Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fall > Winter Round Up

The Resto Hoppers have been busy eating, but not very busy writing. That's about to change. Here's a rundown on some of the spots we've checked out as Fall turns to Winter in New York City:

Sarabeth's East - This UES establishment is better known for its brunch, but don't rule it out for dinner. Their bread basket is tremendous and the $30 3-course price fixe option is a steal. The portions here were surprisingly large and Jess & I really enjoyed our dishes - cod & steak. The only complaint was that the pumpkin tortelloni was overpowered by the balsamic sauce it was cooked in.

(Following Sarabeth's, Jess & I went to hear Matthew Weiner speak at the 92nd Street Y. He's the creator of Mad Men and it was an absolute treat getting to hear such a brilliant guy speak about the show. I would recommend everyone watch Mad Men & seek out interviews with Matthew Weiner.)

The Palm West - We came here with my family to celebrate my parents 36th wedding anniversary!! Despite getting seated a bit late because the other Farks were stuck in an elevator, we had a truly unbelievable meal. Now we know why this place is a classic NYC establishment. From the apple & pecan salad to the cream of broccoli soup to the tuna entree to the filet mignon to the half & half side to the cheesecake, EVERY BITE was amazing. I won't go into the nitty gritty details, but just know that if you are looking for a top notch steakhouse experience, look no further than The Palm. What a fantastic meal!

Flex Mussels - Our dear friend & avid reader, Jason Morman, recommended this spot to us after having one of the better meals of his life here. Couple this enthusiasm with a 30% off deal through Village Vines, and we had to check out what the hype was about. It's all about the thai mussels - they come in a huge pot with plenty of broth to slurp along with the mussels. We also got the pesto mussels, but they could not stand up to the thai goodness. If you're a mussels person, you need to check this spot out. Their donuts are supposed to be ridiculous as well.

These thai mussels taste much better than they look. Trust us.

Pizza Box - Their pizza is great. Their $6 chicken parm hero is not. After 3.5 years of eating Muzzarella's delicious, as-big-as-your-arm chicken parm, I was spoiled. This version doesn't come close Muzzarella's and I guess I was a bit greedy thinking that it would. I'll keep coming back for pizza and may even try a meatball or eggplant parm hero but no way will I be going back to the chicken parm hero. I'll have to head up to 14th St & Ave A for that.

MaMoun's - $5 falafel plate FTW! Plate is a salad with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, lemon juice (secret ingredient), 6 falafel balls, tahini sauce, and 2 warm pitas. It's phenomenal - tasty & filling and a quick pick-up for dinner.

Lines out the door are the norm at MaMoun's.

Grey Dog - Major bummer that they moved away from their old home fries (shredded potato sauteed with onions to crispy perfection) that we loved so much to a more traditional style of home fries (potato cubes sauteed with peppers & onions and then oversalted). I'm sure we'll be back here for brunch, but not as often as we would be if they hadn't messed with something that wasn't broken.

The old GD hash browns. We'll miss you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Five Points

Last night, Jess & I went to Five Points with her parents, Ed & Val. Once again, BlackBoard Eats came through for us. This time with a 30% off coupon.. cha ching!

The restaurant reeks of Fall and as soon as you walk in, you feel like you're home. The mix of wood, exposed brick and pumpkins evokes a ski lodge vibe and warms your soul.

We got prime seating in the back of the restaurant right by the kitchen. We even got a few strong whiffs of truffle oil, which is always welcome.

The drink menu was both seasonally appropriate (hot spiked cider & Smuttynoses's winter ale) and unique (lavender gimlet & the unknown Flight of Martinis). Everyone was happy with the drinks that started our meal.

The appetizers were also all top notch - panchetta pizza (possibly the highlight of the meal), salad (dates + blue cheese + walnuts = yes sir!), and mezze (squash dip, wild rice, beets, & some other tasty dips served with warm pita-like bread). We all agreed that the pizza was phenomenal - caramelized onions FTW.

After a longer-than-normal break in between courses, we got served wreckfish (Jess), pasta (Val), steak (Ed), & chicken (Eric). If we are keeping score at home, we went .500. Val & I loved our main courses & didn't leave a trail on the plate. Ed & Jess... not so much. Ed felt the steak was too chewy and Jess thought her fish didn't have enough flavor. I thought the pumpkin chutney was delish but can't speak about the fish (somewhere between cod & trout?).

On the positive side, my portion of chicken was hearty (2 pieces - I think breast & thigh/wing), super moist, and juicy. Served alongside a handful of parsnips & a cooked-to-perfection potato gratin, this dish hit the spot. Dipping the chicken & parsnips in the juices made every bite flavorful. The only complaint I have is that the skin wasn't very crispy. A crunchy exterior would have texturally balanced the dish quite well & taken it/me to an even higher level.

For dessert, we decided on the honey apple cobbler with whipped cream. It was good, not great, and the four of us didn't even finish it. We all agreed that it was lacking that something something - cinnamon? more butter? vanilla ice cream? better "crumble"? Who knows... it just wasn't there.

What we all did agree on was that we had a fabulous night out and while some of the food wasn't out of this world, I think we'd all be happy to come back and try out some of the other cocktails and dishes (pizza as an entree, anyone?) on the menu.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From the shores of Baltimore to our chops at Choptank:

What an appropriate day to write this review: last night, Eric and I just finished up the fifth and final season of The Wire, a show that stars Baltimore, "the game" on the streets, and the city institutions. And now I sit down to write about Choptank - a restaurant named after a river that runs from Baltimore across the Chesapeake Bay - conjuring up the complete opposite image of Maryland... preppy twenty-somethings, khakis, mallards, pink shirts and country clubs.

Choptank just opened this year and we were eager to take advantage of the BlackBoard Eats 3-course meal (nibble, entrée, desert) paired with either wine or beer (of Choptank’s choosing). We had heard good things and it’s located just a short jaunt away from our apartment. It was packed at 9:15 when we arrived – I guess the buzz hasn’t died down.

They serve up a basket of Old Bay chips, which is a nice little treat and a good way to dive into a Maryland seafood experience. Eric promptly dropped the basket all over the floor. Oops!

