Tag Archives: culinary

Eye For Style’s Escape to Brooklyn

As soon as it appeared in my inbox, I knew this adventure would be right up my alley. The folks at Urban Oyster Tours had kindly invited me for lunch and a 3-hour tour of Brooklyn, to explore where its culinary and agricultural worlds collide. Frankly, they had me at hello with talk of ‘experiencing the entire farm-to-table journey of my food’ and seduced with promises of taking me straight to the heart of Brooklyn’s most unique food destinations, to sample and speak with the creative entrepreneurs behind them. Twist my arm? Not likely.

To my surprise, not only was the tour destined to be chock full of local artisanal eats, but we had multiple guides for the day – Bob Lewis (local historian, founder of NYC Greenmarkets, and Special Assistant at NY State Agriculture & Markets), David Naczycz and Cindy VandenBosch (founders of Urban Oyster), and Caylin Sanders (founder of local travel web portal, EscapeMaker.com). Each were a veritable wealth of information about Brooklyn’s myriad riches – its food and architecture; neighborhoods, people, and cultural traditions; agriculture and urban planning initiatives – past and present.

We met up at Skylight One Hanson, one jaw-dropping landmark of art deco magnificence, perhaps better known as the former Williamsburg Savings Bank, and current winter home of the Brooklyn Flea, which now serves as a prime events location for hire year round. As we jitneyed to our first destination via “The Good Bus”, we got the scoop on what Urban Oyster is all about:

“The name comes from the legend that New York Harbor once contained half the world’s oysters. Over time though, most of the beds died off due to pollution and over-consumption”, David explained. “Like oysters, the neighborhoods of New York are treasured resources that require nurturing in order to survive and flourish. We seek to reveal the hidden pearls of this great city – the neighborhoods, people, and businesses that are uniquely New York. We aim to connect people to these special places through their stories and history, in an effort to support and value local production, consumption, cultural diversity, historic preservation, and sustainability for the benefit of generations to come.”

Given my unbridled obsession with NYC local food & drink culture, coupled with my family’s business of historic preservation, such excursions are tailor-made for culinary architecture geeks like me. I ventured repeatedly to Smorgasburg and New Amsterdam Market last summer, both weekend outdoor markets where you can snap up local artisanal goods, fresh produce & ingredients, and literally sample everything under the sun, as you chat directly with the people who make the things you’re eating, in picturesque locales along either side of the East River.

And Urban Oyster Tours are another opportunity to do the exact same thing. They take you straight to the cooks’ kitchen and give you a comprehensive history lesson ‘mise en place’. They offer a variety of expertly crafted outings – “Eat Like a Local” through Boerum Hill; “Mom & Pop Shops” in Cobble Hill; “Food Carts” of Lower Manhattan; “Immigrant Foodways” in Williamsburg; and their most popular “Brewed in Brooklyn” and “Craft Beer Crawl” which combine a lesson in local beer making techniques with the best part – tasting! Sip your IPA, on the site it was made, while you chat up the brewer? That’s refreshingly rare.

You can get on board with regularly scheduled tours or arrange a private tour of your own. Either or, it’s an entertaining way to show your out-of-town guests how the natives do it, and for locals, it’s a delicious opportunity to broaden one’s horizons and learn more about the vast expanse of your own backyard. It’s so easy to become a creature of habit in your own city and re-visit the same old haunts time after time, but these tours can provide a fresh perspective to the same old stomping grounds, pointing out places you might otherwise miss.

If you’ve lived in the NYC during the last 5 years and have even a mild interest in food culture, chances are you’ve participated in the endless debate as to which borough is the true epicenter of culinary arts – Manhattan or Brooklyn? Manhattan certainly makes a compelling case for itself, as farm-to-table restaurants from celebrity chefs like Dan Barber, Dan Kluger, David Bouley, and Mike Price steadily increase in popularity and rooftop farm initiatives gain steam. Brooklyn is a venerable mecca for foodies in its own right though, and many would simply argue it’s the borough that represents the best of NYC food culture, period.

It’s certainly where the small batch, artisanal, locally made, grown, and sourced movement has sunk its deepest roots at present. While Manhattan is the birthplace of Occupy Wall Street, Brooklyn is at the epicenter of another social revolution – locavorism – and is pro-actively re-positioning itself as THE food and agro-tourism destination you must visit. Great strides are being made in just about every neighborhood enclave to return to their roots of food cultivation and production. There’s been a virtual explosion of urban gardening and community revitalization projects, such as The Brooklyn Grange, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, and Added Value, all of whom are committed to getting people re-invested in their communities and the joys of volunteerism. We’re witnessing a revival of the love affair between foodies and farmers, and the people who make speciality foods are being recognized for their important contributions to the social fabric of the city’s culture again. We’re finding ways to revamp cultural traditions of the past, with a fresh twist that suits our modern lifestyles.

The first stop on our BK Foodways tour was Moore Street Market, one of the few remaining public markets designed during the LaGuardia era as a sanitary alternative to the pushcart vending culture prevalent during the early turn of the century. Our guides provided us with a comprehensive history of the market, complete with historic photographs and fascinating anecdotes, painting a picture of then and now, as well as briefing us on the upcoming urban planning improvements, including a landscaped outdoor public plaza on Humboldt Street, scheduled for completion in Summer 2013. We walked around the market’s interior, meeting several of the long time vendors who treated us to homemade horchata, corn pupusas, and a special tea remedy, made from ingredients native to her family’s homeland in Pueblo, Mexico.

