Somebody That I Used to Know: Hester Street Fair

30 Apr

It’s been a year since my last foray to the LES street fair standout on Hester Street and, unlike the many reincarnations of Gotye’s post-breakup ballad (yes, you can have too much of a good thing), this food and fashion fest is jam packed with the vendors that I used to know but actually enjoy in subsequent encounters.   With tried ‘n true faves like Luke’s Lobster (#1: holy shrimp roll, Batman) and it’s-new-to-me-comers like La Sonrisa (#2: Chipotle mayo + spicy queso makes for effin delicious grilled corn), this trip back to Hester Street Fair was revisiting the scene of a love affair that’s not painful to remember (but easy to dwell upon). Oh, and boozy cupcakes (#3) from Prohibition Bakery (sweet, sweet, irony) like the pretzel and beer mini are finger lickin’, tongue and cheek offerings.

After the first round of eats, I helped myself to a few more delicious items.  First, an iced coffee from the fine folks at Cafe Grumpy (#4) was an excellent mid-meal refreshment.  Shortly thereafter, I had my first encounter with the lovely ladies at S’Amore who recommended I meet Tom (#5); a salted chocolate graham cracker sandwich with a hand-torched marshmallow, almond and melted dark chocolate. This may be the best dessert I’ve ever eaten.  Seriously. After that, I treated myself yet again – to a Swarovski blinged-out star burst ring (#6) from LYRALOVESTAR by Crystal Streets (wholesale prices at HSF each week, what what!?).  To be honest, you could spend your Saturday doing something other than attending this faboosh affair, but like the sorry dude on YouTube trying to cover Gotye for the 1,000th time, don’t be that guy.

Keeping Up with the Cocktails: Lantern’s Keep

18 Nov

So many things in 2011 have been cheers-worthy; I’ve had a major (excellent) career change and began working on a new blog professionally (you can still find my resto reccos here).  While I know it’s been a spell since I’ve had time to visit with you all, my recent trip to Lantern’s Keep gave me a reason to come out of retirement.  This classy little Midtown speakeasy is giving the cocktail shops Downtown a run for their money and giving me another reason to cheers.

On this particular cold and rainy evening, stepping inside the Iroquois Hotel (W 44th St btwn 5th/6th Aves) was a thoroughly welcomed escape.  Through the lobby, I spotted the lavish digs Lantern’s Keep calls home – the rich chocolate woods are complemented with plush blue Venetian-style seating and a fireplace nestled in the back corner will warm the crowd of cocktail enthusiasts during winter months.  The menu, which features selections crafted by head bar keep Theo Lieberman, stays true to the classics while infusing its spirits with creativity as much as the ingredients themselves.

My standout cocktail of the evening (like I was really stopping at one!) had to be the Wildest Redhead ($14).  Served in a lowball glass with a glacial-sized rock of ice, this scotch-based concoction plays on the warm aromas of all-spice with the belly-heating effects of its spirit base.  The drink is best when consumed through a chilled metal stirrer-straw, as provided by the Keep’s tender.  Another favorite was the Mexican Bouquet ($14), which leans heavily on blanco tequila while letting the St Germain Elderflower liquor and rose syrup whisper a lovely floral perfume.

The charcuterie plate featured an array of cheeses, meats, fruit and warm fresh bread served on a slate and smartly labeled so I’d never confuse my Vermont Shepherd with  the Tickler Cheddar (as if!)  This and other petite plates prepared by The Iroquois’ Executive Chef Jason Tillman are portioned perfectly to keep your worst hungers at bay.  And no, I’m not talking about that hankering for your next cocktail, there’s no helping that desire.  Not that there’s anything wrong with having another one when the drinks are flowing at the Lantern’s Keep  – and to that, let’s cheers.

Delicious, Naturally: The Soft Serve Fruit Co.

26 Aug

In this summer’s heat, we’ve had no shortage of new frosty food and drink options – in fact, the sheer number of choices could bring on an intense brain freeze when trying to make a decision.  With players like Taiwanese-style Shaved Ice and New Orleans-inspired SnoBalls, a simple frozen yogurt (fro-yo, if you will) just hasn’t been cutting it for me.  But recently I have been craving soft serve, minus some of the terrible artificial flavors that taste, well, unnatural.  So naturally, when I heard about the new soft serve kid on the block (literally, it’s on my office’s block – 17th btwn Union Sq/5th Ave) that boasts natural fruit flavors, I decided to give The Soft Serve Fruit Company a whirl.

This is a bold statement, but on a hot day, I don’t care who you are – you’re going to love this stuff.  Beyond the well developed flavors, it’s dairy, gluten, cholesterol and fat free.   What it’s not free of is MAJOR un-messed-with fruit flavor – think sorbet, but better.  I tried the blueberry which was pretty darn good – I’d say even better paired with the banana which is bizarrely close to the actual fruit’s taste.  My favorite flavor was the raspberry, a seasonal specialty that I’m hoping they’ll take on full time.  I went for a medium sprinkled with chopped walnuts (for only $4.75) and was good to go.