We started out with a "nibble" (aka "appy" or appetizer) of the crab dip and fried oysters. The crab dip was very rich…almost too rich and heavy…but it was quite tasty despite lacking in the crab meat department. It’s served with bread for dipping and wasn’t finished by us, which is rare. The fried oysters were delicious…hard to go wrong with this dish.

Along with each course came a very full glass of wine for me and a beer for Eric. We were both impressed with the drinks they brought to our table. We were expecting half-filled glasses of cheap wine & a "standard" beer. We were wrong, thankfully.

For the entrée, I went with the jumbo lump crab cake served with salad and sweet potatoes. Eric commented that there should have been two crab cakes, as it wasn’t a huge portion, but it was certainly delicious and full of crab meat, not mayo. I would order this again.

Eric had a hard time deciding between the fried chicken and the burger, two odd options for a seafood joint, but our waiter and the online reviews really pinpointed these two as signature dishes. He went with the fried chicken.. It was a heaping portion of goodness - crumbly fried batter & piping-hot chicken below. The pepper-honey dipping sauce brought it to another level and he was happy with the decision he made.

For dessert (which is a little hazy, after a drink before dinner and two large drinks at dinner), we got the Bailey’s ice cream and vanilla-coconut 7-layer cake. Both were good, but certainly nothing special.

So…to sum up, this restaurant is good, not great. It’s one of those times when the whole somehow doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. Each dish was good but after the meal was over, I didn’t get the I-have-to-go-back-and-recommend-this-place feeling like you can get at so many NYC establishments – post-meal glow, if you will.

As Sam Sifton says in his New York Times review of Choptank (I guess any mention of Baltimore allows people to draw upon

New Yorkers probably deserve better. Certainly better is available. But as Snoop once said on “The Wire,” a stone-cold gangster making sense of the Baltimore night, “Deserve got nothin’ to do with it.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

10 Downing

We've gotten some comments from a few of our loyal readers that all of our posts are positive. For the most part, this is true. There are a few reasons: 1) we do research before deciding where to eat; 2) we do research on the best dishes at the places we choose to eat at; 3) our friends recommended good places; and 4) who wants to read us complain about some meal we had?

Well, well, well... Y'all got your wish! We had a less-than-stellar brunch experience with my parents at 10 Downing in the West Village. The omelet lacked any real flavor and fell completely flat in the cheddar cheese department. A major no-no. The Open-Faced Curry Chicken Salad sounded great on the menu but neither Jess nor my dad particularly loved it. For both dishes, my dad mentioned that my mom's versions was far superior. He wasn't just being nice... it was the truth. And, you never want to spend your money eating out when you think you can be doing it better at home.

On the positive side, the pumpkin bisque was delicious - even though the bowl was only filled up half-way - and the bloody mary's were just right.

Jess was here for dinner recently and had a good experience so maybe brunch just isn't their thing. In any case, we won't be back here for brunch. There ya go... not every meal we eat is the "best meal ever." Bummer.

For Dinner:

My dinner here came before the brunch experience tainted our perspective on this local spot.  One positive is that their bread basket comes with chunky tahini that is a nice departure from plain old butter.  

My mom and I split the butter lettuce salad with a warm goat cheese crostini and it was tasty!  I had a huge craving the day after for another butter lettuce salad - it's so superior to every other type of lettuce.  I got the scallops as well, which were great - flavorful and accompanied by brussels sprouts and spaghetti squash.  My mom went with the herb-lemon half chicken and it was quite tasty as well, and a large portion.  We split a side of the brussels sprouts, since they were raved about in reviews and they really didn't live up to the hype.  They weren't cooked enough so they were harder than I like my sprouts - the pieces of bacon did not redeem this dish.

To sum up, after eating dinner and brunch at 10 Downing in the same week, I would definitely use it as a fall-back dinner option going forward and will not be going back for brunch any time soon. 


Friday, October 15, 2010

L'Artusi is for Lovers

This past weekend, Eric and I hit up L'Artusi, which I had been wanting to try for a while now. We were lucky enough to get a 9 pm reservation, because it's definitely one of those places that's always packed. For a quieter, more intimate meal, try to be seated upstairs, where they have a wine room and less going on. We sat on the first floor in the back by the kitchen, where it was loud and crowded. However, even though I felt like I was in the middle of our neighbors' conversation, they couldn't distract me from the fact that their food rules.

We started out with the mushroom appetizer with fried egg, pancetta and ricotta salata. Each bite was full of flavor - maybe a
little salty - but definitely one of the best mushroom dishes I've tasted. Complete flavortown. 

Mushrooms covered with a fried egg

Next up was the butter lettuce with lemon crema, gorgonzola, hazelnuts and olives. We both agreed that in our meal's setlist, this was the slow song that you need to catch a breather in between non-stop rock and roll jamming. Not a bad slow song - this dish was great. The lettuce was soft, the cheese was creamy and the hazelnuts added a nice crunch. This dish completely did it's part and did us well.

A heaping pile of butter lettuce
The ricotta ravioli with pecorino and black pepper came next and was recommended by our waitress because they make their ricotta in house. Perhaps aided by the buttery sauce, this pasta was deliciously rich and savory. I'm happy we decided to split everything because each dish was rich enough that you were fine having just half....well, maybe we could have each had a serving of this ravioli.

Our entree was the chicken, which was another recommendation by the waitress, after acknowledging, "I know it's chicken, but it's delicious." She was correct - they serve it in their own type of marsala sauce and every bit was tasty and savory - not dry and plain like chicken can be. This was the rocking set closer of our meal.

Encore: enter olive oil cake with a side of cappuccino gelato. This satisfied our sweet tooth and was a great capper to the evening.

We'll definitely be back here - it's a great place to go with a group and share plates. Or you may just want to go and get the ricotta ravioli for yourself. I know Eric does.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Neighborhood Eats - Greenwich Village Edition - Part II

This is another series of mini-blogs about places around our apartment that we’ve sampled over the past few weeks:

Pinché Taqueria – I’ve always found it difficult to find really good, inexpensive Mexican food in the city, so when this spot was recommended to me by “Web,” I was pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty excited (anyone else excited for Curb to come back?!). I read good things online about the fish tacos so I went with the Taco de Pescado (Fish) & Taco de Camaron (Shrimp). While both were OK (not good, not bad, just OK), they were not filling at all and they each cost $4.
Side ramble: I felt like they should have been $2 each so I could have four. You might be thinking, “Stop being such a cheapskate & get 3 tacos for $12!” Well, if I’m going to spend $12 + tax on 3 tacos, I might as well go to Rosa Mexicano and spend $20 to eat their Budín de Pollo dish that I love so much. Like I said, I’m looking for good, cheap Mexican food. I want to be able to get a burrito the size of my head with fresh ingredients from a non-fast food Mexican spot, and I want it for under $10! Anyhow, I digress…

They taste worse than they look.

