Le Cirque

151 East 58th Street (Btwn. 3rd & Lexington Ave.)

For any of you Real Housewives of New York City fans out there, you may be dying to visit Le Cirque, the infamous site of Aviva’s leg toss in last night’s season finale. Le Cirque has been a well known New York City landmark for the finest of french dining, now located in the gorgeous Bloomberg building. But for most of us, Le Cirque costs a pretty penny, reserved for only the most special of occasions. However, it does take part in Summer Restaurant Week for both lunch and dinner. Two-course meals for lunch and dinner at $28 and $38. What may seem like getting a little less for your money in comparison to other places, is truly a steal here. The Le Cirque Salad with black truffle infused balsamic vinaigrette and shaved vegetables is simple, classic and a must try. They really don’t skimp on options on their restaurant week menu’s. And this is an example of really what Restaurant Week is all about.

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Toloache

251 W. 50th Street (also located at 166 E. 82nd St. and 205 Thompson St.)

While Toloache may be moderately priced to begin with, it’s not cheap, and we are New Yorkers after all, so why pay more when you can pay less? Toloache has three locations in New York City, offering you more convenience and more opportunities to check it out. The food, the atmosphere, the drinks all contribute to the phenomenal dining experience at Toloache. Once inside you feel as if you found a hidden gem. And other than offering both 3-course lunch and dinner restaurant week menus, since this restaurant isn’t a bank breaker, you leave guilt-free if you choose to add something else off the restaurant week menu. Where else can you order seven chile rubbed skirt steak with brussel sprout-queso fresco salad as just one of three courses in a $35 dollar meal in New York City?

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The Ultimate Food Day in Portland, Oregon (Part 2)

If you missed it: The Ultimate Day in Portland, Oregon (Part 1)

Happy Hour:

Happy Hour in Portland is a sacred time when droves of tourists and residents get on to the patio to enjoy a nice cold beer. However, if you are only in Portland for one day, that means the full-scale microbrewery trip will have to wait. Instead, opt for Andy Ricker’s Whiskey Soda Lounge where you can get cocktails and his famous wings without the infamous Pok Pok wait. Even though the normal happy hour deal may not be in play, happy hour is the perfect time to fit in this Portland landmark. Elaborate Thai-inspired cocktails (the Mango Alexander is magical) not your thing? Step a few doors down and enjoy a draft beer, modern pub fare, free arcade games, and shuffleboard at Sunshine Tavern.

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Dinner:

Where to eat dinner is a hard one that, really, should be based entirely off of your mood. Do you want PizzaSouthernSandwichesSushi, or Mexican? Perhaps something award winning? Ox, the Argentinian Steakhouse that has Portland all a flutter, recently won numerous accolades (Bon Appetite, James Beard, Food and Wine…). The only bad news is that like most Portland restaurants, reservations are only accepted for parties of six or more. But it would not be a Portland food adventure without the wait. Ox may be meat heavy but vegetarian options grace the menu and after dinner you can brag about your time spent at Portland’s most beloved new restaurant.

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Dessert:

Just like the restaurants, Portland does not lack in the dessert arena. In the name of summer and a truly Portland experience there is no choice aside from Salt & Straw. The exciting thing about Salt & Straw is the ingenuity behind the flavors, never feeling locked into the “thirty-two” flavors of some ice cream shops, Salt & Straw has created stand-by flavors as wells as a seasonally influenced rotating menu that keeps Portland natives going back nightly to ensure never missing a scoop. In honor of the friendly Pacific North West spirit, you can try as many of the off-the-wall flavor combinations as you want allowing feeling both sated and confident in your final flavor choice.

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Late Night:

If you have not succumbed to a food comma but instead choose to walk off those extra meals (a jaunt around the Willamette river is highly suggested), there is a good chance you will find yourself at SE 12th and Hawthorne, just cross the Hawthorne Bridge. There you will find one of Portland’s oldest food cart pods, where Potato Champion serves up poutine, fries with rosemary truffle ketchup, or tarragon anchovy mayo until the wee hours of the night. If fries are not your jive sink your teeth into a late night crêpe or fried pie. Whatever you choose, get a small… we have big plans for tomorrow.

