Have You Ever Met A French Cheese You Didn’t Like? Me Neither…

Have You Ever Met A French Cheese You Didn’t Like? Me Neither…

 

Invited to a wine and cheese pairing event at the French Cheese Board in Soho last Monday. Wines were by Chateau des Bormettes (imported by Wineberry America).

Highlights of the event:

  • The Crottin de Chavignol goes exceptionally well with the Rose. So much so, I was compelled to make a goat cheese purchase at the event.
  • The French Cheese Board is a great resource to dial up your cheese expertise e.g. if you’re having a party and want some tips on putting together perfect cheese platters, this is your spot. Ask for Charles Duque (French Dairy Board).
  • They also offer classes. I’m going to take the Fromage 101 class from cheese monger, Mary Connolly, who I met at the event (pic above, lower right).
  • This is also going to become my go-to for cheese purchases (vs. trekking all the way to Trader Joe’s). Prices are exceptional – and quality is top-notch.
  • I met some very cool food bloggers and instagrammers – including chubbychinesegirleats. Follow her!!  She’s one more former blogger who now only instagrams (51K followers).

Very fun and informative event. Thank you Laura Baddish of the Baddish Group for the invite. And if any of you are looking for a venue for an intimate foodie/wine/cheese event, this might be your spot. Reach out to Laura for more info.

Pics of the event below.

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Top summer drinking trends for 2017

Top summer drinking trends for 2017

 

Temperatures have been in the high-80’s all week in NYC so summer drinking season is just around the corner.

Here are some trends to enjoy:

Cynar Spritz

  • Edging out the Aperol Spritz this summer.
  • There’s also the Cynar Fizz (lemon, sugar and soda).

Amaro Is Booming

  • Amaro is increasingly popular, showing up on menus around the country from New York to Chicago, Milwaukee and San Francisco.
  • Bartenders in the Bay Area get a lot of the credit for popularizing amaro – from Palo Alto’s new Vina Enoteca restaurant which carries dozens of amari to San Fran’s Quince Restaurant which has an amaro cart roaming the dining room
  • Tony Hsieh of Zappos loves Fernet and has introduced it to his tech startup circle where every social occasion is a “Fernet moment.”
  • Bay Area spirits makers are also starting to distill amaro with a California twist. Link here.

 

Read on below for more summer drinking trends including the Prosecco and Rosé face off. The former doing an amazing job branding the category, the latter doing a phenomenal job in creating innovative products with outstanding packaging.

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What We’re Learning From Culinary Curators

What We’re Learning From Culinary Curators

 

Here are the top food trends I’m currently tracking.

1. Los Angeles: the food city of the moment (Source: LA Times)

  • So many trends start here: avocado toast, things in a bowl, Egg Slut, Kogi food trucks.
  • The line between high and low is being obliterated: a chef in a truck can be as talented and respected as a chef in a temple of cuisine
  • Also tracking what the culinary curators lined up for the major West Coast festivals (Coachella, of course, and in June, the Arroyo Seco Weekend at the Rose Bowl)
  • Coming out of those events: More Asian cuisine with items made with Matcha and Poke Bowls still big.
  • The discovery and sharing of food has become just as important as discovering and sharing music. “I knew [band] before it was cool” has turned into “I ate that before it was cool,” because unique food with quality ingredients is more accessible than ever. And given the marketing power of social media, it’s more picturesque. (Source: LA Weekly)

Read on below for more on Mexican influences, and my take on what the popularity of Le Coucou vs. Le Cirque tells us about shifting tastes and trends not only in food but in real estate, society and culture in NYC.

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MADE NICE: Daniel Humm Takes Fast Casual To A Brilliant New Level

MADE NICE: Daniel Humm Takes Fast Casual To A Brilliant New Level

 

Made Nice opened last week and it is wonderful with exceptional food. Leaves Sweetgreen and Cava Grill in the dust.