Then, it was off to Roberta’s Pizza for lunch. Housed in an unassuming cinder block structure, with zero curb appeal in an industrial section of East Williamburg, we entered to discover an enormous wood-burning oven as the centerpiece of their open kitchen, which we later learned literally took the slow boat from Italy to Brooklyn. The place is super rustic, with long picnic tables and benches; a small wood bar with a bevy of local beers and a clever cocktail menu scrawled on the chalkboard overhead; and an enclosed outdoor patio heated by a wood-burning furnace, that stares directly into the Heritage Radio Network station which broadcasts 24/7. The crowd is very, well, Brooklyn – local locals, each with their own signature mustache or coiffed beard, complimenting their casual vintage wear and quirky-rimmed glasses. I watched the process as they hand fired our pizzas to bubbly perfection, then topped with veg grown in their roof top garden (or at the nearby BK Grange) and meats sourced at the local butcher shop. We sat down to the communal table, first devouring the fresh margherita, then several more mouthwatering kale and homemade Berkshire sausage pies. A heaven you’d never know existed…

Then, we traveled to over to Brooklyn Winery, a beautiful space in the heart of Williamsburg, utilizing re-purposed wood, recycled furniture, found objects and memorabilia to create one warm, inviting place to imbibe away the hours and socialize with other connoisseurs. We were privileged to receive a glimpse behind the scenes, touring the space where they age their varietals in barrels stacked ceiling high. Their one-and-only winemaker, Conor McCormack, happened to be on site bottling and corking a few cases of a new Cab Sav, so we got to watch and then taste it, as we chatted with him in the intimate event space upstairs. The duo owners, Brian Leventhal and John Stires, who left unfulfilling, but lucrative positions in finance to follow their passion for wine and create a space that they themselves would want to hang out in with their friends, also mingled with us. We asked all kinds of questions, and they answered every single one, from where they got the furniture, to the grapes; how they design their labels and acquired such a desirable location; to the types of events they have on offer and their vision for the future. Ridiculously centrally located near Bedford Avenue on N 8th Street, with a spectacularly unique wine menu and lots of comfortably designed nooks to chill in, this is the place you want to spend a mellow Friday night, come for a workshop or a tasting, or host an intimate shindig of your own.

Finally, it was over to Brooklyn Farmacy in Carroll Gardens, a lovingly restored, 1920’s era soda fountain. Brought back to life by brother and sister team, Peter Freeman and Gia Giasullo, for a Discovery Channel reality TV renovation series, it’s a quintessential old gem that makes you think you’ve stepped back in time. Children came in with their parents to have a scoop of ice cream at the counter after school, grandparents read books to grandkids off the shelves of their library, and a group played board games on the big table in the back room. We were treated to traditional chocolate and vanilla egg creams, as the owners shared priceless stories about the history of the space, the condition they found it in, and how they went to great lengths to make it their own while attempting to remain true to the neighborhood. This joint manages to strike the perfect balance between family-friendly cute and edgy Brooklyn “Jerk”. You can buy more than 2 dozen locally made products from different BK artisans, proudly displayed in the Farmacy’s original wooden built ins. Lucky for you out-of-towners, these delicacies can be purchased online at With Love, From Brooklyn and NY Mouth.

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As the tour came to a close, I had a very heartwarming feeling that history has not been lost, but in fact, there are many people committed to preserving the stories and places that make these diverse neighborhoods truly one-of-a-kind. The culinary traditions of the past are alive and well for the current generations to appreciate, if you put yourself in capable hands and know where to look. As the afternoon sun began to dip behind the trees, I sat outside on the Farmacy’s bench chatting with a few old men from the ‘hood about how life used to be and how things haved changed. I commiserated, with an understanding nod and an appreciation for their perspective, but also with joy in my heart that pearls like these still exist for me and hopefully, my children to experience. It may not be like it used to, but perhaps there’s still hope, that eventually we can make city living even better for the future.

**

Want to learn more about Urban Oyster Tours straight from the founders?
Sample goodies from these very same artisans yourself?
Get ideas for local culinary tours and travel destinations?

Head to: Escapemaker.com’s Local Food & Travel Expo
Saturday, April 14 from 12 – 5 pm
@ Skylight One Hanson

And be sure to check out all these places and more on my “Best of Culinary Brooklyn” Eye For Style map!

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Where Madison Square Eats meets Eataly

At: 5th Avenue & 23rd Street, New York City

When: September 23 – October 21, 11am – 9pm

Madison Square Eats returns to Worth Square once again this fall, on the heels of a very successful summer 2011 trial run. Bringing together diverse tastes of some of the city’s best restaurants and bakeries, this gastronomic hub is a must visit for foodies and eaters alike, with plenty of outdoor seating nestled between Madison Square Park, the crossroads of bustling Broadway and 5th Avenue, at the foot of the famously picturesque Flatiron Building.

Participating eateries for fall include: Almond, Asiadog, Bar Suzette, The Cannibal, Fatty Snack, Graffiti/Mehtaphor, Hong Kong Street Cart, Hot Blondies Bakery, ilili, Junoon, Macaron Parlour, The Milk Truck, Momofuku Milk Bar, Nunu Chocolates, Perfect Picnic, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Roberta’s Pizza, Robicelli’s, Sigmund’s, Spices & Tease, Stuffed Artisan Cannolis, and Wafels & Dinges.

You can easily make an afternoon siesta of it, sampling the goodies of multiple vendors without feeling as though you’re going to burst at the seams, if you follow Eye For Style’s tried-and-true plan of attack: Begin with a couple of lunch courses at MSE2. Head directly across the street for a leisurely stroll around the park. Wonder why so many people are waiting in that long line at Shake Shack. Find a good bench to cop a squat, people watch and read the paper. Have a nice long conversation, with a stranger or your chosen companion. When you’re ready to move on, take a field trip over to Eataly! This barely year old, 50,000 sq. ft. space is part gourmet megamarket, part upscale restaurant food court/wine bar, part bookstore and specialty kitchenware emporium, part culinary school. It’s the well-conceived baby from a menage a trois of New York super-chefs, Mario Bataly, Joe and Lidia Bastianich. Their European partner, Oscar Farinetti, founded the original Eataly, located in Turin, Italy.

