Friday, March 26, 2010

Passover Starts Monday -- How about Celebrating at a Great NYC Restaurant?

Foodies can still get their "fix" on Passover -- some great Manhattan chefs are hosting Seders on the first two nights, March 29 and 30. These and others also have Passover menus all week long. And, it's perfect if you're looking for a gluten-free dinner -- no bread is allowed on Passover.

Capsouto Frères: Sephardic Seders have been held at this lovely French bistro for 23 years (non Kosher). On the first two nights of the holiday, Seders will be led by a Cantor with a reading of the Haggadah. Popular dishes have included frittatas, poached salmon, and matzo mina (layers of matzo and cheese) served with Israeli wine selections. The dinner is $150/person, payable in advance, and benefits the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish worldwide charity organization. 451 Washington Street, 212-966-4900

Savoy: Join Savoy’s Executive Chef-Owner Peter Hoffman as he leads a Sephardic Seder (non Kosher) on both March 29 and March 30 with a menu featuring the cuisine of the Jews of Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Persia). The Seder will include a thirty-minute non-religious reading from the Haggadah. Menu highlights include fried trout with garlic and coriander sauce; beet and turnip soup with cumin and mint; chicken with rice, barberries, and coriander; and chocolate cake with walnut and cardamom. The dinner is $95/person and includes wine. Tax and gratuity are additional. (First seating- 6pm Second seating-6:45pm). 70 Prince Street, 212-219-8570

Tabla: Ever wonder what an Indian-themed Passover Seder would be like? If so, head to Tabla for its fifth annual “Unleavened Bread Bar” on March 30. The evening starts at 6pm, and a Passover service will be held. Enjoy matzo ball soup with toasted coriander, banana leaf wrapped fish patties, and other exotic Passover selections. The dinner is $95/person and $50/child under 10 years old. 11 Madison Avenue, 212-889-0667,

Talia’s Steakhouse & Bar: For the ultimate Glatt Kosher Seder experience, Talia’s is the place. A Seder will be led by a Rabbi or guests may choose to hold their own Seder separately for those at their table. Celebrate at Talia’s on March 29 and March 30 at 8pm with holiday favorites such as Matzo ball soup, pan seared Atlantic salmon, stuffed Cornish hen, and brisket. The dinner is $100/adult and $65/child under 10 years old. 668 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-580-3770

Henry’s: Head to this Upper West Side bistro for a traditional three-course Passover Seder dinner. The Chef will prepare a Seder plate along with favorites such as matzo ball soup, braised lamb shank, and a roast half chicken with red quinoa, wild mushrooms, roast potato, and poached garlic. Dessert is delicious ginger-poached figs with cinnamon gelato and walnut cream. The dinner is $39/adult and $22/child under 15 years old. 2745 Broadway, 212-866-0600

For other restaurants without a Seder but with great Passover menus:

Toloache and Yerba Buena: If Mexican Passover sounds intriguing, check out Toloache or the two Yerba Buena restaurants between March 29 and April. Begin with a Sabra Margarita (Agave 99 Kosher Tequila, prickly pear, agave nectar, and lime) or a Kosher wine before diving into a matzo ball soup with a jalapeno-spin, brisket tacos, roasted leg of lamb spiced with chipotle, or the dulce de leche kugel. Toloache, 251 W. 50 St, 212-581-1818. Yerba Buena, 1 Perry St, 212-620-0808 and 23 Avenue A (at Second St.), 212-529-2919

Rosa Mexicano: For another take on Mexican Passover, visit the three Rosa Mexicano restaurants from March 24-April 5. The special menus add a definite spicy spin to holiday staples with tropical haroset, red snapper gefilte fish, banana leaf wrapped brisket, and a Mexican macaroon ice cream sandwich. For more information, contact Sheree Wu at 212-397-0666 x 46 or 1063 First Avenue, 212-753-7407; 61 Columbus Avenue Street, 212-977-7700; and 9 East 18 Street, 212-533-3350

Telepan: It’s a family affair at Telepan as Chef Bill Telepan, his wife and daughter have designed a special holiday menu at this cozy Upper West Side restaurant. The four-course prix fixe Passover feast includes smoked trout latkes, spring vegetable matzo ball soup and seared sirloin and braised brisket with caramelized onions, and a dessert surprise for $65. 72 W. 69 Street, 212-580-4300,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Village Voice Choice Eats -- Worth the Wait

I haven't eaten for two days since Monday night's extravaganza. It was worth the hour++ wait to get indoors. Lots of my favorite downtown and Brooklyn restos were there. Baohaus from the Lower East Side had the most amazing pork sandwiches in their fluffy buns. Fette Sau's pork belly was to die for. Although it wasn't their famous lobster roll, Luke's Lobster's shrimp roll, prepared in much the same way was worth the crush and the wait. They'll be a definite contender for my 2010 update for "In Search of the Perfect Lobster Roll." Other indulgences? I loved the meatballs at Smorgas Chef and the Vietnamese pork sandwich at Xie Xie, one of my favorite Hell's Kitchen spots for a quick bite. And, if you had a yen for cocktails and beers wild and crazy, there was Chartreuse, mezcal, rum drinks, and micro-brews galore. Don't miss this one next year! There were 60 restaurants this year -- although some like Fatty Crab and Porchetta had sadly run out of food within the first hour.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March Madness = Syracuse Madness and Great Deals

Travel and Food Notes welcomes guest blogger Jennifer Sherwin.

