Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City

My last day in New York City last month was a cheerfully sunny, yet brutally cold day.  I was as sad as ever to say goodbye to my favorite city, but that seemed to be a reoccurring ritual on the day of my return flight home and I spent the day feeling a familiar feeling of dread.

A glass of Pinot Noir at the bar of Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City.

Viewing life through a Pinot Noir-colored glass. :)

I wandered aimlessly around the city, what has become my favorite pastime in Manhattan, and thought I’d make my last meal count.  While chatting with the owner between sips of wine at Casellula the night before, he recommended I head to lunch at Gotham Bar and Grill.  A New York City staple, he said, that I had to try.  Plus Restaurant Week started that day, so I’d get a great deal on a three course lunch–an extravagance that seemed right up my alley.

Gotham Bar and Grill is truly a New York City gem.  The restaurant has been serving Greenwich Village for 30 years and has received some of the city’s, country’s and world’s highest culinary honors, including a Michelin Star that it’s impressively maintained since 2006.  Chef and owner Alfred Portale is credited as a pioneer of the New American culinary movement and the food continues to focus on that aesthetic.

The striped bass sashimi at Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City.

Light, refreshing and pleasing to the eye.

The Restaurant Week Prix Fix menu featured three courses for $25, a slight bargain to Gotham’s regular prix fix lunch menu of $34; starting with a beautifully presented Wild Striped Bass Sashimi with Asian pear, watermelon radish, cucumbers, yuzu ginger emulsion and avocado wasabi puree.

The pearl barley and wild mushroom risotto at Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City.

The risotto was a symphony of delicious flavors.

That was followed by a savory Pearl Barley and Wild Mushroom “Risotto” with root vegetables, baby spinach and reggiano parmigiano with a medley of flavors; each vegetable truly singing.  Sporadic cranberries gave the dish hints of tartness, brussel sprouts provided texture and together everything was wonderfully savory.  It not only looked gorgeous, it tasted that way, too.
Chocolate cake and almond ice cream at Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City.

An early slice of birthday celebration.

I ended with a piece of Gotham Chocolate Cake served warm with salted almond ice cream, paying homage to my birthday that was just days away.  I couldn’t help but pair it–yet again–with a Pinot Noir, giving myself the excuse that it was my last few hours in New York City, so why not.

Gotham Bar and Grill was a lovely way to end my culinary-filled trip to my favorite city, full of all of my favorite things :: food, wine, whiskey and opera.

Go to Gotham Bar and Grill for :: A beautiful meal at one of the classic restaurants in New York City.  Notes :: Open seven days a week.  Lunch is served Monday-Friday noon-2:15 p.m.; dinner, Monday-Thursday, 5:30-10 p.m., Friday 5:30-11 p.m., Saturday 5-11 p.m. and Sunday 5-10 p.m.  Reservations can be made online here.  Follow Gotham on twitter here or friend them on facebook here.

Gotham Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

The Flatiron Room in New York City

I interrupt the regularly-scheduled blog posts—you know, the ones about a swoon-worthy Valentine’s Day dinner and a wonderfully warming bowl of ramen—to tell you about a little snippet of heaven I stumbled upon while in New York City.

Inside the Flatiron Room bar in New York City.

I was immediately seduced by the Flatiron Room’s bar and selection of whiskeys.

The Flatiron Room is a whiskey bar unlike any other.  They offer more than 750 whiskeys from around the world, covering every region and type of whiskey imaginable.  As a whiskey woman known for ordering Maker’s Mark on the rocks at the opera and sipping on single malt whisky at a baseball game in Japan, I was ecstatic—after my head stopped spinning in disbelief from their massive menu.

The Bourbon Flight being poured at the Flatiron Room in New York City.

As he poured each bourbon for the flight, the bartender showed me each bottle.

Their menu was more like a text book, with page after page of gloriously unfamiliar ryes, single malts and bourbons—oh my!  (No seriously :: check out their whiskey selection!)  Luckily the menu isn’t just a never-ending list, it’s also an information guide broken down by region and type, with flavor profile descriptions and a splash of history.

Whiskeys behind the bar at the Flatiron Room in New York City.

Such a beautiful sight.

Still, I was overwhelmed.  And that’s why flights are such a life-saver.  The Flatiron Room offers flights focused on bourbon, rye and single malt; the Discovery flight aimed at different types of whiskeys from different areas, the World Tour covering various regions around the world (including a Tasmanian single malt) and the King’s Road with 17-21 year old scotches, each with six whiskeys per flight.

The Bourbon Flight at the Flatiron Room in New York City.

The Bourbon Flight included six tastes of whiskeys.