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The Ultimate Food Day in Portland, Oregon (Part 1)

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Summer passes by too fast, and summer vacations pass by even faster. Everyone can agree on that, wherever your trip takes you, the sun never sticks around long enough. So, when that special summer vacation takes you too a new city the excitement and trip planning should not overlook the most important part: the food.

My personal crippling fear of wasting a meal while on vacation might be slightly irrational but no one wants to walk away from a vacation with a disappointing meal under their belt. Lucky for you, this is what Taste Savant does best. Whether you’re driving up from L.A. in a car stocked with snacks or flying from New York for the weekend, we have compiled the ultimate introduction to the Portland food scene. Portland is a bustling food city, but that does not mean every corner restaurant is indicative of the Portland experience, leave town thoroughly satisfied after this food guide takes you through the neighborhoods and the restaurants Portland foodies are proud to call their own.

Coffee Stop:

Nothing can kickoff a vacation like a donut and piping hot coffee. Once upon a time it would have been a requirement to stop at Voodoo Donuts where novelty beats out taste and visitors are encouraged stab fluffy people shaped donuts with pretzels until the overly sweet jam oozes out. Now, Portland has matured and so have the donuts. Blue Star Donuts brings together the charming whimsy that is Portland with the sophistication the dining scene is beginning to embrace. Flavors range from special and unsuspecting to classic standbys. Blue Star caters to any and all donut lovers, from the crazy to the critical, ensuring each can find a treat to start their morning right. The secret behind the chewy, puffy dough: a brioche base, which as it turns out, is a bite of genius.

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Brunch:

Sure, you just had a donut… but you are in Portland: the land of the Portlandia brunch line that spans the length of the city. Good news is that more and more brunch restaurants are popping up meaning you don’t necessarily have to wait an hour for the Breakfast wrap at The Big Egg unless you absolutely want to (trust me, it is well worth the wait, just bring coffee and reading material). However, what I suggest is a unique brunch at Tasty n Sons. Portland brunch is often served daily and brunch at Tasty n Sons is no exception. Here brunch has been created for sharing, plates are served family style and come out in succession allowing for plenty of sampling and complete enjoyment of the leisurely late morning meal. Tasty n Sons also boasts an extensive and creative bloody mary menu. Traveling alone? Sit at the bar and get served small plates, good drinks and chat with the bar tender about their favorite Portland spots for your next visit.

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Lunch:

A food day in Portland would not be complete without a food cart, or two, or three. Food carts have become the symbol of Portland dining, but what about the longest running food cart in Portland? Honkin Huge Burritos, located in Pioneer Square, was honored in 2012 by the city of Portland with a city-wide Burrito Day for 20 years of serving burritos and the prestigious title as one of the original Portland food carts. Each burrito is hand made by Shelly, the carts owner, and come in three sizes: small, medium, and honkin huge. Feeling overwhelmed by the choices of hot sauces and fillings? Shelly will guide you through building the perfect burrito and eagerly talk up Portland in the process. While enjoying your taste of the city’s history look around, Honkin Huge Burritos is located in Portland’s ‘Living Room’ (read: Pioneer Square) where you can observe the locals in their natural environment, shop, or meander over to Powell’s City of Books, the largest independent bookstore in the world, where rooms have been color coded to help you not get lost.

