Flashback Friday – 2018 NYC Summer Restaurant Week

TGIF — It’s Flashback Friday and it’s been over six weeks since I’ve last posted here.  Well, it’s restaurant week again and we are entering the last seven days of this high end eating on a budget event.  This year’s restaurant week started on July 23 and ends next Friday, August 17.

Did you know that NYC restaurant week started 26 years ago to welcome the Democratic National Convention (DNC)? We all know who won the election.  Anyways, back to food, NYC restaurant week started with 95 participating restaurants in 1992 to approximately quadrupling to 380 in 2018.  This season, few restaurants in Brooklyn, Queens and even Staten Island are jumping on the bandwagon for this budget friendly opportunity.  This season was disappointing because lunch/brunch meals are only two courses (appetizer with entree or dessert) for $26 and a three course dinner remains at $42.

After 3 weeks of thorough review of 317 menus out of the 380 restaurants, here are the logistics that are broken down into: best lunch, dinner and brunch for 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5+ people.  Our criteria is comparing what the restaurant is offering for restaurant week to their daily lunch/dinner/brunch menu; for example, if crudo is part of the regular lunch appetizer menu, we want to see if the restaurant is serving the same item on their restaurant week menu.  Some restaurants are even offering parts of their regular as part of restaurant week, which is a great way to go.

We will begin with the total number of restaurants that are offering the best value meals for lunch, dinner and brunch based on our criteria.

Slide1Personally one of the reasons why I have yet to participate in this year’s restaurant week is because I am on a diet, which I will disclose at some point this weekend. Therefore, we created another table that breaks down the overall number of best value meals to accommodate the vegetarians, pescatarians, people in low carb diets (that’s me) and comfort (those who want to YOLO)!

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Even though I am on a diet, I do plan to take advantage of restaurant week, which is easier said than done because there is no control of how the food is made.  However, with the comfort meal types, the appetizers are either on the vegetarian, pescatarian and low carb side.  The hard part is dessert, which in case, lunch is ideal, but due to my full time job, I can’t take advantage of the lunch offerings this season.

In the past, I have shared my experiences of eating at restaurants for restaurant week and if you need any ideas or suggestions,  below is the list of places I have eaten at for past restaurant weeks:

Capital Grille at all three New York City locations (Grand Central, West 50s and wall Street) their 14 ounce bone-in dry aged sirloin steak is still being offered for this restaurant week.  In addition from now until September 2, Capital Grille is also offering what they call a “Generous Pour”, which costs only $28 for a tasting of seven wines with the purchase of dinner.   The suggestion for this restaurant week:

Lunch for 1: Caesar Salad & Signature Cheeseburger with Truffle Fries

– Dinner for 2: Wedge of Bleu Cheese or Clam Chowder

Bone-In Dry Aged Sirloin Steak  (14oz) w/ Mashed Potatoes & Green Beans

Seared Citrus Glazed Salmon w/ Mashed Potatoes & Green Beans

Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake and Creme Brulee

Fonda (Comfort Food) in the East Village has awesome happy hour specials, but for restaurant week it’s a good way to get four friends to get together for drinks and happy times.  Check out my post on what the guacamole, enchilada suizas and dessert (morenitas).

Blenheim (Comfort Food) a Michelin rated restaurant offers a stipulation from my experience eating here two years ago.  The menu changes frequently for the season, which makes it exciting.  This season, a solo dinner is the way to go with the following: Fried Chicken, Pork two ways and Chocolate cremeux.

Tavern 62 by David Burke (Comfort Food) located at the beginning of the Upper East Side is one of the few restaurants that are utilizing their regular menu have new customers try their food and feel that they belong. They have great happy hour specials, where there are $10 burgers and $8 fries.   Check out the pictures and previous write up about the transition from Fishtail to Tavern62 by clicking on the “Tavern 62 by David Burke” link.  I do plan on returning to this restaurant because I feel welcomed but more importantly it’s a great deal for restaurant week and the customer will get their money’s worth.

Other restaurants I definitely want to try are the following:

Smith & Wollensky – Dinner for 4 – Comfort Food

Appetizer: Mixed Green Salad, Caesar Salad, Calamari, and Pea Soup

Entree: Filet Mignon, Lemon Pepper Chicken,  Salmon Waldorf, and Pan Roasted Branzino

Dessert: Cheesecake, Bourbon Pecan Pie, Chocolate Mousse Cake and Coconut Layer Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

Barraca – Dinner for 2 – Pescatarian/Vegetarian

Appetizer: Ensalada de Mercado and Pulpo a Feira

Entree: Paella de Verdura (minimum 2 people) and Paella de Calamares

Desserts: Churros de Rellanos and Corte de Helado

In addition, offering a great $18 wine pairing deal for restaurant.  They are also one of the few restaurants that are offering a three course lunch meal for restaurant week for $26.  Plus, they have a great $6 happy hour menu from 4pm to 7pm.

