The One Hungry Pickle Guide to Lisbon–Where To Eat

SONY DSCIt wouldn’t be a Bhabha holiday if much time wasn’t spent deliberating over where and what to eat and planning our activity schedule accordingly. Located right on the coast, Lisbon is a bastion of fresh seafood, so many fish and crustaceans were consumed during the course of the week. Of course, we couldn’t escape many bites of the local specialty bacalhau–salted cod. I’m a sucker for Port as well, so I took it upon myself to finish many a meal with a glass of the sweet, dense stuff. Without further ado, a peek into our alimentary adventures:

SONY DSCCafe Lisboa was our first stop in Lisbon, and it shook me out of my plane haze immediately. The gorgeous outdoor setting–in the middle of a picturesque square in the city’s Bairro Alto neighborhood– combined with the delicious food and thrill of reuniting with my parents on vacation made this a perfect stopping point. It’s one of a slew of restaurants by local celeb chef Jose de Avillez. More on him later…This here is some shredded potato with eggs, bacalhau and some casual spherical (read: liquid filled and crazy) olives on top.
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As I mentioned, seafood is a deliciously unavoidable part of any trip to Lisbon, and we got a crash course in the freshest catches and crustaceans at SeaMe:

SONY DSCDon’t be alarmed by the service staff’s cheesy t-shirts (they say something like “rock and roll and sushi”) or the abundance of tourists–the food is excellent, and the locals are also fans, if less obvious ones. Missing the sardine (also a local favorite) nigiri is not an option: SONY DSCand I particularly enjoyed scoping out all the fresh fish before selecting our meal. SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

If you go to Lisbon without trying a Pasteis de Nata, you’re basically a psychopath and will be relentlessly mocked by any person that has ever visited Lisbon. These classic Portuguese custard-filled pastries are the sweet emblem of the city, and not to be missed under any circumstances. While they are made throughout Lisbon, there is one bakery in particular, in nearby Belem, that has been preparing the universally accepted archetype of the pastry: Pastéis de Belém.SONY DSCAfter waiting in the interminable line, you tell the counter person how many orders of six you’d like. At the speed of lightning, you have a tubular carton, filled with six little dreamtarts. Slightly singed on top, they are still warm, and best served with a sprinkling of cinnamon. Hot custard in a flaky crust…you can’t leave without one…or six. SONY DSC

After an extended stroll through the bougie-chic Principe Real neighborhood, we happened upon this extremely classic, down to earth Portuguese restaurant Tascardoso. No frills, and no need for frills, because it was precisely what we needed: tasty, affordable, and authentic. We all had grilled seafood–I went with octopus, and of course, the ubiquitous boiled potatoes that I’d been gorging myself on throughout.

SONY DSC SONY DSCDid I mention they serve house wine in a jug and present you with melted cheese before your meal has even started?SONY DSCSONY DSCAs I mentioned before, José de Avillez is the Thomas Keller/Grant Achatz/etc food boss of Portugal. Following our delightful experience at Café Lisboa, we managed to score a lunch reservation at his two star Michelin spot: Belcanto.SONY DSCIt was definitely a gastronomical extravagance, but a fabulous one at that. The food was extremely innovative and the vibe, though fancy, was still very warm. I’m still thinking about having a gin apéritif served to me within a orange hard shell (excuse the lack of focus!) SONY DSC, the otherwordly orange sauce accompanying suckling pig heaven and potato chips (top right) whose bag was made of potato starch and thus edible…yeah. I ate the bag. SONY DSCand this “mandarin” dessert my Dad ordered.SONY DSC  I left with every sense satisfied, and wishing that black garlic caramels were a frequent snack in my life (middle right)SONY DSC