Here’s what makes Made Nice especially nice:

  • It comes to us from Daniel Humm, Chef of Eleven Madison (just named best restaurant in the world!!
  • The ambiance – there’s a real kitchen, with real chefs. Daniel Humm was even in the house when we were there last Friday (pic above left). The mural is by Shepard Fairey.
  • The staff  – incredibly knowledgeable, helpful and clearly happy with what their doing.
  • The food – delicious and beautifully presented.
  • They serve wine!!
  • Their website is gorgeous.

Here’s what we had:

  • Salmon Rosti: Frisée Salad, Smoked Salmon, Dill-Caper Relish, Potato Crouton, Pickled Onion & Buttermilk Vinaigrette – $15 (and even tho they discourage substitutions, they did eliminate the soft-boiled egg for me)
  • Curry Cauliflower: May have been my favorite dish! Cauliflower Stew, Tofu, Couscous, Coconut, Lemongrass, Watercress, Almond & Grapes – $11
  • Chicken Rice: Braised Chicken Thigh, Basmati Rice, Parmesan, Marinated Tomatoes, Scallions, Rosemary & Lemon – $14
  • Cod Provencal: My least favorite. Seared Cod, Chickpea Purée, Braised Fennel, Tomato, Olives & Crispy Chickpeas – $15
  • Milk & Honey Soft Serve: LOVE!! Milk Ice Cream, Honey Brittle, Oat Shortbread & Buckwheat Honey – $6

Only downside, prices are a little high – but not outrageous. Also watchout if you do takeout:  the paper bags are not sized for the containers so by the time you get back to your office or home, you may have a soggy mess to deal with.

Location: 8 West 28th Street; Hours: 11am-10pm (Monday-Saturday; Closed Sundays)

More pics below.

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Atlanta Has An Excellent Food Scene: Here Are The Standouts

Atlanta Has An Excellent Food Scene: Here Are The Standouts

The Optimist

 

Spent last weekend in ATL and had the most exceptional series of dinners, lunches and cocktails. Here are the top 5 starting with my absolute favorite:

The Optimist (914 Howell Mill Road NW)

  • This is my favorite restaurant. Kudos to Ford Fry for coming up with such a winning combination. The Optimist delivers all the essential elements of a great dining experience: phenomenal food, great vibe and ambiance and knowledgeable, friendly waitstaff.
  • Another major plus: you can have a conversation with your table mates. The decibel level of the music encourages conversation. Other restaurants, please take note!!
  • Here’s what we ordered: ceviche, tuna poke, octopus, kale salad with chorizo and calabrian chilis (amazing!), most of the fish dishes (all wood-hearth roasted). And for dessert, make sure you get the salted caramel ice cream. Also, the Dogwood cocktail is a winner (made with 10 Old Fourth Distillery vodka, Torres orange brandy, house-made orange cordial, lemon, 18.21 Creole bitters).
  • The Optimist is located in an old ham-aging house. The outdoors resembles a seaside fish camp – complete with mini golf. It was rainy on Sunday so the outdoors was shutdown but next time!

Read on below for additional favorites including Staplehouse.

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The Flower Shop: Avoid Food, Head Straight To The Basement Man-Cave

The Flower Shop: Avoid Food, Head Straight To The Basement Man-Cave

 

  • Best thing about our visit to this brand-new hot spot in Chinatown was being seated next to Tony Hawk, skateboard legend (and one of the investors).
  • A stellar group of hospitality pros is behind this place including several guys from the Major Food Group (Carbone, Parm etc)
  • It’s been open for about a month and is attracting hordes of cool skater/hipster boys (and the girls who love them).
  • Those in the know, immediately head downstairs because that’s where the action is.
  • The downstairs has been “decorated” to simulate a Wisconsin basement rec room: lots of fake wood-paneling, pool table, gas fireplace, orange carpeting, Budweiser lamps, and an assortment of knickknacks that dial up the midwestern vibe.

