Category: New York

Ai Fiori, one of my new favorite restaurants in NYC

On my last visit to New York, I have decided to list of restaurants I had to try. Ai Fiori was on top of that list.

I know the chef Michael White’s other restaurants in the city. Marea, a Relais Chateau, is an Italian seafood restaurant. Osteria Morini in Soho is more casual and serves rustic Italian food.

Ai Fiori, located on the second floor of Setai Hotel, is again Italian food.

As usual, I arrived early, so I could check the surroundings. While waiting for my friends at the bar, I had the pleasure to meet the chef and owner Michael White.

I asked him, which dish I should not miss; he obviously told me everything is yummy, but pointed out the seafood dishes (the branzino and the trofie nero)

When my friends arrived, we have decided to get several appetizers and main courses to share, so we could have an idea of the menu.

We have started with the crudo di Passera (fluke crudo, American sturgeon caviar, meyer lemon), the Insalata di Barbabieto (roasted beet salad, Greek yogurt, pine nuts, apples), the Trofie Nero (Ligurian crustacean ragoût, seppia, scallops, spiced mollica), and the Spaghetti with blue crab, lemon, bottarga, chilies.

Then we continued with the Insalata di Astice (nova scotia lobster salad, charred corn, trumpet royale mushrooms, ricotta salata), the Branzino (pan seared mediterranean sea bass, sea beans, almond, sauce meunière), and the Tagliata (prime dry aged strip loin, chanterelles, smoked potato, bordelaise).

What can I say? Every dish was an explosion of flavor. I still dream about every single dish. They all had the perfect balance of taste and playfulness.

Besides the food, the service was amazing and seeing the Chef wondering in the dining room, always makes you feel privileged. Normally you need to eat at the chef’s table in the kitchen or ask them to go to the kitchen to meet the chef. And most of the time, the chef is not there as they all have sous-chefs taking care of their menu.

I learned from my new friend, the bartender that Michael White loves wondering in all his restaurants and make sure the kitchen sends the right food and the clients are happy.

That must be a job in itself when u think that his restaurants all over nyc, lol.

I can finally cross Ai Fiori from ”my to taste restaurant list” and move it to “my favorite restaurant list”. I advise all of you to try it and let me know what you think 

You know that in the United States Mac & Cheese is as common as Hamburgers. All the restaurants put on their menu, and add a twist: you can have with truffles, with bacon, with a different kind of cheese, with lobster or with other substitute.

It is a dish revised so many times that you can write a book about it. You can compare the recipes and compare the restaurants.

We all know that when you add bacon or truffles to any dish the taste is amazing. You can eat shoe soles with these ingredients and you will be happy. So on my mini quest of the best mac and cheese, I am eliminating those cheaters.

What I look for is the best simple mac and cheese (without the fancy toppings).

I think I found it at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. They even call it on their menu “the world’s best Mac & Cheese”. I don’t know if it is the best, but it surely is one of my favorites. The macaroni are cooked perfectly, and they use their own cheese: one year aged just jack cheese. It’s creamy texture, and its rich flavor makes to this mac and cheese a heavenly taste.

If you are craving for an amazing mac and cheese, don’t think twice go to Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. If you cannot go, good news, you can order online.

The only bad news, I didn’t like many other things on the menu. The downstairs bar, where you can eat is really nice. What I advise is to go have few drinks during happy hour. Then eat your mac and cheese to soak the alcohol and go home with a happy tummy ;)

Since I arrived to NY, I have been quite lucky with the weather. Normally I am in search of great terraces in Geneva, who will think I will be doing the same in NY… especially when some terraces are not allowed to be open on specific dates.

Thanks God NY is full of Italian restaurants, and they don’t follow those official rules ;) So with this beautiful sunny day, Lady Fleur and I have decided to check Da Silvano.

This restaurant that opened 36 years ago, is serving Tuscan food and attracts not only the locals but lots of celebrities. The secret? Well to start with delicious food, great service and an amazing terrace.

We were lucky cause we found right away a nice breezy spot to sit. We decided to share an artichoke salad, then we both took pastas. I had the Penne Integrali al Pesto, which is whole wheat penne with basil pesto (trying to be healthy, lol). Lady Fleur took the Spaghettini Puttanesca, described on the menu as Spaghettini “whore style”, tomato, garlic, black olives, capers, anchovies.

They were both incredibly tasty and we finished with my favorite “Torta della Nonna”… miam.