Massive food halls have become a trend worldwide in recent years, and Lisbon’s Mercado da Ribeira on the seafront, housed in an old marketplace, is a delightful place to spend an afternoon.SONY DSC On one side is the grocery section, which I’ll get to in my “Where To Shop” post, and then in one massive room are numerous food stalls, many of which are outposts of Lisbon restaurants. We ate a pastry that weirdly resembled a circus peanut, both in texture and appearance: SONY DSC And checked out the salumi area: SONY DSCOur final meal in Lisbon was at a three-story restaurant called Solar dos Presuntos. I was thrilled and surprised to find a plate of cheese and charcuterie already waiting at the table–why is this not a custom elsewhere?! SONY DSCThe standouts at the meal were stewed baby goat (not pictured, alas) and squid ink rice with seafood. SONY DSC

One last place that I sadly didn’t take pictures of: Pap’Açorda. It’s simple, excellent, and the chocolate mousse will blow your socks off. Order the Açorda–it’s a local specialty of stewed bread and various ingredients. Get the tomato one.

And there you have it, fantastic food everywhere. Continue reading

I’m always hungry in Philadelphia…and I didn’t stop eating for 3 days.

As I’m currently focusing on freelance projects, I’m a fairly free agent—visiting friends and family and eating my way through the Eastern seaboard. This past weekend I went to the most underrated food town out there—Philadelphia, for some much needed time with Rachael, one of my closest friends, and the best food guide a girl could have. A born and bred Philadelphian, Rachael keeps tabs on the city’s great restaurant scene, while maintaining an impressive legal career and a very active social life!

Unsurprisingly, we had a marathon culinary weekend, starting with a lovely home cooked meal on Friday. After some green smoothies filled with mindfulness, and a Saturday morning yoga class, we rushed through the snow to Dizengoff, a “hummusiya” owned by one of Philly’s most acclaimed chefs, Michael Solomonov.
IMG_8672 IMG_8673They don’t do much, but what they do—fresh baked pita and hummus—is done expertly. I ordered the humus bowl with cucumber, which was stuffed with a spicy smoky paste. Each bowl is served with pickles, Israeli salad, and the perfect pita—crisp and mildly singed on the outside and soft, fluffy and sauce-absorbent on the inside.
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It only seemed right to follow up a somewhat virtuous meal (hummus is just vegetables right?) with a doughnut, because also it was snowing outside and plus I love doughnuts. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetNo justification necessary, I guess. We hit up Federal Donuts right across the street. Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetWe ordered the aptly named “Hot & Fresh” with a dusting of vanilla sugar.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset I’m always more a proponent of the squishy Krispy Kreme-esque yeast-raised donuts, but these cakey creations were pretty delicious as well. They were, well, hot and fresh, not to mention crumblingly decadent and not too sweet. Federal also serves fried chicken with myriad glazes and toppings, and I plan on trying it on my next visit.Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset

Seemingly endless snow and treacherous icy streets seemed reason enough to stay close to home, and luckily Rachael’s neighborhood offers a wealth of excellent eatery options in a close radius. We assumed the sub zero temps and constant threat of limb breaking would keep people inside their homes, but the restaurants and bars turned out to be hopping with people hoping to imbibe and consume themselves into warmth.

A long wait at Cheu Noodle Bar almost set us on our way towards the awesome Garces Trading Co (conveniently located below Rachael’s building) but we decided to wait it out, and thank god we did. This tiny hipster-y spot turns out some of the best Asian fusion (a category that usually gives me the creeps) I’ve ever had. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset The nightly dumpling special was Beef & Broccoli, so of course that was a must—as was the broccoli and Vietnamese sausage appetizer which Rachael, swami of excellent appetizers, insisted we order. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetThe vinaigrette on the broccoli was sweet with a hint of spice, and the chunks of sausage kept me coming back for more. Crunchy peanuts added texture, and…well…I could eat this every single day. We shared a yaki soba with chorizo which didn’t have the depth of the other dishes, in addition to a glorious coconut curry noodle soup which was hearty, pungent and warming, but with freshness from crunchy beansprouts and herbs.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset We then rushed home—mindless movies and warm blankets awaited.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

When someone invites you to the buffet brunch at the Four Seasons, you go. When that someone is Rachael’s wonderful mother Vera, you go in even higher spirits. What followed was many courses of brunch cocktails, seafood in many incarnations, beef wellington, lamb, blueberry-chocolate chip pancakes…..You get the idea. I was too busy stuffing my face to take any photos, so this is a more adequate portrayal:

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Feeling like beached whales, we returned home on Sunday afternoon and remained horizontal for much of the day, until a brief sojourn to the gym in an effort to regain hunger for dinner. Yes, dinner. And not just any dinner—but a meal at Vernick Food & Drink, one of Philly’s finest. And it didn’t disappoint, not even a little bit.

