Born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, schooled in Massachusetts, I live in NYC and I’m well traveled worldwide. Years ago my friends told me I should start a “website”. At the time it was not so simple with the technology at hand, though now it’s as simple as opening your laptop, zipping across the Internet and choosing a WordPress theme. I’m the guy my friends, family, neighbors and co-workers go to for where to Eat, Drink, Events, etc. I’m constantly looking for both new places to try and discovering great old spots as well. I take great pleasure in food and drink, enjoy the Arts, love gadgets, and while I don’t believe in fashion…I’m a strong believer in one having a distinct sense of style. Please note, I’m not a critic…I’m more of a Cool-Hunter(for the record Hunter is my Middle name). I only write about places and things that I enjoy and would like to share. Enjoy and feel free to comment and post suggestions on places for me to explore.
After bouncing around NYC for some people watching with a bud on the first over 40 degree sunny day in weeks it was time to get something to eat. In the mood for something a little different my bud asked if I’d be up for Paella and If I’d been to Barraca yet. I replied, not as of yet but as long as they have Paella Mariscos(seafood) at this place I’m in. We started with glasses of Sangria, Barraca of note has 8…count them ocho Sangria’s to choose from. I decided to go with their Compostela made up of an Albariño white wine base with Sake, Rosemary and Lemongrass….tasted like an amazing apple juice. My bud got the Castilla with a base of Ribera(a Red) with cherries and spices. I had this one as well later in the meal and if you like cherries, order it. Barraca’s menu has an extensive selection of both Classic and Seasonal Tapas, of which I wanted all of them. After intense debate the decision went to the Bombas(potato stuffed w/beef and spicy sauce) and the Datiles con Bacon(Dates stuffed with almonds and blue cheese wrapped in bacon). Sound good? Tasted even better, and really worked well together the Bombas being savory while the Datiles provided just the right amount of sweet.
For the entree it was going to be Paella, as with the Sangria and Tapas Barraca offers a number to use from. In this case six different versions, two that are primarily seafood, two with various meats, a veggie option and one with noddles instead of rice. We went with the Mariscos Paella loaded with Shellfish, Monkfish, Cuttlefish, and Calamari. Absolutely Loved it, literally scraped the metal serving bowl clean. Now I really need to go back to try the Negra version (A seafood with squid ink based version that I had when in Tossa del Mar in Spain’s Costa Brave and have been craving ever since). Since we ordered the Prixe Fixe (Restaurant week $38 Appetizer, Entree, Desert) we enjoyed both the Chocolate con Passion(Chocolate mousse flavored with Passion fruit) and the Carjillo(Flan De Cafe with Rye gelee and cream). As much as I’m a Chocoholic and enjoyed the mousse the winner was the Flan by being both delicious and unique tasting.
Not only is the food absolutely delicious at Barraca but the portions are large as well. It’s a great spot for a date or group of friends. Come hungry, because you are going to leave rather well sated. Of note, service was great, the perfect balance of being attentive while not “hovering”. Barraca on the weekends has a brunch which I’m guessing must be pretty popular since four out of the eight Sangria glass jugs were finished to the last drop…
Barraca is located at 81 Greenwich Street on the corner of Bank Street
Craving Dumplings I decided to do a little exploring and find a new place other than my usual go to spots. So I headed south on Mulberry after getting off the 6 at Canal Street walking past Columbus Park by the courts (by far the furthest south I’ve ever been on Mulberry Street…never realized it even went this far south) and came upon Tasty Dumpling…just what I was looking for.