Hit the main floor, wandering around in awe and delight, to your hearts content. If the weather is lovely, head up to the Birreria and partake in a speciality craft beer, brewed right on Eataly’s very own rooftop, as you admire one spectacular view of Gramercy and Chelsea. Your thirst now sufficiently quenched, head back downstairs and fill your basket with all the delectibles you can’t bear to leave without – exotic fruits and veg from the produce market; tasty antipasto, charcuterie, crudo, and cheese from La Piazza for a light supper; and don’t forget a few goodies from Pasticceria for tomorrow’s breakfast! If you’re experiencing a bit of a food coma by now, pop by Caffé Lavazza or Vergnano, Eataly’s TWO espresso bars, to put a little pep in your step with a freshly ground cappuccino, before heading back outside to Worth Square for round #2 of MS Eats.

Now that your appetite for Italian cuisine has officially been whet, you’re gonna want to check out Eataly’s website for their extensive calendar of upcoming cooking classes with legendary NYC celebri-chefs. There’s so much going on at this food lover’s paradise, you can return again and again, without even beginning to stratch the surface of all the culinary offerings on hand.

Now that’s amore!

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Eat & Booze For a Good Cause

Times are tough, no question. The world is changing rapidly. Millions of people are in the midst of a daily struggle to survive. We are facing an overwhelming amount of devastating crises, both at home and abroad. We want to help, but don’t know where to start sometimes.

Food is one of the only common denominators in this world, across every culture, country, language, and religion, that truly brings people together. Breaking bread is a sacred experience. Sharing a meal creates lasting bonds. We demonstrate our love and respect through the food we serve to others. We can be of service to others by making wise choices about where and what we consume.

Luckily, there are an abundance of terrific opportunities to put your money where your mouth is this month. I’ve compiled a short list of the tastiest happenings, from coast to coast, so you can eat well for a good cause. If you know of other simpatico events, please feel free to comment with info and links, so we can all contribute to uplifting our global community.

 

Dine Out for Japan Relief: March 23 – 30, 2011

APA @NBC Universal is proud to partner with AZIX, Japanese American Association, New York State Restaurant Association, FEED and the restaurant industry for “Dine out for Japan Relief”.  For one week, participating restaurants will donate a portion of their profits to the Red Cross. A donation of 5%* from every breakfast, lunch and dinner meal will go toward disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami through the Pacific.

@ PARTICIPATING RESTAURANTS:

ABC Kitchen • Aburiya Kinnosuke • Alice’s Tea Cups • Asia de Cuba • Bar Basque

Bar Italia • Bogota Bistro 
• Brasserie Ruhlmann • Captain Bill’s • Carte Blanche

Cha-An • China Grill • Choshi • Crabtree’s Kittle House 
• Curry-Ya • Decibel

Ed’s Chowder House • The Empire Hotel Rooftop • FoodParc • Hakata Tonton

Havana Central • Hasaki 
• Ippudo NY • Jack the Horse Tavern • Jojo • Ko Sushi

Le Colonial Restaurant • Madison • The Mark Restaurant 
• The Mercer Kitchen

North Square Restaurant Orsay • Otafuku PDT • Perry St • Plunge
• Rai Rai Ken

Robataya • Sakagura • SD26 • Shabu-tatsu • Shimizu • Sobaya • Soba Totto

Sugar Bun Bakery 
• Tanuki Tavern • Telepan • Totto Ramen • Yakitori Totto

For more details, please visit:
www.nysra.org/DineOutforJapan

 

Fry for Life: March 16, 2011 –

@ Terroir Tribeca, 24 Harrison St. (at Greenwich St.); 212-625-9463.

& Terroir East Village, 413 E. 12th St. (at First Ave.)

Both Terroir wine bars are raising money for Japan relief one $6 plate of ginger-garlic-soy fried chicken at a time. All proceeds from the chicken go toward Doctors Without Borders in Japan. The recipe for these super crisp and juicy boneless chicken thighs is the same one that Yoshi Nonaka, a line cook at Hearth, uses for staff meals.


NY Vintners: March 24 – 30, 2011

@ 21 Warren Street, New York; 212.812.3999

100% of sales proceeds on all sake wine bottles will be donated to Japanese Earthquake Relief. For store hours and more information: http://www.newyorkvintners.com/


Brewers for Brewers Benefit: March 28, 2011; 7 – 10 pm

Brooklyn Brewery, 79 N. 11th St., Brooklyn; 718-486-7422 or goodbeerseal.com

New York-area brewers Sixpoint Craft Ales, Brooklyn Brewery, Heartland and Empire Brewing Co., team up with The Meat Hook for food, suds and a silent auction to raise money to aid their Japanese counterparts, the Kiuchi Brewery (makers of Hitachino), and other earthquake-damaged sake and beer breweries

Click here to purchase tickets.

 

The Village Voice’s Choice Eats: March 29, 2011; 6:30 – 9:30 pm

@ 69th Armory on Lexington Avenue, 68 Lexington Ave @ 26th Street, NYC


 

The Village Voice proudly presents their fourth annual curated Choice Eats tasting event. Handpicked restaurants and food trucks from all five boroughs featured in The Village Voice reviews are represented, along with complimentary craft beer pairings, wine and liquor-laced cocktails. A portion of the Choice Eats ticket sales will be donated to this year’s charitable partner, Slow Food NYC, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to achieving a good, clean, and fair food system.

For the complete list of participating restaurants and to purchase tickets, click here.

