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NYC’s Coolest Treat: Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls

30 Jun

Forget snowball fighting; this summer’s all about sno-ball loving – thanks to the new West Village (7th Ave South @ Charles St) hotspot, Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls. The name’s quite a mouthful and it’s only fitting – these icy treats are a mouthful of deliciousness.  This Nawlins import is a unique treat that puts its all-too-average italian ice and snow-cone cousins to shame.

The sno-ball is essentially shaved ice packed into a Chinese takeout container and doused with the syrup of your choosing. Imperial’s owner Neesa Peterson made authenticity a priority and succeeded brilliantly – these desserts are served exactly how they’re made down in the Big Easy – and she didn’t stop there. Serving up some very strong chicory infused Toddy Iced Coffee ($3) and New Orleans’ own Zapp’s Potato Chips ($2), Peterson’s scratching the itch of homesick Nawlins natives craving a taste of home.

There are a ton of flavor combos to fill your 8, 12, or 16 oz cup ($4/$5/$7, respectively) but if you’re in the know, you’ll go for the more exotic flavors made famous down south. Orchid Cream Vanilla and Mardi Gras King Cake are 2 of my absolute faves. If you want to get a little crazy, have em drizzle a little condensed milk on top and you’re good to go.

When you’re feeling a sunstroke meltdown may be imminent this summer, head to the West Village and grab a sno-ball – they’re the perfect treat to cool you down and won’t hurt your wallet or waistline. Remember: these sno-balls are for lovers, not fighters!

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Winos and Music Lovers Rejoice: City Winery

17 Jun

Let me go ahead and clarify right off the bat; no, this title is in no way a reference to Amy Winehouse fans.  What I am looking to share with you is the 411 on the most low-key, relaxing music venue I’ve ever experienced in NYC: SoHo’s City Winery (Varick @ Vandam).  This place is hands down my ideal spot to grab a drink, a light bite (or delicious dinner) and relax into an evening of musical delight + witty stage banter with stripped down performances from some of the most celebrated artists in the biz.

Element 1: Drinks – City Winery’s got this on lock down.  With their own winery in house, they knock out awesome bottles and even have membership for vino-philes to come in and make their own private-label wines.  If you’re not fiending some fermented grape action – they’ve got an extensive full bar plus lots of import and domestic brews for sale.

Element 2: Eats – If you’ve got a smaller menu that’s built to be paired with delicious, small-batch wines, chances are you’ve made sure your offerings are pretty damn tasty.  I’ve consistently had solid food ranging from their crispy flatbread pizzas, to the awesomely shareable hummus plate.  Recently tried the Roasted Beet Salad ($10) which to my surprise (and eventual delight) was deconstructed and plated in a linear fashion.  The sliders ($14) were also a crowd pleaser, though as a friend pointed out, eating in the dark is not the ideal so maybe show up a bit early to eat before the lights dim and the music begins.

Element 3: Music – The massive multi-tiered dining room is a welcoming space where you can partake in delicious eats and drinks while listening to world-class musicians. Their bread and butter artists are singer songwriters who bring chillaxable tunes to the table (literally).  What’s unique about the space is how intimate it actually is – the evening will usually end up 70/30 music/stand up comedy routine, respectively.

Next time you’re looking for that rare evening when you’re at least feeling like a mature grown up, go to City Winery for an awesome hang.  Whether you’re seeing a favorite band or just checking in for a bite on the fly, it’s a great spot to make any simple evening a sophisticated affair.  And let’s be honest, sometimes giving the debauchery a rest is just necessary. You stay classy, New York.

The Master Summer List

3 Jun

Once summer comes, all bets on your usual favorite spots are off; the restos and watering holes that are warm-weather friendly become the hottest commodity there is.  However, rather than completely disregard some of the spots I’ve recommended to you all, I’ve decided to let you know which ones to hit as we continue towards the imminent summer solstice.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (and Dinner Begins!):

Matilda – (E. Ville: E 11th St btwn Aves B/C) – Whether you opt for sidewalk seating or perch in the windowsill, you’ll get the outdoor experience along with a healthy serving of bold Tusc-Mex flavors.  Go Tuesday night for Ladies night!

Mercadito Grove – (W. Ville: 7th Ave South @ Grove St) – The mix of location, upscale Mexican and a diverse list of tacos makes this place a fan favorite.  The corner location provides prime sidewalk real estate for people watching.

Philip Marie – (W. Ville: Hudson St @ W 11th St) – Though the outdoor tables are few, I think braving the wait is always worth it.  Especially when you take the unlimited bloodies + mimosas into consideration!

Poco – (E. Ville: Ave B @ 3rd St) – Since it tends to be particularly loud inside this resto, the seats outside are a best bet.  With a kickass brunch and different nightly specials like $15 bottles of wine, all you can eat mussels, and unlimited sangria, any time’s a good time to head over to Poco.