Starting the meal with an amuse bouche of potato soup and a cheesy gougere felt very right.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Two raw fish dishes opened our meal—one an Asian inspired poke—with succulent cubed tuna and a sublime soy-based sauce. The arctic char crudo was more subtle but also terrific—particularly the crispy crunchy fish skin on top.IMG_8726 We were all suckers for the chicken liver toast which tasted as artful as it looked, topped with red onion chutney.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetAn otherwordly parmesan custard laid below red wine braised artichokes—you can’t make this stuff up—which sat beside two expertly charred octopus tentacles made perky by little cubes of pickled fennel.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Did we stop there? Of course not! A nightly special of housemade spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce and bottarga delivered as did peppery toasted cauliflower.IMG_8731 IMG_8729 Midway through the meal, the sounds of live jazz wafted up to us, perfectly complementing our dinner, and making us even more at home in this laid back temple to exquisite dining.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

On the recommendation of our lovely waiter, we ordered the roasted date cake with orange cardamom toffee sauce and coconut ice cream. Think sticky toffee pudding…gooey, bready with a caramelized flavor. A scoop of chocolate-crunch ice cream and a little glass of Madeira rounded out this fantastic close to my Philly weekend. Until the next time! I’ll just have to wait for my arteries to recover…

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Dizengoff
1625 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 867-0088
http://www.dizengoffphilly.com

Federal Donuts
3 Locations Throughout Philadelphia
http://www.federaldonuts.com/

Garces Trading Company
1111 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215-574-1099
http://philadelphia.garcestradingcompany.com/

Cheu Noodle Bar
255 South 10th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
267.639.4136
http://cheunoodlebar.com/

The Four Seasons
1 Logan Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 963-1500
http://www.fourseasons.com/Philadelphia‎

Vernick Food & Drink
2031 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 1
267-639-6644
http://www.vernickphilly.com/

Braving Boston

IMG_8651Quentin & I spent the past week in snow-deluged Boston, visiting my parents, who just returned from India, thus skipping the lion’s share of this awful winter. Due to a flight delay and massive amounts of snow, my elaborate Vday dinner was spent in the company of just my boyfriend and father sans my mother, kind of a shame, although none of us really care about the holiday. I did, however, have big plans for cooking and baking, and made:

Root Vegetable Tarte Tatin from a recent Bon Appetit which was really delicious although sadly my tarte tatin’s dont always end up turning out as magnificent as the picture (read: they never do) But the herby caramel and roasted veggies were lovely and perfect for eating snug and warm. IMG_8616Ingredients
SERVINGS: 4
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds [INSTEAD OF POTATO I USED BEETS]
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds
2 medium carrots, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds [ I USED MULTI COLORED CARROTS!]
1 medium parsnip, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds
1 small red onion, sliced into ½” rounds
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh sage
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 disk All-Butter Pie Dough [*I USED PUFF PASTRY INSTEAD. PIE DOUGH UNNECESSARILY STRESSES ME OUT AND THIS WAS ALREADY COMPLICATED ENOUGH!)
All-purpose flour (for surface)

Preparation
Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400°. Toss potato, sweet potato, carrots, parsnip, and onion with oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper and arrange vegetables in a single layer. Roast until golden around the edges and tender, 30–35 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile [WHILE VEG ARE COOLING] cook sugar and 2 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is amber-colored, 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat and add vinegar and a pinch of salt, swirling pan to combine. Quickly pour caramel into a 9”-diameter pie pan; tilt and rotate pan to evenly coat bottom with caramel. Scatter rosemary and sage over top.
Arrange potatoes, carrots, and parsnips snugly in a single layer on top of caramel, using smaller carrot and parsnip pieces to fill in any holes. Scatter onion rings and crumble goat cheese over vegetables.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12” round. Drape over vegetables, tucking edges into pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until crust looks dry, about 20 minutes; reduce heat to 350° and bake until crust is golden brown, 15–20 minutes.
Let tart cool 5 minutes before inverting carefully onto a large plate.
DO AHEAD: Vegetables can be roasted 4 hours ahead. Keep at room temperature.

