Saturday, February 28, 2009

Extra Virgin

Extra Virgin is a West Village neighborhood gem located at 259 West 4th St. (between Charles & Perry St). As one could guess from their name, the restaurant offers a variety of extra virgin oils from around the world. Aside from the array of olive oil, chef Joey Fortunato serves quality Mediterranean dishes like Roasted Artichoke Parmesan and a Greek Salad which is served with hearts of palm, feta cheese, tomatoes, chickpeas, kalamata olives, red onion, cucumber and hummus crostini. My cousin ordered the Mustard Crusted Virgin Chicken served with sweet pea risotto, cippolini onions and truffle broth. Even Whitney Port and her boyfriend have been seen eating at Extra Virgin in an episode of The City.
Check out this video of the restaurant.
Open for dinner every night of the week, lunch Tuesdays-Fridays and brunch on the weekends from 11am-4pm.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mercer Kitchen

Mercer Kitchen is a New York hot spot inside the Mercer Hotel in Soho headed by famed chef Jean-Georges. My favorite detail about the restaurant is the bubble glass ceiling above the lover dining room where patrons can watch passersby walk across the roof that doubles as the Soho sidewalk outside the restaurant.One of my roommates and I surprised our other roommate by taking her out for drinks and appetizers at Mercer Kitchen for her birthday. I ordered a delicious seasonal cocktail that was a concoction of champagne and apple cider. Other fabulous sounding drinks on their drink menu include the Kumquat Mojito, Champagne Passion, Ginger Margarita and the Vodka Thyme Lemonade.
For our appetizers we shared the Butternut Squash Soup with black trumpet mushrooms, Shaved Fennel Salad and the Roasted Market Beets with goat cheese- all of which were amazing. The menu is full of other creative dishes that would satisfy vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Located at 99 Prince St. (at Mercer St.); reservations are highly recommended and can be made via OpenTable.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Babycakes NYC

If it's vegan it's healthy, right?!? That's what I told myself as I bit into a carrot cake cupcake at Babycakes bakery in NYC a couple weeks ago. Skeptics would be surprised that desserts made from coconut oil, agave nectar, garbanzo flour, and spelt are actually very good and much more filling than those made from white flour and sugar at places like Magnolia Bakery and Sprinkles.

Owner and founder Erin McKenna, opened Babycakes in 2005 tapping into the cravings of those who need to eat wheat, gluten, dairy and sugar free or even stick to a Kosher diet. McKenna's sweet factory was named the Best Cupcakes in NYC by NY Magazine in 2006.

Babycakes' menu offers cupcakes, loaves, cookies, cookie sandwiches, crumb cakes, muffins, spelt tea cake, brownies, macaroons, scones, pies and more. Among my favorite menu options are the tiny sweets like the cupcake tops and frosting shots.

Babycakes is currently located at 248 Broome Street (between Orchard & Ludlow) in Manhattan but are planning to open a Los Angeles location soon. The LA location will be cool, near The Grove and will share a space with the denim design shop Earnest Sewn.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bottega Del Vino

A true Italian cafe in the heart of the Upper East Side, there are only two Bottega Del Vino restaurants in the world, one in Manhattan and one in Verona, Italy. Having studied abroad in Italy in college I have to say that walking into Bottega Del Vino did take me back to my Italian days. According to the restaurant's history, all the furnishings were imported from Italy, including the aged wood pillars, marble tops, etched copper and antique chandeliers. The restaurant offers a casual dining area for breakfast and lunch, a formal dining room, a private room on the lower level and an exceptional wine cellar.
I was impressed with the vegetarian items I ordered for lunch including the Caprese di Buffala, with real buffalo mozzarella, and the Carpaccio di Zucca (steamed butternut squash carpaccio with feta cheese, pine nuts and tomatoes). I liked the idea of the Carpaccio di Zucca but wish the feta cheese didn't totally cover the slices of butternut squash, it would have also been good with thin slices of Parmesan cheese.
It's a great cafe to stop into for lunch or dinner but just don't expected an inexpensive or speedy lunch.
Bottega Del Vino is located on the North side of 59th St. and 5th Ave, across the street of the iconic Apple store.

