Tag Archives: wine

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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A Restaurant is Born: “True Food”

18 Mar

If you haven’t caught up on the first parts of this story, I am chronicling the opening of the restaurant, The Keys, by Chef Bill Seleno. You can start at this introduction post, then read about the concept and the menu. In the last few weeks, Chef Bill took an adventure out to California to learn more about food sustainability, real farm-to-table cooking, and brewing beer.

Bill believes that clean food is very important and that no place lives this ideal more than California.  He calls the concept “True Food” and it’s all about being honest and transparent about where food comes from.  He is looking to bring this into every facet of The Keys.

And come on… if you’re going to do some R&D for a restaurant, there are few better places to do it than Southern California:

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Chef Bill was kind enough to send me his pictures from his trip. So all images included in this post are courtesy of Chef Bill.  (I especially love his picture of sandpipers above… I love birds almost as much as I love food.)

Bill took the nomadic approach and hiked his way through the (beautiful) area.

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He stopped by the Malibu Family Vineyards where he met up with owners/sommeliers, Tammy and Ron Semmler.

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In his own words, Bill tells me about his adventure:

“After hiking miles from Pacific Coast Highway to Mulhalland Highway through brushfires, police blockades and closed highways I made it to Malibu Wines.

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They are nestled on five acres in the Saddle Rock-Malibu AVA [American Viticultural Area] about 6 miles from the Pacific Coast Highway on what used to be an avocado plantation. The Semmler’s have owned the property since 1978 and converted it from an avocado farm to a vineyard after a severe freeze wiped out the plantation. After doing some research they found that the soil was perfect for wine production. The high altitude with separation from the coast, perfect Cali weather, and rocky soil allow them to produce wines very reminiscent of the Rhone Valley.

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So, the Semmler’s are growing in Malibu and production takes place in San Luis Obisbo. Currently they have applied to begin production there at the vineyard making them one of only 3 other vineyards in the area to be doing so (Aquadulce and San Antonio are the others). 2000 brought on their first vintage. They currently are producing two labels, Saddle Rock and Semmler. Six labels under the Semmler line and six under the Saddle Rock. The Saddle Rock line includes a Rose and a Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine.

Of the two I tasted, four were from the Saddle Rock line and here is what I got…

2009 Saddle Rock Pinot Noir: Tea Leaves and Strawberries on the nose, sweet not overly ripened red cherry and spice on the tongue adding a fresh bit of tartness on the pallet. It is aged six months in french oak and finishes with a hint of vanilla and earthiness. Light by Pinot standards with but a nice back of the tongue fullness.

2010 Saddle Rock Merlot: My favorite of the line. It holds a dark ruby red color with an assertive fruit nose of Blackberry and Plum. It’s medium body was accented with ripe Raspberry and Tahitian Vanilla leads into a smooth and supple finish with touches of tobacco, wet rock and caramel.

2009 Saddle Rock Syrah: This is their inaugural vintage of Syrah. Deep purple color with a nose of Blackberry, Blueberry, and a hint of Vanilla. It’s a medium to full bodied wine with dried Cherries being most predominant. the finish had some light tanins with what is best described as Chocolate covered Espresso beans and a hint of Star Anise.

2009 Saddle Rock Petite Sirah: This one had the same deep purple color with Blackberry and and Violet on the nose. It was jammy on the palate with smooth tanins that left notes of Blueberry, Black Licorice, and Plum on the palate. Balancing it all out were the accents of moss and a touch of the attic.

Overall a smooth selection of young fruity wines that were well balanced. There are now over 70 privately owned vineyards in the region and growing as more land becomes available. The one thing that stood out was their devotion to the preservation of the area. They limit growing area to individual producers ensuring that the region is not decimated.”

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As Bill hiked back down from the vineyard (which, apparently, is something that most people do NOT do according to the cops that drove up to him to inquire what the heck he was doing), he stopped by a farm he had passed earlier in the day, which was advertising balsamic lemonade. He determined that he had to try this and found himself at Vital Zuman Sustainable Farm. It is a Certified Naturally Grown Farm owned by Alan Cunningham. It sits on 6 acres of land that his family has owned since the 50’s. He produces over 21 types of fruit and a full array of winter and summer vegetables. In addition to the fruit and vegetables that he grows, he also produces his own raw honey by the beehives he keeps there. He pickles his own vegetables as well.