What made the tacos worse was that next to me, Jess was sitting PRETTY with a Pinché taco salad that looked somewhere between 10,000 & 1 million times better than my dish! The taco salad comes in a tortilla shell, which means you can add as little or as much crunch as you want. It’s also a heaping pile of lettuce, tomatoes, chicken, guacamole and comes with a delicious cilantro dressing (they have other options too).
In short, epic fail.

However, I wasn’t ready to give up on Pinché for good. Not me! I went back just the other night & got another dish that was recommended to me… nachos w/ carnitas (braised pork). Bing bang boom! Just like that, Pinché was in my good graces! The nachos were loaded with cheese, topped with tasty, fresh guacamole, and the beans & pork were mixed into each layer of nachos!

They taste better than they look. You'll have to trust me.

Pinché redeemed itself and while I’m not ready to anoint them “my Mexican spot,” I’m pretty, pretty, pretty excited for my next experience.

(There are two Pinché locations. I went to the Lafayette Street location for both meals but the “eb” in “Web” claims that the Mott Street location is better. I don’t buy it.)

Pizza Box – This place was recommended to Jess & I by her cousin’s fiancé, Jordan, and we were anxious to find a good pizza-by-the-slice spot near our apartment. Jordan claimed it to be his favorite pizza place in NYC. Do I trust his pizza opinion? Not that much, to be honest, as he’s from Cleveland. But, I gave it a shot and was proven wrong... Clevelanders can know good pizza! I got a cheese slice & a ‘roni slice and both were on the money. As Jess said, “this is what you expect when you think of good New York pizza.”

We’re both pumped to have found our local pizza joint. We will probably be stopping by there after a night out drinking. Taboot, there’s a chill garden in the back that’s perfect for dining in.

Quantum Leap – Yet another recommendation - this one was by my sister’s friend, Julie K. Quantum Leap is a vegan, natural food spot with locations in the E & W Village. We ordered in from here and really, really enjoyed our meal. I got the Portobello Pesto Burger with a side of sweet yam fries. It’s a grilled veggie burger topped with roasted sweet peppers, grilled onions, Portobello mushrooms, & pesto sauce, and it absolutely rules! Along with the sweet potato fries, it’s a hearty, healthy meal that hit the spot! We’ll definitely be coming back here to sample the rest of their menu.

Silver Spurs Diner/Restaurant – Sweet potato fries were MONEY!! Turkey burger with swiss and avocado grew on me as the meal moved along and I ended up enjoying it. Similar to Quantum Leap, this meal was hearty, and felt healthy (even though it probably wasn’t). I want to come back here to get a beef burger (which I hear is huge) and to eat more of those tasty fries! Jess went with a salad and wasn’t disappointed – their salads are big and there are so many different options. This is a good spot to have right around the corner.

NoHo Star – For a recent catch-up session over dinner, I headed to NoHo Star with a friend. The menu is a little odd – they have salads, sandwiches, omelets and then a side Chinese section that seems out of place. We both went for the American food there and I ordered the chicken burger that came with fontina, pickles that almost tasted like they had been marinated in soy sauce and some coleslaw. The burger was pretty tasty when paired along with the coleslaw but the pickles seemed a little out of place – in keeping with the random Asian aspect of this restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid place with lots of food options and a good place to catch up over food and drinks…but the food is by no means amazing. It did the trick and I would come back for another low-key weeknight meal.

PS – We’ve got a big weekend coming up with dinners planned at L’Artusi (cross it off the list!) & Nonya! Stay tuned…

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thank you, readers! This blog is for you.

A big thank you to all of our readers out there! When we started this blog, we didn't know exactly who we were writing for, besides ourselves. So, it's nice to hear that people have gotten enjoyment out of Restaurant Hoppers - whether it be friends, friends of friends, family members, or lurkers (who we welcome). Also, thank you for providing us with YOUR recommendations. Our philosophy is that writing about and recommending restaurants bring out happiness in people on both sides. If you give someone a great restaurant recommendation and they have an enjoyable experience, you feel good that you had a part in it. On the other hand, there's nothing like the experience of having a great meal out. In sum, we thank you for the random recommendations, emails and notes that we've gotten thus far. Rock on.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Do Hwa (Korean BBQ)

As promised, we're back to bloggin! On Wednesday evening, we went out to dinner with our dear friends, LT & J-Fark. Despite Jess' stomach feeling a bit under the weather, we decided to check out Do Hwa, a Korean BBQ spot in our neck of the woods. We learned about Do Hwa through a BlackBoard Eats deal (25% off) and wanted to get outside our culinary comfort zone. LT had been there before and said it was good so we headed down to Carmine Street to get our Korean BBQ on!

We entered Do Hwa and were immediately taken back by the tasty aroma filling the air. After a long hump day, we all needed a cocktail... I was the only one who went outside the box by ordering the Yuja martini (chilled citrus vodka topped off with champagne & lemon sorbet). It went down easy and packed a punch... pretty much, exactly what you want from a martini. I didn't dabble but they had a nice selection of beers on tap, taboot.

We shared 3 appetizers between the 3 of us: Obok Salad, Japchae, and Dukboki. Not sure what any of that means? Me neither! Check out their menu here: CLICK ME! (From what I've read, it's always changing.)

Despite carrying some serious kick, the best app, IMHO, was the Dukboki. It looks like ziti pasta in a red sauce, but looks are deceiving. What looks like ziti are actually tender rice cakes, and what looks like red sauce is a hot chili sauce. We kept eating this tasty dish despite our mouths being on fire. Both the Obok Salad & Japchae were completely finished by the time the entrees came around, so don't think that they weren't good as well. The vinaigrette on the salad & the noodles in the Japchae really made the dishes.

