Minetta Tavern Review: Cool, Hectic, and Cocktail-Forward

Minetta Tavern is one of the those places that I had always heard about, but had never actually been.  My husband really wanted to try it, whether it was for dinner or brunch.  We had our hearts set on Sushi Yasuda for dinner, so we opted to go to Minetta for brunch.  I think going to a place for brunch is a good way to try somewhere new without committing to a long dinner.

All I knew before going to Minetta Tavern was that it’s an old classic New York establishment and that it was famous for meat.  I had seen it appear on several notable “Best Steakhouse” lists over the years.  Minetta Tavern is definitely classic New York.  It has been around since the mid 1900s, and use to be the hangout spot of Ernest Hemingway and E.E. Cummings to name a few.  The people who used to hang out there probably wouldn’t be able to afford it now, but that’s the theme of many of the historic NYC establishments.

Here we are en route like we’re embarking on some special covert operation mission.  Someone’s complaining on SnapChat about me copying his Porsche Design sunglasses.  Smh.  Who bought those sunglasses?

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The outside of the restaurant is inconspicuous for a one Michelin star restaurant.  Don’t mind me, just adjusting my coat:IMG_0474.JPGAfter you walk through the front door, you go through a thick velvet curtain, and then you’re at the hostess stand.  I felt immediately warm!  It’s the perfect place to go on a gray, cold, windy day when you want to escape the outside.  Minetta Tavern is very cozy, and has an extremely hectic but romantic feel to it.  It’s very compact, the ceilings are low, and it’s a cramped space for sure.  It definitely gives off the cool Parisian vibe that it’s trying to evoke.  Aren’t all Parisian bistros too small?  Lol.

We sat at the bar because the restaurant was full of reservations, the space is small and we didn’t feel like waiting for a table.   They do have coat check, and I highly suggest checking coats whether you’re at the bar or at a table.nXy2Cla9QmqVoI%2wq2jQw.jpgHere’s our spot at the bar and my “Minetta Mary.”  I plan to sit at the bar again next time, unless I am able to reserve one of the private booths because the back was just too cramped for me.  It’s also fun to watch the bartenders make cocktails, and see what types of drinks other people are ordering.  Also, I absolutely love that they put a white dinner napkin at your bar spot.  It not only elevates the experience, but it stakes your territory at the bar and defines your space.h2H9kYyWQtmeknYjbIDVtg.jpgThe brunch menu has its own twist, and you’re also able to order certain items from their regular dinner menu.   fullsizeoutput_3398.jpegI had originally planned on eating steak or a big juicy burger, but I really needed some vegetables.  I know, I know, you’re judging my order, but I was here for the experience and I was not able to handle a meat meal at that moment.  Next time, I plan to go starving, and order their famous “Black Label Burger” or one of their meat cuts.  My husband had the “Minetta Omelette” and I had the “Avocado & Eggs On Balthazar Levain.”  Balthazar bread is obviously amazing and the radish and tomato salsa was fresh, fragrant, and exactly what I was craving.  (Note: Keith McNally, the restauranteur who opened Minetta Tavern, also runs Balthazar.  The styles of the restaurants are all very similar — French, bistro, brasserie, fogged mirrors, dim lighting, you get the picture.)vr+2LUywRpe%mR2%p10Eug%ZAPcnfAQr2ue4lGUP6twA1ee7ZjdfRSuhZ2gQ7Ob4awWe had to move on and run a couple errands during the day, so we were not able to try more rounds of cocktails.  They definitely have an extensive cocktail menu, and everything they made while we were at the bar looked delicious.  At the end of the meal, they hand you the bill paper-clipped to a Minetta Tavern postcard:stHhPxXwS5eRvFXNGxeQgg.jpg

Au revoir Minetta Tavern!