 

Punch Party for Japan: Monday April 11, 2011; 7 pm -

@ Summit Bar, 133 Ave C, New York

Show your support for Japan and enjoy some top-shelf punches in the process at this benefit going down at East Village’s best cocktail haunt, Summit Bar. Spirit brands like Pernod Absinthe, Beefeater and Belvedere have teamed up with mixologist, Greg Seider, to create six concoctions featuring Japan-inspired ingredients. Your $20 ticket (pay at the door) goes straight to the Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund, and it scores you bottomless glasses of punch all evening. Whiskey lovers can also support the Yamazaki whiskey distillery by purchasing neat pours ($10) and whiskey cocktails ($12) while jamming to tunes from DJ Kimiko Masuda.

 

Taste of the Lower East Side – April 28, 2011;   7 – 10:30 pm

82 Mercer @ Spring Street, New York; 917.639.5850

This year’s 11th annual Taste of the Lower East Side will proudly feature the signature dishes from over 50 neighborhood restaurants and an all-night open bar of specialty cocktails. Benefiting the Grand Street Settlement, proceeds will be used to fund programs and services for Lower East Side community residents of all ages – from toddlers to teens, senior citizens and families.

This event was born in 2000 when a pioneering group of young professionals saw the neighborhood’s burgeoning restaurant scene as a terrific cultural resource and rallied the culinary community to help raise sorely needed funds to support the Grand Street Settlement’s various programs. The now yearly event has since enabled local restaurants, food lovers, and corporate sponsors alike to give back to the neighborhood and celebrate its diversity on an ongoing basis.  Despite the increasing business development and gentrification, the community continues to face serious social-economic issues and a great need for social services, so your support is greatly appreciated!

The event has grown in size every year since and is now thought of as a premier culinary event, drawing a crowd of 1000+ food lovers. This year’s event will feature music by Nick Pattakos, as well as a silent auction and raffle prizes – including a new iPad2, courtesy of Tekserve.

Participating restaurants include:

A Casa Fox – Alias – barrio chino – Beauty & Essex

Café Coradito – The Clerkenwell – Clinton St. Baking Co.

DBGB Kitchen & Bar – Double Crown – Edi & the Wolf

Falai Panetteria – The Fat Radish – Gemma

Hecho en Dumbo – Hotel on Rivington – ‘inoteca

Il Laboratorio Del Gelato – Kuma Inn – La Esquina

Little Giant – Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten – Macando

The Meatball Shop – Mercadito – Mercat – Mulberry Project

Northern Spy Food Co. – Olivia – Osteria Morini

Peels – Porchetta – Public – Pulino’s – Rayuela

Rice – Roni Sue’s Chocolates – Russ & Daughters – Salt Bar

San Marzano – Schiller’s Liquor Bar – The Stanton Social

Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery – Think Coffee – Tre

Vandaag – Veselka – wd50 – Yerba Buena

With beverages by:

Anheuser-Busch – Barcardi Rum – Barefoot Wine & Bubbly

Bombay Sapphire – Grey Goose Vodka – Izze Sparkling Juice

For a complete list of participating restaurants and sponsors, please visit: www.grandstreet.org/taste

To purchase tickets, click here. This is a 21+ event.


Global Street Food – May 1, 2011; 11 am – 1 pm

@ The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica, CA

Join Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW’s Good Food, for an exploration of street food from around the globe. The OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano will join Evan and other special guests for a discussion on how street food can shape the culture of a city and influence what we eat.  Then, sample international street food flavors from some of L.A.’s best food trucks, including Mariscos JaliscoLet’s Be FrankIndia JonesPiaggio Gourmet on Wheels and the Nom Nom Truck alongside the warm Latin/African grooves of the Masanga Marimba Ensemble. Proceeds will benefit KCRW. With NPR and public radio funding under attack, they need your help more than ever!

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

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Feast of Good at The Brooklyn Kitchen

When: March 14, 2011, 6:30 – 9:30 pm

Where: The Brooklyn Kitchen

Price: $75.00 USD

You are cordially invited to join Eye For Style for a spectacular evening at Brooklyn Kitchen. Good Commons is bringing their signature culinary experience to New York City for one night only, and you will have the unprecedented opportunity to indulge in creations from four chefs, who will each take the reigns for a delicious, seasonal dish, along with wine pairings from a seasoned sommelier. The open kitchen gives you an insider’s peek as the chefs prepare each course, and the communal table promises to provide a stellar setting for uncommonly good food, friendship, and community. Wondering what’s on the menu? It’s a surprise! Fear not though – the menu has been thoughtfully designed to accommodate a variety of palates and gluten-free guests.

Your host for the evening is GOOD COMMONS, a boutique retreat located in Plymouth, Vermont. Originally built in the 1840s, it first operated as a general store. Lovingly restored and fully renovated in 2007 by radiant owner/hostess, Tesha Buss, Good Commons has quickly become one of the premier travel destinations in the Northeast. They host a series of weekend getaways throughout the year that draw from the bounty of the region, ranging from culinary immersions, food & wine weekends, yoga retreats, health & wellness events and outdoor adventures.

THE BROOKLYN KITCHEN is the culinary brainchild of Taylor Erkkinen and Harry Rosenblum, who saw the need for kitchenware stores in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. What they’ve created is a neighborhood hotspot that includes an eclectic collection of kitchen supplies and local products. Within the store is the Meat Hook, an artisan butcher counter and charcuterie; as well as Brooklyn Kitchen Labs, two dedicated spaces for cooking workshops, classes and special culinary events.

Your Chefs for the evening include:

MATTHEW WEXLER is a partner in the Good Retreat Company as well as a private chef and food, travel & lifestyle writer. When not cooking at Good Commons, Matthew is a regular contributor to EDGE Media Network, offManhattan, and Endless Simmer. He is currently writing the Good Commons food memoir, Uncommonly Good: Stories of life, food and the Birth of Good Commons, as well as his own blog, http://www.roodeloo.com/.

