Get Crafty!

Craft restaurant is headed by celebrity chef, and resident hottie on Top Chef, Tom Colicchio! Located on 19th and Park Ave (That's Gramercy), Craft is unique and simple is every way imaginable. The decor is bare bones elegant, with filament bulbs hanging down to light the large dining area and leather walls (seriously!). I found the tables to be rather large when I sat down to dine with the boyfriend, rather like the scene in Batman where Bruce and Vicky have a dinner date at an abnormally large table. But, I soon caught on as to why the tables were so big.

At Craft, you dine family style. That's not to say that the portions are huge though! They are very modest in size, and everything is laid out on the table for all to share. You pick your meat or fish and sides and it's a decadent free-for-all!

Tom Colicchio's Craft received the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant nationwide in 2002, and has since spawned a host of imitators for its unique marriage of the finest ingredients, haute cuisine and family-style service. And as Tom so aptly put, "Simple doesn't mean simplistic." Just take a look at what hit our palettes:

As we waited for our table at the bar, we enjoyed a glass of the Cava, Llopart, Rosé, Reserva, Penedés. Nice, dry and bubbly!

For dinner, we enjoyed a bottle of an aromatic white: The 2005 Muscat, Dirler, Alsace. The chef graciously offered us an amuse-bouche: 2 crispy pork crochettes!

First Course:
Lamb Ravioli
Foie Gras with Cherries and Brioche

Main Course:
Braised Day Boat Halibut
Roasted Quail

The Sides:
Sauteed Swish Chard
Roasted Baby Shiitake Mushrooms
Garlic Risotto

Once again, we were offered a complementary treat. A petite blueberry crumble!

Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta
Chocolate Souffle

My Panna Cotta also delivered a very important message! Happy Birthday to me indeed!

The meal was amazing (and expensive), but as we rolled out of there there was one more surprise! We each received a little wrapped up zucchini bread. Now, maybe it was because of my birthday, but I've got to hand it to Craft. They sure know how to please!


I Had The Time of My Life!

On Monday, I went to Madison Square Garden, and for two and a half hours was mesmerized by Green Day. Yes, Green Day... you know, Dookie! I was so entertained and in awe by their performance that I am in fact a bit speechless. As a frequent concert goer, it's a given that I'll be entertained by my favorite bands, but this was unlike any other experience.

I have never seen Green Day live to begin with, so I was completely blown away by the way Billie Joe works the crowd. I have never seen a band be so appreciative of their fans, and give them so much attention, all while sounding incredible! You will not believe the set list. There were TONS of surprises...I put the biggest surprises in bold.

The Set List:
1. Song of the Century
2. 21st Century Breakdown
3. Know Your Enemy
4. East Jesus Nowhere
5. Holiday
6. Static Age
7. Before the Lobotomy
8. Are We the Waiting
9. St. Jimmy
10. Boulevard of Broken Dreams
11. 2000 Light Years Away
12. Welcome to Paradise
13. Castaway
14.When I Come Around
15. Disappearing Boy
16. Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
17. Thank You (Led Zeppelin)/ Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns N’ Roses)/ Take Me
Out to the Ball Game/ 99 Bottles of Beer/ Iron Man (Riff)
18. Brain Stew
19. Jaded
20. Longview
21. Basket Case
22. She
23. King For a Day
24. Shout/ Earth Angel (The Penguins)/ Swanee/ I’ll Be There
25. 21 Guns
26. American Eulogy
27. American Idiot
28. Jesus of Suburbia
29. Minority
30. Drama Queen
31. Last Night On Earth (acoustic)
32. Good Riddance

But this was my favorite moment of the evening. Billie had a few kids come up and sing the songs with them, which was adorable. But then he sought out for a guitar player. And out in the sell out crowd, amongst the moshing boys, he found this bad ass of a little girl. Brava to her!


Montauk Summer Eats and Treats!

The summer season is still going strong out in Montauk, and what a great place to celebrate a birthday! I had the pleasure of dining with family at East by Northeast, and sharing a bottle of wine with the boyfriend at The Surf Lodge.

East by Northeast is managed by the same owners of The Harvest on Fort Pond, and it is just as decadent and delicious. It also overlooks Fort Pond, and they offer an Asian infused menu and some great Long Island classics.

To start, you need to order a bottle of wine! We opted for the Alta Vista Torrontes 2007 (Argentina). This was a lovely floral and fruity wine. It actually tasted a lot like Gewürztraminer!

The menu at East by Northeast has a little something for everyone, and here were our picks: We started with the 1/2 tower of raw sea food. On this platter, we enjoyed clams, oysters, shrimp and meaty crab's legs. All was served with a variety of dipping sauces. Tasted like the ocean, in a good way!