Chef Bill found his way to Santa Monica which he found very touristy, other than a dive bar called Gas Lite Karaoke Bar where he found out that Jim Morrison is actually still alive according to a haggard regular (there’s hope Doors fans!)  After this adventure with the locals, he discovered the real attraction in Santa Monica: The Farmers’ Market.  The market operates on Saturdays from 8am until 1pm and is located on Main Street. There are over 102 restaurants in the area that shop and support the farmers markets regularly for their produce.

I personally visited this Farmer’s Market a number of years ago and still remember how impressed I was with it.  Gorgeous produce and flowers… strawberries have never smelled that good since.

With a focus on the 1920’s as the theme of the restaurant, tying into “True Foods” is a no-brainer.  In the 1920s, everything was local and sustainable by default. It was before chemicals and hormones became part of food production (now… manufacturing). When all farms were “free range” because no one had determined it was more cost effective to put chickens in tiny pens and pump them full of chemicals to make their breasts so large that they can’t even walk.  The products came right to your door, every day, from a local farm. Honest farm-to-table food.

Bill wants to focus on this real, true type of farm-to-table. Any Farmer’s Market can call their food “right from the farm” but just because it’s a farm, it does not mean it is necessarily organic, sustainable, or chemical/hormone free. Many Farmer’s Markets we see in NY have food that is more marketing than it is the “local” good food they want to say it is.  Sure their hogs may be free range, but is their feed chemical free? (To learn more about this, check out this link  and this link  posted by Chef Bill on The Keys Facebook page.)  At the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, they are very particular about being completely transparent about growing practices, including chemicals and sustainability.

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In his own words, here is how Bill described it:

“While I was there I ran into a couple farmers that I had called prior to my leaving and a couple more stands that stood out. Lindner Bison being one of them where I met with Kathy Lindner. They sell in five of the local markets. I recently found out that there is a Bison farm in Long Island. I think this is the cut I will be using for the slider. Lindner is 100% grassfed, sustainable, no hormones, no chemicals, no feedlots or mobile feeding tubs, and no pesticides. Bison meat as a whole has less cholesterol, calories, and fat. Yet, at the same time has more Omega 3’s and more protein, nearly twice that of Beef. In addition to that there is less shrinkage in cooking. This will allow me to keep the cost down as I will be cutting it with Marrow… On a funny note, while we were speaking a woman shopping for some top-round told me that her Bison converted her vegan husband. A lot of info can be found at www.eatwild.com on the practices of grassfed foods.”

Bill wants to bring this “True Food” mentality to The Keys.  His goal is to have a website that breaks down his ingredients, their source, and facilitates conversations with their producers.  He wants to put together a co-op style partnership between small, local farms and restaurants.  For example, he would organize a truck to stop by multiple farms and then sync that up with multiple restaurants to buy their ingredients.

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It will take a lot of homework and organization, but that is part of what he is working on now.  By the time the restaurant opens, he wants to have established this network.

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After exploring the LA area, Bill made his way to San Diego where he became fully immersed in the culture of Craft Brewing. He was enthralled that there is a group of craft beer enthusiasts who will send out a mass text message to insiders who are “in the know” to come to a certain bar at a certain time to enjoy the one remaining keg of a very specific beer.  It is like a flash mob where they all come, enjoy the beer, and then disperse.  They “live, drink, breathe” craft beer and it is part of their culture.  It is a movement and a way of life for this group in San Diego.  According to Bill, comparatively the craft beer movement in NY is years behind.  He was especially excited about his meeting with Pizza Port, an award winning craft brewery.  Bill plans set up his own small microbrewery at the restaurant so that he can brew his own batches with the help of some of the people he met.

I am excited to see all these ideas come together, and especially excited to be along for the ride on this great project.

Long Island Wineries

3 Jan

Lori, from StuffIAte, has been telling me about the virtues of the wineries in Long Island for years.  I was skeptical.

Could decent wine come out of Long Island?  I don’t know what I was picturing, but it sure wasn’t this…

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Our first stop was Lori and her Awesome Boyfriend’s favorite, Clovis Point.  We actually had a Groupon for a tasting and then glass of your choice with a cheese plate.  It was just about to expire (whoops!), so we decided to head out the week after Thanksgiving. (YAY for off season!)

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We tried the full menu and I was really impressed.  I enjoyed all the wines on the list.

