World’s Best Whole Foods: Bryant Park

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If you live in NYC, you probably know that the literal best Whole Foods Market just opened in Bryant Park. It opened in the best Bryant Park location you could have…with views from its sit-down raw bar restaurant…yes, you read that correctly, RAW  BAR RESTAURANT…overlooking the park. Since I already mentioned the glorious-amazing-ridiculous-in-a-good-way raw bar restaurant, I’ll start there. If you don’t care about NYC or Whole Foods or raw bars, well, it sucks to suck. I went to the raw bar for lunch on a Thursday around 12:45 pm, and, boy was it crowded. But, we were able to be seated at the restaurant immediately, so that was nice. We ordered oysters to start. The oysters were very fresh and quite delicious. It did not feel like we were eating raw oysters at a grocery store…at all. Not trying to sound elitist if you like to eat at grocery stores and stuff but like really? 

Here are the aforementioned wonderful and fresh oysters. Oh yeah, we got shrimp too. Winning.  YASSS Whole Foods Bryant Park

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Continuing on… you don’t want to miss this…to lobster rolls! Wicked awesome!

The lobster roll was incredible. All three of us ordered lobster rolls. It was even better than the lobster rolls I had on the Cape (Cod) a few months ago. Sorry, Massholes…don’t kill me…or send Whitey Bulger to get me. Or like you can send Mark Wahlberg…that is fine. FINE. Anyways…the lobster was so fresh and tasty and the lobster roll had big chunks of meat. Word choice? Oops. The amount of mayo used was legitimate and appropriate enough that New Yorkers won’t complain or have to take 2 classes at Equinox immediately following consumption.

Here is the epic lobster roll…from Whole Foods…can you believe it?

img_4942 Moving on…even though the lobster roll was truly amazing. Here are some highlights from the actual Whole Foods Market store. There’s an out-of-this-world cheese section, there’s a produce butcher that will chop your veggies for you…there’s a fresh tahini and halva cart and a sesame pastry cart…there’s a beautiful espresso bar…there’s an entire beauty product store basically…you get the picture…Bryant Park Whole Foods rocks. Here are some photos of the highlights. If you haven’t checked out this new Whole Foods, you should probably run, don’t walk (cuz you’ll get trampled by all the suits in midtown) on over to this wonderful place.

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Cosme NYC Round 2 – AY DIOS MIO

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img_4081Do you think all Mexican food is created equal? It’s not. Enrique Olvera’s Mexican food is  above the rest. It’s a fact. His first restaurant in the U.S. is Cosme in NYC in the Flatiron district. I went to Cosme for the first time shortly after it opened. It was delicious then, but I remembered the drinks more than the food. A few months later, when in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I went to Enrique Olvera’s restaurant called Manta. All of the food was very tasty and the seafood was particularly memorable. The same group of people that dined with me at Manta were joining me on a trip to NYC recently, so we decided to go to Cosme for dinner. It did take a while to get seated, but Cosme and is a hot spot and it doesn’t help that the Obamas just dined there during the UN week in September. We quickly ordered a dish we had seen on a table in the bar at the front of the restaurant. It was probably the best dish. I could eat the “Tlayuda” dish every day of the week. It was so freaking good…like I feel like I am living in Oaxaca and never leaving good. The “Tlayuda” consisted of black beans, chorizo, avocado, stracciatella cheese, and salsa borracha on the side. Imagine a glorious pizza made of blue corn tostadas covered with all the best Mexican ingredients. Here’s a picture of this wonderful dish that is kinda like better than pizza. Gasp! Let’s see what else was definitivamente delicioso….img_4119

So remember how I mentioned that I remembered the drinks at Cosme the first time I went? Well this time the drinks were still good…maybe even better since I tried the Cosme version of one of my favorite cocktails in general. If you like Paloma cocktails then you should run don’t walk to Cosme. The Paloma at Cosme is happiness in a glass…a glass filled with house-made grapefruit syrup…and perfectly shaped large ice cube rocks…and a salt rim. This Paloma is so tasty that it would make Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera forget they ever fought and got divorced. Anyways…back to the food. Poached lobster anyone? Want to taste the butter in the lobster dish? You can at Cosme. The buttery dish included lobster, shiso, ginger mojo,  and brown butter. Ginger and butter are two of my favorite things, so clearly “the hills were alive” in my tastebuds while eating this dish. What makes Cosme, a Mexican restaurant, score major points? Um…just the fact they have their own version of burrata on the menu. Casual. The burrata dish had its own Mexican flare with Epazote, a strong Mexican herb added to it. Oh ya…back to that Paloma that I mentioned before…here’s a visual of the glorious cocktail…

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Still with me? Wanna see a pic of that aformentioned buttery, ginergy poached lobster? 

