A Tree Grows In The Financial District: Medici 21 Ristorante & Bar Restaurant Review

Traipsing through the Financial District after business hours can often make me feel like that lone tumbleweed blowing through a ghost town. Now don’t get me wrong! That area does have it’s inhabitants, locals if you will, that give it a lived-in neighborhood kind of feel. However, with very little areas to sit and enjoy the foliage, it’s nice to find other forms of life within this architecturally overpowering pulse point of lower Manhattan. I recently had the pleasure of experiencing life in that region that was served up more of the blanched than the branched. Medici 21 is a wonderful eatery at 21 Rector Street in the Financial District that has recently come under new management.

 What has that brought to the table? Try to imagine wonderful, fresh and classic Italian fare and an energy that brings life to the tightly wound closely knit streets of the Financial District. Equipped with an amazing full bar Medici 21 is a quintessential spot for a work day lunch or evening cocktails and dinner. The revamp brings a sexy youthful verve with a polished downtown edge. Relax with a cocktail downstairs then retire upstairs for a delicious meal that covers the Italian culinary experience with both familiar and unique menu offerings.

The night that I had the pleasure of enjoying the Medici 21 experience was just euphoric. The starters consisting of savory antipasti platters, olives, mushrooms and other artisanal delicacies were a perfect start to what would become one of the best meals I’ve had in quite a while.

For dinner, Executive Chef Allen Dann served a six-course meal complete with wine pairings for each course that were appropriate for the intensity and subtleties of each dish.

Starting off were plump briny Long Island Oysters with a semi-sweet Villa Sandi il Fresco, NV Prosecco followed by the sweet and salty marriage of gorgonzola with caramelized pumpkin in the Artisanal Green Salad that were just seasonally perfect with a Natura Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from Chile.

Next, the light subtle flavor of the Beef Carpaccio with the fragrant white truffles and frosty parmesan created a textural and flavorful wonderment for the tongue while paired with a heady smooth Trivento Reserve Malbec 2013. The Wild Boar Ragu that followed had a tender rustic flavor that was nicely paired with a delicately fresh pappardelle and a Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 from Napa Valley.

The last two dishes sealed the dining deal for me. The Atlantic Halibut was so tender and light that it complemented the parsnip puree, Tuscan kale and Stag Leaps Chardonnay 2012 also from Napa beautifully. Dessert finished the course roundup with a Seasonal Fruit Zabaglione that was a great plate of sweet and tart flavors that matched up seamlessly with a Marchesi Di Barolo Zagara Moscato D’Asti 2012.

With the World Trade area getting a fresh new start, lower Manhattan dining is stepping up again where areas like Soho and the Meatpacking District were proving victorious. Medici 21 stands to be a great place to have you make that venture into the winding grid-less streets of the Financial District. Medici 21 Ristorante & Bar will stand to be another notable ‘Twenty One’ in the area but far more satisfying.

The Village Voice’s Third Annual “Choice Streets” Food Truck Tasting Event

We had the great opportunity to indulge in another culinary delight, one that we feel everyone should attend at least a few times in their lifetime…..trust us, it’s worth it. No longer are food trucks only regulated to post late night partying satisfaction (although you can’t deny the brilliance of cornering that market) and since variety is the spice of life, we were excited to sample the delicious eats from the 22 food trucks participating in this year’s tasting event. We had the pleasure to sample (and I use that one loosely because some well beyond filling) a wide variety delicious, international foods. Upon entry (we were given early access…yay!!), we were given a passport card, which was punched by every food truck we visited…sadly we only made it to about half the vendors. This year’s event saw the addition of five new food trucks including Carl’s Steaks, Valducci’s Pizza, Kelvin Natural Slush Co., Uncle Gussy’s and Shanghai Sogo. Our system for sampling was to go in the order the trucks were lined up in, but we were just so full, we couldn’t sample anymore.