I ordered the Bourbon Flight ($40), with tastes of Hudson Baby Bourbon, Maker’s 46, Michters US #1, Bulleit Bourbon, Rowan’s Creek and Kings Country Bourbon.  Because I’d already had Maker’s 46 , the bartender swapped it for Noah’s Mill, a small batch whiskey distillery in Kentucky.

Bottles of bourbon at Flatiron Room in New York City.

A basket full of bourbons.

Whiskeys are also available by the bottle and the Flatiron Room will keep it there for you for future consumption.  (That blew this Utah girl away!)  They also have cocktails if you’re not a whiskey on the rocks person, plus beer, wine and champagne.  They serve food, too, but I didn’t get a chance to try it.

Oh, and they hold whiskey classes, called Whiskey School, and have live entertainment like jazz music and burlesque performances.  I told you the Flatiron Room was like a shot of heaven right in New York City!

Go to the Flatiron Room for :: whiskey or whisky, however you prefer to spell it, they have it there.  The atmosphere is impressive and the staff is incredibly knowledgeable, too.  Notes :: Open Monday-Saturday 5 p.m.-2 a.m. and Sundays 5 p.m.-midnight.  Reservations are recommended and can be made online here.

Flatiron Lounge on Urbanspoon

Casellula Cheese & Wine Cafe in New York City

By the time Sunday rolled around on my New York City trip, I’d had a lavish dinner, seen the opera that inspired the trip and battled the snow via a hearty bowl of ramen.  Now it was time for an intimate, relaxing dinner before heading to a jazz concert.

A glass of rosé wine and cheese plate at Casellula in New York City.

Cheese plate, a glass of rosé and New York City. Doesn’t get much better.

My friend Jess recommended Casellula Cheese & Wine Cafe when she heard I was headed to New York City.  She declared it her favorite place in the city—and I don’t take her opinions lightly.  (Besides, she has a master’s degree in cheese chemistry so when she tells you to go a cheese place, you go to that cheese place!)

Casellula menu and glass of sparkling wine in New York City.

Starting the evening with a sparkle.

Casellula is a cozy space with an eye-catching bar wrapping around one side of the restaurant and tiny tables sprinkled throughout the other.  Flickering candlelight creates an intimate atmosphere that could have easily doubled as romantic if I wasn’t alone or sitting near a group of girlfriends chatting about relationship problems. :)  Cheese and wine are obvious focal points of Casellula’s menus, but don’t skip over the food menu :: it’s worth trying a plate or two.

Cheese plate at Casellula in New York City.

A trio of cheeses, picked by Casellula’s fromager.

The menu has a handful of small dishes (ranging $5-$10) to accompany wine, not to mention the plethora of cheeses available to create endless combinations of cheese plates (all $6/each).  Medium dishes like salads and chicken liver pâté range $9-14 while larger plates like the Pig’s Ass sandwich (a house favorite) and smoky catfish sliders are around $11-15.

I started with a cheese plate, letting the Casellula experts pick my selections.  The cheese trio came accompanied with passion fruit curd and marshmallows, an unexpected combination that worked wonderfully well; another with apple chutney, adding a spicy/sweet component to the cheese.

Shrimp tacos at Casellula in New York City.

Spicy shrimp tacos were an amazing main course.

I happened to be seated at the bar next to the owner, who suggested the Shrimp Tacos ($11), with avocado salsa verde, black bean purée and chili lemon chip.  I never would have picked shrimp tacos at a wine and cheese bar, but I can honestly say they were the best I’ve ever had.  I loved the crunchy green peppers and slight limey taste and how the spiciness of the shrimp complimented the savory bean purée.

Chocolate cake covered in cream at Casellula in New York City.

Ending the night with my favorite dessert :: chocolate cake.

Casellula was one of those places I wanted to stay for hours, sipping on wines from their endless list and munching on bites all night.  But New York City–and the jazz concert–was calling my name.  So I ended my meal with a piece of Chocolate Cake ($9) topped with Meadowbrook Farm Cream.  I’m obsessed with chocolate cake and Casellula’s, paired with a Pinot Noir, was a fantastic end to a phenomenal dinner.

Go to Casellula for :: a casual, yet exciting dinner or just for wine and cheese.  Notes :: Open 7 days a week from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.  Reservations are not accepted.  Friend Casellula on facebook or follow them on twitter.

Casellula Cheese and Wine Cafe on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City

At what point does a craving reach obsession status?  What began as a vacation addiction to ramen while in Japan turned into a post-trip craving in Salt Lake City and soon I was tracking down the comforting bowl of noodles everywhere I went, from Los Angeles to Chicago and even Montréal.  So of course ramen was on my to do list while in New York City, especially once it started snowing.