I actually really got into Chardonnay (and Pinot Noir) when Mike and I were in Napa. I didn’t think I was a Chardonnay person, but turns out you can make a damn good Chardonnay if you know what you’re doing.  We all wound up taking some bottles of Chardonnay home, but I especially enjoyed the barrel fermented one.

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And so I drank it (and took home a bottle… or two)

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The cheese plate was a good little snack in the middle of the afternoon with the wine. And there is a lovely tented area outside nearer to the vineyard (Lori told us it’s open during the nicer weather).

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Cheers!

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I usually don’t post photos of people on the blog, but I think this picture of Lori and her ABF is just too cute not to post.

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The day was young, so we decided to head to another winery.  As it turns out, most of the wineries are within a few minute drive of each other.  It actually really reminded me of a little Napa.  It was quaint and homey and come on… vineyards!

Our second winery was Pindar.

There was a lovely windmill outside and the sun was just setting.

(Photo courtesy of Mike)

While the vineyard seemed lovely, I was not impressed by the tasters who didn’t care to explain anything and seemed to want to be left alone as much as possible.  I didn’t really LOVE the wine there and I wound up taking NO pictures. Whoops!

Our last stop of the night was at Duck Walk vineyard.  This is probably the best known LI winery, however, we went to the one on the North Fork, which was supposed to be “smaller.”  I can’t image what the “bigger” one looks like because this was was bea-u-ti-ful.

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The inside of the tasting room had these awesome chandeliers

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And really put us in the holiday spirit.

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And a lovely aquarium.

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The staff at this tasting were splendid, adding a lot of color to the tasting and just being all around nice people.  The cute guy serving us was talking about how he just can’t find a “nice girl,” so that’s your cue single female readers. Head out to Duck Walk in the North Fork to find your wine loving mate.

We wound up falling in love with their dessert wines.  It was all good, but there was something special about their late harvest Gewurztraminer called Aphrodite.  We also really enjoyed (and also took home) their Blueberry Port.

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Our trip out to Long Island was an eye opener. It was so beautiful and so lovely, I can’t believe we didn’t do it before.  We also had a lovely dinner at Love Lane Kitchen (post to come) that just made me fall in love with the area even more.  I can’t wait to go back.

Thanks Lori!

Check out Lori’s post about Clovis Point Winery and her photos of Briermere Farms, where we really enjoyed but I forgot to take pictures.

GUEST BLOG: Rosé Season

24 Jun

It seems Rosé Season is upon us.  I have been hearing that a lot this year, and sure enough, each time I go out to a restaurant these last few weeks, I see a lot of pink in people’s wine glasses.  I have to say I am quite a rosé novice, so I was thrilled when Jonas, of Excellent Everyday Wines, decided to make rosé the theme of his next guest post.

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My favorite summer wines hands down are rosés. So lonely and so misunderstood are these delicious and diverse wines. People see pink and they say, “oh I don’t like sweet wines”,  because they are undoubtedly thinking of that entry level sweet stuff called white zinfandel. No…these are different. Sometimes delicate, sometimes bold and fruity, but always dry and refreshing (serve chilled). They are very diverse in their uses and go with whatever you want to throw on the grill – from the burgers to the ribs to the chicken to the shrimp to the salmon to the tuna. I’ve even had them with sushi, and when I have a summer party and I want to serve one wine, I go with a rosé. They’re like reds you drink cold. Recently, we tried three different examples from three different countries.

First on the list was a 2010 Pierrevert rosé (pronounced PAIRvair) from Domaine La Blaque. Pierrevert is a tiny French appelation in the foothills of the Provencal alps. This was our favorite of the trio. It’s color is a very light copper pink but it’s aromas are bold with strawberries, flowers and spices. In the mouth it is much bigger than the color would lead you to believe with bright red berry flavors, bright acidity and a smooth, creamy finish. The Pierrevert is a blend of 40% cinsault, 40% grenache, 10% syrah and 10% vermentino – a white grape common to Italy that clearly contributes to the aromatics. It retails for $10.99 or so.

Next up was the 2010 Olivares rosé from the Jumilla DO of Spain. A blend comprised of 70% monastrell and 30% syrah from pre-Phylloxera ungrafted vines (see the pic below) grown at an altitude of 800 meters, the Olivares is a sure crowd pleaser.

Much darker in color than the Domaine La Blaque, it reveals big bold aromas of strawberry, watermelon and a subtle floral note. It’s berry flavors are also large and mouth-filling and it finishes with a note of honey. While perhaps not as complex as the Pierrevert, it is a touch bigger and just as satisfying. It retails for approximately $9.99.