After spending three and a half years in Ithaca at Cornell, I became a huge fan of the town of Syracuse. I would never knock Ithaca, as it is incredibly gorgeous, but I needed to find better shopping than at Ithaca’s Pyramid Mall, now more romantically named The Shops at Ithaca Mall. My search led me one hour north to Syracuse, to two of my best finds while at Cornell:—the enormous Carousel Center shopping mall and Dinosaur BBQ, home to the most succulent ribs I’ve ever tasted (and happily now in NYC too).

It’s no surprise that I was very excited to learn about Syracuse’s “1 for 1 Orange Special,” celebrating March Madness and SU Orange’s number one seed in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. This year marks the first time the Orange has achieved that position since 1980, and Syracuse wants locals and visitors alike to celebrate with $1 specials at neighborhood favorites. Highlights include a 750 ml bottle of wine from Lakeland Winery for $1, a third night rate of $1 at featured hotels such as the Jefferson Clinton Hotel (member of Historic Hotels of America), $1 espresso shots at Sugarpearl Café, $1 admission for the show Almost Maine on May 23 at the Syracuse Stage, and more.

For the complete list of specials, visit Specials will run until the Syracuse Orange either lose a game or win the NCAA basketball tournament. Go Orange! I will be cheering for you until you take on my Big Red on April 13 for the annual lacrosse showdown.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fashionistas and Foodies -- Where to Eat if You Shop in Manhattan

I have spring fever like crazy! So.... I HAVE to go shopping. And it's a great time to get some super end-of-season winter deals and get the spring must-haves like a cool boyfriend's blazer, a kicky trench coat (all the rage right now), or some fun ballet flats. Guys, go for a new leather jacket -- I saw some great ones at Hugo Boss. If you're shopping, you have to take some breaks and re-energize by eating. So, foodies and fashionistas, I offer you these ideas for where to go in all neighborhoods:

Downtown – The only real shopping here is at South Street Seaport but you definitely don’t want to eat there. Go, instead, for a fun taste of the Kiwi experience at nearby Nelson Blue and order their wonderful crab cakes. (233-235 Front Street, at Peck Slip, South Street Seaport)

SoHo/NoLita – The wood-fired pizza at lovely Peasant on Elizabeth Street is worth a detour from the boutiques, and it’s thin-crust so you can still try on those slinky duds (Thank you, Frank Bruni, for this reco!). (194 Elizabeth Street between Spring Street and Prince Street)

Lower East Side – You can nosh your way throughout this entire area while you shop for bargains of all sorts. But you’d miss something special if you didn’t set a spell at Katz’s for one of their famous pastrami sandwiches. Think Meg Ryan! (205 Houston Street, at Ludlow Street)

East Village – It can be crazy here, especially around St. Marks. So head just a bit east to one of the finest of David Chang’s Momofuku outposts, Momofuku Ssam for a fabulous pork bun. You may never get a reservation at Momofuku Ko, but at least you’ll have had a tiny bit of Momo heaven. (207 Second Avenue, at 13th Street)

West Village – You can’t leave Manhattan without having a hot dog topped with sauerkraut, and Gray’s Papaya on Sixth Avenue has the works. Best of all, it’s only $1.25, the bargain of the century. (402 Sixth Avenue, at 8th Street)

Union Square/Flatiron – There are no seats at Rainbow Falafel and Shawarma on 17th Street so you’ll have to take your sandwich to the park at Union Square – it’s a quick snack so you won’t freeze for very long. (26 E. 17th Street. between Broadway and 5th Avenue)

Chelsea – The 6th Avenue stores are massive and exhausting. Tiny Tebaya’s Japanese-spiced chicken wings will ease the pain at an easy price. (144 W. 19th Street. between 6th and 7th avenues)

Herald Square – 34th Street can make even the most committed shopper go nuts. A skirt steak, chicken or fish taco in the beachy setting of Lucy’s Cantina Royale will give you a brief vacation respite. (1 Penn Plaza, Corner of 34th Street and 8th Avenue)

Midtown/Fifth Avenue – A Greek salad at Kellari Taverna on 44th Street is perfect on every level, and the setting is a cozy oasis amidst the shopping madness in this part of the city. (19 W. 44th Street. between 5th 6th avenues)

