Valentine’s Day Dinners Your Girlfriend Will Love

Alright, the photo has nothing to do with what I’m about to say, but I couldn’t resist. Guys…it’s time to impress. You know you’re getting nothin’ Valentine’s Day night if you don’t put together a satisfying romantic night.  And while homemade dinners are quaint, these six NYC restaurants guarantee 100 percent excellence and no dishes to clean afterward. You’re in, you eat the best food, you hold hands across the table, and then you skip back to your apt ASAP for some good lovin.’

Louro: This recently-opened spot in the West Village wins “most creative” with their six-course, $85 menu inspired by The Beatles most iconic love songs. And yes, though the connection between a dark chocolate brownie sundae for two and the song “Here, There, and Everywhere” is a bit tenuous, that does not stop me from making it a must-attend event. Inside-info here.

Market Table: This cozy spot on Carmine St. abounds with terracotta floors, brick walls, sleek wood tables, and dishes that are market-fresh. And seeing as their entrees are usually in the $28-$32 range, their special four-course, $55 menu on the 14th is pretty irresistible. Menu commonly includes dishes like braised shortib ravioli, duck with pistachios and butternut squash, Maryland crab soup, and chocolate sea salt pot de crème. Inside-info here.

Perilla: As Top Chef’ first winner Harold Dieterle’s West Village restaurant, Perilla is a brunch and dinner knockout. It’s the classy, understated spot that doesn’t need to boast.Their three-course, $65 menu includes their top dishes, like the Hampshire pork belly, spicy duck meatballs, grilled black grouper with andouille sausage, andtheir heavenly, salted caramel chocolate beignets.Excuse my drool. Inside-info here.

Hakkasan: This Michelin-starred, high-class Chinese spot in Hell’s Kitchen is the king of the prix-fixe: Seven courses. $98. Get ready for dishes like roasted Pacific cod with Rosé Wine and egg white, seared scallop with sweet mango in sweet basil and peanut dressing, and chocolate orange with marshmallows and chocolate crumbs.  Come hungry, leave perhaps too full for nooky, but you’ll make it through. Inside-info here.

BLT Prime: This Gramercy steakhouse offers a special Valentine’s menu spotlighting fried Kumomoto oysters, aged sirloin from Rosencrantz Farms, goat’s milk ricotta ravioli, and wild salmon. Inside info here.

Mas Farmhouse: Named after the French word for what it resembles: a country house. Paneled wood and stone walls, fresh flowers, farm-raised poultry, cheeses, and veggies – all overseen by a James Beard chef. One the 14th, treat you and yours with a four-course, $120 dinner. Inside-info here.

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The Marrow Arrives, Bringing German-Italian Fare to the West Village

Chef Harold Dieterle has done Thai at Kin Shop, and seasonal American at Perilla, and this time, he brings contemporary German and Italian flavors their latest West Village eatery, The Marrow.

“I’m really excited to cook food that ties back to my family’s heritage,” said the chef, noting that this restaurant doesn’t have any Asian influence like his other ones do.

Dieterle and his co-owner Alicia Nosenzo also mentioned they had always wanted to cater to the neighborhood since those local customers have been an important part of their business ever since opening their first shop, Perilla.

The restaurant opened up right before Christmas, and there, Dieterle dishes out skillet braised cuttlefish, pickled herring salad, brisket “braciole” with house ground polenta, and pan-fried duck schnitzel.

To drink, beverage director Jill Roberts, formally of The Harrison, has created a menu with around 400 wines, seasonal cocktails, and craft beer. All which can be downed at your table, or at the large, L-shaped granite-topped bar.

Inside, designer Glen Coben warmed the 70-person space with homey, butcher-block tables, red leather banquettes, and patterned wall coverings. Large, wrap-around windows let in plenty of light during the day, which, once they start lunch and brunch, diners can take full advantage of. Until then, you have a lovely view of Bank Street by night.