Links to reviews:

Yelp 4.0

TripAdvisor 4.0

OpenTable 4.6

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Yukie Beauty Spa: A Midtown East/Upper East Side Nail Art Salon

My friend at work was going to get nail art, and it reminded me how much I love getting nail art.  Now that the weather is finally starting to warm up, I’m getting excited about wearing more colors and bright nails are definitely on my horizon soon.  I have a favorite Japanese nail art salon in midtown called Yukie Beauty Spa.  For months, I was going there consistently, but I was working in a conservative environment and I felt like I was pushing the outer limits with my nail designs.  A little about Yukie Beauty:

  • The salon uses Calgel and BioSculpture Gel which is thick, lasts long time, and can be used to slightly lengthen nails.  Most other gel manicures are thinner in comparison, and are not used to extend nail length.  (There are other gels and regular nail polish available at Yukie, but their true skill is nail art.)
  • The nail technicians can do anything that you request with your nails.  They truly are artists.  They can create shapes on your nails, they can paint them with specific designs, and they can also adhere stones and little objects.  I recommend bringing pictures of what you want, because it’s easier to communicate what you’re looking for visually rather than verbally.  (Especially, since many of the technicians that I’ve had mainly speak Japanese.)
  • The gel manicures have lasted me about 3 – 4 weeks without chipping.  The issue is that by that point your nails area so grown out that you have to get them redone.
  • My manicures have run me about $60-$70 depending on the amount of nail art.  This is reasonable in comparison with some places that start a little higher.
  • The salon space itself is small, and has about four spots available for manicures.  (There is also a connected hair salon, but I have not been there.)  They offer you a water, tea, etc. when you’re there.  One thing I really like is that they have a basket right next to your chair for your handbag.  I never put my bag on the floor!
  • It is located on a second floor walk-up right off Madison Avenue on 58th Street.  It’s right by Tao Uptown and the Four Seasons.  If you’re meeting someone right after, or have a significant other waiting — I suggest the bar at Tao.

This is my first gel manicure from Yukie.  I tried it right after Christmas, and right in time for my birthday:img_5102-2-2603144411-1519516169962.jpg

Here is one time I requested nude beige-toned nails, and a lotus shape flowed with a spec of gold in the middle:img_5512-1

This is a nautical design that I had during the summer.  It had navy stripes, and a small red heart accent:

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This is a more simple peachy-tan colored design, with a small printed black and gold line on the accent nails:img_6924

This an example of when they painted little leopard spots that I requested on my ring fingers.  Please excuse how grown out my nails are in this photo.  This is when I was completely overdue to change my nails at four weeks.img_5449-1

This is a pink and rhinestone racecar-like design I got right before a summer Europe trip:img_6253

Now that I don’t work in a conservative environment, I cannot wait to dream up exotic and neon designs!  The sky is the limit!

Link to reviews:

Yelp 4.5

Dirt Candy: A Vegetarian (or Vegan) Tasting Menu for a Broad Audience

Everyone has their regular circuit of restaurants that they frequent.  I wanted to branch out for for my birthday dinner, and I had a few qualifications — healthy, fresh, and creative.  After countless steaks, cakes, and heavy holiday eating, my body needed a break from heavy food.  For the vegetarian restaurant in my circuit, I’ve gone to Candle 79 a few times, but I wanted to try a new place.  I also didn’t want vegetarian food that’s just an imitation of regular dishes, I wanted a place that was more creative and slightly towards fine dining.  Dirt Candy had great reviews, and I was intrigued by the tasting menu and cocktail concoctions — carrot juice and tequila?!

Upon arriving, we were welcomed with complimentary bourbon and beet hot chocolate, which was a nice touch after walking in from the bitter cold in the teens that night.  The hot chocolate was thick and delicious, and had just the right kick of bourbon. I even felt healthy drinking it, considering it had beets…  I am not even a hot chocolate fan, and I found it to be a delicious few sips of warmth and flavor.Next I opened up the menu to check out drinks and found that 1) employees get paid a fair wage and profit share in the restaurant, and 2) tipping is included.  I think it’s really smart of companies to give all employees a profit share in the business.  It motivates employees to treat things like they’re working towards their own personal goal, and they have a vested interest in making sure the business succeeds.Dirt Candy offers two tasting menus (no a la carte unless you’re at the their 4-seat bar or brunch): the five course “Vegetable Patch” for $57, or the nine/ten course “Vegetable Garden” for $83.  They also offer one pairings for each tasting menu at $45 and $65 respectively.  We chose the $83 menu option, and ordered cocktails and a bottle of wine.

I started off with the Carrot Penicillin and my husband had the Popcorn Old Fashioned.  Look at that beautiful rustic-looking carrot!  You have to eat the garnish, that’s what it’s there for, otherwise it’s like not finishing the olives in a dirty martini.

 

 

Dirt Candy’s spin on the bread for the table was a beet monkey bread and garlic butter.  Monkey bread is usually a very sweet gooey cinnamon and sugary pull-apart bread.  (In case you have forgotten what it looks like, here it is.)  A savory and beet monkey bread of all things, was creative and well done.  The bread and garlic butter were so delightful, we almost asked for another one but decided to save space for the rest of the courses.

