Category Archives: Coffee Shop

{ The Down to Earth Cafe } ****

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1141 N 5th St
Perkasie, PA 18944
(215) 258-2233

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Eating out at a restaurant is often an experience that is driven and dominated by the desire to socialize. People go out for a meal to spend time with the ones that they love, and the food serves as the unifying element that brings them all together. Sometimes the food is very well prepared and someone will comment on its palatability, and other times, the food is just present as a mere necessity for sustaining life and a backdrop for the conversation.

What I am trying to say is that very rarely do people make an emotional connection with their food when they dine out. After all, they are not involved in the direct preparation of their food, nor do they often get the opportunity to watch as chefs transform raw ingredients into the entrée of their choice. The food arrives at the table, they eat, and go home.

The Down to Earth Café in Perkasie Pa offers a different kind of dining experience though—one that is atypical of the norm. In all facets of the restaurant, there is a permeating sense of community; a genuine connection established between every person, object, and meal that one comes in contact with. The servers feel familiar and their smiles seem genuine, as if they would rather be nowhere else in the world. The kitchen is partially within the customer’s view so that patrons can watch as their food is being prepared, and see who is responsible for crafting their meal. The food itself is sourced locally and organically—whenever feasible—and the menu showcases how simple high-quality ingredients can come together to create something delicious.

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I went for brunch this weekend and had very few expectations for this little café tucked away in a rather non-descript and rundown strip mall. But from the moment that I walked in, I knew I was in for a good meal! I ordered the Anti-Salerno Sandwich with grilled eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, onions, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers, topped with melted goat cheese on a fresh ciabatta roll ($8.95).

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I added a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and it was delightful! The veggies were chopped up nice and small so that each bite was clean, and the side of balsamic and grape quinoa salad was super tasty. I wish there had been a bit more than the level tablespoon that was dolloped on the plate, but it was excellent.

Veggie Sandwich 1

My boyfriend ordered the Farmer’s Panini Special with scrambled eggs, Blooming Glen scrapple, cheddar cheese, and baby spinach ($9.95). I am not one that cares for scrapple, so I did not sample his dish, but he said that it was hearty and delicious.

Scrapple Sandwich

To drink, I sampled one of the new Sipp organic sodas that they offered in the Mojo berry flavor with blackberry juice, mint, lime, and a touch of agave nectar. It was very refreshing and much less syrupy than a typical soda. Dare I say a healthy soda?

Menu and Soda

All in all, I cannot wait to go back and try some of the other fabulous meals offered at the Down to Earth Café…in particular the smoothies, which looked incredible!

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Filed under Bakery, Baking, Breakfast, Brunch, Buck's County, Cafe / Bistro, Coffee Shop, Cookies, Dessert, Fast Casual Food, Lunch Spots, Muffins, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Restaurants

{ Sketch Restaurant in London: The Gallery }

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9 Conduit Street
London WIS 2XG
+44 (0) 20 7659 4500

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I rarely save obligatory tourist sights for my last day when traveling in a new city. And this is a rather difficult feat for me, provided that I am, by nature, a procrastinator in all other aspects of my life. I quit procrastinating in travel, however, after my recent trip to Barcelona—a city that I must revisit since I left without ever laying eyes on Parque Guell. I saved that monumental attraction for my final day in Spain, spending the rest of my time (and money) on binge drinking and partying down by the notoriously shitty beach. I planned to visit Picasso’s masterpiece on June 31st, before flying out to Prague. But the 31st never came because there are only 30 days in June, and thus I left the city with a month-long hangover, very little cultural enrichment, and hardly and cash.

Since then, I have made it a point to get my sightseeing done first. But due to the limited space and late reservations, I was forced to save the London Eye experience for the last night of my trip…which turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise, because it was the perfect note to end my trip upon! I also indulged in one of the most incredible meals of my life after seeing the beautiful views of London from the top of the Eye.

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Where did I dine, you ask?

9 Conduit Street in Mayfair, London.

If you are into food, art, fashion design, or architecture, then you may be familiar with the address. The opulent townhome has served as the headquarters for the Royal Society of British Architects, the atelier of Christian Dior, and is currently home to the 2 star Michelin-rated French restaurant run by Executive Chef, Pierre Gagnaire.

Even if French food isn’t your cup of tea, if your pockets are deep enough, I suggest that you at least pay a visit to check out the unique ambiance. The décor is parallel to none; with each room in the space taking you on a journey that is evocative of trippy dream. There are three different dining rooms—each one offering a different menu and price point—as well as two ultra posh cocktail lounges. The whole venue is a riot of color and an onslaught to the senses. But the loud and quirky design makes this Michelin restaurant feel, dare I say, comfortable?!