The Marrow Arrives, Bringing German-Italian Fare to the West Village

Chef Harold Dieterle has done Thai at Kin Shop, and seasonal American at Perilla, and this time, he brings contemporary German and Italian flavors their latest West Village eatery, The Marrow“I’m really excited to cook food that ties back to my family’s heritage,” said the chef, noting that this restaurant doesn’t have any Asian influence like his other ones do. Dieterle and his co-owner Alicia Nosenzo also mentioned they had always wanted to cater to the neighborhood since those local customers have been an important part of their business ever since opening their first shop, Perilla. 

The restaurant opened up right before Christmas, and there, Dieterle dishes out skillet braised cuttlefish, pickled herring salad, brisket “braciole” with house ground polenta, and pan-fried duck schnitzel. To drink, beverage director Jill Roberts, formally of The Harrison, has created a menu with around 400 wines, seasonal cocktails, and craft beer. All which can be downed at your table, or at the large, L-shaped granite-topped bar.

Inside, designer Glen Coben warmed the 70-person space with homey, butcher-block tables, red leather banquettes, and patterned wall coverings. Large, wrap-around windows let in plenty of light during the day, which, once they start lunch and brunch, diners can take full advantage of. Until then, you have a lovely view of Bank Street by night. 

The 12 Things You Must Do In NYC On 12/12/12

Whether you think today is magically auspicious or a reminder that the clock’s quickly-a-tickin’ to Dec. 21st doomsday, the greatest takeaway is this: we must seize the day. So get out there and make today your best. Make it amazing. It just might be your last…

1. Breakfast at Clinton St. Baking Company: since it’s a weekday, the line is shorter than ever, bringing you that much closer to ordering their signature blueberry pancakes and sugar-cured bacon, and being lifted to the celestial heaven that is fluffy pancakes.

2. Put on a sweater and puffy jacket, rent a bike from the Waterfront Bike Shop, and ride across the Brooklyn Bridge and into DUMBO’s Brooklyn Bridge Park. There is no better view of this sparkling gem of a city than on that 129-year-old bridge and from that grassy park.

3. Sweeten the day with the city’s best cupcakes at Sweet Revenge. Today’s specialty offering is the eggnog cupcake with spiced cream cheese frosting, though the major must-get is their signature namesake treat: the Sweet Revenge with peanut butter cake, ganache center, and peanut butter fudge frosting.

4. Drink the day away at Chelsea Brewing Company and frolic drunkenly along the Hudson River. End your tipsy journey with mouthfuls of the giant peanut butter and blackberry jam doughnut and carrot cake doughnut at Chelsea’s Doughnut Plant.

5. Visit West Garden Spa for an “afternoon delight” if ya know what I mean, guys.

6. Rent that helicopter and soar across NYC like a bird. A 15-minute ride above the Statue of Liberty is just $169, which is what you’d pay anyway for dinner-and-drinks-for-two at West Village haven of deliciousness: Perilla.

7. Go ice skating in the heart of Central Park at Wollman Skating Rink, and wrap your hands around a steaming, frothy cup of hot chocolate from nearby  Jacques Torres at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

8. Have a tea party with all of your best friends at English cottage-inspired Tea & Sympathy, and go nuts over their scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam, kettles of vanilla mint tea, welsh rarebit, and chicken pot pie.

9. Watch the city melt into dark at sunset from the Top of the Rock observation deck.

10. When 5pm hits, head straight to cocktail favorite Mother’s Ruin for their spicy Brazilian coconut cocktail and devour their bready, cheesy, greasy, beautiful grilled cheese.

11. Finally talk to that adorable person you always see on the subway. Flirt, ask them out, make a move.

12. Because no one wants to go back to their apartment (and roommate), end the night in luxury at the Bowery Hotel

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Thanksgiving Out, Where To Have Your Turkey and Eat It Too

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, it’s probably a good time to pin down what you are going to do for the holiday. While some people go home for this iconic feast, many of us choose to avoid that, and the kitchen all together. So where can you get your Thanksgiving on? There are plenty of options.