 

 

Next up was the salad course.  Everything on the tiered platter below was edible.  The entire platter is lined with what looks like natural greenery and ivy growth.  The leaves are “glued” to the platter with a creamy and mild-flavored hummus.  We started from the middle of the platter, which was a warm pea soup with an amazing rim of salty pistachios and spices you eat as you sip the soup.  We then had the other warm components, which were at the bottom layer.  The layer was composed of miniature salad bowls of perfectly spiced and cooked roasted butternut squash, and the other one of flavorfully cooked onion with a nice crunch.  (Top layer addressed below.)img_5100The top layer was the playful cold portion of the tiers.  It was Dirt Candy’s play and use of the savory version of Japanese Pocky sticks.  There were three different kinds of sticks: the rainbow stick was stacked with fresh peppers shaped like Lifesavers candy, the green stick that looks like a tree with a long trunk was a cluster of peas, and the pink polka dots below are flakey sliced fresh beets.  The white peering through holding everything together in all the sticks was thick yogurt. 

One of the first warm appetizer dishes was a Korean fried broccoli, which is one of the restaurants signature dishes.  The broccoli was a lot more spicy than anticipated and was  really good.  After eating a broccoli you had to eat a piece of the greens, which were dipped in a very cold yogurt.  This helped cool you down after the spice.The next appetizer dish was a beautiful abstract geometric arrangement of different forms of beets, and a miniature beet sponge.  Each bite was meant to be eaten with one of the purees, yogurts, and sauces on the plate.  This dish reminded me of Momofuku Ma Peche (one of David Chang’s restaurants) because the chefs seems to have a similar presentation style in mind here.The following two courses came out at the same time.  The one on the left was pate, with a side of mushrooms, and topped with dehydrated fruit.  The dish on the right was the fresh fennel salad.This next silly little course was one of my favorites.  It sounds bland and boring, but it was a cooked mini carrot slider in an adorable fast food burger box adorned with a carrot.  The carrot melted in your mouth, and my husband still swears that it did not taste like a carrot.This dish was one of the final courses, and it was my least favorite.  It was spaetzle made from spinach, covered with greens and topped with sesame seeds.  I thought the dish was quite bland, and I didn’t think the sesame pulled the dish together the way it was intended to do.  The sesame seeds tasted raw and didn’t seem like they were warmed up or browned in a skillet.  For those of you that can’t remember spaetzle, it’s the German/Swiss/Hugarian pasta dish.This brussel sprout, cauliflower, and ginger “soup” was crunchy and refreshing.  The vegetables tasted very fresh, but I wish they had a little bit more in terms of spicing.  The taste was pure and clean.My pictures here do not do this fun dish justice.  This was the final dish of the night before the multiple dessert courses.  Since Dirty Candy is technically located in Chinatown, this course was inspired by crispy duck.  First you roasted the edamame, and then you took a small warm tortilla from the bamboo steamer and started building it up.  I forgot to take a picture of the “duck” but it was basically a rectangular truffle shaped filo dough flaky shell filled with Dirt Candy’s version of “duck.”The dessert courses kicked off with “Eggplant Foster.”  This warm dish was made tableside with flames and excitement.  The dish was a version of “Bananas Foster” which I think I have had once.  Bananas Foster is essentially hot cooked bananas with nice caramelization and a scoop of ice cream.  Dirt Candy’s dish was made with eggplant, sprinkled with crispy eggplant chips, and served with a side of refreshing lemon ice cream.  It also came with two extremely cute little thumbprint cookiesThe two final dessert courses were quite different.  One dessert was a spongey moist cake topped with two miniature ridiculously cute vanilla ice cream sandwiches.  The cake was served in a little pool of cinnamon and vanilla melted ice cream type sweet puddle.The other dessert was a chocolate brownie with a side of vanilla ice cream, and a variety of crunchy little goodies to have with your bites.And that’s a wrap of the tasting menu!  Since I was celebrating my birthday, our server gave us a complimentary sparkling Swiss cider.  I’m kind of picky about my cider because I started being able to distinguish between ciders when I lived in London, but this cider was thick and felt luxuriously rich.  We probably didn’t need cider after so much dessert, but we enjoyed every sip!