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After studying all of the menus, I chose to dine at the Gallery, which is the more informal restaurant space with more reasonably priced menu items. British artist, Martin Creed, has transformed the space into a serviceable museum of modern art with eclectic chairs and one-of-a-kind dinnerware.

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To start, I ordered the Chestnut Velouté with white truffle oil, and pan-fried squid sautéed with garlic and cherry tomatoes (£15). It was velvety, rich, and every bit delicious. I cleared the bottom of my bowl with the trio of freshly baked breads that were brought to the table (£4).

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The second appetizer that I tried was the Dublin bay prawn tempura with haricot beans and aubergine, accompanied by an Osframpi sauce (£25). The prawns were delicious but sadly, there were only three of them—typical French portions! I didn’t expect the vegetables would also be deep fried, and I found them a bit bourgeois in contrast to the otherwise haute cuisine. The osframpi sauce was magical, however, due in part to the fact that I’ve never tasted one before. Essentially, it is a puree of wild berries balanced with some sort of lemon acidity to cut the sweetness. I did not use it for the prawns, but rather as a spread for the breadbasket.

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For my entrée, I ordered the Cannon of lamb roasted en crépine, Niçoise socca, swiss chard pomponette (£28). The lamb was cooked to perfection and the sauce dressing the plate was to die for, but I have had better cuts of meat before. I cleared the plate none-the-less, which easy to do at a French restaurant—oftentimes in just two bites!

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To accompany my main dish, I ordered a side of the homemade pumpkin and chestnut gnocchi (£6), which were fabulous. They were so delicate with all of the vegetables minced into perfect little cubes, and the pasta was browned on the outside and tender and chewy on the inside.

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There was little hesitation when it came to choosing a dessert; naturally, I opted for the chocolate one: Sketch Chocolat, which is a dark chocolate box filled with vanilla cream, nougatine, dried fruits, caramel syrup and coffee genoise. On the side, of the box was a little shooter filled with pistachio ice cream with pineapple and mango coulis (£10). I also got the suggested after-dinner drink, The Whisk Away, made with Laphroaig Whisky and Kalua (£7). The coffee notes in the dessert and cocktail complimented one another beautifully.

All in all, Sketch is about the experience: the art, the atmosphere, the service, the exotic bathrooms! Sure, the food is very, very good, but it is the ambiance that is over-the-top. I would certainly return, possibly in some high heels next time, with slightly lower expectations of the food.

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Filed under Bars, Brunch, Cafe / Bistro, Cakes, Cocktails, Coffee Shop, Cookies, Cupcakes, Dessert, French Restaurants, International Restaurants, London Restaurants, Lunch Spots

{ The Borough Market in London }

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Whenever I go into a city, I feel pressured to eat—and drink—just about everything in sight. In a brief two-block stroll, I can usually find time to eat a pastry, sample a gelato, snack on an over-priced French macaron or chocolate, down a cup of fancy coffee, and possibly even grab a cocktail of some sort. It’s down right impressive, albeit slightly sickening to my friends that are forced to dip into every corner shop café with me!

Why does the city send me into this preposterous food frenzy, you ask?

Because I am from the suburbs!! The suburbs of Philadelphia, no less: a place where good food requires some serious gas mileage and planning. You can’t find an authentic Italian restaurant, a crab shack, a sake lounge, and an artisanal chocolatier all within the same one-mile radius! If you want Indian, you drive to Iselin, NJ. If you want Italian, you drive to South Philly. If you want French, you’re shit outta luck. My point is, that you’re driving if you want to get good ethnic foods. So when I see Cambodian sandwiches, ramen, French pastries, and kebabs all within the same street, I get beside myself and feel the urge to try it all simply because it is there!

My most recent trip to London kept me eating around the clock because of the seemingly endless number of cafes and pubs, each one more adorable than the next. I plan to give a full review each meal, but I want to start off with my absolute favorite food experience in London, which doesn’t take place in a restaurant at all, but rather an open-air food market called the Borough Market.

My idea of heaven is an endless Borough Market where every vendor has free samples and they don’t judge you for taking more than one, instead they encourage it! The food is free, and it has no caloric value, and you never feel full so you can just keep on eating, and eating, and eating. #FatGirlProblems

The Best Prepared Meal Item: Thai Green Curry Paella with Chicken & Seafood over Rice. I did my research on the market before going (aka Googled the shit out it to see what other bloggers were saying!) in so that I could make an informed decision on what to eat once I got there. I read that the Paella place was one of the best, and I can confirm that it was better than some seafood dishes I had in Spain. It was creamy and flavorful and the rice was tender without being mushy. A food experience that was borderline otherworldly.

