Category Archives: Food & Drink

MANday Feature: Father’s Day Gifts For The Budget-Conscious Feat. Cultivate Wines, HIT E-Cigars, & British Sterling Colognes

On June 15, 2014, we celebrate Father’s Day. Known as the day to give thanks and commemorate the fathers in our lives, folks often give elaborate gifts and experiences. But what about those that are a bit strapped for cash? We’ve rounded up a few affordable gifts that Dad is sure to appreciate. As  a note, all gifts on this list are under $25, so let’s get to it!

 

“The Gambler” Malbec 2011 by Cultivate Wines

A bottle of wine is always a nice treat for Dad. Cultivate Wines offers up a bold Malbec in “The Gambler”. The 90% Malbec, 10% Bonarda blend has a deep red color with a purple center, with a nose of olives, leather, strawberry. “The Gambler” can be purchased directly from the Cultivate Wines website.

Cost. $14.99


HIT Bold & Mild E-Cigars

Cigars, through the years, have been paired with men of a certain stature, encompassing the must lusted after leisure life. With varieties of Cuban cigars costing approximately $20 each, where is the alternative for those who want to treat Dad, but are strapped for cash? Enter HIT E-Cigars, an electronic cigar that fulfills the cigar smoking experience in a vape. Offered in a Mild variety containing 16 mg of nicotine, and a Bold variety containing 24 mg of nicotine. HIT E-Cigars can be purchased directly from the company website.

Cost: $21.oo


British Sterling H.I.M. ‘Private Stock’ & ‘Reserve’ Colognes

When it comes to a gift for Dad, or any other man in your life, you can never go wrong with a fragrance. Heritage brand British Sterling has revamped their image, and has launched a new a collection of colognes called “H.I.M.”. The ‘Private Stock’ and ‘Reserve’ fragrances are served up in sleek silver packaging, that Dad will appreciate. Here is the lowdown on the scents:

  • British Sterling H.I.M. ‘Reserve’ — a provocative oriental blend of fresh citruses, bold spices and sensual woods
  • British Sterling H.I.M. ‘Private Stock’ — which showcases fresh citruses  combined with crisp woods, aromatic spices and rich undertones

British Sterling H.I.M. colognes can be purchased at Walmart, in-store, or online here.

Cost: $24.99


We hope you dig our suggestions, and we wish the fathers in your life a very Happy Father’s Day in advance!

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Celebrate National Cognac Day With D’USSE De Leche Ice Cream by Mikey Likes It @ W Hotels New York!

Today, June 4th, is National Cognac Day. In celebration of the occasion we wanted to suggest a summer treat that blends the adult beverage with an unlikely sweet treat; ice cream! If you are in New York City, stop on over to one of the W Hotels where they have partnered with local ice cream company, Mikey Likes It Ice Cream, to offer patrons D’USSE De Leche ice cream all summer, through Labor Day.

“W is all about bringing its guests insider access to exclusive offerings they can’t experience anywhere else,” said Patrick Horstmann, General Manager of W New York – Downtown.  “We’re honored to offer D’USSE de Leche, combining our passion for cocktails and the finest luxury products into one delicious indulgence.”

Sounds yummy right? Head on over to W Hotels for more info, and enjoy today with a cognac sip, or in this case, bite. :)

*Photo courtesy of Lindsey Schwartz (JDC)

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#FoodieFriday: FOUR Magazine, “The World’s Best Food Magazine”, Launches #FOURUSA Edition

In the realm of food, it is so important to get an inside peek behind your favorite restaurants by learning the tales of the chefs themselves. FOUR Magazine, an international publication headquartered in the UK, touts themselves as “The World’s Best Magazine”, telling unique stories from the culinary field. The biannual publication currently has International, Germany, Italy and UK titles, and is on the heels of launching their inaugural US edition, #FOURUSA.