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Julia Child’s Fresh Peach Tart

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How does a crisp, juicy, and oh-so-sweet peach sound on these warmer, stickier summer days? They’re at their peak, they’re calling you, whether it’s at the Union Square farmer’s market, or stacked high above your head at Fairway, their potent, pure, and unmistakable scent beckons you. With Julia Child’s help, these ripe summer fruits are going to wow your taste buds and any possible dinner guests in the form of her incredible fresh peach tart. The recipe comes with its own challenges, but the rewards of a delicious peach tart seem endless (until you’ve devoured the entire tart in one go, oops!). The key is patience with yourself and the recipe; pretend you’re watching one of Julia Child’s cooking shows, following her lead as she drops a couple slices of peach on the floor, chatters away about blending fat and flour for crust consistency, and all together warms your heart with her sunny smile.

peach tart

Fresh Peach Tart

(From Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

Ingredients:

An 8-inch partially cooked pastry shell on a baking sheet (see recipe below)

3 to 4 freestone peaches

Boiling water

⅔ cup granulated sugar

2 Tb butter cut into pea-sized dots

¼ cup slivered almonds

½ cup apricot glaze (see recipe below)

Preparation:

Drop the peaches in boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds. Peel, halve, and remove pits. Slice the fruit. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Sprinkle 3 Tb of sugar in the bottom of the pastry shell.  Arrange the sliced fruit over sugar in a closely overlapping layer of concentric circles. Dot with butter. Bake in middle level of preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until fruit has colored slightly and the juices have become syrupy. Slip the tart onto a rack. Spread on the apricot glaze.

Sweet Short Paste

Ingredients:

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour

A mixing bowl

1 Tb granulated sugar

⅛ tsp salt

5½ Tb fat: 4 Tb chilled butter and 1½  Tb chilled vegetable shortening

2½ to 3 Tb cold water

Preparation:

Place the flour, salt, sugar, butter, and vegetable shortening in a big mixing bowl. Rub the flour and fat together rapidly between the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into pieces the size of oatmeal flakes. Do not overdo this step as the fat will be blended more thoroughly later. Add the water and blend quickly with one hand, fingers held together and slightly cupped, as your rapidly gather the dough into a mass. Sprinkle up to 1 Tb more water by droplets over any unmassed remains and add them to the main body of the dough. Then press the dough firmly into a roughly shaped ball. It should just hold together and be pliable, but not be damp and sticky.

Place the dough on a lightly floured pastry board. With the heel of one hand, not the palm, rapidly press the pastry by two-spoonful bits down on the board and away from you in a firm, quick smear of about 6 inches.

With a spatula, gather the dough again into a mass; knead it briefly into a fairly smooth round ball. Sprinkle it lightly with flour and wrap it in waxed paper. Leave it for 2 hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

Due to the high butter content, you want to move quickly so the butter doesn’t melt and make the dough difficult to handle. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or marble surface. If the dough is hard, beat it with the rolling pin to soften it. Then knead it briefly into a fairly flat circle. It should be just malleable enough that it can be rolled out without cracking. Roll out the dough into a circle ⅛ inch thick and about 2 inches larger than your pie pan.

Butter the inside of the mold. Unroll your rolled-out dough over the pan and press lightly into the bottom of the cake pan. Trim off excess dough by rolling the pin over the top of the mold. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork at ½-inch intervals.

Line the pastry with buttered lightweight foil and press it well against the sides of the pastry, and fill it with dried beans. The weight of the beans will hold the pastry against the mold during the mold during the baking.

Bake at the middle level of a preheated 400-degree oven for 8 to 9 minutes until pastry is set. Remove mold or foil and beans. Prick bottom of pastry with a fork to keep it from rising. Return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes more. When shell is starting to color and just beginning to shrink from sides of mold, remove it from the oven.

Apricot Glaze

Ingreditents:

½ cup apricot preserves, forced through a sieve

2 Tb granulated sugar

A small saucepan

A wooden spatula or spoon

Preparation:

Stir strained apricot preserves with the sugar over moderately high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until thick enough to coat the spoon with a light film, and the last drops are stick as they fall from the spoon. Do not boil beyond this point or the glaze will become brittle when it cools.

