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

Advertisements

A Statement Coat: What is it? A Closet Staple and Perfect Wintercessory

It’s seriously cold in New York — I mean “bomb cyclones” happening on the East Coast?  With so much drab weather, I love adding some fun and fashion to winter.  I saw this Ted Baker coat and thought to myself — perfect STATEMENT coat!  I tried to buy it online but could not find it in my size.  I’m a month or so behind on looking through my magazines.  I have subscriptions to Glamour, InStyle, Vogue, Elle, and the list goes on.  It’s hard to keep up!  (Note: I traded in all my American Airlines and United miles for subscriptions to magazines with a program called “Mags for Miles.”  No one has my credit card number so I have not been charged as the subscriptions expire.  I highly recommend doing this if you don’t fly with particular airlines.)  Anyway, back to statement coats…

What is a statement coat?

A statement coat is a coat that is very visually prominent, bold, and has flair.  It is not your average Monday through Friday black pea coat that you’re wearing to work.  It’s louder and more elaborate than what you would typically wear.  Think of this item as your “glass slippers” effect coat that you wear to get that extra outfit “oomph.”  The “statement” can manifest itself in a variety of formats — loud colors, interesting textures or furs, embellishments and adornments.   This is an oxymoron, but it’s a practical accessory; it keeps you warm in frigid temperatures, and it’s also an accessory that pulls together your outfit.

Why buy a statement coat?

  • A statement coat helps make a boring or monotone cold weather outfit more interesting.  During the fall and winter, we tend to wear a lot of neutral and dark colors such as black, navy, gray, and tan.  A statement coat can help you add that pop of drama.  It’s an easy way to add interest to your outfit and make your ensemble more unique.
  • You’ll have ample opportunities to wear your statement coat.  There are a lot of holidays, parties, and outings in the colder months where people dress more festively.  Depending on the coat, you can continue wearing it right up until spring time.  (I wear mine from November to March.)
  • A statement coat can be a quick outfit upgrade from casual to dressy.  If you’re wearing something very daytime, like jeans and a shirt, or a simple dress, throwing on a statement coat is quick way to transform from informal to formal.  This is the same concept as putting on that special pair of stilettos to elevate your otherwise downright dowdy jeans look.

Four tips on buying a statement coat:

1.  Buy a shade that you really like but wear sparingly.  If you love the way red looks on you, but wear a navy coat everyday because it’s practical — get a red one.  Don’t buy a bright green coat just because it looks great on a hanger.  Try it on!  Speaking of red, here’s a great red coat I saw when I passed Giorgio Armani on Fifth Avenue yesterday.  This is just an example, no need to spend thousands of dollars!

img_5149

2.  Don’t get something that is overly trendy.  For example, the 1970’s bell sleeves made a comeback recently, but they’re a trend that is bound to disappear again.  The coat should have a long shelf life in your closet considering that you will wear it less.  My mom has a burgundy and fur Givenchy coat that only makes an appearance a few times a year, but she’s had it for over a decade now.

3.  Don’t buy a statement coat if you do not already have a good everyday coat.  You should be practical and have solid everyday items, before buying things that are worn more sparingly.

4.  January is a great month to buy this item at a deep discount.  Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and all  run-of-the-mill stores are running promotions to get rid of their winter merchandise.  Generally, all of the less traditional items are leftover from the winter collections at stores.  Bright or non-neutral colors, non-traditional patterns and textures are leftover and on sale!

Here is my favorite statement coat that I own!  I bought it for less than $200 at an end-season-sale.  I’ve had this coat for about four years and I love it!  Happy shopping everyone!

Free the Frozen Plastic Baby LOL: My Friend’s Baby Shower Game Shenanigans

I went to a friend’s baby shower yesterday in Westchester, or should I say “Westchestah” and played a hilarious game.  The game was called “My Water Broke.”  There were frozen plastic toy babies in pieces of ice, and the person who was able to melt their ice first and free the baby had to yell out “MY WATER BROKE!”  Is this not adorable?!img_5015I rubbed the ice between my hands, looked for candles, heating, anything to put my hands nearby.  Though, I gave up at one point and threw the baby into my champagne.  Merry Christmas!!!!!  LOLimg_5016

Brussel Sprout and Bacon Salad Recipe: Add Some Freshness and a Crisp Factor to Holiday Side Dishes

I cannot believe that Thanksgiving is already over!  These fall-winter holidays go by so fast!  At least I can live by the memories of all the food and good company!

