Thursday, January 31, 2013


After reading some stellar reviews about Calliope, the newish French bistro from Eric Korsh (Waverly Inn) and his wife Ginerva Iverson (Prune), I stopped in for a solo lunch date. Located on the busy corner of 2nd Ave and 4th Street, the restaurant was relatively quiet for a weekday afternoon. I'm generally not a huge fan of French food (small portions, snotty attitude, and veggie unfriendly), so even though many adored it, my expectation were not set too high.  

I am surprisingly pleased to report that in my subjective dining experience, Calliope was a delight. The place has that old world bistro feel in such a nice way. There was smoky mirrors on the wall, specials scribbled in fancy cursive, a beautiful zinc bar along the back, and these amazing wood and wrought iron doors to the restroom. Although I found the room cozy, I could see how it might be a little crowded had every table been packed. At the time that I was there the room was quiet but not empty, and I was able to just sit and relax. 

bathroom door
Order the Traditional Eggs Mayonnaise. If you know anything about me or my blog you should know by now I have an egg obsession. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, a nicely cooked egg makes everything better. These were 3 soft boiled eggs generously smothered with homemade mayonnaise and celery salt. I licked the plate clean. I also got the Spicy Marinated Mackerel with avocado, chili oil and black sesame seeds. I'm not a huge mackerel fan but it was good, nice spicy flavor, and the avocado was delicious. I ended the meal with a Homemade Brown Sugar Coffeecake with delicious creme fraiche. It came out warm and fragrant and it tasted even better than it looked. WOW. I thought I would just have one bite of the dessert to change my palate but next thing I knew I was starring at an empty plate.

What a nice surprise. I would definitely return and try some different items, maybe for dinner or brunch next time. If you do go for dinner, don't miss the "baba au rhum brioche" which comes sliced, and doused with rum and whipped cream. 

Calliope is a great cozy not too fancy but not to casual spot, with homey delicious fare. The atmosphere is charming and chic, the food rustic and beautifully plated, and the service quick and spot on. Maybe I do like French food after all...

Neighborhood: East Village

Bite Mark: ***

Good For: Date Spot, Neighborhood Gem

Calliope, 84 East 4th Street @ 2nd Ave 212-260-8484

Monday, January 28, 2013


After an amazing and relaxing week off in the beautiful (but food starved) Dominican Republic, I am back and I am hungry! As much as I enjoyed my vacation, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss "real" New York food. No matter where my travels take me (and obviously this was no culinary adventure), my heart and stomach will always belong to NY. 

It's Saturday night and armed with our very good friends and a huge appetite, we were psyched for Louro, the new West Village hot spot. Louro is a New American restaurant from acclaimed chef David Santos of Per Se and Bouley fame, who most recently has been hosting dinner parties out of his apartment on Roosevelt Island. Chef Santos is much loved and appreciated in the NY restaurant scene and I was excited for the 9:30 reservation I smartly booked prior to leaving. 

Louro is located in the old Low Country Space on restaurant packed West 10th Street off 7th Ave South. It's simple and clean, with a packed bar on one side, booths, and some more tables in the back. It's not a large space and I'd definitely not recommend a drop by on a busy night. Although we waited almost a half hour with a reservation on a busy and cold Saturday night, the hostess was gracious and even comped our first round of drinks.

Our waiter, James, was friendly and helped us navigate the menu for the most part with spot on recommendations. The warm bread was brought out promptly and in lieu of the pork butter that comes with it, they made us a DELICIOUS black pepper compote butter. First course we had an Arugula Salad (bottom right) with pecorino, piquillo peppers and roasted garlic dressing, another salad similar to a Caesar which was bitter and not great, Roasted Brussel Sprouts and  Roasted Sweet Potatoes with pumpkin seeds. I have to admit this was not our favorite course. Both salads were okay, I just didn't find them to be spectacular. I also didn't care much for the roasted peppers in the arugula salad that tasted like they were from a jar. The Brussel Sprouts were delicious.

The second course was much better. Hamachi Crudo was served with purple carrots and fried crunchy somethings. Pretty good. The Poached Duck Egg with Polenta, brown butter and sage was a huge crowd pleaser and we even got a second one. The bottom right is Crunchy Toast topped with herbs, and what tasted like feta cheese and botarga. James pushed it and it was surprisingly delicious. A second one was ordered of this as well. 
Next came the pastas and fish course. I enjoyed the Gnocchi Romano with truffle and fried onions immensely. Not the lightest dish, but yummy. House made Cavatelli with Artichokes, Eggplant, and Parmiagiano was also wonderful. I have to admit I only took a taste of the fish, and they were both flavorful but not the reason I would go back here. We had both the Red Snapper and Idaho Trout. I liked the snapper better, but my friend thought the fresh flavors of the trout prevailed. 

We ended the night off with the Peanut Butter Pain Perdu which was a tasty play on PB & J with Grape Jelly and Marshmellow Ice cream. I liked it a lot, light, refreshing and delicious. The Chocolate Cake with Peppercini Flakes and Vanilla Ice Cream was a little heavy and also good, although a few bites is probably enough. I liked the spiciness to it. 