Theater District -- I'll confess I'm addicted to any of the burgers here: the signature 5 Napkin burger with its signature 5N sauce is to die for, but, then again, so are the inside-out burgers and the turkey burgers. You'll soon understand why this is a pre-theater and post-theater favorite, too. (630 9th Avenue at 45th Street)

Lincoln Center – The all-day Chowder Bar at Ed’s Chowder House has a variety of chowders to warm you up. Try the rich shellfish version, accompanied by some oysters and clams on the half-shell. (Empire Hotel, 44 W. 63rd Street between Broadway and Columbus Avenue)

Upper West Side -- The line at Shake Shack on Columbus Avenue looks more daunting than it really is: join in and order one of the best burgers in the city. (366 Columbus Avenue at 77th Street)

Upper East Side – 86th Street is a zoo but Lili’s on 3rd Avenue will add a calming Zen vibe with a big bowl of udon, meat and veggies. (1500 3rd Avenue between 84th and 85th streets)

Harlem -- 125th Street is where the action is, but I suggest you walk the 9 quick blocks to Amy Ruth’s for some authentic Southern fried chicken, with or without waffles. There’s a reason there’s usually a line to get in here. (113 W. 116th Street, between Lenox and 7th avenues)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Travel and Sleep

I'm a natural insomniac, although some would say that I'm really an owl, and not an insomniac, because I CAN sleep.... just on my own schedule. At any rate, you can imagine that travel and changing time zones can really mess me up. I have a full battery of tools that I use to help me adjust and catch some zzzzz's: there's yoga (feet up against the wall and seated forward bends are wonderful for total relaxation), listening to Classical music (Ravel, Chopin, and Satie are perfect for this), and aromatherapy. Through my yogi friends I discovered an ideal lotion for helping achieve total sleepy bliss, Jivamukti Lotion. It's a wondrous blend of lavender and aloe in a smooth lotion -- just put a drop under your nose or on the back of your neck, and you'll feel like you've just begun savanasa. You can buy it here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Restaurant Stars in Cambridge, Boston, Chicago and, of course, New York City

I am very impressed with what I’ve seen in cuisine during my recent skipping around the country. I wanted to point out some of my new favorites. In Boston, Tony Maws has the formula down pat at the wonderful Craigie on Main. Now in a larger space in Central Square in Cambridge, the restaurant has some of the most beautiful entrees around (and amazingly knowledgeable service) plus you can watch the magic happen in the open kitchen. Also in Boston, Barbara Lynch has made her mark in a big way with No. 9 Park , B&G Oysters and Sportello. In Chicago, Oprah and Obama are absolutely right: Table 52 is wondrous, but it’s so tiny that you’ll have to plan ahead and ahead to get a seat here, unless, of course, it’s a snowy night and you score a cancellation. The Southern/Low Country menu is almost too rich from start to finish. Just don’t think about it while you enjoy the shrimp and grits, mashed potatoes, fried chicken (Monday and Sunday only) and incredible desserts. And New York? I’ll save that for another time, and another time and another time, but my new fine-dining favorites? SHO Shaun Hergatt in FiDi and The Wright – both take a bit of sleuthing to find – they’re hidden under scaffolding or through an obscure entrance to the side of the building – and totally worth the hunt. PS the O after SH is a design element, not a letter, another thing adding to the mystique.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cocktails and Music at NYC Museums

How about something different for a date night in the city? A museum date! You can be an art lover and enjoy a cocktail, too. At some of the city’s top museums — often with free admission — nights become the best time to soak up the arts with gentle prices. Take advantage of these after-dark cultural events, and live out your own “Night at the Museum” fantasy without breaking the bank.

Morgan Museum

Manuscripts, memoirs, and music highlight the collection at Midtown’s Morgan Museum with refreshments just up the stairs at the delightful Morgan Café (open until 8pm). Admission is free on Fridays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Through March 2010, explore the life of novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817) at the “A Woman’s Wit” exhibit which showcases Austen’s personal letters, finished and unfinished manuscripts, and drawings. The exhibit also includes a short documentary featuring interviews about Austen’s legacy. After exploring her life, get a taste of the 19th century with the Morgan Café’s Americano Cocktail, dating back to 1860.

225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, Manhattan, (212) 685-0008

Rubin Art Museum

Opened in 2004, the Himalayan culture museum, located in Chelsea, has both beautiful artwork and delicious cocktails. Friday nights, the café becomes the K2 Lounge, and drinks are served 2-for-1 between 6 and 7pm. To sweeten the deal, gallery admission is free from 7 – 10 on Friday, for a bit of culture after your cocktails.