IMG_8653A Cioppino-style Fish Stew

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 garlic cloves, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup packed sliced fennel [FORGOT TO GET IT, WHOOPS!]
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound cleaned squid, bodies sliced into 1/2-inch rings, tentacles halved lengthwise if large
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
  • 1 1/2 cups seafood stock or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 baguette, sliced and toasted
  • 1 pound littleneck clams, soaked in water for 1 hour
  • 1/2 pound medium tail-on shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded [I SKIPPED THE MUSSELS AND DID EXTRA HALIBUT]
  • 1/2 pound skinless flaky white fish such as bass, halibut, hake, or cod, cut into 1-inch pieces

IMG_8646Mince 2 of the garlic cloves. In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion, fennel, celery, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and red-pepper flakes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is golden and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add squid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until squid is opaque and tender and the released juices reduce, 15 to 20 minutes. Add tomato paste and oregano and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add wine, raise heat to medium-high, and cook until cooking liquid is reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, bay leaves, clam juice, and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, covered, 30 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the butter, 1 tablespoon parsley, lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together. Cut remaining garlic clove in half and rub the cut sides on the toasts. Spread the flavored butter on the toasts.

When ready to serve, heat the pot to medium and add clams, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and mussels. Arrange the fish on top of the stew, cover, and simmer until shellfish opens and fish and shrimp are firm and opaque, about 5 minutes more. Discard bay leaves and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons parsley.

Serve cioppino immediately in large soup bowls with gremolata toasts alongside.

Sacher Torte
I’d been dying to make this Viennese cake with jam and chocolate. Luckily, I’m not providing a photo, because mine was not the best specimen. It was alright, but let’s leave it at that.

On one of our rare jaunts outdoors, we ate at Catalyst, a nearby restaurant on MIT’s Cambridge campus. Our lunch was very flavorful and beautifully prepared, and I huddled with this hot toddy as I stared at the mounds of snow through the large windows. We had a winter salad and chickpea fritters among other treats:IMG_8626

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We also had some great crawfish hushpuppies, fried chicken, and grits at State Park. Due to a somewhat rowdy night I sadly don’t have any photos, but I highly recommend it!

On Tuesday night, we spent the evening with our friends at Asta and had the insanely imaginative five course tasting menu. From exploding poprocks in a parsnip intermezzo to a dish of apples, horseradish and lardo, our tongues and minds were entranced with every bite. Sadly I didn’t snap a picture of one of my favorite courses: bright, toothsome Brussels sprouts with a Marmite-butter sauce. I’m still thinking about it. I just found out yesterday that Alex, the chef at Asta, was nominated for a James Beard award—Congrats Asta and head over there, Bostonians!

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Celery with black garlic gnocchi and crispy chicken skin

Spaghetti Squash with Brown Butter Vinaigrette

Spaghetti Squash with Brown Butter Vinaigrette

Crazy parsnip poprock cacao nib amazingness

Crazy parsnip poprock cacao nib amazingness

Catalyst
300 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 576-3000
http://www.catalystrestaurant.com

Asta
47 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
(617) 585-9575
http://www.astaboston.com

State Park
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 848-4355
http://www.statepark.is

Mumbai, Kochi, and more Eastern eats

DSC_0407Following our Myanmar sojourn, we headed West, to Bombay (Mumbai), for more hijinks in a post-colonial country. After some much needed family time, a Bollywood New Years Eve, a trip to the caves in Elephanta (where we spotted this gem): DSC_0308and lots of eating (not pictured, sadly—but I’ll include our go-to spots at the end), we went South, to Kerala. I’d never explored South India, and was very excited for a new experience in the country I visit each year. We began in Kochi, a port city on India’s West Coast, and traveled throughout the region…DSC_0341We spied a local man making biryani (rice and meat cooked together) in large quantities:DSC_0360 DSC_0362 DSC_0364 DSC_0366 DSC_0368