In Midtown, Del Frisco’s is giving steak a break, and instead, letting turkey take the main stage. They will also serve butternut squash soup, apple sage stuffing, potatoes au gratin, and pumpkin cheesecake; all for $80 starting at noon. 

For an Austrian twist, hit up Edi & the Wolf or their sister restaurant Seasonal Restaurant & Weinbar for a three-course prix fixe menu. At the more laidback Edi & the Wolf they offer dinner for $45, from 3pm to 12am, with dishes like roasted duck with sweet potato, spatzle with wild mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, and fluke tartare. At the other eatery, they serve pork belly with kale, grapefruit and sweet potato, rainbow trout, and Austrian caramelized pancakes with seasonal fruit, all for $65.

If you want to do two Thanksgivings in one day, you can go to Landmarc for Thanksgiving brunch. This feast of pumpkin pancakes, hash browns, and cheesy egg sandwiches comes with a $45 price tag. Follow that up with a three-course traditional turkey dinner at Back Forty in the East Village. There, for $60 you can get your fill of Brussels sprouts, roasted sunchokes, and pecan tarts. They will also be offering this feast at their SoHo location for $65, with the bonus of a fireplace.

Chef James Corona of Bocca Restaurant & Bar will whip up four courses for your Thanksgiving pleasure, for $49.95 starting at noon. The menu includes pumpkin risotto, turkey breast with chestnuts, and butternut squash soup with candied walnuts. You can also get this to go, or delivered to you.

Perilla chef Harold Dieterle has a lovely feast of brown butter sweet potato soup, roasted local turkey, braised ginger-sassafras short ribs, and pumpkin-chestnut bread pudding for guest starting at 2pm, until 9pm, for $75 a person. A great feast can also be had at The Little Owl in the West Village. There, chef and owner Joey Campanaro’s $85 prix fixe menu features Riesling roasted turkey with fig and root vegetable dressing, roasted scallops with truffled parsnip mousse, and Italian holiday cookies. Reservations start at 1pm and go until 10pm, and, it’s half off for kids under the age of 12. 

For charitable folk, il Buco Alimentari & Vineria is donating all proceeds from their Thanksgiving dinner to post-Sandy relief efforts. That means when you pay $85 for their family-style meal of antipasti, oysters, risotto, heritage turkey, roast suckling pig, and pumpkin gelato, you may not be doing your waistline any favors, but you are helping others. 

Finally, why sit down for a meal when you can get one to go in a flash at Pie Face. That’s right, this Australian pie shop has a Thanksgiving pie to go, which consists of turkey, stuffing and gravy in a buttery shell that gets topped with sweet potato mash and cranberry sauce. They also have pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies for dessert. Take home one or 12, they cost between $2.66 and $7.90, and taste just like Thanksgiving. 

Industry Insiders: Danny Abrams, Average Diner

We’ve all got recession fever, but no other business is feeling the heat quite like the service industry. While most restaurateurs are agonizing at empty tables and fleeting sales, Danny Abrams — co-owner of Smith’s and head honcho at The Mermaid Inn — has been enjoying the perks of a flourishing eatery with a new executive chef (Doug Psaltis, formerly of Country, The French Laundry, and Mix) and a creative menu with comfort-foodie fare. Abrams tells us how he started out in the business, the ways in which the landscape of New York restaurants is changing, and why being a nice guy and an “average diner” have put him at the top of his game.

Smith’s is now in its second year; you recently installed Doug Psaltis as executive chef. What’s that been like? I’ve never had this kind of radical change. Bringing in somebody who has pedigree and has experience is something new for me. I just like working with a professional chef. Sometimes, you know, finding a good chef, or finding a good partner, is like finding a girlfriend — you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs. Sometimes you go through a few people, and you meet a bunch of people, and they all speak well, they speak a good game, but when it comes down to producing a great product and running a professional kitchen … it’s rare.

