Travel With Us: Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos Mountains

If you’re a child of the late 80’s then you certainly remember those famed commercials for “beautiful Mount Airy Lodge”, where all you had to bring was your love of everything. Today’s Mount Airy Casino Resort is still beautiful and just like before, wants you to bring your love of everything, from gambling, to luxurious spa treatments, your foodie appetites, love of concerts, worldly music and performances, and your love of giveaways. We had the pleasure of a wonderful and much-needed weekend escape to Mount Airy Casino Resort, located in the picturesque Poconos Mountains, right after NYFW (we had an amazing view of the frozen lake outside our window).

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If you’re expecting to see the old Mount Airy from the old commercials, you will be very wrong, the original Mount Airy Lodge which closed in 2001, was completely torn down, and the new Mount Airy Casino Resort was built from scratch. The old honeymoon hideaway is gone and has made way to be a family-friendly casino resort. The only thing that remains of the old Mount Airy, is the name. Gone are the heart-shaped tubs, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, velvet canopy beds, and the other old remnants the old hotel was known for. What replaces the old decor are modern design elements that are both stunningly elegant and rustic. The hotel’s interior boasts boldly stated panache that’s breathtaking to behold. Every bit of design detail was personally chosen by the new family of owners, who are obviously blessed with great taste.

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From its architectural influences, cubism-inspired design details, its mix of rugged and glamorous embellishments (we especially love the stunning crystal chandelier directly over the stone waterfall in the lobby), stunning, spacious bathrooms, and plush pillow-top beds, one can’t help but fall in love with the resort’s modern and sophisticated decor. Our Deluxe King room (pictured below) was exquisitely decorated with subtle tones and hues that beautifully played up the various prints and patterns of its decor.

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As we stated before, the Mount Airy Casino Resort is a family-friendly casino, but if you don’t like to gamble, or if you’re not yet of age, there’s so much to enjoy. A feature we particularly enjoyed at the resort was that the gambling areas didn’t encroach on the other available amenities. There’s no threat of hearing the telltale noises of slot machines and other gambling noises to disturb you from enjoying the amazing food from Mount Airy’s onsite restaurants, the wonderful, full-service spa, the Xanadu-esque Get Wet pool area, golf, horseback trail riding, and skiing. In fact, once you are away from the gambling areas, you’d swear you were just at a wonderful We completely indulged our foodie souls at Mount Airy. The hotel’s main restaurants include the upscale Bistecca by Il Mulino (pictured below), casual Guy Fieri’s Mt. Pocono Kitchen, the Pan-Asian Lucky 8 Noodle + Sushi Bar, and The Buffet (pictured below).

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Our favorite foodie escape was Bistecca by Il Mulino, a world-class Italian restaurant where we indulged in the most decadent and unforgettable meal.We’re still relishing in the memory of the flavorful Grilled Octopus with White Beans and Tomato appetizer, delicious handcrafted cocktails, and the perfection that was the Capellini Ai Frutti di Mare.

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No matter the season, lounging in one of the Get Wet private luxury cabanas (which boast day beds and televisions) or dipping into the heated, 51,000 square foot, indoor/outdoor Get Wet Pool, Bar & Nightlife is a wonderful way to enjoy a care-free day or enjoy some after-dark entertainment when the sun goes down. You can enjoy a drink or some light dining while you relax inside or relish in the scenic views of the resort’s lake and golf course on the outdoor deck.

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For those of your who need a bit more in the way of relaxation, the resort’s Spa and Salon will finish you with an afternoon or early evening (the spa closes at 8 pm Mon-Sat) of luxurious pampering, which includes massages, nail and body treatments, hair and makeup, spray tanning, etc. We had the pleasure in indulging in the Mount Airy Signature Massage which left our muscles feeling wonderfully relaxed and tension-free. The 55-min massage exactly what was needed to relieve the stress from the craziness of NYFW.

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Our weekend escape ended with a night full of fun-filled entertainment at the onsite nightclub, Gypsies Lounge, where we were treated to a night of Vietnamese pop music. The eye-catching nightclub offers a vast array of entertainment including singers, dance performances, comedy shows, and celebrity appearances and performances, as you sip on cocktails or dance the night away. Upcoming shows include Sinbad, Berlinda Carlisle, Gilbert Gottfried, Richard Marx, and Gary Owen.

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Those who prefer to enjoy their drinks on the gambling floor or are looking for a place to “pre-game” can do so at The Glass Bar, centrally located right in the middle of the Mount Airy Casino Resort floor. If you rather gamble on your golf game, the famed Mount Airy Golf Course will officially open for the season on March 21st, 2016. *Quick golf side note, the PGA of America celebrates its Centennial this year and a round or two of golf is a great way to not only enjoy the outdoors but playing the game has amazing health and wellness benefits. The Mount Airy course was inspired by Sports Illustrated’s “Best 18 Holes in America”, the course is known for its distance drives and 6,500 yards of manicured greens.

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Before and/or after your golf game, relax in the Mount Airy course’s clubhouse, Drinks & Links, and the Golf Pro Shop. Enjoy the clubhouse’s full-service bar, restaurant and lounge amenities: outdoor deck overlooking the Pocono Mountains, state-of-the-art locker room, and shower facility, and the pro shop’s full selection of apparel, clubs and accessories, book a golf lesson or a group outing, or just do like we did and just enjoy walking the grounds taking in its beauty.

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We truly enjoyed our weekend at the Mount Airy Casino Resort, it was a wonderful experience. We can’t wait to revisit the resort again sometime during the summer to either enjoy their July 4th festivities or one of their outdoor celebrity concerts. If you’re planning on any weekend getaways or extended trips away, we recommend adding the Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos Mountains. Whether you’re a gambler, golfer, or foodie, you’ll enjoy every moment.

Untagged Photos courtesy of Mount Airy Casino Resort

 

Restaurant Review: Fromage Garage Grill Shop & Belly Repair

Welcome fellow foodies, to another culinary discovery and adventure with my partner in good food, David White. Today’s restaurant review takes us to Brooklyn, to indulge in Fromage Garage Grill Shop & Belly Repair, which promises (and delivers) “suped up grill cheese sandwiches”. Join us as we journey through some of the many offerings from this mechanic’s garage-themed eatery, located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at 441 Metropolitan Avenue.