BRENDAN MCDERMOTT is a New York City native who currently dwells in Brooklyn. An acclaimed chef and instructor, Brendan has honed his skills at some of NYC’s most notable restaurants, including Mesa Grill, Olives, and Patria. Trained at Peter Krump (now The Institute of Culinary Education), he shares his knowledge and passion for food throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. His knife skills class at Brooklyn Kitchen was named by New York Magazine as “Best Cooking Class” and he is also featured in the up-and-coming cooking show, Working Class Foodies.

APRIL STAMM is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute. As a freelance food writer, April has written for a wide range of publications including Pastry Scoop, an online pastry magazine, and The Nibble, a gourmet product review and foodie information site. April has made numerous appearances as a guest chef at Good Commons and also teaches home cooking classes.

MARTIN HOWARD has had a lifelong passion for great food. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America where he studied all areas of cuisine, he went on to lead some of the top pastry kitchens in New York, including the legendary Rainbow Room atop 30 Rock. He has competed many times on the “Food Network Challenge”, winning top honors for his sweet creations. Martin’s first children’s story/cookbook “Tina Cocolina, Queen of the Cupcakes” was recently published by Random House.

Sommelier, KRISTEN SIEBECKER, has been a great fan of viticulture and vinification since her first illicit sip of Boone’s Farm wine beverage in her formative years. More recently, she completed the Advanced Certification program from the WSET with distinction, and is certified in Advanced Blind Tasting by the American Sommelier Association. You’ll find Kristen at the NYC East Side Best Cellars wine shop, advising customers and assisting in the store’s ‘Sommelier for an Evening’ program. Kristen’s current favorite varietal is Gruner Veltliner.

Have we whet your appetite? Seating is limited, so act fast! PURCHASE TICKETS here.

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Good Spirits at Le Poisson Rouge

When: January 25, 2011 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Where: Le Poisson Rouge
Address: 158 Bleecker Street, NYC, 10012
Price: $41.99 USD

Edible Manhattan’s Good Spirits!

At Good Spirits, Edible’s seasonal cocktail pairing event, we match mixology-minded chefs and food artisans with spectacular, storied spirits (plus some beer, wine, and coffee for good measure), asking them to strive for liquid symbiosis.

In our estimation, the resonance between tastes and tipple goes far beyond mutually beneficial flavors.

We believe getting to know craft spirits at your neighborhood speakeasy or dive bar is no less relevant than following your cauliflower back to the farm, or your bagels, lox and cream cheese back to the baker, fishmonger and dairy.

Enjoy dishes and cocktails from the following vendors:

Tuthilltown ~ Prairie Vodka ~ Macao Trading Co

Compass Box Scotch Whiskey ~  Comb Vodka and Gin

Northern Spy ~ Fette Sau ~ St. Germain

Warwick Distillery’s American Fruits ~ Palo Santo ~ McClure’s

Don Q Rum ~ Karma Tequila ~ Tumbador Chocolate

Fonda ~ Nonino ~ San Honesto

Huckleberry Bar ~ Death’s Door ~ Fee Brothers

Clean Plates ~ Wolffer Estate Vineyards

Dallis Coffee ~ SerendipiTea

Verterra ~ and more!

Eye For Style readers can purchase special discount tickets, while quantities last, here.

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A Deal Too GOOD to Pass Up!

Good Commons Winter Expedition

January 27 – 30th, 2011

Good Commons is one of the premier boutique retreat destinations in the Northeast, to be sure. They’ve got an abundant calendar of upcoming health, fitness, food, and art retreats for 2011, and they’re kicking off the season with their Winter Expedition weekend, during the last few days of January. This winter escape will be filled with snowy outings, ski adventures, gourmet cuisine, rest and rejuvenation, and more, guaranteed. So if you’re still exhausted from the holidays, or didn’t get the relaxing getaway you were hoping for, consider treating yourself to that perfect post-holiday gift. You deserve it!

And to sweeten the pot, for a very limited time, Good Commons is offering a special $50 discount to all Eye For Style readers. So, book fast – and then relax. They’ll take care of the rest. The weekend rate is all-inclusive — roundtrip transportation to/from NYC on their private jitney too! Can’t beat that with a stick.

To read about my delicious Labor Day weekend Food, Wine, and Rejuvenation retreat to Good Commons, and the same luxurious treatment you’re likely to receive, click here. Once you’ve read that, and spoken with their luminous hostess, Tesha Buss, I’m quite sure I’ll be seeing you in the snowy Green Mountains. This is a deal, and an experience, that’s way too GOOD to pass up!

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Eye For Style Recommends: GRUB STREET

For one day only, Hester Street Fair will literally transform into “Grub Street, USA” with picket fences, eating parks galore, and over 40 exclusive food vendors selected personally by Grub Street and New York Magazine.

Curated by the folks at Grub Street, the editorial staff has invited their favorite food purveyors and restaurants to participate in their first ever ALL FOOD, all day event. From the best restaurants, to trucks and carts, to neighborhood joints from all across the 5 boroughs, this mouth-watering event will give you a taste of the finest morsels New York has to offer. All in one place!

Plus, to add even a little more spice to the mix, Santos Party House will whip this smorgasbord into even more than your average eating fest, providing the necessary ingredients to dance off some of those extra calories you’ll be packing on. Shake liberally so as to avoid impending food coma!

Just make sure to leave room for dessert, kids. This is surely destined to be the most exciting food festival on the Lower East Side this fall – or I promise to eat my words as well. Gulp.

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To view more of my food photography, please visit my website: eyeforstyle.net.