On to the main event...

The Panko Crusted Rare Tuna was served with ginger glazed Bok Choy, Yuzu Soy, Citrus Zest and Celery Root. It also came with a side of red potato mash and a lovely vegetable medley. When you tasted a little bit of each ingredient in one bite, it was very enjoyable!

The Pan Seared Scallops were meaty and cooked to perfection. They were served with a red potato and french green bean salad. I do have to warn you, if you are out for a night of drinking after dinner, this meal is not a good foundation for your tummy. Lesson learned!

Long Island Crescent Duck Breast, or any duck for that matter, is a popular dish out east. And with good reason! The meat was flavorful and tender. It normally comes with red potato mash but they were nice enough to accommodate my grandmother's request for a baked potato.

And since it was my birthday, dessert was a must! Of course, I went for the homemade brownie topped with hazelnut ice cream. Enough to share!


Now on to the after party. There are many places to kick back and relax with a cocktail, and The Surf Lodge is the hottest venue in town these days. I have to admit though, when both the patrons AND the staff are total douchebags, it makes for an unpleasant evening for someone like myself. However, that didn't stop us from NOT leaving our waterfront table in a hurry. Who would? If you are, or want to be, part of the "in-crowd", then you'll love this place.


Wine Time!

It's that time again... I've found some tasty grapes to share with you! And yes, that's a pretentious picture of me enjoying the pinot noir you'll read about below!

This white was incredibly crisp. Great with food as it does not overpower your meal but rather compliments it. Even better on a hot summer night! Cue Meatloaf...

The lovely Gaia at Alice's Adventure's In Wonderland recommended this wine to me and I came across it at one of my favorite restaurants, Cavatappo! Incredibly refreshing, and lovely notes of apple and other fruits. Lovely with a light meal or cheese plate. Another "hot summer night" favorite!

Aside from Chianti, Pinot Noir is one of my all-time favorite Reds. This one was really fabulous, and you can't beat $9 either. Don't fret, it doesn't taste cheap. I've even found through all of my tasting that the majority of wines that I like are $20(ish) and under! For the most part... I digress. The Castle Rock was extremely, what's the word... luscious. It was like a burst of fruit in my mouth. I don't really experience that too often with wine, but this one really tastes like you bit into a big fat juicy plum! Lots of black cherry and the perfect amount of spice too. I highly recommend this one!

What are some of your favorites? Or better yet, what are some of your favorite wine-food pairings?! Remember, never drink and fast!


NYC Restaurant Review: Cavatappo Grill

Cavatappo Grill is located on the Upper East Side on First Ave, between 88th and 89th street in NYC. I am always on the prowl for a really great, and authentic, Italian menu. You know, one that does not offer Chicken Parmesan and Fettuccine Alfredo (both delicious, but NOT authentic). Cavatappo has a very extensive menu, one that someone like myself (who LOVES food) has a hard time in deciding what to order. They have a great list of salads and starters, but more importantly their appetizers consist of a decadent list of gourmet pasta dishes! Finally(!), a restaurant that serves appetizer portions of great pasta! I've tried 3 different creations on my visits, here they are in order of preference:

Spinach angel hair pasta w/shrimp, radicchio & fresh tomato 9
Gnocchi with veal, sage and carrot ragu 9
Spaghetti in clam sauce 9

You may also order the pasta dishes as entrees (extra $6).

Their fabulous cheese platter includes an extensive list of some of the finest! You can pick 1,3 or 5, and they are served with assorted preserves and walnut/raisin bread. Here was the great combination that I had:

Grana Padano, Italy
Nutty & Mild

Taleggio, Italy
Soft & Creamy

Ricotta Salata, Italy
Smokey & Dry

Humboldt Fog, USA
Fresh & Creamy

Pecorino 6 months, Italy
Aromatic & Spicy

And of course, to wash it all down, a bottle of the Wolffer Estate Chardonnay!


NYC Stakeouts: Restaurant Week!

Coming soon... It's Restaurant Week in NYC until July 31st!! Is anyone interested in a NYC Stakeout? Or should I say...Steakout? I have my own list of places that I will be reviewing, but I will certainly give one of your suggestions a try as well!

Check out the full list of restaurants here

More Wine? Yes, Please!

My local Wine & Liquors shop (ok, one of mine...) hosted a Grand Wine Tasting this past weekend. When they said "Grand," they meant it! I tasted a little less than 100 wines from all over the world. They had some tasty food as well... thank god!