The entree that both Farks got was the Steak Bibimbop. This dish consists of slices steak & loads of veggies packed on top of rice (white or brown) that's served in a way-too-hot pot. Oh, and it's topped with a fried egg (if that's your thing). You control your own spice & flavor destiny by mixing in as much chili sauce as you'd like. I think I might have put a bit too much on as I was sweating by the end of the meal. But, that might have had something to do with the dish being served WAYYYY TOOO HOT! I couldn't eat for a good 5-10 minutes til it cooled down to a reasonable temperature. It was rather tasty & quite hearty with a nice mix of flavors going on in the bowl. J-Fark thought that it lacked flavor and I understand why he said that.. there was a bit too much going on in the bowl, and combined with the hotness, all the flavors kinda blended together. I would get it again, but not before sampling some of the other items on the menu.

The garlic spinach side dish had LOADS of flavor and I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who likes the garlic-spinach combo.

Due to her aching belly, Jess went with the most neutral soup on the menu - the Mandu D'Uk Gook.  It was homemade dumpling soup with rice cakes and was basically like wonton soup on steroids.  There was lots of flavor in the broth and the dumplings and rice cakes really soaked it all up. 

Overall, it was a tasty meal that turned us on to a type of food we weren't very familiar with. More importantly, it was great times with friends, and I think we would all come come back to check out their do-it-yourself grilling tables. Head down there & let us know what you think of Do Hwa!

Monte's Trattoria (Revisited)

I previously blogged about Monte's Trattoria (see here). Well, I was back on Friday night with my parents. It's one of their go-to restaurants in the city, and one of the perks of Jess & I living in the Village is our proximity to Monte's. I wanted to revisit this entry because of an incredible dining experience and their food is so darn good I feel like writing about it!!

I went away from my normal order (Shrimps Monte) and got the Veal Bolognese. This is the dish that my mom always gets and last time we were here, I tried it, and fell in love. Bolognese is NOT the right description since it's not even close to a traditional meat sauce. What it is is tender, thinly sliced veal that's topped with perfectly cooked prosciutto (crispy & tender all at once!) and mozzarella cheese, and surrounded all over by the most flavorful wine sauce. Their generous portion allows you to have all aspects of the dish in each bite! It's the kind of dish you wish they served at Olive Garden so it can be never-ending. Of course, the OG could never produce something this tasty.

Monte's is a go-to spot for the Farkas Family because I'm already excited to go back there and get this dish again! Go there & find out for yourself why we love it so much!

Monday, September 27, 2010

MIA.... not for long!

As you may or may not have noticed, Jess & I have not been blogging as frequently as we once did. We apologize. Since we moved in together at the end of August, we've made dinner at our new abode quite a bit. Jess makes a mean turkey chili & italian wedding soup! Plus, there's something very nice about waking up at your apt & making coffee & eggs.

But, no worries, we're not the self-proclaimed Resto Hoppers for nothing.. we'll be back out there soon enough! On Wednesday, we're taking advantage of a Blackboard Eats deal and going to Do Hwa with a couple of friends. We're very excited & will blog it up later this week!

Stay tuned for more of our culinary adventures.. we're excited to get back out there!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Neighborhood Eats - Greenwich Village Edition

Last week, Jess & I moved into our new apartment in the heart of Greenwich Village. Naturally, our first move was to explore the food in the neighborhood.

Greenwich Village Bistro was the first local joint we checked out, and it was a cool spot. Originally, we sat inside but the live music was a bit too loud & we couldn't hear each other speak. I think the manager told the trumpet player to chill out, but the decibel level still wasn't conducive to having a conversation. This was probably our fault for coming here for dinner around 9:30.

We parked ourselves outside & had the best of both worlds- live music, people watching on Carmine Street, and a nice end-of-summer breeze. The food was stellar (burger for me & shrimp with rice for Jess). The beer & wine were up to par, and the bill didn't set us back too much. Is this the kind of place we'll go to for a mind-blowing meal? Definitely not - but if we're looking for some good eats, a solid atmosphere, and some drinks, then GVB satisfies.

Suzie, Suzie...Suzie, Suzie! Suzie's chinese food! We had been told by numerous people that we NEEDED to try Suzie's ASAP! We got delivery one night and it was better than your average Chinese food for sure. We each got a "healthy dish" (Jess got chicken & shrimp and I went with chicken & mixed veggies) sautéed with their brown sauce. It’s nice to know that we have good Chinese food right across the street from our apt - some places can be seedy & gross, but Suzie's is the real deal.

Saving the best for last? You bet I am! Cafe Habana on Prince Street in SoHo was another spot recommended to us. We ordered take-out, took the 10 minute walk over there, and ate our sandwiches on one of the benches outside. They also have a sit down restaurant next door, but waits are usually long. Per my friends' reco, I went with their famous Cuban sandwich. Was it the best ever? No, but I'm not a Cuban connoisseur either. Was it damn good? Yes, definitely. Each bite had a nice amount of pork/ham and loads of flavor. It was the kind of sandwich I was sad to see end. Jess got the portobello and goat cheese torta with spinach, jalapenos, lettuce and tomato. An enjoyable sandwich, although the jalapenos dominate instead of adding some spice to each bite. Another highlight of this meal was the ridiculously tasty Mexican corn ($2) that they serve on the side. We each had a husk & loved every buttery, creamy bite. We'll definitely be back here for many meals.

We'll continue to explore our new neighborhood & update you on local eats we think you should check out....stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Labor Day weekend was our staycation and on Saturday evening, we headed west to Bobo with our pals Ilana and Max. These two get special mention for being cool and for knowing the head chef, which entitled us to some nice add-ons along the way. So, ALERT: some items that we received were not on the menu...please don't be too jealous.

Let me start off by saying Bobo definitely wins you over with its atmosphere right away. It's housed in a West Village townhouse and has two floors, oozing with soft lighting and eclectic decorations. It's a great spot to have a cocktail and some appetizers at the bar, and evokes the feeling that you may see Ernest Hemingway knocking a few back two stools away from you. Why? It just does.

We started out with the Ahi Tuna with avocado and cilantro, which was by far the most scrumptious bite of the evening. The dish seems simple but the tuna is fresh, thick and bursting with flavor - this appetizer is a must. We also got some fried oysters and turnip scallops - both which were delicious. Some add-ons that came out were savory pancakes with a tomatillo salsa for on top along with a beet salad. We were stuffed and hadn't even received the entrees yet!...but everything was top notch.