I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like Thanksgiving has a lot of mushy dishes.  Between the mashed potatoes and cornbread, to the sweet potatoes, and pies — mushy smushy!  I wanted to incorporate a fresh and crunchy element to our meal, so I came up with the idea of using raw brussel sprouts versus the usual warm cooked brussel sprouts.  I searched around for a bunch of recipes and I found one that used cold shredded brussel sprouts, and a freshly made citrus vinaigrette.  To round it out, there hard crunchy bacon!

This salad/side dish is really easy to make.  First, make the vinaigrette and refrigerate it — sorry no photos of it, I got too excited!

Second, fry the bacon in a skillet and lay it on some paper towels to degrease a little bit.  This step is totally optional, but I recommend it because the bacon turns out less soppy and more crispy.imageMake sure you get a really big bowl to mix the salad.  I bought pre-shredded pre-washed brussel sprouts from FreshDirect.  The recipe calls for buying whole brussel sprouts and shredding them on a mandolin, but who has A) a mandolin in their NYC apartment and B) time to shred miniature little brussel sprout balls…  Maybe when I have a huge kitchen one day with time and space for unnecessary kitchen gadgetry.

Throw together all of the salad ingredients, tear apart the bacon on top, mix in the vinaigrette, and toss the salad around so everything is well-coated.  Here are some tasty close-ups of the salad.  Mmmmm…..

Bacon and Shredded Brussel Sprout Salad(reprinted with minor alternations from pinchofyum.com’s recipe)

For vinaigrette:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or to taste (remember there will be some bacon fat too 🙂 )
  • salt and pepper

For salad:

  • 6 slices cooked bacon (you can put a couple more pieces if you would like…)
  • about 4 dozen shredded brussel sprouts
  • 1 cup blanched/shredded almonds
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese (whatever grated hard salty cheese you have on hand should work — the first time I used Parmesan)
  1. Juice the lemon and orange into a small bowl.  Mix the rest of the ingredients for the vinaigrette, and make sure it’s almost to the point of being nice and foamy.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve the salad.
  2. Fry the bacon in a skillet.  I placed the cooked bacon on a plate of paper towels to blot some of the bacon fat, but this step is optional.
  3. In a large bowl, dump out the shredded brussel sprouts.  Stir in the chopped almonds, grated cheese, and tear apart the bacon with your fingers.  Mix in the refrigerated vinaigrette and toss the salad around.

Serve and enjoy this fresh and tasty salad!

Transportation From Palm Beach to Miami

We had to attend a wedding in the Palm Beach area recently, so we decided to stay in Palm Beach (Worth Avenue! Woo!), and then extend our trip to Miami. There was one problem. We didn’t want to rent a car, and we were going from The Chesterfield Hotel in Palm Beach, to Fontainebleau in Miami. Believe it or not, we ended up taking an Uber for the 70 mile drive. Since we had so much trouble finding information on transportation from Palm Beach to Miami, I decided to write it out. Here are all of the modes of transportation that we found:

1. Uber

  • Pros:
    • It’s a door-to-door service, and you don’t need to share your space with anyone, or carry your luggage around.
    • Scheduling this is obviously pretty easy, considering all you do is call the car on your phone and you don’t even have to talk to anyone.  Before we started piling ourselves in the Uber, we also went outside to make sure the driver was okay with driving that far.
  • Cons:
    • It’s unpredictable whether someone would be willing to pick you up.  It is best to have a back up plan.  Our plan was to wait at the hotel and get a car service if Uber didn’t work out.
  • Cost:
    • $85.35 was the cost for UberX.  It could be more or less depending on if you get a nicer Uber, or split this cost with others.

2. Car Service

  • Pros:
    • Similar to Uber, this is also a door to door service.
  • Cons:
    • You have to arrange this with your hotel ahead of time, which means you should also check what the cancellation policy is if you no longer need the car service.
    • Also, unless you want to go out doing research on South Florida car services, you’re generally stuck with the quote that your hotels provides.
  • Cost:
    • For us it was $149 going from The Chesterfield to Fontainebleau, but it depends on the pick-up and drop-off.  The $149 also would not have included any gratuity/tip.