Tasty Dumpling is located at 42 Mulberry Street
Do you have a thing for Pin-Up Girls, like them bad, very, preferably with big beautiful scorch your soul bedroom eyes? If so, Brandt Peters new collection Vixen! at AFA is right up your alley. These latest creations the Terror and Trouble Girls, are his take on the Femme Fatale. I found them to be a very cool interpretation of a 1940-50’s Pin -Up melded with Big Eyed Japanese Anime style. The pieces are done with graphite, ink and acrylic paints in primarily black and white and most are fairly large at over 5ft tall. One thing that I really liked was that when you looked at the pieces at first it’s all huge eyes, crazy long legs and the whip or ray gun they hold in they’re petite little hands. However if you keep looking you start seeing the secondary figures in the pieces, the martini glass they are holding, the brass knuckles on their dainty fingers, the rain falling off the umbrella and that the smoke coming out of the ray gun is skull shaped…with bathtub bubbles coming out of it. Love the attention to detail and how these pieces really pop.
I had the opportunity to meet and speak with the Brandt and discuss his current exhibition, past experiences and upcoming projects. I found the names of some of the works of particular interest especially my favorite from the Vixen! collection Lilith, who also happens to be one of my favorite characters from Jewish Mythology. Turns out the name was not random and that’s exactly who Brandt was thinking of when he came up with the character. If you’re not familiar with Lilith she’s more then the name of a Music Fair or from Pop Culture Vampire TV shows, just google Lilith for some fun(or just hit the link:) to whet your appetite, she’s Adam’s first wife…:) Kathie Olivas Bradnt’s lovely wife was on hand and is a very talented Artist in her own right. They are currently collaborating on a Short Stop Motion film on The Bride Series(As in a sexy Frankenstein interpretation) collection where the mad scientist makes the perfect women and along with body gives them perfect brains…needless to say things sound like they may not go exactly as the mad scientific intended). These pieces are a lot of fun and you can check them out for yourself at AFA till March 14th 2015.
AFA is located at 54 Greene Street
Jumping off the L I was trying to decide between some of my usual suspects as to where to grab lunch when I walked by the new Korean Gastropub Soju and decided to check it out. Soju has a nice selection available for Lunch/Brunch that includes Hot Stone Rice dishes, Soups, Burritos and a Korean style Bento Box available with Spicy Pork,Angus Beef, Glazed Chicken or Tofu. I decided to go with the Spicy Pork in a Hot Stone which turned out to be Bibimbap in a bowl, a tasty combo of spicy pork with egg, spinach, picked veggies over rice. It was quite simply love at first bite. It was also a much deeper bowl then it looked at first so when I finished scraping the bowl clean, I was rather full. Though the Spicy Pork was very flavorful on it’s own since I have a thing for heat I had to try their Gochu(a Korean hot sauce), that I poured all over it. It was great and now I have another Hot Sauce to add to my collection.
Soju has a Happy hour goes that starts at 12pm(yes, you read that right) and goes till 7pm. Drafts are only $4 from a selection that included Six Point Crisp and Founders IPA. Well drinks are also available for only $4 as well. Needless to say, I now have another fave to add to my Bedford usual suspects list.
Soju is located at 177 Bedford Avenue
* Of note, I wouldn’t recommend just dumping hot sauce like I did here. Taste it first and then and give it a few minutes to sink in. While it didn’t happen here…it’s a great way to get burnt, so to speak.
Ever since I re-joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art I’ve been looking for local spots up by it to grab a bite. On my way back to the subway I came across just recently opened Petite Shell. I went it for the coffee, but was blown away by the various flavors of Rugelach they offer. These are no ordinary Rugalach either, these gourmet treats come in sweet and savory flavors. I enjoyed the Pear with Blue Cheese and the Raspberry with Farmers Cheese. Simultaneously they gave me new taste sensations while bringing back fond memories of the ones my maternal Great Grandmother and Grandmother used to make. The Jalapeno, Dulce De Leche and Nutella Chocolate caught my eyes as well. Croissants are available in 4 or 5 different flavors and in over half a dozen sandwich combinations. Of note, Petite Shell is Kosher so think cheese and veggie combo’s vs. jamon y queso.
For their full Coffee menu they use Forty Weight Coffee Roasters out of Ithaca, New York. I just went with a drip and it was pretty awesome, as good or better then most pour overs in town. Of note, Petite Shell uses something called a Steampunk to do their version of a pour over, so I will have to come back and try one. Beans are available to go as well. Cupcakes you’ve had your moment, 2015 is the year of the Regulach!