 

Japanese Izakayas in New York City

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What you might not know is how perfect Japanese food goes with beer. Sake as well of course, and for some places, sake is the way to go, but when you’re chowing down on savory Japanese dishes, you are craving a beer, even if you don’t realize you are. This is where izakayas come in– these restaurants typically serve tapas-style dishes meant for sharing, and offer a variety of tasty beer and other alcoholic beverage options. In the city, there are a host of different kinds of izakayas, some a little more upscale, and some more laid back, but the atmosphere is generally quite lively. Here are a few that are definitely worth checking out:

Sakagura

211 East 43rd Street B1F

Fukuju Nite at Saka gura

Sneakily tucked under a midtown office building, Sakagura is without a doubt one of the most popular izakayas in the city. If you go, definitely try one of their hundreds of sakes (black dragon is a smooth and reasonably priced option), or if you’re adventurous/in need of something with more of a kick, the Japanese have particularly tasty whiskeys. The most flavor-packed dishes are the Buta Kakuni (a Sakagura specialty!), the Tori Tsukune, and lastly, the Black Sesame Creme Brulee.

Aburiya Kinnosuke

213 E 45th St

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Described by one of our TS users as a “gamechanger,” Aburiya brings Japanese dining up a notch with delicious dishes such as their fresh tofu and berkshire pork. The restaurant can get a little crowded, but it without a doubt adds to the lively scene you might be looking for after work.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya

187 Orchard St. (at Houston)

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There are three things to do to get the best out of you experience here: large group of people, small dishes to share, and the infamous fried chicken. Did I mention that Japanese beer is perfect with salty Japanese dishes?

Izakaya Ten

207 10th Ave (at 22nd st)

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Cozy and a dizzying amount of delicious drinks and food options, Izakaya Ten is a fantastic neighborhood dining spot to go for all kinds of occasions (make sure to make a reservation, it’s a small place!). The buta kimchee sticks out as a top seller with it’s addicting mix of sweet, salty, and spicy and one TS user just couldn’t get enough of the ambience which definitely takes you away from the bustling streets and into a cozy Japanese pub.

 

Bobby Flay’s Restaurant Gato

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GATO
324 Lafayette Street

Studying Spanish language growing up, I learned gato meant cat. Now that I’ve ventured to NOHO to explore Bobby Flay’s restaurant GATO, I’ve learned it also means good…very good. GATO is Chef Bobby Flay’s venture as the first restaurant in a 100 year old building, that’s thus far proven to not only be surviving but also thriving. Despite being open for some time now, reservations are still tough to procure. However, they also accept walk-ins and have a large bar area for you to grab one of their unique cocktails or drink of your choice while you wait for a table.

Before I even dined at GATO, the menu had me at Eleven Layer Potato with caramelized shallots and fried sage, as I’m a sucker for a good potato dish. However, despite looking up the menu prior to eating there, I found myself really needing a minute to decide what to eat, which is a true rarity for me, because truly everything sounded THAT appealing. How does one choose between dishes such as Mussel & Razor Clam Salad with saffron and pickled shallots, Garrotxa Quince, horseradish bread salad, Chorizo Crepinette with Apricota Mustarda and fennel or the Soft Shell Crab Crositini with tomato, basil and smoked paprika, just to name a very small sampling of the amazing dishes offered at GATO.

Conveniently located near New York University, a ton of bars, comedy shows and theatrical venues, GATO brings a breath of fresh Mediterranean air to an area that needed a restaurant like this. It’s a perfect destination to dine or pre or post show, night out on the town or if you want to make dining out your night’s activity. It’s atmosphere is casual, yet it’s crowd is bustling. So you can come in any attire and not feel or seem out of place. Given the diversity and plethora of the menu at GATO, I recommend going with a small group in order to try a bunch of different items without the burden of making drastic choices. Lastly, despite over ordering and trying almost all that I wanted, I will certainly be returning to order the other dishes my eyes wanted but stomach couldn’t fit. And what’s better than a restaurant you not only want to return to because you enjoyed the food, atmosphere and experience with also having the urge to try new dishes?