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Eye For Style Recommends: Food, Wine, & Rejuvenation Getaway

@ Good Commons
Plymouth, Vermont
http://www.goodcommons.com/

I really can’t recommend this place enough for anyone in search of a quiet, relaxing East Coast getaway. My first visit to Good Commons was for their Labor Day Food, Wine, and Rejuvenation Retreat which lucky for me, also fell on my birthday. I was in the market for an affordable weekender that didn’t require a ton of planning, but had all the makings for a memorable, pampered adventure. After checking out the Good Commons website upon the recommendation of a good friend, I was confident I’d found exactly what I was looking for. The fact that all I had to do was show up at a convenient Midtown Manhattan location and “get on the bus” was a major selling point. Their retreat packages (typically in the $400 – 700 range depending on your choice of accomodations) are all-inclusive: food, lodging, activities, AND roundtrip transportation from New York City. Can’t beat that! Guests hop aboard the Good Bus, a veggie oil powered jitney, stocked with homemade munchies and various wines chosen by the weekend’s sommelier, for what amounts to a mobile wine tasting drive from the Big Apple to the Green Mountains. A mere 5 hours later, you’re greeted by one of the most amazingly warm and fiercely generous women I’ve ever met in my entire life, Good Commons’ owner and hostess, Tesha Buss. She lights up a room on impact and immediately makes you feel like her casa es su casa. A champagne toast kicks things off right, followed by a light yet hearty dinner, and a welcome circle that encourages all the participants to set their intentions for the days ahead.

They have plenty of activities on tap throughout the weekend: hiking, cheese making and brewery tours, music festivals, picnicing and paddleboating at the lake, exercise and movement classes, and so much more. But one of the things I like best about Good Commons is, you can choose to partake in everything under the sun or absolutely nothing at all. The vibe is so relaxed, you’re under no pressure to do anything other than what your heart prompts. If you’re feeling sendentary, curl up with a good book in the hammock, or in an overstuffed chair in the cozy upstairs living room. Soak in the jacuzzi all day and then schedule a private massage with the on-call therapist in the healing arts loft. Nestle into a bench on the hill and daydream as you overlook the epic, rolling greenery of Vermont or feel free to take off on a solo nature walk. Wi-fi is available if you just can’t tear yourself away from your laptop. If you’re feeling more active and social, jump on board the Good Bus and they’ll whisk you off to the day’s scheduled outings along with the other fabulous guests, who will undoubtedly become a few of your new best friends after the weekend is over.

The best part is, of course, the FOOD and for their F, W, & R getaways in particular, Good Commons pulls out all the stops. A four-course meal with wine pairing is on the agenda for both Saturday and Sunday night. Yes, TWO nights of multi-course gourmet dining. Memorial Day’s getaway will feature an incredible seasonal menu by resident chef, Matthew Wexler, as well as visiting chef, April Stamm (both seasoned culinary school grads who trained under by Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill). These two talented chefs exhibit their own unique approach to weekend’s decadent dinners, utilizing the best of Vermont’s seasonally freshest, local ingredients, emboding the concept of “farm to table” in the truest sense of the term. Since coming to GC, Chef Wexler has been deeply committed building relationships with the local specialty food purveyors and farmers in the area, making each of his menus an experience you’re not likely to find in any other region of the country.

Each menu is never the same twice and carefully crafted to feature the bounty of beautiful Vermont ingredients at their peak of availability. Breakfasts are a mouth-watering buffet of handmade pastry treats, baked egg dishes, local artisanal bacon or sausage, with bottomless pitchers of fresh juices and coffee, served at the long family-style table in the light-filled dining room. Dinners are carefully constructed individual courses, illustrating a particular theme which nicely build from one to the next, and perfectly straddle the fine line between a work of art that’s almost to pretty to eat and accessible comfort food that you can’t wait to tuck into.

As the last course concludes, guests tend to make their way outdoors to the back deck, nightcaps in hand. Smores are roasted around in the fire pit and hilarious storytelling ensues, until the evening slowly winds down into quiet fireside conversations and killer stargazing. Tip-toe through this maze of a house and slip into your pillowy bed, where you’ll peacefully drift off to sleep, feeling like you’re in the comfort of your own home and any memory of urban chaos is a million miles away.

Yep, choosing this place as one sweet little vacation destination is a no-brainer. But don’t be shy, there are only a few coveted spots left for Memorial Day. If you already have plans, check out their calendar of upcoming retreats that abounds with many other opportunities for blissful getaways throughout 2010. Be sure to tell them that Eye For Style sent you (there’s a special offer in it for you) and ENJOY!

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Best Coffee Spots in Greenwich Village and the LES

Starting my day with a good cup of joe is an essential part of my daily routine. One of the first things I do every morning is put on the kettle, pull out my french press, and grind my own beans (stored in the freezer for maximum freshness). I steam my fresh Ronnybrook milk into a perfectly frothy consistency, stirring in a bit of honey for natural sweetness. This is my morning ritual and I love it. Sometimes, I wonder if I love the ritual, almost more than I like drinking the coffee itself.

Every since I’ve discovered this particular coffee-making ritual, I just can’t drink that terrible pre-ground, drip stuff anymore. Wow, can you taste the difference! After one develops their palate for a really good french press or stove-top espresso, going back to automatic drip or percolator coffee is a real last resort.

So, as a lover of really good coffee, I’m delighted to the see the recent trend of coffee connoisseurism sweeping the city. The movement almost seems to rival fine wine tasting as of late. Thus, I decided to embark on some local ‘coffee missions’, on a quest to discover the best coffee offerings in my neighborhood of Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side,  creating a map with my own photographs to boot.