Doug’s only been there for a few short weeks. How’s it going? It’s a process. We’ve definitely seen progress on our end. Our regulars have enjoyed the changes that we’ve made. Bringing Doug certainly has gotten some interest for Smith’s. We’ve made a lot of progress and some great strides in a short amount of time, and I just expect it to get better and better.

What are some of your favorite things off the new menu? I love the beef tartare. A lot of the times you get beef tartare and it’s a little bit mushy, and I think the way Doug cuts it, it’s a little bit chewy and chunky, which I like. I love the chicken and grits.

You’ve done really well with serving comfort food classics in New York. Starting out as a restaurateur, was this the kind of food you wanted to serve? Well, I will say that I try and build restaurants, and I try to work with food that I like to eat, and I’m a pretty average diner. So if I like it, other people will like it. I don’t really like to reinvent the wheel.

And how did you get started wanting to be a restaurateur and working in the service industry? I was a bartender for years, and I opened my first bar in 1991, and that did well. Then, I opened a dance club, and that did well. Then, we opened a place called Prohibition on the Upper West Side; I opened a restaurant called Citrus, and luckily, that did well. So, I went from bars and clubs and kind of jazz lounge environments to wanting to be in the restaurant business. The first real restaurant that I opened was the Red Cat, on 10th Avenue. I got a taste for being able to provide an environment that people enjoyed and a product that people enjoyed.

When you started out with that first bartending gig, did you know you wanted to be in the service industry? No, I just wanted to make some money and have enough to go out and have fun.

It seems like a lot of people who end up in a career in the service industry, besides chefs and restaurateurs, don’t always start out with that goal in mind. What about this line of work’s so appealing to so many people? That’s a great observation because a lot of people that wound up in the restaurant business didn’t really plan on it. They didn’t go to college for it, they didn’t think when they were a kid, “I can’t wait to grow up and be a restaurateur,” or, you know, run a hotel or something like that. There’s something about the romantic aspect of it, where you’re kind of the host of the party every night, and there’s something really interesting about providing an environment where, at the end of a long, stressful day in one of the most difficult cities on the planet, people can come and let their hair down and enjoy what you’re providing.

You’ve worked in the service industry since 1986. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen, especially in the New York restaurant landscape? The biggest change is peoples’ expectations, which have been heightened, and there’s so much more competition for your dollar. In the past, if you provided one or two of those elements, they could still kind of have a good experience.

And now? Right now, everything has to gel: The service has to be great, the environment has to be great, the product has to be great.

Is this kind of economically and fiscally conservative dining continuing as a trend? We’re going to get through this. I think that it’s cyclical, and I think that the first quarter of ’09 is going to be the most difficult quarter for the recession. It’ll shake out some of the operators that got in for the wrong reasons, or thought they could get by without providing the service that people were expecting.

What’s exciting that’s going on in food right now, to you, in New York? The big trend I see is the fruition of very small, chef-driven restaurants. The days of opening a $5 million, 200-seat extravaganza have certainly fallen by the wayside. If you see the success of restaurants like Perilla and Market Table, and places like that — Franny’s, in Brooklyn — there’s been a lot of owner-operated, chef-operated restaurants, as opposed to restaurateur-operated restaurants, and that’s really cool.

Examples? You get a chef like Joey Campanaro from The Little Owl, who is at that restaurant all the time trying to make it better, and coming up with great food and great ideas, and Mikey Price from Market Table, who’s putting in 16 hours a day, really watching over his business, and that’s great; that’s getting back to the spirit of opening a restaurant.

When you’re not at your restaurants, where do you like to grab a bite? You know, I’m lucky — between my girlfriend and I, we have four restaurants, and we often go to the restaurants that we own. I do like Market Table, Mikey does a great job. I like Little Owl, I love Perilla.

And again, I had such an amazing meal at Smith’s, I can’t even tell you. Everything was on point, just proficient on all levels. I’m really glad you enjoyed it, you know, that makes me feel great, and it just reaffirms that working with Doug has been the right choice. That’s great, I appreciate that, really. Be sure to tell all your friends.

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.