Nickel and Diner – Dinner for 1 – Pescatarian/Low Carb

Appetizer: Smoked Salmon Chowder

Entree: Ginger Crusted Halibut

Desserts: Honey Semifreddo

In addition, they have a great happy hour menu from 3pm to 7pm.

Lugo Cucina Italiana – Lunch for 2 – Low Carb/Pescatarian/Vegetarian

Appetizer: Kale Mango Salad, Mussels Fra Diavolo

Entree: Salmone Al Forno, Eggplant Parmagiana

Although I may have disappeared here on my own site, but I am posting on my Instragram page: tablespoonsandteaspoons.  Please follow me.

I will continue to strive to post more often here.  Stay tuned….

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday – Woodpecker by David Burke

Happy Thursday and I’m happy to share with you my recent experience at Woodpecker by David Burke in New York City. Woodpecker by David Burke is a communal neighborhood spot different from the fine dining scene the chef is known for. The restaurant has a one page menu that features Chef David Burke’s classics such as the “Bacon clothesline”, Pastrami Salmon, Kale & Romaine Caesar, and his patented 40 day Saltage Prime Kansas City Strip. In addition to the classics, there were additional items made using wood burning ovens such as “Grillos” Pizza along with catchy dishes including Wings and Rings/Shishito, and Broccoli Mops.

I’ve had the privilege to be invited to the “soft” opening of Woodpecker about 3-4 weeks ago and I followed my server’s recommendation on the dishes I ordered.

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Broccoli Mops

Broccoli Mops – Broccoli florets placed on guacamole, citrus, fennel and toasted quinoa. The $15 dish was a bit high, but it was my favorite meal of the night. It was light and the mandarin oranges along with toasted quinoa made this dish complete. The citrus dressing was refreshing and the salad had a great balance of fresh ingredients. I would come back just for this healthy vegetarian dish.

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Wings & Rings / Shishito

Wings & Rings / Shishito – Love the presentation of this $16 dish. It looks deceivingly small but it was meant for sharing. Since I was alone, it was filling. The base of this dish is made up of six Korean style wings, which tasted nothing special along with fried calamari topped with a shishito pepper for each skewer. The taste of this dish was nothing special. However, I would order it with a group of people just for the pretty presentation, but not of my favorite David Burke dishes.

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40 day Saltage Prime Kansas City Strip 20 oz

40 Day Saltage Prime Kansas City Strip is 20oz steak made using Chef David Burke’s patented saltage brick. This $62 dish is a classic. The strip steak looked beautiful. The Himalayan salted crust with a glistening medium rare inside was a picture perfect portrait of a crispy outside surrounding or even protecting the tender meat inside. The taste of this steak just melts in my mouth. I highly recommend this type of steak but it is hard to get it at any place other than a David Burke restaurant.

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Apple Tart

To end my dinner, I decided to go for the Apple Tart with the smoked rosemary. I try not to order a dessert for health and weight loss reasons, but I can’t resist the beautiful presentation. The taste of this tart was interesting. I understand why this tart was unique, personally I would do without rosemary. Would I order it again? Maybe. But I would try the other desserts.

Anyways, I am excited to venture into Long Island to check his two new restaurants inside the Garden City Hotel. Stay tuned.

Social Saturday – 13th Annual American Cancer Society Taste of Hope

On May 10, 2018, I attended the American Cancer Society 13th Annual Taste of Hope event in New York City. I purchased my VIP ticket at $275 which included a gift bag and early access to the food and festivities.  The event had two honorees:  Sarabeth Levine was this year’s culinary honoree and Chef Antonio Prontelli was this year’s survivor honoree.

My top 5 favorite savory tastings from the event were the:

  • The Smith’s Toasted Ricotta Gnocchi with White Truffle Cream
  • Calle Ocho’s Pastelillos Cubanitos
  • Jing Fong’s BBQ Roast Pork Pastry Puffs
  • Casa Nonna’s Siamese Agnolotti
  • L’Amico Fontina Cappelletti with Wild Mushroom and English Peas

My top 5 sweet tastings from the event were the:

  • Bonsai Kakigori’s Strawberries and Cream Kakigori
  • Loi Estiatorio’s Yiaourti Me Meli
  • Melt Bakery’s Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • Java Melts
  • Frose & Campari Popsicles

Below are images from the event.

