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Well ladies and gents, the time has come…everyone has to grow up some time and it is that time for this lil old blog of mine. I’ve really enjoyed sharing all my food adventures, thoughts, recipes, and restaurant experiences with you. But all good things must come to an end…but do not fear! I have now joined forces with my foodie-soulmate, Erin, and we have created a newer and shinier blog where we will continue to share recipes and restaurant reviews, plus cooking tips and “how-to” tricks.

Please take a gander over to How To Eat and check us out! I hope you’ll continue to follow me there where the delicious recipes and food musings will just be even bigger and better because now there is not one, but TWO of us to share our love and passion for food with you!

Eat Well!

Dara

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So here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! My thoughts on who has the best pizza, pasta, Mexican food and more in all of New York! Some things to note: I had many amazing meals and dishes that are not mentioned here. These are just some that really stood out to me…not to say I didn’t enjoy many many more! I also didn’t cover “the best of” every possible food category because that would just take way too long…both to write and read! And of course, I was not able to get to even half of the restaurants on my very VERY long list. This may shock some of you with the plethora of restaurant related posts on this blog. But trust me, there are just so many good restaurants here…it’s kind of overwhelming (and very stressful!) But I did what I could, and without further adieu and in no particular order…

The Best Appetizer: Sheep’s Milk Ricotta with truffle honey butter and burnt orange toast from Locanda Verde (review)

The Best Brunch: Cookshop (review #1 #2 #3)

So I think the fact that I went back to this place three times speaks to how good it is. From the ideal location right next to The Highline, to the wonderful and homey atmosphere, to the absolutely delicious food! Let’s look back at some of my favorites, shall we?

Scrambled eggs with creme fraiche, smoked salmon, caramelized onion, served on homemade biscuit and watercress salad

Pastry board: chocolate chip scone, sweet potato bread, apple muffin, pecan sticky bun, blueberry jam and butter

Poached egg popover: poached egg, popover, leek and cheddar fondue

The Best Mexican: Barrio Chino (review #1 #2)

I originally fell in love with their strong margaritas and fish tacos. A return visit showed me that their enchiladas were truly top notch.

achiote and citrus rubbed tilapia served with avocado salsa and pickled onions

Enchiladas Verdes: green enchiladas stuffed with zucchini and mushrooms and melted oaxacan cheese served with black beans topped with queso fresco

The Best Vegetarian: Pure Food and Wine (review)

This is definitely a special occasion vegetarian restaurant but truly delicious! Even for the non-vegetarians among you!

Chocolate mint sundae with thin mint cookies, chocolate ice cream, mint ice cream, and whipped cream and chocolate sauce…never knew a vegan raw sundae could taste so good!

Zucchini and local heirloom tomato lasagna with basil pistachio pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, and macadamia pumpkin seed ricotta

The Best Dessert: The salted caramel sundae from ABC Kitchen (review)

I know what you’re all thinking…yes, I do love me some Big Gay and Ample Hill, but those are in a category all to themselves. This is the best plated restaurant dessert…come on, totally different!

Sundae: salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts, popcorn, whipped cream, chocolate sauce

The Best Sandwich: The scuttlebuck from Saltie (review)

Homemade foccacia bread with pickled veg, hard boiled egg, greens, feta, house-made aioli, olives, and capers

The Best Salad: The kale salad from Northern Spy (review)

Kale salad with cheddar, delica squash, almonds and pecorino (the potato gnocchi on the right were excellent too!)

The Best Meatball: Piccolo Angelo (review)

Meatballs the size of my head! In a marinara sauce

Honorable Mention: Chicken meatballs from The Meatball Shop (review #1, #2)

Chicken meatballs in tomato sauce topped with grated parm and foccacia bead

The Best Pasta: House made linguine with spring fava beans, garlic, tomato, and toasted breadcrumbs from Frankies Spuntino (review)

House-made linguine with spring fava beans, garlic, tomato, and toasted breadcrumbs

The Best Pizza: The stracciatella and spinach pizza from Co (review), the margarita from Keste (review), the overall experience and uniqueness from Pauli Gee’s, (review #1, #2) and the bee sting from Roberta’s (review)

So I know it may not be proper to name FOUR places as “the best pizza,” but I think pizza is a very complex dish and there are many different kinds. When craving the traditional margarita, none is better than Keste. For your white pizza, head to Co. For the ultimate pizza parlor experience and very unique pies, travel to Greenpoint to see and meet Paulie Gee himself. And for fantastic sweet sauce mixed with spicy sausage and sweet honey, Roberta’s is truly top notch. All the crusts were fantastic, the sauces well seasoned, and the pies perfectly charred.