We also spent a glorious day and night on a houseboat cruising through the Keralan backwaters.DSC_0369 DSC_0373 DSC_0410 DSC_0411DSC_0398 DSC_0407 Having spent much of my time in India in Bombay I wasn’t as familiar with the coconut-infused flavors of the South. The local cuisine displays both the more tropical surroundings and Portuguese colonial influence in many dishes which are often heavy on ultra-fresh seafood. While on the boat, we stopped by a local floating storefront to pick up some just-fished shrimp and other necessities:DSC_0387 DSC_0390 DSC_0393 DSC_0396

On the boat, one of our first meals featured (from far left moving clockwise) yogurt-coconut curry, fried roots and coconut pieces, sautéed greens with, yes, more coconut slivers (seen in more detail after this photo), and a raw cabbage and coconut salad. DSC_0377 DSC_0383Simply spiced and fried fish:
DSC_0384Deep fried banana slices served with tea:

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Our travels in Myanmar and India only excited me for more trips to come…who knows where! For any of you heading to Mumbai, here are a few of my family’s favorite spots.

Kebabs n Kurries: While the name doesn’t have the minimalism of many restaurants in the West, this restaurant in the ITC Grand Central hotel is a stand-out. The black dal and Chicken Malai Kababs are my go-tos. It’s kind of far out for us (we live in South Bombay), but we always make the trip or come on the way back from the airport!
No.287, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road, Parel

Trishna: This fish restaurant is a favorite with locals and tourists alike. The food is rich, but delicious–get the butter-garlic prawns or fish and the chili crab.
Bamanpuri, Kanti Nagar, J B Nagar, Andheri East

Swati Snacks:
For excellent vegetarian fare, go to Swati, which specializes in street food without the threat of, well, what comes along with Street Food. There’s usually a wait in this tiny no-frills spot, but it’s worth it. Go for the dosas, sev puri and panka chatni (“savory rice pancakes steamed in banana leaf.)
248, Karai Estate, Tardeo Road, Opposite Bhatia Hospital, Near Javji Dadaji Marg, Tardeo

Kala Ghoda Cafe: 
For Mumbai, this sandwich shop is nothing short of hipster. It’s a cool cafe vibe with very good coffee in a tiny lofted space.
10, Ropewalk Lane, Opp Krishna Restaurant, Kala Ghoda Fort

Khyber
This is an oldie but a goodie, and my family has been coming to this restaurant for years. The kababs are delicious, and my father always orders the brain cooked in an omelette with green chutney. Not quite my cup of tea but everything else is excellent.
145, Ground Floor Mahatma Gandhi Road | Kala Ghoda, Fort Near Rhythm House

Williamsburg Eats!

As the resident foodie in my group of friends, I’m often asked for restaurant recommendations. After I ask all the essential questions (price point, cuisine, location…), I can usually present a few good options to the resto requester. Now that I’ve lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the last 6 months, I’ve become extremely familiar with quite a few eateries in the ‘hood. Here are my top 10:

LUNCH/BRUNCH 

Saltiephoto 2 I’m a sandwich addict, and when I’m looking for a fix, I often find myself at Saltie. Their combinations are interesting and unexpected (think sardines, pickled egg, and salsa verde) and the ingredients (and homemade focaccia!) are very high quality. For a filling and refreshing salad, Saltie also fits the bill, with an oft’changing roster of seasonal greens with cheese, roasted veggies, nuts and a tasty dressing. If I want healthy with some carbs, I like to get the Clean Slate which comes on hummus-slicked naan, loaded with pickled veggies, bulgur, and yogurt sauce. For when you crave a hipster sandwich.photo 4

Bakeri Yes, the servers wear light blue mechanic-style onesies, but no, that’s not the only reason I’m obsessed with this artisanal bakery/restaurant. The tiny space is bedecked with cute, rustic touches and the baked goods and sandwiches are, well, fantastic. Everything at Bakeri is homemade, from the fluffy brioche to the jams and preserves and Euro-style sandwiches. Why wouldn’t you want fresh smoked salmon with a side of brioche, dill and caper yogurt sauce, and avocado? When the weather is nice, there are few more delightful places than a table outside next to their bubbling fountain. For when you want all homemade errythang.