All in all Louro was a nice experience. I liked the vibe and the service was excellent. We enjoyed some dishes better than others (Polenta, Gnocci, PB Perdu were the standouts), but even the less fantastic items were good. The menu items change seasonally, but you really can't go wrong. Also useful to note is that they were very accommodating for vegetarians and there was an overabundance of food for us to gouge ourselves on. This is definitely some serious food from a serious chef. Louro does not disappoint. 

Neighborhood: West Village

Bite Mark: ***

Good For: Drinks, Date Spot, Couples Night, Small Parties, Trendy

Louro, 142 West 10th Street between Waverly & Greenwich 212-206-0606

Monday, January 14, 2013

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

What a great find. In the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, on a commercial busy 3rd Ave block, lies this adorable bakery / coffee shop / pie place. There's free Wifi, a nice selection of coffee, tea, and apple cider, small bites, and freaking UNBELIEVABLE pie. 
There are communal tables, and when I stopped by solo the other day, there was a ton of young hip looking people, working on their laptops, studying, reading, and just hanging. I grabbed a hot apple cider and sat down to blog. I ordered an Egg in a Hole, which tasted like a yummy biscuit with a scrambled egg cooked into it. I also got the special with was Chives, Cream cheese, and delicious Smoked Salmon on a freshly baked roll. Wow. I will definitely be back here soon.

Even though i was busting at this point I couldn't leave without trying what they are most famous for -- PIE. The choices the other day were salted caramel apple, cranberry sage, salty honey, and malted chocolate pecan. I was told the salted caramel was probably the most popular so I went for a slice of that one, and WOW. The crust was crispy and the caramel and apples were nice and sweet and the sea salt added the perfect balance. My initial plan was to take a bite and bring the rest home to the fam, but I'm embarrassed to say there really was not much left to bring home. YUMMM. 
Go check this place out. Great atmosphere, friendly people, and pie that lives up to the hype. I know I will definitely be back. 

Neighborhood: Gowanus, Brooklyn 

Bite Mark: ****

Good For: Hanging Out, Coffee & a Lite Bite, PIE

Four & Twenty Blackbirds, 439 3rd Ave at 8th Street, Brooklyn. 718-499-2917

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Empellon Cocina

Empellon Cucino is Alex Stupak's trendy new(ish) spot on 1st Ave in the East Village. Like his Taqueria in the West Village, it is also Mexican food, this time with a more modern, fushion-y twist. The room is sexy and dark, the decor modern and fun, and the drinks spicy and strong. There was a "cool vibe" there on Wednesday night when I met my friend for a girl's night, and the place was filled with young trendy people that looked like they were having a good time.

Empellon has been written up about by so many blogs and magazines as one of the best new spots of 2012, so even though I didn't love my experience at Taqueria, I figured I'd give it a shot. 
Overall I was underwhelmed. I didn't find it to be anything spectacular, and didn't try anything that I liked enough to warrant another trip here. This is where I should probably add the disclaimer that without sampling any meat or shellfish, you are about to read a pretty subjective review. To the restaurant's credit, Empellon was accommodating to our special food restrictions, but we just were not blown away by any of it.

We started with Margaritas and Guacamole, which comes with sliced pistachios, thinly sliced japalepenos and crispy masa crisps. I've heard people rave about the guac here, but I'm not sure why. I would have preferred it a little spicier (they didn't ask how we like it), and the chips were on the greasy side.
We also had the Roasted Carrots with mole poblano, yogurt, and watercress salad. It was okay. It didn't have enough flavor, and just seemed a little weird. Go to ABC Kitchen for sick roasted carrots. Next we got Melted Tetilla Cheese with wild mushrooms. The cheese was flavorful but the dish was really heavy. After a few bites each, we'd had enough.

The Red Snapper tacos were also underwhelming. It comes with 2 tiny tacos that had a nice kick to them, but you could barely taste the fish. Lastly, the chef made us a Mushroom Risotto that I was pretty psyched for, but fell short in my book. It was really smoky, but not in a good way. Again we each took a few bites and had enough.
We ended the meal with 2 desserts as we were still kinda hungry at this point, and I had just finished telling my friend about the amazing dessert tasting I once had at WD-50. We got a chocolate cake with globs of peanut butter (?), and a fruity tasting flan. They were both just okay. 
Empellon is a cool sexy place to grab some margaritas 
and guacamole if you are in the East Village, but it certainly was not one of my favorites of the year. Maybe the meat dishes would have blown us away, who knows?
The service was friendly if not particularly helpful, and I did like the space better than Taqueria,  it just did not live up to the hype. 

