5 food spots you shouldn’t miss in NYC

I spend a lot of time in the Big Apple.
Well…relatively…considering I only visit two or three times a year.
Since I’ve spent the better part of all my visits for the last four or five years eating my way through New York City, I’m constantly giving restaurant recommendations to friends and family heading there. So, I thought – why not make life a little easier for everyone and put my top eateries in a blog post?
This list is by no means exhaustive, of course. New York is a veritable foodie playground and I can never quite seem to get through my restaurant wishlist. These are the best of my best so far.

Totto Ramen

 

It was a chilly Halloween night about two years ago when my friends Ashanna and Anand and I stumbled upon a tiny ramen-ya in a Hell’s Kitchen basement. The growing line outside the restaurant let us know the wait would be worth it, even though temperatures were below 10°.
I don’t eat pork so I wasn’t able to partake of the signature ramen dish, but the chicken stock ramen remains to this day the best I’ve ever had in New York City and you HAVE to trust me on that because I eat A LOT of ramen…

Dominique Ansel Kitchen

 

While on a rushed trip to Greenwich Village for Ladurée macarons, my best friend Sandi and I ducked into an inconspicuous bakery for a cup of coffee. After a few minutes, we realized we had happened upon the bakery of the man who had invented THE food fad of our generation – the cronut. While we didn’t get cronuts that day (people start lining up at 6am) we did make a point to return on our next trip to NYC. By then though, the Dominique Ansel Kitchen was open for business, so that became our choice for breakfast since there was seating and a wider range of dishes available there. If you love baked goods, surrender yourself to Ansel. Be warned though – there IS such a thing as sugar overload, and I guarantee you’ll get it here.

Jack’s Wife Freda

 

I don’t often return repeatedly to restaurants (because there’s so much to eat in NYC) but when I do, I go back to Jack’s Wife Freda. My go-to dish is the Madame Freda, a pressed sandwich with duck prosciutto and a sunny side up egg, but I can also vouch for the Rose Water Waffles if sweet is more your thing. The place is compact with communal seating and gets PACKED so I would recommend making reservations (if you’re a table of four or more) or going on a weekday.

The Boil

 

Every trip to NYC I say I want to go to a crab boil and every trip to NYC I never make it. This time around was different though, and I finally got to this restaurant that I was put on to by my friend Makeela. My boyfriend and I settled in in our very fashionable bib and rubber gloves and got to work on a bag of 1/2 lb lobster and 1lb of shrimp. By the end of the night I was literally licking the bag and my gloves trying to get every bit of sauce off them (not even lying).

Sweet Chick

 

Sweet Chick is a restaurant that has been on my radar for ages. Apart from the fact that it’s a top-rated brunch spot in the uber-trendy Williamsburg neighbourhood, it’s owned by a Trini! I finally got around to visiting Sweet Chick on my last trip to NYC and I have to proclaim – Best. Chicken. And. Waffles. Ever. The wait staff is also super friendly…if you’re into that kind of thing. The place was pretty full when I visited (we sat at the bar), so it’s a good idea to head there early o’ clock to beat the crowd.
So there you have it – my top 5 spots to hit the next time you’re in NYC.
Tell them Ceola sent you, they’ll be like “Who?”
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Out & About // Off Menu

Oh Fanatic Kitchen Studio…I just can’t quit you. Ha. Jk. I never tried to quit you.

It’s time for a run down of round 2 of that delightful dining experience – Off Menu. Chefs Peru and Juman had an interesting ingredient combination to tackle this time around with nutmeg and mango being the two selected by the previous audience. Mango, I was excited about, nutmeg…not so much. But as it turns out, I needn’t have worried, because the nutmeg proved to be a very quiet accompaniment to the dishes served, letting mango be the aggressor for this tasting.

The format was switched up a bit from the last time – instead of plated service from beginning to end, the first three dishes were served cocktail style, while guests were invited to mingle and chat over some delicious piña colada creations with just a hint of mango. The first course was probably my favourite morsel of the night – a nutmeg scented chicken in mango summer roll with a nutmeg gastrique. Seriously tried going back for as many of these as possible and eventually got cut off. Something about ‘other guests’. Bah. Humbug.