150 West 17th Street, Manhattan, (212) 620-5000

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Fridays and Saturdays between 4 and 8:30pm, venture uptown to witness the Met’s transformation into a cocktail lounge. The Great Hall Balcony Bar on the second floor is the setting for live classical music and drinks. Try a signature drink like the Apple Martini to enhance this exciting Big Apple experience. The museum closes at 9 so you’ll still have ½ hour to check out one last art exhibit before you have to leave.

(In the summer, the rooftop is the place to go for top-notch cocktails amid the sculpture exhibits with knockout views of Fifth Avenue and Central Park).

1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street,Manhattan, (212) 535-7710

Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History

SonicVision, a digitally animated alternative music show, has Space Oddity written all over it. Presented on select Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 and 8:30pm, this musical and visual event features a mix by Moby, with tracks by Radiohead, David Bowie, The Flaming Lips, David Byrne, and more for only $15 ($12 for members). Like a Pink Floyd Laser Show for Generation Y, SonicVision provides an eye (and ear)-opening experience like no other. No cocktails are served, however – you’ll have to wait until the show is over to check out some of Columbus Avenue’s nearby watering holes.

Central Park West at 79th Street, Manhattan, (212) 769-5200

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Art After Dark, First Fridays is the Guggenheim Museum’s signature party event the first Friday of every month. Capacity is limited so members get priority and free admission. Admission for all others is $25 (cash only) for a full night of music played by some of NYC’s best DJs and a night of wandering among some of the best art in the city. Doors open at 9pm, and the party swings until 1am! Cash bar.

Also try the wonderful new Wright restaurant and its bar downstairs, open at least until 11pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

1071 Fifth Avenue at 88th Street, Manhattan, (212) 423 3500

Brooklyn Art Museum

At the Brooklyn Museum’s Target First Saturdays, visitors are invited to enjoy free programs of art, entertainment, and dancing the first Saturday of each month from 5 to 11 pm. To add to the party atmosphere, the Museum Café serves sandwiches, salads, and beverages, and a cash bar offers wine and beer. Parking is a flat rate of $4 starting at 5 p.m. All other Saturdays, the museum closes at 6pm.

200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, (718) 638-5000

Modern Museum of Art

MoMA invites visitors to start their weekends early by heading to the museum the first Thursday of each month, better known as “MoMA Nights.” MoMA remains open on these special evenings until 8:45 pm and includes free gallery talks, audio tours, and film screenings with the price of regular admission. Café 2, the Italian-themed restaurant on the second floor, offers a fabulous three-course prix fixe dinner for only $30 on these evenings, and a cash bar is available in the main atrium where a DJ spins great beats for the evening.

11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan, (212) 708-9400

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Italian Walk at Metropolitan Museum of Art -- Saturday 4pm

Drawing on their deep network of art historians and educators, Context has announced this 3-hour thematic walk in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, focused on five centuries of Italian art.

The walk begins with the work of Duccio and Giotto, two artists who revolutionized painting in the 14th century, revitalizing the Byzantine tradition and moving towards naturalism. Artists like Fra Carnevale, Andrea Mantegna, Fra Filippo Lippi and his pupil Botticelli will all be reviewed.

The walk also explores the 16th-century paintings from traditional centers of Florence and Rome as well as from important artistic centers of Mantua, Milan, Urbino, Parma, and Ferrara, including masterpieces by Raphael and Correggio. Included are works from The Venetian School and its High Renaissance style with works by Giovanni Bellini, Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto.

The evolution of Renaissance painting into the period of Mannerism in the second half of the century is next, exemplified by artists such as Bronzino and Parmigianino, followed by the return of naturalism through Caravaggio and and the revised classicism of Annibale Caracci, an early Baroque artist. 17th Century Baroque artists including Guercino, Reni, and Luca Giordano, will be studied as the precursors to the development of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's jubilant Rococo style in the 18th-century.

The price is $65 per person. Click here to register.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Taste of Dijon Mustard... or Must' art in Grand Central Today

From 7am-7pm today, Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal will be filled with thousands of commuters soaking up the sights, tastes, and sounds of Dijon, France. Celebrating the beginning of a two-year tour of The Mourners, medieval tomb sculptures from the Court of Burgundy, the event brings art (a special painting created for this tour), music (medieval music and contemporary DJ tunes), food (8 chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants doing cooking demos and offering samples), and wines (Dijon is known for its Burgundy wines and Creme de Cassis). There will probably be some samples of that yellow stuff the region is known for as well.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Martini Weeks in Manhattan!

Sponsored by two of my favorite newsletters, Thrillist and Tasting Table, you can go Mad Men "shaken or stirred" for the next two weeks. Through March 14, from 5:30-8:30pm each night, $10 gin and vodka martinis will come in all flavors and varieties at 23 bars and restaurants throughout the city, including favorites like the Oak Bar, Oceana Tabla, Rayuela and Tao. Click here to see the full list of participating bars and their creations.