Neighborhood: East Village

Bite Mark: **

Good For: Drinks, Date Spot

Empellon Cocina, 105 1st Ave between 6th and 7th 212-80-0999

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sugar & Plumm

Sugar & Plumm is a refreshingly whimsical candy store / ice cream parlor / patisserie / chocolate shop / restaurant on the UWS. It's just a few weeks old, and a welcome addition to the many mediocre spots along Amsterdam Ave.

Sugar & Plumm is a cross between Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and Serendipity, with less tourists. The space is HUGE.  The restaurant is on one end, with the front section reserved for grabbing a quick milkshake, macaroon, chocolate, or getting your candy fix. It's located just a few blocks from CMOM (Children's Museum of Manhattan), the Natural History Museum, a children's playground, and a bunch of other kid friendly activities on the UWS.

After reading some mixed reviews and showing up on a busy Sunday afternoon with  5 kids and a bunch of exhausted adults, my expectations were not set very high. I've suffered through some bad meals at "kid friendly" spots before, and they always end with a big bill, and an unhappy mom. 

I am pleasantly surprised to say, the kids loved it, but we also kinda did. It's bright and fun, the place is roomy, and it didn't take forever. They put together our massive table in just a few minutes and after some trouble flagging down a waitress and ordering, the food just kept coming. 

We got everything. From basics like Bagels and Cream Cheese, to Eggs, to the Waffles with Ice Cream, it all came quick and was quite tasty. The Whole Grain Salad with chickpeas, haricot verts, cipollini onions,and grains was not terrible, and pretty filling. The kids also enjoyed the Grilled cheese, and Macaroni and Cheese (which came with better than average fries). The best thing I tasted was the Original Lemon Ricotta Pancakes (above left) with vermont maple syrup, lemon curd and berry compote. Fluffy, sweet, and tangy. I cleaned the plate. 

For dessert we all shared the Turtle Sundae with with vanilla ice cream, salted caramel sauce and candied pecan turtles. We were fighting the kids off. YUMMM.

As long as you know what to expect  (children, more children, and lots of strollers), this place is great. It's not a dinner spot, go for lunch, brunch or after dinner for dessert. The food although not spectacular was decent and even good, and the desserts and sweets were even better. Yes it is overpriced, but not ridiculously so. 

 Indulge. This is the place to do it. You may walk out 5 lbs heavier, but you'll surely be smiling. 

 Neighborhood: Upper West Side 

Bite Mark: *** and a half

Good For: Lunch, Brunch, Kiddies, Desserts

Sugar & Plumm, 377 Amsterdam Ave between 78th and 79th street. 212-787-8778

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Chez Sardine

I love this place. Then again, I went into it kinda knowing I was going to love it. Little Wisco and the Gabe Stulman crew can do no wrong in my eyes.

Chez Sardine is an intimate and fun Japanese fusion and sushi spot on West 10th street in the West Village. Rocking music (think Biggie Smalls), friendly service, and awesome food. Who wouldn't love a place with a mezuzah on the wall and a photo of Mr. Miyagi (Karate Kid) above the bar! Even though they made us wait a while on a cold Thursday night for a 9pm reservation, they were so apologetic and nice about it, it was hard to stay mad (the free round of salt cod fritters also didn't hurt).

We started with the Edamame with lime sea salt and another round of deliciously fried Cod Fritters. Then came the sushi pieces. I didn't think I was a big Mackeral fan (left), but it was smooth and silky and went down in one delicious bite. The Smoked Arctic Char (middle) was also great. Smoky and meaty tasting, get this. There was only one piece left of Hamachi (right) when we were there, and the 4 of us had to fight for it. So good. Each order only comes with one piece so be sure to order enough sushi, they are addicting.

 Next came the Iceberg Wedge with creamy sesame dressing. Good, but not the reason you came here. The Sushi Rice Balls get mixed reviews, but I like it a lot. It was a mix of tuna, salmon, and mackerel sashimi, with deep fried rice balls with avocado, spicy mayo and tobiko. YUM. I also enjoyed the Breakfast Pancakes, with fish tartare, salmon roe and yogurt. May sound like a strange combo but it works. Smoked Cheddar Grilled Cheese (minus the Foie) was good but a little greasy, and would probably have been a whole lot better with the foie gras. Brussel Sprouts were sweet and tangy and went well with all the fish.

The highlight of the meal though, is their famous Miso Maple Salmon Head. Wow. It sounds gross, and  looks kinda daunting but it is the BOMB. We destroyed it. All that was left was the sad looking eye ball. Little tough to find the meat, but definitely worth the effort. Just look at the before and after shot. 

They finish off the meal by giving everyone a taste of Maple Pudding
Great ending to a great meal.

Chez Sardine is a lot of fun, definitely a Brooklyn Bite approved spot. Go with 4 people so you can get a reservation online on their website. Cool, trendy, friendly staff, and delicious (but pricey) food. If you like fish and enjoy being a little adventurous, this place is definitely for you. 

Neighborhood: West Village

Bite Mark: *** and a half

Good For: Date Spot, Drinks, Fresh Fish

Chez Sardine, 183 West 10th between W 4th & 7th Ave South 646-360-3705