Stracciatella: crushed tomato, stracciatella, arugula, black pepper from Co

Regina Margherita: tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, grape tomatoes, basil, and extra virgin olive oil from Keste

Grapeful dead: Baby spinach, olive oil, mild gouda, shaved parmigiano reggiano, and pickled red grape halves from Paulie Gee’s

Three pies from Roberta’s: From right to left: the margarita, the bee sting (spicy salami, hot honey) and seasonal (kale, parm, fontina, lemon garlic oil)

The Best Asian Food: Talde (review)

Yes, I realize this is quite a broad category. But, Talde really wins for me for it’s perfectly cooked and flavored whole fish and it’s wacky over the top cereal bowl dessert.

Whole market fish: banana leaf roasted topped with tumeric-tomato chutney

The Best Burger: The lamb burger from The Breslin (review)

Chargrilled lamb burger with feta, cumin mayo, and thrice cooked chips

Best Ice Cream: Anything from Ample Hills (review)

Seriously…any of their hand crafted, small batch ice cream is absolutely delicious. And they make EVERYTHING in house…from the butter cake in the ooey gooey to the oatmeal cookie dough in Nona D’s oatmeal cookie. I have yet to find a place EVER to match these cups and cones.

Nona D’s Oatmeal cookie on the left and pumpkin with graham crackers and marshmallow on the right

Honorable Mention: The salty pimp from Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (review #….too many to count!)

This sweet and salty cone should really be in a category of its own. In fact, the whole shop should be! From it’s eclectic decor, to boisterous servers, to a menu filled with names like Bea Arthur (which is also delicious btw) and Affo-“gay”-to, how can you  not fall in love with it?

The Salty Pimp: I think you’ve seen this maybe one or two times here before! Caramel line ice cream cone with sea salt and chocolate

The Best Overall Dining Experience: ABC Kitchen (review)

This award  is based not only on the food, but the whole package…service, atmosphere, and the all-round feel of the place really makes a difference to me. ABC kitchen was a stunning restaurant with fantastic service, beautiful food, and obviously, so delicious!

Line caught tuna sashimi marinated with ginger and mint

Roasted beets with homemade yogurt and balsamic

Honorable Mentions: Traif (review) and Degustation (review) and Allswell (review)

Traif’s unique combinations and flavors really blew me away. The 5 course tasting menu at Degustation was so impressive…if they only had better service, I think this could have been a winner! The fact that I am STILL thinking about the pork from Allswell is definitely worth noting. Also worth noting is I visited all three honorable mention-worthy restaurants with the same friend…I think she may be just as food obsessed as myself!

Crispy pork belly, caulilflower, peperoncini, romesco, parsley-garlic from Traif

Third course: seared trout with chard leaves on a bed of corn, farro, and pea succatash with chorizo oil from Degustation

Roasted pork with aioli, anchovies, capers, and homemade olive bread from Allswell

I think that I could have really gone on and on…I will never forget the arepas from Caracas or the tofu from Gwynett St. or the octopus from Kefi…but I had to cut it off somewhere! I hope I have helped you sort out where to eat in a place where you will never EVER run out of restaurant options. I have already had some fantastic Toronto restaurant experiences and have many home-cooked meals to share with you. So please, STAY TUNED!

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In an effort to continue to stay away from my touting everything as “the best____ I ever ate,” I am here to tell you not of “the best” black and white cookie, but what I think is “the ultimate” black and white cookie. And it is found only mere blocks from our small apartment at Joyce Bake Shop in Prospect Heights. I am by no means a black and white cookie connoisseur. I’ve tried a couple of versions, but am definitely not an expert. However, this cookie, you really couldn’t help but fall in love.

What really set this cookie apart from all the others was not the super tender crust, but the black and white frosting. That’s right, FROSTING! Not the usual gloppy glaze that sits on top of your average black and white cookie. This is true cupcake frosting, laid on nice and thick on the buttery cookie base. Just trust me and try it!

But before you indulge in this delicious cupcake-like cookie, I encourage you, no, I implore you to try this super easy and super tasty recipe staring avocado. Who doesn’t like this buttery and rich green fruit (yes, I do believe avocado is in fact a fruit). Normally found in guacamole, salsas, and as a salad topper, I have turned this fruit into the perfect taco accompaniment or Mexican themed dinner appetizer.

