Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Currently on vacation in Florida, Dan and I spent a few days chillin' in Miami. I look forward to hanging out here each time, as there's never a shortage of culinary wows, and it's always a scene I love to explore. This time around, we ventured over to Miami's up and coming Design District and lunched at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink.
Just a few miles away from South Beach lies the charming and very much developing neighborhood, also known as the Design District. Neighboring Wynwood, which is also known for its many art galleries and intricate mural art, The Design District is becoming a great neighborhood to also check out new restaurants. Michael's in particular has been on my list for quite a while, as it's known in food circles as the go-to-place for delicious, locally grown food.
As we walked up to the restaurant, we noticed it's nestled around a few upscale art and fashion boutiques, creating a little inside courtyard, which in turn serves as Michael's outdoor dining area. Although it was warm outside, it looked as it would rain soon, so we headed indoors.
Upon walking in, I was glad we chose to dine inside, as I was really digging the atmosphere. It was simple and clean, with a red and black motif. The lighting was especially beautiful with these low light fixtures that hung on really long wires that almost came down table side. The artwork was pretty spectacular too, doing justice to its artistic locale.
The lunch menu was filled with a generous selection of locally sourced salads, sandwiches, pizza and larger entrees. We were definitely hungry but at the same time didn't want to overdo it, so we each chose a main dish and then topped off the meal with a perfect dessert.
Heirloom Tomato Salad - I couldn't refuse ordering this, and even our waiter called it a "must have." Staring at their counter full of irregularly shaped heirloom tomatoes told me that this ingredient is plentiful here, and therefore they must know what to do with it.
Even though it was simple, I loved everything about this salad, as it was juicy and refreshing, sophisticated, as well as healthy. The yellow beets, which were also incorporated were gorgeous and provided a little sweetness to this otherwise tangy medley. An addition of beautiful Roquefort cheese was welcome, giving this salad a hint of richness and creaminess.
Crispy Florida Shrimp Sandwich - Taking a bite of Dan's sandwich was also nice, as it brought home that fried goodness. One thing I didn't love was the actual shrimp, which reminded me of fried clam strips. This isn't a bad thing at all, but it's just not what I expected.
Since we're on vacation and Dan wanted to bring this to the next level, he also ordered a side of bacon. Totally out of this world, it was everything a perfect bacon slice should be - salty, smoky, a little crunchy and lean.
Home Brew Sundae - So glad that we saved room for dessert, this sundae put us over the edge. Consisting of layers of genius, aka homemade malted caramel, pretzels, toasted marshmallows and beer ice cream, it provided a beautiful ending to our meal. Loving the juxtaposition between sweet, bitter and salty, the sundae delivered on sophistication by way of simple ingredients. Like I said - genius!
Service and Cost:
The service as Michael's, like its food, is pretty genuine. Our waiter was attentive but not in your face, and knew this food really well. I like that he stated his recommendations with confidence and his suggestions turned out to be sound.
Costs are pretty expensive, but for a memorable, high quality meal, I think they're worth it. Lunch set us back about $72 in total with tax and tip.
3 Genuine Mmmms
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink - 130 NE 40th Street, Miami FL 33127
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
For all of you whiskey lovers, you'll be happy to hear that Bistro 33 has upped the ante on their whiskey offering. Their new whiskey menu includes twelve different whiskeys including domestic and international:
Yamazaki (Dan's favorite)
Pair these with Bistro's hearty fare including their lamb pops with crispy leaks, a horseradish pork shoulder, steak frites or their classic burger with tomato aioli and bacon. Sounds fabulous!
Bistro 33 - 19-33 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, NY 11105
N/Q Train to Ditmars Blvd (last stop)
Monday, May 20, 2013
For those of you who know me personally, you can vouch for how proud I am of my Slovak heritage. Although I've lived here most of my life, I stay very true to my roots and visit my relatives in my Mother country at least once a year.
A big part of my culture is of course the food, and that's why I love frequenting the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden. Although this place has changed a lot since I first started living in Astoria, it's still wonderful and nostalgic to me. It's exciting to me when they throw their annual Czech & Slovak festival, but unfortunately this year, I won't be in town to enjoy it. But hopefully you will be, and I can live vicariously through you guys. Here are the deets:
Annual Czech & Slovak Festival at Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden
Saturday, May 25th - Sunday, May 26th from 12:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Enjoy authentic Czech & Slovak food, drink and festive folk music. Wear comfy shoes and get ready to boogie (just like my cousin, Camryn pictured above).
Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden - 29-19 24th Avenue, Astoria NY 11102
N/Q Train to Astoria Blvd
Saturday, May 18, 2013
|Image by The Cupcake Bar|
Another local specialty I had while in North Carolina this week were some mighty delicious cupcakes. I was disappointed that my phone ran out of juice while enjoying a beautiful red velvet cupcake, and so I had to use the bakery's photo above of a similar looking treat (just picture the red dough instead).