The ladies got the trout, which came with a lovely meyer lemon sauce and fresh vegetables. The men opted for meat. Eric got the cheeseburger, which was fat, juicy, and topped with fried leeks. Not what he was expecting, but a flavorful surprise nonetheless.

Alongside our entrees came some pequillo peppers stuffed with lamb sausage - if that doesn't get your mouth watering, you probably should stop reading our blog. Flavor, freshness, creativity...boom! Great dish.

On the side came a summer succotash, which was heavenly: fresh corn, butter and tomatoes, which melted together in your mouth. We also received some sautéed green onions, which were tasty. This place knows how to do its vegetables.

Dessert? ....Nah! We were way too full. But the bruleed cheesecake sounds rather gluttonous, so we'll have to come back and indulge further.

Bobo is a great spot for some dank eats and fresh veggies!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eric's Birthday Weekend!

My birthday was last Saturday (8/28) and to celebrate I had lots and lots of great food with friends and family. Here's a rundown of what this Hopper eats for his bday:

LaPiazza Buffalo Chicken - I headed back home (Plainview) for the pizza that I consider to be the best in the land. LaP's famed pie has loads of buffalo chicken & mozzarella cheese, but the kicker is the creamy blue cheese that is drizzled on top. Each bite is more delicious than the previous one and I won't go home without indulging.

Tipsy Parson's Luther Burger - Jess threw me a surprise birthday brunch with some of my closest friends. We went to the previously blogged about Chelsea brunch spot, Tipsy Parson. This cute little spot is home to the Luther Burger (bacon cheeseburger served between a sliced glazed donut). It's every bit as delicious as it sounds and if you're looking for a clogged artery, this is for you! Sweet, savory, crunchy, it has it all!

Mercer Kitchen - Jean Georges' SoHo spot had been on my "list" for quite some time so it seemed like a logical choice for a bday dinner with Jess' and my families. The atmosphere is a mix of modern & rustic. It's sleek and feels very new, but at the same time there's lots of exposed bricks & pipes. We all agreed that it was a cool-looking spot. The highlight for Jess & I was the Shrimp Salad app. We liked the scallop entree and the tuna spring roll app, but weren't gaga over it. Jess' bro got a chilled pea soup that everyone tried & thoroughly enjoyed!

Jess' gift to me was a day & night filled with all of my favorite activities. We woke up and headed north to Wave Hill. This park is under the radar and needs to be seen! You wouldn't believe how pretty The Bronx can be. We had a lovely buffet brunch (highlighted by home fries & fresh fruit) before exploring the grounds - gardens, greenhouses, ponds, fresh smells, and more - and laying out in the abundant sunshine!

Blue Hill was my dinner surprise and it was incredible. Obama dined here during a recent visit to New York City, so you know its legit. All of their ingredients are fresh from local farms, including their two in upstate NY & Great Barrington. The decor is simple, yet elegant. They start you with warm, soft, crunchy bread and soft butter - a great way to kick off our dining experience.

Looking for a new type of wine? How about a Malbec Rose served chilled? It was delicious & we're already looking into ordering some for our apt. Our server raved about the tomatoes being in season so we ordered the heirloom tomato salad to start. They split it for us (always a nice
move) and upon first bite we were ready for liftoff! The flavors of the tomato are bursting out and with each bite, you are amazed with how tasty a salad can be! The best part is still to come as the tomato juice sitting at the bottom of your bowl is intensely flavorful. Take some of your bread and use it to soak up the juice..... Ahhhh, a lil bite of heaven.

Jess' entree was the veggie special - eggplant. The bite I had was tremendous and she loved it! On the side of this dish was an eggplant spread that we shared. Think of your favorite babaganoush and it's kinda like that only more eggplant-y and fresh. The chicken dish I got was a reco from the waiter, and he led me down the right path. This was oozing with taste and super juicy! Not your mom's chicken (no offense, mom. I love your chicken tarragon!).

All in all, I'd highly recommend Blue Hill if you are looking to celebrate a special occasion. We loved every aspect of our meal, and we think you will too!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cape Cod Rocks the Lobsta!

During a recent ladies getaway to Cape Cod, I had the chance to enjoy some superb seafood.  Living in New York City, I benefit from the island location, as well as having some of the best chefs the country has to offer, but there ain't nothing like fried seafood and fresh lobster on Cape Cod.
Our first stop for lunch was Cataumet Fish - a bare bones fish shack with a plethora of raw fish, clams and lobster for sale.  We ordered basically the only thing on the take out menu- lobster rolls - plus a pound of shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce.

That beautiful image above had to have been the best lobster roll I've ever had - Pearl's Oyster Bar included.  It was filled to the brim with chunks of fresh lobster and despite how the image may look, it did not have too much mayo.  The flavor, the freshness, the soft was amazing.  And the shrimp was definitely a nice side dish - the homemade cocktail sauce was nice and horseradish-y, which I love.

Check out Cataumet Fish if you're ever in the area - it's definitely a quintessential Cape Code experience.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Peter Luger Steak House

Well, well, well... after 3+ years of living together, my 2 roommates - Howie & Danny - and I went out to eat. Amazingly enough, this had never happened prior to Friday night. We had shared many meals together in front of the TV and many more in restaurants where we were joined by our friends, but it was never just the 3 of us. With the 3 of us leaving our current digs at the end of the month, we needed to change this ASAP. Where do you go to celebrate 3 amazing years of living together? We decided to go big-time and went to the best steak house in all the land.. Peter Luger Steak House (The #1 Steak House in NYC for 26 straight years!)

We were looking forward to this meal since we made the reservation a month prior. After a pre-dinner cocktail at our apt and a short cab ride from the East Village to Williamsburgh, we found ourselves in the famed Steak House. It was crowded and had an old school vibe with wood surrounding you on all sides & a wait staff dressed in all white. We were seated upstairs and immediately greeted with an above-average bread basket filled with my favorite, pretzel rolls. Don't be a newb and fill up on the bread!! There's much, much better food to come!

We didn't even need a menu as the waiter took one look at the 3 of us and told us exactly what we were going to order. He was spot on! Tomato & Onion and 3 slices of bacon to start, steak for 3 as the entree with french fried potatoes & creamed spinach on the side. Boom! We got started with some cocktails and then the food just kept coming.

