Tag Archives: beer

Food Network NYC Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting 2012 Review

13 Oct

For the past 3 years, Mike and I have had a tradition of going to the Grand Tasting event at the Food Network Wine & Food Festival in NYC. I get Early Access passes as a treat for Mike’s birthday and it’s a tradition we very much look forward to each year.

Today, we went to the first day of the Grand Tasting (they do it all again tomorrow).  We went with our plan that worked well in the past, arrive early, collect the goodie bag, and make a beeline right to the back and then move forward. It leaves the back half of the (large) space nearly empty for us to peruse (and nibble) for about the first 30 minutes.  It works out well.  We went up the one side and noticed that at least 3/4 of the booths were various kinds of alcohols (mostly wines, but also liquor, sake, mixers, etc).  We decided to start our trip down the other side, figuring that must be where most of the food was.

Well… it wasn’t.

Same story: barely 1/4 food.  Most of the food there was the packaged goods found in ShopRite. While having this food is typical for this food festival (and kind of cool to see what new packaged goods are out there), this is usually complimented by many restaurants (including some famous ones in New York and Celebrity Chefs).  This time, there were hardly any restaurants. I’m not sure what happened, but it left us kind of disappointed! It’s the first time we left there not feeling like we got our money’s worth. I mean, don’t get me wrong, sampling all that wine was great, but we can do that (for a lot less money) at the Wine Show.  We go to this Grand Tasting specifically to try some of the best restaurants in the city.  These just weren’t there today.

And then we had another disappointment… most of the places ran out of food by 4pm. The event goes until 6, and while we saw many run out of food in the past, it wasn’t every single restaurant and it was more around 5/5:30.  Something just went downhill this year.

Total shame.

Here are the noms we had (any time I remembered, I took a picture of the sign and description of the dish, then that is followed by the dish.

 

Only one real stand out: the short ribs from Monkey Bar.  And while it was VERY good, we were hoping to have some bites that would make us say “Wow! We really need to try that restaurant!”

Not this year.

Bummer.

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Welcome to Pig Island

5 Oct

When I read about Pig Island, I knew it was meant to be.  A food event on an island in NYC (that I had never been to) dedicated to pork? I am IN!  And then Thrillist came out with a deal for all you can eat and drink for $45, including a special “Thrillist Only” line at the beer stands.  It was kismet.

I had heard some horror stories about food events on Governor’s Island (long waits for the ferry, long lines for the food, crowded space, etc.) but I was willing to risk it.  We showed up early and took the ferry that left at 11am (it opened at 11:30).  Turns out, the ferry is about 4 minutes long. And a beautiful view. And free.  Why have I not done this before?

I went with Mike and Lori (of StuffIAte) and we walked around a bit downtown (it was the day before the 9/11 10 year anniversary) before heading to the ferry.  We waited to get in until 11:30 and were let it on the Thrillist line before everyone else.

Turns out, the event was just about perfect.  It also helped that it was a beautiful day.  We ate and drank our way to absolute happy exhaustion.  I was insanely happy that we got there early because the food literally ran out by 2pm.  There were only a few places with long lines (and just my luck, the one long line we waited on assured me there were no peppers and then I wound up with blisters… lovely… but luckily it was at the very end of the day).  We had some great food and beer throughout the day, and it all blended together into a blissful day.  Here is the gallery of photos (WARNING: If you do not like to see food as it was originally, AKA a pig’s head on a stake, you may want to skip this gallery to the bottom to see some pictures of Governor’s Island).

 

I actually cannot believe that I had never been to Governor’s Island. It was beautiful and I want to go back, rent some bikes, and explore.  We happened to be there on September 10th, 2011, the day before the 10 year anniversary of the attack.  It was a solemn area to be in, but I couldn’t help but feel very happy to look back on my home and see how beautiful it looked that day.

And it just happened that there were amazing streams of light shining down on our perfect view of Lady Liberty as we left on the ferry.

And a beautiful old sailboat.

Can’t wait to go back!

Philly Noms- City Tavern

13 Apr

Mike’s second reservation was at City Tavern, a theme restaurant.  Typically, I would be skeptical about a restaurant themed around 18th Century America, but what is vacation if not a place to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do? 

The interior was more like a series of individual colonial rooms than what we think of as current restaurants.  I guess this was the style in the 1700s.  Quite cool.

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We decided to go with the beer tasting, which were all made from recipes from the Revolution. Cool!

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The Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce was my absolute fave.

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And it was served on a very nice paddle.  Good touch.

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The breads were all good, however, the biscuits were sweet potato and pecan (a supposedly favorite of Washington himself) and I had to ask for seconds.  They were so good.

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We started with the mallard duck sausages which combined pork and duck over sweet and sour cabbage.  These were some of the most flavorful sausages I have ever had.  Delish.