“At a time when the industry is rapidly evolving and pushing the boundaries of modern cuisine, #FOURUSA will deliver an insight into the best chefs, restaurants and cuisine across the country…” — Kerry Spencer, Editor in Chief of FOUR USA

The premiere issue of the mag features a profile on chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, NYC, “the US’s highest ranking chef on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Guide, appearing at No.4 in the 2014 list”, along with many other features to delight the discerning foodie.

Print edition available across the US from June 16, 2014.

Cost: $15

Digital edition available to download from iTunes now.

Pre-ordered copies of #FOURUSA can be purchased from FOUR’s subscription page.

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Take A Bite: Trust the Mustache, Otto’s Tacos are “Otto” This World

Tacos are such an interesting yet necessary delicacy, aren’t they?  When you find your favorite taco spot, that’s it.  There is no budging; that is your go-to destination when you are in a taco mood, day or night.  Oddly enough, after a few years as a New Yorker, I had yet to identify my own… until I got swooned by the tasty creations that are Otto’s Tacos.

Mushroom & Carnitas Tacos

Mushroom & Carnitas Tacos

Simplistic in description and boasting with originality, Otto’s Tacos takes the cake in taquerías.  All tacos offered are not more than a few bucks (maximum price is only $3.50!), and rightly so– two or three get the job of curbing hunger done.  The Mushroom (seen above) taco is topped with onions and cilantro, paired with their house-made marinade on a fresh corn tortilla they roll hourly themselves.  You can witness daily tortilla making in their open kitchen while you are at the cash register!  In case you are more of a carnivore, they offer Shrimp, Carne Asada, Chicken, and Carnitas (seen above) tacos that are all invigorating to the tastebuds.  The Carnitas (pictured above) taco is paired with their house made guacamole, which excites your tongue leaving you wanting more!

Ottos Tacos House Made Horchata

Ottos Tacos House Made Horchata

Not only do they offer some of the tastiest tacos in NYC, they also offer refreshers to quench your thirst including their signature Horchata.  Made fresh daily with the subtle spice you’d expect, this little #taquería is big in flavor and easy on the budget.  You can also round out your meal with a traditional Mexican treat– their house made Churros, which pair awesomely with the milk-based bebida.

Otto’s Tacos is a snack-lovers’ paradise hidden in the East Village, and well worth the travel.  A few blocks from the Astor Place (6) train stop, Otto’s Tacos also offers delivery and catering options.  Next time you are in a rush for a quick bite, treat yourself to this amazing LA-inspired taqueria!

*Visit them on TwitterFacebook, and share your favorite taco flavors on Instagram!*

Otto's Tacos Website

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MANday Exclusive: Frank Billini of La Lucha Chats Life, Business, & Mexican Food!

Frank Billini of La Lucha

Frank Billini of La Lucha in the restaurant

Growing up in a family with a background in entertainment, and following that in many aspects of his life currently, being a partner in an increasingly popular Mexican restaurant in New York City’s East Village neighborhood may not have been the expected route for Frank Billini.

We stopped by La Lucha to chat with our friend Frank, to get the lowdown on the story behind the eatery, and what we can expect in the not-too-distant future.

Tell us about the story behind La Lucha, and the wrestling theme of the restaurant.

My dad was a wrestler, and from the age of eight years old he used to lie to his family to be in this wrestling league. He really loved it and was really good at it. He used to fight older people. Imagine being 8 and fighting 13-year olds?

He recently got re-married, and we opened La Lucha in 2008. His wife is from Mexico City, so she has this very rich Mexican culture, and this appetite for Mexican food that didn’t exist in New York [at the time].  For her, there is a flavor that she is expecting when it comes to Mexican food, so we really tried to touch that and keep it semi-traditional, and cool…it’s just a  reintroduction to Mexican food.

What are some plates that set La Lucha apart from its counterparts?

Honestly, I don’t think there is a plate that separates us from other restaurants. I think what makes us different is the experience when you come to our restaurant. We want to create intangible experiences where people can come here and be like, “Wow! I don’t remember where this sh*t was located…I was really drunk, whatever,  but I remember that they brought that ring when they brought the check. That was magical for me. I took a photo, and I remember that.”  