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The Best Cheese: The Borough Cheese Company’s 15 mo. aged Comte

It was the first cheese we sampled going into the market, and we continued to go back for more samples until we found ourselves just pounding down his entire platter one sample after another. Then it got awkward and we decided we were obligated to make a purchase, which was noshed down that same evening. I ate it like a slice of watermelon, right down to the rind, holding the wedge between my two hands.

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The Best Exotic Item for Purchase: Tartufaia Truffles’ White Truffle Honey

Need I say more? Truffle + Honey = guaranteed foodgasm

I might just have to fly back for more once I eat it all, and for only 5 pound a jar, it is the best bargain in London!!!

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The Best Eat at Home Purchase: West Country Preserves

I bought the Spicy Gooseberry with Cumin Seeds, which is more savory than sweet. It pairs well with chicken and meat, but also toast if your taste buds are like mine! I also bought one of the Ginger Curds, which is a sweetened yet naturally spicy spread that pairs lovely with toast and desserts. My friends got the pure Ginger Preserves, which were intensely flavorful but also amazing. The man knows how to sell too—he loves encouraging samples! I think I tried all 32 varieties before selecting my final two for purchase.

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Other Items I purchased and loved:

 Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella – So creamy and tender. I coupled these bad boys with some sliced tomatoes and avocado wedges when I got back home and they were lovely.

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Date and Walnut Bread from The Flour Station– I was on a date kick after my trip to Harrods (where I bought the best dates of my life!), and so I decided to get loaf of this bread. It turned out to be my breakfast pregame and late night snack for the remaining days of my trip. A fabulous purchase!

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1 BOROUGH MARKET YUM

Roasted Porchetta Sandwich with Applesauce and Rockett on Ciabatta – this was not my favorite, as I found the meat a bit too fatty and difficult to swallow. That being said, I did love the deep rosemary flavor to the meat and the pairing of the sweet applesauce, which is something I will replicate at home in the future.

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Mulled Wine – It was my first English mulled wine experience, so I will have a special place for it in my heart, but I went on to have much better from street vendors at the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. And priced at 4 pound a cup, it was difficult to catch a buzz!

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Chocolates and Fudge from Burnt Sugar– I loved the chocolate covered honeycombs made with rich dark chocolate, but learned that fudge is not really my thing. It might be the only food that I can say isn’t one of my weaknesses.

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Filed under Bakery, Baking, Breakfast, Brunch, Cocktails, Coffee Shop, Cookies, Dessert, International Restaurants, London Restaurants, Markets

Cafe Lift ***

Cafe Lift French Toast
 
428 N. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
215.922.3031

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Breakfast is my FAVORITE meal of the day. But it is not just an indulgence for me, it is a necessary ritual. God forbid I don’t eat my four-egg omelet before leaving the house in the morning, and I am like Atilla the Hun for the remainder of the day—just ask any of my friends.

Having spent almost all of my life with a passion for both breakfast and cooking, you can imagine that I have become quite talented at preparing 5-star omelets, fluffy pancakes, hearty oatmeals, and fresh yogurt parfaits (or at least I think so!). That being said, I am highly critical of breakfasts served outside of my own kitchen. Every now and then though, I venture to a restaurant to check out their version of breakfast and I did so this weekend at Café Lift.

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The restaurant is a modern loft space, decorated as if Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel had a love child. It is verging on the edge of hipster, but it is comfortable and cozy to patrons of all ages (and there is a wide variety!).

Inside Cafe Lift

I ordered the Plum Tomato Frittata with Asparagus, Roasted Plum Tomatoes, and Fontina Cheese, drizzled with Homemade Basil Pesto ($8).

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The basil pesto was so fresh and summery, and the frittata was executed very well, without being overcooked or hard. The parmesan-crusted home fries were tasty, but a bit overcooked and consequently mushy for my liking (I told you I was critical!). The multigrain toast was god awful, but I’m watching my carb intake so I’ll consider that a blessing in disguise!

To accompany my enormous frittata, I also ordered a Lemon Ricotta Pancake topped with Fresh Strawberries ($3).

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It sounded amazing, but fell a little flat for me. I thought the batter could have benefitted from some and/or more lemon zest. I just didn’t get that bright citrus flavor to compliment the creaminess of the ricotta. It did photograph quite lovely though. #pancakefoodporn

My friend Sara ordered the Special Eggs Florentine served with Jumbo Lump Crab Meat, Spinach, and Truffle Hollandaise Sauce ($11.50).

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Normally, the dish would be served on an English muffin, but Sara is Gluten-Free so she had it open-face instead. She enjoyed it, although we both agreed the hollandaise was lacking a bit in truffle flavor…aka the best part.