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Mouthwatering Grilling Recipes for July 4th

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Somewhere in the national anthem, Mr. Key was likely tempted to include the beauty of grilling and barbecuing as it’s about as engraved in this nation’s identity as the Presidents’ faces are into Mt. Rushmore. True story. No matter what you are grilling, the smokiness, tenderness, robust flavor, and heartiness of a grilled meal evoke happy memories and pure comfort, making this reason enough for the Fourth of July to be one of the greatest American holidays. The happy celebration revolves around family and friends, gorgeous fireworks, and a lot of grilling and July 4th-themed desserts. To help in planning this delicious event, here are a couple of simple but delicious grilling recipes:

Beer-Marinated Skirt Steak

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Ingredients:

1 orange, thinly sliced with peel

½ onion, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, halved and smashed

2 ¼ lb skirt steak

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 cup light-colored beer (preferably lager style)

½ cup soy sauce

Preparation:

In a wide, shallow glass baking dish, scatter half of the orange slices, half of the onion slices and half of the garlic pieces on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the steak all over with salt and pepper and put in the dish on top of the orange and onion slices. Scatter the remaining orange, onion and garlic over the steak and pour in the beer and soy sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator. Prepare a barbeque on medium-high heat or preheat a broiler. Remove the meat from the marinade and discard the marinade. Grill the steak to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Serve as desired.

Grilled Avocado

grilled-avocados

Ingredients:

6 firm Hass avocados

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus a few small sprigs for garnish

3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed with the side of a knife blade and quartered

3/4 cup olive oil

Preparation:

Preheat the grill. Quarter the avocados and remove the seed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and brush with grapeseed oil. Grill the avocado slices over indirect heat, leaving undisturbed for the first 2 to 4 minutes or so to let the seasonings integrate into the surface and to allow the caramelization process to begin. Then, flip the avocados, remove from grill and let rest. Through the feed opening of a running blender add, 1 at a time, the vinegar, salt, black pepper, mustard, parsley, and garlic. Leaving the blender running add the olive oil through the feed opening in a slow thin stream. Serve the grilled avocado with enough of the dressing to coat and garnish with fresh parsley sprigs.

Hoisin Salmon Kebab

grilled-salmon-kebabas

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless, skinless, wild salmon filet

3 Tb hoisin sauce

1 Tb soy sauce (preferably light sodium)

1 Tb rice wine

½ Tb honey

1 Tb olive oil

Scallion, cut into 1-inch pieces

Skewers (if wooden, soaked in water for 30 mins before grilling)

Preparation:

Marinate cubed wild salmon in hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, honey and olive oil. Marinate for 1 hour. Preheat a grill to high; Thread the salmon and scallion pieces onto skewers. (Reserve the marinade) Boil the reserved marinade in a small saucepan for 5 minutes. Grill the kebabs, turning, until the salmon is cooked through and the scallions are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drizzle marinade over skewers and serve.

Toasted Israeli Couscous Salad and Grilled Summer Vegetables

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 green zucchini, quartered lengthwise

2 yellow zucchini, quartered lengthwise

6 spears asparagus, trimmed

12 cherry tomatoes

1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded

1 yellow bell pepper, quartered and seeded

1/4 cup basil chiffonade (stack leaves, roll in a cigar shape and cut crosswise into thin strips)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound Israeli couscous

Vegetable stock, heated

Hot water, to cover

Preparation:

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and garlic, slowly add the olive oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour 1/2 the marinade over the vegetables and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Preheat the grill. Remove the vegetables from the marinade and grill the vegetables until just cooked through. Cut the zucchini and peppers into 1/2-inch pieces, cut the tomatoes in half. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the couscous and toast until lightly golden brown. Cover the couscous with the hot stock and hot water and bring to a boil, cook until al dente and drain well. Place in a large serving bowl, add the grilled vegetables and herbs and toss with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature.

Recipes courtesy of the Food Network, Bobby Flay, Robert Irvine, and Marcela Valladolid

 

Top Boozy Brunches in NYC

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You don’t need to outwardly admit you love brunch; not in this city, where it is a given. Everyone knows it’s not just the weekend we all look forward to during the week, but the bloody mary’s, eggs benedict, french toast, and sangria. Whether you have a penchant for bloody mary’s or sangria, here is a list that covers a wide variety. The best news of all? You don’t have to compromise on quality of food at these drunk brunches!