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Mike chose the colonial turkey pot pie for his entree.  The top was so perfectly fluffy and crispy.

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And the inside was creamy without being heavy and all the flavors were fantastic.  Impressive.

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I chose the Medallions of Venison with leeks, rosemary-bourbon mushroom sauce, herbed barley, and vegetable of the season (which wound up being various squashes). 

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The sauce on this was packed with flavor, the venison was perfectly gamey without being tough, and the barley and veggies were a great pair.  This was so hearty and homey.  I loved it.

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For dessert, they brought out a tray of goodies.  It was a tough choice…

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But we went with the raspberry linzer torte.  It was good… but not as buttery as it should have been and the raspberry was kind of bland.  Then the whipped cream on top was more like whipped butter… and it was AWFUL.  Shame to end such a good meal on such a dud note.

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But City Tavern had one last treat before we went.  Right outside the bathrooms and downstairs dining area was the harpist.  It was awesome.

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Overall, for a themed restaurant we were VERY impressed.  Even as compared to most restaurants, our meals were great.  Next time I might just skip the desserts.

Overall Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Nom Nom Nom… All the Way Home (Portsmouth, NH & Providence, RI)

23 Jul

On our roadtrip back from Maine, we made a lunch stop in Portsmouth, NH and then did an overnight in Providence, RI.  I have always loved Portsmouth, however, it started to rain heavily midway through lunch, so we didn’t have much time for sight seeing.  And then Providence, RI seemed like a good idea… about midway home, in RI, known for being a lovely town… but I just. didn’t. get it.

Back to Portsmouth… after our fantastic tour of Maine craft beers, we decided to continue our new found tradition and stopped in at the Portsmouth Brewery for lunch.  We, of course, ordered beer and mine was quite tasty.  If we hadn’t been driving, we would have totally gone for the paddle of beer that had something like 12 small flights to try their stash.  Bummer.  We did have some good grub, however (and that’s what you’re here for anyway… isn’t it?)

Mike ordered what I thought was a cheesesteak… but I can’t find it on the menu. Hmm.  I remember him liking it very much though!

I chose a special pork dish which had a peach chutney.  DELISH! I was quite impressed that a brewery did such a good job with this dish.

Overall, it’s a great place to have a beer and the food ain’t bad!

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 7

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As soon as we pulled into Providence, I knew we were in trouble.  I had mistakenly thought it was on a lovely part of water, however, it looked like mostly highways.  We asked the concierge at the hotel where to go for a night stroll, and he sent us up in some direction that made us feel quite scared… and we live in NYC!  It was just so seedy.  We wound up going to see a movie that night… in a mall movie theater.  Pathetic I know.

On the way back from the movie theater we decided to continue our brewery themed trip and tried out the Trinity Brewhouse.  

We sat outside and it was a nice night… but the food literally took SO LONG to come out (and the restaurant was pretty much empty when we arrived) that it actually cooled up and the wind picked up outside.  Uncomfortable at best.

Mike ordered the pizza… big mistake.  It was heavy and greasy and just hardly worth eating.

Then mine came out… ugh… even worse!  Do you see the REFLECTION off those sweet potato fries?  That’s how greasy they were.  And soggy.  Ew.  The sandwich was a corned beef reuben that sounded good… but was basically flavorless.  How do you screw up a reuben and fries?  GA-ROSS

This place was crap.  Seriously.  I’m usually quite nice in my reviews, but I just can’t be.  It was utter crap.

Total Nom Points: 2 out of 10

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The next day we decided to take a recommendation from a family friend who had lived in Providence for a while.  She is a chef, so I figured she couldn’t steer us wrong.  This was when we saw the college part of town (Thayer Street).  This was much lovelier an area than where we were the night before.  

The recommendation was for a pizza place called Antonio’s on Thayer.  I was told it would be the “best pizza I’d ever have in my ginger life.”  
I chose mushroom and hawaiian. 

Mike went with a white chicken pesto slice.

And a chicken cordon bleu.

So how does this compare in my ginger life?  It was good, but not THE BEST.  I did enjoy it, however, and compared to the other place we ate in Providence, this was TOPS!

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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This sadly ended Mike and my excursion in Maine.  In a strange twist of fate, however, I AM GOING BACK NEXT WEEK with the family!  YAAY! 

Nomming thru Maine: Portland Day 2

9 Jul

Our day 2 in Portland was planned to be our foodie day.  We booked at 2 restaurants that were well acclaimed across the food world.  Our first stop was for lunch at Five Fifty Five.

They obviously know their audience…


The first thing on the menu that struck my eye was their cinnamon bun.  I think there are few things so indulgent as a stick, cinnamony, fluffy cinnamon bun.  And since my Weight Watchers points were out the window… this was just perfect.