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For those who may think there’s nothing revolutionary about grilled cheese sandwiches, get ready to have your mind blown away, and for those who like things their way, you will love the overall concept of Fromage Garage. You can either enjoy many of the dishes available on the menu as is or you customize items like your salads and grilled cheese sandwiches and make them as epic as you want. Let’s begin our food journey with the first course.

SMOKY & EL BANDIDO: 1ST COURSE

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David: A smoked gouda round served with chickpea basil pesto and a balsamic reduction, EVOO, tomato, and arugula. The flavor was a nice marriage of salty with a touch of sweet along with a nice balance of the smoky grilled cheese with the freshness of tomato, pesto, and fresh greens. The familiar acidity of the balsamic reduction rounded off the intense flavor profile with a nice tart edge.

Glasgow: I loved many things about this first course which boasted both an elegant and rustic look. I loved the savory aspect of the warmed gouda round, chickpea basil pesto, and smokiness, and the added hint of sweetness is what really got my eyes rolling back in complete enjoyment. This was the perfect starter to begin the night with.

GREEN MACHINE MIXED GREENS SALAD: 2ND COURSE

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David: An easy but fresh and clean salad that worked well with or without the addition of cheese. The kale, avocado, carrots, roasted red peppers, chickpeas, and sesame ginger dressing created satisfying proof that with the right accompaniments, kale is a wonderful buoyant green. The textures were perfect together.

Glasgow: You salad, or Green Machine, can be customized how you want it. You begin with a selection of Kale, Spinach, Arugula or a mix of all, then choose your Parts (you can select up to 5 parts from the list of 19), such as avocado, mushroom medley, roasted red peppers, various meats, caramelized onions, etc, then you top it off with your Lubricant (salad dressing). This non-kale fan was head over heels for this salad (I usually stay away from anything that even hints at the word Kale), and our custom Green Machine was especially amazing with the Ginger Sesame dressing.

TIMING BELT & FUEL INJECTION GRILLED CHEESE W/ KALE POTATO DIP/SOUP: 3RD COURSE

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David: Next I sampled the Timing BeLT, a medley of cheddar, chive butter, kale, tomato, chipotle mayo and bacon on brioche. This was also a great dipping sandwich as the zesty blends of spicy and salty made harmonious culinary magic together for a provocative and very satisfying flavor profile. The salty smoky perfect bacon, the sharpness of the cheddar, the crunch of the kale and the creaminess of the butter were textural delights together.

Glasgow: As stated above, you can customize your grilled cheese but we decided to go with one of Fromage Garage’s custom builds already on the menu. I too wanted to see how the owner, Eddy, could rev up the traditional BLT, and he did not disappoint. First we must note, all of Fromage Garage’s breads are made in-house (with a gluten-free option), our Timing BeLT boasted cheddar, chive butter, kale, tomato, chipotle mayo, and bacon on crispy, buttery brioche bread. I for one will never go back to an ordinary BLT, not when this exists.

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David: I found the soup of the day to be a great half of the grown and hearty remix to the soup and sandwich pairing. Kale and potato with a hint of ginger, was it? It was perfect for dipping my Fuel Injection Grilled Cheese Sandwich, a combination of gouda and fontina with scallion butter, ham spinach, tomato jam and truffle oil on brioche. This was a delicate Latin sandwich that reminded me of the Croque Monsieur with the perfect blend of smoky gouda and aromatic fontina grilled with ham and spinach for a delicate and comforting flavor. The tomato jam and the truffle oil brought in an earthy almost herbal flavor to seal the deal.

Glasgow: The soup/dipping sauce has to be commented on separately because it deserves it’s open separate praise. As I’ve stated, not much of a Kale fan, but I found myself devouring this delicious Kale Potato Soup/dipping sauce. It actually reminded me of a Caribbean dish that originated in West Africa called Callaloo, a very thick leafy soup that I thoroughly enjoyed during my childhood. I love a dish that brings back happy memories. I could eat several full bowls of this delicious soup.

DESSERTS

Dessert fans should run (or drive), don’t walk to Fromage Garage, if only to indulge in their sweet tooth offerings. whether there’s room for dessert, trust us when we say, make room!

TRES GREASE MONKEYS

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David: I thoroughly enjoyed Eddy’s remix of the Dominican tres leches cake made with grilled brioche and tres leches creme. The addition of the pineapple and guava jams were just the perfect touch of island sweetness for the creamy cheeses and warm soft bread

Glasgow: I’ve never heard of a grilled Dominican Sponge Cake or of anyone grilling a Tres Leches cake….until now! Eddy’s interpretation of the traditional Tres Leches Cake was phenomenal. from the first bite to the last, down to the additional drops of milk and the tropical fruit jam, it was divine.

DON EDDY

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David: Talk about sweet and creamy. As the gooey sweet dulce de leche, tart and sweet mascarpone and sweet fruit chutney slid down my throat I had sweet tooth nirvana anchored by the soft chewy bite of the perfectly grilled brioche.

Glasgow: As you can expect from a restaurant that’s all about grilled cheese, one of our favorite desserts naturally involved cheese, Mascarpone to be exact. The Don Eddy was the perfect amount of sweet and creamy. I loved the addition of the sweet fruit chutney, taking the side dish and putting it on display. Once again, I was delighted to see those telltale grill marks on my brioche.

EL GOMERO

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David: It was hard to choose a favorite dessert but this was it. The guava paste with the citrus zest was pure island delightfulness. Then when paired with the cream cheese, it was like dessert meets breakfast chewy bread and the cream cheese just melted orgasmically together with the citrus for an explosive flavor profile.

Glasgow: For those who want a little island style, let this the guava paste, and citrus zest cream cheese in this El Gomero satisfy your palate with its refreshing burst of flavor. You won’t want any bite go to waste.

THE SETTING

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David: Eddy at Fromage Garage must’ve taken inspiration from the rise of the boutique experience that’s been taking over department stores and quaint little streets everywhere from Bushwick to SoBro. Fromage Garage’s layout was a kitchy and intensely charming homage to Eddy’s pop who was a mechanic. While waiting with the heady aromas of grilling cheese in the air, I found myself constantly catching some interesting way in which he linked the idea of his love of grilling with the love of his dad and his profession.