Here ya go…eastcoastfoodblogger out!

Hope you aren’t craving Mexican food too much now! I lied actually…scroll down for more after you gaze into the foam on that lobster dish! 

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TAMARINDO CANDY CUBES BROUGHT TO THE TABLE FOR DESSERT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I DEFINITELY ATE 3 OF THE TAMARINDO CUBES…and none for Gretchen Wieners!

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Perfect Paella at the Playa with Jose Andres

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Jose Andres cooked his delicious paella on the beach, barefoot in the sand, while making gin and tonics, in the Cayman Islands, with all of us as his company. Paradise found. 

Let me just create the scene for you…clear skies, gin and tonic made by Jose Andres, giant paellas cooking of the fire on the beach…can’t lose…right? I had the pleasure of attending the Cayman Cookout 2016 in the beautiful Cayman Islands. The kick-off cooking demonstration on Friday morning at ten o’clock in the morning was the “Olé José”, a cooking demonstration with Jose Andres himself. So imagine this, ok? You roll on down to the beach, walk by your idol (strong word?) Anthony Bourdain, and pop on in to a tent on the beach where you are handed a gin and tonic that Jose Andres made while he walks around the tent barefoot in his board shorts while making paella…that’s how my day started on the big first full day of the Cayman Cookout. By the way, Jose Andres can make a mean gin and tonic that anyone would want to drink on the beach in the Cayman Islands…even at ten o’clock in the morning. Jose made an entrance to kick things off…he came up to the beach on a boat with “pirates” holding him hostage and finally dropping him on the beach to make his paella. Thank goodness the pirates didn’t keep him from cooking! We need our paella. Do not deprive one of Jose Andres’ paella. Do not. IMG_8957

The paella demonstration was wonderful. Jose has such an animated presence that he makes even the most simple task seem entertaining; he can pour olive oil over the paella pan and make this seem so exciting talking about the olives and the oil and how essential olive oil (Spanish of course!) is to the cooking process. He is quite the comedian as well, joking about how the olive oil provided to him was from Italy and he just couldn’t cope with inferior olive oil from Italy and not Spain. Blasphemy!

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He is passionate about cooking and is a devoted lover of the cuisine of his mother country, Spain, and I don’t blame him. Spanish cuisine is some of the best in the world. I have spent a lot of time in Spain, throughout the whole country, and from the Basque Country all the way to the south in Andalucia the food is delicious throughout the beautiful regions. I am also almost as passionate about Jamon Iberico as Jose is, so you can imagine how happy I was that he sliced it himself and served it with mango to our group. I could never been a vegetarian mainly because of the inability to eat Jamon Iberico. I mean…how do vegetarians live without charcuterie? How? What? Who? When? Where? Why? 

Jose Andres is a special person. His impact on the dining scene in the U.S. has been significant, especially in the city in which I currently reside, Washington D.C. His restaurants can be considered to be the cause for the revival of downtown DC and he is now making vegetables “sexy” with his fast-casual veggie chain, a favorite lunch spot of mine, Beefsteak. He is changing the way we eat in more ways than one. Jose’s paella was incredible and even at eleven o’clock in the morning I had two full plates with the aioli on top. Salud!

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Charcuterie,Pasta,Vino & Vesuvio…Volcano Lunch