I found these cupcakes at a neat little bakery in Downtown Durham called The Cupcake Bar. The concept is a really great one, which is based on ingredients that form a cocktail, only in cupcake form. Their logo is really lovely too - a silhouette of a cupcake with a stirrer poking out of the frosting.
Situated in a perfect corner spot on East Chapel Hill Street, The Cupcake Bar is hard to miss. I love the bright orange exterior, which right away piqued my interest and the simple, chic interior that certainly evoked a bar-like vibe.
When I walked in on a Wednesday evening, it was pretty chill and seemed like a good place to sit down, relax and even possibly do some work (they have wifi). Several folks came in throughout my visit, and seemed to be placing larger orders, showing me that this is a popular place to come when hosting events or children's birthday parties.
Even though there were a lot of interesting options to choose from, I went really classic with a Red Velvet cupcake. After all, how could I not have one of these when in the South?
Red Velvet - I ordered the mini version, which was just the right size for me. Boasting a really moist interior, it created the most heavenly bite. The frosting was fluffy, a little tangy from the cream cheese and not too sweet. My favorite part though was the gorgeously large pecan that stuck out of the frosting, just waiting to be devoured. All of these ingredients created a beautiful medley of flavors that conjured up memories of childhood and down-home comfort.
Service and Cost:
The staff was nice , but not as overly hospitable as in some other establishments I encountered in Durham. Maybe they were tired and ready to go home? I don't know...but this wouldn't deter me from going in again.
Costs are comparable to any good trendy bakery in NYC and include $1.50 for the mini cupcakes and $3 for the full size.
The Cupcake Bar - 101 East Chapel Hill Street, Durham NC 27701
Thursday, May 16, 2013
This week, I found myself in the South for a few days, working on a project that's part of my day gig. I went to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina to be exact and I really enjoyed myself.
Besides the unbelievable Southern hospitality found there, I also devoured some delicious eats. And of course I wanted something really Southern, so I couldn't leave town without sinking my teeth into some down home comfort food in the form of Fried Chicken & Waffles.
I found these at Dame's Almost World Famous Chicken & Waffles in downtown Durham and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting. My experience was quite magical...
Located in the heart of Downtown Durham, which is close to Duke University's campus, I found Dame's just by chance when perusing the shops and restaurants on West Main Street. The chicken and waffles sign immediately drew me in, and even though it was still early to eat dinner (around 5 ish), the restaurant had lots of patrons inside, which was a good sign.
The interior is simple, but clean and inviting. Beautiful white Corinthian pillars line the back room, which are just a spectacle to look at. You can find more history on the walls, as oversized paintings of famous jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie adorn the space. As a single diner, I sat at the bar, which provided me with a surprisingly private atmosphere and some comfort.
Dame's menu is a short, simple one, but that's what makes it ingenious. There are 10 core Chicken & Waffles options, and each one sounds dreamier than the next. After some deliberation and a few recommendations from my waiter, I made a choice.
The Buff Brahmas - What attracted me to this dish right away was the whiskey creme sauce and the peach/apricot shmear. It all sounded quintessentially Southern in the best possible way, and I decided to get it with the classic fried chicken wings instead of the chicken cutlets. I thought "if you're going for gluttony, just go all out." So I totally did and loved every minute of it.
The chicken was truly life changing, as it boasted a perfectly crispy brown skin and the moistest interior I've probably ever had. It didn't need much else besides the waffle, but of course, I put some extra peach shmear on top to make it sweeter. The waffle itself was something special too - thin and irregularly shaped, it felt rustic and totally homemade. Like something your grandmother would cook up.
I'd also like to give some love to the spicy collard greens, which I ordered as a side. They were beautifully cooked and not overdone, as each bite gave you a little kick from those bright red chili flakes.
Service and Cost:
From the minute I sat down til the very end of my experience, the service was fabulous. My waiter engaged me in conversation and did a nice job of explaining and recommending my chicken & waffles of choice. I never once felt I had to rush and really could've sat there all day.
Costs are moderate to inexpensive and only set me back $18 with tax and tip. And let me tell you, I was fuuuull!
Dame's Almost World Famous Chicken & Waffles - 317 West Main Street, Durham NC 27701
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Tis the season for oysters, and I do love me some fresh bivalves. Excited to see that Cavo's Tuesday night ladies offering has now been replaced with an oyster special, I wanted to call it out here. If you're free tonight and want to check it out, it looks really inviting. Here's the deal:
Cavo's Tuesday Oyster Special (every Tuesday)
East Coast Oysters - $1 all evening
All oyster platters are served with champagne mignonette sauce, lemon and lime segments and cocktail sauce. Cheers!