3. Tri-Rail Train (South Florida Regional Transportation Authority)

  • Pros:
    • It’s cheap.
  • Cons:
    • It will take you two hours from the Palm Beach International Airport stop to the Miami International Airport stop, plus any additional travel time from wherever you’re starting off.
    • You have to drag your belongings and luggage to and from the train, and from wherever your starting point is–airport, hotel, etc.
    • The train option is really only convenient for certain locations.  The train runs from the Palm Beach International Airport to Miami International Airport.  Unless one of the stops in between is close to where you’re going,  you would need to arrange transportation from your hotel to the train, and from the train to your next hotel/location.  Otherwise you
  • Cost:
    • $5 per person plus the transportation to and from the train locations.  For us this would have added an extra cost of $15 from the Chesterfield Hotel to Palm Beach International Airport and then about $20 from Miami International Airport to Fontainebleau.  This would have amounted to $10 for the train plus $35 for the two Uber rides, making it $45.  For another forty bucks, we took an Uber door-to-door.
  • Link: http://www.tri-rail.com

4.  Public Bus

  • Oh dear.  Buses are an option, but I’m not sure what you would have to take.  If you would like to take public transportation, I recommend taking the train.  At least you won’t be stuck in traffic!

This analysis depends on how much time, luggage, and money you want to spend.  If you have no luggage at all and are very close to the train stops, the train may be your perfect option.  If you have multiple suitcases, and are inconveniently far from any of the train stops, you may end up taking an Uber.  Happy trip planning!  Cheers!

 

Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona: A Dream Come True and a Must Visit U.S. Destination

I would have never in a million years pictured my honeymoon somewhere without a beach.  No way.  However, for part of our honeymoon, my husband and I went to Sedona — a rocky desert without water.  Now that it’s over, I wish we stayed more than three nights.  I’m obsessed!  We stayed at Enchantment Resort, a five star luxury resort with a destination spa (Mii Amo) on site that people travel to from around the world.  The price of rooms start at around $400 per night, and treatments at Mii Amo start at around $190 per person.  We literally checked in and didn’t leave until the day we checked out.  (The one time that we left was for a jeep tour, but the excursion actually started and ended at the resort.)  The scenery in Sedona is unreal, and there’s really no reason to leave the resort.  Did I mention that the property is so large, they transport you by golf cart?!

If you’re wondering why we chose a rocky U.S. desert versus an exotic sandy beach for a honeymoon:

  • We had a destination wedding in Miami, so we had plenty of palm trees and beachy surroundings.
    • Our wedding consisted of three days of events, so we were in Miami for almost a week by the end of the wedding weekend.
  • We did a lot of traveling around Europe the year before, so European destinations weren’t on our list.
  • The Caribbean was only a few hours from our destination wedding in Miami, but the Zika epidemic…
  • We wanted a short flight from Miami to the honeymoon destination
    • Neither of us wanted a 20 hour flight to a far destination halfway across the world, (especially not for a 10-day honeymoon).  Said 20 hour flight would be really uncomfortable if it wasn’t first class.  I mean how romantic and relaxing  is it to be squished on an airplane for almost a day?
  • Staying at a secluded full service resort in the desert serves the same purpose as staying at a secluded full service resort where there is sand.
    • Beauty is found in different types of natural scenery.  I have friends that traveled around Ireland for their honeymoon!

Anyway, back to the point here.  Sedona is amazing, and I am excited to visit again in the future.  I love Enchantment Resort because the property and amenities are well-organized, and they strive to make everything full service.

Restaurants:

The resort has several different restaurants that vary from casual, to health-centric, to high end, and of course, wonderful room service.  The restaurants are located in the main clubhouse, and in Mii Amo Spa.

  • Che Ah Chi.  The highest end restaurant, Che Ah Chi, was actually featured in Wine Spectator magazine and won one of their 2017 awards for having one of the best wine lists.  This award was alongside some of the finest restaurants, such as Daniel Boulud’s two Michelin star “Daniel” in NYC for example, so an award speaks volumes.  I had an amazing homemade pasta here one night.  I actually attacked it so quickly that I forgot to take a picture!
  • Room Service.  Room service is a must for breakfast.  I’m not normally a room service type person because I like to get up and get out when I’m on vacation, but it’s so nice to enjoy the peaceful view from your room and get ready for the day ahead.  Our terrace had a tree in front of it, so it felt like we were partially in our own little treehouse.  Even if you don’t get room service, every morning they bring you two small fresh orange juices in a little aluminum pail.  I love cute little buckets! 🙂  The picture below has one of our amazing breakfast spreads, and at the bottom left are the daily orange juices.

img_3759

  • Mii Amo Cafe.  Mii Amo Cafe is the cafe/restaurant at the spa.  They have lots of healthy options, and we ate there different times for both lunch and dinner.  The outside seating is beautiful, especially during the evenings.  The lunch options are amazing, and it feels good to eat healthy after hours in the sun.  Bring on the wheatgrass shots!  And…we had a couple actual drinks as well….  Mmmmm probably the first espresso martini ever served at Mii Amo Spa lol

Pools:

There are two main pool areas, and there are smaller pools spread throughout the property. The main pool is open to everyone, and the pool at the spa is 18 and over.  (The entire spa is actually 18 and over.).