People slurping away at Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City.

People slurping away at Momofuku Noodle Bar.

I was recommended Momofuku Noodle Bar, the first of David Chang’s Momofuku empire that now includes five restaurants in New York City, all with impressive awards (including Momofuku Ko that has maintained two Michelin Stars for five years), plus establishments in Toronto and Sydney.  Chang is also co-creator of Lucky Peach magazine, a quarterly food journal published by McSweeney’s.

The tiny ramen shop, which has a Michelin Bib Gourmand recommendation itself, sits in the East Village surrounded by dozens of other Japanese restaurants each focused on a specialty like shabu shabu, curry or yakitori, inspiring the area around East 9th street to be dubbed “Little Tokyo.”  Momofuku Noodle Bar serves several types of ramen, seasonal small plates, fried chicken (advanced notice only) and their famous pork buns.

My friend and I arrived at Momofuku Noodle Bar on Sunday, craving ramen for warmth after a weekend of snow.  It was crowded and hectic, like a ramen shop should be, with bar seating and communal tables.  Reservations are only accepted for the fried chicken but they’ll take your number and send a text when a table is available, giving us enough time to explore the surrounding neighborhood.

A bowl of Momofuku ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City.

Ramen is perfect on a cold day. Or any day!

I ordered the Momofuku ramen, with pork belly, pork shoulder, a beautiful poached egg and the regular trimmings of seaweed, fish cake and green onions.  My friend picked the spicy miso ramen (with smoked chicken, swiss chard and sesame) but he ended up with a bowl identical to mine.  The broth was deliciously savory and slightly meaty and, when paired with a glass of momofuku sake, was the perfect remedy for the cold day.

The service was a bit frantic but the ramen was delightful, so we left pleased with bellies full of warmth to battle the rest of our day in New York City.

Go to Momofuku Noodle Bar for :: ramen. Don’t forget the pork belly buns (like I did!).  Notes :: Open for lunch Monday-Friday 12-4:30 p.m., weekends 12-4 p.m. and dinner Sunday-Thursday 5:30-11 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 5:30 p.m.-2 a.m.  Friend Momofuku on facebook and follow them on twitter or tumblr.

Momofuku Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Juni in New York City

My plane landed in New York City on Valentine’s Day around the same time all the men were picking up bouquets of roses and rushing down the street to meet their dates.  All of them were happily smiling, even those not yet with their lady friends, but maybe that’s because it finally stopped snowing.

Lobster, sea urchin and apple purée at Juni in New York City.

Lobster, sea urchin and apple purée at Juni.

My cab driver couldn’t believe I was on vacation alone, let alone dining by myself on the biggest date night of the year.  When I explained that I was excited to see how people reacted to my solitariness, he suggested he and his wife tag along with me.  Little did he know my passion for food probably surpasses that of most couples’ for each other, so dining alone on Valentine’s Day was a declaration of my love of culinary wonderments.

The trio of amuse bouche to start the meal at Juni in New York City.

The trio of amuse bouche to start the meal.

After changing into a little black dress (it was Valentine’s Day, after all), I arrived at Juni, the modern American restaurant in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood tucked underneath the Hotel Chandler.  Executive Chef (and co-owner) Shaun Hergatt’s impressive resume includes numerous awards from around the world, most notably two Michelin stars at his previous restaurant, Sho Shaun Hergatt, where I experienced his culinary skills in 2012.

The trio of amuse bouche to start the meal at Juni in New York City.

The amuse bouche were so cute!

Barely opened in the fall, Juni is already causing a stir in New York City’s food scene, wearing the banner of Best New Restaurant by Esquire and making Zagat’s list of 10 Sexiest Restaurants in New York.  For Valentine’s Day, the restaurant offered a five-course tasting menu with two options for each course for $175/person.

Three oysters with citrus blossoms at Juni in New York City.

Oysters paired with Cava is always a classic couple.

After starting with several amuse bouches, the first course was a trio of oysters with citrus blossoms and yuzu reduction, a refreshing start to the meal.  I loved how the taste of the citrus blossoms lingered after each oyster.

A layering of veal and pine nuts, polenta and quail egg and crunchy leaves.

A layering of veal and pine nuts, polenta and quail egg and crunchy leaves.

The second course took on a heavier route with veal tongue, polenta, pine nuts, pesto and a quail egg.  Intensely savory, the dish played the comfort chord well, using the polenta to balance the almost awkward texture of tongue.  The course was a striking contrast to the oysters and may have been better placed later in the meal.  (This dish is currently on Juni’s regular dinner menu, unlike some others I had throughout the night.)