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The next passed item was shrimp poached in zesty nutmeg infused starch water with a pickled mango slaw. I recall really enjoying the slaw up top. It was basically like julienned mango chow. The shrimp, also quite good. I fear though that my palate is not developed enough to distinguish nutmeg flavours, so I can’t comment on what effect, if any, the nutmeg infused starch water had on the overall taste profile.

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Next came an item that I think everyone was really looking forward to. Always ones to experiment with new and interesting techniques, the Chefs created a mango chow foam (yes…mango. chow. foam. Let that sink in) topped with nutmeg scented cotton candy. A fleeting but tantalising sensation on your tongue. The mango chow foam was light and tangy, and dissipated almost immediately once you put it in your mouth. As for the cotton candy…well we know that doesn’t last very long either. I won’t lie…I had more than a few of these – I made Chef Peru keep plating mango chow foam under the guise of needing a better picture and oh well, someone had to eat it after the picture was taken right? A really unique and interesting presentation of mango chow, 10/10 would try it again.

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The main course was served a little differently from the last time. This time we dined ‘family style’ with all the sides set out on the two tables, and guests free to serve themselves. Sides included roasted cherry tomatoes, string beans, green and white cauliflower, baby carrots and orzo tossed in a parsley pesto. The protein for the entree was phyllo encased striploin with blue cheese and mango, coconut mango curry sauce and nutmeg, balsamic and herb salmon. I can’t say how that tasted because, always the debbie downer, I don’t eat beef. Instead I had nutmeg, balsamic and herb grouper. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of grouper, so I left quite a bit back on my plate, but the reports around me indicated that the striploin and salmon were delicious. I totally enjoyed the sides, funny enough, and perhaps had more than my fair share of orzo, because that orzo was ah-mah-zing.

Family Style At Fanatic

Family Style At Fanatic

Phyllo Encased Striploin with Blue Cheese and Mango, Coconut Mango Curry Sauce & Nutmeg, Balsamic and Herb Salmon

Phyllo Encased Striploin with Blue Cheese and Mango, Coconut Mango Curry Sauce & Nutmeg, Balsamic and Herb Salmon

My plate...not nearly as attractive as Chef Peru and Juman's plating...but one makes do.

My plate…not nearly as attractive as Chef Peru and Juman’s plating…but one makes do.

To top it all off, the dessert! Oh what a dessert it was – A mango crème brûlée with a mango and nutmeg reduction, fresh brunoise fruit salsa and mint. Delicious. Hands down the best possible way this meal could have ended. You might be saying…”Well that doesn’t look like a crème brûlée! Where’s the caramelisation?” Well…you see… the caramelisation lay under that delightful top layer of mango. The custard was sweet, but not too sweet, with a distinct mango flavour. The fruit salsa was a lovely tangy contrast to the overall sweet notes in the dish. Needless to say if I didn’t have room for this dessert, I found room and cleaned my plate.

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And so ended a night of fantastic food and great company. The next signature ingredient will be…wait for it…chocolate! I know there’s some folks who only just perked up reading that. Ha. You’re welcome.

 

 

 

Out & About // Oh What a Saturday!

Last weekend was murder. I don’t know why but it was THAT much harder to get out of bed to do anything at all, and yet, it was probably one of the busiest weekends I’ve had in a while. Because…life.

I kicked Saturday off with a trip to Vanity Fair with my co-workers Alina and Odini (Odini is a menswear designer from St. Vincent). I’m currently in the process of bribing Odini to make me some fab shirt-dresses so I’m being really nice to her until that happens (Hi Odini! You look radiant today!)

After browsing some fab fabrics, Odini left with a few yards of a super secret fabric that will be revealed at Style Spirit 2014, and we headed over to Pennywise in Grand Bazaar for some much-needed toiletries. What is it about Pennywise that makes you forget yourself and suddenly decide that you better buy that deodourant and shampoo in bulk…or else. Because God knows Pennywise won’t be there tomorrow for all your cotton pad and St. Ives Facial Scrub needs right? Sigh. Anyway, left there relatively unscathed and with the items I actually went in for. Someone needs to design some chic blinders stat so I can don those every time I have to go to Pennywise. By the way, it was brought to my attention recently that there are people on this island that have never been to Pennywise. Wut? How do you live?