Glasgow: Inspired by his father, Eddy Fontana created Fromage Garage as an homage to his father, who was a Mechanical, Civil and Structural Engineer, whose image is the first thing you see as you enter the restroom. Everything from the decor to the music playing is exactly what you’d expect to see and hear at a garage. We were quite impressed ith the small details, such as the drum sink and truck side mirror in the bathroom, the cogs, and gears cemented into the counter, the wall of license plates, the tires, and garage lights hanging overhead, the mechanic shirt uniforms, and the windshield sneeze guard.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Glasgow: Thanks to Eddy and the delicious menu at Fromage garage, I have learned that I don’t hate Kale, I just hadn’t had it served so deliciously before. I also know that a truly amazing meal can bring back wonderful childhood memories and that grilled cheese sandwiches are no longer just for kids. I will be back for brunch. We hope to have inspired you to take a visit to Fromage Garage Grill Shop & Belly Repair.
Fromage Garage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Village Voice Announces 9th Annual Choice Eats Tasting Event**UPDATE*”*

Hello, fellow foodies! Are you ready to go on another great Village Voice food journey? The Village Voice just announced it’s 9th Annual Choice Eats tasting event, taking place on Friday, March 11th. Are you ready to feast on cuisines from over 35 nations, including Vietnamese, Italian, Uzbekistani, Brazilian, Cambodian, Russian, Tunisian, Greek, and Cajun, Creole and many more? Keep reading for more information on what is sure to be another great event filled with foodie delights.

Village Voice Announces 9th Annual 'Choice Eats' Tasting Event

The tasting event will feature an array of 50+ handpicked restaurants from all five New York City boroughs, and will take place from 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM at the Metropolitan Pavilion, located at 125 W. 18th St. As of today 29 restaurants have signed on to share their delicacies with attendees, including Ample Hills Creamery, Awadh, Broken Spoke Rotisserie, Calle Dao, Doughnut Plant, Egg, El Quinto Pino, Emmy Squared, Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue, Fonda, Genuine Superette, The Handpulled Noodle, ilili Restaurant, Kuma Inn, Le Fond, Luke’s Lobster, Mable’s Smokehouse, The Meatball Shop, Meat Hook Sandwich Shop, No. 7 Veggie, Queens Comfort, Raclette, Robicelli’s, Socarrat Paella Bar, StreetsBK, Swine, Veselka Restaurant, Victory Garden, Xe May Sandwich Shop, with many more to be announced.

As always, Choice Eats events feature three tiers of ticket options – General Admission tickets ($70.00), Early Entry tickets ($85.00), and VIP tickets ($99.00). All guests will have the opportunity to indulge in the best dishes from restaurants the Village Voice has reviewed and heralded, along with complimentary craft beer pairings, wine and liquor beverages. All Early Entry tickets allow guests to get a half hour head start on tasting and sipping. The VIP ticket will allow guests admission to the full event one hour early, with access to a private VIP Lounge that will feature a private bar, restrooms, snacks, and an exclusive VIP gift bag per person. For more details on this year’s event, and the three ticket options, head over to www.villagevoice.com/ChoiceEats.

As always, the Village Voice will once again partner with a great charitable organization. This year marks their 8th year working with the non-profit organization Slow Food NYC as the charitable partner of Choice Eats, and as before, a portion of proceeds will be shared with Slow Food NYC. So come one and all to savor the various flavors and foods that will be available at the Village Voice 9th Annual Choice Eats Tasting Event, hope to see you there.

**UPDATE**: Twenty-four new restaurants have been added to the growing list of participating restaurants including: Bara, The Black Ant, Black Tree, BOOMWICH, Breads Bakery, Brooklyn Bread Lab, Flinders Lane, Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co., Irvington Bar + Restaurant, Kailash Parbat, Loi Estiatorio, Luzzo’s La Pizza Napoletana, Maima’s Liberian Bistro, Mexico Lindo, Obica Mozzarella Bar, Ofrenda Cocina Mexicana, Osteria Cotta, Papa’s Kitchen, Quality Eats, Schaller Stube, Sigmund’s Pretzels, Spicy Bampa, Sweet Generation, and Thai Rock.

Restaurant Review: La Gringa Taqueria

We are back with another restaurant review, and this time, we make a short trip to a Mexican foodie haven known as La Gringa Taqueria, a Cali-style Mexican restaurant that offers delicious fresh food, awesome events, and free activities, mainly in their Brooklyn location, soon to be available in their West Village location, which is where we dined on this evening. The West village is the second location of La Gringa Taqueria (seconds away from the Christopher street/1 train station, at 82 Christopher Street), the first and most known being the Williamsburg, Brooklyn location. If you’ve ever found yourself traveling outside your borough and trekking to Brooklyn to partake in La Gringa’s delights, know that there is a location closer to you. Let’s get to know the West Village location, shall we!

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My contributing writer, David and I wanted to fully enjoy the entire experience from beginning to end, and that included enjoying a few drinks before we begun our foodgasm journey. While La Gringa does offer Margaritas, and a variety of  Mexican brewed beers, we didn’t want alcohol to alter the taste of our meal (of course we must go back for those margaritas), so we indulged in only non-alcoholic beverages for the night.

DRINKS AND BEVERAGES

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David: I had a Mexican coke. Remember in the 80’s, I may be dating myself when those awesome Coke commercial featured people quenching their thirst with a cold-sweating tall glass bottle of Coke? Well before this country got all penny pinching on us, Coke was made with real sugar and they still make it like that in Mexico, hence the moniker of Mexican Coke. And you really do taste the difference between real sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

Glasgow: Remember that scene in Forest Gump when he had 15 or so Dr. Peppers at the White House? That was me with the Mexican Coca-Cola. I grew up drinking sodas (including Coke, and Sprite) sweetened with sugar cane instead of the Aspartame Coke is now sweetened with, and trust me when we say it tastes infinitely better. I happily overindulged in my favorite childhood soda, and only took one brief break to enjoy a Tamarind Jarritos. As I’m writing this, I could go for one or two Mexican Coca-Colas.