All in all, the food was good but is it better than my own version of breakfast?

Nope.

I will definitely say that it is an awesome value for what you get though, and if you’re not as high maintenance about breakfast as I am, you will probably love it!

Here’s a look at what I would serve if I could have my very own brunch spot…

……..someday!

Black Bean and Corn Omelet

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Omelet with Goat Cheese

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Brocoli and Gruyere Quiche

Veggie Omelet ad Hash Browns

Mushroom Spinach and Goat Cheese Oetitie Quiche

Mexican Scramble

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Yogurt with Berries and Granola

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Filed under Bakery, Breakfast, Brunch, Buck's County, Cafe / Bistro, Coffee Shop, Lunch Spots, Pennsylvania

{ Best Lunch Spots in Buck’s County }

Finding good food on-the-go is tough when you don’t live in a city studded with Pret a Manager, Chipotle, and five-star food trucks. In Buck’s County, the options are pretty limited to full-service, sit-down restaurants or drive-thru, fast-food establishments. If you don’t brown paper bag it to work, you’re looking at either an overpriced gourmet salad, a 40-minute sushi luncheon, or a greasy quarter-pounder in the McDonald’s parking lot. But thankfully, local restaurant owners are finally starting to fill this market gap by opening quick-service lunch spots with high-quality food.

Here is a list of my favorite lunch spots in Buck’s County:

1. { Sariano’s Country Cafe }

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Located right in the heart of Lahaska, is this adorable French cafe with homemade croissants, fresh soups, and delicious Croque Monsieur sandwiches. You can eat al fresco at any of the outdoor cafe tables, or take your order to-go (just be warned that there is only one indoor table, so might not be the best option for a cold/rainy day!). The menu is posted on a black board behind the counter, and although isn’t terribly long, neither is the wait for your food!

I highly recommend the Grilled Vegetable & Mozzarella Sandwich, which is served warm on a Fresh Butter Croissant ($7.00). The vegetables are chopped up nice and small, and the croissant provides delicious and sturdy base for the sandwich, keeping it together as you eat.

Of course, this being a French cafe, I also recommend the Croque Monsieur sandwiches, which are served on homemade French bread. They have the classic Ham & Cheese ($5.50), but I suggest trying the Goat Cheese & Proscuitto ($6.50) combination, which isn’t something you see every day! Keep in mind that these sandwiches are served hot, so the cheese is warm and bubbly when they come out of the oven. Delicious.

And lastly, I really enjoy Sariano’s Shrimp & Corn Chowder Soup ($7.00), which is creamy and slightly spicy but not too heavy. The soup prices seems a little high, when compared those of the sandwiches, but the portions are really generous and it comes accompanied with your choice of crackers or homemade French bread.

If you’re really in a hurry, Sariano’s also offers an assortment of pre-made meals that you can choose from.

2. { Jule’s Thin Crust }

Photo taken from TheMainLineVine

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With new locations popping up all over Buck’s County, it is clear that Jule’s Thin Crust has found a recipe for success. This gourmet pizza shop, which relies heavily on locally and organically grown produce, offer 22+ varieties of pizza, innovative salads, and gluten-free, as well as whole-wheat, products. If you stop by for just a few slices, you can choose from anything available on the line and get back to work within 10 minutes. And if you’d rather place a full pie or custom order, you’re looking at a total wait time of about 15 minutes, but you’re more than welcome to bring a bottle of wine to help pass the time while you wait! Just keep in mind that you’re still at a pizza place, so to all my wine-snobs: NO, there will not be glassware!

I suggest trying the new Buffalo Chicken Pizza with hormone free chicken, chopped celery, blue cheese, mozzarella, arugala, and buffalo sauce ($2.90 per slice). Or the Kim’s Pie with hormone free chicken, portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, balsamic BBQ glaze, mozzarella, and chives ($2.90 per slice).

Another classic, loved by all, is the Brushetta Pizza with Chopped Organic Tomatoes, Fresh Cubed Mozzarella, Garlic, Oregano, and Arugala, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil! It will revolutionize your idea of pizza.

3. { Marhaba }

Photo Taken from The New York Times

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Tucked away on a side street in Lambertville, is one of the best Middle Eastern Restaurants that I have ever been to! The interior is cozy, the prices are reasonable, and the food is authentic and a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The Gyro Sandwich, which is slow roasted lamb, topped with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and tahini drizzle on a warm homemade pita ($5.95) is a deal that can’t be beat and so it has become a regular weekly lunch for me and my mother.