I would be overly ambitious to post about all 100 that were tasted. So at first, I decided that showcasing my favorites would be the best. However, there was one wine that seemed to creep up from region to region, and from table to table at this tasting, and no they were not from the same grape! And that was, what I like to call, the Hot Mess Wine. A Hot Mess Wine is not necessarily a bad tasting wine, but it's not necessarily a good one either. To define it best, I'd like you to think of a night where you went out with your friends or co-workers to a bar to let off some steam. You had a shitastic day and needed a beverage, but you didn't order beer because you didn't want to deal with the bloating carbonation, and you wanted to feel a bit classy and liquor just isn't your thing. Or, maybe you are a Wino! Who knows?! Your reasons are fine and dandy, but when you took that first sip of the tangy rough liquid presented in front of you by a wanna-be-actor-bartender, you realized that you had two options. 1) You could discreetly dump it in the bathroom and go for the brew. Or 2) You could continue to drink this wine and in turn become a "Hot Mess" by the end of the night. You know, that night you danced on the table in front of your boss. Or the night you made out with the cab driver... (No, I did not do these things, I'm just going for comical/dramatic effect!). And then when you woke up in the morning you were still drunk and ate a sausage egg and cheese on a toasted everything bagel (now that I've done!). So that my friends, is a Hot Mess Wine. It's rough around the edges and you yourself obtain the characteristics of the wine: Loud. Proud. And Out of Control!

It's hard to steer clear of said wines because unless you know the specific brand that you like (or don't like), how are you to know if the bartender is slipping you the walk of shame in a glass? Well, I can at least help you out a tad because as I tasted these 100 or so wines, I jotted down the varietals that tasted like a Hot Mess! If you are not interested, scroll to the bottom for my favorites!

*Disclaimer. This is not to say that you can't turn into a hot mess from over indulging in anything! Be responsible!


California, USA. This wine claims to be rich and smooth with ripe berry flavors...as well as FIRM TANNINS. There, my friends, in lies the secret to a Hot Mess Wine. TANNINS!

Israel. Notes of black fruit, berry, and eucalyptus. That was the issue for me. It smelled rather lovely with the eucalyptus and then when you tasted it you wanted down a bottle of water to wash it down.

Israel. This a very dark, full bodied wine. And... here's that word again, it's firmly TANNIC!

Argentina. Cherries, rip plums in an oak background. Soft TANNINS!

Portugal. Oak fermented. There is a very complex aroma and rich red fruits.

Argentina. Organically grown fruit and fermented in oak. Medium bodied and notes of vanilla.

Another from Argentina. I love how the description I got was, "Easy to drink by itself." Yeah, maybe after the second glass!

California, USA. Cherry and raspberry flavors. Stone fruit. French Oak fermentation.

Have you noticed my trend in Hot Mess Wines? They are pretty much all OAK fermented, have heavy TANNINS, and a good portion were from ARGENTINA. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with these wines at all. Maybe if I were really pairing it with a meal they would taste differently. This is just my opinion, and I wrote out the descriptions and provided links because these wines may just be to your palettes desire! Everybody has their own tastes and preferences and that is the beauty of wine!

Now, on to my favorites! (There are a lot and I was NOT expecting to like Coppola's. Forgive me.)

California, USA. 50% Stainless Steel Barrel Fermentation. 50% Light Toasted Oak. Tropical and Vanilla Flavors.

California, USA. Aged in American Oak. Full bodied, heavier on the tannins. Nice fruit.

California, USA. Plum and sandalwood flavors. Weighty texture.

California, USA. Crisp, light and tropical. 

California, USA. Nappa Valley wine. Peach, pears, and tropical fruits. Toasted oak fermentation. Nice clean finish.

Petri Scheurebe Spatlese 2006. $15.99 (could not find link, but this one was tasty!)
Lychee fruit. Sweet but not overpowering. Great for spicy food!

Italy. From Sardinia, and apparently the best Vermentino on the island! Floral and citrusy.

Domaine de la Realtiere Pastel Rose 2008 $17.99 (couldn't find link)
France. Blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon from Aix-en Provence. Smooth texture and flavor.

South Africa. Gooseberry fruit. Crisp and grassy.

South Africa. Love it, or hate it... as they say. Tobacco, chocolate, and ash. Interesting, no? There is also a fruity/molasses flavor that pairs well with the other spicy flavors.

Portugal. Refreshing and crisp. There is also an apple tartness.

Italy. Well balanced and gentle. Floral notes.

Israel. Well balanced and semi-dry. Fruity and flowery components. Ripe melon and nectarine flavors.

New Zealand. White peach and black current. There is also a toasty and savory finish.