GRILLED CHICKEN NACHOS – 1ST COURSE

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Glasgow: There are nachos and then there are La Gringa Taqueria Nachos!! If you’re looking for layers upon layers of deliciousness, you should absolutely have this uber-layered delight with orgasm levels of foodie pleasure in every bite. We opted for the grilled chicken Nachos, a delight to the palate and senses. Preparation of this dish is both a visual and aromatic thrill. Aside from the crisp corn chips layered with succulent meat, fresh pico de gallo, black beans, and sweet plantains, the final touch included a topping of torch melted Monterrey jack cheese that added a rustic roasted/charred taste from the flambé torch. I’m so happy I chose this as my meal starter. Check out some video of my nachos getting the flambé torch treatment.

BURRITO – 2ND COURSE 

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David (Pulled Pork Burrito): Take all the flavors south of the border and wrap it in a warm tortilla. The steak was seasoned with just enough salt and spices. Meanwhile, the seasoned rice, black beans, tomatoes, cheese, special tomatillo sauce and my favorite addition of sweet plantains all served to not overpower the wonderful pork but complement it with an explosive flavor profile that was hearty and satisfying.

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Glasgow (Steak Burrito): Never again will I be laissez-faire about my steak burrito or any burrito for that matter. The eruption of flavor I enjoyed while devouring the wonderful combination of perfectly seasoned steak, yellow rice, and sweet plantain (a surprising and very welcome touch of sweetness which paired perfectly with the hot Picante sauce I topped the whole thing with), made me see the light of what a delicious burrito should taste like. I’ll be forever under its delicious spell.

STEAK QUESADILLA – 3RD COURSE 

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David: There’s something about beef with Mexican seasoning that just marries so well together. When the mounds of fresh queso were added it was kismet, but the topper was the winner. The preparer used a blowtorch to melt the layers of cheese down to gooey perfection that ran in between the layer of steak with lovely melted ease. When topped with a spicy fire-roasted Picante sauce and the other warm tortilla I knew the flavor would be simple yet impacting, and it was. The hot sauce mingled perfectly with the warm seasoned steak and the smokiness of the fresh-torched cheese unified all the flavors together in holy matrimony. Another simple but flavorful dish that tasted familiar and satisfying.

THE SETTING

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David: So tucked away on an infamous but quiet street in the West Village is the really quaint little taqueria spot called La Gringa. As soon as you enter it feels like you’re about to have some authenticity going on with the menu. The walls were ornately decorated with a mural-sized painting of Mexican motifs and popular symbolic figures in full, and I must say pretty amazing, vivid color. It was really a page torn out of Mexico City with the rustic tables the array of colors and of particular note, the bottle opener at the front of the establishment that was kind of like a nod to “hey its old fashioned and rustic here, we give you authentic and not mass produced, so you can open your own bottle and not be dismayed by a syrupy fountain soda.

Glasgow: I love quaint restaurant locations. I always find that small or “hole in the wall” locations have the best food, and I wasn’t disappointed at La Gringa Taqueria. I sometimes find restaurants in the village a bit watered-down, so it was great to see this beacon of refreshing artistic pleasure. The interior is alive with the wonderful work of local mural artist, Danielle Mastrion, who perfectly captured the essence of the Day of the Dead in her artwork for La Gringa. It also boasts rustic wood tables, chairs, and benches curated by the owner, and a sense of being tucked away, which made La Gringa feel homey. Customers are not rushed and we got the sense of being welcomed for hours. It’s a great place to escape and savor your meal.

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All in all, it was a fantastic gastronomy experience that I hope to indulge in again very soon. We advise anyone who’s not familiar to get acquainted asap. For those who have been to La Gringa Taqueria, what was your favorite dish?

 

La Gringa Taqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Review: Ornella Trattoria Italiana

The restaurant girls are back once again to bring you our tales of foodie adventures. in this restaurant review, Christine Ongsueng, and I are traveled all the way to Astoria, Queens (okay the trip out there wasn’t that bad), to bring you our review of Ornella Trattoria Italiana, a fine dining regional Italian restaurant which offers innovative dishes, organic ingredients, recipes passed down from generations, and pasta dishes which boasts pasta made fresh on site.

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Our host for the evening was none other than Ornella Trattoria Italiana‘s owner Giuseppe Viterale, a man who truly loves and appreciates food, and loves sharing stories about the history of food, tips and tricks, and his favorite dish (Pasta Fagioli), and of course, regaling his customers on what they’re eating. We learned more about Italian cooking in one evening than I’ve ever known in my entire life.

Aperitif – Negroni Cocktail

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Chris: What a wake-up call to the taste buds! This aperitif was too spirited for me but then again I’m a lightweight who is also not into spiced grapefruit drinks though one swig was all it took to shake my bleary eyes open and ready my appetite.

Glasgow: This traditional Italian cocktail featured three things I am not a fan of: Campari. I’m not a fan of bitter cocktails but as Chris stated, it certainly woke up my taste buds and did pep me up. Funny enough I grew up in a house where Campari was the norm, my family would absolutely berate me for not finishing this aperitif.

Burrata – 1st Course

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Chris: The perfect starter: soft and creamy burrata, prosciutto, and peach slices with some balsamic reduction sauce. I would have been happy with just the prosciutto and the burrata, but the peach slices were a refreshing bonus! The balsamic reduction was also noteworthy because it added to the complementing lightness of the peach.

Glasgow: I’ve always loved the combination of savory and sweet, especially when the sweet part is light. Giuseppe sometimes likes to go off-menu, something I end up enjoying all evening. This dish traditionally is “fresh mozzarella filled with creamy ricotta ovearugolla with tomato & spiced walnuts”, but as you can see he paired it with peach slices and prosciutto turning it into a perfect seasonal starter.

Bruschetta di NDUJA

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Glasgow: I consider this part of the first course only because they were brought out around the same time but this simple, different take on bruschetta was a welcomed starter. I’m usually fighting to keep the tomato on the bread whenever I take a bite on traditional bruschetta, it was nice not to have to do so, and the incorporation of spicy sausage (don’t worry its not too spicy), is a delicious addition.