The key to the tomato & onion appetizer is the Peter Luger Steak Sauce that's served alongside it. The steak sauce is a blend between traditional steak sauce and cocktail sauce.

The key to the bacon appetizer - one slice per person - is that it's sliced super thick. Thinking of this as one slice of bacon is deceiving because it's more like 3 normal slices of bacon packed on top of each other. Obviously, the bacon is just oozing with flavor!

The entree is served family style and the steak comes on a sizzling hot plate. It was cooked perfectly (what else do you expect?) and had loads of butter-y flavor. From what I hear, the steak is marinated & cooked in butter and in addition to being great beef, this is what gives it a lot of it's flavor. You can dip it in the steak sauce or you can just have it straight up. Either way, there will be a big smile on your face. Throw in some creamed spinach and a funky french fried potato dish (that's similar to hash browns) and you have yourself one helluva meal.

You don't get voted the best Steak House for 26 years by leaving people disappointed. We were no different. And Howie made sure that we left nothing on any of our plates:

It might have taken us 3 years to sit down and share a meal, but in one evening, we reached the pinnacle of New York dining.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pizza! Brunch! Thai! Oysters! Chinese! & MORE!!

Jess and I are in the process of moving in together (!!!) so we have a ton of expenses to deal with right now. As a result, we have not been eating out at as much recently and spending all of our money on food.

Instead, we've gotten our eats from take-out, pick-up, etc... And since we are fortunate enough to live in New York City, the options are plentiful AND delicious. Here are some notable spots for good, quick, cheap food:

Yummy House - With so many grimy Chinese take-out places, YH is refreshingly just the opposite. Their food always delivers (no pun intended, well, maybe it was) and this past occasion was no exception. Orange Chicken, Chicken w/ Cashews, & Shrimp Lo Mein were enjoyed by all who got involved. Plus, their dinner pick-up special is one of the best around. Check 'em out!

Gracefully Market - This is a go-to favorite of mine when I want something healthy & hearty. They have a grilled chicken & vegetables salad that is MORE than enough for one person and it only costs $6.99. It comes with your choice of dressing & I suggest trying out the Sesame Ginger. I will have this salad anywhere from 1-2 times per week. They can be found on 1st Ave btwn 18th & 19th.

Kati - Jess and I tried their Thai food for the first time and were both impressed. It was delivered in no time and was very affordable (less than $10/person). The Pad Thai & Curry Tofu dishes were exactly what you'd expect... yummy!

Artichoke Pizza - If you haven't been here, do yourself a favor and go right now! It can be argued that their famed artichoke slice is more similar to artichoke dip than it is to pizza, but that's for another time. The slice is phenomenal & can fill you up for a mere $4.50 (recently raised from $4). The simplest description of this slice is artichoke dip topped with parm & muzz cheese placed on top of thick pizza bread. It will make you melt!

The Sicilian & Margarita slices are some of the best I've ever had, and this comes from someone who grew up eating LI/NYC pizza (yeah, I just tooted my own horn). They skillfully combine marinara sauce, parmesan & mozzarella cheese, and basil on their pizza to stand out (and way above) almost all of the other pizza joints in the city. The best part of their Sicilian slices is its crust - crunchy, crispy, & oily!

Oh, and I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't make mention of a few more things:

1) Aside from a couple of benches in front of their shop, it's all take-out.
2) There's always a line in front of their small pizza shop (14th St btwn 1st & 2nd).
3) The service is unfathomably bad so expect to wait & don't get frustrated. It's hard to know if they don't know how to efficiently run their store or if they like the buzz they get from the line. Either way, grin & bear it cause the pizza is well worth the wait!

Our one splurge of late was a brunch we shared at Cookshop last Saturday morning. Our friend was in from out of town (of course I took him to Artichoke to have New York's finest). So, we went out hard the night before (to my favorite bar, Hi Fi) and woke up needing a hearty breakfast to aid in our recovery. Plus, we wanted to get there one last time before Jess moved away from the neighborhood. I got their pancakes, and since they are big, light, & fluffy... they are perfect for a wicked hangover. They come topped with caramelized bananas & a cinnamon butter. I requested some chopped walnuts on top for an added crunch. Plain & simple, these flapjacks are some of the best NYC have to offer.

Jess followed suit by ordering one of her brunch staples... the egg white frittata. It comes baked in a small skillet filled with fresh vegetables, cheese and is nice and crispy on top. It's healthy, filling and delicious.

Did it cure our hangovers? Pretty much, yeah! Did it give us the necessary fuel to enjoy a sun-soaked day in this great city we live in? You're damn right it did!

We're sad to move away from Cookshop but I got a feeling we'll be back sooner rather than later.

And to celebrate a friend's birthday, Jess recently went to Mermaid Oyster Bar down in Greenwich Village (our new hood!), a sister restaurant to the Mermaid Inn (East Village and Upper West Side)...

It's a casual joint that serves up a variety of fresh oysters and yummy treats from the sea. We started with some drinks and the seafood tower, which comes packed with oysters, crab and other goodies. For four people, it was the perfect way to go. I also got the the sauteed calamari with shiitake & cremini mushrooms, feta cheese, and frisee lettuce, which has got to be one of my favorite dishes in all of NYC. It's a starter but is enough for an entree if you get something else as a starter. The calamari is complemented by the flavors of the mushrooms and cheese - everything melts together. It's a nice change from fried calamari or an Italian calamari with tomato sauce - it's definitely something you should try!

And so is Mermaid Oyster bar - with their cute complimentary cup of chocolate pudding and red fortune teller fish at the end, it's a fun eating experience!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Marlow & Sons

On Saturday we had plans to go to a friend's rooftop party in Williamsburgh, so we decided to hit up Marlow & Sons before. It's not every day that we find ourselves in the outer boroughs so when we do, we want to take advantage of the great food options that exist.
It's not very big but the space is filled with soft lighting, old school decor (think lots of dark brick & chandeliers), good music and people everywhere. We sat at the bar since there were no tables available and we got placed right in the heart of the hustle and bustle.