Portugal. Honey, lemon and tropical fruits. Full bodied.

California, USA. Aged in French Oak barrels. Creamy and Crisp. Apple, melon and vanilla. 

California, USA. This was a palette cleanser. Lime and mineral/spring grasses.

California, USA. Dark and rich. Caramel and cherry flavors. This was also a bit spicy (cinnamon).

And, because not all Argentinean wines are Hot Messes:

Argentina. 100% Organic. American Oak. Blackberry and spice.

So there you have it. Whether you are looking to avoid a Hot Mess Wine, become a Hot Mess, or if you want to drink something recommended, there is plenty to choose from!

Happy Tasting! 



NYC Stakeout II: Central Park

The second edition of NYC Stakeouts comes from a request by Nicole Marie at la mia vita! Nicole Maria wanted to know the best of the best in Manhattan's Central Park!

Central Park covers 843 acres of Manhattan: 250 acres of lawn. 150 acres in water. 136 acres of woodlands. There was a lot of ground to cover and many hidden treasures to be discovered!

First and foremost, when trekking through any park, you need to be prepared to lounge and nosh! There are so many lawns to choose from, which are all lush and colorful during the seasons, and offer great scenery. However, if I had to pick one special spot to picnic, it would be the lawn facing Turtle Pond. This lawn is across from the Great Lawn on the south side, and you can gaze up at Belvedere Castle. On the weekends, be sure to pack up and look for a spot early... it tends to get crowded between 12pm and 1pm pending the weather. Believe me, you'll find a spot. But you want to find the best one! If you are not a fan of the sun, there are also plenty of trees to seek shade. Bring a blanket, some food, some wine (plastic cups, be discreet!) and you are all set!

If sports and games are your jam, then Central Park has got you covered... literally:

(click on each activity for more information)

If I had to pick one sporting activity, I'd say go for a run (or walk) around the Reservoir. It is located between 86th and 96th street, and the running track is 1.58 miles. Do a few laps, or take your run down one of the bridle paths and discover new grounds. If you have allergies, be very careful in the spring. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom in this area. And no, this is not NYC's water source. At least not since 1991!

We all know about Broadway Musicals, but in the summer Shakespeare in the Park at the Public Theater is the hottest ticket in town. Be advised, to score free tickets to The Bard, you need to get in line at at least 8am. Tickets go on sale at 1pm... say what? Hey, they are free! Beggars can't be choosers. Here is a great list of tips regarding this experience. Take note, and be wise!

The Boat House is one of my favorite places in Central Park. While I have yet to dine there, the actual boating experience is something that everyone should give a try when in NYC. At only 12 bucks an hour (mind the 20 dollar deposit), the ride is sure to put a smile on your face!

(This picture is a few years old... but it captured the moment well).

Trump's Wollman Skating Rink is you guessed it, an ice skating rink in the winter, but home to an AMUSEMENT PARK in the summer. Well, what else were they going to put there in the sizzlin' summer heat? Park admission is 6.50 during the week, and 7.50 on the weekends. Great for the kiddies. I'll definitely do a winter NYC Stakeout if someone asks me... or not! So don't worry, I'll have you covered when the snow starts to fall on the city that never sleeps!

Street performers are not a dime a dozen in Central Park. At least not to me. They are all interesting characters with great stories to tell, and in living here I have grown to recognize many of them.

Click here for some other great photos showcasing my Memorial Day adventures in Central Park!

I'm sure you are wondering why I haven't mentioned Tavern on the Green yet... well, I quite possibly had one of the best experiences of my life there. It was the Christmas following my mother's death in November of 2002. No, I am not looking for sympathy... but that snippet of information is detriment to the overall magic that occurred. It was Christmas Eve, and I was enjoying a wonderful meal with my father and god mother.

And then... it began to snow. As the flakes gathered on all of the landscaped creatures outside I couldn't help but feel like WinonaRyder in Edward Scissorhands. A moment of pure happiness that interrupted everything that seemed to be going wrong with the world. I truly felt like she (my mother, not Winona) was there. Watching and smiling. I'm also sure that it was not my first white Christmas being that I am a native New Yorker, but it sure as hell felt like it! This place can be a tourist trap, believe me. But if you make it and call it your own, you will definitely have a story to tell.

What I'm really trying to say is that Central Park is a place to create your own adventure. No matter what you do, no matter where you go, let your heart be your guide. Not me! However... the park closes at 1am so get the heck out of there unless you want to meet some new friends. That's my one mandatory rule!

Nicole Marie, thank you so much for participating. I am ready and excited for the next NYC Stakeout, so who's got a request for me?