We have some very good vegetable options, that’s something we are trying to highlight more now along with gluten-free options,  because people are becoming more health-conscious. I think there is no other Mexican restaurant with as many vegetable tacos as we have. Like the Hibiscus Taco; amazing.

An example of the "Luchador" theme in the restaurant, via a wallpaper effect of wrestling posters.

An example of the “Luchador” theme in the restaurant, via a wallpaper effect of wrestling posters.

What are some of your favorite plates on the menu?

I really enjoy our signature tacos. They come in threes; it kind of feels like I am up-selling you, but I’m not. A lot of those tacos are mixtures of other tacos on the menu. We have a vegetable signature taco on the menu, which is poblano peppers mixed with mushroom; the Huracán. That one is really good, but my favorite has to be the El Santo, or the Mil Máscaras. The Mil Máscaras, I love to talk about because it has bacon.  I love bacon, and it has bits of bacon, not big strips. You have an option of chicken or steak, and it is mixed with roasted poblano peppers, corn, onions; it’s delicious. And then we put the queso chihuahua on top; it is one of my favorites. The El Santo is the meat-lovers taco. It has our red salsa mixed with salted steak that we cure ourselves, it also has chicarron; it’s really a delicious taco man, I’ve never tasted anything like that before.

Tell us about the future of La Lucha, and your newest food truck output in the works in Brooklyn.

We just got a trailer, it’s an extended trailer and we put a banner on it. We are still getting equipment, but by summer it will be up and running. It will be called “La Lucha”, but we may give it a nickname. We are working with some artists right now so we can do something that doesn’t feel too corporate. We want it to feel artsy, like the aesthetic of Brooklyn. I want it to feel “real”. You know what I mean?


As La Lucha prepares to open their mobile output this summer, be sure to stop by their brick and mortar location in the East Village for delicious, no nonsense Mexican food!

La Lucha

147 Avenue A ( Between 9th & 10th Street)
New York, New York 10009

Be sure to connect with them on Facebook at LaLucha NYC, and on Twitter at @LaLuchaNYC

 

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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The First Annual Lobster De Mayo Brings Out Lovers of Lobster & Tequila to Capitale in NYC

Lobster Tacos from Bodega Negra

Lobster Tacos from Bodega Negra

May 10th was an unseasonably warm evening in NYC, that hosted an even hotter evening for culinary aficionados. It was on this night that the First Annual Lobster de Mayo was held, a lobster tasting event put together by Homarus, New York’s premiere lobster supplier, to benefit  City Harvest. Hosted by the Food Network’s Katie Lee, the event brought out lobster lovers in packs, including some familiar faces, like that of model and foodie, Chrissy Teigen.

Model Chrissy Teigen and celebrity chef Katie Lee

Model Chrissy Teigen and celebrity chef Katie Lee

Held at the popular event space Capitale, guests were surrounded by lovely pre-war architecture in a grand space where twenty renowned New York City restaurants showcased some of their best lobster dishes for attendees to taste.

Atmosphere at the First annual Lobster de Mayo

Atmosphere at the First annual Lobster de Mayo

Lobster was paired with tequila, having Patron as the main liquor sponsor of the evening, which had multiple bar set-ups, including a margarita bar, and a station for personalizing your own lime squeezer.

Patron Bar

Patron Bar

I made my rounds to many restaurants, but my favorite dish of the night was by far was Tao Downtown’s Lobster Tacos (in a fried wonton shell) with avocado, cabbage, and a special sauce by Chef John Villa. Other favorites included Lavo’s Lobster and Spring Vegetable salad by Chef John Deloach, and The Wayfarer’s Roasted Maine Lobster- Skordalia, lemon herb beurre monte. Click below for more photos from the event!

I really had a lovely time at Lobster de Mayo, and was super proud of myself because I attended solo. The dishes were delicious, and I can’t wait to visit some of the featured restaurants to have the real deal!