Photo Taken from Jersey Foodies

I also recommend the Babaganough, which is a grilled eggplant spread mixed with tahini, garlic, and fresh lemon juice ($5.95) served alongside warm homemade pita bread. The spread has a zesty flavor and a creamy texture, that is beautiful when paired with the zatter spices on the pita bread.

Photo Taken from ThePalatePrincess

4. { Genivieves Panini & Salads To-Go }

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I found this place on Groupon a couple of weeks ago, and I have been hooked ever since! Located in the center of Doylestown, Genivieves serves up seasonally inspired food made with locally produced ingredients. The sandwiches are crafted like a work of art and the flavor combinations are a food-enthusiasts dream. My personal favorites are: the Vegetale with grilled asparagus, plum tomato, gooey taleggio cheese, and fresh pesto on multigrain bread ($7.50);  and the Tuscany with grilled chicken breast, sautéed broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone on rustic ciabatta bread ($7.50). 

In addition to their fabulous warm panini’s, Genivieves also offers gourmet salads, homemade soups, and assorted baked goods. And if you find yourself addicted, as I have, then you can also order their food for catered dinners with 24 hours advance notice. Unfortunately, Genivieves is take-out only, so you cannot dine-in.

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Filed under Baking, Cafe / Bistro, Coffee Shop, French Restaurants, Italian Restaurants, Lunch Spots, New Jersey Restaurants, Philadelphia Restaurants, Take-Out

Eataly in New York *****

200 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010
(212) 229.2560

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Have you ever had the privilege of witnessing a child enter Disney World for the first time? You watch their face light up with joy, their little legs propelling them forward as quickly as possible, their eyes wide with excitement. Well add some intense hand gurning, and thats what I look like each time I enter Eataly Italian market. It is a Mecca for foodies–a specialty food market on steroids, with restaurants and cafes scattered throughout.

You can stand around high tables in the salumeria, enjoying a glass of wine expertly paired to compliment an assortment of specialty cheeses, or you can enjoy nibbling on  a freshly baked focaccia as you wait for your table at La Pizza & Pasta. And Lord knows you’ll have plenty of time to wash down several espressos at Cafe Vergnano, if you’re trying to get a table at the new rooftop birreria–the line to go up is longer than airport security at JFK. No, I’m not joking.

Sure, the market is expensive (and indeed touristy, as several other bloggers have observed), but it is undoubtedly worth the visit. Take it for what it is: an expensive dining experience in an avant-garde food theater. And on that note, I shall walk you through my Eataly experience this past weekend, beginning in the Salumeria with a nice glass of red wine (Italian, of course!).

After adapting to the circus like environment of Eataly, my friends and I gathered around a hightop table in the salumeria and ordered a platter sampling the selection of cured meats and cheeses. The cheese assortment included: a creamy ricotta, a strong parmigiano regiano, a pungent taleggio, a sweet gorgonzola, and a cacio de Roma. My personal favorites were the taleggio and the ricotta, which paired beautifully with the fresh fig and orange segments accompanying the plate. The meats we tried included: delicious mortadella cubes, 14-month aged prosciutto de Parma, and sweet & spicy coppa and sopressata. The prosciutto de parma was hands down the highlight of the plate–delicate and salty.

Next we headed over to La Pizza, where Neapolitan natives are firing up the kind of pizza that God would make if he were having dinner guests. And the gold-tiled ovens certainly add to the ethereal effect:

Photo taken by Adam Kuban from Serious Eats

I decided to go all out and order the most expensive pizza on the menu, which would be the Fru Fru Pizza coming in at a total cost of $22 (a price that you can somehow justify after the first bite!). For indecisive people, like myself, who can’t chose just one pizza on the menu, the Fru Fru offers a small sampling of three different topping combinations: (1) dollops of sweet ricotta cheese with cooked ham (no sauce); (2) aged mozzarella cheese with tomato sauce; and (3) delicious Parma ham with arugula and parmigiano reggiano shavings. It looks like this:

My favorite of the three, you ask? Probably the ricotta and ham because of the contrasting salty and sweet flavors (but the pizza crust is really the star of this dish!).

Two of my friends ordered the Quattro Formaggi with a mixture of gorgonzola, pecorino romano, mozzarella, and parmigiano reggiano cheeses. This is supposed to be served as a white pizza, but one of my friends also ordered it with tomato sauce and it was none-the-less delicious. You can feast your eyes on the white one:

And then of course someone at the table had to be a plain Jane and order the classic Margarita Pizza with tomato sauce, slices of fresh mozzarella, basil, and a drizzling of extra virgin olive oil. I know there is something to be appreciated about the flavor of a few quality ingredients, but I like to live a little with my pizza toppings!! Like everything else at Le Pizza and Pasta though, it was amazing!

