Category Archives: Food & Drink

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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From A Fan’s Perspective: Coachella 2013 WKND 1 Highlights

Coachella sunset PANORAMA!

Coachella sunset PANORAMA!

Back on the East Coast in my beloved Brooklyn, I am happy to say that I survived Coachella 2013, weekend one! I survived extreme temperatures and a lovely sandstorm on Sunday night, along with my feet surviving the hours of standing. This year was a treat for me as it hosted some of my favorite acts right now, a large number of them hailing from across the pond.

I have arrived.

I have arrived. Long arms, closed eyes and all.

In total, I counted via my snazzy Coachella 2013 iPhone app that I viewed over twenty acts in the three-day festival, so on average, I watched approximately seven shows a day. Not for the faint of heart, patience, or those that insist on wearing heels; it ain’t gon’ work boo. All tents are named after deserts, Mojave (hosting the majority of UK acts) and Sahara (EDM acts) being the largest, Gobi hosting an eclectic mix of acts, and Yuma, the newest addition to the festival, hosting smaller international DJs. The two headlining stages are the Outdoor (which hosted Wu-Tang on the final night), and Main (which hosted the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the final night).

Pink's Chili Dogs and a Taco stand in one of the food concession areas.

Pink’s Chili Dogs and a Taco stand in one of the food concession areas.

Food at Coachella is as exciting as the musical acts. There is a mix of famous food trucks including Coolhaus, Border Grill, Green Truck, LA staples like Pink’s Chili Dogs, a good array of vegetarian options, full bars, and more taco variations than I have ever seen in my adult life. The grounds are huge, but food facilities are nestled in each corner so you never go hungry. New this year is the Red Bull Speakeasy; a 1920s themed air-conditioned lounge that serves cocktails and hosts live dueling piano players, and a photo booth.

Dueling piano player at the Red Bull Speakeasy

Dueling piano player at the Red Bull Speakeasy

The famed ferris wheel is a must! For 8 bucks, you get one of the best views one can imagine of the festival grounds. Definitely worth it.

View from the ferris wheel of the Coachella grounds.

View from the ferris wheel of the Coachella grounds.

With that said, I bring to you some of my musical and scenic highlights of the weekend, from the perspective of Andrea the music & nature lover/ people watcher. Get ready for weekend two!

Baauer during his set in the Sahara tent

Baauer during his set in the Sahara tent

BAAUER.

The man behind the hugest dance craze in recent history to sweep the world, “Harlem Shake”, rocked the crowd with a a set of  booty-shaking down south tracks. My friends and I were right up front for this, and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all. I unfortunately missed “Harlem Shake” as I had to run to another stage, but it’s all good, another act re-enacted this. Read on.

2 Chainz performing at the Mojave tent.

2 CHAINZ.

Despite being twenty minutes late for his set and having a semi-exhausted crowd boo in spurts, Titty Boi AKA 2 Chainz performed a memorable set for his first Coachella experience. I was caught somewhere in the mid-front of the crowd of this set. I thought I was going to be trampled numerous times, water was thrown on me, and I was pushed, BUT I sang every lyric at the top of my lungs like I was on stage. His performance of “Crack” was definitely the climax of his set. #TurnUp.

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Dine In Brooklyn 2013! Until March 21st

BKFOOD

This is for my foodies. This is especially for my foodies residing in Brooklyn, or those that have tons of love for the borough nicknamed BK. Dine in Brooklyn is upon us, and what a wonderful time it is! Think NY Restaurant Week just for Brooklyn, with over 190 restaurants participating. Hooray! All meals are three courses and the specials are as follows:

  • Lunch for $20.13
  • Dinner $28.00
  • $10 dine again cards
  • Selected restaurants feature brunch specials, and/or two-for-one specials

All you got to do is call the participating restaurant and mention “Dine in Brooklyn” when you make your reservation. Happy eating friends!

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Guest Blog: AN ABSOLUT-ELY REFRESHING “TUNE”

AN ABSOLUT-ELY REFRESHING “TUNE”

Pernod-Ricard USA teams up with the Standard Hotel and turns Le Bain into a tinsle-plated wonderland

The swimming pool at Le Bain, covered for the occasion.

