Tag Archives: Locanda Verde

I Ate New York

When you live in a city as big as New York,  love food as much as I do, share a shoebox kitchen with three others and work 50-60 hours a week, it’s hard to cook. It’s also hard not to feel overwhelmed and excited by the infinite number of restaurants and cuisines available (many within a close walking distance).  So for the past almost four months, I have been eating my way through The Big Apple (and oh how that Hungry Caterpillar would be proud of me—thank goodness I walk everywhere!) I have some culinary highlights I’d like to share from things I have eaten thus far.

This is my dear friend John Carriani. We’re friends because we love theatre and we both get ridiculously excited about food (particularly baked goods) and will stop at nothing to track down a good pastry, no matter the distance. One evening we made a trip out to Red Hook to visit Baked. He had a $30 gift card there and wanted to use it all at once (for the both of us)! He is an incredibly generous soul. So we went to Baked…

and this is what we ate…

We were like kids in a candy store (err bakery) and we both pretty much agreed that this was the most exciting thing ever and that this is what dreams were made of (ours at least). We were very giddy (and this was before the sugar party that ensued)! My favorite were the bourbon chocolate chip pecan bar and the sweet & salty cake and John favored the whoopie pie and the cupcake. Don’t worry, we didn’t eat all of these devious morsels…at once anyway.

This Pulled Duroc Pork Sandwich from Num Pang. It was pretty stellar. It’s made with tender spiced honey braised pork, on the most luscious roll with chili mayo, cilantro (which I shamefully pick off), carrots and cucumber and it’s perfect. I enjoyed mine with a homemade blood orange lemonade which was also perfect. In the land of most amazing pork sandwiches, this baby rings in second place for me (the first being the pork sandwich I had a few years ago at El Paseo, in Seattle. Don’t even get me started on that sandwich.

-A chocolate croissant fresh out of the oven, from Charlotte Patisserie, consumed (too quickly for a photo), on a walk through McCarren Park on a fall morning. They also make different quickbreads that I love—particularly their apple & banana.

-Jay and I recently had the pleasure of having a late dinner at The Brooklyn Star and had our minds blown over the fried chicken dinner for two there. We  came on a Tuesday and they normally only do the fried chicken on Sundays and Mondays (and it has to be at least three people) so much to our surprise, when we were seated and our waiter informed us they were doing it (and for two), it felt like fate. Fried chicken fate. And oh that glorious fried chicken, those good ole southern fixins and classic Rolling Stones music that soon unfolded thereafter… It was undoubtedly one of the most memorable meals I’ve had here. The chicken was so juicy, crispy and flavorful and we had these awesome pickled vegetables, crack macaroni and cheese (studded with bacon, with a tangy kick from the sharp cheddar), mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuits. (No room for dessert). I think Jay got a pic or two of our feast but I was honestly too euphoric to bother.

-We also had a wonderful date at an adorable, romantic yet laid back Italian place in Williamsburg, called Fiore. It’s candlelit with black and white tiled floors and petite tables with little vase of fresh herbs.  There’s a long shelf with antiques that borders one of the walls, there’s some exposed brick and vintage photos in antique frames adorn the walls.

We shared a raw, shredded artichoke salad with lemon and parmesan, a bottle of red and two generous plates of homemade pasta (for under $10!!). Jay had ravioli with butter, chili flakes, sage and parmesan. It was simple but elegant. I had the tagliatelli bolognese—hearty and fragrant with rosemary, it was one of the best bolognese dishes I’ve ever had.  I loved it so much, I went there a week later with my friend and roommate, Caitlin (who also loved it) and we shared one of the best salads I’ve ever had. It a big bed of frise with toasted pecans, warm roasted butternut squash and sautéed wild mushrooms, pecorino and a lemon truffle vinaigrette. It was heavenly and the embodiment of autumn (in food form). We also shared a tiramisu that left us speechless.