*Photos by Amy Sussman

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The First Annual Lobster de Mayo is Tomorrow (5/10) at Capitale in NYC

lobsterdemayo

The first annual Lobster De Mayo kicks off tomorrow evening at Capitale in New York City’s Chinatown neighborhood. The event, hosted by The Food Network’s Katie Lee is sure to be a hit, featuring lobster and tequila pairings and fun for all guests. Restaurants participating include:

  • Tao
  • Lavo
  • Catch
  • Empellon
  • Marea
  • ABC Kitchen
  • Gramercy Tavern
  • Bodega Negra
  • La Cenita
  • Marc Forgione and many more!

Guests will be treated to jams from various DJs, and a silent auction to benefit City HarvestGeneral admission for guests will be $295, while VIP tickets will be $450. Tickets may be purchased on Eventbrite.

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Take A Bite: Bocca Di Bacco Opens on 7th Avenue in Chelsea

The street view of Bocca di Bacco

The street view of Bocca di Bacco

There are certain things that are undeniably New York City; hot dog stands, angry cabbies, iconic skyscrapers, and amazing street style. In the realm of food, Italian is a staple, spanning the realm of your local pizzeria to fine dining in the Theatre District. Its undeniable popularity has worked for Bocca di Bacco, an NYC-based Italian restaurant chain that has opened its latest outpost in Manhattan’s hot neighborhood of Chelsea, in the former space of another Italian restaurant, IL Bastardo. This is the chain’s second Chelsea location, the first being on 9th Avenue.

The main dining room at Bocca Di Bacco

The main dining room at Bocca Di Bacco

Opening festivities for Bocca di Bacco were held at the restaurant on April 8 – 9 for media and special guests. I stopped by to see what it was all about, and was quite impressed. The space is massive, comprised of four rooms for public and private dining, decorated beautiful. The shot above is of the main dining room, filled with natural light in the day, and transformed into a sexier setting in the evening.

Wine selection

Wine selection

Along with its fine menu, Bocca di Bacco is known for their incredible wine selection and practice, being one of the few restaurants that serves many wines by both the bottle and glass. Guests were treated to these wines during the opening, along with specialty cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the likeness of wild mushroom crostini, rice balls, shrimp cocktail, and mini crab cakes.

Wild mushroom crostini

Wild mushroom crostini

The restaurant’s Executive Chef Kristin Sollenne, who was present at the event,  is passionate about creating modern Italian dishes infused with seasonality.

“I focus on rich, bold flavors using fresh herbs and seasonal produce, meat, poultry & seafood,” says Sollenne. “Simplicity makes an impact. More than anything, we want diners to come away feeling satisfied, full and content after a good, authentic Italian meal in the heart of New York City.”

 

Having this been my first experience at a Bocca Di Bacco, I can agree with Kristin in the fact that the food was fresh and flavorful, and the hospitality was on par. Check out more photos below from the opening.

Bocca Di Bacco in Chelsea is located on 7th Avenue between 21st & 22nd Streets. For more info, please visit their website.

*Photos courtesy of Bocca di Bacco/Pace Public Relations

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New York African Restaurant Week Hits The City April 27th + Info On The Edible Bazaar

NYARW 2014 Flyer-1

Foodie friends in NYC, I have a delightful announcement to share with you! New York African Restaurant Week is just around the corner, beginning on April 27th, and ending on May 4th. The event, in its second year, has partnered with over a dozen pan-African restaurants throughout the New York metropolitan area. Participating restaurants will feature prixe fixe menus, priced at $16.95 for lunch and $24.95 for dinner. Diners will receive 10% off regular menu items with the mention of “New York African Restaurant Week”.Vouchers are available for purchase online at BeUEvents.com.

In addition to this, New York African Restaurant Week will be holding a kick-off event entitled, The Edible Bazaar on April 29th, which will feature food from a selection of participating restaurants, a variety of African wines, and tons of opportunities for networking! Individual tickets begin at $50, upwards of $200 for groups.