  • We made the mistake of ordering food – our cute waiter from Hawaii made it all sound so delicious but I would advise you to come here to drink and maybe order some fries.
  • Should you be starving and decide you need something more filling, here are some things NOT to order: the fried chicken, the tuna poke, the beet salad. I also would bypass the cocktails and go straight for beer, booze or wine.

Photos below as well as info on who is involved in this project. It’s a star-studded group so despite the food missteps, I see this becoming the new MAX FISH. Definitely has that kind of vibe.

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Cava Grill Was Meh, But Healthy Fast Casual Is The Trend To Watch

Cava Grill Was Meh, But Healthy Fast Casual Is The Trend To Watch

 

I have read so many rave reviews of Cava Grill that I finally just had to check it out. Which I did this past Sunday. What are all you people talking about? Am especially disappointed in my foursquare reviewers who give it a 9.3 rating!!

It wasn’t bad but I certainly would never go out of my way to eat there. It’s funded by Steve Case’s Revolution Growth (they’re also funding Sweetgreen, another DC food startup).

I had the salad bowl with a mix of grilled chicken and both kinds of meatballs, I tried their famous harissa and the feta. I would rate it a 5.

What’s most impressive about Cava actually has nothing to do with food. It’s how they use data and high-tech sensors to monitor customer wait times to improve the guest experience. The changes they’ve made, based on the technology, have helped lines move 10% faster and hold 12% more people. (Source: Fast Company)

Although fast casual “build-a-bowl” places aren’t usually my thing, I’m not averse to them e.g. I love several poke bowl restaurants. Cava underwhelmed me for the same reason Chipotle does – they make up for average food with huge portions. Doesn’t cut it for me.

But I totally understand why chefs are increasingly looking to develop this type of “healthy’ assembly line restaurant: it’s scalable and they can IPO it if it is really good.

 

Read on below for more standouts in this category – some recent launches, some longtime favorites.

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WASHINGTON DC: Outstanding Food and Bar Scene

WASHINGTON DC: Outstanding Food and Bar Scene

Cherry Blossom Pub

 

For those of you who haven’t been to DC in a while, you must get there ASAP. The restaurant and bar scene has totally blown up. I had a list a mile long of spots I wanted to check out but sadly all I encountered were lines and lines of people waiting to be fed and liquored up. Many of DC’s hottest restaurants have a no-reservations policy and those that do take reservations, were booked solid with nothing available until 10 or 11pm.

I also discovered that most of the places I most wanted to check out were in the Shaw neighborhood – most especially around Blagden Alley. 

In the meantime, since I am still despondent about all the places I couldn’t get into, I’ll start with those. Hopefully, you will learn from my mistakes and schedule long waits thru Task Rabbit – or strategize with your network to get VIP access that catapults you to the head of the line.

Here’s what I am most sad to have missed:

CHERRY BLOSSOM PUB (1841 and 1843 7th Street NW) – Open Until April 15

PHOTOS ABOVE. NOTE: There were at least 500 people in line to get in at 4:45pm on Friday afternoon – hence the tip on getting a task rabbit to stand in line for you.

This is the second pop up bar that Derek Brown has created (I’ve heard from friends that the Christmas Bar – aka Miracle on Seventh Street – was also a rip-roaring success). He is an entrepreneur and bartender extraordinaire. He owns many of the hottest bars in the area including Columbia Room, The Passenger, Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich, and Southern Efficiency.

The Cherry Blossom Pub is located in two of his adjacent spaces: Mockingbird Hill and Southern Efficiency . The design is a Japanese mashup of Cherry Blossoms and Super Mario Brothers and spans three themed rooms: a pink-and-white cherry blossom garden filled with waving maneki-neko cats, another dedicated to Super Mario World (complete with plucky theme music and Piranha Plants bursting from pipes), and a sinister King Koopa room in back.

Read on below for my other miss (Bad Saint) as well as my take on Espita Mezcaleria (highly recommend) and info on some of the cool spots in Blagden Alley.

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