And it was SO. GOOD.

They also served delicious table breads that I believe were current biscuits and little muffins.  They were served with homemade butter. Nom Nom Nom.

Mike ordered the pork sandwich.  This was good but nothing to write home about.

My truffle eggs with a chive popover, however, were out of this world.  I never knew eggs could taste that good.  Usually truffle is just a mild essence, that is sometimes too earthy for even my tastes.  This one, however, was absolutely delightful.

And I do love me some steaming popovers!

I was pretty impressed with this place overall, though I’m not sure if it was a MUST STOP since Mike’s meal was just so-so.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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We had a bit of time to kill between lunch and dinner, so we booked ourselves a craft beer tour through the city courtesy of Maine Foodie Tours.  We started our tour at the Gritty McDuff’s Brewery.

They quickly took us behind the scenes to learn how beer is made.  I found the whole thing pretty awesome (though not quite as awesome as our tour of Mondavi where we learned SO much about how wine is made). It all starts with grain, and the toasting length determines the color and flavor (and the additives, like hops, really determine the flavor profile further).

We got to peer into the giant steel brewing vat to see what beer looks like during fermentation (maybe?)

Our next stop was at Sebago’s beer bar where we got to sample any 4 beers off the menu.  They had a nice display of grains toasted to different colors.

And I enjoyed my camera settings on this one.

Our final stop along the way was at a beer garden called Novare Res.  

The inside was quite cool and there were picnic tables for socializing outside.

They had quite the extensive draught list. I really liked how they put a flavor profile summary next to each one.

We got to sample two beers there.  One was Allagash White, which was good but one we’ve had in multiple places.  The second one was new and it blew my mind.  Marshall Wharf Deep Purple was described as “lager beer with peated malts. ‘smoke on the water.’” It tasted so smoky… almost like bacon… but in a VERY, VERY good way.

The beer tour was excellent and a lot of fun.  It really opened our eyes to how great craft beer is in Maine… we used this knowledge throughout the trip!

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Our last foodie destination scheduled for Portland was the one I was looking forward to the most.  Fore Street was the #1 restaurant that came up whenever I searched for or asked about where to eat in Portland, ME.  

Their kitchen area and ovens are pretty much in the middle of the space and fully exposed (which I love).  

They are big on the farm to table idea and their menu changes to reflect what is freshest at the time.

We were told that the wood oven roasted mussels were heavenly.  They certainly were!  The shells were so brittle that they just cracked away and they were easily the second best mussels I have ever had (after our epic mussel feast at Landmarc in NYC). 

The roast cauliflower was perfect cooked as a side.

Mike chose the two cuts of Maine Island Lamb (smoked shoulder and turnspit roasted leg) with roasted yukon potatoes.  Mmmm Mmmm this was GREAT!

I chose the pork chop with spice cherry and rhubarb sauce and pickled rhubarb.  I seriously nearly licked this plate clean.

We were epically stuffed, but not too stuffed for dessert!  I believe Mike went with the chocolate peanut butter torte.

And I chose the chocolate cake.  I couldn’t believe how good it was.

The best dessert I have ever had that I just couldn’t finish no matter how hard I tried!

I was actually so stuffed from this meal that I was nearly sick. My body just wasn’t used to eating like that after these last few weeks of dieting and 15 pounds less to stuff the food into!

The meal was sensational, however.

Total Nom points: 8.5 out of 10


Mussels and Beer at Landmarc… For Free!

30 Dec

I know a lot of people say they don’t win anything… but I mean it.  Until this year.  I’ve been lucky in little drawings, winning dinners from FoodBuzz, and then with signing up for Circle of Taste with The Time Warner Center.  The first thing I won (yes… even more than one!) was a Mussel and Beer tasting at Landmarc.  The discription was completely vague so we had no idea what we were in for. 

Our tasting was to begin promptly at 9 and we were sat at a very low table with other winners.  The menu looked good. We could choose two mussel preparations and two beers from their list.

We could choose from light or dark beer from St. Bernadus.  I chose light, Mike chose dark.  Mine was good…

But Mike’s was GREAT.  Full, wonderful flavor. One of the best beers I’ve ever had.

We assumed we’d get a bite or two of each mussel preparation, however, they gave us HUGE tereens.  Each were a meal in itself but we got two.  And they were heavenly…

And they came with (delicious) frites!




And then… DESSERT!

This meal was SO good even if we paid for it.  Next time I know of someone that loves mussles, this is where I’m taking them.  We also got phenomenol service throughout and I was very impressed.  Their bar is very nice too.  If you need somewhere to bring a date… I think this place would be a total winner.