Last and sadly not as good was an Italian 2009 “Vin Ruspo” Carmignano rosé from Fattoria Ambra. Carmignano is a Tuscan DOCG where the wines are made mostly from sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and canaiolo permitted in the blend. I decided to include a 2009 because there are still some sitting on retailers shelves and I wanted to see how this one was holding up. I’ve had this wine many times in the past and it was always lovely with similar aromas and flavors as the Domaine La Blaque and the Olivares. Rosés can be somewhat fragile and the Ambra, while showing reduced red berry aromas and flavors, is clearly fading. It’s not really bad yet, just somewhat dull. Most 09’s that are on the shelf, especially the French ones, should still be good as they usually have the acidity necessary to keep them stable. It was after all a great vintage. And I certainly would try the 2010 vintage of the Fattoria Ambra. It retails for around $9.99. The Domaine La Blaque Pierrevert is imported by The MaximumWine Co., the Olvares is imported by The Rare Wine Co. and the Fattoria Ambra is imported by Michael Skurnick – three small and very high quality importers. Seek out their wines. Cheers.

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For my Guest Blog of the month, head on over to Excellent Everyday Wines to check out my post about my love affair with The High Line.

Drunk ‘N Nutty Pie

2 Feb

Sometimes, inspiration comes from strange places.  After making a pork chop recipe in the slow cooker with wine, apples, and chestnuts, Mike and I realized that the toppings were SENSATIONAL and would probably make for a lovely pie.  How could you go wrong with slow cooked apples and chestnuts in wine?  And so… Drunk ‘N Nutty Pie was dreamed up.  (Name is still in the works… feel free to comment with suggestions).

First up… peeling the apples.  I just got this handy dandy new contraption (which obviously doubles as a torture device) from The Pampered Chef that peels, cores, and slices apples!  I would say it works as intended about 50% of the time…

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Delivering a perfect core.

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A (mostly) peeled and perfectly sliced apple rings.

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Which can then be cut in half to make perfectly sliced pie filling.

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Uniform thin size! How novel!

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The other 50% of the time… rough.  So I wound up slicing it (and leaving SOME peel on).

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Then the apples get thrown into the slow cooker with the wine and chestnuts.  For the pie, I added cranberries, brown and white sugars, and cinnamon.

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Put it on low for about 4 hours and v’oila! Slow cooked apples, cranberries, and chestnuts in wine.

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During the last 30 minutes of slow cooking time, I started on the crust.  First you take softened butter and cut it up into the bottom of a pie plate.  Then you pile flour, sugar, red wine vinegar, and milk on top.

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Try to combine it with a knife… give up and use your hands.

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Then push it into the bottom of the plate so it’s nice and even on the bottom and sides.  Poke it with a fork to prevent catastrophe.

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And then put them in the oven to cook until they are just barely brown and hardened.

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If you don’t have a Pie Shield, I highly recommend them.  Sure you can use tinfoil to make sure the edges of the pie don’t get too brown, but why burn yourself construction a crazy tinfoil sculture when you can lay this cheap puppy on top and keep it all evenly cooked?

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I even made some mini versions to see how individualized portions would turn out.  (You know I love my silicone cupcake cups!)

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While the pie is baking up, you can make the crumble top.  I put a bit extra lemon in mine to counteract the sweetness of the crust.

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Once all the pieces are ready, you scoop out the delicious slow cooked chunks and put them into the pie. (HINT:  Save the wine left over and it is DELICIOUS as hot mulled wine)

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Pack the filling up to the brim.

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Take a moment to revel in how delicious it looks.

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Try not to shove your face into the whole plate and eat it up.

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Ok… maybe you can steal one chestnut from the top of the mini pie.  I won’t tell.
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Then start the crumbling.

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Until only a little bit of fruity goodness is peaking through.

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Sometimes I add even less… as I can now see through my alternate pie compared to the one above.

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And don’t forget about the minis.

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Sometimes you can even cover the entire thing in crumbs.  No judgments here!  But you will have to bake it until the crumbs start to turn golden on top.

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And then slice it up and try not to eat the whole thing while your guests look on in jealousy.

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Okay fine… eat the whole mini pie.

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It’s just so damn cute and delicious afterall!

