Monday, February 28, 2011

Maine Restaurant Week Starts Today -- Great Meals, Events, and Competitions

Maine Restaurant Week is back and offering great deals for New England foodies from March 1-12, 2011. 80+ restaurants have created three-course prix-fixe menus ($20-$40 per person), and various cook-offs, book signings, free giveaways will spice up this year’s festivities. Among my favorites offering a special meal this week is Sea Glass at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, near Portland. Executive Chef Mitchell Kladrovich makes me nostalgic with his all-things-Maine menu throughout the year and especially during restaurant week with local Damariscotta oysters with a champagne mignonette sauce, grilled Atlantic salmon served in a red wine mustard sauce with piquillo relish, and a New England favorite, peanut butter, mixed into a parfait with peanut butter and vanilla gelato, caramelized bananas, and honey-roasted peanuts.

Reserve your tickets to these events and thoroughly enjoy the best of Maine during Restaurant Week:
The Signature Event kicks off Restaurant Week today from 5-8pm. Celebrate Restaurant Week with Maine’s premiere bartenders and dessert chefs who will serve up their tastiest creations at the Masonic Temple (415 Congress St., Portland). Friendly competition is the name of the game here, as several of Maine’s top chefs will face-off in the “How Sweet It Is” and “The Art of Dessert” people’s choice contests. Signature cocktails from the area’s master mixologists will also fill the room as bartenders mix up exotic concoctions and vie for the top honor that went to Tom Laslavic from Natalie’s last year. Tickets are $35/person.

On Thursday, March 3 from 7-9:30pm, Gabrielle Hamilton, award-winning chef and owner of NYC’s Prune Restaurant, will give a short reading of her first book, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef at Grace Restaurant (15 Chestnut St., Portland). This event includes a book signing and a roast lamb dinner inspired by Hamilton’s book. All-inclusive tickets are $120 per person; reservations can be made by calling Grace Restaurant at 207-828-4422.

The saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” certainly holds true during Restaurant Week at the 2011 Incredible Breakfast Cook-off. Sample meals from 12 of Maine’s “Champions of Breakfast” and vote for your favorite at the Sea Dog Brewing Co. (125 Western Ave, South Portland) on Friday, March 4 from 7-9am. Farmer’s Table, Bintliff’s American Café and Sea Glass will compete alongside other top restaurants to become Maine’s “Champion of Breakfast.” The Good Table restaurant’s Crème Brûlée French Toast is the meal to beat, so stop by to see these top restaurants up the ante with Maine’s most scrumptious breakfast dishes. As a bonus for attending the Cook-Off, you’ll receive a pair of Portland Pirates hockey tickets. Tickets are $15 per person, $27 per pair and can be reserved here. Combo tickets for the Signature Event and the Incredible Breakfast Cook-off cost $45 per person.

Inspired by Gabrielle Hamilton’s food writing event? Check out the sixth annual 2011 Slow Food Writers Night at SPACE Gallery (538 Congress St.) on March 10 from 6:30-9:30pm. Enjoy authentic local cuisine from land to sea and learn about various food topics from farming to Italian food from industry experts. Tickets are $20-$25 and can be purchased here. Check in for updates all week long at

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Travel Photo Junkies! Enter this Contest for Fabulous Travel Prizes

If you’ve ever traveled with me, you know I’m always the one holding up the group to take pictures (also the one with 5 extra batteries!) So, if you’re like me, you’ll love the photo contest on iExplore (, where you can submit your favorite travel photos for a chance to win a safari to Kenya. Entering the contest is easy: create an account, submit your photo, and you’re done. After that, you’ll need to rally the troops to garner votes – Facebook or tweet your photo, and tell your friends and family to vote for you…. every day until the contest ends on April 22. Since the safari is for two people, they could become your “chosen” partner. If you don’t win the grand prize, you might also win travel gear by ExOfficio or travel vouchers for any Adventure Center tour. The Big Five make for some very pretty photos.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fashion Week in New York: Another Terrific Flash Mob Video

If you remember, I recently shared a video of a spontaneous musical performance at Flatiron's Eataly. Last night's Moncler flash mob dance spectacular in Grand Central Termainl outdid everything. Take a look.