So because I love and live for this sort of thing, here is my personal guide to some of the best eats in the city (Brooklyn mostly), based on some of my favorites:

NYC Gastronomy Awards:

  • Fiore, Moto, Cafe Colette and Dear Bushwick, for most intimate, romantic atmospheres
  • Five Leaves for best breakfast/brunch/bacon, people watching and favorite design
  • The Blue Stove for most adorable, cozy bakery and best pies
  • Best cocktails go to Dear Bushwick, for “The Iron Lady”: rose-infused Junipero Gin, Lillet Rose, Aperol and lemon juice and Gwynnett St for the “Go Fig-ure”: Blackwell Rum, Averna, port, fig jam, all spice and lime juice
  • Best bread goes to Commerce (everything) and Gwynnett St for their Whiskey Bread with Vermont cultured butter. It was one of the most exquisite things I’ve ever tasted.
  • Bubby’s (Tribeca location) and Clinton St. Baking Company for best pancakes (sour cream pancakes at Bubby’s and the banana walnut pancakes at Clinton St)
  • Best Polish food goes to Lomzynianka and Krolewski Jadlo particularly for their red Borscht and pierogies.
  • Best Sandwich goes to Num Pang for the Pulled Duroc Pork
  • Best cupcake goes to Butter Lane Bakery (the banana with cream cheese)
  • Best appetizers goes to Locanda Verde for the blue crab crostini with jalapeno and tomato and the focaccia and Nights and Weekends for their
  • Best cafe and favorite neighborhood hangout spot goes to Charlotte Patisserie
  • Best Bakery goes to The Blue Stove (I may be biased but truly everything there is awesome) and also
  • Best coffee goes to Cafe Grumpy (Greenpoint location just because it’s right by my apt)
  • Best doughnuts goes to Peter Pan (for cake doughnuts) and Dough for yeast
  • Best Pasta goes to Fiore (in Greenpoint)
  • Best Bar goes to The Richardson (for their wallpaper, Bourbon selection—because they carry several PAPPY’S bottles! and also for the bartender that looks like Paul Dano). Also, to Manhattan Inn for the overall classic atmosphere.
  • Best neighborhood bar that’s not in my neighborhood goes to The Double Windsor (in Windsor Terrace)
  • Best cutest, smallest restaurant /most handsome chef goes to Bistro Petit 
  • Best brisket goes to Lonestar Empire
  • Best Pizza goes to Paulie Gees, Speedy Romeo and Forcella
  • Best Bagels goes to The Bagel Store (in Williamsburg)—while I’ve yet to actually step foot into the store, a wonderful girl I work with named Jackie brings these delicious bagels into the bakery where I work, every Friday morning for “Bagel Friday.” How can that not make your day amazing?
  • Best fried chicken/southern food goes to The Brooklyn Star
  • Best Mexican/worst service  goes to La Superior
  • Best all around restaurant goes to: Commerce. From the bread basket down to the dessert menu, it’s amazing  (pics and review to come)!

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The Apple: Part 1

The senses never cease to amaze me.  I love how I can walk into a bakery I used to visit from my childhood that smells exactly the same and all of a sudden it conjures up old memories and floods me with nostalgia.  I can recall my mom taking me there after picking me up from my preschool which was right across the street in historic downtown Cary (or “Pleasantville,” as I like to refer to it as).  I remember seeing petit fours and and cupcakes and that distinctive, wonderful but ambiguous smell that I’ve never been able to pinpoint.  It’s funny because while that bakery has changed a lot over the last 25 years or so, it smells just the same.  Such a powerful sense smell is.  Except I rarely go there when I’m in the area and if I do, it’s not cupcakes I get like I used to, but their unique “Ranger cookies,” which are made of coconut, cornflakes, pecans and lots of glorious butter.  They’re pretty phenomenal.

Elizabeth and I both agreed earlier today that if either of us ever lost our sense of smell or taste, it may as well be the end of it for us.  We also decided even though we aren’t bumper sticker folk, that we want to make a bumper sticker that says “oil be damned – will drive for food!”  We drove to Durham this morning to have brunch (the greatest meal ever) at Watts Grocery, one of my favorite places and we brunched with a fury!  She with her eggs benedict (sausage instead of ham) and hashbrowns and two bloody marys and me with my shrimp and grits (Bill Neal’s classic recipe, which should truly be a paradigm for all other shrimp and grits out there), house-made english muffin with homemade preserves and a hibiscus blini!  She’s the savory to my sweet and our drinks are proof.  It was a lovely start to a Sunday.