Panko Crusted Avocado Fries

1 Avocado, sliced into fry like sticks

1/2-1 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 lime, juiced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine panko with spices. Squeeze lime juice over avocado slices and toss gently in panko so you don’t break the avocado. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until panko is brown.

I served them with a dipping sauce made of Greek yogurt mixed with a little lime juice and some adobo sauce from a leftover can of chipotle peppers kicking around in our fridge. A delicious start to an Mexican fiesta!

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The end of April means two things:

1. I have less than a month left in this glorious city and really need to start organizing my “where I NEED to eat” list

2. Foodie Penpals reveal day! So just in case you forget what this foodie penpals is all about…it was started by Lindsay @the lean green bean and here’s a little summary of this fantastic foodie program:

Every month you receive your penpal pairing via email. You then contact them to find out all their likes/dislikes/allergies and put together a box filled with scrumptious food products that costs no more than $15. Include something written and send your box off and await to receive your own delightful box of goodies. Then you blog about it at the end of the month. If you don’t have a blog…don’t fret. You can still participate in this wonderful foodie program.

I’ve participated for two months now and both times I was quite pleased with the box I found on my doorstep. And this month’s box of goodies, yet again, did not disappoint.

I couldn’t even wait until the picture was taken to rip into that bag of snap pea crisps. Crispy and crunchy with a very interesting flavor, I think they would be perfect for adding texture to a nice green salad in place of the usual croutons. My favorite thing in this box was the peanut butter granola.

The first day I had it mixed into yogurt, the second just eaten straight from the bag. This sweet and peanutty cereal is now a house favorite! Thank you Caroline for the delicious box of goodies! Check out Jennifers blog to see the food gifts I sent to her!

Inspired by foodie penpals, I reached for the bag of pistachios I was gifted last month, combined them with goat cheese, and stuffed them into some button mushrooms, a perfect vessel for this creamy filling. These delicious, cheesy, and rich mushroom bites would make the perfect party appetizer or really the perfect snack anytime. I mean, anything stuffed with goat cheese and pistachios is bound to taste good right?

Goat Cheese and Pistachio Stuffed Mushrooms

6 button mushrooms, stems removed

1/4-1/3 cup of goat cheese, softened

2 tbsp chopped pistachios

zest of half a lemon

1/2-1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

splash of milk

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Arrange mushrooms on a sheet pan.

Mix together remaining ingredients, adding enough milk until it reaches a stuffable consistency (you don’t want to it too thick you can’t stir it but not too thin it wouldn’t stuff and stay in the mushrooms…I probably used about 2 tbsp milk)

Stuff mushrooms and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until top begins to brown and mushrooms are soft and tender.

Surprisingly so delicious, considering how simple the ingredients were and how quickly they came together. I think they would also be nice over a bed of spinach with a drizzle of balsamic and oil as a salad. The perfect spring appetizer!

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Can you believe a whole month has gone by?? I was just speaking with a good friend about how we couldn’t believe it was almost April! Time flies! And with this passing of time brings my second monthly foodie pen pal experience! In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering, “what is this whole foodie pen pal business?” Lindsay @theleangreenbean, the brilliant organizer of this program, pairs you with another food loving individual and you get to send and receive a lovely food filled box. The spending limit is $15 dollars and must also include something written. Then, at the end of the month, everyone posts about food gifts they received. Do not fret, if you don’t have a blog  you can still participate. My February experience was so fantastic I was really looking forward to this month…and my pen pal, Carolyn, sent a box filled with delicious goodies.

The box of goodies

I love that she went to such an effort to send me homemade gifts based off local ingredients. Pickles made from cucumbers from Washington, blueberry jam from blueberries she picked HERSELF and homemade granola…love it!

I am a HUGE mustard, sauce, and condiment lover. You should see our fridge…three kinds of mustards, a variety of Trader Joe’s fruit butters (the pumpkin will in fact change your life), and a selection of Asian sauces. So this new to me honey mustard was a huge hit! I recently used it on a cheese sandwich…perfection! I also used the honey mustard in the dressing for a new salad I created. After absolutely falling in love with Cafe Habana’s jicama salad, I decided I needed to have it again, STAT! And not wanting to make a trip to the city and wait in line every time a craving for this fresh and fruity bowl of mixed greens hit, I decided it was high time I made my own version of it. And now, you can too!

Jicama, Mango, and Feta Salad with Honey Mustard and Lime Dressing

Mixed greens

1 mango, peeled and chopped

1 jicama, peeled and chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

handful dried cranberries

feta…as much as you like (and I like a lot!), crumbled

Dressing

2 tbsp honey mustard

juice from 1/2 a lime

2 tbsp dijon mustard

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

Combine all salad ingredients in a bow. Mix dressing and toss with salad to coat. Done and done! So simple!