A Good Backyard is Hard to Find:

Ninth Ward – (E. Ville: 2nd Ave btwn 11th/12th Sts) – While the front sidewalk space is always a great option, the large backyard is a much better space to hang with your crew.  Grab one of their many interesting cocktail options (or a beer) and hang Nawlins style.

Pure Food & Wine – (Gramercy: Irving Pl btwn 17th/18th) – What could be better than eating a delicious and healthy vegan meal?  Eating it in a beautiful, large backyard patio, of course!  You’ll be surrounded by nature while feasting on nature’s bounty; it just works.

Sunburnt Cow – (E. Ville: Ave C btwn 8th/9th Sts) – An excellent brunch deal and attractive staff/patrons are two things that can only get better with a retractable “sun roof”.  You’ll appreciate the nice breeze too; you may need some cooling down.

Fair Game:

Hester Street Fair – (LES: Hester St @ Essex) – Forget stinky halal meat and generic kettle corn stands; this street fair is the real deal.  Open every Saturday through the end of October, this gourmet fest rotates in some of the best and most celebrated foodie faves of NYC.  Bring a blanket and pop a squat on the lawn with a Luke’s Lobster Roll or Shaved Ice Shop creation for a fabulous outdoor (and out of the box) day.

And finally, for the days when you want a sunny space, without being directly IN the sun:

Flea Market Café – Their front paneled doors open to the street, transforming the space into an open air café.  The Tuesday night all you can eat moules frites special is out of this world – get there.

Macondo – If you’re lucky enough to grab a stool at the front of this place, you can bask in the sunlight while sipping your drink of choice (I recommend you go for brunch and grab a vanilla bean mimosa)!

Consider yourself schooled in my recommended spots you should hit up this summer.  Need some fashion tips to make sure your summer style is lookin so flossy?  Check out Poor Little It Girl; she’ll see to it you’re well-dressed for all your outdoor drinking + dining endeavors.  Now break out the wayfarers and tank tops (no, not you boys) and get yourselves outside!

Liquid Assets: Cold Pressed Juices @ Liquiteria

25 May

While I tend to play pretty hard on the weekends, being at my best for work on Monday is always a priority.  I’ve found that nothing gets my natural performance enhancement on like starting my week off with a juice cleanse.  I know “juicing” might sound scary or weird to some of you, but it’s actually quite easy, leaves you feeling great all week and won’t lead to a congressional hearing (though folks may question how you’re hitting all those metaphoric homeruns in the work place).  My favorite spot to get the best cold pressed juices in NYC?  Well that’d be the East Village’s Liquiteria (2nd Ave @ 11th St).

The menu features an assortment of healthy breakfast/lunch choices, but I head straight to the Liquid Rx section for my weekly juice cleanses.  My go-to drink after a hard hitting weekend is the Royal Flush, a blend of pineapple, pear, ginger, aloe and a Liver Kidney Lymph Detox supplement.  The drinks are freshly squeezed at $5.45 for 14 oz and $5.95 for 20 oz OR you can snag bottles of the cold pressed versions for $8.50 a piece (this method of extracting the juice is supposedly the most nutritionally effective).  With names like Immune Rocket Booster, Skin Trip and Liquid Lozenge, you’ll have no trouble picking a juice if you’re looking to get specific health benefits.  Customize your juice by opting to add one of the many supplements as well.  I usually get 4 drinks to have throughout the day when I do my Monday cleanse.

Non-E. Villagers and folks Nationwide listen up: they’ll deliver ANYWHERE in the US.  So go ahead and get your juice on at Liquiteria.  I promise this venture won’t lead to fist pumping BUT you may be lusted at for your gorilla juice head body, you sexy thang.  Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist, so if you have serious questions about juicing, do your research.  All I can say is that 1 day a week of drinking the fan-effing-tastic juices from Liquiteria is what works for me; you do you.

Outside the Box, Inside an NYC Beer Garden: Bierhaus

20 May

Great as Manhattan is, the space constraints are rough, which makes finding an awesome beer garden quite difficult.  Your options are limited; while I’m not above brown-paper-bagging in the park, unfortunately, public intoxication is frowned upon illegal.   Venturing to outer boroughs might yield great spots, but it’s a real commitment, plus with the weather we’ve been having lately, who knows when outdoor venues will be a safe bet?!  My solution?  Think outside the box and head to Bierhaus (3rd Ave @ 45th St), an unconventional Midtown spot with all-weather-friendly appeal and beer garden feel.

Recently, a friend and I were looking for a late afternoon hang in Midtown East. We both like to try new places, especially where there are good odds of meeting new people; Bierhaus was a great call.  It’s crowded with a mix of after-work types and casual peeps passing through (not to mention the odd group of folks wearing authentic German getups, no joke).   Communal picnic tables are perfect for chatting it up with neighbors and add to the friendly vibe.  With a sunroof ceiling there’s also the added benefit of bright natural light (a major preventative in acting on beer-goggle impulses – not that I would EVER do that…)

All the beers served are Hofbräu, so if you’re looking for something that tastes like a Blue Moon, Stella, etc, just ask a bartender or St. Pauly Girl your waitress and they’ll hook you up.  Staying with the theme, you can expect German music both over the PA system and live, feat. the Polka Brothers.  The soft dough pretzel is pretty awesome; get a large ($9) and try both mustards – the spicy is sinus-clearing!  While there’s no replacing an authentic, outdoor beer garden, sometimes it’s just not feasible – so why miss out on the experience?  Bierhaus is a legit alternative that’s so convenient you can roll up with your bros and lederHOSen.