The Good Fork

391 Van Brunt St (btwn Coffey & Van Dyke St)

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You do not even need to think, we’ve done the work for you, “if you do anything at The Good Fork, order a bloody mary” (Caitlin from TS). Boom. It’s that easy. Well, first you have to make your way to Red Hook, but not only do they have killer bloody mary’s, they are also the perfect place for people who are a little more adventurous with their they sunday brunch. Try the homemade dumplings and Korean-style steak and eggs, two dishes that need to become brunch staples!

Calle Ocho

45 W 81st Street (btwn Columbus Ave & Central Park West)

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If you’re a sangria fan (who isn’t a sangria fan!?), you’re a Calle Ocho fan. You have a choice between EIGHT delectable sangrias and as one TS user raves, a bread basket overflowing with “scrumptious carbs.” All entrees include unlimited sangria for no additional cost, making this one of the most reasonably priced boozy brunches in the city. The Cachapa de Salmon is a fun spin-off of bagels and lox, but the real winners are the Calle Ocho Omelet and Maiz y Camarones.

Cafe Cortadito

210 E 3rd St (at Ave B)

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Get ready for one of my go-to boozy brunch specials: $21 for an entree and unlimited drinks, yay bottomless brunches! From the drinks to the main dishes, you’ll see refreshing renditions of brunch classics that will liven up your taste buds and add some spice to what might have been a regular ol’ meal. The Tortilla de platano con Ropa Vieja, two small sweet omelettes with flavorful, juicy shredded beef atop, is smack-lips delicious and when combined with a glass or three of sangria makes for one happy brunch.

ABC Kitchen

35 E 18th St

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Can anyone say anything bad about this place at all? After seeing all the rave reviews on TS, I decided to book a couple weeks in advance, take a girlfriend of mine, and check out the brunch scene. Between the basil lime daiquiri, grapefruit juice cocktail, french toast, and asparagus omelette, we were in heaven. This will not be a cheap, bottomless brunch, but this place is worth scrambling to find a date nearly a month in advance, paying per drink, and stuffing your face with french toast. Highly recommend!

Five Pure Joys of Charleston, South Carolina

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Greetings from the road! It’s summertime, so we’re gettin’ out of Los Angeles for a minute and checking out what else is happenin’ around the country. And man did we find some good stuff. This week we’re coming from the Southern colonial paradise that is Charleston, South Carolina! Where the streets are beautiful, the people even more so, and you can cut the humidity with a chainsaw. And there’s more!

World-class restaurants, jaw-dropping history, and some of the best hospitality you’ll ever come across. Seriously, the people here will make you actively choose to be a better person. But on top of all that, it is a happy, thriving, and downright fun place to be. I came to the quick conclusion that whether you are a local or simply visiting for the weekend (like myself), you are definitely celebrating SOMETHING. If I had nickel every time I saw a bride in a bar, I’d have at least $2. And cheers to that! Yet despite a city thats chalk full of tourists, never once did it feel crowded, fake, or at the very worst, over-done. In fact, Charleston felt the most real. The residents here care about their city and care about maintaining what makes it so uniquely Charleston. And what exactly makes it so uniquely Charleston? Well, go and find out for yourself! But in the meantime, here are a few things that resonated with me.

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Husk

76 Queen Street  Charleston, South Carolina

Believe the hype everybody. In a city dotted with James Beard Award winners and filled to the brim with restaurants any city in America would be proud to call their own, Husk still holds court. For those who don’t know about Husk, here is a quick tutorial: Opened in 2010 by James Beard Award winning Chef Sean Brock (nominated in 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014 and won in 2010) this low country eatery has skyrocketed to become one of the elite names in the restaurant world. In 2011, Bon Appetit magazine named it the “Best New Restaurant in America” and just this year, GQ named it as one of the “12 Most Outstanding Restaurants of the Year”. It’s sort of a thing. And top to bottom, Husk does not disappoint. Start at the Husk Bar, a freestanding building next to the main restaurant. An achievement all to its own, walking into this 1700′s cellar one might expect to see Alexander Hamilton sitting at the bar. Alas, he wasn’t there the night we went, but grab a tremendously made cocktail and head back over to main house to begin an experience of a lifetime. My best advice is this: Come with a full wallet and eat everything. The menu changes daily and believe in it. It’s elevated dining and apparent in every bite.