This is a photo from the outdoor pool at the spa:img_3650

This is a photo from the main pool.  (A word of caution that sometimes there were kids at the main pool, so we spent a lot of pool time at the spa pool.)

Activities:

The resort organizes almost non-stop activities for guests, and they had a comprehensive booklet/pamphlet summarizing everything.  These activities varied from bike rides to wine-tasting, and the fee varied according to the activity.  We chose to take part in a wine and food pairing that was $25 per person.  It ended up being just us, another couple, and the sommelier, so it felt like were having our own private session.  We sampled around four to five red, white, and sparking wines.

Part of the tasting plate:img_3656A wine tasting with an exquisite unique view:img_3654Here’s a picture of the event described on an iPad in the clubhouse:img_3658Similar to beach destinations, where you can snorkel or choose to just lay on the beach, you can really make Enchantment Resort as active or as relaxing as you want.  If you want something action-packed, you can hike and climb rocks, or mountain bike.  Conversely, if you want to relax you can enjoy the serene scenery and relax at the pool or spa.  Our honeymoon was mainly relaxation-based, but we did go on a jeep tour.  The original company for these excursions in Sedona is Pink Jeep Tours.  They offer several different routes; some are smooth, some bumpy, others feel like a roller coaster, etc.  We opted for one that was extremely bumpy called the “Diamondback Gulch” tour.img_3699img_3684img_3700I felt like I got an ab workout from the jeep tour.  The only thing holding you down to the jeep is a loose seatbelt, so you’re constantly working your abs to stay upright.  I was so exhausted that I fell asleep for two hours afterwards.  Yep, by the time my husband turned around, I was in bed lolimg_3707Another seemingly obvious activity, but worth mentioning is that there are acres upon acres of property.  It’s an entertaining activity to just walk around and enjoy the scenery.    We found a teepee during one of our walks.  

Enchantment Resort also has deer that live on property.  They don’t bother anyone, and they don’t come near you. The clubhouse is beautiful, well-air conditioned, and has fruit-infused water for the taking.Grab a drink at happy hour!

Spa:

Sedona is a place that is all about spiritual healing, mediation, mindfulness, and reflection.  Time moves slowly, everyone is patient, it’s quiet, and people are Zen.  It’s the perfect place to relax and spa.  We had three different treatments at Mii Amo.  We each had a facial, we did a couples Sedona clay treatment, and a couples aura soma reading.  Since it was honeymoon, we were trying to stick to treatments that we could enjoy together.  Of the three treatments, the only one we could not do together was the facial.

There’s an indoor cold pool at the spa with a tranquil seating area right across from it.  The waterfall cascading into the pool creates a relaxing experience.

img_3683img_3682

Sedona is spectacular, and Enchantment Resort in particular is a magical place.  We will definitely be visiting again.  Until next time…

Mule Trend + Velvet Trend = Velvet Slippers

I have been trying to capitalize on the mules/slides trend.  Traditionally, I’ve thought of mules as really old fashioned kind of comfort shoes.  However, this season there are so many dazzling options.  Just go to any store or browse online, and there are tons of choices for trendy mules.  Some of them are very of-the-moment, and others are arguably more “classic” styles.  I personally love the ones with fur and the ones with velvet, because I love texture.  (FYI:  I love texture so much, I only buy 3D cards from Papyrus lol)  Another trend I really can’t get enough of is this velvet trend.  I’m all about velvet accents, velvet shirts, velvet booties — I love it!

When I came across these burgundy velvet mules on Neiman Marcus Last Call, I thought I hit the jackpot.  I wasn’t looking to spent too much money since I thought of these as more of a “trend” purchase rather than a long time closet staple, and at around $100 these are perfect.  They are such a statement piece, and they add pizzazz to so many fall and winter outfits.

I bought these, and what did I see the next day in Glamour magazine?  AHEMMMM!!!!  A little blurb on how velvet slippers are a great way to incorporate the velvet trend into your wardrobe this season!  Win and win!

Now where is my wine….