We then headed off to the real highlight of the day: the Pop Hop Shop hosted at 6, Carlos by the fabulous Team M. Pieces by Meiling, Sanianitos, Rachel Ross, Shannon Alonzo, Zidelle and Anthony Reid were up for grabs at this chic little shindig, which also featured glorious desserts from Oh Sugar Cookies, Dulce DessertsSweettooth Cakery and Stella Magnolia. Meiling, was, as usual, the most gracious host, serving up lovely orange sangria and some rather conspicuous marshmallow eggs.

 

I personally left with one super gorgeous striped skirt by Shannon Alonzo. Easily one of my favourite things I’ve ever bought. It’s so feminine and lovely…really made me feel like what I imagine Audrey Hepburn felt like in most of her outfits – and to feel like Audrey Hepburn is, of course, one of my many life aspirations. I wore it for my Sunday evening shenanigans, so you’ll get to see the whole look when I post on that 😉

Right after I dropped those girls home, I changed quickly and headed to Fanatic Kitchen Studio for the launch of Off Menu – a brand new dining concept brought to you by the brains behind Meet Me At Fanatic, which you all may know is a fixture on my schedule.

The concept goes like so – Chefs Peru and Juman are given a ‘secret’ ingredient to manipulate into a four course menu and a cocktail. The ‘secret’ (and I keep putting secret in quotations because it really wasn’t a secret, lol) ingredient for the launch was apples. Yay! I love apples. We started out with an amuse bouche of granny smith gelatin spheres topped with Himalayan sea salt and apple brunoise relish. Tangy and delicious. I have a real weakness for salt, rather than sweet so this was a nice opener for me. Next up was a course I was particularly looking forward to: cream of coconut pumpkin soup with spiced apple fritters, thyme-cider foam and roasted pumpkin seeds. The apple fritters weren’t as sweet as I expected, which I was totally fine with. Everything about this dish was perfection, and it was served with some rustic garlic bread, which proved particularly useful for mopping every last bit of soup up at the end. The next course took a while to reach my plate (because I swapped out pork for the all-of-a-sudden-in-demand salmon) but once it arrived it was totally worth the wait. Tri-spiced pork tenderloin (salmon steak for me) drizzled with rosemary and red wine jus, served atop saffron infused risotto, grilled asparagus, fire-seared cherry tomatoes with a bell pepper relish and confit apples. Despite this dish being one of the most delicious things I think I’ve ever tasted in Fanatic KItchen Studio, it was also the one I felt was least influenced by the star of the night – the apple. I harbour no complaints though…it was definitely amazing and very filling. Somehow I managed to make a bit of room for dessert though (obviously), which was double chocolate brownies topped with apple-cinnamon ice cream, drizzed with fresh strawberry compote, tri-colourd apple salsa and sweet chips topped with pulled caramel sugar. I soldiered my way though this one…but it really was a struggle because everything was so sweet (thanks to Chef Juman for hitting me with ‘It’s a dessert’ when I brought this to his attention though -_-) and as I said before I’m much more of a salt girl. I’m also not a huge fan of ice cream, but Chef Juman had graciously obliged me with half a scoop rather than the full thing, so I made it through that part ok. I also have to mention the drinks we had that night – apple infused sangria, and a lovely dry prosseco with slivers of desiccated apple. Crisp and fresh on both counts and a really lovely accompaniment to the meal. I’m surprised I didn’t have to be rolled out of Fanatic, actually…

Enough talk though! On to what you really came here for: the pictures!

 

 

 

 

Out & About // Brunch At Fanatic with Chef Amit Raval

On Sunday I had the immense pleasure of sitting down for brunch with some lovely company in a lovely place. My favourite haunt, Fanatic Kitchen Studio, in collaboration with the fabulous TriniChow has been hosting a series of Sunday morning (into afternoon) brunches featuring some of the most sought after chefs in the country.

