This Week’s NY Happenings: Free Tastings at Boqueria, Filipino Fiesta At Bowery, Rub-A-Grub

TONIGHT (Monday): High On The Hog
The world’s greatest ham comes from the Pata Negra pigs that gorge on acorns in Spanish forests. If you’ve never tried Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, stop by Boqueria Flatiron tonight, where the tastings are free. (A sherry pairing is not a bad idea.) 

Complimentary tastings of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota start tonight, May 20th, and run through Wednesday, May 22nd, at Boqueria (53 W. 19th St., Flatiron). To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.
TUESDAY: Flip Out 
The rooftop of The Bowery Hotel goes tropical with a night of Filipino delights. Favorites like Jeepney and Zengo are on the bites, paired up with PKNY mixologist Enzo Lim’s cocktails.
Filipino Fiesta: A Culinary Tour of the Philippines starts at 6:30pm on Tuesday, May 21st, at The Bowery Hotel (335 Bowery, East Village). Tickets are $75. To learn more about the hotel, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.
SUNDAY: Aye, There’s The Rub-A-Grub
Bed-Stuy’s Do or Dine teams up with Sound Liberation Front for a reprise of last year’s Rub-A-Grub backyard bash. Rebel With a Culinary Cause chef Justin Warner will be laying out three rounds of food and drink, beginning with bottomless Bloody Marys, and finishing with barbecue. Ali Shaheed Muhammad of the band A Tribe Called Quest highlights the DJ array. Around 10pm, the scene shifts to One Last Shag for the after-party, but no worries—you can sleep in Monday. 
Rub-A-Grub starts at 2pm on Sunday, May 26th, at Do or Dine (1108 Bedford Ave., Bed-Stuy). Advance tickets are $15, or $25 for VIP entry. To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.
Know every inch of this city by checking out inside-info on shops, bars, and restaurants at BlackBook’s NY City Guides

Happy Halloween. Now Eat and Drink Up!

No matter if you are a zombie, a binder full of women, some Marvel superhero, or a sexy what-have-you, there is no excuse not to enjoy eating and partaking in a tipple or eight during this spirit-filled holiday. We have already told you were to party, and Steve Lewis has intel on how he will spend his Halloween; now, here are some special snacks and drinks full of gore(geous) boo(ze).

First up, Richard Sandoval celebrates the dead with an all-night Halloween happy hour at his restaurant Zengo, which includes $8 cocktails, $5 small plates, and on the 31st if you wear a costume, you get a complimentary Witch’s Eye Cocktail. His midtown restaurant Pampano also gets down with the spirits, and from October 26 until November 1, you can try his Day of the Dead specials like the Chicken Tamale, Croquetas de Camote, and raise your own demons with the Flor de Muertos Margarita. Plus, on Halloween, they have $6 margaritas, wine, and mojiotos from 5pm to close. 

There is no time like the present to attend Sleep No More, the eerie, spirit-filled, interactive-play by Punchdrunk. What makes this Sleep No More performance even more enticing is the Carnival des Corbeaux, where they have added a circus bent to the festivities. Plus, starting tonight until the 31st, they have a “Yelloween” after party featuring Veuve Clicquot, an ancient and honorable champagne to go with what one day may be a classic performance. 

Starting Saturday, if you howl like a wolf at Edi & the Wolf, they will reward you with the bright red Wolf’s Blood cocktail, which is made with rye whiskey, Italian vermouth, blood orange liqueur and bitters. You can also enjoy “Tequilaween,” at Barrio 47. Here, feast on blood sausage, cow heart skewers, and sip their special Bloody Punch. DJs spin this Friday, Saturday and on the 31st. On Halloween alone, you can head to Beaumarchais for their epic party celebrating their namesake, author Pierre Beaumarchais, who wrote The Barber of Seville. Hence, they have The Demon Barber of Meatpacking feast featuring Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies and bloody drinks. 

Scared? You should be. If you managed to do all of this you will surly be one of the zombies stumbling to work on November 1, the Day of the Dead. Not that that should stop you.

Peru in Manhattan: Richard Sandoval Opens Raymi

Richard Sandoval is on the move. He has restaurants across the country and around the world, including Zengo, La Biblioteca, and Four at Yotel in New York. Now, the Mexican restaurateur is trying his hand at Peruvian cuisine with the opening of Raymi in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. This comes hot on the heels of his launch of the 10-year-old Pampano’s cocktail lounge, the Botaneria, and the addition of Tequileria Maya in Midtown, an expansion of his newly-renovated Maya restaurant, which he opened 15 years ago. We caught up Sandoval to get the scoop on the renovation, the new addition, and more.    