Orecchiette – 2nd Course

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Chris: With the overwhelming heat and humidity of summer, one does not always want to eat heavy meals. The summer pasta was the unexpectedly perfect dish for this sweltering season. I know what you’re thinking– pasta is a heavy food, but when you have the right proportion of savory and fruity, then it becomes a delectable summer dish. And yes, that was just another curveball thrown at you– fruit in pasta– a cantaloupe to be exact. Trust me– it sounds weird, but it works. Pasta in the shape of shells, mixed with prosciutto, and cantaloupe topped off with grated cheese makes for a light balance of sweet, salty, and juicy. The seemingly opposing flavors just melds together in a symphony of tastes.

Glasgow: Another wonderful trip off-menu, Giuseppe took the wonderful, vegetarian Orecchiette con RABE dish and “summer-ized” it. Switching out the broccoli rabe and sundried tomato for prosciutto and lightly sweet and crisp cantaloupe, not only has he lightened up the pasta dish to levels even dieters can rejoice, he’s added a new flavor element and created a perfect, light, summer dish that I’d personally enthusiastically eat for lunch and dinner every day. Deliciousness abounds with and without grated cheese.

Pasta di Castagna aka Chestnut Pasta – 3rd Course

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Chris: Yes as in the ones roasting in an open fire. This is definitely something very different. I happen to love Chestnuts and turning it into the flour for the pasta is nothing short of genius. Sweet and earthy, this is a unique dish to be experienced. You’ll be surprised at first because a heavy nutty essence is not something you associate with for a pasta dish but after a couple of more mouthfuls, your mouth will delight in its fascinatingly complex taste.

Glasgow: Have you ever eaten something so delicious, that your body reacts so very pleasurably, with involuntary actions like eye twitching? That is what happened to me when I had my first forkful of this incredibly rich, decadent pasta. If you’re a fan of pasta with a creamy, slightly sweet distinctive taste, this gluten-free, grayish pasta made from ground chestnuts is for you. For those of you with celiac disease or other gluten intolerances and allergies, run, don’t walk to Ornella Trattoria and order a plate for yourself. You will dream about the creamy pistachio sauce peppered with truffle oil, and may find yourself asking your table-mate if they’re going to finish theirs….they will…you might as well order an extra.

Pizzoccheri aka Buckwheat Pasta – 4th Course

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Chris: Pasta wise, I did not think anything could top off the Chestnut, but after this was placed before me and I got a taste of it, I had a new favorite. While this does not stray too far from what one thinks pastas could be made out of, it is still a different take on pasta making tradition.The buckwheat flour turned into wide flavorful ribbons mixed in with garlic, olive oil, and roasted potatoes is the perfect combination of hearty, healthy, and heavenly.

Glasgow: an incredibly delicious pasta, no doubt, but my taste buds were already under the spell of the Chestnut Pasta. This makes another great option for those that are on a gluten-free diet since the flour is made out of ground whole grain buckwheat. The dish is a medley of flavors and textures thanks to its potatoes, cabbage, and Fontina cheese. I believe if I hadn’t tried the Pasta di Castagna, this would’ve surely been my favorite pasta dish.

Tenderloin Pork with Tuna – 5th Course

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Chris: Yet another creative concoction that sounds unusually opposing at first but actually works. Thin slices of lean pork tenderloins served as a base for tuna topped with olives. The “other white meat,” i.e. the pork, provided for a more solid structure and balance for the soft tuna.

Glasgow: This was an interesting break in the meal and something not on the menu. You may think it strange at first to have these two proteins together, but it actually worked. I believe this dish to be a spin on vitello tonnato, which is veal with tuna sauce. The tuna, (served as a thick sauce on top of cold, thin-sliced pork) of course dominated the palate but I found it refreshing as a summer dish.

Duck Meatballs – 6th Course

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Chris: I’m usually skeptical when I hear people are really into something, because it is usually a silly fashion trend or a hybrid of breakfast pastries, but the exception is duck meatballs. Everyone and anyone who has ever tasted them will start proselytizing about this amazing amazing AMAZING creation. I am a big fan of duck to begin with, and have had them in many different ways, but I have never tasted them quite like this. There are no words to explain the sheer orgasmic joy of biting into one of these orbs of culinary perfection (no, really it was an out of body experience as witnessed by fellow blogger Lucky Seven Ten. Made with a blend of mozarella, fontina, ricotta, and raisins plunged into a brandy based sauce, I was easily converted and will be singing its praises for as long as I live.

Glasgow: This was the dish I was really looking forward to trying. Ornella is famous for their Duck Meatballs and after one bite, you will see…eh…taste why. When you’re ordering that extra plate of Chestnut Pasta to go, make sure you do the same with the Duck Meatballs. I’m not at all ashamed to say, I heartily ate and took home, these sweet mounds of juicy duck, filled with various cheeses, and immersed in a divine raisins and brandy-based sauce. DAMN it’s delicious. It may ruin you for other dishes. I think I floated on air and my eyes, along with several others) rolled into the back of our heads in this trip to foodie heaven. This is a dish that would convert a vegetarian, that’s how delicious it is.

Sgroppino – Last Cocktail

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Chris: Now this is how every meal should end. Traditionally made with limoncello and sorbet, Giuseppe yet again improved on something already in existence when he noticed that the sorbet and the vodka tended to separate like oil and water. So instead of sorbet, he used lemon Italian ice. He then mixed in vodka and a splash of white wine for a light and refreshing end to a parade of deliciousness.

Glasgow: After so many courses, naturally we had no room for dessert, so Giuseppe offered this perfect palate cleanser and finisher for the hot summer night. To say this drink was delicious and refreshing is an understatement. Very much a sophisticated slushy, the combination of Italian Lemon Ice (Lemon Granita), vodka, and white wine, seems tailor-made for the season.

The Setting

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Chris: So let’s get this out of the way– yes, it’s in Queens (completely coming from a staunch Manhattanite). But it’s completely worth the trip and it’s only Astoria. Astoria’s been one of those up and coming neighborhoods for a while now so there’s been an expected outcropping of popular eateries. But the unassuming facade of Ornella makes you almost walk right past it and makes it all the more exciting. Like most of the things we love about the restaurants we review, it’s a hidden gem. I love that it no longer conforms to the restaurant trope of having an overpowering awning or fancy lettering– just a hand painted sign that is both mysterious and inviting. What lies inside is the soul of a home. The trattoria is long and quaint with soft lighting and red drapes hanging from the ceiling, made to make you feel like you’re dining al fresco in the middle of a remote Italian village. The owner and culinary mastermind, Giuseppe Viterale, welcomed us, along with a few other foodies, warmly and treated us like we were family. We were not only given delicious plates of food to consume, but we were also fed bits of history and philosophy. With each dish came a background story on the evolution of Italian cuisine or how Giuseppe creatively enhanced a particular dish before us.