NYARW 2014 Edible Bazaar Kickoff event Flyer-2

Interested in attending The Edible Bazaar? Get an extra 25 percent off when you use discount code #NYARW to purchase tickets – offer valid until Thursday, April 10th. Happy eating!

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Take A Sip: The Garret

View of the fully-stocked bar at The Garret.

View of the fully-stocked bar at The Garret.

Tucked away in an unexpected location in the West Village lies a newly-opened cocktail bar, and its name is The Garret. Housed above the Five Guys on the corner of 7th Ave South and Bleecker, The Garret is far from a dive bar, but a “refined drinking establishment”. Once walking up a set of stairs at the back of the burger joint, you are transformed into a space reminiscent of a crazy uncle that has a unique take on luxury.

A custom piece by Bradley Theodore below the mantle.

A custom piece by Bradley Theodore below the mantle.

The vibe in the space is that of an old-school salon, featuring brick walls, eclectic framed photographs, vintage books and hourglasses, paired with luxe tufted leather seating. You are given the feeling of exclusivity in the otherwise bustling neighborhood.

One such special element of The Garret is the special painting above by graffiti artist Bradley Theodore, known for his now famous street piece in Little Italy, Anna and Karl.

The night ambience.

The night ambience.

When the night falls, the space transforms from its bright feel during the day, to a sophisticated amber glow, made possible by light reflecting off the bar’s copper ceiling. Draperies on the vast windows stay open so patrons can view the streets below without feeling like they are on-the-spot. The lighting really sets the mood, and is perfect for impressing a date, in case you were wondering of course!

A show-stopping chandelier illuminates the space.

A show-stopping chandelier illuminates the space.

There are many unique design elements that make The Garret special, but the show-stopper is definitely the chandelier in the photo above. It hangs from a vaulted skylight strategically over the bar to illuminate the menus of patrons. The menu features hand-crafted cocktails from master mixologists, paired with an impressive craft beer menu, that is fairly-priced for its attention to detail.

Check out some more photos below from The Garret below. They are now open for business. Head over to their website for more!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo 

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Take A Sip & Bite: The Organic Grill

A view of The Organic Grill via the street. Photo used by permission of he restaurant.

A view of The Organic Grill via the street. Photo used by permission of he restaurant.

My world of food is quite complex, but is based in foods that are quite rich and paired with specialty cocktails and/or very strong coffee beverages. I’m always down to try something new, and for some time I have been considering infusing my diet with more vegetarian meals. Aside from wanting to be a little healthier myself, I have a growing number of vegetarian and vegan friends, so it is a personal preference to eat more of what they do.

Given this fact, I jumped at the opportunity to try the food at The Organic Grill. Located in Manhattan’s East Village, the restaurant is fully vegetarian and Kosher, offering a multitude of vegan meals, along with a few dishes for those that may be pescatarian.

Our appetizer: quinoa bites with a smooth avocado sauce. Very similar to falafel.

Our appetizer: quinoa bites with a smooth avocado sauce. Very similar to falafel.

I visited the restaurant on Saturday, March 8th with my favorite vegetarian buddy Indira. The space was very cozy, decorated in warm colors with a welcoming staff. Patrick was our waiter, and he gave us all the background on the restaurant and menu. We started off with an appetizer, which you see in the photo up top, of quinoa bites, think quinoa falafel, with a super smooth avocado dip, served on some greens. The consistency was quite hearty given the multi-grain composition of the bites.

My beverage: the Lemonana, comprised of lemonade, agave, fresh mint, and crushed ice.

My beverage: the Lemonana, comprised of lemonade, agave, fresh mint, and crushed ice.

To drink we both had fresh blended juices beverages. Indira had the Ginger Punch, made with ginger ale, apple juice, orange juice, and fresh ginger. I had the Lemonana (shown above), made with lemonade, agave, fresh mint, and crushed ice. Super refreshing!

Indira's meal: OG Burger sliders.

Indira’s meal: OG Burger sliders.