There were a lot more stuff at the event. The event set up gets better and better every year. There were a lot of wine tastings, beer tastings and emerging food companies promoting their products.  More importantly a lot of the food tastings were on the healthier side; there were salad variations, ceviches, and barbecued dishes.

I can’t wait to visit these restaurants during the upcoming restaurant week if they participate.  Stay tuned.

Traditional Tuesday – Soup Dumplings

Happy Tuesday! As I was leaving the subway station I came across a Chinese restaurant in Queens that just opened up. The owner gave me the menu and after glancing the menu, the prices of the dishes appeared to be expensive. A few months after the opening, a family friend was raving about these black truffle soup dumplings ($12.75 for six). Even, Eater loved them. Therefore, I have to try them.

So what are soup dumplings?

Soup dumplings were created as a street food in Nanking, China in 1875. The dish traveled to other provinces throughout China and Japan. These dumplings are usually steamed filled with gelatin based soup broth, pork and vegetables.

Are they healthy? Well, the soup broth is high is saturated fat and sodium. However, soup dumplings are using dipped in a sauce made with soy sauce, vinegar and ginger. This concoction can be viewed a healthy combination as vinegar aids in digestion and lowers blood sugar while the ginger holds many health benefits such as anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants.

After completing my weekend 4-6 mile walk, I decided to reward myself with soup dumplings. The Shanghainese restaurant Shanghai Zhen Gong Fu appeared to be a small Chinese takeout spot, but inside there were a bunch of tables. One of their popular dishes were the soup dumplings, so we ordered the crab and pork soup dumplings, pork soup dumplings and the infamous black truffle soup dumplings. Well, let’s just say the wrappers of these dumplings were perfectly thin and folded very well. The crab and pork soup dumplings and the black truffle dumplings were so good. The overall soup dumplings especially the crab and pork soup ones were even better than the ones I’ve had in the past. The black truffle soup dumpling were so tasty and they even have real black truffles on top of the dumplings. One can even taste the truffle oil in the soup broth.

So if you’re in Elmhurst, stop in Shanghai Zhen Gong Fu and try those black truffle dumplings. They are the best bang for your buck for an luxury street food.

Sunday Game Plan – Filipino Restaurant Week 2018

Happy Mother’s Day! I grew up eating homecooked Filipino food – adobo, sinigang, tinola, pancit, kare-kare and lumpia. The first meals I’ve made as a child were rice, lumpia and turon. These meals were very cost-effective and it would be difficult to open a successful Filipino restaurant because every Filipino would prefer their home cooked meals. However, over the last few years, there have been growing number and popularity of Filipino restaurants that opened in New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. My personal speculation is that Filipinos have become more educated and business savvy to successfully market what is considered authentic Filipino food.

Starting tomorrow May 14 thru May 26, Filipino Restaurant Week will take place in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. The goal will be to celebrate the various flavors of Filipino cuisine with special prix-fixe authentic and fusion meals. It’s $25 for lunch/brunch and $35 for dinner.

Last year, a group of my girl friends attempted to take advantage of the brunch pre-fixe at Jeepney in New York City, but, instead we chose the bottomless brunch for $29 with a side of kamote fries. The unlimited mimosas both in mango and kalamansi flavors were so good. Below are images of the entrees we ordered as part of the $29 bottomless brunch deal.

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Chola Burger $17 (ala carte)

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Longsilog $12 (ala carte)

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Kamote Fries

After reviewing the menus and offers for this year’s Filipino restaurant week here is my proposed game plan for New York. There is little chance I’ll be able to head to New Jersey let alone Philadelphia.

  1. Kuma Inn (113 Ludlow St., 2nd Floor) – cash only
  2. Maharlika (111 1st Avenue)
  3. Mountain Province (9 Meserole Street) – lunch/brunch
  4. Talde (369 Seventh Avenue)
  5. Tama (147 Lewis Avenue)
  6. Tito Rad’s (49-10 Queens Blvd. )
  7. Ugly Kitchen (Kamayan Night)

We will continue to keep you posted; check out my Instagram and follow me: tablespoonsandteaspoons. Stay tuned.

Flashback Friday – ATL Wings – Franklin Square

Over the past few weeks I’ve been craving chicken wings. According to the National Chicken Council, fried chicken wings originated in the South a long time ago. However, chicken wings became part of the food menu in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y. The popularity of chicken wings grew in the 80s and 90s to the point where it is now considered a staple for get togethers and game day gatherings, but more importantly it’s cost effective.