Glasgow: Getting to Astoria from New Jersey is one heck of a trip but I’d gladly do it over and over again to re-experience any of this wonderful meal lineup. The homey outside may look small, but it gives way to a long interior that’s both intimate and rustic. From the soft glow of the overhead lamps, to the draping red ceiling panels, wall decor of and Italian garden, and the open arms of the staff, we felt completely at home, almost as if we were enjoying a family dinner in Naples. I must also make note of the one kinds funny aspect of the restaurant. Giuseppe has plastered his restrooms with all the negative yelp reviews and his sometimes hilarious responses .

Overall and Final Thoughts

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Chris: Wherever you hail from, make the trek to Ornella Trattoria. Bring a date, bring a friend, bring the entire family to a truly unique dining experience. Be forewarned, if you’re expecting the typical Italian fare of spaghetti and meatballs, stick to Little Italy. Come here with an open mind to try something new that your palette and stomach will be all the better for. While Ornella is rooted in tradition it is also a pioneer in ingenuity, mixing and enhancing flavors to create new and exciting dishes; which, as Giuseppe pointed out, can also be applied to life.

Glasgow: Go for the food, go for the knowledge, go for the incredibly service, go for the food (did we already say that?), you won’t be disappointed. Any restaurant that has a soup DJ (yes, they do), and an owner that’s as excited to tell you about the food as you are to eat it is a must! As Chris said, don’t come expecting your typical lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs, you won’t find it here. Instead you will find a delicious adventure that will leave you both sated and knowledgeable. After this experience, I find that it’s a wonderful thing to learn more about what you’re about to eat, it makes you enjoy your meal more.

 

Ornella Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Review: La Pulperia Coctelería and Rustic Latin Restaurant

My blogger buddy, Christine Ongsueng, and I are back again to review a new restaurant. This time, we give our take on a little hidden Latin gem, La Pulperia NYC, nestled just off 8th avenue on the restaurant-heavy 46th street. We thought we knew what to expect from this exotic hideaway that seats 60, but we were more than pleasantly surprised by the menu, service, and entire experience of La Pulperia. Fellow foodies will love this Coctelería and Rustic Latin cuisine. Named for the general stores found throughout South America, Chef/Owner Carlos Barroz, and Victor Medina combine Latin America’s simple culinary refinement, with Spanish and Italian influences to exquisite results, many of which are vegan, and Gluten-free. For our review, we were set to indulge in their amazing 5-Course Chef Tasting Menu, which is available for $50.00 (they also offer a 3-Course Tasting Menu for $35.00). Read on for a detailed account of our heavenly experience.
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First Round of Cocktails

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Carlos Gardel Cocktail

Chris: It’s as if they knew a caffeine fiend was going to dine with them, the first cocktail we tasted was a Yerba Mate based drink with orange juice and Spanish vodka. This also came with a bit of a fiery presentation — the waiter singed the orange peel above the drink to release the citrusy sweet essence. Creamy, woodsy, and spiced, this drink was definitely a unique experience.

Glasgow: Talk about a pick me up! If you happen to be the victim of a rough day that has worn you out, and you need a burst of energy, let the combination of Black Tea from Argentina, Caffeine, Orange Juice, and other ingredients that make up this unique cocktail, lift not only your spirit, but your energy as well.

La Tuna Cocktail

Chris: The next cocktail was a matcha-based spiced drink made with Pisco, agave nectar, prickly pear, and cinnamon. I imagine this is what retired sea captains drink to reminisce about their adventures. The masculine smokiness of the drink was balanced by the refreshing nature of the prickly pear, but it was still something to be sipped and savored…at least to a lightweight like me.

Glasgow: It’s like they made this cocktail according to my personality, a touch of sweetness, a bit of freshness, and a little spice. This pink concoction was as delicious as it was pretty (I almost didn’t want to disturb the decorative swirl, but one sip made that feeling disappear quite quickly). I love a sweet cocktail and this sophisticated pink cocktail, which immediately made me think of hibiscus flowers and strawberry puree took me on a mental trip to the islands.

Salmon Brûlée – 1st Course

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Chris: Brulees are not just for dessert. The salmon tartare is at the heart of this seemingly delicate plate. Tartares are usually served alone and naked and often leave that fishy aftertaste. However, this particular dish perfectly combined the savory with the sweet. Balancing the rich savory flavor of the salmon with strawberries and cream elevated your taste buds to new heights.

Glasgow: The only Brulee I’ve ever enjoyed as a creme…as in dessert and never thought it could be anything but that. I was so happy to be proven wrong with this sweet and savory first course. It may look very much like a dessert but this combination of cream cheese, strawberries, Salmon tartare, and ginger Leche de Tigre, (not a tiger’s milk as the name translates, rather it’s a citrus-based marinade that cures seafood in ceviche dishes), hit the perfect note, much like the first note of your favorite song.

Lobster Taquitos – 2nd Course

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Chris: Lobsters in tacos I’m sure are a thing, but I guarantee you’ve never had them like this. Chunks of Maine lobsters mixed with avocado cream sauce, citrus juice, grilled pineapple, and a hint of Japanese mayo is a culinary excursion amidst bite sized taco shells. I usually shy away from anything spicy and by shy away I really mean run away crying and screaming from the scene but this time, I was surprised at how much I loved the little kick of spice in the tacos. It wasn’t so spicy that it overwhelmed the palette but more like a subtle emergence that lingered awhile before the wave of juicy sweetness from the pineapple took over.

Glasgow: I used the think the world started and ended with fish tacos, but those thoughts are long gone after devouring this delicious second course. Boasting a crispy wonton shell, stuffed with the creamy avocado sauce, fresh Maine Lobster, grilled pineapple, Cilantro and the spicy Kewpie mayo, I know I’ll never go back to regular fish tacos. This dish is what I imagine eating at an open beach-side restaurant. I loved its fresh, tangy, sweet and refreshing taste, it settled with a very smooth and subtle kick.