The crowd was a mixture of the hip youth of Greenwich Village, some tourists, some “wannabes” and off course us, the hungry ones.

Let’s take a minute to describe the Greenwich crowd. The boys are young, with hats that look like condoms (but I guess it is stylish) and the girls are even younger, with very long legs and daisy dukes and ankle boots.

One thing is sure they are not eating pastas; or the water in the village has a special power to make them thin and tall… not very sure.

But one thing is sure, fashion or not, they should all wash their hair, and iron their clothes. I thought the grunge look was so last year, what happened? Did I miss the memo?

The service was great. Da Silvano himself came to check if we enjoyed our lunch. He fell in love with my bag hook, proposed me 100 usd for it. Then later when I tried to give him back his money, he wanted to purchase my necklace for 200 usd.

So maybe that is the secret of Da Silvano, you go there, you eat and you leave with money… especially when the hook and the necklace cost in total 55 usd, and almost left the restaurant with 300…

What can I say, besides, will go back and this time bring more accessories to be able to pay my rent;)

This year I have spent Easter in NY. Lack of my niece and nephew no egg fight, no egg hunt… but guess what? Easter brunch!!!!

To keep the good habits we decided to go to Westville, my favorite brunch spot in NY. This restaurant has two locations. I only go to the one in Chelsea. It is our spot with my boyzzzz. This time lady fleur joined us, as well.

As usual we shared the yummy dishes from the market. Grilled artichokes and fennels, brussel sprouts (don’t say “beurk”, I became addicted), and grilled zucchini with tomatoes and mozzarella.

Then I ordered my usual Sunday brunch fix: eggs benedicts with a side of crispy bacon. I am sure you all know this dish, but for the ones in the unknown of this dish, it is poached eggs on bread with hollandaise sauce on top. Everybody can do poached eggs; the secret is the hollandaise sauce. I think at this point I can write a “Zagat” of good and bad hollandaise sauce in NY. And the one at Westville is simply delicious.

No need to say it is very light… But believe me, it is worth every calorie of it.

The pictures will be added next week, as I forgot to take them, oops… I guess I was really hungry.

After our lunch, we hit the J&R Terrace (the amazing roof terrace of my boys) to play cards under the sun. Did u ever hear of this game called Americano? In Turkey everybody knows, for the rest of the world it is a kind of rummy, but to be able to open your hand each game has a different rule.

I think from far it is the most addictive card game… ask lady fleur who is infected and dreams about playing again.

We played for 4 straight hours, with some white wine and vodka, some food to nibble, and a helicopter in the sky. I guess it was there to film the NY Easter parade… or they were curious about our game, and stayed there to understand the game, lol.

Between you and me, they must have been confused, because of the weather changing we started at the terrace, continued inside to finish at the terrace…

Overall, best way to spend the Easter Sunday, no egg hunt, just tanning, playing cards and drinking with my peeps!!! And I am the Spring Bunny, so who needs the Easter Bunny anyway ;) ))))

In a big city like NY, restaurants have a life expectancy between 6 to 12 months. The restaurants that are still open after that period of time are definitely the winners.

Stanton Social is among those lucky ones. This three – level restaurant that is located in Lower East Side opened its doors in 2005. You will think after 6 years it will lose the hip and get less crowded…. Wrong!!! Not only it is still very packed; but it has so much success that the owners opened another restaurant with the same concept a block away called “Beauty and Essex”.

The concept is simple; you have a menu full of dishes to share from all around the world and a great selection from the raw bar. They have few famous dishes such as the French onion soup dumplings, the Kobe beef burgers, the Stanton social beef wellington, lobster roll sliders and duck empanadas.

When Lady Fleur and I, decided to have dinner there, I was salivating to the idea of the delicious dishes. Normally, I advise people to go with big groups so you can order a lot of dishes and share. As we were only two, we made a smaller selection.

We started with the Bistrot Salad (haricot vert, tomato, smoked bacon & poached egg) and yellow fin tuna sashimi. We also ordered spicy lamb souvlakis (Greek specialty where small pieces of lamb are grilled on a skewer), the crispy eggplant parmagiano, and had to taste the beef wellington.

What can I say the Chef/owner Chris Santos knows his food. Everything was delicious.

The place, as usual, was packed. I have one big, actually two big complaints about Stanton social. They have only one unisex bathroom on the main dining area, so you have to plan ahead if you want to visit it, as there is always a big queue.

The second complaint will be the noise. I understand it is a busy restaurant, but they must be able to arrange something, cause it is so noisy that you have to shout to be able to communicate.