Jicama

If you’ve never have jicama before (as Adam never had) I say run out and buy it this instance. It is basically a cross between an apple and a potato…crunchy and sweet, perfect in salads and slaws. All you have to do is peel it, cut it, eat it. So have a great weekend and try this salad! And a big THANK-YOU to Carolyn for the amazing box of eats! Check out Lisa’s blog to see the box of goodies I shipped off to her. Have a great eating weekend!

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While I was away in Florida on vacation (restaurant reviews and eating adventures to follow shortly), Adam got down to business in the kitchen. Here’s his idea of the perfect weekend lunch.

My role on Dara’s blog is usually limited to chief taste-tester, which I must admit is a pretty good gig! But with Dara going out of town last weekend, the big question became “what was I going to eat for 4 days!?” I’ve been known to cook a mean stir fry, and definitely have some other specialties too, but having full control over meals means 1 thing….Macaroni & cheese!! (Ok, I guess that’s kinda 2 things…) Now of course Dara left me with some delicious meals in the fridge, but there’s nothing like eating dinner for lunch (Kraft style).

Back in Toronto, we were very deprived when it came to choices of Kraft Dinner types. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the classic KD, or even spirals. But one of the perks of living in the US is the availability of Kraft Dinner Shapes — far and away the best type of macaroni amongst all his other tube and elbow-shaped friends. There are so many different types of shapes to choose from — Cars, Spongebob & Friends, and even Phineas & Ferb (who the hell are Phineas & Ferb!?). But no matter the shape, this meal will knock your socks off.

Phineas and Ferb, waiting to take the plunge into their boiling salt water ocean.

Sure, the box (at a measly 156 grams) is a little small compared to the other types, and the noodles take about 13 minutes to cook (compared to the suggested 8 minutes of a regular box), but those are prices I’m willing to pay. The folks over at Kraft know what they’re doing. The cheese-to-noodle ratio is simply perfect, giving you that artificial cheesy deliciousness taste with every bite.

Now what would a blog post be without a recipe?! Sure, the box has directions — 3 tablespoons each of margarine and 2% milk, but I’m going to suggest you leave out the margarine, switch to skim lactaid, and up it to 1/4 cup. It’s amazing, the absence of lactose gives it a full-bodied taste that can’t be beat. Trust me, you’ll never go back!

The finished product, along with some baby carrots on the side. Gotta get your Vitamin A somehow!

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Always looking for an excuse to get together with friends over good food (not that you need an excuse), the Oscars fit that bill perfectly. A friend and I decided to create an “oscar themed” dinner party and create a menu that represented the best picture nominees. Well, not all of them because that would be a lot of food for 5 dinner guests to consume! We had such a fun time planning the menu and an even better time eating all the food!

Caramel corn with cashews

We started things off with a Moneyball inspired, sweet and salty, caramel corn. My friend is not a peanut lover (can you believe she doesn’t like peanut butter?!) but her idea to replace the hated legume with cashews was a hit! We also had a fantastic cheese board (because cheese and caramel corn go together, right?) with a huge selection of French cheeses to represent Hugo and Midnight In Paris, and my homemade pretzel bites to represent NYC for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Adam and I were lucky enough to walk away with A LOT of leftover cheese…you will be seeing it featured in a recipe next week…Get excited!

The southern themed Help had so many food options…chocolate pie was an obvious choice. But we had other ideas for dessert so I decided to take the main dish for this evening and went with this Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with Collard Greens recipe.

Topped with a yogurt-chipotle sauce (1/4 cup yogurt and 1 tsp adobo sauce)

The only problem was there were no black-eyed peas to be found! Black beans made the perfect substitute and these cakes had a fantastic texture and flavor. Some non-meat based patties don’t hold together very well but now I know a trick! Puree half of the beans with the rest of the ingredients, then add the other half and mix to form cakes. The puree portion really holds these together. I think I represented The Help quite well!

I think we were all a little bored with the Oscars. Don’t get me wrong…I love a good red carpet and opening monologue, but as the show dragged on, I felt my eyelids closing. Once my friend served her black and white dessert in honor of The Artist…I was wide awake!

Assembling the whoopie pie

Toasting the marshmallow/meringue filling

Homemade whoopie pie!!

That sweet, fluffy, marshmallow filling was soooo amazing! We were all just licking the bowl!! Just like The Artist, these whoopie pies were definitely the winner of the night!

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