Spice Market

I wanted to take my cousin and sister to some place as cool inside as Tao but wanted to go somewhere I hadn't been to before so I decided to take them to Spice Market, a Jean-Georges restaurant that plays up the street foods of Southeast Asia. The interior design is indeed captivating but the food wasn't exactly my favorite. If nothing else, I would recommend sitting at Spice Market's bar for cocktails but if you do stay for dinner I recommend the Vietnamese Spring Roll and the Mango Salad with cherry tomato and crystallized tamarind. I did enjoy the Butternut Squash Soup on the specials menu but it's just not reason enough to go back.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Don't be fooled by the name of this NYC hot spot, Butter is not a greasy food joint, it's actually quite the opposite. Butter is an amazingly chic establishment founded by Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva in 2002. Apparently there are three dining rooms within the restaurant, the Great Room, the Birch Room and the Gallery Lounge. The upper level is more formal while downstairs the dining experience is a bit more casual.

Upon entering the restaurant patrons are greeted by the large photographic mural of a Birch forest on the back wall that illuminates the entire Great Room. We ate downstairs in the Birch Room where the lights are dim and the walls are covered in silver birch accented wallpaper with a floor to ceiling backlit wine-rack on the back wall. The bar downstairs is across from a DJ station where live DJs spin fun hip-hop music (lots of Justin Timberlake and Rihanna).

I didn't seen any part of the third dining area, the Gallery Lounge but apparently it's a destination for meeting and socializing. With four to six loveseats carved from blocks of Western Red Cedar, the Gallery Lounge is an ideal place for pre-dinner cocktails.

The menu at Butter is amazing, using local and seasonal ingredients the dishes are French in style and technique but use American ingredients. I ordered the Roasted Local Beet, Parsnip and Radicco Salad with white balsamic and cara cara oranges. My sister ordered the special Mushroom Ravioli which she loevd. For dessert we quickly devoured the Roasted Gala Apple- bread pudding, oat streusel and creme fraiche ice cream.

A few days after we ate here Paris Hilton celebrated her birthday at Butter with friends.

Reserve a table in advance via Open Table.
Located at 415 Lafayette, near Astor Place

Friend of a Farmer

My sister and cousin came to NYC to visit me for a three day weekend during which time we ate at amazing restaurants including Butter, Spice Market, and Bottega Del Vino but after their visit the restaurant that they liked the most was Friend of a Farmer. A fabulous comfort food restaurant located at 77 Irving Place (btw 18th & 19th St.). that serves dishes that should be coming from your grandmother's kitchen.
The three of us ordered all very different entrees but all amazingly satisfying. My cousin had his most favorite meal, Fresh Roasted Turkey served with cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, fresh cranberry sauce and giblet gravy. Meanwhile my sister and I took the vegetarian route by ordering the Lasagna of the Day which happened to be potobello mushroom and artichoke lasagna, and The Gramercy Park Salad (organic mixed greens, bosc pears, fresh beets, toasted walnuts and goat cheese with an orange vinaigrette dressing).

Homemade desserts like pumpkin and apple pie were tempting but we had to pass it up since we had planned to go to Dylan's Candy Bar to satisfy our sweet cravings.

Apparently Friend of a Farmer is also a wonderful spot for weekend brunch. The restaurant is open Monday-Thursdays from 8am-10pm, Fridays until 11pm; Saturdays from 9:30am-11pm and Sundays from 9:30am-10pm.

Cafe Cluny

Cafe Cluny was new to NYC in the Fall of 2006 and immediately become a West Village hot spot. The success of Cafe Cluny comes as no surprise as it is owned by Lynn Wagenknecht, Judi Wong, and Steven Abramowitz, the team behind The Odeon and Cafe Luxembourg.

The place is charming, with cream colored walls, crown molding a cozy bar in the front room and a larger dining area in the back room. There are several interesting and playful details about the restaurant like the giant wooden cockroach clinched to the ceiling above our table, and the portraits of Graydon, Ian, Diane, et al., sketched by a Central Park artist [source: Daily Candy].

Cafe Cluny does not take reservations so while we waited for our table we sat at the bar and sipped hot chocolate. I was impressed that they served three different kinds- fat free, soy and whole milk.