 

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DINNER ON THE BEACH

The Smoking Pot, thesmokingpot.net, Folly Beach

One thing that is not clear to everyone is that Charleston has beaches. Not man-made ones and not a place where water hits straight rock. ACTUAL BEACHES. Drive 15 minutes outside of downtown and you have your choice of eccentric, sun-drenched beach communities that seem lightyears away from the city center. Folly Beach is the most well-known of the bunch and caters to a slightly younger crowd (Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palm being the more family-friendly enclaves). After wetting our whistle at a local bar (Surf Bar, a MUST in Folly) and scarfing down too-delicious-for-its-own-good fish tacos, we headed to the beach to frolic in South Carolina’s bath of an ocean. Local water temps were legitimately in the 80′s. Take me now Jesus. But after soaking up some rays, we walked a bit more down the beach to possibly the highlight of the whole weekend. Local cooks Andrew Postlewaite and Andrew Krasny started The Smoking Pot as a way to provide a unique dining experience for groups looking for something different. The concept is simple: come to wherever you are (for us, the beach), provide everything from table and chairs to napkins and forks, and cook you an outstanding three-course lowcountry boil. Corn, shrimp, potatoes, sausage, cole slaw, key lime pie. Even their shrimp sauce was homemade. Andrew and Andrew are two of the nicest guys around, full of great tips on the area. Great food, great conversation, all on that soft Carolina sand. What else is there to say.

 

GinJoint

 

The Gin Joint

182 East Bay Street, Charleston

The humidity in Charleston is real. You take one step off the plane and you wish you had at least five less articles of clothing on. (I was wearing six). But the upside to all of that is a culture that figured out how to beat the heat. And it’s in the form of delicious, refreshingly STRONG cocktails. Think Mint Juleps, Old-Fashioneds, and every Brandy drink in between. While the craft beer scene in Charleston is thriving (the brewery tour is another definite must), make no doubt about it, this is a liquor town. And the first place every local will point you to is the Gin Joint. Tucked away on one the main arteries in downtown, this place will certainly not catch your eye from the outside. But walk inside and you are in Southern craft cocktail heaven. I started with the Casanova (Pisco, coconut, hibiscus, basil, and egg white) and it is pure Southern delight. Their Mint Julep is an obvious must-order but word to the wise, two of those guys and the “I love you man’s” are gonna start flying out and you WONT be able to stop them. This is a place for drinkers who know what they’re drinking and the perfect place to begin a Southerner’s night on the town.

 

Charleston

“No Bad Streets”

Confession: I’m not a museum guy. Of course, I’ve been to many incredible museums and seen some absolutely spectacular exhibits, but for me, the real goods is out there on the street. It’s crucially important to understand the history of a city, but to feel the energy and the actual “life” of a place, you need to take off the headphones, tear up the map, and just GO. And there might not be a better place than Charleston, SC to do just that. It’s a city who’s history is right in front of you. You don’t even need to pay admission! Yes, there are the beautiful shops on Historic King Street, the sleek restaurants of East Bay, and the rowdy bars on Market. Each amazing, and each worthy of night. But the real magic lies elsewhere. On the side streets, the alleyways, where beautifully preserved homes, gardens and parks offer a glimpse of the past still being enjoyed by residents of the present. There’s the South of Broad neighborhood with Battery Park and its exclusive colonial mansions, The French Quarter with Rainbow Row and the original city walls. Harleston Village, Ansonborough, Wagener Terrace. The list goes on and on. Hop in a horse-drawn carriage if you’d like or do it on foot, but Charleston is a city meant to be seen in the sun.