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DSCN2353YA…I TOOK THAT PHOTO…SUNNY IN END OF OCTOBER…TAKE ME BACK

Ever think about having lunch next to an active volcano? I mean it hasn’t had a big eruption since 1944…but it is still like super active, OK? You can literally see Mount Vesuvius throughout the whole Amalfi Coast. Our driver and guide kept calling it “The Big Barbecue” in his broken, hilarious, inappropriate-but-not-on-purpose English skills. Anyway we had him from the time he picked us up at the airport to take us to our hotel and on the drive from Naples airport he talked…a lot a lot a lot…but the best thing to come out of his mouth was, “Want to eat lunch next to the volcano at a vineyard and drink a lot of wine produced there?” Oh yes, oh yes, we said, yes please. Grazie, prego, per favore, we want to go, thanks! Ok now onto the wine and food. First of all we had two men in our group and guess which wine they liked as much as the women did? The white wine! It has a quite interesting name “lacryma christi” but it is delightful. Here is some info on lacryma christi. The vineyard we went to was Cantina del Vesuvio. We toured the vineyard with the main manager who is the owner’s partner and she was smart and funny and made our visit great. I mean how could you not enjoy yourself drinking wine all day and eating fresh pasta and aged provolone?!?! IMG_3590NOW…FOOD FOOD FOOD. SO MUCH FOOD. They sure do want you to get your money’s worth and it is honestly hard to stop eating all the delicious food. The charcuterie and provolone to start were amazing beginnings to the meal. The rosso red wine was also very good as well as the rose. But again…the white wine rocked. They give you a giant platter of fresh homemade spaghetti that has a strong aroma of basil and it was insanely delicious even for the gluten free in me. I took pills…pills! Gluten free pills exist! What is this time that we live in! Ok so enough about me. The meat, the cheese, the wine, the ambience sitting next to the volcano. The dessert was also spectacular. LA BELLA VITA IS THE NAME OF THE GAME!FullSizeRender (10)

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Manta…Cabo San Lucas…Delicioso.

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MISO FISH TACOS…JUST ONE OF THE MANY MANTA MEMORIES

There is a brand new Thompson Hotel (the decor rocks by the way and the entire lobby is open-air overlooking the ocean), called The Cape, in Cabo San Lucas. I didn’t stay at the Thompson, I stayed at the One&Only Palmilla that truly is a one and only experience, but I wanted to try the food at the Thompson since I heard it Enrique Olvera’s place. Mexican food is good all around, ranging from street food to the more gourmet…I like it all. If you have not heard of Enrique Olvera you could think of him as Mexico’s Daniel Boulud…Mexico’s Eric Ripert…Mexico’s…you get it. Olvera’s Mexico City restaurant is a top 20 restaurant in the world. So, when I was making my first trip to Los Cabos, and I found out there was a new Enrique Olvera spot, I had to try it. The views are of the famous rock arches that are in the shiny Cortez Sea. Good views, good food. Happiness.

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Chef Alex Branch and Yours Truly

You feel as if you are almost in the sea when sit in restaurant Manta due to the large floor to ceiling glass windows and the perfect location overlooking the arches.

IMG_3039 2Beautiful view even with the evening storm…

Anyways…the food…was very good. It had a Mexican flare but it was truly fusion. Mixing modern Mexican with traditional Japanese flavors really hits the spot. And Chef Alex Branch at Manta does this well. Seafood tostadas. Sashimi with avocado. Miso fish tacos. Do I need to go on? Let’s give you some visuals and specifics.

What We Ate (in addition to the miso fish tacos in the photo on top of page) :

A little starter action…chicken chicharron (aka chicken rind)

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Tostada de Mariscos, Pico de Gallo de Pepino

Seafood Tostada, Cucumber Pico de Gallo

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Chile Relleno de Camarón en Salsa Verde

Shrimp and Salsa Verde Stuffed Chile

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Ensalada de Aguacate Tatemado, Lechugas y Rábano con Adere zo de Ajonjolí

Charred Avocado, Radish, Greens and Sesame Seed Dressing

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Pollo Orgánico Frito con Ensaladay Salsa de Ajonjolí-Tamarindo

Organic Fried Chicken with Salad and Tamarind-Sesame Sauce

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California Sucks Don’t Come

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So apparently there is a hashtag used by many people in San Francisco,where I just visited, that says #californiasucksdontcome.

I think I get it. Obviously they don’t mean it sucks…because it REALLY doesn’t. You know what else doesn’t suck? The food in San Francisco. Let me tell you a little story….about how good the food is in San Francisco. This isn’t really breaking news, because I have known the food in San Francisco has been regarded for some time, with places like The French Laundry and Bouchon Bakery and The Slanted Door and so on.

But, like, everywhere is good. Even the sushi spot you can stroll into at 9:30 pm with no frills decor tastes as good as Nobu if not better. I’ll talk about how good that sushi meal at 9:30 pm was later, but for now I want to talk about how this food festival really kicked the crap out of any food festivals on the east coast.