For brunch I had the Homemade Granola with berries and yogurt on the side, my sister had an egg white omelet with goat cheese and a side salad while my cousin had Brioche French Toast with berries and Vermont maple syrup.

Mondays thru Fridays Cafe Cluny is open for breakfast from 8am-11am, lunch from 11:30am-3pm, and dinner from 9pm-midnight. On the weekends it's open for brunch from 9am until 4pm and for dinner from 5:30-11pm.
Location: 284 W. 12th Street

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I first heard about Cowgirl while on the Sex and the City tour in July, it's the place where Carrie and Miranda run into Aidan and Steve having lunch together.
It's a cute place and offers great outdoor dining in the warmer months but unfortunately the food was sub par. If you order right it's good place for comfort food but I ordered the Cowgirl Citrus salad from the Specials menu and it was definitely nothing special. Two of my friends ordered the Texas Veggie Trio (a cup of veggie chili, a side salad, a baked potato and a warm piece of cornbread served with sour cream, jack and pico de gallo on the side). It was a nice variety of food but they both commented that it really wasn't worth $15.

I liked the rustic feel of the restaurant and loved the idea of the little roadside General Store inside which sold candies, t-shirts and other knickknacks. Cowgirl would be a great place to meet friends at the bar and sip on the fresh fruit margaritas, cleverly served in mason jars.

I've heard that Cowgirl is a great brunch spot, if you've ever visited for brunch leave a comment below to let us know what you thought.

Located at 519 Hudson St. (at 10th St.) and open everyday- Mondays-Thursdays until midnight, Fridays and Saturdays until 2am and until 11pm on Sundays.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Aspen Restaurant & Lounge

The photos of Aspen's interior have tempted me for several months now and I finally had the chance to experience the cozy hotspot last weekend. The bar seems pleasant with wood panel walls and three fake deer heads but step in a little further to enter into the restaurant where patrons dine around a giant fire pit. I continued to be impressed with the restaurant as our waitress rattled off the specials which included lamb atop of mashed potatoes infused with truffle oil.
I ordered the magnificent Vegetarian Terrine dished served on a rectangular white plate with three portions of vegetables lined up. From left to right there were beet mashed potatoes, baked eggplant wrapped with brussel sprout leaves in the middle followed by a serving of green beans to the right.
Overall the restaurant was lovely- romantic but not too romantic, trendy but not too trendy. The space would also serve well as an event venue.
Located on 22nd Street between 5th & 6th Avenues. (Dinner served from 6-midnight; bar opened from 5pm-late night; closed Sundays)
According to OpenTable, Aspen hosts a Happy Hour daily from 5-8pm; Thursdays DJ Tommy James plays from 8pm-2am; Friday nights you'll find DJ Life spinning from 9pm-2am and on Saturdays DJ's Billy Caldwell and Justin Strauss perform from 9pm-4am

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Blog Alert: Cook-To-Bang

This week my friend, DTrench, introduced me to a hot new foodie blog called Cook to Bang, providing men everywhere with recipes to get them laid.Besides the blush-worthy recipes like "Forbidden Fruit Salad" and "Let's Bang S'More," I love how they post images of the cooking process so you know what to expect when you try to make these concoctions yourself. A few of my favorite recipes from the site include the "Lecherous Lemon Bars," "Mo-Mojo Mojito," and the "Gettin' Your Goat Cheese Salad."
Give them a try and do kiss and tell by letting us know if you end up lucky in the bedroom after fixing one of these dishes. I'm all ears if you have your own recipes for love, share them in the comments below.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Avra Estiatorio

I had always been interested in trying Avra Estiatorio, a large Greek restaurant on 48th St. between 3rd and Lexington Ave. The space is huge, would be a great spot for groups, and the courtyard off to the side of the restaurant makes me think Avra would be a fun place to try in the summer time for some outdoor dining.The menu features a wide variety of Greek food, the meal starts off with two small dishes, one filled with olives, another filled with hummus and a basket of bread. To go along with our hummus my friend and I ordered the Kolokithi- traditional crispy zucchini and eggplant chips. For dinner we both ordered Greek Salads, of course my favorite part of the salad were the large slices of feta cheese and crisp tomatoes.
Reservations can be made at OpenTable