Forget fake, chemical tasting fro-yo and get to The Soft Serve Fruit Co.  This stuff’s the real deal.

Prix Fixe and Free Flix: Nick and Toni’s Café

16 Aug

Dinner and a movie is a tried and true staple of our modern dating scene.  In fact, the only thing that’s changing about this classic courting activity is the price.  With steep price inflation being imposed on gentlemen trying to woo their ladies with a lovely evening out, it’s about time someone came up with a deal to make date night do-able.  I don’t know how they do it, but Nick and Toni’s Café, the excellent UWS (67th @ B’way) Italian resto is making BIG moves with their dinner and a movie special – so you can make some moves later on in the evening with your date (Ow Ow!).  Let me break down the business plan for ya –

Step 1) Collect Menu Options. Every Sunday & Monday, Nick and Toni’s offers a limited selection of items on a 2-course Prix Fixe Menu for only $28.

Local Field Greens with Olive Oil + Lemon
Romaine Salad with Caesar Dressing, Garlic Croutons and Grano Padiano
Local Tomato Bruschetta with Prosciutto and Arugula

Spaghetti with Jumbo Lump Crab Meat, Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula and Toasted Breadcrumbs
Penne all Vecchia Bettola – served in a spicy oven roasted tomato sauce
Atlantic Salmon with Local Corn, Cherry Tomatoes, Red Onion

Let me just say – the Caesar Salad was one of the best I’ve ever had – it was so creamy and the croutons were amazing.  The Spaghetti, which is apparently Howard Stern’s favorite thing on the menu, did not disappoint either – the crab meat was fresh and tender and the breadcrumbs added a perfect crunch to each bite.  The Field Greens dish was very basic, but an excellent healthier option – my dinner date also enjoyed the Salmon, which was grilled to perfection.

Step 2) ?

Step 3) Profit! Off of FREE movie tickets, that is.  Yep, you read right – with each Sunday/Monday night Prix Fixe meal, you get a FREE AMC Movie Voucher redeemable at any time (and it never expires).  You can even upgrade it to an Imax or 3D ticket for a couple extra bucks.  Plus, since you don’t have to use them that night, if your dining bud turns out to be a dud, pocket your ticket and go another time with a different date (play on, playa).  So go forth, dine fine and get some – free movie tickets.  Just do me a favor and don’t steal your date’s underpants Spaghetti – like me, she may be completely unwilling to share.

Rhea Recommends Chicago: The Deep Dish

10 Aug

It's Better Backstage

Seeing as I had the absolutely fabulous opportunity to hang in Downtown Chicago this past weekend, you’re getting the (deep) dish on some of my trip highlights.  Between the music, the culture of Chi-Town and a BYOB brunch to rival some of NYC’s best,  I‘ve got some awesomeness to share with y’all you all.

Let’s talk eats… obviously, I managed to get a BYOB brunch in there (2x).  Yolk in South Loop (S Michigan Ave btwn E 11th St/E Roosevelt) was legit.  We rolled up with bottles of Prosecco, ordered some orange juice to-go and hung out/drank in the courtyard while waiting for our table.  Once we were called, we had some top notch egg dishes in skillets, omelets and sammies – everything costs under $10 and includes your choice of pancakes (a HUGE order), an English muffin or toast.  Oh, and there’s NO CHARGE for Egg Beaters or whites.   Kick ass deal.  This girl LOVES it.

Music?  Yeah, there was music.  Holla for Lolla(palooza) – some of my favorite eargasm-able artists rocked the crowd.  My highlights include:

Foster the PeopleHoudini

PhantogramWhen I’m Small

Manchester OrchestraI’ve Got Friends

Local Natives Cubism Dream

Fitz and the TantrumsDon’t Gotta Work It Out

Foster the People @ Belve Lounge

Culture, ok, there’s some of that too.  Chicago-natives and tourists alike will enjoy the Architecture Tour ($25-35) – it’s a 90 minute expedition through the Chicago waterways checking out the buildings that make Chi-Town architecture truly remarkable.  You get a little history, learn some fun facts – and hey, you’re on a boat!  It’s definitely another attraction I deem worthy of looking up for – c’mon kids, your neck can handle it.

Marina City (Bertrand Goldberg)

After a long day of adventures in the windy city, treat yourself to a delicious little dinner – I’m a big fan of the inexpensive family-style Italian fare at Quartino.  Thin crust pizza may not be Chicago’s signature slice, but the folks at Quartino know how to make a mean crispy pie.  Not in the mood for Italian?  Not a problem! Sign onto and get hooked up with 30% off the total bill at the city’s hottest restos.   Over and out; it’s been real, Chicago.

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