Cavo - 42-18 31st Ave, Astoria, NY 11103
R Train to Steinway or 46th Street
Monday, May 13, 2013
For an area that is somewhat void of a solid food and drink scene, Cherrywood Kitchen has carved out a nice little space for itself. The interior has a streamlined class to it that is subtly adorned with antiquated bookshelves and other necessities like a well stocked central bar. At our lunch visit (which it just started serving), the place was nearly empty so the service was right on point. Welcoming and offering suggestions, the manager and server steered us towards a hearty and wide-ranging lunch that made it hard to go back to the office instead of having another cocktail and dozing off in a lawn chair.
Botanical Gimlet (Hendrick’s Gin, English Cucumber, Lime) - If gimlets grew out of a magical garden that sprouted when it rained gin, this is what they would taste like. A cool and velvety texture from the pulverized cucumber laced with mild acidity of the lime that run hand in hand with the botanical elements of Hendrick’s.
Fooditka’s 2 cents – I also enjoyed this prelude to our meal, and I always have a soft spot (pun intended) for a good pretzel roll. The texture of the bread was really appreciated, as it was light and fluffy and not dense as some pretzel rolls can be. The whipped hot dog mustard butter was out of this world – even though I’m not a baseball fan, I couldn’t help but imagine myself at a pitiful Mets game.
Smoked Asparagus, Serrano Ham, Poached Farmer’s Egg - This classic trio is hard to go wrong with, but this version needed a little something more to knock it up a peg. A bit more smoke essence in the asparagus would have done the trick to comingle more with the ham and the golden liquid yoke.
Fooditka’s 2 cents – Being a huge fan of Serrano ham and anything with a poached egg on top, I was excited. Even though I enjoyed this app, I think it was a bit on the salty side and needed a little pop of something refreshing to lighten it up a tad.
Fooditka’s 2 cents: I appreciated this interesting take on calamari and have never seen anything like it. Stuffed with braised rabbit meat, it was nice to enjoy it in this way, as rabbit has a tendency of being pretty boney, but we didn’t have to worry about that here. Although I loved how the calamari encased the tender rabbit meat, keeping it nice and neat, it got a little outshined by the latter and by the pineapple salsa. Even so, I enjoyed this dish and would recommend trying it for the novelty factor.
Soft Shell Crab BLT - In a perfect world this would be a readily available at every bar, tavern or watering hole where I may find myself drinking frosty pints of beer. A massive crab, fried to a corn dredge crunch perfection, topped with fat slabs of pepper bacon with the lettuce and tomato for freshness. Squeezed between a soft brioche bun slathered with a slightly chili-ed mayo – this is one hell of a sandwich. Sure, it’s messy, and of course it’s salty, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Oh, and how can forget the little clay pot full of French fry ends topped with bacon crumble and cheddar that kept the BLT company. My only complaint with these crispy hash browns was that the cheddar somehow disappeared in the pile of fries and bacon.
Fooditka’s 2 cents: I love a good BLT and couldn’t refuse one with fried soft shell crab. As John already mentioned, it was a messy, get-your-hands-in-there kind of dish, but it was tasty. Another form of surf and turf—this one more casual—I enjoyed the chewy, smoky bacon with the fried goodness of the soft shell crab in one big bite. There was a side of sinful French fry ends with bacon and cheddar – the craziest, maverick move I’ve seen in French fry history :) I like that Cherrywood went no holds barred with this dish.
Fooditka’s 2 cents: This was a no joke dish, and it had a lot going on the plate – at certain points, you didn’t know where to look first. The pan seared bass was just one component that was actually the lightest thing on the plate, as everything else was super rich and decadent. I found the bone marrow calling my name, so I dug in and slathered it on the already moist crostini with peas. It was extravagant for sure, and not something for the faint of heart, as it was further topped with monkfish liver. The latter component was a bit too much for me, so I stuck to the marrow instead, which in my opinion could’ve been served on the warmer side. Even though I appreciated the inventiveness of this dish, I probably wouldn’t get it again.
Service and Cost:
Cherrywood wasn’t too busy for lunch yet, as I assume people are still hearing about it and probably visiting the restaurant more so during dinner hours. Having said that, the service was attentive and totally personalized and I have no complaints. I like that we were checked on frequently throughout the meal, but in the most unobtrusive way possible.
Costs are moderate for lunch and include:
Heavenly pretzel rolls – Complimentary with lunch
Appetizers - $8-$12
Sides - $5-$6
Dessert - $6
Cherrywood Kitchen - 300 Spring Street, New York NY 10013
E/C Train to Spring Street