The 22 Food Trucks newly were parked on Pier 86 of the NYC Landmark, The Intrepid; the five new food trucks (named above) joined the seventeen previously announced participating trucks: Big D’s Grub Truck, Comme Ci Comme Ca, Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches, DUB Pies, Hibachi Heaven, Korilla BBQ, Love Mamak & Lucky Yim, Luke’s Lobster, Luzzo’s La Pizza Napoletana, Mike N’ Willie’s, Moo Shu Grill, Nuchas, Solber Pupusas, Souvlaki GR, Sweet Chili, Taipan Fusion Express and Toum. below are some of our favorite, mouthwatering dishes (in no articular order):

VALDUCCI’S – The best pizza we’ve ever had hands down and we love that is comes in a Green (biodegradable) pizza box whose cover can be used as plates. If you see this truck, we highly suggest you try their amazing Thin Crust Sicilian Pizza or the regular slice, or everything.

CARL’S STEAKSeach bite of this Authentic Philly Cheesesteak (with Cheez Whiz and White American cheese – with/without grilled onions) was so deliciously juicy, it definitely made you want to go back for seconds (if only we could).

LUKE’S LOBSTER – we discovered this cult favorite at the Village Voice Choice Eats Restaurants Event, and have sort of been stalking them every since. While they are called Luke’s “Lobster”, we were delighted to try their Maine Shrimp Rolls.

MIKE N’ WILLIE’S – if you love pulled pork, you must try their Lil Piggie Slow Roasted Pulled Pork Sandwich. The juicy treat is marinated in their homemade Chipotle BBQ Sauce topped with Chipotle Lime Slaw set on a Brioche Bun. What more can you ask for….well….seconds of course.

We wish we could fit photos of all our favorites continuously but that would be a very long post, please find more culinary delights below:

What makes this event even more amazing is that it benefits a great cause. The Village Voice once again partnered with non-profit organization, Slow Food NYC, and will donate a portion of all ticket sales from Choice Streets to the foundation.

Although we were too full to visit all the wonderful sponsors for Choice Streets 2014, we hope to do so next time. participating sponsors included: Shock Top, Aperol, Fairway Market, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, Verizon FIOS, New York Botanical Gardens, Southern Wines and Spirits, World View Travel, Four Roses Bourbon, Ste Michelle Wine Estates, Sidney Frank, Casamigos Tequila, Focus Camera, Pedal, City Tech, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Green Mountain Energy and Frames.

Fly International On These Wings: International Wings Factory Restaurant Review

Let me preface this review by saying that, in the past, I have indeed met a wing that I didn’t like. It takes more than stumbling upon a recipe online to create an edible delicacy that inspire the senses. It truly takes an acute understanding of pairing certain tastes and flavors. Even with something as simple as a wing, one may think “oh it’s as simple as cooking chicken”. Oh nay! The tender little culinary arena of the revered chicken wing is not just your normal run of the mill poultry fix. It’s completely about the flavor.  The basic “getting the chicken” right is a given. However, it’s the distinct and memorable flavor that makes all the difference between something just on a menu since people regularly ask for hot wings and something that is worthy of a stellar review…..like International Wings Factory!

International Wings Factory is worthy, very worthy. There is a wealth of wings to be had in New York City but this establishment takes a well-deserved prize. Why? It may be their size; they have one location which is handled by its founder and head Chef Deepak Ballaney, so the integrity of the attention to flavor is preserved. It could be their aesthetic. They take the infamous wing, cook it to perfection then give it ‘around the globe’ treatment with a clever and honed arrangement of international ingredients. The result is a menu of wings that live up to the establishment’s name and an adventurous wing-lover’s palette.

International Wings Factory needs no more bells and whistles than their delicious sounding menu. At first glance the only delightfully overwhelming factor was whether to take my palette to the Far East or the Caribbean. I greedily opted to visit several places as the premise is to choose your wing, bone-in or boneless then choose one of the international coatings for your wings to be covered in along with a freshly made dipping sauce. For adventurists, food-lovers and vegans alike there are also meatballs and soy nuggets to enjoy along with regular and sweet potato fries that you can add some pep to with a flavor dusting.