“Dining styles and menu preferences are changing,” Sandoval says of Maya’s new look and menu. “Maya has been a dining destination on the Upper East Side for delicious Mexican food, but throughout the years, the restaurant became outdated and the food and décor needed a refresh.”
Obviously, Sandoval has been doing something right, given his growing empire of more than two dozen restaurants. While all his other venues lean toward Mexican-with-a-twist (Zengo has an Asian bent) Raymi is his first that deals with Peruvian food. Sandoval got the idea after meeting chef Jaime Pesaque, formally of Mayta in Lima, who brought up the idea of opening a restaurant like this in New York.
“I saw how he brought Peruvian cuisine to life and how passionate he was about the culture and flavors, like how I am about Mexico,” says Sandoval. “Raymi fits into the group because Jaime and I share the same love for life and for food.”  
While Raymi is Sandoval’s first Peruvian restaurant, this cuisine has slowly been growing in the city with Gaston Acurio’s international transplant La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, Coco Roco in Brooklyn, and the Pio Pio chain across the city. If everything goes well with the launch, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Raymi expand to other cities soon.

The Top Chef You Don’t Know: Richard Sandoval

The sun has almost vanished behind the purple outline of Catalina Island, the barometer dropped to a cooler version of perfect SoCal temperature. I’m on my third “inspired cocktail” at the Ritz Carlton’s Laguna Niguel’s oceanfront lounge, 180blu, when Chef Richard Sandoval, a restaurateur boasting fifteen ventures around the world, walks in and shyly introduces himself, kissing everyone hello. Sandoval motions to the waitress and points at my Tamarind-Togarashi margarita, dangerously drinkable for something that counts Patron Silver as one of its ingredients. The chef is here to wish us buen provecho before we embark on a Sandoval-exclusive culinary weekend to sample his three recently opened Southern California restaurants, Raya, La Sandia, and Zengo.

Chatting with Chef Sandoval, it doesn’t take long to notice the lack of pretension that defines so many culinary superstars. (It’s also probably why you don’t know who he his.) Sandoval hops on the barstool next to me and graciously asks how my flight was, becoming visibly animated when I say I came from NYC. He confides that it’s of his top three favorite cities because of “the energy and the people.” I later learn that Sandoval loves New York restaurants like Nobu that first showcased the ease with which Latin and Asian flavors can be combined to create bold, eclectic flavor fusions. His enthusiasm for my hometown makes sense, since his empire began a decade ago with his contemporary Mexican restaurant, Maya, on the Upper East Side.

But back to California. Our first stop, Raya, is located right inside the hotel, where breathtaking views of the Pacific are the norm. Our dinner menu is a mix of popular menu items and some fall seasonal specials. Standout starters include the California hamachi tiraditos served in a ponzu sauce and Maine lobster tacos, but they are quickly overshadowed by Raya’s famed sweet-corn soup, which arrived in tragically petite tasting bowls. Delicate flakes of crab and lobster meat, puréed avocado, a truffled masa dumpling, and, finally, a black blot of puréed huitlacoche – the controversial Mexican ingredient otherwise known as “corn smut” – blend beautifully with a piping hot sweet corn puree.

The next evening, we drive to the newly renovated Santa Monica Place in Santa Monica, where Sandoval’s two other restaurants, La Sandia and Zengo, opened in August. Sandoval says that opening the Santa Monica locations, along with Raya, represents a homecoming of sorts for him. Even though he was born in Mexico City and spent time living elsewhere around the world, his family lives in Southern California, and he considers it home. “We’ve been crazy since the beginning,” says Sandoval. “It was a lot of work since we opened both restaurants at exactly the same time, and they’re right next to one another. We didn’t expect to be so busy, so in the beginning it was a struggle with the staff, but now we’re finally on track. I’m super happy with them.”

Like he said, Sandoval’s restaurants are adjacent, located on the top level of an outdoor mall. He also wasn’t kidding about them being busy. We arrive around 6:30 and already both places are nearly full. We start with margaritas, chips, and guacamole – straightforward, authentic Mexican classics. The group agrees that we could collectively polish off another six baskets of homemade tortilla chips, but we are escorted away from the table and into Zengo, where Asian fusion-y small plates await us. Zengo is the most publicized of Sandoval’s three SoCal ventures, with locations in Denver, Washington D.C., and New York.

“Try the best chicken wings you will ever have in your life,” says the foodie to my left, as our spread of never-ending small plates begins to arrive. I cannot remember ever being particularly excited about a chicken wing, and I had my formerly vegetarian sights firmly set on the wakame-hijiki seaweed salad with cucumber, carrot, daikon, apple, and ginger dressing – but she was right. The secret, besides the chipotle-teriyaki sauce, said Sandoval, is marinating them in chicken fat. Other must-try dishes are the charred tuna wonton tacos and the glazed black cod, which gives other miso black cod joints a run for their money.

NYC Openings: 8.15 August Fifteenth, Balaboosta, Zengo

8.15 August Fifteenth (Tribeca) – Designer Kazushi Ota retails his clean, modern looks (as seen at Barneys and Urban Outfitters). ● Balaboosta (Nolita) – Falafel pros at Taïm turn to finer dining in a wide, wood-trimmed space. ● Zengo (Midtown East) – Asian-Latino fusion in the hacienda! Akhtar Nawab works the kitchen, AvroKO on design.