At a point, I thought I should bbm lady fleur for better communication. Lol, just kidding.

The service was great as always. Our waiter was really helpful (although he could have washed his hair), and the maitre d’ brought us Potato & Goat Cheese Pierogies (fried dumplings of unleavened dough) with caramelized onions & truffle creme fraiche.

He said, I know you didn’t order this dish, but I know at some point during the night you are going to complain about something, so I prefer to bring this ahead to apologize… As my hubby pointed out the following day, I guess my face is in their kitchen with a warning: “be careful, she can be bitchy”. Lol

You see, being demanding sometimes help;)

Overall once again it was a great dinner, and how can it be bad with my lady fleur!!!!

Did you ever hear about Blue Hill restaurant in New York?

Well if you haven’t let me give you a brief history about it… it opened in 2000 in the village and the food is provided by nearby farms, who respect artisanal techniques. In other words, it is fresher than bio and organic food (that between us has no guaranty that it is that natural).

When the Carlyle group invited me I was so happy to finally taste it. We had a table at the second service, but it was worth having a late dinner. If it is your first time, you better look well, as it is hidden few steps below the street. It is a small room with few tables and a bar where you can also eat. While waiting for my friends to arrive, I heard the bar guests advising to others the veal and the venison…

We had our table with a little delay, and finally decided to have the tasting menu composed of 5 dishes… They assured us that it was not large portions… seriously they could even have said they are five bites … We had a soup, an egg, a bite of lamb and two deserts… thanks god they had brought some homemade salamis, and their farm fresh butters with the warm bread. Otherwise, we would have left the restaurant hungry.

The service was lovely, and it was a very “calm” crowd, composed of locals and dates … Let’s say it is not a restaurant to pick up your mate, or get wild. You go with him or her, or with another food lover. It is a restaurant to eat delicious fresh food… that is deliciously expensive.

I would definitely go back and either order 2 tasting menus, or select dishes. Blue Hill is a definite A++++ but they have to revise their portions. I understand it is fresh, and so rare to find in the states, but come on…
They say best things come in small sizes but they forget to say it is frustrating…

….and we all know that it is total BS, “size do matter!!!!” ;)

When my best friend and his man came back from their vacation, we all decided to go and have dinner at Pravda. I have to say my best friend/hubby and I, LOVE Pravda. This Russian restaurant, that means “Truth” and Justice”, is one of New York’s oldies but goodies… First of all it is an underground bar/restaurant, so if you don’t know about it, no chance to see it. The staircase opens to cavernous room with some tables and some booth. You have a bar on your left, and access to the second level at the end of the room. The top floor used to be the smoking area once open a time… now it is just the toilets and a mini bar.

The menu is basically Russian appetizers (you have main courses as well, but let’s focus on the most important), and each dish is tastier than the previous one…. As I was with my boys, the food went quicker than my camera, so you need to use your imagination.
From the top of my head, the absolutely have to taste dishes are: “Crispy Potato Pancakes (as we call them roestis in Switzerland) with Scottish Smoked Salmon”, “Scrambled Eggs with Caviar, Ham and Cheese Croquettes”, their “Homemade Potato Chips with Crème Fraiche and Caviar” and their “Roasted Eggplant Dip” (Lebanese call it “Baba Ghanoush” or “Mutabbal”, and French “Caviar d’Aubergines”), I just call it yummy.

For drinks, if it is your first time, I suggest you “Pravda’s Iced Rack of Six Selected Vodkas”, trust me you will see life differently after tasting them. Pravda is famous for its Martinis as well; I personally love their “Russian Mary” (Horseradish Vodka, Tomato & Lime Juice).

I think the bar scene is perfect for the singles; lots of cute boys at the bar and tables… the girls are not terrible either.
Pravda is also a good spot for big groups.

Great food to share, great music, great people to watch and all this while having great drinks… and guess what? not too expensive either!!!!
I think I have never been disappointed by their food (and God knows how easy I can be bitchy). The only problem I had there was the bad service, but it seems they corrected that.

As usual we had a fantastic time.
What can I say else? Besides : “I loooove Pravda”.

When we say Mexican food, the first thing that comes to our minds is tacos, tortillas, guacamole or even fajitas… when someone tells me Mexican food, I start salivating thinking about my dish at Rosa Mexicana.

I know that Mexican food is not the most delicate one, and let’s be honest Rosa Mexicana is not the best Mexican restaurant in town. Their queso fundido is the best I have ever had in my life.