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This was a HUGE crowd pleaser.  Really unique flavors and the sweet, buttery crust combined so well with the tart wine and cranberries and the slight sour in the crumble.  I think I will make this again and again and again and again and again…

NYCNomNom goes to Disney World

12 Apr

I spent 5 days and 4 nights nomming my way around Disney World. We spent 3 days in the parks themselves, and the most enjoyable nomming experience, by far, was eating and drinking our way “around the world” in Epcot. Overall, however, we had great dining experiences just about everywhere we went.

Even on Friday, when we took a side trip to Outback Steakhouse, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. I can’t help but love that place, even if it is a national chain. The sweet potato is always a highlight of any Outback meal.

Earlier in the day, we landed and went to Downtown Disney, where we decided to stick to our foodie-ish enjoyments and went to Wolfgang Puck Express. We had two of the pockets and the parmesan chips were definitely the best part of the meal.

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That night we barely caught the fireworks at Magic Kingdom from outside the gate, and then took a walk to the Contemporary Hotel for a drink, dessert, and to take in the view of the entire park all lit up. Our waitress didn’t want to be bothered, and the dessert looked a whole lot better than it tasted, but the drinks hit the spot.

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On Saturday, we went to Epcot for the entire day. Spending 13 hours in the park made for a great day. For lunch, we went to England and had some fish and chips while sitting on a bench overlooking the water. We then completed the front part of Epcot and began our tour around the world. We enjoyed some child acrobats in China before picking up some Margaritas in Mexico. They were good, but not nearly as good as the beer in Germany. Unfortunately, it was just called “German Beer,” so we may never know what exactly it was. We enjoyed a few other entertaining countries and had a tough time deciding where to go for dinner. The Japanese restaurants smelled amazing, but living in NYC gives us a lot of exposure to Japanese, so we decided to go with the Restaurant Marrakash, especially due to the live music and belly dancing. We were absolutely not dissapointed. We both went with the Taste of Morocco: Royal Feast which featured Harira Soup, Beef Brewat Rolls, Roast Lamb Meshoui, Lemon Chicken, Couscous with seven veggies and assorted Moroccan pastries. Every single morsel on the plate was rich in flavor and tasted unique. You could tell someone put a lot of effort into the recipes and preparation. And it was certainly not wasted on us! I ate so much that I felt sick, but it was absolutely worth it. We also had a great bottle of Moroccan wine called Amazigh.

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On Sunday, we spent the day in the Magic Kingdom. We left at lunch to go to the Polynesian Hotel for The Kona Cafe. Some people at the table had the sticky wings, which we heard were great (but I avoided due to the peppers). I had the Beef Teriyaki Bowl which was VERY good. Overall I think everyone really enjoyed their meal. We were still pretty full for dinner time, so instead of a real meal, we went with a good dessert as the park was closing. Mike had a cherry cheesecake and I went with the cinnamon buns that smells amazing (a la mode).

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The next day we went to Animal Kingdom in the morning. We had lunch at Flame Tree BBQ, which came highly recommended. It was easy to see why! While the prices were a little high, there was a LOT of food. We had the BBQ Ribs and a pulled pork sandwich. It was REALLY tasty. You can also eat on the water with some friendly ducks, which added to the ambience.

That evening, we went to Hollywood Studios and managed to snag last minute reservations to one of the places I remembered loving when I first went to Disney World (about 13 years ago). The Primetime Cafe is a restaurant set up to look like a family kitchen in the 1950s. Even the waitresses call themselves “mom” or “aunt” and yell at you to keep your elbows off the table. We had great (glowing) drinks and then sat down for some good old fashion food: Steak and potatoes/spinah au gratic as well as (my favorite) meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans. While I enjoyed it very much, I had some green beans left on my plate when we were ordering dessert (which you decide on by using a Viewmaster). Turns out, my waitress/mom didn’t like that I didn’t finish my beans, so she fed them to me. It was quite a laugh. I also got the dessert I remember loving all those years ago, smores. They were delish! Mike also managed to spike his coke float with rum and then ate an old fashioned ice cream sundae. The whole meal was absolutely delish!

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Our last day in Disney we decided to take advantage of the rule that there are no calories while on vacation and went to the Ghiradelli Cafe in Downtown Disney for a desserty lunch. I had a brownie butter pecan sundae and Mike had a banana split. It was probably one of the best sundaes I have ever had. Totally worth it.

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Overall, I give Disney World 8 out of 10 Nom Points

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!