Second Round of Cocktails

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Smoky Room Cocktail

Chris: In a past life, I was the proverbial old man by the sea… And this was my drink of choice. Mezcal, rum, tequila, and passion fruit are blended together for a deeply intriguing taste with hint of smokiness. The Mezcal and tequila are softly balanced by the splash of passion fruit, making it just the right amount of sweet.

Glasgow: The first of what I refer to as the dark and stormy cocktails. I, like Chris, also imagine men on the sea. I imagine this is to be a brew Pirates would enjoy after braving a storm on the high seas. It featured passion fruit, a tangy and tart fruit juice, that when combined with the Mezcal, put some hair on your chest so to speak and lit a fire in your belly. If you love your cocktail with a bit of a bite, this is a must.

Chilango Cocktail

Chris: This drink perfectly sums up the island life. The special ingredient, tamarind, a sound fruit found in many tropical islands is the core of the margarita. To offset the tartness, mango and a hint of jalapeno gives this drink a sweet but spicy kick. Again, I was pretty surprised at how fond I was of this drink, despite its spicy element.

Glasgow: This second cocktail was even more robust than the Smoky Room, as least for me. If the first one put hair on your chest, the combination of tangy Tamarind, Jalapeno, and red pepper in the Chilango will turn you into a werewolf. This is the cocktail that took me down and let me know it was king. I had no power left, and all I could do was submit. Be careful, this cocktail bites back, and you may find yourself ordering bread to satisfy it.

SIDE NOTE: Tipsy or not, we recommend ordering the hot, buttered grilled bread, just for its smokiness

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Squash and Crab Gnocchi – 3rd Course

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Chris: Like most people, I’ve always had gnocchi the traditional way, which was why I was a bit surprised that it can be made from squash. I happen to love squash and crab so this was already a winner in my book. And just like the previous dishes and cocktails, the tastes were far more complex than I thought. To go with the crab and squash were some spinach, sage, and cheese doused in brown butter sauce. Together, it made for a rich flavor explosion that blended together perfectly.

Glasgow: I, on the other hand, have enjoyed quite a few Gnocchi varieties, but none have come close to these bites of heaven, especially as I’ve never thought of myself as a fan of Butternut Squash. paired with crab, citrus brown butter, sage, and spinach, I officially became a fan of Butternut Squash, and fully addicted to this 3rd course.

BBQ Pacu Fish Ribs – 4th Course

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Chris: Given a choice between meat and fish, I’d almost always choose meat. Having been served fish that looked like ribs, I may have to rethink my natural impulses. The BBQ Fish Ribs were absolutely magnificent. The fish was Pacu, a cousin to the Piranha (thanks Animal Planet!), was arranged in a wood slab slathered with chipotle sauce and topped off with mandarin oranges. It was melt-off the bones grilled goodness that was quite juicy and zesty.

Glasgow: If anyone ever asked me why I love fish, I would set a plate of this unworldly delicious dish and say “this dish is my reasons 1-10 why I love fish” and reasons 1-5 would just be my eyes rolling into the back of my head in utter pleasure. The taste is beyond divine, it is orgasmic. It boasts the smokiness, aroma and sweetness of award-winning BBQ, thanks to its orange chipotle BBQ sauce, and “meatiness” of the fish. As Chris stated the Pacu is cousin to the Piranha, and while she told me about the Animal Planet episode, all I could think of was….“damn, I could go for another round or two of BBQ Pacu”. It’s almost unreal that something can be that delicious.

Hangar Steak – 5th Course

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Chris: And then there was the meat. To end a night of fusion seafood, we had an amazingly delectable hangar steak. We ordered it medium rare and it came with Potatoes Au Gratin, and pickled eggplant and cauliflower. I loved that the sides were not the typical heavy starches.The vinegar infused vegetables went perfectly well with the mouthwatering steak topped off with some chimichurri sauce. Tender, juicy, and packed with a lot of flavor, the hangar steak was divinely done.

Glasgow: Because one image isn’t enough to do it justice, I’ve added three so you can get a better understanding at the succulence of this cut of meat that was cooked to perfection and paired with side dishes that were matched as if by divine decree. The steak was incredibly tender, and bursting with juiciness. It was the perfect end to an immaculate meal.

The Setting

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Chris: Deep within the restaurant strata of the theater district, among all the big named chain restaurants and eateries that tout a marquee as big as some of the Broadway productions, lies a small almost missable hallway of a place packed with so much thought, flavor, and heart. La Pulperia feels like a true New Yorker’s secret spot. A long bar area greets you as you walk in, the rest of the decor is what I endearingly call rustic nautical– filled with worn wood and the ceiling bedecked in ropes and bulbs makes you feel like you’ve been invited into the hull of a well-voyaged ship to have dinner with the captain.

Glasgow: You can get lost in time at La Pulperia. The intimate lighting (courtesy of the brass lamps with Edison bulbs that hang from the ceiling), decadent aromas, and rustic decor (it features handcrafted floor tiles from Mexico, and reclaimed wood from Brazil on the ceiling and walls), will enchant you to remain in your seat, and that is completely fine. while there, you will find there is nowhere else you’d want to be. it’s the perfect setting for dates, be they first, second, or twentieth. If you find yourself not hungry (although the aromas will change your mind), the restaurant boasts a 12-seat, marble-topped bar where you can enjoy the above-mentioned cocktails, a many more from mixologist Jorge Velasco.

Bottom line:
If you’re craving something uniquely authentic, get thee to La Pulperia. As cheesy as this may sound, everything in this quaint restaurant was done with heart. The local, organic, farm to table focus isn’t pretentious; It exudes from the freshness of the dishes to the knowledge and warmth of the staff to the multicultural guests mingling at the bar and dancing by the live performer (which consisted of a woman on a keyboard passionately giving her own soulful spin to classic Spanish ballads to popular bossa nova tunes). Hospitable life and friendly faces abound in this small and intimate setting; which by the way, makes it a great date spot– not to mention that you’ll impress your date by finding such a hidden treasure in the heart of the city.