I asked the server how often they change the tasting menus.  He explained that approximately every two months, they change the menus.  I would like to come back here during the spring and summer and see what they do with a whole new variety of ingredients!

Cheers, people!

Yelp 4.0

TripAdvisor 4.5

OpenTable 4.6

Sarabeth’s TriBeCa: A Reliable NYC Brunch with Traditional Food

Brunch in NYC is nearly a sport.  There are so many brunch options, twists on the traditional brunch fare, open bar brunches, and the list goes on.  However, sometimes you just want to get out of the house, and you’re not looking for anything complicated.  Sarabeth’s is classic brunch, well-executed, and reliable.  Their food is traditional, and almost on the verge of a little too plain.  However, those same characteristics are what make it a consistent experience.

I’ve been to three Sarabeth’s locations: Tribeca, Central Park South, and Park Avenue South.  The Central Park South location is very touristy and it gets extremely crowded, but I’ve still been to that one at least three times!  You may actually need to walk in with your elbows up — stand back, tourists!  The Park Avenue South location is nice inside, and has a great bar area for a drink while you wait, but it’s out of the way for me.  I love the Tribeca location!

The walk leading to the restaurant is old school New York, almost European.  Look at the beautiful cobblestone street:Here’s the view when your back is to the restaurant, all 1776 feet of One World Trade Center!During the summer these tables are packed.  It’s also a very family friendly restaurant, and in the warm months the strollers are all parked around the bend:This is the bar area to the right when you enter.  (They have a happy hour, and if you’re in the neighborhood, the free chips are addictive!  They are like the “real potatoes” type of potato chips.  They offer beer, wine, cocktails, and small food selection for munching.)The room in the back has a nice skylight, which it makes it feel really airy and open.  (The Central Park South location has a skylight too, but it doesn’t feel airy because the ceilings are much lower than the TriBeCa location.)This is the “Goldie Lox” omelette.  It’s scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and a bit of cream cheese.  All of their eggs dishes come with some sort of baked good, whether it’s toast, a croissant, muffin, etc.  Of course, you can’t forget to have mimosas!  I mean is it even “brunch” without mimosas?!One of the “appetizers” that you really should get for brunch while you’re there is the muffin basket!  (Carbs, carbs, carbs! lol 🙂 )  The muffins are so delicious, I had already dug into them, but here’s what’s remaining of the muffins to the right of the photo:Strangely, I don’t see this on the menu anymore, but I had an amazing popover stuffed with scrambled eggs, scallions, and cream cheese.Mmmmm yeah lol get in!

Links to Sarabeth’s Tribeca reviews:

Yelp 3.5

TripAdvisor 4.0

OpenTable 4.3

Eastern Europe in Astoria: Bulgarian Appetizers and Dessert, Cured Meats, Cheeses, and More at Parrot Coffee Grocery

One thing I love about New York City is the diversity of food.  Not only are there all different types of restaurants, but there are all different types of grocery stores.  You can find speciality grocery stores that carry Asian, African, Eastern European, South American, and the list goes on.  Queens, the great New York City borough, being one of the most diverse places in the United States, unsurprisingly is home to many of these shops.  One store that I love going to is Parrot Coffee Grocery in Astoria, Queens.  As per their awning, they market themselves as “European Mediterranean and Middle Eastern.”  I have mainly seen Bulgarian and Turkish products, but that’s okay with me because I go specifically for Bulgarian food 🙂  Parrot Coffee Grocery is the last stop on the N train, on the intersection of Ditmars Blvd. and 31st Street.

I buy cured meats, packaged and fresh cheeses, spread, bread, chocolates, and sweets.  Specifically I go here to purchase:

  • Lukanka
    • Pronounced: loo-khan-ka
    • Cured pork (could be beef) made with different spices
    • It’s comparable to a salami but it is a lot more dense and packed.  Depending on the brand/variety that you buy, the taste may be spicy, it may be softer/chewier, etc.  There’s a Wikipedia article on lukanka that’s kind of helpful.
  • Fillet Elena
    • Cured and dried pork, that pulls apart like a chewy salty jerky pork chop.  This is my absolute favorite, and I love the spices on the outside of the meat.  It’s a combination of black pepper and savory/salty spices.
  • Bulgarian feta
    • Bulgarian feta can be either cow or sheep milk, but the one that I buy at Coffee is sheep.  The sheep feta is creamier and softer.  It’s a little less crumbly and salty than a Greek feta cheese.
    • Note: FreshDirect and Whole Foods both actually sell Bulgarian feta.  I think the Whole Foods variety is a little better, but I buy it from both places.
  • Kashkaval
    • Pronounced: khash-ka-val
    • Soft/Semi-Hard fairly mild cheese made from sheep or cow milk.  I prefer the sheep’s milk because it’s a little more tangy.  Kashkaval has a very balanced taste, and it’s not very acidic or salty.  It goes really well with clear spirits or red wines.
  • Lutenitsa
    • Pronounced: you-te-nee-tza
    • Red pepper spread made with some tomato paste, oil, and spices
  • Baked Goods
    • Baklava
    • Kadaif
    • Banitza