Lobster topped with uni in apple puree at Juni in New York City.

My favorite course of the night.

Next came the Nova Scotia Lobster topped with sea urchin in uni broth with apple puree.  As expected, it was richness topped with richness, but done tastefully (pun intended) with the contrasts of tartness thanks to the apples.  Definitely my favorite course of the night.

Squab, rose petals and lovage at Juni in New York City.

The rose petals were a cute touch for Valentine’s Day.

The New York Squab with rose petals and lovage followed.  I’m a huge fan of squab for its juiciness and the crispy skin on this dish added a nice touch.  The squab jus had a touch of foie gras, upping the richness factor, but I never would have guessed it if the server didn’t tell me.  (This is also on Juni’s dinner menu.)

Pastry Chef Mina Pizarro's beet cake and rose milk ice cream at Juni in New York City.

Pastry Chef Mina Pizarro blew me away with the beet cake and rose milk ice cream. (Bad picture, great dish!)

I ended with the Beet Spongecake with rosemilk ice cream and chocolate.  The beet and rosemilk ice cream were lovely together, their light flavors kept the dish from being too much, while the chocolate boldly enhanced the overall dessert feel.  I loved the unique flavors and textures of the dish.

The Petit Fours finished the meal at Juni in New York City.

The “petit fours” ended the meal.

The attention to detail at Juni was impressive.  Each course was presented beautifully, the service was spot-on and they even had a little stool for my purse so it didn’t touch the floor.  (Something I adored about restaurants in Japan but haven’t seen anywhere else!)  Chef Hergatt came to my table to ask how my dinner was, astonishing on a night as busy as Valentine’s day!  Their website calls Juni “a personal affair between the guest and the chef” and I left truly feeling that was the case.

Go to Juni for :: an exquisite tasting menu showcasing the combination of simple, yet innovative flavors.  Notes ::  Open for lunch Monday-Friday 12-2:30 p.m.; dinner Monday-Thursday 5:30-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5:30-10:30 p.m. (4 courses/$90, 6 courses/$120 or a la carte); and breakfast Monday-Friday 7-10 a.m. and weekends 8-11 a.m.  Reservations are available online here.  Friend Juni on facebook here or follow them on twitter here.

Juni on Urbanspoon

Daikaya Ramen in Washington, D.C.

New Year’s Day in my family always consists of feasting on Japanese food.  Ever since I was little I remember my dad and aunts cooking for days leading up to the holiday, led by Chef Grandma, making rolls of sushi, marinating pork for roasting and cutting up dozens of brightly-colored unidentifiable objects.  There was nothing like combating the sugar overdose that was Christmas with the heavy salt intake of Japanese food on New Year’s Day.

Spicy miso ramen at Daikaya on New Year's Day.

Spicy miso ramen at Daikaya on New Year’s Day.

Last year was the first year in my life that I missed the annual feast because I was in Chicago.  Fearing terrible luck throughout 2013 if my first meal of the year wasn’t Japanese food, my friends and I tracked down ramen at Chicago’s Slurping Turtle and let me tell you a little secret :: ramen is the best cure for a hangover, ever.  Ever! 

So when I found myself away from my family for the second year in a row on New Year’s Day, this year in Washington, D.C., I thought I’d start a tradition of my own and find some ramen again.  (I swear it had absolutely nothing to do with ramen’s hangover-redeeming qualities.  Nothing.)  After asking around, several people recommended Daikaya.

The open kitchen at Daikaya.

The open kitchen at Daikaya.

Daikaya was just like the places I visited in Kyoto for ramen, with a large communal table, booths and bar seating.  The downstairs serves strictly ramen while the upstairs is an Izakaya with bar food, sushi and ramen.  (They even have brunch!)  They have five different kinds of ramen, focusing on the Sapporo-style (with thicker noodles and a lighter broth) and have a whole array of toppings to add to your bowl like extra noodles, soft-boiled egg, Irish sweet cream, corn, etc.

A bowl of spicy miso ramen at Daikaya in Washington, D.C.

Ramen is my definition of comfort food.

I ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen ($13), with a white miso base and bean sprouts that were sauteed in a wok to give them an amazingly awesome smokey flavor.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the ground pork (as I love the slices of pork), but it was a delicious cure for my hangover from my New Year’s Eve extravaganzas.  I mean… it was a perfect meal to start 2014.

Go to Daikaya for :: ramen!!  What else?  Notes :: Open Sunday-Monday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., and Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.- midnight.  Reservations are available online here.

Daikaya on Urbanspoon

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