How, you say? Well think about this…no humidity, a beautiful sunny day (a little fog) with a breeze, tons of vendors who use fresh ingredients and have something for everyone despite food allergies, the Pacific Ocean, the laid-back attitude of all the locals…what is there to not like about all of that.

I was describing the Off the Grid: Picnic at the Presidio festival. Off the Grid does various food truck and tent vendor festivals, but this one is located in the Presidio, with a large field and views of the Pacific. The Presidio used to be a military base…so obviously let’s repurpose it for a lawn party filled with food…and booze. Ok, I think you get the point. California DOES NOT suck and I guess you can come…you’ll have to take that up with the hashtaggers. Here’s some evidence that California (well San Francisco in particular because, well, LA is…LA) does not suck and their food definitely is not in the suck category one bit.

IMG_1577 THIS VIEW DOESN’T SUCK NOW DOES IT? and like 72 degrees 

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This paella from Nora’s tent was like…almost as good as being back in Spain…almost. 

IMG_1581 Moscow Mule. Hit the spot. This place , Rye on the Road, sets up mobile bars wherever they are needed.

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FALAFEL FUN –  My friend and I split this. I’m not supposed to eat pita bread because of the gluten, but luckily the gluten police gave me a free pass since pita bread doesn’t have preservatives.

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So when my friends were eating pizza that I couldn’t eat because of the gluten (I just can’t risk it with pizza) guess what I did instead? I ventured off and discovered some sweets! A whole tent vendor obsessed with bacon and chocolate. GIMME.

This is bourbon bacon rocky road…ya…

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NOSH THIS is a perfect name for a sweet shop that makes variations of chocolate candies with bacon, among other kinds of candy.

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That’s right. Bacon Crack. Good thing I don’t live in California. I’d get addicted to Bacon Crack. I haven’t tried actual crack but I bet this is better. Also the salted caramel. CANNOT EVEN WITH THAT

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BYE FOR NOW HERE’S SOME BACON INSIDE THE BACON CRACK 🙂

Little Goat Could Be A Reason Chicago is My Kind of Town (and everybody else’s)

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So you know how Vesper tells James Bond in Casino Royale that “there are dinner jackets and then there ARE dinner jackets”… well if you don’t get the reference I forgive you, but I have that movie memorized due to the multiple viewings and staring at Daniel Craig sessions…I digress. Anyway what she means is that not all dinner jackets are the same. So when it comes to describing Little Goat Diner…there are diners, and then there are diners…and drive-ins and dives? No – sorry Guy Fieri – your show is just meh to me – you will never be Bourdain – and that NYT review of your Times Square restaurant..I can’t even. 

Now onto Little Goat. So, after a night of debaucherous halloween activity at a costume party with a DJ…well basically a grown up bar mitzvah if we’re being honest…what do you want to eat after this long night? You might be thinking bagel sandwich…which is NOT what I ordered at Little Goat. 

But, my dining companions and food guides to Chicago decided we needed to try a little bit of everything, and while bagel sandwich was not on the list of what we got, one amazing sandwich was, along with a whole lot more.  EXHIBIT A:

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The sandwich in that cluster of food heaven of a photo is a reuben complete with kimchi inside…I took a bite despite my sensitivity to gluten and I was not disappointed…thank god for peer pressure making me eat gluten. (Hey, a bite here and there for taste won’t kill me but literally I only have a bite) 

So what did this gluten-intolerant/sensitive/annoying eater order – only the most gloriously unexpected amazing hangover food…wait for it…SHRIMP AND GRITS! It truly amazes me that I did not discover my love of grits until I went to college and left the “south”. Here are the most amazing shrimp and grits, and totally different than what most expect…no cheese to be found!

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Little Goat packs a whole lotta punch in the flavorful food which is a mix of sweet and savory. On a side note I really love that they call one section of the brunch menu “Cereal Killers” because, like, cereal is so 1999 back in the days of high fructose corn syrup. A bunch of details in this West Loop eatery make it special, but the rude staff at the front are not that pleasant. But, hey, if I had a ton of hungover millennials coming in at the same time demanding a table or sighing when I have to add them to the list, I’d be a little high and mighty too. On the bright side, despite long wait times at Little Goat, the area surrounding the eatery is quaint and the ambience inside and at the Little Goat Bakery next door are wonderful spots to kill time. Even jaunts around West Loop in freezing temps while waiting make that first bite of the reuben worth it. IMG_9324

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820 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL
(312) 888-3455