Most people would be throwing in the napkin by now, but not me! Sufficiently pregammed with my pizza appetizer, I decided to order a plate of Tagliatelli al Ragu di Manzo, which is a hearty (and rich) braised short rib ragu over homemade pasta. The pasta is cooked to perfection–just tough enough to stick to your tooth a little (the definition of Al dente). And the braised meat is so tender that it falls apart at the mere prodding of your fork. The dish is quite heavy given the nature of the sauce and the weight of the pasta, but it is every bit savory and delicious. I would highly recommend this pasta (as long as  you have already tried the pizza!).

So until next time, Eataly, Arrivederci!!!

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Filed under Cafe / Bistro, Cocktails, Coffee Shop, Italian Restaurants, Markets, New York Restaurants

Corner Shop Cafe ****

212.253.7467
643 Broadway (and Bleecker)
New York, NY

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I was preparing to photograph my lunch today (a couple of delicious chicken quesadillas), when my phone alerted me that I had “insufficient memory space” to store the images. Considering that I upload and delete my photos as I write reviews, this notification means that I am seriously behind on blogging (too much eatting, not enough writing!). I was forced to go through my collection of food photos and decide which images looked the most decadent, deleting the others that were not up to par. This sounds like an easy task, but choosing which images to part with was a painstaking process. Needless to say, my quesadillas were cold by the time I finally finished. In order to make space for future reviews, I will be backtracking a bit and intermittenly posting some articles on New York grub.

The first review is from one of my favorite lunch/brunch spots in NYC–The Corner Shop Cafe. Their menu is an eclectic mix of sandwiches, pastas, salads, and eggs but these often simple dishes are far from the ordinary here.  The Corner Shop Cafe has mastered the art of delivering the classics with a whole new twist, taking them to another level. For example, their PB & Banana Grilled Sandwich which comes on cranberry raisin bread dipped in french toast batter, served with honey and minted berries ($9). Clearly, this is not your mom’s PB & J!

Some how I fought the temptation of ordering this mastermind creation (along with the Creme Brûlée Dipped French Toast ($11)), and instead opted for a lighter lunch of Steamed Mussels in a white wine garlic sauce with parsley, peas, and tomatoes ($12). Let me tell you, these mussels were fan-freaking-tastic! The mussels themselves were plump and fresh, and the sauce was out of this world. The herb parmesan crostini soaking in the bowl was also a very nice touch and made the meal more satisfying.

My friend Sam ordered Brie & Basil Panini with aged tried cheese, oven roasted tomatoes, and prosciutto on a toasted ciabatta roll ($13). Again, a very common menu item, but executed perfectly. The ingredients were all very fresh, from the salty to prosciutto to the flakey bread, and the side salad was dressed perfectly with a nice light vinaigrette.

My other friend Ariana went all out and ordered the Truffled Poached Eggs on Toast Platter with two organic poached eggs atop grilled asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and drizzled with truffle oil served with grilled ciabatta bread ($10). A little bit of food jealous crept up on me when this plate was brought to the table. You know when you second guess your meal decision and get grumpy because another person’s food at the table looks better. Ariana was kind enough to fed me forkfuls every now and then though, so it lowered my post-order dissonance. Everything on the plate was fantastic and for the menial price of $10, it tastes even better!

We also all shared a bowl a Cream of Tomato Soup ($7), which paired great with my herb parmesan crostini. I highly recommend this soup because they only use enough cream to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. You can see by the color of the broth that the cream isn’t too overdone or heavy. It begs for grill cheese dipping!

Also, the prices on the drinks were very reasonable. We had a couple of Mimosas and a round of Chardonnay for about $10 each. I am looking forward to going back to the Corner Shop Cafe as soon as I return to the states!

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“Death By Prosciutto” – Madrid, Spain

Iberico Ham from Spain

Before my trip to Spain, mention of the word ham conjured up strong images of Christmas dinner—a honey-glazed, suckling pig in the center of a large table, surrounded by side dishes piled high with mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, and rye bread. However. I must admit that this traditional Christmas feast never tickled my fancy because I don’t like the actual taste (or texture) of cooked ham. And judging by the number of condiments that people use in combination with their boiled and broiled pig, I don’t think that I am the only person sharing in this sentiment. I mean you rarely see someone just nibbling on a piece of ham…unless of course, it’s slathered in mayo between two slices of Wonderbread, or served next to a heap of cheesy scrambled eggs, or covered in gobs of mustard. But in Spain, ham is like a second religion (soccer being the first), and it is delicious because it is NOT cooked. Instead, it undergoes a delicate process of curing and drying, which can take up to 48 months! After the ham has aged to perfection, it is dubbed “Jamon Iberico,” which is then sliced down into thin cuts of meat that sell at a very lofty price point. I once heard a comedian say, “I wouldn’t mind being treated like a piece of meat, as long as it was Serrano ham…because that means you think I’m fancy and thin!” I would have to agree with this statement after spending time in Spain.