Here are some things I am loving right now…

  • Florence Welch’s cover of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.”  It’s pretty amazing and I’m basically obsessed with it.  Genius.
  • Taking an afternoon nap with a snoring puppy dog.
  • Taking an afternoon walk with a very excited puppy dog.
  • Bradford pears and rosebud trees in full bloom.
  • Frasier.  Can’t get enough of it.  Niles especially.
  • The fact that my granny sends me aprons in the mail.
  • Feeling nostalgic.

I’ve kind of been bursting at the seams to talk about my recent trip to NYC but have let the everyday tasks of life interfere.  Well I say enough of that nonsense!

It was my favorite trip to the city thus far and an ambitious one at that, seeing as I managed to visit most of the places on my list.  I am the same way with bakeries and restaurants as a womanizer is with notches on his bedpost.  Even if it means trekking all around the city back and forth in unbroken-in boots, as long as I can cover my desired terrain, I’m a happy, accomplished feeling chick.

Here are the bakeries that were visited:

  • Silver Moon Bakery (on the upper west side) – we went there early on a Sunday morning and my heart did a cartwheel when I saw hot cross buns!  It was a tiny space and sadly we were in a hurry but I’d love to come back and try some of their bread, particularly their challah.  It all looked fantastic.
  • Zucker Bakery– (east village) – what a delicate and humble bakery this was.  We settled into the cozy sun-soaked window seat nook and shared a latte and some chocolate roses (an Israeli version of a cinnamon roll but with chocolate).  They were chocolate laced  yeasty swirls or dough that melted in our mouths.  It was such a charming place and the owner who was working the counter was so kind and lovely.

  • Babycakes:  Babycakes, you were not on my list.  I quite literally stumbled upon you when I was exploring the lower east side near our hotel.  You were cute, you really were and I was curious because I had heard such raving reviews about you from trustworthy sources, some of them even non-vegan.  I ordered a chocolate cupcake from you and it crumbled apart in my hands.  It was dry and not tasty and three frustrated bites later you were tossed into a trash can around the corner.  Perhaps I just had an unlucky experience but I’m sure glad I’m not vegan.
  • Locanda Verde:  The adorable girl working behind the pastry case was reason enough for me to like the pastries here – after talking for awhile she even bought me an apple hand pie!  So sweet.  I felt like I struck out with this place because of the good karma and because every pastry was a delectable home-run, from the hand pie to the oatmeal sandwich cookie to the olive oil crumb cake (my favorite).  The apple cider doughnut was also heavenly.  I will definitely be returning and would love to try breakfast or dinner there sometime as well.
  • Jane’s Sweet Buns:  I had learned of Jane’s when it was featured on a recent episode of Unique Sweets (on the Cooking Channel).  The food porn shots of booze-laced cocktail inspired sticky buns like “The Old-Fashioned,” and the “Rum Runner” immediately sold me and I added it to the list.   It’s a quirky little shop in the east village with a hot pink neon sign advertising “Jane’s Sweet Buns,” and the enticing aroma of boozy dough luring you in from the street and it’s run by a fierce redhead bartender turned pastry chef (named Jane of course, last name Danger).  I have a definite girl crush on her and she has now inspired me to sneak gin into buttercream.  She’s been playing with alcohol, bitters, butter and sugar,  concocting innovative pastries in her colorful, eclectically decorated bakery since last May and successfully so.

I originally wandered in there around 11 but they weren’t opening until 12 and I had somewhere to be.  Later that evening on my way back from Williamsburg, I decided to revisit and much to my surprise, there Jane was, laboring away.   After admiring the billowy sticky buns and champagne cupcakes, I ordered an old fashioned and sat myself down on one of the barstools.  It was delicious and not too sweet or overpowering.  We ended up chatting away for the next hour or so, about pastries and baking, vintage shops, boyfriends, living in New York, and work and we bonded over a mutual affection for Forever 21.  She was so kind and genuine and it was such a serendipitous experience to get to try her creations while talking to her at the same time.  Customers eventually started filtering in and I had to get back so I picked out some goods to take home to Jay and the Johns’, including a oatmeal cookie sandwich with roasted banana cream cheese icing that was absolutely heavenly and she bought me a bun!  Such a nice, kick ass girl.  She’s making things happen.  I love random little encounters like that and feel like I was fortunate to have a lot of them on this trip.

Check her out!

*More NYC recaps to come, stay tuned!*

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