Kimberly Snyder’s Guide to Healthy Bites in LA & NYC

As a self-proclaimed health nut, I’ve been a fan of celebrity nutritionist and beauty expert Kimberly Snyder for years. Her blog has always been a mainline for holistic guidance, healthy recipes, and overall inspiration, so seeing her name appear in magazines like Vogue and watching Vince Vaughn give her a shout on Letterman is pretty fantastic. To celebrate the launch of her first book, The Beauty Detox Solution (buy your copy in stores and online today), I caught up with Snyder to discuss her top spots for healthy dining and drinking in the two cities she most frequents: Los Angeles and New York.

Los Angeles Best brunch & lunch: Venice Beach Café (1512 Pacific Ave.) “It’s right on the boardwalk, so it’s great people-watching. Offers organic salads and above-average brunch options like vegan scramble (non-soy!), veggie tacos, and a portobello veggie burger.”

Best dinner: Cru (1521 Griffith Park Blvd.) “It’s cozy, has good energy, and offers a delicious mix of raw and cooked vegan food. Also it’s BYO, so you can bring your own organic booze.”

Best group dining: The London West Hollywood (1020 N San Vicente Blvd.) “If you call ahead, Chef Anthony can create a healthy, customized menu to suit your taste. He did my book launch party, and with my vegan, gluten-free and soy-free constraints he created insanely good food, like it was his culinary specialty!”

Best drinks: Newsroom Café (120 N Robertson Blvd.) “A vegan-friendly spot right on trendy Robertson Boulevard with a juice bar and vegan smoothies. There are lots of interesting people to check out, as well as a great newsstand full of mags to read at the bar or if you’re flying solo.”

Best-kept secret: Inn of the Seventh Ray (128 Old Topanga Canyon Rd.) “It can be a real challenge to find an elegant, candlelit nighttime restaurant that serves organic, local vegan entrees as well free-range options for the omnivores. Well, here is it! And it’s right next to a bullfrog-filled stream, to boot!”

New York Best brunch & lunch: Quintessence (263 E 10th St.) “If you can nab a spot at this tiny East Village jewel, you’ll be happy to find ‘normal’ brunch items like bagels and lox made vegan and raw. Tastes just like non-vegan brunch food, but their version is exceptionally good for you!”

Best dinner: Candle 79 (154 E 79th St.) “This elegant vegan restaurant’s great food and elegant atmosphere makes it worth the trip to the Upper East Side. For romantic dates, I recommend reserving a booth upstairs.”

Best group dining: Blossom (187 9th Ave.) “Along with having absolutely delicious, mouth-watering vegetarian cuisine (with lots of non-soy choices!), the restaurant is situated in the cutest little building in Chelsea with a great seating area upstairs for groups.”

Best drinks: Flatiron Lounge (37 W 19th St.) “Located in a 110 year-old building, this art deco styled lounge plays classic jazz while you sip on your cocktails infused with fresh fruit.”

Best-kept secret: Bonobo’s (18 E 23rd St.) “Besides the double-doozie of having been under scaffolding for years because of construction next door and being sandwiched between fast food joints, this tiny place off Madison Square Park is a great casual lunch place. Try the nut-meat salad with kale and the macadamia nut pate. And don’t forget the durian ice cream!”

Industry Insiders: Charlotte Voisey, Rocks Star

William Grant & Son’s slinky brand ambassador Charlotte Voisey has traveled the world honing the ideal dram. She’s tended bar from Buenos Aires to London to Barcelona and was recently recognized by the James Beard Awards as one one of the world’s top female mixologists. Voisey dishes the skinny on her drinks of choice, the perfect martini lunch, and her top bars around the globe.

You’ve seen these little mixology scenes sprout up in various spots around the world. What are some differences between them? San Francisco is dominated with a love for Farmers’ Market ingredients and a culinary approach to cocktails. New York does the classics like no other city, and London combines different styles from all over the world. I especially love the very classy hotel bars in London. LA is coming up as a new hub of great bars, especially in the Downtown area.

You’ve been recognized as one of the leading female mixologists at the James Beard awards. I find it odd that gender is involved. What’s the difference between male and female made drinks? The James Beard Awards this year focused on Women in Food and Mixology as a theme. It was really to celebrate the success of female professionals in a domain that has, until now, been dominated by men.