Chocolate for Valentine's Day: Eating Healthy

Valentine’s Day is a holiday for chocolate, but if you’re trying to eat healthy consider these differences:

White Chocolate – isn’t truly chocolate. Because it doesn’t include any non-alcoholic chocolate liqueur which it must have to qualify as a true chocolate, it offers no chocolate-related health benefits. In fact, it’s made of cocoa butter, milk, sugar and flavoring. It’s my favorite kind of chocolate, but it’s something I should probably avoid.

Milk Chocolate – this is real chocolate but it’s filled with lots of sugar, milk and flavorings that add lots of calories and not much else. It has a low 20-50% cocoa level which is important in that it doesn’t really give you any antioxidant benefit.

Dark Chocolate – this is worth eating for lots of reasons. Because the cocoa level is high, dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and may reduce LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), inflammation and blood pressure. And it’s a mood elevator because it increases dopamine. Different levels of cocoa mean different concentrations of antioxidants. Semi-sweet chocolate has a 50-69% cocoa content, and bitter chocolate has 70% or more. BTW, 70% is about as high as you probably want to go, as after that the taste may become unpalatable.

Go all the way and have a glass of red wine with your chocolate for the true Valentine’s Day aphrodisiac (and health) benefit. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day Restaurants, Bars and Bakeries Salute Sweeties with Special Creations

I love Valentine’s Day and all the kooky heart-shaped and red concoctions that restaurants, bars and bakeries dream up to help you celebrate. Here are some that caught my eye this year.

First, the exception. There’s nothing particularly Valentines-looking about the menu at LA’s Royal/T, but their Royal India Valentine’s feast is pretty outrageous with its spices, and I just love the name of the first course, Tomato-Coconut Contentment. On to the next three courses if you can get past that one.
8910 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA 310-559-6300

Revd Up Pi
Revd Up Pi’s heart-shaped pizza is really the embodiment of Valentine’s Day and it’s even healthy at only 170 calories per slice. Very nice indeed with fresh mozzarella, basil and fiber-enriched tomato sauce on a 16-grain crust. Love it!
451 3rd Ave., New York City, 212-679-3743

Red is the color of the day at Cafeteria with Red Velvet Pancakes for breakfast and a special lovers’ cocktail, The Dangerous Beauty. Dessert is as kooky and sexy as is comes for Valentine’s Day decadence with Pastry Chef Matt Joyce’s trio of chocolate decadence, the Ménage à Trois, a dark chocolate flourless cake topped with strawberry Pop Rocks, milk chocolate mascarpone mousse decorated with chocolate pearls, and home-made white chocolate ice cream.
119 7th Ave., New York City, 212-414-1717

Fresco by Scotto
It’s heart-shaped pizza time again at 17-year old Fresco by Scotto, and it’s complimentary with your Valentine’s Day dinner. Sweet!
34 E. 52nd St., New York City, 212-935-3434

I love the creativity of Madrid’s Chef Jesus Nuñez: here’s your chance to design an edible gift for Valentine’s Day. The Graffit Dessert is your personal canvas – you’ll get a chocolate molten cake on a white plate and an array of colorful fruit purées and melted white and dark chocolates in squeeze bottles so you can graffiti your own cake masterpiece.
141 W. 69th St., New York City, 646-692-8762

Iron Chef America champ Nicolas Cantrel makes you feel special at sexy Southern French-inspired Bagatelle, starting off your prix-fixe dinner with an exclusively designed bottle of Moet & Chandon Champagne with “I Love You” on the bottle. How can you resist?
409 W. 13th St., New York City, 212-675-2400

Casa Lever
The Valentine’s Day desserts compete for attention with Casa Lever’s collection of original Andy Warhol paintings. Drink a flute of complimentary champagne and tuck into Executive Chef Mario Danieli’s Cuore di Afrodite by Sant Ambroeus, a chocolate chiffon cake with a pistachio crème brûlée and sour cherry filling, topped with heart-shaped chocolate mousse. How pretty!
390 Park Ave., New York City, 212-888-2700

I’m crazy about Haru’s super-red Cupid’s Muse cocktail, a blend of sparkling wine, St. Germain liqueur, Absolut pear and a hint of grenadine, garnished with a fresh strawberry and served in a champagne flute. But my absolute favorite is this drink with a kick, the Electriquila, a snappy mix of tequila, sake and yuzu juice surrounded by a rim of salt and crushed Szechuan buttons—edible flower buds that emit an “electric” sensation when you bite into them.
Locations throughout Manhattan