Even though the menu is tiny, we still had trouble deciding what to order (not surprising for the two of us)! It's one of those places where you know anything you get is going to be tasty, but you still want to make sure you nail your order. We opted not to get oysters, which seemed to be a big deal there, because there were too many other items we wanted. We started with the fried corn which was buttery and delicious. It's not coated in anything, just simply fried until the edges get crispy and super tasty. It was served with tomatoes, herbs and a delicious butter sauce. Corn & butter is a classic combination.

For the entree, I got the seafood salad appetizer because it sounded too good to pass up. Scallops, calamari and clams in a white wine sauce with huge chunks of tomatoes served over crusty bread - it was deliciously flavorful.

Eric went with the brick chicken. What's brick chicken? I think it's chicken served on a brick, but I really can't be sure. (NOTE: I've since learned "brick chicken is usually chicken that is cooked on a grill or griddle with a brick on top so as to smash it and make it cook more evenly." Thanks Val!) What was put in front of me was a half chicken (bones in) oozing with flavor juices. The bird was cooked perfectly and wasn't the slightest bit dry. Just the opposite as there was more than enough juices so that each piece could be dipped in said juices. The skin was crispy & seasoned well, providing a little texture to each bite. Served alongside the chicken is eggplants, zucchini, capers, & squash. All well & good, but the star of the dish is the chicken. And you should know by now that nothing was left on my plate.

All & all, we both really enjoyed our entrees (hooray for good ordering!) and would happily come back here with some friends to try some of the other tasty offerings on the menu. We recommend you check it out & let us know what you think.

Rooftop view of NYC

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dining in the Wild Wild West

We recently returned from a lovely, relaxing vacation to New Mexico (Santa Fe & Taos) & Napa Valley. Going into the trip, we expected lots of Mexican cuisine in New Mexico, and lots of vino & modern American cuisine in Napa. What we weren't expecting was to have arguably the best meal of the trip at a non-Mexican restaurant in Santa Fe!

Since a lot of meals were consumed on this trip, we'll stick to listing the highlights:


Love Apple - A great first meal out & turned us on to some delicious "New Mexican" cuisine. What's the difference between Mexican & New Mexican? We're still not sure. Either way, the Tamale that we ordered had the perfect amount of heat & loads of flavor. It's a small spot that you could easily drive right past, but don't! Instead, eat outside under the lights and find out why Taos residents are "weird," as our waitress insisted. I would replace the word "weird" with "in their own artsy, laid back, simple world."

Hot Tamale!

Casa Benavides - This is not a restaurant. This is the Bed & Breakfast we stayed at, and they make homemade granola that is the best I've ever had. It's moist & chewy, with a crunch here & there from the nuts dispersed throughout. It has coconut shavings & dried fruit and it was so good that we bought a pound of it for the road.

Santa Fe

Max's - Arguably the best meal of the trip. The chef at Max's used to work under Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, and the guy has tons of talent! He was even so nice as to come out to our table at the end of the evening & chat it up with us. The owner was also there that evening & was speaking to us throughout the meal, and even provided us with some great reco's for the following day - Frito pie anyone? (Yes, that's what you think it is - the owner described her favorite Santa Fe treat as splitting open a bag of Fritos and dumping in cheese, chili and fix-ins! They sell Frito Pies in the square in downtown Santa Fe).

The staff's friendliness definitely contributed to the great experience we had, but the meal would have fallen flat if the food didn't deliver.

The heirloom tomato salad with goat cheese sorbet appetizer was a hit. Who knew that cheese could be in sorbet form? It melted and spread it's flavor all over the delicious, locally-grown tomatoes.

Everyone loved their entrees with Chicken Two Ways & Beef Sous Vide being the most memorable.

If you're ever in Santa Fe, you need to go to Max's!

Chatting it up with the owner

Ore House - You could put their Charred Salsa on just about anything and it would taste good.

La Boca - Tapas. We got 12 different plates & all of them were wiped clean by the end of the meal. Eric's favorite: bruschetta w/ mushrooms, fried egg, truffle oil and reggianito.

Extra dirty martinis for The Hoppers


Taylor's (Gott's Roadside) - So good we went here twice! In the fried department, the sweet potato fries & garlie fries were top notch. As for sandwiches, they are known for their Ahi Tuna Burger & it lives up to the rep - it's paired with a great wasabi mayo and asian slaw. The patty melt & chicken club were also being raved about. On top of great food, you are eating on picnic tables with the Cali sun at your back & lush green grass at your feet. After some morning wine tasting, a stop at Taylor's is just what your belly ordered.

Elm House Inn - The Bed & Breakfast we stayed at served warm chocolate chip cookies to their guests every evening at 6 PM. Amazing, right? Even better was that these were the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. I thought Levain Bakery was tops (Battle Cookie), but not anymore. These cookies are like Levain's, only they have pecans instead of walnuts, add in a dash of coconut & cinamon, and remove the $4 price tag. I know what you're thinking - the best granola AND the best cookies, both found in the same week? Are you sure you weren't just on a vacation high? No. It's true.

I guess baked goods are their thing because every morning they served a different muffin/loaf/cake with breakfast, and each one was better than the next.

On to the highlights from our dinners in Napa:

Market - Our first dinner in Napa and it totally kicked the city off right. Great flavors and a cool bar. Everyone loved the chicken roll appetizer and their respective dishes (filet mignon & lamb short rib to name a couple) - you can't go wrong here.

Mustard's Grill - An institution in the Cali wine country - this place is packed every night serving up delicious meat. Three out of four diners got the mongolian pork chop (listed on Food Network's "Best Thing I Ever Ate Series") and we do not normally eat pork chops but it was DELICIOUS. Another must is the onion rings - not traditional, but thin and piled up high on the plate.

Morimoto - One of our favorite NYC Iron Chef hotspots just opened in Napa, so we were anxious to try it. The decor is great - almost as cool as the one in NYC. I love getting the spicy king crab to start, because it's just SO GOOD and they give you a lot of crab meat. We got the tuna pizza as well, which is another popular dish there. As a main dish most of us got tuna that they cook for you in a really hot bowl in front of you at the table, along with delicious sushi rice and an egg mixed in. We all agreed that the dish delivered & left us very satisfied.

Bottega - One of our favorite meals on the trip was at Michael Chiarello's Napa hot spot. Our waiter was truly amazing and made the meal a fun experience, with the food doing its part as well. The polenta under glass is a must and the ribolita appetizer was delicious as well. Most of us got salmon, which was very tasty, as were the short ribs. I would make sure to come back here next time I'm in Napa.