You’ve tended bar in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, London and New York. What’s your favorite bar to drink in each of those cities? Boadas in Barcelona. The Bar at the Dorchester in London and Flatiron Lounge in New York.

Gin was the straight up crack rock of its day in 1700’s England, and now it’s a sophisticated, legit drink with brand ambassadors like yourself. This begs the question: will there be crack rock mixologists in the future? Let’s hope not!

A martini should be made with gin, so you get a little flavor. But say you want to go the vodka route, so your boss doesn’t smell it on your breath in the morning meeting. What vodka do you use? I would choose Reyka, from Iceland, with a cheeky dash of Angostura bitters

There’s a bit of a backlash against mixology. Why do you think that is? Who would backlash against beautifully crafted cocktails? I have not heard of any backlash. Maybe I’m blinded my love.

Favorite bar in the world? La Floridita in Havana, Cuba.

What is an ingredient that most people are missing in their bar that they should definitely have? Lillet Rouge.

What is your cocktail du jour? Cucumber Gimlets with Hendrick’s gin. Delicious.

What’s a drink you would never order? A dirty martini. I cannot do olives.

Say it’s about 5:43 pm on a Wednesday and you’re fading a little. Do you drink: a. Vodka b. Whiskey c. Coffee d. Beer? b. Whiskey

Speaking for both of us: how drunk are we right now? Given that it’s 5.45 p.m. — just a little tipsy.

Tequila! The Future of Drinking at Phil Ward & Ravi DeRossi’s Mayahuel

Tequila’s never been done enough justice. It’s informally known as either (A) the drink you do awful, terrible things on in college, after which you vow to never taste it again, or (B) a spirit imbibed by bottle-service embracing luddites who wouldn’t know a refined drink if they were bludgeoned over the head with a glass of it. Nightlife artist Ravi DeRossi and star bartender Phil Ward are changing all of that with Mayahuel, which might be the first bar truly dedicated to showing American drinkers why the stuff isn’t for the worst kind of exploits so much as the best kind of drinking. The place looks like an unearthed Aztec basement bar; dark, shadowy, and generally perfect for a mixology revolution.

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What was the genesis of Mayahuel? Phil Ward: I think we were… Ravi DeRossi: Well, Phil’s got a story and I got to add some of the story too, it’s sort of the same, I’ll tell it really quick — I think we were talking one day about our menu at Death & Co., and out of how many cocktails, how many of them were tequila? PW: About 100. RDR: Just roughly, to make the numbers simple to understand. PW: Death & Co. was a place where people who knew cocktails were coming to drink cocktails. A lot of nights, 25% of the drinks would be tequila drinks. RDR: But our cocktail menu was only 5 or 10% tequila drinks. We thought it would be interesting do to a tequila bar. PW: I learned how to make drinks from classic drinks. When you read your books, there’re really no tequila or scotch cocktail recipes…most of those books were written before Prohibition, and tequila wasn’t introduced into the country until around the 1950s, a little bit right after Prohibition, right around WWII, ’cause people couldn’t get as much American whiskey. So they peddled and brought this swill across the border. It was really bad mixed stuff, because the market was there to sell anything. There’s a saying that everything with rye and gin has been done, and it’s not true, but there’s a degree of truth to it. As far as being a bartender goes, you know, making tequila drinks felt like something really original.

It’s innovative. PW: Yeah, and then you get right down to it: the stuff is delicious. RDR: I mean, also, it’s only in the last 10 years that tequila’s become more of a quality spirit. PW: But it’s right back to that first part; the first tequila that was imported to the country was garbage because they knew that people would drink anything because they wanted to get drunk. And then for a long time, up until…maybe even ten years ago…most of the tequila people were drinking was like Jose Cuervo, which wasn’t even a representation of 100% blue agave tequila. So it was really a misunderstood spirit. I almost wanted to call this place was “La Verdad,” “The Truth,” because tequila and mezcal were so misunderstood by people, and we’re here to teach them.