We recently heard of a chicken wings spot in the Franklin Square neighborhood in Long Island called ATL Wings. ATL stands for “All The Luv” wings. According to their website the wings chain started in 2012. The menu had a variety of sauces and rubs for the wings. I spoke and met with the manager Kisha who was so kind to provide us with her recommendations. We had a variety of flavors to try ranging from not spicy to spicy with fries and honey biscuits on the side.

Here’s our food journey at ATL Wings:

We began our wings consumption journey with the mild garlic parmesan chicken wings. These wings had a lot of garlic and parmesan flavor and the taste was well balanced. I’d ordered them again.

Garlic Parmesan Dry Rub Wings

Next, we proceeded to the lemon pepper wings, which were considered popular among customers. I can see why! It’s the balance of the crispy wings with tartness of the lemon with a pinch of pepper that pop when I bite into it.

Lemon Pepper Dry Rub Wings

Then we moved on to the BBQ Wings starting with the sweet teriyaki wings. The wings were good and sweet, but it was not as exciting as the previous dry rub wings consumed.

Teriyaki BBQ Wings

Next we moved on to the spicy BBQ wings, which were the Honey Habenero wings. These wings were really good. The sauce was well balanced between the sweetness of the honey and the spiciness of the habenero pepper.

Honey Habenero BBQ Wings

Finally, we hit a crescendo with the Extreme Honey Habenero wings. These wings were good but spicy. The initial bite had the same well balanced taste and texture between the sweetness of the honey and the spiciness of the habenero pepper. After consuming three wings the spiciness dominated over taste, which was a turn off.

Extreme Honey Habenero BBQ Wings

To counterbalance the overpowering heat consumed from the extreme habenero wings, we ate the french fries. Although the fries could have been crisper, it helped a lot as the well balanced taste of oil and potato helped with reducing the heat from the wings.

Side of French Fries

Finally we hit dessert with the honey biscuit that hit the spot and almost eliminated the heat from the extreme honey habenero wings. This biscuit was definitely made with love – cinnamon, powdered sugar and honey.

Honey Biscuits

The food experience at ATL Wings was overall awesome and the staff was very accommodating. Their food was definitely made with love.

Our favorites were the garlic parmesan, honey habenero and the honey biscuit.

I would definitely return and take advantage of their Tuesday special – 75 cents wings.

Thank you ATL Wings for great food and service.

Throwback Thursday – Saigon Casa

Vietnamese crepe

Pho

Six weeks ago we decided to check out Saigon Casa, Vietnamese restaurant in Port Jefferson Station in Long Island.

The menu has limited options in comparison to what I’m used to seeing in other Vietnamese restaurants in Queens.

One of the dishes that we had to order was the pho. There were many types of pho, but we ordered the Pho Tai Nam Gau, which a beef soup containing rare steak, brisket and flank steak with noodles on the side.

The soup tasted good and we loved the fact that we can add the noodles at our discretion to our small bowls. I am still in search and experimenting recipes that replicated the best one I’ve had to date at the Pho Bang in Elmhurst.

Another dish I had was the Vietnamese Sizzling Crepe called Bang Xeo. This crepe was sold as a special item at this restaurant. The dish was huge and it is made of rice flour and tumeric stuffed with shrimp and pork. The dish was delicious and I want to make this dish.

I would like to return to this restaurant to try their other dishes.

Social Saturday – Andaz Kitchen and Bar – Wall Street

Happy Saturday and I’m counting down the days until I’m able to eat food with refined/processed sugar again. As I stated in my last post, I gave up sugar except for the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables for 40 days for Lent. It’s been really challenging and hard especially this last 10 days with the gatherings for St. Patrick’s Day.

Ten days ago I’ve have had the privilege to see a preview of the food and drink at the revived Andaz Kitchen and Bar at the Andaz Wall Street Hotel in Wall Street. Previously named Dina Rata, which I learned was an Indian name meaning moon. It was deceiving that a place with that name was serving Italian food. Anyways, I preferred the new name.

When I arrived, I was greeted with champagne which I did not drink due to the sugar content. However, I settled for the Chianti which has low sugar, thanks to one of the general managers who suggested the wine as he also gave up sugar. The wine went well with my selection of crudites containing fruits, and vegetables with no hummus, dressing and/or dip to avoid the possibility to ingesting sugar.

I was impressed by the food display and presentation. I loved the color of the vegetables indicating that it is fresh. I also liked the cheese and cold cuts selection.