La Pulperia Hells Kitchen is located at 371 West 46th Street. Make a reservation for brunch or dinner by calling (212) 960-3176. You will thank us later.

 

La Pulperia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food on the Move | Village Voice’s Choice Streets Fourth Annual Food Trucks Event Recap

We discovered so many new favorite foods at the Village Voice’s Choice Streets Fourth Annual Food Trucks Event. Once again, it was food trucks galore as we descended upon the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Pier 86 on Cinco de Mayo. We were determined to beat our poor performance last year and enjoy as many food truck food varieties as we could. It literally was foodie heaven being surrounded by all these food trucks at Choice Streets. Sadly we didn’t meet our goal of surpassing last year’s count, but this time, it’s because the event was packed, much more than last year, with scores of more people waiting to enter and indulge in this gastronomical feast.
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Since the event was held on Cinco de Mayo, attendees were entertained with live music from Mariachi Flor de Toloache (pictured above), New York’s first and only all-female mariachi band. Before we began to indulge, we stopped in at the Bruce Cost Ginger Ale booth to arm ourselves with this delicious, and sparkling beverage made with fresh whole ginger that’s great for digestive comfort and our over indulgence.

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With disposable tray and Bruce Cost ginger ale in our hands, we began our foodie journey. Although they were not food trucks, we had to make a stop at Mofongo NY, who was there on behalf of Puerto Rico Tourism, serving up food so good, they had the longest line for the entire event (we easily waited an hour but it was so worth it), and the Whole Foods, who were sampling delicious Applegate Hotdogs.

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From there we went on to hitting the food trucks. Our first stop was to Korilla BBQ who offered three taco variations – Spicy Pork tacos, Chicken tacos, and Ribeye Tacos. We decided to go with the Ribeye Taco, which was so incredibly divine; the steak melted in your mouth and left you wanting more.

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Our next stop was to Sweet Chili and their peppery offering of Sriracha Fries Topped with Sweet and Spicy Sriracha and Sriracha Aioli.

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We’ve never been one for pepper, but the combination of sweet and spicy added some flavorful heat to our already delicious fries. From Sweet Chili, it was on to something a bit more sweet but equally savory. We heard so many great things about SnowDay‘s Grilled Cheese, we had to make it our next stop.

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This standout food truck offered their Signature Maple Grilled Cheese, which includes sharp cheddar, Shewolf Bakery sourdough, 100% pure NY State maple syrup, Smoked Pork Spare Rib with Maple Gastrique and Spring Slaw, and Maple Lemonade. Besides the Mofongo, this was easily our favorite dish of the night. Our next stop was to Big D’s Grub Truck, offering the nights’ most unique dish, Bangkok Basil Spicy Pork fried Rice with a Runny Egg on Top.

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This definitely made our top five favorite food experiences for the night, and if we were able to, we would’ve gone back for seconds. Of course by this time, we were already starting to feel the seams of our jeans, even with the overwhelming long lines, we were reaching our limit; with room for one for dish, and armed with more Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, we headed over to Domo Taco, and their 5 Spice Braised Pork Served on Toasted Corn Tortilla with Miso Slaw, Pico de Gallo, and Sesame Crema.

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There were several trucks we didn’t make it to either because the lines were too long or we had surpassed our limits but they definitely are worth mentioning, thanks to all the praises they received from other attendees. These amazing food trucks include Andy’s Italian Ices (offering guilt-less refreshment), Souvlaki Lady, Gorilla Cheese, Pizza Luca (offering Neapolitan pizza from the biggest oven we’ve ever seen), and Langos Truck, and are pictured below:

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Of course, we can’t have a hearty meals with a spirit or two to compliment the variety of cuisines. On hand to keep libations flowing were Barefoot Wines, New Amsterdam Vodka, and Rums of Puerto Rico, etc.

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As always we had a great time at the Choice Streets Fourth Annual Food Trucks Event, it truly is a food lover’s culinary fantasy. Tell us, have you ever been to Choice Streets, are any of these food trucks favorites of yours?

Village Voice Eighth Annual Choice Eats Tasting Event Recap

Foodies from around the tri-state area converged on the Metropolitan Pavilion to once again partake in the extraordinary gastronomy experience that was the Village Voice Eighth Annual “Choice Eats” Tasting Event. With well over 60 participating restaurants that were handpicked from all five NYC boroughs, Choice Eats did not disappoint attendees who enjoyed unlimited sampling of the restaurants’ best mouthwatering dishes, indulgent desserts, complimentary craft beer pairings, wine and liquor beverages. We had the pleasuring of once again attending this illustrious event and feasted as much as we could without going into a food coma. Our food journey started led us to old familiar favorites like The Kati Roll Company, Luke’s Lobster, Doughnut Plant, and Carlo’s Bakery, but we also discovered lots of new yummy loves as well. Join us in drooling over some of what we enjoyed.

[block]5[/block] – Tri Tip Pastrami w/ Horseradish Mustard & Scratchbread Rye

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[block]6[/block] – Seasoned Jerk Chicken w/ Festivals (Sweet Dumplings) w/ Homemade Spicy Jerk Sauce

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Delaware and Hudson – Sour Braised Beef Shortrib w/ Caramelized Onion Puree

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[block]8[/block] – Pig & Pickles

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We indulged in some many delicious fare that we had to take breaks and walk around in between sampling just to help our digestion efforts. This proved to be a wonderful plan, because we got to enjoy much more than we did at last year’s Choice Eats.

After indulging in the above savory dishes, it was time to move upstairs to surrender to a few decadent desserts and get to know the Choice Sweets section of the event. We devoured the delicious samples from Tate’s Bake Shop, Fay Da Bakery, Sugar Couture, Butter Lane, Luca & Bosco, Carlo’s Bakery, Doughnut Plant, Robicelli’s, and Butter & Scotch.

After we had our fill of desserts, we walked a bit more around the event capturing photos of the festivities, talking to fellow attendees, and enjoying a cocktail or two from the participating alcohol vendors

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Full food coma was achieved when we got home after the event and we wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world. Choice Eats is a must for foodies, or anyone who wants to discover new restaurants or flavors. You should add it to your “must-go-to” list immediately.