But hasn’t Patron recently kind of become a pop standard? I hear it’s not actually good stuff, as far as cocktails and connoisseurs are concerned. PW: When they first started producing, Patron was a quality product. The distiller, Siete Leguas – quality stuff – was the one producing Patron; but Patron got popular and decided they wanted to start outsourcing their agaves, and eventually outsourced their distilleries and decided to mass-market for profit.

And they can get away with it because the public doesn’t know… PW: Well, the public doesn’t care. Most drinkers—they see marketing and it’s just programmed and habit, it’s Stoli/Tonic, Patron, Jack and Coke, Johnny Walker Black on the rocks…most of the drinking, consuming public aren’t really that interested in what they’re drinking; it’s more about image and getting drunk. RDR: Until they become educated, which is sort of what Phil and I have set out to do.

How did you guys both get started doing what you’re doing now? RDR: We drank way too much. [Laughs] My background is all in arts, I was a painter and a writer, did a little bit of theater. I have a BFA in Fine Art Painting as well as theater, I started my masters in theater at Tisch and dropped out and went to a conservatory, and then I lived in LA, lived in Pasadena Arts Center for a while…How did I end up doing bars? It was after September 11th; I’ve only been doing this for five years. It became really difficult to sell paintings. I’d done really well, I was selling paintings for $10-20,000…and after September 11th it became really difficult, and I was sort of just fucking around, living off the money I had made, and I was like, “shit, I gotta do something.”

How did this place happen so quickly? Did you get trusted investors to help you out? RDR: No, I did it with my own money. I made some money off painting, then opened up my first little bar, which was a tiny old 20-seat Bourgeois Pig…the very first Bourgeois Pig. Because that’s what I new best at the time, wine and cheese and those kind of things, so I did that. Within three months, it was like a two to three hour wait, every night of the week. And it just grew from there.

Had you worked in the service industry before? RDR: I’d waited tables at some restaurants as I was doing theater.

What are some of the better lessons you have learned over the years the hard way? PW: I don’t know, I have to think about that for a second. We could be here all day talking about how many mistakes I’ve made.

Phil, where did you come from? How’d you get started doing all this? PW: Dumb luck. I was 28 in Pittsburgh, bored out of my mind, drinking myself to death…

What were you doing in Pittsburgh? PW: Just waiting tables, reading books, things like that. Just threw everything I owned away, brought a plane to Rome, was over in Europe and Africa for four months, just traveling. When I was running out of money, I bought a plane ticket back to New York instead of Pittsburgh because it was about $700 cheaper, and I had a friend who lived here and I visited one other weekend so I figured I’d stay here for a week before I went home and threw myself in front of a bus in Pittsburgh. And in the course of a week, one of her friends was going on tour with this band to Europe, so he offered me a $300 sublet in Bushwick, so I had a 30-day try-out for $300 in New York. I wound up just getting a job as a bartender at the Flatiron Lounge, and just started seeing what they were doing there, got interested in it. That was the neat thing about being unemployed in New York was almost like having a job looking for a job. Every day you could look on Craigslist and make your schedule four different ways.

And so how long did it take you to go from bar-back to bartender? PW: That might have been about six months.

And from Flatiron to Pegu? How did you get so interested in cocktails? PW: That’s really funny, because when I got hired as a bar-back, I got asked if I wanted to bartend, and I said, “No, I don’t want to bartend,” because bartending to me was serving vodka tonics and Miller Lites to douchebags in Pittsburgh. I just wanted to work behind a bar because it was fun, it was good money, I got to work at night, it was a pretty easy job. Not an easy job, but a good job, in my mind. But then I started watching them do all these things with drinks and I was like, “What the hell are you people doing? What are all these four-ingredient drinks and shit like this?” So, eventually, I started bartending there and I started playing around I just got really interested in it. I started getting cocktail book after cocktail book and it was cool, ’cause you just found all these old recipes.

How many years ago was that? PW: I think it was like six years ago. It was cool, because the thing is, when you have customers there, you can be like, “Look at this drink I found.” I always tell bartenders, “you have to learn to make classics,” because it teaches you balance and structure. After that, it’s easy. So I really got ingrained in that before I started making drinks. I worked in Flatiron for three years, and I think I only put four or five drinks on that menu. And at Pegu, for about a year and a half, I put a few more drinks on there. But it wasn’t until Death and Co. that I really started to put more drinks on there.