This was the fourth installment, and guests were treated to an Indian-inspired brunch experience by Chef Amit Raval of Amtar’s Catering. The usually bright and modern Studio was transformed into an Indian-themed dining room with lots of red and gold accents and beautiful ornate table cloths and sculptures. We were welcomed with a complimentary rum cocktail, a really delicious mango and mint concoction called Monsoon something (the name escapes me). Throughout the Brunch our wine glasses were kept topped up every course with wines sponsored by Brydens.

I love traditional Indian food, and I don’t get nearly enough of it on a regular basis, so this was a real treat for me. My favourite dish was between the Prawn Vindaloo & Coconut Basmati Rice (because spice, yum!) and the Dhal Makhani & Naan (because who doesn’t love nann?! and dhal makhani has been my favourite Indian dish since I was introduced to it years ago at Apsara). Let’s not even get into the added pleasure of being seated between actress/teacher Debra Boucaud Mason and UpMarket founder Janet Bloom Fabres, and across from the ever-effervescent Corey from Learning Patience and her hubby. I had a fabulous time and will definitely be looking forward to the next Brunch At Fanatic, scheduled for the end of January, which I’m hearing may be a particularly special occasion.  Check out my pics below, get jealous, get hungry, and follow Fanatic Kitchen Studio and Trinichow on Facebook so you can be the first to know when booking for the next Brunch at Fanatic is happening.

 

 

Out & About // Aioli

Sooooo…I’ve been eating again. As if Saturday night’s shenanigans weren’t enough, the Boy and I, along with food blogger extraordinaire Quincy and his guest Kim, took to the newest culinary kid on the block (one of the best kept secrets that everyone has kind of heard about but wasn’t sure if the rumours were true) Aioli. Well…it exists. And it’s open for business, even though there hasn’t been any star-studded launch or huge pomp and circumstance surrounding its debut. I like that, by the way. I was able to enter the apparently elusive restaurant without any expectations, just an unbiased palette and an empty belly.

Let me start at the beginning – the first impression is certainly the decor. Aioli is beautiful. The restaurant isn’t very large and to be honest, the space doesn’t strike me as ideal for this kind of establishment, but boy did the interior decorator do a fantastic job. Ambient lighting, lots of dark wood and mirrored accents complemented by the hues of green running throughout. A huge leg of ham sat rigged up and exposed on the counter top just behind our table, and only afterward did we realise (or rather, did we have it explained to us by Head Chef Johnny Aboud) that this was Spain’s answer to Italian prosciutto – Jambon Iberico, the leg of a Black Iberian pig that is fed only on acorns and forced to stand on its hindlegs for most of its life (this sort of reminds me why I stopped eating pork, but really…I don’t think any of the pork mouths at the table minded much) creating developed and muscular hindquarters that apparently make for excellent ham. That’s what the Boy and Quincy had for their appetizers, while I opted for a Shrimp Cocktail and Kim dined on an impressively presented platter of Bone Marrow. My shrimp dish was excellent. The mango salsa differentiated it from the regular old shrimp cocktails you’re used to getting at less upscale establishments. The cocktail sauce held some heat so the mango was also a nice contrast.

For our entrees, I chose the duck, the Boy chose lamb, Q chose salmon, Kim chose pork and our host Leslie Ann opted for the filet mignon. The lovely Michele Jodhan-Ayoung Chee was also on hand to assist us with selecting wine pairings for the mains we selected. I didn’t taste any other dish but I can say that my duck was PHENOMENAL. Tender and moist with a seared, crispy skin. The bok choy and edamame were just a litte bit spicy, enough to complement the sweetness of the soy glaze on the duck breast. Everything was beautifully presented, portion sizes were just enough.

Dessert was obviously a must at this point. I opted for the Basil Panna Cotta since I’m not a fan of super sweet confections. It was delicious, and really interesting given the combination of flavours…but the real star was the Napoleon. I snuck a bite of the Boy’s and was blown away by how fantastic it was. I didn’t have any of the other desserts but the ice cream received praise from Q, who isn’t even a dessert man himself.