Bottles on bottles.

 

The super exclusive Boom Boom Room.

At the chilly end of an event-filled summer, Absolut celebrated the launch of their first-ever wine-infused liquer, ABSOLUT TUNE.  Taking over the chic Standard hotel, the worlds’ first premium vodka brand opens the doors to a new taste on the liquer market.

DJ for the evening, Samantha Ronson

Kicking off the celebration with the tunes for the dance floor was famed DJ Samantha Ronson, holding down the record decks while guests nibbled on hour d’ouvres and sipped specialty mixed drinks provided by ABSOLUT.
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I left my heart in Belize…

San Pedro, Ambergis Caye. The view while waiting for the next boat.

Well not all of it, but a large portion of it. Belize is the motherland. The home of my parents and all generations before them. A tiny country located in the Yucatan, Belize is bordered by Mexico in the north, the Caribbean Sea in the east, and Guatemala in the west and south. It is the only English-speaking country in all of Central America, formerly known as British Honduras. It is a land I call home although I was not born there, my heart is there. My heart is in every grain of sand that lines the shores of the beautiful Ambergis Caye. My heart is in each stone that has built numerous colossal Mayan ruins. My heart is in the coconuts that overflow my grandfather’s backyard, which give water better than anything you can find in a can or carton. My heart is in the people, of all races and creeds, my heart beats in the people of such a multiethnic and beautiful land.

Hibiscus flower.

I visited my second home back in August. I go every other year, but this trip was particularly difficult as it was a large reality check for me. Prior to my departure, I had lost two aunts who basically molded my view of Belize, and who I so closely tied to everything that reminded me of the country, and my every day life while there. They were both very strong women in their own right, who were very influential in their respective communities. I am incredibly grateful to have known them, and shared so many fond moments with them both over the years. Along with my parents and family in the US, I count my aunts as large influencers to my love and pride for my home country. Here are some photos of my time abroad. I hope you can see the beauty that I see.

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An Evening at the High Line: A Photo Story

This is a photo story of a recent jaunt to the Highline with my friend Troy.

Sun setting

Water droplets

Green and gray

His pants and shoes

What I wore

His food: Grilled cheese with a fried egg

My treat: Gelato

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo & Troy Brooks

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Brooklyn Industries Summer 2012 Collection Launch Party Re-Cap

Brooklyn Industries Summer 2012 pieces for the ladies

To celebrate the launch of their Summer 2012 “Jungle Fever” collection, Brooklyn Industries held a little shindig in their Smith St. store to tickle the fancy of the public. A homage to the Spike Lee film of the same name, “Jungle Fever” evokes the energy of the early 90′s in which the movie was set, and visualizes it in their print campaign, starring models that pose as an interracial couple. The color palette is bold and features easy to wear prints, staple shorts, and tanks for both the ladies and the fellas.

Packed house!

Guests were treated to the sounds of DJ Rich Kid, whose set was reminiscent of a Brooklyn house-party circa 1991. Think old school hip-hop mixed with dance music. I had an intense shimmy moment when Crystal Waters came on, ha! Drinks were provided  courtesy of Bootlegger Vodka and Runa, and beer by Sixpoint. Good vibes were a constant throughout the evening, but these were heightened when I found out there was food as well! Yes, the skinny fat girl was overjoyed to find sustenance provided by Brooklyn Taco. Mini tacos were offered up in Chilorio Brisket, Guaco Taco, and Chipolte’d Chicken.

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Event Re-Cap: First Annual Blogger’s Ball at Gregory’s Coffee

Crowd inside the First Annual Blogger's Ball

It was with great delight that I attended the First Annual Blogger’s Ball at Gregory’s Coffee in Midtown. Gregory’s Coffee is a super hip coffee chain with four locations in Manhattan that has a commitment to great coffee and its consumers, especially those in the blogosphere. They hosted their First Annual Blogger’s Ball at their 44th and Madison location as a sign of their appreciation to the blogging community. It was a great time to mingle with fellow bloggers, catch up, and try the delectable pastries and drinks that Gregory’s has to offer. I did not win this time around, but hopefully next year I will (fingers crossed). Check out some of my photos below.

Freshly baked treats!

Barista working on special cocktails

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