You’re getting a lot of first-timers not familiar with your product. Are they ordering the Mezcals? PW: I guarantee you that since we’ve opened, we’ve probably had over 1,000 people taste Mezcal for the first time. RDR: And probably half of them really enjoyed it. A lot of them don’t like it. People just aren’t ready to drink it. They drink it depending on how you’re serving it. Drinking it straight, people aren’t ready for it; but in a cocktail, people like it. PW: That’s the whole idea of cocktails; I think it’s the perfect vehicle to introduce people to different spirits. You can wean them on to it, rather than just hit them over the head with it. ‘Cause you don’t just wake up tomorrow and decide you’re going to drink peaty scotch, you have to learn to like peaty scotch. An acquired taste is a just reward for an effort put forth…you have to work to enjoy something.

Does anybody come in and try to order a regular drink, like a margarita? PW: A margarita is a gem. If people want a margarita here, we’ll make them one of the best margaritas they’ve ever had. RDR: But it’s not gonna be frozen, it’s not gonna, you know, be that– PW: It’s just a classic margarita.

Is it on the menu? PW: No. It’s one you didn’t have to put on the menu. It’s assumed. There’s tequila here; you should be able to get a margarita. The margarita is a modern-day miracle. It came about when people were drinking swill and garbage, and you had this beautiful drink called the margarita come out of that time. It’s a miracle, and it’s delicious.

What’s being most ordered? PW: A lot of things. There’s a lot of parity. A couple of the ones that have really been big-sellers are the La Vida Rosé, which is like a strawberry tequila sangria with rose, and the Watermelon-Sugar, which is tequila mezcal, fresh watermelon, lime… RDR: I wonder if that’s because those are the ones that are more fruit-based, or at least they read to be more fruity. PW: Yeah, I mean, those are the more easily accessible ones-—but one really complex boozy one that’s probably been one of our biggest-sellers is the Slight Detour; it’s jalapeno tequila, Mezcal, Resposado tequila, with Mole bitters. That would probably be one of the top five.

Móle bitters? PW: They’re made by Avery (and Janet) Glasser with Bittermens Bitters. They just commercially hit the market. RDR: Yeah, he’s an old friend of ours who’s just been making them and bringing them to us for years. He does actually some really interesting stuff, some grapefruit bitters, we use it at all of our bars.

What’s your favorite drink on the menu? PW: There’re too many different days, too many different things, and even yourself, you know the things–like, what’s your favorite food? Could you pick your favorite food? You just can’t do it. Different days, different moods. Favorite, best—the word in my book is “different.”

Is there a trend you’re seeing in people ordering? PW: I see people drinking a lot more tequila and mezcal.

Did you feel like opening with the tequila theme of it would be a bit risky? RDR: No, not at all. I think cocktails in general, at least the craft of good cocktails, I don’t think it’s risky at all. There’s only so few places you can get them, and I think everybody in New York City wants to be drinking good cocktails at this point. PW: Think about it: we’re doing a tequila cocktail bar. A) It’s never been done. B) You’re in a city where people love cocktails, that’s obvious; we’ve come from places where people love our cocktails, and people love tequila. So you’re banking on the cocktail crowd and the crowd who like to come and sip tequila. RDR: Yeah, I think this is sort of like a no-brainer. And really good Mexican food, who doesn’t like Mexican food? It’s the most approachable food in the country, I think.

And how’d you guys end up teaming up, again? PW: Uh… RDR: Long story, we were just drunk one night. Leave it at that.

New York: Top 10 Spots for Booze Flights

imageNo matter your poison, level of expertise, or income bracket — there’s no beating comparison shopping. So line up the wine, beer, whiskey, tequila, and even the house-infused vodka for the purpose of weeding out the bad so you can order up more of the good.

10. European Union (East Village) – When you don’t feel like burning your throat with the 5-for-$10 shot-deal at Continental, hit this spot where, for the same price, you’ll get a flight of five hand-crafted artisan beers. 9. I Trulli (Murray Hill) – Always seasonally appropriate with both a garden and a fireplace, the wine flights here go for $14, $15, and $26. 8. La Esquina (Nolita) – Prove wrong all those from Cali who say that NYC can’t master Mexican as you top off your meal with one of three tequila flights — the Blanco ($35), Respado ($40), or Anejo ($45).