Up next was what we had been waiting for, the main course. Indira’s plate arrived first, which was the OG Burger sliders, a serving of three different veggie burger options. All three were served up on an Ezekiel bun, which has a sweet potato and chickpea flour base, including a roasted mushroom with shallot and dijon relish, black-eyed sweet potato slider, and the pineapple jerk slider.

My meal: Pumpkin, butternut squash, and cranberry filled dumpling over sautéed kale.

My meal: Pumpkin, butternut squash, and cranberry filled dumpling over sautéed kale.

I decided to go with a fully vegan entree which was a special of the day. It consisted of dumplings which resembled ravioli, filled with pumpkin, butternut squash, and cranberries, served atop a bed of sautéed kale. The dumplings were topped with a cranberry cream sauce, which was divine!

Our desserts: Berry crisp and assorted macaroons

Our desserts: Berry crisp and assorted macaroons

We finished off our meal with an array of desserts including a berry crisp (seen on the left) which was made with stewed strawberries in its own sauce layered with oats and grains, paired with a tasting of fresh coconut macaroons made on site.

Indira and I had great service at The Organic Grill, and I was pleasantly surprised in myself that all of my food choices were not just vegetarian, but vegan, who knew? I would definitely recommend The Organic Grill to anyone who is vegetarian, or those that want to try really tasty vegetarian food. I will be visiting again very soon!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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A Taste of Ireland With Ballymaloe Irish Condiments At Murray’s Cheese

Lamb meatball with mashed potatoes, paired with Ballymaloe Mint Jelly

Lamb meatball with mashed potatoes, paired with Ballymaloe Mint Jelly

Revered Irish condiment brand Ballymaloe held an evening dedicated to gourmet Irish food pleasantries on February 25th at the popular Murray’s Cheese shop in Greenwich village. Ballymaloe has been in business for 50 years, crafting unique Irish relishes and ketchups to compliment traditional meals, and add an Irish flair to other world cuisine.

A selection of Ballymaloe Gourmet Irish Ketchups

A selection of Ballymaloe Gourmet Irish Ketchups

Guests were treated to unique pairings with Ballymaloe products, including a delectable lamb meatball on top of mashed potatoes paired with Mint Jelly, a potato croquette filled with Kerrygold cheese paired with country relish, scones paired with cranberry jelly, and much more! One of the crowd favorites was the fondue station as seen in the photo below. All cheese was donated by Irish cheese giant Kerrygold, which by far makes my favorite cheddar cheese.

Kerrygold cheese fondue station

Kerrygold cheese fondue station

The tasting was small and intimate, which allowed all attendees to really get to learn more about the products, whilst tasting them simultaneously. I was pleasantly surprised with all the food offerings as prior, I was not really familiar with Irish cuisine. The tasting really opened up my palette to something new and delicious.

Check out more photos below.

I would love to thank the ladies at Colangelo PR for having me, and Ballymaloe for leaving me with an array of relishes to try. I can’t wait to cook with them all!

*Photos By Andrea K. Castillo

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Re-Cap: VO5 #AScentIsBorn Blogger Luncheon

The set-up with VO5 products.

The set-up with VO5 products.

On Thursday, February 20th, I had the pleasure of attending VO5′s #AScentIsBorn Blogger Luncheon. I was part of a handpicked panel of beauty and mommy bloggers in NYC who’s opinion and know-how was wanted to choose the next fragrance for VO5. The luncheon began at 11 AM with opening remarks starting 30 minutes later from 360 Public Relations and international fragrance house, Firmenich.

What lunch looked like: sliders, fresh lemonade, and veggies galore.

What lunch looked like: sliders, fresh lemonade, and veggies galore.

We learned much about the history of VO5 products and its start in Hollywood in the 1950s. We also learned what the 5 in the product name stands for, five essential vitamins! In between time, we snacked on a lovely meal courtesy of Back Forty West, consisting of sliders, farmhouse veggies, fresh juices and coffee.