Serrano ham is truly incredible—an explosion of flavor in your mouth. Unfortunately, it is also an explosion of sodium. Your fingers and feet will attest to that after just 2 short days in Catalan country. You will struggle to take off your rings and your ankles will transform into cankles as they rapidly loose bone definition from all of the salt-swelling. However, you will accept these side effects as minor troubles, and continue to eat Serrano ham, as you begin to realize that it is one of the best foods available in Spain. And unlike ham in the US, it doesn’t require a slew of condiments to taste good. It is perfection when eaten alone, but also delicious when paired with melon, Manchego cheese (a real sodium-assault), or sliced baguette for a simple sandwich. It is an ingredient so delicious, that you honestly can’t ruin it if you try, which brings me to my next point: do yourself a favor, and order simple in Spain. They have a lot of high quality produce and ingredients available, but they struggle developing the right flavors in complex dishes at many restaurants. After several disappointing meals, I learned that the best foods in Spain are the simplest; i.e. Serrano ham platters, chorizo, stuffed olives, and patatas bravas (potatoes with hot sauce). Therefore, a good place to grab lunch is in a food market (this is NOT to be confused with a supermarket). The food markets are very gourmet and have a variety of different vendors, each with a specific and unique culinary offering. You can create yourself a fantasy meal as you go from station to station, and select the items that call out to your belly…a true tapas experience. My favorite food market in Spain was located in Madrid, and it is called the Mercado de San Miguel (situated right outside the Plaza Mayor—http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/).  This covered market is over 100 years old and boasts 33 different food shops; selling anything from fruit to meat, cheese, and baked goods.

Mercado de San Miguel

Me, standing in front of the Mercado….itching to get inside

I got the best Iberico ham that I have ever tasted there, in addition to olives stuffed with mussels, croquettes, a mini tuna bocadilla (sandwich), and an assortment of Spanish cheeses with sliced baguette.

Is it a fruit display or is it art?…ask for assistance getting those cherries!

Our Jamon Iberico getting sliced to order….talk about fresh

Our Jamon y Queso Platter

Assorted Croquettes Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Spinach, and Chorizo

Manchego Cheese, Sliced Baguette, and Spanish Olives Stuffed with Mussels and Chilies

Tunafish Bocadillo with Manchego Cheese

Prices at the market were very reasonable, and I enjoyed eating my lunch at a window-counter where I was able to people watch passerbys outside. Just try not to make eye contact with the bands of roaming gypsys that are begging outside the market. It is like feeding the birds at the beach…you give a crumb to one seagull and soon the whole flock is swarming.

If you manage to resist the mouth-watering desserts offered in the Mercado (a serious testament to your self-control), you can walk across the street to CH&CH Chocolate & Churros (Calle Mayor, 54 in Barrio Palacio) for a sweet bite.

CH&CH Menu

CH&CH serves up fabulous cappuccinos and Spanish fried pastries (known as churros). Personally, I prefer Mexican/Cuban churros, which are topped with cinnamon and sugar (too much time in Miami), but this place served up some delicious fried-to-order churros that came with an incredible thick and rich chocolate dipping sauce. Ohh and just a heads up, the dipping sauce comes in a mug so you might mistake it as hot drinking chocolate, but don’t drink it unless you want the belly-ache of all belly-aches (I speak from experience). You will also be all sorts of hyped up, like the episode of Friends where Ross drinks all of the maple syrup.

Frothy Cappuccino

Freshly Made Churros with Chocolate DIpping Sauce

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Filed under Baking, Coffee Shop, International Restaurants, Markets

Green Cafe ***

Assortment of Macarons at Cafe Green

212.677.0666
377 1st Ave (between 23rd and 22nd)
New York, Ny 10010

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

When you graduate high school, you move out of your house, and leave for college to start life on your own. Yes, I am aware that this is a politically incorrect over-generalization, but please do not take offense if you didn’t follow this path, because I’ve learned first hand that the chief value in going to college is that it’s the only way to learn it really doesn’t mean jack shit. Look at me for example, I went to a well-respected private university (go Canes!), and sure it was the best for years of my life, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am currently unemployed, with no income, in debt, living at home. Dropout Kelly on the other hand, has just been promoted to a management position at McDonalds, which provides a steady income, and she doesn’t have $160,000 of student loans to pay back. She also has a much healthier liver and knows what the heck a W2 form is. Now you’re going to make the argument that I will eventually get a better job than Kelly that provides me with a higher pay because I have a formal education. And it’s true that economists report that college education adds many thousands of dollars to a person’s lifetime income. But don’t we then spend this extra income sending our kids to college?! It is a vicious cycle really. And don’t even get me started on the girls who just go to college looking for a MRS degree…J-date is only about $30 a month and college is about $10,000. Do the math and save yourself the money.