Petite Shell is located at 1269 Lexington Avenue
Some things in life are quite simply timeless and as fads come and go certain brands continue to reinvent themselves while staying true to their core and roots. LEGO is one such brand. As I was heading over to Eataly I walked by this new location at 200 5th Avenue and seeing The Star Wars stuff in the window I had to check it out. I loved the Marvel and DC dioramas and the giant Dragon was totally awesome. I transformed back into being a six year old. Now what to get my Nephew…
LEGO is located at 200 5th Avenue
I’ve always believed that when you are with good friends it doesn’t matter where you are…however, knowing where to go doesn’t hurt. I recently caught up with one of my favorite wives…who happens to be married to one of my best buds. While the lady isn’t a fan of heat her worse half has developed a taste for it and asked me to create a mini tour to test and tantalize our tongues while providing dishes to satisfy his far better half.. Like a Dark Knight I “Rose” to the challenge.
We met at the Spring Street Lounge to prepare for this spice fueled Odyssey. I had a Lagunitas Little Sumpin,Sumpin, she had her new drink…a Martini and he had some beer…Our first spicy food stop was at Pok Pok wings. Not because they are known for being so hot, but because my bud loves wings. *Pok Pok’s are supposed to be rather different and they are available hot. These are noting like your Sports Bars wings, they are coated butter and Tabasco but in Nước chấm…(Vietnamese fish sauce). I really like them and can see why they have on the one-hand a cult following lining up outside the door and on the other those who are not fans. If you enjoy Thai/Vietnamese food I believe you will fall into the former grouping. We drank their version of Thai iced coffee(made with condensed milk and sugar) and Pandanus water.
For our first spicy drink stop we hit Barrio Chino(their margarita’s hit back harder:) home of the spiciest drink I’ve had yet….the Grapefruit Habanero margarita, the drink the bartender will say “why don’t you try the jalapeno…most people return the Habanero….it’s just too spicy for them” I ordered it and admit, it’s not easy to drink…(read:brutal) but I like it. My bud took the bartenders advice which opened him up to a flurry of verbal jabs and upper cuts while his wife enjoyed her Lime Margarita. We ordered up the tasty pescado tacos to nosh on that came with 4 salsas. I went tomatillo ..there was just no way to go hot with a Grapefruit Habanero margarita already lighting my lips on fire…
Heading up Allen(what 1st Ave turns into across Houston) to our next stop we popped into Marshall Stack for a Beer to cool us down. I had the Saranac Blueberry Wheat while they went Brooklyn Summer. It was here that for the 2nd time of the night when my bud proclaimed to all that would hear that “we were on a Spicy food & Drink craw!”l we were asked…”Are you going to Brick Lane for the dreaded Phaal”?
Next up we popped into the *Toucan and the Lion. Not for the food which I hear is good, but for a drink called The Lion in Summer( tequila, lime, simple syrup, Sriracha , topped w ginger topped )I love Sriracha…and while it is a tasty drink it’s not spicy and my buds better half relieved me of it while he drank Ithaca Apricot wheat beers. When I shared our quest for fire with the bartender he said …I got your drink…it’s something ive been experimenting with…Please allow me to introduce…La Cucharracha… Mescal w/ muddled Thai chilies, bitters ,and simple syrup. It’s smoky with some nice sweet heat…just what I was looking for. Then he asked…”Hey have you heard about the Phaal at…”?
My original plan was to hit Xi’an Famous Foods for their crazy hot Western Chinese Cumin flavored cuisine and bring it to Van Leeuwen, eat it and then finish up with some of my favorite ice cream and give our insides a fighting chance the next day. However my bud was intrigued by this palace of heat he kept hearing about….