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Hominy Grill

207 Rutledge Avenue, Charleston

Isn’t it nice when you can start with a James Beard Award winner and end with a James Beard Award winner? Ah, Charleston. You just get me. On our last day, we snuck up to Hominy Grill, where down-home Southern cooking is served to the highest of standards. Where Husk is high-profile and splashy, Hominy is no-frills and unassuming. But don’t feel too bad for the place, its still been featured nationally on everything from Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” to “Best Things I Ever Ate” on The Food Network. Not to mention Chef Robert Stehling took home the James Beard in 2008. Make no doubt about it, Hominy is a Charleston institution. There’s no daytime reservations, so expect a wait, but hang out on their patio and order the best bloody mary in town from their drink window. (Drink window!). And once the food hits the table, you’ll never want to leave. Their signature dishes are the Shrimp n’ Grits and The Big Nasty, but everything down to their cornbread and collared greens is pure Southern perfection. The place is light and airy, and you get the sense most people there come several times a week. And why wouldn’t you? Hominy and Charleston itself is a place you return to again. The food, the culture, the beach, the history, the drinks, and the people. I know I’ll certainly be back.

The Best Ramen in NYC

Summer has started, and although it may sound odd, the perfect way to celebrate is with some sizzling, savory ramen. If I haven’t convinced you by merely bringing up this ultimate comfort food, let the idea simmer a bit as you read about the following chewy noodles and flavorful broths.

Totto Ramen

366 W 52nd Street (btwn 8th & 9th Ave)

totto-ramen

If you’re looking for flavor, you’re looking for Totto Ramen’s Spicy Ramen. Concocted in ginormous pots only a few feet away from the counter, this broth, when combined with a cold Sapporo, makes everything else in the world melt away. They are dead serious about it being spicy though, so if that’s not for you, then go for the equally umami-charged Miso Ramen. The ambience is cozy, authentic, unassuming, and energetic; it’s one of the first recommendations I make when friends come into town as it’s likely to be a completely new dining experience. One TS user sums it up nicely, “If you’re willing to wait for a superbly tasty bowl of ramen, and willing to forego the typical trappings of NYC eateries, this is a good place to go.” Beware of long (2+ hour waits) during prime times.

Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop

600 11th Avenue (at 45th Street)

ivan-ramen

Okay, so maybe ramen during the height of summer is asking a bit much of you… unless I’m telling you to go to Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop of course. The portions are a little more bearable, not too little, not too much, so you’ll leave perfectly satisfied and ready to go back into the summer heat. One TS users praises the Spicy Ramen’s noodles as “springy with just enough bite, and the soup [as] deliciously spicy and full bodied.” One word of caution is that the Shio Ramen is very, VERY salty! The best choice is the Spicy Ramen or the Shoyu.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

171 1st Ave (btwn 10th & 11th St)

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Maybe I should have been clearer at the beginning of this post, this list is not only of the best ramen noodles in this city, but of all the places you cannot go without trying if you’re visiting or a local. Much like Totto Ramen, there is a wait, and it is worth it, as some of our TS users heartily agree, “one of my favorite restaurants in the city. The only thing I don’t like is that everyone else knows about it to, so the wait can be crazy, but it is WELL worth it”; “There’s a reason a line starts by the door before the restaurant even opens.“ Pickers can’t be choosers, but try to snag some counter seats for a little visual and aroma stimulation as the chefs prepare piping hot ramen dishes and their infamous pork buns. The noodles compete heavily with the broth as both as near perfection. My personal favorite is the Momofuku Ramen, which is just pork galore, but the pork is always so tender and flavorful. Pure comfort food.

Ippudo

65 4th Ave (btwn E 9th & 10th St)

ippudo

If you follow the NY food scene at all, you knew this was going to make it’s way into this post. Good ramen comes to those who wait, and wait you shall! But, as one TS users puts it, the ramen at Ippudo is “Freaking. Delicious.” One of my favorite bowls is the Akamaru Modern which is perfectly silky and flavorful. Also, fun fact, people line up for the ramen AND the hirata pork buns; do not leave without having these buns, they melt in your mouth and I promise are too delicious to pass up.

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