As I sampled many a latte, cappuccino, cortado, and au lait, I found myself pondering, “What really makes a great coffee tasting experience?” The quality and taste of the coffee itself is obviously most important, but ultimately, I feel that the coffee drinking environment plays a vital role in the enjoyment of the overall experience. So, as an architectural photographer and design lover with a sweet tooth, I took the place, space, and vibe created into account when deciding what constituted “best coffee spots”. The beauty of a space, the social interaction and solo sipping meditation that takes place within it, is a crucial aspect of the whole adventure.

1. Abraco Espresso, 86 East 7th Street @ 1st Avenue

This place is a tiny little shoebox of a joint and there is almost always a crowd of people packed like sardines inside and a line out the door, but don’t let that turn you away. The coffee is magnificent, each cup made upon request with love, and their homemade breads and biscotti are the perfect sweet companions, not to be passed up. The owner and his cohorts are always very friendly and chatty. Regulars and newbies alike are greeted with a smile. I will confess this place is a bit of a “scene”, but for some reason, I kind of get a kick out of it. Said shoebox is packed with Village hipsters talking just a little too loudly about their latest industry gig, personal achievement, or friend circle gossip, and for a willing eavesdropper, it’s a delicious, humorous addition to the experience. Just sip your cortado and embrace the chat with a grain of salt. But forget the shake of cinnamon on top ‘cause they don’t have it here. You drink it up the way they serve it, in a variety of mis-matched glass cups and mugs, or one of those quintessential Greek-y “it’s our pleasure to serve you” paper to-go cups, and you’ll enjoy every sip of it, guaranteed.

2. Bluebird Coffee Shop, 72 E 1st Street @ 1st Avenue

This place has only been open since December 2009, but it’s already garnering quite a loyal following, including yours truly. I had a cortado (made with Counter Culture beans) and a brown sugar cookie. The owner herself is one of elements that makes this place so great. She has an obvious passion for what she does and greets everyone with a warm smile and friendly chit- chat. The day I was in, she was talking all about which recipes she was dying to try out next, beaming with a geniune enthusiasm for experimentation. She makes different cookies, cakes and sandwiches daily. They all sound exquisite and are made with fresh, local, and somewhat exotic ingredients. The room is simple, painted in a calm bluebird blue, and nicely designed with beautiful woods and metal accents. Lots of light pours in through the front windows, a long wood bench is built into the brick wall, and cool copper tables dot the room. There are a few tables out front facing First Park at the corner of  1st St and 1st Ave. It’s a relaxed place, inhabited with people in no apparent rush. With all the daily variety happening here, I definitely plan to frequent again and again.

3. MudSpot, 307 E 9th Street @ 2nd Avenue

This coffee isn’t for everyone, but I personally dig the thick, sludgy coffee they serve up here that tastes almost like hot chocolate. You can get espresso here, but I think the original Mud is spot on and a good bang for your buck at $2.25. The Mud Mocha is also good, but the OG coffee has enough rich chocolatey taste for me. They also have several different Mud blends for sale by the pound, with fun New York centric names, if you’d rather make it at home. Good coffee aside, I just love the vibe of this place. It’s everything you’d dream an East Village coffee spot would be – sexy, funky people and a non-stop mix of killer music. I love to sit in the window or the bench in front, reading the latest Dan Savage column in the Village Voice, and watching the all the street action on E 9th (one of the best blocks to window shop in the EV). There’s a great enclosed patio out back where they do table service. A good brunch on the weekends including mimosas and a cup o’ mud will run you $12 cash. The food is terrific, baked goods are made fresh on premises, and they have a decent wine selection as well. Before the Mudspot, there was the Mudtruck, the catering-type painted an eye-catching burnt orange color, parked daily in two convenient locations – next to the 1 subway on Christopher Street in the West Village and the Uptown 6 subway on Lafayette at Astor Place in the East Village.

4. 9th Street Espresso, 700 E 9th Street; 341 E 10th Street; Chelsea Market

These people really know how to make a good espresso. A really good and tasty espresso, adorned with the most skilled latte art. They also carry several different coffee blends, their own varieties and beans from some of the finest fair trade coffee growing countries around the world, for the home coffee connoisseur to buy by the pound. The location on E 10th Street is small, but beautifully warm with lots of light and pine wood details. A few stools and a narrow counter line the east wall, but try to acquire the best spot in the house – perched in the front window. This picture window, or the bench on the sidewalk out front, is ideal for all the people/dog-watching that flows by the outskirts of Tompkins Square Park. I also dig their daily chalkboard art. I’ve generally had positive experiences with the baristas here, but have heard from others that they do sometimes have a bit of an elitist attitude. That hasn’t been my experience though, and they seem to be doing a lot of things right, currently operating in 3 locations, including Chelsea Market.

5. Grey Dog’s Coffee, 33 Carmine Street; 90 University Place

For some reason, I’ve just repeatedly gravitated to their hazelnut café au lait. These cats really know how to steam milk properly into froathy, creamy goodness. Straight up espresso is also at its best here, no question. Grey Dog’s is not just a coffee house, but definitely a great destination for any meal of the day, that won’t break the bank. They have terrific breakfast options, sandwiches that are too big to ever eat in one sitting, cheese and antipasto plates, and out of this world cobblers and cookies. I prefer the Carmine Street location’s vibe and have enjoyed many leisurely meals with friends in their cozy, dark little den. Also like taking my coffee and walking up Bleecker Street, into Father Demo Square or Washington Square Park to sip my joe fountain-side. The University Place location is also cute and conveniently located, but occupied mostly by NYU students, and often gets very loud and crowded. They do have great selection of wine and as the day progresses, the place turns into more of a dimly lit, late night hang out spot.