Anyways, enough of this ridiculous tangent on education. The point is that I went to college and established my own way of living and doing things, and now I am forced to live back at home where I can no longer comfortably live in my particular manner. I cannot just roll out of bed and cook my breakfast in my underwear…shirt and pants are required. I cannot drink my orange juice straight out of the container…I need to use a small “juice” glass. I cannot leave the house without reporting where I am going and then giving an estimation of when I will be returning (and I need to call if I am later than my estimation). I cannot buy groceries and put them in the fridge with the confidence that they will be there later. In college, everyone has their own shelf in the fridge and you eat only what is on your shelf (unless you come home drunk and eat half your roommate’s box of Special K…but you admit it with shame the next morning and buy them a new box). At home, family is family, and what’s mine is yours is the name of the game. That means that the lifespan of a package of Oreos is about 36 hours.

It’s been one week and I needed some space of my own, so I headed out to New York City to meet up with a girlfriend from college that was visiting. As soon as I stepped out of Penn Station, I was overtaken by the aroma of delicious street food and from then on my mind was strictly on getting something to eat. In a hurry to meet my friend, I decided to stop at Green Café for some coffee and cookies. I got a delicious Cappuccino and the absolute best Macarons that I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.

There was an assortment of about 20 different flavors to choose from, all of which were displayed in a glass bakery case. I tried the Wedding Almond flavor and Casis (which is infused with currant flavoring). Personally, I preferred the sweet almond flavor over the tartness of the casis, but the textures on both were incredible. Ohh, and if you didn’t realize by now, the cookie I am referring to is a macaron, not to be confused with a coconut, chocolate-laced macaroon. I love those too, but a macaron is a cream-filled cookie sandwich, made from egg whites, almond powder, and a pinch of sugar. They usually come in very bright colors, that vary according to flavor. Some of the other varieties that I didn’t get to sample include; pistachio, caramel, crème brulee, espresso, raspberry, mango, vanilla, nutella, passion fruit, and lavender.

Assorted Macarons

Café Green has a small little seating area, and serves up healthy items for both breakfast and lunch such as omelets, paninis, and wraps. I would definitely go back for a macaron the next time that I am back in the city! I would have brought some home, but you can only imagine how quickly these things would be eaten given that Oreo’s usually only last a day and a half.

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Fika Espresso Bar ****

 

Assortment of Desserts Offered on Countertop

646.649.5133
407 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

This morning—after I had the pleasure of scrubbing hardened pasta noodles off the stove under my mother’s watchful eye—Jen and I set out for New York City. Of course, our St. Patty’s Day hangover (and my required clean-up duties) prevented us from getting out as early as we had hoped, but we were on the train by 3 O’Clock in the afternoon and in Manhattan by 5.  Our first line of business was upon getting there was finding some strong coffee, as we were still trying to kick the residual headache/tiredness/nausea. We saw a great little espresso bar called Fika located across from our hotel (on the corner of Park and 29th) and walked over after checking-in.

The place was quaint and very tiny with a monochromatic and modern décor. It is a Swedish owned company (Fika meaning “coffee break”), and traces of Ikea Sweish design are everywhere! On the counter, there was a great little selection of cookies and biscotti, as well as a large selection of house-made truffles in a refrigerated case. Fika is an espresso bar but equally as well known as a chocolatier. I got a Cappuccino with Skim Milk and a piece of Almond Biscotti, but the truffles were certainly calling me and I was sad to pass them up. The cappucchino was very good and steaming hot, with plenty of frothy foam on top the espresso. The almond biscotti was also a very nice crunchy treat and the perfect size. I hate places that serve a jumbo piece of biscotti because I like to finish it still wanting more, rather than be bored with the flavor or overwhelmed by the sweetness. People sitting at the limited number of tables inside the coffee shop were very artsy and youthful.

Inside of Fika Espresso Bar

Overall, I was very pleased with the strength of the coffee and the cozy little atmosphere. I suggest it for anyone that is looking to break away from the Starbuck’s movement, which has taken every street corner and rest stop by storm!

Assortment of Chocolate Truffles and Sandwiches

Cappuccino

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Filed under Coffee Shop, New York Restaurants