This great review probably has everyone anxious to know the most important thing – what’s the cost of all this perfection? The prices are actually surprisingly affordable. Prices range from $45 to around $250 for appetizers and entrees. It won’t break the bank and it’s more than worth the price. Please check out the Aioli Facebook Page for more information. I’ll be heading back soon myself.

Check out some pics below (Sorry for the shoddy pics. I neglected to carry my DSLR because I wasn’t sure it would be appropriate. Bad call on my part)

Pencil This In

I would have done this post entirely on the happenings in May but this Thursday, 25th April, Kraze celebrates their 1 Year Anniversary in fitting fashion: a shopping party! Kraze will be dropping new stock just in time for their Birthday and possibly treating guests to a preview of Rhion Romany‘s next collection: Monroe. Not one to be missed if you were a fan of Rhion’s Style Spirit Debut last year December. I’ve learned the hard way that getting the jump on new collections is sometimes the best (and only) way to get your hands on coveted pieces. Kraze is located at #40 Murray Street and the event kicks off at 5:30pm.

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The Outlet Market is scheduled to take place this Saturday (27th April) at the Chinese Association of Trinidad & Tobago, St. Ann’s. I’ve been to the Outlet Market a few times before and I LOVE the food. Slightly different vendors than at other markets and it’s always fun to sample from each (especially the cupcakes and cookies, of which there are many). I’m excited to try Dek’s Curry Crab & Dumpling (cheat meal for the week), as well as check out my friend Johan’s African Ark Jewellery. Johan recently brought in some fantastic bibs and jewellery from Nepal…really stunning statement pieces, so if you’re looking for something along those lines then you shouldn’t miss the Outlet Market.

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Also on my radar is Meet Me @ Fanatic. Fanatic Kitchen Studio has been on my list of ‘To-Do’s for a long time now. I love food…who doesn’t? My foodie friend and blogger Q D Ross has often posted photos of the FKS Sessions and everything always looks delicious. So my girlfriend Sandi tagged me in the promo for the Meet Me @Fanatic event, and while I normally balk at the idea of social engagements, I think I’m fully willing to indulge if it means I finally get to experience the FKS. That’s happening on May 4th at Fanatic Kitchen Studio, 6pm to 9pm (that’s 3 hours of unadulterated human interaction, but hopefully with lots of wine and tasty things – yay!). I’m looking forward to this event as a bit of an excuse to finally wear one of the many outfits I buy and hide at the back of my closet for months. Always looking for an excuse to dress up.

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UpMarket is also happening on May 4th. This monthly market has become massively popular over the last few months and I feel like every time I attend there’s a new crop of designers/artisans/chefs to patronise. I’m particularly excited about this market because my favourite jewellery label, Koko Karibi will be selling here for the first time in a long time. It will be held, as per usual in the Woodbrook Youth Facility from 9:30am to 3:00pm. I’d advise going before lunch if your plan is to get your hands on any of the more popular food vendors.

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Special mention goes to the Boy’s event which is starting in May: Taco Tuesdays. With the demise of the Avenue and it’s most popular watering holes, I know everyone is looking for somewhere to lime after work. Starting on May 14th, Dungeon will be serving up Taco (shout out to Maco Tacos), Margarita & Tequila (yuck!) specials all night on Tuesdays. Come through and take a lime.

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According to the Tobago Fashion Weekend Facebook Page, Fashion Season officially begins in the month of May and they are demonstrating thusly, by hosting Tobago Fashion Weekend from the 17th – 19th of May. They’ve been dropping designer names on their page for a few days now and based on what I’m seeing, a trip to the sister isle is more than in order. Unfortunately I’ll probably only be going for one night (aiming to fly in and out on the night of the show, rather than over-nighting) so I anxiously await the nightly schedules so I can determine which date I’ll be trekking to Tobago. I’m most interested in seeing the lovely Chandra Maharaj (she showed at Style Spirit and got no end of praises for her fun, colourful and sexy swimwear) and my long time favourites Zadd & Eastman, who debuted a show stopping white gown with statement neckline at the TFW launch earlier this month (was supposed to attend but I was sick, weh). There are many more designers carded to show at TFW however, so head on over to the Facebook page and check that out, as well as some of the other initiatives the TFW team have been up to in Tobago.

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