Tra Vigne - Short Rib takes the cake for best entree of the night. It's a beautiful restaurant with lots of great options, but we were wine'd out. We did get lots of amusement from Carrie Underwood & her hubby dining two tables away.

Goodbye Napa, we'll miss you!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Going, going...back, back to Cali (and New Mexico).

The Restaurant Hoppers bid you adieu. We're headed out to Taos, Santa Fe and Napa Valley for some summer vacation and some good eats! Don't worry, we have most of our dinners planned out already, so we've ensured that we're hitting up the best of the best!

Expect some reviews on our wild west adventure in a couple of weeks. Until then...happy eating!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Earth to MATILDA

Oh, BlackboardEats, you have brought us to many great places with your deals! This week's adventure...Matilda on 11th Street between Avenue B & C. It's tucked away and is definitely a local hangout, which is why it was completely empty until around 8 pm. We went from being the only table at 7 pm to being ignored by our waiter at the end of the meal! That brings me to the only flaw - bad service. Besides that, the meal was great and full of flavor!

Mexican & Tuscan fare, you say? We're there. We started out with the guacamole with basil (instead of cilantro) and red pepper, which made me think: why doesn't everyone make guacamole with basil? It was GREAT and definitely a stand-out against every other guac I've had. We almost ordered a second, since it's not that large of a serving, but ultimately decided on another appetizer.

The BlackboardEats deal was a free bottle of wine with your dinner, so we got a bottle of the Pinot Grigio. I'm always a little afraid to take advantage of deals or discounts, but this restaurant was all for it and I'm sure they've gotten a lot of new business because of it.

For the main course, I got the Salmone Al Tamarindo - roasted salmon fillet topped with a balsamic-tamarind reduction, served with sauteed spinach and shoestring tortilla chips. The menu also mentioned that this dish is the winner of "Matilda's Cooking Slam," whatever that is. But I will say (as would the other other diner who ordered this), it tasted like an award-winning dish. The salmon was perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The balsamic sauce and spinach really complemented the dish and the tortilla chips gave it some texture & crunch.

Eric got the BlackboardEats-recommended Gnocchi with a basil-cilantro pesto. This dish is right up his alley and with a little help from his friends (me & the 2 other diners), the plate was wiped clean by the end of the meal (this is not a rare occurrence). They even left him the Parmesan cheese dish so he was able to spread it on top of the gnocchi liberally. The best bites came from the middle of the dish when the gnocchi was soaked in the delicious pesto & topped with a dash of cheese. Gnocchi with pesto is a famous & dangerously delicious dish. Matilda threw us a Mexican cilantro twist curveball and hit it out of the park.

With a cute atmosphere and great food, I would definitely give Matilda another visit in the near future! Check 'em out here:

Monday, July 5, 2010


For this one, we'll let our friend and protege, Jason Bleck, take the reigns for our first ever "guest blog."  Here he is:


Between Rivington and Chrystie, there is an innocuous corridor running amidst typical east village walk ups.  Take four strides too many and one would miss the alley entirely; venture down the path however, and prepare for a truly satisfying and well rounded dining experience. 

Freemans Restaurant endeavors to serve rustic cuisine in a colonial tavern turned hip Bowery hotspot.  The restaurant largely succeeds in its pursuit.  With exquisitely seasoned American staples and a beautiful decor, the only real downside to the Freemans experience is that too many people are aware of its existence.

Without a reservation, the food bloggers were twice denied a table.  Thus, when our dear friend Lindsey was about to embark on her 25th year, the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone presented itself.  We would celebrate her birthday and get a reservation at Freemans (they only accept reservations for parties of 6 or more).  We called many weeks in advance and they were able to accommodate our party for July 3rd at 9pm.

When we arrived the joint was packed.  We waited outside in the sweltering summer air for about twenty minutes and then we were ushered inside to our table.  The AC cooled our skin and the beautiful people were easy on the eyes.  The front bar's antique fixtures and dim lighting were juxtaposed with top shelf liquor and hipsters in fedoras.  The tables in the front were way too close together for my taste which is why being led to the backroom so delighted me.  We were led through the kitchen, past the waiters' lockers into what had to have been the best table in the house.  A lone oak table sat in the middle of the private room.  Beautiful plants adorned antique bookcases and kitchen shelves stocked with wine and liquor.  After seating, our group really felt like we were being treated to a special evening in someone's colonial home.

The service was great, and the restaurant even accommodated a seventh and unexpected party guest.  The waiter recommended some specialty cocktails and our evening began.

I had a Gatsby something-or-other and my friends got the Freemans Cocktail and the Grass Roots Sour.  Although the list of ingredients was certainly impressive and exotic, for $12.00, the cocktails did not impress me that much.  My Gatsby tasted like a gin and tonic flavored with ginger ale and I found myself wishing I just ordered a dirty martini like the b-day girl did.

Artichoke Dip

The meal began with what I can only describe as two of the best appetizers I have ever had in my entire life.  The healthy sized portion of mussels were so delicious that our entire group devoured them within a minute and we had to get more bread just to soak up the remaining juices.  Next came the spinach artichoke dip served with mini toast.  I am not usually a big fan of that dish as I find it is often too creamy for my liking.  However, this dip was perfection.  It was not creamy in the slightest and was seasoned with what I believe was wine, garlic and some spicy jazz.  It was incredible and unlike any spinach artichoke dip you have ever had, I guarantee it.

The entrees we ordered were the filet mignon, the trout, the chicken and the scallops.  My chicken was jazzed up with a bbq sauce that had a great kick to it but it was not overwhelming.  The brook trout was cooked to perfection and seasoned delicately.  The dishes were on the smaller side.  The chicken came with mustard potato salad and we ordered a side of spinach.  I felt that the sides were uninspired, but the meat was so good that it was hard to notice.
Fillet Mignon




Desserts were frankly very plain and probably overpriced, but the bananas foster with rum butterscotch was the highlight and we were glad we listened to the waiter's recommendation.  The meal closed with cappuccinos and an iced coffee (which to my surprise is not something you are supposed to order at restaurants- feel free to comment on this issue below).

All in all, a lovely and memorable evening with great people and great food.