Get There: Hester Street Fair

10 May

When I told my girls I was rallying them for a street fair last Saturday, I couldn’t help but notice a slight resistance.  Not that I blame them; the days of generic falafel and shawarma booths beside kettle corn and funnel cake stations are numbered.  But street fairs have come a long way, baby, and there’s a new kid on the block.  No, I’m not talking NKOTBSB; this year Hester Street Fair has got the right stuff (oh oh OOH oh).

My perfect little Saturday started after a nice walk down Essex; we met up at the fair’s entrance on the corner of Hester and Essex – can’t miss it.  There’s a lot of action in there, so pace yourself, take a lap and scope out the goods before your decide on your first eats.  After doing a once over, we decided to get on board with Luke’s Lobster (OMFG – it was my first time with Luke…)  The combo of ½ Shrimp/Lobster/Crab rolls ($19) was AMAZING – a great savory kick-off to the eating festivities.

After sating our initial cravings, we took some time to peruse the other vendors. Vintage jewelry and eclectic clothiers were a-plenty along with some other interesting additions like the Casa Helecho Terrariums (I’m going to go back and further investigate these – get my geek on). The live music added to the festive atmosphere as we sampled pretzel rods smothered in Herbin’ Spoonful’s Habanero Caramel (mmm) and grabbed small delights from the Macaron Parlour (the Red Velvet was decadent and the Caramel Fleur de Sel, a perfect savory/sweet combo – $2 each).

One of the most popular vendors of the day was the Shaved Ice Shop – your “sundae” consists of finely shaved ice, drizzled with condensed milk and topped with your choice of fruits, nuts, granola, and some more surprising delights (red beans, anyone?) PLUS a scoop of sorbet or ice cream. At $5 a pop, it won’t hurt the wallet and on a hot day, it’s the perfect treat to take to the small lawn area just beyond the vendors – a small sheet to sit on isn’t a bad call either.

The Fair will be open for business from 10am-6pm on Saturdays through October 30th – you’ve got more than enough time to check it out, but don’t miss it.  Next time your Saturday leaves you jones’ing for some open air, great music and gourmet treats, get yourself to the Hester Street Fair – it’s a force to be reckoned with.  I’m putting all other clichéd street-closing-fests on notice.

I Feel Ya, Tequila: Mayahuel

20 Apr

Peruse The Tequila Library

Tequila has been known to make clothes fall off and the likelihood of a rowdy evening increase exponentially… But maybe it’s gotten a bad rap; Tequila deserves to have someone clean up its act and reveal it for the classy drink it is. Here to restore Tequila’s good name (and potentially drag yours through the mud, after a few cocktails), is the East Village’s very own Mayahuel (6th St btwn 1st/2nd Aves).

Being a cocktail dungeon devoted solely to the advancement of Mexico’s favorite imbibement, Mayahuel is a Tequila lover’s paradise. Don’t miss it; the entryway bears no signage, but fear not, you’ll eventually notice the strange cabin-like façade and set foot into a tastefully themed cocktail den. The casual bar area downstairs pales in comparison to the luxurious couches and mosaic tiled tables in the upstairs lounge -you may have to wait a bit, but it’s worth it. Give the doorman your cell, hit up a wine bar in the vicinity and you’ll be back to swig a little bit of Mexico in no time.

The drinks (~$13-14) can be a bit intimidating (the menu should probably include a glossary), but thankfully the staff are all quite helpful when it comes to making a selection. All you have to do is say a few choice adjectives (sweet, savory, spicy) and they’ll tell you your best bet posthaste. My personal fave is the Pilot Punch (oober spicy – made with Blanco Tequila, Jalapeno, Yellow Chartreuse and Lime + a hint of cucumber and mint). Don’t get too attached to any drink though; their menu is constantly changing to bring you new and exciting flavor combos. I should also mention that they have eats ranging from shareable bites like the Palomitas (Popcorn with lime, Cojita cheese, and ancho chili – $5) to the larger Platos Fuertes ($12-21), if you’re really looking to get your south of the border grub on. I prefer to keep it simple with strictly cocktails, but you know how I do.

Next time you’re contemplating something different to spice up your evening’s drinks, think Mayahuel. With Tequila-based cocktails this good, you may find yourself doing a Pee Wee Herman-esque dance – and why shouldn’t you? After all, Mayahuel might be your next Big Adventure. Get crazy and enjoy it responsibly, folks.

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