Believe it or not…I the Heat Hunter had never been to Brick Lane…so I said sure…let’s see just how dreaded this dish of curry is that you need to sign a waiver(not joking). Well after hearing the waiters description of the “Phaal” curry while we drank beers all of a sudden my bud felt Vindaloo would be hot enough. While I ordered tandoori chicken for his wife with black lentils I started questioning his masculinity(wonder if this might be why he requested reviewing this piece before it went to virtual print:) while I simultaneously complimented him on how pretty he looked in his skirt(his calves are so huge it looks like he swallowed two bowling balls…if he were a Highlander he would have terrified his enemies…unfortunately for him he was just a guy not manning up and getting put through a verbal wood chipper over it:) The waiter suggested we order the Phaal sauce on the side…which for the record I was absolutely against it…but what we ended up doing. Thus, we ordered the Lamb Vindaloo w/side of Phaal with some rice, yogurt sauce, and Naan w/mango chutney to prepare ourselves for the Phaal curry onslaught.
To say the Phaal is not very hot would mean one is talking smack out their…and/or one is an idiot. This stuff is very hot…but the kicker (as I learned the hard way in an Arab Market in Tel Aviv years ago) is it is loaded with the types of hot peppers that build up and get hotter as they hit your system. My friends eyes bulged and his head swelled as he turned a bit red when it hit his lips. Thing is I’ve had hotter and with plenty of Naan topped with yogurt and chutney with a pints of beer I’m fairly confident I could eat a bowl( as was the waiter who smiled and said so…while he looked at my bud just shaking his head:)
We finished up at Van Leeuwen around the corner. I went Mint chip, wifey was delighted with her Espresso and Gianjuda for her hubby. It was the perfect way to end this epic epicurean spice trail tour and cool down our tortured tongues and tummies…
Special Spicy Bonus: I had lunch at Jack’s Wife Freda yesterday and had the Chicken Prego sandwich. When I asked if they coated the chicken with Peri-Peri sauce they use on their kabobs they said they don’t but they brought out a spicy florescent green sauce they had that delish that they say they always have…just ask. I found it more tasty then hot…but again…I’m not the best barometer when it comes to how spicy is that food…or for the record..”is the water cold”
*Please note that Pok Pok has moved to Brooklyn and the Toucan and Lion has closed since I first wrote this piece. I am in the process of updating with replacement spots to satisfy your sweet heat cravings…stay tuned.
Craving coffee while walking through the slush from Tribeca to Soho I came across Everyman Espresso on West Broadway. Looking in the window I saw bags of Counter Culture Coffee and popped in to get out of the elements and get a cup of much needed “rocket fuel”. While they do the usual suspects, for those of you from Down Under they have Flat Whites and of course Pour Overs. What surprised me was that they had two choices of Drip and they offered a refill. I went with a Papau New Guinea that was nice and full bodied. Of note, for those of you who prefer or simply are in the mood for Tea they have a nice selection. If you’re hungry they have a dozen or so baked goods to choose from. I just wanted a little something and went with a Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroon…Yum! While seating is limited it’s a very well designed spot with a very cool and colorful tiled back wall.
Everyman Espresso is located at 301 West Broadway
I was craving something hot since it was freezing outside and something different since…I frequently am. Since I was in the SE part of Soho I headed over to Baxter Street to see what spots I could find and came upon Aux Epices, saw that it wasn’t French but Malaysian,took one look at their menu, saw about 10 soups, popped right in. It’s a nice little spot, long and narrow with tables primarily for 2 and 4. For a fairly petite spot they have a rather robust menu. While many appetizers and entrees sounded enticing it was the 10 different bowls of soup Noodle Soup that drew my attention. A number looked interesting however Spicy Shrimp tantalized my taste buds most. The spicy Shrimp broth hit the spot, the head on shrimp were good and fresh plus it was loaded with Udon noodles. So much so that I ordered Coconut Rice on the side and and I ended up taking home half the dish. To drink they offer Tea, Wine and soft drinks. French music playing in the background gives the place a nice ambiance. If you’re looking for something a little different then your usual Ramen Noodle soups to warm you up check out these Malaysian bowls of plenty.
Aux Epices is located at 121 Baxter Street