I’d be remiss not to mention a few other spots in this list, so honorable mentions go to:

The Roasting Plant has an extensive variety of free trade and organic choices, and their method of delivering said choices is the coolest part! You select your bean choice from the daily list displayed on a big LCD monitor, and then your beans are literally sucked from their transparent wall container, through a maze of steel tubes running along the ceiling, into the bean grinder behind the counter. Each cup is individually brewed for freshness and taste. The LES location is rather tiny and only has a few small chairs to sit. There’s bench outside on Orchard Street which is a nice spot to rest, as you work your way through all the fabulous shopping and eateries of the Lower East Side.

Everyman Espresso serves up delicious Counter Culture coffee within a rather colorless, personality-lacking interior. Despite the rather chilly reception and “too cool for school” attitude from the barista behind the counter, my au lait was good. Small and pricey, but good. A relative amount of enthusiasm, a splash of color, and some artwork would go along way towards making this place truly great!

I feel the need to include Think Coffee mostly because I really respect and support their commitment to the environment and sustainable business practices. They use entirely compostable cups and plates, and recycle almost everything within their locations. Their coffee is definitely tasty and they use their own blend of beans, also selling a variety of fair trade and organic coffee by the pound. The Mercer Street location is always packed with NYU students on laptops, thus not my favorite place to linger. The locations on 4th Avenue and Bleecker Street are nice looking, but for some reason, I don’t tend to want to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee inside for very long. Strikes me as more of pit stop or get it to-go place.

Porto Rico Importing Co. is where I get the coffee beans that I brew via french press at home. The smell is unbelievably intoxicating as you walk in the door. I love seeing the rows of open burlap bags of beans. They have a ton of choices, both in regular and organic varieties. I’ve had so much fun sampling different beans from all over the world and I still haven’t exhausted all the options! Porto Rico is more of a coffee purveyor, than a coffee house. They do serve coffee and espresso by the cup and I highly recommend it as a worthy to-go pit stop, but it’s not much of a sit and sip joint.

If you’re interested in exploring the world of gourmet coffee on your own, I enthusiastically support all of the places on this list. If you wish to kick it up a notch, I read about several coffee tasting workshops around the city that school you the fine art of coffee sipping and appreciation. For more information click here.

To view more of my food photography, please visit my website, www.eyeforstyle.net.

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Tenement Talks

Foodie and “Loisaida” (slang for Lower East Sider) that I am, I jumped at the chance to attend the latest “Tenement Talk” at the Tenement Museum last night to hear former NY Times restaurant critic and author, William Grimes, discuss his new book “Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York”. I was very impressed by Grimes’ ability to cover over 200 years of culinary history, in such a gastromically diverse city as New York, fairly comprehensively in the span of just under an hour. No mean feat. But Grimes is a terrificly humorous storyteller who paints absolutely fascinating pictures of early food culture, geared specifically to tales of the Lower East Side, for last night’s Tenement audience. (He’ll give another talk, which is sure to be varied in scope with Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine, Ruth Reichl, at the New York Public Library this evening). His talk was peppered with one amusing anecdote after another, as he touched on topics such as: the ‘sausage and sauerkraut’ oriented cuisine of the early LES when it was better known as “Little Germany” aka Kleindeutschland; the evolution of the Deli, from German to Eastern European Jewish & Italian immigrant ownership; and the impact of the Depression and Prohibition on the burgeoning restaurant and food scenes of the day.

Other favorite anecdotes from the evening included discussions of: the emergence of bread lines and 1 cent coffee carts, aimed at feeding the huddled masses, so long as they could come up with at least a penny in good faith; the backlash directed at such generosity, leading to the the condemnation of the starving artists and “slumming culture”; the evolution from “Beef and…” lunchtime counter establishments to the rise of lobster palaces; and the diversity of available food stuffs at the Fulton Street and (now defunct) Washington Public Markets.

During the Q&A portion of the evening, Grimes touched on a few more modern topics including: the rise of artisanal/gourmet vendie carts; and how geography and real estate, and the separation of live/work sectors have played a major role in NY becoming a stand up/eat out culture. The evening concluded with a “Which came first? The chicken or the egg” debate about whether restaurants make a neighborhood, or vice versa, and the recent turning of the tide from anonymous kitchen staffs and the restaurant owner as king, to today’s rise of celebrity superchefs and their destination eateries. Quite a lot of information to chew on, and a very enjoyable evening for foodie and NY history buffs, indeed. If any of these topics appeal, be sure to pick up Grimes’ book, now available in stores.

It’s also worth mentioning that, there are several other interesting Tenement Talks on the horizon, including “LES Stories: Apartment Tales”, “What Makes Architecture Great”, “The Amazing Journey of American Women: 1960 to Present” and “Holidays in the City”. Check the link below for dates. The Talks are currently being held in their Gift Store across from the actual museum (one the best shopping spots in the city to pick up cool & unique NY souvenirs). I recommend getting down to the LES early to walkabout and sample some of the great eats of the area, before you head over for the 6:30 pm talk. Katz Deli, babycakes, el labatorio del gelato, The Roasting Plant, Guss’ Pickles, and the Essex Street Market are great places to visit to get a taste of the local flavor, and are all less than a 3-minute walk from the museum. I don’t think they anticipated last night’s large turn out, so be sure to get to the Talk early as well, in order to secure a highly coveted folding chair. Free wine and soft drinks are provided, and donations are graciously accepted. The museum is offering a special in conjunction with their Tenement Talks – purchase a museum membership for $55 (which entitles you to free museum visits for a year and Gift Store discounts), and the featured book of the evening is FREE. It’s a very good deal, for a worthy cause, in my opinion. Hope to see you at the next one!

Tenement Talks
FREE @ The Tenement Musuem, 6:30 pm
108 Orchard Street between Delancey & Grand
Lower East Side, NY
212-982-8420
http://www.tenement.org/vizcenter_events.php

Appetite City Cover

To view my food photography, please visit eyeforstyle.net.

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