Culinary Walking Tour of Greenwich Village

20 Mar

For our 6 month anniversary, I gave Mike a gift certificate for us to take a Culinary Walking Tour of Greenwich Village.  Over 9 months later, we finally scheduled a date to go. 

Last Sunday we began our culinary adventure by meeting at Murray’s Cheese Shop on Bleecker Street.  I was excited to start this adventure with cheese, however, that had to wait for later in the day. 

Our guide was a perky wannabe Broadway star with terrible hair and a cute smile.  She talked a bit about the neighborhood, buildings, and history and then we went walking.

Our first tasting was at Famous Joe’s Pizza.  Our guide described it as being back to basics with fresh tomatoes, cheese, and crispy crust.  It was good, but not great.  As she said, very basic.


Our next stop was O & Co, a Meditteranean Food Merchant specializing in gourmet olive oils and balsmic vinegars.  One taste and I knew I had to come back to buy (the 20% discount for people on the Walking Tour that day was also incentive).  The balsamic tasted like candy! 




We talked a lot about the character of the area, the history, and the buildings.  This carriage house is not only huge, but happens to also be where they housed the cast of “The Next Food Network Star” for a season:

One of my favorite stops along the way was Palma.  It’s a more classic version of Meditteranean food that is more Italian/French.  The restaurant itself was charming with a nice patio out back, and I cannot wait to go back to try the fried artichokes that looked and smelled delicious as we passed through.  We were told they had great sangria, but when we stopped in after our tour, we were informed that they didn’t have it at the time.  Shame.  The coolest part about the restaurant, however, is that there is an urban farm house behind it where they host private parties.  We got to peak inside and I couldn’t help but dream of a day when I could set up a party for my friends in a place like that.  It’s not something you find everyday in NYC!



Our next stop was Faicco’s Italian Specialites (formerly Faicco’s Pork Shop… but I guess “pork shop” has less mass appeal).  We tried the risotto balls which were delicious (though not quite as good as the ones from CraftBar).  The place itself had beautiful cases of meat and prepared foods. 



We then walked down the street to Aphrodisia Herb Shoppe, which I think they said has been around since the 60s.  We were greated with the smell of spices and a cat who everyone took a moment to pet… before reading the sign on the other side of the store informing us that petting the cat was not advised.  While there, we tried some tea and I noticed that they had some special “sore throat” tea recipes.  As a fan of the mass market Throat Coat Tea from Traditional Medicinals, I regretted not buying some of this special tea while we were there.


We passed by one of my favorite NYC bars, The Blind Tiger.  We stopped in there afterwards for a drink as well, however, much to our dismay there was a private party going on and it was too packed.

The next tasting was around the middle point in the tour and allowed us 10 minutes to sit down and use the rest rooms.  We went to a modern Italian wine bar called Centro Vinoteca.  This happens to be the restaurant where Leah Cohen (of Top Chef Season 5 fame… the one who made out with Hosea) is chef.  They serve small plates called “piccolini” and quartinos of wine.  I’m not sure what the dish we sampled was called, however, it was a whole grain with squash, mushrooms, and some other delicious things prepared risotto style.  I really enjoyed it.  The menu also looked fantastic (and I want to go back to try the braised veal cheeks with cauliflower puree & artichokes) and this is where we wound up settling on for our post-tour drink.  I saw that they had a honey chestnut gelato on the menu that I just had to try.  It came with dark chocolate and creme de fresh gelato as well and we thoroughly enjoyed it while drinking my wine and Mike had a St. Germaine cocktail.  I enjoyed it so thoroughly, that I forgot to photograph it.


We passed by a really adorable court yard called “Grove Court” while walking around.  It used to be called “Mixed Ale Alley,” however, they changed it during prohibition.  Interestingly, it used to be a sign of wealth to live close to the street, so these beautiful houses pushed back off the road with these court yards were actually where the poor used to live.  I can only imagine how pricey these are now!

Our next stop and tasting was a place I have been wanting to go for a while: Milk & Cookies Bakery.  They specialize in the basics, but you can also select from a list of ingredients and custom create a recipe that they will bake for you (great for people without big kitchens or baking skills).  We tasted a chocolate chip, oats cookie that was still warm from the oven.  It was absolutely delicious.



At this point in the tour, we finally got to return to our original meeting spot: Murray’s Cheese.  We had a sampler of 3 cheeses, a cheese baked good that was delicious, and a hard salami.  All were delicious, and I was thrilled to see they offer a cheese class AND a cheese of the month club.  Their mac and cheese also looked amazing.


Our last stop was Rocco’s, a pastry shop specializing in Italian.  We tasted DELICIOUS canollis and then bought a humantashin to carry on our Purim tradition.  We enjoyed eating the humantashin on our way to the subway. 





All-in-all, an absolutely delicious and fun day!