If you can’t leave your family at home on Valentine’s Day, Carmine’s is for you. Bring the clan but save the Valentine’s Day indulgences for yourself with a Lover’s Punch cocktail for two, a very red potion with rum, St. Germain elderflower, raspberry vodka, juice and a splash of Italian sparkling wine. You could share the Heart-shaped Chocolate Torte but you might want to keep it for the two lovers in charge; it’s pretty decadent with powdered sugar, fresh whipped cream, white and milk chocolate covered strawberries, drizzled with strawberry, sugar and Chambord liquor purée.
2450 Broadway, 212-362-2200; 200 W. 44th St., 212-221-3800, both in New York

SD26 WineBar&Lounge
At Madison Park’s SD26 WineBar & Lounge, try a “hot” wine cocktail to get the juices flowing. Chef Matteo Bergamini’s Vin Brûlé Hot Wine cocktail is a spicy blend of aphrodisiac ingredients like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, ladled from a ceramic bowl into a tall glass tea cup.
19 E. 26th St., 212-265-5959

Lulu Cake Boutique
Lulu Cake Boutique is my idea of a snack place for Valentine’s Day. You just have to love their Large Heart-Shaped Oreo with pink buttercream filling or the Sweetie Pie, a heart-shaped whoopie pie with pink buttercream filling. Hearts starting to make your eyes glaze over? Try a Velvety Red Twinkie, a frosted cupcake with pink hearts, or pink and white cookies instead.
112 8th Ave., New York City, 212-242-LULU

Chocolat Michel Cluizel
The chocolate experts at Chocolat Michel Cluizel will help you customize a chocolate frenzy for your sweetheart. I especially love the Mini-Nuancier Je T’Aime, a collection of five 72% dark chocolate discs hand-decorated with French ‘I Love You’s' and cute red, yellow and white hearts. If dark chocolate is your thing, you’ll go wild over the Sachet Coeur Passion, a flat molded chocolate adorned with metallic colored almond grains and mini red and white hearts that read ‘Je T’Aime Passionnément’ (“I Love You Passionately). Can’t make up your mind between milk and dark chocolate? Snag the Tendre Douceur, a half-and-half decorated heart.
584 5th Ave., New York City, 646-415-9126

Monday, February 7, 2011

NYC Restaurant Week Extended through February 27

Can't get enough of a good deal. Lunch $24.07. Dinner $35. No time to lose -- book your reservations now and take a look at some of these great choices.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's Super Bowl Sunday: My Favorite Time to Eat and Watch Commercials

For me Super Bowl Sunday is all about good friends, good commercials and good eats. I'm not really a football fan. I wanted to offer some suggestions about good places to gather if you feel like going out today.

If you're looking for something higher-end than a sports bar with something other than beer, chicken wings and chili, the choice is Tony May's SD-26 (San Domenico) on Madison Park. In this Italian bistro's private balcony room, they'll be broadcasting the game and you'll be feasting on a buffet and wine bar starting at 5pm. This is a buffet I'll enjoy: cheese and salumi, homemade pastas, sausage with broccoli rabe, Nathan's hot dogs (what a cute idea), porchetta on rosetta rolls, tripe, fruit tarts and petits fours. Yum. Be sure to check out their electronic wine card.,
19 East 26th Street, 212-265-5959

And, for those of you wanting a rowdier, beer-filled evening -- here are a few options:

Upper West Side and Midtown
Carmine's brings you their acclaimed spicy scarpariello chicken wings, TVs in the bar area and the restaurant's enormous family-style portions of hearty Italian fare. Or take the party home with Carmine’s famous pasta and meatball trays, or a pile of Italian, chicken parmigiana and Philly cheesesteak subs, priced by the foot.
2450 Broadway (UWS), 212-362-2200; 200 West 44th Street (Midtown), 212-221-3800

Times Square
Kosher foodies and wine drinkers have a Super Bowl sports bar option at the Theatre District’s Clubhouse Café . Classic fare ranges from burgers and foot-long hot dogs to fried chicken and mashed potatoes, along with a not-so-classic chocolate salami dessert (as well as other sweets for the less adventurous).
155 West 46th Street, 212-354-3838