The three "delicious" VO5 scents we chose from

The three “delicious” VO5 scents we chose from

Upon completion of the meal, we put our noses to the test, smelling three “delicious” scents that have the opportunity to be the next VO5 fragrance. My personal favorite was scent 3 as it had a coconut and pineapple base, which reminded me of a vacation.

Click through the gallery below for more photos from the event.

You can get in on the fun too! Stay tuned for more info right here on how you too can help vote for VO5′s next fragrance!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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Take A Sip & Bite: Ground Central Coffee

Tapas

Tapas

On Tuesday, February 18th, I attended an exclusive media tasting at Ground Central. The posh coffee shop and eatery opened in November 2013 in the most unlikely of locations, the Midtown East neighborhood of Manhattan. Nestled on the calm block of East 52nd Street between Lexington and Third Avenues, you are transformed from the corporate feel of the neighborhood once you cross the threshold.

Decor in the backroom.

Decor in the backroom.

The space is thoughtfully decorated with New York City themed murals on the black walls, a record selection for your listening pleasure in the main room, and plaid sitting chairs alongside a massive book collection in the private room in back. The media tasting, hosted by Evyn Block Communications, was held in this alcove in back, and featured an array of nosh-worthy treats. These included tapas mirrored after the owners’ travels to Barcelona paired with both red and white wines, delectable French pastries (the French donut is TO DIE FOR), and artisanal coffee demonstrations.

The Coffee Mojito

The Coffee Mojito

The star of the evening was by far the Coffee Mojito. We were given a full demonstration of how their popular drink is crafted. First fresh mint is muddled with sugar and set to the side. Second, a dark brew coffee is poured over ice, followed up with milk. Last, the muddled mint mixture is added to the iced coffee, and topped off with a mint garnish.

Click through more photos from the event below.

I was pleasantly surprised with my entire Ground Central experience. Being a die-hard Brooklynite and freelancer, I live between my home office and coffee shops. Because of this, I look for three important things in the coffee shops I visit:

  1. Good strong coffee
  2. A comfortable, inspiring environment
  3. Yummy food options

Ground Central gave me all this and then some. I was quite impressed with their record collection and hand-painted murals throughout the space. The owners Etienne and Oleg were friendly and passionate about their business, and it showed in every corner of their space.

In general, I don’t frequent Midtown East, but the lovely atmosphere and service at Ground Central has definitely changed my mind. I definitely recommend you stop by if you are in the area!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

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Take A Sip: Cas Rum Popo

CASRUMPOPOborder

One day in the holiday season of 2011, a young ambitious Belizean-American woman by the name of Andrea K. Castillo decided that she wanted to make tradition of learning how to create Belizean treats, and to make them well. In earlier years she perfected Belizean fudge, which is most likened to a more solid, yet crumbly, form of caramel, and in the year of 2011 decided she would perfect the holiday beverage of Rum Popo.

In layman’s terms, Rum Popo is the Belizean version of spiked egg-nog, homemade of course. It is in the same category of Puerto Rican/Dominican Coquito, Trinidadian Poncha Crema, Haitian Cremas, and Jamaican Rum Cream. The project for the first year was made strictly for family and close friends in recycled liquor bottles, in 2012 the first sales were made in the same packaging as the year prior, and now, in the 2013/14 holiday season, the product was named “Cas Rum Popo“, a tribute to the family name, and branded in a clean scale with fresh bottles.

casrumpopobotttles5

Cas Rum Popo in bottles, ready for customers!

The consistency of Cas Rum Popo is quite smooth with a bite from the overproof rum and spices used to balance its sweetness. It is consumed in the holiday months from mid-November to as late as February. All bottles of Cas Rum Popo are sourced from local businesses in Brooklyn, including the bottles from the longstanding Rappaport Sons Bottle Co. in Williamsburg.

If you are in the NYC Metro area and would like more info on purchasing, please e-mail casrumpopo@gmail.com, and follow on Twitter and Instagram @casrumpopo!

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