Here are pictures from some of my Parrot Coffee Grocery hauls.  Obviously, there are some patterns!
img_4154img_4155They also carry Polish chocolates that come in a few flavors.  I’ve tried the cherry and orange flavors — so good!Grab your kashkaval and lukanka, and have a drink!  Here’s a plate that I made with kashkaval, lukanka, and some sesame bread.  (The white spots are because the bread got too close to the Bulgarian feta.)  Think of these plates like a Bulgarian antipasto plate that goes really well with pre-dinner drinks and wine.  You can also just have them out for an evening of drinks and appetizers, but not an actual dinner.   Bulgarians drink “rakia” which is a clear smooth brandy/grappa type drink.  It is meant for before, during, and after dinner!I make these plates about twice per week, when I have supplies from Parrot Coffee Grocery!  They’re so good for days off, when you want to hang out for a couple hours and have something to eat and drink.  Cheers!

Take the NYC Ferry and Skip the Subway on a Nice Day: Wall Street to Astoria

I live in downtown Manhattan, and I had to run an errand in Astoria today.  What better way to get there on such a beautiful day than by boat!  It was my husband’s idea to take the ferry rather than the subway.  I know…you’re probably rolling your eyes right now…  On the weekends though, getting from downtown Manhattan to Astoria, Queens is annoying and time-consuming (about 45-50 minutes on the subway).  It takes 45-50 minutes on the boat too, but better to float along the waterways than traverse the city tunnels!  $2.75 is much better spent on a scenic ride than on the subway, and you can even buy beer on the ferry!  There are other refreshments on-board as well.

This wasn’t just any old boat; this was the New York City Ferry system!  I’m sure you’re skeptical reading this, but the boat was actually clean.  On such a warm day, it was a scenic fun alternative to taking the subway when it’s perfect and 85F degrees outside.  My husband claimed he loved the boat ride so much, that if he ever had the need to, he would commute using the ferry!  (Don’t worry there’s indoor and outdoor seating!)  We took the route from Wall Street to the bottom of Astoria Park.  The stops beginning from Manhattan are:

  1. Wall Street/Pier 11
  2. East 34th Street
  3. Long Island City
  4. Roosevelt Island
  5. Astoria

Magnificent views of the Brooklyn Bridge as you leave Pier 11:Views of all of Manhattan’s major landmarks!There’s the UN!Long Island City stop right by the iconic Pepsi-Cola sign along the beautiful new LIC waterfront:Passing by the Roosevelt Island stop:Selfie time!  We’re about to get off the boat! 🙂
I highly recommend taking the ferry ride if you’re looking to enjoy your commute!

Everyone was in the New York Fashion Week Spirit Today

I took a walk all the way from downtown today.  I must say that everyone was in #NYFW mode.  People’s outfits were better than usual, and everyone seemed to be taking pictures.  I walked through the Flatiron neighborhood, and Banana Republic had a live show going on outside.  Fun and loud!  The set-up was interesting.  The models were walking up onto a platform and posing, facing the opposite side of the street.  Then across the street a NYC TOUR BUS was loaded with all of the photographers!  I was WONDERING why the models were facing the other direction…  At first, I thought it was a promotional fashion show put on for shoppers, like they do sometimes in big stores and malls.  However, I guess it was half promotional half campaign. 

Here are some pictures below:The tour bus load of photographers:Check out the special lighting installation they brought in (upper right corner of the photo):A little further uptown there was a model being photographed in front of the Flatiron building and it was causing a stir:I told you everyone was in the spirit.  Look at these different pairs of ladies taking glamour shots:More commotion in a tent across the street:Alright if you insist, I will take a selfie too lolLet fashion ring!  Welcome to autumn!