Meatpacking District
Sports and celebrities sightings are possible at the new SNAP (Sports Nightlife And Pastime) on 14thStreet. This always-packed spot has a vintage ambiance and a 30-foot hand-carved bar. The state-of-the-art 20-foot long LED tri-color ticker provides constant game updates so you won’t miss a thing as you stare at at 16 high-def screens. Drink specials and the “Face-Off” table, where opposing teams’ fans sit on either side of the table and literally face as they party, that's a recipe for Super Bowl party bliss.
248 W. 14th St., 646-350-0539

Union Square
Super Bowl Sunday is a full-day event at The Village Pourhouse , running from 1pm -1am in the main bar or the pub's private party spaces,. An on-site beer sommelier will help you select from their more than 100 beers from 20 different countries. All meals come with a beer pairing, and there’s a Beer Passport Program so you can drink and earn stamps to earn an "I Drank around the World at The Village Pourhouse" souvenir T-shirt. 22 HDTV’s will broadcast the game.
64 Third Ave., 212-979-2337

West Village
Packers fans will feel right at home at Kettle of Fish , arguably the best place to watch a Green Bay game after Lambeau Field. There's complimentary cheese, crackers and summer sausage; the bar’s extensive beer selection; and a great view of the game on one of the bar’s TVs.
59 Christopher St., 212-414-2278

Financial District
Southwest NY’s contemporary Southwestern cuisine and plasma screen TVs is the closet thing to Cowboy Stadium in NYC. Chef Wade Burch’s eclectic cuisine, featuring real Texas chili and slow smoked brisket, pairs wonderfully with the bar’s selection of Texan and Mexican beers, and 50 margaritas. There'll be prizes and giveaways, too.
225 Liberty Street, 212-945-0528

The Brooklyn Brewery and the Brooklyn Winery team up for the first ever Brooklyn Bottle Bowl, taking place at the Brooklyn Winery beginning at 5pm. Fans 21 and over can watch the game on the winery’s two giant-screen TVs while tucking into a buffet of subs, chips, dips and other munchies. Choose from reserved-seat drink-and-munchies packages or take your chances for a spot at the cash bar. Other Super Bowl fun: fans can document their festivities at the Bottle Bowl’s Magnolia Photo Booth, or join in a Super Bowl Point Pool, winning prizes at the end of each quarter.
213 North 8th Street, Brooklyn, 347-763-1506

It's party time in Queens at MexiQ Kitchen & Draught with $3 beer specials and BBQ with a Mexican twist. The MexiQ Appetizer Tasting includes achiote BBQ wings, guacamole, truffled mac and cheese with an herbed panko crust, and a ceviche flight with octopus, shrimp and sea bass. . Free game-day giveaways include growlers (beer thermos) and team-colored shots to celebrate each Superbowl touchdown.
37-11 30th Ave., Astoria, Queens; 718-626-0033

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Broadway, Off-Broadway, Dinner and Drink Deals Abound in NYC This Month

Give your regards to Broadway (think “Little Johnny Jones”) and take advantage of special deals at several theatres and restaurants through February.

NYC’s 20at20 is going on now through Sunday. Starting 20 minutes before showtime, just walk up to the box office and say “20at20” for $20 tickets to 32 of New York’s best off-Broadway shows. Among those offered are personal favorites Love, Loss and What I Wore and Stomp. Get a complimentary dinner voucher for two at Serafina Restaurant (fabulous Italian) or Junior’s deli after seeing seven of the 20at20 shows.

Another deal to rave about is Broadway Week’s Two-for-One ticket special, now through February 10. Catch up on 17 Broadway hits including musicals such as “Memphis,” “Jersey Boys,” “The Lion King” and “Mamma Mia!” and comedies like Colin Quinn’s “Long Story Short.”

Matching the number of shows in this office, 17 bars and restaurants all over Manhattan are offering two-for-one drink specials after 9pm as a special encore for Broadway Week show-goers through February 13 with their On the House program. Go from classy with Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel to jazzy at Cleopatra’s Needle to just plain fun at Rosa Mexicano in Union Square and enjoy fabulous drinks like frozen pomegranate margaritas, potent martinis, or fine wines by the glass.

Kids aren’t left out either. Coming up February 6-10, show-goers ages 6-18 receive free admission to Broadway shows through The Broadway League’s Kids’ Night on Broadway.

More information for all programs can be found on NYC Go's informative Web site.