I eventually chose to try five different flavor pairings. The first was the meatballs covered in Mexy Q, a spicy and zesty sauce with a Chipotle Mayo dipping sauce.  It had great heat and spiciness with the mayo adding another layer of balanced flavored heat and coolness. Then I tried the wings covered in a Black Pepper Teriyaki coating and a Creamy Cilantro sauce. The balance of hot and sweet was perfection while the sauce added a layer of “herby” freshness that didn’t at all disappoint. Next I tried wings coated in Coastal Pepper, a mix of Hawaiian and Caribbean jerk spices, served with a Jalapeño Ranch dipping sauce.  With this one, you’re first hit with the sweet then the mounting heat swoops in to deliver that familiar jerk flavor only to be cooled off by the balance of the spicy heat and cool of the dipping sauce. Finally, packed with Chinese flavor and a veil of heat that is not overpowering but enough to tang up the presence of the garlic is the Sichuan Chili Garlic wings. The classic blue cheese it was paired with brought down the welcomed heat with its classic salty sharp flavor.

Accompanying my dishes was a phenomenal side of Sweet Potato Fries lightly coated in a Spicy Garlic dusting. Applying the dusting to these freshly fried potatoes was a perfect way to lock in the flavor as the savory and the sweet paired together quite deliciously. It’s comforting to know that Chef Deepak Ballaney makes everything – coating, sauce and dusting fresh each day himself and that you’re not getting pre-packed, pre-frozen or dehydrated flavors masked to appear fresh. Whether indulging in the scrumptious wing groupings or even other menu items like a Blackened Spice Rubbed Chicken or Crispy Tilapia sandwich, Angus or Chunky Vegetable Burger or even Turkey Wingettes, the flavors offered here are undeniably great, wings down.

International Wings Factory
1762 First Avenue
New York, NY 10128
212.348.2627

NEW RESTAURANT OPENING: Contorno’s Restaurant

I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening and media tasting event for family-owned, Contorno’s Restaurant, a rustic Italian Ristorante and wine cellar on West 31st Street located inside the new boutique Holiday Inn Express just steps away from the Empire State Building and the hustle and bustle of Herald Square. The open layout (with seating for 110) allowed guests ample space to explore and mingle.

contorno inside

Contorno’s is the passion project of the Impagliazzo family, who were looking to introduce NYC to the tastes and feel of their traditional Sunday Family Dinners; a time for family and friends to come together at the dinner table to talk, laugh, and share many small Italian tapas-style dishes of traditional, old world Italian food paired with fine Italian wines. Fellow guests and I enjoyed wine tastings as well as a selection of amazingly delicious “small plate” hors d’oeuvres from the menu developed by executive chef David Buico which included some of the following:

contorno appscontorno apps2

Hand Rolled Ricotta Gnocchi w/ Wild Boar Bolognese & Shaved Dry Ricotta, Gorgonzola and Fresh Honey Comb served on toasted Raisin Walnut Ciabatta, Old fashion Veal Meatballs w/ Chick Pea Puree, Shrimp Al Pancha w/ White Heirloom Beans, Homemade Fettuccine w/ Porcini Mushrooms, Grandma’s Homemade Spaghetti, etc. Featured in the photo below are just a few of the must-have entrees available at Contorno’s
 contorno dishes
Some of the wines, led by some of Contorno’s favorite sommeliers, indulged guests with wines from around the world.
contorno wines

Dessert was heavenly, a wonderfully delicious way to end the savory and hearty meal we experienced at Contorno’s, you must experience the below Milk Chocolate & Pistachio Tart and New York Cheese Cake

desert

On February 28th, Contorno’s introduced Wine Flight Tuesday’s. Each week GM/Sommelier Marta Cisneros will lead customers in sampling a red or white wine flight from a different region, and help them learn about the wine and how to pair it with different dishes. Contorno’s also recently introduced a late night bar menu as well as a weekly Happy Hour Special from 4:30pm-6:30pm— all house wine, well drinks and beer are just $5.00

Contorno’s Restaurant is located at 30 West 31st Street in New York and is open for dinner seven days a week, Sunday-Thursday, 5 pm-10:30 pm and Friday & Saturday, 5 pm-11:30 pm. Contorno’s is also open for lunch and weekend brunch.

For more information about Contorno’s, please visit: www.contornosrestaurant.com.