7. Eighty One (Upper West Side) – Appropriately posh, the flight here comes with 1-oz. pours of Macallan’s Sherry Oak 12 Year Old, Fine Oak 15 Year Old, and Sherry Oak 18 Year Old — each paired with a changing bite menu that includes dishes like yellowtail tuna tartare with orange honey and yuzu ($30). 6. Artisanal (Kips Bay) – Nosh and kibitz as you enjoy one of 12 beer/wine flights ($27) paired with hand-crafted cheeses. 5. Flatiron Lounge (Flatiron) – There’s nothing simple about this spot’s trio of mini-martini flights ($22) concocted around themes like “a flight to Hawaii” (tropical fruits and rum) and “flight back in time” (Sazerac, Sidecar, Aviation cocktails). 4. Russian Vodka Room (Midtown West) – It will set you back a cool $45 for a flight of six, but for those into house-infused vodkas, there’s nothing quiet like this selection spanning the gamut from garlic to horseradish to peach. 3. Beer Table (Park Slope) – For those looking for a little education with their sampling, Beer Table hosts an informal tasting of five beers — each paired with cheese — every Monday at 7 p.m. ($30). 2. Dos Caminos (Kips Bay) – Give B.R. Guest some much-needed love and order Lick-the-Brick ($45) tequila flight served on a brick of Himalayan rock salt and paired with three flavor-infused salts — habanero champagne, lime sugar, and smoked. 1. Divine Bar West (Midtown West) – A funky décor, a menu full of exclamation points, nearly 20 flight options, and wine-tasting classes offered through their “vino-versity” make this a spot perfect for non-oenophile and connoisseurs alike.

New York: Top 5 Thursday Night Hotspots

image It’s the weekend eve. Thursday night hotspots, just for thee.

1. 1Oak (Chelsea) – Cool rules the door at this lavish new hot spot. 2. The Eldridge (Lower East Side) – Most popular bookstore on the block is a hit for the kids who don’t read and write so good. 3. BEast (Chinatown) – Santos peeps take over the stealth joint beneath Broadway East.

4. Apothéke (Chinatown) – Albert Trummer brings cocktail science to the Bloody Elbow. 5. Clover Club (Brooklyn South) – Ms. Reiner comes to Smith, bringing the classic ‘tails of Flatiron and Pegu. For updated party information, check out this weekly curated list on where to go and what to do all week long.

New York Food & Wine Festival Tour

imageThe Food Network is throwing a three-day party, and you’re invited. The first ever New York Food & Wine Festival debuts this weekend in the city. Held mostly in the Meatpacking District and DUMBO, this foodie festival will have mouths watering all weekend. Get your tickets here, and check out our selected three-day itinerary to figure out how and when to get in on the action.

Friday 10 p.m.-midnight: Highline Ballroom for Midnight Music & Munchies (hosted by Daily Candy). Top Chefs featured on Daily Candy make late-night treats, hot-spot bartenders make drinks, and Tom Colicchio makes music (really) with Milton.

Chefs: Govind Armstrong from Table 8, Anne Burrell of Centro Vinoteca, Scott Conant of Scarpetta, Michael Psilakis of Anthos, Harold Dieterle of Perilla, Jimmy Bradley of The Red Cat, Akhtar Nawab of Elettaria, John Frasaer of Dovetail, and Joey Campanaro of Little Owl.

Bartenders: Jim Meehan of PDT, Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club, Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric of Employees Only, and Julie Reiner of Flatiron Lounge and Clover Club.

Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: Del Posto wine tasting seminars. … or … 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: Hotel Gansevoort wine tasting seminars. … or … 3 p.m.: Una Pizza Napoletano, pizza, pizza, and more pizza. Talk about it, learn about it, eat it. … and then … 7 p.m.: Adour, dinner hosted by Alain Ducasse. … or … 7 p.m.: Craftsteak, dinner hosted by Tom Colicchio, Jess Jackson and Alfred Portale.

Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: More Del Posto wine tasting seminars. … or … 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: And yet more Hotel Gansevoort wine tasting seminars. … then … 6-9 p.m.: Hotel Gansevoort wrap party.

Industry Insiders: Romee de Goriainoff, Undercover Cocktailist

The force behind two of the hottest bars in Paris — the Experimental Cocktail Club and the recently opened Curio Parlor — Romee de Gorianoff abandoned a golden banking career to pursue his true love: the cocktail. His contemporary speakeasies are packed nightly with an almost exclusively word-of-mouth buzz, full of interesting types serious about their liquor.

Point of Origin: A graduate economics student from Dauphine University in Paris and Bocconi University in Milan turned entrepreneur in Paris in the bar business. I was supposed to start a year ago trading in a brokerage firm in London the week before I found out about the location that was to become the Experimental Cocktail Club. Between being a finance guy and an entrepreneur, the choice became very evident for me!

What’s a typical day? Waking up at 9 a.m. After breakfast, my partners [Olivier Bon and Pierre Charles Cross] and I meet around 10 a.m. at our office. We review the entire business situation: check orders, the incoming deliveries, make a little brief on the employee situation, the payroll, etc. We also talk about the reservations for the evening, the special parties we want to promote, the planning. These meetings always cover both clubs, the Experimental Cocktail Club and the Curio Parlor. After lunch, we go on the clubs and check what is missing, what is broken, etc. and fix what must be fixed. In the afternoon, most of the time we meet with spirit brand salespeople, do some tasting, etc. Around 6 p.m., we indulge ourselves a little break before actually working the bars. Afterwards, we work from 7 or 8 p.m. to minimum 2 a.m. during the week, and to 4 a.m. over the weekend. Going to sleep minimum at 3 a.m.. Then waking up again at 9 a.m.

Tell us a little about your team. I have two partners that are also my best friends and roommates: Pierre Charles Cross and Olivier Bon. I also have two bar managers: Carina Soto Velasquez and Emily Baylis. Carina is taking care of the Experimental Cocktail Club, and Emily is in charge of the Curio Parlor. Farock Benzema is the doorman for the ECC and is also doing an amazing though difficult job. Besides, I have a bunch of occasional bartenders doing two or three shifts per week.

Favorite Hangs: I love the newly opened Mama Shelter Hotel just in front of the Fleche d’ Or in the 20th. They’re serving amazing cocktails. I also go to L’échelle de Jacob in the 6th from time to time, Harry’s Bar, the Park Hyatt. For a night out I still enjoy the Baron. As for restaurants, my favorite is l’Ami Jean in the 7th. I also go quite often to Chez Michel, les Valseuses, au Bascou, le 404, le Pré Verre, Itinéraires, l’Unico … so many restaurants in Paris!

What makes your bars different? Both the Experimental Cocktail Club and Curio Parlor are thoroughly based on quality. Quality goes from the wine, cocktails, and spirits you’re being served, the music you’re listening to, to the service that must be cool but always serious for customers. The design is also very important, although different in the two bars. We wanted to create venues in which one could feel comfortable while drinking. The five senses must be awake when one goes out.

I think it’s the main difference with other bars in Paris and the reason we are unique. You can spend a night out at the Curio Parlor or the Experimental Cocktail Club, drink great drinks or high quality spirits in a nice atmosphere, and listen to nice DJ set … at a reasonable price! And they are also different from one another. The Experimental Cocktail Club is more of bar that we wanted reminiscent of the prohibition area. The atmosphere is very low key, and it could be a little be seen as a French-bistro-turned-cocktail bar. However, most people compare it to a typical cocktail bar from New York. We wanted the Curio Parlor to be like a British gentleman’s club in which ladies would be of course admitted! The green, the material, the overall feel is British. It’s more chic (but not snobbier) than the Experimental Cocktail Club, but still keeps a cool atmosphere.

Favorite bars elsewhere in the world? I have many! Three of my favorite bars are based in New York City: PDT (the best), Flatiron Lounge, and the Pegu Club. I also love Milk and Honey and Little Branch in New York City, too. In London, I go to the Lonsdale, Montgomery Place, Shoreditch House, Momo’s, and Purple Bar for a date.