 
Pâtes et Traditions It’s not often that you sit in Brooklyn feeling like you’re in Paris. At this corner crêperie, though, you’re immersed in French culture down to the (extremely attractive) French accented wait staff. The savory buckwheat crêpes are fabulous—I particularly like the Popeye (spinach, cream, egg, garlic, Swiss) with ham and the Bergere (goat cheese, Swiss, fig, honey, caramelized onions, rosemary). For an impromptu trip to Paris.

Diner photo 5Diner is known throughout the city for its great food, and although there’s often a wait (particularly for brunch), it’s always worth it. Artisanal is the name of the game, with the ever-changing small-format menu. Everything is thoughtfully prepared and presented, and the space (the restaurant is housed in a 1920s Kullman  dining car) is particularly enchanting. Always get the bloody Mary. For a boozy, foodie brunch.

DINNER

Fette Sauphoto 1 Barbecue spots seem to be opening up right and left, but Fette Sau does it for me every time. Diners choose from large quantities of expertly prepared meats (frequently changing but always including brisket, sausages, and ribs) which are then placed on a silver tray over butcher paper. The sides are delicious as well–particularly the baked beans and crunchy broccoli salad. Order a 14 ounce beer and sip it from an enormous jar with you go HAM on some meat.  For breaking a vegetarian stint.

St. Charles Cellar This spot is literally across the street from my house, but upon entry, I’m immediately transported to an old school speakeasy. The upstairs bar (St. Mazie) often features live jazz musicians while the cellar downstairs has super tasty home-style dishes like fettuccine with tomato sauce, breadcrumbs and basil oil (order two.) The cocktails are very lovely—I go for the Brown Derby—and the pasta specials hit the spot. For a second date with room for dancing.

Allswell photo 3This is basically my go-to treat, particularly for celebratory solo lunches (yes, this happens.) The menu changes rather frequently, but it is always a mix of upscale European-inflected comfort foods like rabbit rillettes with pickles, housemade bread with ricotta, and fantastic pastas. The whole vibe has a Swiss chalet thing going on with lots of wood accents and the coolest wallpaper ever. For that perfect, casual dinner.

St. Anselm Although the wait is always ungodly long (go to Spuyten Duyvil next door for beer and snacks while you await your table), St. Anselm is worth the hype. At this hipster steakhouse, the main courses are deftly prepared on a large grill in the open kitchen, producing flavors I previously reserved for outdoor grills.  Other dishes like the wine braised octopus and their amazing pan-fried mashed potato (yes), are equally excellent. For when you got a promotion or a 4th date and some time on your hands.

Traif At this small plates spot whose name translates to “not kosher”, there’s a lot to choose from and no chance to be bored. The cuisine zig zags all around the globe, with super seasonal ingredients setting the stage for amazing flavors. Order everything that strikes your fancy, particularly if you’re feeling flush with ca$h. For when you have food ADD.

 Aurora For really tasty Italian food, I turn to Aurora. The menu is approachable, well executed, and highly shareable. Sitting outside in the brick walled courtyard is the best (can you tell I’m jonesing for some summer weather?!), particularly when you’re fortified with a glass of prosecco and a lump of fresh, luscious burrata. For when Tuscany beckons. 

Summer of Lambrusco

Last night at a tasty dinner here, I ate this delicious crunchy fried buffalo chicken sandwich:IMG_3545Yum. The highlight, (other than the company of my lovely friend) was, however, the wine we drank.

IMG_3550wine photocredit goes to Eliza!

Served chilled, the Lambrusco was a light and crisp pick-me-up, a perfect summer time red. Who knew a cold red wine would perk me up after a long and busy week? We vowed that the coming summer shall henceforth be “The Summer of Lambrusco”. Can’t wait.