There are few Rosa Mexicana’s in New York, tried them all, and the verdict is the best queso is the one by Union Square.

What is a queso fundido? You will think that it is just a regular melted cheese dish, but Rosa Mexicana uses a different cheese called Chihuahua cheese (not the dog, the cheese) is a soft white cow’s-milk cheese of Mexican origin available in braids, balls or rounds.

So they melt this yummy cheese, grate some chorizo and peppers, and the result is to die for. You eat it with tortillas (corn or flour), and you don’t forget to add some more spicy sauce.

I can sit and talk about their other dishes; true their guacamole is great and they prepare it in front of you… but let’s be honest, you go to Rosa Mexicana for their queso fundido, and if you are still hungry, you order another one.

So it is what we did with my mom and sis…. And once again it was yummy yum yum… we went for lunch (so we could have the afternoon to digest) and usually it is pretty empty at lunch time. But at night it is buzzing with people. And it has a fun bar scene.

As I have a bad story with tequila, I don’t approach it, but if you are into it, I know they have a wide selection.

If you are craving Mexican cheese “fondue” or you are hangover, don’t hesitate go to Rosa Mexicana… and think about me when you eat, cause believe me I will be jealous ;)

Daniel Boulud is considered as the kitchen royalty in the States. This chef, originally from Lyon, truly mastered in NY the dining scene.

I even remember at a “Top Chef “ episode (TV reality show where chefs compete for the title of top chef) where he was the guest judge, Padma said, if you don’t know who this chef is, you can leave the kitchen now…

I had dinner in several of his restaurants, but was never that impressed. Especially his latest restaurant in the city DBGB, where you have only burgers and sausages…

As my mom and sis are in town and they want new stuff, we decided to go for lunch at Café Boulud. The room is pretty, and the crowd is a mix of tourists and locals.

The menu is divided in four groups: La Tradition (the French classics & country cooking), La Saison (winter flavors), Le Potager (Inspired by the farmer’s market), and Le Voyage (world cuisine).

While sipping our bubbles, I ordered the “Wild Mushroom & Farro Soup” and the “Vadouvan Marinated Lamb Rac”. My mom started with the “Chanterelles Risotto” and took the lamb as well. My sister started with the “Beet Cured Scottish Salmon” and had the risotto as the main course.

Everything was delicious, and the service was excellent. My only problem was the quantity of the portions. I agree about the nouvelle cuisine bla bla, but don’t push it. When I order a lamb, don’t give half of lamp chop, with few veggies running around for 37$. Also, don’t charge the smoked salmon 19 $ for literally four very thinly sliced salmon…

I understand Daniel Boulud is the king among the chefs… so he should serve you as the king, and not give you amuse – bouche (which doesn’t truly amuse me) as main course….

Anyway, at the end of the day, we had good time, good food… and thanks to the small quantities even place for some chocolate cake and house made madeleines :)

As I have mentioned in my previous posts, in New York at 3 – 4 pm, there is a cab shift so finding a cab is mission impossible.

So you have few options: you can take the metro (and as we know I don’t do that), beg for out of duty cabs to take you (and if you are on their way they will), get a town car (which will cost three times more than a regular cab)… or go to a bar and drink until the cab shift is over.

Today besides the cab shift we have the snow factor as well, so instead of killing ourselves we decided to make a stop at the St. Regis Hotel. Last time that I was at St Regis was to have dinner at “Adour” with my friends.

When you enter, you turn on your left for the tea room that they call “Astor Room”, “Adour” is on the right of it, and at the end of the room you have the “King Cole Bar”.

Before talking about the bar, let me tell you about their Astor Room. They have this pretentious person presiding empty tables, who thinks he is the king of the Astor Room. We told him we are three, looked at us and decided that we shouldn’t sit at the front, so brought us to the back at a tiny table for two.

When I had only a not happy face to my question: where the third person is supposed to sit? On my lap or at another table? We decided to leave him alone, with his empty tables and white clothes and go to the bar.

The bar was buzzing; we waited 10 minutes and finally got a place to sit. My mom and sis had a glass of bubble, and me a bloody mary, or as a friend of mine will call a “happy meal” (you have your fruit, your vegetables and the carbs).

The service was good; the crowd was composed of hotel guests and some other tired shoppers. Just the perfect way of finishing our day.

After few drinks, we were ready to fight the cold and the snow and find a cab!!!!