Next, the passed food samples from the menu, which included a variety of dishes inspired from different cultures including Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Italy and Vietnam.

Below are images of the food created by Executive Chef Pietro Consorti from the event:

Crudites

Cheese and charcuterie display

Tasting plate of cheese and cold cuts

Tasting plate of fresh and colorful vegetables

Bread, butter and anchovies

Jerk Pork Sliders

Toasted prosciutto and baguette

Puntarelle e stracciatella

Panzarella red snapper and green olives

Beef Peccadillo plantains

Fruit berry tart

Rum babba

Flan de leche

Liquid Lab mixology interactive cocktail session setup

It was obvious that I did not eat everything due to the 40 day sugar sacrifice. As a result I did not try anything containing bread and dessert. However, my favorite even from just looking at the menu was the Beef Peccadillo plantains.

Thank you to the management team at Andaz and Andaz Kitchen and Bar including Executive Chef Pietro Consorti for making me feel welcomed. I can’t wait to return and sample the remaining dishes.

Big shout out to the Liquid Lab team for a great demo on making the cocktails, which I could not participate. I do look forward to seeing them in the future.

Stay tuned for more.

Lent – Sugarless Diet Game Plan

Hello everyone Happy Presidents Day! We as the title states it’s that Christian season again, Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which was the same day as Valentine’s Day. This Lenten season I decided to give up sugar with the exception of fruit and vegetables. So far, I’m getting through it but at the same time it is difficult especially when I had to eat out for Chinese New Year. Eating out was a challenge because I don’t know whether sugar was added to the diet. As a result, I ended up at a buffet, a Middle Eastern and Hibachi restaurant.

For the first five days of Lent, here were my meals containing 0g of sugar:

What I’ve realized is to successfully accomplish this I have to cook my meals at home.

After going through my current pantry at home, I’ve discovered more limitations to this no sugar sacrifice. However, this week’s game plan will consists of the following ingredients that contains no sugars to date:

Black beans

Red Kidney beans

Eggs

Salmon

Cod

Ground Kobe beef

Ground Turkey

Olive oil

Coconut oil

Ghee

Butter

Quorn Chik ‘n Patty

Cauliflower

Asparagus

Oats

Rice

Parmesan cheese

Cream cheese

Almond milk

Strawberries

Blueberries

Follow me on Instagram at tablespoonsandteaspoons for updates on the recipes made this week with these ingredients.

Flashback Friday – Winter 2018 NYC Restaurant Week

Today is the last day of NYC Restaurant Week and after reviewing menus and reviews, I was not impressed with the options that were offered this season. Therefore, I was considering skipped this season’s restaurant week. However two of my friends wanted to do restaurant week lunch and dinner. So after getting my arm twisted, I ended up eating a really good lunch at Cut by Wolfgang Puck in Lower Manhattan. My friend wanted to eat there and so I joined her. The service at this restaurant was really good and very accommodating.

For $29, my lunch prix fixe included the following: goat cheese ravioli, crispy quail salad and empire apple crumble.

For dinner, I decided to use my $100 gift card I won at last year’s American Cancer Society Taste of Hope event to eat from Massoni, an Italian/Asian casual fusion restaurant. Service was not par and food was not what I had expected. Furthermore the waiter was terrible, he didn’t know how the food was made and screwed up people’s orders. He suggested items for the $42 prix fixe, which was a bad idea because everything was salty. The waiter too responsibility for his mistake and gave me a free drink and a side dish of squash.

In addition, I took advantage of the happy hour $8 wines until 7pm. I had a Falanghina/fuedi di san gregorio 2014, a white wine and a Barbera/pico maccario 2015, a red wine.

For the $42 salty three course prix fixe dinner, I ordered Biriyani balls, Brussels sprouts pizza, and Snickers cannoli. Let’s put it this way, the cannoli was the best dish out of the three. The first two dishes were so salty that I couldn’t finish it, my friend shared the appetizer with me and I took leftover Brussels Sprouts pizza home.

By far Massoni was probably the worse restaurant week meal I have had and I used the remaining balance on the gift card to order more food to see if their regular menu was better….

My friend ordered the salmon and it was supposed to have potatoes and leeks. Let’s just say the dish was a disappointment because it not only had too much dill but it was salty with very little potatoes and leeks.

If it was not for the gift certificate I would not have eaten at this restaurant. I believe the food needs more work, I have to give the benefit of the doubt that this place opened less than a year ago. Honestly, I would not come back here, there are more restaurants out there to try for better food and service.